Mackenzie McDonald won the 2012 Easter Bowl boys' 18s singles title.
© Bob Kenas
By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – When Mackenzie McDonald wakes up on Monday morning, his 17th birthday, it will probably have sunk in: He’s the 2012 boys’ 1TF 18s singles champion at the Easter Bowl.
Just three years ago, on his final days as a 13-year-old, McDonald won the gold ball in the USTA Springs Nationals in the 14s at the Easter Bowl.
"This is so big, one of the most prestigious events we have in the nation," said McDonald, aware that so few repeat in this tournament in multiple divisions, following his 6-4, 6-1 win over Alexios Halebian on Sunday at Rancho Las Palmas Resort. "It shows all my hard work has paid off. When you’ve been away from the game as long as I have, you begin to appreciate things more."
One year ago, McDonald was at the beginning stages of an eight-month layoff from tennis after suffering from Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a condition of having an abnormally low platelet count of unknown cause. He missed last year’s Easter Bowl and said he contemplated driving down from his Bay Area home in Piedmont, Calif., just to watch the event and hang with his friends.
Halebian, the No. 4-seeded player from Glendale, Calif., started the SoCal-NorCal battle fast, going up 4-1 and breaking McDonald’s serve twice, even having game points for 5-1.
"I started well and was hoping to not drop the first set," Halebian said. "I was looking good and was hoping to make it 5-1, and he started playing better. That was my best chance to win the match -- to win the first set. He started hitting the ball bigger."
Halebian was playing in his first Easter Bowl final. "I’ve been at just about every stage except the final," he said. Now, like McDonald, it’s off to the French Open and Wimbledon junior events.
Halebian did manage to come back and win the 18s doubles as a member of the No. 1 team with Mitchell Krueger, beating Jordan Daigle and Austin Siegel, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 1-0 (7).
In the boys’ 16s final, Joseph DiGiulio, the No. 12-seeded player from Newport Beach, Calif., defeated Aron Hiltzik, the No. 9 seed from Wilmette, Ill., 7-5, 6-1. Di Giulio also won the doubles gold ball, pairing with Logan Smith to beat Jake Devine and Cameron Klinger, 6-3, 6-3.
Like Halebian, Hiltzik started fast and also took a 4-1 lead with a break of serve. But DiGiulio picked up his game and served himself out of some tough situations, while Hiltzik’s serve seemed to let him down as the match progressed.
"I haven’t really won anything big in the last couple of years, so this is great," said DiGiulio, who was one of four players featured in the junior tennis documentary "50,000 Balls" several years ago.
Hiltzik was all smiles in defeat. "It was a great tournament," he said. "Every single player I played was really tough. I was just happy to get to where I got, although I would have liked to have gotten the win. I was down, 6-1, 3-1, in one of my matches and came back to win. So I’m just so happy to get to the final."
It was the first ball of any kind for Hiltzik. "(Joseph) played great today. He got the best of me today. He was very consistent, and he didn’t give me any free points. His serve was on and mine not so much."
In the girls’ 16s final, Brooke Broda, the No. 8 seed from West Chester, Ohio, beat Meredith Xepoleas of Huntington Beach, Calif., 6-3, 6-1. It was Broda’s first trip to the Easter Bowl and one that almost didn’t happen. She is on the mend from a stress fracture in her left foot that kept her in an air cast for a month and a half.
"I just decided at the last minute to come and wing it," said Broda, who trains out of the Queen City Racquet Club in Cincinnati.
The match was officially suspended after a young male ball runner fainted. That left the 16-year-old Broda sitting in a chair in the corner of the court with nothing to do but think about her one-set, 4-1 lead.
"I was a little nervous and was thinking I might not be as warmed up, but luckily they gave us another warm-up," she said, adding she spoke to her dad for advice during the stoppage in play while paramedics helped the young boy off the court.
Xepoleas, just 14 years old, just recently stopped training at the USTA Training Center – West and now trains with private coach Eliot Teltscher. "I was bummed about the 8:30 match time," Xepoleas said. "I was hoping to play later in the day."
She added that the stoppage in play didn’t affect her. "To be honest, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to win the match after the delay and even before," she said, "because I was down and I wasn’t feeling it and I didn’t feel like five minutes was really going to do much to help me."
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Boys' 18 Singles (Final Round)
Mackenzie McDonald (3) Piedmont, CA def. Alexios Halebian (4) Glendale, CA 6-4, 6-1
Boys' 18 Doubles (Final Round)
Alexios Halebian / Mitchell Krueger (1) def. Jordan Daigle / Austin Siegel (2) 6-2, 6-7(3), 1-0(7)
Boys' 16 Singles (Final Round)
Joseph Di Giulio (12) Newport Beach, CA def. Aron Hiltzik (9) Wilmette, IL 7-5, 6-1
Boys' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
Joseph Di Giulio / Logan Smith (5) def. Jake Devine / Cameron Klinger 6-3, 6-3
Boys' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Thomas Fawcett (17) Winnetka, IL def. Yale Goldberg (1) Chagrin Falls, OH Wo (inj)
Boys' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
Garrett Auproux / Fabian Schaefer def. Winston Limhengco / Cody Rakela 6-4, 6-2
Girls' 16 Singles (Final Round)
Brooke Broda (8) West Chester, OH def. Meredith Xepoleas Huntington Beach, CA 6-3, 6-1
Girls' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
Alexis Pereira / Elizabeth Profit (6) def. Shannon Hudson / Olivia Sneed (1) 6-2, 7-5
Girls' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
Caroline Brinson / Megen Cochran (2) def. Hadley Berg / Kristina Hovsepyan (9) 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(3)
Girls' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Kaitlyn McCarthy (17) Cary, NC def. Jessica Golovin New York, NY 6-2, 2-6, 6-2
Saturday’s Results (Note: Some were postponed from Friday due to rain):
Boys' 14 Singles (Final Round)
William Blumberg (14) Greenwich, CT def. Kyle Seelig (2) Hatfield, PA 6-2, 6-1
Boys' 14 Doubles (Final Round)
William Blumberg / Brian Tsao (8) def. Anudeep Kodali / Johnathan Small (1) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Boys' 14 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Anudeep Kodali / Johnathan Small (1) def. Lane Leschly / Victor Pham (7) 7-6(4), 7-6(4)
William Blumberg / Brian Tsao (8) def. Alexander Hwang / Sreyas Kolachalam 6-2, 6-1
Boys' 14 Doubles (Playoff)
Lane Leschly / Victor Pham (7) def. Alexander Hwang / Sreyas Kolachalam 7-6(5), 6-3
Boys' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Joseph Di Giulio / Logan Smith (5) def. Garrett Auproux / Fabian Schaefer 6-2, 6-2
Jake Devine / Cameron Klinger def. Winston Limhengco / Cody Rakela 6-4, 6-4
Boys' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Aron Hiltzik (9) Wilmette, IL def. Thomas Fawcett (17) Winnetka, IL 6-3, 6-2
Joseph Di Giulio (12) Newport Beach, CA def. Yale Goldberg (1) Chagrin Falls, OH 6-2, 2-1 Ret (inj)
Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Aron Hiltzik (9) Wilmette, IL def. Logan Smith (16) Carlsbad, CA 6-2, 6-4
Girls' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Brooke Broda (8) West Chester, OH def. Jessica Golovin New York, NY 7-6(2), 7-5
Meredith Xepoleas Huntington Beach, CA def. Kaitlyn McCarthy (17) Cary, NC 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3
Girls' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Shannon Hudson / Olivia Sneed (1) def. Summer Collins / Courtney Meredith 7-5, 6-1
Hadley Berg / Kristina Hovsepyan (9) def. Aryn Greene / Adi Milstein (5) 6-7(5), 6-2, 1-0(8)
Alexis Pereira / Elizabeth Profit (6) def. Isabella Heidenreich / Maria Smith 2-1 Ret (em)
Caroline Brinson / Megen Cochran (2) def. Paige Cline / Annika Ringblom 7-6(7), 6-4
Girls' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Shannon Hudson / Olivia Sneed (1) def. Hadley Berg / Kristina Hovsepyan (9) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Alexis Pereira / Elizabeth Profit (6) def. Caroline Brinson / Megen Cochran (2) 7-6(1), 7-5
Girls' 14 Singles (Final Round)
Emma Higuchi (1) Los Angeles, CA def. Catherine Bellis (17) Atherton, CA 6-4, 6-4
Girls' 14 Doubles (Final Round)
Ena Shibahara / Savannah Slaysman def. Sofia Kenin / Parris Todd (8) 6-3, 6-4
Girls' 14 Doubles (Playoff)
Helen Altick / Catherine Bellis (1) def. Jessie Aney / Alexis Nelson (6) 6-1, 6-4