by Marcia Frost, 2 August 2012
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Editor's note: Taylor Townsend withdrew from the tournament after the original publication of this story.
The Girls' 16 & 18 Nationals are about to descend on the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, Calif., for the third year in a row - as the tournament dubbed "SoCalamazoo" looks to be as exciting as the previous two.
Over the years, winners of the Girls' 16 and 18 Championships have included Lindsay Davenport, Lisa Raymond, Jennifer Capriati and Tracy Austin. But in recent years, the tournament has become even more of a stepping stone to success. 2011 finalist
Nicole Gibbs of Manhattan Beach, Calif., went on to her second year at Stanford
after the Nationals. In May, she became only the third player in history to capture both the singles and doubles titles
at the NCAA Championships.
Players from the Girls' Nationals have also done well in the professional ranks. Christina McHale, the 2009 Girls' 18 champion, has made her way to the top 30 in the world and recently represented the United States at the London Olympics. The 2008 third place Girls' 18 finisher Irina Falconi went from Nationals, to a run at Georgia Tech as one of the top college players in the country, into a growing professional career with a ranking at 104 in a short time. And Melanie Oudin, who has placed in singles and doubles at Nationals in recent years, remains on the border of the top 100 in the world.
One of the stars of the 2012 championships looks to be Taylor Townsend of Jonesboro, Ga. As one of the most impressive junior tennis in recent years, she is returning to better last year's fourth place result, which she achieved after upsetting third-seeded Madison Keys of Boca Raton, FL. Since the 2011 tournament, Townsend has won singles and doubles (with Gabrielle Andrews) titles at the Australian Junior Open Championships and also won the Easter Bowl ITF Championships. Townsend goes into the Girls' 18s as the No. 2 seed.
Receiving top seeding at the USTA Girls' 18 USTA National Championships is Krista Hardebeck. The Santa Ana, Calif., native took the bronze last year after beating Townsend in the playoff. It's been a busy year for Hardebeck, who has been playing the professional circuit and international events while preparing for her first year at Stanford University.