Gordon Watson’s comeback came full circle Sunday as he captured his fourth career gold ball with the biggest win of his career: the boys’ 16s championships at the Easter Bowl. (My forehand) was just firing today. I wish someone could tell me how many backhands I hit today because it wasn’t many,” said Watson, the No. 10 seeded player from Naples, Fla., after beating top-seeded Nolan Paige of Fairfield, Conn., 6-3, 6-1, at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort. “It hasn’t really kicked in yet. It got real emotional there for a minute when my parents came over. It’s a great feeling. I haven’t felt this way since the 12s.
Watson was once the No. 1 14-and-under player in the U.S. but soon after contacted Lyme disease as the result of a tick bite at a tournament in Macon, Ga. It’s great to come back, he said. I got Lyme’s disease when I was 15 and there were a lot of people who didn’t think I could make it back. I’d like to slap those people in the face right now. Watson said he was out a year and a half recovering from the disease. “I was playing but I could only last a half hour and then I was just done,” he said. Coached by his father Gordy since he started playing tennis at age 2, Watson said he wasn’t much fun to speak with before his final. I told everyone in the condo to just leave,” he said. “I jus sat there and watched T.V.
After losing in the finals two years ago in the girls’ 14s, Kyle McPhillips of Willoughby, Ohio, defeated 14-year-old Brooke Austin 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a battle between the top two-seeded players to win the girls’ 16s gold ball. I got the monkey off my back today,” McPhillips said. “I’m glad I won because I would have had more pressure on me if I had lost. After McPhillips went up 3-0 in the first set, Austin bounced back to go up 5-3, but McPhillips battled back to win the tiebreak. I started well but then I got tight and stopped taking risks and she started hitting her shots,” said McPhillips, who played up in the 18s last year at the Easter Bowl. “At the end of the first set I fought back and went for the extra ball and my serve was pretty good today.
Austin, who won the girls’ 14s title last year and had a 13-match winning streak at the Easter Bowl heading into the final, had a difficult time recovering in the second set. I kept trying to stay in the match but there was nothing I could do, Austin said. She served really well today. Both McPhillips and Austin will head to South Carolina on Tuesday as invites for the U.S. Fed Cup Junior Camp.
Bjorn Fratangelo, 16, won the ITF Boys’ 18s championship defeating Nick Chappell 7-6 (1), 6-2. Battling the warm Coachella Valley conditions, Fratangelo struggled in the first set, falling behind a break at 5-4, but found a way to come through and win fairly easy in the tiebreak and second set. I didn’t feel well in the beginning and the heat was getting to me, Fratangelo said. I was just happy to get through the first set and from there I played better. Fratangelo credited the recent changes he’s made for his first-place finishes in the Easter Bowl and the USTA Spring Nationals 18s held in Alabama in March. I’ve been playing really well since I struggled late last year, Fratangelo said. In the beginning of the year I improved my serve and fitness and switched my racquet and it’s paid off. However, Fratangelo knows he still has a lot of work to do. Obviously I’ve done well but I still want to improve my game, Fratangelo said.
Chappell was disappointed he couldn’t hold on to the lead but credited Fratangelo. I felt I could have won it but it didn’t happen, Chappell said. I got a little upset and he started playing better. Overall I had a great week and was excited with the way I played.