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USTA WINTER NATIONALS: THACHER, SUNDLING TO FACE OFF.

Byline: ERIK BOAL Special to the Daily News

Ryan Thacher and JT Sundling stood side by side on the tennis court, experiencing the triumph of winning the 16-under doubles title at last year's United States Tennis Association Winter Nationals.

Their teamwork also helped Southern California capture the 16-under Interscholastic Team Championships in Louisiana in June.

Today, two of the area's top players will be trying to prevent one another from achieving glory when they stand on opposite sides of the net in the boys' 18-under semifinals at the USTA Winter Nationals at Phoenix Tennis Center.

Thacher, a junior at Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, extended his singles winning streak to 24 matches with Saturday's 6-0, 6-1 victory over No.12 Greg Hirshman of LaJolla. Thousand Oaks' Sundling continued his impressive run as an unseeded entry with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Viju George of Boca Raton, Fla.

The winner of today's showdown will face top-seeded Jordan Rux of Kerrville, Texas, or No. 3 Reid Carleton of Naples, Fla., in Monday's final.

Thousand Oaks' Kyle McMorrow, the second seed in the 16-under division, remained in the championship hunt Saturday with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Boca Raton's Bob Van Overbeek. McMorrow will face unseeded Ian Chadwell of Franklin, Tenn., in his semifinal at today.

Thacher defeated Sundling 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the round of 32last year en route to winning the 16-under singles championship in Arizona.

Sundling then helped Thacher as they marched through the doubles draw as an unseeded entry to record a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Indianapolis' Paul Chappell and Casey Cullen of Beverly Hills, Mich.

Sundling, who knocked off No. 2 Bozhidar Katsarov of the Weil Academy in Ojai 6-3, 6-1 in Thursday's round of 32, faces a tough task in slowing down the momentum of the fourth-seeded Thacher.

Including last year's run to the title, Thacher has won 24straight sets in Winter Nationals competition. Since his loss to Pedro Zerbini in the final of the Wilson Junior Championships in October, Thacher has won three consecutive tournaments and dropped only twosets during his 24-match winning streak.

Thacher and Orange's Steve Johnson, the No. 10 seed, advanced to the doubles quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over second-seeded Eric Ramos of Alameda and Blake Wardman of San Clemente. They will face North Carolina's Chase Helpingstine and Parker Preyer today, with a possible semifinal match to follow.

Johnson and Thacher, finalists in the Southern Section individual tournament in May, were teammates on the 16-under Interscholastic championship team, as well as Southern California's victorious 18-under squad at the USTA National Team Championships in Illinois in August.

Helpingstine and Preyer halted Sundling's bid for back-to-back national doubles titles Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over the left-hander and partner Nicolas Meister of Tesoro of Las Flores.

erik.boal@dailynews.com

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 31, 2006
Words:470
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