A qualifier winning his ninth match in nine days and a repeat Adidas Easter Bowl winner highlighted the final day of action at the 52nd annual Adidas Easter Bowl on Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
LSU recruit and Ron Hohmann of Oyster Bay, N.Y., became the first qualifier in Easter Bowl history to run through the entire draw and end it with a title as the 17-year-old beat No. 3-seeded Martin Damm, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, to capture the USTA Gold ball in the Boys’ ITF 18-and-under division at the USTA Spring Nationals.
Charleston, S.C., 17-year-old Emma Navarro added a second USTA Gold Ball to her vast collection as she added the singles title to the doubles she won Saturday in taking out 14-year-old No. 14 seeded Robin Montgomery of Washington D.C., 6-0, 7-6 (2), for the Girls’ ITF 18s title. Navarro became the eighth girls in Easter Bowl history to win the Girls’ 16s, then come to also win the 18s.
Hohmann receives three valuable wild cards into future events, including one into this home-state US Open Juniors in September.
“I didn’t really think if I win, I get this, if I lose I get this,” said Hohmann, who will also get wild cards into an ATP $80,000 Challenger and a ITF World Tennis Tour $25,000 event. “During the match I had no thought about it. Maybe on match point I did. Match point I was thinking about it a little bit.”
In the third set, and serving up 3-2, Damm couldn’t convert on two breaks points as Hohmann found a way to hold for 3-all. Damm said there wasn’t much he could do as Hohmann never stopped hitting out and going for winners.
“Those winners were coming left and right and there is really nothing you could do about that,” said Damm, who won the 16s at the USTA National Hardcourts in Kalmazoo, Mich. “He played a really good match, and I didn’t play my best match. I think he was just playing free. He was making winners from every part of the court. There were so many things I could have done differently but it’s already in the past and there will be other matches and I look forward to my next one on Tuesday [in Carson].”
Damm received the USTA Silver ball and will also get wild cards into a $25,000 and $15,000 ITF pro event.
Hohmann said he wasn’t sure how his body would hold up. He signaled for his coach who joined him on the courts at the end of the second set. “I literally to him I’m so tired and I can’t move and he told me the game plan of what to do and he told me to be consistent and don’t waste your energy on stupid things,” Hohmann said. “I just conserved my energy very well.”
Hohmann was able to handle the 6-foot-6 ½ Damm’s lefty serve when he needed to most. “Every time I broke him I made sure to get the serve in the court, but he has a great serve,” he said. “It was really tough to return.”
After dominating an overwhelmed Montgomery to win the first set at love, Navarro found herself down 2-5 in the second before playing her consistent, steady game to come back and force a tiebreaker. She had won two tiebreakers at 7-1 earlier in the tournament and dominated the final one starting the breaker with an ace.
“I’m trying to figure out why I’m doing so good in tiebreakers,” said Navarro, who has a wild card into singles and doubles on clay at her hometown WTA Premier Level Volvo Car Open this week. “I focus well in tiebreakers and I know it’s high stakes and it’s important and it matters.”
She added: “She wasn’t playing her best in the first set. Down 5-2, it’s easy to think it’s over but me and my coach [Peter Ayers] have really worked on that. Just focus on each point and know that the next point won’t win you the set.”
It’s not the last we will hear from Montgomery, a prodigy who was one of the youngest Easter Bowl finalists in history. “It was my first final of a big tournament,” said Montgomery, who was also honored with the Girls’ 18s Sportsmanship Award. “There are refs everywhere and ball kids. Once again I started slow. She fought back. She’s a great player. It’s an honor to lose to her, to be honest,”
Navarro became the eighth girl to win both the 18s and 16s singles titles at the Easter Bowl. Other to do so: Kyle McPhillips (2011, 10), Megan Bradley (2001, 1999), Melissa Middleton (1997, 96), Stephy Halsell (1994, 93), Andrea Berger (1987, 86) Caroline Stoll (1977, 76), Karen Benson (1970, 68).
“It’s cool to win it in two different age groups,” Navarro said. “I think everything has changed. I’m hitting bigger and heavier now.”
Samir Banerjee is the 2019 Adidas Easter Bowl 16s champion as last year’s 14s finalist from Basking Ridge, N.J., called upon his experience of last year’s match to propel him to the title as he beat No. 9 JJ Tracy out of the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C., 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Part of the ITF World Tennis Tour pathway to the pros, with the win Banerjee receives a wild card into a future ITF WTT $15,000 pro event. “That’s crazy,” said Banerjee,” who beat top-seeded Aryan Chaudhary in three sets on Friday. “I did say I was looking to play some stiffer competition.”
The 15-year-old Banerjee trains at Center Court Tennis Academy and Garden State Tennis Center near Newark, N.J.
“I knew it was going to be tough and there would be a lot of pressure and a lot of people watching,” said Banerjee, who now has a total of 10 USTA balls, including six in doubles and four in singles. “I just tried to stay focused and play my game throughout the entire match.
San Jose’s No. 9-seeded Vivian Ovrootsky won the Girls’ 16s singles title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 10 DJ Bennett of Belleview, Fla. She will receive a wild card into an ITF Grade 1 event.
“I didn’t play my best tennis today and DJ played unbelievable tennis today and her forehand was really on,” said Ovrootsky, age 14, who was also presented with the division’s USTA Sportsmanship award. “I just had to get through the match and stay offensive.”
That makes two tournament wins in a row for Ovrootsky, who won the ITF Level 4 event in Irvine last week, who is now on a 12-match winning streak.
“It was tiring, but I think I recovered well which is why I was able to move the way I did today,” said Ovrootsky, who has now won three USTA Gold balls and two Silver balls.
Ovrootsky attends Laurel Springs Online School and trains with coach Nick Fustar at Eagle Fustar Academy in Northern California.
Gracie Epps of Norman, Okla., beat No. 12 Daniella Benabraham of New York, N.Y., in straight sets to win the bronze.
In the 3rd-4th place Boys’ 16s match, Thomas Paulsell, the No. 4 seed from Seattle, won the Bronze ball over Aryan Chaudhary, No. 1 from Santa Clara, Calif., 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Paulsell also took the Gold ball by winning the 16s as he teamed with Frank Thompson of Blacksburg, Va., to beat the top-seeded team of Alex Finkelstein (Raynham, Mass.) and Nathan Mao of Topsham, Maine, 6-2, 6-2.
In the Girls’ 16s doubles final, No. 1s Ava Catanzarite (Pittsburgh) and Sydni Ratliff (Gahanna, Ohio) beat Whitley Pate (Daniel Island, S.C.) and Sophia Strugnell (Summerfield, N.C.) 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.
Losing early-round matches in past Adidas Easter Bowls proved motivating factors for Thursday’s big winners as coveted boys’ and girls’ 14s and 12s USTA Gold and Silver balls were handed out to finalists at the 52nd annual event taking place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Ethiopian-born Tsehay Driscoll of La Canada Flintridge, Calif., erased some bad Easter Bowl memories as she captured the Girls’ 14-and-under title with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 over Ria Bhakta of Saratoga, Calif., on a day that saw the tournament lose its No. 1 and 2 seeds in shocking upsets in the Girls’ ITF 18s division.
“I was more prepared for what was coming and I didn’t want to have a bad tournament for the fourth time in a row,” said Driscoll, who was adopted by parents Mark and Robyn at age 1 and had lost first round, second round, and first round the past three years. “I was just way more determined to do better this time.”
Driscoll, who turns 14 next month, started her tennis career at the Palisades Tennis Center before moving to La Canada Flintridge four years ago and is now working with former USC star and 1996 NCAA singles champion Cecil Mamiit at the Burbank Tennis Center.
“For me this means a lot because it’s the one Super Nationals I’ve never done well in and it’s right outside my backyard,” said Driscoll, who is home schooled and won her fourth career Gold ball. “I feel like it’s a big accomplishment.”
Unlike last year, a 38-hour drive from Illinois was well worth it this year for 11-year-old top-seeded Thea Latak of Darien, Ill., the new Girls’ 12s Easter Bowl singles champion. Latak defeated unseeded Daniela Borruel of Buena Park, Calif., 7-6 (3), 6-3.
“Last year was my first Easter Bowl and I was triple crowned,” said Latak, born in Illinois to parents from Poland. “After 38 hours of driving I lost everything, singles, doubles and consolation. All first round. This year was definitely worth it.”
Latak won her first Gold Ball after winning Silver balls at the National Indoors in singles and doubles last year. She plays out of the Hinsdale Racquet Club and works with legendary coach Jack Sharpe.
In the Boys’ 14s final, No. 12-seeded Juncheng (Jerry) Shang of Naples, Fla., didn’t want to rehash his first Easter Bowl loss last year that resulted in a second-round loss. He beat No. 3 seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, 6-3, 6-3. Brown did get his Gold ball later in the day capturing the doubles final with partner Aidan Kim of Milford, Minn.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m more experienced now,” Shang said. “I was kind of nervous in the beginning, but it helped having been here before.”
Shang trains at Sanchez-Casals Academy in Naples, Fla. “I was up 3-0 in the second set and then I got tight,” said Shang, who will travel to China for some junior ITFs over the next few weeks. “He did a good job on coming in on my serve.
Boys’ 12s Easter Bowl champion Abhishek Thorat of Lithia, Fla., didn’t have the advantage of playing a past tournament as this was his first trip to the Coachella Valley. The No. 13-seeded Thorat defeated Cooper Woestendick of Olathe, Kan., 6-4, 6-1.
“I’m really happy about this,” said Thorat, a sixth-grader who trains with brothers Andrew and Alex Golub at the Brandon Sports and Aquatics Center near Tampa, Fla. “I definitely played a lot better than I expected and didn’t think I would win the tournament by this big of a margin. I was expecting the semis and finals to be both three setters. It was solid for me.
Thorat added: “It’s a great tournament. It’s a great site and just an amazing experience. “California is a lot drier than Florida so I think I was just able to get stronger after each match.”