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Friday, June 30, 2006

Wimbledon Junior Championships Begin with Blogs

The ITF has convinced Australian Stephen Donald and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to do daily blogs from Wimbledon--their first entries are here. Neither are Dmitry Tursunov, but then, who is? In addition to the blogs, the ITF has a
preview up today too. Junior play begins on Saturday.

The junior draws are posted, and again, just as in the French Jrs., the boys' seeds go right down the ITF rankings, while the girls' seeds are all jumbled up due to WTA rankings. This time Chan and Kleybanova get elevated to nos. 2 & 3 due to their WTA Top 200 rankings. Rybarikova is placed at no. 6 due to her 223 ranking, while Erakovic and Rodina get seeds 14 and 15 based on their Top 300 WTA positions.

There are six U.S. boys and six U.S. girls contending for Wimbledon singles titles. Donald Young (3) and Julia Cohen (8) are the only Americans seeded.

By the way, last year's Wimbledon girls' champion Agnieszka Radwanska has reached the round of 16 in the main event this year, where she will face Kim Clijsters. Wimbledon.org has the details of Radwanska's win here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Milevskaya Advances to Roehampton Final

Since winning April's USTA International Spring Championships in Carson, Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus has added two more Grade 1 titles to her resume and on Friday she'll go for one on grass to add to the two on clay and one on hard courts. This story from the ITF's junior website gives details of her come-from-behind win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the world's no. 2 ranked player. Trailing 1-5 in the third, Milevskaya eventually prevailed 8-6 and now faces her good friend Kristina Antoniychuk of the Ukraine in the final. I was wowed by Milevskaya in Carson, but as I had only seen her that one tournament, I could only guess how she might adapt to the different surfaces. But with the variety and subtlety I witnessed, I'm not surprised she's done so well on first the clay and now the grass.

It's dangerous to predict Wimbledon on the basis of the one or two grass events prior, but I imagine when the Wimbledon Junior preview comes out, it will mention Milevskaya as one to watch.

And speaking of Wimbledon, the wild cards have been announced, and apparently Donald Young hadn't initally entered, but requested a wild card, because he is in the field with the "W" next to his name. If you go to wimbledon.org, and click on the full story link on the Entry list at the top, the boys and girls fields will appear via a pdf file, minus the qualifiers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

SMASH Column, Pre-Wimbledon edition

My SMASH online column, which I wrote on Monday, was posted today. I don't know if they are trying a "name-that-player" game, but lately, they haven't identified who's in the main photo. Last week it was Martin Klizan, the French Open boys' champ, and this week it's Alexandre Sidorenko, the boys' winner at the Australian Open.

Yesterday's post elicited two great comments, and in that vein I wanted to make sure that everyone interested in the development issue had an opportunity to read Doug Robson's lengthy and comprehensive look at the topic in USA Today. He doesn't really address the excellent points about cost and parents that Jim and Andrew D made in their comments, but it does bring up the relatively recent phenomenon of constant travel in junior tennis, and my favorite subject--the lack of clay court training in the U.S. Robson is no "drive-by" shooter on this. It's a topic he's written about before and one that obviously matters to him. Good for him for convincing USA Today to give him the space for it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Agassi's Retirement Announcement Gets Sportswriters Thinking About Tennis

And that's a good thing, right? After the host of "why aren't Americans any good on clay?" comes the "who do we have to replace Agassi?" columns, one of which I linked to in yesterday's post. This new one, in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, is pretty good actually, because instead of the usual self-satisfied rant, Ted Miller actually: a)does some research; b)talks to someone who actually knows something about the topic--Eliot Teltscher; and c)admits the whole exercise he's engaging in is hardly original: "This frown and disappointed head shake after taking the pulse of U.S. tennis is a semiannual ritual of drive-by sports journalism."

But his crimes, except for the unfortunate error of giving Andy Roddick's meaningless "ATP Race" ranking (no. 15) instead of his actual points ranking (no. 5), don't reveal any real animosity for the sport, and most of what Miller writes is hard to dismiss. (Except for maybe that provincial mention of Matt Hasselbeck as the football quarterback kids most want to emulate.)

The Australians are also in the throes of explaining why they no longer produce champions with the regularity they once did. This recent article neatly describes both the Australian problem, and the British dearth of talent. In Steve Wood and Roger Draper, the recently hired heads of Australian and British tennis, respectively, the countries have CEOs willing to make changes. Whether this will have a significant effect on those countries' tennis fortunes remains to be seen.

But I know things can turn around in a hurry in sports. Hey, I'm watching it happen right now as a Tiger fan. But I agree that "the days of U.S. domination are over."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Meister, Hansen Win 18s So Cal Sectionals

I'm not clear enough on my Southern California geography to explain just why JT Sundling gets top billing in this story even though Nick Meister won the Boys' 18s, but I guess the Los Angeles Daily News does not consider those players in Orange County "local" and sports, especially high school sports, is all about local. I'm not sure anyone but his parents care that a player finished 16th, but it's reported here. Logan Hansen also isn't LA Daily News "local," but it is impressive that she's now won three sectional titles in a section as strong as Southern California.

For those of you who may watch Around The Horn the ESPN sports talk show that precedes Pardon The Interruption (I rarely watch ATH, but I'm completely hooked on PTI), Kevin Blackistone, a frequent columnist/guest/pundit, has a piece on dallasnews.com (registration required) about the coming dark ages of American men's tennis now that Agassi is retiring. See if you agree.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Rivals: Chris Evert & Martina Navratilova

I've recently read two books about tennis, one old and one new. Steve Tignor, in his column back when Dmitry Tursunov blogged his way to immortality (I haven't read more than two sentences of any other player's blog since) mentioned Gordon Forbes' A Handful of Summers as a must-read, and Steve doesn't have to tell me anything twice. I found the first few pages a bit overwrought, but once Forbes started spinning his tales of life on the tennis tour back in the 50s and 60s, I was captivated. I may not have laughed quite as often or as loudly as during the Tursunov week, but that's probably because I'm not quite as familiar with the cast of characters that Forbes hung around with. After all, this was pre-ESPN. Forbes is unquestionably the superior writer and his book is available on Amazon.com.

Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated recommended Johnette Howard's The Rivals and this too is a look at a different era of tennis, the beginning of the women's professional tennis tour. Billie Jean King plays a major role in Howard's book, but the 80 matches that Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova played are the heart of it. I'm probably not surprising anyone when I reveal that I've always preferred the men's game, due, I'm sure, to my exposure to it every August here in Kalamazoo. In the past two years I've seen considerable amounts of female tennis in the junior and college ranks and have developed a better appreciation for it, but that wasn't the case when these two dominated women's tennis. So the book filled a gaping hole in my tennis knowledge and yet I don't want it to sound as if it's a textbook. It is a revealing, sometimes gossipy and yet professional look at two very different women and how they mastered a sport, captured the imagination of sports fans and developed a lifelong friendship while doing so.

With the retirement announcement of Andre Agassi this weekend, we've reached the end of another tennis era. I hope its chronicle is as much fun to read as these two.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Michaella Krajicek Wins Third WTA Title

Seventeen-year-old Michaella Krajicek won the first significant junior girls tennis tournament I attended--the 2004 U.S. Open Junior Championships--so I've watched her pro career develop over the past year and a half with more interest than that of say, Nicole Vaidisova, whom I never saw play as a junior. This week Krajicek won the tournament that her half-brother Richard promotes, and her wins over Dementieva and Safina are her biggest yet.

The Sony Ericsson WTA site has the details, as well as a much more current photo than the one above, which I found in my archives. Krajicek plays Samantha Stosur of Australia in her first match at Wimbledon and if she wins that she'll likely see World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo across the net in the second round. But it's terrific she's put the serious knee injury behind her and goes into her first main draw at Wimbledon full of confidence.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Roehampton Preview, SoCal Sectional Coverage

The ITF juniors site doesn't usually do a preview for a Grade 1, but Roehampton is in their backyard, so not only is there a look ahead, there's a promise of daily coverage.

The Los Angeles Daily News is also dilgently covering the 104th(!) annual Southern California Junior Sectional and today's story is primarily about Ryan Thacher's win over Steve Johnson in the boys 18s division. But there has been excellent coverage all week in the Prep Sports section.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Grass Courts Provide History Lessons and Character Tests:: The Tennis Recruiting Network

My article on the Grass Courts for tennisrecruiting.net was posted this morning, and those of you who would like a synopsis of the weeklong tournament in Philadelphia and a look at the challenges of the surface should find it helpful. I won't be going to Wimbledon--it's still on my to-do list, just not this year--so I'm done with grass for this year, except of course via television.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dunlop Launches The D Squad

I met Fallon Koon of Dunlop at the USTA Spring Nationals in Mobile this past March, and she mentioned to me that Dunlop was planning to rejuvenate its junior tennis program . A few days ago I received a press release giving details. I'm not endorsing this one racquet manufacturer over any of the others, but I do think that a junior looking for sponsorship should be aware of this new development. The following is an excerpt from the press release:

Believing that the future is now, Dunlop Tennis is launching a new program for America’s top junior players, to be called ‘The D-Squad.’ This new Dunlop initiative will provide Dunlop tennis equipment and program support to leading junior tennis players, ages 10 – 18, who demonstrate excellence in every element of their game. According to Fallon Koon, Dunlop’s Junior Tennis program manager, “Those players selected for the Dunlop Tennis ‘D-Squad’ represent the best of the best in their performance on and off the court. These young, talented individuals truly are the role models for all tennis enthusiasts, especially aspiring young players.” Juniors who want to apply for Dunlop’s ‘D-Squad’ should contact Teamdunlop@dunlopsports.com.

Dunlop’s new program will reward juniors who are ranked in the top 50 nationally, based on quarterly rankings set by the USTA. Qualifying juniors must play a minimum of 5 sanctioned National tournaments throughout the contract year. In addition, each player must be a member of the USTA. Screening of qualified candidates will be led by a team of Dunlop Tennis managers headed by Koon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Belated High School Update

While I was chatting with junior development coach Mark Bey at the NCAAs last month, he was receiving regular updates on his student Dennis Nevolo's progress in the Illinois High School tennis tournament.

But as busy as I was when I returned home with NCAA assignments and the French Open, I neglected to follow up, until today. Mark told me that it's a big deal to win the state title in Illinois and that should Dennis do it, there would be mainstream media coverage, and sure enough, a simple Google found this article in the Chicago Tribune.

I understand from Mark that this was one of Nevolo's goals; with the impressive results described here, he can now check that off his list with a flourish.

Monday, June 19, 2006

SMASH Column, Grass Courts Edition

Back to reality, where people play tennis on cracked asphalt wearing brightly colored T-shirts, and I'm already nostalgic for Chestnut Hill and the Philadelphia Cricket Club. My SMASH online column centered on the U.S. International Junior Grass Courts has been edited and posted in record time.

Note to subscribers: Feedblitz has been experiencing technical difficulties since implementing an upgrade last Thursday. Emails have been going out erratically, if at all. I have been posting daily, so make sure you haven't missed anything by scrolling down through the past week's posts.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wimbledon Wild Cards

I'm doing just a small post today--after a week-long feast of tennis and match reports, I need to scale back a bit. But I was intrigued by these stories about the Wimbledon wild cards. The AP has the names here, and although I'm puzzled by the inclusion of Romanian Andrei Pavel and wearily resigned to seeing Mark Philippoussis' name on the list, the men's choices feature the usual British journeymen.

The women's list is more interesting for junior fans, with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, last year's ITF world junior champion, and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2005 Wimbledon Junior champion and recent French Open Junior winner, the two non-British recipients. Naomi Cavaday is also a junior, a British one, and although she didn't get through qualifying for the French Junior Open, the 17-year-old has had success on the the Futures circuit and in junior events when she's played them. I am a big believer in Azarenka, but I have no idea why she would get a wild card from the AELTC, and Radwanska'a claim to one is similarly mysterious.
But what really opened my eyes was this story, in which I learned that it isn't the LTA that awards the wild cards, it's the club, and the new director of the LTA is not happy with their choices. It does seem that if you conduct a "wild card tournament," it defeats the purpose to then give most of the participants wild cards, regardless of the results. I guess I thought the LTA and the All-England Lawn Tennis Club were intermingled enough to be basically one and the same, but now I know that's not true. So how do they divvy up all that Wimbledon-generated revenue amicably?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Roy, Larcher de Brito Win Grass Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

There was something old and something new in Saturday's US International Grass Court finals at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Top seed Rupesh Roy, 17, successfully defended his championship with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Austin Krajicek, while unseeded 13-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito won her first ITF title, in only her second attempt, defeating Gail Brodsky 6-7(7), 6-0, 6-1.

The first set of the girls final clocked in at just over an hour and the hot midday sun and the humidity saturated the drama-filled tiebreak that ended it. It was difficult to tell who had the advantage regardless of the score, because the server won only three of the 16 points played in the tiebreak. But when Larcher de Brito let a 4-2 lead slip away and committed two devastating double faults that gave Brodsky set points, the second of which Brodsky converted, it looked as if the righthander from Portugal's nerves might be part of the story. But as she explained after the match, she put aside any tentativeness that she felt once the first set was gone.

"The first set I lost, I got very frustrated and annoyed," said Larcher de Brito, who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton. "But sometimes when I'm frustrated, I actually play my best. When I'm mad, I just go for my shots."

Brodsky took a bathroom break after the long and tense first set, saying afterward that she felt a bit "woozy" and wanted splash some cold water on her face. But when the fourth seed returned to the court, it was if all her energy had drained away, and in less than 30 minutes she had lost nine straight games.

Larcher de Brito went for the lines and hit them, while Brodsky began to serve with less authority, and audibly expressed her dissatisfaction with the vagaries of grass court tennis on several occasions.

"This is not my type of game," said Brodsky, who immediately after the awards ceremony was back on a practice court, working on her game with her father, a coach at the Weil Academy. "I'm not really good with low balls. She was much better at it than me."

Larcher de Brito, who had no experience on grass prior to the tournament, agreed that the surface worked well for her.

"At first I hated it," she said. "But as I got used to grass, I felt better. It suits my game I guess, because I'm a hard-hitter and my ball's kind of flat and stays low."

Brodsky managed to hold her serve when down 3-0 in the third, but there would be no comeback. Larcher de Brito had too much momentum and motivation to allow it.
Having lost to Brodsky three times, and as recently as last December's Junior Orange Bowl, Larcher de Brito was determined to stop that streak.

"I wanted to make sure it was my time to win," she said. "I've lost to her and I wanted to beat her this time."

With her parents, brother and dog accompanying her, Larcher de Brito was planning to celebrate by doing some sightseeing in Philadelphia and New York before returning to Bradenton to resume her training. Due to her age, there are restrictions on the number of ITF tournaments she can play, and her next tournament will be the International Hard Courts in New Jersey in late August. But her success on grass this week has given her dreams for the future.

"I'm definitely looking forward to Wimbledon."

While Larcher de Brito won't be there this year, the boys' champion will be heading to London with some familiar hardware in his suitcase. Roy, the defending champion in both singles and doubles at the Grass Courts, retained both titles, although a balky ankle limited his movement.

"For the past two weeks, I had pain in my shoulder, but I got medicine here, pain-killers or something, and it was fine," said the 17-year-old from India. "Today, when I was getting from my bed, I can't even walk, so I have to wear an ankle brace."

Roy wasn't moving with his usual fluidity, but some of that was due to Krajicek's lefty serve, which the champion admitted gave him trouble at times.

Krajicek coaxed an early break from Roy in the third game of the first set, but began to have serving problems, with several double faults sealing his fate in his final two serving games of the set. But he immediately broke Roy in the opening game of the second set and this time did not give it back, becoming the first player to win a set from Roy in either of the past two years.

"Rupesh is a great player," said Krajicek, who turned 16 on Friday. "There's not much you can do when he's playing well. But I had my chances. I took a set off him and I had a break in the first, so I could have held a little bit better there. But you've got to give credit to him, he played well."

In the third set, Roy eliminated the double faults that were plaguing him in the first two sets and used his slices and his touch to keep Krajicek off balance. Krajicek, who is from the Tampa area and has been training at Bollettier's since the beginning of this year, explained how Roy stretched a 3-2 lead in the third to a quick succession of breaks for the victory.

"He made a lot of returns, especially at the end of the third," Krajicek said. "He made me play every ball, made a lot of low returns, made me play half-volleys. Congratulations to him, he deserves it. He played better today."

Roy now turns his attention to the grass courts of Great Britain, where he'll play the Grade 1 in Roehampton and, as of now, the qualifying for the Wimbledon Junior Championships. He's hoping for courts a bit quicker than those of the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

"If the grass court is faster, it's good for me," Roy said. "I like to slide, come to the net, serve and volley. I don't mind all-court, but on grass, fast is good for me."

The Sportsmanship awards were announced by tournament director Ian Crookenden during the championship ceremonies with Michelle Larcher de Brito and Houston Barrick named the 2006 recipients.

For complete draws see the tennislink site.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Krajicek and Roy Meet for Boys' Championship; Brodsky and Larcher de Brito are Girls Finalists

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

"It was hard work for a birthday present."

That's how Austin Krajicek described his come-from-behind semifinal victory over Devin Britton on the day he turned sixteen.

Down a set and a break to his roommate at Bollettieri's, Krajicek managed to "hang around" as he described it and eventually take a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 decision to earn a spot in the final.

"He was up a break in the second; he served for it," said Krajicek, who is a distant cousin of the former Wimbledon champion Richard. "You've got to give credit to him--there were a couple of close calls (in that game.)"

Britton, a 15-year-old from Mississippi, who, like Krajicek, was unseeded, took control of the first set with an early break, and executed his classic serve-and-volley game so well that Krajicek couldn't find any chink in the armor.

"I was kind of subdued in the beginning," Krajicek said. "I wasn't as into the match as I was in previous matches. After I won the second set, I knew I had a good shot at coming out on top, so I was going to be positive, forget about being negative."

The third set, however, began the same way as the previous two, with Krajicek down a break. Serving at 1-4, the lefthander was down a break point, and had Britton capitalized there, he would have been serving for it at 5-1. But the match turned there, with Krajicek "finding a way to grind out that game", and Britton never recovered, losing the next four.

"Luckily at the key points I was able to stay positive," said Krajicek. "One point in the third set would have cost me the match, in the second set too. It was a close match, but luckily I got it."

Britton had recently defeated Krajicek in an Easter Bowl consolation match, so Krajicek had expected another friendly battle.

"Devin and I live together, and we're cool, but we always have tough matches," Krajicek said. "We always play really good when we play each other and it's good; we push each other along. I'm glad I get to play a guy as good as him. It helps me too."

In Saturday's final, Krajicek will see another player with a proven grass court game, top seed and defending champion Rupesh Roy, who defeated his doubles partner Brad Cox 7-5, 6-2.

Roy has had little opposition this week, but he was in danger of losing his first set of the tournament, when serving at 4-5 in the opening set, he found himself down 0-40. But he worked his way out of that hole, then broke a dispirited Cox the next game, and never looked back. En route to his title in 2005, Roy had also beaten Cox, two rounds earlier than this year.

The 17-year-old from India was not originally expecting to compete on U.S. grass this year, but when visa problems kept him from playing in the French Open Junior Championships, he returned to Philadelphia.

"I am playing Roehampton and Wimbledon," said Roy, who is now 56th in the ITF Junior rankings. "My coach said it's better to play grass courts and get ready for them."

In the girls semifinals, 13-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal surprised top seed Lindsay Burdette 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the second set.

Playing in only her second ITF tournament, Larcher de Brito has already established a reputation for comebacks. In her first event, the Grade 1 in Carson in April, Larcher de Brito fought back from a set and 5-0 down to win her quarterfinal match with Kristy McVitty, and she showed the same determination in Friday's semifinal.

"I changed my mentality," Larcher de Brito said when asked what led to the turnaround. "I was missing everything and I was just rushing too much. I started taking my time more and relaxing instead of tensing up a lot."

Larcher de Brito began serving more consistently and cutting down on her errors, and suddenly she had won five consecutive games. But the prosperity wouldn't last. Serving for the second set at 5-4, Larcher de Brito couldn't hold, and in the ensuing tiebreak, she was down 5-2 before taking the final five points.

"I wish I could go up in a set and stay up," said the Nick Bollettieri protege, whom she called directly after her win. "Always being down puts a lot of pressure on me."

In the third set, it was Burdette playing from behind, and a now-confident Larcher de Brito hit her punishing groundstrokes with even more authority. Burdette, unaccustomed to being on the defensive, couldn't make her way to the net to finish, and Larcher de Brito didn't waiver when she had the opportunity for the upset.

Larcher de Brito will face another challenge in Saturday's final, as Gail Brodsky, her opponent, has won all their meetings, one as recently as last December in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s quarterfinals.

The fourth seeded Brodsky reached the final with a 6-4, 6-4 win over unseeded Julia Boserup. In each set Brodsky, who recently turned 15, bore down when Boserup was serving at 4-5, and broke the 14-year-old from Southern California.

"In the first set I was serving pretty well," said Brodsky, who is from Brooklyn New York, but trains at the Weil Academy in Ojai California. "I practiced a lot yesterday. But after that, my serve kind of broke down and I didn't know what to do. I started pushing my serve in and she's aggressive, and she just started killing them."

Fortunately for her, Brodsky was able to break back both times Boserup broke her early in the second set, putting herself in position for the crucial late break that gave her the match.

Looking ahead to the final, Brodsky knows better than to take Larcher de Brito lightly, even with her success against her in the past.

"I've played Michelle two, three times, and every time we've played it's been a long, tough match," Brodsky said. "But I'm definitely happy to be in the finals."

Cox & Roy Repeat as Boys Doubles Champions at Grass Courts; Paz and Zsilinszka Take Girls Title

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

Brad Cox and Rupesh Roy, the defending champions and top seeds, won their second US International Grass Court title on Friday at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, but for the fourth straight match they knew they'd been in a battle. Facing the fourth seeded team of 15-year-olds Brad Klahn and Rhyne Williams in the finals, Cox and Roy, both 17, managed to win a twenty-point first set tiebreak and then found another gear to take the second set 6-2.

"Last year also we won the doubles, so we're thinking like, 'oh we're going to win', taking it easy," said Roy, who is from India. But with their first three matches going three sets, and surviving a third set tiebreak in their first contest, it was anything but easy the second time around.

But Cox and Roy are both very comfortable on grass, and in each match their experience proved the edge they needed.

"He's a serve-and-volleyer, I'm a serve-and-volleyer, so it's good for us to play on grass," said Roy, who has had a sore shoulder and would have preferred quicker wins during the week, and was glad to have gotten through all his singles matches in straight sets, including his semifinal win over Cox Friday morning.

Unilike the relatively quick boys' final, the girls' championship was a prolonged affair eventually won by the third seeded team of Gabriela Paz and Reka Zsilinszka, who defeated Lindsay Burdette and Krista Damico, the second seeds, 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-4.

Paz and Zsilinszka may have had the advantage in a close match, as they had played nothing but all week, twice coming back after dropping the opening set.

"All of our matches have been 7-5 in the third, 6-4, 6-4, and 6-4," said Zsilinszka, giving the final set scores of the victory run. "After the first set (today), we said 'we have to play better now.'"

Cruising through the second set, Paz and Zsilinszka were able to get a crucial hold of serve when they thought they had already lost the game.

"There was this weird game when I thought we'd lost it; I thought they had won the game," said Zsilinszka. "Then the ref called 30-40, (instead of game for Burdette and Damico) and I guess there had been a call that we'd missed or something. Then we won that game, but we thought it was their game, so that was kind of lucky our way."

Burdette, who had already played three sets of singles prior to the afternoon's doubles match and is just returning to tournament play after taking a break to concentrate on her studies, was understandably wearing down in the warm and humid conditions. Paz and Zsilinszka simply kept getting balls back over the net, and in the end that earned them a title neither expected.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Doubles Finalists Set for Friday's Grass Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

Thursday was expected to be a short day, with only the consolation singles finals and the doubles semifinals scheduled. But three of the four doubles semifinals went the distance, and there was plenty of great tennis all afternoon.

Top seeds and defending champions Brad Cox and Rupesh Roy have been extended to three sets in each match of the tournament, and the unseeded team of Chase Buchanan and Blake Davis put them to the test again on Thursday, but Cox and Roy prevailed, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3. Cox and Roy will face the fourth seeded team of Brad Klahn and Rhyne Williams, who managed to survive a heated battle over unseeded Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek in the day's last match 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4).

The two and a half hour match had countless momentum swings, although when Klahn dropped his serve at 3-3 in the third, it looked bleak for the seeds. But Jenkins was immediately broken back, and four holds later, a tiebreak would decide it.

In addition to a chair umpire, there were sideline judges, but throughout the match all four boys complained regularly and vocally about the calls, especially on the serves. In the third set a service line judge was employed, but with their confidence shaken, and the match so close, none of the participants were inclined to trust the calls.

In the tiebreak, Jenkins was broken on both his serves, giving Klahn and Williams a 5-2 lead and although Krajicek saved one match point at 6-3, he couldn't negotiate the first volley on his next serve, giving Klahn and Williams the finals berth.

The first girls doubles semifinal was also a seesaw affair, with the third seeds--Gabriela Paz and Reka Zsilinszka ousting the top seeded team of Kirsten Flower and Lena Litvak 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Paz suffered a turned ankle near the end of the second set, but after having it taped at a changeover, it didn't appear to affect her play in the final set. The turning point in the match came when Zsilinszka was serving at 4-4 in the third set. Down 0-40, Paz and Zsilinszka won the next five points, Zsilinszka held for 5-4, and then riding that wave of momentum won the next four points on Litvak's serve to take the match.

Paz and Zsilinszka will meet second seeds Lindsay Burdette and Krista Damico in the final. Burdette and Damico captured their third consecutive straight-set victory, defeating the fourth seeded team of Julia Boserup and Gail Brodsky 7-5, 6-3.

In the consolation tournament, for players losing in the first round, Jenkins defeated Yohansey Wiliams 6-2, 6-4 to take the boys' division and Irina Falconi beat Stephanie Vidov 6-1, 6-1.

The singles semifinals begin at 10:30 Friday morning and will be followed by the doubles finals.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Larcher de Brito and Krajicek Upend Seeds in Grass Court Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

An unseeded finalist was assured in the boys singles at the US International Grass Courts when Devin Britton and Austin Krajicek both came through with hard-fought three set victories in the draw's bottom half.

Krajicek, who turns 16 on Friday, overcame a slow start to oust second seed Chris Racz 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. The lefthander from Florida is willing to take his chances at the net, and that gave him an advantage on the grass over Racz, who relies primarily on his groundstrokes. Once Krajicek got rolling in the second set, Racz had no way to stem the tide.

Britton, who at 15 is the youngest of the boys quarterfinalists, battled Brad Klahn for over two and a half hours before finally securing a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 victory over the lefthander from California. The match length was noteworthy because both played grass court tennis and most of the points were short--it was the games that were long. At 3-4, Klahn was broken and Britton played a very confident final game to close out the match. Both players showed an excellent grasp of the nuances of grass with winners much more common than errors throughout the contest.

The two other boys semifinalists are doubles partners--Rupesh Roy, the top seed, a 6-3, 6-1 victor over Adam El Mihdawy; and Brad Cox, the fifth seed, who defeated unseeded qualifier Houston Barrick 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The surprise result in the girls draw on Wednesday saw 13-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito eliminate third seed Reka Zsilinszka 6-4, 6-3. Larcher de Brito, who does not spend much time near the net, used her heavy, flat and deep groundstrokes to keep Zsilinskza off balance. The lack of time to react and the uncertainties of the surface contributed to the ineffectiveness of Zsilinskza's counterpunching style against the determined Larcher de Brito. Next up for Larcher de Brito is top seed Lindsay Burdette, who again won in straight sets, this time over Beatrice Capra.

The marathon match of the day saw fourth seed Gail Brodsky and Olivia Janowicz battle for over three hours before Brodsky finally prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. Janowicz had a bout with cramps during the third set on a humid and overcast day, but she was able to continue after a visit from the trainer, and also to play doubles later in the afternoon.

Brodsky meets Julia Boserup in the singles semifinals, which will not be played until Friday. Boserup advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 decision over Brittany Augustine.

The doubles semifinals are scheduled for Thursday, although rain overnight could have an impact on that. All four seeded teams in the girls division made it through, while top seeds Cox and Roy and fourth seeds Klahn and Rhyne Williams remain alive in the boys draw. For complete draws, see the tennislink site.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Only A Few Surprises Tuesday at Grass Courts

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia PA--

Tuesday's weather was perfect. It was warm in the sun, comfortable in the shade, the sky was blue and incapable of rain. There was the slightest of breezes and no humidity. It was easy to sit and watch tennis without complaint for hours on end, enjoying the muffled sound of the game on grass.

The boys lost five of their eight seeds in the first round, the girls three of eight, but after Tuesday's matches, each division now has only three seeds remaining in the final eight.

Tuesday's biggest surprise saw 14-year-old Brittany Augustine defeat second seed Lena Litvak 6-1, 4-6, 6-0, while another 14-year-old, Julia Boserup, also took out an older seeded opponent. In a match lasting 2 1/2 hours, Boserup prevailed over Kirsten Flower, the fifth seed, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. When Augustine and Boserup play (if I recall correctly, they play half the quarters one day and the remaining two the next), it will be the only girls quarterfinal without a seeded player. Fourth seed Gail Brodsky will play Olivia Janowicz, third seed Reka Zsilinkszka meets Michelle Larcher de Brito and top seed Lindsay Burdette faces Beatrice Capra.

The three boys' seeds still remaining--Rupesh Roy (1), Chris Racz (2) and Brad Cox (5) all advanced today in straight sets. In fact all eight of the boys matches took the minimum number of sets to decide. Roy's quarterfinal opponent will be Adam El Mihdawy; Racz takes on Austin Krajicek and Cox will face Houston Barrick. The boys also have one quarterfinal without a seed; in that, Devin Britton meets Brad Klahn.

The doubles began this afternoon, and produced the day's most entertaining match, when top seeds and defending champions Roy and Cox eked out a 7-6 (2), 5-7, 7-6 (5) win over Barrick and partner Ryan Lipman. Many of the points featured remarkable gets, and the dives and slides that grass encourages created some startling results. On one such point, Barrick actually fanned on an overhead, but Lipman dove for the ball and miraculously managed to hit a forehand winner while in midair.

Those watching the match were buzzing about the quality of tennis displayed, and several players remarked that it "should have been the final." Such is the luck of the draw when ITF novices (Barrick and Lipman) don't have the points to earn a seeding, but it was great tennis regardless of the round.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Grass Tennis a Whole New Game for Most Juniors

©Colette Lewis 2006
Philadelphia, PA--

Many of the competitors at the US International Grass Courts at the Philadelphia Cricket Club are new to the surface and during the first round Monday, they got their first chance to see the challenges it presents.

There were plenty of looks of disbelief and swings and misses, as the reliable bounce of the hard courts wasn't going to happen on a regular basis. Long points were still abundant, especially in girls' matches, but often a point ended on a spectacular mishit, not a crisp volley.

Two boys with grass-friendly games used them to advantage on an unseasonably cool and overcast day. Houston Barrick of Tennessee, whose serve-and-volley attack has worked well enough on hard courts to earn him a Top Three national ranking, won his first round match over Corey Huggins 6-0, 6-0. Barrick, who hasn't played ITF events, had to go through qualifying, and he did, winning three matches over the weekend. His comfort level on grass is surely growing with every victory, and even when he wasn't serving, the 17-year-old from Brentwood found his way to the net, often finishing the point there.

Upsets were common in boys' action today, and one of the biggest saw Devin Britton, who also plays a game ideally suited to grass, take out fourth seed Mike Sroczynski 6-4, 6-4. Britton, 15, has won doubles titles in the last five tournaments he's entered, but hasn't had nearly that success in singles and facing the big-serving Sroczynski was a challenge. But Britton, who is from Jackson Mississippi and trains at Bollettieri's in Bradenton, returned well, served just as big, and used his net skills to keep his opponent off balance thoughout the match.

Other boys seeds who fell in Monday's first round were No. 3 Jamaal Adderley, No. 6 Viju George, No. 7 Rhyne Williams and No. 8 Halvar Dil. The top two seeds--defending champion Rupesh Roy and Chris Racz--won in straight sets.

The girls lost three of their eight seeds in first round play Monday: No. 6 Bianca Aboubakare, No. 7 Carolyn McVeigh and No. 8 Gabriela Paz. Lindsay Burdette, the top seed and a finalist last year, is preparing for a trip to Wimbledon next month by playing here. Burdette, who will enter Stanford this fall, took several months off to devote all her efforts to her studies, but she had no trouble finding her game in her first match, defeating Tara Moore 6-3, 6-1. Second seed Lena Litvak also gave her younger opponent a lesson, defeating Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-0.

For complete draws, see the Tennislink site.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Radwanska, Klizan Win French Junior Titles

We've made it to Philadelphia and on Monday morning we'll be at the Philadelphia Cricket Club for the start of the Grass Courts. The qualifying is over, the draws and seeding complete--see the tennislink site for all the details.

In Paris Sunday, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic won the junior titles at Roland Garros, with straight set wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Philip Bester respectively. In Eleanor Preston's story for the ITF junior website, Klizan sounds almost as surprised as the rest of us that he's won a Grand Slam championship, while it appears that Radwanska has played her last junior match.

And, finally, not one story, but two, about the juniors from rolandgarros.com. A recap of the boys' match is here; the girls' contest is recounted here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pavlyuchenkova Takes Third Straight Grand Slam Title; No Boys' Seeds Make the Weekend in Paris

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who will be 15 next month, teamed again with Canadian Sharon Fichman to win a girls' Grand Slam doubles championship at the French Open Junior Championships. Fichman and Pavlyuchenkova, the third seeds, won the Australian this year, and you might think that would get them top seeding at the next Grand Slam, but it doesn't work that way. The ITF simply adds the junior ranking of the two players together and the lowest number gets the top seed. This tournament it was Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki who were tabbed No. 1, and they came close to winning it, falling in Saturday's final 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1.

The boys' doubles final featured two unseeded teams with Emiliano Massa of Argentina and Kei Nishikori of Japan defeating the Russian team of Artur Chernov and Valery Rudnev 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Massa successfully defended his title in 2005, won with Leonardo Mayer of Argentina. Eleanor Preston has comments from the winners in her story for the ITF website. Still nothing from rolandgarros.com on the juniors.

Like the much-anticipated men's final, tomorrow's girls' championship is between No. 1 and No. 2, with Radwanska leading 2-1 in the head-to-head, although they haven't played in almost a year. Both girls have made huge strides since then and neither should be troubled by nerves. Radwanska has breezed through the draw, but hasn't played a single seed; Pavlyuchenkova has beaten two seeds, but had her toughest test against unseeded Tamira Paszek, coming back from a set down to win that match.

On the boys' side, we'll have our fifth straight unseeded Grand Slam singles winner. Starting with Marin Cilic at last year's French, Jeremy Chardy (Wimbledon), Ryan Sweeting (U.S. Open), Alexandre Sidorenko (Australian) all won without benefit of a seed, as will Sunday's winner, whether it's Philip Bester or Martin Klizan.

I've seen Bester play several times, and I'm very surprised that he's in the French final--his game seems much more suited to hard courts and grass. His broken wrist (I think that's what it was--he had a cast on it at last year's Eddie Herr) is obviously fully healed now and this result will send his ranking way up. He's entered at Wimbledon, (the acceptances can be seen here) and I assume he'll play the U.S. Open too.

I don't know anything about Martin Klizan; he hasn't played in the U.S. and wasn't in Australia, so I'm in the dark about his game. I'll make a point to check it out in New York, but if anyone has any info, please comment.

Friday, June 9, 2006

SMASH Column, French Juniors Edition

My weekly Smash column, which covers last week and the first half of the French Open Junior Championships, is posted now. There won't be a new column next week; I'll write my next one after I return from the Grass Courts.
A few other articles of interest today:

Eleanor Preston on Philip Bester's upset of Thiemo De Bakker and Martin Klizan's historic win at itftennis.com

Sam Querrey defeats another ATP Top 100 player in the Yuba City Challenger and Rhiannon Potkey has the details.

Adidas wins an injunction which will allow players to continue with their three-strip attire through the U.S. Open; more information on the decision is here.

Steve Johnson has been named Southern California boys' tennis player of the year by the Los Angeles Times. Read the story here.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Semifinals set for French Junior Championships

Both the boys' and girls' top seeds have made it to the semifinals, and today Eleanor Preston spoke with Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands about his play during the clay court season. De Bakker was also the top seed in Australia, but didn't survive the third round there. He takes on Philip Bester of Canada, who is unseeded. Another unseeded surprise semifinalist is Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic; he will meet No. 8 seed Petru-Alexandru Luncanu of Romania.

Another unseeded player making waves is Katerina Vankova of the Czech Republic, who has made her way to the semifinals, where she will meet No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2005 Wimbledon Junior winner who has a victory over Myskina this spring. No. 1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will meet No. 3 Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei in the other semi.

The Croatian boys were something of a disappointment in singles, but they make up half of the doubles teams in the semifinals.
Emiliano Massa, who last year teamed with fellow Argentine Leonardo Mayer to win the championship, is back, this time with Kei Nishikori of Japan. There are one of three unseeded teams left.

As is true in the singles, the girls have gone much more to form in doubles, with all four teams seeded, and both Pavlyuchenkova and Radwanska have an opportunity to win both singles and doubles, as Hungary's Agnes Szavay did last year.

For complete draws see rolandgarros.com.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

A Change of Pace

Nothing earth-shattering happened today at the French junior championships--if you would like to read Eleanor Preston's chat with Robin Roshardt of Switzerland it's here. Steve Tignor watched some of the match between Philip Bester and Ruben Bemelmans and had these observations. No word from rolandgarros.com on the juniors, even though two of the eight girls' quarterfinalists are French.

With just a few more days until the French championships are over, I'm looking ahead to the Grass Courts, and this story about Ryan Lipman mentions that he'll be playing there. The Nashville City Paper does a really nice job with junior tennis coverage, by the way. Lipman, along with Houston Barrick and Ryan Thacher, gives the Grass Courts a pretty impressive qualifying draw. And when the defending champion returns, as Rupesh Roy is doing, it speaks volumes about the quality of the tournament. Here is the link to the tennislink site with the competitor list. The draw isn't out yet. I won't be reporting from there until Monday, but I'm already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Young Loses in Paris; Cornet Upsets Wozniacki

I keep holding out hope that the Roland Garros website will publish a junior story, but when they didn't Tuesday, even after French junior star Alize Cornet upset fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki 8-6 in the third, I'm guessing they are waiting for the finals.

Donald Young will be honored at the annual ITF awards dinner tonight in Paris for finishing 2005 as the world's top junior, but I imagine the food would have tasted a lot better if he had beaten unseeded Pedro Sousa of Portugal today in the round of 16.
Or even if he and Jamie Hunt, seeded third, had won their doubles match, neither of which happened.

The boys draw is in its usual Grand Slam shambles. No. 1 Thiemo de Bakker has survived to reach the quarterfinals, as has Petru-Alexandru Luncanu, no. 8, but Luncanu is it for the bottom half. The top half still features two seeds who could make the quarters, but the best case for seeded players is only 50% will reach the quarters; the worst--25%.

The girls have gone more to form, with the top three still in the hunt. The ITF junior website has this look at top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's victory today.

U.S. players are faring even worse than the seeds (there were much fewer of them to begin with) and only three remain playing--all boys. Johnny Hamui and Clint Bowles are in the second round of doubles, as is Kellen Damico, who is playing with Luncanu, a Romanian.

For complete draws, see rolandgarros.com.

Monday, June 5, 2006

First Combined NCAA Championships a Rousing Success:: TennisRecruiting.net

If my daily coverage of the NCAAs was too much and my SMASH online column about it not enough, maybe my tennisrecruiting.net wrap-up will be, Goldilocks style, "just right." With that article's publication today, I'm officially finished with NCAA Divison I Championship stories.

I also want to make sure you are aware that Steve Tignor of Tennis Magazine is blogging this week at the French Open, and you can be sure he'll watch some junior tennis there. In fact, he already has. Here's his post from Monday, which has some very cogent observations about juniors.

I'm still waiting for the official Roland Garros site to acknowledge that juniors are playing tennis on their courts, but Eleanor Preston's ITF roundup is here. Today's big development? Stefan Edberg will remain the last junior boy to win all four junior slams in one year. Alexandre Sidorenko, this year's Australian Junior champion, lost his first round match.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Paszek Defeats Morita; Olaru Out in First Round in Girls French Open Juniors Action

Eleanor Preston is covering the juniors for the ITF, as she does at every Grand Slam, and her first piece on Sunday's opening day is here.

If you read my post yesterday, you'll know that I'm surprised that Cibulkova went down relatively easy to No. 1 Pavlyuchenkova, and that I'm not surprised that Tamira Paszek won, even though she drew the No. 6 seed Ayumi Morita. Preston doesn't mention that result, but I agree that Raluca Olaru's loss is probably the day's biggest shock, even though she was only the eighth seed. She had just won the Italian, and two ITF Women's events on clay earlier in May; certainly she seemed to be "on form" as the Brits say, coming into the French.

Both Kim Couts and Lauren Albanese lost their first round matches, leaving Julia Cohen, who didn't play today, as the only U.S. girl remaining in the singles draw.

Donald Young, Kellen Damico and Clint Bowles won their first round singles matches; Dennis Lajola lost his, while Jamie Hunt plays his first round early Monday.

For complete draws, see rolandgarros.com.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Second Junior Slam of 2006 Starts Sunday

Usta.com has a French Open juniors preview article as does the ITF junior site.

The junior draws were just released today and there is only one seed from the U.S. in boys--Donald Young, no. 2, and one in girls--Julia Cohen, no. 12. Kellen Damico, Jamie Hunt, Clint Bowles and Dennis Lajola are the other U.S. boys in the main draw. Lauren Albanese and Kim Couts are the only other U.S. girls playing on the clay at Roland Garros.

The seeding in the boys event was done entirely on ITF Junior rankings. Although I was surprised to learn that there is not a formal procedure for this at Grand Slams, generally any boy in the top 500 of the ATP rankings will be seeded. None of this year's entrants meets that criteria, so only the ITF junior rankings were used.

But on the girls side, things are much different. Generally, if a girl is in the top 300 of the WTA rankings she is seeded; but that's not always the case. Here are the girls' seeds, with current (May 29) top 300 rankings in parentheses.

1. Pavlyuchenkova
2. Radwanska (206)
3. Chan (182)
4. Bacsinszky (192)
5. Wozniacki
6. Morita
7. Kleybanova (221)
8. Olaru
9. Buzarnescu
10. Cornet (228)
11. Cirstea
12. Cohen
13. Fedossova (267)
14. Antoniychuk
15. Kucova (274)
16. Pereira

It appears the tournament committee decided to seed the top two according to ITF junior rankings and then intersperse the other top 300* players among the remaining seeds. But poor Tamira Paszek of Austria, a quarterfinalist in Australia this year and a member of Austria's Fed Cup team. She's ranked 277 by the WTA computers, but wasn't deemed seed-worthy, even though she could have easily bumped Pereira.
*top 275?

And another girl that must have been thisclose to being seeded was Dominika Cibulkova, the Eddie Herr champion, who is no. 302 in the WTA and 19 in the ITF. At the time of the acceptances, she was ranked seventh by the ITF, but when she didn't defend her Italian Open title, those points dropped off and her ranking fell.

So who does Cibulkova draw in the first round? The top seed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 14-year-old Russian phenom who won the Australian Open this year.

Now THAT's a first round match--last year's Italian Open champion against this year's Australian Open winner.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Another College Program in Jeopardy

After all the exciting competition I witnessed last week at the NCAAs at Stanford, it's hard for me to believe that another college tennis program, this time NAIA's College of Santa Fe, is on the chopping block.

There is in fact, an NCAA Division I connection here--Andre Begemann, the Pepperdine player who clinched the title for the Waves, transferred there from the College of Santa Fe. It is a relatively new program, unlike Colorado's, but once you read this article you'll be dumbfounded at the audacity of this decision. There aren't just legal issues here, there are moral and ethical ones, and I can't believe the administration will be foolish enough to pursue this cut.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Smash Column, NCAA Individual Edition

Due to the holiday and a travel day for me, this week's column is later than usual, but it's also longer than usual. Hope that makes up for its tardiness.

A couple of other items I wanted to pass along. The Zoo isn't the only junior tennis documentary in production. Check out this article on the one being made about a much younger quartet.

And today I came across Justin Gimelstob's take on Sam Querrey's future.