2000

Charleston tennis news compiled by Mike Saia.
Non-cited stories by James Beck, Post and Courier.

Winner: 2018 USTA South Carolina Media Excellence Award

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(11/05/00)  Area tennis feels impact of Family Circle Cup
Daniel Island's first Family Circle Cup is nearly six months away, but the tournament's move here from Hilton Head Island already is having an impact on local tennis. Foremost is the anticipation of having one of the most prestigious events in women's tennis taking place here next April 14-22. The site just off the Mark Clark Expressway is buzzing with activity.

The impact stretches to other pros and facilities, the most prominent of which is the move by Rob Eppelsheimer from Wild Dunes Resort to the Family Circle Cup where on Nov. 1 he took over as director of operations for the tennis complex.

Eppelsheimer has been at Wild Dunes for seven years, the last year as director of recreation and special projects, the first six years as director of tennis. Prior to that, the 37-year-old College of Charleston graduate spent eight years at the Litchfield Beach and Resort. Both Wild Dunes and Litchfield earned recognition among the nation's top 10 tennis resorts by Tennis Magazine under Eppelsheimer's direction.

On schedule

The construction of Family Circle Cup Stadium and complex is on schedule, according to Family Circle officials. All structural work for the stadium is scheduled to be completed by mid November.

As for the courts, 13 clay and four hard courts, they're under construction. The hard courts are scheduled to be completed by the end of the month and the clay courts are scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.

The clubhouse will feature a full service tennis pro shop, locker room facilities and food and beverage amenities. The foundation for the clubhouse has been poured and the first floor construction has started.

"Building a facility of this size and scope within 15 months requires creating a very detailed plan but more importantly you must surround yourself with partners who will work hard and take pride in completing the project," said Lisa Thomas, the FCC's tournament director.

Family Circle lists four companies that have been major players in the construction project. Hill Construction is the project's general contractor; architects and engineers from L. Robert Kimball & Associates created the design of the stadium and surrounding tennis park; local architectural firm Stubbs, Muldrow & Herin provided the design for the clubhouse; and one of the initial partners in the project was Seamon, Whiteside & Associates, which created the landscaping plan for the tennis park.

Junior entry extended

Local juniors have been given one more chance to enter the last local junior tournament of the year. The deadline for entering next weekend's Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Classic at the Kerr Tennis Center off Whipple Road has been extended until Monday.

The tournament affords juniors a chance to improve on their 2000 state rankings. The tournament will have singles and doubles in age groups 10-18. The entry fees are $20 for singles and $16 per doubles player.

For information, call 856-2162.

Southern deadline near

After having last year's Southern Senior Closed Clay-Court Championships postponed, Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth decided not to take any chances with the hurricane season this year.

This year's Southern Senior at Kiawah Island is scheduled for Nov. 15-19. The entry deadline is Monday.

Approximately 180 senior players from nine Southern states usually play the tournament, but because of a hurricane-inflicted postponement the 1999 event lost nearly one-fourth of its field when it was held in November. Barth is expecting the field to return to the 180-player size this year.

There's an age division for every senior, even 80-and-over in men's singles and doubles. Otherwise, in men's singles and doubles, women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, 30-70 age categories are available.

For information, call 768-2121, ext. 4016 or 1721.

The $55 entry fee for two events includes two dining events and continental breakfast.

Sandon's goal

Sandon Barth completed his degree at Clemson earlier this year and has set a lofty goal: "To be high enough in the rankings to play in the 2002 U.S. Open."

The son of Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth and a Bishop England graduate, Sandon has just returned from England where he played in four International Tennis Federation Future events. He didn't pick up any ATP Tour singles points, but in the last week of his trip he collected his first ATP point for doubles while playing with former Clemson teammate Ryan Bauer. They lost in the quarterfinals of a $15,000 ITF doubles tournament. The ATP point put the Barth-Bauer team around the 1,450 mark in world doubles.


(09/10/00)  Safin no fluke, but plays perfectly
Marat Safin played to one of the highest levels ever Sunday in a Grand Slam tennis final. Perfection was never more perfect. Poor Pete Sampras. It just wasn't his day. The future of men's tennis arrived too early.

Pete's fire was barely burning. He didn't have his game or his heart with him. Against a player on fire, Sampras was relegated to the role of observer in the U.S. Open final.

Make no mistake about it, Safin is no fluke. His 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory was real. He waved his tennis racket as if it were a magic wand, performing miracles.

He made 30-year-old Todd Martin look ancient in Saturday's semifinals. But Sampras had never looked old on a tennis court, until Sunday. Safin beat Sampras mentally and physically, making Sampras' serves look powder-puffish while passing this great champion of 13 Grand Slams even before Sampras could get to the T area of the court.

Sampras tried everything. Safin had all the answers.

Safin is Russian, but America will adopt this good-looking 20-year-old. He has the total package. He has size, power, finesse and speed, not to mention a brilliant tennis mind.

Safin should have many great days ahead. Maybe more than Sampras, but don't worry about Pete Sampras' future. He'll have another day.

A star named Venus

Venus is the brightest of them all, more than a planet, a star in her own right. Richard Williams demonstrated an extraordinary talent as a soothsayer when he named his daughter Venus 20 years ago.

Venus Williams is writing a tennis record equal to her name. She may not be the No. 1 player in the world today, but she is the best. Little sister Serena is good, but Venus shines above them all.

Venus demonstrated not only talent but resolve in defeating Lindsay Davenport in Saturday's U.S. Open women's final. Venus' body language was strictly positive, and her game was the type that can carry her to a place among the best ever to play the women's game.

She has heart and determination. And the best set of wheels around.

Wheels Williams is nearly as appropriate name as Venus Williams for this tall wonder of a tennis player.

Most tennis observers thought Serena had the most potential of the two sisters, especially after Serena walked away with last year's U.S.Open. But something happened to Venus at Wimbledon, a place where she looked so awkward just three years ago.

Venus matured into a woman. She grew up, adapting to her wonderful athletic ability.

She made one giant step by defeating Davenport at Wimbledon, and then another one by outlasting Martina Hingis in Friday's U.S. Open semifinals. Saturday was just icing on the cake for Venus and her dad as they danced on center court.

Earlier this year when Venus suffered from injuries, her father had said she didn't need tennis and that she may soon retire from the game. Thank goodness that hasn't happened, because Venus Williams is what women's tennis is all about right now.

Junior opportunities

With opportunities to improve their 2000 state rankings running out, local juniors have two chances the next two weekends. There's the Maybank Tennis Club Junior Challenger next weekend at the City of Charleston complex on James Island, and the Snee Farm Junior Championships is scheduled the next weekend (Sept. 22-24) in Mount Pleasant.

But today is the last day juniors have to enter the singles-only Maybank event. Entry forms ($20 entry fee) are available at most tennis clubs, as well as at Charleston Tennis Center.

The Snee Farm tournament, one of the most awaited events of the year because of its timing in the fall, has an entry deadline of Sept. 19. This tournament also features doubles, with entry fees of $28 for one event and $36 for two.

P-G wins showdown

The girls' high school season has opened with a bang, with possibly the state's top independent league team, Porter-Gaud, edging what may be the best public school team, Bishop England, by the smallest of margins, 5-4, last week.

The Bishops' Katie Coleman and Charlotte Wilson took the Nos. 1 and 2 singles in a breeze, yielding only two games each to Mary Neil Hagood and Julia Darling, but Porter-Gaud's great depth then came into play for a 3-3 standoff in singles. That set the stage for Porter-Gaud to win two of the three doubles matches.

It's tough to beat a team with the kind of depth six highly rated juniors give Porter-Gaud. Jimmy Owens stepped into an ideal situation in his first year as Porter-Gaud's coach, having Emily Applegate, Alida Barnwell, Katie Koval and Casey Stone to support Hagood and Darling.


(08/13/00)  Agassi's injury hampers hopes for return to top
Where's Andre Agassi these days? The tennis world hasn't heard much from Agassi since the mysterious back injury he suffered in an auto accident just before last month's Davis Cup. If you remember, after pulling out of Davis Cup and being blasted by John McEnroe for planning to play the following week in San Jose, Agassi promptly withdrew from that tournament.

He tried to make a comeback two weeks ago in Toronto, but lost two straight tiebreakers to 42nd-ranked Golmard Jerome of France in his first match. Agassi tried again last week at Cincinnati, surviving his first match against Wayne Ferreira. But after splitting sets against 40th-ranked Fernando Vicente of Spain, Agassi retired with back pain.

Agassi said the pain stemmed from an injury he suffered while falling at the Queens Club in London in June, and aggravated in the car accident in Las Vegas.

Where does this leave Agassi? Two weeks from the start of the U.S. Open and just over a month away from the Olympics. Agassi is the defending champion of both and badly wants to play in both events.

It hasn't been a very good year for Agassi since winning the Australian Open in January. That was his fourth straight Grand Slam final, and third success in the four tries. No one would have known about Agassi's prior success from the ATP Tour's new world rankings that start fresh with each year.

Agassi is currently ranked fifth and Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras is third. Gustavo Kuerten is the top-ranked player in the world.

Without Agassi around much of the summer, general interest in men's tennis has been on the decline. If he doesn't snap back soon, the year's big events will be gone, and Andre at age 30 may have a difficult time lifting his game back to its 1999 level.

So, the next few weeks would appear to be crucial for whatever hopes Agassi has of making one more fling at the top.

Olympic interest varies

While members of women's tennis and other sports are clamoring for spots to represent America in the Sydney Olympics, men's tennis is less enthusiastic. Even the usually patriotic John McEnroe said no when asked to coach the team, and Pete Sampras turned down a spot on the team.

It seems that the Olympics is too soon after the U.S. Open where Sampras hopes to pad his record-setting total of Grand Slam titles and McEnroe is scheduled for television work.

That leaves the men's team with a hopeful Agassi, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Jeff Tarango for singles. Agassi is about the only hope for Stan Smith, the Sea Pines Resort pro who accepted the coach's job after McEnroe rejected it.

Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer will make up the doubles team.

Whereas the ATP Tour did one thing right by allowing six players to represent each country, the WTA Tour wasn't so smart. Only four women will represent each country, a decision that left the world's top-ranked doubles player, Lisa Raymond, off the U.S. team.

When Venus Williams hinted that she might not make the trip to Australia if little sister Serena wasn't included on the team, Serena was selected. However, U.S. Open champ Serena won't be able to play singles, because Venus, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles have the only three slots for singles locked up. The WTA Tour players apparently had the deep list of top American and French players on their minds when they made the decision to limit the roster to four players from each country.

A Venus story

As Venus Williams enters her 20s and begins to dominate women's tennis (three straight titles), she is handling her new status well. It's not just the news conferences and talk shows where Venus is shining so brightly these days. She also is impressing the people who meet her in everyday life.

A couple of weeks after winning Wimbledon, Venus was back home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., shopping, and entered a gift shop where my niece was working. Of course, my niece isn't quite as big a tennis fan as I am, and didn't recognize Venus until kids started asking her for her autograph as she left the shop. Venus was courteous and talked with the sales staff. She was saying things to her companion, not Serena, like "I can't buy this," hinting that she didn't have enough money. She paid with a credit card.

Before she left the story, her cell phone rang. Her first words into the phone, in a lovingly manner, were, "Hello, Daddy."

Luszki's 17th

Dr. Walter Luszki's Corrine Jones Playground tournament is now history. Luszki, an 85-year-old clinical psychologist whose office is located across the street from the playground, ran this year's event with the same enthusiasm he started it with on a whim during Wimbledon week 17 years ago. It has become an annual event for youngsters in the Wagener Terrace area. The Ackermans, Brian in boys' 7-9 and Vernita in girls' 12-14, won titles, along with Asia Pittman in girls' 7-9, James Heyward in boys' 10-11 and Jessica Davis in girls' 10-11.

Perkins sparkles

Many local juniors had great summers. One of them was Ashley Perkins, who placed second in the Eastern Region Little Mo Tournament in Alpharetta, Ga., in girls' 12 and will be joining 15 other girls for the Little Jo National Championship in October.

Ashley has been playing tennis for only a year, and her mom and dad expressed their proudness in an email.

Juniors begin school

The summer junior tournament season is virtually complete as junior girls begin practice for the fall high school season.

Next weekend's Sunset Country Club Fall Championships in Sumter is about the only tournament left this month in the middle to lower part of the state, but there will be two local events for juniors next month: the Sept. 15-17 junior challenger at James Island's Maybank Tennis Center and the Sept. 22-24 Snee Farm Juniors.


(06/04/00)  Summer tourney season kicking in
The summer tennis schedule is about ready to heat up. Just as the Palmetto Championships' qualifying rounds start next Saturday at Belton, qualifying will begin for the $25,000 Care Alliance USTA Women's International Challenger at the Kerr Tennis Center on Whipple Road in Mount Pleasant.

Although two-time champion Vanessa Webb isn't expected to be back to defend her title since she has been in Paris playing in the French Open, the Mount Pleasant tournament should be loaded with future stars.

Last year's other finalist, 19-year-old American Jennifer Hopkins, also has been playing on the WTA Tour, and has climbed to 110th in the world. Marissa Irvin, a 1999 semifinalist, has just completed her sophomore year at Stanford University where she lost to teammate Laura Granville in the NCAA final. Irvin is now ranked 80th in the world.

The main draw of the Women's Challenger will begin on Tuesday, June 13. The finals are slated for the following Sunday, with singles at 1 p.m.

City events set

City tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne has a full schedule of tournaments set, led off by the annual City Open from June 20-24. The senior portion of the tournament also will be held these dates, with the entry deadline June 18 for these events.

The City Open Junior Tournament will be held July 5-8, with July 2 the entry deadline.

The City Novice for adults, seniors and juniors will be July 30-Aug. 4.

Area gets grants

The Charleston area has received a $5,000 grant from the USTA to start a USA Team Tennis for youth league. The USTA hopes this league for all levels of juniors will take off in the manner of its USA Adult League.

Youths interested in the league can contact their local tennis club or recreation center to sign up for the program. There will be a $10 fee to join the league.

The startup date for this league is scheduled for June 16 and it will run through Aug. 1 when a state tournament is planned.

The league will have three groups, named Red, White and Blue. The Red group is for beginners ages 6-12 and 1.0 to 2.5 in skill rating. The next group will be White, for ages 10-14 and levels 2.5 to 4.5, while the Blue group will be for ages 13-18 and have 1.0-5.0 ratings.

Other grants awarded to the area included a $1,000 multi-cultural grant to the Inner-City program, a $500 multi-cultural grant to the City of Charleston's new six-court tennis complex on John's Island and a $600 grant for the elementary-middle school league that the city operates each spring.

Inner-City starts

The Inner-City program will start June 12, but this year the program will switch to Moultrie Playground from Jack Adams Courts while the Jack Adams complex is under renovation. New lights will be installed at Jack Adams and at least four of the six courts will be resurfaced.

Meanwhile, Moultrie Playground's tennis complex is near the completion of a massive renovation, which includes the construction of four new lighted courts and the resurfacing of the two courts on Broad Street.

The Inner-City program is for kids 5-18 years of age.

Family Circle news

In the two weeks until the Family Circle Cup moves from Hilton Head Island to its new offices at 416 King Street, information on tickets, jobs and other subjects can be obtained by calling 1-800-677-2293.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(04/30/00)  Things fall into place at Family Circle Cup
This year's Family Circle Cup turned out to be one of the best in the tournament's 28-year history, even in the light of a one-sided final and a smaller total attendance than the previous year. The picture didn't look so bright when Serena Williams pulled out over the Confederate Flag controversy, and top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati withdrew because of injuries.

When the pairings came out with crowd favorites Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova in the same quarter of the draw and in the same half as top seed Mary Pierce, the last Family Circle at Sea Pines Racquet Club was beginning to stumble to the finish line.

That left clay-courters Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez in the dull half of the draw.

There was more disappointing news when Monday night's schedule was announced. The highest-seeded player on the opening schedule was Ruxandra Dragomir, the 11th seed. Of course, Dragomir was the one who created even more disappointment by upsetting Kournikova.

It wasn't a pretty picture, but things just fell into place as the week went along. Amazingly, nearly 6,000 fans turned out that first night. I figured everything must have been closed up on the island on a Monday night and people didn't have anything else to do.

Of course, that's not true. People were just ready to see some world-class tennis. It didn't matter that someone named Dragomir was playing another player named Emmanuel Gagliardi.

There were good crowds all week.

The Friday night Seles-Kournikova quarterfinal became a Seles-Dragomir match, bringing out 6,419 fans. That set the stage for a sold-out weekend.

Fans missed the Seles-Kournikova matchup, but a Seles-Pierce looked just as good on paper. Even though Pierce needed jut 44 minutes to dominate Seles, fans had seen a top player playing some of the most impressive tennis ever at the Family Circle. Pierce was awesome.

The fans even seemed to enjoy Sanchez-Vicario's victory over Martinez, setting the stage for a final featuring a power hitter against a singles hitter. Again, Pierce was awesome. It was just Mary's tournament. No one could touch her.

The attendance for the week was more than 25,000 less than the 1999 record attendance of 102,000. That might be attributed to smaller crowds in the early rounds as the result of the withdrawals of top players as well as the conflict with the MCI Heritage Golf Classic that reduced the number of tennis sessions.

The tournament now moves to what will be a state-of-the-art facility on Daniel Island. With an increase in the number of sessions and a stadium that will seat 10,000, about 1,500 more than at Hilton Head Island, a new attendance record probably will be set next year. Plus, in Charleston night matches are likely to become the highlights of each day.

Tennis fans will be able to carry on with their normal jobs and then attend night matches, whereas no one seems to work on Hilton Head Island where day matches were the main attractions.

Hane Washington-bound

Porter-Gaud tennis star Matthew Hane of Walterboro has signed a grant-in-aid to play tennis for George Washington University of downtown Washington, D.C. Hane was ranked 13th in the South for 1999 in boys' 16

Hane's mother is state tennis Hall of Famer Diane Fishburne, a former All-American at the College of Charleston.

Wilkes tournament set

Long-time Summerville resident and tennis enthusiast Dr. H.B. Wilkes is being honored with a tennis tournament named in his name. The Dr. H.B. Wilkes Tennis Tournament is scheduled for June 9-11 at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club and will benefit the Coastal Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. The tournament will feature play in 3.0-5.0 ratings.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's.


(04/21/00)  Up-and-down Seles moves on
HILTON HEAD ISLAND - Monica Seles has shown two faces of her tennis game this week. She's been totally up and totally down. She demonstrated both sides Thursday in a third-round 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) victory over Elena Likhovtseva of Russia in the million-dollar Family Circle Cup. A near-capacity crowd of close to 7,000 moaned and groaned with Seles' ups downs. One moment, she looked unbeatable.

Another moment, she did not look anything like the player who has won nine Grand Slam titles.

"I'm playing some good tennis periods,'' said Seles, the tournament's third seed. "But also I have some huge drops in my game. Today, I definitely had some huge drops and then I had some really good highs.''

Of course, Seles' appearances might have been influenced by her opponent. Ninth seed Likhovtseva, a slender, 5-9 player with a deceptively fast serve, upset Seles in last year's Family Circle.

After playing a solid first set, Seles looked uninspired in the second set, watching balls go for winners without making a play.

"I really felt I got down on myself,'' said Seles, who didn't drop a set while winning last week's tournament at Amelia Island, Fla.

Then came the third set, and the other Seles returned.

Likhovtseva put up a fight on the clay court at Sea Pines Racquet Club, especially with her serve that often handcuffed Seles in the outside corner on the deuce side. "There were two key games in the third set when she almost aced me four or five times in a row on the deuce side,'' Seles said.

"She just served really well. I had a hard time reading her serve, and even her second serve was going in the 90s, and I just couldn't attack it.''

Likhovtseva reversed an early break that gave Seles a 3-1 lead and pinned Seles' back to the wall. Seles had to hold service while down 4-5 and 5-6 just to get into a tiebreaker to decide the match.

And tiebreakers have not been kind to Seles in this tournament. In 1997 in her first visit here, she suffered a 7-5 third-set tiebreaker loss to Martina Hingis in a Family Circle memorable final. The next year, Seles again lost a third-set tiebreaker, 7-5, this time to Irina Spirlea in the semifinals.

Even in last year's loss to Likhovtseva, Seles dropped a first-set tiebreaker, 7-4.

But this time, the 26-year-old world's seventh-ranked player was super-charged for the tiebreaker. She bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to win six of the next seven points for triple match point.

But a long ground stroke by Seles and a short backhand service return winner by Likhovtseva brought another moan from the crowd as the tiebreaker score moved to 6-5. But a wide forehand by Likhovtseva ended the one-hour, 59-minute match.

Seles' opponent in the quarterfinals is a surprise. She anticipated playing Anna Kournikova for the first time on clay. But Ruxandra Dragomir of Romania, the 11th seed, upset Kournikova, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-3. Kournikova, the sixth seed, was runner-up here in 1999.

Top-seeded Mary Pierce of France and second seed Conchita Martinez of Spain, runner-up to Seles last week at Amelia Island, both advanced easily, as did former champion and fourth seed Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario of Spain.

Pierce defeated Anna Smashnova of Israel, 6-1, 6-2, former two-time champion Martinez cruised by unseeded Florencia Labat of Argentina, 6-3, 6-0, and Sanchez-Vicario got past 13th seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 7-5, 6-1.

Jelena Dokic of Australia upset seventh seed Amy Frazier of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, to earn a berth in the quarterfinals against Pierce.

"I've got nothing to lose and I feel like I can really win that match if I play well,''said the 17-year-old Dokic. Of course, Dokic is confident about her chances, considering that she upset Martina Hingis, 6-2, 6-0, in the first round at Wimbledon last year and then eliminated Pierce, 6-4, 6-3, in the round of 16 to earn a berth in the quarterfinals.


(04/17/00)  Seles on a roll for Family Circle Cup
HILTON HEAD ISLAND - Will this be the year Monica Seles finally wins the Family Circle Cup? Everything is set up for the 26-year-old in her fourth visit to Sea Pines Racquet Club. Most of the big hitters have withdrawn and Martina Hingis didn't enter the million-dollar women's tennis tournament that starts today with a thin schedule.

The Family Circle, which is leaving Hilton Head Island for Daniel Island after this year's tournament ends with Sunday's final, was in a transition stage Sunday as Sea Pines switched from the completion of the annual MCI Heritage Golf Classic to the 28th annual Family Circle. That's the reason for the light schedule today.

But after playing two matches Saturday and two more Sunday to win the WTA Tour stop at Amelia Island, Fla., Seles will be happy to skip today's schedule. Four main draw singles matches will be played tonight, starting at 7 o'clock.

Ruxandra Dragomir of Romania, the 11th seed, is the only seeded player scheduled to play on opening day. She will take on Emmanuelle Gagliardi of Switzerland in the second grand-stand court match tonight. Maureen Drake of Canada will face Erika de Lone of the United States in the 7 p.m. grand-stand court opener.

Two matches also will be played on the stadium court, starting at 7 p.m. with American Tara Snyder meeting Tina Pisnik of Slovenia, followed by Florencia Labat of Argentina against Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria.

Seles, who defeated Conchita Martinez, 6-3, 6-2, Sunday to win her second straight Amelia Island title without dropping a set, first played here in 1997 when she lost a dramatic third-set tiebreaker to Hingis. And Seles is still looking for her first Family Circle title.

All of that might change this week. With top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and No. 13 Jennifer Capriati knocked out of the Family Circle by injuries, and No. 6 Serena Williams boycotting the event over the Confederate Flag issue, Seles looks like the player to beat. She is the third seed, behind No. 4-ranked Mary Pierce, the hard-hitting French player who has never done very well on the clay courts at Sea Pines, and No. 2 seed Martinez.

Other than Pierce, Seles will have to contend with the eighth-ranked Martinez and No. 11 Aranxta Sanchez Vicario, two former Family Circle champions who is seeded fourth and loves to play on clay. There's also 1999 runner-up Anna Kournikova, a crowd favorite who is ranked 12th in the world.

But Seles' two-handed ground strokes were on their mark at Amelia Island. She cruised past unseeded Paola Suarez of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2, in the semifinals Sunday, then defeated Martinez for her 46th career singles title.

These latest heroics for the nine-time Grand Slam tournament winner came after she suffered her worst ever loss only a couple of weeks ago, a 6-0, 6-0 beating by Hingis at the Ericsson Open.

Seles was out for six months with a stress fracture of her right foot until she returned in February to win at Oklahoma City.

Martinez, the 1994 and 1995 winner of the Family Circle, also is hot after beating Elena Likhovtseva, 6-3, 6-2, in the Amelia Island semifinals, and then falling to Seles Sunday afternoon.

Three wild cards were awarded for the main draw, including one to 121st-ranked Jennifer Hopkins, a 19-year-old American who was runner-up in last year's Women's Challenger of Mount Pleasant.

The other wild cards went to former French Open champion Iva Majoli of Croatia, who has fallen to No. 359 in the world, and 123rd-ranked Meilen Tu of the United States.

Because of the conflict with the Heritage Classic, the Family Circle's qualifying tournament is being played at Hilton Head Island's Palmetto Dunes, beginning at 10 a.m. today.


(04/13/00)  Niemeyer advances in Skatell's Classic; No. 2 Nielsen upset
MOUNT PLEASANT - Frederic Niemeyer is a strong believer in college tennis. Without it, he probably wouldn't be where he's at today. Niemeyer, a Canadian, advanced to the round of 16 of the USTA Futures Circuit's $15,000 Skatell's Pro Tennis Classic at Creekside Tennis and Swim Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over qualifier Miguel Gallardo of Mexico. That left Niemeyer, the third seed, as the highest-seeded player still in the tournament.

Second-seeded Mark Nielsen of New Zealand, playing in borrowed clothes and shoes after having his luggage lost by an airlines, was upset Wednesday, 6-3, 6-3, by qualifier Simon Larose of Canada. Top seed Michael Sell was eliminated Tuesday on opening day.

"College was good to me. It's a good way to continue sports after high school,'' said Niemeyer, a 1997 guaduate of Middle Tennessee State University.

Without a scholarship from Middle Tennessee, it's unlikely that Niemeyer's game would have advanced to a level of world class (he's ranked 238th in the world). "I was ranked fifth in Canada in juniors,'' he said, admitting that such a ranking while high doesn't mean much because of the level of junior play in his country.

"I wasn't in the (Canadian Tennis) Federation, so I didn't have support to travel. Dale Shorter (Middle Tennessee coach) took a chance on me and said he'd give me a scholarship.''

Niemeyer proved worthy of the scholarship his freshman year by making All-America in doubles. He worked on his game and made All-America twice more in singles. He was ranked fourth in the NCAA as a senior.

And guess what?

The Canadian Federation came around to sponsor Niemeyer on the satellite circuit.

He started 1999 ranked 430th in the world, but won a satellite tournament in Australia and a $50,000 challenger in Illinois to leap up to his highest ranking of No. 229 at the end of 1999.

Niemeyer has gained three wild-card berths in the Canadian Open, picking up about $8,000 for each of those.

"That's basically what kept me alive on the circuit,'' he said.

"The federation just started helping me, but I feel they could help players more,'' he said.

The 6-3, 23-year-old used his attack game to advance to today's second round.

"Serve and volley is a big part of my game. I'm working on putting more pressure on these guys. Most of them never miss,'' he said.

"I was taught to try to finish the point early. That's what I'm trying to do now.''

Fourth-seeded Louis Vosloo of South Africa advanced with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Michael Kember of New Zealand, and No. 6 Damian Furmanski of Argentina scored a 6-1, 2-1, retired, victory over Thomas Messmer of Germany.

American qualifier Michael Jessup defeated 18-year-old wild-card Mardy Fish of Vero Beach, Fla., 7-6 (4), 6-1. Fish, last year's ninth-ranked junior in the world, came to Creekside fresh from upending former world's No. 1 Jim Courier in straight sets in an exhibition tournament at the River Oaks in Houston.

In other singles matches, Ezequiel Nastari of Venezuela defeated Kristian Capalik, 6-2, 6-4; Helge Koll of of Norway defeated Jefff Williams of the United States, 6-3, 6-3; Zbynek Mlynarik of Austria defeated Emin Agaev, 6-3, 3-0, retired; and Bo Hodge defeated Michael Rubin, 6-2, 6-2, in a battle of Americans.

In the doubles matches, Damian Purmanski-Keith Pollak defeated Thomas Blake-Eyal Erlich, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2; Grant Doyle-James Greenhalgh beat Michael Jessup-Phillip King 6-4, 6-4; Tom Chicoine-Jeff Williams beat Bjorn Rehnquist-Donavan September 6-2, 6-4; and Gavin Sontag-Jerry Turek beat Henrik Andersson-Helge Koll, 6-2, 7-6 (2).


(04/09/00)  Serena loses $25,000 for leaving tournament (Family Circle Cup)
What's $25,000? To the average person, it's a great deal of money. But to a tennis player who already has earned $3 million while still a teenager, $25,000 might be mere pocket change.

Still, that's a loss Serena Williams must accept, if she decides to withdraw from the April 17-23 Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head Island in support of the NAACP's Confederate Flag boycott.

That's a standard rule for the withdrawal from a tournament of a player designated as a top player by the Women's Tennis Association, according to WTA official Brooke Lawer. And ranked sixth in the world (fourth at the start of 2000), Williams is definitely a top player.

"She committed (to the Family Circle) at the end of 1999,'' Lawer said Thursday from WTA headquarters in Stamford, Conn. "She will be held to that commitment like all top players. If she withdraws, she will have a $25,000 reduction from her bonus pool.''

The rule applies for withdrawal at any time, whether for injury, sickness or other reasons.

Through Thursday, Williams had not contacted the WTA about withdrawing from the Family Circle, although nearly two weeks ago at the Ericsson Open in Florida she indicated she probably would withdraw from the tournament in support of the boycott. Her father, Richard Williams, later announced that his 18-year-old daughter probably would not play in the Family Circle.

According to Family Circle media director Robin Reynolds, "Serena Williams is still listed in our player field.

When a player withdraws from a tournament, they notify the Sanex WTA Tour, who then notifies the specific tournament. We have been in contact with the Sanex WTA Tour on a regular basis and they have assured us that they have not been contacted regarding Serena's withdrawal from the Family Circle Cup.''

Williams has been hampered by injuries since winning the U.S. Open last September and has fallen in the world rankings. She won five tournaments in 1999.

Family Circle ticket information is available by contacting the ticket office (1-800-677-2293) or on the internet at www.familycirclecup.com.

Family Circle field

Players entered in the main draw of the Family Circle Cup, followed by current world ranking and their country:

Lindsay Davenport (1), U.S.; Mary Pierce (4), France; Serena Williams (6), France; Monica Seles (7), U.S.; Conchita Martinez (8), Spain; Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (11), Spain; Anna Kournikova (12), Russia; Jennifer Capriati (13), U.S.; Barbara Schett (14), Austria; Amy Frazier (17), U.S.; Amanda Coetzer (19), South Africa.

Ruxandra Dragomir (23), Romania; Silvija Talaja (24), Croatia; Chanda Rubin (26), U.S.; Lisa Raymond (27), U.S.; Patty Schnyder (29), Switzerland; Corina Morariu (33), U.S.; Elena Dementieva (34), Russia; Anne Kremer (35), Luxembourg; Irina Spirlea (38), Romania; Silvia Farina (39), Italy.

Also, Tatiana Panova (40), Russia; Anna Smashnova (41), Israel; Jelena Dokic (42), Australia; Alexandra Stevenson (43), U.S.; Kristina Brandi (44), U.S.; Magui Serna (48), Spain; Mirjana Lucic (49), Croatia; Nicole Pratt (52), Australia; Fabiola Zuluaga (54), Colombia; Emmanuelle Gagliardi (56), Switzerland; Anastasia Myskina (57), Russia; Magdalena Maleeva (59), Bulgaria. Gala Leon Garcia (60), Spain; Asa Carlsson (63), Sweden; Paola Suarez (64), Argentina; Erika De Lone (69), U.S.; Rita Grande (71), Italy; Tina Pisnik (74), Slovenia; Maureen Drake (77), Canada; Henrieta Nagyova (85), Slovakia; Barbara Rittner (93), Germany; Joannette Kruger (special ranking, 30), South Africa; Andrea Glass (special ranking, 72), Germany.


(04/09/00)  Every now and then, another Andre Agassi comes along
The Skatell's Pro Tennis Classic is just another stop on the U.S. Tennis Association's satellite circuits. The players come and go, leaving Creekside Tennis and Swim only slightly closer to their dream of a Grand Prix career. Most of them never make it to the major leagues of tennis. They've got a weak second serve, a suspect backhand or an inability to win the big point. But every now and then, an Andre Agassi comes along. Last year, flashy Jimy Szymanski had the charm and the big strokes of an Agassi. Szymanski won the Skatell's, living up to his billing as a former No. 1 junior in the world. He won't be back this year, but his dream of the big time is still far away. He's ranked only 195th in the world.

Szymanski likely will never make it big in tennis. Something is missing. Regardless of that, Szymanski is good enough to beat any player in the game on a given day. That's what makes the Skatell's so special.

If you want to see top-caliber tennis without shelling out top money, Creekside is the place to take your lawn chair next week. You can stand or sit only a few feet away from these hopefuls whose games are so close to being among the best in the world. Yet, they're ranked anywhere from 194 in the world to not even ranked.

The tournament starts Tuesday and runs through next Sunday. It's even a higher caliber of tournament than last year when the Skatell's was a regular circuit event with a $12,500 purse. This year the purse is $15,000 and it's a Futures Circuit event.

All of this means that players will get points just from the Skatell's. They won't have to play an entire four-tournament segment to get Association of Tennis Professionals points. Any player who wins one match in the main draw will receive ATP points.

"The level of play is up. The quality of the players is up. Everything is improved,'' said Jim Handly, the USTA supervisor for the tournament, already in town Friday for the Skatell's qualifying tournament.

The 32-player main draw starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Mount Pleasant facility. Each match will have a chair umpire and two linesmen. Players won't have to call their own lines in the early rounds.

This alone should improve play, considering the highly competitive nature and intensity level of satellite circuits where every point in a match could have a bearing on ATP points . . . and ultimately a player's livelihood. Tempers often flare in such important matches in which players call their own lines.

The top seed in the tournament will be former University of Georgia All-American Michael Sell, a Cherry Hill, N.J., 27-year-old currently ranked 194th in the world. Sell recently defeated French Davis Cup star Nicolas Escude in a Grand Prix event in New Zealand.

New Zealand's Mark Nielsen should be the second seed. Nielson is a 22-year-old ranked No. 220 in the world.

Young Dent wins

Remember Taylor Dent? Of course, you do. He's the talented, hard-hitting son of former Grand Prix star Phil Dent, and the runner-up in the Skatell's two years ago. Dent recently won a USTA satellite tournament at San Antonio and is ranked 190th in the world.

Irvin still hot

Marissa Irvin, the 19-year-old Stanford star who sparkled as a semifinalist in Mount Pleasant's $25,000 Women's International Challenger last year, has won her second USTA Prudential Securities satellite circuit event in less than three months. Irvin, last year's NCAA runner-up, won at Norcross, Ga. She also won at Clearwater, Fla., in February, and owns a 10-0 record on this year's satellite circuit. Irvin can only accept expense money, because she's still an amateur, although she's currently ranked 87th in the world.

What rankings?

The ranking systems for the men's and women's professional tennis tours seem to be a little out of sync at times, like right now.

Lindsay Davenport and Andre Agassi both were ranked second in the world this time last week. Both already had lost in the Ericsson Open, so they might have been expected to remain in the No. 2 positions.

But, no. On Monday morning, both Davenport and Agassi reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in the world. Martina Hingis and Pete Sampras won men's and women's titles in the Ericsson Open, and Hingis actually dropped from first to second in the rankings after beating Davenport in the final. Agassi replaced Yevgeny Kafelnikov at men's No. 1.

Sampras in now in third place, just five points behind Kafelnikov and 31 points behind Agassi.

A future star?

Here's a name you might want to remember along with Taylor Dent and Andy Roddick. Jonathan Stokke is a 15-year-old from Chapel Hill, N.C., who was runner-up in singles and won the doubles title in the recent Costa Rican junior championships.

What about the kids?

Lindsay Davenport made this comment about the mad rush of young players to the WTA Tour: "It obviously seems to be a trend lately where if someone wins a 12-and-under tournament, they turn pro; they think they're so good. It's quite remarkable, even players I've had experience with. I was always under the impression you should win the 14s, the 16s, 18s, Junior French, Junior U.S. Open, all those, before you would even think about it. The most important thing is to play juniors, learn to win, learn to lose, learn to communicate with other players your age, learn to get along, and see what happens.''

An S.C. Olympic umpire

That's right, Lynn Welch of Hilton Head Island will be a chair umpire for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She is one of seven Americans selected to the tennis officiating crew for the Olympics. USTA director of officials Rich Kaufman has been named chief of umpires for the Olympics' tennis competition.

U.S. team members will be selected based on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour rankings on Monday, July 10. To be eligible for selection to the U.S. Olympic team, players must "make themselves available'' for Davis Cup or Fed Cup for two years in the four-year period from 1997-2000, with one of those years being 1999 or 2000.

That might explain why Pete Sampras has decided to play Davis Cup this year.

With a new format, the Fed Cup won't be held until after the Olympics, but U.S. players who need this year's Fed Cup to complete eligibility for the Olympics must commit to the USTA that they intend to be available for the 2000 Fed Cup.

I'On Club names pro

The I'On Club, which will open this summer in Mount Pleasant, has hired former Clemson All-American Sophie Woorons as its tennis director. Woorons has played the pro circuit and is currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.

The I'On Club will be a tennis and swim club, with six sparkling new, lighted clay courts when it opens. Plans call for the number of courts to nearly double in the second phase of construction.

Pine Forest next

The next local junior tournament, the Pine Forest Country Club stop on the Lowcountry Challenger Circuit, is next weekend. The entry deadlline is Tuesday (851-9010). The entry fee for the singles-only tournament is $25.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(03/26/00)  Not playing juniors may be behind the Williams sisters' injuries

Are Serena and Venus Williams paying a price for not playing junior tennis? No one questions the awesome success of the two sisters in their brief professional careers. But as big, powerful and intimidating as they are, they appear to have a proneness to injuries. Serena has recurring knee problems, while big sister Venus has been sidelined for four months with continued tendinitis in both wrists. Venus withdrew from the current Ericsson Open and is not scheduled to return to the tour until May 1 in Hamburg, Germany. That apparently rules out the April 17-23 Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head Island for Venus, although Serena is scheduled to play.

Players, even great ones and the physically gifted ones, fall victim to injuries at inopportune times. Look at Pete Sampras and Patrick Rafter. Both missed last year's U.S. Open with injuries.

Because of the Williams' limited match play, you might expect them to be more immune to injuries than players who come up through the junior ranks and then have long pro careers. But the opposite may be true in their case. Perhaps the Williams sisters haven't conditioned their bodies to the rigors of professional tennis. As physically intimidating as they are, they may not be as physically tough as the average professional.

Perhaps no area of tennis is as competitive and grueling as the junior ranks. Juniors become accustomed to playing the equivalent of a Grand Slam tournament in a week's time. They play several matches a day in the worst conditions possible, the heat of summer. They learn endurance, how to compete and how to take care of their bodies under severe conditions.

I'm sure Serena and Venus worked long and hard in practice, yet they were never exposed to the severe conditions of competitive junior tennis.

Local adults ranked

The Charleston area has four men and two women ranked No. 1 in singles in their age groups in the S.C. Tennis Association rankings for 1999.

Eric Martel is No. 1 in men's 25; Eric Forsberg has the top ranking in men's 50; Bob Baker tops the men's 60 list; Ray Easterbrook is No. 1 in men's 70; Susie Peiffer heads women's 45; and Zoe Williams holds the top spot in women's 65.

Other local men ranked in the top 10 in singles are: David Jett (4) 35s, Mike Viljac (6) in 40s, Frank Jones (8) in 40s, David Jennings (7) in 50s, Charlie Burns (5) in 55s, Jerry Simmons (7) in 55s, Lyons Williams (2) in 60s, Tom Finnegan (4) in 60s, Stephen Berque (8) in 60s, Carl Fisk (9) in 60s, Stuart Miller (10) in 60s, Karl Bergman (4) in 65s, Jerry Hanchrow (8) in 65s, Tom Kent (2) in 70s and John Baird (9) in 70s.

The only other top 10 woman is Priscilla Croft, who is third in 50-and-under.

Peiffer and Kitsy Wise teamed up to take the top ranking in women's 45 doubles, while Easterbrook and Kent top the men's 70 doubles list. Jerry and Janet Hanchrow are the top-ranked 65-and-over mixed doubles team. Susie Peiffer owns a top ranking in a third category, husband/wife doubles with Robert Peiffer.

Aldea ranked 15th
In last week's top 20 rankings for state juniors, I left out Summerville's Jewel Aldea, who is rated 15th in girls' 16.

Junior events set
The next local junior tournament will be the Lowcountry Challenger April 14-16 at Pine Forest Country Club. The singles tournament is for boys and girls ages 10-18.

A week later, April 21-23, Snee Farm will hold its 11th annual Spring Championships.

Skatell's coming
Creekside Tennis and Swim is preparing for its annual professional tennis gift to the area, the Skatell's Pro Tennis Classic.

This year's event has a $15,000 purse and will kick off with a 64-player pre-qualifying tournament on April 4. A 128-player main qualifier is set for April 7-10, with the main draw on Tuesday, April 11.

Remember, this is the tournament that first introduced Charleston to Andre Agassi. The tournament that sent Ken Flach and Robert Seguso off to Grand Prix tennis where they became one of this country's top doubles teams ever. And the tournament that brought 1976 Australian Open champion Mark Edmondson down to earth after his victory over John Newcombe to win his only Grand Slam title.

The Skatell's final is slated for Sunday, April 16.

Tennis on InfoLine
Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(03/21/00)  Top junior Roddick making a splash

America has a new tennis hero. Andy Roddick's the name.

He's not Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras, but who knows what the future might hold. Roddick is only 17 years old.

What's so special about this Nebraskan? (Do they have tennis courts there? I thought they just had corn and football fields.)

For starters, he's the No. 1 junior in the world, a feat no other American has accomplished since 1992 when Brian Dunn captured that honor and then pulled a Rip Van Winkle. Roddick also is the first U.S. player in more than four decades to win the Australian Open junior championships.

He now has been selected to be the practice partner for Agassi and Sampras for the April 7-9 U.S.-Czech Republic Davis Cup matchup in Los Angeles. "Being able to spend time with legends like Agassi, Sampras and (captain John) McEnroe is a dream come true,'' Roddick said.

What has Roddick done lately? After taking over the No. 1 world ranking on March 6, he won his first international clay-court title, South America's Banana Bowl. So, maybe the clay courts at the new Family Circle Cup stadium on Daniel Island will be a candidate one of these days for Davis Cup competition.

Roddick currently resides in Boca Raton, Fla., and he's a senior at Boca Raton Prep where he puts his 6-1, 180 pounds to use on the basketball team. Sounds pretty normal.

Older brother John was an All-America tennis player at the University of Georgia from 1996-98. John is now an assistant tennis coach at Florida State.

Roddick's coach is Tarik Benhabiles, the dazzling little Frenchman who in the 1980s as a kid himself thrilled a nighttime crowd at Mount Pleasant's Skatell's Pro Classic with his spectacular play.

Roddick has turned pro and will play his second tournament as a pro in the upcoming Ericksson Open (formerly the Lipton Championships). He received a wild card into the main draw.

What's the difference between the juniors and pros? "Juniors can hit, you know, big serves, they can hit big forehands,'' he was quoted in a Friday teleconference set up by the USTA to promote his Davis Cup selection and No. 1 ranking. "It's just a matter of, I guess, putting them all together, point in and point out.''

Local juniors No. 1

Only two local juniors gained No. 1 state singles rankings for 1999, Francis Johnson in boys' 10 and Nicky Valiunas in boys' 12.

Other local boys ranked in the top 20 were: 10-and-under - Matthew Strange (8), Charles Carmoody (18), and Dirk Bair (20); 12-and-under - Jason Basile (2), Harvey Brockinton (12), Lee Hewett (19) and Fleetwood Hassell (20); 14-and-under - Taylor Calcote (2), Scott Maucher (11), Nat Estes (14), Tom Jokl (15) and Andrew Sires (18); 16-and-under - Chris Dong (2) and John Barnwell (5).

Local girls ranked in the top 20 were: 10-and-under - Sabra Rogers (3), Emily Bolchoz (10), Ashley Perkins (19) and Heyward Brockinton (20); 12-and-under - Natalie Ferara (5), Tiffany Mehr (7), Alice Knowlton (10), Samantha Eppelsheimer (14) and Molly O'Quinn (17); 14-and-under - Maggie Valiunas (3), Kalee Claussen (4), Alida Barnwell (5), Sandy Krings (6), Emily Applegate (8) and Katie Koval (13); 16-and-under - Charlotte Wilson (3); Victoria Moody (4), Katye Rhett (6) and Julia Darling (17); 18-and-under - Hunter McRae (11) and Erin Hantske (12).

Applegate and Maggie Valiunas are ranked No. 1 in girls' 14 doubles, while Basile and Nicky Valiunas own the top ranking in boys' 12 doubles.

Other local players sharing top rankings in doubles are: Brice Richards in boys' 10, Calcote in boys' 14 and Wilson in girls' 16.

Family Circle tickets

Tickets for the April 17-23 Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head Island are on sale by calling the ticket office at 1-800-677-2293 or via internet at www.familycirclecup.com.

The field includes Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Mary Pierce, Conchita Martinez, Monica Seles, Anna Kournikova, Jennifer Capriati and Amanda Coetzer.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(02/20/00)  Daniel Island move is not a done deal
Family Circle Magazine executive James McEwen is walking a tightrope. It's less than two months now before the start of the 28th Family Circle Cup at Hilton Head Island. Yet, McEwen is spending an inordinate amount of time traveling between Charleston and his New York City office. McEwen, the senior vice president group publisher of Family Circle and McCall Magazines, is trying his best to negotiate a deal with Charleston officials that in future years would bring the million-dollar women's tennis tournament to Daniel Island. But he certainly doesn't want to offend Sea Pines Plantation, the site of this year's April 17-23 Family Circle and the only home the tournament has known.

Sea Pines still figures heavily in the equation. Regardless of what some people believe, McEwen insisted Friday by telephone from New York, a Family Circle move to Daniel Island isn't a done deal.

"We have been back and forth (to Charleston) for almost a year now looking and talking to people,'' McEwen said.

"We're looking at a lot of different options. We're not sure where we're going yet. But my first priority is to keep the tournament in South Carolina.

"We're really working hard with the city (of Charleston) to work something out. I don't want to say we have a done deal. It would be unfair to them and to Sea Pines. We have some bridges to cross yet, but I feel good about it. Charleston is one of the great cities in the country. It has everything going for it.''

McEwen hopes to complete the negotiations with the city of Charleston in time for a tennis complex to be constructed on Daniel Island for next year's Family Circle, but that may not happen. "We would more than likely hold the 2001 Family Circle at Hilton Head if it couldn't work out with Charleston,'' he said.''

"We would hope if we are going to do something to do it in time so that we could give Sea Pines proper notification. As time goes on, if the construction project goes on, the longer we go the less time we have to get it done. That, too, will ultimately impact us on being able to make a decision.''

Family Circle and Sea Pines have had only limited talks about what happens after the current three-year contract between the two ends with this year's tournament. That's because Family Circle doesn't have an answer itself.

"It's not a money thing at all. We haven't worked out the details on the Charleston end to know what Hilton Head should respond to,'' McEwen said.

"Sea Pines doesn't know much of the details at this point because we don't know if this (a move to Charleston) is a done deal. Hilton Head has been a gracious host for 27 years now. Our relationship with Sea Pines has been an incredible journey.

"We are both doing everything we can to make sure that relationship continues. We don't want to in any way hurt them.''

The real problem is the calendar. The MCI Heritage golf tournament ends on Sunday, April 16 and the Family Circle begins the next day. The Family Circle has been held three weeks earlier in the past, but was shifted at the urging of the WTA Tour to alter a stretch of three consecutive Tier One events.

"I don't think we could move the tournament back to the old dates,'' McEwen said. "It's out of their (Sea Pines') control. The PGA and WTA have us both at their beck and call. We can't fight these dates.

"Sea Pines is doing everything they can and we're doing everything we can to run these two tournaments ending and starting in two days. But we have some limitations because of the WTA schedule and the Heritage Golf tournament. We're trying to work that out to everybody's benefit,'' McEwen said.

"What about a rain delay in the Heritage? This is real complicated. We do not want to impact or hurt their event. At the same time we have to be very careful about getting our play in. "Sea Pines and Hilton Head are a very professional group of people and our relationship is very strong. Everyone has helped us conduct the tournament at a top notch level.''

If the deal with Charleston works out, the Daniel Island facility would be a city of Charleston facility. McEwen said the Family Circle needs about 15 clay courts.

"It would remain a clay court tournament. We don't have any control over that. It's a position on the WTA Tour,'' he said.

As far as a long-time contract is concerned, McEwen is hoping for an even closer local contact. "It wouldn't be a contract. It would be a partnership of some type. We hope to be a contributor to the effort and obviously it would be long term. Hopefully it would be for next year, but that's not certain yet. A lot of details are involved.''

Would the Family Circle continue to grow as it did last year to a 100,000-plus audience?

"I think it potentially could get bigger. Roughly 75 percent of the attendees come from within 650 miles of Hilton Head. People who love tennis will still come to the tournament.

"The tournament is the draw. I think it would be in good shape in Charleston,'' he said.

But he stressed, "This is not a done deal. Nothing is done until it's done.''

Pierce enters

Former Australian Open champion Mary Pierce is the latest player to enter this year's Family Circle. She joins a list of players that includes Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Monica Seles, Anna Kournikova and Conchita Martinez.

Family Circle tickets are available by calling 1-800-677-2293 or by going to the tournament website at www.familycirclecup.com.

Young 24th nationally

Ryan Young has gained one of the highest national rankings for a Charleston junior in recent memory by earning a 24th ranking in USTA boys' 14 for 1999.


(02/06/00)  Sampras' absence weakens U.S. team

This was looking like a very good year for American professional tennis until Pete Sampras lamely pulled out of this weekend's U.S.-Zimbabwe Davis Cup tie. John McEnroe now can only hope that former Skatell's Pro Classic champion Chris Woodruff has better luck today against Wayne Black than he had in Friday's straight-set loss to Byron Black. Assuming that Andre Agassi polishes off Byron Black in today's opener, all of the pressure will be on Davis Cup rookie Woodruff.

This is the setup after Americans Alex O'Brien and Rick Leach suffered a five-set loss (7-6, 5-7, 0-6, 7-5, 7-5) Saturday to Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett to give Zimbabwe a 2-1 lead.

Of course, an American loss to Zimbabwe wouldn't be such a huge upset, considering that the Blacks defeated Australia two years ago in Harare and Australia won the Davis Cup a year later. It's just too bad that Sampras pulled out, citing a hip injury he suffered in the first set of his epic five-set loss to Agassi in the Australian Open semifinals. Observers contend that Sampras didn't appear to be bothered by the hip the rest of the match. McEnroe was furious that Sampras decided to skip Zimbabwe.

Barth's view

Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth made the trip to Zimbabwe as the co-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee. He filed this report Saturday by e-mail:

"Just got back from an almost four-hour doubles match. The Zimbabwe team of Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett inspired by 5,000 partisan fans broke Ricky Leach's serve at 5-6 in the fifth set. They now lead the American team 2 matches to 1 going into final day.

"The crowd is vocal but is not out of order during play. The home-court advantage is definitely helping the Zimbabwe team and the American singles players will really have to put in an excellent performance on Sunday to get out of Africa a winner.

"The atmosphere is very lively with bongo drums pounding after every point the Black brothers win. Both Black brothers are very quick and very steady. Chris is going to have to attack the net a lot more if he is to have a chance.

"I feel the biggest difference in the match today (Saturday) was that the Zimbabwe team constantly put pressure on the American team's serve in the fourth and fifth sets. I felt the U.S. team's return of serve let them down when they had opportunities.''

U.S. Down Under

The Australian Open was practically all United States. The Americans swept all five major titles for the first time Down Under.

Not only did Americans win both singles titles and have representatives on all three winning doubles teams, Andy Roddick of Boca Raton, Fla., won the junior boys' crown. Yes, maybe there is hope after Agassi and Sampras.

Everyone knows all about Agassi and Lindsay Davenport, but who is this kid Roddick? I don't know exactly, except he is the first American to win a boys' singles title at a Grand Slam championship since Scott Humphries won the 1994 Wimbledon junior title. Butch Buchholz, way back in 1959, had been the last American boy to win the Australian Open junior title. Roddick also was in the junior doubles final.

If you missed it, Leach teamed with Ellis Ferreira of South Africa to win the men's doubles title; Lisa Raymond paired up with Australian Rennae Stubbs to capture the women's doubles crown, and Jared Palmer and Stubbs won the mixed doubles title.

The Aussies loved every minute of it, especially when Agassi was on the court. According to Bud Collins, the Tennis Hall of Famer and Boston Globe tennis columnist, Agassi captures countries these days, not just titles. Australia is his latest conquest.

Jake Niall of The Age in Melbourne wrote: "The Pete-Andre thriller achieved mind-boggling ratings for Channel Seven ... Seven says the epic was watched by 1,151,000 people in Melbourne. That equals a peak rating of 48, or about the same as the 1999 AFL grand final. In Sydney, it rated 39 (956,000), in Brisbane 36 (468,000), Adelaide 36 (339,000) and 30 in Perth (261,000). This, as far as we know, is the largest audience for any tennis match in Australian history.''

TV ratings in the United States also soared. The Agassi-Yevgeny Kafelnikov final, shown live on ESPN, registered a 1.87 rating that made it the third most viewed tennis match in the network's history, behind only the 1995 Australian Open final and the 1996 Lipton final.

Just how good is U.S. tennis right now? American men and women have swept the singles titles in the last three Grand Slam tournaments, with Davenport and Agassi winning two each. This is the third time the United States has done this, and Australia is the only other country to achieve this feat, also three times.

A busy Agassi

How busy is Agassi and how big a sacrifice did he make to represent the United States this weekend in the Davis Cup? Agassi went straight from Australia to Zimbabwe. He also is the top seed in the Sybase Open that begins Monday in San Jose, Calif. (Woodruff is scheduled to play in San Jose as well).

Agassi is back in the Davis Cup camp, because he loves to represent his country. He plans to play Olympic tennis this summer, too.

Just how often has Agassi played Davis Cup? If he wins today, he will tie Arthur Ashe for second in U.S. Davis Cup singles victories with 27. McEnroe owns 41 Davis Cup wins in singles.

Local notes

Negotiations are still going on between the City of Charleston and the Family Circle Cup on the tournament's possible move to Daniel Island next year.

Some local USA Adult Leagues started last week, and most of the others are scheduled to begin this coming week.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Couriers InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(01/30/00)  Family Circle economic boon
Everyone agrees that the Family Circle Cup would turn Daniel Island into a tennis mecca. Right? But what would be the economic impact of this million-dollar women's tennis tournament on the Charleston area?

If Hilton Head Island can be used for comparison for the simple reason the tournament has known no other home during its 27 years of existence, the Family Circle Cup would have a significant economic impact on Charleston. The economic impact on Hilton Head Island for the 1999 Family Circle was calculated at $28,433,801.

Considering those numbers, it's easy to see why Daniel Island and the city of Charleston are so anxious to lure the Family Circle Cup away from Sea Pines Resort after Family Circle's current three-year contract with Sea Pines ends with this year's April 17-23 event.

The Family Circle would be Charleston's premier sporting event on an annual basis. It might take a year or two, but attendance here probably would exceed the 102,743 total that attended last year's Family Circle.

While no transportation hub itself, Charleston is light years ahead of Hilton Head Island in location and ease of accessibility. That matters, too, because 56.1 percent of last year's Family Circle fans were from states other than South Carolina. Hilton Head Island residents made up only 20.2 percent of the fan base. These statistics were produced through an economic impact study performed for the Family Circle Cup by Dr. Tom Regan of the University of South Carolina Department of Sports Administration. The survey was administered to fans in attendance in 1999.

The Family Circle isn't just a run of the mill sporting event. The demographics of the people who attend the event are impressive. According to the survey, 75 percent of the Family Circle's 1999 spectators are college graduates. The median household income of the spectators was $157,928, and 56 percent of the fans had household incomes in excess of $100,000.

Females outnumbered males 61 percent to 39 percent.

Of course, these statistics aren't far out of line with other professional tennis tournaments, especially WTA Tour events. On U.S. television, six of last year's top 10 highest-rated women's events were tennis tournaments..

Tennis fans are about as loyal as they come. According to a 1997 Chilton Sports Poll, tennis consumer loyalty is second only to NASCAR. There are 11 million more tennis fans in the U.S. than golf fans. Negotiations between Family Circle, Sea Pines and Daniel Island apparently are running heavy, with the city of Charleston, Berkeley County and state government officials also involved as well as the Daniel Island Company.

The City of Charleston, which owns the 200 acres on which the proposed $5 million tennis complex would be constructed, apparently had hoped to nail down something concrete within the next week.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said Friday afternoon that his office is still in negotiations with the Family Circle, but that it's difficult to say when the issue will be resolved. Riley confirmed that the city had been in talks with Family Circle officials several times during the week.

Family Circle tournament director Lisa Thomas said this past week that it may be Feb. 15 before any decision is made. Because most of the Family Circle's current focus is on making sure this year's tournament is a success, the possibility now looms that the Family Circle may decide to return to Hilton Head Island for one more year in 2001 before making a long-term decision about its future.

Borg-Mac in Columbia

Old rivals Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe will take time off the senior tour to play an exhibition match at Columbia's Carolina Coliseum on March 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets, as reasonable as $12 for adults and $6 for children, are available by contacting Capital Ticket outlets (803-251-2222).

The preliminaries, which will start at 4:30 p.m., will include an exhibition by USC's men's team as well as a S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame ceremony and an exhibition by former touring pros Tim Wilkison and Bret Garnett. Proceeds from the event will go to the Babcock Tennis Foundation.

Agassi sees green

I knew Andre Agassi made a lot of money on the court during his phenomenal 1999, $4.27 million to be exact. But he more than doubled that amount in endorsements. He was paid handsomely for his endorsements by Nike and camera maker Canon, as well as others.

Zimbabwe loves tennis

The 4,000 tickets daily tickets for next weekend's Davis Cup match between Zimbabwe and the U.S. sold out in 1 ½ days. Wayne and Byron Black shouldn't be any contest for Agassi and Pete Sampras, but playing before a highly partisan group of fans in their own Harare could give Zimbabwe a chance.

Anna in movie

Crowd-pleasing Anna Kournikova is headed for the big screen. The Russian will make an appearance in the upcoming Jim Carrey film, "Me, Myself and Irene."


(01/09/00)  Local officials try to land Family Circle Cup

Frank Brumley thinks Daniel Island would be the perfect spot for the million-dollar Family Circle Cup women's tennis tournament. But not just for a couple of years. Brumley, the president of the Daniel Island Company, is thinking long term.

There are numerous advantages for the Family Circle, which each spring seems to play second fiddle to the MCI Heritage Golf Classic at Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort. Because of the MCI Classic, the Family Circle has had little scheduling flexibility at Sea Pines.

That's why the Family Circle is considering ending its 27-year relationship with Sea Pines, the only place the Family Circle has been held. The tournament's three-year contract with Sea Pines will end with the April 17-23 Family Circle at Sea Pines Racquet Club.

The tournament starts the day after the MCI Classic's final round. The Family Circle was held two weeks before the golf tournament last year, but a WTA Tour scheduling conflict caused the Family Circle to negotiate a new date with Sea Pines for the 28th annual Family Circle. Sea Pines is unhappy with the new date.

"The dates are the issue and still a problem," Sea Pines director of sports Cary Corbitt said Friday.

At Daniel Island, the Family Circle would rule supreme. Daniel Island would even allow the Family Circle to virtually design a planned $5 million tennis facility.

"It's up to the Family Circle, the size of the stadium and the number of tennis courts," Brumley said Friday.

The tennis complex would be part of the 200 acres sold to the City of Charleston for future city parks, under the terms of the Daniel Island Company's purchase of Daniel Island from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1997.

Brumley, who was central to the early development of resorts such as Kiawah Island, Wild Dunes and Amelia Island, Fla., realizes the negotiations for the Family Circle aren't a done deal yet, because of Sea Pines' long relationship with the Family Circle. He doesn't expect Sea Pines to give up one of the premiere tournaments in women's tennis without a fight.

"I'm an eternal optimist. There's no deal yet, but I think it looks positive. No contract has been signed with anyone but I'm optimistic," Brumley said.

"If they want to come, we want them. But it would have to be a long-term commitment from Family Circle . . . more than three years."

The negotiations with Family Circle and its parent company, German media publishing giant Gruner + Jahr, not only include the Daniel Island Company, but also the City of Charleston, Berkeley County and the state, according to Brumley.

"It's my understanding that a decision will be made in several weeks, by the end of the month," he said.

Meanwhile, the Family Circle is making plans for what might be its last tournament at Hilton Head Island. As always, the event will be filled with the best players in women's tennis, and probably even more so this year because of the ideal date for the players (two weeks after the hard-court Lipton Championships end and after an open date and a smaller clay-court tournament at Amelia Island).

U.S. Open champion Serena Williams was the first to enter this year's Family Circle. Now, 1999 runner-up Anna Kournikova also has entered.

John's Island courts

The six new courts under construction near St. John's High School are on schedule to be completed for this spring's high school season, according to City of Charleston recreation director Paul Wieters.

The $200,000 complex, which is being built jointly by the city and a group of supporters from Seabrook Island, will be dedicated to the late Alan Fleming, father of former Grand Slam doubles star Peter Fleming and a member of the Seabrook community. The Seabrook group raised $75,000 and the city matched that total, and added an extra $60,000 to complete the project, according to Wieters.

St. John's tennis teams will be the beneficiary of all this. The Islanders will play and practice at the new hard-court facility.

The complex will be located near the intersection of Maybank and Main Roads.

Other city plans

There's also good news for downtown residents. The new courts at Moultrie Playground are under construction and should be ready for this spring's middle school schedule.

The two excellent courts at the corner of Broad and Ashley will be part of a six-court complex. Four new hard courts are being built on the site of the former baseball diamond between the two good courts and the four old almost unplayable courts at the playground. The old courts will be replaced by a baseball field.

Also downtown, the six hard courts at Jack Adams Playground at Johnson Hagood Stadim will be resurfaced in the spring and the lights replaced.

A Webb first

Vanessa Webb, who has been something of a fixture around Mount Pleasant in USTA satellite tournaments the last three years, has been a touring professional since her graduation from Duke last spring. After dominating the local USTA events the last two years, it's doubtful Webb will be back this year.

She has other goals: Wimbledon.

Yes, Webb is finding success on the WTA Tour. Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand, Webb posted her first main draw WTA Tour victory by defeating fourth-seeded Barbara Schwartz. Webb made the main draw by winning in a qualifying tournament.

Webb, a former NCAA champion, has played well enough to move up to No. 141 in the world. At this rate, the tall left-hander is on schedule to make the main draw at Wimbledon.

If she does make the Wimbledon main draw, she could be dangerous, because she is perhaps the best volleyer in women's tennis.

She would be right at home on the grass courts at Wimbledon, using her big serves to set up her volleying.

Tennis on InfoLine

Tennis fans can get up-to-date pro tennis results from The Post and Courier's InfoLine audiotex service. After dialing 937-6000, enter the 3080 tennis code, then press 1 for women's tennis and 2 for men's tennis.


(01/02/00)  Will Family Circle Cup leave Sea Pines for Daniel Island?

The Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island? That would be a great New Year's present for Charleston tennis. I can see it now: Everyone on Daniel Island riding bicycles, dressed in tennis attire, and carrying a tennis racket and a can of balls. Tennis in the Charleston area would explode with excitement and participation.

Of course, it's only a dream at this point, and maybe an improbable one.

But there appears to be something of a chess match going on between Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort and Family Circle Cup officials. This year's April 17-23 Family Circle Cup at Sea Pines Racquet Club will close out a three-year contract between the tournament and its host for the last 27 years. The two sides each want what is best for their situation. If there is no giving and taking in the negotiations, then the Family Circle, indeed, could end up at a planned $5 million complex on Daniel Island, or at any of several other possible hosts for the million-dollar tournament.

Sea Pines would prefer a different date for future tournaments from the one that was negotiated for the 2000 Family Circle. This year's tournament starts the day after the MCI Heritage Golf Classic ends at Sea Pines. Both the golf and tennis tournaments use the same media facilities. The Family Circle likes the new date because it pleases the WTA Tour in that players are given a break between three Tier One events, the Evert Cup at Indian Wells, Calif., the Lipton Championships at Key Biscayne, Fla., and the Family Circle, the last of which started the clay-court season in previous years.

On the fringe of the negotiations is the WTA Tour and its players.

"It's pretty tough on the players to play three top level tournaments back to back where the third one is on a different surface," WTA Tour CEO Bartlett H. McGuire said Thursday from his offices in Stamford, Conn.

Although the final word will come from Sea Pines and Family Circle tournament officials, the WTA Tour doesn't appear to be itching to leave Sea Pines. The Family Circle is a favorite among the players, who enjoy a week away from the hustle and bustle of cities and suburbia.

"Hilton Head is a great tournament and a very important tournament for us," McGuire said. "We will adapt our schedule to do what is best for Hilton Head.

"From a straight tennis standpoint, this year's schedule will be ideal. We've got the Tier One tournaments at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, then we have a week off (the week the Family Circle formerly occupied) before a Tier Two tournament at Amelia Island, Fla., on clay, then Hilton Head on clay.

"But we'll work with the tournament to come up with a schedule that works well."

The players apparently are happy with this year's dates. U.S. Open champion Serena Williams was the first player to commit to this year's Family Circle. She also entered the event last year, but suffered an injury in the Lipton and withdrew from the Family Circle.

Family Circle Cup tournament director Lisa Thomas is sympathetic with Sea Pines' date problem. "I feel for Sea Pines, having two events at the same exact date on the same real estate," Thomas said Thursday from Hilton Head Island.

"We've been there for 27 years and we're not going to move without giving a lot of thought and saying that Sea Pines could be home for the next 27 years. But we have a date conflict. We have a difficult date on the calendar because we follow Lipton (in previous years), and we want to break from Lipton and give the players more time."

This year's tournament was switched from the traditional first week in April to accommodate the players' request for a break in the WTA Tour schedule. Thus, the conflict with the Heritage Golf Classic. Because of this conflict, this year's Family Circle will not hold a qualifying tournament on the weekend prior to the main draw.

"The old time was what worked," said Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines Resort's director of sports, Thursday from Hilton Head Island.

"We're in discussions about a contract extension, and the real issue is scheduling. We have some concerns with the dates. That's what everything boils down to.

"It's up to Family Circle and the WTA to discuss the alternatives. The week after the Heritage Classic is such a tight schedule, and not the most desirable for either of us.

"We know they are in discussions with others. We have had a great 27-year history with Family Circle and are looking forward to a 28th."

Corbitt said he expected "something to be finalized in the next 30 days." The negotiations appear to be much like they were three years ago when the last contract between Sea Pines and Family Circle expired. Family Circle considered its options, negotiating with sites such at Kiawah Island, Disney in Florida, Stone Mountain in Atlanta and Cincinnati before embracing Sea Pines once again.

Thomas would not comment on what sites are currently under consideration or a report in this newspaper last week that the Family Circle is negotiating with Daniel Island. Officials from the Family Circle other than Thomas visited Kiawah Island several months ago along with officials from the Charleston Chamber of Commerce to take a preliminary look at that resort, according to Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth.

"All decisions are a gamble," Thomas said. "We just have to calculate the risks and pick the best one for all parties."