Three of Orange County's best junior tennis players were eliminated Friday as an unseeded entry reached the final of the Seventeen Magazine Tournament of Champions at the Marguerite Recreation Center in Mission Viejo.
In the 14-year-old division quarterfinals, second-seeded Keri Phebus of Newport Beach was upset by Jennifer Nasser of Arlington Heights, Ill., 6-3, 6-3.
In 18s quarterfinals, Debbie Graham of Fountain Valley lost to Tami Whitlinger, the tournament's top seed from Neenah, Wis., 6-3, 6-3, and Noelle Porter of San Clemente was upset by Laxmi Poruri of Upland, 6-0, 6-0.
Poruri then upset second-seeded Holly Lloyd of Deerfield, Ill., 6-2, 6-2, in the semifinals and will meet Whitlinger in the final.
"I wasn't having a very good day," said Graham, 16. "I was real nervous in the first set--not playing smart at all. I had lots of opportunities, but I just didn't take advantage of them."
Graham, of La Quinta High School, relied on a powerful backhand and baseline game through most of the match. But she couldn't break through Whitlinger's domination of the net.
Whitlinger, 18, approached the net at almost every opportunity. Seven times she frustrated Graham in the backcourt, with the topper coming on a sensational drop shot that spun off the net to Graham's inside corner.
"Those (drop shots) were too good," Graham said. "But I just was missing everything. In the middle of the match, I all of a sudden didn't know what the score was or which game I was in. I just kind of spaced out today."
Porter, the fifth seed and a junior at San Clemente High School, was surprised by Poruri, who lost to Porter, 6-4, 7-6, in the Ojai Tournament final two weeks ago.
"She played out of her mind today," Porter said. "Since last time, her game has improved 100%. She's only 14, but she's poised and she's quick. And she's got all the shots down."
Porter, 16, maintained a baseline position throughout most of the match, trying to overpower her opponent with an aggressive backhand.
But Poruri played both a consistent baseline and aggressive net and volley game, controlling the pace while keeping Porter running with cross-court and drop shots.
"It was all over so quickly; I never had a match feel so rushed," Porter said. "And she had one of those days we tennis players dream about."
Poruri, who faces Whitlinger--who beat her sister Teri, 6-2, 6-0, in the semifinals--today at 1 p.m, said her unseeded position gave her an advantage.
"I have nothing to lose here," she said. "They (seeded players) have everything to lose. I played nice and deep, and then attacked on every opportunity. I guess everything just fit together today."
In other 14s quarterfinal matches, Erika deLone of Lincoln, Mass., def. Anne Mall, Libertyville, Ill., 6-2, 7-6; Alixandra Creek, Rochester, N.Y., def. Julie Shiflet, Virginia Beach, Va., 6-4, 6-4, and Laura Kimel, Goleta, Calif., def. Jennifer Capriati, Lauderhill, Fla., 7-6, 6-4. In the semifinals, deLone def. Creek, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, and Jennifer Nasser of Arlington Heights, Ill, def. Kimel.
In 16s quarterfinals: Dawn Martin, St. Clair Shores, Mich., def. Meredith McGrath, Midland, Mich., 6-1, 6-2; Ann Grossman, Grove City, Ohio, def. Jeri Ingram, Silver Spring, Md., 6-3, 2-6, 6-1; Kimberly Po, Rolling Hills, Calif., def. Andrea Farley, Cincinnati, Ohio, 6-2, 6-1, and Carrie Cunningham, Livonia, Mich., def. Kimberly Kessaris, Hendersonville, N.C., 6-3, 6-2. In the semifinals, Grossman def. Martin, 6-2, 6-0. Po def. Cunningham, 6-2, 6-1.
In other 18s quarterfinals: Teri Witlinger, Neenah, Wisc., def. Sandra Birch, Huntington Bay, N.Y., 6-4, 6-1; Holly Lloyd, Deerfield, Ill., defeated Iwalani McCalla, Los Altos, Calif., 6-3, 6-2.