Southern California Tennis

Fritz Moves Into ASICS Easter Bowl Semifinals

It was Sweet 16 day at the 48th annual ASICS Easter Bowl as both boys’ and girls’ 16s champions were crowned on the final day of play in the USTA Spring Nationals lower divisions.

Top-seeded Oliver Crawford of Spartanburg, S.C., had little trouble with No. 11 Brian Cernoch of North Bethesda, Md., 6-2, 6-1, to win the Boys’ 16s singles on Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Crawford extended his personal win streak to 12 straight over the past 12 days. Crawford, 15, also won the 16s singles at the USTA International Spring Championships last week in Carson, Calif.

Las Vegas-based 16-year-old Samantha Martinelli, the No. 2 seed originally from Denver, also needed just two sets to win the Girls’ 16s singles beating unseeded Natasha Subhash of Fairfax, Va., 7-5, 6-3.

The final two days of the ASICS Easter Bowl are all about the ITF 18s as the Boys’ and Girls’ 18s singles semifinals and doubles finals will be contested on Saturday with both singles finals taking place on Sunday.

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Top-seeded Boys’ 18s player Taylor Fritz, who came back from an amazing deficit down a set and love-5 on Thursday to win, advanced to the semifinals with another three-set win, beating unseeded Cameron Klinger of Elk Grove, Calif., 6-0, 6-7 (5), 6-3. Fritz had to come back to do it as he was down a break of serve 1-3 in the third set before rallying for the win.

Fritz had his chance to put the Vanderbilt-bound Klinger away serving for the match at 5-4 and then again at 6-5, losing his serve both times as Klinger was able to force a third set.

Fritz will meet 15-year-old Nathan Ponwith of Anthem, Ariz., in one semifinal on Saturday not before 12 noon. In the other Boys’ 18s semifinal it will be No. 2-seeded William Blumberg of Greenwich, Conn., taking on No. 14 Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif.

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On the Girls’ 18s side No. 14-seed and 14-year-old Claire Liu meets No. 4 Raveena Kingsley and No. 2 Katie Swan is pitted against unseeded Kylie McKenzie.

McKenzie’s victory was the most impressive as she beat No. 3-seeded Sonya Kenin, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals on Friday. McKenzie is from the same hometown as last year’s 18s singles finalist Ponwith and both are being coached by former Arizona State men’s tennis coach Lou Belken.

“She was struggling with her serve and I think I returned pretty good against her,” McKenzie said of Kenin, winner of the Metropolia Orange Bowl at the end of 2014, beating last year’s ASICS Easter Bowl 18s winner CiCi Bellis along the way. “It’s always nice to get free points in tough matches,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie had previously beaten Kenin three years ago at the Clay Court Nationals in the 14s.

The Boys’ 16s champ Crawford has been training recently with the USTA in Boca Raton, Fla., and said he played with an injured lower back with pain shooting all the way down his leg.

He said he was aware that USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras and USTA Head of Men’s Tennis Jay Berger were watching the match. “It was a bit nerve-wracking when they first came around,” said Crawford, who is traveling here with his father while his mother and sister are in New York City on Spring Break.

“I played with a little bit more confidence today than last week’s final,” he added.

Martinelli also played in a final last Sunday, but not in the Carson ITF, instead choosing to play in a local USTA Intermountain Sectional event which she won.

Martinelli trains with the No Quit Tennis Academy in Las Vegas under the direction of Coach Tim Blenkiron. Martinelli is part of the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation, a USTA NJTL program. She is also an elite member of Team Bryan and credits Blenkiron for her success. “He’s really amazing. We train up to four hours a day and he really has been able to help with me, both on and off the court,” she said.

On Thursday, Martinelli also added an ASICS Easter Bowl 16s doubles title to her resume. Before her singles final, Martinelli picked up an advantage by something she did during warmups. “In the warmup I noticed (Subhash) was running around her backhand and hitting a forehand so my strategy was to hit to her backhand.”

When Ken Thomas on the www.easterbowl.com live stream noted in her post-match interview that that was a very smart thing to pick up on, Martinelli responded: “Oh, yeah. I always start the warm-up by hitting a ball up the middle to see which side they favor.”

You can catch all the action live on www.easterbowl.com. Sponsors include: ASICS, Laurel Springs School, Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the Dent Junior Academy, the tennis website 10sBalls.com, USTA, The Old Spaghetti Factory, SCTA and Mind Matters Tennis.

To keep up with all the ASICS Easter Bowl news, visit the website at www.easterbowl.com and check out the tournament on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EasterBowl) and Twitter (@asicseasterbowl). For more information on ASICS, check out: www.ASICSAmerica.com and follow on Twitter @ASICSAmerica.

Boys’ 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Taylor Fritz (1) (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) def. Cameron Klinger (Elk Grove, CA) 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-3
Nathan Ponwith (4) (Scottsdale, AZ) def. Hady Habib (7) (Bradenton, FL) 6-2, 6-4
Sam Riffice (14) (Roseville, CA) def. Mwendwa Mbithi (10) (Deerfield Beach, FL) 6-1, 7-5
William Blumberg (2) (Greenwich, CT) def. Catalin Mateas (8) (Braintree, MA) 7-6(3), 6-4

Boys’ 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Cameron Klinger (Elk Grove, CA) / Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ) def. Jake DeVine (Los Altos Hills, CA) / Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC) 6-4, 6-4
Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL) / Sam Riffice (6) (Roseville, CA) def. Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA) / Emil Reinberg (5) (Atlanta, GA) 7-6, 6-3

Girls’ 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Claire Liu (12) (Thousand Oaks, CA) def. Helen Altick (Monroe, LA) 6-1, 6-2
Raveena Kingsley (4) (Fulton, MD) def. Caroline Dolehide (8) (Hinsdale, IL) 6-4, 6-4
Kylie McKenzie (Anthem, AZ) def. Sofia Kenin (3) (Pembroke Pines, FL) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Katie Swan (2) (Wichita, KS) def. Kayla Day (9) (Santa Barbara, CA) 7-5, 6-3

Girls’ 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Sonya Kenin (Pembroke Pines, FL) / Katie Swan (1) (Wichita, KS) def. Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK) / Alexandra Sanford (8) (Westerville, OH) 7-6, 6-3
Caroline Dolehide (Hinsdale, IL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) def. Usue Arconada (Rio Piedras, PR) / Francesca Di Lorenzo (2) (New Albany, OH) 6-7(9), 6-4, 10-8

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