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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Andy Magee Leaves Tennis for Football; Tomic Loses in India; Another Jan Silva Story

Andy Magee is no longer playing tennis and the Los Angeles Times has this story on his new sport of football, where he quarterbacks Palos Verdes Peninsula Chadwick High School's team.

I wasn't expecting daily coverage of the Asia/Oceania B1 in India, but The Hindu is providing it. After the paper's favorite, Srirambalaji Narayanswamy, lost in the second round (and I'm still trying to determine why they were so sure he would win), the seeding favorite, No. 1 Bernard Tomic, lost in the third round, to unseeded 16-year-old Di Wu of China. Their coverage (like mine, focused primarily on players from their own country) of today's action is here. Apparently it's acceptable in Indian journalism to refer to players by their first names in stories and headlines.

I've avoided making a big deal of the Jan Silva hype that has been circulating because I don't see much to be gained by building unrealistic expectations for a five-year-old. But this story from the Telegraph, in spite the horrific headline, contains such reasonable remarks from Judy Murray, Andy's mother, that I thought there was justification for posting a link to it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nevolo Commits to Illinois; ITA Indoor Draws; Rafter on Too Much Junior Tennis

Blue Chip recruit Dennis Nevolo has verbally committed to the University of Illinois, and I had an opportunity to talk with him about it last week for this story on the Tennis Recruiting Network. Only two more weeks until verbal commitments become signed ones and that will generate more news, this time not from the recruits, but from the SIDs in college athletic departments.

The ITA Indoor starts Thursday in Columbus, and I'll be reporting from my fourth straight Indoor beginning that evening. For the draws and schedule, click here.

Pat Rafter thinks Australian juniors are stalling their progress by not playing professional tennis soon enough. Linda Pearce of The Age reports his thoughts and those of Craig Tiley here.

Draws and results for this week's Grade 2 in Lexington, South Carolina are available at this link.

I am still making my way through the comments I received when I was away for the weekend; I'll try to get the backlog taken care of on Wednesday.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Croatia Looks to Improve Coaching; Asia Oceania Closed; Brengle & Frilling Take Augusta Doubles

You know the tennis cycles are getting shorter and shorter when Croatia is cast as a fading tennis power, but that is what this story from Reuters suggests. And this quote from Goran Prpic, Davis and Fed Cup captain for Croatia, has a familiar ring:

"We're not that successful in turning young talents into pros. I often hear from players that, while in the young categories, they were beating some of those who later reach top class. We have a wide base of young talents, but far from enough top coaching experts."
Coaching certification is being pushed, and that's certainly a good thing, but there are still only 100 spots in the top 100, no matter how competent your coaches are.

The Asia/Oceania Closed ITF B1 is underway in India, and I found this preview in The Hindu. Australia's Bernard Tomic is the top seed, but according to The Hindu "Sriram Balaji starts favourite." I'm not familiar with him, so I'll reserve judgment on that. Sanam Singh, mentioned in the story, has begun his freshman year at the University of Virginia.

And although this story from the Augusta Chronicle requires registration, it is a detailed look at the Pro Circuit $25K singles final between 18-year-old Alisa Kleybanova of Russia and Tanja Ostertag of Germany. (Kleybanova is not, as this article states, going to be WTA Top 50 after her win). There is also a brief mention of the doubles final, won by Madison Brengle and Kristy Frilling.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Inside Junior Tennis; Johnson to USC

Not much in the way of internet access here, but I wanted to post a quick link to the latest podcast installment of Inside Junior Tennis. Kevin McClure who is the tech muscle behind the The Tennis Podcast is not able to continue the show on a weekly basis, so we are going to do more of a once-a-month show rather than twice or three times a month, as before. Look for the next one after the ITA Indoor.

Steve Johnson has verbally committed to USC. The Los Angeles Times has the story here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Coaches' Q and A with Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon: Playing Up

I'm happy to introduce the first installment of a new feature on zootennis, which will tap the professional expertise of Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Today's question: "Should I play up?"
Brandi responds:

One of the most misunderstood areas in junior tennis is the concept of playing up. The idea that players need to be tested at a higher level to develop might be a dangerous proposition.

The ITF recommends as guidelines that players play 25% of the time with players below them, 50% with players of their same ability and 25% with better players. With this in mind, how many times do we as players or parents follow this?

Some of the reasons for playing up might be that you are dominating in your age group. This means that you are getting to the semis, finals or winning every tournament you enter in that age group. This applies to local, sectional and national level tournaments.

Our philosophy is that we recommend to our players that they first win in their age group before they move up. By following this guideline players will:

1-have the chance to learn to win and develop confidence

2-prevent injuries from playing with older and stronger opponents

3-learn to play with pressure. Sooner or later you will have to play with pressure when you are expected to win.

A few months ago I had dinner with two of my former students, Kathy Rinaldi Stunkel and Lisa Raymond. Kathy was ranked as high as 7 in the WTA singles rankings. Lisa Raymond has won numerous Grand Slam doubles titles and was ranked as high as 15 in the WTA singles rankings.

In our conversation about developing successful players, they both felt that players need to prove themselves from the ground up. In the first pro tournament Kathy played, she had to go through pre-qualies and qualies before she made into the main draw of the tournament. By the time she got into the main draw she felt like she had earned it. Her game proved that she belonged at that level. In no time she was ranked in the top 50 in the world!!!

In Lisa's case she worked her way into the top 100 in the WTA rankings in two summers of play while attending University of Florida. The two US Open wild cards she got she earned by winning the NCAA singles crowns. By the time she turned pro, she had tested the waters enough to be ranked in the top 100 and knew that she could play with the best of them.

One of the biggest issues we deal with is whether or not a player should play up. Parents are adamant about their kids playing up. In one instance, the junior would play well when playing up but did not fare as well when he played in his own age group. Nerves got the better end of him. He would lose to players he was supposed to beat!

So ask yourself, have you earned it? Have you proven yourself? If you have, best of luck!

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches' Q and A in the subject line. Next month they will answer a question on how to deal with nerves when playing in national events against tougher competition.

In the next Q and A, Harold Solomon, a finalist in men's singles at the 1976 French Open, will answer the question: why should juniors train on clay?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lauren McHale Considers; Casey Watt Decides

Another day, another post for The Tennis Recruiting Network. Unlike all the other high school seniors I've spoken with in the past few weeks, Lauren McHale hasn't made a decision, and she still has several weeks before the signing period.

Another blue chip, Casey Watt, has selected his school, and it's Notre Dame. This Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story gives the details.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Marino to Georgia Tech; Orange Bowl Deadline; Spencer Feature

First I want to notify everyone that I am going to be away on a long weekend for a family celebration beginning tomorrow, so posts are likely to be at unusual times if at all. I'll be posting early on Thursday, and then will be introducing on Friday the new feature--Coaches' Q and A with Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon. Andy will be addressing the always problematic when-to-play-up issue for zootennis readers. I should be able to review and post comments, but that may be it until Monday. I haven't missed a day since July 9th, so I guess I'm due for a break.

In the rich get richer department, Canadian Rebecca Marino has verbally committed to Georgia Tech for next fall. I spoke with her in Tulsa for the article that appears on The Tennis Recruiting Network today, and she is very confident that Bryan Shelton's program is the right place for her.

The fact sheet and other information for the Orange Bowl (16s and 18s) was posted on the ITF junior website today, and the deadline for entry is THIS Friday, October 26, at 5 p.m. Wild card requests are also due on that same date. There is a new sponsor this year--Dunlop--and they are supplying the balls. The tournament will continue to be played at Crandon Park, but note that the USTA High Performance headquarters have moved to Boca Raton.

Wil Spencer is featured on MaxPreps, a website I didn't know about until I read this piece today. Although I had spoken to him about his choice of tennis, I wasn't aware just how talented he was in other sports before he began to concentrate solely on racquet and ball. But what does the headline mean?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Field Takes Shape for ITA Indoor

In just over a week, November 1, to be precise, the second major of the college season, the ITA Indoor, will begin in Columbus, Ohio. Most of the regional qualifying is finished, or at least the finalists have been determined (in singles both finalists earn a spot in the draw, with the exception of the Men's Northwest and West, which is winner only). In the women's eight regionals, fully half the finals were between members of the same team, and most have scheduled those matches on their home courts for later this week.

I've created my own lists of those participating and am posting links to both the Men and the Women. (Be patient-it may take a minute to load). I've included all eight All-American quarterfinalists, the consolation winner there, the at-large bids announced today and the small college champions, but I'm still coming up one short on the women's side and three short on the men's. (I'm not sure why Begemann of Pepperdine was granted an at-large when he won the West, but maybe that final was completed after the deadline.) I'm sure there will be a full list posted on itatennis.com when all the dust has settled. To see the alternates and the at-large doubles teams, click here.

A few thoughts that occurred to me as I was reviewing the field:

Five Georgia Tech women
Three women from Baylor
Both of Duke's blue chip freshmen women
No Lindsey Nelson of USC (still injured?)
No Diana Srebrovic of FL, 2005 Indoor champion (didn't qualify)
Only one Stanford woman
No Stanford women's doubles team
Three men from Virginia
Three men from Ohio State
Only one freshman on men's side in singles
No Georgia men's doubles team
No UCLA player in men's singles

Do those of you who follow college tennis closely notice anything that makes you go hmmm?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spencer to A&M; Bobby Curtis Celebrates; McClune Wins Pro Circuit at Mansfield

Verbal commitment announcements for blue chips are frequent this time of year, and I've been able to talk with a few top recruits about their choices. Wil Spencer and I spoke at the Tulsa ITF about his choice of Texas A & M, and the story is available today on The Tennis Recruiting Network. With Spencer and Austin Krajicek, Steve Denton has already fashioned a very impressive recruiting class.

Julie Wrege of The Tennis Recruiting Network attended the 80th birthday party for USTA Florida's Bobby Curtis Saturday and was kind enough to send this photo--
--from the festivities held at the home of Jean Mills in Vero Beach, and hosted by Mills and Lynne Salus. Along with 150 others, Rick Davison (pictured) helped celebrate the Florida junior tennis legend. But that wasn't the end of the fun--on Sunday, there was another get-together in Miami, where Curtis worked for many years, helping thousands of youngsters from the city develop a love and appreciation of the sport of tennis at Moore Park. Because my husband and I have a family celebration of our own coming up, we weren't able to attend either party, but we're looking forward to passing along our best wishes in person when we see him at the Eddie Herr or Junior Orange Bowl. If you'd like to send a card, his address is: USTA Florida 1 Deuce Ct Ste 100 Daytona Beach FL 32124. I know he appreciates hearing from juniors whose lives he's touched over the years. Here's the Florida section's story on the tribute to Curtis that was held at the Sony Ericsson event this past March.

Kalamazoo 18s champion Michael McClune picked up another Pro Circuit Futures win yesterday in Mansfield, Texas. The Dallas Star-Telegram had a reporter on site, and he filed this story on McClune's victory over Carsten Ball. Ball and McClune have played four times since July, with Ball winning the first two, McClune the two most recent.

And in this story from Tom Tebbutt, who writes about tennis for the Toronto Globe and Mail, points out that an ATP point was available just for signing up for the $25,000 Challenger event in Rimouski, Quebec, as a long list of withdrawals left the tournament without a qualifying field and even left the event one player short filling the main draw.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is Hunger the Problem?

I read Lisa Raymond's "Trouble on the Homefront" on SI.com a few days ago and waited to post it until today, so I could have some time to think about the "trouble", which is basically that the U.S. culture doesn't encourage making a tennis career a life-and-death struggle, while Eastern Europeans, inevititably hungrier given their recent history, have the advantage of disadvantage.

I think it's much more complicated than that, and I will say, for perhaps the fiftieth time on this site, that I believe every champion is an exception. Ana Ivanovic was hitting balls in an empty Serbian swimming pool, Andy Roddick was hitting balls in a club in Boca Raton, but both have turned out to be among the world's best tennis players. If there's an advantage to desperation, there's also one in having resources and opportunity. Do some American juniors squander those? I imagine some do, but most never get them to squander them.

Over at Savannah's World, she discusses Lisa Raymond's piece and has her own perspective on what's missing. I don't think there's an answer to the "trouble" on the home front, but the questions are certainly worth asking.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

ITA Regionals Underway; Brother vs. Brother; Greg Patton story in Tennis Magazine

It hasn't been two weeks since the completion of college tennis's first major, the All-American, but they're well into the process of deciding who will compete in the next one, the Indoor championships Nov. 1-4 in Columbus, Ohio.

The Indoor draws are only 32 for both men and women, and the majority of the spots will be decided at the Regionals, most of which are taking place right now at sites around the country. The Northwest's regional for men was last week and Stanford swept both the singles (Richard Wire) and doubles (Ted Kelly and Blake Muller) to earn spots in Columbus. The quarterfinalists from the All-American tournaments earn a place in the draw, as does the the consolation winner. The small college "Super Bowl" winner is invited to compete on the D-I level for the only time during the year at this event. Last year, Fresno Pacific's Jelena Pandzic reached the final. She isn't back (nor are the defending champions, Ben Kohlloeffel of UCLA and Audra Cohen of Miami), but Mislav Hizak of Embry-Riddle will compete for the third straight year. Two years ago he upended No. 1 seed and defending champion Ryler DeHeart of Illinois in the first round. The ITA's website recounts the small college results here.

Some of those playing in the regionals have already qualified for Columbus. Susie Babos of Cal, who has won back-to-back All-Americans, decided to play, she told Radiotennis.com's Ken Thomas at the All-American, because when she didn't play the regional last year, she came to the Indoor without sufficient match play, resulting in a surprising first round loss. There will be a few at-large selections for the Indoor, which will be announced on Tuesday, October 23rd, after the completion of most of the regionals. The regional results home page is here.

Today there was an interesting Ohio State - Michigan State confrontation that wasn't on the football field, when Buckeye freshman Matt Allare met his brother, Spartan junior John Allare in the first round of the regionals. Matt won, 6-4, 6-4, just as the OSU boys with helmets did.

The Mountain Region is down to the finals, and it will again be brother against brother, with Boise State's Luke and Clancy Shields earning spots in Columbus with semifinal wins today.

And speaking of the Shields brothers, I did want to mention that the feature story I wrote on Greg Patton, men's coach at Boise State, is in the October issue of Tennis Magazine, the one with Ana Ivanovic on the cover. There are a few errors that got inserted in the editing process (Patton was ITA National Coach of the Year for two different teams, and the won-loss record and conference championships are slightly off), and it was cut to fit, but I hope it's still an interesting look at the challenging job of a D-I men's tennis coach. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but if you have the magazine around, you might want to check it out.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pan American Closed Slideshow; Girls Training at Boca Raton

This slideshow probably represents the final word (or pictures, I guess) from Tulsa until next May, when the NCAAs are held there.

From Jean Nachand of the USTA, here is the list of girls in residence in Boca:
Christina McHale
Stephanie Vidov
Chanelle Van Nguyen
Ashley Weinhold

Players who are full-time with the program but who do not live in the dorms are:
Breaunna Addison
Julia Boserup
Victoria Duval
Liz Jeuking
Julia O'Laughlin
And for those interested in the Pro Circuit Futures event in Mansfield, Texas, Ken Thomas of Radiotennis.com will be broadcasting the semifinal matches on Saturday at noon EDT. Michael McClune meets Nicholas Monroe and Austin Krajicek faces Carsten Ball. Krajicek defeated fellow Bollettieri student Gastao Elias of Portugal in today's quarterfinals, and has a six-match win streak going. He may receive a special exemption into the main draw of the Futures event in Mexico due to this semifinal appearance. For complete draws, see the tournament website.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pan American Wrapup; Boys in Residence at USTA's Boca Training Center; Bob Larson's New Venture

My weekly post for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a review of the ITF Grade B1 in Tulsa that I covered last week. The girls champion there, Melanie Oudin, has not only dominated the juniors, but she is really showing what she can do on the next level at this week's $50,000 event in Lawrenceville, Ga. near her hometown of Marietta.

Yesterday, Oudin, a wild card, took out the second seed, Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina, ranked 107th on the WTA tour's computers, and today she followed up that big win with another one (always a tough task for a junior), defeating Varvara Lepchenko, who is ranked 140. That would be impressive enough, but to beat both in straight sets (6-4, 6-4 yesterday; 6-2, 6-4 today) adds to the accomplishment. For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit section of usta.com.

As promised, here are the names of the boys who have been accepted into residency at the Boca Raton USTA National Training Center. I'm not going to publish anonymous comments on these selections. I am still hoping to obtain the list of girls there.

Carlos Bermudez
Chase Buchanan
Frank Carleton
Emmett Egger
Lawrence Formentera
Mousheg Hovhannisyan
Evan King
Raymond Sarmiento
And finally, Bob Larson, whose tennisnews.com is a daily stop for me, has began another site focusing on junior tennis news. It's called, unsurprisingly, juniortennisnews.com. You'll recognize many of the stories (lots of links to zootennis and the Tennis Recruiting Network), but I found a couple I didn't know were out there, including this one on Shinann Featherston's college commitment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Direction in USTA High Performance?

This story by the Sun-Sentinel's Charlie Bricker has been out for over a week, and the direction of the current Player Development model was a topic of discussion in several conversations I had with coaches and players in Tulsa.

If Kantarian is taking control, and hiring an "elite" Player Development head to report to him, and not the USTA board, it does indeed represent a change in the USTA's thinking, which has been steadily moving toward hands-on development and away from facilitation.

Bricker mentions Jim Courier as his first choice, but when he declines, Bricker throws out the names of Pat McEnroe, Todd Martin, Billie Jean King and Paul Annacone, saying:

Whoever it is will have a pro tennis playing background and be dynamic enough to make some tough decisions without worrying about offending anyone, because the future of U.S. tennis does not look good after a year in which not one American man reached the final of any of the four Grand Slams.

I'm not sure why having a pro tennis playing background is necessary, and as far as making tough decisions without worrying about offending anyone, well, Craig Tiley has certainly done that in his first two-plus years in Australia. And although I would support Patrick McEnroe for the job with no reservations, I am not exactly sure why there needs to be a straight line between the Davis Cup and development, as Butch Buchholz says and Bricker seconds.

Speaking of Australia, (or maybe it's just on my mind because my credential application is due next week), here's a link to a story on the "other" Australian junior, Mark Verryth. Linda Pearce of The Age is one of my favorite reporters and this profile of Verryth illustrates why. She can ask tough questions and get answers that reveal her subjects, but she never seems mean-spirited and she resists the urge to pile on the expectations. (For the metrically challenged Americans among us, 198 centimeters is about 6-foot-6).

I've received the names of the eight boys who the USTA has accepted into the Residency Program at Boca Raton; I'm waiting for the list of girls, but if I don't receive them tomorrow, I'll just post the boys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tennis Against Breast Cancer; First Round Futures Wins for Juniors

The annual Tennis Against Breast Cancer Pro-Am fundraiser is this weekend in New York and it's an event that deserves all of our support. For information about this particular event or other ways you can help, please visit their website at tennisabc.org.

When I was in Tulsa, I wondered why all the boys from the 14-and-under World Junior Competition were there, but none of the girls (who won the gold at that ITF team event), and I soon heard that they were on their way to Brazil to compete in a ITF women's event there on clay. A reader alerted me to the success they were having, and since there has been a lot of interest in the 92s and 93s on the boys' side, I thought I'd mention it here. Nicole Gibbs and Sloane Stephens qualified and won their first round matches, Christina McHale and Allie Will also won first round matches (Gibbs and McHale play each other in the second round). Only Beatrice Capra lost, but she teamed with Gibbs in doubles and they won their first round match. McHale and Will beat the top seeded team in the first round of doubles. It's obvious that this isn't a strong field, and the only international junior I recognize is Tatiana Bua of Argentina, who is 32nd in the junior rankings and lost to Sloane Stephens in Kentucky last month. But as long as the girls are aware that the tournament doesn't represent the normal Pro Circuit event in the U.S., I think the experience will help them.
For complete draws for this event, see the itftennis site.

The men's Pro Circuit in the U.S. is in Mansfield, Texas, and Austin Krajicek, Jarmere Jenkins and Chase Buchanan are in the main draw (Krajick qualified). Buchanan and Krajicek don't play their first round matches until Wednesday, but Jenkins, a wild card, today again defeated Vlad Ignatic, the ITF's top-ranked junior, 6-4, 6-4. Michael McClune is in the field, seeded 4th, and he beat Michael Venus, who I hear will be eligible to play for LSU in January. Qualifier Alexei Grigorov, a 17-year-old, who like Ignatic, trains at Roddick Total Tennis in San Antonio, defeated No. 7 seed Peter Shults in the first round. For complete results, see the Texas76ers website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Polo ITA All-American Slideshow

Now that I'm home with no more tennis for a couple of weeks, I've had an opportunity to go through my photo library and come up with a slide show from the recent ITA "major" in Tulsa. I hope to post another one later this week from the ITF Pan American.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Harrison and Nara Win at Osaka Mayors Cup

As David pointed out in his comment today, there have been no updates on the ITF junior website about the Grade A in Japan, but I called Ryan Harrison's father this morning for the results (I was in the habit of asking him every morning in Tulsa, where Pat Harrison was accompanying a group of players from Newk's Tennis Ranch Academy, where he is assistant director). He was driving to El Paso, to join Christian, Ryan's younger brother, who is competing in the Grade 5 there. He reported that Ryan was happy with the way he played in the final and excited to have won his first major junior event.

It was also a breakthrough tournament for Kurumi Nara of Japan, who defeated the No. 2 and No. 1 seeds in the semifinals. Although she was the No. 4 seed, Nara hadn't advanced past the second round in any Grade A prior to her win.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spencer Tops Jenkins, Oudin Cruises Past Paz at Pan-American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

Top seed Melanie Oudin surged to her second consecutive ITF Grade 1 championship with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Venezuelan Gabriela Paz, but the No. 1 boys' seed Jarmere Jenkins is now 0-2 in the past two Grade 1 finals, as he fell 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to unseeded Wil Spencer.

Conditions at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa had been ideal since Monday morning's showers passed, with temperatures in the 70s, low humidity and gentle breezes. Saturday morning brought challenges however, as gusty southerly winds in the 15 to 20 mph range required adjustments on a regular basis.

The simultaneous finals both started similarly with Oudin and Jenkins up 5-1 early. Oudin was able to sustain her focus to take a 3-0 lead in the second set, and it was the fourth game of that set before Paz held.

"I returned really well today, I was returning really deep," said Oudin. "She served mostly everything to my backhand, so I was just trying to spin the ball up and deep so she couldn't get a first strike shot off of me."

Paz was having difficulty controlling her forehand in the wind, and she wasn't able to set up points with her consistency as she had done in previous matches. Oudin came in to put short balls away with regularity, compelling Paz to go deeper and for the lines, a strategy not likely to end well given the blustery conditions.

"The wind was just horrible," said Paz. "I had 40-15 so many games, but I was just stupid. She played pretty good, she played her game, but I just wasn't there."

With Oudin leading 3-1 in the second set, Paz broke to get back on serve, but surrendered the break immediately. Oudin's forehand, which produced a bushel of winners, was her primary weapon in tight spots and on key points it didn't let her down.

"I'm playing better on the points I need to win," said Oudin. "I'm very focused on what I need to be doing."

In the boys' final, Jenkins couldn't sustain the momentum he had in the first set, when Spencer struggled with the wind and had difficulty keeping the ball deep. Jenkins took advantage by coming to the net on the short balls, and it was his fourth service game before Spencer finally held.

But the second set was much tighter, and the match hinged on the ninth game of that set, when at 4-4 Spencer went down 15-40, saved those break points and another to go up 5-4.

"Those were three match points for him," said Spencer. "And I knew it. I knew that could be the turning point or that could be the match, and fortunately I bore down enough. He made a couple of errors that weren't good, but I knew I had to turn it up a little bit, because he was playing great."

Jenkins agreed that he let an opportunity to win the match get away in that game.

"Those were definitely match points," said Jenkins of the three chances he had to go up 5-4 and serve for the match. "But every time I had the opportunity to nearly win the match he came up with some good shots."

Spencer elevated his game with Jenkins serving a 4-5, forcing the action with aggressive ground strokes and breaking at love to take the second set.

Serving at 1-1, Spencer was broken, but it was the last game he would lose in the match, as he broke Jenkins three consecutive service games to close it out.

"Against the wind, I found I could hit out on the ball with a lot of power and it would keep him from attacking me," said Spencer. "I hit a lot of balls cross court, going for the percentage. When I was with the wind, I decided I would go really heavy, hitting a lot of spin, which kept bouncing up on him. I was basically able to move him around a lot and control the point."

Spencer, who has been training with Pat Harrison at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch, was delighted to have claimed a tournament victory--of any level.

"First tournament[win] in a long time, actually. I don't care if it was a Grade 5, a Super Series, at least I won," he said, laughing. "It was a great tournament, I had a lot of fun."

The Pan-American concluded with the doubles championships. Oudin and her partner, Rebecca Marino of Canada, the top seeds, claimed the girls' title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the unseeded Canadian team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk.

"The wind was pretty bad today, but our serves were on, which was good," said Oudin, who was teaming with Marino for the first time. "We played pretty solid."

"Our games get along pretty well, her big serve," said Oudin, "and your hands," chimed in Marino. "We communicated well."

Another big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic, wasn't as fortunate as Marino. He and partner Waylon Chin, who were unseeded, dropped a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 decision to the No. 4 seeded team of Americans Bradley Klahn and Bob Van Overbeek.

Raonic wasn't broken in the match, and down three set points in the opening set, he cranked huge second serves to bail his team out. But Chin was broken at both 5-6 and 4-5 in the final two sets, allowing Klahn and Van Overbeek, playing together for the first time, to eke out the win.

"We were down 7-5, 4-2, and then they were serving at 4-3, 40-15, but we got a little lucky with a let cord, on one of them" said Klahn. "It doesn't hurt to be lucky."

Especially when facing a serve like Raonic's.

"He was dominating on his serve," said Van Overbeek. "I kept waiting for him to miss it," said Klahn, of the second serves Raonic was blasting. "If he's going to hit it 130 flat--he was doing the same on his first serves, and he was missing those."

Klahn was broken to open the third set, but they immediately broke back, and at 4-5, 30-40 claimed the title when Raonic missed a volley.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jenkins vs. Spencer for Pan American Boys' Title; Oudin Meets Paz in Girls' Final

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

In last month's Grade 1 ITF in Kentucky, Melanie Oudin and Jarmere Jenkins were finalists, and this week the pair of top seeds have equaled that effort at the sun-splashed ITF B1 Pan American Closed after victories in Friday's semifinals.

Oudin dismissed No. 16 seed Mallory Burdette 6-0, 6-2, while Jenkins pulled through in the only singles' three-setter with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Bradley Klahn. Oudin's opponent in the finals will be No. 2 seed Gabriela Paz, who downed No. 15 seed Lauren McHale 6-4, 6-4, and Jenkins takes on unseeded Wil Spencer, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 13 seed Chase Buchanan.

In Thursday's quarterfinal Oudin had been up 6-0, 4-1 against Alexandra Anghelescu but couldn't sustain her focus and found herself needing a third set to advance. Today against Burdette, she led by exactly the same score, but this time was determined not to repeat the lapse.

"I was trying to keep focused," said Oudin, who turned 16 a few weeks ago. "Yesterday at 6-0, 4-1 I was pretty confident, and I got too confident, I think. I made a few errors and she started playing better. So today I just tried to keep my focus and it ended up working."

Burdette had difficulty keeping the ball in the court, and during any sustained rallies she often ended the point with an error. Many of Burdette's solid ground strokes that would have been winners against her previous opponents were sent back over the net by Oudin, a strategy the much smaller and quicker Oudin was happy to execute.

"I knew the longer I made the points, the better it would be for me," said Oudin. "I was moving well today and if I could get to the balls and keep it going, keep it deep, then I knew I had a good chance of her making an error."

Oudin will be seeking her second consecutive Grade 1 title on Saturday, and in Kentucky, she claimed a semifinal win over Paz.

"I was down 4-1 in the first set, but I came back to win it 7-5, 6-2," said Oudin. "I played well against her, she's a good player and I know we'll have a good match."

Paz was able to avoid three sets for the first time in three matches today, but the diminutive Venezuelan wasn't happy with her play.

"This tournament I haven't been feeling good and I haven't been playing well," said Paz, who has been a finalist in three Pro Circuit women's events this summer, winning one. "So up-and-down, and I'm not usually like that at all. I won, but I really don't feel that happy."

In the first set Paz against McHale, Paz was down a break twice, but immediately broke back. Holding at 4-4 was crucial, because in the next game McHale surrendered a 40-0 lead, with Paz reeling off five straight points to take the set. Paz was unable to hold a 4-2 lead in the second set, but again she held at 4-4, and McHale couldn't prolong the match with a hold of her own. Neither player was as consistent as they had been in previous matches, but Paz refused to back off the baseline, even when driven off it, robbing McHale of the time she needed to construct the point she wanted to play.

"I hope I can play my best tomorrow," said Paz, with a sigh. "Be positive and just recover from today. I think I have a good chance; if I play my tennis, I think I'll be fine."

Unlike the girls' final, which will feature a rematch of a contest played just last month, the boys final will find Spencer and Jenkins facing off for the first time, and each seeking their first ITF Grade 1 title.

In Friday afternoon's semifinal match, Jenkins got off to a very quick start against Klahn, leading 4-1, with two breaks in the first set. But Klahn recovered, saved a couple of set points with Jenkins serving at 5-4, and when on to claim the first set when Jenkins was broken at love serving at 5-6. By the time Jenkins had stopped the bleeding he had lost five straight games, but the right-hander from Atlanta regained his equilibrium and took the second set. After the first set had slipped away, Jenkins was visibly and audibly disturbed, but suddenly all the negative emotions seemed to disappear after that, even when his 5-1 lead in the third set became 5-4 30-30 on his serve.

Jenkins never did get a first serve in during that final game, but Klahn missed a forehand pass and sent another forehand long on match point, proving to Jenkins that the key to his win was his attitude.

"I got too tense and too nervous in the first set, started to show too many emotions," said Jenkins. "In the second I was calm. I figured if I was calm on the outside maybe it would help on the inside. And it worked."

Spencer was down 3-1 to Buchanan before he had gotten himself in the match, but once he did, the games piled up on his side of the ledger. Seven in a row, in fact, before Buchanan held to make it 2-1 Spencer in the second set.

None of the games were easily won, as break points and deuces were a feature of nearly every game. Spencer began to find the range on his forehand and once he quit making errors, Buchanan couldn't locate a reliable way to win points. Buchanan did get the early break back, but at 4-4 he went down 15-40, and despite getting it back to deuce on some incredible shotmaking around the net, two errors gave Spencer the break. Spencer gave Buchanan no hope that he would waste the opportunity to close out the match, and with a backhand winner at 40-0, Spencer had his place in the final.

"I was pushing too much in the beginning, just trying to get a rhythm," said Spencer, "and he was absolutely killing me. So I started hitting the ball deeper, started putting him on the defensive, and started to get the momentum to swing my way."

Spencer admitted that the ninth game in the second set was a tense one for him.

"I was nervous that game. After being up 15-40, I said I can't let this slide. The momentum would be his way, and I would be serving down 4-5. I knew I would have to really focus. He played great," Spencer said. "To come back after losing seven straight games shows a lot of heart from him."

Spencer wasn't sure how he would do after being off from tournament play since Kalamazoo in August, but despite being unseeded, he has yet to lose a set.

"To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much," said Spencer. "I haven't even looked at the draw once this tournament. I'm just focusing on one match at a time and how well I can play. Since I've been off, I think I've learned I've got to focus on my game and not my opponent's game."

The doubles finals will also be held on Saturday, and Oudin will be seeking both titles. She and partner Rebecca Marino of Canada, the top seeds, meet the unseeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk of Canada. Oudin and Marino shut out the unseeded pairing of Mexican Laura-Alicia Aguilar and American Alexandra Anghelescu 6-0, 6-0 Friday evening, while Dabrowski and Wowchuk eliminated the No. 3 seeds Alexa Guarachi of the U.S. and Nicole Smith of Canada 6-3, 6-3.

The boys final will feature No. 4 seeds Klahn and Bob Van Overbeek of the U.S. against American Waylon Chin and Canadian Milos Raonic, who are unseeded. Chin and Raonic, who had beaten the top seeds on Thursday, scored a 6-1, 6-3 decision over Americans Lawrence Formentera and Denis Kudla Friday afternoon. Klahn and Van Overbeek got by the second-seeded team of Sam Garforth-Bles of Canada and Christian Saravia of Guatemala 6-1, 0-6, 6-4.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Harrison and Seal Reach Semifinals in ITF Grade A in Osaka; Inside Junior Tennis Podcast

U.S. boys make up 100% of the semifinalists in the ITF Pan American Closed here in Tulsa, and over in Japan, American boys comprise 50% of the semifinalists in the Osaka Mayor's Cup, a Grade A championship. No U.S. girls made the trip, and Ryan Harrison and Bo Seal were the only U.S. boys to venture across the Pacific, but both are still playing. Seal, a wild card (those U.S. Open Juniors qualifying wild cards that have gone to Japanese players the past several years no doubt figured in that selection), has beaten the No. 12, No. 8 and No. 4 seeds; Harrison has disposed of No. 13, No. 1 and No. 11 seeds. Because they were drawn into opposite halves, they could meet in the final if both beat seeded opponents on Saturday. But with all the big points available at a Grade A, both Seal, 16, and Harrison, 15, are positioning themselves for the 2008 Junior Slams.

For the ITF's coverage of the Osaka Mayor's Cup, click here.

Also, the latest edition of Inside Junior Tennis is now available. Kevin McClure and I spoke before the Polo ITA All-American, so the news is about the previous week's events.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Girls Provide the Drama at Pan American ITF

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

It was another day of clear skies and low humidity--cool in the shade and warm in the sun. It didn't take long for the 9 a.m matches to heat up however, and I suspected the Joanna Mather-Gabriela Paz match would be an extended one when the two girls switched ends after the first game, and when I looked at my watch it was close to 9:25. The first set, won by the ninth-seeded Mather 6-2, took nearly an hour to play. The second set, won by Paz, the No. 2 seed, took equally as long, although the score was an undramatic 6-3. Even the final set, in which Paz won every game, clocked in at over 40 minutes, which I hope gives some idea of the battle every point of every game was.

Paz, who shrieks Sharapova-style, had also found herself down a set on Wednesday to Canadian Katerena Pavliets, but she showed no signs of discouragement either day. Against Mather, who matched the Venezuelan stroke for stroke in the first two sets, Paz kept her focus and her confidence and by the third set she had worn down the right-hander from Georgia, while Paz appeared capable of playing a few more sets.

That match was mirrored by the quarterfinal on adjacent court three, when Lauren McHale, the No 15 seed, also came back from a set down to defeat No. 11 seed Nicole Bartnik 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. McHale was closer to elimination than Paz, but at 5-5 in the second set McHale held and Bartnik, who appeared to be tiring in the latter stages of the second set, lost her serve at love. McHale, who continued to get every ball back in the third set, interjected some spirited "c'mons" on key points, while Bartnik was beginning to question herself and execution as the errors multiplied. Within ten seconds of the completion of the Mather-Paz match, McHale and Bartnik shook hands, and despite the third set scores, both matches were competitive to the very end. With McHale and Paz meeting in Friday afternoon's semifinals, there won't be a lot of significance in who wins the first set.

Top seed Melanie Oudin was cruising along at 6-0, 4-1 in her match against unseeded Alexandra Anghelescu of Florida, and before she knew what had happened, Oudin had dropped five straight games and was facing her first third set of the tournament. Anghelescu was assisted by Oudin's less precise play, but she also contributed to the turnaround by playing more aggressively. Oudin took the third set 6-2, but there was no question that for the first time this week, she had faced adversity and won the points she needed to win.

Oudin will face a fellow Georgian, Mallory Burdette, who was the only girl to win in straight sets. Burdette, seeded 16th, overpowered No. 6 seed Pamela Montez of Mexico 6-3, 6-3 and is the only semifinalist who has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

By comparison, the boys' quarterfinals were uneventful. Jarmere Jenkins suffered a brief scare in the first set when unseeded Evan King held several set points, but the top seed escaped with a 7-6 (6), 6-3 victory. Jenkins will face No. 3 seed Bradley Klahn, who has lost only 17 games in four matches, and today took out unseeded Jose Velasco of Bolivia 6-1, 6-3.

The other semifinal will pit unseeded Wil Spencer against No. 13 seed Chase Buchanan. Spencer topped Walker Kehrer 6-3, 6-2 and Buchanan also downed an unseeded opponent, Tennys Sandgren, by a 6-2, 6-4 score. None of the four boys semifinalists has dropped a set in the tournament.

The doubles quarterfinals did provide some surprises as the top-seeded team of Devin Britton and Jordan Cox were upended by unseeded Waylon Chin and Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5). The third set was a seesaw affair, with first Britton/Cox and then Chin/Raonic up a break--Chin was serving for the match at 5-3--but Raonic pounded an ace after a Britton double fault at 5-5 to give the USA/Canadian pair the win.

They will meet another unseeded team in the semifinals, as Lawrence Formentera and Denis Kudla soundly beat the third-seeded team of Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico and Julen Uriguen of Guatemala 6-4, 6-0. Formentera and Kudla had 4-0 lead in the first set before losing the next four games, then reeled off eight games in a row. The bottom half played out more to form, as No. 2 seeds Sam Garforth-Bles of Canada and Christian Saravia of Guatemala advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 8 seeds Jose Hernandez of the Dominican Republic and Velasco. Klahn and his partner Bob Van Overbeek, the fourth seeds, have completed their matches so quickly that I haven't had an opportunity to see them play, and today's 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 5 seeds Andres Bucaro and Christopher Diaz of Guatemala was easily the day's shortest contest.

The top-seeded girls team of Rebecca Marino and Oudin survived a scare, but outlasted unseeded Lauren Herring and Grace Min 4-6, 6-0, 6-3. They meet another unseeded team in the semifinals, as Laura-Alicia Aguilar of Mexico and Anghelescu upset the fourth seeded team of Bartnik and Olivia Bennett of Trinadad and Tobago 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (2).

Second seeds Krista Damico and Paz were also upset on Thursday afternoon, as the unseeded pair of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk of Canada scored a 5-7, 7-2, 6-4 win to earn a semifinal spot against the third-seeded team of Alexa Guarachi and Nicole Smith. Guarachi, of the U.S. and Smith, of Canada, defeated the No. 6 seeds Analy Guzman of Guatemala and Francesca Segarelli of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-3.

For complete draws, see the Tennis Link website.

Thacher Commits to Stanford; Polo All-American Roundup

The top-ranked blue chip in the class of 2008, Ryan Thacher, has announced he will attend Stanford University next fall, joining Bradley Klahn, who made his verbal commitmeet to the Cardinal this summer. The Los Angeles Daily News spoke with Thacher about his choice yesterday.

My weekly post for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a synopsis of last week's Polo ITA All-American tournament. I spoke to Vince Westbrook, the director of tennis at the University of Tulsa yesterday, and he confirmed that the tournament will continue to be held there for at least the next three years.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five Unseeded Boys Make Quarterfinals; McHale Ousts No. 3 Seed Marino in Girls Action at Pan American ITF

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

Sometimes I find myself hesitating to call a result an "upset," when, according to seeding, that's what it is. There were several of those "un"upsets today. Chase Buchanan, the No. 13 seed, eliminated No. 2 seed Devin Britton 7-5, 6-1, but on the basis of Buchanan's nearly flawless performance in the second round, it was difficult to see that result as a major surprise. Unseeded Wil Spencer, who has played very few ITF events this year, defeated No. 6 seed Jose Hernandez 6-4, 6-1, but not many familiar with Spencer's game would call that a shock. Unseeded Jose Velasco of Bolivia hasn't played a junior event since January, but at that time he was ranked No. 7 in the ITF world rankings, so his 6-4, 6-2 defeat of No. 5 seed Ty Trombetta was not exactly an underdog-comes-through storyline.

Perhaps unseeded Walker Kehrer's 6-0, 7-5 win over No. 4 seed Drew Daniel would qualify as a genuine upset, with Daniel having vastly more experience in ITF events. But the future Michigan Wolverine couldn't prolong the match long enough to turn it around, and Kehrer earned a quarterfinal date with Spencer, assuring an unseeded semifinalist.

Buchanan will meet unseeded Tennys Sandgren for the first time in their junior careers. For the third day in a row Sandgren had another long, tough match, going out to a 4-0 lead in the first set, only to see Bob Van Overbeek claw his way back to force a tiebreak, which Sandgren won, eight points to six. Sandgren finished the second set off tidily, 6-3, but it was still over two hours of tennis played for the third consecutive day. Fortunately the weather continued to feature mild temperatures and low humidity, keeping the focus on the game and away from the elements.

Top seed Jarmere Jenkins advanced 6-2, 6-4 over No. 14 seed Denis Kudla to meet unseeded Evan King, a 6-3, 6-0 winner against unseeded Patrick Dacieck. Bradley Klahn, the No. 3 seed, took down No. 16 seed Jordan Cox 6-2, 6-2, and will face Velasco for a place in the semifinals.

The No. 3 seeded girl, Canadian Rebecca Marino, was eliminated by No. 15 seed Lauren McHale 6-2, 6-3. Marino and McHale had split their previous two meetings this summer, and both matches were very close, but in today's encounter McHale played airtight defense, kept her unforced errors to a minimum and consistently kept Marino off balance and out of sync. At 3-1 in the second set, it looked as if Marino might mount a comeback when she broke McHale to get back on serve, but she was broken again in the next game, and with that scare behind her, McHale quickly finished the job. McHale will meet No. 11 seed Nicole Bartnik, a 6-2, 7-5 winner over No. 5 seed Laura Alicia Aguilar of Mexico.

Number 16 seed Mallory Burdette subdued a stubborn Brooke Bolender 6-0, 7-6 (3) to earn a spot in the quarterfinals versus No. 6 seed Pamela Montez of Mexico. Montez edged past unseeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-4.

Top seed Melanie Oudin lost only two games for the second consecutive day, overwhelming Jordaan Sanford 6-1, 6-1, and will meet unseeded Alexandra Anghelescu in the quarterfinals. Anghelescu defeated Kelly Irving 6-0, 6-0, the second double bagel match Irving had in the tournament, having defeated No. 10 seed Olivia Bennett by that score in the first round.

Second seed Gabriela Paz of Venezuela and unseeded Katerena Palivets of Canada played a attention-getting match, with Paz coming from behind to earn a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 decision. Palivets was up a break in each of the final two sets but couldn't hold on, much to her visible and vocal dismay. Paz called for a trainer on several occasions, and after the first set, an official was called to the court and monitored the remainder of the contentious and noisy contest.

Paz's quarterfinal opponent on Thursday will be No. 9 seed Joanna Mather, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over unseeded Monica Yajima.

In the doubles, the results followed the seeding most of the day. There are only two unseeded teams in the boys' quarterfinals, Waylon Chin and Milos Raonic and Lawrence Formentera and Kudla.

The girls doubles quarterfinalists include the top four seeds, the No. 6 seeded team and three unseeded tandems, including Grace Min and Lauren Herring, who at 13 and 14 are among the tournament's youngest competitors. That didn't stop them from ousting the No. 5 seeded team of Burdette and Mather however, by a 6-1, 6-4 score.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bolender Upsets Guarachi; Sandgren Overcomes 5-1 Deficit in Third at Pan-American ITF

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

A perfect day for tennis, with temperatures in the upper 70s and no wind, produced upsets, drama, and some impressive performances by seeded players.

The big upset was Brooke Bolender's 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 4 seed Alexa Guarachi. The girls 16s Clay Court champion was impressive in the few games that I saw, moving Guarachi, who had some success of her own on clay courts in Tunisia and Egypt this summer, off the court with her precision and pace. Next up for Bolender is No. 16 seed Mallory Burdette, who won the 18s Clay Courts last year, and is back playing after an injury.

Nadja Gilchrist, the No. 13 seed, was playing her first tournament after sustaining an ankle injury, but the pain flared up again today in her match with Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and she was forced to retire up 3-2 in the first set. Other seeded girls who fell in Tuesday's second round were No. 8 seed Alejandra Granillo of Mexico, who dropped a marathon match to Alexandra Anghelescu of the U.S. 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, and No. 13 seed Krista Damico, who stumbled against Katerena Palivets of Canada 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Top seed Melanie Oudin of the U.S. and second seed Gabriela Paz of Venezuela both advanced easily by identical 6-1, 6-1 scores.

The top two seeds in the boys' side also won in straight sets, with No. 1 Jarmere Jenkins taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision over Mousheg Hovhannisyan and Devin Britton, the No. 2 seed, getting past Blake Davis 7-6 (3), 6-3, despite getting himself in a 5-2 hole in the opening set.

But that was nothing compared to Tennys Sandgren, who trailed 6-4, 4-0 against No. 11 seed Christian Saravia of Guatemala. The 2007 Kalamazoo 16s champion came back to take the second set 7-5, but then once again reached the precipice of defeat, trailing 5-1 in the third set. Sandgren worked his way back to 5-5 when Saravia, serving, went up for his toss and came down with a cramp. Unable to walk, he received treatment and was able to finish the game, which he won, but he wasn't able to move as freely as the tiebreaker loomed.

In the tiebreaker, both players had opportunities to win the match--Sandgren had the first match point of the contest at 6-5 in the tiebreaker--but neither could take charge with the advantage. Saravia, who had several double faults before his cramping began, but once he could no longer use his legs, his serving accuracy actually improved although the pace was nonexistent. Sandgren, who was also tired after an arduous match on Monday against Waylon Chin, didn't punish the Saravia serve and many of the points in the tiebreaker were exercises in patience, and in getting one more ball over the net. I lost count of the match points, but in a 11-9 tiebreaker, there were a few and eventually Sandgren completed his amazing comeback.

On the next court, Bob Van Overbeek was also engaged in a long and difficult contest with No. 8 seed Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico, but Van Overbeek managed to avoid a third set tiebreaker, taking the match 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Maryland's Patrick Daciek however did go the distance, defeating No. 7 seed Sam Garforth-Bles of Canada 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6). Number 12 need Julen Uriguen also was eliminated by former ITF Top Ten-ranked Jose Velasco of Bolivia 7-6 (3), 6-1.

The day's marquee matchup was No. 13 seed Chase Buchanan against Alex Domijan, and many of the boys awaiting their doubles matches stopped by court three to check out the action. The level of tennis was extremely high, with both boys hitting ground strokes that resembled those I saw during last week's ITF All-American college championships. But it was Buchanan that closed the net and finished the points, and he also used short angles and drop shots to keep the 6-foot-6 Domijan off balance in his 6-3, 6-2 victory. After a lackluster spring and summer, Buchanan had recently qualified and won a round at a Futures in California and he brought that game with him to Tulsa. It was definitely the best tennis played on the University of Tulsa courts Tuesday.

The doubles first round was played Tuesday afternoon, but the top seeds received byes into the second round Wednesday.

Monday, October 8, 2007

First Round Complete at ITF Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

The first day of a tournament is always buffet style. I try to sample a little of this and some of that, check out players whose names I may know, but whose faces I don't. Today at the Michael Case Tennis Center, one of the selections available on the tennis menu was indoor tennis, due to rain showers in the area this morning.

It's definitely an advantage to have six courts of the same surface immediately available and when I arrived shortly after 8 a.m., five of the courts were being used for boys' matches. By 10:30, the courts had dried and matches were moved outside, and I watched most of the matches and took all of my photographs outdoors today.

But I did see Raymond Sarmiento, Evan King and Bradley Klahn win inside, and truly enjoyed the quality of tennis in No. 14 seed Denis Kudla's 6-2, 6-1 win over Brett Cromwell of New York. Both boys were hitting winners; Cromwell served and volleyed often, and there was variety and thought in nearly every point. Junior tennis can be maddeningly inconsistent, with stretches of brilliance followed by inexplicable errors, lapses of concentration and monotonous rallies. So I don't take sustained excellence for granted, and try to appreciate when I see it. Thanks to Kudla and Cromwell, the gloomy, rainy day got off to a very bright start.

There were no major upsets today on the boys' side; the three seeds losing were in the 9-16 category, and all fell to Americans in straight sets. David Holland took out No. 9 seed Christopher Diaz of Guatemala 6-0, 6-4; Wil Spencer upended No. 10 seed Milos Raonic of Canada 6-3, 6-4 and Walker Kehrer eliminated No. 15 seed Andres Bucaro of Guatemala 6-2, 6-4.

But No. 6 seed Jose Hernandez of the Dominican Republic had his hands full with Luke Marchese, battling more than three hours before emerging with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win.

The girls all played outdoors, in the afternoon, and due to byes for the top six seeds, there weren't any opportunities for big upsets, and like the boys, there were three seeded players from other countries eliminated by U.S. girls. Monica Yajima of Connecticut upset the seventh seed Francesca Segarelli of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-2. Kelly Irving of Tennessee blitzed No. 10 seed Olivia Bennett of Trinadad and Tobago 6-0, 6-0 and Noel Scott of Maryland took out No. 14 seed Nicole Smith of Canada 6-2, 6-2.

Second round action begins again at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, with doubles first round action also on the schedule. The forecast is good for the remainder of the week, so we've probably seen the last of the indoor courts.

For complete draws, see the Tennis Link site.

Krajicek Chooses Texas A & M

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa, OK--

One Tulsa tournament down, one to go, but in the meantime news happens, and Austin Krajicek’s recent decision to attend Texas A & M beginning in January definitely qualifies as an important announcement.

I had an opportunity to talk with Krajicek over the phone late last week about his verbal commitment, which will be officially announced by the University after the Early Signing Period next month.

Krajicek and his parents visited the College Station campus late last month for a football game and a tour of the facilities. The left-hander, currently ranked 7th in his class by The Tennis Recruiting Network, came away impressed.

“It was really nice,” said the Brandon, Fla. native, who turned 17 in June. “The tennis center is awesome, the fitness center is great, and I felt they are really looking to help athletes with their academics.”

Although Krajicek, who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy, is considering majoring in sports management and communications at A & M, a career in tennis on his agenda too.

“I would like to put on a little weight, get stronger and faster, just keep improving, so that I can give myself a shot at the pros,” Krajicek said, adding that his early start will give him an advantage there too.

“I’ll be 21 when I graduate, giving me more time for pro tennis.”

Krajicek, who works through a text-based program at Laurel Springs Distance Learning, is eager to join the team for the upcoming dual season.

“I really liked all the guys, I was really comfortable there,” said Krajicek, who also took an official visit to the University of Florida. “They all push each other to get better. And the coaches (Steve Denton, head coach and Bob McKinley, assistant coach) are great.”

Krajicek said he plans to play several ITF Men’s Futures events in Mexico later this month while he finishes his high school academic requirements.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Georgia's Helgeson Comes From Behind to Earn Polo All-American Championship; UVA Captures Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Tulsa OK--

University of Georgia senior Travis Helgeson fought through two brief rain delays, gusty winds and a determined but weary qualifier Robert Farah to take the 2007 Polo ITA All-American singles title 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 Sunday morning.

The sprinkles began in the third game of the first set, but didn't disrupt play until 4-2, when Farah already held a break. Play resumed about fifteen minutes later and shortly thereafter the USC sophomore was serving for the first set. He couldn't put Helgeson away and at 5-5 the drops came down again; it was another ten minutes before played resumed. Farah held and then broke for the first set, but despite taking the lead, he wasn't pleased by the disruptions.

"I was feeling good, I don't like the stops," Farah said. "It was a little bit hard on my rhythm."

Helgeson agreed that he benefited from the delays even though he lost the opening set.

"I think they helped me more than anything," Helgeson said. "I was down in the first set, and it just kind of slowed him down. He had the momentum in the first set, and that gave me time to regroup."

In all four of his previous three-set victories, Farah had dropped the second set, and Sunday was no exception. Helgeson got an early break, and Farah admitted that at the beginning of the second set he was feeling the effects of his ninth match in seven days. "The second set I felt really bad, really tired and I was broken, so I got mentally tired too," said Farah.

Helgeson gave the break back serving at 4-3, but Farah wouldn't accept the gift and was immediately broken to give Helgeson the chance to serve for the second set, which the left-hander from Overland Park, Kan., did, holding at love.

In the deciding set the tension built as both players held their first four service games. Throughout the match Helgeson's forehand cross court to Farah's backhand was strength to strength, but in the ninth game of the third set, Farah made three errors on that side and was the victim of the netcord on another. He was broken at love, prompting him to scream out "this is unbelivable," after a backhand found the net.

Helgeson, serving for the match, had just one hiccup, a double fault at 30-15, but he took the next two points to claim the title, joining John Isner, who won the All-American in 2005, as a Georgia Bulldog singles champion.

Helgeson pointed to his experience as a key factor in withstanding the pressure of the final few games, and Farah agreed that Helgeson's national championship play for Georgia this past spring may have given him an edge.

"This is the first time I have done something so good in my life," said Farah, who is from Cali, Columbia. "The guy won the NCAA (team championship) last season, so maybe he's used to winning those big matches. He was better than me physically, and that's my fault, because I was always going to the third set. He played better, that's all I can say."

The fourth seed, Helgeson said he was proud to have reached the final, having lost in the second round at the All-American the previous two years, and felt no additional pressure to measure up to Isner accomplishments.

"For me, I had nothing to lose," said Helgeson. "I was having fun playing out there today."

The doubles final, which began an hour after the singles, ended just moments before Helgeson's victory, with the top seeded team of Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey of Virginia taking that school's first All-American doubles title with a 6-2, 7-5 decision over unseeded Jonas Berg and Erling Tveit of Ole Miss.

The Cavalier seniors broke Tveit in the opening game and never looked backed in the first set. The second set was much closer, but at 5-5, Devvarman and Huey broke Berg for the only time in the match, and Huey served it out.

"We were both serving great today," said Huey. "In the second set, they stepped up their game a little. At 5-all, Somdev and I came up with some great shots to break. All week we've served real well and been solid at the net."

"They had a great tournament coming into the finals," said Devvarman of their unseeded opponents. "We had a good match today, but we got our breaks at the right time and it went our way."

"It's always a nice way to end it in doubles, but in singles, I'm sure Treat and I felt we could have done a lot better than we did," said Devvarman, the top seed in singles, who lost to Helgeson in Saturday's semifinal. "We'll just have to learn from it and try to get better."

The consolation singles draw for players losing in the first round was completed this morning, with Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine defeating Justin Kronauge of Ohio State 6-3, 6-2. The University of Denver team of Adam Holmstrom and Niklas Persson won the doubles consolation title, defeating Farah and Robert Van't Hof of USC 8-4.

For complete draws, see itatennis.com.