Saturday, June 13, 2020

Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff Suspends Tennis Programs; Other News and Notes From College and Junior Tennis

It's bad enough that Division I tennis programs have been the most  frequent casualties due to the cost-cutting required by the Covid-19 pandemic. But given the current climate centered on the need for racial justice, it seems doubly unfortunate that a historically black university, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, would find take the step of suspending both the men's and women's tennis programs.  The announcement doesn't offer much more than the news that both programs will be suspended for the upcoming season and that athletic aid will be provided despite the suspension, but there is little reason for optimism going forward, given what's happening in college athletics right now.

The University of Connecticut is widely expected to drop several sports in the next few weeks, but recruiting, at least for the men's team, has forged ahead. On Thursday, UConn announced its incoming freshman class, consisting of two three-stars and one four-star, all from the United States.

Arizonan Lauren Stein, who will join the Cornell team this fall, is the subject of this feature, which explores her choice of tennis over soccer, her decision to travel extensively and the home schooling that was necessary to undertake that path.

Back in 2014, Notre Dame's Matt Dooley made news by coming out as gay. Six years later, it was no easier for Mitchell Thomas, who recently graduated from Division III Washington and Lee. Brian Vahaly, the former University of Virginia star and top 100 ATP player, who is on the USTA Board of Directors, has been working to reduce the stigma for gay athletes in the sport, but there is obviously still a long way to go. Here is a recent ATP article on Vahaly and how he hopes to inspire other gay tennis players to accept their sexual orientation.

Former Alabama All-American Alexa Guarachi has climbed to the top level in WTA doubles, with the 29-year-old from Florida now ranked 39 in the world. Guarachi, who represents Chile now, is the subject of this local TV station feature.

Four former Indiana High School champions played a Covid-19 charity doubles match this morning in Indianapolis, with two-time grand slam champion Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Indiana University rising junior Patrick Fletchall defeating Ronnie Schneider(UNC) and rising Northwestern freshman Presley Thieneman. The Indianapolis Star has this account of the match. I can certainly identify with Ram when he says "I haven’t been in one place for this long since I was 16," although for me, that probably goes back only 15 years, not the 20 years that represents for Ram.

Next Thursday, Ken Thomas is set to interview coaching legend Robert Lansdorp on Radiotennis.com, as part of his four weeks of Pandemic Interviews.

This Bakersfield Californian article features graduating high school senior, Nathan Kwon, who has trained with Lansdorp for years, and explores his decision to forgo college and instead try to break through on the professional circuit. Kwon, who has not yet earned an ATP point, expresses an interest in eventually getting an MBA, so it is difficult to understand why he wouldn't begin his education now, rather than later, especially in the current situation, but he is forging ahead with his original plan.


Belinda Mancy said...

Nice to see Lauren Stein say she knows she had a dream life of extreme privilege with the best equipment, training, and travel. Many tennis kids have no idea how disconnected from most people in the world their lives are.