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Juniors in thick of tourney action

While many are gearing up for the holidays, local junior competitors are prepping for national and international tournaments.

Last week, about a dozen area players traveled around and outside the state to challenge in USTA National Open events.

Shaunte Southern, Garrett Betsarakis and Austin Powell journeyed to Mobile, Ala., for the USTA National Open for boys and girls 14-and-under; Kara Kucin and Kayla Rizzolo to Pensacola for the girls 16 national; Taylor Kreis, Rianna Valdes and Alex Crnogorac to Orlando for the 12; Alexandra Cercone, Lindsay Dvorak, Morgan Frank and Jamie Mera to Norcross, Ga., for the 18.

In the 14, Betsarakis and Powell played to the round of 16 and Southern won her first main-draw match and two in the consolation. Kucin fell in the first round of the 16; Rizzolo placed fourth overall. Valdes won one round in the 12 and three in consolation. Kreis and Crnogorac fell in the first round of the 64-player draw. In the 18, Mera reached the quarterfinals, as did Cercone. Frank played to the round of 16 and Dvorak won one round in the main draw and two in consolation.

"The national opens are good for working on your ranking," said Maria Cercone, tennis director at Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club and member of the USTA Youth Competition Committee. "It's a strong national tournament and some will test the waters and play up an age division."

Competing in this week's prestigious Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships are Alexandra Cercone and Gina Bloemers (girls 16); Alexander Domijan, Tucker Brown, Evgeniy Belov, Adam Eriksson and Yves Jacob (boys 16); Frank, Christina Liles, Yumi Hasegawa, Stephanie Kent, Kaysara Mandry, Alexandra Moreno-Kaste and Lindsay Dvorak (girls 18); Brandon Anandan, 2, Istvan Bolgar, Johny Hamui, Amir Tabak and Tyler Reppert (boys 18); Abby Wright, Emily Dvorak, Amber Li, Becky Bodine and Kayla Rizzolo (girls 14); Edward Corty, Tanner Brown, Max Eppley, Ben Hwang, Kosuke Hasegawa, Lionel Kogan, Spencer Ong (boys 14); Julia Jones, Julia Sikorski, Agatha Ambrozy, Carlee Rizzolo, Rianna Valdes and Donato Rizzolo (girls 12); Alex Saltiel, Adam Ambrozy, Robert Dvorak, Alek Crnogorac and Didi Ong (boys 12).

"The Eddie Herr event is really the snowballing of junior tennis as the players hope to peak for the upcoming Orange Bowl," said Kevin O'Connor, Saddlebrook Resort's sports director. "...These tournaments are the stepping stone and proving ground for those that want to be professionals."

The Junior Orange Bowl International Championships in Key Biscayne are in December. The 18 and 16 divisions begin this weekend, followed by the 14 and 12 in mid December.

"The Orange Bowl is the creme de la creme, and the tournament all the players shoot for," Maria Cercone said. "Definitely, players who get in the Orange Bowl are either going to college to play or to the pro tour. The top 64 in the world are in each draw."

To follow the players' progress, go to www.usta.com, find junior tournaments and click on schedule for national tournaments.

NET SHOTS: In this month's USTA Intersectional Women's Team Championships in Austin, Texas, New Port Richey's Ria Graham won all four singles matches for the 65-and-over squad and was 2-2 in doubles. The 55 team, including Wesley Chapel's Toni Novack, finished first, as did the 75. The 45 squad was fourth; the 35s were fifth.

- More than 100 players competed in the Turkey Bowl Super Series at Seminole Lake Tennis Academy. Among the winners were Katherine Geshel (girls 10-and-under), Hunter O'Brien (boys 10), Andy Hersh (16) and No. 3 Dilip Kamath (18). Geshel teamed with Odessa's Grace Korta to win the 10 doubles title. Hersh paired with Oldsmar's Alex Fisch to claim the 16 doubles title.

- In last weekend's Thanksgiving Rookie Classic at Tampa Palms, area players captured eight of the 10 singles divisions. Among the girls collecting top honors were Sarah Erikkson (girls 18), Caitlin Russo (16), Sara Guttentag (14), Ashley Wilson (12) and Victoria Chavez (10).

COMING UP: The Pre-Holiday Junior Classic begins Saturday at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex. Call (727) 669-1919. ...The College Tennis Academy is planning its annual Tennis Exposure Camp for junior players ages 15-18 Dec. 9-10 at USF. Call 1-800-446-2238 or go to www.collegetennis.com.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, (727) 445-4119; e-mailed to namorgan@tampabay.rr.com; or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.

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