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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bhambri, Pervak Take Australian Junior Titles; McHale Wins Girls Doubles Championship; All U.S. Players Out at Tarbes

Congratulations to Yuki Bhambri and Ksenia Pervak for their convincing wins in the finals of the Australian Open junior championships on Saturday. The top-seeded Bhambri cruised past unseeded Alexandros-Ferdinandos Georgoudas of Germany, who was contesting his first junior Grand Slam at the age of 17, 6-3, 6-1, the same score as the Russian 17-year-old's victory over fellow left-hander Laura Robson of Great Britain. Reuters posted this article about Pervak's victory. The New Delhi News got the reaction from Bhambri's family in this story.

Given Robson's status in Great Britain (the match was broadcast live on BBC radio at 2 a.m.), there were several British newspapers weighing in on her defeat, including this article from The Telegraph. Much is made of Pervak's decided advantage in age and professional experience, and rightly so, but I saw no mention of the fact that it was Pervak's first Grand Slam final, an area where Robson had the edge with her win at Wimbledon last year. This story from The Guardian, written prior to the final, gives a chronology of Robson's development and also compares her to the most accomplished current women players at the age of 15.

In the girls doubles, Christina McHale and Ajla Tomljanovic won the title in the day's most exciting match, with the No. 6 seeds defeating unseeded Alexandra Krunic of Serbia and Sandra Zaniewska of Poland 6-1, 2-6, 10-4. The boys title went to the Phillippines' Francis Casey Alcantara and Chinese Taipei's Cheng-Peng Hsieh, the No. 7 seeds, who defeated unseeded Mikhal Biryukov of Russia and Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-4, 6-2. This is Hsieh's third Grand Slam doubles title (Australia and Wimbledon 2008), although the first without 2008 World Junior Champion Tsung-Hua Yang. (And thanks to our resident Australian, Andrew D, I've found out that's a stuffed wombat they are all holding.)

And as we close the book on the 2009 Australian Open Junior Championships, I'd like to commend the organizers for:

  • Improving their website coverage of the juniors, with stories on all four of the finals: boys singles, boys doubles, girls singles, girls doubles.

  • Providing live radio coverage of the junior finals via Australian Open radio.

  • Playing the junior singles finals in Rod Laver Arena, which includes use of Hawkeye.

  • NOT PLAYING THE JUNIOR SINGLES FINALS AT THE SAME TIME. Sorry for the caps, but this is a format every Grand Slam should follow. The US Open should play the boys and girls junior finals beginning at noon on Sunday with the boys, followed by the girls, and put the matches on the Grandstand. There is no good reason that spectators should have to choose between the two finals.

    At Les Petits As, the finals are set with 13-year-old top seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia facing 12-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia, seeded 10, for the boys title and two Russian girls, No. 3 seed Yulia Putintseva, 14, and No. 4 seed Irina Khromacheva, 13, deciding the girls champion. Sachia Vickery, Vicky Duval and Joe DiGiulio all lost their quarterfinal matches. Duval and Vickery, the top seeds in doubles, lost in the final to the second seeded Czech Republic team of Sonja Liaskoska and Petra Rohanova 3-6, 6-4, 10-8.

    For complete results, visit the tournament website.

  • Friday, January 30, 2009

    ITA Indoor Kick-off Weekend Underway; Men's Recruiting Class Rankings

    In previous years, the fields for the ITA Team Indoor have always been suspect, as the bids were largely based on teams' results from the previous year, and anyone familiar with the impact one or two players can have, whether going out or coming in, knows that didn't always result in the best 16 teams competing for the title. This year the ITA has implemented a qualifying tournament, with 15 teams earning their berths (the host schools--Illinois for the men and Wisconsin for the women--are automatically chosen) in what is being called the ITA Kick-off Weekend. At 30 sites around the country (15 for men, 15 for women), four teams will gather, with the team going 2-0 earning a berth in the mid-February ITA Indoor tournaments.

    While the majority of these mini-tournaments, which are very similar to the first two rounds of the NCAAs, are Saturday-Sunday, some begin today and end on Saturday. For details on each, see the ITA's kick-off weekend home page. Also available on that page are the line-ups for all sixty teams, which is a very handy to have, as it saves going to each team's website for their roster, which doesn't usually give any clue as to the position a player is competing at. (These line-ups are not, of course, guaranteed; any illness or injury could result in changes.)

    There were a few interesting items I noted: Freshman Alexandria Walters, who had been announced as a recruit at UCLA, is listed as playing No. 2 for Pepperdine. Ole Miss freshman Devin Britton, who reached the semifinals of the SEC Coaches Indoor, is playing No. 1 for the Rebels. Texas A & M has won the recruiting battle for Russian Alexei Grigorov, who is listed at No. 4 in their line-up. Duke freshman Mallory Cecil is occupying the No. 2 spot on a very deep Blue Devil team, while freshman Chelsey Gullickson, who had an outstanding fall at Georgia, will play No. 1 for the Bulldogs. With the return of Haythem Abid to the UCLA men's lineup after an injury kept him out last season, and the addition of Arizona State's Matt Brooklyn, Harel Srugo has dropped from his No. 1 position to No. 3 for the Bruins.

    The Stanford men have a young top half of the lineup with sophomore Alex Clayton and freshmen Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher at the 1, 2, and 3 positions, and the Cardinal have more blue chips arriving in the fall. For the second straight year, Stanford has earned the top recruiting class ranking by the Tennis Recruiting Network, and this time it was unanimous. Click here for ranking order of the top 25 schools.

    If you live anywhere near any of these 30 sites, please consider attending a match. It's great fun, and any comments you have are welcome on ZooTennis!

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Rhyne Williams Profile; Vickery, Duval and DiGiulio Into Quarterfinals at Les Petits As

    When we were at the Boca Raton Futures earlier this month, I had an opportunity to sit down with Rhyne Williams to discuss his plans for college, and I've written about the conversation in today's article on The Tennis Recruiting Network. Today in Plantation, Williams and partner Ryan Lipman advanced to the doubles semifinals of the Pro Circuit Futures there. For complete results, visit usta.com.

    In Tarbes, France, No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery and No. 5 seed Vicky Duval, finalists at last week's Teen Tennis tournament in England, have reached the quarterfinals at Les Petits As, as has No. 5 seed Joe DiGiulio. Vickery and Duval are also still in the doubles; with a tense 11-9 match tiebreaker win today, the No. 1 seeds have reached the semifinals. See the tournament website for complete results.

    In Melbourne, the semifinals of the junior singles and doubles are not scheduled to begin until five hours later than they have been, and the indoor Hisense arena is not being used, so I don't know if that means the heat wave is over, or that there will be changes. There was a BBC story that Heather Watson's father was not happy that she was playing in that heat. It does bother me that juniors are expected to play sometimes five sets of tennis in those conditions day after day, when the much more physically mature players get a day of rest between matches, and most don't play singles and doubles.

    You may notice some changes in format and advertising on the site in the near future. I hope it's not too disruptive, but I have signed up with a company that targets advertising to sports blogs, and I'm working out some of the kinks in formatting and placement of the advertisements.

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Oudin Named to Fed Cup Team; Christian Wins Wild Card Tournament for Rancho Mirage Challenger

    Melanie Oudin is one of four players named to the U.S. Fed Cup team that plays Argentina in Surprize, Arizona on February 7th and 8th. This is Oudin's Fed Cup debut, although she did serve as a practice partner as a 15-year-old back in July of 2007 when the U.S. took on Russia in Vermont. Bethanie Mattek, Jill Craybas and Liezel Huber are the other four members of the team, with the Williams sisters declining to participate according to this Associated Press story.

    Steve Pratt, whom I've worked with at the Easter Bowl, Carson and the U.S. Open, is the media director for next week's $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Rancho Mirage, and today he passed along this story about the wild card "opportunity" tournament, won by 17-year-old Kaitlyn Christian of Orange, California, who earned a main draw wild card with the victory.

    In Tarbes, the U.S. has three girls and two boys still contending for the prestigious Les Petits As titles. Sachia Vickery, Brooke Austin and Vicky Duval advanced today, as did Joe DiGiulio and Luca Corinteli. Austin got a walkover, Duval won 6-1, 6-2 and Vickery and DiGuilio shutout their opponents. Only Corinteli had a close match, coming back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win. For complete draws, including doubles, see the Les Petits As website.

    The heat has caused havoc in the junior championships in Melbourne, with play being suspended with several of the quarterfinal singles matches undecided. Top seeds Yuki Bhambri and Julen Uriquen did manage to post wins before the heat rule suspended play, as did No. 7 seed Adrien Puget, but the fourth semifinalist is unknown, with Alexandros-Ferdinandos Georgoudas of Germany up a set on 15th seed Cheng-Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei. Girls top seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn rolled over unseeded Anna Orlik, and Laura Robson assured a Wimbledon final rematch with Lercheewakarn when No. 4 seed Elena Bogdan retired 6-3, 2-5. Bogdan was serving, up 30-0 and needing only two points to end the set, which would have suspended the match. The BBC is reporting (they do live text updates from the Australian Open) that Bogdan turned her ankle. No. 3 seed Ksenia Pervak and No. 9 seed Heather Watson had begun their second set before the heat rule was invoked, and Pervak came from a break down in the second to finish it in two 6-3, 7-5. No. 2 seed Ana Bogdan of Romania leads No. 7 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France by a set in their quarterfinal. None of the scheduled doubles were played on Wednesday, so they still have quarterfinals to play. Christina McHale, who is playing with Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic, is the only U.S. player still in doubles. See the Australian Open website for draws.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    The Criteria for Using USTA National Training Centers

    I'm not sure when the USTA revamped its criteria for juniors who wish to make use of the National Training Centers, but I ran across a list on the player development site that was new to me. I suspect this is new since last fall, when Higueras was named Director of Coaching for USTA Elite Player Development. Here's a sample of what is required from the 16 and older group:

    Male Players Turning 16 and Older

    ATP: Top 50 ranked American Men

    ITF: American players ranked in top 100

    USTA: Top 5 ranked players in singles in Boys 16's or 18's.

    Or by invitation from our National Coaching Staff

    Female Players Turning 16 and Older

    WTA: Top 50 ranked American Women

    ITF: American players ranked in top 50

    USTA: Top 5 ranked players in singles in Girls 16's or 18's.

    Or by invitation from our National Coaching Staff

    I can't be certain that this was ever on the website before, but I think it's important that it be in writing. I appreciate that the USTA is considering their own rankings, which they rarely did before, because it gives players who prefer to stay in school and play only USTA events a chance to work at the National Training Centers if they choose. I know several players from years past who were not invited or encouraged to train with the USTA, despite very lofty USTA rankings and accomplishments. I hope that era is over.

    The player grant criteria has also been revised, with three categories: Excellence, Development and Grand Slam. Although the 2009 Excellence grants form is not available, the Development one is, and it provides a detailed explanation of the categories and amounts reimbursed. The Junior Grand Slam grants are still disappointingly low, and probably account for the dearth of U.S. juniors in Australia this year, but Harry Fowler, Lauren Embree, Ester Goldfeld, Christina McHale and Alexandra Cercone will have $1500 checks coming to them.

    The USTA adds these words to the Player Development Grant explanation:

    Communication will be clear, understood and the arrangement will be mutually agreed upon by both parties prior to entering into the relationship.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Notes from Tarbes, Plantation, Carson, Laguna Niguel and Melbourne; Sundling Has Surgery, Wins Award

    The last round of Les Petits As qualifying saw three of the four U.S. players advance to the main draw, with only Nadia Echeverria Alam losing, by the score of 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, to Solene Guyomard of France. Brooke Austin, Luca Corenteli and Roy Lederman will play their first round matches on Tuesday, as will Vicky Duval, who is seeded fifth. Teen Tennis champion Sachia Vickery, who is seeded second behind Slovakia's Petra Uberalova at Les Petits As, won her first round match easily, as did Joe DiGiulio, the No. 5 seed, and unseeded Nikko Madregallejo. To follow the action via the tournament's excellent website, click here.

    The last round of qualifying in the 128-draw of the Men's $10K Futures in Plantation, Florida, saw U.S. juniors Chase Buchanan, Tennys Sandgren and Bob van Overbeek earn spots in the main draw, with Sandgren and van Overbeek winning third set tiebreakers to do so. Raymond Sarmiento, Rhyne Williams and Evan King received main draw wild cards. At the $50,000 Challenger at the Home Depot Center in Carson, 2008 NCAA doubles champion Kaes Van't Hof of USC has earned one of four qualifying spots in that event. At the $25,000 women's tournament in Laguna Niguel, US Open Junior champion CoCo Vandeweghe and Stanford recruit Stacey Tan are among the eight qualifiers for the main draw. For draws and results of this week's Pro Circuit events, see usta.com.

    In early second round action at the Australian Open Junior Championships, No. 5 seed Laura Robson, trailing 5-1 in the second set against Thailand's Kanyapat Narattana came all the way back to force a tiebreaker and cruised through that for a 6-3, 7-6(0) victory. Expect more stories like this one from the Guardian, given that Murray's defeat last night left a lot of British tennis writers in search of someone to cover.

    Qualifier Alexandra Cercone of the U.S. couldn't hang on to her 3-0 lead in the third set against No. 14 seed Ksenia Kirillova of Russia, losing 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Lauren Embree, now the last U.S. player with a chance for the third round, plays later this evening. For live scores and draws, visit the Australian Open website.

    And finally, I ran across this Los Angeles Daily News story about Winter National Champion and USC recruit JT Sundling, who was notified that he was named this year's winner of the Southern California Tennis Association's Evelyn Houseman Junior Sportsmanship Award on the same day he had surgery on the wrist he injured at the Orange Bowl.

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Robson Beats McHale in Australia; Kudla Signs with BEST; Your Match Reports Welcome

    In a just-completed first round girls singles match in Melbourne, No. 5 seed Laura Robson of Great Britain has defeated Christina McHale of the U.S. 7-5, 6-3. It's dangerous to speculate without seeing the match, but it's apparent that neither player served well, with nearly as many breaks of serve (10) and holds (11). McHale was serving for the first set at 5-3, but she was broken without reaching set point and went on to lose eight of the next nine games. Serving at 4-2 in the second set, Robson was broken, but McHale couldn't pull even, losing her 3-4 service game and allowing Robson to serve out the match.

    With McHale's loss, No. 8 seed Lauren Embree and qualifier Alexandra Cercone, both of Florida, are the only Americans remaining in the junior singles draws.

    I heard while in Florida that Denis Kudla had signed with BEST, the sports and entertainment management company, and that has been confirmed with his addition to their junior client list. Lynn Berenbaum of Off The Baseline recently posted about the possibility that BEST, whose most famous U.S. client is Andy Roddick, will be acquired by the French company Lagardere.

    Laura Robson is not the only seeded girl that British fans will be following this week in Melbourne, as Eddie Herr finalist Heather Watson is seeded at No. 9, and won her first round match Sunday, a result duly noted by Neil Harman of The Times. Harman speaks with Watson's parents and finds she has received financial sponsorship from online bookmaking group Sportingbet which allows her mother to travel with her. Although Harman may not be aware of the intricacies of NCAA regulations, with that sponsorship, the Bollettieri-trained Watson is no longer eligible for a tennis scholarship that was mostly likely the reason she attracted the interest of what he refers to as "premier American educational establishments."

    And for those of you don't read comments regularly, please take a moment to check out Scott's report on the 10th-ranked Florida men's 7-0 win today over No. 7 Baylor. And Andrew D also took the time to comment about some of the junior matches in Australia on Sunday. I really appreciate their efforts, and invite any of you observing live tennis to do the same. If you would prefer to email me rather than using the comment function, please contact me via my profile page.

    I would have liked to be watching live tennis myself today, instead of monitoring the Australian Open live scoring, and the match I wish I could have seen was at the Plantation Florida Men's Pro Circuit Futures event. In the third round of qualifying there, Chase Buchanan beat Ryan Lipman 4-6 6-3 7-6(5). For results of all the Pro Circuit events, see usta.com.

    Saturday, January 24, 2009

    Robson Draws McHale in Australian Open Junior First Round

    The Australian Open Junior Championships get underway in less than an hour, with 40 of the 64 first round matches scheduled for Sunday at Melbourne Park. The only U.S. player not taking the court is Christina McHale, who was drawn to 2008 Wimbledon girls champion and No. 5 seed Laura Robson. McHale, who reached the women's main draw by winning the wild card tournament the USTA conducts, is actually ranked higher than Robson in the WTA rankings--374 to 514--but is not within the top 325, which could have allowed her a seed in the juniors. Russian Ksenia Pervak, who has a junior ranking near 200 (McHale's is 76), decided to make the best use of her trip to Australia for the women's qualifying by signing up for the juniors, and with her 156 WTA ranking, the 17-year-old received the No. 3 ranking in the juniors, behind Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand and Ana Bogdan of Romania.

    Eddie Herr champion Lauren Embree, seeded 8th, is also in the top half with Robson and McHale. Embree plays 151st-ranked qualifier Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand today in her opening match. Qualifier Alexandra Cercone plays Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kichenok, twin sister of Nadiya, who won the Grade 1 warm-up at Nottinghill. Beatrice Capra plays Mia Vriens of Australia, and Ester Goldfeld has drawn No. 15 seed Beatrice Gumulya of Indonesia. Harry Fowler, the lone U.S. boy competing, is first on against Australian wild card Stephen Hoh. For complete draws, see the Australian Open website.

    The ITF Junior website's preview is here.

    Six junior players competing for the U.S. puts in on par with India, but the difference in perspectives can be seen in this article from india enews, entitled "A big junior contingent for the Australian Open."

    In other news from Australia, Bernard Tomic has announced he will be leaving Australia to train in the U.S. or Great Britain, according to this story from the Herald Sun.

    And Chris Johnston of The Age files this feature on the Parent Education initiative that Tennis Australia has implemented for the families of promising players.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Vickery Defeats Duval for Teen Tennis Title; Cercone Qualifies for Australia Jrs., Domijan Reaches Hollywood Semis

    Thirteen-year-old Sachia Vickery, the top seed, won the Aegon Teen Tennis girls championship, beating fellow Floridian and Bollettieri protege Vicky Duval, the No. 8 seed, 6-4, 7-5 at the prestigious 14-and-under event in Bolton, England. Nikola Milosevic of Serbia, also the top seed, took the boys title, with a 6-1, 6-3 decision over No. 6 seed Evan Hoyt of Great Britain. For complete results, see the LTA results page. The 14-and-under action now shifts to Tarbes, France, where Les Petits As began today with the opening round of qualifying. The website features live scoring once the main draw action begins on Tuesday.

    Qualifying is complete at the Australian Open Juniors, and Alexandria Cercone of Seminole, Florida, who was the No. 4 seed, advanced to the main draw with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Tamara Curovic of Serbia. Cercone joins Lauren Embree, Beatrice Capra, Ester Goldfeld and Christina McHale in the main draw, which begins on Sunday. Nadiya Kichenok of Ukraine and Spain's Pablo Carreno-Busta won the singles titles at the Grade 1 Nottinghill. For complete results, see the Tennis Australia website.

    In the Men's $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Hollywood, Florida, Alex Domijan has reached the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Tihomir Grozdanov of Bulgaria. The draws for this tournament, the women's $25K in Lutz and the qualifying for the men's $10K in Plantation are available at the Pro Circuit results page at usta.com.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Plaza Cup Wrap; Duval and Vickery Play for Teen Tennis Title; Australian Open Junior Qualifying Underway

    In my weekly article for The Tennis Recruiting Network, I wrap up the competition at the Tennis Plaza Cup, which concluded on Monday. If you didn't get a chance to read the daily reports, this article should provide an overview of the three days of action at Salvadore Park.

    The USTA 14-and-under groups left for Europe last week, with newly hired national coaches Andres Pedroso (boys) and Kathy Rinaldi (girls) accompanying the teams. The girls, even without Madison Keys, have a very strong team, as evidenced by their results this week in the Aegon Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton, England. On Friday, Bollettieri students Sachia Vickery and Vicky Duval will give us the final we expected in the Junior Orange Bowl, but didn't get when Korean qualifier So Ra Lee beat Vickery in the semifinals. At Teen Tennis, Vickery is the top seed and Duval is seeded No. 8. Brooke Austin of the U.S., seeded 16th, lost to Vickery in the semifinals. Unseeded Luca Corinteli of the U.S. reached the semifinals, where he lost to No. 6 seed Evan Hoyt of Great Britain in two tiebreakers. For complete results, see the LTA website, scrolling down to the tournament results on the left of the page.

    The acceptances for Les Petits As, which starts tomorrow with the first round of qualifying, are available at the tournament website. Vickery and Duval are in the main draw, with Austin and Nadia Echeverria Alam in qualifying. Madison Keys did not make the trip, revamping her schedule after her win at The Coffee Bowl. The two U.S. boys in the main draw are Joseph DiGiulio and Nikko Madregallejo. Corinteli and Roy Lederman are listed as competing in the qualifying, but Lederman suffered an injury at Teen Tennis.

    In Australia, the ITF Grade 1 at Nottinghill has produced some big surprises, with top seed and Orange Bowl champion Yuki Bhambri of India going out in the second round to unseeded Justin Eleveld of the Netherlands, who has reached the boys final against No. 4 seed Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain. No. 3 seed Laura Robson, playing her first tournament since injuring her stomach muscle at the Orange Bowl, lost in the quarterfinals to unseeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands. No. 8 seed Yana Buchina upset top seed and world No. 1 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand in the quarterfinals, and will play No. 10 seed Nadiya Kichenok of Ukraine in the final. Kichenok defeated No. 2 seed Elena Bogdan of Romania in the semifinals. It was not a good tournament for the U.S., with only Ester Goldfeld winning a main draw match. Eddie Herr champion and No. 4 seed Lauren Embree lost in the first round, as did Beatrice Capra, the No. 11 seed, and qualifier Elizabeth Begley. Harry Fowler, the only boy from the U.S. playing in Australia, also lost in the first round, as the 16th seed.

    The opening round of qualifying for the Australian Open Juniors is complete, with Alexandra Cercone of Florida needing a victory on Friday to reach the main draw. Monica Yajima, Noel Scott and Begley lost in the first round.

    For complete results of the Australian junior events, see the Tennis Australia website.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Coaches Q and A: What's Dynamic Stretching and Should I Use It?

    The question of the best means of stretching has been debated for decades, and to answer a reader's recent question about the various techniques, we turn to Jim Hart, fitness trainer for the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

    Today's question: The USTA has recently encouraged some new and crazy-looking ways of stretching before a match. What do you think of these new stretching techniques, and do you recommend them for everyone or just serious players?

    Hart responds:
    Everyone knows to do some form of a warm-up but no one really has a definitive answer as to how to do this most effectively. We have all been taught that a good warm-up will enhance your performance, prevent muscle soreness (called DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness) and decrease the risk of injuries. Everyone expects one conclusive answer from sport studies and unfortunately this has not happened. Static stretching (stretching a group of muscles in one direction for several seconds to promote the lengthening of those muscles) has been used for many years as the primary pre-exercise routine. Most studies, though, have inferred that it is less effective to perform static stretches prior to exercise or sports for various reasons.

    Dr. Paul Meli from The Shoulder and Knee Center of South Florida, who is the official orthopedic surgeon of American Top Team (which has one of the largest numbers of professional UFC and mixed martial arts fighters in the world), reports statistically there is insufficient evidence to consistently promote or deny the effectiveness of static stretching prior to exercise. However, his suggestion for an effective warm-up does not include static stretching. Instead he suggests utilizing a light cardiovascular workout, dynamic stretching (a motion that creates a gentle stretch of the muscles and joint – see examples below on how to perform such stretches), and a light mimicking of your sport motions (such as light baseline hitting to get the feel of correct technique of your forehand/backhand).

    Most players are familiar with static stretches but do not have a good understanding of dynamic stretching. Basically you are doing a motion that causes first a small, then a progressively larger stretch to the joint and muscle complex. You start with shallow range of motion, progressing to larger motions and start at a slow speed and increase the velocity. Never bounce or jerk the motion. Generally you would pick motions that are utilized in your sport. An Olympic dead lift competitor (lifting a barbell from the ground) probably does not need to do a lot of lateral hip motions, but a tennis player would need a lot of this motion. Some examples of dynamic stretches would be arm circles or windmills, walking lunges, lateral lunges, high knee walking, straight leg walk or toy solder walk. A professional can design and recommend a specific warm-up for you depending on your physicality and any underlying pathology.

    This is not to say that static stretching isn’t important because we know that it has significant uses for sports. It is good in assisting motion-limited joints in obtaining full range so that more muscle fibers are utilized for your sport. Static stretching can assist in the healing of an injured area. A static stretch program either after exercise (when muscles and tendons are warm and more malleable) or at some other point in the day can actually assists in strengthening and improving the overall health of your body. As a pre-exercise routine it most likely is not very effective and a few studies have implied that it can even hinder performance temporarily.

    This would be the recommendation for all types of players with the only difference the intensity and depth of motion of your warm-up. If you are elderly with an arthritic back but can still play tennis, it probably wouldn’t be wise to try to do a lot of torso twists (gently rotating your upper body from left to right with a stabilized lower body) with high velocity but maybe you can do some small ones at a lower speed. Realize that if you play tennis, you will rotate your spine with some velocity so you need to slowly approach what you are going to do when you play. It is best to have a professional assist with the level of warm-up program for your particular level of physicality. Bottom line is you don’t do a warm up that injures you – one of the reasons you are doing one in the first place!

    If you insist on utilizing static stretches, it will not be significantly bad to do so. We are talking about minimal effects. You can even try experimenting yourself. Try one day of including static stretching and one with dynamic stretching. Did you play better, have fewer injuries, or feel less sore after one or the other techniques? Most likely you couldn’t tell the difference. The key point of a pre-exercise routine is to be pliant in all the motions that you may undertake in your sport and to be able to have an improved nerve-to-muscle reaction time. Such an improvement is most likely the key to preventing injuries as well as improving your performance. A light cardiovascular exercise would also theoretically decrease the risk of injury as the warmth of the muscles, ligaments and tendons will improve their ability to absorb some stress without disruption. As far as muscle soreness there does not appear to be any significant decrease in the levels of pain with any pre-exercise routine. Basically, don’t do too much new activity at too stressful a level and you will more likely avoid such after exercise pain.

    If the USTA is recommending the discontinuation of static stretching then I would say that they are like most sports, leaning toward more dynamic stretching as part of their pre-exercise routine. If you are embarrassed to look like you are doing a Monty Python routine, have a professional help you pick other motions that are not so ridiculous looking. There are many ways to do dynamic stretching and they do not have to include such odd motions. Just remember that if you do dynamic stretches, do them safely so that you can hopefully enjoy good tennis and have fun.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    McHale and Oudin Fall in Australian Open First Round; Tomic Makes History with Win

    Today is a travel day--back to the single digits of Michigan's winter--so this early post will be a brief review of the opening round performances of some of the juniors at the Australian Open.

    In matches overnight, 16-year-old Christina McHale, the USTA wild card tournament winner, lost a heartbreaker to Jessica Moore, an 18-year-old Australian wild card, 1-6, 6-3, 9-7. McHale was featured on the ESPN2 coverage, and was shown early in the third set suffering from a severe leg cramp, but it apparently didn't keep her from taking a 5-3 lead in the the third set. Eventually Moore began to wear her down however, from this account in the Herald Sun. Prior to McHale's grand slam debut, the New York Times and Northjersey.com published profiles. The Times' story, found here, contains an error. McHale did not lose in the first round of the juniors at the U.S. Open this year. She lost in the third round to Madison Brengle, as the Northjersey.com story accurately states.

    Seventeen-year-old Melanie Oudin, who was the youngest player to qualify for the women's main draw, lost to 84th ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-4.

    Sixteen-year-old Australian wild card Bernard Tomic became the youngest man to win a main draw match in Australian Open history when he beat 73rd ranked Potito Starace of Italy 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6). Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash had an assessment of Tomic's strengths and weaknesses in this article by Linda Pearce in the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Unseeded Fratangelo and Laurente Claim Plaza Cup 18s Titles; Top Seed Kiick Sweeps Girls 14s

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    The three Tennis Plaza Cup finals contested on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park Monday all played out differently, with unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo and Kelsey Laurente capturing the 18s titles, while top seed Alexandra Kiick claimed the winner's trophy in the girls 14s.

    Fratangelo survived the pressure of needing to win a second tiebreaker to stay alive against hard-hitting third seed Andrew Butz, then coasted to a 6-7 (1), 7-6(3), 6-3 victory.

    After having a set point serving at 5-4 in the opening set, Fratangelo saw that chance dissolve when Butz's unexpected defensive slice backhand stayed low, and produced an error. Fratangelo eventually lost his break with a double fault, and after Butz held, faced three set points serving at 5-6. But Fratangelo saved those and appeared to have the momentum going into the tiebreaker. As quickly as the momentum swung his way however, it swung back to Butz, with Fratangelo losing control of his backhand early and often in the tiebreaker.

    By breaking Butz early in the second set, Fratangelo looked to be in control, but he made it difficult on himself when he again couldn't close out the set with a lead.

    "I was up 5-2 (in the second set) and I let him slip back into it," said the 15-year-old Fratangelo, originally from Pittsburgh, but now training in Naples. "I had to make him hit a lot of balls, keep him moving. I didn't want him to get in a rhythm, because he would just slap winners all over the place."

    Butz is certainly capable of that, as his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents Spencer Newman and Jeremy Efferding would attest, but he wasn't able to find the service box on his first try often enough to dominate Fratangelo. In the second set tiebreaker, it was Butz who lost his backhand, and when he lost that and his serve in the first game of the third set, all the air seemed to go out of him. Fratangelo took a 4-0 lead, and Butz was able to win a couple games on the strength of his serving, but he looked disinterested and resigned to losing early in the set.

    For the unseeded Fratangelo, the tournament victory was all that he had hoped.

    "I expected to do well even though I was unseeded," he admitted. "That (seeding) doesn't really mean anything. I just wanted to come here and play well for the three days, and I felt I played well throughout the tournament."

    Laurente's 6-4, 6-4 win over Mary Clayton was woven with threads of deju vu. In each set, Laurente, a 14-year-old from Miramar, broke Clayton at 3-4 and served for the set and the match, and both times she was broken. But she then immediately broke Clayton, a result that wasn't all that surprising to her.

    "I was thinking about winning instead of actually the point," said Laurente of her lapses on serve. "I feel like my returns are kind of better than my serve, even though my serve has improved a lot."

    Clayton was hitting the ball with pace, but she wasn't able to work her way inside the court to finish a point with Laurente's pinpoint placement and creativity. And although she trains primarily on hard court, Laurente felt comfortable constructing points on the green clay.

    "Last time I played Mary she actually beat me, pretty easily, but that was on hard courts," Laurente said of a loss in a Florida Super Series event last September. "It's a completely different type of game play. Hard courts are my home court, but clay is pretty fun."

    Laurente is going to continue to play 18s sectionally, although for "super nationals or a really big tournament I'll play 16s," she said. "But I'm going to turn 15 in August, so there's no point in staying in 14s and trying to get to No. 1, because I'm not going to make it."

    The only player to take home two main draw winner's trophies Sunday was girls 14s top seed Alexandra Kiick, who came back from an early deficit to defeat doubles partner Blair Martin 7-5, 6-1, then teamed with her friend to take that championship too.

    Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick, trailed 3-0 in the opening set.

    "I didn't really warm up, and I was kind of nervous in the beginning" said Kiick, who lives in Plantation. "Because I'm the number one seed, I felt I should win. Once I won the first set I started playing my game, whacking the ball and placing it, and I did better in the second set."

    Kiick and Martin took a brief lunch break, then the No. 1 seeded doubles team came back to take an 8-3 win over No. 2 seeds Lauren Burich and Evgenia Rostarchuk.

    And although Kiick was pleased that she could help her friend earn a championship in the doubles, she acknowledged needing a different mindset in the singles.

    "We're friends off the court, but enemies on the court," Kiick said. "But we'll always be friends, no matter what."

    The girls 18s doubles title went to the second seeded team of Brittany Dubins and Bianca Sanon, who downed the No. 3 seeded team of Clayton and Julie Sabacinski 8-2.

    Top seed Jackie Kasler took third place in the girls 18s, defeating Dubins 6-2, 6-3, and unseeded Kaysara Mandry took the consolation title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Maria Belaya.

    The No. 4 seeded team of Spencer Newman and Raleigh Smith took the boys 18s doubles championship with an 8-4 win over the unseeded team of Michael Hui and Christopher Jackman.

    Newman participated in four matches on Monday, winning them all, as he won three rounds of consolation, including a 7-5, 6-4 victory in the final over Jesse Feder.

    Third place in boys 18s went to Michael Alford, who defeated Jeremy Efferding 6-1, 6-3.

    In championships contested at other sites, No. 2 seed Jordan Daigle downed No. 1 seed Thai Kwiatkowski 6-0, 7-5 in the boys 14s at Riviera Country Club. Kwiatkowski took home a champion's trophy however, as he partnered with Strong Kirchheimer to defeat Baker Newman and Daniel O'Connor in the doubles final, 8-3.

    At the Biltmore Tennis Center, unseeded Alexios Halebian beat No. 2 seed Hunter Callahan 6-1, 6-3 to win the boys 16s, and unseeded ReeRee Li took the girls 16s title with a 6-1, 6-4 decision over No. 1 seed Jacqueline Crawford.

    The finals of the boys and girls 12s, which were also held at Biltmore Tennis Center after two days of competition at Tropical Park, No. 4 seed Diana Kussainova beat Elysse Graci 6-2, 6-1 for the girls title, and No. 4 seed Chase Colton defeated unseeded Alexander Knight 6-3, 6-1 in the boys championship match.

    For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.

    The website of the tournament's sponsor, Tennis Plaza, a Racquet World company, can be accessed here.

    Sunday, January 18, 2009

    Plaza Cup 18s Finalists Include Only One Seed

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    It was another dawn to dusk day of tennis at the Plaza Cup Sunday, with singles and doubles quarterfinals and semifinals packed into the eleven hours of play at the 18s site of Salvadore Park.

    When the Har-Tru dust had cleared, No. 3 Andrew Butz was the only seed still alive, having overpowered unseeded Spencer Newman 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, and unseeded Jeremy Efferding 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.

    When the big right-hander's first serve is on, there are few who can counter his first and third ball power, and on Sunday, the 16-year-old from Vero Beach didn't cool off at any point in either match. Although Butz complained often about the courts' uneven bounces, it wasn't ultimately much of a factor, and even Efferding's willingness to come in to the net was secondary to surviving Butz's forceful offense.

    Hoping that Butz will not continue in that vein is 15-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh, who advanced to the finals with wins over fellow unseeded players Zachary Katz and Michael Alford. In the morning match, Fratangelo beat Katz 6-2, 6-4, and took the semifinal when Alford was forced to retire after losing the first set 7-5. Alford ran wide for a shot in the first game and went down with a cramp, and although he attempted to serve a couple of more points, he couldn't continue.

    The girls 18s final will feature two unseeded players, with Mary Clayton of Plantation, Florida meeting Kelsey Laurente of Miramar, Florida. Clayton has yet to lose a set in the tournament, but she came close in Sunday's semifinal with top seed Jackie Kasler. Kasler, who had served for the first set at 6-5, couldn't hold, but she took a 3-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreaker. Clayton then played flawless tennis, capturing the next six points, and although Kasler held her next two serves, Clayton got an unforced error from Kasler to claim the first set. In the second set, Kasler got down 4-0 before she found her game again, but Clayton, two-handed on both sides, didn't panic when she was broken serving for it at 5-2, and finished the victory by breaking Kasler in the final game.

    Laurente, only 14, took out No. 2 seed Maria Belaya 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 in the quarterfinals. Laurente's slight frame gives no indication of how strong she is mentally, and her placement and consistency keep her in every match. In the semifinals, Laurente took an early lead in each set against No. 5 seed Brittany Dubins and despite a few anxious moments late in the second set, cruised to a 6-1, 6-4 win.

    The girls 14s final will also be played at Salvadore Park on Monday, with top seed Alexandra Kiick facing No. 3 seed Blair Martin. In the boys 14s at Riveria Country Club, No. 1 seed Thai Kwiatkowski will meet second seed Jordan Daigle.

    The boys 16s final pits unseeded Alexios Halebian against No. 2 seed Hunter Callahan, while the girls 16s singles features No. 1 seed Jacqueline Crawford and unseeded Reeree Li. Those matches are on the hard courts of the Biltmore Tennis Center.

    The 12s finalists in the boys division are No. 4 seed Chase Colton and unseeded Alexander Knight. In the girls 12s, No. 4 Diana Kussainova will meet No. 5 Elysse Graci for the championship.

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

    In the Champion Porsche Pro Circuit events completed today in Boca Raton, No. 2 seed Jose Armas of Venezuela defeated No. 1 seed Gabriel Moraru of Romania 7-5, 6-3, and qualifier Gabriela Paz, also of Venezuela, downed unseeded Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-4, 7-6(4). For complete results, see the Pro Circuit results page.

    Saturday, January 17, 2009

    Top Two Seeds Breeze in Girls 18s, But Both Exit in Boys 18s at Plaza Cup

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    No. 1 seed Jackie Kasler and No. 2 seed Maria Belaya had no trouble in their opening two rounds of the USTA National Level 3 Plaza Cup Saturday on the green clay of Salvadore Park. But in the boys 18s, neither No. 1 seed Mark Schanerman nor No. 2 seed John Yetimoglu could survive past their opening matches.

    In Saturday's ideal playing condition, Kasler, of Gulf Breeze Florida, lost only one game in her first two matches, while Melbourne Florida's Belaya lost seven. Third seed Bianca Sanon fell to unseeded Mary Clayton in an All-Florida battle in the second round, but with four seeds making the quarterfinals, the girls results were downright expected compared to the boys, where the final eight includes only two seeded players--No. 3 Andrew Butz and No. 4 Raleigh Smith.

    Sixteen-year-old Zachary Katz of Boca Raton, Florida came back for a 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 win over N. Miami Beach's Schanerman in the second round, while 15-year-old Jeremy Efferding of Lake Worth was one of the many younger players advancing, taking down Miami's Yetimoglu 6-4, 4-6, 10-7. The 16-year-old Butz, of Vero Beach, survived a tiebreaker in lieu of a third set in the first round against John Cappabianca, and his quarterfinal opponent will be unseeded 15-year-old Spencer Newman of Miami. Unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also 15, took out Alexander Teppert , a fifth seed, in the first round and will meet Katz in the quarterfinals. The fourth seeded Smith meets unseeded Michael Alford in the fourth quarterfinal.

    None of the girls 18s second round matches went to a tiebreaker in lieu of a third set, although the first round had its share of dramatic matches. In Sunday's quarterfinals, Kasler will play unseeded Sarah McLean of Miami; Plantation's Clayton, younger sister of Chris, Alex and Missy, takes on unseeded Sabrina Kierberg of Ft. Lauderdale; Belaya faces Kelsey Laurente of Miramar, who has lost only two games in her first two matches, and No. 4 seed Julia Sabacinski of Plantation will play No. 5 seed Brittany Dubins of N. Miami Beach.

    For results in the other age divisions, visit the TennisLink site.

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Boca Pro Circuit Semis Set; Plaza Cup Coverage Starts Saturday

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    I'm a bit out of my element at Pro Circuit events, and regular readers of ZooTennis know that I rarely cover more than one a year, and never from beginning to end. This is our second year that Paul is directing a site at the Plaza Cup, the Level 3 USTA event for 12s, 14s, 16s, and 18s, and it is the main reason for this trip.

    But with the first Pro Circuit event of the year taking place in Boca Raton, we escaped the Michigan winter a few days early to see some of the juniors and former college players in action. We had planned on being there only Wednesday and Thursday, but when Chase Buchanan made the quarterfinals, we decided to wait to leave for Miami until after his match was completed.

    He was second up, so I watched some of 2006 USTA National 18s Champion Lauren Albanese's 6-3, 6-4 win over qualifier Darya Kustova of Belarus, and also watched former Florida star Greg Ouellette against Serbian Nikola Ciric. Ouellette, who was cheered on by former Gator teammates Nestor Briceno and Jesse Levine, got off to a very slow start against the big-serving left-hander, who alternated booming serves with delicate drop shots to take the first set 6-3. The unseeded Ciric was up 5-2 in the second set, when wild card Ouellette made his comeback, winning four straight games to take a 6-5 lead. Ciric, who had made error after error in that four game stretch, got back on track to force a tiebreaker, and it was Ouellette who began to miss routine shots, falling behind 5-1, and losing a chance at a third set when Circi cracked an ace to end it 7-6(3).

    Tim Smyczek, the fourth seed, who has won seven matches since last Friday's qualifying began, was much steadier than the flashy qualifier Adriano Biasella of Italy, taking a 6-3, 5-2 ret. win. He will play No. 2 seed Jose De Armas of Venezuela, who downed No. 6 seed Jesse Witten, the former Kentucky Wildcat, 6-3, 6-4.

    In the last quarterfinal match, top seeded Romanian Gabriel Moraru, who had somehow survived being down a set and 5-0 to Stefan Ianni of Italy in a three hour and forty minute second round match Thursday, showed no sign of fatigue against Buchanan, taking the first set 6-2. Buchanan wasn't finding the range on his backhand, with many of them hitting the net, while Moraru was missing infrequently and serving well.

    The second set saw Buchanan raise his level and he stayed with the 26-year-old, who is ranked 294 by the ATP. Leading 5-4 in the second set, Buchanan got his only break points of the set when Moraru fell behind 15-40. The Romanian saved one by pinning Buchanan deep into the backhand corner and forcing an error, but he didn't get a first serve in at 30-40 and Buchanan pounced, blasting a backhand return winner to even the match.

    Buchanan lost his serve to open the third set, and again had two break points on Moraru's opening serving game, but when he didn't convert either of those, he seemed to lose his edge. Serving at 1-3, Buchanan made four straight unforced errors, and after that, the result wasn't in doubt, with Moraru taking the third set 6-1.

    In the women's semifinals, Albanese will meet qualifier Gabriela Paz of Venezuela, who disposed of Heidi El Tabakh of Canada 6-0, 6-1 in a match played after we left. The other semifinal will feature No. 5 seed Ahsha Rolle, a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 winner over No. 4 seed Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine, against unseeded Sharon Fichman of Canada. Fichman dismissed No. 8 seed Anna Floris of Italy 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

    I had an opportunity to sit in with Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com, who began his coverage of the event today. He will be there through the finals, so for free internet streaming of the play-by-play, go to radiotennis.com.

    For complete results of the Champion Porsche Pro Circuit events, see the results page at usta.com.

    For the Plaza Cup draws, see the TennisLink site.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Buchanan Advances to Quarterfinals in Boca Futures; Smyczek Downs Domijan in Two Tiebreakers

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Boca Raton, FL--

    It might not have been the weather the hundred or so spectators were hoping for, but the cool and cloudy conditions that greeted Thursday's competitors in the Champion Porsche Pro Circuits events at the Swim and Racquet Center were ideal for long and dramatic matches. The top seed in the men's $10,000 Futures, Gabriel Moraru of Romania, survived a three hour and forty minute test, trailing throughout the entire match, until he won it, 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 7-6(3), over Stefano Ianni of Italy. Ianni was up 5-0 in the second set and 5-2 in the third, and although I didn't watch it carefully enough to count exactly, he must have served for the match at least five times. Late in the tiebreaker, the good-natured Italian, who had required at least two visits from the trainer, let loose with a long shout in Italian, and from the grabbing of his neck, I took it to refer to choking, a comment few in the mostly full show court bleachers would disagree with. Moraru, on the other hand, looked calm and unperturbed throughout the ordeal, and looked fit enough at the end of the match to play another three hours if necessary.

    The 26-year-old top seed's opponent in the quarterfinals will be 17-year-old Chase Buchanan, who had a rollercoaster of a match with Simeon Ivanov of Bulgaria before recovering for a 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 victory. Buchanan lost the first game, on his serve, then reeled off the next six to take the first set. I took the opportunity to look in on the Kim Couts - Lauren Albanese match a few courts away, and when I returned, with Albanese leading 4-3 in the first set, in a match that started at the same time as Buchanan - Ivanov, Buchanan was double faulting to give Ivanov the second set. He then lost his seventh and eighth games in a row to go down 2-0 in the third, got back even, then broke Ivanov to take a 5-4 lead. Buchanan didn't come close to serving it out however, but got a second chance with a break in the next game, and made no mistake that time.

    Meanwhile, Albanese had taken the first set from Couts, but Couts was leading in the second set, and after nearly two hours, it looked as if a split was inevitable. But the third seeded Albanese dug out from a 5-3 deficit and took the subsequent tiebreaker to claim a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory that took more than two-and-a-half hours to complete.

    While that battle was raging, qualifier Gabriela Paz of Venezuela was grinding down Aurelie Vedy of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Although I could hear the pair, with Paz's distinctive squeal usually audible, I couldn't see them, as I was perched outside court 5 watching the Tim Smyczek - Alex Domijan match. I joined with wild card Domijan serving at 5-6 in the first set, and he held to force a tiebreaker, which Smyczek, a qualifier, but the No. 4 seed, would go on to dominate, winning the last five points to take it 7-6(1). Smyczek broke Domijan to start the second set, but the hard-hitting 17-year-old got it back immediately, and then broke Smyczek in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. Smyczek got that break right back and a much different tiebreaker decided the match.

    Domijan had a set point serving at 6-5, but a Smyczek shot landing right on the baseline handcuffed him. He didn't get another opportunity, although he did fight off two match points, before Smyczek, who had some success bringing Domijan in and passing him, forced a wild forehand volley from Domijan to end it.

    Smyczek, who turned 21 last month, will face former USC Trojan Adriano Biasella of Italy, who handily defeated Phillip Simmonds 6-2, 6-1. Biasella, 28, is a qualifier.

    Croatia's Alja Tomljanovic, who had upset top seed Angela Haynes on Wednesday, was outlasted by Heidi El Tabakh of Canada 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 Thursday afternoon.

    For complete results, visit the Pro Circuit home page at usta.com.

    Britton to Ole Miss; Cecil to Duke; Seven U.S. Women Advance in AO Qualifying

    Before the start of the Boca Raton Futures today, I'm linking to my weekly story at The Tennis Recruiting Network, which is Devin Britton's commitment announcement to University of Mississippi. Another longtime Bollettieri student, Mallory Cecil of South Carolina, has joined the Duke Blue Devils for the 2009 spring season. Her announcement came via goduke.com.

    In Australia, the women's first round of qualifying is complete, with seven of the eight U.S. women advancing to the second round: Carly Gullickson, Alexandra Stevenson, Julie Ditty, Melanie Oudin, Varvara Lepchenko, Madison Brengle and Vania King. Alexa Glatch suffered the only loss of the day for the U.S. For the complete AO qualifying draw, see the official website.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Tomljanovic Upsets Top Seed Haynes; Domijan and Buchanan Advance In Boca Raton Futures

    ©Colette Lewis 2009--
    Boca Raton, FL--

    Juniors and qualifiers made their presence felt on Wednesday, with the completion of the first round of play at the $25,000 women's and $10,000 men's Champion Porsche Pro Circuit events at the Racquet and Swim Club of Boca Raton.

    Chief among them was Ajla Tomljanovic, the 15-year-old Croatian qualifier, who took out top seed Angela Haynes of the U.S., the WTA's 140th ranked player, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-1. I watched the end of the first set, when Tomljanovic twice had an opportunity to serve for it, but couldn't convert either time, and ended up needing a tiebreaker. Even there, she was unable to make it easy on herself, letting two set points slip away at 6-4, but Haynes, who seemed uncomfortable on the clay, contributed enough unforced errors, including a set-ending backhand wide, to give Tomljanovic the first set. I didn't watch the second set, but at the start of the third, Tomljanovic took control and fashioned a quick 4-0 lead to rob the final set of any drama.

    The Racquet and Swim Club is a public facility, although it has the feel of an exclusive private club, with the the well-groomed landscaping, the comfortable lawn chairs for seating and excellent courts for viewing and playing (no lets from other courts, as each court is separately fenced). To begin the day, which was a bit chilly to start, but soon was warm and sunny, with negligible wind, I stood between the two courts featuring Tim Smyczek of the U.S. on one, and Alex Domijan, another Saddlebrook resident, on the other. Smyczek was forced to qualify due to a late entry, but he won his four matches and his ranking of 348 gave him the No. 4 seed in the main draw. He looked sharp and match tough in taking out Roman Vogeli of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2. Domijan actually had secured his first set against fellow wild card Robert Verzaal even more quickly than Smyczek did his, but then things got much tougher for the 6-foot-6 17-year-old. He lost a 10-deuce game early in the second set, but eventually Domijan's power and his ability to attack Verzaal's second serve led him to a 6-1, 6-3 victory and a spot opposite Smyczek in the next round.

    Chase Buchanan took Smyczek's place on court 5, and after five close games with fellow qualifier Goran Tosic of Montenegro, the future Ohio State Buckeye got a break, and held for the first set, 6-3. In the second set, Buchanan, who won a Futures event on Florida clay last May, got a break in the third game, and eased to a 6-2 second set win.

    One of the day's best matches saw 2008 Wimbledon and U.S. Open Junior Champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria go up against Stefano Ianni, with the 27-year-old Italian taking a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) win. Despite the closeness of the match, there was little of the pressure-cooker atmosphere that often accompanies a Futures contest, and both players seemed to be enjoying themselves on the court. Ianni conceded a point to Dimitrov when the chair umpire had made an out call when Ianni half volleyed on the baseline, and racquet claps were regular occurences. Ianni saved his best for 5-3 in the tiebreaker, when he made a dive stab volley at the net, giving him Har-Tru-stained shorts and three match points. He needed them all, as Dimitrov got an exceedingly fortunate net cord to make it 6-4, and Ianni double faulted for 6-5. But Dimitrov missed a forehand just long in the final rally, and Ianni had earned his chance at top seed Gabriel Moraru of Romania.

    For complete draws, visit the Pro Circuit results page at usta.com.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Shake-up at Bollettieri's Tennis Academy; Australian Men's Qualifying Draw; Pro Circuit Opens 2009 in Boca Raton

    First, I want to welcome Lynn Berenbaum back to the world of tennis blogging at her site Off The Baseline, and thank her for drawing my attention to this story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the firings of four IMG employees at the Bollettieri Academy, including director of tennis Gabe Jarmillo. Given the length of employment of those let go and their direct relationship with Nick, it seems shocking, but there is little in the story to explain it, other than an implication that it was a cost-cutting move, with the possibility that it relates to a sale.

    The Australian Open men's qualifying draw has been posted, and there are nine Americans vying for spots in the main draw: Amer Delic, Brendan Evans, Zach Fleishman, Scoville Jenkins, Kevin Kim, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram, Ryan Sweeting and Michael Yani. I was surprised to see Sam Warburg, Jesse Levine and Donald Young missing from the list of U.S. competitors. An interesting first round match pits Indians Prakash Amritraj and Somdev Devvarman. In many junior tournaments, the draw is structured so players from the same country don't play each other in the first round (the same goes for USTA sections), but that's obviously not a consideration in a Grand Slam.

    We did make it to Florida, and tomorrow will be checking in on the first Pro Circuit Futures of the year in Boca Raton. Wild card Alex Domijan and qualifiers Chase Buchanan and Rhyne Williams are playing their first round matches on Wednesday. For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit draw and schedule page at usta.com.

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    Do Great Juniors Become Great College Players? Tomic, other Aussie Teens Get Australian Open Wild Cards

    My colleague Marc Lucero has crunched some numbers in an attempt to determine if there is a correlation between the top girls from the recruiting class of 2007 and the top collegiate performers of 2008. His findings, which appear today on The Tennis Recruiting Network, are well researched and full of interesting numbers that should be useful to any college coach who utilizes rankings to make judgments about recruits (and I would guess that would mean all of them). I hope he'll make this a regular feature, but I certainly recognize that it involves a lot of heavy lifting on his part.

    Tennis Australia announced the last of its main draw wild cards today, and juniors Bernard Tomic, Monika Wejnert and Olivia Rogowska are among the recipients. For the complete list, which includes Isabella Holland, who was announced earlier, scroll to the bottom of this story from the Australian Open website.

    As of the latest acceptance list for the Australian Open Junior Championships, Harry Fowler is the only U.S. boy playing in the main or qualifying draw. The girls draw, which is notably stronger, is showing that Lauren Embree, Beatrice Capra, Ester Goldfeld and Christina McHale are still entered in the main, and Alexandra Cercone, Noel Scott and Monica Yajima are in the qualifying. For the most recent list, click here.

    And a final note, we are attempting to get out of Michigan for Miami before a blizzard, so if there's no post on Tuesday, you'll know I'm snowed in somewhere!

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    Keys Wins Coffee Bowl; Devvarman Loses to Cilic in Chennai; Play Tennis Florida Magazine Available Online

    Madison Keys, who turns 14 next month, won her third ITF tournament since she began playing them in May, defeating No. 3 seed Valeria Solovieva of Russia 6-4, 7-5 in Saturday evening's final at the Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica. Keys won a Grade 5 in the Bahamas in June, and took the Grade 4 held in November at the Evert Academy, where she trains, but this is a Grade 1, so her ITF junior ranking, currently at 139, should take a big leap. The boys winner was 16-year-old David Souto of Venezuela, who defeated top seed Denis Kudla of the U.S. 6-2, 6-2 to claim his first Grade 1 title. The left-handed Souto, who hasn't played in the U.S. since he lost in the final of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s in 2006 to Bernard Tomic, has been playing mostly in Futures qualifying the past five months. Souto and his partner Jesus Bandra, also from Venezuela, won the doubles title too.

    In Chennai India, two-time NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman fell in the final to 20-year-old Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6(3). The Hindu provides its always colorful take on the match here(Ectomorph?!)

    The December/January issue of Play Tennis Florida is now available for download from the USTA Florida Section's site. There is an interesting story on University of Central Florida women's coach Stephanie Nickitas, who credits a career in tennis coaching to the influence of her coach at the University of Florida, ZooTennis contributor Andy Brandi. There is also much news about the section's annual awards (we'll be congratulating Robert Gomez for being named Junior Development coach of the year next week when we're in Miami for the Plaza Cup), Dede Allen on getting the attention of a college coach, and my regular Photo Op feature, which is Alex Domijan (pg. 28).

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Australian Tennis at "Lowest Ebb"; France's Mladenovic Receives AO Wild Card

    With the Australian Open starting in just about a week, the discussions of what's wrong with Australian tennis have begun. This type of conversation is guaranteed three times a year, once for each of the English-speaking countries who host Grand Slams (I'm not conversant enough in French to know if this happens before Roland Garros, but since there seems to be a general satisfaction with their system and results, I'm guessing it doesn't) and The Australian recently offered this article, which comes at the problem from a slightly more sympathetic perspective than most of the Australian press. Most of the time, a newspaper calls a former Aussie great who is not involved in the current Tennis Australia framework and the criticism of Steve Wood and Craig Tiley begins.

    Ashley Cooper is certainly a former great, but he is apparently part of the TA process, saying that while a number of factors are to blame, there are probably the result of what was not done "8 to ten years ago."

    Craig Tiley, the AO tournament director and head of player development, who expects to see improvement by 2012, offers this:

    "If you ask me to predict how many players in the top 100 by then, I'd be in a different business if I knew that," Tiley said. "But I can tell you we have about 100 players we have targeted that we think can get there and if we work on the 10 per cent theory, that's 10. It takes 15 years to develop a player, so I can tell you there will be more than there is now and more than there is in the past.

    "In the past we had some players (Pat Cash, Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis) at the top and that masked the problems down at the bottom."
    This is an interesting perspective because it implies that French system, where there are large numbers of top 100 players, but precious few Grand Slam champions, is more desirable than the opposite. Is Federer masking a problem in Switzerland's player development? Or is he just, as all great champions are, a sublime exception that owes little to his particular federation?

    Another theory floated about the Australian decline is the disappearance of backyard courts due to development. John Fitzgerald subscribes to that, and his remarks can be found in this article from the Canberra Times. (The Observer article mentioned in this piece is more about the general decline of Australian sport, and it can be found here).

    Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo recently wrote a post for espn.com, providing background on the purpose of wild cards and congratulating the USTA for holding a wild card tournament to fill the one it exchanges with Australia. Tennis Australia holds a tournament to hand out one set of theirs--this year they were won by Colin Ebelthite and Jelena Dokic--but they have four sets of discretionary wild cards remaining after the Asian, U.S. and French wild cards. Only one set has been announced, with 18-year-old Jessica Moore and 21-year-old Carsten Ball the recipients, but speculation is that the remaining three sets will go to younger players. The Australian notes that Moore and Ball have shown a "drop in performance," then mentions the younger players that are likely to be given wild cards in this article.

    And speaking of the French, they do not appear to follow the wild card tournament route, unless they squeezed one in that I did not hear about. Kristina Mladenovic, the 15-year-old French junior, was given the Australian Open main draw wild card, despite her indifferent end to the 2008 junior season, where as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, she lost in the second round of the Yucatan Cup, the third round of the Eddie Herr and the second round of the Orange Bowl.