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Several area players in USTA Super National

By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 3, 2002

When the prestigious 2002 Easter Bowl -- the U.S. Tennis Association Super National Spring Championships -- gets underway this week in Palm Springs, the area will be well represented.

The Easter Bowl, in its 35th year, features 768 of the top-ranked players in the 18, 16 and 14 age divisions. Singles draws are 128 and include feed-in consolation, while doubles is limited to 64 teams. Third-place playoffs are planned for singles and doubles.

This will be Kelly Nelson's fifth appearance.

"I've gone since I was 14," Nelson said. "It's a pretty exciting tournament with so many good players there all at one time.

"It's the closest thing to a professional tournament with all the activities going on besides the tournament itself," she said.

Nelson, who plays in the No. 1 position for Shorecrest High School, graduates this year. She plans to attend and play at Notre Dame. "Kelly's got great hands and a good mind," said Maria Cercone, Nelson's coach at Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club. "Kelly really pushes herself. She's spent a lot of this year preparing for college play while keeping up her national ranking."

Nelson is looking forward to the singles competition and 18-and-under division doubles.

"I'm really excited about playing doubles," she said. "Last year, I made it to the round of 16 with Lingda Yang. This year, I'm playing with Joelle Schwenk from Miami. We should do pretty well."

Goran Dragicevic -- who trains at Seminole Lake Tennis Center with his father, Drago, and Krishnan Anandan -- is seeded 15th in boys 18 singles.

"Last year, I barely got into the Easter Bowl and made it to the round of 32," Dragicevic said. "This year, I have a No. 26 USTA ranking and should do better.

"In singles, if my serve is working, that will help, and I've been hitting a lot of volleys. I play at the baseline, but I'm always looking to come in to finish the point."

Dragicevic is pairing in doubles with Wesley Chapel's Sukhwa Young, the tournament's top 18 seed. "Goran has an exceptionally good serve and is getting about 60 percent in," Anandan said. "If he can do that, along with playing his game the way it's developed, he should get to the semifinal round -- if not win it all.

"He's playing well off both sides, gets up to the net and is playing a complete game," Anandan said.

Other Seminole Lake players in the tourney will be Timothy Neilly and Michael Samara (16 division). Neilly won the 14 singles and doubles (with Wesley Chapel's Marc Spicijaric) last year.

"Tim continues to improve his game as he makes the jump through his career," Anandan said. "Michael has been with us two months from Sarasota and since then won the National Open 16 singles in Orlando."

Rounding out the area players are Christina Liles, Brianna Williams, Miranda Gutierrez, Stacia Fonseca, Spicijaric, Evan Dufaux and Yumi Hasegawa.

The week-long competition showcases stars of tomorrow and starts with social and educational events.

Merv Heller, president of the USTA, and tournament founder Seena Hamilton of New York will host a welcome reception for the players and recognize tournament stars of the past -- such as Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Andy Roddick and Pete Sampras.

SUPER NATIONALS: While the older age divisions travel to California for the Easter Bowl, 12-and-under players will be in Port St. Lucie in the USTA Super National Spring Championships. Seminole's Alexandria Cercone and Lindsay Dvorak are in the girls 128-singles draw and will team for the doubles. Zephyrhills' Christopher Gupta is joined by Tampa's Connor and Macale Smith in the 128-player boys draw.

SUPER SENIOR PLAYOFFS: This week's championship match to determine the men's 3.5 winner has St. Petersburg Tennis Center traveling to Safety Harbor to battle the Phil Green Tennis Academy team. To reach the final, SPTC defeated Westin Innisbrook Resort 2-1 and PGTA eliminated Shipwatch Tennis Club 3-0. Winning for SPTC were Fred DeJohn and Nick Karamessinis (No. 1) and Horst Brinkman and captain Ron Hild (No. 3). This week's winner qualifies for the state tournament in May.

SOUTH PINELLAS: Shipwatch Tennis Club claimed a second Ladies Doubles League title with a 2-0 playoff win over Treasure Island Rec in the 3.5-4.0 division last week. Earlier, Shipwatch B won the 3.0-3.5 competition. Playing for Shipwatch A against Treasure Island were Carole Wilhelm and Sylvia Scoble (No. 1) and captain Miriam Walsh and Kay Hogan (No. 2). Also competing was Alice Wilson. In the final 3.5-4.0 standings,Shipwatch (13 points) was first, and TI Rec (11) was second. St. Petersburg Country Club's Aces and Smashers tied with 10 points. In men's South Pinellas action, Seminole Lake Tennis Center (11 points) leads the six-team 3.5-4.0 division. Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club and SPCC top the five-squad 3.0-3.5 class.

JUNIOR TOURNEYS: Seminole's Nicholas Berning defended his boys 14 top seed, winning the singles title in last weekend's Fun n' Sun Easter Tournament at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Center. Austin Kondor of Largo won three matches to claim the 10 singles crown. Runners-up included Kara Kucin (girls 10) and George Navas (18). Christopher Kucharski won boys 14 consolation.

COMING UP: The SPTC Juniors Easter Classic, for girls and boys 18-and-under, is April 20-22 at St. Petersburg Tennis Center. For information, call Al Sarmiento, 360-2643. ... The Phil Green Tennis Academy will have its Spring Classic, for men in singles and doubles, April 19-21 at Safety Harbor Spa. Call Al Virgus, 724-7729. ... The Junior Clay Court Championships are April 27-29 at Hunter's Green Country Club. Call Bill Macom, (813) 973-4220.

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