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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Belga Rolls Past Top Seed Kerznerman to Reach Easter Bowl 14s Quarterfinals; Hardebeck Rolls on in Girls 18s

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

It was another perfect day for tennis at the Rancho Las Palmas resort and throughout the Coachella Valley, with no wind and temperatures in the low 80s. It was even better if you were Jordan Belga, the 11th seed in the boys 14 competition. The 13-year-old from Elk Grove Village, Ill. played nearly flawless tennis against top seed Daniel Kerznerman in a 6-0, 6-1 win that put him in Thursday's quarterfinals.

"I knew what I was going to do and I was pretty confident in my game," said Belga, who wears the Roger Federer insignia hat and models his game after that of the world No. 1. "I just needed to make more shots, play aggressive, come up to net, and I did pretty well with that today."

Kerznerman, a left-hander from New York who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center, had played a long three-setter on Tuesday afternoon and wasn't sharp, but Belga thought there might be an additional reason for Kerznerman's uninspired play.

"I think he might have felt a little bit of pressure as the one seed and all that," said Belga, who has dropped a total of six games in his first four wins. "I knew what I had to do, play my game and be strong out there."

Although boys 14s No. 2 seed Noah Rubin also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating unseeded Kevin Colopy 6-3, 6-4, he wasn't particularly happy with his play, as he failed to close out his opponent with a 5-1 lead in the second set. At 14, Rubin is an Easter Bowl veteran, however, and he enjoys playing in the desert.

"It's California, I want to have fun," he joked. "I'm from New York, this is not the weather I usually get. And there's not mountains where I play either."

In the girls 14s, two unseeded players advanced to the quarterfinals, with Taylor Townsend, who had beaten No. 2 seed Katrine Steffensen on Tuesday, defeating Julia O'Loughlin, a No. 17 seed 6-4, 6-3, and Eddie Herr 12s champion Maria Shishkina downing No. 3 seed Mariana Gould 6-3, 6-4.

Shishkina, who faces No. 5 seed Peggy Porter in Thursday's quarterfinals, is not surprised to have advanced this far in her first Easter Bowl.

"I'm confident," said the Bollettieri-trained 11-year-old. "I practiced really hard before this tournament, and I think I'll get to the finals and win the tournament."

The girls 18s also played the round of 16 today, with the winners including unseeded Krista Hardebeck, who won the International Spring Championship on Sunday, and has now played nine matches in the past nine days. Hardebeck is making it easy on herself, however, having lost only five games in the three matches. On stadium court today, Hardebeck defeated unseeded Emina Bekta 6-1, 6-0 and will face unseeded Victoria Duval, who dispatched No. 12 seed Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-2.

Top seed Lauren Davis is through to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Elizabeth Begley, setting up a rematch of the 2007 Easter Bowl 14s final with Lauren Herring. The ninth-seeded Herring downed friend Brooke Bolender, the No. 8 seed, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 Wednesday. No. 4 seed Robin Anderson had a routine win over unseeded Ashley Dai 6-2, 6-1. Anderson's quarterfinal opponent is No. 11 seed Ellen Tsay, a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner over No. 5 seed Madison Keys.

Tsay, who had nearly as much difficulty as Keys holding serve in the final set, attributed her serving difficulties to nervousness.

"In the third set, I broke all of her serves, but when it was my turn to serve, I was really nervous, and I didn't make any first serves," said the 2008 Easter Bowl 16s champion, who is now training at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in Texas. "When I was serving for it (at 5-3), I was still kind of nervous. I tried to get my first serves in, but I guess my arm was a little tight. I think we were both pretty nervous, but I pulled through."

The other quarterfinal has No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz against No. 3 seed Chanelle Van Nguyen. Van Nguyen came back to record a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win over unseeded Britney Sanders and Turewicz downed unseeded Lynda Xepoleas 7-5, 6-1.

In the boys 18s second round, all the seeds who advanced on Tuesday won again on Wednesday, with the exception of No. 9 seed Gabriel Flores Ruiz, who fell to Dennis Mkrtchian 6-1, 6-4.

In the boys 16s, top seed Nolan Paige had a lengthy battle with unseeded Austin Ansari before emerging with a 7-5, 6-4 victory. Girls 16s No. 1 seed Kyle McPhillips had considerably less difficulty, beating unseeded Kiah Generette 6-0, 6-1.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.