Easter Bowl Begins Sunday

As they have for the past 44 years, the nation’s best boys and girls junior tennis players from the United States will once again vie for gold, silver and bronze USTA national balls April 10-17 at the annual Easter Bowl Spring National Championships taking place at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.

While the boys’ and girls’ 14s and 16 divisions are USTA national events, the boys’ and girls’ 18s will be an ITF Grade B1 tournament.

In the girls’ 18s, all eyes will be on 16-year-old Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., who currently holds a No. 421 WTA world ranking. The trip to the desert will be Keys’ third this year as she played in the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Rancho Mirage in February and received a wild card into the Indian Wells BNP Paribas event last month winning one round.

Orange Bowl runner-up Grace Min, Vicky Duval and 16s Orange Bowl champion Allie Kiick are also entered in the girls’ ITF 18s.

“The field of players entered in this year’s Easter Bowl is once again filled with the nation’s top juniors,” said Easter Bowl Tournament Chairman Bryan Fineberg. “Each division is filled with internationally and nationally ranked players so we’re excited to see play to begin on Sunday.

“Each year the Easter Bowl gives us a sneak peek at who the next great American players could possibly be, and this year is no different.”

On a national conference call last week, USTA Player Development general manager Patrick McEnroe recalled his earliest Easter Bowl memories and praised the event for its continuing efforts in helping produce future U.S. champions.

Three of last year’s champions return and will vie for 18s title this year: 18s winner Bjorn Fratangelo, 16s champion Kyle McPhillips and 14s champion Gabrielle Andrews will all play in the top age division.

Other past Easter Bowl champions who will be competing in the 18s include Lauren Herring (2007, G14s), Emmett Egger (2007, B14s), Sachia Vickery (2008, G14s), Michael Rinaldi (2008, B14s), Ellen Tsay (2008, G16s), Mackenzie McDonald (2009, B14s) and Brooke Austin (2009, B14s), Shane Vinsant (2009, B16s) and Caroline Price (2009, G16s).

Alexios Halebian, Marcos Giron, Dennis Novikov and Mac Styslinger are others who will compete for the 18s title.

Maria Shishkina of Bradenton and the Bollettieri Academy will play again this year after making her Easter Bowl debut last year. Shishkina is certainly one to watch having finished last year in the USTA National Top 15 rankings among girls’ 14-year-olds.

Girls’ 18s singles wild cards were recently announced and will go to: Danielle Colllins, Mackenzie Craft, Jacqueline Crawford, Samantha Crawford, Mia King, Alyssa Smith, Rianna Valdes and Kendall Woodard while Casey Kay, Andrew Korinek, Roy Lederman and Hunter Reese are the wild cards in the boys’ 18s.

Girls 16s wild cards of note include Yuki Chiang, Adi Milstein and Elizabeth Profit while in the boys’ 16s, Joseph Di Giulio, Daniel Kerznerman and Noah Rubin were just three of seven wild cards the USTA has selected to play in the tournament.

On Tuesday night, former world No. 1 Mats Wilander will speak to all Easter Bowl players, coaches and parents at 7 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom at Rancho Las Palmas. The public is invited to attend his talk free of charge.

To keep up with all the Easter Bowl news, visit the website at easterbowl.com and check out the tournament on Facebook and Twitter (@easterbowl).