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Friday, July 24, 2009

Unseeded Hardebeck Joins Other Surprise Semifinalists at Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

Second seed Ellen Tsay has reached her expected position in the Girls 18 Clay Court semifinals, but she is joined there by an unlikely trio: Gabriella De Simone and Nida Hamilton, two No. 17 seeds, and unseeded Krista Hardebeck.

De Simone took down No. 4 seed Danielle Collins 7-6(5), 6-4, with the San Diego area native looking very much at home on the green clay. Collins found it impossible to hit De Simone off the court, and even the backhand exchanges were not regularly in the Floridian's favor, with De Simone retrieving each potential winner and sending it back with pace and depth, often accompanied by a spirited "vamos."

De Simone did display some nerves when she was unable to serve out the first set after an early break resulted in a 5-4 lead. A double fault at 30-40 could have proven psychologically damaging, but she shook it off, and took a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker two games later. Again De Simone couldn't stand the prosperity, squandering three set points, but Collins let her off the hook on the fourth, when her backhand found the net, ending the 70-minute first set.

In the second set, De Simone kept the pressure on, going up 4-2 and 5-3, but she failed to consolidate either break. Collins again refused the gift however, and was broken at love in the match's last game.

Meanwhile, asimilar scenario was taking place on the upper level court, only it was the higher seed, Alexandra Anghelescu at No. 6, who survived a first set tiebreaker 7 points to 5 after taking a 6-2 lead over Hamilton. In the second set, it was Hamilton, who had beaten No. 1 seed Lilly Kimbell Thursday, who had two chances to serve for the set--at 5-4 and 6-5--but she couldn't do it. In the ensuing tiebreaker, however, Hamilton played very well and evened the match with little drama, taking it 6-2. Anghelescu's pace can be a challenge, but Hamilton had no trouble staying with her in long rallies, and began to force errors by maneuvering Anghelescu out of position. Anghelescu was broken after a long game at 3-4, giving Hamilton the opportunity to finish the match, and when she took a 40-15 lead, it looked likely. But a double fault on the first, and a forehand long on the second and it was deuce. Hamilton earned her third match point, but Anghelesecu denied it with a forehand winner. On the fourth, Hamilton finally finished it, basically half-volleying a shot on baseline for a clean angle winner to give her a 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-3 victory. Hamilton plays De Simone in Saturday's semifinal, and is hoping to repeat her recent straight set win over the Californian posted at the Spring Nationals in Mobile.

Hardebeck dealt Nicole Melichar, also unseeded, a 6-4, 7-5 defeat, and unlike her previous two victories over No. 3 seed Blair Seideman and No. 17 Whitney Kay, Hardebeck played a very clean and consistent match from start to finish. Against the much bigger and stronger-looking Melichar, Hardebeck hit her strokes forcefully and close to the lines. During one of her three breaks of Melichar in the opening set, Hardebeck hit the baseline with her winners twice in a row, while giving Melichar no time to control the point.

"Nicole's a very, very good player," said Hardebeck, whose first tournament on clay was last week's 16s Intersectionals in Shreveport, La. "I had to be really consistent and then go for it whenever I could. Anything less and she would have beat me."

Melichar actually had beaten Hardebeck at the 16s Winter Nationals, but on Friday, Hardebeck wasn't entertaining any thoughts of losing. Down 2-0 in the second set, she got the break back in the fourth game, and neither player was broken again until Melichar lost her serve, and the match, at 5-6. Melichar saved one match point, when the chair checked the mark and confirmed that a Hardebeck shot was out, but after a Hardebeck forehand winner, Melichar double faulted to put Hardebeck in the semifinals of her first 18s National Championship.

Hardebeck will play No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay, who defeated unseeded Arianna Colffer 6-2, 6-4. Although Colffer has no dearth of firepower, she seemed unwilling to follow any of her most damaging ground strokes to the net, and Tsay took advantage of that reluctance. Staying in a point until Colffer missed, even down 3-1 in the second set, Tsay looked in control of the match throughout. Colffer was broken the last three times she served, giving herself no chance to extend the match or truly pressure Tsay. Semifinal opponents Tsay, 15, and Hardebeck, 14, have never played.

In the doubles quarterfinals, there are three seeded teams remaining, but as in singles, it doesn't include the top seeds, Lilly Kimbell and Emina Bektas, who lost in the round of 16 Thursday evening.

Tsay and her partner Whitney Kay are the second seeds, and they posted a routine 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 9 seeds Alexandra Clay and Maria Mira Friday afternoon. Kay and Tsay will take on No. 4 seeds Brett Ellen Keeler and Sarah Lee in Saturday's semifinals. Keeler and Lee defeated unseeded Danielle Flores and Elena Najera-Salas 7-6(3), 6-2.

Number 8 seeds Kate Fuller and Britney Sanders reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 9 seeds Mia Lancaster and Whitney Ritchie, and will play unseeded Kayla Duncan and Allison Falkin, the team that ousted Kimbell and Bektas Thursday. On Friday, Duncan and Falkin came back for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seeds Robin Anderson and Jennifer Kellner.

For complete results, including consolation scores, see the TennisLink site.