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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Few Matches Completed on Damp First Sunday at Eddie Herr

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Bradenton FL--

The sun came out for a few moments Sunday afternoon, but just when the courts reached a playable stage the rain returned, and the few matches that were completed Sunday at the Eddie Herr International were played on the three indoor courts at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

The second round of the boys 12s were fortunate to go out at 8 a.m., and all finished before the morning rains. The U.S. had three No. 1 seeds when the main draw started on Saturday (all the seeds in the 12s are designated as No. 1s), and two of those--David Crisovan and Daniel Kerznerman--advanced, both in straight sets. But the third, Toshiki Matsuya from Washington, ranked No. 1 in the USTA 12s, fell in one of few three setters of the day.

Matsuya had a size disadvantage to overcome against Alexander Sendegeya of Great Britain, and he managed to do that in the first set, but lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Sendegeya, who trains at Bollettieri's, is making something of a habit of comebacks, as he won on Saturday against Dan Stefan of the U.S., 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-0.

The other U.S. boys advancing to the round of 32 are Artemi Amari, Deiton Baughman, Carter Lin, Timothy Kane, Julian Zlobinsky, Nikola Samardzic and Stefan Koslov. Kozlov and Kerznerman will meet in the only all-U.S. match in the next round.

One round of the girls 18s qualifying was completed, and six U.S. girls have reached the third and final round. CC Sardinha, Lauren Herring, Maria Belaya, Kara Kucin, Courtney Dolehide and Malika Rose will have an opportunity to earn a spot in the main draw with a win on Monday, weather permitting. (It is still raining as of 8 p.m. on Sunday evening).

Of the matches that were moved indoors, one of the most exciting featured Kyle McMorrow and David Holiner of the U.S. in 18s second round qualifying. McMorrow held off a determined comeback by Holiner to take a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) decision. Played on the second court away from the viewing, with no scoring devices, it was difficult to keep track of the score, but even without knowing exactly what was at stake in each point, it was a very entertaining brand of tennis.

For complete results, see eddieherr.com.

Rain Disrupts Sunday Play at Eddie Herr

It began to rain late Sunday morning, with only the boys 12s second round complete. The forecast is not good for the remainder of the day. Stay tuned for another update later this evening.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eddie Herr Debut Memorable for Shishkina

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Bradenton, FL--

With 30 courts active during any given point in the day, it's difficult to know what to focus on in the early stages of the Eddie Herr.

Saturday, another clear and pleasant day, started with the 14s qualifying, and I watched a few games of Alexander Ritschard of the U.S play Alex Koshetov of Canada. Ritschard, whom I'd seen play last year at the Plaza Cup, has the ability to hit outright winners, which is rather rare in the 14s, and except for a brief lapse early in the second set, when he fell behind 2-0, he was on target this morning. With his 6-1 6-3 win, he joins Alexander Saltiel, Austin Robles, Juan Moreiras, Sebastian Acuna and Daniel Sun of the U.S. in the final round of qualifying on Sunday.

The 12s always features a large quantity of 6-0, 6-0 results in the first few rounds, and today was no exception. I watched a game or two of Deiton Baughman's 6-1, 6-2 win over Juan Visono of the Dominican Republic and a couple in Alecia Black's 6-1, 6-1 win over Valeria Deronjic, but the compelling match of day eventually revealed itself.

Bollettieri's latest find, 10-year-old Mariya Shishkina of Kazakhstan was given the prime showcase for her first round match against Alizee Michaud of France, Nick's "Stadium" court. It features names of Bollettieri-coached professionals and wind screens with Nick's signature writ large, but all those trappings faded into the background as the match took shape, and after 3 and 1/2 hours, Shishkina won it 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-6(2).

Michaud is considerably bigger than Shishkina, but there was obviously very little difference in their ability to hit the ball. When I arrived late in the second set, Michaud was serving for the set at 5-4, but was broken. Shishkina immediately lost her serve, double faulting at 30-40, but Michaud again failed to convert that opportunity. There was a referee on the court after several disputed calls earlier, but there was only one overrule in the final few games of the set and in the tiebreaker, there was no controversy. Michaud ran out to a 6-1 lead, and the very composed Shishkina betrayed no emotion, won the next two points, then pushed a forehand wide to give Michaud the second set.

By that time, the match was 2 and 1/2 hours long, and I didn't stay for the obviously dramatic ending. While I was watching, a crowd of 50 or 60 gathered and excitement surrounding Shishkina's Eddie Herr debut was obvious. She was impressive in her ability to find difficult angles, to approach the net, and to take the ball early, minimizing her size disadvantage. Her wild errors were also abundant, but they rarely bothered her for more than a second or two, a trait that will help her as she negotiates all the twists and turns that lie ahead.

The 18s qualifying first round started late in the afternoon and continued on under the lights, again past 9:00 p.m. Ryan Cheung, Frank Carleton, Sekou Bangoura Jr., Kyle McMorrow, David Holiner, Junior Ore, Ridley Seguso, and Denis Lin were U.S. players advancing to the second round in the boys draw. U.S. girls winning their first matches were Kayla Rizzolo, C.C. Sardinha, Jessica Stiles, Lauren Herring, Maria Belaya, Kara Kucin, Ellen Tsay, Courtney Dolehide and Malika Rose.

For complete results, see eddieherr.com.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Eddie Herr Begins

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Bradenton, FL--

A perfectly beautiful afternoon turned into a chilly evening, but the tennis never stopped during the opening day of play at the Eddie Herr International. The last girls 16s qualifying second round match was still out on a lighted court at 9:30 p.m., but the grounds of the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy were otherwise quiet as the first of ten days of competition drew to a close.

A few of the youngest participants, the 12s, who will begin main draw play Saturday, stopped by to look at the draw, check their times and generally acclimate themselves to the surroundings. The stringers were hard at work, with three or four machines continuously in use, churning out one racquet after another for the pile accumulating on a side table.

We spent several hours organizing the country boards, one of the distinguishing features of the Eddie Herr. In the main draw, players are sent out to their courts with the name of their country emblazoned in black block letters on white plastic, which they place next to their chairs on court. Returning both name boards to the tournament desk is the responsibility of the winner, who is also reporting the score, but there are a fair number of players who must be sent back to get them, with the concept, and perhaps the language they were instructed in, completely foreign to those unfamiliar with the tournament's traditions.

This year there are over 90 countries represented, so the sight of the country boards spread out on the tables is an impressive one, and in fact, one parent took a photo of the array as we finished the job. By late next week, it will have been whittled down to one table with just a few country boards still in use, but right now they suggest the hope of the hundreds of players yet to begin main draw play.

The results and draws throughout the week can be found at eddieherr.com.

Eddie Herr Preview

We'll be in Bradenton for the Eddie Herr this afternoon with the 12s main draw starting on Saturday, along with 18s qualifying. 14s and 16s qualifying begins today. My preview for the Tennis Recruiting Network can be found here. I did not have access to the majority of the wild card names when I wrote it, so there will undoubtedly be some contenders that I missed. Mic Huber of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune keeps close tabs on the tournament and has this story about it today.

At the Yucatan Cup, the semifinals are set, with Harry Fowler the sole U.S. player left in singles. The doubles team of JT Sundling and Denis Kudla are in the semifinals, as are Fowler and Bo Seal, who play Bob vanOverbeek and his partner Vladimir Kruk from Belarus. Mallory Burdette is in the girls doubles semifinal with her partner Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia. See the ITF junior website for complete draws.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Few Words of Thanks

There isn't much news--Rachel Kahan beat No. 2 seed and World No. 10 Kristina Mladenovic of France, and Denis Kudla, the No. 2 seed, was also upset at the Yucatan Cup in Mexico (see the tournament website for all results.) Ed Tseng was at the Harlem Junior Tennis Program benefit Tuesday night, and filed this report for his blog.

But as we gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude for all those who have shared their tennis lives and thoughts with me in the past few years. I've made great new friends, met inspirational young people and seen innumerable acts of kindness, all with tennis as their common denominator.

I thank you for reading, for supporting me and my sponsors, for contributing your thoughts and ideas to this blog, for doing all you can do to help grow the game of tennis. Coaches, parents, players, tournament directors, officials, agents, manufacturer reps, fans, other tennis media people, all have helped me learn and grow, sharing with me their passion for the game. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at the courts for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coaches Q and A: Should I take a holiday from tennis?

As we approach the holiday season, it's an ideal time to ask Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida about the need to take a break from tournaments and training.

Today's question:
Should I periodically take a vacation from tennis where I don't play tournaments or train?

Solomon responds:

I think it's vitally important to get away from tennis at various times during the year no matter if you are a junior, college or professional player. Totally getting away and letting your body rest is a good habit to begin as a junior player. Mentally taking a break gives you the opportunity to not only relax and decompress but also to reflect upon the proceeding time frame and objectively look back at how you are doing in meeting your goals. These breaks are also a great opportunity to revisit your goals.

Periodic two week breaks should take place for juniors twice a year. I recommend that the first week be a total break from anything to do with tennis and that in the second week you start a slow jump back into physical training. Other shorter three or four day breaks should be interspersed throughout the calendar year especially during and after the longer tournament swings in the summer.

You should set up your schedule so you can peak during the most important tournaments of the year. It is imperative that you come into the biggest events fresh both mentally and physically, by avoiding over-training leading up to these events. At our institute we recommend that most players take at least one and a half days off per week during normal training. It helps if coaches and parents can help break the year into scheduling segments (three or four) and that these breaks are introduced at the end of each segment. If you learn how to do this at a younger age, I think it helps maintain a healthier body and a fresher perspective down the road.

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Austin Visits Bollettieri's for Tennis Channel; Stories on Reynolds, DeSimone, Krajinovic and Vickery

In just a few days we'll be at Bollettieri's for the Eddie Herr and I've been hard at work on my preview, which will be available on The Tennis Recruiting Network later this week. Tracy Austin has already been to Bradenton to talk with Nick for the first installment of her show for the Tennis Channel called "Tennis Channel Academy 08." The premier was last night, but the Bollettieri segment will air again Tuesday night. The release on usta.com, which I thank a reader for bringing to my attention, mentions segments with the Everts, Pat Etcheberry, Robert Lansdorp, Carlos Rodriquez and Justine Henin. See the Tennis Channel schedule page for dates and times.

Bobby Reynolds won the Knoxville challenger Saturday, bringing his ATP ranking to a career best of 70, but this Knoxville News article doesn't just report on the match. There is also much on Reynolds' upcoming wedding with details of how he and his fiance met while student-athletes at Vanderbilt.

The San Diego Union-Tribune follows their area's high school tennis closely, and Gabrielle DeSimone's second straight CIF sectional win merits this article. DeSimone beat Lacey Smyth 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(7) in the final, so there was obviously plenty of drama to report.

Sixteen-year-old Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, retired from his Knoxville semifinal match against Reynolds with blisters, but this story, from the English language version of the Serbian tabloid Blic, says he hopes to compete in the Cancun Challenger this week, having received a wild card into the main draw. Krajinovic is still listed as an entrant in the Eddie Herr, but depending on his foot and how long he's in Cancun, I wouldn't say he's certain to play in Bradenton.

There are a lot of big names thrown around in the Krajinovic story--Agassi and Federer chief among them, and that's also true of this story about Sachia Vickery, who, like Krajinovic is now a Bollettieri student. From a Guyana publication called Kaieteur News, the story invokes the Williams sisters, and Serena in particular, who has long been a source of inspiration to Vickery.

On Tuesday, look for this month's Coaches Q & A, in which Harold Solomon discusses the issue of taking a break from tennis.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Parker Goyer Named Rhodes Scholar; Ahn and Brodsky Join Blake Brothers for Benefit Tuesday

(photo courtsey Reka Zsilinszka)

There has been more publicity than usual lately for the naming of this year's Rhodes scholars due to the candidacy of Florida State football player Myron Rolle. Rolle was one of the 32 college students chosen, but for me, his selection took a back seat to that of Parker Goyer, the former member of the Duke women's tennis team, who founded the Coach for College program that I have written about twice for The Tennis Recruiting Network.

Reka Zsilinszka wrote a diary on her summer's Coach for College experience in Vietnam for SMASH magazine (unfortunately, there is a no link available), but if you have received the winter issue with Nadal on the cover, it is in the "Game On" section in the front. When I spoke to her about the program, both before and after her trip, Zsilinszka was effusive in her praise of Goyer. The Duke website has an extensive writeup of Goyer's selection, and if you are a bit depressed about the state of the economy in particular and the world in general, read the biographies of all 32 winners at rhodesscholar.org. It will give you reason for optimism.

On Tuesday, James and Thomas Blake, along with Patrick McEnroe, will participate in the annual Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program fundraiser. National 18s champion Gail Brodsky of Brooklyn and Spring 18s National champion Kristie Ahn of Upper Saddle River, NJ will join them. Katrina Adams is the executive director of the program. For more details about the evening's activities, see this Tennis Week release.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Orange Bowl Wild Cards Announced; Rus, Vandeweghe Drop Out; Yucatan Cup Begins Monday

The USTA yesterday announced the wild card recipients for the Orange Bowl. The eight in the girls 18s went to Brooke Bolender, Julia Boserup, Alexandra Cercone, Nicole Gibbs, Christina McHale, Asia Muhammad, Alison Riske and Sloane Stephens. The boys 18s wild cards were given to Sekou Bangoura, Jr. Frank Carleton, Denis Lin, Kyle McMorrow, Ryan Noble, William Parker and JT Sundling. The eighth one is reserved for Matt Kandath, who is next in and probably won't need it.

The girls 16s wild cards went to Melissa Kopinski, Kelsey Laurente, Anna Mamalat, Stephanie Nauta, Denise Starr and Lynda Xepoleas. Skylar Kuykendall and Lauren Herring are second and third out, so may not need the two wild cards reserved for them.

In the boys 16s, two wild cards were reserved for Jeremy Efferding and Spencer Newman, but Efferding is already in, so Dante Terenzio is likely to receive his spot. The other six: Marcos Giron, Dan Kosakowski, Dennis Mkrtchian, Jack Sock and Evan Song.

CoCo Vandeweghe had said she was planning on playing the Orange Bowl and was in the initial acceptances posted at the end of last month, but she has withdrawn, as has ITF World No. 1 junior Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. Rus is currently in the final of a $25,000 Women's ITF circuit event in Poland. For the Nov. 21 update of the Orange Bowl acceptance lists, go to the wild card section of the Dunlop Orange Bowl page at usta.com.

The Yucatan Cup, a Grade 1 that has recently been scheduled after the Orange Bowl, complicating the race for year-end champion, is back to its previous spot before the Eddie Herr. The main draw begins on Monday and the U.S. is likely to have four of the top eight seeds in the boys tournament with Denis Kudla, Harry Fowler, Bob vanOverbeek and Bo Seal all making the trip. Mallory Burdette is the sole U.S. girl in line for a seed. See the tournament's website for more information.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review: Game. Set. Life. by Ed Tseng

Tennis coach and motivational speaker Ed Tseng sent me a copy of his book, entitled "Game.Set.Life, Peak Performance for Sports and Life" early last month, and I just finished reading it for a second time.

As you may gather from that statement, it isn't long, less than 120 pages, but it does take on some very important topics that are pertinent to succeeding in tennis and in daily living. Tseng's own life story is the basis for his philosophy, and he describes how he was transformed from an aimless, disinterested college student who failed out of college twice, to a motivated and energetic achiever when he discovered his passion for tennis. Tseng graduated from Ferris State's Tennis Management school and went on to become a teaching pro, and recently added motivational speaking (and writing) to his resume.

The book is broken down into 26 chapters, with a lesson summary at the end of each one. The emphasis is on positive thinking, and there are references to Anthony Robbins and other self-help experts, as well as Buddhist monks, psychologists, and other observers of human behavior. There are quotes, stories, anecdotes, parables, even poems interspersed, which make for an interesting potpourri.

Tseng touches on a few concepts that were unfamiliar to me, including mindfulness and growth vs. fixed mindsets. (It actually struck me that some of the ZooTennis commenters could benefit from this paragraph: BE OPEN-MINDED Remember that there are always different perspectives. If you are narrow-minded, you won't be open to opinions and suggestions from people who could potentially help you. Don't be so quick to judge whether something will work or not.)

Many of Tseng's lessons are common sense, goal-oriented reminders that emphasize not just achievement, but the benefits of enjoying the quest for success. I think Tseng's past gives him extra credibility on the subject of failure, and some of the best quotes, most from athletes, address this topic. My favorite is Wayne Gretzky's "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."

Tseng also has a blog, edtseng.com, where he posts a daily motivational item and provides his schedule of upcoming seminars and conferences.

Game. Set. Life. is available at Amazon, via the link below.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Krajinovic Reaches Knoxville Challenger Semis; Welcome to New ZooTennis Sponsor

The big junior news of the day comes from Knoxville, Tenn., where 16-year-old Filip Krajinovic of Serbia has reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Pro Circuit event. After winning three qualifying matches, the Bollettieri student took out No. 3 seed Robert Kendrick, who has an ATP ranking of 84, in the first round, then followed up that win with two more, yesterday beating unranked Brian Battistone and today taking out Alex Kuznetsov. With all three of his main draw matches going three sets, Krajinovic may be wearing down (he is by no means physically mature) but his next opponent, No. 2 seed Bobby Reynolds, has been around long enough to know that a confident young player with nothing to lose will always be dangerous. Not much detail, but Nick Bollettieri's blog is following Krajinovic's progress.

The Knoxville News focused their coverage this morning on today's match between longtime doubles partners and friends Rajeev Ram and Reynolds, which was won, of course, by Reynolds. Reporter Dave Link also talks with Michael Russell about his win over top seed Vince Spadea.

If you've checked out the sidebar in the past two days, you may have noticed a new ZooTennis advertiser, Own The Zone Vibration Dampeners. Clicking on the ad takes you to their products page, and there are testimonials, FAQs, scientific studies and other news available on the website as well.

Own The Zone Bank Vibration Dampeners

I appreciate their support of ZooTennis, and I hope you will take a moment to consider their product--a great stocking stuffer for the upcoming holidays!

And don't forget to use the Tennis Warehouse link above for other tennis related holiday purchases. The revenue generated from these sponsors helps offset the cost of traveling to tournaments and allows me to continue to provide this content free of charge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Riske Signs with Vanderbilt; Roddick & Doyle Interview; Frost's Champaign Illinois Report

Today is the last day of Signing Week for those making early decisions about their college choices, although the announcements will probably continue to trickle out of college sports information offices for the next week or two. Yesterday, Vanderbilt announced that blue chip Alison Riske will follow in her sister Sarah's footsteps and will play for the Commodores beginning next fall. I haven't seen Riske in many months, as she hasn't played junior events, instead concentrating on Pro Circuit competition, but there's no doubt she is, as coach Geoff Macdonald says, "a top-two or three player ever to sign with Vanderbilt."

There appears to be some confusion in the Vanderbilt athletic site story and this one in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about how she earned her way into the 2007 US Open women's qualifying. It wasn't for winning the Collegiate Clay Court, but rather for reaching the finals of the Girls USTA Nationals in Berkeley in 2007 that earned her a wild card, which she used to upset Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the first round.

Riske was also a recipient of the Bill Talbert Sportsmanship Award earlier this year.

Now that John Roddick is no longer coaching his younger brother Andy, he has more time to work with players in South Texas. In addition to his Academy, which is directed by Myron Grunberg, Roddick is involved in a new venture with Grant Doyle, the long-time coach of Sam Querrey. The Austin Tennis Blog published this interview with John and Grant yesterday.

Marcia Frost has recently moved to Champaign, Illinois and had a front row seat at the Challenger held there last week. She wrote an article about the 2003 Illinois team, catching up with many of them, whether they are still playing tennis or not, and it appears as the conclusion of today's Jon Wertheim Tennis Mailbag at SI.com. Marcia's longtime outlet, collegeandjuniortennis.com, is up for sale, and she will be posting there less regularly than previously.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Junior Tennis Conference this Weekend in Chicago; Junior Orange Bowl Acceptances; Mississippi St Player Arrested

CARE Academy Director Mark Bey is hosting his 12th annual National Junior Tennis Conference this weekend, and once again he has a great lineup of coaches and speakers for his three day event. Although I've only been able to attend once, in 2005, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I recommend it to players, juniors, coaches and anyone else interested in junior development. This year Bey welcomes USTA Manager of Sport Science, Dr. Marc Kovacs (for his book on tennis training, use this amazon.com link: Tennis Training: Enhancing On-court Performance), author and sports psychologist Jeff Greenwald (for his latest book, use this amazon.com link: The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance), coaches Steve Smith, Peter Cameron and Ken DeHart and several Division I college coaches, including Billy Pate of Alabama, Jay Louderback of Notre Dame and Bruce Berque of Michigan. And that's not even close to everyone. For more details on the junior training camp and seminar schedules, as well as a complete list of topics covered, visit the Libertyville Tennis Club website. If you are a development coach interested in attending a Friday evening session with presentations by Smith, Berque, Cameron and DeHart and a Round Table on various emerging issues in development, please contact Bey at (773) 505-0954.

The Junior Orange acceptance lists have been posted at the tournament's TennisLink site. It's good to see South Florida rivals Breaunna Addison, Victoria Duval, Madison Keys and Sachia Vickery all entered in the 14s. Along with Ohio's Kyle McPhillips, that's a very strong contingent for the U.S.

And finally, there's some bad news surfacing in college tennis. The Starkville, Miss. News is reporting that Mississippi State tennis player Christopher Doerr has been arrested and charged with rape.

Monday, November 17, 2008

ITA Indoor Wrap and Bids for 2009; First US Futures of 2009 on Clay, Knoxville Challenger News

With the flurry of activity over Early Signing Week (which ends Wednesday) at the Tennis Recruiting Network, I wasn't in my usual Thursday slot last week and won't be this week either. But you can find my wrap of the ITA National Indoor there today. Although I don't always have the luxury of thinking about a tournament for several days before writing about it, it does produce a slightly different perspective.

The ITA has announced on its website that bids are now being accepted for the 2009 Indoor, with a deadline of Dec. 15, which is the final day of the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Fla.

The 2009 Pro Circuit calendar for the men has undergone several changes in the past few months. Initially the first two Futures in 2009 were scheduled for Puerto Rico, on hard courts, but that was changed, first to TBA, and now to three $10,000 men's Futures in South Florida. Boca Raton will host the first, on Jan. 12, Hollywood follows on Jan. 19 and Plantation closes that stretch on Jan. 26. And, as was alluded to in the Doug Robson story on the changes in High Performance in USA Today, they will be on clay, not on hard courts as they traditionally have been.

McEnroe already has asked that more of the USTA-funded lower-tier Futures and Challenger events be put on clay, even if in the short term that makes it harder for upstart U.S. players to earn valuable ranking points.
The $50,000 Challenger scheduled for January 26 will be in Carson, Calif. on hard courts. The $15,000 Mobile Futures has been moved to March 30.

And if you are going into withdrawal, with no WTA, ATP or significant college or junior tournaments to follow, check out the Knoxville News, which is covering the Challenger there (this story touches on Serbia's Filip Krajinovic and former Illinois player GD (or Gd now I guess) Jones). For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit results page.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Anderson Wins Champaign Challenger; Cameron to Complete College Eligibility at FSU; Sundling on USC Choice

Former Illinois player Kevin Anderson won his first tournament of the year Sunday, defeating Kevin Kim 6-2, 6-4 in the final of the $50,000+H Challenger in Champaign, where he spent three years as a member of the Fighting Illini. Anderson had his most impressive results in the first half of this year, defeating Australian Open champion (and today's winner of the Year-End Masters Cup) Novak Djokovic at the Sony Ericsson and reaching the final in the ATP event in Las Vegas, but wins have been hard to come by in the past four or five months for the 6-foot-8! (two inches taller than when he competed in college according to his ATP profile) South African. For an account of the match and complete results, see the tournament's website.

A story on the last USTA Pro Circuit event of the year in the Knoxville, Tenn. News leads with the withdrawals of Donald Young, Jesse Levine, John Isner and Taylor Dent, mentions Rhyne Williams winning his main draw wild card, and ends with the news that former Tennessee Volunteer Robert Cameron will be suiting up for Florida State this spring, completing his collegiate eligibility as a Seminole.

Marc Lucero, my colleague at the Tennis Recruiting Network spoke with JT Sundling about his choice of Southern Cal, in the final installment of TRN's extensive Signing Week coverage.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2009 USTA Diversity Grant Applications Now Available; USTA Florida Junior Spotlight on Stiteler; WTA Backspin Notes Rising Young Players

It's been just over four years since the untimely death of junior standout Okechi Womeodu, but his memory is honored annually by the USTA with a grant given in his name. Entitled the Okechi Womeodu Scholar Athlete Grant, its purpose is to "honor the memory, life, and achievements of Okechi Womeodu, who otherwise would have had a very promising future, on and off the court." Academic achievement and national tournament success are two qualifications for the two $5,000 grants that are given to one boy and one girl. Applications are being accepted via USTA sections through the end of the year, with winners announced in February. For more details on this and other awards and grants available, see usta.com.

USTA Florida has posted an extensive interview with 12-year-old Alexandria Stiteler, her mother and coach Cary Cohenour of Celsius Tennis Academy, where she trains. Stiteler represented the U.S. at the recent Nike Junior Tour world championships and is expected to compete in the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl. For the complete interview, click here.

One of the very best tennis sites out there is Todd Spiker's WTA Backspin, and with the end of the WTA season, he has announced his annual Ms. Backspin award and published a wide-ranging statistical look at 2008. I go to the site weekly, because he never misses a promising result by a junior girl, and because his vast knowledge of the women's game always makes for interesting reading. In this week's Ms. Backspin post, Spiker lists the "NextGen Ranking of Note" (about half way down the page), and notes the biggest ranking jumps and falls. It's good to see that former Clemson star Julie Coin, who made such a splash with her win over Ana Ivanovic at the U.S. Open, has broken into the Top 100, at 96, after finishing 2007 at 200.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tomic Update; Weinhold Blog; Intermountain Great Pumpkin Report

Australia's Bernard Tomic had initially planned on playing the Florida Junior circuit this year in keeping with his goal, stated after he won the 16s Orange Bowl last year, to win all four divisions. But the wild card tournament for a main draw berth in the Australian Open, which he has been invited to play, conflicts with the long trip to South Florida, so he will stay in his home country. The Sydney Morning Herald has this story on Tomic's goals and plans, while the Melbourne Herald-Sun posted this story on the 16-year-old, who is quoted as saying: "Making the transition to the seniors is what I've prepared for over the next few months. I can always come back to juniors if I'm not doing so well."

2007 USTA Girls 18 winner Ashley Weinhold is in Spain for several tournaments, and her blog, which can be found on the Austin Tennis Academy website, describes the unpleasant weather she's encountered this week in Mallorca, and provides analysis of her tennis matches. She and her partner won the doubles titles today.

I receive monthly email newsletters from most of the USTA sections, and often it is difficult to distinguish one from another. But this month's newsletter from Intermountain contains a very detailed account with pictures of one of their major sectional tournaments, the Great Pumpkin, which serves as the endorsement selection for the upcoming USTA Winter Nationals in Arizona. It would be terrific if more sections could supply similar roundups of their significant tournaments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Paz Signs with Renaissance; Cako Update; Simidian Wins New Jersey High School Title

U.S. Open Junior Championship finalist Gabriela Paz of Venezuela has signed with Renaissance Tennis, the South Florida sports management firm. This isn't breaking news--the RTM website's announcement is dated September 26--but often there isn't any way to know if a young player has signed with an agency unless you ask them, so a formal release is helpful. Renaissance is one of the newer agencies, with Norman Canter, Richard DeVries and Tarik Benhabiles as Managing Director, Chairman of the Board and Director of Tennis respectively. Clients include Flavia Pennetta, Peng Shuai, Alisa Kleybanova, Benjamin Becker and Benedikt Dorsch. Valeria Solovieva of Russia is the only junior listed. I believe her father is the Director of Physical Fitness. Another new agency that's been formed recently is Mamba International, which represents Somdev Devvarman, Treat Huey and Takanyi Garanganga. Not surprisingly, it's based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jacqueline Cako continues to receive extensive coverage on her tennis career, and this story, from the Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., has comments from her mother and her coach, Russ Bucklin. Bucklin is quoted as saying:

"Predicting potential is difficult," Bucklin acknowledged. "So with that disclaimer, I'd say that every three months I have to up my guess. In the beginning I would have said, 'If she can make the top 125 (in the world) and play for five years on the pro tour and break even (financially), that's really good.' But then she starting blowing up the junior (international) rankings and we thought, 'Well, maybe she can make it inside the top 100." But right now she's already playing pretty close to even with the top 100 players.

"So what I think now is that she's going to make the top 50," he said. "And I think she's going to hang there for a while."

And finally, a New Jersey weekly, The Leader, recognized Amy Simidian, who will be playing tennis at Penn State next fall, for winning the NJSIAA singles tennis championship as a student at Becton High School.

Chow to Princeton, Powers to Yale plus Other Signings

I plan on posting again this evening, but with the wave of college commitment announcements beginning to crest, I wanted to mention a few this morning.

McCarton Ackerman, whom I met at the US Open this year, has written several articles for The Tennis Recruiting Network in the past month and he wrote two of the announcements appearing today. Marc Powers discusses his choice of Yale and Monica Chow talks about her decision to attend Princeton.

Kyle McMorrow's choice of Washington has been known for many, many months, but this release on CSTV.com is the first opportunity that coach Matt Anger has to talk about his signee. Santa Clara's head coach Derek Mills discusses his two recruits, Thomas Pham and Eugene Muchynski, in this release on CSTV.com.

And locally, Western Michigan University head coach Betsy Kuhle has announced the signing of Battle Creek's Maggie Remynse, a two-time state champion (and sister of UCLA's Andrea). The official release is at wmubroncos.com and the Battle Creek Enquirer has some comments from Remynse in this article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Buchanan Commits to Ohio State; Turvy Chooses Northwestern

©Colette Lewis 2008--

Chase Buchanan is currently playing the Pro Circuit Futures event in Honolulu and enjoying his first visit to the 50th state, but when he starts college next fall, it will be in a state he knows well—-Ohio.

I spoke to Chase last night after I learned that he would be signing a National Letter of Intent with the Ohio State Buckeyes and he was excited about the opportunity to continue to develop his game in Columbus.

"Pretty much the main reason I'm going there is the coach, Ty Tucker," he said. "I've watched their practices, been around him and I've known him for a while. He's extremely knowledgeable about tennis, he's a good guy, he wants to help, and he's done a lot with the program in a short amount of time. It's not that easy to recruit to Ohio."

Buchanan, 17, grew up in New Albany, a suburb of Columbus, so he is pleased to be able to continue working with his longtime coach Al Matthews of the Scarborough East Tennis and Fitness Club.

"It's my hometown and my personal coach is there, so just a lot of stuff fell into place," said Buchanan, who had been courted by several of the professional sports management agencies. "One of the reasons I chose Ohio State was that I could improve a lot. I didn't want to go out onto the pro tour worried about conditioning and practicing during tournaments. If I go to college for a year or two years, or however long it takes, I can come out being the best player I can be. I thought the best way to do it was to practice and get better and come out playing at a level that is comparable to the top players in the world."

Despite being in Hawaii, Buchanan, who is at the top of the Tennis Recruiting Network's class of 2009 rankings, was aware that Buckeyes Bryan Koniecko and Justin Kronauge faced off in the ITA Indoor final Sunday in Charlottesville, and is looking forward to becoming a part of the team.

"I really enjoy the guys on the team. They're a fun group and they get along well. It should be a good group of guys to practice with. I hope to help do something good at the NCAAs."

When he returns from Hawaii, Buchanan will join fellow juniors Ryan Lipman and Gail Brodsky at Pam Shriver's annual charity event in Baltimore, the PNC Tennis Classic. Billed as a Futures/Legends challenge match, the juniors will face retired pros prior to the main event on Friday, Nov. 21, which stars Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva.

For more details on Shriver's event, visit the PNC Tennis Classic website.

For more on Chase Buchanan, see this story from New York magazine's September issue about his experience at the new Boca Raton High Performance training center.

One blue chip is staying in Columbus, but another is not. Kate Turvy has decided to attend Northwestern in the fall. I spoke to Kate late last month about her choice and the announcement appears today on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ITA National Indoor Slideshow

The challenges of shooting indoor tennis make for less dramatic action shots, but I hope you enjoy this slideshow of the singles quarterfinalists and doubles finalists at the ITA Indoor.

And the shorter, musical Animoto version:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Signing Week Has Begun; King and Keys Win in Boca; Robson Takes First Pro Title; Forood Questions ITA Indoor

Signing Day is Wednesday, and The Tennis Recruiting Network is keeping track of the blizzard of announcements and decisions as seniors make formal commitments to join a school. Three of the most recent choices have Bo Seal to Georgia, Danielle Lao to USC and Rachael White to Illinois. Check out their coverage all week, and I'll be linking to my story on Kate Turvy's decision on Wednesday.

Top seed Evan King, who announced his commitment to Michigan on Thursday, won his first ITF singles title yesterday, defeating No. 2 seed Frank Carleton in the final of the ITF Grade 4 in Boca Raton. King and Raymond Sarmiento also won the doubles championship. Madison Keys, who at 13 is three years younger than King, collected her second ITF singles title in Boca Raton, where she trains at the Evert Tennis Academy. Keys, the No. 6 seed, beat unseeded Grace Min in the singles final and captured the doubles title as well, with Hana Tomljanovic. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Fourteen-year-old Laura Robson, who like Madison Keys, is an Eddie Herr 12s champion, won her first ITF Women's Circuit event in Great Britain. It was a $10,000 tournament with a great many British juniors in the field, so it isn't a remarkable win, but it will boost her WTA ranking regardless. Mark Mark Hodgkinson of the Daily Telegraph has this report.

I'm not done with National Indoor--there will be a slideshow Tuesday and a wrap for the Tennis Recruiting Network next week--but for those of you who missed this link posted in a comment, Stanford Women's head coach Lele Forood is. Calling it a "boycott," the Stanford Daily explains the academic and economic reasons that Hilary Barte and Jessica Nguyen declined to participate in this year's event.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Miseviciute and Koniecko Earn ITA Indoor Titles with Three-Set Wins

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Charlottesville, VA--

Top seed Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas earned her second straight ITA Indoor Championship again over Clemson's Ani Mijacika, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 coming from 4-1 down in the third set, while No. 8 seed Bryan Koniecko won the battle of the Buckeyes, defeating Justin Kronauge 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to claim the men's title Sunday at the Boar's Head Sports Club.

Miseviciute credited a point penalty she received in the the fifth game of the final set with helping reverse her fortunes.

"At 1-3, I missed an easy shot and didn't say a good word in my language," admitted Miseviciute, a senior from Lithuania. "But the ref, she knew it and asked me if I said that word and I said well, yes I did, and she said well then it's a code violation. But maybe that helped me. I was mad about it, so I forgot about all the other stuff, the score and everything and said I'm just going to play now."

Mijacika, who had lost to Miseviciute in the 2007 final in a third set tiebreaker, could not keep her own mind from wandering during the match's final stages.

"At 4-1 I was thinking what would happen if I won the National championship and I got nervous," said Mijacika, a junior from Croatia. "I started thinking too much, how big is this and I became nervous and couldn't play like I did in the beginning."

Mijacika came out with her forehand blazing in the first set, finishing any short ball at the net and hitting winner after winner. Miseviciute made a few more errors than customary at the start, but she admitted that she was powerless against that level of play.

"I was a little nervous, wasn't playing my best tennis, but she was playing great," said Miseviciute. "She was playing the best I've ever seen her play and I really couldn't do anything about it. My coach said hang in there, see what happens and maybe you can get back in the match. Last year I think we were both very, very nervous and the quality of the tennis wasn't really good, so this year I was trying to make it a better match, playing better tennis."

After failing to hold serve even once in the first set, Miseviciute regrouped in the second, and broke Mijacika to take a 4-3 lead. She failed in her first attempt to serve out the second set at 5-4, and it looked like should would again when serving at 6-5 0-40, but she won the next five points to take the second set. At 4-4 in the third, another third set tiebreaker loomed, but Mijacika's backhand began to break down and a series of errors led to a 5-4 lead for Miseviciute. Mijacika had one opportunity to get back on serve at 5-4 30-40, but two more errors, this time off the forehand side, gave Miseviciute her first match point. After a short rally, Mijacika's slice caught the tape, giving Miseviciute her second National title.

"It's a pretty good feeling, it's really rewarding," said Miseviciute. "When I was leaving for this tournament a lot of my friends, my assistant coach, my teachers, were saying go get 'em, go defend your title. I was like yeah, I'll try, but in my mind I thought it's kind of tough to do, to win a second time in a row. But it's a good feeling, I'm happy."

In the men's final, Koniecko started quickly, but unlike Mijacika, he was able to recover from the loss of the second set and earn his first National title and the first singles championship for Ohio State since assistant coach Jeremy Wurtzman's Indoor title in 2003.

"I started out serving very well," said Koniecko, a senior from New York. "I didn't give him many opportunities on my serve, which made it a little bit easier to break. I think Justin started out slow, but he definitely picked it up in the second set and made it a great match."

There is always an uneasiness to a teammate vs. teammate final, with the competitive edge that drives college tennis competition notable in its absence.

"It's tough," agreed Koniecko. "We practice with each other every day. He's a great competitor, he fights for every point. I'm just happy we had a great match and it's nice to win."

Koniecko was broken only once in the match, when he was serving down 5-6. He held a game point at 40-30, but lost the next two points, the last on a forehand error, and suddenly, the match was even.

"I didn't make any mistakes," said Kronauge of those crucial few points at the end of the second set. "I tried to get to the balls as fast as I could, as well as I could. He might have gotten a little tight, trying to close it out."

Koniecko got the only break he needed in the fifth game of the final set, and continued to protect his own serve. Serving at 3-5, Kronauge dug out of a 0-30 hole, but Koniecko kept the pressure on and two points later, when Kronauge's half-volley caught the tape, Koniecko had his title.

"It's a relief," said Koniecko. "It was a goal from when I came into school. It's nice."

For assistant coach Wurtzman, who spent the first part of the match practicing with Ohio State's other quarterfinalist, Steven Moneke, and the second part watching neutrally from the stands, it was a satisfying tournament.

"It's quite an accomplishment to have two guys in the final. It was good to see and it's great to be a part of another championship for Ohio State," Wurtzman said. "Coach Tucker has done an incredible job since he came in and it's nice to add more to the program."

Wake Forest's Steve Forman and Cory Parr wrote a new chapter in Wake Forest tennis history, claiming the school's first Indoor title with a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) win over USC's Robert Farah and Steve Johnson.

"It's great for us and for the other guys on the team, because our main goal is to do well as a team," said Parr, a senior from New York. "To see that we can play with the better players and better teams in the country, and know that our team is just as good."

There were no service breaks in the first set, but the No. 1 seeds from Wake Forest, who were the only at-large team to be selected for the draw, were able to stake out a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker and hold on from there.

In the second set, Forman and Parr got the match's first break against Johnson, and with Forman, who had dominated on his serve throughout the match, preparing to serve it out, it seemed as if USC had little chance to extend the match. Forman and Parr held a match point at 40-30, but Forman's first serve suddenly deserted him, and four points and four second serves later, the unseeded Farah and Johnson pulled even. Two love holds later it was another tiebreaker, and eventually for Wake Forest, two additional match points at 6-4. Johnson saved one, with a whistling forehand winner in the corner, but Forman put away a volley on the next point to start the celebration.

"It happened last year at NCAAs that we had match points and messed up, so it was really in our minds that we're taking it in our own hands," said Forman, a junior from San Diego. "We've been in the spotlight before in the juniors, but never in college, playing for a national title--it's totally different. I feel now we've experienced it and will be better at it from now on."

The women's doubles final was even closer and more crowd-pleasing than the men's with Fresno State's Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova outlasting Notre Dame's Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5). The unseeded Frilling and Tefft were twice up a break on the No. 3 seeds in the third set, but couldn't hold on, with Frilling broken serving for the match at 5-4. In the tiebreaker, the Fresno State 4-1 advantage evaporated, and then, at 5-5, the two volleys that would decide the match were struck. Tefft, who won the 2007 Indoor title with Brook Buck, missed a routine volley several feet long, to give Fresno State its first match point and Kucerkova made no mistake on her putaway volley to secure the Bulldogs first National Indoor title.

"We were in the semifinals of the NCAAs in May and then made the finals of the All-American," said Petukhova a junior from Russia. "So we thought maybe the third time was the charm."

"It was super intense," said Kucerkova, a junior from the Czech Republic, "but after all the amazing results we had we thought we deserved it."

The consolation finals were completed Sunday morning. In the men's singles, Georgia's Nate Schnugg defeated Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky in a rematch of the regional final 7-6(4), 7-5. Megan Falcon of LSU took the women's consolation title with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Georgia Tech's Amanda McDowell. The host team Virginia Cavaliers took the men's doubles consolation tournament, with Dom Inglot and Michael Shabaz defeating small college champions Michael Johnson and Monte Tucker of Auburn-Montgomery 6-2, 6-2. The women's consolation doubles went to Auburn-Montgomery's Delia Sescioreanu and Tereza Ververkova, 6-3, 6-2 winners over USC's Gabriela Niculescu and Maria Sanchez.

For complete results, see the ITA tournament page.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Miseviciute Goes For Second Straight Women's Indoor Title; Buckeyes To Decide Men's Crown

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Charlottesville, VA--

It's rare that teammates play each other for the National Indoor title and rarer still to have a repeat of a previous year's final, but both will occur Sunday at the Boar's Head Sports Club.

Seventh seed Justin Kronauge and eighth seed Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State will contest the first teammate vs. teammate final since 1989, when Michigan's Malivai Washington downed Dan Goldberg for the title. Kronauge had the bigger challenge in Saturday's semifinals, defeating No. 6 seed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa 6-4, 6-2, while Koniecko received a walkover when No. 3 seed Daniel Vallverdu was unable to take the court due to a shoulder injury.

Kronauge, a junior and Brugues, a senior, each held to 4-4 in the first set. Brugues was having more difficulty holding, but was able to serve his way out of several tough spots until the ninth game, when Kronauge broke on his third chance with a forehand winner. Brugues slammed his racquet and was given a point penalty, and after Kronauge won the second point serving at 5-4, Brugues smacked a ball into the back curtain with such force that the sound reverberated throughout the building. The chair umpire gave him a game penalty for ball abuse, and Kronauge didn't need to win those final two points to secure the first set.

"I don't know what to say about that," Kronauge said of the incident. "But I came out and hit the ball, didn't start off slow like I do sometimes. I played well the entire match and I was proud of the way I played."

Brugues won the first game of the second set, but Kronauge broke him in the third game and again in the seventh game to earn his spot in the final.

2003 Indoor Champion Jeremy Wurtzman, now an assistant at his alma mater, was seated on court in Kronauge's match, but he'll have no role in Sunday's final, when Koniecko and Kronauge will reprise the regional final, won by Koniecko 7-6, 2-6, 6-3.

"We play together everyday, and it's always tough to play a teammate," said Koniecko. "But it's great for Ohio State, we've got two guys in the final, and I don't know how often that happens."

Asked what he needed to do to beat Koniecko this time, Kronauge joked, "I know what room he's in so I give him a couple of calls tonight. But Bryan's a great player, hits that flat ball, and we had a great match last time we played, so hopefully we can both play well again."

The women's final Sunday is deja vu all over again, with 2007 Indoor champion Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas facing 2007 finalist Ani Mijacika of Clemson, the first time that the same women have played back-to-back finals in the tournament's history, which dates back to 1984.

Miseviciute, the No. 1 seed, downed unseeded Nina Munch-Soegaard of TCU 6-4, 6-1, using her depth and consistency to wear down the junior from Amarillo, Texas.

"She was like a surprise player--I'd never seen her before, so I didn't know anything about her," said Miseviciute, a senior. "She had good matches in the beginning, beat McDowell in the first round, so I was really curious to see. It was a really good match, she has a really good game, so I was happy with the way I played."

Miseviciute acknowledged that she was facing additional pressure as the defending champion.

"Obviously before the tournament you always have high expectations, especially since last year I was the winner," she said. "Everybody saying, you're defending your title and all that. But we decided before the tournament to concentrate on your tennis, concentrate on your game, take one match at a time and see what happens, and that's what I was trying to do. Every match, from the first one until today, I thought I was playing a little bit better, so that worked out well. It's exciting."

Last year's final went to Miseviciute in a third set tiebreaker, so there is no clear advantage for the champion.

"I hope it will go my way this time," said the second seeded Mijacika, after subduing No. 4 seed Maria Mosolova of Northwestern 7-6(7), 6-4. "She's a great player and it will be a fun match to play. I know her now, we know each other's game styles, and serving will be really important."

Mijacika may have gained confidence with her performance against Mosolova, as she was able to elevate her level of play at the most important times. She saved two set points in the first set tiebreaker and pegged a forehand winner to convert on her first opportunity. The second set appeared to be heading for another tiebreaker, when at 4-4, Mijacika took a 0-40 lead on Mosolova's serve and ended up with the critical break two points later.

"I was really aggressive in that game," said Mijacika, "and that paid off. I was trying to stay calm in the next game and finish well."

After a shaky first-point error, Mijacika got it to 40-15, but Mosolova cracked a return winner.

"On the first match point she returned awesome," said Mijacika. "I was like, okay, I need to put a first serve in again, and it was an ace."

Miseviciute is not the only woman in Charlottesville seeking her second National Indoor title Sunday. Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame, who, along with partner Brook Buck took the doubles title last year, will try for another, this time with freshman Kristy Frilling. The unseeded pair reached the final with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seeds Macall Harkins and Anna Sydorska of TCU, and will attempt to take out their third seeded team on Sunday in No. 3 Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State. Kucerkova and Petukhova downed unseeded Nanar Airapetian and Anouk Tigu of Arkansas 7-5, 6-3.

The men's doubles championship features No. 1 seeds Steve Forman and Cory Parr of Wake Forest against unseeded Robert Farah and Steve Johnson of USC. Forman and Parr defeated the unseeded Tulsa pair of Brugues and Phil Stevens 7-6(3), 6-2, while Farah and Johnson took down All-American champions Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge of Ole Miss in similar fashion, 7-6(2), 6-2.

The consolation finals for those losing in the first round will begin the day on Sunday. No. 3 seed Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech will play unseeded Megan Falcon of LSU and No. 3 seed Nate Schnugg of Georgia takes on unseeded Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky. In men's doubles, host school Virginia's Dominic Inglot and Michael Shabaz will face small college champions Michael Johnson and Monte Tucker of Auburn-Montgomery in a battle of unseeded teams. In women's doubles, Auburn-Montgomery's Delia Sescioreanu and Tereza Ververkova will play USC's Gabriela Niculescu and Maria Sanchez.

For complete draws, visit the ITA tournament site.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ohio State Places Two in Indoor Semis; 2007 Women Finalists Can Still Repeat

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Charlottesville, VA--

When yet another gorgeous day began Friday morning, there were still 16 men and 16 women with hopes of winning a National Championship at the ITA Indoor. When the competition ended this evening at 9:30 p.m., there were only four men and four women with a chance to hold the winners trophy on Sunday.

Ironically, after three years in Columbus, the Indoor tournament moved to Virginia only to place two Buckeyes in the semifinals. Bryan Koniecko, the No. 8 seed was down a set and a break to Sanam Singh of Virginia, the last Cavalier remaining in the main draw, before taking the round of 16 match 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 then breezed past No. 1 seed Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Koniecko's teammate, No. 7 seed Justin Kronauge, whom he had beaten in the regional final, also reached his first National semifinal with wins over Bruno Rosa of Rice and Enrique Olivares of East Tennessee State. There was a chance Kronauge would face teammate Steven Moneke in the semifinals when Moneke advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Denes Lukacs of Baylor.

But that match, which started around 4:30 p.m. and lasted nearly two and a half hours, was a physically demanding one, and when Moneke took the court at 8 p.m. against No. 6 seed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa, the legs just weren't there. Brugues, who had rolled over All-American champion Michael Venus of LSU 6-1, 6-2 in 52 minutes earlier in the afternoon, avenged his loss to Moneke in the 2008 NCAA round of 16 in convincing fashion, 6-3, 6-1.

Koniecko's opponent in Saturday's semifinal will be No. 3 seed Daniel Vallverdu of Miami, who stopped No. 5 seed Robert Farah of USC 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-1.

Three of the women's semifinalists have impressive Indoor resumes. No. 1 seed Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas, last year's champion, kept her chance for a repeat alive with two straight-set wins. No. 2 seed Ani Mijacika of Clemson, a finalist in 2007, also encountered no difficulty in her two victories, and will take on No. 4 seed and 2007 Indoor consolation winner Maria Mosolova of Northwestern in Saturday's semifinals. Mosolova struggled mightily with Marrit Boonstra of Florida in the round of 16, trailing 5-2 in the final set before reeling off five straight games to post a 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 win. In the quarterfinals against No. 6 seed Fani Chifchieva of Auburn, Mosolova showed no sign of fatigue, cruising to a 6-3, 6-3 win.

The less well-known semifinalist is Nina Munch-Soegaard of TCU, who had upset No. 3 seed Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech in Thursday's first round and kept her streak going with two more wins on Friday. The junior, a left-hander from Amarillo Texas, defeated Northwestern's Samantha Murry in the round of 16 and USC's Maria Sanchez in the quarterfinals 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

The doubles semifinalists were decided on Friday morning. Wake Forest's Steve Forman and Cory Parr, the No. 1 seeds, defeated Cal's Geoff Chizever and Pedro Zerbini 8-6 to advance against unseeded All-American finalists Brugues and Phil Stevens of Tulsa. All-American champions Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge of Ole Miss downed Alexei Chijoff-Evans and Chris Clayton of Harvard 8-2 and will take on unseeded Farah and Steve Johnson of USC. Farah and Johnson eliminated the home team of Houston Barrick and Singh 8-5.

Notre Dame's unseeded pairing of Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft advanced to the semifinals with a shutout of Laila and Nadia Abdala of Arizona State, and will meet TCU's Macall Harkins and Anna Sydorska, the No. 4 seeds, who beat Vanja Corovic and Marija Milic of Texas 8-3. Another shutout was pitched by No. 3 seeds Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State who beat North Carolina's Sophie Grabinski and Sanaz Marand. Arkansas's unseeded pairing of Nanar Airapetian and Anouk
Tigu earned the last semifinal spot with an 8-4 win over LSU's Megan Falcon and Mykala Hedberg.

For complete draws, including consolation results, see the ITA tournament website.

USA Today on USTA High Performance Changes

There are two rounds of singles to play yet today and lots of consolation matches here at the ITA Indoor Championships, so it will be a late wrap up, but I wanted to post this link to USA Today's look at the changing of the guard at USTA Player Development by tennis reporter Doug Robson. McEnroe once again states his commitment to college tennis as a development path and to working with all the academies and private coaches who are interested. The story also contains the first public reference to the hiring of Martin Blackman for talent identification.

The USTA sent out its official press release yesterday, which makes clear that Jose Higueras will be setting the agenda for coaching and training at the USTA.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First Day at National Indoor Provides Several Upsets and Dramatic Finishes

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Charlottesville, VA--

The weather was so beautiful, with the autumn colors at their peak in the surrounding hillsides, it seemed almost perverse to be playing tennis indoors Thursday. But inside the Boars Head Sports Club, where the University of Virginia men and women play home matches, the competitors were oblivious to the stunning scenery and were instead focused on getting through the first round at the ITA Indoor.

When we arrived mid-afternoon, the first round of doubles had been completed, and all nine courts (three are reserved for practice) had singles action going. I caught the third set of seventh-seeded Justin Kronauge's 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine. Momentum went the Ohio State junior's way at the beginning of the final set, but Beidas won three straight games to go up a break at 4-3, and seemed to be in control, only to see Kronauge reel off the next three games.

On the adjacent court, No. 4 seed Alex Clayton also appeared to have the match in hand, leading Brett Helgeson of Notre Dame 5-2 in the third set. But Helgeson pulled off one of his patented comebacks (click here for the account of his heroics in the All-American last month), winning the final five games to take a 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 win. Clayton was the only seeded player on the men's side to fall, but there were six three-setters and two matches that were decided in a third set tiebreaker.

All-American winner Michael Venus of LSU won one of them, taking out Clancy Shields of Boise State 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(6) in a match that lasted nearly three hours and thirty minutes, which must be some kind of a record for an indoor match. Venus led 5-2 in the third set but hung on after Shields mounted a spirited comeback. Nate Schnugg of Georgia and Enrique Olivares of East Tennessee State also went the distance, with Olivares taking a 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) decision.

On the women's side there were fewer three-setters, but more upsets, with Georgia Tech's NCAA champion Amanda McDowell, the No. 3 seed, losing to TCU's Nina Munch-Soegaard 6-3, 6-4. Northwestern's Georgia Rose, the No. 7 seed, lost to Cal's Claire Ilcinkas by the same score. The last match of the day, or rather night, as it ended at 8:30 p.m., saw Clemson freshman Josipa Bek outlast No. 8 seed Melanie Gloria of Fresno State 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Bek impressed me, not just with her game, which features pace and the ability to finish at the net, but with her attitude. Even when she failed to serve out the match at 5-3, hindered by an unfortunate overrule by the chair umpire that put the score at 15-30 instead of 30-15, her body language continued to be positive and aggressive. She broke Gloria in the next game with confident shotmaking, and will certainly be more widely known by May's NCAAs.

Although the match finished before I arrived, All-American champion Kelcy McKenna of Arizona State dropped a 6-2 7-6(5) decision to No. 2 seed and 2007 Indoor finalist Ani Mijacika of Clemson.

With draws of only 32, it's hard to view any result as too much of an upset, and that was also true in doubles, where the top two women's seeds lost. Fresno State's Gloria and Tinesta Rowe, seeded No. 1, lost to Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame 8-3. No. 2 seeds Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang of Duke were beaten by Nanar Airapetian and Anouk Tigu of Arkansas 8-3.

Texas A & M's Austin Krajicek and Conor Pollock, the No. 2 seeds, lost to Virginia's Houston Barrick and Sanam Singh 9-7, and No. 3 seeds Jamie Hunt and Schnugg of Georgia lost to Arnau Brugues and Phil Stevens of Tulsa 8-5.

For complete results, see the ITA tournament site.