Hey Tennis Friends!
It’s a brand new venue for the USTA & ITF National Spring Championships, now known as the ASICS Easter Bowl! I made an appearance on semifinal day to bring you this report:
Here are the scores for the matches that I featured (seedings in parenthesis):
GIRLS’ 18s SINGLES SEMIFINAL
(4) CiCi Bellis d. (1) Sofia Kenin 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Desperately wanting to play in her third straight ASICS Easter Bowl final, Bellis, rallied to win the last four games, after being down 4-2 in the third set, to beat Kenin.
“I had to stay really focused and try not to give away any free points,” said Bellis, the No. 4 seeded player who reached the Girls’ 14s final in 2012 and won the 16s last year. “I was really scared being down 4-2. And nervous.”
Bellis, who turned 15 four days before, will face fellow newly turned 15-year-old and No. 11-seeded Katie Swan of Wichita, Kansas. Swan, who moved to the United States a year ago from Bristol, England, downed Michaela Gordon, the No. 7 seed from Saratoga, California, 6-0, 6-4, in the other semifinal.
After winning the first set, Bellis said she knew Kenin was prepared to play in her fourth straight three-set match. “She’s a fighter and she never gives up,” Bellis said. “She’s a good player. When I won the first set I said to myself, ‘You have two more sets to go.’ ”
Bellis called the ASICS Easter Bowl, “literally my favorite tournament. I don’t know why it’s so special, but it just is. Maybe it’s because it’s during my birthday.”
Bellis won the important ITF Grade 1 Carson International Spring Championships last week and is looking to join Melanie Oudin and Krista Hardebeck as recent back-to-back Carson and ASICS Easter Bowl 18s winners.
BOYS’ 18s SINGLES SEMIFINAL
(1) Francis Tiafoe d. (13) Robert Levine 6-2, 6-2
Top-seeded Tiafoe, of College Park, Maryland, advanced to his first ASICS Easter Bowl final. He will play unseeded Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Arizona, in the Boys’ 18s final. Ponwith beat Aron Hiltzik, Wilmette, Illinois, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the other semifinal. Hiltzik was forced to call for a trainer near the end of the match to work on an injured shoulder.
Ponwith’s parents Jesse and Pam own the All About Tennis shop in Scottsdale and the Ponwith’s were named USTA Southwest Family of the Year in 2010.
Ponwith last played Tiafoe in the semifinals of Les Petits As, a top 14-and-under event in Tarbes, France, two years ago where he lost in three sets.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve wanted to play Francis for a while now. It’s been tough because the expectations are high for the guys born during my year.”
Ponwith was referring to the current top three players from the U.S. born the same year (1998) as him and who are each currently ranked in the Top 10 of the world ITF rankings: Stefan Kozlov (No. 4), Tiafoe (No. 7) and Michael Mmoh (No. 9).
Tennis Channel was also out there covering finals weekend of this event, and will air their program in May. Be sure to check their listings.
Additional information in this report was provided by the ASICS Easter Bowl PR Press Aide, Steve Pratt.
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I’ll see you next time, with more tennis, . . . outside the lines!
- Marcus Tennis