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Monday, January 2, 2006

Ryan Sweeting Goes To Gainesville

Ryan Sweeting Goes to Gainesville ~~~
When I was in Miami, I saw a story by Charlie Bricker of the Sun-Sentinel that detailed Ryan Sweeting's decision to sign with the University of Florida. I even got an opportunity to tell Charlie in person that I enjoyed it, when he stopped by the University of Miami to watch some Junior Orange Bowl tennis.

Unfortunately, after two weeks, the story disappeared from the Sun-Sentinel website, and I can only provide excerpts from it. You can buy a copy on their website for $3.95, but it's not for reproduction.

Rising from obscurity to win the U.S. Open junior tennis tournament in September sent Ryan Sweeting's confidence soaring, and beating Maria Sharapova a few weeks later in a practice match gave his personal wealth a nice little boost.

But nothing that has happened in the past three months of Sweeting's young life has distorted his vision of the future.

The 18-year-old, Bahamas-born resident of Fort Lauderdale is not rushing to cash in on his instant fame by turning pro. He's going to the University of Florida.

"It's not a normal thing, if you finish in the top five juniors, to go to college. But college seemed like the smartest thing to do. I need to get a little bigger and little stronger," he said, assessing what he needs to do to make an impact on the ATP Tour.....

Before the U.S. Open, he was a virtual unknown, even among his peers. Winning a Grand Slam event changed that.

Not long after sweeping through six opponents -- and losing only one set -- in New York, Sweeting was invited to fly to San Antonio and spend a few days training with Andy Roddick, the No. 3 player in the world, and with John Roddick, his coaching brother.

It was the Roddicks, as well as famous tennis coach Nick Bollettieri and a number of other personal confidantes, who advised the slender, 6-foot-4 Sweeting to put pro tennis on hold until he is physically able to compete at the next level.

The final convincing voice was Gators coach Andy Jackson. "He was very professional about everything," Sweeting said. "He told me he's planning to make me stronger and develop my game. He wants to take me to the top."

Even before Sweeting lost his opportunity to win the ITF World Junior Championship, I asked him if was certain that he would be going to Florida. He said, with no equivocation, that he was going to college, no matter what happened. As it turned out, he lost early at both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, but I believe that even had he won both, he was determined to keep that promise. I'm looking forward to seeing him at the NCAAs in May.


Katherine said...

Thank you for posting this about Sweeting. You had mentioned briefly in a previous blog about him choosing the university route. I had intended to write and ask you about that because I remember hearing that was a decision he was making when he won the Open. Now I won't have to write and ask you :-)