RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (April 17, 2011) – Three Californians won singles titles on the final day of the 44th annual Easter Bowl USTA Junior Spring National Championships.
UCLA-bound Marcos Giron, who comes from the same Southern California city as one of America’s top pros, Sam Querrey, won his 18th consecutive match to capture the ITF boys’ 18s title in a 6-1, 7-5 straight-set win over Alabama’s Mac Styslinger at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.
Coincidentally, Thousand Oaks’ Giron became the first boy since Querrey to win both the Carson International Spring Championships and Easter Bowl titles, a feat accomplished by Querrey in 2005.
“That would be unbelievable to have the same career as Sam,” Giron said. “To be No. 20 in the world wouldn’t be so bad. Let’s see how this summer goes and then at UCLA. But I’m ready to start playing some Challengers right now. I couldn’t be more confident.”
He added: “I’m just so happy to go back-to-back: Carson and Easter Bowl. They’re such great tournaments with so many good players.”
It’s been an amazing run for the 17-year-old Giron, who was a 16s runner-up here two years ago. For the third consecutive weekend Giron was handed a trophy surviving three tough 64-player draw events.
Giron said he will now focus his attention on finishing some school work before he begins preparations for the European junior circuit where he will try and play the French Open and Wimbledon events.
Styslinger, who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla., made it close in the second set despite not serving well. It was something he said he didn’t do well all tournament.
“My serve was just giving me problems all day,” Styslinger said. “I’m just going to go home and work on my first serve. I’ve been here for two weeks and I’ve won a lot of matches and lost just two singles matches so that’s pretty good. I can’t complain about anything.”
Styslinger said he might play a USTA Challenger event in Sarasota, Fla., next week. Giron is headed to the 111th Ojai Valley Tournament where he’ll square off against some of SoCal’s top men’s open players.
Giron admitted fitness was a key ingredient to his success on Sunday.
“It really pays off in the end,” he said. “When your coach is yelling at you to go harder, go harder; this is when it pays off.”
Gage Brymer of Irvine, Calif., won the boys’ 16s final and his second career gold ball having won the 14s WinterNationals two years ago. He beat No. 2-seeded Ronnie Schneider, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
“It’s great to win the Easter Bowl because of all the greats who have come through here,” said Brymer, who is coached by his father Chuck at the Woodbridge Tennis Club.
Like Giron, Brymer is also headed to The Ojai where he’ll play for University High in the boys’ CIF division. But first it’s a week off for Spring Break where he says he’ll spend most his time at the beach in Newport skim boarding with friends.
Indianapolis’ Schneider had a great tournament, which included several come-from-behind wins. “Gage played great today,” he said. “I had to do everything I could to win and I came out really flat in both the first and third sets.”
After winning the first game of the match, Brymer reeled off six straight games to win the set. After taking the second set, Schneider lost the first eight points of the third set and could never recover.
“He was a rock out there,” said Schneider. “What do I take from this tournament? I know I can beat any of these guys. I know I can beat Gage. I fought hard out there. It just wasn’t happening out there today.”
In the girls’ 16s final, San Francisco’s Caroline Doyle fought off a tough Kimberly Yee of Las Vegas to win her first gold ball, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. It was Yee’s second straight Easter Bowl final as she played in last year’s 14s championship.
Later in the day, Doyle also won the doubles with partner Katrine Steffensen.
“It’s starting to sink in,” said Doyle. “It feels good.”
The unseeded Doyle, playing in just her second USTA National event, credited her move to Boca Raton and the work of her coach Kathy Rinaldi at the USTA Training Center Headquarters. Rinaldi was on hand to witness both titles Sunday.
“I definitely had it in my mind before the tournament that I could win but you never really expect it to happen,” she said.
After coming up short three times, the fourth time turned out to be the charm for Kyle McPhillips.
McPhillips, the No. 13 seed, won the ITF Girls’ 18s division championship with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 9 seed Gabrielle Andrews.
Andrews, a Pomona native, had beaten McPhillips in their three previous matches but the Ohio native was able to get the monkey off her back to win her second consecutive Easter Bowl.
“Usually the third time is the charm but for me it turned out to be the fourth time,” McPhillips said smiling. “I’m so relieved right now.”
McPhillips, who won the girls’ 16s titles last year in both singles and doubles, was up 5-4 in the second set and faced seven match points on her serve before pulling out the victory in 100-plus heat.
“I got a little lucky in that last game it was pretty intense and nerve-racking, McPhillips said. “She did a good job of hitting winners down the line but I did a good job of staying calm. Overall, I thought I served well and kept the ball in play and my focus was there the entire match unlike in the past.”
Andrews, who won the girls’ 14s Easter Bowl title last year, was disappointed in the result but spoke highly of McPhillips’ play. Andrews was trying to be the first player since Zenda Leiss to win a girls’ 14s title one year and a girls’ 18s title the next. Leiss did it way back in 1973 and ’74.
“From the warm up I could tell she was confident and she didn’t make a lot of unforced errors and was very consistent,” Andrews said. “She was just too good today.”
The tournament was a success for Andrews, who moved up to the 18s at just 14 years of age after finishing 2010 as the No. 1 18s player in the USTA rankings.
“I thought I played really well all week and I think it proved I can hang with the 18s,” Andrews said. “It was a great accomplishment to the reach the finals at such a prestigious tournament. I’m looking forward to coming back next year.”
McPhillips was pleased to win back-to-back titles at the Easter Bowl. It was only the fourth time in Easter Bowl history that a girls’ 16s champ came back the next year to win a girls’ 18s title the next as Caroline Stoll (’76-77), Andrea Berger (’86-87), and Stephy Halsell (’93-’94) were the only other players to accomplish what McPhillips did on Saturday.
“It means so much just to play here in the Easter Bowl and to win two years in a row is ridiculous,” McPhillips said. “I’m in heaven.”
With the victory, McPhillips earned a spot as a wild card in the main draw of the U.S. Open junior tournament.
Also on the girls’ side, 12-year-old Maria Shishkina won the girls’ 14s title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 8 seed Katerina Stewart in a battle between two Florida players.
Shishkina, the No. 5 seed from Bradenton, Fla., was excited to reach the finals after falling in the quarterfinals last year.
“I wanted to win so badly after losing last year,” said Shishkina, who had lost to Stewart 7-6 (6) in the third in the semifinals of the 14s National Open in Florida. “I liked the way I played today. I served much better and was very consistent with my strokes.”
After the victory, Shishkina said she will begin playing ITF tournaments and compete in the girls’ 18s next year in the Easter Bowl. Just like Melanie Oudin did after winner her 2008 Easter Bowl 18s singles title, Shiskina jumped in the Las Palmas pool next to the courts.
“It’ll be a good challenge for me to face bigger players with fast serves and hard strokes,” Shishkina said.
In the boys’ 14s final, Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina, Calif., beat top-seeded Henrik Wiersholm of Kirkland, Wash., 6-4, 6-1.
The game of the match came at 3-1 Escobedo. “Once I won that game I knew it would be over soon,” he said.
What does winning the Easter Bowl mean to him? “I think it will help me get more sponsors,” he said, adding he would like to eat at either the Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill afterwards. “This is a big win for me,” said the 14-year-old who is home schooled and who is coached by Ricardo Coronado and Luis Bettes.
Said Wiersholm, obviously distraught after the match: “That was very tough to lose (that game at 3-1). I had my chances too. There was a game I was up 40-love, but I wasn’t able to break his serve.
In the boys’ 18s, Marcos Giron won the for the 17th straight time beating defending 18s champion Bjorn Fratangelo after he was forced to retire due to an ailing shoulder.
“I was feeling a little tired and run down earlier this week but I got worked on by the trainer and am starting to feel pretty good now,” Giron said.
Asked if he had a miracle beverage that was helping him, Giron said, “No, just Gatorade and water. And one Muscle Milk a day. It’s been working.”
His opponent in the final will be No. 7 seeded Mac Styslinger of Birmingham, Ala., who beat 2009 16s Easter Bowl champ Shane Vinsant, 6-0, 7-6 (5).
“I don’t know anything about Mac which is kind of strange because all the USTA guys usually know each other,” Giron said. “I have to take care of my serve and return well. I’ve never played him. It should be fun.”