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Hitting the courts, not the books

Published August 11, 2006

While most Pasco and Pinellas youths are settling into the new school year this week, about 20 area players have traveled to test their skills in USTA National Hard Court Championships.

National tournaments are held through this weekend at various clubs extending from Peachtree, Ga., to San Jose, Calif.

Among the dozen girls and seven boys invited based on their state ranking to the national contests is Alex Domijan of Wesley Chapel, who is the No. 12 seed in the boys 16 at Kalamazoo, Mich.

"This is my first trip to Kalamazoo and I've been preparing on the hard courts at Saddlebrook," said Domijan, 14. "I like hard the best and feel like I move a lot better on that surface.

"I know that if I want to do well, I've got to play aggressively and not push the ball. A big serve is a strength for me and I hope to put it to good use. I plan to take one match at a time and see how well I can do."

In San Diego, Calif., are Alexandra Cercone and Lindsay Dvorak in the girls 16-and-under tournament.

"I reached the round of 16 last year, so I want to advance farther," said No. 5 seed Cercone, 14. "I think I play better on the hard courts because I have better results on them."

Cercone, with a state ranking of No. 1 in the 14 division and No. 3 in the 16, plans to play doubles with Jackie Kasler of Gulf Breeze.

Florida's No. 2-ranked Danielle Collins and Julia Claire Jones are competing in the girls 12 at the University of Kentucky complex in Lexington. Emily Dvorak, Kayla Rizzolo, Becky Bodine and Abby Wright are in Peachtree, Ga., in the girls 14 competition.

Morgan Frank and Alexis Dorr are among the 192 players in San Jose, Calif., challenging for top honors in the girls 18.

"I'm definitely looking forward to competing and playing against different people with different styles," said Emily Dvorak, 13. "To get ready for the hard court, I've worked on my net game every day and have practiced on hard courts a lot. I think hard courts are my best surface because I like to hit hard. It's my second time to the national hard courts."

Florida's No. 5 Garrett Betsarakis flew to San Antonio on Friday for the boys 14 national event. Kelly Donaldson also is among the 192 singles competitors.

"This is my first time to the national hard courts and I've been working on my serve for it," said Betsarakis, 14. "I'm more comfortable playing on the clay court and feel my game is really more suited to the clay court surface. I need to use a big serve and take the ball earlier to end the points faster to be successful."

Rounding out the players challenging at nationals are Joel Samaha in the boys 16 and Clint Bowles, Jeff Dadamo and Johnny Hamui in the boys 18 in Kalamazoo.

Singles and doubles continue in all divisions through Saturday. Then it's back to school for the competitors.

LEAGUE NEWS: USTA Adult Mixed Doubles is forming for its "early start" fall season. Teams consist of three doubles positions in the 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, 9.0 and 10.0 NTRP levels. Play will be Friday evenings and perhaps Sundays at noon. For details, contact coordinator Linda Meehan at 727 823-6672 or

- A Prince Doubles League for men and women is slated to begin next month. Men will play Wednesday evenings and women Friday mornings or Saturdays at 1 p.m. Teams consist of three doubles positions. For more details, call (813) 289-7865 or go to

WORKSHOPS: The St. Petersburg Tennis Center is the host site for the 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 19 USTA Florida Recreational Coach Workshop. Teachers, coaches and anyone interested in recreational tennis programming are encouraged to attend this interactive, on-court training. Cost is $25 and includes registration, training materials, lessons plans, sample equipment and lunch.

To register, contact site director Julie Panton by phone (744-3699) or e-mail ( or call SPTC (727-823-2225).

- The Nature Coast Tennis Foundation is hosting a USTA Florida Recreational Workshop Sept. 23 at the Nature Coast Tennis Center from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The same format of instruction and training is available. Contact Louise Downey, (352) 666-0658 or e-mail

NET SHOTS: Local players at last weekend's First Coast Junior Designated in Jacksonville included Robert Dvorak in the boys 12, Anthony Barrancotto and Kosuke Hasegawa (14), Paul Polarczyk and Istvan Bolgar (18), Kara Kucin in girls 16, Shaunte Southern (14) and Anastasia Nefedova (10).

Nefedova won the title in a third-set tiebreak win over the girls 10 No. 2 seed. Kucin reached the final and lost in three sets. Reaching the round of 16 in their respective division were Dvorak and Southern. Quarterfinalists included top-seeded Barrancotto and No. 10 Hasegawa. Polarczyk and Bolgar were in Monday's semifinal round.

- Nathan Graddy won the boys 16 singles and Kaysara Mandry the girls 16 at last weekend's River Hills Summer Classic. Wesley Chapel's Oscar Eppley was a boys 16 finalist.

COMING UP: Hot, Hot, Hot Rookie Tournament for juniors begins Saturday at Southwest Complex in Largo. Call (727) 518-3125. ...Royal Racquet Club hosts the Florida State Closed Championships Mixed Doubles and the Summer Classic Designated in men's and women's singles this weekend. Call (727) 799-3200. ...The Summer Local Junior Championships is at East Lake Woodlands this weekend. Call (727) 785-2212.

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

[Last modified August 11, 2006, 06:48:50]

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