©Colette Lewis 2008--
Gabrielle DeSimone was determined to improve on her runner-up finish at last year's International Spring Championships. Christian Harrison was looking to go one better than his older brother Ryan, who reached the 16s final two years ago. Both left the Home Depot Center for next week's Easter Bowl in Palm Springs with their missions accomplished Saturday, earning straight set victories under the cool and mostly cloudy California skies.
Rancho Santa Fe's DeSimone, the No. 15 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Jennifer Kellner of New York 6-4, 7-5, a win she attributed more to spirit than to skill.
"I think today my game wasn't there," said DeSimone, 15. "I think it was more just my heart; even though my game wasn't there, I kept on fighting. I think that was how I was able to come back."
DeSimone had two set points in the first, serving at 5-2, 40-15, but couldn't put Kellner away until two games later. In the second set, it looked as if history would repeat itself when DeSimone, who had battled back from a 4-1 deficit by taking the next four games, couldn't finish when serving for the match at 5-4.
"At the 5-5 game, I fought really hard," said DeSimone, who lost 6-4, 6-2 to Zoe DeBruycker in the 2007 final. "I tried not to get to upset and just keep my heart into it."
Seizing her second opportunity, DeSimone served out the match, and she was, a few minutes later, "still shaking," as she put it. "I went in saying, 'I've got to do better than I did last year.' I didn't want to settle for second again."
DeSimone had a secret weapon in her arsenal--the presence of her coach Angel Lopez. "I haven't lost a match since this summer with him there," DeSimone said. "He always brings me good luck."
Christian Harrison admitted to a little extra motivation once he reached the finals, as the 13-year-old from Texas could outdo brother Ryan with a victory. "Ryan got to the finals two years ago, and he lost in the finals, so it feels good to win," said the diminutive right-hander, who prevailed over unseeded Dante Terenzio of Connecticut 6-4, 6-2.
Harrison's game plan was to keep the ball away from Terenzio's powerful forehand.
"I was going to his backhand on almost everything, because he likes to run around and hit forehands," said Harrison, the top seed. "He likes to hit those little angles, so I was trying to come to the net to attack his backhand, and covering those angles."
"It was one of my game plans to come in a little bit more," said Terenzio, who had beaten the No. 4 and No. 2 seeds in consecutive days. "He was passing me well, and I don't think I got him out of position so that I could come in and put the ball away."
Harrison lost only one set in his six matches, to No. 8 seed Dane Webb in a ragged quarterfinal encounter, and he expressed satisfaction with his overall performance during the week.
"I was a little nervous coming into the tournament," Harrison said. "But once you get past the early rounds, you start to relax and play a little bit better as the tournament goes on. I felt I played pretty good all week."
The 16s doubles champions were also crowned on Saturday. The No. 3 seeded team of Dan McCall and Nathan Pasha downed unseeded Skyler Davis and Arthur Karagaezian 7-6(6), 6-3 to take the boys title.
Top seeds Chanelle Van Nguyen and Caitlyn Williams rolled past the second seeds Jennifer Kellner and Manuela Velasquez 6-0, 6-2 to take the girls championship.
For complete draws and results, visit the usta.com website.
Saturday, April 5, 2008