By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.
– Mayo Hibi of Irvine, Calif., 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."
Hibi, who lost in the doubles semifinals on Friday, dropped just 14 games total in her six singles wins during the tournament.
She said her game has really improved since she started working with former WTA player Debbie Graham, who was 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 your 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 clay courts 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 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 name is 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 Winter nationals 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 include 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.
for the 18s singles draws.
Previewing Sunday’s main-draw singles matches:
10 a.m. – Girls’ 16 Singles Final
Catherine Bellis vs. Caroline Dolehide
- Catherine is from Atherton in Northern California and is the No. 8 seed at the ASICS Easter Bowl.
- She beat the top-seeded player in the 16s on Friday and the No. 4 seed yesterday in the semifinals.
- Catherine was a finalist in the 14s division at the ASICS Easter Bowl last year.
- Caroline is 14 years old and the No. 7 seed and from Hinsdale, Illinois.
- She is coming off a great Carson event where she made the semifinals in the 16s.
- Her sister Courtney currently plays for the UCLA Bruins.
12 p.m. – Boys’ 18 Singles Final
Gage Brymer vs. Luca Corinteli
- Gage, from Irvine, is unseeded here this week and has won four of his five matches in three sets.
- Gage won the 16s division at the ASICS Easter Bowl in 2011.
- He will play for UCLA in the fall.
- Luca trains with the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md.
- Luca is the No. 3-seeded player and playing in his first ASICS Easter Bowl final.
- He will play next year for the University of Virginia.
2 p.m. – Boys’ 16s Singles Final
Sameer Kumar vs. Kalman Boyd
- Sameer is the top-seeded player in the boys’ 16s and is from Carmel, Ind.
- He won the Winter Nationals in January.
- Sameer is from the same hometown as ATP pro Rajeev Ram, and the two share the same coach.
- Kalam, unseeded and from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is currently training at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine.
- On Friday, Kalman beat the No. 2 seed, dropping just one game.