First 2019 Easter Bowl
Steve Pratt | March 29, 2019
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Losing early-round matches in past Adidas Easter Bowls proved motivating factors for Thursday’s big winners, as coveted boys’ and girls’ 14s and 12s USTA Gold and Silver Balls were handed out to finalists at the 52nd annual event, taking place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Ethiopian-born Tsehay Driscoll, of La Canada Flintridge, Calif., erased some bad Easter Bowl memories as she captured the girls’ 14-and-under singles title with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win over Ria Bhakta of Saratoga, Calif., on a day that saw the tournament lose its Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in shocking upsets in the girls’ ITF 18s division.
“I was more prepared for what was coming and I didn’t want to have a bad tournament for the fourth time in a row,” said Driscoll, who was adopted by parents Mark and Robin at age 1 and had lost in the first round, second round and first round the past three years. ADVERTISEMENT “I was just way more determined to do better this time.”
Driscoll, who turns 14 next month, started her tennis career at the Palisades Tennis Center before moving to La Canada Flintridge four years ago, and is now working with former USC star and 1996 NCAA singles champion Cecil Mamiit at the Burbank Tennis Center. Later in the day, Driscoll also captured the USTA Gold Ball in the girls’14s doubles event, with partner Madison Smith.
“For me, this means a lot because it’s the one Super Nationals I’ve never done well in and it’s right outside my backyard,” said the homeschooled Driscoll, who won her fourth career Gold Ball. “I feel like it’s a big accomplishment.”
Unlike last year, a 38-hour drive from Illinois was well worth it this year for 11-year-old Thea Latak of Darien, Ill., the new girls’ 12s Easter Bowl singles champion. The top-seeded Latak (pictured above) defeated unseeded Daniela Borruel of Buena Park, Calif., 7-6, 6-3, in Thursday’s final.
“Last year was my first Easter Bowl and I was triple crowned,” said Latak, born in Illinois to parents from Poland. “After 38 hours of driving, I lost everything—singles, doubles and consolation. All first round. This year was definitely worth it.”
Latak won her first Gold Ball after winning Silver Balls at the National Indoors in singles and doubles last year. She plays out of the Hinsdale Racquet Club and works with legendary coach Jack Sharpe.
In the boys’ 14s final, No. 12-seeded Juncheng (Jerry) Shang, of Naples, Fla., didn’t want to rehash his first Easter Bowl loss last year, in Round 2. This year, in the final, he beat No. 3-seeded Lucas Brown of Plano, Texas, 6-3, 6-3. Brown did get his Gold Ball later in the day, capturing the doubles title with partner Aidan Kim of Milford, Minn.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m more experienced now,” said Shang, who trains at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, Fla. “I was kind of nervous in the beginning, but it helped having been here before.
“I was up 3-0 in the second set and then I got tight,” said Shang, who will now travel to China for some junior ITF events over the next few weeks. “He did a good job on coming in on my serve.”
Boys’ 12s Easter Bowl champion Abhishek Thorat, of Lithia, Fla., didn’t have the advantage of playing a past tournament, as this was his first trip to the Coachella Valley. The No. 13-seeded Thorat defeated Cooper Woestendick of Olathe, Kan., 6-4, 6-1.
“I’m really happy about this,” said Thorat, a sixth-grader who trains with brothers Andrew and Alex Golub at the Brandon Sports and Aquatics Center, near Tampa, Fla. “I definitely played a lot better than I expected and didn’t think I would win the tournament by this big of a margin. I was expecting the semis and finals to be both three-setters. It was solid for me.”
Thorat added: “It’s a great tournament. It’s a great site and just an amazing experience. California is a lot dryer than Florida, so I think I was just able to get stronger after each match.”
In the girls’ ITF 18s draw, top-seeded Tyra Black, of Boca Raton, Fla., was upset by No. 13-seeded Emma Jackson of La Grange Park, Ill., 6-4, 7-6, and No. 2 Eli Mandlik fell to No. 16 Alexandra Yepifanova of Miami, Fla., 6-3, 6-4.
In the boys’ ITF 18s, former ATP Top-5 pro Martin Damm watched his namesake son continue his Easter Bowl run, as he advanced to the quarterfinals. The No. 3-seeded Damm will take on No. 10 Andrew Dale on Friday. Damm won’t be the only player in the 18s quarterfinals with a famous former tennis player, as Mark Mandlik—son of Hana Mandlikova—has also made the final eight.
In the boys’ 16s event, Aryan Chaudhary, of Santa Clara, Calif., will face No. 3 Samir Banerjee of Basking Ridge, N.J., in one semifinal, while No. 4 Thomas Paulsell, of Seattle, will play No. 9 JJ Tracy of Hilton Head Island, S.C., in the other.
In the girls’ 16s, No. 9 Vivian Ovrootsky, of San Jose, Calif., will take on unseeded Gracie Epps of Norman, Okla., in one semifinal, while No. 10 DJ Bennett, of Belleview, Fla., meets No. 12 Daniella Benabraham of New York in the draw’s opposite half.
To keep up with all the Adidas Easter Bowl news, visit the official tournament website, and check out the tournament on Facebook and Twitter. Live streaming is available on the official website, and an improved mobile app, Match Tennis App, provides even more ways to follow the action.
Pictured: Thea Latak. Photo credit: David Kenas Photography.