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Friday, September 30, 2005

Goh-ing up in the world :: Australian Daily Telegraph

Goh-ing up in the world:: Australian Daily Telegraph via Fox Sports (September 29, 2005)~~~

I just spoke with Craig Tiley about his plans for Australian player development for a story I'm writing for Tennis Magazine and as I expected, he had some very concise plans for changing Tennis Australia's High Performance culture.

Although Tiley didn't mention seventeen-year-old Steven Goh, or any player for that matter, he did suggest that Australia would start looking for athletes who could become tennis players. Australian Tony Roche, Roger Federer's part-time coach, echoes that same sentiment when he touts Goh in this story. (Goh is barely inside the Top 400 in the ITF rankings, but has been playing Futures almost exclusively this year.) I don't disagree, but another item that Roche mentions, the plan to build more clay courts, seems equally important to me. If a great athlete doesn't understand the complexities and nuances of the game of tennis, he isn't going to challenge the Federers and Nadals consistently. And clay courts are the best place to assess and develop that side of the tennis brain. Tiley also revealed Australia's plan to develop alternate "home bases," and if they are in Europe, as expected, clay will play a prominent role.

The restructuring that began last week will take some time to implement, but the deck-clearing has brought with it an undeniable sense of optimism. It's refreshing when tennis icons of a country refer to it future as "exciting."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ecuador Earns Spot in Jr. Davis Cup Semis with Win Over U.S. Team

Ecuador Earns Spot in Jr. Davis Cup Semis with Win Over U.S. Team~~~

And that’s about all I can tell you about it. After two days of providing excellent information on both results and standings on their website, today the ITF left us with only Eleanor Preston’s story as a clue to what happened in Barcelona.

[UPDATE: As of Friday morning, the story now includes the links to the final results and standings. Wil Spencer won three singles and a doubles match, earning four of the five wins the U.S. had in the Round Robin.]

Although primarily covering the Czech Republic’s upset of Australia on the boys side, there is a brief mention of the U.S. losing the doubles rubber to Ecuador. There is no breakdown of who played the singles matches for the U.S., or the doubles match for that matter. Kellen Damico was designated the number one player, but he did not take the court on Wednesday when the U.S. beat the Philippines 2-1. Instead it was Wil Spencer winning his singles match and then teaming with Dennis Lajola for the doubles point, assuring that today’s contest with Ecuador would be a battle of unbeatens.

As for the team seeding, it was both good and bad. All eight seeded teams met each other today to determine who went on to the semifinals. But except for France, the top seed, it was the lower seeded team that advanced. Italy (8) took out Japan (2), the Czech Republic (6) upset Australia (3) and Ecuador (5) beat the U.S. (4).

The Jr. Fed Cup seeds were more fortunate, with Poland (1), France (2) and the Czech Republic (4) advancing to the semifinals. Only unseeded host Spain, who took out third seeded Brazil in their group, was a surprise. Although the fact that Russia didn’t advance doesn’t quite mesh with the current conventional wisdom of global tennis powerhouses. But in fact, not many Eastern European sixteen-year-old girls with tennis ambitions are playing junior team events. Do you think the Czech Republic might be seeded a wee bit higher if Nicole Vaidisova were on the team? Wouldn’t Bulgaria be in the mix if Sesil Karatancheva took a break from the WTA to help her country out?

And that, in a nutshell, is the difference between boys and girls junior tennis. Even Rafael Nadal, unquestionably a prodigy, played Junior Davis Cup, leading Spain to a victory over the U.S. in 2002. The girls are in a much bigger hurry to reach—and more likely to have an impact on—the professional tour, so there’s no time for these quaint team events. Is there any wonder there’s so many divas out there?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nittany Lions dominate in Fall Classic with Niagara sweep:: The Collegian

Nittany Lions dominate in Fall Classic with Niagara sweep ~~~

We directed some strong criticism at a recent Stanford newspaper reporter, so I thought it only fair to post the flip side of the coin--this recent story on a minor Penn State varsity tennis competition. The quotes are strong and well-used, there's background, variety, observation, detail, even a bit of intrigue. In short, it's well-written. Dan Winklebleck, take a bow. If there's one thing I've learned in the past year of writing such stories, it's how difficult it is to come up with one this good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

USA Win Thriller Over Spain:: ITF Tennis - Juniors

ITF Tennis - Juniors - USA Win Thriller Over Spain

Let's forgive Eleanor Preston her unfamiliarity with Wil Spencer's preferred moniker and for reversing Kellen Damico's first and last names, because we aren't going to get Junior Davis Cup coverage from anyplace else, and she does provide liberal quotes from U.S. coach Mike Sell. Plus, the ITF is doing a fine job of posting all the information necessary to follow the event (except maybe how they seed teams, but that's another story.)

As I mentioned in the preview , Spain is a mystery in junior tennis, and Damico has to be wondering where Abraham Gonzalez came from, as he beat the Top 30 American 6-3, 6-0. But then maybe Spain is wondering where Wil Spencer came from, as he is ranked a lowly 189, having only begun playing ITFs regularly this year. Serving as the last-minute replacement for world number one Donald Young, Spencer cruised to 6-1, 6-2 victory in the first singles match, which gave the U.S. a chance to take the doubles point and the victory over the defending champions.

Having seen Spencer play some terrific tennis at the USTA Clay Courts in suburban Washington DC this past July, I'm not surprised he showed he can hold his own, even on the European red stuff. But winning the first match decisively, on the defending champion's soil, shows some serious mettle.

And Dennis Lajola and Damico also came up with the goods in the doubles, winning the last three games when Spain was serving for the match.

Sell rightly emphasizes what a great experience such an event is for his players, but he knows how much sweeter it is when the result is a win.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Indianola Junior Achieves Rare Double Victory:: USTA Southern Section News

Indianola Junior Achieves Rare Double Victory~~~ Lewis Butler is a name I'm going to be watching for now thanks to this story. In addition to winning the Southern Open and Southern Closed this past June, he's just added the Kentucky Derby 12s title to his resume. Not having seen any 12s since the Easter Bowl, way back in April, I'm looking forward to the Eddie Herr and the Junior Orange Bowl, with the chance to put some faces and names together.

Also, a shoutout to the Southern Section, whose email bulletin consistently features truly interesting junior news. For example, this story gave me my first exposure to the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy competition. I'm delighted to see Nelly Radeva and Sarah Guzick, both of whom I first saw play at this year's Easter Bowl, are representing the U.S. in Bermuda against Great Britain.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

What's a Sportsman to do?

What's a Sportsman to do?~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005--

The controversy in the Andy Roddick-Olivier Rochus match in Belgium will rage, and anyone who saw it must admit the home team was robbed. It is so infuriating to me that Brad Gilbert and Cliff Drysdale and everyone watching ESPN2 knew it was the wrong call--to the point of their spending five minutes trying to determine just what the umpire and the linesperson could possibly be discussing--and yet no one at the Sportplaza could be as sure. Why should spectators at home be privy to superior information? Get the call right. By whatever means necessary.

And I am incredulous that, on the USTA website, an AP report dares to describe this point in the match as:

The match turned Roddick's way in the fifth set when Rochus missed the easiest of volleys to give the American a 4-2 lead. The Belgians disputed the call but finally relented.
It sounds like the reporter had already left the arena for dinner and had gotten this interpretation from a friend of a friend who might have been there. Reuters provides an accurate account here.

As for Roddick and McEnroe, well, let's just say it wasn't their finest moment either. Where was the Roddick who conceded a match point in Rome this year, costing himself a win? He watched the Rochus overhead, and went to receive serve, saying in that movement that he knew it was good. Perhaps it is a bit much to ask that he concede the point when there's teammates involved, and he's been running on heart and guts for four plus hours-- that's when he needs to take his cue from the captain, who is there to provide some emotional stability in the highly-charged Davis Cup atmosphere. Granted, McEnroe didn't make the mistake--it was the linesperson and the umpire doing the disheartening damage--but he certainly took advantage of it, and that's probably the reason everyone on the U.S. team seems to want to forget the whole ugly mess as soon as possible.

As I watched Alex Clayton and Sam Querrey on the sidelines, I wondered just what it is the two juniors had learned from the match. The will and the fortitude of two terrific tennis players competing with their last ounce of energy? Or that the clamor for a win can drown out that little voice telling us to do the right thing?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Jr. Davis Cup Update

Thanks to the anonymous reader who told us that Donald Young will not be going to Barcelona with coach Mike Sell to play on the Junior Davis Cup team. [UPDATE 9/29: Finally found the newspaper story quoting Spencer.] Instead, it will be Wil Spencer, who had just gotten off the plane in San Diego Wednesday where he was to resume training with coach Wolf von Lindenau when he received the call to join the team. He didn't even leave the airport and within an hour was heading back to Florida, where he joined the team for the flight to Spain on Thursday. Spencer, who just turned 16 a few weeks ago, won a round at the U.S. Open Juniors as a wild card. Earlier this summer, he finished third in Kalamazoo in the 16s and sixth at the Clay Courts in the 18s. Young is entered in the ITF B1 in Tulsa next month--I don't know if his injury will force him to withdraw from that event.

Sisters finally get OK to compete in game they love::2theadvocate.com

2theadvocate.com: Sisters finally get OK to compete in game they love 09/24/05~~~

I thought this story had already been put to rest, as I posted the Daily Comet's piece on the USTA's concession back in July.

But the whole issue generated some of the most impassioned arguments I've seen in zootennis comments and it segues nicely into Peter Bodo's latest blog entry about Ryan Sweeting.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Junior Davis Cup Preview:: ITF Tennis - Juniors

Jr. Davis Cup Preview:: ITF Tennis~~~
With the first day of Davis Cup behind us, it seems a good time to feature the Jr. Davis Cup competition preview, which begins next Tuesday. For those not familiar with its many incarnations, the Jr. Davis Cup is now the name for the 16 and under ITF world team event for boys. The girls competition is called Jr. Fed Cup. It is being played in Barcelona, on clay, again this year and is a 16 team round robin (hey, do you think there's any chance the Sr. Davis Cup could adopt something this compact and central?) to produce semifinalists. Spain is the defending champion for boys, Argentina for girls.

The preview makes a passing reference to the seeded teams, but information on the event in general is pretty scarce. The USTA High Performance website does contain a link called International Team Events now, but it isn't working. Just last month, I had to rely solely on reports from the ITF website for the 14 and under competition in the Czech Republic, and had to piece together draws and seeding information from written accounts.

I have no idea how teams are seeded for these competitions, but given the way the ITF doubles are done, I would imagine that if a country has the two highest ITF ranked 16-year-olds, as the U.S. does, in Donald Young (1) and Kellen Damico (28), it will be the top seed. (The other player on the U.S. team is Dennis Lajola, who is ranked 103). Australia actually has three 16-year-olds in the ITF Top 100, not two as the story says, but at the 34, 57 and 91 spots. Why France would be considered a favorite, with only one age-eligible player in the top 100, I'm not sure. As the story mentions Ecuador and COSAT, maybe the ITF factors into the rankings the ETA list, which does include three boys from France in the Top 30. With all this I don't mean to imply that I know who is going to win the Jr. Davis Cup. After all, Spain has one (1) player in the ITF Top 100, (he's age 17), none in the ETA Top 30, and yet they won the competition last year. As the Slovak Republic and Croatia have proven in the Senior version, Davis Cup is one unpredictable sporting event.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Depth gives [Stanford's] men's team advantage for autumn :: The Stanford Daily

Depth gives men's team advantage for autumn ~~~

A very comprehensive look at the Stanford tennis team's prospects, with one glaring error and a more subtle one. Matt Bruch doesn't spell his name with an "i". It's rather difficult to read this story with that same mistake, the "cardinal" (if you'll pardon the pun) sin of journalism, repeated over and over. Secondly, Bruch did not finish seventh in Kalamazoo this year. He lost in the round of 16 to Sam Querrey and did not play the backdraw. Michael McClune finished fifth by winning the backdraw, and Alex Clayton finished sixth by making the backdraw final. Those are the last two places that are tracked by number.

Bruch was definitely one of the prize catches of last year's recruiting class and had a very good summer in Europe. He will certainly bring a boost to the program, which is coming off a disappointing season that saw them finish outside the Top Twenty.

And I don't mean to harp on this, but it is difficult to read the rest of the facts in this story with confidence, when neither writer nor editor bothered to do something as simple as check the name spelling.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tennis Australia undergoes major reorganisation

Tennis Australia Undergoes Major Reorganisation~~~ Although written in the usual bureaucratese, it sounds as if Steve Wood and Craig Tiley have decided to clean house. But it is fascinating to see the positions that are available, what the duties are and what salaries they pay. I've got to say that the "Talent Development Manager" post is the most intriguing, with its first requirement to Manage Talent Identification Programs and Events. Dare I ask if such a position exists at the USTA? And if it doesn't, why it doesn't? And though the USTA has training centers, it doesn't have what Australia soon will, which is a National High Performance Academy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

State has faults in amateur development:: Arizona Republic

State has faults in amateur development~~~

It's long been a mystery to me why the Southwest section isn't more of a factor in junior tennis. This lengthy story, which appeared last month in the Arizona Republic, attempts to explain the whole development issue. Although it touches on all the points of other stories, I think it would have been more effective to stay on the more specific question of Arizona's lack of tennis development. Here's one quote that got my attention:

Experts say there are several factors that make it difficult to produce top-notch international players in Arizona. Spaniard Rafael Font de Mora, a former touring pro who operates ITUSA Academy in Scottsdale and serves as coach for Shaughnessy and No. 31-ranked Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany, is blunt in his assessment.

"The main reason is the coaching of the players," he said. "There are coaches who don't specialize in the training and development of juniors. The Valley is basically a recreational destination, so there isn't a lot of tradition in developing players.

"Secondly, when there are no top players, it doesn't help produce upcoming players. When you have a top player in your program it helps produce other top players. When you don't, there are no role models. No players for them to see, so they don't produce. The third problem is the level of match play in tournaments. You need good coaching, good players to play against and great competition. I don't think these situations have happened here in Arizona, and it's why junior tennis is pretty weak."

Referring to John Austin, who has been Executive Director of the Southwest section for less than a year, the reporter writes:

Austin also thinks that the lack of a centralized facility in Phoenix, where the best could congregate and play, has hampered player development.

Taking inspiration from Peter Wright's piece I linked to yesterday, couldn't Arizona State be just such a place?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sight Lines: A Back to Schohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifol Plan for Development

Sight Lines: A Back to School Plan for Development~~~Official Web Site of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ~~~

University of California - Berkley coach Peter Wright has written an OpEd piece in the recent Tennis Week magazine and although it doesn't appear on the Tennis Week website, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association has posted a pdf version of the column. To view please, see the Archived News Stories link near the bottom of the ITA home page.

Wright provides a very sensible take on the U.S.'s failure to use one of its greatest tennis assets--collegiate tennis players and facilities. Wright describes why he is hopeful that the recent collaboration between the ITA and the USTA can result in improving the climate for amateur tennis in this country. I have heard many parents complain that the USTA has had no use for juniors who expressed an interest in going to college. For everyone's sake, that needs to change, and I think Wright and his committee are providing some creative thinking to see that it does.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

York tennis player honored by Hall::Monterey County Herald

Monterey County Herald | 09/15/2005 | York tennis player honored by Hall~~~
It's the dog days of tennis right now, and very little to link to, but I thought this story was pretty cool. Taylor Matsumoto may be playing Division I college tennis once UC Davis completes its transition from Division II, but he's not an elite junior tennis player. However, going to the Hall of Fame and having Jim Courier, Yannick Noah and Bud Collins congratulate you for winning the Talbert award would be an honor hard to top. Heck, winning the Talbert award would rate high on anyone's list of tributes. And though I've never seen Matsumoto play, the other male recipient, Ashwin Kumar, now at Harvard, was very much admired for his game and conduct in Kalamazoo. He was the Wes Richards sportsmanship award recipient in 2004.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Murray hires Dick to work on his fitness:: Telegraph

Telegraph | Sport | Murray hires Dick to work on his fitness~~~

I'll have to turn Andy Murray over to the pro tennis writers soon enough, but for the rest of the year, I'm going to watch his progress very closely, including Davis Cup next weekend.

The story that won't go away--Murray's fitness--will be a cause celebre with the British press for a long time, demonstrating, once again, how important he (and tennis) is in the sports landscape of Great Britain. I know from my own experience that the coverage of the junior tournament at the U.S. Open was miniscule compared to last year, when Murray had all the British press, still in attendance because Henman was in the semis, pursuing him for stories from the quarterfinals on. This year, Ryan Sweeting barely had four writers at his Finals press conference.

I wouldn't presume to comment on Murray's fitness, since I haven't seen him play in person since last year's Open, but there's no question that best-of-five is a different animal, and if he wants to make news for the right reasons in Australia, he had better have taken control of the issue.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Golf vs. Tennis - How one country club sport defeated the other:: Slate

Golf vs. Tennis - How one country club sport defeated the other. By Field Maloney~~~
I've mentioned lisen and her Pro Tennis Fan blog before and I thank her for directing me to this piece, which explains why golf is more popular than tennis. And I'll preface my remarks by saying that I'm a golfer myself, and come from a long line of them. I believe that it's a great game, and I do not begrudge its surge in popularity the past decade. There are a whole host of reasons for its ascendancy, but I'll reduce it to three:

  • 1. Tiger Woods
  • 2. It Can Be Played While Drinking Beer
  • 3. Very Little Physical Exertion Is Required By Its Recreational Players

  • Tennis does not feature any of the above. And if it is, as Field Maloney says (why does that name cry pseudonym?) a sport that's suffering because it's now more inclusive than it used to be, that its aura of exclusivity is gone, well, that's just fine with me.

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog | Drop Shots, or Doctors?

    Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog | Drop Shots, or Doctors?--

    This is an old entry of Peter's from before the Open, but, once you get through the initial cat fawning, it's a very provocative look at tennis development, which is probably my favorite topic. This is Peter's take in a nutshell:

    My own feeling is that you throw as much money at development as you want—you may as well throw it down the toilet.
    Which would mean that even the "paltry" $9 million budget of USTA Player Development (which Tennis Week describes as roughly 4% of USTA annual expenditures) is wasted.

    I guess we could try out Peter's theory and just disband High Performance, but that seems a bit drastic to me. I wouldn't dare argue with the premise that world class players are primarily the result of the efforts of parents and personal coaches. But when USTA grants are this restrictive, they have no role in providing opportunity for those with limited funds. And that is one thing the USTA can, and should, do much more of.

    I know that the Florida section has, for two years now, provided grants to their Florida Closed winners and finalists (16s & 18s) to help offset the cost of their trips to the summer nationals. This strikes me as a sensible "best practice" that every section should adopt. There is no great mystery why more and more players are gravitating to ITF events and away from USTA ones--the ITF provides "hospitality", (housing and food) for tournaments level 3 and above, dramatically reducing the cost of competing.

    But Peter's other point, that producing athletic champions isn't the test of a nation's worth, is very well put, and should be carefully considered by all juniors, and their parents, weighing college vs. pro.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Path to recovery quick for tennis player::Philadelphia Inquirer (registration required)

    Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/04/2005 | Path to recovery quick for tennis player~~~

    That would be Alex Kuznetsov of course, whose astonishingly speedy recovery from a broken leg is the subject of this story. The details of his rehabilitation are interesting, but what's really fascinating is the psychological aspect of the post-accident reflections. The reporter ends with this:

    He learned a hard lesson from the accident.
    "I got a little carried away," he said. "I thought I was a little untouchable. Teenagers think that."
    In a way, he mused, the accident may have been "a blessing in disguise for me because before, I think, I was taking my game for granted."
    "If you're really focused on something, you wouldn't be going out and driving cars as fast as you can, so now I definitely look at my tennis career in a whole different way."

    If you were lucky enough, as I was, to see the first set of his third round U.S. Jr. Open loss to Tim Smyczek (my account of that match is here) you can only hope that those sentiments will continue to guide him. His talent is undeniable--I'm hoping the only effect this injury has a year from now is in attitude and perspective.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Last Words on the Last Slam

    Last Words on the Last Slam--
    ©Colette Lewis 2005--
    Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has taken to posting 50 short items following a Grand Slam. Here's his U.S. Open version, with several referring to junior tennis (numbers 34, 40, 46 & 47). When I return from any junior tournament, I try to do some sort of wrap, or in the case of Kalamazoo, a Most Memorable Moments. Here’s the 2005 edition from ustaboys.com.

    For the Open, I’m just going to start writing and see what happens. If it’s 12 or 41, I’m not going to get compulsive about it.

    1. Cost of hotel room: $168 plus tax, per night. Cost of internet access at hotel: $10 per day. Cost of quart of orange juice at a midtown deli: $4. Opportunity to attend an Andre Agassi press conference: Priceless.

    2. It’s always fun to indulge in stupid editor bashing, but this is pathetic/hilarious. A reporter claimed that on Thursday, an editor asked him if James Blake was an American.

    3. The USTA PR department actually distributes a list of celebrities in attendance for the final weekend. Among the Robin Williams, Lance Armstrong, Dustin Hoffman and Christie Brinkley spottings, was one they didn’t catch. (And whose job description contains this requirement—must recognize stars on sight, sports familiarity helpful but not necessary?) On the middle weekend, I saw Dave Barry, whom I consider the best humorist writing today (or not writing, as he is on sabbatical now) with his daughter Sophie. It’s not as if he’s famous for being a tennis fan, but his wife, Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald, is a sportswriter, and she was covering the Open all week.

    4. One phrase I never want to hear again from a chair umpire, when asked by a player if a serve caught the center line of the T is, “I don’t know.” Yes or no are the two options when you are paid for your judgments.

    5. ITF seeding is a joke, especially in doubles. I could go on a thousand word rant, but suffice it to say that seeding half of the winning French Open doubles team number one, and the Wimbledon champions not at all showed poor judgment. The former lost the first match they played, the latter got to the semifinals. The second seeded team, who did reach the finals, was playing in their second tournament together. If there is any logic to the numbers, I can’t find it.

    6. And while I’m complaining, why aren’t juniors allowed to schedule practice courts? When over 35s and over 45s can? I heard several parents praise the Segusos, both of whom were playing events, for assisting juniors (in addition to their son Holden) in their search for a place to practice. Maybe that’s a policy that has outlived its usefulness. And while they are overhauling, how about letting the juniors use their credentials to get in the first week? They could have watched Scoville Jenkins, a year removed from them, or Andy Murray, still their age, win inspirational five set matches. If you are one of the 128 players in the WORLD to get into the U.S. Junior Open, perhaps the perk of a free pass to the grounds of the National Tennis Center isn’t going to break the USTA.

    7. Speaking of juniors practicing, it was good to see Jim Courier out on the court playing a set with Alex Clayton one morning, and another with Holden Seguso the following afternoon. And Jamie Hunt got an opportunity to hit with Robby Ginepri on Friday. No, the match didn’t go five sets. Ginepri limited it to one, which he took 6-3.

    8. The weather exceeded perfection, making the venue extra cheerful, but the National Tennis Center gets prettier every year. The new fountains are stunning, and complain all you want about the late afternoon matches (as many a journalist on deadline did), the quality of the light during that time produces golden photographs and memories.

    9. It was great to catch up with press colleagues from last year—Whit Sheppard, Gavin Versi, Allen St. John—all of whom encouraged me then and throughout the year in my quest for a freelance career. And sitting next to Peter Bodo was a lesson in civility and hard work. A simple question I heard him ask someone who had told him an interesting tidbit—“can I print that?”—strikes me as the perfect metaphor for his approach. Polite and politic, and also willing to take a stand. A potent combination.

    10. Although I saw Scott Oudsema in person, playing his second round main draw doubles match, there was no sign of him in conjunction with the Ralph Lauren Polo sponsorship. I even took the hike from media center to onsite store to see if I’d just missed the big splash somehow. The store was packed with fans, but even there, no photographic evidence of his modelling career.

    11. No one was happier than Mark Bey when the Bryan twins finally broke through and won a Grand Slam doubles title after losing in the three previous finals this year. Bey, who coaches promising junior Dennis Nevolo at his Libertyville Illinois club, has been working with the Bryans for many years, a connection that he traces to their days in juniors. Maybe doubles can’t fill a stadium the size of Ashe, but there must be a way to maintain the game’s integrity, pay its practitioners adequately and promote it enough to fill Armstrong or the Grandstand, at least.

    12. John Roddick’s academy (Roddick-Moros International Tennis Academy) has reached that vaunted Tipping Point. With Nate Schnugg, Tyler Hochwalt, Kellen Damico, Andy Magee and Jamie Hunt traveling and working with John, (I’m sure there are others I’m missing) and Justin Kronauge and Ryan Sweeting visiting for short-term instruction, the vibe is beginning to rival that of Saddlebrook or Bolliettieri. It’s still small enough to allow John to actually coach and let me say right now that I’m in awe of his ability to travel with so many teenage boys (and even an occasional girl) and still maintain his sanity. And there’s nobody I’d rather watch a match with, (well, maybe Mike Sell).

    13. The Tennis Channel people actually know and love tennis. What a relief it was to learn that. Why would I think otherwise? Well, let’s just say there are a few folks in the media center who are there because it’s in New York and it’s considered a major sporting event. Now if The Tennis Channel could only get Charter Communications onboard….

    14. Could somebody explain to me why the girls and boys singles finals have to be played simultaneously? And why the portable radar gun can’t be installed for the finals?

    15. Initially skeptical, I admit to being won over by the blue courts. Much easier on the eyes than dusty clay or chewed up grass. But then, so was the green. I’m just a fan of hardcourts, when it comes right down to it.

    16. I don’t envy Pat McEnroe’s choice between Robby Ginepri and James Blake for the second singles spot in next weekend’s Davis Cup tie on clay in Belgium, but I do think he made great selections for the hitting partners. It’s Alex Clayton’s best surface, and Sam Querrey went deeper in the draw than any other American junior at the French this spring. Exposure to the team and the surface will be invaluable to them.

    There, that turns out to be a recognizable tennis number, 16, the number of seeds in a Slam in the good old days. But I can’t put the U.S. Open to rest without thanking, inadequately, my husband Paul, who took most of the photographs gracing this blog the past ten days. There isn’t a kinder or more accommodating man on the planet, or a more resourceful one either. It’s twice the fun when he’s there to share it.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Tulane tennis teams to enroll at A&M::Aggiesports.com

    Tulane tennis teams to enroll at A&M--

    We're back from the nonstop hyperactivity that is New York and the Open. It was so soothing to do some simple, quiet, domestic things this afternoon. Pick a cucumber and tomato from the garden, take a nap, do a load (or four) of laundry, water my flowers. In short, have a home again. Which, when I look at the news these days, is nothing to be taken for granted.

    With my frenetic pursuit of tennis stories the past couple of weeks, any time to reflect and contemplate the destruction Katrina has wrought has been limited. But my friend Marcia Frost, of collegeandjuniortennis.com emailed me this story about the Tulane tennis team's move to Texas A & M. All the better that it was written by Robert Premeaux, a College Station reporter who was covering the NCAAs when I made my first visit in May, and welcomed me in fine Texas fashion. So it's no surprise to me that the university's academic and athletic departments would be gracious and accommodating while serving as a substitute venue for Tulane.

    And please, if you haven't yet taken the time to donate to the relief efforts, please consider it now. Yahoo provides an excellent starting point here

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    Cinderella Boy

    Cinderella Boy--
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Flushing Meadow NY--

    When Ryan Sweeting saw Jeremy Chardy’s return fall weakly into the net, he collapsed on the baseline, his arms covering his eyes. For a long moment, he didn’t move. Recalling his tennis manners, he got up and jogged to the net to shake Chardy’s hand, his stunning 6-4, 6-4 victory the last magical moment in a dreamlike week at the U.S. Open Junior Championship.

    ”The whole adrenaline feeling just came out right there, just fell on the ground,” said the 18-year-old native of the Bahamas, who has lived and trained in Fort Lauderdale since he was twelve and has dual citizenship. “It was just a great feeling.”

    He went directly from the net to his longtime coach Nicolas Guizar and they shared an lengthy and emotional embrace, then it was on to his mother Cindy.

    “She was crying, my coach was crying too,” said Sweeting. “I wasn’t crying, but a lot of other emotions were going through my head.”

    That tears would be flowing following a Grand Slam singles championship seemed unlikely six days ago, when he faced five match points in his first round encounter with 12th seed Carsten Ball. But after extracating himself from that pit and handily taking the ensuing tiebreak, the unseeded Sweeting was on his way, playing better with every new challenge.

    His quarterfinal win over third seed Leonardo Mayer, who had beaten him in straight sets barely a week ago, was a hint that he was still scaling his tennis peak. Even he called his performance “surreal” after that match. Otherworldly would probably be the adjective to describe his play in the 6-0 second set semifinals blitz of sixth seed Sun-Yong Kim, who had upset number one Donald Young in the quarters.

    And Sunday’s straight set conquest of the Wimbledon Junior Champion from southwestern France, whose ITF resume displays much greater experience and results, was equal parts Rocky and Dali.

    Although he admitted to nervousness, Sweeting's take on that dreaded feeling was unique.

    “I think when I’m nervous I play better. Like yesterday, during the changeover, my hands were shaking. And today there was a bigger crowd you know, the cameras…I felt the nerves…the adrenaline. But it seemed to give me that edge, you know, wanting to win the title.”

    Chardy’s serve, though unclocked during the Open tournament, had hit 140 in the Wimbledon final, but getting in only 38% of his first ones gave Sweeting plenty of swings at the seconds. There were only two breaks in the entire match, one in the third game, when Chardy served his way out of a 0-40 hole, but ultimately couldn’t save it, and at the 4 all in the second, when Chardy committed the most disastrous of his nine double faults to give Sweeting his chance to serve it out.

    Chardy didn’t blame his serve, but rather his mentality. “I wasn’t aggressive,” he said through an interpreter. “I was mentally negative and his aggressive backhand and forehand kept me on the defensive.”

    Sweeting now faces new choices. Andy Jackson, the head coach at the University of Florida, was among his dedicated group of supporters throughout the tournament. Sweeting had planned to join the Gator team in January, but now isn’t so sure.

    “It definitely puts a question mark on it. It doesn’t necessarily change everything, but we’re definitely going to have to sit down and talk about it and see what the plans are for the future. Because I don’t think too many champions of the US Open go on to college in a couple of months.”

    Sweeting’s immediate plans include a trip to San Antonio to work out with friend Kellen Damico at John Roddick’s academy and play some Futures in that area.

    And hope that the fairy tale that began at the U.S. Jr. Open never ends.

    Azarenka Wins Fifth Grand Slam Title of 2005

    Azarenka Wins Fifth Grand Slam Title of 2005--
    ©Colette Lewis--
    Flushing Meadow NY

    The weather’s streak of unsurpassed beauty continued, but Alexa Glatch’s tennis wasn’t as pretty as usual on Sunday, as the newly-minted sixteen-year-old from Southern California saw her opportunity to win the U.S. Open Junior Championship evaporate in a slew of unforced errors.

    Her opponent, top seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, used her high octane groundstrokes and a strong serve to pressure Glatch into 29 unforced errors and the result was a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

    “She really stepped up and played very well,” said Glatch, seeded seventh. “I give her a lot of credit. She definitely deserved that win today.”

    Azarenka was gracious in the postmatch press conference. “She’s started to serve much harder, more placement and everything. She was serving very good and she uses the slices unbelieveable.”

    Asked her strategy to counteract the backhand slice that is one of Glatch’s primary weapons, Azarenka said, “I was just trying to attack every ball….not to let her play like very deep slice and come into the net. I was just trying to attack every ball.”

    And with as many winners as unforced errors, Azarenka, who has recently begun training in the U.S. with Adam Altschuler, succeeded in outsteadying Glatch, who had only nine winners in the match.

    Azarenka will now head to professional tournaments in Asia and plans to play one more junior event, the Grade A tournament in Osaka. She has now won two Grand Slam events in singles this year and three Grand Slam doubles titles, so her place atop the junior ITF rankings at year-end is likely.

    As for Glatch, she too is looking toward the WTA tour, with a Challenger event in Kentucky next for her following a two-week break at home in Newport Beach.

    “I just want to keep improving my game and moving up the rankings and just do the best that I possibly can.”

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Clayton and Young Capture U.S. Open Junior Doubles Title

    ©Colette Lewis 2005--
    Flushing Meadows NY--
    Back-to-Back Doubles Championships for U.S. teams

    I’m not going to do justice to the matches today, since I’ve been spending the last four hours creating research sheets for The Tennis Channel. I was hired to provide some background, and since I’m getting paid, and it’s my only chance to make a good first impression, it had to take priority over tonight’s post.

    But there is definitely good news to report. For the second straight year, an team from the U.S. won the Junior Open doubles title. Alex Clayton and Donald Young, seeded eighth, earned the Waterford Crystal chalices after a nailbiting 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-5 victory over the second seeded team of Carsten Ball and Thiemo de Bakker. Last year, Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema won their third Grand Slam title of the year under a similarly cloudless sky.

    And addition to being thrilling, the championship match was just plain strange. First, with Young serving at 4-4 in the third, he and Clayton were down 0-40, with one point due to an egregious baseline call, and yet held it together to win the next five points to take a 5-4 lead in the third. The first strange match point came next, with Ball serving at 4-5. The Newport Beach resident, who now plays under the Australian flag, had not been broken, but despite a 40-15 lead, ended up at ad out. A spun reflex volley by deBakker bounced crazily, and Young ended up touching the net in his attempt to retrieve it. The chair called “touch” and the Ball de Bakker team escaped with the game two points later.

    Clayton then served a strong game to 6-5 and in the ensuing game hit two backhand return winners to put Ball and de Bakker behind the eight ball. At deuce, their miscommunication led to a racquet clash and another match point. After a spinetingling rally, with all four players at the net, de Bakker racquet ticked it and again came the call of “touch” from the chair, giving Clayton and Young their U.S. Open Jr. title.

    “Coming into the tournament, I knew we had a chance to do well,” said Clayton, “but I did not really think that we could win it.”

    “This is my last junior tournament, and to win a doubles grand slam, it doesn’t get any better.”

    Clayton, 17, gave credit to his partner Young for his ability to take a difficult singles loss in stride.

    “He lost 7-6 in the third (against Kim in Friday’s quarterfinals) and then bounced back and played a great doubles match (the straight set semifinal win over the third seeds).”

    And Young admitted that his country’s Grand Slam Junior Doubles Championship did help him feel better.

    “At least I won something--I’m going home with a trophy,” he said with a laugh.

    For complete draws, including doubles action, see usopen.org

    For more photos see ustaboys.com

    Glatch's Birthday Present--A Trip to U.S. Open Jr. Finals

    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Flushing Meadows, NY
    Alex Glatch has been playing some great tennis lately. Her last two losses have been to Sania Mirza and Jelena Jankovic, two WTA top 50 players.

    She kept it up on Saturday, her 16th birthday, by using her serve and creativity to baffle unseeded Nina Henkel of Germany, whose nerves were evident in the quick 6-1 first set. Henkel found her bearings, and it isn't often that Glatch, now six feet tall, faces someone bigger than she is. But Henkel's power was on display in the second set, and it was only Glatch's ability to hit the big serve at the key time that allowed her the opportunity to close it in straight sets, with the 7-5 second set.

    "I never expected to do this well," said Glatch, seeded seventh at the Open. "I'm just very happy with the way I've played this week. I've just got to keep it going."

    Playing in the doubles championship a few hours later, Glatch and partner Vania King, seeded second, were not able to stop the freight train that was the seventh seeded team of Nikola Frankova and Alisa Kleybanova. The Czech and Russian pair powered their way to a 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory over the Southern Californian friends.

    Glatch will take on top seed and ITF number one Viktoria Azarenka in the finals on Sunday. The sixteen-year-old Azarenka, of Belarus, lost her first set of the tournament, but roared back to subdue 14th seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

    Azarenka, the reigning Australian Open Jr. Champion, owns a win over Glatch in their only meeting at the 2004 Canadian Open, but she is not making too much of that. "She is a much better player now, she has so much more experience than she did."

    Asked how she was going to celebrate her birthday, Glatch said she wasn't sure. But partner King assured reporters that she had given her friend several gifts of candy and cookies to mark the occasion.

    Chardy, Sweeting Advance to Finals

    Unseeded Ryan Sweeting of the Bahamas continued his hard-hitting assault on the U.S. Open championship, as he overpowered sixth seed Sun-Yong Kim 6-4, 6-0 on Saturday afternoon.
    "The first game in each set decided it," said Sweeting, 18. "I broke in his first service game each set, and it got me going."
    Sweeting, equally effective on the forehand and backhand sides, was determined to seize the point from the beginning.
    "I tried to get him off the court as soon as possible," said Sweeting, who will enter the University of Florida in January. "The longer the point goes on, the better he plays."

    Wimbledon Jr. Champion Jeremy Chardy resembled Houdini as he deftly escaped from a 5-1 first set tiebreak deficit, winning six straight points to demoralize Columbian Santiago Giraldo 7-6 (5), 6-2. Chardy, seeded seventh, speaking through a interpreter, said that he wasn't really worried when he fell behind. "I felt I was the better player, so even if I lost that set, I thought I could win the match."

    Giraldo was frequently off balance when Chardy got his wicked first serve in, and Chardy was able to raise his game when challenged by the fourth seed's deep ground strokes. With a decidedly less lethal serve, Giraldo struggled for free points and in the second set was unable to respond.

    Chardy crushed Sweeting in the first round of the French Junior Championships this year in straight sets, but Sweeting is relishing a rematch, as his confidence is soaring with his results this week.

    Friday, September 9, 2005

    One, Two, Three--Boys Seeds Disappear; Glatch only U.S. Player Left in Singles

    One, Two, Three--Boys Seeds Disappear;Glatch only U.S. Player Left in Singles--
    ©Colette Lewis
    Flushing Meadow NY--

    It was the same-old same-old today; perfect weather and Donald Young losing the first set.

    The weather continued its streak, but Young’s flair for winning went the way of the scattered morning clouds, and he fell to sixth seed Sun-Yong Kim 7-6 (1), 2-6, 7-6(2).

    Young served for the match after breaking Kim when the Korean was serving at 5-5 in the third. “He played great during that game,” said Kim through his interpreter and coach Jung Hoon Park. “He deserves the credit.”

    But the eighteen-year-old Korean showed no inclination to surrender and at 6-5, 30-40 got new life when Young hit a forehand into the net.

    And unfortunately for the top seed, that was only the first of many to come in the tiebreak. The first three points, all won by Kim, were forehand errors, and the sixteen-year-old from Chicago misplaced his knack for elevating his game. Kim, from outside Seoul, can hit the ball hard and flat, but his strategy was obviously to deny Young pace, as there was a lot of girls 14s in their rallies. Kim had lost to Young in straight sets in the Australian final, but observers of that match said the swirling winds and the nerves of both players didn’t provide the best conditions to test their tennis skills.

    The weather couldn’t be blamed on Friday, but maybe the load of four straight three set singles matches on top of doubles could. But some of the pain of singles loss was allieviated when Young and partner Alex Clayton earned a spot in the doubles final by defeating the third seeded team of Petar Jelenic and Evgeniy Kirillov 6-2, 6-3. Clayton and Young, seeded eighth will meet Carsten Ball and Thiemo de Bakker, the second seeds, who took out Wimbledon champions Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz 6-1, 6-3.

    Alexa Glatch, the only American remaining in junior singles, will also be playing for a Grand Slam title on Saturday. Glatch, a straight-set winner over third seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in singles, and partner Vania King dispatched the fifth seeded team of Wen-Hsin Hsu and Amina Rakhim in straight sets. Glatch and King, the second seeds, will face Nikola Frankova and Alisa Kleybanova, the seventh seeds.

    “Vania and I have a great time out there,” said the six-foot righthander from California. “I love to play doubles now. I was never a great doubles player before I started playing with Vania. She’s taught me a lot.”

    One thing everyone learned today at the National Tennis Center is beware the underdog. In addition to top seed Young, the boys draw lost second seed and French Jr. Open champion Marin Cilic, a loser to Wimbledon Jr. Champion Jeremy Chardy and third seed Leonardo Mayer, defeated by unseeded Ryan Sweeting.

    “It was surreal out there,” said the eighteen-year-old Bahamian, who took out the powerful Argentine 6-4, 7-5, winning the last four games played. “I don’t remember a single point from the match. Even match point, I think I thought I hit a serve winner, I raised my arms in the air and then it came back and somehow I hit an overhead to win it.”

    It wasn’t just the seeding that made the result surprising—in the recently concluded ITF Grade 1 in Canada, Mayer had defeated Sweeting 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals.

    Frenchman Chardy was seeking revenge, as the towering Croatian had eliminated him in the second round of the Australian Open this year, but after Chardy, the seventh seed, dropped the first set 6-4, it seemed unlikely that he’d get it. But he drew confidence from his play in the Canadian, even though he lost in the quarterfinals.

    “I felt I was playing well on hard courts there and in the first three rounds here,” said Chardy, who spoke through an interpreter.

    The points were short in the match and the play alternately brilliant and lackluster. It was difficult for either player to get a rhythm, as rallies were rare, but Chardy finally began to use his professional-grade serve to advantage and Cilic did not.

    The highest seed remaining in the boys draw is Santiago Giraldo of Columbia, who was tabbed for the fourth spot based on his ATP ranking (currently 399). Giraldo’s penetrating groundstrokes have given all of his junior opponents fits, and unseeded Tim Smyczek was no exception. The first set, which Giraldo won 6-1, seemed to be over in about fifteen minutes. But Smyczek recovered to win the second set 6-3, and Giraldo appeared agitated to have dropped his first set of the tournament. But with his small group of vocal supporters evident on winners and errors alike, Giraldo took an early lead in the third set and never looked back, taking it 6-2.
    Unseeded Liz Plotkin of San Francisco was hoping to join Glatch in an All-California semifinal and was ahead in both sets, 5-3, and 3-1 in her match with unseeded Nina Henkel of Germany Friday afternoon, but she dropped both by identical 7-5 scores.

    “It was a winnable match,” said Plotkin. “But I wasn’t on the court today. Definitely not on this planet. But credit to my opponent—she played well.”

    Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus meet in the other semifinal. Buzarnescu, seeded 14th, fought off a determined challenge by qualifier Olga Govortsova, 6-2, 7-6 (3) and will face a very well rested Azarenka. The top seed has lost only eight games in four matches, and today she played only seven games total when doubles partner Marina Erakovic retired 5-2. Erakovic had suffered a back injury in her victory Thursday over Vania King and was unable to play doubles later in the afternoon. The unfortunate injury to Erakovic dashed Azarenka’s hope of winning all four Grand Slam doubles titles in 2005.

    For complete draws, including doubles action, see usopen.org

    For more photos see ustaboys.com

    Thursday, September 8, 2005

    Tennis Beauty in The Eye of this Beholder

    Tennis Beauty in The Eye of this Beholder
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Flushing Meadows NY--

    The buzz around the sun-splashed National Tennis Center on Thursday, even among junior aficionados, was the Agassi-Blake epic Wednesday night, or rather, Thursday morning. Tennis WAS the winner, as Agassi said, but not many juniors with 11 a.m. matches would have stayed up late enough to be inspired by it.

    I had intended to check in on all the first-on junior matches, so I caught a few games at this court and that, then moved on, until I reached the Kuznetsov-Smyczek contest. The quality of tennis was so high, I took a seat and never left. In the first set, I was gasping every third point.

    Kuznetsov was seeded fifth, based exclusively on his ATP ranking, as he had not played a junior ITF event since last year’s Open. Judging from the way he moved and struck the ball in the first set, his recovery from the broken leg he suffered in a car accident in May is nearly complete. The unseeded Smyczek, a junior Wimbledon semifinalist, matched him shot for shot. Those who disparage junior tennis should be required to watch a (sadly nonexistent) video of that first set, won by Smyczek 7-6 (3). A single viewing and they’d see that the beauty of the game is not confined to the top level.

    Smyczek, who moved quickly to every ball and hit it smack in the center of the racquet, was the first to blink, losing his serve at 4-4, when he missed an easy putaway at the net. But it didn’t faze him, and he never gave Kuznetsov a sniff at a set point. Smyczek’s lunging crosscourt touch volley at 15-40, was Federer-like, so high was its place on the Wow scale.

    The ensuing tiebreak belonged to Smyczek, where even Kuznetsov’s best serve rarely won him a point. Kuznetsov also went to the drop shot early and often and although it won him several key points in the first set, when he really needed it in the second it had lost that essential element of surprise critical with a player as speedy as Smyczek.

    “I think that was a result of his lack of match play,” said the seventeen-year-old Wisconsin native. “We train a lot together at Saddlebrook, and I know he’s not 100%. I had to make believe it wasn’t Alex across the net.”

    The second set was decidedly less scintillating.

    “I have my highs and lows,” Smyczek admitted. “The tiebreak was my high and the start of the first set was my low.” Broken the first time he served, Smyczek again broke back immediately--the second of four straight breaks. Both then held, but at 4-4, Smyczek relocated his return game, broke Kuznetsov and held, finishing the match off with a 40-30 service winner.

    In addition to Smyczek, another diminutive unseeded American advanced to the quarterfinals. Liz Plotkin has not yet lost a set in her three matches, and on Thursday battled past qualifier Ekaterina Kosminskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-4.

    She joins seventh seed Alex Glatch, the only other American girl remaining, and they will meet in the semifinals if both win on Friday. Glatch defeated Russian Ekaterina Makarova, the ninth seed 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3. Tenth seed Vania King clawed her way to a third set tiebreak, but fell to Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2).

    Top seed Donald Young continued living on the edge, dropping, for the third straight match, the first set, and then finding himself in a second set tiebreak with Matt Bruch, who grew up playing Young when both lived in the Chicago area. But Young once again found the strokes and spots to take the second set tiebreak, and a cramping Bruch had little to give in the third set, falling 6-2.

    Third seed Leonardo Mayer and thirteenth seed Sam Querrey put on a demonstration of power tennis, junior style, with Mayer squeaking out a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) win. There were only two breaks in the entire match, but Querrey held a set point at 3-5 in the second. The Argentine didn’t blink, however, and Querrey’s first serve deserted him during that crucial tenth game and in the tiebreak. Both players were routinely hitting serves in the 120s, (court 11 did feature a radar gun) and the pace off the ground looked very similar to what was going on inside Arthur Ashe in the Lleyton Hewitt-Jarkko Nieminen quarterfinal.

    Querrey is traveling to Belgium with the U.S. Davis Cup team as a hitting partner, and then will spend his next few months studying for the SATs and making official college recruiting visits. There will be Futures and Challengers in his home state of California too, but he has played his last junior tournament, except, he hurriedly added, Kalamazoo in 2006.

    Mayer will next face unseeded Ryan Sweeting of the Bahamas. Sweeting waltzed past his friend Holden Seguso 6-1, 6-2 in third round action Thursday.

    Young will take on sixth seed Sun-Yong Kim of Korea and Smyczek meets fourth seed Santiago Giraldo of Columbia.

    The most anticipated match on the boys side, however, finds French Jr. Open champion and second seed Marin Cilic of Croatia taking on Wimbledon champion Jeremy Chardy of France, the seventh seed.

    In doubles, two American teams reached Friday’s semifinals. Young and partner Alex Clayton advanced over Smyczek and Kellen Damico 6-1, 7-6 (5). Wimbledon champions Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz, shockingly unseeded here, grabbed another straight set victory over Pavol Cervenak and Lukas Lacko.

    Glatch and King, the second seeds, are the only U.S. team remaining in girls doubles.

    For complete draws, including doubles action, see usopen.org

    For more photos see ustaboys.com

    Wednesday, September 7, 2005

    Four More U.S. Boys Advance to Round of 16

    Four More U.S. Boys Advance to Round of 16 at Open; Smyczek and Damico upend top seeded doubles team.

    ©Colette Lewis 2005--
    Flushing Meadow, NY

    First, I'd like to welcome all the readers of Peter Bodo's TennisWorld.

    Peter's sitting next to me in the media center at the National Tennis Center and busy with the big boys and girls, although his post Tuesday is about Andy Murray vs. Richard Gasquet (still teenagers, and Andy could have defended his Jr. title here had he so desired.) But with the "Senior" events (as they so quaintly refer to the tours in Great Britain) winding down, Peter had a moment to join me at the Querrey vs. Belic match, and Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated was also at Querrey and Young's wins today.

    Querrey's victory was routine, if you can call a match with a player nearly knocking himself out by walking into the umpires footrest at the changeover by that description.

    Croatian Luka Belic was the unfortunate victim when the players were taking their court positions after the warmup, and unsurprisingly he lost the first three games. At the 3-0 changeover, a trainer was called to attend to the golf ball-sized lump that formed on Belic's forehead. A fifteen minute delay, which featured not just trainers, but suit-and-tie clothed doctors, finally ended with Belic returning to the court. The patiently waiting Querrey was fine with that.

    "I didn't want to come all this way and get a retirement," Querrey said. "The delay didn't really bother me. The first game back I missed four easy shots, but after that I was fine."

    Querrey's big serve (sadly no radar guns on outside courts, so I can't quantify) gave Belic fits, and the 13th seeded Southern Californian never faced a break point in his 6-3, 6-3 win.

    For the second straight day, top seed Donald Young dropped the first set to a dangerous opponent, but again survived. Unseeded Venezuelan David Navarrete came in to the match with considerable confidence as the six-foot four-inch lefthander had beaten Young in their only prior meeting, at the 2004 Eddie Herr Championship's semifinal round.

    "I started with a lot of confidence and I think he respected me from the last match we played," said Navarrete. "But I got tired after the second set, and he started playing much better. I know he's a great player."

    Young, who gave away at least six inches and 50 pounds to his opponent, used his usual array of defense and guile winning the match going away--4-6,6-2,6-0.

    Unseeded Holden Seguso is making his first Grand Slam appearance a memorable one, with his second round 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

    “This is my favorite tournament, “ said the slender righthander, who beat the eighth seed in the first round. “I’m competing well and playing well right now.”

    Seguso got some tips from his junior friends on how to best counteract his opponent’s impressive game.

    “I asked around the locker room, and the guys said if you work the point, he’ll start slapping it around, and that’s what happened.”

    “It was also important that I get ahead, and I did.”

    U.S. players joining Alex Kuznetsov and Tim Smyczek, (who played on Tuesday) in the round of 16 Wednesday were Querry, Seguso and Matt Bruch. Bruch, of Lake Forest Illinois, battled back to defeat lucky loser Rupesh Roy of India 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, his second straight three set match.

    "In the first set I was missing my backhand," said the eighteen-year-old Stanford freshman-to-be. "I had never played him, and he was really quick, so once I started going behind him, I won a lot of points that way."

    Michael Shabaz of the U.S. was serving for the match at 5-3 in the third set against Kenyan Christian Vitulli, but dropped the final four games of the match in the 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 contest. Please visit juniortennis.com for Annie Paton's daily wrapup story, featuring quotes from Vitulli.

    On the girls side, tenth seed Vania King was the only U.S. player to advance. She beat compatriot Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-0, and has now lost a grand total of one game in her first two matches. National girls champion Mary Gambale lost a heartbreaker today to Sharon Fichman of Canada 0-6,7-5,6-4.

    King joins Alexa Glatch and Liz Plotkin, who won second round matches on Tuesday, in the round of 16.

    Smyczek and partner Kellen Damico took out the top seeded team of South Americans Leonardo Mayer and Andre Miele in straight sets.

    "I wouldn't say they played great," said John Roddick, Damico's coach. "They weren't hitting winners all over the place. But they volleyed great and got a lot of balls back, which can win you a lot of matches on the junior level."

    For complete draws, including doubles action, see usopen.org

    For more photos see ustaboys.com

    Tuesday, September 6, 2005

    Plotkin Stuns Jr. Wimbledon Champion and Open's Second Seed

    ©Colette Lewis 2005

    If the USTA has a copyright on perfect weather, the U.S. Open is collecting some serious royalties this week. Clear skies, low humidity and refreshing breezes have been relentless since we arrived in New York, leaving the tennis as the lone focal point.

    Junior tennis is now taking center stage, and today’s diva was American Liz Plotkin, who earned one of the biggest victory of her junior career, taking out Wimbledon champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-4 in a second round singles match.

    In fact, Plotkin, a seventeen-year-old from San Franciso, has now beaten the last two Wimbledon girls champions in the past year, having also beaten Kateryna Bondarenko at the 2004 Winter Internationals.

    Plotkin is currently 36th in the ITF rankings, while Radwanska is third. But Plotkin, who did some scouting of Radwanska at Wimbledon, saw some positive signs in early in their first meeting. “We had a couple of really long games in the beginning and I really though I could have a chance to beat her,” said Plotkin. “She hits really flat and pounds everything, and actually I like that style. I like to have a poundfest out there.”

    Plotkin also took confidence from her first round win over Marrit Boonstra.

    “Once you get by a round with two tiebreak sets and you’ve fought your way through that, anything’s possible.”.

    Plotkin’s win overshadowed another upset—Jamie Hampton’s elimination of fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the first round. Hampton, a fifteen-year-old from Alabama, won the USTA 18s Clay Court Championship in July, and the wild card recipient put the fifth ranked Wozniacki on notice at the start, taking the first set 6-2. About the time she was expected to crumble, after dropping the second set 6-2, Hampton instead recharged and took the final set 6-4. Her reward—a second round match with unseeded but dangerous Yaroslava Shvedova, the winner of the ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open last week.

    The boys’ top seeds negotiated the waters more predictably Tuesday. World number one Donald Young dropped the first set to a confident Phillip Bester, who was a finalist at the Canadian, but the top seed continued his domination of the IMG Bolliettieri Academy player with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 first round singles win.

    Second seed Marin Cilic, the French Open champion, was also tested in his second round match with wild card Wil Spencer. Though down an early break, Spencer, who turns 16 on Thursday, fought back to force a first set tiebreaker. “I was too relaxed,” said the six-foot six-inch Croatian, who had beaten Spencer in last year’s U.S. Open junior qualifying tournament. Cilic played a nearly flawless tiebreak, and although Spencer pestered him in the second set, the ITF’s second ranked player prevailed 7-6, 6-4.

    Alex Clayton, who was recently named a Davis Cup hitting partner for the U.S. team traveling to Belgium later this month, battled the 14th seed Evgeniy Kirillov of Russia to a third set tiebreak, but fell just short in a riveting match of high quality tennis. Kirillov won 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

    Tim Smyczek, a Wimbledon semifinalist, was not seeded, but the 26th ranked righthander from Wisconsin certainly played at a higher level than Thiemo de Bakker, the ninth seed from the Netherlands, eliminating him 6-1, 7-6 (0) in a second round encounter.

    Alex Kuznetsov, the fifth seed, defeated fellow American Dennis Lajola 6-3, 6-2.

    Seeded U.S. boys to fall included 16th seed Jesse Levine, who dropped a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 decision to Venezuelan Piero Luisi, and 2004 Orange Bowl champion Tim Neilly who also failed to win a game in his final set, although his was the second. He was defeated by Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-4, 6-0.
    For complete draws see usopen.org

    For more photos visit ustaboys.com

    Monday, September 5, 2005

    Radio Days

    Radio Days--
    ©Colette Lewis 2005

    Radio Days

    I watched junior tennis today, but I also spent significant time promoting it, with the help of American Express radio. They were looking for juniors to interview for a live show before the evening session, and because I had Sam Querrey’s cell phone number, he and I were both recruited.

    I was also asked to join Barry McKay at the top of Ashe Stadium to do a primer on Kalamazoo. At the Open, American Express card holders have free use of radios, allowing them to follow the CBS (or USA Network) commentary while watching matches on other courts. During the TV commercial breaks, McKay provides updates on other matches and chats with guests. Monday was junior day, and I was given plenty of time between the Davenport and Agassi matches to explain some of the history of the Kalamazoo tournament, and provide some background on players to watch in the junior event. I don’t think I stumbled too many times, and my confidence in my knowledge of the topic kept my nerves at bay.

    And as I watched and listened to the evening live show, with Holden Seguso, Sam Querrey and Tim Neilly answering the often pointed questions of Nick Bollettieri and Jimmy Arias, I was impressed, again, by the poise of these teenagers and their willingness to put themselves out there, for no more payment than a US Open sweatshirt.

    It was also interesting to be told by the producer that last year’s junior radio show, which featured Scoville Jenkins, Scott Oudsema, Brendan Evans and Phillip Simmonds, was the most popular of all the shows they did. So despite the general so-what attitude toward junior tennis of the majority of tennis writers in the media center, at least it has the support of American Express radio.

    As for the tennis played in the almost boringly perfect weather, the U.S. boys had another good day. Querrey and Seguso won in straight sets, Seguso taking out the eighth seed, Niels Desein of Belgium, despite a nervous stomach that found him doing an Andy Murray imitation prior to the match.

    Qualfier Matt Bruch, who enters Stanford in a few weeks, also eliminated a seed, taking out Andre Miele of Brazil in three sets. He and Seguso also teamed to take their doubles match later in the day.

    Jesse Levine, the 16th seed and a recent semifinalist in Kalamazoo, also was a straight set winner.

    The only American boy to lose Monday was Kalamazoo 16s champion Nate Schnugg, who fell to International Grass Court champion and lucky loser Rupesh Roy, 6-3, 6-4.

    Top seed Donald Young and wild card Jamie Hunt play their first round matches on Tuesday.

    The U.S. girls had a less successful day, with only four of the ten playing Monday leaving the court winners. The most impressive victory was posted by Vania King, who won three qualifying matches and one in the women’s main draw last week. She didn’t let up when she returned to the juniors, winning 6-0, 6-0 this morning. Also advancing to the second round were Julia Cohen, who upset 16th seeded Amina Rakhim, Mary Gambale, the reigning girls national champion and fourteen-year-old Gail Brodsky.

    Lauren Albanese, a finalist at the Canadian Open completed on Saturday, and wild card Jamie Hampton are scheduled to play their first round singles matches on Tuesday.

    Sunday, September 4, 2005

    Clayton and Querrey Named Davis Cup Hitting Partners

    --Clayton and Querrey Named Davis Cup Hitting Partners--
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe has asked juniors Alex Clayton and Sam Querrey to accompany the team to Belgium for the World Group Playoffs later this month. The United States must win the tie, which will be played indoors on red clay, to maintain its place in the world group. Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins are expected to play, although the team has not yet been named. Clayton, 17, won the National Clay Court 18s title in July, and Querrey, also 17, advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Junior Open in June. Both are playing in the U.S. Open Junior tournament in singles and doubles. They will practice with the team and be in attendance throughout the competition.

    US Junior Boys Start Strongly

    U.S. Junior Boys Start Strongly--
    ©Colette Lewis 2005

    Flushing Meadows NY—-

    It was a good day for American boys Sunday, with seven of the eleven playing advancing to the second round in singles.

    With over a quarter of the boys draw, (18 of the 64 entrants) from the United States, and five of them seeded, much is expected. But nearly all Sunday's victories were hard-won. Michael Shabaz, Alex Clayton and Alex Kuznetsov all came from a set down to advance, and Wil Spencer and Tim Smyczek needed three to prevail. Only Tim Neilly, the tenth seed, and Dennis Lajola managed to keep their time on the National Tennis Center outer courts to a minimum.

    Kuznetsov, who has made a remarkable recovery from a broken right leg suffered in a May auto accident, lost the first set to Croatian Nikola Mektic in a tiebreak, but his attitude about that first set loss reflects a change of perspective borne of the collison with a tree.

    “It’s my first (singles) match back since the accident,” said the eighteen-year-old from Richboro Pennsylvania. “I’m so happy to just be out playing,” the fifth seed said. “It’s the first time I’ve taken the court feeling no pressure. I’m out here to have fun and get some matches.”

    Michael Shabaz also had not played many singles matches this summer, but after dropping the first set to Russian Valery Rudnev 7-5, the Wimbledon doubles champion found a groove and took the final two sets 7-5, 6-3.

    Alex Clayton’s superior fitness proved to be the difference in his 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 conquest of Ukrainian Ivan Sergeyev. Although he squandered a 4-1 lead in the first set, the seventeen-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale proved his mettle, climbing back from a break down in the second set.

    “I knew I had to make a change,” said Clayton, the winner of the National Clay Courts in July. “I started to hit high to his backhand.” It was a strategy that eventually wore his opponent down, and while Clayton continued to bounce, Sergeyev, sweating through his clothing in the pleasnt late afternoon weather, began to double over between points. Unable to handle Clayton’s first serve regularly, Sergeyev attempted to shorten any point when he did manage to return one, and often he managed to prolong the games, but not, ultimately, the match.

    The girls from the United States have even bigger numbers in the draw, with 21 of the 64 participants from the U.S., but only three of the nine that played Sunday advanced—Alexa Glatch, Liz Plotkin and Maddie Brengle.

    For full draws, see

    For more photos of U.S. Juniors, see ustaboys.com

    Saturday, September 3, 2005

    The Zen of Flushing Meadows

    ©Colette Lewis 2005--
    Flushing Meadow NY

    Landed at LaGuardia early, believe it or not, and within half an hour had our luggage, a cab (driver: Indian, practicing a untranslatable one- stringed instrument between fares) and then a perfectly fine hotel room. The jackhammers and car horns were the aural reminder that I was in New York, and by 3:30 p.m. on the subway-John-Rocker-made-famous, the visual assault began. Actually I’m a big fan of graffiti (it beats gargantuan billboards for Hairspray or Wicked) and it enlivened the trip more than the mundane passengers, the most exotic of whom were a rather tame Harley Davidson couple.

    Seeing the American Express Andy’s Mojo billboard cluster along the route prompted some fellow Flushing Meadow-bound fans to take a stab at what-went-wrong. Consensus—not hungry anymore. Well, at least they didn’t blame Dean Goldfine.

    After scalping a ticket for my husband, we took a brief detour to the junior qualifying, which takes place in the park outside the gates. The competition was winding down, but a few girls were still battling for those last precious spots in the main draw.

    Security seemed a bit less onerous than last year, and, no longer a rookie, my anxiety was substantially less too. I knew where to go, who to talk to, who to avoid. I got my credential and locker (a lifesaver) and then, computer safely stored, raced to court 4 to catch the second round doubles match between Alex Kuznetsov and Scott Oudsema and the Spanish team of Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco. The young Americans took the first set 7-6 (1), but in the second and third sets were broken at 4-5, the only two breaks of the match.

    The vibe around the grounds was as bright as the weather, with James Blake already having blasted Nadal and Andre Agassi a set up on Berdych in Arthur Ashe. We chatted with junior Wil Spencer and his coach Wolf Von Lindenau, who were doing a little last minute work on court and learned that the junior player meeting was imminent.

    But I wasn’t going to miss the Agassi press conference—it’s a lesson not only in tennis but in life,--and I wasn’t disappointed. The most profound statement of several was his answer to a question about his future. (I’m paraphrasing, because, instead of writing I was spellbound just listening.) "I’ve never been 35 before, I’ve never played my 20th U.S. Open before, so all this is new to me too. I’m learning as I go.”

    A very wise man, who knows you can’t write a scripts for life.

    The junior meeting was substantially less zen, with a machine-gun microphone disrupting Eliot Teltscher, Rodney Harmon and USTA PR mogul Tim Curry, and a bunch of restless teenagers, eager to see their draws, far from attentive. I believe they may have gotten more out of the Agassi press conference; perhaps the USTA should have invited them over.

    The junior singles draws are now posted

    Friday, September 2, 2005

    Canadian Open ITF Grade 1:: juniortennis.com

    Thursday Canadian Junior Tennis Championships--

    The ITF junior website has a US Open preview story posted, but it's tame stuff and calling Alex Kuznetsov "relatively unknown on the ITF circuit," when he was a French Junior Open finalist last year is just weird.

    For my money, you're better off reading Annie Paton's stories from the Canadian Open. Strategy alert--in this story, Venezuelan Piero Luisi gives his tip on how to beat Wimbledon Champion Jeremy Chardy.

    Also, Marcia Frost has the US Open Junior Qualifying Draws posted at collegeandjuniortennis.com

    SI.com - 2005 US Open - Richard Deitsch: Tennis will hear more from Scoville Jenkins - Thursday September 1, 2005 2:34PM

    SI.com - 2005 US Open - Richard Deitsch: Tennis will hear more from Scoville Jenkins - Thursday September 1, 2005 2:34PM--

    It looks like I'm not the only one rooting for Scoville Jenkins. Key quote from this story:

    The exposure on USA Network and CBS, and the reams of copy on him today will be worth exponentially more. Tom Ross, his agent at Octagon, told The New York Times that Jenkins does not have a major clothing or shoe deal, but he expected the player to have one signed by the time they left New York.

    As of Wednesday night, there was still no deal in place, but we're guessing someone will bite on a handsome and charismatic African-American player (replete with cool dreadlocks) who pushed the world No. 2 to the limit.

    Thursday, September 1, 2005

    Top tennis prospect recovers, plays at U.S. Open:: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    Top tennis prospect recovers, plays at U.S. Open: South Florida Sun-Sentinel--
    One thing to love about Charlie Bricker is the width and breadth of his tennis interests. He devotes this entire story to top junior Alex Kuznetsov and his remarkable recovery from the broken leg he suffered in an automobile accident in May. One thing not to love about Charlie Bricker is his sloppiness. In a brief item about Alex Clayton last month, he described the Ft. Lauderdale junior as five feet eight inches tall. Alex is six feet tall--we measured him here in Kalamazoo when we read Bricker's dubious number. It's not good enough to take an old profile and presume it's correct, especially when a junior player is involved. In this story, Phil Simmonds is referred to as a fellow junior (he's 19 and played his final junior tournament last September) and from Atlanta (he's from suburban DC). But I absolutely endorse Bricker's pronouncement that Kuznetsov is one of the U.S.'s top young prospects.

    Youth Is Served, but Nadal Serves a Bit Better - New York Times (registration required)

    Youth Is Served, but Nadal Serves a Bit Better - New York Times-

    As regular readers of zootennis know, I've been an unabashed Scoville Jenkins fan since I first saw him play, as a fourteen-year-old, in the 2001 Nationals in Kalamazoo. It was a treat to see him, four summers in a row, get better--bigger, stronger, smarter, and yet retain his sweet, low-key demeanor. But this summer, he elected not to defend his title, (a calculated risk because he needed the US Open wild card), so it has been a year now since I've seen him play. He spent the last twelve months playing the minor leagues, struggling with funding without a clothing/shoe deal of any consequence, but he demonstrated last night, in his loss to Nadal, that the pattern of steady improvement in his junior years has continued.

    After watching every point of the match last night, I admit that doubts surfaced when he lost the first two games. Just how, I wondered, is he going to win points from Mr. Defense? Well, he showed me how. With a good first serve and a top-rung forehand that he wasn't afraid to hit. As McEnroe pointed out during the match, Jenkins had more forehand winners than Nadal, by a considerable margin. He had double the winners period, and even the fact that he had four times as many errors isn't that discouraging--there's a fearlessness in that number that's downright heartening. And to see what he learned from last year's Roddick pummeling--about the occasion, and how he could fit into it--was just more evidence of his ability to absorb the game's many lessons.

    It was great fun to see his dad, Scoville Sr., in the players box, enjoying the moment, and his coach, Torrey Hawkins, still mouthing encouragement when Jenkins was down two sets and a break in the third. This is an entourage any player would be lucky to have. But he needs more than friends and supporters--he needs money, having just doubled his yearly earnings with the $25,000 he made for reaching the second round. Tom Ross of Octagon, the agency that signed Jenkins to a professional contract last year, said earlier this week that a clothing/shoe deal is in the works. Having limited knowledge of the details of endorsement contracts, I can only speculate on the likelihood that it will provide a financial cushion for Jenkins' next year of development. But potential sponsors would have to be more shortsighted than usual to disregard his attractive combination of work ethic, skill and personality.

    Speaking of which, Jenkins is writing a diary for usopen.org, just as he did last year. The first two entries give a glimpse of how he's matured, personally and athletically, in the last year.