By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Future UCLA teammates and fellow Californians Mackenzie McDonald and Gage Brymer recorded convincing straight-set victories on Thursday in the Boys’ 18s division on Day 5 of the 46th annual ASICS Easter Bowl being played at the Sunrise Country Club.
The No. 2-seeded McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., beat No. 15-seeded Dennis Uspensky of Atlantic Beach, N.Y., 6-3, 6-1, and the unseeded Brymer of Irvine, Calif., got past Henrik Wiersholm, the No. 14-seed from Kirkland, Wash., 6-2, 7-5, as both now move on to Friday’s quarterfinals.
The defending champion and former boys’ 14s champion McDonald is looking to become the first back-to-back boys’ 18s winner at the ASICS Easter Bowl since 1971-72.
"I feel like Palm Springs brings out the best in my game," said McDonald, who played in warm 85-degree but ideal conditions. "I feel like just going out there and playing. I want to stay in the present and not think about the past and just get through each point and each match."
McDonald, 17, next meets Martin Redlicki, the No. 5 seed from Boca Raton, Fla., while Brymer will face Michael Mmoh, the No. 8 seed from Temple Hills, Md.
In the upset of the day, 13-year-old Ryan Peus of Carpinteria, Calif., beat 12-year-old and top-seeded Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., in the girls’ 14s quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3. The two are training partners at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif.
Peus was elated after the match, advancing to her first 14s semifinal of a USTA national tournament.
"It was a good win for me," she said. "We’ve played like eight times, and it always goes three sets. I was just a lot more aggressive, and I felt like I had nothing to lose today. She was tight the entire match, and she had all the pressure on her."
Peus wore her sweat-stained Roger Federer hat with three signatures on the bill of the cap belonging to R-Fed, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
"It’s my lucky hat," she said, adding she got all the signatures at the nearby BNP Paribas Open just down the road in Indian Wells, Calif.
A 13- and 14-year-old both advanced to the semifinals of the girls’ 18s, as unseeded Michaela Gordon, 13, of Los Altos Hills, Calif., beat Raquel Pedraza of Claremont, Calif., 6-3, 6-3, and No. 6-seeded Tornado Ali Black, 14, upset No. 2 Marika Akkerman in a nearly three-hour marathon, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Black was called for a time violation up 30-love but was able to close it out.
"I got down 3-1 in the first set and was thinking, ‘She can’t keep this level up,’" said Black, who recently left training with the USTA and has began working with the L’Academie de Tennis Academy in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Louisa Chirico, 16, of Harrison, N.Y., and Mayo Hibi, 17, of Irvine, Calif., are the other semifinalists, and both have WTA rankings, with Chirico at No. 427 and Hibi at No. 368 in the world. Hibi had no problems with last year’s 18s finalist Brooke Austin, 6-0, 6-2.
for the 18s singles draws.