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Just because he won four of his six ASICS Easter Bowl matches after dropping the first set and five total three-setters, doesn’t mean that Gage Brymer enjoys playing in them.
“No, I don’t really like them,” was Brymer’s response to a question posed by USTA First Vice President Katrina Adams, who was handling Tennis Channel on-court commentating duties following the unseeded Brymer’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, win over Luca Corinteli in the Boy’s 18s ITF singles final on the final day of the 46th annual event that took place for the first time at the Sunrise Country Club.
Adams called Brymer the “Marathon Man”, who later added in his post-match media interviews: “I wish I could get it done it two sets every match. It’s been quite a week, quite a grind.”
For the third straight year the boys’ 18s ITF singles was won by a UCLA Bruin recruit as Marcos Giron (2011), Mackenzie McDonald (2012) and now Brymer have captured the coveted title. It’s a junior title their coach Billy Martin, who many regard as one of the best junior players of all-time, never won.
“I don’t think it’s that I’m getting warmed up because I feel good when I go on the court and I’m hitting good,” Brymer said. “I think the other guy just really comes out pumped up and it takes a little bit of time to get into the match. It’s funny because this is the first tournament where it’s been the case. It’s not that I’m known for losing the first set. It’s just been this week. It’s not too disheartening now when I lose the first set because I know I can come back.
“I can’t put my finger on it. I guess it’s a good thing because I’ll never count myself out in the second set.”
Corinteli, the No. 3 seeded player from Alexandria, Va., who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., played a solid first set and used his big serve to take the early lead. “Maybe I thought in my head I really wouldn’t face any adversity and that it’s kind of going to go as smooth as it has the first set and a half,” he said. “But tennis is never like that and this has happened to me before. A couple of times you pass by it and think you’ve overcome it and then it happens again. You never really know what to expect in this sport because I was in cruise control and then a couple different points go his way and it’s a different match.”
Brymer also won the ASICS Easter Bowl in 2011 in the boys’ 16s. “I don’t like getting second place,” he said. “I feel like once I get to the final I’m there to win it. A couple of weeks ago at the Claremont ITF I got second and that was my first second in a while. I really can’t remember the last time I got second place. I just hate it. I can’t stand going all that way and losing.”
Brymer said he got a little nervous up 5-0 and then 5-1 in the final set. “It’s definitely an incredibly tough place to be up 5-0, 5-1, 5-2. Some people say, you’re up by so much and you’ve got nothing to lose and you’ve got nothing to be worried about, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. It’s much harder to get up 5-0 and close it out then to get up 5-0.
Brymer doesn’t have much time to rest before he returns to play for his high school team, University High in Irvine, on Tuesday. Then it’s off to play the 113th Ojai Valley Championships Boys’ CIF Interscholastic division April 25-28. This year, Brymer is trying to be the first player since Bobby Riggs to win three straight high school titles at The Ojai since Bobby Riggs did it from 1934-36 playing for Franklin High School in Los Angeles.
Two 14-year-olds battled for the Girls’ 16s singles title as last year’s ASICS Easter Bowl finalist CiCi Bellis, the No. 8-seeded player from Atherton, Calif., defeated No. 7 Caroline Dolehide of Hinsdale, Ill., 6-4, 6-1.
“I thought about it a little bit before the match,” Bellis said of her finals loss last year. “It was pretty disappointing. I didn’t want to think about that before the match.”
Dolehide got down two breaks early in the match, but was able to come back and had game point at 4-all before Bellis was able close out the first set, 6-4.
“I missed a little bit too much to stay in the match,” Dolehide said. “I didn’t feel tired but I felt like I had to pick it up to stay with her. All her balls were going pretty deep.”
Dolehide said she wasn’t nervous playing in the final, just “excited.”
Dolehide later teamed with partner Brienne Minor to win the gold ball in doubles to go along with her singles silver as the pair beat Emma Higuchi and Rebecca Weissmann, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
In the Boys’ 16s final, top-seeded Sameer Kumar of Carmel, Ind., won his second straight USTA Supernational with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Kalman Boyd of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
“I just couldn’t hang with him,” Boyd said. “He was so fresh and mentally tough and I just got too tired after every point. I was just dead and trying to recover. I never played on Stadium and I never played in front of a crowd all week. So I think that was a factor. I’m already looking forward to my next tournament.”
Kumar said he and his coach actually hit on Stadium court late Saturday night just to get a feel for it. “We wanted to see how the conditions were,” said Kumar, who won the 16s Winternationals to start the year. “Today was tough, but obviously the scoreline doesn’t seem so. I played very well today.”
Not even paired together until the day before the tournament, Jordi Arconada and Spencer Papa beat JC Aragone and Mackenzie McDonald, 6-1, 7-5 to win the Boys’ 18s doubles.
Weekend ASICS Easter Bowl sightings: USTA First Vice President Katrina Adams, USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras and former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kathy May Fritz.
Mayo Hibi completed the ITF Carson-ASICS Easter Bowl double on Saturday, concluding a dominating two weeks of tennis with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Tornado Ali Black.
“I surprised myself that I was able to pull off the Easter Bowl after winning Carson,” said Hibi, who joins Krista Hardebeck (2010) and Melanie Oudin (2008) as recent players who have managed the feat. “I was pretty tired coming into the tournament and wasn’t sure how my body was going to hold up.”
Irvine’s Hibi, who lost in the doubles semifinals on Friday, dropped just 14 games total in her six singles match wins during the tournament.
Hibi said her game has really improved since she started working with former WTA player Debbie Graham, who won on hand to witness the victory.
“I think I’ve improved in a lot of areas,” Hibi said. “I still have a lot of things to work on, but I have really improved.”
She admitted to being “really, really nervous” at the start of the match and that the reality of being in the final got to her. “It’s not like a normal match. You don’t have you bag because the ball runners are carrying them, it was hot and the 14s match went really long. At first I didn’t feel like I was into the match and got down in the first set.”
But Hibi was able to come back, using her consistent slice backhand to keep Black off balance for most of the match.
“I thought I could have come into the match more prepared,” Black said. “I was really exhausted from my last two matches. I’m just happy I was able to do better this year after last year (losing in the first round).”
Hibi will next play USTA Pro Circuit events on the clay in North Carolina and Florida. She also has some celebrating to do. “I haven’t celebrated my birthday yet,” she said of turning 17 last week in Carson. “I think my mom will bake me a cake and we’ll have some ice cream.”
Jaeda Daniel, the No. 3 seed from Port Charlotte, Fla., will also be celebrating with some ice cream following her comeback win in the girls’ 14s final for her first USTA gold ball as she outlasted Ashley Lahey, the No. 11 seed from Hawthorne, Calif., 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
“That was definitely the toughest match of the tournament for me,” Daniel said, adding that she would go out to dinner with her mom on Saturday night and then to Cold Stone for ice cream.
Connor Hance of Torrance, Calif., overcame a match point in the boys’ 14s final to defeat top-seeded John McNally of Cincinnati, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. It was the second singles gold ball for Hance, who previously won the Clay Court National 12s.
“I’ve been up match point before like that and lost,” Hance said. “You are just like so happy thinking you’re going to win and then then you get really tight. That happened to me at the Eddie Herr.”
Serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set, McNally double faulted on match point to make it deuce and then Hance reeled off two more points to force the tiebreak.
“In the tiebreak I was just saying get your first serve in,” Hance said. “I didn’t get them all in but I think getting most of them was the difference in the match.”
McNally was distraught after the match, but handled himself well despite the disappointment and said tennis is a lot about ups and downs and how you deal with it. “You really can’t really live like that,” he said of pondering missed opportunities. “Crap happens. That’s what my papa tells me. You’re going to have matches where you come back from match points and matches that you lose up a match point. That’s just tennis. I do look back on that match point. I’m not going to lie. On match point I just got a little bit tight.”
McNally said he looks forward to playing Hance again. “It’s like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal,” he said. “You see them and Djokovic have great matches just like we do. Of course I look forward to playing all the top kids at this high level. It’s the juniors so I don’t really have anything to lose. I’m really looking forward to playing Connor again and getting some revenge.”
Hance said he was excited to be listed among the USTA Spring National winners for the rest of his life. “I’m pretty excited. My names is like going to be in the program. Forever.”
Top-seeded Sameer Kumar came back in his boys’ 16s semifinals to defeat Taylor Fritz, breaking Fritz who was serving for the match in the third set at 5-4. He faces Kalman Boyd on Sunday in the final championship match of the day.
“I’m excited to be in the final,” Kumar said. “I won the Winternationals earlier in the year and that gave me a lot of confidence.”
In the boys’ 18s final, Irvine’s Gage Brymer will face University of Virginia recruit Luca Corinteli. A UCLA recruit, Brymer is unseeded and has won four of his five matches in three setters.
Saturday ASICS Easter Bowl sightings: former USTA President Franklin Johnson, Tennis Channel commentator and former ATP player Vince Spadea, former ATP player Chico Hagey and former WTA player Debbie Graham.