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OJAI TENNIS: USC'S BIASELLA COMES UP SHORT.

Byline: Lauren Gustus Staff Writer

OJAI - Andriano Biasella's bid for a third consecutive singles title - in a third division - was upended by Sam Warburg of Stanford at the 104th Ojai Tennis Tournament on Sunday afternoon.

The 23-year old USC senior was clearly the crowd favorite, which even Warburg acknowledged after his 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 victory.

``Man, they just love you here,'' said Warburg, the new Pacific-10 Conference men's individual champion.

Biasella, from Rome, Italy, won the men's junior college division title in 2002 with College of the Desert. Decked from head to toe in USC garb, he won the men's open division last year after eligibility issues prevented him from playing for the Trojans. He had achieved near-celebrity status over his three-year stint at Ojai.

Locals cheered his lively on-court demeanor with cries of ``Andiamo,'' - `Let's go,' in Italian. Their encouragement brought Biasella out of a funk following the loss.

``They followed me every match,'' Biasella said. ``It's a good feeling. It helps after you lose because they are still all clapping for you.''

Warburg collapsed on the court at the end of the match, in equal parts relief and celebration. He was bothered by a stomach ache at the start of the day and tenderness in his right ankle, which he sprained early in the week.

The heat, too, got to both players as temperatures reached around 90 degrees.

Warburg, though, stuck to his game plan, which he no doubt honed in two other meetings with Biasella this month. He won the most recent, in straight sets, two weeks ago.

He negated Biasella's strengths - a strong first-serve and a backhand slice - with patience, and it ultimately paid off.

``With a guy who serves that big you have to hang in there,'' Warburg said. ``He's not going to be able to do that forever. I tried to make him pay for missing his second serve.

Biasella, whose first season at USC is his last because he's out of eligibility, will help No. 4 USC in its pursuit of an NCAA team championship when regional play begins May 15. The Trojans, because of their top-10 ranking, will likely host a first-round match.

Raquel Kops-Jones of Cal Berkeley won the women's singles title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Alice Barnes of Stanford.

``It was important not to play any loose points,'' said Kops-Jones, a runner-up last year to Daria Panova of Oregon. ``I have a tendency to let people back in a match.''

Stanford's showing at Ojai was impressive. The Cardinal took the men's individual and invitational singles titles, the women's doubles title, the men's and women's invitational doubles titles and was runner-up in the women's singles final.

Adam Davidson (Hart High of Newhall) of Azusa Pacific won the men's independent college singles title with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Christian Gerloff of Point Loma Nazarene.

Lauren Gustus, (818) 713-3607

lauren.gustus(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 26, 2004
Words:485
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