Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lone Star Leftovers

©Colette Lewis 2005—
Somewhere over Arkansas—

As I head back home, thoroughly impressed with the Austin airport, I’m ready to close the book on my first NCAA Division 1 experience. Short version--The facility: first-class; the tournament: well-run; the officiating: top-drawer, the tennis: simply outstanding. If they could just arrange to air condition all of Texas somehow, I’d be back for dual matches in Aggieland in a Texas heartbeat.

Now for the long version:

My timing was certainly good –arriving in Austin ahead of schedule last Tuesday (thanks Delta) and making the less-than-two hour drive to College Station in time to see the singles matches of the team finals was just how I’d planned it.

BEARS VS. BRUINS
Being a novice at the NCAAs, I had no right to expect one of the best team finals ever, with UCLA coming back from 3-1 down to win their first NCAA title in 21 years.

And, despite the loss, a shoutout to the legion of Baylor tennis fans. By making the 90-mile drive from Waco, their presence raised the intensity Tuesday evening to a level that rivaled the humidity. All credit to UCLA for not succumbing to the hometown atmosphere that Bear Nation created. But when the unthinkable happened, the Baylor faithful had the class to stand and applaud, a demonstration of sportsmanship the French fans could certainly learn from.
baylorfans
And speaking of Baylor, Matt Knoll has built a monster of a program in the Republic of Football. Heck, Baylor even had a bunch of tailgating RVers all week in the Mitchell Tennis Center’s parking lot. Asked if the 2005-6 season would be a rebuilding one, now that Dorsch and Becker, the last two NCAA singles champions have graduated, Knoll firmly refused to allow that option. But he is looking for a few good recruits. Not necessarily from Germany.

IT’S NOT JUST ADIDAS THAT HAS LOGO PROBLEMS
The logo controversy has visibly infiltrated college tennis too. John Isner and Antonio Ruiz played the doubles finals match with black tape on their chests to cover up a Nike logo deemed too large. Sam Warburg came to a media interview with a hole in his Stanford Cardinal Dri-Fit where he had snipped off the offending 1/4 inch of swoosh.
Ruizlogo

PROGRAMMING NOTE
TV crews bookended the tournament, with ESPN 2 covering the team championships--a special challenge because the deciding match can never be predicted beforehand--and the Tennis Channel appeared for the Men’s individual final day. Now, I’ve been know to watch a poker show now and then, but believe me when I say live NCAA tennis is better. Unfortunately, both networks aired their productions on tape-delay.

YOU GOTTA HAVE FRIENDS
But somebody DID cover the event live-- Ken Thomas, founder, proprietor and production crew of RadioTennis.com, who adds a sense of fun to any event. A former collegiate player at Wisconsin, Ken provides streaming internet play by play broadcasts, and can be found at college dual matches, professional venues, juniors championships; anywhere top level is tennis is played, Ken has mic, will travel. (Full disclosure—Ken has always welcomed me as a guest color commentator, and is so laid back that he allows me to come and go as I please during broadcasts). Here’s hoping that after two years, he gets the recognition and remuneration his dedication to tennis deserves.

A special thanks to local Eagle reporter Robert Premeaux and Texas A & M 12th Man Magazine editor Dallas Shipp, both of whom will have me looking back on College Station with fondness. Whether it was a restaurant tip or a perceptive media room question or a quote assist, they were never too busy, despite their deadlines, to help a fledgling reporter. Thanks guys, and I’ll see you in 2009, when both the women’s and men’s championships will descend upon Aggieland.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR:
I had seen Old Dominion’s Izak van der Merwe play at the ITA Individual Indoor in Ann Arbor last November, where he lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Ryler DeHeart. From that performance alone, I knew he was good. He’s better than that. Though unseeded due to some puzzling losses this spring, at College Station, he took out Sam Warburg, the country’s top ranked player and Benjamin Becker, the 2004 NCAA champion, and still wasn’t finished, upending UCLA’s talented Benjamin Kohlloeffel too before losing to Pierrik Ysern of France in the semis. Ysern slowed the pace and kept van der Merwe’s backhand under pressure, and because the six-foot four-inch South African’s big league serve wasn’t at its best in that match, he fell in straight sets. But as a young college graduate (21 in January), he has options many others do not, and he can try his hand at pro tennis with an ace in the hole. So to speak.

Ditto Jonathan Chu. If he needs my encouragement to take a break from the pressures of academic and athletic juggling and devote himself fully to professional tennis for the next two or three years, he definitely has it. It's scary to think how good he could be if he focuses his time and energy completely on tennis. And I'm confident that if he doesn't thrive at tennis's next level, he'll do just fine with that Harvard degree, thank you.

Texas A & M has developed a very strong program under coach Tim Cass and prospects are bright for next season. With Jerry Makowski, the only seeded freshman in the individual event, and top junior Conor Pollock, (spotted in College Station during the tournament,) committing to the Aggies, Cass has talent to work with. And more than once I saw a shirtless Makowski hitting with teammates and drilling with associate coach Steve Moore despite the oppressive heat, even though Makowski’s season was technically over when he lost in the round of 16.

Makowski


THANKS, I NEEDED THAT
Speaking of the heat—a Corps of Cadets salute for air-conditioned press facilities. I know it’s a lazy way to watch a match, but the box is so well positioned that the only thing you miss is the sound. And the live match scoring and jumbotron screen was a fabulous way keep up with early round matches on the grandstand courts.
jumbotron

With school out there was not much happening in College Station, but I’m happy I found time on Memorial Day to attend the one major tourist attraction—the George Bush Library and Museum, which is so close to the courts that it is visible from the press box. It’s too easy to take for granted the sacrifices and heroism of leaders, and I’m delighted to have been reminded that political views are secondary to common decency. George Bush, a well-known tennis player and fan, by the way, certainly exemplifies that.

AUSTIN CITY LIMITS
I’ve got to think recruiting for the University of Texas has gotten easier since Andy Roddick moved back to Austin. On Tuesday, Roger Gubser, who plays three singles for the Longhorns, headed from a hit at Austin Tennis Academy with Blake Davis, one of the country’s top 14-year olds, to a workout session with Andy Roddick.

DavisAustin

Doug Davis, Blake’s father and director of high performance at Austin Tennis Academy gave me a brief tour and history lesson at the beautiful new facility in the rolling oak-dotted hlls 15 miles west of Austin. Emerging from the ashes of the St. Stephens Academy, the facility, less than two years old, is at capacity with an expansion underway. A fitness center/locker room building is under construction, and two more courts will join the ten already there. To build a juniors-only program from the ground up is nobody’s idea of easy, but director Eric Schmidhauser is obviously up to the task. The setting and the energy there-- the kids of all ages and sizes in their ATA t-shirts drilling or playing or working one on one with coaches—had me dreaming of a similar (but alas indoor) facility in Kalamazoo.

WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR
I'm very excited about attending the first men's and women's combined NCAA Division 1 championships next year at Stanford. From what I've heard Dick Gould is determined to make this groundbreaking--and daunting--endeavor seem effortless. I'm expecting the ambiance to differ from that of College Station, if only because Stanford students will still be on campus, but I doubt it will be any more fun.



Monday, May 30, 2005

Baylor's Dorsch Takes NCAA Singles Title; Georgia's Isner and Ruiz Capture Doubles Crown

©Colette Lewis 2005--
College Station TX--

Benedikt Dorsch of Baylor and John Isner of Georgia both made the most of their encore visits to the finals Monday at the NCAA Men’s Division 1 tennis championships on the campus of Texas A & M University.

The top-seeded Dorsch overcame a stubborn Patrick Ysern of San Diego, 6-2, 7-6 (6), to emerge as champion two years after losing to Illinois’ Amer Delic in the finals.

And Georgia’s John Isner, a doubles finalist last year with Bo Hodge, this year teamed with Antonio Ruiz to capture the 2005 title, posting a 7-6 (4), 7-5 triumph over Louisiana State’s Mark Growcott and Ken Skupski.

For Dorsch, still stung by Baylor’s surprising loss to UCLA in the team finals, the individual championship helped ease the pain.Dorschfinal

“We were all smashed that we lost that match,” said Dorsch, echoing the comments teammate and defending NCAA champion Benjamin Becker made after his singles loss in the round of 16.

“When you are up 3-1 and lose three matches in the third….it’s tough, but it’s not like we played badly, we just got outplayed. And you’ve got to accept that.”

It looked as if Ysern, a junior from Paris, France, would have to accept a straight set loss, when Dorsch bolted to a 4-0 lead in the first set, and despite dropping his own serve once, took it 6-2.

Ysernfinals

“I was making errors that I don’t usually do,” said Ysern, a five-foot nine-inch lefthander. “You’ve got to adapt when you miss shots you don’t usually miss.”

His crosscourt forehand and backhand slice, so reliable in previous matches, were anything but in the first set and Ysern readily admitted that nerves played a role.

“At the beginning I was really nervous, and after the first set, you know you’ve got to do something different. I kind of went a little more for my shots. I knew it was there, I just had to try and find it.”

When Dorsch went up a break in the second, and stepped to the baseline to serve out the match at 5-4, Ysern found whatever it was he was looking for. Dorsch never got to match point, and three unforced errors later it was 5-5, demonstrating that Ysern wasn’t alone in feeling the tension of the occasion.

But when Dorsch ran out to a 6-1 lead in the ensuing tiebreaker, things got really interesting.

Ysern saved the first match point with a volley winner, the second with a drop shot winner, the third with a forehand winner, the fourth with a backhand down the line. And with each match point saved, the crowd,--evenly divided between Baylor supporters an underdog partisans-- either roared or gasped, depending on their allegiance.

But all that was prelude. At 5-6, Ysern, pushed far beyond baseline by Dorsch’s pace, hit a sharply angled forehand crosscourt that Dorsch, at net and expecting to put away an easy volley, could only gape at in disbelief.

Ysern, falling as he hit the shot, stayed down to celebrate, getting up only to change ends for point number 13.

“The most ridiculous shot in tennis I’ve ever seen, honestly, “ said Dorsch afterward.

“I don’t even know what I was thinking,” said Ysern when asked how he felt after that winner. “I was on a different planet. But I like going for those shots. I’m trying to have fun out there.”

The good times, and the match, ended two points later, when Dorsch finally coaxed two errors from Ysern, taking the tiebreaker 8-6. But Dorsch knew he had dodged a bullet.

“The guy made some unbelievable shots,“ said the five-foot ten-inch senior from Weiden Germany. “I was fortunate to get through it in two sets. He was down a break when I was serving for it, he was down 6-1, and there’s not a whole lot of guys who would keep playing. He tried everything and as hard as he could on every point.”

For Dorsch, whose strength and conditioning are givens, it was a relief to finish it in two sets.

“When you play twelve points at that level, with that intensity and with that much at stake, it gets to the point where it gets very physical. It’s very warm outside and humid. I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last ten or eleven days. It’s good to be finishing on a high note.”

Dorsch, who ends his collegiate career with an eye-popping 119-15 won/loss record, joins fellow Baylor Bear Zuzana Zemenova in the NCAA singles champion’s circle. Zemenova, a freshman from Slovakia, captured the women’s title in Athens, GA on Saturday.

The singles finalists had never faced one another before, but the doubles teams vying for the 2005 NCAA title have spent plenty of time across the net from each other.

When Georgia’s John Isner and Antonio Ruiz, the nation’s top ranked doubles team, faced Louisiana State’s Mark Growcott and Ken Skupski, it was the fourth time this season the SEC rivals had met, and the second time this month.

Unfortunately for Growcott and Skupski, the first LSU pair ever to play in an NCAA final, Monday’s result was the same as the previous three—a win for the Bulldogs, this time by a 7-6 (4), 7-5 score.
dblsfinal


Neither team could produce a break in the first set, but Growcott and Skupski, came close, returning well enough to earn two set points on Isner’s serve at 4-5. But the six-foot nine-inch sophomore cracked four aces, three of them in succession, to get out of that tight spot, and the British duo did not get another chance in the tiebreaker, as Growcott dropped both his serves at 1-2.

In the seventh game of the second set, Growcott and Skupski earned the first break of match on Ruiz’s serve, but Skupski immediately gave it back. Ruiz again struggled in his next service game, but held, and at 5-6, Skupski once again was broken, sailing a forehand long, and giving the University of Georgia its third NCAA doubles title.

Assessing the challenge of facing a player of Isner’s size, Skupski admitted that sometimes gambling is necessary.

“You’ve got to guess with him sometimes, if he’s serving well,” said the sophomore from Liverpool. “And he served well on the big points. The difference in a 7-6, 7-5 match, it one or two points, here or there.”

GrowcottSkupski

Isner, a sophomore, began the season breaking in a new partner, Antonio Ruiz, a transfer from Texas, was born in Monterrey Mexico. Undoubtedly it was a coveted position, as Isner had already demonstrated his doubles skills when he reached the 2004 finals with senior Bo Hodge.

“I was very disappointed last year,” said Isner, a native of Greensboro North Carolina. “My partner and I really didn’t play our best tennis, but we still almost came up with the win. To win it this year, makes me feel a lot better.”

And though Skupski and Growcott, the nation's sixth ranked team, were once again on the losing side of the ledger, there was only a tinge of frustration in Skupski’s voice when he said, “These guys are good. They deserved to win today.”

Isner, who won the USTA National Junior doubles title with Pramod Dabir in 2003, was magnanimous in victory.

“We’ve gotten to know these guys pretty well through out the year, and they are better guys off the court than on the court,” said Isner. “We couldn’t ask for a better team to play against in the finals.”

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dorsch and Ysern Vie For NCAA Title; Defending Doubles Champions Ousted

©Colette Lewis 2005
--College Station TX--

As he sat in the media room, sweat dripping from his no-longer-banded forehead, Jonathan Chu of Harvard assessed his future after losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to top seed Benedikt Dorsch of Baylor in the semifinals at the NCAA division 1 men’s championships in College Station Texas.

Chu

“I’m starting to believe a little more in myself,” said the unseeded New Yorker, who graduates in less than two weeks. “Others have always believed in me, but I’m starting to listen now. I hope I’ll get a few chances after this tournament to really try to do something on the next level.”

In facing Dorsch, a senior who reached the NCAA finals as a sophomore, Chu had a yardstick to measure the state of his game. And after the third point, when Chu had run down an overhead and parried two more apparent winners, Dorsch smiled to himself and nodded to the crowd, as if to say, yes, Chu is a worthy opponent.

And not just for a game or two.

When Chu broke Dorsch in the fifth and ninth games, the second break giving the Ivy Leaguer the first set, Dorsch knew he was facing an uphill climb if he was to reach his second NCAA final.

“He gets a short ball and really takes advantage of it. Most of the college guys don’t do that,” said Dorsch, who admitted that he struggled in the first set with both his game and some line calls.
Dorschsemi

“I have to apologize to the umpires and referees today, because I had to scream a little at them to get me going. That was the only chance I had without getting a point penalty to get rid of some frustrations.”

Many of which where caused by Chu’s serve, which Dorsch jokingly referred to as “220 miles per hour”. And until the seventh game of the second set, Chu protected it, frequently putting Dorsch on the defensive. It is not a position the powerfully built 24-year-old from Germany is accustomed to, as he came into the tournament with a 29-2 record and had not dropped a set while advancing to the semifinals.

“I got a little more confident in the second set, hitting the ball and exposing his forehand at little more,” said Dorsch, “and that got me the edge.”

One break in the second set pulled him even in the match, but Dorsch squandered an early break in the third set, finding himself at 4-4. A break in the very next game however, gave him back the advantage, as a tiring Chu began to shorten the points to avoid prolonged rallies in the smothering humidity.

Dorsch, who earlier had mentioned his disappointment at losing the team championships on Tuesday to UCLA, is hoping that an individual title can help ease that pain. Chu will look back on the 2005 tournament a bit differently.

“If you had asked me a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, whether or not I could ever dream of this, I probably would have said no, but I’ll give it a shot,” he said.

“This has been an incredible tournament for me.”

As it was for the other unseeded semifinalist, Izak van de Merwe of Old Dominion, who was beaten by University of San Diego’s Pierrik Ysern 6-4, 6-4. Ysern, a junior from Paris, had lost to van de Merwe in their only previous meeting, but was eager for a rematch.

Ysern
“I was up a set and a break and I put pressure on myself, and couldn’t play anymore,” said the lefthander of that first loss. “Today, I worked on staying focused and not letting anything go. If I kept focus, I knew I could beat him.”

Ysern, an alphabetical seed in the tournament, upset fourth seed Catalin Gard of Ole Miss in the quarterfinals and seventh seeded Ryler DeHeart in the round of 16.

Against van de Merwe, Ysern used his slices and speed to neutralize the power of the much larger South African.

“The first break was important, as I knew he had a big serve and I was wondering if I could break him,” Ysern said. “But the real turning point was when I broke him early in the second set.”

“I could have served better,” said van der Merwe, who eliminated the nation’s top ranked player, Sam Warburg of Stanford, in the first round, and Benjamin Becker, the defending NCAA champion, in the round of 16. “My serve let me down a little bit today.”

But he was quick to credit Ysern.

“He played really well,” said van der Merwe. “He didn’t make a lot of unforced errors and was very, very solid from the baseline. He puts you in the corners and today his forehand was very solid.”

Ysern and Dorsch have never played, but Ysern pronounced the prospect “fun” and Dorsch predicted it would be “interesting.”

In doubles action, defending NCAA champions K.C. Corkery and Sam Warburg of Stanford saw their dream of back-to-back titles evaporate when they were overpowered by Louisana State’s Mark Growcott and Ken Skupski 7-6 (1), 6-4.

“We served really well and we returned well,” said Skupski. “We volleyed well. We really didn’t do anything wrong.”

“We both have big serves,” said Skupski, who, like Growcott, is a native of Great Britain. “It’s pretty tough to break us.”

Corkery and Warburg, the second seeded team in the tournament, were not able to break the LSU pair, who are alphabetical seeds.

The loss was a difficult one for the Cardinal.

“We had expectations of defending our title, and anything less than that is going to be disappointing,” said Warburg, a senior.

“But I wouldn’t necessarily say we lost today. I’d say they beat us.”

Growcott and Skupski had the luxury of scouting their opponents, as their first straight set win of the tournament had them finished in time to watch the other semifinal.

Rest requirements for Harvard’s Chu, the only player in both singles and doubles, pushed back the start time, but as it turned out, Growcott and Skupski didn't need to gather information, as their opponents in the finals are the SEC pair of John Isner and Antonio Ruiz of Georgia, who defeated Chu and partner Ashwin Kumar 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

With an 0-3 record against the top-seeded team, the most recent loss in team play last week, Growcott and Skupski will need to find a way to derail the towering Bulldogs.

Isner, at six-feet nine-inches and Ruiz, at six-feet four-inches, are an imposing pair, and though only a sophomore, Isner is now in his second NCAA doubles final, having teamed with Bo Hodge last year.

“When you play against guys, where their average height is like, what? seven feet,” said Chu wryly, “you know you aren’t going to get a lot of chances to break.”

The only break that the scrappy Harvard pair managed was against Ruiz when he was serving for the match at 5-2. But Isner, who served exceptionally well all afternoon, stepped up at 5-4 and hammered one serve after another, with match point, appropriately enough, won via an ace.

Chu, who played more than four hours of tennis in the sultry afternoon and evening, began to show signs of fatigue, but buoyed by the energy of rested partner Kumar, the Crimson managed to eke out the first set. But unable to counter the sheer power of the Isner serve, they could find no way to duplicate that first set.

As for facing Growcott and Skupski again, Isner and Ruiz are ready.

“We expect to have a war out there,“ Isner said. “They’re two big servers. And it looks good for our conference with two SEC teams in the finals.”

French Open 2005: Previewing the Juniors (USTA.COM)

French Open 2005: Previewing the Juniors--
Sally Milano's take on the US prospects for the French juniors. I will confidently predict that the juniors will do better than their elder compatriots this year. The US has (had) 11 players in the main draw, more than even the French, who had all 8 wild cards. And that's not counting Carsten Ball, who grew up in Newport Beach, but is playing under the Australian flag at the French.

There was some curious seeding by the ITF here, (e.g. why did Andreas Haider-Maurer get promoted above his ITF 19th ranking to 8th seed?--he's already lost!) but I agree that Murray should be seeded above Young. Murray has won four Futures events on clay and trains on it and has won as many Grand Slam singles titles as Young (1).

For full French Open Junior draws click here

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Two Unseeded Seniors Reach Semis in NCAAs

©Colette Lewis 2005--
College Station TX--

Unseeded seniors Jonathan Chu of Harvard and Izak van der Merwe of Old Dominion overcame more highly regarded opponents Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Men’s Championships. Chu dropped third seed Jesse Witten of Kentucky, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (6), while van der Merwe prevailed over UCLA’s Benjamin Kohlloeffel 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

Chu

But it wasn’t easy.

Chu, who had not lost a set in his first three matches, was down 4-0 before he knew it.

“Jesse came out and was hitting a heavy ball," said the righthander from New York City. "I wasn’t adjusted to the intensity of it. I’m glad it wasn’t too late before I got adjusted.”

Whatever groove Chu found, it was a productive one, as he ran off seven straight games before Witten was able to stem the tide. Forehand blazing, Witten damped Chu’s momentum, taking the second set and getting an early break in the third. But an incredible overhead retrieval by Chu in the eighth game caught Witten’s blue shoes flat-footed and he failed to put away an easy floater at the net, allowing Chu to level the match.

“I never really lost faith." said Chu, the only player still in both singles and doubles. “I thought I could do it, given the opportunity.”

In the tiebreaker, Chu continued to return well, attacking Witten’s second serve whenever possible. At 5-6, Chu thought he had won when a Witten passing shot was signaled out by the line judge a beat or two late, perhaps influenced by Chu's premature celebration. But the chair umpire overruled the line judge and after a brief moment of confusion, the drama continued.

“I called it out because I’ve been used to calling my own matches the entire year,“ said Chu, the Ivy League Player of the Year, who is ranked 32nd nationally. “You never know how many chances you’ll have to close out a match against a top player like Jesse.”

But after a few words of encouragement from his coach Dave Fish, Chu calmly stroked an ace to go up 7-6, and converted his second match point when Witten netted a volley.

In the media room after the match, Chu, who graduates next month, mentioned the difficulty that Harvard student-athletes face when competing in the spring NCAA championships.

“I’ve never taken a final exam in spring semester at Harvard,” said Chu, who lost in the first round all three of his previous appearances. “I’ve always taken it at this tournament. I handed in my final paper last night at midnight. I needed it to graduate.”

His opponent on Sunday is top seed Benedikt Dorsch of Baylor, who continued his domination with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over unseeded freshman Greg Ouellette of Florida.

Dorsch was trying out a new racquet for this tournament, but after two double faults and a forehand that sailed long in a dropped service game in the first set, he returned to his old model and experienced no other difficulties.
Dorsch

Van der Merwe continued his strong play, eliminating UCLA’s Benjamin Kohlloeffel, an alphabetical seed, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. For the second match in a row, van der Merwe served for the match in the second set and failed to convert, but seemed unfazed.

“I played a decent game. I actually had a match point,” said the 6-foot 4-inch senior from South Africa, who put in seven straight first serves in the lengthy tenth game, and still was unable to put away the crafty lefthander from Germany.

“He played a very good game there. He hit a great return on match point to my backhand, which I couldn’t pick up.”

But van der Merwe did visibly raise his game to open the third set, hitting winner upon winner from both sides, and quickly ran out to a 2-0 lead, a break he never gave back. He avoided having to serve out the match a second time when he broke Kohlloeffel at 3-5, earning his place in the semifinals against San Diego’s Pierrik Ysern. Ysern, a junior from France, staved off several set points at 5-6 against fourth seed Catalin Gard of Ole Miss, winning the first set in a tiebreaker and the second set going away, 6-0.

The doubles competition went more predictably, as the top two seeds advanced in straight sets. Georgia’s John Isner and Antonio Ruiz cruised past Marko Rejavac and David North, the surprise quarterfinalists from Georgia Tech, 6-3, 6-2. Stanford’s K.C. Corkery and Sam Warburg, the second seeds and defending NCAA champions, moved into the semifinals with their 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over PAC 10 rivals Roger Matalonga and Colin O’Grady of Arizona.

Their opponents in the semifinals will be alphabetically seeded Mark Growcott and Ken Skupski of Louisiana State, who were 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4 winners over Brown’s Phil Charm and Adil Shamasdin.

And on Sunday, Chu will again play two matches, as he and partner Ashwin Kumar came from behind to dump Auburn’s Alex Schweizer and Gabor Zoltan in a battle of unseeded teams, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Defending Champion Becker Out in Round of 16

©Colette Lewis 2005--

--College Station TX--
Old Dominion's Izak van der Merwe chalked up yet another big win Friday, as he used a powerful serve and baseline winners to eliminate 2004 NCAA singles champion Benjamin Becker of Baylor 6-4, 7-6(3) in the round of 16.

van-der-Merwe3

Van der Merwe, who upset top ranked Stanford senior Sam Warburg in Wednesday's opening round, traded inside-out forehands with the alphabetically seeded Becker, and gave away nothing in the fitness department. In the heat of the day, when trainers often outnumbered players on changeovers and coaches served as umbrella caddies, van der Merwe displayed no signs of fatigue.

"I never really cramp," said the 21 year-old South African. "I'm still waiting for that one. When it didn't happen on Wednesday (in his three set marathon with Warburg), it may not."

Serving for the match after breaking Becker in the ninth game, van der Merwe was unable to slam the door, giving Baylor's number two singles player a glimmer of hope.
"I played kind of a sloppy game there," said the 37th ranked van der Merwe, "but I played well in the tiebreaker."

The recently graduated van der Merwe took an early lead in the tiebreaker and when Becker's return sailed long on match point, the tournament was assured of a new champion.

"It definitely feels good to beat the defending champion," he said. "He's a good player, a very good player."

Becker, who lost his singles match in the finals of the team competition on Tuesday, when Baylor's 57 match winning streak was snapped by UCLA, still had that ending on his mind.

"Getting motivated for this individual competition was really tough," said the native of Orschotz Germany. "The loss is still in our heads. We're still sitting in our room and talking about it at night. Our only focus was the team championship."

His teammate Benedikt Dorsch, the tournament's top seed, has yet to see his collegiate career end, as he rolled over Illinois freshman Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-1.

Of the five freshmen who advanced to the round of 16, only one made in through, with Florida's Greg Ouellette taking out another seed, last year's semifinalist Franticek Babej of South Alabama 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
Ouellette

In the most dramatic conclusion of a match on Friday, Babej was visited by trainers often during the changeovers and lost the last three games of the match, as well as his composure. Ouellette called Babej's shot long on match point, and though the umpire agreed, Babej did not, making an obscene gesture in Ouellette's direction and needing to be restrained by his coach in the moments following. The traditional handshake never was offered and several minutes later Babej was still distraught.

Ouellette takes on Dorsch on Saturday, while third seed Jesse Witten of Kentucky meets unseeded Jonathan Chu of Harvard in the top half's other match.

In the bottom half, fourth seed Catalin Gard of Ole Miss faces Pierrik Ysern of San Diego, and UCLA's Ben Kohlloeffel will try to stop van der Merwe.

The major doubles upset saw third seeds Dorsch and Matija Zgaga of Baylor go out to Auburn's Alex Schweizer and Gabor Zoltan 6-1, 6-2. But the doubles match and story of the day was Georgia Tech's team of David North and Marko Rajevac, who were fifth alternates when the tournament draw was made and now find themselves in the quarterfinals after a hard-fought 2-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5)victory over Tulane's Dmitriy Koch and Alberto Sottocorno.

"We were second alternates by the time we flew out here," said Georgia Tech coach Kenny Thorne. "I told the guys we might as get you out there, and see what happens."

North and Rajevac will face the top-seeded Georgia team of John Isner and Antonio Ruiz on Saturday.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Freshmen Educate Upperclassmen at NCAAs on Thursday

©Colette Lewis 2005--
College Station TX--

By the time the skies opened at Texas A & M on Thursday afternoon, four unseeded freshmen had earned NCAA All-American honors by reaching the Round of 16 at the NCAA Division 1 Men's Championships.

Luke Shields of Boise State posted the most impressive result, disposing of Duke junior Ludovic Walter, the tournament's fifth seed, 6-4, 6-2. Shields, ranked 46th in the country, believed the conditions were a factor in his win.

Shieldspress

"Due to the courts being not so fast, it helps me out a bit," said Shields, the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. “A guy like Walter has a big serve and it slows it down. It helps guys who don't hit the ball as fast.”

Walter, an All-American in 2004, gave much of the credit to Shields.

“At 4-5, he came up with some big shots and broke me for the first set,” said the native of Vannes France. “From that point on I felt like he got more confidence, moving forward, coming to the net. He played a solid match.”

Greg Ouellette of Florida followed up on his first round win over the eighth seed by eliminating unseeded Stephane Rod of Virginia Tech 7-6 (4), 7-5, and fellow lefthander Travis Helgeson of Texas took down Georgia’s 21st ranked John Isner 6-3, 6-4.

Kevin Anderson of Illinois, the Midwest Region’s Freshman of the Year, had no trouble with 38th ranked Gabor Zoltan, dropping the senior from Auburn 6-4, 6-2.

The only seeded freshman, Jerry Makowski of Texas A & M, also advanced, beating yet another freshman, Lars Poerschke of Baylor 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Asked if he thought freshmen had been underrated, Makowski, an alphabetical seed, said, "Maybe, but I think it's set up so you have to prove yourself, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's what the juniors and seniors here have had to do."


Doubles play began late Thursday afternoon, and half of the seeded teams were defeated. The fourth seeded team of Scott Green and Ross Wilson of Ohio State, the ITA Indoor champions, fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Marco Born and Andreas Siljestrom of Middle Tennessee. The alphabetically seeded teams of Ockie Oosthuizen and Ben Rogers of Tennessee, Scott Doerner and Pedro Rico of Pepperdine and Hamid Mirzadeh and Greg Ouellette of Florida all suffered first round losses.

John Isner and Antonio Ruiz of Georgia, the top-ranked team, survived a heated battle with New Mexico's David Kowalski and Ryan Stotland 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-4. The second seeded team, defending NCAA champions K.C. Corkery and Sam Warburg of Stanford, also needed three sets to advance, beating Oklahoma State's Daniel Byrnes and Mark Van Elden 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.


For complete draws visit the Official NCCA website

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stanford's Warburg Upset in First Round at NCAAs

©Colette Lewis 2005--
College Station TX--

van-der-Merwe
The nation's top-ranked Division 1 player, Sam Warburg of Stanford, succumbed to the brutal heat and Old Dominion's Izak van der Merwe 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 in Wednesday's first round of individual competition at Texas A & M.

"Anybody can beat anybody; I wasn't really worried about playing the number two seed," said the 37th ranked senior from South Africa. "It's not junior tennis where you look at the seeds; here if you play well, you have a good chance of winning the match."

Van der Merwe was a semifinalist at the ITA Indoor individual championships in November, so Warburg knew he faced a tough battle. "Everyone's good," said Warburg, the PAC 10 singles champion and the tournament's second seed. "That's why it's the NCAA tournament." Asked how he felt having played his last college singles match, Warburg was blunt. "Not good. It's always kind of a bummer going out like that. But the guy was too good today."

With temperatures in the mid-90s and very little breeze, the strength-sapping conditions took their toll on several PAC 10 players. Eighth seed Alex Vlaski from the University of Washington lost to unseeded Greg Ouellette, the 49th ranked Florida freshman who overcame a 5-1 first set deficit on his way to a 7-5, 0-6, 6-2 victory.

Warburg's doubles partner, K.C. Corkery, ranked 15th, also failed to advance, losing to 38th ranked Gabor Zoltan of Auburn 7-6 (6), 6-3.

"When I saw the draw, I knew both of our guys had tough matches," said Stanford head coach John Whitlinger. "I was hoping we could get through that first day. Sam gave it everything he had. He's had a great four years at Stanford, and I'm proud of what he's accomplished. Unfortunately he came up on the short end today."

Alex Kuznetsov Recovering from Injuries Sustained in Auto Accident

©Colette Lewis 2005--

Promising American junior Alex Kuznetsov was injured in a one-car accident on Sunday at Saddlebrook Tennis Resort near Tampa.

Kuznetsov, 18, was alone in the rented Mustang when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree.
Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov was admitted to a Tampa hospital and underwent surgery after several other tennis players witnessed the accident and dialed 911.

"He broke his right femur," said Ben Crandell of IMG, the agency that signed Kuznetsov to a professional contract last year. "A titanium rod was inserted and he will be released from the hospital today."

Kuznetsov had just reached the semifinals of a Futures event in Tampa, and his ATP ranking is now 400. The Richboro Pennsylvania native, who was born in the Ukraine, is still eligible for junior events, although he has not played one since last year's U.S. Open, concentrating instead on the USTA Pro Circuit tournaments.

He is not expected to return to a tennis court for three or four months and it could be eight to twelve months before he is able to play competively.

Crandell described the surgeon as optmistic, noting that Kuznetsov suffered no other injuries to his ankles or knees.

"When I visited him, he was in good spirits," said Crandell. "His parents have come down to help him with his recovery."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

UCLA Stuns Baylor in NCAA Division 1 Men's Finals

©Colette Lewis 2005
--College Station TX--

In the stillness of the warm Texas evening, UCLA celebrated its first NCAA Division 1 men's tennis title in 21 years with a stunning 4-3 win over the top-ranked and defending national champion Baylor Bears. The stunned crowd, overwhelmingly clad in Baylor yellow, witnessed a comfortable 3-1 lead dwindle as twilight turned to dusk at the George Mitchell tennis center on the campus of Texas A & M.

First UCLA's Alberto Francis at number 5 and, just a few minutes later, Phillip Gruendler at number 6, won three-set thrillers--Gruendler in a tiebreaker--to pull the match even. Earlier, Baylor had taken the doubles point and Benedikt Dorsch (number 1) and Michal Kokta (number 4) had given the Bears their lead, with Ben Kohlloeffel (number 2) earning seventh seeded UCLA their first point.

So, at 3-3, the number 3 singles contest betweeen Bruin Kris Kwinta and Baylor's Lars Poerschke would decide the national title.

Kwinta had dropped the first set, 6-4, and barely hung on to an early lead in the second, winning it 6-4. But Kwinta broke at 1-1 in the third, and tough and tense as the subsequent games were, he maintained his lead. Kwinta

"I just focus on what is happening on the court," said Kwinta when asked afterwards about the pressure of being the deciding match.

Poerschke saved two championship points at 3-5, when Kwinta was twice overruled on calls (in college rules, that costs him a point), and Poerschke kept the Baylor fans hopeful when he closed out the ninth game with two aces. But even at 5-4, 30-all, Kwinta kept his concentration, winning the next two points to send his teammates into a celebratory rugby-scrum and the dazed Baylor fans home to Waco wondering how it had slipped away. UCLA

"I'm still numb," said UCLA coach Billy Martin, whose teams had three times been finalists in the national title match, including last year's loss to Baylor.

"I've learned from those losses," Martin said, "and I felt comfortable that the seniors had too."

"We stopped Illinois' streak last year (in the semifinals) and maybe that took a little bit of our energy for the finals," Martin said. "But I told the team last night, we stopped Illinois' streak and tomorrow night we'll stop Baylor's streak and win the national championship."

And though it wasn't the ending that the Baylor faithful had anticipated, they recognized that their team had contributed mightily to a thrilling and memorable national championship final.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Querrey Has a Big Believer -- Ventura County Star (registration required)

Querrey Has a Big Believer--Ventura County Star--

querrey2
Sam Querrey has more than one big believer. When I saw him win his second and third round 2004 US Open junior matches in a third set tiebreaker and then 7-5 in the third, I saw the light. And working with Grant Doyle on a regular basis has taken to him to the upper echelon of the world's junior tennis players. I've witnessed myself the resignation that Doyle speaks about when other American juniors have had to face Querrey at his best. In the final rounds in Carson and throughout the Easter Bowl last month, he demonstrated just how dominant his best can be.

But I would like to inject a note of caution here. Those tournaments were played on hard courts, in California, against an overwhelmingly American field. Querrey has played only two ITF events outside the US, both on hard courts, losing in the third round at the Casablanca Cup and the first round at the Coffee Bowl this January. He has never played an ITF event on clay, and like Nadal, is having his first look at Roland Garros. With South Americans Leonardo Mayer, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Raony Carvalho entered at the French along with Great Britain's Andrew Murray (who trains on clay and defeated Querrey in the quarterfinals at the US Open), and Italy's Fabio Fognini, who are competing in a junior event after playing exclusively on the Futures tour the past six months, the French field has great depth. Throw in the American aversion to red clay and the prospects of an American junior winning there are only slightly better than those of their older compatriots.

But there is no reason to throw cold water on Querrey's quest to be the number one junior in the world. It's a worthy and attainable goal for someone with his skills, disposition and focus. The Grand Slam season is just starting and there is a lot of tennis to be played. And as I've said, I'm a believer.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Where's The Next Serena? (Inside Tennis)

Where's The Next Serena? --
I don't really have much to say about this story, but I wanted to post something tonight, now that I once again have broadband internet access, which is right up there with electricity when you are faced with the alternative. Anyway, my short vacation, with only Abraham Verghese's effecting memoir The Tennis Partner as my sole connection to the sport, is over, and yet I find that somehow the junior tennis world kept spinning without me. I'm too tired right now to do a review that does justice to the book, so I'll save that for another day, but I do recommend it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Taking A Break

Taking A Break--
A quick look through my archives tells me I've posted something every day since late March. The next few days I'm going to take a much-needed vacation from tennis, with some family-related R & R before a big challenge next week when I visit College Station for my first NCAA Division 1 championship.

Albom probe shows no pattern of deception (Detroit Free Press)

Albom probe shows no pattern of deception --
Though I've managed to learn (my Italian is getting better) that Donald Young lost in the first round of the Grade A Italian Open to Pavel Chekhov today, I can't find any English-language story to link to. Besides, I am more intrigued by this story on one of my sportswriting idols, Mitch Albom. I didn't hear much about this when it happened, as I was immersed in the Easter Bowl at the time, but my brother clued me in a few days later. The whole thing seems a bit hysterical to me, and the irony of the proliferation of blogs that have absolutely no standards versus the very exacting ones at newspapers these days is inescapable. Of course, when a sportswriter makes a mistake, nobody riots in Afghanistan.

I have some journalism training, mostly on-the-job, or on-the- internship, more accurately, as my exposure to daily newspapers came while I was in college. So I try to attribute quotes and use datelines correctly and quote as accurately as I can. I don't have an editor, of course, so it's solely my judgment and I don't have a written code of ethics to follow. (I'd love to have a copy of the Free Press version). But I do have an abiding regard for the truth and a belief that it is my obligation to get things right.

Do I think Albom made a mistake? Yes. But he didn't try to cover it up and he did apologize for it. Is he suffering from the arrogance of the talented, at the pinnacle of a profession? Maybe. I'd have to actually know him to take a stab at that one. But when the athletes and coaches that you cover every day stick up for you, and so do fellow rich-and-famous columnists like Michael Wilbon, that speaks volumes. It's time for everyone involved in this to learn from it yes, but let's move on.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Tennis Notebook: U.S. men no longer dominate

Tennis Notebook: U.S. men no longer dominate--
Where to begin on this one? Can't argue with the headline, really. Are they writing headlines in Argentina or Spain saying, "We Rule Men's Tennis?"

Let's see, it's Federer (Switzerland), Hewitt (Australia), Roddick (U.S.) and Safin (Russia), in the top spots, so no, I guess they aren't likely to be making that claim.

And if it's Davis Cup we're going by, well, Spain, the 2004 champion, is already out for 2005.

The first paragraph is really quite comical, as Connors and McEnroe were an entirely different tennis generation from Sampras, Courier and Agassi. In fact, I remember everybody wondering what we were going to do back in the mid-80s, when McEnroe stopped winning Grand Slams, because there was no one else on the horizon. And then, in 1987, Agassi arrived, with Chang, Courier and Sampras right behind.

And call Andy Roddick of a lot of things, but don't call him inconsistent. That adjective is reserved for Marat Safin's personal use, as long as he plays. Roddick, on the other hand, can be penciled in as a semifinalist, at worst, at every major save the French.

There are several other clues that the reporter isn't all that conversant with tennis. Depth in choosing a Davis Cup squad is of limited value, which is why Croatia can beat the U.S. and the Slovak Republic can beat Spain. And "Marty" Fish?

Mr. Ruzanic seems to be prone to a little Becker exaggeration of his own. Did the U.S. ever have 60 or 70 players in the top 100? I'm too lazy to do the research on THAT, but I doubt it. At least he gives credit to the boys in the 12s, 14s, and 16s age divisions who are, in fact, dominating the world right now.

But there are no guarantees that this will translate into greater glory in the Davis Cup, or anyplace else. Tennis at its highest level is not played by countries, it's played by people, and they don't always fulfill the hopes we have of them.

German tennis in turmoil says Wimbledon great Becker

German tennis in turmoil says Wimbledon great Becker-- I thought I'd link to this story and the one above today for what it says about the respective countries tennis prospects. Becker throws out a name--Philipp Petzschner--that I'd never heard before, so I did some research on him (thanks ITF juniors website) and two years ago he was NOT the best junior in the world. Two years ago, he was 19 and no longer eligible in juniors. Three years ago, he won two ITF Grade 1s and lost to Nadal in the quarters at Wimbledon, reaching a high of 8 in the world junior rankings. Never having seen him play (has Becker?), I don't know if he should be labeled as some sort of emblem of national failure. If your hopes are riding on a player whose resume is this undistinguished, however, it probably is the system. But the ages of 16-20, where Becker says "something is going wrong" is not the problem. It's much deeper and earlier than that.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Italian Open Preview-ITF Tennis - Juniors

ITF Tennis - Juniors - Italian Open Preview--

Since I can't find the acceptance list for the boys, I'll have to take the ITF's word for who is favored. I think Young is just mentioned as a courtesy to the number one seed, as he can't really be considered most likely to win, given the superior clay-courters in the draw. It's too bad the Italian Federation's website doesn't have an English option, (what I really wish is that I could speak and read Italian), because the Google option I used to translate the one story I could find there was less than fluent. I did gather that Fabio Fognini, who hasn't played juniors all year, isn't entered in his home country's Grade A event, though he is on the Roland Garros Juniors acceptance list. But there are still plenty of formidable entrants--Ukrainian Sergei Bubka, who today just won the Grade 1 in Italy on clay; Brazil's Leonardo Mayer; hometown favorite Andreas Arnaboldi (the only one of the three I've seen play this year.)

I would also mention as contenders--and I don't know if they are playing--Raony Carvalho of Brazil, Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina and David Navarrete of Venezuela.

I did find the girls acceptance list and the field doesn't look as strong there, with fewer South Americans entered. I would think American Vania King, who should be well-rested, Canadian Sharon Fichman and Russian Ekaterina Makarova are poised to go deep in the draw.

Friday, May 13, 2005

DailyProgress.com | California's Glatch on a roll at Tinsley

DailyProgress.com | California's Glatch on a roll at Tinsley--
Fifteen-year-old Alexa Glatch had a great win on Thursday, beating Jessica Kirkland at a challenger in Virginia.
GlatchSprings
Kirkland, 17, who trounced Glatch (1 and 0) in the quarterfinals at the Orange Bowl last December, is currently in the Top 200 in the WTA rankings, having reached the Round of 16 at the Pacific Life in March.

Now for the rant (hey, that's what bloggers do). If you don't live in Charlottesville Virginia and read the Daily Progress there, you don't know who won this match. Neither the USTA Pro Circuit website nor the ITF Women's Circuit website had, as of 10 a.m. on Friday, posted the results from Thursday or the schedule for today. The advantages of the internet over print are numerous, with instantaneity being its trump card, but they are squandered if no one in the governing structures can be bothered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

All you need is love in farce of wild-card system - Sport - Times Online

All you need is love in farce of wild-card system - Sport - Times Online--
Great headline, great story. There is some world-class reporting done here folks. This particular story doesn't pertain to junior tennis (though I have seen my fair share of puzzling wild cards into junior events--I'm still trying to figure out who Benjamin Rogers is and why he got a wildcard into the Orange Bowl last year), but many a junior is in the running for these very same wild cards. You just pray they have a better resume (and game) than messrs. Lownsbrough, Brighten and Dee.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Young Tennis Stars Blaze Trail To Nottingham - LTA Tennis Nation

Young Tennis Stars Blaze Trail To Nottingham - LTA Tennis Nation--
With the French Open approaching, I thought this story about two 18-year-olds from France, now in the ATP Top 100, well-timed. Monfils was actually a late bloomer, compared to Gasquet, who finished 2002, aged 16, as the number one junior in the world. Monfils was 17 when he did the same last year. (Is there something in the Evian?)

And though attempts to find career parallels can be futile, it may be instructive to note that Gasquet had nearly as much attention in France as a junior as Donald Young does here now, with a great many of the same "youngest-this" and "youngest-thats". It has taken Gasquet two full years playing professional tennis to become a serious and consistent force on the tour, if in fact he is that. If an 18-year-old who had reached an ATP final could be considered disappointing, Gasquet was, such were the expectations for him. Now that he's beaten Federer, even more will be expected of him, but Monfils should assist in keeping the attention divided.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nothing but net pays off for siblings (Rocky Mountain News)

Rocky Mountain News: Sports--Nothing but net pays off for siblings--
It's not just the Guzicks that are a formidable big brother, little sister tennis tandem. But this lengthy story about the Damicos, Kellen and Krista, focuses on the decision to pursue tennis excellence via an academy, in this case, the Roddick-Moros International Academy in San Antonio.

Reporter Pearce and his editor undersold Kellen's ranking however. He is not the 35th ranked 16-year-old in the ITF rankings. He is the 39th ranked (as of yesterday) 18-and-under player. The ITF doesn't have age division rankings like the USTA does.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Wild Cards for 2005 USTA National Championships and 2005 Easter Bowl BG 18 ITF Championships

Wild Cards for 2005 USTA National Championships and 2005 Easter Bowl BG 18 ITF Championships--
I missed this posting by the USTA last week, but it's important to see in writing who gets what wild card from the USTA for winning a National Championship.

A note about the Boys Clays. The USTA may not give out a National Clay Court wild card, but they are being awarded, and a spot in the main draw at an ATP event is a perk indeed.

Here's the wording from the Clays website:

WILD CARDS FOR LEGG-MASON
The Boys' 18 singles champion will receive a wild card into the main draw at the Legg-Mason Tennis Championships in Washington, DC. In addition the Boys' 18 singles finalist and the Boys' 16 singles champion will receive wild cards into the Legg-Mason singles qualifying event.

The Boy's 18 and 16 doubles champions will be put on the “short list” for the singles qualifier of the Legg-Mason Tennis Championships.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

2theadvocate.com: News - Dutch Family Files Lawsuit for Daughters to compete in USTA Juniors

2theadvocate.com: News - Visa status sidelines BR sisters 05/08/05--
Not the feel-good Mother's Day story I was hoping to come across, but certainly an interesting one. I don't think the family has any hope of winning this lawsuit, because there isn't a civil right to compete in a USTA tournament. The NBA wouldn't be contemplating instituting an age limit like the NFL's if they didn't feel the legal ground for establishing who can compete in their league was firmly tilted toward the organizing body.

All that said, I think American tennis would benefit from a change in this rule. The USTA argument, as presented here by Chris Widmaier, is like protectionists everywhere, and whether it's trade or tennis, I don't buy it. They say we need to protect our steel industry or our automobile industry, or whatever it is, from those "foreigners", because those countries have their own tariffs and quotas and blah, blah, blah. When the Big Three here in Michigan were afforded this protection, we got poorly designed and engineered gas guzzlers with little innovation or reliability. The competition from the Japanese automakers was unquestionably good for the consumer. In sports--the ultimate marketplace based on merit--more competition equals a better game. And, returning for a moment to the NBA, how do you think a ban or quota on foreign players in that league would go over now?

Tennis is more global than basketball, and yet, if you are not 18, your nationality matters in tennis. Yes, the two spots these Dutch girls earn will deprive two American girls who might otherwise not qualify. A draw is a very zero sum game. The same can be said of college athletic scholarships. What U.S. citizen is not going to Baylor this year, because the Bears have recruited three Germans for their tennis team? But the college game is better for having an international component, and junior tennis would ultimately benefit too.

Will this happen? No. And I have a reason for being so emphatic. A few selected foreign players were once invited to compete annually in the Nationals here in Kalamazoo, which is how Rod Laver (1956) and Raul Ramirez (1971) came to grace our list of champions. But when Ramesh Krishnan won the 16s title in 1977, a rule was passed limiting the competitors to U.S. citizens, and, to my mind, the tournament instantly lost the prestige that had put it on par with the Grand Slams and the Orange Bowl--tournaments that are open to anyone who qualifies, regardless of nationality.

The Dutch girls can play ITF events if they qualify (and are age 13),(and I doubt Chris Widmaier referred to the International Tennis Association; perhaps the reporter misheard the first two syllables of Federation), and high school tennis, at least in Louisiana. Hard to view them as victims, really. But the sport is the ultimate loser when nationality becomes criteria, and you need look no further than the wild cards awarded at Grand Slams to see that.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Pro Tennis Fan: Sportsmanship in Tennis

Pro Tennis Fan: Sportsmanship in Tennis-- The Roddick in Rome (what is it about Rome that brings out the hero in him?) sportsmanship story is the talk of the tennis world right now, and I'm linking to a posting about it at my favorite new blog, protennisfan.com. The fact that this incident was on clay is important, as Roddick concedes that until he looked at the mark, he thought he'd won the match.

The best example of tennis sportsmanship I've ever personally witnessed, considering the circumstances, was at last year's Nationals here in Kalamazoo, courtesy of the champion, Scoville Jenkins, on hard courts (emphasis mine).
jenkins4
Playing Phillip Simmonds in a memorable semifinal match, at 15-30, 3-4, Jenkins gave Simmonds an ace rather than accept the lineman’s fault call.

Accepting the fault (it was too close to call from my vantage point) would have given him a swing at a second serve and two break points to get to 5-3 serving for the set, which was eventually decided by a 22 point tiebreaker, as Simmonds went on to hold for 4 all.

When I asked him if he regretted what he had done, since it may have led to that tiebreaker, Jenkins said, “No, I would have regretted it if I hadn’t conceded. When we call our own lines (until the quarters) that serve was good. Phillip is my friend, I couldn’t do it.” This was with a wild card in the main draw of the US Open on the line.

Jenkins went on to win the match 7-6, 6-4, so the gesture didn't cost him what it cost Roddick (and if Roddick had WON his match, there would have been much less made of it). But it could have, and Jenkins carved his own special place in Kalamazoo tennis lore that Saturday afternoon.

Friday, May 6, 2005

GreenvilleOnline.com - Guzick continues family tradition

GreenvilleOnline.com - Guzick continues family tradition-- This newspaper story is about Will Guzick, the 16s Easter Bowl winner that I wrote about in this report (scroll to bottom of story) from the Easter Bowl last month.

But his sister Sarah is also a pretty fair tennis player, and soon her win at the Chanda Rubin Grade 5 ITF event in Baton Rouge last week will be old news. But it shouldn’t pass unnoticed. She’s 14, and was unseeded in Louisiana-- no surprise there as she hadn’t played an ITF tournament before-- but made her way past the third, fifth and eighth seeds (in that strange reversal of the expected progression through the draw) before beating another unseeded player Melanie Oudin, in the finals. Guzick also won the doubles. For some reason the ITF rankings are showing her with zero points, but she has earned 50, which would put her around 600 in the world.

Until the Easter Bowl, I had never heard of her, but that’s not because she hasn’t excelled. She was ranked number one in the country in the 14s last year, winning the Clays, and played the 16s in the Easter Bowl this year, losing a tough three-setter in the quarterfinals to finalist McCall Jones.

But most impressive was an off the court glimpse I got of her, tucked away in a corner booth in the banquet room/press headquarters at the Riveria, with a textbook in front of her, studying before a match. Not a common sight at a junior tennis tournament, and one I had to document with this photograph. sGuzick

So congratulations to both the Guzicks, who appear to have the temperaments required for achievements both athletic and academic. It will be fun to watch them grow.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Herald Sun: Aussies to gain in Spain [04may05]

Herald Sun: Aussies to gain in Spain [04may05]-- I don't know if this should be characterized as Tennis Australia throwing up its hands and conceding they can't develop talent, or if it is just a realistic assessment of the benefits of being geographically nearer the center of the tennis academy universe these days, which is no longer Bradenton Florida, Nick, but Barcelona--and can this be right?--Venice. More than a few tennis experts I've talked to believe that Emilio Sanchez and Sergio Casal are the answer. I'll add Australia to that list.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Rich Benvin - Tennis Professional and Internet Marketing Specialist in Denver, Colorado

Rich Benvin's blog A new blog I just discovered today has a long interview with Kellen Damico from last week, when he was back in Colorado to attend, I gather, his prom.
Damico But this interview really shows just how far removed from the typical high school attendee a world class junior is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Glatch Signs with Octagon (press release)

Glatch Signs with Octagon
--
Alexa Glatch, of Newport Beach CA, has signed with Octagon, the sports marketing agency announced yesterday. Glatch, 15, is currently ranked seventh in the world in the ITF junior rankings, having recently won the Easter Bowl 18s singles and doubles titles.
glatchintlspring

And although her gender means that she doesn't play in Kalamazoo, Glatch does have a local connection. She is currently coached by Katie Schlukebir, a former USTA High Performance coach, who grew up in nearby Mattawan. Schlukebir won the Girls National title in 1992, was an All-American at Stanford, graduating with honors in 1997, and spent six years on the WTA tour.

For more on Glatch, here's a story from her local paper that I missed last week.

Monday, May 2, 2005

Arthur Ashe inspired a generation of black Americans: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Arthur Ashe inspired a generation of black Americans: South Florida Sun-Sentinel--
Charlie Bricker doesn't write much about juniors, but that's not to imply that he couldn't. This story proves just how deep his tennis knowledge and connections go. And the mention of Moore Park, where my friend Bobby Curtis got his start, makes this a must-link.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

SignOnSanDiego.com > Sports > High Schools -- Tennis player well-rounded, grounded

SignOnSanDiego.com > Sports > High Schools -- Tennis player well-rounded, grounded--
Greg Hirshman wasn't one of the players I expected the Courier documentary to follow, but he sounds like a very interesting subject. As to whether he's a sophomore (first paragraph) or junior (third paragraph), however, I guess we're not going to find out from this story. For what it's worth, he'll be 17 in July.