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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Paszek Discovered by WTA website

Bob Larson's Tennis News is an indispensable resource for pro tennis news, and I discovered this "getting to know" article on Tamira Paszek from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website via his Tennis News section.

From my brief conversations with Paszek in New York, I was impressed by her maturity and her cosmopolitan outlook. Her family history provides some clue where that came from.

Tennis News has recently added to the home page sections entitled Jr. Tennis News and Jr. Tournament News, which I hope will add to more mainstream exposure for juniors.

I've also recently come upon another site, called Matrix (?) that provides a quick overview of every ITF Junior event winner by week, with their birthdate included. It's a quick, one-page, one-click overview, which saves the time of going back and forth on the ITF junior site.

Also, this week's Inside Junior Tennis podcast is available now. I want to add that Kevin McClure and I discuss the new combined ranking that the USTA is implementing, which will include doubles results. I said in the podcast that I thought it was starting in 2007. It is actually going to begin in 2008.

Friday, September 29, 2006

SMASH Column, Post-vacation edition

My SMASH online column is now posted, with, drum roll.....a relevant photograph accompanying it.

Also thanks to an anonymous poster, there is a new college and junior tennis blog for you to check out. It's called undergroundtennis.com, UGT for short, and the person behind it is anonymous and encourages you to leave comments that way as well. Check it out, I think you'll like it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bad News from Barcelona

There was no victory for either the U.S. Junior Fed Cup or Junior Davis Cup teams today in Barcelona. The girls, seeded second, lost the doubles point, and the match, to seventh seed Belarus 2-1, relegating them to the competition for fifth place. All three matches went three sets. Brengle won, Gullickson lost and they lost as a doubles team, although I can't figure out what the score was from the ITF juniors site.

The boys lost again, this time to Italy 3-0, and are now in the bottom group, playing for, at best, 13th place. After being seeded second, this is probably not where they expected to end up. But then the seedings are always guesswork. Two unseeded teams, Chile and Brazil, have advanced to the semifinals, along with third seed The Netherlands and fourth seed Russia.

The ITF's roundup story is here.

Following the surprising run of Tamira Paszek to her first WTA title, we now have another junior, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, making more news. (She and her sister Urszula won the Junior Fed Cup for Poland last year). Thursday the 17-year-old qualifier defeated Venus Williams 6-3, 6-0 in a Tier II event in Luxembourg. Even with Williams suffering a recurrence of her wrist injury, that's an impressive score for the 2006 French Open girls' champion. The details on the match from the WTA website are here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Underway

Unlike the Fed Cup and Davis Cup, the junior versions are held in one place--Barcelona--and the same week every year--the last week of September. These competitions are for age 16-and-under players; the World Junior Tennis Championships held in August in the Czech Republic are the 14-and-unders version.

The U.S. teams came in very highly regarded, which is somewhat surprising given the surface is clay, with both girls and boys teams seeded second. France, the defending champions in Jr. Davis Cup, is the top seed; for the girls, Russia, with U.S. Open Junior Girls Champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova leading them, is no. 1.

The U.S. boys' team, consisting of Jarmere Jenkins, Austin Krajicek and Bradley Klahn, has already lost to both Japan and Brazil (competition started Tuesday), so they have no chance of advancing to the semifinals.

The girls--Madison Brengle, Chelsey Gullickson and Kristy Frilling, are 2-0 however, having beaten Japan and Spain. On Thursday, they face no. 7 seed Belarus, also 2-0, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. Belarus features Ksenia Milevskaya, the world's third ranked junior girl, who didn't lose a game to Japan's no. 1 player today. Milevskaya, winner of the Grade 1 in Canada before the U.S. Open juniors and the Grade 1 in Kentucky afterward, has beaten Gullickson, the U.S. no. 1, both times they've played. The U.S. team is deeper, which is why the seedings make Belarus the underdog.

Eleanor Preston is covering the competitions for the ITF. Her story on Wednesday's competition is available at the ifttennis.com/juniors website.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quick Weekend Update

I've just got a few moments here to congratulate Sam Querrey, who won the $50,000 Lubbock Challenger and U.S. Open Jr. girls finalist Tamira Paszek, who won her first WTA event, as a qualifier. They will certainly be "ACES" in my SMASH online column, which will be delayed this week due to my vacation.

The Lubbock article on Querrey's win requires registration.

The WTA story on Paszek's win is a comprehensive one. Maybe she'll rate a profile of her own, now that she's reached 160 in the rankings. Querrey is now at 134 in the ATP rankings, in tenth place among Americans.

Now back to Clifford the Big Red Dog and Maisy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Short Break

I'm taking a few days off to visit my brother and his family in North Carolina, and I'm not sure how much I'll post for the next four or five days.

If the U.S. Davis Cup team miraculously rebounds from down 2-0, I suppose that could prompt me, but my brother's a golf course superintendent, so I imagine we'll spend a lot of time watching that other Cup competition going on in Europe. We're trailing in that one too, but maybe Roger Federer's new best friend can turn it around.

So, while I'm away, keep thinking on the High Performance issue (I think it's time we give Coco Vandeweghe a rest), the Flat World, etc., and I'll try not to fall too far behind on moderating the comments.

I'll sign off with several links. Usta.com has put Jamie Hunt in its Junior Spotlight, tennisrecruiting.net has added a couple of profiles recently, and US Open junior girls runnerup Tamira Paszek of Austria has just reached the semifinals of a WTA tour event in Slovenia. Here's the WTA's story of her win today.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Tennis World is Flat, too

My book club meets tonight and we'll be discussing Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. The women in my group are not sports or tennis fans, so the book's brief mention of international basketball probably won't come up. So that part of this important look at how the world has changed will get shunted aside to discuss the economic and political ramifications of his theory/observations, and admittedly they are much more important issues. But after my defense of foreign players in U.S. college tennis in May, I was eager to find vindication in Friedman's brief sports reference, and I did. (Pages 250 and 251 for those of you browsing at Borders or Barnes and Noble.) I'll quote briefly.

You could find no better metaphor for the way the rest of the world can now compete head-to-head more effectively than ever with America than the struggles of the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 2004. The American team, made up of NBA stars, limped home to a bronze medal after losing to Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina...

There is something about post-World War II America that reminds me of the classic wealthy family that by the third generation starts to squander its wealth. The members of the first generation are nose-to-the-grindstone innovators; the second generation holds it all together; then their kids come along and get fat, dumb, and lazy and slowly squander it all. I know that is both overly harsh and a gross generalization, but there is, nevertheless, some truth in it. American society started to coast in the 1990s, when our third postwar generation came of age. The dot-com boom left too many people with the impression that they could get rich without investing in hard work. All it took was an MBA and a quick IPO, or one NBA contract, and you were set for life. But while we were admiring the flat world we had created, a lot of people in India, China and Eastern Europe were busy figuring out how to take advantage of it.

Friedman is no leftist, anti-American zealot. He refers often to the United States as the world's "Dream Factory." But what he calls "a huge sense of entitlement and complacency" could find us falling behind, building walls instead of digging deep.

Other than perhaps soccer, there is no sport more global than tennis. One of the great strengths of the United States that Friedman cites is its system of higher education. Welcoming tennis players from other countries to our institutions is good for us--they see a different America than the one on CNN--and good for them--they get a chance to acquire skills and connections to help them become innovators and positive role models. Or maybe, cynically, they just help their school win an NCAA title, raise the level of competition for everyone, and go back to their home country better tennis players. I hope it's the former, but even if it's the latter, I suspect Friedman would approve.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SMASH Column, Lexington edition

My online column for SMASH was posted today. If anyone has a clue about the mysterious photograph that's been used the past two weeks, I'd love to know just where those tennis courts are.

I also did my second "Inside Junior Tennis" podcast with Kevin McClure. We're still searching for our structure, but I do enjoy our conversations. If there are any topics you'd like us to discuss, please email me by going to this page.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A bright contingent of junior stars ready to shine:: San Diego Union Tribune

This story by Jerry Magee, a longtime tennis writer from San Diego, has a rather odd headline, but the first part contains an interesting look at the potential of two young tennis players, Coco Vandeweghe of San Diego and the world's top-ranked junior and US Open girls winner, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

The first pro is underwhelmed by Pavlyuchenkova and believes Vandeweghe is more likely to hold her own with a pro, citing her July loss as a wild card in the WTA San Diego event.

I disagree, and not because I think Vandeweghe is deficient in potential or talent. What she's lacking, and Pavlyuchenkova is not, is competition, play. Despite the pro's assessment, Pavlyuchenkova has already won a small Futures event and two junior Grand Slams. That matters. That proves something. She can win. And that, after all, is what tennis is about. Not holding your own, or having talent, or being an athlete, but winning.

Vandeweghe could prove to be, as is alluded to here, another Serena Williams, who didn't play junior tennis or much of anything before she arrived on the pro circuit. And she would be just in time to take the place of another Southern California six-footer, Lindsay Davenport. But she'll need to win at some point, and Pavlyuchenkova is already in the habit of doing that.

I'm much more in the camp of the volunteer assistant at San Diego State, when he is asked his opinion of Pavlyuchenkova's game. But in five or six years, let's hope that we'll see both girls, having taken different paths, succeed in getting what they want from the game.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Davis Cup Preview:: Bonnie DeSimone, espn.com

In addition to her look ahead at this weekend's Davis Cup tie in Moscow between the U.S. and Russia, DeSimone adds a profile of hitting partner Nikita Kryvonos. Ever since she told me about it, I've been looking forward to it, and it's a tale of adversity and perseverance, one of sport's oldest (and best) storylines.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

If I Ran USTA High Performance....

When I posted Scott Price's article on the USTA's role in player development, I didn't have sufficient time to digest all it said, as well as the other discussions we had about the subject. It's a very complex subject, but the sentences that stand out the most to me are these:

But shoved along now by the momentum of his own hype, USTA chief executive Arlen Kantarian ignores the central historic fact of American tennis: No Open era Hall of Famer arose from a centralized bureaucracy. The modern game has been built on developmental anomalies like Pete Sampras and the Williams sisters, on self-promoting zealots like Macci, and parents will continue to trust those teachers with their little stars -- and resent the USTA for not financing them.

So do we just wash our hands of the whole process? Chalk up the budget of High Performance as a waste of money and the new Evert initiative as the latest reactionary response to the "do something" clamor arising from an unfortunate Wimbledon?

Not me. I think there is room for improvements that can make a difference. If you are reading this and you've had a son or daughter in junior tennis, play or haved played junior or college tennis yourself, have volunteered for your section or a tournament, you've seen enough to know what those things might be. I don't care if you post anonymously or spend the USTA's money. Tell me what you would do if you were responsible for player development in the United States. I'll start.

The first thing I would do:

Invite the singles winners of the USTA National Championships (this would be a maximum of 32 players, realistically it will be fewer) to a high performance camp at Carson, the National Tennis Center or Key Biscayne, all expenses paid. The player would have his or her choice of several possible dates, so it can be scheduled around school.

The second thing I would do:
Send an employee to meet the coach or coaches of these winners at their clubs or academies, and ask how the USTA could help them.

In order to keep this post near the top of the blog, I'll be changing the posting date to the current day for the first few days of this week. Hope it doesn't confuse any of you using FeedBlitz.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More About College Tennis

One of the bloggers I read regularly is Nina Rota, who has been following Benjamin Becker long before he made his media debut in New York. In this post she is at the Claremont Futures in California, talking with Jeff Zeller and Harsh Mankad about foreign players on U.S. college teams.

Liza Horan of tenniswire.org wrote about the issue during the U.S. Open. She wisely discussed the topic with Marcia Frost and quotes her often in this post.

Friday, September 15, 2006

College Tennis Raises Profile

My next tournament trip is the Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championships, the big Intercollegiate Tennis Association's men's fall event in Tulsa, so I'm starting pay more attention to college tennis again. One big tournament, the Southern Intercollegiate Championships, demonstrated just how good Georgia is going to be this year. John Isner repeated as singles champion, and this year he defeated teammate Luis Flores in the final. Isner and Flores won the doubles title too, and Isner didn't lose his serve, in singles or doubles, in the tournament. Full details here.

The ITA website details the success of players with college backgrounds in this article.

And two former collegiate stars, Rajeev Ram of Illinois and Sam Warburg of Stanford, are asked what's wrong with U.S. tennis by the New Orleans reporter assigned to cover the Challenger being held there this week.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

SMASH Column, U.S. Open Junior Championships Edition

My online SMASH column was posted this evening, and this morning, my article on the boys' junior doubles final was published on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

But wait, there's more. Kevin McClure of the TheTennisPodcast telephoned me Tuesday evening to talk about the U.S. Open Juniors as part of our new collaboration Inside Junior Tennis (he does all the work, I just talk). That half-hour plus podcast is available via iTunes, (search Tennis) or from Kevin's website.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

King focused following decision to turn pro:: Bonnie DeSimone for ESPN.com

One of the best parts of going to the U.S. Open is being surrounded by hundreds of writers/reporters who know (and love) tennis. It's also great to chat with a few of them, although everyone's always so busy that schedules rarely allow more than a brief conversation.

Bonnie DeSimone and I have been corresponding via email for months now and we finally met in April at the Davis Cup in Rancho Mirage. She's contacted me to thank me to linking to one of her stories back in December, and when I knew she was going to be at the Open for the duration, I made sure to say hello.

On the rainy night when stories weren't quite so pressing, we did get a chance to sit down and talk. She was interested in the Nikita Kryvonos as Davis Cup hitting partner announcement, and I told her what I knew about him and his family. She later interviewed him and I'll be linking to her story when it comes out.

Her story about Vania King is from the first week of the Open, but I missed it somehow in my focus on the upcoming junior event. I managed to catch a couple of games of King's second round women's doubles match on my way from one junior court to another, but that didn't tell me much about the jump her game has taken in the past year.

Because of Bonnie's coverage, I know how difficult a decision it was for King, even with her rapid rise in the rankings. But she didn't rush it, and I suspect she won't have any regrets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tom Tebbutt on Peter Polansky

Tom Tebbutt is one of the most respected tennis journalists in the world and he's Canadian, which, when you think about it, is a pity for him. Quick, name the best Canadian male and female player of the Open Era. And no, Greg Rusedski doesn't count.
Despite the global nature of the sport, it's always a treat to write about someone from your own country capturing titles. Tebbutt hasn't had that pleasure.

But with two Grand Slam junior finalists this year, Philip Bester at the French and Peter Polansky in New York, things are looking up for Canadian men's tennis at least.

This article on Peter Polansky covers most of the same territory that was contained in my reports last week, with the added info that Polansky will probably sign with a agency soon. I know that once he defeated Klizan in the second round, there were plenty of agents watching Polansky's every move.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Goodbye to New York

September 11th is now a day for perspective, and as I prepare to return home Monday evening, I'm reminded that the frenzied week of tennis I've just experienced isn't much in the grand scheme of things.

Because of rain on Tuesday, the doubles finals were pushed back a day, and I had to change my flight back home from Sunday to Monday to be able to be at the match. I owe Marcia Frost a huge thank you for offering me her spare room and a ride to the airport for this last minute change. She's promised to let us reciprocate in Kalamazoo, an event she's hasn't yet attended. I know I'm not the only one who was changing reservations. I think Austin Krajicek had to rebook five or six times because he and Jarmere Jenkins just kept on winning in doubles.

This article from Nate Schnugg's hometown newspaper was put together by writers who weren't there, but since I didn't see the entire match myself, due to interviewing commitments, I'm not throwing any stones.

I've got quite a few stories to write, revise, etc. so I won't be able to give a lot of time to searching for junior stories to link to, but I think I've provided plenty of content to chew on during this past week in New York.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pavlyuchenkova Bookends 2006 with Grand Slam Singles Titles; Lojda Becomes first Czech Boys Champion

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--

First I'd like to welcome all the fans of Peter Bodo's "wildly popular" (quoting espn.com's Greg Garber) TennisWorld blog to zootennis. Peter is sitting two desks away from me, and offered to throw readers interested in the juniors my way and suggested that I welcome them. What Peter, steggy and company suggest, I do. So welcome, and come back often. I do daily updates on junior and college tennis, and my next trip is the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American in Tulsa next month. But I'll need a couple of weeks to decompress from this, which was one crazy day.

One thing I can't assume, that Peter can, is that any of my readers know who won, or what the score was. So let's get that out of the way. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Tamira Paszek 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to win the girls championship. Dusan Lojda beat Peter Polansky 7-6 (4), 6-3.

I was working for The Tennis Channel Sunday as a research assistant for their tape-delayed coverage of the junior finals, so I viewed the boys final from the TV production booth high above court 11.

Although Donald Young didn't make the final, TTC still had a great story for its English-speaking audience, with the return to top-level tennis of 18-year-old Canadian Peter Polansky, who had a horrific sleepwalking accident in Mexico City in April, kicking out a third story hotel room window in an attempt to flee an imaginary intruder. The fact that he fell on a small bush probably saved his life, but it didn't keep him from cuts on his legs that required 400 stitches, and a week in a Mexican hospital before he returned to Canada.

In a wheelchair for five weeks, Polansky began to play full tilt just a couple of months ago, but his last two weeks of tennis have demonstrated just how far he's come. He defeated the number one seed and 2006 French Open boys champion Martin Klizan in the second round and on Saturday took out Young, the world's no. 1 junior in 2005, seeded fourth in New York.

"Before my accident I was playing really well, I had made like two quarterfinals of two Futures," Polansky said. "I was in Davis Cup (as an alternate), hitting with the guys. After my accident, when I stepped on the court three months later, it's like I didn't really skip a beat. It's just been going really well."

But the cumulative result of two weeks of the daily matches demanded of junior tennis players, a total of 12 matches in a two week stretch, took its toll. Because his ITF ranking was 69, Polansky wasn't assured a spot in the main draw. But two spots, "special exemptions" are reserved for players who are in at least the semis of the previous event and are unable to make the qualifying, and when he reached the finals in the Canadian Open, which finished on September 2nd, he secured a main draw berth.

His opponent in the final, eighteen-year-old lefthander Dusan Lojda, the top junior in the Czech Republic, didn't drop a set in the tournament, dominating in every match. Seeded tenth due to his ATP ranking of 598, a string of upsets kept Lojda from playing a seed until Saturday's semifinal, and against no. 9 Luka Belic of Croatia, it was again no contest.

Lojda played the Australian Open juniors, but didn't go beyond the round of 16. Deciding that Futures tournaments would better prepare him for the next level of tennis, he played in such places as Tunisia, Israel and Croatia.

"I won one, and was in one final and just a few quarterfinals," Lojda said. "When you already play Futures, you are playing the men's tennis. Now in juniors you are little bit up than who is playing junior."

Polansky, who received a wild card into the recent Master Series Rogers Cup in Toronto, where he lost in the first round to ATP no. 97 Frank Dancevic, also of Canada, has also been playing the pro game since his return.

"You see them play and they make it look so easy," Polansky said of the pros he hit with following his loss in the Rogers Cup. "But when you go up there, their balls are a lot heavier, and it's tougher. But I was able to be in there with those guys, that's what mainly gave me a lot of confidence."

When Polansky took a 3-1 lead in the first set tiebreak, it looked as if he might manage to take the set even with more unforced errors and less effective serving than he'd show all week. But Polansky was broken on both his serving points leading 4-3, the second on a wild backhand, and Lojda was one set away.

Lojda bashed two aces to open the second set and when Polansky was broken in his first service game, it looked bleak for the Canadian. But even serving at 1-4, 15-40, Polansky kept jogging at the baseline, and gave Lojda no indications of surrender. When Polansky won that game--"if I went down two breaks, I knew it would be really tough," and he kept hoping, "but I couldn't get that break in the second."

When he stepped to the line to serve it out, Lojda didn't have it easy. A backhand volley winner by Polansky evened the game at 30 but a first serve deep in the box and a forehand winner gave the Czech Republic its first junior US Open champion.

For Lojda, it wasn't his strokes that made the difference. "Because forehand, backhand, everybody's playing good....you have to have concentration for the important points. It's 30-all, what to play?
(It's) just in the head, I think."

For the girls champion, it isn't about winning. Her mantra, the same one that she began the year with in Australia, when at 14, she won her first junior Slam title, is: "I just want to show my good game."

Since the boys and girls singles were played at the same time, I didn't see much of the girls final, but after their French Open Juniors quarterfinal match went to 6-4 in the third, a long tough battle was a good bet. A huge crowd overwhelmed the meager bleachers on Court 10, and both girls had vocal supporters, cheering every winner or error.

Dropping the first set, as she did in Paris, Pavlyuchenkova was determined to fight back.

"I was up like 2-0, so I was upset that I couldn't win that first set. But then I said it's like a final, the last match, so I can't just play bad and give her this match. So I try to keep fighting, play every point. It was so difficult. She played great tennis."

Austrian Paszek, playing in her third U.S. Open junior championship at age 15, hung in until 5-5 in the third set, and even when she dropped her serve, to give Pavlyuchenkova an opportunity to serve it out, the match was still anyone's.

At 15-30, Pavlyuchenkova hit a forehand crosscourt that appeared to be out, but was called good by the line judge, saving her from facing two break points. She made an error to give Paszek a break point for a third set tiebreak, but Pavlyuchenkova crushed a forehand winner to save it. A Paszek error gave the Russian a match point, and one swinging forehand volley later, she had collected her second Grand Slam singles title.

Unlike Australia, where only her coach and brother Sasha was present, this time Pavlyuchenkova celebrated with her entire family.

"It's really great that my family is here and saw I won this title. Just by phone you cannot explain your emotions..I'm really happy that I could make the present for them."

Next on Pavlyuchenkova's agenda is playing Junior Fed Cup for Russia in Barcelona later this month. Currently not represented by any sports management agency, it is the Russian Federation and her brother that set her schedule, but as of now, she hopes to play the Kremlin Cup and a mixture of professional and junior events.

Asked where she saw herself in five years, she looked up at the TV broadcast of the Roddick-Federer match, pointed and said, "there."

Arthur Ashe Stadium may hold another Russian women's champion soon.

For more coverage of the U.S. Open Juniors, see Marcia Frost's site collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Buzarnescu and Olaru Deny Pavlyuchenkova Doubles Slam

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows

There wasn't any Romanian press at the Media Center today, so the girls doubles championship won by Mihaela Buzarnescu and Raluca Olaru didn't even warrant a press conference.

If Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and partner Sharon Fichman of Canada, the no. 1 seeds, had won, the novelty of having a junior win all four of the doubles titles in the 2006 grand slams may have produced some interest, but when the second seeded Romanians prevailed 7-5, 6-2, during the men's final, nobody noticed.

But there were Romanian fans there, and not just for the championship match.

"They love tennis very much. They come here--they live here--and they support us very much," said Olaru. "They want to help us and to be here, in the singles too."

Asked if they had any special motivation to deny Pavlychenkova her fourth doubles title at a Grand Slam (she won Wimbledon with Alisa Kleybanova), Olaru admitted it did occur to them.

"At first, no. But we got up 4-0, 40-0 and started to think 'Oh my God, it's a Grand Slam final, we're leading 4-0, 40-0' and that's where we started to make mistakes. After that we just concentrated on the games. Forget the final, the court, it doesn't matter, just play."

Pavlychenkova expressed some disappointment, but after her lengthy singles match, in a week that saw her go to three sets on three occasions, her fatigue was understandable.

"I couldn't concentrate for my doubles, because I was excited that I won the Grand Slam," she said after being awarded the trophy on Arthur Ashe Stadium between the women's doubles and the men's final. "It's really difficult to focus and concentrate on the doubles."

For Olaru and Buzarnescu, their last junior tournament "ended good." And their Romanian supporters have arranged a celebration for their first Grand Slam title, taking them to a Romanian restaurant in Manhattan.

"They said they've already made a lot of Romanian food, just like home."

Hunt and Schnugg Capture US Open Junior Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--

Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg won their first Grand Slam title as a team Sunday afternoon at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, defeating fellow Americans Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek 6-3, 6-3, in the first boys final to feature two teams from the U.S.

Although they were obviously happy to win, accepting congratulations from many family members as they posed for postmatch photographs, they spent most of the press conference singing the praises of their younger opponents.

"Jarmere was hitting some of the most unbelievable shots I've ever seen," said Schnugg who now has another Grand Slam junior doubles title to go with the Wimbledon crown he won with Kellen Damico in July. "I can't even imagine getting to the finals of the US Open when I was 15," Schnugg said, referring to Jenkins' age. "Even if I did, I don't think I would be able to hit a ball I'd be so nervous," Schnugg said. "I was still playing high school tennis when I was 15," Hunt chimed in.

There were no signs of nerves from Jenkins and Krajicek, as they took a 3-1 lead in the first set, and it looked as if their string of upsets might continue. As unseeded wild cards, they won their first three matches in third set tiebreaks and in the semifinal rolled past the eighth-seeded team 6-3, 7-5. But the unseeded Hunt and Schnugg reeled off six straight games before Krajicek held for 1-1 in the second.

"We kind of started rolling at 3-1," Schnugg said. "We got in a groove on our returns, and we didn't have any trouble on our serve games after that. They lost a little of their energy and they had a hard time getting it back."

"We didn't play our best," Krajicek, 16, said. "But you have to give Jamie and Nate credit for that. They played well, better serves, they had good returns when they needed it."

"But we'll be back next year, in the men's," Jenkins said half-joking or perhaps eyeing the wild card that goes to the 18s doubles champions in Kalamazoo.

Hunt has played his last junior event, and as a freshman at the University of Georgia already two weeks into his first semester, he will have little time to celebrate his first Grand Slam junior title. "I'm getting up at 6:30 to go running with the team tomorrow," the 18-year-old from San Antonio said.

Medford Oregon's Schnugg, who turns 18 next month, expects to play the Orange Bowl in December and enter Georgia in January. "It was so fun playing with Jamie," Schnugg said. "I've been living with him for three years at both academies I went to, and the next four years at Georgia, I can't wait to see what we do."

And as Bulldogs, they'll keep their eye on the junior ranks, and on Jenkins and Krajicek in particular. "Their potential is unlimited," Schnugg said. "I can't wait to see what they do."

And as they collected the aqua boxes that held their Tiffany crystal chalices, they reflected on their junior experiences.

"It's a little sad," Hunt said, "because I'm not going to be able to see some of these people that I've made friends with from all the different countries and I'm not going to get to play any more junior Grand Slams--that's disappointing. But I'm excited about my next four years at Georgia, although there's going to be some matches in Starkville Mississippi. It's a little different than playing in New York, Paris and London."

"This year has been kind of a dream for me," said Schnugg, who also reached the finals of the Australian Open Junior Championship in January with Damico. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Hunt and Schnugg's win punctuates the dominance of U.S. boys teams in doubles, as the last three junior doubles championships at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were won by American teams.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg Meet Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek in All-American Doubles Final; Pavlyuchenkova Aims for Doubles Grand Slam Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadow--

No matter which team wins on Sunday, the United States will have its third consecutive U.S. Open Junior Doubles champions, when Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg face Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek in the first-ever All-American boys doubles final.

Unseeded, Hunt and Schnugg, who were finalists in the 18s in Kalamazoo last month, defeated the unseeded Italian team of Daniel Lopez and Matteo Trevisan 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, giving Schnugg his third trip to a Junior Grand Slam final this year. Playing with Kellen Damico, Schnugg reached the final in Australia and won Wimbledon; together they won the Grade A Banana Bowl and that experience showed Saturday afternoon.

"I didn't feel nervous this match," said Hunt. "We were just kind of swinging away," Schnugg said."We came out and played, played well and we took it."

Volleying with confidence, and returning particularly well on Trevisan's serve, Hunt and Schnugg never seemed anything but composed throughout the match, even when the Italians broke Hunt early in the second set and made it stand up. When Trevisan served for the first time in the third set at 15-30 Hunt dug a sure Lopez volley winner out and got it back over the net to prolong a point they eventually won, setting up two break points. When they converted on the second, the current (Hunt) and future (Schnugg) Georgia Bulldogs had the break they needed to set up a meeting with Jenkins and Krajicek.

"I'm glad they made it," said Schnugg of the finalists in 16s in Kalamazoo last month. "I'm really glad they made it." "We can't take them lightly," Hunt said. "They're playing some great tennis."

In their previous three victories, Jenkins and Krajicek had won in third set tiebreaks, but the unseeded pair were really clicking on Saturday afternoon, taking out the 8th seeded team of Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium and Jaak Poldma of Estonia 6-3, 7-5.

Jenkins and Krajicek, who were a wild card entry, quickly established their dominance, rolling to a 5-1 lead before closing out the first set. Trailing 5-3 in the second, they immediately got the break back and when Krajicek held for 5-5, Bemelmans was under the gun. When he was broken at love, Jenkins took his opportunity to serve it out and avoid the customary third set tiebreak ending.

"After we won the first one, Austin said 'let's try to win every match six in the third'" Jenkins said. "Then we had a couple more and we decided maybe that was too extreme, so we brought it today and made it a little bit shorter match," Krajicek said.

Asked about the possibility of playing the older American team (Krajicek is 16, Jenkins is 15), the younger boys were confident.

"Our coach (Mark Merklein) was telling us from the start that we could do it, so it was no surprise to us," said Jenkins. "We know when we play well we're just as good as anybody," Krajicek echoed. "We'll bring our game, do what we do, shake and bake, and we'll take you on."

In 2005 Donald Young and Alex Clayton won the US Open boys doubles title, and in 2004 Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema claimed the championship.

In the girls doubles championships, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will try for her fourth junior Grand Slam doubles title on Sunday, when the young Russian and her partner, Canadian Sharon Fichman, the top seeds, meet the second seeded team of Mihaela Buzarnescu and Raluca Olaru of Romania in the girls doubles final.

Fichman and Pavlyuchenkova won the Australian and the French, while at Wimbledon Pavlyuchenkova teamed with Alisa Kleybanova of Russia to capture that title. In Saturday's semifinals, Pavlyuchenkova and Fichman defeated the Czech team of Katerina Kramperova and Katerina Vankova 7-6 (3), 7-5. Buzarnescu and Olaru had an easy 6-1, 6-2 win over the unseeded Austrian team of Melanie Klaffner and Tamira Paszek.

Asked about the doubles Grand Slam, Pavlyuchenkova said, "I don't want to put pressure on me. It's the fourth Grand Slam so I don't want to put pressure on because it's difficult to play like this. If you think about this, you'll never do this."

Polansky Defeats Young, Meets Lojda in Final; Pavlyuchenkova Goes for Second Junior Slam Title Against Paszek

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--

It's time for me to confess that I didn't see a single point of Lauren Albanese's 6-2, 6-2 semifinal loss to Tamira Paszek of Austria, because it was played at precisely the same time as the Donald Young and Peter Polansky match on courts separated by crowds and distance on a beautiful Super Saturday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. I did see every point of the boys semifinal contest, however, a 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3 victory for the unseeded Canadian.

In the first set, Polansky started off quickly, as he had done all week, breaking Young in the fourth game, although actually Young broke himself with a double fault. The 17-year-old from Atlanta dropped his next service game too, and Polansky needed the cushion, when he was broken serving for the set at 5-1.

When Polansky pounced on Young in the first game of the second set, it looked as if the 18-year-old Canadian was headed for a straight set victory, but Young dug in, broke back for 1-1 and the battle lines were drawn for a tiebreak.

"It was a close second set," Polansky said, "and he played really well in the breaker. He barely missed a first serve."

With the match even, Polansky, whose only show of emotion is an occasional subdued "c'mon" after a winner, didn't waiver, continuing to hit with pace and depth while concentrating on holding serve.

"I knew he was a really good returner," Polansky said, "so I tried to put as many first serves in as possible to put him off the court."

Dean Coburn, Polansky's coach, identified the match's turning point.

"I think he played very aggressive, while still keeping the errors down. He stepped up his serve in the third set, got the early break and made Young lose some focus."

It was the fourth game that Young lost, and when Polansky held for 4-1, he began to see the finish line.
"He started to sit back and hit more loopy shots, more spinny shots, just rally a bit, so every short ball I had, I tried to put him trouble, force a few more errors."

It wasn't just errors from Young that produced points for Polansky. He hit both forehand and backhand winners against the lefthander, which, as Young previous opponents would testify, is difficult to do. With speed, court positioning and an instinct for the next shot, Young can win points that should be over, but Polansky's depth and placement were too much for him, and chasing shot after shot eventually wore him down.

"I was running around a lot and hitting a lot of forehands, putting him on the run," Polansky said. "I was just going after it and a lot of them were going in."

Polansky now faces Czech Dusan Lojda, who has played only one other Junior Grand Slam this year--the Australian, where he lost in the round of 16. The 18-year-old lefthander has instead been competing in Futures events, earning enough points for an ATP ranking of 598, for which he received a seeding of 10 for the US Open Juniors.

Lojda defeated his good friend Luka Belic, the ninth seed, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that had widely varying levels of play.

"I play against him for the first time, and it was a very nervous start," said Lojda. "But then I break his serve and it was a little bit easier. But it wasn't like 6-3, 6-4, it was much tougher."

Lojda and Polansky have never played, but Lojda watched the Canadian take out the Czech Republic's no. 2 player Roman Jebavy on Friday and he was impressed.

"He's playing good and I am playing also good, it's the U.S. Open final, so we will see."

Tamira Paszek is playing in her third U.S. Open Junior Championship at the age of 15, and is no stranger to Junior Grand Slam finals, as she was runnerup at Wimbledon in 2005. But in Albanese, she had an opponent who had recently beaten her, at the Luxilon Cup, a junior exhibition held in conjunction with the NASDAQ (now Sony Ericsson) Pro event in Key Biscayne.

"I was a little nervous in the beginning because I played her in April and I lost to her in two sets, so I knew she was a great player, but then I got my rhythm and I played really, really well," said Paszek, who trained at home in Austria prior to coming to New York. "We had some great ball exchanges, some great rallies."

So did top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and unseeded Katerina Vankova of the Czech Republic--at least in the first set--until Pavlyuchenkova pulled away for a 7-6 (4), 6-0 victory, and her third final in a Junior Grand Slam this year.

"I think it was a pretty tough match. I know her a little bit, I played against her once, and she's lefty, so it's good for her and uncomfortable for me," said the 15-year-old from Samara, Russia, who won the Australian Open Junior Championship in January.

"She concentrated on the first set really well. She got every ball into the court, and it was pretty difficult for me. I was down in the first set, and when I came back, I think I just broke her mentally."

The Paszek Pavlyuchenkova final will be a rematch of their quarterfinal meeting in Roland Garros this year, won by the 15-year-old Russian 6-4 in the third set. And with one title already and the no. 1 ITF ranking, it's no suprise that she's confident.

"Actually I expected the final," she said, pausing to amend that. "I expected good results. I just wanted to show my good game."

Friday, September 8, 2006

U.S. National Champions Advance to Singles Semifinals; Hunt-Schnugg and Jenkins-Krajicek Earn Doubles Semifinal Spots

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--

USTA girls 18s champion Lauren Albanese and two-time boys 18s winner Donald Young are putting the experience gained in the main draw of the US Open last week to good use in this week's junior championships. Albanese defeated unseeded Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in their quarterfinal match Thursday afternoon, while Young, the fourth seed, defeated 11th seed Pavel Chekhov of Russia 7-6 (1), 6-3.

Partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the low 80s produced ideal playing conditions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Friday, with only an occasional swirling breeze giving the players any concern.

Young drew a large crowd for his 11 a.m. match on Court 11, with many fans stopping by prior to the start of the women's semifinals to get a glimpse of the well-known teenage prodigy. Young didn't disappoint, showing his soft hands on his frequent trips to the net as well as his ability to blunt the power of Chekhov's serve and forehand.

"I had to come in to beat him," Young said. "If I didn't come in, he would have got me, would have won those points." The 17-year-old from Atlanta didn't lose his serve in the match, didn't face a break point until the first game of the second set, and made his one break of Chekhov's serve at the most opportune time--3-4 in the second. "I got a little nervous (at break point)," Young said. "My backhand hit the net and barely went over. It was actually a better shot than normal, because it made him come forward and chip it." Chekhov was thrown off when Young's shot clipped the tape and netted the reply, giving Young a chance to consider his loss in the US Open Junior last year as he stepped to the line to serve it out.

"Last year in the quarterfinals I was serving for the match at 6-5, 30-15, and I got really tight," Young said. "I lost that game and continued to lose the match (in a third set tiebreak), and I was determined not to let that happen this time."

Young's semifinal opponent will be unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada, a 7-6 (9), 6-1 winner over 12th seed Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic. Polansky couldn't hold an early break but played a determined tiebreak. Down two set points at 6-4, Polansky hit two winners to tie it, then garnered a set point of his own, but Jebavy denied him there and two more times before a doublefault at 9-9 sealed his fate. It was then that Jebavy began to unravel. Although he angrily smashed his racquet to the court after the first set was over, twice, he did not receive a code violation, much to the visible dismay of Polansky's coach. But Polansky wasn't distracted by the display of temper.
"It kind of made me happy," said Polansky, 18. "I knew he was getting mad, and he's either going to start going for his shots more and missing them or go into the semi-tank mode. He kind of stayed with it, but he wasn't the same as in the first set."

When he was broken in the first game of the second set, Jebavy bounced a ball out of the stadium and was given a point penalty for ball abuse, and Polansky could relax and play his game, surrendering the sole game when serving for the match at 5-0.

The other boys' semifinal will see Dusan Lojda of the Czech Republic against Croatia's Luka Belic. Tenth seeded Lojda quickly eliminated qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine 6-2, 6-2, while Belic took down the No. 2 seed, Jonathan Eysseric of France 6-4, 6-4. Belic, the ninth seed, avenged his 2006 Italian Open semifinal loss to Eysseric, and even their friendship didn't keep him from celebrating the win by falling to the court and bellowing with joy.

"Tennis is tennis," said the 17-year-old right-hander. "On the court he is not a good friend." Belic admitted he was nervous after breaking Eysseric at 4-4 in the second set, when at ad out, the Croatian somehow retrieved a sure winner from six feet behind the baseline and put the dipping forehand at the feet of the startled Frenchman. In the final game, Belic surprised Eysseric, serving and volleying to get to match point, but it looked as if Eysseric would pull it to deuce when Belic's effort in retrieving produced a shot weakly hanging in the air. "I was shaking on match point," Belic admitted, but it was Eysseric that blinked, catching the tape with his easy overhead smash.

On the girls side, Albanese string of impressive wins continues, and against Martic, Albanese was firmly in control from the outset.

"I didn't know who she was," Albanese said of the 15-year-old from Split. "I played exactly the way I needed to. I didn't go for too much, but at the right times I did go for my shots."

Albanese, who turns 17 next month, broke Martic in the first game of the match, and served well enough to make it stand up. In the second set Albanese also took a 2-0 lead, but this time the slim Croatian broke back, the only service game the Floridian lost. Trailing 3-2 on serve, Albanese stepped up the pressure and got the break she needed in the seventh game and squealed with delight when she served it out to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

"I expected to do well here," said Albanese of the US Open junior championships, "and there is kind of a pressure to do well since I won a match last week (in the women's main draw). But I think it's really good that I've shown that I am still able to win on the juniors."

Her opponent on Saturday is 11th seed Tamira Paszek of Austria, who rolled over Sacha Jones of New Zealand 6-1, 6-2. The other semifinal will find top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia facing unseeded Katerina Vankova of the Czech Republic. Both struggled Friday, but advanced. Pavlyuchenkova defeated 10th seed Raluca Olaru of Romanian in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 contest that took over two and a half hours to complete. Vankova upset 13th seed Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

Four U.S. doubles teams played quarterfinal matches late into the evening on Friday, with two boys teams advancing, while both girls teams were eliminated. Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg came from behind to take a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over second seeds Chekhov and Petru-Alexandru Luncanu of Romania, winning the final four games of the match.

Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek used their familiar third-set tiebreak strategy to eliminate Roberto Maytin of Venezuela and Rupesh Roy of India, also unseeded, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (5). It was the third consecutive match they've won by that barest of margins. They are in the upper half of the draw, so an All-American doubles final is a possibility.

In girls doubles play, Chelsey Gullickson and Jamie Hampton lost to the top-seeded team of Fichman and Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, while Kristy Frilling and Ashley Weinhold were beaten by the second seeded Romanian team of Mihaela Buzarnescu and Olaru 6-4, 6-1. Lena Litvak of the U.S. and her partner Sacha Jones, also were eliminated in the quarterfinals on Friday.

For complete draws, see usopen.org. For more photos, visit ustaboys.com.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Albanese, Young Represent U.S. in Quarterfinals; Martic Takes Out Third Seed in Girls Action Thursday

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--
Unseeded Lauren Albanese and fourth seed Donald Young earned spots in the quarterfinals with straight set victories Thursday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Albanese trailed another unseeded American, Madison Brengle, early, but quickly earned back the early break she suffered and rolled from there, 6-4, 6-1. Her opponent in the quarterfinals, unseeded Petra Martic of Croatia, created the biggest stir of the day with her straight set win over the third seed, Ayumi Morita of Japan. The 15-year-old is playing in her first junior Grand Slam, but it was Morita that crumbled under pressure. Serving at 5-6, break point, Morita doublefaulted and never recovered, losing 7-5, 6-0,

"I watched her last match," Martic said, "and I knew if I played good, I could win the match. Second set I got relaxed, I knew she would be less with her play. I played good, she was very nervous, making lots of mistakes."

Sixth seed Julia Cohen of Miami was upset by 10th seed Raluca Olaru of Romania 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3. Holding serve was the exception for both girls, but Olaru was broken only once in the final set to claim the win. Olaru faces the top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Friday. The no. 1 ranked Russian rolled over unseeded qualifier Jade Curtis of Great Britain 6-2, 6-2.

Canadian Sharon Fichman, seeded 13th, blew past fourth seed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-0, 6-1 to earn a quarterfinal contest with unseeded Czech Katerina Vankova, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Ksenia Pervak of Russia.

The day's most riveting match saw New Zealand's Sacha Jones save two match points in her 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over wild card Ashley Weinhold of the U.S.
Weinhold played near-perfect tennis in the first set, while Jones struggled with her serve.

"She was playing real well in the beginning," Jones said. "Her slice is very effective, but my former coach, Chris Lewis, was a finalist at Wimbledon and he had the best slice I've ever played against, so I knew how to handle it."

At the first changeover of the third set, Weinhold took a medical timeout and emerged with her left thigh taped, and she moved well enough to take a 5-4 lead, but at 40-30, Jones hit a screaming forehand winner to save that match point, the second match point Weinhold missed wide with a forehand.

Jones was determined stay aggressive when she got her chance two games later.

"Last week I was up on Julia Cohen a set and 5-4 40-0," Jones said of their quarterfinal contest in the Canadian Open "and I didn't go for it and I ended up losing in the third in like a three-hour forty-five minute match, so I learnt my lesson there. I had no choice, I had to go for it."

Jones will play 11th seed Tamira Paszek of Austria, who eliminated 8th seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 6-4.

In boys singles, Young gave an impressive performance, blunting the power of Australian Greg Jones to earn a 6-3, 6-4 win. Jones had played flawlessly in his win Wednesday over Michael McClune, but his volleys were not as sharp against Young. The 17-year-old from Atlanta made Jones hit that extra shot often, resulting in errors when he tried for too much. But although Jones was behind the entire match, the Sydney native never went away, battling back from 1-3 0-40 on his serve to pull even at 3 before giving up his next service game on another volley error. Jones saved a match point at 3-5, and earned a break point at 5-4, but Young extricated himself and clipped the line with a forehand winner to close out his third round victory. Young will meet Russian Pavel Chekhov in Friday's quarterfinals. Chekhov, the 11th seed, defeated Young at the Italian Junior Open last year.

Unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada continued his outstanding play, defeating 2006 Wimbledon finalist Marcin Gawron of Poland 6-0, 5-7, 6-1.

"I kind of lost my intensity a bit in the second," admitted the 18-year-old from Thornhill, outside Toronto. "I decided to put everything in and make him play (in the third). I got a couple of breaks and broke his spirit a bit."

Polansky's opponent on Friday is 12th seed Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic, whom he has never played. The Czech Republic is the only country with two boys remaining in the final eight, with 10th seed Dusan Lojda also winning on Thursday. He plays qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine, who continued his stellar week with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 upset of third seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil. In the fourth match, Croatia's Luka Belic, the ninth seed takes on second seed Jonathan Eysseric of France.

The doubles quarterfinals are set as well, and there are two all-U.S. teams alive in both girls and boys divisions. Despite her thigh injury, Weinhold and partner Kristy Frilling advanced easily and Chelsey Gullickson and Jamie Hampton moved through in straight sets as well. Lena Litvak, partnering Jones, upended the third seeds, Cohen and Corinna Dentoni of Italy 7-5, 6-2.

The unseeded team of Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg took their second three-set win, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 over seventh seeds Michal Konecny and Andrej Martin. Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek, also unseeded, won their second consecutive third set tiebreak, overtaking Jones and Hans Podlipnik of Chile 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).

For complete draws, see usopen.org. For more photos, visit ustaboys.com.

Image problem~~Can the USTA fix American tennis? Or is it all talk?

Sports Illustrated writer Scott Price and I have had several discussions about the USTA development initiative while I've been here in New York and his article (online only) covers just some of what we've talked about. The underlying question in all of this is what role a country's tennis federation should play in development. As I've said before, I believe every champion is an exception. The prudent way to spend the vast amounts of money produced by the US Open is to distribute it widely to parents and coaches for use in travel and instruction, and host a few camps to bring the best of the best together.

When things calm down later this month, I'm planning a post that will be entitled "If I Ran USTA High Performance I'd....." and I'm just going to start off with my answer. I hope it will spark a forum for productive suggestions from all of you. So start thinking how you would finish that sentence.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Polansky Topples Boys No. 1 Seed; Brengle Takes Out Girls No. 7

©Colette Lewis 2006--
Flushing Meadows

Canadian Peter Polansky's remarkable comeback from a life-threatening catastrophe was completed Wednesday when he upended top seed and 2006 French Open Junior champion Martin Klizan of Slovakia 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4.

Polansky, an ITF Canadian Junior Open finalist last week, survived a horrific accident in April while with the Canadian Davis Cup team competing in Mexico City. He crashed through a third story hotel window while sleepwalking, and although he miraculously survived thanks to a small bush that broke his fall, his legs were sliced nearly to the bone by the glass and he suffered a dangerous loss of blood. After intensive hospital care and physiotherapy, he began playing tennis seriously again in July, and was performing on such a high level that he began to receive wild cards into both Futures and ATP-level events in his home country.

Wednesday's win was no surprise to the 18-year-old from suburban Toronto, whose highest ITF junior ranking, 39, was reached in January 2005.

"I've play so many tough matches these past two months," Polansky said, "with the Rogers Cup and the Granby Challenger. I guess I'm getting used to playing the big points well."

"I was serving really well throughout the whole match," Polansky said. "He was barely getting points on it and I managed to break him once in the first and twice in the third."

Klizan picked up his game when he had to, in the second set tiebreak, but Polansky quickly took a 3-0 lead in the third. He protected that break until serving for the match at 5-3, but dropped his only service game of the match to put Klizan back on serve. The tall 17-year-old from Bratislava couldn't accept the gift and made two forehand errors to give Polansky his biggest junior win.

Asked to rate his play on a scale of 10, Polansky gave himself a 9. "I was playing pretty well, just a few mistakes here and there brought it down to a 9."

Polansky's opponent in the round of 16 on Thursday will be 2006 Wimbledon finalist Marcin Gawron of Poland, unseeded in this tournament.

The only American boy left in the singles is fourth seed Donald Young who defeated Fernando Romboli of Brazil 7-5, 6-3. Young faces unseeded Greg Jones of Australia in the round of 16. Jones dismissed Michael McClune 6-1, 6-2 using a powerful array of groundstrokes to go with a big serve and an aggressive all-court game.

Dennis Lajola was serving for the match in the second set against qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine, but found himself losing it a tiebreak and faltering in the third 2-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5. A nasty fall in the third set resulted in an injury to Lajola's wrist and he and Donald Young, the 5th seeds, withdrew from their first round doubles contest. The other remaining American boy, Chase Buchanan, dropped a 6-4, 6-3 decision to Madagascar's Lofo Jean Ramiaramanana Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. girls had a much better day than the boys, and four have made their way to the round of 16. Unseeded Madison Brengle took out seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3, and 16-year-old from Delaware cited a more aggressive game plan, confidence gleaned from playing in the women's US Open qualifying tournament, and the court itself for her success.

"I played really well in my first match (in qualifying) and even the one I lost, I played well. Both were on this court (no. 8), so I'm hoping tomorrow to get it again."

When told that Chris Evert was courtside watching her match, Brengle was thrilled and flattered, and of course, delighted that she had played so well under the scrutiny of the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion.

Brengle will face American Lauren Albanese on Thursday. Albanese, in the completion of a match that began on Wednesday, defeated Chelsey Gullickson 7-5, 1-6, 6-2. Gullickson, 16, was down a set when the match resumed, but she took control of the second set, forcing Albanese to raise her game in the third.

Ashley Weinhold, who won two rounds of women's qualifying, continued her excellent play with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Alexandra Panova of Russia, while Julia Cohen cruised into the third round with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Wing Yau Venise Chan of Hong Kong.

For complete draws, including the doubles played on Wednesday evening, see usopen.org. For photographs of U.S. juniors, visit ustaboys.com.

SMASH Column, Early US Open edition

Thanks to my new editor Kamakshi Tandon, the latest online column is up within 24 hours of my writing it.

Sweeting, Kryvonos named Davis Cup practice partners

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon in New York, Patrick McEnroe announced his Davis Cup team for the tie in Moscow Sept. 22-24.

There was no suspense as the team is as everyone expected: James Blake, the Bryan twins and Andy Roddick, who have played the first two rounds.

But the practice partners do change, as the USTA likes to provide as many players as possible with the opportunity to experience Davis Cup, and for this tie Ryan Sweeting and Nikita Kryvonos were named to accompany the team.
Sweeting's success this spring and summer have raised his profile, and it was common knowledge that he would be selected, but Nikita Kryvonos was a surprise to most of the journalists at the press conference.

I saw Nikita at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (BJKNTC), where he trains, on Sunday and he told me he had been asked. Now ranked inside the the ATP top 500, he won a round in the men's qualifying here using his wild card, and has won a Futures event on hard courts in Canada in March and made the finals on clay in May's Futures stop in Orange Park, Fla. Kryvonos turned 20 last week and became a US citizen last year. His native language is Russian, so he'll be able to serve as an interpreter as well as a hitting partner in Moscow.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Young Breezes, Rain Arrives

©Colette Lewis 2006--
Flushing Meadows

The rain held off long enough on Tuesday to allow the completion of the first round of singles in the US Open juniors, but as on Monday, the news wasn't good for the home country's players.

Donald Young, the fourth seed, had no trouble with recent Canadian Open Grade 1 winner Jaak Poldma of Estonia, who is ranked 21st in the ITF's world junior rankings. Young dropped the first game of the match on his serve, but Poldma's go-for-broke style couldn't overcome Young's consistency and his retrieving skills. After a long second game, Young broke back and from there lost only one game.

Acknowledging that Poldma's forehand made him a dangerous opponent, Young pointed to his experience in the main draw, where he played singles, doubles and mixed doubles, as a major factor in his win.

"The pro tournament helped me a lot," Young said.

In addition to Young, top seed Martin Klizan also waited until the tournament's third day to take the court, meeting U.S wild card Bradley Klahn. Playing in his first Grand Slam event, the 16-year-old from Poway, Calif. was overpowered in the opening set, but began to find the Slovak's weaker backhand side in the second, matching him stroke for stroke before falling 6-1, 7-6 (2).

Drew Daniel, the 16-year-old qualifier from Kansas, battled Brazil's Fernando Romboli through three long sets, but couldn't hold an early break in the third and lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

None of the four U.S. girls managed a set in their first round matches on Tuesday. Qualifier Julia Boserup lost to Canadian Open champion and 9th seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus 6-3, 6-3, while wild card Mallory Cecil also drew a seed, no. 13 Sharon Fichman of Canada and was defeated 6-4, 6-1. Another wild card, Jamie Hampton, fell to Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3 and Lindsay Burdette was eliminated by Czech Katerina Vankova 6-4, 6-4.

Nine second round matches were in various stages of completion when rain interrupted them.

Chelsey Gullickson and Lauren Albanese of the U.S. were exchanging service breaks and laser groundstrokes, before Albanese held at 6-5 to take the first set. Gullickson led 1-0 in the second, on serve, when play was suspended.

Dennis Lajola had a one set lead on qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine in their second round match, winning the first set 6-2. The second set was suspended at 2-2.

The only second round match completed on Tuesday in boys' play was French second seed Jonathan Eysseric's 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Philip Bester of Canada.

Advancing to the third round on the girls side was Petra Martic of Croatia. She defeated qualifier Katrina Tuchmiaa 6-4, 6-0.

All doubles have been cancelled for the day, and the forecast calls for rain throughout the evening.

Rain Halts Play Tuesday at 1:30 pm EDT

Monday, September 4, 2006

Frilling Takes Out Fifth Seed; McClune Sole U.S. Boy Advancing Monday

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows--

Kristy Frilling provided one of the few bright lights in what was a dark day for U.S. juniors at the Open Monday, when she defeated fifth seed Kristina Antoniychuk of the Ukraine 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the first round.

Partly cloudy skies couldn't dispell the gloom created by the combined record of the American juniors. Although the girls won three of nine matches they competed in, the boys could manage only one victory in eight tries.

Frilling, a qualifier, believes her two lengthy three-set qualifying matches helped her, as she was short of match play due to an injury.

"I didn't have a great Hard Courts after being off four months," said the 16-year-old from Sidney Ohio, who was nursing a bad back most of the summer. "It was good that I got in some matches in the qualifying."

A lefty who hits two-handed from both sides, Frilling cited her groundstrokes and serve as the keys to handling the Ukrainian, ranked seventh in the ITF's world junior rankings.

"I was hitting through the ball well today, and I got a lot of first serves in," said Frilling, who is ranked 164. "It was my biggest win in my career, the first time I've ever beaten anyone in the Top Ten."

Frilling was not the only qualifier to prove the value of match-toughness. Gail Brodsky, the 15-year-old from Brooklyn, also advanced to the second round with 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Bolivian Maria Fernanda Alvarez Teran. Mary Gambale of the U.S., the 15th seed, was eliminated by qualifier Katarina Tuchimaa of Finland 6-3, 6-4, while Austrian qualifier Melanie Klaffner defeated Mallory Burdette 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Americans Kim Couts, Lauren Embree, Christina McHale and Veronica Li also lost Monday.

Julia Cohen, the sixth seed, was the other American girl to advance, with a 7-6(4), 7-6(7) victory over Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia.

The only American boy to win on Labor Day was wild card Mike McClune, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over Ricardo Urzua of Chile. Brennan Boyajian, Nate Schnugg, Clint Bowles, Rhyne Williams, Jason Jung, Jamie Hunt and Jarmere Jenkins were sidelined Monday.

Five was the unlucky number for seeds, as Kei Nishikori of Japan, who held that position in the boys draw, also was upended. He lost to Italy's Daniel Lopez 6-3, 6-2. Artur Chernov (8) of Russia, Pedro Sousa (14) of Portugal and Jeevan Nedunchezlyan (15) of India were other seeded boys ousted on Monday.

The first round will be completed on Tuesday, with three U.S. boys and four U.S. girls still yet to take the court. Second round matches will also begin Tuesday.

Doubles started Monday, and the U.S. success was limited there as well. The only American team to advance was Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek, who won a third set tiebreak. Lena Litvak (with New Zealand's Sacha Jones) and Mateuz Kecki (with Lebanon's Bassam Beidas) were the only other U.S. players to win.

For full draws see usopen.org.

For photos of Monday's action visit ustaboys.com.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Buchanan Upsets Seventh Seed Luncanu; Girls No. 2 seed Wozniacki Defaulted

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Fifteen-year-old Chase Buchanan won his first Grand Slam match on the day Andre Agassi played his final one. Buchanan defeated No. 7 seed Petru-Alexandru Luncanu of Romanian 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

"It was kind of cool, his career ending, mine sort of starting on the same day," said the wild card, playing his first Grade A ITF event under the lights on court 14.

Supported by a vocal group of friends from his home in suburban Columbus Ohio, Buchanan lifted his play late in the third set, while Luncanu played more tentatively. Luncanu's ill-timed double fault gave Buchanan an opening at 5-6, 15-30, and a blistering return gave him two match points. The first the 17-year old lefty saved with a deft drop volley, and Luncanu worked his way to the net on the second, but his volley found the net. The Columbus crew cheered wildly, and the large crowd that had gathered while waiting to enter Ashe Stadium for the delayed night session left buzzing about the mature play of the young American.

"I thought coming in here I could compete with anyone," Buchanan said. "I kept my head tonight, stayed real positive, and that's something that I had struggled with."

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, the second seed and 2006 Wimbledon girls champion, had her U.S. Open end in abrupt fashion when she was defaulted for obscene language directed at a line judge during her match with Alexandra Panova of Russia. At 6-4, 1-2, Wozniacki was said to have verbally abused a line judge and after a lengthy delay that left spectators baffled, the tournament referee arrived and Panova was declared the winner.

Four of the seven U.S. girls advanced Sunday, with Chelsey Gullickson, Ashley Weinhold, Lauren Albanese and Madison Brengle taking straight set wins. Albanese took out 12th seed Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 6-3, 6-1, while Brengle's win came at the expense of the U.S.'s Reka Zsilinszka. Melanie Oudin fell to 11th seed Tamira Paszek of Austria while Lena Litvak lost a hard-fought battle with Great Britain's Naomi Cavaday.

Kellen Damico, the no. 13 seed, was upset by qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Dennis Lajola fell behind early, but roared back against Andrej Martin of the Slovak Republic to win 7-6(0), 6-0. Four other U.S. boys were defeated on Sunday. Marcus Fugate was eliminated by Antonio Veic of Croatia 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3, Austin Krajicek dropped a heartbreaker to Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia 7-6(7), 2-6, 7-6(9), qualifier Dylan Arnould fell to Matteo Trevisan of Italy 6-1, 6-0 and in the last junior match of the day, qualifier Mateusz Kecki was overtaken by 11th seed Pavel Chekhov 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.

Qualifier Yoann Re of Canada upset sixth seed Sanam Singh of India 6-1, 6-1 , while on the girls' side, 16th seed Teliana Pereira of Brazil was eliminated by Dilyara Saidkhodjaeva 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

For complete draws, visit usopen.org. For more photos, see ustaboys.com.

Goodbye Andre, and thanks for 21 years

Flushing NY--

Despite the sunny skies it was a gloomy day in Arthur Ashe stadium as Andre Agassi couldn't find the magic of his previous two matches there and fell to 2004 NCAA champion Benjamin Becker 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5.

As Marcos Baghdatis so eloquently put it on Thursday night, there aren't words to describe what he's meant to tennis. So here are two pictures, one from today and one from his appearance in Kalamazoo in 1985.

Photos of US Juniors on ustaboys.com

Please visit ustaboys.com for photos of American players in the US Open junior championships.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Insert Clever Rain Headline Here

©Colette Lewis 2006
Flushing Meadows NY--

Ernesto's remnants resulted in a LaGuardia landing that resembled the latest Cedar Point ride, but safely on the ground, we weren't about to complain. The hotel shuttle was prompt, we were recipients of two random acts of New York courtesy (given correct directions, clearing space so we could pass with our bags)and we were checked in and on our way to the BJKNTC by 5 p.m.

Unfortunately, the hotel shuttle, which was gratis from the airport but not to Corona Park (making me wistfully recall the free trams in Melbourne) dropped us a ten minute walk from the gate, and in the steady, windblown rain, with computer in tow, it was not a leisurely stroll.

Credential pickup was quick and painless this year; I got an M (media) from Tennis Magazine, Paul has a P (photographer) from
ustaboys.com where most of the photos he takes during the week will be displayed.

We had hardly gotten through the gate when Brennan Boyajian's mother Patty flagged us down, more appropriately dressed for the weather than we were with her bright yellow mackintosh. With the player meeting and draw release scheduled for 7 p.m., we had time to get a locker (no workstation at the moment--we're on a waiting list) and eat dinner at the media cafeteria. The food is good and inexpensive, a stark contrast to the prices the public pays at the concessions on the grounds. We ran into Marcia Frost, who had the results of the qualifying at the Sound Shore tennis club. We learned that four girls--Gail Brodsky, Kristy Frilling, Reka Zsilinszka and Julie Boserup--and four boys--Dylan Arnould, Drew Daniel, Mateusz Kecki and Jason Jung--qualified from the U.S.

Presiding over the player meeting was Paul Roetert, the Managing Director of High Performance for the USTA, and it was well-attended (the photo below was taken while players, parents and coaches were still filing in) and short. A few words from a trainer, the ITF media assistant and the referee, some introductions and then the draw, which held several surprises on the girls side.

The only Radwanska in the draw is younger sister Urszula, with Agnieszka a last minute scratch, as is Alexa Glatch. But Veronica Li, beaten by Brodsky today in qualifying, got in as a lucky loser, giving the U.S. 20 girls in the 64-player draw.

The boys side features a very intriguing first match for Donald Young, as Jaak Poldma of Estonia is a very dangerous player and proving it in Canada, where he reached the finals against Canadian Peter Polansky, who did earn a special exemption into the main draw. Polansky could face top seed Martin Klizan in the second round. There are 18 U.S. boys in the main draw and none play each other in the first round.

See usopen.org for the draws and Saturday's schedule, optimistically starting with 11 am matches.

We were completely soaked by the time we arrived back at the hotel, even with an umbrella, and it continues to rain, so it may be another late evening on Sunday.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Ernesto Looming; Expect Rerun of Agassi/Baghdatis on CBS Saturday

After staying up for the entire Agassi/Baghdatis epic last night, I'm a bit bleary today, but despite the 100% chance of rain in New York forecast for Saturday, I'm excited to be only hours away from experiencing more great tennis live.

I've heard that the junior qualifying has already been moved indoors to the Sound Shore tennis club, a very long bus ride from the BJKNTC. I remember it well from 2004, and was so grateful that the trek wasn't necessary last year, when the weather the second week was perfect. Provided our flight actually goes as scheduled, we'll just stay around the Media Center getting our bearings and hoping some night matches are played.

Marcia Frost has the results of Friday's qualifying at collegeandjuniortennis.com.(The Harrison Endara match is not yet finished).

Somehow I missed that Sam Querrey, Vania King, Alexa Glatch and Phillip Simmonds are writing diaries for usopen.org. I was watching USA Network's coverage most of today and therefore got to see a few games of Querrey's four-set loss to Gaston Gaudio. I was hoping for a win, of course, so that I might get a chance to see him play for the first time in a year, but Gaudio was too tough. Maybe next year.

Over at tennisrecruiting.net, Bob Greene caught up with Lauren Albanese, and he confirms, as I heard Tracy Austin say on TV, that she has turned pro.