McNally To Face Former Doubles Partner Ross; Sanford Takes On Douglas In ASICS Easter Bowl Finals

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Copyright © 2016. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

Easter Bowl Tennis News

It’s the old boxing adage: Styles make fights. Both John McNally of Cincinnati and Gianni Ross of Boca Raton, Fla., are predicting an all-out war come Sunday in the ITF boys’ singles final at the 49th Annual ASICS Easter Bowl.

The two friends and former doubles partners meet in the 10 a.m. final at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and hope their familiarity with each other’s game and their hard-hitting, all-court style of play will lead to a great final. It will be followed by the girls’ ITF singles final featuring 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford of Westerville, Ohio, and 15-year-old Ellie Douglas of McKinney, Texas.

All four players won their semifinal matches in straight sets on Saturday.

“It’ll be fun to play him,” said the unseeded Ross, who like McNally dropped just six games in advancing to his first Grade B1 final. “It’s good to play someone you know. He’s a fighter. He’s got a good game and we fit well together. We’ve got to know at least a little bit about each other.”

He added: “I think we will play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I hope it’s not a blowout but a good match.”

The No. 4-seeded McNally, who beat No. 6 Vasil Kirkov, 6-2, 6-4, agreed. “It’ll be a heckuva match,” he said. “I love the kid. You know how good of friends we are. I know how good a player he is and how hard he works.”

The pairing of McNally and Ross won the boys’ 16s doubles back in 2014 at the Kalamazoo National Hardcourts, but had what McNally called an “unfortunate falling out” last year, which let McNally to start playing doubles with fellow Cincinnatian J.J. Wolf. The pair was top-seeded here this week, but lost in the semifinals on Saturday.

Ross estimated that he and McNally have played each other in singles an estimated 12 to 14 times. “I know at one point he beat me eight straight times,” Ross said, joking that no one beats him nine straight times. “I know I then beat him three times in a row so I would say at least a dozen.”

Ross had to overcome the experienced Nathan Ponwith, who had reached both the finals (2014) and semifinals (2015) of the last two ASICS Easter Bowls. Ross downed the future Georgia Bulldog, 6-4, 6-2.

There is one person who won’t be watching the match in person, and perhaps will just check in from time to time on the live stream via Ross’s father gets so nervous during his son’s matches he chooses not to watch. The family moved to Boca Raton, Fla., last September after his father retired from his medical practice.

“Whenever he watches me he gets way too emotional and it gets in my head,” Gianni said. “So I do request that he doesn’t watch. It’s better for him to be away. It helps his heart. It helps me and it helps him, so it’s a good combination.”

Both McNally and Ross lost in the first round in singles at last year’s ASICS Easter Bowl. But it will be McNally’s third ASICS Easter Bowl final as he made the 14s final in 2013 holding a match point before losing to Connor Hance, and then won the 16s in 2014.

“It just shows it’s all a journey,” McNally said. “I remember that (first finals) match. I mean, of course I remember that match. Then coming back and bouncing back after that tough loss. Hopefully I’ll be able to come out and get a win tomorrow and say see you to California for a while.”

The No. 8-seeded Sanford played outstanding tennis on her way to a 6-4, 6-0 win over unseeded Hanna Chang.

Sanford, who has played seven USTA Pro Circuit events this year, surprised everyone back in February when she won three qualifying matches at a $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger event in Midland, Mich. She wasn’t done there as she then won two rounds in the main draw to make the quarterfinals, beating Ingrid Neel, former NCAA singles champion from UCLA Jennifer Brady and Alexa Glatch along the way.

Sanford has been recovering from a back injury and was questionable to even play the ASICS Easter Bowl. She played in both the qualifying at the Junior French Open and the U.S. Open last year. “I don’t know yet what my schedule will be,” she said. “If I decide to play Roland Garros or Wimbledon this definitely helps and gives me options if I decide to play over there.”

The No. 13-seeded Douglas matched Sanford’s aggressiveness and eliminated No. 9 Caty McNally, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to her first Grade 1 final.

Douglas has been injured and is currently playing without a full-time coach. “I had a stress fracture in my lowest vertebrae and was sidelined for six months, then another in a different area that kept me out three more months,” Douglas said. “Then I suffered a pulled stomach muscle that has kept me off the court off and on.”

In the boys’ doubles final, it will be the unseeded team of Kirkov and Korda against No. 6 Nathan Ponwith and Jake Van Emburgh.

In the girls’ doubles final, it will be No. 6-ssed Victoria Emma and Sofia Sewing facing the unseeded team of Elysia Bolton and Chiara Lommer.

Boys’ ITF Singles (Semifinals)
John MCNALLY (USA) [4] def.  Vasil KIRKOV (USA) [6] 6-2, 6-4
Gianni ROSS (USA) def. Nathan PONWITH (USA) [3] 6-4, 6-2

Boys’ ITF Doubles (Semifinals)
Nathan PONWITH (USA) / Jake VAN EMBURGH (USA) [6] def. Oliver CRAWFORD (USA) [3] / Brandon HOLT (USA) 7-6(4) 5-7, [10-7]

Vasil KIRKOV (USA) / Sebastian KORDA (USA) def. John MCNALLY (USA) / J.J. WOLF (USA) [1], 6-1, 6-3

Girls’ ITF Singles (Semifinals)
Ellie DOUGLAS (USA) [13] def. Caty MCNALLY (USA) [9] 6-3, 6-4
Alexandra SANFORD (USA) [8] def. Hanna CHANG (USA) 6-4, 6-0

Girls’ ITF Doubles (Semifinals)
Victoria EMMA (USA) [6] / Sofia SEWING (USA) def. Kate PAULUS (USA) / Alana SMITH (USA) walkover
Elysia BOLTON (USA) / Chiara LOMMER (USA) def.  Michaela GORDON (USA) / Ena SHIBAHARA (USA) 6-1, 5-7, [10-6]

Copyright © 2016. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.