Evan King and Christina McHale will be spending a lot of time together this summer. Two of America’s promising juniors were recently selected to play World Team Tennis for the defending champion New York Buzz as part of an all-juniors team.
The pair had very little time to spend together during the recent 42nd annual Easter Bowl Junior Spring National Championships. That’s because they were too busy winning matches as both King and McHale captured ITF 18s titles at Seena Hamilton’s venerable event played at Rancho Las Palmas in Palm Desert, Calif.
The Michigan-bound King, the20No. 4 seed who is a U.S. junior Davis Cupper from Chicago who trains with the USTA in Boca Raton, Fla., beat No. 2 seeded Tennys Sandgren, 6-2, 6-2, for his second Easter Bowl title. He previously won the 14s in 2006.
"He’ll be back,” said King of his good friend Sandrgen, the No. 2 seed from Gallatin, Tenn., and the No. 21-world ranked ITF player. "He’s just going to be a monster this summer starting at the Junior French Open.”
The final lacked the drama that was expected between two of America’s top junior players. It felt similar to last year’s final when Chase Buchanan beat Alex Llompart easily, 6-0, 6-1.
"Just too much tennis,” said Sandgren, who also did well in doubles during the week with a semifinal showing. "The heat didn ’t bother me. Evan played very well. I’m going to take a break—a week off.”
The 16-year-old McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., dominated throughout the week and served noticed that she should be considered a future pro prospect with her 6-0, 6-3 win over top-seeded Lauren Embree or Marco Island, Fla.
McHale was playing in her first junior tournament since winning the Australian Open Junior doubles in January. She reeled off nine straight games for a 6-0, 3-0 lead before Embree finally got on the board. McHale was playing in her fifth Easter Bowl and said it was important to finally take home the title. "I always look forward to this tournament,” she said. "This was a little unexpected but definitely one of my biggest wins.”
Caroline Price, the No. 5 seed from Duluth, Ga., beat good friend and fellow Georgian Whitney Kay of Alpharetta, Ga., 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, for the girls’ 16s title. Price and Kay came back later in the day to win the doubles with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Lorraine Guillermo (Walnut, Calif.) and Desirae Krawczyk (Rancho Mirage). After the win, the pair jumped in the pool for a much -needed cooling off officially ending the tournament.
Price is the daughter of former NBA star Mark Price who was not able to attend the tournament because he is currently the shooting coach for the Atlanta Hawks who are involved in the NBA Playoffs. "He gets to see me play a lot,” Price said. "Unfortunately he had to work this weekend.”
The lefthanded Price is 5-foot-10 and a half, just a half-inch shorter than her father, who played with four NBA teams during his 12-year career. Price recently had a three-set win over Kay in the semifinals (7-5 in the third) at a USTA Southern Section designated tournament.
In the boys’ 16s final, top-seeded Shane Visant of Keller, Texas, overpowered Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, Calif., 6-3, 6-0, to win a gold ball. Visant fell in the final of the last two events (ITF College Station, Texas, and ITF Carson) he played. He said he’s ready for a break. Asked how he played on a scale of 1 to 10, Visant responded, "eight or nine. It was good quality but I don’t think Marcos played as well as he could have.”
Playing in his first super national final, Giron said he wasn’t nervous. "I have a couple of thirds,” he said. "I thought I was just went for too many shots I don’t normally go for.
Before the McHale-Embree final, Mackenzie McDonald put on a show on the center court as he dominated as much as McHale, taking out doubles partner Nikko Madregallejo in the boys’ 14s final, 6-4, 6-2.
"As I grow older the ability to play a good friend gets easier,” McDonald said after the match. The pair were the top-seeded team in the doubles final and came out on top over No. 9 seeded Roy Lederman and Ryan Smith, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 for more hardware to add to the trophy case.
McDonal d assured the Easter Bowl crowd this wasn’t the last you would hear from him. "My goal is to be the best tennis player who ever played the game,” he said confidently.
Two Easter Bowl first-timers battled it out for the girls’ 14s final with No. 2 seeded Brooke Austin coming back to beat No. 1 Julia Elbaba, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. "I actually relaxed when the third set started,” said Austin, from Indianapolis. "I’m starting to get used to playing in front of big crowds.”
Austin likes to play a foot or two inside the baseline and takes the ball on the rise. "It was tough at first,” Elbaba said of Austin’s game. "I had to mix it up and just stay focused.”
Elbaba, who said she plans to play the 18s at her next national event, was awarded the American Airlines Award scholarship. She will receive a free airline ticket to anywhere Am erican Airlines flies.
Embree teamed with Mallory Burdette to take the 18s doubles title by default over Kristie Ahn and Monica Puig.