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Friday, July 31, 2009

Pro Tour Main Draw Wild Card for U.S. Juniors; Pro Circuit News

Two big pro tournaments are taking place on each coast next week--the ATP Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington D.C. and the WTA Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships. The wild cards have been announced, and several juniors are among them.

At the Legg Mason, withdrawals of James Blake, Gael Monfils, Radek Stepanek and Arnaud Clement moved John Isner into the main draw, and wild cards have been awarded to Alex Domijan, Donald Young, Jerzy Janowicz and Michael Russell. Domijan, who is currently playing the Pro Circuit Futures in Godfrey, Ill., and today beat Blake Strode in the quarterfinals, will have a hectic week between that, a trip to D.C. for his pro debut and the start of Kalamazoo. But after the frantic schedule of World Team Tennis, he's probably accustomed to it now. Young's wild card is a bit odd, given his recent results (for a perceptive analysis of Young's slump and prospects, see this week's mailbag by Jon Wertheim of SI.com), but Janowicz is not. The 18-year-old from Poland, a finalist at the 2007 U.S. Open Juniors, is a client of BEST, which manages the event, and he is at a career-high ranking of 231. Mike Russell won the Carson Challenger in May and was a semifinalist in the Yuba City challenger in June. Receiving LMTC qualifying wild cards were Junior Tennis Champions Center's Junior Ore, Mitchell Frank and Denis Kudla, along with Scott Oudesma, who helped the Washington Kastles win the WTT championship.

Blogger Lynn Berenbaum of Off The Baseline has written a preview of the Legg Mason for TennisX; she will also be providing live twitter updates during the tournament at twitter.com/lynnlovestennis.

In Los Angeles, CoCo Vandeweghe has received a main draw wild card, along with Vania King and Michelle Larcher de Brito. Vandeweghe, who played World Team Tennis for the Sacramento Capitals, hasn't played much regular tournament tennis this spring and summer, and as the top seed, she lost to Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech yesterday at the Pro Circuit event in St. Joseph, Mo. In the qualifying draw at the L.A. tournament, four young Americans received wild cards: Kristie Ahn, Nicole Gibbs, Sloane Stephens and Alison Riske. UPDATE: Ahn apparently got into qualifying on her own, with Danielle Mills and Lindsey Nelson getting qualifying wild cards. For the complete release on the wild cards, click here.

Although I've already mentioned a couple of the Pro Circuit results, there are others worth noting. Falconi, last week's winner, is through to the semis, where she will meet 16-year-old Sabrina Santamaria. The other semifinal features two college stars: Caitlin Whoriskey of Tennessee and Maria Sanchez of Southern Cal. None of the four are seeded. Falconi and Whoriskey have reached the doubles final, although not together. Falconi is playing with Ashley Weinhold, Whoriskey with Chelsea Orr.

In addition to Domijan, the other semifinalists in Godfrey, Ill. are Matt Reid (the only seed remaining at No. 7), who plays UCLA's Holden Seguso, and Adam El Mihdawy, who is Domijan's opponent. Wake Forest grads Cory Parr and Todd Paul, the No. 4 seeds, won the doubles title today, defeating former LSU players Colt Gaston and Michael Venus.

For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page on usta.com.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Girls 18s Clay Court Wrap; WTT's New York Buzz; Sock No. 1; Peterson Named USTA National Coach; Harrison and Williams Out of Kalamazoo

My weekly column for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a look back at last week's USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts in Memphis. While you are at the site, check out Josh Rey's story on the junior amateur team that the USTA and World Team Tennis put together this year. Rey, who I met when he did the Orange Bowl coverage for the USTA in 2007, talks with Sloane Stephens, Alex Domijan and coach Roger Smith about their experience with the New York Buzz during this month's WTT season, which ended with a loss to the Boston Lobsters. And on Friday, Tennis Recruiting Network will have a story on the boys 16s and 18s Clays, where Jack Sock won the 16th and 17th gold balls of his junior career. (If you're wondering, Al Parker had 25.)

With those wins, Sock has ascended to the top of the 18s rankings, while holding on to the top in the 16s. Can anyone else ever remember when the USTA's top-ranked 18s player competed in the 16s division in Kalamazoo? Here is a link to the post-clay USTA rankings, released today.

The USTA has announced the hiring of Lindsay Davenport's former coach Adam Peterson as a National Coach in Player Development. Peterson, the 1990 Boys 16 National champion in Kalamazoo, was an All-American at University of Southern California. Peterson will work in the West Coast Development Center in Carson.

And for those of you who don't read the comments, it has been confirmed that neither Ryan Harrison nor Rhyne Williams will be playing Kalamazoo this year. Neither gave injury as the reason for their withdrawal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Girls 18s Clay Court Slide Show, YouTube Videos

Just below is the slide show from the Girls 18s Clay Courts in Memphis last week, and below that the YouTube videos from the championship match. I apologize for the loud buzz on the videos; I did not notice it when I was there, but it is very annoying on the video. The low light situation indoors always results in less than ideal video, but I just hope that it's better than nothing, if only barely.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kalamazoo and Other USTA National Wild Cards; U.S. ITF World Junior Teams; Entries for U.S. Open Jrs. Close Friday

The USTA National Championships begin a week from Friday here in Kalamazoo, with the tournaments at the other locations getting underway Saturday or Sunday. Here are the wild card recipients for those events.

Boys 18s:
Sean Berman
Frank Carleton
Jarmere Jenkins
Kevin King
Daniel Nguyen
Nathan Pasha
Max Stevens

Boys 16s:
Terrell Celestine
Trey Daniel
Jeffrey Hawke
Daniel Ho
Erik Lim
Alex Petrone
Mac Styslinger
Quinton Vega

Boys 14s:
Kevin Pham
Quentin Monaghan

Boys 12s:
Jayanth Chintham
Race Collins

Girls 18s:
Kristie Ahn
Gail Brodsky
Jacqueline Cako
Emily Gelber
Asia Muhammad
Shelby Rogers
Stephanie Vidov
Allie Will

Girls 16s:
Breaunna Addison
Tiffany Cheng
Yuki Chiang
Danielle Flores
Kelsey Frechette
Nicole Robinson
Chanelle Van Nguyen
Hannah Wille

Girls 14s:
Samantha Crawford
Mackenzie Craft
Aryn Greene
Cassidy Spearman
Taylor Townsend

Girls 12s:
Usue Arconada
Stephanie Hazell
Sai Keerthi Rachavelpula

The USTA has announced the players who will represent the U.S. in the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic August 3-8. The boys, all Californians who were on the North American qualifying team are: Mackenzie McDonald, Nikko Madregallejo and Joseph Di Giulio. The girls are: Brooke Austin, Vicky Duval and Sachia Vickery. Vickery was on the team last year, but she did not take part in the North American qualifying. The full release from the USTA is here.

And a reminder, the last day to enter the U.S. Open Juniors is Friday, July 31. THIS INCLUDES APPLICATIONS FOR WILD CARDS. See the ITF Junior site for more information.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Catching Up: Other Clay Champions; Cox Turns Pro; Strode, Lumpkin Win on Pro Circuit; Mayotte Hired by USTA

I'm back in Kalamazoo now, and I anticipate the next two weeks will be full of pre-Nationals posts, starting, I hope, with the list of wild cards tomorrow. But when I was in Memphis, I didn't have time to follow the other Clay Court championships, so today is a good day to congratulate the winners:

Boys 12s--Tommy Paul
Girls 12s--Anastasia Nefedova
Boys 14s--Roy Lederman
Girls 14s--Kelsey Laurente
Boys 16s--Bjorn Fratangelo
Girls 16s--Kyle McPhillips
Boys 18s--Jack Sock
Girls 18s--Krista Hardebeck

The USTA release, including all the doubles champions, is available here. The Sun-Sentinel spoke with Laurente about her victory, and the Naples Daily News talked with Fratangelo after his title. And the Hampton Roads Daily Press had a very thorough wrap of the McPhillips win in Virginia Beach in Sonny Dearth's blog. Also, from the Memphis Flyer is this story, entitled "Why You're Not Great" about Germantown, Tenn.'s Catherine Harrison, who reached the round of 32 at the girls 18s Clay Courts.

IMG announced today that Jordan Cox will be represented by the agency as he pursues a professional tennis career. Cox, who qualified for the main draw this week in the Godfrey, Ill. Futures, has an intriguing first round contest with Austin Krajicek, a meeting between the two reigning Kalamazoo champions.

In last week's Pro Circuit events, unseeded Blake Strode, the 2009 NCAA semifinalist who just graduated from Arkansas, won his first professional title at the $10,000 Joplin, Mo. tournament. Strode beat recent Tulsa grad Arnau Brugues in the final 6-1, 6-3. The only set Strode lost was to top seed Michael McClune in the quarterfinals. With this win and his appearance in the final two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, Strode is making a strong case for a U.S. Open qualifying wild card. In the women's $10,000 event in Evansville, Ind., the winner was Liz Lumpkin, who played No. 5 singles for UCLA in their 2008 championship season. It was Lumpkin's first Pro Circuit title, in fact her first final in singles; she has been in three doubles finals. Fourteen-year-old Sachia Vickery qualified and reached the semifinals of her first professional event. This week the women are in St. Joseph, Mo., where CoCo Vandeweghe is the top seed. For more, see the usta.com Pro Circuit page.

The USTA announced today that Tim Mayotte will join its Player Development program as a National Coach. Mayotte, the 1981 NCAA champion while at Stanford, will work out of the USTA's Boca Raton Training Center.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unseeded Hardebeck Wins Girls 18s Clay Court National Championship

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

Things didn't go as planned at the 2009 USTA Girls 18s National Clay Court Championships, thanks to Mother Nature and unseeded Krista Hardebeck.

Nothing could disrupt the focus of the Orange County California 14-year-old, including the early morning severe thunderstorms that forced the final match indoors, to the clay courts at the Tunica National Tennis Club an hour south of Memphis. With the same imperturbability and precision ground strokes she displayed all week, Hardebeck defeated No. 17 seed Gabriella De Simone 6-2, 6-3 to capture a title in her first National Championship in the 18s division.

De Simone is an avowed devotee of clay courts, although she has a 30-minute drive to find them in the hard court tennis mecca of San Diego, where she lives. After a week on the Racquet Club of Memphis clay courts, she was using her fitness and her forehand to make the most of the long points, but a change of venue for the final didn't help her.

"It was much faster," De Simone said of the Tunica courts. "Slow courts are obviously better for me, and the faster the better for her. I didn't adjust, I didn't do what I had to do, and I made a lot of unforced errors."

Hardebeck conceded that the surface did play differently from the outdoor clay courts at the Racquet Club.

"Maybe this court was a little bit faster, and that probably did help me, because I'm able to attack a little bit more. They felt a little bit drier."

As she had in Saturday's semifinal against No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay, Hardebeck took control of the points with a combination of aggressive placement and few unforced errors. De Simone admitted that is a very difficult combination to overcome.

"She comes up with winners and she doesn't miss," said De Simone. "That's tough to beat; someone who can hit winners and doesn't make a lot of unforced errors is always a tough player to play."

Hardebeck, who got off to a slow start in several of her matches during the week, was pleased that she shook off her nerves early, and when she got a break with the score 2-2 in the first set, she found her groove. Hardebeck won seven straight games before De Simone finally halted her run, breaking Hardebeck to make it 3-1 in the second set. But De Simone was broken right back, and when Hardebeck held at love in the following game, it was 5-1.

Like her hero Rafael Nadal, De Simone never stopped fighting, and she saved two match points serving at 5-1 to force Hardebeck to serve it out, which she failed to do, double faulting on the second break point she faced.

De Simone desperately needed a hold in the next game to put some doubt in Hardebeck's mind, but Hardebeck looked as calm as ever in the opening two points, rapping two forehand winners, the second on a deadly angle cross court on a short ball that De Simone yielded, taking a 0-30 lead. De Simone hit the baseline with a forehand to make it 15-30, but Hardebeck kept the pressure on De Simone's backhand, a tactic that had proved successful throughout the match. At 15-40, De Simone was forced into a defensive slice, the first of which was deep enough to stay in the point, but Hardebeck went right back to that corner, and this time De Simone's slice floated long. With a smile and a quiet fist pump, Hardebeck approached the net for the handshake; it wasn't until reminded that she had earned a qualifying wild card into the WTA event next February in Memphis that she showed genuine excitement.

"Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that," Hardebeck said, her eyes widening and her conversational voice getting louder. "Yaaay, I'm excited. Yes, I will be going to that then. School can wait."

There's plenty of tennis to be played before that, and Hardebeck will play on the Southern California section's Junior Fed Cup team before competing for the 18s National Championships in Berkeley, Calif. next month.

"I know Hard Courts is going to be extremely difficult, so it's kind of good to have a little bit more confidence going in, not thinking, oh, these girls are so much better than me. I can say that I can compete against them, that I have a chance."

In the near future, Hardebeck, who admitted that she was sore and tired midweek and was motivated by the thought of avoiding the two-a-days in the back draw, will rest. She is spending a week at Southern California beach house with friends, but her first celebration will be ice cream.

"When I land, I'm going to have my dad take me to my favorite place, Yogurtland, for self-serve yogurt--peanut butter, chocolate and vanilla. You can pick any flavors you want, it's amazing."

But maybe not quite as amazing as an unseeded 14-year-old winning a gold ball in the 18s in her first try.

Doubles final

The doubles final was also played at the Tunica Indoor courts, and again the champions were unseeded. Kayla Duncan and Allison Falkin defeated No. 2 seed Whitney Kay and Ellen Tsay 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Duncan and Falkin, who had never played together before, were down a set and two breaks, trailing 4-1 in the second, but won seven straight games to take control of the match.

The key game was at 4-4 in the second, with Duncan, a rising sophomore at TCU playing in her last junior event, serving. In the eight-deuce game, Duncan and Falkin fought off five consecutive break points and six overall before finally earning their 5-4 lead, then broke Kay to even the match.

"We just decided that if we got back to the basics of our game, hitting cross courts until we got a chance at the net, that we could come back," said Duncan.

"Our main goal was just to play solid," said Falkin, who served out the championship after Duncan was unable to finish it serving with a 5-1 third set lead. "I was very nervous, but I just told myself that if I can make my serve, Kayla's at the net."

On match point, it was Duncan at the net who made the play, a perfectly executed backhand volley that punctuated a stellar week of tennis, which included wins over teams seeded 9, 1, 6, 8 and 2.

"I think our games matched up really well together," said Duncan. "We both like to play the same game. I'm sure on any given day there's a lot of good teams that could have beaten us, but we just happened to be on."

"Everything just went our way," said Falkin.

Third Place and Consolation
The bronze ball in singles went to second seed Tsay, who defeated Nida Hamilton, a No. 17 seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

No. 8 seed Emina Bektas took fifth place with two wins at the Racquet Club of Memphis Sunday. She defeated No. 4 Danielle Collins 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Third place in doubles went to No. 4 seeds Brett Ellen Keeler and Sarah Lee, who downed No. 8 seeds Kate Fuller and Britney Sanders 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

California Girls Hardebeck and De Simone Reach USTA 18s Clay Court Finals

©Colette Lewis 2009—
Memphis, TN—

Hard courts are the surface of choice in their Southern California homes, but 14-year-old Krista Hardebeck and 16-year-old Gabriella De Simone have proven to be very comfortable on the green clay of the Racquet Club of Memphis, thank you. Both continued their impressive results in Saturday's semifinals, taking straight set wins to set up an all-California clash for the title Sunday.

De Simone, a No. 17 seed, is a big fan of Rafael Nadal and clay court tennis, and she is excited that her 6-1, 6-4 semifinal win over Nida Hamilton gives her the opportunity to play another match on her favorite surface.

“I love clay, and there’s only one tournament a year for me on clay,” said De Simone, who is coached by Patricia Tarabini, a French Open mixed doubles champion from Argentina. “I’d love to do more, but I’m just happy do be doing well here.”

The match opened with two exceedingly long games, with Hamilton, also a No. 17 seed, starting the match with an eight-deuce serving game that lasted over 10 minutes. She double faulted five times in that game, eventually losing it. In the second game, De Simone needed five deuces before finally taking a 2-0 lead, and it wasn’t high quality tennis from either player.

“I think it was nerves,” said De Simone, who lives in the San Diego area, and trained for the tournament at clay courts about 30 minutes from her home. “We’re both players who make a lot of balls, we both have kind of a similar game style, ad we were making so many errors, which is very unusual for us. I was late and short, but I tried to step up and find my forehand and take the point with it.”

Hamilton didn’t hold serve in the opening set, getting her only game when she broke at 3-0, but still it took over 50 minutes to complete, with neither girl taking advantage of the myriad chances they had.

The level of play rose in the second set, although neither De Simone nor Hamilton hit the ball with the same authority they had displayed in their quarterfinal wins over higher seeds. Hamilton broke to open the second set, De Simone got it right back, before four consecutive holds had De Simone up 4-3. Hamilton played a very loose game and was broken when she missed an easy put-away volley three feet long, but De Simone was broken at love serving for the match. Hamilton couldn’t raise her game however, and two unforced errors to start the final game put her down 0-30. She won the next point, but made another error to give De Simone her first match point, and it was over quickly when Hamilton hit a forehand wide, putting De Simone in her first National Championship final.

In preparation for Sunday’s contest, the superstitious De Simone will have her usual dinner--chicken Parmigiana--at nearby Ciao Bella restaurant, then turn on her computer to watch some French Open tennis on You Tube.

“I'm very excited," she said of her first final. "To do it in the next age group is unbelievable.”

Krista Hardebeck is also playing in her first National final, and technically she is playing two age groups up, as she doesn't turn 15 until September. With her t-shirts and slight stature, she’s not an intimidating presence, but once she gets her ground strokes dialed in, no opponent is safe. Once that happened today, No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay was in peril, losing to the unseeded right-hander from Santa Ana, Calif. 7-5, 6-1.

Tsay had the upper hand early, taking a 4-1 lead in the opening set, and was a point from a 5-1 advantage with Hardebeck serving at 1-4, 15-40. But as she has been doing all week, Hardebeck began to find the lines on the big points, or locate a short, sharp angle that didn’t appear to exist.

The fifteen-year-old Tsay did serve for the first set at 5-3, but she didn’t come close to taking it there, serving poorly and letting Hardebeck dictate play. In the next game, the left-hander from Pleasanton, Calif. did have a set point at 30-40, but Hardebeck stepped well into the court and hit a huge winner inches from the sideline to end that threat and hold for 5-5.

Unable to make a first serve in the following game, Tsay eventually paid for that when Hardebeck converted on her third break point. Although Tsay did have some success when she approached the net and volleyed away from the very quick Hardebeck, the younger girl began to pass with much more authority as the match wore on. Hardebeck made a rare error on her first set point at 6-5, but hit a forehand winner on the second to secure it 7-5.

A shaken Tsay then lost eight straight points to open the second set, and although she held in the third game, she could not threaten a confident Hardebeck. Serving at 2-1, Hardebeck was down 15-40, but she continued to play aggressively from the baseline, and when Tsay was broken in the next game, there was little doubt about the finish, which came two games later, again delivered by a Hardebeck forehand winner.

Hardebeck ranked her victory over Tsay, the 2008 Easter Bowl 16s champion, as “definitely in the Top Ten,” and expressed great excitement about her first National final.

“Oh my gosh, I have never won a ball of any color, and now I know I’m going to win one no matter what,” said Hardebeck. “I’m just going to go out there and try my best and see what happens.”

With both she and De Simone from the same section, they have played regularly, and have split their last two meetings.

“For a little bit, we were playing a lot,” said Hardebeck, whose first tournament on clay was last week's Intersectionals. “I think three times. Then I played her in December--she beat me in December, and I beat her in May.”

Even though she won the 16s International Spring Championships in Carson in April (De Simone won that title in 2008), Hardebeck points to May as the time when she began to see real improvement in her game.

“That’s when I started having a few good wins. Since then I think I’ve been doing better, getting it together. When I go out there now, I say to myself, you are going to win this match, and you just have to focus on what to do.”

In the doubles semifinals, there were few of the momentum swings that usually characterize evenly matched contests at the national level. The unseeded team of Kayla Duncan and Alison Falkin ousted a fourth seeded team in Saturday's semifinal, beating No. 8 seed Kate Fuller and Britney Sanders 6-4, 6-2 and will try to eliminate another on Sunday, when they face No. 2 seed Whitney Kay and Ellen Tsay. Kay and Tsay struggled at the beginning of both sets in the match against fourth seeds Brett Ellen Keeler and Sarah Lee, but seized control near the end of each to take a 6-2, 6-3 decision.

The consolation semifinals will feature No. 8 seed Emina Bektas against Nicole Melichar and No. 4 seed Danielle Collins against No. 3 seed Blair Seideman.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Unseeded Hardebeck Joins Other Surprise Semifinalists at Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

Second seed Ellen Tsay has reached her expected position in the Girls 18 Clay Court semifinals, but she is joined there by an unlikely trio: Gabriella De Simone and Nida Hamilton, two No. 17 seeds, and unseeded Krista Hardebeck.

De Simone took down No. 4 seed Danielle Collins 7-6(5), 6-4, with the San Diego area native looking very much at home on the green clay. Collins found it impossible to hit De Simone off the court, and even the backhand exchanges were not regularly in the Floridian's favor, with De Simone retrieving each potential winner and sending it back with pace and depth, often accompanied by a spirited "vamos."

De Simone did display some nerves when she was unable to serve out the first set after an early break resulted in a 5-4 lead. A double fault at 30-40 could have proven psychologically damaging, but she shook it off, and took a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker two games later. Again De Simone couldn't stand the prosperity, squandering three set points, but Collins let her off the hook on the fourth, when her backhand found the net, ending the 70-minute first set.

In the second set, De Simone kept the pressure on, going up 4-2 and 5-3, but she failed to consolidate either break. Collins again refused the gift however, and was broken at love in the match's last game.

Meanwhile, asimilar scenario was taking place on the upper level court, only it was the higher seed, Alexandra Anghelescu at No. 6, who survived a first set tiebreaker 7 points to 5 after taking a 6-2 lead over Hamilton. In the second set, it was Hamilton, who had beaten No. 1 seed Lilly Kimbell Thursday, who had two chances to serve for the set--at 5-4 and 6-5--but she couldn't do it. In the ensuing tiebreaker, however, Hamilton played very well and evened the match with little drama, taking it 6-2. Anghelescu's pace can be a challenge, but Hamilton had no trouble staying with her in long rallies, and began to force errors by maneuvering Anghelescu out of position. Anghelescu was broken after a long game at 3-4, giving Hamilton the opportunity to finish the match, and when she took a 40-15 lead, it looked likely. But a double fault on the first, and a forehand long on the second and it was deuce. Hamilton earned her third match point, but Anghelesecu denied it with a forehand winner. On the fourth, Hamilton finally finished it, basically half-volleying a shot on baseline for a clean angle winner to give her a 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-3 victory. Hamilton plays De Simone in Saturday's semifinal, and is hoping to repeat her recent straight set win over the Californian posted at the Spring Nationals in Mobile.

Hardebeck dealt Nicole Melichar, also unseeded, a 6-4, 7-5 defeat, and unlike her previous two victories over No. 3 seed Blair Seideman and No. 17 Whitney Kay, Hardebeck played a very clean and consistent match from start to finish. Against the much bigger and stronger-looking Melichar, Hardebeck hit her strokes forcefully and close to the lines. During one of her three breaks of Melichar in the opening set, Hardebeck hit the baseline with her winners twice in a row, while giving Melichar no time to control the point.

"Nicole's a very, very good player," said Hardebeck, whose first tournament on clay was last week's 16s Intersectionals in Shreveport, La. "I had to be really consistent and then go for it whenever I could. Anything less and she would have beat me."

Melichar actually had beaten Hardebeck at the 16s Winter Nationals, but on Friday, Hardebeck wasn't entertaining any thoughts of losing. Down 2-0 in the second set, she got the break back in the fourth game, and neither player was broken again until Melichar lost her serve, and the match, at 5-6. Melichar saved one match point, when the chair checked the mark and confirmed that a Hardebeck shot was out, but after a Hardebeck forehand winner, Melichar double faulted to put Hardebeck in the semifinals of her first 18s National Championship.

Hardebeck will play No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay, who defeated unseeded Arianna Colffer 6-2, 6-4. Although Colffer has no dearth of firepower, she seemed unwilling to follow any of her most damaging ground strokes to the net, and Tsay took advantage of that reluctance. Staying in a point until Colffer missed, even down 3-1 in the second set, Tsay looked in control of the match throughout. Colffer was broken the last three times she served, giving herself no chance to extend the match or truly pressure Tsay. Semifinal opponents Tsay, 15, and Hardebeck, 14, have never played.

In the doubles quarterfinals, there are three seeded teams remaining, but as in singles, it doesn't include the top seeds, Lilly Kimbell and Emina Bektas, who lost in the round of 16 Thursday evening.

Tsay and her partner Whitney Kay are the second seeds, and they posted a routine 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 9 seeds Alexandra Clay and Maria Mira Friday afternoon. Kay and Tsay will take on No. 4 seeds Brett Ellen Keeler and Sarah Lee in Saturday's semifinals. Keeler and Lee defeated unseeded Danielle Flores and Elena Najera-Salas 7-6(3), 6-2.

Number 8 seeds Kate Fuller and Britney Sanders reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 9 seeds Mia Lancaster and Whitney Ritchie, and will play unseeded Kayla Duncan and Allison Falkin, the team that ousted Kimbell and Bektas Thursday. On Friday, Duncan and Falkin came back for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seeds Robin Anderson and Jennifer Kellner.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hamilton Knocks Out Top Seed Kimbell Thursday at Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

When Thursday morning dawned, clear and summer-like, but not humid, 32 girls still had hopes of a gold ball representing a National title at the Girls 18s Clay Courts. Thirteen hours later, only eight of them still have a chance at the title, and No. 1 seed Lilly Kimbell isn't one of them.

Kimbell's fourth round match had gone to plan, as she easily dismissed No. 17 seed Jacqueline Kasler 6-0, 6-2, but the late afternoon round of 16 encounter with Nida Hamilton, also a 17 seed, was a hurdle she couldn't overcome, with Hamilton taking a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 decision.

Hamilton had the more difficult opening match, needing three sets to dispose of unseeded Jojo Sanford, but she had Wednesday off, because she was one of the few to complete her third round on Tuesday before the rains came, and she said that "little rest" helped her.

"Both the people I played today were really tough," Hamilton said. "We had long points, and long matches, and I just got one more ball in than they did. I had to grind a lot."

In the final set, Hamilton was down 3-1, but won the final five games of the match. Serving at 3-4, Kimbell played a nervous game and three balls into the net proved her undoing. Hamilton took a 40-0 lead serving for the match, but she thought back to May's National Open, when she had suffered a quarterfinal lost to Kimbell, splitting tiebreakers before losing the third set 6-2.

"I had two match points in the second set, but I couldn't turn them in," recalled Hamilton, an Illinois native who has verbally committed to play for the Northwestern Wildcats in 2010. "So when I got my match points, I had to try really hard not to blow it."

On Hamilton's first opportunity to finish the upset, Kimbell hit a gutsy drop shot winner, but Hamilton kept her nerve in a long rally at 40-15, and when Kimbell's backhand found the net, Hamilton had reached her first National Championship quarterfinal.

She will play No. 6 seed Alexandra Anghelescu, who had a pair of 6-3, 6-3 wins Thursday, the second over No. 10 seed Maria Belaya, the first over Samantha Critser, a 17 seed.

Danielle Collins, the fourth seed, battled past two unseeded players to reach the quarterfinals, taking down local favorite Catherine Harrison 7-6(4), 6-3 in the morning, and fellow Floridian Bianca Sanon 7-5, 7-6(6) in the afternoon. Collins will play Gabriella De Simone, a No. 17 seed, who survived No. 12 seed Alexandra Clay 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) and unseeded Katie Goepel 6-1, 6-4 to advance.

An unseeded semifinalist is assured as Nicole Melichar and Krista Hardebeck will meet in the quarterfinals. Melichar, who turns 16 next week, has yet to drop a set in the tournament, and today beat unseeded Mia Lancaster 6-3, 6-4 and No. 17 seed Monica Turewicz 6-0, 6-2. Hardebeck took out unseeded Hanna Yu in her opening match 7-5, 6-3, but the 14-year-old got off to a horrible start against No. 17 seed Whitney Kay this afternoon, falling behind 4-0. Saying that she played as badly in those four games as she had in her second set against No. 3 seed Blair Seideman, which she lost 6-0, Hardebeck recovered in time to win a tiebreaker. Kay won the second set, but Hardebeck found her range in the third to take a 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1 win.

The third unseeded player in the quarterfinals is Arianna Colffer, who took out two seeds on Thursday, No. 14 Anna Mamalat 6-4, 6-2, and No. 17 seed Lacey Smyth 7-5, 6-2. Colffer will play No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay, who battled No. 9 seed Mary Clayton for over three and a half hours before finally coming away with a 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-3 victory under the lights at the Racquet Club of Memphis. Tsay stretched her legs after nearly every point in an attempt to keep the cramps at bay, but she fought off the powerful Clayton ground strokes to earn her spot in the quarterfinals.

Most of the doubles round of 16 matches were still underway when I left at 9 p.m., so please visit the TennisLink site for those results.

Mystery Man No More

With a late post likely Thursday from the Girls 18s Clay Courts here in Memphis, I wanted to get this link about to my weekly story at The Tennis Recruiting Network. An unusual story for me, this is a conversation with the editor/proprietor/creator of the Texas College Tennis blog, who is publicly revealing his identity for the first time. Not one to hold back, Granger Huntress gives his opinion on college tennis and U.S. tennis, while also providing his personal background and how that led to his venture.

I will try to provide updates of significant results in the two main draw rounds being played today at the Racquet Club of Memphis via twitter. Check the sidebar on this site if you are not a twitter user.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hardebeck Upsets Seideman in Third Round at Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

The effects of Tuesday's heavy rains were still being felt Wednesday at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts, and the scrambled schedule meant there was a great deal going on at all three sites, including the Racquet Club of Memphis, where I spent the afternoon and early evening.

There were 25 third round matches that hadn't finished when Tuesday's mid-afternoon deluge began, and it was nearly 24 hours later when the majority of the courts were finally playable. A round of consolation matches began, some of them indoors, around 11 a.m., with main draw following a couple of hours later.

Opening the main draw action were unseeded Jojo Sanford and No. 13 seed Mary Anne MacFarlane, and when it started, the match looked like it wouldn't last long. MacFarlane won the first set 6-0, playing nearly perfect tennis, while Sanford wasn't keeping the ball in play. But the second set was exactly the opposite of the first, and it didn't take long to turn in Sanford's direction, as she had a 3-0 two-break lead in the second set, and went on to win it 6-2. MacFarlane started to make more errors, and when she did get the ball into the court, it was often too short to pose any problems for Sanford. A close third set seemed inevitable after two lopsided sets, and that's what developed. McFarlane was broken at 4-4, but despite match points (there was no umpire, so it was difficult to tell from two courts away just what the score was in every game) in the next game, Sanford couldn't finish it. It ended in a tiebreaker, with Sanford taking it 8 points to 6.

On the stadium court, No. 6 seed Alexandra Anghelescu was in trouble against unseeded Sonja Meighan, dropping the opening set 6-4. The level of play was extremely high in that first set, with Meighan having no difficulty handling the pace. Errors were few, winners plentiful, with the sidelines and baselines getting smacked with regularity. Meighan looked as if she might be on her way to a straight-set upset, but she was broken serving at 4-5 in the second, and after that she couldn't maintain the standard she had previously demonstrated. Her shots began to find the tape more often, and she seemed to struggle physically in the later stages, with Anghelescu taking the final set 6-1.

Top seed Lily Kimbell had quickly finished her match with Jessica Harrow, which was only a few games old when it was halted by the rain Tuesday, earning a 6-4, 6-0 victory, but the next match on that same lower level court was far from routine.

When I arrived, No. 3 seed Blair Seideman and unseeded Krista Hardebeck were in the second set, with Seideman holding a 3-0 lead, after Hardeback had taken the opening set 6-3. Hardebeck is difficult to beat when she is playing well, because she simply doesn't miss and gets everything back, but in the second set the 14-year-old Californian was committing an uncharacteristic number of errors. Once the match was even again, there were no breaks until 4-4 in the third, when Hardebeck hit a backhand wide at 30-40.

Seideman, who was having trouble reading Hardebeck's strokes, served for the match twice, at 5-4 and at 6-5, but she never earned a match point. In the tenth game, Seideman seemed shaken by a argument over a let that she had said she'd called, but the court umpire did not hear, leaving intact the loss of the point and a 30-30 score. She lost the next two points, but Hardebeck immediately went down 0-40 and the eventual break gave Seideman another chance to end it on her serve. But broken at love, Seidman went into the tiebreaker without any momentum, and it didn't take long for Hardebeck, who won the 16s International Spring Championships in Carson, to fashion a 6-2 lead. Three unforced errors later, Hardebeck was down to her last chance, but she seized it with a forehand winner to seal her 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(5) upset. She will play unseeded Hanna Yu in the fourth round on Thursday.

Two rounds of main draw matches are scheduled for Thursday, so it will be another busy day at the Racquet Club, although the weather forecast is much better and should create no additional scheduling problems.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Heavy Rain in Memphis Disrupts Third Round at Girls Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Memphis, TN--

Only six main draw matches were completed in Tuesday's third round at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts, but due to the stadium court scheduling, I was able to see three of them before the clouds opened at around 2 p.m. CDT, ending main draw play for the day.

There is a "center court" at the Racquet Club of Memphis, and the feature matches scheduled for that court (three today, on a "to follow" basis) have chair umpires, ball runners and plenty of bleacher seating.

Today under overcast skies and in unseasonably cool (low 70s) temperatures, No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay started the day at 8 a.m. against Grace Baker of Charlotte, NC. Tsay fell behind 3-0 in the first set, but won 5 of the next 6 games to give herself a chance to serve it out at 5-4. Despite several set points, the 15-year-old from Pleasanton, Calif., couldn't find her usual consistency and let Baker pull even. Tsay broke Baker in the next game, however, and served well at 6-5 to finish the set.

In the second set, Tsay got an early break, and built at 5-1 lead. Baker was in most of the points, but Tsay's placement often caught her lunging out wide. Baker made far too many errors to put pressure on the steady left-hander, and Tsay won 7-5, 6-2, without being forced to play her best.

Next up on stadium court was local favorite Catherine Harrison, a 15-year-old from Germantown, a Memphis suburb. Aside from the advantages of home cooking and home court, Harrison started with a more tangible benefit, when her opponent, Sarah Lee, was penalized two games for being late for the match, which was scheduled as not before 9 a.m.

Lee looked out of sorts and had difficulty with both her serve and the two-handed forehand of Harrison. Harrison had a 4-0 and 5-1 lead in the opening set, but she was broken serving for the set at 5-1. Lee's drop shots gave Harrison problems, as, like most two-handers on both sides, she prefers to hit hard and flat from the baseline. But Lee was often too busy defending to construct the points as she wanted, and Harrison closed out the first set 6-3, and took a 3-0 two-break lead in the second. Lee got one of the breaks back, but Harrison held at 3-2, with her swinging volley winners proving too much for a dispirited Lee. Harrison's 6-3, 6-3 win also proved another advantage, as her opponent in the fourth round, the winner of the match between No. 4 seed Danielle Collins and Carolyn Chupa, will likely have to play two matches on Wednesday. Harrison and Collins already have a history at the tournament--last year Collins, a No. 17 seed, squeezed by Harrison, a wild card, in a third set tiebreaker in the second round.

The third match on the center court was a short one, with No. 16 seed Whitney Ritchie defeating Keri Frankenberger 6-1, 6-1. Ritchie, a frail-looking left-hander from Oklahoma City, played a very clean and controlled match, keeping errors to a minimum and winning all the important points. Frankenberger couldn't find an area of Ritchie's game to attack, and she was by far the more likely to make an error in any rally of five balls or more.

The other completed matches, which were played at other sites, saw three No. 17 seeds come through: Nida Hamilton, who defeated Monica Yajima 6-3, 6-1, Monica Turewicz, who beat Jacqueline Palmucci 6-1, 6-4 and Gabriella De Simone, who downed Natalie Blosser 6-2.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Few Surprises as Seeds Play First Matches at Clay Courts

After the long drive from Indianapolis, I didn't make it to the Racquet Club of Memphis this evening, but I am pleased to report that I'm finally far enough south to have found summer again. I'm sure that mid 80s is unseasonably cool here in mid-July, but it felt very pleasant to someone who has endured a Michigan July that has felt more like May.

First round matches were played yesterday, but it wasn't until today that the 32 seeds were in action. Five of them lost, four No. 17 seeds, and No. 7 seed Caryssa Peretz, who was defeated by Mia Lancaster 7-5, 6-0. Bianca Sanon defeated Brittany Sanders, Tiana Takenaga beat Julie Sabacinski, Arianna Colffer downed Marivick Mamiit and Hanna Yu eliminated Alexandra Leatu, all those losing were No. 17 seeds.

Top seed Lilly Kimbell needed three sets to get past fellow John Newcombe's Tennis Academy player Samantha Adams, while No. 2 seed Ellen Tsay posted a straight set victory over Caitlin McGraw.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

There were even fewer surprises in Delray Beach, where the Boys 18s lost only one seed, No. 17 Wyatt McCoy, who was beaten in straight sets by Shane Vinsant. Apparently No. 6 seed John Collins was a late withdrawal, as his place in the draw was taken by an unseeded player.

In the boys 16s, No. 8 Jason Tahir was defeated by Nicholas Naumann 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, while the girls 16s in Virginia Beach lost their No. 4 seed Desirae Krawczyk, who was beat 6-2, 7-5 by Kendal Woodard. For the girls 16s results, click here.

For the boys 16 & 18s results, click here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ram Takes Out Britton at Indianapolis; Venus, Falconi Win Futures Titles

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Indianapolis, IN--

I'm not a veteran of many professional tennis tournaments, either as a writer or a spectator. Even when I'm in New York for the Open, I seldom see a pro match except the night ones on television back in the hotel room, so focused am I on the junior competition. So I didn't know quite what to expect from today's trip to the ATP 250 Indianapolis Championships.

With only one main draw match on the schedule, there wasn't much of the bustle and crowds that make the middle weekend of the U.S. Open so irritating and exhilarating, and many of the booths, tents and trailers were still being prepared for next week's spectators.

By the time I had my credential in order, Jesse Levine had taken the first set from Cecil Mamiit 7-5, although he was down an early break in the second when I settled in to watch the second round qualifying match. Levine, the top seed in qualifying, broke Mamiit at 3-2 to pull even, held, then broke again, using his exceptional speed to track down every shot, including one short volley on break point that Mamiit had no reason to imagine would ever come back over the net. Levine did get it a millisecond before the second bounce however, and directed the ball toward Mamiit, who netted the volley.

Serving for the match, Levine made a couple of errors and double faulted, giving Mamiit three chances to get back on serve. But Mamiit missed his best opportunity when at 30-40 he had a backhand passing shot lined up perfectly and pulled it into the net. Levine won his fourth and fifth straight points with two clutch lefty serves, one a second serve winner and the final a kicker that set up an easy volley putaway for the 7-5, 6-3 victory. Levine will meet fellow Bollettieri pro Xavier Malisse in the final round of qualifying.

Sunday didn't prove to be a good day on Stadium court for freshmen NCAA singles champions. Mamiit, who won the title at USC in 1996, was the last freshman champion until this year, when Devin Britton of Ole Miss captured the title.

Britton, playing his first match as a professional after receiving a wild card into the main draw, held his own with fellow wild card and 2003 NCAA doubles champion Rajeev Ram, but Ram's confident serving was the difference.

Ram, who is from nearby Carmel, Indiana, broke Britton in the third game of the match, when too few first serves and too many double faults had the teenager playing from behind. Serving at 4-3, Ram went down 0-40, but Britton couldn't get the break, and a well-considered Hawkeye Challenge by Ram, which overturned a shot of Britton's called good, gave the former Illini player the game. Britton was broken again in the next game, despite three game points, and Ram had the opening set 6-3.

In the second set, Ram really began to serve well, and in his first five service games, Britton didn't get more than one point. Although the baseline rallies were usually even, and there was more touch and net play than is the norm in an ATP contest, it came down to who served better, and it was unquestionably Ram. The one time Britton had a glimmer of hope on Ram's serve, at 5-5, 40-30, Ram cracked an ace, and playing with the confidence of a recent tour title winner, Ram then broke Britton to claim the match 6-3, 7-5.

It was less than ten minutes later that the skies opened up, and once the courts were usable again, only a few games were played in the remaining qualifying matches before it began to rain again.

Both current college players, Illinois's Dennis Nevolo and Ohio State's Matt Allare, lost their second round qualifying matches in straight sets. For results, see the tournament website.

In Pro Circuit news today, unseeded sophomore Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech captured the $10,000 Atlanta event with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over No. 7 seed Jennifer Elie and recent LSU Tiger Michael Venus won the $10,000 Peoria Futures, beating Vasek Pospisil 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. Neither player was seeded. In the Lexington Challenger qualifying, former Kalamazoo champions Tennys Sandgren and Austin Krajicek have played their way into the main draw. Krajicek will play fellow qualifier Tim Smyczek, and Sandgren will meet No. 4 seed Ryan Sweeting. For complete results, see the usta.com Pro Circuit page.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Clays Begin Sunday; Indy Coverage First; Cox Interview, Southern Takes 16s Intersectionals

The USTA Clay Court Championships begin tomorrow, and, as I did last year, I'll be covering the girls 18s in Memphis, beginning with Tuesday's round of 64. Lily Kimbell and Ellen Tsay are the top two seeds, with Blair Seideman and Danielle Collins Nos. 3 and 4. As always, there are some dangerous floaters--Nicole Melichar who won the College Station ITF this spring, Alexa Guarachi, the Alabama recruit who recently won an ITA Summer Circuit event, ISC 16s champion Krista Hardebeck, Orange Bowl 16s champion Chanelle Van Nguyen, Emily Gelber, who won the 2007 18s Winter Nationals as a 14-year-old, and 16s Easter Bowl champion Caroline Price. One of Sunday's most interesting first round contests pits Price against Jasmine Minor. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

The boys 18s and 16s Clay Courts also begin Sunday at several sites in the Delray Beach area. Spring National champion Frederick Saba is the top seed in the 18s, with Jack Sock, whom Saba beat for the title in Mobile, the No. 2 seed. Zachary Leslie and Sekou Bangoura Jr. round out the top four. Unseeded players to watch in the 18s are Shane Vinsant, Nathan Pasha, Dane Webb, Jeremy Efferding and Marcos Giron. Bjorn Fratangelo and Jackson Withrow are the top two seeds in the 16s. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

On my way to Memphis, I am going to stop by the ATP tournament in Indianapolis, where qualifying got underway today. Illinois's Dennis Nevolo and Ohio State's Matt Allare won their first round matches and will play again Sunday. There are eight qualifying matches on the schedule tomorrow, and one main draw match, NCAA champion Devin Britton against fellow wild card and hometown hero Rajeev Ram, who won last week's ATP stop in Rhode Island. It is Britton's debut as a professional. For draws, results and the order of play, see tennisindy.com. Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will also be webcasting from the tournament beginning Sunday.

Tennis Week's Richard Pagliaro posted this interview with Wimbledon boys finalist Jordan Cox yesterday. Cox received a wild card into next week's Lexington Challenger.

Tom Tebbutt, the esteemed Canadian tennis writer, brought Toronto's The Globe and Mail readers up to speed on Davis Cup hero Bruno Agostinelli in this feature on the University of Kentucky All-american.

And the Shreveport Times covered the USTA 16s Team Intersectional final, where the Southern section shut out the Midwest 8-0. Although I find it very difficult to negotiate the TennisLink site for team events, there are complete results available there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Last month, in my review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, I mentioned another book with a similar topic I was reading, Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.

Coyle’s book has as much or more relevance to tennis development as Gladwell’s. In fact, the impetus for his book is this article on Moscow’s Spartak Tennis Club that Coyle wrote for the New York Times' (now sadly defunct) Play Magazine back in 2007.

The “growing” Coyle refers to in that piece and throughout his book is centered on myelin, brain matter that neurologists believe may hold the key to skill acquisition. Coyle writes:

“It explains the world’s complexity with a simple, elegant mechanism. Skill is myelin insulation that wraps neural circuits and that grows according to certain signals. The story of skill and talent is the story of myelin.”

But you needn’t worry that the book is a scientific thesis. Coyle shows us other Spartaks: Curacao baseball, Brazil Futsal, Meadowmount music education, KIPP Heartwood Academy, revealing how these talent hotbeds conspire to produce greatness, while other, similar places do not. Why here and not there? he asks, and his answers are found in the book’s three sections: Deep Practice, Ignition and Master Coaching.

Although he cites the 10,000 hour expertise study that plays such a prominent role in Gladwell’s Outliers, Coyle adds this:

“Repetition is invaluable and irreplaceable. There are, however, a few caveats. With conventional practice, more is always better: hitting two hundred forehands a day is presumed to be twice as good as hitting one hundred forehands a day. Deep practice, however, doesn't obey the same math. Spending more time is effective—-but only if you’re still in the sweet spot at the edge of your capabilities, attentively building and honing circuits. What’s more, there seems to be a universal limit for how much deep practice human beings can do in a day. Ericsson’s research shows that most world-class experts—-including pianists, chess players, novelists, and athletes—-practice between three and five hours a day, no matter what skill they pursue.”

In the chapter entitled "The Three Rules of Deep Practice," Coyle explains the concept of chunking and how it relates to what he terms the HSE (Holy S**t Effect), “the feeling of seeing talent bloom in people who we thought were just like us, the feeling of where did that come from?”

“When chunking has been done effectively, it creates a mirage that gives rise to the HSE. From below, top performers look incomprehensibly superior, as if they’ve leaped in a single bound across a huge chasm. Yet as de Groot showed, they aren’t nearly so different from ordinary performers as they seem. What separates these two levels is not innate superpower but a slowly accrued act of construction and organization; the building of a scaffolding, bolt by bolt and circuit by circuit---or as Mr. Myelin might say, wrap by wrap.”

In Ignition, Coyle turns his attention what motivates people to undertake the tough work of deep practice. Sometimes it is a peer who breaks through—-Se Ri Pak in women’s golf, Anna Kournikova in women’s tennis, Andruw Jones in baseball. Sometimes it’s what Coyle refers to as the primal clues of a young life, “a vision of their ideal future selves, a vision that oriented, energized and accelerated progress, and that originated in the outside world.”

In the Master Coaching section, Coyle explores the successful coaching styles of John Wooden, Robert Lansdorp, Linda Septien, Larisa Preobrazhenskaya, Hans Jensen--the Talent Whisperers, as he calls them--and provides examples, through their teaching, of the four virtues of good coaching. And then he lobs in this curve ball in a section entitled Coaching Love:

“It’s the most basic common sense: if you want to start a child in a new skill, you should search out the best-trained, most John Wooden-like teach possible. Right? Not necessarily. [a University of Chicago study] discovered a surprising fact: many world-class talents, particularly in piano, swimming and tennis, start out with seemingly average teachers.”

Coyle then goes on to describe his local piano teacher, Mary Epperson, and how she is average in conventional teaching terms (that is, not famous), but is exceptional in “creating and sustaining motivation…teaching love.”

“As Bloom’s study summed up, ‘The effect of this first phase of learning seemed to be to get the learner involved, captivated, hooked, and to get the learner to need and want more information and expertise.’”

These are just a few of the many thought-provoking studies and observations that appear in Coyle’s book. If you read it, and I consider it essential reading for any coach or parent, there will be other insights that will resonate with you, that will alter the way you look at talent, practice and achievement. The book may not be the simple blueprint the “Here’s How” in the subtitle implies, but there’s no denying that the questions it asks and the conclusions it draws are a giant step toward understanding just what it is that constitutes that omnipresent and loaded word "talent".

For an interesting interview with Daniel Coyle, please see this entry at the blog "49 Writers."

To read the first chapter, see the book's website, which also contains an author's blog.

If you use the links to Amazon in this post, I will receive a small percentage of the sales made through this site.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Athletic DNA Launch; Scholarship Inequity; Moving up the Ranks of Tennis Officiating

At this year's Easter Bowl, I met Evan Zeder, manager of Sales and Sponsorship for Athletic DNA, a new tennis apparel company. I had heard of the company before that, having seen both Robert Kendrick and Ryler DeHeart wearing their distinctive logo, but until I met Zeder, I didn't have a clear idea of their niche. Zeder, a member of the Illinois team that won the NCAA title in 2003 under Craig Tiley, was at the Easter Bowl looking for boys the company might sponsor, and we arranged to talk about the company's philosophy once the launch of the product was scheduled. A few weeks ago, I spoke with him over the phone, and today's story for The Tennis Recruiting Network is the result of that conversation. Much of what Zeder told me about their belief that junior tennis is under appreciated was preaching to the choir. I hope their commitment to the lower levels of the game helps change the perception that tennis players suddenly emerge, out of nowhere, and begin to win grand slams. It's a lot more work than that, and I'm certain Athletic DNA understands that.

I haven't seen this nbcsports.com article posted anywhere else, maybe because it's not exactly are-you-kidding-me breaking news, but I think comparing women's athletic scholarship possibilities with men's is a worthwhile exercise. The College Sports Council, which published the study, takes football out of the equation and then compares opportunities. That may be unrealistic, but I do find their argument about Pepperdine volleyball pretty compelling.

Courtney Schumacher isn't your typical student-athlete. She's a 27-year-old senior who is a member of the Division II California State-San Bernardino women's tennis team. But she has also has begun climbing the tennis officiating ladder, and this story about her from the school's website gives some interesting background information on an occupation that is taken for granted by just about everyone in the sport. If you didn't learn something from this story, you are probably a tennis official yourself.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stephens, Domijan Lead Buzz to Third Win; Pro Circuit News; Vickery Feature

The World Team Tennis New York Buzz posted their third win Tuesday night, this one coming against the Boston Lobsters, who had 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova playing for them. But her 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles didn't help against Alex Domijan and Sloane Stephens, who managed to beat Navratilova and James Aukland 5-0 to open the match. Stephens and Mallory Burdette also beat Navratilova and Raquel Kops-Jones in women's doubles, 5-3, and Stephens closed out a perfect evening with a 5-4 win over Boston's Stephanie Foretz in women's singles. Domijan and Ryan Lipman lost in men's doubles, and Domijan fell to Jan-Michael Gambill in men's singles, but in the overtime that decided the match, Domijan beat Gambill to give the amateur Buzz the victory.

Navratilova spoke about the junior team concept in this story, from the Albany Times-Union and about Stephens in particular in this article from the Schenectady Daily Gazette.

There's been consistently good coverage of this week's Aptos Challenger and the Peoria Futures, although none that I can find about the women's Pro Circuit event in Atlanta. The San Jose Mercury-News provided detailed coverage of Alex Bogomolov's upset of Arnaud Clement yesterday and of Wayne Odesnik's first round victory in this story. And the Peoria Journal Star spoke with Stanford sophomore Bradley Klahn about his first year in college and his first round win yesterday in this article.

Another interesting story from last week involves Caryn Copeland Wilson, who is only the second woman to play in both the tennis and golf U.S. Opens. As Caryn Copeland, she was a three-time All-american in tennis at Stanford and played the U.S. Open in the mid-80s. She is now a golfer, and at age 48, qualified for the U.S. Women's Open last week in Pennsylvania. She's in very good company--the other woman to play in both is Althea Gibson. For the complete story, from the New York Times, click here.

For those who might wonder what happened to 1989 Kalamazoo boys 16s champion David Witt, the Jacksonville Fla. Times-Union posted this "where are they now?" story recently.

And somehow I missed this story on Sachia Vickery from Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald that was published during the Wimbledon Junior championships.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

USTA Nationals Entry Deadline Thursday; Keys Beats Serena; Lertcheewakarn, Capra Features

Thursday, July 16th at noon EDT is the deadline for entering the USTA National Championships. Every year it seems there is a player or two who would have been selected if only he or she had entered. But because they "forgot" to enter, they must ask for a wild card, and the USTA rarely awards them for that circumstance. If you want to play the Nationals, enter, via the TennisLink site. Now.

It's hard to know what to make of Madison Keys's 5-1 women's singles win over Serena Williams last night, when the Philadelphia Freedoms lost to the Wimbledon champion's Washington Kastles 19-18 in overtime. The Philadelphia papers didn't make much of it; the stories filed were about Serena, but there was no reporting on the actual competition between Keys and Williams. Tennis Week did cover it, although there's nothing in this story to indicate the writer was at the match.

There has been nothing like the aftermath of Laura Robson's 2008 girls Wimbledon title for 2009 champion Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand, at least not in the English-speaking press, but she is getting some attention for her singles and doubles titles at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The Bangkok Post isn't too happy with the lack of financial support for the country's biggest junior tennis star. (You can also learn her favorite fruit in this story, a question I've never thought to ask in my interviews.) Her shopping habits are also thoroughly explored in this definitely non-tennis feature from The Nation. Chuck Kriese, who retired last year after 33 years as head coach of men's tennis at Clemson, took a player development position with the Thai federation, and he accompanied Lertcheewakarn to Wimbledon. She has spoken highly of his influence on her game, and James Beck, writing for the Charleston Post-Courier, filed this story on Kriese's life in Thailand and on what it meant to him to escort a Wimbledon champion to the ball.

For some reason the girls Wimbledon final is not available on nbc.com, but Sunday's boys final between Andrey Kuznetsov and Jordan Cox was recorded, and is available to watch on the website, in the July 5 archive. Unlike the Devin Britton - Alex Domijan quarterfinal, this one has commentary.

The Baltimore Sun spoke with Beatrice Capra about her recent success in the junior Grand Slams and with her mother about the college decision in this story. The Wimbledon match referred to in the story was not her second round win over Curovic but her first round encounter with An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Former Collegians Shine in Pro Circuit, Davis Cup, World University Games

Marcia Frost has already posted an article on this theme over at College Tennis Examiner, and I've come across even more collegiate success stories today. I received some photos by email from Brandon L'Heureux, a Dallas-area teaching pro who attended the $50,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Grapevine, Texas. Although there were no college players in the women's final (Canada's Valerie Tetreault fought off match points to win 2-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(1) over countrywoman Stephanie Dubois, surviving a heat index that reached 110 degrees, he reports), the doubles title was won by Riza Zalameda, the NCAA team MVP when UCLA won the title in 2008 and the NCAA doubles champion (with Tracy Lin) that year. Playing with Lindsay Lee-Waters, the No. 2 seeds defeated the unseeded pair of Kim Couts and Tetreault 7-6(5) 6-3. It is Zalameda's third $50,000 doubles title in the past two months--she previously won in Raleigh with Lilia Osterloh and in Carson with Laura Granville--and not once has her team needed a match tiebreaker to advance. In fact, the tiebreaker in the opening set yesterday was only time an opposing team has taken more than four games from Zalameda and her partner. She is now approaching the Top 100 in the WTA doubles rankings, and I imagine if she doesn't get into the US Open women's doubles draw, she'll be on the short list for a wild card.

Also of note from that tournament, Georgia Tech rising sophomore Irina Falconi reached the semifinals as an unseeded wild card before losing a close match to Dubois. The complete results can be found at usta.com.

Zalameda wasn't the only former Bruin to capture a tournament title last week. Haythem Abid of Tunisia won a $15,000 ITF Men's Circuit event in Syria as a qualifier. The left-hander had reached the final of a $10,000 tournament in his home country last month.

University of Kentucky All-American Bruno Agostinelli of Canada was the hero of his country's bid to stay in the America Zone Group 1, after they had lost 3-2 to Ecuador in March, a tie that Agostinelli, a senior at Kentucky, did not participate in. Yesterday, Agostinelli was not only playing in the deciding match against Peru, on clay, but was forced to sleep on a two sets to one lead when darkness led to suspension of the match. The National Post had this story on the completion of today's match.

Alex Slovic, an All-American at the University of Washington, won the men's tennis gold medal at the World University Games in Serbia, his home country last weekend. Slovic, who was unseeded, beat Tennessee junior JP Smith of Australia in the fourth round and top seed Ivan Sergeyev of Ukraine in the final. See the gohuskies.com for the complete story. I believe that Virginis'a Dom Inglot and his partner won the silver in men's doubles, and that Russia's Ksenia Lykina took the women's gold, but I can't find complete results anywhere online.

And finally, Vanderbilt University's athletic website compiled a list of the highlights of incoming freshman Alison Riske's summer action in this article.