2003

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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(12/28/03)  WTA Tour experiences year of change in 2003
It's been a year of change for women's tennis. Entering 2003, Serena and Venus Williams stood unchallenged atop the WTA Tour. They owned the Grand Slam championships as well as the two top positions in the world rankings.

But as 2004 approaches, neither sister has played a match in nearly six months because of injuries. Serena has fallen to third in the world, and Venus has dropped all the way to 11th. Two Belgians, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, have taken over the top two spots.

The question marks for 2004 aren't as much with Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters as with the Williams sisters and the onrushing youth brigade, especially the Russians.

Serena already is starting off the new year in a withdrawal mode, having pulled out of next weekend's Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, apparently to give her knee more time to recover from surgery.

Serena is still committed to defending her Australian Open title a couple of weeks later. But there is no word yet on Venus.

On the men's tour, Andy Roddick finished 2003 as the No. 1 player in the world. He should be even better next year, considering that he discovered his true game midway through the year, when Brad Gilbert took over his tennis mind. Things could really be swell for Roddick in 2004 if Santa happened to leave a bag of volleys under his tree.

Andre Agassi, perhaps, is the biggest question mark among the men. Can he overcome the growing pressures of age and family to have another remarkable year? The ball is in Andre's court. His success depends almost entirely on his will and determination.

COLLEGE DEDICATES CENTER

The College of Charleston is planning a celebration and dedication for the opening of its new tennis complex at Patriot's Point in Mount Pleasant on Jan. 16. The new courts will be officially broken in the next day, when Clemson freshman Ryan Young returns home with his team to take on the College of Charleston men's team.

BASILE FINISHES HIGH

Charleston's Jason Basile capped off the 2003 junior tennis season with a bang. The School of the Arts junior finished in the Nos. 7-8 slots in boys' 18 in the Southern Junior Indoor Championships held in Louisville over Thanksgiving.

Basile, who is coached by Fritz Nau, also came in seventh in the Bullfrog/STA Junior Designated Tournament in Raleigh, N.C. He won the boys' 18 singles sportsmanship award for that tournament.

ROBINSON HONORED

Tradd Robinson is another junior who ended the season on a high note by being named winner of the S.C. Tennis Association's Mark Hodgin Sportsmanship Award for boys. The Wando High School player received the award during the SCTA's annual awards banquet at Hilton Head Island earlier this month.

FERRELL'S YEAR

Caroline Ferrell isn't from the Charleston area, but the girls' 18 standout from Blythewood might have had the most spectacular year of any state player. As a reward for her success, she has received a full tennis scholarship to Vanderbilt University.

For anyone who hasn't seen Ferrell play, she's terrific. Though only about 5 feet 6 inches tall, she's a big hitter with a dominant serve to go with an excellent net game.

Ferrell won the Wilton McKinney Award at the SCTA awards banquet.

SPENCER SCTA PRESIDENT

Lowcountry Tennis Association veteran Bud Spencer was elected president of the SCTA during the Hilton Head Island meetings. He will hold the post for two years after having served as executive vice president.

RATINGS AVAILABLE

USTA League participants can see their year-end NTRP rankings on the Internet by going to USTA.com, clicking on Leagues under TennisLink on the left side of the page. Under Search For Year-End NTRP Rankings in the middle of the page, click on Click Here to search for ratings. Plug in your name, and your rating will come up.

According to LCTA president Bob Peiffer, only 37 out of more than 2,000 players got a rating higher than the level at which they played.

PLAYING ON TWO TEAMS

There's good news for USTA League players who want to play more often. Technically, a senior who has the time could play on at least four teams at the same time this spring. And that's not counting the daytime women's leagues. In the past, players could play on one Adult League team and one Senior League team. Starting this spring, players can play at more than one level (3.5 and 4.0, for example) in both the Adult and Senior divisions.

Family dinners might suffer, but if both the husband and wife play league tennis and the kids already have gone off to college, it sounds like fun for a lot of serious tennis players. The extra competition and participation can only improve the quality of play.

FAMILY CIRCLE PROGRAM

Family Circle Tennis Center will start its eight-week Junior Team Tennis program on Jan. 12. The program, for children ages 6-12 in all skill levels, will teach participants the fundamentals of tennis in a team atmosphere.

Registration for the program already has started and will end on Saturday, Jan. 10. The cost for the eight-week program is $75. For more information, brochures and entry forms on the Family Circle Junior Team Tennis program, contact the Family Circle pro shop at 843-849-5300.


(12/27/03)  Tennis writer receives honor
Post and Courier tennis columnist James Beck has been selected by the U.S. Tennis Association's nine-state Southern Section as the recipient of the 2003 Southern Media Excellence Award. Beck will receive the award Jan. 17 in Atlanta at the annual USTA Southern Section Awards Luncheon.

Beck earlier received the S.C. Tennis Association's Media Award for 2003 as well as a USTA Certificate of Media Excellence for 2002.

Beck, a native of Bamberg, has been with The Post and Courier since 1971.


(11/24/03)  Henderson adds Southern Sr. to autumn tennis title harvest
KIAWAH ISLAND-Chris Henderson now has Southern singles and doubles titles to go with his national team championship.

The latest triumphs for the founder of the two-year-old Charleston Pro Tennis League came Sunday in the even-years Southern Closed Senior Championships at Kiawah Island's East Beach Tennis Center. Henderson rallied from a set down to overwhelm hot-tempered Juan Sandoval of Charlotte, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, in a battle of left-handers in the men's 30 singles final.

It took some time for Henderson, a 31-year-old former Furman star, to get his big game under control. But once the No. 2 seed got his huge left-handed serve, slice backhand and touch drop shots grooved, it appeared that about all his Spanish-speaking opponent could do was slam balls against the fences and net, so much that he was hit with a code violation after the second set and penalized a point to start the third set.

Sandoval, a Charlotte stockbroker who played tennis at Wofford, also was questioned by Henderson about two calls on the first three points of the third set. The second call, on a first serve by Henderson, prompted Henderson to request the service of a linesman.

With an official at courtside, Henderson charged to a 4-0 lead in the third set. By then, Sandoval's sizzling forehand and two-handed backhand had come undone.

"I got a linesman because I wanted to play," said Henderson, who led a local team to the 5.5 national championship this fall.

Henderson said he received a huge break early in the second set when he saw Sandoval twist an ankle. "I hit a volley behind him. I saw it (Sandoval twist his ankle)," Henderson said.

"That injury gave me the confidence I needed to win. I had played tentatively in the first set, trying to let him make errors. But then I just started playing my game.

"I had a hard time getting to the net, because he kept his ball so low to the net. He wanted to play pound, pound, pound. ... I had to mix it up with drop shots and slice. When I sliced it, it gave me time to get back on the court while he waited for the slice shots to sit down."

It was those deep slice shots that seemed to frustrate Sandoval the last two sets: those, along with the 6-1 Henderson's cannon of a serve. "I served great the whole match," said the transplant from Cape Cod, Mass. "That kept me on top."

Henderson, the only local player to win a singles title, also won the men's 30 doubles title with College of Charleston men's tennis coach Phil Whitesell as they defeated Eric Burke of Marietta, Ga., and Thomas Coulton of Hilton Head Island, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Charleston's Richard Weathers lost in the men's 60 singles final and Susie Peiffer fell in the women's 50 final. Both Weathers and Peiffer had been No. 1 seeds.

Ronnie Robinson of Stanley, N.C., beat Weathers, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Janet McGinley of Albany, Ga., scored a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Peiffer.

In the men's 40 doubles final, Steve Brady of Charleston and Robert Hampton of Blythewood defeated Charleston's Smith Anderson and Hilton Head Island's Scott Nichols, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. In the men's 50 doubles final Kiawah Island director of tennis Roy Barth teamed with John Callen of Alpharetta, Ga., to defeat Raymond Jones of Charlotte and William Toffey of Tega Cay, 6-2, 6-4.

In mixed doubles, Janet and Jerry Hanchrow of Johns Island took the 70-and-over title.

SINGLES FINALS: Men's 30-(2) Chris Henderson, Charleston, d. Juan Sandoval, Charlotte, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. Men's 40-(1) Wayne Hearn, Charlotte, d. (3) Thomas Coulton, Hilton Head Island, 6-1, 6-4. Men's 50-Robert Adams, Charlotte, d. (1) Hugh Thompson, Lilburn, Ga., 6-3, 6-3. Men's 60-Ronnie Robinson, Stanley, N.C., d. (1) Richard Weathers, Charleston, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Men's 70-(5) Bill Weathers, Whisper Pines, N.C., d. (5) Robert Wiederhorn, Okatie, 6-2, 6-4. Men's 80-(1) Hal Cook, Flat Rock, N.C., def. (2) Herbert Blumberg, Rome, Ga., 6-0, 6-2.

Women's 30-Ashley Maddox, Greenville, d. (1) Nathalie Roziers, Monroe, La., 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Women's 40-Holly Mills, Beaufort d. (1) Donna McKenna, Bluffton, 6-3, 6-2. Women's 50-(2) Janet McGinley, Albany, Ga., d. (1) Susie Peiffer, Charleston, 6-3, 6-0. Women's 60-(1) Betsy McColl, Columbia, d. (2) Roberta Case, Columbia, 6-1, 6-0. Women's 70-(1) June Connerat, Charlotte, d. Zoe Williams, Summerville, 6-2, 5-1 (retired). Women's 80-Mildred Southern, Winston-Salem, N.C., round-robin winner.


(11/23/03)  Golf is what tennis players do when they retire
Tennis may be the most difficult game to learn and play. It may be safe to say that some of today's current tennis stars could have been playing on the professional golf tours these days, if they had chosen golf at an early age and received the type of intense training that enabled them to become tennis stars. You might be surprised at how many pro tennis players also are scratch golfers, while simply playing golf as an outlet from the tensions of pro tennis.

For instance, Mikael Pernfors' only regret about coming to Wild Dunes to win the recent Isle of Palms Invitational tennis tournament was that he didn't have time to play golf. His wife, Kristina, had to return to college in Atlanta on the Monday after the tournament. A gifted athlete with excellent hand-eye coordination and extraordinary touch, Pernfors is a scratch golfer. Golf was one of the few sports he didn't try as a youngster back in Sweden.

Sure, anyone with athletic ability can walk out on a tennis court and dink a serve that will land in the service box or hit a ball across the net on an easy shot that is tapped right at them. But that level of play in relation to competitive tennis is the equivalent of a 120 or higher in golf.

At one point, I played golf about once every couple of weeks. Never had a lesson and shot only in the 90s on a good day. One reason I didn't fare better was because I didn't take the time any sport requires to become proficient in it. The primary reason, other than the fact I had a fulltime job, was the cost of golf.

Those two obstacles - time and money - and tennis' obvious physical rewards made tennis a much better outlet for me. It wasn't that I didn't like golf. I do. It's a great game. I may even play a little when I retire and have the time to play golf, although my wife doesn't think much of the idea, considering my obvious passion for tennis.

Because of the impact the Family Circle Cup is having locally, along with tennis' more appealing cost structure and time management, I think tennis is on the threshold of moving into a dominant position among Charleston's recreational sports. Just think about it, if you're 35 or 40 years old and want a social sport that provides serious competition along with exercise and can be played in a couple of hours, even at night, you don't have many choices.

All you have to do to see where Charleston tennis is headed is to analyze the two-year-old Charleston Pro Tennis League. This league is made up of about 60 players, most of them young professionals, and not tennis professionals. Take 37-year-old Edward Fenno, for instance. He's a transplanted Northerner, a Princeton graduate and a local attorney. His wife, Becky, is a local 4.5 player, a Princeton graduate and downtown architect.

Edward Fenno is representative of the CPTL, as is league founder Chris Henderson. Henderson also is from the Northeast, a Furman graduate and in medical supply sales. His fiancée, Nicole, has taken up tennis and is in pharmaceutical sales.

The demographics of tennis are changing. Because of the Family Circle Cup, area tennis is rapidly taking on a new look.

People who practically didn't know tennis existed only a few years ago are now serious tennis fans. Just as they buy their Spoleto tickets each year, they are now purchasing their tickets to the Family Circle Cup. It's the thing to do in Charleston these days.

In the past at my Kiwanis Club of Charleston meetings, I was rarely asked a question about tennis. But now questions are abundant, about Serena, Venus, Justine, Andre, Andy and others. Especially around the time of the Family Circle Cup, tennis is the talk of the town.

And it's only going to get noisier.

SUPER SENIORS SHINE

Charleston's super seniors came through with four titles in the recent super senior 60 and super senior 70 state championships at Seabrook Island Racquet Club. Prior to this, the area had claimed only the 4.5 senior women and 8.5 adult mixed doubles state crowns in 2003.

The local winners were in women's 4.0 super senior 60 (captained by Robi Poston); men's 3.5 super senior 60 (Allen Thompson, captain); women's 3.5 super senior 70 (Nancy Klock, captain); and men's 4.0 super senior (Ray Easterbrook, captain). The 3.5 men and the 3.5 women are teams from Seabrook Island, while the two 4.0 teams represent the entire area.

SNEE FARM HONORED

Snee Farm Country Club has been named winner of this year's S.C. Tennis Club of the Year by the S.C. Tennis Association. Snee Farm director of tennis Dewey Caulder will receive the award Dec. 6 at the SCTA's annual meeting at Hilton Head Island.

Snee Farm has one of the area's most active tennis programs for adults, teens and children. The Mount Pleasant facility has a total of 18 clay and hard courts, and five teaching pros. The club's Grand Prix Series, which is held five times a year with approximately 325 adults participating, is well known around the Lowcountry. Snee Farm has served as the host of many USTA League state tournaments and was awarded the Outstanding USA League Facility Award in 2002.

PERKINS FINISHES SIXTH

Taylor Perkins of Mount Pleasant took sixth place in the 8-year-old category of the sixth annual "Little Mo" Nationals held last month in Austin, Texas. Perkins, coached by Fritz Nau and Brian Minton of the Charleston Tennis Academy, had three wins in the national competition.

Regional competition began in the spring. The sectional semifinalists from each age division (boys' and girls' 8, 9, 10, 11) advanced to the nationals.

The tournaments are sponsored by the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation in memory of its namesake, former Grand Slam champion "Little Mo" Maureen Connolly.


(11/17/03)  Peiffer rallies in city clay finals
A 4-1 deficit in the first set isn't the bottom of the ninth inning, but it's a time when most players start to get worried. Not veteran senior player Susie Peiffer.

The No. 1 player in the South in women's 50 singles and doubles, Peiffer simply changed strategy and cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Becky Fenno in the women's 4.0 and above final of the first City of Charleston Clay Court Championships at Family Circle Tennis Center on Sunday.

"I started hitting the ball earlier, taking the ball on the rise, to give her less time to set up for her shots," Peiffer said.

"I don't hit outright winners, so I just have to keep it deep and let my opponents make errors first."

Fenno appeared to be in charge of the match through the first five games as she drilled strong forehands and smooth backhands to the corners until her 53-year-old opponent would commit a mistake or not be in position to return her shots. Fenno's high-bouncing, top-spin forehands gave the 5-4 Peiffer trouble pinned against the baseline.

Once Peiffer started taking the ball earlier, Fenno rushed her shots and had trouble keeping the ball on the court the last five games of the opening set. With victory in sight, Peiffer raced through the second set.

"It's hard to keep every shot deep," said Fenno, a 37-year-old Princeton graduate and downtown architect. She was taught tennis by her husband, local attorney Edward Fenno, also a Princeton graduate who played on the ATP Tour's satellite circuit.

Both Peiffer and Becky Fenno play on the same local 4.5 team that advanced to the state tournament last spring.

Peiffer's protégé, her daughter Anne Gratz, captured the women's 3.5 title Sunday while playing on the court next to her mother. Peiffer got Anne interested in tennis earlier this year while Anne's husband, Luke Gratz, was serving in the Army in South Korea.

Brian Widenhouse won the men's open title with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Will Smith.

City of Charleston Clay Court Championships

Women's 3.5 & Below Singles
Gratz def. Taylor 2-6, 6-1, 7-6

Women's 4.0 and Above Singles
Peiffer def. Fenno 6-4, 6-1

Women's 3.0 doubles
Mahon/Manuel def. Karst/Spitzmiller 6-1, 6-1

Women's 3.5 Doubles
Hardy/Hentz def. Browning/Martin 7-5,6-2

Women's 4.0 Doubles
Bennett/Buchanan def Snipes/Terrell 6-2, 6-3

Women's 4.5 Doubles
Martin/Peiffer def. VonTonder/Kryder 6-2, 4-6, 7-6

Women’s Open Doubles
Smith/Markowitz def. Von Toder/ Kryder 7-6, 4-6, 6-1

Men's 3.5 and Below Singles
Phillips def. Mahan 6-1, 6-2

Men's 4.0 and above Singles
Viljac def. Ellis 7-5, 6-4

Men's Open Singles
Widenhouse def. Smith 6-2, 6-4

Men's 3.0 Doubles
Thompson/Yoder def. Worth McElhiney 6-5, 7-5

Men's 3.5 Doubles
Kane /Nettles def. Gleaton/Mahon 6-4, 6-4

Men's 4.0 Doubles
Mathewes/Whetsell def. Quinby/Jansen 6-7, 7-6, 7-6

Men's 4.5 Doubles
Bumgartner/Poore def. Forsberg/Hane 7-6, 6-4

Men's Open Doubles
Crosby/Jones def. Viljac/Tanner 6-3, 6-4


(11/16/03)  Anastopoulo grabs SCTA coaching honor
This is a year Angelo Anastopoulo won't forget anytime soon. The College of Charleston's director of tennis has reached several significant career milestones in 2003. First, his women's team at the College as well as the Cougar men's team won Southern Conference titles last spring. As a result, Anastopoulo has been named State Collegiate Coach of the Year by the S.C. Tennis Association.

Anastopoulo also is proud that Charleston's women's tennis team has been named an Academic All-American Team for the fifth straight year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

To top off the year, the Cougar teams are preparing to move into their new tennis complex at Patriots Point. The first six courts of the facility's nine hard courts will be ready for play this week. The new courts will be officially broken in on Jan. 17 when the men's team, coached by Phil Whitesell, plays Clemson and Charleston freshman Ryan Young.

Yes, Anastopoulo has plenty to be happy about going into the holiday season.

It's something of a dream year for the youngest member of the Anastopoulo family that sent all four children to college on tennis scholarships - older sister Patty played for the College of Charleston, middle brother Akim played at the University of Louisville before becoming a prominent attorney in Charleston, oldest brother Arthur was a tennis All-American at South Carolina, and Angelo played at The Citadel.

"I am real thrilled," Angelo said about the SCTA coaching award that he will receive Dec. 6 at the state association's annual Hall of Fame Banquet at Hilton Head Island. "More than anything, it was a combination of the great success we had last year and our continued academic success."

The Academic All-American Team recognition is the longest streak in the country. The women posted a combined 3.48 GPA last year in addition to performing community service with the Habitat for Humanity in constructing a house on Meeting Street, working with the inner-city Courting Kids tennis program and serving as a session host for Leslie Allen's Win4Life children's program.

Beginning his 13th year at the College of Charleston, Anastopoulo owns a 214-80 women's record. Last season's women's team finished 22-4, losing to seventh-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA playoffs. Prior to giving up coaching the men's team three years ago to become director of tennis, his men's coaching record was 172-79.

But Anastopoulo, 36, is most proud of the new tennis complex that will replace the on-campus courts just off Meeting Street. The facility will have nine lighted courts and a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse, as well as a two-tiered terrace that overlooks the tennis courts on both sides. It will have a computerized scoreboard for all nine courts, allowing the players to input the scores on changeovers.

"We're going to have rocking chairs instead of bleachers," Anastopoulo proclaimed. "It's called 'Help Rock The Cougars.' You can sponsor a chair for $149.99, and we're looking to put about a hundred chairs out there. You can put your name on it for the life of the chair.

"We want to make it as comfortable as possible for people to come to our matches and stay for the entire match."

FAMILY CIRCLE GIFTS

The Family Circle Cup is offering holiday gift certificates that can be exchanged for tickets to sessions of the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. The purchasers of $40 or more in certificates also will receive an official tournament T-shirt and a Family Circle magazine cookbook.

For information, contact the Family Circle Cup ticket office at 800-677-2293, extension 1.

SOUTHERN SENIORS

The deadline has passed for the even-years Southern Senior Closed Tennis Championship that starts Wednesday at Kiawah Island, but the tournament will have some excellent players in its 195-player field.

Some of the top players will be Charlotte's Wayne Hearn, the national clay-court champion who will be the top seed in men's 40; International Tennis Federation world champion men's 40 doubles player Thomas Coulton of Hilton Head Island; Charleston Pro Tennis League founder Chris Henderson as the No. 2 seed in men's 30 singles and doubles (with College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell in doubles); and top-seeded and defending women's 50 singles champion Susie Peiffer of Charleston.

THANKSGIVING CLASSIC

Saturday is the deadline for entering Charleston Tennis Center's 23rd annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic that is scheduled for Nov. 28-30. The tournament will offer competition in age groups 10-and-under to 18-and-under in boys' and girls' singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402) for more information.

BE HOLDS FUND-RAISER

Bishop England's Triple B Booster Club will hold its second annual BEHS Ladies Tennis Fund-raiser on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 1-4 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. The cost to participate in the round-robin event will be $50.

The funds will be used to provide two $1,000 scholarships to two graduating seniors from Bishop England. For more information on the fund-raiser, contact Claudia Budds (843-884-6729) or Cindy Daniel (843-763-7759).


(11/10/03)  Pernfors overcomes Middleton to prevail at IOP Invitational
ISLE OF PALMS-Mikael Pernfors revealed a little of himself to about 200 fans who braved a chilling wind to watch him win the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational tennis tournament Sunday at Wild Dunes Racquet Club. This 40-year-old Swede still doesn't like to lose.

Neither does 35-year-old T.J. Middleton. But in this situation where wind would turn a great shot into an awful one and a poor shot into a good one as fans consumed hot drinks and wore gloves and heavy coats, Pernfors was the master. He survived, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in more than 2-1/2 hours of high-level tennis.

"If we had played under perfect conditions, I don't think I would have won," said Pernfors, after picking up the $1,500 winner's check.

This comment was in tribute to the big serve-and-volley game played so brilliantly by Middleton. In a time when the volley is so often taken out of men's singles, Middleton is a throwback to the likes of Patrick Rafter and Rod Laver.

But on a miserable weather day such as Sunday and when the opponent has world-class foot quickness and a racket touch that's sponge-like, it can take more than a big game to defeat a player as gifted as Pernfors on clay. Middleton had more, but not enough.

Just how badly did these two former Grand Slam tournament finalists and top 10 performers -Pernfors in singles and Middleton in mixed doubles and doubles-want this match? In this context, the second and third games of the third set were revealing.

Those two games were comprised of 48 points, comparable to an entire set of tennis. The third game alone had 26 points, two more than required for a perfect set such as the one Pernfors' doubles partner, Bill Scanlon, once achieved against Marcos Hocevar on the ATP Tour.

"He let me come back from 5-2 in the second set just so he could tire me out," joked Middleton, a former University of Georgia All-American like Pernfors. Middleton operates the Racquet Club of the South in Atlanta where Pernfors serves as a part-time instructor.

Middleton served at 4-4, 30-0 in the third set on the good end of the court (the wind was blowing toward the other end of the court). But he grew tentative on the important points and didn't charge the net off his pinpoint serves, losing five of the game's next six points and his serve. Pernfors served out the match at love after the two players switched sides and Middleton lost the first two points on balls that flew long on him in the wind.

Pernfors got a quick kiss from his Swedish bride of nine months, Kristina, and got ready to play doubles with Scanlon against Middleton and Bret Garnett, a team that once was ranked in the top 10 in the world. Middleton, with Garnett's help, prevailed this time, 6-3, 6-2, as they claimed their second straight IOP doubles crown.

For Pernfors, the doubles setback was his first at Wild Dunes. In his only other visit to Wild Dunes, he had teamed with Tobias Svantesson to win the U.S. Clay Court doubles title in 1989.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the way I played and concentrated, and didn't get tired," said Pernfors, one of only two players in the last 40 years to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles. "That was as good as I can play."

Middleton jumped off to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but Pernfors used his two-handed backhand passing shots and one-handed backhand slice shots to lure Middleton into complacency long enough to pound spinning forehands down the line for winners as the set went to 5-5 before Middleton regained the advantage with a big service game.

Pernfors took Middleton's net game out of the second set in moving out to a 5-2 lead. Middleton came back to 5-4 before Pernfors evened the match with one of his patented drop shots.

"I didn't think I could play like that still," Pernfors said. "And the big reason was that we had people watching. Older guys like having a place to play."


(11/09/03)  Fans in for rare treat at IOP Invitational finals

ISLE OF PALMS-It doesn't get much better than this for men's tennis in Charleston.

Of course, there was the time in 1988 when Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras all came to Wild Dunes Racquet Club to compete in the U.S. Clay Courts. That had to be the all-time highlight of men's tennis in Charleston, although at the time they all were just a bunch of green teenagers.

But today's singles and doubles finals of the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational should rank pretty high on the list. And Wild Dunes has the honor of serving as the host again.

What makes this free-to-the-public little tournament for veterans and young players alike so special this year? The four players who will play today's singles and doubles finals all have tasted the thrill of being ranked in the world's top 10. And they're certainly not juniors.

Doubles partners Mikael Pernfors and Bill Scanlon made the top 10 in singles, while doubles partners Bret Garnett and T.J. Middleton made the elite list in doubles.

So what happens when Pernfors and Scanlon, both in their 40s, are matched up against the younger Garnett and Middleton in the 1 p.m. doubles final or when Pernfors opposes Middleton in the 11 a.m. singles final? Regardless of who wins, the tennis is certain to be classy.

The fans at Wild Dunes have always been appreciative of good tennis. And these guys play for the fans as they try to recapture moments from their past.

The players won't get rich today. They'll receive small winners' and losers' checks. But from the style of their play and competitiveness, the fans would never know. These guys want to win and they want to please the fans.

"We feel like we can still play some good tennis, and to be able to do it in front of people is enjoyable," said Pernfors.

Pernfors is a classy shotmaker with exceptionally quick feet. He is only one of two players in the last 40 years to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles. He lost to Ivan Lendl in the 1986 French Open final.

Scanlon won the NCAA singles championship in 1976. He beat John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and most of the other players of that era on the pro tour. Scanlon's here because, "These are all my friends." IOP Invitational founder Richard Peyton coached Scanlon on the tour.

Middleton and Garnett have been buddies for a long time, having played together and gained a top 10 world ranking in doubles. Middleton was an All-American at the University of Georgia. He teamed with Lori McNeil to make the 1994 Wimbledon mixed doubles final. He's a classic serve-and-volleyer, with the ability to pull spectacular shots out of his hat.

It may be cold in the stands today, but these four guys are capable of producing electricity.

SOUTHERN SENIORS

Monday is the deadline for entering the Nov. 19-24 even-years Southern Senior Closed Tennis Championship at Kiawah Island. For more information, contact Kiawah Island's East Beach Tennis Club (843-768-2121).

EPPELSHEIMER SPARKLES

Charleston's Samantha Eppelsheimer qualified for the main draw of last week's Chanda Rubin International Tennis Federation junior tournament in Lexington, but lost to the 14th seed. Eppelsheimer then teamed with Reka Zalinska of the Czech Republic to win two matches and advance to the doubles quarterfinals where they lost to third seeds Sara Sansler and Elizabeth Plotkin of the United States, 6-0, 6-3.


(11/09/03)  Pernfors, Middleton advance to IOP championship match

ISLE OF PALMS-Mikael Pernfors and T.J. Middleton didn't have to come all the way to Charleston to play a tennis match. They could play almost any time in Atlanta at Middleton's Racquet Club of the South where Pernfors also is a part-time instructor.

But these two former University of Georgia All-Americans and former Grand Slam tournament finalists - Pernfors at the 1986 French Open in singles and Middleton at Wimbledon in 1994 in mixed doubles - still like playing in front of a crowd. Wild Dunes Racquet Club will be the venue for their 11 a.m. confrontation today in the singles final of the Isle of Palms Invitational.

Pernfors, a two-time NCAA singles champion and former world's top 10 player, used his quick feet and hands, clay-court savvy and service returns to frustrate fourth-seeded Bret Garnett of Hickory, N.C., 6-2, 6-4, in cool, windy weather Saturday. Middleton, the tournament's third seed who teamed with Garnett to form a top 10 doubles team on the ATP Tour, had a more difficult time in the other semifinal before turning back Myrtle Beach pro Will Bull, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1.

"T.J. has a big game. If he's on, I'll be far behind the baseline. Hopefully, I can pass him a little," said Pernfors, the tournament's top seed.

Pernfors used his exceptional quickness and racket control to take Garnett's serve-and-volley game out of the match. That left Garnett trying to outwit Pernfors from the baseline. And Garnett was no match from there for the talented Swede.

"That's part of why I like to play a serve-and-volley player. When they hit good first serves and I can get to them I can hit it back at their feet," Pernfors said.

"I knew my serve wasn't an issue. I just wanted to keep him off the net. I wasn't taking a lot of chances with my first serve. I just wanted to put the ball into play."

Pernfors threw a ton of junk at Garnett, nailing two-handed backhand passing shots against Garnett's serve, then switching to a one-handed backhand for slices from the baseline that kept Garnett off stride and off the net.

"He's a master," said Garnett. "He didn't get to the finals of the French Open for nothing."

Bull had his chances to upset Middleton, serving for the first set with a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker and then gaining two set points. But Middleton used his big serve-and-volley game to rally back, making a pair of spectacular serve-and-volley forehand volleys, then closing out the set with a forehand passing shot for which Bull dove to the clay and missed.

The second set was vintage Middleton as he repeatedly hit the service line or center line with first serves to render Bull's return game harmless. Middleton came up with six aces and three unreturnable serves while yielding just one point in his last three service games.

"He's playing better than I've ever seen him play," said the 31-year-old Bull, who lost to Middleton in three sets in last year's semifinals.

"I guess he's got my number now. He served just like that last year. T.J. can stay with you from the baseline, then he can go to the net."

Middleton, a 35-year-old who played in the Wimbledon seniors this past summer, played brilliantly at the net. He seemed to be inside Bull's head all day as he repeatedly guessed right on what looked like put-away volleys for Bull.


(11/08/03)  Quick feet carry Pernfors into semis
ISLE OF PALMS-Mikael Pernfors still has a great set of wheels. And Will Bull apparently has Bill Barber's number.

Throw the former top 10 doubles team of T.J. Middleton and Bret Garnett into the singles pot, and today's semifinals of the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational tennis tournament at Wild Dunes Racquet Club will include three players who have been ranked among the world's top 10 in singles or doubles. And for good measure, another former top 10 player, Bill Scanlon, is playing doubles with Pernfors.

True, these guys are a few years past their prime, but you don't always know that by their strokes - or quickness, in Pernfors' case. Plus, admission is free.

In posting a convincing 6-2, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over former Charleston Southern University star Rohan Wadehra, the 40-year-old Pernfors demonstrated the foot quickness and wide variety of shots that carried him to back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Georgia and a berth in the French Open final the following year.

"I'm still undefeated at Wild Dunes," the talented Swede boasted, recalling his doubles championship with former college roommate Tobias Svantesson in the 1989 U.S. Clay Courts at Wild Dunes.

Barber, last year's champion and the No. 2 seed, wasn't so fortunate. Bull, a 31-year-old Myrtle Beach pro, fought off leg cramps in the match's last game and defeated Barber for the third straight time, this one by the score of 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

"The last game was do or die," said Bull. "When I came back (from the cramps) I just went for broke, and it went my way. Bill just makes you run so much."

But the last time Bull cramped up against Barber, he lost. The difference this time was that he had only a few points left to play, and he was able to call for a three-minute injury timeout in which local massage therapist Jennifer Bierbower administered treatment to both of his legs.

Bull, who had quit when the cramps hit on the 30-30 point with Barber serving the last game, came back out after the timeout going for broke. He saved that break point and two others before taking advantage of his second match point by nailing a backhand winner down the line.

That topped off a day in which Bull was on the court for more than four hours. He had beaten Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson, 7-5, 7-5, in the first round while Barber had a bye. Bull did get a reprieve when his doubles match with Barber as his partner was rescheduled from Friday to noon today.

SINGLES RESULTS

First Round: Rohan Wadehra def. Eric Wammock, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2); Rob Cassity def. Charley Rasheed, 5-7, 6-1, 1-1 (retired); Sagi Zakin def. Ariel Furfuro, 7-5, 6-1; Will Bull def. Toby Simpson, 7-5, 7-5.
Quarterfinals: Mikael Pernfors (1) def. Wadehra, 6-2, 6-4; Bret Garnett (4) def. Cassity, 6-3, 6-1; T.J. Middleton (3) def. Zakin, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; Bull def. Bill Barber (2), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

DOUBLES RESULTS

Quarterfinals: Pernfors-Bill Scanlon (1) def. Job de Bour-Eric Wammock, 6-2, 6-1; Garnett-Middleton (2) def. Simpson-Chris Henderson, 6-3, 6-3; T.J. Van Thullenar-Rasheed def. Smith Anderson-Furfuro, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), (10-4).

TODAY'S PAIRINGS

Singles Semifinals: 9:30 a.m.-Middleton vs. Bull; 11:30 a.m.-Pernfors vs. Garnett.
Doubles Quarterfinals: noon-Barber-Bull vs. Cassity-Steve Brady.
Doubles Semifinals: 1:30 p.m.-Garnett-Middleton vs. Barber-Bull or Cassity-Brady; 3:30 p.m.-Pernfors-Bill Scanlon vs. Van Thullenar-Rasheed.


(11/07/03)  Pernfors, Scanlon top field
IOP TENNIS

ISLE OF PALMS-Former world's top 10 Mikael Pernfors is the player to beat, but defending champion Bill Barber and former ATP doubles stars Bret Garnett and T.J. Middleton all have their sights set on the top prize in the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational tennis tournament that starts this morning at the Wild Dunes Racquet Club.

Four first-round matches will begin at 9 a.m., with the winners advancing to the 1 p.m. quarterfinals to face the top four seeds, Pernfors, Barber, Middleton and Garnett, respectively.

A first-day treat is in store for fans at 4 p.m. when former top pros Pernfors and Bill Scanlon team up for a doubles match against Hilton Head pros Job de Bour and Eric Wammock.

Pernfors, a 40-year-old Swede who is one of only two players in the last 40 years to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles, will get his first singles test against the winner of a 9 a.m. match pitting Wammock against former Charleston Southern University star Rohan Wadehra.

"If I play well, I think I should do OK, but you never know," said Pernfors, who teaches tennis at Middleton's club in Atlanta. "The only player (in the tournament) I've ever played is T.J., and he's playing well enough that he can definitely beat me."

Garnett, who teamed with Middleton to gain a world's top 10 doubles ranking as well as to win last year's IOP Invitational doubles crown, is in the top half of the draw with Pernfors. Garnett will play the winner of a 9 a.m. match that sends Columbia pro Charley Rasheed against Greenville's Rob Cassity.

But the match of the day could come in a 1 p.m. singles quarterfinal, if 2001 runner-up Will Bull of Myrtle Beach can handle Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson at 9 a.m. The winner of that match will advance to play Barber, an Asheville, N.C., pro and former UCLA captain.

"It's a good draw for me," the popular Bull said. "I didn't expect to draw someone as good as Toby in the first round, but I've beaten Barber the last two times we've played."

Barber scored a straight-set victory over Middleton in last year's final.

"Barber and Bull would be a great quarterfinal," tournament founder Richard Peyton said.

Middleton is in Barber's half of the draw this time and will face the winner of a 9 a.m. match pitting former College of Charleston star Sagi Zakin against former Charleston Southern standout Ariel Furfuro.

NOTES

-- Admission to the tournament is free, but Peyton urges fans to bring old rackets or books to benefit the MUSC Children's Hospital.

-- Saturday's semifinals are scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. The singles final will be played at 11 a.m. Sunday.

-- Tournament information and draws are available on the Internet at www.isleofpalmsinvitational.com.

-- The tournament officially started Thursday afternoon with a pro-am.

-- Doubles pairings (4 p.m. today): Mikael Pernfors-Bill Scanlon (1) vs. Job de Bour-Eric Wammock; Smith Anderson-Ariel Furfuro vs. T.J. Van Thullenar-Charley Rasheed; Bill Barber-Will Bull vs. Rob Cassity-Steve Brady; Toby Simpson-Chris Henderson vs. Bret Garnett-T.J. Middleton (2).


(11/02/03)  Pernfors highlights field for Isle of Palms Invitational

It's probably safe to say that Michael Pernfors almost didn't play professional tennis, or even college tennis.

As one of only two players in the last 40 years to win back-to-back NCAA singles titles, and one who went straight from college to runner-up in the 1986 French Open, the "almost" might sound a little far-fetched. But it's not.

Pernfors practically had to beg to get into college, even a junior college. But his parents came through, funding his trip from Sweden to the United States and college tuition at Florida's Seminole Community College. Pernfors tried out for the tennis team and didn't lose a match in two years at Seminole.

His success didn't go unnoticed by Georgia tennis coach Dan Magill.

"It was a situation where a friend of mine had gone to Old Dominion, but they didn't want me," Pernfors said last week by telephone from Atlanta where he is a pro at the Racquet Club of the South.

"They (Old Dominion) sent my name to Seminole, but the coach sent a letter to my parents saying they didn't need me but I could come if I wanted. I guess I was lucky my parents agreed to send me.

"I didn't lose a match the first year (at No. 2), so they gave me a scholarship. I played No. 1 at Seminole the second year and didn't lose a match. I guess that was enough to get the attention of Dan Magill at Georgia.

"I never did get to meet the Old Dominion coach, but I always wanted to thank him for giving me the opportunity to go to Georgia," Pernfors said jokingly.

Pernfors still plays a classy game of tennis at age 40. He'll bring that talent to Wild Dunes Racquet Club this coming week for the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational, where he will be the No. 1 seed in singles and doubles. Tournament events start Thursday with a pro-am and will conclude with next Sunday's singles and doubles finals. Admission is free.

According to tournament founder Richard Peyton, Pernfors will play doubles with former ATP Tour star Bill Scanlon. The two former world top 10 players will get the nod for the top seeding over defending champions Bret Garnett and T.J. Middleton, who once were ranked as high as seventh in the world in doubles. Middleton is the director of tennis at the Racquet Club of the South, where Pernfors teaches.

Pernfors spends 15 or 16 weeks a year traveling and playing in various tennis events.

He plays occasional European tournaments on the Delta Senior ATP Tour, but it's difficult to gain an invitation to these elite eight-man events. Three years ago, Pernfors won the Success Magazine Tour's season-ending masters event in New York's Central Park, beating John McEnroe along the way.

"I haven't played that much singles lately," said the player who defeated Boris Becker and Henri Leconte to reach the 1986 French Open final opposite Ivan Lendl.

Pernfors has only "good memories" of Wild Dunes.

He won his last match there, teaming with former college roommate and countryman Tobias Svantesson to win the doubles title in the 1989 U.S. Clay Courts at Wild Dunes.

The 5-8, 150-pound Swede won more than $1 million on the ATP Tour, and he was ranked as high as 10th in the world in singles. But foot injuries cut short his career and probably prevented him from achieving more stardom on the tour.

Four years after he joined the ATP Tour, in 1990, he was sidelined by foot surgery. He recovered and rose to 32nd in the world in singles in a solid 1993 that included a singles title in Montreal. Foot problems plagued him again in 1994, forcing two more surgeries.

"I didn't have the motivation to get back out there after that," Pernfors said.

"I would have been out a year or a year and a half. I didn't want to start all over. I had lost all of my ranking by then."

The Montreal title was his last on the tour and the one he remembers most.

"Winning Montreal was the biggest one. I was out for almost two years and worked hard and played a lot of tournaments. Montreal also was the first ATP tournament I got in that year without having to qualify, and for me to get into the final and win (over Todd Martin) was proof I was back after surgery," he said.

But winning the NCAA titles at Georgia opened the door to the ATP Tour.

"I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity on the pro tour if it hadn't have been for winning the NCAA," he said.

Pernfors started playing tennis at age 3, knocking balls around the parking lot while waiting for his father to play club matches.

"I just wasn't that good in juniors," he said. "I played squash, table tennis, soccer and other sports. I played tennis only one hour a week, but when I came to Florida, I played tennis three or four hours a day."

CARTER MAKES QUARTERS

Charleston's Brenda Carter made the quarterfinals of last week's International Tennis Federation Vets World Championships in women's 55. After leading the United States to victory in the Maureen Connolly Cup, she stayed in Antalya, Turkey, as the seventh seed in individual competition and won two matches before dropping a three-set match to second-seeded Marie Pinterova of Hungary.

Carter also was a quarterfinalist in doubles, playing with Luise Moser of Austria. They were seeded fourth.

UPCOMING...

-- Today is the deadline for entering the Snee Farm Grand Prix adult event that will start Tuesday. The tournament will offer singles, doubles and mixed doubles in a wide selection of categories. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).

-- Saturday at noon is the entry deadline for the Nov. 14-16 City of Charleston Adult Clay Court at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. The tournament will have men's and women's singles, based on NTRP ratings, as well as open singles and doubles. The entry fee is $30 per player.

Contact the Family Circle Tennis Center (843-849-5300) or Rob Eppelsheimer by e-mail at reppelsheimer@gjusa.com.

-- Nov. 10 is the deadline for entering the Nov. 19-24 even-years Southern Senior Closed Tennis Championship at Kiawah Island. Contact Kiawah Island's East Beach Tennis Club (843-768-2121) for more details.

-- Charleston Tennis Center's 23rd annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 28-30. The entry deadline is Nov. 22. The tournament will offer competition in age groups 10-and-under to 18-and-under in boys' and girls' singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402. for more information.


(10/27/03)  Carter in pursuit of age-group world title

Charleston's Brenda Carter is in the Turkish resort city of Antalya, taking dead aim on a world championship in women's 55 singles.

The second-ranked player in 55-and-over singles in the United States and 41st in the world, Carter is the seventh seed in the International Tennis Federation's Vets World Championships that started Sunday at Antalya's Club Ali Bey Manavgat resort.

She had a first-round bye in the 64-player draw. Australia's Carol Campling is the top seed and defending champion.

Carter, 57, won the recent USTA women's 55 singles title. She has been in Antalya the last week helping the Americans win the women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup.

She helped the Americans get off to a good start en route to the Friday final of the team competition. She was on a winning doubles team in a 3-0 U.S. victory over Ireland on Tuesday in round-robin play, then played No. 2 singles the next day and scored a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Susan Gilbertson in a 3-0 U.S. win over Canada.

Carter didn't participate in the Americans' semifinal victory over South Africa on Thursday, but she came through in a doubles victory Saturday in a 3-0 Cup-clinching win over Germany.

TWO S.C. CAMPS RANKED

Head pro Joe Oyco's Litchfield Tennis School at Pawleys Island and the Stan Smith Tennis Academy at Hilton Head Island are the only in-state camps rated by writer Brad Wolverton in the top 25 Adult Tennis Camps in the November issue of Tennis magazine.

RUBIN CIRCUIT

More than 100 of the world's top boys' and girls' junior tennis players are coming to the new Lexington County Tennis Complex from Nov. 4-9 to compete in the fourth leg of the Chanda Rubin American ITF Junior Tennis Circuit. The first three events were in Tulsa, Okla., Fort Worth, Texas, and Atlanta. The Lexington complex, with 21 lighted courts, was named the USTA's Outstanding Public Facility of the Year for 2003.

GRAND PRIX SET

Snee Farm will hold another Grand Prix event Nov. 4-9. The entry deadline is Sunday. As usual, the adult tournament will offer singles, doubles and mixed doubles in a wide selection of categories. Play will begin at 6 p.m. on weekdays. Contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).

LOCAL SENIORS FALL

The 4.5 senior women's team from the Lowcountry Tennis Association that participated in the recent national team championships in Palm Springs, Calif., won its first match, but then lost its next two matches to fall out of the running. The last loss, 2-1 to Hawaii in 110-degree weather in the California desert, prevented the local team from advancing to the semifinals.

Susie Peiffer was captain of the team, which included Susan Battle, Jan Cohn, Sharon Greene, Susie Hill, Joan Kerrigone and Kitsy Wise.

UPCOMING...

-- The Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Classic will be held Nov. 7-9 at the Mount Pleasant tennis complex off Whipple Road. The entry deadline is Saturday. Competition will be held in boys' and girls' singles and doubles, 10-and-under through 18-and-under. For more information, contact the tennis complex (843-856-2162).

-- The first City of Charleston Adult Clay Court Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 14-16 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. The entry deadline is Nov. 8 at noon. The tournament will have men's and women's singles, based on NTRP ratings, as well as open singles and doubles. The entry fee is $30 per player. For more information, contact the Family Circle Tennis Center (843-849-5300) or Rob Eppelsheimer by email at reppelsheimer@gjusa.com.

-- Charleston Tennis Center's 23rd annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 28-30. The entry deadline is Nov. 22. The tournament will offer competition in age groups 10-and-under to 18-and-under in boys' and girls' singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402. for more information.

-- Members of the James Island Yacht Club, the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and Charleston Tennis Center will compete in "The Battle of James Island" Saturday in a doubles tournament at the sites. Members can contact Jim Wilkinson (843-406-8814), Lee Brockman (843-795-0425) or Jim Johnston (843-795-9295) to register for the event which is geared to players from 2.5 to 4.5 levels. A social will be held after the tournament, along with exhibitions by local college players and representatives of the Charleston Professional Tennis League.


(10/26/03)  Double return for doubles star
Bret Garnett looks fit enough to still compete on the ATP Tour. He's been off the tour for eight years, but he's only 36 years old.

Garnett, the tennis director at the Lake Hickory Country Club in Hickory, N.C., is looking forward to a couple of trips back home to South Carolina in the next six weeks. First, he is scheduled to play singles and doubles in the third annual Isle of Palms Invitational set Nov. 6-9 at Wild Dunes Racquet Club.

Normally, the weekend at Wild Dunes would be his big treat for the fall, reuniting with his old friends, especially former tour doubles partner T.J. Middleton and former junior coach Jim Denoon.

But Garnett has just learned from the S.C. Tennis Association that he has another special event coming up Dec. 6. That's the date he will be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame at a banquet during the SCTA's annual meeting at Hilton Head Island.

A native of Columbia, Garnett won numerous state junior titles under the tutelage of Denoon, who serves as the IOP Invitational's tournament director. Garnett then played three years of college tennis for Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), preparing for a career on the ATP Tour.

Garnett left college where he was a two-time All-America in 1988 to join the pro tour. He was ranked as high as No. 203 in the world in singles, but doubles was his specialty. He and Middleton made the doubles quarterfinals of the 1993 Australian Open. The pair was ranked as high as seventh in the world.

Garnett knew it was time to leave the tour in 1995, when he was still in his 20s. "I had been playing for a long time and felt content. I had been married for seven or eight years (to his college sweetheart, Cheryl) and wanted to start a family. The tour was not that conducive to family life," he said.

-- Current University of South Carolina women's coach Arlo Elkins and former University of North Carolina player Wilmer Hines of Lake City also will be inducted in the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 at Hilton Head Island.

ROGERS WINS KIAWAH

Shelby Rogers was the only local player to win a singles title in last weekend's Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship. Rogers lived up to her No. 1 seeding in girls' 12 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over fourth seed Alexis Prickett of Columbia.

Charleston's Samantha Eppelsheimer was runner-up in girls' 18, Isabel Dennis advanced to the girls' 10 final, and Randall Heffron was a boys' 12 finalist.


(10/25/03)  Blackbaud team takes tennis title
The Charleston Professional Tennis League ended its second season with resounding success Friday night as about 300 fans turned out at Family Circle Tennis Center to watch Mike Baker's first-place Blackbaud team win the league championship with a 3-0 victory over Baker Motors/Summit.

Likewise, it was a banner night for the host complex as Baker, the FCTC head pro, teamed with Citadel coach Toby Simpson for a 6-3, 6-1 win over Paul Thurmond and Rohan Wadehra at No. 1 doubles before a large crowd on the clubhouse court.

A short time later, FCTC director of tennis Jim Dempsey and former Charleston Southern star Ariel Furfuro gave Blackbaud the second win it needed in the three-doubles format by posting a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Baker Motors/Summit captain Stuart Small and John Baumgartner in the No. 2 doubles match.

With Blackbaud already having the $3,600 first-place prize clinched, Baker Motors/Summit defaulted the No. 3 doubles match with Jonathan Barth and Craig Rice leading Blackbaud's Will Shelley and Smith Anderson, 7-6, 1-2.

Just Fresh, captained by I'On Club pro Joey Eskridge, won the match for third place in the league with a 2-1 victory over league founder Chris Henderson's Bocci team.


(10/24/03)  Tennis league championship set for tonight
Tonight's championship of the second Charleston Professional Tennis League season boils down to Mike Baker's top six players against Stuart Small's best six players. Match time is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Small's Baker Motors/Summit team defeated Baker's Blackbaud team, 2-1, in the five-match regular season, but Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson was missing from the Blackbaud roster that night. He was in Las Vegas helping a local 5.5 team win a national team championship. Simpson, who normally plays with Baker at No. 1 doubles, won't be missing this time.

With $3,600 prize money going to the winning team, it's anyone's guess as to who will line up in the three doubles matches that will decide the league championship. "There're some mind games going on," said Baker, his team's captain and the head pro at Family Circle Tennis Center. "They've got a solid team and we do, too."

During the regular season, the league's six teams followed league rules by playing everyone on their rosters at least once. All of that changes once in the playoffs.

"In the playoffs, you field your best six players," said Small, like Baker a former College of Charleston player and the captain of his team.

A match is made up of three doubles, playing two regulation sets and a 10-point tiebreaker for the third set.

Blackbaud finished the regular season in first place, with the only loss to Baker Motors/Summit, then scored a 2-1 victory over Bocci in last week's opening round of the playoffs at the I'On Club, one of the two winning doubles matches going to 10-8 in the third-set tiebreaker. In addition to Baker and Simpson, Blackbaud's top six players are Jim Dempsey, Ariel Furfuro, Smith Anderson and Will Shelley. The team is rounded out by Trip Riesen, Barnes McLaurin, Glenn Cobb and Brandon Grimm.

Baker Motors/Summit lost twice in the regular season and finished in second place in the league with nine points to Blackbaud's 12. In last week's playoff opener, Small's team gained revenge for a regular-season loss to I'On pro Joey Eskridge's Just Fresh team by posting an 11-9 victory in the tiebreaker for the third set.

The top seven players for the Baker Motors/Summit team, in addition to Small, are Rohan Wadehra, Craig Rice, Paul Thurmond, Jonathan Barth, Tom Maynor and John Bumgarner. Thurmond, a local attorney who played at Vanderbilt, is the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Mike Viljac, Scott Laird, Dave Maness and Mike Tinkey round out the Baker Motors/Summit team.

A third-place match between Just Fresh and Bocci also will start at 6:30 tonight at Family Circle Tennis Center.


(10/19/03)  Australian Open may reschedule
The men's and women's professional tennis tours could be headed for major scheduling changes later this decade. The two-week Australian Open is considering a 2007 switch from its current mid-January dates to March.

Such a move would have an enormous impact on the winter and spring scheduling for both the ATP and WTA tours. Of course, that could affect the timing of our own Family Circle Cup, which will be held April 10-18 next year.

The international tennis community, particularly some Americans, apparently want the Australian Open switched to March for the obvious reason: a longer off-season that would allow players to enjoy a longer holiday season at home. Such a move would place the year's first Grand Slam event within a more favorable two months of the French Open, instead of the current four-month dead period between Grand Slams. January also falls in the middle of the excessively hot Australian summer.

Participation in the Australian Open by top players has picked up in recent years, with the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati, Andre Agassi and other stars usually heading to Australia immediately after New Year's Day. But the Australian Open hasn't always been a favorite for top players. For instance, Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors each made only two trips to the Down Under event.

Some top players, however, continue to search for reasons to skip the year's first Grand Slam event. Top-ranked Juan Carlos Ferrero is debating whether to play the Australian Open now since Spain will visit Australia Nov. 28-30 for the Davis Cup final. Like other players, Ferrero would prefer a longer break before getting serious about tennis all over again.

As for moving the Australian Open to March, that obviously would have a serious impact on the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, Calif., and the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami, both of which include men's and women's fields. Indian Wells is a two-week event for women and one week for men, while Miami is two weeks for men and women. The two tournaments currently dominate all of professional tennis for the month of March.

If the Australian Open were to move to March, that entire month might be scheduled for warm-up tournaments and the Grand Slam itself.

MOUNT PLEASANT HOLDS EVENT

The Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Classic will be held Nov. 7-9 at the Mount Pleasant tennis complex off Whipple Road. The entry deadline is Saturday, Nov. 1.

Competition will be held in all classes: boys' and girls' singles and doubles, 10-and-under through 18-and-under. For more information, contact the tennis complex (843-856-2162).

THANKSGIVING JUNIOR

Charleston Tennis Center has scheduled the 23rd annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic for Nov. 28-30. The entry deadline is Nov. 22.

The tournament will offer competition in all age groups, from 10-and-under to 18-and-under in boys' and girls' singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402. for more information.

CITY CLAY COURT SET

The first City of Charleston Adult Clay Court Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 14-16 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. The entry deadline is Nov. 8 at noon.

The tournament will have men's and women's singles, based on NTRP ratings, as well as open singles and doubles. The entry fee is $30 per player. For more information, contact the Family Circle Tennis Center (843-849-5300) or Rob Eppelsheimer by e-mail at reppelsheimer@gjusa.com.


(10/12/03)  Pro league prepped 5.5 winners
The local 5.5 team that won a national title last weekend had an ace in the hole when it arrived in Las Vegas for the U.S. Tennis Association's national 5.5 team championships.

At this high level of league tennis, just under the open classification, local competition in most areas around the country is somewhat limited. Players often must travel out of town and even to other sections of the country to find solid competition.

That's not the case in Charleston, thanks to Chris Henderson's Charleston Professional Tennis League. The league, which completed it regular season Friday night, is made up of more than 60 mostly former college standouts whose games are a notch above those of most local USTA League participants.

Perhaps, it's because these talented players enjoy the CPTL's Friday night format where all matches are played at one of the local country clubs or resorts, with free food and drinks. Or maybe they just like the name of the league, especially the professional part, and the fact that prize money is up for grabs.

But having played at this level on a regular basis was a huge benefit to Henderson, Joey Eskridge, Sagi Zakin, Toby Simpson and TJ Vanthullenar when they arrived for the nationals. The five players represented three CPTL teams. Columbia's Charley Rasheed also joined them for the trip to Las Vegas.

"The league really helped us," said Henderson, a former All-Southern Conference player for Furman. "We go out there and play against each other all the time, so it was really nice to get to play together."

Most of the other teams that competed in Las Vegas didn't have local leagues such as the CPTL. So, when it came down to pressure situations in key matches, Charles-ton's team had an advantage.

The Lowcountry Tennis Association team started out with Zakin playing singles, while Henderson and Simpson made up the No. 1 doubles team, and Rasheed and Vanthullenar the No. 2 team. After winning their first match, 3-0, the players didn't want to change the lineup. Captain Eskridge volunteered to continue sitting out as the team rolled to three straight 3-0 victories in round-robin play.

Charleston kept the same lineup for the semifinals and final as things got much tougher. The locals won both doubles matches in the semifinals against the Northern California No. 1 team, enabling Zakin to stop a singles match in which he was losing. In the final against an Intermountain team from Las Vegas, Zakin and one of the doubles teams won to give the Charleston team the national championship.

The LCTA didn't offer a 5.5 league. Thus, the team was put together as a result of the players' participation in the CPTL.

"We signed up as an open division team," Henderson said. "We didn't even know 5.5 existed."

A team from Atlanta also signed up to represent the Southern Tennis Association and was placed in the open division while Charleston was designated for 5.5. The Atlanta team lost.

A native of Cape Cod, Mass., Henderson moved to Charleston last year from Atlanta where he had participated in a pro league. He immediately got a group of local players together and formed the CPTL, which begins its league playoffs next Friday night at 6:30 at the I'On Club in Mount Pleasant.

The other five players also played college tennis. Simpson, The Citadel's tennis coach, played at Southern Mississippi; Vanthullenar, the tennis director at Wild Dunes, played at Erskine; Eskridge, I'On Club's director of tennis, played at Winthrop; Zakin played at the College of Charleston; and Rasheed played at Mississippi.

WOMEN SEEK TITLE

A 4.5 senior women's team from the LCTA is heading for Palm Springs, Calif., to begin play next weekend in another national championship. Susie Peiffer serves as captain of the team, which includes Susan Battle, Jan Cohn, Sharon Greene, Susie Hill, Joan Kerrigone and Kitsy Wise.

CARTER WINS NATIONAL

Charleston's Brenda Carter also was in the national tennis spotlight last weekend. She won the USTA's women's 55 national singles title in Folsom, Calif.

The No. 1 seed, Carter defeated four straight opponents, capped by a 6-2, 6-3 victory over second-seeded Judy Louie of Corona Del Mar, Calif., in the final.

Carter teamed with Penny Thomas of Hemet, Calif., to advance to the doubles semifinals and then take a playoff for third place in the competition.


(10/05/03)  All eyes on Williams sisters as they prepare for return
The immediate future of women's professional tennis could be revealed in the next few weeks. Serena and Venus Williams are scheduled to return to the tour after a three-month injury layoff.

The eyes of the tennis world will be on the two sisters in their comebacks. The question is obvious: Will Serena and Venus be able to pick up where they left off at Wimbledon in July as the dominant players in the game?

Serena is possibly the bigger question, since she is coming off knee surgery and the fact that at the time of her surgery she had won five of the last six Grand Slams. Serena is heavier on her feet and not as fluid in her movements as Venus, and therefore knee surgery could pose long-term problems.

But Venus has been plagued by various injuries, the latest an abdominal strain that handicapped her in her loss to Serena in the Wimbledon final. She also has played a more limited schedule than Serena since Serena's climb to the top of women's tennis last year.

Serena is now ranked third in the world, behind Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Venus is further back in the sixth slot, behind Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati. Trailing by 288 points, Henin-Hardenne is the only player who could overtake Clijsters for the top spot before 2003 ends.

Venus is scheduled to return to the tour first, the week of Oct. 13 in Zurich, Switzerland. This opening test shouldn't be a picnic for Venus. Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne and Davenport also are entered in that Tier I indoor hard-court event. However, Clijsters suffered an ankle injury Sept. 28 in a semifinal default to Anastasia Myskina in Leipzig, Germany.

Serena will return the following week, Oct. 20 in Linz, Austria, in a Tier II indoor tournament. Her Family Circle Cup and French Open nemesis, Henin-Hardenne, is also entered. But Henin-Hardenne is one of only two other top 10 players entered. Myskina, ranked 10th and winner of last Sunday's Leipzig final over Henin-Hardenne, is the other.

GIBSON TRUE CHAMPION

Althea Gibson was one of the true pioneers of tennis. Like Jackie Robinson in baseball and Jesse Owens in track, her accomplishments were historic.

Just think of the Williams sisters and their accomplishments in today's tennis game, then turn the clock back nearly a half-century.

I can remember the 1950s. I attended all-white public schools, yet as far away in England another South Carolinian was competing against and beating the best women's tennis players in the world. Gibson, who was black, had risen from farm life in rural South Carolina. I lived on a small farm, but I had never seen the game of tennis played on TV or in person until 1959 or 1960, when I saw my high school football coach playing tennis on the lone court in town.

Gibson moved to New York and beat all of the odds in winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in both 1957 and 1958, along with many other tournaments.

Yes, Althea Gibson's climb up the tennis ranks may have been the most incredible accomplishment ever in sports, even more than the exploits of Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens. Today, the accomplishments of Venus and Serena Williams are extraordinary, yet they pale in comparison to Althea Gibson's.

This is a tribute to Althea Gibson, who died last Sunday at age 76.

A CLAY COURT EVENT

The Family Circle Tennis Center announced that the first City of Charleston Adult Clay Court Tournament will be Nov. 14-17 at the Daniel Island complex.

The tournament will have men's and women's singles, based on NTRP ratings, as well as open singles and doubles. The entry deadline is Nov. 8 at noon. The entry fee is $30 per player.

For more information, contact the Family Circle Tennis Center (843-849-5300) or Rob Eppelsheimer by email at reppelsheimer@gjusa.com.

ONE STATE CHAMP

The Lowcountry Tennis Association (LCTA) has another state champion. Its 8.5 entry in the Mixed Doubles State Championship held recently at Hilton Head Island posted a 3-0 win over Greenwood in the final. The team, captained by Grady Query, won all four team matches in the competition. Other team members participating in the championships were Lisa Boland, Elizabeth Bumgarner, Charlotte Gerber, Charla McDonald, John Bumgarner, Anthony Carmola and Saif Sattar.

MIXED DOUBLES CHANGE

LCTA president Bob Peiffer passes along word that a major change is coming to the Mixed Doubles League for next summer. The levels will be changed to whole numbers from half numbers, as in 3.0 rather than 3.5.

"The maximum NTRP rating for a player on a 6.0 team will be 3.5, and the on-court partnership will not be allowed to have a rating higher than a 6.0 (for a 6.0 team)," said Peiffer. "This change is being made in order to align the Southern Tennis Association with the other sections of the USTA that play mixed doubles."

Peiffer said the team levels will go all the way to 10.0. An open division also is a possibility.

LEAGUE NEWS

The LCTA's Combo League is finishing up with 1,020 players, a 65 percent increase over last year, Peiffer said. The State Combo League tournament will be held Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Myrtle Beach.

The fall leagues will start during the next two weeks. There are four separate fall leagues: Adult, Senior, Super Senior 60 and Super Senior 70.

KIAWAH JR. DEADLINE

The deadline for entering the Oct. 17-20 Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship is Wednesday. The tournament will have singles and doubles in 10-and-under through 18-and-under. The entry fee is $37 for singles and doubles, or $32 if two or more players from the same family are entered.

Contact Kiawah Island's East Beach Tennis Club (843-768-2121) for more details.


(10/05/03)  Tennis writer earns S.C. media award
James Beck of The Post and Courier has been named winner of the South Carolina Tennis Association's Media Award for 2003.

He will receive the award Dec. 6 at the SCTA's annual Hall of Fame Banquet at the Westin Resort on Hilton Head Island.

Beck, a native of Bamberg who joined The Post and Courier in 1971, also was nominated by the Southern Tennis Association for the U.S. Tennis Association's national Media Excellence Award for 2002 and was awarded a certificate of Media Excellence by the USTA.


(09/30/03)  EDITORIAL:  Althea Gibson's winning example
Born in a sharecropper's shack near Sumter in 1927, Althea Gibson was a long shot to become one of tennis' all-time greats. But Ms. Gibson, who died Sunday at age 76 in New Jersey, made a habit of beating the odds. She moved to New York City with her family at age 3, played "paddle tennis" on Harlem sidewalks and eventually took tennis lessons as a teenager from Fred Johnson, who lost his left arm in World War II. Further instruction followed in North Carolina, as did an athletic scholarship to, and a degree from, Florida A&M University.

Ms. Gibson was the first black person to play in the famed Wimbledon tournament in England in 1951. A few years later, she considered giving up tennis. While visiting Charleston 20 years ago, a day after being inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, she told this newspaper that in 1954 she was on the brink of joining the Women's Army Corps (the WACs) as "a good way to serve my country." Then she was invited to participate in an international tennis tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

A remarkable winning streak ensued, and she became the first black person to win a Wimbledon title in 1957. She won Wimbledon again in 1958, and U.S. Open titles in 1957 and '58. She also was in show business, with an album ("Althea Gibson Sings") and a role in the John Ford Civil War film, "The Horse Soldiers," among her credits. She even played golf professionally, and later worked with youth sports groups in New Jersey.

Just as Jackie Robinson faced intense scrutiny as the first black major leaguer, Ms. Gibson faced intense scrutiny as the first black tennis star. She met that challenge with characteristic dignity, explaining years later: "Tennis was a game for ladies and gentlemen, and I conducted myself in that manner."

Today's athletes, in all sports, would do well to follow Ms. Gibson's winning example.


(09/28/03)  Dementieva starting to translate potential into results
It's not too late for Elena Dementieva to hit it big on the WTA Tour. It's almost too early.

Believe it or not, this talented Russian is just 21 years old, at least for about two more weeks. It was way back in 2000 when she made that grand run to the semifinals of the U.S. Open as a mere teenager, the only time she has advanced past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

Nearly six months ago at the Family Circle Cup, I watched Dementieva play Jelena Dokic and was convinced that Dementieva was capable of beating anyone, even the Williams sisters. Dementieva lost to Dokic in that third-round match, but only because of a nagging injury and bad luck.

Her only liability - other than the thigh injury problems and possibly her lack of experience winning a major title - appears to be a powder puff second serve. Here's a 5-11, 140-pounder who doesn't have a legitimate second serve. Otherwise, she has a dynamite game as well as exceptional athletic ability.

Sure enough, Dementieva rolled past Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport the next week to win the tournament at Amelia Island, her first WTA Tour singles title. The injuries wouldn't go away, and Dementieva was hardly heard from again until a couple of weeks ago. Jennifer Capriati beat her handily in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

But the last two Sundays have belonged to Dementieva. She beat Chanda Rubin in consecutive finals at Bali and Shanghai. In the process, she climbed to No. 8 in the world, despite still being slowed by a wrapped right thigh.

Although Dementieva still has to prove herself in a Grand Slam, she looks like the real thing, fully capable of winning Grand Slams and holding her own with Serena Williams.

Dementieva is tall and strong, with a variety of wonderful ground strokes. She also covers the court better than most of the taller players, because of her natural athletic ability, quickness and mobility.

She just needs to take her serve to another level.

It's still early, but Elena Dementieva could be a player to watch in next year's Family Circle Cup. That's presuming she returns to Daniel Island in 2004.

CARTER CHOSEN

Charleston's Brenda Carter has been selected by the USTA to represent the United States on a four-player team that will compete in the women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup from Oct. 20-25 in Antalya, Turkey.

Ranked second nationally in women's 55 singles and doubles for 2002, Carter played on last year's Connolly team that finished seventh in the world competition. The Statesboro, Ga., native didn't play college tennis.

"I think we are a lot stronger this year," Carter said. "The three other players are very strong players. We are taking our strongest team from the U.S."

The format will call for each team to play every day. Team matches will consist of two singles and one doubles, with the team that wins two of the three contests advancing to the next round of the competition.

The tournament will be played on red clay, the same surface as last year in Austria.

FOUR LOCALS WIN

Charleston players Susie Peiffer, Dale Tanner, Michael Viljac and Carrie Randall won titles at the S.C. Closed Senior Championships at the Litchfield Racquet Club last weekend.

Peiffer won singles and doubles in women's 50, teaming for the doubles crown with Jan Cohn of Columbia. Tanner and Viljac combined to win the men's 40 doubles title, and Randall teamed with Nanci Fitzpatrick of Hilton Head Island win the women's 55 doubles.

S.C. FINISHES THIRD

The South Carolina contingent took third place in the Gold Division, trailing Georgia and Tennessee, in the recent Bullfrog USTA Southern Section Junior Davis/Fed Cup Championship held in Chattanooga, Tenn. Brian Burke of St. Andrews Tennis Center served as a coach for the S.C. team of boys and girls in the 14, 16 and 18 age groups. Samantha Eppelsheimer in girls' 16, Kalee Claussen in girls' 18, Nat Estes in boys' 18 and Scott Maucher in boys' 18 represented the Charleston area.

In the 12-and-under Junior Davis/Fed Cup competition last weekend in Chattanooga, Charleston player Hagan Edgerton was one of six from the Southern Section's nine states to take a first place in the Gold Division. Edgerton also played on a first-place team that was made up of players from several states. Randall Heffron also participated in the 12-and-under tournament.

KIAWAH JUNIOR SET

The annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship is scheduled for Oct. 17-20. The entry deadline is Oct. 8.

Always one of the top junior tournaments in the South, the Kiawah event will have singles and doubles in 10-and-under through 18-and-under. The entry fee is $37 for singles and doubles, or $32 if two or more players from the same family enter.

Contact Kiawah Island's East Beach Tennis Club (843-768-2121) for more details.

UPCOMING

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program has four more Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. at the downtown Moultrie Playground. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- The entry deadline for the Oct. 9-12 Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament at Seabrook Island is Friday. Men's singles and doubles age groups will be from 45 to 80, and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be from 40-70. The entry fee is $35 per player for the first event, $55 for two events and $70 for three events. For more information, contact The Resort at Seabrook Island (1-800-845-2475).


(09/21/03)  Dempsey gets to see rare side of subdued Sampras
Pete Sampras' tennis career is a blur of aces on break point, great volleys, winning Wimbledon titles and being the perfect gentleman of tennis. But new Family Circle Tennis Center tennis director Jim Dempsey was present on two occasions when Pete wasn't Pete.

Dempsey coached six years on the WTA Tour, directing the games of Lisa Raymond, Lori McNeil and Pam Shriver. His memories of Sampras crying twice on center court stand out.

Dempsey spent 10 days at the recent U.S. Open, including the opening Monday night when Sampras officially announced to the world what it already knew, that Pete was becoming a full-time husband and dad.

The U.S. Tennis Center was full of emotion that night as the game said goodbye to one of its all-time greats, and Sampras responded with his own displays of something he seldom demonstrated on the tennis court - emotion.

"I hadn't seen that kind of emotion from Pete since the (1995) Australian Open, when he played (Jim) Courier in the quarterfinals," Dempsey said Friday. It was a special night for Dempsey to see "that kind of emotion from Pete in a different way."

In 1995, Dempsey was Raymond's coach. Being an American, he stayed around the Australian Open the night Sampras went head to head with Courier, another former champion. It was an emotional time for Sampras. His best friend and coach, Tim Gullikson, was in a battle for his life with a brain tumor. Sampras had held it all inside, until that night.

"Pete knew about the tumor and had handled it within himself, but that night there were people in the crowd yelling, 'Come on, Pete: do it for Tim,' " Dempsey recalled.

It took Sampras five sets to dispose of Courier. The emotions of that match, along with Gullikson's battle for his life - a battle he would lose a year later - got to Sampras as he broke down and cried on the court.

But most people back home in the United States hadn't seen that side of Sampras until his retirement party at the U.S. Open.

-- The 1995 Australian Open was special for more than just Sampras. The last three rounds of the tournament brought together the players who were the heart and soul of U.S. men's tennis in the 1990s. After defeating Courier, Sampras beat Michael Chang in the semifinals and then lost to Andre Agassi in the final. Agassi now carries the flame alone for that group.

-- Although Raymond is a Grand Slam doubles champion and is recognized as one of women's tennis' top doubles players, she hasn't won a Grand Slam singles title. But Dempsey doesn't think it's too late for the 30-year-old now that another average-sized player, Justine Henin-Hardenne, is doing so well.

"Seeing Justine break through could make Lisa say, 'If she can do it, I can do it,"' Dempsey said. "But Lisa got as high as 15 in the world (1997), and that's nothing to sneeze at. She also has nearly $5 million in earnings."

-- Dempsey was impressed by the new, grown-up Andy Roddick. "It's great to see him grow and behave like a champion," Dempsey said. In winning the U.S. Open, Roddick was a player a coach would want his players to emulate.

HEFFRON ON TEAM

Charleston's Randall Heffron was selected in boys' 12 for the Junior Davis Cup/Fed Cup team that is participating in the USTA Southern Section competition in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Samantha Eppelsheimer's participation in girls' 16, Kalee Claussen in girls' 18, Scott Maucher in boys' 18 and Hagen Edgerton in girls' 12 were announced last week.

UPCOMING ...

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program has five more Saturdays from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at Moultrie Playground downtown. Registration for either site is $10.

For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- The Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 9-12 at Seabrook Island. Men's singles and doubles age groups will be from 45 to 80, and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be from 40-70. The entry fee is $35 per player for the first event, $55 for two events and $70 for three events. The entry deadline is Oct. 3. For more information, contact The Resort at Seabrook Island (1-800-845-2475).


(09/14/04)  Watch out for Roddick on clay
Pete Sampras met virtually every challenge tennis had to offer during his record-setting career.

The red clay courts of Paris' Roland Garros Stadium was his only stumbling block in a near-perfect career. That's only because when his serve-and-volley game went awry, he didn't have a backup strategy. Three shots was a long baseline rally for Sampras.

So, along comes Andy Roddick, currently the game's best server and maybe among its best ever. Typically, you might say he doesn't have any better chance of winning the French Open than Sampras did.

That might not be true. Roddick has only part of the same mentality of Sampras. Like Sampras and all big servers, Roddick loves to see his serve bounce untouched into the wall behind the receiver. That's called a shot of adrenaline. Roddick gets plenty of it.

You see, not only is Roddick's serve bigger and more consistent than Sampras', Roddick also has a backup plan to win the point. He doesn't charge the net right off, but he punishes the short balls that his huge serves force from his opponents. If that doesn't end the point, he's content to pound away at the baseline until another opportunity comes his way.

Because he almost always holds his serve, he can afford to gamble on the other end. That correlates to double pressure for opponents. They just want to win their service; they don't have time to think about breaking Roddick, which they know is nearly impossible when his serve is working. He's about as apt to bang four straight aces as lose his serve.

What does this have to do with the French Open? Well, with an unstoppable offense as well as a solid defense, Roddick is fully capable of winning several French Open titles. Remember, his first two ATP Tour titles came on clay surfaces, back-to-back two years ago at Atlanta and Houston.

Andy Roddick, indeed, might become a player for all seasons.

CPTL GOING STRONG

The Charleston Pro Tennis League's second week of matches will be held Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Pleasant's Ion Tennis Center. The league's six corporate-sponsored teams opened their season Friday night at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The seven-week Friday night format for the league has all six teams getting together at one site for team matches. This coming week's schedule pits T-Bonz against Beachside Realty, Blackbaud vs. Just Fresh, and Baker Motors/Summit vs. Bocci.

One neat feature is that food and beverages are free to the fans, as is admission.

The league is the brainchild of former Furman player Chris Henderson, who came to Charleston after being involved in a similar league in Atlanta. More than 60 top pros and former college players make up the CPTL's six teams.

Now in its second year, CPTL has been contacted by several other groups in cities such as Columbia, Greenville, Charlotte and Raleigh about helping them form leagues.

LOCALS ON CUP TEAMS

When the Junior Federation/Junior Davis Cup competition for the Southern Tennis Association starts today in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Charleston area will be represented by Samantha Eppelsheimer in girls' 16, Kalee Claussen in girls' 18, Scott Maucher in boys' 18, and Hagen Edgerton in girls' 12. Sallie Johnson declined an invitation for girls' 12 because of an injury.

RAIN HITS JAMBOREE

Rain wiped out the Saturday portion of the girls' High School Tennis Jamboree at Family Circle Tennis Center last weekend. Eight teams participated, with host Bishop England having earned the most points when the event was called. Wando and Myrtle Beach tied for second.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Tuesday at 8 p.m. is the deadline for entering next weekend's 10th annual Snee Farm Junior Championships. Age categories from 10-and-under through 18-and-under are planned. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252).

-- The local USA Team Tennis program for juniors will start next Sunday. Matches are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The program will run through Nov. 9 for ages 6-18. City and private clubs in the area can provide more details, or players can contact league coordinator Peggy McElhiney at pmcelhiney@tariffs.com (843-821-8903).

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program started its fall program Saturday. Six more Saturday sessions are planned from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at Moultrie Playground downtown. Registration for either site is $10. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- The annual Harold Smith Appreciation Tennis Tournament will be held next weekend at the Jack Adams Tennis Center, with men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, along with junior singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center for more information.

-- The Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 9-12 at Seabrook Island. Men's singles and doubles age groups will be from 45 to 80, and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be from 40 to 70. The entry fee is $35 per player for the first event, $55 for two events and $70 for three events. The entry deadline is Oct. 3. For more information, contact The Resort at Seabrook Island (1-800-845-2475).


(09/08/03)  Andre's loss will pass torch to Andy
There was a silver lining in Andre Agassi's disappointing loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero in Saturday's semifinals of the U.S. Open. Agassi spared his loyal followers the agony of possibly having to see their hero overpowered by the next great American champion: Andy Roddick.

Pete Sampras has bowed out, and it is only a matter of time before Agassi goes to the sideline, too. Roddick arrived just in time.

Roddick's potential is staggering. What if he develops a serve-and-volley game?

His serve appears to be good enough to beat just about anyone on a fast surface. The ease with which he normally holds service allows Roddick to gamble on opponents' service games, going for that one break that can decide a set in his favor.

When he gets that break, it's about as hopeless for his opponent as it was for Ferrero once he had double-faulted to give Roddick a 5-3 lead in the third set of Sunday's U.S. Open final. Ferrero's heart was broken as he watched helplessly while Roddick slammed four straight serves for winners, the last three for aces, to wrap up his 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory.

It's uncanny that anyone can serve so hard, yet so consistently. Most of the great servers of the big-racket era have been erratic, a hit-or-miss situation, but not Roddick.

Even Sampras was unable to hit the big one as consistently as Roddick, unless of course it was on a break point. But Roddick demonstrated against Ferrero, as well as in his two-set-down, comeback victory against David Nalbandian in the semifinals, that he also can deliver in the clutch.

How could Roddick improve on his service games, one might wonder? After all, an ace is an ace, and an unreturnable serve ends the point. But there are days for every tennis player when the serve isn't working to perfection. That's when a alternative strategy, such as serving and volleying, comes in handy. On days like that, Roddick can take a little off his serve, put it in play, and win at the net.

Roddick has come a long way in just about three months with Brad Gilbert. Roddick is all business these days. He is showing savvy far beyond his 21 years. When he steps on the court, he's there for one reason: to win. He doesn't expect to lose.

Yet, his is the most refreshing face to hit men's tennis in a long time. The million-dollar check he received for winning the U.S. Open will pale in comparison to his marketability.

It's exciting to think just how good Andy Roddick might be by next summer.

ANOTHER BIG HEART

If there's one thing Roddick has in common with women's champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, it's the size of their hearts.

Henin-Hardenne doesn't have an overpowering serve. Neither is she among the biggest hitters in women's tennis. But there isn't anything she doesn't do well in tennis.

There was a time not long ago when women's tennis was all about being dominating, big and powerful. Players of the 5-6, 125-pound variety such as Henin-Hardenne and Martina Hingis did not have a chance in this new era of big rackets and big muscle. Of course, tennis is having its own evolution.

Right now, small is sufficient when a player has the talent and smarts of Henin-Hardenne or Hingis.

The rush to add body mass might suddenly see a stop sign.

Henin-Hardenne proved again at this U.S. Open that she truly is a great champion who won't go away anytime soon. You can expect her to get even better and more confident now that she has won two Grand Slams in one year.

She might even get a little stronger, but don't expect to see many changes in her physique.

Justine Henin-Hardenne has enough heart to overcome any lack of size.


(09/07/04)  Capriati, Roddick salvage American hopes at Open
This U.S. Open almost earned the label as the year the Americans went flat.

Thank goodness for Jennifer Capriati's spunk and Andy Roddick's late-match spark of adrenaline.

Capriati didn't win Friday night's semifinal against Justine Henin-Hardenne, but Capriati at least played like she wanted to win. That's more than can be said for Lindsay Davenport and Andre Agassi. They were as flat as pancakes. Roddick looked like he had caught the symptom for two sets Saturday against David Nalbandian.

Agassi's loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero shouldn't have been too surprising. Agassi was flatfooted and unfocused in his win over Taylor Dent in the round of 16. He was the same against Ferrero.

For the first time since his sometimes wild and erratic early years on the pro tour, Agassi is looking his age. I know that sounds cruel, but Agassi may finally have hit the wall in his Grand Slam career.

Although Ferrero hit some great shots, an Agassi playing with tenacity and consistency might have exposed Ferrero's clay-court game. As CBS's John McEnroe said about the time Roddick went two sets down Saturday, the clay-courters not only own the clay courts, they now have taken over America's surface - hard courts.

Roddick must have been listening.

I thought this would be Roddick's U.S. Open, considering how Brad Gilbert has camped out in Roddick's head, turning the young American into a thinking offensive machine who knows how to play defense as well. But just like at Wimbledon against Roger Federer, Roddick's huge serve went away in pressure situations in the first two sets of his five-set victory over the amazingly solid Nalbandian.

The last three sets were vintage Andy Roddick. I hope he saved something for today's final against Ferrero.

If Roddick can get his young legs going early, forget about the foot blister and keep the adrenaline in his serve, this U.S. Open will be remembered for its rain, the year the Belgians took over, and for the heart and serve of Andy Roddick.

COMING UP

-- The Charleston Pro Tennis League is preparing to start its second season Friday at Family Circle Tennis Center. The league's six corporate-sponsored teams will play Davis Cup-style matches at 6:30 p.m. the next seven Fridays at different area tennis complexes. Admission is free, as are food and beverage.

-- The Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament has been scheduled for Oct. 9-12 at Seabrook Island. Men's singles and doubles age groups will be from 45 to 80 and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be from 40-70.

-- The entry fee is $35 per player for the first event, $55 for two events and $70 for three events. The entry deadline is Oct. 3. For more information, contact The Resort at Seabrook Island (1-800-845-2475).

-- The deadline for entering next weekend's Maybank Junior Challenger will be Monday at noon. The entry fee is $30 for singles and $10 per person for doubles. Competition is planned in all age groups for boys and girls, 10-and-under through 18-and-under. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- The 10th annual Snee Farm Junior Championships are scheduled for Sept. 19-21, with an entry deadline of 8 p.m. on Sept. 16. Age categories from 10-and-under through 18-and-under are planned. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252).

-- The local USA Team Tennis program for juniors will start on Sunday, Sept. 21. Matches will begin at 1:30 p.m. The program will run through Nov. 9 for children 6-18 years of age.

City and private clubs in the area can provide more details, as well as league coordinator Peggy McElhiney at pmcelhiney@tariffs.com (843-821-8903).

-- Today is the deadline for entering this coming week's adult Grand Prix at Snee Farm Country Club. The event will offer men's and women's singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles, and will run from Tuesday through next Sunday. Food and beverages will be provided each night, with a catered dinner on Friday night. For more information, contact Snee Farm (843-884-3252).

-- After Saturday's rained-out sessions, the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program is scheduled to start its seven-week season next Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. at the downtown Moultrie Playground. Registration for either site is $10. Participants at both sites can borrow rackets. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- The annual Harold Smith Appreciation Tennis Tournament will be held Sept. 19-21 at the Jack Adams Tennis Center with men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, along with junior singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center for more information.


(08/31/03)  Young tennis fan earns trip to New York by penning winning Ashe essay contest
Wendrah McCoy is only 10 years old. But she is something of an expert on Arthur Ashe.

That's why when she learned that the U.S. Tennis Association had an Arthur Ashe essay contest, she didn't waste any time putting her thoughts into an essay titled, "Why Arthur Ashe Is A Sports Legend."

As a result, the Charleston youngster and her mother spent last weekend in New York City, compliments of the USTA. Wendrah was the national winner of the essay contest in the girls' age 10 category.

The only child of Wendell and Deborah McCoy, Wendrah attends James Simons Elementary School on King Street and resides about 10 blocks from the Jack Adams Tennis Center where she was introduced to tennis three years ago by Delores Jackson's Courting Kids Inner-City program. Wendrah is getting ready to start another Courting Kids session Saturday.

While in New York, Wendrah and her mother visited Arthur Ashe Stadium at the National Tennis Center as part of Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the U.S. Open. She received her national award at a dinner at the home of former New York City mayor David Dinkins.

There also was time for a Broadway play, the "Lion King," as well as a harbor cruise and WNBA game at Madison Square Garden. She even met Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.

"We had a wonderful, wonderful time," her mother said.

Wendrah's essay on the life of Arthur Ashe, one of history's most prominent African-Americans, was elegantly written, pointing out his many achievements that stretched far beyond his Grand Slam titles and the tennis court. She studied about Ashe in school as well as during Leslie Allen's local WIN4LIFE program. She saw Allen, a former world's top 20 pro, during her trip to New York.

"Wendrah likes Arthur Ashe. She always studied about him," her mother said. "She knows what he stood for and what he accomplished."

A FAMILY CIRCLE CONTEST

The Family Circle Cup has come up with an interesting competition that will allow artists and would-be artists of all ages to play an instrumental role in the million-dollar WTA Tour tournament on Daniel Island. An official Family Circle Cup T-shirt design contest has been created for the 2004 tournament.

The winner's artwork will be featured on the tournament's official T-shirt and will be available during the Family Circle Cup, which is scheduled for April 10-18 at Family Circle Tennis Center. The winner also will receive other prizes and recognition.

The main objective of the design will be to reflect the image and atmosphere of the Family Circle Cup. Designs should be hand-drawn or computer generated and should measure 12x12 inches with the words "2004 Family Circle Cup" measuring at least two inches high. Entries can be emailed, mailed or delivered in person to the Family Circle Cup offices located on Daniel Island. All designs and entry forms must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 28.

A more detailed list of the contest rules, as well as the entry form, can be found at www.familycirclecup.com. Copies of the rules and forms also can be requested by calling (843) 849-5315.

LCTA WOMEN WIN EVENT

A team from the Lowcountry Tennis Association recently won the cities competition for the Southern Section of the USTA. Charleston also won in 1998.

The LCTA women defeated Louisville, Ky., in the semifinals and defending champion Birmingham, Ala., in the final. The team was made up of Frances Byars, Ann Gadsden, and Margaret Taylor in 3.0s; Denise Holland and Betty Randolph in 3.5s; Ginger Stevens and JoAnn Terrell in 4.0s; and Susie Peiffer and Minnette Van Tonder in 4.5s.

GRAND PRIX SCHEDULED

Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club has scheduled another of its popular Grand Prix adult tournaments for Sept. 9-14. The entry deadline is next Sunday.

As usual, the event will offer men's and women's singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. Food and beverages will be provided each night, with a catered dinner on Friday night.

For information, contact Snee Farm at (843) 884-3252 or SneeFarmTennis@msn.com.

COURTING KIDS COMING

Another seven-week season of Courting Kids is scheduled to start next Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. at Moultrie Playground. The downtown sessions have been moved from Jack Adams Tennis Center to Moultrie Playground to avoid a conflict with The Citadel's football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

Registration for either site is $10. Participants at both sites will be able to borrow rackets, according to program coordinator Delores Jackson. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The Girls' High School Tennis Jamboree is set for next weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center. Play will begin Friday afternoon with Bishop England serving as host. Other schools entered include Wando, Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall, Aiken, Myrtle Beach and South Florence.

-- The annual Harold Smith Appreciation Tennis Tournament will be held Sept. 19-21 at the Jack Adams Tennis Center with men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, along with junior singles and doubles. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402. for information.


(08/24/03)  Men's tennis losing a complete gentleman
Men's tennis won't be the same. Even though Pete Sampras hasn't played since last year's U.S. Open, there was hope that he might show up this year at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.

But now Pete is ready to officially announce his retirement from professional tennis on Monday. It's a sad but yet historic day for men's tennis.

This brings back memories of a spring Saturday afternoon back in 1988 when I stood next to a junior player on the porch at Wild Dunes Racquet Club. He was 16 years old and appeared to be about 5-9, 150 pounds. Pete Sampras had just failed in his effort to qualify for the U.S. Clay Courts, losing to another kid named Michael Chang.

There was much talk that week in USTA meetings at Wild Dunes about the declining prospects of American men's tennis. Neither Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe had made a Grand Slam final the past two years, and there didn't appear to be anyone ready to take their places.

Of course, little did anyone know then that the future of U.S. men's tennis was at Wild Dunes that year. Jim Courier was there, too, and Andre Agassi would win the U.S. Clay Courts the next year.

The next time the name Pete Sampras came to mind was two years later in 1990 while I was watching the U.S. Open. There was a grown-up Pete Sampras, suddenly a lanky 6-1 and heavier, playing near-flawless serve-and-volley tennis. He won the U.S. Open that year.

The things that stand out most to me about Sampras, other than his awesome serves on break-points and effortless volleys, was his character and court disposition. He was the complete gentleman of tennis, a relief from the racket-throwing, bad-mouthing images of Connors and McEnroe.

Sampras was never heard to speak harshly or negatively about his opponents or line crews and chair umpires. He won a record 14 Grand Slam titles, but he gave tennis far more in return.

BAKER ATTENDS PROGRAM

Family Circle Tennis Center's Mike Baker recently joined some of the top coaches in the country in a High Performance Coaching Program conducted by the USTA's Tennis Coaching Education Department in Newport Beach, Calif. One of the coaches participating was Andy Roddick's former coach, Tarik Benhabiles.

Collegiate coaches from schools such as the University of Southern California and Northwestern also took part in the weeklong program. Participants will receive a certification from the USTA as a High Performance Coach.

"It was a great opportunity to share ideas and coaching techniques with some of the top professionals in the field," said Baker, the program development manager at Family Circle Tennis Center. "This program (the USTA program he attended) gives me access to information that will be invaluable to our academy players and I'm very excited about being able to offer them an environment that produces the best in all of them."

FCTC EYES EVENTS

Family Circle Tennis Center and two other Mount Pleasant facilities have set their sights on serving as hosts for sectional and state league tennis championships, according to FCTC tennis operations director Rob Eppelsheimer. The facilities have made a bid to the Southern Tennis Association to serve as host for next year's Southern Sectional Championships, which were held in Columbia this year.

Also, FCTC is the lead facility with Snee Farm and the Whipple Road complex in making a bid for the State Combo League Championships for the next three years. This year's tournament will be held in Myrtle Beach.

"We've got 52 courts combined," Eppelsheimer said, referring to the Family Circle, Snee Farm and Whipple Road facilities.

The rules also allow for the usage of two surfaces. Family Circle, of course, is basically a clay-court facility, while Snee Farm is split between hard and clay courts, and Whipple Road is all hard courts.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center is planning to hold the City of Charleston Clay-Court Championships in November. The tournament will be open to anyone in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

-- The Girls' High School Tennis Jamboree is set for Sept. 5-6 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Host Bishop England, Wando, Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall, Aiken, Myrtle Beach and South Florence will participate.

COURTING KIDS SET

The City of Charleston's Courting Kids tennis program will hold the first of seven Saturday sessions for the fall on Sept. 6 at the Moultrie Playground and John's Island tennis complexes. The downtown sessions will be held at Moultrie Playground instead of the Jack Adams Tennis Center to avoid a conflict with The Citadel's football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The sessions at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, while Moultrie Playground's time slot will be from 1-2:30 p.m.

Registration for either site is $10. Participants at both sites will be able to borrow rackets, according to program coordinator Delores Jackson. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

FISHBURNE SEMIFINALIST

Diane Fishburne was the defending champion in women's 45 in this year's International Tennis Federation's Vets World Championships, but third-seeded Patricia Medrado of Brazil gained revenge for last year's championship match loss by defeating Fishburne in straight sets in Friday's semifinals in Hannover, Germany.

Fishburne was the second seed, behind Australia's Ros Balodis, last year's women's 40 world champion.

Balodis had beaten Fishburne last weekend in the Margaret Court Cup women's 45 world team championships to give Australia a victory over the defending champion U.S. team.


(08/17/03)  Serena's knee surgery opens door for battle for No. 1 by Belgian duo
Serena Williams' knee surgery came so suddenly it caught the tennis world flat-footed. As Serena pulled out of tournament after tournament and finally yielded to surgery, the WTA Tour appeared to be subdued.

Finally, there was a race for the No. 1 ranking in the world. Women's tennis would be as exciting as ever, just with new faces challenging for world supremacy. Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne would be worthy beneficiaries of the decline of the Williams sisters, just as Steffi Graf benefited so greatly from Monica Seles' unfortunate stabbing 10 years ago.

Clijsters took the top spot by default last week, although she may have claimed it legitimately a few weeks later. Serena was in a position where she practically had to win the U.S. Open to retain her top ranking.

Next year should be an interesting one for women's tennis. Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne likely will end 2003 in the top two positions in the world. The Belgians are young, just 20 and 21 years old, and should be around for awhile. The big question, of course, pertains to the Williams sisters and their futures in tennis.

Serena will be 22 next month and Venus is 23, so age shouldn't be an issue. But no one knows what impact knee surgery will have on Serena's tennis game. If her mobility is restricted by knee problems, she will become much more vulnerable.

Knee injuries often become career-defining obstacles for tennis players, as well as other athletes. Graf appeared to be virtually certain of breaking Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles when she won the 1996 U.S. Open, her sixth consecutive title in Grand Slams in which she competed and 21st Grand Slam success overall. Of course, a series of knee injuries and surgeries the next three years limited Graf to just one more Grand Slam title.

Hopefully, Serena will be able to overcome surgery and be as good as new when 2004 starts.

Going into the U.S. Open with her younger sister sidelined, Venus Williams normally would be the player to beat. But Venus hasn't played in a tournament since losing to Serena in the Wimbledon final. Venus continues to withdraw from tournaments due to the abdominal injury she suffered at Wimbledon, and has fallen all the way to fifth in the world rankings.

The word from the WTA is that Venus reportedly has resumed practicing, although she doesn't have Serena to help her prepare for the U.S. Open.

RUSSIANS ARE COMING

The United States continues to churn out outstanding young women's tennis players, although all of our top players other than the Williams sisters are reaching advanced stages of their careers.

But watch out for the Russians, especially if a true No. 1 threat emerges from their long list of young stars. The Russians now have nine players ranked in the top 50 (U.S. has 12, but five of the top eight U.S. players are 27 or older).

A quick look at Friday's quarterfinal pairings at the WTA stop in Toronto shows the strength of the Russians. They were represented in all four quarterfinals.

And now there's Ukraine's Viktoriya Kutuzova, who will turn 15 on Tuesday. She climbed 183 spots in the world last week to No. 268 after advancing to the third round in Los Angeles in her first WTA Tour tournament.

ESTES PREVAILS

Nat Estes was the only Charleston player to win a singles title in the State-Closed Junior Clay-Court Championships held recently in Greenville. Estes lived up to his No. 1 seeding in boys' 18 with a 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory over No. 2 Douglas Appleby of Simpsonville in the final.

Charleston brothers Walker Heffron and Randall Heffron were runners-up in boys' 10 and 12, respectively, while Hagan Edgerton was runner-up in girls' 12 and Caroline Irvin was runner-up in girls' 16.

SMITH EVENT SET

The annual Harold Smith Appreciation Tennis Tournament has been scheduled for Sept. 19-21 at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The tournament will have men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, along with junior singles and doubles, according to tournament director Kenneth Funderburk. For entry information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..


(07/27/03)  Peiffer's team is headed to league tennis nationals
There are late bloomers. And there are late starters. Susie Peiffer started the game late (in her 30s), but her tennis skills are definitely blooming. The Charleston player is headed back to the USTA's league tennis national team championships after her senior women's 4.5 team won the Southern Sectional Championship last week in the Columbia area.

Already ranked as the top women's 50 doubles player in the South and co-ranked No. 1 in singles, Peiffer will be making her third appearance in the league tennis nationals in October when the team she captains goes to Palm Springs, Calif. Peiffer, a pro at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club, competed in the adult women's 4.5 nationals in 1996 in Orlando, Fla., and in 2000 in Tucson, Ariz.

She has reason to be excited, along with team members Susan Battle, Jan Cohn, Sharon Greene, Joan Kerrigone, Ann Munday, Nancy Owens-Willms, Carrie Randall and Kitsy Wise.

"There are only 200 people from the 125,000 in the Southern going to the nationals," Peiffer said, noting the number of players that participated in league tennis in the Southern Section this year.

Since there is a limited pool of players at the highly skilled 4.5 senior level, Peiffer's team has players from three other areas, even another state. Greene is from Wilmington, N.C., while Battle is from Myrtle Beach and Cohn is from Columbia.

The team didn't have a local season, because of the lack of other 4.5 teams. There were only four senior 4.5 teams in the state, all competing for the state title and a berth in the sectionals. Of course, Peiffer's team prevailed.

At the sectionals, the Charleston team rolled past Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana to win its group and take a 4-0 record into last Tuesday morning's championship match at the new Lexington County Tennis Complex.

Charleston scored a 2-1 victory over a team from Knoxville, Tenn., to capture the sectional title. Peiffer and Cohn took their doubles match, then Greene and Battle won to clinch the trip to Palm Springs.

"I think everyone is excited about going to Palm Springs. I've never been there," said Peiffer, the wife of Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer.

The team hopes to receive some help toward expenses for the trip to California from the S.C. Tennis Association and possibly from the Southern Tennis Association, but most of the cost will be shouldered by team members.

LOCAL JUNIORS ON TRIP

Four local students are visiting the northeastern part of the country this weekend as part of their participation in the Leslie Allen Foundation's WIN4LIFE program.

Brian Ackerman (12), Vernita Ackerman (14), Satirah Gibbs (14) and Marcus Mitchell (13), all members of the local WIN4LIFE program, flew to New York City where they joined students from New York to travel with former WTA Tour player Leslie Allen to Dorset, Vt. In Vermont, the students are staying with host families while training at the Gunterman Tennis Academy at Stratton Mountain Resort.

The Leslie Allen Foundation, headquartered in New York under the motto of "Tennis is more than just hitting a ball," is underwriting the trip. The group left Charleston on Saturday and will return Thursday.

"We are committed to helping develop the young people in Charleston," said Allen, a former world's top 20 player. "Our Charleston WIN4LIFE students will learn so much from interacting with peers from other cities and by experiencing something outside their neighborhood."

Allen's WIN4LIFE program has been sponsored the last two years by the Family Circle Cup and included a series of weekend programs for a group of local students. The students also have visited the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament and gone behind the scenes of the million-dollar professional women's tournament that is held each April on Daniel Island.

THORNTON FINDS SUCCESS

Charleston's Caroline Thornton continues to sparkle in junior tennis. She advanced to the round of 16 of the recent girls' 12 Super National Clay Courts in Boca Raton, Fla. It was her first Super National appearance.

She won her first three matches before losing, including victories over two seeded players. She then lost to Southern champion Ebie Wilson of Mobile, Ala., in the consolations. Thornton also made the quarterfinals in doubles with Sarah Zuick of Greer.

Thornton, who won the 12-and-under title at this year's Palmetto Championships, will compete in the Super National Hard Courts that start next weekend in the Atlanta area.

"Caroline had hardly played outside of South Carolina until this year," said coach Bryan Minton. "She just needs experience playing national caliber kids. I think once she finds the right combination of intensity and determination she has the potential to go far in these national tournaments."


(07/20/03)  Fans could be in for double treat at IOP Invitational
Local tennis fans' best deal, the Isle of Palms Invitational, is looking even better for this year. Event organizer Richard Peyton has sent word that Johan Kriek is playing so well these days that he may compete in singles as well as doubles.

The tournament is scheduled for Nov. 6-9 at Wild Dunes Racquet Club. It's a great deal because it's one of the few quality professional sporting events that's free to the public.

Kriek is still celebrating his men's 45 doubles conquest at Wimbledon with fellow South African Kevin Curren. Kriek is one of tennis' last showmen, in that he knows how to play up a crowd. The former two-time Australian Open champion is a fun player to watch.

His hands still brilliantly quick, Kriek played doubles in last year's tournament at Wild Dunes with singles champion Bill Barber. There is a good chance that this year Kriek will team with former top 10 player Bill Scanlon in doubles, according to Peyton.

Peyton, a former University of South Carolina tennis player who resides in the Richmond area, expects to have players such as Tim Wilkison, Bret Garnett, T.J. Middleton and Will Bull joining Kriek, Scanlon and Barber. Scanlon participated in the tournament's doubles draw in its first year in 2001, while the others played in last year's tournament.

Middleton and Garnett, who formed an ATP Tour doubles team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1994 Australian Open, won last year's doubles title over Barber and Kriek, while former UCLA captain and tour regular Barber defeated Middleton in the singles final.

More information on the IOP Invitational is available on the recently updated tournament Web site at isleofpalmsinvitational.com.

Peyton also has announced that the sponsors and players reception on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Wild Dunes will be open to all tournament spectators.

CPTL GOES NATIONAL

That's right! A team from the one-year-old Charleston Professional Tennis League is headed for the U.S. Tennis Association's 5.5 league national championships Oct. 3-5 in Las Vegas, according to league president Chris Henderson.

Henderson, a former Furman player who started the CPTL last fall after moving here from Atlanta, will be joined on the 5.5 team by Sagi Zakin, Toby Simpson, TJ VanThullenar, Mike Baker, Clay Gates, Joey Eskridge and Stuart Small.

The Las Vegas trip will come in the middle of the second CPTL season. The deadline to submit applications for the CPTL season is Aug. 1. The league's draft party is planned for Aug. 18 at TBONZ in Mount Pleasant. Applications and this year's schedule can be found on the Internet at www.cptltennis.com.

LOCAL SCHEDULE

-- Family Circle Tennis Center will continue to hold weekly tennis camps through Aug. 8 for all level juniors (843-849-5300 for information).

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson will conduct summer day camps for juniors of all ages until the end of July (843) 724-7402 for information.

-- The deadline for entering the Aug. 8-10 Mount Pleasant Tennis Championship for adults at the Kerr Tennis Center on Whipple Road is Aug. 2. Men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles will be offered. Information is available by contacting Kerr Tennis Center (843) 856-2162.


(07/13/03)  Get used to Serena at the top
The Serena show appears to be headed for a long run. That's good news, because otherwise the glamour is fading for American women's tennis.

Monica Seles hasn't played much this year because of injuries. Neither has Lindsay Davenport. Both continue to have foot or leg injuries and have talked about retirement.

By the time the Family Circle Cup comes around next April, these two superstars could be on the sidelines permanently. Of course, there's always Serena Williams. But having said that, a strong future for Venus Williams might not be in the cards. Venus suffers injury often these days, perhaps because of her limited schedule. Although she still may want to win, losing to her little sister appears to be taking a toll on Venus. It wouldn't be real surprising to see Venus walk away from the game in the next couple of years.

Even Jennifer Capriati must be thinking seriously about joining Martina Hingis on the sidelines. Capriati hasn't won a tournament since early last year. She plays hard, but she doesn't appear to be in condition to successfully challenge Serena and the Belgians, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.

To top all of that, Billie Jean King is having player problems with her Fed Cup alignment for next weekend's tie in Washington against Italy. Remember, the Capriati feud with King at another Fed Cup that appears to have ended Capriati's Fed Cup play under King?

Well, Billie Jean apparently didn't think she needed Davenport this time, or even Serena. Both have early-week conflicts (Serena is meeting with a movie producer and Davenport's mother is having surgery), and Billie Jean wouldn't budge. But Billie Jean's lack of flexibility turned into a bad decision when Seles pulled out with her foot injury and Venus Williams withdrew because of the leg and abdominal injuries that plagued her at Wimbledon.

The defections leave King with a Fed Cup roster of Chanda Rubin, Alexandra Stevenson, Meghann Shaughnessy and Lisa Raymond. This further illustrates my point about where U.S. women's tennis appears to be headed.

While Serena is standing tall, other Americans aren't. Maybe young Ashley Harkleroad, now ranked 42nd in the world, will mature her game further and take some of the pressure off the veterans.

There always is the concern that America will wake up one day without a top player. That was the worry when Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe left the game. Of course, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, along with Michael Chang and Jim Courier, quickly filled the void.

If U.S. tennis happens to hit a drought, it won't last long. America certainly won't suffer the way England does from having the world's most prestigious tennis event, but no top women's player and no bona fide men's star.

As Sampras fades into family life and Agassi obviously contemplates the same, America is fortunate to have a budding star named Andy Roddick. But just as important to men's tennis in the English-speaking world is the emergence of Switzerland's Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

Federer has an entertaining game, one of sheer poetry in motion. His game could be choreographed to an opera by one of the masters. Players of such ability don't come along often. Rod Laver, and McEnroe to a lesser extent, had that quality.

The French and Spaniards are brilliant in their own right, especially on clay, and getting better on all surfaces. It's just difficult for the average tennis fan to differentiate between them, not to mention the difficulty in remembering and pronouncing their names. Most of them play similar baseline games with heavy top-spin. Some serve big, but the volley generally isn't part of their vocabulary.

Not so for Federer, the most picture-perfect tennis player since the 1960s and Rod Laver. Federer looks too good to be true.

I kept waiting for Federer to come unglued against Roddick. When it didn't happen, I was impressed, but I figured he was on borrowed time. Surely, he couldn't play so well against Mark Philippoussis in the pressure cooker of a Wimbledon final.

He passed both tests with flying colors. From this point on, I am a Roger Federer believer, and fan.

He does everything well, especially the volley. His movement, reflexes and shot preparation are excellent. And don't forget the serve, particularly the one out wide on both sides that he executes almost effortlessly.

Because of his unique abilities and total control of the entire court and game of tennis, he will be Americanized. If the Federer I saw at Wimbledon is the Federer that shows up at the U.S. Open and other U.S. tournaments, I won't miss Sampras and Agassi as much. I'm just glad they were around to entertain me and the rest of the tennis world in the years between the Connors-McEnroe era and the Federer era.

HEFFRON WINS STATE

Charleston's Walker Heffron had a major breakthrough in the recent S.C. Closed Hard Court Junior Championships in Columbia, winning the boys' 10 title. After splitting the first two sets, the third-seeded Heffron and No. 5 Matthew Fisher of Pawleys Island played a tiebreaker for the third set, with Heffron prevailing, 9-7.

Dana Richards was another Charleston player who fared well, finishing as runner-up to top-seeded Syreeta Thompson of Columbia in girls' 16 singles.

LOCAL SCHEDULE

-- Family Circle Tennis Center is holding weekly tennis camps through Aug. 8 for all level juniors (843-849-5300 for information).

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson will conduct summer day camps for juniors of all ages throughout July (843) 724-7402 for information.

-- The Mount Pleasant Tennis Championship for adults is scheduled for Aug. 8-10 at the Kerr Tennis Center on Whipple Road. The entry deadline is Aug. 2. Men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles will be offered. Additional information is available by contacting Kerr Tennis Center (843) 856-2162.


(07/06/03)  Serena unstoppable when she's on her game
Serena Williams is in her own tennis world. When she's on her game on a fast surface such as grass or hard court, no other woman in professional tennis can stop her.

Most tennis observers already know that, because Serena probably is one of the all-time best women's athletes. She probably could have been world class in a number of other sports.

But when the opposition is her sister Venus, Serena apparently doesn't even have to be on her game to prevail. That's the way it was again Saturday in another all-Williams final at Wimbledon. Serena beat Venus, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, while displaying brilliance in only short spurts.

Serena's power made Venus look rather helpless at times, in much the same fashion as Serena overpowered Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals. Venus spent much of the match chasing from side to side after Serena's bombs, reaching them just in time to throw up lame-duck returns in an effort to prolong points another shot or two. Serena capitalized on some of those lame ducks, others she didn't.

Venus gave it her all, despite battling an abdominal strain. Her only misfortune is that her little sister is a much better player, otherwise Venus' list of Grand Slam titles would be growing rapidly. In reality, Serena is Venus' nemesis.

Serena is still the No. 1 player in the world, but Kim Clijsters will close even tighter on her in the points race when the rankings come out Monday, meaning that Serena will again have to defend her ranking at the U.S. Open two months from now. Anything short of the semifinals for Serena might open the door for Clijsters to achieve the ultimate ranking in women's tennis.

TOO GOOD?

That's the way Roger Federer looked Friday in his victory over Andy Roddick. But that may be because Roddick only applied pressure in the first set and blew his chance to take the set, and maybe even the match.

No one knows how Federer would have reacted if Roddick hadn't netted that forehand on a short ball at set-point in the opening set. After that, Roddick wasn't the same, and Federer was perfection in motion. It wasn't Federer's service return that hurt Roddick's serve as much as Roddick's own inability to groove his first serve.

Speed-wise, Roddick's serve is as big as any in the game, including a record-tying 149 mph serve against Andre Agassi at the Queens Club. But if a player can get a racket on that serve and avoid the ace as Federer did, Roddick's serve doesn't appear to be so devastating. And that takes this analysis to Mark Philippoussis' serve, a different matter altogether.

At 6-4, 200 pounds, Philippoussis simply throws the ball up and bangs his serve down into the opposite service box. Nothing fancy, no spin to break the impact, just raw power that goes through his opponent. That serve can handcuff an opponent, even if the opponent manages to get his racket on the ball.

If Philippoussis' serve is on, Federer may be in trouble in today's men's final. Like Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Cash in past Wimbledons, today may become Philippoussis' claim to fame and legitimize a tennis career that has lacked major success.

SNEE FARM EVENT

Another Snee Farm adult Grand Prix tournament is set to start Tuesday and run through next weekend. The entry deadline is Monday. Men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be offered. Contact Snee Farm at (843) 884-3252 for more information.


(06/29/03)  Watch out for Roddick with Gilbert in his corner

Now that Andy Roddick is looking like a genuine threat after his title at the Queens Club and early success at Wimbledon, Brad Gilbert just might play a key role the next time Roddick goes against Andre Agassi.

Gilbert knows more about Agassi's game and tennis psyche than anyone else. Many observers credit Gilbert for turning around Agassi's career at a time when Agassi appeared to be virtually washed up as a top player. Gilbert is generally credited with reshaping Agassi into probably the most admired tennis player in the open era.

Roddick had never beaten Agassi until the Queens Club semifinals. And guess who had just joined Roddick? Gilbert, of course.

Gilbert and Agassi parted ways more than a year earlier because Gilbert said at the time he wanted to reduce his traveling time on the tour.

So, Roddick jumped on Agassi a couple weeks ago at Queens Club for 27 aces and made 75 percent of his first serves, some of his serves as fast as a record-tying 149 mph. With that kind of serving, and Gilbert in Roddick's head and not in Agassi's, their future meetings might be worth watching.

HENDERSON FARES WELL

Local player Chris Henderson advanced to the semifinals of the recent USTA National 30s Grass Court Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Henderson, a former Furman player who started the Charleston Pro Tennis League last year, lost to eventual champion Jonas Lundblad of Austin, Texas, 6-4, 6-3, in the semifinals.

The tournament was run by John Austin, a former tour player and brother of former world's No. 1 Tracy Austin.

Henderson said playing on grass was unique, but fun.

The biggest challenge, however, was in playing in 107 degree heat.

He also passed along word that the second CPTL season is in the works, with the schedule set and sponsors lined up.

For more information on CPTL, the league web site is www.cptltennis.com. Henderson is the league president.

CAPTAINS MEET

It's time for another captains meeting for the Lowcountry Tennis Association.

This meeting is for the upcoming Combo Doubles League and is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

The meeting will be held in the auditorium, and LCTA president Bob Peiffer is asking that all teams planning to participate in the adult or senior Combo League send a representative. Play is expected to begin in the league in late July.

More information can be obtained by contacting Combo Doubles League coordinator Grady Query at gradyquery@aol.com or Peiffer at bobpeiffer@aol.com.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City Tennis Championships junior tournament is set for July 7-11 at Charleston Tennis Center. Next Saturday will be the entry deadline. Contact Charleston Tennis Center for additional details (843) 724-7402.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids youth tennis program is held on Mondays (5:30-7 p.m.) at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Saturdays (10-11:30 a.m.). For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center is holding weekly tennis camps through Aug. 8, with the exception of this coming week, for all level juniors (843) 849-5300 for information.

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson will conduct summer day camps for juniors of all ages throughout July (843) 724-7402 for information.

-- Maybank Tennis Center has two weeks remaining in its junior tennis camp schedule (843) 406-8814 for information.


(06/22/03)  Venus Williams needs to regain confidence

Venus Williams has had a solid, but less than spectacular year on the WTA Tour.

She hasn't played a heavy schedule, having competed in the year's two Grand Slam events and only three other tournaments.

Therein may lie part of the reason for Venus' decline, along with the emergence of her sister Serena as the No. 1 player in the women's game. It appears that Venus may not be taking tennis serious enough, that is, if she really wants to reclaim the top ranking in the world.

Venus celebrated her 23rd birthday last week. That's still quite young by tennis standards, but Venus has been a pro now for almost nine years. Her father, Richard Williams, remarked some time ago that he didn't expect Venus to stick around tennis for a long time, that he expected her to walk away from the game to fulfill other interests and goals in education and fashion designing.

If that is true, this three-month period that covers Wimbledon and the U.S. Open may be the most important of Venus' tennis career. She has won each of these tournaments twice. If she's on her game and her confidence is at a high level, she could win both of them again this year.

But since the middle of February, Venus has won only 10 matches, none of them against top 10 players. Two of her three losses in that stretch came against players ranked below the top 10.

Venus' overall record for the year is 20-4, counting two Fed Cup victories. She has won only one tournament, in Antwerp in early February. A year ago going into Wimbledon, she owned a 36-5 record and had won four tournaments.

I believe at this point in Venus' career, confidence is a key factor. She was beaten down by Serena all of 2002 and through this year's Australian Open, losing to Serena in the Miami final last year and then in four straight Grand Slam finals.

Venus' ranking has dropped to fourth in the world, behind Serena, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Venus must post solid results at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to defend her runner-up points totals from a year ago, otherwise she could fall further down the rankings. A year ago, Venus entered Wimbledon as the world's No. 1 player, with Serena second.

RICHARD'S BACK

Just when it appears the Williams sisters may be in trouble, who pops up at Wimbledon? Their father, Richard, of course.

Richard Williams has taken a back seat to the girls' mother, Oracene Price, this year, but Venus and Serena apparently wanted their dad back directing their preparation for Wimbledon. After all, it was his game plan that made them the top two players in the world for nearly a year.

RODDICK HAS TIME

Is Andy Roddick finally ready for the bright lights? I didn't think so, until I heard that he had hired Andre Agassi's former coach, Brad Gilbert, and then he went out and won the Queens Club tournament on grass.

I still don't think Roddick is the real thing, unless he develops a serve-and-volley game to take some of the pressure off his sometimes unpredictable ground strokes. Then again, does anyone realize that Roddick is still only 20 years old. He still has plenty of time, especially now that he has a no-nonsense coach who proved in Agassi that he knows what it takes to get to the top.

CALTA HAS IMPACT

The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association is making an impact in local tennis. CALTA had 600 dues-paying members representing 47 teams this past season, according to CALTA president Linda von Grotthuss. For the 2003-04 season, which starts Aug. 26, CALTA has 49 teams signed up.

The organization's Junior Women's Scholarship Program has awarded nine $500 scholarships to local juniors to help in the costs of their tennis instructions and other tennis expenses. The recipients are: Meghan Blevins of the Mount Pleasant Tennis Center junior program, Jordan Casey of James Island High School and the MUSC program, Ann Louise Cotterill of the Brickyard Junior USTA team, Jessica Diamond of Charleston Tennis Academy, Samantha Eppelsheimer of Family Circle Tennis Center and the Wando High School team, Megan Jones of the Pine Forest junior team, Tiffany Mehr of the Goose Creek High School team, Stefanie Mitchell of the Wando High School team and Ashley Monique Tiffany Stroud of the St. Andrew's Parks tennis program.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City Tennis Championships junior tournament is set for July 7-11 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadline will be two days prior to the start of the tournament.

-- The City of Charleston's award-winning Courting Kids youth tennis program is held on Mondays (5:30-7 p.m.) at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Saturdays (10-11:30 a.m.). For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center is holding weekly tennis camps through Aug. 8, with the exception of the week of June 30, for all level juniors. For information, call (843) 849-5300.

-- The local summer Junior Team Tennis League for players ages 6 to 13 holds matches on Fridays. Contact Peggy McElhiney at (843) 821-8903 or John Zepp (843) 795-0425 for more details about the free program.

-- Charleston Tennis Center is conducting summer day camps for juniors of all ages. Call (843) 724-7402 for information.

-- Maybank Tennis Center has three weeks remaining in its junior tennis camp schedule. For information, call (843) 406-8814.


(06/18/03)  Dempsey new director of tennis at Family Circle Tennis Center

By tennis standards, Jim Dempsey got a late start in the game.

But the Family Circle Tennis Center's new director of tennis, who began playing at age 15, has made up for it the last 23 years.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and Frankie Whelan, executive director of the Family Circle Tennis Center, welcomed Dempsey into his new job Tuesday at the Daniel Island facility. Dempsey replaces Fritz Nau, who stepped down earlier this year.

Despite his late start in tennis, Dempsey earned a full scholarship to Francis Marion College, where he played for three years. Before taking his new position, Dempsey taught at the Harry Hopman International Tennis Academy and the Vitas Gerulaitis International Tennis Academy, both in Florida, and he coached on the WTA Tour for six years.

Some of his pupils include Pam Shriver, Lisa Raymond and Lori McNeil.

"He has the ability to coach all levels from beginners to professionals," said Shriver, an International Tennis Hall of Fame member who addressed the press conference on a video presentation. "He will be a true asset to the Family Circle Tennis Center."

Whelan echoes that opinion.

"It was imperative for us to find an individual who fits with our mission on growing the sport of tennis and this facility, someone who has outstanding teaching, coaching and training skills," Whelan said. "Jim is the perfect choice for us and for the City of Charleston."

Family Circle Tennis Center is operated by Family Circle Magazine, and its feature attraction each year is the Family Circle Cup, a tier I WTA Tour event. But, as Mayor Riley pointed out, the City of Charleston facility is a public complex, which makes it a somewhat unique major tennis facility.

After playing No. 1 in singles and doubles at Francis Marion, Dempsey played for more than two years on the ATP Tour. His coaching career started at the Hopman Academy, followed by a stint at the Gerulaitis Academy.

He completed his college degree in 1992 by earning a B.S. in biology at the University of South Florida, then rejoined the Hopman Academy. In 1994, he was hired to coach on the WTA Tour. He has served as director of tennis at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando, Fla., for the last two years.

"As director of tennis, I want to help create a facility that will make Charleston one of the major tennis markets in the country," Dempsey said. "We have unlimited potential for growth."


(06/15/03)  Belton Week doubles as a family reunion for the Pearce family
What is there to do on a rainy day at Belton? Not much.

Of course, if you have a son or daughter who is thinking about college, the admissions office at nearby Clemson probably won't be crowded. It's not a bad time for a tour of the campus.

Or you can hang out at your hotel in Anderson, especially if it has an indoor pool. You might even consider a bowling outing, that is, if you want to take a chance on a junior tennis player's often delicate hands and arms at a critical time in the tennis year. A 14-pound bowling ball is a little heavier than a tennis racket.

But if you're the family of Robert and Kitty Pearce, a family get-together might be in order. That's the way it was on Tuesday of Belton Week. Actually, it was that way all week.

You see, the Pearces had six grandchildren participating a couple weeks ago in the Palmetto Championships. The Anderson newspaper, The Independent-Mail, even featured the family in a story and photo.

Naturally, Bob and Kitty tried to see as many matches as possible that involved their grandchildren. But there's more to this story. For Kitty Pearce, it was a homecoming. She grew up in Belton where her sister, Julie Blake, won four Belton titles, including the tournament's first girls' 16 title in 1957.

Kitty's brother, Jukie Blake, still lives in the Belton area as does her nephew, Jay Blake, who incidentally is married to Sadie Ellen Maynard. Sadie Ellen is the daughter of Rex Maynard, the man who along with Jim Russell has made Belton Week such a memorable experience for juniors all these years.

So, the Pearces, their six grandchildren and the children's parents - 13 people in all - moved in with the two Blake families during Belton Week. "It's a fun, fun time for all of us," said Kitty. Robert Sr., a local stock broker, had to return to Charleston early for business purposes, but son Robert Jr. (Bobby) was there to watch his three children's matches.

Bobby Jr. and Belton go back a long ways. Now a local attorney and the former owner of the Charleston Swamp Foxes, Bobby made eight trips to Belton as a junior and won back-to-back doubles titles in the 1970s. So, Belton is quite a week for Bobby and Pam Pearce, especially when Bobby's sister Kat and her husband, Al Phillips, show up with their own three tennis-playing children.

Bobby's oldest son, 15-year-old Porter-Gaud sophomore Robert was runner-up in boys' 16 in the Palmetto Challenger, and played doubles with his 13-year-old brother Richard, a Porter-Gaud eighth-grader. Richard lost early in his move up to 14-and-under singles this year, and 11-year-old Kathryn Pearce, a sixth-grader at Porter-Gaud, had the misfortune of drawing top seed and eventual winner Caroline Thornton of Charleston in the second round of girls' 12.

The Phillips clan also failed to produce a title. They are 14-year-old Katie, a freshman at Ashley Hall; 12-year-old Alton, a seventh-grader at Porter-Gaud; and nine-year-old Ashton, a fourth-grader at Porter-Gaud.

But there's always next year. And with six tickets in the pool and many more Belton trips to make, the odds of more Belton titles look pretty good.

THE GRUNT

Maria Sharapova's grunt can't be ignored. Sharapova's loud and consistent outbursts of noise could be heard all the way across the complex during her matches at the Family Circle Cup.

So, it really wasn't surprising last week when Nathalie Dechy as well as players on an adjacent court complained about Sharapova's high-pitched grunts during Dechy's loss to the 16-year-old Russian at Birmingham, England. Tournament officials then warned Sharapova to tone down the grunts.

That complaint took courage by Dechy, but the officials' warning probably was good for the game of tennis. Grunts so loud and so often obviously can be disturbing to opponents as well as other players.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City Tennis Championships adult tournament is scheduled for June 21-24 and the junior event is set for July 7-11 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadlines will be two days prior to the start of the respective tournament.

-- The City of Charleston's award-winning Courting Kids youth tennis program is held on Mondays (5:30-7 p.m.) at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Saturdays (10-11:30 a.m.). For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

-- Family Circle Tennis Center is holding weekly tennis camps through Aug. 8, with the exception of the week of June 30, for all level juniors (843) 849-5300 for information.

-- The local summer Junior Team Tennis League for players ages 6 to 13 holds matches on Fridays and will run five more weeks. Contact Peggy McElhiney (843) 821-8903 or John Zepp (843) 795-0425 for more details about the free program.

-- Charleston Tennis Center has seven weeks remaining in its summer day camps for juniors of all ages (843-724-7402 for information).

-- Maybank Tennis Center has four weeks remaining in its junior tennis camp schedule (843) 406-8814 for information.


(06/01/03)  Juniors converge on Belton for Palmetto Championships
BELTON-All roads in S.C. junior tennis lead to this northwest corner of the state this weekend. The tournament is called Belton, or the Palmetto Championships, but most of the 535 juniors entered in this year's event are housed in or near Anderson in the inns and hotels along I-85 and Clemson Boulevard.

Belton is a lush, bedroom community located about 20 minutes east of Anderson. Its short stretch of main street is spotted by a few businesses in a scene that is reminiscent of a rural America town of the 1950s. Probably the most notable business in town is Maynard's furniture store, located on the road to Anderson, just down the street from the Belton Tennis Center.

Maynard's is operated by its namesake, Rex Maynard. He's half of the local USTA superstar lineup, sharing the direction of the Palmetto Championships with longtime friend Jim Russell. Both Maynard and Russell are in the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, and both are prominent figures in Southern and USTA tennis circles. This nearly half-century old tournament is at the very heart of these two men's tennis lives.

The picturesque Belton Tennis Center is the focal point of Belton. It's located across the street from the large First Baptist Church, which serves as the main parking lot for the tournament, except on Sunday morning.

The tournament started Friday and will go on practically continuous for a full week. It's played at various locations in Belton and Anderson. They'll be playing at the other locations this morning, but not at the Belton Tennis Center. Church is the main theme this morning.

But other than this morning, tennis is what Belton is all about this week. The players who are fortunate enough to play on one of the private courts in Belton will have a memory of Belton they will never forget. The private courts are located in backyards, surrounded by lush grass, shrubbery and trees, and in some cases swimming pools. The courts are well kept. They have to be, otherwise they would be dropped from the tournament.

Belton is a buzz word among the players and parents who have come through here over the years. It's become that important to the development of junior tennis in South Carolina.

CITY IN LATE JUNE

There's no rush to register for the annual City Tennis Championships. Although the state tennis schedule on the S.C. Tennis Association-linked internet site lists the tournaments to start today, the adult tournament (open and seniors) is scheduled for June 21-24 and the junior event is set for July 7-11 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadlines will be two days prior to the start of the respective tournament.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's award-winning Courting Kids youth tennis program will start Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center. The program will open at Johns Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center next Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. There is a $10 registration fee for each site. Delores Jackson is the Courting Kids coordinator. For more information, call Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center will hold weekly tennis camps from Monday through Aug. 8, with the exception of the week of June 30. The two different levels of camp will be the Junior Development Camp for beginner to intermediate players and the Junior Tennis Academy Camp for state and sectionally ranked players. The camps run from 9 a.m. to noon daily. For more information, contact the Family Circle pro shop (843) 849-5300.

-- The local summer Junior Team Tennis League is offering its summer season free of charge to juniors 6 to 13 years of age. The league, which is affiliated with the USTA's USA Tennis League, is scheduled to start June 13 and run for six weeks. Contact league commissioner Peggy McElhiney (843-821-8903) or Country Club of Charleston assistant pro John Zepp (843) 795-0425 for information.

-- Charleston Tennis Center started the first of its 10 weekly sessions of summer day camps for juniors of all ages last week under city pro Fredrik Andersson. Camps run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. For more information, call the Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402

-- Maybank Tennis Center will hold junior tennis summer camps for five weeks, starting June 9, for all age groups with Toni Young serving as camp director. For more information, contact the tennis club at (843) 406-8814.

PALMETTO CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Belton Tennis Center, Belton

Saturday's Results

Boys 10 Singles - Round of 64
Craton Simpson d. Parker Adkins, 6-4, 6-1; (9) Philip Canale d. Ashton Phillips, Wd (em); Kyle Koch d. Alex Benner, 6-0, 6-0; (5) Christoper Cox d. Joseph Howell, 6-0, 6-1; Alex Howle d. Sam Parrott, 6-1, 6-4; Connor Evins d. (9) Jasdeep Guram, 7-5, 6-3; Hunter Mitchell d. Connor Dixon, 6-0, 6-0; Brandon Britt d. Evan Mulbry, 6-0, 7-5; (9) Michael Moran d. Alan Thomas, 6-2, 6-4; Claibourne Hughes d. Joseph Ware, 6-0, 6-0; (5) Blake Yoder d. Matthew Garnett, 6-0, 6-0; Payne Hoy d. Justin Sorrow; (9) Weber Pike d. Joel Roberts, 6-1, 6-0; Rivers Colyer d. Nicholas Demosthenes, 7-5, 7-5; Jackson Keith d. David Parker, 6-3, 6-2; (9) Wilson Mathewes d. Bradley Mc Clelland, 6-2, 6-2; Britt Wells d. Charles Baker, 6-7 (5), 6-2; Bailey Kirkland d. Alan Pearce, 6-0, 6-0; (9) Matt Poletti d. William Besuden, 6-0, 6-0; Henry Oelsner d. Weston Olencki, 6-4, 1-6, 10-5; Zachary Wilson d. Taylor Wolfe, 6-2, 6-4; (9) Joseph Tiller d. Nicholas Theos, 6-1, 6-1; Hampton Ike d. Wilson Daniel, 6-1, 6-0; (5) Hudson Jones d. Taylor Reynolds, 6-0, 6-1; Carson Young d. William Ivey, 6-0, 6-1; Joel Cook d. (9) George Phillips, 2-6, 6-3, 10-7; Mitchell Appleby d. Nicholas Ciuffo, Wd (inj).

Boys 10 Doubles - Round of 16
(2) Moran/Richmond d. Roberts/Ware, 8-1; Britt/Wolfe d. Howell/Oelsner, 8-0; (3) Canale/Galloway d. Hoy/Poletti, 8-2; Demosthenes/Evins d. Colyer/Pritchard, 8-5; Pike/Tiller d. Sorrow/Wilson, 8-3; (4) Phillips/Phillips d. Parker/Young, 8-6; Appleby/Hughes d. Daniel/Mitchell, 8-5; (1) Behr/Heffron d. Olencki/Thomas, 8-2.

Girls 10 Singles - Round of 16
(2) Avery Owens d. Christina Oelsner, 6-0, 6-0; April Horne d. (5) Elizabeth Hughes, 4-6, 6-2, 1-0; (4) Alyssa Holbrooks d. Mavina Guram, 6-2, 6-4; (5) Lee Ferrell d. Isabel Dennis, 6-3, 5-7, 1-0; (5) Chandler Consonery d. Becca Jett, 6-0, 6-0; (3) Hayley Carter d. Annie Konduros, 6-1, 6-4; Kelsey Hand d. (5) Hollins Hutto, 6-4, 3-6, 1-0; (1) Alexis Prickett d. Polly Poulnot, 6-0, 6-0.

Girls 10 Doubles - Quarterfinals
(2) Fosnacht/Hutto d. Kirkland/Spelman, 8-3; Owens/Seawright d. Oelsner/Wilson, 10-8; Consonery/Hand d. Dennis/Hawes, 8-2; (1) Ferrell/Prickett d. Blevins/Heller, 8-2.


(05/25/03)  Fishburne picks up yet another title

Surprise! Diane Fishburne has won another national singles title. That’s now 13 to go with the NAIA national Individual championship she won in 1978 as a College of Charleston junior, not to mention the world championship she won last year.

Fishburne won the latest title last weekend in the USTA’s women’s 45 national indoors in the suburbs of Chicago. She was ranked second in the nation for 2002 in women’s 45, but already has beaten top-ranked An Etheridge of Birmingham, Ala., this year.

If Fishburne wins the national grass courts in Philadelphia in July and the hard courts in California in September, she probably would wrap up the No. 1 ranking for 203, although she missed the clay courts in March while leading a USTA 45s team to victory in Uruguay.

Fishburne travels the world as a USTA representative. She will represent the USTA in the Margaret Court Cup 45 team competition in August in Germany, then attempt to defend her singles title in the world championships the second week of a two-week stay in Germany.

Last year, the USTA sent her to Monte Carlo and to Paris for team competition. She’s been to Argentina, Austria, South Africa, England and Germany for other team competition.

How does she stay so competitive and healthy?

“I haven’t had any injuries,” she said Friday from her Walterboro home. “I get sore and tired, but no injuries.”

She runs three miles a day to stay fit.

Fishburne also teamed with Rita Anderson of Belton to finish as runner-up in the national indoor 45 doubles last weekend.

Brenda Carter, who practices regularly with Fishburne, also fared well in Chicago, finishing third in women’s 55 singles and teamed with a Florida player for a runner-up trophy in doubles.

COURTING KIDS

The City of Charleston’s award-winning Courting Kids youth tennis program is gearing up for its summer sessions at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and John’s Island Alan Fleming Tennis Center.

The first of seven downtown sessions will be held Monday, June 2 at Jack Adams, with the schedule starting on John’s Island on Saturday, June 7 from 10-11:30 a.m.

There is a $10 registration fee for each site. Delores Jackson is the Courting kids coordinator. For more information, call Charleston tennis Center at (843) 724-7402.

IT’S FREE

That’s right. The local summer Junior Team Tennis League is offering its summer season free of charge to juniors 6 to 13 years of age.

The league, which is affiliated with the USTA’s USA Tennis League, is scheduled to start June 13 and run for six weeks. And league commissioner Peggy McElhiney (843) 821-8903 is another league official who can be contacted by parents or coaches who are interested in forming teams.

Teams in the southern division will play on Fridays and northern division matches will be played on Sunday.

NO TROPHIES

Local Adult League teams didn’t fare well in last weekend’s 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 state championships headquartered at Charleston Tennis Center.

The best results were turned in by the 5.0 men’s team and 4.5 women’s team, both of which finished third out of four teams entered.

Nine local teams will be represented next weekend when the 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 adult divisions hold their state championships at Snee Farm.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Charleston Tennis Center has scheduled 10 weekly sessions of summer day camps for juniors of all ages, beginning on Tuesday. Camps will run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Fredrik Andersson is the camp director.  For more information, call the Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402.

Maybank Tennis Center will hold junior summer tennis camps for five weeks, starting kjune 9, for all age groups. Toni Young will serve as camp director. For more information, contact the tennis club at (843) 405-8814.


(05/18/03)  Not good enough to join a tennis league? Think again

The other day an office colleague noticed that the background on my computer screen is of my two daughters on a tennis court. He said he played tennis, too.

That led me to ask about his tennis game. Why not join the adult league, I asked. He quickly replied, "Oh, I'm not good enough for that."

That's probably what most adults who aren't involved in league tennis think. You've got to be good to play in a league.

That's not the case. If you can pick up a racket and swing it, then you're league ready. You can even rate yourself.

You just need to find a team to join. Most clubs, both private and public, can help you find a team. Once you've found a team, you'll need to join the host club as well as the USTA. You can join the USTA and register for the team online.

To join the USTA, just go to www.usta.com, then click on USTA membership on the left side of the screen. A one-year membership is $35. Membership is also available over the telephone by calling 1-800-990-USTA. Registering for a team costs an additional $12.

"The biggest cost, of course, is club membership," Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer said Friday.

"I am always willing to talk with people who are looking for a team to join," added Peiffer, who can be contacted at bobpeiffer@aol.com. "I give them a rundown of the clubs available near where they live, and the names and phone numbers of captains at those clubs."

Although the LCTA's mixed doubles schedule starts this coming week, Peiffer said players can join at any time during the season. The mixed doubles league already has 741 players registered.

Just how big is league tennis? This spring's adult league had 1,960 participants, with 602 more playing in the senior league.

STATE CHAMPS AGAIN

The LCTA's senior women's 4.5 team has become something of a dynasty, winning its sixth straight state championship. The team, captained by Susie Peiffer, won 17 of 18 individual matches last weekend in Myrtle Beach for a 6-0 record in the state 4.5 adult league championships.

In addition to Peiffer, the team is made up of Susan Battle, Jan Cohn, Sharon Greene, Susie Hill, Ann Munday, Joan Kerrigone, Carrie Randall, Kitsy Wise and Nancy Willms. These ladies now advance to the Southern Sectional Championships in July.

This team didn't have a true home since it was the only 4.5 women's team in the area and one of only four in the state (Hilton Head Island, Greenwood and Greenville were the others).

A local 4.5 senior men's team, led by Marion Sanders, was a state finalist at Myrtle Beach and the 3.0 senior men from Snee Farm, with Doug Harbin as the captain, advanced to the semifinals.

BIG WEEKEND

This is a big weekend for the state's best league tennis teams. The adult 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 flights are holding their state championships this weekend at Charleston Tennis Center and the St. Andrew's Park and Playground courts.

Meanwhile, the Lowcountry Tennis Association's 3.0 and 3.5 adult women are holding their area playoffs to determine which teams will advance to the state tournament later this month.

BELTON DEADLINE

Thursday is the deadline for entering the Palmetto Championships. This is the state's premiere junior tournament. Players from across the state will converge on the Anderson-Belton area for the weeklong event.

The Palmetto Championships begin Saturday, May 31, unless the 10-and-under entries dictate an early start that Friday.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Charleston Tennis Center has scheduled 10 weekly sessions of summer day camps for juniors of all ages, beginning Tuesday, May 27. Camps will run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Fredrik Andersson is the camp director. For more information, call the Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402.

-- Maybank Tennis Center will hold junior tennis summer camps for five weeks, starting June 9, for all age groups. Toni Young will serve as camp director. For more information, contact the tennis club at (843) 406-8814.


(05/11/03) Wild Dunes moves up rankings
Wild Dunes Resort has climbed from eighth to seventh place in the recently released tennis resorts world rankings by Tennis Resorts Online. That's the highest of any local resort, and second only to Hilton Head Island's third-ranked Palmetto Dunes among state tennis resorts.

Sea Pines Plantation and Shipyard Plantation, both on Hilton Head Island, are rated 10th and 12th.

Kiawah Island Resort is rated 15th, nine places lower than it was ranked in 1998 and 2000 by Tennis Magazine's "50 Greatest U.S. Tennis Resorts." Seabrook Island is rated 52nd by Tennis Resorts Online.

Tennis Resorts Online has published its ratings by Roger Cox each of the last four years. Tennis Magazine, where Cox conducted rankings before starting Tennis Resorts Online, publishes its rankings every two years.

The Tennis Resorts Online rankings are based on reader ratings. The Broadmoor of Colorado tops the rankings, while Rancho Valencia Resort of California is second. The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort of Longboat Key, Fla., which has topped Tennis Magazine's four straight times in its even-years rankings, is rated only fourth by Tennis Resorts Online.

VENUS NO. 2 AGAIN, BRIEFLY

Despite suffering a stomach injury and defaulting to Amelie Mauresmo in last Sunday's Warsaw final, Venus Williams overtook Kim Clijsters in the WTA Tour's world rankings as the two traded the second and third slots again. Clijsters had slipped past Venus in the April 14 rankings to trail only top-ranked Serena Williams.

However, Venus withdrew from the German Open in Berlin because of the injury and that contributed to her dropping back to No. 3 as Clijsters overtook Williams in the rankings by advancing to today's championship match against Justine-Henin Hardenne.

Serena, with a huge 2,500-point lead over her sister, is scheduled to play at Rome.

The Grand Slam French Open starts in two weeks.

BELTON NEARING

It's only three weeks before this state's premiere junior tournament hits the Anderson-Belton area. The players, parents and coaches usually lodge in Anderson where some of the age groups compete, but the picturesque Belton Tennis Center is the official home of the Palmetto Championships.

This year's Palmetto Championships will start on Friday, May 30 (if necessary) with 10-and-under competition at locations in Anderson.

The 12s main draw will begin that Sunday in Anderson, while the qualifying tournaments start that Saturday in Belton for the older age groups.

The deadline for entering the Palmetto Championships is Thursday, May 22.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Charleston Tennis Center has scheduled 10 weekly sessions of summer day camps for juniors of all ages, beginning on Tuesday, May 27. Camps will run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Fredrik Andersson is the camp director. For more information, call the Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402.

-- Charleston Tennis Center also is offering a wheelchair youth tennis program every Friday from 2-3 p.m. throughout May. City pro Fredrik Andersson conducts the free clinic. For registration or more information, call (843) 724-7337.

-- Maybank Tennis Center will hold junior tennis summer camps for five weeks, starting June 9, for all age groups. Toni Young will serve as camp director. For more information, contact the tennis club at (843) 406-8814.


(05/04/03)  Participation dwindling in adult tournaments
League tennis has changed the landscape of adult tennis drastically in the last two decades. Everyone, or so it seems, plays league tennis these days, and practically no one plays tournaments.

As a result, tennis' popularity is growing, but the state age-group rankings offer no proof of the growth. Participation in adult and senior age-group singles tournaments has just about gone by the wayside, especially among women. However, there is limited participation in NTRP-rated events that also produce state NTRP rankings.

One reason for the lack of participation in the required number of tournaments to earn a state ranking is the time and cost of traveling out of town for tournaments. It's more feasible to join one, or even two, of the USTA's leagues, and play highly competitive tennis one or two nights a week. For most working adults, two tennis outings a week are sufficient.

Some seniors make a career out of the leagues, playing in as many as three or four different leagues. And this is virtually year-around, with the unofficial fall leagues, regular spring leagues, summer mixed doubles leagues and combo leagues.

ONLY SEVEN WOMEN

Amazingly, only seven different adult or senior women, four from the Charleston area, earned state singles open or age-group rankings for 2002. Susie Peiffer is ranked No. 1 in the state in women's 50 singles and doubles. Other local women ranked in singles are Jacquelyn Bull third in 50-and-over, Priscilla Croft second in 55s and Jane Fluet second in 60s. No one in the state qualified for a women's singles ranking in an age group younger than 45-and-over.

The men's draws in tournaments had more participation, but the number of state-ranked men continues to dwindle. Mike Vijac owns the top men's 40 singles ranking and William Benesch is tops in men's 75 singles.

Among other men's singles rankings, David Jett is third in 40-and-over, Danny Dye is sixth in 45s and Joseph Harnage is seventh in 45s. In men's 55, David Jennings is fifth and Robert Peiffer is seventh, while in the 60s Richard Weathers is second, Charles Burns is fourth, Jerry Simmons is eighth and Lyons Williams is 10th. Stuart Miller and Robert Patterson are eighth in 65 singles.

In men's 70, Ray Easterbrook is third, Bill Herring fourth, Tom Kent sixth, Jerry Hanchrow seventh and Kurt Wassen eighth. In the 75s, John Baird is second.

LOCAL NOTES

-- The deadline for teams in the Lowcountry Tennis Association's upcoming mixed doubles league to submit their rosters through TennisLink has been extended until midnight Tuesday, LCTA mixed doubles coordinator Dale Tanner has announced. For more information, contact Tanner at mixedtennis@aol.com.

-- Today is the deadline for entering this coming week's Snee Farm Grand Prix. The tournament will start Tuesday at Snee Farm. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop at 843-884-3252.

There will be men's and women's singles and doubles, along with mixed doubles, rated from 3.0 to open. Food and drink will be provided each night. The fees will be $18 for doubles and $28 for singles.

-- Charleston Tennis Center camp director Fredrik Andersson has scheduled 10 weekly sessions of summer day camps for juniors of all ages, beginning on Tuesday, May 27. Camps will run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays. For more information, call the Tennis Center at (843) 724-7402

-- Charleston Tennis Center also is offering a wheelchair youth tennis program every Friday from 2-3 p.m. throughout May. City pro Fredrik Andersson is conducting the free clinic. For registration or more information, call (843) 724-7402

-- Maybank Tennis Center will hold junior tennis summer camps for five weeks, starting June 9, for all age groups. Toni Young will serve as camp director. For more information, contact the tennis club at (843) 406-8814.


(04/27/03)  Dementieva's success should be no surprise
Elena Dementieva's string of victories to win last weekend’s WTA Tour event at Amelia Island, Fla., wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone who has watched this talented 21-year-old Russian in recent weeks.

Dementieva player excellent tennis in disposing of Iva Majoli in the recent Family Circle Cup. She played just as well the next day against Jelena Dokic in the round of 16, but rain, a leg injury and a questionable ruling by the chair umpire along with solid play by the sometimes erratic Dokic were too much for Russia’s “other blonde” star to overcome.

If Dementieva can maintain this level of play for the next six weeks, the European clay court season should be a good one for her. Other than a suspect second serve that begs to be returned for a winner, she has no holes in her game. Her forehand and backhand are both excellent, weapons at that. She appears fit and covers the court incredibly well, nailing groundstrokes deep, hard and low while seldom committing errors. She appears to be in total control of the spin she applies from both sides.

Other than advancing to the semifinals of the 2000 U.S. Open, Dementieva has been something of an unknown on the women’s tour. Like the other Russian blonds bombshell, Anna Kournikova, she appeared to wither anytime she had a chance to win a tournament. But her first singles title might have been just what she needed to pull her entire game together and gain the confidence to become a true threat on the WTA Tour.

After all, she rallied form a set down to defeat Family Circle champ Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals at Amelia Island, then repeated that rally to upset Lindsay Davenport for the title at a time when Davenport was playing some of her best tennis. In the process, Dementieva moved up to 13th in the world.

She is definitely a player to keep an eye on the rest of the year.

Two Locals No. 1

Kalee Claussen and Shelby Rogers were the only Charleston area junior players to gain the No. 1 singles ranking in the official state rankings for 2002. Claussen took the top honors in girls’ 16 and Rogers earned the top spot in girls’ 10.

Other local top 20 girls are: Stephanie Ruley (6), Katie Koval (10), Jenny Wilson (11), and Ana Pierce (18) in 18-and-under; Leigh Amrhein (11) and Dana Richards (18) in 16s; Ashley Perkins (5), Caroline Irvin (6), Jordan Casey (11) and Alice Knowlton (15) in 14s; Sallie Johnson (11), Caroline Thornton (14) and Hagan Edgerton (19) in 12s; Katheryn Pearce (7), A Fernandez-Salvador (), Taylor Perkins (13) and Jamie Harrell (16) in 10-and-under.

In boys doubles, Gottshalk and Sperr took the top ranking in 10-and-under, while Walker Heffron was fourth. Randall Heffron was third in 12-and-under doubles. In boys’ 14, Brice Richards and Alex Romanczuk took fifth. Eric Oliver and Benjamin Norris were third in 16-and-under.

In girls’ doubles, Pearce was third in 10-and-under, Edgerton and Morgan Ivey were third in 12s, Nicole Beck and Richards were second in 16-and-under, and Wilson took the top ranking in 18s.

SNEE FARM GRAND PRIX

The Snee Farm Grand Prix, one of the area’s most popular adult tennis events in recent years, is preparing for another outing. The next Grand Prix is scheduled for May 6-11 at the Mount Pleasant club.

Next Sunday is the entry deadline. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop at (843) 884-3252.


(04/20/03)  Williamses no longer Nos. 1, 2
There's finally hope for the rest of women's tennis, and not all because of Justine Henin-Hardenne's upset of Serena Williams last Sunday in the Family Circle Cup final.

Actually, there's a double dose of hope for the likes of Henin-Hardenne, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati. One of them now may be able to make the final of a Grand Slam tournament without having to defeat one of the Williams sisters, or win a Grand Slam without having to defeat both Venus and Serena.

Venus and Serena Williams may still dominate the women's tour, but they are no longer the top two players in the world. Ever so quietly, Clijsters replaced Venus by 30 points as the No. 2 player in the world in the latest WTA Tour rankings. Neither player played in the current tournament at Amelia Island, Fla., and no points will rotate off either player's total. That should leave them in the same positions until at least early May. This coming week has been set aside for Fed Cup competition.

What this means, when Venus isn't in the No. 2 position, is that the Williams sisters will no longer be assured of being placed in opposite halves of the draw for Grand Slam events. Seedings are based on world rankings.

Whether the No. 3 or 4 seed is placed in the top or bottom half of the draw depends on the luck of the draw. The No. 3 seed was placed in the bottom half of the draw last year at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but in the top half at the French Open. All-Williams finals may not always be possible if Venus and Serena aren't ranked first and second.

Of course, Serena with her more than 2,500-point lead in the rankings probably is assured of being placed at the top of the draw as the No. 1 player in the world through at least Wimbledon.

But Henin-Hardenne's conquest of Serena's big game opened up some eyes on the circuit and probably gave other players in addition to Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, Davenport and Capriati hope for the year. I would say that any of those four players, especially Davenport and maybe Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne, have legitimate shots at the world's No. 1 ranking by this time next year, or maybe even by the time the U.S. Open ends in just six months.

If I had to pick this far in advance, I would favor Clijsters or Henin-Hardenne to win the French Open, or maybe even Davenport considering how she is currently playing and how she defeated Capriati at Amelia Island. Davenport would be be my pick to take Wimbledon. If anything close to those predictions holds up, the race for No. 1 will be up in the air in just a few months.

-- Mary Pierce climbed from 43rd to 36th in the rankings, while Ashley Harkleroad leaped all the way from No. 101 to 56th. Not only will Harkleroad be eligible to play in any tournament she likes after her 18th birthday on May 2, but her ranking also will be good enough to enter most events.

CONGRATULATIONS C OF C

What a great effort by Phil Whitesell's and Angelo Anastopoulo's men's and women's tennis teams at the College of Charleston to win their first Southern Conference championships Saturday.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Monday is the deadline for entering next weekend's third leg of the Lowcountry Junior Challenger Circuit at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. Competition will be available in all boys' and girls' age groups, 10 through 18, in singles and doubles. Contact Pine Forest's tennis pro shop at (843) 851-9010 for more details.

-- The deadline for registering a team for the Lowcountry Tennis Association's mixed doubles league is less than two weeks away, May 1. LCTA president Bob Peiffer urges, anyone needing to obtain a captains packet to contact Dale Tanner at mixedtennis@aol.com.


(04/14/03)  Justine slices through Williams
The Family Circle Cup is a clay-court tournament that isn't likely to change surfaces, and Justine Henin-Hardenne can be thankful for that.

This 20-year-old Belgian may win a trophy case full of trophies here. She's probably the best clay-court player in women's tennis.

Serena Williams didn't beat herself in Sunday's final.

Henin-Hardenne beat her.

Williams may have played poorly in her 6-3, 6-4 loss, but it was because of Henin-Hardenne's clay-court skills. Henin-Hardenne's backhand slice to Serena's backhand and overall clay-court skills handcuffed one of the most powerful players ever to play the women's game.

Williams' strong backhand simply could not lift Henin-Hardenne's marvelously deep slices over the net. Williams hit the bottom of the net most of the time, successfully returning the slice only occasionally by taking all of the pace off of her return.

After the match, Serena appeared bewildered by the slice, saying she normally handles high balls well.

The backhand slice is that wicked stroke that seems to float forever in a reverse spin before settling gently, then skidding low off the surface, unlike the topspin that bounces high and begs to be crushed by a big hitter.

This near-perfect slice virtually requires a one-handed backhand, such as Henin-Hardenne's, Steffi Graf's and Martina Navratilova's. Navratilova used it as an approach shot for her unmatched net game. Henin-Hardenne is obviously in some pretty good company with the slice.

After her semifinal loss to Williams Saturday, Lindsay Davenport alluded to Henin-Hardenne's mixture of backhand strokes as weapons that could cause problems for Williams. Henin-Hardenne must have been listening.

Actually, Henin-Hardenne didn't start using the slice until she was down 3-0 in the first set. She then won six straight games to send shock waves through the crowd. She didn't deliver a backhand slice in the second set until she trailed 3-1.

The slice also served as a slowdown weapon for Henin-Hardenne. Williams lacked the patience to play the slice. Several times, she stepped up to hit the slice, then had to back up.Williams never really got her huge serve uncorked to the pinpoint locations to the backhand that make her serve so dangerous. Henin-Hardenne, playing far behind the baseline, gobbled up Williams' serves with a delicately soft racket that resembled the soft hands of a shortstop in baseball.

Neither did Williams hurt Henin-Hardenne with her thunderous service returns.

Henin-Hardenne outguessed Serena repeatedly, turning Williams' weapons into the same blanks that young Ashley Harkleroad shot at her in the semifinals.

The crowd was stunned. Most of the crowd had hoped that Henin-Hardenne would at least put up a good fight. It was just the opposite.

As an example of how overwhelming Serena was favored, I was the only person in the media contest to pick Henin-Hardenne as the winner.

It isn't that Serena Williams is any less of a player because of what happened at Family Circle Cup Stadium on Sunday.

She's still the best player in the game, but her No. 1 spot in the world rankings might not be such a sure thing a few months from now.


(04/13/03)  Serena's service game will be key to match

Serena Williams is an awesome talent. Justine Henin-Hardenne is an amazing talent.

Today's 1 p.m. Family Circle Cup final should come down to a battle of serves and service returns.

Serena, bigger and stronger than Henin-Hardenne, hits harder than anyone in the women's game. She showed her power in Saturday's 6-1, 7-5 victory over Lindsay Davenport.

In the other semifinal, Henin-Hardenne played nearly perfect tennis in overwhelming young Ashley Harkleroad, 6-2, 6-1. While Henin-Hardenne isn't unbeaten this year and has yet to win her first Grand Slam title, she may be the most consistent player in women's tennis, and its best clay-court player as well.

Match that up against the powerful and athletic as Williams, who is capable of overwhelming any player in the world on any surface, and the challenge for Henin-Hardenne is immense. But if there is one player in the game who can handle such pressure, it's this diminutive but determined 20-year-old from Belgium.

Henin-Hardenne methodically took apart Harkleroad's game. Harkleroad's weapons that handcuffed three straight top 20 opponents were no match for a more powerful Henin-Hardenne. With her big serves and big ground strokes, along with more big match experience, Henin-Hardenne was able to control the match. Harkleroad couldn't hurt her.

Now the question is whether Henin-Hardenne can use those weapons, along with her court savvy and mobility, to hurt Williams. A big factor will be whether Henin-Hardenne can keep Williams guessing and moving from side to side.

At one stage of the second set, Davenport had Williams in that situation. Having won four of the last five games to go up 5-4, Davenport was two points from evening up the match. But on a sure backhand put-away for set-point on a short ball, Davenport tried to do too much with the shot and missed the sideline by about an inch. Williams didn't give her another chance.

When Williams is in trouble, her serve is at its most dangerous. Davenport said Williams' serve is the best ever in women's tennis, and Williams is able to take it up a notch at the slightest sign of danger.

Williams' ability to locate her serves often helps her out of trouble. In the ad court, she aims for the nearly unreturnable triangle formed by the connection of the service line and the sideline. That's the side that wins the game or saves a breakpoint. One of the most important shots in the game, it's that serve to a right-hander's backhand that's Serena's ace in the hole.

When in trouble on the deuce side, Williams looks to power her serve straight down the middle, hitting the "T" and taking advantage of the lowest height of the net and the shortest point to the service line tape. It's a devastating serve to a right-hander's backhand. Like the serve on the ad side, there's not much an opponent can do with that serve at the speed Williams hits it.

Other times, she'll confuse her opponent by mixing her serves out wide to the forehand on the deuce side. That serve worked two straight times for aces against Davenport early in the match.

Another dangerous part of Williams' game is her service return. Second serves into her backhand or forehand can get rather frustrating. That's why Henin-Hardenne will have to be consistent in her service games, staying away from the 100-plus mph first serves and settling instead for a high first-serve percentage and placement to keep Williams guessing.

Williams demonstrated against Davenport that she can hit a big return off a first serve as well. Her great serves and service returns allow Williams to take control of a point from the outset.

With this in mind, the serve will determine if Serena leaves Charleston with her unbeaten streak intact.


(04/12/03)  Big-hitting Davenport showing dominance
No one plays a bigger game of tennis than Lindsay Davenport when she's on. Wham! She'll split one line with a forehand. Bam! She'll split another line with a backhand. The point is over. Her opponent feels somewhat overwhelmed.

She might play the next point the same way, or put together a string of impressive points. Davenport plays a swashbuckling brand of tennis that is not only impressive, but very difficult to emulate. She shoots from the hip with her long, sweeping groundstrokes and serve.

She's in the Family Circle Cup's semifinals for the first time. That in itself tells something about her improvement on clay. She now says she actually feels comfortable on the soft green surface at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Davenport made some careless errors Friday in her 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over talented 18-year-old Russsian Vera Zvonareva, but she also won most of the points she absolutely had to have. Davenport played as big as her 6-2 height on the big points.

She is a player who has taken a backseat to the Williams sisters and been plagued by injuries over the last couple of years. But all of that may be ready to change. Barring further injuries, she appears ready to play the best tennis of her outstanding career.

However, to make Sunday's final, she must defeat the biggest hitter in the game, Serena Williams, in today's 2 p.m. (ESPN2) match.

Serena came to Charleston determined to make up for last year's quarterfinal loss to Patty Schnyder, as well as to keep alive her goal of an unbeaten year. She certainly looked capable of beating the world Friday night in her 6-2, 6-2 conquest of Jelena Dokic.

But Serena's game did appear ragged at times, and she was beatable. Dokic didn't have the mental game to pull it off, despite flashes of brilliant shot-making ability. To beat Serena, you have to hit the first serve. Dokic didn't.

Davenport hits and serves deep. Serena hammers balls in such a way no one has been able to touch her in a big match in nearly a year. But Serena's her huge swings make her more prone to errors, especially early in the year on clay.

A year ago, the word was that Serena couldn't play on clay. She proved everyone wrong. But she will have to prove again today that she is a true clay-court player.

THE 'OTHER' SEMIFINAL

Mary Pierce isn't back, but she's getting closer. Justine Henin-Hardenne just played too solid and too consistent, especially as Pierce is nursing a leg injury.

Pierce continued to look better with each match, even in her 6-2, 6-3 loss to Henin-Hardenne in the quarterfinals. Pierce's movement is improving and her strokes are getting firmer. She could be a factor by the time the French Open arrives in two months.

But Henin-Hardenne's time is now. She is deceptively powerful, especially with her stylish one-handed backhand. She routinely hits the tape with her serve, often clocking in around the 100 mph mark. With precision placement, that's not a bad speed.

Henin-Hardenne is as consistent as the day is long. She won't beat herself. But neither will 17-year-old Ashley Harkleroad.

Harkleroad proved again in her 6-2, 6-1 upset of ninth-ranked Daniela Hantuchova that she is the real thing. Harkleroad frustrated the tall Russian teenager from start to finish, seldom committing unforced errors and hitting a ton of winners.

Hantuchova started out going for her shots. When that didn't work, she tried a finesse strategy. Finally, she saw the writing on the wall, and surrendered without a strong fight.

Harkleroad does everything well. She's a mixture of Andre Agassi and Martina Hingis.

This Harkleroad vs. Henin-Hardenne encounter will be a battle of minds as much as talent. Henin-Hardenne will not go down without a fight, neither will Harkleroad. In the end, the best talent probably will win, and Harkleroad may have the edge there.


(04/11/03)  Harkleroad advances with her court savvy
What makes Ashley Harkleroad such a good, young talent?

It's as simple as understanding the dynamics of tennis and a tennis court. She works the court and her opponent, turning a rectangular patch of surface into her ally.

Harkleroad is years ahead of her 17 years and 11 months in tennis court maturity. She's a women's version of Andre Agassi.

This perky blonde from Florida is in today's quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup. And, yes, she is capable of being in Sunday's final.

Harkleroad seems to absorb everything that is happening around her on a tennis court. It's as if she feeds that information into a computer, then delivers the strike that disarms her opponent, in this case, 11th-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy with ease, 6-2, 6-2.

But any plan is no better than its execution. Harkleroad has the tennis strokes to back up her smarts. She moves the ball around in Agassi fashion. She pulls her opponent farther and farther off the court, while always aware of the smallest opening and what it takes to put the ball in that unreturnable position.

Tall and thin Daniela Hantuchova will have her hands full with Harkleroad in the quarterfinals. The outcome will depend on how well Harkleroad handles the pressure of playing on the stadium court.

BOLD PREDICTION

Here's a bold prediction. I think Serena Williams' unbeaten streak will come to an end today.

Accepted, Serena is the best player in women's tennis right now, but Jelena Dokic is playing better tennis this week.

Hey, I'm serious. I know that Dokic is entirely capable of bouncing balls off the walls. I haven't forgotten her first match here each of the last two years.

But this talented blonde turns from a teenager into a woman Saturday, her 20th birthday. And she already is playing with the maturity of a veteran.

She'll have to stay in control of herself to have a chance, just as she did in a superb three-set victory over Elena Dementieva Thursday. Dokic had plenty of chances to quit, but she didn't.

Dokic is in excellent condition, moves well, has an excellent deep forehand but hits great from both sides, serves big and now competes well. The key will be if she can keep Serena guessing and moving, and if she keeps the ball deep.

DAVENPORT TOO GOOD

Lindsay Davenport wants everyone to keep thinking she can't play on clay by talking about how uncomfortable she is on it. She had Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez believing her, too, on the ESPN telecast of Davenport's straight-set victory over Clarisa Fernandez Thursday.

But the truth is that Davenport is feeling more and more comfortable on clay. She's lighter, quicker and more mobile these days. Plus, she still packs the same big wallop with her ground strokes and serve, and that's too much for Russian teenager Vera Zvonareva to handle.

Zvonareva is an excellent player, plays the entire court well and has a wonderful backhand. But she can't outhit Davenport.

PIERCE THE IMPOSSIBLE

Of all the 56 players who started out in the Family Circle's main draw, Mary Pierce may be the least mobile and least conditioned. But for six games, those two factors are less critical.

Anastasia Myskina already knew that. There just wasn't anything the 10th-ranked player in the world could do about it. Already up 2-0 in the third set when play started Thursday, Pierce persevered long enough to make her Russian opponent feel pressured and finally beaten. Pierce won four of the six games played and opened up a huge hole in the lower half of the draw.

Then the former French Open champion went out and did the impossible. She outlasted Amanda Coetzer in three sets.

Maybe, Pierce can do it one more time. If she can shut out Coetzer in the third set, she's capable of miracles. So, here's one more possible upset. Pierce has finally rediscovered her forehand and serve. That means trouble for Justine Henin-Hardenne.


(04/10/03)  Dechy's consistency outlasts Mikaelian's early power game

The test of time is the true test of tennis, or of just about anything.

A player can look like a world-beater for a few shots, or even a few games. But it's all relative to the situation and opposition. The key is whether the player is playing at a sustainable level, regardless of the opposition.

Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian started off her match Wednesday against Nathalie Dechy pounding the ball as if she were Serena Williams, only a more consistent version. But Dechy was ready. She was able to get in front of most of the bombs, harnessing the power and regenerating it into her own shots.

Mikaelian kept hammering away with awesome precision and power. She lost that first game, but it appeared that it would only be a matter of time before the 19-year-old home run hitter would blow the veteran Dechy away. But Dechy is a fighter. The French woman wasn't about to let some little-known teenager humiliate her.

The second game was much like the first. Dechy got in front of bullet after bullet as Mikaelian continued swinging away until she would hit a winner or commit an error. Dechy won the second game, too. And then the third.

Things started getting much easier for Dechy after that. She no longer had to make a half-dozen incredible returns to win a point as Mikaelian steadily lost her steam and the match, 6-1, 6-4.

So much for Mikaelian's dream of dominance and of moving among the elite of women's tennis. It still may happen, but to this young Swiss player, that goal must be far more in the distance today. Yet, there's still next week, and with it, will come renewed hope.

MOMENTUM SHIFT

It's called a shift in momentum in team sports. It's taking a walk in tennis.

Iva Majoli took that walk Wednesday - right out of the Family Circle Cup.

Majoli was playing so well that I was ready to proclaim her as a genuine contender to repeat as the Family Circle champion. She had won six straight games to finish off the first set and take a 2-0 lead in the second set against Elena Dementieva, who also was playing excellent tennis. Majoli was simply playing better, well enough to beat anyone.

But Majoli's biggest weakness has been that she hasn't always handled prosperity well. If she wins a few games in a row, you can count on a loose game or set lurking in the shadows. That's been the story of her career. Other than last year's Family Circle Cup and winning the 1997 French Open, Majoli generally hasn't lived up to her potential. She won only four of the last 17 games against Dementieva.

TODAY'S OUTLOOK

Dechy goes against Justine Henin-Hardenne. A masterful clay-court player, Dechy is fully capable of making it a long day for Henin-Hardenne, who wasn't overly impressive in a three-set opening victory over Tina Pisnik.

Dementieva is in a tough section of the draw. If she happens to upset Jelena Dokic today, Serena Williams probably will be waiting for her in the quarterfinals, with Lindsay Davenport awaiting the winner.

But, like Dokic, Dementieva appears to be in excellent physical condition. She moves well and plays the entire court superbly. She's hitting great ground strokes from both sides.

Her serve appears to be the only suspect part of her game. If her serve is working, Dementieva is capable of making a serious run at the title.

Davenport, with a day's rest, is moving and hitting too well to have much trouble with Clarisa Fernandez, although Fernandez is a solid clay-court player.

And no matter who Serena Williams plays, Conchita Martinez or Tathiana Garbin, the year's only unbeaten streak should remain intact rather easily. Serena's real tournament won't start until the quarterfinals.


(04/09/03)  Iva in top form for Cup defense
Watch out! Iva Majoli appears to be in top form. She's playing like a champion, a level she didn't reach last year until the later rounds of the Family Circle Cup. This should be her tournament again, right?

Maybe not. This year's road looks much rockier, or more appropriately muddier, than a year ago when Majoli charged through Bianka Lamade, Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian, Anna Smashnova, Amanda Coetzer, Sandrine Testud and Patty Schnyder.

Majoli probably could breeze through that group again, especially now that she appears to have her game grooved. But this year's path could be filled by Jelena Dokic, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Thus, Majoli can't peak too early. Even lowly Lindsay Lee-Waters was poised to give Majoli a test Tuesday in the first round, but Majoli's big forehand was ready, and her backhand even appeared to be improved.

Playing in a stadium where a huge poster of her hangs from the exterior had to boost Majoli's sometimes-suspect confidence. And when Majoli's positive as she has been in her last seven matches at the Family Circle Cup, she's capable of beating anyone.

Trim and fit are words for two of the players that may be in her path - Dokic and Davenport - providing Majoli can get past 13th-seeded Elena Dementieva today.

Dokic is the favorite to be in one round of 16 matchup Thursday, possibly against Mojoli. A teen-ager until Saturday, Dokic also appeared to be more trim and fit than in the past while practicing Tuesday. Always a natural talent with a big game, Dokic might finally be ready to raise some eyebrows in tennis. Her first match will come today at 10 a.m. against Maja Matevzic, the conqueror of loud 15-year-old Maria Sharapova.

Davenport has never looked better, both physically and her game.

I remember just a few years ago when Davenport would hardly make a move on a drop shot, even one poorly hit. But Tuesday in her 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Daja Bedanova, Davenport not only moved in to return drop shots, but did so with ease. It's as if Davenport has swapped in her tennis shoes for ballet shoes.

This new look gives Davenport's already brilliant career a shot in the arm. Winning the French Open on red clay and completing a career grand slam may now be a real possibility for Davenport.

Davenport's next match probably won't be until Thursday against either Maureen Drake or Clarisa Fernandez. And pronto, she'll be in the quarterfinals, or she should be. That's when things should start to gate more interesting.

You don't want to miss Henin-Hardenne's first Family Circle Cup match in today's 10 a.m. stadium court opener against Tina Pisnik.

There are several interesting matchups today. One pits former champion Mary Pierce against new top 10 member Anastasia Myskina. Pierce breezed past Nicole Pratt Tuesday, but Pierce is only a shadow of the player who cruised through the Family Circle in record fashion three years ago.

Pierce now appears to be much less mobile, and her forehand is no more than a toy when compared to the one that carried her to the 2000 French Open title. Her backhand is as good as ever, however.

But Myskina is a player, and one on the rise. She was ranked 33rd in the world when she lost to Jennifer Capriati in the Family Circle quarterfinals last year.

Another match worth watching is Mikaelian's 10 a.m. bout with 14th-seeded Nathalie Dechy.

This match should reveal if Mikaelian, a Swiss teen-ager, is really ready to jump into the limelight as she indicated in her easy win over Junior Family Circle Cup champion Shadisha Robinson.


(04/08/03)  No. 25 Martinez again standing in Kournikova's way
Serena Williams plays on the stadium court tonight. That's the big match today, right?

Maybe not. Fans will anticipate Serena blowing Madagascar's Dally Randriantefy away the same way she romped past Jennifer Hopkins in the first night match of last year's Family Circle Cup.

The big match actually takes place under the sunlight, if there is any today. Unlucky Anna Kournikova has drawn the heavy game of Spanish top-spinner Conchita Martinez for the second straight year. It won't be pretty. The match, that is.

Kournikova is still trying to decide if she's a beauty queen, a sex symbol or a tennis player. Actually, she's all three. And that's the problem.

The consensus is that Anna doesn't stand a chance against the moon balls, spins and trickery of former two-time champion Martinez. But if Kournikova buckles up her chin-strap and comes to play with her head, Martinez might be only a small obstacle in her way.

Amazingly, Martinez is still hanging in there, still ranked lower than her age. She'll turn 31 next week, and she's holding steady at 25th in the world rankings.

The next most awaited match today will be the one just prior to Kournikova's late-afternoon stadium court encounter with Martinez. World's fifth-ranked Lindsay Davenport draws talented Daja Bedanova, certainly not the draw Davenport might have wanted for her first clay-court match of the season. Bedanova is a solid 47th in the world rankings and an excellent all-court player.

Patty Schnyder, last year's runner-up, should have too much court savvy for 18-year-old Russian Vera Zvonareva in the first stadium court match of the day, although Zvonareva is ranked 33rd in the world.

Another player to watch today is former champion Mary Pierce, who has climbed back to 43rd in the world. If she's in top shape and injury-free, Pierce could be worth keeping an eye on in her clubhouse court match against Nicole Pratt.

Marissa Irvin's 10 a.m. match against Clarisa Fernandez might be fun to watch for fans who remember Irvin from the days of the Mount Pleasant Women's Challenger. She has dropped back to No. 100 in the world as a 22-year-old and is probably wondering if she made the right decision a couple of years ago when she chose the WTA Tour over staying at Stanford University.

Now that Junior Family Circle Cup champion Shadisha Robinson has been eliminated, the crowd favorite from the qualifying tournament will be 166th-ranked Maria Sharapova, the tall 15-year-old Russian who plays brilliant tennis between loud grunts and groans. Sharapova plays 55th-ranked Maja Matevzic of Slovakia.

But just because Robinson appeared to be paralyzed by the suddenly powerful game of Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian in the clubhouse court battle of teenagers, don't write Robinson off. Robinson's future in tennis is all up to her, whether she discovers tenacity and maturity. Put those two things into her big game and the sky will be the limit.

Mikaelian had a lot to do with the way Robinson played in a 6-1, 6-1 loss. Mikaelian drove winners with a sledgehammer forehand that appeared to be unreturnable.

The Swiss 19-year-old looked like the most improved player on the WTA Tour, a much different player from the one who came here a year ago expecting to play in the qualifying tournament but ended up in the main draw because of a late withdrawal. She's 37th in the world these days.

Mikaelian appears to have her groundstrokes and serve honed to a sharp edge, but points won't come so easy the rest of the week when she faces seasoned and healthy players. Robinson was rendered virtually lame by a thigh injury, and just watched the normally slower-footed Mikaelian pound winners.

That isn't to say Mikaelian's not for real. She's a terrific athlete, who appears to be on the verge of making a serious move in the WTA rankings. I'll withhold any more predictions about her until I see her next match, probably Wednesday against the winner of today's match between 14th-seeded Nathalie Dechy and Anca Barna. If Mikaelian hits the ball with the same ferociousness and success against probably Dechy as she did Monday, this could be her breakthrough tournament.

It's too bad for the fans that 18-year-old French qualifier Marion Bartoli faltered in the third set against hustling lucky loser Tathiana Garbin of Italy. Bartoli, with her rigid serving stance, two-handed groundstrokes, terrific backhand down the line and unique two-footed hops while preparing to return service, is as fun to watch as any player on the tour.

And please don't forget about defending champion Iva Majoli in the second stadium court match. She's playing qualifier Lindsay Lee-Waters, an American ranked 106th in the world.

Sounds like an easy match for a champion, but it's just the type of match Majoli has become known for losing in recent years. After making the semifinals in Sarasota last week, Majoli may be nearing the groove that carried her to last year's title.


(04/06/03)  Future stars shine in first day of qualifying
And this was only the first day of qualifying . . . If the next eight days are anything like Saturday, tennis fans are in for a whale of Family Circle Cup this year.

There's one more round of qualifying, today. The main event starts Monday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

But with perfect weather until a few sprinkles of rain late in the day and a soft breeze blowing in off the nearby marsh keeping away the bugs most of the day, nothing could have been finer than a spring Saturday of tennis.

And who had the loudest game of the day? Young Russian Maria Sharapova, of course. Her loud grunts and groans were enough to break the concentration of Japan's Akiko Morigami, who had to get help from the trainer for her tired legs at 4-4 in the third set, then lost the next two games.

So, if you happen to hear loud grunting and groaning today, you need to head for that area. Sharapova, tall and graceful, knows how to play this game.

And what about Junior Family Circle Cup champion Shadisha Robinson. She had her own cheering section and earned every cheer in a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over 20-year-old Australian pro Christina Wheeler.

Robinson demonstrated great potential with her deep, penetrating left-handed strokes and strong serve looking like they already belong on the WTA Tour. She may lose today in her bid to qualify for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup's main draw, but mark this high school senior down as possibly the next great American player, if she can lift her mental game to the level of physical potential.

Then there was 18-year-old Marion Bartoli of France. A right-hander, she hits two-handed from both sides. She's another player to watch today, as well as the future. She's the No. 1 seed in qualifying.

Several main-draw players also were on the grounds. Tall and amazingly thin Daniela Hantuchova worked out on the stadium court with her coach, showing excellent consistency, blended with power from the baseline. She looked like she could be a player to watch.

Lindsay Davenport and Meghann Shaughnessy worked out together on the stadium court. Davenport appeared to be fully recovered from a thigh strain she suffered two weeks ago in Miami that forced her to retire after dropping the first set, 6-0, to Bartoli.

You can count on Davenport winning a couple of matches, despite not being known for her clay-court skills because of her lack of quickness. That part of her game has improved vastly. This year's Family Circle Cup might actually be a very good one for Davenport. She's definitely a player to watch, which she wasn't five years ago when she last played in the Family Circle and advanced to the quarterfinals.

THORNTON TAKES TITLE

Mount Pleasant's Caroline Thornton scored a major victory for Charleston junior tennis last Monday when she lived up to her top seeding by winning the girls' 12 title in the Bullfrog STA Little Rock (Ark.) Super Circuit. She defeated fourth-seeded Alexandra Forsyth of Belle Vista, Ark., 6-4, 6-0, in the final.

"This was a big win for our whole academy," said Fritz Nau, who directs the 24-player Charleston Tennis Academy.

Bryan Minton, who coaches Thornton, watched the just-turned 12-year-old from Charleston Day School win five straight matches to capture the Southern Tennis Association tournament. "This is the first time I've seen one of our players come out with the intensity that it takes to win (an STA tournament)," Minton said.

A BIG MONDAY

-- Don't forget. Former Family Circle Cup champions Jennifer Capriati, Iva Majoli and Amanda Coetzer will appear at the Fan Fest at Marion Square Monday from 4-7 p.m.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids participants will have a special session with Serena Williams at the Jack Adams Tennis Center on Monday instead of Tuesday as previously scheduled.

MIXED DOUBLES ALREADY

It seems that this spring's USTA Adult League and Senior League just started, but Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer already is thinking about the summer. The captain's meeting for the mixed doubles league will be held April 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street.

Peiffer plans to start the mixed doubles league a few weeks early this year. Current plans call for a mid-May start. Captains planning to field teams this summer should attend the meeting.

LOCAL NOTES

-- The third leg of the Lowcountry Junior Challenger circuit is scheduled for April 25-27 at Pine Forest Country Club. The tournament will feature singles and doubles in all age groups. The entry deadline is April 21. Contact Pine Forest's tennis pro shop at 843-851-9010.

-- The 14th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament will be held April 18-20. The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions for 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles, with first-round consolation in singles. The entry deadline is April 15 at 8 p.m. For more details or entry forms, call (843) 884-3252.

-- Charleston Tennis Center is offering a wheelchair youth tennis program every Friday from 2-3 p.m. throughout April and May. City pro Fredrik Andersson is conducting the free clinic. For information, call (843) 724-7402.


(04/02/03)  Capriati poised for another 'comeback'
Much has changed for Jennifer Capriati since last year's visit to Charleston to defend her 2001 Family Circle Cup title.

Capriati was the world's No. 1 player when she lost to Patty Schnyder in the 2002 Family Circle Cup semifinals. She saw her ranking fall to as low as seventh in February.

She hasn't won a tournament since last year's Australian Open, a dry spell that has stretched to 14 months. The first major clay-court tournament of the year would be the ideal place to launch what would have to be called a comeback.

Prior to Serena Williams' dominance of the last four Grand Slam events, Capriati had been on a streak of her own while winning three of five Grand Slams.

Capriati appears to be recovered from eye surgery in November in which she had sunspots removed from both eyes. Although she lost in the first round of this year's Australian Open, she is playing as well as ever. But she now appears to lack the confidence needed to defeat the bigger players such as Venus and Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport or the more consistent players such as Belgium's Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The clay surface of Family Circle Cup Stadium appeared to be made for Capriati two years ago when she swept through the field and Martina Hingis in the final. It could be that way again if the other top players happen to blink in the transition from Miami's hard surface to the clay courts of Daniel Island.

A victory here could work wonders for the 27-year-old Floridian, who surprised the tennis world with her gigantic comeback from the downfalls of her teen years. After making the quarterfinals or better in nine Grand Slam tournaments before she reached her 18th birthday, Capriati's troubles started. She left the tour for two years and spent the next five years either not playing tennis or trying to get past the second round of a Grand Slam.

She became tennis' golden girl again when she won the Australian Open in 2001 and backed that up at the Family Circle Cup and then took the French Open.

JENNIFER CAPRIATI
Ranking: 6
Age: 27
Residence: Saddlebrook, Fla.
Birthplace: New York
Height/Weight: 5-8-1/2 /134
WTA Tour singles titles: 13
Grand Slam titles: 3
Best FCC finish: Champion, 2001


(04/02/03)  Majoli-Schnyder a surprise finale in 2002
Iva Majoli celebrates after winning the 2002 championship.

Family Circle Cup 2002 was a tournament filled with surprises, and seeded players were the victims of most of them.

It was a tournament that belonged to the unseeded player. Iva Majoli and Patty Schnyder became the first unseeded players to meet in the final of a Tier I tournament.

Schnyder served up her share of upsets. First, she eliminated sixth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo. Former Family Circle and French Open champion Mary Pierce was Schnyder's next victim. Third-seeded Serena Williams couldn't match Schnyder's left-handed top spins in the quarterfinals. Defending champion Jennifer Capriati, who had won three of the past five Grand Slam events, fell prey to Schnyder's clever spins in the semifinals.

Only Majoli, a former French Open champion herself, could tame Schnyder's game and earn a giant poster at Family Circle Tennis Center alongside Capriati and eight-time champion Chris Evert.

Williams, Capriati and Mauresmo were the players everyone expected to contend for the title in the 30th annual Family Circle Cup, until each of them ran into Schnyder.

Veteran Monica Seles was another player expected to challenge for the title Capriati took in 2001 when the tournament moved to Daniel Island from Hilton Head Island. But France's Stephanie Foretz pulled what probably was the biggest surprise of the tournament. Foretz, a qualifier, upset the second-seeded Seles in the round of 16.

Foretz started the fireworks Thursday. The next day, Williams committed 57 unforced errors and never quite figured out how to keep her huge shots on the court. For every big shot Serena had that hit the court, Schnyder had a spinning return that fell just inside the baseline or on it.

Fans, along with Serena's father, Richard Williams, were shocked after Schnyder's 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

The next day Stefano Capriati was just as shocked by Schnyder's 6-4, 6-3 domination of Capriati. Jennifer's father could be seen walking around outside the stadium in amazement as the match ended.

That left only the little names, Schnyder and Majoli, to contest the final. Majoli had defeated French veteran Sandra Testud in the semifinals.

In the final, Majoli had more weapons than Schnyder, winning 7-6, 6-4.

Majoli's big, high-kicking forehand kept Schnyder on the defensive most of the match, frustrating the Swiss player into going for too much.


(04/02/03)  Familiar faces return to Daniel Island
The field of players for this year's Family Circle Cup hasn't changed that dramatically from last year's entrants.

Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati are the big guns, along with Justine Henin-Hardenne, who pulled out of last year's event with an injury. And Monica Seles is a solid contender.

And throw in the players who made life miserable for everyone else a year ago. Defending champion Iva Majoli and runner-up Patty Schnyder, the only two unseeded players ever to meet in a Tier I final on the WTA Tour, will try to duplicate their previous success.

The difference is the directions that Williams and Capriati's rankings and games are headed. Williams is now the unquestioned No. 1 player in the game, the winner of the last four Grand Slam titles. She came here ranked seventh in the world last year.

Capriati, the world's No. 1 player when last year's event started, dropped to as low as seventh in the world in February.

While Williams is the player to beat, the player to watch may be the steady Henin-Hardenne.

Among the favorites in the first major clay-court test of the year, Henin-Hardenne has the game that will need the least altering. She's not a huge hitter, but she has excellent court coverage and consistency. She won't beat herself, as Williams and Capriati did a year ago against Schnyder.

But Williams is a different player these days. Clay or hard surface, it makes no difference as Williams' French Open success last year came just two months after her problems on the clay of the Family Circle Tennis Center.

While Williams, Capriati, Seles and Henin-Hardenne rate as the favorites, Jelena Dokic may be ready to make a move. Although she lost to Anna Smashnova, 6-1, 6-3, in her first match at last year's Family Circle Cup, Dokic is now a solid top 10 player. Her success or failure will depend on her patience on Daniel Island's clay courts.

Another player to watch is Anastasia Myskina, a 21-year-old Russian who needs only to find a weapon to make her move among the best 10 players in the world. She has moved steadily up the rankings since starting last year's Family Circle Cup ranked 33rd in the world. She advanced to last year's quarterfinals and gave Capriati a mild test, paving the way for a solid year.


(04/02/03)  Henin-Hardenne enters in top form
Justine Henin-Hardenne is an over-achiever.

Who would have guessed that a rather un-athletic looking 5-5-3/4 young woman could have found so much success on the WTA Tour? The same might have been said about Martina Hingis a few years earlier.

Henin-Hardenne simply has a winning attitude. She plays to win, and she knows how to win.

Only the Williams sisters and Belgian counterpart Kim Clijsters are ranked higher in women's tennis.

The 20-year-old Henin-Hardenne has had an outstanding year. But it could have been even better. She advanced to four semifinals before finally making a final this year. Once in the final at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Henin-Hardenne struggled for a three-set victory over Monica Seles that kept her one notch behind Clijsters in the world rankings.

Henin-Hardenne made a leap into the world's tennis headlines in 2001 when, as a teenager, she followed up a semifinal showing at the French Open by gaining a berth opposite Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final. She proved that she was for real by making the Wimbledon semifinals last year while steadily climbing the world rankings.

Not a huge hitter in the style of most of today's other top players, Henin-Hardenne wins with consistency and a determined attitude. She probably is best known for her sweeping one-handed backhand.

Clay is a perfect fit for Henin-Hardenne's well-balanced game. As a junior, she entered the 1997 Junior French Open as a wild card and proceeded to become the first Belgian to win that tournament in 50 years.

She turned pro at the start of 1999 while still a 16-year-old and became one of only six women since the 1970s to win a singles title in their first tournament as a professional.

This will be her first Family Circle Cup. She withdrew from last year's tournament with a left adductor strain.

JUSTINE HENIN-HARDENNE
Ranking: 4
Age: 20
Residence: Marloie, Belgium
Birthplace: Liege, Belgium
Height/Weight: 5-5-3/4/126
WTA Tour singles titles: 7
Grand Slam titles: 0
Best FCC finish: First appearance


(04/02/03)  Out of the top 10, Seles looks for return to past glory
Monica Seles not in the top 10?

This must be a sign of the times. Seles will turn 30 years old later this year.

But Seles can be counted on as a contender in the Family Circle Cup, if she can overcome the foot injury that caused her to withdraw from the Nasdaq-100 in Miami two weeks ago as well as last month's tournament at Indian Wells, Calif.

Last year's round of 16 loss at Family Circle Tennis Center to qualifier Stephanie Foretz is just a bad dream for Seles.

But Seles has seen her status decline to the point that she dropped out of the top 10 on March 17. That's even after making two finals in February, losing to Lindsay Davenport in Tokyo and Justine Henin-Hardenne in Dubai.

One of women's tennis' most successful players ever, Seles has never won the Family Circle Cup. In fact, she didn't play in the event until 1997, four years after being stabbed in the shoulder during a tournament in Hamburg, Germany. Seles lost to Martina Hingis in a third-set tiebreaker in the final of that 1997 Family Circle Cup.

The attack on Seles by a fan of Steffi Graf in the spring of 1993 occurred at a point in her career when she had won seven of her last eight Grand Slam tournaments (the other was a loss in the 1992 Wimbledon final to Graf). Seles has never been the same.

Graf won 10 Grand Slam titles over the next four years, keeping Seles in the shadows even after her return to the tour. Seles did manage to win the 1996 Australian Open, her ninth Grand Slam singles title.

By the time Graf retired from the game in 1999, Venus and Serena Williams were ready to take over the women's tour.

And now, Seles is trying to make one last run at the glory she lost a decade ago.

MONICA SELES
Ranking: 12
Age: 29
Residence: Sarasota, Fla.
Birthplace: Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
Height/Weight: 5-10-1/2 /154
WTA Tour singles titles: 53
Grand Slam titles: 9
Best FCC finish: Runner-up, 1997


(04/01/03)  Davenport joins Family Circle field

World's fifth-ranked Lindsay Davenport is scheduled to make her first appearance in the Family Circle Cup since 1998, according to the WTA Tour's official newsletter that was released Monday.

Davenport's entry gives the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup seven of the top 10 players in the world and 10 of the top 13. The tournament will begin next Monday at Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, after a weekend qualifying event.

Davenport, who moved up one notch from sixth place in this week's world ranking to switch places with 2001 Family Circle Cup champion Jennifer Capriati, retired from a round of 16 match against 18-year-old Marion Bartoli of France with a right hamstring strain last week in the Nasdaq-100 in Miami. Davenport lost the first set 6-0 before retiring.

Although her big game isn't ideally suited for the clay surface of the Family Circle Cup, Davenport was a quarterfinalist in her last three trips to the Tier I women's tournament, all at Hilton Head Island. A former world's No. 1 player, Davenport has been slowed by a series of injuries, but she defeated Capriati in the semifinals of the recent Indian Wells, Calif., tournament before losing to Kim Clijsters in the final.

Davenport also reached the Sydney, Australia, final, again losing to Clijsters in the title match. In January, she made her earliest exit from the Australian Open in six years when she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the round of 16, but she then won the Tier I Tokyo tournament by defeating Monica Seles in the final.

Capriati, Henin-Hardenne (No. 4) and Seles (No. 12) are all entered in the 56-player main draw of the Family Circle Cup, along with top-ranked Serena Williams, Chanda Rubin (8), Daniela Hantuchova (9), Jelena Dokic (10), Anastasia Myskina (11) and 2002 runner-up Patty Schnyder (13). Defending champion Iva Majoli, now ranked 32nd, also is in the field.

Davenport has won 38 career singles titles, including three Grand Slams (1998 U.S. Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open).


(04/30/03)  Being a member of the USTA has its benefits

A $10 ticket to see the world's best women's tennis players? In real tournament play, not practice?

Yes, but you have to be a member of the U.S. Tennis Association. And we thought the only reason to join the USTA every year was to play league tennis.

Of course, league tennis participation is reason enough to join the USTA. It's tennis' best deal, or maybe even the best deal in all of participatory adult sports.

But there's an additional benefit for USTA members who buy tickets for the Monday through Thursday sessions of the Family Circle Cup that starts in earnest on Monday, April 7, following next weekend's qualifying rounds. USTA members planning to attend several of the Monday-Thursday day or night sessions can get most of the money they paid for USTA membership back simply by having their USTA numbers available when they order tickets over the phone or by presenting their USTA cards when purchasing tickets at the ticket booth.

USTA members will receive a $10 discount on tickets for the Monday-Thursday sessions. That reduces a $20 third-tier ticket for the Tuesday through Thursday night sessions to just $10.

The going rate for third-tier daytime tickets Monday through Thursday is $45, or $35 with the USTA discount. Second-tier tickets to the day or night sessions are $10 more than for the third tier.

The discount doesn't apply to Friday through Sunday sessions. Also, second-tier tickets for the last three days of the tournament are available only in packages.

Ten dollars off might not sound like much, but for a USTA family of four or more the membership offers significant savings even for just one session.

So, now rather than taking the family out to just one night at the Family Circle Tennis Center, a second trip might fit into the tennis budget.

The night schedule usually offers some of the best tennis in the tournament. Last year's night matches featured Serena Williams on Tuesday and Daniela Hantuchova and Mary Pierce on Wednesday and Jennifer Capriati on Thursday.

FAMILY CIRCLE NOTES

-- Individual tickets and ticket packages are still available for all sessions, Monday through Sunday (April 7-13) by calling the Family Circle Cup at 800-677-2293 or 843-856-7900.

-- Next Saturday's main draw party will be open to the public for the first time. The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. near the Family Circle Cup Stadium.

-- Former champions Jennifer Capriati, Iva Majoli and Amanda Coetzer will appear at the Fan Fest on Monday, April 7 from 4-7 p.m. at Marion Square.

MORARIU HONORED

Family Circle magazine has named Corina Morariu as its Player Who Makes A Difference. The award honors women's tennis players who dedicate their time and energy to worthwhile causes. The presentation of the award and a $20,000 donation from Family Circle magazine to the charity of Morariu's choice will be made to Morariu at the Family Circle Cup during a special ceremony after the night singles match on Wednesday, April 9.

The honor celebrates Morariu's victory over leukemia as well as for her commitment to increasing awareness and funding in the research needed to defeat cancer. Morariu, a 25-year-old who was ranked as high as 29th in the world in 1998, was diagnosed in May of 2001 with acute promyelocytic leukemia - a form of blood cancer that causes internal bleeding. She returned to the WTA Tour last summer.

LCTA TREATS JUNIORS

The Lowcountry Tennis Association and the Family Circle Cup are teaming up to treat 137 kids from the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program and the local Junior Tennis League to tickets to the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament next Saturday and Sunday. T-Bonz restaurants will provide box lunches.

The Courting Kids from Jack Adams Tennis Center and John's Island also are scheduled to have a special session with Serena Williams Tuesday, April 8 at 3:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams courts adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium, according to Courting Kids director Delores Jackson.

LOCAL NOTES

-- The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association has sent application forms to schools, coaches and club professionals in the Charleston area for the nomination of junior girls' tennis players to receive grants of $300 to $500 to cover specific tennis-related expenses. The application deadline is April 30, and anyone involved in local tennis can submit nominations. Information and application forms can be obtained from the CALTA web site at www.caltatennis.net or by contacting Pamela Doggett at 843-795-2164.

-- The 14th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament has been scheduled for April 18-20. The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions for 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles, with first-round consolation in singles. The entry deadline is April 15 at 8 p.m. For more details or entry forms, call 843-884-3252.

-- I'On Club director of tennis Joey Eskridge has been named the Professional Tennis Registry's pro of the year. Eskridge was selected from a group of 10,000 PTR members in the United States. The PTR consists of more than 13,000 members worldwide. Eskridge was a two-year letter winner at Winthrop University. He previously worked at Van Der Meer Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island.


(03/26/03)  Family Circle adds a pair

Next month's Family Circle Cup just got taller - by more than 12 feet.

Elena Bovina, a 6-2-1/2 Russian, joined the 56-player main draw for the April 5-13 tournament Tuesday, along with eighth-ranked, 5-11-1/4 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

The addition of these two tall and talented players gives the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup six of the top 10 players in the world and 14 of the top 20. Bovina is ranked 16th.

It also gives the tournament another teen-ager. Hantuchova won't turn 20 until after the Family Circle, and Bovina gave up her teen status earlier this month.

The tournament field includes top-ranked Serena Williams, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, (5) Jennifer Capriati, (9) Jelena Dokic, (10) Chanda Rubin, (11) Anastasia Myskina, (12) Monica Seles and (13) Patty Schnyder, along with Hantuchova. Defending champion Iva Majoli, ranked 31st, also is entered.

"This is one of our best player fields yet," Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan said. "These young women are two of the most talented players on the women's tour and they represent the future of women's tennis. The Family Circle Cup is a perfect venue for them to show off that remarkable talent."

Hantuchova, who lost to former Family Circle champion Mary Pierce in the second round of last year's tournament, had an outstanding 2002, winning the Tier I Indian Wells, Calif., event by beating Martina Hingis in the final.

Hantuchova reached the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open.

Ranked fifth in the world earlier this year, she became the first Slovak woman to gain a top five ranking.

She won the WTA Tour's most improved player award for 2002.

Bovina, who played in Mount Pleasant's $25,000 Women's Challenger in 1998, won two tournaments last year in only her second full year on the tour. She also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

A variety of ticket packages are available by calling the Family Circle Cup at 800-677-2293 or 843-856-7900.


(03/23/03)  Davis Cup's Kimball makes most of Croatia visit
Seabrook Island's Warren Kimball broke into his new position as co-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee in an unusual way. A visit to the minefields of Croatia isn't exactly SOP for a U.S. Tennis Association official.

Kimball was in Croatia for last month's Davis Cup tie between the United States and Croatia. The Americans lost in tennis to Goran Ivanisevic and his teammates, but won the real battle of life.

Here's a condensed version of Kimball's story.

The U.S. Davis Cup team had been scheduled to visit one of the de-mining sites in Croatia through arrangements made by the U.S. Embassy, but on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 5, inclement weather forced the cancellation of a 45-minute helicopter flight from the capital of Zagreb to Zadar on the Dalmatian coast.

Nevertheless, the Croatian officials and media were waiting for the U.S. players, who had started practicing for the Davis Cup confrontation and were unavailable for a later flight. As the weather cleared, the Croatians wanted someone to stand in for the players. Kimball, fellow co-chairman Allen Kiel, and other USTA officials and their spouses took the helicopter flight and visited the minefields at Zadar where 35 people have been killed and more than 200 injured.

When Kimball's party arrived back in Zagreb where the Davis Cup tie was scheduled for the weekend, USTA president Alan Schwartz and other officials listened to the minefield story. The USTA officials embraced a proposal to adopt a minefield for clearing. That triggered a matching contribution from the International Trust Fund.

As a result, a total of $50,000 ($25,000 from the USTA) will be used for the clearing of a minefield. That means the kids of the little village of Mekusje will once again be able to use the community's only tennis court without having to worry about mines.

Who knows? A little Goran Ivanisevic might turn up at the court one day.

"The money is very important, but the symbolism of a national sports association reaching out to the Croatian people during a competition is even more meaningful," said Dijana Plestina, the head of the Croatian de-mining office and the wife of Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan.

AZALEA NEXT WEEKEND

Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club is gearing up for its two biggest tennis events of the year, next weekend's adult Azalea Clay Court and the April 25-27 Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament. Both tournaments are sanctioned by the U.S. Tennis Association.

The Azalea, in its 10th year at the six-court Pine Forest complex, offers singles and doubles competition in all age groups (five-year increments) as well as rated divisions from 3.0 to 5.0. Participants can compete in as many as three separate divisions.

The entry deadline for the Azalea is Monday at 6 p.m. Entry forms for the tournament are available in the Pine Forest tennis pro shop or by calling (843) 851-9010. The entry fee for singles competition is $25 and doubles is $20.

JUNIOR CHALLENGER

The third leg of the Lowcountry Junior Challenger Circuit (April 25-27 at Pine Forest) will feature a first for the three-tournament circuit - doubles. The first two tournaments of the Challenger Circuit, at Snee Farm and Charleston Tennis Center, did not include doubles, but Pine Forest pro Heinz Maurer is following a mandate that calls for future Challengers to offer doubles.

This mandate is the result of a growing feeling among tennis officials that doubles is becoming a lost art among juniors, especially when they venture out into sectional and national play.

Competition will be available in all boys' and girls' age groups, 10 through 18, in singles and doubles. The entry deadline is April 21.

FLOWERTOWN COMING

Summerville also will hold a tournament April 4-6 at Azalea Park. It's the second annual Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament. All ages and divisions including an adult/junior division where an adult pairs with a junior ($10 per person) will be available.

The entry deadline is April 2. For information, call (843) 851-3093 or send an email to tournament director Greg Hancox at glh@sc.rr.com. Entry forms are available at all local clubs and the Summerville YMCA.


(03/16/03)  Family Circle Cup helps young local players with WIN4LIFE program
The Family Circle Cup is achieving its goal of making a difference in the lives of local youth. Former WTA Tour player Leslie Allen is playing a key role in that undertaking as the director and founder of the WIN4LIFE program.

This marks the second year that the Family Circle Cup has used Allen's program in its effort to help local youth. Twenty-seven 9-16 year-olds representing the City of Charleston's inner-city Courting Kids, the St. Andrews tennis complex and the MUSC Harper Center tennis program are participating in this year's WIN4LIFE program.

Allen makes the trip from New York City to Charleston every other weekend to work with the kids in a program that emphasizes the four D's (desire, dedication, discipline and determination). She was at MUSC Saturday with the kids focusing on fitness in the morning and tennis in the afternoon.

"I have the kids all day, from 9:30 to 3," Allen said. "Mostly, the kids are African-Americans, but we have others from all different backgrounds."

The program started in February when the kids heard Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan and her staff talk about their jobs as well as the Family Circle Tennis Center pros giving on-court instructions. The youths learned communication skills from Vanessa Hill at MUSC two weekends ago.

Allen's next session will be at the College of Charleston on March 29 where the youth will learn what college is all about and attend a college tennis match. This year's sessions will conclude on April 6 at the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament, although Allen will take a group of four kids behind the scenes on April 11 during the Family Circle Cup's quarterfinal round.

"This is just a different way of the Family Circle being able to impact the community," said Allen, who attended the University of Southern California, then played on the WTA Tour until 1987.

Allen counts the Family Circle Cup as her first big WTA Tour event when she played in the tournament's qualifying event for the first time. "I didn't have a ranking that would let me play in the qualifying tournament before that," she said.

"It has always been my dream to put back into the game in some way."

WIN4LIFE gives her that opportunity.

ANOTHER COMMITTEE
When Seabrook Island's Warren Kimball recently replaced Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth as one of the chairmen of the USTA Davis Cup committee, Barth was assigned to the national adult-senior competition committee. Barth also is vice chairman of the Southern Tennis Association's adult competition committee.

BARTHS RANKED
Roy and Jonathan Barth were left out of last week's list of local players earning top five national rankings. They took the fifth spot in the national father-son rankings.

SOUTHERN JUNIORS
Emily Applegate is the highest-ranked local player in the 2002 Southern rankings. She is sixth in girls' 18 singles. Samantha Eppelsheimer is next with a 12th ranking in girls' 14 singles, and Ryan Young is 13th in boys' 18 singles.

Also in singles, Jason Basile is 29th in boys' 16, Kalee Claussen is 33rd in girls' 16, Scott Maucher holds 49th place in boys' 16 and 51st in boys' 18, Lara Hewett is 51st in girls' 12 and Ashley Perkins is 51st in girls' 14.

In doubles, Tradd Robinson leads the way with a fifth in boys' 16, while Basile is eighth and Rich Bailey 23rd in the same division. Also in doubles, Jenny Wilson is 14th in girls' 18, Sallie Johnson is 20th in girls' 12, Richard Pearce is 41st in boys' 12 and Walker Heffron is 58th in boys' 12.

FCC DISCOUNTS
The Family Circle Cup is giving local tennis fans from military personnel families a nice break at the ticket counter: a $10 discount on daily admission tickets and 50 percent off for night sessions. Tickets are available by contacting the tournament at 800-677-2293 or 843-856-7900.

PINE FOREST NEXT
The third leg of the Lowcountry Junior Challenger will be held March 28-30 at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. The entry deadline is March 24. Contact Pine Forest (851-9010) for more details.


(03/09/03)  Williams sisters' impact on tennis becoming apparent
The Venus and Serena impact on this country's tennis landscape already is visible.

It was on display last Monday in the girls' 18 final of the prestigious Junior Family Circle Cup, possibly the highest level or most prominent junior girls' match ever played in the Charleston area.

Natalie Frazier and Shadisha Robinson were both highly ranked nationally, the kind of matchup you might expect in the final of a showcase national-level junior tournament such as the Junior Family Circle Cup. A berth for the girls' 18 winner into the qualifying tournament for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup added to the significance.

It's not unusual these days to see African-American players facing each other in a tournament, if the tournament happens to be a Grand Slam final. Venus and Serena Williams appear to own that stage.

But, in reality, blacks make up only a small percentage of the world's top 100 professional women's tennis players. Junior tennis isn't much different.

The impact that Venus and Serena have had on the game was obvious to anyone who wondered into the Family Circle Tennis Center complex to watch the girls' 18 final. Robinson and Frazier were eight years old when Venus made her pro debut in 1994. Little sister Serena wasn't far behind Venus.

Both Robinson and Frazier demonstrated extremely polished games. Robinson won their first meeting in straight sets, but they are likely to meet again on another stage. Frazier has signed with the University of Georgia and Robinson lists Georgia and Georgia Tech among her college possibilities.

Look for Robinson, in particular, on the WTA Tour in just a few years. Her big, powerful game is tailor-made for professional tennis. She has excellent ground strokes, laced with power from both sides, and a potent serve that has the potential to become a serious weapon. At 5-8, her game is virtually a carbon copy of Serena's, except Robinson is left-handed.

The opportunity to see Robinson is definitely worth a visit to the opening round of the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament Saturday, April 5. She looks like a star of the future.

SNEE FARM SELECTED

Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club has been awarded the USTA Southern Section's USA League Tennis Outstanding Facility Award.

"Year in and year out, the Snee Farm Country Club has been the leader in supporting the USA League Tennis program," Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer wrote to Snee Farm director of tennis Dewey Caulder in announcing the first-year award.

"Whether it was verification clinics, local league playoffs, state championships or a myriad of other things, you and the Snee Farm Country Club have always been extremely accommodating, and were always there when we needed your assistance (and courts).

"Furthermore, the Snee Farm Country Club has always been a leader in the number of teams and players that are participating in USA League Tennis. For example, this spring you have 24 teams and 308 players. These are enviable numbers for any tennis facility, and for a private club to have this sort of participation speaks volumes about you and the Snee Farm Country Club tennis program."

DEADLINE TODAY

The deadline for entering Snee Farm's first Adult Grand Prix of the year is today at 6 p.m. The Grand Prix, which starts Tuesday, offers men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles in all levels. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252).

LOCALS RANKED

Three Charleston area players earned top five national rankings for 2002, led by Diane Fishburne's No. 2 ranking in women's 45 singles and Brenda Carter's No. 2 rating in women's 55 singles. In doubles, Fishburne is No. 3 in 45s and Carter is second in 50s. Jeanette Weiland is ranked second in women's 70 doubles.

In the Southern Tennis Association, the area has a long list of top five players, including Susie Peiffer's No. 1 rankings in women's 50 singles and doubles. Zoe Williams also is ranked No. 1 in women's 70 singles, second in 65 mixed doubles and fourth in 70 mixed (with Kurt Wassen). Smith Anderson is first in men's 40 doubles and third in 30 doubles. Bobby Pearce and Mary Porter took first place in mixed 30 doubles.

Other top five STA rankings include: John Baird, No. 3, 75 men's doubles; Fishburne, No. 2, 45 singles and No. 3, 45 doubles; Bob and Susie Peiffer, No. 3, 50 mixed; Brenda Carter, No. 2, 55 singles and No. 3, 55 doubles; Jane Fluet, No. 4, women's 60 singles and doubles; Claire Richardson, No. 5, women's 60 singles; Jerry and Jan Hanchrow, No. 3, 70 mixed; and Mary Tomkins, No. 2, 70 mixed.


(03/04/03)  Robinson breezes by top seed in girls' 18
Here's a word of caution to the touring pros who participate in next month's Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament.

Don't overlook Shadisha Robinson just because she's a 17-year-old high school senior.

Robinson's arsenal of tennis weapons is fully loaded. The Van Der Meer Tennis Academy student played so well in winning the Junior Family Circle Cup that she couldn't pinpoint her best shot.

Obviously, top-seeded Natalie Frazier of Atlanta never figured out the puzzle either in Monday's girls' 18 final.

Robinson walked off with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Frazier and a wild-card berth in the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup's April 5-6 qualifying tournament on Daniel Island. "Everything was working," said Robinson, the second seed. "I've been working hard. It's about time it paid off."

Robinson had the bigger of most shots in the battle of left-handers. She also had height (5-8 to 5-5) on her opponent.

A native of Queens, N.Y., who is spending this school year in tennis training on Hilton Head Island, Robinson used power, excellent ball placement and big serves to dominate her shorter opponent's two-handed ground strokes.

She looked ready to join the WTA Tour now, but first she plans to play college tennis at Southern California, Georgia or Georgia Tech. Frazier already is bound for Georgia.

"I played solid. I don't know my best shot. I only had a few problems double-faulting," Robinson said. "I can't do that in the qualifying tournaments. I have to work on that."

Robinson was honing her game for another qualifying tournament, one starting this weekend in Miami, Fla.

This one will serve as pre-qualifying for the Nasdaq qualifying tournament.

While Frazier attends a private high school in northeast Atlanta, she said she hasn't played in a junior tournament since the summer. She still holds a No. 14 national junior ranking.

Robinson, on the other hand, has been ranked as high as the top three in the nation in girls' 18 and in the top 40 by the International Tennis Federation. But she has spent most of her time in recent months preparing for the next step, college and a possible pro career.

Junior Family Circle Cup (Monday)
Boys' 10 Singles - Semifinals
Stephen Behr, Florence, d. Peter Pritchard, Charleston 6-1; 6-0; Robbie Mudge, Huntersville, NC d. Chip Cox, Myrtle Beach 6-1, 6-0.

Boys' 10 Singles - Final
Mudge d. Behr 2-6; 6-4(7).

Boys' 12-Round of 16
Randall Heffron, Charleston, d. Dave Fosnacht, Blythewood 4-0; 3-5; 10-5.

Boys' 12 Singles - Semifinals
William Parker, Shelby, NC d. Billy Kenny, Pawleys Is. 6-1; 6-0; Thomas Fanjoy, Statesville, NC d. Pruitt Williams, Florence 7-5; 7-5.

Boys' 12 Singles - Final
Parker d. Fanjoy 6-2; 6-2

Boys' 14 Singles - Semifinals
Preston Spencer, Statesville,NC d. David Hopkins,Winston-Salem, NC 6-4 Ret(inj); Rich Pugh, Martinez, GA d. Jarmere Jenkins, College Park, GA 4-0 Ret. (ill).

Boys' 14 Singles - Final
Pugh d. Spencer 6-2; 7-5.

Boys' 16 Singles - Semifinals
Mario Myles, Stone Mt.,GA d. Matt Stanley, Kingsport,TN 3-6, 6-1, 7-5; Troy Freeman, N. Augusta, d. Chris Jordan, Fayettevl, GA 6-1; 6-0.

Boys' 16 Singles - Final
Freeman d. Myles 6-1; 6-1.

Boys' 18 Singles - Semifinals
Ben Rogers, Kingsport, TN d. Mason Schermerhorn, Colfax, NC 4-6; 6-3; 6-2; Thomas Stoddard, Greenwood, d. Andrew Stubbs, Hilton Head 6-3; 6-3

Boys' 18 Singles - Final
Rogers d. Stoddard 6-4; 6-2

Girls' 10 Singles - Semifinals
Jenny Falcone, Davidson, NC d. Polly Poulnot, Mt. Pleas 6-0; 6-0; Devon Sutherland, Charlotte d. Alyssa Holbrooks, Florence 6-4; 7-6(6)

Girls' 10 Singles - Final
Falcone d. Sutherland 6-1; 6-1.

Girls' 12 Singles - Semifinals
Tori Williams, Myrtle Bch, d. Amanda Schwarz, Charlotte 1-6; 6-2(4); Shelby Rogers, Mt. Pleasant, d. Amber Brown, Decatur, GA 6-4; 6-4

Girls' 12 Singles - Final
Williams d. Rogers 6-1; 6-2.

Girls' 14 Singles - Semifinals
Virginia Berry, Spartanburg, d. Kathryn Talbert, Mooresville, NC 7-6(5); 6-7(6); 6-2; Jennifer Stone, Greensboro, NC d. Allison Stanford, Pawleys Isl. 6-1; 6-2

Girls' 14 Singles - Finals
Stone d. Berry 4-6; 6-4; 6-4.

Girls' 16 Singles - Semifinals
Teresa Wang, Charlotte, d. Lindsey Stuckey, Greensboro, NC 6-0; 6-3; Abbey Walker, Lancaster, d. Anna Evans, Vilas, NC 6-2; 6-0.

Girls' 16 Singles - Finals
Walker d. Wang 6-1; 6-2.

Girls' 18 Singles - Semifinals
Natalie Frazier, Riverdale, GA d. Helene Stephens, Hilton Head 6-1; 6-3; Shadisha Robinson, Hilton Head, d. Julia Koulbutskaya, Port Washington, NY 6-0; 6-1

Girls' 18 Singles - Final
Robinson d. Frazier 6-2; 6-2


(03/02/03)  Daniilidou emerges as tennis' Greek goddess
Who is the most talented Greek tennis player? No, not Pete Sampras. He's only of Greek origin.

What about Mark Philippoussis? Sorry, he's Australian.

Greeks in general aren't well known for their tennis skills. Remember Arthur Anastopoulo, the former city of Charleston pro of the 1980s and 90s? He was quite a tennis player, an All-American at the University of South Carolina, but not quite world-class level. Yet, he played on the Greek Davis Cup team.

Well, the current Greek greats include 147th world-ranked Vasilis Mazarakis, the only one of eight ranked men from Greece listed among the top 300 players in the world. And there are only four ranked women, one ranked in the top 400.

That one woman is Eleni Daniilidou. She's the real Greek goddess of tennis, currently ranked 16th in the world . . . and climbing weekly.

By the time she arrives in Charleston for the Family Circle Cup in five weeks (April 5-13), this 20-year-old could be a top 10 player.

The people at the Family Circle Cup have reason to be excited.

Daniilidou, just a shade less than 6 feet tall, started off the year by winning the singles title at Auckland, New Zealand, then made the round of 16 at the Australian Open. She also was in the Australian Open mixed doubles final with Todd Woodbridge. She upset Jelena Dokic, currently ranked ninth, last month at the Paris Indoors.

She also owns victories over Monica Seles, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo.

The Family Circle Cup has a proud history of introducing young stars to the tennis world, going back to former champions Gabriela Sabatini and Steffi Graf. A tall Greek named Eleni could be the next.

BALL KIDS NEEDED

The Family Circle Cup still needs ball kids. Training sessions will be held at Family Circle Tennis Center every Saturday through March 29, from 12:30-3 p.m., with a final, mandatory training scheduled for Friday, April 4 from 2:30-6 p.m.

Ball crew applications and additional information can be obtained by contacting Susan Honowitz at (843-686-4477) or Toni Young (843-766-3385).

GRAND PRIX NEAR

Snee Farm Country Club's first Adult Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for March 11-16. The entry deadline is Sunday, March 9.

Tennis director Dewey Caulder plans to make the event player-friendly, with food provided nightly and a party that Friday night.

The Grand Prix offers men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles in all levels. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop at (843) 884-3252.

FARMFIELD CHALLENGER

The second leg of the USTA's Lowcountry Junior Challenger Circuit is scheduled for March 14-16 at Charleston Tennis Center on Farmfield Avenue. The entry deadline is four days prior to the start of the tournament.

The first leg of the circuit was held last month at Snee Farm. The third leg will be held at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club.

COURTING KIDS

Courting Kids is scheduled to begin next Saturday at the Jack Adams Tennis Center adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium and on John's Island at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center. The program will run for seven weeks through April 26, from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams complex and 10-11:30 a.m. on John's Island. The cost is $10 per player for either site. For more information, contact program coordinator Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.

RECORD TEAMS

The city of Charleston's Elementary and Middle School League has a record-setting 82 teams signed up this year. Play will begin this coming week in 13 divisions. Sixty-nine teams participated last year.


(02/28/03)  Navratilova coming back to town to play doubles
So far this year, Martina Navratilova has already won three doubles titles bringing her career total to 168, the most of any man or woman.

This April she will return to the Family Circle Cup to compete in the doubles draw with Australian Alicia Molik. One of tennis' greatest players, Martina first played the Family Circle Cup in 1975 and, over the years, established numerous tournament records that still stand today.

The Family Circle Cup tennis tournament is set for April 5-13 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

Two of her doubles titles this year were at WTA Tour events in Australia and Dubai with new doubles partner Svetlana Kuznetsova. At this year's Australian Open she won the Mixed Doubles Championship with partner Leander Paes. The victory marked her 57th Grand Slam tournament title (18 singles, 31 doubles and 8 mixed ). She has won at least one title each in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at all four Grand Slam events.


(02/28/03)  Junior Family Circle Cup getting under way
Rain washed out what was scheduled to be the first Junior Family Circle Cup last year. Tournament officials have their fingers crossed that the tournament finally will become a reality this weekend at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

More than 300 juniors from 12 states are set to compete, including four of the top 32 girls' 18 players in the nation. That's because the girls' 18 division winner will receive a berth in the April 5-6 qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

Shadisha Robinson of Hilton Head's Van Der Meer Tennis Academy is one of the top girls' 18 players, ranked 28th nationally. Yet, she is seeded second behind 14th-ranked Natalie Frazier of Riverdale, Ga.

Robinson was ranked as high as third in the nation last year and in the top 40 of the International Tennis Federation. It's the chance to earn a wild-card berth in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament that caught Robinson's eye.

"That's the main reason I entered, and it's close (to Hilton Head Island)," she said Thursday.

Robinson, a 17-year-old from Queens, N.Y., attends Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island and also takes correspondence courses as a senior. She is considering Southern California, Georgia Tech and Georgia for college. A 5-8 left-hander who has attended the Van Der Meer Academy since September, she also was enrolled in Chris Evert's academy in Boca Raton, Fla., when she was 15.

Fifteen-year-old Katrina Tsang of Raleigh, is the third seed in girls' 18 and is ranked 24th in the nation, while Tory Zawacki, also of Hilton Head Island, is the fourth seed and is ranked 32 in the nation.

Charleston's Emily Applegate, who was awarded the wild-card entry into the FCC qualifying tournament last spring after rain washed out the junior event, is seeded eighth.

The tournament will have all of the normal junior categories, 10-and-under through 18-and-under for both boys and girls. Play is scheduled to start Saturday. Most of the finals are set for Monday.

All divisional winners will be invited back to the Family Circle Tennis Center April 12 for a special on-court awards ceremony during the $1.3 million FCC semifinals. "The Family Circle Tennis Center is the perfect venue to host a junior event of this caliber," commented Rob Eppelsheimer, the director of tennis operations. "We have received applications from some of the top juniors in the country and the talent that will be here this weekend will be simply amazing. Many of these kids will be the stars of tomorrow."

Ben Rogers of Kingsport, Tenn., is the top seed in boys' 18 and Andrew Stubbs of Hilton Head is the No. 2 seed. Nat Estes at No. 5 is the highest-seeded local 18 player.

Jarmere Jenkins of Atlanta appears to be the highest-rated player entered at No. 3 in the nation in boys' 12. Jenkins won singles and doubles boys' 12 titles at the recent USTA National Open Championships. He is seeded fourth in boys' 14 in the Junior Family Circle Cup, while Preston Spencer of Statesville, N.C., is the No. 1 seed.


(02/23/03)  Family Circle Cup cuts ticket prices

A hot ticket? The Family Circle Cup has created one. No, the tournament didn't give Anna Kournikova a bye to the final.

But ticket prices for the tournament's Tuesday through Friday night sessions have been lowered to $20 per session this year. This gives fans an opportunity to see world-class women's tennis at affordable prices.

The price last year for adults at night was $30 ($15 for 16-and-under). Two years ago when the Family Circle moved to Daniel Island, the cost for tickets was $40-$45 for night sessions. So, night sessions might finally fulfill their potential at the gate.
If Serena Williams plays on a Tuesday night as she did last year or Jennifer Capriati plays on a Thursday night, the upper decks should be covered by fans. It's a psychological thing. Fans now should perceive that they are getting a bargain for night sessions, rather than being offended by the tournament's otherwise high pricing structure.

Hopefully, the night opportunity will be the driving force that turns the tournament into a success at the gate in Charleston. The tournament should be able to build on that every year, growing in statue until tickets to the Family Circle Cup, this year scheduled for April 5-13, actually become the hottest in town ... even if Anna Kournikova sticks around for only a couple rounds.

SUPER SENIOR SUCCESS

Two local Super Senior men's teams, a 3.5 60s team from Seabrook Island and a 4.0 70s team, won sectional championships last weekend in Columbus, Ga.

The Allen Thompson-captained Seabrook team defeated North Carolina, 2-1, in the final after claiming three other victories and a default in the tournament. The success earned the team an invitation to the national championships later this year in Chicago.
The men's 70 team, captained by Ray Easterbrook, beat out three other 4.0 teams to capture the sectional title. Jerry Hanchrow, John Baird, Karl Bergman and Bill Herring also played on the team, along with players from other areas.

The team was the only 4.0 70s in the state. There isn't a 4.0 70s national tournament, according to Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer.

BASILE, THORNTON SHINE

Local juniors Jason Basile and Caroline Thornton experienced success in recent national junior opens. Basile lost in the quarterfinals of the boys' 16 main draw at Augusta, Ga., then advanced to the feed-in consolation final to earn a berth in the upcoming Easter Bowl tournament. Thornton made the round of 16 in girls' 12 at Sea Island, Ga., then advanced to the semifinals of consolation play for a 5-2 overall record.

COURTING KIDS

Applications for the Inner-city Courting Kids program have been mailed out by program coordinator Delores Jackson. Courting Kids will start March 8 at the Jack Adams Tennis Center adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium and on John's Island at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center.

The program will run for seven weeks through April 26, from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams complex and 10-11:30 a.m. on John's Island. The cost is $10 per player for either site. For more information, contact Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402..

ROSTERS DUE

The deadline for submitting rosters for teams that will compete in the city of Charleston's Elementary and Middle School League has been extended until Monday, according to city tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne.  The league is scheduled to start on March 10. Sixty-nine teams participated last year.


(02/16/03)  Should we now expect Serena in ATP event?
Now that Annika Sorenstam is playing on the men's pro golf tour, the next thing to expect is for Serena Williams to compete in an ATP Tour men's event.

Some promoter will get his wish, and it probably will happen now that Sorenstam has been awarded an invitation to play in the Colonial golf tournament in May. But if Serena is smart, she'll turn down any invitation to compete on the men's tour.

This isn't Billie Jean King against a washed up senior named Bobby Riggs. Sure, Serena might have success against one of Jimmy Connors' former senior tour 50-and-over colleagues, but not against anyone on the men's tour under 28 years old, and certainly not against 32-year-old Andre Agassi whom I think would beat Serena easily, say in the 6-0, 6-0 category. After all, Agassi is beating some of the best men's players in the game nearly that bad these days.

Remember, this isn't golf where players compete against nature, courses and distances, and directly against each other only mentally. In tennis, players compete against each other, both mentally and physically.

If another battle of the sexes happens, I believe the difference between men's and women's pro tennis would be much more obvious than between men's and women's golf.

Serena is strong and fast, but the average men's player is stronger and faster. Yet, the bigger advantages for the men are in overall quickness, agility and finesse. Most men would render Serena's offensiveness impotent and put her on the defensive. Her game simply doesn't match up well against that of talented men. I believe even a strong collegiate player would consistently defeat Serena.

MAYBANK PLEASED

Burnett Maybank, the namesake of the Maybank Tennis Center on James Island, feels like he has scored a major victory. He received word recently from Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. that the city of Charleston no longer is considering closing Maybank Tennis Center's entrance from Houghton Street and forcing tennis players to drive out of their way to enter the complex from a proposed new entrance off Fleming Road.

Maybank, who leases the tennis center to the city with an option to buy, also was told that the city plans to move forward in a renovation of the courts and grounds. The facility now has eight hard courts and three clay courts, with plans calling for converting two more courts to clay.

JUNIOR LEAGUE STARTING

The Lowcountry Junior Team Tennis League is getting ready to start another season. The league will be playing on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. for six weeks. The registration fee is only $10 for the six weeks, and that includes a ticket for one day to the April 5-6 Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament.

Most local clubs and pros have information on the program. Juniors also can contact league commissioner Peggy McElhiney of Summerville (843-821-8903) or Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman (843-795-0425) for information.


(02/14/03)  Fan-favorite Kournikova enters Family Circle Cup
The Family Circle Cup has scored another major victory. Anna Kournikova has officially entered the April 5-13 women's tennis tournament at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

Long regarded as women's tennis' premier gate attraction, Kournikova joins the likes of top-ranked Serena Williams, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 7 Jennifer Capriati, No. 9 Monica Seles and No. 10 Jelena Dokic.

Kournikova, once a top-10 performer and runner-up to Martina Hingis in the 1999 Family Circle Cup, is struggling with her game and injuries these days and is currently ranked 54th in the world.

"Anna has certainly played a major role in the increased popularity of women's tennis today," said Frankie Whelan, the executive director of the Family Circle Cup. "We are looking forward to an exciting week of tennis, and with players like Serena, Jennifer, Monica and Anna, how can you lose?"

Kournikova lost in last year's opening round of the Family Circle Cup to Conchita Martinez.

Kournikova then started to pull her game together and climbed to 35th in the world by year's end, some 39 places higher than she started 2002.

But after more nagging injuries late last year, she lost in the first round of the Australian Open.

She then withdrew from Tokyo's Pan Pacific tournament in late January because of a sprained back she suffered in the Australian Open.


(02/09/03)  Question marks looming over thriving WTA

The WTA Tour is truly on the mend, from the top players to top management.

Even at a time when the Williams sisters are lifting the women's game to a new level, the tour is dominated by question marks. Will Martina Hingis return to competitive tennis? Can Jennifer Capriati rediscover the game that took her to No. 1 in the world? Is Lindsay Davenport really back from a year of recurring injuries and how much longer will her fire burn? How long can Monica Seles persevere, fighting off numerous recurring injuries and age? And, of course, what about Anna Kournikova and her nagging injuries?

Then, there's top management. Both WTA Tour CEO Kevin Wulff and tour president and COO Josh Ripple have uncertain futures with the WTA Tour.

Wulff announced in January that he is leaving the WTA Tour to return to the sports footwear and apparel industry, this time with Adidas USA. Wulff worked with Nike for eight years before joining the WTA Tour in October 2001.

Ripple and the WTA reached a consulting agreement in December at Ripple's request after Ripple informed the tour that he wanted to return to the Los Angeles area. The agreement allows Ripple to have the flexibility to relocate while supporting the transition to a successor.

What all of this means, I'm not exactly sure. But as long as Venus and Serena Williams are going strong, they can carry the WTA Tour on their backs for a few more years.

The other players? That's a different story.

Hingis is only 22 years old, but her future in tennis is questionable after a long layoff with foot problems. She told a French newspaper last week that "a return to competition is inconceivable, in the short term at least."

By the time Hingis does return, if she does at all, the chances of her reclaiming one of the top places in the game are rather doubtful. Women's tennis, indeed, may have seen the last of Hingis as one of its premiere players.

Hingis apparently isn't ready to subject herself to the punishment of the tour anytime soon. She prefers riding horses to heavy training and repeatedly suffering losses to the game's power hitters.

"Stop talking about a comeback. You have to understand I really appreciate my new way of life. I am 22 years old and I have my whole life ahead of me. The only thing I can no longer do is to train in a way as to remain competitive," she said.

Don't feel sorry for Hingis. She won more than $18 million on the tennis tour.

Capriati had pterygiums, or sunspots, removed from both eyes in mid-November, but still played in the Australian Open where she lost in the first round. Her doctor now says it's too soon for her to return to the tour. Capriati, currently ranked sixth in the world, pulled out of the recent Pan Pacific tournament.

Kournikova also withdrew from the Pan Pacific with a back sprain that she suffered at the Australian Open.

Davenport and Kournikova are two of the last big names who still haven't entered the April 5-13 Family Circle Cup, along with Amelie Mauresmo and Kim Clijsters. Davenport and Kournikova usually play in the Family Circle when they're healthy, but Clijsters would be the big catch if she entered the tournament for the first time. After the Williams sisters, Clijsters probably is the best player in the women's game right now as her No. 3 world ranking might indicate.

Davenport showed encouraging signs in her game by beating Seles in the recent Pan Pacific final. An appearance in the Family Circle Cup might be only a token one by Davenport, since the surface is clay and Davenport is a power hitter with limited athletic ability and mobility. She has never advanced past the quarterfinals of the tournament.

COURTING KIDS TIME

It's time to start getting ready for another session of the City of Charleston's award-winning Courting Kids program. Both the Inner-city program at the Jack Adams Tennis Center adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium and the John's Island program at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center will begin on Saturday, March 8.

The seven-week sessions will run through April 26, from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams complex and 10-11:30 a.m. on John's Island. The cost is $10 per player for either site. For more information, contact Courting Kids director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.

LOCALS SHINE

Local juniors Jason Basile and Samantha Eppelsheimer experienced solid success in last weekend's BullFrog USTA Southern Section Designate tournament in Jackson, Miss. Both advanced to the 16-and-under semifinals and later won third-place matches in the tournament that invites only the top 64 players in the South in each group.

Basile, the fourth seed, lost to No. 2 Joshua Varela of Athens, Ga., in the semifinals, then defeated Ryan Farlow of Madison, Miss., for third place.

Eppelsheimer, who just turned 15, ran into former state junior rival Hannah Blatt in the girls' 16 semifinals. Blatt, one of South Carolina's top young players a couple of years ago who now resides in Nashville, prevailed in three sets over the fifth-seeded Eppelsheimer to advance to the final. Blatt is the daughter of former Western Carolina University head basketball coach and Barnwell native Greg Blatt. Eppelsheimer defeated Clair Bartlett of Chattanooga in the third-place match.

SNEE DEADLINE WEDNESDAY

Snee Farm Country Club has set Wednesday as the deadline for entering the opening tournament of the annual Lowcountry Junior Challenger novice circuit next weekend. Tennis director Dewey Caulder has announced that players can contact the Snee Farm pro shop (843) 884-3252 after 9 a.m. on Thursday to acquire their starting times.

The singles-only tournament will have all of the various age groups, from 10-and-under to 18-and-under for boys and girls.


(02/02/03)  FCC Tennis Center staff changes may sway juniors
What's going on at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center?

Two weeks ago when Fritz Nau stepped down as its tennis director, the the board of the world-class Daniel Island facility announced that veteran pros Stuart Small and Bryan Minton would step up and direct its highly acclaimed junior academy.

But guess what?

Small and Minton also have now left the Family Circle Tennis Center staff. Like Nau, they plan to continue teaching tennis locally. They haven't worked out all of the details on their next venture.

"It just didn't pan out for us to run the program (at Family Circle)," Minton said Friday.

Minton and Nau have longtime ties from Minton's junior days in Kentucky where Nau worked in tennis before joining the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. When Nau took over at the Family Circle facility at its opening in March 2001, he quickly hired Minton. Small, who played college tennis alongside Minton at the College of Charleston in the early 1990s, followed.

Meanwhile, College of Charleston graduate Mike Baker, who left the Family Circle Tennis Center staff late last year and moved to Atlanta, has rejoined the Family Circle facility and will direct the junior academy and other programs, according to tennis operations director Rob Eppelsheimer. Former ATP Tour pro Michael Strahan also has been promoted to fulltime status from part-time, and Sandon Barth will remain on the staff part-time through April.

"We are committed to bringing top quality teaching pros to this facility and we will continue to do that," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan.

"We have set a high standard for the Family Circle Tennis Center and both Michael and Mike believe in that commitment as well. As a former ATP Tour player, Michael Strahan adds so much to our program here at the Tennis Center. He has a tremendous amount of experience coaching kids on a junior national level, which will definitely benefit the kids in our junior tennis academy. He will also be instrumental in helping grow our development program for both adults and children.

"We are so pleased to have Mike Baker back on staff. His return has been met with enthusiasm from both the club members and the kids in our junior academy. Mike's love of the game is contagious and he transfers that excitement to everyone he works with."

Nevertheless, many local juniors who have participated in the junior academy may now follow Nau, Minton and Small.

Minton, a former City of Charleston and Country Club of Charleston pro, was instrumental in the development of a long list of outstanding players and has especially strong connections with local juniors.

"I think I'm going to try to stay in teaching and pursue my career as a teaching pro," said Minton, who once won the city championship four consecutive years. "(The Family Circle Tennis Center) is a great place, an excellent place to work, but at this point in time I didn't feel it was the right fit for me.

"I've got some strong relationships with my kids, and I would think some of the kids will follow me. I still see a lot of kids that started with me at the Country Club," said Minton.

Some of the players Minton helped develop in their early years at the Country Club include current Furman standout Mary Neill Hagood and Richmond signee Emily Applegate.

"I've got to look out for what's in the best interest for the people involved in my teaching," Minton said.

Small, who like Minton is 31 years old, has worked with Clemson signee Ryan Young.

Young and Applegate were considered to be the headliners of the Family Circle Tennis Center's junior academy, along with Samantha Eppelsheimer.

"I left (Jan. 24). I wanted to pursue some other options," said Small, a Myrtle Beach product who taught tennis at Wild Dunes, then the Tennis Academy of the South in Atlanta before joining the Family Circle Tennis Center.

"This was a big decision for me to leave Family Circle. I think I have a great relationship with some of the kids, and I think some of them will follow me."

SNEE FARM UP FIRST

The annual Lowcountry Junior Challenger novice circuit starts in just two weeks. The first of the three area tournaments will be held the weekend of Feb. 14-16 at Snee Farm Country. That coincides with the county schools' four-day Presidents' Day weekend. Call 843-884-3252 for more information.

CLAUSSEN, ROGERS TOPS

The official state junior rankings aren't out yet, but 2002 appears to have been a lean year for Charleston area players as only Kalee Claussen in girls' 16 and Shelby Rogers in girls' 10 captured tentative No. 1 rankings for last year.


(01/26/03)  Cold weather serves up tough tennis conditions
Tennis pros are somewhat like construction workers when it comes to foul weather. The type of conditions the area has experienced in recent days isn't conducive to the construction of tennis games.

Construction workers, the ones working, spend about as much time warming their hands as they do on the project itself when temperatures dip below freezing. Tennis pros usually aren't into the hand-warming routine. If it's that cold, they probably won't have anyone to teach anyway.

But all tennis players aren't the warm-weather types. If the sun's shining a bit, they feel it's their duty to hit the court.

It's just when they hit the ball, they've got to worry. Arm injuries often occur in freezing or near-freezing temperatures.

New City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson knows all about cold weather. He's a Swede.

"We start outdoors the first of May in Sweden ... that's in the south of Sweden," Andersson said Friday while sitting out the cold weather. "We go inside the 20th of August when school starts. That's in the south; in the north, they have June, July and August they can play outside."

Andersson's mother called Friday from the family home just south of Gothenburg, Sweden, all cheerful, saying it was like a spring day there. Andersson didn't spoil his mother's day by telling her it snowed here. This isn't Charleston weather, he probably would have insisted.

Actually, Andersson didn't mind the weather as he nursed an injury. He had a reason other than the injury to stay off the courts at Charleston Tennis Center.

"This (the weather, not the injury) comes at a good time," said the 35-year-old tennis pro.

"But I'm used to cold weather, being from Sweden."

Icy weather conditions obviously have an effect on a tennis pro's job.

"You obviously lose a lot of lessons. What I try to do is prepare for the spring program and the summer camp, and you make sure you get in shape yourself cause when February and March come you have to be in shape," he said.

"December and January are kind of slow months anyway. You don't get a lot of new people in December and January. It's in mid February when you start to get a lot of new students."

Of course, there are the diehard veterans, especially women.

"Some of these women are very tough. A lot of women are not afraid of the cold," Andersson said. "I have 65-year-old ladies who have been out there at 8:30 in the morning in 35-degree weather.

"You do have a lot of people who don't want to come, but yesterday (Thursday) when it was snowing I had a lady call and ask if her lesson was still on for 10:30."

Cold weather presents obstacles for pros even when the players show up, primarily staying warm but also the risk of injury.

"When we get cold weather we have to change things. You focus on keeping the players moving and not standing around. You try to avoid doing a lot of serving, because when you serve you kind of stand still. When it's 32 degrees you don't want to go out and serve for 20 minutes.

"You also focus more on warming up. It's easier to pull muscles in cold weather. You can get more tennis elbow. The muscle is cold and the strings are cold and not as elastic as they are in the summer. It's easy to get injured."


(01/23/03)  Henin-Hardenne signs up for Family Circle Cup
Justine Henin missed playing in Charleston as a teenager when an injury prevented the quick-rising Belgium star from appearing in last year's Family Circle Cup.

But still just 20 years old and soon to be ranked among the top four players in the world, Justine Henin-Hardenne is scheduled to play in this year's $1.3 million Family Circle Cup set for April 5-13 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

"Justine has that fighting spirit on the court that sets her apart from other players and that was clearly evident in her most recent match against Lindsay Davenport," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan.

Whelan was referring to Henin-Hardenne's 7-5, 5-7 9-7 victory over Davenport last week after being down 4-1 in the final set of a round of 16 match in the Australian Open.

Combined with Jennifer Capri-ati's first-round loss in the Australian Open, Henin-Hardenne's success in that tournament will enable her to move up from her current fifth ranking in the world past the currently third-ranked Capriati.

Capriati, top-ranked Serena Williams and No. 7 Monica Seles have entered the 31st annual Family Circle Cup.

"She (Henin-Hardenne) is a player that is improving more and more each year. I think the best is yet to come from Justine and the Family Circle Cup is the perfect backdrop to see that happen," said Whelan.

Henin-Hardenne debuted on the women's pro tour in 1999 by winning her first tournament, becoming one of only six women since the 1970s to win a singles title in her debut tournament.

She reached the 2001 Wimbledon final and has won six singles titles on the WTA Tour. She owns victories over Serena Williams, Capriati and Seles as well as $2,452,950 in prize money.


(01/19/03)  Nau in limbo after leaving job as tennis director
Former Bollettieri's pro and Andre Agassi coach Fritz Nau is in limbo after leaving the job of tennis director last week at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center.

Nau spent 18 years on and off at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida before joining the Family Circle Cup complex in March of 2001. He spent two years (1992-94) in Las Vegas working with Agassi.

He coached the Porter-Gaud girls' tennis team to a state championship last fall. He plans to remain in Charleston where his mother and sister also reside.

"That was a great facility and a great place to be for two years," Nau said Friday about the Family Circle Cup complex where he ran a highly regarded junior academy. "I just want to do a little different thing with my training.

"I was happy over there and everybody was nice to me, but I want to go a little different direction with what I do. I want to be real specific with the training I do."

Nau, a former University of Georgia basketball player and a native Kentuckian, leaves the Family Circle's junior program in good hands. "Bryan Minton, Stuart Small, Mike Baker, Sandon Barth, Michael Strahand and Sagi Zakin are as good as any staff I've had, even at Bollettieri's," Nau said.

Minton and Small will now head up a junior academy that trains 75-100 players, including the likes of Ryan Young, Emily Applegate and Samantha Eppelsheimer, the daughter of Family Circle Tennis Center operations director Rob Eppelsheimer. Baker left the Family Circle staff late last year.

"I want to be involved with great academics. College coaching has always appealed to me," said Nau. "My time with Andre (Agassi), Jim Courier and Monica Seles was the highlight of my career. I probably learned more from them than they learned from me. It was because of my connection with Nick Bollettieri that I was able to work with those players."

JUNIOR CUP SET

Family Circle Cup Tennis Center officials are hoping for better luck than last year with this year's Junior Family Circle Cup tournament, which is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3. What was supposed to have been the inaugural Junior Family Circle Cup was canceled last year because of inclement weather.

Some of the top juniors in the nation are expected to participate in this year's tournament, with the girls' 18 champion earning a wild-card berth into the April 5-6 qualifying tournament for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup. The winners of all main draw divisions (10-and-under through 18-and-under for boys and girls) will receive their awards during the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup on April 12.

BALL CREW NEEDED

Ball crew members are still needed for this year's Family Circle Cup. Training sessions are being held every Saturday through March 29 from 12:30-3 p.m. To receive a ball crew application or obtain more information, contact Susan Honowitz at (843) 686-4477 (susan@seapines.com ) or Toni Young at 766-3385.

BREWER'S NEW JOB

Charleston's Barbara Brewer continues to move up in the USTA hierarchy. Her latest job with America's ruling tennis organization is that of chair of its membership committee for the 2003-04 term.

That's quite a job considering the scope of the 660,000-member USTA. But Brewer is accustomed to big responsibility. She is former president of the Southern Tennis Association, the nine-state Southern arm of the USTA.

Brewer recently served as vice-chair of the USTA collegiate committee and committee chair for USA Team Tennis.

In her new job with the USTA, her committee will make recommendations regarding membership program policy and monitor those activities and projects that will increase USTA membership and enhance the benefits and services offered.

Brewer started her work with the USTA in 1986 while living in Arkansas. She has been a league participant since 1980.

She earned a B.S. in food and nutrition from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in health service administration from Webster University.

MONDAY LEAGUE DEADLINE

Time is running out for forming a new team for this spring's local USTA League. Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer has set a deadline of Monday for entering a team in the adult, senior or 2.5 senior leagues. Potential teams can contact Peiffer at BobPeiffer@aol.com.

CITY NOTES

-- The coaches meeting for the annual Elementary and Middle School Tennis League will be held on Monday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center.

-- The annual Valentine's Day mixed doubles tournament at Charleston Tennis Center is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 9 from 2-6 p.m. Contact the tennis center at 724-7402 for details.


(01/18/03)  Dempsey new director of tennis at Family Circle Tennis Center

By tennis standards, Jim Dempsey got a late start in the game.

But the Family Circle Tennis Center's new director of tennis, who began playing at age 15, has made up for it the last 23 years.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and Frankie Whelan, executive director of the Family Circle Tennis Center, welcomed Dempsey into his new job Tuesday at the Daniel Island facility. Dempsey replaces Fritz Nau, who stepped down earlier this year.

Despite his late start in tennis, Dempsey earned a full scholarship to Francis Marion College, where he played for three years. Before taking his new position, Dempsey taught at the Harry Hopman International Tennis Academy and the Vitas Gerulaitis International Tennis Academy, both in Florida, and he coached on the WTA Tour for six years.

Some of his pupils include Pam Shriver, Lisa Raymond and Lori McNeil.

"He has the ability to coach all levels from beginners to professionals," said Shriver, an International Tennis Hall of Fame member who addressed the press conference on a video presentation. "He will be a true asset to the Family Circle Tennis Center."

Whelan echoes that opinion.

"It was imperative for us to find an individual who fits with our mission on growing the sport of tennis and this facility, someone who has outstanding teaching, coaching and training skills," Whelan said. "Jim is the perfect choice for us and for the City of Charleston."

Family Circle Tennis Center is operated by Family Circle Magazine, and its feature attraction each year is the Family Circle Cup, a tier I WTA Tour event. But, as Mayor Riley pointed out, the City of Charleston facility is a public complex, which makes it a somewhat unique major tennis facility.

After playing No. 1 in singles and doubles at Francis Marion, Dempsey played for more than two years on the ATP Tour. His coaching career started at the Hopman Academy, followed by a stint at the Gerulaitis Academy.

He completed his college degree in 1992 by earning a B.S. in biology at the University of South Florida, then rejoined the Hopman Academy. In 1994, he was hired to coach on the WTA Tour. He has served as director of tennis at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando, Fla., for the last two years.

"As director of tennis, I want to help create a facility that will make Charleston one of the major tennis markets in the country," Dempsey said. "We have unlimited potential for growth."


(01/16/03)  Seles again takes aim at elusive FCC crown
There are only a few tournaments that Monica Seles hasn't won since turning pro 14 years ago. There's Wimbledon. And there's the Family Circle Cup.

She keeps trying to win both, but age is creeping up. She will turn 30 this year.

Seles will return to Charleston this year for the 31st annual Family Circle Cup, the $1.3 million women's tennis tournament announced Wednesday. A former world's No. 1 player and now rated seventh, Seles joins current No. 1 Serena Williams and formerly top-ranked Jennifer Capriati in the field for the 2003 Family Circle Cup, which is scheduled for April 5-13 at Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

"Professional athletes play such an important role in representing their sport. Women's tennis has been very fortunate to have a player like Monica, who has been a true champion throughout her career both on and off the court," said Frankie Whelan, the tournament's executive director. "She is the true definition of a champion and we look forward to having her back for this year's tournament."

Seles will be competing in the tournament for the sixth time. She lost in last year's round of 16 to French qualifier Stephanie Foretz.

Seles came closest to winning the Family Circle in 1997 in her first try when she took Martina Hingis to a third-set tiebreaker in the final. Seles also advanced to the semifinals in 1998 and 2000, then in 2001 missed the first Family Circle Cup played at Daniel Island because of an injury. She has an overall 12-5 record for the tournament.

She won two WTA Tour singles titles last year to increase her career total to 53. Seles owns nine Grand Slam singles titles and was the No. 1 player in the world for 178 weeks, one of only five players to hold the top ranking more than 100 weeks.

The tournament is owned and operated by Family Circle magazine.

A variety of ticket packages and special ticket promotions are available by calling the Family Circle Cup at (800) 677-2293.


(01/12/03)  Seabrook's Kimball on Davis committee
The Charleston area will maintain a prominent position on the U.S. Davis Cup committee despite the expiration of Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth's term as vice chairman of the committee.

Newly arrived Seabrook Island resident Warren F. Kimball has been appointed co-chair of the Davis Cup committee, along with Allen J. Kiel of Centennial, Colo. The two will replace the former chairman and vice chairman.

The Davis Cup committee's main job is to monitor and assist the USTA in Davis Cup ties. Other duties include working with the 17 USTA sections on community involvement in home ties as well as coordinating with USA Tennis High Performance and Fed Cup to revitalize the concepts of Junior Davis Cup.

Kimball recently completed a two-year term on the USTA's board of directors. He has been a USTA member since 1976.

He served as president of the USTA's Middle States Section from 1987-1989 and was named to the Middle States Hall of Fame in 2002.

A graduate of Villanova, Kimball received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown University. He was a professor of history for 30 years at Rutgers University and has authored four history books. He began a two-year position as a Mark Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor of History at The Citadel last September.

USTA LEAGUES

Last Tuesday's USTA League captains meeting had a record attendance, according to Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer.

Of the 325 packets Peiffer prepared for the meeting, only 25 weren't distributed.

"That's easily the largest number we've ever given out," Peiffer said.

Teams that weren't represented at the meeting can still field teams by contacting Peiffer at BobPeiffer@aol.com to receive a captain's packet.

-- In addition to possibly starting a senior 2.5 league this spring, Peiffer thinks there is sufficient interest in having 2.5 adult league competition for both men and women. According to Peiffer, LCTA board member Thom Nolan is heading a group attempting to establish a 2.5 adult league. Nolan can be contacted at 851-8466 or at tigertfn@aol.com.

WHERE'S ANNA

Now that Jennifer Capriati has joined Serena Williams for the April 5-13 Family Circle Cup, what about the other player on this year's promotional pamphlet? Anna Kournikova, of course. Kournikova has recovered from her injuries and has advanced to 38th in the world.

-- Another player who has climbed quite a bit since last year's Family Circle Cup is 18-year-old Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian of Switzerland, who has moved up to 36th in the world after finishing as runner-up last weekend to Nathalie Dechy at Gold Coast, Australia, losing in three sets.

Mikaelian started 2001 ranked No. 339 and came here last year for the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament ranked 65th. She didn't have to qualify, thanks to a withdrawal.

-- If you missed it, Capriati suffered a second-round loss to Tatiana Panova of Russia Tuesday in the Adidas International in Sydney, Australia. Capriati's last title came at the 2002 Australian Open. This year's version of the Down Under Grand Slam starts Monday. Capriati draws Marlene Weingartner in the first round.


(01/09/03)  Capriati will return to play in Family Circle Cup
Former champion Jennifer Capriati will return to Charleston for this year's Family Circle Cup, giving the $1.3 million women's tennis tournament two of the top three players in the world.

Top-ranked Serena Williams committed earlier to the April 5-13 tournament. Capriati is currently ranked third, behind No. 2 Venus Williams.

"Jennifer is a terrific competitor on the court and fans truly appreciate that quality in her," Frankie Whelan, the tournament's executive director, said Wednesday in announcing Capriati's commitment.

"They (fans) know she will give them her best because anything less is not acceptable. She has earned her success by believing in herself, and women's tennis in turn has reaped the benefits."

Capriati, winner in 2001 of the inaugural Family Circle Cup played at Daniel Island, has won 13 singles titles, including two Australian Open titles and one French Open.

After winning last year's Australian Open, she reached three finals (Scottsdale, Ariz., Miami and the Canadian Open), but failed to win another tournament.

Iva Majoli won last year's Family Circle Cup by defeating Patty Schnyder in the final. Neither player has committed yet to this year's event. A variety of ticket packages is available by contacting the Family Circle Cup at (800) 677-2293 or (843) 856-7900.

(01/05/03)  Nagging injury hampers Clemson-bound Young
Emily Applegate and Ryan Young are awaiting the next phases of their tennis careers in much the same way.

Both attend the junior academy at Family Circle Tennis Center, and both have already signed college tennis grants. Applegate is eager to complete high school at Porter-Gaud and step onto the college scene at Richmond. Young, a School of the Arts senior, also is excited about his next step in tennis, at Clemson.

But while Applegate is at the height of her game, Young has been hampered the last two months by an injured right wrist. It's the same injury that forced Young to withdraw in November from the Isle of Palms Invitational.

Young suffered the injury in November while competing in an International Tennis Federation junior event at Hilton Head Island when he ran into a fence and jammed his wrist on a pole.

Fortunately, Young is a left-hander. His forehand is as strong as ever. So is his wicked left-handed serve. But he has to make adjustments for his normal two-handed backhand. He's hitting a one-handed slice backhand until the wrist heals.

"It doesn't affect anything other than my backhand," Young said.

Young has been a dominant figure in state junior circles throughout his career. He is usually regarded as one of the top juniors to come out of the Charleston area in the last quarter century. He owns the record for the most singles and doubles titles won at Belton.

Clemson coach Chuck Kriese expects Young to play at one of the top levels on his always strong Atlantic Coast Conference team. Young's goal is to be a starter as a freshman.

Young selected Clemson because, "It was the best school and best financial offer."

Applegate visited Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Princeton, North Carolina and Richmond, but the others weren't as interested in Applegate's tennis as Richmond. Plus, she had more fun at Richmond. "I had a lot of fun there on my visit, the most fun of any of my visits," Applegate said.

CAPTAINS MEET TUESDAY

That's right. It's time to start thinking about USTA Adult League tennis again.

The captains meeting for the spring league is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Wando High School.

Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer said, "This year will be one of significant change for the USTA League Tennis Program. I strongly encourage all captains to attend."

-- The USTA's senior leagues do not offer divisions for 2.5-rated men or women, but the Southern Tennis Association has decided to sponsor a 2.5 senior league. The STA's 2.5 league, although separate from the USTA League, will function much the same way with state and sectional tournaments. The STA, of course, will not hold national championships and senior 2.5 match results will not be used to calculate computer ratings for players.