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

Winner: 2018 USTA South Carolina Media Excellence Award

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(12/28/08)  League tennis key to game's growth

League tennis is big business, not just for local tennis facilities but also for the U.S. Tennis Association, other tennis organizations and the tennis hierarchy.

It's doubtful that without the huge success and popularity of league tennis there would be so many excellent tennis facilities in every direction in the Charleston area.

A total of 3,287 local people participated in at least one league tennis season in 2008. That's $12 in registration fees for each player for each league, with the money being split among various tennis organizations, including the state tennis association and the Lowcountry Tennis Association. And don't forget that each of the 3,287 players must have a USTA membership before being allowed to register for any team. A one-year adult USTA membership costs $40, which could equal in excess of $100,000 annually (depending on various membership plans) from area players that goes directly to the USTA. Of course, the U.S. Open, with its huge crowds and TV money, is the biggest supporter of the USTA, but league tennis has to be high on the list.

The financial infusion doesn't stop there. Most league tennis players don't limit themselves to one league experience. Some players participate in as many as eight or 10 different leagues each year. For example, they might participate in both 3.5 and 4.0 adult and senior leagues in both the spring and fall as well as various mixed and combo doubles leagues, or even the singles league.

The average is more than three leagues a year for each player, or $35-$40 multiplied by 3,287. However you look at it, the figure could add up to more than $100,000 in registration fees from Charleston area players alone. Toss in the other 100 grand or so from local league tennis USTA memberships, and you can see the big picture of league tennis' importance to all levels of tennis in the United States. Just multiply those figures across the country.

How does all of this league tennis money trickle down to the clubs? In various ways such as grants, etc. Instead, the boost is provided by league participants' fresh money that supports the clubs and their pros in the form of fees for lessons, memberships, tennis equipment, etc.

League tennis' year-round fun and competition have made players eager to join the area's large public tennis complexes as well as private clubs. If not for league tennis, many players might decide to play at public facilities at an hourly charge or take advantage of the area's large number of free public courts.

The financial impact of this vast league stretches across the country. Its success is vital to the health of many USTA programs, not to mention the lifestyles of many tennis officials and players who annually ride the free USTA bandwagon all over the world. League tennis deserves a big New Year's toast for footing a sizeable portion of this country's tennis bill.

The 3,287 individuals participating in local league tennis in 2008 is an increase of 47 players over 2007 or nearly nine percent more participants than just two years ago.

--Dunes West will conduct an advanced junior clinic Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. For information, go to the Website www.theclubatduneswest.com or contact Dunes West tennis director Jack Miller at dwproshop@jwhomes.com.
--The City of Charleston-sponored Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League will begin play on March 9. Schools participating in the league are required to be represented at one of three coaches meetings (Jan. 12 at 5 p.m., Jan. 16 at 4 p.m. and Jan. 25 at 3 p.m.) at Charleston Tennis Center on Farmfield Avenue. Contact city tennis director Peggy Bohne (766-7401).
--Ticket packages, business hospitality options and sponsorship opportunities for the April 11-19 Family Circle Cup are available by contacting the Family Circle Cup (856-7900 or www.familycirclecup.com).
--The deadline for meeting the criteria for forming a league tennis team for the spring is now only a little more than two weeks away. The deadline is midnight on Jan. 12 for a team to have the minimum number of players registered that's needed to fill all of its positions for a match, eight players for most adult leagues (five for 2.5 and 5.0 adults) and six for seniors.
--The annual captains meeting for the local league tennis leagues is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

(12/24/08)  Greenville hits tennis map with new USTA president
Greenville has NCAA Division I college tennis' winningest active coach, Charleston's own Paul Scarpa. And Furman has one of the better indoor/outdoor facilities in college tennis.

Yet, Greenville has never been noted for being a tennis town. That may change now that the next president of the U.S. Tennis Association, Lucy Garvin, is from Greenville.

Yes, Greenville has hit the tennis map. Greenville is now in position to possibly create its own tennis identity as a finalist host site for the March 6-8 U.S.-Switzerland Davis Cup matchup. A first-round tie normally might not be so attractive, especially against Switzerland, but this time Roger Federer plans to be on the menu.

Seeing Federer tangle with Andy Roddick and James Blake is enough to wake up what might be an otherwise sleepy tennis community when Furman isn't involved. Furman's excellent facilities appear to be one of Greenville's selling points on its application. While the Davis Cup matches would be held at the 12,500-seat Bi-Lo Center, which submitted the bid, the teams would use Furman's tennis complex (four indoor and 13 outdoor courts) for practices.

Bi-Lo Center general manager Roger Newton, in a published report, rules out any Garvin influence. "She doesn't want to exert any influence on the final decision. She wants the decision to be based on strictly a business decision — what's the best decision for the Davis Cup and the USTA," he said.

Nevertheless, you have to believe Garvin's new rank in international tennis circles might have influenced Greenville into thinking, "Why not go for it?" Although Greenville still has to beat out San Antonio's spacious Alamodome and Birmingham for the host rights, it never hurts to have an extra ace on your side.

Tiebreaker or third set?

Three months ago, I would have voted against trading in a third set for a 10-point match tiebreaker in league tennis. That was before the 3.5 adult league team I captain posted a 9-3 match-tiebreaker record during the local league tennis' experimentation with match tiebreakers this fall. Personally, I'd rather play it out to three sets, but you might have guessed that my team vote (which was due Saturday) for the spring season was for the match tiebreaker.

One of the advantages of playing match tiebreakers in the fall was that they alleviated some of the pressure created by a shortage of courts at heavily used public complexes such as Charleston Tennis Center. The use of match tiebreakers appeared to allow the men's matches to start closer to their regular 7:30 p.m. times, because the preceding women's matches were completed in a more timely fashion. I must admit that I enjoyed arriving home nearly an hour earlier on average, or in time to see much of the second halves of Monday Night Football games.

According to Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer, the results for adult and senior leagues are being tallied separately. The vote will determine whether a third set or a match tiebreaker will be played during the regular spring league matches as well as local league playoffs, but the 10-point match tiebreaker will be used at the state, sectional and national levels.

Time to join team
Are you interested in joining the second-most active (behind only Atlanta) tennis league in the South? I know, the fall league tennis season just finished, but it's time to register for the spring season. Registration on the internet started Saturday. The process begins with a captain creating a team, then passing along the team's number to players interested in joining the team.

For a team to officially join the spring league, the team must (by midnight on Jan. 12) have the minimum number of players registered that's needed to fill all of its positions for a match, eight players for most adult leagues (five for 2.5 and 5.0 adults) and six for seniors.

The annual captains meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

(12/21/08)  League schedule sensible
This fall's local adult 3.5 league tennis fall season had the best of both worlds - minimum travel and home-and home scheduling, two of the things I've long advocated for early-week and mid-week night competition at all levels of play.

Although gas prices have taken a dive, it was still very pleasing that our team's longest trips from Charleston
Tennis Center were just across the Ravenel Bridge to Creekside Tennis and Swim, and the I'On Club. There were no exhausting hour-long trips amidst the outgoing rush-hour traffic — one I-26 traffic jam from missing the match — to the edges of Lowcountry Tennis Association territory and then the sometimes nearly midnight jaunt back.

Regionalized scheduling certainly enhanced the league tennis experience. And then the home-and-home basketball-like scheduling format was the only fair way to equalize home-court advantages. It's totally unfair to force a hard-court team to play its lone meeting of the season with a clay-court team on clay, or vice versa. The one match could decide which team advances to the playoffs.

--The vote is in. Local league tennis might get a little confusing in the spring for those who participate in both the adult league and the senior league. Adult league captains voted to play a full third set by an 86-62 margin
(another reason for regionalized scheduling), while senior captains opted for a match 10-point tiebreaker instead of a third set in a 27-26 vote, the LCTA said. Once past the local playoffs, everyone will play match tiebreakers instead of third sets in postseason competition.

--The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League, which is operated by the City of Charleston's recreation department, will open play on March 9 for all participating public, private and parochial schools (grades 1-8) in the three counties. Both boys and girls will make up five-player teams, which will be grouped into divisions depending on their age, ability and areas.
--Schools participating in the league are required to be represented at one of three coaches meetings (Jan. 12 at 5 p.m., Jan. 16 at 4 p.m., and Jan. 25 at 3 p.m.) at Charleston Tennis Center on Farmfield Avenue. Contact city tennis director Peggy Bohne (766-7401).
--Now that Charleston's Morgan Ivey is settled in as a freshman at Rutgers, she can't wait for spring break.
That's when Ivey and her new teammates will visit the area to play Towson on March 15, the College of
Charleston on March 16 and Charleston Southern on March 18.
--The recent Adult Holiday Tennis Classic at Family Circle Tennis Center was a success in its effort to support local charities. A silent auction raised more than $5,500 for the Boys & Girls Clubs, while another $1,000 gift was presented to Debi's Kids in addition to 125 gifts from tournament participants.
--The April 11-19 Family Circle Cup has selected the Center for Women as its official charity. The Center for
Women will for the fourth consecutive year have a presence on-site and hold special promotions and events to help raise funds for the organization, which provides services for women in the tri-county area.
--Ticket packages, business hospitality options and sponsorship opportunities for the Family Circle Cup are  now available by contacting the Family Circle Cup (856-7900 or www.familycirclecup.com).
--The C of C tennis teams are preparing a special alumni weekend for Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Cougars' tennis complex at Patriots Point. The women will oppose Coastal Carolina at 2:30 p.m. on that Friday and will face

(12/07/08)  Barth to head committee
How many people remember that Kiawah Island served as host for the U.S. Men's Clay Courts in 1990? Or that Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles and teammates breezed past a team from the Netherlands in a 1998 Fed Cup meeting at Kiawah?

Or that Roy Barth is the only tennis director the resort has had since it opened in 1976?

In a few months, the Family Circle Cup will dominate the local tennis scene for an extended period of time, but right now Kiawah Island appears to be the local hot spot for tennis. Just in the last couple of months, Kiawah has grabbed the headlines by being featured on the Tennis Channel, remained highly rated among U.S. resorts (fourth) by Tennis Magazine, put on another successful Southern Closed Senior Clay Courts, and Roy and his son, Kiawah head pro Jonathan, have won the National Senior Father/Son tournament.

What's the big news this week? Well, it's kind of old hat for Roy, but he has been appointed again by the USTA as chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee for the next two years. The former top 50 ATP pro already has been on the Davis Cup committee for six years and has been its vice chairman for four of those years.

This time, Barth will be co-chair of the Davis Cup/Fed Cup committee along with Fed Cup chair Pam Austin.

"Our job is to assist in staging of the Davis/Fed Cup matches in the United States, ensure community involvement during those matches, involve junior development in the host community with the Davis Cup/Fed Cup teams, preserve the history of Davis/Fed Cup competition and recommend new ways to promote the competitions in the United States," Barth said.

Barth has to hit the floor running since Roger Federer and company will be making the trip from Switzerland to take on Andy Roddick and mates March 6-8 at a site still to be determined.

Ryan's nemesis

Where in the world of tennis is Ryan Young? After all, last month's Rockin for Ryan Gala at the Players Club raised $10,000 to support Young's pro tennis adventures.

Young is doing great, but he would be doing even better if a Latvian named Deniss Pavlovs would stop blocking his path. After running into Pavlovs in back-to-back quarterfinals in Nicaragua and El Salvador, Young had to be hoping Pavlovs, ranked No. 298 in the world, would take this week off in the Dominican Republic. But playing on his favorite surface, hard courts, Young won the first set and forced Pavlovs to 6-4 in the third set before losing in the round of 16.

Young, a 24-year-old former Clemson star, has climbed to No. 617 in the world in singles.

--Alexander Santiago of the Players Club had a productive Thanksgiving weekend in Augusta as he advanced all the way to the singles quarterfinals of the USTA National Open boys' 12 event, as well as took third place in doubles and won the sportsmanship award. Adam Elliget of Summerville made the round of 16 in singles and was a finalist in doubles.
--Andy Roddick and Serena Williams will be in Columbia for Saturday's 7 p.m. Rock-n-Racquets benefit at the Colonial Center. Roddick will take on John Isner and Williams will face top 20 pro Caroline Wozniacki in singles. Roddick and Williams also will battle the Isner/Wozniacki team in mixed doubles. Tickets are available online at coloniallifearena.com or by phone at 866-472-8499.

(11/30/08)  Monday big day for league tennis

Year-end league tennis individual ratings are tentatively scheduled to be released on Monday, making it an important day for some teams and players.

While players might feel honored to be "bumped up," moving up a level can take the sting out of a player's game. It can be like a high school quarterback moving up to college and suddenly discovering that it's a whole new ballgame. An outstanding 3.5 player can become a barely competitive 4.0 player.

Of course, there's also the other side of the coin where the 3.5 player was simply too good for the lower level and had an unfair advantage in league tennis. The player should have been playing 4.0 all along. This perspective applies to all of the different ratings, but probably none more so than at the mid-range level of 3.5.

While a player goes from being dominant to just average, the player's former team can take a nosedive without the sure wins. That's why the "practice" fall league can be vastly different from the real thing, the spring season, which determines the teams for the state playoffs.

Simon Southern champ

MUSC head pro Ben Simon is the Southern's new men's 30 singles titlist after winning the event in the recent Southern Senior Clay Court Closed even years tournament at Kiawah Island. Simon defeated host pro Jonathan Barth, 6-2, 6-3, in the final. The unseeded Simon upended top seed Chris Henderson in the semifinals, while Barth surprised No. 2 seed Brian Burke in the same round.

Barth came away with a pair of doubles titles by teaming with St. Andrew's pro Burke to defeat Fred McKay and Greg Miller in the men's 30 final, and partnering with Furman women's tennis coach Debbie Southern to capture the mixed 30 doubles championship.

Former world's top-ranked senior Diane Fishburne, fresh from leading the United States women's 50 team to a third straight Bueno Cup, earned the Southern women's 50 title by defeating Sally Smith in the final. Charleston's Charlotte Hartsock took the women's 40 title. Hartsock and Smith defeated Fishburne and Southern in the women's 40 doubles final, but Fishburne won the mixed 50 title.

Cindy Babb and Susan Peiffer came away with the women's 50 doubles title. Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth and Langdon Brockinton were runners-up in men's 50 doubles. Janet Hanchrow was a runner-up in women's 70 doubles.

--Kiawah's Barth duo, tennis director dad Roy and son Jonathan, won the USTA National Senior Father/Son Tournament last weekend in Sarasota, Fla., at The Landings Club. The Barths breezed past New Mexico's Jim and Chris Parker, 6-1, 6-0, in the final.
--Today is the deadline for entering next weekend's HSI Holiday Junior Championship at The Citadel. The tournament offers singles with a first-match consolation as well as doubles. Contact Jonathan Barth (768-2706 or jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com).
--The postponed "Battle of James Island" is set for next Saturday, with defending champion Country Club of Charleston going against teams from Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. The schedule will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast, followed by men's and women's doubles at the Country Club and Maybank, and mixed doubles at 11 a.m. at the Country Club and Maybank. A covered dish social and awards presentations will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. Contact ccctennis@comcast.net to register.
--Wednesday at noon is the deadline for entering next weekend's Adult Holiday Tennis Classic at Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. Contact the Family Circle pro shop (849-5300) or visit www.familycirclecup.com for information.
--The Family Circle Cup is already beating the ticket drums for the April 11-19 Daniel Island tournament by promoting its holiday gift certificates and a 25 percent discount on an early-week package. Gift certificates and the early-week packages are available only by calling the tournament box office (856-7900, extension 1) or in person at Family Circle Tennis Center, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

(11/25/08)  Harrell was missing piece in Ashley
Starpower can be vital to the success of any athletic team, but possibly none more so than high school tennis. Ashley Hall's resurgence to the top of SCISA girls' tennis is proof. While veteran coach Mary Gastley had a deep and talented team this fall, the primary reason for the Panthers' return to the spotlight may have been a decision Jamie Harrell made last year to forgo fulltime tennis training in favor of becoming a fulltime high school student.

In the process, Harrell became an exceptional high school tennis player, the state's best SCISA player, and one good enough to be selected as The Post and Courier's Lowcountry girls player of the year. Ashley Hall's Class AAA SCISA state championship made all of her other awards even more cherished.

Gastley, especially, enjoyed the

success as she has been selected as Lowcountry co-coach of the year along with Wando's Becky Williamson, who directed her team to a fifth consecutive SCHSL Class AAAA girls state title in a season in which

the Warriors extended their near-state record dual match winning streak to 83 matches.

Harrell was joined on the All-Lowcountry team by fellow repeat selections Sallie Johnson of two-time SCHSL Class AA state champion Bishop England and Olivia McMillan of Wando, both seniors.

Ashley Hall sophomore teammate Patricia Kirkland, Wando senior Lindsay Larkin and Wando junior Corin Hallman were selected to the All-Lowcountry team for the first time.

Two years ago, Harrell was ruled ineligible late in the season by SCISA because of a shortage of classroom hours, and the Panthers' season fell apart. "I got a little taste of being on a team . . . and it was fun. I wanted to play more," the talented left-hander said.

"My sister (College of Charleston volleyball player Hayley) had always been involved in high school sports and had had a great time. I just wanted to have that experience."

As a sophomore last year, Harrell committed to whatever it would take to make her eligible for high school tennis, and the Panthers responded with a state runner-up finish. Instead of practicing five or six hours a day at the Players Club, Harrell adjusted her schedule so that she carried a full load of classroom hours.

This year, as a junior, Harrell suffered only one loss (one in which she retired with an injury) while carrying Ashley Hall to the state title. With Harrell and Kirkland at Nos. 1 and 2, and supported by a cast of solid players, the Panthers really weren't tested by SCISA competition. They blitzed defending champion Heathwood Hall, 5-1, in the state final to finish with a 19-2 record.

The daughter of a former University of Georgia football star and a former UGA cheerleader, as well as the sister of a volleyball standout, athletics have been a big part of Jamie Harrell's life. In addition to tennis, she's a 5-9 post player on the Ashley Hall basketball team.

"I'm planning on college tennis," Harrell said. "I'm keeping my options open. I've been to schools like Furman and Georgia, and I'm not sure what size school I'd like to go to."

Unlike some standout juniors, Harrell said she "practices every day with the tennis team." She especially enjoys playing for Gastley. "She's great. It's always a lot of fun at practice.

"She's taught me a lot. She's a very smart player. She's taught me how to use the court more."

(11/23/08)  Wando girls players reap grants
Playing college tennis is a great experience for the players, not to mention financially rewarding to parents.

The parents of girls players at Wando High School must be really happy with the job veteran coach Becky Williamson is doing. Like many high school coaches, she is making a major impact on her players, keeping them in the game long enough for their parents to reap some of the payback from all of those tennis lessons.

When Olivia McMillan signed a grant-in-aid with Presbyterian last week, she was the fifth Wando player in two years to get a college grant. I wonder if any other school in the state can match that record.

Parents, indeed, should be proud of Wando tennis, not just for the five straight state titles and 83-match winning streak but for the overall quality of the program and its participants, coaching and emphasis on taking tennis to another level. The players should be just as appreciative of the benefits of being part of such an outstanding program.

Tennis grants are the same as greenbacks. With the soaring cost of a college education, any free money is vital. Of course, tennis players more than earn their sometimes small grants.

But the benefits of playing college tennis, especially at a small college, can go far beyond the rewards of a scholarship. The transition to college life at a school many miles from home can be made easier by playing on a tennis team.

McMillan, a hard-hitting left-hander, is the second player from Wando's current state championship team to sign a college grant. Lindsay Larkin, who played No. 3, signed with Wofford. Jessica Diamond (Samford), Brooke Mosteller (Furman) and Elizabeth Spelman (Villanova) all signed grants last school year.

McMillan posted a 21-7 record for the Warriors over the last three seasons, playing behind Diamond and Mosteller during her sophomore and junior seasons before moving into the No. 1 slot this year. That might not sound like many wins for three seasons, but as Williamson said, "I'm sure she would have won more matches if I had played her in the weaker matches."

Ashley Hall's Jamie Harrell is to be saluted for not following the path of many top-level juniors and allowing her teen years to escape her without experiencing the excitement and satisfaction of participating in high school tennis. Harrell is one happy camper in high school tennis now as the leader of a state championship team that looks like a cinch to win a second straight title next year. Only a junior, the state's best SCISA player is determined to play college tennis.

--Morgan Ivey didn't have the chance to play high school tennis the last few years because First Baptist abandoned its girls program some time ago. Nevertheless, Ivey has been awarded a tennis grant and is listed as a freshman on the Rutgers women's roster. The First Baptist graduate was part of a Rutgers doubles team that advanced to its flight final last month in the USTA Invitational at the National Tennis Center. Rutgers also has signed highly rated high school senior Michelle Green of Hilton Head Island's Heritage Academy to a grant.

The "Battle of James Island" was rained out last Saturday and has been rescheduled for Dec. 6. The competition pits defending champion Country Club of Charleston against teams from Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. The festivities will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast, followed by men's and women's doubles at the Country Club and Maybank, and mixed doubles at 11 a.m. at the Country Club and Maybank. A covered dish social and awards presentations will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. Contact ccctennis@comcast.net to register.

Today is the deadline for entering next weekend's Boys and Girls Club benefit Turkey Tourney Doubles Classic for adults at the Players Club. The tournament, which starts Friday, will have rated and open competition in men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles as well as mother/daughter and father/son divisions. Registration is available at www.bgclubta.org. Contact turkeytourney@bgclubta.org.

Family Circle Tennis Center will hold the Adult Holiday Tennis Classic Dec. 5-7 with competition in rated categories in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The entry deadline is Dec. 3 at noon. Contact the Family Circle pro shop (849-5300) or visit www.familycirclecup.com for information.

(11/16/08)  Who says prep tennis is boring?
Boys and girls who skip high school tennis in order to concentrate more on their highly ranked individual games are missing out on a great opportunity. Even the High School League's new $5 admission fee for last weekend's state tennis championships in Lexington doesn't look so outrageous after the wild ride fans were treated to by the Wando-Mauldin girls final.

To anyone who cared whether Wando won or lost in its bid for a fifth straight Class AAAA state title, this was high excitement. Even the Wando players were almost out of breath after its conclusion, caught up in the excitement of having to save their dream.

A high school tennis match, SCHSL style, starts off with five singles that generally are played at the same time as No. 2 doubles. No-ad scoring is used and a match tiebreaker replaces the third set, with the first player or doubles team to reach 10 ahead by two winning.

Things can change quickly in team competition where four is the magic number. If that number isn't reached in the first six matches, No. 1 doubles determines the winner.

Unlike a basketball or football game where a big lead is just that, a team match can appear to be one-sided and almost over one minute (say 3-0) and be headed to overtime (No. 1 doubles) the next.

While most regular season SCHSL skirmishes are mismatches for teams the caliber of Wando, the thrill of getting to participate in a match such as the Wando-Mauldin state final would make the entire season worthwhile. Literally within moments, Wando rose from the ashes of possible defeat to a one-sided 5-1 winning margin.

Wando nursed only a 2-1 advantage when No. 2 doubles partners Kayla Heller and Alex Klein started a match tiebreaker. But within moments of their win, Lindsay Larkin completed a rally from 5-1 down in the second set for a straight-set victory at No. 3 singles for the team's decisive point. That result prompted Wando coach Becky Williamson to dash across the Lexington County Tennis Complex flashing a thumb's up and a big smile, and head to where No. 2 Corin Hallman was involved in a second-set tiebreaker. "We've got it," the veteran coach beamed. Hallman quickly completed her win and the rout that so easily could have gone the other way.

--The High School League's state singles tournament was cancelled Friday due to inclement weather and will not be rescheduled. North-South competition will be held next Friday and Saturday at Surfside Beach's Prestwick Club.

Sophie's club

Former Charleston pro Sophie Woorons-Johnston has built her own nine-court tennis club in Anderson. State club of the year Brookstone Meadows even includes a clubhouse that Dr. Sophie (she has a Ph.D.), husband Clemson associate athletic director for football operations Andy Johnston and their 1-year-old son Noah call home. They reside upstairs.

Woorons was a local favorite a few years ago when she won the city championship and worked with juniors at the I'On Club and MUSC complex. The former Clemson All-American is the state player of the year and will be honored at the state association's annual meeting Dec. 13 in Myrtle Beach.

Her new club came about after she started teaching tennis on what was then (2005) a two-court layout at Brookstone Meadows. "We added five clay, two hard courts and a clubhouse," said Woorons.

Notes of interest
--Pine Forest Country Club's Racquets for Recovery breast cancer tournament raised $26,500 for the Charleston area American Cancer Society.
--Wednesday is the deadline for entering Snee Farm County Club's Doubles Extravaganza Grand Prix tournament that starts Thursday. Signup is available online at sneefarmtennis.com.
--Charleston Tennis Center's annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 28-30, with next Saturday as the entry deadline. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com, using tournament number 704139008. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).
--Family Circle Tennis Center will hold the Adult Holiday Tennis Classic Dec. 5-7 with competition in rated categories in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The entry deadline is Dec. 3 at noon. Contact the Family Circle pro shop (849-5300).

(11/09/08)  BE loses key player
Just when you think you've got a great team, watch out. That's the case of Bishop England boys' coach Skip ReVille.

The Bishops probably had the best team in the area last spring, led by then-Palmetto Christian Academy transfer John Karle and the Heffron brothers.

But All-Lowcountry choice and No. 1 player Karle is no longer a Bishop. After leading Palmetto Christian to a pair of SCISA Class A state titles and then helping the Bishops to the SCHSL state semifinals and a 13-3 record, Karle is spending his senior year in home-schooling and looking forward to possibly playing college tennis.

Andrew Thebes and Leigh Colyer, last season's Nos. 2 and 4 players, have graduated. That leaves only Randall and Walker Heffron back among the regular singles starters. Randall, a junior who was All-Lowcountry last spring, is a strong player who shouldn't miss a beat in moving up to the No. 1 slot, and sophomore Walker should be a solid No. 2.

"I feel a little more pressure, but not that much more," said Randall Heffron, who held down the Bishops' No. 1 slot part of last season.

Fishburne stars

Charleston's Diane Fishburne returned from Antalya, Turkey, recently as a happy woman after leading her U.S. teammates to a world team championship in the International Tennis Federation's women's 50 Bueno Cup. That's even after the former world's No. 1 senior failed to win the individual championship.

Fishburne posted a 5-0 record in team competition at No. 1 singles. That included a three-set victory in the final over world champion Ros Balodis in the decisive match in a 2-1 U.S. victory over Australia that gave the Americans their third straight Bueno Cup.

The U.S. team scored 3-0 wins over Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and France to qualify for the final. No. 2 singles player and current women's 50 world's No. 1 Susan Wright also went 5-0 in the team competition. In the individual world championships that followed the team competition, Balodis gained revenge against Fishburne with a 7-5, 7-5 win in the final.

--Doubles, anyone? Snee Farm County Club will hold a Doubles Extravaganza as its Grand Prix tournament Nov. 20-23. The entry deadline is Nov. 19, with food, music and beverages in the tournament's 20-year-old tradition. Signup is available online at sneefarmtennis.com.
--Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman has scheduled another "Battle of James Island" for next Saturday. The event pits defending champ Country Club of Charleston against teams from Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. Festivities will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast, followed by men's and women's doubles at the Country Club and Maybank, and mixed doubles at 11 a.m. at the Country Club and Maybank. A covered dish social and awards presentations will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. Register at ccctennis@comcast.net.
--Charleston Tennis Center will stage its annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic Nov. 28-30. Competition will be held in singles and doubles for all junior divisions. Entry deadline is Nov. 22. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com, using tournament number 704139008. Call Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).
--Andy Roddick and Serena Williams will appear in Columbia on Dec. 13 at the Roddick Foundation's Rock-n-Racquets benefit at the Colonial Center. Roddick will take on 6-9 John Isner and Williams will face top 20 pro Caroline Wozniacki in singles. Tickets are available at coloniallifearena.com or by telephone at 866-472-8499.

(11/07/08)  Edgerton hopes to help Wando extend title run
Winning one state championship can create enough memories to last a lifetime. But five straight? That's the goal of Wando senior Hagan Edgerton as the Warriors head up I-26 today for what Edgerton and her teammates hope will be a sweep in the Class AAAA division of SCHSL's state girls tennis championship weekend.

The Warriors (19-0), riding an 81-match winning steak that has put them within two victories of a fifth straight state title, will face Lexington (18-1) in today's Lower State final at 4 p.m. at the Lexington County Tennis Complex. Mauldin, mauled 6-0 by Wando in last year's state final, faces Dorman in the other semifinal. The two winners will meet Saturday at noon in Lexington.

In Class AA, Bishop England (7-7) has its sights on a second consecutive state title. But coach Patricia Owens' team must survive today's 4 p.m. Lower State final in Lexington against coastal nemesis Waccamaw (9-3), which had won three straight state titles before losing to the Bishops in last year's state semifinals. Today's winner will advance to a 10 a.m. Saturday state final.

Edgerton plays No. 4 for the current Warriors. Her only loss in the state playoffs came in 2003, when she was a little seventh-grader playing No. 2 for Wando in the Lower State final against Irmo. The Warriors lost that day also, and they haven't lost a playoff match since.

"We should have won (that match), but Sam (No. 1 player Samantha Eppelsheimer) was playing in the ITF tournament down the road (from Irmo). I stalled as much as I could, but it didn't help. She didn't make it there in time," veteran Wando coach Becky Williamson said.

Edgerton has won a career total of 86 matches. She hopes to have five state championship rings when she ends her tennis career sometime in the next two days and begins to focus on the next stage of her life. A Palmetto Fellow, she already has been accepted to Clemson and awarded an academic scholarship.

Johnson leads Bishops

Like in Class AAAA, the AA state final also could pit last year's finalists. Emerald, a 5-1 loser to the Bishops in last year's state final, will take on Woodruff in today's other semifinal.

The Bishops have a strong team that is led by senior No. 1 Sallie Johnson. However, the 2007 All-Lowcountry choice suffered the only loss for BE in its 5-1 Tuesday win over Manning. Downing Herlocker, who played on Wando's title team two years ago and sat out last year at BE with an injury, has been a solid addition at No. 2.

Owens has led 14 BE teams to state girls tennis titles.

Waccamaw advanced past Pelion, 4-2, on Thursday.

--Academic Magnet missed out on giving Charleston a third team in a Lower State final when the Raptors were eliminated from the Class A playoffs on Wednesday by Green Sea-Floyds, 4-3.

(11/02/08)  Kiawah rated fourth among U.S. resorts
Mention a world-renowned tennis resort, and Kiawah Island probably would be among the first ones that come to your mind. The fact that Kiawah Island has retained such a high profile for more than a quarter of a century is stunning. Tennis director Roy Barth and his staff have done a great job.

In Tennis Magazine's latest list of the Top 50 U.S. Tennis Resorts, Kiawah Island Golf Resort is rated fourth. Although that's a couple of places lower down the list than in 2006 when Tennis Magazine last published its top resorts, Kiawah is rated higher than any other resort in a state that is loaded with five other top 50 locations.

Hilton Head Island's Sea Pines Resort is the only other top 10 site in South Carolina, dropping back one place to seventh from the sixth spot it held two years ago. Wild Dunes Resort was 10th in 2006, but fell out of the current top 10 and is now a top 50 resort.

Two other Hilton Head resorts, the Inn at Palmetto Bluff and Palmetto Dunes, join Sea Pines on the top 50 list, while Pawleys Island's Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort is the sixth S.C. resort to make the top 50. California's Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is rated tops in the nation.

Larkin picks Wofford

Wando senior Lindsay Larkin has committed to play tennis at Wofford and is scheduled to sign a letter of intent with the Terriers on Nov. 12. This is Larkin's third year playing for the Warriors, the four-time defending Class AAAA state girls champions and owners of an 80-match winning streak.

Larkin not only plays No. 3 for the Warriors, she is a Wofford scholar and a Palmetto Fellow in the classroom as well as a member of the Wando Senior Show Choir.

Two SCHSL titles?

With two SCISA state crowns (congratulations, Ashley Hall and Palmetto Christian) already stashed away, there appears to be an excellent chance for the area to finish up with four girls state titles this fall. Wando and Bishop England look like good picks to repeat as Class AAAA and Class AA titlists, while Academic Magnet's road in Class A unfortunately may be blocked by one of the usual powerhouses, Christ Church or Southside of Greenville.

At any rate, all three local teams would appear to be headed for the state championship weekend that starts Friday with the semifinals at Lexington Tennis Complex. Coach Becky Williamson's powerful Wando outfit received something of a lucky break on Thursday when a No. 3-seeded Irmo upended a No. 1-seeded West Florence, 4-2, in the round of 16. That result left perennial power Irmo having to visit Wando on Tuesday. Wando defeated Dutch Fork, 5-1, in the round of 16. Meanwhile, top threat Lexington has to play at surprisingly strong Beaufort on Tuesday.

In Class AA, Bishop England is at home at Family Circle Tennis Center on Tuesday against Manning, while Academic Magnet travels to Green Sea-Floyds for a Class A quarterfinal. The Tuesday winners will advance to the state championship weekend.

Items of interest

--Monday is the deadline for entering the annual Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Classic, which starts Friday at Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2196 or jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com).

--Doubles, anyone? Snee Farm County Club will hold a Doubles Extravaganza as its Grand Prix tournament Nov. 20-23. The entry deadline is Nov. 19, with food, music and beverages in the tournament's 20-year-old tradition. Signup is available online at sneefarmtennis.com.

--Andy Roddick and Serena Williams will headline the Roddick Foundation's Rock-n-Racquets benefit on Dec. 13 at the Colonial Center in Columbia. Roddick will take on 6-9 John Isner and Williams will face top 20 pro Caroline Wozniacki in singles. Roddick and Williams also will battle the Isner/Wozniacki team in mixed doubles. Tickets to the event, which is being sponsored by Newberry College, are available online at coloniallifearena.com or by calling 866-472-8499.

--The local Junior Team Tennis group that participated in last weekend's advanced 14-and-under national championships in Mobile, Ala., took fifth place, despite losing three of its original four girls to the SCISA playoffs. Only Porter-Gaud's Mi'Kola Cooper made the trip, while Colleton Prep's Sarah McDonald and Pinewood Prep's Meagan Evans and Shauna Fletcher participated in the SCISA state championship weekend in Sumter. Columbia's Ashley Hawkins served as a substitute. The coed team also included Adam Elliget, Zac Dye, Thomas Spratt and Bailey Kirkland.

--The Thurmond, Kirchner & Timbes team lived up to its regular season success by prevailing as the league champion in last Sunday's final of the Charleston Pro Tennis League at the Players Club. Matt Hane's team needed a win by No. 2 singles player Phil Whitesell in a third-set super tiebreaker against Jay Bruner to post a 3-2 victory over LCTA. Tom Eklund defeated Or Dekel in the No. 1 slot to give TK&T a singles sweep.

--Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman has scheduled another "Battle of James Island" for Nov. 15. The competition pits defending champion Country Club of Charleston against teams from Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. The festivities will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast, followed by men's and women's doubles at the Country Club and Maybank, and mixed doubles at 11 a.m. at the Country Club and Maybank. A covered dish social and awards presentations will be held from 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. Contact ccctennis@comcast.net to register.

--The Rockin' for Ryan Young Gala is set for Thursday at the Sand Dunes Club on Sullivan's Island. Treg Monty (991-8899) has organized the event to raise money to support Young's pro tennis career. Tickets can be ordered at www.rockinforryan.com.

--The I'On Club's sixth annual Ace Breast Cancer tournament and Pine Forest Country Club's "Racquets for Recovery — Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer" — will be held next weekend. Contact I'On organizer Courtenay Tucker at acebreastcancertennis@yahoo.com, or Pine Forest's Tisha Smith (851-3985 or e-mail Racquets2008@aol.com). Pine Forest's deadline has been extended until Monday. The I'On event will benefit the Hollings Cancer Center, while Pine Forest's tournament will benefit the American Cancer Society.

--Charleston's Brenda Carter led the U.S. women's 60 team to the silver medal in the recent international Alice Marble Cup team competition conducted by the International Tennis Federation in Antalya, Turkey. The U.S. team suffered a 3-0 loss to France in the final as Carter dropped the No. 1 singles match.

(10/26/08)  How will economic woes affect 2009 Cup?
Just what effect will this global recession have on next spring's Family Circle Cup?

It's too early to tell, but Family Circle Cup officials are expecting "the 2009 event to be even better than 2008." Of course, tickets just went on sale last Wednesday for the April 11-19 women's tournament, and the tournament's advertising campaign hasn't started yet.

The elite Tier I status that Family Circle and eight other tournaments held in 2008 will be phased out as the WTA Tour enters the Roadmap 2009 era. The tournament's new designation will be as one of the 20 Premier events that have a minimum purse of $700,000. But Family Circle has elected to have a $1 million purse in hopes of attracting a superior player field over other Premier tournaments. Family Circle Cup had a Tier I minimum purse of $1.34 million in 2008.

Tickets now on sale are packages only. Individual tickets aren't expected to go on sale until January. Tickets can be obtained by phone (800-677-2293 or 843-856-7900) or at www.familycirclecup.com.

Wando goes for five

Wando will take a 78-match winning streak into the Class AAAA girls state playoffs Tuesday at home against Conway. A win would propel the four-time defending state champion Warriors into a round of 16 home match on Thursday probably against bracket second seed Dutch Fork, which opens against Fort Dorchester. The state semi-finals and finals are scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at the Lexington County Tennis Complex.

Summerville will play host to perennial power Irmo in Tuesday's first round, while Berkeley visits Hartsville, West Ashley goes to powerful Lexington, Stratford is at West Florence and James Island has a home match against South Florence. Lexington is expected to be Wando's toughest test in the Lower State.

Bishops in 6-AA playoff

Defending Class AA state champion Bishop England will take on newcomer Ashley Ridge for the Region 6-AA title on Monday at 4 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center after both teams finished the regular season with 5-1 region records. The match was postponed Friday because of rain.

Coach Patricia Owens' BE team was surprised by Ashley Ridge, 4-3, in the teams' first meeting when the Bishops played without most of their regulars. But Owens called on All-Lowcountry star Sallie Johnson and all of her starters when the two teams met at Family Circle Tennis Center as the Bishops rolled to a convincing 7-0 victory.

At stake Monday is whether Bishop England has to travel to Pelion for next Thursday's first round of the state playoffs as the region runner-up or plays Wade Hampton at the Family Circle complex as the 6-AA champion.

Notes of interest

--The Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships will be held at Kiawah Island Nov. 12-16, with an entry deadline of Nov. 3. Registration is available on line at http://tennislink.usta.com/tournaments by entering the tournament ID number (704110808). For information, call Jonathan Barth (768-6028).

--Friday's heavy rains forced the finals of the Charleston Pro Tennis League to be postponed for the third straight year. The event will be held today at 4 p.m. at the Players Club. Matt Hane's Thurmond, Kirchner & Timbes outfit will meet Timo Siebert's LCTA for the title.

(10/24/08)  Cannon guiding force in Colleton Prep girls title bid

Trent Cannon has been coaching members of the Colleton Prep girls tennis team literally for a lifetime - theirs. He was even in the delivery room when three of the girls were born. He's Dr. Cannon to them. "I delivered some of the girls as babies," the 53-year-old Walterboro obstetrician said. "It's special ... to see them develop over time. A lot of them grew up with my daughter (current Ashley Hall senior Kate Cannon)."

Now he's trying to deliver a state championship to the Walterboro school. The Warhawks (13-5) face defending champion Pee Dee Academy of Mullins today at 5 p.m. at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center in the SCISA Class AA state semifinals.

Colleton Prep lost to Trinity Collegiate in last year's state semis, but gained revenge with a 5-1 victory in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Prior to last year, Colleton Prep tennis was a lot about losing.

"We spent a lot of years losing a lot of matches ... just in the last two years we started winning," Cannon said.

That has something to do with the age of the current team. The starting six is made up of three sophomores, two eighth-graders and freshman star Sarah McDonald, who has suffered only two losses all season.

"We won't graduate anyone for several years," Cannon said.

Cannon's daughter, Kate, also played for him until she transferred to Ashley Hall at the beginning of last school year in order to take more Advanced Placement courses. Kate plays No. 6 for Ashley Hall, which also will be in Sumter today to participate in the SCISA Class AAA semifinals.

McDonald, who teamed with Kate Cannon to win the 2007 SCISA girls' open doubles title, is the undisputed leader of the team. McDonald passed up on a trip to Mobile, Ala., this weekend with a local team competing in the USTA Junior Team Tennis advanced 14-and-under national championships so she could help the Warhawks possibly win a state title.

Eighth-graders Kyla Floyd and Mary Hunter Brown play Nos. 2 and 3. Sophomores Tabor Copeland, Brittan Carter and Caitlin Crosby hold down Nos. 4-6.

Colleton Prep upset Class AAA Porter-Gaud in the regular season, while losing only to High School League Summerville and SCISA Class AAA state semifinalists Ashley Hall and Pinewood Prep.

Pee Dee defeated Beaufort Academy in the quarterfinals.

Holly Hill Academy will oppose Lake City's Carolina Academy in the other AA semifinal. Holly Hill defeated St. Andrew's of Savannah in the quarters, while Carolina downed The King's Academy of Florence.

SCISA AAA semifinals

Ashley Hall (17-2) can earn its second straight appearance in the Class AAA state final in today's 3 p.m. semifinals against Columbia's Cardinal Newman (9-5). Pinewood Prep (15-3) will take on defending state champion Heathwood Hall in the other semifinal.

Pinewood Prep, an 8-1 winner over Wilson Hall in the quarterfinals, will field a lineup that includes No. 1 Meagan Evans and No. 6 Shauna Fletcher, who each turned down trips to the Junior Team Tennis nationals in Alabama in order to play for the Panthers today. In their 5-4 loss to Heathwood Hall in the regular season, Fletcher scored wins in both singles and doubles.

Heathwood Hall won four of the six singles matches against Porter-Gaud in Wednesday's quarterfinals and defeated the Cyclones, 6-3. Heathwood Hall's power-hitting No. 1 player Catherine Roach survived a 10-6 third-set tiebreaker against Porter-Gaud's young Mi'Kola Cooper in a key match.

Coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team rolled over Hammond School, 9-0, in the quarterfinals, while Cardinal Newman defeated Laurence Manning, 5-1.

Ashley Hall isn't overlooking Cardinal Newman, even though the Columbia team was beaten 8-1 twice this season by Heinz Maurer's Pinewood Prep team, which in turn suffered a pair of one-sided losses to Ashley Hall.

(10/19/08)  Ashley Hall in SCISA driver's seat for playoffs
Ashley Hall is in the driver's seat for the SCISA Class AAA state playoffs that start Monday, but Pinewood Prep has defending state champion Heathwood Hall or Porter-Gaud standing between it and a berth in Saturday's final at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center.

Lower bracket top seed Ashley Hall (8-0 in Region III, 16-2 overall) has a Monday bye and will serve as a heavily favored quarterfinal host on Wednesday to the Hammond School/Florence Christian winner. Coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall girls shouldn't have any problem reaching a second straight state final since a probable semifinal foe for the Panthers would be Lower second seed Cardinal Newman of Columbia, a two-time 8-1 loser to Pinewood Prep.

"The draw worked out good for us," Gastley said, calling attention to the three-way logjam between Heathwood Hall, Pinewood and Porter-Gaud in the other half of the draw.

Upper second seed Pinewood Prep (6-2, 14-3 overall), which suffered 8-1 and 7-2 losses to Ashley Hall but posted 9-0 and 6-3 non-region wins over Hammond, also has a bye on Monday. Upper fourth seed Porter-Gaud (4-4 Region III) will serve as host to No. 5 Orangeburg Prep on Monday, with the winner traveling to Heathwood Hall for Wednesday's quarterfinals. Upper top seed Heathwood Hall already has beaten both Pinewood and Porter-Gaud this season, although the win over Pinewood was 5-4 and P-G fell 4-2 in a rain-shortened match.

"I'm happy with the draw, not having to play the two other strong teams in our bracket until Friday," Pinewood coach Heinz Maurer said.

In Class AA, Lower top seed Colleton Prep (12-5 with losses only to Ashley Hall, Pinewood Prep and Summerville High School) will serve as host to 2007 state runner-up Trinity Collegiate of Darlington on Wednesday in Walterboro in the quarterfinals. Trinity defeated Colleton Prep in last year's semifinals, but lost five of its top six players to graduation. Defending AA state champion Pee Dee Academy, which lost three starters from a year ago, is the second seed in the Lower bracket and will oppose No. 3 Beaufort Academy in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

--Colleton Prep coach Trent Cannon said his team's No. 1 player, freshman Sarah McDonald — who lost only twice in the regular season — plans to stick with Colleton Prep in the playoffs instead of traveling to Mobile, Ala., with the USTA Junior Team Tennis Southern champion 14-and-under advanced team that will represent Summerville's Pinewood Prep in next weekend's nationals. However, Porter-Gaud No. 1 player Mi'Kola Cooper, and Pinewood No. 1 player Meagan Evans and No. 6 Shauna Fletcher may wait until after Wednesday's Class AAA quarterfinals before deciding whether to play in the SCISA state playoffs if their teams are still alive or travel to Mobile with the USTA junior team.

Short sets at Kiawah

They actually played and completed a tennis tournament last weekend at Kiawah Island despite repeated rainstorms thanks to the USTA Southern Section's approval of using short sets. Of course, the Kiawah Island Junior Clay Courts never is a small event. The tournament had 310 participants. And they even played doubles.

As an example, boys' 18 singles winner/doubles runner-up Randall Heffron played three singles and three doubles matches (with younger brother Walker Heffron) on Monday. Randall Heffron, an All-Lowcountry player from Bishop England, was joined by Anderson Scarpa in boys 14 and Alexis Prickett in girls 18 as local singles winners. Peter Pritchard in boys 16, Alexander Santiago in boys 12 and Ellie Halbauer in girls 12 were singles runners-up.

The short sets were the key for a successful weekend, according to Kiawah tennis director Roy Barth. Singles players started the first two sets at 2-2 and played a match tiebreaker for the third set. Doubles matches were pro sets. "It worked beautiful and we were able to finish Monday night," Barth said. That's despite playing only three hours Saturday morning and play being stopped three times by rain on Sunday.

Notes of interest

Tickets are still available for the Rockin' for Ryan Young Gala scheduled for Nov. 6 at the Sand Dunes Club on Sullivan's Island. Treg Monty (991-8899), a friend of Ryan Young and his family, has organized the event to raise money to support the former Clemson star's pro tennis career. Tickets can be ordered at www.rockinforryan.com.

The I'On Club's Ace Breast Cancer tournament was rained out last weekend, giving the event the opportunity to raise even more funds for its cause. The event now will be held Nov. 7-9, but organizer Courtenay Tucker is asking the players who have signed up for the sixth annual Ace Breast Cancer tournament to e-mail her at acebreastcancertennis@yahoo.com to let her know if they are available for the make-up dates. "If they can't (play), I ask that they try to replace themselves. My goal is to keep the current draw as close to the original as possible. Obviously not everyone will be able to play, so if they aren't replaced, I will take names on a waiting list to fill in the gaps," Tucker said. Proceeds will go to the Hollings Cancer Center. Although no matches were held last weekend, the tournament's other activities such as dinners, auction and raffles went off as scheduled.

Pine Forest Country Club's "Racquets for Recovery — Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer" also is scheduled for Nov. 7-9. Contact Shirley Hunter (572-7810 or shhunter@bellsouth.net) for information on the Pine Forest event, which will benefit the American Cancer Society.

Charleston's Courting Kids inner-city program still has openings for its last three sessions at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island from 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. Contact program director Delores Jackson (769-8258 or 766-7401). The Courting Kids sessions at Charleston Tennis Center already have their maximum number of 72 participants.

Next Friday will be a busy day for Family Circle Tennis Center. Starting at 8 a.m., Family Circle will serve as host for the State Combo Doubles Championships for the sixth straight year, and then the finals of the Charleston Pro Tennis League will be held at 6:30 p.m. The Combo tournament's opening party will be held during the CPTL finals, with meal tickets available for purchase by guests. The Combo tournament, which will run through Monday, will have a record 1,900 participants. Matches also will be held at Snee Farm, Daniel Island Club, the Whipple Road complex and Wild Dunes. Draws are available at www.sctennis.com.

(10/12/08)  Wando subs play key role in streak

Did you notice that Wando yielded a couple of points last week to Academic Magnet?

So, coach Becky Williamson's Wando girls must not be so unbeatable after all, if they scored only a 5-2 victory over little, Class A Academic Magnet. Right?

Don't count on it. Wando only played one of its regulars against the Raptors.

The Warriors have made a habit of crushing regular season opponents in recent years with their backup players. It has to be a big match for Williamson to call on all of her stars.

You can't knock the strategy since it has been good enough to produce 73 straight victories, as well as created enough excitement at the Wando courts to have students practically waiting in line to join the four-time defending Class AAAA state champions. Wando has an almost unheard number of players on its roster. Thirty-four to be exact.

If Williamson can pull off another state championship feat, even after losing three stars to college tennis programs and another to online schooling, the team roster might grow even larger.

The last time Wando suffered a loss was early in the 2005 season when Williamson obviously underestimated Ashley Hall and gave most of her starters the day off. Of course, Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall girls were a little too good for Wando's reserves that day at the Wando courts.

Wando, now 11-0, almost surely will charge through its few remaining regular-season matches and take the Region 7-AAAA crown into the state playoffs. That trip could get exciting if the Warriors qualify for the Nov. 7-8 state championship weekend at the 21-court Lexington County Tennis Complex.

Kirkland impressive

Ashley Hall's diminutive Patricia Kirkland may be the area's most improved player this fall. Opposing coaches salivate at the 5-3 sophomore's proficiency.

And Gastley is just as impressed by Kirkland's play.

It's not that Kirkland wasn't a solid player last year as the Panthers' No. 3 player, but now playing the No. 2 slot she has blossomed into a star, one ready to help No. 1 Jamie Harrell and the rest of the Panthers possibly win a SCISA state championship. In her first five SCISA matches through Ashley Hall's 7-2 win over a good Pinewood Prep team last Tuesday, Kirkland didn't yield a game. That's 60 straight games of virtually error-free tennis.

Locals honored

The Lowcountry Tennis Association has been named the state's community tennis association of the year and will be honored during the USTA SC annual meeting Dec. 13 at Myrtle Beach's Marina Inn at Grande Dunes.

Reigning Belton 18-and-under champion Alex Martin, a 16-year-old, was selected as the state's most improved girls' player. Former Wando star Jessica Diamond, now at Samford University, is the girls' sportsmanship winner, while Porter-Gaud's Wilson Daniel is the boys sportsmanship winner. The Players Club's Joey Eskridge is the pro of the year.

Also, former local pro Sophie Woorons-Johnston, now of Clemson, is the adult female player of the year, while Andy Lake, a Six Mile resident who played on Chris Henderson's men's open team which competed in the USTA league tennis nationals, is the adult male player of the year. The junior girls player of the year is Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg, the winner of last spring's Smash Junior Family Circle Cup.

Will Bull, the Myrtle Beach legend who probably has been the state's best known tennis product over the last couple of decades, will be enshrined into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame during the Myrtle Beach festivities.

Seabrook success
--The 25th edition of the Alan Fleming tournament at the Seabrook Island Club was one of the best ever, according to Seabrook head pro/tournament director Mike Kiser. Not only did the tournament attract a record 256 players, the event raised $30,000 for Hospice of Charleston. That's a grand total of $147,000 for the last seven years.

--Some of the highlights of the tournament included the Friday night banquet that nearly 300 people attended as well as 62 Seabrook Island Club members participating in the tournament. Seventy-four volunteers supported the event, which is officially named the Alan Fleming Senior Open State Clay Court Championships.

Notes of interest
--The Charleston Pro Tennis League will wrap up its regular season next Friday night at the Daniel Island Club where former Aiken pro Ben Cook is the new director of tennis, replacing the departed Stuart Small in late summer.

--Adam Elliget of Summerville and Ellie Halbauer of Mount Pleasant were the boys' 12 and girls' 12 champions last weekend in the National Level 3 Bullfrog tournament in Cary, N.C. Elliget defeated Matthew Mendez of the Players Club in the final. Wando sophomore Alexis Prickett, who is ineligible to join the girls' team after transferring from Columbia's Hammond School, was a girls' 16 quarterfinalist in the Bullfrog tournament. All-Lowcountry John Karle of Bishop England made the round of 16 in boys' 18, while Alexander Santiago advanced to the boys' 12 quarterfinals.

--Hats off to Greenville's Lucy Garvin, who will begin a two-year term on Jan. 1 as chairman of the board and president of the USTA. After serving the last eight years on the USTA board of directors, Garvin will become only the third woman to hold the USTA's top post. All of this is quite an accomplishment for a long-time tennis supporter who has made volunteering a passion.

(10/05/08)  Players could face tough decision: USTA nationals or SCISA playoffs
Some of the area’s top high school players have qualified for a run at a possible USTA national Junior Team Tennis championship on Oct. 23-26 in Mobile, Ala. The only trouble is that three of the four girls on the eight-member coed team are No. 1 players for their respective high school teams, all of whom are strong contenders to be playing in the SCISA state semifinals/finals weekend on Oct. 24-25 at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center.

While boys’ players Adam Elliget of Pinewood Prep, Zac Dye of Berkeley, Bailey Kirkland of Academic Magnet and Thomas Spratt of Porter-Gaud are available the weekend of the nationals, the 14-and-under advanced Junior Team Tennis Southern champions include girls’ high school No. 1 players Mi’Kola Cooper of Porter-Gaud,

Meagan Evans of Pinewood Prep and Sarah McDonald of Colleton Prep. Shauna Fletcher also is a starter for Pinewood Prep.

Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep both probably will be competing in the SCISA

Class AAA girls’ state quarterfinals on Oct. 22, while SCISA Class AA state title hopeful Colleton Prep should be playing in the playoffs at the same time. All three area teams, along with AAA Ashley Hall, could be favored — depending on the draw — to advance to the championship weekend.

Since SCISA already has ruled against changing the dates of the semifinals/finals, the four girls apparently will have to make difficult decisions.

Although only three of the USTA team players attend Pinewood Prep, the team officially represents the Summerville independent school. Pinewood Prep assistant coach Jim Elliget serves as coach of the USTA team and directed it to a 4-0 record in Mobile’s Southern championships in August. If the local girls are unable to make the trip to Mobile, Elliget expects to replace them.

Ashley Hall dominant

Ashley Hall demonstrated enough strength this past week to become the solid favorite to win this year’s SCISA Class AAA state title after losing to Columbia’s Heathwood Hall in the 2007 final. Coach Mary Gastley’s Ashley Hall girls are solid from the top of the lineup to the bottom. In fact, junior Jamie Harrell probably is in a class all to herself in SCISA tennis.

Harrell dominated fellow All-Lowcountry standout Sallie Johnson of Bishop England, 6-0, 6-2, Thursday at Charleston Tennis Center. Johnson actually played well, but the power and consistency Harrell generated with her left-handed game overwhelmed the 5-2 BE star. Harrell and the Panthers eased to a 6-0 victory over the defending SCHSL Class AA state champion Bishops. Earlier in the week, Ashley Hall cruised to an 8-1 victory at Pinewood Prep. Pinewood plays Ashley Hall at Charleston Tennis Center on Tuesday, but Pinewood’s regularly scheduled match at Porter-Gaud on Wednesday and the completion of an earlier match tied at 4-4 have been rescheduled for the following week. Ashley Hall already owns a 7-2 win over Porter-Gaud.

A big reason, other than Harrell’s superior play, for the Panthers’ expectations is the addition of freshman Isabel Dennis from Porter-Gaud to play No. 4 behind Harrell, stellar sophomore Patricia Kirkland and senior Jacey Edwards.

Local notes
It’s already time for another Lowcountry Junior Tennis Association season. The USTA Junior Team Tennis will start next Sunday with 20 teams made up of 8-18 year-olds. There will be beginner, intermediate and advanced skill levels. For information, go online to www.lowcountryjuniortennis.org or call Joyce Arrington at (843) 442-4871.

Anyone interested in helping the Pinewood Prep Junior Team Tennis group offset the costs for the trip to Mobile for the national championships can contact coach Jim Elliget at (843) 873-3015 or e-mail jelliget@earthlink.net.

The women at I’On Club and Pine Forest Country Club are busy preparing for their annual breast cancer benefits. The sixth annual I’On Ace Breast Cancer tournament is scheduled for next weekend, with proceeds going to the Hollings Cancer Center. The I’On contact is Courtenay Tucker at (843) 696-6735. Registration is available at www.acebreastcancer.org.>

Pine Forest will hold its fourth annual “Racquets for Recovery — Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer” on Nov. 7-9. Contact Shirley Hunter at (843) 572-7810 or e-mail shhunter@bellsouth.net for information on the Pine Forest event, which will benefit the American Cancer Society.

St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground will hold a free wheelchair tennis clinic next Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at its tennis complex on Playground Road. Contact Pam Pierce at (843) 270-0366, Holly Wise (843) 442-7632 or (800) 644-7282.

Next Friday evening’s Charleston Pro Tennis League program will be held at Pine Forest Country Club.

Why did the local USTA tennis league implement the match tiebreaker to replace the third set this fall? I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks it’s a good idea for the men’s leagues. I know, the experiment can be voted out by the captains. Its main reason is to reduce the pressure on local tennis facilities that are having a difficult time finding enough courts for all of the league activity.

“The 10-point tiebreaker for the third set should be limited to extreme weather conditions and then only for singles and certain age groups,” emphasizes reader Bill Campbell of Hollywood.

(09/28/08)  Match tiebreaker a hot topic
The match tiebreaker is in for this fall's local league tennis. I like getting home from night matches earlier, but I'm not sure I actually like the reason for it.

I guess I'll have to wait until the match tiebreaker decides one of my own matches or my team's before I really have a true feeling for putting all of your marbles on what amounts to a couple of games. I just think a tiebreaker that replaces a third set takes away an advantage for certain players and some of the better teams.

That's like taking five-set matches away from Rafael Nadal, who might be a mere mortal in three sets.

I know some singles players who are practically money in the bank if their match goes to three sets. Who cares about the first set? It's the third set that matters, they contend.

They work all week and the offseason to prepare for that advantage, and now it's taken away. When a match is even at one set each, and a tiebreaker will decide the winner, it's almost a tossup. The player or doubles team that happens to get off to a fast start or puts together a couple of good, or even lucky shots, has a huge advantage in the quest to become the first team or player to reach the magic 10 points (ahead by two, of course).

Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer said it's just an experiment, but the match tiebreaker has been used for several years once teams advance past local competition. Local team captains can still vote down the tiebreaker later in the year, or before next spring's official league season starts. The fall is just a practice league, but don't tell that to the people who put their hearts on the line every match.

What's up, Bishops?

Defending Class AA girls' state champion Bishop England appears to be struggling with a string of defeats. But appearances can be deceiving. Losing to Myrtle Beach, Ashley Hall and Pinewood Prep isn't so dreadful. But what about that shocking 4-3 loss to Region 6-AA newcomer Ashley Ridge? Well, that appears to be just a bit of miscalculation by the Bishops, who played without most of their starters, including All-Lowcountry standout Sallie Johnson.

What are the odds that Johnson and other stars will be in the Bishops' lineup when Ashley Ridge visits Family Circle Tennis Center on Tuesday for another match against the Bishops?

The Bishops' loss to Ashley Ridge had the ring of Porter-Gaud's 5-4 loss at Colleton Prep earlier this season.

Ashley Hall appears to be the class of SCISA Region III-AAA, but Mary Gastley's 2007 state runners-up face a testy and unbeaten Pinewood Prep team on Tuesday in Summerville in a makeup match. Pinewood's fate in the region will boil down to that makeup match and matches at Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud on Oct. 7 and 8, along with the completion on Oct. 8 of an earlier home match (tied 4-4) against Porter-Gaud.

Local notes
The Charleston Pro Tennis League resumes its schedule Friday night at the I'On Club in Mount Pleasant with Matt Hane's Thurmond, Kirchner & Timbes team threatening to run away with the regular season after 4-1 victories over each of the other three teams in the league. Timo Siebert's LCTA outfit is second with nine points, followed by 4-Spine with six points and winless H.S.I. Electrical with three points.

Treg Monty (991-8899) is doing his best to make sure Ryan Young will have a legitimate shot at making it in pro tennis. Monty's Rockin' for Ryan is scheduled for Nov. 6 at the Sand Dunes Club on Sullivan's Island, with the proceeds supporting Young's pro career. Get tickets at www.rockinforryan.com.

Tickets for a special drawing for pancreatic/liver cancer-stricken Pine Forest tennis player Patti Romano will continue to be sold on Oct. 10 at the Charleston Pro Tennis League's Friday night matches at Pine Forest. Checks can be mailed to Shirley Hunter (2 Michele Manor, Hanahan, S.C. 29406) prior to the Oct. 10 drawing. Donations also can be mailed to the Patti Romano Fund, 204 Prestwick Court, Summerville, S.C. 29483.

The annual Alan Fleming Senior Open State Clay Court Championships will begin Thursday at Seabrook Island.

(09/21/08)  Cable show spotlights local tennis
Charleston tennis just gained another feather in its cap. As the Tennis Channel's Mieke Buchan says, Charleston is a "tennis lover's paradise."

That's why Charleston has joined Tennis Channel's prestigious list of tennis destinations. Destination Tennis: Charleston is set for an 8 p.m. premiere showing on Sept. 29 on the Tennis Channel.

Buchan hosts the Tennis Channel's original series of tennis destinations. In the 30-minute show, she starts out taking a lesson from legendary pro Roy Barth at Kiawah Island, dines at Kiawah's luxurious five-star Sanctuary hotel, takes a carriage ride downtown and ends up at Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms playing beach tennis with pro Charley Rasheed.

"South Carolina is one of the most spectacular tennis destinations in America, and Charleston is the gem of the state," Buchan tells her TV audience.

The Charleston segment also airs at 11 p.m. on Sept. 29, and twice the next day. The Tennis Channel series has featured such locales as New York City, Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs and Carmel (Calif.).

Wando's loaded roster

Ever wonder why Becky Williamson has won four straight girls' Class AAAA state titles at Wando? Of course, the reasons included Jessica Diamond (Samford), Brooke Mosteller (Furman) and Elizabeth Spelman (Villanova), the dynamic trio that played on all four championship teams before graduating to college tennis.

But the reason goes deeper ... like numbers. The Warriors list 34 players on their current varsity roster. That's more players than some high school football teams.

It's no wonder that the Warriors are off to a 4-0 start, have extended their match winning streak to 66 and loom as a strong contender to make it five straight state titles. Senior No. 1 Olivia McMillan is the lone returning singles regular, but Nos. 2-4 junior Corin Hallman, senior Lindsay Larkin and senior Hagan Edgerton (who also stood out on all four championship teams) played key roles in 2007.

Wando lost would-be sophomore star Meghan Blevins to online schooling and also missed out on outstanding, but ineligible, sophomore Alexis Prickett, who transferred to Wando from Columbia's Hammond School.

As usual, the season probably won't get overly exciting for Wando until the state semifinals, which this year will be played as part of a championship weekend Nov. 7-8 in the Columbia area.

Harrell the difference

Pinewood Prep is off to a 5-0 overall start, but one player might spell the difference in SCISA Region III-AAA —Ashley Hall junior Jamie Harrell, probably the premier player in SCISA after leading Ashley Hall to last year's state final and Prickett's transfer from Hammond to Wando.

Region III includes new members Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian, along with Pinewood Prep, Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud. Pinewood's match against Porter-Gaud, which was deadlocked at 4 with No. 3 doubles tied at 7 and deuce in a pro set when play was halted, will be completed on Oct. 8 prior to the two teams' scheduled match at Porter-Gaud.

"With Jamie in the lineup, Ashley Hall is the team to beat (in the region)," Pinewood coach Heinz Maurer said. "But hopefully, we'll get three teams (including Porter-Gaud and Pinewood) in the state playoffs."

FIRST INSTANCE OF “Special to the Post & Courier”

(09/19/08)  Courting Kids starts on Saturday
The Courting Kids tennis program will begin on Saturday for youth players who want to learn the game.
The entry level program run through the City of Charleston Recreation Department is designed to be an affordable way to introduce the game of tennis to interested players.  The cost is $10 for city residents and $25 for nonresidents.

The program will take place on Saturdays through Nov. 1. One session will take place on from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Charleston Tennis Center in West Ashley and the other will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Alan Fleming Tennis Complex on Johns Island.  Call 724-7327 for more information.

Family Circle classes add HAL
The Family Circle Tennis Center has a new teaching toy to help its students learn at a faster pace and has designed a new schedule of classes to put the technology to use. The Hit and Learn (HAL) system was developed based on neurological studies performed by the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. It was designed to identify and eliminate distractions to the eye, the most common cause of off-center hits.

"We are very excited to offer this amazing new training system called HAL that makes learning or improving your game to the next level 700 percent faster than traditional ball machines or ball tosses" said Rob Eppelsheimer, director of facilities and tennis development at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

"The HAL device is so revolutionary that we have restructured our junior and adult programs to offer accelerated advancement programs to everyone who wants to learn or improve their game throughout the Charleston area."

The tennis center has begun to offer three new classes using the HAL device. All of them require a $75 deposit.
The Rookies Academy is for ages 4-6 and will meet Monday and Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon. The cost is $16 to $19 weekly depending on the program selection.

The Junior Academy is for ages 7-17 and the cost ranges from $24 to $30. The Adult Academy costs $27 to $35
per week. Both the junior and adult classes have schedules that vary by level of ability. Visit familycirclecup.com for more details, pricing, and registration forms, or call the pro shop at 849-5300.

(08/24/08)  STAFF REPORT:  Fishburne, Carter to represent United States
The U.S. Tennis Association has selected Charleston's Diane Fishburne and Brenda Carter to represent the United States in an international team competition that will be held Oct. 12-18 in Antalya, Turkey.

Fishburne, a tennis professional at the Country Club of Charleston, has been selected as a member of the U.S. Maria Esther Bueno Cup Team for women 50 and older. The U.S. is the defending champion and has won the title four of the past five years.

Fishburne, a College of Charleston graduate, is the reigning International Tennis Federation singles champion for the 50s and reigning ITF doubles champion for the 45s. She completed 2007 ranked No. 1 in USTA national singles and is No. 1 in the ITF world rankings for her age group. She has won more than 20 national singles and doubles titles; three ITF world singles titles; and two ITF world doubles titles.

Carter will again captain the U.S. Alice Marble Cup Team for women 60 and older. The U.S. took the bronze medal in 2007.

Carter won the world 60s singles title and was a finalist in doubles in 2007. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 60s singles and No. 1 in doubles with teammate Betty Wachob of Panama City, Fla., who also has been named to the Alice Marble Cup Team.

Carter was 2007 national singles champion in Outdoor Hard Court, Indoor and Clay Court as well as a finalist on Grass. Doubles titles last year included Outdoor Hard, Grass and Clay.

Carter was inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 and has been named the Adult Tennis Player of the Year by both the Southern Section of the USTA (2003) and by the South Carolina Tennis Association (2001, 2006). She was an assistant professor of math at Georgia Southern from 1978-99, and for six of those years served as associate director of athletics. She now lives in Charleston.

Charleston Pro Tennis League

The Charleston Pro Tennis League will begin its fall season Sept. 5 with the finals scheduled Oct. 24 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

The six-week regular season will be followed by a final playoff round. The regular-season schedule is: Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m., Snee Farm; Sept. 12, Charleston Tennis Center (Farmfield); Sept. 19, The Players Club (Mount Pleasant, across from old Wando H.S.); Oct. 3, I'On Club; Oct. 10, Pine Forest; and Oct. 17, Daniel Island Club.

(08/12/08)  Letter to the Editor:  Reinstate column
I am very disappointed to learn that James Beck is no longer writing a tennis column for The Post and Courier. There has been little tennis coverage since before Wimbledon, and the Charleston tennis community has been abuzz on what to do about it.

The column had a good balance between international and local tennis news. It provided interesting insights into the professional tennis scene, as well as updates on the latest USTA programs.

Mr. Beck was always fair, giving all the local centers, clubs and teams their share of coverage and program promotion. He covered everything from college teams to the latest information about young people who had excelled in the inner-city tennis program for youth.

I have been involved with tennis programs in Charleston for many years. I am, therefore, often stopped at stores and restaurants by tennis players and non-tennis players to discuss the latest tournaments or tennis news. Many times, the topic originated from Mr. Beck's tennis column in The Post and Courier.

I would like to urge you to reinstate the tennis column. The tens of thousands of Charleston-area residents who are interested in tennis miss the much needed information.

Tennis Manager
City of Charleston
Recreation Department
Farmfield Avenue

(06/12/08)  James Beck was assigned other duties and tennis writing ceased until his official retirement

(06/11/08)  Will Roddick step up?
Where's Andy Roddick?

Considering Roger Federer's return to the human race, is there a serious Wimbledon run left in Roddick? It's wide open for someone to replace Federer on the Wimbledon throne.

Roddick has had some of his best success on the famed grass courts of Wimbledon, losing to Federer in two finals and once in the semifinals. Although Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal still might be too good for Roddick, he has the special weapon that is so effective on grass — his serve.

Roddick missed the French Open with an injury, but he's already in London opening defense today of his four Queens Club titles against good friend Robby Ginepri.

Everybody's beating Federer these days, even Roddick who broke his 11-match losing streak to Federer earlier this year in Miami.

And what is Federer doing with a clay-courter for a coach? Hiring Jose Higueras as his coach before going to Europe was a real gamble. Not only did the strategy fail miserably against Nadal, the misstep sends Federer into the grass-court tournaments surrounded by negativity and doubt. The move could cost him at Wimbledon.

Maybe Federer should consider going after Brad Gilbert. If not Gilbert, what about Jimmy Connors? At least, Connors taught Roddick to fight and to think strategy on the court, possibly making Roddick realize that he needed more than his awesome serve.

The Martin reversal

Just because a player loses to another badly one day as Federer did against Nadal on Sunday in Paris doesn't mean the next meeting will have the same results. A perfect example of that is Mount Pleasant junior Alex Martin, the new Belton girls 18 singles champion. She also teamed with Players Clubber Jamie Harrell to win the girls 16 doubles title.

Martin had suffered a humiliating 6-2, 6-1 loss to Hilton Head Island's Michelle Green back in March. "I just didn't play well against her," Martin said Tuesday about that meeting.

But Monday morning in Belton, it was a different story. The 16-year-old Martin cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Green. A day earlier, Martin had defeated nationally touted Sarah Guzick of Greer in the semifinals.

"That was the first time any of our girls had beaten her (Guzick)," Players Club tennis director Bryan Minton said.

Of course, Minton was in a great mood since two other Players Clubbers also won singles titles — Ann Hay in girls 12 and Connor Clements in boys 14.

Martin didn't just arrive on the tennis scene. She has concentrated on tennis full-time the last two years while attending school online. But her play has been limited by injuries, fractures in her foot each of the last two summers. Already this year, the 5-8 player has won two national level 16-and-under tournaments, which enabled her to skip the upcoming Southern Closed tournament and still qualify for the National Clay Courts in July in Virginia Beach, Va.

Eskridge leaving I'On

After more than eight years as tennis director at the I'On Club in Mount Pleasant, Joey Eskridge is moving across Mathis Ferry Road to the Players Club to become a pro in charge of junior/adult development.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity. I've been competing against them . . . now I'll get to join forces," said the 36-year-old Winthrop graduate, who plans to report to the Players Club on June 30.

(06/09/09)  Federer lacked pop against thoroughbred Nadal
Comparing horses and tennis players? Come on.

But there was at least one thoroughbred playing tennis Sunday. Pardon the expression, but Rafael Nadal was an animal.

Roger Federer must have felt like Big Brown did a day earlier. Federer had no pop in his game.

This great tennis player actually might consider himself lucky that he even won a game off Nadal, much less the whopping total of four games in three sets. Nadal was that much in control of the French Open final.

Federer played so badly early in the match it appeared that the mediocrity might have caused Nadal to drop his defenses. Nadal made that statement with his complete domination before and in the aftermaths of Federer's pair of brief surges.

Consider these facts: After Federer rallied from double-break point to win the third game of the match, Nadal won 25 of the next 28 points; and once Federer evened the second set at 3-3, Nadal won the last nine games of the match. It all added up to a 1-3-0 loss for the player many have called the greatest ever.

The label may be misplaced. Consider this fact: Nadal's fourth French Open title came when he was 34 days older than Federer's age in 2003 when Federer captured his first Grand Slam title by winning Wimbledon.

Nadal, at 22 years old, is almost certainly a better and more complete player today than Federer was five years ago. In another five years, Nadal realistically could be chasing the career Grand Slam record. Just toss in another three or four French titles, and a few Grand Slam successes on grass or hard courts.

Who would have thought that Andre Agassi would have become a career Grand Slammer?

And also remember a fellow named Bjorn Borg. He was only 20 years old when he won his first of five straight Wimbledons in 1976, but he also retired from the game at age 25 with 11 Grand Slam titles. If Borg had played a few more years, he might have put the Grand Slam record out of reach.

Even if Federer or Nadal happen to equal or surpass Pete Sampras' 14 career Grand Slam titles, it will mean only that they are great players, two more in a long line of greats.

It's unfortunate that the broadcast media placed such great pressure on Federer so early in his career by calling him the greatest or possibly the greatest player ever.

History has too many intangibles to toss around such labels. The broadcasters really did Federer a disservice.

Federer third-best?

Right now, Federer may be no better than the third-best player in the game. Wimbledon easily could illustrate that point. It all might depend on whose half of the draw — Federer's or Nadal's — Novak Djokovic is placed.

Federer obviously is still weakened by his battle earlier this year with mononucleosis. On some points, Federer's shot-making ability appeared to be almost surreal, but Nadal's intensity, shots and court coverage turned the flurries into reality as Federer's energy and game melted. Federer's excellence usually lasted only a few moments at a time.

Federer and others are often credited with having the biggest forehands in the game. But no one in tennis hits the ball with greater impact than Rafael Nadal from either side. Heavy spin just reduces the pace of his shots.

Nadal appears to be improving quickly. If he takes this same game to Wimbledon, it will be difficult for anyone to beat him.

Nadal took Federer's backhand apart in the French final. Even Federer may not be strong enough to handle Nadal at Wimbledon, especially if Nadal continues to attack Federer's baseline backhand and then concentrates on Federer's backhand side when Federer goes to the net. Federer's few bright points on Sunday came on his serve, line-splitting forehands and forehand volleys. He seldom came up with a good backhand volley.

This match really wasn't about Federer's play. Nadal was simply too good for him.

(06/08/08) Ivanovic won't be one-win wonder
Smiling Ana. Beautiful Ana. Take your pick. They're both appropriate for Ana Ivanovic.

Choosing between these terms is about as difficult as picking between dark-haired beauty Ivanovic and equally beautiful blonde Maria Sharapova.

One thing is certain. Sharapova now has competition for the title of the world's most glamorous female athlete. In the process, women's tennis should soar to new heights in the next 5-10 years. Luckily, Charleston already has the Family Circle Cup.

This year, Maria and Serena Williams. Next year, Maria, Ana and Serena at the Cup?

It probably won't be long before tennis telecasts will be airing commercials of Ana talking to and teasing a dark-haired pup, similar to Sharapova's cute camera commercial with that adorable little bouncing white pooch. Or maybe the commercial will include both Maria and Ana, with Ana taking the photos of Maria and coaxing her rival to "Come on." Of course, Maria would remain as uncompromising as she is on a tennis court by responding, "No, you come on!"

Seriously, the sky is the limit for women's tennis, just as it is for its new No. 1 player. This isn't all about tennis in that Ivanovic should rise beyond the game and become an international celebrity. She suddenly becomes everyone's chief rival on the court, too.

Don't look for Ivanovic to be a one-time Grand Slam wonder. Four weeks from now, the tennis world easily could be singing her praises at Wimbledon as a two-time Grand Slam tournament champion.

I know Wimbledon belongs to Serena and Venus Williams, and Sharapova. But don't count Ana with the single "n" out. This 20-year-old Serbian has the game and the ability. And with the monkey off her back as the result of her straight-set victory over Dinara Safina in Saturday's French Open final, Ivanovic could soar alongside the WTA Tour.

She's already an incredible talent. But what if this 6-1 wonder perfects and strengthens her already strong serve, improves consistency on her powerful penetrating groundstrokes and maybe adds a net presence to her game?

She no longer has to prove anything. Her erratic performances against Justine Henin in last year's French final and against Sharapova in this year's Australian Open final are history. She placed them in a sealed tomb with her spectacular play against Safina.

Point of wonder

The last point of Rafael Nadal's straight-set win over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals was the perfect illustration of Nadal. Nadal took away three apparent Djokovic winners in just a few seconds, going deep into his forehand corner to retrieve a perfectly placed Djokovic groundstroke, then sprinting toward the left netpost to pick up a drop shot before backpedaling to leap backward and spectacularly smash an overhead to end the match, then wallowing like a kid in the red clay.

Roger Federer will have to overcome that level of intensity and perfection today if he is to realize his dream of a career Grand Slam. As great as Federer is, he will need help to defeat Nadal. Federer didn't get it from Djokovic. And Nadal isn't likely to be obliging.

Small world changing

Stuart Small has announced that he is leaving the position of director of tennis at the Daniel Island Club "to pursue a new career path in medical sales . . ." Small will remain through August at the tennis club he has directed for four years.

(06/04/08)  Luck of the draw for Federer

It didn't seem like a big deal at the time when Rafael Nadal failed to slide through a small opening in the world rankings earlier this year to replace Roger Federer as the game's No. 1 player.

That was in January. The fact Nadal is still No. 2 in the world becomes a very big deal on Friday at the French Open. The best clay-court player in the game plays possibly tennis' best current player in the semifinals. That's Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic.

But that's also because of the luck of the draw. Federer's top half of the draw could just as easily have included the third-ranked Djokovic rather than the already eliminated fourth-ranked Nikolay Daveydenko. That's just the breaks of the draw, but in reality the semifinals should pit No. 2 against No. 3, and Nos. 1 and 4.

Yet, if the French open were like Wimbledon where the tournament compiles its own seedings, a three-time defending champion obviously would have been the top seed. That would be Nadal, and he would be a cinch for the final.

Nadal still should be in Sunday's final, although defeating Djokovic might not be easy.

Federer probably would love to play Nadal again in the French Open. His three straight losses to Nadal on Paris' red clay must sting pretty badly.

Just the same, you can bet that Federer wouldn't mind taking his chances against Djokovic's more powerful, yet more erratic game.

Of course, Federer still has to get by sometimes mercurial Fernando Gonzalez today in the quarterfinals as well as a semifinal against clay-court star David Ferrer or Frenchman Gael Monfils before he can worry about Nadal or Djokovic.

A Serb woman?
Now that Maria Sharapova and most of the other superstars have been eliminated from the women's side, you've got to like the chances of Serbians Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, especially since one of them will be in Saturday's final. Both are due for a Grand Slam title. The only trouble is they're set to meet in Thursday's semifinals.

But hard-hitting Dinara Safina and former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova are still alive in today's quarterfinals. If someone other than Kuznetsova comes out of the top half of the draw where three of the four players left are Russians, you probably can bank on the Jankovic-Ivanovic survivor.

Combo ready
Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer has announced that registrations for the combo doubles league are now open. Teams have until June 27 to have at least six people and three eligible partnerships registered on their roster. Play will begin in mid-July. The super seniors league will be for players 60 and older.

All-Lowcountry salute
Congratulations to Palmetto Christian Academy junior Don Bruner on being selected as The Post and Courier's Lowcountry boys' player of the year and to first-year Bishop England coach Skip ReVille, who was named the coach of the year. Bruner had a fabulous spring, suffering only a loss to fellow All-Lowcountry first-teamer Richard Pearce of Porter-Gaud. Hats off to all of the athletes named, including Pinewood Prep senior Scott Hayes, who was on the All-Lowcountry honorable mention list.

(06/03/08)  A storybook season for Palmetto Christian's Bruner
All-Lowcountry Honors
Today: Boys' tennis Wednesday: Golf Thursday: Boys' soccer Friday: Girls' soccer Saturday: Softball Sunday: Baseball Monday: Girls' track Tuesday, June 10: Boys' track

Don Bruner couldn't have dreamed up a better spring for his junior season of high school tennis.

Most players would have been happy with any one of his major accomplishments. And they certainly were of major significance.

Winning the SCISA individual title was quite special for the Palmetto Christian Academy junior, just as it was to be named SCISA's player of the year. For a player from a Class A school to win such recognition is special within itself since SCISA's top level is Class AAA.

Then came a state championship — the third straight state title for the Bruner/ Palmetto Christian combination.

And now? The icing on the cake: The Post and Courier Lowcountry boys' tennis player of the year award for Bruner.

Meanwhile, Skip ReVille led Bishop England to a 13-3 record and a berth in the SCHSL Class AA/A state semifinals in his first year of coaching to earn the Lowcountry boys' coach of the year award.
Palmetto Christian's Don Bruner did not lose a single match all season.

Junior John Karle, a former teammate of Bruner's at Palmetto Christian, and sophomore Randall Heffron represented Bishop England on the All-Lowcountry team, which was led by Bruner. Porter-Gaud's Richard Pearce and Berkeley's Dirk Bair are the only seniors on the all-star team. Pinewood Prep sophomore Josh Klingenberg rounded out the six-player first team.

"I'm pretty happy about all of the awards . . . the team thing and the individual ones too," Bruner said.

And what about going the entire season without losing a match? Yes, Don Bruner had quite a year.

"He's just a coach's delight," was the way Palmetto Christian coach Dewey Caulder sized up his star player.

"He has great court demeanor, and he's very much a team player."

Bruner never lost focus, even while playing on a team that included girls. "I don't think having girls on the team was even an issue for Don," Caulder said.

"He's a player I never have to worry about. He's always ready to play … he wants to play every match. He enjoys the camaraderie of the team experience."

Caulder believes Bruner's success will have a significant impact on his program. "He's had success, and the award will encourage others to play for Palmetto Christian," the coach said about his third-year program that has produced six state championships in girls' and boys' tennis.

Bruner, 17, apparently has just hit his peak in tennis, although he has been playing since he was 8. "I've improved a lot in the last year. I've been practicing harder," the Isle of Palms resident said. "My forehand is the best part of my game, but my backhand and serve have improved the most in the last year."

Bruner (6-0, 155 pounds) has trained with many of the area's top pros, but doesn't use one particular coach after leaving the Players Club in the spring. He has trained with Charleston Southern coach Mike Baker, Family Circle Tennis Center pro Greg Harkins, I'On Club pro Joey Eskridge and others.


Don Bruner, Palmetto Christian, Junior
John Karle, Bishop England, Junior
Randall Heffron, Bishop England, Sophomore
Josh Klingenberg, Pinewood Prep, Sophomore
Richard Pearce, Porter-Gaud, Senior
Dirk Bair, Berkeley, Senior

Zac Dye, Berkeley, 7th grade
Adam Elliget, Pinewood Prep, 6th grade
Payne Hoy, Porter-Gaud, 7th grade
Austin Heinz, Palmetto Christian, 6th grade
Andrew Thebes, Bishop England, Sr.
Ladson Fishburne, Pinewood Prep, Jr.
Honorable Mention
Elliott Sperr, Porter-Gaud
Charlie Baker, Porter-Gaud
Conner Hoy, Porter-Gaud
Leigh Colyer, Bishop England
Walker Heffron, Bishop England
Scott Hughes, Pinewood Prep
Jacob Cumbie, Pinewood Prep
JT Elliott, Pinewood Prep
Zack Timmerman, Wando
Robert McManus, Wando
Jake Engle, Academic Magnet
Joey Holoubek, Summerville
Bryan Mayeux, Summerville
Joel Roberts, Summerville
Will Farmer, Berkeley
Brian Gottshalk, James Island
Justin Cook, Stratford

(06/01/08)  Where's the heart of the game?
Mario Ancic has a beautiful, flowing tennis game. But where's the heart?

It's not really fair to just pick on the 24-year-old Croatian. He suffers from the same malady as a great many of the other players on the men's and women's pro tours.

But there was Ancic on Saturday, going through the motions against the great Roger Federer. Unsurprisingly, Ancic didn't mount a real challenge.

There seems to be some connection between heart and the ability to construct points. You've got to have both to have success against a player of Federer's magnitude.

Think about it. Other than being great champions, what did Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Steffi Graf, Justine Henin and a few others have in common? And most notably Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova among current players?

They all had or have their hearts attached to their games, the ultimate fighters. And all were or are masters at constructing points, pouring their entire heart, soul and mind into their games.

Women get green light

Women's tennis just got the green light to expand. There's a good chance that the game will crown a new superstar next Saturday in Paris. Henin, Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo are all history for this French Open.

Of course, Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova still have French Open glory on their mind. As Grand Slam tournament champions, they have a huge advantage over the others in that they have their breakthrough moment in their past. Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina still have to get there.

So, thank you, Venus and Serena. You have opened the door for the rest of women's tennis.

But someone will have to beat Sharapova. She doesn't have to worry about Serena this time, as she did at the Family Circle Cup. Sharapova's most serious challenge might be that she is in the all-Russian quarter of the draw.

Sharapova's next match, and probably next three if she keeps winning, will be against a Russian. Safina is next, followed by either dangerous Vera Zvonareva or Elena Dementieva, and then possibly Kuznetsova in the semifinals. Jankovic and Ivanovic should have the bottom half of the draw under control. If the Sharapova-Kuznetsova semifinal happens, the survivor will be my pick to add to her Grand Slam resume.

Local notes
--Former College of Charleston men's tennis coach Phil Whitesell will direct a Nike Tennis Camp for four one-week sessions this summer at Creekside Tennis and Swim in Mount Pleasant. The sessions will run Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. for overnight boarders or day campers. The dates will be July 13-18, July 20-25, July 27-Aug. 1 and Aug. 3-8.
Whitesell, who will be assisted by Creekside tennis director Andrew Heafner, is excited that a player from Tokyo has registered for the camp. "This is a great opportunity for local Charleston kids to be exposed to kids from all over the U.S. in their own backyard," said Whitesell, now a pro at Dunes West.
For information, contact Nike camps (1-800-nikecamp or www.ussportscamps.com).
--Beach Tennis USA will conduct a tournament June 14 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Creekside. The Tennis Channel is scheduled to have a film crew on hand.
--Family Circle Tennis Center has been selected as one of the nation's top 50 Welcome Centers by the Tennis Industry Association.
--It's time to sign up for another league tennis season. Combo league registrations will start Tuesday, giving teams until June 27 to form with the minimum number of six players.

(05/28/08)  Does Federer have same confidence?
Roger Federer's game looks about the same as usual. New coach Jose Higueras hasn't made wholesale changes. And with reason. Why fix something that obviously is far from broken?

The only thing different is that Federer appears to be taking more gambles by going for more on his shots. Whether that results in a more aggressive net game is the question.

But there was a noticeable difference in Federer's court attitude in his straight-set win over Sam Querrey in the first round of the French Open. Federer appeared to be more serious than usual and not having as much fun as even last year.

Perhaps the increased number of losses in the wake of his bout with mononucleosis has had an impact on his confidence. It still might be a couple of matches before Federer gives a true reading on where his game stands.

Querrey's potential

Querrey will never be an Andy Roddick or a perennial threat in Grand Slam tournaments. Probably not even a James Blake.

But don't be surprised if this tall young American teenager happens to make a couple of splashes along the way. Although slightly one-dimensional, Querrey has potential. He continues to improve.

Maybe another Todd Martin? That's possible.

Querrey obviously is working on his game. He has the serve and the big forehand, and he moves forward quite well for a 6-6 player.

New Venus look?

Is it just my imagination or is the normally extra lean Venus Williams really a little heavier than in the past? She just doesn't look as thin as I remember her.

I almost had to do a double take the first time I saw Venus in this year's French Open. I could have mistaken her for her sister, Serena, although on second glance Venus obviously lacked Serena's upper-body strength.

Could it be that Venus has been building up her body the last couple of months in hopes of getting stronger? Or is it just a new hairdo? Or the different attire from the short shorts she wore much of last summer?

Remember Justine Henin a few years back when she returned from an extended illness bulked up and hitting the ball with increased intensity and power? Justine eventually returned to her slight body size, but kept the extra power while taking her game to a new level.

With Serena suddenly experiencing the type of success of years past as a result of her enormous upper body strength, perhaps Venus is testing a new formula. More power? That might not be a bad idea for Venus if she maintains her consistency and movement.

Of course, Venus hasn't been seen much in the almost two months since she pulled out of the Family Circle Cup with a medical issue.

It might be worth keeping an eye on Venus, especially when she runs into other top players.

Heinz shines

Austin Heinz has played boys' 14 all year in national level tournaments, but dropped back to 12-and-under for this past weekend's Peach State Junior Classic, a national Level 3 event in Norcross, Ga., where he advanced to the semifinals. The Palmetto Christian Academy sixth-grader then took third place when his opponent became ill.

(05/25/08)  'Golden Age' inspired by the Cup
The last seven years have been "The Golden Age of Tennis" for the Charleston area. It isn't a coincidence that these years coincide with the Family Circle Cup's time on Daniel Island.

This incredible women's tournament is the real reason this decade has been so golden for Charleston tennis. It's even why Fritz Nau left Florida and renowned junior academies such as Nick Bollettieri's seven years ago to become the tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center. Somewhere in the overall scheme of things, Nau helped Mount Pleasant's Players Club to also evolve into a great training facility for juniors.

But now that Nau has left the Players Club and is heading back to Florida, this doesn't mean the "Golden Age" won't continue. If the Family Circle Cup were to leave, that would be a different story. The Family Circle Cup and its world-class host site form the centerpiece of Charleston tennis.

When the Family Circle Cup arrived here in 2001, Charleston was an active, but somewhat sleepy tennis community. This tournament gave area tennis a new vitality.

It's all about cause and effect. As a result of the impact the Family Circle Cup has had locally, league tennis has exploded. There seems to be a talented young teaching pro at almost every club. You might even conclude that the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League is a spinoff of the Family Circle Cup, and the large number of superb teaching pros is a direct result of the CPTL.

Local juniors and adults are exposed to a larger number of excellent tennis instructors than in the past.

Although the area may or may not have more highly ranked juniors than past eras, overall more juniors are playing the game and more adults are participating in leagues. And isn't this what tennis is all about, having fun and enjoying a game that can make a difference in your life, a game you can play for a lifetime?

Martin sparkles

As Players Club pro Bryan Minton e-mails, "The Golden Age has only just begun."

Minton reports that Mount Pleasant's Alex Martin was a girls' 16 finalist in the recent USTA National Open in Marietta, Ga. The Players Club player defeated Nos. 9, 5, 2 and 4 seeds before losing in the final to the top seed.

Fellow Players Clubber Jamie Harrell was also a quarterfinalist in Marietta.

Seeking a tennis plate

USTA/SC president Ron Charron of Mount Pleasant has responded to last Sunday's column appealing for a tennis license plate for S.C. automobiles. Charron points out that an application for a tennis license plate is in the planning stages and will be submitted to the state by the S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the state tennis association.

"As you mentioned, these types of specialty license plates generate revenue for the sponsoring body, which must qualify as a charitable organization," Charron said. "In order for the plate to become reality in S.C., the sponsor must have at least 400 prepaid applications up front. We think this is quite do-able given our USTA/SC membership of 24,000."

C of C's rocking fans

College of Charleston women's tennis coach Angelo Anastopoulo thinks there is something about the rocking-chair atmosphere at the Cougars' Patriots Point complex that makes fans come out and support his team. That, and the free cost of admission.

And the Cougars' 23-4 success this season. The Cougars attracted 1,313 fans for 14 home matches, a total attendance that was the fifth largest in the nation.

(05/21/08)  French is open with no Henin
It's amazing how the absence of one player can create such a change in the look of one tournament. But Justine Henin wasn't just another player on clay.

Because of her retirement, any of a dozen women appear to be capable of emerging from two weeks' play in Paris with their first Grand Slam title, while several other players could add to their impressive list of Grand Slam successes, especially Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

You name it. Probably any player in the current world's top 15, plus a couple of others, could walk away from the French Open as champion.

Without Henin in the field, the French is wide open.

In the past, someone had to beat her before anyone else could even think about winning in Paris. Winning four titles in five years has that kind of effect.

Nau of the past?

Little do we realize how much smaller the Internet has made the world until we see a familiar person's name mentioned on the other side of the country. I was scanning a tennis site recently when the name Fritz Nau jumped out at me in a story about someone building a tennis complex in Boulder, Colo.

Nau had taught tennis to a pro named Kendall Chitambar, who had operated Weston Field Club Tennis in Weston, Conn. Chitambar was switching to Boulder where he planned to construct a 24-court complex.

Chitambar described himself as a late starter in tennis, "But I was able with the help of some world-class coaches — Nandor Veres, Billy Stearns (who operates the Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island with Stan Smith) and Fritz Nau (who in the 1990s directed the Gold Coast Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.) — to improve my level enough to compete for three years on the ITF professional satellite circuit."

Yes, it's impressive how much respect tennis people from all over the world have for Fritz Nau. Charleston was fortunate enough to have Fritz around for seven years, or what has been the golden years of Charleston tennis.

But now Nau is packing up and heading for Naples, Fla., where he plans to teach tennis. His 11-year-old son, Ryan, will train there, while attending Nick Bollettieri's Academy one week a month. Fritz Nau has been taking it easy in Charleston the last couple of months after selling his share of the Players Club to former partner Robert Haydock.

Dunes West on move

Director of tennis Jack Miller reports that Dunes West is "stepping up its junior tennis program." Former College of Charleston men's coach Phil Whitesell has joined Miller's staff of pros, bringing the college approach to training to Dunes West.

Dan Rechner, who worked with Fritz Nau's juniors as an agility trainer when Nau was the tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center, has joined the Dunes West staff as agility coach, taking the junior program to another level of tournament preparation.
Former Wofford and Academic Magnet player Cadill Maharaj also is on the Dunes West pro staff.

For questions about the Dunes West programs, contact Miller at dwproshop@jwhomes.com.

"Battle" deadline

Don't forget that the deadline for registering for Lee Brockman's "Battle of James Island" is Thursday. The competition that pits the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club in team competition is scheduled for Saturday. Brockman, the Country Club's tennis director, can be contacted at ccctennis@comcast.net.

A continental breakfast kicks off the social event, followed by men's, women's and mixed doubles, with a covered dish wrapping things up from 1-2 p.m.

(05/18/08)  Time for tennis license plate in S.C
South Carolina has the premier women's-only tennis tournament in the nation. So why don't we have an official automobile license plate for tennis?

The state's tennis players and supporters should make S.C. tennis license plates their agenda. Florida already is headed in that direction. A law to create a new specialty license plate is on the desk of that state's governor and is expected to be signed into law.

The proceeds for the Florida tennis plate will be used for grants to operate youth tennis and other tennis programs in that state.

South Carolina has specialty license plates for just about everything else, including at least five for NASCAR alone, and others for golf, cycling and golf's Heritage Classic. How has the sport that gave the state its premier annual sporting event been overlooked?

Even Gov. Mark Sanford plays tennis, and his son is a good high school tennis player. It probably wouldn't take a big push to get a tennis license plate approved that promoted the state as "The Home of the Family Circle Cup." So, start the process moving toward the governor's office.

League of its own

The Charleston area, of course, is in a league of its own in state tennis in terms of participation. Just how big is tennis locally? We know that more than 3,200 adults participate in the Lowcountry Tennis Association's tennis leagues. And don't forget about the approximately 850 young players who play in city tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne's Tri-County Elementary/Middle School League, which was recently won by unbeaten Buist Academy.

Counting the high school players, juniors who don't play high school tennis and all of the other adults that aren't in any of those groups but are members of various tennis clubs, the number of serious tennis players in the area from the groups mentioned probably exceeds 5,000.

Serena closer to top

Serena Williams' challenge of returning to the No. 1 position in women's tennis got a lot easier on Thursday when Justine Henin decided to have her name removed from the world rankings. Instead of being more than 2,800 points from the top spot held by Henin, Serena is currently only 1,150 points behind Sharapova. And Sharapova will be the No. 1 player in the world on Monday morning when the next rankings are released.

It probably won't happen at the French Open, not even if Serena wins the tournament and Sharapova loses early. But watch out for Wimbledon. Serena and Sharapova could be coming to New York in a fierce battle for the No. 1 position.

Of course, it could depend on Serena's health, considering that she pulled out of a quarterfinal match in Rome on Friday because of a back injury.

But Henin's retirement potentially could create a summer filled with excitement in the women's tennis rankings.

Cremins raises funds

College of Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins has reported that the recent Cremins Tennis Challenge at Family Circle Tennis Center was "a huge success." The event raised $33,700 in support of the Cougar Club's scholarship funds for all athletics at C of C.

(05/17/08)  Moran to take over FCC tourney director's duties
The Family Circle Cup will not name another tournament director to replace Robin Reynolds, who is vacating the position at the end of May.

"We won't be naming someone in that spot," said Nancy Weber, vice president for group marketing for New York-based parent Meredith Corporation on Friday. "We'll fill it with the people we have there."

Specifically, the job will fall under recently named general manager Bob Moran's umbrella.

Early this year, around the time Reynolds told her managers of her plans to leave the Family Circle Cup after last month's 35th anniversary tournament, Moran was given the added title of general manager of Family Circle Tennis Center to go with his director of sales and business management duties.

"Bob has full oversight over the Family Circle Cup and facility . . . as general manager his role encompasses finance and operations for the entire operation as well as serving as tournament director for the Family Circle Cup and other tennis related events," Weber said.

Both Weber and Moran are scheduled to attend Wimbledon next month where the WTA Tour schedule for 2009, including the Family Circle Cup dates, will be finalized. The WTA Tour's Roadmap 2009 also will be on the agenda for the WTA's Wimbledon meetings.

Meredith officials didn't search for a replacement for Reynolds because they felt Family Circle Tennis Center already had an experienced team on site.

"Over the past two years Bob has increased sponsorship and ticket sales for the tournament," Weber said. "In addition, through Bob and his team's efforts, the number of concerts, family focused events and community activities have expanded to better serve the greater Charleston area.

"While Robin will be missed, the entire staff at Family Circle Cup has been with the tournament since it moved to Charleston eight years ago (from Hilton Head Island). Meredith has tremendous confidence in Bob and the team's ability to continue the Cup's success."

Reynolds, who has served as tournament director/facility director for the last three Family Circle Cups, plans to enter private business.

(05/17/08)  Henin wasn't the 'Justine of old' lately

Justine Henin's immediate retirement from tennis on Wednesday came as somewhat of a surprise. Yet, anyone who has followed her career has known for some time that everything wasn't just right.

She had to put too much into the game to perform at her highest level. Eventually as her physical energy waned, it was only a matter of time before her mental energy for the game started the same process.

Henin simply was no longer the "Justine of old." The latest indication came last week in Berlin when she lost to big-hitting but usually erratic Dinara Safina in the round of 16.

I realize that Safina is a rising star as she demonstrated last year in advancing to the Family Circle Cup final, but Safina just isn't supposed to defeat Henin.

Especially not on clay as Safina did in Berlin, even if Safina did continue on to win her first Tier I tournament.

Also, you'll remember that Henin won only four games against Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open quarterfinals and just two games against Serena Williams in Miami.

Both of those were on hard courts. Nevertheless, the results were very un-Henin. She even lost to unheralded Francesca Schiavone in the Dubai quarterfinals.

Justine Henin is too much of a competitor to take such defeats lightly. Yet, she wasn't ready or possibly physically able to properly prepare her body, mind and game to the point that would allow her to compete at her highest level.

Sharapova next No. 1?

Now that Henin has retired, Sharapova appears to be the likely candidate to take over the lead in women's tennis, with Serena Williams a close second.

According to the WTA Tour, it's now up to Henin if she wants to continue to be listed in the world rankings. Her decision could come as soon as a few days, according to WTA Tour communications director Amy Binder.

If Henin decides to drop off the listings, Sharapova should advance from second into the No. 1 ranking with the aid of Ana Ivanovic's loss Wednesday in Rome. Ivanovic currently is 64 points behind Sharapova.

One thing is certain. When Sharapova shows up for a tournament, she is totally focused on winning that event.

She had been in a dispute with the WTA Tour over being required to participate in a lengthy photo shoot of four or five hours prior to the start of this week's Italian Open. She said the WTA threatened to fine her in excess of $300,000 if she refused to participate.

But a compromise with the tour reduced the photo shoot to 90 minutes, and everyone apparently was happy.

With Sharapova's type of focus, it's probably only a matter of time before she overtakes Henin as the top-ranked women's player in the game, even if Henin decides to remain in the world rankings until her huge 1,709-point lead fades away. Of course, there's always Serena Williams, the other player fully capable of taking charge of the women's game.

As for Henin's decision, you probably can expect her to drop out of the rankings while she's still on top, just as she became the first women's tennis player to retire while ranked No. 1.

Local notes

YOUNG BREAKTHROUGH: Charleston native Ryan Young made his first big breakthrough in professional tennis last week in Uzbekistan by winning seven straight matches to finish as runner-up in a $15,000 Futures tournament. Three of the wins came in qualifying. Young suffered a 6-3, 6-3 loss to Russia's Konstantin Kravchuk in Sunday's final.

But Young discovered two days later just how difficult it is to stay at or near the top of any level of pro tennis. The former Clemson star lost in the first round of another $15,000 event in Uzbekistan on Tuesday, winning only two games.

NEW 'BATTLE' COMING: Another "Battle of James Island" will be held May 24 pitting the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club in team competition. The entry deadline is May 22. Lee Brockman, the Country Club's tennis director, can be contacted at ccctennis@comcast.net. The event starts with a continental breakfast, followed by men's, women's and mixed doubles, with a covered dish social finishing off the activities from 1-2 p.m.

(05/11/08)  Waccamaw continues dominance

You may have missed it. John McEnroe defeated Pete Sampras.

And, remember, Sampras scored a win over Roger Federer last fall.

Does this make 49-year-old John McEnroe potentially the best tennis player in the world?

Or check this out. Bishop England defeated Pinewood Prep, 9-0. The Bishops then turned around and suffered a 6-1 regular-season loss to Waccamaw.

And the people out at Pinewood Prep thought they had a pretty good tennis team.

As local high school tennis follower Nancy Kennedy e-mails, "I think the Waccamaw team must be born with tennis rackets in hand."

Waccamaw, of course, is quite good. The Warriors probably could beat many small college teams, and maybe even a few NCAA Division I teams.

Coach James Brown's Class AA team from Pawley's Island participated in the high school national championships in Newport Beach, Calif., a couple of months ago, and won three out of four matches. One of the wins was over the defending national champions.

Whereas most high school teams rave about state-ranked players, Brown gives you the Southern/national rundown on his team.

Bishop England would have had a great year if Waccamaw had been playing college tennis rather than in the High School League.

The Bishops, indeed, are a pretty good high school team by normal standards. A 5-1 loss to Waccamaw in the Lower State final won't completely ruin a 13-3 season.

Of course, Waccamaw lived up to its advance billing again Saturday with a 6-0 blitzing of perennial power Christ Church for its second straight Class AA-A state title.

That should make Bishop England fans feel a little better.

Back to this McEnroe thing. Yes, it really happened. He really did defeat Sampras in a match that went to a tiebreaker third set on May 2 in Boston in a Champions Cup event. It was Sampras' first loss ever on the Outback Champions Series.

What does Federer think about all of this? He probably doesn't want to get anywhere close to McEnroe on a tennis court.

If someone told me that John McEnroe was born with a racket in his hand, I'd say, "What brand?"

Region reinforcements

Pinewood Prep defeats Porter-Gaud; Porter-Gaud defeats Pinewood Prep.

That's the way it's been the last few years in SCISA's boys' two-team Region I-AAA.

But reinforcements are on the way.

Beginning next school year, state champion Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian are joining the Region I wars.

And that's what it will be for the boys — war. State champion Hilton Head Prep doesn't lose any of its six starters in singles, and Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud lose only one singles starter each.

Squash invasion

And just when we thought tennis was a safe haven, squash comes to town. Paul Assaiante is the head squash/tennis coach at New England's Trinity College, and he visited Charleston on Thursday to meet with Trinity alumni at the plush Charleston Squash Club off Upper King Street.

While Assaiante has coached the men's tennis team to a 118-49 record for 11 years, he has directed Trinity to 10 consecutive perfect seasons in squash and an unprecedented ninth straight Potter Trophy. That's about as close as you can get to perfection in this country in a sport that isn't on the Olympics agenda.

(05/08/08)  Waccamaw tops BE in Lower State
Bishop England's Randall Heffron plays a shot in his loss at No. 3 singles Wednesday.

Class AA-A Boys' Tennis

MOUNT PLEASANT — Defending state champion Waccamaw brought its lineup of stars to Whipple Road's tennis center Wednesday afternoon. And just like the last five years, the Warriors ended Bishop England's season.

This time, Waccamaw (20-0) put away the Bishops (13-3) by winning all five singles matches in straight sets before the Bishops' No. 2 doubles team made the final score, 5-1, in the Class AA-A Lower State boys' tennis final.

Coach Skip ReVille's Bishop England crew came close to winning a couple of sets, and maybe even individual matches, especially at No. 3 singles where BE sophomore Randall Heffron pushed top eight-ranked U.S. boys' 14 player Harrison Richmond to a first-set tiebreaker before suffering a 7-6 (6), 6-4 loss.

"He played well," Randall Heffron said about his young opponent, a left-handed eighth-grader. "I was up 5-4 in the first set and then 3-0 in the tiebreaker. I served well, but he played the bigger points better than I did. I tightened up. He didn't."

Heffron's younger brother, freshman Walker Heffron, also came close against the other Richmond brother, sophomore Josh, but suffered a 7-5, 6-3, setback at No. 5.

"The score doesn't indicate how tough that match was," said Waccamaw coach James Brown.

Yet, in two meetings with the Warriors this season, the best the Bishops could muster was a pair of wins by freshmen Trey Halbauer and Rivers Colyer at No. 2 doubles.

Waccamaw's other stars, Clemson signee/Southern second-ranked Wesley Moran, Southern top 10 Billy Kenny and Presbyterian College tennis/football-bound Thomas Ligon, yielded a total of seven games to the Bishops as the Warriors qualified for their sixth straight state final.

Junior John Karle played Moran a tough first set in No. 1 singles, but couldn't match the tall Waccamaw player's power or consistency, losing 6-3, 6-0.

"They're a good team," said ReVille, wrapping up his first year as the Bishops' coach. "They always come to play. We have a long ways to go, even with the level of talent we have. But we're graduating only two seniors (No. 2 Andrew Thebes and No. 4 Leigh Colyer)."

Singles: Wesley Moran (W) def. John Karle, 6-3, 6-0; Billy Kenny (W) def. Andrew Thebes, 6-3, 6-0; Harrison Richmond (W) def. Randall Heffron, 7-6 (6), 6-4; Thomas Ligon (W) def. Leigh Colyer, 6-1, 6-0; Josh Richmond (W) def. Walker Heffron, 7-5, 6-3. Doubles: Trey Halbauer/Rivers Colyer (BE) def. HB Marshall/Michael Moran, 6-2, 6-4.

(05/07/08)  Pinewood Prep falls short in state championship match

WALTERBORO — There wasn't a magical comeback this time to bail out Pinewood Prep against Hilton Head Prep in the SCISA Class AAA boys' tennis state championship match on Tuesday.

Hilton Head Prep (11-2) stared down the pressure this time with hard-nosed tennis to post a 6-3 victory over the Panthers (16-4).

Although the stage was set for a repeat of last year's final when the Dolphins also nailed down decisions in the first four singles positions to take a 4-2 lead into doubles, this time Hilton Head's No. 1 team of super sophomores Nicky Kunz and Mo Hookaylo played aggressive power tennis in turning back Pinewood sophomore Josh Klingenberg and junior Ladson Fishburne, 6-2, 6-2, to clinch the fifth point and the state title.

Kunz admitted that he was thinking about last year's final in which Klingenberg and Jeremiah Dye rallied from a set down in the decisive No. 1 doubles match to give Pinewood a 5-4 victory. "When we were up, we decided not to lose the lead again," said Kunz, who also scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over Klingenberg in No. 1 singles.

Hookaylo, a big-hitting and serving left-hander, took care of Pinewood senior captain Scott Hayes, 6-1, 6-2, in No. 2 singles.

Pinewood's Nos. 5 and 6 players, sixth-grader Adam Elliget and freshman William Wert, posted convincing victories to do their job at the bottom of the lineup.

But the keys to the match were the middle two positions, especially No. 4 where Pinewood Prep freshman JT Elliget held 8-2 and 9-5 leads against Hilton Head junior Joey Ryan in a third-set match tiebreaker, but wasted the quadruple match point and then double-faulted a fifth match point away. Ryan won two points later, 6-2, 2-6, 12-10, as JT Elliget committed a pair of backhand errors.

Hilton Head eighth-grader Hunter Mitchell, who attended Porter-Gaud the last seven years, celebrated his 15th birthday by holding off Pinewood freshman Jacob Cumbie, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 3 singles.

"Undefeated in singles (for the year) and winning the state, and I get my driver's permit tomorrow . . . I couldn't have a better birthday," Mitchell said.

The biggest bright spot for Pinewood Prep was that Adam Elliget closed out a perfect season in both singles and doubles as he teamed with Hayes to take the No. 3 doubles point, the Panthers' lone win in doubles.

Only BE remains

Region 6-AA champion Bishop England (13-2) is the only area high school tennis team still in the running for a state title after Tuesday's triple fall by area teams.

The Bishops, however, face a supreme challenge against defending state champion Waccamaw today in a 4 p.m. battle at Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road tennis complex for the Class AA-A lower state boys' title.

Waccamaw has ended the Bishops' season the last four years in the state playoffs, and already owns a 6-1 win over the Bishops this season.

Both Region 8-AAAA champion Summerville and 7-AAAA top seed Berkeley failed to win a match in Class AAAA state quarterfinal matchups on Tuesday. Spring Valley rolled up a 6-0 win over Summerville (15-4) on the Green Wave's home courts, while defending state champion West Florence (20-3) powered to a 6-0 romp past Berkeley (15-3).

Spring Valley's only two losses this season were to West Florence, and they will meet again Thursday in Columbia for the lower state title.

"I'm pretty happy with our team," said Summerville coach Bryant McKee. "We've got everyone back next year."

Summerville's final score was a bit misleading in that the Green Wave took Nos. 4 and 5 singles (freshman Luke Westbury and sophomore Mason Taylor) to third-set match tiebreakers as well as No. 2 doubles.

(05/07/08)  Zvonareva now building on strong Cup showing
Is the puzzle of Vera Zvonareva solved? It certainly looked that way during the Family Circle Cup as the Russian ran off a string of impressive performances before going up against superwoman Serena Williams in the final.

And Zvonareva did something this past week she hadn't accomplished in a couple of years — she won a tournament.

It was apparent on Zvonareva's first trip to the Family Circle Cup as an 18-year-old in 2003 that she was among the WTA Tour's most talented players. She upended crowd favorite Patty Schnyder in the second round that year and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Zvonareva appears to be as much at home on the clay courts at Family Circle Tennis Center as Schnyder, having appeared in each of the last six tournaments on Daniel Island, while making one final, one semifinal and two quarterfinals.

She has improved her mobility in the last half-decade and put together a game that has some of the tour's best weapons, big groundstrokes and serve. Only a lack of consistency has held her back. Otherwise her top-10 rankings in singles in 2004 and doubles in 2005 would be the norm rather than the exception.

The Family Circle Cup has long been recognized as a tournament that introduces players to the world. The world already is aware of Zvonareva's talent, and she is now a veteran in that she has been a professional for nearly eight years.

But maybe the confidence that she built up during her week-long run on Daniel Island, along with Sunday's championship in Prague, will carry Zvonareva to the next level.

Stan's the man
Stan Smith has been recognized as one of tennis' true gentlemen throughout his career. You've probably never heard anyone mention anything negative about the former Wimbledon champion, except maybe that he's too tall and solid at the net to try to lob or sneak a shot past.

But the line on Smith runs deeper. He's an extraordinary tennis instructor. That should be obvious from his many years of success in running camps at Sea Pines Racquet Club and more recently in operating the Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island.

But Saturday was my first real exposure to Smith's instructional talents. Thanks to College of Charleston men's basketball coach Bobby Cremins, Smith's old friend from his Hilton Head Island days, participants in last weekend's Cremins Tennis Challenge at Family Circle Tennis Center were the lucky beneficiaries of an hour clinic by Smith.

The clinic was first-rate. Stan made me think about parts of the game I normally don't even consider. He put his instructions in layman's terms. Everyone understood exactly what he was talking about. And if you think Smith's game and demeanor on the court was unspectacular, he was armed with a ton of colorful one-liners for this clinic.

Spelman heads for Philly
Elizabeth Spelman, who has played a key role in Wando's four straight Class AAAA girls' state titles, has decided to play college tennis for Villanova.

Although overshadowed by top two stars Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller, Spelman is part of a senior class that Wando coach Becky Williamson will greatly miss. A hard-hitting and talented baseliner who trains at the Players Club, Spelman has played for the Warriors since the eighth grade.

She also visited Colgate and Lafayette.

(05/06/08)  Pinewood Prep set to face familiar foe
The site and the teams are the same as Pinewood Prep (16-3) goes after its second straight SCISA Class AAA boys' state tennis title against Hilton Head Prep (10-2) today at 3 p.m. at Walterboro's Forest Hills tennis complex.

But today's match will have a difficult time matching the excitement of last year's 5-4 Pinewood Prep victory in which the Panthers lost the first four positions in singles, and later were down a set in the decisive No. 1 doubles match. before rallying. This match likely will come down to doubles also.

"We've got to take the bottom two singles (No. 5 sixth-grader Adam Elliget and No. 6 freshman William Wert) and hopefully squeeze something out of the middle," Pinewood coach Heinz Maurer said.

Green Wave at home

Region 8-AAAA champion Summerville (15-3) faces a stern test at home today against Spring Valley in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA boys' state playoffs. Spring Valley's only two losses have come to powerhouse West Florence, the defending state champion.

West Florence (19-3) will entertain Region 7-AAAA top seed Berkeley (15-2) in another state quarterfinal, with the winners of the two matches clashing Thursday for the Lower State title.

BE vs. Waccamaw set

Region 6-AA champion Bishop England (13-2) earned another shot at defending state champ Waccamaw with a 7-0 win over the Governor's School on Monday in a Class AA-A boys' state quarterfinal in which the Bishops yielded a total of only four games.

The Bishops are hoping to avoid the fate of the last four BE teams — ending the season in a playoff loss to powerful Waccamaw. Bishop England will host Waccamaw in a 4 p.m. match Wednesday at Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex for the Lower State title.

Waccamaw advanced to the Lower State final with a 6-0 thrashing of Class A Academic Magnet (6-6).

(05/04/08)  Make or break for area teams
This coming week is make or break in high school tennis. And the odds are that all but possibly Pinewood Prep will be broken.

Berkeley and Summerville have had excellent seasons, each winning 15 matches and losing only five matches between them. But defending Class AAAA state champion West Florence likely stands in the path of both teams.

If Summerville gets by a strong Spring Valley team at home Tuesday, the Green Wave would face the winner of the Berkeley at West Florence match in the Lower State final on Thursday.

A victory over Spring Valley would be an outstanding accomplishment for coach Bryant McKee's Summerville team since it would thrust the Green Wave into new territory — the Lower State final.

The situation is similar in AA-A where a home victory over the Governor's School on Monday would earn Bishop England a shot at the winner of Monday's Academic Magnet at Waccamaw match. The Bishops suffered a 6-1 blitzing by Waccamaw in their last match of the regular season, and their only other loss came to Academic Magnet when first-year coach Skip ReVille played his second team.

Of course, Pinewood Prep has the best chance for a state title. But Hilton Head Prep is a heavy favorite to win the top two singles positions in Tuesday's SCISA Class AAA state final. The Panthers' Josh Klingenberg and Scott Hayes are solid players, but they may have a difficult time matching up with talented Hilton Head sophomores Nicky Kunz and Mo Hookaylo.

The key to the entire match likely will come down to the Nos. 3 and 4 singles positions where freshmen Jacob Cumbie and JT Elliget probably will need a split with Hilton Head's Hunter Mitchell and Joey Ryan. Mitchell could have been playing for Porter-Gaud, but moved to Hilton Head Island to train at the Smith-Stearns Academy.

Kunz, Hookaylo, Mitchell and Ryan accounted for all six Hilton Head points in the Dolphins' 6-3 semifinal win over Porter-Gaud as they took the first four singles and top two doubles positions.

Pinewood Prep coach Heinz Maurer said he's looking for another miracle, referring to last May's state final in which Hilton Head Prep won the first four matches and was up a set in the decisive No. 1 doubles match between Jeremiah Dye/Klingenberg and Kunz/Hookaylo, but ended up suffering a 5-4 loss to the Panthers. Maurer would be ecstatic to go into doubles with a 3-3 split in singles.

SCISA all-region team

Three Pinewood Prep players and three from Porter-Gaud make up this year's SCISA Region 1-AAAA all-region boys' team. Sophomore Klingenberg, junior Ladson Fishburne and sixth-grader Adam Elliget represent Pinewood Prep, while senior Richard Pearce, freshman Charlie Baker and sophomore Conner Hoy made the team from Porter-Gaud.

Four young stars

Are there four better young players in the state in high school tennis than sixth-graders Austin Heinz of Palmetto Christian and Adam Elliget, and seventh-graders Zac Dye of Berkeley and Payne Hoy of Porter-Gaud?

Kinard honored

Former Bishop England standout Elissa Kinard hasn't taken long to make her coaching ability known at the University of Albany (N.Y.). In just her second season at Albany, she has been named America East Conference women's coach of the year. She took over an Albany program last year that had only five players, and the team had even less wins — four — in 2007. But Kinard recruited well enough to improve Albany's record to 18-7 this spring. Albany had never won more than 11 matches in one season.

(05/03/08)  Panthers cruise in SCISA semifinals

SUMMERVILLE — Pinewood Prep punched its ticket to its third straight SCISA Class AAA boys' state tennis final Friday afternoon in almost routine fashion with a 7-2 victory over Hammond School.

With the victory, the defending champion Panthers (16-3) started to focus on another confrontation with lower bracket top seed Hilton Head Prep in the state title match, probably Tuesday in Walterboro. A year ago in Walterboro, Pinewood Prep rallied from a 4-0 deficit to upend the talented Hilton Head team in the state final.

Hammond (12-5) made the home team wait until doubles to wrap up its berth in the final by winning at Nos. 2 and 4 singles, but the upper bracket top-seeded Panthers swept all three doubles. Sixth-grader Adam Elliget and senior captain Scott Hayes quickly posted a comfortable 6-0, 6-4 win over Hammond's Will Besley and Ted Lydon in No. 3 doubles for the clinching fifth point.

The doubles win kept all-stater Elliget's unbeaten streak in both singles and doubles alive for the year. Elliget was a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Besley at No. 5 singles.

"Coming out of singles with four wins was the key," said Pinewood Prep coach Heinz Maurer. "We had to win only one doubles match. But all three of our matches with Hammond this season came down to doubles."

Pinewood Prep beat the second-seeded Skyhawks by 7-2 and 6-3 margins in the regular season.

The key to the 4-2 singles edge for Pinewood Prep probably was freshman Jacob Cumbie's 6-0, 6-2 win over Ira Usry at No. 3. "Jacob won convincingly against a boy who had beaten him twice this season," Maurer said.

Looking ahead to the state final, which originally was scheduled for Monday but was switched to Tuesday at the request of Hilton Head Prep, Maurer expects another tough match. The Dolphins are especially strong at the top two positions with sophomores Nicky Kunz and Mo Hookaylo, who led Hilton Head Prep to a sweep of the top four singles spots in a 6-3 win over Porter-Gaud on Thursday in the other semifinal.

Before winning last year's state title, Pinewood Prep had lost to Porter-Gaud in the 2006 state championship match.

Singles: Klingenberg (PW) d. Greenberg 6-2, 6-2; Horst (H) d. Hayes 3-6, 6-4; Cumbie (PW) d Usry 6-0, 6-2; Lydon (H) d. J. Elliget 7-5, 6-9; A. Elliget (PW) d. Besley 6-1, 6-2; Wert (PW) d. James 6-0,6-0.

Doubles: Klingenberg-Fishburne (PW) d. Greenberg-Horst 7-6, 7-6. Cumbie-Telliget (PW) d. Usry- James 8-2. A.Elliget- S.Hayes (PW) d. Lydon-Besley 6-0, 6-4.

(05/02/08)  Reynolds steps down as Family Circle Cup director
Fresh from directing probably one of the most successful Family Circle Cups held on Daniel Island, Robin Reynolds told The Post and Courier on Thursday that she is stepping down as the tournament director for the Tier I $1.34 million women's tennis tournament, effective at the end of May.

This wasn't a sudden decision for Reynolds, a 49-year-old who also will vacate the position of facility director for Family Circle Tennis Center. She said she informed her staff of her impending departure about three months ago, or before the stretch run leading up to the Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary celebration and exciting appearances by Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams that ended with Williams winning the tournament on April 20.

"I didn't want anything to take away from this event," she said.

Reynolds plans to go into private business and start her own company.

"I'm really excited about this new venture. I hope it will involve tennis in some way, and I hope it will involve other sports too," Reynolds said, but hesitated to reveal more details about the business.

She first started working with the Family Circle Cup in 1993 as a consultant after serving nearly a decade with the WTA Tour. She became the tournament's full-time publicity director in 2003, two years after the Family Circle Cup moved from Hilton Head Island to Daniel Island. She moved into her current positions before the 2006 event after the departure of then executive director Frankie Whelan. His duties were split between Reynolds and Bob Moran, who currently serves as general manager of the facility.

"I'm sure that under Bob's leadership, the venue will become bigger and better, and the event (Family Circle Cup) will become bigger and better," Reynolds said.  "I think this is an incredible event. This Family Circle Cup was very special to me. It's been an honor for me to work at such a great facility ... one of the best in the country. With the globalization of women's tennis ... everyone in Charleston should be proud to have one of the 20 Premier events.

"The Roadmap starts in 2009, but there are still a lot of elements that need to be finalized."

She said the tentative dates for next year's Cup are about the same as this year's, but they will not be confirmed until Wimbledon.

"I've been incredibly lucky to have been in this business for 20 years," she said. "I wouldn't have changed one thing. It gave me such a rich experience. I got to travel all over the world while working for the WTA Tour ... but the Family Circle Cup will always be a part of me. I'm looking forward to coming back as a fan."

(05/02/08)  Elliget's propelling Panthers
SUMMERVILLE — Pinewood Prep tennis coach Heinz Maurer thought the Panthers might be in for a rebuilding year.

But then sixth-grader Adam Elliget's arrival on the varsity provided an instant spark, even inspiring his freshman brother JT Elliget to new heights. Between them, the Elliget boys have not tasted defeat often this spring.

In fact, Adam Elliget is unbeaten in both singles and doubles and that has landed him a berth on the SCISA all-state team. And, all of a sudden, Pinewood Prep appears to be a solid favorite to retain its SCISA Class AAA state boys' crown. The upper bracket top-seeded Panthers take a 15-3 record into today's 3:30 p.m. state semifinal against Columbia's Hammond School (12-4) at the Pinewood courts.

The good news, Pinewood Prep has already beaten Hammond twice this year (7-2 and 6-3).

"Hammond is a very good team," said SCISA coach of the year Maurer. "We can't be too confident, even though we beat them twice. We split singles with them the second time and won all of the doubles."

Maurer is a bit surprised by the Panthers' success after losing Nos. 1 and 2 Jeremiah Dye and Trey Bessent to graduation from last year's championship team, and then young No. 4 Zac Dye transferred to Berkeley.

"I thought this was going to be a rebuilding year, but Adam, JT and William Wert stepped up this year (in the last three positions)," Maurer said.

"William Wert went from No. 10 last year up to No. 6 and he has the second-highest winning record on the team (to No. 5 Adam Elliget).

"Adam went undefeated in both singles and doubles, and I can't remember coaching a boy or girl who's done that."

Adam's most memorable match of the season came against a larger opponent who didn't like losing to a younger kid, especially one so small.

"I wouldn't walk to the bench ... he was so mad I was afraid he was going to beat me up," Adam Elliget said.

His father, Pinewood assistant coach Jim Elliget, added, "I couldn't figure out what was going on. Adam wouldn't go to the bench and drink his water. He would walk all the way around the other net post."

Adam likes his chances today since he won both of his matches at No. 5 against Hammond. He also plays No. 3 doubles with senior captain Scott Hayes.

(05/01/08)  Pinewood rolls into state semis

SUMMERVILLE —Pinewood Prep wasted little time in opening defense of its SCISA Class AAA boys' tennis state title Wednesday with a 9-0 blitzing of a St. Joseph's Catholic team that was playing without its top player.

The Panthers (15-3) advanced to a Friday afternoon state semifinal against Hammond of Columbia (12-4) at the Pinewood courts. Pinewood scored a pair of victories over Hammond (7-2 and 6-3) during the regular season.

"We got a big break today because their coach thinks their No. 1 guy could have won two points for them," Pinewood coach Heinz Maurer said.

The Knights made the trip from Greenville without all-stater Jackson DeMere, the runner-up in last week's SCISA state singles tournament. St. Joseph's coach Bill Robertson said, "He just had to miss the trip ... because of school."

Relieved by not having to face DeMere, Pinewood sophomore Josh Klingenberg waltzed to a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 1 singles over Alan Thomas.

Klingenberg is one of three Pinewood players on the SCISA all-state team.

Junior Ladson Fishburne and sixth-grader Adam Elliget also represented the Panthers on the all-state team, while Maurer was named coach of the year.

Bruner player of year

Palmetto Christian's Don Bruner was named SCISA's player of the year. Bruner, a junior who has led Palmetto Christian to back-to-back Class A titles, won last week's state singles tournament. He also was named to the all-state team.

Freshman Charlie Baker joined Richard Pearce, a senior, on the all-state team from Porter-Gaud.

Palmetto Christian playing for title

Palmetto Christian is in Sumter today in search of its third straight SCISA Class A boys' state title. The Eagles will oppose Aiken Prep in one of the 10:30 a.m. semifinals, with the winner advancing to an afternoon state championship match against the Cambridge Academy-Lowcountry Day winner.

--Porter-Gaud (14-1) is hoping for a better fate this afternoon against Hilton Head Prep in the SCISA Class AAA semifinals than it had last year in the same round. The site is the same as last year when the host Dolphins prevailed. Today's 3:30 p.m. match will be played on the clay courts of Hilton Head's Windmill Harbour.

--Berkeley and Summerville will play home matches this afternoon in the second round of the Class AAAA boys' state playoffs.

Berkeley (14-2), the Region 7-AAAA top seed, will play host to Dutch Fork, while 8-AAAA champion Summerville (14-3) will entertain 7-AAAA third seed Stratford. Wando (9-4), the 7-AAAA second seed, plays at Spring Valley, a top seed.

(04/30/08)  Serena's service return game's most dangerous weapon

Serena Williams has a secret weapon on backhand service returns. She shoots straight from the hip.

It's almost impossible to jam Serena with a serve into her backhand because of this shoot-from-the-hip technique.

Watching several of Serena's Family Circle Cup matches from the baseline from near courtside while concentrating on her service returns shed new light for me on why she is so dangerous on service returns. Opponents surely recognized that danger during her march to the championship.

Serena doesn't step back with her left foot or attempt to turn sideways on serves directed into the left side of her body. She simply flexes her wrists to her left, a move that places the racket on her hip. She combines her incredible upper-body and arm strength with the power of the serve to drive service returns toward the server, often with near-unreturnable pace. The bullets sometimes arrive near the middle of the opposite baseline before her opponent can make a move for them.

She seems to have more trouble with serves into the "routine" backhand area that force her to extend her racket out from the power pocket of her hip. Yet, serves a little wider and out of the routine backhand area on the "ad" side fall back into the danger zone for servers because Serena tends to power these balls cross-court, or maybe even down the line.

Because of her service returns, especially from the "ad" side, Serena has the most dangerous weapon in women's tennis on the decisive point of a receiving game that goes to six or more points.

Combining the threat of her service return with her ability to serve aces so routinely should make Serena Williams nearly unbeatable. If she can stay healthy, and maintain her physical fitness and focus, the rest of women's tennis may be in trouble for several more years.

New hope for Roger

There's new hope for Roger Federer fans. The tennis king may still reign for awhile.

If Federer can take Rafael Nadal to 7-5, 7-5 on red clay as he did in Sunday's Monte Carlo final, Federer may be only a shade off his normal game and close to forgetting that dreadful session with mononucleosis. With nearly a month more to recover before the start of the French Open, Federer could be a threat in Paris.

Now that we know both Federer and Nadal are human, anything could happen at the French.

Battle plan changed

Lee Brockman's "Battle of James Island" has been rescheduled for May 24. The event originally was scheduled for May 17. The rivalry pits the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club in team competition. The new entry deadline is May 22. Brockman, the Country Club's tennis director, can be contacted at ccctennis@comcast.net.

The event starts with a continental breakfast, followed by men's, women's and mixed doubles, with a covered dish social finishing off the activities from 1-2 p.m.

(04/30/08)  Porter-Gaud disarms Generals in quarters
Porter-Gaud breezed past previously unbeaten Thomas Sumter Academy, 8-1, in the quarterfinals of the SCISA Class AAA state playoffs at Porter-Gaud on Tuesday.

But things could be decidedly different the next time the Cyclones (14-1) take the court for a match, probably Thursday against lower bracket top seed Hilton Head Prep on clay at Sea Pines' East Beach Tennis Center in the state semifinals.

That's if Hilton Head Prep, which eliminated the Cyclones last year on clay in the semifinals, wins its quarterfinal match today.

"It's a different game on clay," veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said. "You have to hit a lot more balls."

Senior Richard Pearce, hitting big off the ground, going to the net at every opening and serving well, had an easy time of it at No. 1 singles in a 6-1, 6-0 romp past Thomas Sumter's Bedford Wooten as the second-seeded Cyclones clinched the victory by winning five of the six singles matches.

Pearce knows he will have his work cut out for him against Hilton Head Prep's talented Mo Hookayo, even though Pearce defeated Hookayo in last year's match on clay and again this past weekend in straight sets en route to winning the boys' 18 singles title in the hard-court Creekside Tennis and Swim junior tournament.

"I hope I can beat Mo again," Pearce said. "Clay hasn't been my favorite surface, but if I keep it deep it shouldn't be too much of a change. I've just got to keep Mo off the net."

--Upper bracket top seed Pinewood Prep (14-3) will open defense of its state title today in a 4 p.m. match in Summerville against fourth seed St. Joseph's of Greenville. A victory would send the Panthers into a Friday state semifinal.

--Region 7-AAAA top seed Berkeley (14-2) romped into the second round of the Class AAAA boys' state playoffs with a 6-0 victory over visiting South Florence.

With 2007 Lowcountry player of the year Dirk Bair and seventh-grader Zac Dye leading the way with shutouts in the top two positions, the Stags yielded just four games in the five singles matches.

Berkeley will be at home again Thursday against Dutch Fork, a 5-1 winner over Beaufort.

--Wando (9-4), the second seed from 7-AAAA, advanced to the second round with a 6-0 win over visiting Hartsville. Senior No. 1 Zack Timmerman and freshman No. 2 Robert McManus got the Warriors off to a good start with victories.

--Region 8-AAAA champion Summerville (14-3) cruised past Ridge View, 7-0, as juniors Joey Holoubek and Bryan Mayeux paved the way in Nos. 1 and 2 singles. The Green Wave will be the home team again Thursday in the second round against Stratford, which defeated Sumter 5-1.

(04/27/08)  American women's tennis down
You don't realize how dysfunctional American women's tennis has become at the top level until this country sends a team to Russia to compete in the Fed Cup semifinals that includes a singles alignment of Vania King and Ahsha Rolle, plus an imported Liezel Huber for doubles.

Huber is a great doubles player. In fact, she might be the best doubles player in the world, considering her No. 1 ranking.

But Liezel Huber, even though she now resides in Houston, has spent the majority of her 31 years as a South African.

King and Rolle, who are ranked only No. 112 and 138 in the world respectively, received wild cards into the Family Circle Cup main draw where both lost in the first round.

Yes, American women's tennis has dropped this far. Of course, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport have been out for medical reasons, and Serena Williams didn't jump on the first flight out of Charleston headed toward Moscow with her $196,900 check from winning the Family Circle Cup. So, captain Zina Garrison had to go with King and Rolle.

And yet, the Russians came up with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze for singles, along with Family Circle runner-up Vera Zvonareva for doubles. Kuznetsova and Chakvetadze both won their opening singles matches against the Americans on Saturday.

This really should be a little embarrassing to American tennis. But playing in Charleston one week and then heading directly for Moscow is a pretty difficult assignment.

Yet, the task apparently didn't stop the Russians. If we can't do better than this, maybe we should skip the Fed Cup competition.

And we thought the players were inconsiderate of Family Circle Cup ticketholders in 2007? What about the Russian fans? They're paying to see basically a "B" or "C" team from the United States.

Roger the retirer

Another retirement against Roger Federer?

Last Sunday, it was Nikolay Davydenko retiring against Federer in the Portugal final. And Saturday, it was Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo semifinals.

Roger is supposed to be the one on the recovery from mononucleosis.

Don't expect Rafael Nadal to retire against Federer in today's Monte Carlo final. Since he's come this far, Rafael probably is determined to become only the second player to win both singles and doubles titles in the same Masters event. Nadal and fellow Spaniard Tommy Rebredo rallied from a set down to win in Saturday's doubles semifinals.

And what has happened to Davydenko? He sparkles in Miami against Nadal, but then retires against Federer in Portugal and now Nadal hammers the Russian, 6-3, 6-2, at Monte Carlo.

SCISA puzzle

Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins is trying to figure out how SCISA comes up with its pairings for the Class AAA state boys' playoffs. The Cyclones split a pair of regular-season matches against defending state champion Pinewood Prep and own a 13-1 record, yet they are seeded second in the lower bracket behind 2007 state runner-up Hilton Head Prep.

The seeding might not sound like a big deal, but it is. If Porter-Gaud wins its 4 p.m. Monday home playoff match against No. 3 seed Thomas Sumter -— and Hilton Head Prep wins a Wednesday match against No. 4 Heathwood Hall or No. 5 Wilson Hall —- the Cyclones would then face Hilton Head Prep on Friday. The key is that the match would be played at Hilton Head Island on clay.

The winner of the Friday match will advance to the state final on May 5, probably against Pinewood Prep, which owns a 14-3 record and is the top seed in the upper bracket. Pinewood faces No. 4 seed St. Joseph's of Aiken at the Pinewood courts on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Both Hammond and Heathwood Hall have beaten St. Joseph's, while both have lost to Pinewood. Pinewood Prep suffered two losses to High School League Class AA power Bishop England.

Bishops get preview

Bishop England will get a sneak preview of the Class AA state playoffs on Tuesday when the Bishops travel to Litchfield Beach to face perennial power Waccamaw. Bishop England and Waccamaw likely also will meet in the state semifinals on May 7, but that match should be played on Daniel Island since the Bishops have the home-court edge throughout the playoffs, starting with a Thursday encounter with Williston-Elko.

(04/23/08)  Latest Cup bodes well for future
If this year's Family Circle Cup was an indication of what to expect in the future, next year's tournament should be a great one.

Readers continue to point out that the reason this year's Cup wasn't as successful at the gate as any of the last four was a carryover attitude from the 2007 withdrawal of so many top players. Even having 11 of the top 15 players in the world this year didn't seem to alter all of the resentment.

"Perhaps the quality of the 2008 field will improve next year's attendance. This year's was certainly dampened by last year's player exodus, which prompted a WTA rebate to FCC, with no subsequent gesture extended to ticket buyers by FCC," one reader e-mailed.

Roger's new coach

It was nice to see Roger Federer break out of his slump and win a tournament, even if Nikolay Davydenko came to his rescue by retiring in the final. Approaching his 27th birthday, Federer appears to be taking desperate steps in hopes of completing a career Grand Slam.

Hiring a clay-court specialist, Jose Higueras, for a coach is a questionable move for a player with such a classic game as Federer's. I doubt if the Swiss great ever will be a grinder. I can't picture him as that type of player.

Is Federer sacrificing everything he has built up the last five years just in the hope of winning the French Open? In this particular year when the rest of the tour has gained considerably on Federer as his health and conditioning have been affected by mononucleosis, it might not be wise to concentrate so heavily on the French Open.

Winning the three Grand Slam titles he needs to surpass Pete Sampras' total of 14 may be a tough task already. But it would appear the likely places to win them would be at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Maybe in hiring a Spanish coach, Federer is hoping to gain the type of insight into Rafael Nadal's game other Spanish players seem to have.

Nadal doubles

Nadal appears to be determined to improve his net game. He is teaming with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo in this week's Monte Carlo Masters. They upset the No. 3-seeded team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the second round Tuesday.

Nadal fell to Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells and Davydenko in Miami, but in the two tournaments he demonstrated his determination by beating James Blake twice and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga once. This was a major achievement for Nadal on hard courts.

Already an excellent volleyer, Nadal might gain the confidence playing doubles he needs to incorporate more net play into his singles game. Therefore, the doubles experience could pay dividends for Nadal at Wimbledon.

Affinity for doubles

There is a definite affinity for doubles among tennis fans. Thanks to league tennis, doubles is the thing more tennis players have in common than almost anything else — other than the usual balls, rackets, etc. One internet reader e-mailed, "Why do you say nothing about the doubles final? Some of us care more about that match than Serena's."

It appears that veteran Ai Sugiyama has found a good partner in the talented Katarina Srebotnik, twice a Family Circle Cup singles quarterfinalist and now a doubles champion here with Sugiyama. Srebotnik is an impressive player who has the potential to climb into the top 15 in singles from her current 30th spot. Of course, the 32-year-old Sugiyama is the consummate competitor, even though she appears to be nearing the end of her career.

USTA session Saturday

USTA national trainer of the year Mike Carter will be at Charleston Tennis Center Saturday from 1-4 p.m. to conduct a training session for the Quickstart format for beginner players. Quickstart uses smaller courts, smaller rackets and special balls. Registration is required for Saturday's session. Contact program director Joyce Arrington (442-4871) or go to www.lowcountryjuniortennis.org. Registration for Kids Team Tennis, which also will use the Quickstart format, is still available for beginner level players 5-10 years old. Kids Team Tennis will run Friday through June 7.

(04/21/08)  This was one of the best on Daniel Island
The Family Circle Cup has Vera Zvonareva to thank for this year's tournament ending on such a positive note. The 23-year-old Russian put up a terrific fight, and in so doing made sure this Family Circle Cup will be remembered as the best on Daniel Island. Zvonareva could have gone away at any time against the mighty power of Serena Williams, and still have picked up the $100,000 runner-up check.

But she didn't. She made Serena earn her place among the superstars who have won the Family Circle Cup. It's no wonder that Serena fought so hard to win this tournament. She wanted her name on the list of who's who in the open era of women's tennis who have won the Family Circle Cup.

Yes, the tradition continues. Evert, Navratilova, Austin, Graf, Sanchez-Vicario, Hingis, Capriati, Henin, Venus Williams ... and now Serena Williams has become the 10th current or

former world No. 1 player to win the Family Circle Cup.

This title may have sounded the horn that Serena Williams is really back. She played great in winning last year's Australian Open, but physically she wasn't anywhere close to the Serena of old, the one who once won five of a string of six Grand Slam tournaments.

Three in a row

This is the first time Serena has won three straight tournaments since she arrived in Charleston in 2003 for the Family Circle Cup. That speaks volume's about where her game stands.

Serena's game really can't get a great deal better. She got off to a few slow starts here, but overall she played brilliant tennis.

To be able to hammer out three different three-set victories in her five matches on clay is an indication that Serena has raised her physical fitness to a level that resembles the Serena of old.

Being able to outlast opponents in extended rallies has to boost her already unbreakable confidence.

Add that consistency and durability to the probability that Serena is the best single-point player ever in women's tennis, and Justine Henin should start worrying about maintaining her stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking. Serena can't be counted out of the No. 1 picture for this year.

Serena demonstrated awesome power in her three-set victory over Zvonareva on Sunday as well as in her other matches. She hit incredible shots with unmatched pace. She appeared to serve aces and service winners almost at will. And she moved the best she has in several years.

While winning the Family Circle Cup appeared to be an important career achievement for Williams, her performance was doubly impressive because it was on clay. No surface is more revealing than clay of the true caliber of a player's overall game.

Serena now goes into the European clay-court season as a serious contender.

The economy?

It's somewhat surprising that Sunday's attendance was only the fourth-highest of the eight finals played on Daniel Island and this tournament ranked only fifth in overall attendance.

Perhaps, it was the economy that held down attendance for certain sessions. But it wasn't because of the quality of play or the players. This tournament set a new Daniel Island standard for both.

(04/20/08)  The year of the underdog or superwoman
This is even more of a sure thing for Serena Williams than her first Family Circle Cup final. All of which makes you think today's final might not be easy at all for Serena.

But Vera Zvonareva?

Does Zvonareva remind you of anyone? Maybe Iva Majoli, the 2002 champion?

Is this the year of the underdog or the superwoman?

The easier things look for Serena, the harder they seem to be. She can practically leap tall buildings, but put an obscure 18-year-old across the net from her and Serena looks beatable. French teenager Alize Cornet had plenty of chances in Saturday's semifinal to derail Serena's poster girl ride.

The odds are so much in Serena's favor today that she should walk on the court for the 1 p.m. final, and pick up her trophy and $196,900 winner's check.

Zvonareva can't win. Or can she?

This 17th-ranked player in the world has been practically a one-Russian wrecking crew for the tournament's seeds, knocking down the Nos. 1, 4 and 6 seeds. Serena should be easy. She's only the fifth seed.

Just maybe Serena should bring her "A" game after all.

It is easy to look back to the 2003 final, when Serena was an overwhelming choice against Justine Henin. Serena won Wimbledon later that year, but the loss to Henin was the beginning of a slide from which Serena is still trying to recover.

Serena is now on the verge of picking up where she left off that Saturday afternoon in 2003, when then as the world's top-ranked player Serena defeated Lindsay Davenport to earn a berth in the final against Henin.

Until this year's march past Maria Sharapova and three other players, the Family Circle Cup had been a 1-3 blur for Serena since that day.

She should right the ship today.

But Zvonareva is as dangerous as an iceberg. She is totally unpredictable, and has the game to beat any player in the world on any given day. Even Serena Williams.

It shouldn't happen. But Serena will be in for a dogfight if she allows Zvonareva to get into the match.

Serena normally is a slow starter as she was in losing four of the first five games to Cornet on Saturday. She needs a fast start today and the rest should be smooth sailing to the title.

The tournament has to be secretly pulling for Serena. The Family Circle people would love to place the order for a poster of the superwoman.

If you don't think Serena and Sharapova were that important to this tournament, consider that each of the five sessions in which one or both participated set Charleston tournament records for that particular session. And yet the tournament appears destined to finish with a lower total attendance than any of the last three Family Circles.

(04/20/08)  Scarpa's invention takes hold
Skip Scarpa thinks he has solved the cumbersome tennis puzzle of converting courts from doubles to singles. He hopes to make "Reel Sticks" a worldwide standard.

The former College of Charleston player and current owner of a tennis court-building company already has a U.S. patent for his invention. Within the next year, Scarpa plans to apply for others around the world, or wherever he thinks a professional tennis tournament might be held.

"There are one million or more tennis courts in the world, and all of them except for a few are made for doubles. People are playing singles on doubles courts," Scarpa said Thursday after showing off his invention at The Citadel during the Southern Conference tennis tournament. Reel Sticks are being used by the tournament on the six primary courts at the Earle Tennis Center. Singles sticks usually are used for singles play in all major sanctioned tournaments.

Tournament head referee Pat Garren of Travelers Rest was ecstatic about having the Reel Sticks on The Citadel courts. "I've been an official for 17 years and this is the best thing I've seen," she said.

Instead of her umpiring crew having to lug singles sticks around and using a tape measure to make certain they are in the right location and are the right height, the crew can simply pull the Reel Sticks out from the net posts until the retractable cable comes to a halt, or reel them back for doubles.

"Each stick is attached to a precisely measured steel cable, which is on a reel mounted to the net post," according to the literature on Reel Sticks.

In addition to the efficiency of switching from singles to doubles and back, a storage facility isn't needed to house the singles sticks because they're permanently attached to the net posts.

Scarpa, a nephew of legendary Furman coach Paul Scarpa, already has demonstrated Reel Sticks to many of the big tennis organizations. The invention was used on practice courts at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., where Scarpa said he had a series of meetings with representatives of various tennis organizations.

"You can guess which ones. We met with the tennis industry leaders and people who advertise toward the tennis demographic ... or people already in tennis," he said.

Four sets of Reel Sticks are being used on practice courts during the Family Circle Cup. One set is in use at the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Whipple Road complex. "And I've got one at my house," Scarpa said.

"That's all we had made in the first production run ... we're just using the mold. But we'll probably have 500 to a thousand available within the next 45 days."

The gadget is being built in Taiwan, where Scarpa's partner, mechanical engineer Nicholas Johannes of Mount Pleasant, has manufacturing connections. The project has taken three years to reach this point. Now, it's just a matter of signing with a major company for the distribution of Reel Sticks.

"The first rule of tennis is court size," said the 48-year-old Scarpa, who owns Carolina Sport Surfaces and partners with Johannes in Tennis Ventures LLC. "Now everyone can play by the same rules."

The housing for the reel also has clear windows that can be used for advertising purposes such as company logos, event sponsors, court numbers, team logos. SoCon and Bulldog logos are displayed prominently on the reel housing at The Citadel.

The Citadel today, the world tomorrow. That's Scarpa's aim.

(04/19/08)  Serena blends power into quarterfinal win
The Family Circle Cup's match of the 21st century was all about the "T" and the heel, blended with a heaping dash of Serena Williams' raw power.

It was all about raw power. Serena had more of it than Maria Sharapova in Friday's three-set quarterfinal.

The middle of the court and the low part of the net made Williams' power even more effective.

But Sharapova's left heel came into play. Serena attacked it.

Time after time on key points with Sharapova serving, Williams unleashed her mighty power in the direction of her opponent's heel. The ball was at Sharapova's left heel almost before Sharapova completed her long service motion, forcing her to literally scoop the ball up with her backhand while standing flat-footed on the baseline. Serena's bullets landed somewhere on or around the baseline, but the action happened so quickly it was hard to see exactly where the bullets hit as Sharapova tried to short-hop them with her racket.

Of course, Serena hit most of the meek returns for home runs.

But that's Serena. She doesn't think she can lose, not when she's down 5-3 in the first set and facing a set point. She just lines up in the middle of the court and serves over the lowest part of the net to the "T" to take away the set point, then follows that up with a pair of aces.

Sharapova won the second set, but never really recovered. The threat of Serena's raw power was always there to influence Sharapova's game, especially her second serves.

Serena was the player of old in this match. She moved, she hit, she served. And, yes, she intimidated. She was almost as spectacular as she was in thrashing Sharapova in last year's Australian Open final. Serena definitely can win this title.

Easy or hard

On paper, today's 1 p.m. semifinal against 18-year-old Alize Cornet should be an easy one for Serena. But easy often becomes hard for Serena these days.

Just because Serena's power was too much for Sharapova doesn't mean it will have the same impact on Cornet. The French girl is a sponge.

She will absorb Serena's power, something Sharapova never figured out how to do. If anything, Serena used Sharapova's power.

Cornet is a right-handed version of Patty Schnyder. She fights and scraps for every point, but can turn on the offense when an opening occurs.

In upending Agnes Szavay in the quarterfinals, Cornet appeared to be so happy in the moment that she forgot to be scared. Afterward, it hit her. She had to play Serena Williams next.

Seeing the imposing figure of Serena on the other side of the net undoubtedly will have some effect on Cornet.

But this time the pressure will be on Serena. Imagine Serena losing to an obscure teenager.

Cornet doesn't have anything to lose. Once she forgets the big crowd and who she is playing, she could make things interesting. It just depends on Serena's mental state. If she's as hot as she was against Sharapova, it could be a blowout. If not, there will be room for the French girl to operate.

Dementieva finds serve

Has Elena Dementieva really found her serve? She hasn't dropped a set this week and is serving aces and service winners. If she continues to produce that kind of serving, the athletic Russian is a serious threat because of the way she covers the court and delivers solid groundstrokes from every angle.

She not only outhit crowd favorite Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals, but out-served her as well in a battle of former finalists.

There never has been any question about Dementieva's athletic ability or groundstrokes. With the serve she demonstrated against Schnyder, Dementieva might have two Grand Slam titles. Her groundstrokes are that good on every surface, and especially on clay.

This could be another chance for Dementieva to win the Family Circle Cup, because you've got to think that Vera Zvonareva has run out of her string of upsets. But Zvonareva is a dangerous player when she's on her game as she demonstrated in her three-set victory over defending champion Jelena Jankovic on Friday night after upsetting sixth-seeded Marion Bartoli one round earlier.

Jankovic didn't appear to be her usual jovial self playing in front of a large supportive crowd. Perhaps, it was because of the pressure of possibly surrendering her role as the tournament's poster girl.

(04/18/08)  'Experts' weigh in on Serena vs. Maria
With the highly anticipated Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova showdown set for today, The Post and Courier quizzed tennis experts as to what to expect. "I'd have to pick Serena right now. I thought she was going to get upset (Thursday). I really thought she was going to lose. But at the crunch time, she didn't choke. She came through.

"I'm a tennis player, but these girls would beat me, 6-0, 6-0. I'm mad, because I don't think I'd get one game off of them." - College of Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins, who watched

Williams and Sharapova on Thursday.

"It's hard to know how bad Serena's ankle is. She could play and finish her match (Thursday), because she was fired up. But if it is hurt, that would certainly give Maria an advantage. But I always like Serena, I never pick against Serena." Veteran tennis writer and broadcaster Bud Collins.

"I think, because they are both such hard hitters, that it will be a one-sided match. But I don't know which one will win. I don't think Serena's three-set match (Thursday) will affect her too much. I just think it will be whoever is on (today), and I don't think it will be a three-set match." The Post and Courier tennis writer James Beck.

Patty rolls

Seventh-seed Patty Schnyder had little problem disposing of 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, posting a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the featured night match. Radwanska won the first two games of the second set, but Schnyder rallied to push her Family Circle Cup record to 27-11.

Schnyder plays fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva today in a quarterfinal match.

Schnyder is one of the fan favorites of the Family Circle Cup. She played in her first Cup in 1997 when the tournament was held in Hilton Head. Today will mark her sixth quarterfinals appearance.

Dementieva is 8-7 against Schnyder, including 1-1 in Charleston. In 2004, Schnyder posted a 6-3, 6-1 victory over the Russian in the Round of 16. Dementieva gained a 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 semifinal victory over Schnyder the following year. That was the last time the players faced each other on clay.

Dementieva has won the last two matches against Schnyder. She posted a 6-3, 6-4 victory in Moscow in '07 and posted a 7-5, 6-0 decision in Dubai earlier this year.

My friend, my enemy

Doubles partners Dinara Safina and Agnes Szavay had a bittersweet day, facing each other in singles and then playing a doubles match together.

Szavay, ranked 13th in the world, took out the 16th-ranked Safina, 6-2, 7-5, in a third-round match on Althea Gibson court. Szavay, just 19 years old, advanced to play 18-year-old Alize Cornet of France in a quarterfinal matchup of risng teenage stars today.

But all was not lost for Safina, who last year made it all the way to the Family Circle Cup finals before losing to Jelena Jankovic. Just a couple of hours after their singles match, she and Szavay teamed up to win their doubles match 6-1, 6-4 over Melinda Czink and Chanelle Scheepers.

Safina and Szavay will play top-seeded Cara Black and Liezel Huber in the doubles quarterfinals.

Off the court

Moms and daughters (8 years old and up) are invited to the Family Circle/Wilhelmina Model Mother-Daughter Search from 5-7 p.m. today at the hospitality tent. Get free gifts and enter to win a "fabulous prize package."

Saturday promises to be a special day as former Family Circle Cup winners such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Rosie Casals, Conchita Martinez, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati and Iva Majoli will be at stadium court for a "Parade of Champions."

TV coverage

ESPN2's coverage of the Family Circle Cup continues today, from 1-2:30 p.m. Semifinal coverage set for 1-3 p.m. Saturday and the finals for 1-3 p.m. Sunday.


Thursday's session attracted 12,960 fans, including 7,712 for the day session. The night session attracted only 5,248 fans - the lowest turnout for a Thursday-night session since the event moved to Charleston in 2001.

This year's attendance is 55,020, which is approximately 3,000 fans off pace of the record 92,375 fans who turned out in 2006.

(04/18/08)  GENE SAPAKOFF: A tournament living up to a tradition
The 35th anniversary celebration at the Family Circle Cup is sincere appreciation, and shrewd planning. This year, instead of active players on the promotional billboards all over town, Family Circle Cup management opted to showcase former legends such as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Classy. Cool.

No chance Chris and Martina would withdraw from the tournament.

But unlike 2007 and despite the loss of Venus Williams and Justine Henin, this week's Family Circle Cup has plenty of star power.

Which makes for a sweet blend of old and new, back-and-forth over the net.

--Then: Evert Era dominance personified by eight Family Circle Cup titles in 12 years, 1974-1985.

--Now: A dozen of the top 13 seeds in third-round action Thursday, including victories by No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, No. 2 Maria Sharapova, No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 5 Serena Williams, and including Agnes Szavay's mild upset of doubles partner Dinara Safina.

You know it's exceptional tennis when the defending champ is relegated to the Althea Gibson Club Court.

"I didn't like it, to be honest. I prefer center court," Jankovic said after her 6-0, 6-2 rout of Anastasia Rodionova.

"But for me it doesn't matter. Even if I'm in the parking lot or in a forest or wherever I play, I'll still go out there and play my game."

The fun gets even better today.

A Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova quarterfinal clash potentially is the best combination of talent on the same Family Circle Cup court since the tournament moved from Hilton Head in 2001.

Puppy power

--Then: Changing of guard from Chris to Martina, who continued her Family Circle Cup influence long after her power-game prime. For instance, Martina's Puppy Park, a home-away-from-home for players' best friends (in hiatus this year).

 --Now: Power is always on display during a Serena Williams practice session, as it was Thursday on Court No. 5. Jackie, Serena's Jack Russell Terrier, watched carefully.

 --Then: Live NBC broadcasts from Hilton Head anchored by Bud Collins and Dick Enberg were must-see tennis TV.

 --Now: Collins is back for the 35th anniversary party. As usual, separate introductions are necessary for Bud and his colorful pants.

 --Then: Steffi Graf's breakthrough. She won her first Family Circle Cup title in 1986, the year before winning the first of her 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

 --Now: The ever-improving Sharapova, and what career strides - three Grand Slam titles - since her only other
 Daniel Island appearance, at 15 in 2003.

"I was walking around the grounds the other day and looked at some of the courts that I played on, some of the back courts that I played on five years ago," Sharapova said. "I thought, 'Oh, how things have changed for the good.' "

Conchita and Anna

--Then: Star-crossed Anna Kournikova's best Tier I event performance, capped by a loss to Martina Hingis in the 1999 final.

--Now: Kournikova's fellow Russians following a trail she helped blaze.

--Then: Jennifer Capriati's comeback, a 2001 Family Circle Cup title between winning the Australian Open and French Open, the first two of her three Grand Slam titles.

--Now: This Family Circle Cup could set a Charleston attendance record with a strong finish.

--Then: Justine Henin's launch pad. She won the 2003 Family Circle Cup a few months before winning the French Open, the first of seven Grand Slam singles titles.

--Now: Szavay, a 19-year-old from Hungary, takes on Alize Cornet, an 18-year-old from France, in a quarterfinal matchup of rising stars.

--Then: Let's look way back to an April ago. Jankovic secured her first Tier I title.

--Now: Jankovic seeks to become the first repeat Family Circle Cup champion since Conchita Martinez in 1994-95.

--Then: Conchita, the Family Circle Cup money leader.

--Now: The same congenial Conchita back on site for the 35th anniversary bash. Along with 1973 inaugural winner Rosie Casals, plus Chris and Martina, billboards come to life.

(04/18/08)  Overlooked Szavay could become a spoiler
Is there a spoiler in this Family Circle Cup? Another Patty Schnyder? Or Schnyder herself?

How about a Hungarian teenager with one of the most difficult names you've ever tried to pronounce. SHAH-veye just won't roll off the tongue.

Maybe Hall of Fame columnist/announcer Bud Collins can handle the task as he did in Tuesday night's 35th anniversary celebration. But Agnes sounds sort of special itself, and when you put that name with Szavay, anything might happen on a tennis court.

Agnes Szavay will be the one playing against 18-year-old Alize Cornet of France today after the Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova showdown in Family Circle Magazine Stadium. Good timing, right. Everyone will be out on the grounds about that time, checking out the booths or waiting in the bathroom line.

It's a cinch that no one will leave the stadium before either Williams or Sharapova prevail. That one will fit perfectly in Yogi Berra's words, "It's not over until its over."

That's especially true after the way the two superstars came back Thursday to keep their quarterfinal alive. And I thought Maria and Serena might not be looking forward to playing each other on a weekday in a non-major. Boy, was I wrong. These two love a good fight any day of the week.

But back to SHAH-veye. This 19-year-old can play.
Click here for complete ongoing coverage of the 35th annual Family Circle Cup.

Other than her brilliantly deep groundstrokes, one of the things that impresses me about Szavay is her lightness on her feet, the way she moves around the court. She always seems to appear cool out there, even when she's repeatedly knocking the clay off her shoes.

It's probably lucky for Szavay that she's playing another teenager in what should be a relatively quiet atmosphere in the aftermath of the battle this tournament has been holding its breath for since last Saturday's draw was announced.

Szavay probably will be a little nervous. It wasn't until the third time she served for the match against doubles partner Dinara Safina out on the Althea Gibson Club Court on Thursday that Szaway finally booked her spot in the quarterfinals.

Still a well kept secret, Szavay started last year ranked 207th in the world, but came on strong in the summer with a runner-up finish at New Haven and then a quarterfinal appearance in the U.S. Open. She's 13th now. With a couple of singles titles, she should know how to close out important matches.

Of course, Szavay is my pick today. And then watch out, Maria or Serena.


This night match is one that defending champion Jelena Jankovic can't overlook. Vera Zvonareva is one of the most dangerous non-top 10 players on the tour. She has all of the weapons and is capable of beating anyone on any given day. The only question mark is her mental game. If that's on for Zvonareva, Jankovic's smooth game of consistency may be in trouble. The secret for Jankovic will be to keep the ball in play until Zvonareva loses focus and goes for an outright winner when one isn't there.


Elena Dementieva is one of the tour's most gifted athletes. She's an artist at moving around the court and delivering solid groundstrokes from every angle. And then, there's Patty Schnyder. She's a fan favorite with those wicked left-armed spins of hers. Patty's still aiming to put her poster up on the stadium rafters. This doesn't look like the year for that to happen, but she'll probably wear Dementieva into a few double faults and eventual surrender.


This one can go either way. It's just who feels the best today, or who's in the zone.

Neither will feed on the other's power. They don't have to. They supply their own. Sharapova hits with incredible power; Williams has maybe the most raw power of any woman to ever play this game. If Williams is on with her power, there's not much anyone can do with it.

They're two of the best front-runners this game has seen, yet they never give up when things look bleak. As Serena says, she never thinks she's going to lose. And Maria knows she's always going to win.

It's too much of a gamble to pick a winner in this one, especially after seeing their determination up close on Thursday.

(04/17/08)  Sharapova buzz taking hold all around Cup

The circus arrived at the Family Circle Cup on Wednesday afternoon.

It was like a Davis Cup atmosphere. Electricity was in the air long before Maria Sharapova was scheduled to take the court. I've never seen this tournament in such a festive mood. And this is its 35th anniversary.

Family Circle Magazine Stadium was alive with hundreds of fans watching the player they came to see in the night match. The main event was still a couple hours away.

Sharapova drilled hard for nearly an hour under the direction of coach Michael Joyce. Boy, is she good, and it's real easy to see why she is so good. She's a workaholic.

Of course, banana-man Yuri Sharapov was right there, putting in his two cents worth from the opposite end of the court. Maria took all instructions cheerfully, and continued to work hard on almost every element of the game. She hit and served from both ends.

Sharapova obviously likes drop shots. But that serve of hers?

She signed autographs for a bunch of kids before leaving the court under the protection of two police officers. Even the guards couldn't protect Bethanie Mattek from Sharapova's 59 minutes of killer shots in a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing later in the evening.

To put it mildly, Sharapova was ultra-sharp in her opening match, far more than Serena Williams had been a night earlier.

Content with Maria-Serena

Tournament officials are quite content with the possibility of a Sharapova-Williams quarterfinal. The tournament can't lose if that happens.

Not only would that potential Friday matchup be the biggest in, at least, the Daniel Island years of the tournament's history, either Maria or Serena would still be around for the semifinals. That one scenario would ensure this year's tournament of possibly being the best yet.

Alexandra's big chance

It was there for the taking. Alexandra Stevenson was up 5-4 in the first set. Top-seeded Jelena Jankovic was serving at deuce. Stevenson needed just two points to put fear into the Serbian.

Stevenson hit a return, moved toward the net. Only she stopped in no-man's land. Jankovic's shot easily passed Stevenson's forehand side as she scampered helplessly on the clay.

You might as well say that was the match. Stevenson lost the next point to even the set, then the next eight games. How could one bad decision be so destructive?

But that's athletics. When an underdog gets a chance, it may be the last one.

What was Stevenson doing going to the net on such a weak approach on such a critical point? It was a dreadful decision that proved extremely costly. Stevenson may have lost the match even if she had won the first set, but dropping those last nine games could take some of the steam out of the sparkling comeback that had netted her three consecutive straight-set wins.

Today's players venture to the net so seldom that most of them don't have a clue about when to go or what to do when they get there. Each time they go to the net at an inopportune time with poor results takes away a little more of their confidence.

As a result, the game is headed down a one-way street. Net play in singles probably will continue to fade.

That's a shame. There's nothing more exciting in tennis than to see a player hit a great approach shot, deep into the backhand corner and charge the net while prepared to knock off a volley. The player has to expect to have to hit a volley for the trip to have any chance of success.

Serena surprise

There was a point in Tuesday night's main event when trim Argentine Gisela Dulko delivered a delicate drop shot to Serena Williams' backhand side, and raced just inside the T. Dulko probably didn't expect Serena to get the ball, but she did. And with gusto, Serena came up with one of her patented power shots. She practically knocked the racket out of the 5-7, 123-pound Argentine's hand. Dulko obviously didn't expect to have to hit a volley and certainly wasn't prepared for one of Serena's bombs.

Serena didn't play her best tennis in the straight-set win over Dulko, but the physical part of her game was impressive. She was a little awkward in her footwork and switching directions on the clay, but once she moved into high gear she was a world-class athlete.

She had only to play within herself to win Miami on hard courts. That was enough to drive her balls through the court, but on clay she'll have to hit a lot more shots. She'll have to be patient, but yet hit the big shot when the opening occurs.

(04/16/08)  Mattek puts her game on center stage
Bethanie Mattek really is a pretty good tennis player.

Thanks to the cold weather, Family Circle Cup fans finally saw her as a tennis player Tuesday. She looked like most of the other players, wearing a normal black tennis outfit. It was too cold to wear one of her sometimes outlandish-looking outfits.

She was photographed for her tennis skills this time. The 23-year-old American played a high-octane game, good enough to advance to another day.

Of course, she will need to be running on an even higher energy level tonight. She'll be on center stage in Family Circle Magazine Stadium against Maria Sharapova.

I might not have stopped by court No. 3 to watch Mattek if it hadn't been for an e-mail from her host family, and then a tip from Family Circle Cup photographer Chris Smith about how well this USA girl was playing.

After all, Mattek is ranked only 151st in the world in singles. She got in the Family Circle Cup singles draw only as a wild card. She had lost in the opening round of qualifying each of the last three years.

Mattek did win the doubles title on Sunday at Amelia Island. Even then, she wore her Bebe-designed leopard print outfit. The Rochester, Minn., native is quite happy wearing basketball shoes in her tennis matches.

But against Meng Yuan of China, Mattek displayed a big serve and excellent groundstrokes in a three-set victory, her first in the main draw at the Family Circle Cup.

'She (Mattek) has gotten tough media coverage in the past regarding her attire,' e-mailed Diana Cignavitch, whose family is housing Mattek for the second year. 'What was I like in my early 20s? And I wasn't traveling the world by myself with this type of job. She sports Bebe clothes, and is a delight to be around.'

Chaked out

I was ready to predict that young Russian Anna Chakvetadze was ready to make her first trip to Daniel Island a memorable one. And the next thing I knew, I saw her walking around the grounds with this gloomy look on her face — but not without reason.

Chakvetadze played a sensational second set after dropping the first set to 18-year-old Sorana Cirstea, getting everyone's full attention with wonderful deep groundstrokes and a strong serve. But then Cirstea re-found her hard-hitting game as Chakvetadze lost her focus and started missing badly on important points.

Such was the case when she flew a forehand to give Cirstea match point, then immediately misfired on a backhand to end the match. The way Chakvetadze handled those two points was representative of why she lost the match. That's a shame for a player so talented.

It's those kind of mental and physical flaws that separate the great champions from the good players. Chakvetadze has the potential to take the next step from her current No. 6 world ranking into the top five and beyond.

As for Cirstea, she has good potential because of her youth. But she hits too many balls into the bottom of the net to move into the elite. She needs a lot of gifts from her opponents. The good thing is that she has plenty of time to correct her grip.

Watch Bartoli

Marion Bartoli hits two-handed strokes from both sides in the style of Monica Seles. And at times, they're deadly, especially on serves wide to either side. In her three-set win over Casey Dellacqua on Tuesday, Bartoli came up with consecutive outright cross-court winners on service returns at 15-15 to move to double set point in a 7-5 set.

Of course, it was those kinds of shots that took Bartoli from obscurity to an upset of career Grand Slam-seeker Justine Henin in the semifinals of last summer's Wimbledon after being a set down and trailing 5-3 in the second set.

Two relatively unknown 19-year-olds to keep an eye on are Agnes Szavay of Hungary and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. Both are strong hitters whose groundstrokes are deep and penetrating in the Jennifer Capriati style. Radwanska plays early this afternoon on the Club Court, while Szavay has advanced to Thursday's round of 16 against 2007 runner-up and doubles partner Dinara Safina. The Szavay-Safina battle should be a good one, with the winner having a good shot at making Saturday's semifinals due to Chakvetadze's loss.

(04/15/08)  Charleston is being well represented
Who said Charleston isn't represented in the Family Circle Cup?

Take another look out on the Family Circle Magazine Stadium court between the sets of defending champion Jelena Jankovic's match against Alexandra Stevenson on Wednesday. The odds are that I'On Club pro Joey Eskridge will make an entrance.

Eskridge is serving as Stevenson's on-court coach during this year's Family Circle Cup.

And Stevenson isn't complaining about her second Family Circle main draw victory, and first since 2001.

Sure enough, there was this dude in a dark wind suit and sunglasses out on court No. 4 on Monday between sets of Stevenson's match against Alina Jidkova. Stevenson had taken the first set in a tiebreaker after being up 4-1.

What did you tell her, Joey? "Stay patient ... she's using your pace ... remember the five-ball drill," said Eskridge.

The strategy worked like a charm as Stevenson cruised into a round of 32 match against Jankovic. And this one surely won't be on an outside court. Yes, Stevenson's game is good enough again to be showcased on the stadium court.

It was probably only an oversight by the tournament people that Stevenson played on an outside court in the first round.

The former Wimbledon semifinalist, who had posted a pair of one-sided qualifying tournament victories over the weekend, had fans hanging from the rafters on court No. 4.

She went through a cold period after getting off to a big lead, but thundered back in the tiebreaker behind her big serve.

"It's not that she can't play with Jankovic, but she'll have to stick to her game plan," Eskridge said.

The key for Stevenson so far has been that, "She's not beating herself. And she's so much stronger than the girls she's playing."

The impact of I'On

It all started last week when Stevenson showed up at I'On Club, much like she had arrived across Mathis Ferry Road a year earlier at the Players Club for a week of practice. She didn't get a wild card into qualifying last year, however.

"We went three hours a day all last week," Eskridge said. "When we started out in two-on-one drills, she couldn't beat us, but by the end of the week she was killing us (Eskridge and assistants Timo Siebert and Jason Nius). She made four unforced errors Saturday (in the first round of qualifying in a 6-0, 6-0 victory over a qualifying seed)."

On-court coaching

I was concerned that the WTA Tour might be trying to downplay one of my favorite issues, on-court coaching.

Many of the tour's top stars, led by Justine Henin, have expressed displeasure about the possibility of on-court coaching becoming part of the women's game. The stars obviously were afraid that the presence of coaching during a match might level the playing field.

But there was Maria Sharapova on the TV screen Sunday afternoon, talking with and listening to her coach and hitting partner Michael Joyce between sets of her win over Dominika Cibulkova in the final at Amelia Island.

The stars are starting to come around, I thought.

And, believe me, Sharapova is playing awesome tennis, regardless of the court surface these days. She could win this Family Circle Cup. She's playing that great.

If this she can have a coach on the court, Henin definitely needed one when she was being humiliated by Serena Williams in Miami.

The guidelines now allow coaches to come on the court during changeovers, as long as the visits don't exceed one per set or two for the entire match. On-court appearances had been limited to between sets — or during injury or bathroom breaks by the opponent when visits don't count against the limits.

The on-court coaching issue will come to a head at Wimbledon when it is put to a vote by the WTA Tour.

Until then, Henin might be smart to call longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez out to the court occasionally. Especially if she happens to run into Serena again.

(04/13/08)  Sharapova walkover may help

Maria Sharapova actually is a great clay-court player.

And she has the record to back it up.

She was in last year's French Open semifinals, and now she's playing lights out at Amelia Island. For Sharapova to get a walkover from Lindsay Davenport in Saturday's semifinals at Amelia Island may have been a good break for the Family Circle Cup.

The sudden defections of Venus Williams and Justine Henin the last few days were enough to put Family Circle officials and fans on edge. One less match for Sharapova before she arrives on Daniel Island isn't a bad thing since it lowers her chances of injury.

Now, you just have to hope that if Sharapova wins today's final against 18-year-old Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, she won't think she's had enough practice before heading to Europe.

And what about the possibility of having to face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals? That's not the kind of challenge most players look forward to in a non-major.

Radwanska, who?

It's always nice to hear from other parts of the world and to learn what the internationals are thinking about Americans. But turn the tables. What do Americans think of players from other countries?

An e-mail arrived Saturday from a reader online who claims to be a 'tennis specialist' from the biggest newspaper in Poland, asking, 'What American fans say about Agnieszka Radwanska, what is your opinion of her? What do you think of her chances in Charleston?'

Agnieszka Radwanska? The name wasn't on the tip of my tongue, not with Sharapova and Serena Williams coming our way for the Family Circle Cup. I remember the name, the face and the game. And the good news for Radwanska is that when I pulled out my WTA Tour media guide and came to the 19-year-old's page, its corner was turned down.

That's not a guarantee that Radwanska is a threat to win the Family Circle Cup. But like almost anyone else in the main draw, she is fully capable of going deep. After all, she's the tournament's 11th seed, ranked 16th in the world, has a 14-7 record in Grand Slam tournaments and made the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open.

But can she win on clay? She is 0-1 in her only French Open match.

The one-handers

It's too bad that top-ranked doubles player Cara Black won't be around for today's singles qualifying after losing Saturday. But you can watch this talented player with the nice one-handed backhand playing doubles in the main draw.

A player to watch today is Alexandra Stevenson. Although clay courts aren't her best surface, her one-handed backhand is simply marvelous. After seeing her rout the 11th seed of qualifying, Kumiko Iijima, without giving up a game on Saturday, I can't figure out why Stevenson hasn't fared better in qualifying tournaments.

High school notes

Not only will Wando's powerhouse girls' team that has won four straight Class AAAA state titles start looking a little more beatable next season now that Nos. 1 and 2 Jessica Diamond and Brooke Mosteller are graduating, along with Elizabeth Spelman, freshman Megan Blevins has dropped out of Wando in favor of online schooling. Blevins, who still trains at the Players Club, undoubtedly was the best player in the state last season playing lower than No. 3 singles.

Porter-Gaud assistant tennis coach Ken Weldon is in his last season with the Cyclones. Weldon, who has served as the Porter-Gaud chaplain and assistant rector at St. Philip's Episcopal Church on Church Street for seven years, has accepted the position of rector at St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence.

(04/12/08)  Singles qualifying opens Family Circle Cup
So, what's Cara Black up to this weekend?

Surely, the world's top-ranked doubles player, one who has won $4.5 million playing tennis, has big plans. But this 29-year-old is thinking only about winning a couple of matches in a qualifying tournament to earn a berth in the main singles draw of the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

On the other hand, Nadja Gilchrist is just happy to have a second shot at making the main draw of the big tournament that starts Monday at Family Circle Tennis Center. University of Georgia-bound Gilchrist is in this weekend's qualifying field only because Smash Junior Cup winner Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg couldn't take advantage of her qualifying tournament wild card due to surgery.

Gilchrist, who trains at Hilton Head Island's Smith-Stearns Academy, was runner-up to Cecil in the tournament once known as the Junior Family Circle Cup. The big-hitting Gilchrist is the No. 3 junior in the nation. She will play her first qualifying match today against Mexico's Melissa Torres Sandoval in the third match on court No. 3, where play starts at noon.

Black is at the top of her doubles game, having won Wimbledon and Australian Open titles in 2007 with Liezel Huber and also owns a pair of Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns.

Part of the well-known Black tennis family of Zimbabwe, Black will begin the task of qualifying for the singles main draw about 3 p.m. today on the club court against American Angela Haynes.

The 32-draw qualifying tournament will start at 10 a.m. on the club court.

Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak is the top seed in qualifying, followed by Julia Schruff of Germany.

American wild cards

The Family Circle Cup awarded wild cards into next week's main draw to Americans Vania King, Ahsha Rolle and Bethanie Mattek.

Today's Matches

Althea Gibson Club Court
Starting at 10 A.M.
Vanessa Henke (GER) vs. Tiantian Sun (CHN)
Followed by
Alison Riske (USA) vs. Alexa Glatch (USA)
Mirjana Lucic (CRO) vs. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy (NED)
Not before 3 p.m.
Cara Black (ZIM) vs. Angela Haynes (USA)

Court 3
Starting at Noon
Alexandra Stevenson (USA) vs. Kumiko Iijima (JPN)
Nadja Gilchrist (USA) vs. Melissa Torres-Sandoval (MEX)

Court 4
Starting at Noon
Chia-Jung Chuang (TPE) vs. Akiko Yonemura (JPN)
Janette Husarova (SVK) vs. Chanelle Scheepers (RSA)

Family Circle Cup Qualifying
WHEN: Today (10 a.m.), Sunday
WHERE: Family Circle Tennis Center
FACTS: 32-player draw; final eight players will receive berths in $1.34 million Family Circle Cup, which starts Monday.

(04/11/08)  Knee injury forces Henin to pull out
The world's top-ranked Justine Henin became the second former champion and top 10 player in two days on Thursday to withdraw from next week's 35th anniversary Family Circle Cup.

Henin's official withdrawal listed an inflamed right knee as the reason.

"I'm disappointed I will not be able to play the Family Circle Cup this year, as it's one of my favorite stops on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour with some of the most supportive fans," Henin said. "Unfortunately I have some pain in the right knee that requires some rest. I really hope to be back in Charleston next year."

Henin, who has won seven Grand Slam titles including two last year, captured titles on Daniel Island in 2003 and 2005.

But for the second year in a row, Henin's departure from the Family Circle Cup entry list came on the heels of a demoralizing defeat at the hands Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

"It is unfortunate that Justine will have to miss this year's Cup, but our player field is incredibly strong with the perfect blend of seasoned veterans and up and coming stars," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

A year ago, it was in the Miami final after Henin could see the finish line against Williams, but faltered. This time, it was a 6-2, 6-0 loss that kept Serena rolling toward a second straight Miami title.

The Henin defection came one day after sixth-ranked Venus Williams pulled out of the $1.34 million women's tennis tournament citing a medical issue.

Venus won the Family Circle in 2004 and had been slated to play the feature singles match in Tuesday night's anniversary celebration at Family Circle Magazine Stadium. That perk will now go to Venus' little sister, Serena.

"Coming off her recent victory in Miami, Serena will enter this year's Cup with some great momentum and we are delighted that she will be a part of our marquee singles match during our special 35th anniversary kick-off celebration," Reynolds said.

Henin's departure leaves five top 10 players in the main draw that starts Monday. Reigning champion Jelena Jankovic (3) is the highest-ranked player left, followed by Maria Sharapova (5), Anna Chakvetadze (7), Elena Dementieva (8) and Serena Williams (9).

(04/11/08)  Family ties: Area teams led by a band of brothers (Friday)
Family connections are playing a major role in this spring's boys' high school tennis season. Four sets of brothers are leading the way for the area's top teams, and Porter-Gaud's Hoy brothers are among the best.

Seventh-grader Payne Hoy is unbeaten at No. 6 after arriving at Porter-Gaud this school year from Charleston Day, while sophomore Connor Hoy usually plays a couple of notches higher in the lineup. The Cyclones have lost only once, to defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Pinewood Prep.

The Elliget boys, Adam and J.T., are among Pinewood Prep's stars. Then, there's Zac and Micah Dye. The Dyes played last year for Pinewood and are now paying big dividends for High School League Region 7-AAAA power Berkeley.

If that's not enough, the Heffrons, unbeatens Randall and Walker, are shining for undefeated Class AA threat Bishop England, which handed Pinewood Prep its only two losses this season.

Coach Tom Higgins' Porter-Gaud team is looking ahead to an April 18 home match against Pinewood Prep en route to possibly reclaiming the state championship trophy. The Cyclones had won the title five of the previous six years before losing in last year's SCISA semifinals to Hilton Head Prep.

"I hope we can beat Pinewood next time," Connor said. He lost at No. 4 singles in the teams' first meeting, while Payne won at No. 6.

Connor Hoy is happy to have his little brother on the team. "It's something we can share together," he said.

"I enjoy this a lot more than junior tournament play ... the camaraderie ... I like that we can cheer for our teammates."

Connor's 5-10 height also comes in handy on the basketball court, where he plays for the Porter-Gaud junior varsity. But tennis has been high on his agenda since he was 4 years old, when his mother started him playing. The family lives near Creekside Tennis and Swim in Mount Pleasant, so it's never a problem getting to the tennis courts. "I could walk," he said.

Payne was the tennis star of the family right off the bat when he won the boys' 10 title at Belton's prestigious Palmetto Championships. "I used to play a lot of tournaments," the 13-year-old Payne said.

"I've been playing for a really long time and have a lot of experience. My brother was already playing, and my mom wanted both of us to play. I like high school tennis a lot more than middle school tennis. It's more fun."

Payne thinks the Cyclones can play better than they did in their 6-3 loss at Pinewood Prep.

"I think we have a good chance next time. We didn't play our fullest last time," he said.

Senior Richard Pearce, the Cyclones' No. 1 player, and Payne notched the only singles victories for the Cyclones in that first meeting with Pinewood.

But as far as advancing to the state playoffs, the results of the two teams' next meeting won't affect anything but the seeding in the SCISA state playoffs. Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud are the lone tennis schools in Region I and both are locks to participate in the state playoffs.

(04/10/08)  Justine Henin withdraws from Family Circle Cup
It's like a virus that's spreading for next week's Family Circle Cup. World's top-ranked Justine Henin became the second former champion and top 10 player in two days on Thursday to withdraw from the Daniel Island event's 35th anniversary tournament.

Henin's official withdrawal listed an inflamed right knee as the reason. But for the second year in a row, Henin's departure from the Family Circle Cup entry list came on the heels of a demoralizing defeat by Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Miami. A year ago, it was in the Miami final after Henin could see the finish line against Williams, but faltered. This time, it was last week's humiliating 6-2, 6-0 loss that kept Serena rolling toward a second straight Miami title.

The Henin defection came one day after sixth-ranked Venus Williams pulled out of the Family Circle citing a medical issue. Venus won the Family Circle in 2004,

Henin, who has seven Grand Slam titles including two last year, won titles here in 2003 and 2005.

(04/10/08)  Patience has payoff for Serena
Serena Williams has learned the secret of winning with patience.

Serena is so powerful and athletic that she doesn't have to gamble on big shots to beat just about any player in the world. Her north-south game at medium tempo can generate enough offense and pace to make her nearly unbeatable on hard surfaces. And she always has the most dangerous serve in the women's game waiting for the knockout punch.

The clay courts of the Family Circle Cup might not work out as well for Serena as the hard courts of Miami, but barring serious or nagging injuries, 2008 should be a great year for her. Of course, that's if she plays a regular schedule and maintains or improves on her current level of physical fitness.

The new men's threat

Nikolay Davydenko brings a new threat to men's tennis. The Russian has had the game to beat almost anyone for the last couple of years, but he hasn't had the will to win matches against players such as Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal. He apparently has found that will, judging by his play against Nadal in the Miami final and victory over Roddick in the semifinals.

As if Federer didn't already have enough competition, you can add Davydenko to the list of players now capable of beating Federer on any given day on any surface. Davydenko's inside-out cross-court forehand has become a serious weapon. He has no real weakness from the baseline. He hits winners from all angles with a more natural rhythm than even the great Federer. Add that to his incredible quickness, and Davydenko may spoil the party at the top of tennis in 2008, especially if he has his head on straight.
Cremins fired up

Bobby Cremins is all fired up. No, not over Davidson's near-miss on the Final Four. The College of Charleston men's basketball coach can't wait to take on all comers in the second Cremins Tennis Challenge scheduled for May 2-3 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Cremins, his wife Carolyn and son Bobby III led a four-player team to last year's title by a mere point.

The event, which raises scholarship funds for all C of C athletics, raised $33,000 last year, according to Cougar Club assistant director Davin Wise.

"It doubled our main fundraiser, the Cow Bingo," said Wise. "We're looking for 20 teams this year ... last year we had nine."

Play will begin on May 2 at 4 p.m., followed by a cocktail reception (free for participants, $50 for guests) that night. The tournament will resume the next morning after legendary tennis pro Stan Smith conducts a clinic at 9 (Contact Wise at 953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu.). Coburg Dairy is the title sponsor for the event.

Tri-Level champs

Charleston players Anna Stanley and Melinda Lewin won the 3.5 division in the recent Pacific Life Open Tri-Level Championships that were held in Indian Wells, Calif., at the same time as the ATP/WTA tournaments. Stanley and Lewin went 4-0 in the competition.

Overall, the Charleston team that was captained by Gene Owens and also included Sherry Atkinson, Betty Randolph, Joanne Terrell and Kristin Whitehead took second place in the Tri-Level event. The competition featured 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 doubles teams.

Quickstart introduced

Registration for Kids Team Tennis that will use the USTA's new Quickstart format, which uses smaller courts, smaller rackets and special balls, is now available for beginner level players 5-10 years old. Kids Team Tennis will run April 25-June 7.

USTA national trainer of the year Mike Carter will be at Charleston Tennis Center on April 26 from 1-4 p.m. to conduct a training session for the Quickstart format for beginner players. Registration is required. Contact program director Joyce Arrington (442-4871) or go to www.lowcountryjuniortennis.org. Quickstart clinics also will be featured at the Family Circle Cup's kids day on April 16 from 4-6:30 p.m.

  Williams withdraws from playing in Family Circle Cup for a 'checkup'

Venus Williams isn't on a hiatus from the WTA Tour. She's just not going to play in next week's Family Circle Cup because of a medical issue, her agent told The Post and Courier on Wednesday.

"Physically, she's fine," agent Carlos Fleming said from Miami. "She told me she has no major problem."
Venus Williams play in next week's Family Circle Cup because of a medical issue.

Williams, a six-time Grand Slam tournament winner and currently ranked sixth in the world, had pulled out of the Amelia Island, Fla., WTA Tour tournament on Tuesday, citing medical issues.

"I regret that I will not be participating in the Family Circle Cup next week," Williams said Wednesday.

"I always enjoy coming to Charleston, especially since I've won the tournament in the past and this year marks their special 35th anniversary."

But because of a heavy schedule of tennis events that include three Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympics in the next five months, Fleming said Williams needed a break for medical checkups and tests to make sure she is fit for the demanding schedule.

"It's a function of any professional athlete that they have to be checked up. You have to make sure you are physically ready to play and are healthy. There is no specific medical concern," Fleming said.

The agent said Williams would appear in Charleston on Monday for an autograph session to promote her new exclusive line of clothing, EleVen, as well as make an appearance at the Family Circle Cup probably on Tuesday.

"It's unfortunate that Venus was forced to withdraw due to illness, and we wish her a quick return to the tour," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

Williams had been scheduled to play the feature singles match Tuesday night at Family Circle Magazine Stadium as part of the tournament's 35th anniversary celebration. Another marquee player for Tuesday night's schedule is expected to be announced soon, but Fleming indicated that Serena Williams may be that player.

Fleming said Venus Williams plans to resume practicing late next week after returning from Charleston, then play in the Italian Open on May 12.

"She's played eight tournament weeks this year on five continents ... two of those were two-week tournaments," Fleming said. "Playing all of those different matches all over the world, she had to make sure her body was OK."

(04/09/08)  Oh, So Pretty Good; Sharapova returns to Daniel Island as a star
Family Circle Cup fans probably don't remember a great deal about Maria Sharapova's lone appearance on Daniel Island. Only the loud grunts that later became as much of her trademark as her overpowering serve and groundstrokes. Playing on an outside court in the 2003 qualifying rounds, the Russian teenager could be heard all over Family Circle Tennis Center.

When she lost in the first round of the main draw, the name Maria Sharapova didn't mean much to the tennis world at the time. But by Wimbledon's fourth round a few months later, opposing players already were beginning to make their own noise about Sharapova's grunts.

A year later, she had made her mark on the game by winning Wimbledon as a 17-year-old. Now just over a week before her 21th birthday, she needs only a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.

That obviously was on Sharapova's mind last week when she gave the Family Circle's 35th anniversary party the best present anyone could have imagined by entering the tournament. A little practice on clay, or maybe even a lot considering that Sharapova has a 16-5 record at Roland Garros and made last year's French Open semifinals after twice advancing to the quarterfinals, could be a good thing for Sharapova in her quest for Paris glory.

The clay here is green, while in Paris it's red. But basically it's the same game.

Sharapova won this year's Australian Open and she was unbeaten for 2008 until she fell to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova last month in the semifinals at Indian Wells. A shoulder injury prevented Sharapova from competing in Miami. Entering Charleston looked like a good substitution.

She'll know more about that very soon. At the very least, she'll get to practice her world-class grunt.

(04/09/08)  The One to Beat: Top-ranked Henin gunning for her third Family Circle Cup title
Mention the Family Circle Cup, and Justine Henin always seems to be ready to return. By the same token, she is always ready to win, even when she is down and faces what might appear to be insurmountable odds. Opponents recognize this first in Henin. She doesn't like to lose.

Just when you think the Belgian star might be ready to surrender, she comes up with some of the biggest shots ever seen coming off the racket of a 5-5,

125-pound woman.

Henin always includes the Family Circle Cup on her schedule - or, at least, since 2003 when she surprised the tennis world with her domination of then unbeatable-looking Serena

Williams on the clay surface inside Family

Circle Magazine Stadium. Henin has been entered in the Family Circle Cup every year since, although she pulled out in 2004 and 2007 because of illness or injuries.

Henin's love affair with the prestigious Daniel Island women's tournament started in 2003 and continued in 2005, when she defeated Elena Dementieva in the final. The next year, Henin tasted her first Family Circle loss after 14 victories when she surrendered to Patty Schnyder's left-handed spin in a memorable three-set semifinal in which Henin won the first set.

In a time when the tour's veteran players are falling by the wayside or don't play a full schedule, Henin keeps turning back obstacles. She always seems to be waiting to return to the friendly green clay of Charleston and red clay of Paris.

After making every Grand Slam final in 2006, she captured her third straight and fourth overall French Open title last year as well as won the U.S. Open. With seven Grand Slam titles, she is missing only a Wimbledon crown in her quest for a career Grand Slam. She appeared to be well on her way to adding that elusive title last summer when she rolled to a 6-1 first-set victory over Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon semifinals, only to lose the next two sets.

Henin posted a 63-4 record in 2007, winning 10 titles in just 14 tournaments, and earned a record $5.4 million to pad her career winnings to more than $19 million.

The 25-year-old Belgian is the indisputable No. 1 player in the world, even after winning only two games off Serena Williams on April 1 in Miami.

(04/09/08)  The One to Beat: Top-ranked Henin gunning for her third Family Circle Cup title
Mention the Family Circle Cup, and Justine Henin always seems to be ready to return. By the same token, she is always ready to win, even when she is down and faces what might appear to be insurmountable odds. Opponents recognize this first in Henin. She doesn't like to lose.

Just when you think the Belgian star might be ready to surrender, she comes up with some of the biggest shots ever seen coming off the racket of a 5-5,

125-pound woman.

Henin always includes the Family Circle Cup on her schedule - or, at least, since 2003 when she surprised the tennis world with her domination of then unbeatable-looking Serena

Williams on the clay surface inside Family

Circle Magazine Stadium. Henin has been entered in the Family Circle Cup every year since, although she pulled out in 2004 and 2007 because of illness or injuries.

Henin's love affair with the prestigious Daniel Island women's tournament started in 2003 and continued in 2005, when she defeated Elena Dementieva in the final. The next year, Henin tasted her first Family Circle loss after 14 victories when she surrendered to Patty Schnyder's left-handed spin in a memorable three-set semifinal in which Henin won the first set.

In a time when the tour's veteran players are falling by the wayside or don't play a full schedule, Henin keeps turning back obstacles. She always seems to be waiting to return to the friendly green clay of Charleston and red clay of Paris.

After making every Grand Slam final in 2006, she captured her third straight and fourth overall French Open title last year as well as won the U.S. Open. With seven Grand Slam titles, she is missing only a Wimbledon crown in her quest for a career Grand Slam. She appeared to be well on her way to adding that elusive title last summer when she rolled to a 6-1 first-set victory over Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon semifinals, only to lose the next two sets.

Henin posted a 63-4 record in 2007, winning 10 titles in just 14 tournaments, and earned a record $5.4 million to pad her career winnings to more than $19 million.

The 25-year-old Belgian is the indisputable No. 1 player in the world, even after winning only two games off Serena Williams on April 1 in Miami.

(04/09/08)  Formula for Success: Family Circle Cup has been introducing young talent to the women's tennis world for 35 years
Were you there when Monica Seles finally arrived at the Family Circle Cup? Or when Steffi Graf warmed up for tennis' last calendar Grand Slam? Of course, you can't talk about the Family Circle Cup without bringing up Chris Evert's name. She won five straight times en route to a record eight Family Circle titles.

Now, 35 years after Rosie Casals started the tradition at Sea Pines Plantation by winning the inaugural Family Circle Cup in 1973, the tournament continues to blossom every spring.

While the memories flourish, the Family Circle Cup has been the grandest and the longest running of any major non-Grand Slam tournament played on American soil. The Family Circle Cup has been a synopsis of women's tennis for more than three decades. Almost all of the great players of this time period, arguably the best in history for the game, have showcased their talent before Family Circle Cup fans.

The Daniel Island years have been especially special. The seven tournaments here have taken on a life of their own as the event has been staged in its own complex and world-class stadium.

Yet, the early years gave the tournament the foundation for almost unmatched long-term success. Other tournaments came and went. But the Family Circle Cup was there every spring, keeping women's tennis in sharp focus for American fans. It was the single event before the French Open that attracted the eyes of the entire tennis world.

Seles was near the end of her great career when she finally played in the Family Circle Cup in 1997, four years after being stabbed by a fan during a tournament in Hamburg, Germany.

Delivering shots from both sides, Seles appeared to be on the verge of setting new heights for women's tennis in the early 1990s, when she won seven of the eight Grand Slams in which she competed.

Although Seles was no longer the feared player of her earlier years when she arrived on Hilton Head Island, she advanced all the way to the final where she engaged a 16-year-old Martina Hingis in probably the tournament's greatest final. These two great champions fought the wind and each other for three sets and then some before Hingis finally prevailed, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

FCC has been introducing young talent to the world

Seles became possibly the greatest player of this era to never win the Family Circle Cup. Serena Williams can still escape that label as she approaches the narrow path at the end of a career.

Surely, no one can forget Graf, who broke Evert's stranglehold on the Family Circle Cup by winning titles in 1986 and 1987. A year later, Graf missed the Family Circle Cup, but that was about the only thing the hard-hitting German missed as she swept all four Grand Slam tournaments, the only time that has happened since 1970. Graf was the opposite of the ever-consistent Evert with her two-handed backhand. Graf brought power to the court in the form of huge serves and forehands in a game completed by a unique one-handed slice backhand.

Who could forget the great Martina Navratilova when she first showed up at Hilton Head Island in 1975. Navratilova immediately used her aggressive style of play to charge to the 1975 final where she lost to Evert. Navratilova waited until her fifth appearance to win her first of four titles.

And what about the little girl in ponytails. Tracy Austin. Light enough to be blown away by a stiff wind, Austin swept into Sea Pines and won back-to-back Family Circle Cups in 1979-80, ending Evert's string of consecutive championships. Austin appeared to be almost frail on the court. But she would practically wear a tennis ball out with her looping two-handed backhands. She won her first Cup title at age 16, helping the tournament establish its tradition of consistently introducing young talent to the world.

Of course, there was Gabriela Sabatini, perhaps the all-time fan favorite of the Family Circle Cup. Sabatini came out of nowhere as a 14-year-old in 1985 to reach the tournament final. Evert won her last Family Circle that year, but Sabatini later won back-to-back titles in 1991 and '92.

Anna Kournikova made her Cup debut in 1999, drawing a huge crowd in an early-week night match and staying around until the final as the tournament set an attendance record that still stands.

A year later, power-hitting Mary Pierce was about as perfect as anyone has ever been in the Family Circle Cup as she completely overwhelmed gritty Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the final and lost only 12 games in five matches.

The first Family Circle final on Daniel Island was special. In 2001, Hingis already had two titles under her belt, but Jennifer Capriati was making a huge comeback. Capriati's controlled power wore the smaller, lighter-hitting Hingis down.

Serena Williams had her chance in the 2003 Family Circle, but Justine Henin gave tennis fans a glimpse of the future by using her sensational one-handed backhand to practically slice her heavily favored opponent into submission.

One match stands out above all of the others on Daniel Island. In last April's semifinals, eventual champion Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams matched wits for three sets and more, much like the Hingis-Seles final in 1997. It was only fitting that the scores of these two great matches were identical.

(04/06/08)  Federer's skills intact but confidence shaky

It appears that almost any top player is capable of beating Roger Federer these days. Even Andy Roddick.

I'm kidding, but not surprised. Any top player should be able to beat any other player on a given day. Federer had been different the last four years. Now, he simply isn't the player he has been. Oh, he can still make incredible shots, come up with awesome serves and look invincible — at times, but not all of the time as he did during his amazing string of successes.

He still has the same skills and same great artistry. And he says he's the same player and nothing has changed. But it has. Mononucleosis not only weakened this great player, but altered his confidence. The true fate of Roger Federer's legacy rests in his mind.

But bless Roddick's heart. He gives it his all, even if he did let Nikolay Davydenko sneak up on him after his conquest of Federer at Miami. You can count on Roddick playing with enormous passion again next weekend when the USA takes on France in Winston-Salem, N.C., in the Davis Cup.

A hit and miss

Fox Sports South's expanded entry into pro tennis produced one hit and one miss in the broadcast booth. Chanda Rubin is a definite threat to Mary Joe Fernandez as women's tennis' best TV analyst. Rubin is already ahead of Mary Carillo and Pam Shriver.

Rubin has excellent analytical skills. When she talks, she has something to say. And her delivery is good, always maintaining control, never becoming a fan.

She appears to have a better grasp of the players' games and what's really happening than the others. Now 32, the Lafayette, La., native was still listed among the players in the WTA guide as recently as 2006.

One comment Rubin made during Serena Williams' three-set comeback win over Svetlana Kuznetsova Thursday was especially enlightening, although not surprising to most tennis fans who have become dismayed by the rash of injury timeouts and withdrawals by the top pros. As the trainer treated Williams' back while Serena trailed 4-1 in the first set, Rubin said Kuznetsova "doesn't know if it's legitimate or not."

And the miss? Justin Gimelstob appears to be a little too close to the players, probably because he played on the ATP Tour as recently as last year. He can't be a ham on the air with the players and still maintain his relevancy. The 31-year-old chatters far too much while misfiring more often than he hits on his analyses. Of course, this weekend's men's and women's finals in Miami are being carried by CBS rather than FSN.

Stay healthy, Maria

Just when everyone thought Maria Sharapova was a lock to stay healthy until she arrived on Daniel Island for the Family Circle Cup, the Russian beauty signs up with the Amelia Island, Fla., tournament that starts Monday. Family Circle officials and fans alike will keep their fingers crossed for the next week that Sharapova avoids another injury.

The Amelia Island event also has several other Family Circle top entries, mainly Venus Williams, Anna Chakvetadze, Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and Dinara Safina. Also, Family Circle entry Elena Dementieva retired with a back injury during a loss to Jelena Jankovic in Miami and is no longer scheduled to play Amelia Island. But no news is good news for the Family Circle Cup now that Sharapova is in the field.

Local notes
College of Charleston men's basketball coach Bobby Cremins will serve as host for the Cremins Tennis Challenge May 2-3 at Family Circle Tennis Center to raise money for the Cougar Club's scholarship fund. Contact Cougar Club assistant director Davin Wise (953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu.

Another "Battle of James Island" is set for May 17. This rivalry pits the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club in team competition. The entry deadline is May 15. Contact Country Club tennis director Lee Brockman (ccctennis@comcast.net).

(04/02/08)  Why not bring ATP event here?

Now that Maria Sharapova's coming, what about the boys?

Not at the same time, of course. The Family Circle Cup doesn't need any guys to share Sharapova's stage.

And although no one has indicated that Daniel Island has the slightest chance of stealing the ATP Tour's Tennis Channel Open from Las Vegas, the question remains: why not?

After several poorly attended events in Las Vegas, that tournament appears to be headed elsewhere. Let's hope not to South Africa or some other foreign country as rumors have it.

Early March in Charleston might be too chilly for the tough ATP Tour guys. This year's Las Vegas tournament was held March 3-9. And the timing may be a little too close to the early-to-mid April Family Circle Cup.

There's the clay-court issue as well. Las Vegas is hard courts. The guys probably wouldn't want to play on clay right before the super Indian Wells and Miami events on hard courts. But why not have an American clay-court season for a couple of tournaments? The ATP Tour surely could alter its schedule and put the U.S. Clay Courts and the Las Vegas replacement in back-to-back weeks.

The word is that the ATP Tour wants to buy the Las Vegas event from the Tennis Channel and move it out of the country. Of course, our USTA owns a $6 million stake in the Tennis Channel, which makes you think this sale might not go through.

Oh, well, we can always hope that the U.S. Clay Courts finally leave Houston and head back home to Charleston. Holding a combined men's and women's event at the same time would be a big, but maybe manageable task for the Family Circle Tennis Center. But the Family Circle Cup is all about women . . . and, right now, Maria Sharapova.

Serena dominance

What is it about Serena Williams at Miami when she's facing Justine Henin?

Remember, last year Henin shut out Serena in the first set of the final and practically had the match won, only to allow Serena to come back and win. That one really hit home for the 2007 Family Circle Cup when, during the post-match press conference, Henin announced that she was pulling out of Charleston.

Henin's 6-2, 6-0 loss to Serena on Tuesday must have been even more painful to the tiny Belgian. Let's hope it doesn't have the same effect as last year's loss.

Women's tickets

If you're interested in the half-price women's tickets for the April 15 Girls Night Out by The Post and Courier at the Family Circle Cup, call the Family Circle box office (800-677-2293) and mention the discount.

College update
--Toby Simpson's Citadel team, which not long ago was trying to snap out of a 20-match losing streak, has had a reversal of fortune, just the opposite of the College of Charleston men (6-13, 1-6) as the two teams head into today's 2 p.m. confrontation at Patriots Point. While the Cougars have lost seven of their last eight matches, The Citadel (13-9, 3-3) has become one of the Southern Conference's better teams.  After today, C of C will play at Lees-McRae on Friday and Appalachian State on Saturday. The Citadel will take on SoCon rival Georgia Southern on Friday at 2 p.m. at Earle Tennis Center.
--The C of C women (18-2, 5-0) have a huge weekend planned, playing three SoCon matches on the road Friday-Sunday against Wofford, perennial power Furman and Appalachian State.
--Charleston Southern's women (9-6-1, 4-1) have a rescheduled home match next Tuesday against Big South Conference rival Coastal Carolina. The CSU men (11-7, 4-2) will play at Clemson on Sunday.

(04/02/08)  Sharapova adds even more star power to Family Circle Cup

The Family Circle Cup received a pleasant surprise Tuesday when Maria Sharapova announced she would play in its 35th anniversary tournament April 12-20 on Daniel Island.

Miami's loss appears to be Charleston's gain in that Sharapova was sitting out the current Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and was looking for a tournament to play before heading to Europe for the clay-court season. There was hardly anything else available other than next week's smaller clay-court event at Amelia Island, Fla.

Sharapova chose the $1.34 million Tier I Family Circle Cup, which now has seven of the world's top 10 players.

Sharapova, the world's fifth-ranked player and current Australian Open champion, decided to skip the Miami event after suffering a shoulder injury in a semifinal loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova two weeks ago at Indian Wells.

"After getting some much-needed rest for both my shoulder and my body, I now feel in great shape both mentally and physically to get back on the court," Sharapova said. "The Family Circle Cup has such a solid reputation on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and I'm excited to start my clay-court season in Charleston."

Sharapova only needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam at her young age. She will turn 21 on April 19, or the semifinal date of the clay-court Family Circle Cup. She won Wimbledon in 2004 and the U.S. Open in 2006.

This will be Sharapova's second appearance on Daniel Island. She first appeared here in 2003, losing in the first round after earning a main draw berth in qualifying. The news of Sharapova's entry this year came one day

earlier in April than her withdrawal from the Family Circle Cup in 2007 on the heels of a 6-1, 6-1 loss to Serena Williams in the round of 16 at Miami.

"Maria Sharapova is one of the most exciting and talented players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and her addition to our 35th anniversary celebration makes this year's event one of the best ever," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

The Family Circle Cup now has 10 of the top 13 players in the world entered, including top 10 players Justine Henin (1), defending champion Jelena Jankovic (3), Anna Chakvetadze (6), Venus Williams (7), Serena Williams (8) and Marion Bartoli (9).

The only top 10 players missing from the Family Circle entry list are Ana Ivanovic (2), Kuznetsova (4) and Daniela Hantuchova (9).

Petrova withdraws

The Family Circle Cup also announced that 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (17) has withdrawn due to a strained right quadriceps injury that forced her to retire in Miami against Zheng Jie while holding a 2-1 lead in a second-round match.

Also, No. 14 Tatiana Golovin has withdrawn from the Family Circle Cup due to recent surgery.

(04/01/08)  Sharapova to play in Family Circle Cup
The Family Circle Cup's star-studded field got even brighter today when the WTA Tour announced that Maria Sharapova has entered the 35th anniversary event scheduled for April 12-20 on Daniel Island.

The world's fifth-ranked player and winner of this year's Australian Open, Sharapova is currently idle and may have been looking for a tournament to play before heading to Europe for the clay-court season. She was forced to withdraw from the hard-court Sony Ericsson Open in Miami after suffering a shoulder injury in a semifinal loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova two weeks ago at Indian Wells.

Sharapova needs only a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. She will turn 21 on April 19, or the semifinal date of the clay-court Family Circle Cup.

This will be Sharapova's second appearance in the Family Circle Cup. She first played here in 2003, losing in the first round after earning a main draw berth in qualifying. She was scheduled to play here last year but withdrew because of an injury.

The Family Circle Cup now has 10 of the top 13 players in the world entered, including top 10 players Justine Henin (1), defending champion Jelena Jankovic (3), Anna Chakvetadze (6), Venus Williams (7), Serena Williams (8) and Marion Bartoli (9).

The only top 10 players missing from the Family Circle entry list are Ana Ivanovic (2), Kuznetsova (4) and Daniela Hantuchova (9).

The Family Circle Cup also announced that 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (17) has withdrawn due to an injury.

(03/30/08)  Replay still a work in progress
While instant replay has taken chair umpires and lines people off the hot seat and reduced some of the tension between them and the players on main stadium courts, the implementation of the electronic gimmickry hasn't been perfect.

How fair is it to have instant replays on the stadium court, but not on other courts? Even in TV coverage, fans can be left puzzled when the cameras switch courts. And the players appear at times to not know what's going on.

But the real debate is over the challenge limit. Players appear to be so afraid of using up their challenges before a set's decisive games arrive that they become overly conservative. Why should players have to worry about whether they have enough challenges left to question a call, especially when they are receiving so little help from chair umpires, who should be calling for replays themselves on some obvious misses?

The challenge system was designed for TV, not for the players. Yet, it appears to be TV time that's curtailing a broader use of the challenging system.

I think the challenge limit should be removed entirely. The abuses probably would be minimal. Nothing embarrasses a player more than to make a couple of bad challenges in front of TV cameras in large stadiums.

Some players also are reluctant to challenge. It's just not in their demeanor to openly challenge calls.

And that might be the answer to this entire scenario. Don't make the players challenge. Instead, place the pressure of challenging calls squarely on the shoulders of chair umpires. Make it their responsibility to request instant replays, rather than just overruling calls or no-calls.

If instant replays are available, use them. Don't limit them to just a few times in each set. Otherwise, don't use them at all. If two bad calls on one point can go against the same player, as they did against Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells in his match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, certainly there are multiple times more bad calls than the ones that are challenged.

As it currently exists, the instant replay system needs to be fine-tuned.

Local notes
--Now that Angelo Anastopoulo has his 300th victory as the College of Charleston women's coach out of the way, the Cougars (16-2, 4-0) can focus on the Southern Conference race. They'll take on SoCon contender Davidson today at noon at Patriots Point.
--The seventh annual Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament is scheduled for Friday-Sunday at Summerville's Azalea Park courts. The entry deadline is Wednesday. Call 830-5351.
--College of Charleston men's basketball coach Bobby Cremins will serve as host for the Cremins Tennis Challenge May 2-3 at Family Circle Tennis Center to raise money for the Cougar Club's scholarship fund. Contact Cougar Club assistant director Davin Wise (953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu.
--Registration for league tennis' mixed doubles league is under way. Teams are required to have at least three viable partnerships signed up by April 21 to qualify for participation in the league.
--Snee Farm Country Club will hold the year's first of its popular Grand Prix events April 24-27. Contact Snee Farm tennis director Christy Cherry (884-3253 or christy.cherry@sneefarmcc.com).
--The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association is currently accepting nominations for its junior scholarship program. Adults can submit nominations by April 30 by going online to www.caltatennis.net. Nominees are limited to junior girls currently living and playing tennis in the Charleston area. Contact scholarship committee head Pamela Doggett (557-1179).

(03/28/08)  Venus Williams highlights FCC 35th anniversary event

Venus Williams will highlight the Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary kickoff celebration on April 15, by playing the feature match of an evening that will include the introduction of the entire main draw for the April 12-20 tournament on Daniel Island.

Hall of Fame columnist/announcer Bud Collins will introduce the players in the main draw, which includes 10 of the world's top 14 players.

Defending champion Jelena Jankovic, two-time champion Justine Henin and Serena Williams will join Venus in headlining the field.

Venus Williams became a local favorite in 2004 when she won the tournament in her first try.

She has won six Grand Slam singles titles, including four at Wimbledon where she prevailed again last year.

"Venus is a superstar athlete, an exciting clothing designer, and she has a huge fan base here in Charleston, so it's fitting that we showcase the talents of this former Family Circle Cup champion at our 35th anniversary kickoff event," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

Main draw competition will begin on April 14, but April 15 will offer the first night session of the Family Circle Cup.

The April 15th night session is billed as "Girls Night Out" and will be presented by The Post and Courier. Tickets will be half price for all women that evening.

After Collins introduces the players, a commemorative video will take a look back at the Family Circle Cup. The evening's activities will include a performance by the Burke High School marching band, and presentation of colors by The Citadel Color Guard in a special salute to the country's military men and women.

The Family Circle Cup will cap off the evening with its first-ever fireworks display. The schedule will begin at 6 p.m. in the 10,200-seat Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

(03/27/08)  Lupus organization planning fundraising gala on Saturday
While lupus affects mostly women, it is an incurable illness that can attack anyone, even athletic young men who might otherwise appear to be immune to such a disease.

The nonprofit Greater Charleston Leads organization is fighting lupus this week by staging a benefit Saturday evening at the Hibernian Hall on Meeting Street. The Galalupus benefit is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and dinner. Tickets for the black-tie event are available at www.ticketalternative.com (search Galalupus) or by e-mail to galalupus@yahoo.com.

"Galalupus is a benefit for anyone who has lupus, knows someone who has lupus or simply wants to help find a cure for a disease that affects millions of people," said Courtney Parades, the president of Greater Charleston Leads, a local Leads chapter.

About 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with lupus.

Mark Hodgin was an outstanding junior tennis player when he was diagnosed with the disease. One of the reasons Hodgin chose to play tennis for the College of Charleston was because of the school's proximity to his doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina. Despite the illness, Hodgin started from 1980-83 for the Cougars at Nos. 2-4, compiling a winning record each season.

"I don't recall Mark ever missing a match because of his illness," said Billy Silcox, the former College of Charleston tennis coach who coached Hodgin. "He was an amazing young man. You would never know he had lupus from the way he played."

Hodgin died in his 20s, but the South Carolina Tennis Association recognized the Sumter native for his courageous fight against the illness. The Mark Hodgin Sportsmanship Awards are now given annually to a boy and a girl by USTA South Carolina, recognizing that no one is immune to lupus, although the illness generally affects women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.

Lauren Newton, the vice president of philanthropy for Greater Charleston Leads, is personally aware of the dangers of the disease. Her younger sister, Clemson senior Mary Lake Newton, has lupus.

All proceeds will be donated to MUSC for lupus research. The event also will include dancing and music by the band Permanent Vacation. Contact Parades (364-6963 or finievents@gmail.com) or Newton (532-3042 or greatercharlestonleads@gmail.com).

For tickets, contact www.ticket alternative.com (search Galalupus) or by e-mail to galalupus@yahoo.com.

(03/27/08)  Freshman from Slovenia top tennis player at CSU

Recruiting foreign tennis players, sight unseen, is a risky proposition. But such recruitments often turn out well.

Grega Teraz and Charleston Southern look like a perfect fit. The 5-11, 180-pound freshman from Slovenia already is one of the Bucs' top players. And a flashy one at that.

CSU coach Mike Baker is quite lucky to land such a talented player. Teraz just as easily could have ended up at any of a number of big-time colleges.

"Georgia Tech offered me a scholarship, but my SAT was 10 points too low, and it was too late to take the SAT again," Teraz said recently.

He even paid an official visit to Texas A&M. "I couldn't get as high a scholarship as I needed and I couldn't afford to go there," he said about Texas A&M. He said he also was offered a scholarship by Florida State.

When Teraz returned home to the mountainous Slovenian town of Mojstrana from Texas where he also played in an International Tennis Federation futures tournament, one of his tennis buddies had a girlfriend who attended CSU. Contact was made between Baker and the other player, which led to Baker recruiting Teraz.

"Charleston Southern is a nice school," said Teraz in fluent English. "There's nice people. People are helping me with everything I don't know. I like English a lot."

His dream is to one day play in a Grand Slam tournament. "That was always my goal in the juniors, but I didn't get to play in one. I hope to play pro tennis after college, and then maybe I can play in a Grand Slam."

The son of a plumber who doubled as a mountain runner and a mother who played volleyball, Teraz first started playing tennis when he was 7. That's when a small tennis club opened in Mojstrana with five clay courts. Teraz turned in his skis for a tennis racket, and he couldn't be happier that the switch has brought him to the United States.

He's majoring in business management. "I'm not sure what I'll do when I graduate, but I have a girlfriend back home, so I'll probably go back when I graduate."

Slovenia is a small country. "You can be across the country in two hours," Teraz said. "Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia. It's in the middle of Croatia, Hungary and Italy."

Teraz has been an instant success in doubles with senior Guy David of Australia, a strong 6-3 player with a powerful forehand and good volley.

When the pair cruised past a team from Winthrop on March 24, it marked its 10th straight victory.

"Basically we have a mutual communication and we support each other," Teraz said.

And, so far, the doubles success has helped make Grega Teraz and CSU a winning combination.

(03/27/08)  Young Cecil proves to be a Smash hit

It would only be fitting if Mallory Cecil became the poster girl of the Smash Junior Cup.

I can’t remember a South Carolina junior with more potential. This 17-year-old has the heart of a champion and the tenacity and skills to take her to another level.

Back in 2003 Shadisha Robinson won what was then called the Junior Family Circle Cup, then advanced through the qualifying tournament into the Family Circle Cup’s main draw. That will be a difficult feat for Cecil to match.

I thought Robinson would be in the top 100 in the world by now.

But where is she these days? She followed up her Family Circle success with three years at the University of Georgia before transferring to the University of South Florida for her senior year.

Thus far, that appears to be about the end of the tennis road for the power-hitting 5-8 player.

And then there was delightfully smart Nina Pantic winning the Smash tournament the last two years. She was one of my favorites, but she was mentally tougher and smarter than she was outstanding in tennis ability. But Cecil? In my opinion, she’s the best and most complete player to play in the elite seven-year-old junior tournament held each February at Family Circle Tennis Center. You name it, she has it.

Other than height, of course.

She’s only 5-5.

But the Spartanburg wonder has muscle. All you need for proof is to look at the photo in Tuesday’s paper. She obviously has powerful arms, shoulders and legs that must come from all of those hours of training at Florida’s famed Bollettieri Academy.

Cecil hits the ball as hard or harder than the average WTA Tour player. Although she’s no Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport or Serena Williams in sheer power for one shot, over the course of a match she plays a ferocious, never-say-die game as she repeatedly nails forehands and backhands with awesome power and control.

Remember another smallish player with some of the same traits?

Justine Henin certainly doesn’t look like the warrior she becomes once on the court.

Mallory Cecil can only dream.

She doesn’t have to dream anymore, though, about playing in a big-time pro event such as the Family Circle Cup’s qualifying tournament. She earned that when she outlasted power-hitting Nadja Gilchrist of Rochester, N.Y., in Monday’s 200-minute Junior Smash Cup final, the first S.C. junior to win the girls’ 18 crown in the prestigious tournament.

This match set a new standard of quality for the Smash Cup.

Cecil will be so charged up that she’ll practically float back down Interstate 26 for the April 12-13 Family Circle qualifying tournament, but Monday she was more concerned with getting home to Spartanburg to get relief for the sore right shoulder that restricted her serving power. If that goes well, it will be worth the price of a ticket just to see her in the qualifying tournament.

There’s more to Cecil than those terrific tennis strokes. She is as highly personable off the court as she is intelligent on it.

She’s a warrior capable of being Miss Congeniality.

And she’s from the state’s junior ranks? She has set her goal to be a top 50 player on the WTA Tour. Indeed, that’s a lofty goal.

There are literally thousands of girls around the world with such aspirations. Maybe even in just China or Russia alone.

But don’t be surprised if Mallory Cecil overachieves and even reaches and surpasses her goal. The people at Smash Magazine and the Family Circle Cup would like nothing better than having their own signature player.

(03/26/08)  Frustrated Federer a weakened version of self
You almost had to feel sorry for the person playing Mardy Fish in the Indian Wells semifinals. The player wasn't the Roger Federer of the last five years.

This Roger Federer appeared to be almost helpless against Fish's mercurial game. Routine backhands and forehands sailed meekly into the net. The expression on Federer's face told the story. It was one of frustration. He appeared to be almost embarrassed.

The sad part was that Federer really was helpless on this day. Perhaps it was the culmination of an already long week. At any rate, part of it had to do with Fish, who played some of the best tennis of his life in marching to the Indian Wells final where he lost to Novak Djokovic in three sets.

The final score of the Fish-Federer match was 6-3, 6-2. It easily could have been much worse. Federer had only his first serve as a weapon.

At a time when he wants to build confidence for the next Grand Slam events, Federer has to search deep and hard to find any. The French Open is only two months away, and he has lost half of the last six matches he's played, all on hard courts.

But this Federer is a weakened down version of the one that has won 12 Grand Slam titles. Mononucleosis obviously has and is still taking its toll on the great Swiss player. And the burden won't go away immediately. It may even get worse for Federer before it gets better.

Despite losing to Fish, Federer expanded his lead over world's No. 2 Rafael Nadal from 350 to 845 points, mainly because Nadal failed to defend his title at Indian Wells and Federer's semifinal points were all gravy since he lost his only match in last year's event. Federer is still 1,270 points ahead of Djokovic. The French Open will be the big rankings test, of course, since Federer was a finalist there last year and will have those points to defend.

Anastopoulo seeks No. 300

Thursday could be a milestone day in the coaching career of Angelo Anastopoulo. The Citadel graduate and Charleston native will be going after his 300th win as coach of the College of Charleston's women's team when the Cougars (15-2) take on cross-town rival Charleston Southern (8-5-1) Thursday at 2 p.m. at Patriots Point.

This is Anastopoulo's 17th season coaching the women's team and he has produced a 299-115 record. He also coached the men's team for 10 years, compiling a 172-79 record.

The C of C men (6-11, 1-4) face a major test Saturday at perennial power Furman. The Cougars will then move over to Spartanburg on Sunday to take on a Wofford team that earlier this season snapped defending SoCon champion Elon's 18-match SoCon regular-season winning streak.

Charleston Southern's men (11-7, 4-2) have won four straight matches behind the strong play of freshman Grega Taraz of Slovenia, who has teamed with senior David Guy for 10 consecutive wins at No. 1 doubles. The Bucs are idle until an April 5 visit to Clemson.

The Citadel (11-8, 3-2) plays at Furman today and then takes on Wingate and Queens on Friday in a Charlotte doubleheader.

CALTA offers grants
The Charleston Area Ladies' Tennis Association is currently accepting nominations for its junior scholarship program, which is designed to support junior girls' tennis. CALTA has awarded more than $36,000 in grants since the establishment of the scholarship program in 2002.

Adults can submit nominations by April 30 by going online to www.caltatennis.net. Nominees are limited to junior girls currently living and playing tennis in the Charleston area. Contact scholarship committee head Pamela Doggett (557-1179). Linda von Grotthus is president of CALTA, a daytime women's tennis league that has 715 members playing on 56 teams at 21 area facilities.

(03/24/08)  Cup field has 6 of top 10 women

Landing six of the top 10 players in the world isn't a bad start for the Family Circle Cup. Let's just hope all of them show up for the April 12-20 event.

Considering that these six players include Justine Henin and the Williams sisters, the Family Circle's entry list is impressive, even more than the $2.1 million super-tournament that starts March 10 at Indian Wells, Calif. But Indian Wells does have Maria Sharapova. That's a tough entry to beat.

If the Family Circle could only land Sharapova, the Russian charmer probably would be worth 5,000 more ticket sales, even if she might not last more than a couple of matches on her least-favorite surface — green clay.

Although Indian Wells also has six of the top 10 players entered, that tournament is missing Henin, Venus and Serena Williams, and Anna Chakvetadze — all of whom are entered in the Family Circle.

Fourth-ranked Jelena Jankovic and No. 9 Marion Bartoli are the only current top 10 players entered in both the Family Circle Cup and Indian Wells.

Wanted: adult ball crew

The word out on Daniel Island is that the Family Circle Cup is in need of adults for its ball crew. It turns out that there are simply not enough area kids this year because they'll be in school in mid-April. It's a matter of the calendar working against the tournament. Spring break for Charleston County schools will be March 21-28 since Easter is March 23.

Even if Maria Sharapova doesn't show up, there's still plenty of perks for the ball crew. There's no charge for seeing some of the best women's tennis players in the world up close. Plus, ball crew members will receive a sporty new uniform free that consists of a Lacoste jacket, a T-shirt and a visor. The Family Circle people also are offering what they call "a generous ticket package."

Contact Dan Tumbleston (843) 367-0279 or Toni Young (843) 343-8393, or visit www.familycirclecup.com.

Team getaway

There's another advantage to playing league tennis, other than having fun, getting in shape and competing against players your own level. A group of six or more people from one team can purchase individual terrace level tickets for the Monday through Thursday sessions for $25 per ticket, with each person receiving an official tournament program and access to the Champions Club as well as the team receiving one valet parking pass. To top it off, the team's captain will receive a free ticket with the team's purchase of six tickets. Call 800-677-2293 for information.

Mitchell gets start

"Good thing for indoor tennis!" is the way Cathy Mitchell describes her daughter's tennis experience at Dartmouth. Former Porter-Gaud standout Ashley Mitchell, a freshman at the Hanover, N.H., Ivy League school, got her first college start last Wednesday against Massachusetts. Not only did Mitchell win at No. 6 singles, the team ran its record to 6-0.

Courting Kids

It's almost time for another Courting Kids session to start. The award-winning inner-city program will begin its spring session on March 8 with 90-minute clinics at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center (10-11:30 a.m.) and the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center (1-2:30 p.m.). The spring programs will run through April 26. The fee for city residents, ages 5-17, is only $10, while non-city residents pay $25 for the entire spring session at either of the two sites. If a player doesn't have a tennis racket, one will be provided free. Contact program coordinator Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

(03/24/08)  Cup field has 6 of top 10 women
Landing six of the top 10 players in the world isn't a bad start for the Family Circle Cup. Let's just hope all of them show up for the April 12-20 event.

Considering that these six players include Justine Henin and the Williams sisters, the Family Circle's entry list is impressive, even more than the $2.1 million super-tournament that starts March 10 at Indian Wells, Calif. But Indian Wells does have Maria Sharapova. That's a tough entry to beat.

If the Family Circle could only land Sharapova, the Russian charmer probably would be worth 5,000 more ticket sales, even if she might not last more than a couple of matches on her least-favorite surface — green clay.

Although Indian Wells also has six of the top 10 players entered, that tournament is missing Henin, Venus and Serena Williams, and Anna Chakvetadze — all of whom are entered in the Family Circle.

Fourth-ranked Jelena Jankovic and No. 9 Marion Bartoli are the only current top 10 players entered in both the Family Circle Cup and Indian Wells.

Wanted: adult ball crew
The word out on Daniel Island is that the Family Circle Cup is in need of adults for its ball crew. It turns out that there are simply not enough area kids this year because they'll be in school in mid-April. It's a matter of the calendar working against the tournament. Spring break for Charleston County schools will be March 21-28 since Easter is March 23.

Even if Maria Sharapova doesn't show up, there's still plenty of perks for the ball crew. There's no charge for seeing some of the best women's tennis players in the world up close. Plus, ball crew members will receive a sporty new uniform free that consists of a Lacoste jacket, a T-shirt and a visor. The Family Circle people also are offering what they call "a generous ticket package."
Contact Dan Tumbleston (367-0279) or Toni Young (343-8393), or visit familycirclecup.com.

Team getaway
There's another advantage to playing league tennis, other than having fun, getting in shape and competing against players your own level. A group of six or more people from one team can purchase individual terrace level tickets for the Monday through Thursday sessions for $25 per ticket, with each person receiving an official tournament program and access to the Champions Club as well as the team receiving one valet parking pass. To top it off, the team's captain will receive a free ticket with the team's purchase of six tickets. Call 800-677-2293 for information.

Mitchell gets start
"Good thing for indoor tennis!" is the way Cathy Mitchell describes her daughter's tennis experience at Dartmouth. Former Porter-Gaud standout Ashley Mitchell, a freshman at the Hanover, N.H., Ivy League school, got her first college start last Wednesday against Massachusetts. Not only did Mitchell win at No. 6 singles, the team ran its record to 6-0.

Courting Kids
It's almost time for another Courting Kids session to start. The award-winning inner-city program will begin its spring session on March 8 with 90-minute clinics at John's Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center (10-11:30 a.m.) and the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center (1-2:30 p.m.). The spring programs will run through April 26. The fee for city residents, ages 5-17, is only $10, while non-city residents pay $25 for the entire spring session at either of the two sites. If a player doesn't have a tennis racket, one will be provided free. Contact program coordinator Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

(03/23/08)  Don't count out Nadal yet
Novak Djokovic was dominant in his latest confrontation with Rafael Nadal. The 6-3, 6-2 score was fairly representative of Saturday's semifinal at Indian Wells.

But don't count Nadal out of this rivalry yet. The 21-year-old Spaniard played, perhaps, two of his best matches in overcoming power hitters Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and James Blake before running into Djokovic. The wins over Tsonga and Blake were the most significant for Nadal since his march to last summer's Wimbledon final. For much of those matches, it appeared that both Tsonga and Blake would continue to feast on Nadal's high-kicking shots. In the end, Nadal simply wouldn't quit.

Djokovic's dominant serving, and Nadal's first-serve inconsistency prevented Nadal from getting into position to pressure Djokovic.

This was just one match in this budding rivalry of the game's two best young players. Other than the serving differences, this match could have gone another way. Nadal is too much of a competitor to count him out of the race for No. 1 yet. The next time these two players meet, possibly in two weeks in Miami, it might be an entirely different story.

Pro circuit thoughts

--Just how successful is pro tennis' instant replay system? It's not in some players' demeanor to openly challenge calls. For instance, in his comeback victory over Tsonga in the Indian Wells quarterfinals, Nadal was the victim of two bad calls on one point. He accepted the chair umpire's incorrect overrule of a first service, then after his second serve was put into play one of his shots appeared to hit the baseline, but was ruled out. Hawk-Eye confirmed both mistakes, although Nadal didn't challenge either.

--Tsonga flashed on the world stage almost without an announcement by upsetting Nadal and reaching the final of the Australian Open, but the Frenchman may be just that — a flash in the pan. The big fellow has a tremendous forehand and serve, but his backhand may be too suspect and attackable to continue to cause real havoc for the top players.

--The best way to watch Fox Sport South's men's coverage of the Indian Wells tournament is with the sound on mute. That's the only way you can tune out Justin Gimbelstob's constant chatter.

Local notes
--Charleston's Ryan Young had a good week in a $10,000 futures tournament in India, winning seven straight matches before losing to former Clemson doubles partner Nathan Thompson in Saturday's singles final. The success earned Young a berth in another $10,000 event in India.
--Talk about scheduling, what was the Southern Conference thinking when it scheduled the SoCon tournament for April 17-20 at The Citadel — or opposite the last four days of the Family Circle Cup?
--Angelo Anastopoulo will go for his 300th victory as coach of the College of Charleston women's team on Thursday when Charleston Southern pays a 2 p.m. call on Patriots Point. Anastopoulo also coached the men's team for 10 years and has a combined men's/women's record of 471-194.
--College of Charleston men's basketball coach Bobby Cremins has scheduled another Cremins Tennis Challenge for May 2-3 at Family Circle Tennis Center to raise money for the Cougar Club's scholarship fund. Contact Cougar Club assistant director Davin Wise (953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu.
--The seventh annual Flowertown Festival Mixed Doubles Tournament is scheduled for April 4-6 at Summerville's Azalea Park courts. The entry deadline is April 2. Call 830-5351.

(03/20/08)  Berkeley Stags a growing tennis power in its region

Berkeley is in an unusual position in boys' tennis. The Stags look like the best team in Region 7-AAAA.

They've already defeated perennial region champion Wando once, if only by a 4-3 score last week in Moncks Corner. The two teams will meet again April 10 in Mount Pleasant.

Coach Charlie Sweeney's young team could have greater aspirations than just winning the 7-AAAA crown. Faring well in the state playoffs isn't out of the question, not with a No. 1 player the caliber of senior Dirk Bair, a strong No. 2 in seventh-grader Zac Dye and a good No. 1 doubles team.

"We have a lot of good depth. The quality of the players is good. I inherited a nice team," said first-year coach Sweeney.

"I think we have a good chance in the region. Wando should be our toughest region match."

The Stags' only loss came in their opener when SCISA power Porter-Gaud pulled out a 4-3 decision.

"I wanted a tough match to start the season. It showed we could hang in there and be competitive," said Sweeney, an English teacher who played high school tennis in Massachusetts and attended the College of Charleston but didn't play tennis for the Cougars.

This is Bair's sixth year as a starter and star.

He was the Lowcountry Player of the Year last spring.

Bair, who teamed with Wando graduate Stephen Beach in junior competition last year to earn the state's top boys' 18 ranking, also gives the Stags a strong presence in No. 1 doubles.

After starting the season playing doubles with freshman Micah Dye, Bair switched partners against Wando. Bair and junior Will Farmer came up with the match's decisive point in No. 1 doubles.

Bair and the Dye brothers hold down the top three singles positions.

The Dyes helped Summerville's Pinewood Prep win the SCISA Class AAA state title last spring.

Farmer plays No. 4 singles for the Stags, with junior Jared Wadford in the fifth slot. Senior Matthew McPherson and junior Andrew Hinson won the important No. 2 doubles point against Wando, although junior Wesley Allsbrook also is a candidate for playing time at No. 2 doubles.

(03/20/08)  Citadel's No. 1 tennis player to head back Down Under
Daniel Dossetor is going home soon. His four-year honeymoon with the United States will end in a couple of months when he graduates from The Citadel.

Meanwhile, the fiery Australian is aiming for his fourth straight tennis double-double of All-Southern Conference in singles and doubles. It's been that kind of a ride for the 23-year-old native of Griffith, Australia.

"I've loved the experience, but I've missed home too much," Dossetor said recently after another of his victories.

He hasn't lived at home since he was about 14 years old. He spent five years at the Fancutt Academy in Brisbane, Australia, before joining coach Toby Simpson's Citadel program.

"Griffith is a little town in the middle of nowhere," is the way Dossetor describes his hometown. "It's 16 hours from Brisbane. But Brisbane is a big city, and it gave me more opportunities."

Before heading back Down Under, the Bulldogs' No. 1 player plans to make a stop in Ecuador to play in four futures tournaments. "I'm going to give pro tennis a try," he said.

Once back home, he said, "I'm going to use my degree" in sports management.

Dossetor grew up in a tennis family, taking the lead from his older sister who played college tennis for Wyoming. "My brother and sister played ... I just tagged along," the 6-1, 150-pounder said.

His parents also played tennis at a club, which led to Dossetor picking up the game when he was 5 or 6 years old.

"I've loved the hard work at The Citadel," he said. "We had a disappointing season last year (the Bulldogs lost their last 18 matches), but we're coming back this year."

Dossetor teamed with James Eason of New Zealand for three straight years at No. 1 doubles. The pair ranked as high as 20th nationally last year, but Simpson decided to split them up this season and put Dossetor with freshman Yufo Sutantio.

Sutantio from Indonesia and Dossetor weren't strangers. Dossetor actually helped Simpson recruit Sutantio since they attended the same high school in Brisbane and trained at the same academy. Sutantio plays No. 2 singles for the Bulldogs.

(03/20/08)  Schnyder joins Family Circle Cup
Patty Schnyder keeps returning to the Family Circle Cup, obviously with one goal in mind.

Maybe this will be the year the smallish Swiss woman finally hits the jackpot by winning the $1.34 million tournament scheduled for April 12-20.

You guessed it. Schnyder is entered in the Family Circle Cup for the 12th consecutive year.

The 29-year-old player has used her finely tuned left-handed spin on the clay surfaces at Family Circle Tennis Center to frustrate past Family Circle fields. She has been a finalist on Daniel Island twice, in 2002 and 2006. She owns a 25-11 Family Circle record and her earnings total of $399,700 in the event is the fourth best.

Schnyder, ranked 12th in the world, joins a field that includes six top 10 players — 2003 and 2005 champion Justine Henin (No. 1), defending champ Jelena Jankovic (4), Anna Chakvetadze (6), 2004 winner Venus Williams (7), Marion Bartoli (9) and Serena Williams (10) — along with 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (16).

"Patty Schnyder's 11 years of experience, success and fan support at this event make her a strong contender as the world's top players head to Charleston for our 35th anniversary celebration," tournament director Robin Reynolds said. "She has been a part of this event for nearly one third of its existence, so it's very exciting to have her return for this historic milestone."

In 2007, Schnyder posted her fourth straight top 20 season while surpassing 450 career singles victories and $6 million in career earnings. She reached the semifinals at last month's Gold Coast and the second round at the Australian Open, then advanced to the quarterfinals at Antwerp last week.

(03/19/08)  Nau beginning for Mount Pleasant's Players Club
Charleston tennis won't be the same without Fritz Nau. But, luckily, the Players Club isn't going anywhere.

Nau has sold his share of the Mount Pleasant tennis complex to former partner Robert Haydock.

"I'm never going to own a club again," Nau insisted. "I basically don't like running a club ... I like coaching."

Nau is considering returning to Florida. He served as an instructor at several highly regarded Florida training facilities, including Bollettieri Academy, before coming to Charleston in January 2001 to become tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center.

It was at Bollettieri's where Nau first met Haydock, then a student from Oregon who later attended the College of Charleston.

"I bought Fritz out last week," the 25-year-old Haydock said Tuesday. "He decided to move on ... he didn't want to run a business."

In 2003, Haydock talked Nau into jointly buying a nearly nine-acre site on Mathis Ferry Road adjacent to I-526 for $1 million. Two years later, the Players Club opened.

And in its more than three years as one of the top training facilities for juniors in the Southeast, the Players Club has become a yardstick for measuring tennis facilities, while reportedly more than quadrupling its value. The nine clay-court, seven hard-court complex has lived up to its name as a club for players.

Most of the area's top juniors have trained at the Players Club.

"We have not lost one player," Haydock assured.

Nau doesn't expect things to change at the Players Club.

"The whole club was Robert's idea from the beginning," he said. "Robert seems to like that part of it (running the club).

"They're going to have a great club. They've got a great staff," added Nau, whose 11-year-old son Ryan plans to continue training at the Players Club.

Former Bollettieri's instructor Martin Zumpft of Germany and ex-College of Charleston star Bryan Minton will share the tennis director's position at the Players Club. Retired automobile industry executive Chuck Lee, who also owns the Pita Pit restaurant on King Street, has purchased a share of the club (but not the land) and has taken over adult membership and other business areas. Haydock owns the club site, which is located adjacent to the planned new Mount Pleasant Hospital.

Rogers ITF winner

Players Club junior star Shelby Rogers was doubly successful in her initial venture into international competition as the 15-year-old won the girls' 18 singles and doubles titles last weekend in Panama City's Panama Bowl. Rogers, who has been training at Bollettieri's in Bradenton, Fla., since January, was down 6-4, 5-1, 40-0 in the singles final against Gina Suarez of Venezuela before rallying to win the second set and take a 4-1 lead in the third set when Suarez retired.

--Jeanette Draeger, a 6-1, 14-year-old German who has trained at the Players Club for most of the last year, also had a big weekend by winning the girls' 18 crown at Lexington's Top Spin tournament.

College update
--The Citadel (10-7, 3-2) has been red hot since snapping a 21-match losing streak in late February. Coach Toby Simpson's team is 10-4 since then and has won four straight matches. The Bulldogs will face Ohio State today at Myrtle Beach and Chicago at home on Sunday (noon).
--The College of Charleston women (12-2, 3-0) also are on a four-match winning streak going into a home doubleheader today at Patriots Point against Massachusetts (12:30 p.m.) and Northern Iowa (5 p.m.). The C of C men (6-9, 1-3), who have the only losing overall record among the area's five college teams, will face Jacksonville State today (2:30 p.m.) at Patriots Point.
--Charleston Southern's women (7-3-1 and 2-0 after shutting out Chattanooga last Saturday) play at Big South opponents UNC Asheville Saturday and Winthrop Sunday. The CSU men (8-7, 1-2) face three Big South matches in the next few days: Coastal Carolina Thursday at home (2 p.m.), and at Asheville on Saturday and at Winthrop on Sunday.

(03/16/08)  Djokovic dynamic rising star
Novak Djokovic has made it.

He's a celebrity in places other than Belgrade now. The Serbian wonder has appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show."

Now that he has the Tonight Show out of the way to go with his first Grand Slam tournament title, what's next for Djokovic? Maybe "Saturday Night Live"?

The question is whether Djokovic becomes one of the true players of the ages or just another flash. Can he persevere and win consistently against lesser players on bad days in the Roger Federer tradition?

Djokovic already has suffered three losses in 2008. That might be considered a good couple of months for almost any player, if you don't compare him with the Federer of old.

Djokovic seemed to just go through the motions Saturday in his opening match at Indian Wells, Calif., against Andreas Seppi, stepping on the throttle only when he needed it in a 6-3, 7-6 victory. On the Leno show, Djokovic may have been as tight as he was when he tried unsuccessfully to close out two different sets against Federer in the U.S. Open final. But Djokovic certainly appeared to be relaxed as he hammed it up with Leno.

"Tennis was considered a girl sport (in Serbia)," Djokovic told Leno.

And he didn't get his tennis ability from his dad. "Dad played everything but tennis," he said.

Of course, at the end of the guest spot, a clip was shown of Djokovic imitating Maria Sharapova at last year's U.S. Open.

"It was a fantastic experience for me, and it was important for me as a professional tennis player to be presented to the American people, the ones who don't follow tennis as much," Djokovic said about the appearance. "This is one of the most watched shows in the States, so I was privileged to be there and to be invited."

Maybe, this 20-year-old does have it all together.

Doubles, anyone?

Major-college teams fight incredibly hard for that one doubles point. And for adults, doubles generally is what tennis is all about.

But junior tennis and the pros often couldn't care less. That should be changing for juniors. Doubles results actually will count in their state rankings for 2008.

That should be good news for juniors with the type of doubles skills demonstrated last year by a large group of local juniors. Ten Charleston-area juniors earned No. 1 state doubles rankings for 2007. Another seven players picked up No. 2 doubles rankings.

It all started with girls' 10, where Corey Caulder and Ellie Halbauer were ranked No. 1. Isabel Dennis and Patricia Kirkland were No. 1 in girls' 14, while Meghan Blevins and Olivia McMillan earned the top spot in girls' 18.

There might not be a Mike and Bob Bryan tandem among the group, but the Heffron brothers gave it their best shot. Randall and Walker Heffron formed the state's top-ranked boys' 16 doubles team in 2007. Dirk Bair and Stephen Beach took the top spot in boys' 18.

Second place isn't bad. Just ask the Grace Robards/Alexia Steichen (girls' 10), Bailey Kirkland/Thomas Spratt (boys' 14) and Don Bruner/John Karle (boys' 16) teams as well as Sarah McDonald (girls' 12).

Local notes
MIXED DOUBLES LEAGUE: How about mixed doubles? I know some guys who can't wait for league tennis' adult league to end, so they can start playing in the mixed doubles league.

Registration for mixed doubles started Saturday. Teams are required to have at least three viable partnerships signed up by April 21 to qualify for participation in the league.

SNEE FARM GRAND PRIX: Snee Farm Country Club tennis director Christy Cherry has announced that Snee Farm will hold the year's first of its popular Grand Prix events from April 24-27. "This Grand Prix will be a new four-day format (Thursday-Sunday) which we feel is friendlier and participants," Cherry said. For information or to register, contact Cherry (884-3253 or christy.cherry@snee-farmcc.com).

(03/13/08)  J.I. tennis team young
This might not be a typical year for the James Island Charter High School boys tennis team. The Trojans are in rebuild mode.

But veteran coach Tanner Tucker is optimistic about the future.

"We'll get it rolling when these guys get a little older," Tucker said last week after a 5-2 James Island loss to Berkeley at the Maybank Tennis Center. "We've got three middle schoolers in the starting seven players. I think we'll be very competitive in a couple of years."

The loss to Berkeley wasn't too disheartening since Tucker predicts the Stags will replace perennial champion Wando at the top of Region 7-AAAA.

James Island was runner-up to Wando in 2007, but the Trojans lost No. 1 player John Gottshalk to graduation. Gottshalk has been replaced in the top position by his doubles partner, his brother, sophomore Brian Gottshalk.

Tucker saw some good things against Berkeley. Junior Andrew Boockfor came through at No. 3 singles to defeat the Stags' Micah Dye, then Gottshalk and eighth-grader Russell Sliker upset the highly regarded team of Dirk Bair and Dye in No. 1 doubles.

Eighth-grader Michael Hooi plays No. 2 singles for the Trojans, while junior David Shirduan holds down No. 4 and eighth-grader Baines Lathbury No. 5. Freshman Zach Miller and sophomore Wyatt Dunn, both first-year players, form the No. 2 doubles team.

Tucker is in his eighth year of coaching the tennis team. He also teaches high school French and coaches the charter high school's nationally ranked academic team that won the tournament at MIT on March 1.

(03/12/08)  Roddick's revival among weekend surprises
Last weekend was a time of surprises for professional tennis.

Consider that Andy Roddick upset both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic; Roger Federer revealed he is recovering from mononucleosis; and Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams and won a tournament.

First things first. The Roddick feats were astonishing. Many experts thought the days of Roddick defeating top three-caliber players was a thing of the past. The line on Roddick has been that he has the serve, but that's about all, one-dimensional; great in Davis Cup competition, but just another top 15-caliber player otherwise.

Throw in the fact that Jimmy Connors has left the Roddick ranks, and the conquests of Nadal and Djokovic were even more shocking. But the split with Connors might not have been a bad thing. Initially, the Roddick-Connors package appeared to pay dividends as Roddick seemed to grasp a little of Connors' court savvy and competitive knowledge. That faded as it became obvious Roddick was only a pawn in the hands of the great Federer.

Perhaps, Roddick will burn with the Connors passion, as well as incorporate a little more of his own savvy into his play. Connors couldn't play the game for Roddick or give him a legitimate weapon for a forehand.

Apparently, Roddick already has made one big decision. The word out of Washington is that Roddick will defend his title at the Legg Mason Classic in August and skip the conflicting Beijing Olympics.

The Federer illness caught everyone by surprise, although he hasn't looked the same in recent months. Federer is now only 350 points ahead of Nadal in the world rankings. Even if Federer is weakened by mono and doesn't fare well at the super-tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami the next four weeks, he probably won't lose his No. 1 ranking for awhile. Remember, Federer lost early in both tournaments last year to Guillermo Canas and as a result has few points to defend. On the other hand, Nadal must defend quite a few points since he won Indian Wells and lost to Djokovic in the Miami quarterfinals.

Of course, Federer must have looked pretty sharp and healthy in outdueling Pete Sampras for three sets and 2 1/2 hours in Monday night's Madison Square exhibition. If you missed the match due to a league tennis conflict as I did, replays will be available for the next week on USTA.com.

And just when you think Serena Williams is headed for the doldrums, she comes alive. Perhaps it was the emotion of going against Venus again that ignited her.

Of course, the keys for Serena are staying healthy and improving her physical conditioning. Other than little Justine Henin, a revitalized Maria Sharapova and Venus, there isn't much to concern Serena in the women's game.

Ranking eye-catchers

Looking over the WTA Tour rankings, Smash Junior Cup champ Mallory Cecil is ranked 734th in the world, and former two-time Smash winner Nina Pantic is two positions lower. Cecil's Orange Bowl-winning doubles partner, Melanie Oudin of Atlanta, is rated 320th. Oudin has a wild card into the Indian Wells main draw.

Remember the name Anastasia Myskina? The 26-year-old former French Open champion is ranked No. 1,106.

Check this name out. Kit Carson is ranked 1,052th. She's a 26-year-old American. Wonder what's her best weapon? Kit, himself, was pretty lethal with the forehand trigger-finger.

College update
--The College of Charleston men (4-6, 0-2) have five matches at Patriots Point in the next six days: Illinois State (today, 2 p.m.), East Carolina (Thursday, 1 p.m.), Georgia Southern (Saturday, 1 p.m.), UNC Greensboro (Sunday, 12:30 p.m.) and Drake (Monday, 5:30 p.m.). The C of C women (9-2, 1-0) will take on SoCon rivals Greensboro (Friday, 1:30 p.m.), Elon (Saturday, 10 a.m.) and Chattanooga (Sunday, 10 a.m.) this weekend at Patriots Point, then face Jacksonville State on Monday at Family Circle Tennis Center at 4 p.m.
--The Citadel (6-7, 1-2) also is busy with home matches against Chattanooga (today, 2 p.m.), Greensboro (Thursday, 1 p.m.), Charlotte (Saturday, 11 a.m.) and Boston University (Saturday, 3 p.m.)
--Charleston Southern's women (5-2-1, 1-0) play home matches against Greensboro (today, 1 p.m.) and Chattanooga (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), and a Friday match at High Point. The men (7-6, 1-1) also play at High Point on Friday.

(03/09/08)  A time of urgency for Federer
Roger Federer is an amazing human being.

Mononucleosis can sap an individual's strength to such an extent that it can be difficult and dangerous to engage in any physical activity. Athletes have been known to be sidelined by the illness from months to years.

Some athletes never fully recover from the energy-draining illness. They come back, but they've lost the edge that separated them from their counterparts.

I'm no medical authority, but I remember back in high school when a promising young athlete was hit by mono and sat out the entire year. It's the dreaded sickness that all young athletes fear. It can attack the most skilled and talented, turning great athletes into average ones.

But Federer nearly won a Grand Slam title while suffering from mono. Despite apparently contracting mono in December, he still advanced to the semi- finals of the Australian Open.

What an inopportune time for Federer to fall to such an illness — just three Grand Slam titles from owning the record. And he'll be 27 years old in five months.

It's a time of urgency for the world's No. 1 player. He's lost his last two matches, but he can't afford to take an extended leave from the tour. Instead, he is embarking on back-to-back two-week tournaments in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami. This is an ambitious plan under the circumstances, even for a player of Federer's greatness.

Before that undertaking, Federer is scheduled to take on the king of Grand Slam titles, Pete Sampras, in an exhibition match Monday night at sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Watch match live

Madison Square Garden is a long way away, but the USTA is trying to put you in the stands. USTA.com will provide free live video of Monday's 8 p.m. exhibition as it picks up the Tennis Channel feed with the help of broadband company TVUNetworks. The full match will remain available on-demand on USTA.com for seven days.

Remember, Sampras dealt Federer a defeat in their last exhibition, back in November. Of course, Federer may have been suffering from mono then and didn't know it. He has been cleared by doctors, but recent play suggests he may still be feeling the aftereffects of the illness.

Golovin returning

The Family Circle Cup hasn't officially made the announcement, but 13th-ranked Tatiana Golovin is returning to Daniel Island for the April 12-20 event. The French player came to Charleston red-hot last year after winning at Amelia Island, but suffered an ankle injury in the quarterfinals and retired against Dinara Safina. Two years earlier, Golovin defeated both Venus Williams and Nadia Petrova before losing to Justine Henin in the semifinals.

Entered for the first time is talented 19-year-old Hungarian Agnes Szavay, currently ranked 18th. Szavay was one of the hottest players on the U.S. Open Series last summer.

In all, 14 of the top 20 players in the world are entered.

Local notes
--The Family Circle Cup needs you. Perhaps, you could hold an umbrella for one of the stars during a changeover under the warm April sun. That's right, the Family Circle Cup is still looking for adults to volunteer for its ball crew as well as ushers and the ticket office departments. Contact volunteer coordinator Jo Cooper (849-5309).
--Local junior Caroline Thornton has been at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, Spain, since September. The Players Club product has advanced to a top level at the academy and has competed in junior events in North Africa and Europe, while attending the Schiller International School.
--Several local players were ranked No. 1 in the South in doubles for 2007: Nancy Pitts/Carolyne Hale in women's 50; Claire Richardson in women's 70; Nancy Carretta/Mary Walker in women's 80; and Nadja Andersson/Jonathan Barth in mixed 30. The wheelchair women's open singles champ is Charleston's Sarah Casteel.

(03/07/08)  Berkeley's Dye is learning to overcome his size

Help can come in small packages. Just check out Zac Dye.

He's a 5-foot, 90-pound seventh-grader at Berkeley Middle School. But he's playing tennis with the big boys at Berkeley High School. He's the Stags' No. 2 player.

That's great news for No. 1 player Dirk Bair. Finally as a senior, 2007 Lowcountry player of the year Bair can glance over to the next court and see real help.

And Bair can even look one court farther down and see more support — Zac's brother, freshman Micah Dye. Zac and Micah played on Pinewood Prep's SCISA Class AAA state championship team last spring along with big brother Jeremiah Dye. When Jeremiah graduated to Coker College, Zac and Micah transferred back home where they would be closer to their Pinopolis home.

Zac Dye is the "big" catch. He's quite a player, and has been for several years in the junior ranks.

"Zac's only weakness is physical ... he needs to grow," first-year Berkeley coach Charlie Sweeney said Wednesday, as the Stags opened Region 7-AAAA play with a 5-2 victory over James Island at Maybank Tennis Center.

"Give him a couple of years and he'll be excellent. Zac's great mentally. He's a quick learner ... a great kid. He's very sound."

The Stags practice at the high school courts, but the Dyes can simply walk out into their backyard and play tennis. They have their own tennis court, and their dad, Danny Dye, teaches them as well as a bunch of other kids in the Moncks Corner area.

"The biggest thing holding Zac back is his size," said Danny Dye. "But Jeremiah didn't grow until his senior year. He's 6-foot tall now.

"Zac has good hands and he's able to come to the net. I just want him to hit a bigger ball."

Zac gets the message. "Sometimes I just try to outhit the other player," he said. "When I'm losing and outhitting them, I'll switch and try to keep the ball in play."

That's what happened in the Stags' season-opening loss to Porter-Gaud, when Dye lost to the Cyclones' Charlie Baker in a third-set tiebreaker. "I won the first set and was up 5-3 in the second set trying to outhit him. But then I choked and he played well," Zac Dye said. "Speed is the best part of my game, but my forehand is my best shot. My serve is coming along."

Now, if he only grows a few inches over the next five years. The little guy can afford to think long term.

(03/06/08)  Pair of Russians join field at Family Circle Cup
Dementieva, Safina give tournament 8 of world's top 12

Family Circle Cup
WHEN: April 12-20

The Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary field continues to grow stronger as former Daniel Island runners-up Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina of Russia have officially entered the April 12-20 tournament.

Dementieva, the 2005 Family Circle runner-up, claimed the last spot in the top 10 this week after upsetting second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dubai final for her ninth WTA Tour singles title. Safina, ranked 15th, fell to Jelena Jankovic in last April's final of the $1.34 million tournament held at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The new entries give the Family Circle eight of the top 12 players in the world. Five other top 10 players are entered — 2003/2005 champion Justine Henin (No. 1), Jankovic (4), Anna Chakvetadze (6), 2004 winner Venus Williams (7) and Marion Bartoli (9). Serena Williams (11), Patty Schnyder (12) and 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (16) are also entered.

"Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina are fierce competitors who have showcased their amazing talents in front of our fans, during the finals, at the pinnacle of the Family Circle Cup," tournament director Robin Reynolds said. "These women add a tremendous amount of depth to a world-class field headed to Charleston for our 35th anniversary celebration."

Dementieva, a 5-11, 26-year-old who owns a 10-5 Family Circle Cup record, won 2007 titles at Istanbul and Moscow as she enjoyed her eighth straight top 20 season. With more than $350,000 earned already this year behind a 10-3 record, Dementieva has more than $9 million in career earnings.

Safina, the 5-11, 21-year-old sister of men's tour star Marat Safin, has been ranked in the top 20 for the last three years. She has more than $3 million in career earnings. This will be Safina's third straight Family Circle appearance.

(03/05/08)  What's that sly devil Federer up to?
Is this some type of trick by Roger Federer? Is he trying to lure the rest of men's tennis into believing his game is on the decline?

That might be good strategy in his bid to break Pete Sampras' career Grand Slam record. Then, zap, Federer snaps up another Grand Slam title.

Remember, he did the same thing early last year when he lost back-to-back matches against Guillermo Canas and the obscure Filippo Volandri. He still won his second and third Grand Slam titles of the year before going into another swoon in the fall by losing three of nine matches over one period.

But this time, Novak Djokovic was in his way at the Australian Open.

Federer has lost his last two matches and five of his last 24. That's not Roger Federer-like.

Perhaps an important part of this equation will be the Masters tournaments in Indian Wells, Calif., and Key Biscayne, Fla., over the next five weeks. Those are the tournaments that started Federer heading in the wrong direction last year — if winning three Grand Slams in one year can be considered going anyplace but the right direction.

At any rate, this likely will be a pivotal year in Federer's drive for three more Grand Slam titles to surpass Sampras' total of 14. Of course, Federer's last five years have produced 12 Grand Slam titles.

You've got to think that Federer has a couple more tricks up his sleeve.

Bud's coming

Bud Collins saw all of the early Family Circle Cups at Hilton Head Island. It's only fitting that he is returning to take part in the 35th anniversary celebration. The Tennis Hall of Fame commentator/columnist will be on hand April 15 to introduce the entire player field at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

As the Burke High School band marches out of the stadium, Collins will take center stage. It should be an electric occasion. A fireworks display will add to the excitement.

Collins called the initial Family Circle Cup final in 1973 for NBC, and continued to work the event until the network ended its coverage of the tournament in 1998. Collins, who now serves as an analyst for ESPN, will be at Family Circle Tennis Center throughout the tournament.

College update

The College of Charleston men (3-5, 0-1) will be at home Saturday against Florida A&M at 10 a.m. The C of C women (9-2, 2-0) are off until Tuesday when Richmond pays a visit to Patriots Point.

--The Citadel (4-5, 1-1) snapped its 21-match losing streak last week with a win over Wofford, then went 1-2 in the Clemson tournament with a win over Emory and losses to Southern Mississippi and USC Upstate, before defeating Bethune-Cookman and Presbyterian on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will entertain Toledo today at 2 p.m.

--Charleston Southern's men swept Florida A&M, Toledo and Emory by 4-3 scores after suffering a 6-1 loss to Southern Mississippi in the Clemson tournament over the weekend. The Bucs are idle until next Tuesday when Illinois State comes to town. The CSU women are scheduled to play Charlotte at home today at noon.

Local notes
--Waccamaw's perennial power Class AA boys' have been selected to participate in the 16-team National High School All-American Foundation Tournament March 28-29 in Newport Beach, Calif. Bishop England probably wouldn't mind if the Pawley's Island team decided to stay out west a couple of months. Waccamaw has ended the Bishops' season the last five years in the state playoffs.
--Former Clemson star Ryan Young is still in Thailand, but plans to travel to India for three weeks of tournaments starting next week. The School of the Arts graduate has qualified for only two singles tournaments due to a lack of ATP Tour points. He plans to return to Charleston in May or June, according to his mother, Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young.
--Wild Dunes pro Ernest Tharpe earned a No. 4 singles ranking in the South for 2007 in men's 30.
--Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road tennis complex has switched the dates of the upcoming Clement Morey tournament to March 28-30. The tournament is for adults of all levels, 2.5-5.0 and over. Call 856-2162.

(03/02/08)  Charleston women well-represented on national tennis scene
One leads to another. And for Charleston tennis that means three great senior women's players.

It's highly unusual for one area to dominate the Southern rankings the way Diane Fishburne, Susie Peiffer and Brenda Carter did in 2007. All three local women earned No. 1 Southern rankings in singles.

"It's unreal. Charleston is a Mecca for women's tennis," said Peiffer, the South's No. 1 women's 55 player. "I don't know of any other city that has so many 5.0 women's players."

Of course, Peiffer is the least known of the three players nationally since both Fishburne and Carter not only are top players nationally but also own No. 1 world rankings. Fishburne plays in women's 50 and Carter in women's 60.

These players feed off each other.
"Whenever Cindy and I go to national tournaments, conversations often center around training methods and practice routines. When we tell people we are from Charleston, South Carolina, and have a large group of 5.0 women, including Diane and Brenda, to practice with, they are so envious," said Peiffer, a 57-year-old who teamed with Cindy Babb to take top honors in the South in women's 55 doubles.

"It's more like a support group here because whenever one of us is about to go to a tournament, we focus on that person, the surface on which she needs to practice and what she wants to work on in particular. For instance, Cindy and I are about to go to Houston to play in the National Clay Courts, so Brenda sent us an e-mail last week saying, 'I'm at your disposal' ... So this past week, we lined up three practices with her and some of the others."

--Babb was ranked No. 4 in the South in women's 55 singles. Sally Smith, who practices with the Carter/Fishburne/Peiffer/Babb group, earned a No. 6 ranking in women's 50 singles. Robert Wiederhorn led the men with a No. 2 ranking in 75-and-over singles. Brian Burke had a No. 7 ranking in men's 30, while Jonathan Barth was 10th in the same age group.

Two No. 1 juniors
Summerville's Adam Elliget in boys' 10 and Shelby Rogers of Daniel Island in girls' 16 were the only Charleston area juniors to claim No. 1 state singles rankings for 2007.

Rogers, who has been training at Bollettieri Academy, also earned a No. 3 ranking in the South in girls' 16.

Elliget was joined in the state boys' 10 top 25 by Hufelder Duarte (7) and Avery Holoubek (25). The area was well represented in boys' 12 by Austin Heinz (2), Thomas Spratt (5), Addison King (6), Drew Halbauer (7), Bailey Kirkland (9), Elliget (11), Seth Pinosky (18) and Colby Tubbs (23).

In boys' 14, Peter Pritchard (8), Rivers Colyer (19), Steven Weaver (20), Connor Clements (22) and Anderson Scarpa (23) made the top 25. Randall Heffron (3) earned the area's top boys' 16 ranking and was followed by John Karle (5), Don Bruner (10), Elliott Sperr (14) and J.B. Robards (20). Stephen Beach (9) gained the area's best ranking in boys' 18, while Dirk Bair (14), Karle (15), Heffron (18), Alex Nista (20) and Richard Pearce (22) followed.

The area's best girls' 10 finishers were Ellie Halbauer (4), Corey Caulder (8), Grace Robards (10), Samantha Shuster (16) and Alexia Steichen (17). In girls' 12, Sarah McDonald (2), Ann Hay (6) and Meagan Evans (8) led the way.

Meghan Blevins (5) was tops for the area in girls' 14, followed by Patricia Kirkland (13), Mi'Kola Cooper (14), Isabel Dennis (21), McDonald (22) and Alexandria Klein (24). In girls' 16, Olivia McMillan (5), Jamie Harrell (6), Corin Hallman (20) and Blevins (21) followed Rogers. Jessica Diamond (5) led the way in girls' 18, while Caroline Thornton (9), Brooke Mosteller (12) and Nathalie Santiago (22) also were top 25.

Along with Rogers in the Southern rankings, Heinz picked up a No. 13 in boys' 12 singles.

Smash success
Several of the highly ranked local juniors sparkled in last weekend's Smash Junior Cup, including a sweep of the boys' 12 and 14 finals as King defeated Scarpa in the 14-and-under title match and Elliget downed Pinosky in the boys' 12 final. Karle was a boys' 18 finalist and Hallman was the girls' 16 runner-up. Shuster was runner-up in girls' 10.

High school stars
Of course, many of the top boys are leading their teams as high school tennis gets under way. Elliget is playing for Pinewood Prep; Pearce and Sperr play for Porter-Gaud; Heffron, Karle and Colyer spearhead Bishop England; Bruner and Heinz lead Palmetto Christian; and Bair stars for Berkeley.

Five of the girls (Diamond, Mosteller, McMillan, Blevins and Hallman) stood out for Wando last fall. Is there any doubt why coach Becky Williamson's Wando team won its fourth straight Class AAAA state title?

Santiago, Cooper, Dennis and Hay all played for Porter-Gaud's girls last fall, while Harrell and Kirkland helped Ashley Hall advance to the SCISA Class AAA girls' final. McDonald played for Colleton Prep and Evans led Pinewood Prep.

Clement Morey event
Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road tennis complex will hold the Clement Morey Tennis Tournament March 21-23 for adults of all levels, 2.5-5.0 and over. Call 856-2162.

(02/28/08)  Waccamaw stands in BE's way to state title
Will magic strike twice in the same school year for Bishop England tennis?

Once again, Waccamaw stands in the path of the Bishops and their goal: a Class AA state championship.

Patricia Owens' girls' team lived up to its end of the bargain in the fall when the Bishops broke a string of three straight playoff losses to Waccamaw, then marched to the state title.

The Bishop England boys have a much longer playoff losing streak to Waccamaw, having been eliminated the last five years from the state playoffs by the team from Pawleys Island.

This time, the Bishops have a new coach. The Citadel graduate Louis "Skip" Reville has replaced longtime coach Chad Allan.

Almost a cinch to represent Region 6-AA in the state playoffs, Bishop England will get an early glimpse of just what to expect in the postseason on April 29, just before the state playoffs start, when the Bishops go to Litchfield Beach to take on Waccamaw. Academic Magnet is once again expected to be the Bishops' only obstacle in claiming another 6-AA crown.

The Bishops lost No. 1 player Alex Nista to graduation, but gained another talented player, junior John Karle, who has experienced the ultimate satisfaction of back-to-back state championships while playing No. 1 for SCISA Class A power Palmetto Christian Academy. John should feel right at home playing for the Bishops since Bishop England and Palmetto Christian share the courts at Family Circle Tennis Center.

John has been competing with sophomore Randall Heffron, who played Nos. 2 or 3 last season, for the Bishops' top spot.

"Karle and Randall may be going back and forth at No. 1," said Reville, who serves as a pro for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department at the Whipple Road tennis complex.

That was the case in the Bishops' recent trip to Mobile, Ala., to scrimmage three top teams from that area. Randall played the first two matches and John played the third. Reville, who is from the Birmingham area, was impressed with both, as well as the rest of his key players.

"We won all three matches ... we swept them. It was a productive trip. We had a really good time," Reville said.

"We've got two or three kids who have an extra gear. They came back a few times and won their matches," he said, referring to Randall, John, and Andrew Thebes.

Senior captains Andrew and Leigh Colyer appear to be the top bets at Nos. 3 and 4, while sophomore Trey Halbauer looks like the No. 5 starter. "Halbauer has come on strong. He's going to be a good player," Reville said.

Freshmen Rivers Colyer and Walker Heffron, brothers of Leigh and Randall, respectively, are the top candidates for Nos. 6 and 7. Both freshmen are first-year team members as Rivers was at Charleston Day School last school year and Walker was at Mason Prep.

"I feel great about the top eight players. What's going to set us apart in the state playoffs will be the Nos. 4-7 players," Reville said.

In High School League competition, the match format calls for competition at five singles positions, and two doubles matches. Two non-singles starters must fill half of the four spots in doubles.

Sophomores Joseph Kennedy and Clauson Coward are competing for the eighth spot on the Bishops' team ladder.

"Our guys want to win. They all want to have a good season," Reville said.

Bishop England will launch its regular season March 7 against Hanahan at Family Circle Tennis Center.

(02/26/08)  Cecil toughs it out to win Smash title
Mallory Cecil had it all — sore shoulder and aching thigh, not to mention near exhaustion.

It took the 5-5 Spartanburg dynamo 200 action-packed minutes and three sets to outlast big, strong-hitting Nadja Gilchrist of Rochester, N.Y., in Monday's girls' 18 final of the Smash Junior Cup at Family Circle Tennis Center.

It was worth the effort for the 17-year-old's tennis career. Not only did the 6-4, 6-7 (7-2), 7-5 victory earn Cecil a wild-card berth in the April 12-13 qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup, it made her the first S.C. girl to win the girls' 18 title in the seven-year tournament that is now called the Smash State Open Clay Court Junior Tennis Cup.

"My shoulder was really bothering me, my groin . . . everything . . . it's been a tough weekend," Cecil said about cashing in on her third opportunity to serve for the match against a player who defeated her in straight sets in last year's Smash semifinals.

"I thought I had it in the second set (when she recovered from a 3-1 deficit to serve for the match at 5-3), but she fought back. She started hitting high balls (almost moon balls) to my backhand, and it threw off my momentum a lot. But that was really smart on her part."

In the third set after falling behind 4-2, Cecil ran off three straight games and served for the match again at 5-4. She failed to close it out again, but bounced back to break Gilchrist and then ended the long struggle on her second match point.

Cecil, who trains at the famed Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla., never backed off against her 5-8 University of Georgia-bound opponent, but attacked on nearly every shot. Cecil drove down-the-line backhands for winners and pounded forehands for outright winners on service returns. Her serve was her only liability, but she knew that coming into the tournament one of her main weapons was firing blanks due to an injured right shoulder.

Yet, Cecil lived up to her top seeding in impressive fashion. She put the second-seeded Gilchrist on the defensive. "She attacked the ball a lot more than I did," said Gilchrist, who plays out of Hilton Head Island's Smith-Stearns Academy.

--In 2002 in the first Junior Family Circle Cup, then local junior Emily Applegate was awarded the tournament's wild-card berth into Family Circle qualifying, but the girls' 18 division was not played out that year due to inclement weather.

(02/25/08)  Top seed Cecil gains girls' 18 final berth
The serve is about the only thing that's not spectacular about Mallory Cecil's current game. Her sore right shoulder is causing that problem.

Although she concentrated more on spin rather than power-serving in Sunday's girls' 18 semifinals of the Smash Junior Tennis Cup, the 17-year-old top seed from Spartanburg was too strong for fourth-seeded Keri Wong of Jackson, Miss. The 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory sends Cecil into today's 10 a.m. final against second-seeded Nadja Gilchrist of Rochester, N.Y., at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Gilchrist, who defeated Cecil in last year's Smash semifinals in their only previous meeting, turned back No. 3 seed Alison Riske of McMurray, Pa., 6-3, 6-4, in Sunday's other semifinal. Riske was the nation's second-ranked junior in 2007.

Cecil demonstrated why she is the nation's fourth-ranked junior and reigning Orange Bowl doubles champion with ferocious backhands down the line and deep, penetrating forehands. "The backhand down the line is my favorite shot," the Bollettieri Academy standout said.

Even then, the 5-5 Wong, who is bound for Clemson, concentrated on Cecil's backhand. "She plays my backhand most of the time. We just like to go back and forth to the backhands," Cecil said, referring to their numerous confrontations.

"We play all the time," said Wong, who is based out of Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy. "I've beaten her two or three times, but she's beaten me more."

Wong's strategy paid off, with the help of Cecil's inconsistent serving as Wong survived one match point before coming up with a service break when Cecil served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Once in the tiebreaker, Cecil's power off both sides wore her opponent into submission as she won seven of the last eight points.

"I have been working on my forehand, and it's finally paying off," Cecil said. "This is my first final here."

And that means Cecil is only one victory from earning a wild-card berth in the April 12-13 qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

Gilchrist, a big-hitting 5-8 player who lost a three-setter to two-time champion Nina Pantic in last year's Smash final, is headed for the University of Georgia on a tennis scholarship.

The event is officially named the Smash State Open Clay Court Junior Tennis Cup.

Sunday's results at Family Circle Tennis Center
Boys' 18 Singles (Quarterfinals): Ashkon Babaee, Columbia, def. Stephen Beach, Mt. Pleasant, 6-4; 6-3; John Karle, Daniel Island, def. Ryan Drake, Hilton Head, 6-0; 6-2; Michael Chang, Winston-Salem, NC, def. Richard Pearce, Mt Pleasant, 6-1; 6-0; Yu Wen Lin, Hilton Head, def. Bock, Andrew Fayetteville, NC, 6-2; 6-1. Semifinals: Lin d. Babaee, 6-7(4); 6-1; 6-1; Karle d. Chang, 2-6; 6-1; 6-0.

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinals): Kyle Koch, Irmo, def. John Keith, Pauline, 6-2; 6-1; Walker Heffron, Sullivans Island, def. Cauthen Tiller, Camden, 6-1; 7-5; Andrew Gores, Charlotte, d. def. J. Robards, Mt. Pleasant, 6-1; 6-1; Christopher Cox, Myrtle Beach, def. Parker Chang, Winston Salem, NC, 6-0; 6-1. Semifinals: Koch d. Heffron, 6-2; 6-2; Cox def. Gores, 7-5; 6-1.

Boys' 14 Singles (Quarterfinals): Addison King, Mt. Pleasant, def. Matt Kirk, Hilton Head, 6-1; 6-3; Aramis Azucey, Spartanburg, def. Hunter Mitchell, Charleston, 7-5; 6-4; Anderson Scarpa, Sullivans Island, def. Brent Lett, Elgin, 6-3; 3-6; 1-0(6). (Semifinals): Mike Saia def. James Beck 7-5, 6-3; King d. Azucey, 6-0; 6-3; Scarpa def. Bailey Kirkland, Charleston, 6-1; 7-5.

Boys' 12 Singles (Quarterfinals): Adam Elliget, Summerville, def. Jared Woodson, Hilton Head, 7-5; 7-6(0); Hampton Drake, Columbia, def. Nicholas Nishnic, Columbia, 6-4; 6-2; Merritt Wilburn, Hilton Head, def. Christopher Demarco, Mt. Pleasant, 6-3; 6-0; Seth Pinosky, Mt. Pleasant, def. Jordan Dingle, Aiken, 2-6; 6-0; 1-0 (3). (Semifinals): Elliget d. Drake, 6-4; 6-0; Pinosky def. Wilburn, 6-4; 6-2.

Boys' 10 Singles (Semifinals): Blake McGuirt, Columbia, def. Thomas Bryan, Lexington, 6-3; 6-0; Alex Steryous, Taylors, def. Noah Nawabi, Spartanburg, 6-4; 6-3. (Final): McGuirt def. Steryous, 6-4; 6-4.

Girls' 18 Singles (Quarterfinals): Nadja Gilchrist, Hilton Head, def. Michelle Green, Hilton Head, 6-2; 6-1; Mallory Cecil, Spartanburg, def. Emily Gelber, Scarsdale, NY 6-1; 6-4; Keri Wong, Jackson, MS, def. Katie Haught, Hilton Head, 6-1; 6-0; Alison Riske, McMurray, PA def. Caryssa Peretz, Cherry Hill, NJ, 6-1; 6-4. (Semifinals): Cecil def. Wong 6-2; 7-6 (3); Gilchrist def. Riske 6-3; 6-4.

Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinals): Corin Hallman, Mount Pleasant, def. Stephanie Cox, Myrtle Beach, 6-0; 6-3; Kendal Drake, Hilton Head, def. Chandler Consonery, Simpsonville, 6-7(5); 6-2; 1-0(8); Clair Larkin, Lexington, def. Jordan Lazarus, Myrtle Beach, 7-6(4); 7-5; Zeynep Mafa, Hilton Head, def. Lindsay Burke, Hilton Head, 6-3; 6-4. (Semifinals): Hallman def. Drake, 4-6; 7-6 (5); 6-2; Mafa def. Larkin, 3-6; 6-4; 6-1.

Girls' 14 Singles (Quarterfinals): Alexa Breeland, Hopkins, def. Anna Kate Anderson, Spartanburg, 6-0; 6-2; Ashley Kitchen, Hilton Head, def. Patricia Kirkland, Charleston, 6-4; 6-2; Taylor Baird, Belmont, NC, def. Katie Tiller, Camden, 6-4; 6-2; Mckayla Zupan, Wilmington, NC, def. Katherine Lee, Piedmont, 6-3; 6-3. (Semifinals): Kitchen def. Baird 6-3; 6-1; Zupan def. Breeland 6-2; 6-2.

Girls' 12 Singles (Quarterfinals): Laura Dean, Georgetown, def. Celeste Pritchard, Charleston, 6-1; 6-0; Katie Williams, Columbia, def. Lauren Proctor, Tega Cay, 6-4; 6-4;

Jessie Mae Dumas, Myrtle Beach, def. Curran Carver, Elgin, 1-6; 6-4; 1-0(9); Ellie Halbauer, Daniel Island, def. Grace Robards, Mt. Pleasant, 6-2; 6-3. (Semifinals): Dean def. Williams 7-5; 6-0; Dumas def. Ellie Halbauer, Daniel Island, 6-3; 2-6; 6-1.

Girls' 10 Singles (Semifinals): Natalie Kitchen, Hilton Head, def. Andie Carver, Elgin, 6-1; 6-2; Samantha Schuster, Charleston, def. Hannah Alexander, Greenville, 7-5; 6-7(4); 1-0 (8). (Final): Kitchen def. Schuster, 6-1; 6-0.

(02/22/08)  S.C. star Cecil top girls' 18 seed for Smash tennis
It's raining. It must be Junior Family Circle Cup time again.

The national-caliber junior tennis tournament is now called the Smash State Open Clay Court Junior Cup.

And a homegrown South Carolina talent is the top seed in the prestigious girls' 18 category this time as 17-year-old Mallory Cecil, of Spartanburg, is coming home from Florida's Bollettieri Academy to compete. Barring continuing inclement weather, the Smash tournament starts today at Family Circle Tennis Center and runs through Monday.

The tournament will have competition in all junior age groups, but girls' 18 singles is the feature category since its champion will receive a wild-card berth in the qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

"It didn't rain last year, but it seems like it has rained every other year," said Cecil, the nation's fourth-ranked junior who lost to New Yorker Nadja Gilchrist of Hilton Head Island's Smith-Stearns Academy in last year's semifinals on Daniel Island.

Gilchrist, who fell to two-time champion Nina Pantic in last year's Smash final, is the No. 2 seed this time.

Although she is nursing a shoulder injury, Cecil is on a hot streak. She teamed with Melanie Oudin of Atlanta to win the recent Orange Bowl doubles crown after losing to Oudin in the singles semifinals. A week earlier, Cecil and Oudin teamed up as doubles runners-up in the Eddie Herr tournament. "I really enjoy doubles," said Cecil, a 5-5 player with an all-court game. As for the shoulder injury, she said, "I definitely won't have all of my weapons. My serve is one of my best weapons. I'll have to use more spin."

Alison Riske of McMurray, Pa., is the Smash third seed; local player Jessica Diamond is a fifth seed. Diamond has led Wando to four straight Class AAAA state titles.

(02/22/08)  Daniel recovering after freak accident

The story sounds unbelievable.

The tires of a 6,000-pound Suburban rolling over the body of a 99-pound boy. And he lives to talk about the experience.

Wilson Daniel knows he is fortunate to be alive. What no one knows is how this story didn't end in tragedy.

"One in a million might be underestimating it ... it's greater than that. The odds are incalculable," were the words of Daniel's uncle and Charleston pediatrician Dr. Charles Kisabeth when asked about the odds of a person not suffering serious injuries or death in a similar situation.

Thirteen-year-old Wilson Daniel was riding his bicycle to a Porter-Gaud tennis practice when he was struck by the large sports utility vehicle as he crossed an intersection near his home in the Crescent subdivision off Folly Road in West Ashley.

Daniel was knocked off his bike and onto the road. The driver of the Suburban stopped but left the vehicle running while hastily getting out to check on him. Subsequently, the SUV started moving again and rolled across his midsection as he lay on his back on the pavement.

"I just remember feeling like there was a million pounds on top of me, and I realized a Suburban was on top of me," Daniel recalled. "It was really quick. ... I was on my back. It ran over right where my abs were."

Days after the Feb. 5 accident, Daniel could finally joke about it.

His injuries were limited to fractures to his right knee and right elbow, which occurred when he was initially knocked off his bike.

"My abdomen is a little sore," Daniel quipped. "I've got abs of steel."

He was back in school a week later, having been released from MUSC's Children's Hospital two days after the accident.

Today he rides around in a wheelchair, but he expects to go on crutches soon, and is looking forward to returning to the tennis court.

"That was my first thought when I got to the hospital — was I going to be able to play tennis again?" he said. Daniel was told he should be able to play within two months.

"We are very fortunate. He was very lucky," said Daniel's father, Bart Daniel, former U.S. Attorney for South Carolina. "He's a tough guy. He's a great kid."

Bart Daniel and his wife, Cindy, had just arrived on the island of St. Lucia for a vacation when the message came that their youngest son had been involved in an accident.

The Daniels couldn't get a flight out of the small Caribbean island that afternoon. They flew to San Juan the next day, then to Miami, where a private plane picked the Daniels up and brought them to Charleston.

Wilson Daniel had plenty of company at the hospital before his parents arrived.

Dr. Kisabeth, the husband of Bart's sister, Anne, was at the hospital almost continuously. Wilson's 23-year-old sister Francie, a second-year student at the Charleston School of Law, was the first family member called to the hospital.

"When I got there I was told that no one was allowed in the emergency room but parents," Francie said. "I was flipping out."

She eventually was allowed in the emergency room to be with her brother.

Francie was joined by 20-year-old brother Bart Jr. and older sister Caroline, along with many aunts and uncles.

"Dad is the youngest of seven children, and all of his brothers and sisters live in town. All of my dad's and mom's nine brothers and sisters who live in town came to the hospital in the first 24 hours. We had lots of help," Francie said.

The Porter-Gaud tennis team also visited the hospital. Assistant coach and school chaplain Ken Weldon promised Wilson a new Cyclone Tennis T-shirt to replace the one the medics cut off him at the accident scene.

Wilson Daniel is a state-ranked (No. 32 in boys' 14 for 2007) junior who was a starter on last year's Porter-Gaud tennis team. He hopes to be a starter again next season.

(02/21/08)  Pinewood Prep coach hopes to retain its boys tennis title
The Pinewood Prep boys' tennis program hasn't reached the plateau where coach Heinz Maurer can take winning South Carolina Independent School Association state championships for granted. He's still enjoying the Panthers' 2007 success.

But it's a new season, and Maurer can only hope the Panthers can make a run at another Class AAA state title.

"We don't have a team the caliber of last year's, but we'll be competitive," Maurer predicted.

The Panthers lost two strong seniors, No. 1 Jeremiah Dye and No. 3 Trey Bessent, from the team that defeated Hilton Head Prep for last year's state title, and No. 4 player Zac Dye has transferred to Berkeley High where he is a seventh-grader.

That leaves only sophomore Josh Klingenberg from last season's top four players back. But the situation could have been much more difficult.

Maurer thought for a brief time he also had lost Josh when the boy's father, Larry Klingenberg, followed former Pine Forest Country Club Tennis Director Lee Holyoak to Hilton Head Island's Long Cove Plantation. But the Klingenbergs decided to return to Summerville, where Pine Forest rehired the dad as tennis director.

Maurer is obviously more optimistic now that the big-hitting, 6-2 sophomore is his No. 1 player, instead of joining an already strong Hilton Head Prep squad. Maurer said Josh might have made Hilton Head Prep nearly unbeatable in SCISA competition since the 2007 runner-up team still has young all-staters Mo Hookayo and Nicky Kuntz at the top of its lineup.

Josh lost to Nicky in last year's state final at No. 2, but then teamed with Jeremiah Dye to win the decisive No. 1 doubles match as the Panthers rallied from 4-0 deficit for a 5-4 victory by capping off the match with success in all three doubles.

Freshman Jacob Cumbie, who played No. 5 last year, has moved all the way up to No. 2. "He's gotten a lot better," Maurer said about Cumbie. "He played all summer on the (state champion) Junior Team Tennis team. He's a solid No. 2. Only Josh can beat him in challenge matches so far."

While freshman J.T. Elliget has moved into the starting lineup at No. 3, the last three spots are wide open with six players competing for starting berths. Senior Scott Hayes, who played No. 6 last season, sixth-grade newcomer Adam Elliget, freshman William Wert, freshman Austin Shepard, seventh-grader Davis Craig and junior Ladson Fishburne "are all about equal."

Pinewood's only competition in Region I will come from perennial power Porter-Gaud, which, prior to losing to Hilton Head Prep in last year's semifinals, had won five state titles in six years. "Porter-Gaud will be very good," Maurer said. "It will be interesting. The seeding is so important as to where and who you play in the second round of the state playoffs."

Pinewood, which went 11-2 last season, will open its regular season March 3 at Wando. The Panthers face Porter-Gaud twice: March 20 at home and April 18 at the Porter-Gaud courts.

(02/21/08)  BE faces arch rival on way to title
Will magic strike twice in the same school year for Bishop England tennis?

Once again, Waccamaw stands in the path of the Bishops and their goal: a Class AA state championship. Patricia Owens' girls' team lived up to its end of the bargain back in the fall when the Bishops broke a string of three straight playoff losses to Waccamaw, then marched to the state title.

The Bishop England boys have a much longer playoff losing streak to Waccamaw, having been eliminated the
last five years from the state playoffs by the team from Pawleys Island.

This time, the Bishops have a new coach. The Citadel graduate Louis "Skip" Reville has replaced longtime
coach Chad Allan.  Almost a cinch to represent Region 6-AA in the state playoffs, Bishop England will get an early glimpse of just what to expect in the postseason on April 29 just before the state playoffs start when the Bishops go to Litchfield Beach to take on Waccamaw. Academic Magnet is once again expected to be the Bishops' only obstacle in claiming another 6-AA crown.

The Bishops lost No. 1 player Alex Nista to graduation, but gained another talented player, junior John Karle, who has experienced the ultimate satisfaction of back-to-back state championships while playing No. 1 for SCISA Class A power Palmetto Christian Academy. John should feel right at home playing for the Bishops since Bishop England and Palmetto Christian share the courts at Family Circle Tennis Center.

John has been competing with sophomore Randall Heffron, who played Nos. 2 or 3 last season, for the Bishops' top spot. "Karle and Randall may be going back and forth at No. 1," said Reville, who serves as a pro for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department at the Whipple Road tennis complex.

That was the case in the Bishops' recent trip to Mobile, Ala., to scrimmage three top teams from that area. Randall played the first two matches and John played the third.

Reville, who is from the Birmingham area, was impressed with both, as well as the rest of his key players.
"We won all three matches ... we swept them. It was a productive trip. We had a really good time," Reville said.
"We've got two or three kids who have an extra gear. They came back a few times and won their matches," he said, referring to Randall, John, and Andrew Thebes. Senior captains Andrew and Leigh Colyer appear to be the top bets at Nos. 3 and 4, while sophomore Trey Halbauer looks like the No. 5 starter. "Halbauer has come on strong. He's going to be a good player," Reville said.

Freshmen Rivers Colyer and Walker Heffron, brothers of Leigh and Randall, are the top candidates for Nos. 6 and 7. Both freshmen are first-year team members as Rivers was at Charleston Day School last school year and Walker was at Mason Prep.

"I feel great about the top eight players. What's going to set us apart in the state playoffs will be the Nos. 4-7 players," Reville said.

In High School League competition, the match format calls for competition at five singles positions, and two doubles matches. Two non-singles starters must fill half of the four spots in doubles.

Sophomores Joseph Kennedy and Clauson Coward are competing for the eighth spot on the Bishops' team ladder.

"Our guys want to win. They all want to have a good season," Reville said.

Bishop England will launch its regular season March 7 against Hanahan at Family Circle Tennis Center.

(02/21/08)  P-G boys tennis seeks to retain dynasty
Porter-Gaud has the makings of two of the best boys tennis teams in all of the South Carolina Independent School Association. Put them together, and veteran coach Tom Higgins could have his best team.

And when you start talking about Porter-Gaud's best boys tennis teams, the word dynasty comes into focus. The group of seniors who graduated two years ago played on five Class AAA SCISA state championship teams.

"Depth-wise, we are twice as good as we were last year," Higgins said, comparing the 2007 team that lost in the state semifinals with the group of players currently preparing for another season.

"There's no doubt we'll be a lot better. At this point, this should be one of the better teams (in his five years at Porter-Gaud, the last four as head coach) ... it might even be better."

The leader of this year's team is senior Richard Pearce, whose brother, Robert, helped the Cyclones win four straight state titles before graduating in 2006. Richard not only played a key role in the 2006 state championship, he's the association's defending state singles champion.

Pearce should enter every association match this season as a heavy favorite in No. 1 singles.

"Richard is a Division I (NCAA) player if he wants to work at it," said Higgins, a longtime head men's and women's coach at Eastern Kentucky University before coming to Charleston.

After Pearce, the lineup is wide open with sophomore Connor Hoy (last season's No. 2), sophomore Bishop England transfer Elliott Sperr and freshman basketball player Charlie Baker (last season's No. 3) all competing for the second spot.

The competition is just as tight on down the line.

As many as a half-dozen or more other players are seeking playing time.

They include newcomers Payne Hoy (seventh grade), Matt Poletti (freshman) and Mishka Scarfile (eighth grade), as well as seniors Stephen Freudenberg (No. 6 last year) and Whit McGreevy (a doubles specialist last season). Junior Gordon Gibson (No. 4 last year) also is in the running for a spot.

Porter-Gaud notes
--The Cyclones will open the season March 3 at Berkeley.
--Only P-G and defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Pinewood Prep compete in Region I.
--Pearce, Freudenberg and McGreevy will serve as captains.
--Ken Weldon, the Porter-Gaud chaplain, and Stephen Johnson, a volunteer, assist Higgins with the coaching.

(02/20/08)  Schnyder joins Family Circle Cup
Patty Schnyder keeps returning to the Family Circle Cup, obviously with one goal in mind. Maybe this will be the year the smallish Swiss woman finally hits the jackpot by winning the $1.34 million tournament scheduled for April 12-20.

You guessed it. Schnyder is entered in the Family Circle Cup for the 12th consecutive year.

The 29-year-old player has used her finely tuned left-handed spin on the clay surfaces at Family Circle Tennis Center to frustrate past Family Circle fields. She has been a finalist on Daniel Island twice, in 2002 and 2006. She owns a 25-11 Family Circle record and her earnings total of $399,700 in the event is the fourth best.

Schnyder, ranked 12th in the world, joins a field that includes six top 10 players - 2003 and 2005 champion Justine Henin (No. 1), defending champ Jelena Jankovic (4), Anna Chakvetadze (6), 2004 winner Venus Williams (7), Marion Bartoli (9) and Serena Williams (10) - along with 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (16).

"Patty Schnyder's 11 years of experience, success and fan support at this event make her a strong contender as the world's top players head to Charleston for our 35th anniversary celebration," tournament director Robin Reynolds said. "She has been a part of this event for nearly one third of its existence, so it's very exciting to have her return for this historic milestone."

(02/20/08)  Hope still alive for Buccaneers
There's hope at Charleston Southern. The Bucs' tennis fortunes may not be as bad as the men's and women's combined 0-6 record.

Third-year coach Mike Baker actually thinks his men's team can win the Big South Conference title. He still hasn't seen his entire starting lineup healthy at the same time, but that could change when the Bucs take on Liberty on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the CSU courts.

"I haven't seen the whole team compete yet," said Baker, a former College of Charleston player. "Things would have to come together, but I feel we could win the conference."

After finishing third in the conference a year ago, the Bucs (0-4) were picked third this year behind defending men's champion Radford and Winthrop.

Baker said his team's conference-opening 5-2 loss to Radford last week was closer than it might appear. With a healthy lineup, he thinks it could be even closer.

Junior Chris Peek of Lexington lost against Radford, but it was the veteran player's first match of the season. Even then, Peek played sick and still hadn't fully recovered from a sore knee. Also, senior Murat Atilla of Turkey is still nursing a knee injury.

Peek and Atilla likely will play Nos. 4 and 5 against Liberty. Returning Australians Steven Dean and Guy David have moved up and are set at Nos. 1 and 2, while Slovenian freshman Grega Teraz is No. 3. Players Club freshman Keith Whittingham of Pennsylvania is battling sophomore Luis Maselli, a Brazilian who transferred in from Brevard College, for the sixth spot.

CSU women picked third

Like the CSU men, the women's team (0-2) also has four of the top six players back and was picked third in the Big South in preseason polls. The Bucs lost their top two women from last year's third-place Big South team, allowing sophomore Zineb Hilali of Casablanca to move up two spots to No. 1. Irish freshman Aodhnait Lombard is unbeaten at No. 2.

The CSU women also host Big South opponent Liberty on Saturday at 1 p.m. Winthrop and Coastal Carolina were picked to finish ahead of the Bucs in preseason polls. Atlanta sophomores Ashley Heard and Amanda Swindall are battling for the last two positions.
--The Citadel (0-2) will attempt to snap its 20-match losing streak Saturday at home against Southern Conference rival Davidson at 2 p.m.
--The College of Charleston women (4-1) will play at Stetson on Friday and North Florida on Sunday. The C of C men (3-3) will visit Mercer on Friday and North Florida on Sunday.

FCC field better
Six of the top 10 players in the world isn't a bad start for the Family Circle Cup. Considering that those six players include Justine Henin and the Williams sisters, the Family Circle's entry list is much more impressive than the super-tournament $2.1 million Indian Wells, Calif., event that starts March 10.

Indian Wells also has six of the top 10 players entered, but the four top 10 women missing from Indian Wells are Henin, Anna Chakvetadze, and Venus and Serena Williams, all of whom are entered in the April 12-20 Family Circle. The only truly recognized superstar committed to the two-week Indian Wells tournament is Maria Sharapova.

Fourth-ranked Jelena Jankovic and No. 9 Marion Bartoli are the only current top 10 players entered in both the Family Circle Cup and Indian Wells.

(02/17/08)  Harkleroad gets back on radar screen

Five years ago, Ashley Harkleroad captured Charleston as few tennis players have.

Little known, and just 17 years old at the time, Harkleroad was the belle of the Family Circle Cup until the Saturday semifinals. She was perky, pretty and a delight to watch.

But for most of the time since then, the girl affectionately known as Pebbles from her days of living in little Flintstone, Ga., has been in a different zone.

Then a couple of weeks ago, newspapers around the world flashed photos of Harkleroad. The 5-5 blonde practically carried the U.S. Fed Cup team on her back against Germany, while Lindsay Davenport's highly acclaimed comeback faltered.

Davenport fell to 129th-ranked Sabine Lisicki the first day, but Harkleroad won both of her singles matches in the competition in straight sets to spearhead the win over Germany. Fittingly, Harkleroad defeated Lisicki on the last day to clinch the victory.

Charleston fans would love to see Harkleroad repeat her 2003 Family Circle Cup performance, although she hasn't been announced as one of the early entries in the April 12-20 tournament.

Harkleroad's best tennis days, other than the San Diego Fed Cup, since leaving Charleston five years ago have been third-round appearances in the 2003 French Open and 2007 Australian Open. She came to Charleston in 2003 ranked 101st in the world, but upended three top 20 players before running into eventual champion Justine Henin in the semis. Harkleroad climbed to as high as No. 39 in June 2003 before starting a steady decline. Married to ATP Tour player Alex Bogomolov Jr. since 2004, she is back in the top 100 at No. 65.

What's up?

Where's Roger Federer? And what's up with Novak Djokovic?

Just as Djokovic makes the cover of Tennis Magazine being labeled as tennis' next great player, he loses to Gilles Simon in Thursday's second round at Marseille, France.

Djokovic played Davis Cup for Serbia recently despite missing practice all week while under the weather. The Serb ace reportedly wore only a T-shirt during a cold two-hour outdoor celebration back in Belgrade following his Australian Open championship.

After sitting out the opening singles matches against Russia before winning in doubles the second day, Djokovic retired against Nikolay Davydenko in the reverse singles as Serbia fell to the Russians.

Of course, Federer hasn't played since losing to Djokovic in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Federer apparently will compete at Dubai the first week in March.

High school transfers

Boys' high school tennis is just a couple of weeks away, and you might not recognize some of the players on your school's team. Sophomore Elliott Sperr has transferred to Porter-Gaud from Bishop England, drastically reducing the time of his morning commutes from his home near the Porter-Gaud campus. But the Bishops picked up junior standout John Karle from Palmetto Christian Academy, where he played No. 1 on two SCISA Class A championship teams.

And with big brother Jeremiah Dye now playing tennis at Coker College, seventh-grader Zac Dye has decided to stay closer to home and play for the Berkeley Stags. The Dyes were two of the stars of Pinewood Prep's SCISA Class AAA state champs last spring.

FAMILY CIRCLE CUP CHARITY: The Family Circle Cup has selected the Center for Women for the third straight year as its official charity organization. The Center for Women will have a presence at the Family Circle Cup and hold promotions and events to help raise funds for the services it provides for women in the area.

CHALLENGER SET: The Lowcountry Junior Challenger is scheduled for March 7-9 at Charleston Tennis Center. The entry deadline is March 1. Registration is available at www.usta.com using ID number (704130708).

FLORENCE WINS AWARD: The Florence Tennis Association has been named the 2007 National Community Tennis Association of the Year by the USTA and will be honored next Saturday in Las Vegas during the annual USTA Community Tennis Development Workshop.

(02/13/08)  Cougars women eye SoCon title thanks to depth
It’s the same old story for the College of Charleston women. No matter how good the Cougars appear to be, there's always one team looming above all others in the Southern Conference standings.

Furman hasn't lost a regular season match to a SoCon opponent since 1999.

That doesn't mean there isn't hope for coach Angelo Anastopoulo's C of C outfit that finished last year's regular season and conference tournament as runner-up to Furman, posting a 20-7 record along the way. Anastopoulo hasn't forgotten the 2003 SoCon tournament when the Cougars prevailed as champions.

"I think we're a contender, but we're playing Furman up there this year (April 5)," Anastopoulo said, happily knowing that the annual SoCon tournament once again will be played at The Citadel.

On paper, the Cougars are loaded. Their top six players — (in order) All-SoCon senior Chelsea Albertz, sophomores Laura Borza and Link Leskosky, junior Holly Dowse, sophomore Anna Lee Evans and senior Amanda Becker — are all back. But freshmen Kinsey Casey of Alpharetta, Ga., and Keely Mulligan of Miami are talented enough to challenge for starting roles.

"On any given day, our 1-5 players can beat each other, and 6-8 are about even too," the 17th-year coach said.

"Both (Mulligan and Casey) have shots at breaking into the lineup. Both were top-100 players nationally last year in high school and both should break into the starting lineup at some point this year."

Anastopoulo had planned to give the two first-year players a test today "to see how they respond as starters." But a forecast of inclement weather led Anastopoulo to postpone a match scheduled for today at Patriots Point against East Carolina to April 1.

The Cougars, whose only loss in five matches this season came against powerful South Carolina, are idle until a trip to Florida on Feb. 22-24 to take on Stetson and North Florida.

C of C men young

A new coach and a young team. The situation sounds unpredictable, but Jay Bruner thinks the C of C men's team has a chance to be pretty good. That's especially true now that the Cougars (2-2) have given him his initial college victories.

Bruner is a former Virginia Tech player who served two years as an assistant coach for both the Cougars' men's and women's teams before being elevated to men's head coach last year when Phil Whitesell stepped down.

"I think we have to fight, but I think we can be competitive," Bruner said. "Hopefully, Furman, Elon and Davidson are thinking about us."

Elon is the defending SoCon champion, but Furman is a perennial power in the league.

The men's team lost four of its top six players, including Nos. 1 and 2 Or Dekel and Marcos DiGliodo, so the Cougars have four newcomers among their first seven players.

Junior Omer Abramovich from Israel has moved into the No. 1 slot after going 18-0 last season at Nos. 3 and 4. Sophomore Steven Myers (No. 3) is the only other starter back.

Mickael Boyer, a freshman from France, is a strong-looking player at No. 2, while New Mexico transfer Joe Nicolazzi and Pepperdine transfer Chris Carlton, both sophomores, are at Nos. 4 and 5. Senior Jimmy Petit is No. 6, while freshman Ross Moyer from Myrtle Beach is a strong No. 7 player.

The Cougars play at UNC Charlotte on Friday and Wingate on Saturday.

SMASH getting close
The prestigious Smash State Open Clay Court Junior Cup is only a little more than a week away as the top juniors in the region and nation once again will converge on Family Circle Tennis Center for the Feb. 22-25 event. The tournament is highlighted by a wild-card berth for its girls' 18 winner in the qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

The entry deadline is Monday. Registration is available online at www.usta.com, using the tournament ID number (704140608).

(02/10/08)  Higgins graduated his collegian
College tennis players often are taken for granted, especially American players, because there are so few of them on major college campuses these days that still play varsity tennis.

You might think tennis players have a free path to graduation, just knock the ball around a little and get free tuition and board. Of course, that's not the case. While tennis players don't bang each other around in practice, they perform much of the same physical fitness training and practice that most college athletes engage in to stay competitive.

And the free ride thing is a myth. Unlike football and basketball players, most men's tennis players and other non-revenue sports participants such as golfers aren't on full athletic grants, not even the stars. Most of them see only little assistance from athletic grants. NCAA Division I men's tennis teams are allowed only four and one-half total scholarships, with women's teams receiving eight.

As a result, much of the funding for tennis grants is academic-based and linked to a student's grade-point average. In other words, get A's and B's (or a 3.0 GPA), or go home if you can't pay. Is that stress?

And the Andy Roddicks think they know what pressure is all about.

So, when a men's tennis team achieves a 94 percent graduation rate, it's quite an accomplishment, even more so if it's achieved for more than a quarter of a century.

That statistic obviously came into play last year when Eastern Kentucky University decided to name its new eight-court outdoor complex the J. Thomas Higgins Tennis Courts. He is most proud of the words on the plaque from the Oct. 20, 2007 dedication in Richmond, Ky., that state, "Most importantly, ninety-four percent of all of Coach Higgins' student-athletes earned their degrees."

Tennis on his mind

Tom Higgins served 29 years as Eastern Kentucky's head men's coach and eight years as head women's coach. When he stepped down in 2000, his men's teams had posted 339 victories, good enough to rank 14th at the time on the list of winningest active NCAA coaches.

After continuing to teach health education for two more years at Eastern Kentucky, Higgins moved to Charleston. But he couldn't get tennis out of his system. An old friend, Fritz Nau, was coaching tennis at Porter-Gaud, so Higgins became Nau's assistant in 2003 when the boys' and girls' teams both won SCISA state titles.

Nau left the next year to devote more time to his Charleston Tennis Academy and later the Players Club. Higgins immediately led the Porter-Gaud boys to three more state titles in succession before falling in the state semifinals last season. Brian Burke took over the girls' program last fall, but Higgins is back in the saddle again for the boys' spring season.

And guess what? Porter-Gaud looks like a strong contender for its sixth state title in the last eight years.

The players returned

As an indication of the impact Higgins had on tennis at Eastern Kentucky, more than 500 people attended last fall's court dedication, including 120 of his former tennis players. "One girl came in from New Zealand. She was an American girl who was marrying an Olympic swimmer from New Zealand," Higgins said.

The American part was important to Higgins. "We went with American kids," the 65-year-old coach said. "I wanted to go with American kids, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd do it the same way."

During all of his time as a college coach, Higgins never gave a full scholarship outright. "The most scholarships we ever used was three (for the entire team). We split it up. It served as an inducement for kids to work harder."

In his early years at Eastern Kentucky, Higgins was asked by the school president what could be done to help the tennis program. Pretty soon, the school constructed an indoor tennis facility. "A lot of schools have them now, but when we built ours only Sewanee and Chattanooga and a few others had indoor courts."

(02/06/08)  Tough job for Bulldogs' Simpson

Toby Simpson is a chipper kind of guy.

But he has to be. Simpson is the tennis coach at The Citadel.

If you think basketball coach Ed Conroy is having a difficult time staying positive amidst the Bulldogs' 10-game losing streak, consider Simpson's plight.

Simpson's team finished last season on an 18-match losing streak. The Bulldogs have extended that streak to 20 matches already this season.

It's not that Simpson hasn't been working at it. It's just tough for a military school to recruit tennis players. Five of the six players on The Citadel's current roster are international students. "That's all we have . . . six," Simpson said.

"It's tough," he said about recruiting at a military school. "This is one of the hardest recruiting sells in America . . . coming to play tennis at The Citadel."

The Bulldogs do have a couple of highly regarded players. Daniel Dossetor of Australia and James Eason of New Zealand are three-time All-Southern Conference first-teamers in doubles, and Dossetor has made the SoCon's singles first team each of those years.

Simpson has a hotshot U.S. recruit, Alan Shin of California, coming in next season. But, of course, Dossetor and Eason are in their final seasons.

"I think we'll be all right this year. We'll be a lot better," Simpson said. "We lost a bunch (eight) of 4-3 matches last year, and we had a couple of freshmen."

Simpson is looking for improvement from sophomore Alberto Diaz of Ecuador. "He's improved a ton," Simpson said about the No. 3 player.

The Citadel has a couple more weeks off before opening Southern Conference play at home on Feb. 23 against Davidson.

Things may be tough, but Simpson always can go home to see his two-month old son to brighten up his days. Wife Kelly is an assistant athletic director at The Citadel as the senior administrator for women's athletics.

Poster girl up

Last year's Family Circle Cup "Poster Girl" is up. Defending champ Jelena Jankovic's 42 x 47 foot poster was the first to be hung on the exterior of Family Circle Magazine Stadium, but the posters for former champions Justine Henin and Venus Williams also are up now.

Serena surgery

Serena Williams can stir up controversy without really trying. As it turns out, the surgery that Serena alluded to in withdrawing from this week's Paris Indoors was only dental surgery. I know dental surgery can be both painful and serious, but it shouldn't have a lingering effect on Serena's game.

Hopefully, Serena will recover quickly and be ready for Antwerp next week.

But she did appear to be troubled by a knee during her quarterfinal loss to Jankovic in the Australian Open.

Ticket deal

Ticketmaster clients are being offered a special two-for-one ticket promotion for the Monday-Thursday sessions of the Family Circle Cup. The deal appears to be offered only through e-mails to people with Ticketmaster accounts.

(02/03/08)  Serena's knee a concern

It's just 71 days before the main draw of the Family Circle Cup starts. And Serena Williams is talking about surgery?

That may or may not be good news for fans who already have purchased their tickets for the Daniel Island tournament's 35th anniversary event. Yes, Serena just pulled out of this coming week's Paris Indoors, citing an unspecified injury. "I'm very disappointed to have to pull out of the tournament due to needing a surgery," Serena said in a statement. She also is entered in the Antwerp event that starts in a week.

Williams appeared to be hindered by a knee during her loss to Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

The qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup will be held the weekend of April 12-13, with the main draw starting on that Monday.

The good news is that it's still 71 days away. That's like a lifetime for a player who has had a career filled by as many peaks and valleys as Serena Williams.

Team tennis?

What's that? World Team Tennis?

Not exactly, in this case.

When a recent office discussion turned to tennis and I started talking about playing on a team, a co-worker appeared to be surprised and started asking questions. It was as if the tennis switch had just been flicked on.

Most people not close to tennis probably see tennis as a game where two people just go out and knock a ball around for an hour or so, then go watch the real players on TV. That can happen. For instance, Charleston Tennis Center had a new plasma TV, complete with the Tennis Channel, installed recently.

But amateur tennis is dominated by team tennis these days. Team matches are the highlight of the week for the 3,240 men and women who participated last year in the USTA's local version of league tennis.

And it's that time of the year again. League tennis' official spring season is getting started again. Please, go away, cold weather.

Super senior success
The Walterboro and Legend Oaks 6.5 senior men's teams weren't the only Lowcountry Tennis Association representatives to fare well in the Southern Sectional Championships held recently in Baton Rouge, La. The 6.5 super senior women's team from Seabrook Island, captained by Margo Heyd, posted a 3-1 record in its group competition, but failed to make the final by one set.

Of course, the Walterboro 6.5 senior men brought home the gold from Baton Rouge.

Citadel sets junior event
Next Sunday is the deadline for entering the HSI Junior Winter Championship, a USTA Level 3 tournament, that is scheduled for Feb. 15-17 at The Citadel courts. Registration is available only online at www.usta.com, clicking on TennisLink, then Tournaments and using the tournament ID number (704120308).

--Today is the deadline for entering next weekend's Creekside Junior Challenger at Mount Pleasant's Creekside Tennis and Swim. Registration is available online using the event's ID number (704118508).

Question of the week
Who starts serving in a set that follows a tiebreaker?

Regardless of the score of the tiebreaker, the team (or player in singles) that served first in the tiebreaker serves last in the next set. Always change sides before starting a new set after a tiebreaker. In doubles, partners may change their service rotation in the next set just as in any new set.

(01/30/08)  Djokovic previews unlimited potential
This Australian Open was the most important one to men’s tennis for at least the past decade.

Yes, you had better believe that what Novak Djokovic accomplished Down Under really counted in the big picture of the ATP Tour.

This was no Marat Safin, Thomas Johannsson, Yevgeny Kafelnikov or Petr Korda winning the Australian Open, and then going into sleep mode.  Hopefully, and almost certainly, Djokovic will not follow their paths to obscurity after notching a Grand Slam championship in Melbourne.

Djokovic is a 20-year-old who has a world of potential.  No one, including the great Roger Federer, has a more complete arsenal of weapons.  And the scary part is what if Djokovic prefers his net game a little more, improves his physical conditioning, gets a tad stronger, and quits hitting that drop shot at inopportune times.

Of course, Djokovic’s mental focus already looks unbreakable, unless someone starts hassling his mother, father, and two tennis-playing brothers in the stands as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fans did during the early stages of the Australian Open final.  Other than that, Djokovic was rock-solid in the final, as well as in his deflating, straight-set conquest of Federer in the semifinals.

As a result of what happened at the Australian Open, the world’s No. 1 men’s ranking is now up for grabs.  Federer could go into Wimbledon in dire need of winning a sixth straight title to retain his No. 1 ranking, or Djokovic could possibly enter the French Open with a shot at taking over the top ranking, or both Djokovic and Nadal could go to London in search of the No. 1 ranking.

Due to a copy desk error, Monday’s print edition column incorrectly stated that Djokovic’s Australian Open success doesn’t really count in the big picture of men’s tennis.

Walterboro Champs

Walterboro may be on the fringe of the Lowcountry Tennis Association and Charleston teams always dread the trip, especially for adult league night matches, but Walterboro’s senior men’s 6.5 combo team has brought pride to the LCTA by winning a Southern Section championship.  Captain John Waddell’s seniors took the top honors in the recent Southerns in Baton Rouge, La.

Walterboro swept New Orleans, 3-0, in the final after going 4-0 in group competition while losing only one individual doubles match.  The team also included Doug Bullock, Trent Canon, Buddy Creech, William Goodwin, Campbell Henderson, Phil Manigo, Charles Murdaugh, Ken Rowe and William Snead.

Another LCTA team from Legend Oaks captained by Jim Royce also competed in the 6.5 senior combo Southerns, but failed to make the final despite a 3-1 record.

Beach Tennis returning

The reign of local residents Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell as world champions has ended, but Beach Tennis USA’s 2008 10-city national schedule includes a June 14-15 tournament in Charleston.  The schedule will begin March 21-25 in Key Biscayne, Fla., at the ATP Tour/WTA Tour Sony Ericsson Open and end Labor Day weekend in New York with its National Championship.  TV coverage of beach tennis’ fourth season will include the Tennis Channel and Comcast SportsNet.

SMASH is back

The top junior in in the region and nation once again will converge on Family Circle Tennis Center for the Feb. 22-25 SMASH state open clay court Jr. Cup, a tournament that is highlighted by a Wild Card berth for its girls’ 18 winner in the qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

Joanna Hall, a 26-year-old league tennis player from Lexington, Ky., has been selected as the winner of the Family Circle Cup’s 5th annual T-Shirt design contest.  She plans to attend the April 12-20 Family Circle Cup with her teammates.

(01/29/08)  '06 champ Petrova joins field for Cup
With four former champions and five of the world's top 10 women's tennis players already in the fold, the Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary tournament on April 12-20 is well on its way to having one of the event's better fields.

Nadia Petrova of Russia, the 2006 champion, officially entered the $1.34 million WTA Tour stop on Daniel Island on Monday, joining earlier entrants Justine Henin (No. 1), Jelena Jankovic (No. 4), Venus Williams (No. 5), Anna Chakvetadze (No. 7) and Serena Williams (No. 10). Henin has won the Family Circle Cup twice, in 2003 and 2005, while Jankovic is the defending champion and Venus Williams took the championship in 2004.

"Nadia Petrova's experience and success at this event adds depth to the world-class player field headed to Charleston for our 35th anniversary celebration," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

"Our fans are in for a real treat with four former champions returning to compete for one of the most coveted prizes in women's tennis as we mark such an important milestone at the Family Circle Cup."

Once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, Petrova is ranked 12th. She enjoyed a solid 2007 season as she posted her fifth straight top 20 season and surpassed $6 million in career earnings.

Petrova has played in six Family Circle Cups and holds a 10-4 singles record, winning her last five matches. The 25-year-old did not participate in last year's Family Circle.

(01/28/08)  Djokovic proves he belongs in upper echelon of men's game
Novak Djokovic's victory over Roger Federer and Australian Open title really count in the big picture of men's tennis, unlike Marat Safin's upset of Federer three years ago Down Under.

The 2005 Safin brilliance at the Australian Open is still talked about often on the Grand Slam stage, although because of Safin's choice of wasting his tremendous talent, the Russian has had very little impact on the game since. But Djokovic appears to be dead serious about his tennis career.

That probably will mean trouble for the rest of men's tennis for many years to come. He is already ahead of Federer in age (20 to 21) and number of tries (13-17) before winning a Grand Slam title.

But the next half-decade shouldn't be a walk in the park for Djokovic the way the last four years have been for Federer. After all, Djokovic will have to contend with Federer for a few more years, especially on grass at Wimbledon, not to mention Rafael Nadal and others on clay in Paris, as well as a herd of others probably including Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on hard courts at the U.S. Open and Australian Open.

Tsonga could be a player to be reckoned with in future Grand Slam hard-court tournaments. He was a bull in the Australian Open until he ran into a different type of player in Djokovic, a player who kept him on the defensive most of the final. Other than a first set in which Djokovic appeared unnerved and committed uncharacteristic errors, and a late charge by Tsonga in the fourth set, Djokovic dominated for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory.

It wasn't until Djokovic started going after Tsonga's backhand, just as he did against Federer in the semis, that the court opened up for the 20-year-old Serbian in the middle two sets. He usually ran the powerful 6-2, 200-pound Frenchman from side to side before delivering the winner.

By keeping the ball deep and low, and to the corners in the last three sets, Djokovic prevented Tsonga from teeing off on forehands as he had done in demoralizing Nadal in a semifinal rout. Tsonga still hit winners, but seldom during extended rallies. Most of his winners came as the result of overpowering serves that left Djokovic's returns short, enabling Tsonga to step into the court and unleash killer forehands.

Tsonga's luck

Tsonga's success might have been due mostly to his draw. He had the perfect draw for his style of game.

Oh, yeah, you say? Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet, Mikhail Youzhny and Nadal? That's right. They're all top 15 players, but they're all finesse players, not big hitters or consistently huge servers. And all of their balls sit up a bit. That's just what the doctor ordered for Tsonga's huge game.

So, it shouldn't have been too surprising that Tsonga upended all four players once he defeated Murray in his first match. Tsonga should be a dangerous player on hard courts, even slow ones like at the Australian Open. The surface may have been perfect for Nadal's heavy spin against most players, including Federer, but not against the flat-hitting Tsonga, who had Nadal on the defensive from the start.

Most of those spectacular backhand drop volleys that Tsonga executed against Nadal went away against Djokovic, simply because Djokovic usually laced his passing shots to Tsonga's backhand just above the net instead of delivering the high looping balls Nadal hit.

While Tsonga is a new, exciting face, don't look for him to continually rock the tennis world the way he rocked Melbourne. He probably won't be a one-time wonder, although that's not completely out of the question. It just depends on how hard Tsonga wants to work.

Now that Tsonga realizes he really hasn't become unbeatable, his attitude might change as well. Remember a couple of guys named Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando Gonzalez, who were the Down Under stars the last two years until the real world appeared in the final in the form of Federer.

(01/27/08)  Aussie women's matches puzzling, unpredictable

Maria Sharapova alienates the tennis world in a way few players have.

Yet, the 20-year-old Russian beauty can play the game of tennis better than any other woman in the world right now — even Justine Henin and the Williams sisters.

In the Australian Open, it wasn't close. There was Maria. And there were the other players.

Sharapova was all alone at the top, with a single purpose. The rest of the field appeared to be daydreaming much of the time, with the exception of Henin who actually played solid tennis against Sharapova despite suffering the humiliation of a love set in the quarterfinals.

As for Sharapova's 7-5, 6-3 conquest of 20-year-old Ana Ivanovic in the final, the score wasn't representative of the match. At pressure time, Ivanovic played embarrassingly poor tennis, much like she did last year at the French Open against Henin in her other shot at Grand Slam glory.

Ivanovic played almost street tennis with no apparent strategy, except to hit the ball as hard as she could. Far too often her shots hit near the bottom of the net or well beyond the baseline.

But that's the way this Australian Open generally went on the women's side. In many instances, the play was unpredictable, even puzzling. It's almost like most of the stars, other than Sharapova, had fallen into the Daniela Hantuchova and Elena Dementieva space-walk mindset. Venus and Serena Williams certainly occupied space there in their last matches as did longtime residents Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova.

Women's tennis has Sharapova, Henin and a herd of exciting new talent, but it's the other established stars that appear to be having problems right now. Hopefully, that ship will right itself once the tour hits U.S. soil in a few weeks.

End in sight?

This may not be the end of an era, but the end of the Roger Federer Dynasty probably is in sight. While Federer may bounce back from his straight-set pounding from Novak Djokovic to win a couple more Grand Slam titles, capturing three more to break Pete Sampras' career Grand Slam record is no longer a cinch. The possibility now may be no more than just a long shot.

Because of his brilliant shot-making ability, Federer rose to near-unbeatable status at a time when his only real challenger was Rafael Nadal. The number of challengers is growing by leaps and bounds, and will continue to increase at an even faster pace now that Federer's invincible shield is perceived to have been shattered.

The difference now is that Federer will have to beat people. His legendary figure won't bring out many white flags in the future, not even from Federer puppets such as James Blake. There is absolutely no reason why Blake shouldn't be able to join the list of serious challengers if he controls both his head and his racket.

It wasn't so much that Djokovic defeated Federer for the second time in their last three meetings, it was the way Djokovic dominated Federer that was shocking. Djokovic outplayed the world's No. 1 in every phase of the game. The Serbian outhit, out-served, out-moved, out-nerved and outsmarted Federer.

Last coaches meeting

The last coaches meeting for the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League will be held today at 3 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. Schools that failed to send a representative to one of the two previous coaches meetings must be represented today to participate in the league.

(01/23/08)  New surface aiding Nadal, Sharapova

What's up with Rafael Nadal? He's acting like he's in Paris.

And has Maria Sharapova hooked up with a movement guru? She's dancing around the court as if she's been to see Arthur Murray.

Could these two Miracles of Melbourne be linked? Could the new court surface at the Australian Open be playing its own role in the surprising developments Down Under?

The new texture of the hard courts at Melbourne Park may be having some of the same impact on a bouncing tennis ball as clay. The surface appears to be grabbing Nadal's left-handed spin and creating another weapon for the Spaniard, while maybe slowing down Roger Federer's killer shots that also come with their own package of spin.

And yet the unsmooth surface appears to be producing better traction than the normal hardcourt, giving opponents more time and better footage in changing direction to run down missiles such as the ones Federer hits. The court must feel like music to Sharapova's quick feet.

Sharapova, with her long stride, always has had excellent lateral speed. It was the turn that caused most of the problems. Now, she turns on a dime. Justine Henin, with all of her might, couldn't get a shot past Sharapova in the tall Russian's rout of Henin on Tuesday night in the Australian Open. Sharapova was everywhere.

But I noticed that about Sharapova the first time I saw her on the new surface. She was like a windup toy, her feet moving continuously. She always starts that way, but now she also ends that way.

Yes, it's movement that has apparently enabled Sharapova to so convincingly defeat both Lindsay Davenport and Henin. And maybe the surface had something to do with it.

Nadal a threat

Nadal appeared to be really confused during the first few games he played in the Australian Open. He obviously had heard so much about Lleyton Hewitt's surface being much faster, but that just wasn't the case in a real match. Finally, Nadal figured out that he literally was on a hard claycourt, and it felt like Paris all over again.

Unlike some players such as Federer, Nadal doesn't mind if his opponents are able to get to his shots. He'll just hit another one, and another one until the white flag comes up.

If Nadal happens to get past hard-hitting and powerful Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals, this Australian Open might really be a miracle cure for Nadal's hardcourt miseries.

McEnroe to the rescue

I first noticed something was amiss about the way the new court surface was being hyped as a fast court during Andy Roddick's five-set loss to Philipp Kohlscreiber. Both players served a ton of aces, but it was because of the length of the games, sets and match. Then Janko Tipsarevic nearly beat Federer, even though Federer also pounded a bushel of aces. The TV guys played Kohlscreiber and Tipsarevic up a couple of notches above their actual abilities, but the real reason these two obscure players looked so competitive was because of the surface.

I was having second thoughts about my surface analysis in Sunday's column late Saturday night as Dick Enberg, Bud Collins and ESPN2's cast of female announcers repeatedly alluded to the quickness of the court and how fast balls were going through it.

Then, Patrick McEnroe came to the rescue during the Sunday (Monday in Australia) TV coverage, confirming that the surface actually was slow. A day later ESPN2's Darren Cahill shed more light on the subject after Jarkko Nieminen took a spill on the court. Cahill pointed out that Nieminen really would feel this fall since the surface was unlike the smooth hardcourts back in the U.S.

Wow, no wonder Serena Williams looked so sluggish and confused in her loss to Jelena Jankovic.

(01/22/08)  Chakvetadze joins elite field
The Family Circle Cup added the fifth top 10 player to its field on Monday when the world's No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze of Russia officially entered the April 12-20 Daniel Island event.

Former champions and current top 10 players Justine Henin (No. 1), Jelena Jankovic (No. 4) and Venus Williams (No. 8) entered the $1.34 million women's tennis tournament earlier, along with Serena Williams (No. 7).

"The Family Circle Cup has always been about showcasing the best in women's tennis and over the years so many of the sport's brightest stars have made their mark here at this event," tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

"Women's professional tennis is fortunate right now to have such a talented roster of up and coming players. Anna is certainly at the top of that list and I know our fans will enjoy watching her this spring when she competes in the Family Circle Cup for the first time."

The 20-year-old Chakvetadze, who turned pro in 2003 and has not previously entered the Family Circle Cup, won the first two titles of her career in 2006, including success at the Tier I event in Moscow.

But 2007 was even better as Chakvetadze reached her first Grand Slam tournament semifinal at the U.S. Open and added four singles titles on the WTA Tour. She climbed to as high as No. 5 in the world.

Chakvetadze, who has nearly $2.4 million in career earnings, suffered a third-round loss to fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko last week in the Australian Open.

(01/20/08)  Federer pushed to limit
This one wasn't a case of either player faltering or lifting his game at the end. Someone had to win and someone had to lose.

Maybe it wasn't altogether coincidental that the winner was the best player in the world and the loser was someone who probably doesn't belong on the same court as Roger Federer. Janko Tipsarevic is a 23-year-old Serbian whose game just happens to match up well with Federer's. Federer made uncharacteristic errors, but served like gangbusters all night. And I mean all night.

When the match finally ended Saturday at nearly 5 a.m. Charleston time, neither player appeared to be flustered or exhausted. While the Australian Open masterpiece was merely a third-rounder, there was nothing routine about Federer's 6-7, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 victory.

Federer isn't accustomed to an obscure opponent pushing him to the limit. But Tipsarevic, perhaps learning from countryman Novak Djokovic, attacked Federer deep into the corners all match, applying additional pressure by following the well-placed shots to the net and delivering winning volleys.

Tipsarevic often looked clumsy and even fell a few times. Yet, he was never out of the match until the end.

What all of this means is debatable. Is Federer really becoming vulnerable at age 26? Are opponents learning how to play the brilliant Swiss player? Or is it that an opponent just has to have the ability to stick around until Federer feels threatened?

In part, the secret may reside in the way an opponent approaches a match against Federer and how deeply the opponent believes he can win. Tipsarevic appeared to have all of the answers until the end.

The same line

It's the same old line for Andy Roddick. Poor Andy.

But don't feel sorry for this 25-year-old. He's earned more than $13 million. He's won a Grand Slam tournament and a Davis Cup.

Who would have expected this much success when Roddick hit the pro circuit eight years ago?

The reality of the situation is that as much as Americans love Andy, he may have peaked about the time Federer took over the men's game. There are simply too many talented young players capable of withstanding Roddick's onslaught of aces long enough to conquer him in the total game of tennis.

That cannonball serve certainly has taken Roddick a long way. Not to say Roddick isn't a great tennis player, but you've got to admit that he's been exposed as a one-dimensional talent.

Roddick played one of his better matches ever in the third round of the Australian Open, only to lose to little-known Philipp Kohlscreiber of Germany in an epic five-set struggle. The match became a battle of such magnitude only because Roddick allowed it to be so competitive for so long.

In fairness to Roddick, this Australian Open is more like an indoor clay-court event than the normal U.S. hard-court tournament. The surface apparently was designed for Lleyton Hewitt's game, to give the weaponless Aussie a chance to finally win his country's Grand Slam. If Federer happens to prevail next weekend for his 13th Grand Slam title, it would almost be like completing a career Grand Slam.

Most likable

You can question the way James Blake plays, his all-or-nothing style. But it's hard not to like Blake. He appears to be unspoiled by the glamour of the game. His smile is truly infectious.

Then there's Ana Ivanovic. This young Serbian beauty is Miss Congeniality.

(01/16/08)  Australian Open a last chance for some
Where do these guys come from? Stefan Koubek?

I hadn't heard that name in a while, but then he looked incredibly good in bouncing Carlos Moya from the Australian Open.

It's the start of a new year, so I guess players such as journeyman Koubek think they have one last chance to hit the jackpot of professional tennis. In such a situation, maybe these type players play a little harder and don't throw in the towel quite so quickly in a tough match against a player of Moya's caliber.

Koubek is 31 years old these days and has a losing ATP Tour career singles record, but he hasn't forgotten his top 20 days of 2000. And he's left-handed, which might or might not have thrown Moya off.

But to Moya's credit, the Spaniard, also 31, has never played with more intensity than in the last couple of years. That might be partly because of the surge of Spanish players on the tour. Moya probably figures if he doesn't play with passion, he will be trampled by the likes of countrymen Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Nadal's strategy

Speaking of Nadal, he must be disheartened by the breakdown of his body the last couple of years, especially during the summer hardcourt season in the United States. The U.S. Open Series and U.S. Open have tormented the 21-year-old, although he appeared to be fine in last year's first U.S. hardcourt season at Indian Wells and Miami.

Prior to his knee trouble during 2007, especially at Wimbledon, Nadal had always appeared to play every point to the limit. But the injuries may have caused Nadal to have second thoughts about the way he plays.

Which leads me to wonder if Nadal was really exhausted or just being cautious a couple weeks ago when he hardly showed up for his hardcourt final against Mikhail Youzhny in Chennai, India, winning just one game. Nadal had needed nearly four hours to overcome Moya in the semifinals. But, come on, Rafael is practically a kid.

Perhaps, Nadal has figured out this hardcourt thing and come to the realization that if he is ever going to win a Grand Slam on hardcourts — even if someone else manages to eliminate Roger Federer — he is going to have to take better care of his body.

Why purchase now?

While some readers are openly wondering what's the point of purchasing Family Circle Cup tickets in advance — if many of the top players often withdraw for questionable injuries — you might think about those nice green terrace level seats in the second tier. They almost certainly will not be available for walk-up purchases during the tournament.

But a good supply of those tickets are available now, both for individual Monday-Thursday sessions and packages for the Friday-Sunday sessions. Family Circle ticket coordinator Margaret Shaw reported Tuesday afternoon that approximately 65 percent of terrace level seats have been sold for the Monday-Thursday sessions, and about 80 percent of the Friday-Sunday terrace level seats have been purchased. Shaw said terrace level tickets are going very quickly now that top players have entered the tournament.

Of course, it really doesn't matter to many Family Circle fans that the tournament's top five entries last year withdrew before the tournament even started or that Serena Williams pulled out in the first set of her first match. Where else in this area can tennis fans see world-class women's tennis?

The same fans who attended last year's Family Circle Cup probably will be back this April, and they might even bring a few friends — regardless of what early entries Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, and Venus and Serena Williams happen to be doing April 12-14.

(01/15/08)  Williams sisters added to Family Circle mix

The Family Circle Cup appears to be on another drum roll for top 10 players after Monday's announcement that Venus and Serena Williams have entered the 35th anniversary event.

With the world's No. 7 Serena and No. 8 Venus, the April 12-20 event on Daniel Island now has four of women's tennis' top eight players scheduled to play as they join No. 1 Justine Henin and No. 4 Jelena Jankovic on the official entry list.

"Serena and Venus Williams are true champions who bring excitement to every tournament they enter," Family Circle Cup tournament director Robin Reynolds said. "Each sister has had great success at the Cup and they both have such a huge fan base here at this event. Having these two superstars enter our tournament makes our 35th anniversary even more special."

Eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion Serena Williams has appeared in four Family Circles, including 2003 when she lost to Henin in the final and last year when Williams retired from her first match with a groin injury. Venus won the 2004 Family Circle, and lost to eventual champion Jankovic in last year's semifinals.

Both sisters are defending champions of Grand Slam tournaments, Serena having come out of nowhere to win last year's Australian Open and Venus pulling a similar act at Wimbledon. Both are currently competing in the Australian Open, along with two-time Family Circle champion Henin and Jankovic.

"I really enjoy playing in Charleston and can't wait to return," Serena Williams said. "I have so many wonderful memories from that event both on and off the court."

Venus Williams, who has won 36 WTA Tour singles titles including six Grand Slam championships, said, "The Family Circle Cup is a great tournament and I really love spending time in Charleston. The environment at the tournament has always been great, and I look forward to coming back in April for another chance at the title."

The Family Circle Cup also started fast last year in player entries, but finished slowly in that area as its top five entries (Maria Sharapova, Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Martina Hingis and Svetlana Kuznetsova) all withdrew prior to the tournament because of injuries.

(01/13/08)  Don't overlook potential of Canadian, Australian Doubles
Canadian Doubles? Or Australian Doubles?

You know the scenario. Only three players show up for the friendly weekly doubles match. One player is missing due to a last-minute conflict or miscommunication. Or in league tennis, an odd number of players attend a practice.

You figure why waste the opportunity. Hoping someone else will show up, the group decides to play two-on-one for a while.

That's Canadian Doubles.

According to Wikipedia, "Canadian Doubles is a method of playing tennis where two players play against one player. The only major rule variation between Canadian Doubles and traditional doubles tennis is that the team of two players can only hit the ball within the single player's singles alleys."

Canadian Doubles can produce good results if all participants accept the situation as a competitive match. Normally, the players rotate from singles to doubles, but a singles player can get a really good test by taking on a doubles team, or vice versa.

Australian Doubles isn't so simple. It has many variations, because Australian Doubles is basically a strategy.

Operationdoubles.com describes Australian Doubles this way: "The server and his or her partner start on the same side of their court. In other words, they line up in the switched position, so that opposing up-players front each other."

You see Australian Doubles being employed more at advanced levels such as the pro circuit. The server's partner lines up in the middle of the court, usually kneeling and hoping he doesn't catch a ball in the back of the head. Such strategy may be a variation of Australian Doubles known as the I-Formation.

Australian Doubles works really well on service games when a right-hander is paired with a left-hander. In this situation, the strategy can be used to hide either player's backhand.

I'll admit that I'm not a real strategic guy in doubles. I didn't become interested in Australian Doubles until just a few years ago when my Combo League partner was a left-hander who had picked up the strategy in California. I quickly realized its potential.

That's it for strategy from me. You and your partner may have to take lessons from a pro to fine tune your Australian Doubles strategy.

Today's the deadline

Today is the registration deadline for local league tennis teams to have at least the minimum number of players needed to play a match.

The Lowcountry Tennis Association's captains will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street.

It should be a record year for local league tennis.

As evidence, a total of 29 men's 3.5 adult teams were listed Saturday morning on the USTA Web site.

Local USTA grant
The Charleston area's Communities In Schools was one of 23 communities nationwide — the only one in the Carolinas — to receive a $20,000 grant from the USTA in the organization's final "Aces for Kids" funding cycle for 2007.

Communities in Schools serves more than 2,400 students and their families in 12 Charleston County Schools. The project, in collaboration with community partners, will enable 40 low-income, predominantly African-American children in the fourth and fifth grades to receive weekly tennis instruction, structured literacy assistance and regular life skills lessons, according to the USTA.

School league forming
The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League will hold the first of three coaches meetings on Monday at 5 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. Schools planning to participate in the league are required to send a representative to that meeting or one of two other scheduled meetings, Friday at 4 p.m. or Jan. 27 at 3 p.m., all at Charleston Tennis Center.

Cup tickets on sale
The Family Circle Cup will put individual session tickets for the April 12-20 tournament on sale on Monday at 10 a.m. through www.ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster by phone (843-554-6060) or at any local Publix grocery store offering Ticketmaster services.

(01/09/08)  Young takes next step in tennis career
Thanks, Charleston tennis community.

Ryan Young is now in China.

That's what the tennis tournament at Maybank Tennis Center the last two Sundays was all about: helping Ryan take his next step, a start in professional tennis.

Actually, Maybank pro Toni Young was the one thanking the tennis community for giving her 23-year-old son a financial boost into his career.

"It was an awesome turnout . . . more than 100 people (participating in the tournament)," Toni Young said. "We appreciate so much all of the support for Ryan."

Ryan Young left Charleston early Monday morning for China. And his mother confirmed Tuesday, "He's there."

He plans to meet up with former Clemson teammate Nathan Thompson there. You guessed it: Young and Thompson will be playing doubles again, just like they did in 2005 when they formed the best doubles team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Young's first tournament starts this weekend. It's an ITF $15,000 Futures event in China. "I'm just starting out . . . I'll have to qualify," he said.

He plans to stay in Asia for two months, then return to the United States to train for about a month.

"Then I'll go back out and play," said the talented left-hander, who completed his Clemson career last spring.

Young is looking forward to playing doubles with Thompson. "We won doubles in the first pro tournament I ever played in. That was in Thailand last summer."

But, mostly, Young is just looking forward to starting what is an unpredictable career. "I'm at that level," the School of the Arts graduate insisted. "Hopefully, the cards will fall in the right places.

"This is what I've been doing my whole life. I think I'm going to be fine."

--One of the highlights of Sunday's tournament was an exhibition doubles match featuring Young. He teamed with I'On Club tennis director Joey Eskridge for a 9-7 victory over big-serving Kiawah Island pro Matt Hane and former Wando standout Stephen Beach. Beach has just transferred from the College of Charleston to Winthrop, Eskridge's alma mater, where he has earned a spot on the tennis team.

Cup up close

Now that the 35th anniversary of the Family Circle Cup is officially stocked with superstars Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic, how would you like to see those two and other pros possibly just a little closer than the average tennis fan?

The opportunity is now available to become a volunteer for the April 12-20 elite women's tournament on Daniel Island.

And that goes for 175 juniors who want to see the action really up close as members of the ball crew.

The tournament also is accepting applications for more than 375 adult volunteer positions.

An informal ball crew meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center. Ball crew information and applications are available online at www.fccballcrew.org or by contacting Dan Tumbleston (tumbled@knology.net or 367-0279.

Volunteer information and applications are available online at www.familycirclecup.com or at the Family Circle Tennis Center clubhouse.

--Veteran Family Circle Cup volunteer Jo Cooper has been hired as volunteer coordinator for this year's tournament. Cooper replaces coordinator Mary Neves Richards, who has vacated the position after seven years.

(01/08/08)  Henin, Jankovic commit to play Family Circle Cup

Justine Henin always includes the Family Circle Cup on her schedule.

The tiny Belgian's love affair with the prestigious Daniel Island women's tennis tournament started in 2003 when she surprised the tennis world by conquering what looked like an unbeatable Serena Williams in the Family Circle final.

Henin has entered the event every year since, winning again in 2005. And that includes the 2008 Family Circle Cup, which is scheduled for April 12-20 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The competition for world's top-ranked Henin in this year's event will include defending champion and third-ranked Jelena Jankovic, who has joined Henin as the first two official entries in the 35th annual Family Circle Cup.

Hopefully, this will be Henin's fourth appearance here. Health problems forced her to withdraw from last year's Family Circle, as well as in 2004. Henin won her first 14 matches on Daniel Island before losing to Patty Schnyder in the 2006 semifinals.

"Both of these superstars are Family Circle Champions, at the pinnacle of their careers, and on top of the sport. Justine and Jelena are fierce competitors as well as fan favorites," Family Circle Cup tournament director Robin Reynolds said.

Indeed, these two women are at the top of the sport. Henin posted a 63-4 record in 2007, winning 10 titles in just 14 tournaments, including successes at the French Open and U.S. Open that boosted her number of Grand Slam tournament titles to seven. She earned a record $5.4 million last year to pad her career earnings to more than $19 million.

Jankovic rose to elite status quickly in 2007 by claiming her first WTA Tour Tier I title at the Family Circle Cup, then taking another Tier I event in Rome as she charged to No. 3 in the world. The 22-year-old Serbian won four singles titles in 2007 as well as the mixed doubles crown at Wimbledon as she finished the year with more than $1 million in earnings.

While Henin is making her 2008 debut this week in Sydney, Australia, Jankovic competed in last week's men's/women's formatted Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, but suffered a thigh injury and defaulted to Serena Williams in Serbia's team final against the United States. Jankovic and Novak Djokovic then lost to Williams and Mardy Fish in mixed doubles to give the Americans the team title.

Jankovic ended last year on a six-match losing streak, then was sidelined for several weeks after undergoing surgery to correct a sinus problem.

(01/06/08)  Rogers steps up game

Shelby Rogers is moving into some fast company.

She's in the land of Seles, Agassi and Sharapova.

Bollettieri's, welcome Shelby.

That's right, the 15-year-old Charleston girl has arrived at the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla. ... and on full scholarship.

Rogers already has won five Belton singles titles. But Bollettieri's? That's a different league, even if her longtime mentor is former Bollettieri's pro Fritz Nau, now the director of Mount Pleasant's Players Club.

She will continue her schooling online after attending Charleston's First Baptist Church School through her freshman year while drilling at the Players Club. Rogers will train at Bollettieri's for at least the winter semester.

--Sabra Rogers, Shelby's sister, already has been named captain of the perennial NCAA Division II power Emory University women's team, even if the former Bishop England star is only a sophomore.

Martin Southern winner

Local junior Alex Martin won the girls' 16 title in the recent Winter Southern Closed Championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Martin, who has been hampered by injuries in recent years, came into her own in the Southern tournament by winning six straight matches, including a pair of three-setters.

Drew Halbauer was runner-up in the boys' 12 division of the Winter Southern Closed in Louisville. Like Martin, Halbauer plays out of the Players Club. Ellie Halbauer, Drew's sister, also fared well by advancing to the consolation semifinals in the girls' 12 division of the Southerns as well as Ryan Nau (as in Fritz), who was the boys' 12 consolation runner-up.

Another Players Club player, Jessica Wise of Kentucky, has signed a full tennis scholarship with the University of Cincinnati.

Maness stepping down

On fall Friday nights at various tennis clubs in the area, Dave Maness has been the face of the Charleston Pro Tennis League. One of the popular league's founders, he has always been there.

You couldn't attend a CPTL program without hearing and seeing Maness as he provided a personal touch to the action with his almost play-by-play comments on the sound system. When the CPTL turns seven years old next fall, Maness probably won't be quite as visible. He is stepping down from the CPTL's executive committee and treasurer position, but will remain with the league in a limited capacity.

Basically, Maness' decision involves time and timing. "The CPTL is looking to extend its season and maybe add singles. We need new blood and new ideas. I can't keep devoting every Friday night ... and everything else (with the CPTL), and maintain my family and my job," he said.

The CPTL has exploded the last few years, while adhering to a five-week regular season and two rounds of playoffs. That's only seven venues, five of them East of the Cooper. Charleston tennis wants more. "Right now, we're turning facilities down," said Maness, the regional sales manager for medical device maker Boston Scientific Corp.