They left the best for last for the second straight year at the Easter Bowl. In the final main-draw singles match of the tournament Sunday at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, No. 8 seed Jack Sock fought through a tough three-setter in 98-degree heat, upsetting No. 2 seed Clay Thompson, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4), in the boys’ 16s final at the USTA Spring Nationals event.
Last year in the same 16s final – the third and final main-draw match of the day – unseeded Lawrence Formentera also needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat No. 1 seed James “Bo” Seal of Chattanooga, Tenn. The heat was brutal for both players and fans Sunday, but Sock found a way to get through it. “The heat was really tough, but I just fought hard and pulled it out in the third-set tiebreak,” said Sock. Sock began the match up, 4-1, but Thompson clawed his way back to 5-4, before Sock took control and closed out the set.
Thompson, a 6-foot, 5-inch serve-and-volleyer from Venice, Calif., played aggressive in the second set and tied it up. The third was a grind, as Sock battled back and pulled it out in the tiebreak. Sock, a resident of Lincoln, Neb., who trains at the Mike Wolf Tennis Academy in Kansas City, took Thompson out of his game throughout most of the match. “I kept him back and stayed energetic and positive, and it paid off,” said Sock. Sock also received an American Airlines scholarship for a free round-trip ticket anywhere American flies. There was a gold ball for Thompson on the day, however, as he unbelievably had to play a second third-set tiebreaker in doubles following his singles, this time coming out the winner with partner Nelson Vick of Grafton, Wis.
The top seeds beat Warren Hardie, Laguna Niguel, Calif., and Casey MacMaster, Fort Collins, Colo., 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3). Buchanan takes boys’ 18s title It was really no contest in the boys’ 18s ITF singles final, as No. 4 seed Chase Buchanan defeated Alex Llompart, 6-1, 6-0. Buchanan’s aggressive style of play was too much for Llompart, who played on despite a lower back injury.
With the victory, Buchanan will get the opportunity to play in the junior French Open, as well as junior Wimbledon. The New Albany, Ohio, resident will also compete in Belgium, as well as several Futures events in Florida in the coming months. The desert heat was no problem for Buchanan, who served and volleyed his way to victory. “Everyone told me it was hot, but I didn’t think it was at all,” said Buchanan, who used a variety of lob shots in the win. “Those really came in handy and helped me in a couple of the close games.”
Llompart, who lives in Carolina, P.R., almost didn’t come to the Easter Bowl because he wasn’t playing too well in the past few weeks. “I really didn’t want to come, but I’m obviously glad I did,” said Llompart. “I had a good first match, and one of the top seeds lost, so that really opened up the draw for me, and I took advantage of it.” Llompart will next travel to play in three tournaments in Italy. Asked what he’ll do to celebrate the victory, Buchanan said he’s going to go home, relax, and go to the mall with his girlfriend.
Tsay comes back to beat Lee for gold ball in girls’ 2016s Never rattled and full of composure the entire tournament, Ellen Tsay of Pleasanton, Calif., captured her fourth and fifth gold balls, as she had to come back to beat Los Angeles’ Sarah Lee in the girls’ 16s singles final, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Tsay later teamed with Amelia Herring of Carlsbad, Calif., to win the doubles gold.
The pair beat Alexandra Clay, Grayson, Ga., and Whitney Kay (5), Alpharetta, Ga., 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. It’s going to be a fun eight-hour drive home to the Bay Area for the Tsay family. “I’ll have something to talk about the whole way home,” said Tsay, who had to come back from down, 4-2, in the third set for the win against Lee. Said Lee, who was disappointed she couldn’t pull off the upset, “After that first set, I was so pumped up and really wanted it,” she said. “After the second set, I started to lose my focus, and she slowed down the pace.” Was this the toughest match of the tournament for Tsay? “It’s hard to tell,” she said. “It’s certainly the biggest.”
All there was left for Melanie Oudin to do was jump in the pool. After two weeks of amazing tennis without one day off, Oudin did just that, making a big splash in the pool — just like she has on court. Unseeded Lauren Embree of Marco Island, Fla., lost to No. 1-seeded Oudin, 6-7 (1), 6-1, 6-3, in the girls’ 18s final at the ITF Easter Bowl Junior Spring Nationals Saturday at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage.
Temperatures crept into the mid-90s, and the players were allowed extra time to cool down before the third set. After the match, Oudin jumped in the nearby swimming pool to cool off and celebrate. And how was she going to do that? “I’m going to have ice cream,” she said. “I’m really good about not having desserts when I play tournaments, and I’ve been playing for two weeks.” “I was dying out there after that first set,” Embree said. “She likes pace, so my game plan was to mix it up a little. She’s also really good on the run, so I was trying not to hit the ball wide. Obviously, she figured it out in the second set.”
Oudin felt like she didn’t play well in the first set and that unseeded Embree was dictating the points. “I was missing a lot and had to just calm down and be way more patient.” Oudin on the heat: “I think the heat definitely was a factor today. She’s definitely more used to it than I am. We actually had snow in Georgia in March.” Oudin will next play a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan, Ala. Top-seed Rinaldi serves his way to boys’ 14s title Michael Rinaldi of Palm City, Fla., the nephew of former tennis star Kathy Rinaldi, became the new boys’ 14 Easter Bowl champion on Saturday after defeating John Richmond, 6-3, 6-2, in the final.
Rinaldi, the No. 1 seed, started the match slow but gained momentum with his big first serve. Tied at 2-2, Rinaldi won three consecutive games before winning the set. The second set was all Rinaldi, as he went up, 3-0, and never looked back, fisting his hand after match point. “It’s feels great to win a tournament of this magnitude,” said Rinaldi. “I started bad but settled in and pulled it together for the win.” Rinaldi credited his first serve as the decivise factor in the victory. “I don’t think I could have won had it not been for my big first serve.” Richmond, of Pawley’s Island, S.C., was pleased with his performance at the Easter Bowl. “Rinaldi played really well and deserved to win,” said Richmond. “It would have been nice to beat him, obviously, but I’m pleased with my overall performance at the Easter Bowl.”
Vickery upsets No. 1 McPhillips to take girls’ 14s title The youngest player in the tournament, Sachia Vickery, a 12-year-old from Miramar, Fla., upset No. 1 seed Kyle McPhillips, 6-3, 6-4, to win the girls’ 14s title. McPhillips has looked liked the strongest player throughout the event, but her first serve let her down Saturday. “My first serve was really off,” she said. “My second serve was fine, but I couldn’t get my first serve in.” Vickery went up, 4-0, in the second set, but then McPhillips battled back to 4-4. “I played so well in the first set, so smooth,” said Vickery. “Then I started thinking about what I was about to do. Was I going to win the Easter Bowl, or be a finalist? I had to take a minute and think about what I was doing. Was I going to frame the next ball?” There was one thing for certain from the Easter Bowl crowd who enjoyed the final: This won’t be the last time you hear from Vickery or McPhillips.
Tsay, Lee to meet Sunday in girls’ 16s final Ellen Tsay of Pleasanton, Calif., has several gold balls, but not one from the Easter Bowl, where her best result has been third place. That could change today, when she meets No. 12 seed Sarah Lee from Los Angeles in the girls’ 16s final. Tsay, who beat Jennifer Kellner of Smithtown, N.Y., 6-3, 6-2, has beaten Lee all three times they have played. She wasn’t interested in watching the end of Lee’s three-set win Saturday, a come-from-behind victory over Mary Anne MacFarlane of Ogden, Utah, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. “I actually don’t scout,” she said. “I just try and think about what I want to do and go out and do it,” she said. Lee, who lives in the Larchmont area near Hollywood, is coached by her father and Craig Cignarelli. “I think I’m going to have to be patient and wait for the right shots,” said Lee, who has won a bronze ball before and is seeking her first gold. “I’ve got the bronze, and now I know I have at least a silver. The gold ball would be nice.”
Buchanan to face Llompart in boys’ 18s final The last time Cha se Buchanan of New Albany, Ohio, played his roommate and training partner, things didn’t go so well. Buchanan, who lost to Jarmere Jenkins in the semifinals at Carson, had a better result in Saturday’s semifinal, downing Frank Carleton of Naples, Fla., 6-3, 6-4. Like he did with Jenkins in Carson, Buchanan and Carleton warmed up together before the match. Buchanan got up early, 5-0, in the first set and then “went to sleep for three games,” before closing Carleton out on his serve. In the second set, Carleton led, 3-1, before Buchanan stormed back to take the match. “I’ve been making a lot of quarters and semis, so it’s great to finally get to the final,” said Buchanan, who will play Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico in the final.
Llompart, who lost in the first round here last year, needed two tiebreakers to down Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), in his semifinal. He said he considered not coming to this year’s tournament because of his inconsistent play. Llompart, whose ITF ranking has fallen in the 180s, wants to qualify for the French and Wimbledon juniors.
The 200 ITF points awarded to the winner may just be enough to get him there. No. 2 Thompson, No. 8 Sock advance to boys’ 16s championship The finalists in the boys’ 16s came off the court at the same time and entered the=2 0press room at the same time, as well, to be interviewed by the media. But neither player had much of a scouting report on the other, as they have never played each other. Clay Thompson of Venice, Calif., the No. 2 seed, meets No. 8 Jack Sock, of Lincoln, Neb., in today’s final. “He’s played great all week,” said Sock of Thompson. “It should be a good match.”
Other notes from the 2008 Easter Bowl… Dennis Ralson in Attendance: Dennis Ralston, one of the greatest American players in the history of junior tennis, was on hand, watching several top players. The former USC All-American said he remembered winning the nationals 18s and 15s and that the junior tennis experience was responsible for launching his professional career. Blog Central: Lauren Embree, who has been blogging each day for USTA.com, still hasn’t decided which college she will attend but is considering Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and UCLA. EASTER BOWL USTA SPRING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS Rancho Las Palmas Resort, Rancho Mirage, Calif.