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Friday, November 30, 2007

Domijan, Oudin Reach 18s Semifinals; Dimitrov Upsets Ignatic

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL

In the 16-ring circus that comprises the Eddie Herr on the second Friday, it wasn't possible to view more than a fraction of the matches being played. I stuck to the 12s finals (see below), but one of the intriguing matches of the day, No. 1 seed Vlad Ignatic versus No. 12 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the boys' 18s, wasn't far away, and the large crowd that gathered at court 15 provided auditory clues to the action.

The 16-year-old from Bulgaria set off some fireworks when up 6-3, 5-4, he failed to convert on his two match points, the first of which was a ball that hit Ignatic's clothing and changed directions, landing out. The chair umpire did not see it touch Ignatic and didn't award Dimitrov the point (and therefore the match), and three points later the set was 5-5. Three or four violent smashes of his racquet later, Dimitrov eventually settled down long enough to get into a tiebreaker, but despite a 5-2 lead, he made several careless errors and Ignatic, the French Open junior champion and world's top-ranked junior, took the next five points to even the match.

I didn't have an opportunity to watch the third set, but I was told that Dimitrov came up with some inspired tennis near the end of the match, and he came away with a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory over his doubles partner.

That win sets up a rematch of the 2005 Eddie Herr boys 14s title match, when Dimitrov defeated Alex Domijan of the U.S.

The 16-year-old Domijan, a qualifier, put an end to the run of 15-year-old wild card Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-4 on "Nick's Court," although it is tempting to rename it Filip's Court, since all four of his matches were played there, usually under the watchful eye of Bollettieri himself.

Domijan is not the only qualifier streaking though the draw; Mirza Basic of Bosnia is also still alive after a 6-4, 6-3 win over unseeded Matt Reid of Australia. No. 9 seed Gastao Elias of Portugal, a 6-2, 6-0 winner over wild card Chase Buchanan, is the highest seed remaining in the boys' 18s draw.

With No. 2 seeded Russian Ksenia Pervak's three-set loss to No. 8 Simona Halep of Romania, No. 5 seed Melanie Oudin of the U.S. is the top seed remaining in the girls' 18s.

Oudin came back against unseeded Californian Julia Boserup to record a 4-6, 6-1, 4-0 ret. victory. There was only one break in the first set; the casual observers wandering from court to court were in awe of the power of both girls. Once she had dropped the first set, Oudin's focus improved, and she eliminated unforced errors from her game, while Boserup's shots began to stray more often. With Oudin leading 2-0 in the final set and Boserup serving at 15-30, Oudin hit a shot behind Boserup, who rolled her ankle in an attempt to change direction. Boserup was in tears almost before she fell to the court, but after a trainer arrived and taped her right ankle, she continued. After losing the next point and then the next game, she retired, giving Oudin her 20th consecutive junior victory since September and a date with Halep in the semifinals.

The other girls' 18s semifinal features No. 9 seed Tammy Hendler of Belgium, the 2005 Eddie Herr 14s champion (who defeated No. 15 Gabriela Paz of Venezuela 1-6, 6-3, 6-4), against No. 7 seed Katarzyna Piter of Poland. Piter eliminated No. 16 seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

In the girls' 16s, I saw the final few games of wild card Alexandra Cercone's 6-2, 7-6(4) win over unseeded Silvia Njiric of Croatia. Cercone, who lives in St. Petersburg, won her first match in years at the Eddie Herr this week and hasn't looked back. She meets No. 8 seed Zoe DeBruycker of the U.S. who upset No. 2 seed Alexandrina of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-2. No. 13 seed Courtney Dolehide of Illinois, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 winner over No. 7 seed Aleksandra Josifoska of Macedonia, faces No. 4 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who ended the run of U.S. qualifier Maria Belaya.

The last U.S. player in the boys' 16s is Bradenton's Sekou Bangoura Jr., who at No. 6, is the highest seed remaining. Bangoura earned his first straight set victory of the tournament with a 6-4, 6-4 decision over unseeded Alexandra Colella of Italy and will take on unseeded Jose Silva Jr. of Brazil in Saturday's semifinal. Silva defeated William Parker of the U.S. 6-4, 6-4 on Friday. The other boys' 16 semifinal pits Spain's unseeded Pablo Carreno against No. 14 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

Spencer Newman will represent the U.S. in the boys' 14s, after the diminutive No. 14 seed surprised No. 6 seed Ciprian Porumb of Romania 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3. I asked him if Porumb, who is well over six feet tall and has linebacker's build, is the biggest player he's ever beaten, and he agreed the Romanian was one of the largest he'd conquered. Newman's semifinal opponent is No. 9 seed Jan Kuncik of the Czech Republic, who defeated Robert Livi of the U.S. 7-5, 6-0. The other semifinal has No. 12 seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil against No. 5 seed Diego Hildalgo of Ecuador. Hildago eliminated No. 15 Dennis Novikov of the U.S. 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.

2006 girls' 12 champion Laura Robson of Great Britain is on track for another title in the 14s, but will again need to get past Michigan's Jacqueline Crawford, whom she defeated in the quarterfinals at the Eddie Herr last year. The unseeded Crawford earned her shot at the No. 1 seed with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 10 seed Emi Mutaguchi of Japan. No. 5 seed Monica Puig of Florida took out No. 13 seed Jessica Ren of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2 to earn a meeting with unseeded wild card Di Zhao of China.

The girls' 16 doubles final was played this afternoon, and the No. 6 seeded U.S. team of Grace Min and Lauren Herring earned the championship, dominating the No. 1 seeded team of Lidziva Marozava and Natalia Pintusava of Belarus 8-1.

For more photos and complete draws, see eddieherr.com.

Di Giulio, Keys Earn Eddie Herr 12s Championships

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL--
Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif. and Madison Keys of Boca Raton Fla., took different paths, but both reached their destination on a foggy and cool Friday morning at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy--the top of the 12s international tennis mountain, as the Eddie Herr 12s champions.

For the 12-year-old Keys, the journey was a long one. It took her over two and a half hours to emerge with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over longtime Florida rival Sachia Vickery, also 12. Several spectators commented that Keys seemed to be the more aggressive of the two, more offensive, but she fell behind when she took that game style too far.

"In the first set, I was trying to go for too much too soon," said the 5-foot-7 inch Keys, who had needed a third set tiebreaker to get by Canadian Louise Kwong in the quarterfinals. "I was a little more patient in the second set, went for less."

Vickery, who had sailed through the draw with her potent combination of offensive power and defensive anticipation, played from behind throughout the second and third sets. She would get herself back on serve, only to drop it in the next game, and the last two sets featured break after break, not unusual for the age group.

"My game plan was to be aggressive but to be a little more patient," said Keys, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton and won the Clay Court 12s this summer. "In the first set I got nervous, but I finally broke free of it and went for bigger targets."

Vickery, who had defeated Keys in four of their five meetings prior to this one, was disappointed with her mental performance.

"I couldn't stay focused," said Vickery, who like Keys was a No. 1 seed. "I kept losing it, I couldn't keep my head in the match."

But despite the loss, Vickery acknowledged that it was a good tournament for her. "I was serving well and moving well, hitting the ball better than I thought I would."

The last time Roy Lederman and Joe Di Giulio met, in the semifinals of the 12s Spring Nationals on clay, Lederman won, but Di Giulio emphatically put that loss behind him today with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

Lederman had played a three hour semifinal match on Thursday, but he emphatically denied it was a factor in his performance in the finals.

"I wasn't tired at all," Lederman, 12, said. "He didn't miss a ball in an hour, and I was impatient and didn't move my feet. It's tough when he doesn't miss, not one ball."

The first game of the match was a long one, with Di Giulio holding after saving break points, but after that he played nearly perfect tennis.

"I didn't make any unforced errors really," said Di Giulio, a quarterfinalist in last year's Eddie Herr. "Last time, he played better, and I didn't play my best. I came into this match thinking if I could play my game, I'd have a good chance of winning."

That game is what is commonly described these days as all-court, with a willingness to finish points at the net and to take away his opponent's opportunity to prepare for a shot. Di Giulio's dominance this week can hardly be overstated--he lost a total of 15 games in his seven victories, and he was happy with his play all week.

"I'm pretty excited," said the exceptionally poised 12-year-old, who boarded a plane for California to spend two weeks at home before returning for the Junior Orange Bowl. "I've never won an international tournament before, and I hope I can keep it up in the Orange Bowl."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

American Champions Assured in 12s; Krajinovic Edges Harrison in Dramatic 18s Contest

©Colette Lewis 2007—
Bradenton, FL—

The U.S. will have its third consecutive boys' 12s champion at the Eddie Herr and its first girls' champion since Gail Brodsky in 2003, regardless of the outcome in Friday's finals. No. 1 seeds Floridian Roy Lederman and Californian Joe Di Giulio will decide the boys' champion; Sachia Vickery and Madison Keys, both from Florida and No. 1 seeds, meet for the girls' title.

Three of the semifinals in the 12s were straightforward affairs. Vickery rolled past Korea's No. 1 seed Su Jeoung Jang 6-2, 6-2; Keys breezed past unseeded Alexandra Kiick 6-1, 6-1, the same score that Di Giulio posted against unseeded Elio Levi.

Lederman's victory over unseeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy was the marathon in the group, and I should have known it would be when the first game of the 9 a.m. match was decided at 9:20. After nearly three hours and untold rallies, Lederman emerged with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 win to take his spot in the final.

While Lederman and Quinzi were playing the points so typical of 12s, getting to everything, but unable to finish, I moved to the "stadium court" match of the day pitting two of the world's best 15-year-olds, Ryan Harrison of the U.S. and Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. Although only a few years removed from the 12s, neither player had any trouble ending a point, especially in the final four or five games of the match. After surviving two match points, it was Krajinovic who moved on with his 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win, but to the scores of spectators who witnessed it, the result was secondary to the heart, poise and skill shown by both players.

I arrived just when Krajinovic had earned the split, and in the first game of the third set, he was broken. A crucial turning point came when Harrison had two break points at 3-1, but couldn't convert them. He needed that extra break serving at 5-4. At 30-30, a Krajinovic forehand caught the tape, giving Harrison a match point, but a very nervous forehand that landed several feet behind the baseline brought it to deuce. Another forehand error by Harrison gave Krajinovic the ad, and he put away an overhead to even it at 5.

The advantage didn't last long, however, as Harrison hit two stunning backhand winners down the line on his way to a 0-40 lead and this time it was Krajinovic who made a forehand error to give Harrison his second chance to serve it out. This time he didn't reach a match point, and at 30-40, a backhand error sent the match to the tiebreaker.

The crowd grew as the word of the tiebreaker spread, and the Serbs among them were especially demonstrative. Neither player showed any disappointment and little emotion, however, and both seemed to raise the level of their games when behind. That was Krajinovic at first, but when he ran out to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker, it was Harrison that stepped up his play, and he saved three match points, the final one on Krajinovic's serve at 6-5, by executing an exquisite angle volley. After the change of ends, Krajinovic lost his fourth straight point on an errant forehand and Harrison had his second match point. This time it Krajinovic who came up with a winning volley, and when Harrison was passed at the net on the next point, it was Krajinovic who had the match point. He converted it--Harrison hit a forehand wide--and as the two shook hands, Krajinovic could be heard saying "good match, man."

Afterward the IMG Bollettieri Academy grounds were buzzing with fans asking each other if they'd seen it, and those who had would say that Krajinovic used the wrong adjective. Great, not good, was the word of choice.

Krajinovic, a wild card, will face qualifier Alex Domijan of Florida, who defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-2. The only other American boy remaining in the 18s is wild card Chase Buchanan of Ohio, who avenged his recent loss in Tulsa to Wil Spencer by a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 score.

In girls' 18s, Madison Brengle, the No. 3 seed, was surprised by Arantxa Rus of the Netherland 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, leaving No. 5 seed Melanie Oudin and Julia Boserup as the only U.S. girls in the draw, and they meet in Friday's quarterfinal. Oudin defeated wild card Chloe Babet of France 6-2, 6-1 and Boserup upset No. 4 seed Bojana Jonvanovski of Serbia by the same score.

The boys' 16s has two U.S. players remaining--Sekou Bangoura, the No. 6 seed, who overcame a first set loss for the third consecutive match, and unseeded William Parker. Four U.S. girls remain in the 16s division: No. 13 seed Courtney Dolehide, who upset No. 1 seed Viktorya Yemialyanova of Belarus; qualifier Maria Belaya, wild card Alexandra Cercone and No. 8 seed Zoe DeBruycker.

The 14s lost one its favorites Thursday when Christian Harrison, the No. 3 seed, fell to No. 15 seed Dennis Novikov, also of the U.S., 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Spencer Newman, the No. 14 seed, and unseeded Robert Livi are the other remaining U.S. players in that draw.

In the girls' 14s, unseeded Jacqueline Crawford and No. 5 seed Monica Puig will represent the U.S. in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The boys' and girls' 12s doubles championships were decided on Thursday. The girls' doubles title went to Jennifer Brady of the U.S. and Saska Gavrilovska of Serbia when Tina Jiang and Ayaka Okuno of the U.S. were unable to compete due to illness.

The boys' title match was marred by a scoring controversy early in the contest between Yifan Dang of China and Tom Hill of Great Britain and Gage Brymer and Joseph Di Giulio of the USA. Although I was told by spectators that the game score was 1-1, a disputed call in the third game had Dang claiming it was 3-0, not 1-1 deuce, and when an official finally checked on the court (the match was not chaired), the score reverted to 1-0 in favor of Dang and Hill. The match eventually went to a tiebreaker, and Brymer and Di Giulio couldn't hold a 5-2 lead, dropping the eight-game pro set 9-8 (5).

For complete draws, see eddieherr.com.

Alexander Profile; Bradenton Herald Eddie Herr coverage

I had a chance to talk with Jessica Alexander a couple of days ago for the Tennis Recruiting Network and before a very busy day gets underway at the Eddie Herr, I wanted to post a link to today's article.

The Bradenton Herald covers this tournament from the local angle, doing both features and match reports, so bookmarking their sports home page will add to the necessarily scattered coverage of all that goes on here during a week. This article focuses on Carling Seguso's tough loss to Mallory Cecil yesterday, and this feature on the Williams family traces the origins of the Bollettieri tennis academy

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Domijan and Buchanan Oust Jebavy and Berankis; Six of Eight 12s Semifinalists are from United States

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL--

Sixteen-year-old Americans Alex Domijan and Chase Buchanan scrambled the Eddie Herr 18s picture on Wednesday by taking out the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds. Domijan, a qualifier, eliminated Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6(5) and Buchanan, a wild card, outlasted U.S. Open Junior champion Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (3).

I was fortunate to see the late stages of both matches, and although both concluded with tiebreakers, the similarity ends there. Domijan and Jebavy could not hold serve in the second and final set, although both did manage crucial holds at 5-5 and 5-6.

In the tiebreaker, Domijan took a 5-3 lead with two serves coming, but Jebavy evened it with two line calls that certainly didn't give Domijan any benefit of the doubt. On the next point, at 5-5, Jebavy hit a ball long, Domijan called it out, but Jebavy claimed that the score was 6-5 in his favor, not Domijan's. A roving judge was requested on the court and had witnessed the last three points, so when Jebavy's recounting of them didn't match hers, Domijan was the player who emerged with the match point, and converted it for the win.

When I arrived at the Buchanan - Berankis match, Buchanan was up a set, but down 5-2 in the second. He held and broke, but couldn't pull even and a tense third set ensued.

The tennis wasn't of the highest quality, with errors ending points much more frequently than winners, but both players held their serves throughout the third set and kept their composure even in the face of their uneven play. Berankis faced two break points serving at 4-4, saving one of them with an ace, and then two more at 5-5, but Buchanan blamed himself for not converting his opportunities.

"I played too tentative, and I knew it," Buchanan said. "He gave me my chances, I just didn't take them."

He did seize an important one at 4-2 in the tiebreaker when he was pushed way off the court but still flicked a cross court passing shot by Berankis who had come in to put away the expected floater. When Berankis hit a backhand long on the next point, Buchanan had four match points to work with, and converted the second when Berankis's forehand found the tape.

"I don't know if he was tight or not," said Buchanan, who lost to Berankis in their only previous meeting in the finals of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s in 2004. "Maybe in the breaker he was, but I was still too tight in the breaker, and that's not going to work."

Next up for Buchanan is Wil Spencer, who took a close two-setter from him in the semifinals of the ITF Closed in Tulsa last month. Spencer defeated No. 14 seed Marcus Willis of Great Britain 6-1, 6-4 Wednesday. Domijan will meet another American 16-year-old, wild card Tennys Sandgren, who rolled past unseeded Vladimir Zinyakov of Russia 6-1, 6-3. Number 11 seed Ryan Harrison survived a spirited battle with qualifier Juan Spir of Columbia, taking it 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to earn a shot at wild card Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. No. 16 seed Bradley Klahn advanced over Russian Alexey Grigorov and No. 8 seed Rhyne Williams took out lucky loser Tim Van Terheijden of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-2.

The girls' 18s draw went much more to form today, with No. 3 seed Madison Brengle, No. 5 seed Melanie Oudin and unseeded Julia Boserup easily reaching the third round. Lucky loser Alexandra Anghelescu won again, and No. 10 seed Mallory Cecil survived four match points in squeezing by wild card Carling Seguso 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(1).

The 12s semifinals are set, and it has been a good year for American boys and girls. No. 1 seed Joe Di Giulio continued his strong play with a straight-set win over No. 1 seed Pylyp Kekercheni of the Ukraine and will meet unseeded Elio Livi of the U.S. in one semifinal. The other pits No. 1 seed Roy Lederman of the U.S. against unseeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy. Quinzi beat No. 1 seed Filip Obucina of Canada, while Lederman took out No. 1 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea.

The girls 12s quarterfinals had their own dramatic contest, which I unfortunately didn't see, with No. 1 seed Madison Keys of the U.S. getting past No. 1 seed Louise Kwong of Canada 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3). For some reason, tiebreakers are rare in girls 12s and third set tiebreakers are even more unusual, so I'm disappointed that I missed that one. I did catch a few games of No. 1 seed Sachia Vickery's 6-1, 6-2 win over Ayaka Okuno and the Floridian looks extremely confident as she blitzes her way through the draw. She will face Su Jeoung Jang, a No. 1 seed from Korea, in one semifinal, while Keys meets surprise semifinalist Alexandra Kiick of the U.S. Kiick managed to survive a 6-0 drubbing in the first set by No. 1 seed Tina Jiang, also of the U.S., to earn a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 decision.

Bradenton's Sekou Bangoura, the No. 6 seed, did the same in his boys' 16 contest, spotting Dino Dell'Orto of Hong Kong a 6-0 first set, before coming back for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 win. The top seed in the boys' 16s, Julen Uriguen of Guatemala, was knocked out by Jose Silva Jr. of Brazil. In addition to Bangoura, the U.S. has Raymond Sarmiento, William Parker and No. 16 seed Junior Ore still in the running for the boys' 16s title.

For complete draws, including doubles, which began today in the 14s, 16s and 18s, see eddieherr.com.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

12s Quarterfinals Feature Nine U.S. Players; Krajinovic Tops Tomic in Boys 18s

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Brandenton, FL--

Five American girls and four U.S. boys have advanced to the quarterfinals of the 12s competition at the Eddie Herr, some expected, some not. The 12s fields are always something of a mystery, so seeding is difficult with so little common play at that age. But there are five No. 1 seeds still left in both divisions, including Joe Di Giulio and Roy Lederman of the U.S. and Americans Madison Keys, Tina Jiang and Sachia Vickery.

The two unseeded American boys, Elio Livi and Daniel Kerznerman, play each other on Wednesday, while Di Giulio plays Pylyp Kekercheni of the Ukraine, a No. 1 seed who ousted Justin Butsch of the U.S. in three sets. Lederman defeated No. 1 seed Evan Hoyt from Great Britain in straight sets to set up a meeting with another No. 1 seed, Hyeon Chung of Korea. In the only quarterfinal without an American, No. 1 seed Filip Obucina of Canada will meet Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy. The unseeded Quinzi eliminated No. 1 seed Grayson Goldin of the U.S. in straight sets.

There are two all-American quarterfinal matchups in the girls division, with Vickery going against unseeded Ayaka Okuno and Jiang meeting unseeded Alexandra Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphin Jim Kiick. Keys will play No. 1 seed Louise Kwong of Canada, who is rolling through the draw, having lost no more than three games in any of her four wins. The remaining quarterfinal will pit unseeded Gabriele Sinskaite of Lithuania against No. 1 seed Su Jeoung Jang of Korea. Of the quarterfinalists, only Kiick has dropped a set, but half of them will see that domination end on Friday.

One of the marquee matches of the day in boys 18s singles first round play was wild card Filip Krajinovic of Serbia against Bernard Tomic of Australia. Assigned to the "Stadium Court," also known as Nick's Court, the two 15-year-olds attracted a three-deep crowd along the fence and dozens of spectators in the bleachers despite the hot sun and the many other matches nearby. I saw only the last three games of the match, but I was impressed by both boys. The level of play was high, and it was about tennis--there was none of the emotion and anguish so common on the IMG/Bollettieri Academy courts this week. At 4-3 in the second set, after Krajinovic had won the first 6-2, the Serb broke the No. 7 seed to earn an opportunity to serve for the match. He was broken at love, but Krajinovic never so much as swatted at a ball in anger, nor did he raise his voice or betray any disappointment. After the changeover, Krajinovic returned the favor, breaking Tomic at love. On match point, he hit a delicate drop shot that Tomic did get to, but was unable to control and pushed long. With Krajinovic's recent run (20 junior matches and counting), there can be no second-guessing of his decision to take the wild card into the 18s and withdraw from the 16s.

In addition to Tomic, several seeds were bounced in first round action: No. 5 seed and U.S. Open Jr. finalist Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, with a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Henri Kontinen of Finland; No. 6 seed Radu Albot of Moldovia, who lost to 15-year-old Giacomo Miccini of Italy 6-4, 6-4; No. 10 seed Yuki Bhambri of India dropping a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 decision to qualifier Mirza Basic of Bosnia; and No. 15 Vasek Pospisil of Canada, who lost to U.S. wild card Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 7-6(4).

Other U.S. wild cards chalking up wins on Tuesday were Bo Seal and Chase Buchanan, along with qualifier Alex Domijan. No. 8 seed Rhyne Williams, playing in his first tournament in over two months, won in straight sets, as did No. 11 seed Ryan Harrison and unseeded Wil Spencer. No. 16 seed Bradley Klahn advanced in three sets.

Another afternoon contest that proved a big draw was No. 7 seed Mallory Cecil of the U.S. against two-time Eddie Herr champion (12s and 14s) Hanna Orlik of Belarus in first round girls' 18s action. A student at Bollettieri's, Cecil had quite a few supporters, and when facing a determined 14-year-old, that can be important. Orlik wasn't at her best, committing a slew of unforced errors, and Cecil used her speed to great advantage in earning a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

The boys 14s lost their No. 1 seed, Yaroslav Shyla of Belarus, who lost to Donovan Anez of Venezuela in three sets, but Christian Harrison of the U.S., the No. 3 seed, won easily, and No. 2 seed Damien David of Canada also advanced in straight sets.

For complete draws and other coverage of the tournament, see eddieherr.com.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Top seed Hofmanova upset in Girls' 18s First Round at Eddie Herr; US Boys Dominate 12s

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL--

I took a stroll past the court where top seed and 2006 Orange Bowl champion Nikola Hofmanova of Austria was playing her girls' 18s first round match against Alyona Sotnikova of the Ukraine. Hofmanova was up a set and a break, so I thought there was little chance of an upset, and I proceeded to other matches to catch as many of the U.S. girls as I could. Sotnikova, 15, who trains at the Roddick Total Tennis Academy, wasn't as willing to concede the match as I was, and she roared back for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory. After the match, I talked to Myron Grunberg, the director at Roddick's, and he attributed Sotnikova's success as much to her mental skills as to her game, and said she pulled off this upset by breaking down Hofmanova's confidence.

It was a day of comebacks for Grunberg's students, as 14-year-old lucky loser Maryna Zanevska, also of the Ukraine and training at Roddick's, was down two breaks at 4-1 in the third against wild card Asia Muhammad of the U.S. But Zanevska came back to win 6 of the next 7 games to stun Muhammad 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Muhammad didn't play defensively--she kept going for her shots--but Zanevska gave her nothing for free, and as the final few games of the three-and-a-half-hour match played out, Muhammad couldn't find the winners she needed.

All but two of the girls' 18s first round matches were played on the warm and breezy Monday, with eight U.S. girls advancing to the second round. No. 3 seed Madison Brengle, No. 5 seed Melanie Oudin and unseeded Julia Boserup won in straight sets, as did qualifiers Kristy Frilling and Jessica Alexander. Wild card Carling Seguso got through in three sets, as did lucky loser Alexandra Anghelescu. Playing on adjacent courts, the McHale sisters split their decisions: Christina won over qualifier Charlotte Rodier of France 6-4, 6-0 but older sister Lauren lost a lengthy struggle with No. 4 seed Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Aside from Hofmanova, two other seeded girls lost: number 11 seed Tanya Raykova of Bulgaria, the 2006 Eddie Herr champion in the 16s, who was Alexander's victim, and number 12 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain.

In the third round of the 12s, the American boys continued their impressive results at the Eddie Herr, claiming nine of the final 16 spots. No. 1 seeds Roy Lederman and Joe Di Giulio lost only one game apiece, but Grayson Goldin needed a third set tiebreaker to move on. The fourth U.S. No. 1 seed, Luca Corinteli, didn't survive, falling to unseeded Elio Levi, also of the U.S. in three emotional sets. After several disputes, some over line calls, some over the score, a roving umpire was called to the court, where he stayed the entire match, monitoring and calming players as required.

In addition to those four, five other unseeded Americans reached the round of 16--Jose Gracia, Stefan Kozlov, Justin Butsch, Jack Murray and Daniel Kerznerman.

The girls' 12s feature seven American girls, with No. 1 seeds Madison Keys, Tina Liang and Sachia Vickery advancing in straight sets. In fact, only two of the 16 girls' third round matches went three sets. Unseeded Alexandra Kiick of the U.S. won one of them and will now face another unseeded U.S. girl, Spencer Liang. Unseeded Ayaka Okuna, who defeated a No. 1 seed from Argentina on Monday, and Denise Starr will also represent the U.S. in the round of 16.

All seeded players in the 14s had byes, so there were no upsets in that age group, and the boys in the 16s and 18s were not scheduled. In girls' 16s, only two seeds fell--No. 16 Lidziya Marozava of Belarus, who lost to Daniela Vidal of Venezuela, and Kerrie Cartwright of the Bahamas, the No. 11 seed, who fell to qualifier Maria Belaya of the U.S. in three sets.

For complete draws and more coverage of the tournament, visit eddieherr.com

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Three U.S. Boys and Three U.S. Girls Qualify in Eddie Herr 18s

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL--

I wish I could say that I watched most of the action today at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy, but in truth, I spent most of the warm and sunny Sunday at tournament headquarters (the indoor courts) answering questions and taking scores.

I caught a bit of Joe Di Giulio's second round win in the 12s, and a few games of Vicky Duval's loss. After not losing a game in her first round match, Duval, one of four No. 1 seeds from the U.S., fell to Olga Ianchuk of the Ukraine 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. Unlike Duval, the other three U.S. girls' No. 1s cruised into the third round--Sachia Vickery and Tina Jiang didn't lose a game in the process, while Madison Keys lost only two. In addition to Di Giulio, other American No. 1s, Roy Lederman and Luca Corinteli advanced. Grayson Goldin also got through to the third round, with a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 win over fellow Floridian Daniel Pivonka.

I was determined to see the girls' 18 qualifying, but the matches were spread throughout the 31 courts and I saw only parts of five of them. Olivia Janowicz lost 6-4, 6-4 to Charlotte Rodier, but Danielle Mills had better luck in a tough two-setter against Naomi Broady of Great Britain, 7-5, 6-4. Kristy Frilling advanced fairly quickly in straight sets, but Jessica Alexander showed a lot of grit in her 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win. Kristie Ahn had great crowd support and rode it to a first set tiebreaker victory, but her opponent, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, came back to take the next two sets 6-1, 6-1.

The boys' 18s qualifiers from the U.S. are Brennan Boyajian, Alex Domijan and Denis Kudla. Unseeded Floridians Boyajian and Domijan had straight set wins, but Kudla, a No. 1 seed in qualifying needed three sets to take out a No. 2 seed, Adrien Puget of France. Bob Van Overbeek, a No. 1 seed, lost to unseeded Juan-Carlos Spir of Columbia, 7-6(3), 6-3.

Qualifying was completed in the other age divisions and all draws are available now by clicking here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Qualifying Continues in 14s, 16s, and 18s

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton FL--

Once the 12s had finished their main draw first round matches on Saturday, the three older age groups proceeded with their qualifying. The 14s boys and girls have 96 draws, so those without a bye in the first round need to win four matches just to reach the main draw; on Sunday, the boys' 14s will play two rounds fill the eight spaces for qualifiers; the other five divisions will play one match for a spot in the main. (The girls' 14s played two rounds yesterday). The weather was warm and dry, so the only complication was the limited hours of daylight, and with an additional eight lighted courts this year, the last of the qualifying matches was completed by 9:00 p.m. (Update--a few girls' 14s third round qualifying matches were postponed until Sunday.)

I watched parts of Brennan Boyajian's and Bob Van Overbeek's qualifying wins today in boys' 18s, and both were tough two-setters. I missed Alex Domijan's and Denis Kudla's wins; they join Sarasota's Taylor Albrecht as U.S. boys still alive for a main draw spot.

Six U.S. girls have advanced to the final round of 18s qualifying: Danielle Mills, Kristie Ahn, Kristy Frilling, Jessica Alexander, Olivia Janowicz and Alexandra Anghelescu.

The Eddie Herr website also has photos and updates available at eddieherr.com.

Eddie Herr 12s Underway

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Brandenton, FL--

The boys' 12s went off bright and early Saturday morning, and a couple of the U.S. favorites, Joseph DiGiulio, a No. 1 seed, and Justin Butsch, who is unseeded, came through without dropping a game. Two other U.S. No. 1 seeds, Grayson Goldin and Roy Lederman, finished off their opponents by 6-1, 6-1 scores. The other U.S. No. 1 seed, Luca Corinteli, won 6-2, 6-3.

The girls' 12s featured four U.S. seeds, and all won, and nearly as easily as the boys. Madison Keys advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 win; Tina Jiang won 6-2, 6-1; Victoria Duval didn't lose a game while Sachia Vickery lost only one.

For complete results and draws, click here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Coaches Q and A: The College Choice

This is the third installment of a new feature on zootennis that taps the professional expertise of Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Today's question: Should I choose a university for the team or the lineup? Brandi, a two-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coach of the Year, responds:

Deciding where to go to college is a tough decision and many factors need to be weighed in making it. Should a player attend a university based on the strength of the team or should they go where they will be in the lineup in every dual match?

Some factors in making the final decision are:

• the coach
• academic counseling
• athletic department
• the facilities
• size of the school
• size of the campus
• dorms
• weather
• academics
• school location
• teammates
• team chemistry
• competition in the conference
• school’s dual match schedule
• fall tournament schedule
• and of course, whether you will be able to play in the lineup as a freshman.

During my 17 years as the women’s coach at the University of Florida, I had the tough job of juggling great players and giving them adequate playing time. It is important that during college, everyone plays enough matches to continue their development.I n some instances players compete in a total of 40-60 matches a year between the fall and spring schedules.
So the question is: do I go for the team or do I go where I know I will play in every match?

The best would be a mix of both. If the team is good then you will have the opportunity to practice every day with players that will challenge you. This will make you better. But if you do not get the opportunity to compete, then your progress would be limited. On the other hand if you play in every match and the daily challenge is not as demanding, then you might not be ready to face tougher opponents.

My suggestion would be to go to a school where the team is very good even if the amount of playing time is limited. It is the coach's job to keep everyone involved and challenged and to look after the development of every player on the team. The coach must be certain that everyone competes in enough matches to keep that competitive edge and to make everyone better, which will then make a very good team! So best of luck in your search!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Eddie Herr Preview; West Nott Research

As I mentioned yesterday, my preview of the Eddie Herr is available today at The Tennis Recruiting Network. I wrote it on Monday, and it includes Filip Krajinovic of Serbia as a favorite in the 16s; Mike Henry, the reporter who usually covers the tournament for the Bradenton Herald reveals in his preview that Krajinovic has been given a wild card into the 18s.

West Nott at Underground Tennis has done some research into the tennis careers of Eddie Herr champions. The link for the girls is here.
The boys' link is here.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the third installment of our Coaches Q and A with Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bricker talks to Levine

Charlie Bricker of the Sun-Sentinel spoke with Jesse Levine about his recent success, his first win over Donald Young in a long time, and about his plans after the Knoxville Challenger, which ends this weekend. Bricker mentions the Australian qualifying, but doesn't ask Levine if he thinks he might be the recipient of the main draw wild card the U.S. gets in trade with Australia. This year it went to Sam Querrey, who reached the third round.

Short post today, but look for my Eddie Herr preview on The Tennis Recruiting Network Thanksgiving, and for the third installment of the Coaches Q and A with Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon on Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Florida Journey; Emilio Sanchez Talks Player Development

We're on our way to Florida for the three big junior tournaments--Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl and Junior Orange Bowl, so I apologize if comment posting and my posts are irregular over the next few days.

Tennis Week has launched its new website, with a much more stylish look, but today's interview with Emilio Sanchez, who has opened a branch of his academy in Naples, Fla. is heavy on substance. Richard Pagliaro asks some very astute questions and Sanchez explains in detail what he looks for in juniors, why he decided to add to the number of academies in Florida, and how he thinks the US should improve the climate for tennis in this country. All in all, a must-read for anyone interested in player development. He also mentions Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian who has won two consecutive Eddie Herrs and last year's Orange Bowl 16s, who is now a student at his academy. Dimitrov was previously training at the Weil Academy when he was in the U.S.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lajola Wins Hawaii Futures; More College Signings

When 18-year-old Dennis Lajola won the Oceanic Time Warner Cable Honolulu Futures yesterday, it marked an American sweep of the three pro level events played in the U.S. last week, with Jesse Levine winning the Champaign Challenger and Ashley Harkleroad taking the $50K Women's event in La Quinta. Lajola had a relatively easy time reaching the semis, with a mysterious walkover win over Carsten Ball in the quarterfinals (puzzling because Ball continued in the tournament and won the doubles title), and then met 17-year-old Ty Trombetta of the U.S., who made great use of his wild card. Lajola won 7-6 in the third after dropping the first set, and he also came back from a set down in the final to win. The Honolulu Advertiser reported on the final here. For complete draws, see the usta.com Pro Circuit page.

The college early signings continue, with Chelsey Gullickson joining Nadja Gilchrist at the University of Georgia. UCLA picked up Alex Brigham for the men's team and Nina Pantic for the women's and up the coast, Stanford officially announced the signings of the impressive pair of left-handers from Southern California who are joining the Cardinal men.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Davis Cup High Performance Camp; Will Tennis Canada Pursue Levine?

The USTA's High Performance coaches Roger Smith and David Roditi will be conducting a camp in conjunction with the Davis Cup final next month in Portland, and I've received the names of the boys who will be attending. They are: Sean Berman, Carlos Bermudez, Mika DeCoster, Jeremy Efferding, Emmett Egger, Marcos Giron, Spencer Mitchell, Spencer Simon and Shane Vinsant. All except Bermudez are 1993 birth years. I covered a similar camp for 90s and 91s early last year in La Jolla, and it was a fascinating experience. That was a first round Davis Cup tie; I can't imagine how exciting it will be for those boys to be around the atmosphere of the first final held in the U.S. since 1992.

Tom Tebutt in the Toronto Globe and Mail has taken note of Jesse Levine's recent surge and posts this story about the possibility of the Canadian-born left-hander playing Davis Cup a bit farther north.

For a excellent report on Levine's win over Donald Young last night, see this post on usta.com.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Inside Junior Tennis; Quigley to Kentucky; Levine Tops Young

Kevin McClure and I are not doing our Inside Junior Tennis podcast quite as frequently as in the past, but I hope we can still hit all the high spots every three weeks or so. On Thursday, we talked about the ITA Indoor, National Signing Day, Melanie Oudin and Filip Krajinovic, Break and Hold, Coaches' Q and A and the upcoming Florida swing. Click here for The Tennis Podcast page, or download from iTunes here.

The Bluegrass State's Blue Chip, Eric Quigley, announced his decision to attend Kentucky on the Tennis Recruiting Network late last week, and on Friday, the Wildcats' Dennis Emery commented on the signing on ukathletics.com.

And tonight in Champaign, Jesse Levine defeated Donald Young in two tiebreakers to win his second consecutive challenger. Both the previous meetings between them (in Tulsa and Louisville) this fall went to Young easily; this win demonstrates what an impact confidence can have in reversing results. The USTA Challenger of Champaign website has the finals story here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Boyajian Talks about UNC Choice; Frilling to Notre Dame; Pie in the Sky

My weekly contribution to The Tennis Recruiting Network is the result of a recent phone conversation I had with Brennan Boyajian about his choice of North Carolina. After having conducted quite a few of these interviews, I'm still searching for the perfect question that produces instant insight into the recruiting process and the subsequent choice. But it's always fun to discuss this new stage in the player's life; I hope to do many more profiles and announcements in 2008.

The Dayton Daily News featured this article on Kristy Frilling and her decision to attend Notre Dame. There are a very confusing couple of paragraphs about Frilling's doubles success--she won the Pro Circuit's Augusta event recently with Madison Brengle, not Asia Muhammad. Muhammad and Frilling made the semifinals at this year's US Open Junior Championships, and Frilling won the Easter Bowl with Mallory Cecil, so it's obvious that she's a great doubles partner for anyone. Also, I don't think Muhammad has turned pro, while of course Brengle has, but I'm not relying on this story for that information given these errors.

A story that I stumbled across about high school athletes and their expectations, from the Hilton Head Island Packet, makes for interesting reading, although the focus is sports in general, including tennis, but not exclusive to it. Entitled "READY OR NOT: Pie-in-the-sky assessments can mean pie in the face on signing day," it's definitely a worthwhile article for those who are hoping to play Division I sports.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

National Junior Tennis Conference; SI's Seth Davis Agrees with Me on NLIs

Mark Bey's 11th annual National Junior Tennis Conference is this weekend, and although I'm not attending, Marcia Frost will be, so watch collegeandjuniortennis.com for a report. I did receive the information on the conference today, so if you are in the Chicago area this weekend and have a junior tennis player who wants to play college tennis, it would be a very valuable use of your time. For the overview, click here for the individual seminar schedule, click here, and for the junior training camp schedule, click here.

The signing announcements are continue to come in, with Nadja Gilchrist, the No. 1 girls blue chip in the class of 2008 according to The Tennis Recruiting Network, signing with Georgia. The announcement from georgiadogs.com is here. USC announced Alison Ramos's signing today here.

Sports Illustrated basketball expert Seth Davis has written a column that addresses many of the same points I made yesterday about the National Letter of Intent. Although his sport is basketball, it applies equally to tennis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Signing Day

It's finally here, the first day of the Early Signing Period in NCAA Division I & II Tennis (and many other sports). I've gotten a few emails already; Texas A & M is understandably eager to get the word out on their signings of Austin Krajicek and Wil Spencer; and Bryan Shelton of Georgia Tech also has two blue chips he is now allowed to comment on publicly. The Fighting Illini are also announcing two five-star signings for the women's team today. While you're at the Illinois site, check out their coverage of the Champaign Challenger. Ryan Rowe, with his win this evening over Brian Wilson, has reached the quarterfinals and will earn 14 ATP points, nearly three times as many as the 5 that currently have him ranked 1143.

Although I'm hardly an unbiased observer as a regular contributor, I really appreciate what The Tennis Recruiting Network has done for college tennis in providing a ranking system. It gives all these press releases a common source for rating players and it is rare now, just over two years after the site was launched, to see any school or media article that doesn't use it as a reference point. It has given college tennis recruiting the same language as that of the major revenue sports, and that is a positive step in keeping college tennis programs viable.

Okay, so what is it that everyone is signing? It's a National Letter of Intent, and if you're interested, it can be found here. The primary benefit to the student-athlete seems to be that they know what they'll be getting in athletic aid their first academic year, and they can't be recruited anymore. But here's an interesting sentence from the text. "If the conditions stated on the financial aid offer are not met, this NLI shall be declared null and void." So the school doesn't come through with the money and all the recruit gets is a chance to do the process all over again, when most of the scholarships (especially for boys) will be taken? Maybe I'm reading that wrong, but it doesn't sound like the school has much to lose. Somebody better comes along in April, you don't give the November signee as much as you said you would and voila, you're out of the first contract. And the signee still has to get into school, has to stay if the coach leaves, etc., etc. It seems like one party is assuming most of the risk, and it isn't the school.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vandeweghe at La Quinta; Susie Babos Feature

The Palm Springs Desert Sun's Leighton Ginn has been following Coco Vandeweghe's junior career very closely and with the Women's Pro Circuit in La Quinta this week, he wrote this story on her Monday qualifying win over Kelly Liggan, the No. 3 seed and 277th-ranked WTA player. Ginn also added an interesting tidbit that Michael Chang was there with Amber Liu. The cousin mentioned might be James Wan, who, like Liu, attended Stanford. Vandeweghe lost in straight sets today to Hilary Barte, who is also connected to the school in Palo Alto. With her qualifying victory over Vandeweghe, Barte earned a matchup with Madison Brengle. Julia Boserup, a wild card, had a big win in the main draw today, taking out Bethanie Mattek, the No. 6 seed, who is ranked 111. For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

The Daily Californian profiled Cal's Susie Babos last week and it's a very interesting look at her relationship with her father, who, like so many young girls in Eastern Europe, was also her coach. This comment struck me as one I rarely hear from a college player:

“When I came in as a freshman, I thought I knew everything,” says Babos. “I thought I had experience and training before and so I was not open to anything, whereas right now if I don’t get coaching or feedback, I’m really upset and can’t function. So I think I’ve opened up now and it’s helped my game.”
It puts a rather ambivalent spin on coaching, doesn't it?

The story also mentions briefly in passing her younger sister, Timea, 14, who just won the Grade 3 ITF tournament in Malaysia. Her CoreTennis bio page is here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jung Wins Big Ten Singles; Krajinovic and Burdette Take Evert ITF; Challenger Circuit Moves to Champaign

Michigan freshman Jason Jung won the Big Ten Singles title today in Ann Arbor, and although the field didn't feature many of the conference's top echelon of players, he did have an impressive win over fellow Wolverine and defending Big Ten singles winner Matko Maravic. The final day story is available here at mgoblue.com.

The recently completed Grade 4 ITF at the Evert Academy featured a very familiar name as the boys champion. With his win over Evan King, Filip Krajinovic of Serbia has now won three straight ITFs in the U.S., 19 consecutive matches, and his only loss of the fall was to Jordan Cox in the final at Illinois back in September. I saw him play in last year's Junior Orange Bowl, where he lost to Bernard Tomic, but I can't say he made a big impression. I'll definitely be watching at the Eddie Herr, where he is entered in the 16s, not the 18s as are most of the other 15 and 16 year olds. The girls' title went to Mallory Burdette, who appears to be fully recovered from an injury that kept off the junior circuit most of the year. Burdette beat Alexandra Cercone of Florida in the final. The boys doubles winners were Frank Carleton and Mousheg Hovhannisyan; the girls doubles champions were Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring. The next stop for the ITF circuit is Bradenton for the Grade 1 Eddie Herr to be followed by the Orange Bowl. For the complete Evert draws, click here.

The coverage of the Nashville Challenger and qualifier Jesse Levine's 7-6 in the third finals victory over Alex Kuznetsov is nonexistent as far as I can tell, but it boosted his ATP ranking to a career high of 242. He received a special exemption into this week's Challenger in Champaign, and drew Sam Warburg as his first round opponent. The website for following the tournament is here, and features live scoring (although the titles of the matches aren't correct; see the results tab for correct round information).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Book Review: Break and Hold

Break and Hold by
Vivien Kalvaria

"There are so many how-to books. How to be a great parent of an athlete, all the do's and don't's…With my daughter Lauren I was always tearing out how-to things from newspapers, magazines, books and saying read this, and invariably she never did."

This inability to communicate the hard-won knowledge of tennis experts and veterans led Vivien Kalvaria to try a different tack. The result is one of the rare examples of tennis fiction, titled Break and Hold, which was published in August of this year.

I spoke with Kalvaria at the U.S. Open, where she provided me with a copy of the book to review on zootennis. It is inspired by a true story, that of the French tennis parent who spiked the drink of a rival, which ended up causing an automobile accident resulting in death, but the court case that provides the dramatic conclusion to the book is not a murder trial, and the similarities are more illustrative of a genre of tennis parent than an actual one.

Kalvaria was a tennis parent herself and knows the territory. Her daughter, an NCAA doubles champion at Stanford in 2002, was Top 50 ITF Junior and Top 400 WTA. The novel, which Kalvaria says took her nine years to write, is full of observations and scenes that reflect the everyday realities of junior tennis. The fictional Columberti Tennis Academy in Ft. Myers is a stand-in for any of the major boarding academies, including the world's most famous one just up the road in Bradenton, with the Easter Bowl and a USTA trip to Europe for the clay season also serving as prominent backdrops.

There is drama, love, suspense and, at the end, surprise, but ultimately, it is a portrayal of the destructive and ugly side of parental ambition.

When I talked with Kalvaria at the Open, before reading the book, I warned her that I was more drawn to the positives of junior tennis than the negatives, but I've been around the circuit long enough now to know that for every inspirational story, there is one that can only be categorized as depressing, though they rarely reach the extreme depicted within this book.

Kalvaria certainly succeeds in pointing out the missteps and the dangers inherent in the volatile combination of "talented child, parent and money," and is also adept at providing insight into the unique issues girls face, all without preaching.

I think her point is diluted however, by the diabolical portray of the father, one of the few characters in the book that doesn't ring true. A Grand Slam champion (I don't mean a player who has won a Grand Slam title, I mean one who has won all four in a calendar year) driving a taxi for a living? Tennis has very few outcasts, and having such an accomplished one doesn't really add significantly to the story. What current tennis parent could identify with that? A character who played No. 1 on his college team, or one who has no trophies for tennis achievement might be a more believable villain. It would certainly be more reflective of the majority of stage-parents, whether they are in sports or entertainment or other highly competitive fields. And it probably goes without saying that the people who might truly benefit from a look at all the inappropriate behavior depicted in the book would never recognize themselves in the portrayals. But if it can start a dialogue between a parent and a child about expectations and self-control, or any of the other traps that often ensnare even the most well-meaning tennis parents, Kalvaria has done the sport a service.

The writing style is also a little adverb and adjective heavy for me, as I come from the less-is-more school of descriptive narratives, but the story moves quickly through 295 pages. There is plenty of actual tennis, too, with detailed accounts of matches big and small.

A sneak peek at the first chapter is available at the publisher's website outskirtpress.com.

Please note that buying this book (or anything else from Amazon during the upcoming holiday season) through the link in this post supports zootennis. It is one of the few sources of revenue I have for this site, and I appreciate your support in using Amazon, the Tennis Warehouse or the other shopping options on this page.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Phenom in tennis officially elite-level

Last week while I was in the midst of the ITA Indoor, I received a link from David to this story from the Tucson Arizona Daily Star about Carlos Bermudez (and his older brother Dominic), two blue chips from that city.

Carlos Bermudez is one of the players at the USTA's new Boca Raton national training center, and, to me at least, one of the less well-known ones. The list of boys training in Boca is here.

This is a written by a sports columnist in Tucson who is probably not accustomed to writing about tennis (the paper does almost no coverage of the 12s and 14s Winter Nationals), so I found the comments below an example of sloppy reporting on the mainstream media side of journalism (Take that Chris McCoskey!).

It's likely that when Carlos gets to his dorm-style quarters in Florida, he'll be the only one of the elite group who played the USTA junior circuit while traveling by private automobile, with no paid coaching staff.
and then later he adds:
Wait until the producers at ESPN get a load of the Bermudez family. Championship Tennis On The Cheap. Nobody does that these days.
Yes they do. Lots and lots of families do, and I see them and talk to them at every junior tournament. Does he?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Coaches Q and A with Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon: Training On Clay

I'm happy to introduce the second 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.
It's fitting that today's question: "How much should I train on clay?" is answered by Harold Solomon, a 1976 French Open singles finalist and one of the best clay court players of his generation.
Solomon responds:

At our Institute we have made the decision to train our students on clay as much as possible. We think that one of the reasons American juniors and professionals are lagging behind in today's game is that they are for the most part not exposed to clay from a young age. Here are five reasons we think clay training is vital to development:
Court Positioning
In order to be effective on clay, a player has to develop the skill of working the point instead of going for outright winners from anywhere on the court. Since clay is one of the slower surfaces and because most clay court specialists are very adept at sliding (which enables them to get to more balls with less effort), it is necessary to learn how to maneuver opponents out of position in order to set up the opportunity to go for a high percentage winner or finish off the point at the net.
Shot Variety and Selection
Most clay court players have become very skilled in the use of heavy angled top spin balls, slice backhands, high top spin drives and drop shots. Clay court players are often more aware of hitting the ball with greater clearance over the net and not quite as close to the lines. Being effective on clay demands that a player develop patience; it is not uncommon for there to be rallies or 20 or 30 balls at the French Open before one player decides to "pull the trigger".
Playing well on clay requires a higher degree of physical fitness since rallies and matches last longer. Since players generally can't end the point with one swat of the racket they have to develop the ability to "see the court differently".
Strategic Thinking
When a player begins to understand the clay court game the court begins to look like a giant chess board. Often a player is able to think one shot ahead, which means that they recognize the ramifications of the shot that they are hitting and how it will lead them into the next opportunity to get their opponent out of position.
Skills translate to other surfaces
This basic understanding of the game and the court leads to a higher level of competency on all surfaces. The ability to hit more balls consistently in the court gives the player a much higher level of self confidence especially at crucial times in matches.

Given all of the above we think that juniors should spend at a minimum 50% of their time training on clay, no matter what style of play they intend to develop for the future.
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 they will address a reader's question on how to deal with nerves when playing in national events against tougher competition.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

ITA National Indoor Slideshow; Tennis Recruiting Wrap-up

Indoor tennis presents many challenges for a photographer, but I was fortunate to have my husband Paul behind the lens last week in Columbus, making this slideshow possible.

My wrap-up of the tournament for The Tennis Recruiting Network is here.