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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(12/31/06)  Evolution of tennis should benefit fans
Doing anything is better than doing nothing. Don't believe it.

Tennis has fallen into that trap in recent years. A few years ago, tennis officials ran scared when they saw headlines and national magazine covers suggesting the impending death of the game.

Tennis officials appeared to be ready to change the game. Nothing was sacred.

They considered playing service lets. If the serve hit the tape and landed in the service box, play it. Fortunately, only Division I college tennis and World Team Tennis bought the plan.

But the doubles game has been altered in pro tennis. The jury is still out on that change.

Tennis went along with the criticism that it was too slow and too complex for the average television viewer. Luckily, tennis didn't overhaul its scoring system. But officials did take away the break on the changeover after the first game of each set, supposingly making the switch of ends non-stop.

The rule change on the changeover might appear to be rather harmless. It probably reduced the length of a three-set match by less than two minutes. But in saving these few moments, tennis punished the very people who are the most important to the health of the game. No, not the players. The fans.

To the holder of a ticket for a prized box seat or prime seat in the lower arena, there can be nothing more frustrating than spending nearly half a set waiting in line at the gate until the completion of the third game of a set.

Doubling the break time after the first game would have been the way to go, not reducing it. I'm enough of a tennis purist to believe that movement by fans near the court has to be restricted. That's why tennis needs to make things easier for fans to get back to their high-priced seats after rushing to the bathroom or to pick up refreshments after a long first or second set.

The start of the first set can't be ignored, either. It's so easy to miss the first point of a match. If you do, you'll miss plenty more -three games.

Of course, all changes aren't bad. Women's tennis is experimenting with on-court coaching, which is long overdue. As tennis enthusiast/NBA coach Phil Jackson is quoted in the current issue of Tennis Magazine, "The times when the coaches are needed most, they're relegated to the stands without any ability to coach them (players)."

Weiland South's best

Charleston's Jeanette Weiland had quite a year in women's 75 competition, so good that she has been selected as the Southern's women's player of the year. Weiland won three national doubles titles with Angie Ray of Phoenix. They are the No. 1 women's 75 doubles team in the nation.

All of the Southern awards will be presented during the organization's annual meeting Jan. 17-21 in Atlanta.

(12/27/06)  Make the most of team practices
League tennis is right around the corner again.

Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer reports that the local league season will start in late January or early February. That means it's time to start hitting the courts again for team practices.

Of course, it might be difficult to get a team together for practice over the holidays, especially with the arrival of Tuesday's sudden burst of cooler temperatures. It still felt good working off some of the Christmas goodies by hitting off the old backboard at the James Island Yacht Club.

Team practice sessions can be as enjoyable as league tennis matches, if you're on a team that has at least two competitive doubles teams. League matches themselves now seem to be either super easy or really tough, at least at the adult league 3.5 level. This may be the result of the increased number of players playing up.

Where did all of the 6-4, 6-4 matches go? You know, the highly competitive matches where one doubles team is just a tad better than the other.

Not very long ago, you pretty much knew what to expect when you showed up for a 3.5 match. But not any more. Some players might disagree, but this probably is the result of the influence of the summer's popular combo league where team rosters are filled by players of different skill levels.

The adult league 3.5 season, and probably others as well, has become a carryover from that mixture of skill levels playing together.

Because of this, team practices can become something of an escape where you know exactly what level of competition you're facing.

Hopefully, league tennis itself will work its way back to this type of competitive balance.

Jan. 12 deadline

Teams have until Jan. 12 to register the minimum number of players to form a team (five for 2.5 and 5.0 teams, eight for other adult league teams and six for senior leagues).

The annual captain's meeting is scheduled for Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street. But teams can start registering for the spring season already, if the captain has created the team on the www.usta.com TennisLink site.

Maybank events

--Maybank Tennis Center will hold the Maybank Family Challenge on New Year's Day. Pro Toni Young has scheduled competition among serious players from 9:30 a.m. to noon and smaller children from noon to 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814).

--Ryan Young and the rest of the Clemson men's team will arrive at the Maybank complex on James Island next Tuesday for a preseason camp. Coach Chuck Kriese's team will practice through the following Sunday. Young is preparing for his senior season with the Tigers.

--Two of Maybank's eight hard courts are currently under reconstruction in preparation for the new tennis season. A new lighting system was installed at the usually busy complex earlier this year.

Junior signups

Junior Team Tennis signups are now available for the six-week season that will start Jan. 14. The league is for beginners to advanced players from 8 to 18 years of age. Contact program coordinator Joyce Arrington (442-4871) or go to www.lowcountryjuniortennis.com on the internet.

(12/20/06) Henderson a smash on beach, too
Chris Henderson's focus has been on winning gold tennis balls, the type the U.S. Tennis Association gives to winners of its national championships. Granted, Henderson has quite a ways to go to catch Dodo Cheney's record of more than 340 national senior titles.

Henderson won the latest of his two gold balls in September in doubles with Derek Brooks of Tampa, Fla., at the men's 30 national grass courts.

Brooks and Henderson recently took third place in the national clay courts, earning the pair the nation's top ranking for 2006 in men's 30 doubles. Henderson also will end the year ranked No. 5 nationally and No. 1 in the South in men's 30 singles.

Henderson's hookup with Brooks at the nationals was by chance. The two had played doubles together a decade ago in the pro tennis league in Atlanta and hadn't seen each other since. So, when Brooks saw Henderson's name on the entry list for the national grass courts, the two got together for what turned out to be a gold ball-winning occasion.

By the way, Henderson said Brooks has won 18 gold balls.

Henderson obviously has plenty of reason to be happy about his tennis success, also as a former Furman standout and one of the founders of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League. But the 34-year-old insists he is ready to change his focus to a different type of tennis ball - from gold balls and inflated balls to ones that have been deflated.

They're used in beach tennis. Henderson and his partner, College of Charleston men's tennis coach Phil Whitesell, appear to know how to play this game better than anyone anywhere.

As international champions, they're at the top of the heap of this new sport. They've never lost a beach tennis tournament.

Winning two national championships and one world title in the space of about 15 months makes these two men dream that maybe they have a future in beach tennis. "I think beach tennis is going to explode," Henderson said.

Not only have Henderson and Whitesell won the three major titles together, they also have combined to win four other beach tennis tournaments. Also, both players have won a tournament with a different partner.

Henderson said he and Whitesell already have raised nearly $5,000 to build a beach tennis court locally. He can see beach courts sprinkled about the area at clubs and public facilities. "We can use them for beach volleyball or beach tennis. You just have to adjust the net ... volleyball nets are 8 feet high and the net for beach tennis is 6-foot-2."

What makes this pair of local tennis players better in beach tennis than anyone else? "I think we both move well in the sand ... you've got to be able to move. Phil is consistent ... he never misses, and I go for bigger shots. They play me 'cause Phil never misses."

Junior signups

It's time to start Junior Team Tennis signups for a six-week season that will start Jan. 14. The league is for beginners to advanced players from 8 to 18 years of age. Contact program coordinator Joyce Arrington (442-4871) or go to www.lowcountryjuniortennis.com.

(12/17/06)  Motherhood next up for Davenport
There's no word yet on who will be participating in next year's Family Circle Cup, but obviously Lindsay Davenport won't be in the field.

Davenport is expecting her first child and doesn't plan to return to the WTA Tour.

"I can't say there's any sadness, yet, about missing tennis. My life is with my husband (Jonathan Leach) and my future child," she told ESPN.com last week.

Davenport won 51 WTA Tour singles titles and an Olympic gold medal. Although a Family Circle regular, she was never a finalist in the event. She played in seven Family Circle Cups, losing five times in the quarterfinals and once in the semifinals.

Of course, clay was the one surface on which Davenport couldn't dominate her opponents with herbig groundstrokes. She retires missing one link in a career Grand Slam - the French Open.

One year after being the world's top-ranked player, Davenport leaves the tour with a No. 25 ranking, but still as the highest-ranked American. Meghann Shaughnessy becomes the highest-ranked active American at No. 37.

Shenay Perry (44) and Jamea Jackson (45) both have moved ahead of Venus Williams (47), giving the United States four top 50 players after Davenport's departure.

Locals in the world

Three Charleston women are headed to the end of 2006 with world rankings. Diane Fishburne, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in women's 45 in both 2004 and 2005, has spent much of this year recovering from knee surgery. The former College of Charleston All-American has fallen to No. 50 in 45-and-over. She also is No. 43 in women's 40. The 5-2 Fishburne, who will turn 49 years old later this month, will play in 50-and-over in 2007.

Brenda Carter is the highest-ranked American in women's 60 with a No. 4 ranking. She is No. 79 in women's 55.

Susie Peiffer has moved into the rankings at No. 31 in women's 55.

Pine Forest benefit

The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association raised $17,300 with its recent Racquets for Recovery benefit for the American Cancer Society. Association president Shirley Hunter reports that 96 players participated in the second annual event. "Last year we raised $13,500, so this was a significant increase," she said.

Local notes

--Holiday gift certificates that can be used to purchase tickets for any session of the April 7-15 Family Circle Cup are available from the Family Circle ticket office (856-7900) or by stopping by the Family Circle clubhouse on Daniel Island weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

--Family Circle Cup tickets also are on sale by contacting the Family Circle ticket office (800-677-2293 or 856-7900) or by going online (www.familycirclecup.com).

--Family Circle Tennis Center will begin a 10-week winter grassroots session Jan. 8 for children 3-18 in all skill levels. Contact junior programming director Greg Harkins (849-5306 or greg.harkins@familycirclecup.com).

--The Players Club is holding Cardio Tennis programs at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 8-9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Members and non-members can reserve spots in the fast-paced one-hour program by contacting the Players Club (849-6560).

(12/13/06)  A brief, but memorable, tennis career
Edward Fenno has his own Charleston law firm. He's a Princeton graduate who once served as Kato Kaelin's attorney.

Representing Kaelin, the O.J. Simpson murder trial figure, could be Fenno's claim to fame. But that's just one of the 40-year-old Fenno's stories.

Fenno's grandfather was an NCAA doubles tennis champion for Harvard. Edward's father was a tennis starter for Princeton. Edward never played a match for Princeton.

But Edward Fenno's name is still listed on the ATP Tour's computer rankings for doubles. It doesn't matter that he never played a college tennis match. His tennis ego is satisfied.

"I just wanted to get on the computer," he said. "After college when all of the other guys (from Princeton) went off to Wall Street, I felt I had never made it (in tennis). I just wanted to get on the list, and that would make me happy."

He took three years off after his Princeton graduation, moved from Boston to Los Angeles and played tennis' pro satellite circuit. His highest world doubles ranking was No. 783 on Sept. 10, 1990.

"I knew I wasn't going to be a professional tennis player for more than a year or two. After two years of traveling around, I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I never got a singles ranking, but I got a doubles ranking. I had done what I wanted to do. It was time to be a lawyer."

He left the tour and enrolled in the school of law at the University of Southern California. After law school, Edward and his wife, Princeton graduate/Charleston native Becky, lived in Los Angeles.

A few years later, when Kato Kaelin filed a lawsuit against one of the tabloids writing about the O.J. Simpson trial, Kato sought the services of the Bostwick & Hoffman firm. Fenno happened to get the case.

"We lost a summary judgment, but then we appealed and won the right to go to jury. The case was settled before going to trial. I took my share (of the settlement) and moved to Charleston."

Charleston has been all about tennis and law for the Fenno family. Edward participated in the Charleston Pro Tennis League its first three years. "I started my own firm (the Church Street-based Fenno Law Firm) and didn't have time for the CPTL after that," he said.

But he has played on state championship 5.0 teams in league tennis. Becky served as captain of this year's state- winning 4.5 women's team from the Players Club. Becky is a prominent local architect. Edward, Becky, and sons Brant and Eric reside downtown.
Seven-year-old left-hander Brant is already an up-and- coming tennis player. He started played tennis at 18 months. "He's going to be a good one," said Brant's dad, who is still a little unsure about the potential of four-year-old Eric.

What are some of Edward Fenno's other claims to fame? "I went to the mall with Andre Agassi," he said.

That was when Fenno spent a week training at the Nick Bollettieri Academy as a 19-year-old collegian. "One of the first people I met there was a kid with long hair. He liked my hat ... it was a cool hat. We went to the movies and we got to be friends. He was a nobody then, but that was Andre Agassi."

What made Fenno decide to give up pro tennis? "I was playing a satellite tournament in Israel, and I thought I was getting pretty good. But some kid who was 16 came out of nowhere and won the tournament. I could see I wasn't going to make it if this 16-year-old was better than me. His name was Goran Ivanisevic."

(12/10/06)  Connors rubbing off on Roddick
You've got to like Andy Roddick's new attitude.

A little of Jimmy Connors obviously is rubbing off on Roddick, not that all of Connors' attitude was good. Connors' brash cockiness turned many tennis fans off.

But no one ever doubted Connors' confidence and competitive spirit. Roddick would do well to emulate Connors' traits.

Roddick already has a dash of milder and more acceptable cockiness and brashness than his coach. You just have to accept those things about Roddick.

This new Roddick characteristic is added confidence. And it could take Roddick's game to new levels.

James Blake could benefit from this Connors lesson as well after practically bowing down to Roger Federer in his weak performance against Federer in last month's Masters Cup final. Believe me, this one wasn't any more about Federer's great play than it was about Blake not showing up. Blake might as well have told Federer he didn't belong on the same court with him.

Roddick lost to Federer, too, earlier in the Masters Cup, but only after gaining three match points in the second set. Roddick later paid tribute to Federer's brilliance, but without bowing down.

But now Roddick has had time to think things through more clearly, probably also with a few optimistic words from Connors. Roddick, now feeling that Federer was lucky to beat him, realizes that maybe Federer isn't so unbeatable and so vastly superior.

"For the first time in three years, I feel like the gap between me and Roger is going my way, not his," Roddick was quoted last week by Charles Bricker of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I was the better player that day for two sets, and I don't know if I've ever been able to say that before."

Roddick obviously showed Connors enough in his close losses to Federer in the U.S. Open and in Shanghai to get Connors excited. Otherwise, Connors wouldn't be showing up in South Florida in December to work with Roddick or planning to spend as many as 16 weeks on the road with him in 2007.

The part of his game that now makes Roddick one of Federer's two most feared opponents (the other, of course, is Rafael Nadal) is the net game Connors taught Roddick the last half of the year.

Roddick's vastly improved volleys and aggressive approaches to the net make his huge serve even more effective, taking away Federer's previous strategy of just chipping service returns back to Roddick on the baseline. That became apparent in Roddick's four-set loss to Federer in the U.S. Open final when Roddick was out-aced, but collected a bucketful of points on service returns Federer failed to put into play.

--Roddick hosted a charity poker tournament Friday in Hollywood, Fla., to benefit the Andy Roddick Foundation. Mandy Moore, Paris Hilton, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Sanders were among the participants.

Smash returning

The Smash Junior Cup will return to Family Circle Tennis Center Feb. 23-26. This will be the sixth annual event, which was the Junior Family Circle Cup during its first four years. The junior tennis tournament is named for Smash Magazine, a 125,000 circulation magazine for teen-aged tennis players.

One of the unique things about the event is that its girls' 18 champion will receive a wild card berth in the qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup, which is scheduled for April 7-15 on Daniel Island. Competition also will be held in junior age groups 10-18 for boys and girls.

(12/06/06)  Players Club breaks ground on clubhouse
Where's the clubhouse? For the past 15 months, that's been the most often asked question at the Players Club. Everything else about the private Mount Pleasant tennis complex is without question among the best in the area and state. The picturesque layout is A-plus.

But pretty soon, club owners Fritz Nau and Robert Haydock will no longer need to explain the clubhouse situation, or absence of one other than the trailer that sits on the nine-acre site. Nau is proud to announce that ground has been broken for a 1,700-square foot clubhouse.

Plus, the Players Club is adding three more hard courts. That will give the complex seven hard courts and nine clay courts.

"That's just about where we wanted to be, but we couldn't do it the first time," said Nau, who worked with the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova at Bollettieri's Academy.

Nau hopes to have the courts and clubhouse finished in time for another Pat Cash-Peter Fleming-Butch Heffernan fantasy camp in April opposite the Family Circle Cup.

The club that opened late in the summer of 2005 on Mathis Ferry Road across from the old Wando High School trains 75 juniors in its Charleston Tennis Academy. The group includes most of the area's top juniors. Several players from abroad have trained at the facility.

Nau has limited club membership to just 24 people so far, but he expects to reopen membership once the new courts and clubhouse are finished.

Locals win honors

The area produced several winners during USTA South Carolina's annual meeting and awards banquet at Hilton Head Island.

--The Lowcountry Tennis Association took the community tennis association of the year award. LCTA president Bob Peiffer picked up the award.

--The five-year-old Charleston Pro Tennis League took the community service award.

--The Jeff and Toni Young family was named tennis family of the year. The entire Young family - including Jeff and Toni, son Ryan and daughter Kristen - was in attendance. Of course, Jeff is still recovering from a stroke he suffered this past summer. Toni is the tennis pro at Maybank Tennis Center, while Ryan is a senior at Clemson where he has been an All-Atlantic Coast Conference tennis player.

--Ron Charron was selected as league volunteer of the year.

--Brenda Carter was honored as adult state female player of the year for the second time. Carter has wrapped up the No. 1 ranking nationally in women's 60 singles.

--Chris Henderson, who along with Stuart Small and Dave Maness founded the popular CPTL, was elected the state's Southeast area director, succeeding Snee Farm tennis director Christy Cherry. Henderson, the recent winner of national and international Beach Tennis championships with College of Charleston tennis coach Phil Whitesell, is currently competing in the National 30 Clay Court Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Henderson is ranked fifth nationally in men's 30 singles.

Local notes

--The Family Circle Cup is offering holiday gift certificates that can be used to purchase tickets for any session of the April 7-15 Family Circle Cup. The gift certificates can be purchased from the Family Circle ticket office (856-7900) or by stopping by the Family Circle clubhouse on Daniel Island from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays.

--Family Circle Cup tickets also are on sale by contacting the Family Circle ticket office (800-677-2293 or 856-7900) or by going online (www.familycirclecup.com).

--Family Circle Tennis Center will begin a 10-week winter grass-roots session Jan. 8 for children 3-18 in all skill levels. Contact junior programming director Greg Harkins (849-5306 or greg.harkins@familycirclecup.com).

--The Players Club has started a Cardio Tennis program at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The program also is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-9 a.m. Members and non-members can reserve spots in the fast-paced one-hour program by contacting the Players Club (849-6560).

(12/03/06)  The best is yet to come for Caulder
Dewey Caulder has a big job on his hands for the next few years. Yes, more than teaching tennis at Family Circle Tennis Center and trying to help the facility's 3.0 women's Hotshots make another run at a league tennis Southern Sectional championship in 2007.

Caulder has three daughters and they all play competitive tennis. That's the real job. It's one the Family Circle pro will cherish for a lifetime.

Two of them, 15-year-old freshman Dylan Caulder (her birthday was Saturday) and 12-year-old seventh-grader Chandler Caulder, have played major roles in Palmetto Christian Academy's back-to-back SCISA Class A state girls' championships.

Of course, Dewey serves as the Eagles' coach.

But things should get really interesting when Palmetto Christian fourth-grader Corey Caulder joins her two older sisters on the tennis team in 2008. If the Eagles can manage to hold off Pawley's Island-based Lowcountry Day School for another year to make it three straight state titles, Palmetto Christian should be really tough to beat when all three Caulder girls are playing.

Corey is a 10-year-old who may be the best of the group, if her recent success is an indication of the future. Corey is on an 11-match winning streak that includes girls' 10 titles in the Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts, the Family Circle/Palmetto Cardiovascular Junior Challenger and the DeBordieu Junior Classic. She also won doubles titles at two of the events.

Corey is a terrific athlete. She also is a standout in basketball, softball and soccer.

Although her father is always available, Corey is currently being trained by another Family Circle pro, Kim Eppelsheimer.

The girls' mother, Peggy Caulder, is the merchandise manager for the Family Circle pro shop.

Three teenage tennis daughters. Peggy obviously has another pretty important job ahead of her, too.

Christmas idea

If you're trying to come up with a Christmas present for the person who has everything, the Family Circle Cup is offering a good alternative. Holiday gift certificates that can be used to purchase tickets for any session of the April 7-15 Family Circle Cup are now available.

The gift certificates can be purchased from the Family Circle ticket office 856-7900 or by stopping by the Family Circle clubhouse on Daniel Island from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays.

Family Circle Cup

Family Circle Cup tickets are on sale. Contact the Family Circle ticket office by phone at (800) 677-2293 or 856-7900 or on the web at www.familycirclecup.com.

Local notes

Mount Pleasant's Players Club has started a Cardio Tennis program at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The program also is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-9 a.m. Members and non-members can reserve spots in the fast-paced one-hour program by contacting the Players Club (849-6560).

Family Circle Tennis Center is already gearing up for the new year's junior tennis programs. The complex will kick off its 10-week winter grass-roots session Jan. 8 for children 3-18 in all skill levels. Contact junior programming director Greg Harkins (849-5306 or greg.harkins@familycirclecup.com).

(11/29/06) WTA ready to allow coaching from stands

Coaching from the stands has been largely ignored by chair umpires. Why? Because it's a practice that is virtually impossible to police.

Unless, of course, the television cameras catch a shot of Maria Sharapova's dad encouraging his daughter to eat a banana or drink fluids at the U.S. Open.

Instead of trying to crack down on the virtually harmless practice of coaching from the stands, the WTA Tour apparently has come to the conclusion that maybe the practice isn't so bad after all. Hats off to the women's tour for being brave enough to admit that coaching from the stands really isn't a big deal. It's common in almost every other sport.

That's right. If you missed it, the WTA Tour announced earlier this month at its annual year-end board meeting that "in recognition of the difficulty in policing coaching from the stands," it intends to propose in the coming months that coaching from the stands be legalized.

Maybe now the men's ATP Tour will follow the lead and Roger Federer will stop complaining about Rafael Nadal receiving help from his uncle in the stands.

--Family Circle Cup tickets are currently on sale by contacting the Family Circle ticket office at 800-677-2293 or 856-7900, or at www.familycirclecup.com.

Aruba champs

Local medical equipment representative Chris Henderson and College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell are becoming beach tennis celebrities. After winning a second straight national championship in New York in September, Henderson and Whitesell ventured to Aruba to win the International Beach Tennis Championships. The title earned them $1,000 and another all-expenses paid trip to Aruba for next year's tournament.

Henderson and Whitesell have been invited to Chile to participate in a beach tennis event during January's ATP Tour stop in that country.

Magnet success

The South Carolina High School League apparently can't make up its mind about Academic Magnet. First, the league ruled that Academic Magnet could not participate in the state team playoffs for using what the league ruled was an ineligible player. That's too bad, because the Raptors probably easily would have advanced to the Class A state girls' final, ultimately won by Southside Christian of Greenville.

But then the High School League contacted Magnet to inform the school that the Raptors could enter a player in the Class AA-A state singles tournament earlier this month in Columbia. First-year Magnet coach Andrea Langley entered freshman Kelly Engle, who proceded to walk off with the consolation bracket's top prize.

--In the Class AAAA-AAA state singles tournament, Wando junior Jessica Diamond and sophomore Olivia McMillan were quarterfinalists. Diamond, the No. 2 seed, lost to eventual runner-up Kendall Rich of Dutch Fork. Diamond had beaten Rich in the Warriors' Class AAAA Lower State championship win over Dutch Fork. Rich, only a sophomore, lost to top-seeded Haley Baird of Irmo in the singles final.

Scarpa, Elliget shine

Local juniors Anderson Scarpa and Adam Elliget performed well in last weekend's USTA National Open boys' 12 tournament in Augusta, Ga. Scarpa won four out of six matches and placed ninth in the 64-player singles draw. Elliget, who has just turned 10, advanced all the way to the semifinals in doubles while playing with Jess Jones of Eastman, Ga. Elliget lost in the first round of the main singles draw, but won a pair of consolation matches.

(11/08/06)  Pro tennis needs coaching

Watching high school and college tennis can spoil you.

In these matches, you see future doctors, lawyers, scientists, bankers, etc. huddling with coaches on the side of the court or talking through the fence. But these usually highly intelligent young men and women aren't too smart to accept advice and instructions from their coaches.

Then, you watch a pro tennis event, and there's not much need for a coach, or so the players apparently think. It's often all about just trying to out-pound the other player.

Only the game's best, such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Martina Hingis and some others, usually demonstrate real strategy. But the majority of this group of mostly non-graduates doesn't want to admit that they actually could benefit from on-court coaching.

If the top players got behind it, on-court coaching would be the order of the day in professional tennis. The opinions of players outside the top 10 or so don't carry much weight in pro tennis.

Many of the top players obviously are against on-court coaching because they're afraid it might negate some of their advantage in talent. They come up with the excuse that tennis is an individual game. That's just a front. Other than Davis Cup, Fed Cup or the recent WTA Tour experiments, most of them have never experienced on-court coaching.

Club Cup

I've heard nothing but raves about this past weekend's inaugural Charleston Interclub Tennis Championship Club Cup at the I'On Club and Players Club. The event raised approximately $14,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Trident Area, according to event organizer Sandeep Reddy.

Nine club teams participated in the event. The team from Collins Park came out on top and took home the Club Cup trophy for a year. The I'On Club team was runner-up.

Some of the participants liked the event so much that they're talking about forming a local league similar to the format used at the Club Cup. Teams were composed of 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 and 4.0 women, and 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 men.

Independent stars

Pinewood Prep's Anna Brewer has been named player of the year in SCISA's Region I-AAA. Pinewood teammates Charmaine Bessent and Sarah Edwards made the all-region team, along with Porter-Gaud's Natalie Santiago and Luann Cignavitch, and Ashley Hall's Jacey Edwards and Charlotte Morrow.

--Wando's Jessica Diamond and Olivia McMillan will represent Region 7-AAAA in this weekend's High School League state singles tournament in Columbia.

Scarpa leads way

By winning last weekend's Mount Pleasant Juniors in boys' 14, Anderson Scarpa has won 35 of his last 37 matches and seven of his last eight tournaments. Scarpa is planning to play boys' 12 in the National Open starting Nov. 23. According to TennisRecruiting.Net, Scarpa is rated 20th in the nation for seventh-graders.

Other local winners included: Sam Crossland in boys' 8, Eric Donald Schless in boys' 10, Adam Elliget in boys' 12, Ellie Halbauer in girls' 10 and Patrick Kirkland in girls' 14.

--Daniel Island's Austin Heinz is ranked 20th in the nation for fifth-graders by TennisRecruiting.Net. Jamie Harrell is No. 132 for freshmen, while Caroline Thornton is 58th on the recruiting list for sophomores. Scarpa, Heinz, Harrell and Thornton all train at the Players Club.

Young Benefit

--Donations are still coming in for the Jeff Young silent auction benefit that is scheduled for Nov. 17 at Snee Farm Country Club during the party for Snee Farm's final Grand Prix of the year. Contact Maggie LaCoste at mlacoste@bellsouth.net.

Friday is the deadline for entering the Grand Prix, which starts next Monday. Contact Snee Farm pro Christy Cherry at (532-3800).

(11/05/06)  Area ready for its own tennis star
It's bound to happen sooner or later. It probably is just a matter of time before the Charleston area produces its own tennis star.

Of course, the area already has many tennis stars. But I'm talking about a world-class player, a junior who matures into a legitimate Grand Prix-level player. Maybe even the best player in the world.

Charleston has never grown its own world-class tennis player. But who would have thought that Compton, Calif., would have produced two of the greatest players of the modern era? By the time Venus and Serena Williams became teenagers, it already was obvious that they would become great players.

And Compton certainly didn't have all the things going for it that this tennis area has.This area has some of the best tennis facilities in the world, as well as its own world-class tournament site. It has an internationally acclaimed women's tournament, the Family Circle Cup. The area may have one of the largest groups of excellent young teaching pros in the country, as evidenced by the Charleston Pro Tennis League. It even has a few world-class teaching pros. And then there's the tennis participation factor.

Yes, the area is ready for its own star. The odds are in the area's favor, simply because of all of the great things currently happening here in tennis.

Who knows? We might already have a future world-class player out there, just waiting to make his or her mark on the game. So, keep an eye on those little ones. Anything is possible.

Combo success

Last weekend's State Combo Doubles Championships were a big success for Lowcountry Tennis Association teams. "This is clearly the best we have ever done in any state championship," was the way LCTA president Bob Peiffer described the area's six winning teams.

There are so many local players heading to Baton Rouge, La., for the Jan. 26-29 Southern Sectionals that they may try to rent one entire floor of a hotel.

Not only did Maybank Tennis Center teams win two state championships, Maybank pro Toni Young and her daughter, Kristen, played on different winning teams. Todd Covington's 7.5 men and Nancy Diehl's 6.5 women both represented Maybank in the championship presentations. Kristen Young played for the 6.5 Maybank women. Toni Young was a member of Kitsy Wise's 8.5 champion senior women, who didn't have a home club.

St. Andrew's 7.5 women, captained by Wanda Barwick, won a title, while Snee Farm's 6.5 senior women also were champs. Penny Kiggans is the Snee Farm captain.

Crowfield Plantation almost joined Maybank as a double winner as Pierre LeBlanc's men won at 5.5, and Wonza Welch's 6.5 men were runners-up.

Upcoming events

--Friday is the deadline for entering Snee Farm Country Club's last Grand Prix event of the year, which is scheduled for Nov. 13-19. Contact Snee Farm pro Christy Cherry (532-3800).

--The silent auction for Jeff Young's Hospital and Rehabilitation Fund is Nov. 17 at Snee Farm as part of the Grand Prix.

--The Charleston Church Tennis League will hold matches on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. at Charleston Southern University through Dec. 2. All level players can participate. Contact Vicky Nash (572-2799).

--Monday is the deadline for entering the Nov. 15-19 Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships at Kiawah Island. Registration is available online at www.usta.com using the tournament's ID (704110806). Competition will be held in men's (30-90) and women's (30-80) singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles (30-80). Contact Kiawah's Roy Barth Tennis Center (768-2838).

--The annual Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center is Nov. 24-26. Competition will be held for boys and girls (10-and-under through 18-and-under) in singles and doubles. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com, using the tournament ID (704139006). Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

(11/02/06)  Talented sophomore lifts Wando tennis team
MOUNT PLEASANT - The odds of Wando extending its streak of two consecutive Class AAAA state tennis titles increased dramatically when sophomore Olivia McMillan joined the Warriors this fall. Because of the talented left-hander's contribution, the Warriors haven't missed former No. 1 Samantha Eppelsheimer nearly as badly as they might otherwise have. McMillan has posted an 8-1 record while playing anywhere between Nos. 1 and 3.

She has provided just the spark the Warriors needed to put them on the threshold of another state girls' championship. Wando (19-0) will oppose Dutch Fork (19-1) for the Lower State title today at approximately 5 p.m. at the Wando courts.

"Our chances are definitely better (of winning the state) because of Olivia," Wando coach Becky Williamson said Wednesday. "She is very determined and aggressive ... and hates to lose."

McMillan is scheduled to play the No. 3 position today behind juniors Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller. In Wando's preseason tournament loss to Dutch Fork, McMillan scored a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Kendall Rich at No. 1 singles when the Warriors played without Diamond, Mosteller and regular No. 5 Elizabeth Spelman.

"She (McMillan) can come in, hit drop shots, volleys, finish points ... she has a complete game for a player who has only been playing three years. And she doesn't make many errors," Williamson said.

McMillan, only 5-2, has the ability to finish points quickly once an opponent makes the mistake of giving her a short ball. She has excellent placement, along with the normal left-handed spin.

"Sometimes you have an advantage being left-handed, because your forehand goes to their backhand," she said.

Now 15, McMillan was ranked 10th in the state in girls' 14.

She has picked it all up in less than three years, mostly playing out of Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy at the Players Club.

Her late attraction to tennis story goes like this: "I was watching it on TV one day, and I asked my dad (Dwayne) if we could go buy some rackets."

Dad jumped at the opportunity.

"He took me out to buy some rackets, and I decided to join the academy where I could train harder and become more serious."

She goes to the academy every day to train for more than three hours, getting to her Mount Pleasant home about 6:30 or 7 p.m.

"I love tennis. I love to play, and I'm pretty good at it. I love to play it for fun and competition. I used to play basketball (in the seventh grade), but I quit that so I could train harder in tennis," she said.

Why did she wait until this year to join the Wando tennis team? "I just wanted to play this year. I guess it was competition and a bunch of my friends being on the team," she said, pointing out that Diamond, Mosteller, Spelman, No. 6 player Corin Hallman and No. 2 doubles specialist Meghan Blevins all train at the Players Club.

McMillan likes the Warriors' chances of winning another title. "I think we have a lot of good players. We all play well."

Match Notes

--Wando has scored three straight 6-0 victories in the playoffs.

McMillan and regular No. 4 Hagan Edgerton haven't given up a game in the playoffs.

--Dutch Fork scored a 5-1 victory at Hartsville on Tuesday, while Wando defeated West Florence. Dutch Fork's only loss came in the regular-season finale to powerful Irmo.

--Irmo, which lost to Wando in last year's Lower State final, will play host to Lexington today in the Upper State final. Irmo has defeated 2005 state runner-up Mauldin and 2004 state runner-up Spartanburg, both by 5-1 scores, in its last two playoff matches.

--The winners of the Upper and Lower State finals will advance to the state championship match Saturday at 2 p.m. at Columbia's Caughman Road Tennis Center.

(11/01/06)  Injury jinx hits Pierce again

Poor Mary Pierce. Now that she is determined to be the best tennis player possible, injuries appear to be her toughest competitor.

Remember back in 2005 after she had hit the big 3-0, Pierce had one of the best years of her career by making two Grand Slam finals and finishing fifth in the world. That comeback came after a long list of injuries that kept the two-time Grand Slam tournament winner playing far from her best.

But the injury jinx returned for most of 2006, sending her world ranking plummeting to 27.

And now she is facing a possible career-ending knee injury that she suffered last Thursday in Linz, Austria. She was carried off the court on a stretcher with a ruptured knee ligament. Once the swelling goes down, she faces knee surgery that could sideline her for much of 2007. She played only 17 matches this year. But a key issue in any future comebacks is the fact that she will turn 32 in January.

Houston change

Jim McIngvale, owner of Houston's Westside Tennis Club where Davis Cup ties as well as the ATP Masters Cup have been held, plans to convert the facility's grass courts, and maybe its clay courts as well, to hardcourts.

The switch also could spell the end of the men's U.S. Clay Court Championships' run at the facility after next year's April 9-15 event, which is in the last year of the USTA's contract with Westside.

If Houston does give up the Clay Courts, it probably would leave a spring clay-court opening on the ATP Tour's U.S. calendar. Of course, the Clay Courts are held at about the same time each year as the Family Circle Cup, which is set for April 7-15 in 2007. That conflict might rule out any possibility of the Clay Courts returning to Charleston where the tournament was held for three years (1988-90).

Carter 3-1 in singles

Charleston's Brenda Carter won three out of four No. 1 singles matches as her women's 60 U.S. team settled for fifth place over the weekend in the Alice Marble Cup international team competition in Manavgat, Turkey.

The U.S. team also posted a 3-1 record, but suffered a 2-1 loss to top-seeded and eventual runner-up France in round-robin play to fall into the playoffs for the 5-8 spots where the Americans defeated Japan and Switzerland. Carter's only setbacks came against France where first-set tiebreakers in both singles and doubles set the stage for straight-set losses. Germany won the team championship.

Upcoming events

--The Charleston Church Tennis League will hold matches on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. at Charleston Southern University through Dec. 2. All level players can participate. Contact Vicky Nash (572-2799).

--Monday is the deadline for entering the Nov. 15-19 Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships at Kiawah Island. Registration is available at www.usta.com using the tournament's ID (704110806). Men's (30-90) and women's (30-80) singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles (30-80) will be available. Contact Kiawah's Roy Barth Tennis Center (768-2838).

--The Thanksgiving Junior Classic at Charleston Tennis Center is scheduled for Nov. 24-26. Competition will be held for boys and girls (10-and-under through 18-and-under) in singles and doubles. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com, using the tournament ID (704139006). Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

--The inaugural Charleston Interclub Tennis Championship Club Cup will be held Friday through Sunday at the I'On Club and Players Club, benefitting the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Trident Area. Local club teams (2.5-4.0 for women and 3.0-4.5 for men) will compete. To join a team or serve as a volunteer, contact Bridget Bettelli at the Boys and Girls Clubs (937-6487 or bbettelli@bgclubta.org). A Saturday night dinner at the I'On Club and Sunday's closing ceremonies at the Players Club will highlight the weekend.

--Pine Forest Country Club's Racquets for Recovery men's and women's doubles tournament benefitting the American Cancer Society will be held Friday and Saturday. A silent auction is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810).

(10/31/06)  Wando faces W. Florence in quarters

High School Tennis The stage is set. Wando's girls can see all of the pieces now.

On paper, the unbeaten Warriors appear to be heavy favorites to capture a third straight Class AAAA state tennis title. All they have to do is win three matches this week, starting today with a 4 p.m. home match against West Florence in the state quarterfinals.

This might seem like a tall task for most teams, but coach Becky Williamson's Wando outfit has most of the same cast that has won two straight state titles. Juniors Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller are the aces at Nos. 1 and 2, each owning a 12-0 state playoff record for three seasons. Sophomore No. 4 Hagan Edgerton also played key roles in the Warriors' back-to-back championships and has won 11 of 12 matches in the playoffs since the eighth grade.

Two more strong positions for the Warriors are No. 3 singles where left-handed newcomer Oliva McMillan, a sophomore, has been practically unbeatable, and the key No. 2 doubles slot where eighth-graders Meghan Blevins and Downing Herlocker play. Herlocker held the same post last year and played a big role in the Warriors' semifinal win over previosly unbeaten Irmo. Herlocker owns a 7-0 career playoff record.

Junior Elizabeth Spelman plays No. 5 singles for the Warriors.

This time, Hailey Baird-led Irmo is in the Upper State, where it defeated 2005 state runner-up Mauldin, 5-1, last week in the second round and faces 2004 state runner-up Spartanburg today.

The winner of today's Wando-West Florence match will be at home on Thursday for a state semifinal against the winner of the Dutch Fork-Hartsville match.

Wando (18-0) has scored a pair of 6-0 wins over Battery Creek and Richland Northeast, while West Florence (12-5) has posted a 6-0 win over Ridge View and a 5-1 victory over Summerville.

"I don't think we'll get overconfident," Williamson said. "I think they (her players) know better than to get too confident."

Wando scored a 5-1 win over West Florence in a preseason tournament at Florence, when the Warriors were without Diamond, Mosteller and Spelman. Wando suffered a 4-3 loss to Dutch Fork in that tournament, but also played that match without the three starters.

Waccamaw edges BE

Waccamaw outlasted visiting Bishop England, 4-3, scoring both doubles wins to reach its third consecutive Class AA Lower State girls' final. The Warriors (13-6), the reigning AA state champions, host Manning in the Lower State title match on Wednesday.


Singles: Allison Stanford (W) def. Sally Johnson, 6-1, 6-2; Liz Rowell (W) def. Haley Weaver, 6-0, 6-1; Christina Conley (BE) def. Becca Harper, 6-0, 6-1; Lexie Fitch (BE) def. Megan Costin, 6-1, 6-1; Kasia Stempniak (BE) def. Laura Saum, 6-6 (7-2), 6-1. Doubles: Stanford-Rowell (W) def. Johnson-Fitch, 6-1, 6-2; Chandler Witt-Charlotte Myers (W) def. Katherine Theos-Abby Thayer, 6-2, 2-6, (10-3).

(10/29/06)  Sharapova's status seems fully secure

If Maria Sharapova wasn't already everywhere, she certainly is now after winning the U.S. Open.

The tall Russian appears to have gained total acceptance.

It just seems to be only a matter of time before Sharapova charges into the world's top position again. At No. 3, just a little more than 400 points behind, she is well within striking distance of top-ranked but struggling Amelie Mauresmo.

The season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Madrid are only a week away. This tournament likely will determine if Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne or Sharapova ends the year as the top women's player in the game. Mauresmo probably will need to win the event for a second straight year to continue as No. 1.

Although the United States apparently can't produce its own contender for No. 1 right now, don't worry. These things go in cycles. Another U.S. star probably already is out there. We just don't know her name yet.

Meanwhile, all of our stars have gone south in the world rankings, leaving 18th-ranked Lindsay Davenport as the only American in the top 20. So, we might as well claim Sharapova.

Southern Seniors back

One big event after another. That's one reason why the Charleston area is considered by many observers to be among the nation's best tennis communities.

Of course, Kiawah Island is one of the area's tennis gems. Almost as soon as Kiawah finished up one of the top junior events in the South, its Junior Clay Courts, tennis director Roy Barth and his staff started preparing for another major event.

The Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships are scheduled for Nov. 15-19 at Kiawah Island. The entry deadline is Nov. 6. Registration is available online at www.usta.com. Click on the TennisLink icon, then tournaments and use the tournament ID (704110806). Participants must be from the USTA's Southern Section. The tournament will offer even-years men's (30-90) and women (30-80) singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles (30-80). Contact Kiawah's Roy Barth Tennis Center (768-2838).

--According to Barth, this year's Kiawah Juniors had 390 players, the second-largest entry in the tournament's 23-year history.

Grand Prix set

Snee Farm Country Club set its last Grand Prix event of the year for Nov. 13-19. The entry deadline is Nov. 10. Contact pro Christy Cherry (532-3800).

Young benefit postponed

Friday's foul weather not only played havoc with the State Combo League Championships and Charleston Pro Tennis League final, but also the silent auction for Jeff Young's Hospital and Rehabilitation Fund was postponed until Nov. 17. The Young event has been moved from Family Circle Tennis Center to Snee Farm and will be held during the Friday night player party for the Grand Prix.

CPTL final today

Don't forget, another CPTL season will come to an end today at 4 p.m. at the Players Club. The match between Chris Henderson's Bank of America team and Jonathan Barth's Lowcountry Tennis Association outfit was switched to the Players Club because of the backlog of matches at the Family Circle complex from Friday's rained-out session of the State Combo League.

Wando girls at home

If you missed it, Wando's quarterfinal foe in the Class AAAA state playoffs Tuesday will be West Florence. By virtue of West Florence's win over Summerville, Wando will be the host team.

This creates the possibility that the unbeaten Wando girls can play the first four rounds of the playoffs at home. Victories Tuesday and Thursday at the Wando courts would send the Warriors to Columbia next Saturday in search of their third straight state title.

(10/25/06) Rallying to lend a helping hand
When the tennis community pulls together, miracles can happen. The many Jeff Young benefits are proof.

Another tribute for Young will be held Friday night at Family Circle Tennis Center in the form of a silent auction during the championship match of the Charleston Pro Tennis League. A long list of items has been donated for the auction, including tennis lessons from many of the area's pros. Donations are still being accepted.

There's a rumor going around that Jeff Young's miracle recovery from the stroke he suffered this past summer has gone well enough that he possibly might hit some balls with his son, Clemson senior tennis star Ryan Young, during Friday's program.

This weekend's State Combo League Championships also will hold their opening party that night at the Family Circle complex.

Cancer-benefit tournaments at the I'On Club and Pine Forest Country Club this month as well as the Alan Fleming Seniors at Seabrook Island are additional examples of the tennis community's charitable contributions. The Seabrook event raised $27,000 for Hospice of Charleston, while another successful Ace Breast Cancer tournament was held at I'on.

--Pine Forest's Racquets for Recovery is in its final week of registration. The deadline for entering the men's and women's doubles tournament is Sunday at 4 p.m. Contact the Pine Forest pro shop (851-9010) or Shirley Hunter (572-7810). In its first event, the Racquets for Recovery raised $13,500 last fall.

--Chris Henderson's Bank of American Mortgage team and Jonathan Barth's Lowcountry Tennis Association outfit will battle for the CPTL title at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Family Circle.

Club Cup update

It's not too late. There's still time to participate in the inaugural Charleston Interclub Tennis Championship Club Cup 2006 to be held Nov. 3-5 in Mount Pleasant at the I'On Club and Players Club. The event will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Trident Area.

Teams participating in the competition will be made up of eight men and eight women, who will compete in four different categories (2.5-4.0 for women and 3.0-4.5 for men). To join a team or serve as a volunteer, contact Bridget Bettelli at the Boys and Girls' Clubs (937-6487 or bbettelli@bgclubta.org).

A players appreciation dinner for participants and volunteers will be held at the I'On Club on the evening of Nov. 4. The closing ceremony will take place on Nov. 5 at the Players Club.

Thanksgiving Juniors

City of Charleston tennis manager Peggy Bohne already is getting excited about another Thanksgiving Junior Classic. Of course, the Charleston Tennis Center event is one of the longest-running junior tournaments in the state. This will is the tournament's 26th year.

The USTA-sanctioned event is scheduled for Nov. 24-26. Competition will be held for boys and girls in all of the junior divisions (10-and-under through 18-and-under) in singles and doubles.

Registration is available on the internet by going to www.sctennis.com, clicking on TennisLine and using the tournament ID (704139006). Contact Bohne or Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

Scarpa wins again

Young Anderson Scarpa is still on a roll in boys' 12 tennis. He won last weekend's Level 3 event at Sea Pines Plantation. Austin Heinz of Daniel Island was third and Joel Roberts of Summerville was fourth.

(10/22/06)  Academic Magnet's tennis playoff hopes nixed on technicality

Rules are rules. But this one isn't fair at all.

Academic Magnet's girls' tennis team won't get the chance this time to make its way up I-26 to compete in another state championship match. The Raptors won't even make it to the playoffs this time, even though they may be a better team than a year ago.

The S.C. High School League has suspended the Academic Magnet girls' tennis program until July 1, 2007. This is bad, but it was worse before an appeal last Wednesday in Columbia that reduced the suspension to July 1 from a ruling last weekend of Oct. 1, 2007. In the earlier scenario, Academic Magnet wouldn't have been allowed to compete in girls' tennis next season, either.

As Academic Magnet assistant principal Dr. Patrick Harrington said Friday night, "That would have had a devastating effect on the program." The Raptors were Class A state runners-up to Christ Church in 2005 and for much of the last decade have been among the best Class A teams in the state, although until last year they had been forced to compete against Bishop England and Waccamaw in Class AA.

Now able to compete in their true classification (Class A) once the playoffs start, the Raptors were just biding time until the playoffs start. They played Class AAAA teams, top independents and even junior varsity teams just to sharpen their games, losing most of the time. Yet, they were ranked fifth in the state last week in Class AA/A, trailing only Waccamaw, Christ Church, Southside Christian and Bishop England.

As a result of the appeal, in addition to the immediate suspension of girls' tennis, Academic Magnet's program will be on probation for the 2007 period of July 1 to Oct. 14. The only good news is that the Raptors will be allowed to field a team next season and will be eligible to participate in the 2007 Class A state playoffs.

But worst of all is that the suspension is far too harsh. Forfeiting the Raptors' two wins over Class AAAA junior varsity teams in which an ineligible player participated would have been punishment enough, considering the circumstances.

The High School League's victim in this case not only was Academic Magnet High School but C.E. Williams Middle School seventh-grader Mi'Kola Cooper. The 12-year-old wanted to and was eligible to play high school tennis, but she didn't have a team.

"I called the athletic director at West Ashley and they told me they didn't have a girls' tennis team this year," said Lisa Cooper, Mi'Kola's mother. "I asked them if she could go to Academic Magnet, and they said 'Call them.'"

Pretty soon, Mi'Kola had joined first-year Academic Magnet coach Andrea Langley's team, which practiced and played its home matches in West Ashley at Charleston Tennis Center. Lisa Cooper thought she had done all of the right things for her daughter who came up through Charleston's Courting Kids program. "She challenged for No. 1 (on the team) and won that," the mother said.

Cooper then led the Raptors' varsity to victories over junior varsity teams from Wando and Summerville, winning both times at No. 1. By then, it was too late to save the Raptors' tennis program for this season, and almost for next fall as well.

In this case, C.E. Williams is a feeder middle school for Class AAAA West Ashley which did not field a girls' tennis team this fall. As a result, Cooper wasn't eligible to play for a high school in a lower classification than AAAA.

"We self-reported it (the violation) once we found out," Harrington said. "We violated the rules and we accept full responsibility for it."

Could Cooper have played for another Class AAAA team? "That's a good question," responded Academic Magnet athletic director Troy Bennage, a veteran coach who is in his third year as AD for the high school located at the former Charleston Naval Shipyard.

Becky Williamson, who has coached Wando's girls to back-to-back Class AAAA state titles, was surprised by the final appeal ruling that suspended Academic Magnet's program until next July. "I feel badly they didn't let her play. I don't think that's fair . . . West Ashley didn't have a team," Williamson said.

Summerville coach Bryant McKee, who formerly coached tennis in Kansas, called Academic Magnet's punishment "very severe. I could see them forfeiting the wins (which Academic did), but suspending their program ..."

Rules are rules, but sometimes they can be cruel and without merit. The stipulation that a C.E. Williams Middle School student can play only for a AAAA school is completely without rationale.

(10/18/06)  Lowcountry appeal gets high marks

Charleston's tennis appeal continues to grow. Tennis Magazine is the latest to put the area in a different league from most others.

In its November/December issue, the world's most popular tennis magazine (600,000 circulation) rates Charleston as one of the best six places in the United States for tennis players to retire.

"When the magazine took into account the climate, number of courts, cultural opportunities, and real estate options, six residential/recreational communities came out on top," the magazine reported.

Why Charleston?

"Few small cities in America capture the imagination quite like Charleston. Southern charm, elegant homes, historic sites, and of course, its location, at a confluence of rivers and inlets, tidal creeks and marshes, makes it the setting for a lazy life. For tennis players it probably helps that two of Tennis' (Magazine) top 10 resorts are just across the water - Kiawah Island (28 courts) and Wild Dunes (18 courts) . . ."

Charleston isn't alone along the South Carolina coast. Hilton Head Island also is among of the best six places for tennis players to retire. The other four best places are: Charlottesville, Va., La Quinta, Calif., Palm Coast, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz.

Weiland U.S. champ

That's right. Charleston has another national champion.

Jeanette Weiland won her third national title of the year by teaming with Angie Ray of Phoenix to capture the women's 75 doubles title in the National Hard Court Championships in Folsom, Calif.

The same two players also won the National Clay Courts and the National Indoors. They were third in the National Grass Courts. Weiland and Ray are the No. 1 women's 75 doubles team in the nation.

Weiland has been a member of the Family Circle Tennis Center since the Daniel Island complex opened six years ago.

A long game

Local tennis court builder Skip Scarpa has passed along word that his son, Anderson, played a 42-minute game against Thomas Spratt in the boys' 12 quarterfinals in the Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts over the weekend. It came at 5-4 in the first set as Anderson's coach, Players Club co-owner Fritz Nau, kept the time.

"Anderson won the game and the set on the 28th ad point," Skip Scarpa said.

Along with Scarpa, Players Club players also took singles titles in girls' 18 (Caroline Thornton), girls' 16 (Shelby Rogers) and boys' 16 (John Karle). The tournament served as a good 14th birthday present (last Friday) for Rogers, who also won girls' 18 doubles with Thornton.

--Young Adam Elliget of Summerville won both singles and doubles at Kiawah in 10-and-under to remain unbeaten for the year in doubles. Elliget previously won doubles titles at Belton and the Southerns as well as others. He's No. 1 in the South in boys' 10 doubles and second in singles.

Young benefit

Family Circle Tennis Center and the Charleston Pro Tennis League are planning a silent auction to benefit the Jeff Young Hospital and Rehabilitation Fund on Oct. 27 when the CPTL holds its final on the opening night of the State Combo League Championships.

The auction will have some great items, such as a signed Jack Kramer racket, a cap autographed by Martina Navratilova, and Lindsay Davenport/Justine Henin-Har-denne flyfishing lessons. Donations are still being collected.

(10/15/06)  Competitors light up court despite near-darkness
Nighttime tennis means different things in different settings. The quality of the lighting system usually holds the key to the level of enjoyment.

Sometimes you can be happy just to get off the court with a victory and not get smacked by a liner or a smash. Other times, good lights can contribute to a well-played match.

Of course, courts are lighted to near-daytime levels for big-time tennis. But the lights can be anywhere between good and bad at local complexes. Turn the lights down a notch and the situation can be testy even for younger players.

But try playing tennis without lights. Even car lights would have been a boost Thursday night at the new, but unlighted Pinewood Prep courts near Summerville. There was virtually no light as the clock moved toward 7:30 p.m. Yet, two young women were still playing a singles match.

Although the participants in two doubles matches already had given up, seniors Zoe Hanger of Ashley Hall and Helen Demey of Pinewood appeared to have night vision. Spectators could hardly make out their figures moving around the court. The sound of the ball making contact with racket strings offered more proof of what was happening than anything else.

Hanger and Demey wouldn't quit. Pinewood Prep was up 4-1, needing only Demey to win at No. 6 singles to clinch a team victory and render doubles meaningless. Demey had won the first set, but Hanger fought back to take the second set in a tiebreaker. It was nearly pitch black dark when Pinewood coach Heinz Mauer shouted to the girls that the third set would be a 10-point tiebreaker.

They played amazingly well. Spectators could see their shadows scampering about the court, then hear the sound of contact. The light blue court surface appeared to provide the only illumination. No one dared to question a call. If a player saw the ball in or out, the player had to have super vision.

The hard-hitting Demey reached match point at 9-8, but Hanger won the next two points to take a match point of her own. The Ashley Hall student body president then hit a passing shot from near the service line that Demey managed to get a racket on to bobble a ball back slightly over the middle of the net. Hanger pounced on it for the victory.

"I'm so proud of Zoe," Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley could be heard saying.

Hanger's victory kept the match alive with Pinewood holding a 4-2 lead, although a Monday afternoon completion of the doubles matches was cancelled since both teams are scheduled to start SCISA's state playoffs on Wednesday. Nothing other than team pride was at stake in finishing the match. Pinewood, by virtue of Ashley Hall being forced to forfeit a pair of region victories by a SCISA ineligible player ruling, already had wrapped up the Region I-AAA championship.

--Pinewood Prep is the top seed in the state's lower playoff bracket and will meet the winner of Monday's Wilson Hall-Cardinal Newman match on Wednesday at home. Ashley Hall will face either Hammond Academy or Heathwood Hall in Columbia, also on Wednesday. The winners of the two matches involving Pinewood and Ashley Hall will play Friday at 6 p.m. at Sumter in the state semifinals.

Local notes

--Wild Dunes' seventh annual Pro-Am Invitational will wrap up today with a consolation match at noon, followed by the championship match.

--Dunes West will hold the John Wieland Homes Adult Classic next weekend for levels 2.0 to 4.0 and open. The entry deadline is Tuesday. Registration is available at www.usta.com, using the tournament ID (704111006). Contact tennis director Jack Miller (881-9542 or dwproshop@jwhomes.com).

--Seabrook Island tennis director Mike Kiser reports that last weekend's Alan Fleming Seniors Tournament had 214 participants from 15 states and raised $27,000 for Hospice of Charleston.

(10/11/06)  Time to prepare for next big surge

The explosion in adult tennis participation in the area obviously has long-term implications. Children often emulate their parents' habits to at least some small extent.

What does this mean? Local tennis growth should be just in its infancy. The children of today's participants should start feeding into the system in much higher numbers before this decade ends.

It's time to put more tennis construction on the drawing boards before the rush arrives. The current facilities, especially in the West Ashley and James Island areas, likely will be outgrown by the rush to league tennis within the next decade.

Why? League tennis is the best thing to arrive on adults' list of physical conditioning possibilities. League tennis is all about fun, social, competition, camaraderie, group molding, sportsmanship, mental fitness and physical conditioning.

It's a scheduled night out with the boys or girls. That's the secret. League tennis is basically a nighttime wonder, although many day leagues are available. It's the best of both worlds. Many women and seniors play in both night and day leagues.

League tennis beats going to a gym and competing against yourself. Plus, tennis is relatively inexpensive when compared to some options other than the often solo sport of jogging, which is implemented into many serious tennis players' regimen.

The most difficult thing about tennis is getting started. But the large new group of today's league players didn't let that stop them a few years ago. They've taken league tennis to a whole new level of competition and camaraderie. The new rush of players will be in that same position in just a couple of years.

Ashley Hall to appeal

Ashley Hall is appealing last week's SCISA ruling that freshman Jamie Harrell and sophomore Caroline Thornton are ineligible to participate for the Panthers' girls' tennis team as independent study students. Ashley Hall's appeal before SCISA's athletic committee will take place today at 5:30 p.m. in Sumter, according to SCISA athletic secretary Mike Fanning.

--Ashley Hall has two big matches coming up. Wando takes its two-time state champion girls' team to West Ashley today to face the Panthers at 4 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center, and Ashley Hall visits Pinewood Prep Thursday afternoon in a showdown for local SCISA honors.

Local notes

--Family Circle Tennis Center will hold a Prince Demo Day on Thursday from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m. Family Circle pros and Prince representatives will be on hand. To RSVP, call the Family Circle pro shop (849-5300).

--The deadline for entering Pine Forest Country Club's annual American Cancer Society men's and women's tennis tournament is Oct. 29. The tournament is scheduled for Nov. 3-4. In its first try last year, the tournament raised $13,500 for the Cancer Society. Contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810).

--The new Charleston Church Tennis League will hold a kickoff event on Oct. 21 at Charleston Southern University from 1-3:30 p.m. The free event will feature clinics and drills with local pros. The league will run Oct. 28-Dec. 2. Contact program coordinator Vickie Nash (572-2799 or churchttc@yahoo.com).

(10/08/06)  Porter-Gaud girls reeling minus star
The loss of one player usually isn't critical in most high school sports. Even a quarterback usually can be replaced without severe collateral damage.

But the absence of a No. 1 tennis player can put a team in a nearly unwinnable situation. It's not so much losing a match at the No. 1 position, but the fact that everyone else moves up a notch. A solid No. 2 player might not be successful or even competitive at No. 1. The out-of-position consequences continue down the list to the Nos. 5 or 6 positions, depending on whether the team plays in a public school league or independent league.

"A team can be 50 percent better as a team ... losing one player pushes everyone else up," said Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins, the former longtime head tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky University.

Ashley Mitchell meant that much to Porter-Gaud's girls' team. She was the difference between a team that is having a miserable year (2-7 overall and 0-4 in conference play) by Porter-Gaud standards and one that might have contended for the local SCISA conference title.

Mitchell took a year off from Porter-Gaud after her sophomore year to concentrate on tennis. SCISA ruled this summer that Mitchell was ineligible to play tennis this fall, because once a student starts the ninth grade the student has only four years to participate in athletics.

At the time she left Porter-Gaud, Mitchell had just started playing competitive tennis and had fallen in love with the sport. She wanted to improve her game quickly while focusing on playing college tennis, preferably at an Ivy League school. Academics were never a problem for this bright young woman. "Ashley had great grades," Higgins emphasized.

Mitchell resided six months of the off year at the Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island while participating in Stanford University's online program. She also traveled to Spain to spend a month at the prestigious Sanchez-Casals Academy in Barcelona.

Mitchell returned to Porter-Gaud last school year as a junior and won SCISA's state singles championship. She was Miss SCISA as the state girls' tennis player of the year.

She had improved that much. She was counting on a big senior year ... until she learned from SCISA that she had used up her eligibility. An appeals process proved futile.

"A high school kid has only four years once they enroll as a freshman," Higgins said.

Although unable to play high schoool tennis, Mitchell still attends Porter-Gaud, where she is secretary-treasurer of the student body.

Having turned 18 in July, she said that she is playing more tennis than ever to prepare herself for college. "I love tennis ... its competitiveness ... I've met so many people through tennis," Mitchell said Saturday from New England while on a trip to visit Dartmouth where she is applying for early decision, as well as Middlebury (Vt.) College and Amherst (Mass.) College. "I tried volleyball and soccer, but I like tennis more because of its competitiveness."

She has played tournaments in Raleigh the last two weekends. Earlier, she played Junior Davis Cup in Chattanooga, Tenn., going 2-2 but splitting sets with the No. 75 player in the nation.

Mitchell works with Ben Simon at the MUSC tennis complex. She hits five days a week at The Citadel with coach Toby Simpson and members of his men's team. She also spends time at Smith-Stearns.

"Billy Stearns put together her college video," her mother, Cathy Mitchell, said while attending the Cyclones' match last week against Ashley Hall. "It's disappointing to her (not being able to play high school tennis). They wouldn't allow her to play any sports."

(10/04/06)  A long road back for Venus
Was I dreaming? Or did I really read that Venus Williams managed only three games against Agnieszka Radwanska last week in Luxembourg?

Radwanska defeated Elena Dementieva the next day in straight sets. Radwanska is a 17-year-old from Poland, who climbed from 95th to 66th in the world by making the FORTIS semifinals. The match was only Venus' second after missing three months with a wrist injury that she re-aggravated in the loss.

Venus appears to be facing a long road back.

Hopefully, Serena Williams will resume her tour schedule soon before getting too rusty. If Serena gets really serious about her game, I think she can still return to No. 1 in the world. Serena just turned 25 years old last week.

Of course, U.S. Open champ Maria Sharapova might have something to say about the rankings. Top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo shouldn't pose a problem, however. Mauresmo suffered four bagel sets in a stretch of seven matches, going back to the U.S. Open.

--Did you know that Russia (5), Belgium (2) and Switzerland (2) have nine of women's top 10 players? Or that the highest-ranked American is No. 11 Lindsay Davenport? Or that Russia has nine of the top 31? Or that 43rd-ranked Meghann Shaughnessy is the second highest-ranked U.S. player? Or that Venus Williams is ranked 49th and Serena 87th?

No surprise

No one should have been surprised by Marat Safin's victory over Andy Roddick in Davis Cup, not because clay isn't Roddick's best surface. But because Safin is as good as anyone in the men's game when he's on.

I've only seen Safin "on" a few times, though - among them, his straight-set victory over Pete Sampras in the 2000 U.S. Open final and his five-set conquest of Roger Federer in last year's Australian Open semifinals.

Of note, James Blake had Safin's number twice in a seven-day stretch that started with a dead-rubber in the Russia-U.S. Davis Cup tie and ended with a comeback three-set win in the Thailand Open semifinals. Blake won that tournament Sunday with a four-game yield against the favored Ivan Ljubicic.

A family bunch

Tennis players appear to be family oriented. According to the 2005 USTA/Tennis Industry Association survey, 81 percent of tennis players are married and 80 percent have more than one child.

It was quite revealing that tennis is the only traditional sport to grow in the last five years, according to the 2006 Superstudy of Sports Participation by the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association. Men and women are joining league tennis in big numbers, which should cause an even more significant boom in tennis court construction in the near future.

If my nearly an hour wait for a league match Monday night at Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex is an indication of what's in store, area public facilities should jump on the new-court bandwagon now rather than wait several years to ask for more courts. The new clay courts planned this winter for Whipple Road should be a big boost for Mount Pleasant tennis.

Local notes

--Don't forget that the Charleston Pro Tennis League resumes Friday night at 6:30 at Mount Pleasant's Players Club after a week off for the national championships.

--Charleston fared well in USTA South Carolina's yearly awards. The Charleston Pro Tennis League won the state community service award, while the Lowcountry Tennis Association took the community tennis association of the year honor, and the Jeff and Toni Young family was chosen as the family of the year for a second time.

--The Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Family Fun Tennis Extravaganza is scheduled for Saturday at the Whipple Road complex from 10 a.m. until noon. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162).

--Veteran master pro Jorge Andrew of the Lexington County Tennis Complex will hold a USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop Saturday at Snee Farm from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For pre-registration, contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

--The autumn Battle of James Island is set for Saturday at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club at 9 a.m. Contact Country Club tennis director Lee Brockman (795-0425).

(10/01/06)  Two studies support tennis' growing popularity
I have sensed for several years that local courts were getting more crowded and that tennis interest was booming. Apparently, I was right, if the increase in U.S. tennis is representative of Charleston.

Tennis is the only traditional sport in the United States to actually grow over the last five years, according to a story in Friday's Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on the 2006 Superstudy of Sports Participation by the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association. And I would be surprised if Charleston tennis participation isn't outpacing the national statistics.

According to the study as measured by sales, tennis has grown by 10.3 percent in the last five years. Meanwhile, take a look at the decreases by other traditional sports, according to the study: softball (-23 percent), snow skiing (-18.3 percent), golf (-15.3 percent), basketball (-14.9 percent), gymnastics (-11.5 percent), volleyball (-8.6 percent), ice hockey (-6.4 percent), baseball (-5.8 percent), fishing (-5.4 percent), racquetball (-4.8 percent), soccer (-4.1 percent), bicycling (-3 percent), swimming (-2.8 percent) and football (-.6 percent).

While adult racket sales are up 21.6 percent, youth rackets are practically jumping off the shelves, up 41.2 percent with premium racket sales up an overall 49 percent. The trend continued as of June 30 with racket shipments up 4.8 percent over 2005 and ball shipments up 10.2 percent. And, of course, the sale of balls may be the best indicator of the increased level of commitment to tennis.

All of this backs up a 2005 USTA/Tennis Industry Association participation study that showed an increase of 1.1 million players over 2004 or the largest number of tennis players since 1992. League tennis drives the participation, with 585,611 participants in 2005, up by more than 195,000 since 2000.

Tennis also probably has the most educated sports group, with 81 percent of players having attended colleges, 52 percent with four-year degrees and 29 percent with graduate degrees.

Local notes

--The deadline is Monday for entering the 23rd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championships scheduled for Oct. 13-16. Register at www.usta.com under TennisLink, using the tournament ID number (704137906).

--Wild Dunes Resort will hold its seventh annual Pro-Am Invitational Oct. 13-15. The proceeds will benefit the LCTA's scholarship fund to support on-court tennis instructions for an area junior. Contact Wild Dunes (886-2113).

--Charleston fared well in USTA South Carolina's yearly awards. The Charleston Pro Tennis League was named the winner of the state community service award, while the Lowcountry Tennis Association was selected as the community association of the year, and the Jeff and Toni Young family was chosen as the family of the year for a second time. Jeff suffered a massive stroke this summer, but has made a wonderful recovery in recent weeks.

--Toni has done a great job as the tennis pro at Maybank Tennis Center. Their son, Ryan, has been an All-Atlantic Coast Conference player for Clemson, and is in his senior year.

--The Pine Forest Country Club's Ladies Tennis Association will stage its second American Cancer Society men's and women's tournament Nov. 3-4. Contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810).

--The Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Family Fun Tennis Extravaganza is scheduled for next Saturday at the Whipple Road tennis complex from 10 a.m. until noon. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162).

(09/27/06)  Jensen's clinic quite a workout
I've participated in a few clinics over the years, all the way back to when Roscoe Tanner was at Kiawah Island. But Luke Jensen runs the toughest clinic I've seen.

It was two hours of non-stop tennis. Oh, maybe a 30-second water break here or there. Otherwise, you were playing points, trying to return every-which-way, bouncing serves from the monstrously tall green machine, charging the net, playing more points or concentrating on service return placements.

And it was quite warm at midday Saturday at the I'On Club during a benefit for the Oct. 12-15 Ace Breast Cancer Tournament.

Better known as an ESPN analyst than his days as the ambidextrous French Open doubles champion, Jensen now doubles as the women's tennis coach at Syracuse University. Girls, you're in for a treat, running five miles a day.

Best women's final

Talking about conditioning, College of Charleston women's coach Angelo Anastopoulo put his team through a two-hour practice Monday, then sent two of his top players to play for the city singles championship. Freshmen Link Leskosky and Laura Borza were exchanging blistering groundstrokes at Charleston Tennis Center as the clock moved to nearly 10 p.m.

They had started just after 7 p.m., but the tiebreak first set had lasted nearly an hour and a half alone. After they split sets, Anastopoulo encouraged the players to play a 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Naturally, they obliged.

A power hitter at 5-2 tall, Leskosky prevailed in the tiebreaker, 10-5. This had to be the best women's singles final ever to be watched by only five people. That's the only unfortunate thing about the match. Too bad a crowd of hundreds wasn't watching.

Leskosky was good enough coming out of high school in Macon, Ga., where she took some early lessons from Angelo's older brother, Arthur Anastopoulo, that she received a scholarship to play for national power Georgia. After a year of sitting out with injuries in Athens, she decided to move on and to play for "Coach AA" in Charleston.

At 5-11, Borza also plays a power game from the baseline. She learned her tennis in Toronto.

Roddick's tough loss

This must be conditioning week. In between Luke Jensen and watching one of the best collegiate matches I've seen, there was the Andy Roddick Davis Cup marathon with Dmitry Tursunov. I can only say good things about Roddick after that one.

Not being able to pick up OLN on Knology, I arrived at the James Island Yacht Club as Roddick was wrapping up the third set after dropping the first two. Believe me, that was early enough. I don't know how many hours later, it was almost painful watching Roddick and Tursunov zeroing in on the finish of their 32-game fifth set.

Serving last in the fifth set, Roddick finally wilted. But he didn't let anyone down. He played marvelous tennis. The deciding factor appeared to be Tursunov's go-for-broke forehands cross-court on points in which Roddick hit near winners by pulling the Russian far off the court. On similar balls, Roddick floated shots back. Perhaps, that will be Jimmy Connors' next lesson plan.

Local notes

--Young Anderson Scarpa is on quite a roll. He won his 16th consecutive match and fourth straight boys' 12 title this past weekend in Florence. A First Baptist of Charleston student, Scarpa trains at the Players Club. His dad, Skip, builds tennis courts.

--Thursday at 5 p.m. is the entry deadline for the Oct. 4-8 Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament at Seabrook Island. Contact Mike Kiser (768-7543).

--Monday is the deadline for entering the 23rd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championships, scheduled for Oct. 13-16. Register online at www.usta.com under TennisLink, using the tournament ID number (704137906).

(09/20/06)  Davis Cup action returns to TV
Welcome back to the Davis Cup television debate.

The Davis Cup era of ESPN coverage was really nice. Everyone with cable, whether Comcast or Knology, or whatever, could watch our American stars take on the world.

But those days went away earlier this year when the USTA made the announcement that ESPN no longer would telecast the Davis Cup, but instead The Tennis Channel and the OLN are taking over Davis Cup telecasts. If you missed it, the U.S. team of Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers are in Moscow for a Friday-Sunday match against the Russians.

Live coverage will only be seen on OLN (2 p.m. each day), with The Tennis Channel showing taped versions later in the day (8 p.m.). Anyone with basic Comcast can hook up with OLN on Channel 56, since Comcast owns OLN. But OLN isn't available on Knology, whether basic or digital, according to its service department.

The Tennis Channel is available on Knology for about $20 extra per month. But I'm not very big on taped tennis or on paying extra fees for service that should be on basic cable.

One step away

A South Carolina woman is one step from the top of the $200 million hierachy known as the USTA. Lucy Garvin of Greenville has been nominated to the post of first vice president of the USTA in the slate of officers for new USTA president and chairman of the board Jane Brown Grimes of Chadds Ford, Pa.

Brown Grimes will move up from first vice president on Jan. 1 to serve in the USTA's top position for two years, replacing outgoing chairman Franklin Johnson. She will be the second woman to serve in the USTA's top post.

Garvin is a longtime USTA Southern and national official. She recently served two terms as national vice president and was inducted into the nine-state Southern Section Hall of Fame in 2005.

Brewer waiting

Charleston's Barbara Brewer is anxiously awaiting the start of the Brown Grimes term. Brewer's term as the council chair of the youth collegiate division will end in December. Brown Grimes will appoint new committees when she assumes the top position. Brewer is a former president of the Southern Section.

Two local resorts ranked

Kiawah Island Resort is rated as the nation's No. 2 tennis resort by Tennis Magazine and Wild Dunes Resort is 10th. The latest rankings are listed in the current issue of Tennis Magazine, which arrived in the mail Tuesday.

Previously, Kiawah was ranked No. 1, but was replaced in the top spot by Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Inn & Club. Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort is sixth.

Diamond sidelined

Two-time defending Class AAAA girls' champion Wando has played without injured No. 1 player Jessica Diamond. Diamond, who was The Post and Courier's tennis player of the year last school year, is nursing an ankle injury. The junior is expected to miss the Warriors' showdown with Class AA Bishop England at Family Circle Tennis Center this afternoon.

But Wando coach Becky Williamson has a deep lineup that has fashioned a 3-0 record this season, including a victory over defending AA state champion Waccamaw. Junior Brooke Mosteller has moved up to No. 1, while sophomores Olivia McMillan and Hagan Edgerton have been strong at No. 2 and No. 3. McMillan took last season off from high school tennis to train.

Local notes

KIAWAH JUNIOR CLAY COURTS: The 23rd annual Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championships are scheduled for Oct. 13-16. The entry deadline for the Level II South Carolina event is Oct. 2. Registration is available on the internet at www.usta.com under TennisLink, using the tournament ID number (704137906). Contact the Kiawah Island tennis centers (768-2121).

COACHES WORKSHOP: Veteran master pro Jorge Andrew of the Lexington County Tennis Complex will hold a USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop on Oct. 7 at Snee Farm Country Club from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The workshop is for anyone interested in learning the basics of coaching and teaching tennis. Pre-registration is required. Contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

PINE FOREST CANCER EVENT: The Pine Forest Country Club's Ladies Tennis Association will stage its second annual American Cancer Society men's and women's tournament Nov. 3-4. Contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810).

INTERCLUB EVENT: The Boys and Girls' Clubs of the Trident Area will hold the inaugural Charleston Interclub Tennis Championship Nov. 3-5 at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club, Players Club and Snee Farm Country Club. Sixteen club teams consisting of eight men and eight women each will compete in the event. Contact Sandeep Reddy (sreddy@osi.att.com).

COURTING KIDS: The City of Charleston's inner-city Courting Kids program will hold its second fall sessions Saturday on John's Island (10-11:30 a.m.) and at Charleston Tennis Center (1-2:30 p.m.). The Saturday programs will run through Oct. 28. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

(09/17/06)  Barth returns to Moscow
Roy Barth can only cheer on Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers (Mike and Bob) this time in Moscow. Last time, he was a player.

The Kiawah Island tennis director still has fond memories of a trip to Moscow in 1970 to play in the Russian Nationals tournament.

He received an invitation to play in that tournament after beating Russian star Alex Metreveli in the Wimbledon consolation tournament.

Wimbledon held a tournament named the plate event in those days. It was for losers in the first three rounds of the main draw.

In 1970, Barth lost to eventual three-time champion John Newcombe in the Wimbledon main draw, and made the the final of the Wimbledon consolation event.

He lost to Robert Maud of South Africa in the plate final while Billie Jean King was losing to Margaret Court in the Wimbledon ladies' singles final.

Today, Barth leaves for Russia, again, on official business for the United States Tennis Association. He is the vice chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee.

"It's going to be a tough match. We'll have to play well to win," Barth said Saturday of the World Group 2006 semifinal between U.S. and Russia, which begins Friday.

One reason the match will be so tough is that it will be played on indoor red clay, a surface that hasn't always been kind to the hard-hitting and hard-serving Roddick and Blake.

Another reason is Russia has a stellar team for next weekend's Davis Cup semifinal. The Russian team includes U.S. Open semifinalists Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko as well as talented Dmitry Tursunov and 2000 U.S. Open champion Marat Safin.

Youzhny lost to Roddick in four sets last weekend in New York, but he teamed with Czech Leos Friedl to beat top-ranked Mike and Bob Bryan in doubles at the U.S. Open.

City Open deadline

Tuesday is the deadline for entering the City Open tennis tournament next weekend at Charleston Tennis Center. The tournament will be open only to residents of the Tri-County area. Unsanctioned by the USTA, the tournament will not require USTA membership.
The tournament will offer open competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles as well as "A" divisions (for players 4.5 and above) in the same categories. No men's open matches will be scheduled on Friday evening to avoid conflict with the Charleston Pro Tennis League's program at Wild Dunes Racquet Club. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

Fleming event set

The Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 4-8 at the Seabrook Island Club. The tournament, raised more than $19,000 last year for the Hospice of Charleston.

Competition will be available in men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles in a wide range of age divisions. The entry deadline will be Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. Contact Seabrook director of tennis Mike Kiser at 768-7543.

(09/13/06)  Federer-Roddick left us wanting more
OK! OK! Hold the phone calls and e-mails.

I admit that Roger Federer easily is the greatest player in men's tennis for the last 39 months. He has won nine of the Grand Slam tournaments played in that time period.

But isn't that a short span of history?

Seriously, Federer is a great champion and a class act, a great role model. I admire him.

But I sure would have liked to have seen a third-set tiebreaker in Sunday's U.S. Open final, knowing that in the first 20 games of the second and third sets Andy Roddick bested Federer in points won, 65-64. We might have learned more about both Roddick and Federer in such a pressure situation when the match would have been dead-even. Note that Federer is 3-6 in five-set matches in the last five years.

Federer out-aced Roddick (17-7), hit more winners (69-33, including service) and had fewer unforced errors (19-23), but Roddick won 47 other points in the match, apparently on balls Federer got a racket on but couldn't put into play.

Enough statistics. Remember, it's only 123 days until the Australian Open when this Grand Slam business starts all over again.

Some facts

Before placing your vote for the greatest player ever, consider these facts:

--By this time (Federer's current age) in Bjorn Borg's career, Borg had won 11 Grand Slam titles. He played in 16 Grand Slam finals, all of this while making only one appearance in the Australian Open. His last Grand Slam event was the 1981 U.S. Open when he lost to John McEnroe in the final. Borg was 25 years, four months old at the time.

--All of Borg's Grand Slam titles came on tennis' most diverse surfaces, clay and grass.

--Who were the only players to win Grand Slam tournaments on the game's three primary surfaces - grass, clay and outdoor hard? You guessed it, it looks like Jimmy Connors, career Grand Slammer Andre Agassi and Mats Wilander, at least in the last four decades. Connors won the U.S. Open on all three surfaces as well as taking two Wimbledons on grass.

--Rod Laver accomplished the single-season Grand Slam for the second time as a 31-year-old in 1969 in the second year of tennis' open era when three of the events were played on grass. He also won all four Grand Slam events seven years earlier as an amateur.

--Roy Emerson, who played alongside of Laver, won two career Grand Slams.

Local notes

--The U.S. Tennis Association has selected Family Circle Tennis Center as the host for a "Welcome Back to Tennis" national training session on Sept. 30 from 9 a.m.-noon. The training session educates certified USTA instructors and volunteers on the proper way to hold such programs at their home facilities.

--Fresh from winning the National Beach Tennis title with College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell, Chris Henderson captured the men's doubles crown over the weekend in the National 30 Grass Courts in Philadelphia.

--Former Grand Slam doubles champion Luke Jensen will be at the I'On Club Sept. 23 to conduct clinics benefitting the fourth annual Ace Breast Cancer Tournament, which is scheduled for Oct. 12-15. Contact Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).

--Wando's girls are gearing up for a run at a third straight Class AAAA state title. Coach Becky Williamson's team played without No. 1 player Jessica Diamond on Monday, but still turned back perennial Class AA power Waccamaw, 4-2.

(09/11/06)  Roddick loses focus, then final against Federer
You would think Andy Roddick has played enough tennis to keep his mind on the court until a match is finished.

He committed the unpardonable sin just when it appeared he was ready to go into a third-set tiebreaker that might have given him the edge against Roger Federer in Sunday's U.S. Open final. Roddick fans had to cringe when CBS-TV analyst Mary Carillo reported that on the changeover with their man down 5-6 and needing to hold service to force a tiebreaker, Roddick shouted to Patrick McEnroe about how much fun he was having.

You know the story. Before Roddick knew what had hit him, he had committed three errors, lost the set and was down 5-0 in the fourth set. Two games later, Federer was the champion once again. Roddick should have learned from cocky Jelena Jankovic's uncalled for debate with the chair umpire in the women's semifinals while leading 4-1 in the second set and five points from victory against another great champion, Justine Henin-Hardenne. You know that result, too. Henin-Hardenne won the next 11 games.

Roddick's for the taking

Hopefully, this mental collapse won't send Roddick into another tailspin. He played too well to give up the ship against Federer just when the match was his for the taking.

Despite an ugly first set of serving, Roddick had Federer on the ropes. He had kept constant pressure on the Swiss great. His first serve was completely handcuffing Federer, forcing short returns that allowed Roddick to quickly go on the offensive.

Of course, Roddick had reason to feel confident. He appeared to be the fitter of the two men when he moved up to the service line expecting to send the set into a tiebreaker. Two loose Roddick forehands and a Federer passing shot came like lightning for a love-40 score. With the break and a 2-1 lead in sets, Federer was set free. Not getting to the tiebreaker totally deflated Roddick.

Although Federer appears invincible on paper with three straight U.S. Open and four consecutive Wimbledon titles, the rest of men's tennis obviously has closed the gap. Roddick has to leave this U.S. Open knowing he can beat the man many experts are calling the greatest player ever.

Sharapova's pretty game

If dad Yuri's "Pretty Relaxed," Maria Sharapova must be doing something right. Other than collecting things like lifetime endorsements from Prince, becoming the most recognized face in women's sports and counting her money, her tennis game is showing the potential to become the best in women's tennis.

The way Sharapova overpowered Henin-Hardenne in Saturday night's women's final after virtually destroying Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals may have been a revealing sign for the immediate future.

Has Sharapova's mobility caught up with her growth spurt? If so, this 6-3 Russian beauty should be as big a hit on the court the next few years as she is off the court.

Sharapova didn't go away this time against a quality opponent. She maintained her focus and kept her big game under control. She out-hit the most feared hitter in the game. Almost every time she got in trouble against Henin-Hardenne, Sharapova would deliver one of her power serves with pinpoint accuracy within inches of the center line.

If she's serving that well, she could well become the player to beat in every major, except possibly on the clay surface of the French Open. Her high-charged, banana-waving dad may really be able to relax with his "I Feel Pretty Relaxed" T-shirt. And Maria may be appearing often enough after tonight's visit to seem like she's co-hosting the David Letterman Show.

(09/10/06)  Roddick might have the edge against Federer
Andy Roddick wasn't pretty in the semifinals, certainly no Maria Sharapova. Neither was Roger Federer, for that matter.

But the U.S Open men's final everyone really wanted is finally here. Everyone just thought they wanted to see another Federer-Rafael Nadal matchup.

The National Tennis Center will be jumping this afternoon with one of the most anticipated men's final since the nostalgic ones between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

After watching Roddick's middle three matches in this string of seven from a seat in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and then seeing the televised version of his four-set Saturday victory over Mikhail Youzhny, I actually like Roddick's chances today. That's mainly because I haven't seen Federer play really well since Wimbledon's friendly grass.

Federer's vulnerability

As even John McEnroe said several times during Federer's semifinal win over tired-looking Nikolay Davydenko, Federer is "showing signs of vulnerability." He did in the quarterfinals against James Blake as well as throughout his two tournaments in the U.S. Open series.

Perhaps, Federer is vulnerable. Andy Murray's domination of Federer in Cincinnati might have been the real thing. Maybe, the rest of the men's game is catching up to the Swiss great.

Surely, Jimmy Connors has been spending some of his time boning up on ways to attack Federer's serve and break his suddenly vulnerable-looking rhythm. Roddick should gamble big-time against Federer's serve, stepping into the court more on second serves and attacking the net. Roddick has nothing to lose in such situations.

Of course, Connors probably doesn't want Roddick to over-hit quite the way Blake seemed to almost every time he got Federer on the ropes. Instead, Connors probably would prefer that Roddick gamble intelligently. No wild charges to the net on short approaches, especially on Federer's forehand.

Roddick's keys

The first key for Roddick probably will be his serve and how well Federer returns. Roddick has to be hoping that Federer isn't seeing the ball as well these days as he did two years ago in their Wimbledon final. Federer blocked Roddick's big serve back that day, forcing Roddick to start the point all over again.

But Federer's hand-eye coordination doesn't appear to be quite as good this summer. And, other than his weak first set against Youzhny, Roddick now may be serving more consistently bigger and smarter.

The other key for Roddick is to keep constant pressure on Federer's game until it loses some of its beauty. Roddick has to make Federer sweat to win this one.

If Roddick can keep Federer off balance by hitting the first serve consistently with pace, this U.S. Open could put the swagger back into American men's tennis.

(09/03/06)  Agassi-Roddick: The best match you never saw?
It should happen. Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick should stage an epic Labor Day battle at the U.S. Open.

Even if it comes off - barring a third night match for Agassi in a week's time - Charleston tennis fans apparently won't get to see this clash of American tennis icons. CBS has the U.S. Open's daytime coverage window on Monday, but local affiliate WCSC Channel 5 is locked into Jerry Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. The USA Network has the nighttime schedule.

Although the telethon is a worthy cause, the scheduling conflict is a tough break for local tennis fans. Luckily for me, I plan to be at the U.S. Open on Labor Day.

Of course, there are no assurances that Agassi and Roddick will both be around on Monday. Agassi shouldn't have any trouble with obscure Benjamin Becker today, but stranger things have happened. It should be a breather for Agassi, but so should Thursday night's fourth set against Marcos Baghdatis have been, once Agassi gained a 4-0 lead, or in the fifth set when Baghdatis pulled up lame. At this stage of his career, a breather might be just what Agassi doesn't need to get motivated for possibly the last match of his career.

Just the opposite, Roddick faces a solid challenge in big-hitting left-hander Fernando Verdasco. Roddick wasn't as sharp in his second match against Kristian Pless as I had expected. Roddick wasn't aggressive enough on his service return games, although he has little to lose in such situations because of his overpowering serve. Coach Jimmy Connors probably has addressed that little detail by now.

Hingis must decide

Martina Hingis has had a great first year back. Few people thought this light-hitting Swiss Miss could make the top 10 so quickly.

But her last three matches have been anything but impressive. First, she was dominated by 18-year-old Ana Ivanovic in the Montreal final two weeks ago, then she played poorly but survived her first match against Shuai Peng at the U.S. Open. But Virginie Razzano, who came to New York without a main-draw victory in more than three months, totally humiliated Hingis in the second round until Hingis showed some life and staged a mild rally before losing, 6-2, 6-4.

The question now is whether we've seen the end of this comeback by Hingis. She must be wondering if she really wants to do this: commit her entire life to tennis again. Unless she is willing to pay that price, we've probably seen the best of Martina's comeback. She simply can't just show up and win matches against the tour's talented young players who hit the ball much harder.

Local notes

--The City of Charleston Recreation Department is teaming up with Family Circle Tennis Center, Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center for a "Racket Rally" until Oct. 31 in which tennis equipment can be donated for use by the inner-city Courting Kids program as well as tennis groups in the Cainhoy area. Equipment needed includes old and new rackets, new grips, new balls and new strings as well as contributions by checks made out to the city's recreation department. For information, contact the tennis centers involved.

--The CPTL will open its seven-match season Friday night at 6:30 at Dunes West.

--Snee Farm Country Club's fall Grand Prix is scheduled for Sept. 12-17. The CPTL will highlight the Grand Prix activities on Sept. 15 with its regularly scheduled competition. Contact the Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252) for more information.

(09/03/06)  Instructor to share in Agassi's farewell

Fritz Nau felt doubly lucky Tuesday morning. Andre Agassi's career was still alive and would be until at least Thursday night.

Nau was there at the beginning of Agassi's career, and the former Bollettieri's Academy instructor wanted to be there for the close of Agassi's storied career. That wish was made possible by Agassi's miraculous victory over Andrei Pavel Monday night along with a three-day window until happy-go-lucky Marcos Baghdatis arrives on the other side of the net.

Of course, Nau is taking his nine-year-old tennis-playing son, Ryan, with him to the U.S. Open, and his wife, Londa. They plan to leave Thursday morning.

"I saw the beginning (of Agassi's career), and I want Ryan to see the ending. We're going to keep him up there until Andre is out," Nau said.

Nau is co-owner these days of the excellent Players Club in Mount Pleasant where many of the top juniors in the area train.

But his tennis life has been framed by his 12 years working at Bollettieri's Academy. For most of those years, he traveled the world with Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier and Nick Bollettieri.

"It worked out perfect," said Nau, who early Monday evening was concerned that Agassi's career might not last until he arrived in New York. First, there was the fear of Pavel springing an upset, and then Agassi having to play today rather than Thursday night.

"I was afraid he was going to play Wednesday night. I've never seen them play two nights with two days off."

The Nau family will stay at Bollettier's hotel. It'll almost be like old times. This will be Nau's first U.S. Open since 1997, his last of 18 straight trips to the Grand Slam event.

Nau is well aware that it could be a short stay in the Big Apple. Baghdatis, even with all of his flare and often loss of focus, can't be taken lightly.

But Agassi's play against Pavel was nothing short of sensational. At 36 years old, he wore out a player four years his junior. Despite having missed most of the year with injuries, Agassi wasn't the one suffering physically late in the match. Pavel was.

Pavel played superbly the first three sets of the four-set match, and probably should have ended Agassi's career. But Agassi, like he has done throughout his career, found a way to win.

With nearly four hours of solid tennis under his belt in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Agassi can't be taken lightly, either.

"Andre has enough game to beat Baghdatis. It's just a question of whether he can find it," said Nau.

"He got over some self doubt (Monday). If he gets on a roll and he's not injured, he can beat Baghdatis. I don't know if he will, but it's possible. I sure would like to see Andre get into the second week."

Local notes

--Charleston's Brenda Carter has been named team captain and a member of the women's 60 Alice Marble Cup team that will take on the rest of the world Oct. 23-28 in Antalya, Turkey. Carter has played on five women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup teams and twice served as captain. She was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2005 in women's 55 singles and doubles.

--Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club will hold a Grand Prix Tennis Tournament Sept. 12-17. The Charleston Pro Tennis League will highlight the Grand Prix activities on Sept. 15 with its regularly scheduled 6:30 p.m. competition (CPTL schedule will begin Sept. 8 at Dunes West). Contact Snee Farm tennis shop (884-3252) for more information on the Grand Prix.

(08/27/06)  Watch out for Roddick at U.S. Open
Andy Roddick is hot. But please don't break out the mojo yet.

Between celebrating his 23rd birthday with his opening match at last year's U.S. Open and the super-hyped American Express mojo advertising campaign, Roddick may have been doomed. His three-tiebreaker loss to unheralded Gilles Muller seemed unreal, much like most of his results in 2006.

Although Roger Federer has to be rated as the U.S. Open men's favorite, I really like Roddick. The game France's Florent Serra throws at Roddick in the first round shouldn't resemble the one-shot wonder that 6-5 left-hander Muller used to blow out Roddick's candles last year. Hopefully, Roddick will have his birthday (Wednesday) off this time.

Federer is virtually a cinch to make the semifinals, unless James Blake can find the controls for his once-feared big game. Andy Murray is in Federer's half of the draw, but the jury is still out whether the lean teen-ager has the energy and durability to win five hard-court matches to reach a possible semifinal against Federer.

Roddick will have his work cut out for him. He is in the same quarter of the draw with two more of my top choices, Marcos Baghdatis and Richard Gasquet, along with Ivan Ljubicic and Andre Agassi. Roddick could have to defeat both Baghdatis and Gasquet.

Justine time

Just when it appeared women's tennis might be at a critical juncture, top guns Justine Henin-Hardenne, Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams made miraculous recoveries. These three power hitters looked like they hadn't missed a beat, until Davenport retired against Henin-Hardenne in Saturday's Pilot Pen final. This turn of events, along with Venus Williams' U.S. Open withdrawal, has magnified the uncertainity at the top of the WTA Tour.

Although she appeared to be in top form in winning the Pilot Pen and stronger than when she lost the Wimbledon final to Amelie Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne remains vulnerable. But you can't count her out of making her fourth Grand Slam tournament final of the year. She's my top choice. The keys for Henin-Hardenne are to stay healthy and preserve her strength.

If Serena Williams can play her way into shape and remain healthy, she could make a deep run in New York. She appears to be fitter than she has been in some time.

Otherwise, the U.S. Open is wide open. You've got to count on Maria Sharapova being around at least until the quarterfinals. If the big guns fall along the way, any of a half dozen other women could be serious contenders, including young Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic with their powerful games and pretty faces, and even "old-timer" Martina Hingis.

Local notes

--Former Grand Slam doubles champion Luke Jensen will return to Mount Pleasant's I'On Club on Sept. 23 to conduct a clinic for the Ace Breast Cancer Tournament fundraiser, which will be held Oct. 12-15 at I'On. Contact Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).

--Ticket coordinator Elizabeth Skogman has announced that ticket renewal invoices for next year's April 7-15 Family Circle Cup have been mailed and should be arriving in mailboxes in the next few days.

--Pine Forest Country Club's 14-and-under team was runner-up in the recent USTA Junior Team Tennis Southern Championships in Mobile, Ala. Registration has started for the fall Junior Team Tennis season, which will begin Sept. 10. Contact Joyce Arrington (442-4871).

--Today is the deadline for entering the weekend social alternative Palmetto Tennis League. Information is available www.palmettotennisleague.com.

--Two-time defending Class AAAA girls' champion Wando finished as runner-up to Dutch Fork in last weekend's Florence Tennis Association tournament, but the Warriors played without their two star players - Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller.

--USTA league tennis will offer a singles league this fall. Registration starts Wednesday at www.usta.com. For the 2.5 (women only), 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 levels, matches will be composed of three singles matches, while at the 4.5 level a team will consist of only one player. Matches will be played on Sunday afternoons. Contact Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer (lcta@knology.net).

(08/23/06)  Roddick on upswing as Open nears
Patrick McEnroe didn't go far enough last weekend on ESPN2 when he said Andy Roddick was playing his best tennis of the year.

Roddick is playing easily the best tennis of his life. He is doing everything, including all of the little things, as well or better than he was three years ago when he won the U.S. Open. That includes his serve.

There is no comparison between his past and current court instinct and shot anticipation. His movement is better. He may be quicker than ever. And his shot-making ability is the best I've seen from him. He definitely has his attitude back.

Realizing that his opponents will have difficulty breaking him, he's now putting extra pressure on opposing servers by playing every point the same way - to win. This new aggressive philosophy on service returns probably is the result of having just recently hired Jimmy Connors as his part-time coach.

You may recall that Connors was one of the best service returners in memory, probably because he focused on this area of his game so keenly while realizing that he had perhaps the weakest serve of any top player. Of course, serving is no problem for Roddick. If he can come up with a break or two per set, he will be almost impossible to beat.

The key to all of this is Roddick's newfound net game. He no longer looks out of place at the net. In fact, he may be tennis' most dangerous net player.

Connors wasn't even in Cincinnati. Yet, Roddick got better with every match en route to winning his first title of the year.

This new Roddick might actually be good enough to handle Roger Federer at the U.S. Open.

Coaching, anyone?

Some women's tennis players are being a bit childish about the on-court coaching experiment. I know, 18-year-old Ana Ivanovic didn't take advantage of the WTA Tour's on-court coaching experiment in her domination of Martina Hingis in Monday's Montreal final, and Hingis did. But Ivanovic prevailed only because of her huge forehand and Hingis' unusually loose and uninspired play.

If Hingis had called her mother to the court before the first set got completely away from her (down 5-2), the coaching might have helped. As it was, Hingis appeared to be not only slow afoot, but a bit stubborn in continuing to go after her 6-foot opponent's forehand.

Hingis has always been that way. Even in the old days when an opponent would hurt her with drop shots, Hingis would try to get in the last drop shot. Right now, she needs to go out and hit a basket of overheads after missing what should have been a bunch of easy overheads against Ivanovic.

As for on-court coaching, the women have only to look at the difference Brad Gilbert has made with Andy Murray. He is proving every bit worth the nearly million dollars a year he is making from England's tennis association to coach Murray and others.

If the women are smart, they'll take advantage of the experiment and hopefully vote it into their tour permanently. Women's tennis needs that boost right now.

Kinard a head coach

Former Bishop England standout Elissa Kinard has made the leap to head women's coach at NCAA Division I Albany (N.Y.). Kinard, 24, took the Albany job after one season as an assistant at Washington State and stints at Colgate and American. She played collegiately at Nebraska and Virginia Tech. She has a master's from Virginia Tech.

Upcoming events

FALL JUNIOR TENNIS SIGNUPS: Signups are under way for the fall Junior Team Tennis season that starts on Sept. 10. Divisions in ages 10 to 18-and-under range from beginner to advanced. As a USTA-sanctioned league, USTA membership is required. For information, contact coordinator Joyce Arrington (442-4871).

ADULT TENNIS CLINICS: I'On Club and Park West are holding adult tennis clinics: I'on from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday (Joey Eskridge, 971-7834), and Park West from 9-10:30 a.m. Aug. 28-30 (Kin Roseborough, 819-2449).

(08/20/06)  Youngsters pursuing Federer
Roger Federer may be the No. 1 player in men's tennis, but his points lead may be far bigger than his on-court edge over the rest of the men.

Rafael Nadal isn't the only one who actually believes he can beat Federer. There's Andy Murray, who just proved that he's capable of handling Federer. Then there's Richard Gasquet and Marcos Baghdatis who look fully capable of beating Federer anytime they step on the court.

These four players all have something in common: they're all between four and six years younger than Federer.

It appears that this year has set the stage in 2007 for a possible change at the top. Yes, Federer is vulnerable. In a year's time, he very easily could be trying to get back on the throne. Federer's loss to Murray in Cincinnati on Wednesday wasn't that big a deal. Federer just played one of his worst matches in several years.

Everyone has an off day and can be beaten at any time. But even before Murray dominated Federer by simply playing within himself and not over-hitting, it was apparent that the gap had been closed.

All of this may have been the result of Nadal's play at Wimbledon, not only reaching the final but showing that he is capable of beating Federer on any surface. That had to boost the confidence of Murray, Gasquet and others. Baghdatis already knew his game was good enough. Of course, Nadal never doubted his ability to tame Federer on any surface. The real problem for Federer is that none of these guys are going away anytime soon. They should be able to easily outlast Federer. So much for Federer's greatest player ever dreams, not just because of this loss but because of what I think next year could be like.

A Roddick opening

These youngsters aren't the only ones chasing Federer. David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic still look very capable. And don't count Andy Roddick out of the big picture. Although Roddick still doesn't match up well with Federer, other players might be able to take Federer out of his path. Roddick not only has his swagger back, he seems to be on fire.

Federer has had the luxury of being virtually unchallenged the last couple years, partly because of his talent and partly because there wasn't a list of outstanding challengers until Nadal stepped forward.

If Nadal hasn't exposed a Federer weakness, Murray has. The key is to make Federer generate his own pace. That's what Nadal has been doing all along. That strategy forces Federer to go for more. When he does that, he doesn't appear to be that much different from a number of other current players. He'll make his share of errors.

Of course, the other way to beat Federer is the Marat Safin method. Just simply outhit him. But that style of play is unpredictable.

James Blake is a typical example of such a player. He can belt Nadal off the court, but he simply doesn't match up well against Federer's style of offense created by defense.

Gilbert in the head

Another theory is that Murray didn't beat Federer. Brad Gilbert did. Yes, Gilbert may be battling Nadal for space in Federer's head.

Before, Federer just had to out-think his opponent on the court. Gilbert makes it a triangle.

Murray already had an uncanny ability to read his opponent and use the entire court, much like John McEnroe did in his prime. Adding Gilbert to the equation should elevate Murray into the top 10 in no time.

Coaching indeed might be back in, not just with Gilbert, but also with Jimmy Connors' makeover of Roddick. The thing that makes Gilbert so valuable to Murray is not just the overall preparation, but the strategy for specific opponents. Gilbert may be the best in tennis in this respect, even a step above John McEnroe.

(08/16/06)  Jones' team won't have top guns for nationals

League tennis has been in James Jones' blood since he was a kid in North Carolina. Naturally, this 50-year-old MUSC information technology specialist is excited about his first trip to the league tennis national championships.

He's just a little disappointed that the odds are stacked against his Hamlin Plantation team bringing home a trophy from the men's 5.0 national championships that will be held Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in Palm Springs, Calif. Hamlin will have only a shadow of the team that captured the Southern Sectional title here last month.

The stars of that success are headed to Las Vegas to compete for the local 5.5 and open men's teams in the nationals. "I'm disappointed, but it's something that can't be helped," Jones said Tuesday. "We were hoping to carry a strong team and compete well, but it's going to be hard."

As might have been expected, Matt Hane, Stuart Small and Chris Henderson, who took all eight of Hamlin's individual match wins in the Southerns, committed to the Las Vegas entries. Jones had hoped to have a couple of highly rated players back who didn't participate in the Southerns, but College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell and Kiawah Island teaching pro Jonathan Barth have conflicts and aren't expected to make the trip to Palm Springs.

Playing the Southerns at home is far different from traveling to California or Las Vegas. Not only are such trips expensive, the time off also can be a burden for young club pros who only get paid when they're teaching.

"That's what happens when you're going all the way across the country," Jones said. "The total cost of going is at least $1,000-$1,200 for each player."

It doesn't help that all three of the national championship competitions will be held at the same time, or that Hane, like fellow 5.5 team member Brandon Blankenbaker, teaches tennis at Kiawah.

"The Southerns were a high level of tennis and I don't expect the nationals to be any different," Jones said. "But you never know until you get there."

As with the Hamlin team, the other 5.0 groups from across the country may have their own roster problems.

"We're just glad we had those guys (Hane, Henderson and Small) in the Southerns," Jones said. "These guys got us a sectional championship and a chance to go to Palm Springs. But Matt needed to be 5.5 ... that's his level."

Hane was a key member of last year's 5.5 national championship team. He went 4-0 in singles in the 5.0 Sectionals, giving up only 11 games. That was while also playing for Brian Burke's 5.5 Southern champs.

Henderson and Small went 4-1 in doubles in the 5.0 Sectionals. Both will head to Las Vegas, where Henderson will captain the open team and Small will play 5.5.

Jones takes pride in his recruiting job. "These guys originally played for me at 5.0 at different places four or five years ago. I even take lessons from Stuart (Small at the Daniel Island Club)," Jones said. "When Chris and Stuart got bumped down to 5.0 (from 5.5), Chris brought Phil along, and Jonathan played for me three or four years ago. I asked Mark Hane (Matt's father) to ask Matt if he would play for us, and he said he would since we already had Stuart and Chris."

With a strong roster, the group just needed a place to call home.

"John Bumgarner lived in Hamlin Plantation, and he asked if they would allow us to play out of there," Jones said. The answer was positive, and now Hamlin's tennis complex has a Southern Sectional Championship banner.

They all played together in the regular season, then won the state to qualify for the Southerns.

It now appears that Hamlin is back to Jones, Andrew Steingold, Scott Laird, Glen Cobb, John Bumgarner and possibly Brian Widenhouse. "We're solid tennis players," said Jones. "But not at the level of these other guys (Hane, Henderson, Small, Barth and Whitesell)."

Upcoming events

--The Charleston Summer Camp All-Star Invitational Tournament has been postponed until Saturday at the St. Andrew's complex. The event was originally scheduled for last weekend. Contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

--Saturday is the deadline for entering the Charleston Rated Adult Championship that is scheduled for Aug. 25-27 at Charleston Tennis Center. The tournament will have rated divisions in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Tournament entry is available online at www.sctennis.com using the tournament ID number (704134706). Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

--Toni Young will conduct an evening adult tennis camp today-Friday at Maybank Tennis Center. For information, contact Young (343-8393).

(08/13/06)  Too much freedom on pro tour?
"We need more time off . . . shorter seasons."

Pro tennis players sound like the American worker, except the average American Joe doesn't get to have seasons. He just has vacation and the holidays, and doesn't make millions.

So, what's wrong with tennis? Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer take four weeks off after Wimbledon, when interest in U.S. tennis should be peaking, depriving legions of tennis fans in places like Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Washington of seeing players who appear to be the best in their era.

It's the same way on the women's tour. Where were Kim Clij-sters and Maria Sharapova back in April when less than half of the world's top 20 women showed up at the Family Circle Cup? Clijsters has never played on Daniel Island and Sharapova has been too busy counting her money, fame and going out with Andy Roddick to play here the last three years.

Don't these men and women owe the game and fans something for the millions of dollars they reap annually from tennis? The tours themselves probably are at fault for giving the players too much freedom or failing to require more commitment from them. Perhaps, the tours should dish out harsh penalties to the players to assure tournaments of higher-caliber fields.

I'm not talking about a few thousand dollars in fines. If the players don't want to play, give them that option, but as a penalty. Ban them from the Grand Slams or maybe take away serious points from their rankings.

Sure, Nadal and Federer will be in New York in two weeks to soak up the glory at the U.S. Open. And they'll be in Cincinnati this coming week for another masters event, just as they participated in the current Toronto Masters. But what about Indianapolis, Washington . . . and the majority of smaller-money events?

I know these girls and guys can't play every day or even every week. That would be too much fun . . . uh, punishment.

There are just not enough Federers, Nadals and Sharapovas to go around. Who cares about Tomas Berdych (other than maybe Nadal)? Or Jelena Jankovic? Or some of the other unmemorables? They're not on a team where they can hide themselves and whatever identity they have. While these players are individuals, they're basically no-names who might play like world-beaters one tournament, satellite players the next.

City Open set

The City of Charleston will hold its City Open tennis tournament Sept. 22-24 at Charleston Tennis Center. The tournament will be open only to residents of the Tri-County area. Unsanctioned by the USTA, the tournament will not require USTA membership.

The tournament will offer open competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles as well as "A" divisions (for players 4.5 and above) in the same categories. The entry deadline is Sept. 17.

--The Charleston Rated Adult Championship is scheduled Aug. 25-27 at the city's Farmfield Avenue complex, with an entry deadline of next Saturday. Tournament entry is available online at www.sctennis.com using the tournament ID number (704134706). Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) for information on both tournaments.

Upcoming events

--Don't forget today's Beach Tennis tournament on the Grand Pavilion oceanfront at Wild Dunes at 2 p.m. The winning team will earn a berth in the national Beach Tennis finals Labor Day weekend in New York. Locals Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell are defending national champions.

--Bryan Minton, Chris Henderson, Charly Rasheed, Jonathan Barth, Lee Holyoke and Stuart Small will be in the hot seat Monday when the CPTL holds its annual draft at 6:30 p.m. at TBonz in Mount Pleasant. These players will captain the six teams that will open the fifth CPTL season Sept. 8 at Dunes West.

--Toni Young will conduct an evening adult tennis camp Wednesday-Friday at Maybank Tennis Center. For information, contact Young (343-8393).

(08/09/06)  Nadal is really the better player

I've just figured out why Rafael Nadal dominates Roger Federer in head-to-head meetings. Throw out the five-year age difference. Nadal is the better player.


I've come to the conclusion that Nadal, not Federer, is men's tennis' most complete player.

After seeing Nadal open up his summer hard-court season Tuesday, I'm having a hard time finding one area of the game in which Federer is superior. Nadal not only appears to have the advantage in strength, movement and conditioning, but also in ability at the net.

Nadal was an animal in manhandling Nicolas Massu, 6-3, 6-2, in his first match in the Toronto Masters. He simply out-worked the Chilean. Nadal was as good as he is on clay, power-hitting big forehands, returning everything Massu could throw at him.

The only thing Nadal needs to improve is his service return, though Massu's pop-gun serve is one of the most difficult to handle in men's tennis.

Clijsters lacks heart

Wow! Can Kim Clijsters play tennis?

But where's her heart? This summer, Clijsters is only a shadow of the player who dominated last summer's U.S. Open Series and then rolled through the U.S. Open.

And it's all about heart. Clijsters lost hers about the time she decided to announce that she would retire next year.

She plays with very little conviction and passion. She now often looks like the same player who chokes every time she goes against fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Clijsters appears to be just biding her time on the women's tour, padding her bank account for the time she retires. What a wasted opportunity.

Clijsters is beginning to remind me of Marat Safin. Sometimes I wonder why this talented Russian is still playing tennis. He doesn't appear to put his heart into the game and shows up unprepared without a game plan. He travels the world making millions. He could be so much more. He has the game, but not the dedication.

--Maria Sharapova may be in tennis just for the fame and money, but there is no doubt about this young Russian's conviction. She plays to win. That was obvious in her romp past Clijsters on Sunday in San Diego.

Dunes West double

Dunes West tennis director Jack Miller has come up with a double treat for the weekend of Sept. 8.

Not only will the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League kick off its fifth season that Friday night at Dunes West, but the Mount Pleasant facility will also hold the Dunes West Junior Challenger event that weekend.

Miller is encouraging all of the juniors to attend the CPTL opening night that was such a big hit last year when 400-500 people crowded the Dunes West complex.

For more information about the Junior Challenger, contact Miller (881-9542 or check out the Web site www.theclubatduneswest.com).

--The CPTL will hold its draft party next Monday at 6:30 p.m. at TBonz in Mount Pleasant. The CPTL's sign-up deadline for this season is Friday. For more information on the CPTL, go to www.cptltennis.com.

Young fundraiser

A Beach Tennis tournament will be held Sunday at Wild Dunes at 2 p.m., with all registration fees going to benefit hospitalized tennis player Jeff Young and his family. Young is recovering at Roper Hospital on Calhoun Street from a stroke he suffered last month.

According to organizers Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell, the Beach Tennis event will be limited to 16 teams. The entry deadline is Friday. For more information, contact Henderson (cwhendy@comcast.com).

(08/06/06)  A case for on-court coaching
Where has Pete Sampras been? Comparing boxing to tennis?

It's true that the participants in both take short breaks. The participants usually sit down and rest in both sports, but no one comes to the tennis bench to give instructions to the player, except in team competitions and the upcoming on-court coaching experiment by the women's pro tour.

"It's up to you out there (in tennis), and I've always thought that was pretty unique. The only other sport to have that is boxing, and it can really expose you as an athlete and I like that," Sampras is quoted on thetennischannel.com.

If Pete isn't aware of it, at least one of the fellows in a boxer's corner usually is the trainer or manager. And what is the trainer or manager doing? Coaching his boxer, of course. Even during the round, these handlers often are within touching distance of the boxers, shouting instructions.

Yet, if a tennis player and coach make eye contact, the opponent probably will call it cheating.

If Sampras were a boxer, someone might say he'd taken a few too many punches, but then again Pete was one of those players who never looked like he needed help from a coach.

Aside from Sampras' analysis misfire, I can buy his individualistic sport view, although I don't agree with it. I think tennis is missing the boat at all levels, especially in juniors, by not allowing on-court coaching. If top pros don't feel like they need their coach's help on the court, let 'em play alone, but let the others take advantage of the expertise they're paying for. It probably wouldn't take long for the top players to start calling for coaches, too.

Top pros may be leery of having coaches on the court because the possibility exists that a coach might allow a lesser player to close the gap on the higher-ranked players, and actually make a difference in the heat of the moment. Personally, I think the heat of the moment coaching would be as critical and valuable as the coaching they receive in practice. It's all about the psychology of the game.

One of the players I think could use coaching most, Nicole Vaidisova, shot down the idea. The new top 10 star said she would never call for her stepfather/coach to come on the court. But that might be a typical response from a 17-year-old daughter.

Vaidisova is one of the most talented players around, but loosely overhit forehands can quickly turn into lost sets and matches. A coach on the court might be just what Vaidisova needs to harness all of her power into positive results and maybe even to challenge for the top spot in the women's game. Two other players that I think would greatly benefit from on-court coaching are Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva. Neither appears to be able to right themselves once things go wrong.

The WTA Tour's experiment with on-court coaching is still a week away - Aug. 14 in Montreal.

Raising funds

The Pine Forest Country Club's 14-and-under USTA Junior Team Tennis state champions are raising funds for a trip to the Southern Championships in Mobile, Ala., later this month. Anyone interested in helping the team raise funds can contact coach Jim Elliget (830-1305).

Upcoming events

--Charleston Tennis Center is planning its Charleston Rated Adult Championship for Aug. 25-27, with an entry deadline of Aug. 19. For information call 766-7401. Tournament entry is available online at www.sctennis.com using the tournament ID number (704134706).

--The deadline for entering the weekend social alternative Palmetto Tennis League is Aug. 27. Information on registering a team is available on the internet (www.palmettotennisleague.com).

--The family-oriented Tennis Block Party is set for next Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center. The event is open to the public as it kicks off the facility's junior tennis program. It will run from 9 a.m.-noon.

--The first Charleston Summer Camp All-Star Invitational Tournament will be held next Saturday at the St. Andrew's complex. For information, contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

(08/02/06)  Federer's legacy a hot issue already

The great debate has been mostly quiet since a couple days after Wimbledon. But it's bound to heat up again as the U.S. Open nears.

Is Roger Federer one of the greatest players ever?

Former three-time Wimbledon champion John Newcombe has taken this debate to a level that usually has been ignored by John McEnroe, Cliff Drysdale and Brad Gilbert. The age differential between Federer and Rafael Nadal can't be overlooked.

Federer will become 25 years old next Tuesday. Nadal turned 20 two months ago. For all practical purposes, that's five years differential. Keep that in mind as you analyze Newcombe's comments on Sirius Satellite Radio's "Wimbledon All-Access" program after Federer had beaten Nadal for his fourth straight Wimbledon title.

"There's no question that he (Federer) should be talked about (among the all-time greats), but there is a question mark there now because he's losing six matches to two to Nadal," Newcombe said. "To be in the top three or four of all time you have to dominate completely in your era. Pete Sampras cannot go down in that category because the best he ever did at the French Open in 11 tries was one semifinal. So there's no way he can be categorized as one of the best three or four of all time.

"Yes, if you want to talk about Wimbledon, put (Sampras) in that category. Roger - if you want to talk about him on hard court, on grass - yes, you can debate that. But you can't put him up there because he has not been able to win the French Open and Nadal has not only been beating him on clay, he's beaten him and matched him on hard court. So if you're going to put Federer there, you've got to put Nadal there. But Roger Federer's career is only halfway through. He's got another four or five years. Let's see what happens by the end of his career."

Some people are convinced that Federer will win a French Open to complete the career Grand Slam and Nadal will win Wimbledon, but Newcombe is only half-sure about that.

"No, I'm not that convinced about that because Roger's maybe going to have a harder time winning the French ... Roger's got, you know, four more years right at the top and you'd have to think that maybe he'd have had enough by then. Nadal's only going to be 25 years of age by then. Nadal will be after trying to break Bjorn Borg's record of winning six French Championships. He's not going to relinquish that crown very easily. Whereas, Nadal could turn 26 years of age, Roger may be out of the game, and he could win Wimbledon."

The theory is that by the time Nadal reaches Federer's current age, Federer likely will be only a shadow of his current self. Much of Federer's greatness is built around his quickness and hand-eye coordination. He doesn't have one intimidating area of his game, such as a giant serve. And he is only a mediocre volleyer when compared to the standards of great volleyers of the past.

Applegate honored

Former Porter-Gaud star Emily Applegate, who won this year's NCAA Division III singles title while playing for Washington & Lee, was named to Virginia's all-state tennis team.

Upcoming events

$1,2000 BEACH TENNIS TOURNAMENT: Wild Dunes will hold a one-day $1,200 Beach Tennis tournament on Aug. 13. The event will be limited to 12 teams. To register, contact Chris Henderson (cwhendy@comcast.net). The deadline for entering the Aug. 11-13 Mount Pleasant Tennis Championships for adults is Saturday. The tournament, which will be held at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Center on Whipple Road, will have competition in age groups as well as ratings. Registration can be made on the internet at www.usta.com by clicking on Tennis Link, going to tournaments and using the tournament ID number (704135706).

BREAST CANCER BENEFIT TOURNAMENT: The fourth annual I'On Club Ace Breast Cancer Tournament will be held Oct. 12-15. Last year's event raised more than $30,000 for the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC. For information, contact Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org).

SUMMER CAMP TOURNAMENT: The first Charleston Summer Camp All-Star Invitational will be held on Aug. 12 at the St. Andrew's tennis complex. Tennis facilities from throughout the Charleston area can send campers to the tournament. In order to be eligible for the event, players must have participated in one or more summer camp sessions at their tennis facility. For more information, contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net).

(07/30/06)  Locals will miss hosting Sectionals

There's nothing like having the home-court advantage. But these league tennis Southern Sectional Championships are moving to Mobile, Ala., for the next two years.

After having the Southern Sectionals in Columbia and Charleston the last four years while coinciding with the arrival of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League, it's been a banner time for the upper echelon of men's tennis in Charleston. Staying at home and playing tennis by day in the Sectionals worked out amazingly well for Charleston's 5.5 and open men's teams last year.

Both went to the nationals in Las Vegas. The 5.5 men brought back the national title, the same as they had in 2003, while the open men were national runners-up. In 2004, both teams had been national semifinalists.

This time, both groups are headed back to Las Vegas for the nationals. As the home team, Chris Henderson's open men "scared off" a couple of other teams that planned to enter the Southern Sectionals. Henderson's group received a bye into the nationals.

Brian Burke's 5.5 St. Andrew's men won their berth in the nationals the hard way - on the court. But being able to play three matches in two days close to their homes was a distinct advantage for the St. Andrew's men.

Burke was able to switch his lineup around from match to match. He played eight different players. For instance, the only player who played in all three of St. Andrew's victories was Ben Shuster, a former pro at Dunes West who has moved up the coast to DeBordieu Plantation. Shuster, Mike Baker, Burke and singles player Clay Gates each took part in a pair of winning individual matches.

But even with the home-court advantage, you've got to have luck on your side. That may have been the case Friday in the midday heat at Family Circle Tennis Center when Gates dropped the first set to Charlotte's Piotr Baranowski. Gates jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the second set when his opponent started cramping up.

To make a long story short, the heat-exhausted Baranowski won one more game and then apparently decided to take his chances with a much-shorter 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Gates delivered a drop shot on the first point of the tiebreaker, and Baranowski quit. St. Andrew's won the match by 2-1.

And then for Saturday 8 a.m. match at the College of Charleston Tennis Center against Raleigh/Durham, St. Andrew's Santiago Falla arrived for the match 13 minutes late, costing Falla and Burke a two-game penalty. They lost the first set, 6-3, but won the match in a super third-set tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, a Raleigh/Durham player showed up one minute earlier than Falla and his team also took a two-game penalty. Matt Hane and Shuster won that first set 6-4 and the match in straight sets.

The CPTL has been a catalyst for much of the success of these high-level local teams. Even the Charlotte team that played in the 5.5 sectionals had four players on its roster that participate in the CPTL.

With the Southern Sectionals leaving the state after today, the next few years for these top-tier teams could change. The cost and time involved in week-long trips to Mobile could impact the number of players participating.

Peiffer, Babb unbeaten

Susie Peiffer and Cindy Babb played on women's 4.5 and senior women's 4.5 teams that posted only 2-2 records in the Southern Sectionals, but these two seniors showed everyone they faced a few tricks. Peiffer and Babb posted a 4-0 record in doubles in each competition. That's 8-0 against the best women's 4.5 players in the nine-state Southern Section.

Scarpa sparkles

Young Anderson Scarpa has had quite a summer. He is fresh from winning the State Clay Courts at the Greenville Country Club in 12-and-under after previously winning the State Hard Courts in Columbia.

Scarpa, the son of tennis court builder Skip Scarpa of Carolina Sport Surfaces, defeated fellow First Baptist Church School of Charleston seventh-grader Steven Beaver, 6-4, 6-3, in the final of the Clay Courts. Scarpa now has won three straight tournaments.

CPTL dates

The CPTL will hold its annual draft party Aug. 14 and start its season Sept. 8. The CPTL final will be held at Family Circle Tennis on Oct. 27.

(07/26/06)  Connors' coaching could rev up Roddick
Golf and bicycling weren't the only sports that gave the United States a boost in the past week. Tennis looked pretty good, too.

Maybe, it's too early to predict an American sweep at the U.S. Open, but it isn't out of the question. James Blake and Andy Roddick played a superb final in Indianapolis and Serena Williams gave the rest of the women's tour reason to take notice in Cincinnati.

While Blake continued his strong play of the last year in beating Roddick for the second straight time, Roddick's game was the eye-catcher. If anything at all had gone Roddick's way, he might have won in straight sets rather than fall in a third-set tiebreaker.

Obviously, new coach Jimmy Connors already has made an impact on Roddick's game and mental approach. The swagger that appeared to be coming back to Roddick at Wimbledon before Andy Murray's drop shots sacked the former U.S. Open champ was even more evident in Indianapolis.

If anyone can figure out how to beat Roger Federer, Connors can. Connors just couldn't handle both Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. But he didn't have Roddick's serve on his side back then. If Connors had developed even an Andre Agassi serve, Connors might have become the greatest tennis player ever to walk on this planet. He certainly had the intensity and everything else he needed.

Here's what Connors had to say about Roddick after Indianapolis: "I would like to try to give him a little bit of what made me what I was, and he is able to suck that up like a sponge. He's proven that already. It's not always in the game. It's the intangibles that could make the difference, along with a few breaks here and there."

Serena's back?

I didn't see any of Serena Williams' matches in Cincinnati, but she certainly looks trim and fit. It has to be encouraging for her to be able to dominate Anastasia Myskina in her first match back while unleashing her career fastest serve, then advance to the semifinals before losing to talented Vera Zvonareva.

Young family request

The family of hospitalized tennis player Jeff Young has requested that friends postpone visits to his room at Roper Hospital until further notice. After suffering a stroke more than two weeks ago and being transferred to the Calhoun Street hospital from West Ashley's St. Francis Hospital over the weekend, Jeff is trying to adjust to his new surroundings and physical therapy agenda.

Last Saturday's large turnout of approximately 150 people at Charleston Tennis Center to support Jeff and his family in a round-robin fund-raiser was heartwarming.

The entire Charleston tennis community is pulling for Jeff and his family.

Son Ryan Young is preparing to return to Clemson for his senior year on the Tigers' men team, while daughter Kristen is returning to Charleston to attend college after a year at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg. Toni, Jeff's wife, is a contract pro at Maybank Tennis Center.

Pine Forest wins state

Pine Forest's 14-and-under advanced team won the state championship in USTA Junior Team Tennis last weekend in Sumter. Jim Elliget's team defeated four other teams to take the title. Chandler Miler was the tournament's sportsmanship award winner.

The eight-player team earned a berth in the Southern Championships in Mobile, Ala., next month. Anyone interested in helping fund the trip can contact Elliget (830-1305).

The Mount Pleasant Crashers captured third place in the tournament.

Church league tennis

This is a really good idea. Charleston resident Vicky Nash is trying to organize a recreational church league. The goal is to have six church teams participate in a fall league.

For more information, contact Nash (572-2799 or churchttc@yahoo.com).

Beach Tennis Saturday

A Beach Tennis tournament will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Wild Dunes. For more information, contact Chris Henderson (cwhendy@comcast.net).

(07/23/06)  Playing in the midday heat is brutal
You've got to feel for the participants in the league tennis Southern Sectional Championships. Playing twice a day, and in the midday heat, is a tough test of perseverance that measures up to that of almost any sport.

Remember, these participants are adults ranging from young men and women to senior status. Yet, they go out in sometimes 100-degree court temperatures and often play for several hours, including singles, in virtually non-stop conditions.

But if you're one of the approximately 3,000 local adults who play league tennis year-around once or twice weekly - or even more often - the Southern Sectionals are where you want to be. They're your goal every year.

The 2,000 men and women who will be fighting the heat as much as their opponents in the Southern Sectionals through next Sunday usually play tennis by night and work by day. Now, tennis is their day job.

Battles with Ross

Tennis in the midday of summer is brutal. When then future NFL head coach Bobby Ross was at The Citadel in the 1970s, Bobby and I would play a singles match once or twice a week at noon throughout the summer leading up to fall football drills. My high school football days at Bamberg High School under then future University of South Carolina assistant coach Dick Weldon, were tame compared to those confrontations with Ross on the hard courts at The Citadel.

The competition and heat were so brutal that many times Bobby would throw his racket over the fence. Bobby would cool down a bit as he walked around the complex to retrieve his racket.

But we were playing for fun. We could quit anytime we wanted. Of course, Bobby Ross would never quit. He was as tough a competitor as anyone I've ever seen. His Virginia Military Institute training still comes through loud and clear as he coaches at Army.

These participants in the Southern Sectionals literally can't quit. They've worked all year to get here.

As badly as they may want to walk off the court and leave the heat behind, they realize that the fate of their teams may rest on their sweat-drenched shoulders.

As tough as football

Just ask veteran St. John's High School football coach Larry Sechrist about the endurance test called tennis. Sechrist has been a tough and demanding football coach for more than 30 years. He also plays a serious game of tennis in the spring 4.0 senior league. He's been playing tennis about 20 years.

"A singles match at noon is just as tough as a football player being out there . . . it's very grueling," Sechrist said Friday. "It's just in football, there's the heavy equipment and everyone is not in condition at the start of fall drills, and the overweight kids have more of a problem."

But competitive tennis is like war in the heat.

"They're all good and competitive at this level (the Southerns)," Sechrist said. "You let your competitiveness block out the heat and when it's over you've got to worry about cramping up.

"I remember one match I played at Snee Farm where the other guy had to go to the hospital and get IV after the match. You've got to worry about heat exhaustion and you need to drink plenty of fluids."

Sechrist would love to be competing in the Sectionals, loading up on a half gallon of ice water and bringing home an armful of wet T-shirts and soggy shoes each night. But his Maybank Tennis Center team didn't qualify. Only the top 201 teams in their respective levels in the Southern's nine states are still playing.

(07/19/06)  Local community pulling for Young
League tennis' Southern Sectional Championships will flood Charleston with more than 2,000 tennis players the next two weeks. Sadly, Jeff Young won't be one of them.

Jeff is the captain of the state championship 4.0 men's team from Maybank Tennis Center where his wife, Toni, is the pro. Their son, Ryan, is a star player for the Clemson tennis team.

A gentle giant of a man, Jeff has spent the last 10 days at West Ashley's St. Francis Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was still in intensive care Tuesday, but Toni said visitors are allowed.

Jeff's 7.0 mixed doubles team from Maybank had completed its season and qualified for the local playoffs, while an 8.0 mixed doubles team he played on already had qualified for the state tournament. The 7.0 season had been more special than usual for Jeff in that he had played doubles with his daughter, Kristen.

Saturday fundraiser

A doubles round-robin will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Charleston Tennis Center to benefit Jeff and Toni Young. The entry deadline is Friday at 6 p.m.

City pros Fredrik Andersson and Jonathan Barth will run the round-robin, matching partners. All level players can participate. A sign-up sheet is available at Charleston Tennis Center, which is located in West Ashley at 19 Farmfield Ave. Registration also can be made by email: fredrikandersson@comcast.net.

The entry fee ($20) is payable through a check made out to Toni Young. Anyone unable to participate in the event, but would like to contribute can do so by dropping off a check payable to Toni Young at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) or Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814), or by mailing the check to: Charleston Tennis Center, 19 Farmfield Ave., Charleston, S.C. 29407.

Headed for nationals

Chris Henderson's local open men's team is headed for league tennis' national championships again after teams from North Carolina and Georgia backed out of competing in the Southern Sectionals. Henderson's outfit won last year's sectionals, then finished as national runners-up.

The current team is even stronger than a year ago and should challenge for a national championship this fall in Las Vegas, especially now with the addition of a top singles player, former Clemson star John Boetsch who helped a local 5.5 team win a national title last fall. Will Bull, Ben Cook, Carlos Lozano, Charley Rasheed, Toby Simpson and Erick Martinez are all back with the open team.

Beach tennis event

A beach tennis tournament will be held at Wild Dunes on July 29 at 2 p.m. Play will be limited to 16 teams. For information, contact Chris Henderson (cwhendy@comcast.net).

Henderson, a co-founder of the Charleston Pro Tennis League, and College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell won last year's Beach Tennis national championships in New York and will return Labor Day weekend to defend their title.

Palmetto Tennis League

Registration for the weekend social Palmetto Tennis League will begin Monday. The season will start on the weekend of Sept. 9-10. Additional registration information is available at the league Web site: www.palmettotennisleague.com

Mount Pleasant event

The entry deadline for the Aug. 11-13 Mount Pleasant Tennis Championship for adults is Aug. 5. The tournament will have rated divisions as well as age groups. Registration is available online at USTA.com under TennisLink, using the tournament identification number (704135706).

Junior teams in state

An advanced 14 team from Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club and the intermediate 14 Mount Pleasant Crashers will partipate in the state Junior Team championships this weekend in Sumter. Jim Elliget coaches the Pine Forest team, while Heidi Schless and Patti Lancaster direct the Mount Pleasant team.

Both teams qualified for state play by winning locally. The Sumter winners will advance to the sectional championships in Atlanta next month.

(07/16/06)  On-court coaching overdue
Hooray for the WTA Tour - on-court coaching is coming.

The project may be just in test mode and will be conducted only at the Rogers Cup and Pilot Pen events in August, but it's still a major breakthrough for tennis. Now, if the experiment can work its way down to the junior ranks.

College tennis already allows on-court coaching. So do pro team events such as Davis Cup.

So, why not everywhere, like virtually every other sport does? John McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and Roger Federer make a big deal out of Rafael Nadal looking at his coach, uncle Toni Nadal, so often. Or even Maria Sharapova focusing on her dad during matches draws attention from the TV analysts. Come on, do these players have 'super' vision where they can look into someone's eyes at a distance and figure out what the coach is thinking?

In my days as a junior tennis dad, I wish my daughters could have read my mind. Better yet, I wish tennis had allowed me to coach them during matches. But tournament officials would virtually toss a red flag at you if your eyes even met with the player's.

In most cases, my talks would have been only to encourage them and reinforce their thinking and confidence, or to get them to focus better, much like when a catcher or manager in baseball goes to the mound to talk to the pitcher. Although when a player is rattled such as Svetlana Kuznetsova was against Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open final, a coach might actually be able to work wonders.

As Clemson coach Chuck Kriese said earlier this week, tennis is the hardest game in the world. Most juniors have a hard enough time just trying to keep up with the score and calling lines correctly, let alone concentrate on strategy.

Coaching themselves

Certainly, players such as Henin-Hardenne and Martina Hingis, and even Nadal, might not benefit that much from conferring with their coaches during a match. They all seem to already be coaching themselves, and are able to adjust their games according to the situation.

But what about players such as Elena Dementieva? You remember, she's the Russian with the serving problem as well as an inability to usually think clearly in pressure situations. The list of players who could benefit from on-court coaching is long. The players at the top might not benefit from on-court coaching as much as lesser players, because most of the top players already appear to be a step ahead of the others.

This theory, of course, is the opposite of the one that some of the lower-ranked players might benefit less because they might be unable to afford a coach.

I also like the fact that during a bathroom break or medical timeout, the coach of the opposing player only will be allowed to enter the court. This might help reduce the obvious abuse in these areas, since players might be reluctant to take breaks as often knowing that their opponent might benefit from an extended conference with her coach.

The only part I don't like about the WTA Tour's experiment is that during televised matches the on-court coaching timeouts will be filmed and made available to viewers on a tape-delayed basis. That's going a little too far, and infringing on the rights of the players and the coaches.

I'm sure a top coach who is able to pinpoint small weaknesses or strengths in an opponent wouldn't want the whole world to know that little secret. The coach might help the player in the current match, but give away secrets that might be costly in the future.

The Serena question

The Tier III $175,000 Western & Southern Financial Group tournament that starts Monday in Cincinnati normally would raise little interest on the WTA Tour. The event is different this time. Serena Williams is making her return to the WTA Tour.

Hopefully, Serena will be ready to play mentally and physically. But as much as Serena isn't the same player she was in her dominant days, women's tennis has changed.

Other players, maybe as many as 25, now know they can defeat Serena as well as her older sister Venus. The intimidation factor that played such a huge role in Serena's rise to tennis dominance has vanished.

I participated in a lengthy tele conference with Serena Thursday, asking several questions pertaining to her conditioning and workouts in preparation for her return to the tour, but Serena provided only limited new information in those areas. The tennis world will have to wait and see.

Applegate makes SI

Charleston's Emily Applegate is featured in the Faces in the Crowd section of the current isssue of Sports Illustrated. The former Porter-Gaud star won this year's NCAA Division III women's singles title while playing for Washington & Lee.

(07/12/06)  Everyone benefits from playing tennis with a friend

Do you want to become a good tennis player and have fun playing the game for a lifetime?

Look at Bob and Mike Bryan. Doesn't it appear that the twins are having the time of their lives as the world's best doubles team?

Or, at a much younger level, check out the accomplishments of little Austin Heinz of Daniel Island. He's won two straight Southern Closed and two consecutive Belton boys' 10 doubles titles, along with a ton of other smaller events. And he's having a ball.
Yet, many juniors, as well as top-level pros just don't seem to care about playing doubles. It started a couple decades or so ago at about the same time American players began turning pro right out of the junior ranks. Stan Smith and John McEnroe had been world's No. 1 players in singles, maybe partly because their doubles skills were at the top of the game. Both were college superstars, too.

The Bryans are among a limited number of top players since McEnroe to have played college tennis. Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick all won Grand Slam tournaments in singles, and all of them skipped college and avoid doubles whenever possible.

The doubles impact

"In developing the game, doubles can really help in serving and volleying and finishing out points," said Kiawah Island tennis director and former ATP Tour player Roy Barth on Tuesday. "Doubles are really good for your game."

Another example is Martina Navratilova. Even baseliner deluxe Chris Evert won a Wimbledon doubles title. And what about Martina Hingis' silk hands in doubles that carry over to singles.

Doubles should be promoted, rather than demoted as the current ATP Tour appears to be making every effort to do. It's as enjoyable to watch the Bryans play doubles as it is to see two top players compete in a singles match.

"I think the ATP Tour did the wrong thing when they de-emphasized doubles," said veteran Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese on Tuesday at Maybank Tennis Center. "I think the promoters have it all wrong. Tournaments promote players rather than the sport.

"The top players don't play doubles. Players are putting all of their eggs into one basket."

If all areas of the country understood doubles the way local tennis fans do, the men's and women's tours wouldn't dare try to reduce the importance of doubles. "The top players save themselves for singles," pointed out Barth, the U.S. Davis Cup committee chairman. "(Rod) Laver . . . (Roy) Emerson used to play singles and doubles. All of those guys played singles and doubles."

USTA reversal

The USTA, after many years of trying to de-emphasize doubles, is making an effort to right itself.

"The USTA has made it a major goal to turn doubles around," Barth said.

One of the problems for junior tournaments is many clubs don't have enough time or courts to provide both full feed-in singles consolation draws and doubles.

Of course, feed-in consolations are a vital part of growing the game, but no more important than doubles. There has to be room for both.

"We're teaching a lot of people to play tennis, but we are grooming very few tennis players," Kriese said.

The emergence of bigger racket heads in the 1980s started the change in tennis, where players no long needed to learn the art of the game, but instead could blast their opponents off the court with the new technology.

"The initial commitment has to be made by the players. They've got to fall in love with tennis. And that gets back to the art of the game. The art is why you play the game. The competition part alone will not fly," Kriese said.

"We've polluted the game. The ball striking has overcome the movement (of participants). It's easier to hit the ball now, but just as hard as ever to play the game. This game is still the hardest game in the world."

(07/10/06)  Pressure too much for Nadal

Rafael Nadal is human. He buckled Sunday under the pressure of facing Roger Federer on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

It might not appear that Nadal yielded to pressure. But he did.

Other than the first set when Nadal never got untracked, the final 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 score indicates that Nadal played a great match. And he did. To takeFederer to a fourth set, and to come within an eyelash of winning two of those sets, was more than was expected of the 20-year-old by most experts.

The fact he was playing Federer at Wimbledon made the difference this time. Perhaps Nadal bought into the hype that Federer was invincible on the famed Centre Court.

Even as Nadal moved convincingly through the draw, with only one real scare, there was the sense that he couldn't test the greatFederer on his favorite surface. Then came that dreadful first set. Nadal must have been wondering to himself if he truly belonged.

Federer played somewhat defensively in the first set, reversing the usual trend against Nadal by chasing down virtually everything. Nadal responded by going for too much. The strategy not only frustrated Nadal, it gave Federer an early lead and set the stage forcrucial situations in the second set.

The extra shot

Just when Nadal righted himself in the second set and it became apparent that he might actually own Federer, even on grass, the wheels came off Nadal - if for only a few combined seconds.

But the results of those few seconds probably were caused by Federer's earlier ability to make Nadal hit the extra shot. Federer obviously got into Nadal's head.

Usually, it's Nadal's ability to chase down balls and make his opponent hit the extra shot that eventually has an impact on the opponent in future points. But this time Federer often made Nadal hit another shot by running far to his forehand for returns.

That determination by Federer may have played into Nadal's head in those crucial seconds, tempting Nadal to gamble a few times too many. The opposite of this scenario had played such a major role in their previous matches when Federer often gambled in the face of what looked like Nadal's invincibility in long rallies.

Reversed roles

The best examples of the reversed roles came in the second set when Nadal was in position to make Federer have doubts about winning this Wimbledon. The first one came when Nadal served for the second set. A hold there might have permanently etched Nadal on Federer's mind.

The entire face of men's tennis might have changed. Federer might have become the chaser rather than the chased. But the real chase is now on. These two men appear to be virtually equal, even though nearly five years and six Grand Slam titles separate them.

The two second-set situations ultimately made this one a great deal easier for Federer than it might have been. On two straight points with Nadal serving to even the match, Federer dumped short returns near the sideline on Nadal's forehand side. Against anyone else, the left-hander probably would have jumped all over both balls. But the presence of Federer across the net obviously altered his thinking.

Nadal got up to both balls quickly, but netted a forehand on the first one and went for too much cross court on the second and missed. After a rare double fault to give Federer two break points, Nadal sailed a forehand long to even the second set.

Then after getting a mini service break to take a lead in the tiebreaker, Nadal uncharacteristically again made two straight unforced forehand errors.

The damage was done. With a two-set lead, Federer was too great a player to allow anyone to steal Centre Court, even a player with the amazing ability of Raphael Nadal.

(07/09/06)  Serve and volley's triumphant return

A key to beating almost anyone is keeping the ball deep, even more so against Justine Henin-Hardenne. Rarely does the little Belgian allow an opponent to overpower her and put her on the defensive.

But the serve-and-volley is back at Wimbledon, Amelie Mauresmo-style. In Saturday's women's final, she played perhaps the most dominant serve-and-volley game seen on grass since the singles heyday of Martina Navratilova.

Mauresmo didn't buckle after dropping the first set to Henin-Hardenne's aggressive play on short balls. Mauresmo found her serve out wide and down the middle, ending the second set with an ace and delivering a pair of aces while holding service to close out the three-set match. Such pinpont serving with power made Mauresmo's textbook volleys even more effective.

The French woman became less tentative on her ground strokes by taking some of the arch out of her top-spin forehands. She also started ripping her picture-perfect, one-handed backhand more often instead of slicing it. The strategy and big serve kept Henin-Hardenne pinned to the baseline the last two sets, rendering Henin-Hardenne's attacking strokes far less accurate.

There was no quitting this time as Henin-Hardenne had in the Australian Open final. She stayed the course, allowing Mauresmo to look like the best and most complete player in women's tennis.

More to lose
Don't believe it. Roger Federer may say he's happy his opponent in today's men's final is Rafael Nadal. But those are only words.

What else can he say? Sure, Federer would love to beat Nadal on grass and prove that he might be the better player on one of the three surfaces of the Grand Slams.

But the risks are high for Federer. A Federer victory would prove very little. A year from now, Nadal's serve and play on grass likely will be even more improved. And he'll still be just 21.

What if Federer loses? The best player ever debate suddenly will become history. Nadal will quickly become recognized as tennis' greatest current player, a master of every surface.

The match should be close and highly competitive. One thing that could prevent it from being tight until the end might be if Federer becomes too aggressive and tries to go for too much.

There's one thing about Nadal that most great or would-be great players don't allow for ? room for error. Most of his winners and offensive strikes land no closer than six inches to a foot from the sidelines and baseline. Federer aims for the lines. Against most players he can afford that gamble, but not against Nadal when he has to hit the lines while on the run.

Good of the game
Someone must be smiling on tennis. Rafael Nadal's appearance in the Wimbledon final is for the good of the game.

Win or lose today, Nadal has offered proof that it is much, much too early to call Roger Federer tennis' greatest player ever. If Nadal can go this far on such a foreign surface and after just leaving his teenage years, maybe what Federer has done isn't unique.

If Federer beats Nadal today, that would be a great achievement. But give Nadal a few more years, then take another look at his record in Grand Slam tournaments. Nadal is nearly five years younger than Federer, but already has two Grand Slam titles. Federer didn't become Switzerland's No. 1 player until 2001 when he made his first two Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Kriese at Maybank
Veteran Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese will hold a camp for ages 8-18 at James Island's Maybank Tennis Center from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. For information, contact the center (406-8814) or pro Toni Young (343-8393).

(07/07/06)  Baghdatis intriguing addition to top tier of men's game
One obstacle remains in the path of another Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown: Marcos Baghdatis.

The fun-loving 21-year-old from Cyprus has the potential to make it a party for three at the top of the men's game. He actually could win this Wimbledon.

Baghdatis is instant offense. But his biggest challenge might be today's semifinal against Nadal, who usually turns opponents' best shots into his own points. He has done nothing in this Wimbledon - including his straight-set march past Jarko Nieminen on Thursday - to make you think he can't go all the way on grass.

Jonas Bjorkman is only a caution light for Federer in his road to the final. Federer has resurfaced what looked like a bumpy road into his own thoroughfare.

As a result, Federer hasn't been tested. He had lots of help from Richard Gasquet, Tim Henman and Mario Ancic. All three played somewhat lifeless tennis, especially Henman. Amazingly, Henman and Ancic both tried to beat Federer from the baseline and didn't take advantage of their solid net games.

But Baghdatis has plenty of life ... and game. If he proves unready to join the party at the top right now, he likely will impact Federer's and Nadal's future Grand Slam tournament hopes.

Mauresmo's time?

Like her or not, Amelie Mauresmo is some kind of tennis player. She has it all, and quite possibly has the most natural net game in this year's Wimbledon. That's including the men.

Mauresmo's only weakness is her mental approach to the game. If Mauresmo can avoid the kind of mental lapse she experienced Thursday against Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin-Hardenne may be in trouble in Saturday's women's final. Mauresmo may not need Henin-Hardenne to retire this time, as she did in the Australian Open final.

Other than her meltdown late in the second set against Sharapova, Mauresmo may have played one of the best matches of her life in the semifinals. She looked like women's tennis' most complete player.

While Henin-Hardenne ranks down the most-talented list, no one in tennis fights better.

If only Kim Clijsters had an ounce of Henin-Hardenne's tenacity. It's really a shame that Clijsters is thinking about retiring already, without having come close to her true potential, except in last year's U.S. Open.

Once she's out of the game and older, Clijsters likely will look back on her missed opportunity with regret. Hers is not a mental problem like Mauresmo's, just a lack of passion for a game that has been so good to her.

Clijsters was brilliant at times in her straight-set loss to Henin-Hardenne on Thursday. But just as quickly, she would switch off any tenacity she had. Of course, just going through the motions won't work against a player as determined as Henin-Hardenne.
Even in defeat and her lack of respect for the game and her opponent with her loud screams during play, you have to like Sharapova's passion and unrelenting style of play. Without that determination, the tall Russian likely would fade from the elite of women's tennis.

(07/06/06)  Teen to attend tennis camp in Calif.

It's Gabriel Middlebrook's turn to take a tennis trip. The School of the Arts freshman has been awarded an all-expense-paid trip to San Diego to attend a U.S. Tennis Association/National Junior Tennis League camp July 18-23. Gabriel's twin sister, Chelsea Middlebrook, attended last year's U.S. Open representing the

USTA'S Southern Section in the Arthur Ashe Essay Contest.

Gabriel is looking forward to his first tennis trip as one of 30 youths from all over the country who will participate in the camp. The juniors will be housed at San Diego State University. He is especially looking forward to visiting the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

He will be representing Charleston's Courting Kids inner-city program.

Courting Kids Coordinator Delores Jackson nominated Gabriel and other local juniors for the camp.

"I sent in info about the schools they attend, their attitudes about tennis, their goals and extracurricular activities," Jackson said.

"Gabriel is the first one to win a trip to California since Vernita (Ackerman) several years ago. We've had someone to go to the camps every year recently, but it's been to Orlando, Fla., since Vernita."

Brian Ackerman received an all-expense-paid trip to Orlando last year for a camp, while Marcus Mitchell went there in 2004.

(07/05/06)  U.S. men haven't lost their touch?
Don't be sad. American men's tennis isn't going away.

Five days ago, I felt better about the American men than I have in the last two years. Sure, Andre Agassi is leaving and Andy Roddick has had a dreadful last four Grand Slam tournaments. But watch out U.S. Open. I seriously believe the United States has at least three players, and possibly even five, capable of winning in New York. And they're all relatively young, other than Agassi.

Even though Roddick didn't draw many positive reviews from this Wimbledon, his fans have renewed hope. Andy may have his swagger back.

James Blake, of course, is a different story, with his mental meltdown in the last two sets against Max Mirnyi. But just consider how far Blake has come in the last two years. From near finality of his tennis career to near greatness. And he can still get there. Overcoming obstacles is nothing new to Blake.

Mardy Fish was playing perhaps his best tennis before being hit by a virus at Wimbledon. Robby Ginepri didn't make much of a scene at Wimbledon. He appeared to just want to get back across the Atlantic to the more friendly U.S. Open Series where he sparkled last summer. Keep an eye on this guy the next two months.

Roddick, Blake, Fish and Ginepri. They're still the hope of American tennis for the rest of this decade. Roddick and Ginepri are only 23 years old. Fish is 24 and Blake is 26. Don't count any of them out for a few more years.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal only look like they hold the Grand Slam tournament patent. It was only a few years ago that the Williams sisters appeared to own women's tennis.

The headlines of recent months have been mostly European flavored, but the long, hot U.S. summer may have its own impact on the men's game. And who says American men have lost their touch? Mike and Bob Bryan are only one win away from their seventh straight Grand Slam tournament doubles final.

Besides, tennis' popularity and league participation have never been higher in Charleston and most other areas.

A Georgia surprise?

Right now, there doesn't appear to be much hope on the women's side, unless Venus and Serena Williams right themselves. But that could change, too. Young Anna Tatishvili's father wants his entire family to become American citizens.

If you remember, Tatishvili was a wild-card entry in this year's Family Circle Cup. She won only one round, but the 16-year-old from Georgia of the former Soviet Union is quite a player. She's already almost American, having spent the last four years at Chris Evert's Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.

Unpredictable tennis
There must be something contagious going around at Wimbledon. The Fourth of July wasn't a pretty day for at least half of the last eight women playing. Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Severine Bremond and Na Li all got themselves in position to either win or force another set, but all four appeared to come completely unglued. Their tennis was uncommonly ugly most of the day.

That leaves Amelie Mauresmo going against Maria Sharapova in one semifinal that likely will be decided by who can keep the ball on the court when the pressure comes. It's almost anyone's guess. In the other semifinal, if Kim Clijsters can keep her mind on the match and pin Justine Henin-Hardenne to the baseline, she should be in great shape. Henin-Hardenne makes her living on the short ball.

As for the men, Marcos Baghdatis is the sleeper. He has the game, but not the discipline. You never know which Baghdatis will show up today against Lleyton Hewitt.

No matter, Nadal will be tough to beat in the bottom half of the draw. And if Federer can handle Mario Ancic's serves and solid net game, Federer should be in another Wimbledon final.

A social league
The Palmetto Tennis League is trying to make a comeback this summer after about 250 local league players participated in the alternative social weekend league last summer. The men will play at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and the women at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Registration will begin July 24 for beginner through advanced levels.

"It is a competitive league while our main emphasis is to bring tennis players together to practice their games and socialize," said Charleston Southern coach Mike Baker, one of the Palmetto League's organizers.

For registration information, visit the league's Web site, www.palmettotennisleague.com.

(07/02/06)  Nadal looks like the man to beat
There's no real reason to think that Rafael Nadal can't win Wimbledon this year. And for certain in future years.

So what if Roger Federer has looked unbeatable since losing to Nadal in Paris?

Nadal is simply getting better on grass every match. He is looking more and more like the Bjorn Borg of the 41-match Wimbledon winning streak.

The best thing that has happened to Nadal since winning his second straight French Open might have been losing the first two sets to big-serving Robert Kendrick in Wimbledon's second round. That gave Nadal the opportunity to work on his grass-court game under pressure for an extra couple of hours.

The extra match time showed up in his straight-set blitzing of Andre Agassi in Saturday's third round. All Nadal has to do now to reach the final is win three more matches. He looks like a clear favorite to do that, with Andy Roddick's serve out of the way, although I really like young Andy Murray.

If Nadal happens to hook up with Federer in the final, my bet would be on the left-handed Spaniard extending his mastery over a player who may not even be the "greatest player" of his own era.

Nadal has picked up the pace big time on grass. His serve has become a legitimate weapon, maybe the equal of Federer's or even better, considering Nadal's ability to slice it out wide to Federer's backhand on the crucial ad side. Nadal's low, sharply angled backhand cross-court is a grass-court gem.

And to think that just a few weeks ago, the TV analysts expressed doubt that Nadal could make a successful transition to grass.

You can't knock Agassi. He played brilliantly in his last match at the All-England Club. In fact, he probably played better this time than he did 14 years ago when he defeated Goran Ivanisevic for his only Wimbledon title.

If Agassi had developed his current serve a decade earlier, he might have had the record number of Grand Slam titles instead of Pete Sampras.

The real Hingis?

I wasn't a big Martina Hingis fan in her early years. But the Swiss Miss grew on me. Once Steffi Graf retired, I moved into the Hingis corner.

I'm still a Hingis fan, because of the way she plays and her tennis smarts. I thought she had the game to win the French Open. I also thought she could win Wimbledon.

I still believe Hingis has the game to win both the French and Wimbledon. But this goes much deeper than her game, and possibly the reason Hingis gave up on tennis at such a young age three years ago. Hingis wasn't and isn't as tough mentally or physically as you might think.

She started showing her conditioning liability in the French Open, then had a mental meltdown at Wimbledon in the third set of her loss to Ai Sugiyami. In Sugiyami, Hingis met a player of similar size and style but more determined and tougher physically.

Hingis has the ability to challenge for the top spot in women's tennis. But she quit the game the first time because of the big hitters and a few injuries. It's in her hands again. The big hitters weren't the problem then or now. It's a question of whether Hingis is tough enough this time and willing to pay the price to become the best in the women's game.

With Hingis and Venus Williams both experiencing mental collapses, the draw is wide open, especially the top half for Russians Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova and ElenaDementieva. Top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo is in that half also, but Venus' loss left Myskina with a good shot at Mauresmo. I like the way Myskina is playing. I wouldn't be surprised to see her in next Saturday morning's final against Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin-Hardenne.

(06/30/06)  Locals will miss hosting Sectionals
There's nothing like having the home-court advantage. But these league tennis Southern Sectional Championships are moving to Mobile, Ala., for the next two years.

After having the Southern Sectionals in Columbia and Charleston the last four years while coinciding with the arrival of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League, it's been a banner time for the upper echelon of men's tennis in Charleston. Staying at home and playing tennis by day in the Sectionals worked out amazingly well for Charleston's 5.5 and open men's teams last year.

Both went to the nationals in Las Vegas. The 5.5 men brought back the national title, the same as they had in 2003, while the open men were national runners-up. In 2004, both teams had been national semifinalists.

This time, both groups are headed back to Las Vegas for the nationals. As the home team, Chris Henderson's open men "scared off" a couple of other teams that planned to enter the Southern Sectionals. Henderson's group received a bye into the nationals.

Brian Burke's 5.5 St. Andrew's men won their berth in the nationals the hard way - on the court. But being able to play three matches in two days close to their homes was a distinct advantage for the St. Andrew's men.

Burke was able to switch his lineup around from match to match. He played eight different players. For instance, the only player who played in all three of St. Andrew's victories was Ben Shuster, a former pro at Dunes West who has moved up the coast to DeBordieu Plantation. Shuster, Mike Baker, Burke and singles player Clay Gates each took part in a pair of winning individual matches.

But even with the home-court advantage, you've got to have luck on your side. That may have been the case Friday in the midday heat at Family Circle Tennis Center when Gates dropped the first set to Charlotte's Piotr Baranowski. Gates jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the second set when his opponent started cramping up.

To make a long story short, the heat-exhausted Baranowski won one more game and then apparently decided to take his chances with a much-shorter 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Gates delivered a drop shot on the first point of the tiebreaker, and Baranowski quit. St. Andrew's won the match by 2-1.

And then for Saturday 8 a.m. match at the College of Charleston Tennis Center against Raleigh/Durham, St. Andrew's Santiago Falla arrived for the match 13 minutes late, costing Falla and Burke a two-game penalty. They lost the first set, 6-3, but won the match in a super third-set tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, a Raleigh/Durham player showed up one minute earlier than Falla and his team also took a two-game penalty. Matt Hane and Shuster won that first set 6-4 and the match in straight sets.

The CPTL has been a catalyst for much of the success of these high-level local teams. Even the Charlotte team that played in the 5.5 sectionals had four players on its roster that participate in the CPTL.

With the Southern Sectionals leaving the state after today, the next few years for these top-tier teams could change. The cost and time involved in week-long trips to Mobile could impact the number of players participating.

Peiffer, Babb unbeaten

Susie Peiffer and Cindy Babb played on women's 4.5 and senior women's 4.5 teams that posted only 2-2 records in the Southern Sectionals, but these two seniors showed everyone they faced a few tricks. Peiffer and Babb posted a 4-0 record in doubles in each competition. That's 8-0 against the best women's 4.5 players in the nine-state Southern Section.

Scarpa sparkles

Young Anderson Scarpa has had quite a summer. He is fresh from winning the State Clay Courts at the Greenville Country Club in 12-and-under after previously winning the State Hard Courts in Columbia.

Scarpa, the son of tennis court builder Skip Scarpa of Carolina Sport Surfaces, defeated fellow First Baptist Church School of Charleston seventh-grader Steven Beaver, 6-4, 6-3, in the final of the Clay Courts. Scarpa now has won three straight tournaments.

CPTL dates

The CPTL will hold its annual draft party Aug. 14 and start its season Sept. 8. The CPTL final will be held at Family Circle Tennis on Oct. 27.

(06/28/06)  Federer in form again on grass
Roger Federer certainly looks capable of winning a fourth straight Wimbledon title. In fact, I don't know if I've ever seen him sharper than he was in his first-round domination of Richard Gasquet. But even if Federer wins this Wimbledon, it won't greatly influence my thinking of whether he is the greatest player ever. That decision, at best, is several years away.

Calling great players from different eras better than another is like saying just because James Blake seems to own Rafael Nadal, Federer should also. Such comparisons are virtually impossible. Too many intangibles are involved. Hopefully, the TV analysts will back off from calling Federer the greatest ever. Even John McEnroe and Brad Gilbert aren't smart enough to know that. Besides, they were young when Rod Laver was in his prime.

Tim Henman's only shot at beating Federer in the second round probably is by picking and choosing his times to charge the net. I don't think Henman can defeat Federer from the baseline. He's no Nadal. I've always liked Henman because of his great skills at the net, but that hasn't helped him win Wimbledon. Although his game maybe has been a little too predictable, he still has an excellent serve with great placement, bolstered by one of the best volleys in tennis.

A Henman using unpredictable strategy could cause problems for Federer by attacking Federer's backhand, similarly to David Nalbandian's first-set romp over Federer at the French Open and Nadal's last three sets in the French title match. Henman needs to serve well deep into Federer's backhand and be selective on his approaches to the net. If Henman can establish a net presence, he won't go away easily.

But my favorite to possibly derail Federer before the final is Mario Ancic in the quarterfinals. He not only has the big serve necessary to dominate on grass, but the net game to go with it.

Collins Park's new look

Hats off to North Charleston's Collins Park. This public facility has taken the lead locally in using the U.S. Open's new blue color scheme. Skip Scarpa's Carolina Sports Surfaces just completed the resurfacing project at the Dorchester Road complex that included matching the U.S. Open's colors. According to former Post and Courier staffer Bob Lang, the new colors are a big help in making line calls. "I have to say that the courts arguably are the best in the Charleston area," Lang reported after playing there last weekend. "My can of new balls looked barely used after a hard set. No more skidding balls. In fact, the balls sit up so nicely that the speed is closer to clay than a fast hard court."

The renovation came with new landscaping as well as adjusting the lighting system and replacing some bulbs. Collins Park is one of the area's most active facilities. Mark Manuel serves as the pro.

Coming up

ADULT DOUBLES TOURNAMENT: Collins Park will hold an adult doubles tournament July 7-10, using NTRP ratings. The entry deadline is July 5 at 5 p.m. Contact Manuel (437-0324 or golfacemgm@aol.com) for more information.

KRIESE AT MAYBANK: Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese, who is conducting a tennis camp at Charleston Southern this week, will return to the area again for a July 10-14 junior camp at Maybank Tennis Center on James Island. The camp will be from 9 a.m.-noon for ages 8-18. Kriese will conduct the camp along with Maybank pro Toni Young, whose son Ryan Young is one of the stars of Kriese's Clemson team. For more information, contact Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814) or Young (343-8393).

MAYBANK ADULT CAMP: Toni Young is holding an adult camp at Maybank tonight through Friday, as well as Aug. 16-18. The camp runs 6:30-8:30 p.m.

(06/25/06)  Tennis brings big bucks to the Charleston area
League tennis is big business in the Charleston area.

Just how big? About $8.52 million for starters.

That's the estimated total economic impact locally in 2005 for only six state and Southern Sectional USTA league tennis tournaments, and one junior event. All of these events went virtually unnoticed, except in the tennis community itself ... and for local businesses such as hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

This figure doesn't include the biggest event held annually in the area, the internationally acclaimed Family Circle Cup pro tournament that alone generates an economic impact of more than $25 million annually. Also not included are events such as an occasional Davis Cup or an Andy Roddick exhibition, the Southern Conference tennis tournament, the huge Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts, the Southern Closed age-group tournament usually held each fall at Kiawah Island, the Seabrook Island Senior Clay Courts or other prominent junior events.

Overall, tennis events pack a huge wallop economically, from the red-hot East Cooper area and Daniel Island to West Ashley, and Seabrook and Kiawah Islands. "It's just that everyone wants to come to Charleston, and this (the economic impact) is such a great bonus to the whole community," said Peggy Bohne, tennis manager for the City of Charleston.

This $8.52M economic impact model, which was released last week by Charleston Metro Sports Council executive director Kathleen Cartland, includes five weekends of league tennis state tournaments, the two-weekend Southern Sectional Championships and the Junior Family Circle Cup. Three of these seven events - the junior tournament, the Southerns and the state Combo League championships - were headquartered at the six-year-old Family Circle Tennis Center.

"Charleston has always been a vacation destination, and I believe it is becoming a stand-alone tennis destination now," said Rob Eppelsheimer, the director of Family Circle Tennis Center.

"I think they are coming just for tennis now. This is very impressive. It shows the momentum tennis is taking."

The seven events accounted for an estimated 12,000 room nights and 28,400 total visitor days, of which Eppelsheimer said, "We did 5,000 room nights last year for the (Southern) Sectionals." The Southern Sectionals, which had a record 2,038 participants in 2005, will return to the area July 22-30 for the last of a two-year engagement before moving to Mobile, Ala., the next two years.

"The Southerns have been in South Carolina for four years (Columbia held the sectionals in 2003-04)," Eppelsheimer said. "The chances of having it here again weren't good. That's a tournament they like to move around (over the nine-state Southern Section).

"We're interested in state, other sectional and national tournaments, but it would have to be a concerted effort among the tennis facilities in the area. One facility cannot stand alone and do it the way it needs to be done."

The Southern Section also holds Combo League and mixed doubles championships, and Eppelsheimer is especially interested in the Combo event. "Our Combo state tournament has 1,500 to 1,600 participants. The Combo League has been growing by leaps and bounds. The Combo sectionals is something we might like to hold in the future," he said.

"We are going to try and keep the state Combo tournament in Charleston as long as possible. We like having that tournament."

The Family Circle complex will serve as the host for the third straight state Combo tournament Oct. 27-31, the same weekend again as the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League finals at the Daniel Island complex.

"We've actually been receiving a lot of phone calls about tournaments that want to come to the area," said Eppelsheimer.

Charleston Tennis Center served as headquarters for the state mixed doubles and one league tennis state adult event in 2005, while Seabrook Island was the host for a state Super Seniors and Snee Farm was headquarters for state 3.0/3.5 league play. The state mixed doubles event is scheduled to return to Charleston in September. Plus, a college club state tournament may be held here this fall.

"This doesn't just benefit tennis fans," insisted Bohne. "The whole community benefits. If we're able to do it for the community, then I think it's our job."

Of course, league play is the very heart and soul of tennis in Charleston. Approximately 3,100 adults participate in the USTA-affiliated Lowcountry Tennis Association, according to LCTA vice president Ken Edwards. Most of their activity is at night as courts all over the area flourish with activity through the middle of the week. Another 700 women participate in the independent day-league Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association.

A complex can't have too many courts for league tennis. If it does, it will only be in the short term until more league teams are formed.

While courts are springing up left and right in Mount Pleasant, the Mount Pleasant Tennis Center at Whipple Road is planning to add four clay courts to its hard-court complex just because of the demand of league tennis.

(06/22/06)  League tennis booms on Whipple Road
Mount Pleasant tennis facilities are blooming year-round. But perhaps none are more active than the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department Tennis Center on Whipple Road.

Tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar directs activities from beginner junior clinics and camps to the facility's bustling league tennis programs.

"League tennis is booming," said Millar, a 33-year-old College of Charleston graduate. "We have 27 or 28 league teams in the spring."

Activity on the facility's 12 lighted hard courts is so demanding that plans are in the works to construct four clay courts on the site of the parking lot adjacent to the pro shop. "We'll build the courts in December or January," Millar said.

"The clay courts will help us get more membership. We're already getting membership because of them. If we don't build more courts, we'll have to turn people away ... and we don't want to do that."

Millar, who has directed the town's tennis complexes for six years, lists the Whipple Road facility's membership at about 350. There's also another group of nonmembers who pay court fees at the public facility.

Seniors form one of the most active groups at Whipple Road. "We have a good contingent of seniors who play three times a week in the mornings all year-round. There's about 25 men and about 15 women in the group," said Millar.

The Whipple Road facility served as the host for a $25,000 U.S. Tennis Association women's challenger tournament from 1999-2001.

Several of the group of women's tour players who perform each spring at the Family Circle Cup played in the Whipple Road event.

Millar moved into his position six years ago while serving the recreation department in another capacity.

"I applied for the job after working for the recreation department for three years," the Bishop England graduate said.

He is assisted by head teaching pro brothers Clay and Tom Maynor, who have been with the complex for six years. Caroline Small is an assistant teaching pro.

The Maynors played college tennis for Campbell University. Clay also served as Campbell's men's and women's coach, while Tom was the men's coach at American University. Small, a Mount Pleasant native, played college tennis for Gardner-Webb University.

Millar and his staff also supervise a three-court facility at

Royall Avenue in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant and two courts at Park West.

Summer camps

The three Mount Pleasant tennis facilities are holding junior summer camps for players ages 6-16 until the second week in August, with the exception of Fourth of July week. For information, call Millar at (843) 856-2162.

(06/21/06)  They let American tennis down

They were the greatest generation of American tennis players. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang combined to win 27 Grand Slam tournament titles.

Tennis should have been on fire in the 1990s in the United States. But the sport didn't grow in that period. Why? Did it have anything to do with the personalities of those four greats?

Of the four, only Agassi late in his career after a personality transformation, was a crowd pleaser.

Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, although not always gentlemen on or off the court, usually pulled the fans into their matches as they took tennis to new heights in the 1980s. Tennis appeared ready to continue growing after a brief transition to the new stars of the game. But the public never became attached to Chang or Courier. Sampras was great, but staid throughout his career. And Agassi was simply a hot shot during the early years of his career.

In a recent Tennis Week report, Courier acknowledged his group might have let tennis down.

"The thing that I am most upset about is that we had arguably the best generation of American players in history, but at the same time the popularity of the game declined in America," Courier said.

Links to baseball

With all of the interest in college baseball in the state, there are a couple of tennis ties to the game. Colby Leggett, the daughter of Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett, was a talented tennis player in the junior ranks. And now Hannah Blatt, the stepdaughter of former Leggett assistant/current Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin, is one of the top juniors in the South.

To almost no one's suprise, Hannah Blatt will attend Vanderbilt in the fall on a tennis scholarship. Hannah Blatt spent her early years in South Carolina where her father, former Western Carolina head basketball coach Greg Blatt, is a native of Barnwell.

Upcoming events

--Veteran Clemson men's tennis coach Chuck Kriese will conduct a junior camp next week at the Charleston Southern tennis complex with Bucs coach Mike Baker. For information, contact Kriese (kriesec@clemson.edu or 864-888-0940).

--Charleston Southern graduates Sandeep Reddy and Santiago Falla are holding clinics three times a week at the CSU tennis complex. The clinics are held on Tuesdays from 6-7:30 p.m. for level 3.0-3.5 players, Thursdays 6-7:30 p.m. for levels 4.0-4.5 and Saturdays from 9-10:30 a.m. for women. For more information, contact Reddy (425-0060) or Baker (863-7145).

--Mount Pleasant's I'On Club will hold its fourth annual Ace Breast Cancer tennis tournament Oct. 12-15, with proceeds going to the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC. Contact Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org) for more information.

--Lowcountry Tennis Association combo league doubles teams have until June 30 to have at least six players (three eligible partnerships) registered on TennisLink. The adult league combo levels are 5.0, 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5, while the senior levels are 5.5, 6.5, 7.5 and 8.5. Call George Eaton (886-5233).

--The LCTA needs a volunteer workforce to help with the league tennis Southern Sectionals slated for Mount Pleasant July 22-30. LCTA president Bob Peiffer needs to fill more than 250 volunteer positions. Anyone interested can contact Peiffer (bobpeiffer@knology.net).

--The City of Charleston Junior Hard-Court Championship is scheduled for July 14-16 at Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center. The tournament is open to all juniors, age 7-18, regardless of level of play or residence. Call 766-7401.

--The second Maybank Tennis Center Adult Tennis Camp is scheduled for June 28-30 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Call 406-8814.

(06/18/06)  On and off court, Venus a favorite

No surprise. Venus Williams is America's favorite female sports star.

Surprise. Serena Williams is ready to try another comeback on the women's tour.

Everyone likes Venus. I'm not talking about in the way TV announcers go overboard about Maria Sharapova. Venus is just a nice, genuine person. And going into Wimbledon in just a little over a week, Venus may just be favored to win her fourth title.

So, when it was announced last week that a survey conducted by Harris Interactive listed Venus as the country's favorite female sports figure, I wasn't surprised. Who else could it have been? Serena? Possibly, if she hadn't traded in her shot at being the best ever for the good life. Serena is No. 2 on the favorite list, ahead of soccer's Mia Hamm. If you're wondering, Sharapova is eighth, just in front of Anna Kournikova.

Serena's comeback
Serena Williams must be getting serious about tennis. There is a report out of Bradenton, Fla., that she is now training at Nick Bollettieri's Academy. That came about the same time it was announced that she would start her comeback in Cincinnati the week of July 17.

Of course, Serena has played only four matches since her loss to Venus in the round of 16 of last year's U.S. Open and is currently ranked 104th in the world.

Rackets cost money
I'm starting to like Rafael Nadal even more. Consider this quote from his coach, uncle Toni Nadal: 'He has never broken a racket in anger. It would be showing a lack of respect to people who actually have to buy the equipment to play the sport.'

Applegate finalist
Charleston's Emily Applegate has a chance to make her junior year at Washington and Lee even more special. Since winning the NCAA Division III singles title, she has been named as one of 12 nominees for the female athlete of the year award in D-III. The winner will be announced June 26 in New York.

Kriese at CSU
Veteran Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese plans to return to the area to conduct a junior camp June 25-30 at the Charleston Southern tennis complex with Bucs coach Mike Baker. For more, e-mail kriesec@clemson.edu or call (864) 888-0940.

Ace Cancer event
It's still early, but Mount Pleasant's I'On Club has announced that it will hold its fourth annual Ace Breast Cancer tennis tournament Oct. 12-15. The event raised nearly $30,000 last year, with proceeds going to the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC. Contact Joy Morris (joy@acebreastcancer.org) for more information.

LCTA notes
George Eaton announced that each Lowcountry Tennis Association combo league doubles team has until June 30 to have at least six players (three eligible partnerships) registered on TennisLink. The adult league combo levels are 5.0, 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5, while the senior levels are 5.5, 6.5, 7.5 and 8.5. For more, contact Eaton at 886-5233.

The LCTA is putting together a volunteer workforce to help with the league tennis Southern Sectionals slated for Mount Pleasant July 22-30. LCTA president Bob Peiffer needs to fill more than 250 volunteer positions. Anyone interested can contact Peiffer at bobpeiffer@knology.net.

City events
The City of Charleston Junior Hard-Court Championship is scheduled for July 14-16 at Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center. The tournament is open to all juniors, age 7-18, regardless of level of play or residence. For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

The second annual Maybank Tennis Center Adult Tennis Camp
is scheduled for June 28-30 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each day. For additional information, contact Maybank (406-8814).

(06/14/06)  U.S. Tennis Association: Replay a go, ready or not

The USTA is ready to launch instant replay for this summer's entire 10-tournament U.S. Open Series. But is this product really ready? Is its challenging process realistic?

Tennis leaders are promoting instant replay as a huge success from its first official usage at the Nasdaq 100 back in March. Yet, there is no definite proof that the 53 reversed calls in 161 challenges during the tournament were actually correct.

The possibility exists that this electronic piece of equipment isn't any more perfect than the human eye of a lines person. Although not used by the French Open, instant replay was part of ESPN2's coverage. It allowed viewers to compare the electronic results with challenged ball marks on the red clay. Instant replay wasn't at all conclusive as it differed with the ball marks on clay probably as often as it agreed.

Prior to the French Open, I thought the instant replay process might be good, although I disagreed with the challenge procedures from the start. I now have doubts about both.

The system looks far from ready. Unlike the instant replays of the National Football League where actual film is replayed in slow motion, a tennis replay is only an animated illustration generated by a computer. The computer analyzes images from several video cameras, then derives the trajectory of the ball and where it is going to bounce.

That may explain the instant replay errors at the French Open. It's too bad NBC-TV didn't employ instant replay for the weekend finals. NBC could have exposed a much larger audience (than ESPN2) to a comparison between instant replays and ball marks.

There's also the procedure for instant replay challenges that limits a player to two unsuccessful challenges per set. Why put a limit on the number of challenges? Clay challenges are unlimited.

Of course, the chair umpire can challenge any call after the participants' challenges are exhausted. But that didn't happen in Miami. The chair umpires seemed relieved they weren't held accountable for challenges and usually stayed away from challenges of their own.

Instant replay may simply replace human errors with computer errors. So, why the big push to use a system that appears to be flawed?

--The USTA's instant replay system and popular U.S. Open Series are the brainchild of Arlen Kantarian, the USTA's chief executive for professional tennis. Formerly vice president of marketing for NFL Properties during Pete Rozelle's reign, Kantarian is reportedly a candidate to become the successor to Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner.

Beach Tennis paydirt

Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell appear to have hit paydirt with Beach Tennis. They've already been awarded all-expenses paid trips to New York to defend their national title later this summer.

Beach Tennis was featured recently in the Los Angeles Times and Tennis Magazine. Whitesell, a former Southern Cal player, was highlighted in the Times story that focused on a Beach Tennis tournament held in Santa Monica, Calif., in April. In the July issue of Tennis magazine, Henderson was quoted in a Beach Tennis story.

Henderson is one of the co-founders of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League, while Whitesell coaches the College of Charleston men's tennis team. They got started in Beach Tennis last summer in Charleston when they captured the first Beach Tennis event held in the United States. They also won at Myrtle Beach to qualify for the nationals.

Heavy underdogs to a "pro" team from Aruba, Henderson and Whitesell took the national title to immediately become the world's top-ranked Beach Tennis team. The two players are Beach Tennis USA's first "territory franchises." In late May, when Henderson and Whitesell helped a 5.0 league tennis team from Hamlin Plantation win a state title, the two also organized and won a Beach Tennis event at Wild Dunes.

(06/14/06)  Nadal reminiscent of legendary Borg
Bjorn Borg couldn't win Wimbledon either? Right?

How quickly people forget.

Three decades ago, Borg wasn't considered a legitimate threat to ever win Wimbledon. His game was much like that of another now famous clay courter, Rafael Nadal. Big, looping topspin groundstrokes, an excellent serve with good placement, brilliant quickness, extremely good court savvy and virtually no net game - and don't forget the long hair and headband, the trademarks of a young man who had just left his teenage years behind less than two weeks earlier.

That was Nadal on Sunday after winning a second straight French Open. It just as easily could have been Borg in 1976 after owning two French Open titles, but having just lost to Adriano Panatta in the French quarterfinals. Wow, the Swede couldn't even win on his best surface anymore.

Borg left Paris and went into seclusion. He showed up at Wimbledon as just another long shot, almost no one taking notice that he had been working on his grass-court game. Forty-one straight wins later on the lawns of the All-England Club, Borg had put together a string of five consecutive Wimbledon titles before losing to John McEnroe in the 1981 final.

And Borg couldn't play on grass?

It wasn't until after Nadal had broken Roger Federer's serve in the opening game of the fourth set Sunday to take complete control of the French final that NBC-TV analyst Mary Carillo came out of nowhere with the remark that if the grass slows down, it wasn't out of the question for Nadal to win at Wimbledon.

Even McEnroe, who until the very end was ready to pronounce Federer as the greatest player ever, started backtracking a little at that point. After all, Nadal hadn't surrendered a service break since the fourth game of the first set and had aced Federer three times in the fourth game of the third set to rally from a 0-40 deficit.

Yes, Nadal's serve is good enough to win Wimbledon. So is the rest of his game. All he needs to do now is to go into seclusion for two weeks and work on following his big forehands to the net, along with adding a touch more punch and placement to his left-handed serves.

Federer's only shining moments in his shot at immortality came in the first set while Nadal struggled with his movement, apparently because his foot was taped too tightly, and a magnificently played point to gain a break point and finally break Nadal to even the fourth set at 5-5.

Otherwise, Nadal dominated the 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 match. Nadal picked Federer's backhand apart. The only things that kept the match even a little close was Nadal's restricted movement in the first set and his determination to repeatedly test Federer's forehand. This one could have been ugly.

Federer is still a great player, but maybe the greatest player ever label can be put to rest for at least a few more years. Who knows, five years from now Nadal may be labeled the greatest ever -- especially if he can turn into a Bjorn Borg in a few weeks.

(06/11/06)  Kuznetsova wastes great opportunity
Was Justine Henin- Hardenne ready to toss in the towel again?

While that possibility went unspoken, it may have played a significant role Saturday in Henin-Hardenne's ability to win her third French Open title. Memories of Henin-Hardenne quitting in the Australian Open final against Amelie Mauresmo surely weighed on Svetlana Kuznetsova's mind as Henin-Hardenne appeared to struggle physically early in the second set.

Kuznetsova must have wondered if she, indeed, was going to be able to waltz to her second Grand Slam title. Or even if Henin-Hardenne would be around at the end. The medical wrap that Kuznetsova wore on her stomach must have reminded her of David Nalbandian retiring in the third set with an abdominal strain one day earlier against Roger Federer. Or maybe even that Andy Roddick and the player who beat him, Alberto Martin, had retired. Or that during the Nalbandian surrender NBC-TV analyst John McEnroe had pleaded for tougher players when he insisted, 'We need more Marines.'

McEnroe didn't say so on the air, but he also must have wondered about Henin-Hardenne's will as she appeared to be on the verge of a physical collapse, similarly to the end of her semifinal loss to Patty Schnyder at the Family Circle Cup. 'She looks whipped,' McEnroe said Saturday as the frail Henin-Hardenne looked completely exhausted.

Kuznetsova was playing excellent tennis at the time, wearing Henin-Hardenne down by moving the ball from side to side to take total control of most points. She had to sense that the title was hers for the taking, and that it was going to be easy. But she must not have reminded herself that she still had to win the match.

Just like that, Kuznetsova's switch turned off. She stopped applying pressure and started making careless mistakes. From winning the first 10 points of the second set for a 30-0 lead while serving for a 3-0 edge, she committed five straight loose errors.

Several times in the French Open Kuznetsova showed a weakness in her temperament of not being tenacious enough. She often simply tapped the ball into the open court when her opponent appeared to concede points. She got away with it again Saturday.

The tendency to let up, or in this instance to assume that the match was over, cost Kuznetsova dearly. As she told Bud Collins after the match, 'I hurt myself the most.'

The 20-year-old is a wonderful talent, probably the best player and most even tempered of the Russians, but she has to become more mentally tough to realize her true ability.

Federer vulnerable

Talk about mentally tough, that's Rafael Nadal - even more than Federer. It would be great to see Federer beat Nadal in today's men's final and complete a consecutive tournament Grand Slam. But Federer is vulnerable on red clay.

Before succumbing to the stomach injury in the semifinals, Nalbandian exposed Federer's vulnerability with solid strokes to the corners, especially to the backhand followed up by a strong groundstroke down the forehand line. You can expect Nadal to attempt to do much the same with his high-kicking left-handed forehands into Federer's backhand and then running around his forehand to deliver winners down Federer's forehand line.

Federer usually combats this Nadal strategy by overhitting in an attempt to neutralize Nadal's awesome quickness and defensive skills. Today, Federer likely will attempt to pressure Nadal's often sitting-duck topspin groundstrokes by charging the net.

While gifted in most areas, Federer isn't a natural volleyer and doesn't have a serve-and-volley mentality. Federer can win, but he'll need help from Nadal.

(06/07/06)  Clijsters set to take on compatriot
Kim Clijsters is all set to retire next year. Winning a few more Grand Slam titles is not all that important to the young superstar. Or even beating fellow Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Clijsters, who celebrates her 23rd birthday Thursday, is thinking more long-term - marriage to Belgium league basketball player Brian Lynch, the house she has purchased in her fiance's home state of New Jersey, and even kids. So, don't look for Clijsters to flake out this time against Justine Henin-Hardenne.

This may be bad news for Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals of the French Open. If Clijsters plays her game and doesn't let her archrival get in her head the way she has in their three matchups in finals, Clijsters' game may be too good for Henin-Hardenne this time.

Clijsters outsmarted Martina Hingis on Tuesday, and that is not an easy task. Clijsters didn't bounce balls off the walls going for too much. She went for the lines, but left herself a little margin for error. She displayed pinpoint accuracy, taking just enough off her shots to keep them on the court.

The key will be if Henin-Hardenne comes out trying to blow Clijsters off the court. If so, this might be an easy one for Clijsters.

Kuznetsova sleeper

The real sleeper on the women's side might be Svetlana Kuznet-sova. The Russian may be too solid, but still strong, for 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova in the semifinals. She is apparently fully recovered from the leg injury that handicapped her at the Family Circle Cup and may be ready to win a second Grand Slam title.

Vaidisova tried to beat herself against Venus Williams on Tuesday, but Venus would have none of that. Venus beat herself.

Venus appeared to be so unfocused that she twice couldn't bounce the ball with her racket before serving, even dropping her racket once while standing on the baseline. She went for shots she didn't have, failing to recognize that all she had to do was keep the ball in play three or four shots until Vaidisova failed to set up properly before launching one of her unguided missiles.

You could expect this from a 17-year-old in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, but not from a 25-year-old who has won five Grand Slam titles.

Even ESPN2's Mary Joe Fernandez analyzed Vaidisova's play by saying, "There's not a lot of strategy in her game." Yet, in the critical stages early in the third set when Venus was very much in the match, Venus went from hitting loose groundstrokes to charging the net recklessly. There was no middle ground or an attempt to try to keep a few balls on the court.

It appears that Andy Roddick isn't the only American star who should be looking for a coach. Richard Williams put his talented daughters on the big stage of tennis, but it's time for a change before time runs out on Venus, just as it apparently already has for Serena Williams.

Federer's road

The road just got rockier for Roger Federer. Not only does it look like he might have to take on young nemesis Rafael Nadal again, old nemesis David Nalbandian has jumped into the picture.

Federer is fully aware that he has lost six times to the Argentine and beaten him only five times. The key victory for Nalbandian was last fall's five-set conquest of Federer at the Tennis Masters Cup. Federer looked unbeatable at the time. Federer's game was impeccable against Mario Ancic in the quarterfinals. But Nalbandian will put up a fight against Federer in the semis.

Coming up

COURTING KIDS PROGRAM: The first session of this summer's six-week Courting Kids inner-city youth tennis program will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island. The opening session downtown will be held Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center on Congress Street. To register, contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) or go by the Charleston Department of Recreation's Hampton Park office.

(06/04/06)  Much too early to count out Venus
Remember Venus Williams?

I know we've dismissed Serena Williams as a threat in women's tennis. But don't put Venus in that category just yet.

A week from today, Venus actually could be the most feared player in the women's game. Yes, I believe Venus should be considered a serious contender to win the French Open.

Venus has this habit of coming out of nowhere just when you're ready to write her off. Two years ago at the Family Circle Cup, people laughed about Venus' chances in the tournament when she had to rally from a set down to defeat Samantha Reeves in her first match. After all, Venus was ranked a lowly 16th in the world at the time. She went on to win the clay-court tournament in her first attempt.

Then last year, Venus went to Wimbledon still ranked 16th in the world and largely ignored. Defending champion Maria Sharapova was on everyone's mind. Well, Venus rolled over Mary Pierce, Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport the last three rounds en route to her third Wimbledon title.

So, why shouldn't Venus win the French Open now that she is ranked 13th? She certainly looked capable of it in her third-round victory over dangerous Karolina Sprem.

Venus may have the strongest will in women's tennis, maybe even stronger than Martina Hingis' or Justine Henin-Hardenne's. Venus wants to win as badly as anyone. And now she doesn't have to worry about playing second fiddle to Serena anymore.

Most of the big names still stand in her way, but Venus can't overlook left-hander Patty Schnyder in the round of 16. Today's match may be as tough as a possible quarterfinal duel with world's No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo.

A Blake headache?

Patrick McEnroe has to be really pleased with James Blake's play at the French Open, considering that the U.S. Davis Cup team's semifinal obstacle in September will be on indoor clay in Moscow. Blake looks like the Americans' best hope in singles.

But Blake's success might become a headache for McEnroe, unless Andy Roddick has a big summer. If it does come down to McEnroe needing to pick between Roddick and Andre Agassi, I wouldn't want to be in the captain's shoes. Would McEnroe go for the win with Agassi, who if healthy probably would be a superior clay-court player, or with the future in Roddick?

Blake and a healthy Agassi would be a tough team against the talented Russians, who have won their last 11 Davis Cup matches played on home turf. That duo also might fare well in a possible final on clay in Argentina (Australia visits Argentina's clay courts in the other semifinal). But Roddick has been the heart and soul of this American team along with the Bryan brothers in doubles. Going with someone other than Roddick might have a long-term impact on the future of the U.S. Davis Cup team.

--The word is that Roddick is seeking out Jimmy Connors as his coach. It was after another first-round exit from the French Open that Roddick hired Brad Gilbert as his coach in 2003. Roddick immediately was a semifinalist at Wimbledon, losing to Roger Federer, and then won the U.S. Open on his way to claiming the No. 1 ranking.

Local notes
--Wando senior Alexandra LaCoste has signed a letter of intent to attend NCAA Division I George Mason University on a full tennis scholarship. A former volleyball player and swimmer, LaCoste started tennis when she moved to Charleston with her family in 2003. She is the daughter of local USTA community tennis coordinator Maggie LaCoste and did not play for the two-time Class AAAA state champion Wando tennis team. She trains under Wild Dunes director of tennis Charley Rasheed.

--Charleston Tennis Center is looking for players for its league tennis Combo Doubles teams this summer. For information, contact the tennis center (766-7401).

--Charleston Tennis Center will hold a sanctioned City of Charleston Junior Hard Courts tournament July 14-16 that is open to all local and out-of-the-area juniors.

(05/31/06)  Too much practice making Roddick far from perfect

I've just figured out Andy Roddick's problem this year. He's having too much time to practice.

That may sound foolish, but it's probably right, because his match competition has been so limited. Of course, Roger Federer doesn't have that problem. Even if Federer loses to Rafael Nadal, it's usually in a final. There goes the extra time for practice.
Roddick can't seem to break his recent habit of early-round losses. He's at it again. Wimbledon won't start for nearly four weeks. So, Roddick has the better part of a month to agonize over his loss to Alberto Martin (who?) on Tuesday in the first round of the French Open.

This loss is a little different in that Roddick was forced to retire after losing the first two sets. The extra time off should give Roddick's sore ankle time to fully recover. If there is such a thing, this loss could turn out to be a good one for Roddick. Wimbledon is his tournament . . . and now he has plenty of time to prepare.

Grass tricky

After a recent vacation stop by the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Fla., I now understand a little better why only a select few players consistently fare well on Wimbledon's grass.

The reason why some players perform better on grass usually starts out with a big serve such as Roddick's or Pete Sampras' or someone with extraordinary hand-eye coordination such as Federer or Andre Agassi, or a simply brilliant volleyer such as Stefan Edberg, or someone as versatile, talented and quick as Bjorn Borg or Federer.

Crandon Park is a vast layout owned by Miami-Dade County. It has a wonderful stadium that can be seen worldwide each March during the Nasdaq 100, usually regarded as pro tennis' fifth major event. Other than the sprawling stadium where the 13,400 seats all are chair-backed, the complex is rather plain when compared to our own Family Circle Tennis Center.

Located just a few hundred yards from the excellent Crandon Park beaches, the complex has a world of potential. It has every type of surface imaginable, including two grass courts.

Having been exposed to grass courts only through TV viewing, I couldn't resist driving around the complex until I located the grass courts. Although numerous juniors and others were in training about the USTA training facility, the grass courts sat idly on the edge of the property.

The serve effect

Luckily, we had taken a few tennis balls and a couple of rackets with us on vacation. Although obviously not in top condition like the lawns of Wimbledon, it didn't take long to realize just how different playing on grass can be.

Balls hit down upon, such as serves, skid across the grass once they make contact with the surface, while softly hit balls have very little bounce in them. That explains perfectly why Roddick's booming serve is so difficult for everyone other than Federer to return. Or why one-dimensional players such as Roscoe Tanner and Goran Ivanisevic were able to ride their serves so well at Wimbledon.

Plus, if you can serve like Sampras, and knock off volleys with such ease, the task is further aided.

At least the volleys are usually predictable. It's just when the ball makes contact with the surface that predictability can go out the window.

With that in mind, Roddick now has some extra time to work on a serve-and-volley game. Hopefully, his ankle will heal quickly.

(05/28/06)  Next stop on Hingis' reunion tour is French Open's big stage
You've got to like Martina Hingis' chances at the French Open.

The Swiss Miss has been improving by leaps and bounds since returning to the WTA Tour at the start of the year. After rallying to overcome Venus Williams and then defeating Dinara Safina in last week's Tier I final in Rome, Hingis may be ready to make an even bigger impact on women's tennis.

Hingis' path won't be an easy one. Young Tatiana Golovin looms as a possible third-round opponent, followed possibly by Elena Dementieva in the round of 16 and Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals. The fact Hingis has continually improved against the top players and has climbed all the way to 14th in the world is amazing.

Can you believe what is happening in women's tennis? It wasn't very long ago that it looked like the game would forever be dominated by big players, the 6-footers who can crush balls from the baseline. Then, frail-looking, little Justine Henin-Hardenne put a dent into their armor. And now Hingis may be ready to destroy the giants' armor.

This is just added proof that the tennis tours are a revolving cycle. This isn't happening any too soon. The women's game, despite great talent and depth, was beginning to look inflexible, with sometimes boring baseline rallies in which players simply tried to outhit each other.

But now there's Hingis . . . and Henin-Hardenne when she's healthy. They're the crafty ones. The thinkers. The nimble and flexible ones, who know how to use a court to their advantage.

Hingis' re-emergence could have far-reaching effects on the women's game. The tennis factories in Russia and around the world might actually start teaching total tennis again where players learn how to use the entire court, and where there is more to the game than just banging from the baseline.

More like Hingis

When I think of newly crowned NCAA Division III champion Emily Applegate, I think of Hingis. Like Hingis, Applegate is a fighter and a thinker.

She was almost all alone Tuesday in the Division III final against a giant of a player, 6-1 Kristen Raverta of Amherst. Her dad, Arthur Applegate, already had returned home to Charleston from California to see her younger brother, Hunt, graduate from Porter-Gaud last weekend. Her Washington & Lee teammates had returned to Virginia since the tournament had been extended an extra day by a non-Sunday competition rule by Wheaton (Ill.) College on its players. Wheaton's Jordan Hook won two matches on the first day (last Saturday) to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Applegate won't get to celebrate her national championship with her family right away. After completing Maymester at W&L where she is a business administration major, she will go directly to Washington to work as an intern this summer for a financial management firm.

Barths repeat champs
Kiawah Island pros Jonathan and Meredith Barth successfully defended their USTA Husband/Wife National Indoor Clay Court Doubles title last weekend in Tunica, Miss. The Barths defeated Stan and Colleen Roberts of Jackson, Miss., 6-2, 6-1, in the final.

Jonathan, the son of Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth, has been with Kiawah for seven years. A member of the 5.0 team that won a state league tennis title last weekend, he is the resort's head tennis pro. Former Furman star Meredith is the captain of a women's open team that also will compete in the Southern Sectionals.

Local notes
--Maybank Tennis Center won this spring's edition of the Battle of James Island by collecting 12 points to nine for the Country Club of Charleston. The James Island Yacht Club finished with three points. The next competition for the three James Island tennis facilities will be held in the fall, according to Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman.

--The local men's 5.5 team that will compete in league tennis' Southern Sectionals in July, will be co-captained by St. Andrews Playground tennis director Brian Burke and Daniel Island Club tennis director Stuart Small. Small also plays on James Jones' men's 5.0 state championship team as does teammates Matt Hane and Phil Whitesell as well as Chris Henderson.

--Henderson's strong men's open team that will compete in the Southerns has added singles star John Boetsch to the lineup of Myrtle Beach's Will Bull, Lexington's Carlos Lozano, Aiken's Ben Cook, Wild Dunes pro Charley Rasheed, Citadel coach Toby Simpson and young pro Erick Martinez that was national runnerup last year in men's open. Boetsch, a former Clemson player, played a pivotal role for the local 5.5 team that won a national title last fall.

--Henderson and Bull teamed up two weeks ago to win the doubles title in a USTA senior invitational in Atlanta, earning $600 each. Bull also won the singles crown, getting an additional $1,000 paycheck.

--Charleston residents Israel Shulz and Joey Nye will be featured next Thursday at 9 p.m. on ETV's Spokes and Strings program, which will spotlight wheelchair tennis players in the state.

(05/24/06)  Bump down proves beneficial for Hane, Henderson
Matt Hane went undefeated in last fall's national 5.5 team tennis championships. Chris Henderson finished 3-0 at the open level in the nationals.

Hane's team won a national championship. Henderson's was national runner-up in the open category.

Both players were bumped down to 5.0 in the USTA's computer-generated rankings for this year's league seasons. While that sounds a little strange, even for computer-generated ratings, the demotions proved fortuitous over the weekend for a 5.0 team from Mount Pleasant's Hamlin Plantation.

Hane won the decisive singles match Sunday that gave Hamlin the state men's 5.0 title. A 23-year-old left-hander with a booming serve who was starring for George Washington University not long ago, Hane may be the best player in town.

"Matt won every match in 5.5 doubles at No. 1 in the nationals, and the computer bumps him down," said 5.0 teammate Henderson, the co-founder of the Charleston Pro Tennis League. "Everybody puts their worst player against him, because they know they can't win against Matt."

But Henderson isn't too upset about his demotion. He can play in a local 5.0 league now. There is no local competition at the 5.5 or open level. "I'm happy I got bumped down ... I just want to play and stay in shape," he said.

Henderson and Hane both should stay in good shape this summer. While the James Jones-captained team they play on earned a berth in the July 27-30 Southern Championships at Family Circle Tennis Center, Henderson also will captain an open team and Hane also will play with a 5.5 group. Both the 5.5 and open teams already have been granted berths in the Southerns.

Hamlin carried a 2-0 record (5-1 in individual matches) into Sunday's match against William Shelley's winless St. Andrews team, needing only one win to clinch the state title. Hane was a cinch for that, although St. Andrews won the overall match, 2-1.

Other state champs
--The 4.0 St. Andrews women also went to the wire against a Greer team that had beaten them each of the last two years. Beth Lever, the only 3.5 player on the team, won a super tiebreaker for the third set at No. 2 singles over Greer's Erin Looney to clinch a 3-2 victory for the local women. The St. Andrews team, captained by Gene Owens, went 5-0 in the state tournament.

--Becky Fenno's 4.5 women from Mount Pleasant's Players Club also used a shutout of Hilton Head (five individual matches) to put them into position to win the state title, despite a 3-2 loss to Greenville. Fenno's group had 10 individual match wins to nine for two other teams that also finished with 2-1 records.

--The other local team to win a state crown over the weekend, Jeff Young's 4.0 men from Maybank Tennis Center, also survived a third-set scare to win the title.

--Counting a title won a week earlier by the local 4.5 senior women's team, the Charleston area won five state titles, with the 3.0 and 3.5 state championships still to be decided (June 3-5 in Greenville). That gives the area eight berths in the Southern Sectionals, counting the men's 5.5, men's open and women's open divisions that didn't have state competition.

The senior 4.5 women will compete in the Southerns July 22-25 at Family Circle, while the other seven local teams that have qualified will compete the following week.

(05/10/06)  Palmetto Christian boys cap sweep of tennis titles
Palmetto Christian 7, Lowcountry Day 2 Dewey Caulder set a high standard for future Palmetto Christian Academy tennis coaches Tuesday afternoon by leading the school to a second state title in only the Eagles' first school year of competition in SCISA.

The Palmetto Christian boys' team matched the girls' fall success by dominating Lowcountry Day School of Pawleys Island, 7-2, in the SCISA Class A boys' final at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"This is pretty special," Caulder admitted about the Eagles' success.

The Eagles (8-5) clinched the title in No. 1 doubles when freshmen John Karle and William Howell posted a convincing 6-1, 6-1 winvictory over Lowcountry senior Brooks Patrick and sophomore Alexander Ivey.

But the key for the Mount Pleasant team was taking a 4-2 lead in singles, thanks to a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 3 by eighth-grader Alex Gahafer over Lowcountry sophomore Christian Grabeman.

The Eagles' top two singles players, Karle and Don Bruner, scored 6-0, 6-0 victories over Patrick and Ivey.

"The key for us was No. 3," said Caulder, a teaching pro at the Family Circle complex. "Going into doubles with a 4-2 lead rather than 3-3 was a completely different mindset. We felt pretty good, knowing that we had swept doubles both times before (two regular-season victories by the Eagles) with the same lineup.

"Karle and Bruner led the way with their experience. It helps having players who are state ranked and have played at Belton and big junior tournaments."

Karle, who was ranked seventh in the state last year in boys' 14, was pleased with his serving. "I had five aces in singles . . . that's a record for me," he said. "It felt really good when we clinched it in doubles."

Singles: Karle (PCA) d. Iivey 6-0, 6-0; Bruner (PCA) d. Patrick 6-0, 6-0; Gahafer (PCA) d. Grabman 6-4, 6-3; W. Howell (PCA) d. Cullington 6-4, 6-1; Brame (LCD) d. J. Howell 6-2, 6-3; Manning (LCD) d. Waldren 6-2, 6-1. Doubles: Karle-W. Howell (PCA) d. Ivey-Patrick 6-1, 6-1; Bruner-Gahafer (PCA) d. Grabman-Cullington 6-0, 6-4; J. Howell-Waldren (PCA) d. Brame-Manning 3-6, 6-2 (10-4).

Record: Palmetto Christian 8-5.

Notes: Palmetto Christian Academy is the SCISA Class A 2006 State Champions.

(05/10/06)  Family matters in today's SCISA playoffs
Brothers, brothers, brothers. The story lines of the SCISA boys' Classes A and AAA state championships are all about brothers . . . and a dad.

The Pearces, father Bobby, and sons Robert and Richard, are just part of the story of today's AAA title match featuring Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep. Another pair of brothers will be on opposing teams.

Barnwell Fishburne is a senior who plays for Porter-Gaud. His brother, freshman Ladson Fishburne, plays for Summerville's Pinewood Prep. The brothers live in Walterboro, creating quite a logistics problem for transportation to school each morning.

While the Fishburnes are solid singles players, both are standout doubles players. Ladson teams up with Pinewood's No. 1 singles player, Jeremiah Dye, at No. 1 doubles, while Barnwell usually plays with Robert Pearce for the Cyclones.

"Ladson has the great hands of his mother," said Pinewood coach Heinz Maurer.

And Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins agreed, "Ladson is an awfully good doubles player."

The Fishburnes' mother is 2005 world's top-ranked women's 45 player Diane Fishburne.

If this isn't enough, senior John Howell is one of the Cyclones' top players. His two younger brothers, freshman William Howell and sixth-grader Joseph, started for Palmetto Christian in its Class A championship victory over Lowcountry Day School on Tuesday.

Of course, local attorney Bobby Pearce was a Porter-Gaud tennis star three decades ago. The other two fathers, Barnwell Fishburne of Walterboro and local attorney Sam Howell, also are Porter-Gaud graduates.

Upcoming events

--Charleston Southern University coach Mike Baker has announced that the Bucs will hold a summer tennis camp for ages 8-18 in June and July. The camp will have half-day and full-day sessions. Contact Baker (425-1049) for more information.

--The Mount Pleasant Recreation Department will hold junior summer tennis camps in June, July and August for ages 6-16. The camps will be Monday through Friday sessions from 9 a.m.-noon at at the Mount Pleasant tennis complex on Whipple Road. Mount Pleasant also will offer a junior summer tennis and swim camp for ages 8 and older at the Park West Recreation Complex four days weekly from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Contact Mount Pleasant tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162) for more information.

--Junior Team Tennis signups have started for the season that will run from June 4 through July 16. Matches will be held on Sunday afternoons. A fee and a USTA membership are required for participation. Contact Maggie LaCoste (906-6623) or Joyce Arrington (442-4871) to more additional information.

--A recreational coaches' workshop will be held on May 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. For reservations, contact LaCoste or Arrington.

--Maybank Tennis Club pro Toni Young will start a session of Ralleyball, which is a new Junior Team Tennis program, for ages 5-10 on May 26 from 6-7 p.m. No reservations are required for the free program. For more information, contact Maggie LaCoste.

(05/07/06)  Roddick energizes crowd

There's something about this current group of U.S. players that I haven't really seen in other Americans.

Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. They all were great. But they didn't seem to have the fun and enthusiasm for getting the fans involved that Andy Roddick and his pals bring to the stadium.

I remember the Agassi exhibition at Dunes West in the early 1990s, the McEnroe-Connors exhibition at the North Charleston Coliseum a few years later. But for excitement, they couldn't touch what the Roddicks and Bryans brought to Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Wednesday night.

Roddick loves to turn a stadium into his own personal party. He has the excitement and weapon in his right arm to do it. Let's just hope that Andy keeps that huge serve, at least until he brings another Davis Cup to Daniel Island.

This guy is so good for the game. A crowd of 3,000 doesn't sound that great, but on 33 days' notice with many of the tickets priced in the $60 range . . . well, it wasn't a bad showing for a mid-week exhibition.

The Roddicks, Bryans and Paul Goldstein could have gone through the motions, then got on an airplane and headed for Rome. They didn't. They sweated real perspiration on a warm, but perfect evening for tennis. Everyone played to win. Bob and Mike Bryan were just too good for Andy and John Roddick in doubles. And Goldstein? What a gritty little guy. He pushed Andy, but Roddick's big forehand and serve were too much.

The fans still remembered Roddick and the Bryans from the 2004 Davis Cup semifinal that filled the same 10,000-seat stadium. And the players remembered the fans.

"Charleston, ever since we played Davis Cup here, has always been a place in the back of our minds," Roddick said afterward. "We would love to have Davis Cup back here sometime. That (2004) was probably the rowdiest crowd we've had at home since I've been playing Davis Cup . . . that's going on six years now. The stands were packed . . . it was a great tie. Maybe in the future, that could be a possibility."

Although it has been only a so-so year by Roddick standards, just an 18-7 record, he appeared to be on top of his ground game. He hit his forehand with pinpoint accuracy. The slow start might actually work in his favor in Europe.

"Basically I'm just hitting the ball freely and having some fun out there again," he said about having his brother John as his coach. "The first part of the year was a pretty big disappointment for me. I haven't played as many matches as I would have liked, but I have been able to train quite a good bit on clay the last three weeks and to get a real feel for the surface.

"I'm going over (to Europe) with a little more positive attitude this year. I actually need the clay-court season this year to help turn things around for me, which is a situation I haven't been in in a couple of years. So I think that's good."

(05/04/06)  Split decision; Roddick wins singles match, falls in doubles

The Bryan twins can keep their day job. Mike and Bob Bryan rallied to beat Andy and John Roddick in exhibition tennis action at Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Wednesday night.

But it wasn't a total washout for Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. The world's fastest server delighted an appreciative crowd of about 3,000 by defeating ATP Tour pro Paul Goldstein, 6-3, 6-2, in the feature singles match of the Lexus of Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout.

Prior to the doubles match, master of ceremonies Wayne Bryan jokingly told the crowd that his sons would retire from pro tennis and go to work for a fast-food chain if they lost to Andy and his big brother/coach, John Roddick, in the doubles match.

When the Roddicks took a 6-5 lead in an eight-game pro set with John Roddick coming up to serve, the world's No. 1 doubles team appeared to be in trouble. But the Bryans rallied to break John Roddick, then lefty Bob Bryan held at love for a 7-6 lead, putting Andy Roddick in the position of having to hold his service to keep the match alive.

Andy Roddick fell behind 15-40 and double-faulted two points later to keep the Bryans on the tour. The

8-6 doubles match was especially entertaining as seven of the first 12 games went to deuce, which in no-ad scoring meant that the next point won the game.

In the singles match that followed, both players played solid clay-court tennis, but eventually Andy Roddick's big serve and forehand wore down the quicker, but smaller Goldstein.

Roddick came up with a break in the eighth game and served out the first set. Roddick got another break in the third game of the second set and cruised to the victory over the 61st-ranked Goldstein.

After the match, it was Roddick who was looking for another tour. When Robin Reynolds, the facility and tournament director for Family Circle Tennis Center, told Andy that she hoped to see him back at the stadium again soon, the world's fifth-ranked player replied, "How about a wild card for the women's tournament?"

But Roddick's serve is a tad too strong for the Family Circle Cup, the Tier I women's event that is played here each April. He served a pile of aces in the exhibition, but there wasn't a speed gun this time. Two years ago in the Davis Cup semifinals here, Roddick uncorked a world-record 155 mph serve.

"Ever since that Davis Cup, Charleston has been a place we wanted to come back to," Roddick said.

And he was pleased with the way he was hitting the ball going into the European clay-court season. "I was hitting pretty well," he said.

Goldstein, who played on two national championships with the Bryans at Stanford, admitted it was tough going against Roddick's serve, even on clay. "I've won five clay-court tournaments," Roddick pointed out.

But Goldstein, moving his head from side to side as to see the serves going by, said, "Andy does have a great service game." The serves didn't wear Goldstein down; they came by too fast. But Roddick's big forehand paid many dividends during the two sets.

(05/03/06)  Bryans get another shot at Roddick tonight
Twins Mike and Bob Bryan have a reason to be fired up for their doubles match tonight against Andy and John Roddick at Family Circle Magazine Stadium. "We have some unfinished business," said Mike Bryan, the right-handed half of the world's top-ranked doubles team.

This bit of business dates back eight years to when the Bryans and John Roddick were on opposite sides in tennis' NCAA championship match. John Roddick has added little brother Andy to his team. You remember, Andy Roddick, right? He's the one with the world's fastest serve. Brother John serves as his coach.

While tonight's pro-set doubles matchup should be fun-filled, the highlight of the exhibition will be a best-of-three nightcap singles match pitting 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick against Paul Goldstein. Roddick is currently ranked fifth in the world, while Goldstein is ranked No. 61.

The Lexus of Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout will start at 7 p.m. on Daniel Island.

"Bob and I played against John (and partner Steve Baldas) at No. 1 doubles. John was up 7-4 and we brought it back to 7-7 when the match was clinched," Mike said about the unfinished business from the Bryans' and Stanford's 1998 NCAA title victory over Georgia and John Roddick.

Tonight will be all fun, although Mike Bryan said, "There's not a lot of pressure, but you definitely want to win. You don't want to hear it from your buddies."

Andy Roddick and the Bryans have been getting together several times each year for Davis Cup competition. They'll go to Russia together in September for a Davis Cup semifinal showdown.

But the Bryans are excited about returning tonight to the site of their 2004 Davis Cup semifinal victory over Belarus. Bob said the crowd of 10,000 that watched the twins clinch the U.S. victory provided "the best atmosphere in the States I've

Roddick, Bryans to play tonight

ever played in." He also said, "I consider that to be one of the best matches I've ever played."

The Bryans have been in five straight Grand Slam doubles finals, winning the last two. Each has won three Grand Slam doubles crowns and two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

They played two years at Stanford, leading the Cardinal to national championships in 1997 and 1998. Goldstein played on both Stanford teams.

One of the main reasons for today's exhibition is to help the players make the transition to European red clay.

"This works well on clay before going overseas," said Mike Bryan, noting that the players will spend the next nine weeks in Europe, beginning with next week's tournament in Rome.

Shootout info

--Wayne Bryan, the twins' father, will serve as the master of ceremonies for the evening.

--Collegiate players from South Carolina, Clemson, The Citadel and College of Charleston will participate in preliminary matches along with representatives from the Charleston Pro Tennis League. There also will be a media match.

--The Roddicks are scheduled to fly in today from Austin, Texas, along with Goldstein. The Bryans will arrive today from Florida.

--If the Roddick-Goldstein match goes to a third set, a tiebreaker will serve as the final set.

--ESPN is scheduled to have a camera crew on hand tonight.

(05/03/06)  Kiawah named top resort
Roy Barth and the Kiawah Island Golf Resort have completed the tennis resort double. Tennis Resorts Online made it official this week when it named Kiawah as the world's No. 1 tennis resort.

Kiawah also is in its second year of being Tennis Magazine's top tennis resort.

"We've been up there in both rankings over the years," said Barth, who will celebrate his 30th year at the resort this weekend. "It's nice to be ranked No. 1 in both rankings, but there are many good resorts. It's taken many years, but we keep improving.

"We've got some excellent pros," added the former ATP Tour player. "We have a lot of clinics and programs for all levels, and match-making and activities lined up all week."

Two other local resorts, Wild Dunes and Seabrook Island, also are at Nos. 8 and 24, respectively, in the Tennis Resorts Online rankings. Hilton Head Island has the state's other four top-25 tennis resorts: No. 5 Palmetto Dunes, No. 12 Daufuskie Island Resort and Breathe Spa, No. 15 Sea Pines Resort and No. 21 Port Royal Racquet Club.

Pawley's Island's Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort as well as Sea Pines' South Beach Racquet Club are in the 26-50 group, while Hilton Head's Shipyard Plantation is in the 51-75 group of resorts.

Resorts Online's top tennis camp designation goes to New Hampshire's New England Tennis Holidays for the fifth straight year. Stan Smith's Tennis Academy at Sea Pines is the No. 17 camp, while Shipyard Plantation's Van der Meer Tennis Academy is 23rd.

The is the seventh year that former Tennis Magazine editor Roger Cox has published his Tennis Resorts Online list of top tennis resorts and camps that comes out each year. Tennis Magazine's rankings are published every other year in the fall.

Carter leads way
Charleston's Brenda Carter went unbeaten in singles to help the U.S. women's 55 team finish second in the recent Maureen Connolly Cup in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. team defeated Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and France before losing to Australia in the final, 2-1.

Battle of James Island
Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman has announced that the Battle of James Island competition will continue May 13 at the Country Club, James Island Yacht Club and Maybank Tennis Center.

"We still have a few slots left in all levels for men and women," said Brockman. A pro exhibition also will be featured during the day, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association's scholarship. For more information, contact Brockman (795-0425).

(05/01/06)  Switch has worked out well for Bryans
Which side do you want to play? That's usually the first question new doubles partners ask each other. Sometimes, they get it right from the start. Sometimes, they don't.

Mike and Bob Bryan certainly aren't new doubles partners. They're the best doubles team in the world, and as twins they've been playing together since they were kids.

Up until the French Open of 2003, they were still switching sides. But no more. Lefty Bob is going against the odds on the deuce, or right side.

Five Grand Slam finals in succession made the decision permanent, or as Bob says, "until it stops working." They're on a string of two straight Grand Slam titles.

"We switched right before the French Open in 2003, and we won our first Grand Slam. We thought that might have been the reason. We have never hit a losing streak."

With the dominant sides in the middle of the court, Bob's left and Mike's right, the Bryans play an aggressive style of tennis. "We feel like we have more of an opportunity to poach. We have more reach with the forehand," Bob said.

Mike agreed. "We have the middle covered with our best assets. It has worked out well. Since we switched, we've been No. 1 (in the world) two of the last three years."

The Bryans are looking forward to a Wednesday night return to the site of one of their most memorable matches, Family Circle Magazine Stadium, where the chest-bumping brothers defeated Belarus' Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov to wrap up a berth for the United States in the 2004 Davis Cup final. The Bryans and record-breaking server Andy Roddick will be the main features of a 7 p.m. program at the Daniel Island complex.

"It's going to be great to be back. There were 10,000 people there (in 2004)," Bob said. "I consider that to be one of the best matches I've ever played. I think that was the best atmosphere in the States that I've ever played in.

"The fans are really supportive of tennis and they are real knowledgeable. They have a history of holding great tennis events. We expect it to be good."

Mike called Family Circle Magazine Stadium "one of the best facilities in the world. We love Charleston. We have great memories from our first time there. It's a beautiful city. We had lots of fun downtown (staying at Charleston Place)."

One of the highlights of that September visit was the Saturday night after the team victory was assured.

"It was a blast. We stayed downtown. There was good nightlife and a lot of young people," Bob said. "We were up until 4 a.m. after we won it. Andy (Roddick) had to play a dead-rubber the next morning. I asked Andy if he wanted to play, because I had to be ready just in case he didn't want to play. When he said he wanted to play, I didn't push it. I was relieved."

Feeling an obligation to the huge crowd for its support, Roddick showed up at the Family Circle complex that Sunday morning and defeated a Belarus second-stringer in a meaningless match.

The U.S. team later lost to Spain in the Davis Cup final. That team loss (the Bryans won the doubles match) and their failure to win last year's Wimbledon final are two of the brothers' biggest disappointments since joining the ATP Tour eight years ago.

"Davis Cup is huge," Mike said. "It's one of the things along with Wimbledon we haven't accomplished and won yet."

The Bryans are 8-1 in Davis Cup competition, their only loss coming against Croatia in last year's first round.

Since leaving Stanford after two years of college, it's been quite a trip for the Bryans. "College was a great time, probably the best time we've had, but it was time to go out on the tour and get some experience. It takes a little time after you turn pro," Mike said.

Three Grand Slam doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles under each of their belts along with more than $6 million banked between them, Mike said, "We had to win a lot of matches to win $3 million, but every year we are getting a little better. I think we are hitting the prime of our careers now."

Bob admitted, "It has been a great ride. If I would have known we would have won five Slams by 27 (they turned 28 years old Saturday), I wouldn't have believed it. Playing with your brother makes it special. We still have five to 10 years left. We'll enjoy the rest.

"We are pretty grateful to win those two in a row and being in five straight Grand Slam finals. It's been an amazing run the last couple of years. We've been playing together forever. When we came on the tour we were beating a lot of the best teams, but as we've gotten older we've learned how to deal with ups and downs. We can back up good wins with more good wins."

(04/30/06)  Bryans get vocal as match nears
The Bryan brothers are two of the nicest guys in professional tennis. Mike and Bob Bryan are from the old school, courteous and genuine. They are among the handful of top players on the ATP Tour who actually went to college.

But when it comes to going against the Roddick boys Wednesday night at Family Circle Tennis Center, the Bryans sound like wrestling promoters instead of the world's best doubles players.

"We know we're No. 1, but we've got to prove we're the better brothers team," Mike Bryan said Thursday from Southern California.

"John was real good in college (at Georgia), but we haven't seen him do much lately. He'll have to show us something Wednesday to get our respect."

John Roddick is Andy Roddick's big brother, ATP Tour coach and doubles partner for Wednesday's All-American Shootout. Andy is the one with the big serve.

Bob Bryan, the left-handed half of the top doubles team, speaks a little more respectful of John's game. "John is a talented player himself. He is shorter and more out of shape," said Bob from Tampa, Fla. "For a long time he was the best Roddick. He was the one everyone thought would be the best one, but Andy came out of nowhere."

John is a 29-year-old former University of Georgia All-American. His best singles ranking on the ATP Tour came nine years ago at No. 871. Two years later, he was No. 517 in doubles.

No wonder the Bryans are so confident about Wednesday's brothers showdown. Andy also is slated to take on Paul Goldstein in singles. Tickets are still available at the Family Circle ticket office or online at www.etix.com or by phone at 800-514-ETIX.

Heinz keeps rolling
Young Austin Heinz is still on a roll. He finished 2005 as the No. 1 boys' 10 player in the South in singles and doubles. Last weekend, he won Florence's Level 3 Pepsi Open by defeating No. 4 Southern-ranked Adam Elliget of Summerville to run his boys' 10 record to 57-12.

Heinz also won the recent Level 3 event at Lexington's Topspin Racquet Club.

--Taylor Perkins, just 10, was a quarterfinalist in girls' 12 at the recent Marietta (Ga.) Southern Bullfrog event. Perkins also won two matches in the USTA Spring Championships in Delray Beach, Fla.

Furman's fans
Furman has built up an incredible base of tennis fans over the 40-year coaching reign of Paul Scarpa. After seeing the Paladins sweep through the Southern Conference men's tournament last weekend, I now understand what College of Charleston coach Phil Whitesell means when he talks about how difficult it is to beat Furman in Greenville.

It was difficult enough at The Citadel. When the Paladins finished off Chattanooga last Sunday, several hundred Furman fans celebrated, many of them running out on the court to hug the players. There must have been 25 people taking pictures of the team in a photo session after the match.

Former Furman players were in abundance. Charleston Pro Tennis League co-founder Chris Henderson, a former SoCon player of the year while at Furman, spent much of the weekend at The Citadel. So did Fred McKay, a former local junior star and Furman player who now resides in Rock Hill. Mary Neill Hagood, last year's SoCon player of the year for the Furman women, was there to see her former team win another title.

Former local junior Jason Basile was in street clothes on the sideline. Basile went 2-0 in singles and 2-0 in doubles for the Paladins this spring in limited assignments as a freshman.

(04/26/06)  Roddick highlights Shootout
There's only a week left before Andy Roddick returns to Charleston on May 3 for an evening at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

If the return is anything like his first trip to the Family Circle complex for the 2004 Davis Cup semifinals, ticket-holders should have a great time. He served up a world-record serve the first time before a crowd of about 10,000.

This 7 p.m. event should be quite colorful and entertaining with Roddick and his brother, John, trying to outwit the world's best doubles team, Mike and Bob Bryan. Both teams probably will try to get the upper hand in trash talk. And Andy and his big brother, no doubt, will try to bully the brothers with Andy's big serve.

Of course, Roddick will highlight the program with a singles match against Paul Goldstein.

The event is officially known as the Lexus of Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout. It could just as easily be called Roddick's Return.

Event organizer Tim Stallard said Tuesday that nearly 2,000 tickets have been sold, and that only 100-150 tickets remain for the lower arena, but plenty of tickets are available for the second level, or terrace level.

Roddick is expected to fly in the day of the event by private airplane, then fly out the next day for Rome to begin the European red-clay season.

Tickets are available at the Family Circle ticket office or online at www.etix.com or by phone at (800)-514-ETIX (3849).

--The non-profit Andy Roddick Foundation is teaming up with radio station 95SX to help raise money for the Trident Literacy Foundation by giving fans the opportunity until 4 p.m. on Monday to participate in an online auction at www.95sx.com. The winning bid will receive four VIP box seats to the event as well as a photo opportunity with Roddick and tickets to the U.S. Open, with airfare and hotel accommodations.

Speaking of media
Local TV reports seldom mention tennis results unless it's during Family Circle Cup week. But WCBD-TV sports reporter Justin Wallace caught me by surprise Sunday by capping his report with Rafael Nadal's victory over Roger Federer at Monte Carlo. Not a bad tennis player himself, Wallace is a good boost for local tennis.

Local juniors
--Shelby Rogers won the girls' 16 title at Florence's Pepsi Championship by scoring a 6-1, 6-1 victory over the No. 1 seed Sydney Grant of Marietta, Ga. Anderson Scarpa won the boys' 12 crown with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Zac Dye of Pinopolis. Both Rogers and Scarpa train with Fritz Nau at Mount Pleasant's Players Club.

--Caroline Thornton, another Players Club player, was a finalist in girls' 18 at the Georgia Top 32 Southern tournament as well as a quarterfinalist in Houston's Chanda Rubin ITF event. She also won three rounds at the Memphis Bullfrog tournament.

Entry deadline

The deadline for applications to this year's Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association's Junior Scholarship Program is Sunday. The forms and information are available on the CALTA web site at www.caltatennis.net.

(04/24/06)  Furman sweeps SoCon tennis crowns
Furman's men returned to Southern Conference tennis power, while the Paladins' women maintained their tight grip on league supremacy Sunday as both teams won Southern Conference titles at The Citadel's Earle Tennis Center. The second-seeded men posted a 4-2 win over upset-minded Chattanooga in the final for their first title since 2003, and the top-seeded women rolled past Davidson, 4-1, for their third straight title. Both Furman teams earned automatic berths into the NCAA playoffs.

Senior Ben Pauluhn fittingly came through in the clutch to clinch the victory for 40th-year Furman men's coach Paul Scarpa's team. But it was the doubles point and a quick win at No. 2 singles by freshman Andy Juc that got things started for the Paladins (20-10). Juc, who also won at No. 3 doubles, was named the men's tournament's most outstanding player.

Chattanooga (17-9), the fourth seed, rallied to close to 3-2, with Nos. 1 and 5 singles involved in three-setters. But both Chatta-nooga players remaining on the courts were suffering from cramps and had to call for the trainer.

Pauluhn took advantage of Ryan Fitzgerald's obvious discomfort to control the third set of the No. 1 singles match from the start and never let up before putting away Fitzgerald, 6-7 (10-8), 6-3, 6-2.

Pauluhn's victory sent a crowd of several hundred Furman fans into ecstacy as players and fans alike charged onto the court to celebrate the Paladins' 12th SoCon tennis championship.

"Ben (Pauluhn) wasn't even in the lineup as a freshman, but he's our captain this year," said Scarpa, the winningest active coach in college tennis. "He won't quit."

Scarpa also was pleased to have Juc, a left-hander who came to Furman this school year from a Virginia prep school after growing up in Russia. By scoring a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Chattanooga's Artyom Vlasenko, Juc closed out his first year of

SoCon competition unbeaten.

Furman's women (18-6) got the lift they needed from junior Bonnie Baird at No. 5 singles when she rallied from a 5-3 second-set deficit to post a 6-3, 7-5 win over Davidson's Meredith Skeeters to clinch the title. Davidson (18-9) had won the first set in each of the other two matches left unfinished and appeared ready to challenge the Paladins' supremacy before Baird's unexpected net charges and crafty lefty cuts and spins enabled her to win the last four games.

Baird was the women's tournament's most outstanding player.

The title was the 14th for Furman's women, who haven't lost a regular-season match in the SoCon since 1999. "I thought we played really well in singles, and getting the doubles point really helped," said 20th-year Furman women's coach Debbie Southern.

"Our No. 1 player (Tampa, Fla., freshman Laura Gioia) played amazing tennis," Southern added. Gioia scored a 6-1, 6-1 victory over over sophomore Kelsey Linville to give Furman a quick 2-0 lead.

(04/23/06)  Timing is not always favorable for Cup
There's always a conflict in April. That's the fate of the Family Circle Cup.

No one will ever know the true impact of going against the Masters golf tournament on opening weekend and the Heritage on the closing weekend.

But going against Easter Sunday on championship day may be the biggest conflict of all. A simple comparison of Patty Schnyder's two Family Circle finals might show some of the impact of playing on Easter Sunday.

In 2002 when Easter was in March, a crowd of 9,022 watched Schnyder lose the final to Iva Majoli. Nadia Petrova's Easter Sunday victory over Schnyder this year attracted nearly a thousand less.

As for the Family Circle Cup, I am beginning to believe that starpower, other than say an Anna Kournikova or Maria Sharapova, really doesn't matter that much. I believe tennis and non-tennis fans alike can hardly wait each year until it's time to attend Charleston's biggest annual event. The Family Circle Cup is simply the thing to do.

A good example of the excitement of walking around the world-class Family Circle Tennis Center grounds during the tournament was the first day of qualifying when about 5,000 people turned out to see a group of players almost no one had ever heard of.

Anna's golden
No one has forgotten Kournikova. Though this Russian beauty never won a WTA Tour singles title and was ranked in the top 10 at the end of only one season (2000), she was still on the WTA Tour's top three player Gold Exempt List, which is based on the marquee value to the tournaments.

Until 2004's Family Circle started a trend of setting a Charleston attendance record each year, Kournikova had played in the tournament in its top two attendance years (1999 and 2002).

Believe it or not, Jennifer Capriati is still on the tour's Nos. 11-13 Gold List, even though she hasn't played a tournament since 2004. Jennifer wants to come back, but don't look for that to happen. She's now 30 years old, and doesn't have the type of game that allowed Martina Hingis to return to the tour with so much success early this year.

And Serena Williams, even though currently ranked No. 107 in the world, is still on the Gold List in the Nos. 7-10 group.

Fastest hands

What's really important in doubles? Of course, a big or consistent first serve . . . and quick hands. When it comes to hands, Australia's Samantha Stosur may have the quickest in women's tennis. If not the quickest, the best. She also has a great overhead and a solid serve.

That's why Stosur and Lisa Raymond are practically unbeatable in doubles, having won five tournaments this year, including the Family Circle Cup.

Playing the "ad" or backhand side, Stosur advances to the net at every opportunity. Opponents seldom get a ball past her. She doesn't just deliver volleys that allow her opponents to go for another winner, she knocks off shots for winners of her own.

If Stosur can improve her groundstrokes, she has the talent to become a top 20 singles player. But right now being the best doubles player in women's tennis isn't bad.

The explosion

The impact of the Family Circle Cup's presence on local tennis constantly shows up. Kids are playing tennis in every direction, and the adult league fills most of the area's complexes that are lighted in the middle of the week.

An example of the kids' involvement is the local Elementary and Middle School League that will finish up its regular season this coming week. Seventy-eight teams with a minimum of 10 players per team participate in the league.

(04/22/06)  WTA offers refund: Family Circle Cup will receive $60,000 for lack of starpower WTA offers compensation

The Family Circle Cup will receive more than $60,000 from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to compensate last week's tournament for the absence of a minimum number of top players.

Despite the shortage of marquee players, the tournament still drew 92,375 fans, the most since its move to Daniel Island six years ago. The 34-year-old tournament's all-time attendance record is 98,000 set in 1999 at Hilton Head Island.

"It's not unusual that a tournament will not get its full player commitment," WTA Tour vice president for communications Andrew Walker said Friday from St. Petersburg, Fla.

This was the fifth time since the tournament moved here, and sixth in the last seven years, that the tournament did not meet its player commitment, and therefore received compensation from the WTA Tour.

Family Circle Cup tournament director Robin Reynolds said she would much rather have the top players than receive the compensation.

"Every tournament director will tell you the same thing ... we would rather have the players than the tour's compensation package," said Reynolds, who doubles as facility director for Family Circle Tennis Center.

"Any tournament's success centers around players and we always want to have the best possible player field for our fans."

If the tour had lived up to its commitment to the Family Circle Cup as a Tier I tournament, either Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters or Lindsay Davenport would have been required to play. They are the top three players on the tour's global Gold Exempt List, which isn't based on world rankings. Clijsters and Sharapova are currently ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the world, respectively, with Davenport seventh.

The second of several more criteria was that two of the top six players on the Gold List had to be entered. Also in that group are top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 13 Venus Williams. Of the top six on the Gold List, only two-time former champion Henin-Hardenne played in the tournament. Venus Williams, as well

as seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion Serena Williams, withdrew from the tournament before it started because of injuries. Two-time Grand Slam titlist Mary Pierce also withdrew because of an injury.

Walker confirmed that a player's withdrawal due to injury or any other reason would not affect the tour's player commitment for a tournament. A top player withdrawing from a tournament would see a reduction in her player commitment contract. Part of that reduction would be used to compensate the affected tournament.

"At each tier level there is a different combination of marquee players required," Reynolds said. "When the tour does not make player commitment then tournaments are given a small compensation package depending on what was not delivered.

"The biggest part of the WTA Tour's job is trying to make sure player commitments are met at each tournament. This money (from the tour) doesn't mean anything. It's so small when compared to getting the best players."

The only year the Family Circle has received its full player commitment since moving to Daniel Island was 2002, when Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Serena Williams and Anna Kournikova all played.

Reynolds was more than pleased with the way this year's tournament turned out. "The quality of play this year was as good as ever," said the 14-year Family Circle veteran. "The fans saw some players who will move into the top 20. A lot of these players will become household words over the years." Including 2006 Family Circle Cup winner Nadia Petrova, who has vaulted to fifth in the world with two straight titles.

Not having the top players has been a way of life for tournaments this year. "Indian Wells was missing 10 of the top 15 players," Reynolds said. "And Miami (which is a mandatory tournament) missed some players."

(04/20/06)  THE DANIEL ISLAND NEWS: TOM RATZLOFF: Media descend on Daniel Island
The Voices of the Family Circle Cup

The white tents are struck, the vendors are gone and Family Circle Cup 2006 is a pleasant, sun-drenched memory.

Gone, too, are the voices that brought the tournament to attending fans and to the world.

ESPN TV broadcaster Cliff Drysdale is back home in Florida, taking a welcome rest before rejoining the tennis caravan that takes him to tournaments all over the globe. He estimates that he’s on the road at least six months out of each year.

Stadium announcer and "Today" show contributor Jim Miller is back home in Norman, Okla., where he syndicates a column for senior citizens that appears in 400 newspapers nationwide.

Both men were effusive last week with their praise for Family Circle Cup organizers and the beauty of the Lowcountry.

Cliff Drysdale
"It’s hard to beat Charleston in the springtime," said Drysdale, a former championship player who has been an ESPN tennis commentator since its first telecast in 1979. "This is such a beautiful city with great restaurants and lots of history. We’ve been having a wonderful time."

Family Circle Cup is a perennial favorite among WTA players, he said.

"It’s got a great reputation for player hospitality," Drysdale said. "You’ve got a longtime sponsor with good prize money and a great stadium in a beautiful setting. What’s not to like?"

Before Saturday’s semifinal broadcast, a fellow South-African-turned-U.S.-citizen poked her head into the ESPN booth.

"Hi, Cliff," she said. "I saw you play years ago in South Africa."

"I don’t believe it. You can’t be that old. You must have been this high," Drysdale said, touching his knee.

He chatted with his visitor for a few moments, learning that she is an English teacher who lives in upstate South Carolina.

"You can teach them that South African accent," Drysdale said.

His courtly accent and tennis expertise have served him well as a TV commentator since retiring from the professional circuit in the 1970s. Tennis legend Rod Laver once said Drysdale "could talk a lion into becoming a vegetarian."

One of the first players in the game to use the two-handed backhand, Drysdale also wore a golf glove. "Those were the days before there were overgrips," he said.

He was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world and was in the top 10 six times. During his career, Drysdale won 35 singles titles and was a great doubles player. He and partner Roger Taylor won the U.S. Open men’s title in 1972. A veteran of 45 Davis Cup matches, he led South Africa to the Davis Cup championship in 1974. Drysdale was also ranked No. 1 on the Senior Tour in 1989.

An influential player off the court, Drysdale helped found the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and served as its first president in 1972. He led the successful boycott of Wimbledon, which greatly enhanced players’ control over their profession.

Tennis has changed greatly in recent decades, according to Drysdale. He said racket technology and player athleticism as exemplified by Venus and Serena Williams are two primary factors.

"The game has progressed greatly since the days when I played," he said. "In some ways it’s almost unrecognizable."

Player injuries, which depleted this year’s Family Circle Cup lineup, are more prevalent in recent years, Drysdale said.

"They play more tournaments, travel constantly and the surfaces are not as forgiving," he noted. "More tournaments are played on hard courts, which can take its toll on the body."

Before each ESPN2 broadcast, Drysdale and his booth partner, Mary Jo Fernandez, huddled with producers and other staff about two hours before their featured match began.

"When we’re done out here, we head back downtown to our hotel," he said. "We’ve used our time to enjoy Charleston and all its fine restaurants."

Jim Miller
Longtime Family Circle Cup fans are familiar with Jim Miller’s mellifluous voice. He’s been the stadium announcer for the tennis tournament for eight years.

Miller, 42, is also the voice of the Oklahoma Sooners in one of the liveliest stadiums in college football. His signature lines are the game-opening greeting: "Ladies and gentlemen, it’s football time at Oklahoma!" and the elongated "Iiiit’s good!" during extra points.

"When I meet people, everybody asks me to say ‘Iiiit’s good!’ for them," said Miller, who fell into the job 12 years ago while working as director of operations for the Sooners athletic department. "The announcer for a women’s basketball game didn’t show up so I just filled in and seemed to have a knack for it. After while, people get used to your voice and it becomes part of the event."

That’s certainly true at Family Circle Cup. Miller got that job thanks to a recommendation from a former Oklahoma colleague who was working for the tournament.

"It’s really a lot of fun to do this tournament," said Miller, who compares the event to a carnival with a tennis theme. "Sure, tennis is the reason people come, but there’s all these other activities going on that make it fun for them."

His duties include writing brief player bios and reading scripted announcements in between play.

"It’s not high stress," Miller said. "I probably have the easiest job here, really. And I really love coming to Charleston. It’s like a week away from what I really do."

What he really does is write a popular syndicated column called "Savvy Senior," which is a clearinghouse of useful information and resources for retirees. Like his announcing jobs, Miller fell into this profession largely through serendipity.

"Both my parents died within about two weeks of each other in 2000 and I took a volunteer job at a retirement community," he recalled. "It was part of working through my grief and it enabled me to be around people from my parents’ generation."

Miller started writing a seniors column for the local paper and, after a year, decided to see if he could sell it to other publications. Within one year, Savvy Senior was in 400 publications across the U.S.

Miller’s question-and-answer columns are not op-ed pieces; they’re filled with useful information gleaned from a multitude of sources.

"I do a lot of research and I also get a lot of story ideas from my readers," he said.

After sending press releases about his column to New York media outlets, Savvy Senior became a hot commodity. A New York Times feature story led to a book deal and a full-page story in Time magazine was published in April 2003.

"This all happened in a matter of three months," Miller said. "My head was spinning, It was a sort-of hobby that turned into a fulltime job."

A month later, he was contacted by the Today show about doing senior citizen segments. He appears on the NBC broadcast about 10 times a year. (His next two-part appearance will air April 25-26 and will examine gardening and travel gadgets for seniors.) For more information, visit www.savvysenior.org.

James Beck covers tennis
James Beck was like a lion returned to his savannah last week as he patrolled the grounds at Family Circle Cup.

Last year, the longtime Post and Courier tennis columnist had to forgo his duties as a scribe during the tournament after undergoing successful heart bypass surgery in March.

Doctor’s orders.

"Actually it was kind of fun to come out here and just enjoy the tennis as a fan without having deadlines," said Beck, 62, who has been writing his column since 1973. "But I bounced back pretty good from the surgery and was back playing tennis in June."

Tennis is Beck’s passion. He pens two columns for the Post and Courier each week and is a familiar and feared face on Charleston’s club courts. His soft Southern demeanor sometimes disarms his opponents across the net, according to former WTA player Leslie Allen, who heads the Win4Life program for disadvantaged inner-city children.

"Don’t let him fool you. James is an animal when he plays," Allen laughed. "He’s very aggressive. Plus, he talks a lot of trash."

"Oh, yeah, I hit you one time, didn’t I," Beck said. "You still remember that?"

"Yeah, I went out for what I thought was a nice Sunday hit and it was very cutthroat," she said.

Beck’s feisty side was well concealed last week as the soft-spoken journalist interviewed players while scribbling in his ever-present notebook. Between matches, he could be found writing on his laptop in the media tent and visiting with colleagues.

Beck’s journalism career began unexpectedly decades ago while working at a print shop in Bamberg, S.C.

"My boss, Carl Kilgus, decided to put out a free newspaper and he asked me to cover a Tuesday night high-school basketball game," Beck recalled. "So I went to the game, wrote a story and turned it in. It was printed in the paper the next morning and I was a sports editor from then on."

He continued as sports editor in Bamberg for three years before moving to a similar job in Orangeburg. Another three years passed and Beck began getting offers from daily papers across the state. In 1971, he accepted a sports editor job with Charleston’s morning newspaper – The News and Courier. That paper later merged with the afternoon Post and became the Post and Courier.

"After seven or eight years, I was promoted to executive sports editor and I’d never gone to college," said Beck, who now owns an M.B.A. from The Citadel.

In 1987, he was put in charge of installing the newspaper’s front-end computerized pagination system, which was one of the first in the country. After years in charge of the Post and Courier’s computer system, he now does sports archiving and covers all facets of Lowcountry tennis, from youth programs to the professional circuit.

"Tennis has been very good to me," said Beck, who took up the game in 1973 and has met some of the game’s greatest players. "I got to play with Chris Evert in a tournament at Hilton Head and we won it. She didn’t miss a shot and ran around the court like a rabbit."

Beck received the 2003 USTA National Media Excellence Award for Print Media in recognition for his efforts to promote tennis over the years. He is part of an elite club, since few U.S. newspapers have fulltime tennis columnists.

"Our newspaper’s management has been very supportive of tennis," said Beck, who has traveled to the last two U.S. Open tournaments for the paper. "Tennis in Charleston now is extraordinary. It was really big in the ‘80s and in the ‘90s, it went off a bit. But when Family Circle Cup came here, it really took off. I can’t count the number of great clubs in Charleston now. I think it’s just a matter of time before we get a really great player coming out of here."

Beck said he’d like to see an autumn men’s professional tournament come to Charleston to complement the April Family Circle Cup.

"Fans love to see the women, but they really get turned on by the men, especially Andy Roddick," he said.

Meanwhile, Beck said the fair weather and record attendance made last week’s Family Circle Cup one of the best to date, despite the absence of marquis players.

"I’m beginning to think that people don’t care who’s playing," he said. "They just want to come out here and be part of it."

Mike Saia helps get the story out
Mike Saia’s beloved New York Yankees lost some heartbreakers last week and he was oblivious.

His mind was on baselines, not baseball.

As Family Circle Cup’s new communications director, Saia logged 18-hour days inside the tournament media tent. His mission: tell the world about the popular Charleston tennis tourney.

After an early-morning meeting with other tournament officials, Saia would huddle each day with his support staff, which included 30 volunteers, an intern and a freelance media center assistant. They would plan the day’s activities and then Saia would review the daily photo list with his two staff photographers. He also met with Sony-Ericsson WTA Tour communications managers to arrange player interviews and autograph sessions.

"I also make sure our website is up to date and am responsible for all of the IT [Internet technology] for the tournament," Saia said. "I go to most of the players’ appearances and coordinate everything related to the media. My focus is to serve the media and to make sure they have everything they need to do their job."

Saia’s evenings were busy, too, as he e-mailed updated press releases and tournament results to wire services and other media outlets.

"Even though we work out of a tent on the grounds of Family Circle Cup, everything we do here reaches every country in the world," Saia said. "Wherever a player originates from, there are media who look to the wire services for information on their results."

Everyone involved with the tournament has a single ultimate goal, according to Saia.

"All of the different departments inside the Family Circle Tennis Center work together to bring this event to the highest possible level," he said. "We go out of our way to make sure that every guest enjoys themselves, whether they’re fans, players or media representatives."

An accomplished tennis player and former Family Circle Cup intern, Saia took over communications duties from Robin Reynolds last winter after she was appointed the new tournament director. He previously managed communication duties for the city of Charleston’s Recreation Department.

"Last year, I attended at least five days as a spectator but it wasn’t half as fun as working the event," Saia said. "We feel great about the crowds. The good weather and event atmosphere are two things that make this event such a success. Because we had some top players pull out, fans got to see a lot of up-and-coming players who are the future of tennis."

Saia, 31, is a West Pittsfield, Pa. native who has an M.B.A. in sport management with a concentration in public relations and communications. Like many other snow-weary Northeastern expatriates, he moved to the Lowcountry in search of warmer weather and fun in the sun. His wife, Danielle, works with special-needs children in the Charleston School District.

"I had an opportunity to work for the U.S. Open or the New York Yankees, my two most favorite things in life," Saia said. "That would have meant living in New York City, which I love, but we were tired of the cold weather. So, we looked at possible jobs in Miami, Amelia Island and Charleston."

Although the Family Circle Cup concluded Sunday, Saia’s frenetic work schedule didn’t.

"We start taking down all the tents and everything right after it’s over," he said. "We try to do that as quickly as possible. Plus, we have meetings to discuss how to make the tournament better next year."

(04/19/06)  SoCon missteps costly for C of C
The College of Charleston men had a great outlook just 11 days ago. The Cougars practically could taste the NCAA playoffs.

They needed only to win two individual matches at Furman, then beat a Wofford team coach Phil Whitesell had never lost to. That would have given the Cougars the No. 1 seed in the Southern Conference tournament that starts here Thursday.

Two wins, and the College would have been the top seed. Furman and Elon would have been pitted in the semifinals for a rematch of Elon's 5-2 regular-season win over the Paladins.

But those plans went up in smoke when Furman smothered the Cougars, 6-1, on April 9 and Wofford upended them the next day. As a result, the Cougars (16-5, 7-2) are the SoCon's third seed and must defeat sixth-seeded The Citadel on Friday at 2 p.m. on the Bulldogs' home courts to advance to the semifinals, probably against second-seeded Furman. Meanwhile, top-seeded Elon should have a cakewalk to Sunday's final.

--The third-seeded Charleston women (12-11, 7-2) open SoCon tournament play at 12:30 p.m. Friday against UNC Greensboro at Charleston Tennis Center. Furman, which hasn't lost a regular-season SoCon match since 1999, is the No. 1 seed.

Bright lights

League tennis participation at Maybank Tennis Center should pick up considerably now that the James Island complex has a new lighting system.

Although adequately lighted before, Maybank's bank of six hard courts appears to be among the better lighted courts in the area. And in league tennis, good lighting is almost as important as a compatible doubles partner.

No time to tie

It would be great if Family Circle Tennis Center could land another Davis Cup tie, but it's going to be a wait before that possibility arrives. The calendar and weather have teamed up against another local Davis Cup tie, at least at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The current Davis Cup format calls for the first round each year to be played in early February, when Charleston weather probably is too cold for Andy Roddick's big serve. And the quarterfinals usually are played each year on the weekend the Family Circle Cup starts, which rules out Daniel Island.

Since the seating requirement for a quarterfinal site isn't large, Kiawah Island could be a candidate when the United States gets the choice of ground designation for a future quarterfinal.

The Americans play in Russia on Sept. 22-24 in this year's semifinals. And after recent hurricane seasons, a Davis Cup tie along the coast in future Septembers doesn't look like a strong possibility. This year's Davis Cup final is scheduled for Dec. 1-3. Again, the weather isn't on our side.

The best we can hope for appears to be that the International Tennis Federation will change the Davis Cup schedule.

Cash, Fleming busy

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash and doubles great Peter Fleming were all over the area last week. Primarily stationed at Mount Pleasant's Players Club for a fantasy camp, Cash and Fleming stopped by the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Whipple Road complex on Wednesday to sign autographs and encourage 30 participants in a Youth Spring Break Camp.

They played an exhibition match at Family Circle Tennis Center the next day.

(04/17/06)  Petrova outthinks Schnyder
Nadia Petrova has arrived on the big stage. Watch out Paris and London.

Petrova is one smart tennis player. She completely befuddled crafty Patty Schnyder in Sunday's final of the Family Circle Cup. That's hard to do.

This final was strictly a mind game. Petrova started slowly, conserving her energy in the midday heat. Schnyder obliged by starting even slower. She quickly lost whatever fire she had. That meant Petrova could save her power game for opportune times, unlike Justine Henin-Hardenne who went for the knockout in the first set against Schnyder in Saturday's semifinals, and eventually got knocked out.

The strategy put Petrova in full command of the match. Schnyder was beaten at that point, always aware that Petrova could break out her big game at any time. And what did Petrova do? For the most part, she didn't bring the heat with one of the biggest serves in women's tennis. She spun serves out wide and down the middle in the 80-90 mph range, completely handcuffing the left-handed Schnyder.

Seldom did Petrova go strictly for power. She held that weapon in reserve, and Schnyder knew it. As a result, Schnyder never appeared to settle into the match, even though she won the second set in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 loss.

Petrova played completely within herself. No rages. No walkabouts. Just brilliant strategy and solid play.

Sure, Petrova took advantage of the rules by interrupting play for a rubdown three games into the second set for "heavy legs." That was legal. Blame it on the WTA Tour for allowing such an injustice.

Here's Petrova starting to wonder if she could finish the match. So why not call for the trainer before it's too late.

Or maybe, the scenario was completely different. No one other than Petrova knows the true severity of the situation. Either way, Schnyder was the one who actually suffered. She was the victim of a loophole in the rules.

Earlier in the week, Petrova got a rubdown after warming up on court and just before the chair umpire ordered play to start for her second-round match against Alona Bondarenko. All of the titles Petrova is suddenly starting to pile up must be going to her head.

Regardless of the small controversy about her third title of the year and first Tier I success, Petrova is now a player to be reckoned with on all surfaces. Maybe the purest power hitter in the women's game, all she is missing is a major title.

Take away all of the gamesmanship, and Petrova played brilliant tennis. She played power tennis in spurts, keeping Schnyder on the defensive. The little Swiss star was always wondering when Petrova would uncork the big serve or huge groundstroke. The unpredictability of what Petrova would do next made Schnyder indecisive. It was as if Petrova was holding a hammer over her, just waiting to release it.

She never needed to. Just as Henin-Hardenne had played into Schnyder's hands a day earlier, Schnyder played into Petrova's hands.

Petrova's unpredictable pattern of play made it easy for the tall Russian to get to the net, where Schnyder's looping topspin groundstrokes often were sitting ducks. Petrova even got the better of Schnyder in the drop shot department in the end, conserving energy and not even moving for them except on key points.

With three straight semifinal appearances and a second loss in a Family Circle Cup final, the pressure will now build on Schnyder in this event. She missed a great opportunity this time. And Nadia Petrova found the golden egg on Easter Sunday.

(04/16/06)  Where did senior pro events go?
Senior pro tours once were the fad. The fans miss them, but not as much as the players.

If you're Virginia Wade, you can't just show up at the club and pick up a doubles match. Or if you tried to join the USTA's league tennis program, it would be tough finding a league. How would you rate yourself? Former Wimbledon champion?

The Charleston area always seemed to have a legends-type event in the 1970s and 80s at Kiawah, Wild Dunes or Seabrook. Rod Laver, Kenny Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Billie Jean King, Wade ... The list goes on and on.

The secret was in organization. Someone was always eager to organize such events. And everyone loved them, players and fans alike.

Wade, in town to present the Meredith Player Inspiration Award to Mary Pierce on Thursday, said she would love to play in such events as the one she and King played in at Wild Dunes.

"It just takes someone to organize them. Jim Courier did it for the men, but the women don't have anyone to do it," said Wade, who at 60 looks like she still has a three-setter in her.

Of course, Courier and his group are putting together a Champions Series event for Charlotte in September.

Wanted: An entrepreneur

Perhaps the answer to the organizer question is the same guy who is putting on the Andy Roddick-Bryan brothers Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout on May 3 at Family Circle Magazine Stadium: Pro Link Sports and Entertainment founder Tim Stallard.

Stallard, who also was one of the founding partners of Courier's InsideOut Sports and Entertainment before selling out his share, was at the Family Circle Cup on Friday. He hopes to make the All-American Shootout an annual event.

Having put on various exhibitions around the country, Stallard said ticket sales here are going well. Most of the lower arena has been sold out. "I'd be happy to sell 4,000 or 5,000 tickets on such short notice," he said.

"This is the first time I've done anything in this market. But for something that started three weeks ago, we're happy. You just never know. (Andre) Agassi and Roddick drew less than 3,000 in Miami, but on a Tuesday night in Tampa, Agassi-Courier vs. (Mardy) Fish-(James) Blake drew 10,000."

Stallard announced that 15 percent of the proceeds of all tickets sold from Thursday through midnight tonight will go to the local Center for Women, which is the official charity of the Family Circle Cup. Tickets are available at the Family Circle ticket office, online at www.etix.com or by phone at (800) 514-ETIX (3849).

I'On holds pro event

Tennis galore continues next weekend locally. Not only is the Southern Conference tournament scheduled for The Citadel, Mount Pleasant's I'On Club is holding a pro tournament next Friday through Sunday. Sixteen players will compete for more than $2,000 in cash prizes on the clay courts of the excellent facility just off Mathis Ferry Road.

I'On is inviting the public to the matches and complimentary food and drinks from T-Bonz will be served Friday at 6 p.m. Play starts Friday at 4 p.m. The final is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Sunday, followed by doubles.

(04/16/06)  Schnyder hangs in as Henin-Hardenne fades after fast start

Big hitting doesn't always pay off, especially on clay. Surely, Nadia Petrova watched Saturday's other Family Circle Cup semifinal, and figured that out for herself.

Patty Schnyder did the unthinkable. She beat Justine Henin-Hardenne on the scoreboard. But in reality, Henin-Hardenne beat herself. Schnyder just went along for the ride. Getting to the third set was the key for Schnyder. Once there, she had to beat herself to lose. Pressure does funny things, even to as tough a competitor as Henin-Hardenne.

Add fatigue, heat, and a little wind, and pressure takes on even more significance. It can make a great player look like a novice, doing things like catch an opponent's playable shot on the bounce with her hands instead of hitting it with her racket or hit a simple little put-away volley into the net. Henin-Hardenne did those things against Schnyder in the third set. They alone were the two biggest, or most embarrassing, mistakes I've seen Henin-Hardenne make.

Of course, it hasn't been a good year for handling pressure for Henin-Hardenne. She had to retire against Amelie Mauresmo in the Australian Open final, lost to Elena Dementieva at Indian Wells with a set and a 5-2 lead and then lost in her next match at Miami.

Henin-Hardenne over-hit badly in the first set, and an apparently unfocused Schnyder allowed her to have her way. Then came the second set. Schnyder came out swinging and determined to make her opponent run more. By then, Henin-Hardenne was feeling the midday heat, and pressure, as the set grew on. She must have realized that she had been outsmarted by one of the smartest little players in women's tennis.

It didn't matter that the first set's 6-2 score meant Henin-Hardenne had given up a total of only six games to Schnyder in their last five sets on clay, and that Schnyder had never beaten the Belgian. This is Charleston, where Patty would love to play all of her tournaments. Schnyder started a streak of her own against Henin-Hardenne in those last two sets, giving up only five games. When Henin-Hardenne went to her power game the last two sets, Schnyder made her hit the extra ball ... and more often than not Justine powered the ball over the baseline. By then, Patty was playing Schnyder Ball, and Justine appeared to want to get out of the sun.

Groenefeld's mistake
The other semifinal was similar in some ways in that Petrova went for home runs, too. The difference was that Anna-Lena Groenefeld tried to outslug her doubles partner. That was a losing proposition from the start against one of the purest power hitters in the women's game.

Unlike the smallish Henin-Hardenne, Petrova doesn't have to over-hit. She has natural power, some of it obviously because of her 5-10, 143-pound frame. But Groenefeld made the costly mistake of trying to end points in one shot. She did, but most of them ended up on her opponent's side of the scoreboard.

Groenefeld tried her best to make it look like she belonged in the semifinals. She didn't. She didn't have the weapons.

In reality, only an injury to another player, Svetlana Kuznetsova, opened the door for Groenefeld. She tried to get into Petrova's head, but the tall Russian would have none of it. Petrova played nearly flawlessly. Her serve and deep, penetrating groundstrokes were marvelous.

Another day
Today is another day, a different opponent for both players. If Petrova tries to blow Schnyder away, it will be a big mistake. Then again, Petrova can play within herself and still be very powerful. The key will be who handles pressure better. If the weather is hot, and maybe a little windy, and Schnyder can put Petrova on the run, the Patty Cake Festival could become an annual event on Daniel Island. I like Schnyder in this one.

(04/15/06)  Pierce injured but still inspiring after resurgent '05 season

What Mary Pierce accomplished last year was incredible. And she was just as spectacular Thursday night at Charleston Place accepting the inaugural Meredith Player Inspiration Award.

How at the age of 30 could she resurrect a tennis career that had appeared to be in shambles from a series of recurring injuries? At first, tennis fans couldn't believe that Pierce was actually back. But as 2005 wore on, and she made two Grand Slam finals, it was obvious that this young woman had a great deal of heart.

If 2006 doesn't turn out to be quite as good as '05, Mary Pierce has found love. She is engaged to be married to a 33-year-old Air France pilot, David Emmanuel Ades of France. She said the marriage is planned for November. Her long blond hair flowing to the middle of her back and dressed in pants, Pierce was tall and slender. She wore glasses that only enhanced her attractiveness.

Mary and her fiancé stayed until the end of a concert by country music star Tracy Byrd. Mary then consented to requests for photos with anyone who asked.

It was a special occasion for Pierce, probably even more so now that she is sidelined with a foot injury that forced her to withdraw before the Family Circle Cup started. The tournament holds many memories for Pierce.

She made her WTA Tour debut in 1989 at the Family Circle Cup, when the tournament was played at Hilton Head Island. In 2000, she won the last Family Circle Cup played at Hilton Head.

"Starting my career there, winning the last tournament there and then being the first to win this award makes it really special," she said Friday morning. Meredith Corporation is in its first year as owner of Family Circle Magazine and the Family Circle Cup. To hear Pierce tell it, her comeback wasn't that exceptional. "It took a lot of hard work and dedication," said Pierce, who turned 31 in January. "Day-in and day-out training. There really isn't any secret to success. It's putting the time in.

"But I didn't work harder coming back. It was just while I was out with my back. When I came back from that injury, it took a long time to get back into shape."

She isn't playing any tennis right now because of the foot injury. She hopes to return in time for the French Open, which she won in 2000. But she said that's not guaranteed.

Meanwhile, she's especially pleased to be able to present the $5,000 grant that came with the Meredith Award to the Church Team Ministries International. She hopes it will help start a school in India. She grew up as a Catholic in Florida, and church is still an important part of her life. She and David Emmanuel met through church friends.

Even if Mary Pierce doesn't have any more spectacular tennis events in her, she appears quite ready to make the transition to the rest of her life, where family will be much more important than a tennis ball.

What a table

No sooner than I told Meredith marketing chief Nancy Weber that I had played mixed doubles with Virginia Wade at Wild Dunes a long time ago, she said, "There's Virginia now. Let's go meet her."

Sure enough, the great Virginia Wade was sitting at my table, next to the Scotts. You know, Larry Scott, the CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and his wife, Cybille. Then there was city of Charleston chief financial officer Steve Bedard and his wife, Marie, and daughter on my other side, as well as the Daniel Island Company's Matt Sloan. I can't leave out my wife, Carrol, whose evening was quite complete when she had her picture taken with Tracy Byrd as well as Mary Pierce.

(04/14/06)  Miller's voice a constant, from Hilton Head to Daniel Island

The clear, strong voice hits every corner of Family Circle Magazine Stadium. It has been one of the constants of this tournament, a connection from Hilton Head Island to Daniel Island.

"This is fun. It's a carnival with a tennis tournament going on," Jim Miller said Thursday between his stints on the public address system at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

He could just as easily have been taking a break from introducing a Heisman Trophy candidate at Owen Field at the University of Oklahoma.

Or coming off one of his segments with Katie Couric on NBC's Today Show.

"This announcing thing is all a hobby ... the Savvy Senior is my real job," he said.

That's this 42-year-old's main gig. To approximately 18 million seniors across the country, Miller is the Savvy Senior. The list of about 400 newspapers his weekly syndicated column appears in includes three of our local newspapers, the Summerville Journal Scene, the Goose Creek Gazette and the Berkeley Independent.

Miller resides in Norman, Okla., a couple of blocks from the stadium where he has been the announcer for a decade. With no speech or public relations background, he fell into the announcing job almost by accident. "In 1988 the announcer for a women's basketball game didn't show up, and I was there running the event. So, I just did it," said Miller, who previously served as Oklahoma's director of operations for athletics.

He became the announcer for just about everything the next few years: women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, track and wrestling. Then, in 1996, he took over the P.A. duties for football and men's basketball. He quit his operations director job about the same time since he also had become the announcer for the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Two years later, an Oklahoma staff member started work for the Family Circle Cup when the tournament was at Hilton Head Island. "She said they were looking for someone to come in to serve as stadium announcer," he recalled.

Welcome, Jim Miller to the Family Circle Cup.

"The funny thing is, I don't play a lick of tennis," said the Kansas State graduate who has a master's from Wichita State, both degrees in education.

He started the Savvy Senior five years ago, because he knew that sooner or later everyone was going to be a senior. "It's an information column, not an opinion piece. It's about anything that is relevant to seniors," said Miller, who attended the White House's conference on aging last December.

He got a lucky break three years ago when Time magazine featured him in an article. "Then NBC called me. I've been on ever since." His next appearance on the Today Show will be April 25-26 in a two-part segment.

Where has she been?

Where in the world has Mara Santangelo been? I thought I had missed something, but veteran Sony Ericsson WTA Tour media relations director Jim Fuhse made me feel better when he admitted, "I had never heard of her until this year."

And this 6-foot Italian is nearing her 25th birthday. Boy, does she have a big game, not as in total power but complete with a net game. She serves and volleys like Pete Sampras, hits wonderful volleys, has a powerful serve and deceptively good groundstrokes.

So, maybe it wasn't a fluke that she took left-handed top-spinner Patty Schnyder to three sets Thursday, seemingly having her on the ropes in the second set. Schnyder's high kickers set up perfectly for Santangelo's tall strokes. It finally hit Schnyder that she needed to slice the ball low to Santangelo's backhand to open up the forehand side.

Santangelo has been on the tour since 1998, but, amazingly, her highest singles ranking prior to this year was No. 77 nearly two years ago. She's up to 41 now ... and maybe climbing.

"She could be a great player," a tennis buddy said as we watched her play. I had to agree. It's not too late. If this young woman finds whatever makes her game tick, she could be dynamite, especially at Wimbledon. I haven't seen a better or more pure serve-and-volleyer since Sampras and Patrick Rafter hung up their rackets.

(04/13/06)  Little gun Schnyder, big gun Kuznetsova have right stuff

The big guns have all been on display now. And I actually like one big gun and one little gun.

It would be easy to go with Justine Henin-Hardenne in the top half of the draw as a big gun, who also knows how to play like a little gun. At any rate, she's a top gun. Henin-Hardenne was all over everything left-hander Sybille Bammer threw at her Tuesday night. Justine over-hit, but she hit the court most of the time. Still, she probably can't play that way all week and expect to win her third Family Circle Cup. It would be amazing if her often-injured body could take that kind of punishment for four more matches.

As former Grand Slam doubles great turned British announcer Peter Fleming said this week, a body can take only so much stress, and Henin-Hardenne definitely pushes hers to the limit.

For that reason, I like little gun Patty Schnyder in the top half of the draw. This left-hander will never try to outhit you, just outsmart you. The big gun I like is Svetlana Kuznetsova in the bottom half of the draw. This 20-year-old has smarts and game. She has strength to back up her power and shot-making ability to win ugly. Henin-Hardenne is the best thinker, but Schnyder and Kuznetsova aren't far behind.

Excited dad

Dads often get overly excited and animated about their kids' athletic competition. Little League dads are famous for this. But tennis isn't an exception.

A perfect example of an excited tennis parent was 16-year-old Anna Tatishvili's dad Wednesday while she played veteran Nathalie Dechy. Anna played great until it came time to win each set. Then she ... well, played like the junior she is. And dad Dimitri Tatishvili made sure his daughter knew how she was playing.

John Evert, the brother of the famed Chris Evert who also works with Anna, is Tatishvili's coach. Finally, John Evert turned around from his first-row seat and told his pupil's dad, who was sitting a couple rows back, that he really wasn't helping things.
Anna was tied at 5-5 in the first set and 4-4 in the second, but didn't win another game in either set.

"Today, she put herself in position to win both sets," John Evert said. "If Anna had been better in critical situations today, she might have won. But Nathalie is experienced and Anna is just coming out of the juniors."

Searching for thinker

Thank goodness for players who can actually think and play tennis at the same time. It's tough, but there are still a few players who can meet the challenge.

It was almost scary watching the late match Tuesday between Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva. These two Russians didn't pull any punches. It's a miracle that either can still swing a racket. That's how hard they hit the ball. Baseline to baseline. Power to power. No strategy. Just be the last person to hit the ball in any point. Safina prevailed in straight sets and faces Katarina Srebotnik today.

Just to watch Safina and Zvonareva bang away at each other almost made me hurt. Big rackets. Big players (Safina is a 6-footer). Something has to give. The stress on the body parts is just too much.

Perhaps, tennis should go back to wooden rackets. Or at least, smaller rackets. Put the thinkers back in the game, and the game would be much more fun to watch. The casual fan could actually see the game as a game, and not as a Barry Bonds slugfest.

(04/13/06)  DANIEL ISLAND NEWS: Tornado hits Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island
The larger than life banner of Justine Henin-Hardenne that hung from the tennis center was destroyed by a F0 tornado that touched down at the Family Circle Cup grounds on Saturday during the qualifying rounds. The Venus Williams banner was also damaged, two Match Point Market tents were destroyed, and other signs, trashcans and tables were strewn about the grounds. Two temporary light posts were blown down and one damaged a Hyundai sponsor car on display and a scoreboard was damaged. No one was seriously injured.

Fans were still watching two qualifying matches as the afternoon sky quickly turned black, winds picked up and dime-sized hail pelted the grounds.

Witnesses reported seeing a funnel cloud form near the end of the Publix shopping center, adjacent to the Guggenheim Plaza. A tree was uprooted in the plaza and a portable restroom set up in the grassy tournament parking area on Island Park Drive across from Publix was blown onto Island Park Drive.

John Moran, proprietor of Moo-na Lisa, said he saw the twister move across the parking lot and that several people took shelter inside his ice cream and coffee shop.

Alexis Meister, an island resident and Cup volunteer was near the main entrance to the tennis stadium when the tornado touched down. Meister said people started yelling to her to take shelter in the ticket booth, where she saw people climbing through the windows to escape the funnel. Once inside, Meister and others huddled under a desk.

Islander and Cup volunteer Rona Bobey saw the approaching storm and, together with another volunteer, started tying down a tent near the entrance to the grounds. Bobey said she looked up and "saw a funnel bring down Justine." They feared the third tier of bleachers was coming down and started running down sponsor row toward the clubhouse.

"We ran with it," Bobey exclaimed. She said dust was pelting their faces as they raced into the clubhouse just before the hail started falling.

Tournament Director Robin Reynolds said on Sunday that National Weather Service officials had surveyed the grounds and confirmed that it was indeed a twister that hit. Reynolds herself had a scare as a white picket fence was lifted off the ground and hurtled toward her. She was able to deflect it with her forearm and was not seriously injured.

Reynolds said that fans and staff took cover in the stadium and in the clubhouse. Members of the ball crew protected themselves by lying flat on the ground until the twister passed.

"I’m most thankful because no one was seriously injured," Reynolds said.

Tournament play was cancelled for the day and unfinished matches were played on Sunday. By the time play began on Sunday, most signs of the twister were gone and the facility and courts were in top shape. Except for the missing and shredded Justine, a slumping Venus and a portion of a tent in the trees behind the stadium, there was little evidence of the scare.

Sunday’s mood was upbeat. Reynolds said she didn’t know of any other tennis event being hit by a twister and quipped, in a nod toward the Family Circle Cup’s storied tradition, "We make history any way we can."

Hopefully the banner coming down isn’t an indicator of Henin-Hardenne’s fate this week during play. She is the top seed and the main fan draw for the tournament, which has seen some of women’s tennis top players withdraw as the result of injury. In fact, tournament officials say not only is Henin-Hardenne’s star power saving the tournament, but that witnesses report her banner caused Saturday’s twister to bounce upward toward the sky, literally saving the Cup and fans from additional damage or injury.

(04/12/06)  Off day for future favorite Vaidisova
A favorite?

It could have been Nicole Vaidisova.

Just Monday night, doubles great Peter Fleming was tossing out Vaidisova's name as a possible future No. 1.

"The (WTA) tour should get behind her now. They should be pushing her (for No. 1)," Fleming said Monday night during a fantasy camp at Mount Pleasant's Players Club.

On paper, this young Czech star has everything it takes. Looks aren't a prerequisite, but she has those, too. She has a wonderful tennis physique, 139 pounds on a 6-0 frame. She's a blonde whose picture could be plastered everywhere.

She's just 16 and already ranked 14th in the world. But obviously, No. 1 will have to wait, considering her spray (as in tennis balls) job Tuesday against the veteran Catalina Castano. She sprayed tennis balls everywhere in a 7-5, 6-2 loss after being up 5-1.

She certainly didn't look like the future face of women's tennis on this day. Perhaps, she just had an off day.

Grand Slams galore
The Family Circle Cup is short on Grand Slam titles this year, other than Justine Henin-Hardenne's four and hopefully Svetlana Kuznetsova's from the 2004 U.S. Open. But Thursday evening the Grand Slams will come to the Althea Gibson Club Court in the form of men.

Fleming, who won four Wimbledon and four U.S. Open doubles titles with John McEnroe, will team with former French Open doubles winner Luke Jensen against 1987 Wimbledon singles titlist Pat Cash and former College of Charleston star Butch Heffernan in an exhibition at Family Circle.

After playing an exhibition with Fleming on Monday night, I can now say I've played with Grand Slam winners from both tours. A few years ago when Bud Collins organized his last media tournament at Hilton Head Island, I played with Chris Evert and won the event.

Patty's fans
Patty Schnyder has done everything in Charleston but win the Family Circle. This may be her best shot yet as her possible stumbling blocks continue to fall by the wayside.

A lot of fans would be happy if Patty finally came through. They even posted a "Come On Patty" sign on the second level Tuesday for her straight-set victory over Meilen Tu.

Even though I've always admired the way Schnyder plays, jerking opponents around the court with her great left-handed topspin, I must admit that I've never been a Patty fan. Not even in those early days when I saw her play several tournaments at Hilton Head Island.

But I'm thinking about getting on the Patty bandwagon now.

What changed my mind? Well, I had a lengthy private interview with Schnyder on Monday for a future item. She came across well, as intelligent in person as she is on the tennis court. And genuine, even sweet. Yes, sweet, even after snatching her hand back and not shaking Conchita Martinez's hand two years ago following her semifinal loss.

That's ancient history now. Mark my ballot for Patty.

Worst decision

Left-handed Sybille Bammer tried to out-bang Henin-Hardenne in Tuesday night's headliner, and was quickly banged out of the tournament. It wasn't a clay-court type match and therefore Henin-Hardenne hasn't been tested.

Looking ahead
--Fans should arrive early today to make sure they get a good look at 16-year-old Anna Tatishvili against veteran Nathalie Dechy in the 10 a.m. stadium court opener. An upset here isn't at all out of the question, considering Dechy's strengths and weaknesses against Tatishvili's great groundstrokes, especially on the backhand. If Tatishvili keeps her head on and the ball on the court, Dechy could be in trouble.

--The third stadium court match between Meghann Shaughnessy and injured Svetlana Kuznetsova should be worth watching. Kuznetsova practiced Tuesday for the first time since her Saturday injury at Amelia Island, but don't look for her to be at full strength. Shaughnessy had a big upset of Henin-Hardenne at the Nasdaq 100 when Henin-Hardenne was trying to come back from an injury at Indian Wells. Today will be much the same situation for Shaughnessy.

--In the 7 p.m. opener, second seeded Nadia Petrova draws a tough first opponent after winning Amelia Island. Consistency has never been Petrova's strength. And qualifying tournament top seed Alona Bondarenko is a power hitter. Bondarenko won't go down easily. Petrova can't afford a letdown or a mental lapse. She will need to be near her best.

(04/11/06)  Tatishvili, 16, making a name for herself
Do you want to see a big hitter? Well, check out this 100-pound weakling.

Her name is Anna Tatishvili. And she's from Georgia, the country, not the Peach State.

She trains at the Chris Evert Academy in Florida. As if veteran tennis watchers wouldn't know from seeing her wonderful two-handed backhand.

She may have just turned 16 years old, and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Web site lists her at 99 pounds. But actually, she's 5-7, 130 pounds, and she plays swash-buckling tennis.

She really took it to 21-year-old Spaniard Laura Pous Tio in the last two sets Monday in the first round of the Family Circle Cup, coming back for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.

If you were one of the fans that just happened to be watching on the Club Court, count yourself among the lucky ones. Mark the time. Anna Tatishvili will be back. In fact, she hasn't left yet. She's here for at least one more round, probably Wednesday against No. 8 seed Nathalie Dechy in the second round. Don't miss her.

What to look for?

What does a tennis fan look for when the stars aren't aligned in a way they'll show up on the first day at Family Circle Magazine Stadium?

Such was the case Monday. Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne was doing interviews. Amelia Island champ Nadia Petrova hadn't arrived yet. And red-hot, but injured Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova was still awaiting word from the doctor whether she could play in the Family Circle Cup.

Out on the courts, everyone else looked a little alike. That was never more obvious than during the first match on the stadium court between Russian blondes Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva. The electronic scoreboard wasn't functioning when I walked in, and it took me a few games to figure out which player was which, even though I had seen Zvonareva play many times before. Their games certainly didn't reveal their identities.

But it was rather easy to see why Zvonareva has crashed from top 10 status to the first rounds. A lack of consistency and confidence are the likely culprits.

Zvonareva pulled it all together to rally from 3-5 down to 5-5 in the second set, then double-faulted twice in the next game and made a rash of errors a game later to practically hand the second set to Vesnina before rallying again to win in three sets.

Zvonareva has the game. She could be a player to watch, if she can keep it all together.

Anna's a driver

The outside courts weren't much different. All of the players pounded the ball from the baseline. Great forehands. Great backhands. That is, until it came time to win the point or game.

That's where Tatishvili, a wild-card entry, comes in. She pounds the ball from both sides, too, but her forehands and backhands are low, penetrating darts. She doesn't just hit topspin. She drives the ball, much in a young Jennifer Capriati fashion, keeping the ball so deep that her opponent has trouble going on the offensive.

If there was one shot that sparkled on the first day of the tournament, it was Tatishvili's backhand. It was the jewel of the day.

Of course, her coach is John Evert, Chris' brother. That's where the backhand comes in. Just like all of the great two-handers, Chris and Tracy Austin, Tatishvili's preparation for the backhand is early and flawless. Then she jumps on it, turning the backhand into a weapon.

Another thing that separates Tatishvili from most of the players on the tour is her net game. She constantly looks for openings to attack the net. And that comes often with her powerful groundstrokes. She's an excellent volleyer, who puts balls away with crisp, low volleys.

Remember the name. Or better yet, stop by to see her play.

(04/09/06)  Cup officials, Kuznetsova forced to play waiting game
It's a long time until Wednesday.

So say Sony Ericsson WTA Tour officials. Even Svetlana Kuznetsova agrees.

Definitely, those will be long days for Family Circle Cup tournament officials, especially for tournament director Robin Reynolds.

An abductor strain of the right leg doesn't sound too serious. And hopefully, it isn't.

Yes, hopefully, we'll see the hottest player currently on the women's tennis tour playing Wednesday at Family Circle Magazine Stadium in the tournament's second round.

Luckily, Kuznetsova has a first-round bye as the tournament's fourth seed.

A tournament that has suffered injury withdrawals from three players who have won more than a dozen Grand Slam titles certainly doesn't need to lose one of its last two Grand Slam champions. That just wouldn't be fair, to the tournament or to the fans. So, cross your fingers that Kuznetsova's right leg heals in miracle-cure time.

In reality, however, a right abductor strain is serious. As far as I can tell from research on the Internet, such injuries normally take one to three weeks to heal. So, Wednesday really isn't very far off.

The 20-year-old Russian, who won the 2004 U.S. Open, had won nine straight matches and appeared on her way to another win Saturday against Francesca Schiavone in the semifinals at Amelia Island. But after Schiavone rallied to take a 7-6, 3-2 lead, Kuznetsova was forced to withdraw with the leg injury.

Of course, Venus and Serena Williams, and Mary Pierce, owners of 14 Grand Slam titles, already are out of the Family Circle Cup, along with talented young Tatiana Golovin, who was injured in the Nasdaq 100 semifinals.

The defections leave this 34th annual Family Circle Cup wide open for young players such as fifth-seeded Nicole Vaidisova. And maybe even for a totally unknown such as 16-year-old Anna Tatishvili of the country of Georgia.

Tatishvili trains at the Chris Evert Academy in Florida. Reynolds thought enough of her credentials to award her with a wild card in the Family Circle's main draw, despite her No. 569 world ranking. The reason was that Tatishvili upset highly touted Sania Mirza of India in the first round of the Nasdaq 100 after receiving a wild card into that tournament.

"She's just 16 and winning a round at the Nasdaq, obviously she has a lot of potential," said John Evert, Chris' brother, Saturday.

"This is a great opportunity for Anna, but she needs to play where she can win a lot of matches. So, she is going to keep playing the Junior Grand Slams and also at the Challenger and Tier II levels.

"We don't want to skip any levels. She's still real young. We're taking it one match at a time."

Tatishvili has trained at the Evert Academy for four years. Her entire family, father, mother and older sister, made the sacrifice of coming over from Georgia to give Anna a chance to become a pro tennis player. Anna's first-round foe in the Family Circle Cup will be Laura Pous Tio of Spain, who is ranked 80th in the world.

Team champions
Last weekend's Lowcountry USTA Junior Team Tennis Championships produced three team champions: host Charleston Tennis Center in 12-and-under intermediate, Mount Pleasant Crashers in 14-and-under Intermediate and Maybank Combined in 18-and-under.

The league's winter season divisional winners were: Country Club of Charleston in 12-and-under intermediate, Dunes West Mixed in 14-and-under intermediate and Maybank Gold in 18-and-under.

(04/08/06)  Family Circle Cup loses Venus, Serena Williams
The Family Circle Cup lost a double shot of star power Friday when the WTA Tour announced that Venus and Serena Williams have withdrawn from next week's $1.34 million tennis tournament on Daniel Island. Having played a total of only seven matches between them since last year's U.S. Open, Venus and Serena both cited recurring injuries in their decisions to pull out of the Family Circle. Their only 2006 matches were in the Australian Open, where Venus lost in her first match and Serena was eliminated in the third round.

"Anyone who is involved in professional sporting events knows that injuries are unfortunately a part of the game," said tournament director Robin Reynolds. "Today, women's tennis is so competitive that players realize that they have to be at the top of their game both physically and mentally. I know that Venus and Serena will miss coming to Charleston this year and playing in front of our enthusiastic fans."

Williams sisters out of Family Circle

Venus withdrew from the Family Circle because of a continuation of the right elbow sprain that she suffered earlier, while Serena has not fully recovered from a left knee injury that has limited her play in recent months. Venus has played only three matches since last year's U.S. Open, losing two of them. Serena has a 2-2 record in that time period.

The Williams sisters' defection leaves the Family Circle with two former Grand Slam tournament champions, third-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne and 10th-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova, but only 2003 and 2005 winner Henin-Hardenne returns as a former Family Circle champion.

Venus Williams won the Family Circle in 2004 and owns five Grand Slam titles, two less than Serena. Mary Pierce, the 2000 Family Circle winner and a two-time Grand Slam tournament champion, withdrew last week because of a foot injury.

Henin-Hardenne is a four-time Grand Slam tournament champion, while Kuznetsova won the 2004 U.S. Open as well as last week's Nasdaq 100 in Miami. Nadia Petrova and Patty Schnyder are other top 10 players entered in the Family Circle.

"I have really been looking forward to competing at the Family Circle Cup, and Charleston has become one of my favorite cities," said Venus, who lost in last year's round of 16 on Daniel Island. "I regret that I will not have the opportunity to compete there this year and look forward to returning to competition in the very near future."

Serena, runner-up to Henin-Hardenne in the 2003 Family Circle, also expressed her disappointment: "I am very disappointed to have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup due to ongoing pain in my left knee. I know that the Family Circle Cup will host another incredible event this year and I look forward to playing in Charleston again next year."

Another wild card

Neha Uberoi of Boca Raton, Fla., has been awarded a wild-card berth in the main draw of the Family Circle Cup, replacing 82nd-ranked Jamea Jackson, who now goes straight into the main draw. Uberoi, a 20-year-old ranked No. 308 in the world, joins Meghann Shaughnessy, Shenay Perry and Anna Tatishvili as main-draw wild cards.

Ticket information

Tickets to today's and Sunday's qualifying tournament are $10 each and can be purchased at the ticket office on site on Daniel Island. Walk-up tickets are available for every session of the Family Circle Cup, including the semifinals and final. For more ticket information, call (843) 856-7900.

(04/07/06)  Kuznetsova finds groove before Cup

Has Svetlana Kuznetsova's time on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour finally arrived two years after her biggest conquest? A surprising run through the U.S. Open field in 2004 is ancient history to this 20-year-old Russian. It has taken this long for Kuznetsova to feel like she has actually arrived as one of the top players.

Last week in the Nasdaq-100 in Miami, she defeated three current or former world's No. 1 players, capped off by her convincing straight-set romp past Russian superstar Maria Sharapova in Saturday's final.

Earlier, Kuznetsova rallied from a set down to upend former No. 1 Martina Hingis, then turned back current No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo. It was her second victory over Mauresmo in a little more than a month.

"I've just been working on my game ... my game is improving," Kuznetsova said Tuesday afternoon by telephone from Amelia Island, Fla. "Things are just going my way."

Indeed, they are. Ranked 18th at the end of 2005, Kuznetsova has moved up to No. 10 in the world rankings. She has been ranked as high as No. 4 in singles and third in doubles.

The St. Petersburg, Russia, product will be arriving in Charleston in a few days to play in the Family Circle Cup. First, she wouldn't mind making it two titles in a row by winning at Amelia Island this week. She defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain on Thursday in straight sets at Amelia Island to advance to today's singles quarterfinals.

Mauresmo, Sharapova and Hingis aren't scheduled to play in the Family Circle Cup, but Kuznet-sova expects strong competition on Daniel Island from defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, the Williams sisters and others.

"I know it will be hard to win, but I'll just have to play my best," she said.

Against the talented and hard-hitting Sharapova, Kuznetsova said, "I just had to wait until my chance. I wanted to make her play my game. She is a good player, but I played very well this tournament."

As for beating Mauresmo two straight times, she said, "I was much more consistent this two weeks (in Miami). I knew what to play and how to play Mauresmo. I was more consistent and I was concentrating better."

About having to face the strong contingent of Russian players almost every tournament, she said, "At first it was hard. But in the end you end up playing the same players. Everyone is different. Last week I was the best one. Next week it might be someone else."

Is Kuznetsova ready to take over as the leader of the Russian Revolution? "I'll do my best (to be the best in the world). I'll try my best to see how far I can go. The top five are very good. The top 10 are also good, but every day is a different day," said the player who is closing in on $5 million in career earnings.

Kuznetsova likes the new instant replay system for major hard court events. "I think instant replay is interesting and I think it will bring more people to the game. It's something different and exciting," she said.

She said she doesn't worry about possible embarrassment in challenging calls.

"I believe in my eyes. I'm not afraid to challenge," she said.

How did Kuznetsova become so fluent in English? "I travel a lot. I talk to a lot of people. I learned it (English) like that," she said.

She wanted to attend college, but her tennis career got in the way. "I finished high school in Russia, and I took the exams to go to the university, but I didn't have time."

Kuznetsova comes from an athletic background. Her father is one of Russia's top cycling coaches, having coached six Olympians in cycling. He also coached Svetlana's mother, who was a six-time world champion. Her brother was an Olympic silver medalist in cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Three new wild cards

The Family Circle Cup has awarded three main-draw wild cards to 16-year-old Anna Tatishvili of the Chris Evert Academy coaching staff and the country of Georgia, 21-year-old Shenay Perry of Coral Springs, Fla., and 19-year-old Jamea Jackson of Bradenton, Fla. Jackson is ranked No. 82 and Perry is No. 87. The tournament awarded a wild card earlier to Meghann Shaughnessy for the main draw that starts play Monday.

Qualifying tournament

The Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday at Family Circle Tennis Center with a 32-player draw. Participants will need to win two matches to qualify for the main draw of the Family Circle Cup, which will run from Monday through the following Sunday.

(04/05/06)  Mercurial Kuznetsova strives for consistency

Svetlana Kuznetsova came out of nowhere in 2004 to win the U.S. Open. She climbed to as high as No. 4 in the world and appeared to be one of the bright new stars on the WTA Tour. Since then, she has stumbled out of the top 10. Consistency has been a foreign concept to the 20-year-old Russian.

But the potential is still there. Just a few weeks ago, Kuznetsova upended Amelie Mauresmo in Dubai, in the process demonstrating once again that she can beat anyone in the women's game on any given day. She just has to keep the ball in the court.

Kuznetsova knocked off the top-ranked Mauresmo again en route to winning the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami.

Kuznetsova was entered in the Family Circle Cup two years ago, but a shoulder injury forced her to withdraw just before the tournament started.

Family Circle Cup tournament director Robin Reynolds calls Kuznetsova "one of the most electrifying players on the tour." She can deliver winners from any place on the court.

The 5-8 1/2 player has been ranked as high as third in the world in doubles. She won the 2005 Australian Open doubles title with Alicia Molik and was a doubles finalist this year at Dubai.

The highlight of her pro career was the 2004 U.S. Open.

Seeded only ninth, she scored victories over Mary Pierce, Nadia Petrova, Lindsay Davenport and Elena Dementieva to become the lowest seed in the Open Era to win the title in New York.

Kuznetsova continued her hot play in 2005, reaching eight quarterfinals or better, including Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

(04/05/06)  Stosur a smashing success in doubles realm
Samantha Stosur has one of the best and most natural overheads in women's tennis. That's one reason this Australian has quickly become one of the best doubles players in the game. Stosur and veteran doubles star Lisa Raymond were runners-up in the Australian Open, losing in three sets to the Chinese team of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie

after winning the first set and dropping the second set in a 9-7 tiebreaker. But Stosur and Raymond then won three straight doubles titles, at Tokyo,

Memphis and Indian Wells to run their record to 20-2 for 2006.

Stosur is a 22-year-old from Australia's Gold Coast. She's never been in the top 20 in singles, but she took over the world's No. 1 ranking in doubles on Feb. 6.

As talented as she is, Stosur hasn't been able to establish herself as a solid top 50 singles player. Her best singles ranking has been No. 44. Her best effort so far in a Grand Slam tournament came at this year's Australian Open, where she advanced to the fourth round before colliding with Martina Hingis' amazing comeback.

Stosur then made the quarterfinals in Tokyo, but she couldn't handle Maria Sharapova's power.

(04/05/06)  Belgian repeat? New star?
Who will it be this time? Is there another Chris Evert? A Tracy Austin?

A Steffi Graf? Or a Gabriela Sabatini?

Perhaps, the player this Family Circle Cup introduces to the tennis masses will be talented 16-year-old Czech Nicole Vaidisova.

It might have been 18-year-old Tatiana Golovin of France, but she injured her ankle in the semifinals of the Nasdaq-100 Open on March 30. Or it may be some other bright young face no one knows much about.

Or the youth movement may be put on hold for another year, allowing the superstars of the game to rekindle their own fires. Venus Williams and defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium own three of the five titles decided on Daniel Island.

The other two winners, Jennifer Capriati in 2001 and Iva Majoli the next year, are no longer active.  And although Serena Williams has captured seven Grand Slam tournament titles, her best effort in the Family Circle was 2003 when she lost to Henin-Hardenne in the final. But the green clay of this tournament has had some special moments for some special players.

One of the premier events in women's tennis for much of the Open Era, the Family Circle Cup introduced Austin, Sabatini and Graf to the masses.

In 1979, at the tender age of 16 years and four months, Austin was hardly known by the tennis world. But she came to Hilton Head Island and took advantage of Evert's absence to win one of her first big titles. Later in the year, she won the first of her two U.S. Open championships. Austin also won the Family Circle in 1980.

Sabatini, the Argentine beauty, hadn't turned 15 yet in 1985 when she swept through a backlog of rain-postponed matches to earn a berth against Evert in the Family Circle final.

Evert won her eighth and last Family Circle title that day, but the figure of the black-haired Sabatini suddenly became etched in the minds of tennis fans everywhere. Sabatini later won back-to-back Family Circle Cups as well as a U.S. Open crown.

And who could forget the tall 16-year-old German girl named Graf who beat Evert in 1986 in Evert's last Family Circle final. Two years later, Graf won the Grand Slam.

No teenager has broken through to win since the tournament moved to Daniel Island in 2001. Henin-Hardenne was the youngest at age 20 in 2003.  In that sense, the tournament has grown up.  But this could be the year the tournament returns to the teenagers. Vaidisova may be the best bet after making last year's quarterfinals here, then winning three straight tournaments at the end of 2005.

(04/05/06)  Roddick still excites the crowd

What is it that makes tennis fans and others think Andy Roddick is Superman?

Is it his world-record serve? Everyone can relate to pure speed.

But there may be more to Roddick's popularity in this country than just the big serve. He appears to be as all-American as apple pie, always ready to defend the red, white and blue in Davis Cup.

He just appears to be bigger than life, hopping from the tennis court to Saturday Night Live and back. He obviously likes to have fun, and he's usually positive. Those things endear Roddick to a great many people.

Although fun times aren't coming as often for Roddick now that losses are catching up with his wins, his name still attracts attention. Anyone else who has struggled as much as Roddick since last summer would be virtually forgotten.

When it was announced last week that Roddick will appear in an exhibition at Family Circle Tennis Center on May 3, calls and e-mails immediately started coming in. Females, in particular, appear to be eagerly awaiting Roddick's appearance.

The 7 p.m. event promises to be a lively one. Tim Stallard, who has put on a number of these exhibitions as president of Pro Link Sports and Entertainment, intends to keep the evening exciting.

Of course, Roddick will attempt to do his part, banging his big serve at full blast, even though he can't set another official world record on Daniel Island since the occasion is a mere exhibition. There won't be many serious moments, not even if Paul Goldstein happens to make things too interesting for the Roddick group in the singles feature.

And the Bryan brothers can be expected to excite everyone with their "bump" technique on winning doubles points against Andy and his brother, John Roddick. The doubles matchup easily could be the highlight of the evening.

Mike's and Bob's dad, Wayne Bryan, will keep things hopping by serving as the host. Also, between games, the PA system will blast away with music selected by a DJ brought in by Stallard.

Who is Stallard?
Stallard's Pro Link is based in Spicewood, Texas, a suburb of Austin. He is a University of Texas graduate and former assistant tennis coach there. He transferred to Texas after playing tennis for Midland College. He was previously the director of tennis at the renown Barton Creek Resort in Austin where Ben Crenshaw is the touring golf.

In his junior development tennis program at Barton Creek, Stallard once had a trio of future millionaires ? Roddick, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and current Los Angeles Laker Chris Mihm.

Friday ticket sales
Tickets for Roddick's Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout will go on sale Friday at 9 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.etix.com, the Family Circle box office on Daniel Island or by calling (800) 514-etix (3849).

At this point, Stallard doesn't plan to offer general admission seating for the upper deck. Reserved tickets for the box seats will be $59.50, with terrace seating at $26.50.

Sampras thinking Hingis?

Is Pete Sampras thinking about making a comeback? That looks like a distinct possibility now that, out of nowhere, this week came an announcement that Sampras would play an exhibition match against U.S. Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri on Thursday in Houston. The match can be followed exclusively on the internet at www.USTA.com.

Seabrook raises $19,000
Seabrook Island tennis director Mike Kiser reports that Seabrook's golf and tennis clubs raised nearly $19,000 in their recent ninth annual Rally for a Cure Tournament for the fight against breast cancer.

The funds were raised from tennis and golf tournaments, and a luncheon with a raffle and silent auction.

(04/02/06)  Kuznetsova looks on top of her game

It's beginning to look a lot like 2004 for Svetlana Kuznetsova. That's great news for the Mary Pierce-less Family Circle Cup.

In her straight-sets victory over Maria Sharapova on Saturday in the Miami final, Kuznetsova looked very much like a player capable of moving to the top of the women's game. Kuznetsova's sparkling play couldn't have come at a better time for the Family Circle as well as the WTA Tour, considering the injury and mental meltdown around the top.

There is no one out there right now who's a sure thing any week. The closest were top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo and the No. 4 Sharapova. But Kuznetsova took care of both rather easily. The health of the other four players in the top six, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Lindsay Davenport and Pierce, all could be labeled questionable. Henin-Hardenne is the only top-six player entered in the Family Circle, although the tournament should have five of the top 11 players in the world.

With her first title since winning the U.S. Open and Bali back-to-back in 2004, Kuznetsova now replaces Venus Williams as the No. 10 player in the world. The 20-year-old Russian faces another test at Amelia Island this coming week before arriving on Daniel Island for the April 10-16 main draw of the Family Circle Cup. Barring a collapse at Amelia Island on clay, Kuznetsova's chances here look good. She appears focused, consistent, in top shape and in control of her big forehand.

Family Circle notes
--The Family Circle still has a couple wild cards left for its main draw, but time is running out for landing Martina Hingis or one of the other big stars such as Clijsters or Davenport. Davenport pulled out of Amelia Island because of back problems, which also might prevent her from considering taking a wild card into the Family Circle. Clijsters lost her opening match at Miami and isn't scheduled to play Amelia Island or the Family Circle Cup.

--Hopefully, talented young French star Tatiana Golovin can recover from the ankle injury that forced her to withdraw from her semifinal match in Miami against Sharapova. Otherwise, the Miami final might have pitted Golovin and Kuznetsova. The ankle injury looked serious.

--Meghann Shaughnessy was one of the top singles players in the world just over four years ago, ranked as high as 11th. She is now ranked 87th. She'll turn 27 years old during the Family Circle Cup. And thanks maybe to her upset of Henin-Hardenne in the second round at Miami, Shaughnessy will be in the main draw of the Family Circle Cup as a wild card. Shaughnessy is still one of the top doubles players, owning a No. 9 ranking.

--The world's No. 1 doubles team will play in the Family Circle. Samantha Stosur is in the main singles draw as well, but partner Lisa Raymond won't be available for singles unless she receives a wild card or qualifies in next weekend's qualifying tournament. Raymond plans to play doubles with Stosur even if she isn't in the singles draw. The Stosur/Raymond pair will be going for a fourth straight title today when they take on Martina Navratilova and Liezel Huber in Miami.

--The wild cards for next weekend's qualifying tournament include Smash Junior Cup champion Nina Pantic, 18-year-old Jessica Kirkland, 22-year-old Aniko Kapros of Hungary and former Clemson All-American Julie Coin.

--Kirkland, from Dayton, Ohio, was a 2004 U.S. Open Junior finalist who is currently ranked No. 198. Kapros, who trained at Dennis Van der Meer's Academy at Hilton Head Island, was the 2000 Australian Open Junior champion once ranked 44th in the world. Now 22 years old, Kapros is ranked 258th. Coin, a 23-year-old from France, has played mostly satellite tournaments to earn a No. 290 ranking.

--Volunteers are still needed for fill-in positions for the Family Circle Cup. For more information, contact Mary Neeves Richards (762-7628).

Junior team finals today
The city championship of the Lowcountry USTA Team Tennis program will be held today at 1 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center with competition in three flights ? 12-and-under, 14-and-under and 18-and-under. Fourteen teams will compete, with one singles and two doubles in each match in a round-robin format.

The College of Charleston and The Citadel teams will put on an exhibition at 2:30 p.m. Coaches and sportsmanship awards will be presented to winners from each of the 17 regular-season teams.

(04/01/06)  Roddick, Bryan brothers returning to Charleston
Is Charleston ready for Andy Roddick? Andy's ready for Charleston. So are the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob.

This trio of world's currently or formerly top-ranked tennis players apparently have a love affair going with Charleston from their 2004 Davis Cup appearance on Daniel Island. And they're all coming back for a big celebration at Family Circle Tennis Center on the evening of May 3.

Officially, the event will be called the Charleston All-American Tennis Shootout. But event producer Tim Stallard, who heads up Austin, Texas-based Pro Link Sports and Entertainment, is thinking in terms of "a celebration of tennis in South Carolina," accompanied by a fun and music atmosphere.

"When we started talking about this two weeks ago, they all wanted to come back to Charleston," Stallard said Friday afternoon before heading back to Texas. "It wasn't finalized with the Bryans until yesterday after Mike and Bob won their semifinal doubles match in Miami, and one of their conditions was that they could stay over an extra day here and practice on clay for Rome."

The event here will serve as a springboard for the European clay-court season that will climax with the French Open. Roddick, who had a world-record serve during his 2004 visit to Family Circle Tennis Center, will leave Charleston for Rome the next day, May 4, while the world's top-ranked doubles team will wait until May 5 to fly to Rome to begin the clay-court season. The Bryans have won two straight Grand Slam doubles titles (U.S. Open and Australian Open).

"I'm excited to return to Charleston," said Roddick, currently the world's fourth-ranked player who lost Thursday to Spain's David Ferrer in the quarterfinals of the Nasdaq 100. "We all had a great time during our 2004 Davis Cup semifinal against Belarus. The community really supported our team, and we look forward to bringing world-class men's tennis back to Charleston."

The 7 p.m. event will be highlighted by a singles match pitting 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick against Paul Goldstein, who has been ranked as high as No. 63 in the world as a pro after a college career at Stanford in which he became the first collegian to lead his team to four straight NCAA titles. Roddick and his brother and coach, John Roddick, will battle the Bryans in a doubles match.

Three tie-breakers featuring players from Clemson, University of South Carolina, The Citadel, College of Charleston and the Charleston Pro Tennis League will kick off the evening.

"This will be a great night of world-class tennis and family entertainment," Stallard said. "This will give the Americans a chance to prepare on clay before heading to Europe and the French Open.

I know that all of the guys are excited to return to Charleston where they had as much fun off the court as they did in their victory over Belarus.

"We want to make this an annual event in Charleston. It's the perfect time to follow the Family Circle Cup (April 8-16) and before the players go to Europe for the clay-court season."

Family Circle tournament director Robin Reynolds is excited about the return of Roddick and the Bryans. "We're proud to host another premier men's event at the Family Circle Tennis Center, and hope to make this an annual event," she said. "The last time Andy and the Bryans came to Charleston, they played to a sold-out crowd. I think this is a great addition to the Family Circle Cup, providing tennis fans the best in men's and women's tennis."

--Tickets go on sale next Friday at 9 a.m. through www.etix.com, the Family Circle box office on Daniel Island or by phone at (800) 514-ETIX (3849). Reserved ticket costs are $59.50 and $26.50.

(03/29/06)  Keep instant replay, but please change the challenge system
Tennis is already a complex game. Why make it more complex?

Players shouldn't have to worry about when and if they are going to challenge a line call. Perhaps, if they had coaches, like college and pro football teams do, to decide when to challenge, it might be different.

But on this one, Mary Carillo is right.

While her colleagues at ESPN praised the merits of tennis' new instant replay system Monday at the Nasdaq 100, Carillo differed. "I don't know why it's up to the players to challenge," she said while analyzing Andy Roddick's second-round victory over Fernando Verdasco.

I hadn't stopped to really analyze the replay system. Instant replay is something that was badly needed in tennis. But as players in Miami appeared to be spending more time than ever looking at lines and pausing while looking bewildered, I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong.

Then, Carillo hit it on the head: The challenge system.

Some players would challenge most close calls, with or without instant replay. But after awhile, that stops. Most players are smart enough to realize that otherwise they'll lose so much focus that it will affect their games. John McEnroe was one of the few players whose game actually appeared to improve because of line challenges and outbursts.

Perhaps, that's the way instant replays should be: unlimited challenges. And eventually, unless a player is having unusually high success with the challenges, the player soon would become too embarrassed to keep up the onslaught of challenges.

Just ask Roger Federer, who doesn't appear to be altogether sold on the challenge system. "I got the one call for me. I felt a little bit embarrassed I didn't get the other call, you know, because I don't like challenging," Federer said in Miami.

Under the new system that was installed for the Miami tournament, players need to conserve their two-per-set incorrect challenges to make sure they have a challenge remaining to use on an obvious incorrect call on a critical point.

"My big wish from this whole thing is that the fans sort of don't take this as a game, you know, because it happens so rarely that they shouldn't be screaming you know, like, 'Oh, challenge that,' or, 'Challenge this.' Like when there are close calls, they don't applaud anymore because they think there is going to be a challenge. I feel like that's sometimes a little bit of a problem right now."

Tops in the South
This must be a record for Charleston's senior women. Three of them are ranked No. 1 in the South for 2005 in singles. Diane Fishburne owns the top ranking in women's 45. Susan Peiffer is No. 1 in women's 55. Robi Poston is ranked No. 1 in women's 65.

That's not all. Robert Wiederhorn is No. 1 in men's 70 singles.

Peiffer also is rated tops in women's 55 doubles with Cynthia Babb. Peiffer has a co-No. 1 ranking in 50 doubles. The Jonathan and Meredith Barth earned the No. 1 ranking in husband/wife doubles.

Other top 10-ranked singles players are Chris Henderson second in men's 30, Angela Williams second in women's 60, Brenda Carter second in women's 55, Babb fifth in women's 55, Claire Richardson fourth in, women's 70 Jim Sexton fourth in men's 80, John Baird fifth in men's 80, Raymond Easterbrook eighth in men's 75.

McEnroe to play Charlotte

Jim Courier's Outback Champions Series will hold a tournament Sept. 20-24 at Charlotte's Palisades Country Club that will include John McEnroe and Courier.

College update
--It's lucky for the College of Charleston men that East Tennessee State has pulled out of the Southern Conference. ETSU snapped the Cougars' 15-match winning streak Sunday. The Cougars (15-2) next meet Belmont Abbey in a nonconference match here Friday at 7 p.m., and then put their unbeaten SoCon record on the line at home against The Citadel next Tuesday at 2 p.m.

The C of C women (9-8) travel to SoCon foe Appalachian State on Saturday and then face ETSU on the road Sunday.

--The Citadel (10-7) had two of its three scheduled matches rained out last week in Hawaii. The Bulldogs meet Mercer here Saturday at 1 p.m. Charleston Southern's men (9-5) visit UNC Asheville today and return home Thursday for a 2:30 p.m. match against Coastal Carolina. The CSU women also play at Asheville today.

(03/26/06)  Here's hoping for an injury-free tournament at Amelia Island
The good news is that Justine Henin-Hardenne and the Williams sisters aren't scheduled to play the tournament at Amelia Island, Fla. That may increase their chances of being healthy for the Family Circle Cup.

The bad news is that Henin-Hardenne apparently will enter the Family Circle Cup on a two-match losing streak and a questionable right knee. And Venus and Serena Williams will have played just seven matches between them in the seven months leading up to the Family Circle, and they've lost four of them.

Why all of the excitement? The Family Circle Cup is just two weeks away.

Venus pulled out of the Nasdaq 100 on Wednesday, citing a ligament injury in her right elbow. A week earlier, Serena admitted to the world that she wasn't match-fit and withdrew from the Miami tournament.

Then after suffering a knee injury while blowing a big lead and losing to Elena Dementieva in the semifinals at Indian Wells, Calif., Henin-Hardenne lost Friday in her next match to Meghann Shaughnessy in Miami.

The fact Henin-Hardenne and the Williams sisters aren't scheduled to play at Amelia Island the first week in April means that their first clay-court matches of the year should be played the next week on Daniel Island. Playing on clay courts at Amelia Island might have helped their overall preparation for the Family Circle Cup, despite the risk of further injury.

But once the Miami tournament ends, the next week will be a long one, waiting to see who shows up in Charleston. No news will be good news that first week of April.

The Family Circle's four other top 10 or former Grand Slam champions are all scheduled to play at Amelia Island the first week in April. They are Mary Pierce, Nadia Petrova, Patty Schnyder and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Let's just hope that all seven of these top 10 or former Grand Slam champions are healthy when the main draw of the Family Circle starts on April 10. If so, it should be a great week.

Charlotte gets event

It appears that Charlotte will be getting one of Jim Courier's Champions Tour senior tournaments. Courier's InsideOut Sports and Entertainment company has scheduled a news conference for Monday in Charlotte to announce "a major professional event coming to Charlotte."

Mixed doubles next
The Lowcountry Tennis Association is in the middle of its spring season, but it already is preparing for this summer's mixed doubles season. Teams have until April 17 to register online with at least three eligible partnerships in order to be included in the mixed doubles schedule.

Egan C of C bound
Bishop England senior Garrett Egan has signed a grant to play tennis for coach Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men's team.

One of the top juniors in the state, Egan plays No. 1 for the Bishops, who have scored a pair of victories over powerful Porter-Gaud this season.

Egan, a 5-11, 160-pound 18-year-old, has trained under Charleston Tennis Academy director Fritz Nau since he was 13 years old.

Led by Egan and junior Alex Nista, the Bishops' No. 2 player who also trains at Charleston Tennis Academy, Bishop England should be a top contender for the Class AA state championship.

Flowertown tourney
The Flowertown Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournament starts Friday during the festival at the Azalea Park courts in Summerville. Entry forms are available at local clubs, the Summerville Family YMCA or by calling Greg Hancox (830-5351).

(03/22/06)  Blake the future for Davis Cup?
The United States is lucky that James Blake has blossomed at age 26. Otherwise, Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe might be in a real squeeze.

That's even if Andre Agassi has made himself available for the Americans' April 7-9 quarterfinal tie against Chile. Yes, Agassi is great. He also will be 36 years old on April 29.

This isn't doubles we're talking about. Then again Agassi isn't a John McEnroe in doubles, either.

You probably can count on Agassi to have a few more special moments, such as his run to last year's U.S. Open final. Just the same, if McEnroe has to make a decision between Blake and Agassi, look for him to side with the future: Blake.

At the rate Andy Roddick is going, Blake may be the immediate future of American men's tennis. Roddick is ranked fourth in the world right now, but on paper only. All of his five losses in 2006 have been to players ranked out of the top 20.

Blake has moved into the top 10 for the first time, at No. 9, and could be the highest-ranking American by summer. He beat Lleyton Hewitt in the Las Vegas final and Rafael Nadal in an Indian Wells semifinal before losing to Roger Federer in Sunday's final.

Other than a splash here or there such as following up a title run at the Queen's Club by making the Wimbledon final, the last year has been a troubling one for the 23-year-old Roddick. He is as likely to lose in the first or second rounds as in the late rounds, as evidenced by his first-round loss at the U.S. Open and round of 16 setback at the Australian Open, along with a string of other early-round falters including the round of 16 a week ago at Indian Wells.

Roddick's only real weapon is his serve. And even that is letting him down too often.

The triangle effect

Matchups can be intriguing in any sport. It's usually a triangle where one team matches up well with another and has the edge, but not with a third team that loses its edge in a matchup against the second team.

The same is true in tennis. Federer appears to own Blake. They've played eight sets, and Federer has won them all. But then Federer's nememis is the third player, Nadal. The Spaniard hasn't just beaten Federer on clay in the French Open, he has upended the world's No. 1 on hard courts in Dubai and Miami. Nadal's only loss in four meetings with Federer was last year's Miami final after Nadal had taken the first two sets.

But then Nadal has run into the Blake roadblock a couple of times before much-anticipated meetings with Federer. Blake spoiled Nadal's hopes at last year's U.S. Open and then again last week at Indian Wells.

Blake plays reckless tennis, going all out on his groundstrokes, overwhelming the fleet-footed Nadal's all-court coverage. It's not a good matchup for the left-handed Nadal, who is forced into a total defensive mode. Whereas, Federer is able to use Blake's power for his own until Blake falters, while Federer doesn't play quite reckless enough to consistently put balls away against Nadal's quickness.

Cougars team to beat

It now appears that Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men are the team to beat in the Southern Conference. Their 6-1 victory over Elon Sunday was their 13th straight victory and gave them a 5-0 SoCon record.

The Cougars still must face Appalachian State on Saturday in the high altitude of Boone, N.C., The Citadel at home on April 4 and Wofford on the road April 8, but the big match probably will be the April 9 regular-season finale at perennial power Furman.

"I've never beaten Furman up there," said Whitesell, in his fifth year at the College. "We had match point against them two years ago up there, but lost."

The victory over Elon could turn out to be a perfect example of "the triangle effect." That is, if the Cougars falter against Furman, but the Paladins in turn can't handle a tough road assignment at Elon.

That's another reason why Whitesell is happy that his team scored a one-sided victory over Elon. The seedings for the April 20-23 SoCon tournament at The Citadel could come down to the score of that match in a tiebreaker situation.

--The Cougars (13-1) take on nonconference Morehead State here Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The C of C women (8-7) also will play Morehead State on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Patriots Point, then meet Davidson here Sunday.

--Coach Mike Baker's Charleston Southern men (7-4) are working on a five-match winning streak. They play at South Carolina today, then face Birmingham Southern here Friday and Jacksonville here Saturday. Charleston Southern's women (3-8) also will meet Birmingham and Jacksonville on those days.

--The Citadel is currently in Laie, Hawaii, on a weeklong trip.

(03/19/06)  Knee may sideline Henin-Hardenne
Family Circle Cup officials had to have nervous jitters Friday evening when Justine Henin-Hardenne started examining her right knee in Indian Wells, Calif. And then when the knee brace went on . . .

The Family Circle Cup may not be out of danger, yet, when it comes to the availability of Henin-Hardenne for the April 8-16 tournament. There are still nearly two weeks on the hard courts of Miami before anyone connected to the Family Circle Cup can breathe easily.

But it's that way every March and early April. The fate of the Family Circle Cup often rests on what happens on the hard courts of Indian Wells and Miami. By the time the players finish that nearly four-week stretch in the California desert and tropical Florida, their legs are aching for soft rest . . . as in clay courts.

Henin-Hardenne looks a little frail these days. After showing up last year and winning a second Family Circle Cup with some added muscle on her slight frame, Henin-Hardenne decided to go thin again for mobility purposes. There's no doubt that the strategy has helped her quickness. But her strength may be questionable.

After rolling to a 6-2, 5-2 lead over Elena Dementieva and two points from victory in the Indian Wells semifinals, Henin-Hardenne buckled. Whether it was her knee, or the pressure, or she simply relaxed, only Justine knows. But she wasn't the same again. Power shots that had dominated her Russian opponent suddenly started missing badly, and about 90 minutes and a knee brace later Henin-Hardenne had lost a three-setter.

Fishburne sidelined
When it rains, it pours. That old adage could be true in the case of Diane Fishburne as she sees her reign as the world's top-ranked women's 45 player apparently coming to an end.

The former College of Charleston All-American is on the mend from recent knee surgery, which is expected to wipe out her hopes of a third straight year as the No. 1 player in her age group.

What does this have to do with rain? Well, Fishburne said she suffered the knee injury early last month while winning the Checkett Cup in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when she was forced to play the singles and doubles finals as well as singles semifinals on the same day because of rain.

"I played eight sets in nine hours," she said.

She underwent surgery nearly three weeks ago.

"The No. 1 ranking is out for this year. Next year I go up to the 50s. So this year is all about getting back in shape."

The injury also knocked Fishburne out of a trip late next month to Durban, South Africa, to represent the U.S. Tennis Association on its Margaret Court Cup team.

Carter still going
Charleston's Brenda Carter will represent the USTA for the fifth consecutive time on the women's 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team that will compete in Durban on April 17-22. Carter then will stay over and participate in the ITF Seniors World Championships. She is ranked No. 1 in the United States in 55 singles and doubles.

Cash, Fleming coming
Fritz Nau has announced that former Wimbledon singles champion Pat Cash and four-time Wimbledon doubles winner Peter Fleming will put on a fantasy camp at his Players Club in Mount Pleasant during the Family Circle Cup week, April 10-16. Former College of Charleston player Butch Heffernan has lined up Cash and Fleming for a week of doubles-specific training.

Heffernan played for former College of Charleston coach Billy Silcox and teamed with Charleston native Skip Scarpa at the College. Heffernan now operates the Down Under Tennis Club in London,

Here's a nice thought
Wade Arnette would like to see high school tennis players from Berkeley County sitting in the best seats at the Family Circle Cup.

"I had the pleasure of touring the Family Circle Cup facility on Daniel Island and saw that Berkeley County Government has box seats. I thought how wonderful it would be if some of the tennis players from our local high school were able to attend the Family Circle Cup at no charge to them," Arnette said.

"Some of these kids are very deserving but, unfortunately, underprivileged and would never have the opportunity to witness an event like this. Since it is taxpayer money paying for these seats, it would be great to see County Council donate these seats to such a worthy cause. I would suggest all high school coaches contact their County Council member to make this happen."

Cup selects Center
The Family Circle Cup has selected the Center for Women as its official charity beneficiary for 2006. The Center for Women will have a presence at the tournament and will hold promotions to help raise funds to support its services in the area. Earlier this year, Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network gave the Center for Women a $25,000 grant.

(03/16/06)  Courting Kids celebrates 15 years
The city of Charleston's Courting Kids tennis program has deep roots that run all the way to Hollywood and encompass the World Tennis Association Tour's Williams sisters. Courting Kids got its start 15 years ago when the Paul Newman Foundation gave the program a grant for $12,000.

More recently, seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion Serena Williams has supported Courting Kids on three separate occasions with gifts of $5,000 in 2002 and $2,500 in each of the next two years. Venus Williams, a five-time Grand Slam tournament champion and the 2004 Family Circle Cup winner, chipped in $5,000 in 2005.

This year's Courting Kids program kicked off Saturday with 70 children participating in 90-minute sessions at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center at 1 p.m. and Johns Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center at 10 a.m.

Program director Delores Jackson has 100 children enrolled this year and can be reached at Charleston Tennis Center for information (766-7401).

The sessions give children ages 5-17 an introduction to tennis, teaching them how to play the game as well as the rules of the game. Many of the older kids enrolled have been with the program since they were small.

Instructor Vernita Ackerman started with the program when she was 7 or 8, according to Jackson. Ackerman is now a senior at Ashley Hall. Academic Magnet junior Marcus Mitchell has been participating since he was 10 or 11.

Windrah McCoy won the national Arthur Ashe Essay Contest in 2003. Now 13, McCoy attends the School of the Arts and has participated in Courting Kids since age 5 or 6.

Chelsea Middlebrook, another School of the Arts student, was the Southern Sectional Arthur Ashe Essay winner last year and won an all-expense-paid trip to the U.S. Open in New York City.

"I love the kids and I love tennis," said Jackson, a retired Naval Shipyard chemist who has been running the Courting Kids program for the city since its inception in 1992. "I want kids to be exposed to a great game."

(03/15/06)  Digliodo glad to be playing for Cougars

Marcos Digliodo played tennis alongside the likes of fellow Argentines David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria as kids. Nalbandian and Coria are now making millions in professional tennis. But Digliodo isn't feeling sorry for himself at the College of Charleston.

Digliodo realizes how bad it is back home in Argentina. He feels fortunate to be in college.

"For now, I'm enjoying the great opportunity to play tennis and get a degree," he said. "I'm having a great time here."

If he does decide to return home to Cordoba, Argentina, an international business degree might help some in a failing economy. "There are not that many jobs back home. There is lots of poverty," he said. "We have corrupt politicians, but hopefully things will get better."

So, the talented 23-year-old junior is extremely happy at the College of Charleston. His parents are happy as well back home in Cordoba about the education of their only child.

College of Charleston coach Phil Whitesell is just glad that the altitude in Boulder, Colo., is high. Otherwise, Digliodo might still be playing for the University of Colorado instead of cruising through Southern Conference tennis battles.

Digliodo has won his last seven singles matches at No. 2 for the Cougars. He and No. 1 Or Dekel have lost only once in doubles. Meanwhile, the Cougars have pounced on 10 straight opponents since an opening-season loss to North Florida.

"We weren't ready that first match. I think if we played them again, we'd beat them," Digliodo said.

A 6-4, 215-pounder, Digliodo is a powerful player, one capable of ending points quickly with his all-around game. His big shots wouldn't always sit down on the courts high in the Rocky Mountains. "The ball flies away in high altitude," he said.

"My coach (Colorado head coach Sam Winterbotham) and I felt I needed a change from the high altitude. I never got used to it. The training would be in high altitude, but I'd play most of the matches in low altitude. You've got to get used to high altitude. Not everybody likes high altitude."

Once Winterbotham, who had first recruited Digliodo in Argentina while serving as an assistant coach at Baylor, released Digliodo, Whitesell and the Cougars entered the picture.

Digliodo started tennis about age 6, and quickly moved past the levels of his stay-at-home mom and banker father. He competed nationally on junior teams with Nalbandian, Coria and other future pros. He said he played Nalbandian only once, and lost to the player who was one of the world's top juniors, just as he is one of the top players in today's men's game.

Digliodo hardly knew what hard courts were until he moved to the United States. "I only played one junior tournament in my life on hard courts," he said.

Prior to being recruited by Winterbotham, Digliodo played the satellite pro circuit, but didn't have the finances to stick it out. "I beat a couple of guys who were ranked 150 in the world," he acknowledged.

--The Cougars will try to run their winning streak to 11 straight matches today at 1 p.m. against Southern Conference rival Tennessee-Chattanooga at Patriots Point.

--The College of Charleston women face Southern Illinois here today at 2:30 p.m.

--The Citadel meets Marquette at 2 p.m. today on campus.

--Charleston Southern's men and women's teams will tackle Bucknell at home today at 1 p.m.

Cup needs volunteers

The Family Circle Cup still needs volunteers for its ticket office and scoreboard operations. For more information and to download the PDF application for volunteers, go to www.familycirclecup.com on the internet.

(03/12/06)  Ball marks still rule the day on clay
Instant replay is now in. But to the Family Circle Cup and other clay court tournaments, nothing will change. Instant  replay already is standard at these events.

Remember the lines? The ball marks on and around the lines will continue to provide their own version of instant replays on clay courts. And that saves tournaments such as the Family Circle Cup quite a large sum of money.

Hence, Monday's announcement that professional tennis has adopted electronic line calling should have no impact on our own Family Circle Cup where clay is the surface. "The system would not be used, it goes without saying, on clay," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said in a conference call about the new system.

The instant replay essentially will follow the ball mark review routine used on clay courts, only this time with the aid of the replay rather than the ball marks on the court. "Actually, we're using clay procedures when the chair umpire determines whether or not it's a valid challenge," said Gayle Bradshaw, the ATP Tour's administrator of rules and competition. "The same principle, when you determine to go look at a mark, it has to be on a point-ending shot or a player has to stop play to make a request and he has to make it in a timely manner. The only thing that is different between the video challenge and a clay court ball mark inspection is the limit."

Clay court challenges are unlimited, while the new instant  replay will be limited to two incorrect challenges per player per set, with one added for a tiebreaker. The challenge allowance cannot be carried over to another set. However, if the challenge is successful, it doesn't count against the player's total.

The procedure will allow for a player to challenge a chair umpire's overrule. The chair umpire also may call for a review of a call on his own on a point-ending shot, even when the player has no challenges left.

Miami's Nasdaq 100 will offer the first look at the replay system, and the USTA hopes to have the system in place in time for its U.S. Open Series this summer. The U.S. Open will be the first Grand Slam tournament to use the system.

The hope is to have it in place for all of the WTA Tour's Tier I hardcourt and indoor court tournaments in 2007, and possibly for the year-ending Tour Championships later this year.

Cost is the big factor. Implementing the system for the March 22 Nasdaq 100 will cost in excess of $100,000. Not only is there a cost for the Hawkeye technology, stadiums will need to provide video boards so that the fans can view the instant replays.

The procedure once a challenge has been made will be for the chair umpire to announce that the player is challenging the call. A review official will then monitor Hawkeye and determine the correct call. The results will be sent to the video boards. The outside courts at a facility may or may not use the instant replay. For instance, the U.S. Open will use the technology in only the two main stadiums, Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong.

Rather than slow down the game, the instant replay might actually speed it up. Once players see the correct call, they probably will refocus on tennis quickly and not show their disagreement and displeasure to the chair umpire and linesmen. Of course, the new system covers only line calls.

"Hawkeye doesn't track rackets flying across the net," Bradshaw said. "That case in Australia (Nicolas Kiefer tossing his racket across the net while Sebastien Grosjean prepared to hit an overhead at the net) was a judgment call. Judgment calls can't be reviewed."

(03/08/06)  Family Circle field may be strongest yet

Three former champions. Five top 10 players. Five Grand Slam champions. Eleven top 20 players, 29 of the top 40, 35 of the top 50.

The depth of this year's Family Circle Cup field may be the best yet. The chances of having a great final are pretty good. You know, like the 2001 Martina Hingis-Jennifer Capriati or 2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. Serena Williams finals.

Svetlana Kuznetsova's entry is a big breakthrough for the tournament, too. She is a brilliant young player. She has to be to have won the U.S. Open. Plus, the 20-year-old has never played in Charleston. She is a player who can win anytime she steps on the court, having beaten soon-to-be No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo less than two weeks ago at Dubai.

Henin-Hardenne, Mary Pierce and Venus Williams are all former champions as well as Grand Slam winners along with Serena and Kuznetsova. Any tournament that has five former Grand Slam champions is a good one.

--A player to watch is 19th-ranked Dinara Safina, a 19-year-old Russian whose older brother is Grand Slam tournament winner Marat Safin. Maybe Marat will stop by to see his little sister play.

On a local note, Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson is excited that 32nd-ranked Sofia Arvidsson from his former club in Halmstad, Sweden, also is on the April 8-16 Family Circle entry list.

--The Family Circle Cup needs about 15 more volunteers for its ticket office and scoreboard operations. For more information and to download the PDF application for volunteers, go to www.familycirclecup.com on the Internet.

ACC honors Young
Charleston's Ryan Young has added another notch to his Clemson belt. The junior left-hander won the Atlantic Coast Conference's men's tennis performer of the week honor last week.

Young came through in doubles and singles Saturday to help the 15th-ranked Tigers post a 5-2 victory over No. 17 Miami in their ACC opener. Young won in straight sets at No. 4 singles after teaming with Ian Keeler to take No. 3 doubles. A day earlier, Young also scored victories at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles against Georgia State.

Clemson is 14-2 going into a match today against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Cougars on a roll
It's amazing what one weekend can do for a team's outlook for an entire season. The College of Charleston men were a mere 3-1 a week ago. Now coach Phil Whitesell is saying things like, "If we can get the top seed, we've got a good chance (to make the NCAA playoffs)."

The Cougars are on a seven-match winning streak and own a 7-1 record. They aren't just unbeaten after three Southern Conference matches, they's unscored on, having beaten Davidson, UNC-Greensboro and Georgia Southern by 7-0 scores.

"The key is to get the top seed in the conference because in the semifinals you wouldn't have as tough a match . . . you'd be fresh for the final," Whitesell said, looking ahead to the April 20-23 SoCon Tournament at The Citadel.

Luckily for the Cougars and the rest of the conference, two-time champion East Tennessee State is no longer in the SoCon. Nevertheless, Whitesell is looking to a March 19 visit by Elon and an April 9 match at perennial power Furman as the big matches.

"Chattanooga is coming here (March 15) . . . that makes a difference because the courts at Chattanooga are fast and with the altitude routine shots fly," he said. "It's lucky we have Elon at home . . . they've got a lot of new players. But it's difficult to play at Furman . . . they'll have 400 or 500 people watching."

Israeli junior Or Dekel and Argentine junior Marcus DiGliodo are leading the way at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively, as well as being unbeaten playing together at No. 1 doubles. Or missed last season with an injury and DiGliodo transferred in from the University of Colorado.

--The Citadel, after being upset by Georgia Southern Saturday, bounced back to defeat UNC Greensboro and Charlotte Monday and Tuesday to run its record to 6-3. Coach Toby Simpson's team now plays seven more home matches in the next eight days before heading to Hawaii for a week of training around two matches (Simpson: "We raised all the funds for the trip."). The Bulldogs will face James Madison at 2 p.m. today, and take on Virginia Tech and Richmond at 1 and 4 p.m. Thursday.

--The C of C women (now 4-7) won three straight matches before falling to Richmond on Sunday. The streak included victories over SoCon rivals Chattanooga and Western Carolina.

(03/05/06)  92-year-old coach the connection between two generations
Leslie Allen was thrilled when she arrived in town this weekend for another Win4Life session and learned that Nina Pantic was the Smash Junior Cup champion. Allen has a connection with the 16-year-old from Florida.

When Allen was growing up as a 13-year-old in Cleveland, a kind, gray-haired gentleman named Walter Maynor helped her with her game. Maynor had been an FBI agent and a lawyer, and he had a passion for tennis and helping young people with the game. He also ran an indoor tennis club in Cleveland.

Allen went on to become an All-American at Southern Cal and one of the first standout black players in women's tennis since the days of Althea Gibson. Allen is now the chairman of the U.S. Fed Cup committee, and the Win4Life founder and director. She lives in New York City, but visits Charleston five weekends in the winter and spring for Win4Life sessions.

It wasn't until Allen arrived at Family Circle Tennis Center on Friday that she learned about Pantic's success. Allen and Pantic have never met, but Maynor, now 92, is their connection.

Last year when Allen and Maynor crossed paths again through the mail, Maynor asked Allen to "send Nina some words of encouragement." It just happened that Maynor also had worked with Pantic.

"I've spent a few hours on court with him when I was 12, but Walter lives in Illinois and I live in Florida. He only comes to Florida about once a year now, but I keep in touch with him a lot (through letters and phone calls)," Pantic said Saturday from Lake Worth, Fla.

"I know that he worked with Leslie when she was a teenager. Walter is an extremely caring coach who loves tennis and is willing to help anyone," Pantic added.

One reason that Maynor asked Allen to encourage Pantic was that the youngster was struggling with whether to switch from a two-handed forehand. He had said for the long term, that a one-handed forehand might be more successful.

"I told Nina she wouldn't go too far if she didn't change," Maynor said Saturday from his home in Mount Vernon, Ill. "She was a hard worker, and I told her that she needed every advantage she could get."

Pantic switched to a one-handed forehand last year.

Allen is excited, especially now that she will finally get to meet Pantic. The last Win4Life session will be during the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament April 8-9. And, of course, Pantic is hoping to be a star performer that weekend.

--Saturday's Win4Life session was highlighted by drills with the College of Charleston women's team at Patriots Point.

Lights anyone?
The days of practically playing in the dark on some courts at St. Andrews' tennis complex are over. Pro Philip Burke has announced that the facility has new lights, just in time for the third annual St. Patrick's Day-themed "Lucky Shot" adult tournament scheduled for two weekends from now.

Local league players dreaded playing at St. Andrews in recent years because of the facility's weak lighting system. That's no longer a problem.

Now, if only another public facility, the courts at Collins Park, could get upgraded with new lights and court resurfacing.

--Back to the St. Andrews tournament. The event will have rated divisions for singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The entry deadline is next Sunday. To enter, go to www.usta.com, click on tournaments and enter the tournament ID number 704101806. If you need more information, contact Philip Burke at 763-4360.

--St. Andrews also will hold a junior challenger tournament the weekend of March 24. Entry is available online using the tournament ID 704105106.

--Along the lighting lines, Maybank Tennis Center is currently in the process of having new lights installed. A crew from Metro Electric Company of Charleston was on hand Friday taking down the old light poles to make room for a complete new lighting system.

Flowertown event
The Flowertown Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournament is scheduled for March 31-April 2 during the festival at the Azalea Park courts in Summerville. Entry forms are available at local clubs, the Summerville Family YMCA or by calling Greg Hancox at 830-5351.

Courting Kids
Don't forget. Courting Kids starts for another year next Saturday with sessions at 10 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island and at 1 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center. The cost is $10 for city residents. For more information, contact Delores Jackson or Charleston Tennis Center at 766-7401.

(03/01/06)  In tennis, the kids are alright

This must be kids week.

Everything seems to be going their way, as far as tennis is concerned.

First, the Junior Smash Cup survived Saturday's downpour to finish on time. While the overall tournament had an excellent field as usual, this was probably the most talented to come along in the girls' 18 competition.

Champion Nina Pantic and runner-up Jennifer Stevens, both out of Florida, are players you'll hear from again. Both are talented, with a world of potential that just may be good enough to take them to the pro level.

Stevens, in particular, is one of the biggest women's hitters I've seen. And this 5-10 player is only 17. She reminds me of Shadisha Robinson, the 2003 Junior Family Circle Cup winner who is now an All-American at the University of Georgia. Robinson advanced through the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament with a string of upsets of veteran pros. I was thinking Stevens could do the same things, until Pantic wore her down with consistency in Monday's final.

Pantic, on the other hand, isn't a weakling when it comes to power, but finesse is her game. Her game is similar to that of most of the European clay-court players after you get past the top 50. She has a solid game with ample power, excellent foot speed and good consistency.

Back to the kids
The April 8-16 Family Circle Cup has announced that its Monday through Friday sessions are offering a special $10-a-ticket deal for kids under 12. That sounds much better to tennis-loving parents, who in past years needed an extra $75 or $100 to send a couple of kids to one of the daytime sessions.

The tournament also is throwing in free admission to kids under 12 for the April 8-9 qualifying tournament that will feature Nina Pantic, not to mention numerous top-200 pros. The quality of play in the qualifying event is almost as good as that of the main draw, and there generally are plenty of seats just a few feet from the participants.

City joins in
Charleston Tennis Center also is opening up to the kids. City tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne has announced that kids can play free at the tennis center any weekday afternoon from 3-6 p.m. and on weekends.

Of course, the Farmfield Avenue complex will be extra busy the next few weeks, with practices and team matches for the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League that starts its season on March 13, as well as adult league matches for the displaced teams from Maybank Tennis Center. Also, James Island and Academic Magnet's boys' high school teams use Charleston Tennis Center as their home courts.

Maybank is starting this week to replace its lighting system, requiring adult league matches to be rescheduled for Charleston Tennis Center, Moultrie Playground or the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on Johns Island.

The elementary and middle school league already has 74 teams entered.

There is still room for participants to sign up for Saturday's 10 a.m. USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop at Charleston Tennis Center. Contact Bohne (766-7401) for more information.

College update
Inclement weather played havoc with college tennis over the weekend, but The Citadel posted Southern Conference victories over Wofford and Davidson to improve to 4-2 overall. The Bulldogs play at home Saturday and Monday against SoCon rivals Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro.

The College of Charleston men, still 2-1, will face Xavier at home Thursday, then meet Greensboro, Georgia Southern and UNC Charlotte here Saturday through Monday. The Cougar women did get one match in, but suffered a 5-1 loss to East Carolina to fall to 1-6, heading into home matches Thursday through Sunday against Xavier, Chattanooga, Western Carolina and Richmond.

Charleston Southern's men play at Winthrop on Saturday and return home to meet Greensboro on Tuesday. The CSU women take on David-son here Friday and travel to Winthrop on Saturday.

Clemson's 22nd-ranked men (12-2) upset No. 13 Louisiana State last week with Charleston left-hander Ryan Young deciding the 4-3 victory by coming through at No. 4 singles.

(02/26/06)  New title sponsor a real Smash with Junior Cup
The Junior Family Circle Cup literally has been Smashed. No, not by the rain that hit the tournament Saturday. Smash Magazine is its new title sponsor. Hence, the name Smash Junior Cup.

This is a major step forward for the five-year-old junior tournament. Smash Magazine has just gone into production. Its first issue will be distributed next month to 175,000 junior members of the U.S. Tennis Association.

"We have a great relationship with the Family Circle Cup and we knew they were having a lot of success with the junior tournament," Smash Magazine marketing representative Rob Leslie said Saturday during a rain-interrupted session of the tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Smash Magazine especially likes the fact that the junior tournament feeds its girls' 18 champion directly into the qualifying tournament for the April 8-16 Family Circle Cup. Smash has a two-year partnership with Family Circle to sponsor the junior tournament.

"We thought it (the tournament) would be a perfect vehicle to launch Smash. We believe junior tennis and junior tennis tournaments are very important to the growth of the game," Leslie said.

A 29-year-old native of Gig Harbor, Wash., Leslie worked two years with the WTA Tour and three years with Sports Illustrated before joining the New York City-based marketing department of Smash and Tennis magazines, both of which are distributed by the USTA and are owned by the Miller Publishing Group of Los Angeles.

"Our goal is to make this one of the premiere junior events in the country," he said.

This year's event is living up to those expectations. It is truly national in scope with nationally ranked players such as No. 17 Catherine Newman of Greensboro, N.C., No. 26 Jennifer Stevens of Miami, No. 35 Laurianne Henry of Anderson, No. 44 Amanda Granson of Bethlehem, Pa., and No. 54 Christina Keesey of Northfield, Minn.

Another Courting Kids
The year was 1992. Sounds like a long time ago, but it was just yesterday for Delores Jackson when she started Courting Kids.

In two weeks, Courting Kids will begin its 15th year. The program has long been regarded as one of the best of its kind in the entire country. It already has won the USTA's National Tennis League Chapter of the Year award.

The program started with the aid of a $12,000 grant from the Paul Newman Foundation. Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., recognizing the need for a low-cost tennis program for inner-city youths, continued to support the program over the years through the city's Department of Recreation. Serena Williams has been one of the financial supporters of Courting Kids.

Jackson, who is employed by Charleston Tennis Center, will begin the spring session of Courting Kids on March 11 at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island from 10-11:30 a.m. and at the Jack Adams Tennis Center downtown from 1-2:30 p.m. The program will run through April 29 at both sites. Summer and fall sessions also will be held.

The program is for ages 5-17. The fee per session for city residents is only $10.  For more information, contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

Join the S.C. team?
Do USTA events such as the Southern Senior Cup at times seem like "closed" affairs? You only find out about the event by the results?

That might be changing. Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer has reported that USTA South Carolina is in the process of selecting the state's top players for this year's Southern Senior Cup, which will be held the first weekend in June in Columbus, Ga.

As many as four men and four women will represent the state in each of five different age groups, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-74 and 75-and-over. Anyone interested in joining the team can submit a written request to Becky McPhee at the USTA South Carolina office (mcphee@southerntennis.com or fax 803-753-9255). For more information about the event, contact Peiffer (763-5376).

(02/22/06)  Family Circle Cup midweek package for local teams a steal

The Family Circle Cup has come up with what I call a "real deal" for league tennis teams.

A session with Grand Slam doubles champion Luke Jensen seals the deal.

That's right. Jensen might be able to give teams just the edge they need to finish off the local league tennis season with the kind of success that will extend their seasons into state play.

Here's the deal. Family Circle Cup calls it the "Team Getaways" ticket package for any session between Monday and Thursday of the April 8-16 Family Circle Cup. Teams with six or more players will get terrace seats, an official tournament program for each member, one valet parking pass per team and access to the exclusive Hyundai Champions Club on the grounds, all for $25 per person. Terrace seats for daytime sessions alone cost $55.

And the team captain gets in free with six paid tickets.

The package comes with the option of an hour-long session for the team with Jensen and Family Circle pros for an extra $100.

More information on the team package is available from the Family Circle Cup general ticket office (800-677-2293) or by going to the tournament Web site at www.familycirclecup.com.

--If you're not a league player, USTA members can still get a $10 discount on all session tickets Monday through Wednesday.

Rogers Emory bound
Bishop England senior Sabra Rogers has committed in an early decision to play for three-time NCAA Division III national champion Emory University. "Coach Amy Smith Bryant has recruited Sabra since August, and was especially impressed with her powerful forehand and serve," said Players Club director Fritz Nau, who coaches Rogers.

"Sabra will get a great education at a great university because of her dedication to tennis. She will be concentrating on physical fitness and tournament play to prepare for the fall semester."

Rogers was captain of the Bishop England team and a member of the National Honor Society.

College update
--Coach Toby Simpson's Citadel team defeated Tennessee Tech and lost to Clemson and Troy State over the weekend in Clemson's spring tournament. The Bulldogs (2-2) will open their Southern Conference season Friday at Wofford, then return home to take on Davidson on Sunday at noon.

--Charleston Southern's men's team was the only team that wasn't shut out by Clemson in the spring tournament. The Bucs lost, 6-1, to Clemson and will play at South Carolina on Thursday before facing Big South foe Radford Saturday at 1 p.m. at the CSU courts. The CSU women play at home Saturday at 3 p.m. against East Carolina.

--Clemson blanked Tennessee Tech, Troy State and The Citadel in its spring tournament and ran its record to 10-2 heading into a Thursday match at Louisiana State.

--The College of Charleston men moved to a 2-1 record by upending Big South power Winthrop, 4-3, giving coach Phil Whitesell more confidence going into the Cougars' season-opening Southern Conference match Saturday at home at 1:30 p.m. against Davidson. The C of C women lost to Winthrop, 6-1, to fall to 1-5, going into a pair of matches at home Saturday, at 9 a.m. against East Carolina and 3:30 p.m. against Savannah State.

Upcoming events
--The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League will begin play on March 13. Teams can practice at Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center on weekends and from 3-6 p.m. on weekdays. For more information, contact city tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne (766-7401).

--March 4 is the deadline for entering the City of Charleston's March 10-12 Junior Challenger Tournament at Charleston Tennis Center. Registration can be made online at www.usta.com. For information, contact the tennis center (766-7401).

--Family Circle Tennis Center will hold a "Tennis 101" program for three weeks starting on March 7. Sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. covering beginner stroke technique, strategy, match play and etiquette taught by the Family Circle staff of pros. The program is open to members as well as non-members. For more information, contact Greg Harkins (849-5306) or Ashlea Bowen (849-5304).

--A free clinic for beginners and new players will be held today from 6-7 p.m. at Moultrie Playground to kick off a four-week session that will begin next Wednesday. Contact pro Michael Fischbach (762-1814) to sign up for tonight's free session.

--The Mount Pleasant Recreation Department will offer a Junior Davis Cup Tennis League for players 9-15 from Tuesday through March 22. Players are divided into teams by countries and compete in a Davis Cup league format. Practices are held at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Center. The entry deadline is Monday. For more information, contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162).

--The USTA-sanctioned Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Challenger will be held at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Center March 3-5. The tournament will offer singles and doubles for all junior age groups. For more information, contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162).

--Mount Pleasant pros Tom and Clay Maynor will hold a spring break tennis camp for junior ages 7-16 April 3-6. The sessions will run 9 a.m.-noon each day. For more information, contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162).

(02/19/06)  Tennis guru spends week teaching locally

Strokes and contacting the ball are as old as tennis. But check Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Contact movement is the new common denominator, the one thing that can separate the winners from the losers. That's where David Bailey comes in, with the Bailey Method of contact moves.

The world-renown tennis movement guru spent the last week at Mount Pleasant's Players Club teaching his method to juniors and adults.

The week brought three of tennis' top teaching minds back together. Sitting around under a tent at The Players Club, Bailey, Fritz Nau and Ean Meyer talked tennis. Nau and Meyer are directors at The Players Club, working together in much the same way as they did years ago at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and what is now the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. Bailey and Meyer also reminisced about when they taught together at the Evert Academy.

These three men all played a role in the development of some of the top players in the game. Both Nau and Bailey worked closely with Monica Seles.

"She's the best I've ever seen," Nau said as he pointed to an autographed photo of Seles hanging on the wall of the clubhouse. Seles was a mere kid when the photo was taken.

Bailey grew up in Sydney, Australia, and played satellite professional tennis. His father, Alan Bailey, played Grand Slam events prior to tennis' Open Era, and is currently the No. 4 player in the world in men's 75.

"He played Wimbledon, but it took him three months by boat to get there. That was real dedication," Bailey said about his father. "He was one of the first players to play with a two-handed backhand."

Bailey, 40, has been in fitness for more than 20 years. "I've specialized in the Bailey Method for four years, but it took 20 years to develop it," he said.

"What I'm trying to do is to get a common language throughout the world. I call it a contact move. It's an athletic move you make when you contact the ball. I teach 15 different contact moves," added Bailey, who plans to spend 20 days in the United States before heading back Down Under. "I'm teaching how to use footwork and stay balanced."

Bailey will spend most of the next week instructing at Bollettieri's before heading to Stanford University to deliver a lecture to the Northern California section of the U.S. Tennis Association.

According to Meyer, the Bailey Method is the "most important breakthrough in the modern era ... since graphite rackets. This is the greatest breakthrough from a footwork standpoint I've seen.

"In the past, coaches focused on one piece of the puzzle. Now they need to focus on all four areas, technical, tactical, mental and physical," said Meyer. "When we worked together at the Evert Academy, David focused more on footwork, and I would focus more on the swing and mental side."

One of Bailey's former students, hard-hitting Jelena Dokic who has fallen from as high as No. 4 in the world in 2002 to a current No. 406, called the movement guru for help around the time of last month's Australian Open. "I didn't get to work with her," he said.

Instead, Bailey is spending most of his teaching time these days with rising, young players such as 18-year-old Jarmilla Gajdosova of Slovakia, currently ranked No. 131 in the world, and 22-year-old former No. 41st-ranked Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg. "These two girls have really worked on their footwork," Bailey said.

He also is impressed by the players, coaches and parents at The Players Club. "The kids and parents are the best I've seen in my 20 years of teaching," Bailey said. "Ean and Fritz have done a great job. The kids knew the moves before I got here."

(02/15/06)  Petrova, Schnyder commit to Cup
Nadia Petrova and Patty Schnyder have entered this year's Family Circle Cup, giving the Daniel Island women's tennis tournament five of the top 10 players in the world. Petrova and Schnyder currently are ranked Nos. 7 and 9 in the world, respectively. They join three former champions, No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 6 Mary Pierce and No. 10 Venus Williams, as well as seven-time Grand Slam titlist Serena Williams in the April 8-16 tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"This year's player field will feature some of the most talented players in the world," said tournament director Robin Reynolds. "Patty and Nadia are two exciting players to watch, and over the years, they have both enjoyed great success here at the Family Circle Cup."

The Family Circle Cup's clay courts have brought out the best in Schnyder's left-handed, high-kicking, top-spin groundstrokes. She was runner-up to Iva Majoli in 2002 in the second Family Circle Cup to be held on Daniel Island, and has played in the semifinals of the tournament each of the last two years. She also was a semifinalist in 1999 when the tournament was played at Hilton Head Island.

A 27-year-old Swiss player, Schnyder has made nine appearances in the Tier I event, which now has a purse of $1.34 million. She is playing some of the best tennis of her career, having finished 2005 with a career-high No. 7 ranking after advancing to at least the quarterfinals of 15 WTA Tour tournaments. She followed that up with a quarterfinal effort at last month's Australian Open.

Petrova also had an excellent year in 2005, reaching the quarterfinals or better at 17 events. She captured her career-first WTA Tour singles title at Linz, Austria, defeating Schnyder in the final. Petrova, who last year surpassed $1 million in season prize money for the first time, was a quarterfinalist at last month's Australian Open.

This will be Petrova's fourth main draw appearance at the Family Circle Cup. The tall, 23-year-old Russian has reached the quarterfinals each of the last two years.

(02/15/06)  Win eases Cougars' early run
Phil Whitesell feels much better about his College of Charleston men's team after the Cougars' 6-0 victory over East Carolina over the weekend.

"I know we're going to be competitive," he insisted Monday.

With the eligibility of Israeli freshman Omer Abramovich finalized, and Colorado transfer Marcos Digliodo settled in at the No. 2 slot, Whitesell thinks things have stabilized for his 1-1 team.

Whitesell said there had been some question about Abramovich's eligibility due to his age and military service in Israel. "We just wanted to clear it with the NCAA first," Whitesell said.

Abramovich got his first taste of competition by winning at No. 4 against East Carolina.

The Cougars are strong at No. 1, where Or Dekel of Israel won his second straight match. Dekel missed last year with a shoulder injury after being named Southern Conference player of the year in 2004. He is a transfer from Cal-Berkeley.

This weekend, the Cougars play a pair of road matches, Friday at Big South Conference power Winthrop and Saturday at UNC Wilmington. The Cougars will open SoCon play on Feb. 25 at home against Davidson.

--During the Davidson match, C of C will hold a Cow Bingo fundraiser between 11 a.m and 3 p.m. next to the tennis center at Patriots Point.

--The C of C men spent Monday afternoon visiting with the children at the MUSC Children's Hospital. The entire 13-player team, as well as Whitesell and assistant coach Jay Bruner, participated in the visit, which included playing tennis with the children. A small net and foam balls were used.

"I think it is important not only for the kids in the hospital to see that the community cares and hopes for a speedy recovery, but also puts things into perspective for my players," Whitesell said. "You have kids in here fighting for their lives; losing a match doesn't seem so horrific."

--The men's team has had the College's highest GPA (3.6) of any athletic team for three straight years. Of six graduating seniors this year, five are planning to attend medical school.

Local college update
--Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's C of C women's team attracted a large crowd for last week's breast cancer awareness match against Coastal Carolina. Everything at the College of Charleston Tennis Center at Patriots Point seemed to be pink, even the balls, balloons and a carpet leading from the gate to the clubhouse. That didn't slow down a Coastal team made up almost entirely of players from other countries as the visitors dropped the College to 1-4 overall. The Cougar women also play at Winthrop on Friday and then visit UNC Charlotte on Saturday.

--The Citadel men, who defeated Coastal Carolina in their only match, will participate in Clemson's spring tournament this weekend. Charleston Southern's men, also 1-0, will join The Citadel in the Clemson tournament.

--The CSU women, struggling with a 0-3 start, are idle until next week.

Upcoming events
--Friday is the deadline for entering the Feb. 24-27 Smash Junior Cup at Family Circle Tennis Center. The tournament will have all of the junior age groups. The winner of girls' 18 will receive a wild-card berth into the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament. Registration is available on the internet at www.usta.com using the tournament identifying number 704140606.

--Former Charleston Southern players Sandeep Reddy and Santiago Falla will conduct two-hour clinics on Saturdays at the CSU tennis complex. For registration and information, contact Reddy at 425-0060.

(02/12/06)  Garrison: Williamses' impact 'obvious'
Proof is in that Venus and Serena Williams have had a significant impact on black women who play the game of tennis in the United States. The USTA reports that a record seven American black players are ranked among the top 175 women in the world and the top 20 U.S. players.

Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison, one of the early black players on the tour, can see the difference the Williams sisters have made.

"The U.S. is currently experiencing the greatest depth of African-Americans in women's tennis ever," she said. "The impact Venus and Serena Williams have made is obvious as the future looks bright with a number of talented young African-Americans climbing up the ranks."

Further evidence of the impact can be found in a recent USTA survey that pointed to a rise in tennis participation in the United States, thanks in part to an increase in black participants. One third of new recreational players are either black or Hispanic.

Of course, 2006 Family Circle Cup entrants Venus and Serena, Nos. 10 and 37 in the latest world rankings, lead the way for the pro women, but Jamea Jackson (No. 85) and Mashona Washington (No. 99) also are in the top 100. The other three players in the top 175 are Shenay Perry (No. 134), Asha Rolle (No. 156) and Angela Haynes (No. 166). Jackson, Perry, Rolle and Haynes are all 21 or younger, with Bradenton, Fla., resident Jackson the youngest at 19.

Family Circle qualifying tournament watchers will remember four of these other five women. Rolle, a 20-year-old, is the only one who hasn't played in Charleston.

A talented and athletic 21-year-old Floridian who has great serve-and-volley potential, Perry is one of the more promising players in the group. She and the 29-year-old Washington both have played in the Family Circle main draw along with making several appearances here in the qualifying tournament. Jackson and Haynes both played here last spring, each losing in their first and only qualifying tournament appearances here.

Movement guru pays visit

Internationally acclaimed movement and conditioning guru David Bailey of Australia will spend this coming week at the Players Club before going on to Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Florida and then lecturing at Stanford University.

Bailey, who has worked with Monica Seles, Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis, will train Charleston Tennis Academy coaches and juniors as well as Players Club adult league teams and serious adult players. He will be available for private and group lessons to the public in tennis specific movement during his stay in Charleston. For more information, contact Kathy King (843-849-6560).

Headed to Costa Rica
After five days of intensive training with Bailey this coming week, CTA players Morgan Ivey, Caroline Thornton and Ireland girls' 16 No. 1 Maria Morrissey will leave on a three-week tennis trip that includes five days at the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., and tournament play in Costa Rica and Panama.

Players Club coach Ean Meyer will travel with the group.

Other local news
--The deadline for entering the Feb. 24-27 Smash Junior Cup at Family Circle Tennis Center is next Friday. The tournament will have all of the junior age groups. The winner of girls' 18 will receive a wild-card berth into the qualifying draw for the April 8-16 Family Circle Cup. Registration is available on the internet at www.usta.com using the tournament identifying number 704140606.

--World women's 45 No. 1 Diane Fishburne won her division in singles and was runner-up in doubles in last weekend's Checket Cup in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while Susie Peiffer was a finalist in women's 55 singles and Jeanette Weiland took the women's 75 doubles crown. Cindy Babb in women's 55 and Robi Poston in women's 65 also competed as Charleston women combined for a 15-5 record at the Level II national tournament.

--The roster deadline for fielding teams in the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League is Feb. 21. The league will start play March 13. Teams can practice at Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center on weekends and from 3-6 p.m. on weekdays. For more information, contact city tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne (766-7401).

--New USPTR teaching pro Kenneth Funderburk has been contracted by the City of Charleston to teach tennis lessons at the Jack Adams Tennis Center next to Johnson Hagood Stadium. For information and appointments, contact Funderburk (819-7719).

--The City of Charleston Junior Challenger Tournament is scheduled for March 10-12 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadline is March 4. Registration can be made online at www.usta.com. For information, contact the tennis center (766-7401).

--David Stokes, from Lexington Technology Center, is the third straight winner of the Family Circle Cup's official T-shirt design contest. Stokes, 17, is in teacher Priscilla Bundrick's commercial design class at the Lexington school. The design will appear on Family Circle Cup T-shirts that will be available during the tournament. The design is displayed on the tournament Web site, www.familycirclecup.com.

--Former Charleston Southern players Sandeep Reddy and Santiago Falla have started conducting two-hour Saturday clinics at the CSU tennis complex. Part of the revenue generated will be donated to the CSU tennis team fund. For registration and information, contact Reddy (425-0060).

(02/09/06)  THE DANIEL ISLAND NEWS: Mary Pierce returns to FCC, the site of her professional debut
Former Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce has entered the 2006 Family Circle Cup, which was the site of her professional tennis debut in 1989. Currently ranked No. 6 in the world, Pierce will join a stellar field of top tennis stars including Justine Henin-Hardenne, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. The Family Circle Cup, the only Tier 1 clay court event in the United States, will be held April 8-16 at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

"Mary’s commitment to her sport is just as strong today as it’s ever been, and her results prove it," commented Robin Reynolds, Family Circle Cup Tournament Director. "What she accomplished on the court last year was truly remarkable. She is an exciting player to watch and has always been a crowd favorite here at the Cup."

Pierce will be making her eleventh appearance at the Family Circle Cup in April. When she made her professional debut at the Family Circle Cup in 1989, she was the youngest American (14 years, 2 months) to do so until Jennifer Capriati broke the record in 1990. Her best performance at the Cup came in 2000 when she captured the Family Circle Cup title by defeating Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. She won her first Grand Slam title at the 1995 Australian Open, becoming the first Frenchwoman to win a Grand Slam title in singles since Francoise Durr in 1967. In 2000, Pierce won both the singles and doubles titles at Roland Garros, and tied her career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world.

One of the best seasons in her career came in 2005. In a comeback that has been cited as an inspiration by the likes of Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, Pierce broke back into the Top 5 with runner-up finishes at Roland Garros, the US Open, and the WTA season-ending Championships, becoming one of only eight women in the Open Era to reach the finals of all three events in the same season. By reaching the Roland Garros final, she became the first Grand Slam finalist over 30 years of age since Martina Navratilova achieved that milestone in 1994 at Wimbledon. Pierce ended the 2005 season with a world No. 5 ranking, and surpassed the $9 million dollar mark in career earnings.

Jr. Family Circle Cup renamed SMASH Junior Cup

The 5-year-old Junior Family Circle Cup, a 4-day junior event at Daniel Island, SC., that attracts more than 500 girls and boys from over 15 states, will be re-branded the SMASH Junior Cup, beginning with this year’s tournament February 24th – 27th. The event is a co-ed precursor to the 34-year-old Family Circle Cup women’s professional tournament

SMASH, a new magazine launched by TENNIS Magazine for teen-age players, features behind-the-scenes access to the top tennis stars like Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick, along with the latest fashion trends, gear reviews, instructional tips and junior rankings.

The SMASH Junior Cup, which is sanctioned by the USTA, STA and SCTA, is one of only five events in the state of South Carolina to have a Level 1 SC State Status. The SMASH Junior Cup also has Level 5 Southern Tournament status, which translates to more ranking points per round than a standard SC tournament. The Family Circle Tennis Center will serve as host site, with the finals of each division scheduled for Monday, February 27th at the Daniel Island facility.

The SMASH Junior Cup is open to Girls and Boys ages 8-18, and features five categories each: Boys and Girls Singles 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18. One of the highlights of the SMASH Junior Cup involves the Girls 18 Division. The winner of this division is awarded a direct entry into the Qualifying Draw of the 2006 Family Circle Cup with a wildcard invitation.

Juniors can register for this USTA sanctioned tournament at www.USTA.com, using ID# 704-140-606 *Registration ends on February 17th, 2006.

Former Charleston Recreation employee joins FCC
Michael Saia joined the staff as Communications Manager, effective immediately. Saia will lead the public relations and communications efforts not only for the Family Circle Cup but also for the Family Circle Tennis Center.

In this new role, Saia will oversee the tournament and facility’s public relations and communications campaign, community/charity outreach programs, IT services and website management. During the tournament he will serve as Media Center Director in charge of coordinating and distributing tournament information to on-site media as well as media outlets worldwide.

Saia graduated in the spring of 2004 from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania with a graduate degree in Sport Management focusing on PR and Communications. Prior to graduating, he served as a Pr/Communications intern at the Family Circle Cup in the spring of 2004 where he played an instrumental role in creating and implementing a number of key PR initiatives. Prior to joining the Family Circle Cup, Michael was employed by the City of Charleston Recreation Department as Marketing & Special Events Coordinator. In that job, his duties included event management, media & public relations, community relations, web administration, and publication design. He played collegiate tennis at Wilkes University, a Division III NCAA school, and in his freshman year held the No. 1 spot in singles and doubles. Over the past year, he has joined many other tennis enthusiasts as an active USTA league player here in the Charleston area.

Family Circle Cup Ball Crew
The 2006 Family Circle Cup Ball Crew is practicing hard, and is now in its 3rd week of preparations for the April event on Daniel Island. As the tournament nears, the Ball Crew will consist of over 200 participants from all over the Lowcountry. Training sessions are held each year, beginning in January, and leading up to the tournament. Practices are held on Saturday mornings, alternating between the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, and the Maybank Tennis Center on James Island. The Family Circle Cup, the only Tier 1 clay court event in the United States, will be held April 8-16 at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

To receive an application or for more information please contact Susan Honowitz at (843) 686-4477 or Toni Young at (843) 343-8393 or Dan Tumbleston (843) 554-0825 or by e-mail at tumbled@knology.net.

(02/08/06)  Davis Cup dilemma for local viewers
If you've already got the fire log for the fireplace, and you're ready to kick back this weekend and watch Davis Cup tennis, you might need to revamp your cable TV service.

If its harsh treatment of Justine Henin-Hardenne's decision to retire from the Australian Open final wasn't enough, ESPN has pulled out of the Davis Cup wars for 2006, according to the U.S. Tennis Association. This leaves diehard tennis fans in a real dilemma.

For this weekend's U.S.- Romania first-round tie in La Jolla, Calif., there is a cable way to go to see all three days. Yet, if the Americans survive this weekend, another cable scheme might be the least expensive choice for live coverage.

So, here it is just a couple days before the matches begin, and the USTA releases this bomb on its subjects. The USTA made the announcement Tuesday.

Here's the setup. The Tennis Channel will be the only provider of live or delayed coverage for Friday's opening two singles matches, which should involve Andy Roddick and James Blake. The Bryan brothers' doubles match on Saturday will be telecast live by the Outdoor Life Network and delayed by The Tennis Channel.

For Sunday's two reverse singles matches, OLN will telecast live until 5 p.m. if the tie is still undecided, at which time it will hand off live coverage to The Tennis Channel, which also will air a replay of the day's matches that night.

The good news for local Knology cable subscribers with the extra sports tier package and special digital service is that both The Tennis Channel and OLN are available in the Charleston area. Knology requires basic digital for its sports tier package, and a higher-priced digital for OLN.

And the bad news is that if you don't already have these features, you don't have much time to make this approximately $20 monthly upgrade from Knology basic cable.

The Outdoor Life Network is owned by Comcast, so while Comcast doesn't offer The Tennis Channel locally, preferred basic subscribers can pick up OLN on Comcast channel 56 without any extra fees. That's only half-good enough for this weekend, but the good news is that future Davis Cup rounds in 2006 played in this country will be telecast by OLN, with The Tennis Channel showing the matches delayed.

So, what should I do? Right now, I'm out in the cold for all Davis Cup coverage. I can upgrade my present plan for about $20 a month . . if I have time before Friday's matches start. If I switch providers, I'll be able to see only part of this weekend's matches, but all future 2006 Davis Cup matches live for just a couple dollars extra each month.

Cougars play for cancer
Don't forget. The College of Charleston women will be playing a breast cancer awareness match today at 2 p.m. at Patriots Point against unbeaten Coastal Carolina. Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's College of Charleston women are 1-3 after splitting a pair of road matches over the weekend with James Madison (a 7-0 win) and 20th-ranked William and Mary (a 7-0 loss).

--Both College of Charleston teams will take part in Saturday's 10:30 a.m. alumni matches at Patriots Point.

--Phil Whitesell's College of Charleston men (0-1) will play a 1 p.m. match here Sunday against East Carolina.

--Charleston Southern's men (1-0) will take on East Carolina in a 1 p.m. home match on Saturday. The CSU women will play at Francis Marion on Friday.

(02/07/06)  Pierce set to return for Cup
Mary Pierce is playing perhaps the best tennis of a professional career that started with the 1989 Family Circle Cup when she was only 14 years old. Now at age 31, Pierce is one of the favorites to win this year's Family Circle Cup after entering the Daniel Island event Monday. She is the third former champion to enter the April 8-16 WTA Tour tournament, joining defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne and Venus Williams. Seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion Serena Williams also is entered.

"Mary's commitment to her sport is just as strong today as it's ever been, and her results prove it," tournament director Robin Reynolds said. "What she accomplished on the court last year was truly remarkable. She is an exciting player to watch and has always been a crowd favorite here at the Cup."

Pierce was a finalist at both the French Open and U.S. Open last year. She finished the year by reaching the final of the season-ending WTA Championships, but started 2006 with a first-round loss to Iveta Benesova in the Australian Open. Pierce is currented ranked sixth in the world.

She started last year with a 12-8 record in her first eight tournaments, including a second-round loss to Nuria Llagostera in the Family Circle Cup. Entering the French Open ranked 23rd in the world, Pierce advanced all the way to the final before losing to Henin-Hardenne.

Pierce fashioned a 29-4 record in the second half of the season to finish the year ranked fifth in the world. She won Tier I titles at San Diego and Moscow in 2005.

She came through with a Grand Slam title in mixed doubles last year at Wimbledon, giving her a total of four Grand Slam singles and doubles titles. Pierce won the 1995 Australian Open singles title, then in 2000 notched singles and doubles victories at the French Open. She also breezed to a Family Circle Cup title in 2000, defeating Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the final.

This will mark Pierce's 11th appearance in the Family Circle Cup. She has an 18-9 record in the event, dating back to her first-round loss to Laura Arraya in 1989 after winning a pair of qualifying matches to make the main draw. She was a semifinalist in 1994 and a quarterfinalist in 2003.

(02/05/06)  Business picking up for new FCC director
The countdown is on at Family Circle Tennis Center. It's 61 days until the start of Charleston's biggest annual sporting event.

This means one thing to the new tournament director for the Family Circle Cup.

"We're in full tournament mode right now," Robin Reynolds assured Wednesday as she stood on what will be the Grand Lawn from April 8-16 during the sixth Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island.

Reynolds was promoted on Dec. 16 to the dual position of facility and tournament director for Family Circle after working with the tournament for 10 years, the first seven years as a consultant and the last three full-time as the event's communications director. In other words, the buck for one of the premier women's tournaments in the world stops with her.

When Frankie Whelan retired as executive director with the end of 2005, Reynolds was on her own.

"I'm looking more at the bigger picture now. I'm no longer just concerned with PR. I'm overseeing the tournament and anything that happens with the tournament ... tickets, marketing and communications, player services, dealing with the WTA Tour, transportation, and food and beverages," she said.

With the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup just about two months away, Reynolds is a busy woman. She runs from one meeting to another these days.

"It's starting to get busier and busier. We do it (the tournament) year-around, but it gets into more of a high gear in October and November. Obviously in January it goes up to a new level," she said.

Her job is made easier when the top players in the women's game commit to playing in the Family Circle Cup. Getting both Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, to enter this year's event was a big deal. As was having defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne return. A strong field goes a long ways to ensuring that the tournament will be a success.

"I think we'll have a great player field," Reynolds said. She would love to see Maria Sharapova enter the tournament as well as Martina Hingis, but she realizes that some things are out of her control. Much of the player scheduling is handled by the WTA Tour.

"I will probably have more contact with the players (than in her former role). Having been in tennis for more than 20 years, I already know a lot of the players and agents," said Reynolds, who played high school tennis, attended Virginia Tech and later worked for the WTA Tour. She has a master's degree in sports administration from St. Thomas University in Miami.

She works for a new boss these days, publishing giant Meredith Corp. of Des Moines, Iowa, which in the process of acquiring Family Circle Magazine last year became the owner of the Family Circle Cup. Family Circle Magazine remains the title sponsor for the tournament.

"I think being owned by the second largest publishing company in the country (Meredith) is a really great asset for us."

--Reynolds has announced that Michael Saia has joined Family Circle to fill her former position, communications manager. Saia, who was with the City of Charleston Recreation Department, earned a master's degree in sports management in 2004 from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University and served as an intern for the 2004 Family Circle Cup.

--The Junior Family Circle Cup has a new title sponsor, Smash Magazine which is published by Tennis Magazine. Now named the Smash Junior Cup, the tournament is scheduled for Feb. 24-27.

C of C cancer match
The announcement last week that the College of Charleston women's team's home opener against Coastal Carolina this coming Wednesday will be a benefit for breast cancer awareness was an instant success with contributions and sponsorships. All of the $100 court sponsorships already are taken for the 2 p.m. match at Patriots Point. The Cougars will wear specially designed pink "Fight For A Cure" T-shirts and use pink "Hope" balls.

"We've had a lot of sponsors who weren't even College of Charleston people or tennis fans. They were just touched by what we're doing," coach Angelo Anastopoulo said Friday. He can be contacted at anastopa@cofc.edu or (843) 953-5466.

The cutoff for listing contributors and sponsors in the match program is at the end of Monday. The types of contributions are $25 for a person to have his or her name placed in the program, and $10 for "in honor of" or "in memory of" placed in the program. A limited supply of the special T-shirts are available for sale at $10 each. Proceeds will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

(02/01/06)  Cougar women join the 'Fight For A Cure’
Pink tennis balls and pink T-shirts. The College of Charleston women aren't just hoping for luck in the Cougars' home opener Wednesday against Coastal Carolina.

They're hoping for victory against something bigger than a tennis match: they're joining the fight against breast cancer. The tennis match will be a benefit for breast cancer awareness.

The Cougars will wear specially designed pink T-shirts with the words "Fight For A Cure" displayed on the back of the shirt, and they will play the 2 p.m. match at the Patriots Points tennis center using pink "Hope" balls. They have 200 of the special T-shirts, which sell for $10 each. All proceeds will go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

"Most of the girls on the team have, sometime in their lives, been affected by breast cancer through a relative or friend, and we wanted to do something to raise awareness for breast cancer research," said Gonzaga transfer Amanda Becker, a sophomore who is heading up the publicity for the event.

"We are just trying to give back to the community," added senior Jenna Marks, from Atlanta.

Members of the team are seeking donations for the event. Three types of contributions are available: $100 to sponsor a court, $25 for a person to have his or her name placed in the program, and $10 for "in honor of" or "in memory of" placed in the program.

The College of Charleston women have the longest streak in NCAA Division I with seven straight years of All-Academic team citations by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The Cougars earned a cumulative 3.56 grade-point average last year.

For more information or to make a contribution to the breast cancer awareness match, contact coach Angelo Anastopoulo at anastopa@cofc.edu or (843) 953-5466.

The Cougars, who were shut out in their first two matches against nationally ranked South Carolina and Clemson, leave Friday for a weekend trip to Virginia to play James Madison on Saturday and William and Mary on Sunday.

Upcoming events
--The Family Circle Cup ball crew will practice every 12:30-3 p.m. every Saturday until the tournament starts April 8 on Daniel Island. For more information, contact Susan Honowitz (686-4477), Toni Young (343-8393) or Dan Tumbleston (554-0825).

--Volunteers are still needed for the Family Circle Cup. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Neves Richards (849-5309 or mnrfcc@comcast.net). Applications are available on the internet at www.familycirclecup.com.

--Registration for the local Junior Team Tennis winter season will be open through Monday, with the season starting Feb. 12. For more information, contact Maggie LaCoste at (843) 906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net.

--Family Circle Tennis Center is offering classes for Cardio Tennis on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Family Circle pro Ashlea Bowen instructs the one-hour classes. For more information, contact Bowen at 849-5304 or abowen@familycirclecup.com.

--Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's Day mixed doubles social on Feb. 12 from 2-6 p.m. The cost is $10 per person. For more information or advance registration, contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

(01/31/06)  Williams sisters enter Family Circle Cup

The number of Grand Slam tournament titles for this year's Family Circle Cup took a turn skyward Monday when it was announced that Venus and Serena Williams have entered the Daniel Island event. The Williams sisters own 12 Grand Slam singles titles between them. Earlier, defending champion and four-time Grand Slam titlist Justine Henin-Hardenne was the first player to enter the April 8-16 tournament.

"Serena and Venus are world-class ambassadors of the game and have been vital to the success that women's tennis enjoys today," said Family Circle tournament director Robin Reynolds. "We are pleased to be one of the few tournaments worldwide that will have the opportunity to showcase the talents of these two phenomenal athletes."

Venus Williams won the 2004 Family Circle Cup in her first appearance in the tournament, defeating former two-time champion Conchita Martinez in the

final. She lost in the round of 16 last year to rising French star Tatiana Golovin.

Serena was a 2003 Family Circle finalist, losing to Henin-Hardenne, and was a quarterfinalist in 2002. She lost in the round of 16 to Martinez in 2004.

The sisters had frustrating starts this year at the Australian Open. Venus fell in the first round to Tszvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria in the opening round. Serena advanced to the third round before losing to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

Venus is currently ranked 10th in the world and Serena is 39th.

Both players won Grand Slam titles last year. After Serena took the Australian Open last January for her seventh Grand Slam title, Venus came through as the 14th seed to win her third Wimbledon title and fifth Grand Slam title.

Between them, Serena and Venus have won 59 career singles titles, with Venus leading the way with 33 titles, including five on clay. Serena is one of only nine women to win all four Grand Slam tournaments.

(01/29/06)  Give Henin-Hardenne a break
I was a fan of Justine Henin-Hardenne before the Australian Open women's singles final, whether I liked her or not personally. I still am.

I don't think I've ever seen a tougher-minded player. Her will to win may be unsurpassed in pro tennis. She's the consummate competitor.

For her to retire with stomach pain after nine games of such an important match told me one thing: she was hurting badly. No one other than Henin-Hardenne herself knows her true level of tolerance.

The ESPN2 crew announcing the match, led by Brad Gilbert, made a mockery of her decision to retire from the match. It was as if she had committed a crime against Grand Slam finals. But why should she have simply gone through the motions of finishing a match that was only about one-third completed just so Gilbert and his crew could finalize their misleading analyses of the match, and in the process give Henin-Hardenne fans a false image of her.

Other than to the grand-standing ESPN2 crew, it was obvious that something was wrong with Henin-Hardenne from the beginning of the match. Taking that into consideration, it might be safe to say that many other players facing similar circumstances might not even have started the match.

Gilbert and crew credited Amelie Mauresmo's high-kicking groundstrokes for the problems Henin-Hardenne was having with her game. I bought a little of that, but not whole-heartedly.

The TV crew, especially Mary Carillo, repeatedly praised Mauresmo's rather risk-free play that produced a 6-1, 2-0 lead. Mauresmo wasn't playing badly, but she certainly wasn't playing at the spectacular level that the ESPN2 analysts described. She was only keeping the ball in play until four or five shots into a rally Henin-Hardenne would go for broke in quite untypical fashion for the Belgian. Henin-Hardenne's shots on those occasions usually weren't even coming close. She appeared to even be lining up her shots awkwardly, especially her sweeping backhand. Anyone familiar with this woman's game knew this wasn't the real Justine Henin-Hardenne playing.

Not that any of that was Mauresmo's fault, the Frenchwoman can take little fulfillment from her accomplishment, other than knowing that years from now none of this will matter to the record books. She has that elusive first Grand Slam title. No one can take that away.

But this match, as well as Mauresmo's semifinal victory over injured Kim Clijsters, goes down as a victory on paper only. Mauresmo must realize that, as do Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne. Nothing has changed. Don't expect Mauresmo to suddenly start dominating the Belgians.

Too much grunting
How much longer will the powers of tennis allow Maria Sharapova to continue with her outrageous grunting? If her opponents aren't complaining, fans should.

Her grunts can ruin an otherwise perfectly relaxing viewing of her matches. No one can question Sharapova's competitive spirit. Yet, her loud grunts and screams diminish her superb tennis ability in the eyes of some fans. Some even label her outbursts as cheating the opposition.

It was so nice to be able to actually hear the various noises of the game in Thursday's second Australian Open semifinal between Mauresmo and Clijsters. With the roof closed because of oppressive heat, Sharapova came through loud and clear in the first match. She destroyed a calm evening of TV viewing with her grunts and screams while losing to Henin-Hardenne.

You could hardly concentrate on the match for the outbursts. The more intense the match, the louder her grunts. Such interference surely must impact her opponents' performances

Unlike TV viewers, opponents can't switch their controls to mute.

(01/27/06)  Back in the swing of things; Brothers rediscover love of tennis after two-year hiatus
A tragic water accident that claimed the life of their younger sister, Jessica, three years ago almost closed the curtain on the tennis careers of Jonathan and Steven Dean. They didn't want to even think about the sport the three siblings had played together while growing up in Australia. But tennis became a part of their lives again when they realized it was an avenue that kept them close to their sister. Their rediscovered interest in the sport led them to America, and eventually to Charleston Southern University.

Now starting their second seasons at CSU, they are a long way from the highland scrubs of Lithgow, Australia, where kangaroos roam freely. They miss home, but they love it here.

Memories of Jessica, though, won't go away. When they talk about tennis, they think of her. She was the real tennis star of the family, the top-ranked 14-and-under girl in all of Australia in 2002.

When Jonathan and Steven played tennis, she was there. They were always together, traveling and playing in tournaments.

"Playing tennis made the family a lot closer. If we had a tournament, she had a tournament," Steven said.

Then came the jet ski accident. After that, the family wasn't the same. Tennis no longer was fun, or important. "We quit tennis for two years. We didn't touch a racket at all," Jonathan said.

"We used to all practice together. We didn't want to play, but we decided we missed the game. Being out on the court and playing matches, we thought she would want us to get as good as we could."

The brothers' decision to move to America to play tennis was a double-edged sword for their parents, both schoolteachers. The parents wanted their sons to chase their own dreams, but giving up their last two children was difficult.

"Our parents wanted us to move on, but it was hard for them to let go, but that accident made us realize that you've got to take advantage of every opportunity," Steven said.

"It was tough for them, but I think it was what they really wanted us to do ... because they know this is what we wanted," said Jonathan.

Jonathan is the older of the two, a junior at CSU. He played No. 2 for the Bucs last season, and likely will play that position again. Steven, a sophomore just shy of 20, played down the list. They started last season playing No. 2 doubles and didn't lose a match. They moved up to No. 1 doubles, suffering only three losses. New coach Mike Baker may split them up this season, whatever works best for the team.

Charleston Southern will begin its season Saturday at home in a 1 p.m. match against Georgia Southern of the Southern Conference.

The Dean brothers almost didn't make it to Charleston to play college tennis. "We had scholarships in Hawaii, but that failed," Jonathan said.

"Two days later, our contact with the NCAA in Australia said they had openings for two players here. Randy (former CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal) air-mailed us the contracts. We signed them and sent them back."

That came just in the nick of time for the brothers to hop on an airplane for the 27-hour trip to Charleston to start the second semester of the 2004-05 school year at CSU. "We looked up Charleston and saw it was on the beach. That was a huge positive," said Steven.

Why did they leave Australia? "If you want to be a pro tennis player in Australia, you have to get out of Australia. We thought college would be a good chance to get an education while improving our tennis skills," Jonathan said.

The brothers have returned to Australia only once, last summer. Their parents made their first trip to America over the Christmas holidays, spending three weeks with their sons. They visited the Florida Keys as well as Disney World.

(01/25/06)  Henin-Hardenne even more of a force

Justine Henin-Hardenne obviously isn't afraid of change. The current slimmed-down version of the Belgian star may be the best yet.

Henin-Hardenne displayed quickness and power in dispensing of world's No. 1 Lindsay Davenport Tuesday in the Australian Open quarterfinals. In the past, Henin-Hardenne was either quick or powerful, but not both at the same time.

Prior to a string of illnesses and injuries that hit her after winning the 2004 Australian Open, she was quick. She out finessed, outsmarted and out-backhanded her opponents often enough to win three Grand Slam titles, as well as the 2003 Family Circle Cup. But after recovering from illness, she obviously decided she wanted to be stronger, a player who could dictate a match with her power. She sacrificed some quickness in the process, but she still became a formidable force in the women's game again, taking last year's Family Circle Cup and French Open.

Now, she's gone back to her old self, dropping some pounds along the way. But all of the muscle she built up last year hasn't disappeared. A trimmer, quicker but still powerful Henin-Hardenne has emerged. She now looks like the player to beat in the Australian Open.

Barring injuries, Henin-Hardenne will be a heavy favorite to win a third Family Circle Cup.

CofC women open today

The College of Charleston women will break the ice today on the local college tennis season, as coach Angelo Anastopoulo's young team travels to challenge preseason nationally ranked South Carolina.

The Cougars lost four singles starters from last year. Gonzaga University transfer Amanda Becker, and freshmen Ashley Finnegan and Payten Ellington will start today at Nos. 3, 4 and 5, respectively. The two returning starters from last year, junior Maxine Capewell and sophomore Chelsea Albertz, will move up two spots each to Nos. 1 and 2. Jenna Marks, the only senior, will play No. 6.

After today's 5 p.m. match, the Cougars plays at nationally Clemson on Saturday.

Other college teams' openers: C of C men host North Florida, 1 p.m. Friday, Patriots Point; Charleston Southern men host Georgia Southern, 1 p.m. Saturday; The Citadel men play at Coastal Carolina on Saturday.

Two locals No. 1

Robert Wiederhorn and Susie Peiffer were the only local seniors to gain No. 1 state singles rankings for 2005. Wiederhorn took top honors in men's 70 and Peiffer was first in women's 55.

Other state senior rankings:

Kenneth Johnstone took fifth in men's 40, Glyn Cowlishaw was sixth in men's 45 and Russell LaCoste was eighth in men's 55.

In men's 60, Ron Charron was fifth, Bob Babb 11th, Jerry Simmons 12th and Bob Peiffer 14th. Charles Burns was fifth in men's 65, while Armand Glassman was eighth and Lyons Williams ninth.

Ray Easterbrook was third in men's 75, with Tom Kent fourth and Kurt Wassen fifth. In men's 80, John Baird took second.

Among the women, world's No. 1 45-and-over player Diane Fishburne is second in the state in 45s. Cynthia Babb was second in women's 55, while Angela Williams was second in 60s.

Upcoming events
--Schools planning to participate in the upcoming Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League that didn't send a representative to a previous meeting can still qualify for league participation by being represented at a 3 p.m. meeting Sunday at Charleston Tennis Center. For more information, call 766-7401.

--The Family Circle Cup is in need of volunteers to serve during the April 8-16 tournament on Daniel Island. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Neves Richards (849-5309 or mnrfcc@comcast.net). Applications are available on the internet at www.familycirclecup.com.

--Registration for the local Junior Team Tennis winter season will start today and run to Feb. 6, with the season starting Feb. 12. Asheboro East, Dunes West, Maybank Tennis Center, Country Club of Charleston, Family Circle Tennis Center, Charleston Tennis Center, Pine Forest, Creekside Tennis and Swim, and The Citadel will participate in the six-week league. The league is looking for parents to serve as coaches. For more information, contact Maggie LaCoste at (843) 906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net.

--The Family Circle Cup is holding a special contest the rest of January for persons purchasing tickets to the April 8-16 tournament on Daniel Island. Anyone who purchases tickets to the Family Circle Cup the rest of the month will be automatically entered in a drawing where one lucky winner will receive a three-month membership to the Family Circle Tennis Center and an exclusive "Behind the Scenes Tour" during the Cup including access to the players lounge, media center and ESPN production trailer. Tickets can be ordered by phone at (843) 856-7900 or online through the tournament website at www.familycirclecup.com.

--Family Circle Tennis Center is offering classes for Cardio Tennis, the new fitness initiative developed nationally by the Tennis Industry Association with the support of the United States Tennis Association. Family Circle pro Ashlea Bowen will instruct the Cardio Tennis program in one-hour classes on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact Bowen at 849-5304 or abowen@familycirclecup.com.

(01/22/06)  Unprepared Serena could start tumbling

Reality can be cruel. But for Serena Williams the clock may have struck midnight Friday.

There was no glass slipper waiting for Serena this time, only the cruel reality that her reign is likely over. Daniela Hantuchova, a player not known for her ability to handle pressure, defeated Williams rather convincingly in the third round of the Australian Open.

Only Hantuchova's nerves and charity allowed Williams to make a battle of the second set in the 6-1, 7-6 victory.

Serena's game wasn't a pretty sight. Hantuchova tried at times on key points to out-push Serena as both played ugly tennis. Anytime Hantuchova buckled up her fragile focus, it was a mismatch. Serena's game has deteriorated that much.

How could Serena have shown up in Australia so unready to play tennis? That's the big mystery. This was a new low for her in lack of preparation for a major.

Unless things change quickly, she may not even be seeded among the top 32 players for the next Grand Slam event. She was seeded 13th this time due to her No. 15 ranking, but she likely will fall a dozen or more spots in the next world rankings. Seven hundred of her 1,175 points are from last year's Australian Open championship, and those will disappear off of the WTA Tour computer at the conclusion of this year's tournament.

That means Serena may no longer have the luxury of avoiding seeded players for the first two rounds of majors. And in reality, she probably isn't among the best 50 players in the world right now, except possibly in name only. The name Serena Williams still scares some of the lesser players, and even worries a few top players.

Even ESPN2's Mary Carillo seems to buy into that factor. Carillo kept waiting Friday night for Serena to become Serena. But Brad Gilbert told her that what she was seeing may be the real Serena.

But actually nothing has changed for Serena. Her future is still in her own hands. She needs to get into shape, play tournaments and drop a bunch of excess weight. As Gilbert said, 'She's got to play more to play better.'

If not, things will only get worse for this one-time superstar.

Middle school meeting
Schools planning to participate in the upcoming Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League are required to send a representative to a 4:30 p.m. meeting on Monday or to a 3 p.m. meeting next Sunday at Charleston Tennis Center. Call 766-7401.

Cup needs volunteers
The Family Circle Cup is in need of volunteers to serve during the April 8-16 tournament on Daniel Island. Contact volunteer coordinator Neves Richards (849-5309 or mnrfcc@comcast.net). Applications are available at www.familycirclecup.com.

LCTA wins award
The Lowcountry Tennis Association was recognized Thursday night by the Charleston Metro Sports Council as the 2005 sports association of the year. The sports organizer of the year award went to the organizing committee for the league tennis Southern Sectional Championships.

(01/18/06)  Hingis on path back toward top

The lady can still play. I don't remember Martina Hingis' game ever looking sharper, not even when she was the No. 1 singles and doubles player in the world.

Never a big hitter, she still isn't. But does she know how to play tennis! Wow!

The WTA Tour should hire her to give clinics to the rest of its players. Sure, she will get beat up a few times during her comeback. But she just might survive it to once again become one of the premier women's players in the game.

Oh, what a breath of fresh air. You could see that big smile of hers the minute she walked on the court just before 4 a.m. (Charleston time) Tuesday morning. And you kind of knew that sometimes-erratic Vera Zvonareva might be in trouble.

Little did anyone at the Australian Open know just how much trouble Zvonareva was in. Hingis dominated the 21-year-old Russian, 6-1, 6-2. Admittedly, Zvonareva wasn't at her best, but she's still considered to be one of tennis' brightest young stars.

They might call Hingis "the old lady." But she's only 25, and looks like one of the fittest players in the game.

The key to Hingis' comeback has nothing to do with the other players on the tour. They aren't going to overpower her on a regular basis.

The key is Hingis herself, and her ability to stay healthy. Nothing has really changed the last three years while Hingis has been out, other than maybe the tour getting a little easier.

The big-hitting Williams sisters have pretty much come and gone. Old nemesis Jennifer Capriati is even out of the way. Mary Pierce is on a brief comeback that probably won't last much longer. Lindsay Davenport is a big hitter but no longer can win the big one. And then you've got the overrated Russians and Amelie Mauresmo, who is playing well but isn't a power hitter or thinker. The Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, might be the only serious challengers, depending on the length of their commitments.

Yes, Martina Hingis can be the best player in the game again.

It was worth staying up all night to see her play. Actually, I had intended to get a few hours' nap before her scheduled 3:30 a.m. match on ESPN2, but then Lleyton Hewitt needed five sets to beat Czech Robin Vik. By then, it was too late to catch a nap and still see the Swiss Miss.

The thing about Hingis is that her opponent never knows where the ball is going. Give her the ball at the T, and the point might as well be over. She'll put the ball where her opponent isn't.

Her racket control is about as good as it gets. Her placement is immaculate. So are her angles. And when she gets a chance to hit a winner, she'll step up and drive the ball. Though not a big hitter and rather small by pro tennis standards, she's no weakling either when the opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps her best shot is a unique inside-out backhand. That's the shot Zvonareva couldn't find an answer for. It's just that her opponent, as in vintage Hingis days, still doesn't know where the ball is going. She's as quick with her strokes as she is with her mind. Hingis may even be smarter and more cagey in her "old" age.

Junior team sign-ups
Registration for the local Junior Team Tennis winter season will run from Jan. 25 to Feb. 6, with the season starting Feb. 12.

Asheboro East, Dunes West, Maybank Tennis Center, Country Club of Charleston, Family Circle Tennis Center, Charleston Tennis Center, Pine Forest, Creekside Tennis and Swim and The Citadel will participate in the six-week league.

The league is looking for parents to serve as coaches. Contact Maggie LaCoste at (843) 906-6623 or mlacoste@bellsouth.net.

(01/15/06)  Package deal nets benefits for Bucs
Keep an eye on Charleston Southern. That's the word from Chuck Kriese.

"They got the top two recruits out of the state last year," the Clemson coach said last week while in Charleston.

And it was all about a package deal. Then CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal accepted it last April, passed it along to short-time coach Paul Soliz, and now new coach Mike Baker stands to benefit from the contents.

The contents of the package are freshmen Chris Peek and Lee Floyd, the Nos. 2 and 4 junior players in the state last year. Top-ranked and everybody's recruiting hopeful Will Guzick is still cozy attending high school in Greenville with his 1600 SAT score.

Baker is pleased with the package deal that Bloemendaal worked out before heading off to an assistant coaching position at the University of Indiana. Peek and Floyd also formed probably the state's best junior doubles team, and they figure to get some playing time together for the Bucs.

The deal was, take one and you get both. "I liked Charleston Southern because it was the best team both of us could go with," said Peek, a 6-0, 175-pounder from Lexington.

Floyd is from Spartanburg Day School.

"I think Coach Baker will be here for awhile, but we were a little uncertain about it after Coach Soliz left," the 6-1, 165-pound Floyd said.

"Coach Soliz spent three weeks with us back in the fall. But I love it here ... Mike's a great coach."

The connection between Peek and Floyd is Charley Rasheed, who moved in as Wild Dunes' tennis director last year from Lexington's Topspin Racquet Club. Floyd started tennis under Rasheed while Rasheed was the pro at the Spartanburg Athletic Club.

When Rasheed switched to Topspin as tennis director, Floyd occasionally made the trip to Lexington to work with Rasheed, who already was helping develop Peek's game.

"Charley has helped me more with my game than any other coach," said Peek, the South's 11th-ranked junior. "Lee came down every once in awhile when he had problems with something."

Peek and Floyd hooked up in doubles, and became one of the top junior duos in the South. When they visited the likes of CSU and Georgia Southern, they made the trip together.

"They played doubles together, and that's why they came here ... to play doubles together," acknowledged Baker, who became the Bucs' coach in November.

Peek doesn't flinch on why the two came to CSU.

"We came here so we could win a conference championship," he said as he surveyed the five straight Big South Conference championship banners hanging on the fence at the CSU tennis complex. The last title came in 2002.

Peek and Floyd probably won't be the team's stars this year since the Bucs have almost everyone back from a team that was Big South runner-up last season. But as Kriese said, keep an eye on CSU. And especially Chris Peek and Lee Floyd in a couple of years.

Heinz ranked No. 1
Austin Heinz of Daniel Island was the only local junior to earn a No. 1 ranking last year. Heinz went on a hot streak last summer that saw him win the State Hard Courts and State Clay Courts en route to claiming the top ranking in boys' 10.

Local players took six of the top 10 slots in boys' 10. Zac Dye was No. 2, followed by No. 4 Payne Hoy, No. 5 Adam Elliget, No. 8 Bailey Kirkland, No. 10 Thomas Spratt and No. 19 Joel Roberts.

In boys' 12, Walker Heffron leads the local group at No. 7, followed by No. 12 Peter Pritchard, No. 13 Payne Hoy, No. 14 Hunter Mitchell and No. 18 Wilson Daniel.

Randall Heffron, Walker's brother, challenged for the top spot in boys' 14, but finished second. John Karle was ranked seventh, followed by No. 8 Josh Klingenberg, No. 10 Dominick Huber, No. 15 Donald Bruner and No. 18 Elliott Sperr.

Dirk Bair was the only local top 20 player in boys' 16, taking eighth, while Garrett Egan was eighth in boys' 18 and Bo Crouch was 15th.

In girls' 10, Mollie Polk was fifth, followed by No. 9 Sarah McDonald and No. 15 Ann Hay.

Downing Herlocker, one of the stars of Wando's charge to a second straight Class AAAA state championship, took a No. 7 ranking in girls' 12, followed by No. 8 Meghan Blevins, No. 9 Isabel Dennis, No. 13 Patricia Kirkland and No. 20 Taylor Perkins. Dennis is the daughter of The Citadel basketball coach Pat Dennis.

In girls' 14, Olivia McMillan is No. 11, Hagan Edgerton No. 12 and Shelby Rogers No. 16. Lindsay Larkin is No. 20 in girls' 16. Caroline Thornton played up two classes and is No. 4 in girls' 18.

She is followed by No. 8 Louisa Sperr, No. 12 Ashley Mitchell, No. 14 Ashley Perkins, No. 17 Dana Richards and No. 18 Alexandra LaCoste.

Cup tickets on sale

The Family Circle Cup will hold a special contest the rest of January for persons purchasing tickets to the April 8-16 tournament on Daniel Island as individual session tickets go on sale Wednesday.

Anyone who purchases tickets to the Family Circle Cup from Monday through the rest of the month will be automatically entered in a drawing where one lucky winner will receive a three-month membership to the Family Circle Tennis Center and an exclusive "Behind the Scenes Tour" during the Cup including access to the players lounge, media center and ESPN production trailer.

Tickets can be ordered by phone at (843) 856-7900 or online through the tournament Web site at www.familycirclecup.com.

Cardio Tennis starts
Family Circle Tennis Center is now offering classes for Cardio Tennis, the new fitness initiative developed nationally by the Tennis Industry Association with the support of the United States Tennis Association. Family Circle pro Ashlea Bowen will instruct the Cardio Tennis program in one-hour classes on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.  For more information on the event, please contact Bowen at 849-5304 or abowen@familycirclecup.com.

(01/13/06)  Jenkins a Tiger again after satellite circuit stint

Jarmaine Jenkins envisioned fame and fortune. You really couldn't blame him. He had just made All-America and had beaten some of the best players in college tennis. Veteran Clemson coach Chuck Kriese couldn't change his mind.

"In tennis, he had just had his first taste of the limelight," Kriese said. "And did he tell you he's one of 10 children?"

The pot of gold called professional tennis appeared to be Jenkins' for the taking. He took the chase. "Everybody thinks they can hit it big. Why wouldn't I think that if I was going pro?" Jenkins said in retrospect last week as Clemson practiced at Maybank Tennis Center.

"He gave up a good scholarship," Kriese said.

But, as hungry as Jenkins was for riches, Kriese said, "He didn't turn pro." That may turn out to be his smartest decision yet.

"He called to ask, 'What do I have to do to get back into school?' "

Jenkins is back, like the prodigal son. The Clemson tennis team welcomed him with open arms. He figures to be a key component in the Tigers' plans this spring. With full eligibility restored through paying his own way and hard work in the classroom that included honor roll grades the first semester, Jenkins has the potential to help a veteran Clemson team take another step forward in national prominence.

Kriese considers himself fortunate to have a player of Jenkins' ability back in the fold. "If we played tomorrow, Jarmaine would be right behind Sander (Koning) and Ryan (Young)," he said, listing Koning and Young as the Tigers' top two players.

"A coach likes it if a player comes and never has any problems. But this is a guy who has come through the storm."

The last time Jenkins played for Clemson was in the spring of 2004, when the Tigers reached the final eight in the NCAA team championships. He and the now-graduated Nathan Thompson were

national semifinalists in doubles.

Although then just finishing his sophomore year at Clemson, that's when Jenkins decided to drop out of school and try pro tennis. "I was tired of school and felt I needed a break," he said.

In his hometown of College Park, Ga., in the Atlanta suburbs, he had trained with current ATP Tour pro Scoville Jenkins (no relation) and the current No. 1 junior in the world, Donald Young. Jarmaine Jenkins played a half dozen pro satellite events. He wouldn't have made much even if he could have accepted prize money. "I couldn't accept money. I didn't want to jeopardize it (college eligibility)," the 21-year-old said.

"I did really well in doubles, but I didn't do any good in singles. That was enough to make me return to school. It's kind of tough out there without a coach."

A business management major, Jenkins caught up academically last spring and summer while paying his own tuition, but he didn't become eligible to rejoin the team until this school year. He's a junior now, and back on scholarship.

When he finishes Clemson, he plans to try pro tennis again.

He is next to the oldest of the 10 Jenkins children. Seven of the youngest eight are foster children or adopted. Jarmaine's father, Jackie, started him in tennis when he was 6 years old, but Jarmaine didn't start playing tournaments until he was 13 or 14. He was a star baseball player, a pitcher/first baseman, and also played basketball, but gave up the other sports a few years ago.

His older brother Jackie Jr. went to Northwestern University on a tennis scholarship and played No. 1 for the Chicago school. A younger brother, Jarmere, is one of the top juniors in the country. In all, six of the brothers play tennis.

Jarmaine Jenkins was a top

junior himself, gaining a No. 16 national ranking his last year of

junior competition. That caught the eye of Kriese. "I knew a lot of guys on the team," said Jenkins, who had played junior doubles with Charleston native Ryan Young. "Nathan (Thompson) thought playing for Coach Kriese would help me."

Jenkins now realizes that getting to the next step in tennis will be difficult. "But there's always hope for people trying to step up. It's an inspiration when you turn on the TV and see the Williams sisters, Scoville and Donald Young," he said.

"I guess it makes you feel like if they can do it, then you can do it."

(01/11/06)  Cougs get boost from newcomers
Maybe this won't be an off season for the College of Charleston's women's tennis team after all. The holiday season brought good cheer to coach Angelo Anastopoulo's program.

Having lost four starters from last season, prospects for the 2006 season looked a little bleak until the last few weeks. Or until Amanda Becker decided to use her Christmas break to drive all the way across the country to check out the College's downtown campus and superb Patriots Point tennis complex.

Before leaving Charleston for her home in Lakeville, Pa., the 5-2 left-hander liked what she saw. She decided to transfer to the College from Gonzaga University where she played Nos. 1 and 2 for the Spokane, Wash., college last season as a freshman.

"It's too early to tell, but she could challenge for the top of the lineup," Anastopoulo said Tuesday, two practices into preseason training. "She's a real fighter."

A player who ranked as high as No. 122 nationally in girls' 18, Becker spent four days of her Christmas break at home, then headed for Tampa, Fla., to train with her former pro. She arrived back in Charleston last Wednesday night, attended orientation on Thursday and Friday, hit both days with fellow second-semester newcomer Ashley Finnegan, and then started practice with the team Monday.

The time was fast and furious, but Anastopoulo is wearing his usual smile even broader this week. Finnegan's story is almost as exciting as Becker's. Finnegan attended high school in Florida last semester, but graduated early just where she could join the Cougars this season.

Like Becker, Finnegan has great potential. And all of a sudden, the Cougars are conference contenders again. "We're not a front-runner, but I would say we're a contender," Anastopoulo said. "We're so young, and we have so much to teach them."

Two other freshmen, Payten Ellington of Atlanta and Kelsy Darnell of Annapolis, Md., have been at the College since the start of the fall semester. Darnell was the most improved player on the team during fall drills, according to Anastopoulo, while Ellington was a highly ranked and highly sought-after player whose junior career was handicapped by a wrist injury.

Junior Maxine Capewell and sophomore Chelsea Albertz, who played Nos. 3 and 4 last season, are the only returning starters.

The Cougars have placed second or higher in the Southern Conference five of the last six seasons.

--Anastopoulo has even more to smile about. Billy Silcox, who coached the College women to a national championship in 1983, is serving as a voluntary assistant coach. That's especially good news, considering the Cougars' lack of experience.

--The courts at the Cougars' tennis complex at Patriots Point were under repair over the holidays, but Anastopoulo said they're ready for play now. The women will play their first four matches on the road, three of them against top 25-ranked teams South Carolina, Clemson and William & Mary, before opening their home season Feb. 8 against Coastal Carolina. The season will start Jan. 25 at South Carolina.

--Anastopoulo has signed two more players for next school year. Anna Lee Evans of Vilas, N.C., and Laura Borza of Toronto were early signees. Evans has been ranked in the top 100 nationally in juniors and Borza was heavily recruited as one of Canada's top 10 players.

LEAGUE DEADLINE: Thursday at midnight is the cutoff date for teams to register with the minimum number of players for this spring's USTA league tennis season. Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer expects the season to start the first week in February for most levels, but some levels might begin league play late this month.

BALL CREW NOTICE: The Family Circle Cup is in need of 175 or more juniors (11-18) and adults to serve as members of the ball crew for the April 8-16 women's tournament. An informational meeting is scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the tennis center and ball crew practice will begin Jan. 21

(01/08/06)  Atlanta pro takes local position
Greg Harkins grew up in the tennis hotbed of Atlanta, stayed home to play tennis for Georgia State and has served as a pro in Atlanta.

But Harkins also has been impressed by the tremendous tennis growth in Charleston in recent years that was sparked in part by the Family Circle Cup's move here six years ago. In fact, he was so impressed that he has accepted the position of junior program development director at Family Circle Tennis Center.

'The Family Circle Tennis Center has played such an important role in the growth of tennis in this area and I am looking forward to being a part of this great team,' said Harkins, who has more than 25 years of experience as a tennis pro.

He has served the last three years as assistant head professional at the Sporting Club at Atlanta's Windy Hill. The club has more than 700 active members.

Harkins will be responsible for creating and implementing all junior programs at the tennis center.

Swiss Miss disappointment
What a disappointment. Not Martina Hingis' loss in the semifinals of her first tournament back on the WTA Tour. No, not even that Hingis lost in three sets after serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set. And not that her opponent Friday in the Australian event was little-known Italian Flavia Pennetta.

The only disappointing thing was that Hingis suffered another injury. At least it's not an ankle or foot injury this time, as she had suffered so many times before. A left hip flexor strain sounds pretty serious, but hopefully Hingis can bounce back in time for the Australian Open that starts in one week.

The injury occurred at 4-4 in the second set, but Hingis wouldn't quit. Nevertheless, the injury forced the Swiss Miss to withdraw from her semifinal doubles match. Hingis played great tennis in winning her first three matches back.

Harrell sparkles
Here's a name to remember: Jamie Harrell. And not just because her dad, Jimmy Harrell, was a football star for the Summerville Green Wave and the University of Georgia.

Jamie Harrell is an outstanding young tennis player. Just 13, she is fresh from going 5-1 and winning the girls' 16 consolation title in the Georgia State Junior Winter Open Championships in Rome, Ga. Her only loss came to the eventual tournament champion.

Harrell is a full-time member of Fritz Nau's Charleston Tennis Academy at the Players Club in Mount Pleasant.

Clemson clinic today
Don't forget, coach Chuck Kriese and his Clemson team will put on a free clinic today at 3 p.m. at Maybank Tennis Center with Maybank pro Toni Young. This will give local players a special opportunity to get tips from Ryan Young, Toni's son, and now a Clemson junior and one of the team's co-captains along with senior Sander Koning. The clinic is open to the public.

Ball crew to meet
The first informational meeting for the Family Circle Cup ball crew will be held next Saturday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. Practice will start the following Saturday, Jan. 21, from 12:30-3 p.m.

Practices will continue right up to the April 8-16 WTA Tour tournament. For more information, contact Toni Young (343-8393) or Dan Tumbleston (554-0825).

Women's clinic
USTA South Carolina will sponsor a special clinic next Sunday at Maybank Tennis Center from 1-5 p.m. to promote the spring women's league. The clinic will include drills, match play, and a wine and cheese social hour. Advance registration is required ($10) by contacting Maggie LaCoste (906-6623).

(01/04/06)  World No. 1 ready to defend title

What's next for Diane Fishburne?

How about women's 50 competition? But that's next year.

Right now, she's preparing to defend her two straight No. 1 world rankings in the women's 45-and-over age group. That's right, the International Tennis Federation has posted its official world rankings for 2005, and the 5-2 Charleston wonder is again the top-ranked player in the world.

"It's a new year. It starts all over again," Fishburne said Tuesday as she interrupted a practice session in Delray Beach, Fla., to return a telephone call.

She modestly accepted the accolade. "That (No. 1 ranking) just happened because I played a lot of international tournaments last year," she said.

That may be true to some extent, but gaining a No. 1 world ranking is a lifetime achievement that few people can even dream about. Fishburne has true passion for this game.

She played in seven ITF women's 45 events in 2005, compiling a 26-3 record. "I probably won't play that many international tournaments again," she insisted.

Having turned 48 in late December, she's excited about moving up to women's 50 in 2007, and getting a jumpstart on the competition while she's still 49.

Fishburne was an All-American for the College of Charleston, but she said she never dreamed she could one day be the top player in the world in any age group.

She thrives on the baseline, playing a type of game that requires extraordinary timing.

"I am the kind of player that needs to keep my timing up. I can't take any breaks, because it's very difficult if I take time off. If I hit 15-20 minutes a day, that helps, but I've got to hit a little to keep my timing."

Two of her three losses in women's 45 last year came in Australia on grass against Ros Balodis, an Australian who is ranked second in the world. Balodis went unbeaten, but played in only three ITF 45 events.

"I lost to her both times on grass, but I hope to play her on hard courts this year. That's the surface in South Africa (where the 2006 Margaret Court Cup and world championships will be held this spring)."

Local pros meet
The Charleston Pro Tennis League has had a big impact on the working relationships between local pros. Many participate in the league and others offer their facilities for league matches.

Local pros plan to meet Thursday at the Country Club of Charleston in a unique business meeting and golf outing to discuss, of course, tennis. Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman is coordinating the meeting.

Captains meet Thursday

The Lowcountry Tennis Association will hold a captains meeting for this spring's adult and senior leagues Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street. For more information, contact Bob Peiffer at 763-5376.

JTT winter season
The newly formed Charleston Junior Tennis Council is promoting a Junior Team Tennis winter season from February through March. For more information, contact local USTA coordinator Maggie LaCoste at 906-6623.

Women's clinics
USTA South Carolina will sponsor clinics Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center and Jan. 15 at Maybank Tennis Center, both from 1-5 p.m., to promote the spring women's league. Contact Maggie LaCoste at 906-6623.

Clemson clinic set
The Clemson men's team's clinic at Maybank Tennis Center on Sunday has been set for 3 p.m. The event is open to the public free of charge.

(01/01/06)  Young, Clemson teammates arriving for training at Maybank

The college tennis season will be here almost as quickly as you can say 2006. Actually, Ryan Young and Clemson's men's team will start training Monday at Maybank Tennis Center.

Now in his junior year, Young figures to move up a spot or two from Nos. 3 and 4 where he won more singles matches than any player on the team last spring. He went 28-8 in singles and captured the Atlantic Coast Conference's No. 1 doubles crown while playing with ACC player of the year Nathan Thompson.

Thompson has graduated, leaving senior Sander Koning from Holland as the apparent No. 1 player. Young could challenge for the top spot, but he expects to compete for No. 2 where the competition will be tough. If Young is to play No. 2, the Charleston left-hander will have to beat out junior Clement Reix from France as well as outshine his new and former junior doubles partner, sophomore Jermaine Jenkins of Atlanta.

Jenkins dropped out of Clemson last school year to give pro tennis a shot, but he has returned in search of a college degree. Young and Jenkins were partners in several Southern or national-level tournaments when both were juniors.

Watch the Tigers
Local fans can stop by the Maybank complex off Folly Road all week long to watch veteran coach Chuck Kriese drill the perennial NCAA Tournament-participant Tigers. The Clemson team will begin drills at around midday Monday and practice twice-a-day all week.

This team could be worth watching. Although the All-American Thompson has departed, the Tigers have five starters back from a team that went 25-11 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Clemson made the national quarterfinals two years ago and has won 25 matches three straight seasons.

In addition to the talented Jenkins, Kriese can call on three first-year players to help replace Thompson. When Kriese isn't putting his team through training, the Tigers will reside at Folly Beach, much like last year when they also held their preseason training camp at Maybank.

Drill with Tigers
Kriese and his players will hold a special clinic at Maybank Tennis Center next Sunday along with Maybank pro Toni Young. The clinic will be open to the public free of charge.

Family Circle ball crew
With 2006 here, the Family Circle Cup countdown is on. The big event is just a little more than three months away.

But for anyone planning to serve as a member of this year's ball crew, the countdown is much shorter. The first informational meeting for the Family Circle ball crew will be held Jan. 14 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. Practice will start the following Saturday, Jan. 21, from 12:30-3 p.m.

Of course, practices will continue right up to the April 8-16 WTA Tour tournament. contact Toni Young (343-8393) or Dan Tumbleston (554-0825).

Valentine's doubles
City tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne is already thinking about Valentine's Day. Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Valentine's Day mixed doubles social on Feb. 12 from 2-6 p.m. The cost is $10 per person. For more information or advance registration, call the center at 766-7401.