Crawford, Martinelli claim Easter Bowl 16s titles

April 11, 2015 07:58 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – 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. 

In the boys' 16s final, top-seeded Oliver Crawford of Spartanburg, S.C., had little trouble with No. 11 Brian Cernoch of North Bethesda, Md., 6-2, 6-1, on Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Crawford extended his personal win streak to 12 straight over the past 12 days. The 15-year-old (pictured above) also won the 16s singles at the USTA International Spring Championships last week in Carson, Calif.

In the girls' 16s championship match, Las Vegas-based 16-year-old Samantha Martinelli, the No. 2 seed originally from Denver, topped 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. 

Top-seeded boys’ 18s player Taylor Fritz, who came back from 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. Once again, Fritz had to come back to do it, winning the last five games of the match to advance. 

Fritz will meet 15-year-old Nathan Ponwith of Anthem, Ariz., in one semifinal on Saturday. 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. 

On the girls’ 18s side, No. 14-seed Claire Liu, 14, 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 seed 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. Kenin won the International Spring Championships last week and also captured the 2014 Orange Bowl title, defeating year-end junior No. 1 Catherine Bellis en route.

“She was struggling with her serve and I think I returned pretty good against her,” McKenzie said of Kenin. “It’s always nice to get free points in tough matches." 

The boys’ 16s champ Crawford has been training recently with the USTA in Boca Raton, Fla. 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 struggled with a lower back injury all week. “I played with a little bit more confidence today than last week’s final.”  

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," she said. "We train up to four hours a day and he really has been able to help me, both on and off the court." 

On Thursday, Martinelli also added an ASICS Easter Bowl 16s doubles title to her resume. Before her singles final, Martinelli picked up an advantage 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," said Martinelli.

When Ken Thomas on Easter Bowl 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.”

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