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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Petrova blasts Russian tennis authorities - Yahoo! Sport

Petrova blasts Russian tennis authorities - Yahoo! Sport ~~~

The active verbs and the hyperbolic adjectives are flying in this article about Nadia Petrova. After I read the opening two sentences--

"World No. 8 Nadia Petrova launched a scathing attack on her home tennis federation, saying their contribution to the success enjoyed by the Russians mounted to 'mere words.'

'The Russian tennis authorities can't claim any credit for the success many of the players are having on the professional circuit these days,' Petrova claimed.

--I was hoping for some juicy personal attacks and specfic instances of malfeasance, but what follows is pretty tame. Athletes don't get the money for training expenses that they used to (seems like the tradeoff on that, which is keeping all the money you earn, isn't too bad) and it's really the girls' parents that are ultimately responsible for their success (that's the reality in every country in the world, not just Russia).

She goes on to bemoan the lack of camaraderie among the Russians on tour, but if she craves team spirit, perhaps tennis isn't the most appropriate sport. How about basketball or soccer? On second thought, she's not likely to have made nearly four million dollars before the age of 24 playing either of those team sports.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Teen Prodigy Power Play:: heraldsun.news.com

Teen Prodigy Power Play:: heraldsun.news.com ~~~

Thirteen-year-old Bernard Tomic has made quite a splash this month in Australia by winning two ITF 18-and-under tournaments in New Zealand. The link to this story on Bob Larson's Tennis News asks "Is This Federer's Successor?" I think a more appropriate question would be "Is This Donald Young's Successor?" The companion story details IMG's interest, and the management company that signed Young at 14 looks like the frontrunner to represent Tomic. There are things that can prevent it of course, but I'm already on record as thinking Tomic has all the tools to be a great player. What I don't understand is the advantage to IMG in signing someone this young.

Most contracts are three years in duration, meaning that just when a young signee is likely to show some bankable results, his or her contract expires, leaving the player free to negotiate with others. I believe something similar recently happened with Andy Murray. Speaking of whom, Murray has shown an ability to tune out the clamor of expectations emanating from Great Britain, but that's not a talent everyone has. Prodigies from all the formerly dominating world tennis powers (U.S.A, France, Australia and Great Britain) are latched onto as a country's best hope, with their wins and losses scrutinized way beyond their importance, until the hype becomes the reason people want to see them--not their tennis skills.

Donald Young spent 2005 getting wild cards into ATP main draws and losing in the first round, which may have not been the wisest path to developing his game. He still is a story when he comes to town, but those towns are now Brownsville and Kissimmee not Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. Can IMG make anyone a better tennis player? Of course not. What they offer always needs to be weighed against that simple fact.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Azarenka and Wozniacki Doubles Finalists at WTA's Memphis Stop

Azarenka and Wozniacki Doubles Finalists at WTA's Memphis Stop ~~~

It was a good week for juniors at the ATP/WTA tour stop in Memphis, with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus (and Phoenix) taking out top seed Nicole Vaidisova and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark reaching the quarterfinals before bowing to the eventual champion.

Then the sixteen-year-old Azarenka and the fifteen-year-old Wozniacki, playing together for the first time, rode a wild card all the way to the doubles final, falling to reigning U.S. Open champions Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur.

The website of the tournament ran this story, which features the Blooper Headline "Americans Raymond and Stosur Claim Team Title." This will come as a surprise to Stosur, who is most definitely Australian, as I know well from the attention she received in Melbourne once Lleyton Hewitt lost early.

The Commercial-Appeal tosses the women's doubles final into this roundup story, but they at least get the competitors' countries correct. You'll need to scroll down for the doubles account, and while there, read of Kristof Vliegen's determination to prove the Belgian Tennis Federation wrong.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

USTA training site:: Sun-Sentinel.com

USTA Training site:: Sun-Sentinel.com ~~~

Last fall this item appeared on Bob Larson's Tennis News:

The USTA has increased its 2006 budget for player development. Part of the increase from $9 million to $11 million, according to USTA President Franklin Johnson, will be for year-round housing somewhere in Florida. While Johnson did not specify what locations the USTA is considering, USTA observers speculate that Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Chris Evert Academy and Saddlebrook Resort are the leading candidates.

In La Jolla, Rodney Harmon mentioned that High Performance was leaving its current Key Biscayne headquarters, and Charlie Bricker, in this brief item, says that Evert is most likely the choice.

Housing will remain an issue for the Southern California training center in Carson, at least until a proposed hotel on the property is built.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Top Junior Prospect Will Guzick:: TennisRecruiting.net

Top Junior Prospect Will Guzick:: TennisRecruiting.net ~~~

Julie Wrege at TennisRecruiting.net profiles Will Guzick, one of the most interesting junior tennis players I've ever met. Obviously with his 1600 SAT scores (2300 in the new format), he'll have his choice of any school, and with his already long list of accomplishments, there's no doubt he'll make the most of the opportunity.

Will and his sister Sarah were prominently featured in a recent article in the Southern Section News that's available via this
if you have Adobe Acrobat. (Patience is required; it's the whole newsletter with lots of photos and graphics, so it takes some time to download.). I'm pleased to see that they are both entered in the USTA Spring Championships in Mobile, where in just a few weeks, I'll have a chance to see them play.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The family racket: Roddick crossroads--MySA.com

The family racket: Roddick crossroads--MySA.com ~~~

A San Antonio columnist takes a look at Andy Roddick's newest coach, brother John, and what the two of them hope to gain from their new partnership.

I spoke briefly to John in La Jolla at the Davis Cup, and he assured me that his academy will continue; he's hoping to hire his replacement by May or June. I told him how much I'd miss him on the junior tennis circuit; there was no question that he was a hands-on coach, willing to do the travel, the practice, the teaching and the parenting that elite junior tennis requires. And like every effective coach I've ever known, he was forthright-- unwilling to gloss over the truth when honesty was necessary to a player's improvement.

I hope that John and Andy can fix whatever is broken in Andy's game and psyche right now--at 23, there's no reason to think his best tennis is behind him. (By the way, Andy had turned 21 by the time he won the U.S. Open in 2003--this article says he was 20). But when Andy's career is over, I expect John will be back coaching juniors. He has too much to contribute to stay away from the sport he loves.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Smash On The Road Column: February 21 Edition

On the Road with Colette

My lastest SMASH magazine online column is posted, but it's missing two aces that I didn't discover until this morning. Nate and Scott Schnugg (see recent post here) won the Mexican Futures doubles title last week.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Georgia Captures ITA Team Indoor National Championship:: georgiadogs.collegesports.com

Georgia Captures ITA Team Indoor National Championship:: georgiadogs.collegesports.com ~~~

I spent several hours this weekend going through my digital photos, backing up my computer and trying to solve an ipod malfunction. Not very exciting stuff, but the fact that I could listen to the live webcast of the USTA/ITA Men's Indoor at radiotennis.com made it more fun than it sounds.

Ken Thomas, who IS radiotennis.com, never lacks for opinions, but he's so charming, you can only disagree with him, you can't dislike him. He said several times that he thought Illinois and Georgia were the best teams in the competition, and their 4-3 semifinal battle gives credence to that opinion. The only disappointment was that Ken had to leave to return to Southern California and his day job, so the singles of the Georgia/Illinois semifinal and the final between Georgia and Pepperdine were not webcast. (He'll be back at it this weekend though at the qualifying in Las Vegas for the Tennis Channel Open).

With as storied a program as Georgia's, it is a bit surprising that the Bulldogs had never won this National Indoor title before. They will be ranked number one when the new rankings come out Wednesday; current number one Florida lost twice in Seattle and will fall out of the top five. But as any college coach will tell you, the three months between now and the NCAAs is a very long time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tennis dad: Mentor or tormentor?:: Palm Beach Post

Tennis dad: Mentor or tormentor?~~~

I saw the Iyeyemi family at the Eddie Herr last year and though there were over 1,000 kids there, as this story says in the opening paragraph, it wasn't hard to remember them. The number of tennis-playing children that can be described as "raggedy" with "dingy and tattered clothes" is small, believe me.

I won't pretend that I have anything to add to this comprehensive, exhaustive and balanced look at the arrest of Clement Iyeyemi. It's obvious that the reporter spent close to a month gathering information for this story, and it now will be played out in the courts of France. But please read the story and take a moment to consider the family torn apart by a tennis dream.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Magic Murray claims maiden title:: BBC SPORT | Tennis

Magic Murray claims maiden title:: BBC SPORT | Tennis ~~~

With all the press that Andy Murray's gotten since last year's Wimbledon, I've steered clear of posting stories about him, though I'll always have a soft spot, since he was the subject of my first article for a national publication. And winning an ATP title by beating Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in the semis and finals, which Murray just did this weekend, is downright astounding.

Peter Bodo published an interesting post about Martina Hingis that uses the phrase tennis DNA, and although Joel Drucker, one of the very best tennis writers around, didn't much like the concept when I asked him about during the Davis Cup, I find it useful. When Murray was a junior, I heard many people express doubts about his chance to have a solid pro career because he didn't have a "weapon." I confess that they had me looking at his game with those blinders on, and last year at this time, when he was losing early in South American futures events, there was no indication that he would be what the British public so desperately wanted--a new tennis hero.

But somehow Murray has managed to continue to build his game, learn from losses and ignore the unabating glare of the British media. How has he done it? How has he gone from losing in the French Junior Open last June, to winning an ATP event this February? I don't know, but I suspect it's tennis DNA.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

King pins down Camille:: Indiatimes - Sport

King pins down Camille::Indiatimes - Sport~~~

Since she lost in the final round of Australian Open qualifying last month, seventeen-year-old Vania King has been in Japan, Thailand and now India. She qualified to reach the main draw last week in Thailand and this week, with a 141 ranking, earned a spot in the main draw without having to hit a ball. She destroyed veteran Nicole Pratt 6-0, 6-1 in the second round, and in the quarterfinals dispatched Camille Pin, who had upset top seed and national heroine Sania Mirza in the previous round. This story, in very colorful language, (King's groundstrokes are described as "solid as a bison's behind) details that win and the struggle she had in closing it out in two sets.

Sick for days, King retired in her semifinal match today against nemesis Mara Santangelo of Italy, the third seed, trailing 5-0, but I doubt it was an Henin-Hardenne situation. She also was playing doubles this week and forced to retire in Friday's semifinal after one set due to the same illness.

As disappointing as it must be for King to lose a chance at her first WTA final, she (and her father, apparently with her in India) must be very proud of her progress in the past six months. The sooner a player can free herself from the Futures treadmill the better, and King's willingness to travel outside the U.S. to do it has paid off for her.

Friday, February 17, 2006

ITA Men's Team Indoor Underway without Cardinal

ITA Men's Indoor Underway without Cardinal~~~

Last year at this time, I was lucky enough to be in Chicago watching the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Men's Team Indoor tournament. The Midtown Tennis Club was full of host Illinois' alumni and it was excellent preparation for my first NCAA trip a few months later.

This year the event is in Seattle, with the University of Washington as host, not a place I could drive to, so I'm watching via the internet. In the land of Microsoft, I guess it's not surprising that there's even streaming video of a court this year, although I'm finding it difficult to tell who is who and to keep track of the score. But try for yourself, the event's homepage is here.

Beginning on Saturday, Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be doing play-by-play, so check out that option as well. I bumped into Ken at the Davis Cup in La Jolla, and he was excited about doing college tennis again, and with his opportunity to interview Torben Ulrich, a cult figure in hardcore tennis circles. For more information on the upcoming interview, click here.

Among the 16 college tennis teams competing for championship this weekend are perennial contenders Florida, Georgia, Illinois and defending NCAA champion UCLA. Notably absent is Stanford, currently ranked sixth in the country. Casey Angle, the ITA Communications director and all-around good guy, explained that Stanford is missing due to invitations being based on preseason rankings. The preseason rankings are mostly based on the previous year, and since Stanford finished outside the top 20, and lost Sam Warburg to graduation, they weren't considered top 12 material, which assures an invitation. Having already defeated UCLA and USC this year without fab freshman Matt Bruch, Stanford can use the snub as motivation to prepare for the NCAAs this spring--in Palo Alto.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

No Strings Attached::MailTribune.com

No Strings Attached:: MailTribune.com ~~~

2005 16s National Champion Nate Schnugg is the subject of this recent article in his "hometown" newspaper. I put that in quotes, because, as this piece highlights, home is a concept that most juniors at his level experience only in theory. If they are at an academy, as Schnugg was until recently, that serves as home, a place to book flights to and from. But the pursuit of ITF points, better competition or a taste of the life that awaits a rookie pro demands frequent travel and Schnugg has not shied away from that.

His older brother Scott is there to mentor him in the current Mexico City ITF Futures event they are both playing. While Nate won only one round of qualifying, Scott made the main draw with his three wins, and they have a win together in the main draw doubles. An All-American in doubles at Georgia Tech, the twenty-four-year old Scott is in an ideal position to guide his younger brother through the college recruiting process and through the challenges of futures qualifying.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ATP/ITF Qualifying Wild Card Available to Juniors at The Tennis Channel Open

ATP/ITF Qualifying Wild Card Available to Juniors at The Tennis Channel Open~~~

Any accomplished 18 & under junior who isn't busy next week should enter the USTA junior event that is being held prior to the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas. The prize is a wild card into qualifying for the ATP event for the boys champion and a wild card into the $75,000 Futures event for the girls champion. The entry deadline is Thursday February 16, 2006. So far almost all the entrants are Nevada area juniors. For more information see the usta.com website (click here here) or the Tennis Channel Open website.

Smash - www.smashtennismag.com

On the Road with Colette 2-14-06~~~

The columns I write for SMASH seem to be a lot meatier when I've just been at a tournament, and this Davis Cup edition is no exception. Soon enough I'll be back scouring the web for junior and college results and stories, because I'm fresh out of on-location assignments until next month.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog | Will Play for Food

Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog:: Will Play for Food ~~~

I hope all zootennis.com readers also visit Peter Bodo's Tennisworld blog regularly, and not just because he's been my biggest high-profile supporter. Peter's funny, honest, self-assured, provocative and knowledgable. And if he can't get an answer, it's probably not worth knowing. (I guess you could call this post my valentine to Peter Bodo.)

In a conversation we had in Australia, he was intrigued by my offhand mention of junior Kim Couts being at the junior Open on her own, and he dug out this story, at once typical and unique. (And probably wrote the clever headline too). One of Peter's favorite lines is "money quote" and here is this story's:

This is what it takes to be in the hunt in junior tennis these days. You have to figure that this was a calculated risk on the Couts' part, because a lot of the top juniors from the U.S. and Europe pass on Australia because of the time and cost of getting there. That translates to an opportunity for players like Kim, who can improve their rankings and reputations by undertaking the trip. But, of course, it's risky.

Say what you will about spoiled brats, silver spoons, or how tennis is a “sissy” sport. The reality is that for most youngsters, it takes an enormous amount of sacrifice to make it to the pros, and at least one of the things they give up they will never, ever be able to get back, no matter what: a typical childhood.

Whether that experience is overrated or not is up to you to decide.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Davis Cup Fever--It's Catching

Davis Cup Fever--It's Catching ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006

I didn't abandon the High Performance Camp, it's just that my attention was diverted by all the drama and unpredictability of the actual competition at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

The boys continued to run in the mornings, play matches as time permitted, view a video analysis of their strokes and court demeanor, AND get front row seats to the Davis Cup.

In the above photo, JT Sundling and Austin Krajicek sit on the U.S. team bench during the Andy Roddick/Razvan Sabau match Sunday, getting an inside view that made the early morning beach workouts and hours of clinics and practices seem a small price to pay.

Wayne Bryan told me how his sons formed the idea that they'd play in the Davis Cup someday.

"It was imprinted when they were ten or eleven, they went to La Costa to see the great Ricky Leach and Jim Pugh (First round tie versus Mexico). They were getting popcorn in the tunnel before the match and suddenly Jim and Ricky walk by. The boys start calling 'Ricky Leach, Ricky Leach' and he stops and says 'Hey twins, do you play tennis?' The boys answered 'Yes we just won the Long Beach 12 and under doubles.' And as Ricky was walking away he looked back and said 'Yeah, I won that one too.' It was all so simple--boys 12s Long Beach, Davis Cup. In the car on the way home, they said 'we're going to be the Davis Cup doubles team for the United States.' That's where it starts, with that first match. You ask Andy Roddick, he's got the same story.

And Roddick did in fact pass along his story of being in Ft. Worth for the 1992 final against Switzerland, watching a U.S. team consisting of Agassi, Courier, Sampras and McEnroe win the Cup. Roddick told how as a ten-year-old he and his oldest brother brought in air horns in an attempt to counteract the Swiss fans' cow bells.

Davis Cup captain Pat McEnroe said repeatedly this weekend how much he values the dedication Roddick has shown to Davis Cup, and in the past few years, McEnroe has had no shortage of suitable number two singles players to choose from. Vince Spadea and Robby Ginepri have expressed disappointment in not being chosen for recent ties, and Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish stand willing to serve as well. Is this desire to play Davis Cup, packed between an already full tournament schedule, a result of the kind of exposure that Bryan and Roddick remember? If it is, the USTA has probably found six converts through the High Performance camp and who knows how many other youngsters who were there unsponsored. I spotted 2006 Teen Tennis champion and Les Petits As semifinalist Raymond Sarmiento and 2005 Eddie Herr and Jr. Orange Bowl 12s finalist Mika DeCoster in La Jolla on Sunday, no doubt creating Davis Cup memories and dreams of their own.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Roddick cruises past Sabau to Clinch Davis Cup tie for U.S.

Roddick cruises past Sabau to Clinch Davis Cup tie for U.S.~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
La Jolla--

A low-octane Andy Roddick sliced through an overmatched Razvan Sabau of Romania 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 Sunday morning to secure the United States’ spot in the Davis Cup’s second round in April. The U.S. will host Chile, a first round winner over the Slovak Republic at a site to be determined.

Roddick admitted his goal was to win in straight sets given his still undiagnosed illness on Friday. It wasn’t until Saturday evening when his appetite returned that “Operation Resuscitation” as he dubbed it, was deemed complete. But he still wasn’t interested in assessing his stamina.

“I felt fine but I wasn’t wanting to test it too much and find out how deep I could go here,” Roddick said. “I felt horrible the other day after my match. I didn’t want to test those waters.”

Fortunately for Roddick, Sabau, the emergency substitute for injured Victor Hanescu, wasn’t ready to play the match of his life.

“I wish I could have done more than I did because I saw that Roddick was not hundred percent,” said Sabau, 112th in the ATP rankings. “He was defensive and he stayed a very long distance behind the baseline. I was expecting him to attack me.”

Instead Roddick began the match slicing to Sabau’s backhand, not giving the twenty-eight year old from Bucharest any chance to line up his best shot, the down-the-line backhand.

“Early on I was doing some slices, wasn’t in a rush to finish points off as quickly,” Roddick said. “I wanted to see if he could create on an outdoor hard court.”

Roddick got his answer- no- and he also benefited from nine double faults from Sabau, who has been nursing a sore elbow.

“I am okay now…I played with pain for six months,” Sabau said. “Even though I was able to play, I couldn’t practice my serve, and I think as everybody could see today, my serve is not good at all. I try just to get the first serve in to be able to play the point, but it’s not enough against a player as good as Roddick.”

Captain Patrick McEnroe now begins the search for a grass court venue, a surface that Roddick publicly lobbied for when Bud Collins interviewed him on court after the match, and later in the post match press conference.

“Grass is probably my best surface…..in the doubles I think it’s huge as well. So you know, as far as Xs and Os, I feel like a grass court would be the best surface for us.”

A Davis Cup stalwart who has now clinched six ties for the U.S., Roddick’s wish may be McEnroe’s command. Even after Roddick’s disappointing loss on Friday and James Blake’s two wins, including a 6-1, 7-5 dead rubber win over Horia Tecau Sunday, McEnroe insisted that Roddick remains the keystone of the team.

“He is a leader and he’s been around long enough and he’s won a lot of big matches for us,” McEnroe said. “I love his effort, his intensity. When he was vomiting on the court and was still able to somehow miraculously almost pull it out in the fifth set, I think that sort of set the tone for us for the year, to be honest, his type of effort.”

The entire team heads up the California coast to play in the SAP ATP event in San Jose, and the onboard conversation could turn to court surface for the Chile tie.

“We’re all flying to San Jose,” Blake said. “We’ll probably talk about it a little bit on the plane and see what we think. I think with Andy and the Bryans wanting grass so adamantly, I think it makes sense for our choice.“

IF that’s what the team decides, McEnroe promises to take up the cause.

“If all the guys definitively tell me they prefer one thing over another, then I have to use my pull to make that happen.”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bryans Give U.S. 2-1 Lead; Hanescu Retires and is Doubtful for Sunday

Bryans Give U.S. 2-1 Lead; Hanescu Retires and is Doubtful for Sunday~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
La Jolla--

Saturday is usually a short day in Davis Cup with only the often pivotal doubles match contested. But no one who made their way to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club on a cool and foggy morning expected to spend the afternoon watching the McEnroe brothers versus the Bryans in an exhibition match. That’s what they got however, when Romania’s Victor Hanescu was forced to retire with a ribcage ligament tear after thirty-three minutes and the Bryans leading the match 6-2, giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s singles.

Andrei Pavel, who had stunned Andy Roddick in Friday’s first singles match, was expected to play doubles with Hanescu, but in a concession to Pavel’s age and recovery time after a five-set, nearly four-hour marathon against Roddick, Horia Tecau was instead called on to partner Hanescu against the world’s top-ranked doubles team.

It was a baptism by fire for the twenty-one-year-old from Constanta, as the Bryans came out smoking. Every return was in play, no volley too tough, no position too precarious; it wasn’t until Hanescu served down 0-2 that the Romanians won a point, and although he held for 2-1 and Teacu took his next service game, Hanescu soon began clutching his back and two medical timeouts later, the match was over.

“We obviously started strong, so we leave the match feeling good about ourselves,” Bob Bryan said. “We did our part."

"Obviously it would have been great to finish the match, but bottom line is we won," said U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe. "So we’re up 2-1 and feeling good about our chances tomorrow."

Hanescu’s status for Sunday’s singles match with Roddick is doubtful, pending the results of an MRI. As for Roddick, he was introduced with the U.S. team Saturday afternoon, but did not stay on the bench for the doubles and was still taking fluids and resting.

Asked whether there was a chance Roddick wouldn’t play Sunday, McEnroe quickly dismissed that speculation. “Unless he wakes up in the morning and can’t walk,” said McEnroe. "But, no, I don’t see that happening.”

"Andy is feeling better, his energy is pretty good,” McEnroe reported. "His stomach was still a little big queasy earlier in the day. By the end of tonight and by tomorrow, he’ll be ready to go.”

With the sudden end to the day, it was the McEnroes to the rescue, as John hopped out of The Tennis Channel television booth and onto the court to join brother Pat in a pro set against the Bryans. John makes his return to ATP tour tennis on Wednesday in San Jose, teaming with Jonas Bjorkman in doubles, but he and Patrick presented no problem for the Bryans, who took the set 8-4. The majority of the 5200 spectators appreciated the opportunity to gauge for themselves McEnroe’s chances at a Navratilovan-like career renaissance in doubles, and went home happy with the tennis they saw and the U.S.A’s 2-1 lead.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Blake Saves First Day for U.S. Davis Cup team

Blake Saves First Day for U.S. Davis Cup team ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
La Jolla--

The pressure was squarely on James Blake's shoulders. After an ill Andy Roddick failed to finish off Andre Pavel of Romania in straight sets in Friday's first match, holding match point in the third set tiebreak but falling 6-4 in the fifth, a huge upset was looming. But Blake never gave opponent Victor Hanescu a glimmer of hope, and in the fading light of a cool and sun-splashed day, the American restored his team's confidence with a 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory.

An appealing aspect of Davis Cup is the opportunity it provides for one player to help another, an aspect of sport that is often wanting in the individualism of tennis. It's doubtful that Andy Roddick would have continued to play in a standard ATP tournament in, as he phrased it, "you pick the city", when a stomach flu rendered him virtually inert in the match's final three sets. Vomiting during changeovers, he often didn't move for a ball, and he frequently seemed oblivious to his surroundings. But he refused to quit, knowing how much his teammates and his country relied on him. Down 5-1 in the fifth, he clawed his way back to 5-4, but on Pavel's third match point, Roddick finally succumbed, despite the spirited urging of the 4,000 plus spectators, who had devoted more than three and a half hours of mental and physical energy to the contest.

Less than fifteen minutes later Blake was on the court, and though there were noticeably fewer fans and those remaining obviously disappointed and deflated, it didn't hamper Blake. Using his forehand and speed, he denied Hanescu any rhythm and the six-foot six-inch Romanian couldn't find a shot to go to when he needed it.

It was more than two hours after the match's completion that Roddick spoke with the press, and he seemed to have recovered sufficiently to both analyze the match and express his determination to play on Sunday. But now, the attention turns to the doubles, as on Saturday the world's top-ranked doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan, try to erase the memory of their defeat at the hands of Croatia's Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic in last year's first round tie in Carson, a loss that the U.S. couldn't overcome in singles on Sunday.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day Three

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day Three ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
San Diego CA

High Performance coach Martin Van Daalen asked me today if I was enjoying myself, and I could only respond, honestly, that there was no place I'd rather be. The weather was ideal--a world away from the cold and snow of Michigan-- and I was watching six of the best fourteen and fifteen-year-olds in the country play tennis. When I turned the question on Martin, he agreed, saying, "it's not hard to have fun when you're coaching guys like this."

I also had the pleasure of spending most of the day with Peter Dopkin, the editor of my column at SMASH Magazine's website. (For the latest column, click here.) Down from LA to cover the Davis Cup, he was more than agreeable to seeing the Barnes Tennis Center, meeting Steve Bickham and his coaches, and also getting his first glimpse of the High Performance camp and personnel. When the boys broke for lunch, Peter and I found our way to funky Ocean Beach, where we had a great lunch, with the pier and the Pacific as the backdrop. It occurred to me that in the space of a month, I'd seen the Pacific Ocean from two continents' coasts--quite amazing really.

The High Performance afternoon session got serious--the six boys were split into two teams a la Davis Cup, and three singles matches were begun, although only one finished during the two hours allotted for them. The boys were berating themselves, line calls were disputed, and the competition, which will continue over the weekend, was paramount. All matches couldn't finish today because the High Performance "stars" as they were referred to in the poster for the event, were to attend a clinic at Balboa Tennis Club, where the ubiquitous Wayne Bryan was entertaining another set of budding San Diego tennis players. Rodney Harmon, the USTA's Director of Men's Tennis, was also on hand, and Wayne praised and roasted Harmon in equal measure during the festivities.

I've heard Wayne's shtick more than several times now, but with his panache it just doesn't get old. I still laugh at his jokes and admire his energy and his communication skills, not to mention his love of the game. And the "Circle of Fear" was just as compelling for the six junior "stars" as it was for the less accomplished participants. The Davis Cup Cares Clinic was certainly not drudgery for anyone, and Wayne Bryan can take a lot of the credit for that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day Two

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day Two ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
San Diego--

A whirlwind of activity today for the six boys at the Davis Cup High Performance Camp, and I missed the "wall-of-sand" workout they started with at 7:00 this morning.

I caught up with them at the Barnes Center, and coaches Van Daalen and Merklein had decided that in the matches, the server would start each game down 15-30. It certainly focused their attention quickly, giving a special urgency to winning the first point.

After an hour and a half of play, it was time for sandwiches and a trip to the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, the site of the Davis Cup tie.

It was the boys' first opportunity to meet some of the team members, and under a cloudless blue sky, they witnessed a very close and spirited set of doubles between Bob and Mike Bryan and practice partners Jesse Witten and Phillip Simmonds. Captain Pat McEnroe was on the outside practice court too, observing and ballrunning. Todd Martin came by for a look, and Mardy Fish, still fighting a wrist injury, was never far from the action. James Blake and his older brother Thomas stopped over and met the boys and after the first set of doubles, McEnroe invited them to the stadium court, where the Bryans and Witten and Simmonds resumed their match.

A couple of hours later, Van Daalen, Merklein and company were back at the Barnes Tennis Center, and the boys were preparing to entertain the early arrivals for the Bryan brothers clinic. Rhyne Williams and JT Sundling played singles on the Stadium court for a half hour, and then Devin Britton and Blake Davis took on Brad Klahn and Austin Krajicek in doubles until Wayne Bryan arrived to entertain the kids, who arrived in busloads.

Coaches from Barnes, outfitted in red tees, served as focal points for the drills that papa Bryan has developed, and he could hardly have asked for a more enthusiastic and vocal group. When the twins arrived, they demonstrated skill drills and took on several different teams of youngsters, usually with the handicap of holding hands with each other or several young volunteers while they played the point. The highlight was the chest-bumping contest, where, in spite of Wayne's caution, two very young boys smacked each other so hard that they both tumbled to the court.

After the exhibition, several hundred aspiring players were sent to individual courts to drill with Barnes staff, volunteers and older juniors. Kerry Blum and Steve Bickham are probably relieved that it's over, but they did a great job of organizing and staffing it. The Barnes Tennis Center should be very proud of the role they've played in this Davis Cup tie.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day One

Davis Cup High Performance Camp--Day One~~~

I spent Tuesday finding out who and what makes up a Davis Cup camp for juniors.

The Scene: Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, a non-profit public facility dedicated to junior tennis.

The Coaches: Martin Van Daalen, USTA High Performance coach for birth year 1991 and Mark Merklein, the HP coach for the 1990s, recently hired to replace David DiLucia, who is now coaching Lindsay Davenport, and Bobby Bernstein, the Administrator of Coaching Education for the USTA

The Players:
Devin Britton, Blake Davis, Austin Krajicek, JT Sundling, Rhyne Williams, and Bradley Klahn with Alex Johnson, who trains at Barnes, filling in during the morning workouts, while Klahn attends school.

I understand the day started with an hour-long early morning run on the beach (I missed that) and then a two-hour training session with drills. While I ran up to La Jolla to pick up my Davis Cup credentials (and watched the Bryan twins hit with USTA HP coach Jay Berger), they took a break, then returned mid-afternoon to play round-robin one-set matches. And while Bernstein was doing his instructive video analysis, mechanics weren't the only focus; Van Daalen and Bernstein were also seeking footage to demonstrate how the fourteen and fifteen-year-olds could improve their warm up habits and match demeanors.

Tomorrow is the Big Event for the Barnes Center--the Bryans will be there for a clinic, and Steve Bickham and his staff were busy getting the site ready for the expected crush of young tennis fans. The facility includes 25 courts, four of which are clay, and although juniors are the focus, adults are welcome too. I can't imagine how it could be improved upon; I just wish every city in the country could find a way to copy it.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Hunt Views Georgia as Perfect Fit:: The Tennis Recruiting Network

Hunt Views Georgia as Perfect Fit:: The Tennis Recruiting Network ~~~

This article is a result of the opportunity I had to speak with Jamie Hunt at the Australian Open. Free from the constraints of talking about any particular match, I could focus more on his decision to sign with Georgia; I also learned how much he enjoys the frequently arduous travel associated with tennis.

And speaking of travel, I'm heading to San Diego today, to spend three days observing the USTA High Performance Davis Cup camp. I'll also be at the U.S. Davis Cup tie against Romania in La Jolla beginning Friday.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Bollettieri bothered by U.S. flop 'Down Under':: HeraldTribune.com

Bollettieri bothered by U.S. flop 'Down Under':: HeraldTribune.com ~~~

Nick is never at a loss for words, and it would be difficult to write a column about him without mentioning once again how much better U.S. tennis was back in the heydey of his academy. Here's the latest update on that:

"To me, you have to come up with a program the way the academy was," Bollettieri said Tuesday. "We had them at a young age and never ran out of ammunition. We should be concentrating on players who are 11, 12, 13 and 14 years of age."

There was a time when the best young Americans flocked to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Agassi, Jim Courier, Aaron Krickstein and even Pete Sampras trained there at the same time. Pierce and, later, the Williams sisters trained there.

The academy, even back then, wasn't exclusively all-American. Monica Seles was a member of the academy. And, later, Tommy Haas.

What they all had in common is that they trained there without paying. In 1987 there were 27 players with connections to Bollettieri in the main draw of the Australian Open. And all of them were on scholarship.

Bollettieri believes those who handle tennis in the U.S. should make certain that players have the best opportunity to work on their game without worrying about how to pay for the instruction.

I don't get this. Isn't there still an academy with Nick's name on it? What is stopping him from going back to the way it was? Is this an admission that selling out to IMG was a mistake? I know the Academy still offers full scholarships and they have scores of talented young players training there. Granted the percentage of Americans may be smaller than it used to be, but welcome to the 21st century of tennis, the one where Croatia wins the Davis Cup and the top players in the game come from Switzerland and Belgium.

And I know that Bollettieri is revered in the Sarasota/Bradenton area (they've just named a street after him), but this strikes me as a bit much:
The year's first Grand Slam tournament ended prematurely for the U.S. without any American-born player -- male or female -- reaching the semifinals.

Nick Bollettieri says that shouldn't happen. And wouldn't if he were running American tennis.

Oh really? Would anyone like to make a bet on that?

Saturday, February 4, 2006

The ball's in Hochwalt's court::azcentral.com

The ball's in Hochwalt's court::azcentral.com~~~
Blogger seems to be having server problems, so it's possible that those who subscribe to the updates via email will get it but not be able to access zootennis.com. Anyway. the story I'm posting today is one published while we were in Australia, but I don't want a story about a top junior to go unremarked, especially when it's his 17th birthday!

Friday, February 3, 2006

Witten chosen to be on Davis Cup team:: Naples Daily News

Witten chosen to be on Davis Cup team::Naples Daily News ~~~

When Pat McEnroe told me last week that Jesse Witten was one of the practice partners for the Davis Cup tie in La Jolla, I was a little bit surprised.

The MO for practice partners has always been younger--Witten's 23, the same age as Andy Roddick--and it has rarely included players who've emerged from the college scene. The other practice partner, Phillip Simmonds, is a more traditional choice--19, and considered one of the most talented of those 20 and under. Both Witten and Simmonds have won Futures events in Florida recently, and the third 2006 U.S. Futures winner, Scoville Jenkins, was a practice partner back in September of 2004.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

SMASH Column, Australian Open, long version

SMASH Column, Australian Open, long version ~~~

A Grand Slam is always going to produce lots of storylines. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated came up with 50 of them and he wasn't even in Melbourne. So my column is double its usual length this week; I hope it's twice as much fun to read.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Ups and Downs Down Under

Up and Downs Down Under~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006

There were definitely highs and lows during my first trip to Australia. Here, in no particular order, are some of them.

The lows:

  • Dropping my camera in the toilet on the second day of the tournament
  • No U.S. boys or girls to watch in singles in the quarterfinals and beyond
  • A 90 minute queue to get through customs to enter Australia after 30 hours of travel
  • Missing the last tram (midnight) from Melbourne Park by a couple of minutes & having to find a way back to the hotel
  • The prevalence of instant coffee
  • The sausages—which smelled a lot better than they tasted
  • Temperatures that went from 109 to 69 in the space of 24 hours
  • Indoor tennis—whether from heat or rain, it just didn’t seem like tennis to me

  • The highs:

  • Australians—they couldn’t be more welcoming, hospitable or friendly
  • Spending a beautiful summer day on an Australian beach
  • Lift—a carbonated lemonade
  • Clean, frequent, air-conditioned trams
  • Watching Baghdatis vs. Nalbandian live
  • My husband watching Roddick vs. Baghdatis from Andy’s player box thanks to John Roddick’s generosity
  • Learning from Pat McEnroe who would be on the Davis Cup team four days before it was announced publicly
  • Hearing Craig Tiley’s plans for Australian tennis development
  • The free fresh-squeezed juice if you had an American Express card
  • The free beer and wine every afternoon if you had media credentials
  • Dinner with James Blake and Xavier Malisse (well, they were in the same restaurant as we were)
  • Breakfast with Rod Laver, Fred Stolle, Stan Smith and Jim Courier (well, they were on the same plane to LA as we were)
  • Getting to know more junior tennis players and their games
  • Spending a total of five minutes getting through customs in LA