By Steve Pratt
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (April 7, 2012) â€“ Last yearâ€™s girlsâ€™ 18s champion and future UCLA Bruin Kyle McPhillips will return to defend her title as the 45th annual Easter Bowl USTA Spring Nationals kicks off on Sunday.
The 18s event is an ITF Grade I level tournament and closed to the top American players. Gold, silver and bronze balls will be awarded in the boys and girlsâ€™ 14s and 16s nationals. Australian Open singles and doubles champion Taylor Townsend of Stockbridge, Ga., is the top-seeded player in the girlsâ€™ 18s and Mitchell Krueger the No. 1-seeded player in the boysâ€™ 18s. The 15-year-old Townsend is currently ranked No. 2 in the ITF junior world rankings while the Texas A&M-bound Krueger is No. 16.
â€œIt should be another great year of top-level tennis from the best players in the United States,â€ tournament chairman Bryan Fineberg said. â€œAll the greats have played here, including McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi, Chang, Austin and Davenport. We have a rich history and look forward to getting a glimpse of Americaâ€™s next stars this year.â€
The winner of the boysâ€™ and girlsâ€™ 18â€™s will receive a wild card into the main draw at the US Open Juniors and a USTA Pro Circuit Futures event.
This yearâ€™s boysâ€™ 18s USTA Spring Nationals champion Ronnie Schneider has received a wild card and will be heavily favored. He lost in the boysâ€™ 16s Easter Bowl final last year.
Two 14-year-olds will be closely watched as USTA-trained Stefan Kozlov has received a wild card into the boysâ€™ 18s and Frances Tiafoe will be the one to beat in the 14s. Tiafoe won two prestigious international 14-and-under events in Europe at the end of January, including the Les Petits As title. On Saturday, Tiafoe, who trains at the College Park, Md., Junior Tennis Champions Center, lost in the boysâ€™ 16s final at the USTA International Spring Championships.
Since its inception in 1968, when Harold Solomon beat Jimmy Connors, the Easter Bowl has been noted not only for the hospitality given to players and parents, but for its far-reaching media exposure and for keeping all the gameâ€™s important issues in public view.
Youâ€™d be hard pressed to find another junior tennis tournament in the United States that possesses the same rich history as the Easter Bowl.Â The tournament was started in New York City by Seena Hamilton and has been played in Florida, Arizona and California.
For 18s draws and information, go to: http://tennislink.usta.com/TOURNAMENTS/TournamentHome_New/Tournament.aspx?T=107505
For 16s and 14s go to:
On Monday night, noted tennis author and speaker Frank Giampaolo will provide parents, coaches and players with a talk on junior tennis doâ€™s and donâ€™ts at 6 p.m. in the Rancho Las Palmas conference room. On Tuesday night, former world No. 1 Mats Wilander will speak to all Easter Bowl participants from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on stadium court with an emphasis on training and tournament preparation. The public is invited to attend both talks free of charge.