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Foreign players enjoy opportunity Saddlebrook offers


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000

Nicole Schneider and Emilie Sechaud have a lot in common.

Both teenagers left their homes, families and friends in other countries for tennis training.

When they arrived at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, they were placed together as roommates and later became a doubles team.

According to both players, all has worked out for the best.

"I was in the top 20 in the girls 18s in Australia," Schneider said, "but where I lived, coaches only looked at the top five or six. A friend of mine had come to Saddlebrook and told me to come here if I wanted to get good training."

Sechaud had a similar experience as a 16-year-old in ranked in the top 10 in Switzerland.

"A friend told me to come (to Saddlebrook) for training because the school and tennis schedule were more flexible," Sechaud said. "In Geneva, it was hard to follow the schedule and do well in either. I want to play tennis, but I also want to go to a really good college."

Both Schneider and Sechaud arrived at Saddlebrook last August with their mothers. After the parents left, the girls buckled down to a daily schedule of school and training followed by more school and more tennis.

The teenagers were in Clearwater last weekend competing in the Pre-Holiday Super Series.

Schneider won two straight-set matches before falling to top seed Candice Fuchs of Sarasota 6-1, 6-2 in a semifinal. Sechaud also reached the semifinal round after battling in two three-set matches, but had to default her semifinal match with Lakeland's Malwina Lys-Dobradin due to an injury.

"I played pretty well but in the final. I just couldn't get anything to work, although the games were all pretty close," Schneider said. "She hit everything so deep to me I didn't really get a chance to do anything that I wanted to with the ball. She was a good player."

Sechaud has worked especially hard on her focus and concentration on closing out matches since she arrived at Saddlebrook. Last weekend's matches proved to be a test for her. In both three-set matches, she lost the first set, forcing better play and concentration from the young Swede, especially in her second-round match with Saddlebrook's Diana Vinis.

"I was down 4-0 in the first set and came back, even though I lost it 6-4," Sechaud said. "In the second set, she was down 4-3, but I couldn't finish it off and we went to a tiebreaker, which I did win."

In the deciding set, Sechaud said she played smart, focused and won 6-0.

Both Schneider and Sechaud will go home for the holidays to see family, visit friends and play more tennis. After the holidays, plans are to return to Saddlebrook to continue training for the future.

Schneider wants to wait until after she finishes high school next year to determine if she'll immediately begin her dream of being a professional player and representing Australia or if she will attend college first.

Sechaud definitely wants to attend college in the U.S. and see what develops from there.

In either case, the tennis experience up to this point has already provided opportunities they each had only dreamed of.

OTHER JUNIORS IN CLEARWATER: Also reaching the semifinal round of competition in the Clearwater event were Leonard Gullan and Matt Rubenstein of Wesley Chapel in the boys 16-year-old division. Gullan fell 6-4, 6-0 to top seed Marc Sawyer of Largo while Rubenstein upset No. 2 seed Marc Dumba 6-2, 6-2. Rubenstein was to face Sawyer in the 16s final Monday afternoon.

Zarah DeSilva of Wesley Chapel won three matches to reach the girls 16s final with top seed Melissa Ryan of Boca Raton. Ryan defeated DeSilva in straight sets.

SENIOR LEAGUE ACTION: Pasco County players helped Innisbrook win its first match in the USTA Florida Section Senior Women's Doubles League in the 3.5 division. In a 2-1 victory over one of the two Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club teams, Debbie McGinley and Maureen Sternberg squeaked out a 7-5, 7-5 win in the No. 1 position and Bonnie Boosales and Nancy Kramer survived a first-set loss in the No. 3 slot to win 1-6, 7-6, 6-3. Anne Hammond and Josie Doucette battled to a 7-6, 6-4 loss in No. 2.

In men's competition last weekend, one Innisbrook team won its match in the 3.5 central division to raise its team record to 2-0. Meanwhile a second Innisbrook team lost in the 3.5 north to drop to 2-1. Defeating Shipwatch Tennis Club 2-1, Jim Gray and Lester Drew in No. 1 and Bob McKenzie and Jerry McDowell in No. 2 both scored wins while Joe Bailey and Bob Berry lost in No. 3.

Skip Parker and Harry Zimmerman scored the only victory for Innisbrook in its match with Countryside Country Club in the 3.5 north division. Ed McGinley and Willie Coquelet battled but lost in No. 1, as did Dave Wisotsky and Richard Hough in No. 2.

SUPER SENIORS: Players interested in participating in the Super Senior Doubles League slated to begin next month should prepare team rosters by Dec. 15. New this year is a ruling that eligible players are those who will be at least 61 years old by the end of 2001. Contact Josie Doucette at (813) 862-1656 for the women's league and Al Heller at (727) 397-2825 for the men.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION: Area players advancing in the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships included Ashley Harkelroad, Kelly McCain and Alexandria Liles in the girls 18-year-old division. Ninth seed Harkelroad advanced to the semifinal round before losing to Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic. Harkelroad was scheduled to play for third place with No. 1 seed Aniko Kapros of Hungary.

McCain reached the round of 32 before losing to No. 8 Edina Galloutis, who went on to defeat Voracova in a straight-set final.

Liles, seeded 13th in the qualifying, advanced to the first round of the main draw.

Scheduled to compete in this month's 2000 Ericsson Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in the Miami area are McCain in the girls 18s, Liles in the 16s and Sukhwa Young in the boys 16s. Qualifying rounds begin Dec. 7, followed by main draw competition Dec. 11-17.

The Junior Orange Bowl, scheduled Dec. 17-23 in Coral Gables, is for players in the 14s and 12s.

McCAIN SIGNS: Kelly McCain of Wesley Chapel has signed a commitment to play at Duke University, according to her father Dave McCain. McCain has had a standout junior career, earning state, national and international rankings.

COMING UP: Countryside Country Club hosts the only National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) this month for players needing a rating for league or tournament competition. Call the club at (727) 796-1136 to register for the Dec. 9 NTRP clinic that begins at 2 p.m. ... Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department hosts a Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournament on Dec. 9 at the Holiday Recreation Complex. Call Donna French at (727) 934-4198. ... Carrollwood Village Golf and Tennis Club hosts the sixth annual Charlie Clack Tournament this weekend for adult age-division singles and doubles. Call the club at (813) 961-1366. ... Countryside Country Club hosts its annual Junior Championships in singles Dec. 16-18. Call Sue Leo at (727) 796-1136 by the Dec. 13 deadline.

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