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Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Finalists Seek First Gold Balls Saturday at 18s Spring Nationals

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Mobile, AL--

Greg Andrews, Danielle Collins and Robin Anderson earned a shot at their first USTA Level 1 championships with semifinal victories Friday, while the fourth finalist, Bjorn Fratangelo, will be seeking his first gold ball in the 18s division Saturday morning.

Anderson had the most dramatic semifinal victory, with the 16-year-old from New Jersey, seeded eighth, defeating No. 5 seed Krista Hardebeck 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(4) in a match that seemed to have a swing in momentum every third point.

Anderson served for the match at 5-4 in the third, having broken Hardebeck the previous game when the 15-year-old Californian double faulted on game point. Anderson earned a match point at 5-4, 40-30 but shanked a backhand before the rally got started, and Hardebeck went on to win the game.

After Hardebeck held with a forehand winner at 40-30, Anderson went down 15-30, desperately needing the next point. She got it with a clutch backhand winner and when Hardebeck then donated two unforced errors, it was on to the tiebreaker.

Hardebeck took a 4-3 lead in the tiebreaker with a backhand winner, but her next two serves proved to be her undoing. She double faulted on both, letting out a piercing scream after the second. After a long rally on the next point, Hardebeck missed a backhand wide, and Anderson had her second and third match points. She needed just one. Hardebeck put a certain winner into the corner, but Anderson somehow got her racquet on it and scooped it back toward the net. It hit the tape and fell on Hardebeck's side, dying there before Hardebeck could react.

"I just prayed that it would go over the net," Anderson said. "I was kind of surprised when it did."

Anderson made an adjustment after the first set that allowed her to counteract the powerful ground strokes of Hardebeck.

"In the first set I was trying to hit with her, hit through the ball, rally with her, but it wasn't really working," Anderson said. "So in the second set I started mixing it up, hitting some high balls, hitting through the ball, hitting a lot of slices, hitting drop shots, changing it up, so maybe she wouldn't know what was coming. I was still doing a lot of running, but I think it was a little bit better."

Anderson will need all that variety in Saturday's finals against the third-seeded Collins, who overpowered No. 6 seed Whitney Kay 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinal.

Although there were many deuce games, and the match took nearly 90 minutes, Collins was pleased with her performance.

"I knew that if I wanted to beat her I would have to play really solid," said Collins, a resident of St. Petersburg, Fla. "I had to hang in there, get a lot of balls back and be really consistent. She's a really good player. My serve was a little shaky there for a while, but I got it together at the end."

With her best showing at a USTA National being a quarterfinal appearance at last year's Clay Courts, the 16-year-old Collins is excited to be vying for a gold ball.

"I'm happy I got to the finals," she said. "I've been trying for a while, but I always lose in the round of 16 or the quarterfinals."

For the third rookie finalist, Andrews, it was a doubly special day, as he celebrated his first appearance in a national final along with his 18th birthday.

Andrews, the sixth seed, defeated Asika Isoh 6-4, 6-4, overcoming an early bout with nerves to earn the victory.

"I've never been this far in a Supernational before, so I was pretty jittery at the start," said Andrews, who is from Richland, Mich., a few miles from Kalamazoo. "I loosened up as it went on."

Andrews trailed 3-0 in the opening set, but got the break back in the fifth game, then broke Isoh at 4-4 and held to secure the first set. There was only one break in the second set, with Andrews taking a 4-2 lead and pounding forehand winners often enough to keep Isoh on the defensive throughout the remainder of the match.

"It's definitely my best shot, so I'm trying to hit as many of those as I can," said Andrews, a Notre Dame recruit who has played sparingly this winter and spring and admitted that boredom was one of the factors in his decision to enter the tournament. "I played a sectional tournament a month back, but before that it was probably two months since my last one. So I was a little nervous. I wasn't playing my best in practice leading up to this, but I've had some good result so far."

The same is certainly true of Fratangelo, the reigning 16s Clay Court champion. Playing in an 18s National for the first time, the 16-year-old from Pittsburgh downed No. 2 seed Blake Bazarnik in the quarterfinals, and in Friday's semifinal, took out No. 7 seed Emmett Egger 6-2, 6-3.

"I felt pretty good," said the ninth seeded Fratangelo, who also defeated Egger 6-4, 6-1 on his way to a third place finish in the Kalamazoo 16s last year. "In the beginning he served really well, held at love, and I was kind of worried. But I felt good overall. The nerves were there, but nothing too major, so I was pretty happy."

Fratangelo trailed 3-1 in the second set, but Egger double faulted on game point serving at 3-1, and didn't win another game. Fratangelo made very few errors in the final four games, while Egger missed frequently as his frustration level grew. On one point that drew applause from the small crowd in attendance, Fratangelo got back volley after volley as Egger tried vainly to put away a shot, unable to get it beyond a scrambling Fratangelo's reach. When Frantangelo somehow won that point, Egger seemed permanently discouraged, and the match concluded swiftly after that.

Fratangelo and Andrews have played before, back in the 14s, with Andrews winning easily.

"We were both pretty little at that time," said Andrews. "He's gotten a lot better. I'm not expecting that result."

Although Fratangelo has more experience in National finals, he's not underestimating his opponent.

"I know Greg's committed to Notre Dame, so he knows what it takes to play good tennis. It'll be a good match."


The doubles championships were decided on Friday, with the defending champions and a first-time team claiming titles.

Emina Bektas and Lilly Kimbell, who won the Spring 18s title in 2009, collected another championship with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over unseeded Mary Jeremiah and Megan Kurey. Bektas and Kimbell had fought off three match points when trailing 9-6 in a match tiebreaker against Blair Shankle and Elizabeth Begley in the round of 16, but their confidence never waivered.

"We always thought we could win," said Bektas, a 2011 high school graduate. "It's not over until the last point," said Kimbell.

Reflecting on two consecutive titles with her longtime partner and friend, Kimbell was almost nostalgic.

"This is really special to me, because I'm pretty sure this is my last Supernational," said Kimbell, who is heading for Georgia this fall. "Playing it with Emina was really fun, and I'm just glad she's my doubles partner."

With that partnership ending, another successful one was beginning. No. 5 seeds Nathan Pasha and Spencer Newman, who train together at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton, had never played as a team before, but they topped No. 1 seeds Chase Curry and Jeffrey Offerdahl 6-3, 6-1.

"We just had to get used to each other in the first round," Newman said. "Everything was pretty in synch, since we know each other."

"Good chemistry and good teamwork equals a good doubles team," said Pasha.

As with the girls champions, Newman and Pasha needed to win a match tiebreaker to advance, theirs a 6-4, 4-6, 10-5 victory over Matthew Dooley and Ben Guthrie in the quarterfinals.

"I was just struggling period that day," said Pasha. "So Spencer had to carry me. But when things aren't going well, we just try to keep our energy up. We figure that's a key to playing good doubles, whether you're playing good or bad."

Newman and Pasha will team up again in just a few weeks for the International Spring Championships and the Easter Bowl.

Third place in boys doubles went to Jeremy Efferding and Fratangelo, when Samuel Fife and Kyle Roth were unable to play the match for the bronze ball. In the girls third place match, Julie Sabacinski and Britney Sanders defeated Allison Falkin and Alexandra Leatu 6-4, 7-5.

In the girls consolation final on Saturday, Lynda Xepoleas, the No. 15 seed, will play No. 2 seed Kimbell. Tenth seed Wyatt McCoy was the boys consolation winner when the third-seeded Pasha was unable to compete in Saturday's final.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Dave "Koz" Kozlowski's report on day five at the Spring Nationals can be found at


Colette Lewis said...

To clarify/correct the headline of this story, Danielle Collins has a gold ball from the 12s, and Robin Anderson won the USTA gold ball in the Women's Open tournament in New York last December.