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Friday, July 21, 2006

Not Much Drama in Quarterfinal Matches, but a Memorable Friday at the Clays

©Colette Lewis 2006

Those of you who have been reading zootennis for over a year might recall that last year I was writing for the ustaclay.com website. For a variety of reasons, my husband Paul (who was a site director at Potomac) and I were not invited back. This year, Clays tournament director Jeff Szekely hired Bob Greene, a retired Associated Press sportswriter, to do the website writing and his stories have appeared throughout the week. In Greene's story about Friday's Davey Sandgren and Jarmere Jenkins match, which Sandgren won 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2, there's no mention of the stunning postmatch incident that had all the players, coaches and spectators talking all afternoon. And that's the problem that dogged me last year. Hired hands do what they are told, and the news is filtered through the employer's prism.

This year I am in Rockville as an independent freelance reporter, and I hope long-time readers, or any readers, trust me to tell them what they are not here to observe themselves. I do not seek controversy, and I do believe, as I've stated before in posts and comments, that it's important to remember that the juniors I write about are children, without the experience, wisdom and maturity of most adults. This is a very long-winded way of opening the story of the very bad choice that Jarmere Jenkins made today.

Just 15, the unseeded Jenkins chose to play in the 18s division and won four consecutive three-set matches, defeating three seeds, including No. 3 Chris Racz in the round of 32. After taking the first set from Sandgren, a 9 seed, in a tiebreak, Jenkins looked as if he would extend his string of upsets, but Sandgren began to hit with more authority. Wearing Jenkins down, closing the net when he got a short ball, Sandgren, 18 and a freshman at the University of Tennessee, took control of the match in the second set. Even the heat break between the sets didn't affect his momentum. Upon his return for the third set, Sandgren ran out to a 5-0 lead and was serving to end it when Jenkins broke and held for 5-2. Sandgren took his second shot at serving it out and went down 0-40, giving Jenkins hope if he could convert just one of those break points.

But Sandgren won the next five points and all the fatigue and disappointment of the arduous contest boiled over in Jenkins. Lashing out at a ball, he slammed it toward the crowd of spectators, over the half-fence that separates the court from the small bleacher area. In an instant, there was a cry as the ball struck, in a particularly bizarre twist, Davey Sandgren's mother Lia. Jenkins immediately ran to the fence to see if she was hurt, as did her son, and when she was able to say she wasn't seriously injured, the boys shook hands, while Lia went to ice her leg, arm and mouth, which the ball struck in that order.

A distraught Jenkins sat for minutes on the courtside bench and apologized to Sandgren. In return Sandgren replied that it was an accident, and not to worry about it. Sandgren, who was recently honored at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport as a Bill Talbert junior sportsmanship winner, could not have been more gracious given the circumstances.

Tournament referree Rollie Shea and the match's chair umpire conferred, and Jenkins was defaulted from the back draw. The eight points he will probably receive could result in suspension, as 10 is the number that when reached, leads to three months of suspension.

The other three quarterfinals in the 18s followed that match, and all looked positively mundane after that ending. Top seed Marcus Fugate struggled with Jason Morgenstern, a nine seed, in the first set, before pulling away 7-6 (2), 6-1. Sandgren is his opponent in Saturday's semifinal. Unseeded Jason McNaughton coasted past Matt Brewer, a nine seed, 6-3, 6-1 and will play Michael Venus, a nine seed, who defeated Jeff Dadamo, a 17 seed, 6-2, 6-3.

In the 16s, Andrew Kells followed his upset Thursday of second seed JT Sundling by taking out Devin Britton, a five seed, 6-2, 6-2 on Friday. Kells, from the Northern California section, is a 17 seed, and will face his fourth straight higher ranked opponent in the semis, when he meets Bo Seal, a five seed. Seal defeated fourth seed Denis Lin 6-3, 6-4.

The top half of the 16s has gone according to plan, with No. 1 Brennan Boyajian and No. 3 Jason Smith reaching the semifinals. Boyajian cruised past unseeded Spencer Smith 6-1, 6-2, while the other Smith needed three sets to subdue unseeded Creighton Blanchard 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Those of you tuning in to radiotennis.com may have noticed that I did not sit in with Ken Thomas, as I had planned to do, nor will I be on the webcast this weekend. That decision was made by tournament director Jeff Szkeley, based on my "outsider" status at this tournament. The good news is that Thomas will be in Kalamazoo this year, and not just for the finals, as he has done in the past, but for the tournament's last three days. Believe it or not, Kalamazoo starts in less than two weeks.

The USTA announced the wild cards for the Nationals on Friday. See ustaboys.com for the list of recipients.


Marcia Frost said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Austin said...

Man I wish the Clay Courts were back in Louisville. If only Sam English hadn't passed away they might still be in The 'Ville. For anyone who didn't know him, he is the one who started it all. He was as nice as can be.

I didn't know anything about the Rockville site being this way, that's too bad. I guess that's why The Zoo is in a league of its own....well that and the fact that top American juniors are allergic to playing clay court tournaments once they get into the 18's. That is a whole different story though.

Jeff Davies said...

I'm glad that Colette told the story of Jarmere Jenkins. It was a remarkable incident and needed to be aired.

I am also glad that Colette decided to come to the event and report events from her independent perspective. She deserves a lot of credit for doing so - especially as she seemed to expect to be unwelcome.

But, I have yet to hear of any examples or evidence of filtering of pictures or news from the event.

Jeff Davies

Jeff said...

Unlike Ms Frost, we (myself and my wife, Manuela) are thoroughly enjoying the unsurpassed friendliness, hospitality and dedication of the ‘management’ of this event. We are provided with a suite at the tournament hotel, an Acura for our personal use while we ar here and have just returned from our 5th dinner at the expense of and with the company of our considerate and generous hosts.

Jeff Davies

We have considerable experience of being members of the media at tennis events worldwide—including all Grand Slam events and the ATP Masters event in Shanghai within the past 12 months. Nowhere are we treated as well as we are at ‘the Clays’.

We recognize the extreme hard work, dedication (20 hour days) or Jeff and Shelley Szekely. No one who actually knows them would doubt for a second how much they care about the kids who play in this tournament and the people who are involved with it.

I am extremely proud to regard the Szekelys as friends as well as thoroughly caring and effective tournament managers.