Saturday, April 30, 2005

STORY OF THE MONTH: Professional Tennis at Age 15: Too Much to Young? (washingtonpost.com)

Professional Tennis at Age 15: Too Much to Young? (washingtonpost.com; registration required)

I've decided to re-post what I consider the most significant story of each month in junior tennis. I expect that some months the decision will be much easier than others, with this April's choice certainly a simple one. Doug Robson's story on Donald Young's early professional career is thorough and challenging. Though I would personally vote for Michael Chang as the best American 15-year-old ever, Young is certainly in the conversation. Whether that title is even worth arguing about is a better question.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Pressure's off 'K' men (kalamazoo gazette)

Pressure's off 'K' men--

Just wanted to take note of another year of excellence in men's tennis at Kalamazoo College. It shouldn't be taken for granted. A streak of 67 consecutive league titles is truly remarkable.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

TennisReporters.net

TennisReporters.net/ --
I haven't linked to tennisreporters.net before primarily because many of the stories require a paid subscription. But this commentary is available to anyone, and it contains an interesting addendum to the Bodo Roddick piece I linked to earlier this week. More importantly, it bids a fond farewell to Wendy Fix, an agent at Octagon. I spoke with Wendy about her career change in Palm Springs, and though I am just getting into tennis as she's getting out, I sense that it is tennis and Octagon's loss, not hers. I hope she recharges and finds a workable balance between her passion for tennis and the rest of her life. If there is such a thing as an "industry" in tennis futures, it is diminished by her departure.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

USTA.com BACKCOURT

USTA.com BACKCOURT The USTA has recently added this "skew younger" module to its website. There is also a new magazine coming out in July, SMASH, which I gather is aiming for the same demographics. I hope to be frequently employed by the latter, so make a point to read the debut issue, won't you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Peter Bodo's TENNISWORLD April 13-30 | (tennis.com)


Tennis | Peter Bodo's TENNISWORLD April 13-30 | Roddick's Return
--
Peter Bodo gave my blog a mention in his blog last week, but that's not why I'm linking to his piece on Roddick. Roddick It's because this is a very thoughtful and candid assessment of why Roddick has become a "crossover" sports celebrity, and why he's not going to be replaced anytime soon as the face of American men's tennis.

But what Bodo doesn't address--and it's a subject I confess is fascinating to me--is whether this is the kind of life Roddick wants. There is a downside to fame and fortune, especially when you're trying to actually achieve something that has nothing to do with either-- in Roddick's case, tennis greatness. In many ways, celebrity just gets in the way of this, and it's often difficult to balance the "good of the game" with the champion's desire to excel. That Roddick has walked this tightrope as well as he has, as young as he is, shows that he really is more than a serve and a forehand.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sundling's Spring Gets Better--Ventura County Star

Ventura County Star (registration required)--Sundling's Spring Gets Better--

Sam Querrey has nothing on fellow Thousand Oaks resident JT Sundling, who has been tearing up the 14s recently.
Sundling2
And this story isn't just about Sundling. There's a thorough Weil Academy update too.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Outright Big Ten Champs Finish Iowa 7-0 :: Illini have now won 83 consecutive regular season Big Ten matches

Outright Big Ten Champs Finish Iowa 7-0 :: Illini have now won 83 consecutive regular season Big Ten matches--
83! We're pretty proud of the 66 consecutive MIAA championships here at Kalamazoo College, but then we have a very long and storied history of tennis. To win 83 consecutive regular season Big Ten matches and nine straight Big Ten titles at Illinois, well, that's Craig Tiley's doing. Period. California and Florida schools are expected to contend year after year after year, but to put this kind of streak together when you can't offer recruits the beach or the sun --or even the city -- is beyond amazing.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Playing to the crowd (Ventura County Star: Tennis)

Ventura County Star: Tennis--(registration required)--Playing to the crowd--
Do yourself a favor and take the time to register and read Rhiannon Potkey's stories from the Ojai tournament. I have a friend whose son was lucky enough to play there last year, and they just raved about it, so I've been following the coverage very closely this year. Potkey has given me a sense of the place -- but I've sworn off describing Querrey as "lanky" ever again.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fugate Makes His Mark With Luxilon Cup Championship (Tennis Week)

Tennis Week--Fugate Makes His Mark With Luxilon Cup Championship--

Odd that this story is coming out three weeks after the Luxilon Cup, but I guess all "senior" tennis journalists were busy with their Nadal-Federer stories. I shouldn't complain; any profile of a junior is welcome. fugate
Marcus also had a pretty good Southern California swing, making the round of 16 in Carson and the quarters in Palm Springs in singles and winning the doubles with Dylan Arnould there. He told me after that doubles win that he is just now learning to volley. If it's even half true, I agree with Nick Bollettieri, a commitment to that style of game is his best bet.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Junior Player, Big Game (Ventura County Star)

Ventura County Star (registration required)--Junior Player, Big Game--
Sam Querrey is finally getting oodles of publicity, at least in his hometown newspaper. His comments on attending college will raise a few eyebrows.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

thedesertsun.com | Boys 18 champion wants Federer next

thedesertsun.com | Boys 18 champion wants Federer next

Querreyfinal2
That would be Sam Querrey, who has been on quite a streak indeed. And there's something admirable about actually wanting to play the best in the world, knowing you'll probably be humiliated (See Jenkins, Scoville--2004 US Open vs. Roddick). But if you can use the opportunity as a learning experience, and don't need the lesson over and over (See Young, Donald--spring 2005), why not dream big?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

AP Wire | 04/12/2005 | Eighth-grader follows the bouncing ball around the globe

--AP Wire | 04/12/2005 | Eighth-grader follows the bouncing ball around the globe--

I was able to see the Round of 16 match right after this story was picked up by the AP wire, between Chase Buchanan, who will be 14 in June, and Jay Wong, who will be 17 in July. Wong used his superior size and strength to advantage and beat Buchanan 7-5, 6-4, but I saw the younger boy hit some incredibly mature and breathtaking shots. Usually I would chastise a coach making Agassi and Sampras comparisons, but Matthews' caveat is a profound one. It can't be done on talent alone, which Buchanan has an abundance of. The mental side of the game is nearly as important and much harder to observe. But if he sticks with Matthews, and listens to him, Buchanan's road to tennis maturity might be bumpy now and then, but it will eventually take him where he wants to go.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Professional Tennis at Age 15: Too Much to Young? (washingtonpost.com)

Professional Tennis at Age 15: Too Much to Young? (washingtonpost.com; registration required)--

Terrific story that thoroughly explores one of the most controversial topics in junior tennis: Does signing a professional contract at an early age help or hinder a prodigy's tennis prospects?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Embree, Radeva and Sundling Champions at Easter Bowl

Embree, Radeva and Sundling Champions at Easter Bowl--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs, CA--

Nelly Radeva had little reason for optimism coming into the Easter Bowl. The fourteen-year-old from Orange County had lost her first round qualifying match (in the 18s division) at the ITF International Spring event in Carson the previous week, and was unseeded in the 16s age group in Palm Springs.
Radevafinal
But by the time she was awarded her first USTA gold ball on Sunday afternoon, after a riveting 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over fourth seed McCall Jones, she could look forward to a future as bright as the desert sun that blazed overhead.

Admitting to a case of nerves in the first set, Radeva, who had beaten four seeded players including number two Kirsten Flower in Saturday’s semifinal, fell behind 5-1. But she gave a glimpse of her fortitude when she won a four-deuce game to bring it to 5-2. Even being broken at love to cede the first the set didn’t seem to bother the slender right-hander, as she continued to slug her powerful forehand deep into the corners.

Jones and Radeva held their serves the first two games of the second set, but it wasn’t until nine games later--all of them breaks--serving at 6-5, that Radeva managed to pull even in the match.

After a ten-minute rest period, Jones and Radeva returned to the court and when Radeva jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the drama really began in earnest.

Jones, who also had used her forehand to advantage, refused to accept her fate. Still slapping her thigh and verbally encouraging herself, she held at love then broke and held to get to 3-4.

A few errors began to creep into Jones’ game, but to call them unforced is inaccurate. Both Radeva and Jones exhibited great depth and pace on their groundstrokes, and most points ended with a winner, not an error.

Serving at 3-5, Jones saved two match points, the second one a valiant swinging forehand volley off a rare moon ball from Radeva. In the next game, she also denied Radeva, who was having difficulty with her second serve.

“I tried to step in on her second serve,” said Jones, “maybe hit some angles or winners off it.”

Jonesfinal
“She attacked my second serve,” Radeva admitted, “but I didn’t get discouraged or anything.”

She did lose the game, however, throwing in five unforced errors, and squandering two more match points.

At 5-5, Jones could not hold, so once again Radeva stepped to the baseline with the championship on her racquet. This time, she didn’t falter, never needing a second serve in the four points played.

Jones, who invested so much emotionally in the match, was playing her fourth three-setter of the tournament, and although physically fatigued, she just kept fighting.

“When she had a match point, it really didn’t matter to me,” the fifteen-year-old from Southern California said. “I even went for more. Might as well just play to win instead of just letting it go, letting her hit a winner on me.”

Radeva recognized Jones’s determination.

“She’s a fighter, and she wanted to really beat me, but I wanted to win too.”

Radeva, who was a finalist in the 12s Nationals just a year and a half ago, has made impressive strides in tennis without devoting her life to it. She spends less than two hours a day on tennis and doesn’t play many tournaments, although the coach she has been working with for the last 18 months is the legendary Robert Lansdorp.

According to her father, who immigrated to the US with his family from Bulgaria thirteen years ago, she is happy living the life of a normal teenager. “She enjoys school, and she’s a winner going to school, so if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he laughed.

In the other two finals played on Sunday, top seed Lauren Embree of Florida overcame a quick start by unseeded thirteen-year-old Connie Hsu to win the girls 14s championship 2-6. 6-3, 6-2. The top-ranked girl in the country in the 12s last year, Hsu hits both her forehand and backhand with two hands, and that gave Embree difficulty at first.

“She’s a lefty, and her serve was different,” said Embree. “I wasn’t used to it at first, but I adjusted.”
Hsufinal
The match, which lasted over two and a half hours, featured numerous breaks.

“That’s girls tennis,” laughed Lauren’s mother Nancy. “It’s an advantage not to serve half the time.”

Embree

Embree now has a gold ball in singles to add to her collection which features two doubles golds, three silvers and three bronzes.


In the final match of the day, JT Sundling gave Thousand Oaks California its second champion of the weekend when the eighth seed defeated unseeded Andre Dome 6-3, 6-3 for the boys 14s title.
Domefinal
Dome needed a wildcard to compete in the tournament because he had been playing in 16s, and he made the most of it, beating the 17th, 14th , sixth and fourth seeds, before shocking top seed Ryan Harrison in the semifinals on Saturday.

But on Sunday, the fourteen-year-old from Southern California hit the proverbial wall in the form of a big lefthander with a great serve and a forehand to match.

Dome, like Hsu, hits both forehand and backhand with two hands. It didn’t appear to trouble Sundling, who like his neighbor and idol, 18s Easter Bowl Champion Sam Querrey, did not lose a set in the tournament.

“I played really well,” said Sundling, 14, who won his first gold ball yesterday when he and Alexander Johnson took the doubles title. “I beat him the first time we played, but I lost to him the last couple of times.”
Sundling

Dome could manage only one break of Sundling’s serve, and was on the defensive throughout most of the match. The threat of Sundling’s forehand pace kept Dome off balance and holding his own serve was a struggle.

Sundling’s coach Daryl Ahrens plans to have him play 14s events throughout the summer and move up to the 16s at the USTA Winter championships. Sundling’s domination of the 14s at the Easter Bowl has certainly brought him to the national forefront, and he'll be among the favorites for both the Clays and the Hard Courts.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Querrey Wins Second Straight ITF Championship; Glatch Takes Singles and Doubles Titles at Easter Bowl

Sam Querrey’s ITF Win Streak Reaches Twelve with Easter Bowl Championship; Alexa Glatch Sweeps Singles and Doubles Titles
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs CA--

Two weeks ago, Sam Querrey languished at 112 in the ITF junior world rankings, and needed a solid performance in the two new ITF tournaments in his home state to earn a place in the main draw of the junior Grand Slams this summer.

Querreyfinal

With his 6-3, 6-3 win over second seed Carsten Ball in the ITF B1 Easter Bowl finals on Saturday, he now is likely to be seeded at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, advancing nearly 100 spots in the rankings with his wins at the Grade 1 International Spring Championship in Carson last week and in Palm Springs this week. Querrey won the 16s Easter Bowl singles title last year.

The notorious winds that typically buffet the Coachella Valley this time of year never materialized, but Querrey certainly blew through his draw, winning every set he played. After Friday's semifinals, which featured some serious pace by all four competitors, the final featured less uninhibited ball striking.

"I was pretty tired," said Ball, who played two sets in the doubles final and three sets in his semifinal on Friday. "But it's the finals and it's a little different,” he said. "Sammy played well, didn't give me a lot of opportunities," Ball said of his longtime Southern California sectional rival
Ballfinal

Querrey, teaming with Kellen Damico, lost in the doubles quarterfinals to Ball and partner Michael Venus, but had played singles matches in 12 of the last 13 days. The searing midday heat—94 degrees and certainly much hotter on Stadium Court -- took its toll on both players. At one point in the second set, there were five straight breaks of serve before Querrey, despite tossing in three double faults in the game, finally held. The six-foot-five-inch right-hander then broke Ball at love for his twelfth straight win.

"I didn't think either of us played that great today," the tenth seeded Querrey said. "We were both kind of out it, it seemed."

Querrey's coach, Australian Grant Doyle, cited the intensive training Querrey has done in the past two months as a prime reason for his success on Saturday. "He can win now when he doesn't play his best," Doyle said of his protégé. "He's very coachable, and his mental game has improved as well."

What's next for Querrey? A tournament in Ojai, some high school tennis, then on to Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The whirlwind that began for him with his quarterfinal showing at the U.S. Open last September shows no sign of abating.

Like Querrey, girl’s top seed Alexa Glatch is a Southern Californian who had already claimed a previous Easter Bowl championship. Glatch won both the singles and doubles in 14s in 2003, and with her 6-7 (1), 6-0, 6-3 win over second seed Jenni-Lee Heinser today and the 6-1, 6-4 victory she and Lindsay Burdette claimed from Heinser and partner Liz Plotkin in Friday's doubles final, she again scored a rare sweep.
Glatchfinal

But after the first set, the fifteen-year-old Glatch, who had lost only four games in her four previous matches, seemed suddenly vulnerable.

"She played extremely well in the tiebreak," Glatch said about the only set she dropped in the tournament--a set that took over an hour to play. "I give her a lot of credit. She played very well and there was not much I could do."

Heinser agreed. "The first set I played really well," said the eighteen-year-old from Florida. "The second set I didn't play very well, and a few things started to hurt, so that didn't help."
Heinserfinal

The second set got away from Heinser quickly, and down 3-0, she called for a trainer, who worked for several minutes on her left shoulder. Glatch continued her dominance when play resumed, but in the opening game of the third set, she was broken at love.

"That's not the way I wanted to start out, but I just put that behind me", said the soft-spoken six-footer. "It definitely was not over after that game."

When Glatch broke Heinser two consecutive times immediately after that early dropped serve, Glatch began to assert herself on the baseline and play her backhand more aggressively. Heinser was unable to make any inroads in Glatch's remaining service games, and the fifteen-year-old had earned her second title at the 2005 Easter Bowl.

Already ranked in the top 12 in the world in the ITF point standings, Glatch has the highest ranking of any American girl going into the European junior circuit this spring and summer. Last week's winner at Carson, Vania King, is right behind Glatch in the rankings.

In boy’s doubles, Marcus Fugate and Dylan Arnould captured their first Grade 1 title by downing Ball and Venus 6-2, 7-6 (8).

“We were serving pretty well,” Arnould said. As evidence, down set point in the tiebreaker, Fugate gained an end change when he slammed an ace, and Arnould also saved the set with a service winner at 7-8.

Although they reached the quarterfinals together at the ITF International Winter and the Orange Bowl last year, Fugate and Arnould weren’t happy with those results.

“We haven’t been a good doubles team until now,” Fugate said. “We just found our rhythm and have figured out a way to win, starting now.”

For the first time in the 38 years of the Easter Bowl, boys and girls playing in the 18s division earned both ITF and USTA ranking points.

In the other Easter Bowl Championship title awarded Saturday, another top seed, sixteen-year-old Will Guzick, earned his first gold ball with a 6-0, 6-3 win over an exhausted Dennis Nevolo.
Nevolofinals
The fifteen-year-old Nevolo arrived in California two weeks ago and has been playing nonstop tennis ever since. "I've lost count," he laughed, when asked how many matches he's played.

He won the 16s division in Carson at the ITF International Spring last Saturday and that very afternoon played his first round match at the Easter Bowl. The one day this week he had "off" included a doubles match. He and partner Steve Johnson won the title, but it took them three grueling sets Friday evening.

Guzick, whose younger sister Sarah reached the quarterfinals in the girls 16s, has had some long, tough matches himself this tournament, including his miraculous comeback down a set and 5-0 in the quarterfinals against Tyler Hochwalt. But yesterday he quickly disposed of Adam Schwartz and was certainly the more energetic of the two finalists on Saturday.

But even up 6-0, 5-0, Guzick didn't feel comfortable.

"Against anyone else in the tournament, I would have felt confident being up, but Dennis is a great fighter," Guzick said.

"He's had a great stretch, winning Carson last week and in the finals here, so he might have been a little burned out."

"He was a lot fresher," Nevolo admitted. "He just played a better match than me. It was all basically just physical--he always had the extra shot and I was the one breaking down."

Did he fear the dreaded double bagel?

"The score wasn't really an issue with me," Nevolo said. "If I lost 0 and 0, I didn't care; I just wanted to make sure that he worked at the end of the match to win it."

And if there's anyone who can be counted on to do that work, it's Guzick. He had never gotten beyond the round of 16 in any National Championship in singles, yet came into the Easter Bowl as the top seed, and used his footwork, consistency and focus to earn his first gold ball.

Guzickfinal
And now it's back to Greer, South Carolina where he'll play high school tennis. When jokingly asked if he's No. 1 on his high school team, Guzick said, "Actually, it's close. There's a player who can definitely beat me on some days."

But it's doubtful he does it by outworking him.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Querrey and Ball Meet for Boys 18 title; Glatch and Heinser Battle For Girls 18s Crown

Querrey and Ball Meet for Boys 18 title; Glatch and Heinser To Battle For Girls 18s Crown--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs CA--

Southern Californians Sam Querrey and Carsten Ball will meet on Saturday for the ITF Easter Bowl Boys 18s singles championship but their routes to the finals have been distinctly different.

Querrey, seeded 10th here, is riding the crest of the wave that took him to the ITF International Spring Championship title last week in Carson and has not lost a set in the tournament. Ball, seeded second, has dropped the first set in three of his five wins, including Friday, when he outlasted fellow left-hander Jesse Levine 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

"I don't think it's a pattern I can get comfortable with, always losing the first set," Ball said while having his left knee wrapped before the doubles final. "But in this match I got off to a good start in the second set and changed the match around."
ballsemis.

And although Ball, from Newport Beach, ran out to a 5-0 lead in the second set, Levine gave notice that he was not going anywhere when he fought back to 5-3 before succumbing. The third set proceeded on serve, with flat, deep and heavy groundstrokes from both players. But the key point in the match turned not on power, but on touch. After Levine had broken Ball at 4-5, he found himself at deuce in his service game. A backhand just wide gave Ball a break point, and after a series of blazing ground strokes, Ball hit a delicate drop volley, leaving the lightening-quick Levine unable to even more toward it.

Asked about that shot, Ball smiled and made eye contact with doubles partner Michael Venus outside the trainer's room.
"It's working on the dubs," he laughed. "I'll be bringing that out today -- I hope."

And when presented with his second opportunity to serve for the match, Ball made no mistake. He popped three first serves to give himself some breathing room and finished the job. Ball, who won an ITF grade 1 in Australia earlier this year, knew it might be a long day.

"Jesse's a tough player to play, and I was 0-2 against him, so I'm happy," Ball said.

Levinesemis

Sam Querrey has played a lot of tennis matches in the past three weeks, and from his Easter Bowl results it is obvious that it suits him. Alex Clayton taking Querrey to a second set tiebreaker was as much jeopardy as the seventeen-year-old has faced, and Michael Shabaz, who had set the tournament abuzz with his win over top seed Donald Young on Thursday, saw firsthand just how devastating Querrey can be.

The 6-3, 6-3 win for the tenth seed from Thousand Oaks appeared routine, but there was a history in their match last year in the B1 in Tulsa that didn't allow Querrey to relax. Up 6-0, 4-0 there, Querrey found himself escaping with the win in a third set tiebreaker. When Shabaz broke Querrey for the first time in the match in the second set, perhaps a bit of doubt crept in.

" I knew he could come back," Querrey said, "and I was almost thinking he was starting to there, when he broke me back for three all. But then I got the break back. That was the key game."

And as he has consistently done throughout the tournament, Querrey was able to hit outright forehand winners, even when on the run. With surprising movement for one so tall, Querrey never allowed Shabaz to set up for his top-notch backhand, and Shabaz began to second guess his decision to try to move Querrey around.

"I knew if I didn't change my strategy, it would be over pretty quick," Shabaz said, "because he was hitting the ball pretty well." But by then it was too late, as Querrey held at love and broke, earning his place in the finals against Ball.

Querreysemis

In the girls singles semifinals, top seed Alexa Glatch, who has been cruising through the draw, was expected to get a tough test from friend and fifth seed Yasmin Schnack, but Glatch is playing so far above her peers right now that she has lost a grand total of four games in her last four matches. This time it was 6-0, 6-1 and the disappointment of her straight set loss to Vania King in Carson last week seems in the distant past.

Glatchsemis

Second seed Jenni-Lee Heinser faced not only practice partner Melissa Saiontz in the semifinals, but an obtrusive car horn.
At 3-1 in the first set, at one of at least ten deuce points, Heinser prepared to hit her second serve.
heinsersemis
"A honk started going, so I stopped and it stopped," the second seed said. "Then right as I go to hit the ball, someone honks again, and I missed it."

And although she lost the game, Heinser recovered to take the set and the match 6-3, 6-1. The last time Glatch and Heinser met, two years ago, Heinser, 18, prevailed in three sets, a result that definitely give her hope for Saturday's final.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shabaz Shocks World No. 1 Young; Guzick Mounts Memorable Comeback

Shabaz Shocks World No. 1 Young; Guzick Mounts Memorable Comeback--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs CA--


Defending Easter Bowl Champion and top seed Donald Young's reentry into junior tennis came to an abrupt halt after only three wins, when eighth seed Michael Shabaz stunned the ITF's top-ranked junior 6-2, 7-5.

Young, who had played only ATP tour events since his win in the Junior Australian Open in January, came out slowly on the blisteringly hot day and was down two quick breaks that resulted in a Shabaz taking the first set 6-2.

With shade at a premium, both players moved their chairs to the north end of stadium court, but that couldn't prevent the match from heating up in the second set. Shabaz, ranked 46th in the world, had lost to Young twice in the past six months but exuded confidence in his game plan, which boiled down to avoiding Young's forehand.

Shabaz

"I knew if he was going to dictate with his forehand, I was going to be in for a long day," said Shabaz. "I tried to take his forehand away and work his backhand a little more."

Young's unforced errors were a bonus Shabaz probably did not anticipate, and Young's frustration with his lack of consistency, usually a strength of his game, produced a roar of disbelief when he was broken in the third game of the second set. That break appeared to be enough when Shabaz went up 40-0 serving at 5-4. But a exquisite return, a forced error and a volley that missed by inches and suddenly three match points had evaporated. An unreturnable serve gave Shabaz his fourth match point, but he was passed at the net, then hit a backhand long, and it was five games all.

Young
Asked if squandering four match points bothered him, Shabaz maintained that it hadn't. "I knew he doesn't have an overpowering serve, so I knew I was still in it. He doesn't serve very big."

And five points later, Shabaz had another chance to finish it. Serving at 30 all, a rare double-fault gave Young a shot at a tiebreaker, and jangled nerves seemed exposed. But at break point, Shabaz hit a fearless crosscourt backhand winner, and followed it up with an untouchable inside-out forehand to reach his fifth match point. When Young netted a return, Shabaz bounced excitedly, pumped his fist and claimed his place in the semifinals.

Shabaz will face tenth seed Sam Querrey on Friday. Querrey's serve and penetrating ground strokes overwhelmed a dispirited Matt Bruch who lost six games in a row after the match's three-all start, producing a 6-3, 6-1 final score.

In the other semifinal, Jesse Levine (3) meets second seed Carsten Ball. Levine beat seventh seed Marcus Fugate 6-2, 7-6 (3) and Ball finally put an end to the surprising run of unseeded Stefan Hardy 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Will Guzick, the top seed in boys 16s, was down 4-6, 0-5 with his opponent, 11th seed Tyler Hochwalt, serving for the match. What was on his mind?

"I was thinking I'd better go out swinging," said the sixteen-year-old righthander from South Carolina. "I might as well swing as hard as I can and see what happens."

What happened was an improbable comeback, one that after over three hours of tennis, led to a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1 win.

"My style is just to stay on the baseline and keep the ball in the court," Guzik said. "When I started coming back, I started taking things early and hitting the lines. I hit a ton of winners, more than I've ever hit."

"In the third set, I actually didn't play nearly as well, but he was really tired and of course I had the momentum. But the key game, I was serving at 3-1 and we played what must have been a fifteen deuce game-- the longest game I've ever played--and when I finally won it, that pretty much decided it."

Guzick takes on 13th seed Adam Schwartz in one semifinal on Friday and second seed Dennis Nevolo meets Jay Wong (3) for a spot in Saturday's final.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Querrey Downs Clayton in 18s; Harrison Squeaks Through in 14s

Querrey Downs Clayton in 18s; Top seed Harrison Squeaks Through in 14s--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs CA--


querrey&harrison Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison celebrate winning tough matches on Wednesday with a little putting contest at the Riviera Resort in Palm Springs.

In a day filled with hot sun and high quality tennis matches, few of which could be viewed in their entirety, two stood apart. In the Boys 14s round of 16, top seed and tennis wunderkind Ryan Harrison met Austin Krajicek, from Florida, who was seeded ninth.

The result was such a thrilling display of tennis savvy and skills from a twelve-year-old (Harrison) and a fourteen-year-old (Krajicek) that declaring a winner seems somehow cruel. Eventually Harrison, who trains at the Newcombe Academy in Texas, earned his place in the quarters with a 7-5, 6-7(6), 7-5 victory.

Krajicek, who is beginning to rival distant cousin and Wimbledon Champion Richard in the height department, is comfortable at the net, and was in fact there when Harrison put an unreachable passing shot by him at match point.

And don't think that Harrison is simply retrieving and defending. "I tried to get to the net before he did, but it was tough sometimes today," Harrison said. "He's such a big kid, it's tough to knock him off the baseline. I was having to move him a lot to get to the net."

Down a break in all three sets, Harrison didn't panic. But then, neither did Krajicek, who led 6-3 in the second set tiebreaker, lost three points in a row, but recovered to take the last two with Harrison serving.

"All three sets were tight," Krajicek said. "He forces you to hit one extra shot and he came up with a lot of good shots today. It could have gone either way, but he deserved to win."

No argument there, but Krajicek, who several times played what appeared to be out balls on key points (there were no umpires on court) certainly didn't deserve to lose.

The second match of note was probably the most highly anticpated of the entire tournament, with Sam Querrey, the winner at last week's Grade 1 International Spring Championships, against Alex Clayton. In an instant classic at the Luxilon Cup, a junior invitational just a few weeks prior to the Easter Bowl, Clayton had beaten Querrey 12-10 in a third set tiebreaker, and that the rematch came so early in the draw seemed unfortunate for both players.

Querrey hadn't played much competitive tennis prior to the Luxilon, but at home in California, his game has blossomed. And with his 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Clayton, whom he beat for the 16s title in Kalamazoo last summer, Querrey has established himself as a serious challenger to the ITF's top ranked junior, Donald Young.

Asked what was different in his game from just a few short weeks ago, Querrey responded decisively. "I returned much better.. and I served much better. I served great today, I thought."

Clayton agreed. "He returned my serve better than the last time we played. Sam's tough. He's got a big serve and he doesn't miss very much, so you have to win most of your points, he doesn't give you many free points."

Neither player strayed from his strengths--Clayton's speed and solid ground strokes and Querrey's serve and power forehand. On Wednesday, Querrey, the 2004 Easter Bowl 16s champion, once again proved that the fast courts of the Riviera Resort are tailor-made for his game.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Levine Saves Four Match Points in Win: Surprising Hardy Makes Round of 16

Levine Saves Four Match Points in Win: Surprising Hardy Makes Round of 16--
© Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs, CA--


Jesse Levine, ITF Easter Bowl's number three seed, faced elimination on two separate occasions in his match with fellow Floridian Michael Venus. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, at 3-5 serving, he managed to fend off two match points. And when the unseeded Venus, fifth in the USTA rankings in the 18s, got to 40-15, Levine was again on the brink.

"I got lucky," said Levine, "because on both points he double faulted. I started making him play, because I knew he was pretty tight, a little nervous."

When Levine won his fourth straight game to take the set, Venus, who was emotionally transparent throughout the match, smashed his racquet racquetvenus and left it sitting on the court during the entire changeover, a monument to his frustration. Levine began the third up 15-0 when the umpire penalized Venus for racquet abuse, and things didn't improve much for Venus after that, as he could manage only one game in the set.

"I just hung in there," said Levine. "Luck was on my side and things went my way today. Hopefully that will continue tomorrow."

Levine will play another highly ranked, but unseeded player on Wednesday, when he takes on Conor Pollock, who is third in the USTA 18s rankings. Pollock was runnerup in last year's 16s singles at the Easter Bowl.

Stefan Hardy, 17, doesn't have a gaudy USTA ranking, but he is not an unfamiliar face at the Easter Bowl. Two years ago he was a quarterfinalist in the 16s singles and doubles. He resurfaced this year with a splash, taking out sixth seed Holden Seguso on Monday, then backed up that performance with 7-5, 6-1 win over Johnny Hamui today.

Hardy is from Santa Maria, north of Santa Barbara, and attributes his relative obscurity to the fact that he attends public high school. He did travel to Mobile for the Spring Nationals, and was felled not by an opponent, but by a stomach virus after his first round win. He works with Hugh Bream, the head coach of the Cal Poly women's team, but Hardy is aware that competition in the Central Coast is not at the level it reaches in the LA area. He doesn't play high school tennis anymore, because, he said, "I was 56-0 in high school."

On Wednesday Hardy faces hard-serving Carlos Salmon of Connecticut, another unseeded player, who banished 12th seed Dylan Arnould in three sets today at the Desert Princess site.

Monday, April 11, 2005

First Day Impressions of my First Easter Bowl

First Impressions of my First Easter Bowl--
© Colette Lewis 2005--
Palm Springs CA--

The first day of a tournament is always a bit disorienting, and today was no exception. With three age groups, both boys and girls, singles and doubles, I found it even more difficult to focus here at the Easter Bowl. So with thoughts nearly as scattered as the sites, here are a few observations:

The weather is beyond good, approaching perfection, actually. The notorious winds that I've heard so much about, (and experienced in Carson) were nowhere to be found. And could the snow on the mountains be any more picturesque?

I'd heard tournament director Seena Hamilton was a premier promoter, and I saw plenty of evidence of that today. Wayne Bryant, the Jensen brothers and Mike Agassi were all at the Riviera courts today, and cameras and interviews were as much a part of the ambiance as the bougainvillea and date palms.

For all the depth in the ITF 18s events, there were surprisingly few upsets. One the boys side, only Holden Seguso (6) failed to advance to the second round, although Carsten Ball (2) and Kellen Damico (4) were extended to three sets. Girls top seed Alexa Glatch needed three sets to move on, and Lindsay Burdette (11) and Ashley Weinhold (16) made first round exits.

And speaking of quick exits, Dennis Nevolo, the second seed in boys 16 singles, won the championship in Carson on Saturday morning, then rushed to Palm Springs and played his first round match in the Easter Bowl that very afternoon. He won in straight sets Saturday and Sunday, but today was a different story. He and Waylon Chin battled for hours in the desert sun in the day's best match, which Nevolo won 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4). With all the tennis he's played in the past ten days, a loss was certainly understandable. That he didn't surrender shows an admirable respect for the game and well, guts.


The Best-Dressed award goes to doubles partners Johnny Hamui and Dennis Lajola, who were attired in brilliant orange and yellow soccer jerseys. Unfortunately they lost, 7-6 in third, so we may not get to see that fashion flare again.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Querrey, King Win Inaugural International Spring Championship Titles

Querrey, King Win Inaugural International Spring Championship Titles--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA--

Southern Californians Sam Querrey and Vania King did not need to travel far to capture their singles titles at the inaugural Grade 1 International Spring Championship in Carson.

Commuting from his home in Thousand Oaks, Querrey, 17, captured his first Grade 1 title by defeating Pavel Chekhov of Russia 7-5, 6-2. And the trophy King earned for her 6-4, 6-4 victory over top seed Alexa Glatch had an even shorter trip from the courts to her Long Beach residence.

Querrey, a six-foot five-inch right-hander with a powerful serve and forehand to match, started slowly in the tournament, dropping the first set in three consecutive matches before finally finding his stride in a straight set semifinal win over second seed Jesse Levine. Chekhov, seeded 14th, also played three matches that went the distance, including his third round win over top seed Kellen Damico. The sixteen-year-old Russian dispatched Jamie Hunt in two sets in Saturday’s other semifinal, and expressed confidence in his ability to beat the fifteenth seed.
Querreyfinal

And it wasn’t until five-all in the first set that he had reason to think otherwise. Querrey, relentlessly pressuring Chekhov’s second serve, broke, then served it out at love, cracking four straight first serves. When Querrey proceeded to break Chekhov in the first game of the second set, “he took control of the match,” the Russian admitted afterward.
Chekhovfinal

Cheered on by a dozen friends and relatives, the usually even-tempered Querrey was buoyant when interviewed after the match. “I thought I played unbelievable today…. I served really well and returned really well.” Querrey is headed for Palm Springs and the Grade B1 Easter Bowl, while Chekhov is traveling to Europe for the Grade 1 in France.

Vania King returned home from Southeast Asia only a day before her first match, but she brought with her a Grade 1 title as the winner of the Thailand International. Her fellow finalist there was Alexa Glatch, who was unable to play due to heat stroke, so King could not avenge on the court her loss to Glatch the previous week in Malaysia.
KingFinal
But in Carson, each girl methodically advanced through the International Spring draw-- neither dropping a set --to meet in the finals for the third time in a month. On a cloudless Sunday, when the wind finally took a day off, King used her exceptional footwork and great defensive skills to vanquish her nemesis.

Down 3-0 in the first set, King pulled even, then won three of the next four games to take the set. In the second set, the sixteen-year-old found herself behind again, but wasn’t discouraged. “Even though I was down, except for maybe one game, I thought I was playing well,” said the third seed. “I played my same game, but I executed my shots better.”

So well in fact, that at 1-4, she won 14 straight points to turn the set in her favor.

Glatch, 15, gave King credit for the comeback. “In the second set, she put more pressure on me and she played a little bit better when she was down.”
Glatchfinal

The point she played at deuce when serving for the championship at 5-4 epitomized the concentration King displayed throughout the match. During an exceptionally long rally in a match that featured many of them, King scrambled so deep and quickly to the backscreen to retrieve the ball that she clipped a line judge with her racquet. After an audible “sorry,” she somehow managed to return the ball back over the net, and her focus snapped back to the point, which she won, getting her to the only match point she would need.

Due to a shoulder problem, King will not be playing the Easter Bowl, but Glatch is headed to the B1 ITF event in Palm Springs as the number one seed.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Querrey Gains First Grade 1 Final; Glatch and King To Vie Again Sunday

Querrey Gains First Grade 1 Final; Glatch and King To Vie Again Sunday--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA--

Sam Querrey made a little change, but it made a big difference, leading to a 6-4, 6-4 victory over second seed Jesse Levine on yet another clear and breezy day at the Home Depot Center. In his three previous rounds, Querrey, seeded 15th, had dropped the opening set and was determined not to play from behind in Saturday's semifinal.
Querrey
"I worked a little harder in the first set to try to get on top of the match early," said the six-foot five-inch righthander who is commuting to the tournament from his Thousand Oaks home. "I had a little talk with my Dad last night (about more positive body language)," Querrey said sheepishly, when he was asked about his more confident on-court demeanor.

Levine conceded that Querrey dictated play in the match. "Sam's the kind of guy that kind of lulls you down a little bit, because he doesn't play with much intensity." said the seventeen-year-old lefthander from Florida. "I kind of fell into his trap today...I would go intense, then drop, then go intense and drop again. But overall he played well today."

Querrey agreed. "I only got about ten first serves in, but other than that I played unbelievable."

Pavel Chekhov has also played three three-setters in the tournament, and like Querrey, he was able to advance in two sets on Saturday. The 14th seeded righthander beat Texan Jamie Hunt 7-6(4), 6-4, again proving his win over top seed Kellen Damico on Thursday was no fluke. Chekhov, who now trains at IMG Bollettieri, played flawless tennis in the tiebreaker, and at 3-4 hit a winner that had the crowd gasping. Hunt had Chekhov on the defensive, having seemingly won the point with a crisp volley behind the Russian, but somehow Chekhov reached back and flicked an angled cross court volley past the stunned Hunt. "It was luck, seriously," Chekhov said when asked about the point after the match. But whether fortune or skill, it certainly turned the tiebreaker in his favor, with Hunt making errors on the next three points to drop the set.

The second set was also tight, but Chekhov did not relinquish his early break and impressively closed out the match with four consecutive first serves that gave the tenth seed no hope of extending play.

Querrey and Chekhov have never met, but in the girls divison, the finalists are quite accustomed to seeing one another across the net. Just since March, Vania King and Alexa Glatch have met in the finals of two Grade 1 tournaments in Southeast Asia. Each has won once but King's victory in Thailand was the result of a walkover due to Glatch's bout with heat exhaustion.

King, from nearby Long Beach, had no problem dispatching Jennifer Stevens, though the 6-0, 6-1 win was closer than the score might indicate. "I felt she could have won, should have won, more games than that," said the sixteen-year-old third seed. "We had good rallies and she had a lot of chances to break me, but I was mixing up the ball well."

Top seed Glatch, who also calls Southern California home, dispatched fourth seed Andrea Remynse 6-4, 6-3, neutralizing the Michigander's power and capitalizing on her errors. But Glatch admitted that she never felt the match was secure.

Glatch

"You can never relax against Andrea," said the lanky fifteen-year-old. "She's very tough and she fights really hard. Last year in the Easter Bowl I was up 4-1 in every set against her and lost in three, so you can't let up against her."

Glatch was unable to close out Remynse when leading 5-1 in the second set, but at 5-3, on her third match point, she secured her place in the final.

"It should be a good match tomorrow." Glatch predicted when asked about facing King again. "She's a very tough player."

King certainly proved that on Saturday, when she and partner Yasmin Schnack, the second seeds, took the doubles championship with a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing of the top seeded team of Jenni-Lee Heinser and Liz Plotkin.

In another instance of two seeds over one seeds, Philip Bester and Holden Seguso posted a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over fellow Bollettieri students Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz.
besterseguso

"We've been playing them since the 12s," said Seguso, whose father Robert, a former US Davis Cup doubles stalwart, witnessed the upset. "We've been in four or five finals together; it's a relief to finally win one," said Bester.

Bester, a Canadian, is not eligible for the Easter Bowl, where the other three finalists are competing next week, but he has a very exciting trip planned for later this month. As the top junior in Canada, he has been invited to accompany the Davis Cup team to Venezuela for their zonal tie.

In the girls 16s final, top seed and Carson resident Alison Ramos ended the run of unseeded Julia Boserup with her 6-2, 6-4 triumph. Ramos

Fifth seed Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee Illinois was crowned the boys 16s champion, eliminating unseeded Bozhidar Katsarov
7-6(2), 6-2.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Unseeded Girls Make Their Mark at Spring International

Unseeded Girls Make Mark at Spring International--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA

Jennifer Stevens and Julia Boserup are at very different stages of their junior tennis careers, but both have had impressive runs at the ITF Spring Internationals.

A resident of Los Angeles, Boserup is only 13, but has marched through the 16s draw, beating the second and eighth seeds prior to her win over sixth seed Logan Hansen in Friday's semifinal. Boserup Although Boserup has a relatively short list of accomplishments, her recent semifinal showing at the Chanda Rubin 18s in College Station gave her confidence a boost and she was able to prevail 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-1 in a long, tense match. She will face top seed Alison Ramos, who is even more local, as she hails from Carson, where the Home Depot Center is located.

Stevens, a polished player with a lengthy junior resume, met practice partner and fellow Floridian Jenni-Lee Heinser, the second seed, for the first time since the Orange Bowl 10s and came away with a straight set win, 6-4, 6-4. Stevens was unable to serve out the first set at 5-3, or the second at 5-1 and 5-3, but managed to break Heinser each time to secure that elusive final game.

"I changed my served a month and a half ago and it wasn't working out, so I changed it back," the sixteen-year-old said of her serving deficiencies. "I'm not really confident in it right now. I'm just dinking it over--it's really ridiculous. But I feel if I can get the return back, I've got a pretty good chance, since my groundstrokes are solid."
Stevens
The next seed in Stevens' path is Vania King (3), who also has yet to lose a set in the tournament. In the other 18s semifinal, top seed Alexa Glatch will meet fourth seed Andrea Remynse.

By the time the boys 18s took the courts, the light poles were swaying and groaning in the stiff and chilly wind. But the difficult conditions didn't faze giantkiller Pavel Chekhov. The 14th seeded Russian avoided any letdown after taking out top seed Kellen Damico on Thursday, surviving another three set marathon by beating 11th seed Dylan Arnould 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-3. Chekhov will take on 10th seed Jamie Hunt, who has won every set he's played this week, including two Friday against Matt Bruch by the scores of 7-6(5) and 6-2.

The impressive run of unseeded Peter Aarts came to an end on Friday, when 15th seeded Californian Sam Querrey eliminated the future Michigan Wolverine 6-7(7) 6-2, 6-3. Querrey has lost the first set of his last three matches, but eventually has solved the puzzle of his opponent.

"I couldn't get my game together in the first set, missing a few easy shots," said the taciturn 17-year old. But he also credited Aarts' game as a contributing factor. "He had a great backhand, flat and hard, and a tough kick serve, too," said Querrey, who lives an hour away from the Carson site, and has had several family members cheering him on throughout the week.

"And I kind of like playing a new player," he said of Aarts, whom he had never faced. "It's something different, more exciting."

Querrey meets second seed Jesse Levine on Saturday. Levine wriggled out of a tight spot against doubles partner Michael Shabaz, going down a set and 5-3 before reeling off four straight games to square the match. The talkative lefthander from Florida then continued his domination of fellow IMG Bollettieri student Shabaz, allowing him only one more game in the 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 win. But several hours later Shabaz and Levine were on the same side of the net, defeating Chekhov and Leo Rosenberg in three sets to advance to the doubles final, where they will meet Philip Bester and Holden Seguso.

In the boys 16s, Dennis Nevolo Nevolo found himself in his first true test of the tournament, but he eventually subdued Jeffrey Gast 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. His opponent in Saturday's final will be big-serving Bozhidar Katsarov, who has cruised through his five matches, losing only 14 games.

The girls 18s doubles final on Saturday will see the top seeds, Heinser and Liz Plotkin, take on the second seeded team of King and Yasmin Schnack.

The girls 16s doubles title was won by Stacey Tan and Rika Tatsuno. Tyler Hochwalt and Christopher Price took the boys 16s doubles championship.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Top Seed Damico Eliminated

Top Seed Damico Eliminated
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA--

Pavel Chekhov of Russia was one of only nine foreign players in the draw at the Spring International, but on Thursday he made sure that US dominance was not taken for granted, when he bested top seeded American Kellen Damico 6-7(12), 6-2, 6-3.

On another cool and blustery day at the Home Depot Center, Chekhov and Damico engaged in a spirited struggle, exemplified by the 26 point, twenty-one minute tiebreaker in the first set. Each great shot elicited a similar one across the net, with an occasional wind-induced error thrown in for dramatic effect.

Chekhov, who is now training at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, has had few notable results when he has played in the US, although his ITF ranking from European tournaments gave him the 14th seed for the Spring International. Chekhov In Thursday's match, the 16-year-old from Moscow displayed a rock solid all-around game, often surprising Damico with his ability to hit winners from normally defensive positions. Much calmer than the animated Damico, who was close to being defaulted in his match on Wednesday, Chekhov seemed unconcerned after losing the marathon tiebreaker. He jumped out to an early lead in the second set, and made an early break in the third stand up, although Damico threatened to even the final set on several occasions.
damico
Chekhov will now face 11th seed Dylan Arnould in the quarterfinals. Arnould had no trouble dispatching the unseeded Californian Alexander Kruger Wyman. In the other match in the top half, 16th seed Matt Bruch, who upset fourth seed Alex Clayton, will face tenth seed Jamie Hunt, who took out eighth seed Marcus Fugate.

The bottom half of the Boys 18s featured several surprises, with unseeded Peter Aarts taking out fifth seed Holden Seguso and 15th seed Sam Querrey overcoming a slow start to take out third seed Philip Bester. In the only quarter to go according to form, doubles partners Jesse Levine (2) and Michael Shabaz (6) will battle each other Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

The Girls 18s singles have produced few upsets, with the notable exception of Jennifer Stevens, who has beaten 11th seed Lindsay Burdette and sixth seed Yasmin Schnack the past two days. Unseeded, Miami's Stevens has not yet lost a set, and will battle fellow Floridian and second seed Jenni Lee Heinser on Friday. Also on Friday, top seed Alexa Glatch takes on tenth seed Krysty Marcio; fourth seed Andrea Remynse faces seventh seed Liz Plotkin; and third seed Vania King plays fifth seed Julia Cohen.

For the 16s semifinal matchups and boys and girls doubles draws, please visit
juniortennis.com

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Fugate Outlasts Pollock

Fugate Outlasts Pollock in Tense Second Round Match
© Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA--

Marcus Fugate might have arrived in Carson physically tired, having played three straight three-set matches to win the Luxilon Cup, the small invitational junior event held in conjunction with the Nasdaq 100 professional event last week. But emotionally, the experience gained there may have been the difference in his 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Conor Pollock in the second round of the ITF Spring Championships.

"I was cool under the pressure," said the 17-year-old from New York, who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy. "I knew what to do and even if it had gone to a breaker, I knew I would win."
Fugate

Pollock, a 17-year-old from San Antonio who will enter Texas A & M in the fall, displayed an impressive serve and volley game, and Fugate, having never faced him, took a full set to get his bearings. With momentum on Fugate's side as they started the third set, Pollock hung tough, and by five all, it was down to who could fight off the nerves and hit the key shot or two. And having been in that position three times last week, Fugate was the more comfortable, breaking and holding for the win.

In addition to junior tournaments, Fugate has recently competed in several Futures events in Texas and he credits that experience with contributing to his recent junior success. "I lost two three setters in Texas," he said, "and it made me aware how mentally tough you have to be on every point to compete on that level."

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Mateusz Kecki Snares First ITF Grade 1 Win

Mateusz Kecki Snares First ITF Grade 1 Win--
©Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson CA--

Fresh from a Chanda Rubin tournament win in College Station last month, Mateuz Kecki arrived in Carson full of confidence, and even down a set and 4-1 to Jonathan Boym, he kept the faith. His patience and determination resulted in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory, and the fifteen-year-old from Sacramento had his first ITF Grade 1 win.
Asked what turned the match in his favor, "He got a little sloppy, and I started putting away shots I missed in the first set."
Kecki
Once things started clicking for Kecki, he ran off five straight games to take the second set, and was even able to dig himself out of a love 40 hole at 2-3 in the third set. Boym found himself in the same love 40 predicament at 5 all, but he couldn't extract himself and Kecki fought off one break point in the final game before holding for the match.

Having seen Kecki lose at the Jr. Orange Bowl in the 14s last December, I was impressed by the maturity he has gained since then. Several times in Tuesday's match, he refused to let line calls ruffle him and even a time violation warning at 4-5 in the third failed to distract him. And although the match was played on a back court, a trio of USTA High Performance coaches were there observing--David Nainkin, Mike Sell, David DiLucia--and Eliot Teltscher, Director of Tennis Operations, was in attendance as well. What they saw was speed, footwork, a notable forehand and the tenacity to win a match that could have been lost.

Next up for Kecki is the 4th seed Alex Clayton, a 17-year-old with many of the same qualities as Kecki and years more of junior tennis experience. "It's going to be tough," said Kecki. " So many of these guys hit such a big ball."

And Kecki will be seeing them with regularity from now on. Last year he won the 14s Easter Bowl Championship-- this year he will skip the 16s division and go straight to the 18s to test his game against the best American juniors. But today's win demonstrates just how quickly he is catching on.

Spring Internationals, Day One

© Colette Lewis 2005--
Carson, CA--

Some brief first impressions of opening day at the Spring International.
Venue: Big, new, impressive.
Field: not very international, with 90% of the draws Americans
Weather: windy, but after the wet winter, can't complain about a sunny day.

The best match I saw was a three set marathon between Wil Spencer and Leo Rosenberg in the Boys 18s. Though only 15, both are ITF veterans, and Rosenberg, seeded 13th, is in the top 100 in the world in the ITF rankings. But Spencer is nobody's idea of an easy first round-- and his athletic gifts were frequently on display in his 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-4 victory. The match featured two trainer breaks in the third set, one by each player, and Spencer's roll of an ankle at 5-3 seemed to jeopardize his chances to close out the match. But although he was not moving as fluidly in the final two games, he served it out, overcoming the distractions of both blustery conditions and injury to advance.
spencer

The first couple of days of a tournament are a chance to acclimate-- stroll between courts, catch up on the news, see who is onsite. With two more weeks of junior tennis ahead of me here in California, I'm in no hurry. The tournament story will tell itself by the weekend.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Juniors Kick Off Spring Season with Inaugural USTA International Spring Championships (usta.com)

Juniors Kick Off Spring Season with Inaugural USTA International Spring Championships--

I'm heading out to Carson for the Spring Championships today so this story is of special interest. The rationale for what the USTA is doing makes sense; spring ITF events in the US are important if the goal is to automatically qualify players for ITF junior Grand Slams.

One comment from Lew Brewer that I don't agree with is his contention that the field for the Easter Bowl is "at least as strong as Kalamazoo last year." Perhaps I'm not the most objective person in the world on this, but when there's a wildcard to the US Open as a carrot, Kalamazoo will draw players that don't even compete on the junior circuit. And, if I may mention it, Donald Young was seeded seventh, and didn't make it out of the fourth round at Kalamazoo last year. Maybe Brewer's statement is really a comment on how he feels about the class of 1986, which he doesn't rate as highly as I do. I hope the 87s, 88s and 89s surpass them, but I'm not expecting it.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Luxilon Cup Finals --juniortennis.com


Luxilon Cup Finals -- Annie Paton juniortennis.com--

Somehow I've managed to write about junior tennis for nearly three months now without mentioning or linking to juniortennis.com. It's time to go on the record with my flat-out awe at what Annie Paton and Barbara Frongello do to keep the world informed about junior tennis. There is no ITF event so obscure that they don't have access to its results. Draws, rankings, profiles, photos--all of the information is posted less than 24 hours after it happens, and often considerably sooner than that. The breadth and depth of what they do is a godsend for me and for anyone who needs an accurate, reliable source on junior tennis.

I don't think they have been recognized nearly enough (are you listening USTA?) for what they've contributed to the sport. Barbara is the photographer, and it's great that the ITF and USTA are now using some of her photos. Annie does all the writing. I know when I read one of her stories that the quotes are accurate and the match analysis superb. This piece is a fine example of her many strengths.
Patonusopen04

Barbara and Annie will be in California for both ITF events there, so I'm looking forward to swapping information with them and watching them in action. I'm still learning about the world of junior tennis, and I am fortunate to be able to follow their trailblazing path.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Polo riding Oudsema as 'face' of tennis (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Polo riding Oudsema as 'face' of tennis--Kalamazoo Gazette
The local paper finally picked up this story which was cited on zootennis on March 14 when Polo and the USTA announced their US Open deal. oudsema SFX is correct in saying it will increase Oudsema's exposure, especially in New York in August. Hmmm.....I wonder if this means a main draw US Open wildcard is in his future.