Bodo on Isner; Wertheim on Bryans; Conference Tournaments Underway; Sanchez in Spotlight; Note on Orange Bowl Suspensions
I'm finding it more difficult every year to drop my coverage of college tennis in April to do the two major California junior events. This year has been a particularly interesting one in Division I, with surprising wins and baffling losses and so many 4-3 decisions. It could be the year that being in the top 16 and hosting a regional is not a free pass to the Big Dance, this year in Athens, Ga.
Speaking of Athens, Peter Bodo of Tennis magazine and tennis.com, posted a very interesting story on his blog today about former Georgia Bulldog John Isner. In the post entitled The Articulate Bulldog, Bodo, who is writing a story on Isner for the September issue of Tennis, delves into what Isner may have gained from his four years in college. Bodo writes:
Isner told me that he thinks that sangfroid was bred by the enormous volume of tennis matches he played in college. "I wouldn't say I'm surprised at my ability to step up and perform, because I believe college made me that way. Some of it may be innate, but I think most of it was learned. College matches can be very tough, they make you tough. You get into situations where the whole match is riding on the outcome of your match, the whole team is depending on you. . . That's when you have to be strong. One thing I gained in college that some of my peers didn't when they went on the pro tour is that kind of experience. I was playing 60, 70 matches a year in that four-year span. I was lucky enough to be winning a lot, and winning breeds confidence. Even today, in tight situations, I can always call upon that experience." There are no scientific studies, no control groups, for determining what atmospheres are best for what tennis players. Maybe Isner would have been right where he is today, or even higher in the pro tennis hierarchy, if he had skipped college and concentrated on professional tennis. You'll never convince me of that--it just doesn't ring true to me--but it's possible. Most of what his rise teaches me, is, as I've said so many times, there's not one path, one template, one checklist to assure pro success.
Another top tennis writer has undertaken a feature on former collegians, with Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim profiling the Bryan twins. There isn't much about their college experience in this story, but it's a fascinating look at their games and their lives.
Current college player Maria Sanchez is the subject of the USTA's player spotlight, and one of her most interesting answers comes from the question of how she began playing tennis. How many other athletic U.S. girls take the softball and basketball route without giving tennis a thought?
The SEC and ACC conference championships are underway this weekend, and there have already been upsets, with the Auburn men defeating Georgia 4-3 and Ole Miss downing host Kentucky 4-0 in Lexington. Tennessee and Florida are the top two seeds in the men's SEC tournament. Florida(1), Ole Miss(2), Tennessee(3) and South Carolina(5) have reached the women's SEC semifinals. South Carolina beat No. 4 seed Georgia on their home courts 4-1. In the ACC, the No. 1 seeded Virginia men and No. 2 Duke Blue Devils are in the semifinals, as is No. 4 Georgia Tech, but North Carolina, the No. 3 seed, lost 4-3 in a third set tiebreaker, to Wake Forest, the No. 6 seed. The women's semifinals include top seed North Carolina and No. 3 Clemson, but No. 4 Duke was ousted by No. 6 Florida State and No. 2 Miami lost to No. 7 Georgia Tech 4-3 with another 7-6 in the third match deciding it. See the ACC conference tournament website for more.
I don't have much information on the ITF disciplinary action stemming from the Orange Bowl altercation last December, but I will pass along what the ITF has confirmed, however brief, about the two Russian players involved.
Campbell Johnson received a two-week suspension, which he served during the Claremont and Carson ITF tournaments. Victor Baluda received a suspension, which he has now served. Richard Muzaev also received a suspension, which is still in force. The lengths of their suspensions were not disclosed.