World No. 7 Francis Tiafoe is the top seed in the boys' 18s draw.
© Cynthia Lum
By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It’s a new-look ASICS Easter Bowl this year, as the iconic junior tennis tournament has plenty of changes in store once play begins in the boys’ and girls’ 18s division.
The location, format and draw sizes have all changed in 2014 for the 47th annual event. The host site is the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where the nation’s top junior tennis players will have a chance to play on the same courts that their favorite pros did last month at the BNP Paribas Open. Admission is free to attend the tournament.
The boys' and girls' 18s main draws start on Monday, April 7, and conclude on Sunday, April 13. The 18s is an ITF Grade B1 and USTA Level 1 event. It is a closed event, meaning only players from the United States can play.
For the first time, the tournament will include the nation’s top 12-and-under players. The 16s, 14s and 12s will be a four-day event taking place Thursday through Sunday, with a 64-player singles draw and 32-team doubles field. Also new this year, there are no wild cards being admitted for these three age divisions.
“I’m excited about the ASICS Easter Bowl,” said 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe, from College Park, Md., the top-seeded player in the boys’ 18s who last December became the youngest champion in the 67-year history of the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Championships. “I’m excited about every tournament I play, but especially this one. It’s been so cold in Maryland, and I’ve played the past three months indoors. I just love playing outdoors here and in the sun.”
In the boys’ 18s, Tiafoe will be the one to watch and will battle against other ITF world Top 100-ranked players, like Alex Rybakov of Coral Springs, Fla., Henrik Wiersholm of Kirkland, Wash., Logan Smith of Carlsbad, Calif., Jordi Arconada of College Park, Md., Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Daniel Kerznerman of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keep an eye out for 17-year-old Deiton Baughman of Carson, Calif., who has turned pro and is fighting to get into the French Open and Wimbledon junior tournaments, as well as for 2012 boys’ 14s ASICS Easter Bowl champion William Blumberg of Greenwich, Conn.
In the girls’ 18s, top players include Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., Johnnise Renaud of North Miami, Fla., CiCi Bellis of Atherton, Fla., Michaela Gordon of Los Alto Hills, Calif., Usue Arconada of College Park, Md., Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C., and Raquel Pedraza of Claremont, Calif. Bellis is coming off a title at last week's USTA International Spring Championships.
The top-seed players in the boys’ 16s are: Evan Zhu (Greenbelt, Md.), Zeke Clark (Tulsa, Okla.), Matthew Gamble (Webster, N.Y.), William Genesen (Tulsa, Okla.), and Alex Phillips (Peachtree City, Ga.). In the girls’ 16s, they are: Katerina Stewart (Coral Gables, Fla.), Alexandra Sanford (Westerville, Ohio), Bess Waldram (Portland, Ore.), Isabella Lorenzini (Clarendon Hills, Ill.) and Rebecca Weissmann (Loveland, Colo.).
The top-seeded players in the boys’ 14s are: Steven Sun (Glen Cove, N.Y.), Keenan Mayo (Roseville, Calif.), Russell Benkaim (Osprey, Fla.), Brandon Nakashima (San Diego), Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, Ill.). In the girls’ 14s, they are: Grace Joyce (Newton, Mass.), Shailla Alda (Phoenix), Rachel Lim (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.), Alyvia Jones (Midland, Mich.) and Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, Calif.).
The top-seeded players in the boys’ 12s are: Harry Yang (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), Blaise Bicknell (Miami), Spencer Whitaker (Richmond, Va.), Ivan Smith (Chula Vista, Calif.), and Niroop Vallabhaneni (Paradise Valley, Ariz.). In the girls’ 12s, they are: Gabriella Price (Montebello, N.Y.), Gianna Pielet (El Paso, Texas), Victoria Hu (Northborough, Mass.), Cameron Compall (Winnetka, Ill.) and Whitney Osuigwe (Bradenton, Fla.).
To keep up with the latest ASICS Easter Bowl news, visit the official website, and check out the tournament on Facebook and Twitter.