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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Song Beats No. 2 Seed Novikov in Boys 18s; Girls 18s and Boys and Girls 14s Semifinals Set at Easter Bowl

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

Unseeded Evan Song and Alexios Halebian reached the quarterfinals of the ITF Easter Bowl with upsets on Thursday, eliminating the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to join two other unseeded players in the final eight.

The 17-year-old Song, from Henderson, Nev., got off to a blazing start against No. 2 seed Dennis Novikov, and went on to record a 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 win. Although the final set may appear to have been a routine one, it was not.

"It was really close, it was one-one, two-two, and really long games," said Song, who was a quarterfinalist in the 16s here last year. "One of them was like 15 minutes long, and it could have gone either way."

Song has been working with a new coach for the past six weeks, and he has seen a difference in that short time.

"I've really been trying to improve my baseline game," the left-hander said. "I just got a new coach from Barcelona and we've really been trying to get that heavy forehand with my lefty spin, get that ball cross court, and it really worked well today."

Another left-hander who was pleased with his play on Thursday was 15-year-old Halebian, whose 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seed Dane Webb was a measure of revenge.

"The last time we played it went to 7-5 in the third, and he won," said the 2009 Orange Bowl 16s champion, who trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "I was just playing my game, everything was going well. This is really good; I'm really impressed with myself. I'm wordless, I don't know what to say."

Song will play No. 11 seed Michael Zhu in Friday's quarterfinals, and Halebian will meet No. 7 seed Shane Vinsant. There were five three-setters of the eight boys 18s matches played on Thursday, with Friday opponents Bjorn Fratangelo and No. 12 seed Emmett Egger two of them. Egger came back to defeat Marcos Giron 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1, while Fratangelo overcame doubles partner Jeremy Efferding 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Fratangelo and Egger met in the semifinals of the USTA Spring Championships last month in Mobile, with Fratangelo posting a 6-2, 6-3 win.

Last week's International Spring Championships finalist Clay Thompson, playing his third straight ITF tournament in hopes of picking up enough points to play the junior slams in his final year of eligibility, eased by No. 6 seed Mitchell Krueger 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2). Although he was irritated by his failure to close out the match serving at 5-4 in the third, Thompson was confident entering the tiebreaker.

"I wasn't worried a bit, I've been playing tiebreakers really well lately," said the UCLA recruit, who lost the 16s Easter Bowl final to Jack Sock in a third set tiebreaker two years ago. "I was hitting big serves, getting easy points."

On Friday, Thompson will play the third left-hander in the final eight, No. 4 seed Nick Chappell, who came back to defeat No. 14 seed Gonzales Austin 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The girls 18s semifinals are set, and unlike the boys third rounders, all four of their matches were decided in straight sets.

Top seed Lauren Davis avenged her defeat to No. 9 seed Lauren Herring in the 2007 girls 14s Easter Bowl final with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Herring used her volleying skills to maximum effect, but wasn't able to match Davis's ground strokes. Davis's opponent in the semifinal, No. 4 seed Robin Anderson, was on top of her game Thursday, quickly dispatching No. 11 seed Ellen Tsay 6-1, 6-1.

No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz will get a chance to avenge a quarterfinal loss last week to Krista Hardebeck at the International Spring Championships. Turewicz eliminated No. 3 seed Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-4, 6-3, while the unseeded Hardebeck won her tenth match in ten days with a 6-3, 7-5 decision over unseeded Vicky Duval. Hardebeck led 4-1 in the second set, but Duval took advantage of a rash of unforced errors to win four straight games, only to have Hardebeck win the last three.

The girls 14s semifinals are set, with top seed Gabrielle Andrews continuing to breeze along, recording a 6-2 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Caroline Doyle.

"I just played really well," said Andrews, the 14s USTA Winter National and Teen Tennis champion. "I was in the zone. I only hit about five unforced errors. She played well, I played well. The score was 2 and 1, but Caroline played really well, better than that score. There were long games, deuces, ad-in, ad-out. It was really tough."

Andrews will play No. 5 seed Peggy Porter, who ended the run of unseeded 11-year-old Maria Shishkina 6-3, 6-4. The other semifinal features unseeded Taylor Townsend against No. 4 seed Kimberly Yee, who was a semifinalist in the 14s last year too, falling to eventual champion Brooke Austin. Townsend beat No. 17 Gabrielle Smith 6-2, 6-3, while Yee took out No. 6 seed Shannon Hudson 6-3, 6-4.

Andrews and Townsend are one match away from assuring themselves a USTA ball in singles, but they have already earned one in doubles, reaching Friday's final against the top-seeded team of Mariana Gould and Katrine Steffensen. Andrews and Townsend are a No. 9 seed.

In the boys 14s, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov will meet No. 2 seed Noah Rubin in one semfinal, and No. 11 seed Jordan Belga will face unseeded Deiton Baughman. Kozlov won a lengthy struggle against No. 6 seed Zandrix Acob, 6-3, 7-5, while Rubin defeated No. 14 seed Thomas Fawcett 7-5, 6-2 in Thursday's quarterfinals. Belga needed over two-and-a-half hours to get by No. 8 seed Mac Roy, claiming a 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 win. In the final set, Belga broke Roy at 4-4, but immediately went down 0-40 when serving for the match. Roy was going for his returns and was successful several times, but after three deuces, Belga earned his third match point and converted it when Roy blasted a forehand return just out.

The boys 14s semifinals will be played first Friday at 9 a.m., followed by the girls 14s and the girls 18s at 1 p.m.

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