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Friday, April 16, 2010

Davis and Hardebeck Face Off in Easter Bowl ITF Final; 14s Finals Also On Tap For Saturday

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

Top seed Lauren Davis is back in an Easter Bowl final after a two-year hiatus and will face unseeded Krista Hardebeck, who is happy to have broken her third round Easter Bowl jinx, in Saturday's ITF Grade B1 championship match.

Hardebeck won the International Spring Championship title last week, and with her 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz in Friday's semifinal, has now won 11 matches in 11 days. The obvious question of fatigue was posed, but Hardebeck said she has caught a second wind.

"I was a little tired early in the tournament," admitted Hardebeck, who has yet to drop a set in her five wins. "But as the week has gone on, I've felt less and less tired and now I'm feeling okay. I know tomorrow's match will be worth all the tiredness."

This is Hardebeck's third appearance at the Easter Bowl, and she hadn't advanced past the third round prior to this year, so the 15-year-old Californian was pleased to break what she called the "third round curse," and is excited to take on Davis, whom she has never played.

Davis, who did not play the International Spring Championships last week, cruised past No. 4 seed Robin Anderson 6-1, 6-3 in Friday's other semifinal.

"I knew I had to hit the ball deep, because her ground strokes are solid," said Davis. "I'm kind of proud of myself because on the close points I wasn't tight, and I closed it out because I went for it."

Davis hit a perfectly executed drop volley winner on match point, but it wasn't a shot she practiced or anticipated using.

"I have been working on my swinging volleys though," said the 16-year-old from Ohio, who is now training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

Davis, who lost in the 14s final in 2007, is going into Saturday's match with a different mindset.

"When I was 13 and got to the final, I was so excited to be there, I just didn't really care if I won or lost," Davis said. "I was just so happy to make the final. Now, I hate losing, so I'll prepare better for it."


In the boys 14s final, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov is hoping his experience in big match situations will be an advantage when he takes on No. 11 seed Jordan Belga. Kozlov defeated No. 2 seed Noah Rubin 6-4, 7-6(2), coming from 5-2 down in the final set to seal the semifinal victory Friday.

Kozlov, who won the Eddie Herr 12s, lost in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s final in 2009, and won the Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Great Britain this year, thinks those matches may prove important in Saturday's final.

"That will be a factor," said Kozlov, who turned 12 in February. "I think it's his first big final and the first final is not so good. You get so tight, it's ridiculous. You practice the whole year and the pressure takes over. I don't know how that happens."

Belga, of Elk Grove Village, Ill. who defeated unseeded Californian Deiton Baughman 6-4, 6-2, admitted to feeling some jitters in the opening set.

"I was a little shaky, nervous," said Belga, who will be 14 in June. "I shanked a lot of balls. As the set went on, I told myself just to stay calm, relax and play smart, be aggressive. I finally got him, broke at 4-all and held, so it worked out for me."

Kozlov is expecting a competitive final.

"He's aggressive, he plays like me," said Kozlov. "He plays aggressive deep, tries to force errors, but if I do the same thing, it's going to be a good match."


The girls 14s final will feature top seed Gabrielle Andrews against No. 4 seed Kimberly Yee. Andrews, who like Kozlov, won the Teen Tennis title this year, cruised past No. 5 seed Peggy Porter 6-1, 6-0, while Yee took out Andrews' doubles partner, unseeded Taylor Townsend 7-6(2), 6-3.

"I just caught Peggy on a bad day today," said Andrews, who has lost just 17 games in six matches. "I know she could have played a little bit better, but I played pretty well."

The 13-year-old Yee, who finished fourth at last year's Easter Bowl in the 14s, decided to play the same division again this year, but placed no pressure on herself to surpass her showing last year.

"There's a lot of good players here, just getting to the quarters and the semis is pretty good," said Yee, who often trains with Asia Muhammad at the No Quit Academy in Las Vegas. "I hit with Asia all the time, and that obviously helps me with the bigger players."

Andrews is definitely one of those bigger players, and Yee is hoping to avenge her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Andrews at the Winter Nationals, after which Yee went on to win the backdraw in Tucson.

In the boys 18s, only one seeded player has reached the semifinals, No. 4 Nick Chappell, who downed unseeded Clay Thompson 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Chappell pointed to his return game as a key to his victory over the red-hot Thompson, who won the Claremont ITF and reached the Carson final the past two weeks.

"First set I was rolling, just making every return," said Chappell, 17. "In the second set, I started to miss a lot of returns, and he'd just kick it up to my backhand and I couldn't really handle it. In the third set, I just tried to block every return back and take care of my serve."

Chappell will meet unseeded Evan Song in the semifinals, after Song downed No. 11 seed Michael Zhu 7-6(5), 6-3.

The other boys semifinal will pit unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo against unseeded Alexios Halebian. Fratangelo defeated No. 12 seed Emmett Egger 6-3, 6-1 and Halebian also eliminated a seed, downing No. 7 Shane Vinsant 6-3, 6-2.

The boys 16s semifinals will feature No. 1 seed Nolan Paige against No. 7 seed Ross Guignon and No. 10 seed Gordon Watson versus unseeded Sean Karl.

The No. 1 seed in the girls 16s is also still in the running for a title. Kyle McPhillips reeled off the final ten games in her 6-4, 6-0 victory over No. 8 seed Kourtney Keegan and will face No. 7 seed Spencer Liang in one semifinal. No. 2 seed Brooke Austin, the 2009 14s Easter Bowl champion, will meet unseeded wild card Jennifer Brady in the other semifinal.

The girls 14s doubles title went to No. 9 seeds Andrews and Townsend, who beat No. 2 seeds Mariana Gould and Katrine Steffensen 6-2, 6-2. Andrews has not lost a doubles match this year, taking the Winter National, Teen Tennis, Les Petits As and Easter Bowl crowns in 2010.

The girls 18s doubles championship on Saturday has No. 1 seeds Lauren Herring and Grace Min taking on No. 6 seeds Courtney Dolehide and Ellen Tsay.

In boys 16s doubles, No 1 seeds Anthony Delcore and Guignon will play No. 8 seeds Matthew Alves and Hudson Barnhart for the championship.

Unseeded Baughman and Henrik Wiersholm face No. 9 seeds Matthew Mendez and Jordan Portner for the boys 14s doubles title.

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