Boys', girls' 18s finals set at 48th annual ASICS Easter Bowl

April 12, 2015 09:51 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

– Katie Swan and Claire Liu will have some valuable experience to draw upon when they take the court Sunday in the 48th annual ASICS Easter Bowl girls' 18s final.

Last year, Swan, from Wichita, Kan., fell in the 18s final to good friend Catherine Bellis, while Liu, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and then just 13 years old, played in the 16s final, where she was taken out by Katerina Stewart in three tight sets.

The two will meet for the second time in their careers Sunday, with Swan, originally from Bristol, England, winning their previous encounter in the first round of the 2014 US Open Junior Championships last September.

Sixteen-year-old Swan, the No. 2 seed, will take on 14-year-old Liu, seeded 12th, at 10 a.m. PT.  Both the boys’ and girls’ finals will be streamed live on, with commentating provided by’s Ken Thomas and special guest Rosie Casals serving as color commentator.

In the ITF Boys’ 18s final, top seed Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., will take on No. 14 Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif. Their match will be streamed live at 12 noon PT, following the girls' final.

Fritz beat No. 4 seed Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Ariz., 7-6 (5), 6-0, while Riffice stunned No. 2-seeded William Blumberg of Greenwich, Conn., 6-2, 6-0, avenging a loss to Blumberg just last week at the USTA International Spring Championships in Carson, Calif.

The last time Fritz played rival Ponwith, he fell to him in the boys' 16s draw at the 2013 USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I remember we played a lot in the 12s,” said Fritz, who said that the 12s may have been the last time he beat Ponwith. “It used to be I was hitting all forehands and no backhands. I think I have worked on my backhand a lot in the past year, and it’s gotten better. That’s what made the difference.”

Fritz, currently the No. 4-ranked junior in the world, has been taken to three sets in his previous two matches before Saturday and has been taking an ice bath after each match.

He said playing a prestigious event like the ASICS Easter Bowl and being so close to home was a no-brainer when he looked at his schedule.

“It would be great and so nice to win this title,” he said. “Why not play here? I’m so close to home, and I’m getting good matches. It’s not like I’m getting the same practice at home.”

Fritz beat Riffice, 6-2, 6-3, in their last meeting at the Tulsa ITF back in October.

“He’s so much better than when I beat him last,” Fritz said, who added the difference in the first set and the second on Saturday was just winning the big points.

At the end of last year, Riffice became just the second junior player since Grigor Dimitrov to win both the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 16s tournaments back-to-back.

He also had a battle just one week ago that he lost to eventual champion Blumberg in the Carson round of 16.

“If I was going to let him play his game, I knew he would dictate,” Riffice said. “Last week, he was being a lot more aggressive and running me from side to side. Today, I came up with some really good shots.”

Riffice said he couldn’t sleep last night and woke up at 4 a.m.

“But I had a lot of energy this morning,” he said. “It’s amazing I’m in the final of the ASICS Easter Bowl. I didn’t think it was possible, but this is what I’ve been training for the whole year.”

Liu had lost to semifinal opponent Raveena Kingsley, the No. 4 seed currently training with the Dent Tennis Academy in Southern California, two previous times before her 6-4, 6-1 win on Saturday.

“The first one was in College Park, Md., where’s she’s from, and the other was in Tulsa and indoors, so that helped her,” Liu said. “I’m playing a lot better. Winning my first ITF Pro Futures event has really helped my confidence.”

Just last month, Liu became the youngest champion to win a USTA Pro Circuit event since Russian Anna Kournikova in 1996, when she won the $10,000 tournament in Orlando, Fla.

In the other girls’ 18s semifinal, Swan beat unseeded Kylie McKenzie of Anthem, Ariz., 6-2, 6-3.

The ITF 18s doubles titles were decided on Saturday, as well. Top-seeded Swan and Sofia Kenin (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), got past unseeded Caroline Dolehide (Hinsdale, Ill.) and Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.), 4-6, 6-4, 10-6, to capture the girl's doubles championship. The boys' doubles title went to Cameron Klinger (Elk Grove, Calif.) and Ponwith, who beat Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, Fla.) and Riffice, 6-2, 6-3.

To keep up with all the ASICS Easter Bowl news, visit the website at, and check out the tournament on Facebook and Twitter.