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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Australia Wins Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup titles


The Australian teams have swept the world team 16-and-under championships with victories today in Italy. The boys beat Argentina 2-0, the girls defeated Poland 2-1. The ITF website hasn't yet posted a story or any results, but Tennis Australia posted this brief story on its website today. The boys really dominated the field, not losing a single point throughout the tournament.

There has been quite a bit of conversation in Europe about the prospects of 14-year-old Spaniard Carlos Boluda and he's had two notable results this month. He won the singles and doubles in an ITF Grade 5 in early September, then followed it with a win in the European 16-and-under Junior Masters. The details, with photo, can be found at the Tennis Europe website.

Congratulations to Tennessean Claire Bartlett and Filip Krajinovic-Piskovic of Serbia for their victories at the ITF Grade 4 in Georgia. Krajinovic-Piskovic was a finalist in the Illinois ITF the week before. Jordan Cox and Bob Van Overbeek won the boys doubles; Lauren Herring and Grace Min were the girls doubles champions.

And prequalifying is complete at the ITA All-American tournaments. Jay Goldman, Matt Allare and Brad Cox are U.S. freshmen who advanced to the qualifying in Tulsa. For complete draw results, click here. Reka Zsilinszka of Duke made it to qualifying; the women's results are here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Australia to Play for Both Cups; Young Crushes Levine; ITA All-American Prequalifying Underway

The Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup finalists were decided today in Italy, and both of Australia's teams will be there. The top-seeded boys, who easily defeated Chinese Taipei in today's semifinals, will meet the No. 7 seeded team from Argentina; the girls, seeded sixth, meet No. 5 seeded Poland. Both Aussie girls saved match points in their victories over the home-crowd-supported Italians, according to this account from Eleanor Preston at the ITF junior website. (There is a mistake in Holland score in the story; it should be 6-7, 7-5, 6-3). In last month's World Junior Tennis Competition for 14-and-unders in the Czech Republic, the Australian boys won the championship. Three out of the four world team titles would be amazing, especially since the surface is clay, not a prevalent surface Down Under.

The U.S. teams will play for fifth on Sunday; I had thought those matches were being played today. I hope they had an opportunity to see some of Italy on their day off.

One match I was really interested in that was being played today was Jesse Levine vs. Donald Young in the semifinals of the Tulsa Challenger. Finally we would see the two 2006 Kalamazoo finalists actually play, after the disappointment of Young's walkover win due to Levine's virus. I was expecting a close match; I would never have imagined Young would win 6-0, 6-1. He will be a lot more rested for Sunday's final than his opponent Jesse Witten, who needed three sets to get past Alberto Francis.

Also in Tulsa, the men's prequalifying for the ITA Polo All-American began today. With a 256 draw, they might still be playing, but the results of today's two rounds are here. The women are in Pacific Palisades, Calif. for the Riveria All-American, and they have a much more manageable 64 draw. The results from today are available here.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Joel Drucker on Player Development; Larcher de Brito Gets Ranked

I've had several interesting conversations with tennis journalist Joel Drucker about player development, the most recent at Wimbledon, when I was working on stories about what was going on in Great Britain and in Australia on that front. In this story for espn.com, Drucker reveals his basic suspicion of the concept of player development, and for the most part, I agree with him. So does Craig Tiley, the head of player development in Australia, who you might think would lean more to the side of the federation as nurturer. Tiley told me at Wimbledon however that he believes a federation should supply a pathway, but the only person ever responsible for developing a champion is the champion.

Michelle Larcher de Brito, the 14-year-old phenom from Portugal, had two disappointing Junior Grand Slams, losing in the first round at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But her next stop after New York was the $75K in Albuquerque, where as a wild card, she defeated Christina Wheeler, Jelena Pandzic and Vavara Lepchenko before losing, in three sets, to the eventual champion Rossana De Los Rios of Paraguay. Because it takes three pro tournament results before a WTA player can earn a ranking, Larcher de Brito just now has entered the WTA computers, at No. 364. Tennis Week has this story about how that stacks up with some of the best 14-year-olds of the past dozen years.

In Italy today, the two U.S. teams rebounded from their losses on Thursday to take 3-0 decisions against Croatia (boys) and Argentina (girls), and will play for fifth place on Saturday. Croatia was seeded No. 2, and to finish fifth, the boys will need to beat No. 3 France. Argentina was seeded eighth; to finish fifth, the girls must defeat No. 1 seed The Netherlands. Eleanor Preston spoke to Coco Vandeweghe about the Junior Fed Cup experience in today's itftennis.com wrap-up story.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alison Riske Profile; U.S. Teams Fail to Advance in Italy; ITF B1Tulsa Acceptances

At the U.S. Open, I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Girls 18s finalist Alison Riske to discuss her plans and to ask her about meeting Billie Jean King. The result is this article on The Tennis Recruiting Network. Riske won three matches to qualify at the $50K Pro Circuit event this week in Kentucky where she lost in the first round to fellow junior (and qualifier) Kim Couts. Riske and Julia Boserup are still in doubles, having won their first match, but won't play their second until tomorrow. I think they've had rain disrupt the schedule the past couple of days.

Speaking of rain, the Junior Davis and Fed Cups in Italy were also affected by it today, but it didn't save both U.S. teams from 2-0 losses. The Junior Davis Cup page featuring the U.S. scores is here. The Junior Fed Cup U.S. page is here.

Although the places (for 5-8, 9-16 playoffs) aren't decided in the Junior Fed Cup due to the rain, the semifinalists are, with Poland, Italy, Thailand and Australia advancing to the final four.

The Junior Davis Cup has identified only two of its last four--Australia, the only country with both teams still alive; and Brazil, who beat the U.S. The match of the day was undoubtedly Bernard Tomic of Australia vs. Giacomo Miccini of Italy, a rematch of their U.S. Open Jr. qualifying match, won 6-4. 6-2 by Miccini. Not only was the surface radically different this time, so was the score, with Tomic winning 6-3, 5-7, 13-11.

The acceptance lists for the Grade B1 in Tulsa Oct. 8-14, which I'll be attending for the first time, were updated today. I know it's a very bad time of year for a major tournament for players in regular school, but it's still a little surprising to me that the girls qualifying is only half full. And speaking of surprises, what's Mateusz Kecki doing in the qualifying? A late entry maybe? The acceptances are available on usta.com.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Both U.S. Teams Win Again in Italy; Portland Will Host Davis Cup; Coupe Named Stanford Assistant


I'm not sure why the ITF junior website doesn't have the results posted from today's Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup matches, but I did receive an email with pdfs attached, so I am posting links to the two that relate to the U.S. teams. The girls defeated Paraguay 3-0, the boys shut out China 3-0 and neither team dropped a set. On Thursday, the round robin concludes, and both U.S. teams, seeded fourth, will need to beat the fifth seeds that are in their groups to advance to the semifinals. The girls face Poland, the 2005 Junior Fed Cup champions, and the boys take on Brazil.

Junior Fed Cup USA Results are here.
Junior Davis Cup USA Results are here.

Speaking of Davis Cup, the USTA announced today that Portland, Oregon will host the first Davis Cup final held in the U.S. since 1992. I've never attended a final, but the first round, quarterfinal and semifinal ties I've been lucky enough to attend in the past three years have been some of my most memorable moments in tennis. So if you are anywhere near Portland November 30-December 2, make plans to go. I'll be at the Eddie Herr tournament, so I won't make this one, but I'll be following closely. Tickets will go on sale in a few weeks.

Stanford announced today that Brandon Coupe has been named assistant men's tennis coach, filling the position recently vacated by Dave Hodge. See the Stanford website for more.

And Peter Bodo posted today on the British juniors scandal on his Tennisworld blog. As usual, he raises many interesting questions and as always, makes some very provocative points. For example:

The increasing emphasis on early development, and especially on state-supported development, as if winning the tennis race was as important as winning the race for a cure to cancer, is one of the more unsavory elements in this (or any other) sport. This isn't a "let kids be kids" plea, although that's never a bad idea. It's a warning that allowing and even insisting that kids be more than kids, or allowing a situation to develop where even the most innocent among them feel obliged to conform to the hermetically developed social order, is a dangerous and slippery slope - especially when it is being navigated by people with an ulterior motive - in this case, producing champions for the greater good and glory of the UK.

For the full post, and the usual array of thoughtful comments, click here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

USA Teams Win First Junior Fed Cup and Davis Cup matches; LTA Suspends Two Top Juniors

Today marked the start of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions in Italy, and the U.S. teams, both of whom are No. 4 seeds, had no trouble in their opening matches. Frank Carleton, playing No. 1, and Bo Seal, playing No. 2, both won in straight sets over Finland and the doubles team of Seal and Lawrence Formentera won in three sets for the 3-0 win. No. 1 Coco Vandeweghe and No. 2 Asia Muhammed won their matches against the Czech Republic easily, and Lauren Embree and Muhammed also won the doubles in straight sets. The four winners of the round robin competition will advance to the semifinals.

The girls take on Paraguay Wednesday, while the boys will face China. For the first day wrap up, see the itftennis website.

And the big news in Great Britain the past two days hasn't been Henman's retirement or Great Britain's advance to the World Group in Davis Cup. It's been the LTA's suspension of two of their top juniors for "unprofessional" conduct. If you've ever doubted that young tennis players are held to a much higher standard of behavior than other teenagers, this should convince you. And if there are juniors reading this, you might be wise to lock your favorite social networking profile, especially if you are going to be attending the new USTA National Training Center in Boca.

The Scotsman had a story today on the aftermath. Whether this is really a "crossroads" in British tennis remains to be seen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Damico, Schnugg and McClune Win Tournaments This Weekend


Three 18-year-olds had memorable tennis weekends, with Kellen Damico, Nate Schnugg and Michael McClune all winning tournaments in different parts of the country.

Damico, playing in his first event as a Texas Longhorn, won the H.E.B. tournament at Baylor, becoming only the second player not from Baylor to win it in the seven years it has been in existence. Damico, who was unseeded, lost the first set in the first round and then breezed after that, benefiting from a walkover and a retirement in the quarterfinals and the semifinals. Texassports.com has the details here.

Damico's friend Nate Schnugg is now in his second season at Georgia, but since he began classes in January of this year, he was playing in his first Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens. Seeded ninth, Schnugg also was the recipient of a walkover in the quarterfinals, but needed a third set tiebreaker to beat Steve Forman of Wake Forest in the semifinals, a rematch of the 2005 Kalamazoo 16s finals, also won by Schnugg. He had a much less taxing win in the final over 5th-seeded Phillipe Frayssinoux of Mississippi State. Georgiadogs.com has the story here.

There isn't any news coverage available, but Michael McClune, the Kalamazoo 18s champion this year, won his first Futures singles title on Sunday, defeating Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-2. McClune defeated US Open junior champion Ricardas Berankis in the second round by the same score, avenged his semifinal loss to Carsten Ball the previous week's Futures with 6-2, 6-1 quarterfinal victory and then took out University of Miami All-American Luigi D'Agord in what looks to have been a great match, 6-4 6-7(2) 6-4. McClune is playing again this week in his hometown of Irvine, California, where he's seeded 7th, and can't meet Ball again until the semifinals this week.

Juniors Bradley Klahn and Jarmere Jenkins made it through qualifying in Irvine, which, in a 128 draw, is no easy task. For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

Also, congratulations to Jordan Cox and Jacqueline Cako, who won the ITF Grade 4 event in Illinois. For complete draws, see illinoisitf.com.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; QuickStart Tennis

In the latest edition of Inside Junior Tennis, Kevin McClure of the Tennis Podcast and I talked about the Kentucky ITF, whether Bernard Tomic would be wise to accept an Australian Open main draw wild card (if offered) and the advantages of 36/60 or "QuickStart" tennis for getting new players into the game.

Back in December, USTA High Performance Managing Director Paul Roetert mentioned in a speech at the ITA Coaches Convention that the program was a significant factor in Belgium's training program and for a country of its size, you can't argue with the success they've had.

The Chicago Daily Herald has an in-depth story on how the system, which has been in place at the Midtown Tennis Club since last year, works--how it gets players as young as five playing, not just drilling.

Kevin mentioned that while he was at the Tennis Teacher Conference in New York, he was impressed by the breadth of support for the concept; there was none of the usual adults vs. juniors or high performance vs. recreational dynamic.

The USTA has dubbed the program "QuickStart" and promises a website dedicated to it by the end of this month. For now, there is an excellent synopsis of the concept at usta.com.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Damico Aims for National Title; Holland's New Jersey Championship


The Austin American-Statesman caught up with Kellen Damico recently to discuss both his eating habits and his goals for his college tennis career. The story also acknowledges Damico's grandfather, Ed Gilbert, who has been one of his biggest fans and was instrumental in pointing him to the Longhorns.

For the results of the H.E.B. tournament Damico is playing at Baylor, click here.

I also discovered a story from earlier this month on the Middle States section website that features David Holland, who won the International Hard Courts, a Grade 3 ITF tournament, last month in New Jersey. There wasn't any local coverage of the event that I could find, but Holland's section does a great job here of getting the scoop on his great play that week and his plans for college.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dennis Lajola Update; A look back at 2003


Thanks to a reader in the Philippines, I learned that Dennis Lajola recently won the Hawaiian Open, but has not yet started at the University of Hawaii. The Honolulu Advertiser says in this article about the tournament:
"the guy who would be the highest-profile tennis recruit in UH history is in eligibility limbo, dealing with the paperwork involved following his unconventional high school years."

Lajola hopes to have it straightened out so he can begin competing in January.

There is a reference to Lajola winning the Junior Davis Cup, on the same team as Donald Young, but actually it wasn't the Junior Davis Cup, which is 16-and-unders, but rather the 14-and-under World Junior Competition in 2003 that Young, Lajola and Leo Rosenberg won. It's interesting to look at the players in that 2003 competition, who would be in their final year of ITF competition this year. Quite a few of them are no longer playing junior tennis, including Rosenberg, who has been in Europe attempting to qualifying for Futures events during the past year. (The same for the girls; their list is here.)

Speaking of the Junior Davis and Fed Cups, the ITF Junior site has its preview here.

Mike Nishihara Dies Suddenly

There's sad news to report with the untimely death of USTA High Performance Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Nishihara earlier this week of an apparent heart attack.
I've been searching for an obituary or news story to link to since I heard about this Wednesday, but I haven't been able to track anything down. If anyone has any information or a link, please leave a comment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dennis Nevolo Recruiting Profile; US vs. Sweden in Davis Cup Friday

Every player is different, never more so than when they are deciding what college to attend. Some take unofficial and offical visits, some have decided even before they are eligible to take an official visit, some enjoy the process of being courted, some just want it over with.

At the U.S. Open, I had an opportunity to talk with Dennis Nevolo, one of the country's top seniors, and he was taking all his visits--I think. My article today at TheTennis Recruiting Network names the five schools, and I'm assuming he won't be swept off his feet and cancel if he finds a good fit early on. But it can, and does, happen.

The Junior Davis and Fed Cups begin next Tuesday in Italy, but THE Davis Cup semifinals are this weekend, with the U.S. in Sweden. Bonnie Ford of ESPN.com is also there (very few tennis journalists make the trip and most of the coverage (if any) in your local newspaper will be from the Associated Press), and she filed
this story about Mats Wilander's big gamble. ESPN.com will be your best source for in-depth coverage of this event over the next three days. The TV schedule is here.

Matt Cronin also did this preview at foxsports.com.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chasing the Dream, Russian Style; Anaheim Plans to Upgrade City Facility


I'm attending a USTA Boys Nationals wrapup meeting tonight, so I need to get this post up early, and this is a story that I've been meaning to link to for a while. Although it's not nearly as comprehensive or detailed as the March New York Times story that delved into the Russian tennis revolution, this AP article from last month does serve as a reminder of what parents are willing to do to support their daughters' dreams of becoming the next Maria Sharapova. One of the players mentioned, Yana Buchina, played in the U.S. Open Juniors, getting in as a lucky loser when Alexa Glatch withdrew.

This LA Times article about the city of Anaheim's determination to save the municipal tennis center is a very positive one, given all that's been written lately about tennis clubs closing in Southern California. I'm 99% sure that Mike Nelson, the club's new operator, is the father of USC senior and two-time NCAA finalist Lindsey Nelson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How Tennis Came Back; New Address, Phone for USTA High Performance; Althea Gibson Award Established

There's not much going on in college and junior tennis today, but I ran across this interesting article from the New Republic on the resurgence of tennis in the past few years. Richard Just provides a short history of the tennis boom and bust in the United States, and although I don't agree with all of his characterizations (using "charmless" to describe Andy Roddick, for example), I think I buy his contention that tennis has been revived due to Federer, or more specificially, Federer and Nadal.

The USTA has put this notice up on the website regarding their move to Boca Raton/Evert next week. I hope to have the list of the players who will be living and training there some time this week. When I spoke with John Evert at the Open, he was confident that it would be ready for occupancy by October 7th, and it sounds as if everything has gone as planned.

And during the U.S. Open, the USTA announced a new award for two juniors, The Althea Gibson Leadership Award. Applications will be available on the usta.com website November 1. For more details, click here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oudin, Tomic win ITF Grade 1 in Kentucky; Anderson takes singles and doubles titles at New Orleans Challenger


I was unable to find any local coverage of the ITF's Kentucky International Tennis Derby in Lexington, but I didn't want the last Grade 1 until Tulsa to pass without acknowledging the champions--Melanie Oudin, who beat top seed Ksenia Pervak of Russia in the final and Bernard Tomic of Australia, who defeated Jarmere Jenkins. It was the first Grade 1 title for both. Oudin, who is now ranked 37th, turns 16 next week; Tomic, now 19th in the world, will celebrate his 15th birthday next month.

Kevin Anderson, who recently announced he was leaving the University of Illinois for the pros after three years there, won the singles and doubles titles last week at the New Orleans Challenger. Now ranked 232 in the world, and the third highest ranked South African, Anderson just might be one of the players John Isner had in mind when he said there were several college guys coming out who would have an impact on the pro tour.

For a match by match account of Anderson's run from the qualifying to the championship, see the Fightingillini website.

The Daily Progress's wrapup of the UVa Invitational is here, and the Duke Chronicle has this story on Reka Zsilinszka's sucessful debut in college tennis competition.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; Australia vs. Cyprus

Kevin McClure and I discuss the U.S. Open Juniors in the latest Inside Junior Tennis podcast. I also did a segment on TennisLiveRadio with Todd Skovron. I'm at the very end of the September 11th broadcast.


Except for September's Aces, these two shows will close the book on the U.S. Open Juniors for 2007, but one interesting story that I ran across while I was there concerned Andrew Thomas, one of Australia's top juniors. (I'm doing a story on the Australian boys for SMASH magazine, so I'm paying a little bit more attention to that group than usual). Not only is he Australian, he also has Cypriot ancestry, and he is being pursued by Cyprus.

There are two versions of the story--one that was published during the Open by Australia's Herald Sun, and one that came out this weekend from the Cyprus Mail. If nothing else, it is further evidence that Craig Tiley is willing to let the chips fall where they may if a player doesn't adhere to Tennis Australia's prescribed path.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Claremont Futures; UVa Invitational


Nina Rota, co-author of Tennis Diary, posted this interesting look at the Claremont Futures tournament going on right now in California, entitled Five Diverse Players at the Claremont Futures Event (Robert Yim and Carsten Ball will play in the final--full draws are available at the usta.com Pro Circuit page). She explains how several of the players came to be attached to the United States and how Mike McClune differs from the others. And, as she demonstrates here by asking Stephen Amritraj about the Duke lacrosse incident, you never know what you might learn when you're actually at tournaments talking to players.

One of the big men's college tennis events this weekend is the Invitational at the University of Virginia, which features 27 teams and many ranked players. For draws, click here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on the Boot Camp

One of the junior stories that has gotten a lot of attention in the mainstream tennis press is the "Boot Camp" that was conducted by the USTA back in February near San Diego. USA Today and Tennis Magazine have had stories about it and in the current issue of SMASH, one of the participants, Jeff Dadamo, writes a diary style entry on his experience there.

I had an opportunity to talk with Sgt. Major Keith Williams at the US Open, and he was a bit chagrined by all the publicity he's gotten for this one short camp, but I've seen him at enough junior tournaments to know that he's ready and able to assist any of the boys who might need a reminder of those lessons many months ago.

Bonnie Ford at ESPN.com, did her usual fantastic job with this story (complete with video) on the camp, how it happened and why.

Although he wasn't in this group, Kellen Damico was asked about his dog tags in Kalamazoo, and he explained to the reporter that having earned them back meant a great deal to him. He also took pains to credit the Sargent Major, as he's known to all the boys, and having watched the video, I can now see that he was following orders.

Rhyne Williams no longer has his dog tags, and as he says in this brief post by Charlie Bricker, he wants them back.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sixteen Lessons and Observations from the US Open

Since Bob Greene provided The Tennis Recruiting Network with a synopsis of the junior event in New York, I thought I would try some a little different for my weekly post and I came up with 16 (it's a strange number unless you look at a lot of tennis draws) lessons and observations from my nine days in New York.

And while we're on the subject of New York, Aron Pilhofer of the New York Times emailed me several questions about junior tennis and my involvement in it, but because of our busy schedules last week, we never got together to get it in the NYT Tennis blog, as we had originally planned. So I thought maybe some of you would be interested in the same questions he had, and he told me to go ahead and include on my blog whenever I wished.

1) I found your profile tantalizingly incomplete. How does someone go from banking to blogger?
I grew up in Kalamazoo, where the USTA boys 16 & 18 national championships have been played for 65 years. I was always interested in sports, and it was really my only opportunity to see world class athletes in action, short of a two hour drive to Detroit. Although I initially went as a teenager as interested in dating the boys as in watching them play, I soon was hooked on tennis, as were many others at the time, as this was the start of the Golden Age of Tennis. I have seen virtually every U.S. male player of significance, from Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang (the only one of the above to win the 18s) to James Blake and Andy Roddick. I continued to attend the tournament when I finished college, and I haven’t missed a final in over 25 years. When I retired from banking in 2000, I immediately volunteered, joining over 700 others in Kalamazoo who donate their time to the event. I was assigned to the website committee, and with my journalism background, I began to see any opportunity to use it to enhance the tournament’s website, ustaboys.com. That eventually led to a credential to cover the American boys at the US Open Junior championships (in 2004), which prompted me to start my blog, zootennis.com and to pursue a career as a freelance tennis writer specializing in junior and college tennis.

1a.) How many tournaments do you attend per year, how much traveling do you do?
Between 22 and 25, although some of them are five days duration or less. I attend at least three major college events every year, including the 12-day NCAAs and in the past two years have been to both Australia and Wimbledon for their junior championships. I love to travel, and find that after more than two weeks at home, I’m itching to get on the road again to watch live tennis.

2) Why the fascination with junior tennis?
Young tennis players sacrifice a great deal of their normal adolescence to pursue excellence, to compete, to test their physical and mental capacities. I find most of them to be remarkably mature, independent and disciplined. I am not so na├»ve to think that all aspects of the process are positive--the wacky tennis parent is a minority, but they do exist, in every country and every age group—but on balance I count myself among those who see the sport as a positive influence on young people. I’ve enjoyed seeing their games and their personalities mature and there is no doubt that their stories are much fresher.

3) You've been following junior tennis for a while. What are the interesting trends you see?
The globalization of course. I’ve seen juniors from Madagascar, Liechtenstein, Moldova and Zimbabwe playing at the junior Grand Slams, the highest level in junior tennis. The rise of academies (and home/internet schooling) as an option. And the height factor. Small players can still compete, of course, but the advantages on the serve for those who are blessed with some athleticism are many.

4) How about the state of U.S. tennis... do we have another andre, pete or davenport in the making?
I don’t know. I’m firmly in the camp that champions are exceptions by their very nature. Great players, Grand Slam winners, are not manufactured or developed by federations. The best a federation can hope to do is provide opportunity for competition and perhaps some funding for coaching and travel.

5) Junior tennis in the mainstream media tends to get the short-shrift a lot of the time. Should there be more coverage, or would that just add to the pressure these kids are already under?
I believe recognition for achievement is valid and the mainstream sports media does not give juniors enough of that. I believe touting the “next-big-thing” by anyone, however well-intentioned, often puts undue pressure on children, and forces them to deal with expectations that are not their own.

6) Talk a little about Ryan Thacher, who seemed to impress everyone here not only with his play, but with his intellect. Here's a kid who could turn pro, but instead is going to college. Good sign? Positive thing? Trend? Or the exception to the rule?
With James Blake, who attended Harvard for two years, reaching the Top Ten, and John Isner, with his four years at Georgia, making such a big splash this summer, I think college is back on the radar as a game-development option, particularly for boys, who tend to mature a few years later. Getting into the habit and expectation of winning, coping with the pressure and excitement of team competition and having access to consistent and structured training and practice are just a few of the advantages of college tennis. The career for a pro athlete is not as short as it once was, so the pressure to get at it before you are mature enough to cope with the inevitable losing is abating. Improving at college is not guaranteed—a high level program with good coaching, scheduling, and depth on the roster is important. And there are a rare few for whom college is not the appropriate place. It is a legitimate stepping stone to the next level in tennis and a opportunity to explore what to do with the rest of your life, whether pro tennis is in the equation or not.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kells Chooses Southern Cal; Weinhold Chooses Pro Route


Andrew Kells, designated as a Five Star Recruit by The Tennis Recruiting Network, has verbally committed to the University of Southern California.

Kells, a senior, sent me an email yesterday detailing his decision. He was considering Stanford, Cal, Michigan, Notre Dame and North Carolina, all of which met his requirement for an academically challenging school, but USC won out for a number of reasons.

"Academics was really important for me so I was really only looking at top 30 caliber schools," Kells said. "The other major factor was sports, which I am an absolute fanatic about. I definitely wanted somewhere in a major conference likethe Pac Ten, Big Ten, or ACC."

Kells took an unofficial visit to USC last November, and it immediately went to the top of his list. Describing himself as a "total California kid," he is happy to be only a six hour drive or one hour plane trip from his home in the Bay Area, and to be joining his friend Dan Gliner of San Francisco, who is beginning his freshman year as a Trojan.

"Coach (Peter) Smith and Coach (Brett) Masi showed interest in me from the beginning. I feel that I am going to develop a really close relationship with both and that they can take my game to its highest level in college."

Kells is planning on joining the Trojans next fall, with an eye on both his tennis and on his classes as a business major. In the meantime, he will complete his studies at Redwood High School, and hopes to play the remaining USTA National events in the next 11 months.

"I cannot wait to become part of the Trojan tennis fraternity. I am taking my official visit in two weeks and cannot wait to get to know all the other guys. I am really looking forward to having the honor of being a USC athlete."

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A few days ago, oldschool left a comment with a link to an Austin American-Statesman article about Ashley Weinhold, which gives the details about her decision to turn pro (free subscription required.) Links pasted into comments don't work, unfortunately, but I do appreciate the tips and will always try to get them functional if I can.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

US Open Juniors Slide Show

Photos of all players from the U.S. who competed in the 2007 U.S. Open Junior Championships can be viewed at ustaboys.com.

This slide show features all the quarterfinalists in singles and the doubles finalists.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Down Time

(US Open ballrunners relax between shifts in the Grandstand)

The first rain I've experienced in a couple of weeks is pattering on my den window here in Kalamazoo, and with no tennis being disrupted by it, it's a soothing sound. Especially in contrast to the din and electricity that surges through every Grand Slam, and is amplified in New York.

The news is sparse on the junior front today (not much mainstream media interest in Slovakian and Lithuanian junior champions), although Eleanor Preston did her usual wrap for the ITF juniors and usopen.org had separate stories on the boys and girls finals.

Also, the college tennis season is gearing up again, with the preseason rankings being released last week, and the selections for the ITA All-American tournaments being announced.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Berankis, Kucova Claim US Open Junior Championships



©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

He comes from a small country not previously known for male Grand Slam champions but Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis' shares more than that with Roger Federer. Berankis, who defeated unseeded Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-3, 6-4 to win the US Open Junior Championship Sunday afternoon, was called on by the Swiss champion to serve as a hitting partner in Dubai prior to the summer hard court season in the United States.

And, after Berankis completed his efficient and opportunistic victory over the 6-foot-6 inch serving machine and the sparsely attended media interviews, he had the honor of warming up the 11-time Grand Slam champion in advance of his fourth straight U.S. Open title.

The boys final, played on Court 11 under this week's predictably sunny skies, was a 53-minute affair, with the changeovers often lasting longer than the games themselves. Berankis opened the match by holding serve, broke Janowicz, and then didn't see another break chance until 3-3 in the second set. In fact, during one nine-game span neither player won more than one point on the other's serve.

Jakub Ulczynski, Janowicz's coach and interpreter, said that his player was deliberately shortening points due to the heat and his fatigue, with the 16-year-old from Lodz having played four consecutive three-setters and four tiebreakers this week. After Janowicz found the rhythm on his gigantic serve, a second set tiebreaker loomed large, but at 3-3 30-30, a Janowicz error gave Berankis his chance, and he seized it.

Janowicz rocketed a first serve and Berankis bunted it back, short enough that Janowicz had to move forward for the forehand putaway. Berankis regained his balance and anticipated the shot, slamming a backhand past Janowicz, a break with huge significance since Berankis did not face a break point throughout the match.

"Today (I) was serving pretty well, consistent, like pretty fast, flat," said Berankis who had three aces to Janowicz's six. "And I was pretty consistent on the returns."

Janowicz described that second set break as "a little bit lucky," referring to Berankis' returns finding the lines on a couple of occasions in that seventh game. "With his tiredness his only chance to win this match was to go to the tiebreaker," Ulczynski admitted, "but a little bad luck and he lost."

Berankis, who didn't lose a set in the tournament, came off his win in last week's Grade 1 championship in Canada full of confidence; the 15th seed is now looking to compete in several Futures tournaments in California in an attempt to raise his ATP ranking, currently at 788. But first there's a seat for him in the player's box at Arthur Ashe stadium when he can cheer on Federer's quest to join him as a 2007 US Open champion.


Kristina Kucova, the girls champion, has a rooting interest on the other side. After upsetting 2007 Wimbledon Junior titleist and No. 2 seed Urszula Radwanska 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4) in a two-hour and eight minute marathon, the unseeded Slovakian revealed in the post-match interview that she had received a ticket from Marian Vajda, Novak Djokovic's coach, and would be cheering for her "favorite" Sunday evening.

In the final, Radwanska took an early 3-0 lead, but the carryover from her five sets of tennis on Saturday, when she beat her doubles partner Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus and then teamed with her to win the doubles championship, began to take its toll.

After Kucova had won four straight games from Radwanska to take a 4-3 lead in the first, Radwanska called for a trainer, indicating a problem with her knee.

"I felt pain in my knee," said the 16-year-old from Krakow, Poland. "I don't know what happened, maybe just too tired. Not very big pain, but it didn't go away."

Radwanska dropped the next two games, but won going away in the second, and then the match really picked up steam. After an early exchange of breaks, the girls traded ground strokes for a solid hour--Radwanska using the low-to-the-ground backhand that is so common now among European teenage girls; Kucova deploying her two-handed forehand up the middle to keep Radwanska from creating angles. The crowd, which was building with each passing game, cheered loudly for both players, although Kucova (Kika to her friends and family) was missing her "K-Block," the New York Slovakians whose work obligations kept them from supporting her as they had all week."

Serving from behind, Kucova, 17, showed no signs of pressure, but she did let a couple of chances slip away with Radwanska serving at 5-5, 15-40. First Kucova hit a backhand wide, then a forehand long and two winners by Radwanska nullified that opportunity to serve for the match.

But in the tiebreaker, Kucova forged a 5-1 lead as the steadier of the two, although points were decided more often with errors than with with winners. Although Radwanska brought it back to 5-3 and saved a match point with a brave forehand on the line, on the final point her backhand sailed long and shortly afterwards, her racquet flew toward the net as Kucova collapsed to the ground far behind the baseline.

The handshake turned into an embrace, as both girls recognized the valiant effort of the other.

"I told her well-played, congratulations, and don't cry, because she was crying," said Radwanska.

"I don't know if I cry," said Kucova. "It was a shock for me, the last ball. I just fell on the court. I don't know what happened then."

A few hours later, after she had received her championship trophy in Arthur Ashe Stadium, "my dream," she said, Kucova was still trying to comprehend her achievement.

"I still can't believe it. It's a wonderful feeling. It's amazing. I can say nothing."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Radwanska Seeks Second Straight Junior Slam Title; Berankis Rolls to Tenth Straight Hard Court Win


©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Second seed Urszula Radwanska, the 2007 Wimbledon Junior Champion, is ready for a repeat performance at the U.S. Open after her 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 7 seed Ksenia Mileveskaya of Belarus. Her countryman, unseeded Jerzy Janowicz, gives Poland a second chance at the US Open Junior title when he faces No. 15 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, who won the ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open last week.

Janowicz is not the only unseeded surprise finalist, as Radwanska's opponent, Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, also fits that description. Kucova took out Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia 7-5, 6-1 on the warmest day of this week's championships.

Radwanska admitted that the heat got the best of her at the beginning of the match and she looked out of sorts and lethargic.

"I was very, very tired in the first set," said the 16-year-old Radwanska, who prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. "Then, I don't know why, it was better."

The match began with six straight breaks of serve before Milevskaya took control. But Radwanska finally found her game and held serve for the first time to open the second set, and wasn't broken. Milevskaya had beaten her doubles partner twice in Junior Grand Slams this year--at the Australian and at Roland Garros--in straight sets, but she couldn't continue her dominance Saturday afternoon, and the Belarusian had an idea why.

"She plays really smart," said Milevskaya, who also knows a thing or two about cerebral tennis. "That's what I like about her. She can do everything on the court, drop shots, everything. She does some things that girls don't do, and I think she's going to do well in the finals."

If the Radwanska-Milevskaya semifinal was considered the defacto final, don't tell Kucova.


"I played her second round at Wimbledon and I lost," said the 17-year-old from Bratislava "But it was on grass, and this is hard, my favorite surface. At Wimbledon it was a strange match because it was dark, 9 o'clock at night and you could see nothing."

Kucova's bid for an upset will have to be accomplished without the assistance of her band of Slovakian New Yorkers who have loudly supported her throughout the tournament.

"Tomorrow they will not come, they have to go to work, so it will be hard, but I will do it," she said.

Kucova lost only one set in her first five matches, but Jerzy Janowicz, her unseeded counterpart on the boys' side has done it the hard way, winning four consecutive three-setters, each one more difficult than the last. Saturday's 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (1) conquest of No. 11 seed Thomas Fabbiano of Italy topped the drama scale, as the 6-foot-6 right-hander raised his game--specifically his serve mph--when it mattered most.

Serving at 5-5 in the third set, Janowicz, who turns 17 in November, faced a break point when Fabbiano sliced a backhand that the weary Pole couldn't handle. Knowing that one of Janowicz's monster first serves was coming, the Italian backed up nearly to the scoreboard, but it was to no avail. Ace, ace and ace again, and Janowicz had brushed aside the threat.

Asked how he could summon his best serving at the most crucial time, Janowicz, speaking through his coach Jakub Ulczynski said, "It's all about concentration and the feeling that you can put in good serves in a row. It's often happened that he puts in three or four aces in a row."


After his exuberant celebration after he defeated No. 5 seed Greg Jones on Friday, speculation mounted on just how Janowicz would display his joy at reaching Sunday's championship match when Fabbiano began to unravel in the final tiebreaker. Janowicz didn't disappoint; when Fabbiano's return found the net at 6-1, Janowicz did a slow-motion collapse, a swoon almost, with his arms stretched over his head as he lay on the court, then covering his face as he collected himself.


His opponent in the final, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, has been playing at a consistently high level throughout the Junior Grand Slams, reaching the semifinals in Australia and Wimbledon, the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and now the finals at Flushing Meadows, with his 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Matteo Trevisan of Italy.

Berankis, 17, recently spent two weeks in Dubai as a hitting partner to Roger Federer, and since then has won the Canadian Open Juniors and five straight-set matches in New York. Against Trevisan, Berankis avoided losing the first set by breaking the Italian at love at 5-4. In the ensuing tiebreaker, Berankis cracked two aces while Trevisan chipped in with a double fault on the first set point, a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the match.

At 3-3 in the second set, Berankis broke and held at love in his next two service games to close out the match, and the placid right-hander celebrated with a loud yell and an emphatic fist pump.

"All that energy goes out," he said. "Sometimes you just have to shout."

Much of the energy he held in was concentrated on executing his game plan.

"I think I was playing tactically pretty well," Berankis said of his performance against the Italian. "He likes to attack all the time with his forehand. His backhand is more inconsistent, so I was pressing on his backhand a little more."

Berankis admitted that reaching the final after the close calls in Australia and Wimbledon made him feel "very good" and he's looking forward to the biggest match of his career.

"They're going to tape it on The Tennis Channel, I think," he said, obviously pleased by the prospect of his first televised match. "Do you think I can get a tape of it?"

Eysseric and Inzerillo Take Boys Doubles; Milevskaya and Radwanska are Girls Champions

Sixth seeds Jonathan Eysseric and Jerome Inzerillo of France captured the boys doubles title with a 6-2, 6-4 win over the unseeded team of Grigor Dimitrov and Vacek Pospisil.


No. 2 seeds Ksenia Mileveskaya of Belarus and Poland's Urzsula Radwanska captured their second Grand Slam junior doubles championshp (they won Roland Garros this year) with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over the third seeded team of Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia and Ksenia Lykina of Russia. Radwanska also won the Wimbledon junior girls title this year with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and was a finalist in doubles at Australia).

With all the interviews and singles matches going on too, I was unable to see any of the boys doubles and very little of the girls. For more details on the doubles finals, see Marcia Frost's coverage at collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Both No. 1 seeds and Americans Missing From Final Weekend



©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

It's my fourth US Open Junior Championship, but it is the first one that I had no American boys to watch on Friday. In 2004, Sam Querrey and Scoville Jenkins were in the quarterfinals in singles, in 2005 Tim Smyczek and Donald Young, and last year Young reached the semifinals. But on this Friday, only Lauren Albanese in singles and Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammmed in doubles remained of the Americans, and both lost, in distinctly different fashions.

Floridian Lauren Albanese, the No. 8 seed, faced a difficult opponent in No. 2 seed Urszula Radwanska, the Wimbledon Junior Champion, and her task was made more challenging by an illness. After double faulting twice in succession to open the match, it was clear that she was not in good health, and although she got that break back immediately, it was the only game she would win. At the 4-1 changeover, a trainer was called to the court, but there was no improvement. After Albanese lost the next two games and the set, the trainer reappeared, but after Radwanska held to take a 1-0 lead in the second Albanese retired. Jean Nachand, the USTA's Director of Women's Tennis, spoke to Albanese after the match and relayed that she was suffering from a viral illness, was having difficulty breathing and was experiencing pains in the back of her head.

Frilling and Muhammed were experiencing psychic pain after their 7-6(8), 7-6(4) loss to the No. 2 seeded team of Ksenia Milevskaya and Radwanska as the sun set on Friday. As the disappointed fans filed out of Arthur Ashe Stadium after Venus Williams' semifinal loss to Justine Henin, several hundred found their way to Court 7, hungry for more good tennis and hoping for a win for the U.S. team. They got the first, but not the second, as Milevskaya and Radwanska, the French Junior Champions this year, used their extensive Grand Slam experience to lock up both tiebreakers.

"I think we got nervous and tentative at the really important time," said a visibly disappointed Frilling. "We didn't take our opportunities," said Muhammed, who also wiped away a few tears as she came off the court. "I think that was the difference in both of the tiebreakers."

It looked as if a third set would extend the match past dark when Milevskaya was broken at 5-5 in the second set, but Muhammed missed a volley at 30-30 and Radwanska pummeled a forehand winner to force a tiebreak instead. Milevskaya and Radwanska raced out to a 6-1 lead, but Frilling and Muhammed fought off three match points before Milevskaya finally stroked a perfect lob to end it.

Playing together for the first time, Frilling and Muhammed meshed immediately, defeating the No. 4 and No. 5 seeded teams on their way to the semifinals. Muhammed's net skills and Frilling's solid returning proved to be a formidable pairing, and they plan on teaming up again as their schedules allow.

Although the Americans were shut out of weekend play, not so the Italians and the Poles. Along with Radwanska, a singles semifinalist and doubles finalists, Poland can claim a boys singles semifinalist in 16-year-old Jerzy Janowicz, who upset No. 5 seed Greg Jones 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3. The tall, thin Janowicz packs a heavy serve and forehand and he used the latter effectively to pass the Australian on his forays to the net. Unseeded, Janowicz is one of the few winners who seemed overjoyed to reach the semifinals and he demonstrated it by falling on his back and kicking his legs in delight after passing Jones at net on his first match point. He then tossed his cap high in the air and bounded to the net for the handshake.

As for the Italians, two boys made the semifinals, one expected--No. 3 seed Matteo Trevisan--and one unexpected--No. 11 seed Thomas Fabbiano. Trevisan dispatched unseeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-4, 7-5, despite difficulties with a ribcage area muscle pull that had him wincing in pain as he blasted shots from the baseline.


Fabbiano took out No. 1 seed Vlad Ignatic, the 2007 Roland Garros Junior Champion 6-4, 6-2, using a very effective forehand and impressive quickness while Ignatic chipped in with a rash of errors.

"His shots are very heavy," said Fabbiano, who had dropped a 10-8 championship tiebreak to Ignatic at Wimbledon this year. "So I didn't try just to keep shots in; I tried to give him pressure, and it was not so difficult today, because he made many mistakes."

Fabbiano must beat Janowicz and Trevisan needs a victory over No. 15 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 8 seed Roman Jevaby of the Czech Republic, to set up an all-Italian boys final.

"I would like to go in the final and play against him," said Fabbiano. "Not because he is him, but because I like how he plays. My dream now is to be in the final against him, and for Italy to be the best."

Ignatic had company in defeat on Friday, when No.1 girls seed and defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was upset by Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-1. Kucova, who hits two-handed on both sides, had her own version of the J-Block--call them the K-Block--cheering her on.


"I didn't know them before," said Kucova of the 20 or so Slovakians living in New York who were vocally demonstrating their support throughout the match. "They come every day from the first match, doubles and singles. I just know them from here."

Kucova acknowledged a lift from their encouragement, but she was confident coming into the match, as she had dismissed Pavlyuchenkova from the Wimbledon juniors last year in the first round.

"She's a good player, but I believed I could win because I won last year. So I just was thinking on every point and just concentrating."

Kucova will face another unseeded semifinalist in Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia who took out Sacha Jones of New Zealand 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Jones had a 2-0 lead in the second set when Kalashnikova caught fire, winning eight games in a row. Jones finally stemmed the tide when she broke and held for 2-2, but Kalashnikova, who just turned 17 and stands over six feet tall reapplied herself to book her spot in the semifinals.

The other girls semifinal will pit doubles partners Milevskaya, of Belarus, and Radwanska. No. 7 seed Milevskaya used her vast array of shots to blunt the power of unseeded Jessica Moore of Australia 7-6 (5), 6-2. Moore never looked comfortable and was unable to find her rhythm against the wily Milevskaya, who has now reached the semifinals of three junior Grand Slams this year.

After their singles contest, Milevskaya and Radwanska will take the same side of the court against Kalashnikova and her partner, Ksenia Lykina of Russia, the No. 3 seeds, to decide the doubles champions for 2007. Kalashnikova and Lykina eliminated the unseeded Japanese team of Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-4.

The boys doubles championship will also be without its top seeded team. No. 1 seeds Ignatic and Jebavy were felled by the French pairing of Jonathan Eysseric and Jerome Inzerillo, seeded sixth, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Eysseric and Inzerillo will meet the unseeded tandem of Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Vasek Pospisil of Canada. Dimitrov and Pospisil advanced when Jones and partner Stephen Donald, the No. 2 seeds, retired trailing 4-0 due to a Jones muscle strain.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.

Grounds Pass $5.00 on Sunday; August Aces are up

The USTA has confirmed that they will once again be selling grounds passes for the junior finals on Sunday for $5.00. It's the best bargain in sports; three years ago you could have seen Andy Murray (now firmly established as a top 20 player), two years ago Victoria Azarenka (fourth round this year in women's singles and mixed doubles champion) and last year Tamira Paszek (fourth round this year in women's singles).

My regular Aces feature for the Tennis Recruiting Network was posted yesterday. It's centered around the National age group champions.

And check out the in-depth piece Bonnie (formerly DeSimone, now Ford) wrote for espn.com about the Junior Boot Camp conducted by the USTA.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Albanese Sole American Remaining in Singles at US Open Juniors



©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

At most of the tournaments I attend, player interview scheduling usually consists of approaching a player after his or her match and asking if I could talk to them about it. Things are quite a bit different at Grand Slam events, much more structured, with written requests relayed to the ITF staff, who then approach the player after the match and ask them when they will be available for an interview. The interview is scheduled for an conference room (there are three at the US Open, of varying sizes), the time is posted on a monitor in the media center, and then the player is escorted to room by the ITF Staff.

It's very difficult to keep up with this interviewing cavalcade when there are so many matches to watch, especially at this stage in the tournament. So today, I submitted seven interview requests, one for each American player left in the singles draw, for "win only" (the other option is win or lose). And, much to my surprise and disappointment, I spent more time watching matches than I did talking to players about their wins, as only one, Lauren Albanese, survived the the third round.

The day started out promisingly enough. The weather was terrific again, as it has been throughout the junior tournament, and the three U.S. boys--Dennis Nevolo, Rhyne Williams and Ryan Thacher all took early leads. Williams and Nevolo were first on, and the ninth seeded Williams used one early break of No. 5 seed Australian Greg Jones to take the first set. At the 5-4 changeover, as I headed to Court 8 to see how Nevolo was doing, I overheard a tennis fan remark to his companion as they left the Jones/Williams contest, "They weren't rallying. I like to see rallies." And the man was correct. Serves dominated, and I saw one game when Jones never got a ball in play when Williams was serving. Few points lasted more than two strokes.

Nevolo, playing the No. 8 seed Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic, was broken serving for the first set at 5-4, but Jebavy couldn't take advantage, was broken again, and Nevolo held at love to take the first set. Nevolo returned extremely well, closed the net when he had the stocky Czech off balance, and used some deft drop and stop volleys in the first set, but the second set got away from him quickly and he made little effort to win a game after going down 4-0. In the third, he wasn't able to recapture the magic of the first set, and the qualifier's run ended 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.

Meanwhile Williams had held to win the first set 6-4 and had broken Jones for a 1-0 lead in the second. But Jones got the break right back and the serving exhibition continued, with a tiebreaker the unsurprisingly result. All the pressure was on the Australian, but after winning his previous two matches in third-set tiebreakers, it was nothing new to him, and two aces at 4-3 really helped his cause. One his first set point, he chipped and charged on a Williams second serve and the Tennesseean couldn't come up with the pass. Jones broke Williams early in the third, and it was all he needed, as he took care of his own serve the rest of the way for a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory.

After that match finished I had time to catch the end of No. 8 seed Lauren Albanese's victory over No. 10 seed Ksenia Lykina of Russia. It was 5-3 in the third when I arrived, but I saw more of the match than I had anticipated I would, especially when Albanese got a look at a match point at 3-5, 30-40. It could have been over then, but Albanese mishit a backhand, Lykina held and Albanese needed to serve it out.

At 5-4, 40-0, a quick ending seemed likely, but it was five match points later before a couple of serve winners finally gave Albanese the 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 decision. Albanese credited her serve as the reason she won the first set, but she wasn't pleased with her consistency.

"I was serving unbelievable in the first set, a lot of aces, but she gave me a lot in the first set," said Albanese, a semifinalist in the US Open junior championships last year. "My first serve percentage fluctuated so much. I think there was a stretch where I missed 12 first serves in a row, some unbelievable stat like that."

Albanese knows she'll need to avoid stretches like that in her quarterfinal match against Urszula Radwanska of Poland, seeded No. 2 in the Open, but now ranked No. 1 in the world in the latest ITF junior rankings.

"Obviously it's going to be tough. She won Junior Wimbledon. She's a good player, but I'm a good player also, so I just have to focus on what I'm going to do," Albanese said.

My next stop was Ryan Thacher, who was up 3-0 on unseeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain when I arrived. But Thacher won only one more game in set from the small but hard-hitting 17-year-old from Birmingham England. Evans began to zero in on Thacher's serve, which the left-hander wasn't hitting with the pace he displayed in his first two wins, earning an early break in the second set. Thacher fought back to make it 3-3, they exchanged breaks again for 4-4, then held to 6-6. In the tiebreaker, Evans continued to play aggressively, and two key serve and volley successes and one return winner contributed to his cause. Several straw-hat-wearing British "tournament guests" as their credentials identified them, watched their junior in the second set, and piped in with a "well-played" comment on a regular basis. They too were right; Evans played well, earned his 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory and has now advanced to quarterfinals where he'll face No. 3 seed Matteo Trevisan of Italy.

I caught just a bit of Ashley Weinhold, who lost 6-1, 6-3 to Sacha Jones of New Zealand, a surprisingly lopsided score after their 7-5 in the third barnburner last year in the same round. I then got my first extended look at Coco Vandeweghe, who was playing Australian Jessica Moore, and had dropped the first set 6-4. But Vandeweghe made an early break in the second stand up, taking it by the same score.

Down 3-1 in the third, Vandeweghe fought back to 3-3, but serving at 3-4 30-30, the powerful Californian sent a routine backhand rally ball flying. On the next point, Moore took an excellent approach shot from Vandeweghe and from well off the court, caressed a topspin forehand to within inches of the baseline for the break.

Both girls were stepping two or three feet inside the baseline to return second serves, so no lead was ever safe, and Moore had her difficulties serving out the match at 5-3. Vandeweghe made four uncharacteristic return errors in the game, but even with those missteps, she had three break chances. Moore hung in there however, and finally on her fourth match point, she earned her spot in the quarterfinals despite being unseeded.

In fact, half of the girls quarterfinalists are unseeded. Jones and Moore are joined by Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia and Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.


For the first time in four years, a boy from the U.S. will not hold a US Open Junior doubles trophy. The final American boy in doubles, Devin Britton, and his partner Australian Jared Easton, were elminated on Thursday by Jones and his partner Stephen Donald, the No. 2 seeds, 6-0, 6-3.


The unseeded girls team of Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammed of the U.S. advanced to the semifinals however, upsetting the No. 4 seeded team of Lenka Jurikova of Slovakia and Katarzyna Piter of Poland 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 Thursday afternoon.

For complete draws, visit usopen.org.

Junior Davis, Fed Cup Teams Chosen

Amid all the hustle and bustle of the first few days of a junior Grand Slam, I did manage to track down the USA's 16-and-under teams for the competitions that are held in Reggio Emilia, Italy at the end of this month.

The boys team consists of Frank Carleton, Lawrence Formentera and Bo Seal. (Before the comments start flooding in, Sandgren was asked and declined.) USTA High Performance coach Martin VanDaalen is the team captain.

The girls team will be Lauren Embree, Asia Muhammed and Coco Vandeweghe, with HP coach Richard Ashby serving as the captain.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Couts, Nevolo and Williams and Vandeweghe Reach Third Round USO Jr. Championships

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

American qualifiers Kim Couts and Dennis Nevolo came to New York not knowing if they would make the qualifying draw, but six days later, they find themselves among the final 16 players in the U.S. Open Junior Championships after ousting seeds in second round action today. Wild card Coco Vandeweghe also put a seed on the sidelines, defeating No. 14 seed Elena Chernyakova of Russia 7-6 (2), 6-0, while Rhyne Williams, the only American boy seeded at No. 9, came through, giving the U.S. three boys and four girls in the third round.


Couts, 18, hasn't played a junior event since the Australian Open, but she won a $10,000 ITF Pro Circuit event in late July. She told me that victory had given her confidence a boost and it showed today in her 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over No. 11 seed Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia.

Couts had hoped that her win of the Futures circuit would get her a main draw junior wild card, but when one wasn't forthcoming, she played the waiting game.

"I ended up being the second to the last player in (to qualifying)," said Couts, who recently decided to pursue professional tennis as a career. "Thursday night, when I found out I got in, I was just so happy to be here, to be in the tournament. That's not an easy situation to be in sometimes. Okay, I'm in, and then the next day it's time to play. I did a good job getting through those two matches and I've kept the momentum going."

In the first set of the match, Couts had trouble with the Serbian's serve, which resembles that of the notoriously erratic Elena Dementieva.

"It has a ton of slice on it, it's not a penetrating serve at all," said Couts. "It's certainly not going to hurt you, but in a way it does hurt you, because it's so short in the box and there's so much spin on it. It takes a lot of getting used to, actually. I returned great at the end, but in the beginning I wasn't returning well at all."

Nevolo faced a different kind of challenge from No. 12 seed John-Patrick Smith of Australia, who definitely had some pop on his serve. The first set went to Nevolo 6-2, the second to Smith by the same score.


"He wasn't playing very well the first set," Nevolo said. "I was playing really aggressive and he wasn't moving that well; he wasn't getting that many balls in the court, so I only had to hit a couple of good shots a point. But in the second set he got a lot more depth on his balls, he started to play more solid, and I stopped being aggressive."

The tension built in the third set, with no breaks in the first eight games. But with Smith serving in the ninth game, Nevolo had four break points, finally converting when the Australian missed a volley just long.

Serving for the match, particularly after a changeover to think about it, can be difficult, but Nevolo had no trouble, taking a 40-0 lead and finishing two points later when Smith hit a backhand just out, closing out his 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win.

"I was a little nervous, but I kept doing what I did the last few games," said the 17-year-old Illinois resident, currently ranked 149 in the ITF junior rankings. "I played three good points in a row, I came in. It was probably one of the better games I played."

Like Couts, Nevolo wasn't sure his trip to New York would provide him with any tennis-playing opportunities.

"The second to last day, I think I was the 10th alternate," said Nevolo, whose only previous Grand Slam experience was at the 2005 US Open Juniors, where he lost in the first round of qualifying and in the first round of the main draw as a doubles wildcard. "We weren't sure I was going to get in, but we know a lot of people pull out. But it's hard, coming here not being positive I would get in."

That wasn't a problem for 16-year-old Rhyne Williams, although he did have a stomach muscle pull that kept him from playing the Kalamazoo Nationals last month. He pronounced it fully healed and there were certainly no signs of difficulties with it in his 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Gastao Elias, a match that erased some unpleasant memories for Williams.



"The last time the guy gave me a beating," said Williams of their meeting three months ago on clay at an ITF Grade 1 in Belgium. "He crushed me last time, 3 and 1--he took my candy."

But this time it was Williams who was on his best surface, and his serve proved to be more than the 16-year-old from Portugal could handle. Once the points were started, the ground strokes were professional caliber from both boys, but Williams and his coach Andres Pedroso had decided to focus on Elias' forehand.

"He was missing a ton of forehands," Williams said. "Usually I think that's his stronger side, but my coach said to go after it--he knew it ws going to break down, that the backhand was much more solid. So I picked on the forehand as much as possible."

Along with Ryan Thacher, who won his second round match on Tuesday, Williams and Nevolo will play again on Thursday. Vandeweghe and Couts join Ashley Weinhold and Lauren Albanese in the girls third round, also on Thursday. Weinhold earned her spot in the third round on Tuesday, while Albanese, a semifinalist in last year's Junior Open, defeated fellow American Mallory Cecil 6-3, 6-2 to take hers.

The news was not as positive in doubles competition on Wednesday afternoon. Devin Britton is the only American boy to reach the quarterfinals. He and Australian partner Jared Easton took out Adam El Mihdawy and Ryan Harrison of the U.S. 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. 2006 US Open junior doubles finalists Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek couldn't hold on to a 4-0 lead in the third set or convert a match point at 3-5 in the third set and fell to Moldova's Radu Albot and Russia's Evgeny Donskoy 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5). The top seeded boys team of Vlad Ignatic of Belarus and Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic got a scare from the U.S. team of Alex Domijan and Ty Trombetta before pulling out a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win.

The top seeded girls--Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ksenia Pervak--weren't as fortunate, as they were ushered out by 2007 Wimbledon Junior doubles finalists Musaki Doi and Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-4, 6-4.

Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammed are the only U.S. team in the girls quarterfinals. Frilling and Muhammed upended the No. 5 seed team of American Gail Brodsky and Jovanovski 6-3, 6-1.

For complete draws, visit usopen.org. For additional coverage of the juniors, see collegeandjuniortennis.com.