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Easter Bowl Bonanza Ready to Begin - (04/07/2010)

By Charles Bricker

The 44th annual Easter Bowl junior tournament begins Sunday in California and, though Harold Solomon isn’t long on nostalgic details after all this time, he’s not likely to forget that he was a winner in the first Easter Bowl and he knows how important the tournament has been to American teenagers over the years.

“It was my first big tournament win,” said Solomon, who beat Brian Gottfried in the semis and Jimmy Connors in the final to win the boys 16s championship. “And one of the things that made it a big tournament was Seena Hamilton. She was dynamic, a great promoter and had tons of energy. She deserves a lot of accolades.

Hamilton, the founder of the Easter Bowl, will undoubtedly be toasted a few times during the week, but she’ll have to accept the applause from a distance. She’s not in great health right now and probably won’t be at the tournament.

Hundreds of juniors who played this only-U.S. players event over the years have celebrated her at one time or another.

Roddick and Connors

Andy Roddick and Jimmy Connors - Two former winners of the Easter Bowl

That first (1968) Easter Bowl was held indoors at the Midtown Racket Club in Manhattan and has moved around the country, settling now in Rancho Mirage, California.

Solomon went on to a top-10 career and a runner-up finish at the 1976 French Open. There are few American juniors or note who didn’t play at least one Easter Bowl. The tournament plays 14s, 16s and 18s, singles and doubles, for boys and girls, with a consolation draw in the 18s. With ITF ranking points now given, the tournament becomes even more important.

Hamilton almost single-handedly raised the tournament to a high level by staying out in front of the tennis curve and by her own tireless promoting of junior tennis. The tournament was not just on-court tennis, but addressed a lot of issues, being the first junior event to introduce seminars and sports psychology. And the tournament landed a TV deal that put juniors in a larger spotlight.

John McEnroe won the 18s in 1976. Aaron Krickstein won the 18s in 1983 and, a few years earlier, the 14s. Andy Roddick won the 16s in 1998. There are some fascinating photos of most of these budding stars on the easterbowl.com website.

The complete list of participants and the draws are on the website.

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