Brymer and Hibi Earn Impressive Doubles at Easter Bowl ITF
by Colette Lewis
, 22 April 2013
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Irvine, California can call itself the city of Easter Bowl champions after residents Mayo Hibi and Gage Brymer claimed titles at the International Tennis Federation Grade B1 tournament at the Sunrise Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
For No. 13 seed Hibi, her 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 seed Tornado Alicia Black
capped two weeks of outstanding tennis. Hibi won both the ITF International Spring Championships
in Carson and the Easter Bowl without dropping a set, a stretch of 12 matches in 13 days that tests a competitor's mental and physical limits.
For unseeded Gage Brymer, winning his second Easter Bowl title was overshadowed by the manner in which he achieved it. The 2011 Easter Bowl 16s champion's 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Luca Corinteli in the final was his third consecutive win from a set down and his fifth win that went the distance.
Hibi's march through the field was as strong as the wind on the tournament's opening day. The Coachella Valley is notorious for its spring winds and with sustained speeds of over 40 mph and gusts to 60 mph, many sites, including the host site Sunrise Country Club, were forced to suspend play for several hours. Fortunately those gales died down by the end of the day, and didn't return for the remainder of the tournament.
Hibi did not face a seed until the final, thanks to Brooke Austin, who dispatched top seed Jamie Loeb in the second round, preventing a rematch of the Hibi - Loeb ISC final in the quarterfinals. After dropping only two games to Austin and two games to unseeded 13-year-old Michaela Gordon, a surprise semifinalist, Hibi faced another youngster in Black, 14.
Black had endured two long, grueling matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals, defeating No. 2 seed Marika Akkerman 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in just under three hours, then downing No. 14 seed Louisa Chirico 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in another nearly three-hour battle.
Those matches took their toll on Black, who had requested trainer attention in both of them.
"I was really exhausted from yesterday and the day before," said Black, who is now training at L'Academie de Tennis
in Boynton Beach, Florida after over a year at the USTA National Center
in Boca Raton. "I thought I could have done a lot better today, come out to the match more prepared."
Hibi said she was a bit taken aback by the atmosphere for the final, which included ballrunners carrying the players' bags to the court for them.
"I was really, really nervous in the beginning," said Hibi, who takes private lessons from both former Top 30 WTA player Debbie Graham and 1983 Wimbledon finalist Chris Lewis. "In the beginning you walk out and you don't have your bag, they're taking pictures, you have ball kids, everything was so different. There was a huge crowd out there; it was also really hot and we had to wait a while because of the 14s final and at first I didn't feel like I was really in the match."
The first four games were all breaks of serve, with Black failing to win a point in her first two service games. After three holds, Hibi got another break and held to take the first set.
Black makes very few errors regardless of her opponent's pace or placement, and she handled Hibi's slice and changes of spin and pace with little trouble. But Black's serve was a definite liability, and Hibi stepped in and took control when she was presented with an especially soft offering.
Hibi took an early 3-0 lead in the second set, with two breaks, but Black got one of them back, only to lose her serve yet again. Again Hibi couldn't quite close the door, losing her serve on a double fault on game point, but Black again lost her serve and Hibi held in the next game for the win.
"I was getting pretty tired in the first and second round of the Easter Bowl, and I wasn't sure if my body was going to hold up," said Hibi, a Japanese citizen who has lived in Irvine, Calif. since before she began playing tennis. "I'm happy it did, and now I can finally rest."