By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.
– 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 The Tennis Channel's 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 in 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 than 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, Calif., 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 accomplished the feet 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 to 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 Super National 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 (court), 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 Winter Nationals 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 title.
Weekend ASICS Easter Bowl sightings include USTA First Vice President Katrina Adams, USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras and former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kathy May Fritz.
for the 18s singles draws.