Friday, April 30, 2010

Coaches Q and A: How Can I Avoid Burnout?


This month, Andy Brandi of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., addresses the dreaded problem of junior tennis burnout.

Burnout is a symptom which can physical, emotional or mental. The results can be a decline in performance, fatigue or exhaustion. It can be related to stress from pressure to perform, from overtraining or from lack of social interaction. The warning signs are: reduced motivation, lack of interest, mood swings, muscle and joint pain, weight loss and loss of appetite.

In order to develop one’s talent, it has been thought that you need about 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice and training. Does it sound like a lot? It is a lot! That is about 20-25 hours a week.

The problem comes from wanting fast results and rewards. Tennis is like a marathon. Because we live in an instant society, we want instant results. We think that quantity is the answer.

As parents and coaches we need to realize what it feels like to train for 4 to 5 hours a day; we need to think how old the person is and how it much strain this is putting on their body.

When in my early 20’s, I trained with Harry Hopman. Our schedule was two and a half hours in the morning, followed by two and a half hours in the afternoon. By Wednesday morning, I could hardly get out of bed. I had no legs left! We justify this regiment with younger kids by saying that they are young and they do not get tired. Put yourself in their shoes.

Here are some suggestions to prevent burnout:

1-Take a day and a half or two days off every week. It might be a good idea to take a Wednesday afternoon off to balance the week. If you want, consider a light workout on Saturday.

2-If you are playing in a tournament over the weekend, begin to taper on Thursday. On Friday, play at most an hour and a half. If you finish on Sunday, take Monday off. The most important thing is to go to the tournament well rested. If you are not ready by Friday, playing four hours that day is not going to solve the issues.

3-Plan over the year to take some weeks off away from tennis. Think of maybe three weeks off--one after the summer grind, one during December and one before the summer.

4-Have realistic goals and look at the long term. Players put expectations and pressure on themselves as it is. They do not need more.

5-The philosophy in training should be quality and not quantity. If you do this, you will stay fresh and improve faster. Secondly, you will be eager to go to practice. Coaches need to provide variety in the practice sessions. Leave time for some fun. Set aside some weeks for fitness training away from the courts. That means maybe 30 minutes of hitting each day.

6-Make time for social activity away from tennis. Interact with friends. Maybe even limit the amount of talking about tennis away from the courts. If you are burned out, you might need to take from 4 to 12 weeks away from tennis. Rest is the only solution. Being away is the only way to rekindle your desire to play.

So you want to avoid burnout? Be smart about your approach to tennis. It is not how much or how hard you train. It is how smart you are in doing those two things! Best of luck!

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

McHale, Sweeting Win Wild Cards to French Open; Kudla, Domijan, Robson Reach Pro Circuit Quarterfinals; Carson WC Tournament; Conference POYs, etc.


Christina McHale and Ryan Sweeting have bypassed the qualifying rounds at Roland Garros next month, with hard-fought victories today in the finals of the USTA's French Open Wild Card tournament. Top seed McHale beat No. 7 seed Beatrice Capra 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 2 seed Sweeting downed No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the best-of-five men's final. Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentintel posted this story about the two matches a few hours ago. A couple of corrections that slipped by the editor--it's Capra who is from Maryland. McHale is from New Jersey. And Ryan Sweeting spent less than a semester at Florida before turning pro, in 2006, not 2007. Although the Miami Herald's Michelle Kaufman's article from today's matches in not yet up, her story from yesterday's semifinals can be found here.

In Pro Circuit action today, unseeded Laura Robson of Great Britain reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 tournament in Charlottesville, Va. In the $10,000 men's event in Vero Beach, Denis Kudla and Alex Domijan have reached the quarterfinals with wins today. Bryan Koniecko, who played No. 1 for Ohio State last year, and Maciek Sykut, who played No. 2 and 3 for Florida State last year, teamed up in doubles in Vero Beach and have reached the finals. For draws and schedules, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

There is a wild card tournament next week for qualifying wild cards into the joint $50,000 Carson Challenger later next month. There are many junior players entered, but Amanda Fink, the 2009 USC grad, is the top seed, with Sarah Lee seeded second. Yuki Chiang, the Junior Orange Bowl 14s winner, had a wrist injury that kept her out of Carson and the Easter Bowl, but she is entered in this event. In the men's tournament, Raymond Sarmiento is the top seed and at the other end of the age spectrum, Jeff Tarango, 41, is the No. 2 seed. There are several current USC men entered, but since the team will be Athens for the NCAAs during the Challenger dates, if one of them should win the wild card, they are not likely to be able to use it. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

The announcements of the college conference honors are coming fast and furious right now and I thought I would do a brief rundown of some of the major conferences' awards.

ACC
MEN:
Player of the Year: Henrique Cunha, Duke
Freshman of the Year: Henrique Cunha, Duke
Coach of the Year: Brian Boland, Virginia

WOMEN:
Player of the Year: Irina Falconi, Georgia Tech
Freshman of the Year: Francesca Segarelli, Florida State
Coach of the Year: Brian Kalbas, North Carolina

BIG TEN
MEN:
Player of the Year: Chase Buchanan, Ohio St.
Freshman of the Year: Evan King, Michigan
Coach of the Year: Ty Tucker, Ohio St.

WOMEN:
Player of the Year: Denise Muresan, Michigan
Freshman of the Year: Mimi Nguyen, Michigan
Coach of the Year: Ronni Bernstein, Michigan


PAC-10

MEN:
Player of the Year: Robert Farah, USC
Freshman of the Year: Kyle McMorrow, Washington
Coach of the Year: Peter Smith, USC

WOMEN:
Player of the Year: Yasmin Schnack, UCLA
Freshman of the Year: Mallory Burdette, Stanford
Coach of the Year: Lele Forood, Stanford


SEC

MEN:
Player of the Year: JP Smith, Tennessee
Freshman of the Year: Rhyne Williams, Tennessee and Ryan Lipman, Vanderbilt
Coach of the Year: Sam Winterbotham, Tennessee

WOMEN:
Player of the Year: Lauren Embree, Florida
Freshman of the Year: Allie Will, Florida
Coach of the Year: Roland Thornqvist, Florida

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Harrison vs Sweeting; Capra vs. McHale in USTA French WC Finals; Q and A with Patrick McEnroe; Naples ITF; Kudla Update

Two wild cards into the French Open will be decided on Thursday in Boca Raton, with the finals of the USTA's tournament for the reciprocal main draw wild card scheduled for 10 a.m. and noon. Top seed Christina McHale, who won the 2009 Australian Open wild card tournament, will face No. 7 seed Beatrice Capra in the women's morning final, with No. 2 seed Ryan Sweeting playing No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison, who won the USTA's 2010 Australian Open wild card. McHale beat Asia Muhammad 6-4, 6-0 and Capra beat Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3 in today's semifinals. According to Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald, Harrison was down a set and 4-1 before coming back for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over top seed Jesse Levine. Sweeting defeated No. 4 seed Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 7-5. Capra, who turned 18 earlier this month, is certainly the least experienced of the four, but she has been playing well lately and is very good on clay.

These wild card tournaments have previously been conducted in a round robin format, but I think the switch to eight-player fields with single elimination, which I believe is permanent, is more straightforward and therefore preferable. The men's final will be best of five, the women's best of three. Neither will play a third set tiebreaker, to mirror the French Open format.

Sports Business Journal
published an interview today with USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe. He talks about his upcoming book, juggling broadcasting and administration, player development goals, Davis Cup, the long season and what players would be good in the booth. Thanks to Global Village Tennis News for the link.

A new ITF Grade 4 event on clay is underway in Naples, Fla., the first of three in the state the next three weeks. Some of the U.S. boys who might have competed were playing for a spot in the French wild card tournament in Boca Raton this week, which may be one of the reasons that only one American player, Hunter Callahan, has reached the quarterfinals. There are five South American players and one from Europe and Asia in the final eight. The girls are doing much better, with seven of the eight quarterfinalists from the U.S.--Mara Schmidt, Aria Lambert, Brooke Bolender, Deborah Suarez, Kaitlin Ray, Lauren Herring and 13-year-old Liz Jeukeng. For complete draws, see the ITF Junior website.

The men's Pro Circuit is now in the midst of its three-week stretch of Florida clay tournaments, with the first this week in Vero Beach. Wild card Nick Chappell and Junior Exempt Mitchell Frank both lost in the first round, but wild card Denis Kudla beat No. 7 seed Phillip Bester of Canada to advance to the second round. Kudla has not played a junior event since winning the Grade A Casablanca Cup in early January. He has been playing Futures instead, and the victory over Bester is his second main draw win in five Future tournaments this year. Kudla is the subject of this feature in the TC Palm, which refers to him as the world 16-and-under champion. There really isn't such a title, but playing No. 1 on the Junior Davis Cup winning team and taking the 16s Orange Bowl championship in 2008 certainly gives him credentials for that unofficial title. Kudla says he hopes to take his ranking from its current 999 up to the 200-300 range by the end of the year.

The conversation between Kudla and his coach Frank Salazar referred to in the article could not have occurred at last year's US Open juniors, because in 2009, Kudla reached the quarterfinals. It was probably in 2008, when he did lose in the first round.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Virginia Men, Baylor Women Have Top Ranking Spots with Only One More Week of Play Before NCAAs; USTA French WC Tournament Results


The North Carolina women lost their No. 1 ranking this week to Baylor, while the Virginia men barely held on to their top spot over Tennessee. The Tar Heels were upset by Georgia Tech in the finals of the ACC tournament Sunday in a match that came down to last-match-on, third-set drama again. (The women's ACC conference tournament seems to specialize in these endings, with Duke in 2009 and Clemson in 2008 winning third set tiebreakers for the titles).

Following Baylor and North Carolina in the new rankings are Florida, who won the SEC tournament over Tennessee, Michigan, Northwestern and Notre Dame, who won the Big East title Sunday over DePaul. Michigan ended Northwestern's string of regular season conference titles at 11, but they could meet again in this weekend's conference tournament at Iowa. Baylor will also be playing in their conference tournament this weekend; their toughest test is likely to be surging Texas, who is now ranked 18th and could conceivably host a regional with a win. The Longhorns lost to the Bears 5-2 last month.

The Georgia women, who lost to South Carolina in the SEC quarterfinals, have dropped to 19th, and are in danger of not hosting a regional and not making the final 16, which would be a huge disappointment given that Athens is the site this year.

In the men's rankings, the difference between Virginia's ranking points and Tennessee's is .04, 78.92 to 78.88, which is a number that seems more relevant to Olympic skiing or speed skating than tennis. Virginia held off a stiff challenge from Duke to capture the ACC conference tournament, while Tennessee chalked up an impressive three consecutive shutouts in claiming the SEC title, beating Florida in the final. They are followed by Texas, Ohio State, who won its fifth straight Big Ten title Sunday, and defending NCAA champion Southern California. The Big Ten conference tournament is this weekend at Indiana; the Big-12 tournament in Austin should be a doozy, with three top 10 and five top 20 teams vying for the automatic bid: No. 3 Texas, No. 7 Baylor, No. 10 Texas A & M, No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 20 Oklahoma.

Georgia, who was upset by Auburn in the SEC quarterfinals, dropped only one spot, to No. 12, but their prospects for going deep in NCAAs this year was dealt a blow when freshman Bo Seal was suspended from the team for a violation of academic policy. This is not the news usually featured by SIDs, but to Georgia's credit, they announced it yesterday on the men's tennis site. Today they had better news to post, announcing that Wil Spencer had been admitted to the school and will play for the Bulldogs, beginning in the fall.

JP Smith of Tennessee and Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech retain the top spots in the singles rankings, with Duke's Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha the No. 1 men's doubles team. Tennessee's Natalie Pluskota, who has been injured during the bulk of the conference season, was back on the court in doubles for the SEC tournament. She and Caitlin Whoriskey are still atop the women's doubles rankings.

See the ITA page for all the team, singles, and doubles rankings.

The NCAA selection show is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 5th between 5 and 6 p.m. EDT on ESPNews.

In today's opening round of play at the USTA's French Open wild card tournament, the men's seedings held with just one exception. No. 1 Jesse Levine defeated No. 8 seed Jeremy Efferding 6-2, 6-4, No. 2 Ryan Sweeting defeated No. 7 Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5, 6-3, No. 4 Alex Kuznetsov defeated No. 5 Tim Smyczek 6-3, 6-4 and No. 6 Ryan Harrison defeated No. 3 Donald Young 7-6(5), 6-1.

In the women's draw, top seed Christina McHale was the only winner among the top 4 seeds and played the only three-set match of the day, beating No. 8 Julia Boserup 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-1. No. 7 Beatrice Capra defeated No. 2 Alison Riske 7-6(6), 7-6(5), No. 6 Asia Muhammad beat No. 3 Jamie Hampton 6-4, 7-5, and No. 5 Sloane Stephens beat No. 4 CoCo Vandeweghe 7-5, 7-6(2).

For the draws and the order of play for Wednesday, see usta.com.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pro Titles for Two Juniors; USTA Names French Wild Card Participants; Farah, Schnack Win Pac-10 Singles and Doubles in Ojai

Two teens captured their first professional titles over the weekend, with Jordan Cox and Monica Puig winning tournaments in Korea and Spain. As I mentioned on Saturday, Cox has been playing in Korea for three weeks and will be there for one more, before coming back to play in the Challenger in Sarasota the week of May 10th. A lucky loser, Cox dropped only one set on his way to the final, where he beat unseeded Ze Zhang of China 6-4, 6-3. The 2009 Wimbledon boys finalist and 2008 Kalamazoo 16s champion currently has a ranking of 892, which will go up after those points are added next week.

Puig, 16, doesn't even have a WTA ranking, but her ITF junior ranking is No. 2, and she demonstrated how well she is playing earlier this month, when she took Fed Cup heroine Bethanie Mattek-Sands to three sets in the second round of qualifying for the WTA event in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. In a $10,000 clay event in Spain, Puig was a qualifier, and in her eight wins, she lost only one set, in the final against top seed Nanuli Pipiya. Puig went on to take the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. She will play in two more ITF Women's circuit events before playing the Grade A Italian and Roland Garros junior events.

The USTA has announced the participants in this year's French Open wild card tournament, which begins Tuesday in Boca Raton. The eight men competing are: Jesse Levine, Ryan Sweeting, Donald Young, Alex Kuznetsov, Tim Smyczek, Ryan Harrison, Bjorn Fratangelo and today's winner of the pre-wild card match between Jeremy Efferding and Spencer Newman. I was critical of the omission of Krista Hardebeck from this week's Junior Davis Cup qualifying, so it's only fair that I voice my approval of the invitation the USTA extended to Fratangelo, who has won two major junior tournaments this spring, and won the 16s clay courts last year. I am assuming that Jack Sock and Alex Domijan were invited and declined, but I don't know that for sure.

The eight women competing are: Christina McHale, Alison Riske, Jamie Hampton, CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, Asia Muhammad, Beatrice Capra and Julia Boserup.

For the draws, click here. For the order of play, click here.

I plan a recap of all the college tennis action this past weekend Tuesday, after the new rankings have been released, but I wanted to mention the Pac-10 singles and doubles finals yesterday in Ojai. USC senior Robert Farah and UCLA senior Yasmin Schnack collected the singles and doubles titles; Farah with Steve Johnson and Schnack with Andrea Remynse. For more on those wins and on Farah's very accomplished girl friend, see the Ventura County Star story by Rhiannon Potkey, who does a fantastic job of covering the event, or more accurately, the events. Lester Cook and Gail Brodsky again won the Men's and Women's Open titles. For Bob Buttitta's story on that event, click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter Bowl Slideshow, Video

This slideshow and the short videos wrap up the April junior tournaments. Most of the attention on the site in the next five weeks will go to college tennis, and if you read my tweets today, you'll see that I'm already back into it.



In addition to the videos below of the 14s champions, who I had never seen play prior to this tournament, there are ten others available at the tenniskalamazoo channel on YouTube.

Krista Hardebeck video
Lauren Davis video
Bjorn Fratangelo video
Nick Chappell video
Kyle McPhillips video
Brooke Austin video
Gordon Watson video
Nolan Paige video
Kimberly Yee video
Stefan Kozlov video




Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ojai Update; SEC, ACC Finals Set; Cox Reaches Futures Final; Eastern US Open Playoff Qualifiers Determined


I have every intention of making my first visit to The Ojai next year, but this year, I'm just following the results online. Ken Thomas will be broadcasting the finals of the Pac-10 individual championships there tomorrow on radiotennis.com, and he has a couple of great championship matches. Number 2 seed and defending champion Bradley Klahn of Stanford will meet top seed Robert Farah of Southern Cal in the men's final, and in the women's final, top seed Hilary Barte of Stanford will play No. 2 seed Yasmin Schnack of UCLA. In today's semifinals, Klahn downed No. 8 seed Daniel Nguyen of USC in three sets, while Farah defeated No. 3 seed Ryan Thacher of Stanford in two sets. Barte beat No. 3 seed Marina Cossou of Cal and Schnack got by No. 6 seed Mari Andersson, also of Cal, both in straight sets. For completes results, including doubles and invitational draws, see the TennisLink site.

In the Open tournament, International Spring Champion Daniel Kosakowski lost in today's semifinals to defending champion Lester Cook, the top seed, by a 6-3, 6-1 score. Cook will play unseeded Brian Wilson, who advanced to the final when No. 2 seed Scoville Jenkins retired with an injury at 4-6, 6-1, 3-1. Wilson, the former Illinois star, beat last year's Ojai CIF boys champion Marcos Giron yesterday, and Rhiannon Potkey of the Ventura County Star wrote about the match in this article. For her story on Daniel Nguyen, click here.

The CIF boys championship today went to USD recruit Clarke Spinosa. For all junior results, click here.

The Pac-10 women's team title went to Stanford, when the Cardinal won the long-delayed doubles point from Southern Cal earlier this week in Ojai. The USC and Stanford men share the title this year, with USC losing to UCLA last Friday while Stanford beat Cal last Saturday to tie the Trojans with a 5-1 conference mark. There is no season-ending team tournament in the Pac-10.

The automatic conference bids for the SEC and ACC will be decided tomorrow. In the SEC, No. 1 Florida will play No. 3 Tennessee for the women's bid, and it's Gators vs. Vols for the men's bid too, with No. 1 Tennessee facing No. 2 Florida. In the ACC, No. 1 Virginia will play No. 2 Duke on the men's side, and on the women's, it's No. 1 North Carolina against No. 7 Georgia Tech, who upset No. 3 Clemson in today's semifinal. For more, see the SEC Men's, SEC Women's and ACC conference websites.

In checking on the Futures results outside of the U.S. this week, I saw that Jordan Cox was in the final of a $15,000 hard court event in Korea. Cox, 18, has played three consecutive weeks in Korea, and this is his best result; ironically, he got in as a lucky loser. For the draw, see the ATP website.

The first of the sectional tournaments for a qualifying wild card into the U.S. Open was completed in New York, with Katerina Sevcikova and Nikita Kryvonos earning an opportunity to play at the national tournament that will decide a US Open qualifier. For more on the two winners, see usta.com.

Friday, April 23, 2010

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Easter Bowl Recap; Carson Slideshow, Videos

I hope this isn't too confusing, but my photo and video processing is running behind my writing in wrapping up the past two tournaments. My article today for the Tennis Recruiting Network is the Easter Bowl ITF recap. On Wednesday, Ali Jones covered the Easter Bowl 14s and on Friday, she will be doing the 16s division for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

I am aiming to have the Easter Bowl slideshow and videos processed by this weekend.



In addition to the embedded videos of the ISC champions below, there are also videos of the six other Carson finalists at the tenniskalamazoo channel on Youtube.

Clay Thompson video
Sachia Vickery video
Jordan Daigle video
Alyssa Smith video
Mayo Hibi video
Thai Kwiatkowski video




Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fleming Returns to UCLA After Assault; Fed Cup Team, Camp News

Most of the news today I discovered via Twitter, and I've already posted a link to this story from the Daily Bruin, but I do think it's important to give wider circulation of it to those of you who don't use Twitter.

Jeffrey (Jake) Fleming, a member of the UCLA men's tennis team, was assaulted after attending a concert with friends in Dallas, Texas last June. He was seriously injured after hitting his head on the sidewalk and was in the hospital for weeks. Fleming finally returned to his home in California in August, where he underwent extensive rehab, and is now back in school and practicing with the team, although the story stops short of proclaiming a complete recovery. It's both sad and inspiring to read what he and his family have gone through since that night. For the complete article, click here.

In Fed Cup news, Venus Williams decided today not to participate in this weekend's tie with Russia, meaning the team will be composed of Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Liezel Huber and a fourth player. Bonnie Ford of espn.com tweeted about the situation today:

(15) Twitter / Home
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Christina McHale is apparently training for next week's USTA French wild card tournament in Boca Raton, so it will be between Julia Boserup and Sloane Stephens for the fourth spot. Neither is likely to play unless there is a dead rubber, which is how McHale got her first Fed Cup experience in France earlier this year.

The USTA announced today the names of the girls who are participating in the Fed Cup camp this week in Birmingham. In addition to the two that I mentioned earlier, Gabrielle Andrews and Brooke Austin, the others are Vicky Duval, Sachia Vickery, Alyssa Smith and Taylor Townsend. Kathy Rinaldi and Troy Hahn are the USTA coaches conducting the camp.

For the complete USTA release, click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Corwin Leaving USTA for Milwaukee Club; Juniors Advance at Eastern Section US Open Qualifying Playoff


Timon Corwin, the USTA's Senior Director of Junior and Collegiate Competition , will be leaving the organization next month to oversee tennis operations at the Western Racquet Club in Elm Grove, Wisc. and its sister club, the Moorland Park Tennis Center, also in suburban Milwaukee.

It was just over three years ago that Corwin announced his departure from his positions as Men's Tennis Coach at Kalamazoo College and director of the USTA Boys 18 & 16 Nationals to join the USTA. I did an interview with Corwin at the time, which is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network for those with accounts at that site.

When I spoke to him over the phone yesterday, Corwin described his departure from the USTA as more of a family decision than a professional decision. Corwin and his wife Rachel, an attorney, are from the Milwaukee area and still have close family members there; both received law degrees from Marquette University.

Although Corwin doesn't have extensive experience in the club management realm of the tennis industry, he said he was excited by the challenge, and by the prospect of cutting down the extensive travel required by his USTA position, which amounted to 90 days per year.

The opportunity came up in January, and when the job was offered to him, Corwin couldn't envision turning it down.

"I felt like I was part of a dream team (in the USTA's Boca Raton Player Development Headquarters), but it is more like a return to the lifestyle of the past," said Corwin, whose family includes Tim, 15, Felix, 13, Emma, 11 and Oscar, 4. "Rachel and I want to raise our kids in that environment. The older kids have adapted and would be fine anywhere, but Oscar is in his formative years now."

Corwin hopes to do more on the court again, and perhaps bring Milwaukee area juniors to the Kalamazoo tournament for inspiration. Being closer to Kalamazoo College, where he won team and individual NCAA Division III titles in 1986 and directed the Nationals for 14 years, also has its attraction.

"I'm excited to be back in the midwest, and to be able to physically connect with the friends I have there," Corwin said. "It feels like coming home."

Corwin's last day with the USTA is May 7th, and he expects to start work at the Western Racquet Club right away. But despite his career change, he expects to continue to work closely with the USTA as a consultant, a volunteer committee member, or anywhere his input could be useful. And on the court, he will be implementing many aspects of the philosophy of USTA Head of Coaching Jose Higueras.

_________

In other USTA news, the first of the sectional tournaments for a US Open qualifying wild card began Sunday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and several juniors are still in the mix. The Eastern section's men's field is a 256 draw, although there were many first round byes; the women's field was a 64 draw, with only a few byes. The women's semifinals are set, with Julia Elbaba, the Easter Bowl 14s finalist last year, meeting 28-year-old Katerina Sevcikova, and Jennifer Kellner, the high school senior who will be attending Notre Dame this fall, meeting 30-year-old Nikola Hubnerova. Elbaba defeated fellow high school sophomore Anna Mamalat in the quarterfinals today.

The men are through to the round of 16, with high school juniors Alexander Petrone and Jason Tahir still alive, as well as Elon recruit Cameron Silverman. For the complete draws, see the TennisLink site. For more on the upcoming events in other sections, see usopen.org.

For si.com's article on the event, click here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Opelka, Stewart Win Spring 12s Championships; USTA Names Competitors for ITF Team Championship Qualifying


We're heading home after two enjoyable but intense weeks in California, but I wanted to post an update on the USTA 12s Championships in Delray Beach and link to the USTA announcement about the ITF junior teams that will compete later this month in North American qualifying.

Two Floridians took home the 12s championships, with unseeded Reilly Opelka of Palm Coast taking the boys title over No. 2 seed Ryan Dickerson 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 and Katerina Stewart of Miami defeating Cristina Rovira 6-0, 6-1 to win the girls championship in a battle of alphabetical seeds.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

In the tweets I sent out when the USTA released the ITF junior team participants on Friday, I mentioned my surprise that Krista Hardebeck wasn't chosen for the 16-and-under team, and I still don't understand why she wasn't asked. Grace Min, Kyle McPhillips and Chanelle Van Nguyen are all outstanding players with big wins on their resumes, but there is no question that Hardebeck is playing better tennis at the moment. I do hope she gets consideration if the U.S. qualifies for Mexico in September.

For the USTA release, click here.

I hope to have some additional USTA news about a significant departure in Player Development for Tuesday's post.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fratangelo Wins ITF Easter Bowl Championship; McPhillips and Watson Claim 16s Titles


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Bjorn Fratangelo has had a spring to remember. Last month the 16-year-old from Pittsburgh captured the USTA 18s Spring National Championship in Mobile, and on Sunday he added another important title to his resume, claiming the ITF Easter Bowl with a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over No. 4 seed Nick Chappell.

Fratangelo was unseeded coming into the Easter Bowl, and was drawn to play No. 1 seed Raymond Sarmiento in the first round, but illness forced Sarmiento to withdraw, with a lucky loser taking his place.

"You could say I got lucky. I'd never played Raymond before and I was up for it; I really wanted to play him," Fratangelo said. "I think he's a great player, he has a great game and is really fun to watch. In that match I would have worried just about getting games. I dodged a bullet there."

Fratangelo dropped a set against doubles partner Jeremy Efferding in the third round, and it looked as if he would need another comeback against Chappell in the final, when he went down 4-1 and two breaks in the opening set. In the third game of the match, Fratangelo double faulted three consecutive points to lose the game, yet somehow he dug his way out of that trough.

"I didn't feel that great in the beginning of the match," said Fratangelo, who lost in the quarterfinals of the International Spring Championships last week in Carson. "It's been a long two weeks, and I trained hard leading up to it, and it's really hot. They put us right in the heat of the day and it kind of got to me in the beginning, I just felt exhausted, overwhelmed, felt anxiety, but I was able to get through it one point at a time."

Chappell was serving for the set at 5-4, but didn't have a set point, and in the tiebreaker, it was Fratangelo that raised his level of play. He got his forehand deep in the court and made no unforced errors, while Chappell seemed more reluctant to take an aggressive approach.

Chappell was broken in the third game of the second set, but he got the break right back, then held at love to take a 3-2 lead.

"I thought I could keep on holding and take the second set after that," said the 17-year-old left-hander from Indianapolis. "But he picked up his play after he got broken there. I got a little upset, and he started playing better. It's pretty simple."

Despite some good serving, Chappell was broken in the seventh game, then went down 0-40 serving at 3-5. He saved two match points, but double faulted on the third to give Fratangelo his second major junior title in a month.

Fratangelo will see where his win puts him in the ITF rankings before deciding whether he will play the French Open juniors, although he is not likely to play unless he is accepted into the main draw.

"I think I have time to enter for the French, which I may do now," Fratangelo said. "It's not a major thing for me right now. It's just about improving my game."

Watson-McPhillips

In the boys 16s championships match, tenth seed Gordon Watson used his forehand to roll past top seed Nolan Paige 6-3, 6-1.

"It was firing today," said Watson, from Naples, Fla.. "I wish someone would have had a count on how many backhands I hit--it wasn't very many."

The match started with four holds of serve, but then the wheels came off for the 16-year-old from Connecticut. He was on the defensive from then on, and didn't hold serve again until down 5-0 in the second set.

"I couldn't get in a rhythm, because he was hitting his big forehands," said Paige, who was playing in his first USTA National Level 1 final. "I had a chance in the first set, if I had gotten a break at one point, I would have maybe gotten into it more, but he played really well."

Watson, who won the USTA Boys 12 Hard Court title in 2006, was happy to back in the upper echelons of junior tennis after a lengthy bout with Lyme disease left him without the necessary stamina to compete effectively.

"I had Lyme disease when I was 15 and I heard people say, no, he's not going to do it, he can't do it again, but I can't wait to slap them across the face," Watson joked. "I was playing, but I'd last thirty minutes on the court and I was done."

Watson, who will be 17 in September, felt that he peaked at just the right time during the Easter Bowl.

"In the third round against Ian Van Cott, it kind of scared me. I lost the first set 6-1 or 2 or something, but every match I started getting better and better and today I was just unconscious."

Girls 16s champion Kyle McPhillips is delighted that her 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Brooke Austin has allowed her to graduate from the 16s age division.

"I've kind of got the monkey off my back and I'm ready for the 18s," said the top-seeded McPhillips, who lost in the 14s final in 2008, and in the first round of the 18s last year, a defeat that prompted a return to the younger age division.

Brooke Austin, a 14-year-old from Indianapolis who won the Easter Bowl last year, was testing her game at the next level, and the No. 2 seed went on an impressive run in the opening set of the final.

Trailing 3-0, Austin won five games in a row, using her flat ground strokes and stepping inside the court to keep McPhillips on the defensive. But serving for the set, Austin faltered and she couldn't convert her set point with McPhillips serving at 5-6, 30-40.

In the tiebreaker, McPhillips played very steadily, while Austin took more chances--and made more errors.

"She was serving well, and that helped her," said Austin. "And she started attacking my serve more in the tiebreaker, and I was on the defensive more than I was in the middle of the set."

At 4-4 in the second set, McPhillips really found her form, hitting two aces and a service winner to hold at love. Austin fell behind 0-40 serving at 4-5, but kept right on hitting out, saving two of the match points with well-executed forehands. But she was unable to get a serve in play at 30-40, and McPhillips had her Easter Bowl title.

"It feels really good, because if I would have lost today, I would have come to the Easter Bowl next year, and I would have felt even more pressure to win it."

For a celebration, McPhillips was eyeing a jump in the Rancho Las Palmas resort pool, but only after her doubles final Sunday afternoon. When she and partner Skylar Morton, the top seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Alyssa Smith 6-3, 6-1, all four took the plunge. With the doubles win, McPhillips, of Willoughby, Ohio, now has six gold balls in her collection.

In the boys ITF doubles, No. 8 seeds Chappell and Marcos Giron saved two match points in the second set and went on to claim the championship with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-8 victory over top seeds Mitchell Krueger and Dane Webb.

With Giron serving at 3-5 in the second set, they survived both the 30-40 and deciding point, and broke Krueger in the next game, when he was serving for the match. In the match tiebreaker, Chappell and Giron ran out to a 9-4 lead, but Krueger and Webb won four straight points to make it interesting, before Chappell and Giron closed it out. It was their fourth match tiebreak win in five matches during the tournament.

Playing as a team for only the second time since winning the Kalamazoo 16s doubles title last year, Chappell and Giron are making plans for another run at the Nationals this year.

"Kalamazoo is probably our next tournament," said Giron.

After Chappell's loss in singles this year, and Giron's loss in the 16s final last year, the pair were glad to be leaving the Easter Bowl as winners.

"A good rebound win," said Chappell. "Last year I left not happy, but this year, I'm going back happy," said Giron.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites for ITF and USTA tournaments.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hardebeck Defeats Top Seed Davis to Capture Girls Easter Bowl ITF Title; Belga, Andrews Come From Behind to Win 14s Championships


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Krista Hardebeck's twelve days of tennis didn't include lords a leaping or a partridge in a pear tree. Instead it was a dozen grueling matches that culminated in an Easter Bowl title, her second major ITF championship after her win in the International Spring Championships last Sunday in Carson.

Hardebeck defeated top seed Lauren Davis 7-5, 6-3, on a scorching day that saw temperatures climb into the low 90s, with no breeze to provide any relief. Hardebeck took an early lead, but was quickly broken back, and at both 4-all and 5-all, she had to save break points that would have given Davis the chance to serve for the set. Instead, the unflappable 15-year-old escaped, and got some luck with Davis serving at 5-6. At 15-30, Hardebeck's shot clipped the tape and fell over, to give her two set points. She missed a backhand wide on the first, but on the next Davis shanked a backhand and Hardebeck had the set.

In the second set, Hardebeck took a 3-0 lead, but Davis kept herself in it by holding in her next three service games. Serving for the match at 5-3, Hardebeck faced a break point at 30-40, but Davis netted an ill-advised drop shot, and Hardebeck forced an error on the next point. On her first match point, Hardebeck worked her way inside the service line for a putaway, and when her forehand smash found open court, she let out a scream, one of the few displays of emotion she allowed herself.

"It's sort of like a marathon, running the last mile," Hardebeck said of her twelfth win in twelve days. "I do train a lot, so I'm not too tired physically, but maybe mentally, because wow, that was a lot in a row."

Davis, who was also runnerup in 2007 in the 14s Easter Bowl, was disappointed she was not able to sustain her effort in the second set.

"Going into the match I felt like my mind was all over the place," said the 16-year-old from Ohio. "She played well though. She was running me in the corners and I got worn out. My stamina isn't as good as it should be. And I think I should have changed my strategy, instead of just hitting with her. She takes everything early, so it's hard, but I should have moved her more."

Hardebeck, who is from Santa Ana, Calif., will celebrate her win in her usual fashion, with a trip to Yogurt World, a frozen yogurt all-you-can-eat buffet, and with a visit to Disneyland.

"I got a pass for my birthday (in September) but I haven't been since November, because I have trouble finding days off," said Hardebeck, who anticipates taking a three-day break from tennis.

Another treat for Hardebeck is the wild card into the U.S. Open Junior tournament that now goes to the 18s Easter Bowl winners.

Belga-Andrews

The 14s champions both needed resilience after dropping the first set. Jordan Belga, the No. 11 seed, lost the first set to No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-1, but once the 13-year-old from Illinois rid himself of the championship jitters, he went on to dominate, taking the final two sets 6-2, 6-1.

"I was a little bit nervous and my legs were pretty tight," said Belga, who was competing in his first major championship match. "But when the second set started I just told myself to just play the set, play your game, just relax. It's just another match."

Belga began to serve better, and his backhand was solid point after point. Against Kozlov, who defends and anticipates well, Belga was ready for anything.

"I knew he was really crafty, he likes to mix it with the spins, and he'll just get everything back. He was pretty tough to play."

Kozlov, although only 12 years old, had more big match experience to draw on, but he was unable to sustain his level of play in the final two sets.

"In the second set I gave him a couple of free games, and it started there," said Kozlov, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. "He has a very good backhand and he can hit it anywhere on the court, angle, down the line, wherever he wants. But I could have played better."

Top seed Gabrielle Andrews also found herself down a set to No. 4 seed Kimberly Yee, but the 13-year-old from Pomona, Calif. raised her level in the final two sets to take the championship by a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score.

"I just had a new, different mindset," said Andrews, who won the USTA Girls 14s Winter Nationals to open 2010. "I said there are two more sets that I could possibly win if I play real tennis instead of pushing the ball to the service line so she could kill it."

Yee, a Las Vegas resident, was in control of the points in the opening set, using her pace and depth to great advantage. But as the match wore on during the hottest part of the day, errors she wasn't making at the beginning began to surface.

"After the first set, I got really tired in the heat, and I guess I just wasn't ready for another two sets," said Yee, also 13. "She played great, but I got a little more tired as the match went on."

Andrews also admitted to fatigue.

"I am tired. I feel like my legs are about to fall off. Kimmie ran me--I've never run so much in my life. I'll be sore and I'm going to sleep for two days straight."

But by Tuesday Andrews will need to be rested, as she and several other players her age are heading to Birmingham, Ala. for a USTA camp conducted around the Fed Cup tie between the U.S. and Russia.

With half of the singles champions crowned on Saturday, three more finals will be played on Sunday.

AustinMcPhillips
The girls 16s championship will be between two Easter Bowl veterans, No. 1 seed Kyle McPhillips, who was in the 14s final in 2008, and No. 2 seed Brooke Austin, who won the 14s last year.

"I'm so excited," said the 14-year-old Austin, who defeated unseeded wild card Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinal. "It seems so much easier than last year. Last year, I thought I was going to die in the finals, because I had played at least four three-and-a-half hour matches right in a row. It was a long tournament last year, while this one seemed to go by fast."

Although they are from the same section, the Midwest, McPhillips and Austin will be meeting for the first time on Sunday.

"We haven't even played in doubles," said McPhillips, who advanced to the final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 7 seed Spencer Liang. "It's weird."

WatsonPaige

In the boys 16s final, No. 10 Gordon Watson will meet top seed Nolan Paige. Watson earned his championship berth with a 6-2, 6-4 win over unseeded Sean Karl, while Paige needed to withstand an opening set blitz from No. 7 seed Ross Guignon before recording a 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory.

"He didn't miss a ball in the entire first set," said Paige, from Fairfield, Conn. "It was impossible. I couldn't come in because every ball was so deep."

Paige and Watson haven't met since the 12s. "He demoralized me," Paiged recalled. "But that was so long ago. It was 12-and-unders. I think I've gotten a little bit better."

Watson is looking forward to the pomp and circumstance of the final on Sunday.

"I was sitting with my friends about thirty minutes before my match and I saw all the refs, and the ballboys, and I said man, I'm getting nervous, because I want that so bad. It's a great accomplishment and I hope I can bring my A game tomorrow."

ChappellFratangelo

The boys ITF final will pit USTA Spring National Champion Bjorn Fratangelo against No. 4 seed Nick Chappell. Fratangelo defeated unseeded Alexios Halebian 6-2, 6-3, while Chappell eliminated unseeded Evan Song 6-3, 6-0.

Fratangelo, the only right-hander among the semifinalists, thinks playing a left-hander in the semifinal will prove beneficial in Sunday's final.

"It's definitely going to help on the serve and second serve, where to put the ball," said Fratangelo, of Pittsburgh, Pa. "It will help a lot."

Fratangelo beat Chappell in the South Carolina ITF last fall, but that result isn't weighing too heavily on Chappell, from Indianapolis, Ind.

"He won 4 and 1, something like that, but that was a while ago," Chappell said. "We're both playing real well, so it should be a good match."

Three doubles champions were crowned on Saturday. In the girls ITF doubles, top seeds Lauren Herring and Grace Min defeated No. 6 seeds Courtney Dolehide and Ellen Tsay 6-4, 6-4.

"We never got broken," said Herring. "It was a big serving match. We only broke them once in each set but that was enough to win," said Min. "In the last game, I was little nervous," said Herring, "but Grace served so big, I didn't even have to hit a ball."

In the boys 16s doubles final, top seed Anthony Delacore and Ross Guignon saved two match points in their 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over No. 8 seeds Matthew Alves and Hudson Barnhart. Down 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, Delacore and Guignon won four straight points, a momentum swing they carried through the final set.

Matthew Mendez and Jordan Portner, a 9 seeded team, are the boys 14s doubles champions. They defeated unseeded Deiton Baughman and Henrik Wiersholm 7-5, 6-3 in Saturday afternoon's final.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Davis and Hardebeck Face Off in Easter Bowl ITF Final; 14s Finals Also On Tap For Saturday

DavisHardebeck
©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Top seed Lauren Davis is back in an Easter Bowl final after a two-year hiatus and will face unseeded Krista Hardebeck, who is happy to have broken her third round Easter Bowl jinx, in Saturday's ITF Grade B1 championship match.

Hardebeck won the International Spring Championship title last week, and with her 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz in Friday's semifinal, has now won 11 matches in 11 days. The obvious question of fatigue was posed, but Hardebeck said she has caught a second wind.

"I was a little tired early in the tournament," admitted Hardebeck, who has yet to drop a set in her five wins. "But as the week has gone on, I've felt less and less tired and now I'm feeling okay. I know tomorrow's match will be worth all the tiredness."

This is Hardebeck's third appearance at the Easter Bowl, and she hadn't advanced past the third round prior to this year, so the 15-year-old Californian was pleased to break what she called the "third round curse," and is excited to take on Davis, whom she has never played.

Davis, who did not play the International Spring Championships last week, cruised past No. 4 seed Robin Anderson 6-1, 6-3 in Friday's other semifinal.

"I knew I had to hit the ball deep, because her ground strokes are solid," said Davis. "I'm kind of proud of myself because on the close points I wasn't tight, and I closed it out because I went for it."

Davis hit a perfectly executed drop volley winner on match point, but it wasn't a shot she practiced or anticipated using.

"I have been working on my swinging volleys though," said the 16-year-old from Ohio, who is now training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

Davis, who lost in the 14s final in 2007, is going into Saturday's match with a different mindset.

"When I was 13 and got to the final, I was so excited to be there, I just didn't really care if I won or lost," Davis said. "I was just so happy to make the final. Now, I hate losing, so I'll prepare better for it."

KozlovBelga

In the boys 14s final, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov is hoping his experience in big match situations will be an advantage when he takes on No. 11 seed Jordan Belga. Kozlov defeated No. 2 seed Noah Rubin 6-4, 7-6(2), coming from 5-2 down in the final set to seal the semifinal victory Friday.

Kozlov, who won the Eddie Herr 12s, lost in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s final in 2009, and won the Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Great Britain this year, thinks those matches may prove important in Saturday's final.

"That will be a factor," said Kozlov, who turned 12 in February. "I think it's his first big final and the first final is not so good. You get so tight, it's ridiculous. You practice the whole year and the pressure takes over. I don't know how that happens."

Belga, of Elk Grove Village, Ill. who defeated unseeded Californian Deiton Baughman 6-4, 6-2, admitted to feeling some jitters in the opening set.

"I was a little shaky, nervous," said Belga, who will be 14 in June. "I shanked a lot of balls. As the set went on, I told myself just to stay calm, relax and play smart, be aggressive. I finally got him, broke at 4-all and held, so it worked out for me."

Kozlov is expecting a competitive final.

"He's aggressive, he plays like me," said Kozlov. "He plays aggressive deep, tries to force errors, but if I do the same thing, it's going to be a good match."

AndrewsYee

The girls 14s final will feature top seed Gabrielle Andrews against No. 4 seed Kimberly Yee. Andrews, who like Kozlov, won the Teen Tennis title this year, cruised past No. 5 seed Peggy Porter 6-1, 6-0, while Yee took out Andrews' doubles partner, unseeded Taylor Townsend 7-6(2), 6-3.

"I just caught Peggy on a bad day today," said Andrews, who has lost just 17 games in six matches. "I know she could have played a little bit better, but I played pretty well."

The 13-year-old Yee, who finished fourth at last year's Easter Bowl in the 14s, decided to play the same division again this year, but placed no pressure on herself to surpass her showing last year.

"There's a lot of good players here, just getting to the quarters and the semis is pretty good," said Yee, who often trains with Asia Muhammad at the No Quit Academy in Las Vegas. "I hit with Asia all the time, and that obviously helps me with the bigger players."

Andrews is definitely one of those bigger players, and Yee is hoping to avenge her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Andrews at the Winter Nationals, after which Yee went on to win the backdraw in Tucson.

In the boys 18s, only one seeded player has reached the semifinals, No. 4 Nick Chappell, who downed unseeded Clay Thompson 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Chappell pointed to his return game as a key to his victory over the red-hot Thompson, who won the Claremont ITF and reached the Carson final the past two weeks.

"First set I was rolling, just making every return," said Chappell, 17. "In the second set, I started to miss a lot of returns, and he'd just kick it up to my backhand and I couldn't really handle it. In the third set, I just tried to block every return back and take care of my serve."

Chappell will meet unseeded Evan Song in the semifinals, after Song downed No. 11 seed Michael Zhu 7-6(5), 6-3.

The other boys semifinal will pit unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo against unseeded Alexios Halebian. Fratangelo defeated No. 12 seed Emmett Egger 6-3, 6-1 and Halebian also eliminated a seed, downing No. 7 Shane Vinsant 6-3, 6-2.

The boys 16s semifinals will feature No. 1 seed Nolan Paige against No. 7 seed Ross Guignon and No. 10 seed Gordon Watson versus unseeded Sean Karl.

The No. 1 seed in the girls 16s is also still in the running for a title. Kyle McPhillips reeled off the final ten games in her 6-4, 6-0 victory over No. 8 seed Kourtney Keegan and will face No. 7 seed Spencer Liang in one semifinal. No. 2 seed Brooke Austin, the 2009 14s Easter Bowl champion, will meet unseeded wild card Jennifer Brady in the other semifinal.

The girls 14s doubles title went to No. 9 seeds Andrews and Townsend, who beat No. 2 seeds Mariana Gould and Katrine Steffensen 6-2, 6-2. Andrews has not lost a doubles match this year, taking the Winter National, Teen Tennis, Les Petits As and Easter Bowl crowns in 2010.

The girls 18s doubles championship on Saturday has No. 1 seeds Lauren Herring and Grace Min taking on No. 6 seeds Courtney Dolehide and Ellen Tsay.

In boys 16s doubles, No 1 seeds Anthony Delcore and Guignon will play No. 8 seeds Matthew Alves and Hudson Barnhart for the championship.

Unseeded Baughman and Henrik Wiersholm face No. 9 seeds Matthew Mendez and Jordan Portner for the boys 14s doubles title.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.

International Spring Recap

My recap of last week's International Spring Championships is up today at Tennis Recruiting Network, sandwiched between the commitment announcements of Michael Grant and Katherine Oudin. Because I went straight into the Easter Bowl coverage, the slide show and videos from Carson won't be available until next week.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Song Beats No. 2 Seed Novikov in Boys 18s; Girls 18s and Boys and Girls 14s Semifinals Set at Easter Bowl


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Unseeded Evan Song and Alexios Halebian reached the quarterfinals of the ITF Easter Bowl with upsets on Thursday, eliminating the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to join two other unseeded players in the final eight.

The 17-year-old Song, from Henderson, Nev., got off to a blazing start against No. 2 seed Dennis Novikov, and went on to record a 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 win. Although the final set may appear to have been a routine one, it was not.

"It was really close, it was one-one, two-two, and really long games," said Song, who was a quarterfinalist in the 16s here last year. "One of them was like 15 minutes long, and it could have gone either way."

Song has been working with a new coach for the past six weeks, and he has seen a difference in that short time.

"I've really been trying to improve my baseline game," the left-hander said. "I just got a new coach from Barcelona and we've really been trying to get that heavy forehand with my lefty spin, get that ball cross court, and it really worked well today."

Another left-hander who was pleased with his play on Thursday was 15-year-old Halebian, whose 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seed Dane Webb was a measure of revenge.

"The last time we played it went to 7-5 in the third, and he won," said the 2009 Orange Bowl 16s champion, who trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "I was just playing my game, everything was going well. This is really good; I'm really impressed with myself. I'm wordless, I don't know what to say."

Song will play No. 11 seed Michael Zhu in Friday's quarterfinals, and Halebian will meet No. 7 seed Shane Vinsant. There were five three-setters of the eight boys 18s matches played on Thursday, with Friday opponents Bjorn Fratangelo and No. 12 seed Emmett Egger two of them. Egger came back to defeat Marcos Giron 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1, while Fratangelo overcame doubles partner Jeremy Efferding 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Fratangelo and Egger met in the semifinals of the USTA Spring Championships last month in Mobile, with Fratangelo posting a 6-2, 6-3 win.

Last week's International Spring Championships finalist Clay Thompson, playing his third straight ITF tournament in hopes of picking up enough points to play the junior slams in his final year of eligibility, eased by No. 6 seed Mitchell Krueger 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2). Although he was irritated by his failure to close out the match serving at 5-4 in the third, Thompson was confident entering the tiebreaker.

"I wasn't worried a bit, I've been playing tiebreakers really well lately," said the UCLA recruit, who lost the 16s Easter Bowl final to Jack Sock in a third set tiebreaker two years ago. "I was hitting big serves, getting easy points."

On Friday, Thompson will play the third left-hander in the final eight, No. 4 seed Nick Chappell, who came back to defeat No. 14 seed Gonzales Austin 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The girls 18s semifinals are set, and unlike the boys third rounders, all four of their matches were decided in straight sets.

Top seed Lauren Davis avenged her defeat to No. 9 seed Lauren Herring in the 2007 girls 14s Easter Bowl final with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Herring used her volleying skills to maximum effect, but wasn't able to match Davis's ground strokes. Davis's opponent in the semifinal, No. 4 seed Robin Anderson, was on top of her game Thursday, quickly dispatching No. 11 seed Ellen Tsay 6-1, 6-1.

No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz will get a chance to avenge a quarterfinal loss last week to Krista Hardebeck at the International Spring Championships. Turewicz eliminated No. 3 seed Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-4, 6-3, while the unseeded Hardebeck won her tenth match in ten days with a 6-3, 7-5 decision over unseeded Vicky Duval. Hardebeck led 4-1 in the second set, but Duval took advantage of a rash of unforced errors to win four straight games, only to have Hardebeck win the last three.

The girls 14s semifinals are set, with top seed Gabrielle Andrews continuing to breeze along, recording a 6-2 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Caroline Doyle.

"I just played really well," said Andrews, the 14s USTA Winter National and Teen Tennis champion. "I was in the zone. I only hit about five unforced errors. She played well, I played well. The score was 2 and 1, but Caroline played really well, better than that score. There were long games, deuces, ad-in, ad-out. It was really tough."

Andrews will play No. 5 seed Peggy Porter, who ended the run of unseeded 11-year-old Maria Shishkina 6-3, 6-4. The other semifinal features unseeded Taylor Townsend against No. 4 seed Kimberly Yee, who was a semifinalist in the 14s last year too, falling to eventual champion Brooke Austin. Townsend beat No. 17 Gabrielle Smith 6-2, 6-3, while Yee took out No. 6 seed Shannon Hudson 6-3, 6-4.

Andrews and Townsend are one match away from assuring themselves a USTA ball in singles, but they have already earned one in doubles, reaching Friday's final against the top-seeded team of Mariana Gould and Katrine Steffensen. Andrews and Townsend are a No. 9 seed.

In the boys 14s, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov will meet No. 2 seed Noah Rubin in one semfinal, and No. 11 seed Jordan Belga will face unseeded Deiton Baughman. Kozlov won a lengthy struggle against No. 6 seed Zandrix Acob, 6-3, 7-5, while Rubin defeated No. 14 seed Thomas Fawcett 7-5, 6-2 in Thursday's quarterfinals. Belga needed over two-and-a-half hours to get by No. 8 seed Mac Roy, claiming a 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 win. In the final set, Belga broke Roy at 4-4, but immediately went down 0-40 when serving for the match. Roy was going for his returns and was successful several times, but after three deuces, Belga earned his third match point and converted it when Roy blasted a forehand return just out.

The boys 14s semifinals will be played first Friday at 9 a.m., followed by the girls 14s and the girls 18s at 1 p.m.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Belga Rolls Past Top Seed Kerznerman to Reach Easter Bowl 14s Quarterfinals; Hardebeck Rolls on in Girls 18s


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

It was another perfect day for tennis at the Rancho Las Palmas resort and throughout the Coachella Valley, with no wind and temperatures in the low 80s. It was even better if you were Jordan Belga, the 11th seed in the boys 14 competition. The 13-year-old from Elk Grove Village, Ill. played nearly flawless tennis against top seed Daniel Kerznerman in a 6-0, 6-1 win that put him in Thursday's quarterfinals.

"I knew what I was going to do and I was pretty confident in my game," said Belga, who wears the Roger Federer insignia hat and models his game after that of the world No. 1. "I just needed to make more shots, play aggressive, come up to net, and I did pretty well with that today."

Kerznerman, a left-hander from New York who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center, had played a long three-setter on Tuesday afternoon and wasn't sharp, but Belga thought there might be an additional reason for Kerznerman's uninspired play.

"I think he might have felt a little bit of pressure as the one seed and all that," said Belga, who has dropped a total of six games in his first four wins. "I knew what I had to do, play my game and be strong out there."

Although boys 14s No. 2 seed Noah Rubin also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating unseeded Kevin Colopy 6-3, 6-4, he wasn't particularly happy with his play, as he failed to close out his opponent with a 5-1 lead in the second set. At 14, Rubin is an Easter Bowl veteran, however, and he enjoys playing in the desert.

"It's California, I want to have fun," he joked. "I'm from New York, this is not the weather I usually get. And there's not mountains where I play either."

In the girls 14s, two unseeded players advanced to the quarterfinals, with Taylor Townsend, who had beaten No. 2 seed Katrine Steffensen on Tuesday, defeating Julia O'Loughlin, a No. 17 seed 6-4, 6-3, and Eddie Herr 12s champion Maria Shishkina downing No. 3 seed Mariana Gould 6-3, 6-4.

Shishkina, who faces No. 5 seed Peggy Porter in Thursday's quarterfinals, is not surprised to have advanced this far in her first Easter Bowl.

"I'm confident," said the Bollettieri-trained 11-year-old. "I practiced really hard before this tournament, and I think I'll get to the finals and win the tournament."

The girls 18s also played the round of 16 today, with the winners including unseeded Krista Hardebeck, who won the International Spring Championship on Sunday, and has now played nine matches in the past nine days. Hardebeck is making it easy on herself, however, having lost only five games in the three matches. On stadium court today, Hardebeck defeated unseeded Emina Bekta 6-1, 6-0 and will face unseeded Victoria Duval, who dispatched No. 12 seed Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-2.

Top seed Lauren Davis is through to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Elizabeth Begley, setting up a rematch of the 2007 Easter Bowl 14s final with Lauren Herring. The ninth-seeded Herring downed friend Brooke Bolender, the No. 8 seed, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 Wednesday. No. 4 seed Robin Anderson had a routine win over unseeded Ashley Dai 6-2, 6-1. Anderson's quarterfinal opponent is No. 11 seed Ellen Tsay, a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner over No. 5 seed Madison Keys.

Tsay, who had nearly as much difficulty as Keys holding serve in the final set, attributed her serving difficulties to nervousness.

"In the third set, I broke all of her serves, but when it was my turn to serve, I was really nervous, and I didn't make any first serves," said the 2008 Easter Bowl 16s champion, who is now training at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in Texas. "When I was serving for it (at 5-3), I was still kind of nervous. I tried to get my first serves in, but I guess my arm was a little tight. I think we were both pretty nervous, but I pulled through."

The other quarterfinal has No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz against No. 3 seed Chanelle Van Nguyen. Van Nguyen came back to record a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win over unseeded Britney Sanders and Turewicz downed unseeded Lynda Xepoleas 7-5, 6-1.

In the boys 18s second round, all the seeds who advanced on Tuesday won again on Wednesday, with the exception of No. 9 seed Gabriel Flores Ruiz, who fell to Dennis Mkrtchian 6-1, 6-4.

In the boys 16s, top seed Nolan Paige had a lengthy battle with unseeded Austin Ansari before emerging with a 7-5, 6-4 victory. Girls 16s No. 1 seed Kyle McPhillips had considerably less difficulty, beating unseeded Kiah Generette 6-0, 6-1.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.

Signing Day at Tennis Recruiting Network

There are plenty of equipment reps at the Easter Bowl, but no college coaches this year, because it is the signing week "dead period."

Today is Signing Day, and the Tennis Recruiting Network has two announcements today--Josh Rey reveals that Alina Jerjomina is signing with Georgia, and my story on Blake Davis's choice will be up later this afternoon.

Tennis Recruiting will be following the decisions of many of the country's top players this week, so make sure you check the site often.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Illness Claims Top Seed Sarmiento as Boys 18s Begins at Easter Bowl


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Las Palmas--

The weather was much improved for the second day of the 16s and 18s competition at the Easter Bowl, with almost no breeze and temperatures in the 70s. But while the playing conditions were better, a player's health was again a major story; for the second straight day, the most intriguing match of the Easter Bowl ITF didn't happen. On Monday it was No. 7 seed Sachia Vickery who was unable to play; on Tuesday, boys 18s top seed Raymond Sarmiento, who was scheduled to meet USTA Spring National champion Bjorn Fratangelo in the first round, was forced to withdraw with a stomach virus/food poisoning. Alternate Andranik Khachatryan took Sarmiento's place in the draw and fell to Fratangelo 6-0, 6-2.

Nearly half of the boys 18s seeds failed to reach the second round. No. 5 seed Campbell Johnson, coming off a two-week suspension related to the Orange Bowl altercation, lost to Spencer Newman 6-4, 6-2, and No. 8 seed William Kwok was defeated by Augie Bloom 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. No. 10 seed Shaun Bernstein lost to ISC finalist Clay Thompson 6-2, 6-3, No. 13 seed Mac Styslinger went out to Keaton Cullimore 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5. No. 15 seed Alexander Petrone lost to Evan Song 7-6(2), 6-4 and No. 16 seed Morgan Mays lost to Wyatt McCoy 6-3, 6-3.

No. 14 seed Gonzales Austin trailed 5-2 in the third set against Connor Farren before winning the last five games of the match to claim a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory. Another tense match was No. 2 seed Dennis Novikov's 6-2, 7-6(6) win over Austin Smith. In the tiebreaker there was a scoring dispute that apparently centered on a second serve call, and although Smith thought the score was 4-2 in his favor, the umpire called to the court returned to the last undisputed point, which put the score back to 2-2. Late in the tiebreaker, a couple of loose points by Smith gave Novikov a match point, which he converted with a big serve, but there was no handshake, as both players went straight to their bags without even approaching the net.

In the boys 16s, top seed Nolan Paige rolled past Michael Guzman 6-2, 6-1, but No. 2 seed and 2009 boys 14 Easter Bowl champion Mackenzie McDonald was upset by John Pearce, whose father Brad, now the head coach at BYU, won the 18s Easter Bowl title in 1984.

Pearce, who turned 16 on Sunday, dropped the first set against McDonald, who will be 15 on Thursday, but came back to a post a 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 win.

"I lost the first set, but I felt like I had opportunities," said Pearce, who reached the round of 32 for the first time in a USTA Level 1 National Championships. "I knew I could come back in the second set if I kept playing like I was playing. I was down a break with him serving at 4-3, but I broke back, then was down 15-40 at 5-all, but came back and won the tiebreaker. I started the third set really strong, got the first break, held really easily, held and broke one more time."

McDonald wasn't the only No. 2 seed to lose on Tuesday, as the second seed in girls 14s, Katrine Steffensen, was overwhelmed by unseeded Taylor Townsend 6-0, 6-2. Top seed Gabrielle Andrews reached the round of 16 with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Aryn Greene, a No. 17 seed.

Boys 14 top seed Daniel Kerznerman needed over three hours to get by Henrik Wiersholm, a No. 17 seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, while No. 2 seed Noah Rubin made much quicker work of Jared Donaldson 6-3, 6-1. No. 3 seed Jacob Dunbar lost to unseeded Deiton Baughman 7-5, 6-2.

In girls 16s, top seeds Kyle McPhillips and Brooke Austin breezed into the third round. In the girls 18s second round, top seed Lauren Davis was a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Danielle Flores and ISC champion Krista Hardebeck was equally impressive with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Lorraine Guillermo. Britney Sanders defeated No. 13 seed Nadia Echeverria Alam 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and Ashley Dai beat No. 16 seed Skyler Kuykendall 6-1, 6-1.

Brooke Bolender, the girls 18 No. 8 seed, who advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Courtney Dolehide, is blogging for usta.com this week.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites: ITF and USTA.