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Juniors in thick of tourney season

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 while 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, Cercone reached the quarterfinals, as did Mera. 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 Tennis Club. "It's a strong national tournament and some will test the waters and play up an age division."

Cercone's daughter, Alexandra, did just that at the national open, then began competition in the girls 16 at the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships in Bradenton this week.

Joining Cercone in the prestigious ITF is 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, Dvorak (girls 18); Brandon Anandan, Fabio Pagani, Istvan Bolgar, Johny Hamui, Amir Tabak, 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, Donato Rizzolo (girls 12); Alex Saltiel, Adam Ambrozy, Robert Dvorak, Alek Crnogorac, Didi Ong (boys 12).

Through Monday evening, Jones had won three matches to reach the round of 16 in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles.

Players in the 18, 16, 14 must compete in a qualifying tournament to reach the main draw, said Maria Cercone, while if a player in the 12 division makes the 128-player draw, they forego a qualifier. Advancing through the qualifier is not easy, said Cercone, and is set up much like in the pros.

The Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in Key Biscayne is next month. The 18 and 16 divisions begin this weekend, followed by the 14 and 12 in mid-December. To follow the players' progress, visit

NET SHOTS: More than 100 competed in last weekend's Turkey Bowl Super Series at Seminole Lake Tennis Academy. Among the winners were No. 2 Julia Teytelbaum in girls 14 singles and Alex Fisch and Andy Hersh in boys 16 doubles.

- In the Thanksgiving Rookie Classic at Tampa Palms, Jake Gabay won the boys 10 consolation draw.

COMING UP: The Pre-Holiday Junior Classic begins Saturday at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex. Call 669-1919.