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Friday, February 29, 2008

QuickStart Tennis Introduced; Pacific Coast Men's Doubles Tournament Underway; Oudin Reaches Second Semifinal on Pro Circuit

The USTA is rolling out the promotion for QuickStart Tennis, with the reduced-sized court and equipment for smaller children. The Orlando Sentinel spoke with Mary Joe Fernandez about it, and also provides some interesting statistics about how tennis stacks up against soccer as players age. The USTA's site dedicated to QuickStart can be found here.

The Pacific Coast Doubles tournament this weekend in La Jolla features most of the best college players in California, as well as coaches, teaching pros and juniors. The tournament was first held in 1890 and Ken Thomas will be providing streaming audio of the final two days at radiotennis.com. This is a free service; all that's necessary is a brief registration. For full draws, see the TennisLink site.

Sixteen-year-old Melanie Oudin took an extended break after her grueling and successful December ITF calendar, but she hasn't shown any signs of rust since returning to the courts at the Pro Circuit level. Last week in Clearwater's $25,000 event, she reached the semifinals, before losing to Yevhenila Savranska of the Ukraine, and Oudin gets her opportunity to avenge that lost in tomorrow's semifinal at the $25,000 tournament in Ft. Walton Beach. Because she reached the final, Savranska got a special exemption into the main draw; Oudin had to get through three qualifying matches, but she made it easier on herself by winning all in straight sets. For complete results of this event and the men's tournament in Harlingen, Texas, see the Pro Circuit home page.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Exclusive Berankis Interview; TCU Men's Tennis Put on Probation; Jan Silva on Nightline Tonight

Last month while I was at the North Miami Beach Futures, I had an opportunity to interview Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, the ITF World Junior Champion in 2007. Although Berankis signed with IMG and is not going to be playing college tennis, many of his insights into the game and its levels seemed appropriate for The Tennis Recruiting Network's audience. For the interview, click here.

TCU has been placed on two years of probation by the NCAA for infractions discovered while Joey Rive was head coach of the men's team. The details of the violations and the penalties were announced today on the NCAA website.

Another feature on six-year-old Jan Silva was released today on abc.com with the notation that it will air tonight on Nightline. There isn't anything new here that wasn't in Tom Perotta's Tennis Magazine piece, but those of you who would like more visuals than the YouTube clips out there might be interested in tuning in. I had hoped to see him myself when he was in Tampa, working with Steve Smith last month, but I missed him by a day or two. I guess it doesn't matter to TV that Tracy Austin's name is misspelled in this story, but they probably will get a few letters if they don't correct the Boris Becker error. Michael Chang is the youngest male to win a Grand Slam, not Becker.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gustavus Adolphus Wins Division III Men's Indoor; Northwestern Tops Women's Rankings; Fields Set for USTA Spring 18s in Mobile

I'm a few days late on linking to the ITA's Casey Snedecor's story on the Division III Men's Team Indoor, which was won by host Gustavus Adolphus College, but in a happy coincidence, I received an email this morning from Steve Saltarelli with a link to his story about that very same program at si.com. The story explores not only the career and legacy of head coach Steve Wilkinson, but the challenges of recruiting when you have neither athletic scholarships nor good weather. (I do have a quibble with Saltarelli saying that Gustavus Adolphus "dominates" DIII tennis. UC Santa Cruz, the runnerup at the Indoors, won it and the NCAAs last year, and in Bob Hansen, have a coach that is every bit as renowned and successful as Wilkinson. See Hansen's bio here.) The story also has controversy as well, and if you are not aware how Division III moved from best of seven points to best of nine, with all doubles counting as points, Saltarelli explains. And with the score being 5-4 for Gustavus Adolphus this year at the Indoors, which was held after Saltarelli wrote his story, the questions about it will persist.

The most recent DI rankings were released yesterday, and the Northwestern women, who beat both Duke and North Carolina last weekend, ascended to the top spot, the first Big Ten team to reach No. 1. That's now three different teams that have been No. 1 in only six ranking periods. Virginia, on the other hand, hasn't been dislodged from the men's top spot, with next week marking the beginning of the computer-generated rankings.

The USTA Spring 18s championships in Mobile, a tournament that always signifies the changing of the seasons for me, are coming up in less than two weeks. The applicants have been selected and the girls' field features 2007 finalist Lauren Embree and semifinalist Asia Muhammad, as well as 18s Winter National champion Alexandra Cercone. The boys' field has both the 2007 Spring defending champion Brennan Boyajian and finalist Dennis Nevolo, who will be challenged by Bradley Klahn, the 18s Winter Nationals winner, and Alex Domijan, the 18s Eddie Herr finalist. For the tournament's TennisLink home page, click here.

Also, the Easter Bowl has provided a more detailed account of how the selections are made for the ITF Closed 18s event in Palm Springs. Click here for how the selections worked last year. (Scroll down to the red "New Information" heading).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

McClune in Dubai, hitting with Federer

2007 Kalamazoo 18s champion Michael McClune got the call any young player dreams of, and is currently in Dubai serving as Roger Federer's practice partner as the world No. 1 prepares for The Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships next week. Before we've always heard about these sessions after the fact, but this time, McClune's coach Nick Fustar is doing a daily blog while on the trip, so you can read about the process as it unfolds.

When I spoke to Brad Stine last month at the Tennis Plaza Cup, he mentioned the U.S. Open hitting session with Federer that Fustar refers to in this entry, which was a kind of audition I guess, for the part McClune is now playing.

Fustar, by the way, serves as an assistant coach for the men's and women's tennis teams at Santa Clara when he is not working with and traveling with McClune.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Two Questions; ITF Launches Online School for Juniors; Cecil Wins Family Circle Qualifying Spot

Marc Lucero poses two interesting questions today at The Tennis Recruiting Network. Is there a more effective way for coaches to evaluate talent and is the USTA deserving of the public's criticism that it receives for not producing champions? As I mentioned in my review of Moneyball a few years back, there just aren't the numbers available in tennis that there are in other sports, so coming up with objective evaluation tools is difficult. I think service games won, as Lucero mentions, might provide some insight, but there is no way that number is going to be collected at tournaments, unless the coaches do it themselves. As for the USTA, Lucero points out that the monopoly that any federation enjoys is not likely to produce the competition that leads to innovation and enterprise, and serving solely as a bank has its downside too.

The ITF Junior website has details on their newly launched online school, which provides education modules relating to the sport, from "injury prevention, anti-doping, player protection and the role of the agent. There is even a module dedicated to parents and to the important role of looking after talented children,” according to Luca Santilli, ITF Manager of Junior Tennis.

Mallory Cecil, the top seed in the SMASH Junior Cup, won the wild card into qualifying at the Sony Ericsson WTA Family Circle Cup in April that goes to the girls 18s winner. In what appears to have been a great final today, Cecil defeated No. 2 seed Nadja Gilchrist 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5. James Beck of the Charleston Post and Courier wrote this story about the semifinals, where Cecil beat Keri Wong and Gilchrist defeated Alison Riske. The timing of the Family Circle Cup qualifying makes its unlikely that Cecil will be able to play the Easter Bowl this year. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Coaches Q and A: National-level Junior Answers Questions about Tournaments, School and Training

A few weeks ago, I received a list of questions from a parent of a young junior, most of which addressed the challenges of being a ranked player and juggling training, tournament travel and academics. In the last edition of Coaches Q and A, Harold Solomon provided a detailed account of their work at the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute with 14-year-old Monica Puig of Miami. In this edition, Puig gets an opportunity to answer several of the questions posed via email, to recount her recent experience in Colombia as part of the Puerto Rican Fed Cup team, and to turn the tables a bit on Solomon and Andy Brandi, giving her thoughts on working with them.

What is it like to tour the US playing national tournaments?
For me to tour around the U.S. is a great experience and it is an incredible opportunity. I love to play against older and better players and that in the long run has made me stronger and wiser. I am very grateful that my family can support me financially to take me around the U.S. Not to mention, it is very cool to visit other different states and cities because it is very nice to see the difference in between one place to the next. I love to fly also, so that makes it very comfortable for me to travel from place to place.

How do you handle school and homework?

School for me is very important. I try to stay as ahead as possible so that if I ever go to a tournament and the internet is not available to me, I still can be relaxed and know that I am still ahead. However, it is not always easy for me to do school because I have such a tight schedule, but I always manage to find a little bit more time to sit down and finish my week. Sometimes, if I can't complete the week in time, I still have the weekends to do my studies. One thing that I have to say is that I can never fall behind because I have heard that catching up is very difficult and requires a lot of time. I am glad that I have never fallen behind and I am just happy to be ahead and on track.

Who travels with you to these tournaments?

My mother is the person who travels to me to tournaments. I love traveling withmy mom because she is like a sis ter to me. We have so many laughs and it is so nice to travel with her. Not to mention that if I ever need someone to hit with, she is always an option because when she was younger, she too was a tennis player. I am lucky to have a mother that supports me and is willing to travel with me to wherever it is that the tournaments are. I am very lucky to have such an incredible mom and I am glad that she is there with me no matter how hard it gets.

Talk about your social life.
Well, my social life is not that great. I don't really go out often on the weekends, and I stay at home doing homework. My social life really includes just being at my academy and talking to the people who I train with. I think that my social life is very brief. I like to go out when I have time, but I don't really go out with friends that often. I usually just go out with my cousins, and we have a great time. Even though I don't have that great of a social life, I still try to do my best to have one with family as much as I can.

Talk about your Fed Cup experience in Columbia.
Playing Fed Cup for Puerto Rico was a great experience for me. I had a great time training and playing with some really good players that are on the WTA tour at the moment. It was my first time playing on red clay and it was also my first time traveling out of the United States. I had a great experience in just adapting to a different surface that I am not usually used to, and I also had a great time adapting to the weather conditions and the different game style that you have to choose. I was the youngest girl that was there, and I also thought that i did a really good job. I was given a humongous opportunity by playing in two doubles matches, and a singles match. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the situation, on the contrary, I was beyond excited. I had a great experience playing against some really good WTA players, and I hope I get that experience again soon.

What is it like training with Harold and Andy?
Training with Harold and Andy is great and I have a lot of great things to say about them. Recently, in November and December of 2007, I had two of the greatest months in my career so far, by reaching the finals of the Eddie Herr and Jr. Orange Bowl. I think that a lot of my success had to do with the fact that both Andy and Harold pushed me to the limit. Because of this, I became stronger physically, and mentally. They also had long talks with me about having to pick up my game, and also about being so mentally strong that I can't break when things don't go my way. When I was at the Eddie Herr, unfortunately neither could make it to the finals, but I knew that they were there even if they weren't. However, in the Orange Bowl, I was lucky enough to have Andy with me in the Semifinals and Finals. I might have been nervous to start those two matches, but Andy sort of calmed me down with his positive attitude towards me. Harold and I are like best friends on and off the court. I think I can come to Harold and talk about anything. That is a bond that I have established with him and I wouldn't give it up for anything. Andy and I have had a tough time establishing that bond, but little by little, we have come to understand and know one another to finally be able to work with one another. I am a very lucky girl to be at this academy and training with two of the greatest coaches that I have ever trained with. I owe a lot of my success to them, but both of them agree with me that there is more to come, and we need to keep working as hard as we can to achieve those long term goals.

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.

Eyewitness Account from Georgia women's victory over Georgia Tech Saturday

Julie Wrege was in Atlanta for the Georgia-Georgia Tech dual match Saturday. On a chilly day in front of a large crowd, Wrege watched Georgia come back from a 3-0 deficit to take down the Yellow Jackets. Here's her account:

Fourth-ranked Georgia upended #1 Georgia Tech in an incredible collegiate match. Georgia Tech was without their #2 player Amanda McDowell (nationally ranked # 4) due to a minor injury, so the Tech lineup was altered from their 7-0 defeat of Georgia at the Indoors just 2 weeks ago. And Georgia took full advantage of this alteration.

Tech was fortunate to take the doubles point, winning at #3 and losing #1 -- the point decided by a fantastic finish at the #2 spot. Whitney McCray and Sasha Krupina came back from being down the entire match and 5-7, to win over #21st-ranked team of Yvette Hyndman and Naoko Ueshima 9-7.

Tech went up 2-0 quickly when Maya Johansson defeated Adrienne Elsberry 6-1, 6-4 -- and then Kristi Miller defeated Kelly Hyndman 6-1, 6-2 at #1 singles to set Tech up with a 3-0 lead.

Then freshman Cameron Ellis of Georgia earned Georgia their first point, winning the #5 singles match over Tech freshman Noelle Hickey 6-3, 6-4. This was closely followed by Ueshima wining over #54 Christy Striplin at #4 singles -- and then Georgia freshman Yvette Hyndman evened the score at 3-3 with a three-set victory at No. 2 singles over #21 Whitney McCray.

Just after the Hyndman win, Tech's #30 Kirsten Flower, who had won the first set in a tiebreak, dropped the 2nd set 6-3 to Georgia's #51 Monika Danecevic, setting up the final set for the match for either squad. Flower raced off to leads of 4-0 and 5-2, with Danecevic seeing the trainer at every change for cramps. But she fought through long points to come back for the win 7-5 -- and the victory that gave Georgia its second win over the National Indoor Champions. The last was also over Georgia Tech in 2007 when Georgia upset Tech in dual match play.

For the full results, see the georgiadogs.com website.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hawkeyes Down Broncos Saturday in Men's Tennis

I thought it was time to get to know my local Division I college programs a little bit better today, with the Western Michigan Broncos men's team taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes this afternoon at the West Hills Tennis Club (known to those of you who have been to the Nationals here as one of the rain sites). Because I travel so much and they travel so much, it isn't easy to find a weekend when we're both in Kalamazoo, but schedules aligned this weekend, and the weather cooperated, causing no travel problems for the teams (or me).

The Western women were also playing a tripleheader today, beginning at 9 am and ending who knows when tonight. Both men and women were ranked 65th coming into the weekend, with the women getting a big 4-3 win over Michigan State last weekend. The men were hoping to follow suit and take down a Big Ten opponent today, and in the 68th-ranked Hawkeyes, whom Western had defeated 4-3 in Iowa City last year, the stage was set for a close match.

It certainly started out that way, as at one point all three doubles contests were 6-6 and then 7-7. But Bronco freshman Casey Cullen and junior Kevin Hayward, who were 16-0 this season coming into their match at the No. 2 position, got the late break and held for a 9-7 win, a scenario that was duplicated shortly thereafter by WMU freshmen Michael Calderone and Kazuya Komada at No. 3. Western went on to sweep the doubles when Bryan Norville and Alex Birchmeier eased by Iowa's top team of Bart van Monsjou and J.P. Ritchie 9-8(5).

The optimism of the early lead evaporated quickly once the singles started however, with the Hawkeyes taking charge in every match. It was 2-1 Iowa after 93rd-ranked van Monsjou blasted past Hayward in a battle of left-handers at No. 1 and Tommy McGeorge disposed of Calderone at No. 5. Iowa soon collected point number three when Ritchie came back from a break down in the second set to defeat Birchmeier, so Western needed to win all three matches still on the court to pull out the victory.

The Broncos forced a third set in all three matches, but when Norville fell to Christian Bierich 6-2 in the third at No. 3, the Hawkeyes had their victory. Wins by Komada at No. 4 and Alejandro Staub at No. 6 made the 4-3 final look closer than it was.

The Bronco women, whom I had just a moment to peek in on at the other side of the building, won their first two encounters over University of Illinois-Chicago and Detroit. The third match, with Wisconsin-Green Bay, was just beginning when I left.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jessica Alexander to Florida; Hillsborough Tennis Center Saved; National Opens Complete

I wasn't expecting to do Class of 2009 commitment stories just yet, but Texan Jessica Alexander verbally committed to Florida last week, so I spoke to her about it for at a story today at The Tennis Recruiting Network. With Alexander planning on joining her sister Megan on the Gator team in January or 2009, it's actually not that much earlier than those who decide in October where they will be going the following August.

When we were in Tampa last month for the Florida sectional 18s tournament, it looked as if the City of Tampa Tennis Complex at Hillsborough Community College was going to close, after the city did not renew its lease. Facilities with 16 hard courts and 12 clay courts are hard to find, and fortunately, there is now at least optimism that a long-term solution will be found to keep the complex open. Gary Shepherd has the details in this story for Play Tennis Florida.

The 18s National Open that was expected to be the last tournament held at HCC finished on Wednesday, with 16-year-old Jadon Phillips and 14-year-old Danielle Collins taking titles there. In the other three 18s National Opens, Dennis Nevolo and Rachel White won in Cincinnati; David Nguyen and Ellen Tsay (like Collins, 14 years old) took home trophies from Waco; Catherine Isip and Kyle McMorrow (Alexander isn't the only one committing early) were winners in Hawaii. The Hawaii section posted a story on the final matches here (try to overlook the misspelled winner's name and other typos).

For the other age divisions, please see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Redshirting in College Tennis; New Rankings; Stanford Offers Free Tuition

Although I've been a college football fan for a long time, thereby coming in contact with the term "redshirt" frequently, I was never exactly clear what it meant. I'd heard it applied to college tennis, and thought it was about time I learned about the process and its uses in NCAA Division I (&II) athletics. This article, for The Tennis Recruiting Network, is the result, and I want to thank Michigan's Bruce Berque and Virginia's Brian Boland for patiently answering all my shockingly stupid questions.

The new college rankings were released Wednesday, both team and individual this time, and the only change was Clemson's Ani Mijacika edging out Arkansas's Aurelija Miseviciute for the top spot in women's singles. The Stanford women dropped to third after their loss to Georgia Tech at the Team Indoor, and they are likely to fall again when the next ratings are released on March 4th, having dropped a 6-1 decision to Cal on Wednesday.

I happened across this story in the Mercury News about Stanford's announcement that tuition would be waived for families with incomes under $100,000, and that student loans would be discontinued. This follows a trend set by several Ivys, but only Stanford offers athletic scholarships, which got me thinking that in non-revenue sports like tennis, which has only 4.5 men's scholarships to give, this could be an advantage. Of course just getting into Stanford is the biggest challenge, but tuition cost is now something middle-class families don't have to worry about when applying.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sweden's Tennis Development Struggles; The top Canadian Prospect; Winning ATP Tournaments as a Teen

With all the talk of the decline in tennis fortunes in the U.S. and Australia (has Great Britain had a pinnacle from which to descend?), the hard times of former powerhouse Sweden haven't received much press. Over at espn.com, Ravi Ubha explores what has gone wrong in the land of Borg, Wilander and Edberg. I've noticed, since I've been covering junior tennis daily the past three or four years, that there are very few Swedes competing internationally at the highest levels. The above photo is of Sandra Roma, who is the only junior, male or female, in the ITF junior Top 100 (she's 62). Jonas Bjorkman and Magnus Norman have some ideas why this has happened.
Bjorkman wasn't about to use Sweden's sparse population (about 9 million) as too big of an excuse, saying "a few good players on and off" should be in the pipeline. He did, however, target the federation.

"We were always telling them a lot of ideas of what we think we should do to get tennis in Sweden back on track," he said. "Unfortunately the ideas never went further than when we spoke."

"We need to get out in schools, we need to inform about tennis, we need to write about tennis, we need to start a tennis community," Norman added. "Tennis has been not as proactive as track & field, ice hockey and soccer in Sweden, so it has lost a lot of interest."

Speaking of ice hockey, Canada now has a new National Training Centre for tennis, with Les Petits As winner Edward Nguyen one of its prize pupils. The Ottawa Citizen, Nguyen's hometown newspaper, spoke with him about his life there, and about his excellent results in Europe.

Tom Perotta of tennis.com explored the history of the youngest winners of ATP events for espn.com, prompted, of course, by Kei Nishikori's victory Sunday in Delray Beach. It's an interesting list, headed by two-time Kalamazoo winner Aaron Krickstein and reaching, 12 players later, to Nishikori. And if any clever headline writers are reading this, his first name is pronounced KAY, so don't waste your time working on puns as if it were KEY.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; Men's Team Indoor All-tournament team

Last Thursday, I spoke with Kevin McClure of The Tennis Podcast and this edition of Inside Junior Tennis was posted Monday. We talked about the Australian Open Junior winners, Craig Tiley staying in Australia, Les Petits As and the Women's Team Indoor. We spoke a little bit about the (then) upcoming Men's Team Indoor too. For those of you who would like to listen or subscribe via iTunes, the link is here.

There won't be a slide show from the Men's Indoor, since I wasn't there, but the ITA did announce the All-tournament team and Most Outstanding Player, which I used as the basis for my Women's Indoor slide show, so I'm passing those along.

Devvarman was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the championships today. He posted a 3-0 record at No. 1 singles and 4-0 mark at No. 1 doubles with Treat Huey. He won the clinching match in tight quarterfinal and semifinal matches against UCLA and Mississippi, respectively. The 2007 NCAA singles champion, Devvarman also improved his overall records to 21-1 in both singles and doubles this season.

The ITA All-Tournament Team is as follows:
No. 1 - Somdev Devvarman, Virginia
No. 2 - Steven Moneke, Ohio State
No. 3 - Robbye Poole, Mississippi
No. 4 - Sanam Singh, Virginia
No. 5 - Matt Allare, Ohio State
No. 6 - Drew Eberly, Ohio State
No. 1 - Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey, Virginia
No. 2 - Drew Eberly and Justin Kronauge, Ohio State
No. 3 - Jeremy Drean and Michael Look, UCLA
This is the first time an ITA All-Tournament Team has been named. Voters for the team included the participating coaches, the ITA National Ranking & Tournament Committee and select media covering the championships.
For a local story on Virginia's championship, click here.

And in non-college news, 2005 Orange Bowl champion and 2006 Wimbledon Junior champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark defeated 2007 Wimbledon women's finalist Marion Bartoli of France who was the eighth seed in the WTA tournament in Qatar. An on-the-scene report on the 17-year-old's upset can be found here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Virginia Wins Team Indoor over Ohio State; Juniors Take Court in Pro Circuit Events

The University of Virginia won the ITA Men's Team Indoor Monday afternoon in Seattle, defeating Ohio State 4-1 in a match much closer than that score indicates. The doubles point was decided by a tiebreaker (two actually, with Ohio State needing to win both and not getting the second one), and even with a 3-0 lead, the Cavaliers had to worry with Ohio State leading in three of the remaining matches. But Treat Huey managed to close out Bryan Koniecko at No. 3 in a second set tiebreaker to clinch the match and the national title, Virginia's first in tennis. For the ITA's Casey Snedecor's story, click here. Ty Tucker provides some priceless quotes. Also, I didn't realize it, but Treat Huey has been blogging from Seattle on the Cavaliers' website. Devvarman is scheduled to take over for today's match.

There are quite a few juniors in the two Pro Circuit events taking place this week. The women are in Clearwater, Florida and Melanie Oudin is taking the court competitively for the first time since the Orange Bowl in December, using one of the "junior exempt" berths she earned for finishing in the ITF Junior Top Ten last year. Other juniors receiving wild cards are Brooke Bolender, Julia Boserup and Nicole Gibbs. Sloane Stephens, who turns 15 next month, made it through qualifying.

The men are in Brownsville, Texas this week, with wild cards Vlad Ignatic, Ryan Harrison and Austin Krajicek among the juniors in the field, along with Ricardas Berankis and qualifier Alexei Grigorov. No longer technically a junior by ITF standards, Adam El Mihdawy qualified with a win over Alex Domijan. Krajicek drew top seed Kevin Anderson and Harrison gets second seed Jamie Baker. For complete draws, see the usta.com Pro Circuit homepage.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nishikori Beats Blake; Virginia and Ohio State Meet Monday for ITA Team Indoor Title

Eighteen-year-old qualifier Kei Nishikori of Japan, who has trained at IMG/Bollettieri for the past four years, defeated top seed James Blake in today's ATP tournament in Delray Beach. Except for last March's Luxilon Cup, which he won, Nishikori didn't play any junior events, and had worked his way up to 244 on the ATP computers prior to this win. After saving four match points in his win against Sam Querrey Saturday, Nishikori wasn't likely to panic after losing the first set to Blake, and he recovered to quickly take the second set. An early break in the third was all he needed, and he had no difficulty serving out his first ATP title. Richard Evans of Tennis Week was in Delray Beach all week, and has written several atories about Nishikori's game. He's a fan, no doubt about it.

In the Men's Team Indoor semifinals Sunday in Seattle, No. 1 Virginia escaped with a 4-2 win over No. 5 Ole Miss, after dropping the first set in five of the six singles matches. The Cavaliers will meet No. 3 Ohio State, who stopped Georgia's win streak at 38 by handling the Bulldogs 4-1. For complete results of the day's action, visit the University of Washington website.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Virginia Survives UCLA at Men's Team Indoor; Duke Beats Fla. in Women's Action

Top-ranked Virginia overcame a 3-1 deficit for the second time in the dual season to defeat No. 8 seed UCLA in Saturday's quarterfinals at the ITA Men's Team Indoor in Seattle. Ultimately it came down to No. 1 singles, with Somdev Devvarman and Harel Srugo tied at 4-4 in the third set, before Devvarman won the last two games to clinch it for the Cavaliers. Last year it was Lee Singer who put Virginia in the semifinals with a third set tiebreak win at No. 6 over Jakob Klaeson of Ole Miss; this year Virginia faces the No. 5 seeded Rebels in the semifinals. Ole Miss easily handled Oklahoma State this morning in Seattle. No. 3 Ohio State earned a 4-1 victory over USC to advance against the winner of the late match between No. 7 Texas and No. 2 Georgia. For full results, see the University of Washington website.

Fifteenth-ranked Duke and No. 6 Florida, two of the best women's teams who did not play in Madison last weekend, met Friday in Durham with the Blue Devils edging the Gators 4-3. Diana Srebrovic of Florida did not play due to injury, but the Gators won the doubles point and got wins from freshmen Julia Cohen at No. 1 and Marrit Boonstra at No. 6. Duke's two outstanding freshmen, Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka, won at the No. 2 and 4 positions, junior Melissa Mang earned at point at No. 5 and sophomore Liz Plotkin clinched the win at No. 3. For details, click here.

Another very good women's team not in Madison was Vanderbilt. A feature story about their head coach Geoff Mcdonald, reprinted from Commodore Nation magazine, can be found here.

And a final college-related note: Kevin Anderson, 2006 NCAA doubles champion who left the University of Illinois after his junior year, has been named to the South African Davis Cup team for their April tie with Finland. Details here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Coaches Q and A: The Transformation of a Junior

This edition of the Coaches Q and A is a particularly fascinating look, by Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the recent success of HSTI student Monica Puig. Solomon pulls no punches in describing what Puig came to them with, what parts of her game needed revamping and how the changes have led to impressive results in the past months. If you are looking for bland generalities, you won't find them below.

Harold Solomon:

We have a student at our Institute, Monica Puig, who has really come in to her own recently, having reached the finals of both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl 14s. We thought it might be interesting for many of you to see the process that she has been going through since she arrived here 18 months ago.

When Monica first arrived, we did an assessment of her technical, mental and physical skills. It was immediately evident that she possessed an uncanny ability to hit the ball very hard and accurately for a girl that was very average physically. We knew that for Monica to be successful we would have to build upon her ball striking ability and work with her to develop other areas that would compliment her aggressive style.
We determined that she would have to improve her strength, conditioning and speed by at least 70% over where it was when she arrived.

Getting to Work

To help her achieve those improvements, Monica began working privately for an additional hour and a half a day with our conditioning coach Jim Hartt, in addition to the four hours of tennis she was playing 5 and a half days a week. We helped her learn when it was appropriate to use open, semi-open and closed stances on the court. We spent a great deal of time with her developing her recovery skills and her ball recognition skills on the court. We changed the grip on her serve, volley, and overhead to a more conventional continental grip, and we changed her forehand from a western to a semi-western grip.

The Game Style
We determined that Monica's style of play would be an aggressive baseliner who had the ability to dominate the mid-court area and felt comfortable finishing off points at the net. To that end we have spent hour after hour working on Monica's volley, shortening the swing off the forehand, getting the wrist in the right position on the backhand and teaching her how to move and position herself at the net. Her overhead was a mess, mostly because she wouldn't move her feet to get in position for the ball, she wouldn't use her legs, and her preparation was extremely late.

Developing the Serve
We also saw a huge need for improvement in Monica's serve, both first and second, but we felt that her serve could end up being a big weapon for her in the future. Andy shortened her swing, worked with her to improve the accuracy of her toss and got her to use her legs in order to jump into the court. We have been working with her to understand the importance of moving her serve around and changing the spin and pace of her delivery. Andy also helped her develop a very impressive kick second serve after hitting thousands and thousands of serves. We saw a need for vast improvements in Monica's defensive skills, most notably the development of a slice backhand and the ability to neutralize points when pushed off the court by using high heavy balls. Recently we have been working on Monica's ability to add drop shots to her game in order to keep her opponents off balance.

The Mental Side
We knew Monica had a lot of work to do mentally. When she first arrived, she couldn't take a "push," meaning that we couldn't push her past her comfort zone to get the job done. We have spent countless hours with Monica talking to her about developing the attitude and character of a "champion" and being clear with her about what we thought it was going to take for her to develop the discipline necessary to achieve her goals. Every morning before the other students arrived, we would talk to Monica about starting to take responsibility for herself, which she has now started to do. When she first arrived I don't think Monica recognized that she was a thinker, that she was responsible for her thoughts and her attitude both on and off the court. Monica now knows that she needs to be the problem solver on the court, not the problem; she recognizes that there is no room for "drama queens" at the highest levels of tennis. In the past, Monica had a tendency to play very up and down tennis; although she still has lapses, we have constantly been working with her mentally to stay focused and on task throughout the entire match.

The Future
Monica realizes that she is just starting up the ladder to becoming a successful tennis professional. It hasn't been easy and there have been quite a few ups and downs along the way. She is an extremely hard worker, she has become more self-confident due to all of her hard work and her successes. So far her achievements have made her mentally stronger and more determined to achieve her goals. Who knows what the future holds for Monica; we think she can be a top player one day if she stays on the path she has chosen, but there are no guarantees. We hope this helps some of you see part of the process of developing a successful tennis career. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
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.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Women's Team Indoor Wrap; Men's Indoor Begins Friday in Seattle

My weekly post for the Tennis Recruiting Network is my summary of the Women's Team Indoor last weekend in Madison. Although I'm not a big fan of indoor tennis, there's no denying there were great matches and story lines throughout the weekend, just as there were last year at the Men's Team Indoor in Chicago.

This year the men are in Seattle, where the University of Washington is hosting, as it did in 2006. The draw has been released (unlike the women's tournament, the men are seeded 1-16) and eight matches will be played tomorrow, beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern at two different sites. For the tournament website, which this year will include a blog and chat, click here. Free live streaming video is also available through the site, as it was in 2006. College tennis expert Austin has filled out his bracket (I'm going to re-post his comment below), and invite anyone willing to fill in a name (no url required) to pick the finalists.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

British Tennis Development Debate

A few days ago, Neil Harman, the esteemed tennis writer for The Times in London, wrote a column calling on the LTA to "inspire" the sport in Great Britain. Says Harman of the national federation:

So many good intentions, so little to show. Of course, there are some brilliant people in the sport in Britain, devoted, working endless hours, doing all that they can in a cause they know is worth fighting for. And yet many of them are at odds with a British game gripped as never before by petty factional infights, as emphasised by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) regime that trumpets its devotion to revolution but spends too much time worried about its image rather than increasing the numbers of juniors in competition, which have risen by a meagre amount since it came to office two years ago.

For that is the essence of their job, when all is said and done. A governing body prepares the way for its sport to flourish, it encourages growth, it builds bridges rather than dismantles them, it secures partnerships instead of undermining them, it covets relationships rather than scuppering them the minute “the other” side disagrees. And it keeps its good people rather than losing them, as this new LTA has a tendency to do.
Today there was a followup, with Harman bringing in four people with deep roots and commitments to British tennis, but not currently involved in the LTA, to discuss what's gone wrong and how they would fix it. There's plenty of talk of juniors and their parents, the must-win-now and ranking obsessions, and several other issues in player development.

(The Times website has been balky all night, but I have been able to access the stories on occasion.)

And if you missed it, please check the comments in the Craig Tiley post below. Steve Smith, one of the foremost tennis teachers in the U.S., has plenty to say about Tiley and why his methods will work in Australia.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tiley Turns Down USTA Job

One of my Nine Intriguing Questions for 2008 was posed as "Who will help Arlen Kantarian develop the Next Great American?" (For my answer see below*.)

According to Charlie Bricker at the Sun-Sentinel, it won't be Australian Open director and head of player development Craig Tiley, whom I understand was Kantarian's first choice. With Bill Mountford now available, I assume he'll be considered, but as Bricker says, the USTA is now back to square one.

*Speculation on the search to fill the newly-created position of head of elite player development has centered around former professionals Todd Martin, Billie Jean King and Patrick McEnroe. But if Australian Open tournament director and head of player development Craig Tiley can be lured back to the United States, Kantarian will happily turn to a South African known more for his coaching and administrative skills than his tennis-playing career.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Georgia Tech Avenges Loss to Northwestern to Retain National Indoor Title

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Madison, WI--

A week doesn't seem like much time to recast a team identity, but for Georgia Tech, it was long enough to transform a 6-1 loss to Northwestern last Saturday into a 4-2 win over the Wildcats in Sunday's Women's Team Indoor.

"We knew we were going to learn something from that loss, and what we learned was that we couldn't win on our talent," said Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton. "We took a hard look at ourselves in the mirror and asked if we were doing everything we needed to do to be successful. I saw a big difference this week in our attitude at practice and I knew that loss last week was going to be something that was going to help us this season."

Georgia Tech, the No. 4 seed, began their turnaround by taking the doubles point. When No. 3 doubles went the the Yellow Jackets and No. 2 to Northwestern, it was decided when Kristi Miller and Kirsten Flower prevailed at the No. 1 spot 8-5.

Unlike Saturday, when Tech was down 3-0 to Stanford in the semifinals, the defending champions came out strong, especially at Nos. 3 and 4. Christy Striplin at No. 4 gave Tech their second point with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Nazlie Ghazal, but shortly thereafter, Suzie Matzenauer of Northwestern had put her team on the board taking out Noelle Hickey at No. 6 6-2, 6-4. Within moments of that match's end, Georgia Rose brought the Wildcats even, with a 6-3, 6-1 pounding of Kristi Miller at No. 1.

Georgia Tech's Amanda McDowell had lost the first set at No. 2 singles versus Maria Mosolova, but was comfortably ahead in the second set. At No. 3, Whitney McCray had taken the first set from Northwestern's Samantha Murry, but was down in the second set. At No. 5 singles, Tech's Kirsten Flower and Lauren Lui were engaged in a lengthy battle, with Flower taking the first set 6-4.

McCray broke back at 5-4, when Murray was serving for the second set, and fought through to a 6-1, 7-5 victory to give Tech's its third point. McDowell had earned a split at No. 2, and with Flower down 5-1 in the second set, it looked as if the third set at No. 2 or No. 5 would decide it.

But Flower had other ideas. She broke Lui at 5-1, brushed aside two set points at 5-3 and broke Lui at love to make it 5-4. The sophomore from Ohio, who had collected Tech's third point against Stanford, held, then won her fifth straight game by breaking Lui for a 6-5 lead and a chance to serve out the championship.

She was broken however, when an untimely double fault and two errors tipped the game to Lui. The tiebreaker saw Flower take a 4-1 lead, and her Tech teammates were shouting words of encouragement from the sidelines, but it wasn't going to be that easy. Flower lost the next two points on a forehand winner by Lui and a backhand error, but Lui couldn't capture any momentum. The left-hander from Houston missed an overhead and a forehand to give Flower three championship points, but Flower lost two of them on her serve. But at 6-5, Lui couldn't handle a short forehand and as it caught the tape, the screams of the Georgia Tech faithful, a dozen or two of whom had made the journey to frigid Wisconsin, echoed throughout the Nielsen Tennis Center.

Asked what she was thinking down 5-1 in the second, Flower, who has never lost a singles match in two years at the Team Indoor, was determined not to just let the set go.

"Being down 5-1, you're obviously down by a lot," said Flower, "but I felt like I'd won the first set, and Amanda was still playing, so I felt if I could just stay out here...She (Lui) started strong in both sets, yet ended up making errors at the end, so I knew it could possibly turn for me very quickly, because that's what happened in the first set."

For Flower it was especially sweet to be the clinching match in both singles and doubles.

"It's great for me because I've never done it before," said Flower. "It was great for me to come out here in a pressure situation, in a big match, come through for my team. I tend to get nervous and this is really a monkey off my back. My back was against the wall in a couple of matches here and I came through, and I haven't done that before, so it was really, really cool for me."

Northwestern expected that Georgia Tech would come out more determined after last weekend's loss, and head coach Claire Pollard had prepared her team for it.

"I think we made them a little upset last week," Pollard said. "And I was concerned about the revenge factor. I think we kind of woke them up, and a great team is going to respond. They're a fantastic team. It was their title, and they didn't want to give it up."

But the win last weekend had helped her team gain confidence coming into the tournament.

"I don't think we would have been in the final had we not won last weekend," Pollard said. "But I think it was really hard for us to come out and do that again."

Shelton is happy to retain the trophy, but knows that as NCAA and Team Indoor Champions, the Yellow Jackets will get every team's best shot the rest of the season.

"We really haven't distanced ourselves, there's a lot of parity in women's college tennis," said Shelton. "That's why we have to take care of the things we have in our control, really fight and play hard every single day."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Georgia Tech Rallies from 3-0 Down to Earn Finals Berth Against Northwestern at ITA Women's Indoor Championships

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Madison, WI--

Defending National Indoor champion Georgia Tech ousted top seed and No. 1 ranked Stanford Saturday evening, rallying from a 3-0 deficit to earn another shot at the Northwestern University Wildcats, who knocked the Yellow Jackets from the No. 1 spot by defeating them 6-1 in Atlanta last weekend.

It was senior Kristi Miller at No. 1 singles who clinched it for Georgia Tech, defeating Lindsay Burdette 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3 to send her screaming teammates in a mad dash from the second floor balcony bleachers down the stairs and on to the court to celebrate the improbable comeback.

Stanford captured the doubles point, when the No. 2 team of Whitney Deason and Jessica Nguyen came back from a break down to beat Amanda McDowell and Whitney McCray 8-5. The Cardinal took the second and third points quickly, with freshman Hilary Barte defeating McCray at No. 3 6-1, 7-5 and senior Celia Durkin dispatching Christy Striplin 7-5, 6-1 at No. 4. With Miller, McDowell and Kirsten Flower down a set, things did not look promising for the 2007 NCAA champions, but when McDowell forced a third set in her match with Nguyen at the No. 2 position, the tenor of the action began to change.

Noelle Hickey at No. 6, the only Georgia Tech player who won the first set, finished off fellow freshman Carolyn McVeigh 6-2, 6-3 to earn Tech's first point, and shortly thereafter McDowell chalked up the second, downing Nguyen 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Flower, at No. 5, broke Deason at 3-4 in the third set, and saving a break point in the final game, came up with some clutch serving to bring her team even and send all attention to Miller and Burdette.

By this time, Miller had secured the second set and was desperately trying to hold on to any early break in the third set. Serving at 2-1, Miller survived the ten-minute, multi-deuce game, and after holds in the next two games, Miller got an insurance break to take a 5-2 lead, when Burdette double faulted on game point. Miller was fortunate to have that cushion, because she was broken herself to make it 5-3, but Burdette continued to have problems with her serve, double faulting two more times in the final game. Miller took advantage of the free points and with her second match point, stroked a short angle forehand winner to set off the celebration.

While the excitement was reaching a crescendo in the Stanford-Georgia Tech match, No. 3 seed Northwestern had quietly disposed of giant-killer North Carolina 4-0. After two 4-3 wins over Pac-10 powers UCLA and USC, the Tar Heels were hoping for a third upset, but the Wildcats quickly put an end to that dream to reach the Team Indoor finals for the first time.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard. "But we certainly came in here with an objective and we're not going to be satisfied with reaching the finals."

The Wildcats, now 6-0, have gained confidence with each victory, but the 6-1 win over Georgia Tech on the road opened their eyes to the possibilties of this season.

"We were suspicious that we were good, but that sort of solidified it and gave us some belief that we could compete at the top level," Pollard said.

Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton expressed delight at getting another opportunity at the Wildcats so soon.

"We couldn't have asked for anything more than this," Shelton said. "First of all to play the quarters against Georgia, the in-state rivalry, get through that one, then to get Stanford in the semis. Not too many teams have knocked that team off in the past five years, and to be able to do it in back-to-back years is special for us. Then to have the opportunity to play Northwestern--we learned a lot from that loss, it really motivated our girls."

"[The Wildcats] are obviously riding high right now, but our girls are excited and we're going to go out there swinging away," Shelton said.

Earlier in the day, Notre Dame's Brook Buck was named recipient of the ITA Sportsmanship Award.

For complete scores and results, including consolation matches, see the ITA site.

Friday, February 8, 2008

North Carolina Outlasts USC at ITA Women's Team Indoor

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Madison, WI--

Nearly eight hours after the match between North Carolina and Southern Cal started, it ended, fittingly, with a third set tiebreaker deciding which team would advance to Saturday's semifinal against Northwestern at the ITA Women's Team Indoor.

The Tar Heels, who had upset No. 2 UCLA in Thursday's opening round by winning the final match at the No. 6 singles spot, had a new heroine Friday night, as junior Laura Reichert defeated Maria Sanchez 7-5, 6-7(2), 7-6 (5) to give her team its second straight upset over a traditional Pac-10 power.

At 3:40 p.m. the three doubles matches commenced, and they too went the distance with No. 7 seed USC prevailing in a tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles to take a 1-0 lead. In the opposite order from Thursday, when the No. 1, 3 and 5 positions played first, on Friday it was the 2, 4 and 6 taking the first three courts. UNC's Katrina Tsang evened the match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Amanda Fink at No. 2, with USC's Gabriela Niculescu giving the Trojans the lead again with a 6-7(1), 6-2, 6-4 decision against Jelena Durisic. Sanaz Marand of UNC made quick work of Lindsey Nelson at No. 1, 6-3, 6-3 to tie it up again, and the seesaw teetered toward USC again after Leyla Entekhabi downed Megan Fanjoy, the Tarheels' clincher over UCLA, 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-4. By this time it was 9 p.m. and USC, now up 3-2, needed only one of the remaining two matches, which were nearing the end of their first sets.

Sanchez was serving for the first set at 5-4, but failed to take that opportunity, and Reichert reeled off the last three games of the first set and the first two games of the second. At No. 3, Austin Smith and Sarah Fansler were in the midst of a tiebreaker to decide their first set, with Smith, on her fifth set point, finally taking it eight points to six. Fittingly, it was on a second serve return winner, as Smith had been punishing Fansler's second serve throughout the opening set. Smith, the daughter of tennis great Stan Smith, opened the second set with two breaks, and when she nailed it down by a 6-1 score, all attention turned to Sanchez and Reichert.

The pressure was all on Sanchez, as she needed the second set to prolong the match, but she couldn't stand the prosperity of a break, twice serving for the second set--at 5-4 and 6-5--and being broken both times. The Trojan freshman played a solid tiebreaker, however, taking it 7-3, and at the match's two-hour mark, it was all even at a set apiece.

At 10:15 p.m, there were few spectators remaining, with only coaches and teammates exhorting Sanchez and Reichert. Both held their opening service games in the final set, but then began a string of five straight breaks that was finally stopped when Reichert held after a lengthy game to take a 5-3 lead. Sanchez held to make it 5-4, but with Reichert serving for it, she never got to match point. Sanchez cranked a forehand winner at 15-30 and a backhand return winner for the break, then held at love to take a 6-5 lead. With Reichert serving at 30-15, Sanchez called a serve out, but was overruled, and because it was the third time in the match, a code violation was given, costing her another point, and giving Reichert, who was herself playing with two overrules, the game.

In the tiebreaker, Sanchez took a 3-1 lead, but her backhand found the net several times, and she lost three points in a row. At 4-4 an amazing point found Sanchez doing the splits to somehow retrieve a sure winner, and Reichert lunging in desperation to respond to Sanchez's miraculous reply. Sanchez won the point, and got up without assistance, but a wincing Reichert asked her coach and the chair umpire if she could have a trainer, and was given a three-minute medical timeout during which she was treated for cramping.

Reichert held her next two serves for a 6-5 lead, and when Sanchez's passing shot landed just wide on the near sideline, Reichert's teammates, screaming with delight, rushed the court to congratulate the survivor of the three-hour-and-seven-minute ordeal.

Next up for North Carolina is No. 3 seed Northwestern, who quickly disposed of No. 6 Cal 4-0 (teams were given the option of playing all 7 matches to completion).

In the other semifinal, Stanford, the top seed, will look to avenge last year's semifinal loss to Georgia Tech, who snapped the Cardinal's NCAA record 89-match winning streak on their way to the National Indoor title. Stanford defeated a stubborn Miami team 4-3 Friday evening, while Georgia Tech dominated rival Georgia 7-0.

For complete results and draws, including consolation draws, visit the ITA website.

Bollettieri on Cheating, Pt. 2; Jensen Does it His Way at Syracuse

We've arrived in Madison, after a five-hour drive consisting of snowy landscapes off the highway and potholes the size of service boxes on it. With an hour or so before the beginning of the quarterfinals, and a suspicion that tonight's matches will go late, I thought I would but up these two links in the meantime.

Nick Bollettieri provides the second part of his treatise called Beat The Cheat today on the Tennis Recruiting Network, focusing on the best way to handle a cheater. He does not advocate cheating back, which is the method most often used. In all these discussions on cheating, which I do believe is a huge problem in junior tennis, I wish someone would tell all players that one or two bad lines calls do not a cheater make. I think Hawkeye has demonstrated to all of us that the difference between in and out can be infinitesimal, and the assumption that a close call you do not agree with makes the other player a cheater starts the match on a sour note. Those with bad reputations do not deserve the benefit of the doubt, of course, but a player's nationality or demeanor should not taken as a sign of a lack of integrity, especially if you have no personal experience with it. So I think players need to make a distinction between close calls they don't agree with (which they often chide their friends with as hooking, but don't seem very upset by it) and the systematic, pervasive and previously observed cheating. If they are lumped into the same category, the gravity of the latter is lost.

Luke Jensen took over the women's tennis program at Syracuse and it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. Apparently his ambitions and those of the women he inherited (and recruited) haven't meshed, according to this story in the Daily Orange. It will be interesting to see if he attract women who want to be professionals to Syracuse, which does not have the tradition of tennis excellence of most of his competition.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

January Aces; Davis Cup; ITA Women's Team Indoor Underway

My regular first-Thursday edition of the previous month's aces is now available for viewing at The Tennis Recruiting Network. It begins with the Winter National champions, and it ends with Somdev Devvarman of Virginia, who won a Futures event last month in Tampa. I just learned today that Devvarman will be playing Davis Cup for India this weekend in their zonal tie with Uzbekistan. Devvarman will play singles in place of Prakash Amritraj, who is not fully healthy. There's more on why Captain Leander Paes selected Devvarman in this story from the Financial Express.

Injury also figures in the need for shuffling the lineup in Canada's Davis Cup zonal tie with Mexico, with Peter Polansky, the 2006 U.S. Open Junior finalist from Canada, inserted into the singles lineup in place of the injured Frank Dancevic. That announcement is here. Highly ranked juniors and sometime doubles partners Cesar Ramirez and Vasek Pospisil are serving as hitting partners for their respective countries, and the experience is chronicled from Pospisil's perspective here.

And finally, usta.com had this interview with Jesse Levine, who is in Vienna as a practice partner for the remarkably healthy and cohesive U.S. Davis Cup champions, who take on Austria on indoor clay in a World Group tie.

I am planning on being in Madison, Wisc. for the next three days of competition at the ITA Women's Team Indoor, but I've already missed a big upset, with No. 2 seed UCLA falling to North Carolina 4-3. (A TarHeel blog had some comments about the win.) So far there hasn't been a single sweep (three matches are still in progress due to travel delays experienced by some of the teams) among the five played, so it looks to be an exciting weekend. For results and live scoring, see the ITA website.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bhambri Copes with India's Hopes

Yuki Bhambri of India reached the semifinals of the Australian Open Junior Championships last month and the 15-year-old has received quite a bit of press since returning home. Here is one such story from the India Times. Aside from the obvious contrast in attention to the other losing semifinalist, Ryan Harrsion of the U.S. (I found virtually nothing written about Harrison, which indicates yet again how unimportant tennis is here), what struck me about all this attention is how India, like Great Britain, is desperate for a male tennis hero to challenge for Grand Slam titles.

The recent national uproar over India's major tennis star Sania Mirza's actions (Bonnie Ford has a thorough synopsis of her tribulations at espn.com), serves as an indicator of the difficulties that accompany sports fame in India, to the point that Mirza has announced she will not play there. Bhambri would not face some of these issues simply because he is not female, but it has to make any athlete wonder if they should be careful what they wish for.

In addition to an interview with Bhambri, the Indian Tennis Blog has a list of all ATP, WTA and ITF players from that country, and Mirza is the only singles players inside the top 150 in the pro ranks. Like Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Filip Krajinovic, Bhambri is represented by IMG, so expectations are much higher for him than they were for say, Somdev Devvarman, although Devvarman had won a Futures event before he came to the U.S. to attend the University of Virginia. For the blog's interview of Devvarman, click here.

Bhambri and Devvarman have obviously selected different routes for their tennis careers, routes based on their individual circumstances, options and personalities. I hope that dealing with the visibility that comes with winning is equally stress-free for both of them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Princeton Tops Women's Recruiting Class Rankings; Stanford Takes Over No. 1 Spot from Georgia Tech

The Tennis Recruiting Network's poll of the women's recruiting classes came out yesterday and Princeton heads the list, receiving 14 of the 20 first place votes cast. Georgia and Stanford received three votes apiece. Only three of the 23 blue chip girls in the 2008 class have not signed: No. 5 Ariel Ellis, No. 7 Chloe Jones and No. 22 CC Sardinha. So there may not be a lot of movement after the spring signing period, although unrated foreign players could make a difference.

As expected after their home loss to Northwestern, the Georgia Tech women fell out of the top spot in this week's team rankings and enter the Women's Team Indoor this weekend in Madison, Wisc. as the No. 4 seeds, behind No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Northwestern. For the Women's Indoor draw, click here. For the new team rankings, click here.

Tennis.com has added a college tennis section, which collegeandjuniortennis.com's Marcia Frost will be overseeing the next several months. Although the link isn't readily accessible from the tennis.com homepage, it can be found here.

Sally Milano at usta.com has an extensive profile of Georgia's Nate Schnugg here.

And for those of you interested in the renewal of the Texas/Texas A & M men's tennis rivalry, it is Friday, in Houston, and will be webcast by Ken Thomas at radiotennis.com. For more information, click here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cavaliers Down Wolverines 5-2 in Sunday Dual in Ann Arbor

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Ann Arbor, MI--

Many of the fans who began to trickle into the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor Sunday morning were still buzzing about the No. 21 ranked University of Michigan men's tennis team's nail-biting 4-3 win over No. 16 Pepperdine on Friday evening. Up 3-0, the Wolverines saw their lead disappear, but Andrew Mazlin at No. 4 singles clinched the win, coming back from a set down to take the final point.

As is often the case in college tennis, one day you win the clinching point and the next you lose it, and that's what happened to Mazlin, a junior from Florida, when Cavalier freshman Sanam Singh came back from a set down at No. 4 to earn Virginia's 4th point in a 5-2 victory.

The doubles point started quietly as the crowd, conservatively estimated at 250, directed all its attention to three of the north four courts. Michigan looked to have the point firmly in hand when its No. 2 team, Matko Maravic and George Navas, won four straight games to go from a break down to a break up against Virginia's Ted Angelinos and Lee Singer, and its No. 3 team of Mazlin and Chris Madden stormed to a 6-2 lead over Singh and Michael Shabaz. Once Maravic and Navas secured their match by an 8-5 score, a confident Michigan fan asked me if they would finish the No. 1 doubles if the point had already gone to Michigan.

But Shabaz and Singh came back to tie it at 7-7, and by the time the match reached a tiebreaker, Virginia had taken the No. 1 match. Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey, the nation's top-ranked team, had their hands full with Mike Sroczynski and Jason Jung, and after trading early breaks it was on serve until Jung was broken serving at 7-7. A stray-ball let called by Devvarman on a break point the Michigan faithful fervently believed their team had already won resulted in a replay of the point, which Virginia took, much to the vocal dismay of the fans. Huey, who had dominated on his serve throughout the match, served it out and then joined his teammates in watching the tiebreaker that would decide the point.

Despite the frustration of having a 6-2 lead slip away, Mazlin and freshman Madden put it behind them, taking a quick 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker on the basis of some impressive returning. They allowed no comeback this time, and after 90 minutes of play, secured the doubles point for Michigan by a 9-8 (2) score.

Virginia, who had lost the doubles point in their 4-3 win over Illinois the previous weekend, started quickly in the singles, taking the first set in 5 of the 6 singles matches.

The six singles are divided between the north and south courts and I elected to watch the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 matches. Senior Devvarman of Virginia was up against freshman Jung at No. 1, Wolverine sophomore Sroczynski and freshman Shabaz tangled at No. 3 and junior Peter Aarts of Michigan faced sophomore Houston Barrick at No. 5.

Barrick was the first to take a set, rolling through Aarts 6-1 in less than 20 minutes. Shabaz managed to break the big-serving 6-foot-6 Sroczynski once early in their first set and held on to take it 6-3. Devvarman won the battle of consistency and court positioning against Jung, who often found himself several feet behind the baseline due to Devvarman's depth. The Michigan fans eager to have a look at the NCAA champion and the top-ranked player in college tennis saw for themselves the tennis behind those titles; I heard two separate conversations comparing him to Roger Federer when a particularly opportune winner or service ace was struck. Jung stayed right with Devvarman throughout both sets, but the experience and the big-point aptitude gave Virginia the 6-3, 7-5 win.

In the meantime, Aarts had fought back to take the lead in his second set, but was unable to close it out when serving for it at 5-4. The tiebreaker in the second set started out badly for Barrick when he doublefaulted on two of his three service points, but he hit several inspired off-the-court winners to overcome his poor start to give Virginia its first point of the day.

At No. 3, Sroczynski had used the sole break in the second set to take it 6-4, so it was up to Nos. 2 and 6 to determine whether Virginia would win the matches in which they had already captured the first set.

Virginia's Huey had taken the first set from Maravic 6-4 in a battle of seniors at No. 2, while Angelinos had rolled past Madden 6-0 in the first set at No. 6. But simultaneously both matches reached second set tiebreakers, presenting the possibility that Michigan could be in the third set of the four remaining matches. Huey, however, won his tiebreaker seven points to five, giving Virginia three points, meaning that Michigan would need to win all three matches still being played. Madden did his part by winning his tiebreaker to send he and Angelinos to a third set, and Sroczynski staved off a clinching point in a third set tiebreaker with Shabaz, but Mazlin had lost the final two sets of his contest with Singh by the time Sroczynski defeated Shabaz ten points to eight in their tiebreaker.

With only the score, not the winner, undecided, Madden and Angelinos completed their match, with the Cavalier senior taking it 6-2 in the third set.

Michigan coach Bruce Berque gave credit to Virginia for stepping up their play in the singles.

"When they lose the doubles point they're going to come out real hard, and we tried to caution our guys about a psychological letdown," said Berque, now in his fourth season as Wolverine head coach. "But I think the biggest part of it is that they are a bunch of very good tennis players. Not that it would have been impossible for us to win, but we would have had to play our absolute best and catch them on an off day. There were just a little too good today."

"It was a great match to be part of," said Cavalier head coach Brian Boland, who defeated No. 8 Illinois and No. 12 Notre Dame on the road last weekend. "I give Michigan a lot of credit, they're an excellent team, they compete hard, and I think the Big Ten is going to be a battle. Playing Illinois at Atkins, there's nothing like it, and they had an enthusiastic environment here today. The competition we're playing is excellent; it's great for our guys and it's fun. It's the experience I want them to have."

For the complete scoring summary, visit mgoblue.com.