2004

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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(12/19/04)  Family Circle eyes strong 2005
Support for the Family Circle Cup continues to grow each year. Headed into its fifth year on Daniel Island, the $1.3 million women's tennis tournament could have its best year in 2005.

Not only is the economy improving and local tennis interest growing in appreciation of this Tier I event, there should be a carryover effect from the highly successful Davis Cup semifinal staged at Family Circle Magazine Stadium in September.

Also, there is the possibility that Maria Sharapova may enter Family Circle Cup 2005. Tournament director Mike Finley said the Family Circle will start releasing player entries in early January for the April 9-17 tournament.

While tournament attendance hit a local record of 91,410 last April, courtside box seats have been one of the tournament's hottest properties at the world-class tennis stadium. This prime piece of seating, which is only a few feet away from the players, always has a waiting list.

Therefore, when Santee Cooper's board announced last Monday that the state-owned utility was cutting contributions to the Family Circle Cup out of its budget, Finley hardly batted an eye. Santee Cooper has purchased a first-level box each of the Family Circle Cup's years in Charleston, he said. Otherwise, Finley said, the tennis tournament doesn't receive funding from Santee Cooper.

As for the box seats, employees, clients and others from some other business or corporation will be smiling, because they will move off the waiting list and into Family Circle Magazine Stadium for next year's tournament, replacing Santee Cooper.

"The waiting list for first-level boxes has grown each year," Finley said.

Boxes vary from five to 12 seats. Each seat costs between $700 and $750 for the entire tournament, according to Finley.

Looking ahead to another Family Circle Cup, director of publicity Robin Reynolds is anxious to see the carryover effect from the United States-Belarus Davis Cup matchup that was held before large, enthusiastic crowds.

"The Davis Cup took us to a new level," Reynolds said. "It exposed our facility and Charleston internationally. I think having an extremely successful Davis Cup will have a carryover effect (for the Family Circle Cup)."

The expectation is that numerous Davis Cup ticket-holders who have never been exposed to the Family Circle Cup will want to experience that excitement as well.

NO LATE TEAMS

Christmas is less than a week away. And the weather may be too cold at times to think about spring or tennis, but the spring adult and senior leagues are almost here, too.

Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer has announced that the deadline for registering teams for the spring season is Jan. 14. There will be no exceptions, he insisted. Teams that don't have the minimum number of players signed up by that date won't be allowed to participate in the league.

"We have decided to take a hard line," Peiffer said. "We are committed to not allowing teams to be in the spring league if they do not have the requisite minimum number of players by (midnight on) the 14th."

The roster minimums, according to Peiffer, are: five players for adult 2.5 and 5.0 teams; eight players for all other adult teams; and at least six players for senior teams.

RATINGS AVAILABLE

USTA League individual ratings for 2004 are now available through the LCTA's www.lowcountry.usta.com Internet site. To check for ratings on the LCTA site, select "TennisLink-Leagues" on the left of the screen, then select search for "Year-End NTRP Ratings" in the middle of the next screen.


(12/12/04)  U.S. team: Wait until next year
Few tears were shed by Americans last Sunday in Seville. This year was all about next year for the U.S. Davis Cup team. Captain Patrick McEnroe and his charges insisted repeatedly that they could win this year's Davis Cup, even on Spain's dreaded red clay. Few people really believed it possible, maybe not even the U.S. team itself.

The Spaniards had their weekend - make that year - on red clay. They may not see home during the next Davis Cup season. That's the Davis Cup bounce. One year you can be the champ playing at home; the next year you're strictly a tourist. It all depends on the location of the last tie between competing nations.

If Spain and the United States happen to meet in next year's final, the match would be played in this country. By the luck of the draw, the Americans played their first three matches of 2004 at home before finally going on the road for the loss to Spain. With any luck, the United States could play three of four Davis Cup matches next year at home, including the last two rounds.

The Americans had their fill of red clay last weekend. Spain won only 3-2, but the U.S. squad failed to produce a victory over what might be called Spain's first team. Juan Carlos Ferrero subbed for young Rafael Nadal in doubles after Nadal had beaten Andy Roddick a day earlier to stake Spain to a 2-0 lead. Spain's other loss came in Sunday's dead-rubber when Tommy Robredo replaced Nadal against Mardy Fish.

With Spain's red clay definitely out of the Americans' picture for 2005, they aren't worried about the red clay of France, either. A possible France-U.S. semifinal would be played on U.S. soil, make that American cement or asphalt.

A U.S. Davis Cup championship looks like a good bet in 2005. But some things could go wrong, such as:

-- Andy Roddick suffers a serious injury or the Bryan brothers get out of sync.

-- Belarus gains revenge in a second-round match on its home turf, especially with big Max Mirnyi playing on a fast indoor court; of if they beat the Belarussians, the Americans might have to travel to that part of the world again to face Russia in the semifinals.

-- Or Argentina's clay-court brigade led by Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian and French Open champion Gaston Gaudio smothers the top half of the draw and invites the Americans to South America for the final.

-- Or maybe worst of all, if Roger Federer happens to find a solid partner in Switzerland and comes calling on America for the final.

All of those are possibilities, but the U.S. team members have got to like their chances in 2005.

CHANGE? WHY?

Everyone seems to think the Davis Cup format needs altering. Why? I doubt if there are many people in Spain wanting to change things. A record crowd of more than 27,000 demonstrated the practicality of the current Davis Cup format.

Why risk taking the spirit out of the Davis Cup by changing it? The Fed Cup may have been lucky with this year's "Final Four" in Moscow. Russia simply had the best women's players in the world. Otherwise, Moscow might have been spiritless.

Parties such as the one the Spanish threw last weekend in Seville far outweigh any negatives of the Davis Cup's current four-weekend format that crowns a champion from 16 World Group qualifiers. So what if the Spanish won? They also likely would have won on a clay court anywhere else in the world. Of course, a Fed Cup "Final Four" approach wouldn't always be fair, for instance if the Europeans were forced to play the final two rounds on a neutral hard court each year, just as it wouldn't be fair to the Americans to have to play the last two rounds on clay.

The current format spaces four weekends over the entire year, but it's wait until next year by mid-summer (next year's quarterfinals have been shifted from early April to July 15-17) for all but the last four survivors.


(11/28/04)  Basile, Furman impress each other
Jason Basile didn't expect to be attending college in South Carolina next fall. His top choices were Colgate, Richmond and Davidson.

Then, he visited Furman and met veteran coach Paul Scarpa. That one trip to the lush Furman campus just north of Greenville made Basile's decision easy. He's now headed for Furman on a tennis grant-in-aid.

"It was just what I was looking for, just the kind of school I wanted to be a part of," Basile said about his visit to Furman. "I liked the coach. Coach Scarpa is so passionate about the game. I like that. He's one of the winningest coaches ever.

"When I went there I stayed with the team and watched practice. I knew some of the players on the team."

Scarpa, a Charleston native who is in his 38th year as Furman's men's coach, was just as impressed by Basile. "Jason is one fine individual. He's a great kid, with a great attitude. All our team members really liked getting to know him on his visit," Scarpa said.

Scarpa's Furman teams have won 14 Southern Conference regular-season titles and 10 tournament titles. He's the third-winningest coach in NCAA Division I men's tennis.

Basile also liked the charm of Furman and its campus. "The campus is beautiful, and it's a small school, and a good academic school," said Basile.

He was equally impressed by the Paladins' excellent tennis facilities. Furman has a four-court indoor complex, and two other six-court layouts so that both the men's and women's teams can practice at the same time.

The Charleston County School of the Arts student played high school tennis for West Ashley as a freshman. He hasn't played at the high school level since. But just because he doesn't play high school tennis doesn't mean Basile isn't fully committed to the sport. The 17-year-old plays or practices tennis almost every day. He's been in Louisville much of the last week participating in the Southern Indoor Open.

The last several years Basile has worked out of Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy. "I work on tennis six days a week, Monday through Saturday two hours a day during the school year," Basile said.

In addition to the tennis sessions with Nau's academy at Mount Pleasant's Creekside Tennis and Swim, Basile participates in a weight program twice a week.

"Jason has had a lot of good coaching," said Scarpa. "He has had an excellent junior career with the help of a lot of fine coaches in the Charleston area."

The list of coaches Basile has worked with also includes College of Charleston tennis director Angelo Anastopoulo as well as other local teaching pros.

Basile has been ranked as high as 24th nationally as a junior. He has won five titles at Belton, counting singles and doubles, and has been a Belton finalist seven times. He has won a Southern doubles title and has been recognized in the South and nationally for sportsmanship.

He has played three times (twice in boys' 16) in the National Hard Courts at Kalamazoo, Mich., once reaching the round of 64. Next summer he plans to make that tournament his final junior event. He will attend a special banquet in Kalamazoo honoring players who have played the event four times.

He also won this year's Charleston men's singles title.

"It's definitely been a busy year. I've probably played in 15 tournaments," he said. "I played a lot of tournaments to try to improve my ranking for college. I've already signed, but I still want to stay focused on junior tournaments."

Despite the heavy travel schedule, he has maintained a class ranking of No. 2 in the School of the Arts' senior class of 95 students.

Much of the travel is with his mother, Jo Ellen, some by airplane during the school year due to the limited amount of time he can miss school. His older brother, Jeff, a senior at Middletown, Conn., Wesleyan University who will graduate in December and already has been accepted to MUSC, also took Jason on some car trips in the summer. Dad Jan Basile is a physician who teaches at MUSC and practices at the Veterans Hospital.


(11/22/04)  Whitesell tops Henderson in men's 30 final

SOUTHERN SENIOR CLAY COURTS

KIAWAH ISLAND-Phil Whitesell and Chris Henderson may be taking turns winning the Southern men's 30 singles title, but not in doubles. They're a constant in doubles.

After Whitesell defeated the defending champion Henderson, 6-3, 6-4, for the singles title Sunday, the two Charleston players won their second straight men's 30 doubles title in the Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Tennis Championships at Kiawah Island.

Whitesell and Henderson defeated Chad Dyer of Richmond, Ky., and Harold Pleasant of Charlotte, 6-2, 6-3, for the doubles title. "Chris has the big game. I just basically kept him off the net. Then when I got my chance, I attacked," said Whitesell, 34, the College of Charleston's men's tennis coach. "The clay slows his serve down some, and I get a chance to return it."

Whitesell got down a break in the third game of the match, but won nine of the next 11 games to finish off the first set and take a 4-1 lead in the second set. Henderson, a former Furman player, was still feeling the effects of a long three-set victory Saturday over top-seeded Todd Smith of Dickson, Tenn., the nation's No. 1 men's 30 player.

"Phil has my serve down," said the left-handed Henderson. "We play together all the time and he knows my game. He returns so well that that's the best part of his game, and it takes my serve out of the equation."

Leg cramps forced top-seeded Susie Peiffer of Charleston to retire from the women's 50 singles final when she was down 4-1 in the second set after winning the first set 7-5 against unseeded Donna McKenna of Bluffton. Peiffer recovered to play the 50 doubles final with Janel McGinley of Albany, Ga.
Mike Saia def. James Beck 7-5, 6-3; Even though the top-seeded Peiffer-McGinley team lost to Carla Brown of Atlanta and Jan Kirkland-Cochran of Knoxville, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, Peiffer and McGinley finished the year as the South's No. 1 pairing.


(11/21/04)  Raptors' Richards earns title
Dana Richards' tennis game often gets overlooked. Just last weekend, she wasn't seeded for the Class AA-A state individual championships.

It didn't matter that she had lost only three matches in two years as Academic Magnet's No. 1 player. Of course, she still has lost only those three matches, and now has a state championship gold medal to add to her tennis collection.

Perhaps, it's because her compact strokes are slightly different from those pictured in the tennis magazines. But whose aren't? Or maybe it because she didn't play for one of the usual local tennis powerhouses, Porter-Gaud or Bishop England.

But Dana Richards is one whale of a tennis player. If smarts or competitiveness were the only criteria for tennis success, she probably already would be on the WTA Tour. When this highly focused 17-year-old steps on a tennis court, it's all about concentration and competition.

If it comes down to outsmarting the opposition, she can do that, too. She plays even smarter than her 1,420 SAT score and No. 6 ranking in the Academic Magnet senior class.

She also prides herself on conditioning. She runs three miles three times a week. When a rained-out Friday session made it necessary to win three matches on Saturday and another one last Sunday to claim the state title, she was well prepared for the challenge.

"I had no clue who I was going up against. I had no expectations whatsoever," Richards said. "I wasn't really surprised that I won. I just wasn't sure."

She just knew that Sabra Rogers of Bishop England was seeded. Rogers had handed Richards her only loss of the season while splitting two regular-season matches. Richards defeated one strong player, Waccamaw's Allison Stanford, in the quarterfinals, then won her semifinal match at love, while top-seeded Marit Langhem of Green Sea-Floyds, a foreign exchange student from Germany, defeated Rogers in three sets in the semifinals.

Those results left Richards facing a player in the final she knew very little about. Richards had not been available when the Raptors and Green Sea-Floyds squared off in the state team playoffs. But Langhem proved to be no match for Richards' consistency and quickness in the final as Richards prevailed, 6-2, 6-0.

Richards hopes to attend the University of Virginia next fall, but probably not on a tennis scholarship. She applied for early decision and expects an answer in a few weeks.

Her parents started her playing tennis on the courts at downtown Colonial Lake when she was seven years old. Both parents are active league tennis participants, and her younger brother, Brice Richards, is a sophomore on the Academic Magnet boys' team and one of the top juniors in the state. It was only natural that Dana also fell for tennis.

The slender 5-7 blonde makes up for any absence of perfect strokes with near-perfect preparation, quickness and footwork. Her compact strokes actually enhance her quickness and shot preparation.

"I'm going to do all of the tournaments I can," she said, looking ahead to the spring junior season that is capped by Belton. Currently, she is the No. 1-ranked player in the state in girls' 18 after being ranked sixth in girls' 16 for 2003.

"Tennis is a great way to get exercise. It's a great way to spend time with my family as well as meet new people. It's a challenge, something I really love. There's always a new element of my game that I can go out and work on. I like the challenge. I like competing," said Richards, currently coached by Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson.

Dana Richards didn't mind not receiving another tennis trophy. She already has plenty of those. She was quite happy with a special state championship T-shirt and gold medal.


(11/14/04)  Wando savors title run
The pressure's on. What can Becky Williamson do for an encore after directing Wando to the school's first girls' tennis state championship in a decade?

The top four players are underclassmen. A second straight Class AAAA state title looms as a likely possibility.

"I told my girls I'm not looking ahead to next year. I'm just enjoying my moment now. It's been fun," Williamson said Wednesday night. She was looking forward to the team being honored Friday night at halftime of Wando's state playoff football game.

Samantha Eppelsheimer is one of the returnees for next season after missing most of the regular season and then coming along for the state playoff ride. The South's 27th-ranked girls' 16 player was just the boost the Warriors needed for the playoffs. As it turned out, Eppelsheimer wasn't used for doubles in the playoffs since none of the five matches came down to a decisive No. 1 doubles confrontation. If any had, she would have been Wando's ace in the hole.

The heart and soul of this team were freshmen Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller, and eighth-grader Hagan Edgerton, all of whom went unbeaten in the state playoffs at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles, respectively. That left the Warriors needing only one more victory to win each match.

Eppelsheimer came through with the needed victory at No. 1 singles in the Lower State semifinal against defending state champion Irmo. The No. 2 doubles team of Kori Hale and senior Stefanie Mitchell provided the cushion in last weekend's 4-2 state championship victory over Spartanburg. Those were Wando's only close calls in the playoffs.

"The third round was the most important," Williamson said. "Samantha beat Haley Baird of Irmo (in three sets) in that one. That was a big win. Without her (Eppelsheimer), getting past Irmo would have been real tough," she said, adding that Baird had beaten Diamond in straight sets at Belton's Hall of Fame Classic. "We had been pointing to the Irmo match all season."

Irmo defeated Wando by one point in early October in the Belton tournament.

Mitchell, a sixth-year player, gave up No. 5 singles to play No. 2 doubles with Hale. They won four of their five matches in the playoffs, taking some of the pressure off the singles players.

In the High School League, the No. 2 doubles team is composed of two players who don't play singles, and their match usually is played while the five singles matches are in progress. In most cases, the No. 1 doubles match isn't played because the team match already has been decided.

Mosteller, who along with Diamond arrived at Wando this year from Palmetto Christian Academy, was one of the true stars of the team. Starting the season late after recovering from a broken leg, she went undefeated.

Wando received a lucky draw by playing its first four playoff matches on the six hard courts at the new Wando High School.

With the season over, Williamson now has time to concentrate more on her own game, and her family. She plays in the 4.0 Fall and Spring Adult Leagues, and the Combo League, as well as mixed doubles with her husband, David. Son Wilds, 19, a college student, and daughter Rebecca, a Wando junior, just watch from the sideline as non-players.

Nevertheless, it would be difficult not to think about next year. "We just have to stay healthy," the coach said.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Joseph Kennedy won the boys' 12 title at the recent Challenger Circuit Masters Tournament at Lexington's Topspin Racquet & Swim Club. Kennedy, who trains with pro Fredrik Andersson at Charleston Tennis Center, defeated top-seeded Paul Reed in the final.

-- Next Saturday is the deadline for entering the 24th Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center. For more information, contact the Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(10/31/04)  Mathis Ferry site of new tennis facility
The Family Circle Cup's move to Daniel Island, the creation of the Charleston Pro Tennis League and the Davis Cup all are putting their own stamp on Charleston tennis in the 21st century. Another venture is now being added to the landscape of local tennis.

A major training facility is under construction on Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy group is building a facility that will house nine clay courts and four hard courts on a site across from the old Wando High School. While the significance of this may appear minor, the implications are major. This is a vote for the future of Charleston tennis.

Of course, Charleston already has the world-class Family Circle Tennis Center and its successful training programs geared around a junior academy.

"I think we will have one of best tennis cities anywhere before 2010," said Nau, who has worked with Andre Agassi and Monica Seles as well as Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova.

This is obvious in an area that is quickly becoming a leader in American tennis. USTA officials publicly acknowledge that "it's not a matter of if the Davis Cup will return to Charleston, it's when." Charleston tennis doesn't appear to be close to its peak yet.

Nau, the former tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center, has moved his Charleston Tennis Academy from the courts at Porter-Gaud and the Jewish Community Center, both in West Ashley, across the Cooper River to Creekside Tennis and Swim Club. Nau's group now manages Creekside, which as Charleston Tennis Club was one of the area's early tennis leaders.

Agassi and other former Nau students at Nick Bollettieri's training facility in Florida played at Creekside in the satellite Skatell's Pro Tennis Classic in the late 1980s and 1990s. The Charleston Invitational Tennis Tournament was the forerunner of the Skatell's event, starting in the 1970s.

LEAVING PORTER-GAUD

As a result of his double venture in Mount Pleasant at Creekside and the Mathis Road facility, Nau is giving up coaching the Porter-Gaud girls' and boys' teams. He has the Cyclone teams to two straight state championships each prior to this fall, when the Porter-Gaud girls were upset in the state playoffs.

"I had to retire as high school coach. I wouldn't have been able to be in three places," said Nau, who became Porter-Gaud's coach after leaving the Family Circle complex. "Porter-Gaud School, kids and parents all were good to me. That was a great experience for me.

"I'm excited about the 11 hard courts at Creekside. We'll have a total of 24 courts (at Creekside and the new facility), and nine of them will be clay."

Nau expects some courts to be available at the Mathis Road facility in December. He plans to open the courts to members around Easter.

HEADED TO EUROPE

Four junior girls from Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy will travel with their parents to Barcelona, Spain, in late November for a week of training on red clay at an academy operated by former ATP Tour players Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez (Arantxa Sanchez Vicario's brother). The four players, all enrolled in online virtual schooling, are Caroline Thornton, Ashley Mitchell, Jamie Harrell and Morgan Ivey.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Jonathan and Meredith Barth were finalists in last weekend's Husband and Wife National Clay Court Championships in Ponta Vedra, Fla. The Barths upset the Nos. 2 and 4 seeds before losing to two-time defending champions Paul and Kathryn Settles of Claremont, Calif., in the final.

-- The City of Charleston is resurfacing the two courts at the corner of Harborview and Fort Johnson Roads on James Island, and from Nov. 11-26 will resurface two of the six courts at Jack Adams Tennis Center.


(10/30/04)  Marine Terminals takes CPTL title
Big-serving Toby Simpson took the pressure off team captain Joey Eskridge with near-perfect serving Friday night before a crowd of more than 500 at Family Circle Tennis Center to clinch the championship of the Charleston Pro Tennis League for top-seeded Marine Terminals.

With the championship already decided before they took the Clubhouse Court, Eskridge and Jay Bruner salted away a 3-0 Marine Terminals victory by rallying in No. 2 doubles for a 4-6, 7-6, 10-7 win over Beachside Real Estate team captain John Zepp and Brian Burke.

Simpson and Rodrigo Villarroel posted a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Beachside's Clay Gates and Paul Thurmond in the No. 1 doubles match to give Marine Terminals an unbeatable 2-0 lead. Bo Crouch and Dean Belk had already won at No. 3, 6-4, 6-3 over Beachside's Will Shelley and VJ Rao.

Simpson, a former Southern Mississippi star and current Citadel tennis coach, held service six straight times, including the decisive games of each set. "One game at 3-2 in the second set went to 30-all, but never to deuce," the 6-2, 28-year-old Simpson said.

He held service in the last game at love as Villarroel, a former Charleston Southern player, took advantage of Simpson's big serves to put away smashes for the last two points.

Crouch, a former Citadel player and coach, said, "We played well. Joey (Eskridge) wanted us to win bad." Crouch's partner, Belk, is from Rock Hill.

T-Bonz upset second-seeded Passailaigue Homes, 2-1, for third place.

The large crowd was partly due to an ongoing party by the State Combo League Championships at the tennis complex.

Marine Terminals 3, Beachside 0
No. 1-Toby Simpson and Rodrigo Villarroel (Marine Terminals) def. Clay Gates and Paul Thurmond, 6-4, 6-4; No. 2-Joey Eskridge and Jay Bruner (Marine Terminals) def. John Zepp and Brian Burke, 4-6, 7-6, 10-7; No. 3-Bo Crouch and Dean Belk (Marine Terminals) def. Will Shelley and VJ Rao, 6-4, 6-3.


(10/24/04)  College rules lend variety
Tennis rules seldom create headlines. One reason is that for the large majority of tennis matches, the judges are the players themselves.

The participants are the judges in most matches, from juniors, to adult leagues, even to some college matches and even in the early rounds of satellite professional tournaments. The player's word is usually final in those situations.

But it probably isn't widely known that tennis rules vary so much. College tennis, for example, follows USTA or the International Tennis Federation's official code, except in certain situations where Intercollegiate Tennis Association rules take precedence.

I actually like a couple of the college rules best. One is the ITA rule that stipulates that a "player who changes call from out to good loses point." However, in other non-officiated matches such as league tennis, juniors and some pros, a player can correct a call, then rule that the point must be replayed. This happens most often when the receiver puts a service return into play on a serve that was called out, then corrected it to good. In this case, unless the return was a "weak sitter," the serve is played over.

Another college rule I like is the one that states a "receiver's partner may not stand in service box." According to the ITF Code, the "receiver's partner may take any position on his side of the net in or out of the court that he wishes."

The college versions of these rules appear to create less controversy and provide better relations among the participants. There is also the college rule that forbids one player from calling a foot fault on another player. I like that one, too, because a foot fault called by one player against another could cause some tempers to flare.

STATE COMBO HERE

Between 1,300 and 1,400 players representing 136 league tennis teams will show up at Family Circle Tennis Center for the State Combo Championships next weekend. Friday night will be particularly unique in that the Combo League players will attend a social at Family Circle Tennis Center just prior to the start of the Charleston Pro Tennis League's 6:30 p.m. championship match.

Family Circle Tennis Center will serve as the host for the state tournament, in conjunction with the Daniel Island Club, Snee Farm Country Club and the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Kerr Tennis Center on Whipple Road. Twenty teams from the Lowcountry Tennis Association will compete. The state winners will advance to Mobile, Ala., in January for the Southern Section Combo Doubles Championship.

FOUR LOCALS WIN

Four local players won state singles titles last weekend in the S.C. State-Closed Senior Championships at the Litchfield Racquet Club. Ray Easterbrook won in men's 75, Mary Porter took women's 40, Susie Peiffer won women's 50 and Angela Williams captured women's 60.

BATTLE OF JAMES ISLAND

Another "Battle of James Island" Saturday is scheduled for Nov. 13 between teams from the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. Play will begin at 9 a.m. at the three sites, with men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles to follow. Lunch and the awards ceremony will follow. The day will be capped by exhibitions by players from the CPTL, The Citadel and College of Charleston. Call Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Lee Brockman at the Country Club of Charleston (843-795-0425). The entry deadline is Nov. 11 at noon.

THANKSGIVING EVENT

The Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is one of the oldest junior tournaments around. The 24th annual event will be Nov. 26-28 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadline is Nov. 20.

The tournament will have singles and doubles in all age groups, 10-and-under to 18-and-under. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402) for more details.


(10/10/04)  Roddick shouldering more than his fair share

The most disappointing tennis news I've heard recently was that Andy Roddick had a sore elbow. My elbow hurts, too, but American tennis doesn't depend on my elbow.

A sore elbow to me means that I may need to ease up a bit on my serve for a few days, maybe even take a pill to control inflammation. Who knows, the elbow may feel fine by the time the local 3.5 tennis league starts up Wednesday night. Anyway, I've got a good partner to carry me.

But Roddick with elbow problems is a different matter. The serve is what makes Roddick such a threat to win every tournament he enters.

Some experts have been anticipating shoulder problems for Roddick ever since his serve developed to world record-setting proportions. His right shoulder resembles a bazooka gun, with an explosion on his service motion that enables his racket to literally crush a tennis ball. A body part can take only so much.

News of Roddick's elbow injury last Sunday while losing to Roger Federer in the final of a tournament in Bangkok came only nine days after Roddick's blistering 155 mph serve during the Davis Cup semifinal at Family Circle Tennis Center. It also might be worth mentioning that in a meaningless dead rubber match on Sunday of the Davis Cup, Roddick lost control of his racket on a serve, then shook his right hand as if in pain.

Hopefully, Roddick will recover quickly and he can go back to hitting record-breaking serves. Tennis America needs Roddick and his enthusiasm for the game.

The fact that Roddick played the dead rubber against Belarus must have been inspirational to young tennis players in itself. Here's a guy who is as big as the game itself coming out to play a meaningless match just because a stadium nearly filled with fans wanted to see him play.

But that's what makes Roddick so important to American tennis. As he said in a Sports Illustrated article some time ago, "There's no home team in tennis, no built-in fan base, so the players have to step up and do their fair share."

Andy Roddick is definitely doing his fair share for American tennis.

LINE DUTIES, ANYONE?

Why would anyone volunteer to serve as a linesperson for a men's match, other than the obvious: receive free entry to the match and sit close to the action?

The speeds at which Roddick, Vladimir Voltchkov, Max Mirnyi and Mardy Fish were hitting serves in singles during the Davis Cup tie were anywhere between 135 and 155 mph. When the ball is coming at that speed, and a linesperson is only a few feet from the impact point, I doubt that the naked eye is capable of seeing the ball well enough to allow the linesperson to make the correct call on any serve close to the lines.

From my vantage point just off the court level, it appeared that any serves that were close, and sometimes not so close, were allowed to be played. This tendency gives the game's biggest servers such as Roddick an obvious advantage when they are playing opponents with lesser serves.

CPTL GOING STRONG

The Charleston Pro Tennis League is having another outstanding season, as the third-year league heads into its regular-season finale Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Snee Farm Country Club. Thus far, the CPTL has drawn big crowds at the College of Charleston complex, the Daniel Island Club, Wild Dunes and the Country Club of Charleston.

After Snee Farm, the league will start its playoffs the following Friday night at the I'On Club, then cap off its season at Family Circle Tennis Center on Oct. 29.

BASILE SPARKLES

Jason Basile took fifth place last weekend in boys' 18 in the Bullfrog USTA Southern Section Designated tournament in Raleigh.


(10/07/04)  ADAM FERRELL:  Resident draws black youths to tennis
Ronald Anderson isn't your typical tennis player. Black, middle-age, more than 6 feet tall and stocky, he looks more like a grandfather than a man who swings a racket every morning. But looks can be deceiving.

As much as Anderson loves tennis, his real passion is children. In his dream world, black children would play competitive tennis in numbers as high as children of other racial backgrounds.

That day may be dawning.

For 30 years, Anderson, who lives near Burke High School, has taught children with meager means how to hit yellow balls. These days, he has a regular group of about a dozen players, most of whom attend schools in the northwestern part of the peninsula. He picks up some of them every afternoon, carts them over to the Corrine Jones tennis courts north of Hampton Park and turns them loose with a basket of balls and tennis rackets. Afterward, they usually go by McDonald's before he takes them home.

He funds his unofficial tennis program out of his own wallet, about $3,000 a year, Anderson said.

He's seen some good players over the years, he said, including his own niece and nephew.

"I don't know what it is about the game that invigorates them," he said. "Once you get the bug, you can't shake it."

But sadly, he said, many black children do shake it. And often it's because they don't have the money to get the one-on-one attention it takes to excel at the game, he said. Anderson sees a divide in his favorite sport between the haves and the have-nots, and that often translates into white and black, he said. This is nothing new. It has frustrated him since he began playing in his 20s.

Anderson isn't the only one doing something about it. The city of Charleston's Recreation Department began a program called Courting Kids with grant money in 1992. Now it's a city-funded program. For $10, a child gets six or seven lessons either at the Jack Adams Tennis Center near The Citadel or at the Alan Fleming courts on Johns Island. Some 100 children participate in each of three sessions held each year, according to Peggy Bohne, the city's tennis manager. With no income guidelines, the program is open to anyone.

Bohne also oversees a recreation tennis league for elementary and middle school students attending public and private schools in Charleston. About 650 children play on about 70 school teams for three months in the spring.

Each team pays $15, which Bohne said only buys trophies since many public and private tennis clubs host games for free. Both programs are hits, she said, and some players go on to play on high school teams, a few even in college.

While Anderson supports those efforts, he said they don't develop the players' skills past the beginning stages.

Bohne acknowledged there hasn't been much inexpensive upper-level tennis training out there, but said that's changing.

She said the Courting Kids program is gearing up to start an advanced element this spring. But more significantly, a lot of local professional players are working with some children at low or no cost.

"They're not putting that message out there," she said. "Because everybody would want to do it."
 
Anderson's tennis buddy, Bob Dickson, who is white, said it may just take longer for black numbers to increase in tennis than in other sports.

It's been a club sport, and blacks didn't have places to play for a long time. The color barrier broke in tennis in the late 1950s when Althea Gibson became the first black woman to win Wimbledon and U.S. national titles.

It's always been easier and less expensive to have a pick-up game of baseball or basketball, Dickson said, and those sports draw more black children than tennis. So Dickson admires Anderson for his efforts and his ideals.

At 86, Dickson hits balls with Anderson at least five mornings a week at Moultrie Playground. Dickson came to Charleston in 1942 with the Coast Guard. He was the city tennis champion for a decade, once runner-up champion in the state, and he and his late wife were city doubles champions for years. He met Anderson on the courts, and the two grew closer over the years.

"He's the kindest-hearted fellow," Dickson said.


(10/03/04)  Would adding Agassi hurt or help U.S. hopes?
Facing Spain on its favored red clay is quite a challenge for America's Davis Cup hopes. Adding Andre Agassi to the mix might lessen the test, but only slightly.

Captain Patrick McEnroe tried to avoid the Agassi issue last Sunday after his team had wrapped up its victory over Belarus. And with good reason.

You see, McEnroe probably plans to be the American Davis Cup leader for a few more years, win or lose in Spain. Agassi might boost the U.S. team's hopes in the final a little, but the real question might be this: At what cost?

This Davis Cup team has chemistry, Andy Roddick's huge serve and emotion, Mardy Fish's sudden arrival as possibly a player to challenge the world's best, and twins Mike and Bob Bryan's contagious bump-and-win enthusiasm. Destroy this chemistry, and it might never come back together. McEnroe obviously realizes that.

McEnroe knows Agassi is a great player. He also remembers that Agassi hasn't wanted anything to do with Davis Cup since 2000, nor during McEnroe's tenure as captain.

Another Davis Cup year will arrive quickly. Croatia will be in the United States from March 4-6 for the opening round of Davis Cup 2005. That might be good timing for Charleston, but don't look for the Davis Cup to return to Family Circle Tennis Center for several years. An early round match at Kiawah Island might actually be the next local Davis Cup offering, but probably not next year.

A win over Croatia would give the Americans another home match against Romania or send them to Belarus - that's right, Belarus (and probably on a super-fast indoor surface with a boisterous crowd watching).

The great thing about next year, if the Americans happen to go deep into the draw again, is that both France and Spain would have to travel to the United States for any meeting with McEnroe's men.

Hello, fast surface; goodbye, red clay.

Now, it's easy to see why McEnroe probably would rather go without Agassi in Spain. Agassi would break the chemistry, then might not be available in 2005. Injuries, age and motivation might not be friends of Agassi in another year.

Of course, there is almost no room for error in the Americans' current Davis Cup strategy. It's not like the old days when Stan Smith or John McEnroe, or even Pete Sampras, could win two singles matches, as well as fill an opening in doubles better than almost anyone in the world at the time.

If Roddick or Fish happen to fall to injury during a tie, either Mike or Bob Bryan might become a liability in singles. Or if one of the Bryans were sidelined, Roddick or Fish might have problems in doubles.

Two factors played rather large roles in the latest American Davis Cup victory. Both depended on the United States being the host. Yes, the American quartet of Andy, Mardy, Mike and Bob was fabulous last weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center.

But the totally supportive crowd and favorable slow hard surface may have been equally decisive factors.

CHERRY TAKES OVER

Christy Cherry has been named Snee Farm's new director of tennis. She replaces Dewey Caulder, who resigned two weeks ago to join Family Circle Tennis Center.

Creekside Tennis and Swim pros Rich Shy and Rob Woods also will join the Snee Farm staff, according to Snee Farm general manager Mike Ashton.

Cherry is a former University of North Carolina player who has 25 years of experience teaching, coaching and managing clubs and resorts.

Snee Farm's facilities suffered damages in the recent storms, but the complex is currently upgrading its facilities by resurfacing all eight of its clay courts and all 10 hard courts.


(09/27/04)  Cup passion on Daniel Island

Two excellent examples of tennis passion broke out loud and clear Sunday.

Believe it or not, Andy Roddick played in a meaningless rubber match. Mardy Fish tried to play, too.

More than 9,000 fans actually showed up at Family Circle Magazine Stadium for what amounted to a day of exhibitions. All of this occurred under the threat of tropical weather. Amazing.

It's this passion that makes this particular U.S. Davis Cup group so special. And ditto for Charleston tennis.

The rain that arrived just as Fish moved to a 3-0 lead in the first set against Andrei Karatchenia was the only thing that placed a damper on the first Davis Cup event for this state. The semifinal tie had been long decided by that cancellation point, of course.

Roddick's call to duty in Sunday's first match, in which he overwhelmed Alexander Skrypko, 6-4, 6-2, made the trip to Daniel Island worthwhile for the ticket holders. It was a great and historic weekend for Charleston tennis.

THE 'LOVE-HOLD'

Move over wrestling. Tennis has its own hold. It's the "Love-Hold" as demonstrated by Roddick in his victory Friday over Vladimir Voltchkov. Roddick held service five times at love that day.

FOREHANDS IN THE MIDDLE

One reason Mike and Bob Bryan dominated the middle of the court in their tie-clinching doubles victory Saturday was that they put both forehands in the middle.

With left-handed Bob playing the deuce court and right-handed Mike on the ad side, they had two forehands in the middle 75 percent of the match. And where did Voltchkov and Max Mirnyi try to go most often?

Up the middle, of course.

MACS SUPPORT THEIR OWN

All tennis parents know how difficult it is to watch a son or a daughter playing. It's much easier to play than to watch, when a parent seems to die a million deaths in a tight match.

But that didn't stop the parents of Patrick and John McEnroe from following them to all corners of the globe. They were there when Patrick played Davis Cup in India. So when they came to Charleston, Patrick must have had goose bumps when he introduced his parents to a large crowd at last Wednesday's Davis Cup party.

HEADED TO SPAIN

The word is that the U.S. team will head for Europe to practice on red clay at some point in the next couple of months in preparation for the Dec. 3-5 Davis Cup final in Spain.

The red-clay practice can't hurt, because the Spaniards have quite a crew.

The emergence of 18-year-old Rafael Nadal in the decisive match of Spain's victory over France on Sunday is cause for concern. Nadal is one of the most talented players in men's tennis. Roddick handled Nadal easily in the second round of the U.S. Open on a hard surface.

But the left-handed Nadal has a huge forehand with natural topspin that suits clay perfectly, as well as a big serve.

LINE DUTIES, ANYONE?

Why would anyone volunteer to serve as a linesperson for a men's professional tennis match, other than the obvious - to receive free entry to the match and sit close to the action?

The speeds at which Roddick, Voltchkov, Mirnyi and Mardy Fish were hitting serves in Friday's singles were anywhere between 135 and 155 mph. When the ball is coming that fast, and the linesperson is just a few feet from the impact point, I don't think the naked eye is capable of seeing the ball well enough for the linesperson to make the correct call on any serve close to the lines.

From my vantage point just off the court level, it appeared that any serves that were close, and sometimes not so close, were allowed to be played.

This gives big servers such as Roddick and the other three singles players from Friday an obvious advantage when they are playing opponents with lesser serves.


(09/27/04)  Davis Cup likely to return to Tennis Center

The best Davis Cup attendance in America since 2000 and enthusiastic support for the U.S.-Belarus semifinal has convinced the U.S. Tennis Association to put the Family Circle Tennis Center in line for future Davis Cup competitions, and then some.

"We like Charleston not only for Davis Cup but also for Fed Cup," Jeff Ryan, director of team events for the USTA, said Sunday. "This is a facility designed for tennis in a strong tennis market, and it's certainly shown its willingness and ability to support this event. Why wouldn't you want to come back?"

The USTA-run Fed Cup is the women's international team version of Davis Cup.

With 9,189 spectators Friday, 9,427 on Saturday and 9,036 on Sunday (27,652 total), this Davis Cup drew larger crowds than any competition in the U.S. since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi led the Americans to a 2000 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles (37,728 total attendance).

Since then, U.S. host cities have included Winston-Salem, N.C., Houston, Oklahoma City, Uncasville, Conn., and Delray Beach, Fla.

But while the Daniel Island facility is one of the nation's best, Davis Cup has enjoyed good support almost everywhere over the last decade and USTA policy is to "spread the good word" to various markets.

"I can't say that we're going to be back in the next couple years," Ryan said. "But it's certainly reasonable to expect we would be back in the next five or six years."

Which would be fine with No. 1 singles player Andy Roddick.

"I can't remember (a Davis Cup) being better," said Roddick, who played in his ninth Davis Cup competition.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON GETS AWARD

Sunday was special for the College of Charleston tennis program and tennis director Angelo Anastopoulo. USTA president and CEO Alan Schwartz presented Anastopoulo with the USTA's outstanding collegiate tennis facility award between the matches. The award was given in recognition of the Cougars' sparkling new facility at Patriots Point.

LEGACY WALL

Family Circle Tennis Center also was presented with a plaque to be placed on the 40-foot-long, 18-foot-high hitting wall that the USTA and the Family Circle complex are having constructed at the complex. The wall will serve as a "living Davis Cup legacy" at the center.

HURRICANE WATCH

Roddick and Mardy Fish were more than a little distracted by Hurricane Jeanne, which rammed the Florida coast Saturday. Fish's parents live in Vero Beach, just north of Stuart, where the storm made landfall. Roddick's parents live in Boca Raton, south of Stuart.

"I want to make sure my friends and family are OK, but I can do that with a phone call and not watch The Weather Channel," Roddick said. "... Obviously, I worry and I feel for the people down there but I don't know if watching it makes it any better."

The Fish family home had major damage during Hurricane Frances, and took another blow.

"I think Vero Beach, they're in trouble there," Fish said. "I think (at) my parents' house the water was so high and the storm surge went up like another eight or nine feet."

SIGN OF THE DAY
"Snee Farm Loves Andy"


(09/26/04)  Davis Cup runneth over

If Davis Cup weren't enough tennis for the area, a couple of other ventures were linked to the big event.

The Southern Junior Davis Cup 12-and-under championships have been going on at Charleston Tennis Center in the mornings. Then the juniors head out to Daniel Island for lunch and the real Davis Cup.

On Friday night, the Charleston Pro Tennis League held its second-week schedule at the Daniel Island Club, drawing a big crowd as fans from the nearby Family Circle complex stopped by.

Marine Terminals defeated TBonz, 2-1; Passailaigue Homes blanked Palmetto Jaguar, 3-0; and Beachside Realty upended Blackbaud, 2-1. The three winners are all unbeaten after two matches.

The CPTL opened its third season a week earlier before a capacity crowd at the College of Charleston complex at Patriots Point.

In last week's matches, all three matches were 2-1 verdicts, with Marine Terminals defeating Blackbaud, Beachside edging Palmetto Jaguar and Passailaigue beating TBonz.

NATIONAL SEMIFINALISTS

Both the 5.5 and open men's league tennis teams representing the CPTL lost in the semifinals of the recent National Team Championships in Las Vegas. Both teams lost in third-set super tiebreakers with the team matches tied at 1-1. Both of their conquerors went on to win national titles.

MIXED DOUBLES CHAMP

An 8.0 team from Collins Park came back from a loss in its second match to win a State Mixed Doubles League Championship last week. Team members include captain Yasmin Bennett, Kala Ave-Lallemant, Nancy Ave-Lallemant, Greg Bennett, James Ferris, Valissa Ferris, Peter Mitchell, Harry Nguyen, Terry Pitts, Denise Queener, Alana Stogner, Tracy Stogner and Lana Swartzmiller.

U.S. SECOND IN CONNOLLY

The United States failed to defend its women's 55 Connolly Cup last weekend in Philadelphia. Australia took the final with a 2-1 victory over the Americans. Charleston's Brenda Carter served as U.S. captain.


(09/25/04)  Fish emerging as force in tennis
Yes, Charleston tennis, you can rock with the best of them. You proved that Friday afternoon.

And, yes, Mardy Fish, you can be one of the best. Actually, you may be America's best hope to challenge Roger Federer. Your game is complete. You can do it all.

That's not a knock against the man who put Charleston on the tennis map with a 155 mph serve that will be linked to this city and Family Circle Magazine Stadium for as long as it's a world record. Andy Roddick is nothing short of sensational.

But Mardy Fish! Wow!

I saw some glimpses of this Fish in the Athens Olympics. But then his head got in the way.

Against Max Mirnyi in the second match of this Davis Cup tie, Fish kept his head from start to finish. The rest took care of itself. Fish's groundstrokes may be as good as any in the game.

I'm not ignoring the heavy top-spin clay-court brigade from Europe and South America, it's just that Fish's strokes are so good, so smooth, so solid, but not exaggerated with top spin. His winners are sheer poetry.

Hey, I'm not talking about Roger Federer. I'm talking about this tall, lean Florida resident who has given the United States a huge 2-0 lead over Belarus.

Of course, one match is not a career. Tomorrow is another day.

Yet, this may have been a breakthrough match for Fish, the equivalent of Federer's global introduction to tennis in a victory over Pete Sampras three years ago at Wimbledon.

Fish showed a rocking crowd of 9,189 maturity beyond his 22 years. He split the lines on big points, not only with that wonderful backhand, but with a serve that is approaching big-time status. He's no Roddick yet, but his delivery and location are superb.

Almost every time Fish faced a crisis on his service, he came through with pinpoint accuracy. Having lost three of his last five matches while up a set and one set from victory, Fish easily could have folded again.

Charleston tennis rose to the occasion in much the same way as Fish and Roddick. The passion of this tennis town came through loud and clear all afternoon.

MCENROE A GENIUS

The slow hard court installed in Family Circle Magazine Stadium at captain Patrick McEnroe's order was perfect for his Americans, but not so perfect for Mirnyi. The slow surface allowed Fish to repeatedly pass the big Belarusian, neutralizing the best part of Mirnyi's game.

Take the volley away, and Mirnyi was practically defenseless.

OVERHITTING HURTS

Poor Vladimir Voltchkov. He tried to match Roddick in power and failed badly. Over hitting by Voltchkov opened the door to Roddick's quick straight-set victory in the first match.

Voltchkov's forehand let him down, not the two-handed backhand that he had to rely on his sore left wrist. Probably because of a lack of match play, Voltchkov repeatedly failed to lift his over-hit forehands over the net.

Voltchkov banged his last serve of the match at 152 mph, so Roddick went out next game and hit a 160 mph fault, then lined up his incredible 155, followed by what two serves earlier would have been a world-record 154 mph.

Roddick's power was simply too much for Voltchkov to handle.


(09/24/04)  Davis Cup a rare chance to see world-class men's tennis

Big-time men's tennis is finally back. Of course, most of the best women's players in today's game have been through Charleston the last four years. And now the same site that has given the area the likes of Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Justine Henin-Hardenne, the Williams sisters and others - Family Circle Tennis Center - is ready to present Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers, along with Max Mirnyi and his Belarus teammates.

Only a few times in the last 30 years have top-level men's players performed in Charleston. There was the U.S. Clay Courts from 1988-90, but Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang were mere teen-agers, or practically rookies, when they played at Wild Dunes.

Agassi came back a few years later as an accomplished professional to take part in an exhibition at Dunes West that included none other than the current captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, Patrick McEnroe. Brad Gilbert, Roddick's coach, did play at Wild Dunes in the Clay Courts as a veteran.

In the 70s, while having the kind of success that took him to a Wimbledon final and Australian Open title, Roscoe Tanner put on several local exhibitions. One was against Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe at Creekside Tennis and Swim. Only a few hundred people attended the match, but that was about capacity. Tanner was Kiawah Island's touring pro for tennis director Roy Barth in those days.

Peter Fleming, in the height of his great doubles success with John McEnroe, represented Seabrook Island in those days and put on some exhibitions locally.

Fans at Family Circle Magazine Stadium should see tennis in a new way today. Today's men's game is all about power and big serves. Forget the volley.

Roddick's record-breaking serve can hardly be seen by his opponents, and even less by fans. He turns the fuzzy yellow ball into a yellow bullet. Lines people often stand to one side of the line, and lean their heads over to the line trying to stay out of his line of fire.

Most of the action today probably will be from the baseline, except for Belarus' Max Mirnyi, who will live at the net against Mardy Fish if the 6-5 Belarussian thinks it will help him win the match.

McEnroe would love to see Fish take a few bold steps to the net. McEnroe probably would even like to see Roddick at the net a little more against Vladimir Voltchkov. Then again, against the sometimes inconsistent No. 2 Belarus player, Roddick might not want to take chances at the net.

Voltchkov is not a baseline grinder, so you might see him taking chances by charging the net. That would seem to be a good strategy against Roddick's big serve if he can get the ball back into play.

NOTES

-- James Blake, who didn't make McEnroe's team, nevertheless was at the dinner, short hair and all, to show his support for the U.S. team.

-- Legendary columnist and TV analyst Bud Collins was the master of ceremonies. Bud was actually wearing shoes with his colorful outfit. In the old Hilton Head Island Family Circle days, Bud would direct a media tournament bare-footed.


(09/23/04)  Voltchkov may hold key for Belarus

Vladimir Voltchkov is the mystery man of this Davis Cup tie.

He's been around for a awhile, but only if you're an ATP Tour player, a fan of Belarus tennis or an avid Davis Cup follower would you be familiar with the ruggedly handsome tennis star.

He stands out in a press conference in which questions are sometimes asked in Russian. Like Max Mirnyi, the other half of Belarus' two-man wrecking crew, Voltchkov speaks perfect English.

But Voltchkov may be more than just the mystery man of this weekend's Davis Cup activities at Family Circle Magazine Stadium in which Belarus faces the U.S. He may be the decisive figure. Yet, he doesn't feel any pressure.

"Not really," said the 26-year-old Americanized Belarussian, who came to America about 12 years ago. "We have played two matches against two really big teams (Russia and Argentina). We played big points, big deciding matches. Now will be the pressure point. All of that stuff has made us immune.

"I think in Davis Cup every match is pretty important, and especially in a match like this. The good thing about this match for us is that you guys are the favorites and you have everything to lose, not us. We took every chance we had this year. We used every opportunity to progress in the draw of the Davis Cup, and now we want to enjoy ourselves and give a really good fight. That's what we are here to do."

The highlight of Voltchkov's nine-year pro career came in 2000 when he entered Wimbledon as a qualifier and advanced all the way to the semifinals.

Voltchkov has been hampered by injuries this year, but he's 3-1 in Davis Cup singles and 1-0 in doubles.

"This is a guy who plays a couple of tournaments then sort of disappears for a few months, then shows up against Argentina and drills somebody in straight sets on lightning fast courts," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said about Voltchkov at the U.S. Open.

Yes, Voltchkov is dangerous in Davis Cup play, demonstrated by his 20-12 singles record and the fact he and Mirnyi have won their last five Davis Cup doubles matches in succession.

Voltchkov pulled out of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament due to a left wrist injury. A right-hander, he said the wrist is fine now, ready for his two-handed backhand. In August, he advanced to the semifinals of a challenger in Spain and lost in the first round of the Olympics.

Next up for Voltchkov is record-breaking server Andy Roddick in Friday's opening session of the U.S.-Belarus semifinal. Voltchkov has never faced Roddick or Davis Cup teammate Mardy Fish. However, he and Mirnyi lost to Mike and Bob Bryan in doubles at the Olympics.

"I'm playing pretty well. I just haven't had any good results lately. I feel like I have nothing to lose. I haven't had a particularly great season, so I think I have the best in front of me," Voltchkov said.

How do you return Roddick's serve? "You just keep your eyes open, concentrate and try to get it back. I've seen him play a lot, and Max has played him several times."

Voltchkov has no pre-set style of play. "I like to go with the rhythm. If you need to go to the net, you go to the net. If you don't need to, you don't. I'm not a serve and volleyer. And I'm not a typical grinder from the baseline, either. I try to play whatever is needed," he said.

Mirnyi and Voltchkov played at the same club in Minsk, Belarus, when they were growing up. "My parents . . . they were both from the working families. We had a tennis club right near the factory where my father worked. That's how I got into the game," said Voltchkov.

"Then we both went to the States. He (Mirnyi) went to Bollettieri's, I went to Brooklyn. I guess we've always been shoulder to shoulder in our careers. I played tennis at Brooklyn Racquet Club and went to school there (Brooklyn) as well.

"A whole bunch of guys (including Belarus captain Sergei Teterin)" brought Voltchkov to the United States. "They were four former tennis players from the same club in Minsk. They went to work in New York. They took me and another girl to help out. I came to Brooklyn just to play tennis, and these guys decided to help us out. We were just lucky to be good enough to be chosen to come here."

ANOTHER MYSTERY MAN

Sergei Teterin is a bigger mystery than Voltchkov, but not back home in Belarus.

"I think Sergei is well known in the former USSR," said Voltchkov. "It was a very good community for everybody inside there. Everybody broke away and went their own way, but Sergei has been there since the very beginning of our Davis Cup history in 1994. He's a big figure in sports in Belarus."

As for the tie against the United States, Teterin said, with Voltchkov serving as interpreter, "Davis Cup is very different from the rest of the competition, so it is very difficult to say what is going to happen. It's a very open match."

DRAW AT PATRIOTS POINT

The draw ceremony and official team press conferences for this Davis Cup tie will be held today at noon at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.


(09/22/04)  Have opponents finally caught up to Bryans?
DAVIS CUP NOTEBOOK Mike and Bob Bryan started the year as the No. 1 doubles team in men's tennis. But 2004 hasn't been a grand - as in Grand Slam - year for the twins.

They have fallen off their pedestal all the way to seventh in the world as they prepare to take center stage Saturday in the U.S.-Belarus Davis Cup tie that starts Friday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Seventh isn't a bad world ranking, and the twins have won a solid five tournaments this year. They just haven't won a Grand Slam event, although they were runners-up in the Australian Open and made the French Open semifinals. They lost early at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as losing in the quarterfinals at the Olympics.

The question is what has happened to send these talented Californians in the opposite direction from what they had been accustomed to since they turned pro in 1998? Is this just a pause year in their steady climb up the rankings?

After all, it's tough to get higher than No. 1.

Could it be that the rest of men's tennis has learned how to play the Bryans, much like women's tennis has learned how to handle the Williams sisters?

Even U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe admits that is a possibility.

"It's possible," McEnroe said at the U.S. Open. "I mean, you've got to . . . just as in singles, in doubles you've got to adjust and you've got to adapt and you've got to improve. You've got to add some wrinkles to your game and you've got to respond to what players are doing to you.

"So I think that's part of it, and I think they will. I think they work hard, they're committed to what they do, and I think once Mike gets over this thing with his hip, you know, from more of a psychological standpoint, I think it's been tough for him because he's just wondering, 'OK, am I going to have to have surgery?'"

But Mike Bryan said Monday that his hip now "feels better than it ever has. I was doing sprints and two a days in Austin (Texas, last week at Andy Roddick's place) with the guys. I haven't done that for a long time."

The Bryans' previous disappointments in 2004 might actually be bad news for the Belarusssian doubles team of Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov, who lost to the Bryans in straight sets at the Olympics.

"The Davis Cup is the last goal for us. The others are gone. We've wasted them," Bob Bryan said at Monday's Davis Cup news conference.

Bob actually has a consolation prize for 2004 in that he teamed with Vera Zvonereva to win the U.S. Open mixed doubles crown.

Just because they defeated Mirnyi and Voltchkov at the Olympics doesn't mean the Bryans are taking Saturday's match for granted.

Bob Bryan said their victory over the Belarussians in Athens wouldn't mean anything in this Davis Cup meeting. "We played very well that match," he said. "We got some quick breaks and we were serving the ball well.

"It gives us a little confidence, but I don't think that match will have much to do with this match. I think Mirnyi and Voltchkov are playing their best tennis of the year in Davis Cup competition."

FISH BREAKS ONE

Mardy Fish pulled even with Andy Roddick Tuesday in one Davis Cup semifinal practice statistic. The session was closed, but McEnroe confirmed that his No. 2 singles player was now tied with Roddick for the team lead in smashed rackets.

"It's one-up. Andy was thinking about a second one today, but he decided against it, and had a good practice," McEnroe joked.

WHEN UP IS DOWN

Fish is going into Friday's match against Mirnyi in somewhat of a slump in that Fish has lost three of his last five matches, but in each match he was up a set and was one set from victory. That was in the Olympic final, the second round of the U.S. Open and the second round last week in Delray Beach, Fla.

"Mardy needs to keep moving forward," McEnroe said. "He can play aggressively and still not be going for winners.

"But I had rather he be up two sets to one than down two sets to one Friday."

Like the Davis Cup, the Olympic final and U.S. Open matches were all best-of-five sets.

MCENROE CLINIC

McEnroe will participate in a free community tennis clinic for local kids today from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Moultrie Playground. The USTA's High Performance players from Key Biscayne, Fla., and members of the College of Charleston's tennis team will help with the clinic. McEnroe will be available for questions at approximately 6 p.m.


(09/22/04)  Mr. Davis Cup remembers winning, tough opponents
Dwight Davis may have originated the Davis Cup, but Stan Smith is Mr. Davis Cup. No player has been more successful in the wars of winning Davis Cup titles than Smith. Often staid and soft-spoken as a player, Smith wasted little outward emotion.

Yet, when it came time to step up to the plate and deliver, his captain could always count on Stan. Tall and lean, a masterful server with pinpoint volleys and a thundering overhead, Smith was equally at home in doubles as in singles.

Because his great success thrust the United States into a potential Davis Cup title situation almost every year, he was given numerous chances to play Davis Cup: 24 ties in all. He was on the winning team in 22 of those ties, clinching the decisive point 16 times, including 13 times in doubles.

He played on a record-tying seven Davis Cup championship teams.

He also put together an amazing string of five consecutive years (1968-72) when he won the decisive match for the Americans in the Davis Cup final.

With so much Davis Cup success, Smith has earned the title of Mr. Davis Cup, just as he earned so much respect for his gentlemanly conduct on the tennis court.

Smith has been part of much Davis Cup lore, and he enjoys telling Davis Cup stories.

He tells about the time the Americans were playing in Barcelona in the 1972 semifinals. A Spanish fan was determined to agitate Smith with a mirror that he used to reflect the sun into Smith's eyes each time he went to serve in doubles. Smith asked the chair umpire for help. Of course, the foreign official didn't seem to understand what Smith was telling him in English.

The usually reserved Smith took matters into his own hands, serving the ball straight at the guy with the mirror.

"That was a little unusual for me," Smith admitted.

Of course, Smith and Erik Van Dillen beat Spaniards Andres Gimeno and Juan Gisbert in four sets, then Smith defeated Gisbert the next day in singles in a 3-2 team victory.

That wasn't Smith's most irritating time in Davis Cup competition.

The 1972 final was played in Bucharest against Romanian bad boys Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac.

Smith defeated Nastase in singles, then Nastase and Tiriac in doubles. The final came down to a singles match between Smith and Tiriac

"Nastase wasn't so bad, but Tiriac was difficult" Smith said. "The officiating was pretty one-sided, and Tiriac said he wouldn't play if they changed a call. He just sat down. The umpire said if he didn't play he'd default him. But he said, 'Go ahead and default me and see what happens.' It was a difficult situation. There were 6,000 people there."

Tiriac won the fourth set, but Smith came back to take the fifth set at love to give the Americans a fifth straight Davis Cup title.

The trip to Romania came after the Munich Olympics, where terrorists assassinated members of the Israeli contingent.

"(Brian) Gottfried and (Harold) Solomon were both Jewish, so we had very, very tight security the whole time," Smith said. "We never stopped for a red light the whole time, 'cause we had a police escort. It was like an army around the stadium. That was our most difficult situation."

A native of Pasadena, Calif., and an All-American at the University of Southern California, Smith is the current touring pro for Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Racquet Club. He teamed with Colin Dibley to win this year's Super Seniors doubles title at the U.S. Open.

The former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion has written books and has his own line of adidas tennis shoes, "The Stan Smith," that has remained a consistent seller over the decades.

His career spanned tennis' amateur and open eras. His 1971 win over Jan Kodes was the first U.S. Open final to end with a tiebreaker. He played Davis Cup for the United States from 1968 through 1981. He served as U.S. Olympic coach in 2000.

Smith isn't encouraging fans to bring mirrors or anything like that to this Davis Cup tie, but he hopes the fans will show up with red, white and blue in their veins.

"The fans hopefully will get behind the team," said Smith. "They don't need to boo when the other team hits a good shot, but hopefully they'll get into it."

-- Smith will bring a group of about 35 players from the Smith-Stearns Junior Tennis Academy at Sea Pines to Friday's opening Davis Cup session.


(09/21/04)  Team player: Davis Cup wait long for Mirnyi

It's been more than five months now since Belarus blew past favored Argentina in a whitewash to qualify for what ultimately would be a trip to Charleston to take on the Americans in a Davis Cup semifinal.

The time seemed like an eternity to Max Mirnyi as he lost in the first round at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and in the third round of the Olympics to the U.S. Davis Cup player he'll play Friday, Mardy Fish. Mirnyi also lost in the first round of a tournament last week in Delray Beach, Fla.

So, yes, Mirnyi was glad to get to Family Circle Tennis Center and actually work out with his Davis Cup teammates Monday.

"I have been looking forward to this ever since we qualified for this match," the 6-5 Belarussian said in perfect English. That was back in April when Belarus defeated Argentina's clay courters on fast indoor carpet in Minsk, Belarus.

"So, there was much time to look forward to it. It's finally here and we're all excited."

Monday was the first news conference for Mirnyi and his teammates in preparation for the showdown that starts Friday at Family Circle Magazine Stadium against Andy Roddick and the Americans. Mirnyi will take on Fish in one of the two singles matches scheduled for Friday's 1 p.m. session.

Vladimir Voltchkov, the other half of the Belarus team that has shocked the 100-year-old Davis Cup world by making the semifinals in its first year in the World Group, also has had an off year while being handicapped by injuries.

"I am ready for this match," said Voltchkov, a Wimbledon singles semifinalist in 2000. "I've always played my best on court, but Davis Cup is something special."

Voltchkov will face Roddick on opening day.

While the Americans as well as Mirnyi arrived here from hot, humid climates (the U.S. team from Roddick's place in Austin, Texas, late Sunday night, and Mirnyi from Florida), Mirnyi probably was more pleased with the cool, breezy weather that greeted them.

"Very good weather, cooler and not as humid coming here from Florida," said Mirnyi, who like Voltchkov is expected to play all three days in the Davis Cup while the Americans hope to gain a physical advantage by coming in with different players, Mike and Bob Bryan, for Saturday's doubles match.

"I think it will get a little warmer by the weekend," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe said. "But it's perfect today. It was real hot in Austin, and we got in some good practice there."

FISH LIKES COURT

The slow hard court that McEnroe ordered to replace the clay surface in the stadium and practice courts is expected to give the Americans an advantage over a Belarus team that prefers fast courts.

"You can definitely still serve and volley on this court," said Fish, the Olympic silver medalist. "You can get the ball moving through the court...

"But I definitely think the court is slower than Mirnyi likes. We felt like we could beat them on every surface but this maximizes our chances."

RODDICK'S SMASH

Roddick, who holds the record for the fastest serve in tennis, gave the small group of fans in the stadium a treat when he smashed and broke his racket on the court during practice.

"It's the first racket I've ever smashed in my life," Roddick said. "I'm pretty sure it will never happen again."

"Today," Fish added.

NO SUITES

The skyboxes that are used during the Family Circle Cup in the spring have been removed from the South end section of Family Circle Magazine Stadium. The upper deck seating attached to the suites will not be used during the Davis Cup, lowering the seating capacity of the stadium to between 9,400-9,500. Approximately 200 tickets are still available for the Davis Cup matches.

The USTA started selling the remaining tickets in single-day allotments on Monday.

Single-session tickets for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday's matches cost from $35 to $140, while three-day full tournament tickets run from $90 to $375. To order, call (843) 554-6060.


(09/19/04)  Open, Big Apple unforgettable

New York, New York! The city was bustling. Times Square was wall to wall with people.

On the way to the Broadway play "The Producers" one night, my wife and I bumped into the Barths, Roy and Colleen, on 42nd Street. Two days later on Labor Day, when we checked into the President's Box , we ran into the Kiawah Island tennis director and his wife again. Even former Romanian bad boy Ilie Nastase was in U.S. Tennis Association president Alan Schwartz's box, along with other former champions.

As a USTA media award winner, it also was great to be on the same awards program as Win4Life founder Leslie Allen, who received the USTA's President's Award, as well as to see other local tennis figures such S.C. Tennis Association president Bud Spencer, former Southern Tennis Association president Barbara Brewer and others.

New York may have lost some of its glitter to tourists after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the streets certainly didn't reflect it. Of course, the Republican National Convention had just concluded and the U.S. Open was heating up Flushing Meadows.

But New York is a wonderful city. The Metropolitan Museum of Art alone could take days or weeks to fully explore. But we'll have to go back to New York for this. I was in New York for tennis and took only a quick tour of the huge museum on the edge of Central Park.

Getting out to the National Tennis Center from the Times Square area is rather easy. Actually, Grand Central Station is adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Hotel where we stayed. Just hop on the Flushing 7 subway and stay on it until the Shea Stadium exit. A boardwalk connects the exit with the tennis center.

And wow! The United States Tennis Center resembles a town. It's a marvelous complex. Its central facility, Arthur Ashe Stadium, is excellent. I haven't been to Wimbledon or Roland Garros, but I can't imagine them being better.

As a media member covering the U.S. Open, I've reported from nine Super Bowls, and numerous NCAA basketball Final Fours, Masters golf tournaments and Major League Baseball's All-Star game, but to me the U.S. Open is the true gem of sports coverage from the standpoint of stadium friendliness and event organization.

No wonder Bud Collins has stuck with tennis all these years as a writer for The Boston Globe and TV analyst. The U.S. Open is in a league all to itself as the single biggest (attendance-wise) annual sporting event on the planet.

BARTH PLEASED

Roy Barth is thrilled about Kiawah Island's selection as the nation's No. 1 tennis resort in the current issue of Tennis Magazine. "This recognition is a result of our efforts to consistently improve our program. Each year we evaluate what we can do to make Kiawah the finest resort experience for tennis players," said Barth, who has headed Kiawah's tennis program since the resort opened in 1976. "We've always been 3-to-6 in the rankings. It's taken me 29 years to get this one."

The magazine's rankings started in 1978 with a top 50, which included Kiawah. Since 1994 when the magazine went to a top 10 heading up the top 50 every two years, Kiawah has been ranked each time.

-- Wild Dunes also made this year's top 10 as the No. 9 selection, while Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort was picked fifth.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

-- Belton's Jim Russell and Greenville's Lucy Garvin will be inducted into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame in Atlanta in January. Lester Sack of New Orleans also will be inducted. Russell is a founder of the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, and has served as Southern Tennis Association president. Garvin is a USTA vice president.

-- Wando junior Samantha Eppelsheimer played No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles in the recent USTA Junior Davis/Federation Cup competition in Chattanooga, Tenn. The South Caro-lina team finished fourth out of the nine Southern teams.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The third annual Harold Smith Appreciation Tennis Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 1-3 at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The tournament will have age divisions for juniors and adults in singles and doubles. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- The annual Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament is slated for The Club at Seabrook Island Oct. 7-10 with men's singles and doubles and mixed doubles. The entry deadline is Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. More information is available by contacting the tournament (843-768-7543).


(09/19/04)  Caulder moving on to job at Family Circle Tennis Center

Dewey Caulder is shifting gears after 16 years as tennis director at Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club to move across the river to Daniel Island's Family Circle Tennis Center.

Caulder will join Family Circle tennis director Mike Baker's teaching staff as adult programming manager. "Dewey has one of the finest reputations in the tennis industry here in Charleston, and we are very fortunate that he has decided to join our team," said Rob Eppelsheimer, the director of Family Circle Tennis Center.

"He has outstanding teaching, coaching and training skills and will complement the terrific staff that we already have in place here at the Family Circle Tennis Center."

Under Caulder's leadership, Snee Farm has been one of the top clubs in the state in the advancement of tennis with its wide assortment of junior and adult tournaments, as well as serving as host to state league championships.

"It's been 16 very enjoyable years at Snee Farm, but I am very happy with the move I'm making. Family Circle is a first-class operation. It's a big-time operation."

Caulder said he made the decision this past week to leave Snee Farm after the club's out-of-town ownership advised him that the club was going in a different direction from the past. "I think it's time to move on, because their direction is a little different from mine," he said.

Prior to two years ago when Snee Farm switched from the Club Corporation of America to individual ownership, Caulder was the Club Corporation's Southeastern pro of the year six times. Snee Farm also has been the S.C. Tennis Association's club of the year twice under Caulder's direction.

Caulder is a Columbia native who attended high school in Europe while traveling with his military family. He is a graduate of Lee University of Cleveland, Tenn.


(09/17/04)  C of C facility ushers in pro league season

Tonight will be a celebration of sorts at the College of Charleston's tennis complex at Patriots Point. Fresh from being selected by the U.S. Tennis Association as an outstanding collegiate facility, the complex will play host to the opening of the Charleston Pro Tennis League's third season.

Play is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The first-night schedule has all six teams playing. Captain Joey Eskridge's Marine Terminals will take on Michael Strahan's Blackbaud outfit, Jonathan Barth's Palmetto Jaguar will meet John Zepp's Beachside Realty, and Stuart Small's Passailaigue Homes will face Jack Miller's Tbonz.

The regular season will continue the next four Friday nights, respectively, at the Daniel Island Club, Wild Dunes, Country Club of Charleston and Snee Farm. The playoff semifinals are scheduled for Oct. 22 at the I'On Club and the final Oct. 29 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

ANASTOPOULO TRIP

College of Charleston tennis director Angelo Anastopoulo was in New York last Friday to accept an outstanding collegiate facility award from the USTA. Anastopoulo, who coaches the C of C women's team, also got to see some of the U.S. Open while in New York.

The College's $2.3 million nine-court facility opened earlier this year. Each court has an electronic scoreboard.

DAVIS CUP NOTES

-- Ticket holders for the Saturday session of the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center will be treated to a free concert immediately following the doubles match. Atlanta band Total Package will put on the concert.

-- While other members of the U.S. Davis Cup team relax at Andy Roddick's place in Austin, Texas, this week awaiting next week's match, No. 2 singles player Mardy Fish took his lumps in the Millennium International Championships in Delray Beach, Fla. Seeded second to fellow American Vince Spadea, Fish suffered a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 loss to 100th-ranked Ricardo Mello of Brazil in the second round.

But Max Mirnyi, Belarus' No. 1 player, didn't fare well either, losing to American qualifier Hugo Armando, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), in the opening round.

-- Boys' 18 national hard-court champ Scoville Jenkins of Atlanta will be a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team at Family Circle Tennis Center. Jenkins lost to Roddick in the first round of the U.S. Open.

-- U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe will make an appearance next Wednesday from 5:30-7 p.m. at Moultrie Playground, along with the USTA's High Performance group of juniors from the national training center at Key Biscayne, Fla. The High Performance group will train during the week at Family Circle Tennis Center with their coaches.

The Moultrie event will be co-sponsored by the City of Charleston Parks and Recreation Department. The first 250 people will receive free mini U.S. flags. A kids clinic also is planned from 5:30-6 p.m.


(09/15/04)  Belarus turns to two teenagers to round out team for Davis Cup semi

Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov are the central characters, but the Belarussian Tennis Association announced Tuesday that teenagers Andrei Karatchenia and Alexander Skrypo will be part of the Belarus team that will take on the United States in the Davis Cup semifinals Sept. 24-26 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Mirnyi, currently ranked 64th in singles and sixth in doubles, is a two-time U.S. Open doubles champion, winning the 2000 title with Lleyton Hewitt and the 2002 title with Mahesh Bhupathi. Voltchkov was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 2000 and is currently ranked 161st in the world.

Karatchenia, 15, was the 2003 European boys' 14 champion. He was named to the Belarussian team in its previous two matches in 2004, but did not compete. Skrypo, 18, holds a 1-5 record in Davis Cup play with his lone victory being an impressive win over Wayne Black of Zimbabwe in 2003.

Mirnyi and Voltchkov are expected to play both singles and doubles for Belarus, while U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe will go with Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish in singles, and Mike and Bob Bryan in doubles. The surface at Family Circle Magazine Stadium has been switched from clay to hard surface for the competition.

"We tinker with the speed of the hard court based on our opposition," McEnroe said last week in New York. "So I feel like it will be tough for them (Belarus). They're essentially a two-man team.

"We want to make them work. We've got two great singles players, we've got a great doubles team, so we can gear ourselves up for those matches. If they're going to beat us, they're going to have to work awfully hard to do it.

"Voltchkov is a flashy guy, a shot maker, he's capable of playing, you know, one great match. He got to the semis at Wimbledon, so he's not a total bluff in that sense. Anybody that can do that can play. Mirnyi is obviously as competitive as they come, a tough serve volley player. He just played Andy 7-6 in the third a couple weeks ago in Cincy," McEnroe added.

Play on Friday, Sept. 24 will begin at 1 p.m. with the first of two singles matches.

Saturday's play will consist of the doubles match beginning at 2:30 p.m., while Sunday's final two reverse singles matches will begin at 12:30 p.m.

The winner of the U.S.-Belarus semifinal will face the winner of the Spain-France tie that will be played in Alicante, Spain.

-- Members of the U.S. team, other than Fish who is playing in an ATP event in Delray Beach, Fla., are spending a few days at Roddick's house in Austin, Texas, this week before flying to Charleston Sunday evening.

-- A limited number of tickets for the event are available by calling 1-888-484-USTA (8782).

KIAWAH NATION'S BEST

Kiawah Island has been named by Tennis Magazine as the nation's finest tennis resort. This is the first time Kiawah has held the top spot in the rankings, which are published once every two years. Kiawah beat out Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort in Longboat Key, Fla.


(09/13/04)  A particularly Grand year for Federer

Roger Federer was invincible Sunday, just as he has been practically all this year. His armor was impenetrable.

Poor Lleyton Hewitt. He tried every shot, everything imaginable. Nothing worked.

Federer simply played at a higher level, a level few before him have experienced.

Hewitt drilled forehands down the lines. He drilled backhands. They usually came back, only with more pace and closer to the lines.

Federer gave Hewitt only a couple chances in his 6-0, 7-6, 6-0 victory over Hewitt in the U.S. Open final. The second set was winnable for Hewitt, even if he had to rally from a 5-3 deficit to force a tiebreaker. Once in the tiebreaker, Federer put his body armor back on, once again becoming invincible.

The scores of the first and third sets tell it all about those sets.

The only thing Federer didn't accomplish this year in pro tennis was a Grand Slam. He missed out at the French Open. And he didn't win the Olympic gold medal.

Otherwise, 2004 was a year for the ages in tennis. Federer was totally dominant.

He played for the big points, winning most of them in the Grand Slams. At age 23, Grand Slams have become Federer's big points. He's been in four Grand Slam finals, and won them all. He's behind the pace Pete Sampras set in winning a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. But Sampras never won three in one year.

Just how good can Federer become? It all depends on his competition. If every year is as easy as this one, he may become unmotivated at some point. That would be a shame. He needs competition.

Perhaps, Andy Roddick will take his game to a new level, one high enough to pose a threat to Federer's supremacy. It's possible, but improbable that Roddick can catch Federer. The Swiss shot-maker is simply too talented, too focused at this stage of his career.

But just when you think you're invincible, the world changes. All one has to do is to look across tennis to the women's side where the Russians have taken control while the Williams sisters and Belgians have virtually disappeared.

No one knows what the future holds. Even Federer may lose his invincibility in another year.

SNEE FARM CANCELS

Due to damage from the recent storms, Snee Farm has cancelled next weekend's 11th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament.


(09/12/04)  Kuznetsova a surprise Open champ

Young Svetlana Kuznetsova is the one in the half-dozen top Russian women few people expected to win the U.S. Open.

Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, in that order, all appeared to be stronger contenders to give Russia its third Grand Slam women's title of 2004. But after Kuznetsova's 6-3, 7-5 conquest of the talented Dementieva in Saturday night's U.S. Open final, the entire tennis world will take note of the big forehand of this 19-year-old.

Kuznetsova practically blew Dementieva off the court with what may be the strongest forehands in women's tennis. Kuznetsova showed great improvement in her movement over earlier this year when she appeared to be heavier on her feet.

This time, Kuznetsova appeared to have excellent mobility. Hampered by an upper left leg injury, Dementieva seldom was able to hit winners herself or get Kuznetsova off balance to the extent that she would mis-hit her forehand.

With three different Grand Slam champions and three more women capable of such success, 2004 was a banner year for the Russians.

FEDERER, HEWITT TOO GOOD

Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt looked like former Grand Slam tournament champions Saturday at the U.S. Open. Tim Henman and Joachim Johansson played like the hopefuls they will be when 2005 rolls around.

Federer probably wasn't at his best, although he played well in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Henman. Federer took Henman's best volleys and turned them into winners of his own.

For much of the semifinal, Henman played like the 30-year-old he became on Labor Day. He looked tired, probably because of his string of long matches.

Federer consistently hit passing shots from both sides from all areas of the court. He didn't show his net skills often, but he didn't need to.

Hewitt was too strong and experienced for his sister's boyfriend. Hewitt's 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory was a little ho-hum. Johansson once again demonstrated one of the biggest forehands in all of tennis, but the speedy Hewitt chased most of the bombs down and played smart tennis. That was unlike 2003 champion Andy Roddick who seemed to play Johansson's forehand in a quarterfinal loss, rather than his less potent and erratic backhand.

In today's final, Federer's all-around game should be too strong for Hewitt. But don't underestimate the Aussie. He plays with passion, and no point is over until the chair umpire announces its completition. Hewitt is fast and determined. He won't quit on a point, a set or the match. Federer will have to beat him.

To beat Hewitt, Federer will have to play near-perfect tennis, hitting Hewitt off the court or mixing up his game with charges to the net to keep Hewitt guessing. Don't look for Federer to overwhelm Hewitt with his serve.

Then again, Federer may be the most talented tennis player ever. If he plays well, he should win.

DAVIS CUP CONCERT

There's something special for ticket holders for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center. All ticket holders will be treated to a free concert by Atlanta's Total Package band immediately after the Saturday doubles session.

(bullet) Less than 300 tickets remain available for the Davis Cup by calling a special hotline (1-888-484-USTA, OR 8782).

SNEE FARM CANCELS

The recent storms have caused extensive damage at Snee Farm, prompting the cancellation of the 11th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament that was scheduled for next weekend.


(09/09/04)  McEnroe reels in Fish for Davis Cup
NEW YORK-U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe thinks Mardy Fish has top 10 talent. The question is whether Fish can live up to that potential.

McEnroe certainly hopes the 22-year-old American lives up to his capability in the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal against Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center. Fish flashed his full potential at last month's Athens Olympics until he faltered against Chile's Nicolas Massu in the gold medal match.

McEnroe made it official Wednesday at a rainy day U.S. Open that Fish would be his No. 2 singles player, following the lead of 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick in the No. 1 position. Mike and Bob Bryan will be the American doubles team.

"I legitimately think Mardy is a top 10 player. He has the talent to beat anyone in the world," McEnroe said at a midday press conference at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Why did McEnroe select the 28th-ranked Fish over Taylor Dent and Vince Spadea, both of whom are ranked higher in the ATP entry list world rankings?

"To me, it was three guys. It was Spadea, Fish and Taylor Dent," said McEnroe, who doubles as U.S. Olympic coach. "They all didn't play too well here, but I got to spend quite a bit of time with all of them at the Olympics and was obviously very happy with what I saw from both Mardy and Taylor (a semifinalist at the Olympics)."

Roddick is still in the running for a second straight U.S. Open title, but Fish lost in the second round to qualifier Michal Tabara, 6-3, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, while the Bryans lost in the third round of doubles in straight sets to the French team of Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut.

"We've got to keep pushing him (Fish) and keep believing in him. He's got to put the work in every day. You know when Andy Roddick goes out in practices, he's intense all the time, every time," McEnroe said.

Looking ahead to arriving in Charleston the night of Sept. 19 and starting practice the next day on the newly surfaced hard courts at Family Circle Tennis Center, McEnroe said, "Part of the reason we went to Charleston is the conditions, I believe, will be favorable for us with the relatively slow hard court, outdoors, same balls as we are using here, hot conditions, pretty humid."


(09/08/04)  Open title within Davenport's reach
NEW YORK-The pathway to the final has cleared for Lindsay Davenport. She overcame a huge hurdle in the round of 16. Unbelievably, that was Venus Williams. Not that Davenport's victory over Venus was a surprise, but that two players of such high quality would meet at the mid-point of the U.S. Open.

Then there was the demise of defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Suddenly, Davenport can see the lights of Saturday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Only unseeded Shinobu Asagoe (who?) and probably Henin-Hardenne's conqueror, Nadia Petrova, stand in her way.

This is the way it should be. Davenport is easily the best player in the game at the moment. She is striking the ball cleaner than anyone in this tournament. She delivers sheer power with every serve and groundstroke. She is hitting devastating angles, particularly with her backhand.

And she's trimmer and moving better than at any time in a professional career that is now in its 12th year.

The summer has seen Davenport go from a nightmarish loss to Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon semifinals to four straight titles and 22 consecutive victories. This for a player who not long ago appeared to be on her last leg, ready to pull a Steffi Graf and yield to recurring injuries and the temptation of settling into family life.

After winning three Grand Slam titles in 1998 and 1999, Davenport had taken a backseat to Venus and Serena Williams, and then Henin-Hardenne until the last couple of months.

THE ENTOURAGE

Davenport has turned things around with a philosophy, perhaps from Graf's husband, Andre Agassi. It's called the entourage. Agassi has a group of people who are always there to keep him focused.

"For whatever reason this year, I decided to have a team of people work," Davenport said Monday after her straight-set victory over Venus Williams. "Normally I don't like the entourage."

Her trainer has helped her become stronger and lighter to take pressure off her troublesome knee. Her therapist travels with her full-time. "Laura (the therapist) has done a great job keeping my body healthy," Davenport said.

There's also her coach, Adam Peterson, and her husband of 16 months, investment banker Jon Leach.

Even with all of the support and success, Davenport isn't making any plans beyond the end of this year, although she doesn't plan to follow Pete Sampras's lead and retire if she wins the U.S. Open.

"I fully intend to keep playing this fall and finish the year anyway in Los Angeles (the WTA Championships) and see from there," she said.

JUSTINE'S FALL

When Henin-Hardenne's fall from her nearly year-long perch as the world's top-ranked player became reality Monday night, the door to this U.S. Open swung wide open. Henin-Hardenne was the glue, the true grit you could count on in the clutch.

But coming back from a long absence with injury is never easy. Just ask Venus and Serena Williams, who at times look like their old selves only to falter at other times.

Davenport can see the difference in Venus, especially her forehand.

"She hasn't shown in the last few months that her forehand has been on," Davenport said.

"I think this year's been a little tougher for (Venus) than years past. She's not used to losing, certainly not used to being ranked 12 after playing since January. That's not normally her credentials."


(09/07/04)  Henman's game an appealing throwback for tennis purists
NEW YORK-Poor Tim Henman. He's 30 years old now. His tennis game must be falling apart, right? Yeah, just like Andre Agassi's.

These two older statesmen of tennis just seem to get better and better. Agassi does it from the baseline. Henman does it the other way.

Henman is one of the purest serve-and-volley players to come along. His game is one of sheer beauty to tennis purists. They don't make serve-and-volleyers very often these days. Someone seems to have lost the pattern in this age of the two-handed backhand.

"We want to make sure that my style doesn't become extinct, because I think it would be to the detriment of the game if everybody's just playing from the baseline," Henman said on Labor Day at the U.S. Open.

"But I think the reality is that the juniors, the up-and-coming juniors, they're probably just taught to, you know, throw it up and hit it, when it comes back, hit it harder from the baseline."

Henman had just celebrated his birthday on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, doing the kind of things he has been doing since his mother taught him how to volley many years ago. "I used to hit with my mom a lot, and that (practicing volleys) was all we did. I think she found it easier to feed when I was at the net. I just used to volley. That's where it started," he said.

The talented Brit with the hard luck at Wimbledon was a bit lucky on his birthday. He was ahead of Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 3-0, when Kiefer retired with a wrist injury.

This is easily Henman's best year in the Grand Slams. He has advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open for the first time, after already playing in this year's Wimbledon quarterfinals and French Open semifinals. Prior to this year, he had advanced as far as the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam only at Wimbledon.

While almost everyone else is pounding away from the baseline, Henman loves the short-point route - the volley. "I think it's my advantage that there are so few people that play to my style," the 6-1, 170-pounder said.

"When they (baseliners such as Kiefer) come up against me, if I'm executing my shots and my game plan, then I don't give them that rhythm. I think with my ability at the net, my athleticism, I can make life awkward for them."

Not only is Henman something of a novelty that tennis purists surely don't want to fade away, he also carries the tennis burden of all of England.

But this may be his year. Because of his style of play and the way he has lifted his game, Henman appears to have a legitimate shot at the U.S. Open, although he's in the same half of the draw as top-ranked Roger Federer and Agassi, who will meet in the quarterfinals. Henman has split two matches on hard surfaces this year against Federer and beaten defending champion Andy Roddick in their only meeting, also on hard surface.

Tim Henman had a great 30th birthday. Now, he wants the icing for his cake, a Grand Slam title.


(09/05/04)  Roddick more than an overpowering serve

NEW YORK-Does Andy Roddick have a big serve, or what? If you aren't impressed, try watching the serve at court level at the U.S. Open.

It certainly looks big on TV. I mean you don't really see it. You just see his opponent shake his head and walk to the other side of the court.

But stand in the photographer's pit in Arthur Ashe Stadium a couple feet from where he gets his towel from the ball boy, then watch Roddick uncork his entire body into his serve. It's an awesome sight.

Roddick's start Friday night in an easy straight-set victory over young Rafael Nadal of Spain may have been the fastest in history, in service-speed terms, that is.

Roddick's first two serves, both aces, averaged 147 mph. He hit the first one at 142, then moved to the ad side, and . . . whammy. He nailed the next one 10 mph faster.

When you hit a serve 152, what are you thinking . . . 154? "No, not really," the young gun from Omaha quipped.

Of course, 154 is the magic number that makes Roddick the fastest server in the history of tennis.

That next serve? "I'm just thinking about trying to get it in."

He knows he could set a record at any time. "It's just one serve . . . I know I can do it."

But it's no big deal to Roddick. "The novelty has kind of worn off," he said.

Having won this event last year, Roddick gets pumped up just walking out onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium court in his gray-colored matching shoes, shirt and pants. Then you catch a glimpse of the bulging muscles on his arms, consider that he's 6-2 and looks like he could be playing linebacker or running back for Nebraska, you're impressed.

After seeing the extraordinary speed of his service motion and considering the power in his right arm and shoulder, you've got to think that if he had chosen baseball instead he might have been a superstar in that sport, too. Andy Roddick is a phenomenal athlete.

Roddick just turned 22 last Monday, but he's already the leader of the USA tennis brigade as Andre Agassi ignores Olympic and Davis Cup calls these days.

"I tell Mardy, 'You're on the right track. Just keep plugging away,' " Roddick said of Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish. A day earlier, Roddick had watched both Fish and Taylor Dent lose.

Fish could use some psychological support after blowing away Michal Tabara in the second and third sets to take what appeared to be complete charge of their second-round match, only to falter in the fourth and fifth sets. It was a repeat performance of Fish's collapse in the fourth and fifth sets in the Olympic final against Nicolas Massu.

Only Roddick and Agassi advanced to the third round of this U.S. Open, the worst-ever performance in the Open era for U.S. players. That's not good news for U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe as he looks to the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal against Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center. Fish appears to be the No. 2 singles player by default.

Even Roddick isn't immune to losing. Are you beatable in the shape you're in now? "Oh, yeah! I'm beatable!"

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Today is the deadline for entering Snee Farm's fourth Grand Prix of the year. The event starts Tuesday. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis office (884-3252).

-- The City of Charleston's six-Saturday fall season of Courting Kids will start Saturday at 10 a.m. at Johns Island's Alan P. Fleming Tennis Center and at 1 p.m. at the Moultrie Playground courts. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).


(08/29/04)  Gibson earns state honor

A half century after making an indelible mark on women's tennis, the late Althea Gibson is being honored by her home state. The Silver native and two other women will be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame Dec. 4 during the S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation's Hall of Fame Banquet at Hilton Head Island.

Furman women's tennis coach Debbie Southern and Columbia area senior Ann Sweeny will be the other inductees.

Earlier this year, a court was named in Gibson's honor at Family Circle Tennis Center. But Gibson's accomplishments as one of the first great black players are legendary. Because of her race, she wasn't permitted to participate in U.S. Lawn Tennis Association events until the 1950 U.S. Open. Gibson went on to win 11 Grand Slam titles (including six doubles titles) and earn recognition in the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame. In 1957, she became the first black to be voted by The Associated Press as its Female Athlete of the Year.

Sweeny has won more than 60 tournaments in South Carolina and more than 50 Southern tournaments, and held a No. 1 ranking in the South in 50s, 55s, 60s and 65s.

Debbie Southern was a top junior player in North Carolina, then played college tennis at the University of Tennessee. In her more than 20 years as the women's tennis coach at Furman University, her teams have won 11 Southern Conference titles.

CPTL NEWS

Last weekend's Charleston Pro Tennis League tournament at The Citadel served as a warm-up for the local 5.5 and open men's teams' trips to Las Vegas Sept. 9-12 to compete in the national team championships. Seventeen doubles teams and 10 singles players participated.

Peter Baranowski, a former Winthrop standout from Rock Hill, defeated George Washington University graduate Matthew Hane, 7-6, 6-2, in the singles final. CPTL founder Chris Henderson and College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell defeated I'On pro Joey Eskridge and Hane, 7-6, 6-1, in the doubles final.

The CPTL is preparing to start its third season on Sept. 17 at the College of Charleston's sparkling new facility at Patriots Point. The league will play a five-match regular season on Friday nights, then hold its playoff semifinals at the I'On Club before moving to Family Circle Tennis Center for its Oct. 29 final.

The league's draft party is slated for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at T-Bonz in Mt Pleasant. Information and scheduling for the league can be accessed on the internet at www.cptltennis.com.

FLEMING EVENT SET

The annual Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament is slated for The Club at Seabrook Island Oct. 7-10. The tournament will have men's singles and doubles from 45-80 in five-year increments and women's singles and doubles from 40-70 as well as 40, 50, 60 and 70 mixed doubles.

The entry deadline is Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. Tournament registration is at www.usta.com. Select the TennisLink option and then Tournaments. More information is available by contacting the tournament (843-768-7543).

The tournament, which raised $7,000 last year for Hospice of Charleston and again will benefit Hospice, is named after former Seabrook resident Alan Fleming, father of former touring pro Peter Fleming.

MITCHELL GOING TO OPEN

Marcus Mitchell, a member of Leslie Allen's Win4Life group in Charleston and the local Courting Kids program, has been invited by U.S. Tennis Association president Alan G. Schwartz to New York Tuesday to sit in the president's box at the U.S. Open.

Mitchell, a sophomore at Academic Magnet High School, is in his third year in the Win4Life program. He is the first Charleston junior to be selected to attend the U.S. Open with the Win4Life group. He will join four other juniors from Allen's other Win4Life locations at the U.S. Open.


(08/27/04)  McEnroe explores surface issues
Patrick McEnroe isn't taking any chances, even though the United States probably would be favored to defeat Belarus on any surface. The U.S. Davis Cup captain wants the surface at Family Circle Magazine Stadium to be just right, which he describes as "somewhere between this and Athens."

"This" is the new DecoTurf surface that has been installed on two practice courts at Family Circle Tennis Center in preparation for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus. Athens, of course, was the site of the Olympic tennis competition that finished last Sunday.

McEnroe, who just returned from Athens this week, hopped on an airplane for Charleston at 10 a.m. Thursday and was scheduled to return to New York by about 7 p.m., or in time to see his wife Melissa Errico perform Thursday night in the lead role of the Broadway play "Dracula". During his few hours here, McEnroe hit with Family Circle Tennis Center director of tennis Mike Baker on one of the newly surfaced practice courts.

"I like the way it's playing, but we want to speed it up a very, very subtle amount. This is the very slowest court you can get. We'd like it a little quicker, but not fast. Fast is not what we want," McEnroe said. "Basically it's about making it as advantageous for us as possible and disadvantageous for them. We have a little wiggle room."

On the slightly faster DecoTurf in Athens, McEnroe's U.S. team members fared well against Belarus' two-man Davis Cup team of Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov. Mardy Fish defeated Mirnyi in straight sets en route to a silver medal, and Mike and Bob Bryan posted a straight-set doubles win over Mirnyi and Voltchkov. Earlier this summer, No. 1 U.S. singles player Andy Roddick defeated Mirnyi in Cincinnati.

"We know Roddick and the Bryan brothers will be ready," McEnroe said.

But he isn't ready to name Fish as the No. 2 singles player yet. Teammate Taylor Dent played for the bronze medal in Athens.

"Mardy is not definite (for the second spot), but what he did at the Olympics will influence my decision," McEnroe said. "It's between Taylor and Mardy, unless something extraordinary happens at the U.S. Open."

The surface on the practice courts is the same speed of the courts in Delray Beach, Fla., where the Americans defeated Sweden in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, according to DecoTurf Southern Regional manager Ron Melvin.

"We can't slow this surface down any more," Melvin said, pointing out that the current surface is the slowest hard court allowed by the International Tennis Federation.

The Howard B. Jones Company of Lexington, which is building the courts, can speed up the surface a little by putting down another coat of acrylic without applying any sand. When that's done, the work will shift to the stadium court where one-quarter of an inch of DecoTurf will be used to cover an asphalt foundation that was laid over the stadium's clay surface earlier this month.

-- A limited supply of tickets remain available for the Davis Cup semifinal by calling a special Davis Cup ticket hotline, 1-888-484-USTA


(08/22/04)  Fishburne earns world's No. 1 ranking for women 45 and over
How does it feel to be the No. 1 player in the world?

"It's nice," Diane Fishburne said Friday in an obvious understatement.

To be ranked best in the world in anything is an amazing accomplishment. It doesn't matter that it's in the 45-and-over age group.

Yes, Diane Fishburne is a pretty special tennis player. This 46-year-old former College of Charleston All-American is in very select company as the world's No. 1 in women's 45-and-over, according to the International Tennis Federation.

That's a long way for the 5-2 baseline marvel from 1979, when as a College of Charleston junior named Diane Gilruth she won the NAIA national singles title. She came to the College after an outstanding junior career in Jacksonville, Fla.

Fishburne has a small lead over Beatriz Villaverde of Argentina in the current ITF rankings. Fishburne won the ITF world championship held in May on red clay in Antalya, Turkey, while Villaverde lost in the round of 16 of that tournament. The next highest-ranked American is No. 5 Susan Wright, of Grand Junction, Colo.

"Everyone said when I won the world championship that I would be No. 1, but you don't realize it until you see it. It was a weird feeling to see my name at No. 1," said Fishburne, who entered the tournament ranked No. 2 in the world.

The individual success for Fishburne came after she had served as playing captain for a U.S. team that beat France for the Margaret Court Cup team championship, also in Turkey. Wright was one of Fishburne's teammates on the team.

Winner of numerous age-group national titles and ranked No. 1 in the United States in women's 45, Fishburne was runner-up in last month's National Grass Courts women's 45 tournament in Philadelphia. "I had never played on grass before, but I have already started working on my game so I'll be better on grass," she said, pointing out that next year's Margaret Court Cup competition will be played on grass in Australia.

Fishburne has played on three straight Margaret Court Cup teams after competing on five different 40-and-over Young Cup teams.

She has only this fall's National Hard Courts in Fulsom, Calif., left that will count toward this year's final world rankings. "It would help a lot if I won the tournament, but you never know what the other girls are doing in Europe. The Europeans have so much more access to the tournaments that count toward the ITF rankings."

-- Fishburne's son, recent George Washington University graduate Matthew Hane, was named the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year for the second straight year.

CAPTAIN CARTER

The U.S. Tennis Association has named Charleston's Brenda Carter as captain of the women's 55 team that will take on the rest of the world in the ITF's Maureen Connolly Cup from Sept. 12-18 in Philadelphia. Carter is the nation's No. 1-ranked women's 55 player.

This will be Carter's third appearance on the Connolly Cup team, but it will be her first as playing captain. The Carter-led U.S. team won last year's competition in Turkey. Carter, 58, is ranked seventh in the world in women's 55, the highest ranking of any American. She was a semifinalist in last month's National Grass Courts women's 55 event in Philadelphia.

MIXED FEELINGS

U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe probably will leave Athens as Olympic coach with mixed feelings about the team that will take on Belarus in the Davis Cup semifinals Sept. 24-26 at Family Circle Tennis Center. He has to be surprised that Andy Roddick was eliminated in straight sets in the round of 16 by Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, but otherwise McEnroe had to be encouraged.

McEnroe had to admire the heart and true grit of Roddick. This guy appears to thrive on match-point situations against his serve. I don't remember ever seeing a more competitive player. You've got to love Roddick's style.

Mike and Bob Bryan lost in the doubles quarterfinals, but they scored a straight-set victory over the Belarus Davis Cup team of Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov in the second round. Then there was the big story, Mardy Fish.

You've got to believe Fish played his way into the No. 2 singles spot on the Davis Cup team by charging into the gold-medal singles match against Chile's Nicolas Massu. And even Taylor Dent advanced all the way to the singles semifinals. The Olympic semifinals must have been special for local fans of the Skatell's Pro Tennis Classic, as they recalled the play of Dent and Fish in 1998 and 2000, respectively, at Creekside Tennis and Swim.

McEnroe had to like Fish's poise and consistency throughout the Olympics, especially in pressure situations such as in Fish's huge upset of 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in the second round. Fish came up with four winning serves in succession, two service winners and then two aces out wide, while serving at 5-4, 15-40 in the third set.

Fish then served up a preview of the Davis Cup confrontation with Mirnyi by winning in straight sets against the serve-and-volley game of the big Belarusian. Fish's good friend Roddick was all smiles Friday after seeing Fish upend Gonzalez to earn a spot in the final.

The way Fish is playing, he should have better than an even chance against the clay-court skills of Massu. The Olympic surface is hard court, similarly to the one that will be used at Family Circle Magazine Stadium for the Davis Cup.

UPCOMING

-- The local Junior Tennis Association will hold a coach's meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the St. Andrews tennis complex on Playground Road to discuss the fall season for players 18-and-under. The meeting is for all participating coaches. The season is scheduled to kick off in September. For additional information, contact coordinator Peggy McElhiney (843-821-8903).

-- Snee Farm's fourth Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for Sept. 7-12, with an entry deadline of Sept. 5. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis office (843-884-3252).

-- It's time to register for the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program again. The fall season of six Saturdays will start on Sept. 11 with sessions at 10 a.m. at Johns Island's Alan P. Fleming Tennis Center and at 1 p.m. at the Moultrie Playground courts. Registration fees are $10 for six Saturdays at either site. Tennis rackets will be available onsite. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- The City of Charleston's annual tournament is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 at City Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center. The tournament will be for juniors, adults and seniors. Some senior matches will be played on the clay courts at Maybank Tennis Center. Registration is available on the Internet at www.sctennis.com. Select the TennisLink option, then Tournaments and search for September tournaments. The entry deadline is Sept. 4. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.


(08/08/04)  Belarus no pushover for U.S.
An American victory over Belarus in the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal is likely but not a cinch. Evidence of that intangible came Tuesday night during the ATP Masters event in Cincinnati when Max Mirnyi faltered two points from a would-be straight-set victory over Andy Roddick.

Up 5-4 in the second-set tiebreaker with a pair of serves that could have closed out an upset over Roddick, Mirnyi lost both serves and the next point as well to give Roddick the set. From a 4-2 lead, Mirnyi lost five of the next six points in the tiebreaker and had what should have been two easy put-away volleys.

The match was a preview of what could happen when Roddick and Mirnyi meet at Family Circle Tennis Center. With his booming serve, and sometimes wild and sometimes spectacular net charges, Mirnyi is capable of beating anyone. That factor adds suspense to this Davis Cup tie.

Also, U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe must be seriously concerned about the No. 2 singles slot. Mardy Fish has been hampered by back spasms (and don't forget, Davis Cup matches are best of five sets); Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri have been inconsistent; and Vince Spadea has been less than outstanding. A victory by any of the four over Mirnyi or Vladimir Voltchkov in the Davis Cup isn't a sure thing.

The situation puts added pressure on Roddick to defeat both Mirnyi and Voltchkov, and for Bob and Mike Bryan to defeat the Belarus pair of Mirnyi and Voltchkov in doubles.

McEnroe should get a better feel for his No. 2 singles slot the next few weeks during the Olympics. Dent, Fish and Spadea all are scheduled to play in Athens. The word is that McEnroe may wait until the last weekend of the U.S. Open or later to announce his Davis Cup team.

As for the Belarus team, Mirnyi is the main hope, although Voltchkov was a 2000 Wimbledon semifinalist in singles. Voltchkov has played mostly challenger circuit events this year and is ranked No. 154 in the world. That's nearly 1,300 places higher than the next player from Belarus, which has only four players with world rankings.

BASILE COMPETING

Jason Basile has had an outstanding junior career. He has concentrated on tennis year-around while working with Fritz Nau at Charleston Tennis Academy. Basile is currently competing for the third consecutive year in the USTA National Hard Court Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich. A first year boys' 18 participant, he is a senior at the School of the Arts majoring in theater.

LOCALS FARE WELL

Local juniors Wilson Daniel in boys' 10 and Jessica Diamond in girls' 16 were finalists in the recent State-Closed Junior Clay Courts, while Steven Weaver in boys' 10 and Hagan Edgerton in girls' 14 won consolation titles.

Joel Roberts was consolation runner-up in boys' 10; Dirk Bair was a semifinalist in boys' 16; and Meghan Blevins was a semifinalist in girls' 12 and won the third-place match.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- A strong field of players is expected to compete in the inaugural Charleston Pro Tennis League Open Tennis Tournament that is scheduled for Aug. 21-22 at The Citadel's Earle Tennis Center. Prize money will be awarded. The event will be used to raise funds to help send the CPTL's Southern Sectional-winning 5.5 and open men's teams to the national championships next month in Las Vegas. Competition will be held in 4.5, 5.0 and open singles and doubles. Information on the tournament is available at the league's web site, www.cptltennis.com.

-- Registration for the local Fall League in the Adult, Senior, Super Senior 60s and Super Senior 70s divisions can be made through the www.lowcountry.usta.com or www.cptltennis.com internet sites, and then clicking on the TennisLink-Leagues selection.

-- The Lowcountry Tennis Association is still signing up volunteers to help with the U.S.-Belarus Davis Cup semifinal at Family Circle Tennis Center. Volunteer coordinator Kat Phillips of the Country Club of Charleston can be reached at KPHIL100@bellsouth.net.

-- A limited supply of tickets remain available for the Davis Cup semifinal by calling a special Davis Cup ticket hotline, 1-888-484-USTA (or 8782).

-- The City of Charleston's annual tournament, which in past years has been held in June and July, is scheduld for Sept. 9-12 at City Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center. The tournament will be for juniors, adults and seniors. Some senior matches will be played on the clay courts at Maybank Tennis Center. Registration is available on the internet at www.sctennis.com. Select the TennisLink option, then Tournaments and search for September tournaments. Entry deadline is Sept. 4. Contact the Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(08/01/04)  CPTL gives top men option after college

Most high-caliber college tennis players have only a limited number of options that would allow them to continue playing competitively immediately after their college days, especially outstanding female players. Joining the rat race of satellite professional tennis or the major tours is simply not for everyone.

There's usually no regular league for the high-level female player, and only a few individual tournaments at the state or sectional level. This spring, for instance, Columbia and Charleston had the only two 5.0 league women's teams in the state, so they played for the state championship, without the benefit of a regular season.

Later on as their skills begin to get rusty, high-ranking women's players might be able to join a league at the 4.5 level until they are pushed up to 5.0 or higher. Women in their 20s don't appear to be as committed to competitive tennis as men at that age, quite possibly because of the lack of local competition.

"What you need is a Chris Henderson. He's an organizer," Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer said.

Henderson's Charleston Pro Tennis League is the reason men have more options. Local option No. 1 is the CPTL. That even appears to be becoming the top option for other locations as well. When the CPTL starts its third season on Sept. 17, as many as five or more players from other sections of the Carolinas may be on the rosters of the six CPTL teams.

Henderson, the CPTL's founder, said the league would be happy to have women on its team rosters, possibly even having one mixed doubles match as a part of each team match. With six teams, that would require six women. That might be difficult, considering that the local 5.0 women's state championship team didn't have the five players needed to compete without forfeiting individual matches in last weekend's Southern Sectional in Columbia.

But men at the highest level of local tennis have never been so good, thanks to the CPTL. The success of Charleston's 5.5 and open men's teams in the Southern Sectional is evidence of that. Most of the players from both of those championship teams, along with St. Andrew's state champion 5.0 team that finished as runner-up in the Southern Sectional, play in the CPTL. That's an edge most other teams don't have.

The CPTL is modeled after an Atlanta league. Henderson brought the plan with him when he moved to Charleston from Atlanta two years ago. He immediately started the CPTL. And now Will Bull has formed a smaller version of the CPTL in Myrtle Beach. Charlotte, Greenville and Columbia are all talking about forming similar leagues, according to Henderson.

Bull, once one of the top junior players to come out of the state and now a teaching pro in Myrtle Beach, was one of the players Henderson recruited for the open men's team that won the Southern Sectional and is headed for the nationals Sept. 10-12 in Las Vegas. Another was Carlos Lozano, who was a doubles All-American at Brigham Young University and currently assists fellow team member Charly Rasheed as a pro at Lexington's Topspin Racquet Club.

"Carlos is still world-ranked in doubles. He still has ATP points. I think he and Will put us in contention to win the national," said Henderson.

Henderson, Bull, Rasheed and Lozano teamed up with Citadel coach Toby Simpson and former College of Charleston ace Sagi Zakin to win the open title last weekend. Henderson, Simpson and Zakin formed the nucleus of a local team that won the national 5.5 title last year.

I'On pro Joey Eskridge also was part of last year's national championship team, but Eskridge stayed at 5.5 to captain a team in that division that also won a Southern Sectional title last weekend to earn a berth in the nationals in Las Vegas. Eskridge's team is composed of former College of Charleston players Bryan Minton and Stuart Small, along with Paul Thurmond, recent George Washington University star Matthew Hane, Matt Beckham and 2004 Clemson standout John Boetsch.

CPTL SETS TOURNAMENT

Henderson is expecting a strong field of players from all over the South to compete in the inaugural CPTL Open Tennis Tournament that is scheduled for Aug. 21-22 at The Citadel's Earle Tennis Center. Prize money will be awarded.

Not only will the event raise funds to help send the 5.5 and open men's teams to the national championships, it also will serve as a practice event for the nationals.

Competition will be held in 4.5, 5.0 and open singles and doubles.

Information on the tournament is available at the league's new Web site, www.cptltennis.com.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Local tennis fans have been asking when the giant banner of 2004 Family Circle Cup champion Venus Williams will go up at Family Circle Magazine Stadium. "It'll go up Feb. 1," announced Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley.

-- Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth and his son Jonathan, the head pro at Kiawah's West Beach Tennis Club, lost in the quarterfinals last weekend in the National Father-Son Clay Courts in Cincinnati. The Barths were unseeded, but upset the fifth seeds in the round of 16, then fell the next round to current University of Minnesota tennis coach and former ATP Tour regular David Geatz, and his son B.J.

-- Some levels of the local Combo league are expected to start their regular season this coming week. The league will run through the end of September.

-- Registration is currently available for the local Fall League in the Adult, Senior, Super Senior 60s and Super Senior 70s divisions. Super Seniors are expected to start play in early September, while other divisions will start at the end of September or early October.

Registrations can be made online through the www.lowcountry.usta.com or www.cptltennis.com sites, and then clicking on the TennisLink-Leagues selection.

-- The Lowcountry Tennis Association is still looking for volunteers to help with the Sept. 24-26 U.S.-Belarus Davis Cup semifinal at Family Circle Tennis Center, according to Peiffer. "We have quite a number of volunteers, but you can never have too many," Peiffer said.

Volunteer coordinator Kat Phillips of the Country Club of Charleston can be reached at KPHIL100@bellsouth.net.

-- A limited supply of tickets still remain available for the Davis Cup semifinal by calling a special Davis Cup ticket hotline, 1-888-484-USTA (or 8782).


(07/25/04)  Tennis thriving in the Palmetto State

Tennis is doing very well, thank you. There have been no fiery crashes, or even fights, to attract attention. But this year's Wimbledon quietly came off as a success. And, of course, there's Maria Sharapova, possibly the best thing that could have happened to women's tennis.

Plus, the current U.S. Open Series appears to be a tremendous hit.

Closer to home, the construction of Family Circle Tennis Center a few years ago has turned the entire state into something of a tennis Mecca. New facilities are springing up all over the state.

Nearly 2,100 players have been participating in the current Southern Sectional Championships in the Columbia area. They've been playing tennis for more than a week at various locations, producing an economic boom for the Columbia area.

Friday night, the tennis crowd rocked the Riverbanks Zoo for a party that passed the Southern Sectional banner to Charleston. The "biggest tennis tournament in the world" will be headquartered at Family Circle Tennis Center the next two years.

Much of this year's Southern Sectional is being staged at the award-winning almost new Lexington County Tennis Center. Also, Sumter has just opened an excellent new 14-court public facility, the Palmetto Tennis Center. And don't forget the College of Charleston's marvelous new facility at Patriots Point.

Even Winston-Salem, N.C., reportedly is considering constructing a tennis stadium in hopes of attracting events such as the Davis Cup semifinal that is scheduled for the Family Circle facility in September. Everyone wants a piece of the action, but the Charleston area has a giant head start at this point.

Of course, Family Circle Tennis Center is the parent to the sudden tennis facility explosion in the state. South Carolina has always been a good tennis state, thanks to its location and climate, along with the long-time tennis tradition of Hilton Head Island. But now Florida and California might be the only states with more of a tennis presence than South Carolina.

Family Circle Tennis Center will get quite a workout during the next 12 months. The transition from clay to hard surface for Family Circle Magazine Stadium will start in about a week. That's in preparation for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup. A full week of excitement created by the presence of the American and Belarus teams in town will be climaxed by three days of intense competition with the pride of two countries on the line. This internationally televised event will put the tennis spotlight squarely on Charleston and its world-class tennis facility.

The Family Circle Cup was the door-opener for the Davis Cup, but others will follow. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. was quite a visionary when he convinced local officials in 2000 that a Family Circle Cup move to city-owned property on Daniel Island would have a major economic impact on the area for years to come.

A few months after the Davis Cup, all eyes will be on the preparation for the 2005 Family Circle Cup. Will Sharapova enter? If not, maybe Kim Clijsters will try out the Family Circle for the first time, and still ailing Justine Henin-Hardenne should be recovered.

Hopefully both Serena and Venus Williams will be back. By the way, Serena's game appeared to be almost back Friday night in her come-from-behind win over Vera Zvonareva. If she can remain healthy, Serena has a chance to again move to the top of the women's game, although the competition at the top is growing fiercer by the week.

A couple of stars, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, are closing in on the end of their careers, but both may be back for another Family Circle. And then there are the Russians.

Who knows? By April, there may be another red-hot Russian teenager headed our way as she embarks on world fame. No one knows what will be next off the Russian assembly line of young tennis stars. America might actually have another star or two of its own by next year.

Shenay Perry was hardly noticed this year at the Family Circle Cup, but she is a player to keep an eye on. Extremely talented and gifted with exceptionally fluid hand-eye coordination, she has the potential to become one of America's top players, and may be the best serve-and-volley prospect since Martina Navratilova. Perry is a 20-year-old from Florida who needs only to hone the rough areas in her game.

Once Family Circle 2005 ends, there will be only about three months before the "biggest tennis tournament" in the world hits Daniel Island.

-- Even John McEnroe has his own successful-looking TV talk show on CNBC. As you would imagine, tennis comes up quite often.

-- Basketball analyst Dick Vitale practically took over the ESPN broadcast booth from Cliff Drysdale and Patrick McEnroe during last Sunday's final of the Mercedes-Benz Cup. Vitale apparently is a huge tennis fan, and has followed the careers of many of today's stars, especially Mercedes-Benz winner Tommy Haas while at Nick Bollettieri's in Florida. The basketball analyst appears to know his tennis stuff as well as most of the male tennis commentators on the networks and ESPN other than the McEnroes, Drysdale, Bud Collins and MaliVai Washington.

-- The USTA's Tennis Welcome Center is a great concept that makes it easy for new players to find a tennis home, but the most significant thing the USTA has done in recent memory is the creation of the U.S. Open Series. Last weekend's television coverage of men's and women's events in California simultaneously was a big breakthrough for tennis.

A tennis fan could get fulfillment with basic cable, without having to fork out extra money for premium cable packages plus an additional sports package to get the Tennis Channel. The future of the televised sport appears to be in the hands of the networks and ESPN.

LOCAL NOTES

-- Britney Mitchell, a local Courting Kids participant and member of Leslie Allen's WIN4LIFE program, will appear on the Aug. 8 segment of the USTA's Topspin TV series on CBS (12:30 p.m.). She will be seen conducting interviews during this year's Family Circle Cup. Topspin is scheduled to kick off its four-week show today on CBS at 1:30 p.m. with Andy Roddick as the main feature.

-- The Lowcountry Tennis Association will hold its annual captains meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.


(07/24/04)  Local 5.5 men's team making run at sectionals
COLUMBIA-Charleston's 5.5 men's team swept two matches here Friday to move into position to wrap up a title in the U.S. Tennis Association's Southern Sectional Championships, while St. Andrew's 5.0 men's team won twice to move into position for a possible title run.

Joey Eskridge's Charleston 5.5 team scored 2-1 victories over Atlanta and Jackson, Miss., on the opening day of the three-team race and will play each of the other two teams again this weekend. Charleston could clinch the 5.5 championship in today's 2 p.m. match against Atlanta, with an 8 a.m. Sunday match against Jackson left after that.

John Boetsch won the No. 1 singles match in both team wins for Charleston, while Stuart Small and Matthew Hane teamed up to win No. 2 doubles against both Atlanta and Jackson.

St. Andrew's 5.0 men improved their record to 2-1 with a pair of 2-1 victories, first over Mobile, Ala., and then Atlanta. Rohan Wadehra won at No. 1 singles both times, while Vijay Rao and Peter Netzler took the No. 2 doubles match against Mobile and Ariel Furfuro and Jorge Villarroel captured the No. 1 doubles match against Atlanta.

Elsewhere Friday, Charleston's 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 women's teams all suffered losses.

Open men's competition will start today with Chris Henderson's Charleston team and a team from Georgia entered.


(07/18/04)  Kriese gives his all when he runs a camp
When Chuck Kriese signs up to work a tennis clinic or camp, he puts his own stamp on the activities. The Clemson men's tennis coach doesn't just hand things off to his assistants and watch. He perspires right along with the kids.

"Anything I put my name on I'm going to be completely engaged in," Kriese said last week during his time in Charleston working with juniors.

"I have a mission to teach. I started out wanting to be a high school teacher and basketball coach. My mission now is to help the state of South Carolina in tennis. I think the camps are the best way to touch people's lives. The sky is the limit with children. I've had 12-to-13,000 kids in camps in my 29 years at Clemson."

All anyone had to do to witness first hand Kriese's commitment to this game was to stop by the inner-city Jack Adams Tennis Center on Monday. For more than an hour, Kriese was "the" instructor for 40 to 50 kids attending the weekly Courting Kids session. Kriese instructed the entire time as sweat, at times, rolled down his forehead.

After a week of teaching in Toni Young's junior camp at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island, Kriese is headed to Lynchburg, Va., to put on a weeklong camp at Liberty University. He will return to South Carolina the following week to conduct a week of day camps at Sumter's sparkling new Tennis Center at Palmetto Park. Earlier this summer, Kriese teamed up with Charleston Southern University tennis coach Randy Bloemendaal for a weeklong camp at CSU.

Two Liberty University players helped Kriese and Young with the 40 to 45 kids at Maybank Tennis Center. But before camp started each day, Kriese put his assistants through a 6:30 a.m. training session. "I'm trying to help them. I do that anytime I have serious players on my staff," Kriese said.

"I am committed to a mentoring program so we don't lose the resource of knowledge from players who have already walked that walk. It's a three-tier program. Everyone has a teacher, a friend or equal to hold them accountable, and then someone to teach."

Another point Kriese is stressing is that college coaches need to spend more time recruiting and developing American players.

"I'm trying hard to convince college coaches to look and recruit South Carolina players. We need to talk to the coaches and get them to recruit South Carolina players first, but it's important that we improve the top level of players so that we have more to recruit from. We've got to get the level up to where we have five or six Ryan Youngs coming up each year," Kriese said, referring to Charleston's Ryan Young who is coming off of an outstanding freshman year at Clemson.

"We need 20 kids in the state that are being recruited each year by colleges."

Kriese backs up his words in his own recruiting. Although only one of his regular top six players this past spring was a foreigner, Clemson beat Duke in the NCAA regionals and Texas Christian in the round of 16 before losing to UCLA in the national quarterfinals. Twelve times, he has taken his team to the NCAA Sweet 16s.

In other words, he has proven that an American team can win at this game. "I feel like we had one of the top four all American teams, along with Vanderbilt, Illinois and Ohio State," he said, pointing out that 48 of 64 players entered in the NCAA open singles draw were from countries other than the United States.

DAVIS CUP TICKETS

The U.S. Tennis Association appears to be approaching a sellout for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center, but tickets at the $180 package level are still available by calling the Davis Cup ticket hotline, 1-888-484-USTA (or 8782).

-- The Lowcountry Tennis Association needs volunteers to help with the local Davis Cup activities. Volunteer coordinator Kat Phillips of the Country Club of Charleston can be reached at KPHIL100@bellsouth.net.

LOCAL NOTES

-- St. Andrew's 3.0 team lost to Atlanta and Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday in its first two matches in the Southern Sectional Team Tennis Championships. April Bates is the St. Andrew's captain.

-- Marcus Mitchell, a veteran of the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program, has been selected to participate in the USTA's National Junior Tennis League leadership camp starting Tuesday and running through next Sunday at the Star Island Resorts in Orlando, Fla.

The camp is exclusively for youth from NJTL programs nationwide. Mitchell, a 14-year-old Academic Magnet High School student, is one of 30 junior players selected nationally for the all-expense paid trip. He is the only South Carolina representative.

-- The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association's Junior Women's Scholarship Program has given out cash awards totaling $4,500 to local juniors, ages 8-17. Scholarship grants were awarded to Meghan Blevins, Jordan Casey, Samantha Eppelsheimer, Sallie Johnson, Jordan Kelly and Caroline Thornton. Honorable mention gift certificates were awarded to Kate Bryant, Emma Dooley, Jessica Jefferson, Wendrah McCoy, Marielle McLaurin, Stephanie Mitchell, Caroline O'Neal, Mollie Polk and Cameron Wilson.

-- If you missed it, two former Isle of Palms Invitational participants dominated the senior doubles events at Wimbledon as T.J. Middleton and Johan Kriek both won titles. Middleton teamed with David Wheaton to win the men's 35, while Kriek and Kevin Curren took the 45s.

-- Camps for juniors will continue through Aug. 6 at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402) and Family Circle Tennis Center (843-849-5300).


(07/11/04)  'Senioritis' doesn't strike Estes
The senior year of high school is a time when many teenagers pull back on their schedules, even limit their preparation for athletics as they await that next giant step in life. Not Nat Estes.

Estes actually turned up the throttle a couple of notches for his senior year at Porter-Gaud. Instead of airing out his schedule with more free time, Estes added to it.

During the spring, he wasn't content with just playing for Porter-Gaud, and for the fifth time in his six years of high school tennis being part of an independent schools state championship team. He had played soccer until he was 14, so he decided he wanted to give the sport one last shot.

For the second straight year, Estes went unbeaten in tennis, won the team's MVP award and was named the independent schools state player of the year. If that wasn't enough, he was a starting keeper and rookie of the year on a soccer team that advanced to the state playoffs.

Earlier in his senior year, he had tried his hand for the first time at varsity football. He was good enough to be named Porter-Gaud's rookie of the year and land a berth on the independent schools' South all-star team. He was a kicker-punter, wide receiver and defensive end.

"I wish all my senior tennis players could have a senior year like that, playing three sports, and Nat was good at all of them," said tennis coach Fritz Nau, who coached Estes for two years.

"It was really good having him at No. 1, because it's tough if you don't win at No. 1. If you win at No. 1 singles you have a good shot at No. 1 doubles, too.

"Nat played football and shared his time between soccer and tennis, and that really worked well. We played a lot of teams that he wouldn't have gotten a very good match. He just played the tougher matches. It was really good to have him for two years."

Estes left the junior tennis trail last August after being ranked as high as third in the state in boys 18. But he continued to work on his game. The next step in Estes' life will be at NCAA Division III tennis powerhouse Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

"My goal is to make the top six as a freshman (in tennis)," said Estes, who turned down tennis and academic scholarships from Furman as well as academic scholarships from several larger schools.

"I was looking at Division I schools Furman and Miami, but I thought I would like to play in Division III better.

"When I visited Washington and Lee, there was no other place I liked more."

LOCAL NOTES

-- The Lowcountry Tennis Association needs volunteers to help with the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal at Family Circle Tennis Center. Volunteer coordinator Kat Phillips of the Country Club of Charleston can be reached at KPHIL100@bellsouth.net.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will direct a tennis camp at Maybank Tennis Center this coming week. He also will conduct a clinic at Monday's 5:30-7 p.m. Courting Kids session at Jack Adams Tennis Center.

-- Team registration for the local Combo Doubles League has been extended until midnight Thursday.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson's camp for juniors will continue through Aug. 6. The camp is for ages 4-18 from 9 a.m.-noon on weekdays. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Family Circle Tennis Center's weekly junior camps, headed by director of tennis Mike Baker, will continue through Aug. 6. Half-day (9 a.m.-noon) camps are for drills and full-day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) camps include match play in the afternoon. The camps are for novice through advanced players, 6-18 years old. For information, contact the tennis center (843-849-5300).


(07/05/04)  Roddick serves notice with strong final showing vs. Federer
Andy Roddick's best tennis may still be ahead of him. He took one giant step forward Sunday in what may turn out to be a defining moment in his young tennis career.

But there are other stepping stones in Roddick's path that now must be obvious to him.

Just how good can Roddick become? His greatness is limited only by his level of mastery of the art of the net game. Perhaps he should play more doubles, which he will at the Athens Olympics. Blending an effective net game with the best serve in tennis would take Roddick another step closer to his true potential.

Roddick took his game to a new level in the Wimbledon men's final. He just had the misfortune of having to face possibly one of the game's players of the ages. Yes, Roger Federer must now recognize that Roddick has the potential to possibly even surpass him on the world's center stage of tennis, the Grand Slams.

But all that matters right now is that Federer has won another Wimbledon title. He was able to win, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, on a day when he didn't play his best tennis. At times, Federer's style of play looked too casual.

As Bud Collins called him, "The Lone Roger," Federer was all alone in his thoughts. He survived this time. He won Wimbledon without a coach. But no one will ever know how close he came to losing it because of that.

Roddick had Brad Gilbert, possibly the game's best tennis mind after John McEnroe. Gilbert almost made the difference this time. Another time, he may be the deciding factor in Roddick's favor.

Gilbert came up with a strategy that virtually handcuffed Federer's game in the first set as Roddick attacked Federer's backhand relentlessly, then picked off easy volleys. Few people apparently were aware Federer had such a weakness, but others surely will take notice.

Roddick served and volleyed on occasion to get into Federer's head, to let Federer know that this time he couldn't get away with just blocking back service returns. After a couple of bursts to the net, Roddick started looking like this might be another part of the game he could master.

It was a different Roddick, a new and improved one. He still had the killer serve, but he added the element of surprise and unpredictability to his game. Ten pounds lighter, he moved brilliantly. And his intensity should have made every American proud on Independence Day.

For all of his talent and artistry, Federer may need a coach to help him realize his true greatness. He doesn't need a coach to change his game or strokes, but to tell him what he is doing and what he should be doing.

Otherwise, Federer's advantage over the rest of men's tennis could go the way of the Williams sisters in the women's game. Coaches such as Brad Gilbert will help other players close the gap between them and Federer.

WIMBLEDON NOTES

-- Wonder how long Maria Sharapova will continue to wear tennis dresses as low cut and revealing as the one she wore at Wimbledon. NBC overplayed that camera angle.

-- Roddick was the host of a taped version of "Saturday Night Live" (he didn't have the beard) on the eve of the Wimbledon final. Roddick was quite witty, especially when John McEnroe came out of the audience.

-- Roddick is a tennis player's player. Like most junior and league players, he wears a collarless T-shirt.

-- I can't wait to see what's new in Roddick's game when he arrives at Family Circle Tennis Center to play in the Davis Cup semifinals Sept. 24-26 against Belarus.


(07/04/04)  Sharapova just too much for Williams
It wasn't that Serena Williams played poorly Saturday. She actually may have played her best match in quite some time. And it wasn't that she was outhit by Maria Sharapova. Both women hit equally hard, a feat that in itself must have surprised Serena.

Serena was simply outmaneuvered. The difference in this Wimbledon final was Sharapova's movement. It was Sharapova's court coverage and impeccable footwork that repeatedly allowed her not only to make Williams hit another shot, but several more shots.

Accustomed to seeing her big strokes go for outright winners or so handcuff opponents that she usually feasts on a steady diet of high sitting-duck balls, Serena saw a different shot coming back this time. Instead, Serena saw balls that immediately set her on her heels and put her on the defensive. The transition from offense to defense didn't go well for Serena.

The extra pressure on Serena's awesome physical and athletic skills paid huge dividends for Sharapova in her 6-1, 6-4 victory. The 17-year-old Russian wore Serena down, but never into submission.

Serena demonstrated amazing determination and fight in the waning moments of her Wimbledon reign. She made Sharapova win the match.

In Sharapova, women's tennis may have found the gem that takes it to another level. Russian, but Americanized, she's a gold mine. Watch the women's game glow.

Sharapova wasn't always the total package of fluid movement and power. Her development in the last 15 months, or since last year's Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament has been nothing short of astonishing. Just a rangy teen-ager in April 2003 in her final days as a 15-year-old, she appeared to be slightly uncoordinated, just another promising newcomer who had no real weapon other than her loud grunts.

RODDICK'S TEST

Today will be a key test in Andy Roddick's tennis life, a match that could define his still-young career. Beating or taking Roger Federer to the limit in this Wimbledon men's final may be that important to Roddick.

Federer looks unbeatable when he is anywhere close to the top of his game. He makes difficult shots look routine. Patrick McEnroe calls Federer possibly the most complete player he's ever seen. Cliff Drysdale calls Federer the most complete player ever. He may simply be the best player ever.

But Roddick may be tennis' best server ever. Triple breakpoint can disappear on three swings of his racket. He has that ace in the hole, and the tenacity to back it up.

Roddick will need his best day of serving just to have a chance to beat Federer. Even then, Federer should prevail because of his ability to put Roddick's serves into play and textbook-like mastery of every tennis stroke.

LOCAL UPDATE

-- Charleston's Wilson Daniel had one of his top tennis moments last week during the State Closed Junior Hard Courts in Columbia when he defeated Jacob Behal of Simpsonville for third place in boys' 10. Payne Hoy of Mount Pleasant was runner-up in 10-and-under.

-- Monday is the deadline for entering Snee Farm's third adult Grand Prix of the year. The Grand Prix will start Wednesday. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis office (843-884-3252).

-- Charleston's Courting Kids program will not hold its weekly session this Monday at Jack Adams Tennis Center, while the junior camp at Maybank Tennis Center will take the week off and the Charleston Tennis Center camp will resume Tuesday after taking Monday off. Family Circle Tennis Center's junior camp is scheduled for the entire week.


(06/27/04)  Memorable moments of Davis Cup
A Davis Cup has never been staged in South Carolina, but the Charleston area certainly has its share of Davis Cup connections.

Everyone knows about Roy Barth's stints on the U.S. Davis Cup committee. And Warren Kimball has quickly become a significant Davis Cup link. Even John Davis, the grandson of Davis Cup founder Dwight Davis, is a Charleston resident.

You might wonder with all of this how it took so long for Charleston to land a Davis Cup. Of course, the key was the construction of Family Circle Magazine Stadium. It was just a matter of time before this world-class 10,200-seat stadium was placed on the Davis Cup map.

Barth still has a mental photo of the bongo drummers' antics in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2000, and the machine gun-toting guards that stood at every entrance and aisle of the indoor stadium during the first-round tie. Another thing that stands out in Barth's mind is the obvious results of a pep talk that U.S. captain John McEnroe gave to relative unknown Chris Woodruff after Woodruff had lost the second set of the decisive fifth match.

"Chris had played poorly and on a changeover I don't know what McEnroe told him, but Woodruff came out and won a lot of games in a row," said Barth, the Kiawah Island director of tennis who served four years as the Davis Cup committee's vice chairman. Woodruff, winner of a satellite event at Creekside Tennis and Swim in 1995, yielded a total of only six games to Wayne Black in the last two sets to give the Americans the victory.

"Woodruff had lost his first match (to Byron Black) and he took the day off Saturday and didn't even practice. He wasn't a big name and he was having trouble," Barth said. "But afterwards, (teammate Andre) Agassi told Woodruff that he had done something that he had never done (win the decisive match in Davis Cup). That made him feel pretty good."

Kimball, a Seabrook Island resident who is in his second year as the Davis Cup committee's co-chairman, will never forget the sight of an obviously ailing Goran Ivanisevic, "held together by baling wire, staples and band aids," winning a doubles match to help Croatia defeat the United States, 4-1, in 2003 in Zagreb. "The emotions of the day made him play like 10 years earlier and unhurt," Kimball said.

Then there was the weekend in Bratislava, Slovakia, later in 2003 that put the United States back in the Davis Cup's World Group. Showing off a brand new stadium with a retractable roof, the hosts wanted to play with the roof open, but the Americans protested to have the roof closed because the court's north-south-east-west orientation did not comply with a USTA recommendation to the international rules of tennis.

"With the roof open, the sun was shining right in the players' faces," Kimball said. The USTA's directional orientation for court construction in the United States also depends on the court's geographical location.

-- Sandon Barth, Roy's son who works in medical sales in the Chapel Hill, N.C., area, spent two days at Wimbledon during the first week of the event. Jonathan Barth, Sandon's brother and the head pro at Kiawah's West Beach Tennis Club, will team up with his dad for the National Clay Court Father-Son tournament in Cincinnati July 23-25. The Barth team made it to the quarterfinals of the event two years ago.

WIMBLEDON VIEW

The chair umpire's mistake in the Venus Williams match was an unfortunate one, and probably costly for Venus, considering her propensity for comeback victories. Parents of junior players see this type of mistake repeatedly committed by juniors players, with the results often also critically impacting the final results of matches. You just don't expect a chair umpire whose only job is to run the match to commit such mistakes.

Now that Venus is out, my favorite is Jennifer Capriati, with Lindsay Davenport a close second. I don't see Serena Williams winning this one, unless someone beats Capriati and Davenport for her. Serena's game simply wasn't ready early in the tournament.

-- As for the men, I'm going against Patrick McEnroe's picks. I'll take Tim Henman, if he faces Andy Roddick in the semfinals. I think Roddick could have all kinds of trouble on grass against the talented Henman.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Snee Farm's third Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for July 7-11, with a July 5 entry deadline. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis office (843-884-3252).

-- Ronald Anderson is holding free tennis clinics Monday through Sunday from 6 p.m. until dark on the two courts at the Corrine Jones Playground in the Wagener Terrace section near The Citadel in downtown Charleston. No registration is required, but space is limited.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program is holding Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan P. Fleming Tennis Complex on John's Island and Monday sessions from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center downtown. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson's annual summer camps for juniors will run weekly through Aug. 6. The camps are for ages 4-18 from 9 a.m.-noon on weekdays. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Family Circle Tennis Center director o tennis Mike Baker is conducting weekly junior camps through Aug. 6. Half-day (9 a.m.-noon) camps are for drills and full-day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) camps include match play in the afternoon. The camps are for novice through advanced players, 6-18 years old. For information, call 843-849-5300.

-- Toni Young is holding weekly junior camps at Maybank Tennis Center from 9 a.m. to noon through July 30, with the exception of July 5-9 and July 19-23. For information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814).


(06/25/04)  Tickets going quickly for U.S.-Belarus Davis Cup match
If you want to see the Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus other than on television, time may be running out to purchase tickets. After four days of sales to the general public, only about 700 tickets remain for the Sept. 24-26 tennis event at 10,200-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

According to Jeff Ryan, the U.S. Tennis Association's director of team events, the only tickets remaining are in the level three category, which sell for $180 for a three-day package. The level three section is made up of the lower 15 rows of the stadium's 23-row upper deck.

"There are excellent seats left," Ryan stressed Friday from his New York office.

The toll-free ticket hotline, 1-888-484-USTA (or 8782), will be open today and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., then reopen Monday at 10 a.m. - if tickets remain.

"My gut feeling was always that Charleston would be a positive market," Ryan said. "It's awfully nice to call Patrick (McEnroe, Davis Cup captain who is at Wimbledon) and tell Patrick that things are really good in Charleston and to convey that to all of the players. His answer is, 'Call back when it's sold out.' I said we'll be talking again soon.

"The guys (U.S. Davis Cuppers Andy Roddick, Bryan twins Bob and Mike, and others) know about it now, and they are excited that the community is so psyched about the Davis Cup. They (the players) were stoked. This (the ticket sales) shows that Charleston is a unique tennis market."

With this Davis Cup tie shaping up to be possibly one of Charleston's two hottest sports tickets ever (the other would be the 1991 Ryder Cup matches at Kiawah Island), veteran Davis Cup watchers such as Kiawah Island director of tennis Roy Barth are surprised by a near-sellout in just a few days of public ticket sales. Barth served for four years as U.S. Davis Cup committee vice chairman. Seabrook Island resident Warren Kimball now serves as co-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee.

Barth was at Paris' Roland Garros Stadium in 2002 when 15,000 wildly cheering fans watched the French defeat the Americans in the semifinals. "Roland Garros was packed. The French were unbelievably supportive," said Barth, pointing out the huge importance that Europeans place on the 104-year-old Davis Cup competition.

"And in Santander, Spain a few years before that it was packed with 12,000 (for a U.S. loss in 2000 semifinals)."

Barth would love to be in Alicante, Spain for the Spaniards' semifinal tie against France Sept. 24-26. That match will be played in a bullring that will be converted to an 11,000-seat tennis stadium.

"It will be unbelievably loud," Barth said. "Most Americans don't really realize it, but people here in Charleston realize how they can get behind their team and be vocal."


(06/18/04)  McEnroe gets warm, and humid, welcome
When Patrick McEnroe stepped out of the terminal at Charleston International Airport into Thursday's mid-morning humidity, he knew he had made the right decision.

"This is why we selected Charleston," the U.S. Davis Cup captain said, as the heavy humidity added to the early dampness from an oncoming shower of rain.

Yes, he smiled. He will have Belarus' two-man team just where he wants it. Charleston's early fall heat and humidity could give his four-man American team a distinct advantage over Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov in the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

It was more of the same humidity as McEnroe toured the 32-acre Family Circle Tennis Center complex on Daniel Island, stopping for photo opportunities in the 10,200-seat stadium. The clay surface was already a mess from the past two days' rain, but McEnroe really wasn't concerned with the clay since the stadium's surface will begin the transition to a slow, hard court the first week in August.

As he walked around, he noticed two hard courts. He quickly asked where the other two hard courts were, and when told they were behind the first two hard courts he responded, "It will be better to put the other practice court back there so you can't see the other team." Two practice courts will be surfaced identically to the stadium's surface.

McEnroe wasn't even discouraged when an early afternoon rain forced the cancellation of a junior tennis clinic, sending about 50 kids indoors for a long question-and-answer session that the ESPN and CBS Sports tennis analyst handled. He left town later in the afternoon to return to New York for one day before departing Saturday morning for Wimbledon to join the ESPN team.

He likes his team's chances in playing a third straight tie on American soil. And with reason. He expects to have 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick and the world's No. 1 doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan, as his major weapons against Belarus. It's the fourth spot, the No. 2 singles slot, that McEnroe is unsure about. Young Taylor Dent, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri and veteran Vince Spadea are the likely candidates for No. 2 singles.

"We don't expect to lose at home," McEnroe said. "We haven't lost a match at home since I've been captain (since December 2000).

"We've gotten lucky this year, playing every match at home. We thought we would be playing at Australia, but Australia lost to Sweden in the first round."

After beating Austria, 5-0, in the first round at Uncasville, Conn., the Americans defeated Sweden, 4-1, in Delray Beach, Fla., in April.

If the Americans defeat Belarus and France upsets Spain in the other semifinal, the Davis Cup final also would be played on U.S. soil. A Spanish victory over France would send the Americans packing if they prevail on Daniel Island.

"It would be the ultimate challenge to go to Spain and play them on red clay," McEnroe said.

But first things first. And that's Belarus, which is playing in Davis Cup's World Group for the first time.

TICKET SALES HIT 4,000

"I think it will be a packed house every single day," McEnroe insisted.

Jeff Ryan, the USTA's director of USA team events, added credibility to McEnroe's prediction by announcing that in just over three days of an exclusive USTA membership sale, ticket sales for the U.S.-Belarus match went over the 4,000 mark Thursday morning.

But Ryan was quick to point out that, "We've made provisions that tickets in all categories will be available" when tickets to the general public go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. The exclusive period for USTA members will end at 5 p.m. today.

"Sales have been good," Ryan said. "But we don't want to sell all the tickets to members." He added that approximately half of the tickets had been set aside for the general public.

Three-day ticket packages are priced in four categories, $90, $180, $270 and $375. Tickets can be ordered by calling a special USTA hotline (1-888-484-8782). All matches will be played on the stadium court. Play will start at 1 p.m. on Friday for two singles, 2:30 p.m. on Saturday for one doubles match and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday for two reverse singles matches.


(06/13/04)  USTA membership helps for Davis Cup
A U.S. Tennis Association membership is still paying dividends - that is, if you're looking to purchase good or inexpensive seats for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus at Family Circle Tennis Center. USTA members have an exclusive on Davis Cup tickets this coming week.

The exclusive period starts Monday at 10 a.m. and expires at 5 p.m. Friday.

Jeff Ryan, the USTA's director of USA team events, expects a three-day sellout at 10,000-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium. USTA members appear to be getting a real break in being able to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the general public Monday, June 21 at 10 a.m. The ticket hotline is 1-888-484-USTA (or 8782).

"We're really expecting a sellout," Ryan said while visiting Charleston from New York. "Through the grapevine I hear a lot of what's going on, and we're answering a lot of questions about tickets. The great thing about this is it gets everybody pumped up and carries through to the players."

Andy Roddick's record 153 mph serve (set Friday) might need that extra charge of American electricity against big Max Mirnyi, especially considering Roddick's recent slump. A supportive crowd also could help the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, who had a disappointing French Open in the fact they failed to make the doubles final.

"Over half (of the tickets) typically go to USTA members. The majority of tickets for Delray Beach (Florida, for the Americans' quarterfinal victory over Sweden) sold in the first week," Ryan said.

"Delray Beach had 6,000 tickets and Houston (2002) 4,200, and they were gone in a couple of weeks, and that's the feeling I'm getting (for Charleston)."

Only the top eight rows of the 23 total rows in the upper deck will be priced at $90 per three-day package. The lower 15 rows in the upper deck will be $180. Tickets for the second tier of the stadium, which will be identified as level two, will sell for $270, with the level one box seats going for $375.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center members, Family Circle Cup box holders and Family Circle Cup ticket package holders also will be able to buy tickets during the exclusive USTA member period that starts Monday and ends Friday.

PATRICK'S ANSWERS

Who's going to win Wimbledon? Is Roger Federer the best? What's up with Andy Roddick? Ditto, Andre Agassi? What's it like working with the ESPN gang of Mary Carillo, Dick Enberg, etc.? The answers to those questions and more might appear here next week. Yes, Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe is coming to town Thursday to inspect Family Circle Tennis Center.

ROGERS CHAMP

Congratulations to Mount Pleasant's Shelby Rogers as the only local player to win a singles title in the Palmetto Championships. Seeded second, she defeated top-seeded Alexis Prickett of Columbia in the girls' 12 final.

-- The Palmetto Championships' Web site incorrectly listed Sam-antha Eppelsheimer as a loser to Tracey Cooke in the girls' 18 consolation final, but Eppelsheimer, of Mount Pleasant, actually won the match, 6-1, 6-1.

ON THIS DAY

-- June 13, 1915: U.S. Davis Cupper Don Budge is born in Oakland, Calif.

-- June 14, 1963: The U.S. team is introduced to the Shah of Iran on the Americans' first Davis Cup venture to the Middle East, then goes out and takes a 2-0 lead on singles victories by Gene Scott and Allen Fox (U.S. eventually won the first-round tie, 5-0). U.S. was designated as the host, but the USLTA (Lawn) offered to play the match in Iran as a goodwill gesture.

-- June 15, 1906: U.S. fails to win a set against Britain on the first day of a challenge round at Wimbledon. Britain goes on to a second straight 5-0 shutout of the Amer-icans.

-- June 16, 1991: John McEnroe defeats Emilio Sanchez in McEnroe's final Davis Cup singles match as U.S. closes out a 4-1 victory over the Spaniards at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

-- June 17, 1938: U.S. Davis Cup captain and player Donald Dell is born in Savannah.

-- June 18, 1972: Stan Smith and Harold Solomon close out a U.S. 5-0 shutout of Mexico with singles wins in Mexico City.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program is under way with Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan P. Fleming Tennis Complex on Johns Island and Monday sessions from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center downtown. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson's annual summer camps for juniors started last week and will run weekly through Aug. 6. The camps are for ages 4-18 from 9 a.m.-noon on weekdays. For more, call (843) 724-7402.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center director of tennis Mike Baker will be holding weekly junior camps through Aug. 6. Half-day (9 a.m.-noon) camps are for drills and full-day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) camps include match play in the afternoon. The camps are for novice through advanced players, 6-18 years old. For information, contact the tennis center (843-849-5300).

-- Toni Young is conducting weekly junior tennis camps t Maybank Tennis Center from 9 a.m. to noon through July 30, with the exception of July 5-9 and July 19-23. For more information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814).

-- Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese will hold camps at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information, contact Kriese (864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com), Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Toni Young (843-343-8393).


(05/30/04)  Capriati still kicking while Agassi may be out of gas
The first week of the French Open presented several significant developments, the most shocking of which might have been Andy Roddick's loss. Andre Agassi may have been the only person totally surprised by his first-round loss. The same might be true of Justine Henin-Hardenne's second-round loss.

Other than Henin-Hardenne's elimination, Jennifer Capriati's play might have been among the most significant developments on the women's side. Capriati appears to be regaining the game that helped her make that unforgettable turnaround in her career some four or five years ago.

Actually, I think it's all in Jennifer's head. The game is there. She just has to exploit it.

She can still hit some of the prettiest shots you'd want to see. Then, out of nowhere, she hits one off the wall, or throws in a couple of double faults. Of course, Capriati probably would be able to set up better on her lateral movements if she dropped a couple of inches around the midsection. Bulking up is one thing, but Capriati appears to have overdone it in the midsection.

A leaner Capriati with the new mindset that she appears to be redeveloping might go a long ways. The path is wide open for Capriati, considering that both Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters have found injuries to be their toughest opponents, Henin-Hardenne may take a while to rediscover her game, and Lindsay Davenport is nearing the end of her career. Capriati has been through it all, and if she can pull everything back together she may still have a few good years left.

As for Agassi, he's been one of my heroes for a number of years. But unless he decides to devote his entire self to tennis again as he did in his remarkable comeback in 1998, the end may be in sight.

-- What's up with Mary Carillo's continuous stabs at Venus Williams on ESPN2 during Venus' conquest of Jelena Kostanic Thursday morning? Carillo, who lacks John McEnroe's analytical skills and may be overcompensating, found fault with almost everything about Venus' game, from a serve that needed to be simplified, to movement and footwork, capping off the comments by saying that if Venus had "better technique" she could be a much better player. The technique doesn't look too shabby when you consider that Venus hasn't lost on a clay surface this year.

CITY CHANGES

The City of Charleston is drastically changing its summer tournament schedule.

The June and July days of heat torture for juniors, seniors and adults are gone, being replaced by city junior, senior and adults tournaments scheduled for Sept. 9-12 at both Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Club. Among the advantages of the switch is that some of the senior categories will be held on Maybank's clay courts.

City tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne is counting on higher participation in September over tournaments held in the past in mid-summer.

The USTA's USA League obviously is the main reason for the decline in participation in local and state tournaments. League matches are much easier to fit into an individual's schedule than registering for a tournament, possibly traveling out of town, watching the weather and wondering if you'll be playing the next day, which might be a Saturday or Sunday.

The low number of entries that prompted the cancellation of last weekend's scheduled Senior Family Circle Cup was a perfect illustration of the impact league tennis is having on adult tournaments these days.

FISHBURNE, CARTER SHINE

Two local women, Diane Fishburne and Brenda Carter, have had exceptional success this May. Playing captain Fishburne won her No. 1 singles match against former pro tour player Catherine Suire in straight sets to give the United States the decisive point it needed to defeat France in the final of the women's 45 Margaret Court Cup competition in Atalya, Turkey. Carter won the national women's 55 indoor singles title in the Chicago suburbs.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The city's Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program will start its six-week summer sessions next Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan P. Fleming Tennis Complex on John's Island. The program also will be held at the Jack Adams Tennis Center downtown from 5:30-7 p.m. on Mondays, starting on June 7. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson's annual summer camps for juniors will start on Monday, June 7 and run weekly through Aug. 6. The camps are for ages 4-18 from 9 a.m.-noon on weekdays. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese will hold camps at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information, contact Kriese (864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com), Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Toni Young (843-343-8393).

-- The 15th annual Snee Farm Adult & NTRP Championships are scheduled to start June 11. The tournament will have various age groups as well at NTRP divisions. The entry deadline is June 8. For more information, contact the Snee Farm Country Club tennis shop (843-884-3252).


(05/20/04)  Charleston a good fit for Davis Cup semifinal
Family Circle Magazine Stadium's oval shape took on a more rounded image in the eyes of international tennis when it was officially announced Wednesday that men's Davis Cup competition is coming to the Daniel Island complex in September.

"This rounds us out, giving us men and women," said Frankie Whelan, the executive director of the Family Circle Cup, one of the premier events in women's pro tennis.

U.S. Tennis Association representatives and Davis Cup great Stan Smith were among the officials on hand at Family Circle Tennis Center when the USTA announced that the complex had been selected as the first South Carolina host in the 104-year history of the Davis Cup.

The U.S.-Belarus semifinal is set for Sept. 24-26 at the 10,000-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

Tickets go on sale in mid-June.

Why was the facility selected over venues with permanent stadiums in Houston, Atlanta and Carson, Calif., as well as temporary-stadium sites Tunica, Miss., and Fort Worth, Texas?

"Certainly the professionalism of the bid was important, the weather conditions were right ... a humid climate, a permanent facility was a contributing factor, and Charleston fit in well with our mission (to promote and develop the growth of tennis)," said Jeff Ryan, the USTA's director of team events. "They just put forth a nice bid. The process usually takes years, and they started a few years ago."

A few years ago was 2001 when Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley's bid to land a U.S.-India first-round Davis Cup tie lost to Winston-Salem, N.C. This time, Finley gained the support of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, and other local and state groups.

"They obviously got the community behind them. They researched what was important to us," Ryan said.

The bid obligates Family Circle to switch its stadium's clay surface to a slow hard court. That will be done by covering the existing clay with 1-1/4-1-1/2 inches of asphalt and a Deco-Turf surface. After the competition, the asphalt and surface will be removed.

"It's a very slow surface, the same as at the U.S. Open, just a lot slower," Ryan said.

Smith, who played on 24 Davis Cup teams that won a total of seven Davis Cups, warned the Americans about their Belarus opponents - two-time U.S. Open doubles champion Max Mirnyi and 2000 Wimbledon semifinalist Vladimir Voltchkov.

"Is the court slow enough?" Smith questioned. "Max Mirnyi is an animal, one of the last serve-and-volley players. He is very good on a fast surface, and Voltchkov can be very dangerous on a fast court.

"Belarus is a two-man team. After Mirnyi and Voltchkov, their next player is like 1,300 in the world."

Mirnyi and Voltchkov combined for all the victories in Belarus' 5-0 blitzing of Argentina in April, while Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, paved the way for the United States' 4-1 win over Sweden. Belarus upset Russia in the first round.

"Roddick can serve 152 mph, and it's still effective on a slow hard court," said Smith, the pro at Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort.

Spain will serve as host to France in the coastal city of Alicante in the other semifinal the same weekend. If the United States defeats Belarus, it would host France or visit Spain for the Davis Cup final in early December.

Charleston's bid for this Davis Cup includes 100-150 complimentary room nights for the USTA at Charleston Place Hotel. The USTA also retains all revenue from tickets and concessions.

"The most important thing was that Charleston is a great destination," Finley said. "We have a staff that knows how to run events, specifically tennis, and we have a world-class facility."

Other recent Davis Cup ties held in smaller U.S. stadiums such as a round-of-16 matchup in Oklahoma City in 2002 have resulted in economic impacts of around $5 million, according to Randy Walker, the USTA's senior publicity manager.

"We realize the enormous impact of an event the caliber of Davis Cup," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area CVB.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. also expressed pleasure that "this prestigious international tennis event is coming to Charleston ... We look forward to the benefits this semifinal will have on the Charleston area."

Ryan said tickets will be sold only in three-day packages.


(05/19/04)  S.C. nets coveted Davis Cup semifinal
CORRECTION (05/20/04): Page 1A

Because of an editor's error, the story on Page 1A in Wednesday's editions of The Post and Courier about Charleston being picked to host Davis Cup semifinal matches in September contained incorrect information about the length of the Family Circle Cup tournament. The seven-day event was held April 12-18.

Charleston picked to host matches

The U.S. Tennis Association has selected Family Circle Tennis Center to serve as host for its first Davis Cup matches in South Carolina in the 104-year history of the international tennis competition.

The official announcement that the United States-Belarus semifinal will be held at Family Circle Tennis Center on Sept. 24-26 will be made during a 2:30 p.m. press conference today at the Daniel Island complex. Jeff Ryan, the USTA's director of team events, and other USTA officials were scheduled to arrive in Charleston on Tuesday night.

"This is what we have been working for," said Frankie Whelan, the Family Circle's executive director. "This is why we built this facility. Being able to bring these caliber events to Charleston and the Family Circle sets Charleston apart from any other venue in the Southeast."

The $1.3 million Family Circle Cup women's tennis tournament switched from Hilton Head Island to Daniel Island in 2001, moving into the Family Circle Tennis Center in a joint venture with the city of Charleston, which owns the facility. Venus Williams won this year's Family Circle Cup last month at the 10,000-seat stadium, setting a Charleston attendance record for the three-day event at 91,410.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was equally happy about landing the Davis Cup. "This is great news for the city of Charleston. To have two popular tennis events like the Family Circle Cup and the Davis Cup here in Charleston is such a great achievement," Riley said. "Charleston is the perfect city to hold this prestigious event."

U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has decided to have Family Circle Stadium switch surfaces from clay to a slow hard court.

"That's what the team members want," McEnroe said earlier in the week. The U.S. team will be led by record-setting server Andy Roddick.

Charleston was selected over five other sites: Atlanta's Stone Mountain; Fort Worth, Texas; Houston; Carson, Calif.; and Tunica, Miss.

"Davis Cup is one of the world's largest annual team competitions," Randy Walker, the USTA's senior publicity manager, said from New York before boarding an airliner for Charleston.

"It's played in 137 nations, and the final four is coming to Charleston," Walker said.

He said the Davis Cup's first foray into South Carolina fits well with the USTA's mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis.

Family Circle Tennis Center made its bid for the Davis Cup less than two weeks ago, and last Friday, the site was inspected by Ryan and other USTA officials.

"They didn't give us much time. We had no idea how fast it was going," Whelan said.

"The collaboration between all of our partners has been remarkable."

Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley, who has worked virtually nonstop on the project during the past month, said, "It was really a collective effort between a number of partners who went the extra steps to bring this to reality."

The United States defeated Sweden, 4-1, last month in Delray Beach, Fla., to qualify for the semifinals. Belarus, led by Max Mirnyi, defeated Argentina, 5-0, in the quarterfinals.

Spain will serve as host to France in the other semifinal.


(05/19/04)  Davis Cup caps hectic summer
When the Davis Cup moves into Family Circle Tennis Center on Sept. 24-26, the competition between the United States and Belarus will climax a non-stop period of activity for American tennis.

The Davis Cup semifinal falls less than two weeks after the conclusion of the U.S. Open. The Athens Olympics end only a week prior to the start of the U.S. Open. Tennis interest should be high by the time Andy Roddick and mates arrive on Daniel Island.

Roddick won't have a chance to let his record-setting serve cool off since the defending U.S. Open champion is scheduled to be the star of each attraction. The image of a giant poster of Roddick superimposed on the front of Family Circle Magazine Stadium was part of the Family Circle's bid package to the U.S. Tennis Association.

"The Davis Cup in Charleston will punctuate an unbelievable era of events in American tennis history," said Randy Walker, the USTA's senior publicity manager. This summer also marks the launch of the USTA's 10-tournament U.S. Open Series in the U.S. and Canada.

News of the area landing the state's first Davis Cup competition was embraced with excitement from the local tennis community.

"What exciting news for the Lowcountry Tennis Association and our 2,300 members. This is a real coup for the Lowcountry, and it will help establish our growing reputation as one of the premier tennis destinations in the United States as well as one of its largest tennis communities," said LCTA president Bob Peiffer.

Family Circle executive director Frankie Whelan was out of town attending her son's graduation from college, but she planned to return to Charleston in time for today's official Davis Cup announcement by the USTA at the Daniel Island complex around 2:30 p.m.

"My goal when I came here was to grow the sport of tennis," said Whelan, in her third year with the Family Circle Cup. "Having a world-class facility such as the Family Circle Tennis Center made me be patient and to look for the right opportunity, and that was what happened."

The U.S. is hoping for better luck than the last time it served as host to a Davis Cup semifinal. That was indoors in Milwaukee in 1998, when the Americans were upset by Italy. "I'm not worried about the guys being burned out," said Patrick McEnroe, who will serve as men's Olympic team and Davis Cup captain for the Americans, Monday during a conference call. "I think they have taken care of their bodies well."

As for switching Family Circle Cup's surface from clay to hard, McEnroe initially considered clay in hopes of slowing down the big game of Belarus' Max Mirnyi. Instead, the team requested a slow hard surface similar to the one the U.S. defeated Sweden on last month in Delray Beach, Fla. The hard-court decision came after Roddick lost two straight clay-court matches this spring.


(05/16/04)  Davis Cup would bring unprecedented prestige
Just how big is the Davis Cup? Mull over these words from Jim Courier: "The Davis Cup and Grand Slams are the two reasons I get up every morning and strap on my shoes and practice."

And what would the Davis Cup mean to Charleston?

The Family Circle Cup is big, but a Davis Cup semifinal might be even more significant in the world's view. Not only would the Davis Cup attract worldwide attention for Family Circle Tennis Center, it probably would attract capacity crowds. The most inexpensive three-day tickets to last month's Davis Cup quarterfinal in Delray Beach, Fla., were $90.

Will Charleston land the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal that pits the United States against Belarus?

Quite possibly.

If you look at the situation without considering the financial packages thrown at the U.S. Tennis Association, Family Circle Tennis Center looks like a winner. Fort Worth and Atlanta's Stone Mountain reportedly are the other top candidates, with Houston probably waiting in the wings.

Although Fort Worth, Texas, went wild over the Davis Cup final 12 years ago when Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe defeated Switzerland, a large temporary stadium might take away much of the intimacy of a Davis Cup tie. The semifinal requires 6,000-10,000 seats, but 8,000-10,000 seats probably would be more fitting. And an 8,000-seat tennis stadium is a large one to go the temporary route.

Then there's Stone Mountain. Atlanta has an enormous number of tennis players, but there must be some fear that the Davis Cup could slip into the Atlanta area and get lost or forgotten, much the way the WTA Championships were in Los Angeles the last two years. Carson, another finalist, is located in the Los Angeles area.

The USTA loves to be embraced by an area. Even the media is important. The USTA likes to be splashed everywhere around town. "In Charleston and Fort Worth, we know the media will get behind it, and Delray Beach," said Randy Walker, the USTA's senior publicity manager.

Houston is a great site, but a Davis Cup quarterfinal was played in Houston just two years ago. This might be too soon to return. On the other hand, if the Americans defeat Belarus, and France upsets Spain, the final would be played on U.S. soil in early December. Whoever gets left out this go around, Charleston or Houston or possibly both, might be a strong candidate to serve as host if the Davis Cup final comes to America.

CALL FOR HELP

What a bad break for Venus Williams. Just when it looked like she might regain her dominance in women's tennis, another injury hits.

Hopefully, an ankle injury won't keep her on the sidelines long. Just keep your fingers crossed that Venus will be ready for the French Open. That's only a week away.

With Kim Clijsters definitely out and Justine Henin-Hardenne still questionable although she has resumed practice, women's tennis is in dire need of both Williams sisters staying healthy through the summer.

Why are so many injuries and sicknesses occurring? In Serena Williams' case, she pushed her recovery a bit too much, trying to play in Charleston after Miami and Amelia Island. That's probably also the case with Venus, going straight to Fed Cup after winning the Family Circle Cup, then winning Warsaw and going all the way to the final in Berlin before suffering the injury.

SCHOOL LEAGUE CHAMPS

The City of Charleston's 75-team elementary and middle school league wrapped up its playoffs this past week with Palmetto Christian Academy No. 1 (the school had nine teams) of Mount Pleasant defeating Porter-Gaud No. 1 for the Tournament 1 (highest-level) title.

First Baptist Church School of Charleston took the second tournament, followed by Summerville Catholic winning the No. 3 tournament, Blessed Sacrament taking the fourth and Christ Our King-Stella Maris the fifth.

The awards banquet for the league will be held Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The city's Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program is accepting registrations for its summer session that will be held on Mondays at Jack Adams Tennis Center from 5:30-7 p.m. for six weeks beginning June 7, and on Saturdays at the Alan P. Fleming Tennis Complex on John's Island from 10-11:30 a.m. starting June 5. The cost is $10 per child, ages 5-18. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- The deadline for entering Snee Farm's second Grand Prix of the year is next Sunday at 5 p.m. The Grand Prix is scheduled to be held May 25-30. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).

-- Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese will hold camps at two local sites this summer, a sleepover and a day camp at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and a day camp at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information, contact Kriese (864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com), Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Toni Young (843-343-8393).


(05/16/04)  USTA representatives pay visit
Three representatives from the U.S. Tennis Association paid a site visit to Charleston and Family Circle Tennis Center on Friday in response to Charleston's bid to serve as host to the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus.

Family Circle Tennis Center has been reported to be among the top three of six finalists. Atlanta's Stone Mountain and Fort Worth, Texas, are the other leading sites. The other contending sites are Houston, Carson, Calif., and Tunica, Miss.

USTA representatives visited Fort Worth, Atlanta and Tunica prior to coming to Charleston.

In Charleston, the group was given a tour of the downtown area, hotel accommodations and tourist attractions. The group visited Family Circle Tennis Center on Friday afternoon.

"Our meeting with the USTA went very well and I want to thank all those groups involved in helping us put together such a competitive bid, especially the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau," said Mike Finley, Family Circle's tournament director.
"I think the USTA representatives left here today with very positive impressions of Charleston and our facility here on Daniel Island. We expect the USTA to make their decision on the host site of this September's Davis Cup by the middle of next week and we certainly hope their final decision brings the Davis Cup to Charleston this fall."


(05/13/04)  USTA to visit Charleston regarding Davis Cup semifinal bid

The Family Circle Cup put on one of its most impressive displays in its 32-year history last month. Now, Family Circle Tennis Center is ready to go under the microscope again in hopes of landing a Davis Cup semifinal.

This time, the U.S. Tennis Association will be doing the probing as a team of its staff members arrive in Charleston for a Friday tour of the Daniel Island tennis complex. By Tuesday, the USTA should be making an announcement of its host site for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup tie pitting the United States against Belarus.

The Davis Cup group visited two other leading sites, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and Atlanta's Stone Mountain, Tuesday and Wednesday. The group was scheduled to stop by the Memphis suburb of Tunica, Miss., today for another site visit.

USTA representatives already are familiar with Houston and Carson, Calif., of the Los Angeles area, the other two finalists for the Davis Cup. The U.S. Men's Clay Courts are held annually in Houston and the USTA has a high-performance training center based in Carson.

The Charleston bid, which is headed by Family Circle Tennis Center and the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, appears to have a solid chance. That's mainly because of a world-class, 10,000 permanent-seat tennis stadium, Charleston's growing "tennis town" reputation and the local support group that put together a bid in the range of $150,000.

"We want to find a community that embraces the Davis Cup," Randy Walker, the USTA's senior publicity manager, said Wednesday from his New York office.

He also said the USTA likes to move the Davis Cup around to expose different areas of the country to the high-pitched atmosphere of this more than 100-year-old international competition. The fact the Davis Cup has never been held in this state even may be a plus.

Fort Worth was the site 12 years ago of the last Davis Cup final on American soil, in which Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and John McEnroe defeated Switzerland before sellout crowds of 11,000. But Fort Worth would be forced to construct a temporary-seat stadium on the TCU campus that could accommodate the 6,000 to 10,000 seats the USTA requires for a Davis Cup semifinal. Fort Worth's bid was a reported minimum of $200,000.

"The people in Fort Worth are starving" for a major tennis event, Walker said. "And we know that if we went to Houston they would do it right. Jim (Westside Tennis Center owner Jim McIngvale) is a can-do guy."

Houston's Westside served as host for the U.S.-Spain Davis Cup quarterfinal in April 2002 in a temporary stadium, but the club built a permanent stadium for the men's ATP Tennis Masters Cup that was held last November in Houston.

Stone Mountain's permanent stadium was the site for the 1996 Olympic tennis competition and also for the 1998 United States-Russia Davis Cup tie. The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association has more than 80,000 participants.

The current surface of any of the sites is of little consequence, according to Walker. "We could do whatever we want with any surface. We'll resurface the stadium court, then resurface two practice courts . . . that's what we did in Delray Beach (the Florida site of the Americans' quarterfinal vic-tory last month over Sweden)."

As for a host site's up-front fees, 150 complimentary hotel room nights, and the loss of all ticket and concession revenue, Walker said, "These things are very expensive to run. We require a fee, but that's negotiable and not disclosed by us."

Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley said USTA representatives Mary Carlisle White and Mike Mathis would arrive in Charleston tonight. "We're cautiously optimistic but hoping for the best," Finley said.

Kiawah Island was the site of a 1998 U.S.-Netherlands Fed Cup tie. Family Circle Tennis Center bid for the U.S.-India first-round Davis Cup match three years ago that was awarded to Winston-Salem, N.C.

The winner of the U.S.-Belarus tie will advance to the Davis Cup final Dec. 3-5, going to Spain or serving as host to France. France will visit Spain in the other semifinal.



(05/12/04)  USTA Media Excellence Award
James Beck of the Charleston Post & Courier, Tennisreporters.net Partners Ron Cioffi and Matt Cronin and
Tracy Allen of The Call Newspaper Honored for Excellence in Tennis Coverage

The USTA announced the winners of the 2003 USTA Media Excellence Awards. Winners include James Beck of the Charleston Post & Courier for Print; tennisreporters.net partners Ron Cioffi and Matt Cronin for Broadcast; and Tracy Allen of The Call Newspaper for Multicultural Media. Nominees were judged on the basis of work from the 2003 calendar year. The USTA Media Excellence Awards will be presented during the 2004 USTA Semi-Annual Meeting in New York City.
   
Tracy Allen is full-time writer/reporter for The Call Newspaper in Kansas City, MO. Over the past 10 years, she has covered a wide variety of high school, collegiate and professional tennis events in the area. She also writes about junior and adult tournaments and inner-city clinics to promote opportunities for anyone who wants to play the game. Allen wrote an extensive four-part series entitled Match Point: A Changing Face. Through historic insight and present-day relevance, the series focused on the influence of African-American players in changing the game of tennis.

Beck is part time tennis columnist and writer for the Charleston Post & Courier. He is the former executive sports editor for the Post & Courier and a former member of the Associated Press National Sports Editors Executive Committee. He started covering tennis for the Charleston newspapers in the 1970s. One of his earliest tennis memories is reporting the infamous Billie Jean King vs.  Bobby Riggs match. Beck covers all levels of tennis from junior competition to professional tennis. He often presents a personal perspective to the professional game and covers community tennis programs and players with a unique voice. An avid USA League Tennis player, Beck plays in his local Mixed League with his wife and daughter, and is also an instructor in the City of Charleston’s award-winning Courting Kids program.

Cioffi serves as webmaster, writer and photographer for tennisreporters.net, and heads KRC Communications, which produces numerous tennis-related publications. He teaches graphic design at North Georgia College & State University. His photos and articles have been published in Tennis magazine, Newsweek, American Photographer, Net News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yankee, Goal and Connecticut magazine. Cronin serves as full-time writer for tennisreporters.net and as managing editor of the California-based Inside Tennis magazine, which has had a long affiliation with the USTA Northern California section. He is also the main English language writer for official Grand Slam websites including usopen.org, wimbledon.org and rolandgarros.org. Cronin regularly contributes to Reuters and did the play-by-play on the first web radio broadcasts of the US Open finals. Welcoming an average of 1,300 unique visitors daily, the tennisreporters.net site concentrates on the professional tennis tours, Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions along with juniors and college players who show professional potential. Articles on the site are filled with insightful analysis, journalistic accuracy, and an in-depth knowledge of the game, and the site often features exclusives and one-on-one interviews.

The USTA presents Media Excellence Awards annually to individuals or media outlets who have most contributed to the game of tennis by disseminating knowledge of the sport to the general public. Annual winners are selected in three categories; Print Media, Broadcast Media and Multicultural Media. Each winner will receive a personal plaque and permanent recognition on a separate plaque placed in the US Open Media Center.

The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States and is a not-for-profit organization with more than 675,000 members. It owns and operates the U.S. Open and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympics and Paralympic Games.  It invests 100% of its proceeds to promote and develop the growth of tennis, from the grassroots to the professional levels. For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

For more information, contact:
Seth Sylvan, Director of Publicity, Community Tennis, USTA
(914) 696-7088; sylvan@usta.com

Alex Palombo, Publicist, Community Tennis, USTA
(914) 697-2308 or palombo@usta.com


(05/12/04)  Report: Family Circle Tennis Center a top contender for Davis Cup
Family Circle Tennis Center is among the top three candidates bidding to serve as host for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus. Atlanta's Stone Mountain venue and Fort Worth, Texas, are the other two leading contenders, according to an Associated Press report from New York on Tuesday.

The U.S. Tennis Association was granted a week's extension until next Tuesday to make its decision. Other reported finalists are Tunica, Miss., Carson, Calif., and Houston.

Fort Worth, Houston and Southern California all have held Davis Cup competition. Stone Mountain served as the tennis site for the 1996 Olympics, while Los Angeles area Carson is the site of the women's JP Morgan Chase Open in July. South Carolina has never held a Davis Cup tie, but the USTA's 1998 Fed Cup matchup between the United States and the Netherlands was held at Kiawah Island.

Family Circle Tennis Center just last month attracted a total of 91,410 fans to attend a Family Circle Cup in which Venus Williams returned to the world stage as a champion.

The Charleston bid was submitted last Friday to hold the Davis Cup at 10,000-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium, with a provision to change the stadium's clay surface to a hard court if U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe chooses a hard surface. The USTA indicated to Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley last week that the surface probably would be a slow hard court.

Family Circle's bid, which includes several other local groups including the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, was in the vicinity of the $150,000 that Delray Beach, Fla., reportedly paid the USTA to serve as host for the U.S.-Sweden quarterfinal match in April. The USTA retains all revenue from event ticket sales and concessions as well as requires 150 complimentary room nights at a premier class hotel. The stadium requirement is 6,000-10,000 seats.

All six bids for the semifinal competition are more than $100,000, but less than $500,000, according to the Associated Press. The USTA requires an up-front commitment of $225,000 that could come from local sponsorships.

The late-September weather for the six bidding sites, with the possible exceptions of Atlanta and Tunica, Miss., which is located south of Memphis, Tenn., near the Mississippi River, usually is warm and humid, which might be a factor in the competition since Belarus likes to use just two players, hard-courters Vladimir Voltchkov and Max Mirnyi. Each played two singles matches and the doubles match in Belarus' 5-0 blitzing of Argentina in the quarterfinals.

Andy Roddick and twins Bob and Mike Bryan lead the U.S. team that posted a 4-1 win over Sweden last month. A win over Belarus would send the Americans to the Dec. 3-5 final where they would travel to Spain or face France at home. Spain and France will meet in the Mediterranean town of Alicante in a bull-ring that will be converted to an 11,000-seat tennis stadium.


(05/09/04)  S.C. resorts earn high rankings

How big is tennis along the South Carolina coast? All you have to do is check out Tennis Resorts Online's 2004 list of the top 75 tennis resorts in the world. The coastal area from Mount Pleasant to Hilton Head Island has four of the world's top seven tennis resorts, led by second-ranked Wild Dunes.

Hilton Head Island's Palmetto Dunes Resort is fifth, followed by Kiawah Island sixth and Hilton Head's Sea Pines Plantation seventh. California's Rancho Valencia Resort is No. 1.

Of course, Wild Dunes tennis director T.J. Van Thullenar is wearing a big smile after seeing his resort move up five notches from a year ago in the rankings by Roger Cox, who originated similar resort ratings for Tennis Magazine more than a decade ago.

"We are very excited about it, heading up the entire East Coast," said Van Thullenar, a Bishop England and Erskine College graduate who has led the Wild Dunes tennis program for six years. "To be No. 2 is a huge honor. And for South Carolina to have four of the top seven resorts is awesome."

Wild Dunes is actually benefiting from another top resort, Palmetto Dunes where new Wild Dunes head pro Steve Brady spent eight years before moving to the Isle of Palms last year.

Van Thullenar has made several recent changes to spruce up the resort aspect of tennis at Wild Dunes. "We've changed all of our programming for the upcoming year. We're offering packages that include lodging, food and beverage," he said.

"We're looking at having more pros this summer than ever, 11 pros not counting myself."

In all, eight S.C. resorts are in the top 50, including No. 30 Port Royal Racquet Club, No. 34 Shipyard Plantation of Hilton Head Island, No. 37 Daufuskie Island Club and Resort, and No. 49 Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort.

STATE LEAGUES HERE

The USTA Adult Leagues' state 2.5, 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 tournaments will be held next weekend at Charleston Tennis Center, the St. Andrew's tennis complex and The Citadel. The state 3.0 and 3.5 tournaments will be held June 5-7 at Snee Farm Country Club.

NOTEWORTHY

-- The Diane Fishburne-captained U.S. team beat France, 2-1, in Sat-urday's final of the women's 45 Margaret Court Cup in Turkey as Fishburne won her singles match.

-- What a difference a week can make. Venus Williams came to Charleston struggling with her game and future in tennis. Even Reebok reportedly wanted to renegotiate the last two years of a five-year $40 million endorsement deal. Indeed, Venus may be the one wanting to renegotiate that deal if the next few months are anything like the way the Family Circle Cup, Fed Cup and Warsaw went for her.

-- Marat Safin may be one of the most talented male players on the planet, but he hasn't played like it the last couple of years. The tall Russian obviously needs some help in his mental approach to the game. So, he has hired Roger Federer's former coach, Peter Lundgren, on a trial basis to work with him until Wimbledon.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's elementary school league has finished its regular season and started a five-tournament playoff with 75 teams competing. The semifinals and finals will be played this coming week.

-- The city's Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program just finished its spring session two weeks ago, but Delores Jackson's program is already accepting registrations for its summer session that will be held on Mondays at Jack Adams Tennis Center from 5:30-7 p.m. for six weeks beginning June 7, and on Saturdays at the Alan P. Fleming Tennis Complex on John's Island from 10-11:30 a.m. starting June 5. The cost is $10 per child, ages 5-18. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Snee Farm's second Grand Prix of the year will be held May 25-30. The deadline for entry is May 23 at 5 p.m. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).

-- The inaugural Senior Family Circle Cup is scheduled for May 20-23 at Famly Circle Tennis Center. The singles draw size will be limited to 32 players in each age group with 16 teams in each doubles category (35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70). The entry fee is $55. The entry deadline is next Thursday at 5 p.m. Contact the Family Circle Tennis Center (www.familycircle-tenniscenter.com or 849-5300).

-- Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese will hold a sleepover and a day camp at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and a day camp at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information, contact Kriese (864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com), Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Toni Young (843-343-8393).


(05/08/04)  Tennis Center submits Davis Cup bid
DAVIS CUP

Family Circle Tennis Center and the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau were the leaders of a bid submitted Friday to the U.S. Tennis Association that could bring the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus to Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

The bid includes a possible switch of the 10,000-seat stadium court's surface to a slow hard court to accommodate Andy Roddick's record-setting serve. However, if U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe happens to prefer a clay surface, clay is the existing surface for the stadium court on which Venus Williams won last month's Family Circle Cup.

"We feel this is a very competitive bid package," said Mike Finley, the Family Circle's tournament director. "I think this package is in the same ballpark (as the investments that Delray Beach, Fla., made for the Davis Cup in April)."

According to the Palm Beach Post, Delray Beach paid $150,000 and donated city services to the USTA for the right to serve as host for the April 9-11 Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Sweden. That matchup, which the Americans won 4-1, sold out the 6,054-seat hard-court stadium at Delray Beach all three days.

"We are very excited to submit this bid," Finley said. "As far as Charleston and the number of tennis enthusiasts, per capita, it's unmatched.

"Our bid is a lot more competitive than what we put forth in the past," he said, referring to a Family Circle bid in 2001 for the U.S.-India first-round Davis Cup tie. That bid went to the indoor Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Charleston bid at that time was to switch the Family Circle surface from clay to hard surface.

"The indications are now that the USTA wants a slow hard court," Finley said. Prior to Roddick's back-to-back clay-court losses in the U.S. Clay Court Championships' final and in the first round of the current Italian Open, McEnroe was considering a clay surface in hopes of slowing down Belarus' big-hitting Max Mirnyi, who has won his last nine Davis Cup singles matches.

Then again, Spain is favored to beat France in the other Davis Cup semifinal and looms as the host on red clay for the Davis Cup final. A round on clay prior to the Dec. 3-5 championship round has to be considered as a possibility for the Americans, especially after a then just-concluded U.S. Open on hard courts.

Belarus defeated Argentina, 5-0, in Minsk, the capital of the small eastern European nation, in the quarterfinals as Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov combined for all five victories. Both are hard-court players who thrive on rushing the net.


(05/02/04)  Restoring the game's future
Tennis is currently in somewhat of a panic mode. This isn't a first.

The possibility of a decline is why experts such as Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese is going a step further to do his part to help grow the game specifically in the area of mentoring to juniors with a program he has named "Serve-it-Back."

"I am really quite committed to trying to help out our juniors in the state as much as I can within the rules and the time that I have," said Kriese, who has scheduled camps this summer at Charleston Southern University (June 27-July 2), Maybank Tennis Center (July 12-16) and Sumter in addition to his normal three weeks of camps at Clemson (contact Kriese at 864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com).

Kriese is concerned about what he calls the 80th percentile level, juniors who reach a high level of proficiency in their game, then fail to develop their games further.

The "Serve-it-Back" program involves a three-tier mentoring approach, getting away from the old two-tier approach of coach and student. "Quite simply, each and every person in the Serve-it-Back program will have a teacher, each will have a student and also each will have an equal level peer to be accountable to and responsible for," Kriese states in outlining the program.

"Junior players involved in the program will have someone that will always be available as a teacher over them, and they will also always have a student under them that they will be required to help. The third level which is the equal peer level may be the most important as each player will also have a best-friend peer that will be empowered by that player to hold him or her accountable to a high standard of actions and attitude."

Kriese's program is structured so that an 18-and-under player will have a college-age player that will serve as a mentor and will have a 16-and-under player to be over, with the chain ongoing to the 12-and-under or younger.

WELCOME CENTER

The level of tennis that the USTA and others, as well as Kriese, are concerned about is the period after people are first introduced to the game. That's when a large portion of tennis players leave the game. They like the game, but never feel connected, because of the difficulty of learning the game and how to become competitive in it. Unlike some sports, tennis usually requires another person to hit with or compete against.

That's where the Tennis Welcome Centers come into play. They help newcomers to the game or new arrivals in town find a tennis home and advise them on matters such as lessons and leagues. Of course, the USTA leagues are the very heart and soul of the sport. Once players become involved in a league, the chances are good that they will become longtime participants.

The Welcome Centers program is centered around the Internet in that individuals can go to tenniswelcomecenter.com, enter their zip code and find the nearest tennis facilities.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- James Island Yacht Club, the Country Club of Charleston and Maybank Tennis Center will hold the "The Battle of James Island" doubles tournament next Saturday at those sites. The event is for players from 2.5 to 4.5. Local college players and members of the Charleston Pro Tennis League will hold an exhibition. For information, contact Jim Wilkinson (406-8814), Lee Brockman (795-0425) or Jim Johnston (795-9295).

-- The dates for Snee Farm's second Grand Prix of the year have been changed to May 25-30 to avoid a conflict with local USTA League playoffs. The deadline for entry is May 23 at 5 p.m. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (884-3252).

-- The inaugural Senior Family Circle Cup will be held May 20-23 at Family Circle Tennis Center. The singles draw size will be limited to 32 players in each age group with 16 teams in each doubles category (35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70). The entry fee is $55. The entry deadline is May 13 at 5 p.m. For information, contact the Family Circle Tennis Center www.familycircletenniscenter.com or (843) 849-5300.


(05/01/04)  Kiawah passes on Davis Cup
Kiawah Island has decided not to make a bid to serve as host for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup semifinal tie between the United States and Belarus, but Family Circle Tennis Center is proceeding with plans to make a bid by next Friday's deadline.

"We'll probably pass on this opportunity to make a bid," Kiawah Island director of tennis Roy Barth said Friday. "With all of the things going on, with the new hotel, the timing just isn't right for us. It's a big commitment. To do it well, you have to have everything lined up."

Kiawah Island previously has served as host to two major U.S. Tennis Association events, the 1990 U.S. Clay Courts and the 1998 Fed Cup tie against the Netherlands. Both of those events were held in temporary stadiums seating less than 4,000, but the USTA's requirement for the Davis Cup semifinal is a stadium that seats 6,000-10,000.

"That's a big stadium," Barth said. "Going forward it might be better for us to bid for one of the earlier rounds."

One of the USTA's bid requirements to serve as host for the Davis Cup semifinals is 150 complimentary room nights at a premier class hotel. Kiawah has delayed the opening of its new $125 million, 255-room luxury hotel, The Sanctuary, two months until Aug. 15.

According to Barth, who has talked with USTA Fed Cup-Davis Cup director Jeff Ryan, the USTA has not made a final decision on the court surface. "They said it could be a slow hard court or a clay court," said Barth, who has both surfaces available at Kiawah to construct a temporary stadium around.

The Andy Roddick-led American team defeated Sweden last month in the quarterfinals in Delray Beach, Fla., on a slow hard court. But the presence of big Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov on a red-hot Belarus team has Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe concerned about playing on a hard surface. Roddick lost to Tommy Haas two weeks ago in the final of the U.S. Clay Court Championship in Houston, possibly adding some concern about switching to a clay surface.

If the surface is clay, Family Circle Tennis Center probably has the best clay-court stadium in the country in 10,000-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

"The wheels are in motion to give us an opportunity to make a bid," Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley said. "By the end of next week, we will be ready to make a bid. There are a lot of parties working on it."

In addition to the seating and lodging requirements, the USTA also retains all revenue from event ticket sales and concessions, and requires an up-front commitment of $225,000 that could come from local sponsorships.


(04/25/04)  Kiawah interested in Davis Cup
Family Circle Tennis Center might not be the only local facility interested in serving as the host for the Sept. 24-26 Davis Cup tie between the United States and Belarus. Kiawah Island also may be in the running.

Kiawah Island is a veteran of two U.S. Tennis Association-sponsored events, the 1990 U.S. Clay Courts and the 1998 Fed Cup tie against the Netherlands. Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth generally is considered to be one of the top tennis directors anywhere.

"Yes, we are interested," Barth said last week. "It's a possibility, but there are a lot of question marks."

The key issue for both local facilities is whether U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe really wants to make clay the surface for the matchup against big Max Mirnyi and his red-hot Belarus team. Andy Roddick's loss to Tommy Haas in last weekend's final of the U.S. Clay Court Championship in Houston might make McEnroe think twice about the switch to clay.

Then again, against Mirnyi, going to clay isn't a big gamble. Look at it this way, if Roddick easily wins his two matches against hard-courters Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov, and the Bryan brothers handle Mirnyi and Voltchkov in doubles, it's on to the Davis Cup final against the winner of the other semifinal between Spain and France. That sounds pretty easily.

The USTA's bid requirement is rather steep to serve as host for the Davis Cup semifinals. In addition to a requirement of 150 complimentary room nights at a premier class hotel, the USTA retains all revenue from event ticket sales and concessions, and requires an up-front commitment of $225,000 that could come from local sponsorships.

Kiawah has worked with the USTA before under similar conditions. The resort has an ace in its new $125 million super-hotel, The Sanctuary.

The stadium requirement is 6,000-10,000 for the semifinal. Kiawah didn't maximize its stadium space for the 1998 Fed Cup stadium that seated 3,500, Barth emphasized.

There was no new word from Family Circle Cup this past week on its interest in holding the Davis Cup semifinal at the 10,000-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

But Prem Devadas, Kiawah Island Resort's managing director, has great admiration for the Family Circle Cup and what it means to the future of Charleston tennis.

"We have received an invitation (to bid on the Davis Cup), but we haven't decided about making a bid yet. We're studying the feasibility," Devadas said Friday. "I think the most important thing is getting it in the Charleston area.

"The Family Circle facility is so well done and it is building a great tennis tradition. If the Davis Cup wanted to go there, it would be a wonderful match. But we are always interested in hosting a great sporting event, whether golf or tennis."

HAGOOD IN TOP SPOT

Former Porter-Gaud star Mary Neill Hagood capped a brilliant year by moving up to the No. 1 position at perennial Southern Conference power Furman, going undefeated in the conference and being named the conference's player of the year.

FISHBURNE CAPTAIN

Diane Fishburne has been selected as playing captain of this year's U.S. women's 45 team that will compete in the Margaret Court Cup competition in Antalya, Turkey, May 3-8. Fishburne, currently the No. 1 player in the nation in women's 45, recently won the National Clay Courts in Houston as well as the 2002 women's 45 world title. The Walterboro resident was on last year's U.S. team that lost to Australia in the Margaret Court Cup final.

LOCALS SHINE

Jason Basile and Caroline Thornton both fashioned solid results at the recent Southern designated Bullfrog tournament in Memphis. Basile finished seventh in boys' 18, while Thornton made the quarterfinals in girls' 14 and took sixth place. The 13-year-old Thornton upset the No. 2 seed along the way before losing to the eventual winner.

Basile then went to Little Rock, Ark., to take 11th place in another designated Bullfrog tournament. He is currently ranked 20th in the South.

Thornton is off to a great start in 14-and-under after just recently turning 13. She won Lexington's Topspin girls' 14 title last month, defeating Shelby Rogers in the final. Rogers, who is only 11 years old, is a hitting partner of Thornton's at Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy where Basile also trains.

UPCOMING EVENTS

? The deadline to register teams for this summer's local mixed doubles league has been extended through Wednesday, says Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer. The league has departed from its past format of odd numbers (such as 7.5 that usually matched 3.5 and 4.0 players) to even numbers (5.0 to 9.0 levels for adults and 6.0 to 8.0 for seniors). For more information, contact Dale Tanner, the local mixed doubles league coordinator (mixedtennis@aol.com).

? The entry deadline for entering next weekend's Pine Forest Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament is Monday. Contact Pine Forest (843-851-9010) for more information.

? Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese has held tennis camps at Clemson for 29 years, but this summer he is venturing out to other locations and will hold a sleepover and a day camp at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and a day camp at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information on the sessions contact Kriese (864-888-0940 or www.totaltennistraining.com), Maybank Tennis Center (843-406-8814) or Toni Young (843-343-8393).

? Snee Farm's second Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for May 11-16. The deadline for entry is May 9 at 5 p.m. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).


(04/22/04)  On the lookout for The Tennis Channel
Who wants to see more tennis on television? Make that tennis, period. Forget the more.

I don't know about you, but I haven't been able to see the little yellow ball on my TV set in quite some time. And I've got cable TV, too ... finally. With the addition of cable, I was expecting to just start clicking and occasionally find a tennis match.

It turns out that's not the case.

There's The Golf Channel, even a channel for auto racing. So, where's The Tennis Channel? You know, the channel that is going to make tennis a household word all over America.

After talking with my cable operator, I learned that I have to dish out about $20 more per month to upgrade to digital cable and subscribe to a special sports package. That's on Knology. The Tennis Channel isn't available on Comcast yet, although Nancy Pingitore of The Tennis Channel's Atlanta office insisted Friday that negotiations are under way.

"We are still working on a corporate deal with Comcast, but the pressure of the wonderful tennis community applied here in Atlanta enabled us to get a preview launch (on March 1 in Atlanta) prior to a corporate deal being struck," Pingitore said.

Why is The Golf Channel free, right there along with ESPN, on the basic cable package? "The Golf Channel has been grandfathered in. They've been in over eight years," said Pingitore, the account manager for The Tennis Channel's Atlantic Region.

"Networks like The Tennis Channel have been relegated to higher tiers. It helps them (cable operators) offset the cost of programming. The perception is that sports programming is too expensive. They (cable companies) say that for any new sports network, they'll create a new tier. They figure the ones (viewers) who are really passionate about their sport will pay the extra amount."

Pingitore pointed out that The Golf Channel originally launched on a tier.

How available is The Tennis Channel?

"The Tennis Channel is in 18 million cable households, 150 TV markets, over 1,800 communities across 32 states in the U.S. We have corporate (cable) deals with Cox, Insight, Time Warner, Adelphia and NCTC (National Cable Television Cooperative, of which Knology is a member)," Pingitore said.

Now that The Tennis Channel is available locally to some extent, tennis fans need to let their cable operators know that tennis is just as important as golf and auto racing.

JR. FCC CHAMP AT GEORGIA

If next weekend's Junior Family Circle Cup turns out to be anything like last year's inaugural event, local tennis fans are in for another treat. Remember, the winner of the girls' 18 division will earn a wild-card berth in the April 10-11 qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

Not only did Shadisha Robinson win last year's Junior Family Circle Cup, she then beat Australian touring pros Christina Wheeler and Evie Dominikovic, currently ranked Nos. 175 and 182 in the world, respectively, in qualifying to earn a berth in the main draw. Robinson gave currently 88th-ranked Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian a tough match in the first round of the Family Circle Cup's main draw.

Now at the University of Georgia, Robinson is collegiate tennis' top-ranked freshman, holding a No. 12 ranking in singles with a 22-5 record. She is ranked fourth in the college ranks in doubles.

CALTA GOING STRONG

The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association, better known as CALTA, is one of the area's top tennis leagues. The league started its spring season Jan. 13. It has more than 600 members playing on Tuesday mornings at 49 tennis centers around the area.

New players can join the league at any time during the season, according to league president Linda von Grotthuss. CALTA is planning a meeting of all team captains on March 15 at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street. Anyone interested in starting a new team for next season is invited to attend.

Information on CALTA and its 2004 junior women's scholarship program is available on the CALTA Web site at www.caltatennis.net.

JUNIOR CHALLENGERS

Last weekend's heavy rains played havoc with the planned start of the Junior Challenger circuit at Snee Farm Country Club, but tennis director Dewey Caulder and his staff still were able to get the tournament in during the week. Doubles, which have been added to Junior Challenger events, was a casualty of the foul weather.

-- The next Junior Challenger in the area will be held March 5-7 at the Mount Pleasant complex on Whipple Road. For information, contact the tennis shop (843-856-2162).

-- The following weekend, March 12-14, the circuit will move to Charleston Tennis Center, where the entry deadline is Saturday, March 6. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Pine Forest Country Club will be the host for another Junior Challenger April 30-May 2. Contact Pine Forest (843-851-9010) for more information.

VALENTINE'S REPLAY

Charleston Tennis Center's Valentine's mixed doubles social event surrendered to the weather last Sunday, but the tournament has been rescheduled for today from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and Johns Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session March 6 with Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10. A limited number of spots are available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.

-- Snee Farm Country Club will hold the first of five Grand Prix events for the year March 9-14. The entry deadline is Sunday, March 7 at 6 p.m. The Grand Prix will have competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Snee Farm (843-884-3252).


(04/19/04)  Welcome back to the top
Yes, make no mistake about it. Venus Williams is back, and ready to rule this game of women's tennis.

The early prognosis was that Venus wasn't ready. She played awfully in her opening three-set match against journeyman Samantha Reeves, some observers said. Yes, she did play dreadfully at times. But it was difficult not to recognize the greatness and depth of her game, one that few, if any, players in the history of the women's game could emulate.

It was that first match for Venus in this Family Circle Cup that set the stage for her to win the tournament in her first try. She showed things in the first match that only a great champion could. She played a horrible first set late Tuesday afternoon, but she was vintage Venus in the last two sets.

It wasn't that Venus beat a great player. It was just the way she beat Reeves; the greatness was so obvious in Venus' game. She showed the type of strokes, serves and court coverage that only she among WTA Tour players has. Yes, she was a better tennis player than her younger sister, Serena, even at Serena's peak. That was obvious early in this tournament.

In Sunday afternoon's final, Venus took her game back to her first set of the tournament. She was almost that bad in the first set of her 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Conchita Martinez. Martinez played well, but did nothing special in the first set. Venus just hadn't arrived yet.

Once again, the last two sets were vintage Venus. She completely overwhelmed a great clay-court player.

She waited for her shots. She crushed backhands. She was devastating at the net. Her big serve started to come in consistently at 110 and above.

Venus demonstrated that she is more than just a great player. She is a great clay-court champion, a great grass-court champion, a great hard-court champion. She is the ultimate tennis player.

By midway through the second set, she was ripping unbelievably accurate and powerful backhands down the line that Martinez could only stab at, off both Conchita's groundstrokes and serves. When Martinez did get one of them back, Venus was all over the net ready to smash a volley. She hit classic clay-court top-spins so hard and so well when drop shots came her way that Martinez was left flat-footed in the middle of the baseline.

The last two sets were a tennis clinic. ESPN could market the tapes from the match for instructional purposes.

A GOLDEN MOMENT

This was a tournament that had so many things go wrong. Rain, wind and cold made the first three days miserable. And the top three seeds all withdrew. But the ending was a true golden moment for the Family Circle Cup.

Venus Williams' success should take this tournament to new heights, with new respect in Charleston, and not just in the tennis community.

A poster of Venus in Family Circle Magazine Stadium should become a Charleston landmark.

DOUBLES TREAT

One of the tournament's real treats was the play of the world's No. 1 doubles team, Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual. These two journeymen players were a delight to watch, with their teamwork, strategy, court brilliance and quickness, and broad smiles as they chatted after every point.

They had several thousand fans smiling with them late Thursday night. Those who stayed to watch got an extra bargain for the price of their tickets.

Suarez and Ruano Pascual offered the same bargain Sunday afternoon, and even more fans watched their 6-4, 6-1 conquest of Martina Navratilova and Lisa Raymond in the final.


(04/18/04)  Charleston in the running for Davis Cup semis

The growing reputation of Family Circle Magazine Stadium as the country's best clay court tennis stadium may result in the Daniel Island facility hosting a Davis Cup semifinal Sept. 24-26. Normally, the U.S. Tennis Association wouldn't be interested in placing a Davis Cup tie in a clay-court facility. But with Patrick McEnroe's American squad set to square off against big Max Mirnyi and Belarus in the semis, the USTA doesn't want to take a chance on sending Andy Roddick up against Mirnyi on a fast surface.

Mirnyi can make a tennis ball look like a Ping-Pong ball with his brute power. He has won his last nine Davis Cup singles matches. Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov formed a two-man wrecking crew of Argentina in the quarterfinals in singles and doubles.

A USTA representative already has contacted Family Circle officials, according to tournament director Mike Finley.

"We're going to touch base with the USTA this week to make sure they are looking for a clay-court event," Finley said Saturday. "I think we are the premier clay-court facility in the U.S."

The Family Circle complex was considered for another Davis Cup tie three years ago, but at that time the USTA wanted the stadium's surface changed to hard court for a first-round match against Leander Paes and India. That would have been a major expense, and there was no assurances that the likes of a then somewhat unproven Roddick would attract big crowds. The bid went to the indoor Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., where the United States prevailed, 4-1.

The unpredictability of tropical weather was listed as the reason McEnroe took his young team indoors. Of course, that could be a legitimate consideration since the ATP Tour is on such a tight schedule and must play the Davis Cup in the scheduled week.

Three years ago, the U.S. team was an unproven one. But not any more. Not with Roddick and the Bryan twins, Mike and Bob. Roddick likely would attract near-capacity crowds, as would the Bryans, and even Mirnyi.

Fort Worth, Texas, is one of the sites that already has submitted a bid to the USTA. There will be others.

Spain and France are in this year's other Davis Cup semifinal.

"It has to be a partnership (between Family Circle and the USTA)," Finley said. "We won't be able to give them a large guarantee, but we would love to host the event, and we think the Charleston community would get behind it."

YOUNG LEADS WAY
Clemson's men's tennis team is in today's Atlantic Coast Conference final, thanks in part to the play of Ryan Young, the talented freshman from Charleston. Young won his singles and doubles matches both Friday and Saturday in the ACC tournament. He leads the Clemson team in both singles and doubles in the number of matches won this season.

LOCAL JUNIORS PICKED
It was a tremendous tribute to Althea Gibson that Family Circle Tennis Center dedicated its club court in honor of the legendary black tennis player.

Former WTA Tour player Leslie Allen's WIN4LIFE program is commemorating the 25th anniversary of a Gibson training session Allen held in Boston that included four future WTA Tour players, all of them blacks. Allen was one of them, along with Fed Cup-Olympic captain Zina Garrison, Andrea Buchanan and Kim Sands.

The training session, which will be held at the site of the original training in Boston May 20-23, will bring together 20 junior girls from Charleston, New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami. The two local players making the trip will be Vernita Ackerman and Satira Gibbs.

Allen, once ranked as high as 17th in the world, won the 1981 Avon Championships of Detroit to become the first black woman since Gibson won the 1958 U.S. Open to win a major pro tennis event.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The Pine Forest Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament is set for April 30-May 2. The entry deadline is April 26. Contact Pine Forest Country Club's tennis shop (843-851-9010) for more information.

-- Clemson tennis coach Chuck Kriese is planning local tennis camps this summer at Charleston Southern University June 27-July 2 and at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island July 12-16. For information on the sessions contact the Clemson tennis office, Charleston Southern tennis office, Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) or Toni Young (343-8393).

-- Snee Farm's second Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for May 11-16. The deadline for entry is May 9 at 5 p.m. For information, contact the Snee Farm tennis pro shop (843-884-3252).


(04/17/04)  Venus shows versatility in victory
Venus Williams really can't leap tall building in a single bound, can she? Vera Zvonareva might think so after Venus' miraculous leaps, bounds and stretches in a 6-3, 6-4 victory in Friday's quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup.

Venus resembles Michael Jordan's explosion when he goes airborne at the free throw line and dunks one. Venus does come down once or twice after taking off at the baseline before making a spectacular smash. She uses all of her 6-1 frame to reach balls, as Zvonareva repeatedly discovered. It was a nightmare to her, happening over and over on big points.

Zvonareva showed plenty of shot-making ability, but Venus usually had the last answer with her arsenal of weapons and court coverage. Venus put on an amazing demonstration of tennis and athletic ability. She's definitely ready for show time, Sunday's final. Today should be just another stopover on her flight.

DAY 5 OBSERVATIONS

-- Conchita Martinez had at least one big upset in her. That was obvious from her first match here. After taking Justine Henin-Hardenne to three sets last week, she had newfound confidence.

Serena Williams withdrew before she had to face Conchita's guessing-game strokes. That may have been a smart move. But Martinez finally got the big win on her 32nd birthday by humiliating eighth-seeded Nadia Petrova, 6-3, 6-1.

Petrova, a tall Russian with marvelous groundstrokes, never got into it against Conchita's array of moon balls, heavy spin and just plain good luck. Petrova's backhand was a real trouble spot. On low balls, she usually either netted them or flew them. On high-kickers to her backhand, she either swung down into the net or again flew them. On the many drop shots Martinez threw her way, Petrova usually went down the line and repeatedly was unable to get the ball over the highest point of the net.

Meanwhile, Martinez was bouncing around the court like a teenager, but showing amazing court savvy.

-- So often after a relatively unknown player pulls an upset, reality sets in the next day. That's what happened to Petra Mandula in the quarterfinals. A solid-looking player in upsets of Jelena Dokic and Jennifer Capriati, she came apart in the second set against lowly ranked (53rd) Jelena Kostanic.

-- Of course, Patty Schnyder is an exception to the one-upset rule. She is almost a mirror image of Conchita, a left-handed one who would be the last person invited to any meeting of big-time players. They dread seeing her on the other side of the net. Schnyder's game is just as nightmarish to opponents as Conchita's, with the big kicks and spin. Schnyder simply got inside of Lindsay Davenport's head in the night match and made a great player look terrible.

It all came down to the fact Davenport didn't get on top of Schnyder early. Davenport had her chances, starting with the first game when she had two break points only to lose the game, along with the next three games. On the first drop shot Schnyder attempted, Davenport raced in and made what looked like a cross-court winner, but the ball missed the line. That's the way it was all night in a 6-3, 6-2 rout. Schnyder had the answer for everything Davenport tried.

DAY 6 FORECASTS

-- Kostanic may be a good clay-court player, but Venus Williams is a great player, regardless of the surface. If Venus is anywhere close to her superwoman self, she'll fly away with an easy berth in the final. Three matches into this clay-court season, Venus looks better every time she steps onto the court. That means trouble for Kostanic, or anyone who gets in her flight path.

-- Conchita vs. Patty! Family Circle fans love the little left-hander from Switzerland, Schnyder. This one will be a battle of the minds. Schnyder may be the most mobile and biggest hitter, and she has that left hand on her side. She should have a date with Venus in the final.


(04/16/04)  Too much too soon for Serena
Serena Williams made a costly mistake. But the lust for regaining her supremacy over women's tennis obviously was the culprit of Serena's decision to commit to five straight weeks of competitive tennis.

Everyone else seems to know now that Serena was pushing her luck to make such a commitment after being out eight months recovering from knee surgery. But Serena is bigger than life, bigger than tennis. She didn't know she couldn't perform miracles.

It must be difficult for a Tiger Woods or Serena Williams to realize that they're just humans, who have been blessed with a few more talents than the rest of us. They think they're infallible.

First, Serena should have postponed her debut on clay after winning the two-week Nasdaq-100. Skipping the Amelia Island, Fla., event last week should have been an easy decision to make.

If she had to play Amelia Island, whether she was injured or won the tournament, Serena probably should have removed the Family Circle Cup from her schedule. She then could have concentrated on next week's Fed Cup.

Serena Williams' father, Richard, is one of the more clever people in sports. He has to be, to have guided two daughters to such fame, fortune and success. How did Richard allow Serena to put together such a murderous schedule? Of course, he may not have had a voice in the decision.

DAY 4 OBSERVATIONS

-- Nicole Pratt, bless her heart. At least, she tried, even though Lindsay Davenport would have had to play left-handed for Pratt to have a chance. Davenport's killer groundstrokes and serve were simply too good for a journeyman player who has limited shot-making ability and no weapon.

-- Patty Schnyder has the game opposing players hate. She can make great players look terrible. Her somewhat ugly mix of moon balls and left-handed spin did it to Serena Williams two years ago. This time, Schnyder has disposed of the talented Elena Dementieva. Schnyder threw the kitchen sink at the Russian, frustrating her so badly that three games into the second set of the 6-3, 6-1 romp, Dementieva was hitting easy put-aways off the walls.

-- Petra Mandula looked like a top player on clay as Jennifer Capriati's demise continued. But it's difficult to know just how big of an upset this three-setter was. Capriati may be on the way back. Her forehand and serve are coming around, and her movement probably is the best since her teen years. Her problems may go deeper, however, into the mental part of her game.

-- Venus Williams isn't far from top form. When she has her powerful serve and strokes working as she did in the second set of Thursday night's 6-4, 6-1 blitzing of Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian, Venus is as good right now as any player in the game.

DAY 5 FORECASTS

-- Is Schnyder destined to win the Family Circle Cup? Will Davenport be her next victim? Unless Davenport is hitting lines consistently and nailing her first serve, Schnyder could cause her grave problems. There's one thing about Davenport: she is such a veteran that she almost always plays within her game. And with the bombs Davenport almost casually delivers, she doesn't have to over-hit. But she'd better come out prepared to run down some drop shots.

-- Conchita Martinez had a day of rest Thursday, thanks to Serena's withdrawal. It might take more for her to handle the big serves, and consistent pace and depth of Nadia Petrova's strokes.

-- Mandula probably is set for a semifinal against Venus Williams. Mandula shouldn't have much trouble with "lucky that Justine Henin-Hardenne pulled out of the top slot" Jelena Kostanic.

-- Vera Zvonareva's consistency might present some trouble for Venus Williams until Venus gets her rhythm, but if Venus' serve is on and she limits her errors she will be one step closer to Sunday's final. Venus should have too many weapons in this one.


(04/16/04)  PHILIP BOWMAN: Show court named for pioneer Gibson
Fran Gray (right) speaks during the dedication of the Althea Gibson Club Court at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Thursday. Gray is the executive director of the Althea Gibson Foundation. The Family Circle Cup honored one of the greatest pioneers in tennis history Thursday by naming the tennis center's show court the Althea Gibson Club Court.

But Fran Gray, the executive director of the Althea Gibson Foundation, challenged the tournament to do more in the community.

"We thank them and accept the memorabilia that we're getting from them," Gray said after the afternoon dedication ceremony that attracted local and state dignitaries as well as representatives from national tennis organizations. "I would encourage Family Circle (Cup) to do more work in the city of Charleston with more youths so that young people can learn the game of tennis, and for (Family Circle Cup) to have a more active role in educating children, whether it be in the school system, or along with the tennis facility."
Gibson was born Aug. 25, 1927 on a cotton farm in Silver and moved to New York in 1930. She was raised in Harlem, and had her first tennis lesson was at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Club. She learned her lessons well. She became the first black to win both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, and finished her career with 11 Grand Slam singles and doubles titles. She later played on the LPGA Tour. She died Sept. 28 of last year in her adopted state of New Jersey.

Frankie Whelan, the executive director of the Family Circle Tennis Center, said talks to name a court after Gibson were held for a couple of years, well before she passed away.

"The reality that it is actually is happening today is a wonderful thing," she said. "We have a number of young up-and-coming players here, and this is an inspiration. Everyone can, if they work hard, achieve something special."

Gray pushed for two years to have the main stadium named after Gibson.

"I think if it were not for the support Family Circle (Cup) gives, the (main) stadium should be named after Althea Gibson, not just a plaque there, but the entire stadium. But, we're not going to complain about that. We're going to put things into the proper perspective and understand economics overrules everything."

Gray said Gibson battled opponents and racism with dignity.

"Nobody in this day and time, neither Venus nor Serena, has ever been called for a 15-foot fault in one match and won," Gray said. "Althea did."

Lindsay Davenport said Gibson was a huge pioneer and role model for women's tennis, especially for African-Americans.

"I unfortunately never got the opportunity to meet her," she said. "Of course I know some of the history about her, but, like I said, I never got the chance to meet her."


(04/15/04)  Dementieva shines on clay surface
There's Venus and Serena, and Lindsay, the American household names of tennis. Then there's Russia's Nadia Petrova.

But no one at the Family Circle Cup should overlook the other Russian, Elena Dementieva. Dementieva may be the most talented and athletic player in the field, after Venus and Serena Williams, of course.

Dementieva is an exciting player to watch, even if she doesn't have the swash one-stroke delivery of Serena, the power of the strikingly lean Venus or the precise killer forehands and backhands of Lindsay Davenport.

Yet, on a day when she hits her first serve consistently, Dementieva plays this game of tennis as well as anyone, especially when the surface is clay such as at Family Circle Cup Stadium. All she needs is that absorbent contact with the surface to slow down the bombers and bring her athletic ability into the match.

She hits marvelous forehands and backhands, down the line, inside-out and cross-court all equally well, that seem to have radar to guide them onto the playing surface. That was the way she cruised past Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-2, 6-2, Wednesday.

Dementieva went all the way to the Nasdaq-100 final a couple of weeks ago before losing to Serena, but that was on a fast hard court.

DAY 3 OBSERVATIONS

-- Davenport's power played into the hands of hustling Jelena Jankovic for much of the first set of a 7-5, 6-3 victory in the feature night match, but in the end Davenport's powerful groundstrokes and serve wore down the scrappy clay-courter. Jankovic's main weapons were her quickness and ability to harness Davenport's power for use in her own shots.

-- Petrova made her three-set victory over Akiko Morigami a lot more difficult than it should have been. Blessed with nearly six feet of height, wonderfully deep penetrating forehands and backhands, and a booming serve, Petrova is quite a player. At 21 years old, she has a bright future, if she can learn to play within her game and control her emotions.

-- Jennifer Capriati isn't back yet, but her forehand is getting closer. Russian Lina Krasnoroutskaya played the big points very weakly, giving Capriati an easy trip to the third round.

-- Dally Randriantefy scored a tough three-set victory over Karolina Sprem, and she's in the depleted and weak top quarter of the draw that Justine Henin-Hardenne vacated. Randriantefy isn't a threat to cause any real damage this weekend.

-- Talented Jelena Dokic is totally unpredictable. After using her brilliantly deep groundstrokes to win the second set to get back into her match against Petra Mandula, Dokic pulled a walkabout most of the third set, perhaps one of the most obvious ever at the Family Circle Cup. She showed no effort at all. In losing, Dokic, who turned 21 Monday, played havoc with the top quarter of the draw and ruined what might have been a feature matchup with Capriati.

DAY 4 FORECASTS

-- The highlight of the day should be the 2 p.m. matchup that sends Serena Williams against the heavy groundstrokes and masterful court presence of former two-time champion Conchita Martinez. Conchita can do to Serena what Patty Schnyder's high-kicking groundstrokes did to Serena in the quarterfinals two years ago.

-- If Venus Williams' game is anywhere close to what it was in the last two sets against Samantha Reeves on Tuesday, hard-hitting Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian shouldn't pose any serious problems for Venus in tonight's 7 o'clock feature match in the stadium.

-- Capriati got off the hook a bit with Dokic's loss, but a victory over Mandula isn't a sure thing unless Capriati picks up her game. Mandula has a strong serve and will test Capriati's patience and consistency in the 11:30 a.m. stadium court opener.

-- Davenport should see more of the same type clay-court play against Nicole Pratt, but with her big strokes grooved on the Daniel Island clay Davenport should breeze into the quarterfinals.


(04/14/04)  Venus Williams gets early test from Reeves

If Venus Williams happens to win this Family Circle Cup, she will owe a debt of gratitude to the tournament for making Samantha Reeves a lucky loser in qualifying.

Not that Reeves gave Williams anything. Quite the contrary.

Reeves pushed the former world No. 1 every step of the way. In the process, Reeves upped Venus' chances of winning this tournament considerably. Venus is not only ready, she's steaming hot.

In the first set of her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory, Venus looked like a player coming off injury and making the transition to clay surface. But what a transition she made the last two sets. Her serve was vintage Venus, accurate and overpowering, and she drilled brilliantly strong service returns and groundstrokes from both sides.

In short, Venus' performance was awesome. With Justine Henin-Hardenne's withdrawal from the tournament, Venus might actually have a cakewalk to the final.

DAY 2 OBSERVATIONS

-- Martina Navratilova had her chances to push Amy Frazier to the limit, or maybe even win. But Martina's physical skills at age 47 aren't what they used to be. She served poorly and wasn't patient enough to wait for good opportunities to approach the net.

-- Jelena Dokic can hit some of the prettiest tennis shots you'd ever want to see, hard and penetratingly deep forehands and backhands. That's when she is on, such as the first set in her 6-0, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Tatiana Panova. But she may revert back to set No. 2 proficiency the next time she plays. Dokic has the game to become an elite player; she just needs to find the right temperament in her game to reach that level.

-- Poor young Ashley Harkleroad. Where did all of her fire go? She was only a shadow of her 2003 self in a 49-minute, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Petra Mandula. Harkleroad's strongest shots were blanks as she appeared unmotivated and totally flat.

-- Serena Williams performed about the way she was expected to against a totally outclassed 176th-ranked wild-card entry named Kelly McCain. It was no match. Serena hit the corners and McCain wasn't prepared for a night in the stadium.

DAY 3 FORECASTS

-- Nadia Petrova is worth showing up at the stadium at 10 a.m. to watch against Akiko Morigami. This should be a walkover for the tournament's eighth seed.

-- Take a good look at the athletic Russian Elena Dementieva in the second match today in the stadium. She's a player who on a good serving day can beat anyone, but even her weak second serve should be enough to handle Anabel Medina Garrigues. The problem for Dementieva is that she is in the loaded bottom half of the draw that includes Petrova, Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams.

-- It will be interesting to watch Jennifer Capriati in the third match on the stadium against Lina Krasnoroutskaya to see how she has recovered from injury and a loss of confidence. Capriati will have to prove that she is back from that devastating loss to Henin-Hardenne in the U.S. Open.

-- Davenport's precise groundstrokes and big service game should be too much for Jelena Jankovic in the 7 o'clock night opener.

-- The best match of the day might be the nightcap between Amy Frazier and left-handed top-spinner Patty Schnyder. Frazier handled Navratilova's left-handed serves and strokes well, but Schnyder puts an entirely different spin on the ball.

BEYOND TODAY

A player to watch in the bottom half of the draw is Petrova. The talented Russian is in the same quarter of the draw as Serena Williams, a player Petrova yielded only five games to in last week's quarterfinals at Amelia Island, Fla.

Petrova easily could spoil things for Serena again, if Serena survives Conchita Martinez in the third round.

Petrova then could challenge Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals. Petrova appeared to have Davenport beaten in the Amelia Island semifinals before losing in three sets.


(04/13/04)  Sky's the limit for this year's Cup

Monday was show-up day, a day just to get to today and tomorrow. Even the rain made its appearance.

The sky is now the limit for this fourth Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island. A 100,000 attendance total may be possible, if the Williams sisters can stick around until at least Friday and the weather cooperates.

Tonight should be a good one, but tournament officials missed a golden opportunity to attract a near-capacity crowd by not putting Venus and Serena Williams or two headliners on the night session.

DAY 1 OBSERVATIONS

-- Conchita Martinez appears to be slimmer than in the past and playing near the top of her game. Conchita's half-serve motion is deceptive to go along with her heavy groundstrokes.

A two-time champion here, she has been around for a few years and uses that experience about as well as anyone who has played the game. Serena Williams should be standing in her way in the third round, but don't rule out at least the quarterfinals for Martinez.

-- Lisa Raymond may be just the opposite of Martinez. Raymond appears to have bulked up, and in so doing lost some of her quickness and timing but gained more power, especially in her forehand. Power isn't always best on clay, however, as Raymond's first-round loss might indicate.

-- Venus Williams is really a congenial, nice person.

-- The Williams sisters still turn to "Daddy" Richard Williams in the clutch. Richard was working Venus and Serena out Monday morning, just like during their glory days.

DAY 2 FORECASTS

-- Serena Williams will have no trouble with 176th-ranked wild card Kelly McCain in tonight's 7 o'clock feature singles match. The smallish McCain is fast and consistent, but will be overwhelmed by Serena's powerful groundstrokes and serve ... and playing at night in the stadium.

-- Vera Zvonareva is one of the brightest young players on the tour, solid in every aspect of the game but with no true weapon. She should be too solid for qualifier Severine Beltrame in tonight's second match.

-- Unpredictable Jelena Dokic has a tough draw against solid qualifier Tatiana Panova in the 10 a.m. stadium court opener, and Ashley Harkleroad's game and savvy should be interesting to watch against Petra Mandula in the second match in the stadium.

-- Martina Navratilova has a great shot at beating slow-footed Amy Frazier in the third match in the stadium.

Martina will have to stay in points long enough to pick her shot and approach, but attacking Frazier's powerful and consistent forehand is risky. Getting in control of the point first and forcing Frazier to move around the court will be the keys to Martina setting another "oldest player" record.

-- Venus Williams looks too strong for lucky qualifying loser Samantha Reeves in today's fourth stadium court match.

BEYOND TODAY

An all-Williams final would be fantastic, but from this point of view Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport are the players to beat. I particularly like Davenport's chances. Now quicker and lighter on her feet, Davenport may be playing the best clay-court tennis of her career. When she's on, no one works a point better. She hits backhands and forehands with equal authority.


(04/11/04)  Climb from qualifier to main-draw regular a steep one
What a tough circle to crack. A player can look like the next Serena Williams one day, and a USTA League player the next.

You can watch two players try to outsmart and outplay each other for two hours. You wonder why either is playing in a qualifying event such as the one that is going on this weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center.

They appear to be hitting the ball just as hard and nearly as well as the players on the TV set in the media room. But in reality, the players on the TV screen, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport, are a world away from these qualifiers.

Making the climb to main-draw player from a journeyman pro who goes from qualifier to qualifier is a difficult one. A newcomer to the system usually takes years just to escape from qualifier mode. Year after year, many of the same women show up for qualifying tournaments, hoping to come up with a couple of performances that can put them in the main draw.

The veterans often survive the qualifying tournaments, keeping their dreams alive for another day. As time evolves, the newcomers become the veterans, replacing other veterans who have served their time and earned the status of main-draw players.

Yes, what a tough circle to crack.

Less than two years ago, Marissa Irvin was ranked 51st in the world, a main-draw player. Saturday in her first qualifying match, she was eliminated by little-known, but big-hitting Lioudmila Skavronskaia in the first round of the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.

Then, there was Jennifer Hopkins, who was ranked 52nd in the world three years ago, losing to Tatiana Perebiynis. Remember, Hopkins was the bait for Serena Williams' initial Family Circle Cup match back in 2002.

For Irvin and Hopkins, they sank one step deeper into the quicksand that keeps pulling players further and further from the mainstream WTA Tour.

SERENA POSITIVES

Just when everything looked great for the Family Circle Cup, Serena Williams suffered knee problems and lost Friday at Amelia Island, Fla. But Family Circle Cup officials are confident that Serena will play here after tour supervisor Pam Whytcross talked with the Williams group following Serena's problems at Amelia Island.

Two things in the Family Circle's favor are Serena's plan to visit Charleston's Courting Kids inner-city program Monday afternoon (this is a program Serena helps support) and her selection by the tournament as this year's Player Who Makes A Difference Award winner. She is scheduled to pick up that award Friday.

Three players who would have been seeded, in addition to 18-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova, withdrew from the Family Circle Cup prior to Saturday's draw. They were 12th-ranked Chanda Rubin, No. 15 Silvia Farina Elia and No. 20 Francesca Schiavone.

VAN DER MEER ON LIST

Dennis Van der Meer's camp at Hilton Head Island is listed among the 10 best junior camps in the country in the May issue of Tennis Magazine. Other camps on the list include Nick Bollettieri's and Harry Hopman's.

DUNES WEST "FREE"

Dunes West is planning a tennis "Free or All" for April 19-25. Yes, the tournament is free. Players can sign up for two events, whether singles or doubles.

The schedule for Monday through Friday matches will be after 6 p.m., while the Saturday-Sunday schedule will start at 8 a.m. Players may register by phone (843-881-9542), fax (881-9387) or email (dwproshop@jwhomes.com).

The free package (for participants only) includes a T-shirt, drinks and snacks, and a Friday night catered party.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Tuesday at 8 p.m. is the deadline for entering next weekend's 15th annual Snee Farm Junior Championships. Contact the Snee Farm pro shop (843-884-3252) for additional information.

The Pine Forest Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament is set for April 30-May 2. The entry deadline is April 26. Contact Pine Forest Country Club's tennis shop (843-851-9010) for more information.


(04/08/04)  Williams honored for commitment to kids
FAMILY CIRCLE CUP NOTES

Serena Williams has been named the winner of this year's Family Circle/Prudential Financial "Player Who Makes a Difference" award for her commitment and generosity over the past two years to organizations in Charleston and around the state that provide services for children of all ages.

"Professional athletes of Serena's stature often have so many demands put on their personal and professional lives that it's amazing they find time to give back to community causes and worthy programs," said Susan Ungaro, editor-in-chief of Family Circle Magazine. "For Serena, making a difference is a top priority. We applaud the caring and support she has given the children of Charleston over the past two years."

The Player Who Makes a Difference award will be presented to Williams during next week's Family Circle Cup WTA Tour tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center. Zina Garrison, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Jaeger, Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Billie Jean King, Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Hingis, Chanda Rubin and Corina Morariu are past award winners.

Family Circle Magazine and Prudential Financial co-sponsor the award and each company donates $10,000 to the charities of the winner's choice.

Williams will receive the award and check on center court in a special ceremony on Friday, April 16.

Breast cancer awareness through the Avon Foundation, The Ronald McDonald House and The Make-A-Wish Foundation are among the programs Williams have helped in the past. Another program she supports is The OWL Foundation, which is a non-profit organization founded by her mother, Oracene Price, to provide special educational assistance to help young people reach their full potential in the education arena. Serena also has supported a Family Circle Cup Community Outreach program called WIN4LIFE, which is operated by former WTA Tour player Leslie Allen.

Williams also has helped establish various community initiatives since 2002 in the city of Charleston. A scholarship grant at the College of Charleston was established in her name and is given annually to a student-athlete. The grant is awarded to one who not only excels on the playing field, but also is a champion in the classroom and in the community.

KUZNETSOVA WITHDRAWS
World's 13th-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova, an 18-year-old Russian who has become one of the newest stars on the WTA Tour, has withdrawn from the Family Circle Cup due to a right shoulder injury. She also withdrew from this week's tournament at Amelia Island.

JUNIORS TREATED
A total of 80 juniors from Courting Kids and 163 juniors from the Junior Tennis Association will be treated to a visit to the Family Circle Cup by the Lowcountry Tennis Association, Family Circle and T-Bonz. The Courting Kids group, ages 4-17, is led by Delores Jackson. Currently, 89 juniors are being schooled in tennis at the Jack Adams Tennis Center and the Alan Fleming Center on Johns Island.

The Junior Tennis Association is made up of 170 juniors, ages 4 to 18 who compete as teams in USTA league play throughout the Lowcountry. The association is headed by Peggy McElhiney.

KID'S DAY
The first Family Circle Cup Kid's Day, presented by The Post and Courier, is scheduled for Monday. Lindsay Davenport will kick off the Kid's Day extravaganza with a question and answer session on stadium court at 9 a.m. Kids 14 and under will be admitted free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

MILITARY DISCOUNT
Charleston military personnel and their families will receive $10 off on any daily admission ticket and a 50 percent discount on night session tickets during the Family Circle Cup. A military ID will be necessary when purchasing the tickets.

TRIATHLON SET
The second Family Circle Tennis Center Triathlon will be held May 16 at 7 a.m. The Triathlon will feature a .4-mile open water swim at lull tide, a 14.5-mile bike race and a 4-mile run.


(04/07/04)  DAVID CARAVIELLO: Club court to be renamed for S.C.'s Althea Gibson
The club court at the Family Circle Tennis Center will be renamed in honor of South Carolina native Althea Gibson, the first black woman to play in the U.S. Open and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A dedication ceremony at the court will be held Thursday, April 15. Born in a sharecropper's shack in the Sumter County town of Silver, Gibson went on to become one of the greatest women's players of her time. She moved with her family to New York at the age of 3, and began playing paddle tennis on the sidewalks of Harlem.

Gibson was the first black woman to play at the U.S. Open when she debuted at Forest Hills in 1950, and a year later became the first black woman to compete at Wimbledon. She won five Grand Slam singles titles, two each at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and one at the French.
Gibson, who also played professional golf on the LPGA Tour, died Sept. 28 at the age of 76. A foundation in her name works to identify, encourage and provide financial support for urban youths who wish to develop their skills in golf or tennis.

TICKETS AND TELEVISION
Single-day Family Circle Cup tickets for second- and third-level seats at stadium court are available. Second-level seats, which have chair-backs, are $55 for day sessions and $30 for night sessions, and are not available for the tournament's final three days.

Third-level seats, which are bleacher-style, are available for all tournament days. They are $45 for day sessions, $20 for night sessions, and $50 for semifinal and championship rounds.

Full-tournament tickets in the stadium's second level are available for $470 each. Full-tournament box-seat ticket packages are sold out, as are partial-tournament packages for the event's final four days. Partial-tournament packages for the first three days are available for $180 each.

ESPN will televise the tournament Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16, from 2-3:30 p.m. each day. ESPN2 will air the semifinals from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, and the final at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 18.

This year, most night sessions will includes two singles matches, rather than one singles and one doubles match as in years past. The exception is Friday, April 16, when the night session will include one singles and one doubles match.

DREAM TEAM
Serena and Venus Williams, Martina Navratilova, and Lisa Raymond were selected by United States captain Zina Garrison for a first-round Federation Cup match at Slovenia on April 24-25. The winner advances into a July quarterfinal match against either Austria or the Slovak Republic.

Combined, the U.S. team members have 28 Grand Slam singles titles, 61 Grand Slam doubles titles, 456 WTA Tour titles and are 54-6 in Fed Cup play.

"I call it a dream team for more than one reason," Garrison said at the Nasdaq-100 Open at Key Biscayne, Fla.. "First of all, foremost, Martina Navratilova is just an incredible person who's done so much for our sport. Then you have Venus and Serena, who have also done a lot. Lisa Raymond is an excellent team player who understands just the fact of being there. She's playing good singles and good doubles as well."

The U.S. team, with 14 titles the most successful ever in Fed Cup play, lost in the finals to France in 2003. Garrison is in her first year as captain.

MISSING MONICA
Former Family Circle Cup finalist Monica Seles played an exhibition match March 23 in Richmond against Navratilova. The 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) loss marked Seles' first appearance since losing in the first round of the French Open last May.

Seles has been recovering from a broken bone in her left foot, which she decided to let heal rather than have surgery. For several weeks she wore a soft cast, which she shed three weeks before the exhibition. The nine-time Grand Slam winner, who has slipped to No. 224 in the rankings, hopes to return to the WTA Tour before the French Open, which begins May 24.

"I tape it very well and go to therapy every day," Seles, 30, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "No problems. I'm very happy about the way things are going. It was a very frustrating injury, and I'm glad to have it behind me."

Fellow professional Lindsay Davenport wondered if her friend would ever return to full-time play.

"I think it's conceivable she might not play again," she said during the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, Calif. "I don't think that is far out there. I could see her playing in a couple of tournaments. I don't really see her coming back full strength, playing a full schedule ... I think it really depends on how she's feeling, how her foot starts feeling when she starts practicing more."

VROOM, VROOM
As courtesy cars go, it's hard to beat the WTA Tour. Porsche, the circuit's North American regional sponsor, will supply a mixture of 911s and Cayenne sport-utility vehicles for use at the tournament.

The cars are shipped in, and do not come from local distributors. The cars are made available for top players to drive, as well as for transportation volunteers to escort players back and forth between the tennis center on Daniel Island and their lodgings downtown.

SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS
Kelly Brier San Miguel, a senior at Greenville High School, is one of three students who will receive a $2,500 "Personal Best" scholarship from the Family Circle Cup and sponsor L'Oreal. The winners will be honored in an awards presentation before the semifinal matches on Saturday, April 17.

The scholarships are awarded to one female high school senior in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, who are recognized for charitable or volunteer achievements. San Miguel, who is planning to attend the University of Miami (Fla.), assists chemotherapy patients and creates breast cancer recovery kits for patients in the Greenville area.

The other winners are Sonya Lorenson from Raleigh, N.C., and Whitney Ryan Lee from Lafayette, Ga.


(04/07/04)  Kuznetsova shows plenty of promise
Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a backhand against Justine Henin-Hardenne during this year's Pacific Life Open. Svetlana Kuznetsova's game only looks like a miniature version of Serena Williams'. This 18-year-old Russian has the size, strength and athletic ability to play with the big girls.

Kuznetsova has a huge one-punch forehand that can compete with the best, a lethal weapon that could take her places on the WTA Tour. And there's not a big difference when she has to go to her backhand or serve. Size wise, she is only a half-inch shorter and about 30 pounds heavier than Williams.

Kuznetsova packs a wallop in her game. She may very well be the brightest young star on the horizon. She has climbed from 36th at the start of the year to challenge for a spot among the world's top 10. She already is one of the world's top doubles players, winning five doubles titles with Martina Navratilova in 2003 alone and is ranked fifth in the world in doubles.

The main weakness in Kuznetsova's game may be in her footwork and mobility. But she is young, and once her body matures into a more manageable distribution of weight, those weaknesses probably will go away. When that happens, Serena Williams and Justine Henin-Hardenne may indeed have another serious challenger for supremacy of the women's game.

This 5-8-1/2, 161-pound teenager had a terrific 2003. And 2004 is shaping up to be even better, although she suffered a three-set loss to Karolina Sprem in the round of 16 at Miami. Kuznetsova already has beaten Venus Williams and Henin-Hardenne this year. She turns 19 in June.

SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA
Ranking: 13
Age: 18
Residence: St. Petersburg, Russia
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Russia
Height/Weight: 5-8-1/2 /161
WTA Tour singles titles: 2
Grand Slam titles: 0
Best FCC finish: 1st appearance


(04/07/04)  HANDICAPPING THE FIELD

RANK/PLAYER BEST FINISH COMMENT

1. Justine Henin-Hardenne 2003 Champion Game's most consistent and best player over the last year. One-handed backhand is a classic. Demonstrates remarkable savvy and grit. No one single lethal weapon but all together a potent force. Will attempt to make this her sixth straight Tier I success. Heavily favored to repeat.

4. Lindsay Davenport 2003 Semifinalist A big hitter who goes for the lines but has struggled the last two years while plagued by injuries. Appears in top shape but mobility is suspect on clay surface. Capable of winning tournament in event someone else helps with Henin-Hardenne.

6. Serena Williams 2003 Runner-up Absent from WTA Tour for nearly nine months due to knee surgery after winning last year's Wimbledon title. Powerful strokes and serve. Transition to clay from hard surfaces usually more difficult for a power player. Chances for success here may be hurt by heavy schedule, Family Circle is fourth straight week of competition since returning to the tour.

7. Jennifer Capriati 2001 Champion Hasn't won a tournament since 2002 Australian Open. Has struggled badly since losing to Henin-Hardenne in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. Deep and penetrating groundstrokes have been neutralized by unforced errors and weak service results. Putting together five straight victories may be asking too much.

8. Elena Dementieva Round of 16 in A player to watch who came into her own after last year's Family Circle. A talented young Russian capable of beating anyone on a given day because of great athletic ability. 2000 and 2003 Service is only liability particularly a soft second serve. If serve is working and can avoid injury and long matches capable of winning tournament.

9. Chanda Rubin 1993 Quarterfinalist A big server whose game is more suited to hard courts but has performed well on clay, twice making the quarterfinals of the French Open. Career has been interrupted several times by injuries including this year. Key is being healthy when the tournament starts.

11. Nadia Petrova 1st round 2001 Consistent player more feared on hard surfaces but a semifinalist at last year's French Open. At 21 years old one of the leaders of the young group of Russian stars on the tour. Probably not a serious threat for the title.

12. Vera Zvonareva Quarterfinalist in 2003 Solid and well-rounded game. A consistent performer capable of beating anyone on a given day on any surface. Another young Russian, 19 years old.

13. Paola Suarez Round of 16 World's top doubles player whose singles game has continued to improve. A quarterfinalist at French Open in 2002 and U.S. Open in 2003.

14. Svetlana Kuynetsova 1st appearance Has blossomed into one of the top doubles players in the world in the last year. Also showing vast improvement in singles. A serious threat, appears to be best of the teenage Russians. Possesses a lethal forehand. Sluggish mobility.

15. Silvia Farina Elia Semifinalist in 1995 Veteran player who has been unable to win the big one that would place her among the game's elite.

16. Jelena Dokic 2000 and 2003 A powerful game but sometimes erratic with over-hitting. Prior to last year's strong performance had lost three straight matches at the Family Circle Cup.

17. Venus Williams 1st appearance Handicapped by injuries since losing to sister Serena in last year's Wimbledon final. Did not return to the tour until this year. A threat if she can groove her strokes and serve on clay and avoid more injuries.

18. Patty Schnyder 2002 Finalist A left-hander with wicked spins who can't be counted out on any clay surface but has struggled for the last year.

19. Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi Round of 16 Third straight year listed with a new name, played two years ago here as Anna Smashnova, last year as Anna Pistolesi and this year as Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi. Tiny 5-2 in 2000 and 2002 performer who lacks the power and strength to be considered a title contender. Clay is her best surface.

29. Mary Pierce 2000 Champion Big forehand packs a wallop, but injuries and lack of mobility have hindered this former French Open champion the last three years. A player to watch early but not a serious contender.


(04/07/04)  Navratilova still making noise on Tour

Martina Navratilova had a fantastic career the first time around, earning about $20 million and winning 167 singles titles, not to mention 18 Grand Slam singles titles. That was enough for the naturally athletic left-hander to be recognized by many experts as the best player ever to play the women's game.

Now on her final lap around the WTA Tour, this 47-year-old wonder is having another brilliant career - this time in doubles. But she hopes to have some success in singles as well after accepting wild-card singles berths into this week's tournament at Amelia Island, Fla., and next week's Family Circle Cup.

Navratilova has won four singles titles at the Family Circle Cup and a record seven doubles titles.

After winning 165 doubles titles in her first career, Navratilova made a doubles comeback in 2002 by winning one tournament. Last year, she won seven women's doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles at Grand Slam events. She has won a total of 173 doubles titles.

Five of Navratilova's doubles titles last year came with 18-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova. She also won doubles titles with Anke Huber and Lisa Raymond as well as won the Australian Open and Wimbledon mixed doubles titles with Leander Paes.

Navratilova is the third woman to win singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments. She has 58 Grand Slam tournament titles in all (18 singles, 31 doubles and nine mixed).

She is setting a record this year as the Family Circle Cup's oldest participant at 47 years, five months. Renee Richards set the previous record in 1981.

The first of Navratilova's Family Circle Cup singles titles came in 1982. She won her last Cup in 1990 by defeating then teen-ager Jennifer Capriati in the final.

Navratilova was a finalist in her initial Family Circle Cup, back in 1975, the second in Chris Evert's string of five straight titles and eight in all. Navratilova defeated her key rival, Evert, in the 1982 semifinals and never lost another Family Circle singles final.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA
Ranking: 7 (doubles)
Age: 47
Residence: Aspen, Colo.
Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic
Height/Weight: 5-8/145
WTA Tour singles titles: 167
Grand Slam titles: 58 (18 singles, 31 doubles and nine mixed)
Best FCC finish: 4 singles titles; 7 doubles titles


(04/07/04)  Stars come out on Daniel Island
The field is fabulous. Sixteen of the world's top 20 players committed to this year's Family Circle Cup.

But five players who have won a total of 19 Grand Slam singles titles will be the focus of attention. Former champions Justine Henin-Hardenne and Jennifer Capriati will share the spotlight with Venus and Serena Williams, as well as Lindsay Davenport.

One of these players is expected to walk away with the $189,000 first-place check on Sunday, April 18.

But who would have thought Iva Majoli could have won this event two years ago when the field featured Serena Williams and Capriati? Or who would have given Henin-Hardenne a legitimate chance to defeat the then seemingly unbeatable Serena Williams a year ago?

The unpredictability of a clay surface could play another important role in this tournament. Serena Williams, Davenport and Henin-Hardenne were all slated to play this week on clay at Amelia Island, Fla.

Henin-Hardenne is the odds-on favorite this time. She has won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments and has won five straight Tier I events. She went to Amelia Island with a 22-1 record after winning the Tier I tournament at Indian Wells, Calif.

Clay isn't the best surface for Venus or Serena Williams, but Serena surprised the tennis world two years ago by winning the French Open on red clay. In two trips to Charleston, Serena has lost to Patty Schnyder in 2002 in the quarterfinals and to Henin-Hardenne in last year's final.

Capriati has struggled with her game and injuries since allowing Henin-Hardenne to escape what looked like certain defeat in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open. Davenport has the game to beat anyone, but she doesn't appear to have the focus that took her to U.S. Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open titles. Like Capriati who just turned 28 years old, Davenport is nearing the end of her career as she approaches her 28th birthday.

After these five players, the top challengers should come from the young Russian group of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova. Both Kuznetsova and Dementieva appear to have the games to win this tournament.

Dementieva lost in the round of 16 at last year's Family Circle Cup, then won her first career singles title the following week at Amelia Island by defeating Henin-Hardenne and Davenport in the last two rounds.

Kuznetsova has beaten Henin-Hardenne and Venus Williams this year. Her forehand is capable of becoming one of the most lethal weapons on the WTA Tour. If she handles the clay surface at Family Circle Tennis Center, this 18-year-old will be a serious threat.

Zvonareva is a talented 19-year-old who was a quarterfinalist here last year. She has a well-rounded game, but thus far has failed to develop a weapon that could elevate her game into elite status.

Jelena Dokic is another young player who has been in neutral since making last year's quarterfinals here. She has the game and strokes to climb to top-five status, but has failed to develop the patience and court savvy to make that trip.

Schnyder is always a threat on clay surface with her high-kicking left-handed ground strokes as she demonstrated here two years ago by beating Serena Williams and Capriati before losing to Majoli in the final.


(04/07/04)  2003 final a preview of season

Throughout its 31-year history, the Family Circle Cup has made a habit of introducing great players to the world. In many instances, the player who wins the Family Circle Cup goes on to have an extraordinary year.

Three years ago, Jennifer Capriati topped the world's No. 1 Martina Hingis, then later claimed the top ranking for herself after winning the French Open. Justine Henin-Hardenne shocked everyone last year by upending Serena Williams in what was a sneak preview of women's tennis for 2003.

Henin-Hardenne also won the French Open and U.S. Open en route to becoming the No. 1 player in the women's game.

A Serena-Justine showdown appeared to be the perfect climax to the 2003 Family Circle Cup. Almost everyone thought Williams would win her first Family Circle Cup and maintain her unbeaten status for the year. Williams jumped out to fast start and threatened to run away with the title when she led Henin-Hardenne 3-0. Williams didn't win another game in the first set as Henin-Hardenne's slice backhand started causing problems for Williams' hurried ground strokes. The second set was a repeat of the first, with Williams getting off to a 3-1 lead only to falter in the face of Henin-Hardenne's determined play.

With her timing in disarray, Williams sprayed unforced errors until Henin-Hardenne had prevailed, 6-3, 6-4. The match captured the entire year of women's tennis in a nutshell as Williams won Wimbledon but struggled until her No. 1 ranking disappeared. Meanwhile, Henin-Hardenne became the best player in the game while dominating the tour. She has won three of the last four Grand Slam events.

The 2003 Family Circle Cup suffered a blow even before the main draw started when Monica Seles and Capriati withdrew with injuries. Cold, rainy weather then attacked the tournament and forced the cancellation of the Tuesday and Wednesday night sessions.

Former champion Amanda Coetzer headlined the first day by rallying from a set down to defeat Denisa Chladkova. On Tuesday, Lindsay Davenport rolled through her first match, needing just 54 minutes to dominate Daja Bedanova.

Finally on Wednesday, Williams and Henin-Hardenne played their first matches. Williams had no trouble with Dally Randriantefy, but Henin-Hardenne took three sets to defeat Tina Pisnik.

In Thursday's round of 16, Williams ran her record to 19-0 for the year with an easy victory over Martinez, while former champion Mary Pierce pulled a pair of upsets by defeating Anastasia Myskina and Coetzer.

The quarterfinals came down to bouts pitting Williams against sixth seed Jelena Dokic, Henin-Hardenne against Pierce, Davenport against young Russian Vera Zvonareva and No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova against young American Ashley Harkleroad. Williams, Henin-Hardenne, Davenport and Harkleroad all prevailed to set up a fan's dream semifinals.

But Harkleroad's brilliant ground strokes fizzled out against the intensity and power of Henin-Hardenne, who gave up only three games to the popular Harkleroad. Davenport gave Williams a little stiffer test, but didn't show up until the second set in a 6-1, 7-5 victory for Williams that ran her unbeaten record to 21 matches for 2003.


(04/06/04)  Mauresmo commits to Family Circle Cup
Things just keep getting better for the Family Circle Cup.

Following exciting developments the last three days, the $1.3 million WTA Tour tournament has added third-ranked Amelie Mauresmo to its field.

That gives the Family Circle Cup three of the top four players in the world. Top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne will be back to defend her title, and fourth-ranked Lindsay Davenport will attempt to win her first Cup title.

Plus, the field includes Venus and Serena Williams and former champion Jennifer Capriati. Family Circle boasts three of WTA's top four

Taking it a couple of steps further, 15 of the top 18 players in the world, 16 of the top 20 and 24 of the top 30 are entered. The tournament's main draw will start next Monday after a weekend qualifying tournament decides the final eight spots in the main draw of the Tier I clay-court event.

Over this past weekend, legendary star Martina Navratilova gave the tournament a boost by accepting a wild card to play singles in the Family Circle Cup. Then, Serena Williams looked fully recovered from knee surgery in winning the Nasdaq-100 in Miami, prompting nothing but smiles from the people at Family Circle Tennis Center.

And now, the addition of Mauresmo, who is recognized as one of the best clay-court players in the game, is the big news. "Amelie has really made her mark on the WTA Tour over the past few years, and we are delighted to have her back here in Charleston," said Frankie Whelan, executive director of the Family Circle Cup. "With 16 of the top 20 players in the world, this year's Family Circle Cup has a Grand Slam appeal."

Coming off a left mid-back muscle strain that forced her to retire from the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open, Mauresmo withdrew from six tournaments over the next two months before rejoining the tour this week at Amelia Island, Fla. She was a finalist earlier this year at Sydney.

Mauresmo’s big breakthrough on the WTA Tour came in 1999, when she advanced to the final of the Australian Open before losing to Martina Hingis. Although clay should be her best surface because of her heavy topspin ground strokes, the French Open is the only Grand Slam event in which she hasn't advanced to at least the semifinals. She made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year.

The talented 24-year-old French woman has won 10 WTA Tour singles titles. She reached six finals last year, winning twice. This will be her fifth appearance in the Family Circle Cup. She was a semifinalist in 2001.


(04/04/04)  College's tennis program has sparkling new home
Move over Family Circle Tennis Center. Make room for the College of Charleston Tennis Center.

Actually, there's room for both. One is clay surface, the other is hard surface. One is suitable for big-time events, the other is basically for college and local or regional events. But for hard-court facilities, it would be difficult to top the College of Charleston's new $2.3 million complex at Patriots Point.

It's not surprising that C of C director of tennis Angelo Anastopoulo had been calling me for a couple of months, inviting me to come out for a tour of the complex, and even to test the courts and their pro tournament-caliber lighting system (the same type lights used on the club court at Family Circle). Naturally, he beamed with pride Thursday as he showed off his home courts. The nine-court facility, indeed, is a showpiece.

While the Family Circle Tennis Center is world class, the C of C Tennis Center is certainly a national-class facility. The College may never host the NCAA championships, but its new facility is worthy of such an event. More courts might be needed first.

With what will be a panoramic view of the new Cooper River Bridge, the proximity of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, and two hotels within walking distance, this tennis facility has it all. One look at the place and recruits will be ready to sign on the dotted line, even if the College's campus is located in downtown Charleston. For a tennis player, it's the best of both worlds.

One has to wonder where all of this will lead. The College's men's and women's teams captured Southern Conference titles last year and both were undefeated in the conference this year until last weekend when both lost to perennial power Furman.

It might mean that the College's teams are on the threshold of elite status in the college ranks. It will take a few more years to achieve that status, but Anastopoulo's women's team and Phil Whitesell's men's team might be worth keeping an eye on.

This facility is divided by a modern clubhouse with sliding glass doors on both sides that lead to elevated cement terraces that run the length of three courts on one side and six courts on the other.

Observers can walk a few feet through the glass doors and be on the other side of the complex.

Rocking chairs are scattered about the deep two-tier terraces that sit about six feet above the courts. Other fans can lean against the railings and be within talking distance of the competitors. There is ample room for bleachers on the long terraces, should an occasion warrant such treatment.

Then, there are the electronic scoreboards, one for each of the nine courts. A player has only to press a button to update the score of a match for all observers to see.

STATE OF GAMES

Miami's Nasdaq-100 didn't do much to clarify the state of women's tennis before it heads to Charleston next weekend to start the Family Circle Cup.

Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport didn't compete and Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati were upset early.

But that may be the way women's tennis is this year, unless someone can find the answer to the true grit of Henin-Hardenne. There's no one in sight, at least, until Wimbledon.

Venus Williams is having such a hard time competing these days that according to published reports in the New York Times, and Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal, Reebok has declined to pick up the option on the final two years of a five-year, $40 million deal that was made in December 2000. That contract was the largest ever for a female athlete.

As for the men, Andre Agassi looks one step closer to retirement, Andy Roddick is too young to be in a decline mode, and Roger Federer can still lose, even though he might have the best total game ever in men's tennis.

Keep an eye on Tim Henman, especially at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. This might finally be his year. And Vince Spadea is no longer a pushover. His game, or maybe his psyche, has had a major makeover. Spadea is for real at age 29.

MIXED DOUBLES

It's time to register teams for this summer's local mixed doubles league, says Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer. The registration period runs through April 21.

The league has departed from its past format of odd numbers (such as 7.5 that usually matched 3.5 and 4.0 players) to even numbers (5.0 to 9.0 levels for adults and 6.0 to 8.0 for seniors). That means a 3.5-4.0 team will be required to play at the 8.0 level against what could be a 4.5 man and 3.5 woman or two 4.0 players (the difference between two partners' NTRP rating cannot exceed 1.0). This might lead to some rethinking of the process of picking a partner.

Adult 10.0 and senior 9.0 teams will not have local competition, but will advance directly to the state tournament. Adult flights will play at 6:30 p.m. on the following days: Monday, 6.0; Tuesday, 7.0; Wednesday, 8.0; and Thursday, 5.0 and 9.0. Seniors are currently scheduled for Saturday mornings.

For more information, contact Dale Tanner, the local mixed doubles league coordinator (mixedtennis@aol.com).

SNEE FARM JUNIOR

Snee Farm's 15th annual Junior Tournament is again going against the championship weekend of the Family Circle Cup. The Snee Farm tournament is scheduled for April 16-18.

The entry deadline is April 13 at 8 p.m.

The tournament, usually one of the largest local events of the year, will have singles and doubles in 10-and-under through 18-and-under. The entry fee is $30 for one event or $38 for two. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843) 884-3252.

UPCOMING EVENTS

The Pine Forest Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament is April 30-May 2 at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. The entry deadline is April 26. Contact Pine Forest (843) 851-9010 for more information.


(04/03/04)  Navratilova returning to singles scene

Four-time Family Circle Cup champ accepts wild-card singles invitation

Martina Navratilova is doing more than just making one last trip around the WTA Tour to play doubles. The legendary 47-year-old left-hander has added singles to her agenda for the next two weeks, including the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island.

Navratilova has accepted wild-card singles invitations to play in the $1.3 million Tier I Family Circle Cup, as well as to the Tier II tournament that begins Monday at Amelia Island, Fla. Both are clay-court tournaments. She also will play doubles at the Family Circle Cup, where she has won four singles titles and a record seven doubles crowns.

News of Navratilova's singles entry at the Family Circle is an added boost to a tournament that already lists 16 of the top 20 players in the world in its field, including top-ranked and defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne as well as Venus and Serena Williams.

The news also excited former WTA Tour player Sophie Woorons, as well as Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan.

Woorons, a former local tennis pro, calls Navratilova the greatest player ever. "Specifically she has brought so much to women's tennis through her physical conditioning. She is the one that really started the physical commitment to the game, through weightlifting and physical training,'' said Woorons, now a part-time sports management professor at Clemson University.

Whelan is especially excited that the extraordinarily athletic Navratilova is making her first singles appearance in the Family Circle Cup since its move to Daniel Island from Hilton Head Island in 2001.

"When you think of great champions in professional sports, Martina Navratilova's name is certainly at the top of the list,'' Whelan said. "She knows the role of a champion and has played it well over the past three decades. We are thrilled that she has decided to participate in singles as well as doubles here in at the Family Circle Cup."

Navratilova has a 36-8 singles record in the Family Circle Cup in which she has competed 12 times in singles, the last of which was 1994 when she lost in the second round.

Can Navratilova compete in singles against today's young stars?

"I don't think the girls will be too powerful for her," said Woorons, now 30, who owns victories over top 100 players. "I am just very excited that she is playing singles. She will bring a lot of attention to the game. It will be exciting for us and for her to see how the game has evolved in the last 10 years in speed and power.

"I think she will make it interesting because of her variety. Her one-handed backhand makes it a lot easier to get to the net and her low backhand slice approaches will make it tough for her opponent."

Navratilova's last singles match on the WTA Tour came in 2002 when she competed at Eastbourne, England, where she reached the second round before losing to Daniela Hantuchova in three sets. Her victory in the tournament enabled her to become the oldest woman ever to win a WTA Tour singles match (45 years, eight months) and extended her career singles match wins to 1,439. Her last singles match in a U.S. tournament was a loss to Gabriela Sabatini in 1994 in the Virginia Slims championship.

In her last Tier I clay court tournament, Navratilova reached the final of the 1994 Italian Open where she lost to Conchita Martinez.

Navratilova won a record (for men or women) 167 singles titles. She also owns 18 Grand Slam singles titles and 58 Grand Slam titles in all (31 doubles and nine mixed).

She won her first Family Circle Cup singles title in 1982 and her last in 1990 by defeating then teen-ager Jennifer Capriati in the final. Navratilova played in her first Family Circle Cup in 1975, losing to Chris Evert in the final in what was the second of Evert's string of five straight titles and eight in all.

Navratilova gained revenge against Evert in the 1982 semifinals and never lost another Family Circle Cup final.


(03/28/04)  Women's tennis lacking instant crowd magnet
Where in the world is Gabriela Sabatini? It's not too late for Gaby to make a comeback on the WTA Tour. She's only 33 years old.

After all, Martina Navratilova is 14 years older than Gaby, and doing quite well on the women's tour on her second time around. Navratilova won seven doubles titles and two Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns in 2003.

The WTA Tour is doing quite well without Gaby, and even without Anna Kournikova, too.

But what a boost either of these two stunning beauties of women's tennis' recent past might have on attendance these days. Although the Williams sisters have been great for the game, the tour lacks an instant magnet who will draw huge crowds to what otherwise might be non-events.

One of my tennis buddies questioned the other day why Kournikova is such a hot tennis item, saying, "Have you seen her up close?" As if to say, Anna's not that special.

But I remember that cold Tuesday night of March 30, 1999, at Hilton Head Island when an over-named player listed as Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenz was scheduled to play Kournikova in the featured night match. Maybe the fans thought Anna was playing two players, but an amazing total of 6,674 fans turned out to see Kournikova rally from a set down to win.

On that particular night, Anna was worth probably 5,000 fans. She advanced all the way to the final that year before losing to Martina Hingis. Along the way, a record 98,000 fans attended that Family Circle Cup.

Kournikova played her last match on the WTA Tour in the first round of the 2003 Family Circle Cup. A back injury forced her to retire from a match against Conchita Martinez. Kournikova has been seen since in locations such as celebrity events at the U.S. Open, and on the cover of Sports Illustrated's recent swimsuit issue.

But what about Sabatini? She won the Family Circle Cup in 1991 and 1992. She last competed in the tournament in 1996.

I hadn't thought of Gaby in quite a few years until Thursday morning, when I dropped my car off for service and struck up a conversation with one of the managers in the service department. He had played college tennis. And, yes, he remembered Gaby.

Who couldn't?

If you remember, Gabriela Sabatini was this tall, statuesque Argentine, with high-kicking topspin who once won the U.S. Open. She lived in the playing shadows of Steffi Graf, but otherwise no one overshadowed Gaby. She was an outstanding athlete, floating around the court with long, artistic strides. After showering and changing into something fashionable, her freshly blow-dried, long black hair flowing about her shoulders, she gave post-match media interviews an air of elegance.

Today, Gaby is represented by the Ace Group in London. The WTA Tour could only supply that much information, although the Internet has ample Gabriela Sabatini photos and information. Gaby seems to have an endless line of perfumes and accessories under her name. A Gabriela Sabatini doll even was created in 1994.

Sabatini retired from tennis in the fall of 1996 with 27 career singles titles. She has appeared on scores of magazine covers, at least one together with Kournikova. Sabatini currently resides in Buenos Aires and South Florida.

She celebrated her 33rd birthday last year by playing a tennis exhibition with Boris Becker and Michael Stich, and presented the championship trophy to Justine Henin-Hardenne at the 2003 French Open. From the photos of her recent tennis and fashion appearances, Gaby appears to be even more elegant these days.

Yes, what a dream match: Anna and Gaby.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The College of Charleston men's tennis team will hold a pro-am Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. at the Cougars' Patriots Point tennis complex to raise funds for scholarships. A limited number of spots are available for the event that will match local tennis players and fans with members of the College's defending Southern Conference champions. All levels of players can participate. For more information, contact coach Phil Whitesell (843-532-5677).

-- Wednesday at 9 p.m. is the deadline for entering next weekend's Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament for adults, juniors and seniors at Azalea Park in Summerville. The tournament will have age groups for almost everyone. Contact tournament director Greg Hancox (843-851-3093, 843-830-5351 or glh@sc.rr.com) for more information.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and John's Island programs have three more Saturday sessions remaining from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- The Pine Forest Lowcountry Junior Challenger Tournament is scheduled for April 30-May 2 at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. The entry deadline is April 26. Contact Pine Forest (843-851-9010) for more information.


(03/21/04)  Williams sisters set for return

The countdown has reached three weeks until the Family Circle Cup. But what happens or doesn't happen the next two weeks in Miami should have a huge impact on this fourth edition of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Of course, the focus this coming week will be on the Williams sisters, particularly Serena. She said last week that she is ready to play for the first time since she defeated Venus in last July's Wimbledon final. Venus also is scheduled to return to the tour in Miami.

The question on everyone's mind is: Just how prepared are Venus and Serena to take on the rest of the WTA Tour? Venus has tried this year with only moderate success, winning four of her seven matches. That certainly doesn't rank with back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in 2000 and 2001, followed by a string of four straight Grand Slam runner-up finishes to Serena.

The women's tennis world has changed since then. But fortun-ately for the Williams sisters, the two new empresses of the game, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, may not play in Miami. Henin-Hardenne is definitely taking the week off, and Clijsters is suffering from an injured left hand that may force her to withdraw. These two Belgians arguably have dominated the game for much of the last year almost as much as Venus and Serena had previously.

As women's tennis stands now, the Belgians and Williamses are in a league all of their own, with possibly only Lindsay Davenport a candidate for membership. Youngsters such as 18-year-old Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has beaten both Venus and Henin-Hardenne this year, aren't quite ready for induction.

While the two weeks on hard courts in Miami are important to the Williams sisters, the real story of their return should be told in the two clay-court tournaments following Miami when Serena, Henin-Hardenne and Davenport are scheduled to play at Amelia Island, Fla., then join Venus in Charleston the next week.

For Serena, that's four straight weeks of tennis. And now she's talking about playing Fed Cup the week after the Family Circle Cup. Something probably will give, because five straight weeks of competition may be too tough a schedule for a player on the mend from knee surgery.

PLAY TENNIS AT CUP

Club players like nothing better than to be seen at the site of a major professional tournament wearing their favorite tennis outfits and carrying a racket bag, just like the real pros on the nearby courts.

The Family Circle Cup is planning to make that possible for amateurs. All that's needed is a ticket to the big event, the $1.3 million WTA tournament that is scheduled for April 10-18 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

That's right, the Tennis Center staff is planning clinics for both adults and juniors from Monday through Thursday of tournament week. Two adult sessions and one Junior Tennis Academy session will be held daily.

The adult clinics will consist of intense drills with the focus on stroke technique, doubles strategy and fun. A 9-10 a.m. session will be for all skill levels 3.5 and below, while a 10-11 a.m. session will be for 4.0 and higher players. The Junior Tennis Academy clinics, for players 10-and-over, will be held each day from 4-6 p.m.

Participants must have a ticket to the Family Circle Cup and their own tennis equipment. The cost of the one-hour adult clinic will be $18 per person and the two-hour junior clinic will be $30. Pre-registering is recommended by tennis director Mike Baker (843-849-5306 or mbaker@familycirclecup.com) since only 16 adult participants and 30 junior participants will be accepted per session.

C OF C FUND-RAISER

College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell has announced that his team will hold a pro-am on March 30 at the school's $2.3 million Patriots Point tennis complex to raise money for scholarships. Only 18 spots at $50 each are available to the public.

The event will match local tennis players and fans with members of the College's defending Southern Conference champions. All levels of players can participate. The event is scheduled from 5-7 p.m., with warmups starting at 4:30 p.m. For more information, contact Whitesell (843-532-5677).

-- The Cougars have their own support group, named the Tennis Lover's Club, that has raised nearly $1,000 to support the men's team. Local 3.5 player Sharon Smith-Mathewes heads up the group that now has about 35 memberships (the membership fee is $50).

JUNIOR SUCCESS

-- Charleston's Hagan Edgerton won the girls' 12 title in the recent Thornblade tournament at Greer, beating highly ranked Southern player Alexandra Alford of Baton Rouge, La., in the final. Alford and Edgerton were seeded Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Lindsay Larkin won the girls' 14 feed-in consolation at Greer.

-- Caroline Thornton won the girls' 14 feed-in consolation in the recent Bullfrog tournament in Macon, Ga. Shelby Rogers advanced to the quarterfinals of the girls' 12 division in Macon.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and John's Island programs have four of their seven Saturday sessions remaining. The sessions are held from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Monday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Azalea Clay Court Classic at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. Pine Forest tennis director Heinz Maurer said competition will be held in all age groups from open through 80s and ratings 2.5-5.0 in men's and women's singles and doubles. The entry fee is $25 for singles and $40 per doubles team. Call Pine Forest's tennis pro shop (843-851-9010) for more information.

-- Pine Forest will be the host for another Junior Challenger April 30-May 2. Contact Pine Forest for more information.


(03/14/04)  USTA members eligible for special deal at Family Circle Cup

Playing in one of the U.S. Tennis Association's local USA Leagues usually requires several memberships. First, you must join the USTA, then a local tennis club and finally the Lowcountry Tennis Association. But there are advantages, other than being able to participate in a highly competitive and physically demanding athletic league for adults who have matured past the years of football, basketball and soccer. Yes, the USTA has another deal for its members.

Actually, the Family Circle Cup is offering the deal. A $10 discount is available to USTA members on day or evening tickets during the first three days of the $1.3 million tournament's main draw, April 12-14. That makes the $20 night tickets a real bargain at $10, like going to the grocery store and spotting a buy one, get one free sign on something you really need. But this is even better.

It doesn't get much better than being able to see four of women's tennis' elite playing singles for $10. Of course, there will be no Monday night session, but both the Tuesday and Wednesday night sessions, as well as Thursday's, will feature two singles matches.

And a tournament that includes 16 of the world's top 20 players will have plenty of great players making night appearances at Family Circle Cup Stadium. That's right, the only top 20 players missing are No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 5 Anatasia Myskina and No. 10 Ai Sugiyama.

Everyone else in the current top 20 is scheduled to appear in the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. Of course, the key date on the calendar is March 22.

That's the day the Nasdaq 100 starts in Miami. Venus and Serena Williams are scheduled to return to the WTA Tour for that event. Serena also is scheduled to play the next tournament at Amelia Island, Fla., before coming to Charleston.

-- USTA members attending the Family Circle Cup also will have access to the USTA hospitality tent on Wednesday from 1:30-3 p.m. The hospitality tent will be located behind the east side of the stadium.

FARMFIELD HONORED

The Lowcountry Tennis Association has selected Charleston Tennis Center as the recipient of its Outstanding USA League Tennis Facility Award for 2003. LCTA president Bob Peiffer made the presentation to Charleston tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne at Tuesday night's Charleston City Council meeting.

Charleston Tennis Center has been a leader in the number of teams and players participating in the USA League Tennis program, according to Peiffer. The Farmfield Avenue facility was represented in the 2003 league by 65 teams and 765 players.

"While support of the USA League Tennis is the basis for this award, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Charleston Tennis Center provides so much support to the tennis community beyond league tennis," Peiffer stated in the LCTA's award letter.

"You hold popular sanctioned tennis tournaments for adult and junior players; you have teams in the Charleston Area Lawn Tennis Association and in Junior Team Tennis; you and your staff organized the award-winning Courting Kids program to bring inner city and John's Island youth into the game; you are the primary organizer of the elementary and middle school tennis league; you hold frequent special events for your membership; and you provide instructional programs for all skill levels from the raw beginner to the seasoned player."

SOUTHERN RANKINGS

Richard Weathers led the way for Charleston area adults in the recently released 2003 Southern rankings as the only local player to earn a No. 1 singles ranking. Weathers was tops in men's 60.

Three other locals took No. 2 singles rankings, Susie Peiffer in women's 50, Zoe Williams in women's 70 and Chris Henderson in men's 30. Brenda Carter was third in women's 55 singles and John Baird third in men's 75. Jane Fluet was the only other local top five singles player, taking fifth in women's 60.

In doubles, Peiffer was top-ranked in women's 50, while Baird was tops in mixed 75, and Jan and Jerry Hanchrow earned the top ranking in mixed 70. Smith Anderson was second in men's 40 doubles and Kurt Wassen was second in mixed 70.

Henderson and College of Charleston men's tennis coach Phil Whitesell took third in men's 30 doubles. Baird captured third in men's 75 doubles and Williams took third in mixed 70.

Williams and Jan Hanchrow were ranked fourth in women's 70 doubles, and Steve Brady was fourth in men's 40 doubles. Claire Richardson was fifth in women's 60 doubles and Roy Barth took fifth in men's 50 doubles.

SOUTHERN JR. RANKINGS

Caroline Thornton earned the best Southern singles ranking for a local junior by taking 10th place in girls' 12.

Sallie Johnson and Shelby Rogers also took Nos. 30 and 33, respectively, in girls' 12, while Hagan Edgerton was 53rd and Alex Martin 69th.

Other top 100 junior singles rankings included: Kalee Claussen, No. 47 in girls' 18; Samantha Eppelsheimer, 25 in girls' 16; Caroline Irvin, 64 in girls' 16; Dana Richards, 73 in girls' 16; Ashley Perkins, 72 in girls' 14; Scott Maucher, 61 in boys' 18; Nat Estes, 62 in boys' 18; and David Rubin, 91 in boys' 18.

BASILE SHINES

Jason Basile, who earned No. 16 in boys' 16 and No. 75 in boys' 18 in the Southern junior rankings for 2003, finished ninth in boys' 18 in the Blue Gray Jr. Classic Tournament held in Montgomery, Ala., earlier this month. Basile won four of his five matches, including upsets of the No. 3 seed and two No. 5 seeds. He is a junior at the School of the Arts.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and John's Island programs have five of their seven Saturday sessions remaining. The sessions are held from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. owntown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Pine Forest Country Club tennis director Heinz Maurer has announced that his Summerville club will stage its Azalea Clay Court Classic March 26-28. Competition will be held in all age groups from open through 80s and ratings 2.5-5.0 in men's and women's singles and doubles. The entry fee is $25 for singles and $40 per doubles team. The entry deadline is Monday, March 22. Call Pine Forest's tennis pro shop (843-851-9010) for more information.

-- Pine Forest will be the host for another Junior Challenger April 30-May 2. Contact Pine Forest for more information.


(03/07/04)  Dempsey leaves position at Daniel Island facility
Just when I was contemplating what to write about this week, four bolts of lightning hit at once. Here's the headlines from those bolts: -- Jim Dempsey leaves job as director of tennis at Family Circle Tennis Center.

-- Tennis Magazine displays a full page of instructions by Jim Dempsey.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center names Mike Baker its new director of tennis.

-- A major men's match may be coming to North Charleston Coliseum.

So, what's up with Dempsey, the affable "former" tennis director at the world-class Daniel Island facility?

Dempsey had been on the job at Family Circle Tennis Center only since last June. Prior to that, he had held a number of high-profile tennis positions, including coaching Lisa Raymond on the WTA Tour.

But by early last week, Dempsey had left the job on Daniel Island, although Family Circle officials said he planned to remain a club member. "Jim wanted to pursue other business opportunities," Family Circle Cup public relations director Robin Reynolds said.

During his brief time at Family Circle Tennis Center, Dempsey made a lasting impression on some locals. A down-to-earth, likable guy, he played on the league champion Blackbaud team in the Charleston Pro Tennis League last fall. Baker was the Blackbaud captain.

DEMPSEY'S INSTRUCTIONS

That's right. New York City-based Alan Taylor Communications contacted me Friday to forward a copy of Dempsey's instructions that are featured on page 34 of the April issue of Tennis Magazine. His Game Plan topic is Drill Seekers: Become a better clay-court player with this depth and consistency drill.

Dempsey's Tennis Magazine instructions that are accompanied by an illustrational graphic and a photo of the clubhouse at Family Circle Tennis Center are: "To be successful on clay, your ground strokes need to be steady and deep. The best way to achieve that combination is to hit crosscourt. If you change direction and go down the line often, you'll put yourself on the defensive. On a slow surface like clay, it's easier for your opponent to retrieve your down-the-line shot and get you on the run by returning crosscourt. So playing crosscourt is a huge tactical advantage. This drill is designed to emphasize this point and improve that part of your game.

"Start in the middle of the baseline with your partner on the opposite side of the court. Feed a ball down the middle to your partner, which he hits crosscourt with either stroke. Before the point can start, the two of you have to rally crosscourt three times, with each ball landing past the service line. If the ball lands inside the service line before three hits, play a let. (If you're advanced players the person who hits inside the service line loses the point.)

"Once the point begins, the idea is to keep the ball deep and crosscourt. If you win the point by hitting all crosscourt shots, you win two points. If you break the crosscourt pattern, you can still earn a point by winning the rally, but you lose two if your partner continues to play all crosscourt shots and wins. Winning points at net is also allowed. Play the game up to 11. You can alternate the feeds or have the winner of each point start the following one."

BAKER PROMOTED

Late Friday, Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer announced that Baker has been promoted from head pro to tennis director. Baker, a College of Charleston graduate, has been with Family Circle since its move to Daniel Island from Hilton Head Island in 2000. He has been a teaching pro for 12 years.

"Mike Baker will make a great tennis director. He is dedicated to the sport, knowledgeable in all aspects of the business and a gentleman of strong character," Eppelsheimer said.

A MAJOR EVENT

Yes, North Charleston is in the running to host a men's exhibition match put on by Clear Channel Entertainment. "We're one of a short list of cities being considered for a major men's match in the winter," said Dave Holscher, the general manger of North Charleston Coliseum.

"There has been a site visit with Clear Channel. They did a successful one last year in Little Rock, Ark., and so we are optimistic. We should know more within the next 30 days. We would hope the community would get out and support a match like that, much like they do with the Family Circle."

The Little Rock match Holscher referred to featured Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick on Dec. 6 at Alltel Arena. The two superstars played a singles match and also teamed up to take on the world's best doubles team, twins Bob and Mike Ryan. The event, billed as Little Rock-n Racquets, benefited the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation and other charities.

Agassi, of course, played here in a satellite event at Creekside Tennis and Swim, then came back to Charleston two years later in 1988 as a 16-year-old to win the U.S. Clay Courts at Wild Dunes. He also played an exhibition at Dunes West in 1992 before a capacity crowd of 5,000.

As for other exhibition attendance, a packed house of more than 5,000 attended a Jennifer Capriati-Martina Navratilova exhibition at The Citadel's McAlister Field House in the early 1990s. But in 1994, only a small crowd turned out at North Charleston Coliseum to watch senior tour players Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe play on a Sunday afternoon during the Christmas shopping season.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and Johns Island programs will continue their Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Today at 6 p.m. is the deadline for entering the Snee Farm Country Club Grand Prix event that starts Tuesday. The Grand Prix will have competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Snee Farm (843-884-3252).

-- St. Andrew's Parks and Playground will hold a sanctioned adult tournament next weekend. All of the NTRP levels are being offered in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Brian Burke or Phil Burke at St. Andrew's (843-763-4360).

-- The deadline for entering next weekend's Junior Challenger at Charleston Tennis Center is 11 a.m. Monday. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Pine Forest County Club will be the host for another Junior Challenger April 30-May 2. Contact Pine Forest (843-851-9010) for more information.


(03/02/04)  Tsang earns wildcard berth in Cup qualifier

Katrina Tsang came to Charleston on a mission. She was all business in her bid to earn a wildcard berth in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament. The 5-3, 15-year-old from Raleigh, didn't leave the Family Circle Tennis Center disappointed this time, unlike a year ago when she left prematurely with an injured knee. Tsang cruised by 15-year-old rival Yvette Hyndman, 6-3, 6-1, in Monday's girls' 18 final of the Junior Family Circle Cup.

Hyndman is no slouch of a tennis player. Tall, trim and blonde, the 5-11 Hyndman has an arsenal of shots, a big serve included. She's on scholarship at the famed Bollettieri's tennis academy in Florida.

But Hyndman is no Tsang. Tsang proved that for the fourth time in four chances against her rival from Bradenton, Fla.

Tsang demonstrated an automatic overhead and a strong backhand in a sizzling 75-minute performance on the clubhouse court. Once Tsang recovered from an 0-2 start and gained her rhythm, Hyndman couldn't keep pace.

"Every time I step out on the court against her, I have to be ready to play," Tsang said, pointing out that their last match was 7-6, 7-6. "We've had close matches. I had to dig deep for this one.

"It's great to be in the qualifying tournament. That's what I came here for. That's huge. Last year I had to default in the middle of my match in the quarterfinals. I really wanted that wildcard."

Tsang's backhand was so strong and consistent that Hyndman started playing her forehand. That worked for one game to even the second set at 1-1, but the top-seeded Tsang was quickly off to the races again as Hyndman began to spray shots while trying to find a weakness in Tsang's armor.

After falling behind 3-1 in the first set, Tsang's exceptional footwork and preparation on her backhand, her torrid assault on Hyndman's backhand and amazing accuracy on deep overheads wore down her opponent. Tsang won five straight games to take the first set. The key game came at 3-3 when Tsang rallied from double breakpoint to take a 4-3 lead.

"The overhead comes in handy," Tsang joked about an overhead that kept Hyndman's occasional moon-ball assault honest. A careless moon ball can bounce into the power alley of a 5-3 player who has an exceptional deep overhead.

"I thought I hit my forehand well, and I was moving well most of the time," said Tsang, the tournament's top seed and former top-ranked U.S. girls' 14 player. She was ranked No. 10 in U.S. girls' 18 for 2003.

Tsang scored a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Catherine Newman, another 15-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., in the morning semifinals. Hyndman defeated Michelle Alexander of Charlotte, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinals. Hyndman, Newman and Alexander were all fifth seeds.

JUNIOR FAMILY CIRCLE CUP RESULTS

Boys' 18-Semifinals: Kevin Fleck d. Gavin Manders 7-6, 6-3; Mason Schermerhorn d. Thomas Stoddard 6-3, 6-1. Final: Schermerhorn d. Fleck 7-5, 6-3.

Boys' 16-Semifinals: Tripp Johnson d. Christopher Rhyne 6-2, 6-2; Christopher Motes d. Koeche Smith Head 6-2, 6-0. Final: Motes d. Johnson 6-3, 6-2.

Boys' 14-Semifinals: Orlando Lourenco d. Armon Murray 1-6, 6-4, 6-2; Tennys Sandgren d. Davis Dawson 6-4, 6-3; Final: Sandgren d. Lourenco 7-5, 6-4.

Boys' 12-Final: Nicholas Widmer d. Chase Dawson 6-0, 6-2.

Boys' 10-Final: John Richmond d. Joseph Tiller 6-1, 6-1.

Girls' 18-Semifinals: Yvette Hyndman d. Michelle Alexander 6-4, 6-4; Katrina Tsang d. Catherine Newman 6-3, 6-4. Final: Tsang d. Hyndman 6-3, 6-1.

Girls' 16-Semifinals: Linda Mushref d. Alexa Ely 6-2, 6-1; Laurianne Henry d. Shannon Hartmann 6-0, 6-1; Final: Mushref d. Henry 7-5, 6-2.

Girls' 14-Semifinals: Lauren Sessoms d. Kayla Duncan 6-2, 6-7, 7-5; Amanda Schwarz d. (7) Kaitlin Burns 6-1, 4-6, 7-6. Final: Schwarz d. Sessoms 7-6, 6-1.

Girls' 12-Final: Alexis Prickett d. Jenny Falcone 6-0, 7-6; 7-6(4).

Girls' 10-Quarterfinals: Alyssa Holbrooks d. Danielle Fishman 6-3, 6-1; Lauren Herring d. Isabel Dennis 6-0, 6-1; Meghan Blevins d. Patricia Kirkland 6-1, 6-3 Hayley Carter d. Anne Hollins Hutto 6-0, 6-1. Semifinals: Herring d. Holbrooks 6-0, 6-0; Carter d. Blevins 6-4, 6-1. Final: Herring d. Carter 6-0, 6-0.


(03/01/04)  Tsang poised for victory in Junior Cup

JUNIOR FAMILY CIRCLE
Katrina Tsang is a touring tennis player who just happens to be a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Raleigh. She's an amateur with professional aspirations.

"I definitely hope to play pro tennis one day, but right now I have to do all of my schoolwork to prepare for college," said Tsang on Sunday at Family Circle Tennis Center. "It'll be a big decision when the time comes. Right now, I'm just trying to win every match I play."

Tsang is just two wins from another shot at a professional tournament, this one the April 10-11 qualifying event for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup. Tsang meets fellow North Carolina 15-year-old Catherine Newman of Greensboro in this morning's 8:30 girls' 18 semifinals of the Junior Family Circle Cup.

The winner of the 1 p.m. final, which will pit the Tsang-Newman winner against either Yvette Hyndman of Bradenton, Fla., or Michelle Alexander of Charlotte, will earn a wildcard into the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.

Tsang is the top seed. The other three semifinalists are all fifth seeds. Tsang defeated German teenager Inga Beernann, 6-3, 6-0, in the stadium court in Sunday afternoon's quarterfinals while Newman upset third-seeded Stephanie Harris of Chattanooga, Tenn., 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

Hyndman defeated fourth seed Whitney McCray of Decatur, Ga., 6-1, 6-3, and Alexander defeated unseeded Jessica Giuggioli of Italy, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

Tsang has played all over the world. Less than two months ago, she was a doubles quarterfinalist in the Junior Australian Open. She was the No. 1 player in the United States in girls' 14 in 2002 and was ranked 10th in U.S. girls' 18 last year.

Her favorite shot is a deep overhead from near the baseline. The 5-3 player drills the nearly flat overhead into her opponent's deuce corner with amazing precision, the ball breaking to the outside once it hits.

"I like to be an all-around player," she said. "I keep changing up and adding things to my game. I keep improving. It's a work in progress."


(02/29/04)  This may be the best Family Circle Cup yet in Charleston
Forty days and forty nights. That's all that's left before the 2004 Family Circle Cup storms onto Daniel Island. If the rains and winds subside for the nine days of reckoning, and old injuries heal and new ones are avoided, this Family Circle Cup should be the best yet in Charleston. This is FCC Charleston No. 4. Remember the champions? Jennifer Capriati, Iva Majoli and Justine Henin-Hardenne.

A giant poster of Henin-Hardenne is already up at Family Circle Tennis Center. That poster will be joined by ones of eight-time winner Chris Evert and Capriati that have been on display the last couple of years.

But the buzz, of course, is what's up with Venus and Serena? The only news about the Williams sisters these days seems to be about Venus losing in the early rounds or Serena withdrawing from tournaments. Yes, Serena has just pulled out of this coming week's Qatar Total Open.

The story now is that both sisters are planning to make their next WTA Tour appearances in the two-week Nasdaq 100 that starts March 22 in Miami. The clay-court event at Amelia Island, Fla., is the only U.S. tournament between Miami and the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. Serena and Henin-Hardenne are among the early entrants at Amelia Island.

Tournament officials see these developments as positives, because they reduce the possibility of additional injuries prior to the Family Circle. The bad news is that the Miami event is a long and physically demanding tournament on hard surface.

It isn't that Venus hasn't tried. She's played in three tour events, but has posted only a 4-3 record, including a default to Chanda Rubin in the quarterfinals of the Pan Pacific, and straight-set losses to Lisa Raymond in the third round of the Australian Open. Young Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova beat her in Thursday's quarterfinals of the Dubai Open. Serena, of course, hasn't played competitively since beating Venus in last year's Wimbledon final.

-- There's good news for tennis fans who will be able to attend only night matches prior to the final weekend. Two singles matches will be played on Tuesday through Thursday nights, rather than one singles and one doubles as in the past and on Friday night. Although the night ticket prices are reasonable at $20, there was always the possibility of a one-match blowout in singles.

-- Another new event is the Retro Concert by Booty Call after the Friday night matches. Other tournaments such as Miami and Indian Wells also schedule concerts after night matches.

YOUNG'S FAST START

Charleston's Ryan Young is off to a brilliant start as a freshman for 26th-ranked Clemson, which was 13-3 after losing a match at No. 24 Georgia earlier in the week. Young, a School of the Arts graduate, won his first nine college singles matches and went into this weekend with a 13-2 record after losing at No. 5 singles against Georgia. The left-handed former city champ also is playing superb doubles. He won against Georgia at No. 2 doubles to improve to 14-1, with his only doubles loss coming against UCLA in Los Angeles.

STATE RANKINGS

The official state rankings for 2003 have been released, but for the first time I can remember Charleston doesn't have a top-ranked junior in singles. The closest were four second-ranked players, Kalee Claussen in girls' 18, Shelby Rogers in girls' 12, David Rubin in boys' 18 and Walker Heffron in boys' 10.

Other top 20 ranked juniors in singles were: Meghan Blevins (13), Isabel Dennis (14), Patricia Kirkland (17) and Rachel Hawes (18) in girls' 10; Hagan Edgerton (3) and Alex Martin (6) in girls' 12; Brooke Mosteller (7), Morgan Ivey (14) and Jessica Diamond (17) in girls' 14; Caroline Irvin (5) and Dana Richards (6) in girls' 16; Jordan Casey (12) in girls' 18; Rivers Colyer (16) in boys' 10; Randall Heffron (4) and John Karle (8) in boys' 12; Garrett Egan (9) in boys' 16; and Nat Estes (3) and Trad Robinson (8) in boys' 18.

-- The Charleston area did have two top-ranked juniors in doubles, Megan Jones in girls' 12 and Walker Heffron in boys' 10.

-- In the adult rankings, Charleston earned two No. 1 rankings in singles, John Baird in men's 75 and Susan Peiffer in women's 50. Peiffer also took a top ranking in women's 50 doubles, while Carrie Randall was No. 1 in women's 55 doubles. Dale Tanner and Mike Viljac teamed up for a No. 1 rating in men's 40 and Karl Bergman and Tom Kent took No. 1 in men's 70 doubles.

Other local adults gaining state singles rankings were: David Russell (2), Viljac (3), David Jett (5) and Kenneth Johnstone (6) in men's 40; Danny Dye (5) and Joseph Harnage (7) in men's 45; Nat Malcom (4) and Robert Babb (10) in men's 55; Richard Weathers (2), Charles Burns (7), Jerry Simmons (9) and Bob Peiffer (16) in men's 60; Lyons Williams (5) and Thomas Ordway (9) in men's 65; Ray Easterbrook (3), Tom Kent (6), Karl Bergman (7), Jerry Hanchrow (8) and Robert Patterson (9) in men's 70; Henry Smith (2) in men's 75; and Jacquelyn Bull (4) in women's 50.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and John's Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session next Saturday with sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10. A limited number of spots are available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Snee Farm Country Club will hold the first of five Grand Prix events for the year March 9-14. The entry deadline is next Sunday at 6 p.m. The Grand Prix will have competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).

-- The next Junior Challenger in the area will be held next weekend at the Mount Pleasant complex on Whipple Road. For information, contact the tennis shop (856-2162).

-- St. Andrew's Parks and Playground will hold a sanctioned adult tournament on March 12-14. All of the NTRP levels are being offered in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Brian Burke or Phil Burke at St. Andrew's (763-4360).
-- The Junior Challenger circuit will move to Charleston Tennis Center March 12-14. The entry deadline is next Saturday. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).


(02/25/04)  Harkleroad, Dokic latest to commit

FAMILY CIRCLE CUP

Crowd-pleasing American Ashley Harkleroad and talented Jelena Dokic are the latest top WTA Tour players to join the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup scheduled for April 10-18 on Daniel Island.

Harkleroad, an 18-year-old from Georgia, made her move into the limelight of women's professional tennis last year by advancing all the way to the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup before losing to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. Dokic, a 20-year-old from Serbia who was a Wimbledon semifinalist four years ago, lost in last year's Family Circle quarterfinals to Serena Williams.

These two bright young stars join the likes of superstars Henin-Hardenne, Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati in this year's field.

"Jelena and Ashley are two very talented athletes who reflect what great depth women's tennis has today," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan. "Fans who attend this year's tournament will have the pleasure of seeing the future stars of women's tennis."

Dokic is ranked 14th in the world. She has won five singles titles on the WTA Tour. This will be her fifth Family Circle Cup appearance. She has twice reached the quarterfinals.

Last year as a wildcard here, Harkleroad gained her first semifinal berth in a Tier I event by rolling past No. 11 seed Meghann Shaughnessy and No. 5 seed Daniela Hantuchova. Harkleroad, currently ranked 47th in the world, was the lowest-ranked semifinalist in the tournament's history, behind unranked 1990 wildcard finalist Jennifer Capriati.


(02/22/04)  On the lookout for The Tennis Channel
Who wants to see more tennis on television? Make that tennis, period. Forget the more.

I don't know about you, but I haven't been able to see the little yellow ball on my TV set in quite some time. And I've got cable TV, too ... finally. With the addition of cable, I was expecting to just start clicking and occasionally find a tennis match.

It turns out that's not the case.

There's The Golf Channel, even a channel for auto racing. So, where's The Tennis Channel? You know, the channel that is going to make tennis a household word all over America.

After talking with my cable operator, I learned that I have to dish out about $20 more per month to upgrade to digital cable and subscribe to a special sports package. That's on Knology. The Tennis Channel isn't available on Comcast yet, although Nancy Pingitore of The Tennis Channel's Atlanta office insisted Friday that negotiations are under way.

"We are still working on a corporate deal with Comcast, but the pressure of the wonderful tennis community applied here in Atlanta enabled us to get a preview launch (on March 1 in Atlanta) prior to a corporate deal being struck," Pingitore said.

Why is The Golf Channel free, right there along with ESPN, on the basic cable package? "The Golf Channel has been grandfathered in. They've been in over eight years," said Pingitore, the account manager for The Tennis Channel's Atlantic Region.

"Networks like The Tennis Channel have been relegated to higher tiers. It helps them (cable operators) offset the cost of programming. The perception is that sports programming is too expensive. They (cable companies) say that for any new sports network, they'll create a new tier. They figure the ones (viewers) who are really passionate about their sport will pay the extra amount."

Pingitore pointed out that The Golf Channel originally launched on a tier.

How available is The Tennis Channel?

"The Tennis Channel is in 18 million cable households, 150 TV markets, over 1,800 communities across 32 states in the U.S. We have corporate (cable) deals with Cox, Insight, Time Warner, Adelphia and NCTC (National Cable Television Cooperative, of which Knology is a member)," Pingitore said.

Now that The Tennis Channel is available locally to some extent, tennis fans need to let their cable operators know that tennis is just as important as golf and auto racing.

JR. FCC CHAMP AT GEORGIA

If next weekend's Junior Family Circle Cup turns out to be anything like last year's inaugural event, local tennis fans are in for another treat. Remember, the winner of the girls' 18 division will earn a wild-card berth in the April 10-11 qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

Not only did Shadisha Robinson win last year's Junior Family Circle Cup, she then beat Australian touring pros Christina Wheeler and Evie Dominikovic, currently ranked Nos. 175 and 182 in the world, respectively, in qualifying to earn a berth in the main draw. Robinson gave currently 88th-ranked Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian a tough match in the first round of the Family Circle Cup's main draw.

Now at the University of Georgia, Robinson is collegiate tennis' top-ranked freshman, holding a No. 12 ranking in singles with a 22-5 record. She is ranked fourth in the college ranks in doubles.

CALTA GOING STRONG

The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association, better known as CALTA, is one of the area's top tennis leagues. The league started its spring season Jan. 13. It has more than 600 members playing on Tuesday mornings at 49 tennis centers around the area.

New players can join the league at any time during the season, according to league president Linda von Grotthuss. CALTA is planning a meeting of all team captains on March 15 at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street. Anyone interested in starting a new team for next season is invited to attend.

Information on CALTA and its 2004 junior women's scholarship program is available on the CALTA Web site at www.caltatennis.net.

JUNIOR CHALLENGERS

Last weekend's heavy rains played havoc with the planned start of the Junior Challenger circuit at Snee Farm Country Club, but tennis director Dewey Caulder and his staff still were able to get the tournament in during the week. Doubles, which have been added to Junior Challenger events, was a casualty of the foul weather.

-- The next Junior Challenger in the area will be held March 5-7 at the Mount Pleasant complex on Whipple Road. For information, contact the tennis shop (843-856-2162).

-- The following weekend, March 12-14, the circuit will move to Charleston Tennis Center, where the entry deadline is Saturday, March 6. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Pine Forest Country Club will be the host for another Junior Challenger April 30-May 2. Contact Pine Forest (843-851-9010) for more information.

VALENTINE'S REPLAY

Charleston Tennis Center's Valentine's mixed doubles social event surrendered to the weather last Sunday, but the tournament has been rescheduled for today from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and Johns Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session March 6 with Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10. A limited number of spots are available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.

-- Snee Farm Country Club will hold the first of five Grand Prix events for the year March 9-14. The entry deadline is Sunday, March 7 at 6 p.m. The Grand Prix will have competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. For more information, contact Snee Farm (843-884-3252).


(02/15/04)  Federer could be thorn for U.S. stars

Andy Roddick surprised almost everyone by marching to the front of the men's game so quickly. Of course, the key to that move might have been Brad Gilbert's switch of camps, from Andre Agassi's to Roddick's, prior to last year's Wimbledon.

If Roddick takes his game to another level by improving his expertise at the net, he might even make people forget Pete Sampras and Agassi. But just as Agassi often had Sampras standing between him and a Grand Slam title, Roddick might have trouble escaping Roger Federer.

If you remember, Federer is the 23-year-old Swiss wonder who shocked the tennis world last summer by pulling his extraordinary game together for seven straight matches to win Wimbledon. He didn't finish the year No. 1, but he won the season-ending ATP Masters and became the No. 1 player in the men's game early this year by walking off with the Australian Open title. Federer is unbeaten in 2004.

Federer's only weakness is himself. He has no weaknesses in his game - from serving, to volleying, to the baseline, to court coverage - and incredibly natural athletic ability. If he keeps his head, he has the tools to become one of tennis' greatest players ever. You might have to go all the way back to Rod Laver's days to find another player with comparable skills.

I'm not the only one sold on this Bjorn Borg-looking European. Legendary tennis figure Vic Braden told the crowd of several hundred players and fans at his keynote address at the recent USTA Southern Sectional meeting in Atlanta that Federer could become one of the all-time greats.

Indeed, Federer may negatively impact the last competitive years of Agassi and much of the career of Roddick.

A TENNIS LOSS

The local tennis community is mourning the recent death of former area high school and college standout Sharon Kidney. She played No. 1 for both Bishop England High School and the College of Charleston. Her husband, Mike Brady, played tennis for The Citadel. They lived in the Washington, D.C., area with their three young children. She was 36 years old.

CUP NAMES DESIGN WINNER

Anna Shumpert of Lexington has been named the winner of the Family Circle Cup's first official T-shirt design contest. The 17-year-old's design will appear on hundreds of Family Circle Cup official T-shirts.

Shumpert will receive a T-shirt autographed by the top players in the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. Her work also will be displayed on the tournament's Web site, www.familycirclecup.com, prior to and during the tournament. She will receive tickets to the Family Circle Cup semifinals and final.

FCTC LANDS COMBO

It's no secret. Almost everyone prefers to come to Charleston for a long weekend to compete in a state tournament. That's why the Family Circle Tennis Center stole the 2005 and 2006 Southern Sectional League Championships.

And now Charleston has landed another gem. S.C. Tennis Association executive director John Sheffield announced that Family Circle Tennis Center has been named the host for the Combo League Doubles State Championships this year and in 2005 and 2006. Family Circle Tennis Center and Snee Farm Country Club teamed together to make the bid.

Of course, state championships are becoming common for the Charleston area. The Combo tournament joins the Adult and Super Senior events to give Charleston its third state championship for 2004.

LEAGUES POPULAR

How popular are the adult USTA leagues? According to Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer, 2,185 players are currently signed up for this spring's Adult League. Another 508 players are signed up for the Senior League, although some of them may also play in the Adult League.

That's a 4 percent increase over last year. Peiffer expects another 50 to 100 players to join teams while the season is in progress.

TENTATIVE RANKINGS

Susie Peiffer in women's 50 and John Baird in men's 75 apparently will be the only local adults to earn No. 1 state rankings in singles for 2003 tournament play. Peiffer and Baird hold No. 1 positions in the tentative rankings. Official rankings should be released soon.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Charleston Tennis Center is holding a Valentine's mixed doubles social event today from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Charleston's elementary and middle school league has set a Wednesday deadline for turning in rosters. The league will start play on March 15.

-- The Junior Family Circle Cup is scheduled for Feb. 27-March 1 at Family Circle Tennis Center. The winner of the girls' 18 division will receive a wildcard berth in the professional Family Circle Cup's qualifying event on April 10-11. The tournament is open to girls and boys ages 10-18 and will feature the standard five categories for boys and girls in singles and doubles.

More information on the Junior Family Circle Cup is available at the Family Circle Tennis Center's pro shop (843-849-5300) or online at www.familycircletenniscenter.com.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and Johns Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session on March 6, with Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10. A limited number of spots are available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.


(02/10/04)  Dementieva, Rubin join field

FAMILY CIRCLE CUP

Chanda Rubin and Elena Dementieva are the latest top 10 players to enter the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup women's tennis tournament to be held April 10-18 on Daniel Island.

Currently ranked Nos. 9 and 10 in the world, respectively, Rubin and Dementieva join an impressive field that includes defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati. All six players are ranked in the top 10, headed by top-ranked Henin-Hardenne.

"Both Chanda and Elena represent some of the most talented players on the WTA Tour," Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan said.

"Both had remarkable seasons last year and the Family Circle Cup is the perfect venue to show off their athletic talents on the court."

Rubin, who will turn 28 next week, has been on the WTA Tour for 14 years, reaching a career-high No. 6 in the world in singles in 1996.

She was a semifinalist in the Australian Open that year as well as won the doubles title in that Grand Slam event.

She has won seven WTA Tour singles titles, including in 2003. She has won titles on all four surfaces.

A Lafayette, La., native, Rubin withdrew from the semifinals last weekend of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo because of an injury to her left knee.

Dementieva hit the spotlight in 2003 when she advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open, becoming the first Russian woman to accomplish that feat.

She also won the silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

But it wasn't until last year that the talented 22-year-old won her first WTA Tour singles title. After losing to Jelena Dokic in the round of 16 at the Family Circle Cup last April, Dementieva went to Amelia Island, Fla., where she won her first tour title by defeating four seeded players, including Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals and Davenport in the final.

Dementieva also won two other tournaments in 2003, at Bali and Shanghai, while playing in a top 10-high 27 tournaments.


(02/08/04)  No. 1 Henin-Hardenne has Clijsters' number
I'm beginning to feel sympathetic for Kim Clijsters. I don't blame her for failing to commit to the Family Circle Cup.

Justine Henin-Hardenne is already entered in the April 10-18 tournament on Daniel Island. That's reason enough for Clijsters to take the week off. If she needs an excuse, future hubby Lleyton Hewitt should be playing Davis Cup that first weekend, if the Aussies can complete a victory over Sweden today.

It's one thing to lose to Henin-Hardenne in a Grand Slam final; it's another thing to falter against her fellow Belgian in a lesser tournament.

Henin-Hardenne has Clijsters' number in much the same way Serena Williams had Venus Williams' number in the Grand Slams. They have met in three of the last four Grand Slam finals. You know the results. Henin-Hardenne won each time.

That's the way it was in last weekend's Australian Open final. Clijsters rallied to win the second set, but dropped the first four games of the third set.

It's all in Clijsters' mind. Henin-Hardenne is somewhat of a bulldog in persistence, but a truly great champion. Jennifer Capriati found that out in last year's U.S. Open semifinals. Henin-Hardenne doesn't like to lose to anyone, especially Clijsters or Serena Williams.

The key for Clijsters is to figure out how to get into Henin-Hardenne's head and come up with a game plan to defeat her rival. The fact Clijsters earned more than $4 million in 2003, the most ever by a female athlete, is little consolation to her.

I can see why Clijsters, with all her money, doesn't need the frustration of facing Henin-Hardenne's slice backhand any more often than absolutely necessary. But what if the tables were turned? What if Clijsters were No. 1 in the world, the Family Circle Cup's defending champion and first entry for 2004, and dominating her countrywoman? Do you think Justine would be hiding? No way!

As it is, however, it appears that the only way Clijsters will see Daniel Island is if Henin-Hardenne fails to defend her Family Circle Cup title one of these years and doesn't enter the next year.

VENUS-SERENA UPDATE

Family Circle Cup officials, as well as all of the Charleston tennis community, have their fingers crossed. Venus and Serena Williams are both currently out of action due to injuries. Serena pulled out of this coming week's Paris Open while still trying to come back from knee surgery. That happened about the same time Venus withdrew from a quarterfinal match against Chanda Rubin on Friday in Tokyo with a lower right leg muscle strain.

The injuries seem to add a couple of "ifs" for the Williams sisters' scheduled appearances in the Family Circle Cup. But the fact that the withdrawls are occurring now may be a positive for the Family Circle Cup. Remember, it's still 61 days until the $1.3 million WTA Tour event sets up shop on Daniel Island.

Family Circle Cup officials believe that by the time April rolls around, Venus and Serena will be doubly eager to get started. Another point is that the Daniel Island surface is clay, which could take some of the strain off Venus' and Serena's leg injuries.

Venus is scheduled to return to the tour Feb. 16 in Antwerp, where she is the defending champion. By the way, both Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne are entered in that tournament. Of course, Antwerp is located in Belgium. Clijsters obviously couldn't avoid that one.

WIN4LIFE UNDER WAY

Former WTA Tour player Leslie Allen's Win4Life kids program is under way for 2004. The kickoff event was held last Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center, with nearly 30 kids participating.

Allen, who makes the trip from her home in New York City to Charleston for the Family Circle Cup-sponsored program, started Win4Life two years ago in Charleston to expose kids to the many opportunities that exist off the court in professional tennis.

More than 50 kids have participated in the program the last two years. A committee of local tennis coaches has helped Allen select 25 kids this year from a long list of local applicants. Also, many past Win4Life students are helping as team leaders.

The group will return to Daniel Island on April 10 for a session during the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup. MUSC's Harper Student Center will serve as host twice and the College of Charleston once. Win4Life Saturdays focus on a life skill, followed by lunch and tennis skills.

JR. FAMILY CIRCLE SET

This year's Junior Family Circle Cup is scheduled for Feb. 27-March 1. And if this tournament is anything like last year's, it'll be a great one. Local tennis fans will remember Shadisha Robinson from last year. She not only won the 2003 junior tournament, but used the wildcard berth she earned to advance through two matches against WTA Tour pros in the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament and into the main draw of the Family Circle Cup.

The winner of the girls' 18 division in this year's junior tournament also will receive a wildcard berth in the professional tournament's qualifying event April 10-11. As a result, some of the country's top juniors are expected to once again enter the Junior Family Circle Cup.

The tournament is open to girls and boys ages 10-18 and will feature the standard five categories for boys and girls in singles and doubles. More information on the Junior Family Circle Cup is available at the Family Circle Tennis Center's pro shop (843-849-5300) or online at www.familycircletenniscenter.com.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Tuesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Lowcountry Challenger Circuit junior tournament at Snee Farm Country Club in Mount Pleasant. The $30 entry fee covers singles and doubles. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252).

-- Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's mixed doubles social event next Sunday from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Charleston's elementary and middle school league has set a Feb. 18 deadline for turning in rosters. The league will start play March 15.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids downtown inner-city and Johns Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session March 6, with Saturday sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and from 1-2:30 p.m. downtown at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10. A limited number of spots is available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center.


(02/03/04)  Capriati joins formidable Family Circle Cup field
Once riding high with a string of three titles and two semifinal berths in five straight Grand Slam tournaments, Jennifer Capriati has once again seen her career headed in a new direction. She's now a dark horse in most tournaments she enters, a player capable of winning any event she enters but usually sees someone else walk off with the top prize.

That's the role looming for Capriati in the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. Capriati has officially entered the $1.3 million WTA Tour event that she won in 2001 between winning the Australian Open and French Open.

The favorite's tag in the Family Circle will go to top-ranked and defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. Venus and Serena Williams also are entered along with Lindsay Davenport, giving The Family Circle Cup at least five former Grand Slam champions.

These five heavyweights of the women's game have combined to win 19 Grand Slam titles. The Williams sisters, Henin-Hardenne and Capriati have teamed up to capture singles titles in the last 15 Grand Slam tournaments.

Capriati, indeed, did almost spoil things for Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open.

Ten times, Capriati was within two points of winning the match, only to see Henin-Hardenne survive each time en route to winning the Grand Slam tournament. Capriati, ranked fifth in the world, has won only two matches since the U.S. Open, while Henin-Hardenne has gone on to claim the No. 1 ranking as well as win this year's Australian Open.

"Jennifer has set many records at this tournament, and as a former champion it is always a pleasure having her back," said Cup executive director Frankie Whelan.

Capriati's tennis career has been one of ups and downs. At age 14 in 1990, she was a finalist in the Family Circle Cup and made the French Open semifinals. Later that year, she became the youngest player to be ranked in the women's top 10.

Her name appeared to be written all over the stars, but that first stint in the limelight ended prematurely. After falling off the tour in 1994, she didn't regain her golden girl image until 2001 when she won the Australian Open, then came to the Family Circle Cup and upset then top-ranked Martina Hingis in the final to become the first American-born winner of this tournament since Chris Evert in 1985.

Capriati won the Australian again in '02. She came to Charleston as the world's No. 1 player only to lose to Patty Schnyder in the semifinals. Capriati entered last year's Family Circle Cup but withdrew because of a case of strep throat. She has played in eight Family Circle Cups.

After making the semifinals of the season-ending WTA Tour Championships in November, she was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open and then this week's tournament in Tokyo due to a back injury.

Capriati 27, has 14 singles titles and nearly $9 million in earnings.


(02/01/04)  Williams sisters are talk of the town
Venus and Serena have been the talk of the town the last couple of weeks. The fact that both of the Williams sisters have committed to playing in this year's Family Circle Cup has captured the imagination of even non-tennis fans.

Yes, this should be the year the Family Circle Cup becomes Charleston's premier social event, the year Charleston literally takes sole ownership of the $1.3 million women's tournament, the year tennis becomes a buzz word in all elements of Charleston society.

The Family Circle Cup has had three solid years on Daniel Island. Each has been a little better than the previous year. That should be the pattern for the rest of this decade as Charleston transcends to the tennis Mecca of South Carolina and the entire South or possibly even the 48 states outside of Florida and California.

There was a time just a few years ago when tennis and Hilton Head Island were synonymous in this state. No more. The Family Circle Cup's move to Charleston in 2001 started a shift up the coast of the tennis capital. Appearances by Venus and Serena in the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup will cement the shift.

Barring foul weather or a rash of injuries to key players, this should be a record-setting year for the Family Circle Cup. Venus especially will bring out non-tennis fans, because she, even more than Serena, transcends the boundaries of tennis as a sport.

I've heard people who had never mentioned any aspect of tennis to me suddenly start asking questions centered around Venus and Serena. The same people say they are considering purchasing tickets for the Family Circle Cup.

TICKETS GOING STRONG

The announcement on Jan. 20 that both Venus and Serena would play in this year's Family Circle created quite a stir in the event's ticket office.

"We had a dramatic increase in ticket orders. Orders increased three-fold over the previous week," ticket coordinator Elizabeth Skogman said. "We're on target to reach our goal. Every January is strong, but this year with Venus and Serena is even stronger than in years past."

Skogman emphasized that ticket prices are the same as last year. Tickets for the Monday through Friday day sessions start at $45 each. The Tuesday through Friday night sessions are $20, while the championship weekend tickets are priced at $50 each. The April 10-11 qualifying round tickets are $10 each.

Tickets can be ordered on the Internet this year, according to Skogman, who said Internet orders have been strong. Tickets can be ordered at www.familycirclecup.com or by telephone at 800-677-2293 (extension 1) or 856-7900 (extension 1).

SNEE FARM JUNIOR

The annual Lowcountry Challenger Circuit will kick off Feb. 13-15 at the Snee Farm Country Club in Mount Pleasant. The entry deadline is Feb. 10. The $30 entry fee covers singles and doubles. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252).

COURTING KIDS

The City of Charleston's popular Courting Kids downtown and John's Island programs will begin their seven-week spring session on March 6. Downtown sessions will be held on Saturdays from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center and the John's Island sessions will be held at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays.

The program was started by the City of Charleston to make low-cost tennis instructions available to inner-city youth. The cost is $10. There are a limited number of spots available. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Charleston's elementary and middle school league held its organizational meeting last weekend and set a deadline of Feb. 18 for turning in rosters. The league will start play on March 15.

-- Some Lowcountry Tennis Association USTA leagues are starting their spring seasons this coming week. Others will start the week of Feb. 9.

-- Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's mixed doubles social event on Sunday, Feb. 15 from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners. For information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).


(01/27/04)  Davenport latest star to commit to Family Circle
Lindsay Davenport has only a few things missing from her long list of tennis accomplishments. Two of the items missing have to do with clay. She has never won the French Open or Family Circle Cup.

But this 27-year-old tennis great isn't ready to give up on those goals. She will return to Daniel Island for the Family Circle Cup, hoping to take two steps past her close semifinal loss to Serena Williams in 2003. This will be Davenport's sixth appearance in the $1.3 million Tier I WTA Tour event, scheduled for April 10-18.

Davenport underwent foot surgery at the end of last year to prepare for another season and perhaps a serious bid for the only Grand Slam title she is missing, the French Open. Winning in Charleston would be the ultimate preparation for the two-week run in Paris as 2003 Family Circle Cup champion Justine Henin-Hardenne proved last year in defeating Serena Williams for the French Open crown.

Ranked fifth in the world, Davenport joins an already strong group of players at the Family Circle Cup that includes the top-ranked Henin-Hardenne, third-ranked Serena Williams and 11th-ranked Venus Williams.

"With every announcement our player field just keeps getting better and better," said Family Circle executive director Frankie Whelan. "Lindsay has had an amazing career in tennis and she continues year after year to give her best on the court and off."

Davenport lost to Henin-Hardenne, 7-5, 6-3, early today in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Davenport scored an easy 6-1, 6-3 round-of-16 victory over talented 13th-ranked Russian Vera Zvonareva to advance to the meeting with top-seeded Henin-Hardenne.

Davenport has won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open once each, the latest coming in 2000 at the Australian Open. She has been ranked as the world's No. 1 women's player five different times, won 38 WTA Tour singles titles and earned $16.5 million in career prize money.

Last year, she won a singles title in Tokyo and had five runner-up finishes. She was handicapped in the second half of the year by a left foot injury diagnosed as a nerve condition called Morton's neuroma.

Davenport returned to the WTA in early January to help the United States win the Hopman Cup title, but then a shoulder injury forced her to withdraw from a semifinal match against Henin-Hardenne the following week in Sydney, Australia.


(01/25/04)  New tennis program aims to lure people into sport
One of the highlights of the USTA Southern Sectional's annual meeting last weekend in Atlanta was that the USTA-led tennis industry is coming out with its largest national marketing initiative ever in an effort to lure people into tennis, and to keep them playing the game.

This new multi-million dollar program that also is backed by the Tennis Industry Association, the ATP, the WTA, USPTA and other organizations is called Tennis Welcome Center. USTA chairman of the board and president Alan Schwartz was on hand Friday and Saturday in Atlanta to promote the program.

Locally, Family Circle Tennis Center, Charleston Tennis Center, Maybank Tennis Center, Dunes West, and Creekside Tennis and Swim already have signed up to become Welcome Centers.

Schwartz sees tennis' biggest obstacle to overcome as its inability to keep players in the game. Surveys indicate that there are 70 million "lapsed" tennis players in this country. These are players who try out the game, maybe take lessons, play a few times, then fail to make the tennis connection that can make them players for life like 90-year-old Dave Carey of Asheville, N.C., who won the Slew Hester Adult Achievement Award for men.

The Tennis Welcome Center is designed to make new players feel welcome and to help them not only to get started but to keep them in the game by offering affordable programs. One of the keys to the Welcome Center's success will be a Web site - tenniswelcomecenter.com.

Anyone interested in locating a participating facility can go to the Web site and simply enter a zip code and find a Welcome Center. The address of the Web site will be promoted on 2.5 million cans of tennis balls and 2.5 million starter rackets as well as on shoe boxes, banners, posters and advertisements.

"Our common goal is to grow tennis. We're all on the same page," Schwartz said. "Once a player is in a league, they'll stay. We've got to retain their interest, and we can do that."

Charleston Tennis Center's Peggy Bohne, the city's tennis coordinator, likes the plan.

"I think it will help with new people coming to town and beginners," Bohne said Thursday in Charleston. "A lot of people traveling go on the Internet. They'll be able to locate a place to play."

SECTIONAL NOTES

-- Passion for the game was emphasized by many of the participants in Atlanta, leading me to make the pitch to the crowd of about 300 at the awards luncheon that the USTA should produce a "Tennis Is My Passion" bumper sticker. Schwartz made a note of the suggestion.

-- Legendary tennis coach and licensed psychologist Vic Braden, the keynote speaker for the meeting, is heavily into sports research at the Vic Braden Neurology Research Institute in Washington, D.C. Not only does he research tennis players, he has helped NFL teams test and rate quarterbacks.

"Some children are born to be champions," he said in an interview. That view explains the emergence in professional sports of the offspring of former pro standouts, such as the Archie Manning-Peyton Manning link.

As for Venus Williams' genius, Braden said, "I think we'll see some amazing things come out of Venus that don't relate to tennis."

-- One of the big hopes for tennis is The Tennis Channel, which was the center of discussion by a media round table that I sat on along with Nancy Pingitore of The Tennis Channel, Mark Grant of CBS Sports, USTA Magazine editor Peter Fancesconi and several others. The Tennis Channel should help take tennis across the threshold into everyday America, making tennis a fashionable thing to do and talk about.

-- Local people at the Southern Sectional included new S.C. Tennis Association president Bud Spencer, Kiawah Island tennis director and Southern Tennis Hall of Fame member Roy Barth, Dunes West tennis director Jack Miller, and Rob Eppelsheimer and Mike Finley of Family Circle Tennis Center.

-- Greenville native and former Rollins College All-American Nancy Yeargin Furman was inducted into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame. Bill Tym of Tennessee also was inducted.

CARTER WINS AWARD

Charleston's Brenda Carter, the No. 2-ranked women's 55 singles player in the United States, received the Slew Hester Adult Achievement Award for women during the Southern Sectional. The award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding tennis performances.

Carter helped the Americans win the women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup last year in Turkey, then competed in the International Tennis Federation's Vets World Championships, also in Turkey. She won the 2003 USTA women's 55 singles title.

CITY EVENTS

-- There will be a meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center for the upcoming Elementary and Middle School League. Public and private schools in the tri-county area are invited to attend. Eighty-two teams participated in the league last year. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's mixed doubles social event on Sunday, Feb. 15 from 2-6 p.m. The cost will be $10 per player. Players can sign up with or without partners.

-- The City of Charleston is in the midst of renovating the Maybank Tennis Center on James Island. Six of the facility's eight hard courts have been resurfaced. A parking lot and sidewalks also have been built to go with the new clubhouse that opened last year.


(01/20/04)  Williams Family Circle: Serena, Venus commit to Cup
Do you want to see Venus and Serena Williams in the same tournament? You'd better book your reservations to Miami, New York, London, Paris, Australia ... or Daniel Island.

The Williams sisters usually play together only in the Grand Slams and Miami's Nasdaq 100. But both Venus and Serena have entered the Family Circle Cup, scheduled for April 10-18 on Daniel Island.

With that in mind, along with defending champion and top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne committing to the event last week, this year's Family Circle Cup should be a hot ticket.

Venus and Serena last played together in a Tier I clay-court tournament in 1999 at the Italian Open. The Grand Slams are where they usually both play and dominate the field, as they did by making the finals of four straight Grand Slams, starting with the 2002 French Open and ending with the 2003 Australian Open. Serena won all four of those finals to become only the fifth woman to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

They have met in six Grand Slam finals, with Serena winning the last five meetings. They own 10 Grand Slam singles titles between them and more than $25 million in earnings.

"Serena and Venus have played such an important role in the success that women's tennis enjoys today," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan. "We are delighted to be one of the few tournaments worldwide that will have the opportunity to showcase the talents of these two remarkable young women athletes."

This will be Venus' first appearance in the Family Circle Cup. Serena will be playing in her third Family Circle, having lost to Henin-Hardenne in last year's final and to Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals in 2002.

Serena, 22, hasn't played on the tour since defeating Venus in last summer's Wimbledon final. Still recovering from knee surgery that she underwent last August, she pulled out of the Australian Open, the first week of which is being played now. She is scheduled to return to the tour in early February at the Paris Indoors.

Venus, 23, also did not return to action in 2003 after aggravating an abdominal strain at Wimbledon. She won an exhibition in Hong Kong earlier this month and won her first-round match at the Australian Open early today.

Despite falling to No. 3 and No. 11, respectively, in the world rankings while out with injuries, Serena and Venus have been granted special rankings and seedings by the WTA Tour under a tour rule for injured players, allowing Serena to enter this season's early tournaments as provisional first or second seed, and allowing Venus to enter as a provisional third or fourth seed.

Serena has won 23 career singles titles, which includes six Grand Slam titles. She was ranked No. 1 for 57 weeks.

Venus has won 29 career titles and four Grand Slams.


(01/18/04)  Countdown begins for Family Circle Cup

Now that Justine Henin-Hardenne has made the commitment to defend her Family Circle Cup title, the countdown is on. It's a mere 82 days until the best women's players in the world start showing up on Daniel Island for the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup.

And the best players in the world are what the million-dollar WTA Tour event is hoping for. Of course, this hope is directed toward the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati and Kim Clijsters.

The Williams sisters are real question marks since Serena hasn't played since last July 5, when she defeated older sister Venus in the Wimbledon final. Serena already has pulled out of this week's Australian Open. Venus just recently returned to the tour, but Venus has never played in the Family Circle Cup. Believe it or not, age will soon start to creep into the equation. Venus will turn 24 before this year's Wimbledon. That's still very young, but time flies. Venus hasn't won a Grand Slam tournament in more than two years.

Capriati is another Australian Open casualty. She also will turn 28 prior to the Family Circle Cup.

Age is no problem for Clijsters. She won't turn 21 until June. She might be a bit preoccupied this year, however, with her wedding plans. Now, there's a plan that could get Kim to come to the Family Circle Cup. Convince her future hubby, Lleyton Hewitt, to visit Charleston with his bride-to-be. Doesn't that sound romantic, although not as romantic as the cruise in Sydney Harbor when he popped the question.

With Henin-Hardenne already in the field, success is once again assured. Lindsay Davenport might make one last run at a Family Circle crown.

Of course, if young Maria Sharapova brings her grunts back to Daniel Island and crowd-pleasing Ashley Harkleroad returns, they are sure to be among the fan favorites.

FCTC JUNIORS START

Family Circle Tennis Center's Junior Team Tennis program is off to a good start. More than 60 kids attended a kickoff party at the Tennis Center last Saturday.

The Junior Team Tennis League is a grassroots program designed to teach children the fundamentals of tennis in a fun, team atmosphere. Every child is guaranteed to play a team match each week in Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

Kids will receive a one-hour tennis clinic per week in addition to their match Saturday. For additional information, contact the Family Circle Tennis Center at 849-5300 or director of tennis Jim Dempsey at 849-5304.

C OF C FUNDRAISER

Family Circle Tennis Center will hold the inaugural College Of Charleston Men's Tennis Fund-Raiser next Saturday. The event will have a round-robin format for all level players.

There will be two divisions, with 4.0 and below starting at 8 a.m. and 4.5 and above starting at 1 p.m. The $75 fee covers lunch. Proceeds will benefit the College of Charleston Men's Tennis Scholarship Fund. For information, contact Family Circle Tennis Center (849-5300) or Cougar men's coach Phil Whitesell (532-5677).

BALL CREW SOUGHT

The Family Circle Cup is recruiting more than 175 juniors (ages 10-18) and adults to serve on ball crews for the WTA Tour tournament on Daniel Island. Training sessions will be held every Saturday through April 3 from 12:30-3 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. A final, mandatory training session will be held at the tournament site April 9 from 2:30-6 p.m.

To receive an application or for more information, contact Susan Honowitz at (843) 686-4477 or Toni Young at (843) 766-3385.

LAST DAY TO FORM TEAM

Today is the deadline for entering a team in this spring's Adult and Senior USA Leagues. Any team that doesn't have the minimum number of players registered in TennisLink on the Internet by midnight tonight won't be allowed to field a team this spring.

That's the word from LCTA president Bob Peiffer. Players can get more information on the local league seasons and schedules at www.lowcountry.usta.com.


(01/13/04)  Net gain

Henin-Hardenne will defend title at Family Circle Cup

Justine Henin-Hardenne lived a dream in 2003 that started with her shocking victory over Serena Williams at the Family Circle Cup and finished with two Grand Slam titles and the world's No. 1 ranking. Henin-Hardenne can only hope that 2004 will be as good as last year.

The 21-year-old Belgian has committed to taking the Daniel Island route again, this time to defend the Family Circle Cup title she won last year by defeating the then- seemingly unbeatable Williams. Henin-Hardenne is the first player to commit to the April 10-18 million-dollar WTA Tour event.

Henin-Hardenne started 2003 ranked fifth in the world, but she served notice at the Family Circle Cup last April that she was ready to challenge for the top spot in the game. She frustrated Williams with consistency and a slice backhand to take a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the final.

Again at the French Open, Henin-Hardenne denied Williams, snapping Serena's streak of four straight Grand Slam titles in the semifinals. Henin-Hardenne then defeated fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final to become the first Belgian Grand Slam champion.

Williams never fully recovered her dominance of the tour, although she marched to the Wimbledon championship. She hasn't played since Wimbledon and has pulled out of next week's Australian Open while still attempting to recover from knee surgery.

Henin-Hardenne went on to a truly brilliant year, more than doubling her computer point total from the start of the year. She won the U.S. Open, staging an amazing comeback to defeat Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals. By winning the U.S. Open, Henin-Hardenne became only the ninth woman to win both the French and U.S. Opens in the same year.

Clijsters won the season-ending WTA Championships in Los Angeles, but Henin-Hardenne still finished the year as the top player in the game.

"For those of us who love to watch quality tennis, Justine's performance here in Charleston last year was inspiring," commented Frankie Whelan, executive director of the Family Circle Cup. "Judging from her results following the Family Circle Cup, that victory gave her the confidence she needed to take her game to the next level."


(01/11/04)  Charleston's team effort wins sectional
It was a team effort by several local organizations and facilities that landed Charleston the USTA League Tennis Southern Sectional Championships in 2005 and 2006. Of course, the primary reason for this success story is the world-class Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, and the work of its director, Rob Eppelsheimer.

Eppelsheimer has been working on the bid for several months. He will serve as tournament co-chairman, along with Snee Farm Country Club director of tennis Dewey Caulder.

According to Eppelsheimer, the bid process combined the efforts of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Charleston Metro Sports Council, Family Circle Tennis Center, Snee Farm, Creekside Tennis Club, Daniel Island Club, Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex, Charleston Tennis Center and others.

Local tennis facilities will help provide the additional courts and services needed to hold an event of this size. Volunteers from groups such as the Lowcountry Tennis Association will help run the tournament.

"Bringing a sectional tennis championship of this caliber to the Charleston area will make a significant impact on our local economy," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It is events like this and the Family Circle Cup that will continue to help promote the Charleston area as a top tennis destination on a national level."

Just how big is the Southern Sectional? More than 2,000 participants, and most of them coming from out of town. These adults from nine Southern States will bring their families to Charleston for several days.

Last fall's event netted the Columbia area an estimated $13 million in economic impact.

C OF C OPENS FACILITY

The College of Charleston's tennis program has big plans for next weekend. Friday at 7 p.m., the college will hold a grand opening ceremony for its new complex on Patriot's Point.

Then on Saturday at 10 a.m., an alumni men's and women's tournament will open the complex, followed at 2 p.m. by the men's team taking on Clemson.

FUND-RAISING SUCCESS

Last Sunday's Clemson tennis team fund-raiser at The Citadel's Bunch Courts raised $1,300 for the Dorchester and Westminster Presbyterian Churches' missions in Haiti.

Clemson freshman Ryan Young from Charleston enjoyed playing doubles with local fans during the fund-raiser. He also is looking forward to returning to Charleston next Saturday with his Clemson team to help the College of Charleston men open the Cougars' new complex.

C OF C SETS EVENT

Family Circle Tennis Center is planning the inaugural College Of Charleston men's tennis fund-raiser on Saturday, Jan. 24. The event will have a round-robin format for all level players.

There will be two divisions, with 4.0 and below starting at 8 a.m. and 4.5 and above starting at 1 p.m. The $75 fee covers lunch. Proceeds will benefit the College of Charleston men's tennis scholarship fund. For information, contact Family Circle Tennis Center (849-5300) or coach Phil Whitesell (532-5677).

BALL CREW NEEDED

The Family Circle Cup is recruiting more than 175 juniors (ages 10-18) and adults to serve on ball crews for the April 10-18 WTA Tour tournament on Daniel Island. Training sessions will be held every Saturday through April 3 from 12:30-3 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. A final, mandatory training session will be held at the tournament site on Friday, April 9 from 2:30-6 p.m.

To receive an application or for more information, contact Susan Honowitz at (843) 686-4477 or Toni Young at (843) 766-3385.

NO CAPTAINS MEETING

That's right, according to LCTA president Bob Peiffer. There will be no captains meeting for the spring USTA League seasons. But the roster deadline for Adult and Senior leagues is next Sunday at midnight. Teams must have the minimum number of players required registered in TennisLink on the Internet by that time.

However, once the minimum number of players have signed up, teams can add players throughout the regular season. Players can get more information on the local league seasons and schedules at www.lowcountry.usta.com.

THORNTON SHINES

Charleston's Caroline Thornton captured sixth place in girls' 12 in last week's Copper Bowl junior tournament in Tucson, Ariz. Coached by Bryan Minton at Charleston Tennis Academy, Thornton fashioned a 4-2 record in the Copper Bowl and advanced to the quarterfinals.

A week earlier, she put together a 2-2 record in the Super Nationals in Tucson. The Charleston Day School student was ranked eighth in the South prior to those two events, her last in the 12-and-under division.


(01/07/04)  Charleston chosen as USTA sectional host
Family Circle Tennis Center's primary focus each year is its million-dollar Family Circle Cup women's professional tennis tournament. But the WTA Tour event now has a little partner that has been called the "World's Largest Tennis Tournament."

The Daniel Island complex will serve as the 2005-06 host for the U.S. Tennis Association's USA League Tennis Southern Sectional Championship. More than 2,000 players compete in the event each year. Charleston was selected over Augusta, Ga., Baton Rouge, La., Cary, N.C., Mobile, Ala., and Shreveport, La.

"It was a team effort in putting together this bid and it was clear to the USTA Southern Section that we were all united in our goal of making this championship a success," said Rob Eppelsheimer, the Family Circle Tennis Center's director and host tournament co-chairman. "This event will give Charleston even more credibility as a top tennis destination."

Snee Farm Country Club director of tennis Dewey Caulder also will serve as a co-chairman of the event.

Marilyn Sherman, director of adult tennis for the USTA Southern Section, made the announcement Tuesday from the Southern Section's headquarters in Atlanta.

The USA League Tennis Southern Sectional Championship was held at the Columbia area's new Lexington County Tennis Center last year, and will be held there again this year.

The event had an estimated economic impact of more than $13 million on the Columbia area.

Teams represent various clubs, parks and organizations, then finish at the top of their local leagues and win state championships before advancing to Sectionals. Sectional winners advance to the National Championships. Players are grouped into six different ability levels, ranging from beginner (2.5) to advanced (5.0), based on the National Tennis Rating Program.


(01/04/04)  Corporations should consider the many advantages of tennis
Corporations might be more eager to sponsor golf and other athletic events than maybe tennis. To come to that conclusion, all you have to do is look at the purses of golf and auto racing. Even senior golf waves a big wand financially.

By the same token, corporate types appear to prefer playing golf over tennis. Of course. Golf is the thing to do, if you have an eye on your future with the company.

All of this leads one to wonder what tennis is doing wrong. Actually, tennis isn't doing anything wrong. It's just that tennis players and fans need to demonstrate more passion for their sport. Tennis should be talked about at the office water fountain just like golf.

Sharon Varn, the wife of former Citadel tennis coach Ben Varn, paid me a nice compliment at the recent S.C. Tennis Association meetings at Hilton Head Island by saying, "You were promoting tennis when it wasn't popular to do so."

I guess that was because tennis was, and still is, a true passion of mine. Others have the same passion. Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer wore his favorite tennis tie to the SCTA awards banquet. I also have a few favorite tennis ties, which I like to wear on certain "up" days.

For working adults, tennis has more advantages than almost any other sport, including the obvious physical benefits. Most companies haven't stopped to consider it, but tennis plays a positive role in the workforce, especially those tennis players who participate in weeknight USTA Leagues.

In the past, players normally have played either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night and practiced one other night. This year, players may play more than one Adult League match per week, due to changes in league rules. Match or practice days probably are among the highlights of the entire week for the participants. That probably translates into very positive workdays for the players. And that's good for their companies.

With that positive attitude in mind, league players may be less apt to take sick days, even if they are feeling under the weather. Of course, they can't take a sick day and still play that night or maybe even the next night either.

Players may be a little sore the morning after matches, but they still will feel better than if they had played couch potato.

So, with all of those advantages, it would seem that companies and corporations would embrace tennis with open arms.

PLAY WITH RYAN

Don't forget, Ryan Young and his Clemson teammates will be at The Citadel's Bunch Courts from 2-5 p.m. today to give instructions and play doubles with fans. Young, a Clemson freshman and former local junior standout, will be the star attraction.

It's a charity event benefiting the Dorchester and Westminster Presbyterian Churches' missions in Haiti. Instructions will be given from 2-3 p.m., with doubles competition the last two hours.

Preregistration isn't required. Fans can just show up and have fun.