2005

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

Winner: 2018 USTA South Carolina Media Excellence Award

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(12/28/05)  Locals raise money to fight cancer
Life is all about making a difference. And a couple of groups of tennis women in the area made quite a difference this fall by raising more than $40,000 to fight cancer.

Joy Morris' women at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club were fund-raising event veterans in October when they held their third Ace Breast Cancer Tournament. Among the tournament's participants were Shirley Hunter and three other women from the newly formed Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association, which was planning to hold a Racquets for Recovery Tennis Tournament the next month at their Summerville club.

The official results are now in from both events. The I'On group raised $30,000 for the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, while the Pine Forest ladies donated $13,500 to the American Cancer Society and its Quality of Life Programs.

"This was more than double what we raised last year," Morris said Tuesday. "The people at the Hollings Cancer Center were very happy. They said they had never had an event that doubled what it had donated one year to the next.

"The committee's goal was $30,000. Some other people thought there was no way we could raise that much, but we had a lot of generous people," she added.

The I'On tournament also used the Players Club and the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department courts at Whipple Road. A total of 206 players participated.

Pine Forest's tournament had a little more than 80 players, and about 80 participated in a Saturday night auction.

"The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association is tickled pink with our first charity tournament and sends a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who was involved," said Hunter, the president of the association that was formed only last January.

"The enormous team of volunteers and the generosity of our sponsors and community was our tribute to the dedication shown by patients who are fighting breast cancer and recovering from it."

Both groups of women are thrilled, and are already planning for next year's events.

"We had a lot of help from people on the committee. They're all dedicated to next year's event," said Morris, the chairman of the I'On tournament.

Pine Forest already has set Nov. 3-4 as the dates for its 2006 tournament.

Big weekend at Maybank Tennis Center

Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young is excited. Not only is her son, Clemson star Ryan Young, home for the holidays, the Clemson men's team will practice at Maybank next week. And she also has a full New Year's weekend of activities planned at Maybank.

The weekend will kick off Friday with a women's round-robin tournament from 9 a.m.-noon, followed on Saturday by a men's round robin from 9 a.m.-noon. The weekend will be brought to a climax on New Year's Day by a parent/child round robin from 10 a.m.-noon.

Contact Toni Young at (843) 343-8393 for information on all three events.

State clinics set

USTA South Carolina will sponsor clinics to promote league tennis' beginner-level 2.5 participation Jan. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center and Jan. 15 at Maybank Tennis Center. Both clinics will be held from 1-5 p.m. and will be coordinated by Toni Young.  The cost for each USTA clinic will be $10. Advance registration is required. For more information or to register, contact community tennis coordinator Maggie LaCoste (843) 906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net.


(12/18/05) FCC Tennis Center remains one of city's best investments
It's been nearly six years now since the reality of the Family Circle Cup landed in Charleston. When Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. stood before Charleston City Council on March 2, 2000 and gained approval for the city to build a $9 million tennis complex and stadium on Daniel Island, the local tennis landscape was changed far into the future. As the Tier I women's tournament undergoes changes, the fact remains that Family Circle Tennis Center is a public facility.

Local tennis fans can say a big "Thank you" to Riley and the vision that brought the Family Circle Cup to Charleston. The deal that the mayor orchestrated in 2000 was for 20 years in which Family Circle would hold its tournament on the property and operate the tennis complex year-round, allowing the public to play there when the courts were not needed for tournaments. The package also included annual payments by Family Circle of $310,000 for the first 15 years.  The contract may be altered or terminated in 2015.

The Family Circle Cup and Family Circle magazine were then owned by German publishing giant Gruner+Jahr. The acquisition of Family Circle magazine by Meredith Corp. became official in June, making the Family Circle Cup a Meredith property.

The tournament appears to be in good hands. As Nancy Weber, Meredith's vice president for group marketing, said Friday from New York in announcing top management changes for the Family Circle Cup, many of the top people at Meredith have experience with the tournament and are big tennis fans, including Meredith chairman and CEO Bill Kerr.

Kerr was president of the New York Times Magazine Group when the Times owned the Family Circle Cup prior to the group's sale to Gruner+Jahr in 1994. Weber also worked at the tournament when it was based
in Hilton Head Island and she was employed by Family Circle magazine.

As Frankie Whelan retires as Family Circle's executive director going into the new year, the April 8-16 Family Circle Cup will be under the capable leadership of just promoted facility and tournament director Robin
Reynolds, and director of sales and business development Bob Moran, with guidance from Weber and her group at Meredith.

With any kind of cooperation from the weather, the sixth version of the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island should be one of its best yet.

Hopefully, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and other top stars already have the Family Circle dates marked on their calendar.

Family Circle gets camp

Family Circle Tennis Center has been awarded USTA South Carolina's annual Junior All-Star Camp for Feb. 3-5. The top 10 boys and girls in four age divisions will be invited to the camp that was created in 1982 to provide the state's top juniors with high-level training and instructions.

The camp has been run by Dennis and Pat Van der Meer at Hilton Head Island for the past 20 years. USTA South Carolina plans to change the name of the camp to Van der Meer All-Star Camp. The top boys' and girls' players from the 12-and-under through 18-and-under age divisions, based on final 2005 rankings, will receive invitations.

"Junior tennis in South Carolina has grown so much over the past few years and much of that growth can be attributed to the efforts of USTA South Carolina," said Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer.

"We appreciate the association's vote of confidence in us to host this event and we will make sure each junior receives a quality experience that will help them become better players."

Beach tennis on Fox

Beach Tennis USA is moving quickly. And national champions Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell of  Charleston are making the most of the new venture. Beach Tennis, which is based in New York, has lined up a tentative spot on Fox Sports' Best Damn Sports Show Period for early February, and has extended an invitation to Henderson and Whitesell for an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for them to appear in the studio with the cast.

The only trouble, said Henderson who is a co-founder of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League, is "My first baby is due February 4th." He is hoping the appearance can be rescheduled for early March.

Henderson and Whitesell, of course, won one of the first Beach Tennis tournaments when it was held at Myrtle Beach last summer and received berths in the national tournament in New York. They won that, split a $10,000 purse, and are now Beach Tennis celebrities.

Beach Tennis has announced an 11-tournament schedule for 2006, starting in California in April, moving to Florida in May and holding a tournament in Charleston May 26-28.


(12/17/05)  New owner replacing FCC head ; Executive director of event, tennis center retiring effective Jan. 1
Under new ownership for six months, the WTA Tier I Family Circle Cup women's tennis tournament and Family Circle Tennis Center are now changing top management. New owner Meredith Corp. announced Friday that Frankie Whelan will retire as executive director of the tournament and tennis center, effective Jan. 1. This follows on the heels of the recent departure of Mike Finley as tournament director and Mike Baker as tennis director.

Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith has promoted Robin Reynolds to the position of facility and tournament director, and Bob Moran to director of sales and business development. Reynolds has served as public relations and communications director of the Family Circle Cup for the last three years, while Moran has been national sales manager since 2004 after joining Family Circle in 1999.

Both Reynolds and Moran will report to Nancy Weber, Meredith's vice president for group marketing who operates out of New York City.

"Frankie has been a valuable asset to this organization and her enthusiasm and passion for her job always showed through," Weber said about Whelan, who will retire to the Boston area where her family resides.

"I am thrilled to promote both Robin and Bob. They bring to their new positions a wealth of experience . . . Meredith is committed to helping this facility achieve its full potential. Robin and Bob will play a critical role in that growth."

When Finley, who was instrumental in helping Family Circle land the Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus last fall, resigned in late October, Weber had said then that a general manager would be hired in a restructuring. "We're not replacing Mike, we're restructuring," she said Friday.

"We decided not to name a general manager. We have been looking for someone, but I realized we have the team and talent already there. There was no one better to run it than these two (Reynolds and Moran). They will be working hand-in-hand. They will be my management team down there.

"Robin will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the facility and will manage all of the operations of the tournament . . . ticket sales and anything that has to do with putting on the tournament.

"Bob will be looking to bring other tournaments to the facility. We are looking at a music festival or a concert series, and we're stil looking at a men's event for next fall." Whelan had served as executive director for the past five years. "My career in special events and professional sports has been very satisfying," she said. "I am extremely proud of what I have accomplished and I know that I leave this facility in very capable hands."

Under Whelan's leadership, this year's Family Circle Cup was attended by more than 92,000 people. The 2006 event will be held April 8-16 on Daniel Island.

"Having been in the tennis business for 20 years, I know what role the Family Circle has played in the success of women's tennis over the past 30 years," Reynolds said. "This community has certainly played a major role in our success over the past five years and now with Meredith's support, we can set our goals even higher."

In addition to his sales leadership, Moran will oversee the research and development of future events.


(12/14/05)  Tennis anchors busy schedule of Wando sophomore
You've heard about year-round swimmers. Well, Brooke Mosteller is a year-round tennis player.

The Wando High sophomore takes tennis seriously. When most high school athletes are still sleeping or heading out to school, Mosteller is pounding forehands and backhands at Mount Pleasant's Players Club.

That's 7:30 a.m. for about two hours, even in December and January. "Some mornings it's hard, but once you get out there it feels good," she said.

In the afternoon, there are more forehands and backhands. Another two-hour session that ends at 6:30 p.m. or later.

In between, she is a full-time student. She even sang in the chorus last school year and was Wando's Miss Freshman. She has been selected to compete in the Miss Wando contest again in January.

She has been as vital to Wando's two straight Class AAAA girls' tennis state championships as any team member, going 29-0 in singles while playing mostly either No. 2 or No. 3. She was notably missing from the all-Region 7-AAAA team that limited schools to three players each, even though she and fellow sophomore Jessica Diamond may have been the area's most outstanding high school players.

"She hates to lose," is the way Wando coach Becky Williamson describes Mosteller, who along with Diamond made the Warriors' domination of Class AAAA tennis possible last year when they transferred to Wando from Palmetto Christian Academy.

"She's dedicated, a great kid. She puts everything into it, whether it's tennis, singing or the Miss Wando contest."

Fritz Nau, who has trained Mosteller for nearly five years, calls her "the most dedicated player I've ever had." Of course, before moving to Charleston five years ago to join Family Circle Tennis Center and later to open his Charleston Tennis Academy, Nau worked with legends such as Monica Seles and Andre Agassi at Bollettieri's Academy in Florida.

"She may be the most unique player I've had, including Seles and Agassi, in that I've never seen a player with better work ethics and leadership ability. Sometimes I turn over an entire practice to her. The coaches are out there, but she runs the show.

"It would have been hard to keep the academy together with all its moves without Brooke," he said about the academy's moves over the last five years from Family Circle, to Porter-Gaud, to Creekside Tennis and Swim, and finally to his all-new Players Club. "She's the glue that holds it together. She's been the leader of the group from the beginning."

Perhaps one reason Mosteller is a relative unknown in local junior tennis is because she has played a limited tournament schedule. After all, she is a busy young woman, especially when you toss in her church participation at East Cooper Baptist. She admits that church played a role in restricting her junior tournament schedule, along with a summer trip with her grandparents and a week at a Christian leadership camp.

"I don't like to miss church on Sundays, and most tournaments are over the weekend. It's hard to travel . . . with school and other stuff," she said.

"I haven't played a lot of junior tennis tournaments, but I plan to play more next year."

Mosteller isn't high on her own tennis ability. That's why she works so hard at the game. "I am not very talented when it comes to tennis. I have to work really hard to get the right strokes down. I want to be good . . . I don't usually mind the extra work," she said.

But the 5-8 1/2 player has determination on her side. "I am not going to lose if I can help it. I'm going to do whatever I can to beat them," she said.

"When I'm out there competing I am not out there to have fun, but to get as many points as I can. I'm all business when I'm out there."

Playing on the Wando team has special meaning to Mosteller, mainly because of playing with Diamond and her other friends. "The people on the team mean a lot to me," the 16-year-old said.

It all boils down to one thing, "I enjoy playing tennis."

She hopes tennis leads her to a college scholarship "at a pretty good school."

"It would be really cool to go pro. I just have to see what happens."

Team to be honored

Members of the state championship Wando tennis team will be recognized next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Wando auditorium by the town of Mount Pleasant. "Last year the city gave us a sign (that's now displayed on U.S. Highway 17 near the school)," Williamson said.


(12/11/05)  New tennis pro with MUSC got a late start in the game

Ben Simon started playing tennis in Toronto when he was 15 years old because his best friend saw Boris Becker on television playing at Wimbledon and thought Simon looked like Becker.

The friend convinced Simon that tennis actually was a game that could be played in the Canadian outdoors in the summertime.

Both developed solid games, but there were no tennis scholarships in Canada. His buddy went off to Jefferson (Ala.) State Community College, and a year later Simon showed up at the Birmingham school hoping to get scholarship aid. Sure enough, his buddy talked the coach into a deal which no one regretted. Simon became a junior college All-American.

The friend went on to the University of Texas, while Simon moved up to Greenwood to join coach Joe Cabri's legendary NCAA Division II program at Lander College.

Simon helped the now retired Cabri keep his eventual string of 10 straight national championships going, playing on national champions Nos. 7 and 8 in 1995 and 1996. Cabri's teams, which also included Pine Forest pro Lee Holyoak, won a total of 12 national titles.

From that cold, late start in the game, Simon now depends on tennis for his livelihood. He is the new junior development director at MUSC on tennis director JoAnn Lee's seven-pro staff. Simon, 33, had been at Myrtle Beach's Wachesaw Plantation where Lee said "he coached more nationally ranked players than anyone else in the state."

Lee is especially happy to have Simon on her staff since she is starting an Ultimate Performance Tennis Academy in January for serious juniors from 10-16 years old.

"We've got so many players that are doing well in the state and we want to get them to the next level," Lee said, mentioning No. 1 in the South boys' 10 player Payne Hoy, and brothers Walker and Randall Heffron, who have been ranked in the top 10 in the state this year in 12s and 14s.

Locals in Eddie Herr
Charleston Tennis Academy pro Fritz Nau recently took four local boys' 12 players from the Players Club to the Eddie Herr International Tennis Federation tournament at Nick Bollettieri's Academy in Florida. Addison King won a match, while Connor Clements, Alex Santiago and Nau's 9-year-old son Ryan all lost in the first round.

More than 1,250 players from 87 countries competed in the tournament, which is one of three consecutive ITF events in Florida, including this week's Orange Bowl Championships in Key Biscayne.

Guzick in Orange Bowl

Sarah Guzick, the 15-year-old wonder who helped Greenville's Christ Church win this year's Class A girls' high school championship, made the second round in the girls' 16 division of the Orange Bowl Championships. Guzick would be a prime contender in the upcoming Junior Family Circle Cup if she entered.

Judge selected
South Carolina State's Hardeep Judge was honored as the state's college coach of the year at last weekend's USTA/South Carolina annual meeting at Hilton Head Island. Judge's men's and women's teams, both made up entirely of foreign players, earned NCAA tournament bids last spring.

Upcoming events
The Charleston Junior Tennis Council's December meeting will be Tuesday at noon at Bodacious Bagels in Mount Pleasant. Discussion will include the winter Junior Team Tennis season. The meeting is open to the public.

--The Charleston Pro Tennis League will conduct a kids' clinic of drills and match play next Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. For more information, contact CPTL co-founder Chris Henderson (843) 412-6899 or cwhendy@comcast.net.

--USTA/South Carolina will hold three adult clinics to promote league tennis' beginner-level 2.5 participation. They will be held next Saturday at the I'On Club, Jan. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center and Jan. 15 at Maybank Tennis Center. All three clinics will be held from 1-5 p.m. and will be coordinated by Maybank pro Toni Young. For more information or for the required advance registration, contact community tennis coordinator Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

-- Maybank Tennis Center will put on a ladies round-robin tournament on Dec. 30 from 9 a.m.-noon, a men's round robin from 9 a.m.-noon on Dec. 31 and a family challenge beginning at 10 a.m. on New Year's Day. Contact pro Toni Young (343-8393) for information on all three events.

-- Family Circle Tennis Center has scheduled a holiday tennis camp for juniors Dec. 26-30 from 9 a.m.-noon. The camp is designed for junior tennis players ages 8 and up and for all skill levels. For more information, contact Rob Eppelsheimer at (843) 849-3121 or email him at reppelsheimer@familycirclecup.com.

-- Pro Michael Fischbach will hold free clinics all next week at the tennis courts at Moultrie Playground for players of all ages and levels. For more information or to register, contact Fischbach (843) 762-1814 or (843) 724-7327.

--Creekside Tennis and Swim will conduct a holiday junior camp Dec. 27-30, with ages 6-8 going from 9-10:30 a.m. and ages 9-15 from 9 a.m.-noon. For more information, contact creeksidetennis@yahoo.com


(12/07/05)  Hingis will be a boost
Women's tournament officials are as excited as they've been in some time. And it isn't because of the Russian brigade headed by Maria Sharapova.

Martina Hingis is coming back. Tennis hadn't seen enough of this young woman's smile when she quit the pro tour three years ago, suffering from recurring foot problems and other injuries.

So, last week when Hingis announced she would attempt a comeback in January, the real winners were the tournaments, and the fans who will purchase tickets just to see one of the most likable players to come along since Chris Evert.

That's why most tournaments with wild cards to offer have already or will be contacting the Swiss Miss, hoping they can convince her to accept one. And the Family Circle Cup doesn't plan to be left out of the picture.

Family Circle officials are counting on Hingis' pleasant memories of winning the premier women's event twice, including 1997 when she gained the world's No. 1 ranking for the first time just after arriving at Hilton Head Island. The 1997 final was a memorable one, going to 7-5 in a third-set tiebreaker before Hingis prevailed against Monica Seles.

Hingis won the Family Circle again in '99, this time defeating Anna Kournikova in the final. The tournament set a record for attendance, led by teen-agers Hingis and Kournikova, whose combined ages of 35 is a tournament record. Hingis was runner-up to Jennifer Capriati in '01 in the first final at Daniel Island.

Family Circle already has sent an e-mail to Hingis' agent, expressing the tournament's interest in Hingis playing on Daniel Island in April. The Family Circle could use one of its four wild cards to extend an invitation to her. "I'm sure we will be one of many (tournaments to offer wild cards), but we certainly have as good a shot as anyone," said Family Circle communications director Robin Reynolds.

Hingis confident
You can bet that Hingis isn't returning to competitive tennis just to be "one of the players." Never one to lack confidence, she thinks she can still play with the best in the game.

The 25-year-old apparently was greatly influenced by the comebacks of Capriati and Mary Pierce, along with the continued success of Lindsay Davenport. These were players Hingis competed against, and obviously Hingis believes she can find success the second time around.

In a press conference over the weekend, Hingis said, "I don't think I would be happy to just be running behind everybody . . ."

When asked if she was worried about being overpowered by today's power hitters, she said, "I probably wouldn't make this decision today to play again if that would really worry me."

And who is she most looking forward to playing? "Maria Sharapova. I've never played her so that's my, probably one opponent I'm looking forward to playing if I get that far. . . . I want to see what she's got. Last time I played her she was 12 years old."

Hingis and her mother have reconciled their differences and are working together. Hingis is practicing at her mother's academy in Zurich. "She has good coaches and we have some good juniors. . . . It is my game, my mom is my coach again and I'm very happy about that because no one knows my game as well as she does."

Junior meeting

The Charleston Junior Tennis Council holds its monthly meeting Tuesday at noon at Bodacious Bagels in Mount Pleasant. Discussion will include the winter Junior Team Tennis season.


(12/04/05)  Tennis growth a national trend

Charleston tennis isn't an island. What's been evident in local tennis in recent years has spread throughout the country.

Yes, it's not just in Charleston, although local tennis may be in a league all to itself as far as activity goes. Elsewhere as well, the business of tennis is booming. The nation's current participation level is at its highest level since 1992. More than one million new players joined the game this year, according to the largest participation survey in sports, a study conducted by independent research firms Taylor Research & Consulting Group and Sports Marketing Surveys.

Unlike some of their predecessors, these new players are sticking with the game. Perhaps, they see the benefits more clearly now of a game for a lifetime, a game that provides both mental and physical conditioning and competition. Eighty percent of the players continued with tennis in 2005, an increase of six percent. Also, the number of people who play tennis at least 21 times a year climbed 8.8 percent in 2005.

And the serious tennis players are growing even more serious, as evidenced by an increase of 14 percent in total play occasions for this year, and 23 percent for the last two years.

The U.S. Tennis Association has made significant investments in growing the game through Tennis in the Parks, the summer's U.S. Open Series, Tennis Welcome Centers, major advertising campaigns for recreational and professional tennis, increased diversity and multicultural programs, and a greater push in schools and colleges. Racket and tennis ball sales are climbing, along with TV ratings and attendance.

"The USTA has dedicated itself to energizing the sport of tennis on every level and has initiated a number of successful programs that are making a difference," said USTA president Franklin Johnson. "It's rewarding to see our decision to make a significant increase in spending to grow the game have such an immediate impact."

CPTL kids' clinic
The Charleston Pro League, continuing to have a large impact on local tennis, will hold a Saturday kids' clinic of drills and match play on Dec. 17 from noon to 2 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. For more information, contact CPTL co-founder Chris Henderson (412-6899 or cwhendy@comcast.net).

State sponsors clinics
USTA/South Carolina has announced the sponsorship of three clinics in December and January to promote league tennis' beginner-level 2.5 participation. The first clinic is Dec. 17 at the I'On Club, followed by one on Jan. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center and another Jan. 15 at Maybank Tennis Center. All three clinics will be held from 1-5 p.m. and will be coordinated by Maybank pro Toni Young.

Leading area pros will help with the clinics, which will include a variety of drills and match play. Participants will be exposed to information on joining beginner-level teams in the spring season, which will begin in February.

The cost is $10. Advance registration is required. Contact community tennis coordinator Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

Maybank celebrates 1st
Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young has announced a big weekend of competition for all ages on New Year's Day weekend.

It kicks off with a ladies round-robin tournament on Dec. 30 from 9 a.m.-noon, followed on Dec. 31 by a men's round robin from 9 a.m.-noon. A Family Challenge will cap the weekend, featuring serious players and a parent/child competition from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Contact Young at 343-8393.


(11/30/05)  Davis Cup final this weekend

It's Davis Cup time again. And Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers probably are thinking more about Christmas than tennis.

That's right. This year's Davis Cup final is scheduled for Friday through Sunday in the Slovak Republic where Dominik Hrbaty and his host team will oppose Ivan Ljubicic and Croatia. This will be the first final for both countries.

Ljubicic has been the hero for the Croats, winning all nine of his singles and doubles matches this year, enough to single-handedly put his team in the final. He failed to handle Roger Federer and David Nalbandian in the recent Shanghai Masters, and he disappeared during the long, hot summer, but Ljubicic is sure to be at the top of his game this weekend on a fast indoor court.

This final seemed so far away for the Croats nearly a year ago in California when Ljubicic and Mario Ancic figured to be fodder for Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and the Bryans in the first round. The Americans were supposed to be in this final, but instead must wait nearly two months before playing Romania in another first-round tie.

Nalbandian joins list
Nalbandian is still that obscure young man who made the Wimbledon final three years ago. But this guy is one of the most naturally gifted tennis players on the planet.

Of course, the Argentine did the unthinkable, and virtually unnoticed, a couple of weeks ago when he upended Roger Federer in the Shanghai Masters final. Nalbandian turns 24 on the first day of 2006. Federer already is 24.

You might think this was a meaningless accomplishment for Nalbandian. And it might have been, once Federer fully recovers from his ankle injury. But maybe not. The possible pot holes continue to mount for Federer as Nalbandian joins Ljubicic, Marat Safin and Rafael Nadal as dangerous opponents for the talented Swiss player. And somewhere out there, Andy Roddick should be working on his serve-and-volley game, just in time to catch Federer when he's a little down.

Hingis' return
Martina Hingis isn't likely to reclaim the No. 1 ranking in the world, but the Swiss Miss probably will make her presence felt in women's tennis now that she has announced plans to return to the tour in 2006. She'll make the big hitters think, a strategy some of them haven't had to employ the last few years, except when Justine Henin-Hardenne has been on the other side of the net.

Women's tennis won't be a big-hitters game altogether, not with Hingis returning to the WTA Tour and hopefully with Henin-Hardenne on the rebound. The opening that Hingis and Henin-Hardenne left for Lindsay Davenport and Mary Pierce to sneak back to the top of the game may vanish.

If you remember, Hingis was a picture of consistency, almost never falling in the early rounds of tournaments while making 104 semifinals or better in 118 tournaments from late 1996 until early 2002. She was equally as successful in doubles as singles, only one of five players to hold No. 1 rankings in singles and doubles at the same time.

Injuries and surgeries took their toll on Hingis in 2003 and 2004, but she was the star of World Team Tennis this past summer, apparently lighting her tennis fires once again. And she's still only 25 years old.

Wake up, WTA Tour ladies. You'd better put your thinking caps back on.

Free clinic week

New City of Charleston pro Michael Fischbach will hold a free clinic week Dec. 12-16 at the tennis courts at Moultrie Playground for players of all ages and levels. For more information or to register, contact Fischbach (762-1814 or 724-7327).


(11/23/05)  Baker takes reins at Charleston Southern
Mike Baker had the ideal tennis job. If you can't be Roger Federer, you might as well try to create the next superstar through your coaching.

As tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center, Baker directed the training of some of the top junior players in the state. But Baker always had dreamed of being a college tennis coach.

Meanwhile, Paul Soliz was growing more homesick for Texas every day.

When those two emotions were tied together in an intangible sort of way, Baker's dream was fulfilled. Soliz's departure for Texas left the head tennis coaching position at Charleston Southern vacant. Baker eagerly accepted the challenge when Charleston Southern athletic director Hank Smalls extended an offer to Baker to become the Bucs' third men's and women's tennis coach since the end of the spring season.

"They gave me the opportunity, and it was hard for me to turn it down," Baker said. "I"ve always wanted to coach college tennis."

Baker is a College of Charleston graduate, and is thoroughly familiar with Charleston Southern tennis.

"Charleston Southern has a good tennis history. They won the (Big South) conference a few years ago. Hopefully we can rejuvenate history and win a couple more conference championships. That's my goal."

Of course, anything now seems possible for Charleston Southern after the Bucs' big weekend of upending the College of Charleston in basketball and upsetting Coastal Carolina to tie for the Big South football championship.

Baker isn't completely cutting his ties with Family Circle Tennis Center where he went to work the first day the complex opened its doors five years ago. He will serve in a part-time capacity, supplementing Rob Eppelsheimer's staff at Family Circle in the summertime.

A 31-year-old Atlanta native, Baker's first pro job in tennis was for Eppelsheimer at Wild Dunes during the summers of his two years of tennis at the College of Charleston after transferring from Clemson. After graduation in 1996, Baker returned to Atlanta to teach tennis for five years.

Baker thinks Charleston Southern has a good supply of talent on hand from the players Randy Bloemendaal brought in the last two years. "We've got pretty young teams on both sides (men and women)," Baker said. "We've got a solid (men's) team."

After Bloemendaal left Charleston Southern to become an assistant coach at Indiana University, the Bucs hired Soliz away from Texas-Pan American at the start of August.

"He got homesick and went back to Texas," Baker said.

--Baker will be assisted at CSU by graduate assistant Shane Horan, who played for Bloemendaal at Lees-McRae College.

City gets new pro

Michael Fischbach, who has served as a pro at Family Circle Tennis Center and MUSC, has joined the City of Charleston staff and has been stationed at Moultrie Park. He can be contacted for lessons (843) 762-1814 or (843) 724-7327.

Fischbach grew up in Columbia and played tennis for Newberry College for two years. He is a University of South Carolina graduate. He also served as an assistant pro at Columbia's Woodlands Country Club before joining the Family Circle staff. He had worked with MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee since February.

Local report
--Under director Rob Eppelsheimer, Family Circle has been named the USTA South Carolina Member Club of the Year. Family Circle served as host to the Southern Sectional league championships as well as the State Combo Doubles tournament.

--Seabrook Island's Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Championships was named the USTA South Carolina Adult Tournament of the Year. Mike Kiser is the tennis director at Seabrook.

--Family Circle Tennis Center will hold a Holiday Tennis Camp for juniors Dec. 26-30. The camp is designed for junior tennis players ages 8 and up and for all skill levels. It will run from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Eppelsheimer at (843) 849-3121 or email him at reppelsheimer@familycirclecup.com. Registration can be made by calling the tennis complex (843) 849-5300.

--Dunes West took both the 12-and-under beginners and intermediate-advanced titles in the recent Lowcountry Junior Team Tennis City Championships at Charleston Tennis Center. Maybank Tennis Center was runner-up in each category. Pine Forest Country Club captured the 14s intermediate-advanced, with Maybank second, while Maybank teams took first and second in the 18s intermediate-advanced divisions.

--The James Island Yacht Club edged out Maybank Tennis Center and the Country Club of Charleston, respectively, in the recent "Battle of James Island" competition.


(11/16/05)  Smart move for Federer?

Is this the end of the 2005 tennis year, or the beginning of a new season?

For Roger Federer, this year may as well be over. He could just as easily have joined the exodus ranks of Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, and have skipped the ATP Tour's year-end Masters event in Shanghai.

In fact, Federer's stature as the game's best player might have benefitted, probably depending on how his probable next meeting with Ivan Ljubicic comes out. Just from what happened in Tuesday's round-robin match, Ljubicic probably will have more confidence the next time he faces Federer. If the next time is this weekend's final, and the Croatian happens to pull off an upset, all of the rest of men's tennis, especially Ljubicic, will start 2006 thinking just how close Mary Pierce came to being the world's top-ranked woman at the end of 2005, just a month before her 31st birthday.

Think about it: Pierce lost in three major finals ? the French Open, U.S. Open and last Sunday's WTA Tour Championships.

Ljubicic gave Federer everything he could handle in the 6 a.m. EST match. Only three service winners in a third-set tiebreaker pulled Federer out of a jam. The victory just means Federer is virtually assured of being in the final. Ljubicic is his likely opponent, especially now that Agassi limped out with a sore ankle Monday morning just after Nadal pulled out.

Believe it or not, Ljubicic could be the face of men's tennis in 2006. All he needs, other than improvement in his footwork, is for Federer to lose a little confidence. Ljubicic, even though he is unbeaten for the year in singles and doubles as he heads into next month's Davis Cup final against the Slovak Republic, obviously isn't quite accustomed to the limelight yet. A victory over Federer could change that.

A Pierce Fan
I had never been a big Mary Pierce fan, but I was almost sold this time. She was easily the top player in the WTA Championships ... until her second bout with Amelie Mauresmo on Sunday.

Before that, it appeared that Pierce was immune to pressure. But she wasn't. In fact, when she held a 0-40 lead in the 10th game of the third set and appeared headed for a tiebreaker, she collapsed with five consecutive errors. Three of the miscues were loose strokes, choke type.

With Mauresmo seemingly trying to hand Pierce at least a shot at a tiebreaker to decide the match, Pierce handed it back. This should be a great confidence builder for Mauresmo going into the new year. Mauresmo is an outstanding athlete, but about all she did against Pierce was wear her down by chasing down her big strokes until Pierce missed or left an opening.

Hopefully, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne will come back strong in 2006, and Venus and Serena Williams will be ready to play, and the Russians rediscover their games.

Local Independents Honored
Being named to a post-season all-conference team can have far-reaching effects for high school players, especially seniors. College coaches pay a great deal of attention to such lists, even more so for strong conferences such as SCISA Region I-AAA.

A senior player such as Ashley Hall's Vernita Ackerman or Porter-Gaud's Alice Knowlton could reap huge benefits from such recognition. Ackerman actually is one of the region's co-players of the year, along with Porter-Gaud junior Ashley Mitchell. The two players split a pair of matches this season.

Ackerman has two of her teammates on the team, Jacey Edwards and Katie Phillips. Pinewood Prep's Chandler Miler and Paige Sharkey also are on the team long with Knowlton.


(11/13/05)  Varn joins elite group in S.C. hall
Tennis courts abound in the Charleston area these days. Players have an almost endless choice of courts and surfaces within easy driving distance.

But in the 1950s, Benny Varn and his band of future stars from the old Charleston High School didn't have to make such big decisions about where they would gather to play tennis. 'Our high school guys would go anywhere they could find a place to play,' Varn said a few days ago from his Inman home.

They could take their chances with two clay courts on the College of Charleston campus, or go to the Moultrie Playground courts at Colonial Lake and take turns with the roller skaters on the two cement courts there with the wire nets, or they could try the two cement courts on East Bay Street. Like Charleston High, all were in reasonable walking distance from Varn's Colonial Lake area home.

If they had transportation, and Varn didn't until his senior year, they could venture over to the Johnson Hagood Stadium courts. But Varn said, 'Moultrie Playground was where all the action was.'

The College of Charleston was kind enough to allow Charleston High to play its matches there. The now deceased Lillian Seabrook met the boys at the C of C courts, serving as their volunteer coach. 'She didn't get any pay,' Varn pointed out.

Once Varn, his younger brother Dewey, Paul Scarpa, Beansy Frampton, and Billy Silcox hit the courts, they were dead serious about the game. Perhaps that's why this group of youngsters became such legendary figures in Charleston's tennis history.

Scarpa, of course, is the longtime men's tennis coach at Furman, and has been one of the winningest and most influential figures in all of college tennis. Frampton played for then- powerhouse Presbyterian College. Dewey Varn played for Furman. Silcox played at the College of Charleston, where his dad was the longtime coach. Billy Silcox later became the Cougars' coach.

By his senior year, Benny Varn had a car and was able to practice on the clay courts at The Citadel. 'A lady on my paper route sold me an old Chevrolet for $100. She let me pay $10 a month for 10 months with no interest,' he said.

Benny Varn stayed close to home after finishing Charleston High in 1958. He attended The Citadel, where he not only won the Southern Conference singles title in 1961, but helped the Bulldogs win their lone SoCon team championship in tennis.

During his 23 years in the Air Force, Varn was able to follow the now-deceased Don Bunch as The Citadel's coach. Varn later served as Wofford's men's coach. A bulldog of a player, Varn claimed the city of Charleston singles championship during his stay as The Citadel's coach.

On Dec. 3 at Hilton Head Island, Varn will be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Don Bunch, Scarpa and Lillian Seabrook. 'I am really looking forward to it,' said Varn, now 65 and one of the top senior players in the South. 'This is very significant to me.

'You just hang in there long enough and something like this happens. Every day I get up, I try to do what's right. You do something for yourself and for somebody else. I'm really honored (to make the Hall of Fame).'

There wasn't an official state championship back when Varn attended Charleston High, but the Bantams had to be one of the best teams anywhere. At The Citadel, Varn sparkled beyond his imagination. The team that won the SoCon title also won the state team title in a tournament played at Clemson. That was no small task, considering that PC had won the event 21 straight years.

The Citadel even won the Cherry Blossom tournament in Washington, D.C., that year, beating an Indiana team that was the defending Big Ten champion.

Former high school football coach and senior tennis player Bill Jolly of Denmark also will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.


(11/09/05)  Courier announces over-30 tour
It's official. Over-the-hill tennis is back in the United States.

Actually, the hope is that some of these guys won't be too far past their prime playing days, unless you think Andre Agassi is too old. Even at that, Agassi is 35 years old. The Champions Cup Series that Jim Courier announced Tuesday in a conference call is an over-30 tour.

Players even younger than Agassi, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang could participate. Four-time Grand Slam champion Courier, who is 35, would love to have any of his old buddies join his new venture. As for Sampras joining the tour, Courier said, 'Pete has an open invitation.'

Courier's InsideOut Sports and Entertainment announced that the Champions Cup Series will have four events in 2006, starting in March in Naples, Fla., moving to Boston in April and Memphis in October before finishing up the series in Houston where the inaugural tournament on the tour starts Thursday.

This is the first such tour in this country since Jimmy Connors' Champions Tour went away in the mid-90s after holding two capacity-crowd tournaments at Hilton Head Island. The only senior-type tour since then has been held in other countries, most notably the Delta Tour, which is played primarily in Europe.

'I don't see any reason to wait until 35,' Courier responded when asked about the age limit. Chang is only 33 currently, and Sampras is 34.

Chang, Todd Martin, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash and Courier are committed to all four 2006 events.

What About Charleston?

'We've got four great events to start,' Courier responded. 'I would like to see it grow to six or seven . . . we can certainly try for a few more on top of that.'

Courier confirmed that his company has been in talks with officials from Charleston.

Watch for Petrova
Nadia Petrova might not win or even fare well in the current WTA Tour Championships in Los Angeles, but now that the tall and talented Russian finally has won a tournament she may be a player to watch for 2006.

At 23 years old, Petrova took her first WTA tournament recently in Austria, and is currently ranked 10th in the world. She had failed in her previous four finals.

Petrova has been her own worst enemy in big matches. Keeping the ball on the court has been her biggest weakness. That has not only been apparent in her quarterfinal losses at the Family Circle Cup the last two years, but in the Grand Slams as well.

But she has great potential, a big game to rival Lindsay Davenport's. When Petrova's on, her huge ground strokes and serves are almost lethal.

Perhaps, the newfound confidence that comes with success will have a positive impact on her game.

LCTA boosts Courting Kids

The Lowcountry Tennis Association recently purchased 37 one-year memberships in the U.S. Tennis Association for participants in the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program.

Wild Dunes chips in
The Wild Dunes Tennis Association has contributed $700 to the LCTA's tennis scholarship program for young players. Wild Dunes director of tennis Charley Rasheed made the contribution to LCTA president Bob Peiffer during the recent Charleston Pro Tennis League final at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Upcoming events

The Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held this weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Contact Paula Silverman (843) 884-8533, (843) 442-1502 or paulasil1@aol.com


(11/06/05)  Academic Magnet falls in Class A final
COLUMBIA - The ride to the Class A state championship girls' tennis match was a sweet one for Academic Magnet. The three straight playoff victories will be remembered a long time.

But Saturday's final against perennial power Christ Church of Greenville will be easy to forget. Christ Church breezed past the Raptors, 7-0, in the state title match at Caughman Road Tennis Center.

"It was all fun," said fifth-year Magnet coach Bruce Newton. "We just had a wonderful time."

That is until the match started. Christ Church freshman Sarah Guzick, the country's No. 1 14-and-under player for half of 2004, downed Academic Magnet senior Sarah London, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 1 singles.

Christ Church, whose only loss this season was to Class AAA Greenville, yielded a total of eight games in singles. No. 2 Kate Stewart gave up five of those games in a 6-4, 6-1 win over Magnet senior Anisha Amatya.

"We thought we were going to win," said Guzick.

"But it means a lot to win the state. Two years ago we made it to the (A-AA) finals and we lost to Bishop England. We had five seniors then, and that hurt."

Guzick played No. 1 that day, and lost to the Bishops' Kalee Claussen. Guzick hasn't lost many times since.

Academic Magnet received a break this year when the S.C. High School League instituted a Class A state playoff, and the Raptors no longer had to deal with Bishop England or Waccamaw, which won its second straight state title Saturday.

With powerful Chris Church and Greenville's Southside Christian in the Upper State, an opening was left for the Raptors to win the Lower State championship.

"Our senior leadership held this team together," Newton said, referring to London, Amatya, No. 2 doubles player Allison Stone and Kat Nguyen, a non-starter who stayed home Saturday to take her college SAT.

"This is the nicest and most cohesive group of girls we've had," said physics teacher Newton about his team that finished the season with a 7-7 record.

Christ Church 7, Academic Magnet 0

Singles: Sarah Guzick (CC) def. Sarah London, 6-0, 6-0. Kate Stewart (CC) def. Anisha Amatya, 6-4, 6-1. Elizabeth Hughes (CC) def. Lauren Olasov, 6-1, 6-0. Alice Stewart (CC) def. Meera Dugal, 6-1, 6-1. Ellison Johnsone (CC) def. Becky Plante, 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles: Jennings Johnstone/Kate Stewart (CC) def. London/Amatya, 8-2. Ashley Robertson/Ingram Carpenter (CC) def. Azara Maharaj/Allison Stone, 6-0, 6-3.


(11/05/05)  Tale of two hopeful champs; BE, Academic Magnet vie for state crowns today
Wando expected from Day 1 to be in this situation. Academic Magnet hardly thought about the state playoffs, much less the state championship tennis match.

Defending champion Wando will take on Upper State champion Mauldin at 1:30 p.m. in the Class AAAA title match at the Caughman Road Tennis Center in Columbia. Academic Magnet's opponent in the 11 a.m. Class A final at the same location will be perennial power Christ Church of Greenville.

Wando, 18-1, received its big test in Thursday's semifinals when it survived previously unbeaten

Irmo, 4-2, by winning No. 5 singles and No. 2 doubles after top player Samantha Eppelsheimer and freshman No. 4 Hagan Edgerton had been upset in singles.

"I feel better about the next match," said Wando coach Becky Williamson. "Irmo is the second strongest team in the state. This (Thursday's match) should have been for the state championship."

Williamson is hoping for a repeat of 2004 when the Warriors edged Irmo in the quarterfinals, then cruised past Spartanburg in the title match.

Academic Magnet is still playing tennis this fall because the S.C. High School League instituted a Class A playoff this year. The Raptors annually have had to yield to Bishop England or 2004 A-AA state champion Waccamaw as one of them marched through the Lowcountry into the title game.

But Academic Magnet has won three straight playoff matches, capped by Wednesday's long 4-3 conquest of Johnsonville in the Lower State final.

"Our girls are still very excited . . . about the victory the other night. It lasted four hours," fifth-year Academic Magnet coach Bruce Newton said. "We were the No. 1 seed in the Lower State. I don't know why, except we play a strong schedule (including Bishop England, Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall)."

The Raptors will bring a 7-6 record into today's match against Christ Church, which has been one of the top A-AA teams in the state for some time. Newton expects Christ Church to be on the skill level with the likes of Bishop England, which defeated the Raptors twice this season.

"I know the girls have a lot of jitters," Newton said.

Seniors Sarah London and Anisha Amatya lead Magnet in the top two singles positions. They accounted for three of the four points scored against Johnsonville. The other point came from No. 2 doubles as the match came down to the No. 1 doubles match.


(11/04/05)  Reigning champion Warriors reach final
Wando 4, Irmo 2 MOUNT PLEASANT - The youngest and one of the oldest, 12-year-old Downing Herlocker and senior captain Kori Hale probably were the unlikeliest of players on Wando's star-studded girls' tennis team to deliver the Warriors into Saturday's Class AAAA state championship match.

First, Hale put Wando into position by prevailing at No. 5 singles, then Herlocker used her sparkling forehand at No. 2 doubles to put previously unbeaten Irmo away and clinch a 4-2 Lower State championship victory for the defending state champion Warriors Thursday night at the Wando courts.

Coach Becky Williamson's deep and talented Wando team, now 18-1, will seek a second straight state title Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Upper State winner Mauldin at Columbia's Caughman Road Tennis Center.

Mauldin scored a 5-1 victory over Lexington in Thursday's semifinals.

"I had a lot of confidence in the top four (players) coming through," said Williamson, expecting a repeat of last year's state semifinal in which Wando's current top four players all won to give the Warriors another 4-2 victory over Irmo.

But that wasn't the case as senior Samantha Eppelsheimer was out-hit at No. 1 by Irmo junior Hailey Baird, 6-4, 6-2, and Wando freshman Hagan Edgerton suffered a rare loss at No. 4 singles.

Nos. 2 and 3 Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller, both sophomores, yielded only four games between them to leave the match at 2-2 with the No. 5 singles and second doubles still on the courts. Wando needed to win both to avoid having to play a decisive No. 1 doubles match. "I had no idea it was going to come down to me," said a happy Hale. "This was my last match on this court."

As Hale wrapped up a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Irmo eighth-grader Lauren Bookout to put Wando ahead 3-2 and ensure that the Warriors couldn't lose the match without going to No. 1 doubles, the pressure switched to the last of the bank of six courts. That's where Herlocker and sophomore Taylor Langford were rallying to even their No. 2 doubles' second set at 5-5 and move into position to win in straight sets, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), to secure Wando's spot in the final.

"We didn't want to know the scores of the match," Herlocker said. "We didn't want the pressure on us. If they had told us the score, we might have messed up."

But the doubles team was battle-tested, especially Herlocker, one of the state's top girls' 12 players. "Downing is tournament tough. She handled the pressure," Williamson said.

Herlocker, a seventh-grader at Cario Middle School, nailed a backhand volley winner to even the set at 6-6 and force a seven-point tiebreaker.

The Wando pair had double match point in the tiebreaker at 6-4, but Herlocker double-faulted away the second match point for 6-6 before delivering the goods on the next two points for an 8-6 verdict.

Herlocker's clean forehand winner down the middle caught the Irmo team of freshman Gillian Harper and eighth-grader Erin Westerkam out of position on the 13th point, followed by a lucky forehand that Herlocker picked out of the air and popped over the head of Harper on the deuce-side line. Westerkam chased down the high-bouncer by the fence but couldn't put the ball into play, ending the match and igniting an on-court victory celebration by the Warriors.

"I was really nervous on the double fault," Herlocker said. "But then I was thinking, 'I'd better not miss this one (the clean winner on the 13th point of the second-set tiebreaker).'"

Williamson was relieved after her once-beaten team had knocked off Irmo (19-1), which won the state title in 2003.

"That was nerve-wracking, very intense," she said.

Singles: Hailey Baird (I) def. Samantha Eppelsheimer, 6-4, 6-2. Jessica Diamond (W) def. Sukhi Guram, 6-0, 6-3. Brooke Mosteller (W) def. Ashley Kerr, 6-0, 6-1. Dana Westerkam (I) def. Hagan Edgerton, 6-4, 6-4. Kori Hale (W) def. Lauren Bookout, 6-4, 6-0.
Doubles: Taylor Langford/Downing Herlocker (W) def. Gillian Harper/Erin Westerkam, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6).


(11/02/05)  Wando rolls into tennis semis
Wando 6, Hartsville 0 MOUNT PLEASANT - All of the pieces are falling into place in Wando's five-piece state girls' tennis championship puzzle. Hartsville fit right into its place Tuesday night at the Wando courts.

Only two pieces are missing. "I hope they keep working that way," Wando coach Becky Williamson said after the Warriors' 6-0 domination of Hartsville.

But the pieces should now start getting much tougher to find as Wando goes against unbeaten Columbia power Irmo in Thursday's Class AAAA state semifinals at the Wando courts. Irmo, the 2003 state titlist and loser to Wando in the Warriors' state championship march last fall, beat Spring Valley, 6-0, to earn its place in the semis.

"I'm sure they (Irmo) have revenge on their minds," Williamson said. "It'll be a great match."

But Wando (17-1) had little trouble with Hartsville in blanking its opponent for the third straight playoff match.

Wando freshman Hagan Edgerton recorded her third straight shutout in the playoffs, yielding only four points in each set in a 6-0, 6-0 win over Hartsville's Maggie Baldwin in the No. 4 singles match. Nos. 2 and 3 Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller also failed to yield a game to Hartsville (10-3).

Senior Samantha Eppelsheimer, the Warriors' top player, ran into tough eighth-grader Kelly Cameron but prevailed, 6-1, 6-2, with some brilliant tennis, especially coming up with big serves repeatedly to keep the young Hartsville player off balance.

"I thought they would be a little stronger," Williamson said about a Hartsville team that upset Hilton Head in the second round.

Williamson was pleased with her team's play. "Everybody played well for us, especially the No. 2 doubles (sophomore Taylor Langford and seventh-grader Downing Herlocker who scored a 6-2, 6-0 victory). Hagan (Edgerton) was off in 30 minutes and Jessica (Diamond) was right behind her," the Wando coach said.

The Irmo-Wando rivalry has been a good one. Before winning, 4-2, in last year's state semis here, Wando lost to Irmo in the 2003 semis. "We have respect for them, and I'm sure they have respect for us," Williamson said. "We are expecting it to be a tough match."

Singles: Samantha Eppelsheimer (W) def. Kelly Cameron, 6-1, 6-2. Jessica Diamond (W) def. Anna Reynolds, 6-0, 6-0. Brooke Mosteller (W) def. Brittany Carter, 6-0, 6-0. Hagan Edgerton (W) def. Maggie Baldwin, 6-0, 6-0. Kori Hale (W) def. Melli Baldwin, 6-2, 6-4. Doubles: Taylor Langford/Downing Herlocker (W) def. Kelsey Norton/Meredith Johnson, 6-2, 6-0.


(11/02/05)  It's hardly the best of times for Justine
What's next for Justine Henin-Hardenne? Very little has been heard from the Belgian ace since she followed up her Family Circle Cup success by winning the French Open.

This year for Henin-Hardenne has been much like 2004, when she had flashes of brilliance around injuries and sickness as she won the Australian Open and Olympic gold.

Henin-Hardenne looked like the best player in the world after winning the French. But she wasn't the same player at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. She then lost her opening match in her next tournament and hasn't played since.

She continued to demonstrate new power, but her problem has been keeping the ball on the court.

Perhaps 2006 will be a more consistent year for the former world's No. 1. But she may never again be able to catch up with her former key rival, Kim Clijsters, who continues to romp through tennis after taking her first major at the U.S. Open. Just last week, Clijsters won her ninth tournament of the year, matching her success of 2003.

At this pace, it's only a matter of time before Clijsters replaces Lindsay Davenport as the No. 1 player in the world. Maria Sharapova has now fallen to third place, behind Clijsters. But the real question is whether Clijsters and Sharapova will play in next year's Family Circle Cup.

Junior update
--The Junior Team Tennis City Championships are scheduled for Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. The tournament concludes the fall Junior Team Tennis program. Sunday's competition will include only doubles.

--A second meeting to form a Charleston Junior Tennis Council will be held next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Mount Pleasant Town Hall. At an earlier meeting, the concept of the organization and a draft mission statement were approved.

Barths place second
Kiawah Island pros Jonathan and Meredith Barth advanced all the way to the final of the recent USTA Husband and Wife Clay Court Championship in Ponta Vedra, Fla. The Barths, who earlier this year had won the national indoors in Tunica, Miss., lost to Chris and Crystal Mahoney of Knoxville, Tenn., 6-4, 6-3, in the final.

Beach Tennis Friday
Beach Tennis USA will will hold a $500 event at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms Friday from 4-10 p.m. An entry fee is required. Beach Tennis also will recruit players for its spring 2006 league.

CPTL Open this weekend
The Charleston Pro Tennis League will hold a CPTL Open Saturday and Sunday at the Earle Tennis Center at The Citadel. There will be singles and doubles in two divisions, the top one for 5.0 through open players and the lower tier for 4.5 and 5.0 players. For information, contact Chris Henderson (843) 412-6899 or Stuart Small (843) 442-1254.

New courts
Tennis enthusiasts in the West Ashley area appear to be set to enjoy a new tennis facility, now that the City of Charleston has reverted back to its original plan and has agreed to include six tennis courts in a new park being proposed for Bees Ferry Road.

The city earlier had backed away from a six-court facility and planned only two courts before a group of tennis supporters led by USTA/SC Charleston community coordinator Maggie LaCoste and Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer voiced their disapproval at a public meeting.


(10/30/05)  BE seniors need to step up in playoffs Monday
It's senior step-up time for Bishop England's girls' tennis team. That's almost a must if the Bishops plan to still be playing after Monday's second-round Class AA state playoff match against defending state champion Waccamaw at Family Circle Tennis Center.

'I think they're ready,' veteran Bishop England coach Tricia Owens said, referring to her top two players, seniors Sabra Rogers and Molly O'Quinn.

Two weeks ago in a tournament at Pawleys Island, Waccamaw defeated Rogers and O'Quinn twice each and took the No. 1 doubles matches both times as the two teams split two matches. Rogers lost to Waccamaw's Elizabeth Rowell twice and O'Quinn lost twice to Allison Stanford.

'We can't lose those three matches (Nos. 1 and 2 singles, and No. 1 doubles),' Owens said.

Rogers, especially, is hoping to step up this time. 'I lost both times (at Pawleys Island). It was a rough weekend,' said Rogers, who has applied for early decision to Dartmouth to play college tennis.

'But we're close. It just depends on who has a good day and who has a bad day. We lost to them last year and they went on to win the state. But I think we can pull it out this time. We'll have lunch together Monday to get ready and make sure we're focused.

'Their team is stronger at the top and we're stronger at the bottom,' added Rogers, whose big shots are more effective on hard courts than the clay courts at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Bishop England, which scored a 6-0 victory over Wade Hampton in the first round, depends heavily on No. 3 Sallie Johnson, and freshmen Lexie Fitch and Adrianne Chamberlain at Nos. 4 and 5. The Bishops also have a strong No. 2 doubles team in senior Weezie Sperr and Katherine Theos.

'We've been winning at the bottom,' said Owens. 'Sabra and Molly are good players, but there are so many good players at Nos. 1 and 2 in the state.'

Prior to last year's loss to Waccamaw in the second round of the state playoffs, Bishop England had won six of the last seven state titles. The Bishops have won 13 state crowns in all under Owens.

'It's a shame we have to meet in the second round. I think we're the two best teams in the state,' Owens said.

Wando thinking Irmo

Wando's defending Class AAAA state champion girls' team had only to go through the motions last week in scoring a pair of 6-0 playoff victories over Fort Dorchester and Richland Northeast. And Tuesday's home match against Hartsville in the state quarterfinals probably will have similar results.

But things could get pretty interesting Thursday if both Wando and Irmo qualify for a Lower State championship match. 'That's the match we've been waiting for,' said Wando coach Becky Williamson. 'I think whoever wins that match will be the state champion.'

Wando defeated Irmo in last year's state semifinals, then overwhelmed Spartanburg in the state title game. Spartanburg already has been eliminated this year by Lexington.

Heinz on a streak
Daniel Island's Austin Heinz is continuing the hot streak that carried him to boys' 10 titles this summer in the State Hard Courts and State Clay Courts. Heinz recently won the Snee Farm and DeBordieu tournaments' boys' 12s titles, and the Kiawah Island 10s.

Heinz was runner-up to top-seeded Kassim Alani of Chapel Hill, N.C., in last weekend's Sea Pines Junior Championships in his first 12-and-under Southern level 3 tournament, according to Mike Baker, who trains Heinz at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Academy.
Upcoming events
The top senior players in the South once again are preparing to return to Kiawah Island Nov. 16-20 for the Southern Senior Clay Courts Closed Even Years Championships. The entry deadline is Nov. 7. Registration is available online by going to www.usta.com, selecting tournament and entering the tournament ID number (704110805).

Beach Tennis USA will stage a $500 tournament Friday at 4 p.m. at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms. The tournament is open to anyone, although the draw will be limited to 12 or 16 doubles teams. Local players Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell won the recent Beach Tennis national championship in New York City and will play in the Windjammer event.

Charleston Tennis Center is holding men's pick-up matches on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. Players need only to show up with a can of new or good used balls.

Friday is the deadline for entering Snee Farm's Nov. 8-13 Grand Prix. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).

The Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held Nov. 11-12 at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Contact event chairman Paula Silverman (884-8533, 442-1502 or paulasil1@aol.com) for additional information.


(10/26/05)  Wando opens with 6-0 win over Fort Dorchester
MOUNT PLEASANT - Wando cruised to a 6-0 opening-round victory over Fort Dorchester Tuesday in the Class AAAA girls' tennis state playoffs as the Warriors successfully opened defense of their 2004 state title. The Warriors, led by Nos. 1 and 2 players Samantha Eppelsheimer and Jessica Diamond, were so dominant that they didn't yield a game in any of the five singles flights. Fort Dorchester's only points came at No. 2 doubles. The No. 1 doubles match wasn't played.

Wando, now 15-1, advances to a Thursday match at home against the winner of the South Florence/Hilton Head Island match. Fort Dorchester finished the season with a 7-8 record.

Girls' AAA Tennis Playoffs

SINGLES: No. 1-Samantha Eppelsheimer (W) def. Marley Linder 3-0, retired. No. 2-Jessica Diamond (W) def. Taylor Scott 6-0, 6-0. No. 3-Brooke Mosteller (W) def. Anna Linder 6-0, 6-0. No. 4-Hagan Edgerton (W) def. Anna Funderburg 6-0, 6-0. No. 5-Kori Hale (W) def. Kristen Smith 6-0, 6-0.

DOUBLES: No. 2-Taylor Langford/Downing Herlocker (W) def. Mari Alice Jones/Elyse Fielden 6-2, 6-1.


(10/26/05)  CPTL mirrors World Team
Arena tennis? Why not?

That's just what Charleston needs, a World Team Tennis franchise.

Actually, former Charleston arena football owner Bobby Pearce was talking about the Charleston Pro Tennis League. "The atmosphere is just like arena football," Pearce said last Friday night as he watched his first CPTL action.

Just like arena football, the fans are close enough to the players to practically touch them. And the crowd is very much into the matches.

CPTL Friday nights are the area's best buy. They must be. They're free, and even the food and drinks usually are free.

Last week's program at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club might have been the most intimate of the CPTL's fall schedule. A standing-room only crowd practically hugged the courts as Beachside Real Estate and TBonz won semifinal matches to advance to Friday night's 6:30 p.m. final at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Being a tennis player, Pearce quickly compared the CPTL to World Team Tennis, another emotional-charged, fan-friendly atmosphere. So, why not go after a team tennis franchise?

But after the financial wringer arena football can put an owner through, Pearce was quick to throw his hands into the air and back away from any such possibility.

Nevertheless, Charleston would be a great venue for team tennis.

Charleston may be a little off the beaten track of major league sports, but not much more than Sacramento before California's capital city landed NBA and World Team Tennis franchises.

After experiencing last year's Davis Cup atmosphere at the Family Circle complex, I think the fast and lively World Team Tennis sessions would be a huge success locally.

Fishburne wins again

Diane Fishburne has just returned from Mallorca, Spain, where she won the women's 45 singles title in an International Tennis Federation tournament with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Barbara Koutna of the Czech Republic.

Fishburne, a former College of Charleston All-American, is the top women's 45 player in the world.


(10/23/05)  Aussie has potential to make it big
A locally trained or connected player in the main draw of Daniel Island's Family Circle Cup? Sound like a dream?

Hopefully, it will happen one day.

Of course, tennis fans on Hilton Head Island remember the days when Amanda Coetzer trained at Dennis Van der Meer's academy. Coetzer was one of their own when she played in the Family Circle Cup. She received special attention from the Hilton Head media.

It could happen on Daniel Island.

A little Australian girl named Jade Hopper has generated that hope. She has trained the last three months with Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy. Hopper is far from green in the sport of tennis.

Tutored by her internationally recognized teaching pro father, Gavin Hopper, Jade is special in that she not only has been ranked the No. 1 player in her age group on her continent, but also in the world. She returned home to Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday.

"I hope I come back to Fritz's camp. I love America," she said before she left alone for the long trip Down Under. Nau, she said, is a family friend who has something in common with her dad. Both coached the great Monica Seles.

"I've been playing tennis since I was three. My dad got me started," the "5-1 or 5-2" girl said.

She is 14 years old, and home-schooled. Tennis is a major event in her life.

According to Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth, Hopper "plays like the pros. She doesn't push it." Barth watched Hopper win the 20-player girls' 18 division in last weekend's Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts after entering the tournament unseeded.

"Her footwork and focus are excellent. She's very calm and she doesn't overreact. She is very mature for her age."

CARDIO TENNIS
Cardio Tennis is becoming a popular part of tennis, prompting the U.S. Tennis Association to fund the program that was created by the Tennis Industry Association. Participants, hooked up with heart monitors, seek to become more in tune with their hearts while training.

Two such Cardio Tennis events are being held locally within a week of each other. Former Venezuelan Davis Cup player Jorge Andrew, the pro at Lexington's new tennis complex, put on a Cardio Tennis program for area pros Friday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

A Cardio Tennis demonstration will be conducted by former city champion Sophie Woorons at the Family Circle complex Friday at 6 p.m. prior to the 6:30 Charleston Pro Tennis League final between Beachside Real Estate and TBonz and before the start of the players party for the State Combo League Championships.

-- In Friday's CPTL semifinals, regular-season champion Beachside rolled past Blackbaud, 3-0, and TBonz beat Marine Terminals, 2-1, before about 300 fans at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Kiawah Island will once again hold the Southern Senior Clay Courts Closed Even Years Championships Nov. 16-20. The deadline is Nov. 7. Registration is available online by going to www.usta.com, selecting tournament and entering the tournament ID number (704110805).

-- The "Battle of James Island" is set for next Saturday at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. Play will begin at 9 a.m. at all three sites, capped off by a covered dish social at the Country Club. Proceeds will go to the Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association's junior scholarship program. For more information, contact Country Club tennis director Lee Brockman (795-0425).

-- Beach Tennis USA will stage a one-day tournament at 4 p.m. on Nov. 4 at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms. The tournament has a purse of $500 and is open to anyone, although the draw will be limited to 12 or 16 doubles teams. Local players Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell won the recent Beach Tennis national championship in New York City.

-- Do you need a tune-up for your next league tennis match? Charleston Tennis Center is holding men's pick-up matches on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. Players need only to show up with a can of new or good used balls.

-- Next Sunday is the deadline for entering the Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association's Nov. 4-5 Racquets for Recovery -- Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer. For more information, contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810 or shhunter@bellsouth.net).

-- The deadline for entering Snee Farm's Nov. 8-13 Grand Prix is Nov. 4. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).

-- The Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held Nov. 11-12 at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Contact event chairman Paula Silverman (884-8533, 442-1502 or paulasil1@aol.com) for additional information.

-- Registration is now open for the Nov. 25-27 Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center. Registration is available online at www.usta.com. Contact the tennis center (766-7401) for more information.


(10/19/05)  Area tennis boom just starting
I thought for awhile that the tennis explosion already had occurred locally, but it may be only in its infancy.

Tennis is bursting at the seams, especially in the Mount Pleasant area. Every new community that springs up seems to include tennis courts.

Of course, there's the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, which started this explosion to coincide with the 21st century. Palmetto Christian Academy's SCISA Class A state girls' championship is the latest evidence of the tennis boom.

Thirty players on one high school team? Sounds more like a football roster. But that's the size of the girls' tennis roster at Wando High School. Coach Becky Williamson's biggest job is keeping everyone happy. Luckily for Wando, local Class AAAA girls' tennis is otherwise weak. That allows Williamson to play most of her girls at some point during the season.

Wando's tennis program received a shot in the arm when a tennis complex came with the new school. As a result, tennis is very much "in" at Wando.

And Palmetto Christian, now that it has started its procession to a high school graduation by initiating a freshman class this school year, appears ready to fall in the tennis line. The school made a great catch when it landed Dewey Caulder as its tennis coach, considering his teaching talent and experience, not to mention his connections with Family Circle Tennis Center, where he is a pro.

Any team that is fortunate enough to play its home matches at the Family Circle complex is worth keeping an eye on.

NAU'S QUICK SUCCESS
As an example of the impact the new Players Club will have on area tennis, the girls' 18 singles and doubles finals in the just-completed Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts could have been club championship matches as Jane Hopper defeated Caroline Thornton in the singles final, and Hopper and Morgan Ivey defeated Jamie Harrell and Thornton in doubles.

This is no small success for any club or even any one area, based on the quality of the Kiawah tournament, perennially one of the top junior events in the country. "We finally broke through," said Fritz Nau, who tutored Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and a herd of other greats of pro tennis. "We won the 18s with two 14-year-olds. That's by far the best thing we've done."

That's right. All four participate in Nau's full-time program at the Players Club, and are schooled online or home-schooled. Hopper is the best-kept local secret of the group. She's an Australian who has spent the last three months here and has been ranked as the No. 1 girls' 12 player in the world. Harrell, daughter of former Georgia football star Jimmy Harrell, is only 13, and Ivey is 15.

CPTL STARTS PLAYOFF
Beachside Real Estate took first place in the five-week Charleston Pro Tennis League regular season with 11 points, followed by T-Bonz with nine, Marine Terminals and Blackbaud with eight each, Bank of America Mortgage with six and Container Maintenance with three. The top four teams advanced to the playoffs this Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the I'On Club.

T-Bonz will take on Marine Terminals and Blackbaud will face Beachside in the CPTL semifinals. Beachside lost to Blackbaud in the regular-season finale, while Marine Terminals defeated Container Maintenance and T-Bonz edged Bank of America, all three matches having 2-1 scores.

WANDO WINS EVENT
Wando took first place over the weekend in a strong field of teams at Pawleys Island's Waccamaw tournament that included three 2004 state champions (AAA champ Myrtle Beach second, AA-A titlist Waccamaw and Wando) as well as perennial state title contender Bishop England.

-- Wando's bid for a second straight AAAA state title will begin Tuesday. The Warriors got a lucky break in the draw with a potential home match against always strong Irmo in the semi- finals, if both teams get that far.


(10/18/05)  Palmetto Christian savors state title
Mount Pleasant has another budding tennis powerhouse to go along with defending Class AAAA state girls' champion Wando. Palmetto Christian Academy, in its inaugural year in SCISA, won the independent school league's Class A girls' tennis state championship last week.

This was a state high school championship, not a junior varsity title, even though Palmetto Christian's starting six players include one seventh-grader, three eighth-graders and two freshmen.

"We've got a big SCISA trophy," a proud Dewey Caulder said.

Caulder is a tennis pro at Family Circle Tennis Center where Palmetto Christian plays its home matches. He also is the team's coach and father of its No. 2 player, eighth-grader Dylan Caulder.

Palmetto Christian played four regular-season varsity matches in SCISA, losing to Lowcountry Day School twice and beating Charleston Collegiate twice. But when the SCISA trophy was on the line in the two-team state playoffs, Palmetto Christian scored a 5-4 victory over previously unbeaten Lowcountry Day last Thursday evening at Pawleys Island's Litchfield Plantation to win the title.

Obviously, the third time was the charm for Caulder's team. "I challenged my girls that beating one team three times is hard to do," he said, referring to 6-3 and 5-2 losses to Lowcountry earlier this season.

Five teams were originally scheduled to participate in the state tournament in Sumter over the weekend, but three of them decided not to go. "So they (SCISA) said we could play at Lowcountry's site since they were seeded first," Caulder said.

The match came down to doubles after Palmetto charged to a 4-2 lead in singles. Freshman Megan Davis and seventh-grader Mary Kate Karle came through at No. 3 doubles for a 6-4, 7-6 victory before the other two doubles were completed. That sealed Palmetto Christian's state title.

This is the first year Palmetto Christian has had a ninth grade. But several members of the Wando team that won last year's state title attended Palmetto Christian.

Palmetto Christian has participated in Charleston's middle school league in past years, but no varsity competition. To supplement its schedule this season, Palmetto has played junior varsity teams from Ashley Hall, Porter-Gaud and Bishop England.

Anna Claire Sanders, an eighth-grader, played No. 1 singles for Palmetto, while eighth-grader Shannon McManus was No. 3 and freshman Caroline Graham was No. 5. Davis played No. 4 and Karle No. 6. Palmetto has 11 players on its roster.


(10/16/05)  Despite Grand Slam title, 2005 was a bad year for Serena Williams
The year began with such promise for Australian Open champion Serena Williams. But she would just as soon forget about the rest of 2005.

She didn't play the French Open, and lost in the third and fourth rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, respectively. She even went 0-2 against Venus Williams, the first time she's lost to her older sister in four years. Yes, it was really a bad year for Serena.

For the year, Serena actually lost only five matches, although she retired from two other matches for a total of seven losses. She also withdrew two more times because of injury or sickness prior to matches, and those matches didn't count against her record.

Serena now has withdrawn from tournaments for the rest of the year, hoping her left ankle and knees will be completely healed by next year. And maybe she'll train a bit also, lose some weight and be ready to actually play in 2006. She wasn't ready at any time this year, not even in Australia where Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport practically gave her the title.

At 24 years old, Serena still has plenty of time to add to her Grand Slam collection. It's up to her.

Nevertheless, the Williams household had a good year, thanks primarily to Venus' Wimbledon championship. The family won two Grand Slams, equaling the total of all of Belgium -- Justine Henin-Hardenne's French crown and Kim Clijsters' U.S. Open title.

Even when things are going badly, the Williams girls are still better than history's other tennis families.

STATE COMBO HERE
Family Circle Tennis Center certainly is doing its part to support tennis. Not only does the facility serve as host for events such as the Family Circle Cup, Davis Cup and the league tennis Southern Championships, it's usually seen as the home for the Charleston Pro Tennis League.

For the fourth straight year, the Family Circle complex will be the site of the CPTL final, this year on Oct. 28. Also, for the second consecutive year, the State Combo Championships will kick off a big weekend on the Friday night of the CPTL final.

More than 1,400 players competed in last year's State Combo event, and many of them showed up for the CPTL finale party. In addition to the Family Circle site where Combo finals will be held on Monday, Oct. 31, the state tournament also will be played at Snee Farm Country Club, the Daniel Island Club and Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road facility.

PLAYERS CLUB INVITE
Acclaimed tennis instructor Fritz Nau is celebrating his new Players Club on Mount Pleasant's Mathis Ferry Road with free tennis lessons for beginners and 2.5 adults Monday through Oct. 27. The lessons will be offered Monday through Friday from 9-11 a.m. and 7-9 p.m. Players can sign up by calling the Players Club (843) 849-6560.

The Players Club also will offer free skill tests for all level players from Nov. 8-17 at the same times (9-11 a.m. and 7-9 p.m.) Monday through Thursday. "We'll see what they can do with all of their skills, the serve, the backhand," said Nau.

Players can call the club to schedule skill testing according to their ratings.

SEABROOK SUCCESS
Although rain hampered last weekend's Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament at Seabrook Island, the tournament was another success story with 191 participants. The annual event's charity fund-raising efforts were especially impressive.

Bob Wall reports that all flights were completed, and more than $18,000 was raised for the Hospice of Charleston. Last year's Alan Fleming tournament was named the state's best adult tournament by the S.C. Tennis Association.

PINEWOOD'S NEW COURTS
Summerville's Pinewood Prep broke ground recently for the Maurer-Lawrence Tennis Center that will include five lighted hard courts, seating and other amenities. The courts are expected to be ready for next spring's boys' season.

The courts should be a big boost for tennis at Pinewood in that the school plans to use the new courts to introduce students to tennis as part of the school's physical education program.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Snee Farm's Grand Prix is scheduled for Nov. 8-13. The entry deadline will be Nov. 4. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).

-- Charleston Tennis Center is holding men's pick-up matches on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. Players need only to show up with a can of new or good used balls. Players are matched to a relative level player for singles or doubles practice matches.

-- The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association's Racquets for Recovery -- Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer is set for Nov. 4-5. The tournament, which will include a men's and women's doubles format, has an entry deadline of Oct. 30. For more information, contact Shirley Hunter (843) 572-7810 or shhunter@bellsouth.net.

-- The Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held Nov. 11-12 at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Contact event chairman Paula Silverman (884-8533, 442-1502 or paulasil1@aol.com) for additional information.

-- Registration is now open for the Nov. 25-27 Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (843) 766-7401 for information.


(10/12/05)  Barth battling doubles decline
Why are most American players, especially juniors, becoming so inept at the net?

Andy Roddick has a fantastic serve, and his volleys have improved immensely. Yet, he's still awkward and inefficient at the net when compared with this nation's serve-and-volley players of the past such as John McEnroe, Stan Smith and Pete Sampras.

And even Roy Barth. Yes, if you've ever taken a lesson from the Kiawah Island tennis director or seen him play, you'd know he was an excellent volleyer as an All-American at UCLA and as a world's top 50 player on the Grand Prix circuit. Barth loves doubles, the team aspect of the doubles game, and the finesse and soft hands needed to be successful at the net.

That's one reason the Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship always has doubles, even with one of the largest draws of any tournament in the state. Now in its 22nd year, this year's event starts Thursday at Kiawah.

That same love for doubles probably is one reason why Barth enjoys his second stint as vice-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee so much. Doubles is an important part of Davis Cup competition, and only now with the Bryan brothers specializing in doubles has this component of the American team bounced back.

"You learn how to volley in doubles," Barth said. "Doubles in junior tennis has gone down the tubes. Sixty percent of all junior tournaments in the nation don't offer doubles. That's a huge number."

Barth attributes the demise of doubles to feed-in consolations in singles, due to time restraints and court limitations. "Designated junior tournaments don't have time for doubles," he said.

"The USTA is looking at it on the national level how they can improve doubles and revise the feed-ins for singles. Maybe, doubles could be started earlier in tournaments."

At any rate, he said, "It's good they are addressing it on a national level." The International Tennis Federation addressed the issue earlier, and its changes already are making a difference in international junior tournaments.

"In the ITF, doubles rankings are now going toward singles rankings, and all of a sudden ITF players are playing doubles."

CPTL UPDATE
Beachside Real Estate continued to pour it on in the Charleston Pro Tennis League with its third straight 3-0 victory after an opening-match loss. After blanking a strong Bank of America Mortgage team in Sunday afternoon's makeup matches at Mount Pleasant's Players Club, Chris Henderson's Beachside outfit has an unbeatable 10 points going into this Friday night's regular-season wrap-up at the Daniel Island Club.

Beachside faces Blackbaud in one of the two 6:30 p.m. openers, with Container Maintenance Corp. taking on Marine Terminals in the other. Bank of America will oppose T-Bonz in the nightcap match. T-Bonz is in second place with seven points, followed by Blackbaud and Marine Terminals with six each, and Bank of America with five. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs that start next week at the I'On Club.

Matches are composed of three doubles. Each individual doubles win counts as a point in the team standings.

T-Bonz defeated Marine Terminals and Blackbaud turned back Container Maintenance, both by 2-1 scores, in the other two matches played Sunday at the Players Club.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The sixth annual Wild Dunes Pro-Am and Tennis Open will begin Friday at 2 p.m. with 16 pros from a six-state area competing. The semifinals will begin Saturday at 4 p.m., with the final slated for Sunday at noon. Pro-am play and clinics are scheduled earlier on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

-- The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association's Racquets for Recovery -- Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer is set for Nov. 4-5. The tournament, which will include a men's and women's doubles format, has an entry deadline of Oct. 30. For more information, contact Shirley Hunter (843) 572-7810 or shhunter@bellsouth.net.


(10/10/05)  Mitchell parlaying tennis academy experience into success for Cyclones
Keeping a 16-year-old girl interested in tennis is quite an achievement. But for that same girl to give up a year of being with her high school friends to move into a total tennis environment is a huge sacrifice. Unless the player is Ashley Mitchell, Porter-Gaud's No. 1 player. Smiles come easily for this 17-year-old junior, especially after matches. She has lost only one match this season for coach Tom Higgins' team.

Mitchell spent last school year at the Stearns-Smith Tennis Acad-emy at Hilton Head Island, along with participating in Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy last winter. As a member of the Nau group, Mitchell took up residence for a month at the renowned Emilio Sanchez-Sergio Casal Academy in Barcelona, Spain.

Some of the notable players Mitchell saw at the Spanish academy included 2004 U.S. Open women's champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 1998 French Open men's champion Carlos Moya, and 1994 Wimbledon women's champion Conchita Martinez. She even met Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Emilio's sister.

"I played the No. 1 players from Bulgaria and Poland, and I beat both of them. We were on court seven hours a day over there," Mitchell said.

Especially during her time at Stan Smith's Hilton Head Island academy, she made loads of new friends. "I found it easy to be at Hilton Head. It was a great experience. I've got a lot of friends there," she said. "I took a whole year off from school, but I did online school."

When she returned to Porter-Gaud this school year, she picked up where she had left off after completing her sophomore year at the West Ashley private school.

Why did she give up a year of her youth for tennis? "It was because of my love for tennis. I wanted to play more," she said after a recent victory at Charleston Tennis Center.

"I want to play tennis in college. I want to go up North ... to Princeton or Williams. I also like the Univer-sity of Virginia a lot." Mitchell already is paying academic visits to colleges such as Princeton and Williams. But since she is only a junior, she cannot be contacted yet by NCAA institutions.

Higgins, who retired as head men's and women's coach at NCAA Division I Eastern Kentucky before moving to Charleston, sees college potential in his top player. "Ashley is definitely a Division I prospect," he said. "Her game is very sound. She hits the ball well and has a good serve. She's a complete player. And she conditions real hard.

"She is really a team player, a good student and a team leader."

Where does all of this love for tennis come from? "My parents told me tennis was a game I could play the rest of my life," she said.

And that after a fling with soccer until just a few years ago. "I started tennis when I was 12 or 13 years old," the 5-6 player said.

By her sophomore year, she was Porter-Gaud's No. 5 player. "Coming back this year at No. 1 was nice," she said, flashing a smile. "The thing I love most about my game is my backhand. I have to improve on my volleys, but I prefer rallying from the baseline."

When she isn't practicing with the Cyclones, she trains at the MUSC complex with Marquel Gower or with Toby Simpson at The Citadel. During summers at her family's mountain home in Sapphire Valley, N.C., she works with Kevin Moyer.

The conditioning, training and drills aren't really work to Ashley Mitchell. They're a labor of love - her love for tennis.


(10/09/05)  Family Circle center may pursue masters pro event
The chance of securing a tournament spot on the men's professional tennis tour is fairly remote these days. Everyone wants an ATP Tour event, even Ho Chi Minh City.

That's right. Vietnam even has a spot. So why shouldn't Charleston want one, too.

But because there apparently isn't a spare ATP event, Family Circle Tennis Center has to look elsewhere for a fall companion to the spring Family Circle Cup.

A Davis Cup semifinal would be nice, but it's strictly a long shot. First, the United States would have to still be alive when the semifinals started; secondly, the Americans would have to be designated as a host. If both of those possibilities became reality, Charleston then would need to outmaneuver everyone else in the United States and win the heart of the USTA as it did in 2004.

With all of that in mind, Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley may make a play for a senior-type men's tournament next fall. Houston, which has been the site of the ATP Tour's Masters Cup the last two years, has filled its void for this fall with a round-robin event Nov. 10-13 featuring the likes of John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier and other retired players. The event, called the Stanford Financial Champions' Cup, will be put on by Courier's InsideOut Sports & Entertainment group.

"That's an option for us next fall," Finley acknowledged. "We want to see how it goes in Houston this fall."

A decade ago, Jimmy Connors' senior tour was a big hit in the United States. A dozen or so tournaments played before capacity crowds, including Champions Tour tournaments in 1994 and 1995 at Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Plantation.

But almost overnight, the landscape changed. Connors and his tour faded from the U.S. scene. A similar tour has emerged in recent years in Europe. The Delta Champions Tour features many of the same players scheduled to appear in Houston, led by Courier and McEnroe. That tour apparently is now looking for sites in the U.S., according to Finley.

NOTES

CPTL MAKEUP TODAY: Friday night's rained-out Charleston Pro Tennis League program at Mount Pleasant's Players Club has been rescheduled for today at 4 p.m.

ST. ANDREW'S DEADLINE: The deadline for entering next weekend's St. Andrew's Fall Championship for adults is today at 12:30 p.m. The tournament will have singles and doubles in rated divisions. Registration is available at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704101905). Contact St. Andrew's assistant tennis director Phil Burke (fillup@standrewsparks.com) for more information.

MAUCHER AT GEORGETOWN: Scott Maucher is another former local star playing college tennis. The Bishop England graduate is a sophomore at Georgetown University, where he played as high as No. 2 singles last spring. Maucher was second on the team with 12 victories in singles and led the Hoyas with 12 wins in doubles. He helped lead Georgetown to a No. 4 seed in the Big East Conference championships.

FISHBURNE WINS NATIONAL: Diane Fishburne has added two more national championships to her long list of successes, winning the women's 45 singles and doubles titles in the National Hard-Courts in Folsom, Calif. Fishburne played doubles with Susan Wright of Colorado Springs, Colo. Fellow Charleston player Brenda Carter took the women's 55 doubles title in Folsom with Californian Kathy Bennett, but had to settle for third in singles.

CREEKSIDE CHANGE: Andrew Haefner and Shay Casey have taken over as the new directors at Creekside Tennis and Swim. Among the new tennis offerings by the new management is a monthly round-robin event on the second Friday of each month (the first one will be held this Friday). The food and beverage-supplied round robins are for all levels of play for a fee for Creekside members and non-members.

BATTLE OF JI: Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman has labeled the event the "Battle of James Island" since the Oct. 29 tournament features competition among players from his club, James Island YC and Maybank Tennis Club. The activities will begin with a continental breakfast at all sites, followed at 9 a.m. by men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles at the three sites, capped off by a covered dish social at the Country Club. Proceeds will go to the Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association's junior scholarship program. Call Brockman at 795-0425.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- Today is the deadline for entering next weekend's men's and women's adult singles and doubles Ace Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club. Former French Open doubles champion Luke Jensen will be at I'On on Thursday to conduct two tennis clinics as part of the fundraiser. Information is available on the internet at www.acebreastcancer.org or by contacting tournament chairman Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).

-- Charleston Tennis Center is holding men's pick-up matches on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. Players need only to show up with a can of new or good used balls. Players are matched to a relative level player for singles or doubles practice matches.


(10/05/05)  No bids planned for Davis Cup
The weather in February is too cold and the Family Circle Cup dominates the month of April. As a result, the possibility of another Davis Cup tie being held in the Charleston area before at least next September's semifinals is rather remote.

Family Circle tournament director Mike Finley has informed the U.S. Tennis Association that it wouldn't be feasible for the Daniel Island complex to enter the bidding for the United States' Feb. 10-12 first-round tie against Romania. One reason is the predictably cold weather. Another reason is that Family Circle Tennis Center is still feeling its way under new owner Meredith Corp.

A win in February would give the Americans another home match April 7-9 against either Chile or Slovakia. Of course, the WTA Tour's Tier I Family Circle Cup starts April 8.

"We told them (the USTA) that February would be unrealistic, but we would be interested in hosting the September semifinals," said Finley, the lead negotiator in Family Circle Tennis Center's landing of the 2004 semifinals against Belarus. "We want to go through one Family Circle Cup with the new company first."

The Meredith Corp., which is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, purchased Family Circle magazine from Germany-based Gruner + Jahr last spring, also taking over the Family Circle Cup in the process. An executive group from Meredith visited the area in August and met with city of Charleston officials. Family Circle Tennis Center is a city property.

NO KIAWAH BID

Kiawah Island also doesn't plan to bid for the U.S.-Romania tie because of the cold weather, according to Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth, the current vice-chairman of the USTA Davis Cup committee.

-- Barth recently returned from Belgium where he watched the Americans take a playoff victory to qualify for the World Group in 2006. He was especially impressed by Belgium's 5-5 Olivier Rochus, who defeated James Blake in his first match and took Andy Roddick to five sets the next match.

"This guy is a comer," Barth said about Rochus. "His footwork is immaculate."

CPTL UPDATE
Chris Henderson's Beachside Real Estate team has rallied to take a two-point lead in the Charleston Pro Tennis League's regular-season race. Beachside has posted back-to-back 3-0 victories to increase its points total to seven for the first three weeks of the regular season.

With just two weeks left, Bank of America Mortgage, Marine Terminals and T-Bonz are tied for second place with five points each. Blackbaud remains in the running for one of the league's four post-season playoff berths with four points.

Beachside dominated previously unbeaten T-Bonz by sweeping all three doubles matches in straight sets before a festive crowd at the Country Club of Charleston last Friday night. Marine Terminals took a 2-1 victory over Blackbaud, and Bank of America scored a 2-1 win over Container Maintenance.

The party moves to Fritz Nau's brand new Players Club on Mathis Ferry Road this Friday night at 6:30 in what should be something of a grand opening for the new facility, which sports hard courts and clay courts. Blackbaud will oppose Container Maintenance in one 6:30 match, while Bank of America takes on Beachside. T-Bonz and Marine Terminals will clash in a second match.

The CPTL's last regular-season matches will be held at the Daniel Island Club on Oct. 14. The playoffs will open Oct. 21 at I'On, with the finals slated for Oct. 28 at Family Circle Tennis Center in conjunction with the State Combo League Championships.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- An organizational meeting to discuss the formation of a Charleston Youth Tennis Council will be held tonight at 7 o'clock at the St. Andrews Parks and Playground Administration Building. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, contact local USTA coordinator Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

-- Sunday is the deadline for entering I'On Club's third annual men's and women's adult singles and doubles Ace Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament, which is scheduled for Oct. 14-16. Former French Open doubles champion Luke Jensen will be at I'On on Oct. 13 to conduct two tennis clinics as part of the Ace Breast Cancer fundraiser. Information is available on the internet at www.acebreastcancer.org or by contacting tournament chairman Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).


(10/02/05)  Doubles gets less pro emphasis
Doubles are fun for everyone, fans and players alike. League tennis players especially like to watch this fast-paced game, because they can identify with the strategy involved in a pro level doubles match as they look ahead to their next league match.

But the men's ATP Tour appears to be determined to put doubles on the back burner of professional men's tennis. This shouldn't be real surprising after how pro tennis' feeder system -- junior tennis -- has treated doubles in recent years.

Doubles events for juniors have dwindled drastically. If something has to be dropped from a tournament because of weather or scheduling problems, the doubles draw goes away quietly.

The ATP Tour is making plans to alter the doubles landscape significantly in a couple of years. The changes would send top doubles stars such as the Bryan brothers and others back to camp to work on their singles.

Without a singles ranking high enough to qualify for an ATP event, not only would the Bryans and other doubles specialists be left out of the singles draw, they wouldn't be allowed to play doubles either.

The International Tennis Federation-governed Grand Slams have not approved this rule change that is slated to go into effect on the ATP Tour in 2008.

Yet the rule likely would have the same impact on the Grand Slams, because doubles specialists probably wouldn't qualify as a result of being unable to participate in regular ATP Tour events often enough to earn the doubles ranking needed to qualify for the Grand Slams.

The first phase of the new rules started this fall with a group of six experimental tournaments in which doubles sets are abbreviated in an effort to reduce the time needed for doubles matches. The first team to win five games, playing the no-ad format, wins the set.

If a set reaches 5-5, a regular tiebreaker is used. There are no changeover breaks.

Although the implementation of the rule governing doubles participation is a few years off, players with a preference toward doubles such as the Bryans aren't waiting. These top doubles stars already have filed an antitrust suit against the ATP Tour, alleging that the new rules favor singles players.

JENSEN RETURNING
Luke Jensen is coming to the Charleston area in October, even if Family Circle Tennis Center no longer plans to hold a Men's Fantasy Camp this month.

The venue for Jensen will be Mount Pleasant's I'On Club on Oct. 13. He will conduct two tennis clinics as part of the Ace Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament fund-raiser.

Of course, Jensen's main job is with ESPN. He also does promotional work for Family Circle, and was here this past spring for the Family Circle Cup. The 1993 French Open doubles champion, with his brother, Murphy, is ambidextrous and hits and serves from both sides.

Jensen will take part in morning and afternoon sessions at I'On. All proceeds will be donated to the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC. For more information, contact tournament chairman Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).

KINARD'S NEW JOB
Since completing her college playing days at Virginia Tech and then serving as a graduate assistant at the Blacksburg, Va., school while working on a master's degree, Bishop England graduate Elissa Kinard has been on the move.

First, she accepted an assistant's job at American University last November, only to learn in the spring that American was dropping its tennis programs.

Next, she took on the duties of assistant men's and women's coach at Colgate University this past June, after completing her master's degree at Virginia Tech in May.

Kinard spent the summer recruiting for Colgate in Tennessee and California, but almost as soon as she settled in for the fall at the Hamilton, N.Y., college, she received a call from Washington State University offering her an assistant coach's position. Sept. 20 was her last day at Colgate.

"It (Washington State) is a member of the Pac-10 ... and for tennis you really can't get much better than that," she said before moving to Pullman, Wash., within the last week.

JR. LEAGUE STARTS FAST
The USA Junior Team Tennis fall league recently opened its season with 18 teams representing 10 area tennis facilities. The season, which runs for six weeks, will end with the city championships the first weekend of November at Charleston Tennis Center.

-- An organizational meeting to discuss the formation of a Charleston Youth Tennis Council will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the St. Andrews Parks and Playground Administration Building. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, contact local USTA coordinator Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association will hold Racquets for Recovery -- Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer on Nov. 4-5. The tournament, which will include a men's and women's doubles format, will benefit the Reach for Recovery programs of the local American Cancer Society. The entry deadline is Oct. 30. For more information, contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810 or shhunter@bellsouth.net).

-- Registration is now open for the Nov. 25-27 Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (766-7401) for more information.

-- Charleston Tennis Center is holding men's pick-up matches on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. Players need only to show up with a can of new or good used balls. Players are matched to a relative level player for singles or doubles practice matches.

-- Tuesday is the deadline for entering the 22nd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship, which is scheduled for Oct. 13-17. The tournament will feature boys' and girls' singles and doubles in ages 10-18. Registration is available online at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137905).


(09/28/05)  Roddick still devoted to Davis Cup
Like Andy Roddick or not, you've got to love the way he supports the Davis Cup. He never misses a tie.

He may lose from time to time, as he did to Spain's Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya or to Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic. But this guy Roddick has the heart of a lion in Davis Cup. He won't go down without a fight. You can see his passion for the event in his face and in his play.

I realize Roddick went out early to unknown Joachim Johansson in last year's U.S. Open, couldn't match up with Roger Federer at Wimbledon and lost on his birthday to practically obscure Gilles Muller in his "mojo" jinxed first match at this year's U.S. Open.

Roddick appeared to almost give up at times in those matches, not knowing what to do. His big serve wasn't enough to protect his own service, and he couldn't find a way to negate the big serves of his opponents. That he appeared to have altered his game in hopes of one day catching Federer only seemed to add to his frustration during the last year.

But Sunday was Davis Cup time, and it was up to Roddick to make sure the United States stayed in the World Group in 2006. He couldn't depend on James Blake, who suddenly reverted back to his pre-summer playing level after getting up two sets to none against Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open.

Roddick could have gone down on the red clay to little Belgian Olivier Rochus, just as Blake had done two days earlier. But Roddick wouldn't let that happen. He fought tooth-and-nail for more than 4-1/2 hours to subdue the fired up Rochus in front of a partisan Belgium crowd. Roddick showed his true grit. Now, if he can only find a way to catch Federer.

Roddick obviously feels that with the help of the Bryan brothers, he has to practically carry the U.S. Davis Cup hopes on his back. Since Blake failed this time, look for U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe to give Robby Ginepri or maybe even serve-and-volley ace Taylor Dent a shot in the next Davis Cup tie.

-- Dent, the only true serve-and-volleyer among the world's top players, might be worth keeping an eye on now that he has made the Nick Bolletteri Tennis Academy his fulltime training home. Remember, Dent retired in the heat against Ginepri in the Indianapolis final, but then played Lleyton Hewitt five long sets before faltering in the third round of the U.S. Open.

CPTL UPDATE
The Charleston Pro Tennis League crosses to the Charleston side of the Cooper River on Friday night for the only time this season. The tennis complex at the Country Club of Charleston should be quite crowded for the 6:30 p.m. arrival of the CPTL.

Jonathan Barth's unbeaten T-Bonz team plays second-place Beachside Real Estate in one 6:30 match, while Blackbaud and Marine Terminals square off in the other. A 7:30 p.m. match sends Bank of America Mortgage against winless Container Maintenance.

Last Friday at Snee Farm Country Club, Bank of America defeated Marine Terminals, 2-1; Beachside scored a 3-0 win over Container Maintenance; and T-Bonz turned back Blackbaud, 2-1.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Thursday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for entering the annual Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament, scheduled for Oct. 6-9 at the Seabrook Island Club. Contact the Seabrook Island tennis shop (768-7543) for more information. Registration is available online at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137605).

-- The fourth annual Harold Smith Tennis Tournament is scheduled to start Friday at St. Andrews Parks and Playground and run through Sunday, with competition in junior and adult singles and doubles. For more information, contact St. Andrews pro Philip Burke (763-4360).

-- The 22nd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship will be held Oct. 13-17, with an entry deadline of Oct. 4. It will feature boys' and girls' singles anddoubles in ages 10-18. Registration is available online at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137905).

-- I'On Club's third annual men's and women's adult singles and doubles ACE Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament will be held Oct. 14-16. The entry deadline is Oct. 9. More information is available on the internet at www.acebreastcancer.org.

-- Snee Farm's Grand Prix is set for Nov. 8-13. The entry deadline will be Nov. 2. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).

-- The Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held Nov. 11-12 at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the South Carolina Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event's chairman is Paula Silverman (884-8533, 442-1502 or paulasil1@aol.com).


(09/26/05)  Lowcountry's best keep tennis dreams alive on college level

Playing pro tennis at the Grand Slam level may be only a dream for most juniors. The path is too demanding or even impossible. All you have to do to realize the tallness of this task is to check out the Wimbledon or U.S. Open draws. Few Americans attain this level of proficiency.

That doesn't mean young players can't have tennis dreams beyond their junior years. College tennis is a viable option, even at a time when international students take most of tennis' scholarship money at large colleges as well as small ones. If a junior pays the price for proficiency in the sport and wants to play college tennis, a spot is probably available at the college level. It just might not be at a major state school.

Girls probably have the best opportunities since college athletic programs are required to abide by Title IX legislation that forces colleges to provide equal funding to women's sports. Title IX pays off especially well for girls at colleges that field football teams.

"Guys never get full scholarships," said veteran Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese. "I've had only three full scholarships in 30 years. We have a total of four and a half grants for 10 people."

In South Carolina, the situation is even more favorable for women, since the state has two all-women's colleges, Columbia College and Converse. Both regard tennis among their major sports.

College tennis can provide a way for parents to recoup some of the thousands and thousands of dollars they sink into their children's tennis training. That private in-state college with a $20-$30,000 annual price tag may only appear to be unreachable for high scholastic achievers who also are skilled at tennis. The picture clears considerably when a generous academic scholarship, a Life scholarship and a tennis grant are added to the financial package.

A number of former local juniors played this past spring or still are on college teams, especially girls. The top girl probably was Porter-Gaud graduate Mary Neill Hagood, who as a Furman senior was Southern Conference player of the year and women's athlete of the year. Furman's tuition for the 2004-05 school year was in excess of $31,000. Hagood, a Phi Beta Kappa student, was on full athletic-academic scholarships, according to her father, Jimmy Hagood.

Mary Neill Hagood arrived recently in Sydney, Australia, for a four-month stay. She will then travel to New Zealand for four months before returning home and planning the rest of her life.

"Tennis has paid back" for all of those years of tennis lessons and expenses, Jimmy Hagood said. His daughter has a $100,000-plus education, thanks in great part to tennis. "It's not just economic," he said. "But it's the friends you meet, being part of a family, more so at Furman than most other schools (because Furman coach Debbie Southern caters to American players)."

While Hagood's Furman experience was special, being a member of a college team is a unique experience, one that can make young athletes feel more at home than possibly other students. There is always someone - a coach, assistant coach or athletic director - looking out for the student-athlete.

On the boys' side, Ryan Young made All-Atlantic Coast Conference for Clemson. A junior, the School of the Arts graduate will be in the running to become the Tigers' first No. 1 player from South Carolina since 1997.

Young, a left-hander, played Nos. 3 and 4 singles last season as well as won the ACC at No. 1 doubles.

Ashley Hall product Katye Rhett completed her four-year career at the University of the South, Sewanee, this year with more than 50 singles victories for the NCAA Division III school. Sewanee does not give athletic scholarships.

Former Porter-Gaud star Emily Applegate played at another prestigious out-of-state private college that does not offer athletic grants. Applegate transferred last year to Division III Washington & Lee for her sophomore year after attending Richmond as a freshman. Playing Nos. 2 or 3, Applegate helped W&L to a runner-up finish nationally in Division III. Nat Estes, another Porter-Gaud graduate, sat out most of his freshman year at Washington & Lee after having knee surgery. He is expected to be recovered by the spring.

Porter-Gaud product Stephanie Ruley played for Tufts University. Bishop England graduate Erika Shortridge played for Air Force as a freshman, while fellow Bishop Jewel Aldea was on the East Tennessee State team last season as a junior. Aldea has since dropped off the team to concentrate on her studies as a triple-major carrying a 4.0 grade point average, according to ETSU coach Steve Brooks.

Summerville High School product Ann Pierce is a junior tennis player for Appalachian State.

At in-state colleges, Danielle Beck was captain of her Converse team the last two years and now attends the Charleston School of Law. Her fellow First Baptist Church School graduate, Jamie Randolph, was a senior this year on the Columbia College team.

Former Bishop England standout Charlotte Wilson completed her four years on the College of Charleston team and is now a school teacher in the Lowcountry.

Berkeley High product Jessica Bair played for Charleston Southern, while Wando graduates Katie Sexton and Jessica McDonald both played for Anderson College. Sexton was a senior this past year while McDonald is starting her sophomore year at Anderson.

A couple of former local standouts dropped out of tennis in college. Kalee Claussen, the 2004 Lowcountry Player of the Year while at Bishop England, is starting her sophomore year at Wofford College, but is not playing college tennis. Katie Coleman, another former star junior who attended BE, dropped off of the Wofford team last season as a senior because of injuries. Coleman is attending the Charleston School of Law.

Dana Richards, this year's girls' Lowcountry player of the year, is at the University of Virginia where she plans to play club-level tennis. Porter-Gaud standout Caroline Irvin attends of Georgia, but will not play varsity tennis.

Jason Basile, who didn't compete in high school tennis last year but played junior tennis, will attend Furman on a tennis-academic scholarship.

Hilton Head Island product Austin Smith will play as a freshman at North Carolina on a full tennis scholarship. Of course, this talented left-hander had the benefit of having two former pro players for parents, including a former Wimbledon champion, Stan Smith.


(09/25/05)  JV tennis programs spring up

Team tennis obviously is very much one of the "in" things to do at several local private schools. Ashley Hall, Porter-Gaud and Bishop England have all started girls' junior varsity teams.

"There's nothing like team tennis," Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley said last week. "Being on a team and representing your school is a large part of the motivation."

Gastley, then Mary Spain, was an All-American in 1983 while leading the College of Charleston to the NAIA national championship. She knows all about team tennis. "Team tennis is nothing like tournament tennis when you're out there on your own. You've got the coach, your teammates and the school supporting you. Kids at school ask about how you did," she said.

This is Gastley's first experience with a JV team at Ashley Hall. "The only reason we haven't done it before is we didn't have anyone (opponents) to play," she said.

With Porter-Gaud and Bishop England joining the fray along with Mount Pleasant's Palmetto Christian, competition is no longer a problem. Gastley has put together an eight-match schedule for her girls, including an overnight trip to Columbia with the varsity when both teams will take on the varsity and junior varsity squads from Heathwood Hall and Hammond Academy.

Gastley is especially happy, because she has five seniors on her varsity. She has seven girls on the JV team, including six freshmen and one eighth-grader. "We need someone to step up," she said.

Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins thinks the JV competition is good for tennis. "It's a good way to start a grass-roots program," he said. "It's really taken off."

LOCALS TAKE TITLES
Susie Peiffer won three titles in last weekend's State Senior Closed Championships, taking the women's 50 and 55 doubles with partner Cindy Babb. Peiffer also defeated Babb in the women's 55 singles final. Diane Fishburne took the women's 45 singles crown, then teamed with Rita Anderson to capture 45 doubles. Also, Jerry Hanchrow and Tom Kent won the men's 75 doubles.

KIAWAH SETS JUNIOR
The 22nd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship is scheduled for Oct. 13-17, with an entry deadline of Oct. 4. The tournament will feature boys' and girls' singles and doubles in ages 10-18. Registration is available online at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137905).

ACE THE CURE
An Ace the Cure Tennis Auction Ball will be held Nov. 11-12 at Family Circle Tennis Center for the benefit of the S.C. Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The Tennis Auction Ball features a day of friendly pro-am competition on the courts as well as a live auction. The event will begin with a dinner and auction at the Cotton Dock at Boone Hall Plantation on Nov. 11. Winning bidders from the auction become the owners of the teams that will play in a round-robin tournament the next day. Paula Silverman (884-8533, 442-1502 or paulsil1@ aol.com) is the event's chairman.

SMITH TOURNEY PLANNED
The fourth annual Harold Smith Tennis Tournament is scheduled for next weekend at St. Andrews Parks and Playground. The event will start Friday, with competition in junior and adult singles and doubles. Contact St. Andrews pro Philip Burke (763-4360).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The annual Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament, scheduled for Oct. 6-9 at the Seabrook Island Club, will feature men's singles and doubles 40 to 80, women's singles and doubles 40 to 90, and mixed doubles 40 to 70. The entry deadline is Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. Contact the Seabrook Island tennis shop (768-7543) for more information. Registration at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137605).

-- I'On Club's third annual men's and women's adult singles and doubles ACE Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament, held in conjunction with the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC, is scheduled for Oct. 14-16. The entry deadline is Oct. 9. More information is available on the internet at www.acebreastcancer.org.

-- Snee Farm will hold a Grand Prix event Nov. 8-13, with an entry deadline of Nov. 2. For more information, contact Snee Farm (884-3252).


(09/21/05)  Southern tennis family pitches in to help Gulf Coast

Tennis probably is the last thing on the minds of people in the Hurricane Katrina-stricken Gulf Coast area. But at some point, tennis once again will thrive in that area, despite the hundreds of tennis clubs and facilities that were severely damaged or destroyed.

And the nine-state Southern Section of the U.S. Tennis Association plans to play a major role in the redevelopment of tennis in the stricken area as well as help displaced pros, and reestablish adult and junior programs at alternate sites. To that means, the Southern Section has pledged $100,000. Also, the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation of the Southern Section will contribute $15,000 to the relief effort.

Charleston resident Barbara Brewer, a past president of the Southern Section, is chairman of the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation. "Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are part of the Southern tennis family," she said.

CPTL STARTS FAST
There is more in the Lowcountry air on fall Friday nights than high school football and plans for the next day's college schedule. There's tennis, as in Charleston Pro Tennis League. Even with everything going on, the CPTL started its fourth season with a bang last Friday night as more than 300 people watched at Dunes West Tennis Club.

The pros, not so local in that some of them drive from Columbia and Rock Hill, put on a display of quality tennis in a total of nine doubles matches. The evening's highlight was a 13-11 third-set super tiebreaker (first to 10 ahead by two points) victory by the Marine Terminals duo of Kiawah Island pro Craig Rice and Dunes West pro Ben Shuster over former Furman star Chris Henderson and former College of Charleston standout Timo Siebert of Beachside Realty to clinch what would be a 2-1 team victory.

In other matches, T-Bonz defeated Container Maintenance, 3-0, and Blackbaud upended Bank of America, 2-1. CPTL top draft pick Carlos Lozano of Lexington's Topspin Racquet Club and Wild Dunes pro Charley Rasheed won at the No. 1 position for Bank of America.

The CPTL moves to Snee Farm Country Club for Friday night's 6:30 lineup that pits Bank of America against Marine Terminals and Container Maintenance against Beachside. The 7:30 p.m. match features unbeatens Blackbaud and T-Bonz.

HINGIS STILL SHINES

You might not see much of Martina Hingis these days, but she was the star of last weekend's World TeamTennis championships in Sacramento, Calif. Hingis led the New York Sportimes to the team title and was selected as the event's MVP. She didn't drop a set in the Sportimes' semifinal victory over the Martina Navratilova-led Boston Lobsters or in the final against Newport Beach. Hingis won women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles both days, including three victories over Navratilova.

-- The WTT final will air on ESPN2 Thursday at 11 p.m.

LOCALS AT SOUTHERNS
I'On Club pro Joey Eskridge served as a coach for the state's Junior Davis and Fed Cup team in last weekend's Southern Section competition in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bishop England seniors Sabra Rogers and Garret Egan played for the South Carolina team that finished third, trailing perennial champion Georgia and Tennessee.

BARTH IN BELGIUM
Kiawah Island director of tennis Roy Barth, the vice-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee, is in Belgium for this weekend's U.S.-Belgium Davis Cup World Group playoff. The winner will advance to the 2006 World Group, while the loser will be relegated to the Zonal Group. The U.S. team has lost two straight ties (2004 final to Spain and 2005 first round to Croatia) since defeating Belarus here last fall.

PINEWOOD PREP WINS

Summerville's Pinewood Prep edged defending champion Holly Hill Academy in the recent third annual Colleton Prep Warhawk Girls' Tennis Rally in Walterboro. Lindsay Wilburn of Hilton Head Christian won the No. 1 singles title over Ana Brewer of Pinewood Prep.

-- A USTA-sponsored coaches clinic will be held Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. The clinic is open to the public.


(09/18/05)  Higgins a success at Porter-Gaud
Tom Higgins was Johnny-on-the-spot last year when Fritz Nau reached the conclusion that running his new Players Club in Mount Pleasant and the Charleston Tennis Academy was a full-time job. Nau enjoyed coaching the Porter-Gaud boys' and girls' teams that he had directed to state championships, but he didn't have the time.

Nau knew he was leaving Porter-Gaud in capable hands. He had called Higgins out of retirement in 2002 to be his assistant coach.

Higgins didn't miss a beat in moving up to head coach, as Porter-Gaud quickly won a state independent schools boys' title and Higgins was named The Post and Courier's boys' tennis coach of the year. What really prepared Higgins for the job was the 29 years he spent as head men's tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky and the eight years he also served as the women's coach at the Division I school in Richmond, Ky.

He's glad to be back coaching tennis. He loves it. He must. Otherwise, he wouldn't be also coaching Porter-Gaud's 16-member girls' junior varsity team as he was Friday afternoon at Charleston Tennis Center. "I didn't think I'd miss coaching the way I did," Higgins said. "I'm not getting rich doing it, so I must love it."

Higgins feels nothing but pride about his long tenure as a college coach, especially his 1976 men's team, which finished ranked 19th in the nation. One major source of pride is the number of Higgins' former players who are now head coaches in the college ranks.

That list includes Missouri women's coach Blake Starkey, Kansas women's coach Amy Hall, Wake Forest men's coach Jeff Zinn, Maryland men's coach Jimmy Liatta, Southern Mississippi women's coach Susan Aurich, and Coker College men's and women's coach Alvin Cheng.

"The fact I've got them (former players now coaching) out there reinforces my decision to do it with American kids," Higgins said. "I had an academic professorship in the school of health/science, so I didn't have to recruit foreign players."

FAMILY CIRCLE SELECTED
Family Circle Tennis Center has been selected as South Carolina's only stop on the Mercedes-Benz Tennis Tour, which is sponsored by Wilson and held at 43 sites nationally, including New York and San Francisco. The Family Circle event will be held Oct. 2 from 3-5:30 p.m. More than $2,000 in Wilson prizes will be available to win in different contests. The registration deadline is Sept. 30. For more information, contact Family Circle Tennis Center (849-5300).

-- The 2006 Family Circle Cup T-shirt Design Contest is open to artists and would-be artists of all ages. The winning artwork will be featured on the April 8-16 tournament's official T-shirt.

FLEMING EVENT SET
The annual Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament will be held Oct. 6-9 at the Seabrook Island Club. It will feature men's singles and doubles 40 to 80, women's singles and doubles 40 to 90, and mixed doubles 40 to 70.

The tournament will benefit Hospice of Charleston. Last year's tournament and silent auction raised more than $17,000. The entry deadline is Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. Contact the Seabrook Island tennis shop (768-7543) for more information. Registration is available online at www.usta.com with the event's ID number (704137605).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Snee Farm has scheduled a Grand Prix event for Nov. 8-13. The entry deadline will be Nov. 2. For more, contact Snee Farm (843) 884-3252.

-- The six-week USA Junior Team Tennis league will begin play locally today. For more information, contact Peggy McElhiney (821-8903) or Maggie LaCoste (906-6623).

-- I'On Club's third annual men's and women's adult singles and doubles ACE Breast Cancer Tennis Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 14-16. I'On is holding the tournament in conjunction with the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC. The entry deadline is Oct. 9. More information is available on the Internet at www.acebreastcancer.org.

-- The Family Circle Palmetto Cardiovascular Junior Challenger is scheduled for Sept. 23-25 at Family Circle Tennis Center. The tournament features five age divisions (10, 12, 14, 16 and 18) in both singles and doubles. Registration can be made online at www.usta.com by using the tournament ID number (704106405).


(09/14/05)  Agassi should have done this a decade sooner
Andre Agassi, not Pete Sampras, might have been the one with 14 Grand Slam titles if he had reconstructed his upper body a decade earlier.

I really believe Agassi is playing the best tennis of his life right now. His serve is far superior these days, and his ground strokes have never been better. Even his movement is comparable to the old days.

The current day Agassi would have given an at-his-best Sampras as much or more than he could have handled. By the same token, I don't have any doubt that Roger Federer in his current prime would have been too strong for Sampras at any stage of his career.
With all of that said, Agassi probably has only himself to blame for not setting records that even Federer might not have been able to exceed. I can picture Agassi in his prime, serving aces right and left, even against Sampras. All that held Agassi back in his younger days, other than questionable discipline, was his lack of upper-body strength, the strength that would have put more pop in a serve that was often a liability.

To take this one step further, what if Jimmy Connors had developed the type of upper-body strength that Agassi has at 35 years old? Connors would have been something to behold.

The fact that Sampras won a record number of Grand Slam titles doesn't make him the greatest player ever, not when he failed to make even one final on the French Open's red clay. Sampras never took the French Open seriously until late in his career when he longed for a career Grand Slam to match Agassi's. But like most Americans, Sampras didn't pay the exhausting price of preparation on red clay to give himself a solid shot at winning in Paris.

Although 10 of Roy Emerson's 12 Grand Slam titles and nine of Rod Laver's 11 Grand Slams came on grass, each demonstrated the overall quality of their games by winning the French Open twice each.

Emerson put together two career Grand Slams, while Laver accomplished the one-year Grand Slam twice.

Even though open tennis didn't arrive until 1968, Laver and Emerson faced strong competition. The Australians were like the Russian women of today in that they had what seemed like a never-ending line of talented players. Australian players won the U.S. Open 12 of 17 times between 1951 and 1967, and Wimbledon 13 of the 16 years between 1956 and 1971.

I'ON NATIONAL WINNER
Mount Pleasant's I'On Club has been selected by the U.S. Tennis Association as one of 10 winners of its 24th annual Facility Awards Program. I'On, headed by tennis director Joey Eskridge, has undergone extensive renovations. It has seven clay courts, including the area's only European red-clay court.

CPTL OPENS FRIDAY
The fourth season of the Charleston Pro Tennis League opens Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Dunes West Tennis Club. Snee Farm Country Club will play host to the league the following Friday night, with the Country Club of Charleston, Fritz Nau's Players Club in Mount Pleasant and the Daniel Island Club completing the regular-season schedule on consecutive Friday nights before the Oct. 21 semifinals at I'On and the Oct. 28 final at Family Circle Tennis Center. Admission is free, and food and beverages are provided.

-- A USTA-sponsored coach’s clinic will be held Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. The clinic is open to all coaches as well as the public.


(09/12/05)  Federer soars over his rivals
And John McEnroe said Roger Federer was choking? It really looked that way as time after time Federer missed routine shots late in the third set of Sunday's U.S. Open men's final. But was Federer just playing with 35-year-old Andre Agassi?

That also looked like a possibility, as Federer won the next six games with ease as well as breezed through a 7-1 tiebreaker to finish off a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 victory over Agassi. It was similar to a 7-0 tiebreaker sweep against Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals, just when Hewitt appeared to have found a flaw in Federer's armor.

Agassi appeared to think he actually had broken Federer's invincibility until that tiebreaker.

How could anyone suggest that someone who plays the big points so brilliantly was choking? Perhaps, Federer was even toying with McEnroe, the smartest mind in tennis.

Agassi played his heart out. He actually hurt Federer, appearing to even overpower and outhit the world's best player at times.

But why was Federer so content to float back slice backhand service returns that Agassi quickly pounced on to take charge of the point? Federer's mind must have been a thousand miles away at times.

Is Federer that much better than everyone in the current game? It certainly appears that way at the moment.

But Sunday's match, in many ways, turned out just about the way most experts expected. Agassi pushed Federer, but only to the homestretch. When the finish line popped up, Federer was sprinting and Agassi was faltering.

The fact is Federer played about as poorly as he has in a long time, but still managed to win rather comfortably. That only hard-court loss of 2005 way back in January to Marat Safin in the Australian Open now must be only a distant memory for to the world No. 1.

But to improve his chances of really becoming the best player ever to play this game, Federer must continue to improve. He can't afford to take things as casually as he did against Agassi. This may be the last time Federer plays a 35-year-old in a Grand Slam final.

And Rafael Nadal and others probably were watching Sunday, wondering what was going through Federer's head and why he continued to chip back backhands, why he missed so many backhands?

While this match may have given some in tennis hope that Federer's domination may soon end, it also might strike even greater fear into his opponents. If Federer can win one of sports' biggest prizes playing poorly, what hope is there for the rest of tennis?

THE FEDERER OF WOMEN?
Just how good is Kim Clijsters? Right now, she is the Roger Federer of the women's game.

In a season when the women's side of pro tennis has been in somewhat disarray, Clijsters has been a shining light. She has been consistently good, although it took her until Saturday night to win her first Grand Slam title.

And she just happened to be playing unpredictable 30-year-old Mary Pierce in the U.S. Open final. The biggest question concerned whether Pierce would take another long injury timeout as she had done a day earlier to unnerve talented Elena Dementieva.

Pierce tried a shorter version of timeouts, but to no avail, as Clijsters responded by winning the first three games of the second set and continued on her way to a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory.

The thing that should be scary to the rest of women's tennis is that Clijsters finally has demonstrated on the big stage of this game just how good she is, and that she indeed can win the big match. The Russians might be coming, but they had better hurry to keep pace with this 22-year-old Belgian.


(09/11/05)  Agassi's chances up to Federer
If Andre Agassi can hit the big serve as he did in the fifth sets against James Blake and Robby Ginepri . . .? If Agassi can . . .?

In reality, however, it all boils down to one thing: If Roger Federer plays anywhere close to the top of his game, Agassi will be in big trouble in today's U.S. Open men's final. Agassi has to hope that Federer didn't sleep well.

Federer's domination of former champion Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, in Saturday's semi-finals may have been a preview of today's final. The first problem for Agassi is that he doesn't have any weapons that can hurt Federer, other than an occasional big serve out wide on the ad side.

It's doubtful that Agassi can hit that serve, or a slice down the middle, often enough to protect even his own service. The second problem for Agassi is Federer's deep and penetrating serves. Because of his consistently huge serving game, Federer can afford to do almost as he wishes against his opponents' serves.

This matchup is as simple as Federer being better at everything than Agassi. If Agassi takes this one past three sets, it will be a moral victory for the 35-year-old. The only intangible is Agassi's heart. If things get tight, Agassi won't be going against an unseasoned Blake or Ginepri who might crumble in the clutch: He will be facing the game's best player.

It's unlikely that Federer will take Agassi as lightly as he took Hewitt. The slight letdown against Hewitt might have been expected since Federer hadn't dropped a set to Hewitt in their previous five meetings and that Federer had dished out a pair of 6-0 embarrassments in last year's final. Federer didn't play poorly; he just wasn't at the top of his game.

Of course, should Agassi lose, he has the perfect excuse: three straight five-set matches.

I realize everyone is pulling for Agassi, even more so after his amazing comeback against Blake. Yet today's match might have been more appealing and entertaining if Blake had made the final. Blake has the firepower, both with his serve and groundstrokes, to threaten Federer's game.

If Federer comes out determined to show New York just how good he is, as he did in last year's final when he yielded just those six games in the tiebreaker second set to Hewitt, Agassi will be in even more serious trouble than expected.

GINEPRI SURPRISING
Ginepri appeared to surprise Agassi a bit by taking his first set ever off the veteran, as CBS' Mary Carillo seemed more concerned about Agassi having to play extra sets heading into a matchup against Federer. But Ginepri gave Agassi everything he could handle.

Ginepri was a bit careless early in the fifth set, waiting too late to start serious play. Agassi beat the 22-year-old to the punch by taking the momentum with a service break in the sixth game of the last set, as Ginepri tried to finesse Agassi a little too long.

But like Blake, Ginepri is a player to watch and a key hope for U.S. tennis the next five years. He and Blake might even surpass U.S. Open first-round loser Andy Roddick. As for Roddick, his biggest regret from this U.S. Open might be that he gave the OK for the heavily publicized MoJo commercial to start airing in conjunction with the tournament.

Ginepri and Blake appear to have taken a cue from Agassi by building up their upper-body strength to add punch to their serves. With maturity and confidence, both should challenge the game's best the next few years.

LOCALS WIN NATIONALS
Charleston Pro Tennis League standouts Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell won $10,000 in cash and prizes last weekend in New York by capturing the inaugural National Beach Tennis Championships. Henderson and Whitesell, both headed to Las Vegas in November for the league tennis National Championships, went undefeated in five qualifying matches, then defeated the German team of  Nicholas Victoir and Jan Dorr, 8-2, 8-4, in the final.


(09/04/05)  Wando girls' tennis looks loaded again

Coming soon.


(08/28/05)  Roddick has time to perfect his game

Don't give up on Andy Roddick yet. He'll celebrate only his 23rd birthday on Tuesday.

Roger Federer is already an old 24.

Actually, Roddick might have an advantage in a few years, simply because of his serve and that he has so much room to improve on the other parts of his game, especially at the net. Quickness is as big a weapon as Federer has, and we all know what starts happening to that as the clock ticks.

But we're getting too far ahead of ourselves. The U.S. Open starts Monday. Don't count Roddick out, although Federer overwhelms the American when they meet, even as recently as last Sunday.

It's true that Federer is an amazing talent. And I'm really impressed with what Tony Roche has been able to accomplish with Federer's net play. That's becoming as smooth as the rest of his game. Plus, he's a superior talent to anyone in the current game. Some experts say he's the best ever. I still disagree, although he has the potential to rack up some really big numbers, if young, strong Rafael Nadal doesn't mess things up for him.

Of course, Roddick will have to be very lucky just to get to a possible meeting with Federer in the U.S. Open final, considering that Roddick is in the bottom half of the draw with Nadal. Talking about potential, what if Nadal develops his lefty serve into the weapon it could become? Continued domination of the men's game by Federer isn't assured.

KEEP THE BALL
That's right. Fans at this year's U.S. Open will be allowed to keep the balls hit into the stands during play. This is such a simple rule change that makes so much sense. And it was started by World Team Tennis CEO Ilana Kloss.

Kloss came up with this gem on the spot after seeing the look of disappointment on a young fan's face after being asked to return a ball hit into the stands during a WTT match. Kloss implemented a new WTT rule and immediately returned the ball to the fan.

"WTT is always looking for ways to be more fan-friendly and this was an easy call," Kloss said. "It's great to finally see others in the industry also adopting the idea. If we don't embrace our fans, some other sport will."

LOCAL YOUTH SELECTED
Chelsea Middlebrook of Charleston's Courting Kids program won the U.S. Tennis Association's Arthur Ashe Essay Contest for girls' 14 in the Southern Section and was awarded an all- expenses paid trip to the U.S. Open. The 13-year-old Schools of the Arts student participated in Saturday's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the National Tennis Center.

-- Charleston's Brian Ackerman spent a week in July at the USTA's National Junior Tennis League camp in Orlando, Fla.

CAMP POSTPONED
Local tennis players will not have the opportunity to hit and train with former French Open doubles champions Luke and Murphy Jensen this fall after all. Family Circle Tennis Center has postponed the Men's Fantasy Camp it had scheduled for Oct. 14-16. Officials at the Daniel Island tennis complex felt its staff needed a breather after a demanding schedule that included serving as host for the recent two-week Southern Sectional Championships.

SNEE FARM JUNIOR

The 12th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament is scheduled for Sept. 16-18 at the Snee Farm Country Club in Mount Pleasant (884-3252). The entry deadline is Sunday, Sept. 11. The tournament will feature boys' and girls' competition in divisions 10-18 in singles and doubles. Registration is available online at www.usta.com (tournament number is 704137105).


(08/24/05)  Clijsters finds her best form
Coming soon.


(08/21/05)  Impact of college on pro tennis debatable
They all should still have been in high school when they arrived at Wild Dunes in the spring of 1988 for the U.S. Clay Courts. But Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras had big dreams.

A little over a year later at the age of 17, Chang would win the French Open to open the floodgates for this Fabulous Foursome's assault on the Grand Slam record books. The group has won a total of 27 Grand Slam titles, and Agassi is hoping to tack on the 28th at the U.S. Open.

These four players fed off of each other, especially in those early years. They had their own competition, measuring their own success by that of their rivals, their friends.

The Grand Prix circuit became their own version of junior tennis. Possibly because of this competition between these young players and their now well documented success at the highest level of men's tennis, Agassi, Chang, Courier and Sampras thrived by not playing college tennis.

But in so doing this, not only did they alter professional tennis, they changed the face of junior and college tennis in this country. No longer did hot-shot juniors look forward to playing college tennis. No, not when they could hit the pro tournament trail, and strike it rich. Or so they thought.

But 17 years later, the plan simply isn't working out for American juniors.

"Thinking you are going from juniors to the pros is a pipe dream," ESPN analyst Luke Jensen told me earlier this summer.

So, while Agassi, Chang, Courier and Sampras may have been America's finest contingent of players to come along at basically the same time, their impact, their success, on the American game without the advantage of college may be one reason the United States currently has so few really top players.

College? Who needs it? But Jensen thinks the lack of the college tennis experience is playing a role in the budding absence of Americans as future Grand Slam champions.

"There's probably 12 guys (Americans) making money (currently on the pro tour)," Jensen said. "If you're not top 100, you're not making money. These guys are spending $50,000 a year in expenses and not making it up. It's not like golf."

Of course, Jensen is from the pre-Fab Four era. He's 39 years old. He played two years at Stanford before turning pro and eventually winning a French Open doubles title with his brother, Murphy.

Most of the American greats of the 1960s through the 1980s played at least some college tennis. From Arthur Ashe at UCLA, to Stan Smith at Southern Cal, to Jimmy Connors at UCLA, to John McEnroe at Stanford. But starting with Agassi, Chang, Courier and Sampras, there wasn't enough time for the top American junior to attend college. Few of America's top current players, other than James Blake who spent two years at Harvard, probably have ever seen the inside of a college classroom.

Meanwhile, most of the scholarships at big-time tennis colleges as well as small schools are going to players from other countries. American tennis is getting hit from both sides. Top juniors aren't interested in college and foreign players are taking advantage of that opening to dominate U.S. college tennis.

But why are America's top juniors losing interest?

"Why the public doesn't scream out is amazing to me," Jensen said. "I would only recruit Americans. When the state champion out of South Carolina can't get a scholarship it's a serious problem.

"It doesn't matter if you win or not. It's not football or basketball and it doesn't make revenue for the colleges. Somebody has to explain to me in a non-revenue sport why it is so important to win.

"There are lots of people playing tennis. The facilities are great. The coaching is great. You have to look at a way to get to the top. For me, it was juniors, high school, then college, then pro. There is no better way to get an education than through college," said Jensen, who along with his brother Murphy will participate in a Men's Fantasy Camp Oct. 14-16 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"People say American players have to step up. But you've got a (foreign) player who played on the (pro satellite) circuit and they call up (colleges) and ask if they can play. The local player doesn't get that opportunity, and the local player quits playing tennis. I am not saying I am against foreign players getting scholarships, but I think it is very hard to compete and get to the next level and survive there."

Yes, Jensen believes top U.S. players are missing out on the benefits of college competition partly because of foreign players.

"If there are no spots for South Carolina players how are they supposed to step up to the next level?" Jensen asked. "You can't even walk-on unless you're top 20 in the nation. You've got no shot."


(08/17/05)  Blake has potential to shine
James Blake loses about as often as he wins in men's pro tennis. Obviously, with an 18-17 record for the year, he isn't one of tennis' better-known players.

That doesn't mean he couldn't be, even though he'll turn 26 years old later this year. Blake is on a tightrope with the clock. He has time, but he has to hurry.

The 6-1, 175-pound New Yorker appears to be fully capable of planting his name on the tennis world. He just needs a little luck on his side, like not having to face Roger Federer in the first round of a tournament.

Watching Blake perform against Federer in Cincinnati late Monday night on ESPN2, you would never have known that he wasn't a top-10 player. Blake went toe to toe with Federer for much of his 7-6, 7-5 loss. He just didn't play the big points as well as the world's No. 1 player.

Blake has struggled with his game since turning pro in 1999 after two years at Harvard. He did reach No. 22 in the world in May 2003, but he was hindered by injuries, illness and the death of his father in 2004.

He held Federer at bay until the crucial tiebreaker and games, matching Federer from the baseline with his huge forehand. The performance by Blake against Federer was almost a repeat of his play against Andy Roddick eight days earlier in the Washington final, in that he played well enough to win, but also lost.

With the U.S. Open less than two weeks away, Blake appears to be primed for his best showing, especially if someone happens to take the big guns -- Federer, Roddick and Rafael Nadal --out of his path.

AGASSI NEEDS HELP
Andre Agassi needs a little help, too. Just keep Federer and Nadal out of his way. Agassi may never beat either of those players again. He simply can't hurt them. That much was obvious in Nadal's three-set victory over Agassi in the Montreal final Sunday.

Although he played superb tennis, Agassi couldn't overcome Nadal's defense, except in the second set when the 19-year-old Spaniard apeared to lose a bit of focus. It's that ability to take defense to such a high level and then turn to instant offense that separates Federer and Nadal from the rest of men's tennis.

Agassi's weapons appear to be as dangerous as ever. And he's still in terrific condition. He can hit just about anyone off the court, except Federer or Nadal. Of course, Agassi will have to be very lucky to avoid one of those players if he goes deep into the U.S. Open draw.

CLIJSTERS THE BEST?
Kim Clijsters looks like women's tennis' best player right now, thanks to extended layoffs by Venus and Serena Williams, and Justine Henin-Hardenne, along with injuries to current No. 1 Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova.

Take away her obvious letdown against China's Shual Peng in San Diego, and Clijsters would be on a long winning streak. Nevertheless, her win Sunday in Los Angeles gave her a fifth title in 2005.

Like Nadal, Clijsters plays incredible defense, but at times she appears to completely lose focus and can go from great to average in a matter of a few points. She already has demonstrated that flaw in four Grand Slam finals.

PINE FOREST EVENT

A field of 119 players is entered in this weekend's Junior Open tournament at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club. Play begins Friday at 4 p.m.

All matches will be played at Pine Forest, which now has 10 Har-Tru courts.

CITY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Charleston Tennis Center will serve as the host for the City Championships set Sept. 8-11. The tournament will feature competition for juniors, seniors and adults in singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. The entry deadline is Sept. 3. Contact the tennis center at 766-7401.


(08/14/05)  Local realtor serves up winning combination
Tennis ties and tennis bumper stickers? Why not? I've always emphasized that tennis people should show their passion for the game. This outward demonstration of passion can only boost interest in this sport of a lifetime. Not only can tennis ties and bumper stickers inspire conversation between two strangers, they also could help you find someone new to play.

Maria Latto mixes her love for tennis with her job. You might call her an ace real estate agent. She runs a real estate ad in The Post and Courier that also reflects her passion for tennis. "Great service is what you expect from a realtor and I deliver in aces," her ad states alongside a graphic of a woman hitting a tennis ball.

"I've had that little logo for a long time, and I thought it was catchy since I play tennis. You sometimes go to a store and nobody seems to pay attention to you, but I take the service part seriously," said Latto, a John's Island resident who is an agent for Agent Owned Realty on Savannah Highway.

"I've had a lot of people make comments on it (the ad). A lot of people say, 'I saw your ad . . . I'll give your name to clients.'"

As you might have guessed, Latto is a long-time league tennis player. She plays year-around, currently in the combo league, but soon it will be the fall adult league, then the spring adult league and finally the mixed doubles league early next summer. Maria Latto has served as a team captain, but now she's just another 3.0 player who loves the game enough to show her passion for it.

CPTL SETS SCHEDULE
There's no Davis Cup or Fed Cup coming to Charleston this fall, but local tennis fans are fortunate to have another high-level team competition to follow. The Charleston Pro Tennis League will kick off its fourth season on Aug. 29 with its annual draft party.

The league's first of five regular-season Friday night competitions will be held Sept. 16 at Dunes West Tennis Center. Snee Farm, the Country Club of Charleston, Fritz Nau's new Players Club on Mathis Ferry Road and the Daniel Island Club will follow in order as the other regular-season hosts.

The CPTL playoffs will begin Oct. 21 at the I'On Club, followed by the championship match Oct. 28 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The opening match originally was scheduled to be played at the College of Charleston facility at Patriots Point, but unexpected construction work on the complex forced the CPTL to switch to Dunes West.

"Dunes West is a great place, and their pro, Jack Miller, plays in the CPTL," league co-founder Chris Henderson said.

BEACH TENNIS PARTY
Chris Henderson and College of Charleston men's tennis coach Phil Whitesell are keeping their rackets active as they prepare for league tennis' national championships in Las Vegas in late November, but they also are getting ready to compete in a beach tennis national event in New York over Labor Day weekend.

"We're going up there to win it," said Henderson. "It's a new sport and nobody has a clear advantage."

Thirty-two teams will compete for a $10,000 purse. Henderson and Whitesell teamed together to win a beach tennis tournament in Myrtle Beach earlier this year to qualify for the New York event.

Myrtle Beach pro Will Bull, who plays on Henderson's men's open Southern Sectional championship league tennis team, also will participate in the New York event. Whitesell is a member of Joey Eskridge's men's 5.5 sectional-winning team.

STATE MIXED DOUBLES
A captain's meeting at 5 p.m. next Friday at the Charleston Riverview Hotel will set the stage for the State Mixed Doubles Championships that will be headquartered at Charleston Tennis Center.

The three-day state tournament will start next Saturday at the host site as well as St. Andrew's Parks and Playground, the newly resurfaced Moultrie Playground and Maybank Tennis Center.

SCARAFILE WINS
Mishka (pronounced Mee-sha) Scarafile just returned from Jekyll Island, Ga., where he won the Jekyll Island Clay Courts Tournament boys' 12 singles title. The 11-year-old attends Charleston Day School and is coached by MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee.


(08/10/05)  Pierce taps experience in revival
Is Mary Pierce really back? At 30 years old, you've got to wonder just how long this comeback will last.

But it is age that probably has brought Pierce this far back. For the first time I can remember, she looks like she really wants to play tennis. Perhaps she finally realizes that time is running out.

Even five years ago when she won the Family Circle Cup in its last year at Hilton Head Island, Pierce didn't look like she really enjoyed the game. She seemed to be waiting for the next psychological exodus. But she hung around long enough to win that year's French Open, five years after winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Maybe, it's a five-year thing for Pierce. You know, 1995, the Australian; 2000, the French; and 2005, the U.S. Open. Pierce, at least, has to be considered a contender in New York after the way she played last weekend in winning the Tier I event in San Diego.

Pierce's game started to come together at the French Open, where she was a finalist and continued to improve while she advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Appearing fit and healthy, she was simply outstanding in San Diego, where she destroyed talented 19-year-old Shuai Peng of China one day after Peng ended Kim Clijsters' long string of victories in the United States. Pierce used her power to dominate Ai Sugiyami in the final.

Power never goes out of season. And, just like Lindsay Davenport, that's what Pierce has. A big woman at 5-10, she's capable of striking the ball about as well as any woman this game has seen. She's a flat hitter who drives the ball so deep into her opponent's court that she's usually in charge of the point until she overpowers her opponent or commits an error. And her serve packs a huge, flat wallop. If she's hitting her service locations consistently, she can be tough to break.

Throughout most of her career Pierce has appeared to have unmotivated feet. Her philosophy appeared to be if she couldn't reach a ball without exerting herself, then let it go. But now appearing to be trimmer than even in her younger days, her movement has improved drastically. And she appears to be motivated from head to foot.

-- If Peng's performances in San Diego were for real, she may be headed for a quick rise on the WTA Tour. She displayed brilliant depth and pace while using Monica Seles-style two-handers from both sides. She also upset Russia's Elena Dementieva at San Diego.

HEINZ COMPLETES SLAM
Young Austin Heinz of Daniel Island has completed what might be considered the state doubles grand slam by winning both the boys' 10 and 12 titles in the just- completed State-Closed Junior Doubles Championships in Columbia. Just 9 years old, Heinz teamed with Matthew Fisher of Pawleys Island to win both titles.

Heinz and Fisher also won boys' 10 doubles titles at Belton and the Southern Closed. Heinz teamed with another player to capture the State-Closed Hard Courts in doubles. Heinz won the recent State-Closed Clay Courts in singles by beating Summerville's Joel Roberts in the final after taking the singles title in the Hard Courts earlier in the summer.

-- Charleston's Randall Heffron won the boys' 14 State-Closed doubles title playing with Austin McAlister of Greenwood.

MIXED DOUBLES COMING
Another league tennis championship is coming to town this month. It's the State Mixed Doubles Championships, which will be headquartered at Charleston Tennis Center, starting with the Aug. 19 captain's meeting. Tournament play will start the next day.

COURTING KIDS SET
The summer session of Courting Kids ended last weekend, but the city program is set to start its fall sessions Sept. 10 at Moultrie Playground and on Johns Island. For more information, contact Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).


(08/07/05)  Pros and cons of T-shirts and tennis
Proper tennis attire for most of the tennis world is simple. Real tennis shoes, acceptable shorts, and an appropriate short or top.

T-shirts may be the unofficial universal shirt for tennis. You'll get one if you participate in almost any type of tennis event. I've got two or three drawers full of them, not counting the hundreds that my two daughters have acquired over the years from junior tennis to college tennis.

T-shirts seem to be America's preferred shirt for relaxation. I can't wait to get home every day and put on one of my favorite, and, yes, comfortable T-shirts. Of course, I wouldn't dare do yard work in one of my old relics, say from a Super Bowl of the 1980s, or from the Fed Cup's visit to Charleston in 1998, or the T-shirt Chris Evert autographed after she had teamed with me to win Bud Collins' media tournament at Hilton Head Island.

Playing tennis in a T-shirt is about as good as it gets for the recreational tennis player. I still think most junior tournaments should stop giving players T-shirts to their participants. The costs for the T-shirts were hidden in some of the entry fees. I'd like to see that change, although I'm not opposed to maybe statewide, sectional or national events providing T-shirts to their participants. They can be a keepsake.

THE REAL ISSUE
Yes, T-shirts and tennis go together like a ball and a racket.

That brings us to rec league tennis. T-shirts are fine to wear in USTA league tennis events. If a club doesn't want its guests to play in T-shirts, perhaps it should consider playing all of its matches away from home.

Certainly, the USTA shouldn't impose restrictions on league play that would ban wearing T-shirts during any league competition. Perhaps, the USTA should state in its guidelines that T-shirts are appropriate attire for league tennis participation. No one at the USTA's New York offices seemed to have an answer to this debate Friday afternoon. As far as I can determine, there isn't a guideline for proper tennis attire listed in the 50-page ITF Rules of Tennis on the USTA Web site.

League tennis is the very heart and soul of tennis in this country. That was obvious the last two weeks at the Southern Sectional Championships. A record 2,038 players participated.

Standard tennis attire is appropriate for league tennis.

Imposing Wimbledon-type attire rules probably would not be in the best interest of league tennis.

Such rules would only hurt the game at a time when it is trying so desperately to preserve and improve the inroad it has made into the mainstream of American sports.

T-SHIRTS BANNED
So, where are we heading? An email from Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer to local team captains says Daniel Island Park Club has initiated a dress code that also will apply to players on visiting league teams. The club's dress code specifically bans T-shirts.

"Please make sure that your players are aware of the code and comply with it when you have matches there. That will save both them and the pro the embarrassment of asking someone to leave," Peiffer's statement said.

One team captain's response was, "While my team doesn't have a problem, they don't think it's good for league tennis. Certainly Daniel Island is exclusive and has the right to impose dress codes to their members and guests. But once they agree to participate in league tennis, they are crossing over to all walks of life."


(08/03/05)  Wild Dunes job opening draws high interest
The biggest question concerning Charleston's Southern champion men's open team isn't about the weather in Las Vegas. It'll be hot in the desert, even in late November when Chris Henderson's team participates in the league tennis national championships.

No, the big question on the team is whether Will Bull will still call Myrtle Beach home, or Ben Cook will still be teaching tennis in Aiken or if Charly Rasheed will remain at Lexington's Topspin Racquet Club. Or if one of the three will be lucky enough to draw the winning assignment to move to Wild Dunes Resort in time for the fourth Charleston Pro Tennis League season.

All three of these talented, young club pros obviously would love to call Wild Dunes their new tennis home. The Wild Dunes tennis director's job was the center of conversation this past weekend as Bull, Cook and Rasheed played vital roles in their team's march to the sectional champion-ship.

But they aren't alone in hopes of landing the Wild Dunes post. According to current Wild Dunes tennis director T.J. Van Thullenar, two other top candidates for the job he will vacate at the end of August are Charleston native Lester Herbert, who directs the tennis program at the Greenville Country Club, and former touring pro and coach TJ Middleton, who operated out of Atlanta's Racquet Club of the South as its owner prior to becoming Paradorn Srichaphan's coach on the ATP Tour.

"I've been interviewing these guys, but all of them are my buddies. So, I won't make the final call," Van Thullenar said Tuesday.

Instead, Van Thullenar said that decision will be made by Terri Haack, the managing director for Wild Dunes.

So, where is Van Thullenar off to at the age of 33 after holding down the Wild Dunes post for the last eight years? "I'm looking to make a career change," he said.

The former Bishop England and Erskine College standout earned his real estate license last December and has been plying those skills part-time with the Isle of Palms' Beachside Real Estate. He plans to join the company on a full-time basis.

"We have a lot of construction going on, which is great. The way the housing market is on this island, I'm starting to enjoy doing it," he said.

"But I'm going to continue playing and teaching a little (tennis) on the side."

And, yes, he plans to play in the CPTL this fall.

"I feel like I'm going out on top," Van Thullenar said. "There's not much more I can do, with the resort rankings (Wild Dunes is ranked second in the world by Tennis Resorts Online and ninth by Tennis Magazine), and we (a 5.5 league tennis team) went out and won the national title two years ago with Chris Henderson."

Bull is the veteran tennis director at Myrtle Beach's Kingston Plantation. He attended Clemson prior to trying his luck on the pro tennis tour for awhile.

Cook is the tennis director at Aiken's Woodside Country Club and played tennis for the University of South Carolina. Rasheed played at the University of Mississippi.

Middleton is a former University of Georgia All-American and Wimbledon mixed doubles finalist. He has split ways with the Srichaphan camp and no longer coaches on the pro tour.

Van Thullenar and Herbert go back a few years. "Lester actually coached me at Bishop England," he said. Van Thullenar also worked at a club with Herbert in Knoxville, Tenn., before moving back to Charleston to join Wild Dunes.

Herbert was on the Wild Dunes staff in the 1980s before Hurricane Hugo hit the resort in 1989.


(07/31/05)  Southern Sectional evokes memories of satellite tennis

Satellite tennis, where have you gone? Spending much of Saturday at Creekside Tennis and Swim, either waiting out a morning rain delay in the Southern Sectional Championships or recovering from the delay in the afternoon, brought back memories of satellite tennis.

In the last three decades of the last century, Creekside was the tennis Mecca of Charleston. When the U.S. Tennis Association's men's satellite circuit rolled into town in early April with its legion of aspiring pros, local tennis fans got their only glimpse of real men's professional tennis.

Who remembers when the then reigning Australian Open champion, Mark Edmondson, made his brief appearance on court No. 2 in 1976 a few months after winning his lone Grand Slam title or when a long-haired, 15-year-old Andre Agassi lost on the same No. 2 court on which Toby Simpson and Will Bull mopped up the doubles team from Durham, N.C., on Saturday morning.

Bull and Simpson didn't quite come up to Agassi's quality, but they just as easily could have been playing satellite pro tennis. In fact, Bull did try the pros in his younger days after a junior career that may have been the most spectacular of any South Carolina native. Simpson also tried the pro satellite circuit after playing for Southern Mississippi.

So, in a sense the satellite tour arrived back in Charleston two years ago when Chris Henderson and Stuart Small got together and mapped out the innovative strategy for starting the Charleston Pro Tennis League. The CPTL is made up of players who play the doubles game at a skill level probably as high as at some ATP Tour events.

The results of the CPTL's two seasons of existence have never been more obvious than during the second half of the Southern Sectional Championships. Two Charleston teams, made up mostly of CPTL players, have marched through the best 5.5 and open tennis teams in the nine-state Southern Sectional. When these two teams were one in 2003, Charleston won the national 5.5 league tennis championship.

And now both of these teams are on the verge of heading to Las Vegas to compete in another national championship.

The CPTL is the model of club pro tennis in this country. Several other cities, such as Charlotte and Myrtle Beach, and others farther away, are trying to copy the CPTL.

The league performs in a country club-type social atmosphere, playing on fall Friday nights at local clubs such as Snee Farm, I'On Club and the Country Club of Charleston as well as the College of Charleston's award-winning complex and Family Circle Tennis Center. The league draws standing-room only crowds for most of its matches.

These guys on the Charleston teams that will clash this morning at 8 at Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex, Bull and Simpson, Henderson and Charly Rasheed, as well as a dozen others, play outstanding doubles. They remind you a little of Robert Seguso and Ken Flach, who played on that same No. 2 court at Creekside before going on to Davis Cup doubles fame. These guys are professional doubles players.

And then there's big Carlos Lozano, who was a collegiate All-American at Brigham Young in 2003. He's a pro at Lexington's Topspin Club with Rasheed, and hasn't played in the CPTL yet. He may play this fall.

Lozano and former South Carolina player Ben Cook, who also hasn't played in the CPTL, are the top-ranked open doubles team in the South.

HEINZ, PERKINS WIN
Local players Taylor Perkins and Austin Heinz won singles titles in the just completed State-Closed Junior Clay Courts at the Greenville Country Club. Perkins won girls' 10 and Heinz boys' 10, his second straight state-closed title.

Heinz also won the State Hard Courts singles title earlier this summer as well as doubles titles at Belton, the Southern Closed and State Hard Courts. The Greenville event didn't feature doubles, but Heinz will try to complete a grand slam in state doubles next weekend in the clay-court state doubles in Columbia.

Several local players made the finals at Greenville: Meghan Blevins in girls' 12, Hagan Edgerton in girls' 14 and John Karle in boys' 12.


(07/29/05)  Expectations high for local men's team
The pressure is on Charleston's men's open team in league tennis' Southern Sectional Championships. It's win or nothing for the team that won a national 5.5 title two years ago and was a national semifinalist in the open division in 2004. The Chris Henderson-captained team must win the 5.5 division to qualify for another trip to the nationals, while any of the 5.5 teams in the six-team competition can pick up a ticket to the nationals by taking a first or second place.

"Southern tennis decided to do something different by combining the 5.5 and open divisions," Henderson said Thursday. "Last year they separated the divisions and we won the open.

"The winning team will get the open berth in the nationals and the second-place team will represent 5.5. But if we come in second, we can't go to the nationals and play 5.5. We're an open team and we hope to live up to our expectations."

Carlos Lozano, Ben Cook, Will Bull and newcomer Erick Martinez are all rated above the 5.5 level of Henderson, The Citadel coach Toby Simpson and Charly Rasheed.

"We picked up Martinez since the state tournament because we needed another strong singles player. We also needed another player in the heat. We've got seven players now," said Henderson, a former All-Southern Conference player for Furman and founder of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League.

The sectional competition features two doubles and a singles match in 5.5.

The toughest competition for Henderson's team could come from the second Charleston team in the division, Joey Eskridge's 5.5 team that was state runner-up to the open team.

Each Charleston team is scheduled to play two matches today and Saturday before the two square off Sunday morning in what is expected to be the championship match of the round-robin competition.


(07/27/05)  Hilton Head women score state's only sectional crown
Coming soon.


(07/24/05)  Charleston a tennis destination
What a coup for the Family Circle Tennis Center. After hosting the Davis Cup semifinals and, of course, the Family Circle Cup, here comes the world's largest tennis tournament.

U.S. Tennis Association presidents are beginning to feel quite at home on Daniel Island. It was Alan Schwartz in his final months as USTA president who was a part of the Davis Cup festivities there last September. Friday night, new USTA president Franklin Johnson took centerstage at the Tennis Center for the captains meeting of the USTA's 2,000-participant Southern Sectional League Championships.

The USTA must love Charleston and Family Circle Tennis Center.

And Charleston loves it all, especially the projected $3.6 million economic impact being generated by the Southern Sectionals.

CHARLESTONIAN ABSENCE
There are local volunteers everywhere, but Charleston tennis players left their rackets home this opening weekend of the Southern Sectionals. As unlikely as it might seem, the area doesn't have a team in the opening weekend's competition.

Charleston teams failed to capture a state championship in any of the five men's and five women's divisions, so they are on the sidelines.

But all of that will change when seven different men's and women's divisions start play Thursday. Two men's and two women's teams from Charleston have qualified in the top divisions (5.0 and 5.5), and a couple of them appear to have great chances to advance to the nationals.

-- Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer has organized 125-130 volunteers to help with the Southern Sectionals.

-- Most of the publicity for the sectionals is centered around the six host sites located East of the Cooper. But six other facilities have been designated as practice and backup sites: Dunes West, Park West, Brickyard Plantation, Charleston Tennis Center, The Citadel and Collins Park.

RODDICK LACKS FIRE
The one-sided loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final may have taken its toll on Andy Roddick. The American was quite lackluster in his three-set upset by 98th-ranked Robby Ginepri on Friday in Indianapolis. Ginepri was much stronger and consistent off the ground.

The only time Roddick showed any fire was late in the match after what looked like a bad call. Even his serve didn't have its normal zip.

Roddick appears to be a little undecided about his game, realizing that the only way he might be able to take it to the next level -- beating Federer -- is by developing a solid net game and approach shots. Hopefully, he will rediscover his fire and find his game by the time the U.S. Open starts.

-- The RCA Championships and a Todd Martin commercial that aired during Saturday's coverage showed the improvement in contrast between the old green color scheme for tennis and the new blue one for the U.S. Open Series and the U.S. Open. The green court used for the commercial was drab green, while the blue court Roddick and Ginepri played on offered TV viewers excellent contrast when trying to follow the ball.

PTL DEADLINE
The deadline for entering the new Palmetto Tennis League is Friday. The independent league, which is scheduled to start up later this summer, will feature three doubles matches.

The first two men's doubles matches will be played Saturdays at 9 a.m., followed by the No. 3 doubles match. The top two women's matches start at 1 p.m. on Sundays, followed by the third match. No USTA rating is needed. For more information, go to www.palmettotennisleague.com on the internet.


(07/23/05)  Tennis players from nine states converge on Lowcountry
SOUTHERN SECTIONAL
What: U.S. Tennis Association’s Southern Sectional League Championship
When: Begins at 8 a.m. today
Participants: Approximately 2,000 men and women from nine Southern states.
Format: Play will begin today in men’s and women’s 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 divisions, along with senior men’s and women’s 4.0 and 4.5 finals scheduled for Tuesday.  Another four-day tournament will start Thursday for men’s and women’s 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5 and senior men’s and women’s 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5.
 
League tennis’ Southern Sectional Championship may have found a true home after a quarter-century as a vagabond.  These nine-state sectionals have been held all over the South, including Columbia the last two years, but never in Charleston.

But judging from early reactions from participants, these next nine days will be special to the teams and players that make up the approximate 2,000 entries in this year’s Southern Sectionals that will be headquartered at the Family Circle Tennis Center, which also will serve as host in 2006.  Play is scheduled to begin today at 8 a.m. at six sites east of the Cooper.

Players started arriving at least as early as Thursday for the opening four-day segment in the championships that will run through Tuesday.  Another group of teams will start arriving at least as early as Monday for phase two, which will begin next Thursday.  All of those extra hotel nights count quite significantly toward the $3.6 million economic impact on the Charleston area as projected by the center for business Research at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re just trying not to get lost,” said Judy Taylor, the captain of a 4.0 senior women’s team from Little Rock, Ark., Thursday night after flying into Charleston.

“This is the first time I’ve been in Charleston.  It’s beautiful,” Taylor added. “We’re just praying for no rain.”

Taylor’s team of nine women represents the Little Rock Athletic Club.  The team should be a contender for Southern honors since three of its members played on a team that advanced to last year’s national championships in Tucson, Ariz.

“They had to break up their team and we got three of them,” said Taylor whose team will face Mississippi at 9:30 a.m. today and Tennessee at 4 p.m.

“Most of also played in Columbia two years ago.”

One of the main concerns for the Little Rock women is how they will perform on clay surface.

“They’ve told us the seniors will be playing on clay.  We usually play on hard courts, but we’ve been practicing for six weeks on clay,” Taylor said.

“We had to learn how to play on clay, how to move our feet.”

Family Circle Tennis Center and Snee Farm Country Club will use clay as well as hard courts, while the Daniel Island Tennis Club will have only clay courts available.  The other three facilities are hard courts only.

The Little Rock team doesn’t plan to start leaving Charleston until at least after Tuesday’s finals.

Men’s and women’s 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 divisions, along with senior men’s and women’s 4.0 and 4.5 begin play today, while men’s and women’s 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5 and senior men’s and women’s 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 will start their tournament next Thursday.

Teams have arrived or will be arriving from 200 teams from all over the South – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas.

As a matter of fact, the 3.5 senior women’s team from Texarkana, Ark., plans to fly into Charleston on Monday while the first tournament is underway.

“We don’t start until Thursday, but I’ve never been to South Carolina,” said team captain Dona Epperson from her Texarkana, Texas, home Thursday night.

The Texarkana women plan to stay seven nights, prompting Epperson to say “If we go any further (nationals), we’ll have to find a sponsor.  This is the first time we’ve come so far (to the sectionals).”

Epperson’s team also will have to learn fast on clay courts.

“We have only two clay courts in Texarkana, at the Texarkana Country Club, and we’ve worn those courts out,” she said.


(07/17/05)  Improved Open Series on the way
So, you want to watch some tennis on TV other than during Grand Slam tournaments?

It was great being able to turn the dial to tennis just about anytime of the day during Wimbledon; or anytime of the night during the Australian Open. Grand Slams tend to spoil tennis fans.

But you want a little more coverage, something a little longer? Something you can sit down and relax watching on Sunday afternoons that doesn't involve a little white ball rolling into a cup?

Tennis on television, other than at a Grand Slam, was a rarity in past years until the U.S. Tennis Association got together with the television networks last summer to promote the U.S. Open Series. The offering made such a positive impression that this year's U.S. Open Series is bigger and better.

Imagine being able, for six straight Sundays at 3 p.m., to sit down in front of the TV and to cap off a marvelous weekend with several hours of watching professional tournament finals.

All of this starts next Sunday with NBC's coverage of the RCA Championships men's final. A week later, ESPN2 will carry the men's Mercedes-Benz Cup final, immediately followed by women's Bank of the West Classic. The schedule goes on for four more weeks, capped off by the USTA-owned men's and women's Pilot Pen. That's all just in time for the U.S. Open and its never-ending coverage.

Of course, the new blue courts for all U.S. Open Series events as well as the U.S. Open should immensely improve the contrast for TV viewers.

SERIES A WINNER
The USTA takes a great deal of heat for some of the things it does or doesn't do, but the U.S. Open Series is a winner. This circuit is probably one of the best things the USTA has done in the last quarter century. I am a firm believer that the future of tennis rests in the game's ability to take the sport to the masses; that every time you turn on the TV set you have to click past tennis along with the Weather Channel, Speed Channel and Golf Channel.

As the governing body of tennis in this country, the USTA is the only organization that can accomplish that task. The USTA, even as a not-for-profit organization, seems to have a boundless supply of money generated from its nearly three-quarter million members in the form of annual dues and the U.S. Open along with such things as junior tournament entry fees.

USTA MISSING BOAT
While we're on the financial end of tennis, it's important for the game's future to keep juniors playing tennis until they ultimately become USTA League participants. The USTA is missing the boat badly in this area while failing to grow the game among juniors.

Instead of collecting a portion of every entry fee that juniors pay out to play in tournaments, the USTA should be sending checks to clubs and complexes to help cover the cost of the junior tournaments they stage. Novice-level tournaments then might not need to routinely charge $30 or higher entry fees. Of course, it's expensive to put on a junior tournament. That's why the USTA should help pay for the tournaments rather than directly benefit from them financially, because in the final analysis the USTA and tennis in general would prosper with greater junior tournament participation.

Junior tournaments are expensive for players and their families. If a family has two juniors, $30 entry fees equal $60 for a weekend. Sixty dollars might not be much to some families, but to other families that's taking several days' food off the table.

If tournaments must give T-shirts to participants, the USTA should provide them free of charge to the tournaments. Surely, the USTA could get a better deal by purchasing the T-shirts at a bulk rate, and personalizing them for the local tournaments.

-- The USTA will hold a board of directors meeting next weekend during the Southern Sectional League Championships at Family Circle Tennis Center. The USTA lists nine directors at large along with seven officers.


(07/03/05)  Venus surpasses sister as best player in family
Life can change as quickly as Venus Williams can switch directions.

Two years ago, many tennis experts regarded Serena Williams as the game's best player ever. Venus' little sister had won five of the six Grand Slam tournaments at that point and looked as if she may never lose another.

But right now Serena isn't even the best player in the family. Venus has regained the upper hand with a miraculous Wimbledon. At 25 years old, there is no reason to believe that Venus can't establish herself as the game's best player ever.

In defeating Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 7-6, 9-7, in the longest Wimbledon women's final ever, Venus was superb when the match was on the line. She played poorly early in the match and appeared incapable of handling Davenport's power off the ground and from the serve.

But when her back was against the wall, Venus played incredible tennis. She simply wore out Davenport with her resistance to yielding the fatal blow. Venus was everywhere on critical points in the last two sets. Davenport couldn't handle Venus' shot-making ability and court coverage.

Perhaps, the dominance of Serena was the biggest detriment to Venus' impact on women's tennis. While Serena won five of six Grand Slams, Venus was runner-up each time. That alone changed Venus' mental approach and made her beatable by almost anyone in the women's game. This Wimbledon gave Venus' career new life when Serena went out early. Suddenly, Venus carried the family's hope.

Venus was ready this time. She marched almost flawlessly to the semifinals, then did the unthinkable. She overwhelmed TV's golden girl, Maria Sharapova, much to the dismay of NBC's Mary Carillo, and ESPN's Chris Fowler and Brad Gilbert.

John McEnroe had the nerve to say Venus was the better athlete of the two. For some reason, McEnroe apparently wasn't in the NBC broadcast booth for the women's final.

Davenport will remain No. 1 in the world for now. But she must know that it will be only a matter of time before either Venus or early Wimbledon loser Justine Henin-Hardenne relegate her to the shadows again. It is Davenport who has benefitted the most from the demise of the Williams sisters and the Belgians, Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.

No one can say Davenport didn't want this Wimbledon badly. She retrieved balls that most of her career would have gone for winners by her opponent. But in the end, Venus Williams proved to be the better athlete and player.

RODDICK STRATEGY
Andy Roddick's plight today may look hopeless. But Venus Williams' Wimbledon performances should give Roddick hope.

Roddick may now actually have the game to handle two-time defending champion Roger Federer. Roddick is a far more complete player than the one that lost to Federer in last year's final.

Not only is Roddick's serve probably more consistent, he hasn't sacrificed any power. It's no longer aces or nothing for Roddick. Expect Roddick's service placements to continue to create easy points, even against Federer. Just blocking Roddick's serves back may not be enough for Federer this time.

Roddick is quicker, lighter and fitter this year. He also appears to be more mature and focused.

Also, a net game is no longer foreign to Roddick. Obviously, his camp has worked long and hard on devising a strategy to get Roddick to the net at more opportune times.

Roddick's volleying has been outstanding most of this Wimbledon. One reason for this is he's making good decisions on his net approaches. Another one has been practically overlooked. Roddick is now using a slice one-handed backhand to attack the net. He still uses the two-handed backhand in normal situations to drive the ball deep as well as to create pace for his passing shots.

This move obviously was made in hopes the ground-hugging one-handed slice will disrupt Federer's quick-swinging backhand and allow Roddick to pick off shots at the net. This strategy should work well on Wimbledon's slick grass. If it does, the course of Roddick's career, as well as Federer's, could be altered today.

FISHBURNE WINS
Charleston's Diane Fishburne lived up to her world's No. 1 women's 45 ranking in the recent European Championships in Baden-Baden, Germany. Fishburne defeated Czech Barbara Koutna, 6-1, 6-4, in the final of the tournament that was played on red clay.

SATURDAY DEADLINE
Saturday is the deadline for entering the July 15-17 Maybank Junior Challenger. Competition will be staged in boys' and girls' 10-18 singles and doubles. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for more information.


(06/29/05)  Roddick has clear path to men's final
Getting to a Wimbledon final shouldn't be so simple. This must be Andy Roddick's year. Of course, Roddick still has a couple more wins to go before arriving in Sunday's final. And he did take some of the simplicity out of his march by allowing lucky loser Daniele Bracciali to stick around for five sets in the second round.

But everything has just fallen into place for the American. He didn't have to face big ace machine Ivo Karlovic in the second round or Davis Cup wrecker Ivan Ljubicic in the the fourth round. Now he's in the quarterfinals where he doesn't have to face Tim Henman. Instead, Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean is his opponent today.

If Roddick wins this one, he won't have to face French Open champ Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, but instead either Thomas Johansson or David Nalbandian.

Karlovic, Ljubicic, Henman and Nadal all lost before expected matches against Roddick. Meanwhile, Roddick has beaten nobodies Jiri Vanek and Igor Andreev along with tricky clay-courter Guillermo Coria in straight sets. Throw in Bracciali, and Roddick has had a dream draw.

Grosjean can be a challenge if he's on, but Roddick's serve should rule this one.

All it would seem that Roddick has to do to win a Wimbledon title is to find an answer for Roger Federer's strategy to block-back Roddick's big serves. Roddick and his coach have at least until Sunday to solve that puzzle. It's called placement. Roddick not only has to serve big and consistent, but also to pinpoint locations if he plans to beat Federer. Plus, Roddick has to outsmart Federer by keeping him guessing about service locations.

Of course, Roddick shouldn't wait until Sunday to practice that strategy. Service placements can make his next two matches much easier.

WATCH SHARAPOVA
It still might not be too late for Roddick to get service lessons by watching Maria Sharapova's next match. She is one smart cookie when it comes to serving. It's all about location.

Sharapova repeatedly catches her opponents flat-footed on serves, especially out wide on the deuce side.

Venus Williams looks like she's playing well, but a revived Mary Pierce wasn't a true test of whether Venus' game is where it should be. Sharapova's service placements should give Venus all kinds of problems in Thursday's semifinals. Expect Venus to look a little awkward at times.

Lindsay Davenport's big game appears to be on cruise control. Then again it also seemed that way before last year's semifinal flop against Sharapova at Wimbledon, a semifinal letdown against Svetlana Kuznetsova at the U.S. Open, an erratic loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final and a quarterfinal upset by Pierce at the French Open. With any kind of consistent effort in those matches, Davenport probably would have at least two or three more Grand Slam titles.

Although intensity is never a Davenport forte, she appears to have her moody disposition under control at Wimbledon. The key is if Amelie Mauresmo can hang tough Thursday until Davenport goes on another "walk." The only trouble is that Mauresmo has a history of her own collapses.

The Davenport-Mauresmo match is totally unpredictable. It just depends on which player has her mind and game working together.

SOFT NET CORD

Not only is the Wimbledon grass apparently slower than ever, the net is ridiculously soft. All a player has to do to win a point is to hit the net cord with a shot. The ball will trickle over the limp net and become virtually unplayable for the opposition.

Thus, a player is doubly rewarded for an errant shot. Not only does the poor shot go over the net, it wins the point.


(06/26/05)  Beach tennis anyone?
Beach tennis? Sound fun? You know, like half-rubber or beach volleyball.

Just a fun and social atmosphere. Beach tennis definitely might have a future in that context.

"It has the potential to be that type," Phil Whitesell, one of the stars of this new game, said on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Nevertheless, don't look for beach tennis in the next Olympics. And don't expect anyone to pull out greenbacks to watch it being played, although the sponsors of Beach Tennis USA appear to have deep pockets.

Meanwhile, there's no reason not to get in on the fun. Charleston residents Whitesell and Chris Henderson are even making a little money from the sport as well as receiving an all-expenses paid trip to New York in August to compete for a $10,000 purse.

Henderson and Whitesell both play on teams which already have qualified for the USTA's Southern Sectional League Tennis Championships that will begin July 23 at Family Circle Tennis Center. They play with the same rackets they use in their regular tennis games. Both are outstanding players as well as excellent athletes, features that complement their beach tennis skills.

Henderson is a former All-Southern Conference player for Furman and founder of the highly successful Charleston Pro Tennis League. Whitesell is the College of Charleston's men's coach. Together, they won last year's Southern Closed men's 30 doubles title.
"Tennis is a tough sport to learn. Hackers can pick this game up quicker than tennis," Whitesell said.

Beach tennis started in Aruba, and is being promoted along the U.S. East Coast this summer by Beach Tennis USA. After participating in an exhibition in Charleston in May, Whitesell talked Henderson into teaming up for a tournament in Myrtle Beach in early June. The Charleston team won the tournament and split a $300 first prize. The victory qualified them for the first U.S. Beach Tennis Championships in Long Beach, N.Y., Aug. 27.

Several hundred people watched the Myrtle Beach final.

"They (the sponsors) were smart. They held it at a time when there was a festival. They were giving out hats ..." Whitesell said.

A steady rain fell during the tournament, but play continued, Whitesell pointed out. Participants might even play barefooted. There's definitely some advantages, not to mention the social aspects of the game.

The game is played on a beach volleyball court with a high net, usually limiting shots to volleying up. A point ends when the deflated tennis ball makes contact with the sand.

Whitesell expects the competition to be much tougher in New York. "They'll have the top guys from Aruba competing, and they're trying to get the Jensens (former French Open doubles champions Luke and Murphy) to play," Whitesell said. "They want (Jim) Courier to play and do commentary."

HENDERSON WINS TITLE
Henderson won the mixed doubles title in the recent National 30 Grass Court Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz. He played with Sue Whiting of Dallas.

Henderson also reached the tournament's quarterfinals in both singles and doubles.

HEINZ CONNECTION
Playing doubles together is getting to be quite a connection for Austin Heinz of Daniel Island and Matthew Fisher of Pawleys Island. They've entered two tournaments together, and they've won both.

The 10-and-under titles Heinz and Fisher have won are from Belton's Palmetto Championships and the Southern Closed, the top two junior tournaments held in this state.

Heinz also was a singles semifinalist at both tournaments, losing to eventual champions Payne Hoy of Charleston (at Belton) and Jordan Harrell of Georgia (in the Southerns). Harrell defeated Hoy in the Southern final.

Heinz is the top seed in boys' 10 singles in the State Hard Courts that started Saturday in Columbia. He has another partner for doubles since Fisher didn't enter the Columbia tournament.

A 4-9 right-hander, Heinz will be a fourth-grader at Mount Pleasant's Palmetto Christian Academy.


(06/22/05)  Justine just not herself in opener
Justine Henin-Hardenne obviously isn't immune to mental errors. She lost a match Tuesday she should have won.

But Henin-Hardenne's biggest mental mistake wasn't a double-fault at match point or a double-fault that wasted a set point in the first set of her three-set loss to Eleni Daniilidou. The error in judgment was her decision not to play a grass-court warm-up tournament before showing up at Wimbledon.

Even though she may be the best player in the women's game, Henin-Hardenne isn't so talented that she can just walk out on the court and win without preparation. Her lack of preparation on grass was obvious.

Seldom has tennis seen Henin-Hardenne play so poorly on such a big stage. Double-faulting at match point simply isn't Justine-like. Two double-faults in the decisive game of the match? A string of loose strokes in the last two games of the match to go with the double-faults to practically hand Daniilidou the match?

Daniilidou demonstrated that she is a dangerous player who knows how to play on grass, but Henin-Hardenne made it easy for her. That just doesn't usually happen.

LUCKY SERENA
It looked like a really tough first test for Serena Williams, but actually she may have been lucky that she was playing someone from her neighborhood public courts and a fellow African-American. In other words, if there was anyone in the Wimbledon field that Serena simply couldn't take losing to, it was 104th-ranked Angela Haynes.

A different opponent in the first round might not have made Serena wake up in time to avoid an upset by winning the last two sets. Of course, later in the tournament against her sister Venus, Maria Sharapova or a couple of other top players, Serena will have no trouble focusing her fierce competitiveness.

A three-set first-round victory probably was good for Serena. Although terribly out of playing shape, Serena might play herself into shape.

HENMAN'S YEAR?
Tim Henman is another player who could benefit from a tough opener. When he was down two sets to none against Jarkko Nieminen, British fans must have thought it would be just another disappointment from Henman. But now after rallying to win three straight sets while playing some of the best tennis he has played at Wimbledon -- and so early in the tournament, too -- the pressure on Henman might actually be less than in past years.

If so, could this be the Wimbledon in which Henman comes through? He's moving brilliantly, serving to pinpoint placements and volleying like only Tim Henman can.

Even Andy Roddick got a bit lucky when 6-10 ace machine Ivo Karlovic lost in the first round, and Croatian Davis Cup Roddick wrecker Ivan Ljubicic also fell, removing potential second-round and fourth-round Roddick road blocks. That leaves Roddick on a collision course to meet Henman in the quarterfinals.


(06/19/05)  Who's afraid of the Williams sisters?
This is a rare Wimbledon indeed. Venus and Serena Williams aren't the favorites.

Injuries, a lack of playing time and possibly a lack of confidence have rendered Venus and Serena harmless in the minds of some experts, and maybe even opponents. It would be surprising if either makes a serious run at the championship.

Their big match will be a possible round of 16 meeting. Yes, this is a sign of just how far Venus and Serena have fallen.

The last time a Williams wasn't in the women's final was 1999. Venus and Serena have won twice each since, and Serena lost to Maria Sharapova in last year's final.

This time, you almost have to believe that Justine Henin-Hardenne will complete a career Grand Slam. She's easily the best player in the game right now. But top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, Sharapova and Kim Clijsters -- if she doesn't have to face Henin-Hardenne -- shouldn't be disregarded.

Of course, Serena can't be completely overlooked. She's too fierce a competitor to be ignored, but getting by Venus may be as much or more than Serena can handle.

ONE FOR ANDY?
Roger Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam since last year's U.S. Open. Although the experts rate Federer as a huge favorite to capture a third straight Wimbledon crown, I like Andy Roddick's chances, even in the face of a tough draw. I also think Rafael Nadal can win this title, and maybe Lleyton Hewitt or Marat Safin.

Tim Henman should have a shot at Wimbledon, too, although it seems to be getting tougher and tougher every year to live at the net, even on grass. Maybe there is something to Henman's remarks about Wimbledon officials trying to slow the game down.

VARN MAKES SHRINE
Former Citadel tennis coach and Charleston native Ben Varn has been selected to be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame on Dec. 3 at Hilton Head Island. Former Denmark-Olar High School football coach Bill Jolly also will be inducted.

Varn, who now resides in Inman, won a Southern Conference singles title while playing at The Citadel. He also won City of Charleston singles titles while coaching at his alma mater. He later coached at Wofford College as the Terriers moved from NCAA Division II to Division I.

A retired Air Force officer, Varn started the popular "Stairsteps to Successful Tennis" program. He has served as a member of the S.C. Senior Cup organizing committee.

OPEN UP CLOSE
Want to see the U.S. Open up close and personal? The U.S. Tennis Association is planning to conduct a rain or shine ballperson tryout session at the National Tennis Center on June 30 at 4 p.m. (registration begins at 3 p.m.). The tryout is open to anyone 14 years old or older, but anyone under the age of 18 must have valid New York State Working Papers.

The U.S. Open employs about 270 ballpersons each year, but only about 75 of them are rookies who earn minimum wages. Prospects will be evaluated on their running, throwing and catching skills.

For more information, you can contact the National Tennis Center (718-760-6200).

ANNA AND WTT ON TV
That's right. ESPN2 will carry several World Team Tennis matches this summer, including a July 16 (11 p.m.) match featuring Anna Kournikova and her Sacramento team against Steffi Graf and Houston. The first WTT showing on ESPN2 is set for July 9 (11 p.m.), highlighted by the "Battle of the Martinas" -- Navratilova (Patrick McEnroe's New York Sportimes) and Hingis (Boston) in singles.

Family Circle Tennis Center associate Luke Jensen will be in the broadcast booth for the ESPN2 telecasts.

KINARD GETS COLGATE JOB
Former local junior standout Elissa Kinard has taken a job as assistant men's and women's tennis coach at Colgate University. The Bishop England graduate played collegiately at the University of Nebraska before completing her career at Virginia Tech. She recently completed work on her masters degree in Health Promotions at Virginia Tech.

MAYBANK CHALLENGER
This year's Maybank Challenger Tournament has been scheduled for July 15-17. The entry deadline is July 9.

The tournament will feature singles and doubles competition in all junior divisions. For more information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) or Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).


(06/15/05)  Jensens are coming to fantasy camp
Luke and Murphy Jensen are still on tennis scholarship. They travel the world having a ball, while someone else usually picks up the tab.

Actually, you can call their chosen lifestyle a tennis holiday. The Jensen brothers realize they are quite lucky to still be associated with the game they learned as kids.

Growing up in the shadow of the McEnroe brothers, Luke and Murphy can't complain about the lot they've been given. Although never big names, they own one French Open doubles title.

They do a little of everything these days, as long as tennis is involved. They reside in Atlanta but travel for camps, conferences, television assignments and for competition.

Luke was in Lancaster, Pa., teaching at a junior camp when I caught up with him Monday on his cell phone. He's leaving for Wimbledon on Sunday for an ESPN assignment. He also works for the Tennis Channel. Murphy, who has had parts in three movies including Wimbledon, covered the French Open for the Tennis Channel.

Both brothers will be in Charleston from Oct. 14-16 to participate in a Men's Fantasy Camp at Family Circle Tennis Center. Former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullkison and former top 10-ranked Jimmy Arias also will participate. Luke already is associated with the Family Circle Cup in a promotional deal in which he serves as the master of ceremonies during on-court presentations and conducts on-site player chat sessions during the tournament.

"Everything is pretty much tennis," said Luke, who played in the pro satellite tournament at Creekside Tennis and Swim in the 1980s. "Whether we're working with adults, juniors, doing on-court promotions, on TV or playing ... this is good for me ... going all over the place with tennis."

Tennis is all about fun for the musically gifted Jensens, tennis' rock 'n' roll brothers. Because of this talent and their happy-go-lucky attitudes, they are sought after often for tennis events, especially appealing to the younger set with their music and promotions. They have often performed at ATP player functions on the tour.

The brothers will play in the 35-and-over division at Wimbledon, but they have played doubles together in two regular ATP events this year: San Jose, Calif., and Delray Beach, Fla. They lost in the first round in both tournaments.

Luke and Murphy have had their days in doubles, particularly the 1993 French Open. That's the year they teamed up at Roland Garros to win the Grand Slam title. "Winning the French Open with your brother is unique," said Luke, who will turn 39 on Saturday (Murphy is 36). "You dream about it, and for it to actually happen is an amazing thing."

While Murphy is a normal left-hander, Luke is ambidextrous. He hits from both sides and serves both right-handed and left-handed. His nickname is "Dual Hand Luke."

Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominated the American tennis game when the Jensens were growing up. Luke decided he needed an equalizer -- a serve from both sides. A natural right-hander, he added the left-handed serve when he was 13.

"I just started practicing on other parts of my game. Having that weapon helped. Serving in tennis is like pitching, and I was very fortunate to have twice as many serves as other players," said the 6-3 Luke, who has more than $1 million in career earnings. The situation and opponent dictate which arm he'll use for his serve.

In 1984, he was the nation's top-ranked junior, winning the boys' 18 national hard courts and clay courts and winning a national doubles title with Patrick McEnroe. Luke played for Southern California for two years before turning pro in the fall of 1987. Murphy arrived at Southern Cal in 1988, played two years and transferred to Georgia for one year. Both were All-Americans.

The Jensens grew up in a tennis family in Grayling, Mich., their mother rooting them on. Their younger twin sisters, Rachel and Rebecca, played on the WTA Tour.

During the Fantasy Camp at Family Circle, the Jensens "will be playing some, but mostly we'll be working with players from the camp and giving them expertise. The Family Circle Tennis Center is a public facility with world-class players, not just a women's facility. It's also a men's site."


(06/12/05)  Hoy mows down opponents en route to first Belton title
The dream of most young tennis players in South Carolina is to win Belton. Only a select few even get close to this goal.

Payne Hoy has lived the dream as a 10-year-old. He is Charleston's newest tennis prodigy, all 4-4, 65 pounds. He's already ranked No. 1 in the South.

Hoy won his Belton title in the Palmetto Championships last Monday at the Anderson Civic Center with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win over David Parker of Anderson. All five of Hoy's matches were of the straight-set variety.

Hoy was Charleston's only boys' singles champion. Shelby Rogers won the girls' 14 title.

While Belton championships are becoming almost old hat for the 12-year-old Rogers, who played up in girls' 14 and won her third Palmetto title, Hoy is new to Belton's title game. And he's excited.

"I just played out of my mind," the youngster said.

Hoy conducts the perfect interview. He has all of the answers. You don't have to ask him twice.

"One thing sets him apart? he's very smart," said MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee, who directs Hoy's tennis training.

"In the 10s, you're looking at players to hit a ton of balls. But Payne is more strategic. He's a very strategic player. He can figure out opponents' weaknesses and strengths. That's unusual for a 10-year-old.

"He can hit drop shots, or he can hit hard. He's very small, but he's a giant-killer."

He's also competitive. "He's a very good competitor. He trains hard," said Lee, who turns the individual teaching of Hoy over to staff member Jay Bruner.

Bruner traveled to Belton to see Hoy's last two matches.

"JoAnn and Jay have done a fantastic job with Payne," said Nancy Hoy, Payne's real estate agent mother.

He started out at Creekside Tennis and Swim with pro Rob Woods, who got him to take tennis seriously from the start while still having fun. "I've been playing tennis since I was about 4 years old," Payne said.

"I don't know how I got so good. I just love tennis and I kept on playing," added the Charleston Day School fifth-grader.

His family members offer total support. His mother, his doctor father Mark and his 13-year-old tennis player brother Connor all were at the Palmetto Championships.

Connor, a state-ranked player in the 14s, has an important role in that he warms up his little brother for matches. He also often plays with Payne at the neighborhood courts near their Mount Pleasant home.

Payne will play the Southern Closed Championships in Columbia. He'll probably move up to 12-and-under after that, since he turns 11 in September. But he does plan to play 10s in the Little Mo tournament. "If I get to the semifinals, I'll get to go to the nationals in Texas," he said.

-- Rogers created quite a stir at Belton by upsetting the top three seeds in girls' 14. The First Baptist Church School eighth-grader upended top-seeded Jeri Reichel of Hilton Head Island, 6-3, 6-1, in the final. Not only did Rogers sneak up on the field by playing up, the tournament even reported on its internet site that Reichel was the winner. But Shelby's mother, Starley Gabrish, was quick to correct the error as she drove back from Belton on Friday with her two tennis standout daughters -- Shelby and 16-year-old sister Sabra, who was a quarterfinalist in girls' 18.

-- Furman-bound Jason Basile had a memorable last Belton, winning the Dunlop Scholarship awarded to a boys' or girls' 18 player as well as being selected as the age group's sportsmanship award winner. Basile also took fifth place in boys' 18 singles and won the doubles title.

NEW LEAGUE NEAR
The upstart Palmetto Tennis League appears to be creating a good deal of interest as it prepares to launch its first season later this summer. "We're getting a lot of response," said league spokesperson Sandi McGee of Mount Pleasant.

Team captains can now start mailing in registration forms. The forms are available on the internet at www.palmettotennisleague.com. The registration deadline is July 20.

The league is scheduled to start an abbreviated schedule on Aug. 20, with league playoffs planned for late October. All levels of players can participate. The match format will be made up of five doubles matches. Teams will have a minimum of 12 players with a limit of 14 players.

McGee has distributed posters to local clubs as well as some neighborhood courts. The league hopes to take advantage of the availability of neighborhood and club courts that might not qualify for the U.S. Tennis Association leagues. USTA membership is not required. Unrated players can use the new league's self-rating guidelines that are outlined on the internet.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- JoAnn Lee will team up with Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson this week, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for a high performance camp for tournament players only 10-16 years of age) at The Citadel courts. Contact Simpson (953-4845) or Lee (792-3157) for more details.

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson will hold an all-day camp (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) this week at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (766-7401).

-- Toni Young's camp at Maybank Tennis Center is from 9 a.m.-noon for ages 4-16 and from 3:30-6 p.m. for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct two local camps this summer, June 26-July 1 at Charleston Southern University with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal, and July 11-15 with Young at Maybank Tennis Center. Information is available on the internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.


(06/08/05)  Nau putting impressive tennis network to good use

Fritz Nau has more contacts than a vision center. Tennis contacts, of course.

For much of 12 years, Nau traveled with Nick Bollettieri and the big tennis names of the day -- Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Jim Courier for starters -- while working for Bollettieri's Academy. This threesome alone won more than 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

So, Nau obviously knows a little about tennis. When Family Circle Tennis Center opened in 2001, he was named the facility's tennis director. He also directed Porter-Gaud boys' and girls' teams to two state titles each.

He brought former longtime University of Eastern Kentucky coach Tom Higgins out of retirement to serve as his assistant at Porter-Gaud, and Higgins led the Porter-Gaud boys to another state title this spring.

No longer associated with Family Circle Tennis Center or Porter-Gaud, Nau has his own Charleston Tennis Academy. The 48-player academy operates out of Creekside Tennis and Swim as well as his own soon-to-be-opened 13-court facility on Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. The new facility houses nine clay courts and has been named the Players Club of Charleston. "The hard courts are done and the clay courts are ready, but we aren't opening them yet. The pro shop isn't up yet," Nau said.

The 57-year-old Kentucky native uses his contacts often, routinely taking juniors from his academy for training visits to Bollettieri's as well as other trips such as the one several of his juniors took last winter to the Emilio Sanchez Academy in Barcelona, Spain. Nau plans to take another group to John Roddick's (Andy's brother) Academy in Texas in the fall.

Nau also keeps a long list of tennis instructors he'd like to hire. One of them was Ean Meyer, who worked with Nau at Bollettieri's as well as for Nau as tennis director at the Robert Seguso-Carling Bassett Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. When Chris Evert and another group took over the academy, Meyer stayed on as tennis director.

Nau has hired Meyer again. This time Meyer has been named the director of player development at Charleston Tennis Academy. Former College of Charleston star Brian Minton serves as director of the academy.

USTA COORDINATOR
The Charleston tennis community now has its own USTA coordinator. Maggie LaCoste has been named to the position of Charles-ton Community Tennis Coordinator by the USTA. She is assigned to the state office in Columbia, but resides in Charleston.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Snee Farm Country Club's 16th annual Adult & NTRP Championships will be held this weekend.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids' six-week summer started last Saturday. Sessions are held on Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 5:30-7 p.m. on Mondays at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson is holding his summer camp for juniors on weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon at Charleston Tennis Center. He also will hold all-day camps (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) June 13-17, June 27-July 1 and July 11-15. Contact the tennis center (766-7401) for more details.

-- Toni Young's camp at Maybank Tennis Center is from 9 a.m.-noon for ages 4-16 and from 3:30-6 p.m. for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct two local camps this summer, June 26-July 1 at Charleston Southern University and July 11-15 with Young at Maybank Tennis Center. Information is available on the internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling (864) 888-0940.


(06/06/05)  Legs key to Nadal's success

There may be more to Rafael Nadal wearing long white pants than just their uniqueness on a tennis court. The pants disguise his true tennis strength -- his legs.

While he stuns opponents and observers with the sight of his bulging biceps, his legs go unnoticed, hidden beneath the long white pants. Newcomer opponents might think the kid is a showboat or a bit delicate.

He may be something of a showboat with his fist-pumping antics that show off his huge arm muscles.

But he certainly isn't delicate. Nadal's legs make everything possible. He should take out a huge insurance policy on them.

With a normal pair of legs, Nadal hardly would be wearing the French Open crown today as a mere 19-year-old. Time after time, it was those legs that turned sure winners by Mariano Puerta into points for Nadal in Sunday's four-set final.

Overshadowed and outmatched in the minds of many experts, Puerta played some wonderful clay-court tennis. He outhit his young Spanish opponent, driving Nadal off the court from one side to the other, only to see Nadal repeatedly make impossible looking retrieves.

Luck certainly wasn't on Puerta's side. If it had been, he would have been facing immortality seeking Roger Federer in the final. And Puerta might have been wearing the crown today.

But Nadal is for real. He's tenacious. He can run forever. And, yes, he's strong.

If he puts those big muscles into play a little more on his serve, he'll be even more of a force to be reckoned with on all surfaces. Even the fast grass of Wimbledon.

No one will be overlooking this kid in the future. Not even Federer at Wimbledon or on the hard courts of the U.S. Open. Nadal is a true clay courter, but so was a fellow named Bjorn Borg.

Nadal now has confidence on his side. He had the game's recognized best player, Federer, down two sets on a hard surface in the final of the world's fifth-biggest men's tournament, Miami's Nasdaq 100. Nadal beat Federer on clay Friday.

Yes, Rafael Nadal knows he can beat anyone in the game, on any surface, as long as his legs remain healthy.

And the long white pants are their ally.


(06/05/05)  Pierce finds herself hopelessly outmatched

Poor John McEnroe and Mary Carillo. The 1977 French Open mixed doubles champions had the tough task of trying to make Saturday's women's singles final something it wasn't -- a competitive match.

This French Open final was a mismatch. McEnroe and Carillo couldn't win. In tennis layman's terms, the Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. Mary Pierce final was the equivalent of a 4.0 player taking on a 5.0 player. Mary Pierce was playing out of her league.

It looked like a bagel or even two from here, but NBC-TV analysts McEnroe and Carillo toiled on with their hype until the obvious and the outcome were the same, an overwhelming 6-1, 6-1 conquest for Henin-Hardenne. McEnroe finally declared it a mismatch and Carillo made the reference to a bad match.

Henin-Hardenne didn't even have to play spectacularly to win easily. She often kept the ball in the middle of the court with average pace until an opening to use her newly acquired power occurred. Pierce usually either watched helplessly without making a serious move toward the winners or turned them into loosely hit returns.

Henin-Hardenne had no problem with Pierce's hard flat serves, when Pierce wasn't double-faulting. The smallish Henin-Hardenne's serves overpowered Pierce.

The semifinal against erratic Nadia Petrova and the easy final matchup practically gave Henin-Hardenne a cakewalk to her second French Open title. But make no mistake about it, she is the best player in women's tennis. Barring further illness or injury, the 23-year-old Belgian should wear the crown for several years.

While the last two years have been like a roller-coaster ride for Henin-Hardenne, one thing has remained constant -- her mental toughness. It is this characteristic and determination that separate her from the rest of women's tennis.

FADING IMMORTALITY
Roger Federer's charm and stylish tennis faded with Friday's Paris sun. So might have his dream of tennis immortality.

He looked very human against 19-year-old Rafael Nadal. Federer had the draw of a lifetime at the French Open. Everything was set perfectly for his bid to become just the sixth winner of all four men's tennis Grand Slam events. Even Nadal played enough spotty tennis to have given a better clay-court opponent ample opportunities for victory.

Federer was poetry in motion as usual, possessing perhaps the prettiest tennis game ever to come along. But too often he netted easy volleys or went for too much from the baseline against Nadal's superb court coverage.

As the end grew closer, Federer begged for mercy from the chair umpire to stop the match until Saturday. His confidence obviously shaken, Federer looked like just another good player for much of his four-set loss to Nadal.

Nadal is an excellent player, especially on clay, but he must make vast improvements if he is to become one of the game's greats. Of course, his wonderful physical attributes give him the potential for greatness. Although his serve is often a liability, the size of his biceps indicates that might not always be the case.

McEnroe is calling Nadal an overwhelming favorite in today's final against Mariano Puerta. But this one might not be as easy for Nadal as his conquest of Federer. Puerta may be a superior clay-court player to Federer.

The key might be how long it takes Nadal to adjust to the spins and other problems that another left-hander's game presents. While his play might not be as exciting as Nadal's, Puerta has the potential to give Argentina its second straight French title.


(06/01/05)  Belgian standout on big roll

Justine Henin-Hardenne may really conquer women's tennis this time.

When she was the top player in the game, Henin-Hardenne had a bunch of obstacles in her way, mainly the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters as well as the usual challengers such as Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Amelie Mauresmo.

But now as the Belgian birthday girl (she'll turn 23 today) raises her game to the stature of the best in the world again, most of her former challengers appear to be heading in the opposite direction. And the Russians, even as their numbers steadily grow, aren't nearly as good as their buildup. It's just at a time when women's tennis seems to have no real direction -- other than what comes off the racket of Henin-Hardenne.

Henin-Hardenne may actually be playing the best tennis of her life. That may sound improbable for a player who had won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments when she fell ill and missed most of 2004, but it appears to be true.

The current version of the 5-5-3/4 player packs more of a wallop than the old one. Her serve appears to be only a little bigger, but make no mistake about her ground strokes. They are definitely more powerful now. They've become lethal weapons. She nails winners from either side, both down the lines and crosscourt.

Henin-Hardenne avenged her only loss of the year with relative ease Tuesday when she rolled over Maria Sharapova for a second straight time, this one 6-4, 6-2 in the French Open quarterfinals. With hard-hitting but flat-footed Mary Pierce, nearly over-the-hill Russian Elena Likhovtseva and erratic Russian Nadia Petrova the other three semifinalists in Paris, Henin-Hardenne looks like a safe bet for a second French Open crown.

Earlier in the year, and even when she arrived in Charleston in April for the Family Circle Cup, Henin-Hardenne appeared to be out of sync with her new power game. But she has since molded that power into a lethal package of explosiveness to go with the best mental toughness in professional tennis.

As improbable as it was to think Henin-Hardenne could best her former self, it was just as unthinkable to believe that Pierce had another serious Grand Slam run left in her. But Davenport obliged.

This marked the fourth straight Grand Slam event that Davenport appeared to have a legitimate shot of winning, only to falter within sight of the title. Davenport was even more slow-footed than Pierce in her 6-3, 6-2 loss to Pierce on Tuesday.

The fact that Pierce can wade through to the semifinals of a Grand Slam at this point in her career is a perfect illustration of the current level of play on the women's tour. Steffi Graf would have had a ball with this current group of players, other than possibly a tough little Belgian who thinks and plays like she can win anytime she steps on the court.

CARTER WINS NATIONALS
Charleston's Brenda Carter won the national indoors women's 55 title recently in Homewood, Ill. Currrently ranked No. 11 in the world in 55 singles, Carter rallied to defeat top-seeded Kathy Barnes of San Jose, Calif., 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Carter, who was the No. 2 seed in singles, also advanced to the doubles final with Kathleen Bennett of Costa Mesa, Calif.

-- Susie Peiffer of Charleston won a women's 55 national level II singles title earlier this month in Jackson, Miss.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Belton's Palmetto Championships, the state's junior qualifying tournament, will begin Friday. The tournament, now is its 49th year of competition in the Belton-Anderson area, will run through the following Friday.

-- The 3.0 and 3.5 adult league state championships are scheduled to begin Saturday at Snee Farm Country Club.

-- Monday is the deadline for entering the June 10-12 Snee Farm Adult & NTRP Championships. Registration can be made on the Internet at www.usta.com using tournament number 704134605.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids six-week summer program starts Saturday (10-11:30 a.m.) at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and on Monday (5:30-7 p.m.) at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 766-7401.

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson will begin his summer camps for juniors on Monday (9 a.m.-noon) at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (843) 766-7401 for more details.

-- Toni Young will hold junior camps at Maybank Tennis Center starting Monday (9 a.m.-noon) for ages 4-16. An afternoon session (3:30-6 p.m.) is available for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (843) 406-8814 for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct a camp at Charleston Southern with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal June 26-July 1. Information is available at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling (864) 888-0940.


(05/25/05)  MUSC tennis director going to Wimbledon
MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee is packing her bags for a trip to Wimbledon to participate in an international coach’s conference June 17-25.

"We'll be talking about coaching kids through their teenage years," said Lee. "Our main interest is trying to get U.S. kids better."

Lee, a 20-year coaching veteran who has been at MUSC for seven years, was selected for the conference by the U.S. Tennis Association's High Performance coaching department.

She was one of the participants recently at a fitness conference held at the governor's mansion in Columbia. "Right now my big push is obesity. Kids are coming in heavier and heavier every year. (South Carolina children) are ranked No. 46 in the United States for obesity," Lee said.

In addition to her normal advanced tennis camps at MUSC this summer, Lee is conducting a camp that concentrates on all sports. Youth can sign up for the tennis camp or the all-sports camp by contacting Lee (843) 792-3157.

-- Lee is holding a pre-Belton camp at The Citadel next week with Citadel coach Toby Simpson. For information, contact Simpson (843) 953-4845.

SCHNYDER IS BACK
If you missed it, Patty Schnyder is back in the top 10 of women's tennis after a six-year absence. The crafty left-hander earned a No. 10 ranking recently by advancing to the final of the Italian Open with a win over Maria Sharapova. Don't rule Schnyder out of causing some trouble in the French Open.

As for Sharapova, she is hot on Lindsay Davenport's heels in the race for No. 1 in the world after losing in two tournaments in which titles would have given the 18-year-old Wimbledon champion the world's top ranking. If Sharapova fails to make the move to No. 1 at the French Open, she might not make it anytime soon. A repeat Wimbledon championship doesn't look very promising.

LOCAL 4.0 WOMEN FALL
The 4.0 women's team representing the St. Andrews tennis complex in the state adult league championships suffered a loss to Greenville in the state final Monday. Gene Owens served as captain of the team.

MAXSON PICKED
Charleston Day School graduate Greg Maxson, a rising sophomore at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., has been selected by the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in Texas to be a member of the academy's international traveling team this summer. Maxson and the group will attend Wimbledon as well as participate in a junior competition in Scotland and England.

The 15-year-old Maxson played on the Hotchkiss varsity this spring as a freshman and was one of the leading boarding school players in New England. In Charleston, he trained under MUSC pro Jay Bruner and Family Circle Tennis Center pro Mike Baker.

WOORONS' BIG DAY
Former city champion Sophie Woorons reports several exciting new occurrences in her life. Now a professor at Clemson and tennis pro at Anderson's Cardinal Racquet Club, Woorons is getting married. She and former Clemson head women's tennis coach Andy Johnston plan to marry July 2 in France.

And this past weekend, Woorons received an advance wedding present -- she was named South Carolina pro of the year at the U.S. Professional Tennis Association's Southern convention at Hilton Head Island. Woorons, a former Clemson All-American who holds a doctorate from the University of Georgia, won a seminar contest at the Hilton Head meeting and will represent the USPTA Southern section at the organization's national convention in September.

Woorons also has been selected to be a member of the Tennis Industry Association's national speakers cardio tennis team.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct a camp at Charleston Southern University with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal June 26-July 1. Campers can choose between a day camp and a sleepover. Information is available on the Internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids summer program will get under way Saturday, June 4 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The summer schedule at the downtown Jack Adams Tenis Center will start on Monday, June 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. The registration cost is $10 for the entire six-week session at either location, running through July 16 on John's Island and July 18 downtown. For more information, contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- The 3.0 and 3.5 adult state championships will be held June 4-6 at Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club.

-- The 16th annual Snee Farm Adult & NTRP Championships will be held June 10-12. Registration can be made on the internet at www.usta.com using tournament number 704134605. The entry deadline is June 6.


(05/20/05)  Judge taps talent abroad to put S.C. State tennis on map

Hardeep Judge would love to have players such as Clemson's Nathan Thompson on his men's tennis team at South Carolina State. The only trouble for Judge is that just about every other major school in the country has the same longings. Thompson is a collegiate All-American from Baltimore.

Judge recruited Thompson several years ago. But like most talented black players these days, Thompson selected a national-caliber tennis program. Coach Chuck Kriese's Clemson men were ranked as high as 14th nationally this spring en route to making the NCAA playoffs again.

So where do Judge and coaches at other traditionally black Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools find their players? In foreign countries, of course, just like most of the NCAA's powers and hungry-to-be powerful.

S.C. State had no American black players on either its men's or women's teams this spring. The fact is, those teams didn't have an American, period.

How does this fit in with the rush to lure and develop blacks into the upper echelon of tennis, and to take advantage of the opening created by the success of Venus and Serena Williams at the highest level? It doesn't, although black players have made astonishing advances in recent years in top junior competition and at the collegiate level. The junior ranks are filled with talented black players, including the world's top-ranked junior, 15-year-old Donald Young of Atlanta.

But what happens to the average black junior player? Suddenly, the assured scholarship at schools such as S.C. State no longer is assured. And to be offered a scholarship at most Division I schools, a player has to have much better than average junior credentials.

Judge just wants to win and be competitive, not much different goals from the coaches at the College of Charleston, The Citadel, Charleston Southern and any number of other colleges. And he is. His S.C. State men's and women's teams each have won two straight MEAC championships. One of the only two losses his women's team suffered during this year's regular season was by 4-3 to the College of Charleston.

"We had one U.S. player on the men's team when I got there (S.C. State)," said Judge, a former pro satellite player from Canada who is in his third year as coach of the S.C. State teams. "But we've been recruiting out of the country.

"They (the school administration) let me recruit the best players I can get. I make a lot of scholarship offers to U.S. players but none have accepted."

S.C. State has reason to be pleased with what Judge has accomplished. "The men's and women's (tennis) teams are first and second academically of all our teams," the Country Club of Orangeburg head tennis pro said.

Judge's women's team had six players, all foreigners. Armed with seven scholarships because S.C. State has a football team, Judge was able to award full scholarships to everyone on his women's team. The men have only four scholarships available, again due to football and Title IX legislation.

Judge isn't alone at S.C. State in his recruitment of foreign players. He said that most of the school's other minor men's and women's teams recruit heavily out of the country.

Kriese had an advantage when he recruited Thompson four years ago. Thompson's two older brothers, current Citadel assistant coach Jamin Thompson and 2003 Clemson graduate Micah, played for Kriese.

"We've had about nine black players," Kriese said. "I don't think our recruiting has much to do with ethnicity.

"I tell people the reason I like to recruit black players is that it's more about blue than black. We have a blue-collar team. I'm still trying to plug along recruiting blue-collar players. That's what has kept me in coaching for 30 years."

Nathan Thompson has been a star. He was an NCAA semifinalist in doubles last year as a junior. He won his first 21 singles matches this season and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year while winning the conference's No. 1 singles and doubles titles (doubles with Charleston sophomore Ryan Young). Thompson and Young were ranked as high as the top 30 in the nation in doubles.


(05/18/05)  Brace for blue view at Open

This year's U.S. Open won't look the same, whether you watch the last Grand Slam event in person or on television. Tennis, as in the U.S. Tennis Association, is switching colors.

The dominant color at the National Tennis Center may still be green, but blue is moving into the inner court area. The inner court playing surface will be switched from green to blue, surrounded by a green outer court.

This change doesn't rival the U.S. Open's switch from grass to clay in 1975 or its move from clay to hard surface in 1978, but it's still a significant change by the USTA. If it's happening at America's biggest and most important tennis facility, wonder how long it will take for the trend to trickle down to local courts?

Of course, clay courts probably won't be affected by this new color scheme, but maybe the color of America's drab green clay could be enhanced some. Europe's red clay appears to offer more contrast.

Blue courts should help make the game more viewer-friendly, enhancing the visibility of the little yellow ball, and not just for fans. The contrast could help line crews in making their calls and maybe even the players themselves in seeing the ball better.

The new color scheme should be more obvious for night play, especially for TV viewers. The blue-yellow contrast also should be a big boost for night line crews, who in the past apparently have had more difficulty in making correct calls.

The change will hardly be noticed by players who play the six-week U.S. Open Series prior to moving to Flushing Meadows. All 10 U.S. Open Series events will be played on courts using the same color scheme as the U.S. Open.

STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The USTA's USA League is already gearing up for the nine-state Southern Sectional Championships scheduled to be held in July at Family Circle Tennis Center. The state senior championships were held last weekend at Hilton Head Island, and most adult league state titles will be decided this weekend in Charleston.

Charleston Tennis Center will serve as headquarters for the state 2.0, 2.5, and 4.0 and above adult championships Saturday through Monday, with matches also being played at St. Andrews Tennis Center, Maybank Tennis Center and The Citadel. The captains' meeting for the event is Friday at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Inn on Highway 17 South.

The 3.0 and 3.5 state championships are set for later this month at Snee Farm Country Club.

HILTON HEAD DOMINATES
Teams from Hilton Head Island won eight of the 10 senior titles that were contested last weekend. Sea Pines Plantation served as headquarters for the tournament, which included about 1,000 participants age 50 and over. Two Charleston area teams were runners-up: Summerville's Miler Country Club (3.5 men) and Charleston Challengers (4.5 women). Three teams from Hilton Head's Long Cove Plantation won state titles.

COURTING KIDS: The City of Charleston's Courting Kids summer program is taking applications. The program, headed by Charleston Tennis Center's Delores Jackson, will start on Saturday, June 4 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. The summer schedule at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center will begin on Monday, June 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. The registration cost for either location is $10 for the entire six-week session, lasting until July 16 on Johns Island and July 18 downtown. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.


(04/18/05)  PHILLIP BOWMAN: Future uncertain for Family Circle Cup phenoms
After defeating first-time Family Circle Cup participant Nicole Vaidisova in a quarterfinal match, Patty Schnyder shook hands with her 15-year-old opponent, and then leaned in to offer some advice.

"It's like, 'Just keep up your work, you're really talented,' because I really feel like she's putting too much pressure on herself," Schnyder said of her conversation with Vaidisova, who entered the tournament ranked No. 47 in the world.

"I know from my early years to be a little more relaxed," Schnyder said. "She should try to sense the moments a little bit. She will get used to that, and for her, it's just important to work on her whole game, and to set some goals and to work on her game."

Of the 19 players who made their Family Circle debuts this year, Vaidisova and 17-year-old Frenchwoman Tatiana Golovin were the most impressive. Vaidisova beat defending French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and 14th seed Shinobu Asagoe en route to the quarterfinals. Golovin upset defending champion Venus Williams and No. 7 seed Nadia Petrova before falling in her first Tier I semifinal to eventual champ Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Now, will Vaidisova and Golovin continue to be shining stars? Or, will they become shooting stars?

This isn't the first time young players have come in and put up impressive performances at the Family Circle Cup.

In 2002, 20-year-old Frenchwoman Stephanie Foretz made her breakthrough in Charleston. The qualifier managed to reach her first Tier I quarterfinal with victories over Conchita Martinez and world No. 6 Monica Seles, and afterward cracked the top 100. Three years later, she has been unable to build on her success and is currently stalled at No. 96 in the world.

In 2003, 17-year-old Ashley Harkelroad was the talk of the town after defeating three seeded players to reach the semi-finals. Last year, she was bounced from the tournament in the first round, and confided during a news conference that she was having off-court problems. Today she is ranked No. 209, and currently taking a break from the tour.

What goes wrong after everything is seemingly right? Pressure. Teenagers, especially those from outside the United States, often find themselves in a whole new world. They go from unknown to unbelievable over night. Some don't handle it well.

"Playing well in a tournament like the Family Circle Cup can be like a lightning rod," Leslie Allen, a former top-20 player said. "You become a media darling. You go from being anonymous, being able to walk across the grounds, into a household name. How you react is the key."

They also have to play with injuries in a season that lasts nearly 11 months, hop-scotching from one continent to the next. Anything less than 100 percent when it comes to health, emotion and talent can spell disaster and send a player back into obscurity.

"The pressure is to stay there and go beyond what you've accomplished," Allen said. "Once you hit that plateau, everyone is gunning for you. They become familiar with your style, test your weaknesses and figure out how to beat you. You have to protect the level of your game, and, at the same time, be ready to take it to the next level."

One of the keys to the young Vaidisova's success is how she handles defeat. She was mad at herself after the loss to Schnyder, but added, "I think in a couple of days, I'll look back (and realize) I had some good wins here. I think definitely everything is still a learning experience. I'm still 15. I'm still young on the tour, so I think I'll be pretty satisfied in a couple days."

Vaidisova said when a player turns professional, the first thing they must anticipate is pressure.

"You have to be ready for it even before you start," she said. "You have to know at least what you're going to expect from the tour. Everything's still new so I'm still excited about every tournament, and I think I have such a good schedule that I can spend some time with my family.

"You never know what's (going) to be in two or three years, but hopefully I'll do well. I don't really think so much ahead and how much pressure I will have those days. Right now, I'm in the moment and just trying to play right now and cope with everything right now."


(04/10/05)  PHILLIP BOWMAN: Draw sets up possible Williams-Davenport semi
Coming soon.

(04/10/05)  GENE SAPAKOFF: One-on-One: Lindsay Davenport
Coming soon.

(04/10/05)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Venus rising again: Defending Champ a player to watch
Coming soon.

(04/07/05)  Cougs women streaking toward SoCon tourney
The College of Charleston women are right on schedule. Only a 4-3 loss to East Tennessee State mars their Southern Conference record as they head into their last four matches of the regular season with a 10-match winning streak.

Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's team is 15-4 overall, 7-1 in the conference. The Cougars scored an important 4-3 road victory over 53rd nationally ranked Davidson on Sunday by winning four of five three-set singles matches. College of Charleston senior co-captains Rachel Magory and Gabriella Moreira took three-set victories over Davidson senior co-captains Kelly Fillnow of Hilton Head Island and Meggie Patterson, respectively, at Nos. 1 and 2.

Earlier this season, Davidson posted a 6-1 win over an ETSU team that handed the C of C women their only SoCon loss.

The College spent the entire weekend in North Carolina, completing a 6-1 win over UNC Greensboro on Monday in a match that started Saturday. It was the Cougars' eighth makeup match of an unpredictable spring schedule.

With C of C, Davidson and East Tennessee all with one loss, the Cougars play host to SoCon unbeaten Furman Sunday at 11 a.m. Non-conference East Carolina plays at the College on Friday (4 p.m.) and Florida A&M comes to town Saturday (10 a.m.). After these three matches, the team has only a Tuesday home match against Georgia Southern remaining before the April 21-24 SoCon tournament at The Citadel.

-- Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men won a pair of matches over the weekend at Greensboro and Davidson to improve to 10-6 overall and 6-3 in the conference. The Cougars face Florida A&M at home Saturday, then go to S..C. State next Monday before closing out the regular season April 15 at The Citadel.

-- The Citadel stands at 9-8 overall, 5-4 in the conference going into a 1 p.m. home match Sunday against Florida A&M. "For a young team, we're close to turning the corner," said Citadel coach Toby Simpson, whose first six players include four newcomers.

-- The Charleston Southern men's team defeated Liberty and was beaten by Radford last weekend for a 13-10 overall record.

U.S. TEAMS LOSE
Australia scored victories over the United States in the finals of both the women's 45 Margaret Court Cup and women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup last weekend in Australia.

In 45s, Australia got the decisive point in a 2-1 victory by defeating the U.S. doubles team of Diane Fishburne of Charleston and Susan Wright. Australia blanked the Brenda Carter-captained 55s team, 3-0, as Carter fell in singles. Mike Saia def. James Beck 7-5, 6-3. This marked the second straight year Australia has turned back the Americans in the Connolly Cup final.

Fishburne is participating in the International Tennis Federation's Seniors World Championships this week in Perth, Australia, where as the No. 2 seed she has advanced to the semifinals of women's 45.


(04/03/05)  Sport would benefit from Tennis Channel expansion

I thoroughly enjoy ESPN's tennis coverage. ESPN provides Charleston and much of the United States with most of the tennis telecasts outside of the last three Grand Slam events.

But I'm envious of the telecasts available to golfers, not only on the major networks but also on The Golf Channel.

The U.S. Tennis Association has just announced a $10 million commitment to increase participation and raise the profile of tennis in the United States. The USTA is the not-for-profit governing body of U.S. tennis, an organization that posted $26.1 million income over expenses in 2004.

The USTA does a splendid job of sending representatives across the globe to represent the country in international competition. It promotes grass-roots and inter-city programs nationwide.

But if anyone in many U.S. cities wants to watch a routine tennis tournament on The Tennis Channel, additional cable fees above basic cable rates usually come into play. This probably means that only loyal tennis fans would consider this option.

The USTA didn't create this televised tennis shortfall. But maybe it can help solve the problem.

I believe that the best way to improve tennis' profile and participation is through saturation. When I'm clicking through my Knology basic cable lineup, I admit that I often stop on The Golf Channel for a few minutes. I respect golf, but I consider myself a tennis purist.

What I'm suggesting is that the USTA foster a relationship with The Tennis Channel and cable companies nationwide that would help make The Tennis Channel available on every basic cable network in the country. This would expose tennis to the masses.

This new exposure of The Tennis Channel might even have a positive impact on ESPN'S tennis coverage. ESPN might decide that tennis indeed has an even more worthy audience.

The Tennis Channel is a great concept, but I believe the only way it can make a real difference to tennis in this country is by putting itself on display to the masses.

A SAD MOMENT

The quarterfinal meeting between the Williams sisters at the Nasdaq-100 was a sad moment for women's tennis. Venus and Serena played their hearts out. They brought back memories of their early meetings in the late 1990s when their careers were on the rise and hope rang eternal.

The Williams sisters are young by most tennis standards. Serena is 23 and Venus is closing in on 25. But watching this match was almost painful, seeing these two great players perform at a level so far below their best. This latest encounter didn't meet the "Classic Williams" test. And it was only in a quarterfinal.

Was this the beginning of the end of this great sister rivalry? The answer to this question may be revealed in the next six months.

Venus and Serena control their own destiny. They love the spotlight, but so do most of the other players on the WTA Tour. The spotlight belongs only to the best, those near the top of the game. And this may become a problem for Venus and Serena in the not too distant future.

Their stay near the top of the game likely will be determined by their work ethics, their commitment to tennis, not by fashions and all of their off-the-court activities that in reality depend on their court success.



(03/31/05)  Charleston women riding 8-match streak

Making two trips to Cullowhee, N.C., wasn't one of the ways College of Charleston women's tennis coach Angelo Anastopoulo had planned to pass any idle time he or his team had in March.

"We've rescheduled seven matches," the veteran coach said. "We've made two trips to Coastal Carolina and two to Western Carolina (Cullowhee)."

It's been somewhat of a crazy season, but the College of Charleston now appears to be on a roll. The Cougars have won eight straight matches after beating Southern Conference rival Wofford, 6-1, Wednesday in a makeup match at Patriots Point. The C of C women (13-4, 5-1) play at conference rivals UNC Greensboro and Davidson on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

"That's a big test," Anastopoulo said about Davidson. "But everybody is playing well for us."

The Cougars haven't lost since a windblown setback to Charlotte on March 12. In the eight team matches since, they have dropped only two of the 72 individual singles and doubles matches.

Freshman Chelsea Albertz twice rallied from 5-0 first-set deficits at No. 4 singles to win not only the match but also the first set.

MEN STRUGGLE
Coach Phil Whitesell's C of C men have been hit by injuries and bad luck while slumping to an 8-6 record. The Cougars also have lost No. 1 player Or Dekel for the season to a right shoulder injury.

Dekel sat out the team's early matches, then tried to make a comeback in a loss to East Tennessee State. "It didn't work out," said Whitesell. "He couldn't play, so we just decided to go ahead and redshirt him. He has two more years of school and eligibility."

Senior Timo Siebert has moved up to the No. 1 position. "We just had to move everyone up a spot," Whitesell said.

Whitesell still isn't ready to give up on the Southern Conference race as the Cougars head for the conference tournament April 21-24 at The Citadel. The Cougars play at Davidson on Saturday and UNC Greensboro on Sunday.

BULLDOGS GO FOR 3 TODAY
Coach Toby Simpson's Citadel men have won back-to-back road matches against Florida Tech and Georgia Southern to improve to 8-7. The Bullldogs (4-3 SoCon) play Elon here today at 2 p.m. and play on the road against Chattanooga on Saturday. Both are league matches.

Freshman No. 1 Daniel Dossetor of Australia is 8-7 overall and has teamed with New Zealand freshman James Eason for a 10-5 record at No. 1 doubles. "The freshmen are really stepping up," said Simpson.

CSU BOUNCING BACK
Charleston Southern's men once had won seven of eight matches, but they have lost four of their last five to fall to 12-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big South Conference.

"We were 11-5 going into conference play, and we had beaten Furman in the streak," second-year coach Randy Bloemendaal said. "Not having any upper classmen makes it rough when you go through the tough patches in the schedule."

No. 1 player Quentin Guichard, a sophomore from France, leads the Bucs with a 12-9 singles mark.

CSU goes on the road to play at Liberty on Friday and at Radford on Saturday.

-- The CSU women have won four of their last five matches, including a 7-0 blitzing of visiting John Carroll on Tuesday, to improve to 8-10. Sophomore No. 1 Meryam Tazi of Morocco has posted a 13-5 singles record. CSU's women also play at Liberty and Radford on Friday and Saturday.


(03/27/05)  Federer really quite vulnerable
Roger Federer just appears to be in firm control of men's tennis. He really isn't. He's vulnerable.

Federer has one of the prettiest games to ever come along. For sheer beauty, his game looks like maybe the best ever. Whether he becomes a player of the ages, an Andre Agassi, is still questionable.

Although Federer has dominated practically everything other than the Australian Open and the French Open for the last year, there should be immense hope for the rest of men's tennis. That's even if Marat Safin's brilliance in the Australian Open becomes only an illusion for the rest of the year.

Yes, there's hope for Andy Roddick. I actually expect Roddick to win either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open this year. If this guy with the enormous heart can finesse his serve just a bit and develop a net game mentality, his best days against Federer and the rest of tennis are still ahead of him.

Federer will win his share of events in the hard-court season, and maybe even in the European clay-court season. But the French Open likely will humble Federer, and the real season starts at Wimbledon where Roddick should be more than ready.

I expect men's tennis to have an entirely different look by the start of another year. There will be some names near the top of the game that we may not even currently recognize.

ANOTHER RUSSIAN
The April 9-17 Family Circle Cup has added another top Russian, 11th-ranked Vera Zvonareva. She didn't enter the tournament in time to go straight in, but is next in line in case of a withdrawal. Otherwise, the Family Circle will award her a wild card.

Zvonareva appearance will give the tournament eight of the world's top 13 players, including fellow Russians Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Nadia Petrova as well as top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and defending champion Venus Williams.

-- When Kim Clijsters rallied to defeat Davenport in last weekend's final at Indian Wells, Calif., Clijsters wiped out Iva Majoli's reign from the 2002 FCC as the lowest-ranked Tier I singles champion. Clijsters (now No. 38) was ranked 133 before defeating Davenport. Majoli was only No. 58 when she defeated Patty Schnyder in the 2002 FCC final.

HIGH ON CHARLESTON
These words from Philip Burke, the assistant tennis director at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground, are an excellent description of what Charleston tennis has become.

"I think we have a great community to provide the very best atmosphere for tennis. There are so many nice, interacting, public and private facilities. Every facility seems to have their own niche. We have great tennis weather for almost year-round play.

"Our area is large enough for diversity, yet still small enough to know most of the people we play. We have access to the FCC and world-class resorts. I don't think any facility is at its full potential so there is plenty of room for growth. Please continue to encourage the community to participate, advocate and enjoy the game of tennis. It is up to us."

Burke's St. Andrew's facility is holding a sanctioned junior tournament this weekend.

PINE FOREST EVENT
Monday is the deadline for entering the Azalea Clay Court Classic that will be held next weekend at the newly enlarged and improved Pine Forest Country Club. Competition will be held in age groups for men and women from open to 80s, singles and doubles, NTRP singles and doubles 2.5-5.0, and mixed doubles 5.0-9.0.

Registration can be made online at www.sctennis.com. The tournament number is 704131305.

-- The "Battle of James Island" is scheduled for May 7 at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. The Country Club will be gunning for its third straight championship. Contact County Club tennis director Lee Brockman for more information (843-795-0425).


(03/13/05)  Brewer gets position with USTA
The Charleston area's role in the administration and success of tennis at the national level just keeps growing. Former Southern Tennis Association president Barbara Brewer has been appointed the USTA's new council chair for its Youth/Collegiate Division for 2005-06.

"Barbara's wealth of tennis knowledge and experience as well as her love for the game will propel adult and youth and collegiate tennis across the nation to new heights," said Franklin R. Johnson, the USTA's chairman of the board and president.

Brewer, who held the Southern Section's top job in 2001-02, will serve in a volunteer capacity as liaison with the USTA board of directors, the Youth/Collegiate Division and its committees. She has been a participant in the USTA's League Tennis program for 25 years.

Of course, the area already has two of the top senior players in the United States. Diane Fishburne not only has been the nation's top 45 women's player for the last two years, she also was tops in the world for 2004. Brenda Carter was the No. 1 women's 55 player in the United States last year. Both women will represent the USTA later this month in the world team championships in Australia, Carter serving as captain of her 55 team.

And don't forget that Kiawah Island's Roy Barth is back as vice chairman of the USTA's Davis Cup committee, or that past Davis Cup committee co-chairman Warren Kimball of Seabrook Island has been contracted by the USTA to write a history of the organization. Also, Family Circle Cup tournament director Mike Finley is on the USTA's Fed Cup committee that is chaired by local Win4Life founder Leslie Allen, a former WTA Tour star whom the area might as well claim.

With all of that clout, along with the success of last September's Davis Cup semi-final here, the area might be ripe for another venture into Fed Cup competition or maybe even Davis Cup in another year. Even if the U.S. gains a host berth in the Sept. 23-25 qualifying round for next year's Davis Cup World Group, it might be too early for the Davis Cup to return to Charleston.

CALL FOR DOUBLES AT TOP
The demise of the Bryan brothers last weekend in the U.S. Davis Cup loss to Croatia only adds emphasis to the importance of top players committing to doubles. Andy Roddick should be one of the game's best doubles players. He has the serve and the overhead. He just needs to improve on the basics of the net game.

Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic were superior tennis players to the Bryans, who make their living hugging the net and using movement tactics. Even as hard-working and motivated as the Bryans are, they simply weren't talented enough to overcome the tennis superiority of the Croatian doubles team.

The slow hard court used last weekend played against the Bryans, neutralizing their quickness at the net and coordinated movement. The Croatians, especially Ljubicic but Ancic as well, sat back on the baseline and pounded the ball at the net-hugging Bryans. Because of the court's slowness, the Bryans couldn't put the ball away on the first, second or even third volley, giving Ljubicic's forehand on the backhand side sitting-duck looks at high-bouncing Bryan volleys dumped in front of him.

SCHNYDER, PETROVA RETURN

The Family Circle Cup hasn't announced it yet, but 2002 runner-up and 2004 semifinalist Patty Schnyder has entered the April 9-17 tournament on Daniel Island, along with talented 22-year-old Russian Nadia Petrova, a quarterfinalist here last year and a former top 10 player. Petrova and Schnyder, of Switzerland, are ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, giving the Family Circle seven of the world's top 13 players.

LOCALS RANKED
Ray Easterbrook of Seabrook Island played in nine tournaments in 2004 to earn a No. 12 national ranking in men's 75 singles.

In the Southern rankings, Brenda Carter fared best, landing the top ranking in women's 55 singles and doubles. Susie Peiffer was second in women's 50 singles and first in 50 doubles, while Robi Poston took first in women's 65 doubles and second in 65 singles. Jerry Hanchrow and Janet Hanchrow were No. 1 in 70 mixed.

Others gaining high rankings in singles included: Diane Fishburne, second in both women's 45 categories; and Angela Williams, fourth in women's 60 singles and third in 60 doubles with Marina Weathers. Jim Sexton was third in men's 80 singles. High-ranking men in doubles included John Baird (3 in 75s), while women's doubles included Jackie Bull (4 in 50s), Carrie Randall (5 in 55s), Janet Hanchrow (3 in 70s), and Nancy Klock and Mary Walker (4 in 70s). Mary Porter and Peter Sherman were fifth in 30 mixed, while Dorothy Pickett and Edwin Pickett took third in 80 mixed.

-- Earlier this month, Fishburne won the women's 45 singles title in the National Clay Court Championships in Houston, and Carter was third in 55 singles and won the 55 doubles.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Summerville's fourth annual Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament is scheduled for April 1-3 at Azalea Park. The tournament is for juniors as well as all levels of adults and seniors. The entry deadline is March 30 at 9 p.m. Entry forms are available at all area clubs and the Summerville Family YMCA, or by calling tournament director Greg Hancox (843-830-5351).

-- The Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association is now accepting teams for its 2005-06 season, which begins in August. Teams have until June 1 to submit applications, which are available online at www.caltatennis.net.


(03/09/05)  Roddick's court was built for Ljubicic
Life is full of little surprises. Just ask Patrick McEnroe. Last September when his U.S. Davis Cup team was at Daniel Island, the future was rosy. McEnroe appeared to be a genius in the Americans' victory over Belarus. They were headed for the Davis Cup final. If they didn't win the 2004 Davis Cup, 2005 looked very promising.

Then came this past weekend in Carson, Calif. Not only were U.S. Davis Cup hopes devastated by Croatia, McEnroe no longer looked like a genius. You might even chalk this loss up to the likeable captain rather than his team. He selected a court surface that was perfect for Ivan Ljubicic's huge forehands and backhands.

If that wasn't enough, the slow hard court didn't appear to be suited for any of the Americans, not even Andy Roddick, for whom the court was built. Not for the Bryan brothers in doubles. And definitely not for Andre Agassi.

As a result, Davis Cup is out for this year for the Americans, and maybe in 2006 as well unless a suddenly vulnerable U.S. team can play itself back into the World Group by winning a qualifying round in September. Roddick and the Bryans probably are set, but the other singles spot is full of questions. Will Agassi be around at 35? Where's Mardy Fish? Is recklessly charging the net Taylor Dent's only tennis wisdom? Can 15-year-old Donald Young's game mature quickly?

BACK TO BASICS
I love serve-and-volley tennis. I admire players such as Tim Henman and Patrick Rafter, who have made a science of serve-and-volleying and the net game.

It was shocking to see Roddick on a critical point charge the net on a wide cross-court backhand approach shot that landed shallow. Ljubicic had only to find the open court -- or, if he preferred to gamble, hit behind his racing-to-the-other-side opponent. Roddick often approached this way.

Who are these baseliners learning their tennis from? They should get back to basics. Roddick needs a coach who knows the entire game. He should beg T.J. Middleton to be his coach, although doubles whiz Middleton is in the camp of Paradorn Srichaphan. Only a few players understand the net game as well as the little-known Middleton. Or maybe Roddick could pull John McEnroe out of the broadcast booth to help the American cause, or convince Rafter to leave his carefree lifestyle.

There's a time to go to the net, and a time to stay back. Even great volleyers such as Henman and Rafter practice this. The optimum time (I'm not talking about serving and volleying, which is a completely different philosophy) to charge the net in singles is when you have little to lose or when the pressure is greatest on your opponent, such as when you have the ad or set or match points. If you lose the point, you've got another point. A perfect approach shot also usually creates a good time to take the net.

But a weak net player can't afford to recklessly charge the net when he has a critical ad against him or when his opponent has a set or match point. Even a great net player doesn't do this.

SITTING-DUCK LOOKS

The slow court favored the Croatians from start to finish. The court made Roddick's normally huge serves sit up for Ljubicic's solid ground strokes. The court even played against the Bryans, neutralizing their quickness at the net and coordinated movement.

The Croatians, especially Ljubicic but Mario Ancic as well, sat back on the baseline and pounded the ball at the net-hugging Bryans. Because of the court's slowness, the Bryans couldn't put the ball away on the first, second or even third volley, giving Ljubicic's forehand on the backhand side sitting-duck looks at high-bouncing Bryan volleys dumped in front of him.


(03/06/05)  Slow court hinders Agassi's fast game
Just because Andre Agassi will celebrate his 35th birthday next month doesn't mean he's too old to play on a fast court. Quite the contrary, it may have been the slow court that Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe designed for Andy Roddick that caused Agassi so many problems against Ivan Ljubicic Friday in the first match of the United States-Croatia Davis Cup tie.

The slow surface in Carson, Calif., enabled the slow-footed Croatian to catch up with Agassi's hit-his-opponent-off-the-court style of strokes. The court sapped most of the zip from Agassi's normally blistering pace on groundstrokes, prompting Agassi to go for the lines too often on his shots and in the process committing excessive errors.

In the end, the court strategy might enable the Americans to defeat Croatia in that the slow court probably was a disadvantage for serve-and-volley standout Mario Ancic in his loss to Roddick in Friday's second match. The slow court also may aid Agassi in keeping Ancic off of the net in today's last match.

But after his complete domination Friday by Ljubicic, Agassi probably isn't real happy about the court, even though he may not say that publicly. He's a player of great stature, who was practically begged to return to Davis Cup competition. Yet, his game wasn't considered in the selection of a court surface.

The faster the court surface, the more advantage Agassi has, even against serve-and-volley players. This is because of his exceptional hand-eye coordination and his shot preparation, which probably still is better than anyone's in the game, even at near-senior age.

John McEnroe avoided the issue of the court surface while analyzing Friday's match, but Cliff Drysdale didn't. "This court was made for Roddick," Drysdale told his ESPN2 audience. McEnroe didn't respond.

But Ljubicic, at 6-4, appeared awkward in his movement, nearly stumbling at times running down Agassi's shots. On a faster court, Agassi might have run the Croatian right off the court

ESPN MISFIRES
ESPN made a smart choice in pulling John McEnroe into its broadcast booth, even if he was less effective than usual because of his conflict of interest in having his little brother on the U.S. sideline. But in my opinion, ESPN2 blew it by not televising the Roddick-Ancic match live Friday, and then putting it on ESPN Classic when it did show the match.

JACKIE KIMBALL HONORED
Jackie Kimball of Seabrook Island has been named the recipient of the USTA's Middle States Section's inaugural Carol Strasser Award for service to the USTA League program. The wife of past U.S. Davis Cup committee co-chairman Warren Kimball, Jackie was one of the founders of the USTA's tennis leagues while serving for 17 years as the Middle States' league coordinator.

She started the Middle States League in 1977 that became the pilot for the national tennis leagues. The Kimballs traveled last week to Princeton, N.J., to attend the meeting of the Middle States Section, which encompasses Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament is scheduled for next weekend at Charleston Tennis Center.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids spring session started Saturday and runs through April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The John's Island session is held each Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. and the downtown session is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Snee Farm's first Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for March 15-20. The entry deadline is Wednesday. Snee Farm will have only one other Grand Prix event this year, in October. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252) for more details.

-- St. Andrews Parks and Playground will hold a sanctioned NTRP tournament next weekend that features singles from 2.5 through 4.5 ratings for women and 3.0 to 4.5 for men as well as open competition. There also will be mixed doubles 3.0, 4.0 and open. Contact Brian Burke or Phil Burke (843-763-4360) for more information. The entry deadline is Wednesday.


(03/03/05)  Molik enters Family Circle Cup

Alicia Molik took her time ascending to a position among the world's elite women's tennis players, but the powerful and talented 24-year-old Australian appears to have run out of patience in the last year.

There's nothing slow about rising 25 spots in the world rankings in 12 months, especially now that she's No. 8 in the world. At this pace, Molik could be challenging for the top five by the time the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup starts on Daniel Island.

Molik is the fifth top 10 player entered in the $1.3 million Tier I WTA Tour tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center, joining top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, defending champion Venus Williams, Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva as well as 2003 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. Jennifer Capriati had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury.

Although clay may not be the best surface to maximize one of the biggest and best service games in women's tennis, Molik should be one of the favorites in the Family Circle Cup. She probably also will play doubles where she is currently ranked 10th after winning with Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open.

Molik, at 6-0, is at her best on a hard court such as this year's Australian Open where she defeated Venus Williams before losing to Davenport in the quarterfinals, becoming the first Australian woman in 17 years to advance to the quarterfinals in Melbourne. That performance elevated her into the top 10 for the first time, just four days after her 24th birthday.

Molik started the year with a 3-0 record at the Hopman Cup, then captured her fifth singles title by winning at Sydney prior to the Australian Open. She then was a finalist in Doha, upsetting Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals.


(03/02/05)  Junior Cup winner Beermann may pose problems for pros
The wind was blowing. The temperatures were chilling.

Those factors alone were enough to keep tennis fans indoors. Besides, the only people who knew what was going on were those few dozen gathered around the Althea Gibson Club Court on Monday evening to watch the girls' championship of the Junior Family Circle Cup.

The rest of this giant-sized junior tournament had been tossed out the door, thanks to Sunday's heavy rains. Tournament director Rob Eppelsheimer had no other choice. There just wasn't enough time or courts to complete the entire tournament. The weekend was over, and school was back in session.

It was important to produce a girls' 18 champion, the player who would receive a wild-card berth in the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup.

"For the facility, the girls' 18 is always the focus of the tournament. We definitely wanted a player (for the wild card)," Eppelsheimer said.

Monday was an exceptionally long day, especially for the champion, a 16-year-old German girl who registered for the tournament as Inga Beernann, but said after winning the title the correct spelling was Beermann.

A 6-2, 6-2 victory over third-seeded Stephanie Harris of Chattanooga, Tenn., in the 95-minute final capped off a day of four singles victories for the 5-4 Beermann.

"She's very much in shape, and she's a clay-court player. She slides those feet," Eppelsheimer said.

With her exaggerated topspin, extraordinary touch and racket control, and quickness, Beermann is just the type player who could cause problems for the big-hitting WTA Tour pros who will show up at Family Circle Tennis Center on April 9 for the pro qualifier.

She almost didn't even play in the Junior Cup. She had decided she was going home to Germany before the tournament started. Tom Jilly, one of her coaches at Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy, convinced her that this would be a good tournament for her to play. So she changed her travel plans and was scheduled to leave Tuesday for a visit back home to Germany.

A great deal has happened for this young woman who first came to Hilton Head Island in August 2003 as an exchange student at Heritage Academy, along with concentrating on tennis at Van der Meer Academy. She has liked it in America.

"I said, why not stay a little longer," she said. So, she has stayed until now.

The next few months, indeed, will be busy for Beermann. After the Family Circle Cup experience, she will start preparing for a college career at Virginia Tech, where she plans to major in architecture. Her deceased father was an architect.

COLLEGE UPDATE
The College of Charleston's men's team (4-1) looks for a fifth straight win against Southern Conference power East Tennessee State at noon Thursday at Patriots Point, before going on the road this weekend to face SoCon rivals Georgia Southern and Chattanooga.

-- The Cougar women (2-2) go to Coastal Carolina today, then play host to ETSU at 2 p.m. Friday.

-- The Citadel, 2-4 after back-to-back wins over Washington and Lee and UNC Wilmington, hosts Wofford at 1 p.m. Saturday and ETSU at noon Sunday.

-- Charleston Southern's men (4-4) play four home matches in four days, starting with Bethune-Cookman today (1 p.m.), Furman on Thursday (1 p.m.), Campbell on Friday (1 p.m.) and Winthrop on Saturday (10 a.m.).

-- The Charleston Southern women (1-3) are nearly as busy, playing Bethune-Cookman today, Campbell on Friday and Winthrop on Saturday.

COURTING KIDS START
The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program will begin its spring session Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and at 1 p.m. at Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(03/01/05)  Beermann nabs girls' 18 title

JUNIOR FAMILY CIRCLE CUP

Moon balls and drop shots are what 16-year-old German Inga Beermann's game is all about. But that game was good enough to win four matches Monday and earn the Virginia Tech-bound player a wild-card berth in next month's qualifying tournament for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup.

That's right: Beermann started Monday morning still in the round of 16 of the rain backed-up Junior Family Circle Cup. By nighttime, she was in the girls' 18 final and on her way to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over 17-year-old Stephanie Harris of Chattanooga, Tenn.

All of the other age groups of the tournament were canceled Monday, leaving only the girls' 18.

The final victory of the day didn't come easy for Beermann, a 5-4 baseliner out of Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy. With the wild-card berth in the pro qualifying tournament at stake, Harris was a formidable opponent. The University of Tennessee-bound Harris was a whirlwind of brilliant forehands and backhands.

But Beermann's drop shots, court coverage and heavy topspin that produced the moon-ball effect repeatedly wore down Harris' patience, resulting in unforced errors on the clay surface at Family Circle Tennis Center.

One loose Harris service game lost at love opened the door for Beermann to take a 4-2 lead in the first set. She broke service in a long fourth game for a 3-1 lead in the second set, then held service for 4-1 with the aid of two drop shots on one point.

"She never missed," said Harris, the tournament's third seed, who had won two matches earlier in the day. "She hit topspin balls that were out of my strike zone."

As for the No. 4-seeded Beermann, she started off the day by completing a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kelly Irving of Knoxville, Tenn., then got a breather in the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Lauren Strasburger of Brentwood, Tenn., before upsetting No. 2 seed Catherine Newman of Greensboro, N.C., 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals.

"That's my record ... four wins in one day. Mentally, I'm so tired, even more than physically," said Beermann, who today is headed home to Germany. She will return in time for the April 9-10 Family Circle qualifying tournament.

Harris easily defeated Laurianne Henry of Anderson, 7-5, 6-1, in a quarterfinal Monday morning, but powerful 15-year-old Samantha Powers from the Atlanta area made things tough for Harris in the semis before falling, 7-5, 6-3.

Powers, however, pulled the upset of the tournament by rallying from a set down to defeat top-seeded Austin Smith of Hilton Head Island, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), in the quarterfinals. Seeded 10th, Powers hit numerous outright winners from the baseline from both sides. But she threw in too many unforced errors to overcome the consistent Harris.

Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 32)
Mike Greenberg, Chapel Hill, N.C., d. Austin Roebuck, Bogart, Ga., 6-2, 7-5; Lee Floyd (3), Spartanburg, d. Edward Webb, Chapel Hill, N.C., 6-4, 6-4.

Boys' 12 Singles (Quarterfinals)
Rob Galloway (3), Greenville, d. Sam Weissler, Chapel Hill, N.C., 7-6(3), 6-3.

Girls' 18 Singles
(Round of 16)
Austin Smith (1), Hilton Head, d. Ali Gores, Charlotte, 6-0, 6-3; Lauren Strasburger (8), Brentwood, Tenn., d. Frances Rudolph, Charlotte, 6-4, 6-1; Inga Beermann (4), Bad Salzuflen, Germany, d. Kelly Irving, Knoxville, Tenn., 2-6, 6-1, 6-2; Reka Zsilinszka (9), Fayetteville, N.C. d. Jessica Giuggioli, Rivalta, Italy, 6-2, 6-4.

(Quarterfinals)
Samantha Powers (10), Woodstock, Ga., d. Smith 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(7); Catherine Newman (2), Greensboro, N.C., d. Zsilinszka, 6-1, 6-1; Beermann d. Strasburger, 6-0, 6-0; Stephanie Harris (3), Chattanooga, Tenn., d. Laurianne Henry, Anderson, 7-5, 6-1.

(Semifinals)
Harris d. Powers, 7-5, 6-3; Beermann d. Newman, 6-3, 6-3.

(Final)
Beermann d. Harris, 6-2, 6-2


(02/27/05)  Legend's daughter advances in Junior Family Circle Cup
Tall, lean, blonde, and with a lethal weapon for a left hand. That might describe the daughter of Hall of Fame tennis player Stan Smith.

Austin Smith is this 18-year-old tennis prodigy's name. She is headed for the University of North Carolina on a full tennis scholarship.

In the meantime, she has to take care of a little business - completing her junior career. Her Duke graduate brother Ramsey Smith brought her from Hilton Head Island to Charleston for this weekend's Junior Family Circle Cup while her parents are on business in Florida.

Austin Smith had a mild scare in her first match at Family Circle Tennis Center on Saturday afternoon trying to live up to her No. 1 seeding in girls' 18 as well as keeping up the Smith tennis tradition.

"I was nervous a little in the first set," Smith said about her 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 victory over fellow Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy player Sarah Giles-Madden. "I was tight, but I played well in the tiebreaker."

Smith's goal, of course, is to defeat Ali Gores of Charlotte in

today's 10:30 a.m. round-of-16 match, then win three more matches and claim the tournament's wild-card berth for the girls' 18 winner in the April 9-10 qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

"If I play well I can do pretty well," said Smith. "I would love to get the wild card."

Of course, she grew up at Hilton Head Island's Shipyard Plantation watching the Family Circle Cup before its move to Daniel Island in 2001.

When Smith's left-handed serve is on, she's tough to handle, even on clay surface such as at Family Circle Tennis Center. She nails low, line-drive groundstrokes from both sides, covers the court well and volleys well.

The next three seeds in girls' 18 all advanced to the round of 16: No. 2 Catherine Newman of Greensboro, N.C., No. 3 Stephanie Harris of Chattanooga, Tenn., and No. 4 Inga Beernann from Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy.

No. 5 seed Jason Basile in boys' 18 turned back Josh Ray of Matthews, N.C., 6-4, 6-2, to advance to a 10:30 a.m. round of 16 match today.

Junior Family Circle Cup
Local Results at Family Circle Tennis Center - Daniel Island

Boys' 14 Singles (Round of 64)
Summerville d. Matthew Cherney, Charlotte, 6-1, 6-3; Connor Hoy, Mount Pleasant, d. Henry Boyle, Charleston 6-0; 6-0.

Boys' 14 Singles (Round of 32)
Sam Funkhouser, [9], Raleigh d. Connor Hoy, Mount Pleasant 6-0; 6-1; Ely Khoury [8], Greenville, N.C., d. Leigh Colyer, Charleston 6-3, 6-3; Joshua Richmond, Pawleys Island, d. Randall Heffron, Charleston, 6-4, 6-4. Alexander Nista [13], Daniel Island def. Babaee, Ashkon, 6-1; 6-2; Thomas Fanjoy, Thomas [2], Statesville, N.C., d. Josh Klingenberg, Summerville, 6-1; 6-1; John Karle, Daniel Island, d. William Apperson, William, Louisville, 6-1; 6-1; James Yates, James [6], Greensboro, N.C. d. Bobby Crossland, Mount Pleasant, 6-0; 6-0.

Boys' 12 Singles (Round of 32)
Madison Daly, Savannah, d. Rivers Colyer, Charleston, 7-6 (6); 3-6; 6-3; Micah Dye, Pinopolis d. Bradley McClelland, Daniel Island, 7-5; 6-4; Richmond, John [1], Pawleys Island, d. Hunter Mitchell, Charleston, 6-1; 6-2; Peter Pritchard, Charleston, def. Jacob Behal, Simpsonville, 6-1, 6-0; Christopher Lawdahl, [2], Greenville, d. Walker Heffron, Charleston, 6-0; 6-0

Boys' 12 Singles (Round of 16)
Lawdahl d. Pritchard 6-1; 6-2

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 64)
Ashley Perkins, Mount Pleasant, d. Holly McGetrick, Little Rock, Ark. 6-2; 6-1; Emily Braid, Raleigh, d. Caroline Thornton, Sullivan's Island, 6-0, 6-3; Kelly Irving, Knoxville, Tenn., d. Dana Richards, Charleston, 6-1, 6-1; Hanes Harris, Wilmington, N.C., d. Elizabeth Walker, Summerville, 6-0, 6-0; Amanda Granson, Bethlehem, Pa. d. Sabra Rogers, Mount Pleasant, 6-3, 6-2; Tara Byrne, Johnson City, Tenn., d. Alexandra LaCoste, Charleston, 6-0; 6-1; Laurianne Henry, Anderson, d. Sarah London, Mount Pleasant, 6-0; 6-0.

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 32)
Siobhan Finicane, [11], Brimfield, Mass., d. Ashley Perkins, Mount Pleasant, 6-1; 6-1

Girls' 14 Singles (Round of 64)
Dana Westerkam, Columbia, d. Mallory McCoy, Summerville, 6-0, 6-0; Bethany Dyar, Savannah d. Hailey Weaver, Hollywood, 6-2; 6-3; Shelby Rogers, Mount Pleasant, d. Jane Lucas, Greenville 6-0; 6-0; Courtney Mitchell, Charleston, d. Stephanie Benner, Daniel Island, 6-1; 6-1; Lindsay Larkin, [9], Mount Pleasant, d. Lauren Trumbull, Anderson, 6-3; 6-3; Hagan Edgerton, Mount Pleasant, def. Anna Brewer, Summerville, 6-1, 6-1; Courtney Gardiner, Powder Springs, Ga., d. Olivia McMillan, Mount Pleasant, 6-0; 6-1; Mari Taylor Troutman, High Point, N.C., d. Natalie Santiago, Isle Of Palms, 6-0; 4-6; 6-4; Kimberly Williams, Powder Springs, Ga., d. Adrianne Chamberlain, Charleston, 7-5; 6-3; Elizabeth Cole, Sullivan's Island, def. Betsy McDonald, Anderson, 6-0; 6-2; Elizabeth Hester, Asheville, N.C., d. Abigale Thayer, Mount Pleasant, 6-1; 6-0; Neena Wanko, Southern Pines, N.C., d. Jacey Edwards, Charleston, 6-3, 6-3

Girls' 14 Singles (Round of 32)
Shelby Rogers, Mount Pleasant, d. Lindsay Larkin, Mount Pleasant, 6-1, 6-3; Sally Bartelmo, [5], Rock Hill, S.C. d. Courtney Mitchell, Charleston, 6-1, 6-0; Hagan Edgerton, Mount Pleasant, d. Jordan Lazarus, Myrtle Beach 6-2; 6-2; Jennifer Ansari, [1], Greensboro, N.C., d. Elizabeth Cole, Sullivan's Island, 6-0; 6-1.

Girls' 12 Singles (Round of 32)
Katie Fosnacht, [3], Blythewood, def. Taylor Perkins, Mount Pleasant, 6-2; 6-3; Kelly Cameron, Hartsville, d. Kayla Heller, Mount Pleasant, 6-0; 6-0; Meghan Blevins, [8], North Charleston, def. Caroline Deloach, Columbia, 6-2; 7-5; Sarah Thomas, [5], Wilson, N.C., d. Poulnot, Polly, Mount Pleasant, 6-1, 6-1; Katie Davidson, [4], Raleigh, d. Patricia Kirkland, Charleston 6-3; 6-3; Mackenzie Eichengreen, Mackenzie, Louisville, d. Nicole Hinckley, Sullivan's Island, 6-1; 6-0; Downing Herlocker, Mount Pleasant, d. Lindsey Burke, Winchester, Mass., 6-3; 6-1

Girls' 12 Singles (Round of 16)
Meghan Blevins, [8], North Charleston, d. Mackenzie Eichengreen, Louisville, 7-5; 6-2;

Boys' 10 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Zac Dye, Pinopolis, d. Steven Weaver, Hollywood, 6-3; 6-4; Payne Hoy, [1], Mount Pleasant, d. Josh Du Toit, Charlotte 6-4, 6-2.

Girls' 10 Singles (Round of 16)
Isabel Dennis, [2], Charleston, d. Katei Tiller, Camden, 6-2; 2-6; 10-8; Madison Walters, [5], Raleigh, def. Alexandria Klein, Mount Pleasant, 6-0; 6-0


(02/27/05)  Gamesmanship in tennis simply part of the game
Tennis is a head game. The most successful players not only manage their own heads, but often the heads of their opponents simply by staying in charge of their own emotions.

Unfortunately, some players appear to purposely do little things to throw their opponent off, such as repeatedly questioning line calls. Some are legitimate questions, others appear to be designed to break the opponent's concentration.

I've seen college players go as far as to illegally call foot faults on their opponent in a tiebreaker. Boy, did that break the other player's concentration.

It's easy for even adults to lose their focus once someone starts questioning their fairness. Once a player says a shot is out, to ask "Are you sure?" is like throwing a red flag.

Questioning an opponent's calls has led to many victories and many defeats. The player doing the questioning often loses focus, while the questioned person might demonstrate new determination and focus, although the reverse is usually true.

Noted teaching guru Dennis Van der Meer of Hilton Head Island deals with the issue of juniors controlling their emotions in the April issue of Tennis Magazine.

"Tennis is the greatest game I know for families to enjoy together, but it's very hard to watch youngsters struggle through the emotional ups and downs," Van der Meer writes.

His advice: "Keep a simple chart of the number of points your child gathers during each match versus the number going to his opponent. As long as your child collects more points, he'll win 90 percent of the time. We encourage our young students to try for sets of three points in a row, and to prevent their opponents from doing the same. This thinking encourages them to pout away past errors and move on to the next point."

CARTER IS CAPTAIN
The USTA has announced that Charleston's Brenda Carter, the nation's No. 1-ranked women's 55 singles player, has been named playing captain of the USTA's women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team that will travel to Perth, Australia, for the March 27-April 1 international competition.

Carter also is ranked fourth in the United States in 55 doubles. This is her fourth straight year on the team and second as captain.

The United States won the 2003 Maureen Connolly Cup in Antalya, Turkey, but was runner-up to Australia last year in Philadelphia.

Carter and other top players will remain in Australia to compete the following week in the International Tennis Federation's Senior Individual World Championships.

Trips for U.S. teams for competition such as the Connolly Cup and women's 45 Margaret Court Cup are funded by the USTA.

-- Diane Fishburne, another local senior who is the top-ranked women's 45 player in the world, also will compete in Australia at the same time as Carter, but in the Margaret Court Cup.

CAPRIATI OUT
Jennifer Capriati had planned to play in the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup, but she has informed tournament officials that she will not, due to continued shoulder problems.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Saturday is the deadline for entering the March 11-13 Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament at Charleston Tennis Center. Registrations are currently available over the Internet or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue. To register online, go to www.sctennis.com and use the tournament number (704130705). For more information, contact the tennis center (724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids spring session starts Saturday and runs through April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Snee Farm's first Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for March 15-20. The entry deadline is March 9. The event is for both Snee Farm Country Club members and non-members. A new super seniors division to be played during the day has been added. To add to the festivities there will be music and food. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252) for more details.


(02/25/05)  Elite field set for Junior Family Circle Cup
Weather permitting, all systems are go for a 3 p.m. start today at Family Circle Tennis Center for possibly the biggest junior tournament ever staged in South Carolina: The Junior Family Circle Cup, which will run through Monday.

Actually, the tournament field was larger than tournament director Rob Eppelsheimer had space for in his draws. A list of 563 registered players had to be reduced to 525 players to accommodate the boys' 10, 12, 14 and 16 draws. The three older divisions are all 64 draws, but 88 boys registered for 16-and-under competition.

Boys aren't even the focal point of the tournament. The highlight of the event is girls' 18 where the winner will earn a wild-card berth into the April 9-10 qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

But girls' 18 does have about 60 players entered. That could mean stiff competition for the wild-card berth, which University of Georgia All-American Shadisha Robinson and Katrina Tsang of Raleigh took the last two years into the pro qualifying tournament.

Most of the top local girls' 18 players are absent, but talented University of North Carolina-bound Austin Smith of Hilton Head Island is entered and is the tournament's top seed.

The daughter of Stan Smith is ranked 26th nationally.


(02/23/05)  Transfer student giving The Citadel a boost

The Citadel's 4-3 victory over Washington and Lee last Friday was about as exciting as college tennis gets.

With a good crowd on hand, coach Toby Simpson's young Citadel team needed a confidence builder badly after dropping its first four matches of the spring season, including a pair of close home matches. But this one wouldn't be easy against an NCAA Division III team that was ranked 10th in the nation.

For all practical purposes, the match came down to No. 2 singles where The Citadel's Ananda Sawmynaden was playing W&L All-American David Shay. The No. 6 singles match was still going on and would finish even after the team match ended when Sawmynaden prevailed in a third-set tiebreaker.

Sawmynaden, a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute, has a huge serve and a strong forehand. He survived four match points to save not only his victory, but also probably his team's victory.

From the African coast island of Mauritius, Sawmynaden is an impressive athlete. At 6-3, 185 pounds, he looks powerful and athletic enough to play tight end or linebacker in football. After spending two years at New Mexico Military, he's in his first year at The Citadel, but a junior eligibility-wise in tennis.

-- The Bulldogs will be at home again Saturday at noon against UNC-Wilmington.

ESTES SIDELINED
Former Porter-Gaud star Nat Estes watched The Citadel-Washington and Lee match from the bleachers, with his left leg propped up. The W&L freshman underwent knee surgery in Charleston on Valentine's Day, his 19th birthday.

Estes first hurt the knee last fall, but injured it again a few weeks ago. He'll miss the entire season.

"That's disappointing. Nat probably would have played No. 3 or 4 singles and No. 2 doubles," said fifth-year W&L coach David Detwiler, a former Furman standout.

-- Detwiler's parents, Jon and Shirlee Detwiler, reside at Kiawah Island in the winter, taking a break from the weather in their Columbus, Ohio, area summer home.

-- Emily Applegate, another former Porter-Gaud standout, has transferred from the University of Richmond to Washington and Lee.

THE FOREIGN QUESTION
How do schools like Washington and Lee field a lineup made up entirely of Americans? "One reason is that we don't offer scholarships," Detwiler said. "There's too many other schools that will give them (foreign players) scholarships."

If you're looking over the men's lineups for Charleston Southern, The Citadel and the College of Charleston, you can't miss the domination by players from countries other than the United States. A total of only three American men (all from the Atlanta area) start for the three local colleges.

One of the three Americans probably will lose his starting job once No. 1 player Or Dekel returns from the College of Charleston's injury list. Alexandre Quillis has played No. 6 for the Cougars, joining No. 5 Justin Malina. Both are from the Atlanta area. The other Atlantan is sophomore Nicholas Medica, who plays No. 5 for The Citadel. Charleston Southern doesn't have an American listed on its roster.

BUCS STUMBLE
Charleston Southern started well, getting off to a 3-1 record, but the Bucs lost three out of four matches over the weekend in the Clemson tournament. The Bucs were blanked by Clemson, then beat Tennessee Tech, 5-2, before suffering back-to-back 5-2 losses to a pair of defending national champions, Auburn-Montgomery (NAIA) and Emory (NCAA Division III). The Bucs are idle until a March 2 home match against Bethune-Cookman.

-- The CSU women, off to a 1-2 start, play at Georgia Southern today.

-- The C of C women (1-2), who were rained out again Sunday against Coastal Carolina, will make up their earlier rained out match against South Carolina State at 5 p.m. today at Patriots Point.

-- The College of Charleston men, who have won three straight matches since losing to Winthrop in their opener, meet UNC-Wilmington Monday at Patriots Point at 1 p.m.

RHETT WINS 50TH

Ashley Hall graduate Katye Rhett recently won her 50th career singles match for Sewanee. Now a senior, Rhett is playing No. 5 after having played Nos. 1-4 her first three years while compiling a 49-23 singles record as a collegian. She entered this season with a 45-36 doubles record.

Rhett played No. 4 last season, but moved down a notch this season to make room for freshman No. 1 player Gab Carvalho of Rock Hill. Sewanee also has two other former S.C. junior players, sisters Lauren Willett and Molly Willett of Greenville, playing at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions.

-- Carvalho's brother, junior Joe Carvalho from Rock Hill, plays No. 2 for the Sewanee men's team. Cid Carvalho, Joe's and Gab's dad, is the men's and women's tennis coach at Big South Conference power Winthrop. Not only did the Winthrop men defeat the College of Charleston, 6-1, they were barely beaten by Clemson Saturday, 4-3. The Winthrop women are unbeaten heading into today's meeting with unbeaten South Carolina in Columbia.


(02/20/05)  Father's reins on star sisters loosen
Has Richard Williams lost control of his tennis-playing daughters?

I realize the women haven't been winning so many tournaments the last year or so, but what's this letting Venus parade around in skimpy attire, making seductive poses on three pages of the current Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Of course, Venus is 24 years old now, and probably making a few decisions of her own.

I wouldn't have been surprised if Serena had taken the step, but Venus?

The question is: Does Venus want to become known for being sexy or for her tennis skills?

TSUNAMI BENEFIT CLINIC
Today is the day you can help victims of the tsunami simply by hitting the courts, and getting a few pointers from six former Charleston Southern University tennis players, led by Sandeep Reddy.

The group is requesting a minimum $20 donation for the two-hour tsunami benefit clinic that is set for 3 p.m. today at Family Circle Tennis Center. And if you love tennis and want to contribute to this cause, you don't have to be a tennis player or participate in today's clinic.

But then again, this might be the chance you have been looking for to get into this game for a lifetime. Remember, Bob Kitchen is still playing competitive doubles at Maybank Tennis Center at 90 years of age. Just borrow or purchase a racket, and these outstanding former CSU players will take care of the rest.

Once you've taken the first step, there's a good chance you'll be hooked, especially if you take a partner with you to the clinic that you can hit and practice with until you eventually join a league.

-- Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brothers Brother Foundation.

RICHARDS, HOY TOPS
Two Charleston-area juniors gained No. 1 state rankings for 2004. Dana Richards earned the top honor in girls' 18, and Payne Hoy took the No. 1 spot in boys' 10.

The Charleston area has a total of nine boys and girls ranked in the top 10, and six of them are in 10-and-under.

Other than Richards, three local girls made top 10 lists. Isabel Dennis (4) and Patricia Kirkland (7) made the top 10 in 10-and-under, while Alexandra LaCoste is 10th in girls' 18.

The Charleston area had five boys ranked in the top 10, and four of them are in 10-and-under. In addition to Hoy, Wilson Daniel (3), Austin Heinz (6) and Joel Roberts (7) gained top 10 rankings in boys' 10. The only other local boy to gain a top 10 ranking was Dirk Bair (10) in 16-and-under.

Other local girls in the top 20 were: Nicole Hinckley (15), Sarah McDonald (16) and Mollie Polk (20) in 10-and-under; Meghan Blevins (12), Downing Herlocker (15) and Hagan Edgerton (16) in 12s; Hagan Edgerton (16) in 14s; and Ashley Mitchell (13) in 16s.

Other boys in the top 20 were: Steven Weaver (15), George Phillips (16) and Baily Kirkland (18) in 10-and-under; Peter Pritchard (13) and Walker Heffron (17) in 12s; Alexander Nista (12), Randall Heffron (17) and John Karle (18) in 14s; and Garrett Egan (12), Trad Robinson (17) and Will Bailey (19) in 18s.

The area had three top-ranked girls' doubles players: Blevins and Herlocker in 12s; and Nikki Miller in 14s.

FOUR NO. 1 ADULTS
Becky Fenno (women's 35), Susan Peiffer (women's 50), Robi Poston (women's 65) and Ray Easterbrook (men's 75) all earned No. 1 state adult singles rankings.

Nine other men earned top 10 singles rankings: Kenneth Johnstone (3, 40-and-over); Eric Forsberg (5, 55s); Larry Sechrist (7, 55s); Nat Malcolm (10, 55s); Jerry Simmons (5, 60s); Charles Burns (6, 60s); Lyons Williams (2, 65s); Jerry Hanchrow (7, 70s); and John Baird (3, 75s), along with Angela Williams (2, women's 60s). James Elliget and William Stogner are No. 1 in men's 40 doubles.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The grand opening ceremony for the new courts at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will be held next Saturday at noon. The festivities also will include a Prince clinic and exhibition matches featuring Diane Fishburne and top local professionals.

-- The deadline for entering the Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament scheduled for March 11-13 at Charleston Tennis Center is March 5. Registrations are currently available over the Internet or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue in West Ashley. To register online, go to www.sctennis.com and use the tournament number (704130705). For more information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program is set for March 5-April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

SNEE FARM JUNIOR
Results from last weekend's Snee Farm Junior Challenger at Snee Farm Country Club:

GIRLS' SINGLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Mollie Polk (1), Round O def. Brooke Busby, Hilton Head 7-6 (3), 3-6, 10-2; 12s--Christina Connelly (1), Mt. Pleasant def. Polly Poulnot (2), Mt. Pleasant 6-4, 6-4; 14s--Jordan Lazarus, Myrtle Beach def. Olivia McMillian (1), Mt. Pleasant 6-2, 6-3; 16s--Christina Lazarus, Myrtle Beach def. Lena Lohse, North Charleston (1), 6-1, 6-1.

GIRLS' DOUBLES FINALS: 12-and-under--Polk/Edwards (3) def. Robards/Steichen 8-0; 16s--Lazarus/Lazarus def. Lohse/Miler 8-1.

BOYS' SINGLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Zac Dye (1), Pinopolis def. Ashton Phillips (2) Charleston 6-1, 6-1; 12s--Joseph Kennedy (2), Charleston def. Weber Pike, Beaufort 6-4, 3-6, 10-4; 14s--Josh Klingenberg, Summerville def. Joshua Richmond (2), Pawleys Island 6-1 6-2; 16s--Jeremiah Dye (2) Pinopolis def. Pete Supan (1) Beaufort 6-2, 6-1; 18s--Denis Polyekhin, Charleston def. Phillip Ford, Orangeburg 6-0, 6-0.

BOYS' DOUBLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Daniel/Phillips def. Elliget/Dye 8-6; 12s--Dye/Cumbie def. Elliget/Scarafile 8-2; 14s (round robin)--Holoubek/Smith def. Adair/Briggs 8-2; 16s--Patrick/Richards. def. Richmond/Richmond 8-0.


(02/16/05)  Doubles no longer priority
Doubles is that grand old game that is beginning to fade at the top level, with a little help from the lower levels. Most juniors apparently don't want to find partners. And many tournaments don't want to provide the extra courts, balls, time and administrative requirements.

Where are today's John McEnroe and Stan Smith? They aren't on the men's tour. And American women are pretty much the same, other than a token effort by Lindsay Davenport.

And with this demise of the doubles game, American tennis is slipping. We all know that Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi aren't wild about doubles, thus the players who are following in their footsteps think the same way.

Pretty soon, unless the top juniors pick up the doubles beat, this great part of tennis will fade away, except at the league level, of course, where adults and seniors have a love affair going with doubles.

RUSSIAN DOUBLES
If you think the doubles game isn't important to the overall health of tennis, all you have to do is analyze what's happening in Russia these days. The Russians are dominating the women's game, and that domination will only increase in the next few years.
And yes, these young Russian women play the doubles game. Russia currently has 10 women ranked in the world's top 50 in singles (eight in the top 18). Among that group, only 18-year-old Vera Douchevina, who's 42nd in singles, isn't ranked among the world's top 100 in doubles.

By comparison, of the seven Americans ranked in the top 50 in singles, only Meghann Shaughnessy, Lisa Raymond and Davenport are in the top 100 in doubles.

Yes, the Russians are coming. Nine Russians in the top 50 are under 25 years of age. And a year from now, they'll probably have more than that. Four Russian teenagers are in the top 50.

As for the Americans, a year from now the United States may have as few as three total tour regulars in the top 50, and only Serena Williams under 25.

Of the Americans' current seven top 50 players, four of them are 28 or older. Yes, Davenport, Raymond, Jennifer Capriati and Amy Frazier probably are in their final year or years on the tour.

That leaves only the nearly 26-year-old Shaughnessy and the Williams sisters. And we all know how fickle the future of the Williams sisters might be.

BUCS START FAST
Charleston Southern's men's team is off to a fast start behind the Australian Dean brothers. Like the Bucs, sophomore Jonathan and freshman Steven are 3-1. The only losses for CSU and the Deans came in a 7-0 indoor loss to Clemson.

CSU is 2-0 against Southern Conference teams after beating Wofford 6-1 last Friday. But the Bucs are in the same conference (Big South) with Winthrop, which beat SoCon power College of Charleston 6-1 over the weekend.

CSU plays Clemson again Friday at 1 p.m. in an outdoor tournament at Clemson, along with Tennessee Tech at 6 p.m. Friday, then NAIA No. 1 Auburn-Montgomery and Emory on Saturday.

-- The CSU women are 1-2. They lost to Presbyterian and East Carolina and beat Western Carolina.

C OF C WOMEN AT USC
The College of Charleston women (1-1) play at unbeaten South Carolina today at 1:30 p.m.

The Cougars came within one game of posting a win over Hampton on Monday. They led 3-0 in the team match and Gabriela Moreira held a 6-2, 5-2 edge at No. 1 singles when rain hit Monday. Hampton stayed overnight to finish the match Tuesday, but the courts were still soaked and Hampton had to travel to Florida.

-- Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men's team split with Winthrop and Mercer, then was rained out against Hampton.

-- Toby Simpson's Citadel men are winless after four matches, losing at home to Coastal Carolina and Mercer in the last week. The Bulldogs will be at home Friday at 2 p.m. against Washington and Lee.


(02/13/05)  Hopefully, Henin-Hardenne won't be out much longer

It's still eight weeks before another Family Circle Cup arrives on Daniel Island. I hope Justine Henin-Hardenne makes the trip again.

She's entered, of course. But so far the WTA Tour has made no other announcement about when the world's former No. 1 player will rejoin the tour. She has been restricted this year by a knee injury, which came after the viral condition that first appeared last April after she had arrived on Daniel Island to defend her Family Circle Cup title.

I saw Henin-Hardenne play at the U.S. Open on a cool Labor Day night in which she was upset by Nadia Petrova, the first time in 22 years that the No. 1 seed lost before the semifinals. That loss knocked Henin-Hardenne out of the top spot in the world. She wasn't the same player that had dominated the women's game from the 2003 Family Circle Cup through the 2004 Australian Open, winning three Grand Slams in that period.

She hasn't been the same since the loss to Petrova, either.

Injuries and sickness have a way of equalizing things, just as Serena and Venus Williams have discovered. Injuries and sickness are the great equalizer in athletics. When the opposition improves and senses that a one-time great player is vulnerable, both mentally and physically, it's a new game. Not only for the opposition, but also for the recovering player who simply doesn't know if he or she is as good as in the past.

That one thread of uncertainty is difficult to overcome. The recovering player has to prove all over again that he or she is better than the opposition, just as Serena Williams demonstrated in the Australian Open.

As for Henin-Hardenne, I think she is a special athlete who has reached such greatness in women's tennis primarily because of her work ethic. That complicates the picture, because unlike Serena Williams, Henin-Hardenne isn't physically superior to some of her opponents. She is slightly less than 5-6 tall, and she isn't rippling with muscles.

Henin-Hardenne's biggest weapons are her grit and determination. But her work ethic may have been affected by her sickness in that she is now unable to work as hard as she did before. The knee injury may be a sign of that.

It may take Henin-Hardenne a bit longer to rediscover her former brilliance. In the meantime, the Russians are coming, and getting better all the time. Not to mention Serena Williams.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The USTA is taking part in Black History Month through a panel that has selected the top 10 moments in black tennis history. The panel includes Win4Life founder Leslie Allen and Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison. The achievements of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, two trailblazers who broke down tennis' color barriers, headline the top 10 moments, along with the recent accomplishments of the Williams sisters.

-- Gibson's appearance at the 1950 U.S. Open that broke the color barrier for the event was ranked the No. 1 moment. Gibson became the first black player to win a Grand Slam title in 1956 by winning the French Open. She added Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles the next year. The club court at Family Circle Tennis Center was named in her honor last year.

-- Ashe had two of the USTA's top 10 moments in black tennis history by becoming, in 1968, the first black man to win the U.S. Open, and in 1981 becoming the first black player to captain the U.S. Davis Cup team. Also in 1963, Ashe was the first black player to play Davis Cup for the U.S.

-- Venus Williams made the list by becoming in 1997 the first black woman to make the U.S. Open final since Gibson. The Williams sisters also gained another top moment by winning Grand Slams in 1999 and 2000.

UPCOMING EVENTS

-- It's still not too late to enter today's Valentine's Mixed Doubles social round-robin at Charleston Tennis Center - that is, if you have a partner. The event runs from 2-6 p.m., but walkup teams need to arrive by 1:30 p.m. to register. For information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402).

-- The grand opening ceremony for the new courts at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club has been rescheduled for Feb. 26 at noon, according to tennis director Heinz Maurer. The festivities also will include a Prince clinic and exhibition matches featuring Diane Fishburne and top local pros.

-- Registrations for the Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament scheduled for March 11-13 at Charleston Tennis Center are currently available over the internet or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue. To register online, go to www.sctennis.com and use the tournament number (704130705). The entry deadline is March 5. For more information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and singles.

-- Don't forget the tsunami benefit clinic next Sunday at Family Circle Tennis Center. Sandeep Reddy and five other former Charleston Southern tennis players will put on the two-hour clinic at 3 p.m. next Sunday. Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brothers Brother Foundation. Clinic reservations can be made by contacting Bafford (843-452-2593).

-- Juniors can register (www.juniorfamilycirclecup-.com) for the Feb. 25-28 Junior Family Circle Cup. Entry deadline: Feb. 18.

-- The City of Charleston is taking applications for its Courting Kids program that will run March 5-April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(02/09/05)  Call sounded for Family Circle Cup ball crew volunteers

Do you want to see today's professional women's tennis players up close? Maybe even toss a ball to them?

You can live that dream. And you don't have to be a junior.

The Family Circle Cup has a spot for you in its ball crew. Of course, kids 11 and over are welcome along with adults. Or, a mother and daughter or a father and son might want to join up as a team.

All that's required are a few Saturdays (12:30-3 p.m.) of practice until the tournament kicks off April 9 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Ball crew members get a hat, T-shirt and jacket as well as free meals during the tournament. When not on duty, they can watch other matches on any court.

The catch is that adults might need to take a week of vacation during the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup, and kids will have to miss some school. Unlike some years in the past, this year's spring break for private and public schools doesn't coincide with the tournament.

But even this could work out well for students such as those at Bishop England, Porter-Gaud and Academic Magnet, who in the past years have used the ball crew work for community service hours.

For some reason, maybe the weather, volunteers for the ball crew are down from past years. Ball crew supervisor Toni Young doesn't know why.

"It takes about 200 people for the week, and we are right about half of that," said Young, a Maybank Tennis Center pro when not running the ball crew operations with Dan Tumbleston and Susan Honowitz.

"I don't know why we haven't had the turnout we usually do. I don't know if some kids are maybe not aware of it. We usually have only about 20 adults, but the nice thing about adults is they don't need the training the kids need."

Junior tennis players are the ideal participants, but Young and her fellow supervisors welcome non-tennis players, whether adults or juniors. "Most of the kids do play tennis, but some of the kids we teach how to score the games," Young said. "Kids have a lot of fun. Last year we did half days, but nobody wanted to go home, so this year we're doing whole days (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)."

The more experienced participants work the evening matches. Also, a committee selects the ball crew for the quarterfinals through the final by judging their work during the qualifying tournament weekend and the Monday through Thursday rounds.

"Anyone who wants to join the ball crew can just show up Saturday (at Family Circle Tennis Center) and we'll have applications there," Young said.

-- The supervisors can be reached in advance (Young at 843-343-8393; Tumbleston at 843-554-0825; and Honowitz at 843-686-4477).

TITLES FOR CARTER, FISHBURNE
Charleston's Brenda Carter and Diane Fishburne have started off the year with a bang, both winning titles at last weekend's Les Grandes Dames tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Carter won the women's 55 singles and was a semifinalist in doubles. Fishburne took the women's 45 singles title.

Both women will be headed to Australia in a few weeks to represent the USTA in international play, Carter in the Maureen Connolly Cup and Fishburne in the Margaret Court Cup.

A CHANCE TO SEE AGASSI
With Andre Agassi joining the U.S. team, the March 4-6 Davis Cup tie against Croatia in Carson, Calif., looks like a good time to see Agassi play before he ends his career. Tickets are still available by calling 1-888-484-USTA (8782).

A YOUNG, BUT BRIEF DEBUT
Donald Young's debut in the main draw of an ATP Tour tournament was a short one as the 15-year-old lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Robby Ginepri Monday in San Diego.

-- At least, Young can't say he's getting too old yet, as 23-year-old Serena Williams hinted after winning the Australian Open ("I'm not as young as I used to be"); or Martina Hingis announced after losing to Marlene Weingartner in her first WTA Tour match in a couple years ("I'm 25 now ... I'm not 18 years old anymore").

COMING UP
LOWCOUNTRY JUNIOR CHALLENGER CHAMPIONSHIP: At Charleston Tennis Center March 11-13. The entry deadline is March 5. Players can enter online at www.sctennis.com, using the tournament number (704130705) or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue. For more information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and singles.

Snee Farm Country Club hosts a Junior Challenger this weekend.

VALENTINE'S MIXED DOUBLES: Charleston Tennis Center still has spots left in event Sunday, 2-6 p.m. Players can enter with or without a partner.

TSUNAMI BENEFIT: Six former Charleston Southern tennis players will hold a benefit clinic for victims of the tsunami at 3 p.m. Feb. 20 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brothers Brother Foundation. Clinic reservations can be made by contacting Bafford (843-452-2593).


(02/08/05)  Former champion Henin-Hardenne commits to Cup

Justine Henin-Hardenne had the wind at her back when she arrived in Charleston last year to defend her Family Circle Cup title. She didn't play a match, leaving town deflated and feeling weak after withdrawing from the Family Circle Cup with hypoglycemia.

It was a fate worse than losing. A loss would have been forgotten with the next tournament, but this misfortune stayed with Henin-Hardenne all year. The only good thing in tennis that happened to her in 2004 after leaving Daniel Island was an Olympic gold medal.

But the 22-year-old Belgian plans to return to the Family Circle Cup this year. Although she hasn't played a WTA Tour match this year, Henin-Hardenne has officially entered the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup, joining defending champion Venus Williams, top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and French Open champion Anastasia Myskina.

"I know that Justine was very disappointed in not being able to defend her title last year," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan Monday in announcing Henin-Hardenne's return to America's oldest Tier I women's tennis tournament. "She is a very determined young woman and one of the most competitive players on the tour, so we look forward to having her back."

Other than that one week at the Athens Olympics, Henin-Hardenne has played very little competitive tennis since last April. She lost in the second and fourth rounds in her title defenses at the French Open and U.S. Open. She did not play Wimbledon in a year that was filled with withdrawals due to an illness that was diagnosed as a viral condition called cytomegalovirus.

All of this from a player who had won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments when she came to Charleston last year, and already had won at Sydney, the Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells (Calif.) in 2004. On March 22, 2004, she had the highest point total (7,626) in the history of the WTA rankings. When she won at Indian Wells without dropping a set, she reached $1 million in earnings for the year faster than anyone had in any previous year. She had won 25 straight Tier I matches and five titles, dating back to the 2003 Family Circle Cup.

But then everything fell apart as the mysterious illness kept the fragile looking 5-6, 126-pound player on the sidelines most of the year. She fell from the No. 1 spot in the world. She is eighth on the all-time list of No. 1 players with 45 weeks in the top position.

Henin-Hardenne was hoping to get off to a good start in 2005, but she was forced to withdraw from both Sydney and the Australian Open in January due to a right knee fracture suffered in practice in late December. She is currently ranked 15th in the world.


(02/08/05)  Citadel aims to settle in after rough takeoff

The Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson hopes his men's team does more than just win a set today when the Bulldogs play their first home match of the season, although Coastal Carolina should provide plenty of competition in the 2 p.m. match.

The Bulldogs have played twice on the road without winning a set, but the opposition came from nationally ranked Tennessee and North Carolina State. The road ahead should be a little less difficult for the Bulldogs, but Simpson realizes it will take time for his young team to find itself.

"Tennessee and North Carolina State were very good teams," Simpson said. "It's going to be a building process for us, but by the time they (his players) get a little older, we'll be seasoned and ready to play some tennis."

Five of the eight players on the Bulldogs' roster are in their first year at the Citadel, including the top three players who are all foreigners.

Daniel Dossetor of Griffith, Australia, is the No. 1 player. "He's going to be a good one," said Simpson, in his third year as The Citadel's head coach. "He has loads of talent."

Simpson landed the Australian with the help of former assistant coach Adam Carey, also an Australian who is now an assistant at the Nevada-Las Vegas. "I didn't go down there (to Australia). I found him and Adam knew him. He was from the same academy Adam went to."

James Eason of Christchurch, New Zealand, and Ananda Sawmynaden, from the island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa, have alternated between Nos. 2 and 3. Simpson discovered Eason through some of his friends and coaches from New Zealand.

While Sawmynaden is only a freshman at The Citadel, he is a junior eligibility-wise, arriving at The Citadel after attending New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M., the same school Roger Staubach attended before winning football's Heisman Trophy at the Naval Academy.

"I'm good friends with the coach at New Mexico Military," said Simpson. "We have a good recruiting time with those guys coming from the military junior college. They want to matriculate to a four-year school and finish their degree."

Simpson hasn't decided on whether Eason or Sawmynaden will play No. 2. "We've got six matches to declare our lineup for the season," he said.

Simpson guided the Bulldogs to a fourth-place regular-season finish in the Southern Conference last season behind East Tennessee State, Furman and the College of Charleston. The Southern Mississippi graduate played club tennis in Germany after college, then was a graduate assistant at his alma mater before spending one year as an assistant at Penn State. He arrived at The Citadel in 2001 as an assistant coach. His wife, Kelly, is the senior women's administrator for athletics at The Citadel.

Nicholas Medica, a sophomore from Atlanta, played No. 4 in the first two matches, while London sophomore Derek Jose and Mexican junior David Lara played Nos. 5 and 6, respectively.

The Citadel also will be at home Saturday for a noon match against Mercer.


(02/06/05)  CSU alums organize tsunami relief match

Tennis stars have been some of the most generous of athletes in their support of aiding victims of the tsunami disaster. Carlos Moya donated his winner's purse from a tournament. Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Anna Kournikova and others raised $500,000 last Monday night in Houston with a special exhibition for tsunami relief.

Now, the Charleston tennis community has its chance to support the tsunami relief effort.

Former Charleston Southern University tennis player Sandeep Reddy, a native of India, has pulled together a group of his former CSU teammates, who call themselves "The Usual Suspects," to do their part Feb. 20 at Family Circle Tennis Center by staging a clinic in support of tsunami victims. The two-hour clinic is scheduled for 3 p.m.

All funds received from the event ($20 participation fee) will go to the Brother's Brother Foundation for tsunami relief. According to Reddy, the foundation (www.brothersbrother.org), based in Pittsburgh, was selected because of its inclusion in Forbes Magazine's ranking for its ability to meet service goals with minimum overhead costs.

Reddy, a 2001 graduate of CSU in business administration, will be joined by Rohan Wadehra, also a native of India, as well as Santiago Falla from Colombia, Ariel Furfuro from Argentina, Rodrigo Villaroel from Bolivia and American Lee Withrow. All six played at Charleston Southern between 1998 and 2002, and all but Withrow participate in the Charleston Pro Tennis League.

Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brother's Brother Foundation. Clinic reservations can be made by contacting Bafford at 843-452-2593.

HOPE AFTER RODDICK
There's hope after Andy Roddick. And it's not Mardy Fish, Vince Spadea or Taylor Dent.

Donald Young is coming to the rescue of American tennis, which figures to lose Andre Agassi soon. But Young is just 15 and probably not ready to take on the rest of the world -- other than juniors, that is.

Young is the youngest male ever to become the world's top-ranked junior, as well as the first black player to hold down the top junior ranking. He is scheduled to make his main draw debut on the ATP Tour this week in San Diego's SAP Open.

After becoming the youngest male to win a junior Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, the 5-10, 150-pound Young celebrated by watching a movie. "That was about it," he said Wednesday from Atlanta, where he recently moved from Chicago, during a conference call.

IN SEARCH OF AGASSI
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe would love to have Agassi on his Davis Cup team this year, considering the collapse of Fish and the failure of anyone else to make a noticeable improvement. Dent looks like the No. 2 singles player for the United States against Croatia on March 4-6, unless Agassi decides to come on board.

McEnroe stopped by Las Vegas to meet with Agassi on Monday evening on McEnroe's return from the Australian Open.

"I don't need to hear from Andre, 'I'm going to play every match,' " McEnroe stressed in Los Angeles on Monday, during a press conference at the first-round Davis Cup site. For starters, he just wants Agassi for the Croatia tie.

Croatia isn't a pushover. Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic are dangerous players in singles and they were bronze medalists in doubles at the Athens Olympics. So the American doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan could get a workout as well.

-- USTA officials are eager to let Charleston fans know that there still are good tickets available for the Croatian tie by calling 1-888-484-USTA.

"We usually get a good group of fans from the previous site (Family Circle Tennis Center) when we hold a Davis Cup in the United States," USTA senior publicity manager Randy Walker said.

ALL-STAR CAMP
Several local juniors are participating this weekend in a USTA all-star camp at Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Tennis Center. Local girls include: Meghan Blevins and Downing Herlocker in 12-and-under; Hagan Edgerton in 14s; and Alexandra LaCoste, Dana Richards and Sabra Rogers in 18s. Local boys include: Walker Heffron and Peter Pritchard in 12-and-under; Randall Heffron, John Karle and Alexander Nista in 14s; Dirk Bair in 16s; and Jason Basile in 18s.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Tuesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Junior Challenger at Snee Farm Country Club. The tournament identification number online is 704130405. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop at 843-884-3252 for additional information.

-- Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402 has scheduled a Valentine's mixed doubles tournament for next Sunday from 2-6 p.m. Players can enter with or without a partner.

-- More than 200 players have registered online (www.juniorfamilycirclecup.com) for the Feb. 25-28 Junior Family Circle Cup. Registrations are being taken online only, according to Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer, who is expecting about 450 juniors for the event. The entry deadline is Feb. 18.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program will run March 5-April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402.


(02/02/05)  CSU tapping overseas talent to upgrade team

Athletics are all about competition and fun, but the bottom line is that Americans like to win.

And when it comes to college tennis, the only way to win quickly these days is to go foreign.

That's why Charleston Southern has an all-foreign men's tennis team. When Randy Bloemendaal took over as coach in August of 2003 after eight successful seasons at Lees-McRae, in Banner Elk, N.C., the cupboard was virtually bare at CSU.

He was able to recruit enough foreign talent to carry the Bucs to a 6-13 record last season. Now that Bloemendaal has brought in five more foreign players for this season, he is suddenly thinking that the Bucs could be competitive in the Big South Conference.

"Our depth is good and our talent level is much better than last year," said Bloemendaal, a 35-year-old Lees-McRae graduate, whose men's teams at his alma mater went 159-35 during his tenure as coach.

"We'll see how far they go. It's a long season. It's hard to say if we'll be a contender, because we have new guys and (defending champion Winthrop and top challenger High Point) have new guys. But I think our matches will be interesting. I'm not ruling out competing for the conference title."

CSU got off to a good start Jan. 23 with a 5-2 road victory over Georgia Southern of the Southern Conference. The Bucs play Sunday at nationally ranked Clemson.

Returning No. 1 player Quentin Guichard of Marseille, France, lost in singles and doubles at Georgia Southern, but Australian brothers Jonathan and Steven Dean made quite a splash in their first matches for the Bucs.

The Deans both won in straight sets in singles and teamed for a victory at No. 3 doubles. Sophomore Jonathan, a transfer from a college in Australia, won easily at No. 2 against Georgia Southern, while freshman Steven won at No. 5.

CSU will play Feb. 10 at East Carolina, then play its first home match of the season Feb. 11 against Wofford.

CSU WOMEN OPEN
Bloemendaal expects improvement from his women's team after a winless first season at Charleston Southern. The CSU women will open their season Saturday at home at 1 p.m. against Presbyterian.

"We'll be competitive," said Bloemendaal, who also coached the women team at Lees-McRae. "We only had a couple of players who were capable of playing at this level last year."

Five of the eight players on the women's roster are freshmen, including No. 2 player Rebecca Franzi of Australia. Sophomore Meryam Tazi from Morocco is the No. 1 player. Former junior standout Jessica Bair from Berkeley High School is the No. 5 player.

"Coastal Carolina and Winthrop are the top two women's teams in the conference, and we are a level below them," Bloemendaal said. "But our Nos. 1 and 2 players are very good, competitive players."

CITADEL STARTS 0-2
The Citadel men are off to an 0-2 start in Toby Simpson's third year as head coach after losing at Tennessee and North Carolina State. The Bulldogs play their first home match Tuesday against Coastal Carolina.

-- Leslie Allen's Win4Life group will take part in a morning clinic Feb. 12 at The Citadel courts, then watch the Bulldogs' noon match against Mercer.

-- The College of Charleston's men's team will open Feb. 12 in a 7 p.m. home match against Winthrop after the women's teams from the two schools play at 11 a.m.

Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's Cougar women will open their season Feb. 9 at home against South Carolina State.


(02/01/05)  French champ Myskina commits to Family Circle Cup

The Russians are coming to the Family Circle Cup. At least one of them.

Anastasia Myskina has officially entered the Tier I women's tournament, joining defending champion Venus Williams and world No. 1-ranked Lindsay Davenport. This year's Family Circle Cup is scheduled for April 9-17 on Daniel Island.

Myskina hit tennis' radar screen last year by winning the French Open, setting the stage for an onrush of success by Russian women. They won three straight Grand Slam titles before Serena Williams snapped their string at the Australian Open. It's now difficult to find a women's tournament that doesn't feature a Russian in its late rounds.

Even the Russian men have picked up the cadence, as evidenced by Marat Safin's championship success at the Australian Open.

"Over the last two years Anastasia has emerged as one of Russia's top female tennis players," Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan said.

"Her victory last year at Roland Garros gave her the worldwide recognition she deserved, and we fully expect to see that same quality performance here on Daniel Island this April."

Myskina, currently ranked No. 5, reached a career high No. 2 in the world last September. She is one of four Russian women in the top 10 of the latest world rankings. Seven Russians are ranked in the top 16.

The 23-year-old Moscow native had a banner year in 2004, winning three singles titles and making the semifinals of the Athens Olympics. In defeating fellow Russian Elena Dementieva in 59 minutes in the shortest French Open final since 1988, Myskina became the first Russian woman to capture a Grand Slam title.

Myskina, who lost to Nathalie Dechy in the fourth round of the just-completed Australian Open, has won nine career WTA Tour titles. She has collected more than $4 million in earnings.

She had played in four straight Family Circle Cups before missing last year's event. Her best showing was a quarterfinal berth in 2002.


(01/31/05)  Federer's reign may already be over
Roger Federer was the undisputed king of tennis as he raced toward the baseline and swatted the ball between his legs. The effort was valiant, yet disguised by showmanship.

As the ball crashed into the net, a match point against Marat Safin disappeared. And with it, Federer's life may have changed forever. Federer's game is still the same, but the landscape that his tennis game fits into has changed.

Alone, Federer's five-set loss to Safin in last week's semifinals of the Australian Open could be written off as Federer's time to lose. But add Safin's 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 domination of Lleyton Hewitt in Sunday night's final to the equation, and the overall picture of men's tennis becomes a bit unclear.

Safin performed at such a high level against Hewitt that the possibility exists that Federer may not be the best player in the game. He will have to re-earn the best player ever tag. And with Safin standing in the way, that might not be an easy task, even for someone as talented as Federer.

But that's always been the case in tennis. How many titles would Andre Agassi have won if Pete Sampras had not been there? How dominating would Chris Evert have been without the emergence of Martina Navratilova?

And now, will Safin become Federer's mortal maker? Will this new development possibly open things up for Andy Roddick, and give his giant serve a chance to escape from Federer's shadows?

Safin demonstrated in this two-match stretch that his talent is as good as anyone's who plays this game. Remarkably, his poise and decision-making were on the same level as his physical skills.

Safin played within himself. And for this 6-4 Russian whose superb baseline quickness enables him to set up so comfortably for what would be rushed shots for most players, that was enough to handcuff Hewitt. Safin was able to hit shots with torrid pace without sacrificing his control and shot-making ability.

Ever since that Sunday evening of 2000 when Safin made Sampras look like a mere mortal in the U.S. Open final, there was always the fear by opponents that the real Marat Safin might show up. Well, he showed up against Federer, and even more impressively against Hewitt.

Maybe it's the new coach, old Federer coach Peter Lundgren, who has imposed this new state of mind on Safin and his game.

Safin not only serves big, he serves nearly flawlessly. His backhand has to rival the best in tennis, both for power and accuracy, especially the one down the line. His forehand, when controlled as in the last three sets against Hewitt, is excellent. If Safin plays within his game, anything is possible, even a French Open crown on red clay.

A Safin consistently playing within himself is a scary thought for the rest of men's tennis.

Yes, things in this life can change so quickly. Just ask Roger Federer, who appeared to be headed for immortality one moment, and possibly just an outstanding career the next.


(01/31/05)  Role has changed but Allen's contribution to tennis strong as ever

Leslie Allen wasn't just another WTA Tour player. She was a trendsetter.

Not only was Allen one of the few black women in professional tennis in the early 1980s, she was taller than most tour players of that era. She would fit right in with the giant-sized players of today's women's game. At 5-11, she said she would be about average in height.

And, of course, minorities are becoming commonplace on the tour, following in her footsteps and those of other former players. Without players such as Leslie Allen, Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe to lead the way, there might not be a Venus or Serena Williams dominating today's women's tennis headlines.

"When I used to show up for tournaments, they'd say, 'Can I help you?' And I'd say, 'I came to play in this tournament,' " Allen said.

After Allen defeated Hana Mandlikova to win the Avon Championships of Detroit in 1981 to become the first black woman since Althea Gibson in the 1950s to win a major tour event, and current Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison and Lori McNeil turned pro a couple years later, "They'd say, 'Which one are you?'"

Leslie Allen did more than just play the game. She was a role model, a role she continues to play as an avid supporter of women's tennis and tennis in general.

"Zina told people that, 'If Leslie can win, I can too.' Each person kind of took it to the next level," said Allen, a former top 20 player, referring to her link in the legacy of black players in professional tennis, from Gibson, to Ashe, to Garrison, to Venus and Serena Williams.

Allen, whose sponsors once included Bill Cosby, served as a vice-president of the WTA's board of directors before retiring from the tour in 1987. She now resides in New York with her husband and 10-year-old daughter.

"I was the first black woman to win one of the big WTA Tour events since Althea Gibson. There was a big gap in there. When I established myself as a top player, it was so unheard of to see an African-American woman winning tennis tournaments. It just wasn't in people's consciousness that an African-American player could win tournaments."

And, yes, Leslie Allen played a key role in this development. Her role is continuing to grow.

This soft-spoken 1977 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California is a fulltime tennis activist whose plate continues to grow fuller. She was presented last year's USTA President's Award for Community Service at the U.S. Open.

"If you want to do something and it's a labor of love, you will find the time to do it," Allen emphasized.

And now in the administration of new USTA president Franklin Johnson, Allen has a new job. She has just added the chairmanship of the USTA's Fed Cup committee to her duties.

"This just puts another hat on my head," the 47-year-old Cleveland native said.

She returned to her true labor of love this weekend, her local Win4Life program where she introduces young people to the game of tennis and tries to convince them they can have a future in tennis without having the superior talent it takes to perform on the pro circuits.

This year's orientation session of the Leslie Allen Foundation's Win4Life program was held Friday at MUSC before the program's 19 alumni and 25 or so new members switched to the Family Circle Tennis Center complex on Daniel Island on Saturday. Win4Life participants come from as far away as the Columbia and Hilton Head Island areas.

"Win4Life is a diverse group. We have kids from diverse backgrounds," Allen said.

"When I talk to African-American players, I tell them they still have time to grow their game and develop, and also that there are lots of other opportunities around tennis. Maybe there is something behind the scenes they can do in tennis. Win4Life exposes them to this.

"I didn't play a lot of junior tennis. I am someone who retired and didn't hit a ball for three years, then started playing and got my way to USC as a walk-on, and made that team. We were No. 1 in the nation. I just worked hard on my game."

The first big tournament Allen qualified for in her early days on the pro tour was the Family Circle Cup, which also was the initial sponsor of Win4Life in 2002. Before Win4Life gained sponsorship from the Family Circle Cup, Allen took five girls from her New York program to the 1999 Australian Open. One of the girls, now a college junior, was working for the USTA in marketing at the U.S. Open last year when Allen and a group from her Win4Life New York program and local Win4Lifer Marcus Mitchell visited the U.S. Open, courtesy of Win4Life.

Win4Life sponsored two local juniors on a tennis trip to Boston last year and two years ago took local youth Mitchell, Vernita Ackerman, Brian Ackerman and Satirah Gibbs to Vermont for a weeklong camp. Charleston junior Britney Mitchell went behind the scenes at last year's Family Circle Cup to host a seven-minute segment of CBS' nationally televised Topspin program, interviewing five former world's top-ranked players.

"What makes this project so rewarding for the (Family Circle) magazine and the tournament is to see firsthand the positive influence the Win4Life program has on the kids," said Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan.

It was through Allen's work with Win4Life that she first came in contact with Family Circle Cup tournament director Mike Finley, who played such a major role in Family Circle Tennis Center landing last year's Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Belarus. The Davis Cup experience was one of the reasons Allen selected Finley for the Fed Cup committee.

"Over the years with Win4Life, I saw how supportive Mike was of women's tennis, and the tennis center had hosted the Davis Cup," Allen said. "Most of the committee members have had experience. Our mission is to try to get the Fed Cup name known in the different sections of the USTA.

"When we have a Fed Cup tie, such as at Delray Beach (April 23-24), we are like a sounding board to help the USTA. We take care of most of the off-court things they (players) may need. Is the room OK? Is the venue OK? We're just cutting out steps for the players to make sure they have everything they need."

Allen served on the Fed Cup committee the last two years, then Johnson invited her to head the committee. "I readily accepted," admitted Allen.

She picked the rest of the committee that in addition to Finley includes former tour players Mary Joe Fernandez, Kathy Rinaldi-Stunkel and Pam Austin (sister of former U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin).

"I tried to select longtime tennis people who have had a vested interest in women's tennis for a long time, people who have a belief and vision for Fed Cup."


(01/30/05)  Serena owes Lindsay gratitude for collapse

Thank you, Lindsay Davenport. That should be Serena Williams' response to what happened in Saturday's Australian Open final.

Yes, Davenport collapsed again. Serena didn't have to defeat Davenport. Serena had only to reach the finish line. It was as if Davenport had lost her way again, stranded somewhere out in space as Serena accepted the last nine games and a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory.

With the collapse, Davenport let the tiger out of its cage.

Serena now believes. She came back most of the way in her semifinal conquest of Maria Sharapova. And, yes, she did defeat Sharapova. It was not a gift. Serena didn't play spectacularly against Sharapova until the match was on the line. She simply took enough off her big serve and strokes to keep the ball in play and make a match of it. With Sharapova suddenly becoming vulnerable with the match up for grabs, Serena shifted into overdrive, the Serena Gear.

But some doubt still lingered after that match, especially when Serena was rendered immobile by a mysterious "rib disfunction" early in the final.

With ESPN2 women's analysts Mary Carillo, Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez taking turns bashing Davenport for her moodiness and negativism, Davenport's psychological collapse only got worse.

It wasn't that Davenport ever played well in this match. Serena barely competed for much of the first set, and yet Davenport sprayed her big ground strokes off the court.

The key for Serena at this stage is staying healthy. Although she appears not to be in top shape, Serena can take care of all the other things, if only she can avoid injuries.

As for Davenport, this final was an embarrassment, even more so than her collapses in the Wimbledon and U.S. Open semifinals after she had easily won the first set each time against eventual champions, Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. This time, Davenport appeared not to care enough even to make a normal effort.

Let's just hope that Davenport stays in tennis at least through the Family Circle Cup.

A LAWN MOWER PARTY

Crank up the lawn mowers, Aussies. Marat Safin had his birthday party early.

The men's final Down Under should be over by now, but Lleyton Hewitt's lawn mower may still be running. The lawn mower routine, courtesy of Brad Gilbert, is when Hewitt gets down on one knee and jerks his right arm as if he is trying to crank a lawn mower.

Hewitt didn't crank his lawn mower in the semifinals until he had evened the four-set match by besting Andy Roddick in a second-set tiebreaker. As Roddick's big serve faded, Hewitt's "Come On" lawn mower party was in full swing.

Safin is a super-talented player, capable of ruling the men's game if he could rule his own head. He's unpredictable and dangerous because he might unleash his huge strokes and serve in any situation. Even a player as great as Roger Federer can be vulnerable when Safin is on.

It would have been nearly impossible for Hewitt to have defeated Federer because Hewitt doesn't have the artillery to dent Federer's armor the way Safin did. But Safin is different in that he commits enough mental and physical errors to allow a human backboard such as Hewitt to outlast him.

AUSTRALIAN TALK

Andy Roddick has the world's fastest serve, but is his the biggest serve in tennis? Maybe not. Even Roddick loyalist Patrick McEnroe (he's the Davis Cup coach, so he has to be a little biased) admits that Safin's serve may be heavier than Roddick's. And I think young Joachim Johanssen's serve is consistently bigger, not faster, than Roddick's.

Roddick's serve is so fast that opponents have a difficult time getting to it, but once they get their racket on the ball the serve appears to be softer, and easier to return. One reason may be that Roddick's serve generally lands shorter in the service box than some of the other big servers.

Enough Roddick bashing. The network TV sports talk guys were doing enough of that Friday. The guy is a superstar. He doesn't quit and he has a giant heart. He just hasn't been able to win the big match during the past year, not at Wimbledon, not at the U.S. Open, not in the Davis Cup final against Spain, and now not in the Australian Open.

Roddick's serve is awesome, but he really needs to work on a strategy for his ground strokes. It's critical to his future that he develops a serious net game for the late sets of matches when his opponents are finding the groove for his serves. A good serve-and-volley game would take some of the pressure off his serve. As it is now, when his serve goes, Roddick goes too.

Federer is just too good for his own good. I don't think this Swiss lad really thought he could lose to Safin in the semifinals. Even when the five-set match was on the line, Federer took questionable chances that proved to be his undoing.

UPCOMING EVENTS

The round-robin mixed doubles tournament that was scheduled for Saturday at Charleston Tennis Center was postponed until today from 3-5 p.m. Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402) is still planning to hold a Valentine's mixed doubles tournament on Sunday, Feb. 13 from 2-6 p.m.

The deadline for entering the Feb. 11-13 Junior Challenger at Snee Farm Country Club is Feb. 8. The tournament identification number online is 704130405. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252) for additional information.

Charleston Tennis Center is taking applications for the spring session of Courting Kids. The session will run March 5-April 23 on Saturdays at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Delores Jackson is the program's director.


(01/26/05)  Agassi's ground strokes no match for Federer

Andre Agassi usually is regarded as one of the best strokers in the history of men's tennis. He has made a habit of wearing opponents out with his extraordinary ground strokes.

They don't have the heavy topspin of a European or South American clay-courter. They're hard, penetrating strokes that drive most opponents back until Agassi sees an open court.

This strategy and talent blended with his conditioning and superb hand-eye coordination has enabled Agassi to become one of only five men to accomplish a career Grand Slam. Even as he nears his 35th birthday, Agassi's game appears to be nearly as good as it was five years ago when he was the No. 1 player in the men's game.

But a 23-year-old Swede may have had more of an impact than age on Agassi's game. Roger Federer made Agassi look almost helpless Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

It was Federer repeatedly driving balls to the open court as Agassi could only watch from the other side of the baseline. Federer's 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory was almost casual.

Federer is bound to lose to someone, as Agassi was hoping Tuesday night. Federer's 26 straight victories date all the way to last summer.

Tall and talented, but unpredictable Marat Safin might be the only player actually capable of ending Federer's string of Grand Slam titles at two. But it's doubtful that the Russian can keep his focus long enough to accomplish that task in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Any time Andy Roddick meets Federer, the world's fastest server needs a near-perfect day serving as well as a few surprises at the net to have a chance against Federer.

Federer appears to be serious about improving his net game. Part-time coach Tony Roche, however, might have a difficult time finding a way to improve Federer even in that area of the game. Federer is already too good to be true.

THE GRUNT GAME
Does Maria Sharapova intimidate her opponents with her "too loud" grunt in pressure situations? The grunt is irritating enough, even for TV viewers, to make you wonder.

Women's tennis went through this with Monica Seles and others many years ago, but Monica's grunt appeared to grow weaker in her later years on the tour. Sharapova's sounds louder than ever. Maybe it's ESPN's sound system that's picking up court sounds so keenly.

This has to be annoying to her opponents, especially her Russian rivals such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, who appeared to be playing pretty well Tuesday until Sharapova turned up the volume on her grunts. Of course, the grunt probably also relates to the amount of energy Sharapova is exerting at the time. And that phase of her game was obvious as she rallied from a set down to defeat Kuznetsova.

GILBERT TAKES OVER
ESPN has hit the jackpot with Brad Gilbert. He may go overboard at times, but in the absence of John McEnroe, Gilbert is easily tennis' best television analyst. That's including ESPN's group of female analysts, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez and Mary Carillo. And I really like Cliff Drysdale's commentary and Patrick McEnroe's low-key approach.

But Gilbert probably offers more true insight into what's happening and what's going to happen than all of the others combined. And ESPN is taking full advantage of Gilbert's unique knowledge of the game and analytical skills. No wonder, Agassi and Roddick gained the No. 1 ranking during his tenure as their coach.

FINLEY SELECTED
Family Circle Tennis Center and tournament director Mike Finley continue to catch the eye of the U.S. Tennis Association and its Davis and Fed Cup officials. Less than a year after helping Family Circle land a Davis Cup semifinal, Finley has been named to the USTA's Fed Cup committee.

The committee is headed by Win4Life founder and former WTA Tour star Leslie Allen. The committee also includes former tour players Fernandez and Kathy Rinaldi-Stunkel.

"I am honored to be asked to serve on this important committee," said Finley. "I look forward to working with the committee not only on helping promote the U.S. Fed Cup team but in helping to further brand the Fed Cup competition as the premiere women's international team tennis event."

This year's first Fed Cup matchup will pit the United States against Belgium April 23-24 in Delray Beach, Fla. That's the week after the Family Circle Cup.

THIS WEEKEND
-- Charleston Tennis Center is planning to stage a mixed doubles round-robin Saturday from 2-4 p.m. The sign-up deadline is Friday (843-724-7402). The $15 entry fee covers food and fun at the Farmfield Avenue facility.

-- Also Saturday, don't forget the 5 p.m ribbon-cutting ceremony for the four new courts at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club.

-- The Family Circle Cup will hold another practice for its ball crew from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Family Circle Tennis Center. Youth 11 and up and adults are still needed.


(01/25/05)  Davenport commits to Family Circle Cup
Will this be the year Lindsay Davenport finally wins the Family Circle Cup?

Everything else seems to be falling into place in what was supposed to be the autumn of this 28-year-old's career. So, why not win the Family Circle Cup in her seventh appearance in America's oldest Tier I women's tournament?

Davenport is determined to make her mark on the green clay at Family Circle Tennis Center. She has officially entered the April 9-17 WTA Tour event, joining 2004 champion Venus Williams.

Davenport has been a pro for nearly 12 years, but this holder of three Grand Slam tournament titles has never played better than in the last year. She reached the semifinals in 13 of her 17 events in 2004 and won seven of them to finish the year as the No. 1 player in the world for the third time.

Unfortunately for her, the Family Circle Cup wasn't one of her semifinal-or-better successes. Top-spinning left-hander Patty Schnyder spun Davenport out of last year's Family Circle in a one-sided 6-3, 6-2 Friday night quarterfinal. Davenport has made the quarterfinals or better in her last five appearances at the Family Circle Cup.

Davenport is currently a quarterfinalist in the Australian Open, a Grand Slam event she won in 2000 on her way to winning $18.7 million in career prize money. She next faces red-hot Alicia Molik of Australia, who upset Venus Williams in the round of 16.

"As the sport's No. 1 player, Lindsay is a great ambassador for women's tennis," said Frankie Whelan, tournament executive director. "She is the ultimate professional both on and off the court. Her success on the court is a true reflection of her desire to be the best."


(01/23/05)  Tennis: Smith one of 40 best
Stan Smith has experienced just about everything tennis has to offer, other than winning the Grand Slam, so another award at this stage of the game is just icing on the cake.

But Smith admits it's nice to be remembered as one of tennis' all-time greats. That was the Sea Pines Plantation touring pro's reaction when I talked to him about been selected 35th in Tennis Magazine's "40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Era."

"It's nice to be part of that group. It's a special group," Smith said. "It's really just a matter of evaluating records and things, sort of like being part of the International Hall of Fame. It's someone's opinion of where you stand in history. There have been a lot of great players. It's tough to do it (rate players) over a period of time."

Smith will be featured in the March issue of Tennis Magazine, which is commemorating its 40th anniversary by selecting the 40 greatest players of the last four decades.

"At a time when the game was exploding with talent and controversy, Stan Smith stood ramrod straight for tradition," writes Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo.

Smith grew up in Pasadena, Calif., played on three national collegiate championship teams at Southern Cal, won the U.S. Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in '72. He shares the record with Bill Tilden for playing on the most Davis Cup-winning teams (seven).

Tennis has been a family adventure for the Smith family. Stan and Margie Smith's four children all have played or will play college tennis. Ramsey, the oldest at 26, helps his father coaching at Sea Pines' Smith-Stearns Academy after playing No. 1 at Duke where he was the winningest male player ever. Trevor is a recent Princeton graduate where he also played No. 1. Trevor, now married and living in New York, is a Goldman Sachs analyst.

Oldest daughter Logan is a senior at the University of Virginia, but gave up tennis after her freshman year. Austin is the only one left at home, but for only a few more months. She's a senior at Hilton Head Island's Heritage Academy ("a school that caters towards kids who have a passion in one thing," like tennis) and will enroll at the University of North Carolina later this year on a full tennis scholarship.

And, Margie is a 1973 Princeton graduate where she was captain of an undefeated tennis team.

SNEE FARM JUNIOR
Registration is open online for the Feb. 11-13 Snee Farm Junior Challenger. The tournament at Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club will have boys' and girls' singles in age groups 10-18. There will be consolation for first-match losers.

The tournament identification number online is 704130405. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's Day mixed doubles tournament Sunday, Feb. 13, from 2-6 p.m. A $10 registration fee includes balls, refreshments, court fees and prizes. Players can sign up with or without a partner. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- The Family Circle Cup still needs ball crew members. Practice is each Saturday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Daniel Island complex until the WTA tournament. Juniors 11 and over and adults are needed. For more information, contact Toni Young (343-8393), Dan Tumbleston (554-0825) or Susan Honowitz (686-4477).

-- The City of Charleston is taking applications for the spring session of Courting Kids. The session will run March 5-April 23 on Saturdays at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. The cost is $10 per player. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- A coaches meeting will be Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center for this year's Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. Children in grades 1-8 are eligible to participate. Contact Peggy Bohne at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its four new tennis courts Saturday at 5 p.m. Tennis director Heinz Maurer plans to stage a clinic and several exhibition matches to celebrate the opening of the courts.


(01/20/05)  Kimball writing the book on the USTA

Tennis is its game. Pleasure is its aim.

It's the governing body of tennis in this country. It's a $200 million business.

The U.S. Tennis Association is anything but small. Its 124-year history is the story of tennis in the United States.

Writing this history is the job of one man, Seabrook Island resident Warren Kimball.

Kimball has held a number of important positions as a longtime USTA disciple. He was co-chairman of the Davis Cup committee the last two years. Prior to that, he was on the USTA's board of directors. His wife, Jackie, was one of the founders of the USTA's popular adult leagues.

Those were voluntary positions. Kimball is now under contract with the USTA to write a business and institutional history of the association. The 1958 Villanova University graduate expects to spend the next three years totally engrossed in this project.

"My point is that this is a $200 million corporation that does a lot of things and is involved in a great many activities," Kimball said. "Because it is so large and so powerful, by finances alone its history is worth examining."

The not-for-profit, nearly 750,000-member USTA didn't have a record management and archive when Kimball started talking with USTA officials about the project several years ago while serving as a member of the organization's board of directors. He wrote a report that was approved by the board, resulting in the USTA's hiring of a records manager and archivist.

"The report I put together convinced the people that this (a history of the organization) was something that needed to be done," Kimball said.

"It will take awhile, because the records are not well organized. The archivist is organizing the records they have and trying to find additional records.

"I will be traveling some, and fairly soon I will have to interview some of the more senior people who have been around so I can get their input while I can."

He plans to conduct some initial interviewing at the USTA's annual meeting in March at Palm Springs, Calif.

Kimball, who earned his doctorate in American history in 1968 from Georgetown University, taught for 32 years at Rutgers University. He also taught at the University of Georgia and the Naval Academy. When the Kimballs moved to Seabrook Island in 2001 after he retired from Rutgers, he served as a part-time visiting chair at The Citadel teaching American international history, which involved foreign policy and diplomacy.

He has written books about Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, their negotiations with each other and with Stalin and the Soviet Union, and planning for the post-war world after World War II.

He also has spent a year as the Pitt professor at the University of Cambridge in England.

Warren and Jackie Kimball are avid tennis players. They play together for Seabrook in the senior mixed doubles league and participate in the senior spring and fall USTA leagues, of which Jackie was one of the national founders in 1979. The USTA started league play after the Southern Section and another section had experimented with pilot programs in 1978.

"She got me involved ... that's how I got involved," he said.

Just what will be covered in the history of the USTA?

"This is not a tabletop book," Kimball emphasized. "Other people have done that better than I could.

"This will be elements of the history of tennis in America, because the USTA is a major player in that history. A lot of things that have happened outside of the USTA will need to be talked about.

"There's the question of diversity in the sport, the question of professionalism versus amateurism. Other things are how the USTA developed as an organization, and why did it develop in the way it developed."


(06/29/05)  Roddick has clear path to men's final
Getting to a Wimbledon final shouldn't be so simple. This must be Andy Roddick's year. Of course, Roddick still has a couple more wins to go before arriving in Sunday's final. And he did take some of the simplicity out of his march by allowing lucky loser Daniele Bracciali to stick around for five sets in the second round.

But everything has just fallen into place for the American. He didn't have to face big ace machine Ivo Karlovic in the second round or Davis Cup wrecker Ivan Ljubicic in the the fourth round. Now he's in the quarterfinals where he doesn't have to face Tim Henman. Instead, Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean is his opponent today.

If Roddick wins this one, he won't have to face French Open champ Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, but instead either Thomas Johansson or David Nalbandian.

Karlovic, Ljubicic, Henman and Nadal all lost before expected matches against Roddick. Meanwhile, Roddick has beaten nobodies Jiri Vanek and Igor Andreev along with tricky clay-courter Guillermo Coria in straight sets. Throw in Bracciali, and Roddick has had a dream draw.

Grosjean can be a challenge if he's on, but Roddick's serve should rule this one.

All it would seem that Roddick has to do to win a Wimbledon title is to find an answer for Roger Federer's strategy to block-back Roddick's big serves. Roddick and his coach have at least until Sunday to solve that puzzle. It's called placement. Roddick not only has to serve big and consistent, but also to pinpoint locations if he plans to beat Federer. Plus, Roddick has to outsmart Federer by keeping him guessing about service locations.

Of course, Roddick shouldn't wait until Sunday to practice that strategy. Service placements can make his next two matches much easier.

WATCH SHARAPOVA
It still might not be too late for Roddick to get service lessons by watching Maria Sharapova's next match. She is one smart cookie when it comes to serving. It's all about location.

Sharapova repeatedly catches her opponents flat-footed on serves, especially out wide on the deuce side.

Venus Williams looks like she's playing well, but a revived Mary Pierce wasn't a true test of whether Venus' game is where it should be. Sharapova's service placements should give Venus all kinds of problems in Thursday's semifinals. Expect Venus to look a little awkward at times.

Lindsay Davenport's big game appears to be on cruise control. Then again it also seemed that way before last year's semifinal flop against Sharapova at Wimbledon, a semifinal letdown against Svetlana Kuznetsova at the U.S. Open, an erratic loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final and a quarterfinal upset by Pierce at the French Open. With any kind of consistent effort in those matches, Davenport probably would have at least two or three more Grand Slam titles.

Although intensity is never a Davenport forte, she appears to have her moody disposition under control at Wimbledon. The key is if Amelie Mauresmo can hang tough Thursday until Davenport goes on another "walk." The only trouble is that Mauresmo has a history of her own collapses.

The Davenport-Mauresmo match is totally unpredictable. It just depends on which player has her mind and game working together.

SOFT NET CORD
Not only is the Wimbledon grass apparently slower than ever, the net is ridiculously soft. All a player has to do to win a point is to hit the net cord with a shot. The ball will trickle over the limp net and become virtually unplayable for the opposition.

Thus, a player is doubly rewarded for an errant shot. Not only does the poor shot go over the net, it wins the point.


(06/26/05)  Beach tennis anyone?
Beach tennis? Sound fun? You know, like half-rubber or beach volleyball.

Just a fun and social atmosphere. Beach tennis definitely might have a future in that context.

"It has the potential to be that type," Phil Whitesell, one of the stars of this new game, said on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Nevertheless, don't look for beach tennis in the next Olympics. And don't expect anyone to pull out greenbacks to watch it being played, although the sponsors of Beach Tennis USA appear to have deep pockets.

Meanwhile, there's no reason not to get in on the fun. Charleston residents Whitesell and Chris Henderson are even making a little money from the sport as well as receiving an all-expenses paid trip to New York in August to compete for a $10,000 purse.

Henderson and Whitesell both play on teams which already have qualified for the USTA's Southern Sectional League Tennis Championships that will begin July 23 at Family Circle Tennis Center. They play with the same rackets they use in their regular tennis games. Both are outstanding players as well as excellent athletes, features that complement their beach tennis skills.

Henderson is a former All-Southern Conference player for Furman and founder of the highly successful Charleston Pro Tennis League. Whitesell is the College of Charleston's men's coach. Together, they won last year's Southern Closed men's 30 doubles title.

"Tennis is a tough sport to learn. Hackers can pick this game up quicker than tennis," Whitesell said.

Beach tennis started in Aruba, and is being promoted along the U.S. East Coast this summer by Beach Tennis USA. After participating in an exhibition in Charleston in May, Whitesell talked Henderson into teaming up for a tournament in Myrtle Beach in early June. The Charleston team won the tournament and split a $300 first prize. The victory qualified them for the first U.S. Beach Tennis Championships in Long Beach, N.Y., Aug. 27.

Several hundred people watched the Myrtle Beach final.

"They (the sponsors) were smart. They held it at a time when there was a festival. They were giving out hats ..." Whitesell said.

A steady rain fell during the tournament, but play continued, Whitesell pointed out. Participants might even play barefooted. There's definitely some advantages, not to mention the social aspects of the game.

The game is played on a beach volleyball court with a high net, usually limiting shots to volleying up. A point ends when the deflated tennis ball makes contact with the sand.

Whitesell expects the competition to be much tougher in New York. "They'll have the top guys from Aruba competing, and they're trying to get the Jensens (former French Open doubles champions Luke and Murphy) to play," Whitesell said. "They want (Jim) Courier to play and do commentary."

HENDERSON WINS TITLE
Henderson won the mixed doubles title in the recent National 30 Grass Court Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz. He played with Sue Whiting of Dallas.

Henderson also reached the tournament's quarterfinals in both singles and doubles.

HEINZ CONNECTION
Playing doubles together is getting to be quite a connection for Austin Heinz of Daniel Island and Matthew Fisher of Pawleys Island. They've entered two tournaments together, and they've won both.

The 10-and-under titles Heinz and Fisher have won are from Belton's Palmetto Championships and the Southern Closed, the top two junior tournaments held in this state.

Heinz also was a singles semifinalist at both tournaments, losing to eventual champions Payne Hoy of Charleston (at Belton) and Jordan Harrell of Georgia (in the Southerns). Harrell defeated Hoy in the Southern final.

Heinz is the top seed in boys' 10 singles in the State Hard Courts that started Saturday in Columbia. He has another partner for doubles since Fisher didn't enter the Columbia tournament.

A 4-9 right-hander, Heinz will be a fourth-grader at Mount Pleasant's Palmetto Christian Academy.


(06/22/05)  Justine just not herself in opener
Justine Henin-Hardenne obviously isn't immune to mental errors. She lost a match Tuesday she should have won.

But Henin-Hardenne's biggest mental mistake wasn't a double-fault at match point or a double-fault that wasted a set point in the first set of her three-set loss to Eleni Daniilidou. The error in judgment was her decision not to play a grass-court warmup tournament before showing up at Wimbledon.

Even though she may be the best player in the women's game, Henin-Hardenne isn't so talented that she can just walk out on the court and win without preparation. Her lack of preparation on grass was obvious.

Seldom has tennis seen Henin-Hardenne play so poorly on such a big stage. Double-faulting at match point simply isn't Justine-like. Two double-faults in the decisive game of the match? A string of loose strokes in the last two games of the match to go with the double-faults to practically hand Daniilidou the match?

Daniilidou demonstrated that she is a dangerous player who knows how to play on grass, but Henin-Hardenne made it easy for her. That just doesn't usually happen.

LUCKY SERENA
It looked like a really tough first test for Serena Williams, but actually she may have been lucky that she was playing someone from her neighborhood public courts and a fellow African-American. In other words, if there was anyone in the Wimbledon field that Serena simply couldn't take losing to, it was 104th-ranked Angela Haynes.

A different opponent in the first round might not have made Serena wake up in time to avoid an upset by winning the last two sets. Of course, later in the tournament against her sister Venus, Maria Sharapova or a couple of other top players, Serena will have no trouble focusing her fierce competitiveness.

A three-set first-round victory probably was good for Serena. Although terribly out of playing shape, Serena might play herself into shape.

HENMAN'S YEAR?
Tim Henman is another player who could benefit from a tough opener. When he was down two sets to none against Jarkko Nieminen, British fans must have thought it would be just another disappointment from Henman. But now after rallying to win three straight sets while playing some of the best tennis he has played at Wimbledon -- and so early in the tournament, too -- the pressure on Henman might actually be less than in past years.

If so, could this be the Wimbledon in which Henman comes through? He's moving brilliantly, serving to pinpoint placements and volleying like only Tim Henman can.

Even Andy Roddick got a bit lucky when 6-10 ace machine Ivo Karlovic lost in the first round, and Croatian Davis Cup Roddick wrecker Ivan Ljubicic also fell, removing potential second-round and fourth-round Roddick road blocks. That leaves Roddick on a collision course to meet Henman in the quarterfinals.


(06/19/05)  Who's afraid of the Williams sisters?
This is a rare Wimbledon indeed. Venus and Serena Williams aren't the favorites.

Injuries, a lack of playing time and possibly a lack of confidence have rendered Venus and Serena harmless in the minds of some experts, and maybe even opponents. It would be surprising if either makes a serious run at the championship.

Their big match will be a possible round of 16 meeting. Yes, this is a sign of just how far Venus and Serena have fallen.

The last time a Williams wasn't in the women's final was 1999. Venus and Serena have won twice each since, and Serena lost to Maria Sharapova in last year's final.

This time, you almost have to believe that Justine Henin-Hardenne will complete a career Grand Slam. She's easily the best player in the game right now. But top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, Sharapova and Kim Clijsters -- if she doesn't have to face Henin-Hardenne -- shouldn't be disregarded.

Of course, Serena can't be completely overlooked. She's too fierce a competitor to be ignored, but getting by Venus may be as much or more than Serena can handle.

ONE FOR ANDY?
Roger Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam since last year's U.S. Open. Although the experts rate Federer as a huge favorite to capture a third straight Wimbledon crown, I like Andy Roddick's chances, even in the face of a tough draw. I also think Rafael Nadal can win this title, and maybe Lleyton Hewitt or Marat Safin.

Tim Henman should have a shot at Wimbledon, too, although it seems to be getting tougher and tougher every year to live at the net, even on grass. Maybe there is something to Henman's remarks about Wimbledon officials trying to slow the game down.

VARN MAKES SHRINE
Former Citadel tennis coach and Charleston native Ben Varn has been selected to be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame on Dec. 3 at Hilton Head Island. Former Denmark-Olar High School football coach Bill Jolly also will be inducted.

Varn, who now resides in Inman, won a Southern Conference singles title while playing at The Citadel. He also won City of Charleston singles titles while coaching at his alma mater. He later coached at Wofford College as the Terriers moved from NCAA Division II to Division I.

A retired Air Force officer, Varn started the popular "Stairsteps to Successful Tennis" program. He has served as a member of the S.C. Senior Cup organizing committee.

OPEN UP CLOSE
Want to see the U.S. Open up close and personal? The U.S. Tennis Association is planning to conduct a rain or shine ballperson tryout session at the National Tennis Center on June 30 at 4 p.m. (registration begins at 3 p.m.). The tryout is open to anyone 14 years old or older, but anyone under the age of 18 must have valid New York State Working Papers.

The U.S. Open employs about 270 ballpersons each year, but only about 75 of them are rookies who earn minimum wages. Prospects will be evaluated on their running, throwing and catching skills.

For more information, you can contact the National Tennis Center (718-760-6200).

ANNA AND WTT ON TV
That's right. ESPN2 will carry several World Team Tennis matches this summer, including a July 16 (11 p.m.) match featuring Anna Kournikova and her Sacramento team against Steffi Graf and Houston. The first WTT showing on ESPN2 is set for July 9 (11 p.m.), highlighted by the "Battle of the Martinas" -- Navratilova (Patrick McEnroe's New York Sportimes) and Hingis (Boston) in singles.

Family Circle Tennis Center associate Luke Jensen will be in the broadcast booth for the ESPN2 telecasts.

KINARD GETS COLGATE JOB
Former local junior standout Elissa Kinard has taken a job as assistant men's and women's tennis coach at Colgate University. The Bishop England graduate played collegiately at the University of Nebraska before completing her career at Virginia Tech. She recently completed work on her masters degree in Health Promotions at Virginia Tech.

MAYBANK CHALLENGER
This year's Maybank Challenger Tournament has been scheduled for July 15-17. The entry deadline is July 9.

The tournament will feature singles and doubles competition in all junior divisions. For more information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) or Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).


(06/12/05)  Hoy mows down opponents en route to first Belton title
The dream of most young tennis players in South Carolina is to win Belton. Only a select few even get close to this goal.

Payne Hoy has lived the dream as a 10-year-old. He is Charleston's newest tennis prodigy, all 4-4, 65 pounds. He's already ranked No. 1 in the South.

Hoy won his Belton title in the Palmetto Championships last Monday at the Anderson Civic Center with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win over David Parker of Anderson. All five of Hoy's matches were of the straight-set variety.

Hoy was Charleston's only boys' singles champion. Shelby Rogers won the girls' 14 title.

While Belton championships are becoming almost old hat for the 12-year-old Rogers, who played up in girls' 14 and won her third Palmetto title, Hoy is new to Belton's title game. And he's excited.

"I just played out of my mind," the youngster said.

Hoy conducts the perfect interview. He has all of the answers. You don't have to ask him twice.

"One thing sets him apart - he's very smart," said MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee, who directs Hoy's tennis training.

"In the 10s, you're looking at players to hit a ton of balls. But Payne is more strategic. He's a very strategic player. He can figure out opponents' weaknesses and strengths. That's unusual for a 10-year-old.

"He can hit drop shots, or he can hit hard. He's very small, but he's a giant-killer."

He's also competitive. "He's a very good competitor. He trains hard," said Lee, who turns the individual teaching of Hoy over to staff member Jay Bruner.

Bruner traveled to Belton to see Hoy's last two matches.

"JoAnn and Jay have done a fantastic job with Payne," said Nancy Hoy, Payne's real estate agent mother.

He started out at Creekside Tennis and Swim with pro Rob Woods, who got him to take tennis seriously from the start while still having fun. "I've been playing tennis since I was about 4 years old," Payne said.

"I don't know how I got so good. I just love tennis and I kept on playing," added the Charleston Day School fifth-grader.

His family members offer total support. His mother, his doctor father Mark and his 13-year-old tennis player brother Connor all were at the Palmetto Championships.

Connor, a state-ranked player in the 14s, has an important role in that he warms up his little brother for matches. He also often plays with Payne at the neighborhood courts near their Mount Pleasant home.

Payne will play the Southern Closed Championships in Columbia. He'll probably move up to 12-and-under after that, since he turns 11 in September. But he does plan to play 10s in the Little Mo tournament. "If I get to the semifinals, I'll get to go to the nationals in Texas," he said.

-- Rogers created quite a stir at Belton by upsetting the top three seeds in girls' 14. The First Baptist Church School eighth-grader upended top-seeded Jeri Reichel of Hilton Head Island, 6-3, 6-1, in the final. Not only did Rogers sneak up on the field by playing up, the tournament even reported on its internet site that Reichel was the winner. But Shelby's mother, Starley Gabrish, was quick to correct the error as she drove back from Belton on Friday with her two tennis standout daughters -- Shelby and 16-year-old sister Sabra, who was a quarterfinalist in girls' 18.

-- Furman-bound Jason Basile had a memorable last Belton, winning the Dunlop Scholarship awarded to a boys' or girls' 18 player as well as being selected as the age group's sportsmanship award winner. Basile also took fifth place in boys' 18 singles and won the doubles title.

NEW LEAGUE NEAR
The upstart Palmetto Tennis League appears to be creating a good deal of interest as it prepares to launch its first season later this summer. "We're getting a lot of response," said league spokesperson Sandi McGee of Mount Pleasant.

Team captains can now start mailing in registration forms. The forms are available on the internet at www.palmettotennisleague.com. The registration deadline is July 20.

The league is scheduled to start an abbreviated schedule on Aug. 20, with league playoffs planned for late October. All levels of players can participate. The match format will be made up of five doubles matches. Teams will have a minimum of 12 players with a limit of 14 players.

McGee has distributed posters to local clubs as well as some neighborhood courts. The league hopes to take advantage of the availability of neighborhood and club courts that might not qualify for the U.S. Tennis Association leagues. USTA membership is not required. Unrated players can use the new league's self-rating guidelines that are outlined on the internet.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- JoAnn Lee will team up with Citadel tennis coach Toby Simpson this week, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for a high performance camp for tournament players only 10-16 years of age) at The Citadel courts. Contact Simpson (953-4845) or Lee (792-3157) for more details.

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson will hold an all-day camp (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) this week at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (766-7401).

-- Toni Young's camp at Maybank Tennis Center is from 9 a.m.-noon for ages 4-16 and from 3:30-6 p.m. for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct two local camps this summer, June 26-July 1 at Charleston Southern University with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal, and July 11-15 with Young at Maybank Tennis Center. Information is available on the internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.


(06/08/05)  Nau putting impressive tennis network to good use
Fritz Nau has more contacts than a vision center. Tennis contacts, of course.

For much of 12 years, Nau traveled with Nick Bollettieri and the big tennis names of the day -- Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Jim Courier for starters -- while working for Bollettieri's Academy. This threesome alone won more than 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

So, Nau obviously knows a little about tennis. When Family Circle Tennis Center opened in 2001, he was named the facility's tennis director. He also directed Porter-Gaud boys' and girls' teams to two state titles each.

He brought former longtime University of Eastern Kentucky coach Tom Higgins out of retirement to serve as his assistant at Porter-Gaud, and Higgins led the Porter-Gaud boys to another state title this spring.

No longer associated with Family Circle Tennis Center or Porter-Gaud, Nau has his own Charleston Tennis Academy. The 48-player academy operates out of Creekside Tennis and Swim as well as his own soon-to-be-opened 13-court facility on Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. The new facility houses nine clay courts and has been named the Players Club of Charleston. "The hard courts are done and the clay courts are ready, but we aren't opening them yet. The pro shop isn't up yet," Nau said.

The 57-year-old Kentucky native uses his contacts often, routinely taking juniors from his academy for training visits to Bollettieri's as well as other trips such as the one several of his juniors took last winter to the Emilio Sanchez Academy in Barcelona, Spain. Nau plans to take another group to John Roddick's (Andy's brother) Academy in Texas in the fall.

Nau also keeps a long list of tennis instructors he'd like to hire. One of them was Ean Meyer, who worked with Nau at Bollettieri's as well as for Nau as tennis director at the Robert Seguso-Carling Bassett Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. When Chris Evert and another group took over the academy, Meyer stayed on as tennis director.

Nau has hired Meyer again. This time Meyer has been named the director of player development at Charleston Tennis Academy. Former College of Charleston star Brian Minton serves as director of the academy.

USTA COORDINATOR
The Charleston tennis community now has its own USTA coordinator. Maggie LaCoste has been named to the position of Charles-ton Community Tennis Coordinator by the USTA. She is assigned to the state office in Columbia, but resides in Charleston.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Snee Farm Country Club's 16th annual Adult & NTRP Championships will be held this weekend.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids' six-week summer started last Saturday. Sessions are held on Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island and from 5:30-7 p.m. on Mondays at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson is holding his summer camp for juniors on weekdays from 9 a.m.-noon at Charleston Tennis Center. He also will hold all-day camps (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) June 13-17, June 27-July 1 and July 11-15. Contact the tennis center (766-7401) for more details.

-- Toni Young's camp at Maybank Tennis Center is from 9 a.m.-noon for ages 4-16 and from 3:30-6 p.m. for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct two local camps this summer, June 26-July 1 at Charleston Southern University and July 11-15 with Young at Maybank Tennis Center. Information is available on the internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.



(06/06/05)  Legs key to Nadal's success
There may be more to Rafael Nadal wearing long white pants than just their uniqueness on a tennis court. The pants disguise his true tennis strength -- his legs.

While he stuns opponents and observers with the sight of his bulging biceps, his legs go unnoticed, hidden beneath the long white pants. Newcomer opponents might think the kid is a showboat or a bit delicate.

He may be something of a showboat with his fist-pumping antics that show off his huge arm muscles.

But he certainly isn't delicate. Nadal's legs make everything possible. He should take out a huge insurance policy on them.

With a normal pair of legs, Nadal hardly would be wearing the French Open crown today as a mere 19-year-old. Time after time, it was those legs that turned sure winners by Mariano Puerta into points for Nadal in Sunday's four-set final.

Overshadowed and outmatched in the minds of many experts, Puerta played some wonderful clay-court tennis. He outhit his young Spanish opponent, driving Nadal off the court from one side to the other, only to see Nadal repeatedly make impossible looking retrieves.

Luck certainly wasn't on Puerta's side. If it had been, he would have been facing immortality seeking Roger Federer in the final. And Puerta might have been wearing the crown today.

But Nadal is for real. He's tenacious. He can run forever. And, yes, he's strong.

If he puts those big muscles into play a little more on his serve, he'll be even more of a force to be reckoned with on all surfaces. Even the fast grass of Wimbledon.

No one will be overlooking this kid in the future. Not even Federer at Wimbledon or on the hard courts of the U.S. Open. Nadal is a true clay courter, but so was a fellow named Bjorn Borg.

Nadal now has confidence on his side. He had the game's recognized best player, Federer, down two sets on a hard surface in the final of the world's fifth-biggest men's tournament, Miami's Nasdaq 100. Nadal beat Federer on clay Friday.

Yes, Rafael Nadal knows he can beat anyone in the game, on any surface, as long as his legs remain healthy.

And the long white pants are their ally.


(06/05/05)  Pierce finds herself hopelessly outmatched

Poor John McEnroe and Mary Carillo. The 1977 French Open mixed doubles champions had the tough task of trying to make Saturday's women's singles final something it wasn't -- a competitive match.

This French Open final was a mismatch. McEnroe and Carillo couldn't win. In tennis layman's terms, the Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. Mary Pierce final was the equivalent of a 4.0 player taking on a 5.0 player. Mary Pierce was playing out of her league.

It looked like a bagel or even two from here, but NBC-TV analysts McEnroe and Carillo toiled on with their hype until the obvious and the outcome were the same, an overwhelming 6-1, 6-1 conquest for Henin-Hardenne. McEnroe finally declared it a mismatch and Carillo made the reference to a bad match.

Henin-Hardenne didn't even have to play spectacularly to win easily. She often kept the ball in the middle of the court with average pace until an opening to use her newly acquired power occurred. Pierce usually either watched helplessly without making a serious move toward the winners or turned them into loosely hit returns.

Henin-Hardenne had no problem with Pierce's hard flat serves, when Pierce wasn't double-faulting. The smallish Henin-Hardenne's serves overpowered Pierce.

The semifinal against erratic Nadia Petrova and the easy final match-up practically gave Henin-Hardenne a cakewalk to her second French Open title. But make no mistake about it, she is the best player in women's tennis. Barring further illness or injury, the 23-year-old Belgian should wear the crown for several years.

While the last two years have been like a roller-coaster ride for Henin-Hardenne, one thing has remained constant -- her mental toughness. It is this characteristic and determination that separate her from the rest of women's tennis.

FADING IMMORTALITY
Roger Federer's charm and stylish tennis faded with Friday's Paris sun. So might have his dream of tennis immortality.

He looked very human against 19-year-old Rafael Nadal. Federer had the draw of a lifetime at the French Open. Everything was set perfectly for his bid to become just the sixth winner of all four men's tennis Grand Slam events. Even Nadal played enough spotty tennis to have given a better clay-court opponent ample opportunities for victory.

Federer was poetry in motion as usual, possessing perhaps the prettiest tennis game ever to come along. But too often he netted easy volleys or went for too much from the baseline against Nadal's superb court coverage.

As the end grew closer, Federer begged for mercy from the chair umpire to stop the match until Saturday. His confidence obviously shaken, Federer looked like just another good player for much of his four-set loss to Nadal.

Nadal is an excellent player, especially on clay, but he must make vast improvements if he is to become one of the game's greats. Of course, his wonderful physical attributes give him the potential for greatness. Although his serve is often a liability, the size of his biceps indicates that might not always be the case.

McEnroe is calling Nadal an overwhelming favorite in today's final against Mariano Puerta. But this one might not be as easy for Nadal as his conquest of Federer. Puerta may be a superior clay-court player to Federer.

The key might be how long it takes Nadal to adjust to the spins and other problems that another left-hander's game presents. While his play might not be as exciting as Nadal's, Puerta has the potential to give Argentina its second straight French title.


(06/01/05)  Belgian standout on big roll
Justine Henin-Hardenne may really conquer women's tennis this time.

When she was the top player in the game, Henin-Hardenne had a bunch of obstacles in her way, mainly the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters as well as the usual challengers such as Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Amelie Mauresmo.

But now as the Belgian birthday girl (she'll turn 23 today) raises her game to the stature of the best in the world again, most of her former challengers appear to be heading in the opposite direction. And the Russians, even as their numbers steadily grow, aren't nearly as good as their buildup. It's just at a time when women's tennis seems to have no real direction -- other than what comes off the racket of Henin-Hardenne.

Henin-Hardenne may actually be playing the best tennis of her life. That may sound improbable for a player who had won three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments when she fell ill and missed most of 2004, but it appears to be true.

The current version of the 5-5-3/4 player packs more of a wallop than the old one. Her serve appears to be only a little bigger, but make no mistake about her ground strokes. They are definitely more powerful now. They've become lethal weapons. She nails winners from either side, both down the lines and crosscourt.

Henin-Hardenne avenged her only loss of the year with relative ease Tuesday when she rolled over Maria Sharapova for a second straight time, this one 6-4, 6-2 in the French Open quarterfinals. With hard-hitting but flat-footed Mary Pierce, nearly over-the-hill Russian Elena Likhovtseva and erratic Russian Nadia Petrova the other three semifinalists in Paris, Henin-Hardenne looks like a safe bet for a second French Open crown.

Earlier in the year, and even when she arrived in Charleston in April for the Family Circle Cup, Henin-Hardenne appeared to be out of sync with her new power game. But she has since molded that power into a lethal package of explosiveness to go with the best mental toughness in professional tennis.

As improbable as it was to think Henin-Hardenne could best her former self, it was just as unthinkable to believe that Pierce had another serious Grand Slam run left in her. But Davenport obliged.

This marked the fourth straight Grand Slam event that Davenport appeared to have a legitimate shot of winning, only to falter within sight of the title. Davenport was even more slow-footed than Pierce in her 6-3, 6-2 loss to Pierce on Tuesday.

The fact that Pierce can wade through to the semifinals of a Grand Slam at this point in her career is a perfect illustration of the current level of play on the women's tour. Steffi Graf would have had a ball with this current group of players, other than possibly a tough little Belgian who thinks and plays like she can win anytime she steps on the court.

CARTER WINS NATIONALS
Charleston's Brenda Carter won the national indoors women's 55 title recently in Homewood, Ill. Currrently ranked No. 11 in the world in 55 singles, Carter rallied to defeat top-seeded Kathy Barnes of San Jose, Calif., 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Carter, who was the No. 2 seed in singles, also advanced to the doubles final with Kathleen Bennett of Costa Mesa, Calif.

-- Susie Peiffer of Charleston won a women's 55 national level II singles title earlier this month in Jackson, Miss.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Belton's Palmetto Championships, the state's junior qualifying tournament, will begin Friday. The tournament, now is its 49th year of competition in the Belton-Anderson area, will run through the following Friday.

-- The 3.0 and 3.5 adult league state championships are scheduled to begin Saturday at Snee Farm Country Club.

-- Monday is the deadline for entering the June 10-12 Snee Farm Adult & NTRP Championships. Registration can be made on the Internet at www.usta.com using tournament number 704134605.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids six-week summer program starts Saturday (10-11:30 a.m.) at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and on Monday (5:30-7 p.m.) at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

-- City of Charleston head pro Fredrik Andersson will begin his summer camps for juniors on Monday (9 a.m.-noon) at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact the tennis center (766-7401) for more details.

-- Toni Young will hold junior camps at Maybank Tennis Center starting Monday (9 a.m.-noon) for ages 4-16. An afternoon session (3:30-6 p.m.) is available for ages 10 and up. Contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) for information.

-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct a camp at Charleston Southern with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal June 26-July 1. Information is available at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.


(05/25/05)  MUSC tennis director going to Wimbledon
MUSC tennis director JoAnn Lee is packing her bags for a trip to Wimbledon to participate in an international coaches conference June 17-25.

"We'll be talking about coaching kids through their teenage years," said Lee. "Our main interest is trying to get U.S. kids better."

Lee, a 20-year coaching veteran who has been at MUSC for seven years, was selected for the conference by the U.S. Tennis Association's High Performance coaching department.

She was one of the participants recently at a fitness conference held at the governor's mansion in Columbia. "Right now my big push is obesity. Kids are coming in heavier and heavier every year. (South Carolina children) are ranked No. 46 in the United States for obesity," Lee said.

In addition to her normal advanced tennis camps at MUSC this summer, Lee is conducting a camp that concentrates on all sports. Youth can sign up for the tennis camp or the all-sports camp by contacting Lee (792-3157).

-- Lee is holding a pre-Belton camp at The Citadel next week with Citadel coach Toby Simpson. For information, contact Simpson (953-4845).

SCHNYDER IS BACK
If you missed it, Patty Schnyder is back in the top 10 of women's tennis after a six-year absence. The crafty left-hander earned a No. 10 ranking recently by advancing to the final of the Italian Open with a win over Maria Sharapova. Don't rule Schnyder out of causing some trouble in the French Open.

As for Sharapova, she is hot on Lindsay Davenport's heels in the race for No. 1 in the world after losing in two tournaments in which titles would have given the 18-year-old Wimbledon champion the world's top ranking. If Sharapova fails to make the move to No. 1 at the French Open, she might not make it anytime soon. A repeat Wimbledon championship doesn't look very promising.

LOCAL 4.0 WOMEN FALL
The 4.0 women's team representing the St. Andrews tennis complex in the state adult league championships suffered a loss to Greenville in the state final Monday. Gene Owens served as captain of the team.

MAXSON PICKED
Charleston Day School graduate Greg Maxson, a rising sophomore at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., has been selected by the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in Texas to be a member of the academy's international traveling team this summer. Maxson and the group will attend Wimbledon as well as participate in a junior competition in Scotland and England.

The 15-year-old Maxson played on the Hotchkiss varsity this spring as a freshman and was one of the leading boarding school players in New England. In Charleston, he trained under MUSC pro Jay Bruner and Family Circle Tennis Center pro Mike Baker.

WOORONS' BIG DAY
Former city champion Sophie Woorons reports several exciting new occurrences in her life. Now a professor at Clemson and tennis pro at Anderson's Cardinal Racquet Club, Woorons is getting married. She and former Clemson head women's tennis coach Andy Johnston plan to marry July 2 in France.

And this past weekend, Woorons received an advance wedding present -- she was named South Carolina pro of the year at the U.S. Professional Tennis Association's Southern convention at Hilton Head Island. Woorons, a former Clemson All-American who holds a doctorate from the University of Georgia, won a seminar contest at the Hilton Head meeting and will represent the USPTA Southern section at the organization's national convention in September.

Woorons also has been selected to be a member of the Tennis Industry Association's national speakers cardio tennis team.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct a camp at Charleston Southern University with CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal June 26-July 1. Campers can choose between a day camp and a sleepover. Information is available on the Internet at www.totaltennistraining.com or by calling 864-888-0940.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids summer program will get under way Saturday, June 4 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The summer schedule at the downtown Jack Adams Tenis Center will start on Monday, June 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. The registration cost is $10 for the entire six-week session at either location, running through July 16 on John's Island and July 18 downtown. For more information, contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- The 3.0 and 3.5 adult state championships will be held June 4-6 at Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club.

-- The 16th annual Snee Farm Adult & NTRP Championships will be held June 10-12. Registration can be made on the internet at www.usta.com using tournament number 704134605. The entry deadline is June 6.


(05/18/05)  Brace for blue view at Open

This year's U.S. Open won't look the same, whether you watch the last Grand Slam event in person or on television. Tennis, as in the U.S. Tennis Association, is switching colors.

The dominant color at the National Tennis Center may still be green, but blue is moving into the inner court area. The inner court playing surface will be switched from green to blue, surrounded by a green outer court.

This change doesn't rival the U.S. Open's switch from grass to clay in 1975 or its move from clay to hard surface in 1978, but it's still a significant change by the USTA. If it's happening at America's biggest and most important tennis facility, wonder how long it will take for the trend to trickle down to local courts?

Of course, clay courts probably won't be affected by this new color scheme, but maybe the color of America's drab green clay could be enhanced some. Europe's red clay appears to offer more contrast.

Blue courts should help make the game more viewer-friendly, enhancing the visibility of the little yellow ball, and not just for fans. The contrast could help line crews in making their calls and maybe even the players themselves in seeing the ball better.

The new color scheme should be more obvious for night play, especially for TV viewers. The blue-yellow contrast also should be a big boost for night line crews, who in the past apparently have had more difficulty in making correct calls.

The change will hardly be noticed by players who play the six-week U.S. Open Series prior to moving to Flushing Meadows. All 10 U.S. Open Series events will be played on courts using the same color scheme as the U.S. Open.

STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The USTA's USA League is already gearing up for the nine-state Southern Sectional Championships scheduled to be held in July at Family Circle Tennis Center. The state senior championships were held last weekend at Hilton Head Island, and most adult league state titles will be decided this weekend in Charleston.

Charleston Tennis Center will serve as headquarters for the state 2.0, 2.5, and 4.0 and above adult championships Saturday through Monday, with matches also being played at St. Andrews Tennis Center, Maybank Tennis Center and The Citadel. The captains' meeting for the event is Friday at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Inn on Highway 17 South.

The 3.0 and 3.5 state championships are set for later this month at Snee Farm Country Club.

HILTON HEAD DOMINATES
Teams from Hilton Head Island won eight of the 10 senior titles that were contested last weekend. Sea Pines Plantation served as headquarters for the tournament, which included about 1,000 participants age 50 and over. Two Charleston area teams were runners-up: Summerville's Miler Country Club (3.5 men) and Charleston Challengers (4.5 women). Three teams from Hilton Head's Long Cove Plantation won state titles.

COURTING KIDS: The City of Charleston's Courting Kids summer program is taking applications. The program, headed by Charleston Tennis Center's Delores Jackson, will start on Saturday, June 4 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. The summer schedule at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center will begin on Monday, June 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. The registration cost for either location is $10 for the entire six-week session, lasting until July 16 on Johns Island and July 18 downtown. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).


MISSING – Where are all of the articles coving the Family Circle Cup (4/9 – 5/18)???????


(04/07/05)  Cougs women streaking toward SoCon tourney
The College of Charleston women are right on schedule. Only a 4-3 loss to East Tennessee State mars their Southern Conference record as they head into their last four matches of the regular season with a 10-match winning streak.

Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's team is 15-4 overall, 7-1 in the conference. The Cougars scored an important 4-3 road victory over 53rd nationally ranked Davidson on Sunday by winning four of five three-set singles matches. College of Charleston senior co-captains Rachel Magory and Gabriella Moreira took three-set victories over Davidson senior co-captains Kelly Fillnow of Hilton Head Island and Meggie Patterson, respectively, at Nos. 1 and 2.

Earlier this season, Davidson posted a 6-1 win over an ETSU team that handed the C of C women their only SoCon loss.

The College spent the entire weekend in North Carolina, completing a 6-1 win over UNC Greensboro on Monday in a match that started Saturday. It was the Cougars' eighth makeup match of an unpredictable spring schedule.

With C of C, Davidson and East Tennessee all with one loss, the Cougars play host to SoCon unbeaten Furman Sunday at 11 a.m. Non-conference East Carolina plays at the College on Friday (4 p.m.) and Florida A&M comes to town Saturday (10 a.m.). After these three matches, the team has only a Tuesday home match against Georgia Southern remaining before the April 21-24 SoCon tournament at The Citadel.

-- Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men won a pair of matches over the weekend at Greensboro and Davidson to improve to 10-6 overall and 6-3 in the conference. The Cougars face Florida A&M at home Saturday, then go to S..C. State next Monday before closing out the regular season April 15 at The Citadel.

-- The Citadel stands at 9-8 overall, 5-4 in the conference going into a 1 p.m. home match Sunday against Florida A&M. "For a young team, we're close to turning the corner," said Citadel coach Toby Simpson, whose first six players include four newcomers.

-- The Charleston Southern men's team defeated Liberty and was beaten by Radford last weekend for a 13-10 overall record.

U.S. TEAMS LOSE
Australia scored victories over the United States in the finals of both the women's 45 Margaret Court Cup and women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup last weekend in Australia.

In 45s, Australia got the decisive point in a 2-1 victory by defeating the U.S. doubles team of Diane Fishburne of Charleston and Susan Wright. Australia blanked the Brenda Carter-captained 55s team, 3-0, as Carter fell in singles. This marked the second straight year Australia has turned back the Americans in the Connolly Cup final.

Fishburne is participating in the International Tennis Federation's Seniors World Championships this week in Perth, Australia, where as the No. 2 seed she has advanced to the semifinals of women's 45.


(03/31/05)  Charleston women riding 8-match streak
Making two trips to Cullowhee, N.C., wasn't one of the ways College of Charleston women's tennis coach Angelo Anastopoulo had planned to pass any idle time he or his team had in March.

"We've rescheduled seven matches," the veteran coach said. "We've made two trips to Coastal Carolina and two to Western Carolina (Cullowhee)."

It's been somewhat of a crazy season, but the College of Charleston now appears to be on a roll. The Cougars have won eight straight matches after beating Southern Conference rival Wofford, 6-1, Wednesday in a makeup match at Patriots Point. The C of C women (13-4, 5-1) play at conference rivals UNC Greensboro and Davidson on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

"That's a big test," Anastopoulo said about Davidson. "But everybody is playing well for us."

The Cougars haven't lost since a windblown setback to Charlotte on March 12. In the eight team matches since, they have dropped only two of the 72 individual singles and doubles matches.

Freshman Chelsea Albertz twice rallied from 5-0 first-set deficits at No. 4 singles to win not only the match but also the first set.

MEN STRUGGLE
Coach Phil Whitesell's C of C men have been hit by injuries and bad luck while slumping to an 8-6 record. The Cougars also have lost No. 1 player Or Dekel for the season to a right shoulder injury.

Dekel sat out the team's early matches, then tried to make a comeback in a loss to East Tennessee State. "It didn't work out," said Whitesell. "He couldn't play, so we just decided to go ahead and redshirt him. He has two more years of school and eligibility."

Senior Timo Siebert has moved up to the No. 1 position. "We just had to move everyone up a spot," Whitesell said.

Whitesell still isn't ready to give up on the Southern Conference race as the Cougars head for the conference tournament April 21-24 at The Citadel. The Cougars play at Davidson on Saturday and UNC Greensboro on Sunday.

BULLDOGS GO FOR 3 TODAY
Coach Toby Simpson's Citadel men have won back-to-back road matches against Florida Tech and Georgia Southern to improve to 8-7. The Bullldogs (4-3 SoCon) play Elon here today at 2 p.m. and play on the road against Chattanooga on Saturday. Both are league matches.

Freshman No. 1 Daniel Dossetor of Australia is 8-7 overall and has teamed with New Zealand freshman James Eason for a 10-5 record at No. 1 doubles. "The freshmen are really stepping up," said Simpson.

CSU BOUNCING BACK
Charleston Southern's men once had won seven of eight matches, but they have lost four of their last five to fall to 12-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big South Conference.

"We were 11-5 going into conference play, and we had beaten Furman in the streak," second-year coach Randy Bloemendaal said. "Not having any upperclassmen makes it rough when you go through the tough patches in the schedule."

No. 1 player Quentin Guichard, a sophomore from France, leads the Bucs with a 12-9 singles mark.

CSU goes on the road to play at Liberty on Friday and at Radford on Saturday.

-- The CSU women have won four of their last five matches, including a 7-0 blitzing of visiting John Carroll on Tuesday, to improve to 8-10. Sophomore No. 1 Meryam Tazi of Morocco has posted a 13-5 singles record. CSU's women also play at Liberty and Radford on Friday and Saturday.


(03/27/05)  Federer really quite vulnerable
Roger Federer just appears to be in firm control of men's tennis. He really isn't. He's vulnerable.

Federer has one of the prettiest games to ever come along. For sheer beauty, his game looks like maybe the best ever. Whether he becomes a player of the ages, an Andre Agassi, is still questionable.

Although Federer has dominated practically everything other than the Australian Open and the French Open for the last year, there should be immense hope for the rest of men's tennis. That's even if Marat Safin's brilliance in the Australian Open becomes only an illusion for the rest of the year.

Yes, there's hope for Andy Roddick. I actually expect Roddick to win either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open this year. If this guy with the enormous heart can finesse his serve just a bit and develop a net game mentality, his best days against Federer and the rest of tennis are still ahead of him.

Federer will win his share of events in the hard-court season, and maybe even in the European clay-court season. But the French Open likely will humble Federer, and the real season starts at Wimbledon where Roddick should be more than ready.

I expect men's tennis to have an entirely different look by the start of another year. There will be some names near the top of the game that we may not even currently recognize.

ANOTHER RUSSIAN
The April 9-17 Family Circle Cup has added another top Russian, 11th-ranked Vera Zvonareva. She didn't enter the tournament in time to go straight in, but is next in line in case of a withdrawal. Otherwise, the Family Circle will award her a wild card.

Zvonareva appearance will give the tournament eight of the world's top 13 players, including fellow Russians Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Nadia Petrova as well as top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and defending champion Venus Williams.

-- When Kim Clijsters rallied to defeat Davenport in last weekend's final at Indian Wells, Calif., Clijsters wiped out Iva Majoli's reign from the 2002 FCC as the lowest-ranked Tier I singles champion. Clijsters (now No. 38) was ranked 133 before defeating Davenport. Majoli was only No. 58 when she defeated Patty Schnyder in the 2002 FCC final.

HIGH ON CHARLESTON
These words from Philip Burke, the assistant tennis director at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground, are an excellent description of what Charleston tennis has become.

"I think we have a great community to provide the very best atmosphere for tennis. There are so many nice, interacting, public and private facilities. Every facility seems to have their own niche. We have great tennis weather for almost year-round play.

"Our area is large enough for diversity, yet still small enough to know most of the people we play. We have access to the FCC and world-class resorts. I don't think any facility is at its full potential so there is plenty of room for growth. Please continue to encourage the community to participate, advocate and enjoy the game of tennis. It is up to us."

Burke's St. Andrew's facility is holding a sanctioned junior tournament this weekend.

PINE FOREST EVENT
Monday is the deadline for entering the Azalea Clay Court Classic that will be held next weekend at the newly enlarged and improved Pine Forest Country Club. Competition will be held in age groups for men and women from open to 80s, singles and doubles, NTRP singles and doubles 2.5-5.0, and mixed doubles 5.0-9.0.

Registration can be made online at www.sctennis.com. The tournament number is 704131305.

-- The "Battle of James Island" is scheduled for May 7 at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. The Country Club will be gunning for its third straight championship. Contact County Club tennis director Lee Brockman for more information (843-795-0425).


(03/13/05)  Brewer gets position with USTA
The Charleston area's role in the administration and success of tennis at the national level just keeps growing. Former Southern Tennis Association president Barbara Brewer has been appointed the USTA's new council chair for its Youth/Collegiate Division for 2005-06.

"Barbara's wealth of tennis knowledge and experience as well as her love for the game will propel adult and youth and collegiate tennis across the nation to new heights," said Franklin R. Johnson, the USTA's chairman of the board and president.

Brewer, who held the Southern Section's top job in 2001-02, will serve in a volunteer capacity as liaison with the USTA board of directors, the Youth/Collegiate Division and its committees. She has been a participant in the USTA's League Tennis program for 25 years.

Of course, the area already has two of the top senior players in the United States. Diane Fishburne not only has been the nation's top 45 women's player for the last two years, she also was tops in the world for 2004. Brenda Carter was the No. 1 women's 55 player in the United States last year. Both women will represent the USTA later this month in the world team championships in Australia, Carter serving as captain of her 55 team.

And don't forget that Kiawah Island's Roy Barth is back as vice chairman of the USTA's Davis Cup committee, or that past Davis Cup committee co-chairman Warren Kimball of Seabrook Island has been contracted by the USTA to write a history of the organization. Also, Family Circle Cup tournament director Mike Finley is on the USTA's Fed Cup committee that is chaired by local Win4Life founder Leslie Allen, a former WTA Tour star whom the area might as well claim.

With all of that clout, along with the success of last September's Davis Cup semi-final here, the area might be ripe for another venture into Fed Cup competition or maybe even Davis Cup in another year. Even if the U.S. gains a host berth in the Sept. 23-25 qualifying round for next year's Davis Cup World Group, it might be too early for the Davis Cup to return to Charleston.

CALL FOR DOUBLES AT TOP
The demise of the Bryan brothers last weekend in the U.S. Davis Cup loss to Croatia only adds emphasis to the importance of top players committing to doubles. Andy Roddick should be one of the game's best doubles players. He has the serve and the overhead. He just needs to improve on the basics of the net game.

Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic were superior tennis players to the Bryans, who make their living hugging the net and using movement tactics. Even as hard-working and motivated as the Bryans are, they simply weren't talented enough to overcome the tennis superiority of the Croatian doubles team.

The slow hard court used last weekend played against the Bryans, neutralizing their quickness at the net and coordinated movement. The Croatians, especially Ljubicic but Ancic as well, sat back on the baseline and pounded the ball at the net-hugging Bryans. Because of the court's slowness, the Bryans couldn't put the ball away on the first, second or even third volley, giving Ljubicic's forehand on the backhand side sitting-duck looks at high-bouncing Bryan volleys dumped in front of him.

SCHNYDER, PETROVA RETURN
The Family Circle Cup hasn't announced it yet, but 2002 runner-up and 2004 semifinalist Patty Schnyder has entered the April 9-17 tournament on Daniel Island, along with talented 22-year-old Russian Nadia Petrova, a quarterfinalist here last year and a former top 10 player. Petrova and Schnyder, of Switzerland, are ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, giving the Family Circle seven of the world's top 13 players.

LOCALS RANKED
Ray Easterbrook of Seabrook Island played in nine tournaments in 2004 to earn a No. 12 national ranking in men's 75 singles.

In the Southern rankings, Brenda Carter fared best, landing the top ranking in women's 55 singles and doubles. Susie Peiffer was second in women's 50 singles and first in 50 doubles, while Robi Poston took first in women's 65 doubles and second in 65 singles. Jerry Hanchrow and Janet Hanchrow were No. 1 in 70 mixed.

Others gaining high rankings in singles included: Diane Fishburne, second in both women's 45 categories; and Angela Williams, fourth in women's 60 singles and third in 60 doubles with Marina Weathers. Jim Sexton was third in men's 80 singles. High-ranking men in doubles included John Baird (3 in 75s), while women's doubles included Jackie Bull (4 in 50s), Carrie Randall (5 in 55s), Janet Hanchrow (3 in 70s), and Nancy Klock and Mary Walker (4 in 70s). Mary Porter and Peter Sherman were fifth in 30 mixed, while Dorothy Pickett and Edwin Pickett took third in 80 mixed.

-- Earlier this month, Fishburne won the women's 45 singles title in the National Clay Court Championships in Houston, and Carter was third in 55 singles and won the 55 doubles.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Summerville's fourth annual Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament is scheduled for April 1-3 at Azalea Park. The tournament is for juniors as well as all levels of adults and seniors. The entry deadline is March 30 at 9 p.m. Entry forms are available at all area clubs and the Summerville Family YMCA, or by calling tournament director Greg Hancox (843-830-5351).

-- The Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association is now accepting teams for its 2005-06 season, which begins in August. Teams have until June 1 to submit applications, which are available online at www.caltatennis.net.


(03/09/05)  Roddick's court was built for Ljubicic
Life is full of little surprises. Just ask Patrick McEnroe. Last September when his U.S. Davis Cup team was at Daniel Island, the future was rosy. McEnroe appeared to be a genius in the Americans' victory over Belarus. They were headed for the Davis Cup final. If they didn't win the 2004 Davis Cup, 2005 looked very promising.

Then came this past weekend in Carson, Calif. Not only were U.S. Davis Cup hopes devastated by Croatia, McEnroe no longer looked like a genius. You might even chalk this loss up to the likeable captain rather than his team. He selected a court surface that was perfect for Ivan Ljubicic's huge forehands and backhands.

If that wasn't enough, the slow hard court didn't appear to be suited for any of the Americans, not even Andy Roddick, for whom the court was built. Not for the Bryan brothers in doubles. And definitely not for Andre Agassi.

As a result, Davis Cup is out for this year for the Americans, and maybe in 2006 as well unless a suddenly vulnerable U.S. team can play itself back into the World Group by winning a qualifying round in September. Roddick and the Bryans probably are set, but the other singles spot is full of questions. Will Agassi be around at 35? Where's Mardy Fish? Is recklessly charging the net Taylor Dent's only tennis wisdom? Can 15-year-old Donald Young's game mature quickly?

BACK TO BASICS
I love serve-and-volley tennis. I admire players such as Tim Henman and Patrick Rafter, who have made a science of serve-and-volleying and the net game.

It was shocking to see Roddick on a critical point charge the net on a wide cross-court backhand approach shot that landed shallow. Ljubicic had only to find the open court -- or, if he preferred to gamble, hit behind his racing-to-the-other-side opponent. Roddick often approached this way.

Who are these baseliners learning their tennis from? They should get back to basics. Roddick needs a coach who knows the entire game. He should beg T.J. Middleton to be his coach, although doubles whiz Middleton is in the camp of Paradorn Srichaphan. Only a few players understand the net game as well as the little-known Middleton. Or maybe Roddick could pull John McEnroe out of the broadcast booth to help the American cause, or convince Rafter to leave his carefree lifestyle.

There's a time to go to the net, and a time to stay back. Even great volleyers such as Henman and Rafter practice this. The optimum time (I'm not talking about serving and volleying, which is a completely different philosophy) to charge the net in singles is when you have little to lose or when the pressure is greatest on your opponent, such as when you have the ad or set or match points. If you lose the point, you've got another point. A perfect approach shot also usually creates a good time to take the net.

But a weak net player can't afford to recklessly charge the net when he has a critical ad against him or when his opponent has a set or match point. Even a great net player doesn't do this.

SITTING-DUCK LOOKS
The slow court favored the Croatians from start to finish. The court made Roddick's normally huge serves sit up for Ljubicic's solid ground strokes. The court even played against the Bryans, neutralizing their quickness at the net and coordinated movement.

The Croatians, especially Ljubicic but Mario Ancic as well, sat back on the baseline and pounded the ball at the net-hugging Bryans. Because of the court's slowness, the Bryans couldn't put the ball away on the first, second or even third volley, giving Ljubicic's forehand on the backhand side sitting-duck looks at high-bouncing Bryan volleys dumped in front of him.


(03/06/05)  Slow court hinders Agassi's fast game
Just because Andre Agassi will celebrate his 35th birthday next month doesn't mean he's too old to play on a fast court. Quite the contrary, it may have been the slow court that Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe designed for Andy Roddick that caused Agassi so many problems against Ivan Ljubicic Friday in the first match of the United States-Croatia Davis Cup tie.

The slow surface in Carson, Calif., enabled the slow-footed Croatian to catch up with Agassi's hit-his-opponent-off-the-court style of strokes. The court sapped most of the zip from Agassi's normally blistering pace on groundstrokes, prompting Agassi to go for the lines too often on his shots and in the process committing excessive errors.

In the end, the court strategy might enable the Americans to defeat Croatia in that the slow court probably was a disadvantage for serve-and-volley standout Mario Ancic in his loss to Roddick in Friday's second match. The slow court also may aid Agassi in keeping Ancic off of the net in today's last match.

But after his complete domination Friday by Ljubicic, Agassi probably isn't real happy about the court, even though he may not say that publicly. He's a player of great stature, who was practically begged to return to Davis Cup competition. Yet, his game wasn't considered in the selection of a court surface.

The faster the court surface, the more advantage Agassi has, even against serve-and-volley players. This is because of his exceptional hand-eye coordination and his shot preparation, which probably still is better than anyone's in the game, even at near-senior age.

John McEnroe avoided the issue of the court surface while analyzing Friday's match, but Cliff Drysdale didn't. "This court was made for Roddick," Drysdale told his ESPN2 audience. McEnroe didn't respond.

But Ljubicic, at 6-4, appeared awkward in his movement, nearly stumbling at times running down Agassi's shots. On a faster court, Agassi might have run the Croatian right off the court

ESPN MISFIRES
ESPN made a smart choice in pulling John McEnroe into its broadcast booth, even if he was less effective than usual because of his conflict of interest in having his little brother on the U.S. sideline. But in my opinion, ESPN2 blew it by not televising the Roddick-Ancic match live Friday, and then putting it on ESPN Classic when it did show the match.

JACKIE KIMBALL HONORED
Jackie Kimball of Seabrook Island has been named the recipient of the USTA's Middle States Section's inaugural Carol Strasser Award for service to the USTA League program. The wife of past U.S. Davis Cup committee co-chairman Warren Kimball, Jackie was one of the founders of the USTA's tennis leagues while serving for 17 years as the Middle States' league coordinator.

She started the Middle States League in 1977 that became the pilot for the national tennis leagues. The Kimballs traveled last week to Princeton, N.J., to attend the meeting of the Middle States Section, which encompasses Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament is scheduled for next weekend at Charleston Tennis Center.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids spring session started Saturday and runs through April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The John's Island session is held each Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. and the downtown session is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Snee Farm's first Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for March 15-20. The entry deadline is Wednesday. Snee Farm will have only one other Grand Prix event this year, in October. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (843-884-3252) for more details.

-- St. Andrews Parks and Playground will hold a sanctioned NTRP tournament next weekend that features singles from 2.5 through 4.5 ratings for women and 3.0 to 4.5 for men as well as open competition. There also will be mixed doubles 3.0, 4.0 and open. Contact Brian Burke or Phil Burke (843-763-4360) for more information. The entry deadline is Wednesday.


(03/02/05)  Junior Cup winner Beermann may pose problems for pros
The wind was blowing. The temperatures were chilling.

Those factors alone were enough to keep tennis fans indoors. Besides, the only people who knew what was going on were those few dozen gathered around the Althea Gibson Club Court on Monday evening to watch the girls' championship of the Junior Family Circle Cup.

The rest of this giant-sized junior tournament had been tossed out the door, thanks to Sunday's heavy rains. Tournament director Rob Eppelsheimer had no other choice. There just wasn't enough time or courts to complete the entire tournament. The weekend was over, and school was back in session.

It was important to produce a girls' 18 champion, the player who would receive a wild-card berth in the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup.

"For the facility, the girls' 18 is always the focus of the tournament. We definitely wanted a player (for the wild card)," Eppelsheimer said.

Monday was an exceptionally long day, especially for the champion, a 16-year-old German girl who registered for the tournament as Inga Beernann, but said after winning the title the correct spelling was Beermann.

A 6-2, 6-2 victory over third-seeded Stephanie Harris of Chattanooga, Tenn., in the 95-minute final capped off a day of four singles victories for the 5-4 Beermann.

"She's very much in shape, and she's a clay-court player. She slides those feet," Eppelsheimer said.

With her exaggerated topspin, extraordinary touch and racket control, and quickness, Beermann is just the type player who could cause problems for the big-hitting WTA Tour pros who will show up at Family Circle Tennis Center on April 9 for the pro qualifier.

She almost didn't even play in the Junior Cup. She had decided she was going home to Germany before the tournament started. Tom Jilly, one of her coaches at Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy, convinced her that this would be a good tournament for her to play. So she changed her travel plans and was scheduled to leave Tuesday for a visit back home to Germany.

A great deal has happened for this young woman who first came to Hilton Head Island in August 2003 as an exchange student at Heritage Academy, along with concentrating on tennis at Van der Meer Academy. She has liked it in America.

"I said, why not stay a little longer," she said. So, she has stayed until now.

The next few months, indeed, will be busy for Beermann. After the Family Circle Cup experience, she will start preparing for a college career at Virginia Tech, where she plans to major in architecture. Her deceased father was an architect.

COLLEGE UPDATE
The College of Charleston's men's team (4-1) looks for a fifth straight win against Southern Conference power East Tennessee State at noon Thursday at Patriots Point, before going on the road this weekend to face SoCon rivals Georgia Southern and Chattanooga.

-- The Cougar women (2-2) go to Coastal Carolina today, then play host to ETSU at 2 p.m. Friday.

-- The Citadel, 2-4 after back-to-back wins over Washington and Lee and UNC Wilmington, hosts Wofford at 1 p.m. Saturday and ETSU at noon Sunday.

-- Charleston Southern's men (4-4) play four home matches in four days, starting with Bethune-Cookman today (1 p.m.), Furman on Thursday (1 p.m.), Campbell on Friday (1 p.m.) and Winthrop on Saturday (10 a.m.).

-- The Charleston Southern women (1-3) are nearly as busy, playing Bethune-Cookman today, Campbell on Friday and Winthrop on Saturday.

COURTING KIDS START
The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program will begin its spring session Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and at 1 p.m. at Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(02/27/05)  Gamesmanship in tennis simply part of the game
Tennis is a head game. The most successful players not only manage their own heads, but often the heads of their opponents simply by staying in charge of their own emotions.

Unfortunately, some players appear to purposely do little things to throw their opponent off, such as repeatedly questioning line calls. Some are legitimate questions, others appear to be designed to break the opponent's concentration.

I've seen college players go as far as to illegally call foot faults on their opponent in a tiebreaker. Boy, did that break the other player's concentration.

It's easy for even adults to lose their focus once someone starts questioning their fairness. Once a player says a shot is out, to ask "Are you sure?" is like throwing a red flag.

Questioning an opponent's calls has led to many victories and many defeats. The player doing the questioning often loses focus, while the questioned person might demonstrate new determination and focus, although the reverse is usually true.

Noted teaching guru Dennis Van der Meer of Hilton Head Island deals with the issue of juniors controlling their emotions in the April issue of Tennis Magazine.

"Tennis is the greatest game I know for families to enjoy together, but it's very hard to watch youngsters struggle through the emotional ups and downs," Van der Meer writes.

His advice: "Keep a simple chart of the number of points your child gathers during each match versus the number going to his opponent. As long as your child collects more points, he'll win 90 percent of the time. We encourage our young students to try for sets of three points in a row, and to prevent their opponents from doing the same. This thinking encourages them to pout away past errors and move on to the next point."

CARTER IS CAPTAIN
The USTA has announced that Charleston's Brenda Carter, the nation's No. 1-ranked women's 55 singles player, has been named playing captain of the USTA's women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team that will travel to Perth, Australia, for the March 27-April 1 international competition.

Carter also is ranked fourth in the United States in 55 doubles. This is her fourth straight year on the team and second as captain.

The United States won the 2003 Maureen Connolly Cup in Antalya, Turkey, but was runner-up to Australia last year in Philadelphia.

Carter and other top players will remain in Australia to compete the following week in the International Tennis Federation's Senior Individual World Championships.

Trips for U.S. teams for competition such as the Connolly Cup and women's 45 Margaret Court Cup are funded by the USTA.

-- Diane Fishburne, another local senior who is the top-ranked women's 45 player in the world, also will compete in Australia at the same time as Carter, but in the Margaret Court Cup.

CAPRIATI OUT
Jennifer Capriati had planned to play in the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup, but she has informed tournament officials that she will not, due to continued shoulder problems.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Saturday is the deadline for entering the March 11-13 Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament at Charleston Tennis Center. Registrations are currently available over the Internet or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue. To register online, go to www.sctennis.com and use the tournament number (704130705). For more information, contact the tennis center (724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids spring session starts Saturday and runs through April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Program director Delores Jackson can be contacted at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Snee Farm's first Grand Prix of the year is scheduled for March 15-20. The entry deadline is March 9. The event is for both Snee Farm Country Club members and non-members. A new super seniors division to be played during the day has been added. To add to the festivities there will be music and food. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252) for more details.


(02/23/05)  Transfer student giving The Citadel a boost
The Citadel's 4-3 victory over Washington and Lee last Friday was about as exciting as college tennis gets.

With a good crowd on hand, coach Toby Simpson's young Citadel team needed a confidence builder badly after dropping its first four matches of the spring season, including a pair of close home matches. But this one wouldn't be easy against an NCAA Division III team that was ranked 10th in the nation.

For all practical purposes, the match came down to No. 2 singles where The Citadel's Ananda Sawmynaden was playing W&L All-American David Shay. The No. 6 singles match was still going on and would finish even after the team match ended when Sawmynaden prevailed in a third-set tiebreaker.

Sawmynaden, a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute, has a huge serve and a strong forehand. He survived four match points to save not only his victory, but also probably his team's victory.

From the African coast island of Mauritius, Sawmynaden is an impressive athlete. At 6-3, 185 pounds, he looks powerful and athletic enough to play tight end or linebacker in football. After spending two years at New Mexico Military, he's in his first year at The Citadel, but a junior eligibility-wise in tennis.

-- The Bulldogs will be at home again Saturday at noon against UNC-Wilmington.

ESTES SIDELINED
Former Porter-Gaud star Nat Estes watched The Citadel-Washington and Lee match from the bleachers, with his left leg propped up. The W&L freshman underwent knee surgery in Charleston on Valentine's Day, his 19th birthday.

Estes first hurt the knee last fall, but injured it again a few weeks ago. He'll miss the entire season.

"That's disappointing. Nat probably would have played No. 3 or 4 singles and No. 2 doubles," said fifth-year W&L coach David Detwiler, a former Furman standout.

-- Detwiler's parents, Jon and Shirlee Detwiler, reside at Kiawah Island in the winter, taking a break from the weather in their Columbus, Ohio, area summer home.

-- Emily Applegate, another former Porter-Gaud standout, has transferred from the University of Richmond to Washington and Lee.

THE FOREIGN QUESTION
How do schools like Washington and Lee field a lineup made up entirely of Americans? "One reason is that we don't offer scholarships," Detwiler said. "There's too many other schools that will give them (foreign players) scholarships."

If you're looking over the men's lineups for Charleston Southern, The Citadel and the College of Charleston, you can't miss the domination by players from countries other than the United States. A total of only three American men (all from the Atlanta area) start for the three local colleges.

One of the three Americans probably will lose his starting job once No. 1 player Or Dekel returns from the College of Charleston's injury list. Alexandre Quillis has played No. 6 for the Cougars, joining No. 5 Justin Malina. Both are from the Atlanta area. The other Atlantan is sophomore Nicholas Medica, who plays No. 5 for The Citadel. Charleston Southern doesn't have an American listed on its roster.

BUCS STUMBLE
Charleston Southern started well, getting off to a 3-1 record, but the Bucs lost three out of four matches over the weekend in the Clemson tournament. The Bucs were blanked by Clemson, then beat Tennessee Tech, 5-2, before suffering back-to-back 5-2 losses to a pair of defending national champions, Auburn-Montgomery (NAIA) and Emory (NCAA Division III). The Bucs are idle until a March 2 home match against Bethune-Cookman.

-- The CSU women, off to a 1-2 start, play at Georgia Southern today.

-- The C of C women (1-2), who were rained out again Sunday against Coastal Carolina, will make up their earlier rained out match against South Carolina State at 5 p.m. today at Patriots Point.

-- The College of Charleston men, who have won three straight matches since losing to Winthrop in their opener, meet UNC-Wilmington Monday at Patriots Point at 1 p.m.

RHETT WINS 50TH
Ashley Hall graduate Katye Rhett recently won her 50th career singles match for Sewanee. Now a senior, Rhett is playing No. 5 after having played Nos. 1-4 her first three years while compiling a 49-23 singles record as a collegian. She entered this season with a 45-36 doubles record.

Rhett played No. 4 last season, but moved down a notch this season to make room for freshman No. 1 player Gab Carvalho of Rock Hill. Sewanee also has two other former S.C. junior players, sisters Lauren Willett and Molly Willett of Greenville, playing at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions.

-- Carvalho's brother, junior Joe Carvalho from Rock Hill, plays No. 2 for the Sewanee men's team. Cid Carvalho, Joe's and Gab's dad, is the men's and women's tennis coach at Big South Conference power Winthrop. Not only did the Winthrop men defeat the College of Charleston, 6-1, they were barely beaten by Clemson Saturday, 4-3. The Winthrop women are unbeaten heading into today's meeting with unbeaten South Carolina in Columbia.


(02/20/05)  Father's reins on star sisters loosen
Has Richard Williams lost control of his tennis-playing daughters?

I realize the women haven't been winning so many tournaments the last year or so, but what's this letting Venus parade around in skimpy attire, making seductive poses on three pages of the current Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Of course, Venus is 24 years old now, and probably making a few decisions of her own.

I wouldn't have been surprised if Serena had taken the step, but Venus?

The question is: Does Venus want to become known for being sexy or for her tennis skills?

TSUNAMI BENEFIT CLINIC
Today is the day you can help victims of the tsunami simply by hitting the courts, and getting a few pointers from six former Charleston Southern University tennis players, led by Sandeep Reddy.

The group is requesting a minimum $20 donation for the two-hour tsunami benefit clinic that is set for 3 p.m. today at Family Circle Tennis Center. And if you love tennis and want to contribute to this cause, you don't have to be a tennis player or participate in today's clinic.

But then again, this might be the chance you have been looking for to get into this game for a lifetime. Remember, Bob Kitchen is still playing competitive doubles at Maybank Tennis Center at 90 years of age. Just borrow or purchase a racket, and these outstanding former CSU players will take care of the rest.

Once you've taken the first step, there's a good chance you'll be hooked, especially if you take a partner with you to the clinic that you can hit and practice with until you eventually join a league.

-- Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brothers Brother Foundation.

RICHARDS, HOY TOPS
Two Charleston-area juniors gained No. 1 state rankings for 2004. Dana Richards earned the top honor in girls' 18, and Payne Hoy took the No. 1 spot in boys' 10.

The Charleston area has a total of nine boys and girls ranked in the top 10, and six of them are in 10-and-under.

Other than Richards, three local girls made top 10 lists. Isabel Dennis (4) and Patricia Kirkland (7) made the top 10 in 10-and-under, while Alexandra LaCoste is 10th in girls' 18.

The Charleston area had five boys ranked in the top 10, and four of them are in 10-and-under. In addition to Hoy, Wilson Daniel (3), Austin Heinz (6) and Joel Roberts (7) gained top 10 rankings in boys' 10. The only other local boy to gain a top 10 ranking was Dirk Bair (10) in 16-and-under.

Other local girls in the top 20 were: Nicole Hinckley (15), Sarah McDonald (16) and Mollie Polk (20) in 10-and-under; Meghan Blevins (12), Downing Herlocker (15) and Hagan Edgerton (16) in 12s; Hagan Edgerton (16) in 14s; and Ashley Mitchell (13) in 16s.

Other boys in the top 20 were: Steven Weaver (15), George Phillips (16) and Baily Kirkland (18) in 10-and-under; Peter Pritchard (13) and Walker Heffron (17) in 12s; Alexander Nista (12), Randall Heffron (17) and John Karle (18) in 14s; and Garrett Egan (12), Trad Robinson (17) and Will Bailey (19) in 18s.

The area had three top-ranked girls' doubles players: Blevins and Herlocker in 12s; and Nikki Miller in 14s.

FOUR NO. 1 ADULTS
Becky Fenno (women's 35), Susan Peiffer (women's 50), Robi Poston (women's 65) and Ray Easterbrook (men's 75) all earned No. 1 state adult singles rankings.

Nine other men earned top 10 singles rankings: Kenneth Johnstone (3, 40-and-over); Eric Forsberg (5, 55s); Larry Sechrist (7, 55s); Nat Malcolm (10, 55s); Jerry Simmons (5, 60s); Charles Burns (6, 60s); Lyons Williams (2, 65s); Jerry Hanchrow (7, 70s); and John Baird (3, 75s), along with Angela Williams (2, women's 60s). James Elliget and William Stogner are No. 1 in men's 40 doubles.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The grand opening ceremony for the new courts at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will be held next Saturday at noon. The festivities also will include a Prince clinic and exhibition matches featuring Diane Fishburne and top local professionals.

-- The deadline for entering the Lowcountry Junior Challenger tournament scheduled for March 11-13 at Charleston Tennis Center is March 5. Registrations are currently available over the Internet or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue in West Ashley. To register online, go to www.sctennis.com and use the tournament number (704130705). For more information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program is set for March 5-April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

SNEE FARM JUNIOR
Results from last weekend's Snee Farm Junior Challenger at Snee Farm Country Club:

GIRLS' SINGLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Mollie Polk (1), Round O def. Brooke Busby, Hilton Head 7-6 (3), 3-6, 10-2; 12s--Christina Connelly (1), Mt. Pleasant def. Polly Poulnot (2), Mt. Pleasant 6-4, 6-4; 14s--Jordan Lazarus, Myrtle Beach def. Olivia McMillian (1), Mt. Pleasant 6-2, 6-3; 16s--Christina Lazarus, Myrtle Beach def. Lena Lohse, North Charleston (1), 6-1, 6-1.

GIRLS' DOUBLES FINALS: 12-and-under--Polk/Edwards (3) def. Robards/Steichen 8-0; 16s--Lazarus/Lazarus def. Lohse/Miler 8-1.

BOYS' SINGLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Zac Dye (1), Pinopolis def. Ashton Phillips (2) Charleston 6-1, 6-1; 12s--Joseph Kennedy (2), Charleston def. Weber Pike, Beaufort 6-4, 3-6, 10-4; 14s--Josh Klingenberg, Summerville def. Joshua Richmond (2), Pawleys Island 6-1 6-2; 16s--Jeremiah Dye (2) Pinopolis def. Pete Supan (1) Beaufort 6-2, 6-1; 18s--Denis Polyekhin, Charleston def. Phillip Ford, Orangeburg 6-0, 6-0.

BOYS' DOUBLES FINALS: 10-and-under--Daniel/Phillips def. Elliget/Dye 8-6; 12s--Dye/Cumbie def. Elliget/Scarafile 8-2; 14s (round robin)--Holoubek/Smith def. Adair/Briggs 8-2; 16s--Patrick/Richards. def. Richmond/Richmond 8-0.


(02/16/05)  Doubles no longer priority
Doubles is that grand old game that is beginning to fade at the top level, with a little help from the lower levels. Most juniors apparently don't want to find partners. And many tournaments don't want to provide the extra courts, balls, time and administrative requirements.

Where are today's John McEnroe and Stan Smith? They aren't on the men's tour. And American women are pretty much the same, other than a token effort by Lindsay Davenport.

And with this demise of the doubles game, American tennis is slipping. We all know that Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi aren't wild about doubles, thus the players who are following in their footsteps think the same way.

Pretty soon, unless the top juniors pick up the doubles beat, this great part of tennis will fade away, except at the league level, of course, where adults and seniors have a love affair going with doubles.

RUSSIAN DOUBLES
If you think the doubles game isn't important to the overall health of tennis, all you have to do is analyze what's happening in Russia these days. The Russians are dominating the women's game, and that domination will only increase in the next few years.
And yes, these young Russian women play the doubles game. Russia currently has 10 women ranked in the world's top 50 in singles (eight in the top 18). Among that group, only 18-year-old Vera Douchevina, who's 42nd in singles, isn't ranked among the world's top 100 in doubles.

By comparison, of the seven Americans ranked in the top 50 in singles, only Meghann Shaughnessy, Lisa Raymond and Davenport are in the top 100 in doubles.

Yes, the Russians are coming. Nine Russians in the top 50 are under 25 years of age. And a year from now, they'll probably have more than that. Four Russian teenagers are in the top 50.

As for the Americans, a year from now the United States may have as few as three total tour regulars in the top 50, and only Serena Williams under 25.

Of the Americans' current seven top 50 players, four of them are 28 or older. Yes, Davenport, Raymond, Jennifer Capriati and Amy Frazier probably are in their final year or years on the tour.

That leaves only the nearly 26-year-old Shaughnessy and the Williams sisters. And we all know how fickle the future of the Williams sisters might be.

BUCS START FAST
Charleston Southern's men's team is off to a fast start behind the Australian Dean brothers. Like the Bucs, sophomore Jonathan and freshman Steven are 3-1. The only losses for CSU and the Deans came in a 7-0 indoor loss to Clemson.

CSU is 2-0 against Southern Conference teams after beating Wofford 6-1 last Friday. But the Bucs are in the same conference (Big South) with Winthrop, which beat SoCon power College of Charleston 6-1 over the weekend.

CSU plays Clemson again Friday at 1 p.m. in an outdoor tournament at Clemson, along with Tennessee Tech at 6 p.m. Friday, then NAIA No. 1 Auburn-Montgomery and Emory on Saturday.

-- The CSU women are 1-2. They lost to Presbyterian and East Carolina and beat Western Carolina.

C OF C WOMEN AT USC
The College of Charleston women (1-1) play at unbeaten South Carolina today at 1:30 p.m.

The Cougars came within one game of posting a win over Hampton on Monday. They led 3-0 in the team match and Gabriela Moreira held a 6-2, 5-2 edge at No. 1 singles when rain hit Monday. Hampton stayed overnight to finish the match Tuesday, but the courts were still soaked and Hampton had to travel to Florida.

-- Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men's team split with Winthrop and Mercer, then was rained out against Hampton.

-- Toby Simpson's Citadel men are winless after four matches, losing at home to Coastal Carolina and Mercer in the last week. The Bulldogs will be at home Friday at 2 p.m. against Washington and Lee.


(02/09/05)  Call sounded for Family Circle Cup ball crew volunteers
Do you want to see today's professional women's tennis players up close? Maybe even toss a ball to them?

You can live that dream. And you don't have to be a junior.

The Family Circle Cup has a spot for you in its ball crew. Of course, kids 11 and over are welcome along with adults. Or, a mother and daughter or a father and son might want to join up as a team.

All that's required are a few Saturdays (12:30-3 p.m.) of practice until the tournament kicks off April 9 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Ball crew members get a hat, T-shirt and jacket as well as free meals during the tournament. When not on duty, they can watch other matches on any court.

The catch is that adults might need to take a week of vacation during the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup, and kids will have to miss some school. Unlike some years in the past, this year's spring break for private and public schools doesn't coincide with the tournament.

But even this could work out well for students such as those at Bishop England, Porter-Gaud and Academic Magnet, who in the past years have used the ball crew work for community service hours.

For some reason, maybe the weather, volunteers for the ball crew are down from past years. Ball crew supervisor Toni Young doesn't know why.

"It takes about 200 people for the week, and we are right about half of that," said Young, a Maybank Tennis Center pro when not running the ball crew operations with Dan Tumbleston and Susan Honowitz.

"I don't know why we haven't had the turnout we usually do. I don't know if some kids are maybe not aware of it. We usually have only about 20 adults, but the nice thing about adults is they don't need the training the kids need."

Junior tennis players are the ideal participants, but Young and her fellow supervisors welcome non-tennis players, whether adults or juniors. "Most of the kids do play tennis, but some of the kids we teach how to score the games," Young said. "Kids have a lot of fun. Last year we did half days, but nobody wanted to go home, so this year we're doing whole days (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)."

The more experienced participants work the evening matches. Also, a committee selects the ball crew for the quarterfinals through the final by judging their work during the qualifying tournament weekend and the Monday through Thursday rounds.

"Anyone who wants to join the ball crew can just show up Saturday (at Family Circle Tennis Center) and we'll have applications there," Young said.

-- The supervisors can be reached in advance (Young at 843-343-8393; Tumbleston at 843-554-0825; and Honowitz at 843-686-4477).

TITLES FOR CARTER, FISHBURNE
Charleston's Brenda Carter and Diane Fishburne have started off the year with a bang, both winning titles at last weekend's Les Grandes Dames tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Carter won the women's 55 singles and was a semifinalist in doubles. Fishburne took the women's 45 singles title.

Both women will be headed to Australia in a few weeks to represent the USTA in international play, Carter in the Maureen Connolly Cup and Fishburne in the Margaret Court Cup.

A CHANCE TO SEE AGASSI
With Andre Agassi joining the U.S. team, the March 4-6 Davis Cup tie against Croatia in Carson, Calif., looks like a good time to see Agassi play before he ends his career. Tickets are still available by calling 1-888-484-USTA (8782).

A YOUNG, BUT BRIEF DEBUT
Donald Young's debut in the main draw of an ATP Tour tournament was a short one as the 15-year-old lost, 6-2, 6-2, to Robby Ginepri Monday in San Diego.

-- At least, Young can't say he's getting too old yet, as 23-year-old Serena Williams hinted after winning the Australian Open ("I'm not as young as I used to be"); or Martina Hingis announced after losing to Marlene Weingartner in her first WTA Tour match in a couple years ("I'm 25 now ... I'm not 18 years old anymore").

COMING UP
LOWCOUNTRY JUNIOR CHALLENGER CHAMPIONSHIP: At Charleston Tennis Center March 11-13. The entry deadline is March 5. Players can enter online at www.sctennis.com, using the tournament number (704130705) or in person at the tennis center on Farmfield Avenue. For more information, contact the tennis center (843-724-7402). The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions from 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and singles.

Snee Farm Country Club hosts a Junior Challenger this weekend.

VALENTINE'S MIXED DOUBLES: Charleston Tennis Center still has spots left in event Sunday, 2-6 p.m. Players can enter with or without a partner.

TSUNAMI BENEFIT: Six former Charleston Southern tennis players will hold a benefit clinic for victims of the tsunami at 3 p.m. Feb. 20 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brothers Brother Foundation. Clinic reservations can be made by contacting Bafford (843-452-2593).


(02/06/05)  CSU alums organize tsunami relief match
Tennis stars have been some of the most generous of athletes in their support of aiding victims of the tsunami disaster. Carlos Moya donated his winner's purse from a tournament. Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Anna Kournikova and others raised $500,000 last Monday night in Houston with a special exhibition for tsunami relief.

Now, the Charleston tennis community has its chance to support the tsunami relief effort.

Former Charleston Southern University tennis player Sandeep Reddy, a native of India, has pulled together a group of his former CSU teammates, who call themselves "The Usual Suspects," to do their part Feb. 20 at Family Circle Tennis Center by staging a clinic in support of tsunami victims. The two-hour clinic is scheduled for 3 p.m.

All funds received from the event ($20 participation fee) will go to the Brother's Brother Foundation for tsunami relief. According to Reddy, the foundation (www.brothersbrother.org), based in Pittsburgh, was selected because of its inclusion in Forbes Magazine's ranking for its ability to meet service goals with minimum overhead costs.

Reddy, a 2001 graduate of CSU in business administration, will be joined by Rohan Wadehra, also a native of India, as well as Santiago Falla from Colombia, Ariel Furfuro from Argentina, Rodrigo Villaroel from Bolivia and American Lee Withrow. All six played at Charleston Southern between 1998 and 2002, and all but Withrow participate in the Charleston Pro Tennis League.

Anyone who would like to support the clinic and relief effort can send funds to: Faith Bafford, 1601 Ashley Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483. Checks should be made payable to Brother's Brother Foundation. Clinic reservations can be made by contacting Bafford at 843-452-2593.

HOPE AFTER RODDICK
There's hope after Andy Roddick. And it's not Mardy Fish, Vince Spadea or Taylor Dent.

Donald Young is coming to the rescue of American tennis, which figures to lose Andre Agassi soon. But Young is just 15 and probably not ready to take on the rest of the world -- other than juniors, that is.

Young is the youngest male ever to become the world's top-ranked junior, as well as the first black player to hold down the top junior ranking. He is scheduled to make his main draw debut on the ATP Tour this week in San Diego's SAP Open.

After becoming the youngest male to win a junior Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, the 5-10, 150-pound Young celebrated by watching a movie. "That was about it," he said Wednesday from Atlanta, where he recently moved from Chicago, during a conference call.

IN SEARCH OF AGASSI
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe would love to have Agassi on his Davis Cup team this year, considering the collapse of Fish and the failure of anyone else to make a noticeable improvement. Dent looks like the No. 2 singles player for the United States against Croatia on March 4-6, unless Agassi decides to come on board.

McEnroe stopped by Las Vegas to meet with Agassi on Monday evening on McEnroe's return from the Australian Open.

"I don't need to hear from Andre, 'I'm going to play every match,' " McEnroe stressed in Los Angeles on Monday, during a press conference at the first-round Davis Cup site. For starters, he just wants Agassi for the Croatia tie.

Croatia isn't a pushover. Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic are dangerous players in singles and they were bronze medalists in doubles at the Athens Olympics. So the American doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan could get a workout as well.

-- USTA officials are eager to let Charleston fans know that there still are good tickets available for the Croatian tie by calling 1-888-484-USTA.

"We usually get a good group of fans from the previous site (Family Circle Tennis Center) when we hold a Davis Cup in the United States," USTA senior publicity manager Randy Walker said.

ALL-STAR CAMP
Several local juniors are participating this weekend in a USTA all-star camp at Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Tennis Center. Local girls include: Meghan Blevins and Downing Herlocker in 12-and-under; Hagan Edgerton in 14s; and Alexandra LaCoste, Dana Richards and Sabra Rogers in 18s. Local boys include: Walker Heffron and Peter Pritchard in 12-and-under; Randall Heffron, John Karle and Alexander Nista in 14s; Dirk Bair in 16s; and Jason Basile in 18s.

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Tuesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Junior Challenger at Snee Farm Country Club. The tournament identification number online is 704130405. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop at 843-884-3252 for additional information.

-- Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402) has scheduled a Valentine's mixed doubles tournament for next Sunday from 2-6 p.m. Players can enter with or without a partner.

-- More than 200 players have registered online (www.juniorfamilycirclecup.com) for the Feb. 25-28 Junior Family Circle Cup. Registrations are being taken online only, according to Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer, who is expecting about 450 juniors for the event. The entry deadline is Feb. 18.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program will run March 5-April 23 at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).


(02/02/05)  CSU tapping overseas talent to upgrade team
Athletics are all about competition and fun, but the bottom line is that Americans like to win.

And when it comes to college tennis, the only way to win quickly these days is to go foreign.

That's why Charleston Southern has an all-foreign men's tennis team. When Randy Bloemendaal took over as coach in August of 2003 after eight successful seasons at Lees-McRae, in Banner Elk, N.C., the cupboard was virtually bare at CSU.

He was able to recruit enough foreign talent to carry the Bucs to a 6-13 record last season. Now that Bloemendaal has brought in five more foreign players for this season, he is suddenly thinking that the Bucs could be competitive in the Big South Conference.

"Our depth is good and our talent level is much better than last year," said Bloemendaal, a 35-year-old Lees-McRae graduate, whose men's teams at his alma mater went 159-35 during his tenure as coach.

"We'll see how far they go. It's a long season. It's hard to say if we'll be a contender, because we have new guys and (defending champion Winthrop and top challenger High Point) have new guys. But I think our matches will be interesting. I'm not ruling out competing for the conference title."

CSU got off to a good start Jan. 23 with a 5-2 road victory over Georgia Southern of the Southern Conference. The Bucs play Sunday at nationally ranked Clemson.

Returning No. 1 player Quentin Guichard of Marseille, France, lost in singles and doubles at Georgia Southern, but Australian brothers Jonathan and Steven Dean made quite a splash in their first matches for the Bucs.

The Deans both won in straight sets in singles and teamed for a victory at No. 3 doubles. Sophomore Jonathan, a transfer from a college in Australia, won easily at No. 2 against Georgia Southern, while freshman Steven won at No. 5.

CSU will play Feb. 10 at East Carolina, then play its first home match of the season Feb. 11 against Wofford.

CSU WOMEN OPEN
Bloemendaal expects improvement from his women's team after a winless first season at Charleston Southern. The CSU women will open their season Saturday at home at 1 p.m. against Presbyterian.

"We'll be competitive," said Bloemendaal, who also coached the women team at Lees-McRae. "We only had a couple of players who were capable of playing at this level last year."

Five of the eight players on the women's roster are freshmen, including No. 2 player Rebecca Franzi of Australia. Sophomore Meryam Tazi from Morocco is the No. 1 player. Former junior standout Jessica Bair from Berkeley High School is the No. 5 player.

"Coastal Carolina and Winthrop are the top two women's teams in the conference, and we are a level below them," Bloemendaal said. "But our Nos. 1 and 2 players are very good, competitive players."

CITADEL STARTS 0-2
The Citadel men are off to an 0-2 start in Toby Simpson's third year as head coach after losing at Tennessee and North Carolina State. The Bulldogs play their first home match Tuesday against Coastal Carolina.

-- Leslie Allen's Win4Life group will take part in a morning clinic Feb. 12 at The Citadel courts, then watch the Bulldogs' noon match against Mercer.

-- The College of Charleston's men's team will open Feb. 12 in a 7 p.m. home match against Winthrop after the women's teams from the two schools play at 11 a.m.

Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's Cougar women will open their season Feb. 9 at home against South Carolina State.


(01/31/05)  Federer's reign may already be over
Roger Federer was the undisputed king of tennis as he raced toward the baseline and swatted the ball between his legs. The effort was valiant, yet disguised by showmanship.

As the ball crashed into the net, a match point against Marat Safin disappeared. And with it, Federer's life may have changed forever. Federer's game is still the same, but the landscape that his tennis game fits into has changed.

Alone, Federer's five-set loss to Safin in last week's semifinals of the Australian Open could be written off as Federer's time to lose. But add Safin's 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 domination of Lleyton Hewitt in Sunday night's final to the equation, and the overall picture of men's tennis becomes a bit unclear.

Safin performed at such a high level against Hewitt that the possibility exists that Federer may not be the best player in the game. He will have to re-earn the best player ever tag. And with Safin standing in the way, that might not be an easy task, even for someone as talented as Federer.

But that's always been the case in tennis. How many titles would Andre Agassi have won if Pete Sampras had not been there? How dominating would Chris Evert have been without the emergence of Martina Navratilova?

And now, will Safin become Federer's mortal maker? Will this new development possibly open things up for Andy Roddick, and give his giant serve a chance to escape from Federer's shadows?

Safin demonstrated in this two-match stretch that his talent is as good as anyone's who plays this game. Remarkably, his poise and decision-making were on the same level as his physical skills.

Safin played within himself. And for this 6-4 Russian whose superb baseline quickness enables him to set up so comfortably for what would be rushed shots for most players, that was enough to handcuff Hewitt. Safin was able to hit shots with torrid pace without sacrificing his control and shot-making ability.

Ever since that Sunday evening of 2000 when Safin made Sampras look like a mere mortal in the U.S. Open final, there was always the fear by opponents that the real Marat Safin might show up. Well, he showed up against Federer, and even more impressively against Hewitt.

Maybe it's the new coach, old Federer coach Peter Lundgren, who has imposed this new state of mind on Safin and his game.

Safin not only serves big, he serves nearly flawlessly. His backhand has to rival the best in tennis, both for power and accuracy, especially the one down the line. His forehand, when controlled as in the last three sets against Hewitt, is excellent. If Safin plays within his game, anything is possible, even a French Open crown on red clay.

A Safin consistently playing within himself is a scary thought for the rest of men's tennis.

Yes, things in this life can change so quickly. Just ask Roger Federer, who appeared to be headed for immortality one moment, and possibly just an outstanding career the next.


(01/26/05)  Agassi's ground strokes no match for Federer
Andre Agassi usually is regarded as one of the best strokers in the history of men's tennis. He has made a habit of wearing opponents out with his extraordinary ground strokes.

They don't have the heavy topspin of a European or South American clay-courter. They're hard, penetrating strokes that drive most opponents back until Agassi sees an open court.

This strategy and talent blended with his conditioning and superb hand-eye coordination has enabled Agassi to become one of only five men to accomplish a career Grand Slam. Even as he nears his 35th birthday, Agassi's game appears to be nearly as good as it was five years ago when he was the No. 1 player in the men's game.

But a 23-year-old Swede may have had more of an impact than age on Agassi's game. Roger Federer made Agassi look almost helpless Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

It was Federer repeatedly driving balls to the open court as Agassi could only watch from the other side of the baseline. Federer's 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory was almost casual.

Federer is bound to lose to someone, as Agassi was hoping Tuesday night. Federer's 26 straight victories date all the way to last summer.

Tall and talented, but unpredictable Marat Safin might be the only player actually capable of ending Federer's string of Grand Slam titles at two. But it's doubtful that the Russian can keep his focus long enough to accomplish that task in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Any time Andy Roddick meets Federer, the world's fastest server needs a near-perfect day serving as well as a few surprises at the net to have a chance against Federer.

Federer appears to be serious about improving his net game. Part-time coach Tony Roche, however, might have a difficult time finding a way to improve Federer even in that area of the game. Federer is already too good to be true.

THE GRUNT GAME
Does Maria Sharapova intimidate her opponents with her "too loud" grunt in pressure situations? The grunt is irritating enough, even for TV viewers, to make you wonder.

Women's tennis went through this with Monica Seles and others many years ago, but Monica's grunt appeared to grow weaker in her later years on the tour. Sharapova's sounds louder than ever. Maybe it's ESPN's sound system that's picking up court sounds so keenly.

This has to be annoying to her opponents, especially her Russian rivals such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, who appeared to be playing pretty well Tuesday until Sharapova turned up the volume on her grunts. Of course, the grunt probably also relates to the amount of energy Sharapova is exerting at the time. And that phase of her game was obvious as she rallied from a set down to defeat Kuznetsova.

GILBERT TAKES OVER
ESPN has hit the jackpot with Brad Gilbert. He may go overboard at times, but in the absence of John McEnroe, Gilbert is easily tennis' best television analyst. That's including ESPN's group of female analysts, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez and Mary Carillo. And I really like Cliff Drysdale's commentary and Patrick McEnroe's low-key approach.

But Gilbert probably offers more true insight into what's happening and what's going to happen than all of the others combined. And ESPN is taking full advantage of Gilbert's unique knowledge of the game and analytical skills. No wonder, Agassi and Roddick gained the No. 1 ranking during his tenure as their coach.

FINLEY SELECTED
Family Circle Tennis Center and tournament director Mike Finley continue to catch the eye of the U.S. Tennis Association and its Davis and Fed Cup officials. Less than a year after helping Family Circle land a Davis Cup semifinal, Finley has been named to the USTA's Fed Cup committee.

The committee is headed by Win4Life founder and former WTA Tour star Leslie Allen. The committee also includes former tour players Fernandez and Kathy Rinaldi-Stunkel.

"I am honored to be asked to serve on this important committee," said Finley. "I look forward to working with the committee not only on helping promote the U.S. Fed Cup team but in helping to further brand the Fed Cup competition as the premiere women's international team tennis event."

This year's first Fed Cup match-up will pit the United States against Belgium April 23-24 in Delray Beach, Fla. That's the week after the Family Circle Cup.

THIS WEEKEND
-- Charleston Tennis Center is planning to stage a mixed doubles round-robin Saturday from 2-4 p.m. The sign-up deadline is Friday (843-724-7402). The $15 entry fee covers food and fun at the Farmfield Avenue facility.

-- Also Saturday, don't forget the 5 p.m ribbon-cutting ceremony for the four new courts at Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club.

-- The Family Circle Cup will hold another practice for its ball crew from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Family Circle Tennis Center. Youth 11 and up and adults are still needed.


(01/23/05)  Tennis: Smith one of 40 best
Stan Smith has experienced just about everything tennis has to offer, other than winning the Grand Slam, so another award at this stage of the game is just icing on the cake.

But Smith admits it's nice to be remembered as one of tennis' all-time greats. That was the Sea Pines Plantation touring pro's reaction when I talked to him about been selected 35th in Tennis Magazine's "40 Greatest Players of the Tennis Era."

"It's nice to be part of that group. It's a special group," Smith said. "It's really just a matter of evaluating records and things, sort of like being part of the International Hall of Fame. It's someone's opinion of where you stand in history. There have been a lot of great players. It's tough to do it (rate players) over a period of time."

Smith will be featured in the March issue of Tennis Magazine, which is commemorating its 40th anniversary by selecting the 40 greatest players of the last four decades.

"At a time when the game was exploding with talent and controversy, Stan Smith stood ramrod straight for tradition," writes Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo.

Smith grew up in Pasadena, Calif., played on three national collegiate championship teams at Southern Cal, won the U.S. Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in '72. He shares the record with Bill Tilden for playing on the most Davis Cup-winning teams (seven).

Tennis has been a family adventure for the Smith family. Stan and Margie Smith's four children all have played or will play college tennis. Ramsey, the oldest at 26, helps his father coaching at Sea Pines' Smith-Stearns Academy after playing No. 1 at Duke where he was the winningest male player ever. Trevor is a recent Princeton graduate where he also played No. 1. Trevor, now married and living in New York, is a Goldman Sachs analyst.

Oldest daughter Logan is a senior at the University of Virgina, but gave up tennis after her freshman year. Austin is the only one left at home, but for only a few more months. She's a senior at Hilton Head Island's Heritage Academy ("a school that caters towards kids who have a passion in one thing," like tennis) and will enroll at the University of North Carolina later this year on a full tennis scholarship.

And, Margie is a 1973 Princeton graduate where she was captain of an undefeated tennis team.

SNEE FARM JUNIOR
Registration is open online for the Feb. 11-13 Snee Farm Junior Challenger. The tournament at Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club will have boys' and girls' singles in age groups 10-18. There will be consolation for first-match losers.

The tournament identification number online is 704130405. For more information, contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's Day mixed doubles tournament Sunday, Feb. 13, from 2-6 p.m. A $10 registration fee includes balls, refreshments, court fees and prizes. Players can sign up with or without a partner. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- The Family Circle Cup still needs ball crew members. Practice is each Saturday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Daniel Island complex until the WTA tournament. Juniors 11 and over and adults are needed. For more information, contact Toni Young (343-8393), Dan Tumbleston (554-0825) or Susan Honowitz (686-4477).

-- The City of Charleston is taking applications for the spring session of Courting Kids. The session will run March 5-April 23 on Saturdays at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island. The cost is $10 per player. Contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- A coaches meeting will be Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center for this year's Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. Children in grades 1-8 are eligible to participate. Contact Peggy Bohne at Charleston Tennis Center (724-7402).

-- Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its four new tennis courts Saturday at 5 p.m. Tennis director Heinz Maurer plans to stage a clinic and several exhibition matches to celebrate the opening of the courts.


(01/19/05)  Venus outlasts coverage
Three points from victory. Or one point from a 5-5 deadlock in the second set.

This match was finally getting interesting. Greece's Eleni Daniilidou was pounding the court with her arsenal of groundstrokes. She had Venus Williams pinned on the baseline.

But Venus was so close to victory, even after slamming a groundstroke into the net to give Daniilidou the game advantage. Things were heating up. At 4 a.m. Charleston time, it was about time.

I had nodded on and off throughout Andy Roddick's breather and slept through most of David Nalbandian's five-set victory over David Ferrer, a match that had to end before Venus could take the court. But since I was still awake at 4 a.m., I was excited about the prospects of seeing a thrilling finish. Live from Down Under in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

Just then, Venus went away. I mean it was like one of those space movies where Captain Kirk stands in the magic "beam" capsule and suddenly disappears, showing up in another location. Only Venus didn't show up again on ESPN2. She was gone. And I wasn't dreaming.

Static filled the screen for a minute or so until someone at ESPN2 could find an almost endless string of commercials to air.

A streamer across the bottom of the screen finally indicated that Venus was now up 6-5. Andre Agassi and unknown Dieter Kindlman found their way onto the screen, but no Venus. A few minutes later, another streamer announced the technical problems, and that Venus had won the match, 6-1, 7-5.

A FAMILY CIRCLE GREEK?
Maybe Daniilidou will show up again at the Family Circle Cup and Charleston can see just how much potential this young Greek has. She played in the tournament last year for the first time, but went out early. That's too bad, considering the large Greek population in Charleston.

Because of the huge Greek community in Melbourne (supposedly the largest outside Greece), Australian Open officials stuck by their guns and would not move the Williams-Daniilidou match to another court since the stadium already was packed with Greeks watching the Nalbandian match while awaiting the arrival of their countrywoman. Much to at least my displeasure, Nalbandian appeared to want to play all day long -- night in the case of home-based Americans.

ESPN'S FLEXIBILITY
ESPN sent out an e-mail that stated its flexibility, of more than doubling its original hours to six hours and 21 minutes until 4:41 a.m. to cover a variety of stories, including Venus Williams' victory. Even everyone at ESPN2 must not have been aware of Venus' disappearing act. It was quite flexible.

The expanded coverage also included an interview with WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott. During the interview, Scott explained that no punitive action was planned against U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova's reportedly positive test last month in Belgium for banned in-season substance ephedrine since the test was taken during the off season.

Hopefully this controversy will go away and will not become a sore spot for the dominant role Russian players are taking on the WTA Tour, or for the WTA Tour itself. Scott took a strong stand in a statement Tuesday against the Belgian authorities who made public comments about Kuznetsova's positive testing for a substance that could have been only a cold medicine taken in the offseason.

ANNOUNCEMENTS
CALL FOR BALL CREW: Family Circle Cup officials have announced that they need more ball crew members for the tournament. A second practice for ball crew members will be held Saturday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. Juniors 11 and over and adults are needed. For more information, contact Toni Young (843-343-8393), Dan Tumbleston (843-554-0825) or Susan Honowitz (843-686-4477).

COACHES' MEETING: A coaches meeting will be held next Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center for this year's Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. For more information, contact Peggy Bohne at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 724-7402).


(01/19/05)  Venus returning to defend Cup title
The spring of 2004 in Charleston was about the best thing that has happened to Venus Williams in a long time.

"I love Charleston and it seems like everybody's a fan. I'm coming back," the defending Family Circle Cup champion is quoted in the brochure for this year's Tier I WTA Tour event on Daniel Island.

Williams' victory here last April ended a 14-month title drought and she's won only one tournament since. So it's no surprise that Williams plans to return to Family Circle Tennis Center after helping the tournament set an attendance record last year for its first four years in Charleston.

The official announcement of Williams becoming the first player to commit to the April 9-17 event came Tuesday. "This player announcement is a great way to kick off our 2005 event, and we look forward to having Venus back to defend her title," Family Circle Cup executive director Frankie Whelan said.

Williams has had a standout 10-year professional career, playing alongside younger sister Serena much of the time. Venus has more than $14 million in earnings, including two Wimbledon and two

U.S. Open titles.

When Venus showed up in Charleston last year, though, she was struggling with her game. It took her awhile on the clay surface of Family Circle Magazine Stadium to find herself, as qualifying tournament lucky loser Samantha Reeves took her to three sets in her first match.

Williams got better in every match after that, rolling past Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian, Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Kostanic to advance to the final against former two-time champion Conchita Martinez.

The veteran Martinez almost gave Williams a clay-court tennis lesson before Venus found her game and rallied from a set down to waltz through the last two sets. In winning, Williams became only the third player in a decade to win a WTA Tour Tier I event in her debut, and only the fourth woman to win the Family Circle Cup in her debut appearance.

"Venus played exceptional tennis last year to reach the final and it was no small task to beat Conchita Martinez who is certainly one of the best clay court players in the world," Whelan said.

Williams managed to build on her Charleston success by also winning in Warsaw, her 31st career title. Due in part to recurring injuries, 2004 turned out to be her least productive year in Grand Slam events in the last seven years. Her best 2004 effort in a Grand Slam was a quarterfinal berth in the French Open. Prior to last year's second-round loss, she had made four straight finals at Wimbledon, winning the first two before losing the last two to Serena.

Currently ranked ninth in the world, Venus advanced to the second round of the Australian Open Tuesday with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Eleni Daniilidou.

BANNER GOES UP
In recognition of her 2004 title here, a 47-foot-wide by 40-foot-high banner of Williams was attached to Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Tuesday. A poster of 2003 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne also went up Tuesday.


(01/16/05) Moya plans to skip this year's Davis Cup
Tennis has opened up its heart to the victims of the tsunami, from pros, to amateurs, to pro organizations, to just small groups. The best gesture I've seen came from Carlos Moya last weekend after he won India's Chennai Open, although a $3,000 gift from Maybank Tennis Center members in 90-year-old Bob Kitchen's name also deserves a hats-off.

Moya is a great player and makes loads of money (he has earned more than $11 million in tennis) as one of the top players in the world. Still, for Moya to donate his entire $52,000 winner's check from the Chennai Open was an outstanding demonstration of just who Carlos Moya is.

We all know how much heart Moya has from his play in almost single-handedly leading Spain past the United States in last month's Davis Cup final. But if it comes down to another confrontation between the United States and Spain, Andy Roddick and pals might not have to worry about Moya. The talented Spaniard plans to skip this year's Davis Cup competition.

"At age 29 I still have high hopes in my professional career, and this season I need to center those goals on specific dates and tournaments," Moya said.

In order words, Moya has his eyes on Roger Federer and the Grand Slams.

But if Spain does happen to make it to the United States in December for another final, I wouldn't count Moya out.

FEDERER DRAWS CROWD
Federer is getting to be something of a celebrity. He drew a crowd to a bookstore in Melbourne last Tuesday as he unveiled the first available copies of the Official Guide to Professional Tennis 2005. Of course, he's on the cover of the guide, as well as featured in an eight-page spread in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. And he'll probably repeat as Australian Open champion the next two weeks in Melbourne.

DEADLINE EXTENDED
Just when you thought time had run out on your hopes of having a team in the Lowcountry Tennis Association this spring, the USTA's online Tennis Link has come to your rescue. As a result of the USTA site being down, LCTA president Bob Peiffer has extended team registrations until midnight Monday night. The original deadline had been Friday night.

Teams must be registered and have the minimum number of players by the new deadline in order to participate in the league. The minimums are five players for 2.5 and 5.0 adult leagues, eight players for all other adult divisions and six players for seniors.

JUNIOR FAMILY CIRCLE
If you're a teen-aged girl and love tennis, wouldn't it be nice to one day be able to tell your kids that you played in the Family Circle Cup?

To get that special ticket to the big time, you've got to be a pretty outstanding tennis player. But there is hope, thanks to the Junior Family Circle Cup. The girls' 18 winner of that tournament, which is scheduled for Feb. 25-28 at Family Circle Tennis Center, will earn a berth in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.

Two years ago, tall and talented Shadisha Robinson won the Junior Family Circle Cup, then qualified for the Family Circle Cup's main draw by winning the Tier I event's qualifying tournament. Robinson was a high school senior at the time, but since has become an All-American at the University of Georgia and gained a 10th ranking in collegiate tennis. She's good enough to return one day to play in the main event again.

Young Katrina Tsang of Raleigh, N.C., wasn't so lucky last year after defeating fellow 15-year-old Yvette Hyndman of Bradenton, Fla., to win the Junior Family Circle Cup. Tsang lost in the first round of the pro qualifying tournament to 11th seed Severine Beltrame of France.

The Junior FCC isn't limited to girls. There will be competition in all of the age groups, 10-and-under through 18-and-under, for both boys and girls. The entry deadline is Feb. 18. Although only the girls' 18 champ will receive a wild-card berth in April's Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament, other champions will be invited to pick up their trophies in an on-court awards ceremony during the April 9-17 Family Circle Cup.

Last year's junior event attracted 425 players, and Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer is expecting big numbers again. "We are already ahead of our entries from last year at this point and I fully expect us to go over last year's number," Eppelsheimer said.

BALL CREW NEEDED
The Family Circle Cup is still in need of ball crew members. Practice will be held each Saturday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Daniel Island complex until the WTA tournament. Juniors 11 and over and adults are needed.

For more information, contact Toni Young (843-343-8393), Dan Tumbleston (843-554-0825) or Susan Honowitz (843-686-4477).

UPCOMING EVENTS
-- The City of Charleston is taking applications for the spring session of Courting Kids. The session will run March 5-April 23 on Saturdays at both Jack Adams Tennis Center in downtown Charleston and the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The cost is $10 per player.

For more information, contact program director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- A coaches meeting will be held on Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center for this year's Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. Children in grades 1-8 are eligible to participate in the league. For more information, contact Peggy Bohne at Charleston Tennis Center (843-724-7402).

-- Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its four new tennis courts on Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. Tennis director Heinz Maurer also plans to stage a clinic and several exhibition matches to celebrate the opening of the courts.


(01/13/05)  Kitchen still active in game he took up in '33
Who in the world played tennis in the Depression-filled 1930s? Well, there were people like Bobby Riggs and Don Budge.

And there was Bob Kitchen.

This young man of 90 doesn't spend all of his time toiling in his namesake, although he does cook his own meals and loves to make and bake bread. He doesn't have time. He's too busy playing tennis, or cutting the grass with a push mower, or bagging leaves.

Robert Carlton Kitchen turned 90 years old on the last day of 2004. Last week, he was back on his normal schedule of three mornings of tennis a week. His buddies at Maybank Tennis Center threw a party for him last Saturday morning on the clay courts at the James Island complex.

Getting Kitchen off the court for an interview took some doing. But once he started reliving his story, tennis was put on hold for quite some time. His dozen buddies or so played on without Bob, stopping by occasionally to sample a large birthday cake.

Many of his friends were wearing knee braces or elbow bands. But not Bob Kitchen. Not even glasses while playing tennis.

This 1949 Drexel University graduate and former electrical engineer for RCA Corporation started playing tennis in 1933 while holding down a $50-a-month (in script, $47.91 after exchanged) job at a hospital near Philadelphia. "We worked 7-to-7 six days a week, but we had two hours off in the afternoon," he said.

That's where tennis came into the Kitchen picture. And tennis hasn't left, through work in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in Idaho, a stint in the Army Air Corps in North Africa and Italy during World War II, college at Drexel after the war and a more than 50-year marriage to the now deceased Pauline (Polly).

"I started playing table tennis at first, but there was a tennis court there and I thought I'd get better exercise playing tennis," he said.

Nowadays, he doesn't show up at Maybank Tennis Center bright and early. "I'd play five sets if I did. I don't want to overdo it," he said.

He admits he doesn't go to the net much. Never did. That just hasn't been a strength in his game. Banging it out from the baseline and taking full advantage of those fast legs have always been his weapons. Even now.

Yes, tennis is pretty special to Bob. "I don't think I'd be here if it weren't for tennis," he said.

He did have to undergo knee surgery 30 years ago. And his legs did start hurting a few months ago, prompting him to quit tennis for awhile and seek help. After a few sessions with a physical therapist, he was back on the court. He's never had tennis elbow. "When I get out of bed in the morning, I feel like an old man, aches and pains. But I just walk around."

And then he feels like playing tennis.

He strings his own racket with a unique String-A-Ling method to reduce friction. His last strings lasted four years, so he doesn't get much practice as a stringer.

He lives alone in West Ashley on the bottom floor of a two-story red brick house. An American flag flies in the front yard.

"My daughter and her husband own the house, and I'm the caretaker," he said. His second-floor tenant, local band Common Ground singer Jenni Lyn Gardner, is moving to Nashville, so Kitchen is taking calls and showing off the rental unit in his spare time.

He moved to Charleston in 1997 from Lake of the Woods, Va., near Fredericksburg, to be closer to his daughter, Linda Elksnin, who is a member of The Citadel faculty and resides in Mount Pleasant. A talented artist, her paintings are hung about her father's home.

Every so often, Bob will hop in his 1996 T-Bird and make the 500-mile drive back to Lake of the Woods. "I remember when gas was 10 cents a gallon," he said.

What does he do on days when he's not on the tennis court? "I read, cut the grass with a push mower ..."

Neighbor Clyde Shokes will vouch for the yard work. "Bob keeps a tidy place," Shokes said, looking over his neighbor's yard. "He'll bag some leaves ...

"Did he show you the letter from the mayor (Joseph P. Riley Jr.)" congratulating him on his birthday?

Bob Kitchen hadn't, but then he doesn't consider being an active and competitive tennis player after nine decades to be anything special.

-- Members of Maybank Tennis Center raised $3,000 for a gift in Kitchen's name to benefit the tsunami relief effort. Most of the funds will be used to purchase water purification systems.


(01/12/05) Federer entering 2005 the way he left 2004 -- as No. 1
Forget about beating Roger Federer in a final. If he makes the championship round, you might as well hand him the trophy.

The word now is to jump on Federer early. Good luck!

But that's what recent Hall of Fame selection Jim Courier is saying about next week's Australian Open. Of course, this year is a continuation of 2004 for Federer. He just keeps on winning. His latest conquest was the Qatar Open over the weekend.

Federer happens to be playing at a higher level than the rest of men's tennis. And with good reason. He's probably as strong at any one phase of the game as any other current player. He doesn't appear to have a weakness.

He has won 23 of 31 career finals, 21 straight matches and eight of the last 10 tournaments he has entered.

"He's not only beating guys, he's crushing them," said Courier, who spends his time these days playing on the senior circuit and in the broadcast booth. "He's not even being pushed by a guy like Lleyton Hewitt, who was playing the second best tennis in the world at the end of last year.

"I would like my chances playing against Federer more in the first couple of rounds than I would from the quarterfinals on. You might be able to sneak in and get him early on, but if you catch him in the semifinals, I think you're pretty much done."

So be it. If Federer makes the semifinals, tournaments should start giving him the first-place prizes and let the other guys play for second money.

It just appears that way. But most of the tennis world was saying the same thing about Serena Williams after she won the 2003 Wimbledon title over her older sister, Venus. We all know how quickly things can change.

Who would have thought that a bunch of Russians led by teenager Maria Sharapova would have changed the face of women's tennis in such a short time?

It could happen to Federer, too. Injury, that unthinkable word, could hit Federer, just as it did Serena.

Then confidence becomes as big an issue as health. Just ask Justine Henin-Hardenne, who was plagued most of last year by sickness and now has pulled out of the Australian Open with a knee injury. And what about poor Kim Clijsters? She was No. 1, but due to a wrist injury, has hardly played since last year's loss to Henin-Hardenne in the Australian Open final. Clijsters also will miss the year's first Grand Slam.

Of course, Federer appears to be immune to some of the problems other players have. Many of them keep changing coaches. Federer avoids that pitfall by coaching himself. When things are going well, life is so simple.

RUSSELL'S RECOGNITION
Few people have played a more pivotal role in the development of tennis in this state than Jim Russell. He's already in the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, which he helped organize. And Saturday he will be inducted into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame.

Russell's induction will be in Atlanta during the USTA Southern Section's annual meeting. Lucy Garvin of Greenville also will be inducted, along with Lester Sack of New Orleans. Garvin is a USTA vice president.

Russell is perhaps best known for the little tournament he helped start at Belton so many years ago that has become the Palmetto Championships. Among his other accomplishments, other than being a former Southern Section president and USTA officer, he has served as referee and marketing director of the Atlantic Coast Conference tennis championships since 1992.


(01/09/05)  Barth overcomes greatest challenge
What a lucky Thursday! It all started with a tip from my doubles partner that Clemson's men's tennis team was spending a week of preseason training at Maybank Tennis Center. No real surprise there. Clemson sophomore Ryan Young's mother, Toni Young, is the teaching pro at the James Island complex.

Veteran Clemson coach Chuck Kriese likes nothing better than to take his NCAA "Elite Eight" team off campus for a quiet week of practice. Staying at Folly Beach made the trip quite special for team members, even in the middle of winter, especially when they were greeted by spring-like temperatures.

After watching the Tigers practice for some time while Kriese expanded on everything his troops were doing in the drills, I looked up to my surprise to see Roy Barth entering the gate to the courts. For the next hour or so, Barth was centerstage. Virtually everyone and everything else stopped as this former world's top 50 player told about the biggest match of his life and how tennis helped him overcome this battle.

The opposition wasn't Stan Smith or Arthur Ashe on the men's pro tour, or the feared Smith-Bob Lutz doubles team from Southern Cal that helped the Trojans keep Barth and his UCLA teammates in the NCAA runner-up slot three straight years.

Kriese had asked the Kiawah Island director of tennis to stop by and talk to his team about a bigger battle. This was the battle of life and death that Barth survived a little more than two months ago when heart bypass surgery followed by brain surgery to remove what fortunately turned out to be a benign tumor had sapped most of the strength from Barth's body.

These two men who are regarded as tops in their area of tennis, Kriese as a college coach and Barth as a teaching pro, had another common link. Sandon Barth, Roy's son, had played college tennis for Kriese a few years ago.

The training, conditioning and discipline that has followed Barth throughout his nearly 50-year love affair with tennis helped pull him through. Barth hopes to be back on the tennis court in three or four weeks. "I'm going to take it slow," the 57-year-old Southern Tennis Hall of Famer said.

In the meantime, he plans to make the trip to Atlanta for next weekend's annual Southern Region USTA meeting. He's eager to emphasize the importance of doubles to the game.

"It's sad to see doubles declining. More than 60 percent of (junior) tournaments don't have doubles," Barth said, pointing out that his own Kiawah Island Junior Tournament always has had doubles.

Seeing a group of small kids on a nearby court working with Toni Young, Barth emphasized that there also is no doubles for young juniors. Junior tournaments that offer doubles usually don't have doubles draws in the youngest age divisions.

DAVIS CUP CALLS BARTH

Barth is returning to a prominent position in the USTA hierarchy as vice-chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee, a position he held a few years ago. Seabrook Island resident Warren Kimball has rotated out of the position of co-chairman of the Davis Cup committee in new USTA President Franklin Johnson's administration.

CLEMSON STRONG

Watching a Kriese drill is a real treat. It's no-nonsense, fast-paced, with Kriese and assistant coach Chuck McCuen running the show. McCuen, in his third year with Kriese after 21 years at Georgia State, is a key ingredient. The team has been practicing twice a day most days, 4-5 hours a day. Monday will be the last local practice.

The Tigers lost some talent, such as one half of the NCAA semifinalist doubles team of Nathan Thompson and Jarmaine Jenkins (Jenkins dropped off the team but is coming back, according to Kriese). Thompson is incredibly gifted in that he is everywhere with his quickness, shot-making ability and threat to dominate the net area.

Thompson's partner is Frenchman Clement Reix, a gift to Clemson thanks to a tip to Kriese from Reix's French girlfriend, Clemson women's No. 1 Julie Cohn, an NCAA semifinalist last season.

Sander Koning is back with the Tigers after spending last season at home in Holland. Koning, whose brother won the U.S. Open junior doubles title in 2002, played No. 2 as a Clemson freshman two years ago.

-- Kriese tip of the week: "When you get to the big game, reverse the score" in your mind.

YOUNG IN THE MIDDLE

Ryan Young will fit into the middle of the lineup in his sophomore season. The School of the Arts graduate is battling Reix for the Nos. 3 and 4 positions, and appears ready to play No. 2 doubles with Koning, like Young a left-hander.

Young has gained 15-20 pounds at Clemson and is now able to blend his finesse game of spins and cuts with the ability to pound the ball. Kriese especially likes Young's knack for stepping up and hitting the big shot in the clutch.

"I've got to get a little bigger serve and a bigger backhand," said Young, who plans a career in tennis as a club pro or coach.

Rooming with 3.5 pre-med student Ryan Cook of Easley, Young's academic work soared to honor roll status first semester. Cook is a 6-5 sophomore with freshman eligibility who looks like he could just as easily be playing tight end for the Tigers. A former No. 2 junior in the state, Cook is an all-around athlete who had to settle for a manager's label last year as Kriese's No. 11 player but is contending for one of the starting spots this season.

-- Kriese and his team will assist Toni Young with a junior clinic today at 4 p.m. at Maybank Tennis Center.

THE ANDY SWITCH

Brad Gilbert took Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to the top of the men's game. Gilbert is now the ex-coach of both of these players. That's right, Roddick and Gilbert have split company. Dean Goldfine, Todd Martin's former coach, has hooked up with Roddick.

What brought this on? No word yet, but probably Roger Federer. And it's doubtful that Goldfine will give Roddick any better luck against the world's best player.

-- Another surprise announcement comes from the camp of Paradorn Srichaphan. Former tour regular T.J. Middleton is now working with the talented Thai who has been unable to make a serious move on the men's circuit. Middleton, of course, has been a regular in the Isle of Palms Invitational while operating Atlanta's Racquet Club of the South.

I hadn't thought much about Middleton as a coach on the tour, but it's too bad he didn't hook up with Roddick instead. In his middle 30s, Middleton is one of the purest and best serve-and-volley artists still involved in tennis. The former University of Georgia All-American might have been just the fix for Roddick's lack of a true net game.

LEAGUE DEADLINE

Don't forget that the deadline for registering teams for the upcoming spring USTA League season is Friday at midnight. Teams without the minimum number of players registered by that time will not be allowed to participate in the spring league.


(01/02/05)  Area tennis big time in '04
What a year. Tennis in Charleston has never been better, especially at the international level. A few years ago, local tennis was just that - local. Now when tennis is mentioned, even not-so-serious tennis players immediately start thinking about the likes of Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.

Yes, things have changed vastly in the 21st century, and 2004 staked claim to an even higher echelon of tennis for Charleston.

It all started with the Family Circle Cup's move to Daniel Island from Hilton Head Island in time to hold the premier women's event here in April of 2001. It's been nonstop big-time tennis for Charleston since.

Jennifer Capriati won that first Daniel Island Family Circle Cup as the No. 1 player in the world. A couple years later, Justine Henin-Hardenne took the event en route to the top ranking. Last year, Venus Williams made her presence felt in her first appearance here. That was before the Russians made their charge: Anastasia Myskina winning the French Open, Sharapova taking Wimbledon and Svetlana Kuznetsova capturing the U.S. Open.

This prominent international event staged in a world-class facility is poised to take another step forward April 9-17, thanks to September's wildly successful Davis Cup encounter at Family Circle Magazine Stadium. As Family Circle publicity director Robin Reynolds said, the Davis Cup has taken the facility to a new level.

This year's Family Circle Cup should push the event over the top. Local people have heard so much about the electric atmosphere at the Davis Cup tie between the U.S. and Belarus that they want to sample the fun.

Tennis continues to grow locally at every level. Fritz Nau at the new Charleston Tennis Academy facility in Mount Pleasant, as well as the staff at the Family Circle Tennis Center, and other local pros and facilities are turning out a new crop of young stars. The full effect of the Family Circle Cup's move here won't be felt until at least 2010 or even later. Charleston tennis is far from peaking. Tennis will continue to get better and better.

Of course, Bob Peiffer is molding together an extraordinary local league tennis operation as president of the Lowcountry Tennis Association. The local league is one of the most active in the South. If you're an adult, the league is the place to be. You can get as much tennis as you like in the many options offered by the USTA's league tennis.

If you're a novice or want to get into tennis, the USTA's Tennis Welcome Center program is a grassroots project that is catered to people like you. Just call one of the local tennis centers, and if they're not a Welcome Center they can direct you to one. Or go to www.tenniswelcomecenter.com to find a Welcome Center near you.

Getting started is the key to finding your niche in the game. Once you've joined a league, you're pretty much in the tennis groove, one that could keep you playing into your 90s, like Bob Kitchen, who plays three days a week at Maybank Tennis Center. Bob celebrated his 90th birthday Friday. Happy birthday, Bob.

It's amazing what tennis can do for you. Of course, I'm a little prejudiced, but I think tennis is in a league all its own for what it can mean to a person long-term.

Not only does tennis offer conditioning, it also can provide competitive participation and social outlets for an unbelievably long span. Just ask Bob Kitchen, who has been playing tennis for nearly 70 years. So make that New Year's resolution to pick up the game. Your only risk is that you might have fun while honing your mental and physical fitness.

BALL CREW MEETING
Toni Young has announced that an informational meeting for the Family Circle Cup ball crews will be held next Saturday on Daniel Island. The first practice is scheduled for the following Saturday, Jan. 15, from noon to 3 p.m. For more, contact Young (843-343-8393) or Dan Tumbleston (843-554-0825).

DEADLINE NEAR
If you are planning to play league tennis, time is becoming critical. The LCTA has set midnight Jan. 14 as the deadline for registering teams for the spring season. Peiffer said there will be no exceptions in that teams without the minimum number of players signed up by that date won't be allowed to participate in the league. The roster minimums 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.

ROGERS WINS AWARD
Bishop England standout Sabra Rogers has been named the state's Class AA girls' player of the year by the S.C. Coaches Association of Women's Sports. She was runner-up in Bishop England's Tennis Jam at Family Circle Tennis Center as well as Belton's Hall of Fame Classic. She was a semifinalist in the Class AA state tournament.