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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kalamazoo Preview; Jenkins & Krajicek Top Seeds in 18s Doubles; Final Call for Tournament Picks

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo MI--

The buzz around registration at Markin Center and practice at Stowe Stadium the day before the Nats begin is always full of excitement and anticipation. But this year everyone seems even more enthusiastic, marveling about the depth of the 18s and the unprecendented strength of the 16s. That's the theme of my Kalamazoo preview today for The Tennis Recruiting Network.

On Thursday night, the seeds for the 18s doubles championship are revealed, which is especially important in Kalamazoo because the top seeded team provides the opposition for the professionals who are in town for the Opening Night Exhibition. Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek, who reached the US Open Junior Championships final in 2006, received the No. 1 seed, and they will warm up for their match against John Isner and Scott Oudesma with a second round match Friday afternoon (seeds receive first round byes).

For complete doubles draws, see ustaboys.com.

In past years, I've written for ustaboys.com and simply used zootennis to link to my stories there. This year, I will be posting only to zootennis.com, so check back here daily for Nats at the Zoo coverage. Marcia Frost will also be in Kalamazoo for the first part of the tournament, so visit collegandjuniortennis.com for her coverage.

If you want to pick the winners, you have until Friday midnight Eastern Time to do so. The post for the contest is here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cako Profile; So Cal Wins Fifth Straight Team Title; Junior Parent/Coach Focus Group at Nats

While I was in Memphis for the Girls 18s Clay Court, I spoke to rising senior Jacqueline Cako about her accelerating junior career and her upcoming college choice. My profile for The Tennis Recruiting Network is here. My Kalamazoo preview will be posted on Thursday.

The Southern California section beat Florida yesterday in the finals of the Boys Team Championships in Champaign-Urbana. It was as close as it could be and came down to a third set tiebreaker in No. 6 singles. Marcia Frost provides an account of the final day's matches here. Erik Boal of the Los Angeles Daily News followed the SoCal team throughout the event, and filed this story after Tuesday's final.

John Isner, who will be returning to Kalamazoo for the Professional Exhibition that opens the Nationals every year, set an astounding record in his win yesterday over qualifier Andrea Stoppini of Italy when he won EVERY point on his first serve in the match, 39 of 39. The Greensboro News-Record has the details.

And any parents or coaches who are going to be in Kalamazoo tomorrow are invited to a USTA Focus Group on the structure of junior competitive tennis. Former Nationals Tournament Director Timon Corwin, now Senior Director of Junior and Collegiate Competition for the USTA, will be moderating the discussion. Those who have expressed disappointment with the points-per-round system on this site should voice those comments and any others you may have at this forum. Specifics below:

Over the course of the next several months, the USTA will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the current national junior competitive system. To that end the USTA has selected the USTA Boys' 18 & 16 National Championships as one of the sites for conducting a parent/coach focus group. Timon Corwin, USTA Senior Director of Junior and Collegiate Competition, will be at the tournament to host a one-hour informative interactive session - from 2:30 to 3:30 pm on Thursday, July 31. The meeting will take place at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in the same room as the College Coach Expo. The USTA would like to receive input and ideas from parents of junior players regarding this important topic. Following the discussion, parents will be invited to fill out a survey. The data from the surveys will be studied and ideas will be incorporated into a new and improved junior competitive structure.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tom Pura, A Tribute

Junior tennis lost a great friend and advocate earlier this month when Tom Pura, father of junior standout TJ Pura and creator of the documentary 50,000 Balls, died suddenly in his home in Los Angeles.

I met Tom through this website, and my first chance to glimpse his generosity, curiosity and passion for junior tennis came at a dinner during the 2005 US Open. Later that year, I began seeing him at junior tournaments with TJ, and we'd exchange many ideas about junior tennis, big and small. Sometimes we would discuss a particular player, other times we would talk about the positive aspects of the sport and what it could and did teach youngsters about growing up. But Tom was a "doer," not a talker, and he began to formulate a plan to express his views on junior tennis through a documentary.

By the next time I saw him, at the 2006 Eddie Herr, the documentary footage was shot, with the bulk of it focusing on the 2006 National 12s Hardcourts in Little Rock, Ark. Tom was addressing the overwhelming prospect of whittling down 65 hours of film into something entertaining and instructive, but with diligence and determination he did so, producing version after version. I spoke with Tom about the documentary in May for the Tennis Recruiting Network, and he kept me apprised of its status as he submitted it to film festivals (it debuted at the Newport International Film Festival at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in June) and received feedback from those who had seen it.

The prospect of distributing the film widely to those who could benefit from its message was the next challenge Tom undertook, and his untimely death has left that part of the project to his wife Sara. When I spoke to her over the weekend, it was clear that she has thrown all her energy into preserving Tom's legacy through this film, and she has been working the past two weekends on wrapping up a "final" cut of the documentary, which she hopes to have available, via the film's website, by the start of the U.S. Open next month.

Tom accomplished much during his too-brief life. His generosity of spirit, his passion, his exuberance and his intelligence will be recalled in many tennis courts, in many places, when watching the seeds planted during junior competition flower into a lifelong love of the game and its lessons.

Contributions to Tom's memory can be made to:
Partnership for After School Education (PASE), 120 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10271 or Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, 140 West 143rd Street, New York, NY 10037.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pick This Year's Winners at The Zoo; Applications for US Open Junior Entries Close Friday

The draws are up at ustaboys.com, so it's time to start the contest, which invites you to pick the singles winners and identify a dark horse (someone outside the top 8 seeds) who has a chance to make the finals. Again, no anonymous comments please. Last year we had great participation, but only one person correctly picked the two number one seeds, Michael McClune and Tennys Sandgren, to capture the championships. Feel free to add comments on who has the toughest draw, a good first round 18s match to watch Friday (I'll go first--Kandath vs. Stevens) and a second round encounter you're anticipating.

The deadline for applying for the U.S. Open Junior Championships is Friday, August 1, and that includes wild card applications. As encouragement for those who may be on the fence, Dennis Nevolo was initially 31 spots out of qualifying last year when the first acceptances were released, and he got into qualifying. He got out of it too, making it to the round of 16 of the main draw.

The application form is available here.

For information on who gets what wild card from the National Hardcourts, please refer to the chart below, taken from the usta website.

*must be ITF age eligible

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kalamazoo Seeds

The draw will be available on Monday, but the seeds have been released. I'm eager to hear your comments. Who is the best player not to be seeded, or put another way, who does Ryan Harrison or Harry Fowler not want to see in the second round?
Remember, no anonymous comments.

1. Harry Fowler
2. Evan King
3. Jack Sock
4. Sekou Coker Bangoura
5. Bob van Overbeek
6. Denis Kudla
7. Jordan Cox
8. Junior Ore
9. Raymond Sarmiento
10. Joshua Tchan
11. Clay Thompson
12. Ben Guthrie
13. Zachary Leslie
14. Mitchell Frank
15. Nelson Vick
16. Nathan Pasha
17. Christopher Mengel
18. Daniel Ho
19. Marcos Giron
20. Spencer Newman
21. Harry Seaborn
22. Evan Song
23. Thomas Pham
24. Justin Shane
25. Gregory Andrews
26. Clarke Spinosa
27. Gonzales Austin
28. Brian Fang
29. Dennis Novikov
30. Augie Bloom
31. Wyatt McCoy
32. Casey MacMaster
1. Ryan Harrison
2. Chase Buchanan
3. Adam El Mihdawy
4. Alexander Domijan
5. Austin Krajicek
6. Ty Trombetta
7. Bradley Klahn
8. Ryan Thacher
9. Jarmere Jenkins
10. Tennys Sandgren
11. Dennis Nevolo
12. Rhyne Williams
13. Kyle McMorrow
14. Brennan Boyajian
15. Steve Johnson
16. Wil Spencer
17. Kevin King
18. Denis Lin
19. Casey Watt
20. James Seal
21. Alex Llompart
22. Ryan Noble
23. Walker Kehrer
24. JT Sundling
25. David Nguyen
26. Drew Courtney
27. Ryan Lipman
28. Marc Powers
29. John Huang
30. Waylon Chin
31. Devin Britton
32. Frank Carleton

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Devvarman and Oudin in Lexington Finals; Play Underway at Boys 18s Team Championships

Lexington Kentucky is hosting both a men's and women's $50,000 challenger this week, and two of the most frequently featured players on zootennis, Somdev Devvarman and Melanie Oudin, have reached Sunday's finals.

Devvarman, who has yet to lose a singles match as a professional, reached the final when former ATP Top Twenty player Xavier Malisse retired, trailing 4-1 in the first set. As a qualifier, I'm sure Devvarman appreciates that he didn't have to go the distance in his seventh match of the tournament. The two-time NCAA champ faces Robert Kendrick in the final, having beaten the former Pepperdine star in the straight sets in the quarterfinals of the Kennedy Funding Invitational earlier this month. Kendrick, the No. 3 seed, downed top seed Dudi Sela 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

The eighth-seeded Oudin has yet to drop a set in Lexington, as she disposed of No. 5 seed Ye-Ra Lee of Korea 6-4, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinal. She too will face an opponent extended to the max in the semifinals; unseeded Carly Gullickson came back to defeat No. 7 seed Chin-Wei Chan of Chinese Taipei 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. Oudin is also in the doubles final this evening, partnering Lindsay Lee-Waters.

The tournament's excellent website features Live Scoring and informative, well-written recaps daily.

Another website I recommend follows the USTA Boys Team event, in Champaign-Urbana, during its four days of action. Defending champions Southern California, the top seeds, had a bye in today's opening round. Southern is seeded No. 2, with Florida at No. 3. There was one minor upset today, with the Eastern Section defeating 5-8 seeded Northern 5-2.

In Futures action, two recently graduated college stars, Erling Tveit of Ole Miss and Arnau Brugues of Tulsa will vie for the singles title Sunday in Godfrey, Ill., while recent William & Mary graduate Megan Moulton-Levy meets Great Britain's Emily Webley-Smith for the Evansville, Ind. title. For complete results, see the USTA Pro Circuit results page.

I hope to have information on the Kalamazoo seeds available for Sunday evening's post.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Coaches Q and A: Which Sports are Beneficial to Tennis Development and When is the Right Time to Stop Them?

In this installment, Andy Brandi of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida discusses the advantages of cross-training for tennis and the appropriate time to focus solely on one sport.

Andy Brandi responds:

One sport to look at is track and field. Running cross country or running the sprint races or the mile is great in developing your stamina and speed. This should be a part of any player’s fitness training.

Tennis is an eye-foot sport. It requires being in the right place in order to hit the tennis ball. Quickness and agility are very important in tennis while an explosive first step is very helpful to get to the right position.

With that in mind, look at soccer and basketball as sports that will complement the development of a tennis player. Both demand a lot of quickness and agility. Eye-foot coordination is a must in both sports and they both are very helpful in developing good fitness levels.

Another path would involve the use of martial arts and kickboxing in developing flexibility, footwork and balance as well as developing hip flexors, which are very important to tennis players. Ballet is another activity that will help in this area.

As for the question of when to stop doing them to concentrate solely on tennis, my son Christopher played soccer, basketball and baseball until he decided he wanted to concentrate on tennis at age 11.

You don’t have to stop playing other sports however, if you use them as a way to complement your training. You can use this cross-training as a fitness tool. Playing soccer or basketball for an hour a couple of times a week would not hurt. Going to martial arts classes for an hour 2-3 days a week would be good. The key is that tennis is your main sport and everything you do athletically outside of tennis complements your overall tennis training. You should use all these activities to round out your fitness training for tennis. Best of luck!

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Closing the Book on the Clay Courts

My Girls 18s Clay Court roundup for The Tennis Recruiting Network is now up, and while you are on the site, please check out Sonny Dearth's report on the Girls 16s in Virginia Beach. The Virginian-Pilot also ran this coverage of the Girls 16s. The Sun-Sentinel provides a report on the finals of the Boys 18s here.
Check The Tennis Recruiting Network on Friday their entry on the Boys 18s & 16s Clays.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

US Players Prepare for ITF World Junior Tennis Tournament

The USTA has selected the players for the 14-and-under ITF World Junior Tennis competition taking place next month in the Czech Republic. With one exception, they are the same players that represented the U.S. in the North American qualifying in Montreal back in May. The boys team remains the same. The girls team will include Sachia Vickery in place of Madison Keys. The tournament will have a higher profile than usual with Laura Robson, the 14-year-old Wimbledon Junior Champion, scheduled to compete for Great Britain.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Clay Court Slide Show

It was a new experience for me--covering just one age division of one sex, so I was able to get photographs of everyone in the round of 16 at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts. The full-length version is followed by the short YouTube/Animoto version.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kalamazoo Wild Cards Announced; Review of Clay Court Champions

The USTA has released the names of the wild card recipients for this year's event, which begins on August 1.

Jordan Cox
Emmett Egger
Harry Fowler
Denis Kudla
Junior Ore
Raymond Sarmiento
Spencer Simon
Bob Van Overbeek

Joey Burkhardt
Drew Daniel
Lawrence Formentera
Mousheg Hovhannisyan
Matt Kandath
Kayvon Karimi
Aba Omodele-Lucien
William Parker

For the complete fields, visit ustaboys.com.

Here's a brief synopsis of the Clay Court singles champions decided over the weekend:

Girls 12s: Brooke Austin def. Taylor Townsend
Boys 12s: Jack Murray def. Jacob Dunbar
Girls 14s: Kyle McPhillips def. Chanelle Van Nguyen
Boys 14s: Alexios Halebian def. Tyler Gardiner
Girls 16s: Belinda Niu def. Nicole Melichar
Boys 16s: Nathan Pasha def. Zachary Leslie
Girls 18s: Lauren Embree def. Beatrice Capra
Boys 18s: Evan King def. Brennan Boyajian

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Embree Defeats Capra for Clay Court Title

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Memphis, TN--

Lauren Embree shed her bridesmaid dress on Sunday, collecting the winner's trophy and her first gold ball in 18s singles competition when she defeated top seed Beatrice Capra 6-4, 6-2 on the sticky-hot center court at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

Embree had reached the finals at last year's Clay Court Championships, falling to Missy Clayton, and in 2008, had taken second place at both the USTA Spring Championships and the Easter Bowl. But this week, the 17-year-old from Marco Island, Fla. was on top of her formidable clay court game, taking all seven of her matches in straight sets.

Embree, seeded third, managed to win Sunday morning without much help from her serve. After breaking Capra in the opening game and taking a 2-1 lead, she gave it back with two double faults in the next game. Embree also chipped in two more double faults when serving at 4-3 in the first set, dropping serve again, but Capra was having struggles of her own on serve, and she double faulted on game point to give Embree a 5-4 lead.

"I was frustrated because I couldn't get a serve in the box, and I kept double faulting on big points," Embree said. "I didn't really feel confident in it, and when I serve sometimes my back bothers me, so that gets in my head and I think it's my back, but I just have to believe in my serve."

Despite all her troubles when serving, Embree came up with a service winner on her second set point, and with the first set tucked away, the double faults decreased dramatically. In the second set, Capra took a 2-1 lead and had three break points to go up 3-1, but that's when the match began to unravel for the 16-year-old from Ellicott City, Md.

Frustrated with failing to convert those opportunities, Capra received a point penalty for racquet abuse, and at 15-40, let an Embree shot go, only to see it drop on the baseline. Capra won only two points in the next two games, giving Embree a 5-2 lead, and the chance to serve out the championship. At 30-30, Embree hit a service winner and on her first match point, angled a backhand putaway at the net to claim the impressive trophy and the WTA Cellular South Cup qualifying wild card next February.

Capra's analysis of the match centered on her own lack of energy during the second set, after the first set took nearly an hour to complete.

"I thought I came out pretty strong, I thought I was playing well, but in the end, I didn't have enough energy, mental energy, to keep it up," said Capra, whose WTA ranking currently stands at 736. "In the end I got really tired, and I couldn't keep more than three balls in play."

Embree has demonstrated throughout her junior career the value of defense, and she has been able to retain that skill while building her offensive firepower.

"She was very consistent," Capra said with a sigh. "She always kept one more ball in play for me to hit and it was hard for me to keep up with her physically."

"I couldn't really sense it," Embree said of Capra's fatigue. "But it's been a really long week for all of us."

Although her celebration was muted, Embree was obviously pleased to have come out on top in a final after the previous disappointments.

"It's a big relief to finally win a super national," she said. "I've gotten to finals of a lot of them, but haven't won any (18s)."

As for the qualifying wild card, Embree first asked when the tournament was, and when told it was in February, and indoors, she allowed that preparation for it might be a problem, but she wasn't about to decline the opportunity to play on that level.

"There are no indoor courts in Florida," she said with a laugh. "But I'll use it. Just for fun."

There were two other singles matches on Sunday morning. Ninth seed Rachel Saiontz, Embree's doubles partner, won the consolation tournament, defeating No. 11 Hideko Tachibana 6-1, 6-4. And the day's most crowd-pleasing match was No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn's 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over No 4 seed Jacqueline Cako for third place. Both girls were intent on winning the bronze ball, and as the fist pumps and c'mons escalated, the crowd gathered for the singles final was captivated by the tennis and the emotion.

For the complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

USTA Clay Court Final Videos July 20, 2008



Saturday, July 19, 2008

Capra and Embree Reach Clay Court Finals; Cako and Dolehide Earn Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Memphis, TN--

Beatrice Capra and Lauren Embree survived the steam bath atmosphere and determined opponents, setting up their first meeting Sunday with a USTA gold ball and a WTA qualifying wild card in next year's Celluar South Cup on the line.

The top seeded Capra fought off No. 4 seed Jacqueline Cako 6-3, 7-5, in the day's first match, with the third seeded Embree topping No. 5 Kristie Ahn by the same score.

Except for the final score and the match time (two hours) there wasn't much similarity between the two matches. Capra never trailed against Cako, taking an early 4-1, two-break lead in the first set by keeping her balls deep and taking advantage of more unforced errors than usual from Cako. Capra hit several lob winners, and other high top spin shots that reset the point, keeping Cako away from the net, where she ventures often, regardless of the surface.

"I thought I played really consistent," said the 16-year-old Capra, who beat Cako in the first round of last month's Grass Courts. "I picked out the target I wanted to hit on the court and thought I played pretty well. But I can't say that I had a plan going against her. I usually don't have a strategy when I go out, but luckily I was able to pull it together."

Capra had an early 4-1, one-break lead in the second set, but Cako, of Brier, Washington, won the next three games. With Capra serving at 4-4 30-all--an obviously crucial point--Cako's ball landed near the sideline. Capra called the all out and the chair umpire got down to check the mark and agreed with Capra's call, but Cako was not convinced. She made an error on the next point, but recovered her composure and held for for 5-5. Cako earned a break point in the next game, but Capra responded with a forehand winner and a serve winner for game point. Cako was at the net when Capra's cross court passing shot dipped by her. It landed just out, but Cako had touched it, and after a brief discussion, Capra had a 6-5 lead. Minutes later, she had the match, as Cako won only one point on her serve in the final game, sending a backhand wide to put Capra in the final.

Embree was down 2-0 in the opening set, but won six of the next seven games in spite of the ragged play exhibited by both girls. Ahn's forehand, which had been a key to her victory over Embree in March's Spring Nationals final, was more of a liability than an asset Saturday morning. But the 16-year-old Ahn recovered to take a 3-1 lead in the second set, and when Embree accidently hit her left knee with her racquet after swatting a ball in frustration, drawing blood, it looked as if Ahn would have an advantage over the remaining games. Embree didn't request a trainer, but bleeding requires treatment, and she was bandaged and taped. When play resumed, she cried out in pain and was treated again. Ahn held, taking a 4-1 lead, and when Embree served the next game, her pain, especially on the serve, was evident.

"When I first got it wrapped, she moved me from side to side, because she knew it was hurting me," said Embree "I think she tried to move me a little bit more than she had planned."

Ahn did earn a break point in that sixth game, but didn't convert. The New Jersey resident also failed to cash in on a set point serving at 5-4, hitting a backhand long, and Embree eventually won the game with a dropshot winner. Showing no further indication that her knee was bothering her, Embree broke Ahn in the next game, and survived two break points in the final game before finally cashing in on her second match point, when Ahn's forehand found the net.

A finalist at the 2007 Clays, Embree, of Marco Island, Fla., is eager to go one better on Sunday morning.

"I definitely want to win, because I don't want to have the same result as last year," said Embree. "And I want a gold ball."

Despite her success, Maryland's Capra, a bronze ball winner in Memphis last year, still ranks clay below hard and grass in surfaces she prefers. But as long as she can avoid the consolation tournament, she's content.

"Whenever I play these national tournaments, I really don't want to play the back draw--it's like torture," said Capra of the two-a-day matches the feed-in requires. "It's my incentive. Last year I got to the semis, and this year I really wanted to get to the finals, so I could prove to myself that I've gotten a step better."

The doubles champions were decided in the blistering 96 degree heat Saturday afternoon, with Cako and her partner Courtney Dolehide, of Hinsdale, Ill., earning their first gold balls with a grueling 7-6(5), 7-5 win over Floridians Alexandra Cercone and Jackie Kasler, the No. 6 seeds.

Cako and Dolehide, the No. 2 seeds, had their share of tough matches on their way to the championships, winning three three-setters, and it may have helped them survive the bouts of uneven play by both teams.

The first set featured as many breaks as holds, with advantages earned and then relinquished until the tiebreaker. There Cako and Dolehide took a 5-2 lead, saw it dwindle to 5-4, but held on to bank the first set.

In the second set, Cako had an opportunity to serve out the match at 5-4, but couldn't do it. Cako and Dolehide broke Kasler in the next game however, and with a second chance, Dolehide delivered the National Championship on her serve.

Having only played together previously at the Easter Bowl, Cako and Dolehide could sense that their games meshed.

"We saw the potential in our teamwork," said Dolehide, who is staying in the same private housing as Cako. "We had a couple of good matches, so we decided to play together at this tournament and at the Hard Courts."

In addition to winning USTA balls--the first of any kind for Cako, Dolehide has two silver--Cako and Dolehide were impressed with the trappings of the final.

"The ballpeople were great," said Dolehide, thankful that collecting balls wasn't necessary in the heat. "And it helps that there are people calling lines, so there's no controversy."

Cako voiced two keys to the victory, "staying aggressive and positive, and keep on pressing the net." Dolehide cited emotional support as the difference--"pumping each other up when we made errors, because both of us, our team and their team, were making errors, but we kind of fought through it."

For complete results, including consolation draws, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Familiar Foes to Meet in Semifinals at the Girls 18 Clay Courts Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Memphis, TN--

Four of the top five seeds are through to the semifinals at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts at the Racquet Club of Memphis, having survived the heat and humidity that have been building, like the tension, as the tournament week nears its conclusion.

There was only one three-setter in Friday's quarterfinals, and it was short on suspense, as No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn overcame a second set hiccup to take out tenth seed Grace Min 6-0, 3-6, 6-0. As in her round of 32 victory over Ellen Tsay, a No. 17 seed, Ahn took her foot off the gas in the second set. Min got back in the match, hoping to duplicate the feat she accomplished in the round of 16, when the 14-year-old from suburban Atlanta dropped the first set at love to No. 2 seed Alexa Guarachi, but fought back to win. Ahn had gotten off to a quick start, making very few errors, although still hitting deep and going for lines. Min couldn't hang with Ahn in the beginning, but she found her form in the second set, while Ahn's concentration lagged after taking a 2-0 lead in the second set. The 16-year-old from New Jersey held her serve only once more in the set, giving Min reason to hope she could take down another favorite. But Ahn broke Min to open the third and relocated her formidable ground game to advance to a meeting with No. 3 seed and 2007 Clay Court finalist Lauren Embree.

Embree and Ahn last met in Mobile four months ago, in the finals of the USTA Spring Nationals, with Ahn winning by a deceptive 6-4, 6-3, as the match took more than two hours to complete. Since then, Embree has won one Pro Circuit event (Wichita), and Ahn has taken two (Pennsylvania and Houston), so both are playing well and confidently. This time the surface might favor Embree, who puts clay at the top of her list of favorite surfaces, but Ahn has recently spent a couple of weeks in Barcelona training on red clay, so she too looks comfortable on the surface.

Embree reached the meeting with Ahn by downing No. 11 seed Hideko Tachibana of Texas 6-4, 6-4. Tachibana showed flashes of the form that had helped her upset No. 7 seed Alexandra Cercone on Thursday, but her first serve wasn't up to the challenge in the first set and despite breaking Embree three times, she held only once. The second set saw both players protect their serve better, but Embree got the one break she needed at 3-3 and held on for the win.

The other semifinal will put top seed Beatrice Capra of Maryland against Washington's Jacqueline Cako, the fourth seed. Capra and Cako met in the first round of the Grass Courts in Philadelphia last month, with Capra taking a 6-3, 7-5 decision on her way to the final, while Cako went on to win the first round consolation tournament.

Cako had the more difficult time reaching the semifinals as No. 16 seed Kaitlyn Christian was serving for the second set before Cako captured the last four games of match in a 6-3, 7-5 victory.

Capra, 16, was no doubt happy that she once again had an 8 a.m. starting time, as the court condition was at its best and the heat and humidity were not as oppressive as they would be a few hours hence. Her opponent, No. 9 seed Rachel Saiontz, had fought back valiantly in her round of 16 match against No. 17 seed Danielle Lao, but she could not find that form Friday morning, and Capra had her fifth straight-set victory, by a 6-1, 6-1 score.

A berth in the doubles final was at stake Friday afternoon, and it was Cako and her partner Courtney Dolehide, the No. 2 seeds, who earned one of them, with a 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3 win over the eighth seeded team of Lauren Herring and Min. Herring and Min had break point opportunities galore late in the first set, but they failed to convert. Cako and Dolehide fought off one set point at 5-6 in the tiebreaker, taking advantage of their first chance to put the set away three points later. Herring and Min did capitalize on a late break of Cako in the second set, but couldn't recover from the 3-1 deficit they found themselves in when Herring suffered the only break of the final set.

Cako and Dolehide's opponents in Saturday's final are Cercone and her partner Jackie Kasler, the No. 6 seeds, who downed No. 7 seeds Alexandra Leatu and Tsay 6-3, 3-6, 6-0. Tsay was the day's iron woman, as she survived two consolation singles matches, winning both, the first of which was a three-and-a-half hour war of attrition with Monica Chow. The slightly built left-hander began playing at 8 a.m. on Friday, and with just an hour or two off between matches, didn't finish until nearly 7 this evening, showing remarkable endurance in strength-sapping conditions.

For complete draws, including the consolation results, see the TennisLink site.

For coverage of the Florida Clay Court Nationals, see collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Min Upsets Second Seed Guarachi in Clay Court Round of 16

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Memphis, TN--

There is no substitute for being at a tennis tournament. If you went to the Girls 18s Clay Courts draws tonight and saw that 14-year-old Grace Min, seeded tenth, defeated No. 2 seed Alexa Guarachi 0-6, 6-1, 6-3, you would wonder what turned the match around, what provided Min with the momentum to take the next two sets easily. But you wouldn't know that the last game of match took nearly twenty minutes to complete, that Min needed nine match points to finally finish it, and faced two break points in that remarkable game, which would have put the match back on serve.

"I kept saying, okay, this next point, you're going to get this next point, but I didn't, I still didn't, until like the ten millionth one. She finally just hit a return error," said Min, who hit a gutsy forehand winner in the corner to save one of the break points. "If I lost that game, she would have been serving at 4-5, and that wouldn't have been good, since she has a really good serve. I really needed that game."

In the first set, Guarachi looked much more at ease, and Min had difficulty getting a first serve in, compounding her predictament. Guarachi was in control with her forehand, banking the first set very quickly. But Min jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, and the errors began to come in bunches for the second seed. Guarachi chided herself during a wayward stretch in the second set, saying "you're just giving her confidence." Guarachi had dropped the middle set in her match on Wednesday against Britney Sanders but had broken open a tight match by winning the final three games, so she was capable of reversing the momentum that Min had taken in the second set. But Min refused to indulge in any tentative play, even when chance after chance came and went in the final game.

"The mindset, playing not to lose, did bring me down a couple of times, not in this match, but in previous tournaments," Min said. "I definitely learned from those tournaments. And I didn't have anything to lose, she was the two seed, I was the ten seed, and I was just going out there to compete hard. I was confident with the way I was playing so I was just, go for it."

Min will play No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn, who defeated unseeded Kate Fuller 6-1, 6-2. The previous time Ahn and Min met, in the round of 16 at the USTA Spring Championships, Ahn prevailed in two sets, but needed a slew of match points before she finally closed it out, a scenario much like that of Min's today.

Min wasn't the only player to drop the first set of her match 6-0 and yet go on to win. Hideko Tachibana, the No. 11 seed, suffered through that demoralizing scenario too, but took the final two sets from No. 7 seed Alexandra Cercone 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal contest with No. 3 seed Lauren Embree, who downed Danielle Collins, a 17 seed, 6-3, 6-1.

Top seed Beatrice Capra cruised past No. 13 seed Hanna Mar 6-2, 6-1 and will face Rachel Saiontz, the No. 9 seed. Saiontz dropped the first set to Danielle Lao, a 17 seed, but came back convincingly, for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

No. 4 seed Jacqueline Cako has been dominant throughout the week, and today was no exception, as she served exceptionally well in her 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 12 seed Monica Chow. Cako meets No. 16 seed Kaitlyn Christian, who upset No. 6 seed Keri Wong 7-6(1), 6-4.

The doubles quarterfinals also delivered several upsets, with the heat and humidity beginning to ratchet up as the day dissolved into evening.

Top seeds Embree and Saiontz came out strong against the No. 6 seeded team of Cercone and Jacqueline Kasler, but couldn't sustain it, as Cercone and Kasler took a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision in an entertaining match that featured some blistering ground strokes and jaw-dropping gets. Cercone and Kasler will play No. 7 seeds Alexandra Leatu and Ellen Tsay in Friday's semifinals. Leatu and Tsay beat a nine seeded team, Fuller and Julie Sabacinski 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

The third team to come back from a set down to win was the eighth seeded team of Lauren Herring and Min, who took out No. 4 seeds Lilly Kimbell and Zoe De Bruycker 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. Herring and Min will play the second seeded team of Cako and Courtney Dolehide, who downed Mar and Kate Turvy, the fifth seeds, 6-1, 6-3.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

For coverage of USTA Clay Court championships in Florida, go to collegeandjuniortennis.com

A Tennis-related Adventure--in Vietnam

My weekly post for The Tennis Recruiting Network centers around an exciting new program called "Coach for College" that has been created by Parker Goyer, a recent Duke graduate. At the NCAAs, I spoke with Reka Zsilinszka and Amanda Granson, two members of Duke's current women's team, about their upcoming trips to Vietnam to assist with sports camps in rural parts of the country.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ahn Escapes Upset in Wednesday Action at Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Memphis, TN--

It was another day of good weather and good performances by the seeded players at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts, with 15 of the 16 remaining players in the draw sporting a red number next to their names. But No. 2 seed Alexa Guarachi and No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn were pushed to third sets by their opponents, with Ahn advancing when No. 17 seed Ellen Tsay had to retire with cramps trailing 3-1 in the final set.

Ahn had taken a comfortable 6-3, 3-0 lead, but by her own admission, she relaxed, and Tsay refused to concede the match. "I thought from then it would be easier," said Ahn, who has won two Pro Circuit events this summer. "But she just fought the whole time and I was just watching, waiting for her to make a mistake, which obviously did not happen."

The left-handed Tsay, who hits with little pace but uses her savvy placement and maddening consistency to frustrate her opponents, really found her rhythm in the middle of the second set. Although Ahn resisted the temptation to try to hit a winner on every point, her strokes were not as deep as they had been in the first set, and Tsay won many of the rallies by simply waiting for Ahn to miss. Tsay broke Ahn at 4-4 and served out the second set, and although there was no heat break, both players took a bathroom break.

Ahn took a 2-0 lead, but gave her break back making it 2-1. Tsay requested a trainer at the changeover, and received treatment on her thigh before retaking the court. She fashioned a 40-15 lead, but Ahn stepped up her game at that point, and soon had turned the game in her favor, taking a 3-1 lead. Tsay couldn't return to her position to receive serve, and for a minute or two stood near the service line with her racquet serving as a prop to hold herself up. A roving umpire arrived on the court, but she could not receive treatment for a second time for the cramping and was forced to retire.

"When she got up 40-15 I was telling myself, if you win this game, there is a slight chance she could retire," Ahn said. "But if you lose this game, there's no way she's going to retire."

Tsay did receive treatment after the match and returned to play doubles several hours later, where she and partner Alexandra Leatu won their round of 16 contest.

Second seed Guarachi was challenged by Californian Britney Sanders, finding herself at at 3-3 in the third set with her hard-hitting unseeded opponent. But Guarachi swept the final three games of the match for the 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win, advancing to a round of 16 meeting with 14-year-old Grace Min, the 10th seed, who outlasted a No. 17 seed, Lindsey Hardenbergh, 7-6(3), 6-4.

Top seed Beatrice Capra lost the first four games of her early morning match with unseeded Floridian Maria Belaya, but Capra weathered the onslaught and took the final 12 games of her 6-4, 6-0 victory.

There is only one top eight seed missing from the round of 16: Lilly Kimbell, who fell to Danielle Lao, a 17 seed, 6-3, 6-2. The only unseeded player remaining is Kate Fuller, who advanced without the loss of a game against Melissa Cecil.

For complete results, including doubles played this evening, visit the TennisLink site.

For coverage of various Clay Court championships in Florida, see collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Seeds Keep Rolling at Girls 18s Clays

©Colette Lewis
Memphis, TN--

The weather was as good as it gets for Memphis in July, with blue skies, a refreshing breeze and tolerable humidity to go with the 90 degree temperatures. Although three sites are used for the first four days of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships, I stuck to the main site, The Racquet Club of Memphis, where many of the top seeds played this afternoon.

Most of them breezed into the round of 32, and I managed to catch some of top seed Beatrice Capra's 6-2, 6-2 win over Sabrina Santamaria, No. 3 seed Lauren Embree's 6-1, 6-1 pounding of Julie Kirkland and No. 7 seed Alexandra Cercone's 6-2, 6-2 win over Rachel Decker-Sadowski, despite the relatively brief match times. Both Embree and Cercone were swinging away on the forehand side, and playing next to each other, the two Florida girls seemed to be competing to see who could punish a short ball with more force. Although it was played at the Racquet Club, I missed No. 2 seed Alexa Guarachi's 6-2, 6-0 dismantling of Caryssa Peretz, and saw only a few points of No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn's 6-0, 6-0 win over Mary Hill.

But there were a few engaging matches. In stark contrast to the majority of the top seeds' victories, No. 12 seed Monica Chow was put to the test by Nida Hamilton before emerging with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win. The match, which began a few minutes before its scheduled 2:30 p.m. start time, didn't end until after 5:45 p.m., with long points, long games, as well as score and line disputes, contributing to the marathon length.

Only two top 16 seeds failed to make Wednesday's round of 32. Jennifer Kellner's 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 win over No. 15 seed Courtney Dolehide was at another site, but I did see the second set of Kate Fuller's 6-2, 6-4 decision over No. 14 Kate Turvy.

Fuller, fresh from clinching the Southern section's Intersectional Team Championship in Shreveport in the mixed doubles match, played aggressively against Turvy, but made sure that she was ready for any and all of her shots to come back. Turvy would scramble and dig and get one more ball back, but Fuller was always prepared to try another placement, and another, if necessary. In the second set, Fuller broke at 3-4 and took a 30-0 lead when serving for the match, but a couple of her errors and Turvy's winners gave Turvy four straight points and the game, putting them back on serve. Fuller didn't show any frustration however, and after the changeover, put the pressure right back on Turvy, who couldn't summon her best in the final game.

There were no doubles matches played today, but they will resume on Wednesday with the round of 16 in the afternoon.

For complete draws, see the Tennis Link site.

For coverage of the 14s, 16s and 18s clays in Florida, please check out Marcia Frost's collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Larcher de Brito Qualifies for WTA Stanford Tournament; Roetert Discusses Tennis Future for U.S.

After a very long drive through the always lush and sometimes soggy-looking corn and soybean farms along the entire length of Illinois, I've arrived in Memphis for the Girls 18s Clay Courts. A look at the draws this evening tells me I haven't missed any major upsets, as the top 16 seeds all made it through their first matches today (the seeds have byes in the first round). The forecast for Tuesday is for low 90s, but with tolerable humidity, so I'm looking forward to some excellent third round matches at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

When Michelle Larcher de Brito won the Orange Bowl last December, she said that she was basically done with junior tennis, and she has been true to her word. Although her results have not been remarkable since she reached the third round of the Sony Ericsson, where she beat Agnieszka Radwanska, today she qualified for the Bank of the West Classic, a Tier II WTA event at Stanford. Nick Bollettieri has a brief story about her results and also some photos of some of the pros and juniors training at the Bradenton academy. And news of Taylor Dent's comeback. Click here for Nick's blog.

And the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke to Paul Roetert of USTA High Performance on the future of tennis in the U.S.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Clays Underway; Aubone Wins Peoria

I've been busy today getting ready for my first trip to the girls 18s Clay Courts in Memphis on Monday. I'll be traveling most of the day, but look for my coverage of the tournament beginning on Tuesday and continuing throughout the week. The first round was played today in the five divisions in South Florida and in Virginia Beach, Greensboro and Memphis. To have look at the field in Memphis, and today's results, see the TennisLink site.

In Peoria, the $10,000 Pro Circuit Futures title went to Jean-Yves Aubone of Florida State, who defeated Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State in the final. The Journal Star has already posted a very detailed account of the match here.

USC's Amanda Fink fell in the final of the $50,000 Challenger in Allentown and there's no account available yet, but click here for the update from yesterday's semifinals.

For the story on Somdev Devvarman's win yesterday over Dudi Sela at the Kennedy Funding event, click here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Good Day for Indian Tennis and Kalamazoo Champions

As Nadalfan mentioned in his or her comment today, Somdev Devvarman beat Sam Querrey yesterday at the Kennedy Funding Invitational, 7-5 in the third. TheJournal News filed this story about the two-time NCAA champion's win over the Top 50 Californian, and if the message boards are correct (the tournament website hasn't been updated as of 10 p.m. Saturday) Devvarman beat Dudi Sela today to win the title. This is a charity event that pays a very tidy sum ($40,000) to the winner of the 11-man tournament, although there are no ATP ranking points at stake. Devvarman wasn't seeded despite reaching the finals last year, where he lost Michael Russell.

In Newport, Rhode Island, former USC Trojan and 2002 USTA Boys 18s champion Prakash Amritraj reached the finals of the Campbell Hall of Fame Classic, where he will face defending champion Fabrice Santoro of France. He's making his first appearance in an ATP final, at the tournament his father Vijay won three times.

And Michael Chang, the 1987 USTA Boys 18 champion, was inducted into the Hall of Fame today. I recall several people telling me back then they doubted he had a chance as a professional because he was small and lacked weapons (similar to what I've heard people say about Devvarman), not realizing how much speed and tenacity matter. A few weeks after winning Kalamazoo, he went on to become the youngest man to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open, and the doubts about his future evaporated.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tennis Gypsies; Oudin and Tomic Featured in Sports Illustrated

The $50,000 Pro Circuit Women's Challenger in Allentown, Pa. is getting excellent coverage from the Morning Call, with today's feature about the nomadic and financially difficult existence of that level. One of the players featured in the story, USC's Amanda Fink, is having an excellent run in Allentown. On Thursday, she defeated No. 2 seed Varvara Lepchenko in three sets, as detailed here, and today downed Brenda Schultz-McCarthy to advance to the semifinals, where she'll face Lauren Albanese. Sixteen-year-old Grass Court champion Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada is through to the doubles semifinals with her partner Neha Uberoi.

For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit results webpage at usta.com.

This week's Sports Illustrated is rare enough in featuring tennis on the cover (what, no Brett Favre?) with a photo of Nadal vs. Federer at Wimbledon. It also has a "Where are they now/Where will they be?" section that has brief profiles of Melanie Oudin and Bernard Tomic. Click here for the online version, which is without the photographs that accompany the stories in the magazine.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Embree Profile; Southern Section Takes 16s Intersectionals; Seeding for USTA Nationals

My weekly post at The Tennis Recruiting Network is a profile of Lauren Embree of Marco Island, Fla., who has been the subject of many a college coach's interest in the months leading up to the July 1st contact date. Every tournament I attended this spring and summer I saw or talked to a coach who was watching one of her matches.

The 16s age division's USTA Intersectional Championships wrapped up today in Shreveport, La., and it was the Southern Section's team taking home the first place trophy with a 6-3 win over Southern California. The format is a bit like World Team Tennis, only more of it: three boys singles, three girls singles, one girls doubles, one boys doubles and one mixed doubles. The Shreveport Times covered the tournament a couple of days ago; I could find nothing from yesterday's semifinal action. For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Now to address the issues raised in the comments on Wednesday's post. For National Championships, players are now allowed to enter two age divisions and if selected in the older one, play that. If not selected and they meet the qualifications for selection in the lower age division, they play that division.

As for the seeding in 18s National Championships, the Friend of Court contains specific guidelines. It reads:

Seeds shall be ordered as follows:
1. Players ranked in the top 1000 on the most recently published ATP or WTA* ranking list shall be placed at the top of the seeding list in the order in which their names appear on the applicable list.
2. Players not previously seeded who are ranked in the top 100 in the most recently published ITF ranking list shall be placed immediately after the first group in the order in which their names appear on the list.
3. Players not previously seeded who appear on the most recently published National Standing List of the division shall be placed immediately after the second group in the order in which their names appear on the list.
-- Players may be moved within major groups (1-4, 5-8, 9-16, 17-32) due to direct wins if players are separated by fewer than 100 ranking points.
-- Players may be moved between major groups due to direct wins if players are separated by fewer than 50 Ranking Points.

*the automatic selection into a National Championship is 600 or higher WTA

The 16s, 14s and 12s guidelines make no reference to ATP or ITF standings.

Some of the seedings for the Clays are out, although I haven't seen them for the Boys 16s and 18s, but Bo Seal is currently ranked 99 in the ITF rankings, so he should be seeded.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Entries Close Thursday at Noon for USTA National Championships; Bangoura Featured in Peoria; New D-I Men's Coaches; Evans Suspended by LTA

On Thursday at noon Eastern Daylight Time, entries will close for all the USTA National Championships which begin the first week of August. If you'd like to see who has already applied and for what age divisions, check out the main National Junior Tournament page on the TennisLink site, and then click on August. Of course there are wild cards still to be named for all divisions, and applications for wild cards are due within five days the deadline, according to this item on usta.com.

One of the Kalamazoo entrants in the 16s this year, Florida's Sekou Bangoura Jr., was the subject of this story in the Peoria Journal Star after his first round win over No. 7 seed Adam Fass. The 16s field in Kalamazoo looks to be especially strong this year, with Junior Ore, Jordan Cox, Denis Kudla, Raymond Sarmiento and Evan King joining Bangoura in the 16s. All have been playing mostly 18s or ITFs this year, but Kalamazoo is the one tournament where a chance to win the title in the 16s (and the US Open Jr. wild card) is an incentive to play your peers.

In men's college tennis, Bo Hodge has been named assistant at Alabama, according to this announcement on rolltide.com. Chuck McCuen, who was an assistant under Chuck Kreise for six years, was named head coach at Clemson Monday. For details, see the Clemson Tigers website.

And finally, another round of junior suspensions by the LTA. Daniel Evans and Dan Smethurst are the British pair running afoul of the authorities according to this story in the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Around the Pro Circuit: Devvarman Wins Again, Tatishvili and Ram Take Challenger Titles

Holiday or no, there was plenty of action last week on the USTA Pro Circuit, with a $10,000 Men's Futures on clay in Pittsburgh, a $50,000 Men's Challenger in Winnetka, Ill., and a $50,000 Women's Challenger in Boston.

Two-time NCAA singles champion Somdev Devvarman won his second straight Futures in Pittsburgh Sunday, again without the loss of a set, and he and Treat Huey also captured their second consecutive doubles title. Devvarman downed Travis Helgeson in the final, and those of us who saw their three-set semifinal clash at No. 1 singles when Georgia upset Virginia in Tulsa, can't help but be surprised by Sunday's score: 6-3, 6-1. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provided this account of the match today.

In Winnetka, former Illinois player Rajeev Ram took his first Challenger level singles title with a straight set win over Scoville Jenkins in the final. Ram, who has excelled in doubles throughout his pro career, was unseeded in singles (and didn't play doubles) but took out top seed Vince Spadea, No. 5 seed Brendan Evans, No. 7 seed Benedikt Dorsch and Jenkins, the No. 6 seed, during the week.

The women's title in Boston went to 18-year-old Anna Tatishvili, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. Tatishvili, originally from the country of Georgia, won the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in El Paso last month, and had reached the semifinals of the $50,000 tournament in Carson in May, so she has been piling up the WTA points recently. The Boston Globe filed this report on the final.

This week the men are in Peoria for another $10,000 event (isn't it about time the bumped that up? I see they've raised the prize money for the U.S. Open again). And it looks like the Peoria Journal Star will be reporting on it throughout the week. Today's story is about the University of North Carolina players competing, with Stefan Hardy being the main focus. His opponent in the final round of qualifying was Alexandru Pasareanu, who you might remember as being a remarkably mature looking 14-year-old last year at the Junior Orange Bowl where he beat Robert Livi in the qualifying.

The women are in Allentown, Pa., and their paper, The Morning Call, filed this report on Monday's qualifying. Christina McHale, pictured in that story, did get through today's final qualifying round.

For complete Pro Circuit results, see the Pro Circuit results page.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Warm Wimbledon Thanks

Sportswriters frequently "clean out the notebook," at the end of a tournament, and although I wasn't actually at Wimbledon this year, I'm going to do the same.

  • I am forever indebted to Guy McCrea for the fantastic coverage he provided here throughout the second week at Wimbledon. With no power for the second half of the week, I was in no position to write coherent posts about what happened; he made it easy for me and I hope, enlightening for all of you who stopped by to read and listen. When I could, I listened to Guy's Radio Wimbledon coverage, and as I am sure you could tell from his interviews, he knows his junior tennis and does his homework (Contrast the Wimbledon website's junior coverage, which is so riddled with errors that I didn't even bother to read it when I finally had an opportunity to yesterday).

  • Anyone else notice that the no-ad, tiebreak-in-lieu-of-the-third-set format that was adopted for junior Grand Slams, Grade As and Grade 1s by the ITF this year was conspicuously absent from Wimbledon? But the argument for playing conventional doubles (which to me is defined as ending in a third set tiebreaker) is not really strengthened by the fact that both Wimbledon doubles champions had won previous Junior Slams this year under the abbreviated format. What will the USTA decide to do in New York next month? Stay tuned.

  • Wimbledon LIVE, which four ZooTennis readers received free access to courtesy of MediaZone, is fantastic. I wasn't able to get it going until Sunday myself, but, I watched the boys final from start to finish (with the sound turned off and Guy's radio call on instead). I was impressed with the quality of the video (I have a standard cable modem and it streamed very nicely) and most of all, with the variety of matches available. There is much talk that tennis has become a niche sport here in the U.S., and will never have the mainstream interest that other sports do, so webcasting will fill the void that TV networks leave. But the best part of this is not that it's providing tennis coverage, it's providing individualized coverage of THE TENNIS YOU WANT TO SEE. As usual, there was no coverage on NBC of the junior matches, but I did not have to rely on them for it. The price of $24.99 is a bargain when you consider how many different matches that encompasses, and that you are able to download or time-shift them as you please. I'd love to hear what others think, but I'm sold.

  • U.S. junior Bradley Klahn had quite an experience yesterday at Wimbledon--he warmed up five-time champion Roger Federer prior to what is, a day later, being lauded as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time. Klahn, a left-hander, and doubles partner Ryan Harrison were still in London after their loss in the doubles quarterfinals Friday due to the cost of changing their plane tickets and a few phone calls between Federer's agent and David DiLucia, the USTA high performance coach, provided Klahn with the opportunity of a lifetime.

  • The British media was beside themselves in having the Laura Robson story to follow this week, but most of the excitement has been tempered by those with memories of the last British girl to win Wimbledon Annabel Croft, who three years after capturing the title in 1984, retired from tennis. Sandra Harwitt points out in this piece for espn.com that in "61 years of junior competition, only three titlists have gone on to win Wimbledon -- Briton Ann Haydon-Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo." On the other hand, should Robson turn out to be merely an Caroline Wozniacki (2006 girls champion) or Agnieszka Radwanska (2005 girls champion), both top 30, I'm not sure there would be grave disappointment. Right now the bar is quite low in British womens tennis, with only one Top 100 player. BBC Sport has this interview with the last British Wimbledon singles champion, Virginia Wade, entitled "Robson Must Be Protected."

  • In almost comical contrast, this was one of the few items devoted to Grigor Dimitrov's boys championship. I'm sure if I could access and read Bulgarian newspapers, there would be more insight available, but we're stuck with brief translations. Here are the transcripts of both Dimitrov's and Robson's news conferences after their victories.

    On Tuesday, I'll review the action in the three Pro Circuit events completed over the weekend.
  • Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Dimitrov Captures Boys Wimbledon Title; Doubles Champions Get Second Grand Slam Titles of 2008

    After the thrilling all-day men's final, the junior Wimbledon champions crowned today are not likely to get the same treatment as Laura Robson did (nor would they even if Nadal's win over Federer had been less exciting). But thanks to the return of our power and my access to Wimbledon LIVE, I was able to watch the boys' final (while turning down the sound and listening to Guy McCrea's call of the match on Radio Wimbledon. Here's Guy's final report from the Wimbledon:

    (NOTE: Quicktime, a media player available via a Free Download, is required to hear the audio clips.)

    The last day of Wimbledon 2008 and after Laura Robson’s famous victory in the girls’ singles on Saturday, all that was left was for the three remaining junior finals to take place at the All England Club.

    First up it was the final of the boys’ singles which took place on Number One Court. The contest between Henri Kontinen and Grigor Dimitrov got underway a little later than the 2pm scheduled start time because of the wet conditions in South-West London. But there were no further interruptions, as those content to ignore the Federer-Nadal clash on nearby Centre Court were treated to an intriguing opening set of junior tennis.

    Dimitrov carried a shoulder injury from his semi-final win over Fillip Krajinovic into this one and it flared up midway through the opener. The Bulgarian was in such pain that he could barely serve at three-quarter pace from then on. Remarkably though, Kontinen had much greater difficulty dealing with Dimitrov’s slower deliveries as he struck a rash of unforced return errors. The Bulgarian took his chance as she stepped up the quality of his baseline returns to the serve and volleying Finn – a single break of serve at the end of the first set enough for him to take it 7-5.
    Kontinen briefly started to show some of the form that had seen him upset top seed Bernard Tomic in the last four as he went a break up midway through the second. But Dimitrov soon broke straight back and with the momentum now firmly in his favour, he went onto break Kontinen’s malfunctioning serve again. The 17 year old then successfully served out the set 6-3 without any real alarm to claim his first junior Grand Slam singles crown.

    Afterwards Dimitrov told me what it meant for him to be the first boy from Bulgaria to lift the title.


    Elsewhere, the girls’ doubles final took place on court 2 between the Slovenian-Australian pairing of Polona Hercog and Jessica Moore, and the all-Australian duo of Isabella Holland and Sally Peers. Hercog and Moore began brightly to win the opener 6-3, before Holland and Peers punished some indecisive play from their opponents to take the second 6-1. But the sixth seeds handled the blustery conditions better in the decider and a brilliant return from Moore ultimately enabled them to win it 6-2. Moore says this victory is the perfect follow-up to their French Open doubles success last month.


    The boys’ doubles final had to be moved to court 14 because of the bad British weather. Bernard Tomic and Matt Reid were up against Cheng-Peng Hsieh and Tsung-Hua Yang, with Tomic keen to end the event with some success after failing to lift the singles’ title. But it was the reigning Australian Open doubles champions from Chinese Taipei who served the better to snare the opener 6-4. Tomic and Reid came back well though to take the second 6-2 with a double break of serve. The deciding set was as tight as any in the whole event, with break point opportunities missed regularly by both pairs. Court 14 became increasingly populated as word got round of the terrific contest on show, and there was hardly a seat to be had when Hsieh and Yang finally broke Tomic’s serve in the penultimate game. It allowed Hsieh to serve out the match 12-10 after almost two and a quarter hours of battle. Here’s Yang’s view on winning the Wimbledon doubles title.


    So an apt ending to a terrific week of junior tennis at Wimbledon, which delighted players and spectators alike. Hopefully you all enjoyed the reports and reaction from here too!

    For complete draws, see wimbledon.org.