©Colette Lewis 2006
Palm Springs CA--
Reka Zsilinszka isn't going to be on the Sunday morning flight she'd booked before the Easter Bowl started. Instead, she'll be on the Stadium Court, facing Kim Couts for the prestigious Easter Bowl girls 18s singles Championship.
"My dad called and got it changed," said Zsilinzska, who never expected to advance to the final. "I don't know if they made him pay more, or if he convinced them there was a good reason."
Although unseeded, the sixteen-year-old from North Carolina is no longer sneaking up on anybody. After winning the 18s Spring Nationals in Mobile last month, she reached the final of an ITF event in College Station and the semifinals of the Grade 1 International Spring tournament last week. On Saturday, she wore down 13th seed Andrea Remynse 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 to reach her first Grade 1 final.
The roller coaster match saw Zsilinszka take a 4-2 lead in the first, lose the next five games, then win ten in a row before she conceded a game up 4-0 in the third.
"She was grinding with me in the first set," Zsilinszka said. "For some reason, I didn't feel like grinding today. I was playing much smarter by the second set."
The deliberate style of Remynse can frustrate opponents, but even two lengthy bathroom breaks between sets by the seventeen-year-old from Michigan failed to distract Zsilinszka, who stayed on court and on task.
"It doesn't bother me," Zsilinszka said of Remynse's ball clearing, ball bouncing between serves and time between points. "It doesn't distract me, I don't let it get to me."
In the other girls' semifinal, sixth seed Kim Couts withstood an opening blitz by unseeded Jamie Hampton, earning a 6-4, 7-5 victory.
"She came out swinging," said Couts, who was down 3-0 before she knew it. "She's a great player, but I kept fighting and came up with the win."
At 2-3 in the second set, with Couts serving, a marathon game ensued, neither player able keep the game score from reverting to deuce. When Couts finally held, it seemed Hampton's chance to even the match had slipped away.
"It was a big game for both of us," said Couts, 16. "If she goes up 4-2, it may give her confidence. But I came up with the shots, got lucky really and was able to close it out."
Zsilinszka and Couts have never played, but both are relishing their first chance at a Grade 1 title. With Zsilinszka's defense and retrieving and Couts' deep and aggressive baseline game, the contrast in styles should produce an interesting final.
"Everyone has a different game style," Zsilinszka said. "And that's what's fun about winning a tournament, because you've beaten every single person's unique game."
The boys final will feature top seed Donald Young against sixth seed Dennis Lajola, both of whom quickly disposed of their semifinal opponents on Saturday.
The gusty winds were a factor, but for Young, only a small one, as he defeated fourth seed Clint Bowles 6-2, 6-0.
"After you played yesterday," Young said of the 35 mph winds that buffeted the Riviera Resort Thursday, "any conditions seem nice. I knew he was a dangerous player, but I played my game."
The most impressive part of Young's game, according to Bowles, was his ability to neutralize an aggressive shot.
"Any time I would hit an aggressive shot, it would come back, and it kind of surprised me," said Bowles, 17. "I ended up backing up. His defense is so good."
Lajola will attempt to employ the same strategy he used in September of 2004, when the seventeen-year-old from Hawaii beat Young in straight sets in their only previous ITF meeting.
"I have to put the pressure on, make no sloppy mistakes and attack the backhand," said Lajola, who succeeded in doing just that in his 6-2, 6-2 semifinal win over doubles partner and friend Johnny Hamui Saturday afternoon. "He's pretty solid, though. I'm expecting a tough match."
Saturday was doubly disappointing for Hamui, as he and Lajola dropped their doubles semifinal to Young and Jamie Hunt, the top seeds. Young and Hunt will play the seconded seeded team of Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg in the final on Sunday.
The girls doubles championship will feature Sanaz Marand and Ashley Weinhold, the sixth seeds, against fifth seeds Madison Brengle and Kristy Frilling.
The semifinals in the Boys 16s are set, with top seed Ryan Thacher and third seed Chase Buchanan meeting in the top half, while second seed Brennan Boyajian and fifth seed JT Sundling face off in the bottom half of the draw. For full results, including doubles, click here.
There have been few surprises in the girls 14s and 16s and the boys 14s, with the top four seeds in those divisions advancing to Sunday's quarterfinals.
For those results and draws, click here.