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Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Unstrung" to debut at Tribeca Film Festival

UPDATE: The dates, times, theaters and admission charge for "Unstrung":
[UNSTR] Discovery
2007, 95 mins

  • Thu, Apr 26, 7:15pm
    AMC 34th Street Theater 12
    | $18
  • Sat, Apr 28, 2:30pm
    Regal Cinemas Theater 5
    | $18
  • Sun, Apr 29, 10:30am
    Tribeca Cinemas Theater 1
    | $18
  • Thu, May 3, 6:30pm
    AMC Kips Bay Theater 13
    | $18
  • Sat, May 5, 3:00pm
    AMC Kips Bay Theater 11
    | $18

    We're back in Kalamazoo after our usual game of hide-and-seek the airlines seem to want to play with our luggage every time we fly.

    One of my minor objectives during the week I spent around the Media Center at the Sony Ericsson was to find out if any of the New York-based tennis journalists there knew anything about the junior tennis documentary Unstrung that I'd heard about on a non-tennis sports blog. No one did, and I was mystified, until Lynn Berenbaum at Off The Baseline posted this link.

    Once I saw Rob Klug's name as the director (and the photo of Clancy Shields), I knew that "The Zoo" had undergone a name change, and this is the long-awaited Mike Tollin-Jim Courier production filmed in 2005.

    I won't be able to go to New York for the premiere, but if any one in that area can, I'd love to post your impressions of the documentary on this site.



  • Friday, March 30, 2007

    Nishikori and Cirstea Take Luxilon Titles


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Miami FL--

    Kei Nishikori, the No. 4 seed, overcame a slow start to defeat unseeded Mike McClune 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-1 in the boys' final, while top-seeded Sorana Cirstea started quickly in her 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Anastasia Pivovarova in the girls' match that followed.

    McClune had requested the boys' final be moved up so he could catch a flight to Tallahassee to make a qualifying deadline for the challenger there, and the original schedule of the boys following the girls was reversed, with action beginning an hour earlier.

    McClune's start indicated that he was ready; he won the first nine points of the match, and didn't face a break point until the seventh game. But Nishikori converted it, and when the 17-year-old from Japan saved five set points serving at 4-5, it was apparent he wasn't going to allow McClune a quick and tidy first set. And although the 17-year-old from Irvine, California took the tiebreak and came up with an early break in the second set, Nishikori began to move with his customary speed midway through the set.

    "His weapon is his mobility," said Gabriel Jaramillo, who coaches Nishikori at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton. "He moves very well."

    McClune's forehand began to produce more errors than winners, and his serve, which was so effective in his first two wins, wasn't as reliable against Nishikori.

    "My served failed me," McClune said. "I don't know what happened. I was serving great all week, and I just couldn't find it today. My serve got worse throughout the match and so I had to just grind with him and on most days he's going to win doing that."

    Nishikori, who admitted that nerves played a role in his slow start, credited his forehand and a change of strategy for the turnaround.

    "In the second set, I changed my mind, sometimes go to net," said Nishikori, "and don't miss. I was pumped up and moving well."

    Between the second and third sets, Nishikori requested a trainer, and his shoulder was treated, an injury he partially attributed to his workouts with world No. 1 Roger Federer the previous week.

    But there were no signs of physical problems in the way he played in the third set; in a complete reversal of the first set, he took the first three games easily, missing nothing, while McClune couldn't recapture the form he displayed in the first set.

    Both McClune and Nishikori will concentrate on Future and Challenger level tournaments in the upcoming months, and according to Jaramillo, the goal for Nishikori is to raise his ranking sufficiently to get into the U.S. Open qualifying.
    With the Luxilon Cup win, he has a spot in the qualifying for the 2008 Sony Ericsson, but right now he is looking forward to some rest.

    "I'm taking a couple of weeks off," Nishikori said, after posing for photographs and signing autographs after the match. "I am so happy, it's great to win a big tournament."


    The prize was even bigger for Cirstea. The girls' champion gets a wild card into the Sony Ericsson main draw, and Cirstea wasn't shy about admitting that as her reason for accepting her invitation into the Luxilon Cup.

    "We came here to take first place," said the Romanian, speaking of she and her coach. "And we are happy to reach the goal. I have to prepare well to be in shape when we are coming here next year."

    A large crowd gathered around Practice Court A, as those arriving early for the Murray - Djokovic match sought to get a peek at the Sony Ericsson's future stars. Several remarked on Pivovarov's unusually high toss on her serve, noting that it would be especially prone to the whims of the day's typical Key Biscayne March breezes. She double faulted six times, and Cirstea's aggressive play on any second serve contributed to Pivovarova's woes.

    "It's really hard because of the wind," said Cirstea, who turns 17 next week. "Me, I change my serve; my toss wasn't as high as normal, because the wind was taking the ball. She has that really high toss and I think it wasn't the best in this wind."

    In her semifinal win over Jamie Hampton on Thursday, Pivovarova was moving forward, attacking the ball, but the 16-year-old from Moscow was back on her heels for most of the match. Cirstea's superior serving was one reason, and her defense also contributed to Pivovarova trying to do too much.

    "She was maybe stepping back a little bit, making mistakes on important points," said Cirstea, "and it helped me, gave me confidence."

    Cirstea, who is ranked 323 on the WTA computer and recently reached the semifinals of a $25K event in Spain, is planning on playing all the Junior Grand Slams this year, hoping to solidify her spot in the ITF Junior Ranking Top Ten. But right now, she is looking forward to going back to Romania, where she can return to her non-tennis life for a few weeks before the clay court season starts in Europe.

    "I'm going back home, taking a few days off, because I've been away like one month now," said Cirstea, taking time to sign autographs and pose for photographs between interviews. "So I just want to go to school, hang out with my friends, and take it easy before I start to work on the clay."

    Bobby Curtis Tribute Dinner Article

    Before the Luxilon Cup finals begin this afternoon, I thought I would post a link to my story for The Tennis Recruiting Network about Sunday's dinner for USTA Florida's Bobby Curtis. It's hard to condense over thirty years of helping juniors into one evening's celebration, but the Greater Miami Tennis and Education Foundation did a great job of it.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    McClune and Nishikori in Boys Final; Cirstea and Pivovarova to Vie for girls Luxilon title


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Miami FL--

    It was a short trip to the Luxilon Cup finals for Mike McClune on Thursday, so brief that the 17-year-old from Irvine, California was looking for another match in the afternoon to keep sharp.

    His opponent, 16-year-old Gastao Elias of Portugal, held serve in a five-deuce game to take a 2-1 lead in the first set, then walked over to the chair umpire and announced he was retiring, due to back pain.

    Pain of a different type befell Jamie Hampton, when the unseeded 17-year-old lost six straight games after taking a 5-1 lead in the second set to give Russia's Anastasia Pivovarova, the No. 3 seed, a 6-2, 7-5 victory.

    "I just relaxed," said Pivovarova, describing what led to the change of momentum. "I told myself not to miss, so she has to win the point."

    Hampton, who lives in Alabama and trains in the Atlanta area, used her slice and variety to build the big second set lead, and Pivovarova's confidence was waning. But when Hampton failed to convert a 40-15 lead serving at 5-1 and then let three more set points get away at 2-5, 0-40, the momentum definitely began to shift. The Russian was not going to be hit off the court, and several times when it appeared that she was, the 16-year-old from Moscow managed to pull off some demoralizing winners from a variety of precarious positions.

    Pivovarova also began to test the Hampton forehand more, and that strategy worked in minimizing the damage of Hampton's double-handed backhand.

    The Russian, who is training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton when in the U.S. for tournaments, said that she had mounted similar comebacks before, which helped her stay focused and "fighting for every point."

    On Friday, she will face another player who has proven difficult to derail, top seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who defeated unseeded Petra Martic of Croatia 7-6 (2), 6-3.


    "I started well," said Cirstea of her 4-0 lead in the first set. "I was thinking, 'this is going too fast', started thinking, you know, and that was my mistake."

    Serving for the set at 5-3, Cirstea admitted to being "a little bit tight," and didn't convert on two set points in that game and on another at 6-5, but unlike Hampton, she recovered her equilibrium before she lost the set.

    "After I took the first set, I was just more confident, like yesterday," said the 16-year-old, recalling her battle to take an opening set tiebreak from Julia Boserup. "It gives me more confidence when I take the first set."

    And as she did against Boserup, Cirstea accelerated through the second set, giving the elegant Martic little hope of coming back. After the match, as she walked off the courts, Cirstea received a congratulatory hug from the young son of Ruxandra Dragomir, the Romanian Federation Cup coach, who was on hand for Cirstea's match.


    In the last match of the day, No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan defeated No. 2 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-2, 6-3.

    Berankis, who had played flawlessly against Devin Britton on Wednesday, never facing a break point, was down three in his first service game against the 17-year-old Bollettieri student. Nishikori has played no junior tournaments since last year's US Open, concentrating on ITF Men's Circuit events, having enough success in them to earn a top 600 ranking on the ATP's computer.

    He also has the added advantage of having served as the hitting partner for Roger Federer at the Sony Ericsson the past two weeks.

    "I was so nervous," said Nishikori, who was also a hitting partner for Rafael Nadal at last year's French Open. "But he was so nice to me, and it is good to just hit his ball."

    Nishikori showed some of the variety of his mentor against Berankis, who had himself recently won an ITF Men's Futures event in Portugal. Using pace, spin and a fast start, Nishikori had the 16-year-old on defense from the beginning.

    "I knew he was good, and I was ready," said Nishikori. "The first couple of games, I didn't miss a ball. My forehand was hitting well."

    The first set was over quickly, but the ultra-composed Berankis gave no sign of discouragement, or any other emotion. After trading breaks in the fourth and fifth games, both held, but at 3-4, Berankis buckled. Although he saved two break points with forehand winners, two back-to-back double faults sealed his fate, as Nishikori held at love for the match.


    McClune and Nishikori haven't played but they were familiar enough with each other to warm up together Thursday morning.

    "I've seen him in the Futures a couple times," said Nishikori. "I know how he plays. We warm up together....but probably not tomorrow," he laughed.

    The Luxilon Cup finals begin at noon Friday. The girls will play first, followed by the boys.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    McClune Upends Top Seeded Romboli; Hampton Reaches Semifinals at Luxilon Cup


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Miami, FL--

    Seventeen-year-old Mike McClune hasn't played many junior events in the past year, concentrating instead on the Futures circuit, and it paid off for him against top seed Fernando Romboli in Wednesday's quarterfinal match at the Luxilon Cup. McClune used an aggressive strategy to crush the Brazilian 6-4, 6-0 on a warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon on Key Biscayne.

    "I knew he was going to get a lot of balls back," said McClune of the ITF's third-ranked junior. "And I'm not really a grinder, so I can't really hang with him there. So I felt my only chance was coming in and looking to move forward."

    In the first set, McClune secured an early break, then another to take a 5-1 lead. Romboli made it interesting by thwarting McClune when he was serving for the set at 5-2 and holding in the next game, but the Californian played a strong service game to grab the set.

    When Romboli, who was a finalist at last week's Grade A on clay in Brazil, couldn't hold his first service game of the second set, it seemed to deflate him, and with McClune getting 69% of his first serves in, there wasn't much hope that he would get the break back. McClune, who had a total of nine aces, continued to press the 18-year-old Brazilian, and closed out the second set quickly.

    "I'm really happy right now," said McClune. "Just the way I played--no matter who it is--I just want to go off the court feeling good about the way I played, how I closed it out."



    While the boys' No. 1 seed was an upset victim, the girls top seed, Sorana Cirstea of Romania, avoided the same fate, easing by 15-year-old Julia Boserup 7-6 (1), 6-1.

    The key game in the match, with Boserup serving at 5-4 in the first set, saw Cirstea fail to convert nine break chances in the nine-deuce game, but she finally pulled even when Boserup double faulted on the tenth.

    "After I won that game, I tried to be more confident," said Cirstea, who turns 17 next month. "In the second set, I was happy about my game. My serve was going like usual. In the first set, I was missing too much, wasn't feeling the ball too well."

    Boserup, who had one set point in that tenth game of the first set, didn't crumble, holding at 5-6 to force a tiebreak, but it was the more experienced Cirstea who stepped up her game, while Boserup chipped in with several unforced errors.

    "I let down a little bit," said Boserup of her performance in the second set. "I wasn't feeling that great, I didn't have as much energy, my left leg was feeling off. But I need to keep on working on what I'm doing, so even if it's a tough first set, I can keep it going in the second and take it to the third."


    There was only one third set in Wednesday's eight matches, and it wasn't completed. Jamie Hampton of Alabama moved into the semifinals when No. 2 seed Naomi Cavaday of Great Britain retired, giving Hampton a 3-6, 6-4, 2-1 victory. Cavaday, suffering from a fever prior to the match, decided to take the court, and outhit Hampton in the first set. But in the second, Hampton began to get her all-court game on track, took an early lead and held on to force a third.

    Hampton, 17, will meet No. 3 seed Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia in Thurday's semifinal. Pivovarova, 16, defeated Floridian Allie Will 6-4, 6-4. Cirstea meets Petra Martic of Croatia, who dismissed Tammy Hendler of Belgium 6-3, 6-1, in under an hour.

    McClune's opponent on Thursday is Gastao Elias of Portugal, who, like McClune, is unseeded. Elias, 16, eliminated No. 3 seed Guillermo Rivera of Chile 6-3, 6-3. The bottom half of the draw has gone more according to form. The No. 4 seed, Kei Nishikori of Japan, was a 7-5, 6-3 winner over Arizona's Tyler Hochwalt, and will face No. 2 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania. Berankis didn't face a break point in his 6-3, 6-4 win over Devin Britton of Mississippi.

    For full draws, see the Sony Ericsson website.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    Six Americans Advance at Luxilon Cup; Britton Squeaks by Krajicek in Third Set Tiebreak


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Miami, FL--

    The stunning news that Roger Federer had lost to Guillermo Canas for the second time in two weeks may have been Tuesday evening's big buzz-producer, but the Luxilon Cup also produced a match featuring two tiebreaks with a 6-2 set sandwiched in between.

    Unlike Canas's win over Federer, however, Devin Britton's 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over fellow Bollettieri student Austin Krajicek wasn't an upset. Instead it was another chapter in a rivalry that has already produced several memorable matches.

    As the last match of the day, the two 16-year-olds didn't have much of an audience, although Nicole Vaidisova, who will meet Serena Williams in a Wednesday evening quarterfinal match, stopped by to watch her Bollettieri pals play a few games.

    The points were short, with both players serving well and approaching the net often. Neither's game exhibits any of the usual junior reluctance to volley, and compared to the other seven matches played prior to theirs, it was a completely different style of tennis.

    The third set moved inexorably toward a tiebreak, with neither player dropping serve. Krajicek was in the precarious position of serving to stay in the match at 4-5 and 5-6, but showed no signs of any nervousness. In the tiebreak, while the roars from the stadium floated out to Court A, Britton took a 4-2 lead at the change, but Krajicek soon worked his way to a match point, up 6-5, with Britton serving.

    Britton missed his first serve, but his second produced a chance for a volley, and he caught Krajicek leaning the wrong way. Attempting to change direction to at least get a racquet on the shot, Krajicek lost his footing, and his racquet preceding him, tumbled to the ground. Unhurt, Krajicek got up to change ends, and when his forehand pass sailed long on the next point, Britton had his chance to finish.

    As Britton had, Krajicek missed his first serve. But Britton timed the second serve, scorching a backhand return down the line for the match.

    "I decided I was going to go for it and come in off it," said Britton. "I wasn't really expecting to hit a winner."

    Asked about the draw, which pitted two of the four Americans in the 12-player field against each other, Britton admitted some disappointment.

    "It was a little bit of a bummer," said the native of Jackson, Mississippi, who recently won his first ITF event in El Salvador. "There's all these other guys that we'd never played before. We practice with each other, we know how each other play, we pretty much know what to do against each other. He's a tough opponent for me, because his passing shots are so good. But I was guessing pretty well, and that's the best I've served in a while."

    "We always have good matches," Krajicek, of Brandon Florida, said. "Devin played well, he deserved it. Hopefully we'll have many more battles in the future."


    And speaking of battles, Allie Will of the U.S. and Maria Mokh of Russia had a doozy, dueling for over three hours before Will emerged with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win.

    Will credited her fitness for the win, and also mentioned her mental strength as an important key.

    "I fought for every point," said the 2006 Orange Bowl 16s champion, competing on the same courts where she won that title three months ago. "I stayed calm and took my time between points."

    Mohk could often be heard shrieking in frustration and that too provided Will with an edge.

    "It helps me, it makes me feel like I've accomplished something when she does that--I'm getting to her," said the Boca Raton resident, who turns 16 next month. "Some people show their emotions differently--sometimes I let out a few things--but I try to remain focused. I think that was really the main part of the match."

    In a much shorter match, Californian Julia Boserup defeated Nastassya Burnett of Italy 6-3, 6-0, and Jamie Hampton of Alabama eliminated Brooke Bolender of Florida 6-3, 6-2.

    Petra Martic of Croatia defeated Tara Moore of Great Britain 6-2, 6-4. Moore was a substitute for Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who withdrew prior to the day's first match due to back problems.

    In other boys' action, Mike McClune of California dismissed Matt Reid of Australia 6-1, 7-5 to earn a shot at No. 1 seed Fernando Romboli of Brazil. Gastao Elias of Portugal won another all-Bollettieri contest, when he defeated Giacomo Miccini of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.


    Tyler Hochwalt of Arizona overcame a determined Guido Pella of Argentina 7-6 (5), 6-3. Hochwalt let an early break slip away, but took the tiebreak in an unusual fashion.

    "I was up 6-5 serving," said Hochwalt, who turned 18 last month, "and we got into an eight-ball rally. He pulled me wide on the forehand side, and I hit it back to his backhand, and he hit it up the line. It was a close ball, it was in, and he said something like c'mon or something like that, and it was a hindrance. The chair immediately called it."

    After losing the tiebreak due to that premature celebration, Pella immediately fell behind 2-0 in the second set, and couldn't recover.

    Wednesday will feature the seeds' first action of the tournament, beginning at 11 a.m. For full draws, see the Sony Ericsson website.

    Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; US Tennis Writers Assocation Awards

    Before the action begins at the Luxilon Cup (it looks as if Michelle Larcher de Brito has withdrawn--I'll have more on that in tonight's post), I wanted to mention that last week's Inside Junior Tennis podcast is up at The Tennis Podcast website. Kevin McClure and I discuss the Mobile winners, all the South American junior clay court action, the latest juniors to win on the Pro Circuit and Larcher de Brito's win over Meghan Shaughnessy.

    The United States Tennis Writers Association presented its awards last night here prior to the night session. Because of another deadline, I wasn't able to be there, but Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle was the big winner. See the tenniswire.org website for the list of writers receiving recognition.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Sony Ericsson Pre-Luxilon

    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Miami, FL--

    After last night's very entertaining and emotional dinner for Bobby Curtis (more about that in my Thursday article for the Tennis Recruiting Network), it was probably a good thing that Nadal got a walkover and Serena's match was postponed, because we weren't tempted to stay too late.

    I had heard about the annual Luxilon draw breakfast, and although we missed what I gather was a great motivational speech from Nick Bollettieri, we did get there in time for the actual draw. I was interested in the seeding, and perhaps not surprisingly, I was disappointed, as there didn't seem to be any common sense in not seeding Michelle Larcher de Brito, especially given her win over Meghan Shaughnessy here just last week.

    The four girls seeds are:
    1. Sorana Cirstea
    2. Naomi Cavaday
    3. Anastasia Pivovarova
    4. Tammy Hendler

    The four boys seeds are:
    1. Fernando Romboli
    2. Ricardas Berankis
    3. Guillermo Rivera
    4. Kei Nishikori

    Matches begin Tuesday at 11 a.m. on two adjacent courts, so I shouldn't miss any of the action. For full draws, see the Sony Ericsson website.

    Below is the group photo(click to enlarge); 22 of the 24 participants were present. Players from left to right standing: Brooke Bolender, Julia Boserup, Maria Mohk, Tammy Hendler, Petra Martic, Nastassya Burnett, Naomi Cavaday, Sorana Cirstea, Anastasia Pivovarova, Allie Will, Jamie Hampton. Kneeling: Guillermo Rivera, Guido Pella, Devin Britton, Giacomo Miccini, Fernando Romboli, Austin Krajicek, Matt Reid, Gastao Elias, Tyler Hochwalt, Mike McClune, Ricardas Berankis.

    After the draw breakfast, I had to decide between watching Amer Delic versus Nikolay Davydenko in the stadium or Paul Goldstein/Sam Querrey in a second round doubles match against the No. 4 seeds Paul Hanley/Kevin Ullyett. Since I had missed Querrey's contest against Federer, I decided to watch the newly formed U.S. team with four Kalamazoo singles titles between them (Goldstein 3, Querrey 1), and therefore missed the biggest win of Delic's career. (My husband Paul did get a few photos of Delic, however.)
    Delic, who was at the Bobby Curtis tribute dinner, used a successful challenge on set point to turn the tide in the match, according to this acount on the University of Illinois website.

    The doubles match, which drew an impressive number of fans on the sunny and breezy day, was so one-sided at the beginning that I was tempted to bail out early. Neither Goldstein or Querrey held their serve in the first set and lost it 6-1. But things changed in the second set, both started serving much better. Neither lost his serve, getting one break and holding on to take the second set 6-4. Then that unsatisfying ATP 10-point tiebreak had to be played (call me old-fashioned, but I wanted to see the third set). Although Goldstein and Querrey led 8-4 at the second change, they couldn't put it away, much to the displeasure of the crowd, who were urging the Americans to put away the pair from Australia and Zimbabwe. Querrey served for the match at 9-8, but missed on his first serve, and although it took Hanley and Ullyett three match points, they eked out the win, 13-11.


    Querrey was obviously the weakest volleyer of the four, and he also was undeniably the most accomplished server. Although he and Goldstein may be disappointed in the way they let the tiebreak slip away, it may be a partnership worth continuing.

    After lunch, we watched a few of the juniors hit on the courts where they will be playing for the next four days, checked the scoreboard and then headed back to the hotel (not the Ritz!, that was just one breakfast) to write and to rest up for the Luxilon.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Six Surprises of the Sony Ericsson


    ©Colette Lewis 2007
    Miami, FL--

    Another trip, another piece of evidence that the airline industry is in about the same state as James Blake's game right now. Hotel check-in at 2 a.m. with a 9 a.m. breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne scheduled for this morning gave us darn little time to work our way into the Miami pace of things.

    It was a lovely, breezy morning though, and the chance to catch up with friends made the sleep deprivation seem unimportant. I expected to see players dining at the Ritz restaurant, I was just surprised (number 1) that one of them was Andy Roddick (and friend). The temptation to order room service has to be overwhelming when you're faced with eager kids asking for giant tennis balls to be signed at 9 a.m..


    Surprise number 2: seeing Marcos Baghdatis walking across the street that divides the parking lots from the main entrance gate. No one seemed to recognize him, probably because it is unimaginable that he wouldn't be squired around by the tournament's courtesy cars.

    Once we got in and got our credentials (surprise number 3: decidedly low-key security), we checked out the media center and got entranced by the match on Stadium Court between 18-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Martina Hingis (seeded no. 5) that was going on right outside the glass. Surprise number 4: Radwanska taking the second set after a marathon game when she was serving at 5-3, and then (surprise number 5), the third set 6-2. Radwanska's backhand was in fine form, and Hingis came up with her usual array of beautifully unexpected shots, but somehow it didn't seem like the fire was there for Hingis. Another multiple Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams, who we'll see play tonight, can summon that will to win, but few have that capacity.

    Surprise number 6 is the purple courts. I'd heard about the change, but sorry, I'm not a fan. I'm sold on the US Open blue.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    Off to Rainy Key Biscayne

    Early post, because this is our travel day to the Sony Ericsson. The weather forecast is excellent, but then again there were no showers expected today and it's raining there now. The silver lining? Well, if the Federer Querrey night match gets pushed back until Sunday, I'll have a chance to see it. I was hoping that Querrey would win a couple of matches so I could see him play (live) for the first time since September 2005, but I don't think this is going to be my opportunity. Federer is obviously motivated after that shocking loss to Canas, and he's had plenty of time to rest and practice.

    Since my focus on this site is college and junior tennis, as well as player development, I don't often link to commentary about the pro game's politics and issues, although I have plenty of opinions on all the issues. My friend Lynn Berenbaum, who has her own excellent blog, Off the Baseline, writes regularly for TennisX, and her recent take there on what she calls "The Tennis Glamification Project" going on at the SE is too good to miss.

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Carson and Easter Bowl Acceptances

    Just a brief post to link to the acceptances to the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships (mostly referred to by everyone as "Carson"), and the Easter Bowl 18s, the latter coming out just last night.

    The Easter Bowl list (available here), has only 57 girls and 58 boys, so there are several spots still to be filled in the 64-player fields. I think it's terrific that the USTA reserves four spots for the semifinalists in Mobile--for players like Eric Quigley and Alison Riske, who play few ITF events or have been out due to injury, it's their best chance to qualify for the tournament and I'm pleased to see them both as entrants.

    The Carson field (posted here), looks to stronger, as it should be, since it is not a closed event like the Easter Bowl. With Michelle Larcher de Brito (who lost to Daniela Hantuchova Friday night at the Sony Ericsson) and Madison Brengle entered, Carson is especially strong on the girls side.

    The 14s and 16s Easter Bowl tennis link site can be found here.

    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Mobile Wrap, Tennis Fundraiser, etc.

    My weekly article for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a synopsis of the USTA Spring National Championships last week in Mobile.

    Casey Angle of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association asked if I would pass along notice of a fundraiser for a college tennis player who is undergoing a kidney transplant this summer. For more information, please see the ITA homepage; the link, called tennis-4-k-board fundraiser, is in the bright yellow box.

    The stories on Michelle Larcher de Brito's win over Meghann Shaughnessy began to trickle out today. She is the seventh youngest ever to win a WTA match, and the youngest since the age restrictions were established in 1995. Here's Charlie Bricker's account for the Sun Sentinel.

    For a story on Madison Brengle's win over Naomi Cavaday at the Pro Circuit $25K event, check out the latest from redding.com.

    And finally, there's been a change in the girls' field at the Luxilon Cup. Brooke Bolender of the U.S. will be taking Jasmina Tinjic's spot.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Junior Girls in the News

    14-year-old wild card Michelle Larcher de Brito defeated Meghann Shaughnessy in first round action Wednesday at the Sony Ericsson tournament. It took a third set tiebreak, but after seeing Larcher de Brito in her pro debut last month (my account is here), I'm not surprised. Next up for the Portuguese prodigy is Daniela Hantuchova, who just captured the Pacific Life Open title.

    I mentioned Monday Naomi Cavaday's win at last week's $25K Pro Circuit event in Orange, California. A Brit's victory anywhere in the world is not going to slip past the Fleet Street crowd, and Neil Harman tracks Cavaday's new coaching arrangement with the former LTA Performance Director David Felgate in this story.

    Today, Cavaday lost to 16-year-old American Madison Brengle in three sets in the first round of the Redding, California Pro Circuit $25K event.


    Redding.com is covering the tournament in depth, and although I don't think Alexa Glatch is from Austin, Texas, this article does have a thorough account of several matches, including 17-year-old Maria Sanchez's upset of Vilmarie Castellvi. Since there is no photo of Sanchez with the article, I'm providing one, although I admit it's almost a year old.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Spring Nationals Slideshow

    Although there are lots of high fences at the Mobile Tennis Center, it was great to be outside taking photographs in natural light. Enjoy the show!








    Spring Nationals Mobile
    View Photo Slideshow



    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Luxilon Field Announced



    Although I've been to the Key Biscayne tournament (which has been the Lipton, the Nasdaq and, beginning this year, the Sony Ericsson) as a spectator, next week will be my first visit as a reporter instead of a tennis fan.

    My husband and I will be attending the Greater Miami Tennis Foundation dinner honoring Bobby Curtis Sunday night, and then will cover the Luxilon Cup, an invitational event featuring 12 boys and 12 girls, which begins on Tuesday March 27. Here's the list of participants I received late last week from IMG:

    Boys:
    Ricardas Berankis Latvia
    Devin Britton USA
    Gastao Elias Portugal
    Tyler Hochwalt USA
    Austin Krajicek USA
    Mike McClune USA
    Giacomo Miccini Italy
    Kei Nishikori Japan
    Guido Pella Argentina
    Matt Reid Australia
    Guillermo Rivera Chile
    Fernando Romboli Brazil

    Girls:
    Julia Boserup USA
    Nastassya Burnett Italy
    Naomi Cavaday Great Britain
    Sorana Cirstea Romania
    Jamie Hampton USA
    Tammy Hendler Belgium
    Michelle Larcher de Brito Portugal
    Petra Martic Croatia
    Maria Mokh Russia
    Anastasia Pivovarova Russia
    Jasmina Tinjic Croatia
    Allie Will USA

    If I remember correctly, there are four seeds with first round byes, so eight matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, then four on Thursday and the two finals on Friday. I don't know what the seeding is based on, but I do know that Berankis and Cavaday each won Pro Circuit events last weekend.

    Cavaday, 17, who spent several weeks last December training at Bollettieri's under Nick's personal guidance, qualified for the Orange, California $25,000 event and after beating Alex Glatch in three sets in the first round of qualies, had only one other difficult match on her way to the title. It was her second title on the ITF Women's Circuit.


    Berankis, 16, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Junior Championships this year, won his first ITF Men's Circuit event in Portugal, and unseeded, he did it the hard way, winning four qualifying and five main draw matches.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Corwin Q & A; Inside Junior Tennis Podcast

    We had an uneventful flight back to Kalamazoo from Mobile, baggage included, because for once, a major storm bypassed the Midwest this weekend. And although we're weeks away from daffodils and tulips, and scattered piles of plowed snow are still around to remind us of the harsh recent past, it's not quite as wintry as it was when we left.

    Even though I was plenty busy in Mobile, I did manage to do a lengthy phone interview with Timon Corwin on his decision to leave Kalamazoo for the USTA. The question and answer article appeared Friday on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

    I also had a chance during a morning rain delay to record this week's Inside Junior Tennis podcast with Kevin McClure. We discuss Corwin's new position, Mobile through the round of 16, Georgia vs. Florida, and discover we've both spoken with Georgia Tech women's head coach Bryan Shelton in the past week.

    And a final note--I'd like to thank those parents, coaches and players in Mobile who took the time to talk with me. Whether it was about their plans, goals, matches, frustrations, or insights, I truly appreciate their willingness to share their thoughts with me. I'm especially grateful for the kind comments about zootennis and its place in their tennis lives.

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Boyajian, Oudin Capture Spring National Championships


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--

    Number six seed Brennan Boyajian snared his first gold ball in the 18s age division with a 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over Dennis Nevolo, while top seed Melanie Oudin earned her first in any age group, shutting out Lauren Embree 6-0, 6-0 on a clear and chilly Saturday morning at the Mobile Tennis Center.

    Oudin, 15, was the top seed in a Level One national event for the first time in her career, but she played as if she was accustomed to being the favorite, losing only nine games in her seven matches.

    Her opening game against Embree took nearly ten minutes to complete, but when Oudin emerged from that test with a break, she never looked back. During that lengthy first game, Embree executed a perfectly disguised drop shot, but the ultra-quick Oudin sprinted to it and not only got it back, but zipped a winner by Embree. Although that shot stood out as a highlight, the most impressive part of Oudin's victory was the consistency and focus she maintained.

    Asked how she could stay motivated when up 6-0, 4-0, Oudin, of Marietta, Georgia, had a ready answer.

    "I try to keep focused like each game is 5-all in the third," she said. "At any given time your opponent can come back, and you don't want to let them get any hope, so I try to win every single point."

    Oudin didn't accomplish that, but fourth seed Embree, the 2006 girls 16s national champion and 16 Orange Bowl finalist, admitted that she was powerless to stem the momentum Oudin kept building.

    "I didn't play that well," said Embree, 15, from Marco Island, Florida, "but she was just too good today. There was nothing I could do. She's in great shape, she has good ground strokes--she's just good all around."


    Any of the many players who lost to Boyajian in 2006--and there were many, as he won the Easter Bowl, Clay Courts and Kalamazoo in the 16s--might have been hoping for an adjustment period when he began playing 18s last fall, but with his win in Mobile, only his second National Level One event in 18s, it's obvious he's picking up where he left off.

    Neither Boyajian or Nevolo have overpowering serves, and in the first set, nerves, cold and breeze limited their holds of serve to two each.

    "I held my serve just once against the wind in the whole entire match. It was freezing--I'm not too good in the cold," said Boyajian, a Weston, Florida resident. "I couldn't feel my pinky for the first five games."

    There were many long and varied points, not just baseline rallies, and even with Boyajian up 6-4 in the opening set's tiebreak, the outcome was still very much in doubt. Nevolo brought it back to 6-all, but a missed overhead cost him the next point, and when he caught the net on the next, Boyajian had secured the first set.

    Boyajian could breathe easier then, but even the prospect of losing the first set wasn't cause for alarm.

    "I knew even if I lost the first set, he was looking kind of tired," said Boyajian. "Our points were pretty long. So I was thinking even if I lost the first, I could win the second and third."

    The twelfth seeded Nevolo, like Boyajian a 17-year-old high school junior, couldn't find fault with his performance in the tiebreak.

    "I had chances to win, I thought I played it the right way," said Nevolo, of Gurnee, Illinois. "I just didn't get the set. In the second set, he played really solid, he doesn't miss much at all. You have to hit like two volley winners just to hit one. And I think he raises his game when it gets close."

    The second set was not as tight as the first, with Boyajian obviously warmed up and relaxed with a set in hand. Although there were tight moments here and there in the second, Boyajian won the points when he needed to, and on his third match point he converted for the championship. As befits a player who's been there often, Boyajian barely reacted--a mild fist pump and a stroll to the net to shake hands was the sum of his celebration.


    Nevolo got his revenge later in the afternoon, as he and partner Bradley Klahn of Poway, California, the second seeds, claimed the doubles title over top seeds Boyajian and Zach Hunter 6-3, 6-0. Nevolo and Klahn had never played together before, but Nevolo made the observation that they both could volley, so the adjustment period was a short one.

    Nevolo and Klahn won a national title in their first attempt--not bad, but not nearly as remarkable as the team of Stacey Lee and Christina McHale, the girls' winners, who didn't pair up until after the first round.


    Lee was scheduled to compete with Jacqueline Wu, the No. 6 seed, who aggravated a wrist injury in a first round singles win and withdrew. Since Lee and Wu were the No. 3 seeds, they had a first round bye, and the rules allow a player to be substituted before a team's first match, so Lee scrambled to find a partner still in the tournament who was not playing doubles. She landed on Christina McHale, the 14-year-old from her section, and by week's end, they were national champions.

    It didn't look as if they'd finish so well. In Friday's semifinal, they saved a match point against Carolyn McVeigh and Asia Muhammad, and in the final against Embree and Rachel Saiontz, they were down 5-0 in the first set before they began to get rolling. But Lee and McHale chipped away and much as they had done in the semifinals, persevered, for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

    Third place in the girls doubles went to No. 5 seeds McVeigh and Muhammad, who defeated second seeds Shinann Featherston and Lindsay Clark 6-4, 7-6 (1), while the bronze ball in the boys doubles was awarded to No. 4 seeds Zach Nichols and Jack Seider who beat Tyler Davis and Eric Quigley, the No. 7 seeds, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

    Wil Spencer won the bronze ball in boys' singles, with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Quigley, like Spencer, a 17 seed. No. 3 seed Muhammad captured her second bronze ball of the day with a 7-6 (6), 6-4 decision over Alison Riske, seeded No. 9.

    In the consolation finals, fifth place went to Chelsea Preeg, the No. 5 seed, who defeated No. 13 seed Featherston 6-4, 6-0, while the boys' fifth place winner was Alex Domijan, a 17 seed, who beat No. 8 seed Will Guzick 6-3, 6-0.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    For additional coverage by Marcia Frost, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Embree and Oudin Reach Girls Final; Boyajian and Nevolo to Decide Boys Title at Spring Nationals


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--

    A cool, damp and breezy morning gave way to brilliant spring sunshine at the Mobile Tennis Center Friday, but for No. 3 seed Asia Muhammad, the clouds and the chill were secondary problems.


    Playing No. 1 seed Melanie Oudin is hard enough when fit and healthy, as her previous five opponents, who have won a grand total of nine games from her, can attest. Unfortunately, Muhammad, of Henderson, Nevada, was suffering from a stomach virus, and even the extra time gained when wet courts delayed the start couldn't provide relief. Oudin's energetic play didn't flag, although there was a subdued quality surrounding the match due to Muhammad's illness.

    "I tried not to think about that at all," said Oudin, 15, of Marietta, Georgia. "Even if she is sick, she can still play unbelievable tennis, so I left that out of my head and kept focused."

    Although Oudin tried to ignore Muhammad's condition, she admitted that she was "trying to keep the points long, to keep her out there as long as I could." Playing aggressively yet conservatively, Oudin's strategy worked, earning her a place in the final against No. 4 seed Lauren Embree.

    Embree, also 15, had a healthy opponent in Alison Riske, the ninth seed, and it showed in the 7-5, 6-3 score. Both girls feature better ground strokes and returns than serves, so there many breaks throughout the match. Embree, of Marco Island, Florida, was serving for the first set at 5-3, but Riske, of McMurray Pennsylvania, survived that game before succumbing to a determined Embree.

    "I tried not getting on the defense too much," said Embree, who was a finalist at the most recent Winter Nationals and won the 16s Hard Courts last summer. "She had really good volleys, and when she was on offense, she was really good, so I tried to take control of the point on the first ball."

    Embree and Oudin haven't met recently, but both are aware of the challenges they face in the final.

    "She's gotten a lot better, improved a lot," said Embree of Oudin. "Hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of balls back and take control of the point."

    "Lauren can keep so many balls in play," Oudin said. "She moves extremely well, so I'm going to have to be aggressive, come in and make my volleys--make all my shots, because she gets everything back."

    Embree's counterpart on the boys' side is No. 6 seed Brennan Boyajian, also from Florida, and also the reigning 16s Hard Court champion. In his 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory over 17 seed Wil Spencer, Boyajian was able to neutralize the pace of the Spencer forehand, and go from offense to defense when he needed to.

    With Spencer serving at 4-4 40-15 in the second set, Boyajian bore down, winning four straight points, the final on a forehand winner.


    "I knew I had to win that game," Boyajian said, "because I hadn't held serve on that other side, against the wind, for practically the whole match."

    It looked like that might change when Boyajian took a 40-15 lead to earn two match points, but Spencer came up with his best tennis then, hitting two lines with a forehand, pounding a backhand winner and then, for variety, closing out the game with a drop volley winner, a shot Boyajian described as "amazing."

    Boyajian regularly berates himself on court, but he couldn't find fault with his play in that game, so he had no reaction at all.

    "It didn't bother me," Boyajian said. "He deserved it. I thought to myself, now we're even--he was up 40-15 and I was up 40-15, so it was like a bonus game."

    Boyajian didn't have any more room for error, however, when he faced a set point serving at 5-6. Determined not to play safe, he hit out, and an aggressive forehand forced an error from Spencer, and they went to a tiebreak.

    For all the drama and the fearless tennis displayed in the previous four games, the tiebreak was anticlimatic, with Boyajian taking control from the beginning and Spencer making error after error.

    "I started on the good side," said Boyajian. "That helped, and I was loose and going for my shots. I got the lead and he got a little frustrated."

    Boyajian will face the No. 12 seed Dennis Nevolo, of Illinois, who defeated 17 seed Eric Quigley of Kentucky 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.


    "I just played a little more solid than he did," said Nevolo of the first set. "In the second set he came out playing really, really well and I was a little flat, not moving very well. I just did not play good tennis."

    Despite the valley of that second set, Nevolo quickly refocused in the third, getting a break in the first game that Quigley could not recover from.

    Boyajian and Nevolo have not played since the 12s, many inches and pounds ago, but on Saturday, they will meet twice--in the singles and doubles finals.

    Boyajian and his partner, Zach Hunter, the No. 1 seeds, will square off against Nevolo and his partner, Bradley Klahn, the No. 2 seeds.

    In the girls double final, Embree and Rachel Saiontz, the No. 10 seeds, will meet third seeds Stacey Lee and Christina McHale.

    The consolation finals and the third place singles and doubles matches will also be played on Saturday.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    For additional coverage by Marcia Frost, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Quarterfinals Lack Drama and Rain at Spring Nationals



    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--

    Thursday started and ended at the three makeshift indoor courts at the Mobile Convention Center, but the skies cleared long enough to allow the quarterfinal singles matches to be completed outdoors at the Mobile Tennis Center courts.

    All eight matches were played at the same time, and none of the eight needed a third set to decide it, so there wasn't much opportunity for tension to build, or have all the attention focus on one match.

    Sixth seed Brennan Boyajian of Florida was first off, thoroughly dominating No. 4 seed Nick Meister of Southern California 6-1, 6-2. The first three points of the match featured dozens of strokes, but after that, everything fell quickly into place for Boyajian. Meister, who came back from a set down in his previous two matches, couldn't find the energy or the consistency to repeat his recent win over Boyajian at the Winter Nationals. Boyajian is the only single digit seed remaining on the boys side.

    Less than a minute later, No. 12 seed Dennis Nevolo of Illinois had earned his place in the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Alex Domijan of Florida. Domijan hadn't lost a set in his first four matches, but Nevolo used his variety to keep the tall 15-year-old from finding a rhythm, using drop shots and short balls to draw Domijan in, then passing him. It looked as if Domijan might get back in the match when he took a 3-0 lead in the second, but Nevolo won five of the next six games.

    The other two boys' semifinalists are 17 seeds--Wil Spencer and Eric Quigley. Spencer, who lives only a couple of hours from Mobile in the Florida panhandle, had a much tougher match with No. 8 seed Will Guzick than the 6-4, 6-1 score would indicate. But after South Carolina's Guzick doublefaulted on set point serving at 4-5 in the first, things started to unravel for him, and Spencer kept the pressure on to close out the win. Spencer and Boyajian will meet in an all-Florida semifinal, but despite being the same age and from the same section, they haven't met in a tournament in many years.

    Quigley, from Kentucky, took out No. 9 seed Stevie Johnson of Southern California 7-6 (7), 7-5, after Johnson had won his previous four matches in straight sets. Very little separated the two players, and although Quigley doesn't mind approaching the net, the outcome was decided primarily on the baseline with power tennis from both.

    The girls' quarterfinal results feature some lopsided scores, but only one upset, with No. 9 Alison Riske of Pennsylvania cruising past No. 5 seed Chelsea Preeg 6-3, 6-2. The other three semifinalists met expectations, as No. 1 Melanie Oudin, No. 3 Asia Muhammad and No. 4 Lauren Embree join Riske in the Final Four.

    Oudin, of Georgia, was on the court for nearly an hour and a half against New York's Stacey Lee, and although the score was 6-2, 6-1, every game was a battle. Asia Muhammad of Nevada had her hands full with No. 7 seed Keri Wong of Mississippi in the first set, but she began to force errors and play more relaxed in the second, taking the match 7-5, 6-0. Oudin and Muhammad's semifinal contest is guaranteed to produce some scintillating groundstroke rallies.

    Florida's Embree, like Oudin, had to earn her 6-2, 6-1 win, but Carolyn McVeigh of Connecticut couldn't find a way around Embree's consistency. Riske, looking ahead to her encounter with Embree, said that she thought she might call her friend Emily Gelber for advice on how to beat Embree. The unseeded Gelber upset Embree in the finals of the Winter Nationals in January.


    When the skies opened around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, there were only two doubles quarterfinals complete. Top seeds Brennan Boyajian and Zach Hunter defeated unseeded Drew Courtney and Daniel Stahl 6-4, 6-0; the No. 7 seeded team of Tyler Davis and Quigley upset No. 3 seeds Johnson and Andrew Kells 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

    The first matches in girls consolation were completed indoors Thursday morning and the remainder of the doubles were completed indoors on Thursday night. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    For additional coverage by Marcia Frost, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Spencer Takes Down Top Seed Carleton, Riske Upends Bartlett at Spring Nationals


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--

    Top seed Reid Carleton couldn't hold on to a set and a break advantage Wednesday afternoon, allowing Wil Spencer, a 17 seed, to pull out a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory in boys round of 16 action.


    The girls lost their No. 2 seed, as Alison Riske of Pennsylvania, the ninth seed, defeated Tennessee's Claire Bartlett 6-4, 7-5, the third time in three months that Riske has gotten the better of Bartlett.

    The streak of ideal weather ended on Wednesday, when mid-afternoon showers disrupted play, leaving two boys' main draw matches unfinished. All the girls' quarterfinalists are set however, with only two fourth round matches going three sets. Top seed Melanie Oudin, a 6-3, 6-0 winner over unseeded Nadja Gilchrist, will meet No. 15 seed Stacey Lee, who beat Elizabeth Epstein, a 17 seed, 6-2, 6-2. Third seed Asia Muhammad gained the quarters with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Megan Broderick, a 17 seed, and faces No. 7 seed Keri Wong, who overcame No. 14 seed Stefanie Nunic 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. No. 8 seed Carolyn McVeigh took out 11th seed Shannon Mathews 6-4, 6-2 to earn a spot against No. 4 seed Lauren Embree, a 6-3, 7-5 winner over unseeded Christina McHale. Chelsea Preeg, the fifth seed, outlasted No. 13 Shinann Featherston 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2 to advance against Riske.

    The Spencer - Carleton match was widely considered the marquee match of the day, but the first set gave no indication that it would be a tight battle, when Carleton broke Spencer twice, and Spencer had trouble keeping the ball in play. Spencer was having difficulty with his string tension; at one point early in the first set he took to standing on his racquet in an attempt to loosen the tension.

    "I actually switched after the first set, from tight to loose," said Spencer, "but he went up 4-2 in the second. Then, I finally started getting a rhythm, but he had game points to go up 5-2. I broke him there, started switching it up, going a little higher, cause he doesn't seem to like the heavier ball."

    At 5-6 Carleton was serving to reach a second set tiebreak, but at 30-40, after an exchange of several serious groundstrokes, Spencer hit a crosscourt backhand winner, and just like that, the match was even.

    "Normally I would not be able to do that," said Spencer, who is known to be more effective off the forehand side. "My backhand has not been that reliable. But I've been working so much on it to make it more of a weapon."

    In the third set, Spencer got an early break and managed to hang on, but although Carleton was talking to himself throughout and received a point penalty for racquet abuse after the match, Spencer had nothing but praise for his opponent's play.

    "I can't take anything away from him," said Spencer. "He played great the whole match. My hat's off to him."

    Spencer's next opponent is No. 8 seed Will Guzick, who had a comeback story of his own in taking a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 10 seed Luke Marchese.

    The other boys' quarterfinal that is set will feature Eric Quigley, a 17 seed, against No. 9 seed Stevie Johnson. Quigley eliminated unseeded Marc Powers 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, while Johnson upset No. 3 seed Ryan Lipman 6-3, 6-4 before the rains came.

    Nick Meister, the No. 4 seed, again got off to a slow start but came back to take a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision over a No. 17 seeded Kayvon Karimi. Alex Domijan, a 17 seed, continued his excellent play with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 13 seed Chris Madden. Johnson and Domijan are the only two players who have yet to lose a set on the boys side.

    The Ryan Kim - Brennan Boyajian and Jordan Rux - Dennis Nevolo matches are expected to be finished this evening. Boyajian is up a set, with the second set even at 5-5, while Rux and Nevolo has split sets with Nevolo up a break, 1-0, in the third.

    UPDATE: 10 p.m.


    Boyajian took the court at 5-5 deuce and won the next six points for a 6-4, 7-5 win over Kim, the No. 15 seed. Nevolo, the 12th seed, was nearly as efficient, losing just one game to upset No. 2 seed Jordan Rux 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-1.

    "I served very well," said Nevolo of the third set, "stayed calm, I just played really solid." After a roller coaster of a first set, where he squandered a 4-1 lead, losing four straight games, yet battled back to get into a tiebreak, Nevolo changed his thinking.

    "I told myself to have some fun, play the way I way," he said. "I looked at the second set a little bit differently."

    Nevolo will face Domijan in the quarterfinals, a rematch of the Florida National Open semifinal last month, which Nevolo won in three sets. Boyajian and Meister last met in the consolation semifinals of the Winter Nationals, with Meister winning in straight sets.

    Rain is in the forecast for Thursday, and doubles are now a round behind, so the schedule will be evolving depending on the rain's timing and duration.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    For additional coverage by Marcia Frost, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Rux, Meister and Muhammad Survive Three-Setters to Advance at Spring Nationals


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--
    The weather was just as delightful on Tuesday as it has been the previous two days at the USTA 18s Spring Nationals, but for several of the top seeds, there was a definite change in the atmosphere. After routine wins in the first two rounds, it was time to overcome some staunch competition to earn a place in Wednesday's round of 16 for Asia Muhammad, Jordan Rux and Nick Meister.

    Nevada's Muhammad, the No. 3 seed, and No. 17 seed Morgan Frank of Florida had the misfortune to draw the court nearest the new court construction. I couldn't take the noise of the backloaders and the bobcats, but the two girls didn't have the option of moving across the street like I did, battling for over two hours before Muhammad prevailed 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2.

    Only two other girls' matches went three sets. Unseeded 14-year-old Christina McHale fought back to take out Nelly Radeva, also unseeded, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Alison Riske, the No. 9 seed ,went the distance for her 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 decision over Stephany Chang, a No. 17 seed.

    No. 1 Melanie Oudin had another monotonous 6-1, 6-0 victory, with Lyndsay Kinstler, a 17 seed, the victim. Next up for Oudin is unseeded Nadja Gilchrist, who along with McHale, is one of only two unseeded players remaining in the girls final 16. Gilchrist eliminated No. 12 seed Lauren Megale 7-6 (0), 6-1.

    With all the activity, it was difficult to settle on one match, and I kept circulating in hopes of happening upon the day's big upset. At first it looked as if that might be the Brennan Boyajian - Andrew Kells contet, a rematch of the 16s Clay Court final last year, but Boyajian, seeded sixth, survived the Kells forehand onslaught to take a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory. Nick Meister, the No. 4 seed, also dropped the first set but recovered in time to take a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4 decision from Drew Courtney, a 17 seed.

    Tyler Davis, the No. 7 seed, wasn't able to avoid the upset however, as he fell 6-4, 7-5 to 15-year-old Alex Domijan, a 17 seed.

    Jordan Rux, the No. 2 seed, found himself in a third set when he dropped serve at 5-6 in the second against Jonathan Wolff, a No. 17 seed. I decided to sit still long enough to watch a match until its conclusion. With both players holding serve to reach 3-3 in the third, the match was decided when Wolff went down 0-40, crawled back to take the next two points, but couldn't handle a Rux shot that landed on the baseline. When Rux held for 5-3, he looked to have the match in hand, but two double faults when serving for the match at 5-4 made it interesting. At 40-30, the big Texan cranked a big first serve that Wolff couldn't handle, earning a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory and a berth in the round of 16 against No. 12 seed Dennis Nevolo.


    The round of 16 doubles action consumed most of the afternoon and early evening with the top four boys' teams and the top three girls teams reaching the quarterfinals.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    For additional coverage by Marcia Frost, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Top Seeds Continue to Roll in Mobile


    ©Colette Lewis 2007
    Mobile, AL--

    The top four seeds in both the boys and girls divisions remain alive after Monday's second round at the USTA 18s Spring Championships at the Mobile Tennis Center. It was another perfect day, with a light jacket or warmup required in the morning, but by 10 a.m., there was no longer any need for any layers.

    No. 1 seed Melanie Oudin was one of the first players out at 8 a.m., and I managed see her lose her first game of the tournament, but she had little difficulty beating Chelsea Davis 6-1, 6-0. I didn't see any of No. 2 seed Claire Bartlett, probably because her match was so quick. Her win over Natalie Collins was her second straight 6-0, 6-0 victory. No. 3 seed Asia Muhammad also dominated, beating Katie Kargl 6-1, 6-1 while Lauren Embree, the No. 4 seed cruised to a 6-3, 6-0 win over Alexandria Walters.

    No. 6 seed Jacqueline Wu, who took a hard-fought first round win against Jennifer Yen Sunday, is out of the tournament, but it wasn't an opponent who caused the exit. Wu aggravated a wrist injury and withdrew before taking the court Tuesday. No. 5 seed Chelsea Preeg (who also has dropped only one game in two matches), No. 7 seed Keri Wong and No. 8 seed Carolyn McVeigh all captured straight-set wins to advance to the round of 32.

    The girls' 18s Winter Champion Emily Gelber, a 17 seed, won't be winning back-to-back gold balls, as she fell to fellow Eastern section player Nadja Gilchrist 6-2, 6-2. Gilchrist was pounding the ball during the few games I watched, and Gelber wasn't able to counteract the pace that Gilchrist was generating.

    Gilchrist is one of eight unseeded players to reach the round of 32 on the girls side, and in her quarter of the draw, the other two unseeded players are also from the Eastern section. Ryann Cutillo was the beneficiary of the Wu withdrawal, and Lindsay Clark upset No. 17 seed Kimberly Haynes.

    The boys' top four seeds-- Reid Carleton (1), Jordan Rux (2), Ryan Lipman (3) and Nick Meister--advanced in straight sets, but No. 5 seed Bryant Salcedo was no match for Marc Powers of Connecticut. I saw only the last couple of games of Powers' 6-3, 6-2 win, but in them he made no errors, while Salcedo was hard pressed to keep the ball in play. Jared Pinsky, the No. 11 seed, was upset by John Lewis of Alabama 6-3, 6-3. Powers and Lewis are just two of the ten unseeded boys in the round of 32.

    Tyler Davis, the No. 7 seed, is the boys' version of Oudin and Preeg, having dropped only one game in his first two matches.

    The top four seeds in both girls and boys doubles also advanced to the third round. Stacey Lee was briefly without a partner when Wu withdrew, but Christina McHale was able to replace Wu because Lee and Wu were the third seeds and had a first round bye on Sunday. The new team easily defeated Katharine Blow and Caroline Capute 6-1, 6-2 Monday afternoon.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

    Also, the most recent Inside Junior Tennis podcast is now available here. Kevin McClure and I discuss serve-and-volley tennis, my trip to Boise and the latest college rankings.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Surprises Few on Spring Nationals' First Day


    ©Colette Lewis 2007--
    Mobile, AL--

    With 50 courts (and 10 more under construction) there's more action than anyone can possibly follow during the first round of two 128-draw tournaments. So I'll just recap a few of the matches that caught my attention on a warm and sunny Sunday at the Mobile Tennis Center.

    The girls started the schedule at 8 a.m., and I spent the first half hour or so trying to find a competitive match. There were a surprising number of lopsided results (neither No. 1 seed Melanie Oudin or No. 2 seed Claire Bartlett surrendered a game), but the match between No. 6 seed Jacqueline Wu of New Jersey and Jennifer Yen of California wasn't one of them.

    With only roving umpires, it was difficult to keep track of the game score, but I do know that Wu faced several set points in the first set which she won 7-6 (4). Wu's game features much more volleying than most girls, and I was impressed when she continued to approach the net and play agressively, even when the set was on the line. In all the first set took over an hour and a half, but the second less than half that, as Wu won it 6-2.

    Yen has a one-handed backhand, and I believe it's safe to say that when Aeriel Ellis took the court next to her, it was the first time I had ever seen two adjacent courts with one-handed backhands in girls' junior tennis.

    Northern Californian Ellis, who won the 16s Winter Nationals, is unseeded, but she clearly outplayed one of the 17th seeds, Cameron Hubbs of Nebraska in the only upset of the day in girls singles, 6-3, 6-1. The difference was in the winner department. Although many of the games were close (the second time Ellis served the game lasted at least twenty minutes), Ellis was able to hit outright winners with regularity, while Hubbs could only manage to force errors.

    The same was true on the boys side, when Wil Spencer, from the nearby Florida panhandle, a 17 seed, took on Ravi Yegya-Raman of New Jersey. Spencer has been playing Futures events since December's Orange Bowl, so his USTA ranking doesn't warrant a higher seed, but many a higher-ranked player looked at the draw to see where Spencer landed. Although Yegya-Raman is a consistently good defender, like Hubbs, he struggled to finish games when he had the opening, and Spencer, using a kick serve very effectively, did not. Serving for the first set at 5-4, Spencer stepped up his game, and played first-strike tennis, taking the game at love. The second set, which I didn't see, went to Spencer 6-2.

    I wanted to see Jordan Rux, the No. 2 seed from Texas, play, but by the time I got over to his court, he was just finishing off Haig Schneiderman of New York 6-1, 6-1. So I stayed to watch the end of Alex Domijan's 6-4, 6-4 victory over Marcus Rebersak of Pennsylvania. Domijan, a 17 seed, appears taller than when I last saw him in December, but his game is still clean and simple--big serve, excellent forehand and the ability to finish a point when the opportunity is there. Rebersak stayed with him in most of the points I saw, but most was not enough.

    I had meant to look in on the Jared Pinsky-Viju George match, which I thought would be one of day's best, but again, I arrived just at the end, with No. 11 seed Pinsky finishing off the tiebreak for a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win.

    The boys lost four more seeds than the girls in the first round, with David Anderson, at No. 14, the highest to fall. Cameron Ahari of Arizona convincingly defeated Massachusetts' Anderson 6-2, 6-2. The other four seeds to lose--Calvin Bennett, Erik Corace, Eduardo Pavia and Connor Roth--were all No. 17 seeds.

    I left before the doubles were completed (to spend an hour on the phone with Delta trying to locate our still-missing bags), but with the top eight teams having byes, no big upsets were possible.

    For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.