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Friday, February 20, 2009

University of Miami Women Down USTA National Team; Austin to Assist with Player Development

Two weeks after the USTA Boys National Junior Team played an exhibition match against the University of Miami, (my article about that for Tennis Recruiting Network can be found here), it was the USTA Girls National Team's turn to test their games at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Fla. This time the college team came out on top, with the Hurricanes winning 5-2.

Miami's No. 3 doubles team of Bianca Eichkorn and Gabriela Mejia quickly took care of the USTA's Allie Will and Chanelle Van Nguyen 8-1; the USTA took an 8-5 win with its No. 2 team of Lauren Herring and Grace Min downing Michaela Kissell and Alessa Waibel. Miami's No. 1 team of Julia Cohen and Laura Vallverdu defeated the USTA's Brooke Bolender and Beatrice Capra, 8-3. Without being there, I can't be sure of the order of finish, but the doubles point was won by Miami.

The USTA pulled even quickly however, when Chi Chi Scholl beat Claudia Wasilewski at No. 6, in a match that was played during the doubles, and with a 6-0, 6-0 score, barely took as long to finish as the 8 game pro set in doubles. But Miami took an early lead in all five of the remaining singles match, and much like the USTA boys, the Miami women took a lot of the drama out of the outcome.

At No. 1, Cohen beat Will 6-1, 6-1, and at No. 3, Kissell defeated Bolender 6-0, 6-3. When Min, at No. 4, lost 6-1, 7-6(3), Miami had earned its fourth point, clinching the match. Herring, at No. 5, split sets with Mejia, eventually losing in a match tiebreaker, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7. Capra split with Vallverdu, then won the match tiebreaker for a 0-6, 7-5, 10-6 victory. There was a No. 7 match played, with Van Nguyen beating Waibel 6-0, 6-1.

I spoke with National Coach Jean Desdunes by telephone this morning and he had nothing but good things to say about the experience.

"You would never know it was just a practice, based on the intensity and the focus," he said. "It was a practice for both of us, but it was great to create that under pressure. And the idea that as coaches we can be on the court, reinforcing and building on what we work on day in and day out, it's priceless. It's always been one of the best things about college tennis and Davis Cups. So for all those reasons, it's just a great concept."

I asked him for his take on the reasons for the girls' slow start.

"I think the situation was new to them. They were very excited about the opportunity, and I don't know that they knew how to handle it. They're younger, a lot younger. They all recovered and played better in the second set, and probably just ran out of time. But I have to give credit to the University of Miami for coming out and being solid from the beginning all the way through to the end."

Desdunes, who was head men's coach at Georgia Tech and an All-American at Clemson, thinks the girls learned a lot from the experience.

"It's fun. I think they walked away thinking, wow, that was pretty good. I think they'll be better next time, because I think they'll know what to expect. It will be interesting to see what they'll do the next time they get an opportunity like that."

As a former college coach Desdunes knows that getting a date that works for both teams is the biggest challenge in making these matches a staple of training.

"I know it was difficult to find a date for them, as well as for us, with having the players in town, so scheduling will be an issue, but I hope in the future we can do this again. I welcome it; it was good for everyone involved."

In other Player Development news, Tracy Austin has been named a special consultant to Player Development, reporting to Patrick McEnroe. She will be assisting with women players training in Carson, Calif., which include Sloane Stephens, Nicole Gibbs, Asia Muhammad and CoCo Vandeweghe. See the full release at usta.com.