2016 winner Ross opens

with win at Adidas Easter Bowl

Steve Pratt  |  March 28, 2017

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It’s been 45 years since there has been a repeat winner in the Boys’ 18s division at the 50th Annual Adidas Easter USTA Junior National Spring Championships. At this week’s tournament, Gianni Ross is attempting to be the first to win back-to-back 18s singles titles since 1971-72, when Grey King achieved the feat.


On Tuesday, Ross opened play at the prestigious event with a straight-sets, 7-5, 6-1 win over Conrad Russell of Palo Alto, Calif. The match was played on the same main show Court 2 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden where he beat former doubles partner John McNally last April for the Easter Bowl title.


Ross had a wide grin on his face for a few hours after his victory on Tuesday. 


“This is a fun tournament for me,” he said. “I like everything: conditions, courts, balls. ADVERTISEMENT So I’m ready. It felt really dry for me today for some reason. I had to keep putting water on my hands. It was just so dry. Maybe because I was just coming from Carson. It was so gloomy and cold there to the hot and dry here.”


Ross played in the International Spring Championships singles final in Carson, Calif., Sunday, falling to Alexandre Rotsaert of Boca Raton, Fla. Rotsaert is the No. 9 seed here this week and also a straight-sets winner on Tuesday.


“I was depressed for a day, but you can’t ask for more than a final,” Ross said. “So I’m happy, and I hope I can do just as well here.”


Ross was told there had only been one repeat boys’ 18s winner in the 50-year history of the tournament and was asked if he felt pressure. 


“No,” said Ross, who suffered an illness that kept him off the court during the summer. “I shouldn’t feel pressure. There’s pressure to win every win match, so why should this week be any different? Winning last year was great. If I could get back and do it twice, that would be amazing. It was important for my last year to win this last year.” 


To go pro or enter the collegiate ranks is the pressing question that looms for Ross. 


“It’s still right there, deciding whether to go to college or turn pro,” he said. “I don’t think about it day by day. I just wake up and play tennis and try to get better. And that’s about it.”


Taylor Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., has never won the Easter Bowl, but after her dominating 6-1, 6-0, first-round win over Chloe Hamlin of Bristol, Tenn., Johnson looks like a top contender to win this year’s title. Like Ross, Johnson fell in the International Spring Cchampionships final Sunday to a player who is not entered in this week’s tournament, Carson Branstine.


“Reaching the final last week gave me a lot of confidence,” said the lefty Johnson, who is coached by tennis legend Rosie Casals. “Just working with Rosie these past four or five years has helped me so much. I like to serve and volley, and she’s really helped me with that.”


The 16-year-old Johnson said she stuck to her game plan Tuesday and hopes to do the same in the second round against Southern California rival Kelly Chen, whom she beat in three sets in a nearly four-hour marathon match in the second round at Carson.


“I hope it’s not as long as last week’s match, but I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Johnson said. “I was down in all three sets and faced a match point against her in the third set. It was tough, but I was able to pull through.”


In other action, last year’s finalist Ellie Douglas, the No. 4 seed from McKinney, Texas, beat Jessica Anzo of Temecula, 6-3, 6-0, in her first-round match. Also posting a win in the first round in the Boys’ ITF singles was top-seeded Trent Bryde of Suwanee, Ga., who best Benjamin Gollin of Solana Beach, Calif., 6-1, 7-6 (4).


Adidas Easter Bowl sightings on Tuesday: 1973 Boys’ 18s Easter Bowl champion and renowned Florida coach Nick Saviano; Stanford University men’s tennis coach Paul Goldstein; former UCLA star Nick Meister; former world-ranked No. 69 Jesse Levine; and the son of legendary tennis player Bobby Riggs, Larry Riggs.


Other notes: Forty-time ATP doubles winner Martin Damm’s son, Martin Jr. of Bradenton, Fla., advanced to the semifinals in the Boys’ 14s. The senior Damm partnered with Leander Paes to win the 2006 US Open.


In addition to live streaming the Easter Bowl again this year, the tournament has a new and improved mobile app, which can be found in both the Apple iTunes store or at Google Play. Search “Easter Bowl” to download the app. Check to watch the live stream and for the latest Easter Bowl news, results and schedules. 


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