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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

ITA Individual Indoor Draws Posted

The draws for the ITA Indoor in Columbus, which begins on Thursday, came out on Monday, and I was happy to see Suzi Babos of Cal as the top seed for the women. She has won the past two women's national titles, unseeded in both, and it's time she was given credit for her performances. The men's top seed is defending champion Ben Kohlloeffel of UCLA, who didn't play the All-American in Tulsa, but is also, like Babos, the current NCAA champion.

Georgia's John Isner is seeded second, and last year he and Kohlloffel had a classic semifinal battle in Columbus, which I recounted here.

Audra Cohen of Miami is the women's second seed. Sally Milano of usta.com just posted an in-depth profile about Cohen that definitively answers the questions of why she left Northwestern, why she went to college and what exactly was wrong with her back. I hope these "college profiles" become a regular feature, similar to the "Junior Spotlights."

And finally, The Lantern, the student daily of The Ohio State University, published this article on Steven Moneke of Germany, a sophomore on the Buckeye team, who qualified for the ITA Indoor by winning the Midwest Regional in Minneapolis.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bowles Chooses Seminoles

©Colette Lewis 2006

Tampa's Clint Bowles, one of the top seniors in the country, has decided to head north to Tallahassee to play tennis for the Seminoles of Florida State.

Bowles, who turns 18 next month, took his official visit to the FSU campus two weekends ago, when the feature attraction was the football game against Boston College.

"It was my first college football game," said Bowles, who was accompanied by his parents, "and the atmosphere was amazing; everything was just awesome."

Bowles took an unofficial visit to the University of Florida and an official visit to the University of Georgia, but Florida State won out for a number of reasons.

"I've got a lot of buddies there," he said, naming Bradley Mixson, a frequent doubles partner in the juniors and Michael O'Shea, another Florida sectional rival. "I felt comfortable there. I know Nick (Crowell, assistant coach) and Dwayne (Hultquist, head coach) will do everything they can to help my game. And the academic support they have is great."

Bowles expects to sign his National Letter of Intent next week, and may begin taking classes this summer, in preparation for reaching his goals.

"I want to keep my GPA at 3.0, keep improving in tennis, and get in the best shape I can physically," he said. "I think Florida State's the best place for me."

Tennis Against Breast Cancer Fundraiser

Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com passes along this account of the annual fundraiser in New York for Tennis Against Breast Cancer, held last weekend in New York. U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has been a longtime supporter of the event, and is shown in this photo with Easter Bowl tournament director Seena Hamilton. Donations are still welcome; for further details on how you can help with time, product or money, please visit Tennis Against Breast Cancer's website.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tennis Camp with Vic Braden

Play, The New York Times Sports Magazine, today featured a first person account entitled "Vic Braden's Mental Mojo Experience," about attending a tennis camp at the Vic Braden Tennis College.

Those of you who have been reading ZooTennis from the start know I'm a huge Braden fan, and I have featured him in two previous posts--one a reprint of a column from Florida Tennis called "Inside Look at the Brain of a Champion" (link here), and the other when Braden was one of the stars of Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller blink. This article isn't as theoretical, or rather is theory applied specifically to one 3.5 player, since there is no way to get the Braden treatment without the background. But as I learned when I met him in 2004, and camper Paige Williams relates here, no matter how difficult the concepts, Braden's personality trumps it all.

Braden may be approaching 80, but he doesn’t look it. Past reports have described him physically as beaverish, and while Braden refers to himself as a “little fat coach,” we find him endearing — and hilarious, a natural raconteur. Which is a good thing, since Braden, also a licensed psychologist, is about to drop so much tennis-centric psychology, physics and geometry on us that we’d probably get a migraine if not for the laughing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Underground Tennis Interview with Sharon Fichman

The Underground Tennis website has posted an interview and game style analysis with top Canadian junior Sharon Fichman, who won two junior Grand Slam Doubles titles this year with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia--the Australian and the French. They were finalists at the U.S. Open in New York, when Pavlyuchenkova was going for the Grand Slam (having won Wimbledon with Alisa Kleybanova). Fichman is now ranked 8th by the ITF, and has two more years of junior competition eligibility if she wants to use it. UGT also posted an article about another top Canadian, whom I'll be seeing in Columbus at the ITA Indoor--Melanie Gloria. The Fresno State sophomore was runnerup in the ITA All-American earlier this month in California. So if Fichman is looking to Gloria as a role model, she may still be considering college herself, although Gloria never reached the heights Fichman has in the juniors.

For those of you following the Futures event in Baton Rouge, there has been a noticeable breakdown on results reporting on usta.com, but the local paper had an update Saturday. The Augusta women's event had a washout on Friday, so both quarterfinals and semifinals were scheduled for Saturday.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cohen Is Not Just Another Number:: Augustachronicle. com

Miami's Audra Cohen is the top-ranked women's college player in the country. After asensational 2004-05 freshman season at Northwestern when she was a NCAA finalist, Cohen transferred closer to her home in South Florida, underwent back surgery and didn't play last fall. Although she lost in the round of 16 at the NCAA Individual Championships this year, she helped lead Miami to the finals of the team event, and finished her sophomore year at No. 1.

This summer she played $10,000 Futures in the U.S., winning one and reaching the semifinals in two others. The 20-year-old got her first win over a WTA Top 100 player when she defeated Olga Savchuk in New Haven qualifying, but for some reason, she wasn't given a qualifying wild card for the U.S. Open. This week, she's playing in a $25,000 tournament in Augusta, Georgia and she notched another victory over a WTA Top 100 on Thursday, when she defeated no. 1 seed and 93rd ranked Varvara Lepchenko of Uzbekistan, 6-0 in the third. A sports columnist from the Augusta Chronicle took notice--the story is here (registration required.) Jennifer Magley, who graduated from Florida early and began playing professionally last winter, is also interviewed and she has some very interesting things to say about the difference between college tennis and pro tennis.

"College is a game of consistency; this is a game of weapons."
For Cohen there is another difference too.
"College has five times as much pressure per match because everyone is counting on you and you hold everybody's destiny," Cohen said. "Out here it's only you."

I'm just happy there was a reporter there interested in asking such questions.

In other news today, Vania King has her own website now, vaniaking.net, and the question of who is representing her interests is answered. It's not one of the Big Three, but StarGames in Massachusetts.

Also, the link to this week's Inside Junior Tennis is here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The American Game: Is It In Crisis?

The November/December issue of Tennis magazine is a special report on the state of the American game. Heavyweight freelancers Doug Robson and Christopher Clarey contribute, and two of the magazine's staff, Christopher Chung and Steve Tignor, also pen articles on the theme. Chung's about "straightening out the collegiate game," and Tignor's about where U.S. dominance went. I just received my issue today, but I've read everything, and there's not much to argue with from my perspective. In addition to the print articles, which are not available online, is a "web extra" roundtable discussion with Eliot Teltscher, Pam Shriver and Jim Courier. The link is here. I disagree with Pam Shriver on college tennis and agree with Jim Courier on the flat world. There's lots of other ideas to chew over and they touch on the "hunger" issue that always rears its head in this conversation.

But for a really strong statement on the issue, you've got this Dale Robertson story in today's Houston Chronicle, that quotes legendary coach John Wilkerson as saying:

Our kids get the money and the fame, and they stop trying to improve," he said. "We don't excel nowhere anymore because we get too much too soon. We're developing a bunch of wussies."

The article is full of that kind of straight talk, which I've found is a prominent characteristic of the best junior development coaches. And if you want to hear Wilkerson's theory on why there are no more serve-and-volley players in tennis, that's there too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SMASH Column: So what if you played badly in New York edition

My online column for SMASH was posted today, and I thought I'd provide a photo here of the top "ace" this week, Teliana Pereira of Brazil. Many of the juniors who had disappointing results at the U.S. Open Junior Championships last month have rebounded nicely in the past six weeks on the ITF Pro Circuits. It's the theme of the column.

The participants have been named for the ITA Indoor in Columbus next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing tennis again after three weeks away from the courts. The list from the ITA can be found here. With a draw of only 32, it's an exclusive group. And speaking of the ITA, Casey Angle, its Director of Communications, makes Bonnie DeSimone's column for ESPN.COM this week (scroll to the heading Tennis U).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sam Winterbotham Named Head Coach at Tennessee

Rather a surprise here, with today's announcement that former University of Colorado tennis coach Sam Winterbotham had been named to replace Chris Mahony at the University of Tennessee. Mahony had announced last month that he was returning to his native country, Australia, taking the position of National High Performance Academy Head Coach for Tennis Australia. Winterbotham had taken an assistant's position at Baylor after Colorado cut its men's tennis program at the end of the 2005-06 season.

All the talk I heard presumed that assistant Chris Woodruff would move up, and the Knoxville News published this article two weeks ago calling him the "leading candidate.

The university's announcement doesn't mention Woodruff.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jerry Magee Covers College Tennis

The Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, one of the best public tennis facilities anywhere, always has something going on, and the past few days it has served as the site of the ITA West Regionals for women. The regionals, nine each for men and women, serve as qualifying tournaments for the ITA Indoors in Columbus next month; some do not finish until Tuesday, some were completed on Sunday.

Jerry Magee wrote this story about the two California freshman finalists, Sara Fansler of USC and Yasmin Schnack of UCLA before their match on Sunday. Fansler won--details (and a photo, which I don't have) are here.

Another player who had an impressive weekend was Pepperdine's Andre Begemann, one of the heroes of the Waves NCAA team championship last May. Seeded eighth, he upset top seed and NCAA champion Ben Kohlloeffel of UCLA in the quarterfinals, and second seed Chris Surapol of UCLA in the finals. He played no. 4 for Pepperdine last year, but I'm guessing he'll be moving up this season. A brief story on his run is here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Clayton Commits to Stanford

It was shaping up to be a slow news weekend until Alex Clayton called me this evening to tell me he had verbally committed to Stanford.

I had run into him at the U.S. Open last month, and the 18-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale told me he was going to visit Harvard, where his older brother Chris is on the tennis team. (His younger sister Missy just won the ITF event in Tulsa, and Mary, the youngest, plays too). There didn't seem to be many other contenders, so I was fully expecting he'd tell me he was following Chris to Cambridge.

But he decided to take a visit to Palo Alto, and he told me he just loved the campus, the school, the area, everything about it. He also said that he felt the competition in the Pac-10 would be better for his tennis. Stanford's academic requirements are notoriously stringent, but Alex had no trouble in that regard, saying it was only days between application and acceptance for him.

He admitted that Chris was a bit annoyed with his choice, and it was a difficult decision because of that, but he (and his father) felt Stanford was the right fit for him. He also considered and visited the University of Florida.

Because Alex can't sign a National Letter of Intent until November 8, nothing is official until then, but Stanford coach John Whitlinger and his assistant Dave Hodge must be very excited about landing one of nation's prize recruits.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Young Guns Serve it Up; Sunday Mail

Blogger has been down all evening, so I'm quickly going to post this link to a contrarian story about the state of Australian tennis. Fascinating to read whom Craig Tiley tips (as they say in England) for Top Twenty potential.

Friday, October 20, 2006

US Open Juniors Slide Show

Friday is multimedia day at zootennis. In addition to this new, lengthy slide show, there is a also a new Inside Junior Tennis podcast available through this link.

2006 US Open Jr. Championships
View Photo Slideshow

Thursday, October 19, 2006

101 Tips for Winning More Tennis Matches

I met Michael Kosta in Mobile in 2005 where he was recruiting as the University of Michigan men's assistant coach at the USTA 18s Spring Championships. He was midway through his first season there, and we had a long conversation that included stories from his college years at the University of Illinois and his years traveling on the circuit. He also mentioned he was writing a book, and it has recently been published by coacheschoice.com. It is available for purchase at winmoretennismatches.com, which also features a sample tip from the book.

He sent me a copy a few weeks ago and I've been reading it, ten or twenty tips at a time. Although perhaps most valuable for players competing at a high level, it isn't a book devoted to tennis technique or strategy, although some of the entries are certainly in those categories. Most are observations or hard-won lessons learned from his years playing competitive tennis and, more recently, while coaching others.

The book is divided into seven chapters: Pre-Match, Match Play:Singles, Match Play:Doubles, Post-match, Practices, Tournament Environment and Mental/Physical Preparation. Some tips, like no. 11-- Wear two pairs of socks, and 12-- Accept the weather, are pretty straightforward. Others, like no. 29-- Learn when to go for an ace and no. 37-- Accept code violations, need more elaboration. But none are complicated or difficult to understand. Many of the tips, especially in the final chapter, are especially appropriate for juniors, who often work much harder on the physical part of the game than the mental one. Kosta makes his points clearly, often with anecdotes about his own experiences, and makes use of his sense of humor too.

Kosta is no longer the assistant at Michigan. This summer he left to pursue a career in standup comedy, and I've written a story about that unlikely job change, one I hope will be published soon, for either Tennis or Smash magazine. A person with the courage to take on that kind of challenge isn't going to write a timid book, and he hasn't. You may not adopt all of the tips, or even ten of them, but just two or three may help you not just win more tennis matches, but have a more positive outlook off the court too.

Earlier this month the Detroit Free Press published an article about Kosta and the book, which is available here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tulsa Slideshow

In addition to his roll as TheTennisPodcast host, Kevin McClure also is something of a techie, and he suggested I try slideroll to give some more exposure to the photos that I've amassed. These are ones that have already appeared on the site previously (to minimize the time I needed to experiment), but it looks like it's going to work well. I may try to add a U.S. Open Junior slideshow in the next few days.

Chasing The Dream: New York Daily News

Every Wednesday, with very rare exceptions, I read Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim's tennis mailbag on si.com. He is the perfect expert, with plenty of opinions and the talent to voice them, yet never comes across as mean or self-aggrandizing. The people who send him mail can always be counted on to point out an interesting link or a bizarre tale with tennis at its heart. Not a regular reader of the New York Daily News, I didn't know what to expect when a reader sent Wertheim this link to a Wayne Coffey story about 18-year-old Evgeniya Kim, who plays no. 1 on the Hunter College women's tennis team.

It turns out to be an inspiring story about her family's perseverance after heartbreaking setbacks in their immigration to the United States from Uzbekistan. Reading it will give you an appreciation of what many of us take for granted.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

SMASH Column, Tulsa ITF edition; Querrey Signs Huge Adidas Sponsorship

My weekly online column for SMASH was posted today and I've already started my list for next week's. High on it will be Sam Querrey, who signed a very lucrative sponsorship agreement with adidas which I heard about today on Lynn Berenbaum's tennis blog Off The Baseline. Tennis Week published some details. Special thanks to Jon Neeter of Pacific Strings for passing along this recent photo of Querrey.

I also wanted to link to my friend and colleague Bonnie DeSimone's story for espn.com on Vania King and James Blake. She asked Blake about working with Mark Merklein and he has quite a bit to say about it. And I'm very grateful that she mentioned zootennis too.

And finally, if you would like to read what Paul Goldstein thinks of Alex Kuznetsov's future, the Sacramento Bee (registration required) reports it here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

King Wins First WTA Singles Title; Kecki, Clayton win ITF B1

Vania King has now done what many career tennis professionals fail to do--win a tour title. There have been many, many stories about her victory in Thailand the past two days, what with the general pessimism about women's tennis in the U.S., and the fact that she's the first 17-year-old from the U.S. to win a title since Serena Williams (although Serena's, the U.S. Open, was a bit more impressive than a Tier III in Bangkok with no Russians). But it's still a great result, and coming from a set down in the final against local favorite and former WTA Top Twenty player Tamarine Tanasugarn demonstrates serious mental fortitude. She and partner Jelena Kostanic also won the doubles, their second straight title in three consecutive finals' appearances.

This story about King's win features some interesting quotes, and I found this one particularly intriguing:

"I was never really a good junior player. Last year no one expected me to win a match, or to qualify [at the US Open, where she reached second round as qualifier].

"But you just can't let yourself be blown away by people who treat you badly," said the American, who hopes to be in the top 20 in the next two years.

King may not have been a great junior, but she was undeniably a very good one. She won two Grade 1s and reached the Orange Bowl quarterfinals in singles and her doubles record, which includes a runnerup finish with Alexa Glatch in last year's U.S. Open Juniors, was outstanding.

Who has treated her badly? That would be the second question I'd ask, if I run into her somewhere. The first? When did you know the WTA was a realistic goal and not the delusions of a mediocre junior?

Except for a couple of games of doubles at this year's US Open, when partner Amy Frazier couldn't make a serve or a return, I haven't seen King play since she made her move up the WTA rankings. I doubt even with this shot of confidence that she could dent players like Clijsters or Henin-Hardenne, both of whom annihilated her this summer. But as fast and as far as she's come in the past year, it would be foolish to think she's done improving at age 17.

Those of you wondering what happened in Tulsa, well, join the club. The ITF told me this morning they were chasing down results, that there had been computer "issues".
Here's what I do know, thanks to Faye in London:

Boys singles: Winner Mateusz Kecki and runner up Kellen Damico ( 7-5 / 6-3 )

Boys Doubles: Winners Kellen Damico & Johnny Hamui and runners up Jarmere Jenkins & Austin Krajicek (2-6 / 7-5 / 6-2 )

Girls singles: Winner Courtney Clayton and runner up Reka Zsilinszka (1-6 / 6 - 4 / 6 - 1)

Girls doubles: Winners Gabriela Paz & Reka Zsilinszka and runner up Madison Brengle & Kimberly Couts( 3-6 / 7-5 / 6-4 )

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Swift Blasts Title IX

Sports Illustrated seems to shunt its most controversial stories to its website, and if Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com had not forwarded an email copy of this article by by E.M. Swift, I doubt I would ever have seen it.

The topic of the unintended consequences of Title IX has shown up in comments on this site, usually when I link to a story about yet another men's tennis team being axed. Swift mentions men's tennis in this piece; but the usual ogre in this drama, football, isn't discussed. I agree that back in the 70's, Title IX was necessary, and now it probably isn't, at least in its current form.

One of the great pleasures I've had in the past three years of covering junior tennis is meeting so many girls who take for granted their lives as athletes. There is no stigma, no self-consciousness, no glass ceilings, thanks in large part to the women who battled all those things in previous generations--with the assistance of Title IX. But as Swift says:

If you believe that being on a team, practicing, learning discipline through sports is beneficial to the development of the individual, as I do, then as a society we are poorer every time a school eliminates any athletic program -- male or female. School administrators don't enforce gender proportionality for chemistry, economics or English-lit classes. Why should they try to engineer gender ratios in sports?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tigers Win The Pennant!

Tennis news is minimal today, but as a lifelong fan of the Detroit Tigers it wouldn't really matter what was going on elsewhere in sports. It has been 19 years, most of them filled with losing and more losing, since their last appearance in the postseason, and now, just three years after they lost an American League record 119 games, they've reached the World Series. It's unimaginable, really.

There's lots of accolades to hand out for such a turnaround, but manager Jim Leyland, in his first year, is getting most of the credit. Mitch Albom, the peerless Detroit sports columnist, looks at Leyland's impact in this column, written before the ACLS series with Oakland. Here's one of Leyland's best quotes:

"It wasn't really until the winter caravan that I could look them in the eye and pretty much tell you the ones who believed in themselves and the ones who doubted themselves ..." he recalled. "When we got to spring training, I had a pretty good idea of who was tentative and who was aggressive and ... who we had to have a change in the mind-set for. Not that I'm that smart, but when you've been around players as much as I've been around them, you get a pretty good idea."

I think that good coaches, whether baseball, basketball or tennis, have that same knack. It is, in a nutshell, leadership.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sweeting's Status

Well, I did hear from the University of Florida's Sports Information Department today, but it didn't exactly resolve the matter of Ryan Sweeting's immediate plans. Here is what I was told:

"Ryan is enrolled in school, but not on our roster. He is assessing his future options."

So nothing is official yet.

Another player who thought long and hard about the choice between college and professional tennis is Vania King. The 17-year-old decided to pass on college this summer, although the last I had heard, she wasn't signed by any sports management agency. She is, however, doing well, and today won her quarterfinal match in the WTA event in Bangkok, reaching her second semifinal of the year. She certainly has an intelligent perspective on the state of her game. Reuters has the details here .

This week's edition of Inside Junior Tennis, with me and Kevin McClure, is now available at theTennisPodcast.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Merklein to work with Blake; final word on Tulsa

In the course of tracking down official confirmation that Ryan Sweeting has decided to leave the University of Florida for a pro career (still waiting to hear from the Sports Information Dept. in Gainesville), I discovered that USTA High Performance coach Mark Merklein is going to be working with James Blake, rather than continue to be the traveling coach for the 1990 birth year boys, a position he took in February of this year.

I spoke with Mark this afternoon, and he assured me that he was not leaving the USTA, unlike David DiLucia, who became Lindsay Davenport's personal coach early this year. (Davenport has recently reunited with Adam Peterson, while DiLucia may be returning to USTA High Performance to work with the 90's, whom he traveled with prior to leaving the USTA). Merklein will remain with High Performance, but will concentrate on keeping Blake at the top of the game, and perhaps work with Robby Ginepri too. On Friday, Merklein is leaving for the Tennis Masters Series in Madrid; in the next few weeks, he'll travel with Blake to Basel and Paris and, if he qualifies, to Shanghai for the Tennis Masters Series Cup, where the top eight players on the ATP tour participate in the season-ending championships.

Mark sounded excited about the opportunity which apparently has been in the works for several months. He reminisced about the days when he was on the tour and a teenaged Blake served as a hitting partner for him, crashing on his couch. Now the roles are reversed, and although Merklein's extensive experience and success at all levels of the game--1988 Kalamazoo 16s winner; 1994 NCAA singles champion; 12 years on the pro tour; four ATP doubles titles; coaching on tour and in college-- will be an undoubted asset, he assured me he will in no way replace Brian Barker, Blake's longtime coach.

Merklein and the USTA are committing to this arrangement for 20-25 weeks in 2007 and Mark told me he hopes to continue to help coach his former juniors and work at other USTA camps from his base in Boca Raton, although he won't travel with them as he has been doing. He expects to be back in Florida for the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl this year, and I'm relieved that he's still planning on staying involved with the juniors.

For those interested in tennis news from Tulsa, Friday's quarterfinals are set for the ITF B1 in Tulsa. Several upsets on the girls' side, with top seed Julia Cohen, third seed Kim Couts and fifth seed Chelsey Gullickson losing today. For full draws, see usta.com.

The short version of my four days of coverage of the ITA Polo Ralph Lauren All-American in Tulsa appears today on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

And one housekeeping note: the Kalamazoo website, ustaboys.com has a new look and a new server home. Please reset your bookmarks, and bear with us as we make the migration.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SMASH Column, Tulsa Edition

No, Vania King wasn't in Tulsa, but I'm not supplying the photos for my SMASH online column.

Speaking of King, there was news about a singles victory for her Wednesday, although the headline, "US Teen Shocks Molik" betrays no knowledge of recent tennis results. King beat Alicia Molik easily in the first round of the U.S. Open this year, so I doubt the outcome was much of a shock to the Australian.

And before I forget about it, I wanted to post a link to this article about the Ren sisters from Great Britain. Although the headline is overblown--"Sheffield's own Williams sisters"--you've got to hope that there is actually some hope for women's tennis in that country.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cal Berkeley's Peter Wright Gets Some Ink

<10/11 update: here's the link to the dates and details on the "Peter Wright Tennis Tour.">

Cal's head coach Peter Wright was in Tulsa most of the week with player Pierre Mouillon, who qualified, then had the misfortune of drawing top seed John Isner in the first round. But Wright didn't go home, because Mouillon won three consolation matches, and I had an opportunity to speak with him briefly Saturday afternoon. I learned he was a regular reader of zootennis, which I appreciate, and I got from him a brief description of the program he's just started to get local juniors, pros and college players together for a day of tennis on Sundays this fall. (If you're a junior in the Bay Area, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.) It sounds like a simple enough concept, but NCAA regulations are a complex maze--just ask Wright and the Cal compliance officer. He promised to put me on his mailing list, so I'll try to keep up with what's happening in his pilot program.

The ink I'm referring to is a story that local Tulsa World sportwriter John Ferguson did on Wright. Ferguson was at the Case Tennis Center writing primarily about Tulsa player Arnau Brugues of course, but he was enthusiastic about all the high-quality tennis the new facility has allowed him to cover in the past five years.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Return Trip: A Big Improvement

My return home from Tulsa went much more smoothly than my trip out, and I had the pleasure of sitting next to the new University of Michigan assistant coach Sean Maymi. We touched on all the pressing college tennis issues on the flight from Tulsa to Minneapolis, discussed recruiting, his previous coaching positions and the advantages of being part of Bruce Berque's program at the University of Michigan.

With all the pressures of recruiting and coaching (not to mention travel planning), it's rare that I have an opportunity to have a hour-long conversation with any college coach, so I hope I didn't abuse the privilege. But it was enlightening to hear some of the details of the daily life of an assistant coach. Suffice it to say, I'm a homebody compared to the traveling that's required of them.

One of the best (luckiest) photos I took the whole tournament can be seen on Michigan's website.

I did see a few juniors around Tulsa's tennis center, but the ITF B1 qualifying was not held on campus, so I didn't have an opportunity to see any of them play. The boys' field isn't nearly as strong as it was last year, when two junior grand slam winners competed in the final (Young and Sweeting), but the girls side is full of top contenders this year.

One of them, Reka Zsilinszka, who was a finalist in the Grade 1 in Lexington last month, was featured today in her hometown newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Isner and Flores Capture ITA All-American Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa, OK--

John Isner was 1 for 2 in national championships on Sunday, when he and Georgia teammate Luis Flores swept past Michigan's Brian Hung and Matko Maravic 8-3, to win the All-American doubles title at the Michael Case Tennis Center.

"It was a little bit hard," Isner said of having to regroup for doubles just 90 minutes after dropping the morning singles championship match to Tulsa's Arnau Brugues. "But this is a very big tournament, so I knew if we could come out here and get a win, it would help ease my pain."

Seeded fifth, Flores and Isner got a quick start, breaking Hung in the fourth game. Serving flawlessly, they were never in danger of being broken themselves.

"We served very well," Flores understated. "That shut down the chances for them to break us."

Once they secured the second break, to go up 6-2, the outcome was never in doubt.

Flores and Isner have just begun playing together this fall, and there were a few calls of "yours" on balls down the middle that produced hesitation.

"We both want to hit the forehand in the middle," said Isner. "I need to start letting him have it, he has a better forehand," he said of his lefthanded partner. "But other than that, we play real well together, and I look forward to the rest of this year."

Hung and Maravic expressed disappointment with their performance in the final; after three days of dominating the opposition, the fourth seeds couldn't find the key to solving the Bulldogs' overpowering serves.

"They didn't miss too many first serves," said Maravic, "so it was very hard to break."

"One of our strengths is our returning," said Hung, "but today they just served too well."

Their attempt to become the first Michigan doubles team to win a national title in the program's 114-year history motivated the pair, but reaching the final was some consolation.

"We just lost, so it's kind of tough to think about how good a tournament we had," said Maravic. "But probably when it settles down, we'll realize that we really did a lot. We're proud to be the only Michigan team to make it to the finals here."

The consolation singles tournament final, for those losing in the first round, was played Sunday morning. Wake Forest's Todd Paul defeated Notre Dame's Stephen Bass 6-1, 6-2.

For complete draws, see the ITA website.

Brugues Captures University of Tulsa's First National Title

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa OK--

Before Arnau Brugues even went to the net to shake hands in his 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over top seed John Isner of Georgia, he dropped his racquet and sprinted to the courtside seats to embrace his coach Vince Westbrook. The joyous hug celebrating Tulsa's first national championship in tennis wasn't lengthy because Isner, the All-American defending champion, was waiting to offer his congratulations to the home town hero.

"It's like a dream," said the junior from Barcelona. "At the beginning of the draw on the first day, I just wanted to win some matches because I was playing at home, but I never thought I was going to win. I'm so happy right now."

Brugues' local fan base gave him a lift throughout the match, especially in the eighth game of the first set, when the lefthander saved three break points with forehand winners. Chants of "T U" rose regularly, and twice the Tulsa supporters behind the court were cautioned by the chair umpire for being disruptive during points.

"They were yelling like every single point, come on Tulsa. They never let you down. It helps a lot. And the other guy, I think it bothers him."

Isner's coach, Manny Diaz had another explanation for his player's loss.

"He just didn't serve well. I can't remember the last time he served that badly, but everyone is entitled to an off-day. Brugues played well."

Isner's serve was especially shaky in the tiebreak when he doublefaulted at 4-4 and on set point.

"He has a really good serve you know, and it takes a little bit to get used to it," said Brugues. "At the end of the first set I made more returns, and he started to force more, and I think that was the key."

Westbrook, in his 15th season as Tulsa's men's tennis coach, agreed.

"John's got the best serve in college tennis. He can get rolling and push you off the court. Our strategy was to hold the baseline, get a return in, run every ball down and make him earn it. When it got down to the tiebreaker, there was so much pressure on his [Isner's] serve, that it broke down a little bit."

Brugues didn't get a break point until the match's final game. With Isner serving at 4-5, 30-40, he saved a match point serve-and-volleying on a second serve, but a forehand error gave Brugues a second one. Again, Isner failed to get a first serve in, and couldn't handle the return, giving Brugues and Tulsa their first national championship.

Although Brugues has lost only four times since transferring from the University of Barcelona last fall, he still seemed shocked at his success.

"Today I played with no pressure," said Brugues, whose parents traveled from Barcelona for the tournament. "I thought the other guy was better than me, and I just tried to have fun. And it worked."

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Tulsa's Own Meets Defending Champion in ITA All-American Singles Final Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa, OK-

Georgia's John Isner, the 2005 All-American singles champion and top seed in this year's tournament, will attempt to win his 12th consecutive match at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa Sunday morning. Standing in his path is fifth seed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa, a rookie in All-American play.

Neither has lost a set in their previous five matches, and the final promises an intriguing contrast between the dominating serve of Isner and the speed and groundstroke power of Brugues. "I'm going to hold serve a lot," said Isner of his first match against Brugues. "It puts a lot of pressure on my opponent. I think I have a good shot tomorrow."

On a cool and breezy Saturday morning, Isner defeated big Kevin Anderson of Illinois, a nine seed, in the quarterfinals 7-5, 6-3 then followed that win with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over 2006 NCAA finalist Somdev Devvarman of Virginia, the fourth seed.

"I served very well today," said the 6-foot-9 inch senior of his performance in the semifinals, "and I tried to dictate the play when he was serving. His second serve probably isn't the best part of his game."

Isner didn't drop his serve until he was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second. Down 0-40, he saved two break points by serving and volleying, but Devvarman earned his only break of the match when Isner couldn't handle a Devvarman pass. Isner could be heard berating himself immediately after the break, pronouncing it "the worst game ever," and after the match, he still hadn't forgotten it.

"I got my break in the second, then gave it right back, which is very unusual," the native of Greensboro, N.C. said. "I don't do that much, but I was fortunate to get through the tiebreaker."

Brugues, a junior from Barcelona, Spain has taken college tennis by storm since transferring from the University of Barcelona to Tulsa last fall. He reached the Round of 16 at the NCAAs in May, earning All-American honors, and finished the season ranked tenth.

In his quarterfinal match with Ryan Rowe of Illinois, Brugues breezed through the first six games before Rowe recovered in the second set. Down a break and a point from being down 5-2, Brugues reversed his fortunes, won three straight games and five of the next six to earn the victory.

Against nine seed Luis Flores of Georgia in the semifinal, Brugues again got an early break, but the lefthander from Mexico forced a tiebreak when Brugues was unable to serve out the set at 5-4, doublefaulting on break point.

But the blazingly fast Brugues raised his game in the tiebreak and never stalled again, using the high decibel support of his teammates to get through the tight spots in second set. Shouts of "Arnau" and rhythmic clapping from their end alternated with Brugues' own fist-clenching "Vamos" cries throughout both of his Saturday matches.

"They were all here cheering me," said Brugues, who admitted their energy was important to his win. "It's great to have them. It was a tough match, he was a good player, sure, but it was tough playing all week. I'm tired," said the 5-foot-11 lefthander of his five singles matches in three days.

Isner, who, unlike last year is playing doubles, has played even more tennis than Brugues, but he and partner Flores advanced to doubles final Sunday afternoon without taking the court. Markus Dickhardt and Chris Groh were to be their opponents in the semifinals, but Groh, a semifinalist in the consolation singles, pulled a stomach muscle and was unable to compete.

After the singles final Sunday morning, Isner and Flores, a five seed, will meet the fourth seeded team of Brian Hung and Matko Maravic of Michigan. Hung and Maravic once again overwhelmed their opponents, this time pinning an 8-4 loss on unseeded James Cluskey and Ken Skupski of Louisiana State.

For full draws, see the ITA website.

Photos of Semifinalists at ITA All-American in Tulsa

Since there's a short break between the quarterfinals and semifinals, I thought I'd post photos of the winners of this morning's matches.

John Isner of Georgia (1) defeated Kevin Anderson of Illinois (9) 7-5, 6-3.

Somdev Devvarman of Virginia (4) defeated Luke Shields of Boise State 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Arnau Bruges of Tulsa (5) defeated Ryan Rowe of Illinois 6-0, 7-5.

Luis Flores of Georgia (9) defeated Clement Reix (9) of Clemson 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Friday, October 6, 2006

Top Two Doubles Seeds Fall Friday in Tulsa

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa OK--

Both the 2006 NCAA champions and the 2005 All-American title winners were eliminated Friday afternoon at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

Top seeds Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe, who claimed the NCCA title in Palo Alto in May, lost to the unseeded team of Diego Camacho and Ross Cunningham of Tulsa 8-6 in second round action. Marco Born and Andreas Siljestrom of Middle Tennessee State, the defending All-American doubles champions, also exited in the second round, dropping an 8-6 decision to James Cluskey and Ken Skupski of Louisiana State.

Anderson and Rowe are still alive in singles, perhaps dividing their focus, but Georgia's team of Luis Flores and John Isner, a five seed, suffered no such letdown. Both won their morning singles matches then took two doubles contests, defeating Matt Christian and Willy Lock of Northwestern in the second round 9-7, and Camacho and Cunningham in the quarterfinals 8-3. Their opponents in Saturday afternoon's semifinal will be the unseeded team Markus Dickhardt and Chris Groh of San Diego State.

The highest seeds remaining are the Michigan pairing of Brian Hung and Matko Maravic, who have won all three of their matches impressively. Hung and Maravic lost only two games in their first round win, and on Friday disposed of Tulsa's Arnau Brugues and Federico Soriano 8-3 in the second round, then defeated Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey of Virginia by the same score in the quarterfinals. With none of the participants still in singles, the semifinal between Hung-Maravic and Cluskey-Skupski is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.

For full draws, including singles and doubles consolation tournaments, see the ITA website.

Quarterfinals Set at ITA All-American in Tulsa

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa, OK--

Half of Saturday's quarterfinalists will wear either Illinois orange or Georgia red at the ITA All-American Championships at the University of Tulsa.

Top seed and defending champion John Isner will face a no. 9 seed Kevin Anderson of Illinois after each crafted straight-set victories on a sun-splashed Friday morning. Isner, at 6-foot-9 more than a foot taller than his opponent, UCLA qualifier Chris Surapol, came back from a break down in the second set to win 6-2, 7-6 (11). It took Isner six match points in the tiebreak to finally subdue Surapol, and predictably, it was an ace that did the trick. Anderson, only three inches shorter than Isner, handled unseeded Adam Holmstrom of Denver 6-4, 6-2, to set up a battle of big men with big serves.

The other pairing in the top half of the draw will see no. 4 seed Somdev Devvarman of Virginia take on unseeded Luke Shields of Boise State. Shields eliminated Matic Omerzel of Georgia, who was also unseeded, 6-3, 6-3, earning his third consecutive straight set victory.

Devvarman, a 2006 NCAA finalist, needed three hours and a tournament referee's ruling to overcome Florida's Greg Ouellette 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3.
In the third set, with Ouellette serving at 3-4 deuce, Ouellette cracked his racquet in frustration over losing the point. Although Ouellette convinced the chair umpire that he had barely tapped it and didn't deserve a code violation, Tony Bresky, Virginia's assistant coach, requested a tournament referee, who ruled that breaking a racquet is not subject to interpretation, and awarded a point penalty, and therefore the game, to Devvarman.

Serving for the match, Devvarman went up 40-15, let one match point get away on an overhead error, but converted his second, when Ouellette barely missed a passing shot. At the conclusion of that point, Ouellette heaved his racquet over the fence and outside the stadium, yelling "now that's a #&#% (obscenity deleted) point penalty."

Devvarman's teammate and doubles partner Treat Huey also played a long three setter, but couldn't finish off Luis Flores of Georgia, a nine seed, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-3. Flores will face Clemson's Clement Reix, also a nine seed, who took his first straight set win of the tournament, downing qualifier Jakob Klaeson of Mississippi 6-3, 6-4.

The fourth quarterfinal will feature hometown favorite Arnau Brugues of the University of Tulsa, the fifth seed, who won the last eleven games in his victory over qualifier Ivan Puchkarov of Oklahoma State. Across the net from Brugues will be Illinois' Ryan Rowe, ranked so low coming into the tournament that he was one of the last players to get in to the main draw without qualifying. Rowe scored the day's only upset when he took out Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State, a nine seed, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

The doubles will be down to the semifinals by the end of play on Friday. I'll update that action later on Friday.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Surprises in Tulsa

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa, OK--

The first day of the Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Tennis Championships (which I'll shorten to the All-American in my reports) was full of surprises. The weather, which was an unseasonably warm 90+ degrees throughout the pre-qualifying and qualifying, changed dramatically overnight, and the cool cloudy morning left those who had been around all week unprepared. Jackets and warmups definitely came in handy in the first few hours, although by noon, the skies had cleared and the temperature rebounded into the upper 70s.

It wasn't just the weather that was up and down Thursday. Favored players also showed mixed results, with only seven seeds surviving both rounds of singles. Two of the top four seeds--no. 2 Luigi D'Agord of Miami and no. 3 Travis Helgeson of Georgia--were among those eliminated. Barely a game into his first round match with lucky loser Roy Sichel of Charlotte, D'Agord suffered a severe sprain of his left ankle, immediately retiring from the match. He also was unable to compete in doubles, where he and partner Daniel Vallverdu were seeded third.

Helgeson, who transferred to Georgia from Texas this fall, lost more conventionally. Illinois' Ryan Rowe upended his fellow lefthander 6-3, 7-6(3) in the afternoon's second round.

Helgeson was the only member of the Georgia Bulldog contingent to lose on the first day. Top seed and defending All-American champion John Isner won both his matches in straight sets, as did Luis Flores, a nine seed, and unseeded Matic Omerzel.

Rowe is joined in the Round of 16 by teammate Kevin Anderson, a nine seed, while the University of Virginia also had two players survive the long first day--fourth seed and 2006 NCAA runnerup Somdev Devvarman and unseeded Treat Huey. Huey upset seventh seed Jerry Makowski of Texas A & M in the first round.

Denver's Adam Holmstrom took out sixth seed Erling Tveit of Mississippi in the second round, reaching the final 16 in Tulsa for the second straight year.

Fifth seed Arnau Brugues, playing on his home courts, showed just how comfortable he is at the Michael Case Tennis Center, losing only three games in his two wins Thursday.

And speaking of the Case Tennis Center--wow. Not quite five years old, the facility is outstanding, with great spectator viewing on 12 outdoor courts, beautiful indoor courts and a design that emphasizes spaciousness. The lack of shade is being addressed with proposed awnings, the plans for which are on display. I'm now completely spoiled, as there is a separate media room set up (the Tulsa player lounge during the season) which includes internet access and a big screen TV to keep up with the baseball playoffs.

On Friday, two rounds of doubles and one round of singles is scheduled beginning at 10 a.m. central time.

For complete draws see the ITA website.

The Tennis Recruiting Network & The TennisPodcast

Just a short post to let you know that my recruiting profile on Clint Bowles was published today on The Tennis Recruiting Network and the latest installment of The TennisPodcast's Inside Junior Tennis with Kevin McClure and me is now available.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

One of Those Days

©Colette Lewis 2006
Tulsa, OK--

I love to travel. But if I have too many more days like I had today, I'll have to rethink that statement.

Thunderstorms plagued Michigan all day. I was ninety minutes late leaving Kalamazoo, and was in a bumpy holding pattern over Detroit with the pilot mentioning wind shear, which, for me, is just too much information. When we finally landed, I thought I had missed my connecting flight in Detroit because of a malfunctioning monitor, but it turned out that flight was delayed just long enough for me to make it. We eventually arrived here two hours late, but my bag didn't. I had hoped to attend the opening reception of the ITA Polo Ralph Lauren All American Championships, but instead spent the early evening trying to cope with an unhelpful Northwest employee and her "Luggage Irregularity Report."

I still don't have my bag--I'm told it will be delivered around midnight--but I have my computer and my camera, so I've got the important stuff. Matches begin tomorrow at 8 a.m. central time, and according to Casey Angle, the ITA's Director of Communications, the doubles action will continue well past 8 p.m. tomorrow night. With all that tennis ahead, I need my rest more than I need my clothes!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Tennis Parents

Peter Bodo's TennisWorld featured a post Monday on parenting that was predictably provocative. He includes a link to a fascinating piece by David Johnson on the Menendez Brothers, and discusses other notorious tennis parents. It's all too complex to reduce to a catch phrase, but To Push or Not To Push seems to be the question.

I hope I don't get into trouble by excerpting a bit from a recent TennisOne newsletter. In a piece by Dave Smith, who did a three-part series on The State of American Tennis, he says:

There is, however, one additional concept that I wanted to discuss, one that has not been identified in most tennis circles. “Quitting when it gets too tough!”

Today, a large percentage of kids are being introduced to a wide variety of activities; from gymnastics to violin, from dance to Martial Arts, from piano to cheerleading, from Pop Warner football to Tee-Ball. Obviously, it is a[sic] helpful for kids to be exposed to a wide variety of sports, hobbies and activities. Each contributes to a child’s well-rounded sense of body movement, balance, and coordination, among other attributes.

However, there is sometimes a downside to this diversity when older children are involved. When any activity becomes more challenging, the tendency is to abandon it and try something else. This usually starts at a young age, disguised as developing diversity. Many children never learn to overcome the challenging aspects of activities and sports because they know they can go on to something else if the going gets tough in the program they are in.

I guess everyone would like to find something they could do well without really having to try very hard at it, or if not that, at least find an activity that suits a skill they might develop. But no amount of dedication and hard work is going to make me a good singer--I just don't have the equipment. Once an activity is identified as compatible however, it needs to be studied and practiced and understood. And that's where I think parents need to insist the effort is made.

I've seen and met in my travels many more good tennis parents than bad ones. I freely admit I avoid prolonged contact with those who seem to lack perspective on the role of tennis in their child's life. But most love the game, and appreciate it apart from its embodiment in their child. They recognize the maturity, dedication and discipline it requires; in the end it is not the parent that is demanding--it's the sport itself.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Last Week's Big Winners

I won't be doing another SMASH column until I come back from the ITA Polo Ralph Lauren All American Tennis Championships Tulsa, but there were several performances last week that merit a mention.

Belarus won the Junior Fed Cup in Barcelona, with Ksenia Milevskaya leading the way. She beat world No. 1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the second time this summer, (the first time was on grass) coming from a set down in the singles, and teamed with Ima Bohush to take the doubles point, and with it the championship. I've been a big fan of her game since I saw her play in Carson in April, and I hope she'll be at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, since she lost before I got to see much of her in New York this year.

The Netherlands won the Junior Davis Cup, but I can't comment on any of their players, since they've never played in the U.S.

The U.S. girls finished fifth, their only loss a close one to Belarus to decide who made the semifinal round. The ITF website reviews that loss and their subsequent win over Australia in this article. The U.S. boys had a miserable week, finishing 15th out of 16 teams, their only win coming against Morocco Sunday.

Last week I mentioned Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska's victory over Venus Williams; she followed that by taking out Elena Dementieva to reach her first WTA tour semifinal and is now ranked 66th. Steve Tignor apparently got to see some of her semifinal loss in Luxembourg on The Tennis Channel, and has some observations in his weekly "Wrap". I'd also like to add that she won the French Junior title this year. Unfortunately, she pulled out of the U.S. Open juniors at the last minute, so I haven't seen her play since last year's Orange Bowl.

Adam El Mihdawy won the ITF Grade 4 in Illinois, taking the singles and doubles championships. For his partner Devin Britton, it was his fifth ITF doubles title of the year. Thirteen-year-old Valeria Solovieva, a Russian who trains in Miami, won the girls title. She has only been competing on the circuit since the beginning of the year due to the age restrictions and is already ranked 151.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Teltscher Resigns From USTA High Performance

Scrolling through the TennisWeek website Sunday I discovered this surprising story announcing that Eliot Teltscher had resigned as Director of High Performance. The story is quite brief, and it suggests that he left several weeks ago, but there is no official press release that I can find on usta.com. It sounds as if he might not be replaced. If anyone comes across another article about this, please pass it along.