Monday, November 30, 2009

Qualifiers Clayton and Niu Take Down Seeds in Opening Round of Girls 18s at Eddie Herr


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Bradenton, FL--

Mary Clayton and Belinda Niu were match tough after their three qualifying wins over the weekend, and they proved it with upsets Monday in first round 18s action at the Eddie Herr International. Clayton downed No. 4 seed Camila Silva of Chile 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(4), and Niu took out No. 9 seed Irnia Khromacheva of Russia 6-4, 6-3 on another ideal day for tennis at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy.

Clayton, who had rolled through her two qualifying matches on Sunday after saving two match points in her opener on Saturday, again saved two match points against Silva, No. 12 in the ITF junior rankings.

Niu was on court over seven hours on Sunday, and admitted that she was tired and sore this morning, but there was little sign of it against the 14-year-old Russian.

"I think I played pretty well," said the 16-year-old from Oregon, who trains at the Evert Academy. "I was a little bit nervous, but I tried to play through it."

Niu said she wasn't familiar with Khromacheva's game, having not played her before, but didn't let it worry her.

"I knew she was a seed, so that she was a good player, but I didn't really have expectations, I just wanted to play my best," she said, putting her level in today's match at 7 on a scale of 10.

Madison Keys, another Evert Academy student, had too much power for Anna Orlik of Belarus, taking a 6-3, 6-3 victory in a contest between two former Eddie Herr 12s champions, Orlik in 2005 and Keys in 2007. Orlik, now 16, had trouble holding serve, and although she fought back from down 3-0 in the final set, Keys got the break she needed with Orlik serving at 3-4, and held for the win.

Qualifier Danielle Collins and French Open girls finalist Daria Gavrilova of Russia had a spirited battle before Gavrilova emerged with a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory. The match was moved to a lighted court in the third set, but there seemed no advantage to either after Collins held a long and tense game serving at 5-6. But in the tiebreaker, Gavrilova, the Eddie Herr 14s champion last year, successfully wrong-footed Collins on several key points and hit a backhand winner to squelch the challenge from Collins.

If there is to be a third consecutive girls 18s winner from the U.S., she will come from the top half of the draw, as all seven Americans in the bottom half lost their first round matches. In addition to Clayton, Niu and Keys, wild card Stephanie Nauta and Monica Turewicz advanced to the second round, which will be played on Wednesday.

Top seed Heather Watson, the 2008 Eddie Herr 18s finalist, had little difficulty with Marianne Jodoin of Canada, taking their match by a 6-2, 6-0 score. Watson, who trains at Bollettieri's and attends school there, couldn't help but smile at four of her male classmates, each of whom painted his back in with a letter, then spelled out G O H W by lining up and raising their shirts to display their message.

Number six seed Yana Buchina, who lost to Watson in September's US Open girls final, withdrew due to illness today and was replaced by lucky loser Tamara Bizhukova, also of Russia, who advanced to the second round.

The boys 18s and 16s first round will be played Tuesday.


The 12s are down to the round of 16, and there are seven U.S. girls and five U.S. boys still vying for the title. No. 1 seeds Tommy Paul and Stefan Kozlov won in straight sets, as did unseeded Francis Tiafoe. Alex Rybakov came back to defeat Nathan Ponwith 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a battle of unseeded Americans, and Reilly Opelka upended Yancy Dennis, a No. 1 seed from the U.S., 6-3, 7-5. Dennis had three set points with Opelka serving at 4-5, 0-40 in the second set, but the Floridan won the next five points, broke Dennis and held firm after a long game at 6-5, taking the win on his third match point.

The seven girls remaining also include two No. 1 seeds: Ndindi Ndunda and Anastasia Nefedova, who are two of only three No. 1 seeds remaining in the draw. Rebecca Weissmann, Mariya Shishkina, Gabrielle Robinson, Tornado Ali Black, and Diana Kussainova are the other U.S. players who will try for quarterfinal berths on Tuesday.

For complete results and draws, see the tennisinformation site. For more photos and stories, see eddieherr.com.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Qualifying Complete at Eddie Herr; 12s Move to Round 3


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Bradenton, FL--

The weather was perfect for the final rounds of qualifying in the 14s, 16s, and 18s divisions at the Eddie Herr International Sunday, with blue skies, temperatures in the mid-70s and light breezes delighting the large crowds at IMG/Bollettieri Academy nearly as much as the tennis.

The 18s played two rounds of qualifying, with morning and afternoon matches determining who would take the eight spots in the main draw. As it turned out, none of the 16 seeds in the girls qualifying draw managed to make the main, and only two of the 16 boys seeds survived.

Mary Clayton, a wild card, had survived match points in her opening round on Saturday, but today had a much easier time of it, taking down Russian Aida Golman 6-1, 6-0 and Hungarian Blanka Szavay 6-1, 6-1. Two other Americans--Maria Belaya and wild card Danielle Collins--also made it through by winning all four sets they played on Sunday. Belaya, who has recently committed to Clemson University, defeated Renata Arshavskaya 6-2, 6-1 and Elizabeth Begley 6-4, 7-5 for her spot. The 15-year-old Collins took out No. 15 seed Veronika Zavodska of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-5 and in the afternoon breezed past No. 8 seed Ellen Allgurin of Sweden 6-3, 6-0.

The fourth U.S. girl to advance to the main draw got there the hard way. Belinda Niu needed three hours and forty-five minutes in the day's final singles match, finished under the lights on distant court 7, to prevail over Santa Shumilina of Russia 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Niu had also needed three sets in her morning match, so she will undoubtedly sleep well tonight.


Another marathon match in the 18s saw wild card Fred Saba save two match points in the third set tiebreaker to defeat No. 11 seed Tom Farquharson of Great Britain 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(6) in the morning match, which extended into the afternoon. When Saba hit a forehand into the net at 4-5 in the tiebreaker, Farquharson had two chances to end it, but he missed two backhands, and the match was again all even. Saba took control of the next point with his forehand, forcing an error from Farquharson, and another backhand error gave Saba the victory.

Saba had only a couple of hours to recover before his match with Great Britain's Nick Jones, who had had a much easier morning win, but it was Saba who dominated, taking it 6-3, 6-1. Saba was the only American boy to qualify, with Nathan Pasha falling in his second match.

There were no U.S. boys qualifying in the 16s division, but five U.S. girls advanced to the 64-player main draw: Brittany Lashway, Skylar Morton, Wan-Yi Sweeting, Kate Vialle and Ashley Kitchen.

In the boys 14s, Daniel Kerznerman, Karim Arem, Matthew Cravinhos, Daniel Shebshayevich and Sebastian Beltrame earned their way into the main draw with wins on Sunday.


The girls 14s qualifiers from the U.S. are Rianna Valdes, Kristin Wiley, Kim Kermet and Nikki Kallenberg. Kallenberg's 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4 win over Anna Pomyatinskaya of Russia drew quite a crowd, more for who was watching it than for who was playing it. Pomyatinskaya's vocal cheering section included three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and her coach, Michael Joyce. Sharapova's calls of "davaj" were sincere and frequent, but unable to get her 13-year-old cousin past the Floridian, who is also 13.

In the second round of 12s Sunday, the three boys No. 1 seeds from the U.S. advanced with routine wins. Tommy Paul, Yancy Dennis and Stefan Kozlov lost eight games between them. In the girls 12s, the three girls No. 1 seeds from the U.S. also had little difficulty, with Julia O'Loughlin, Ndindi Ndunda, and Anastasia Nefedova taking straight set wins.

There will be no boys 16s or 18s matches until Tuesday, but main draw for the girls 14s, 16s and 18s, and the boys 14s, will begin Monday.

For complete draws, see the tennisinformation site. For more photos and news from the tournament, see eddieherr.com.

Lauren Davis, Mitchell Frank Win Grade 1 Yucatan Cup Titles Saturday

Americans swept the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan World Cup singles titles last night in Mexico, with unseeded Lauren Davis taking a 6-7 (1), 7-5, 6-1 victory over No. 5 seed Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank defeating No. 10 seed Darian King of Barbados 6-1, 6-2. Both Davis and Frank reached the doubles finals with their partners, but lost.

For complete draws, see the tournament website (which mistakenly lists Davis from Canada on the home page).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Three-setters Few in First Round of 12s at Eddie Herr

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Bradenton, FL--

In the first few days of any tournament, but especially the Eddie Herr with its 2000 participants and 30-plus courts, my tactics consist of wandering from court to court, looking for an interesting player, a good match, or coach who can tell me something about the player he or she is watching.


During the first round of the girls 12s, played in the early morning chill, there were a substantial number of mismatches, with 6-0, 6-0 being the most popular score. Two matches, or rather girls, caught my eye: 11-year-old Mia Smith of Great Britain, who displayed a stylish one-handed backhand in her 6-2, 6-0 victory over Canada's Kirsten Prelle, and 12-year-old McKinleigh Lair of the United States, who pulled out a three-ring binder during the changeovers and wrote in it until her opponent got up to resume play. I was assured by her mother that it wasn't homework, but rather tennis notes that were getting that attention, even when she led 5-0 in the second set. Lair, who trains at the Evert Academy, defeated Paloma Martinez of Mexico 6-1, 6-0.


Three No. 1 seeds lost in the girls 12s opening round, of the 16 so designated. Tamara Culibrk of the United States (if I don't write the country, assume it's the U.S.) defeated No. 1 seed Dominique Mortier of the Bahamas 6-0, 6-1, and Sidney Riley beat No. 1 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. That was one of only four matches that went three sets, and one of those was decided by a match tiebreaker rather than a full third set, due to an officiating error. The third No. 1 seed to lose was Jessica Hinojosa of Mexico who fell 6-1, 6-0 to Yi Jia Shao of China.


The boys 12s matches that followed seemed much more intense; maybe the warmth of the sun unthawed the emotions that the girls couldn't seem to locate. There were again three No. 1 seeds losing in the boys opening round: Mikayel Khachatryan of Armenia, who lost to Nate Ponwith of the U.S., William Barnes of Panama, who didn't win a game from Ninan Kumar, and Anish Wijesinghe of Sri Lanka, who fell to Dane Dunlap of Canada 6-0, 4-6, 7-5. I watched most of the first set of the Wijesinghe - Dunlap contest with Nick Saviano, who coaches Dunlap, and it looked as if another lopsided result was imminent. But Wijesinghe picked up his game in the second, and when I returned to the match, he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, after having taken a 5-2 lead. Wijesinghe's first serve deserted him completely in his final two serving games however, and Dunlap played very composed and error-free points, allowing Wijesinghe to seal his own fate with mistakes four or five strokes into their rallies. When it was over, Dunlap had won the final five games of the roller coaster match.

There were eight three-setters of the 64 matches played in the boys 12s Saturday, but none were longer than Canadian David Wolfson's 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Jake Devine, which clocked in at three hours and twenty-seven minutes. Wolfson, a No. 1 seed, may feel the effects of that battle in his second round match on Sunday.

The first round of 18s qualifying was played, with two rounds scheduled for Sunday.

For results of all Saturday's matches, see the tennisinformation website.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eddie Herr Preview: Part II; Qualifying In Progress; Main Draw 12s Begin Saturday


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Bradenton, FL--

We arrived in Bradenton early this afternoon, with the registration for 18s qualifying underway and 14s and 16s qualifying matches filling the nearly three dozen courts at IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

There have been some changes here since last year's Eddie Herr, with a general sprucing up of the grounds, court resurfacing, and even space devoted to a player's lounge. There was no escaping the usual chaos of nearly 2000 players--as well as parents, siblings, coaches--trying to register, get racquets strung, obtain information, find draws, learn results and double check match times.

But once I went out into the cool but pleasant late afternoon air, everything seemed under control. I watched a few games of Daniel Kerznerman's 6-4, 6-1 win over Dylan Gee of Great Britain, chatted with several coaches, players and junior circuit regulars, and even heard rumors of Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Melanie Oudin sightings, although I didn't see any of the WTA stars myself. It took me only ten minutes to see my first pair of Oudin "Believe" shoes on a 16s competitor, however.


Eventually the sun set, and the accompanying temperature drop drove me back inside, where there was less activity than earlier, but still an occasional score reported or question posed.

The 18s qualifying begins on Saturday, and the main draw of the boys and girls 12s starts, with the girls scheduled for 8 a.m.

I've previewed the 16s and 18s for the Tennis Recruiting Network in a post today. It might not be entirely up-to-date with withdrawals, wild cards, etc., since it was written earlier in the week.

For qualifying results from today and the draws, see the tournament website.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eddie Herr Preview: Part I

Just a quick post to provide a link to Part I of my Eddie Herr preview for the Tennis Recruiting Network, which focuses on the 12s and 14s age divisions.

We'll be in Bradenton on Friday, when qualifying for the 14s and 16s begins. For those draws, see eddieherr.com.

I hope you all celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. I'm grateful I had that opportunity. And thank you all for your support for zootennis. Thanksgiving may be almost over, but a feast of junior tennis is about to begin!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

USTA Announces Australian Wild Card Fields; More on Bobby Curtis Retirement Celebration

The USTA announced the eight-player fields for both the men's and women's tournaments for the main draw Australian Open wild cards.

The women who will complete at the Racquet Club of the South December 4-7 are: Christina McHale, who won the 2009 AO women's wild card, Madison Brengle, Julia Cohen, Ester Goldfeld, Asia Muhammad, Alison Riske and CoCo Vandeweghe, with one woman still to be determined. Alexa Glatch, who was previously announced as a participant, is not in the field. Sloane Stephens, who might have been included, is out with an injury, according to this story from the Birmingham News, which says University of Alabama player Courtney McLane will replace her in an upcoming exhibition featuring Melanie Oudin.

The men competing for the main draw wild card are: Ryan Harrison, Jesse Levine, Donald Young and Wayne Odesnik, all of whom were previously announced. Rajeev Ram, who was invited initially, no longer needs a wild card after his recent Aachen challenger win. The four others are: Alex Kuznetsov, Michael McClune, Jack Sock and Ryan Sweeting.

USTA Florida plans to honor retiring junior competition coordinator Bobby Curtis on Sunday morning, December 6th, during the annual meeting of the section. For more on that, and on Curtis's contributions to Florida tennis, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coaches Q and A: What Grips Do You Teach?


Today Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida discusses his views on the grips that will enhance a player's long term development.

At the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute. we think it is really important to work with students from an early age to master the grips that will help them become successful tennis players in the future. Let me say that there have obviously been many successful players who have not used conventional grips on all of their shots but these players are the exception rather then the rule.

We prefer to teach the semi-western grip on the forehand. This grip allows the player to either hit with top spin or flatten out the shot for more penetration. This grip promotes more of an attacking style of play. You will see many clay court players use more of a Western grip, which helps on a slower surface and allows the player to have increased spin and margin of error on their shots. A downside of the Western grip is that it is more difficult to hit sliced balls and balls on surfaces such as grass.

On the two-handed backhand, we teach a Continental grip with the right hand and a semi-Western to Eastern grip with the left hand. This allows the player the ability to drop the racket head under the ball and get the necessary spin and penetration on the shot. It's important to remember that women tend to hit the ball flatter than the guys so their left hand would probably be closer to the eastern grip. On the one-handed backhand, we prefer our students hit with a full Eastern backhand grip which allows the student to get their hand and wrist behind the ball. This grip needs to be shifted to a Continental grip for slices.

On serves, volleys, and overheads we teach the Continental grip. Young students may have trouble at first serving with this grip, so we will at times allow them to start with a Eastern forehand grip and gradually move it over as they get stronger. On the forehand volley the grip remains the same but players will shift the racket a bit so that they get the palm of their hand more behind the racket.

We think that the grips we teach here will allow the students to maximize their potential. Bad grips or incorrect grips on shots have the potential of severely retarding the growth of students and should be discouraged.


Do you have a question for Andy Brandi or Harold Solomon? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yucatan Cup Underway; Rome Tennis Complex; Sock Plans to Play Orange Bowl

With the Thanksgiving holiday this week, there are no tournaments in the U.S. either on the Pro Circuit or the ITF junior circuit. Instead the action shifts to Mexico, where the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan World Cup and the Puebla Challenger are being played this week. Americans Taylor Dent and Jesse Levine are the top two seeds in Puebla. For the complete draws, see the ATP website.

At the Yucatan Cup, which used to be after the Orange Bowl, but has been moved to the week before the Eddie Herr, there are the usual large contingent of American juniors in the draw. Kevin Krawietz of Germany is the top boys seed; he is followed by the Junior Tennis Champions Center trio of Denis Kudla (2), Mitchell Frank (3) and Junior Ore (4). Two British players who will not be in Mexico are Jack Carpenter and George Morgan, who were sent home from a Spanish training trip for misbehavior, according to this Daily Mail story.

Silvia Njiric of Croatia is the girls No. 1 seed, with American Ester Goldfeld, the winner of the South Carolina Grade 2 earlier this month, the second seed. Noel Scott and Annie Mulholland are the other U.S. girls seeded, at No. 6 and No. 14 respectively. Ohio's Lauren Davis, the US Open Junior quarterfinalist, is also in the field.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

I can't recall if I posted an article about this proposed tennis complex in Rome Georgia before, but a 74-court facility is worth a second mention/update regardless. See this story about it from the Rome News-Tribune.

Thanks to Texas College Tennis blog's Granger Huntress for alerting me to this story in the Lincoln, Neb. Journal-Star about Jack Sock's Pro Circuit win yesterday in Amelia Island. He is retaining his amateur status to play high school tennis next year and college tennis the year after, the article says. It also says his next tournament is the Orange Bowl, so he must have received one of the wild cards, which have not yet been released.

A reader kindly informed me that I had the wrong link for the story on USTA coach Sarah Taylor. The correct link (which is fixed in yesterday's post now) can be found here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sock Wins Futures Title in Amelia Island; Giorgi Wins Toronto Challenger; Sarah Taylor Feature; Upcoming Holiday


Wild card Jack Sock lost a set for the first time at the $10,000 Amelia Island Futures tournament this week, but it didn't cost him the match. The 17-year-old from Nebraska, who trains in Kansas City with Mike Wolf, defeated No. 2 seed Artem Sitak of Russia 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-3 to claim his first pro title. As I mentioned yesterday, it is only the fifth pro event he's competed in.

The USTA has already posted a story on the final match here. From the account, which was obviously from someone who was there, it sounds as if the final set was full of drama, but Sock was able to serve it out. Sock is currently listed as an alternate at the Orange Bowl. I assume that if he wants a wild card to play there, his request will be granted.

Another unseeded 17-year-old, Camila Giorgi of Italy, won the $50,000 Tevlin Challenger in Toronto, defeating Aniko Kapros of Hungary 4-6 6-4 6-0. I'm not familiar with Giorgi's game; she has not played a junior slam nor has she played at all outside of Europe until this event. The last junior tournament she played was the 2008 Italian Open, where as a wild card, she lost in the second round. Already ranked 285, this is her second challenger win since September. Definitely one to watch. For a brief story on her win, click here.

Sixteen-year-old Marianne Jodoin of Canada teamed with veteran Maureen Drake to take the doubles, when Sharon Fichman was forced to retire due to a rolled ankle. Fichman and Mashona Washington were the top seeds, while Jodoin and Drake were unseeded. For more on the doubles, see the Tennis Canada website story.

I wasn't familiar with the tennis career of new USTA National Coach Sarah Taylor, so I was happy to read this feature by Mic Huber of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. (There is a typo in it; Taylor reached 68 in the WTA rankings, not 6). It's good to hear of players who turn pro prior to attending college then return to school for a degree.

I've been working on Eddie Herr previews for the Tennis Recruiting Network for publication later this week, but posts for the next few days are likely to be brief, as we head south for Thanksgiving with family in North Carolina, and then on to the big Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl, Junior Orange Bowl trifecta.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sock in Final; Patrick McEnroe Book in the Works; O'Neill to Georgia Tech; Tiley Responds

Jack Sock has reached the finals of the Amelia Island Futures tournament after defeating Michael Venus today 7-6(5), 6-4. The 17-year-old from Nebraska will face No. 2 seed Artem Sitak, a 23-year-old Russian, in Sunday afternoon's final. For a trip down memory lane, check out this post of mine from 2005, when Sock had swept the USTA 12s Nationals.

At the Illinois Challenger, the unseeded Battistone brothers collected their first title at that level today, defeating No. 2 seeds Harsh Mankad and Treat Huey 7-5, 7-6(5). Two former Kalamazoo 16s champions Taylor Dent (96) and Michael Russell (94) met for the singles title, with Russell winning 7-5, 6-4. Here's how Taylor Dent, who is new to Twitter, but getting the hang of it quickly, just described it.

taylordent81
Well "@&$!! Went down today to Russel. He played as well as Murray did against me at the open. I'm excited!! Just a matter of time I believe


A full account of the two finals can be found at fightingillini.com.

Peter Bodo announced today on his TennisWorld blog that he and USTA Davis Cup Captain and Player Development head Patrick McEnroe will be collaborating on a book. Bodo writes:

"It won't be an autobiography, a la A Champion's Mind (the book I wrote a few years ago with Pete Sampras). Rather, it will consist of war stories, opinions, and hard-core tennis analysis. It will draw on Pat's experiences on the pro tour, as an ESPN and CBS commentator, head of the USTA player development and - of course! - his Davis Cup captaincy."

Yesterday I wrote about D-II champion Sona Novakova going to Baylor, today I discovered that Jillian O'Neill, the two-time junior college champion from Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College, has signed a National Letter of Intent to join Georgia Tech. For more on the 20-year-old from Nova Scotia, see the Georgia Tech website.

Craig Tiley of Tennis Australia may have asked for equal time from the Perth newspaper's Sunday Times, which last week headlined their article on Player Development there "changes needed." There are two stories featuring Tiley: one about the not employing The Big Five (not the five you would come up with, I'm pretty sure), and the second about why the move to more clay courts has taken so long. Short answer: ongoing maintenance costs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sock Reaches Semifinals at Amelia Island; Isner Prepares for 2010; Novakova to Join Baylor; Steve Johnson in College Spotlight


Seventeen-year-old Jack Sock has reached his second Futures semifinal of the fall with a 6-4, 6-1 win today over No. 6 seed Adam El Mihdawy in Amelia Island, Florida. In Thursday's second round, Sock beat No. 4 seed Matej Bocko of Slovakia 6-3, 6-0; it was his second straight-set win over the 429th-ranked 25-year-old, who lives in the U.S.

With the points he receives from his three wins this week (he won his first round match from former Illinois player Roy Kalmanovich when Kalmanovich retired down a set), Sock will break into the ATP Top 1000, having played only five tournaments total on the professional circuit. In Saturday's semifinal, Sock will play former LSU All-American Michael Venus, who is also unseeded. The other semifinal features unseeded James Lemke, the former Pepperdine player who has reached the finals of the last two Futures, winning one, against No. 2 seed Artem Sitak of Russia, who defeated Alex Domijan 6-3, 6-4 in their quarterfinal contest today.

For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page.

Although the ATP season isn't even officially over--the top eight men are squaring off in London beginning Sunday in the World Tour Finals--the previews for 2010 are already beginning, especially in the press of Australia and New Zealand, where the year's first tournaments are held. The New Zealand Herald spoke with former Georgia star John Isner about returning to New Zealand early next year for the Heineken Open. When Isner played that tournament this year, he had to qualify; now he is at a career-high ATP ranking of 34. The story lays out his entire pro career, which is less than three years old, and there have been decided peaks and valleys in those 30 months.

There have been dozens of announcements this week about blue chip signings, and although none of them were from the Baylor women's program, they have every reason to be excited about a player who is joining them next fall. Sona Novakova, the two-time Division II champion from Armstrong Atlantic and this year's small college Super Bowl winner, is transferring to the Bears in 2010. Ironically, the 20-year-old from the Czech Republic drew current Baylor star Lenka Broosova in the first round of the Indoor this month, and they battled to a third set tiebreaker before Broosova secured the win. For the Baylor release, click here.

The USTA's Collegiate Spotlight features ITA Indoor Champion Steve Johnson of Southern California.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: Open by Andre Agassi




As I neared the end of Andre Agassi's best-selling autobiography "Open", I had so many conflicting emotions that I thought it might help to do spreadsheet with one column for things I liked about the book and another for what I didn't like about it. It proved to be a useless attempt to organize my thoughts, because often the things I liked about it were the things I didn't like about it. In others words, my reactions are complicated and contradictory, and in many ways that mirrors the book itself.

Joel Drucker, in his excellent review of the book for the San Francisco Chronicle calls it a "confessional fairy tale," and it's hard to disagree. There are villains, heroes, foes to vanquish, heroines to woo, and it all ends happily ever after. Hanging your life story on a framework like that certainly helps to move it along, take it out of the mundane, daily diary mode, but it necessarily leads to portraying complex personalities only in the context of the roles you've assigned them.

Although I don't live with one, I have encountered some pretty scary tennis parents in the course of the past half dozen years, and yet none of them would come close to Mike Agassi if his son's portrayal of him in the book is accurate. If Nick Bollettieri is as greedy, thoughtless and selfish as he's painted here, it would be hard to imagine how he's managed to maintain the respect of the rest of the tennis world for so long.

As many other reviewers have noted, Agassi's longtime trainer Gil Reyes is cast in the hero's role, and if there's one negative thought or action assigned to him in the book, I don't recall it. And yet, after knowing his wife Steffi Graf for less than five years, it's she whom he calls "the greatest person I have ever known," at her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

An autobiography, which is I guess what we call celebrity memoirs, must be selective; in the very eventful 30 years this one covers, Agassi can't possibly go into much depth on every personality and experience that changed his life. But contrast his treatment of the two most sensational excerpts released before publication: the crystal meth use and the premature balding. The only drug scene presented is the first; the others--"too many" being the only number he'll give--aren't referenced, and the process of getting off what is a highly addictive drug isn't discussed. Yet his obsession with his hair, which is comical in a way that drug usage can never be, is explored much more thoroughly, culminating with a head-shaving scene in wife Brooke Shield's Manhattan brownstone.

This brings me to the central question that I've had since I read those excerpts, and still have now that I've read the book. Why?

Why write a memoir that casts your father as a monster, your mentor as a charlatan, your sport as a prison, your ex-wife as an airhead, your colleagues as boobs, your trainer as a saint, your wife as a goddess?

What's to be gained? Most of us who care about tennis (whether Agassi himself is that category, I still don't know) have seen the change in Agassi over the years. We've constructed our own story about his life; we've been inspired by his second act, his philanthropy, while imagining as best we can how difficult it must be to grow up in the public eye. But once he gives us all these details, and tells that this time he's telling us the truth, unlike all those other times when he was lying to us, the inspiration fades.

It's a fascinating book about a complicated personality, and ghostwriter JR Moehringer deserves much of the credit for making it a compelling read. But it's hard to shake the feeling that, after three years out of the public eye, Agassi needed to get back in the spotlight. Like one of his legendary backhand returns, he hit that target perfectly.


DISCLOSURE: I was provided a free review copy of the book as a member of the US Tennis Writers Association.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stanford Men Play San Quentin Inmates; LSU Team Gets Media Training; Abanda Barely Misses Upset in Toronto


Six members of the men's tennis team at Stanford spent last Saturday morning just an hour north of Palo Alto, but it might as well have been a moon of Jupiter, so alien their destination would be to student-athletes on The Farm. Alex Clayton, Greg Hirshman, Matt Kandath, Bradley Klahn, Denis Lin and Ryan Thacher, along with head coach John Whitlinger, played tennis with inmates at San Quentin, the state prison housing California's death row.

The Stanford Daily spoke with Whitlinger and several of the players for this story, and the descriptions of their initial fears and the subsequent reality demonstrate the value of the experience. For more on how the tennis program got started, and the inmates and Marin Tennis Club members who also regularly participate in it, see this February 2009 story from espn.com.

While it wouldn't equate with entering a death row prison, the LSU men's tennis team had an opportunity Tuesday to learn more about the occasionally uncomfortable task of dealing with the media, according to this story from lsusports.net. I've always found the vast majority of college tennis players to be cooperative, candid and articulate, win or lose, but I applaud LSU for instructing their student-athletes in what's expected of them. I would love to see this training at all colleges, and at the USTA's National and Regional Training Centers too.

The $50,000 Tevlin Challenger in Toronto is getting more coverage than some WTA tour events with both Stephanie Myles and Tom Tebbutt keeping a close eye on the action. Tebbutt reports, in his Globe and Mail blog "Match Tough,", that 15-year-old Canadian Elisabeth Abanda had a match point on No. 7 seed Madison Brengle of the U.S. but didn't convert it, losing 6-2, 5-7, 7-5. The first round is now complete, with 2008 Orange Bowl finalists Christina McHale and Julia Boserup of the U.S. both advancing.

Myles, in her Montreal Gazette blog "Open Court," is very diligent about recognizing all tennis birthdays, and about following the Canadians on the tour.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Junior Tennis Podcast; Australia to Study "Hot Spots;" Learning From the French System

Andy Gladstone, Competitive Tennis Coordinator at USTA Florida, launched his new junior tennis podcast, called the G Cast, earlier this month, and he snared an impressive guest for his first episode, Patrick McEnroe. In the 26-minute podcast, which is available on iTunes, Gladstone asks McEnroe about his personal development as a junior, his vision for Player Development, college tennis, and what things he would change if he could just snap his fingers and have it done.

In the college tennis portion of the podcast, McEnroe presents what has been his consistent message--go to college unless it is obvious that you have the physical and mental maturity to succeed on the pro level at age 17 or 18, and are dominating on the international junior circuit. He also admits, for the first time that I'm aware of, that the USTA played a role in steering successful juniors away from college.

As for the finger snapping, he would like the USTA to have control of its own facility, which it does not have at the Evert Academy where the Boca Raton Training center is located, and would like to see changes in the Davis Cup format.

He repeatedly emphasizes the exchange and cooperation that the USTA is seeking with private academies and coaches; it sounds as if he is aware of the perceived arrogance and top-down approach that has caused resentment of the USTA in the past.

As reported in an Sydney Morning Herald article that had me immediately thinking of Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How,researchers at Griffith University in Australia are looking for the Wagga Wagga effect, or why some regions or towns are hot spots for athletic excellence. Coyle discussed this effect in detail in The Talent Code, with Curacao, Russia and South Korea producing inordinate numbers of Little League baseball players, women's tennis players and women's golfers.

"...over the next three years researchers would study factors such as the family support for elite athletes, whether there was a strong club system, socio-cultural factors, psychological factors, how recruiters perceived talent, home-town advantage and whether the hot-spots have strong socio-capital."

Neil Harman of the Times has made no secret of his disdain for the current management of the LTA, and in an article published Sunday, he contrasts that with the French system, which is now being steered by Patrice Hagelauer, who once worked for the LTA.

There are four elements to the Hagelauer philosophy - regional, national, international and coach education. At regional level, he says - "whatever we do as a nation begins in the clubs and the coaching in the clubs, in every department. This is what I was trying to develop in the UK. The imperative aspect is the junior programme, that those who are in charge of the players at 8, 9 at 12. There can be no mistakes at that age. We need the right ideas, but also we need to listen. It is about building a pathway to excellence.

"Then we have the national programme, with 14 centres of excellent across the country and we have to make sure we take care of those with better management systems. Everybody needs to work together. At the international level there are currently 32 players - double last year's number - who are working at Roland Garros. We have seven players in the top 100, 11 in the top 200 and many other junior players working through the rankings (Note to the LTA: we are only talking singles players here, doubles does not figure). It is important that players like Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra, those with great experience, can mix with the younger ones, because they act as points of reference."


Is there enough of that mixing here in the U.S.? I actually believe it happens much more often than we hear about. Andy Roddick frequently invites top juniors to hit with him, not just at big tournaments, but at his home in Austin. Sam Querrey can be seen at Carson, and the mingling of top pros with juniors is common at Bollettieri's and Saddlebrook. With a country this size, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to converge in one spot, like Roland Garros, but I hope that the new National Center in New York can provide "points of reference" for the juniors there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

ITA Indoor Recap; Duke Women Get NCAA Rings; College Connections on Pro Circuit This Week; Comment Reminder

My recap of the ITA Indoor Championships is posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, and with that, the fall college tennis season comes to a close for me. It will be two months before the spring season begins and it's three months until the next collegiate major: the Team Indoor championships. But many college players compete in Pro Circuit events throughout the fall, and the last two weeks, with Challengers in Charlottesville, Va., Knoxville, Tenn., and this week, with a Challenger in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., there are current and former college players filling up the draws.

The University of Illinois has four former players in the main draw: Kevin Anderson, Ryler DeHeart, Ruben Gonzales (a wild card) and Rajeev Ram, who just won the Aachen Challenger yesterday to reach a career-high ATP ranking of 78, making it unlikely he'll need to play in the Australian Open wild card tournament next month. Fighting Illini sophomore Dennis Nevolo was given a wild card into the main draw, where he'll play top seed Kevin Kim. Wild card Blake Strode, the 2009 NCAA semifinalist from Arkansas, advanced to the second round with a win over Vince Spadea today, and 2007 Kalamazoo champion Michael McClune defeated Alex Kuznetsov in first round play today. The final round of qualifying's winners include Tulsa's Arnau Brugues, Tennessee's Kaden Hensel, and former World Junior Champion Ricardas Berankis. The tournament's website provides some live scoring and results are updated regularly.

The Futures tournament in Amelia Island, another new location, and the third consecutive Pro Circuit event on clay, completed its qualifying today (it takes four days when there is a 128 draw) and nearly everyone qualifying has a college connection. Starting from the top--Vahid Mirzadeh currently at Florida State; Joey Burkhardt currently at Florida; Fred Saba committed to Duke for 2010; Nicolas Barrientos former D-II West Florida player; Tennys Sandgren possible spring 2010 enrollee at Tennessee; Robbye Poole formerly at Ole Miss; Denes Lukacs currently at Baylor. That's 7 out of 8, with the eighth being 19-year-old Richard Hampel of the Czech Republic, who isn't playing college tennis that I know of.

The wild cards in the main draw went to NCAA champion Devin Britton, former Florida Gator Tyler Hochwalt, Florida State freshman Connor Smith and Jack Sock.

For the complete draws, see the Pro Circuit page.

The women are not playing in the United States this week, but there is a $50,000 tournament in Toronto, the Tevlin Challenger, which features many Americans. Christina McHale is in the main draw, and there are several young Americans in the final round of qualifying. The tournament's website has complete draws.

When I spoke to Reka Zsilinszka at the ITA Indoor, she told me that the team would be receiving their national championship rings the following weekend at the Blue Devils football game with Georgia Tech. NCAA individual champion Mallory Cecil was also honored as a Honda award recipient. For more, see the Duke athletic website.

And finally, a couple of reminders. There have been several thoughtful comments about clay training that have not been published because they were left anonymously. Please use the name option, NOT the anonymous option, when posting a comment to facilitate discussion.

As we approach the holiday shopping season, please consider using the links at left for Tennis Warehouse, Amazon and OTZ Sports for purchasing from those sponsors. Revenue generated from these sales help offset the cost of my travel as I cover college and junior tournaments throughout the year.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

McPhillips, Kontinen Win Grade 4 at Evert's; Orange Bowl Acceptances; Translating Junior Success to Pros--Is Australia Failing?

Fifteen-year-old Kyle McPhillips won her second consecutive ITF today, defeating No. 7 seed Caitlyn Williams 6-2, 6-0 at the ITF Grade 4 tournament at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton. She and Chanelle Van Nguyen, the fifth seeds, also won the doubles title, defeating sixth seeds Mary Clayton and Kate Fuller 6-3, 6-2. It's been a great two months for McPhillips, who in between her win at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta and this one reached the finals of a $10,000 Pro Circuit event near her home near Cleveland. McPhillips didn't lose a set in singles and in doubles, she and Van Nguyen needed a match tiebreaker only in the semifinals against No. 3 seeds Maria Belaya and Lauren Herring.

The boys singles champion also captured the doubles. Top seed Micke Kontinen of Finland beat unseeded American Robert Livi 6-1, 6-4 and teamed with Great Britain's Nick Jones for his second title. Kontinen and Jones, the top seeds, defeated No. 6 seeds Bjorn Fratangelo and Alex Robles 7-5, 6-3. Livi had several notable wins, defeating No. 2 seed Shane Vinsant in the quarterfinals and Marcos Giron in the semifinals. For complete results, see the TennisLink site. The U.S. ITF junior circuit is quiet the next two weeks--it's the junior off-season!--with the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl next up.

The acceptances for the Dunlop Orange Bowl have been released, and French Open champions and ITF junior world No. 1s Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Berta of Sweden are entered, in hopes of securing the coveted year-end title. For the complete acceptances, 18s and 16s, see the usta tournament page.

In this weekend's Pro Circuit finals, Taylor Dent won in Knoxville, Conor Niland in Niceville and Varvara Lepchenko in Phoenix. Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Denis Kudla lost in the Niceville doubles final to top seeds Tigran Martirosyan and Artem Sitak 6-4, 7-5. For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit page.

A recent article in the Perth Australia Sunday Times examines, as the headline puts it, "Alarming number of Australian juniors fail in move to senior tennis ranks."

The opening paragraph continues:
Figures compiled by The Sunday Times show that from 53 of Australia's junior Davis and Fed Cup representatives over the past decade, 36 were at one stage ranked inside the world's top 100 juniors.

But only one from that group, Samantha Stosur, holds a similar senior ranking.

It's undeniable that Australian tennis has fallen on hard times this century. But I don't think these particular numbers are an indication of the failure of its systems. First, using this decade is dubious, as it's unrealistic to expect any of the 16-year-olds who competed in the Junior Davis and Fed Cups in the last half of the decade to be Top 100 in the professional ranks, as none would be older than 20. (As a comparison, the U.S. has two women (Oudin, King) and five men (Roddick, Querrey, Isner, Odesnik, Ram) who are currently in the Top 100 after having been in the Top 100 of the juniors this decade.) No one is currently denigrating the Spanish development system, disappointed that Pere Riba and Roberto Bautista, who led Spain to the Junior Davis Cup championship in 2004, aren't in the ATP Top 100.

Second, comparing a current ranking (Stosur's) with a career ranking (all juniors who "at one stage" where ranked in the Top 100 of juniors) is again stacking the deck.

And finally, there are only five years worth of players vying for a spot in the junior Top 100, while there are four times that many, all in a comparable stage of maturity, clamoring to break into the professional Top 100.

Paul McNamee, who unsuccessfully challenged Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard in a recent election, believes the system is broken, and he thinks that Tennis Australia is responsible for the feeling that private coaches have that their best players are being "stolen" from them. He also mentions the lack of clay courts as another reason player development has failed to produce more champions in Australia.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bangoura to Join Florida Gators in January


Sekou Bangoura Jr., who turns 18 in four days, will end his ITF junior tennis career next month with appearances at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl. In January, he’ll begin a new phase in his tennis development, joining Andy Jackson’s Florida Gators.

A blue chip recruit from Bradenton, Fla. who graduated in May of this year, Bangoura has had excellent results this fall, winning the ITF Pan-American Closed last month, and three main draw Pro Circuit matches at Futures tournaments in Birmingham and Niceville during the past three weeks. I spoke with him today by phone from Niceville, Fla., where he is preparing for the doubles final on Sunday before heading to the Futures tournament at Amelia Island next week.

“I’ve been a Florida fan since I’m born and raised there, and this way I can stay close to home,” he said. “My parents will get to come see me play matches, stay in touch, and it just felt like the right choice.”

Bangoura took only one official visit, to Florida, where he attended the Florida - Tennessee football game, but according to his father and coach, Sekou Bangoura Sr., there were a host of unofficial visits as the pair travelled to tournaments around the country.

“Illinois, Florida State, Notre Dame, Florida, Miami, all of them were along the way, University of South Florida, which is very close to home,” said Sekou Sr. “Kentucky was another one, and Georgia. We visited, eight, ten, but then he had to pick one.”

Choosing from among that distinguished group wasn’t easy.

“It was a tough decision,” said Sekou Sr., ‘but it’s like you’re in a tiebreaker in the third set, match point, and you’ve got to make a decision, slice or topspin. You’ve got to make a decision, and he’s turning into an adult, so he’s got to start making some of those decisions.”

Bangoura, who also excels in golf, piano and chess, said he’s interested in sports management as a possible career path in Gainesville. In tennis, he’s eager to win championships and improve his own game, while retaining the skills that have kept him at the top of his age division throughout his junior career.

“I definitely can improve my serve, try to come to the net more, and I definitely think that Coach (Andy) Jackson and Coach (Jeremy) Bayon can help me with that,” he said. “My strength is playing from the baseline, my speed, able to retrieve a lot of balls, wait for my opportunities. I’m excited to go, and hopefully I’ll get a little bit bigger while in the fitness program there, so it should be good.”

Although he is looking forward to college, Bangoura also had a more immediate focus—his first Pro Circuit final on Sunday, when he and Denis Kudla play top seeds Tigran Martirosyan and Artem Sitak.

“I’m definitely more excited than nervous,” Bangoura said. “Denis and I have been playing pretty well together. We played together back in the 12s, and this is the first time since. We click well together, so it should be good tomorrow.”

Before closing the book on the college recruiting chapter, Sekou Sr. wanted to convey his gratitude to those involved in the process.

“I just wanted to thank all the coaches who showed interest in him. We deeply respect them and appreciate their interest and I wanted to make sure to extend that.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kimbell to Georgia and Other Signings; Eddie Herr Acceptances; USTA Offers Pancho Gonzalez Grants

The Tennis Recruiting Network wrapped up their coverage of blue chip signings today, with the announcement that Lilly Kimbell had signed with the University of Georgia. Josh Rey, who wrote some outstanding stories this year for usopen.org, gives a detailed look at Kimbell's junior tennis career, pointing out how it differs from that of other players, and at Kimbell's personality, ending the feature with Little Kimbellisms: quotes too good to leave out, even if they don't fit the narrative flow.


Other announcements from today include this release from the University of San Diego on blue chip Clarke Spinosa's signing, and four local newspaper stories on top-rated recruits: Stamford Conn.'s The Advocate's article on Dante Terenzio's signing with Louisville;. The Dothan Ala. Eagle's story on four star Emily Newton's commitment to Auburn, where she will be joined by five star Jacqueline Kasler, according to this Pensacola News Journal article; and Treasure Coast Palm's article on five star Andrew Butz's signing with the University of Florida. I will have more on another high profile commitment to the Gators tomorrow.

The Eddie Herr acceptances have been posted, and it looks as if they'll be only one junior slam singles winner in the field--US Open girls champion Heather Watson, who, of course, lives in Bradenton and trains at Bollettieri's. French Open finalist Daria Gavrilova of Russia, the Eddie Herr 14s champion, is entered in the 18s, as is US Open girls finalist Yana Buchina of Russia. Beatrice Capra and Madison Keys are the top ITF-ranked U.S. players entered, with the wild cards yet to be named. Sachia Vickery is entered in the 16s.

In the boys 18s, Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France is the highest ranked ITF player entered, at No. 9, and none of the junior slam winners or finalists are entered. The U.S. will again have a strong contingent with Denis Kudla, who today reached the semifinals of the Futures in Niceville, 2008 16s champion Raymond Sarmiento, Mitchell Frank, Harry Fowler, Junior Ore and Sekou Bangoura, Jr., all in the ITF top 60, in the field.

A spreadsheet of the acceptances, which at 36 pages gives an indication of just how huge the tournament is, can be found at eddieherr.com.

The USTA has announced a new grant in honor of Pancho Gonzalez, which will go to one male and one female high school student of Hispanic heritage who combines competitive tennis participation with academic achievements. For more on the qualifications for these two grants, see usta.com.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harold Solomon Featured on Tennis Channel Academy; More College Signings; Kudla and Bangoura in Futures Quarters; Australian ITF Grade 1 Dropped

If you are lucky enough to get the Tennis Channel, you will have an opportunity to see zootennis contributor Harold Solomon this weekend when he kicks off the new season of the Tennis Channel Academy series with Tracy Austin. According to this release, Solomon is the first of seven coaches who will be featured at their academies this fall. The others are: Rennae Stubbs, Johan Kriek, Craig Kardon, Wayne Bryan, Emilio Sanchez and Brett Hobden. The first airing of the Solomon segment is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. For dates and times it is repeated, click here.

Although most of the major collegiate signings have not been announced yet by the schools, another blue chip, Christopher Mengel, revealed today at the Tennis Recruiting Network that he would be playing for Duke, as will Cale Hammond of Oklahoma, who was thought to be leaning toward staying in state and playing for John Roddick's Sooners.

There were several announcements involving the signing of local players, with four star recruit Nicolas Kamisar going to Washington, five star recruit Grant Roberts signing with Kentucky, and four star recruit Nikki Chiricosta making it official at Bowling Green. Most of the announcements will be out, I expect, by Monday, but you can keep up with them at Tennis Recruiting Network by checking on the boys' commitments and girls' commitments pages.

In the Pro Circuit Futures event in Niceville, Fla., Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Denis Kudla have reached the singles quarterfinals with wins today. Bangoura, a wild card, beat No. 7 seed Adam El Mihdawy in three sets, while Kudla, a qualifier, downed No. 8 seed Chris Klingemann, the former Ohio State Buckeye, in straight sets. Due to Hurricane Ida, there were a lot of walkovers and byes in the doubles, and although it's only Thursday, the doubles finalists are set, with the unseeded team of Bangoura and Kudla facing the top-seeded team of Tigran Martirosyan and Artem Sitak for the title. Florida State men's assistant coach Matt Cloer competed in the event, and was featured in this story in the Northwest Florida Daily News. CoCo Vandeweghe has reached the quarterfinals of the women's Pro Circuit event in Phoenix. For the complete draws, see the Pro Circuit results page.

The fact sheet is out for the Australian Open Junior tournament, but a quick review of the schedule for early 2010 reveals that the Optus Nottinghill Grade 1 is absent. The Loy Yang Traralgon Grade 1 has been moved to Nottinghill's place on the calendar right before the Australian Open Junior Championships. The qualifying for the AO Juniors has also been moved, to Bendigo, which is 90 minutes to two hours away from Melbourne. It will be interesting to see if the fields, which are always the weakest of the four junior majors, suffer from these changes. For the details, see the ITF junior website.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cercone To Florida; Sandgren to Tennessee?; Initial Invitations to Australian Open Wild Card Event; Taylor Named USTA Coach


Signing Day is here, and today the Tennis Recruiting Network revealed two blue chips' choices. Alexandra Cercone has committed to the Florida Gators and you can find my story about her decision here, while Daniel Kosakowski will also being staying close to home, signing with UCLA. Ali Jones wrote the article about his choice, which can be found here. Most of the announcements from the schools themselves have not yet been posted, but a couple have. Kate Fuller, who committed to Georgia many months ago, is officially signed; men's head coach Matt Knoll of Baylor University has received an official commitment from Louisiana's Robert Verzaal; Brooke Bolender's signing at Michigan was announced today.

For a different perspective, four-star recruit Kelsey Lawson of Arizona, who has committed to DePaul, wrote a diary of her experience for the Arizona Republic. Her account of the USTA 18s Clay Courts in Memphis is a reminder of the tension surrounding the major summer events, which are so critical for getting noticed by college coaches.

Speculation about the intentions of top-ranked blue chip Tennys Sandgren has been rampant the past few months, but the Knoxville News Sentinel is the first source I've seen that has gotten a comment from Sandgren.

"I'm most likely going to start (UT) in January," Tennys Sandgren said Monday from Niceville, Fla., where he is playing a $10,000 Futures tournament.

"I mean, I'm playing five professional tournaments the next five weeks," he said. "If I do really well I'll reconsider it, but for now I'm leaning toward going to UT in January."
If he does, Sandgren would put an already formidable Tennessee team at the top of the list of NCAA team title contenders. The article also covers Rhyne Williams's match against Luka Gregorc in the opening round of the Knoxville Challenger.

The USTA has announced a majority of the players who have been invited to compete for the Australian Open wild card in Atlanta next month. On the men's side, invitations have been extended to Jesse Levine, Donald Young, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram and Ryan Harrison. On the women's side, Christina McHale, last year's winner, will be joined by Madison Brengle, Alison Riske, CoCo Vandeweghe, Asia Muhammad and Alexa Glatch. For the complete release, click here.

And while I was in Connecticut, the USTA announced that Sarah Taylor would be joining Player Development as a coach. For the complete release, click here.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ITA Indoor Championships Slideshow, Videos

With National Letter of Intent signing day coming up tomorrow, I thought it would be a good idea to get the slideshow and videos from the ITA Indoor up today. It will be early next week before my recap will be published on the Tennis Recruiting Network.



The short videos below are of champions Steve Johnson and Jana Juricova. For videos of Irina Falconi and Guillermo Gomez, see the tenniskalamazoo channel at YouTube.





Monday, November 9, 2009

USTA Opens Training Center East in New York; Goldfeld and Austin Capture South Carolina ITF; Kubler Rolls On; Mijacika Reaches Finals in SC Challenger


I had heard at the US Open that the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in New York was going to become a National Training Center, and today the USTA made the official announcement, which can be found here. New USTA National Coach Tim Mayotte, who conducted a seminar for coaches at the ITA Indoor Championships at Yale Friday, will be stationed there, with programs beginning this winter. Another interesting note from the release: they will be adding four clay courts to the facility, which currently doesn't have any of that surface.

On the International Tennis Federation junior circuit last week, Americans Gonzales Austin and Ester Goldfeld claimed the Grade 2 titles in Lexington, South Carolina. For Austin, the USTA 16s National Champion, it was his first ITF tournament title. Unseeded, he beat top seed Dennis Novikov, 12th seed Alex Petrone and 4th seed Dane Webb in succession to reach the final, where he took out No. 2 seed Alexis Carlos of Mexico 6-0, 2-6, 6-3.

The fourth-seeded Goldfeld, a finalist at the Pan-American Closed last month, defeated No. 5 seed Madison Keys 0-6, 6-2, 7-5 in her third consecutive three-setter. The 16-year-old from New York now has a career-high ITF junior ranking of 42.

Novikov and partner Nick Chappell, the No. 1 seeds, took the boys doubles with a 2-6, 6-3, 10-7 decision over No. 2 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant. The girls doubles title went to top seeds Katarena Paliivets of Canada and Monica Puig of Puerto Rico. They defeated unseeded Robin Anderson and Kelsey Laurente 6-4, 6-2 in the final. For complete draws, click here.

Jason Kubler of Australia, who was one of my October Aces, keeps on rolling. The 16-year-old won the Asian Oceania Closed and has now won 28 consecutive ITF junior matches, not including his Junior Davis Cup victories. His ITF ranking is now No. 4.

At the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Rock Hill SC, Sacha Jones of New Zealand took the title, beating former Clemson star Ani Mijacika 6-0, 6-4. Jones, the younger sister of former Illinois standout GD Jones, has now won four ITF women's tournaments in a row, putting her on a 20-match winning streak. Mijacika, who last year at this time was playing in the final of the ITA Indoor, will crack the WTA Top 300 when her points from yesterday go on her record next week.

In the $50,000 Challenger in Charlottesville, Virginia junior Sanam Singh took champion Kevin Kim to a third set tiebreaker before falling in the quarterfinals. Kim beat Singh's compatriot and former teammate Somdev Devvarman in the final 6-4, 6-7(8) 6-4. Two former Cavaliers also reached the doubles final, with Dom Inglot and Rylan Rizza falling to former Middle Tennessee State's NCAA doubles champion Andreas Siljestrom of Sweden and Martin Emmrich of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 11-9.

In the Birmingham Futures, unseeded James Lemke of Australia beat top seed and former Cal standout Conor Niland of Ireland 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Artem Sitak and former Kentucky standout Tigran Martirosyan, the second seeds, won the doubles over former LSU Tigers Colt Gaston and Michael Venus 6-3, 6-4.

This week the Pro Circuit is in Knoxville for a 50K for men, in Niceville Fla. for a $10K for men and in Phoenix for a women's 50K. See the Pro Circuit page for draws and results.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pac-10 Sweeps Championships at ITA Indoor Sunday


©Colette Lewis 2009--
West Haven, CT--

Tennis in the Pac-10 doesn't normally involve much indoor tennis, but the conference produced every ITA Indoor champion crowned Sunday at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center at Yale University, the first time that has happened since 1995.

Steve Johnson of the University of Southern California won a three-hour, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(3) classic from Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech for the men's singles title, and Jana Juricova of California-Berkeley became the first Bear to win the women's Indoor title with her 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech.

In the doubles, Stanford made Indoor history when Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher won the men's doubles, and Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette took the women's doubles, making it the first time one school had swept the doubles titles in the same year.

Johnson, the fifth seed, was able to squeeze past the unseeded Gomez despite converting only one of 17 break points. In the second set alone, he had 13, with Gomez going down 0-40 on his serve three consecutive times, but winning each of those games. After Gomez won the second set tiebreaker by winning seven straight points, Johnson got his only break point of the third set in the second game. When he didn't convert that one either, he raised his hands in the air, with a cry of "please just give me one."

"I was getting frustrated," said Johnson, a sophomore from Orange, California. "I hit a really good slice backhand and he just hit an awesome angle cross court drop volley. I was just hoping he would miss one, but he didn't give me any."

Gomez played composed and consistent tennis throughout the third set, but he had no opportunity to break Johnson. The junior from Spain showed no anxiety serving at 4-5 and 5-6, and when he held to force a tiebreaker, he had only to look back at the second set tiebreaker for encouragement.

This time, however, Johnson was ready. He hit winner after winner, his only hiccup a double fault when leading 3-1. A great kick serve and a forehand putaway brought him three match points, and he converted on the first, when Gomez's lob went just long.

"I just played really solid, I gave him nothing in the breaker," Johnson said. "I didn't have any unforced errors or anything. I just really used my head out there. I wouldn't let myself go away in the third set breaker."

Gomez was disappointed in the result, but far from crushed by the loss.

"The difference between us, it wasn't much," said Gomez. "But it isn't really tough, because I did everything I could. Of course I'm a little bit upset, but I did everything I could, I fought hard, and I'm proud of myself. The difference was maybe one good serving point in the tiebreaker, one better serve. I did my best, and I just have to congratulate him."

Johnson becomes only the second USC Trojan to win a men's Indoor singles title, joining ESPN commentator and Syracuse women's head coach Luke Jensen on the champions list.


Juricova, a sophomore from the Slovak Republic, is the only Bear with a women's Indoor singles championship after her win over All-American champion Falconi.

After trading breaks to open the match, both players held until Falconi, the second seed, was broken at 3-3. Juricova, the fourth seed, held on, and although it took her four set points, the tall right-hander finally stroked a forehand winner to grab the opening set. Falconi was broken to open the second set, but although the sophomore from Florida was making more errors than usual, she didn't let the match get away from her there. Falconi held on to her serve, kept pressuring Juricova's and pulled even at 4. Juricova held at love serving the difficult 4-5 and 5-6 games, but any momentum she may have had didn't last long. Falconi seemed ready to take the match to a third set when taking a 6-4 lead in the tiebreaker but Juricova brushed away one set point with a forehand winner, and on the second, an unfriendly net cord kept Falconi's shot from clearing the net. At 6-6, Falconi double faulted, and the match ended when her return of Juricova's second serve went long.

"I was up 4-2 in the second, so I was hoping to finish it in an easier way for me," said Juricova. "But it's great. I don't think I fully realize it, but it's awesome so far."

Juricova, who also played a doubles match on all four days, admitted to being tired, but although the fall season is over now, she can't take it easy quite yet.

"I have an exam on Tuesday, a pretty big one, so I have to study, but after Tuesday, I'm going to relax a little bit," Juricova said.

Falconi, who was attempting to become the first woman since 1985 to win both the All-American and the Indoor, had dominated her opponents throughout the tournament, but in the final, Juricova kept her errors to a minimum and didn't give Falconi much time to construct her points.

"She played very well today," Falconi said. "She has a big serve, hits a big ball, so I knew I was going to be on defense, but when I could be on offense, it would be good. It was a matter of getting to offense as much as possible, but she made it very difficult for me today."



Given the storied history of Stanford tennis, it is a bit surprising that the Cardinal had not claimed both men's and women's Indoor championships in the same year, and when the second-seeded team of Barte and Burdette were down match point against top seeds Caitlin Whoriskey and Natalie Pluskota of Tennessee, it looked as if 2009 wasn't going to the first.

Pluskota and Whoriskey, the All-American champions, won the first set 6-4, with Barte and Burdette taking the second 6-3. In the third set, Barte and Burdette had their first match point with Pluskota serving at 3-5, but Burdette netted a volley and the Tennessee pair won the next two points. Burdette was serving for the match in the next game, but two double faults led to a break for 5-5. Whoriskey held for 6-5, and in the next game, with Barte serving at 30-40, Tennessee had their match point. Whoriskey missed a return however, and a tiebreaker would decide the championship after nearly three hours of tennis.

Unlike the bulk of the match, the tiebreaker points went to the serving team every time with the exception of the first one, when Pluskota was broken. With Burdette serving at 6-4, the Tennessee pair rushed the net and Barte hit a lob that had everyone holding their breath before it settled just inside the baseline to give Stanford the title.

"We were pretty confident considering we had won the tiebreaker for the third at the NCAAs when we played them in the semifinals," said Burdette, whose sister Erin was a finalist in doubles for Stanford at the Indoor in 2004. "I had completely forgotten up until the tiebreaker started that the exact same thing had happened. That gave me a boost of confidence, like here we go again."



Klahn and Thacher's 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Duke's unseeded team of Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha couldn't match the women's final for drama, but once the Blue Devils found their form in the second set, the tennis was excellent. Klahn was broken in the sole break of the second set, and in the third Carleton, the only right-hander on the court, failed to hold serving at 2-1, and that was all the third seeds needed, finishing the match with a second break of Carleton.

"They hung in there; we saw that yesterday when they were down a set and a break," Klahn said. "We knew it was going to be tough. We stuck with the game plan in the third set."

Klahn and Thacher, both sophomores, have been playing together less than a year, and although they had an inauspicious debut as a team, starting out 1-2 last March, they are now comfortable together.

"In doubles, there's a lot to be said for chemistry," Thacher said. "We've just been getting better with each match," Klahn added.

As for helping put Stanford in the record books again, both were surprised that it hadn't been done before.

"There's obviously been a lot of great Stanford teams, both men and women, dating back a long time," Klahn said. "It means a lot, it's great for the program."

In the consolation finals played on Sunday, Kristie Boxx and Karen Nijssen of Ole Miss won the doubles 8-2 over Mari Andersson and Juricova of Cal. Laura Vallverdu of Miami defeated Reka Zsilinszka of Duke 6-4, 6-4 to take the women's consolation singles. Alex Lacroix of Florida defeated Texas's Ed Corrie 6-3, 6-1 in the men's consolation final. On Saturday, Marek Czerwinski and Dennis Nevolo of Illinois won the men's doubles consolation final 8-3 over Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin.

For complete results, see the ITA tournament home page.