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Friday, March 31, 2006

Old Racquet You Don't Need? Teen Jared Glick Will Find it a Good Home

High school tennis player Jared Glick of Holden Massachusetts was injured last fall, keeping him out of competition but eager to keep the sport in his life. He began contemplating other ways of sharing the game he loves and decided to start Racquet Roundup New England, a program dedicated to collecting new and used racquets and donating them to adults and children unable to afford new equipment.

He set a goal of collecting fifty racquets to distribute through the New England section and Tenacity Tennis, a community outreach program in Boston. But under his persistent guidance, and with the help of major racquet companies, independent clubs and individuals, that number has grown to over 225. The Professional Tennis Registry is now assisting him with racquet distribution on a national level.

"This started out as a small idea, and then turned into something a lot larger," says Glick, who was sectionally ranked in the 16s before his surgery. "People from all over the country have sent in racquets, and companies have been a huge support. We all have at least one racquet lying around, it's just a matter of telling people hey, there's something you can do with those racquets."

Glick has set a goal of 300 racquets collected by this summer, and if you are an individual, a club owner, a coach, a retailer, a tournament director or anyone else with access to racquets, he would love to hear from you.

"It is amazing to me how people who don't even know each other can come together to unite for a common goal," Glick says. "I've really been stunned and so grateful for the ways in which people have supported this program, and I hope to see it grow and continue on for years to come."

Please contact him at racquetroundupne at hotmail dot com if you can help a very special young man share his love for the game of tennis.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Go-to-College Post

James Blake, who will be playing Roger Federer in less than an hour, doesn't even need to say anything. His ATP Top Ten presence would be enough in itself to show that college can be a precursor to a successful pro career.

But after his win over Chela two nights ago, he was asked specifically about the issue, and, Blake being Blake, gave a sensible and thoughtful answer.

I think going to college, you maximize your opportunities if you're going there. If you dominate in college, you've proven at another level that you can succeed. It's a quicker jump from college to the pros, although it's still a huge jump. And also if you're worried about contracts and things, they're still going to be there if you dominate at college. If you don't, the worst thing that happens is you're getting a college education and most of them are getting it for free because they're getting scholarships, and you're having a great time. So I don't really see that much of a down side.

I think if you're going to make it in the pros, you have to have an inner drive, you have to be able to make it on your own, and you're going to do that if you went to college. I proved that. I went to a college that wasn't really a tennis powerhouse, and I worked harder than all the guys there basically. I knew I needed to do that to get to this level. If you're willing to do that, I don't see anything wrong with going to college and enjoying it.

The reporter who asked the question (and if anyone knows who it was, I'd love to hear it) didn't seem convinced, and there were some interesting followup questions, but Blake held his ground. And now he speaks with much more authority. For the complete transcript (scroll to the bottom for the college questions and answers), click here.

According to this entry in Charlie Bricker's blog, which is mostly about Swiss junior Robin Roshardt, Nick Bollettieri told the Luxilon Cup participants the same thing. Could the "conventional wisdom" Bricker cites be changing?

Then last night I read this feature story about Ahsha Rolle, who at 21, would be a junior in college had she not chosen to go the professional route instead. The in-depth descriptions of the financial sacrifices her parents have made and the costs of playing at the various levels-- juniors, pro circuit, WTA--are sobering. I don't know Ahsha Rolle, nor have I ever seen her play. But this story convinced me even more that James Blake is right. Go to college.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Smash Column, Nasdaq-100 in absentia

This week's SMASH column centers on Key Biscayne, because so many juniors made news there last week. Although I couldn't work that trip into my travel schedule, I have been able to see many hours of it on ESPN 2, although so far, I have yet to hear any junior but Donald Young mentioned.

Marcia Frost Wins USTWA Writing Prize

I'm delighted to report that Marcia Frost of the pioneering website collegeandjuniortennis.com has just been announced as a winner in the annual writing competition sponsored by the United States Tennis Writers Association. In a Racquet Sports Industry piece published last August, she questioned why collegians are no longer considered for U.S. Open wild cards. Click here to read the column, which took second prize in the column/commentary category.

Marcia is in good company. Others receiving awards are tennis writing titans Paul Fein, Joel Drucker and Michael Mewshaw. She's on her way to the NASDAQ-100 tournament on Key Biscayne, where she'll be honored with the other winners on stadium court.

This recognition for one of college tennis' staunchest advocates is long overdue. Congratulations Marcia!

UF's Sweeting Avoids Drug Charge:: sun-sentinel.com

I had read a few weeks ago that Sweeting was unlikely to face drug charges, but was waiting for a second source to confirm it. Charlie Bricker provides it here.

I had also heard hints that Sweeting might not return to Gainesville, but according to this story he will, and in a matter of weeks, not months.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Davis Cup Team Announced; Querrey and Smyczek Chosen as Hitting Partners

It doesn't seem that long ago I was in Southern California at a Davis Cup tie, but in less than ten days there will be another one, this time against Chile on the grass courts at the Mission Hills Country Club near Palm Springs. The only changes on the team are in the hitting partners, as Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan twins will once again be the four players for the U.S. Tennis Week has the details here.

Sam Querrey will making his second appearance as a hitting partner, and with his recent results and big serve, it's hardly surprising that he's been selected again. Tim Smyczek was a semifinalist last year at the Wimbledon Junior Championships and a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Junior Open. Although he didn't turn 18 until the end of December, he's no longer eligible for ITF junior events and has been playing Futures tournaments since the U.S. Open. He won a doubles title earlier this month at one and his exceptional volleying skills probably played a role in his selection.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Panama Bowl 2006:: panama-guide.com

It's not often I find a story in English about a Grade 4 ITF event in a Spanish-speaking country, so I feel obligated to give this one from Panama a link. More blog-style than conventional reporting, it features lots of photos, including a colorful group shot of Austin Krajicek, Devin Britton, JT Sundling and Chase Buchanan, and one of USTA High Performance coach Martin Van Daalen. (One minor correction--although Van Daalen is the 1991 birth year coach, Krajicek was actually born in 1990).

Although there's no tournament results given in this article, Chase Buchanan won the singles, beating Krajicek in the final. Buchanan and Devin Britton took the doubles title. For all results, click here.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring Cleaning

It's not much like spring here in Michigan--temperature hasn't gotten above the mid-40s since we got back last week-- but that's what I'll call the hours I've spent today spiffing up ZooTennis. I've added a section called "Recent Comments" so there's no need to go back to the original posts to see what other readers have to say, and I've archived the 2005 Honor Roll to make room for that. I've also moved my full profile off the home page, again, primarily for space considerations.

In another housekeeping task, I was going through my emails from the week I was in Mobile, and I discovered this story from the Northern Section newsletter about one of their best juniors, who won a national open in February. Check it out--Hamish Weerasinghe may become a name you'll remember.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tatishvili Gets Her Due

I was concerned that Anna Tatishvili's first round win over Sania Mirza would be lost in the shuffle, but Bonnie DeSimone of espn.com wrote an in-depth piece about it, the second straight story she filed for espn.com about a junior player. Tatishvili lost to Dementieva Saturday in straight sets.

And while I was looking around the NASDAQ-100 website today, I found the transcript from Tatishvili's press conference after her upset of Mirza, which was held after midnight. It got me thinking about some advice that tennis writer extraordinaire Joel Drucker recently gave me-- never ask a player something you could look up yourself (I don't think I've violated that edict too many times). It makes sense to me; you look less like an idiot to players if you come prepared and don't waste their time.

But I argued with him that I hear writers do it all the time with juniors, and we ended up agreeing that since there's a lot less information out there, it's not quite the faux pas it would be with an established pro. Anyway, no one could have expected the sixteen-year-old wild card with a good, but not great, junior resume would topple a Top 50 player, so I guess this press conference, which is a weird mix of who-are-you-anyway questions and compliments, is an instance where the normal standards don't apply.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Berlocq outplays Young: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Berlocq outplays Young: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

With no seeds playing yesterday and rain in the afternoon, Donald Young's 6-0, 6-0 loss in the first round was Story Option One for most of the tennis reporters on hand. Charlie Bricker's above story and his blog entry give him two places to speak his mind. Bonnie DeSimone of espn.com has quotes from his parents and agent in her article. Richard Vach of tennis-x posts a commentary laying all the blame on IMG. Lisa Dillman of the LA Times takes it a little more personally. "Were we all wrong about Donald Young?" she asks in her piece (free registration required). Matt Cronin of tennisreporters.net makes it unanimous with this brief dismissal:

Donald Young: Loses 6-0, 6-0 to Argentina's Carlos Berlocq in Miami, which mean he's now 0-19 in sets on the ATP Tour. To paraphrase Patrick McEnroe: Whoever is deciding to allow this badly struggling junior to continue to accept wild cards when he's obviously in way over his head is an idiot. Young's confidence is so shot now that he may never be a Top-10 player. Until he wins a Future, he should not be allowed to play Challengers, and until he wins a Challenger, no more ATP events.

Consensus like this among tennis pundits (and other players) verges on the unprecedented. But I don't expect any of them to have much influence, as the Youngs prefer to think of themselves as teachers, not students. It's interesting that he's decided to play the Easter Bowl, which will be his first junior tournament since the Yucatan Cup last December. He needs to find that winning feeling again--the practice he's had in losing lately is too much of a bad thing.

In all this hubbub over the Young loss, a big win for another much-criticized IMG wild card recipient, sixteen-year-old Anna Tatishvili has been overshadowed. The Evert-protege won a epic struggle with the WTA's 41st ranked player and Newcomer of the Year for 2005 Sania Mirza of India 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-6 (8).

Luxilon Cup Field Set

I've been asked by more than a couple of people if I'll be at the Luxilon Cup next week in Key Biscayne, but with my plans to cover Carson and the Easter Bowl in California next month there just isn't time for a side trip to Florida.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Luxilon Cup, it is an exhibition tournament for high profile juniors that is played the second week of the NASDAQ-100. The girls winner gets a wild card into the main draw of the NASDAQ the following year, while the boys winner earns a qualifying draw wild card. Alisa Kleybanova and Marcus Fugate were the 2005 winners.

Most, but not all, of the players have ties to IMG, as clients or academy students. Juniortennis.com has covered the event for several years, and they have posted photos of the players selected on their site. I received a list that doesn't quite jibe with theirs on the boys side, but by Tuesday, we'll know for certain, so I'll just pass along the names I've received.


  • Anna Tatishvili
  • Maria Mokh
  • Jade Curtis
  • Sabine Lisicki
  • Lauren Albanese
  • Julia Cohen
  • Sanja Ancic
  • Marrit Boonstra
  • Dominika Cibulkova
  • Tamira Paszek
  • Chelsey Gullickson
  • Roxane Vaisemberg

  • Robin Roshardt
  • Marcus Fugate
  • Philip Bester
  • Pavel Chekhov
  • Wil Spencer
  • Gastao Elias
  • Michael McClune
  • Tyler Hochwalt
  • Jose Roberto Velasco
  • Nicolas Santos
  • Clint Bowles

    There are only 11 boys on this list and juniortennis.com lists Kei Nishikori and Holden Seguso, while omitting Bester, to get to the necessary 12. Beginning Tuesday, see the NASDAQ-100 website for results.

  • Thursday, March 23, 2006

    ESPN.com - TENNIS - IMG signs 13-year-old Australian prodigy Tomic

    ESPN.com - TENNIS - IMG signs 13-year-old Australian prodigy Tomic ~~~

    In a post last month, I mentioned this signing as likely and IMG made it official today in Key Biscayne. Tomic is taking a break from tennis at the moment; I doubt anyone thought that he would win four straight ITF 18-and-under tournaments and that's a lot of mental and physical strain for one so young.

    I was wondering what media outlet would be the first to take Donald Young to task for his 6-0, 6-0 loss in today's main draw at the NASDAQ-100. SportsTicker is the winner.

    Barrick and Zsilinszka Capture Spring National Championships:: The Tennis Recruiting Network

    Those of you who read my reports from Mobile will find my monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network vaguely familiar, but the Boys' 18s section contains a more expansive look at Houston Barrick than anything I wrote while there.

    As for Zsilinszka, The Tennis Recruiting Network's Julie Wrege had already done a Recruiting Update about her earlier this month, (a subscription is necessary to read the entire article; the partial link is here) and she's also featured in this week's Junior Spotlight at usta.com.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Technology Update

    After a week worth's of server problems with Bloglet, I've pulled the plug. I found an alternative, called FeedBlitz, that will send subscribers an email with a brief excerpt of my post from the previous day. It will undoubtedly need tweaking and will look different from the format sent by Bloglet, but I'm told that current subscribers do not need to re-subscribe. If by some chance the Bloglet server comes back up this evening, you may get two emails, but once FeedBlitz has succeeded in sending its first email, I'll shut down the other account.

    Please let me know via the contact section on this page if you were getting bloglets, and are NOT getting emails from FeedBlitz, and I'll try to fix it. The good news is that someone from the company responded to my email the same day I sent it, which is a big improvement over the service I was getting.

    Okechi Womeodu Scholar Athlete Grant Update

    Okechi Womeodu Scholar Athlete Grant Update ~~~

    Thanks to a reader who has asked to remain anonymous, I now know a whole lot more about this award than I did two days ago.
    Here is the usta.com link to the description of the award, which is administered via the Multicultural Grants Program. In addition to explaining the criteria, it paints a vivid picture of an outstanding young man who is missed by everyone who ever knew him.

    The article about Lauren Lui implied that the award was a college-related scholarship. It is not. Rather it provides funds that a deserving junior can use to travel and compete. Iris Rivera of the USTA responded to my request for the name of the male winner yesterday, telling me that it was Jarmere Jenkins, the fifteen-year-old from College Park, GA.

    Lui and Jenkins are the first two recipients, and they were announced only last month, so I don't feel quite so bad about not having heard about it. Unless things change, the deadline for 2006 will be December 31. For more information about the Multicultural Grants Program, see the usta.com website.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Smash Column, Mobile Edition

    Smash Column, Mobile Edition ~~~

    I finally saw the print edition of the second issue of SMASH last week (I'm curious, are all you USTA junior members getting it in the mail as promised?), and I read it cover to cover on the plane trip home from Mobile. (I have a small story entitled Renaissance Kid near the back).

    The Ken Flach piece on cheating in the section entitled "In The Zone" (no link available) has already drawn the ire of some, with his mention of a pay-back option when victimized. I've seen way too many junior matches to have any doubts that the technique is used, but I think Flach missed an important point. Good people, on occasion, make bad calls. Professional umpires do, so it stands to reason that a player, when watching a ball and preparing to return it, might not be in a position to call a line with 100% accuracy. (Full disclosure: I see many juniors play out balls with regularity too.) I think the assumption that a player you don't know who makes a close call in his favor is a cheater is unwarranted and dangerous. Taking the initiative and getting it back at the next opportunity is not going to make for ultimate justice if it merely escalates the battle.

    It wasn't because of Flach's piece that I gave an ace in this column to Sportsmanship. I did it because it I had just witnessed, in Mobile, some of the best sportsmanship I have ever seen. Maybe SMASH could ask Davey Sandgren or Houston Barrick to write an article on how to be a good sport. Seems only fair.

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Top Teen Gives Ol' College Try

    Top Teen Gives Ol' College Try ~~~

    Lauren Lui, the finalist in the USTA Girls 18s Spring Nationals in Mobile, is the teen that Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle is referring to in this article, which was published two weeks ago. From our few brief conversations, Lui strikes me as way too sensible a girl to have ever entertained serious thoughts of foregoing college for professional tennis. A full scholarship to Northwestern has a lot more going for it in the long run than a spot in the qualifying in the next St. Paul Challenger, and she's wise to see that.

    The story says that Lui received the USTA's Okechi Womeodu Scholar/Athlete award. This is the first reference I've seen to a established memorial to the sixteen-year-old tennis star from Memphis, who died suddenly during an indoor soccer game in November of 2004. If anyone has information on the award, please email me (via this page, under Contact) or leave a comment to this post.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Back in the Zoo

    Back in the Zoo~~~

    We're back from Mobile refreshed and rejuvenated by the neon-bright azaleas, the chance to wear sunscreen and flip-flops, and the Southern hospitality. It was a very satisfying trip and it was good to catch up with tennis families and coaches I hadn't seen in some months and also get acquainted with some new ones.

    Now that the tournament match reporting is over, I'll shift more into my commentary mode, and during my travels today, I've been thinking a lot about girls champion Reka Zsilinszka and her game. This recent article by Charlie Bricker about the emphasis on power in junior tennis is a thoughtful one, and in Mats Wilander he has the perfect contrarian.

    As I watched Zsilinszka dissect progressively better opponents by the same monotonous 6-1, 6-2 scores, I began to appreciate just how special she is. No one plays like her, and not just because they can't. They don't want to-- just like no one wanted to play like Brad Gilbert, winning ugly, as he titled his book. But when all those beautiful backhands and forehands (not many beautiful serves or volleys or lobs, especially in the girls game) fail to translate into victories and titles, actually employing a strategy might be worth a try.

    The bloglet server has been down for days, and I have no idea when it will be fixed.
    (Emails to them detailing the problem bounced back to me--never a good sign.)
    If you've found your way here without the email to remind you, I encourage you to scroll down to read all the Spring Championship articles posted since their server went down last Wednesday.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Barrick Comes Back to Defeat Sandgren for USTA Spring National Title

    Barrick Comes Back to Defeat Sandgren for USTA Spring National Title~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    "Man, we've got to start holding our serves," Davey Sandgren said to his friend Houston Barrick midway through the third set of the Boys 18 USTA Spring Nationals. Unfortunately for Sandgren, only Barrick was able to halt the string of five consecutive breaks, holding for the final game of a hard-fought 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 win.

    Despite the occasion--the first National singles final for either of them-- Sandgren and Barrick still gave glimpses of what one of their practice matches back in suburban Nashville might be like. There was serious tennis and competitive intensity, but there was also laughter, changeover comments, and many, many instances of 'good shot', or 'nice lob' often accompanied by racquet clapping.

    The match began with Barrick breaking Sandgren, an eighteen-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee and holding for a 2-0 lead. But then Sandgren reeled off six straight games, never letting Barrick control points with his serve and volley pressure, instead keeping him pinned behind the baseline retrieving groundstrokes.

    "I served well, I hit my groundstrokes well, made very few mistakes," Sandgren said of that first set.

    "He was playing up to his potential. You could tell it was just another level and he was really excited to be there," said Barrick, who turns seventeen next month. "It was kind of frustrating on my part, when somebody is beating you that badly, having to take it, and you can't really do anything."

    The turning point in the match came in the fourth game of the second set when down 1-2, 0-40, Barrick battled back to hold and then broke Sandgren the next game, for only the second time in the match. Although he gave up that break, Barrick sensed the domination was over.

    "Up to that point, he had been returning real well, every service game I had was just a battle," Barrick said. "And when he kind of gave me a couple free points there and I battled out of that hole, there was a sense of relief. You find yourself believing that you can do it."

    The tiebreak was textbook Barrick--big first serve, short ball volleys, no unforced errors. Flawless was the word Sandgren used to describe his opponent's play in the tiebreak, and Barrick had undeniably raised his game when the stakes were highest.

    The third set started innocently enough, with three holds, but then the string of breaks, which Barrick attributed to the chilly north wind, began. Serving for the match at 5-4, 30-30, Barrick admitted to "a lot of nerves." But he went to the slice out wide serve, his "go-to" serve, which Sandgren netted, then converted the subsequent match point to capture his first National title.

    "It was kind of surreal out there, I almost didn't realize what was going on," said Barrick of that game. "It's almost like it didn't happen, or it was happening without me thinking."

    Barrick's mother Jan, who attended the tournament with her oldest son, missed that moment of triumph--at his request. Barrick has asked his parents not to watch his matches, feeling that his focus is better when they are out of sight.

    "I get kind of nervous about what she's thinking and I don't want her to be mad. I just do better when I'm on my own out here."

    So she sat in the car, receiving text message updates from her niece, until Tyler Davis, who won the bronze ball in doubles on Friday and is riding back to Nashville with the Barricks, informed her that Houston had changed his mind mid-match.

    "I told Tyler to go get her and bring her back, because there's not many chances I'm going to be here again," said Barrick. "She came out for a few games, but I think she was so nervous she went back to the car."

    At the trophy ceremony, Jan Barrick acknowledged some nerves but admitted superstition also played a role. When Houston lost a game while she watched, that was her sign to retreat to the warmth and privacy of the car.

    "I love my mom and it was a hard decision," said Barrick, "but ultimately it's better for me in the long run. When I go to college, I'm going to be on my own, so I need to prepare for that."

    With another year and a half before that happens, Jan and Steve Barrick can count on spending many hours in cars and pro shops while their son chalks up yet another win.

    The consolation final saw Roy Kalmanovich upend Reid Carleton 6-3, 6-2 to take fifth place. The bronze ball in boys singles went to George Navas, who defeated Rook Schellenberg 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.

    Zsilinszka Downs Lui to Capture Girls Spring National Title

    Zsilinszka Downs Lui to Capture Girls 18s Spring National Title~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    Reka Zsilinszka hates to lose. Stung by her defeat at the hands of Lindsay Burdette in last year's spring Nationals in Mobile, she was determined to do whatever necessary to avoid that feeling in this year's tournament, and she did. Her 6-4, 6-4 win over fourth seed Lauren Lui earned her a second gold ball to go with her 14s national title, but the sixteen-year-old from North Carolina acknowledged that Lui was not her only obstacle.

    "The circumstances made it tough today," the Slovakian-born righthander said. "It was the final and last year here, I just didn't play well, making all sorts of errors, so I didn't want to do the same thing this year. And she's just a really good player--she's consistent, she's a lefty and her serve has that really weird spin, she has really solid volleys."

    Having lost only thirteen games in the six matches prior to the final, Zsilinzska's counterpunching consistency has baffled every opponent, and Lui thought perhaps she had erred in attempting to rally with the second seed.

    "Toward the end (at 2-5 in the second) I tried to go for it, since I was down, and it worked a little bit better," said Lui, who will attend Northwestern University in the fall. "So maybe if I was more agressive earlier on, it might have made a difference."

    Zsilinszka agreed.

    "I got to a pretty big lead, 5-2, and maybe started thinking about the gold ball, but after the changeover, she came out like a new player, hitting big shots, big volleys, she didn't miss anything, so she won two fast games."

    At 5-4, Zsilinszka doubled faulted on her first match point, and although her outward appearance never changed, she was seething inside.

    "In my head I was cursing and throwing my racquet, all kinds of things, but I didn't show it," said Zsilinszka, who is talkative and sociable off the court, but stoic and unflappable on it. "But then I somehow won another point and she missed an easy volley, kind of giving it to me."

    Actually Lui had total control of the point from the outset, but Zsilinszka retreated to the baseline, got overheads, volleys, drop shots and groundstrokes back over the net time after time until Lui finally missed. It was the story of the match in a nutshell, evidence of Zsilinszka's strategy to stay out of a pace war with Lui.

    "I saw her play yesterday against Claire (Rietsch) and they were both smacking it. I thought she was pretty good at that. I thought if she got into that rhythm--heavy, flat, deep--she could maybe be better at that than me. I thought I could out-steady her and it worked."

    By outthinking and outplaying everyone in Mobile, Zsilinszka avoided the dreaded loss and proved to herself that she could handle the pressure of a National final when she got a second chance.

    "I was so nervous," said Zsilinszka, who is on a nineteen match winning streak. "It takes a different kind of mentality to win a final, especially a Supernational. It's a whole different thing."

    But the rest of the juniors are now on alert. Zsilinszka has shown she's learning quickly.

    In the consolation final, Julia Boserup defeated Magdalena Bresson 6-3, 6-4. Melissa Saiontz took the bronze ball with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Claire Reitsch. Third place in girls doubles went to Kristy Frilling and Carolyn McVeigh with their 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 win over Holly Johnson and Caitlin Whoriskey.

    For full draws see usta.com.

    For additional coverage of the Spring Nationals visit Marcia Frost at collegeandjuniortennis.com

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Tennessee Friends Meet in Boys Final; Zsilinszka Reaches Second Straight Spring Nationals Final; Doubles Champions Crowned

    Tennessee Friends Meet in Boys Final; Zsilinszka Reaches Second Straight Spring Nationals Final; Doubles Champions Crowned~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    When Davey Sandgren and Houston Barrick take the court Saturday morning at the Mobile Tennis Center, there are several sure things: A resident of the Volunteer state will win his first gold ball, they will know each other's games, and the sportsmanship will be unparalleled.

    Sandgren, the second seed, and Barrick, a five seed, were regular practice partners in suburban Nashville until Sandgren entered the University of Tennessee in January. Although both won National Championships balls in doubles on Friday--Sandgren a bronze and Barrick a silver, neither has ever played for a National title. As for court demeanor, Sandgren, 18, will be traveling to Newport this summer to accept a national junior sportsmanship award, and Barrick, who won the 16s National sportsmanship award last summer in Kalamazoo, added another trophy Friday when he received the Spring Nationals 18s award.

    Sandgren, a 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 victor over Rook Schellenberg of Texas in the semifinals, knows he can't have any lapses if he's to stop the talented sixteen-year-old high school junior. Barrick, a five seed, dispatched George Navas with an efficient 6-2, 6-4 display of power tennis.

    "He's got big strokes," Barrick said of Navas, a nine seed. "He's kind of scary sometimes because you don't ever know what's coming. He can turn on a dime sometimes and you have no clue."

    But Barrick showed no signs of being puzzled or caught off guard, and forced Navas into going for too much too often.
    "I returned real well, second serves especially," Barrick said. "And ground strokes, I just had to neutralize them and keep it away from his forehand."

    It is not his defense that has earned him six consecutive straight-set victories, however. "I had to serve well, like always," said Barrick who admitted he toned down his usual serve and volley game in deference to Navas' return. "Hold, that's the important thing, so I concentrated on my first serve."

    Sandgren hopes that he can engage Barrick in the kind of battle he had with Schellenberg, with a barrage of big serves and heavy ground strokes.

    "My goal tomorrow is to have a long match," said Sandgren who lost to Barrick 6-0, 7-5 last October in a Southern Designated tournament. "I want to make him work for it. He's not going to win it in an hour. If I lose, it's going to be at least three sets."

    Barrick sees himself in the ideal situation, as the upstart with nothing to lose.

    "I'm the youngster out here, everyone else can vote. I'm only 16 so I'm kind of taking it and running with it. Just go out and play some tennis and have some fun."

    As dominant as Barrick has been on the boys side, Reka Zsilinszka, the second seed, has been even more so among the girls. Friday she faced nemesis Melissa Saiontz, who had a 2-1 record against the sixteen-year-old from North Carolina. But Zsilinszka's one win was in straight sets last month, and she demonstrated once again that tennis isn't always about power, frustrating Saiontz by a typically one-sided 6-2, 6-1 score.

    "I thought I played well," said Zsilinszka, who lost in the 2005 Spring Nationals to Lindsay Burdette. "I had to adjust my game, because Melissa is way too solid to wait for her to miss. I tried to be more agressive today, hit with more power."

    Saiontz, who will be attending Princeton in the fall, frequently vocalized her frustration, sometimes shrieking in disbelief when Zsilinzska forced an error, or returned a sure winner. But Zsilinszka never let the drama perturb her.

    "Everyone has their own way of fighting. I think it helps keep her motivated, and it doesn't bother me," she said. "This year I've been staying really calm. I've had good composure all week."

    Trying to dent that attitude will be fourth seed Lauren Lui, who will be attending Northwestern this fall. The lefthander from Houston, described by Zsiliniszka as a "beautiful player," was able to close out unseeded Claire Rietsch in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4.

    "Claire is known to hit winners and make errors," said Lui. "I had to stay consistent and stay in the point." She admitted that winning the first set, after having dropped it in her two previous victories helped. "It was a little more comfortable. I could just got at it in the second."

    Lui will be the underdog in the final, given that she lost to Zsilinszka 6-1, 6-4 the last time they met, at the 2005 National Clay Courts in Memphis. And her opponent, who is now on a eighteen match winning streak in junior events this year, is playing with confidence and poise at what she calls "her good luck tournament." So Lui faces a stern challenge in an attempt to win her first gold ball.

    The consolation finals on Saturday will feature unseeded Julia Boserup against Magdalena Bresson, a five seed. For the boys, number one seed Reid Carleton, upset in the first round by Eric Quigley, has made his way through to the consolation finals, assisted today by two walkovers. Carleton will play Roy Kalmanovich, a nine seed, for fifth place.

    The gold balls in girls doubles went to Texans Sanaz Marand and Ashley Weinhold, the second seeds, who won two matches on Saturday-- a tough three-setter over Holly Johnson and Caitlin Whoriskey in the semifinals and a 6-1, 6-1 victory over unseeded Jennifer Meredith and Connor Vogel in the final.

    Matt Allare of Ohio and Calvin Bennett of Utah took the boys doubles championship with a 7-5, 6-4 decison over Barrick and Quigley. Both teams were unseeded. In the third place match, the bronze balls went to Sandgren and Tyler Davis, who defeated Geoffrey Embry and Will Guzick 7-6 (7), 1-6, 6-4.

    For full draws see usta.com and for additional tournament coverage, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Unseeded Rietsch Reaches Spring National Girls Semis; Two Boys from Tennessee Make Final Four

    Unseeded Rietsch Reaches Spring National Girls Semis; Two Boys from Tennessee Make Final Four ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    Claire Rietsch was bursting with excitement after her 7-5, 6-2 win over Julia Boserup in the girls 18s quarterfinals Thursday at the Mobile Tennis Center. As a semifinalist, she automatically receives a wild card to the Easter Bowl next month, and the seventeen-year-old Southern Californian has earned her first opportunity for a USTA National Championship ball.

    Rietsch can strike the ball with authority, but in Thursday's match against her fourteen-year-old opponent, she tried a different tactic.

    "She feeds on your pace," said Rietsch, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Southern Methodist in the fall. "I have a lot of junk in my game, and I used it today."

    The first set was close all the way, but in the second set, Rietsch took control.

    "My backhand was really working. She started missing and I also started serving better. And I wasn't as nervous, because I had won the first set."

    Rietsch has not dropped set in the tournament, and will meet a seed for the first time in the semifinals--Lauren Lui, seeded fourth.

    Lui once again came back after dropping the first set, this time defeating Mallory Cecil 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Cecil was up 3-0 in the second set and 3-1 in the third, but Lui, a placid lefthander, picked up her game before it was too late and forced Cecil into a defensive mode.

    In the bottom half of the draw, doubles partners Magdalena Bresson (5) and Melissa Saiontz (3) collided in one quarterfinal, with Saiontz coming out on top 6-4, 7-6 (4). Saiontz, who hasn't dropped a set, will now face second seed Reka Zsilinszka, who has lost only ten games in five matches.

    Zsilinszka dismissed unseeded Kristen Rafael 6-0, 6-1 and although Zsilinszka was the first of the quarterfinalists to finish, there still were many long, multi-deuce games.

    "My game throws people off," said Zsilinszka, who has already won two national level tournaments this year. Using her high looping topspin and first rate defense, she has completely baffled the power hitters she has faced, and her plan Thursday was tailored specifically to Rafael.

    "She's a very aggressive player, she likes to come in take control and when we played last time it was very close, 7-6, 6-4. I had to take it out of her strike zone, hit it low or high and deep. I chose consistency over power today."

    Zsilinszka and Saiontz have met twice in the past three months, with Saiontz taking a three set win at the Winter Nationals and Zsilinszka avenging that loss with a 6-4,6-3 victory in last month's National Open in Tampa.

    In boys action Thursday, Davey Sandgren and Houston Barrick, suburban Nashville practice partners and friends, took straight set wins in their singles quarterfinals and then faced each other in the doubles semifinals.

    Second seed Sandgren, who is attending school at University of Tennessee this semester, came up with big serves when it mattered most and eliminated Adam Schwartz, a nine seed 6-3, 6-4.

    "I served well, and his serve didn't hurt me," said Sandgren. "There were only two breaks in the match, and even when I got down (5-4 0-40 when serving for the match), I got three straight first serves in to get back in it."

    Barrick, who turns seventeen next month, took a set to assess his opponent, unseeded Viju George, and then ran away with the match 6-4, 6-0.

    "I had to serve well and I had to make him volley," said Barrick. "He didn't come up with the volleys when he needed to."

    When Sandgren (with partner Tyler Davis), and Barrick (with partner Eric Quigley) met in the afternoon, it was a similar story. Sandgren and Davis had three set points at 5-6 in the first set, but Barrick and Quigley fought them off and cruised through the tiebreak and the second set for a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win. An unseeded team is now assured of winning the title on Friday when Barrick and Quigley take on Matt Allare and Calvin Bennett, who defeated Geoffrey Embry and Will Guzick 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

    In the singles semifinals on Friday, Sandgren meets Rook Schellenberg, a five seed from Dallas. Schellenberg pounded past Will Guzick, a nine seed, by a 6-2, 6-4 score.

    Barrick will square off against George Navas, a nine seed, who won his quarterfinal match with Xavier Smith when Smith retired with an illness down 6-2, 2-0.

    "I was definitely happy to have a short match," said Navas, a winner in three sets over Nick Meister on Wednesday. "I was worn out from my doubles matches," he said of the three-set marathons he and partner Michael O'Shea won Monday and Tuesday.

    Navas and Smith, a five seed, had never played, but the Floridian did some advance scouting.

    "I talked to some guys who had played him, and they said he hits every ball flat," the soon-to-be Michigan Wolverine said. "So I gave him no pace and just tried to get as many balls into the court as I could."

    The girls doubles quarterfinals were played Thursday afternoon, but two girls still playing in the consolation draw prevented the semifinals from being played following the quarterfinals. Three unseeded teams and the second seeded team make up the semifinalists.

    For complete draws see ustaboys.com.
    For additional coverage of the USTA Spring Nationals visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    SMASH Column, Southern California Teenagers Edition

    SMASH Column, Southern California Teenagers Edition ~~~
    I've been so busy here in Mobile, I forgot to link to my current SMASH column. And speaking of Sam Querrey, one of this week's aces, I learned today that he received a main draw wild card into the NASDAQ 100 tournament in Key Biscayne.

    Four Unseeded Girls Make Spring Nationals Quarterfinals; Guzick Upsets Brewer in Boys Action Wednesday

    Four Unseeded Girls Make Spring Nationals Quarterfinals; Guzick Upsets Brewer in Boys Action Wednesday ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    Perfect tennis weather--blue skies, a light breeze and temperatures in the upper 60s--was the backdrop for the USTA Spring Nationals Round of 16 Wednesday at the Mobile Tennis Center.

    Four unseeded girls--Claire Rietsch, Julia Boserup, Mallory Cecil and Kristen Rafel recorded straight set wins, as did three of the four top seeds. Reka Zsilinszka (2) defeated Noelle Hickey (9) 6-2, 6-0, while third seed Melissa Saiontz was finally tested but eventually prevailed over unseeded Julia Huschke 6-1, 7-6 (5). Magdalena Bresson (5) rolled past unseeded Georgiana Smyser 6-0, 6-2. Fourth seed Lauren Lui came back to take a 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 decision over Olivia Janowicz in the only three set match in the girls division Wednesday.

    Boserup, a fourteen-year-old from Los Angeles, easily defeated Laurianne Henry, a ninth seed, 6-1, 6-2 in the only upset of the day. Rietsch, also from Southern California, knocked out Claire Bartlett, also unseeded, 7-5, 6-1. Bartlett had upset top seed Kristy McVitty on Tuesday. Mallory Cecil had to bring out her best tennis to eliminate the diminutive C.C. Sardinha 7-5, 6-4 in another battle of unseeded players. And in the third contest featuring two unseeded girls, Kristen Rafael, who had stunned fifth seed Kristy Frilling in the first round, continued her stellar play, beating Sanaz Marand 6-3, 6-3.

    In contrast, only one boys quarterfinalist is unseeded, Viju George, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over unseeded Aaron Carpenter on Wednesday. George will face Houston Barrick, a five seed. Barrick squeaked by Roy Kalmanovich, a nine seed, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

    2005 16s Easter Bowl champion Will Guzick, a nine seed, upset fourth seed Matt Brewer, a freshman at University of Memphis, 6-4, 6-4. Guzick broke Brewer in the first game of the match and made it stand up for the set, and in the second set broke Brewer at 4-4 to put himself in position to serve it out.

    "He's very solid," said Guzick. "I think our styles match up well. He likes to play from the baseline, but he isn't quite as consistent as I am and when he goes for his shots, I can get some of them back. But the key was breaking him, because his serve is deceptively good, the way he places it and the spins he puts on it."

    Guzick will next face Rook Schellenberg, a five seed, who eliminated Michael Dierberger, a nine seed, 6-4, 6-4. In another five/nine confrontation, Adam Schwartz upset doubles partner Jared Pinsky 7-6 (6), 6-4 in a battle of lefthanders that was every bit as close as the score would suggest.

    Schwartz takes on second seed Davey Sandgren, who was delighted to quickly eliminate Stephen Havens, a nine seed, 6-3, 6-2 after Tuesday's marathon win over Jonathan Wolff.

    The only three-set match of the day on the boys side saw nine seed George Navas earn his quarterfinal spot with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over unseeded Nicholas Meister.

    Navas meets Xavier Smith, a five seed, who took out nine seed German Boryachinsky 6-3, 7-5.

    In doubles play on Wednesday, the top seeded girls team of McVitty and Zsilinszka were upended by Jennifer Meredith and Connor Vogel in the second round. The girls doubles are still one round behind due to rain on Monday afternoon.

    The boys quarterfinals were played on Wednesday, and three unseeded teams advanced, led by Calvin Bennett and Matt Allare, who have blizted through their first three matches. They will face another unseeded team with eye-catching results this week, Geoffrey Embry and Guzick, who have not lost a set. The third unseeded team, Barrick and Eric Quigley have lost the first set in each of their last two matches, but regrouped for victories and will face Tennesseans Tyler Davis and Sandgren, a nine seed, in the other semifinal.

    For full draws see usta.com, and for additional coverage of the USTA Spring Nationals, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Top Seed McVitty Upset in Girls Spring Nationals Third Round

    Top Seed McVitty Upset in Girls Spring Nationals Third Round ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    Kristy McVitty came to Mobile hoping for her second straight national singles title but unseeded Claire Bartlett of Chattanooga Tennessee ended that dream with a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over the top seed and Winter Nationals champion.

    The rain and humidity of Monday gave way to cooler temperatures and clear blue skies, but blustery winds made lobs and service tosses an adventure all day, a factor McVitty mentioned after her loss.

    "I didn't adjust to the wind very well today," said McVitty, who will be attending Virginia in the fall. "Some of my shots were falling at the service line, and I couldn't seem to put a ball away. I didn't play well at the crucial times."

    Bartlett put McVitty on notice early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first set and a 3-0 lead in the second. But it was McVitty who started confidently in the third, holding a 3-0 lead and all the momentum. This was the spot where nerves might be expected to show, but Bartlett simply kept playing her backhand slice to set up her forehand.

    "I had to stay really patient with my strategy," said the high school sophomore. "The wind made it hard, but I wanted to mix it up so she wouldn't get a rhythm."

    Bartlett was able to match the much smaller McVitty's court coverage, and showed no sign of nerves once the final tiebreak began.

    "I was really excited, actually," Bartlett said. "It had been such a long match, and mentally it helped me to know it was just a few more points to win it."

    McVitty took a 4-2 tiebreak lead, but lost three consecutive points and at 5-5 Barlett came up with a lob winner to give her match point, and when the top seed sliced a backhand into the net, the sixteen-year-old had the biggest win of her junior career.

    McVitty was not the only girls seed sent to the backdraw on Tuesday. Ashley Weinhold, a five seed, lost to Mallory Cecil 2-6, 6-1, 6-0. Nine seeds losing on Tuesday were Shinann Featherstone (to Olivia Janowicz) and Lauren Sabacinski (to Julia Huschke). One player having absolutely no trouble advancing is third seed Melisse Saiontz, who has lost two games in three matches. Second seed Reka Zsilinszka also moved on in straight sets.

    The boys had a big upset of their own when unseeded Aaron Carpenter eliminated third seed Jason Morgenstern 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, but there no other surprises in Tuesday's third round.

    For full draws see usta.com
    and for additional coverage of the USTA Spring Nationals, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    King and Querrey

    King and Querrey ~~~
    Last year's champions at the ITF Grade 1 in Carson California made an impression a few hours to the east this spring at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells. My Mobile story might be brief today due to rain, so I'm providing links to articles about each of them. The Querrey story has a few errors (he was a qualifier in San Jose, not a wild card; he's actually 1-2 versus top 100 ATP players in the past month, as he beat Garcia-Lopez in the Dallas Challenger), but lots of good quotes.

    Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times (registration required) zeroed in on Vania King's amateur status and the perspective of her brother Phillip, who won Kalamazoo two years in a row, beating Fish and then Ginepri in the finals, but decided to finish college before joining the ranks of professionals. He's now playing in Pro Circuit events, but feels he may have lost precious time. It's not a regret heard often (I shouldn't have gotten that degree at Duke), but it certainly provides Vania with an alternate viewpoint.

    Rain Delays Girls Matches at Spring Nationals Monday

    Rain Delays Girls Matches at Spring Nationals Monday ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006
    They played until 8:30 p.m., but the girls second round was completed on Monday. The top four seeds--Kristy McVitty, Reka Zsilinszka, Melissa Saiontz and Lauren Lui--all advanced, but Chelsea Preeg, a fifth seed, lost to McCall Jones, a finalist last year in the Easter Bowl girls 16s. There were no girls doubles played on Monday due to the afternoon rain delays.
    All four of the top seeded teams made early exits in Monday evening's second round. Michael Dierberger and Patrick Dwyer (1) fell to George Navas and Michael O'Shea; Matthew Parks and Andrew Thomson (2) lost to Scott Lieberman and Dennis Nevolo while Richard Lindstrom and John Nanosky (3) were defeated by Alexei Chijoff-Evans and Joshua Zavala. Jared Pinsky and Adam Schwartz (4) were taken out by the thinnest of margins when Ryan Lipman and Austin Roebuck prevailed 7-6,(5) 6-7,(5) 7-6(4).

    The 30% chance of rain for this afternoon, actually meant it would be raining 30% of the time, and shortly after noon the sprinkles, showers and sun began a maddening rotation. The boys were fortunate to finish all their singles matches--second round main draw and first round consolation-- and there were no upsets, although yesterday's giantkiller Eric Quigley was defeated by Nicholas Meister 6-3, 6-2.

    The girls main draw second round action began, but more rain kept that and the doubles from proceeding as scheduled. One match that did finish saw unseeded Mallory Cecil, a semifinalist at last year's Eddie Herr girls 16s, make short work of Marisa Lambropoulos 6-1, 6-1.

    For complete draws see usta.com

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Top seed Carleton Falls in First Round at Spring Nationals

    Top seed Carleton Falls in First Round at Spring Nationals ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    The first day wasn't two hours old when the biggest upset possible occurred, with top seed Reid Carleton bowing out courtesy of Eric Quigley 6-4, 7-5. Quigley, a high school sophomore from Pewee Valley Kentucky, kept the pressure on the number one seed with his willingness to come to the net, and Carleton's passing shots were frequently off target. The second set was extremely close, and at 4-5, when Quigley might have been expected to show some nerves, he held, then broke and held again to complete the upset.

    There were no other surprises in the boys draw during the partly cloudy and breezy day, although second seed Davey Sandgren dropped the first set of his match against Justen Roth, creating the possibility that neither half of the draw would avoid the ultimate upset. But Sandgren, a red-shirt freshman at the University of Tennessee (who actually wore a Volunteer orange shirt Sunday), found his rhythm in the second set and took a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 decision.

    The fourteen other boys seeds all moved into the second round.

    On the girls side, top seed Kristy McVitty had no difficulty in her first round match, but several other seeds tumbled out on Sunday afternoon. The most surprising loss was probably that of Kristy Frilling (a 5 seed) who was dismissed by Kristen Rafael of Grand Prairie Texas 6-2, 6-3. Frilling had traveled to Australia and qualified for the Junior Open there, but her international experience did not give her any advantage on Sunday. Other girls seeds exiting early were all ranked ninth--Nicole Kantor, Elyse Steiner and Keilly Ulery.

    One highly anticipated contest that turned out to be surprisingly one-sided featured second seed Reka Zsilinska and unseeded Lyndsay Kinstler. Kinstler had beaten top seed Zsilinszka in the semifinals of the 16s Nationals last summer in San Diego, and went on to capture the gold ball; Kinstler had also beaten Zsilinszka at the Orange Bowl in 2004.

    But Zsilinszka owns a national championship of her own--the 14s title--so this was not a typical first round match, although the 6-1, 6-1 score may indicate otherwise.

    "I'm so used to seeing her in the semifinals," said Zsilinszka, a chatty and intense junior from Fayetteville North Carolina. "After the first game went about fifteen minutes, I said, 'okay this is going to be a battle' and I was prepared for it, but she just didn't play that well."

    Despite the lopsided score, points and games were often lengthy, but Zsilinszka, a finalist last year in Mobile, had an answer for every shot Kinstler tried.

    Zsilinska faces unseeded Laurel Bolesky on Monday, understandably feeling that she's already cleared a major hurdle on her way to the finals.

    For full draws including first round doubles action, see usta.com

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Ready for USTA 18s Spring Nationals

    Ready for USTA Spring Nationals ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2006

    We spent the afternoon at the Mobile Tennis Center getting the 128 boys checked in, while the other side of the tent handled the 128 girls. The weather was warm, overcast and breezy, and although the skies appeared to darken as the 6:00 p.m. player meeting approached, it thankfully remained dry. Although the complex is huge, with 50 lighted courts, there is no sheltered area that could handle the hundreds of parents, coaches and players who were onsite for the Fazoli's dinner and the player meeting that followed.

    Bill Ozaki, director of the USTA Junior and Collegiate Competition, spoke briefly as did referee Pierre Hjartberg and sports psychologist Jack Singer.

    With Attila Bucko and defending champion Clint Bowles withdrawing, the number one seed on the boys side is Reid Carleton, with Davey Sandgren seeded second. The top seed for the girls is USTA Winter National champion Kristy McVitty, with Reka Zsilinszka, last year's Spring finalist, the second seed.

    Complete draws and match times are available at usta.com

    Sunday's action begins at 8:00 a.m., with round one of both singles and doubles. The downside of so many courts is that a spectator can't possibly keep up with all the simultaneous activity. But I'll have fun trying.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Wild Cards Make Good

    Wild Cards Make Good ~~~

    If there was any kind of race to see which 2005 Kalamazoo participant would be the first to win an ATP match, we have a winner. Sam Querrey, last year's runnerup to Donald Young at the 18s Nationals, defeated Bobby Reynolds in straight sets Friday at the Pacific Life Open to earn that distinction in only his third attempt (and second wild card). Young, who was to play Tim Henman before rain scrambled Friday's schedule, was taking his eighth crack at it.

    Querrey had orignally drawn Taylor Dent as an opponent, but when Dent withdrew with back problems, Bobby Reynolds was the lucky loser from qualifying elevated to the main draw. Here's a link to the Pacific Life website's story. Since I've spelled Querrey's name wrong in the past, I won't get too worked up about that particular error.

    Another Southern Californian teenager used a wild card to advantage, but when Vania King wins at the WTA level, it's really not news anymore. Her next opponent is 16th seed Klara Koukalova, whom she beat at last year's U.S. Open to reach the round of 64.

    Next up for Querrey is a bigger challenge-- James Blake. This matchup is particularly interesting because Querrey served as a hitting partner for Blake last December in Chicago. The two had become acquainted when Querrey was invited to Belgium with the U.S. Davis Cup team and Blake asked Querrey to fly in from California for a week's worth of workouts at a suburban club before Christmas. I know Querrey admires Blake, and I imagine he's thrilled at the prospect of being across the net from him again, with quite a bit more on the line.

    Thursday, March 9, 2006

    On The Road....Sort of

    On The Road....Sort of ~~~

    Well, we got as far as Detroit. But couldn't resist the opportunity to give up our seats for vouchers, so we won't arrive in Mobile until Friday. There's been a lot of discussions in the comment section about wild cards, so I'm providing this link to the recently announced NASDAQ-100 list in Miami later this month. WC Philippoussis is among them.

    Wednesday, March 8, 2006

    SMASH Column, Las Vegas, Harlingen edition

    SMASH Column, Las Vegas, Harlingen edition ~~~
    Tomorrow is a travel day, as we head for Mobile, so next week's SMASH column will truly be On The Road, not some virtual version. If there's no post tomorrow, chalk it up to the unpredictable spring weather that can throw already shaky airline schedules into chaos.

    But when you visit SMASH check out the FEATURES section on the left. The second edition of the magazine is out now, and my friend Allen St. John has two terrific stories in it, both of which are available in their entirety online. One is a profile of Andrew Murray, the other is a look at the new crop of young pros making their mark.

    Those who read the Wall Street Journal might recognize Allen as the weekly sports columnist in the Friday edition, but he's got other interests. He has a new book out entitled Clapton's Guitar about Wayne Henderson, one of the world's best guitar makers. It's a fascinating look at the world of vintage guitars and a man who both repairs those and builds prized heirlooms. I thoroughly enjoyed it. For more information about the book use this link.

    Tuesday, March 7, 2006

    Former Champions and Rising Stars Receive Wild Cards into 2006 Pacific Life Open

    Former Champions and Rising Stars Receive Wild Cards into 2006 Pacific Life Open ~~~

    I've hesitated to pass along this error-riddled release, but since there are four official "juniors" among the wild cards, I'll do it, warts and all.

    Alexa (not Alexis) Glatch is making her first appearance anywhere since breaking her elbow in a motorbike accident in November. Vania King is probably happy to be back home in Southern California, where she won't be asked to qualify. Anna Tatishvili, the sixteen-year-old from the country of Georgia is a bit of a surprise recipient, but she is a protege of Chris Evert, who recently chipped in to help keep the tournament in Indian Wells.

    On the men's side, Donald Young (not currently the world's number 1 junior) gets his first wild card into an ATP event this year. Not so Sam Querrey (note correct spelling), who received one last week in Las Vegas, and lost in the first round. (Querrey is not a junior anymore by ITF standards, although he is still considered one by the USTA until he turns 19 in October).

    As for Mark Philippoussis, he might consider adding that WC to his name legally.

    Monday, March 6, 2006

    Sweeting suspended, charged with DUI, drug possession:: Independent Florida Alligator

    Sweeting suspended, charged with DUI, drug possession:: Independent Florida Alligator ~~~

    Little did I know that when I posted the Gainesville Sun's Ryan Sweeting profile, only two days later a much more dismaying article would surface.

    The charges are serious and even those of us who know Sweeting only from brief encounters at tennis tournaments are disappointed. Advocates for college tennis, and I include myself in that description, were hopeful that a player of his stature could convince others that college is a viable path for those with professional ambitions. Now he will face issues of much greater significance than that.

    Maybe I'm naive, but incidents like these seem rare in college tennis, making a story like this even bigger news than it would be if a football or basketball player were involved. It's no use playing ostrich here though. I'll just say I hope this is the last story of its kind I link to.

    Sunday, March 5, 2006

    The Debate Still Rages

    The Debate Still Rages~~~

    I've learned that very few issues galvanize readers more than the prevalence of foreign players on U.S. Division I college tennis teams. The comments on my two most recent posts are an indication of that. I'm not going to throw any gasoline on the fire right now, but I do want to refer those with an interest in the topic to a couple of articles.

    The first is Frequently Asked Questions about International Players from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and the USTA. It directly refutes the premise (if not the reality) of Ryan Sweeting's comment.

    The second is about a player who is a poster child for the new crackdown, Mislav Hizak of Croatia, whom I've heard lost his opportunity to play for the University of Minnesota based on strict enforcement of the new rules. He is now playing in the NAIA, which is not subject to the same restrictions as NCAA Division I schools. This story only alludes in passing to the reason such a fine player is playing at such a small school, but I wanted to link to it as evidence that things have changed.

    Saturday, March 4, 2006

    Hangin' with Ryan Sweeting:: Gainesville.com

    Hangin' with Ryan Sweeting::Gainesville.com ~~~

    There's actually not much new in this story about Florida freshman Ryan Sweeting, but it's nice to see a tennis recruit get the type of coverage that football and basketball prospects routinely receive. (And I love the photo that accompanies the story).

    One quote from Sweeting was an eyebrow-raiser though:

    College tennis is a lot tougher than the juniors. The guys in college used to be pro players and are now in college. It's a lot more power. You can't get away with anything."

    I don't think the NCAA would agree with Sweeting about his competitors' backgrounds before enrolling in college.

    Friday, March 3, 2006

    Pro circuit gets younger: Daily Illini

    Pro circuit gets younger - Daily Illini ~~~

    Go straight to the pros or attend college first? This story by Amber Greviskes explores that crucial decision, through the prism of a match at last November's Challenger in Champaign, Illinois between Scott Oudsema and Todd Widom.

    Oudsema is quoted as saying, "Tennis is becoming more of a younger sport every day," which doesn't really jibe with the Agassi McEnroe Navratilova versions we've seen lately. But it is ever more competitive, with its increasingly global reach, and an early start can be an advantage, if a player believes he is physically and mentally ready for matches like the one described here.

    Ryan Sweeting took a hard look at himself and decided he wasn't quite prepared for the pro circuit minor leagues, and hopes to follow a path similar to James Blake's. Blake always talks of his two years at Harvard as crucial to his development and confidence, demonstrating that there isn't just one path to success.

    This story seems to end abruptly, and it left me unsure who won the match, so I looked it up. (Thanks Steveg!) Oudsema did, 7-6 (10), 4-6, 6-4, but lost in the next round and is still looking for the winning streak that will propel onto tennis' main stage.

    Thursday, March 2, 2006

    Tennis wonderchild grows up:: Denmark.dk: Official website

    Tennis wonderchild grows up::Official website - Denmark -Denmark.dk ~~~

    My friend Kamakshi Tandon at the indispensable tennis news website Court Coverage ferreted out this story from Denmark about the suddenly red-hot Caroline Wozniacki. The 2005 Orange Bowl Champion and finalist at the Australian Junior Open broke out of junior tennis obscurity by reaching the quarterfinals at the WTA Memphis tour stop last week. Anyone who has ever had a short conversation with the gracious and outgoing fifteen-year-old is hoping that her journey to tennis stardom is swift and smooth.

    This quote from her mother is so perfect it's no wonder the reporter selected it as an appropriate ending. All tennis parents should sound so sensible when asked about their children.

    'Caroline is a happy girl. She's a very positive person. That helps her,' said mother Anna. 'Not everybody has such a positive attitude as she does. But she should never feel pressure. She needs to pressure herself, but we need to help her find her limit. It needs to be both fun and serious otherwise it can't be done. She's still a child.'

    Wednesday, March 1, 2006

    SMASH Column, Memphis edition

    On The Road with Colette:: www.smashtennismag.com ~~~

    I've been back from the Davis Cup for more than two weeks now, and I'm eager get back "On the Road" to see if there are some signs of spring a bit farther south. In a week or so, we'll be heading for the USTA Spring Championships in Mobile, but for now, I'm stuck watching scores change on the internet and scouring online drawsheets, a poor substitute for real tennis.