By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.
– Mayo Hibi has had quite an impressive run in her return to junior tennis over the past two weeks.
The Irvine, Calif., 17-year-old is just one win away from taking the impressive back-to-back ITF double of winning Carson and the ASICS Easter Bowl, as she takes on 14-year-old Tornado Ali Black in the girls’ 18s final on Saturday at the 46th annual event taking place at the Sunrise Country Club.
Hibi, who has played just ITF Pro Circuit events this year, has had just one day off over the past 12 days. Only Melanie Oudin (2008) and Krista Hardebeck (2010) have been able to pull off the Carson-Easter Bowl double.
"Yeah, I’m pretty tired," said Hibi, who had another convincing win on Friday over 13-year-old Michaela Gordon of Los Altos Hills, Calif., 6-2, 6-0. Later in the day, she fell in the doubles semifinals with Brooke Austin.
Hibi and Black have played just once before last summer in the quarterfinals of a USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 event at Hilton Head, S.C., with Hibi dropping just one game. Hibi said Black didn’t play her best match and expects a tough final on Saturday.
"I’m sure she’s going to be ready to go," Hibi said.
Black fell down 3-1 in the first set for the second consecutive match but was able to battle back against a tough player in Louisa Chirico in a match that was just short of three hours, as the No. 6-seed recorded a tense 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) win.
Unseeded Gage Brymer of Irvine continued his impressive run, advancing to the semifinals in the boys’ 18s division. He next meets Martin Redlicki, the No. 5-seed from Boca Raton, Fla. Redlicki upset defending champion and No. 2-seeded Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. In the other half of the draw, No. 3 Luca Corinteli takes on top-seeded Noah Rubin.
In the boys’ 14s final on Saturday, the seedings held almost perfect as No. 1 John McNally of Cincinnati beat No. 5 Nathan Perrone of Mount Laurel, N.J., and No. 2 Connor Hance toppled No. 3 Zeke Clark of Tulsa, Okla., also in straight sets, setting up a finals matchup on Saturday between the top two seeds.
McNally is aware he would be in some impressive company if he could pull out the win in the final Saturday.
"I haven’t looked back at the past winners in the 14s," he said. "I just know how prestigious a tournament this is."
Aaron Krickstein, Justin Gimelstob and Donald Young are past 14s ASICS Easter Bowl winners.
McNally and Hance have never played each other but did square off in a doubles match on Thursday won by Hance and his partner.
"I learned he had a gigantic forehand," Hance said. "I have a plan, I think."
Hance and Clark had some extremely long rallies. "The average rally was like 20 shots," Hance said. "I was just trying to keep it deep. He doesn’t give you a lot of balls to put away. He’s a great player, and I had to do a lot to keep him off balance and to throw him off. It’s hard to pass him because he’s so fast. I was just grinding with him.
"There were lots of breaks in the second set. It was just break, break, break. It’s hard to serve when you’re having 40-ball rallies because you lose your legs."
Ashley Lahey continued what she called her "breakthrough" tournament, advancing to the final for the first time in a super national event. She and her mother moved to the South Bay from Colorado a year ago to be closer to the USTA Training Center – West, where she trains with best-friend Ryan Peus, whom she beat on Friday, 6-2, 6-2.
"I practice with Ryan every day," the No. 11 seeded Lahey said. "We are best friends. We are inseparable. It’s tough to play your best friend, but eventually you get over that barrier. Hopefully I can play one more good match."
Her finals opponent is No. 3 Jaeda Daniel of Port Charlotte, Fla. She beat Alexa Graham of Garden City, N.Y. 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-1.
"It feels great to be in the final," said Daniel, who trains part of the year near her hometown of Philadelphia. "It’s been a long tournament."
Sightings on Thursday and Friday include former ATP pros Tim Mayotte, Eliot Teltscher and former NCAA women’s singles champion Beth Herr Bellamy.
for the 18s singles draws.