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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hardebeck, Mkrtchian Win 16s Titles at International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Carson CA--

No. 11 seed Dennis Mkrtchian and No. 8 seed Krista Hardebeck didn't have to travel far to compete in the International Spring Championships 16s tournament, and the home cooking paid off in trophies for the Southern Californian pair.

Mkrtchian defeated top seed Shane Vinsant of Texas 6-1, 7-5 on a clear and cool morning, completing his week's work with his sixth consecutive straight set victory.

The 15-year-old from Reseda, about 45 minutes north of Carson, credited his work with USTA National Coach David Roditi, trainer Mary Jo Campbell and others at the USTA Training Center West for his improvement.

"I was confident," said Mkrtchian said of his attitude prior to the tournament. "I've been training really hard and I've been playing really well lately, so I came as the 11th seed, but I came to win."

Mkrtchian started very quickly against Vinsant, but the second set was a struggle. Vinsant was serving for the set at 5-4, but Mkrtchian took the final three games.

"I was like, a third set, I don't want to do that," said Mkrtchian. "I'd rather just win in two sets, and I just kept fighting and fighting. I'd try not to give him an inch, and it paid off."

Mkrtchian used his forehand, which he calls his "weapon," to keep Vinsant from getting comfortable.

"He's a really good defensive and offensive player," Mkrtchian said. "He's an all-court guy, with good volleys and everything, so you always want to be on the offense with him."

Vinsant didn't leave Carson Saturday empty-handed however, as he got a measure of revenge against Mkrtchian later in day. Vinsant and partner Spencer Newman, the top seeds, beat second-seeded Mkrtchian and Jacob Jung 6-4, 6-1 to earn the doubles championship trophies.

Fourteen-year-old Krista Hardebeck, who also lives about 45 minutes from Carson in the opposite direction, doesn't play extensively outside Southern California. But with her 7-6(2), 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Caitlyn Williams, Hardebeck proved her backyard is a competitive one.

"This is actually my first international tournament ever," said Hardebeck, who lives in Santa Ana. "I don't travel that much, but sometimes I'll play nationals or in Arizona or something."

As the eighth seed, Hardebeck admitted she came into the tournament with no more than the "little hope that every player has" to win it. But with her placement and her calm demeanor, Hardebeck took Williams out of her game, and claimed control of the match.

Williams was serving for the first set at 5-4 and 6-5, but her balky serve just wouldn't cooperate, and Hardebeck executed well in the tiebreaker. A frustrated Williams could not find any rhythm in the opening games of the second set, falling behind 4-0. After breaking Hardebeck serving at 4-1, Williams nearly climbed back in the set in the four-deuce seventh game, but once a double fault cost Williams that hold, Hardebeck couldn't be denied.

"I was trying to be a little more consistent," Hardebeck said, acknowledging some nervousness. "I was trying to get my serve in, and use my down-the-lines and angles. She was a really good player, so she pushed me."

"I've never won a national tournament before, so it was my first time in the finals of a big one," Hardebeck said, as she posed for photographs in front of the draw board. "I was just pretending like it was a normal designated near my house."

It was a sweep of the 16s for Southern California girls, as No. 3 seeds Desirae Krawczyk of Rancho Mirage and Sarah Lee of Los Angeles took the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 8 seeds Ashleigh Antal and Melissa Kopinski.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.