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Moore Keeps Running, Winning

Tennis: Former Servite High player uses speed and endurance to beat UCLA's Jean-Noel Grinda.

April 29, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

USC's Ryan Moore vowed that his rematch with UCLA's Jean-Noel Grinda would be different than their last meeting, a 6-2, 6-0 win by Grinda. And it was.

Seven weeks ago in a dual match, Grinda's big, lefty serve and powerful inside-out forehands were too much for Moore. On an unusually chilly and damp Saturday morning at Libbey Park, Moore's legs and well-placed serves were the difference in his 6-3, 6-2 victory in the Pac-10 men's semifinals of the Ojai Valley tennis tournament.

"I wanted to make it a track meet," said Moore, who won the boys' interscholastic title here three years ago as a senior at Servite High. "The conditions were heavy. Those balls were like balloons. He hits the ball harder than I do, so I had to take advantage of that. I ran down most of those balls and made him hit one more shot."

Moore also took advantage of Grinda's heavy legs. On one occasion in the second set, Moore hit a high lob to Grinda's backhand. Grinda stumbled back to the ball, flicked an awkward overhead into the net and shouted, "I can't do that shot." Moore responded with, "I know," and got a big laugh from the crowd.

The laugh has been on Moore's four opponents since Thursday. Ranked 77th in the nation, Moore wasn't expected to reach the third round. But he has played his way into the final and secured a spot in the NCAA singles tournament next month in Athens, Ga., with wins over No. 67 Nic Dubey of Arizona State, No. 1 Alex Kim of Stanford and No. 51 Grinda.

"I'm playing much better now than I did all year," said Moore, who will meet Stanford's K.J. Hipensteel in today's 11 a.m. final. "You string a couple wins together and you get the confidence going. Grinda is a physically imposing guy, much bigger than me. So I had to step up to the plate."

Moore, who at 5 feet 9 is five inches shorter than Grinda, led the first set, 3-0, lost the next three games and then won the next three to close out the set. He broke Grinda in the fifth game of the second set to go up 3-2 and he didn't lose another game.

"I was trying to win the point too early," Grinda said.

Grinda said he had a feeling it wasn't going to be his day, even before he arrived at Libbey Park.

"I had a bad night sleeping," he said.

Moore had a different kind of feeling entering the match.

"I woke up this morning feeling no pressure," he said. "I had a great breakfast and I was ready to go."

In the Pac-10 women's invitational, USC freshman Melissa Esmero (Mater Dei) reached the singles final with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Nicole Havlicek of California. She will play teammate Krissy Hamilton in an 8 a.m. match at Libbey Park.

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