Midwest pair of Ross, Sanford claim Easter Bowl 18s singles titles

April 10, 2016 07:26 PM

By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – One current and a former USTA Midwest Section player took home the top prizes as the big winners Sunday on the final day at the 49th Annual ASICS Easter Bowl.

In the boys’ 18s final, the unseeded Gianni Ross, a former Illinois resident, beat his former doubles partner and friend John McNally, the No. 4 seed from Cincinnati, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Ross, whose family moved to Florida in September, joins recent boys’ champions Gage Brymer (2013), Marcos Giron (2011) and Bjorn Fratangelo (2010) as unseeded champions.

In the girls’ 18s singles final, the No. 8-seeded Alexandra Sanford, of Westerville, Ohio, took out No. 13 Ellie Douglas of McKinney, Texas, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

In winning his first ITF singles title, Ross, 17, didn’t show tons of emotion and was humble in accepting the first-place trophy. After taking the first set, McNally held a set point at 5-4 in the second set. But Ross (pictured above) got “lucky” on a drop shot at his feet and then took advantage of a net cord, eventually converting the break to swing it to 5-all and the momentum back on his side.

“I was fortunate in that game,” he said. “I had a lucky game.”

McNally, 17, admitted he didn’t serve well and later lamented his chance to force a third set.

“I thought I was going to win today," he said, "but that’s how it goes.”

Ross joined recent former USTA Midwest Section players Chase Buchanan (2008) and Evan King (2009) on the champions list. He said he hopes he can remember this special victory, “Whenever I have any bad moments.”

McNally said he will get ready for the Europe junior Grand Slams and that his junior tournaments are numbered. “I’m looking forward to a really fun summer and hope I can tear it up.”

Sanford, who won the Torey Fretz / Jackie Cooper Sportsmanship Award along with yet another USTA Midwest player, J.J. Wolf of Cincinnati, on Saturday, said accepting that award didn’t stop her from some audible “Come Ons” during the match.  

Like Ross, Sanford was not very demonstrative immediately after the win.

“It was more on the inside,” she said. “I felt a lot of emotion out there on the court today, and when I put away that backhand (on the final point), it was just kind of a relief. I was so happy on the inside, but I just didn’t show it. To be able to win the Easter Bowl, I’m pretty excited.”

Sanford, 17, thanked her mother and her USTA coach Henner Nehles, who was on hand all week and who she has worked with since the beginning of the year.

She said she lost some focus after winning the tight first set. “I may have relaxed a little bit,” she said. “In the second set I got too comfortable.”

The 15-year-old Douglas said she was hurt by some “dumb errors" that cost her early in the third set.

“I feel like I had several chances and many, many game points I didn’t convert on,” she said. “My serve was really off today. I just need to go home and get some rest and then practice some more. That’s how tennis goes.”

Playing for the first time as a team, Nathan Ponwith and Jake Van Emburgh topped the unseeded team of Vasil Kirkov and Sebastian Korda, 2-6, 7-5, [12-10], for the boys' 18s doubles title. Ponwith, who also won the Carson ISC doubles title last week with Will Blumberg, and Van Emburgh battled back in their match, saving match points in the second set down 4-5. The pair led the super tiebreak, 9-6, and then again at 11-10, finally converting on the fifth match point.

In the another thrilling doubles final on the girls’ side, the unseeded team of Elysia Bolton and Chiara Lommer took out the No. 6-seeded team of Victoria Emma and Sofia Sewing, 4-6, 6-2, [10-8].