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Monday, October 31, 2005

Becker picks up pace, wins Waco USTA final::Waco Tribune-Herald

Becker picks up pace, wins Waco USTA final:: Waco Tribune-Herald~~~

The recently completed Futures event in Waco was doubly satisfying for Baylor alum and 2004 NCAA singles champion Benjamin Becker who won the singles and the doubles titles. But more interesting to me was the finals appearance of Kalamazoo's Scott Oudsema, who, for the first time in his professional career, made it past the quarterfinals in a pro event. Oudsema had a very impressive win in the quarterfinals over Baylor's 2005 NCAA singles champion Benedikt Dorsch. Although the quotes from Dorsch in this story indicate that he expected to have no trouble with Oudsema, who is five years younger, the picture that emerges from the paper's admirably detailed coverage is that Oudsema's serve is a force to be reckoned with. And that he followed his upset of Dorsch with a win over Michael Russell, who had drubbed him the week before, was another positive sign. With his friends Scoville Jenkins and Phillip Simmonds emerging from the minor league pack the past few months, Oudsema may be ready to join them.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rielley Chooses Irish:: The Tennis Recruiting Network

Rielley Chooses Irish:: The Tennis Recruiting Network~~~

With the ITA Individual Indoor beginning Thursday in Columbus Ohio, college tennis is back in the spotlight and Notre Dame has emerged as an understudy ready for a starring role.

First, unexpectedly, two members of the men's tennis team at Notre Dame met in the finals of the ITA Midwest Regional last weekend; the details are here, courtesy of the Observer.

And the women's team has reason for optimism next year, when Colleen Rielley joins the Fighting Irish. Rielley gave Easter Bowl champion Alexa Glatch her toughest match in their first round battle in Palm Springs earlier this year, and her record against players ranked below her is an astounding 66-0. Julie Wrege of TennisRecruiting.net provides details on Rielley's decision, and although it may at first glance seem that Rielley made the obvious choice, with her father a tennis playing alum of the South Bend university, there's plenty of evidence that she thoroughly investigated her other options before committing to Notre Dame.

Stanford remains the powerhouse of women's college tennis, but with a few more recruits like Rielley, Notre Dame could emerge as a national title contender.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tennis plan to create champs :: Herald Sun

Herald Sun: Tennis plan to create champs [28oct05]~~~

Just a short post to advise that I'm back on terra firma, and after a week of not writing, it may take a few days before I'm up to speed. Bermuda experienced some ugly weather as Wilma blew past, but with one bad day sandwiched between two perfect ones, we certainly had no reason to complain. I'm indulging in one tourist photo here:

From what I can gather, the big story while I was gone was Andy Murray's win over Tim Henman. There's nothing I can contribute to that British media feast. (Style alert: anyone who has been on a cruise knows that the above food metaphors are an unavoidable consequence of too many recent buffet opportunities).

But the above story about Craig Tiley's changes in Australian tennis and this one on Tiley's home country South Africa's plans to restructure its player development, feature two completely different methods and philosophies. Whose is most productive won't be known for several years, but if both countries stick to their plans at least we'll have a chance to assess two contrasting approaches.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Vacation Alert

It's time to celebrate a milestone--our 30th wedding anniversary--which means for us a week-long cruise to Bermuda, away from cell phones and high speed internet. I haven't missed a day of posting since May, which means either a) I'm obsessive or b) I really enjoy it, or c) both a & b. If Wilma cooperates, we're looking forward to four days of touring a semitropical island and a chance to relax, away from the daily routines that often take on exaggerated importance. It's time to look back and outward, and to put some time and space between me and this blog. I'm sure I'll return rested and eager to dive back in.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

JT Sundling: Junior Spotlight of the Week:: (ustaboys.com)

JT Sundling: Junior Spotlight of the Week::usta.com~~~

Regular readers of zootennis may recall the Ventura County Star stories about Thousand Oaks superstar JT Sundling. The USTA's junior spotlight accurately describes his year as "amazing," and it's especially appropriate because Sundling is playing a Grade 5 ITF event in El Paso this week and has advanced to the quarterfinals, beating the second seed on Wednesday. Just a reminder----Sundling is fourteen years old and this is an 18-and-under tournament, although admittedly, the field is not a strong one.

Another interesting result from El Paso shows that Courtney (Missy) Clayton played her little sister Mary in the round of 16 and managed to squeeze out a 7-5, 6-4 win. I have no information on the quality of play in the match, but let's hope it exceeded the usual Williams sisters' standard. The Clayton are, ala the Williams, playing doubles together, and have advanced to the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005



I'm preparing for a long, blog-free vacation, so I'm combining a bunch of links to stories and a few brief comments in one post tonight. Then I'm going to pack.

  • Although I can't find any official press release from Reekbok, apparently their deal with Scoville Jenkins is done. There isn't much new in this ESPN.com story by Darren Rovell except for maybe the unbelievable statement that Venus Williams is wearing Reebok for free, but it must mean contracts have been signed. Hard to believe that Rovell doesn't know Donald Young's age, so I'll assume that "17" is a typo.

  • The sale of the ATP tournament in Scottsdale has resulted in The Tennis Channel Open landing in Las Vegas. The story from Tennis Week gives all the details, but the interesting part for junior tennis fans is this:
    A qualifying tournament, a junior tournament that would award the winner a wild card into qualifying of The Tennis Channel Open, a $75,000 USTA Women's Challenger event and a possible senior tournament are all planned in the days leading up to the actual ATP tournament.
    With not much happening in junior tennis in the U.S. that time of year, it sounds like a swell idea to me.

  • Andre Christopher, the managing editor of Tennis Week, contributes this interesting story about the reigning Princess of the Little Mo tournaments, eleven-year-old Blair Shankle. I know a few kids who compete in them, but I've never attended one. I'll put it on my "to-do" list soon.

  • The USTA has named Phillip Simmonds Pro Circuit Player of the Week and Attila Bucko Junior Player of the Week. Readers of zootennis might have seen those awards coming. I even had a photo of Simmonds (ok, it's a year old, but better than nothing).

  • Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Azarenka adds Osaka Mayor's Cup to Trophy Haul:: ITF Tennis - Juniors

    ITF Tennis - Juniors - Azarenka adds Osaka Mayor's Cup to Trophy Haul~~~

    The results of the Osaka's Mayor's Cup in Japan have finally filtered back to this side of the globe, and Viktoria Azarenka's and Marin Cilic's wins will affect the Orange Bowl in opposite ways. Azarenka, who was finally tested in her semifinal match, has wrapped up the World Junior Championship for girls in 2005, and will now go off to work on the WTA tour, hoping to follow her fellow sixteen-year-old colleagues Michaella Krajicek and Nicole Vaidisova up the rankings ladder. The girls' Orange Bowl title for 2005 is wide open now.

    Cilic has succeeded in tightening the boys rankings, to the point where the Orange Bowl will decide the top spot. (It's possible that the Yucatan Cup, a grade 1 that has been moved to a position AFTER the Orange Bowl, could figure in the race, but it's not likely.) Here are the current rankings after Sweeting's and Cilic's wins last weekend:

  • YOUNG, Donald USA 1477.50
  • CILIC, Marin CRO 1251.25
  • CHARDY, Jeremy FRA 1227.50
  • SWEETING, Ryan BAH 1163.75
  • MAYER, Leonardo ARG 1027.50

  • As I mentioned in a previous post, now only Cilic and Young have an opportunity to win three or more Grade A events and earn the 250 bonus points that go with that accomplishment.

    And although it's just the boys' title in doubt, that's a big improvement over last year, when Gael Monfils and Krajicek had eliminated all the suspense.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    De Voest Overcomes Deficit:: sacbee.com (free registration required)

    Sports Swanston Challenger tennis tournament: De Voest overcomes deficit - sacbee.com~~~

    And speaking of talent, as I did on Saturday, one of those naturals, Phillip Simmonds, made a second breakthrough this week, qualifying for the Sacramento challenger and reaching the final, losing a "thrilling" three setter to the South African De Voest.

    I haven't seen Simmonds since last year's Jr. Open, when he gave Gael Monfils all he could handle in the second round, and Kalamazoo, when he lost in the semifinals to Scoville Jenkins, although he did win the doubles title. But after hearing that he was officially a pro, represented by Octagon, I expected his results in the Futures and Challengers to be much better than they were. It wasn't until he qualified for the ATP's Legg-Mason this summer that he began to show signs of being a serious prospect. After his impressive showing in Sacramento last week, where he beat the sixth seed Chris Guccione, a top 200 player and Rajeev Ram, who is also ranked in that neighborhood, Simmonds has himself moved into the Top 400. Without going out on the limb that Matt Cronin of TennisReporters.net does below, I will say that Simmonds has the talent to go much higher than that. Maybe the confidence of the past few months will provide the surge.

    There was a women's challenger in San Francisco last week, and I believe Cronin lives in the area, which is why he covered a minor league event. But he took notice of Vania King, and how could he not, with her run to the semifinals. Here's his assessment of King's future:

    There was a sizable crowd watching US veteran Lilia Osterloh beat Rosanna de los Rios and King take down Ansley Cargill in the quarters. Despite her very small size, the 15-year-old King is an inventive player with a fair amount of pop and is almost impossible to hit through. She really impressed the crowd. She may not have Top-20 potential, but if she stays healthy, she'll have a solid, 10-year-career on tour. She's a hell of a competitor.

    She's actually 16, but I agree with his last sentence. Cronin has been in the tennis writing trade s a lot longer than I have, and maybe I suffer from chronic timidity, but that pronouncement sounds just a bit arrogant to me. But I would have loved to hear what he might have said about Simmonds' game were Cronin viewing matches in Sacramento instead.

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    The second seeds take the singles titles:: juniortennis.com

    2005 Chanda Rubin Pan American Closed~~~

    I'm not the only one with technical problems--(I apologize to my bloglet subscribers; the blogger and bloglet servers aren't connecting and I'm powerless to fix it)-- the ITF's junior site has had issues all weekend and there are no scores available from Osaka for the semifinals and finals.

    But Annie Paton is having no such difficulties. She once again does a terrific job of describing the atmosphere surrounding Ryan Sweeting's validation of his U.S. Open win-- a bizarre and volatile three-set victory over defending champion and world number one Donald Young.

    I sympathize with her plight of being required to cover both finals at once, which explains why her story is tilted toward the boys' match. It is not possible to watch two matches simultaneously and do justice to either. What is the big hurry? There are only two matches--start one at 10 a.m. and one at noon and everybody can go home by 2:30 p.m. This happened at the U.S. Open Juniors too, and it's inexplicable. There are no cost savings from it that I can detect, so what drives this schedule?

    Anyway, I was glad to hear that while both Sweeting and Young may be off to Futures events, they are still relishing the battle to be crowned the world's top junior. The Orange Bowl is shaping up as the perfect climax to a fascinating year on the boys' side.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Talent--An Appreciation

    Talent--An Appreciation~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005~~~

    I just saw Mad Hot Ballroom, the documentary about the New York Public School ballroom dancing competition, and, because the notion of talent is so critical to sports, I immediately started making a connection between what I saw on the screen and what I see on a tennis court. (One of the movies most endearing subjects, Michael, pronounces ballroom dancing "energizing-- like a sport that hasn't been invented as a sport yet.")

    Believe me, I'm no expert on dancing, but it took me about 15 seconds to know that Wilson had talent. He needed a little coaching and an opportunity to display it, but he was born to dance. I've seen a few young tennis players that are to hitting a tennis ball what Wilson is to dancing the rumba. And with all the talk about competitiveness and dedication and work ethic and the other "intangibles" that determine success, it's important to remember that talent has to be the foundation.

    Peter Bodo has recently created quite a firestorm on his blog with a no-holds-barred examination of the attitudes and actions of the Williams sisters in the past several years. There are very few subjects as incendiary, and although he didn't back down from the controversy, he did post some clarifications and embellishments.
    Here's one of his salient comments on what he designates The X Factor:

    More than anything, though, the debate has absolutely rekindled my appreciation for an amorphous gift that is very difficult to analyze or assess in cold, black-and-white terms. Talent.

    What a gift it is. And that makes me reiterate something I've said at different times writing about the Williamses: They represent one of the most remarkable sports stories of this - or any other - era. How they became who they are today – warts and all – is simply impossible to explain without first acknowledging the presence of that proverbial 300-pound gorilla in the room, talent.

    I’ve said my piece about Richard Williams’s coaching skills. But at the end of the day, tennis coaches – good or bad – are a dime a dozen. Oh, for someone to dream as hugely and audaciously as Richard did, and to make those dreams come true, is nothing short of amazing.

    Yet for all the credit Richard gets, let’s not kid anybody here. The real reason the sisters are in their present, exalted position is because of their talent – the gifts they were given, combined with their ambition and determination to make the most of those gifts.

    It's fashionable to dismiss talent as only a small part of the equation, but Peter's right. It may not assure that its possessor becomes Fred Astaire or Roger Federer, but he cannot be Fred Astaire or Roger Federer without it. And Mad Hot Ballroom's tag line--"Anyone can make it if they know how to shake it"--has it mostly wrong. Knowing how to shake it is a gift, and making it is not something "anyone" can do.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Japanese Juniors Eye Osaka Mayor’s Cup: ITF Tennis - Juniors

    ITF Tennis - Juniors - News Article~~~

    Tulsa is an important ITF tournament for North American players, but the Osaka Mayor's Cup, the Grade A in Japan that is being played now, will have an even bigger impact on the race for the coveted top spot in the ITF's year end rankings.

    Last year, Gael Monfils, who is now Top 50 in the ATP rankings, took all the suspense out of December's Grade A Orange Bowl by winning three of the four junior Slams and putting the ITF World Champion title out of reach. But in 2005, all four Slams were won by different players, and all are still playing this week--current 1 & 2 Donald Young (Australia) and Ryan Sweeting (U.S.) in Tulsa, and 3 & 5 Jeremy Chardy (Wimbledon) and Marin Cilic (France) in Osaka.

    Chardy and Cilic's remarks at the Open hinted strongly that they were conceding the title to Young, but they've apparently had second thoughts, even though Young has a healthy lead of about 400 points.

    Chardy was a wild card into Osaka, meaning he didn't decide to play until the last minute and both he and Cilic are already entered in next month's Eddie Herr, the Grade 1 in Bradenton. There is a bonus of 250 points for winning three or more Grade A's and if either Cilic or Chardy win Osaka, he'll tie Young with two. The Orange Bowl is the last Grade A of the year, so those bonus points could make the difference.

    On the girls side, Viktoria Azarenka is slumming in Osaka, having lost eight games in four matches. She's been in Asia since September, and made the semifinals of the WTA China event, demonstrating that perhaps she's outgrown the juniors. She certainly has the ITF world championship title locked up, so I'm baffled as to why she's playing there.

    Not too many Americans make the trip to Japan, especially with a B1 going on at the same time, but Jason Jung did, and his quarterfinal showing will probably earn him enough points to break into the ITF top 100. The sixteen-year-old from Southern California made a splash at Kalamazoo this year, playing in the 18s division and upsetting seventh seed Mykyta Kryvonos in the third round. He won a Grade 2 in China last month and he's entered in the Eddie Herr too, so I look forward to seeing him there next month.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Chanda Rubin Pan American Closed:: Juniortennis.com

    Wednesday Chanda Rubin Pan American Closed:: juniortennis.com ~~~

    The next best thing to actually being at a top tier junior tournament is reading Annie Paton's on-the-scene stories about one. This week she and Barbara Frongello are in Tulsa for the Pan American Closed, which is an ITF B1 event, and Annie's daily wrap ups give healthy doses of detail, insight and quotes. And while I always gravitate toward the boys at these mixed events, she is scrupulously fair in her coverage and attention, the very model of a real journalist.

    As far as what happened in matches, just looking at the draw would lead to a doubletake on Kecki's win over Damico. The fifteen-year-old from Sacramento hasn't fared well since Nate Schnugg sent him into the backdraw in their quarterfinal match in Kalamazoo, but his brief slump is history now. Straight set wins over Bradley Mixson, Kellen Damico and Clint Bowles (today) announced that loud and clear.

    But here's the best reporting of the day:

    The 14 year old [Jarmere Jenkins]outlasted Dennis Nevolo in a gripping two setter, coming back from 1-4 down in the second set, before winning five straight games for the match. Their match had some thrilling moments which caught the attention of spectators and incredibly stopped the action on the adjacent court.

    Philip Bester and Blake Boswell literally stopped play to watch one long point that had a mixture of drop shots and lobs when Jarmere and Dennis were running up to net and back to the baseline struggling to keep the point alive. "That's the first time I actually stopped and watched a point in a tournament like this," said Philip. "It was just so exciting to see."

    Having watched both Jenkins and Nevolo play many times (although not each other), I can easily envision this happening given the talent on the court. The only surprising item here is that it was Jenkins who made such a notable comeback. Nevolo is the one famous for his Houdini act. And without Annie Paton there to observe and report, I'd never have known it. I guess I need to say once again how much I appreciate juniortennis.com and all they do.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Facing the best serves him well:: sacbee.com (free registration required)

    Facing the best serves him well - sacbee.com ~~~

    The real headline of this story should be Jenkins Signs with Reebok, but the staff writer at the Sacramento Bee probably didn't know that all Jenkins' fans were on pins and needles waiting for the announcement.

    Although Kamakshi at Court Coverage linked to this story, which is lots of fun to read, the excerpts about the signing weren't featured there. But Lisen, on her fabulous blog Pro Tennis Fan, didn't miss the big news and she headlined it appropriately today.

    I've been waiting for the official release for several weeks now, having heard that the Reebok deal was agreed to in principle and that Jenkins would be wearing their shoes and apparel in the challengers he was playing this fall. Lacoste and Nike, Jenkins' two other suitors, lost out, presumably because with Roddick and Nadal respectively, they were already stocked with charismatic young superstars (who command much higher endorsement fees of course). Reebok, having lost Roddick to Lacoste earlier this year, needed someone to appeal to aspiring youngsters and they've found him.

    Jenkins also has a new "official" website, replete with hip hop music and splashy graphics, which lists his shoes and clothing company as Reebook (although he's wearing Nike in the Profile photo). So apparently the signing is a formality and a press release will be issued soon.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Tyler Cleveland: Circuit Player of the Week:: usta.com

    Tyler Cleveland: Circuit Player of the Week::usta.com~~~

    It's not every day that a player that loses first and first (first round of main draw, first round of consolation draw) in Kalamazoo and then goes on to win back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year awards, let alone win Futures events, but that's what Tyler Cleveland has done.

    When his name began popping up deep into Futures draws this summer, I googled him and learned that he'd been an excellent college tennis player at Iowa, although he'd never been an All-American. But until Sally Milano tracked down this story, I hadn't bothered to check the Kalamazoo draws in the years he might have played here. I did tonight, and I discovered that both in 1994 and 1995, when he was 15 & 16 years old, he was two and out when playing the Nationals here in Kalamazoo. I didn't find any record of his having played when he was 17 & 18.

    In many ways this is the flipside of the turning pro as a teenager coin and had he not won an event, his story would have been left untold. But it's important to remember that productive second chances like this one are as rare as Andy Roddicks. And by productive, I don't mean lucrative, because the money he's won playing Futures events since May probably hasn't covered his expenses. Rather I mean producing wins, and demonstrating your playing skill is comparable to other aspiring professionals'.
    I'm glad Tyler Cleveland took his chance and made the most of his opportunity to compete. It sure beats looking back and wondering "what if?".

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Bucko Wins Third Straight Chanda Rubin

    ©Colette Lewis 2005~~~

    It wasn't much of a surprise when Attila Bucko, the top seed at the recent Chanda Rubin ITF event at the University of Illinois, zipped through the draw of the Grade 4 tournament. Not only had he won the previous Grade 4 in Atlanta the week before, but his streak actually extends back to last spring when he finished on top at the Destin Grade 5.

    In between, the lefthander from Serbia was a finalist at the USTA Clay Court Nationals, and was a quarterfinalist at the Grade 1 in Kentucky last month. This is a very impressive six months of tennis, but something I saw in Illinois spoke even louder to me. I was taking a short break between singles and doubles and wandered over near the horses pastured next to the Atkins Tennis Center. In the distance, I saw a tennis player, bag on back, walking down the narrow-laned, barely-paved road toward the courts. Eventually I recognized the player as Bucko, and caught up with him to ask where he was coming from. He told me he had just completed his match, which for some reason was scheduled at the alternate site despite his top seed. Having no parent with him and as a seventeen-year-old unable to rent a car, he depended on the shuttle, which apparently ran only from the host hotel to main site, not between the two sites. With a doubles match scheduled within the hour, and no other alternative, Bucko simply walked a little over a mile to the main site.

    The image of a tennis player striding through the cornfields surrounding Urbana was nothing short of surreal, but I think it resonated with me as a simple acknowledgment of how much playing meant to Bucko. He is an excellent junior player, now closing in on the ITF top 100, and with the determination and results he's shown, will likely go much higher. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if he's in the field at this week's big Grade 1 in Tulsa, where points come in torrents, not trickles like Grades 4 & 5. I'm not sure why he's not playing, but I'm certain he'll be back on the Chanda Rubin circuit soon.

    Sunday, October 9, 2005

    Champions Hit New Heights At Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championships::Tennis Week

    Tennis Week::Champions Hit New Heights At Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championships~~~

    John Isner has won the first major title of the college division I season at the ITA in Tulsa and Casey Angle provides the details and the stunning news that all three of the winners this weekend were six-feet-nine-inches tall. Can this be possible? I'm not familiar with the two doubles winners, but I know that Isner is every inch of the stated height.

    Isner is beginning to establish an impressive resume with his doubles titles in Kalamazoo in 2003 and at the NCAAs this year and now the All-American singles championship. Given his height and game, I certainly expect him to be one of the favorites in Columbus at the ITA Individual Indoor next month.

    Krajicek Wins Tashkent, First Tour Singles Title:: WTATour.com

    WTATour.com - Krajicek Wins Tashkent, First Tour Singles Title~~~

    There's no denying that last year's U.S. Open Jr. Champions are making names for themselves. Andy Murray, being the great British hope that he is, is generating stories by the hundreds, and now Michaella Krajicek has won her first WTA event.

    In my Eight Most Intriguing Questions in Junior Tennis for 2005 posted back in January, Krajicek and Vaidisova's respective futures were comparable. It's ironic that Vaidisova was the defending champion at Tashkent, but took a step up and won the Tokyo WTA event this week, indicating that Krajicek might be a year behind the Czech, who has now won four tour titles and reached the Top 20. Krajicek's progress has been hindered by an injury she suffered prior to Wimbledon and only returned to the tour last week in Luxembourg, where she qualified, but lost in the first round.

    Both Vaidisova and Krajicek are 16, and their wins in Tokyo and Tashkent this week are historic, as it marks the first time two sixteen-year-olds have won events simultaneously. It's mind-boggling that I could be covering them for two more years as juniors, and here they are winning WTA tournaments. I guess it's a partial explanation as to why I'm more interested in junior boys--there are a lot more of them playing junior tennis for a lot longer, providing an opportunity to actually have a sense of their growth and their games before they move up.

    Saturday, October 8, 2005

    Murray inspires a tennis revival::Scotland on Sunday

    Scotland on Sunday - Murray inspires a tennis revival~~~

    Andy Murray's sore hamstring has forced an end to his climb up the ATP ladder for now, but this story demonstrates just how far he has come in the past six months. And it is also a look at how important one young superstar is for a country with few sports and even fewer stars. (It is interesting to note that the online version of the newspaper has four subsections under Sport: Football, Rugby, Racing and Other Sport, which is where tennis falls--sounds like Andy has his work cut out for him.)

    And although I know Murray to be a great admirer of Tim Henman, he is undeniably a different personality type, with a flair for the dramatic that appeals to youngsters looking for a bit of the rebel to model themselves after.

    The word I don't get in the headline is "revival." Was Scottish tennis once a vibrant sport, not relegated to the "Other Sport" dustbin? Did it suffer a long, slow decline or a sharp one? Or is that perhaps the wrong word for what Murray is inspiring? I think "craze" might be the appropriate term.

    Friday, October 7, 2005

    Alex Clayton: Junior Spotlight of the Week:: (usta.com)

    Alex Clayton: Junior Spotlight of the Week~~~

    I've noticed that, with the notable exception of Donald Young, stories about junior tennis players seem to come in clusters, and then, like fireworks, fade away. Since I've started this blog in January, we've had bursts of stories about Andy Murray, (he actually is now in Donald Young territory for staying power), Alex Kuznetsov, Jessica Kirkland, Carsten Ball, Sam Querrey, Alexa Glatch, JT Sundling, and Jesse Levine. We are now in the Alex Clayton launching, with his recent Tennis Week photo in the U.S. Open preview issue (no link available), and then the items attendant to his being named hitting partner for the Davis Cup tie in Belgium. Marcia Frost also has a recent "Talking With...." entry at collegeandjuniortennis.com

    To say that the Claytons are a tennis family is an understatement. On any given day, it's likely that at least one of the four is reporting a score somewhere in the country. For example, Alex's fifteen-year-old sister Courtney (Missy), is playing the current ITF at the University of Illinois, and has advanced to the semifinals with wins over the fourth and 13th seeds.

    Thursday, October 6, 2005

    The Tennis Recruiting Network

    The Tennis Recruiting Network~~~
    This new website focusing on college recruiting has been generating a lot of buzz with the parents of high school seniors that I've spoken to recently.
    By a happy coincidence, Thursday's front page features Brad Mixson, whom I'll be watching play later today. I may not have the opportunity to report on any of the singles matches I see Thursday, as I'm heading home directly from the courts, but draws are available at jstennis.com, the website for all Chanda Rubin events played in the U.S.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2005

    Seeds Continue to Fall at U of I's Chanda Rubin Event

    ©Colette Lewis 2005~~~

    It was another unseasonably warm day at the Chanda Rubin ITF on the campus of the University of Illinois Wednesday, and many of the seeded players couldn’t take the heat that their opponents applied.

    On the boys side, the number three seed Sergio Rojas joined second seed and Tuesday’s casualty Andrew Thomas on the sidelines when he fell to unseeded Zach Nichols 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Nichols, 16, of Amarillo Texas, played his best when it counted most, breaking the seventeen-year-old Pervuian at four all and then serving out the match.

    Most of the top boys seeds have fallen by the wayside in the first two days. Attila Bucko, the top seed and winner of the recent ITF in Atlanta, has had no trouble advancing, but only four other seeds remain in the last 16 and only one, Rook Schellenberg (9), is seeded in single digits.

    One of the day’s most competitive matches was a battle of New York boroughs, as fifteenth seed Adam El-Mihdawy of Queens won an emotional match with friend and roommate Alex Vasin of Brooklyn 7-5, 7-6 (5).

    Another rising star from New York, this one on the girl’s side, is fifteen-year-old Shinann Featherston. Playing in her first ITF event, Featherston eliminated the sixth seed Gabriela Blaskovicova 6-3, 6-4. Featherston is continuing her stellar play of the summer, when she won the consolation tournament at the 16 Clay Courts and finished in sixth place at the Nationals. She meets unseeded JJ Jenkins in the round of 16 Thursday.

    In addition to Featherston’s opponent, several other seeds were bitten by the upset bug, with fourth seed McCall Jones falling to Missy Clayton and seventh seed Isabell Ohlinger losing to Chichi Scholl, both in straight sets.

    Top seed Kirsten Flower has yet to lose a game in the tournament, with a bye on Tuesday and a 6-0, 6-0 victory Wednesday. Flower will play sixteenth seed Shoko Okuda on Thursday.

    Both the top seeded teams in doubles advanced to the quarterfinals, with Flower and Jones prevailing in three sets and Vlad Mavropulos Stolyarenko and Thomas battling through two close sets.

    The summer-like weather is expected to come to an end Thursday, but the thirty-two players left will generate plenty of heat over the next few days. I only wish I could stay to watch it all.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2005

    Back on Location

    Back on Location~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    I was approaching my limit of days without live tennis, which is around 20, I believe. So I decided to hop in the car and head for the University of Illinois to catch a few matches at the new Chanda Rubin ITF event being staged at the Atkins Tennis Center.

    The four hour drive from Kalamazoo goes from small town to major metropolis to farm country. With temperatures in the mid-80s it felt more like July than October, and only the tawny corn stalks and soybean harvesting signalled that winter will arrive, perhaps, according to the weather forecasters, as soon as Thursday.

    I had heard that the Champaign-Urbana campus was rural, but I admit that the extent of the omnipresent farmland surprised me. (There were hybrid corn signs I'd never encountered before, and having grown up in southwest Michigan, it's not as if I'm unaware of the rigors of detasseling or haying.)

    And as I would see soon enough, the Atkins Tennis Center had U of I barns, sheds, horses (and flies) as next-door neighbors. But once inside, as I viewed the Big Ten conference championship banners (8), the larger-than-life photo screens of the Illinois All-Americans, the cups and plaques and trophies that overflow two large cases, only then did I really begin to grasp the extent of Craig Tiley's achievement. There's nothing about the area or school that suggests tennis, and the whole scene seems as unlikely as stumbling across a polo match in North Dakota. But recruits are being wooed, even as the bulk of the team is currently in Tulsa, playing in the first big ITA tournament of the school year.

    I was able to see only a few doubles matches this afternoon, but tomorrow I'll get an early start and watch as many girls and boys singles matches as I possibly can. I've got a lot of viewing to do in the only full day I'll be here.

    Monday, October 3, 2005

    Barcelona's clay stymies U.S. teams

    Barcelona's clay stymies U.S. teams~~~

    The news from Barcelona isn't what you'd describe as triumphant, as the U.S. finished sixth in the Jr. Davis Cup and eighth in Jr. Fed Cup. With 16 countries competing in each draw, both teams were top half, but neither lived up to their seeds (boys 4, girls 7). Speaking of seeds, both number one seeds won titles, with Poland and France proving that the ITF can get it right without using a strict individual ranking formula.

    It's easy to shrug and point to the surface as the problem, but clay isn't going away; shouldn't we be teaching juniors how to play on it? One measly national tournament in midsummer doesn't exactly constitute a season, and with the more prestigious hard courts less than two weeks later, the logic of elite juniors going from grass to clay to hard in the space of six weeks can only be described as tortured. It's true that most of the clay courts in the U.S. are located in private clubs and resorts, not the public parks and universities where the bulk of junior tournaments are played. But, unlike grass, there are clay courts available in nearly all states, so no huge investment in infrastructure is necessary, just some creative negotiation by those responsible for administering and promoting junior tennis in the U.S.

    But one U.S. team did have notable success on clay as the American girls handily defeated those from Great Britain in the Maureen Connolly Challenge in Bermuda. The Royal Gazette has the story, juniortennis.com has the complete results.

    Sunday, October 2, 2005

    Davis Cup Exclusive with Alex Clayton::The Official Web Site of Andy Roddick

    Davis Cup Exclusive with Alex Clayton::The Official Web Site of Andy Roddick~~~
    You've got to love the photo of the whole crew on Leuven's cobblestoned streets and salute AR.com (as they refer to themselves) for putting up a story about Alex Clayton's experience with the Davis Cup team. There are a couple of errors I noticed--Alex is 17, not 16; he knew he was a hitting partner before he won the U.S. Open Jr. Doubles title; Pat McEnroe extends the invitations--but I'm always to happy to listen when Clayton talks tennis.

    This (awkward) sentence got me thinking though:

    Practicing with the pros helps juniors realize their dream to compete at that level is attainable.

    Does anyone ever come back from the experience saying, "I'm not good enough to play at this level, no matter how hard I try. I better start thinking about a different career." Seems unlikely.

    Saturday, October 1, 2005

    Murray prepares for ultimate test:: BBC Sport

    BBC SPORT | Tennis | Murray prepares for ultimate test~~~

    OK, I'll admit it. When, four months ago, Andrew Murray lost to Marin Cilic in the French Junior Championships, I thought it was a sign that he might not be quite ready for the Big Time of the ATP tour. Then came Wimbledon, wins in Challengers, qualifying for the U.S. Open and the infamous vomit-laced win first round win there over Pavel. Great strides, yes, but even as recently as last week, after his straight set loss to Wawrinka in the Great Britain-Switzerland Davis Cup tie, an observer as astute as Peter Bodo was pleading for a "reality check for Murray fans."

    So, tomorrow, Murray takes on Roger Federer in the final of the ATP's Bangkok event, having disposed of the fifth (Soderling), third (Ginepri) and seventh (local hero Srichaphan) seeds. Murray now faces the challenge of breaking Federer's streak of 23 consecutive finals wins.

    But he's really already accomplished the most difficult feat--following up one big win with another. He needed to beat Soderling to achieve one of his stated goals--Top 100 by year end. Yet having done that, he wasn't content to pause there. Instead he took out Ginepri and Srichaphan in consecutive days. And all of a sudden (now that he's back playing best of three), the fitness issue is receding into the background.

    Reality check? Having earned his way into facing Federer in a tour final at the age of 18, Murray's actual life has probably exceeded his wildest fantasies.