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Monday, July 31, 2006

Recruiting Profile: Nick Meister--The Tennis Recruiting Network

I had a chance to chat with Nick Meister at the Clay Courts and this profile is the result of that conversation. I enjoy having an opportunity to discuss future plans and dreams, not just the recent match, and these kinds of assignments are perfect for that.

Any of you checking the scores at the ATP Legg Mason the past three days know this, but here's a synopsis. Brennan Boyajian lost his first qualfying round match (in three sets); Marcus Fugate lost his first in straight sets and Devin Britton, a late wild card recipient, got a walkover and then lost in straights to Phillip King.

On Sunday, Ryan Sweeting beat Tim Smyczek (no. 3 seed in Kalamazoo) in the final round of qualifying and Monday evening Sweeting defeated Justin Gimelstob in the main draw. Michael Venus lost to Janko Tipsarevic 2 & 1. Sam Querrey lost to Wesley Moodie 7-6 in the third.

Lynn Berenbaum is blogging from the Legg Mason all week for tennisX. She'll even tell you who is practicing with whom, and who is watching. Stuff you won't read in your daily newspaper, that's for sure.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seeds, Draw for Kalamazoo Announced; Young No. 1 in 18s; Boyajian No. 1 in 16s

The Sunday before the tournament here in Kalamazoo starts is always "Draw Day." Before the computer era, I understand it was a long, complicated process, requiring many hours and reinforcements of pizza. We've retained the pizza part of it, but the computer is now doing all the work.

The seeds are listed here.
The draws are here.

A few of the first round matches I'll be hoping to see Friday in the 18s are Viju George vs. Jared Pinsky, Sean Corrigan vs. Chris Madden and Chris Kearney vs. Will Guzick.

The next couple of days are going to be extremely busy for me, so I'll be doing only brief posts, but I will try to get something up every day.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thacher Leads SoCal

The Los Angeles Daily News' Erik Boal has the scoop on what used to be Jr. Davis Cup and is now called the USTA 18-and-under boys National Team Championships. Ryan Thacher, 16, played in the Intersectionals for Southern Cal, which is the 16-and-under mixed team competition and is now trying to lead his section to another title in the space of a month. Marcia Frost is covering the action for collegeandjuniortennis.com.

I thought my radio segment today on tennislive.com went well; it was great to have an opportunity to talk about junior and college tennis and to get some publicity for this site and the Smash online column. Todd Skovron knows his stuff and I hope to be asked back soon.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Whither American Tennis? Peter Bodo's TennisWorld

I wish this topic was surfacing on Bodo's blog when I had adequate time to post a comment. But as I told Peter, who asked me for a response or comment earlier today, I agree with 90% of his original post. Maybe those of you who have been reading zootennis the past month can guess the 10% that I don't agree with.

For those new to the debate this USTA Evert announcement has brought to the fore, here are the posts from zootennis earlier this month about the topic:
Player Development Roundtable
Defending American Tennis

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Radio Debut

This Saturday, July 29th between 1-2 p.m. Eastern time, I'll be a guest on tennislive.com a tennis radio talk show hosted by Todd Skovron. It is live on 1510 The Zone in Boston and 1320 The Drive in Providence, but those of you in other parts of the country who would like to listen can do so over the internet, by joining, for free, the Tennisliveonline community.

I'll be discussing the upcoming boys National Championships here in Kalamazoo and the girls 18s in San Jose, and any other junior tennis questions that Todd poses.

If you can't listen on Saturday, please check back for the archived audio of the show. In recent weeks I've heard Todd interview Rod Laver and talk to tennis writers Jon Wertheim, Matt Cronin and Bud Collins. That's some good company.

Technical Difficulties

I wasn't able to post last night--blogger was inaccessible for about 12 hours. Fortunately, there wasn't a burning issue to address.

This article by Phil Stukenborg of the Memphis Commerical Appeal about the Girls' 18s Clays is what I was going to post. The Commercial Appeal does a great job of covering tennis, no matter what the level. It's worth the few seconds it takes to register for online access. Photo of finalist Mallory Cecil below.

NOTE: The ustaboys.com site is back up and running.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SMASH Column, Clay Court Edition

A few items Tuesday:

1) My SMASH online column is posted.

2) The ustaboys.com site is down due to a server problem.

3) Subscribers with aol.com email addresses may not be getting daily FeedBlitz updates. I am told that FeedBlitz is working with aol to resolve this. If you add the mail.feedblitz.com address to your allowed senders, you shouldn't have a problem.

4) Peter Bodo has published Mike DePalmer Jr.'s open letter on Junior Development under his post entitled American Man and invited comments. Some of them are definitely worth reading.

5) Sam Querrey beat Vince Spadea Tuesday in the first round of the Countrywide ATP event. USA Today's Doug Robson did this profile of Querrey in Friday's edition.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Home Again

It's been a busy day, what with laundry, lots of comments to moderate, writing my SMASH column (should be posted on Tuesday) and working on the Kalamazoo Nationals website, ustaboys.com. On Saturday it was announced that Todd Martin and Aaron Krickstein would play in the annual exhibition, making it an all-Michigan battle.

There was another article on the state of American tennis by Tom Perotta in the New York Sun called The Death of American Tennis Has Been Greatly Exaggerated and it is so sensible and soothing that I feel better about the future than I did before reading it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Venus and Boyajian Win Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2006
Rockville, MD--

Brennan Boyajian and Michael Venus will be returning to Washington DC next weekend to use the ATP’s Legg Mason wild cards they earned by winning the USTA Boys 18 & 16 National Clay Court Championships Sunday at Woodmont Country Club.

Venus earned the coveted main draw berth with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 upset of top seed Marcus Fugate, winning the battle of the big serves and bigger forehands.

Neither player demonstrated a clear advantage at any stage in the match, although Fugate managed an early break and led 4-2 in the third set. But the champion was decided in the ninth game, an eight deuce affair on Venus’ serve, when the 18-year-old New Zealand native finally held by executing a perfect volley.

"I knew if I had lost that game I was really in trouble," Venus said. "So I just dug deep and gave it everything and I managed to come through."

Four times Venus faced a break point in that game, and each time brought it back to deuce, causing Fugate to lament his inability finish.

"I had a lot of chances," Fugate said. "He played good on the big points though, I’ll give that to him. I could have capitalized on some short balls but I didn’t, and he was victorious for a reason."

Serving at 4-5, Fugate couldn’t put the missed opportunities out of his mind and in an instant he was down 0-40. The muscular 18-year-old from upstate New York managed fight off one break point, but when at 15-40 Fugate’s ball sailed over the baseline, Venus could not contain his joy.

"I couldn’t believe it, it was just amazing," Venus said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "I’m still kind of shaken about it. It hasn’t sunk in yet."

Venus spent his freshman year at the University of Texas, but will not be returning this fall. He is undecided about his future, saying he would talk it over with his parents, but he is leaning toward trying the pro tour, now that he has secured his place with the big boys at the Legg Mason.

As a finalist, Fugate was also extended a Legg Mason wild card for the qualifying round, and although he is heading back to his home near Rochester, he isn’t going there to rest.

“I’ve got to start on hard court," Fugate said. "I haven’t hit on hard in a while, so I’ll start up tomorrow or tonight.

It was the area’s typical heat and humidity that took a break on Sunday, leaving 16s Champion Boyajian looking even cooler and calmer than usual in his 6-2, 6-0 victory over no. 17 seed Andrew Kells Sunday morning.

Winner of the 16s Easter Bowl in April and the top seed at the Clays, Boyajian has now won 14 consecutive matches in National tournaments, all of them in straight sets. He attributes his recent dominance of the 16s to a growth spurt.

"I was 5’ 3 at this time last year, and now I’m like 5’ 9ish," said the 16-year-old from Weston, Florida. "Once I got bigger and stronger, I could keep the ball deeper."

In Sunday’s match, Boyajian displayed that strength plus the finesse and retrieving skills retained from those early years to ensnare his opponent. Kells had entered the finals full of confidence, having won four straight matches over players seeded higher. Included in that number was his remarkable semifinal win over five seed Bo Seal, coming back from a set and 5-1 down to win, while saving eight match points in the process.

Asked if he suffered a mental letdown after that amazing comeback, the 16-year-old from Tiburon California wouldn't use that excuse.

"If anything it motivated me to even come out here and play better," Kells said. "I think Brennan just played too well. Every good shot I hit he came up with something even better."

As the 16s winner, Boyajian will join Fugate in the Legg Mason qualifying draw, but he has his sights set on an even bigger tournament at the end of next month—the U.S. Open.

"Starting with Winters (Nationals), that was my goal, to try to get into the Junior U.S. Open," Boyajian said, eyeing the wild card that is given to the 16s champion in Kalamazoo. "My grandma and all my aunts live like ten minutes from the National Tennis Center."

And as if a gold ball, a qualifying wild card and a likely the No. 1 seed at Kalamazoo weren't enough, Boyajian and partner Zach Hunter, the top seeds, won the doubles championship, defeating Marc Power and Mieskzo Tomczyk, a nine seeded team, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 Sunday afternoon.

In the boys 18s doubles championship, Ryan Lipman and Rhyne Williams, seeded nine, defeated the unseeded pair of Chase Buchanan and Waylon Chin 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

Third and fifth place matches were played in singles Sunday morning. In the 16s, Alex Domijan, a 17 seed, defeated five seed Devin Britton 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to win the consolation tournament, while Bo Seal defeated Jason Smith 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to take the bronze ball given to the third place finisher.

In the 18s, unseeded Jason McNaughton and nine seed Davey Sandgren played nearly three hours of high level tennis, with McNaughton taking third with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory.

Fourth seed Wil Spencer avenged his round of 16 main draw loss to nine seed Matt Brewer by winning their match for fifth place 6-3, 6-0.

The third place in boys 16s doubles went to the unseeded team of Sebastien Fauchet and Robert Wong who defeated five seeds Tyler Bowman and Jenson Turner 6-3, 6-2.

Boys 18s bronze ball winners were unseeded Steve Johnson and Brad Klahn, who took a 6-1, 7-6 (2) decision from the top seeded team of Matt Allare and Calvin Bennett.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Kells' Comeback is Highlight of Sensational Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2006
Rockville MD--

In a day full of dramatic matches, Andrew Kells topped them all, coming from a set and 5-1 down and saving eight match points to defeat Bo Seal 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 in Saturday's 16s semifinal action at the National Clay Courts.

The 16-year-old from Tiburon, California faced down two match points in the second set when serving at 3-5, but the real drama unfolded at 4-5 in the third. That eight-deuce game saw Kells save six match points, with on-the-line winners or unreturnable serves, or, on a couple of occasions, by coaxing errors from Seal.

"My first serve saved me today," said Kells, a 17 seed who now has beaten a nine seed, two five seeds and no. 2 seed JT Sundling. "He was attacking me a lot, but at 5-2, I think he started to get a little nervous, and I started to play better."

"He picked it up in the second," said Seal, who never lost his composure after seeing his big lead dissolve. "I kind of relaxed when I was up 5-1, thinking I'd just serve it out, and that was my mistake. He came up with the goods when he needed to. You've got to give him credit for that."

After that excruciating tenth game, Seal lost his serve at love and when Kells got an opportunity to end the match, he converted, hitting an ace on his first match point.

Kells, who trained for several days on a private Har-Tru court near his home in Marin country, wasn't entirely unprepared for such an amazing comeback.

"I was once down a set and 6-0 in the second set tiebreak and came back to win," he said. "But that wasn't in a big event like this."

But even shortly after the match, when the disappointment was still fresh, Seal was philosophical about the result.

"When you play tennis that long, it'll happen," said the 15-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee. "You have to get used to it."

Kells now takes on top seed Brennan Boyajian, and he's getting used to seeing the Floridian across the net, as they've played either singles or doubles against each other the last five national level 1 events.

Boyajian is seeking his second straight National gold ball and just as he did in the Easter Bowl, he's done it in dominating style, without the loss of a set. In his semifinal encounter with third seed Jason Smith, Boyajian took control early and then survived a shaky stretch of serving in the second to win 6-1, 6-4.

The variety of shots in Boyajian's arsenal would seem perfect for clay; he actually prefers hard courts. "But I'm from Florida, so we play a lot on clay," he said. "The last two months that's all I've played on in tournaments."

For Kells, California hard courts are what he knows, but he's adapting well to clay. "I like it because it gives me time to set up for my shots," he said. On Sunday, he'll have the opportunity to use his newfound affinity for clay to pull off his biggest upset yet.

On most days the 18s singles semifinals would get top billing if they were as tense and unpredictable as the Saturday matches. Although upstaged later by the Kells-Seal drama, Marcus Fugate and Davey Sandgren's contest was nearly three hours of high quality tennis, with top seed Fugate escaping with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory.

For Sandgren, it was another day, another grueling three-setter, as he went the distance against Ryan Thacher on Thursday and Jarmere Jenkins on Friday. But this time it was Sandgren who wore down.

"He made me work for everything," said Sandgren, who managed to break Fugate for the first time at 5-4, only to lose his own serve the next game, allowing Fugate a second chance to serve for the first set. "At this level, a couple of points can make the difference. In the third set I could just feel it in my arms, I was tired, I think Marcus felt it too."

The no. 1 seeded Fugate, playing in his first junior tournament of the year, didn't agree.

"We train hard at Bolletteri," said Fugate, who played three consecutive Futures tournaments on clay before taking a shot at the Legg-Mason main draw wild card that goes to the 18s winner. "That's what they train us for, for matches like this."

With temperatures in the low 90s and humidity thickening the air, both players went to their towels often and changed shirts regularly. But rarely did the conditions impair them, as spectators were left gasping at what it took to win a point.

As in the first set, Sandgren was broken early in the third, and this time he couldn't get it back, although the 18-year-old from Tennessee did hold a break point at 5-3. But two errors from Sandgren gave Fugate a match point, which he coverted with an ace down the T.

"I got more agressive (in the third)," Fugate said. "I started to wear him down a bit."

On Sunday Fugate will take on another nine seed, Michael Venus, who rode a rollercoast of his own in a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over unseeded Jason McNaughton.

Venus held a 4-1 lead in the first set and a point to go up 5-1, only to lose five consecutive games, a series of events that would have infuriated, and perhaps derailed him just a year ago. But after a year at the University of Texas, Venus is much calmer on court, although he admitted he did let his concentration waiver a bit.

"In my mind I was thinking about the score," said Venus, who often trains at Newk's Tennis Ranch in Texas. "Once I cleared my mind out, I started to play better."

The third set was tight throughout and with Venus serving at 4-5, he made a statement with an a love game, barely allowing McNaughton a chance to return. At 5-5, McNaughton couldn't duplicate that clutch serving.

"I got no first serves in at five all," said McNaughton, a San Diego native who starts classes at USC next month. "And when I couldn't do that he was controlling the point from the beginning. Even in the second set, I had tons of break points and game points and didn't convert. That's what he did."

Venus isn't particularly fond of clay, even though he spent many formative tennis years in Florida, and won the Clays 18s doubles championship last year with Andy Orban.

"When I first started playing on it, I was falling all over," said Venus, who is playing in his first National singles championship match Sunday. "Now I'm getting used to it."

With a qualifying Legg Mason wild card already secured now that he's reached the finals, Venus is looking to Sunday's final as a chance for the big prize. But first things first.

"I'm really excited," he said. "But I'm probably going back to bed and sleep for a few hours this afternoon."

The doubles finals are set for Sunday afternoon, and all the finalist in the Boys 18s are either 15 or 16 years old.

The unseeded team of Chase Buchanan and Waylon Chin will meet nine seeds Ryan Lipman and Rhyne Williams. Lipman and Williams upset the top seeded team of Matt Allare and Calvin Bennett 7-6 (4), 6-4, while Buchanan and Chin needed a super tiebreak to squeek past unseeded Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (11-9).

In the 16s, top seeds Boyajian and Zachary Hunter face nine seeds Marc Powers and Mieskzo Tomczyk. Boyajian and Hunter advanced with a 6-2, 7-5 win over the unseeded team of Sebastein Fauchet and Robert Wong. Powers and Tomczyk upset five seeds Tyler Bowman and Jenson Turner 6-2, 6-4.

The consolation finals will be played Sunday morning. In the 16s, five seed Devin Britton meets Alex Domijan, a 17 seed, for fifth place. In the 18s, in a rematch of a round of 16 contest, no. 4 seed Wil Spencer looks to avenge his upset by Matt Brewer, a nine seed, in the main draw.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Not Much Drama in Quarterfinal Matches, but a Memorable Friday at the Clays

©Colette Lewis 2006

Those of you who have been reading zootennis for over a year might recall that last year I was writing for the ustaclay.com website. For a variety of reasons, my husband Paul (who was a site director at Potomac) and I were not invited back. This year, Clays tournament director Jeff Szekely hired Bob Greene, a retired Associated Press sportswriter, to do the website writing and his stories have appeared throughout the week. In Greene's story about Friday's Davey Sandgren and Jarmere Jenkins match, which Sandgren won 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2, there's no mention of the stunning postmatch incident that had all the players, coaches and spectators talking all afternoon. And that's the problem that dogged me last year. Hired hands do what they are told, and the news is filtered through the employer's prism.

This year I am in Rockville as an independent freelance reporter, and I hope long-time readers, or any readers, trust me to tell them what they are not here to observe themselves. I do not seek controversy, and I do believe, as I've stated before in posts and comments, that it's important to remember that the juniors I write about are children, without the experience, wisdom and maturity of most adults. This is a very long-winded way of opening the story of the very bad choice that Jarmere Jenkins made today.

Just 15, the unseeded Jenkins chose to play in the 18s division and won four consecutive three-set matches, defeating three seeds, including No. 3 Chris Racz in the round of 32. After taking the first set from Sandgren, a 9 seed, in a tiebreak, Jenkins looked as if he would extend his string of upsets, but Sandgren began to hit with more authority. Wearing Jenkins down, closing the net when he got a short ball, Sandgren, 18 and a freshman at the University of Tennessee, took control of the match in the second set. Even the heat break between the sets didn't affect his momentum. Upon his return for the third set, Sandgren ran out to a 5-0 lead and was serving to end it when Jenkins broke and held for 5-2. Sandgren took his second shot at serving it out and went down 0-40, giving Jenkins hope if he could convert just one of those break points.

But Sandgren won the next five points and all the fatigue and disappointment of the arduous contest boiled over in Jenkins. Lashing out at a ball, he slammed it toward the crowd of spectators, over the half-fence that separates the court from the small bleacher area. In an instant, there was a cry as the ball struck, in a particularly bizarre twist, Davey Sandgren's mother Lia. Jenkins immediately ran to the fence to see if she was hurt, as did her son, and when she was able to say she wasn't seriously injured, the boys shook hands, while Lia went to ice her leg, arm and mouth, which the ball struck in that order.

A distraught Jenkins sat for minutes on the courtside bench and apologized to Sandgren. In return Sandgren replied that it was an accident, and not to worry about it. Sandgren, who was recently honored at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport as a Bill Talbert junior sportsmanship winner, could not have been more gracious given the circumstances.

Tournament referree Rollie Shea and the match's chair umpire conferred, and Jenkins was defaulted from the back draw. The eight points he will probably receive could result in suspension, as 10 is the number that when reached, leads to three months of suspension.

The other three quarterfinals in the 18s followed that match, and all looked positively mundane after that ending. Top seed Marcus Fugate struggled with Jason Morgenstern, a nine seed, in the first set, before pulling away 7-6 (2), 6-1. Sandgren is his opponent in Saturday's semifinal. Unseeded Jason McNaughton coasted past Matt Brewer, a nine seed, 6-3, 6-1 and will play Michael Venus, a nine seed, who defeated Jeff Dadamo, a 17 seed, 6-2, 6-3.

In the 16s, Andrew Kells followed his upset Thursday of second seed JT Sundling by taking out Devin Britton, a five seed, 6-2, 6-2 on Friday. Kells, from the Northern California section, is a 17 seed, and will face his fourth straight higher ranked opponent in the semis, when he meets Bo Seal, a five seed. Seal defeated fourth seed Denis Lin 6-3, 6-4.

The top half of the 16s has gone according to plan, with No. 1 Brennan Boyajian and No. 3 Jason Smith reaching the semifinals. Boyajian cruised past unseeded Spencer Smith 6-1, 6-2, while the other Smith needed three sets to subdue unseeded Creighton Blanchard 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Those of you tuning in to radiotennis.com may have noticed that I did not sit in with Ken Thomas, as I had planned to do, nor will I be on the webcast this weekend. That decision was made by tournament director Jeff Szkeley, based on my "outsider" status at this tournament. The good news is that Thomas will be in Kalamazoo this year, and not just for the finals, as he has done in the past, but for the tournament's last three days. Believe it or not, Kalamazoo starts in less than two weeks.

The USTA announced the wild cards for the Nationals on Friday. See ustaboys.com for the list of recipients.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sweet 16 Day at the Clays

©Colette Lewis 2006
Rockville, MD

Thursday evening is the Sweet 16 dinner at the Congressional Country Club, where all 32 of Wednesday's singles winners are invited to celebrate their success in the tournament by dining at the exclusive club. It's a boys-only event--no coaches, no parents-- designed to increase the camaraderie among the players. Long pants are de rigueur, so on Wednesday evening there is a run on preppy khakis at the Old Navy and TJ Maxx stores in the vicinity, because, as one parent said to me, it would be "presumptuous" to pack them.

With 64 of the best juniors in the country on the courts at Woodmont Country Club today, I wasn't able to see more than a few matches in their entirety, but in honor of the dinner, and as a change of pace from my normal match reporting, I thought I'd list 16 things I learned Thursday at the Clays.

1. Top seeds are an endangered species in the 18s. With Attila Bucko (2) and Wil Spencer (4) losing today, top seed Marcus Fugate is the only player seeded above 9 still in the main draw.

2. Brennan Boyajian, the top seed in the 16s, is picking up right where he left off after his Easter Bowl win three months ago. His routine 6-3, 6-2 dissection of Ryan Harrison, which gave him his fourth consecutive straight-set win, was more evidence that his game, although subtle, is brilliant nonetheless.

3. Davey Sandgren caught a scheduling break. With an 8 o'clock match time, Sandgren and opponent Ryan Thacher avoided the heat of midday. Sandgren, who won in three sets, said he was going to do nothing the rest of the day but practice his first serve, which he joked went in about 5% of the time Thursday. Sandgren will undoubtedly be fresher than his opponent--Jarmere Jenkins, who played until 5 p.m.

4. The serve may not earn as many free points on clay as it does on grass and hard courts, but it can still make a difference. Matt Brewer, the 9th seed who upset Wil Spencer, wasn't broken until the second set, and his serve was a weapon, not a liability, as it often was for Spencer.

5. Jarmere Jenkins is an iron man. For the fourth straight day, in the daunting heat and humidity, the unseeded 15-year-old from Georgia won a marathon match, beating Roy Kalmanovich 6-7, 6-3, 7-5.

6. Roy Kalmanovich has a fearsome forehand and isn't afraid to use it. Jenkins had six match points with Kalamanovich serving at 5-6, but for the first five, Kalmanovich hit either a service winner or a forehand winner, and never seemed tempted to play it safe.

7. If a player is injured, the heat, the long points and the mental demands of clay won't give him a chance to play through it. Attila Bucko was suffering from back and shoulder problems and wasn't able to play with the same verve he showed in reaching the 2005 final, losing ninth seed Michael Venus in straight sets.

8. Jason McNaughton is one vocal tennis player. In his three set win over Erik Corace, also unseeded, McNaughton could be heard bellowing and howling in the main seating area four courts away.

9. Jeff Dadamo supposedly hates clay, but the 17-year-old Floridian may be changing his mind. The 17th seeded lefty hasn't lost a set in the tournament and took out five seed Reid Carleton Thursday.

10. Nick Meister can raise his game at the right moment. Down a set in both of his 18s consolation matches on Thursday, the Southern Californian Jr. Sectional champ won the twelve-point tiebreak that decides all back draw matches in both.

11. Devin Britton, a wild card and five seed, usually serves and volleys and had great success on grass last month in Philadelphia, reaching the semifinals. But his expectations for the clay, a surface that blunts the 15-year-old's arsenal of shots, weren't high coming in, so no matter what happens in his match against opponent Andrew Kells, a 17 seed, on Friday, he should leave Rockville pleased with his results.

12. Days are shorter when no doubles are played.

13. Clay courts need a LOT of maintenance.

14. There are still plenty of players I have yet to see hit a tennis ball. In the 16s, I'll admit to having no knowledge of three of the quarterfinalists--Jason Smith, Creighton Blanchard and Spencer Smith.

15. Ken Thomas is arriving Friday for Radiotennis.com webcasting, so give a listen over the next three days if you have a chance. Dave Kozlowski of Tennis Channel fame, who was here last year, is not returning.

16. It may not be as hot as earlier in the week, but nobody would call it good weather for tennis.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Easing into the Clays

©Colette Lewis 2006
Rockville MD--

I arrived at the Woodmont Country Club around four o'clock Wednesday afternoon, in time to see the last couple games of 18s second seed Attila Bucko's tough three set win over David Wolff, but most of the main draw singles were over. So I found the court with the most shade and watched some 18s doubles. The unseeded team of Chase Buchanan and Waylon Chin outlasted Nick Meister and Ryan Thacher, a ninth seeded team, in a closely contested 6-4, 7-6 (6) match. Lots of talent on that court, and it was a chance to dive in to clay court tennis, but not too deeply.

I learned that Jarmere Jenkins had upset Chris Racz earlier in the day, making the third seeded Racz the first of the top four seeds in either division to lose. The main topic of conversation among parents, coaches and players however, was the incredible heat on Tuesday. It was warm today, but if you could find a patch of shade, there was enough air stirring to make it bearable. Yesterday, in a city accustomed to heat and humidity, the Washington Post gave it front page coverage, so it must have been off-the-charts awful. I'm relieved to have missed it. I saw enough retirements and heat exhaustion here in 2005 to last a lifetime.

The singles round of 16 is Thursday, and one matchup in the 16s division deemed "must-see" by players and coaches I talked with this evening is top seed Brennan Boyajian versus ninth seed Ryan Harrison. Boyajian, 16, has been playing loads of high quality tennis extending back to his Easter Bowl championship in April, while the 14-year-old Harrison seems to have put his injury problems behind him and can't be taken lightly on any surface.

With so many matches of interest on the schedule for Thursday, including consolation matches that start at 8 a.m., it's time I got some rest after a long day of travel.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

SMASH Column, Pre-Clay Edition

I'm back on the road on Wednesday, eager to see clay court tennis again for the first time in a year. Short season here in the U.S. for juniors on clay, isn't it? My weekly SMASH online column is up and also, although it isn't available online, I did receive my August issue of Tennis Magazine today, with my Sam Querrey story in it.

Expect a post from the Clays tomorrow evening, but it could be quite late.

Are No. 1 Juniors Sure Things?

Thanks to tangerine, who posted a link to the Triple A Tennis post yesterday about this Tennis Week article by Dan Markowitz that explores the careers of juniors who were once No. 1s (at year end.)

He seems to think the success rate is poor, but I've given this a lot of thought, and I'm more inclined to agree with the anonymous poster who listed the last ten boys who finished number one. It's an impressive list. It may not be a guarantee, but it's the way to bet.

That said, it's still a useful article, especially when Markowitz speaks to those who have been only moderately successful. It gives a glimpse of some of the pitfalls they encountered and the regrets they have. Current top-level juniors and their parents should read those sections carefully.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Triple A Tennis

The San Jose Mercury News has a preview of the $75,000 Challenger in Aptos this week and it's not your standard "Rising-Stars-Play-At-Local-Club" look at tennis' minor leagues. Instead, the headline is DREAMERS WAITING ON TENNIS' OUTSKIRTS, and it centers on the hopes and disappointments of being outside the ATP Top 100.

Robert Kendrick, Jeff Salzenstein, Paul Goldstein and Lesley Joseph are all quoted (unfortunately I missed the New York Times article about Joseph back in May and it's no longer available for free) on the arc of their careers, the pecking order of tennis, and the very big difference between a short stay at this level (think Andy Murray or Sam Querrey) and years and years of scraping by.

Part of Andre Agassi's legacy is his reinvention of what it means to be old in tennis terms, at least for generations who don't have any memory of Rosewall or Connors. Justin Gimelstob, for example, just reached his first ATP tour final at age 29, and he's probably played nearly as many Challengers and Futures as Goldstein has. Maybe 32-year-old Jeff Salzenstein's best tennis is in front of him. He's certainly seen enough of his competition to be the most accurate judge of that.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hard To Mold Players On Clay: Washington Post

The USTA National Clay Court Championships started Sunday in several locations, with this article surfacing in the Washington Post as the Boys' 18s & 16s divisions begin play in Rockville Maryland and other clubs in suburban DC. The discomfort that clay produces in U.S. players isn't going to be solved in a few column inches, but it is always useful to hear the opinions of people who have been thinking about the problem.

Last year was my first experience ever with a national level clay court event when I spent the entire duration of the tournament in Rockville. Although the heat and humidity made it decidedly uncomfortable, I was enthralled by the tennis, and by the physical and mental toughness the surface and the conditions demanded. This year I'm not going until Wednesday, which means I'm hoping all the best players are still around. No singles seeds played on Sunday, the tournament's first day, so there were no upsets today, but several are sure to fall on Monday.

Two rounds of doubles are played the first day, and due to the heat, the third set was reduced to a tiebreak. I wasn't aware this was an option at a Level 1 National, but the USTA's Lew Brewer assures me it is, so with that ATP-style resolution, a few more upsets could happen in doubles. With the results incomplete as of this posting, I don't know if they have, but I'll be checking the ustaclay.com site often in the next two days.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Price of Prodigy: Allen St. John - tennis.com

Allen St. John's recently posted piece on Donald Young doesn't shy away from what he terms "the full-fledged backlash" that Young's hype has caused. It was obviously written before the disappointing Wimbledon Junior result, which is just the latest in a long line of big junior tournaments where he hasn't advanced as far as his seeding. His win at the Easter Bowl in April established that he was still king of the U.S. junior hill, but the age eligibility in Palm Springs eliminated some formidable players who will be eligible to play Kalamazoo next month.

Young is entered, as are these top U.S. juniors who did not play the Easter Bowl, but have instead been playing the Pro Circuit: Alex Clayton, Marcus Fugate, Jesse Levine, Mike McClune, Holden Seguso, Tim Smyczek. In fact five of the eight 2005 quarterfinalists in the 18s are expected to play again this year, drawn by that precious U.S. Open main draw wildcard. Notably absent will be last year's finalist Sam Querrey, who though still age-eligble, has risen over 800 spots in the ATP rankings since last year at this time (to 207) and will almost certainly be given a main draw wild card into the Open. Has Young's progress stalled? His performance in Kalamazoo this year will go a long way toward answering that question.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Courting Success:: Mail Tribune

A Wimbledon title is big news, there's no doubt about it. Kellen Damico got his due in the Denver Post, and his doubles partner and fellow Wimbledon champion Nate Schnugg also gets a spread in his local Southern Oregon newspaper. There's lots of interesting detail, but there is also an error in this article--Damico and Schnugg were finalists in Australia in January, but they did not win the championship in double there.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hochwalt Makes Florida His Early Choice

©Colette Lewis 2006

Arizona’s Tyler Hochwalt has verbally committed to Coach Andy Jackson’s Florida Gators and will join the team in the fall of 2007.

"I made an unofficial visit back in February, and I loved it there,” said Hochwalt, who told Jackson of his decision on Wednesday. “It was the first school I had visited, but with Coach Jackson and all the guys on the team, it seemed a perfect fit for me."

Hochwalt, ranked 11th nationally among seniors by tennisrecruiting.net, was interested in making an early commitment, but the July 1st direct contact period was key in his decision-making process.

"I wanted to speak to the coaches directly about what they could offer in terms of where I want to take my tennis,” said Hochwalt, who is currently training at Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego and home schooling through Laurel Springs. “Coach Jackson came out to San Diego on that day (July 1). He watched me practice and we talked about my plans."

"After that I talked with other coaches and it took me about a week and a half to make my decision,” Hochwalt said, "but all this was a good experience for me, learning about the schools and their programs.”

Other possibilities he considered were UCLA, Texas and Miami, but the sunshine was an important factor for the Scottsdale native.

"There are other schools that I really respect the programs and the coaches, but I just wasn’t going to go there," Hochwalt said. “I’m not a cold weather kid.”

Admitting to some relief that the decision is behind him, Hochwalt now heads to Rockville, Maryland for the National Clay Court Championships, a place that holds special memories for him. In 2005, he swept both the singles and the doubles titles in the 16s division; this year he is moving up, and is seeded in the 5-8 group in the 18s.

It's one step in a series that he will make over the next year, but he’s ready for the challenge of college tennis.

"Coach Jackson is a great person and a great coach. I’m excited about playing for him."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

SMASH Column, Wimbledon Edition

This week's online column includes the Wimbledon winners and a couple of U.S. juniors who won pro events last weekend. One of them, Ashley Weinhold, is featured on usta.com as the Pro Circuit Player of the Week.

And the Denver Post has taken notice of Kellen Damico's Wimbledon doubles title with an article about him and his sister Krista. One correction--Krista won't be playing the Girls 16 Nationals in October, but rather in August.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Next Big Thing: Linda Pearce in The Age

This is a comprehensive, balanced and nuanced story about 13-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia.

Since seeing him win the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s in 2004, I've followed his career very closely and have linked to several stories from Australia that accompanied his four straight wins in ITF junior events earlier this year. (Full disclosure--I've since become friends with his family and met his coach while in Australia). The depth and breadth of this feature sets it apart from the others I've read, and it is an interesting contrast to view Tomic's path with that of Sam Querrey, who won the Winnetka Challenger last Sunday and is now at 207 in the ATP rankings.
The Los Angeles Times explains the approach he and his family took in this article entitled U.S. Tennis Looks to a 6-foot-6 Answer.

Monday, July 10, 2006

N.C.A.A. to Meet on Rules for Recruits:: New York Times

I missed this story on the meeting between the NCAA and a group of college coaches to address the foreign eligibility issue. But fortunately, I have readers who know when I've overlooked something, and I appreciate being told of its publication. There is nothing in the proposals mentioned in this account that I wouldn't wholeheartedly support. No quotas, just a sensible attempt to make sure that everyone in U.S. college tennis is truly an amateur, and to punish more severely those who cheat.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Damico and Schnugg Earn Wimbledon Doubles Title

The patches of green in the parched courts of American tennis at Wimbledon this year were confined to male doubles, but the U.S. did claim two championships over the weekend. On Saturday the Bryan brothers won their first Wimbledon men's doubles title, completing the career Grand Slam and on Sunday, Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg captured their first junior slam title with a 7-6 (7), 6-2 victory over the Slovak team of Martin Klizan and Andrei Martin. Wimbledon.org has an account of the finals here.

Damico and Schnugg, both 17, were doubles finalists in Australia this year, but didn't play together at Roland Garros. Childhood friends who have been doubles partners for years, Damico and Schnugg were not seeded at Wimbledon. The ITF has chosen to continue its practice of seeding doubles by combining the individual rankings of the pair, which discounts entirely the experience and teamwork facets of the game. When the draw came out and Damico and Schnugg got the top seeded team of Thiemo de Bakker and Alexandre Sidorenko in the first round, I thought to myself that it was a tough draw--for both teams. And although they didn't have a straight set match until the final, Damico and Schnugg proved that a seed is only as good as the information being used to decide it. Last year, the U.S. team of Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz also won the Wimbledon title unseeded, and were not seeded at the U.S. Open, a scenario that could again play out this year.

But Schnugg has a decision to make, as he has also had great success playing with Jamie Hunt this year--winning the Grade A Banana Bowl this spring and reaching the finals at the Grade A Italian Open. But before the U.S. Open comes Kalamazoo, where the main draw wild card to the U.S. Open is at stake. It will be interesting to see who is playing whom next month.

The girls title went to the second seeds Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alisa Kleybanova of Russia. Pavelyuchenkova won the first two girls' Grand Slam doubles titles of 2006 with Canadian Sharon Fichman, but with Fichman not playing at Wimbledon, the fifteen-year-old found herself another two-time Grand Slam doubles champion in Kleybanova, who won the 2003 Wimbledon Junior title and last year's U.S. Open Junior title. Like Viktoria Azarenka last year, Pavlyuchenkova will arrive at the year's final junior championship with a chance for the doubles slam. Azarenka's attempt was derailed by her partner's injury; Pavlyuchenkova may want to consider health when deciding on a teammate.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Wozniacki and De Bakker Win Singles Titles; Damico and Schnugg Reach Doubles Finals

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands have given their countries their first Wimbledon junior champions.

The fourth seeded Wozniacki, who will turn 16 on Tuesday, won the 2005 Orange Bowl and was a finalist in Australia this year, but on Saturday she got her biggest win ever, defeating sixth seed Magdalena Rybarikova of the Slovak Republic 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. In Friday's semifinal win over unseeded Urszula Radwanska, Wozniacki saved three match points, and in Eleanor Preston's account on the ITF junior website, she admitted that the experience she's gained playing in high level junior events was a key factor in her comebacks the past two days. Now represented by SFX, the sports management agency, Wozniacki says she'll be playing the U.S. Open Juniors before setting her sights on the pro tour. I'm sure SFX is hoping the attractive and personable Dane, who speaks excellent English, makes her way through what promises to be a very competitive girls draw.

De Bakker has been the top seed at all three of the junior Slams this year, but today's match marked his first final. Playing unseeded Polish qualifier Marcin Gawron, de Bakker, 17, prevailed 6-2, 7-6 (4), becoming the first seeded boy to win a Grand Slam singles title since Donald Young's 2005 Australian victory. Wimbledon.org has the details here. De Bakker is an impressive 41-3 this year and will most certainly be the top seed at the U. S. Open junior championships. It's a notable accomplishment to earn the no. 1 seed in all four slams, but he'll be challenged in New York, that's for sure.

In a switch from most junior Slams, Wimbledon plays the singles finals before the doubles, and on Sunday, while the world is watching Federer and Nadal, Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg will be playing for the boys' doubles title. Unseeded, Damico and Schnugg-- finalists in Australia this year-- took their fourth straight three-set victory Saturday to earn a chance at the Slovakian team of Martin Klizan and Andrei Martin, the second seeds.

If Damico and Schnugg win, it will be the third straight year that U.S. junior boys have earned the title. Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema won in 2004 and Jesse Levine and Michael Shabaz were the 2005 champions.

Friday, July 7, 2006

U.S. Players in Winnetka Challenger Defend Their Brethren

There's aren't many tennis events this week in the U.S where it's possible to avoid the topic of "what's wrong with American tennis?" Certainly a $50,000 Challenger outside a major media market like Chicago won't escape the scrutiny of a reporter determined to chime in on the subject.

This Chicago Tribune story quotes Scoville Jenkins, Phillip Simmonds, Amer Delic and Sam Querrey. Querrey, by the way, has reached Saturday's semifinals. Eliot Teltscher of the USTA High Performance program also has plenty to say. (One thing he says I most certainly do NOT agree with--that Michael Jordan would have been the best tennis player in the world if he had started in tennis not basketball. Jordan may have been a formidable tennis player, but as he's shown in golf and in his brief foray in minor league baseball, skills in one sport don't always translate to similar excellence in another.) Even Donald Young is pulled in to the scene, although quoted indirectly.

But perhaps there has been too much piling on by the media on this subject. And if you are looking for the contrarian view, here's a good one, by Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle. It's entitled American tennis in down period, but so what?

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Transcript of Player Development Roundtable

I'll admit to being disappointed that I wasn't invited to participate in this conference call (that's what I get for not being at Wimbledon) about the new Player Development initiative, but I appreciate having access to the entire (lengthy) transcript.

Paul Roetert, Chris Evert, John Evert, Billie Jean King, Pat McEnroe (before he was disconnected) and Franklin Johnson discussed the move from Key Biscayne and took questions from reporters. (Someone did try to get some dollar/budget numbers). My initial reaction is, as I said yesterday, positive, but if they keep to the 20 player number, I don't like the math. That boils down to just two players from each birth year--10 boys and 10 girls. One of the biggest complaints I hear, and share, is that the USTA selects a few players at a very young age and devotes all their efforts and resources to them, ignoring hundreds of other talented juniors who may develop or come to the game later. These small numbers put even more pressure on the USTA to make unerring talent assessments, and frankly, their past track record in that regard doesn't inspire confidence.

Here's an interesting quote I ran across in the London Times from Craig Tiley, now Australia's Director of Player Development, and from some of the comments I received on yesterday's post, I think many of you share this view.

Tiley said: “I am not a believer that national federations are the answer to player development. They play a part, they can accelerate the process, but the moment they become the ‘whole solution’ to the process, the athlete will likely not make it anyway. And I don’t believe in measuring success by a player’s ranking — success is measured based on the pathway the player has through a process, whether it be privately funded, government funded or federation funded. In that way you are more likely to have positive results."

SMASH Column, Early Wimbledon Edition

My weekley SMASH online column is available now. With the long holiday weekend, a few of the items seem to have happened some time ago, but I was also able to incorporate the beginning of Wimbledon Junior competition. And again, you can play the "who's that player in the photo?" game.

Speaking of Wimbledon, the semifinals in singles are set and the chances are good that we'll have our sixth straight unseeded boys Grand Slam champion. Of the four players remaining, only Thiemo de Bakker, No. 1, had the benefit of a seed. The girls event is again following closer to form, but Caroline Wozniacki at No. 4, is the highest of the three seeds remaining. Eleanor Preston features Wozniacki in her article for the ITF. Whatever you do, don't read this wimbledon.org story. It gives the wrong winner in the Roshardt/Konecny match.

Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg have reached the quarterfinals in the boys' doubles as have Julia Cohen and Kim Couts on the girls' side. Lindsay Burdette, who is partnering Roxane Vaisemburg of Brazil, has also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Bricker Scolds Damico

With no Americans in the second week, the attention of the U.S. media has been directed to the juniors, and in this article the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel's Charlie Bricker takes some shots at Kellen Damico's behavior.

Those who read my account of Damico's Easter Bowl match with Steve Forman aren't surprised by what's contained in this story. Most of the comments I received on that story addressed his history of outbursts and the USTA's failure to do anything about it. I sincerely hope the anger management/mental toughness expert he's said to be working with produces a change.

With Donald Young losing today in the third round to Robin Roshardt of Switzerland, who also defeated Young at last year's Orange Bowl, Damico and Nate Schnugg were one of the few bright spots for the U.S. The Australian Open Junior finalists (unseeded of course, as the ITF doesn't look at past doubles results) defeated the top seeded team of Thiemo de Bakker and Alexandre Siderenko 7-5 in the third in the opening round of doubles. Julia Cohen and Kim Couts also won their first round match. Jamie Hunt, who is playing with Roberto Maytin of Venezuela also was a first round doubles winner. Dennis Lajola, who is playing with Kenyan Christian Vitulli, is through to the quarterfinals.

Long-awaited announcement on USTA training center released

It's been unofficial for months, but the USTA has finally inked an agreement with the Evert Tennis Academy to serve as the replacement for the Key Biscayne traiing facility and High Performance National Headquarters. The press release on usta.com features upbeat quotes from Chris Evert, Franklin Johnson and Paul Roetert, and some numbers that tout the 2005 success of U.S. juniors, but the need for a new approach is emphasized by the recent Wimbledon results. Not only did no U.S. professionals make the second week of singles, but it was the third consecutive Grand Slam without a U.S. junior making the quarterfinals.

I think onsite housing and the predominance of clay courts are reasons to be encouraged by the move but with no dollar amounts being revealed it is difficult to assess the cost/benefit equation. No one will complain if there are tangible, quantifiable results, but that's a big if.

On Tennis Week's website there's a different perspective on this announcement and their story features some very interesting comments from Billie Jean King. One quote however, puzzled me.

"Our kids do not want to practice or even play against each other. That is ludicrous," King said. "I don't know where that started. It must be the coaches and the parents. But get over it. You've got to compete. And if you don't like it, tough, then you shouldn't want to be a professional player."

I'm not sure what kids she's talking about. Obviously, the players I know and see at tournaments (and their parents) do want to compete, or they wouldn't go to the considerable expense of travelling all over the country (and world) to do so. And I also hear of plenty of juniors who want desperately to be invited to train and practice with other nationally ranked players at the USTA training centers. Do any of you know who these juniors are that refuse to play or train with others?

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

National Open Report

©Colette Lewis 2006
Midland MI--

It's usually the bigger the firecracker, the bigger the bang, but in the girls 14s action Tuesday, it was the smallest two players that made the most noise at the Midland Community Tennis Center.

Kyle McPhillips, the USTA's top-ranked 12-and-under girl, is now concentrating on the 14s age division, and was seeded third here, but the Ohioan hasn't lost a set, or even more than four games in any of her matches. In today's quarterfinals, she stumbled briefly at the beginning against 12th seed Kristen Dodge, but then reeled off eight games in a row and ended up with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. To describe her as small doesn't quite capture how young-looking she is, but her opponents are learning not to underestimate the game that emanates from that tiny frame. An hour after dispatching Dodge, McPhillips took the court for her semifinal match and disposed of ninth seed Carolyn Chupa 6-1, 6-3, again putting on a burst at the finish to close out strong.

McPhillips will meet a Midwest section nemesis in Wednesday's final, Monica Turewicz, who may be a few inches taller but probably weighs even less. Turewicz, seeded fourth, took out fifth seed Tina Tehrani 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and then dismantled unseeded giant-killer Lauren Davis, who had defeated top seed Elizabeth Begley in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-0. The 13-year-old lefthander from Illinois knows well the challenge ahead in the final as she and McPhillips met just last week in the semifinals of the Midwest Closed 14s, with McPhillips winning 6-4, 6-2.

The boys singles final will feature top seed and Midwest Closed champion Justin Rossi of Michigan against his doubles partner Nick Chappell of Indiana, the third seed. Chappell had a much tougher struggle in the quarterfinals, where sixth seed Harry Seaborn had him on the ropes, but couldn't land the knockout punch, with Chappell prevailing 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Fortunately for Chappell, the weather was ideal-- with low humidity, temperatures in the upper 70s and a steady breeze-- not the sauna that outdoor tennis can resemble this time of year. Like Turewicz, Chappell faced a semifinal opponent who hadn't had much time to savor a big win in the quarterfinals. Michael Elortegui, the seventh seed, had duelled with second seed Hamish Weerasinghe for over two and a half hours before emerging with a win, and although he twice served for the first set against Chappell, he couldn't close. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, Elortegui's focus and effort evaporated and Chappell took the second set at love.

Rossi's quarterfinal and semifinal wins were decidedly less dramatic. Fifth seed Michael Zhu was vanquished by a 6-2, 6-4 score in the quarterfinals and fourth seed Bjorn Fratangelo couldn't stay on Rossi's level after the first five game and fell 6-3, 6-1. Rossi's backhand, which is as short and compact as his forehand is long and drawn out, rarely failed him and his skill at keeping a point alive eventually forced his opponents to try for too much.

Although we left the impressive tennis complex before the doubles finals were completed, I can report that Chappell and Rossi, the top seeds, did take the title, 8-5, over Fratangelo and Nikola Kocovic, the fourth seeded team.

The girls' doubles title went to the unseeded team of Nicole Chiricosta and Katie Klyczek, who defeated the top seeds in the semis and the second seeds Begley and Kayla Fujimoto 8-6.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Live Tennis Featuring Americans!

Tomorrow I'll be at the boys' and girls' 14s National Open in Midland Michigan, a day trip for me. All I've been reading for the past two days are obituaries for U.S. tennis, so it will be refreshing to get back to the future so to speak. There are a couple of items I want to feature that address the decline and fall of American tennis primarily because they're authored by two of my favorite tennis writers. Whit Sheppard, a friend from my first Grand Slam--the 2004 US Open--freelances often for ESPN.com and he gets some interesting comments from the Bryan brothers in this piece.

And Peter Bodo has arrived in Wimbledon just as all the Americans left, but he has written a beautiful post entitled "Requiem for a Tennis Power." Several of those commenting offer their own thoughtful analysis on what's happened.

As for the action today at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, well there are a few U.S. players left. Julia Cohen and Donald Young won their first round matches, joining Chelsey Gullickson, Kellen Damico, Clint Bowles and Jamie Hunt in the second round.

The day's big upset was scored by Jaak Poldma of Estonia, who took out French Open champion and second seed Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic in three sets.

Wimbledon.org has a roundup article that appears accurate.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

College Recruiting Escalates

Yesterday was the first day that Division I college coaches could phone or visit high school seniors, and even with several early announcements, there are plenty of very talented players who have yet to decide on a school. The Tennis Recruiting Network published this primer by their contributing expert Dede Allen on Friday, and any player or parent with scholarship aspirations should read it.

TR.net also has a very thorough wrap up of the Southern California Sectionals by the same writer who provided the LA Daily News story that I linked to last week. This one is not geographically restricted and gives Logan Hansen and Nick Meister the full champion's treatment.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

ITF Bloggers Bow Out at Wimbledon

Top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's stay at Wimbledon was a short one as she fell in first round singles action Saturday to Kristina Kucova of the Slovak Republic. Stephen Donald of Australia, the other ITF blogger, also lost, to Croatia's Luka Belic, but Donald wasn't seeded, and Belic is no. 6, so that's not a surprise. Wimbledon.org's account of the Pavlyuchenkova/Kucova match is here. Neither player has yet to post anything regarding their losses.

I was critical of Rolandgarros.com for their failure to pay any attention to the juniors until the finals, and Wimbledon's site has already posted two stories on the first day. So apparently they have the staff to do the work, but after reading their junior preview I'm left wondering if it wouldn't be better to have nothing at all. The writer gives the wrong boys' winner and finalist at Roehampton and then goes on to make the preposterous claim that Great Britain has only one girl contending for the junior title. They actually have seven--six wild cards and a qualifier. If I recall there was the same sloppy junior reporting last year; if I really want to know what happened I'll go to the ITF junior site. Eleanor Preston's opening day piece is here.

It wasn't a good day for the Australian junior champions, as first Pavlyuchenkova and then Alexandre Sidorenko went down. Sidorenko, of France, the fourth seed, lost to his friend Pavel Chekhov, whom he beat in the semifinals Down Under.

Jamie Hunt of the U.S. got his first Grand Slam singles win, beating James Lemke of Australia in three sets. Kellen Damico and Clint Bowles also won, while Nate Schnugg and Dennis Lajola dropped their opening matches. Donald Young did not play. Only two U.S. girls took the court on Saturday; Chelsey Gullickson won her match, Madison Brengle did not.

For complete draws, see wimbledon.org.