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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(12/27/09)  Players search for USTA's rationale
Nearly a month after USTA league tennis' colossal bump-up escapade, players are still trying to figure out the rationale behind the event. They've come up with explanations such as, "He also played on a senior team and didn't do well" when trying to rationalize why one player didn't get bumped up while another player equally or less advanced was promoted to a higher level. That theory doesn't hold water. I know a player who had good success at the adult level, but had an awful record in seniors at the same 3.5 level. Yet, he got bumped up to 4.0. That makes no sense at all.

It's going to take some time to sort this all out. But in the meantime, the Jan. 11 cutoff date for teams to form is just over two weeks away and fast approaching. I can't understand why it takes some players a month to find the five minutes needed to register online for a team. Surely, it's not the $12 registration fee.

Here's a bunch of captains - and I mean a bunch - sitting on pins and needles while waiting for the minimum number of players required to form a team to register on TennisLink.

Yet, some players seem oblivious to the possibility that their inaction could have a direct impact on the team's final roster . . . and even more impact than normal because of the major makeover that league tennis is currently experiencing.

Of course, the escapade won't end when the official spring season begins in a month or so. The uncertainty will exist throughout the early part of the season, especially for self-rated players. Once the self-rated players start upsetting the computer-rated players, which is almost certain to occur often this season because of the ratings makeover, look for the league tennis computer to go berserk again in trying to correct for its December escapade.

Team captains probably will need to be extra careful in coordinating their lineups for matches if they want to keep advanced self-rated players on their roster for the entire spring season. But, again, you might get lucky, due to the inconsistency of the computer.

I'm not alone in thinking that league tennis' self-rating program needs to end. There is absolutely no reason why the USTA can't use some of the cash pool that is generated by league tennis to subsidize USTA-sanctioned pros for conducting observer-based player ratings to allow newcomers to join league tennis.

The average league tennis player probably spends anywhere between $50 and $100, or more, a year just in USTA league tennis registration fees. That's not counting the required USTA membership fees. Obviously, money isn't a problem for the USTA.

Rogers' Mexico success

Charleston's Shelby Rogers has earned a WTA world ranking by advancing through qualifying into main draw spots in two $10,000 International Tennis Federation tournaments and then making the semifinals of the second event during a two-week swing through Mexico in early December. Rogers, an online-schooled 17-year-old, earned 11 computer ranking points and soon should be ranked between 900-930 in the world when the points become official, according to her pro, Bryan Minton of Mount Pleasant's Players

Racquet & Tennis Club

After receiving a bye in the first round of qualifying in Veracruz, Mexico, Rogers defeated fellow American Jill Saunders in straight sets to qualify for the main draw. She then yielded only one game to a Mexican qualifier in the first round and followed that up with a three-set round of 16 win over the Czech Republic's Katerina Kramperova, who has been ranked as high as No. 461 in the world. Rogers defeated world-ranked No. 754 Gally DeWael of Belgium in straight sets in the quarterfinals, but suffered a 6-3, 6-4 loss in the semifinals to No. 611 Chieh-Yu Hsu of the United States.

"We had an awesome time and improved our Spanish, as there were almost no other English-speaking people in the towns we were in," Minton reported.

Players Club $ event

Do you want to feel like a pro? Play for money?

Well, the Players Racquet & Tennis Club will hold a prize money tournament Jan. 8-10 for most levels of tennis, even the league tennis level players who identify with NTRP ratings.

The event will have men's and women's open competition as well as play in levels such as 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5. The grand prize will be 50 percent of the entry fees collected in the division. There also will be other cash awards. The draw party is set for Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

(12/13/09)  League tennis bracing for a major makeover in 2010
Just when the USTA's league tennis rating program moved into a position where a minor fine-tuning might create a more even playing field at most levels, the computer system has gone berserk. Hopefully, league tennis is too enduring and fantastic to suffer real pain from its latest surgery.

Approximately 30 percent of the more than 3,000 players in the Lowcountry Tennis Association have been bumped up or promoted to the next level for the 2010 league tennis season. The USTA backs up that figure by concluding that the ratings of approximately 70 percent of the participants in the entire league tennis program will remain unchanged.

So, what do we have? A new level of competition --especially at the lower and medium levels -- with the hope, by the USTA's National Oversight Group, that the sparsely participated-in 4.5 and 5.0 levels will suddenly look like the old 3.5 and 4.0 leagues in terms of participation.

At least locally, there was clearly a number of players in each league who didn't belong, and in a few rare cases nearly entire teams that needed to be promoted to another level of play. If your team wins a state championship, it's obviously too good for the local league without a major revamping.

"Players and teams that have seemed to dominate local leagues year after year will be moved up and allow others to have more opportunity," the USTA Southern Section explains the new ratings on its Web site.

So, what's new? Bump those players up a notch. That already was supposed to be happening. But the USTA didn't stop at that point. Instead, it herded a huge number of players not nearly as advanced as the dominant ones into higher divisions. League tennis overall experienced nearly twice as many bump-ups as in recent years.

With local league tennis teams currently in the registration mode for the "official" spring season, it will be interesting to see the results of this makeover. Will play be more compatible, more competitive? It's doubtful.

What's happening in league tennis is a direct result of what's happening in professional tennis. New technology, big rackets and an aggressive go-for-broke baseline mentality by the participants. Just as at the ATP Tour and WTA Tour levels, finesse tennis is a thing of the past across most levels of the game. In league tennis, you don't have to be even a 3.5 or 4.0 player to see this. The 3.0 and novice players arrive in the league with this big-bang mentality, probably from watching the pros on TV.

The USTA points to a "growing disconnect between the standards used in the self rating and NTRP guidelines and the actual characteristics of players on court at various levels." So, that's what this is all about? It might not be a bad idea to abandon the highly controversial self-rate system, and replace it with something similar to the old observer-based ratings for new participants in league tennis.

But maybe a new observer-based rating system could be less formal than the pre-computer ratings when once or twice a year a group of pros usually would gather on the coldest or most severe weather day of the year to rate league newcomers. Maybe a set list of pros could conduct the ratings individually for a small fee at their convenience -- even on the spur of the moment -- and then post the results with the USTA on TennisLink. The ratings could be computer-linked to the pros just to make sure someone was accountable.

League tennis is an exciting experience for the league player. Please, USTA, don't frighten the goose that laid your golden egg.

Captain's meeting set
The annual captain's meeting for the LCTA's spring leagues will be held on Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

Spring registration started on Dec. 5 through the USTA's TennisLink Web site. Teams have until midnight Jan. 11 to form teams with the minimum number of players required to fill all positions in an official match.

Anna & Mac
Anna Kournikova and John McEnroe should spice up the tennis/music party called "Game, Set, Rock! Tennis. Amplified" on April 17 at the Family Circle Cup. Tickets for the exhibition will be available starting next Friday at 10 a.m. as a stand-alone ticketed session through Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone (800-745-3000), local Publix outlets, and at the Family Circle Tennis Center ticket office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Family Circle Cup also has two special holiday ticket offers. Holiday gift certificates, which can be used to purchase tickets to any session of the Family Circle Cup, are now available through next Friday by calling the box office (856-7900) or visiting Family Circle Tennis Center. Holiday ticket bundle discounts are also available until Christmas Day through the Ticketmaster online, phone and Publix outlets as well at the tournament site on Daniel Island. The Ticketmaster discount password is "holiday."

Local notes
THE BRANT SLAM: Local attorney Edward Fenno is calling his son Brant's success in area Level 2 junior tournaments the "Charleston Slam." Just-turned 10 Brant concluded a clean sweep of the three tournaments last weekend by winning the boys' 10 singles and doubles titles at the HSI tournament at The Citadel. Fenno also won at the Smash Junior Cup and Kiawah Island.

HOLIDAY BENEFIT SUCCESS: Despite last weekend's inclement weather, the second annual Holiday Tennis Classic at Family Circle Tennis Center completed play in all of its divisions and raised $9,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of the Charleston Trident Area, as well as collected more than 100 toys for the B&G Clubs.

(12/13/09)  Harrell's commitment powered Ashley Hall

Responsibility is more than just a word to Jamie Harrell. She embraces its meaning. Two straight SCISA Class AAA state titles for the Ashley Hall girls are largely the result of Harrell's commitment to the Panthers' tennis program.

With that measure of success comes a second Lowcountry girls tennis player of the year honor for Harrell.

The Ashley Hall senior is joined on the All-Lowcountry team by Ashley Hall junior Patricia Kirkland; Porter-Gaud junior Jeanette Fischer and sophomore Mi'Kola Cooper; and Wando senior Corin Hallman and junior Alexis Prickett. Harrell, Kirkland and Hallman are repeaters from 2008.

First-year Academic Magnet coach Brooke Floyd is the Lowcountry coach of the year after guiding the Raptors all the way to the High School League's Class A state championship match, before falling to perennial state titlist Christ Church of Greenville.

Harrell could have given up on playing for the Panthers after SCISA ruled the then nearly full-time tennis player ineligible midway through her freshman season over her classroom schedule. But she came right back as a sophomore to fulfill her commitment to high school tennis, making All-Lowcountry en route to leading the Panthers to the state semifinals.

"I always felt responsibility to do my part," Harrell said. "It's really a good feeling to win the state again. Ashley Hall tennis is back on top after a long spell."

Obviously, Harrell has done her part.

"I'm glad Jamie decided to play high school tennis," veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley said.

Perhaps the hard-hitting left-hander demonstrated her value to the Panthers best in her last high school match.

She was the dominant factor in a 5-3 victory over rival Porter-Gaud in the state final, yielding a total of only four games in her singles and doubles wins.

Her 6-2, 6-1 victory in singles over Fischer, a Porter-Gaud foreign exchange student, was especially sweet since Fischer had beaten her earlier in the season.  For Harrell and fellow senior Charlotte Morrow to surrender just one game in doubles in the state final is crazy good. Harrell never tasted defeat in a high school doubles match.

"I love playing doubles. We worked on it a lot in practice," Harrell said. "I love the net ... being aggressive. It's fun."

An elite athlete, who also starts at forward for the basketball team, Harrell is

unusually effective in doubles. Opposing teams have difficulty in keeping the ball away from Harrell's smashes at the net as her athletic ability menacingly threatens almost every shot by her opponents.

"Jamie is very aggressive at the net. You don't want to hit it short against her," Gastley said.

The aggressiveness carries over to the basketball court where Harrell serves as a co-captain. Harrell and Morrow were co-captains of the tennis team.

"Basketball is a totally different sport from tennis. It's really fast and loud. The team aspect is completely different," Harrell said.

Basketball is also more physical.

"Last year I got hit in the nose and had to wear a mask," she said. "If I got hurt, it could affect my tennis game. We wear ankle braces in basketball, and (basketball coach Lauren) Arent is always looking out for me. She knows tennis comes first.

"One of the main reasons I play basketball is the conditioning. Coach Arent is really intense about conditioning and weight training."

Athleticism runs in the Harrell family. Hayley, Jamie's older sister, started for the Southern Conference champion College of Charleston volleyball team. Her father Jimmy was a star wide receiver for Summerville and the University of Georgia, while her mother Laurie, now a physician, was a cheerleader at Georgia.

Hayley's experiences at College of Charleston have played a key role in Jamie's decision to walk-on for coach Angelo Anastopoulo's College of Charleston tennis team next season.

"Before Hayley went there I had never thought about C of C, but she had such a great time the first year," Jamie said. "I love Charleston, and Hayley showed me we're in the same city but a different place ... being on campus. She really enjoyed being a part of a college team."

After playing basketball her junior year, Harrell took time off from tennis. She traveled to London and Alaska during the summer, and came down with an ingrown toenail while in Alaska. She was less than 100 percent effective when the high school tennis season started after undergoing surgery on her toe.

When Harrell decided to commit to college tennis, Anastopoulo had exhausted his scholarship allowance at the College of Charleston and couldn't offer her a scholarship.

"I think I have the potential to play college tennis," Harrell asserts.

She expects to resume tennis training in the spring to prepare for college.

"I probably won't play any junior tournaments this winter, but maybe in the spring. It's going to be tough in the basketball season."

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com


Jamie Harrell Senior, Ashley Hall
Patricia Kirkland Junior, Ashley Hall
Corin Hallman Senior, Wando
Alexis Prickett Junior, Wando
Jeanette Fischer Junior, Porter-Gaud
Mi'Kola Cooper Sophomore, Porter-Gaud

Sarah McDonald Sophomore, Colleton Prep
Clair Larkin Junior, Wando
Narni Summerall Freshman, Ashley Hall
Kelly Engle Senior, Academic Magnet
Meagan Evans Freshman, Pinewood Prep
Annie Hay Freshman, Porter-Gaud

Catherine Martin, Wando; Melanie Allen, Wando; Kayla Heller, Wando;
Rossi Anastopoulo, Ashley Hall; Charlotte Morrow, Ashley Hall; Margaret
Legerton, Ashley Hall; Carissa Steichen, Porter-Gaud; Christina Connelly,
Porter-Gaud; Carlyle Williams, Porter-Gaud; Katie Hentz, Bishop England;
Madison Boals, Bishop England; Shannon McManus, Bishop England;
Charlie Gaffney, Bishop England; Sarah Helms, Academic Magnet;
Chandler Caulder, Palmetto Christian; Grace King, Palmetto Christian;
Brittan Carter, Colleton Prep; Mollie Polk, Pinewood Prep; Caroline
Green, Summerville; Kristen Farmer, Berkeley.

(11/29/09)  Scarpa's invention makes it to Big Apple

Skip Scarpa's ReelSticks have hit the big time. The U.S. Open's National Tennis Center is showcasing ReelSticks these days.

If you're not familiar with Scarpa's invention, ReelSticks have the capability to end the need for switching singles sticks out and in between singles and doubles. New York today, the world tomorrow.

That's the thinking of Scarpa, a former College of Charleston player whose Carolina Sports Surfaces company builds tennis courts all over the state.

Installing the gadget on 16 courts at Flushing Meadows is significant. "If you have a tennis product, you want to have it at the U.S. Open if you are an American. It is a big deal for us and a validation of the device at the highest level of the sport," Scarpa said.

"We are very thankful of everyone who has helped us get to this point in the process of introducing ReelSticks to the tennis marketplace."

Scarpa has been pushing ReelSticks for a couple of years now, but the turning point came when he installed them on courts this past spring for a $50,000 men's challenger in Savannah. "People there had never seen them (ReelSticks). It generated two calls, New York (USTA) and they said, 'Yeah, great product' and Savannah could use it; and also to the ATP Tour since that was an ATP event."

Eventually, that led to the the National Tennis Center. "It's a big deal for us. I don't think we can underestimate the value of that. They said they get five or 10 calls a week from people wanting to put up something. Everyone wants to put up something there."

That's one reason Scarpa feels so fortunate to have his gadget on 16 courts (12 indoor and four outdoor) at Flushing Meadows, even if he replaced the ReelSticks logo on the product with the USTA emblem. He plans to put ReelSticks on the rest of the courts at the complex in the spring.

Instead of club pros or officials having to lug singles sticks around and use a tape measure to make sure the sticks are in the correct location and the right height, the permanently attached ReelSticks easily can be pulled out from the net posts until the precisely measured retractable steel cable comes to a halt. For doubles, ReelSticks can be reeled back into place. An added advantage of ReelSticks is that a storage facility isn't needed for the singles sticks.

"Why are millions of dollars spent every year with tennis teaching pros who train kids on a court that does not meet the first rule of tennis? It is hard to imagine any sport played on the scale that tennis is played globally that would blatantly ignore its own first rule. Tennis ignores its own first rule every day," Scarpa said.

"Club managers and teaching pros are the ones who must implement the installation of singles sticks and because of the work involved they simply pretend that it is not important. The end result is that people play singles on doubles courts every day and parents are spending up to $20,000 a year per child for coaching which is being done on courts that are not dimensionally correct.

"If their child actually gets to a USTA event where singles sticks are in use it will be the biggest match of their life and the first time they ever have seen a singles stick. The elevated net will provide a practical and even more psychological performance barrier. Would a basketball coach play kids on a hoop that is three inches too low or high?"

Prickett state runner-up
Wando junior Alexis Prickett was runner-up in the recent High School League's Class AAAA state individual tournament, losing to Mauldin freshman Ansley Speaks in the final. In a span of 24 hours, Prickett defeated Lexington's Erin Green, Dutch Fork's Mareli Sanchez, Wando teammate Corin Hallman and Hilton Head's Lindsay Burke all in straight sets before running into Speaks.

Speaks had defeated Hallman a week earlier at No. 1 singles during Wando's state championship victory over Mauldin. Prickett, the Warriors' No. 3 player, edged Hallman, 6-4, 6-4, in the third round of the state singles competition.

Clair Larkin, Wando's No. 2 player, lost in the second round to Ivey Wellborn of T.L. Hanna High, but won two matches in the back draw.

High school honors
Wando coach Becky Williamson reported that Prickett, Hallman and Larkin all made the Class AAA-AAAA all-state team.

Hallman also played in the North-South all-star tournament last weekend at the Prestwick Country Club at Surfside Beach, along with fellow senior Kelly Engle from Academic Magnet. Williamson served as an assistant coach for the South team that scored a 7-2 victory. The South's success was aided by victories by Hallman at No. 1 singles and doubles, and a win by Engle at No. 5 singles.

Tennis popularity up
The USTA and Tennis Industry Association have announced that tennis participation in the United States has surpassed 30 million players for the first time in more than two decades. The annual phone survey of 6,000 Americans showed that tennis participation grew in all age groups under the age of 50 and within all ethnicities. With 30.1 million players, tennis participation has grown 12 percent over 2008 and climbed 25 percent since 2003.

New players comprised 7.1 million of the total, and 14.8 million tennis players consider themselves "regular players." Total play occasions surpassed 560 million for only the second time in more than 20 years. The greatest percentage growth in participation was in players 12-17 which grew from 15.7 percent of the total participants in 2008 to 20.5 percent of the participants in 2009.

Upcoming events
--The Turkey Day Mixed Doubles Tournament at Charleston Tennis Center was postponed until next Sunday. The entry deadline is Friday. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401 or mccrackend@ci.charleston.sc.us).

--Today is the entry deadline for Family Circle Tennis Center's second Holiday Tennis Classic that will be held next weekend with NTRP-rated competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Register through TennisLink at the USTA.com Web site, using the tournament number (704126709). The event will benefit children at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Trident Area. The Daniel Island Holiday Festival will occur at Family Circle Tennis Center during the tournament from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. next Saturday. Visit familycirclecup.com or call the Family Circle Tennis Center pro shop (849-5300).

--Today is the deadline to enter the SC State Open Junior Championships. The tournament is being held at the Citadel December 4-7. This is a USTA-SC Level 2 and USTA-Southern Level 4 tournament. If there are any questions, contact Jonathan Barth at barth_jonathan@yahoo.com

(11/15/09)  Everything fell into place for Wando

Charleston-area teams owned SCISA tennis this fall, just as Wando's girls ruled the High School League's Class AAAA.

It's really a tribute to local tennis that Ashley Hall, Colleton Prep and Palmetto Christian swept all three SCISA crowns: AAA, AA and A. That's probably a first.

But what more can you say about Wando and coach Becky Williamson, after she led the program to a record-tying sixth consecutive state titles?

A year ago, it appeared that Williamson might retire as the Warriors' coach with only one of the top five players not among the school's 2009 graduates. Even Corin Hallman, obviously not wanting to be alone, announced after last year's state final that she didn't plan to play tennis as a senior.

That would have been a complete wipeout, but then came word that Columbia transplants Clair Larkin and Alexis Prickett would play for the Warriors this fall. And somehow Williamson and Hallman found their way back for another year.

What a difference a year makes. Williamson now isn't planning to go anywhere for a couple more years, and Larkin and Prickett have another year left, while freshman Catherine Martin and seventh-grader Melanie Allen should help keep the Warriors in title contention for several more years.

Ninety-nine victories in succession ... and counting. The streak isn't likely to end in 2010, either.

By returning, Hallman was rewarded with a full scholarship to Erskine, joining the Warriors' list of recipients of college scholarships. Last year, Olivia McMillan signed with Presbyterian and Lindsay Larkin received a Wofford grant. A year earlier, Jessica Diamond signed with Samford and Brooke Mosteller picked Furman.

"I needed another year of teaching ... I've got a daughter in college," said Williamson in explaining her return to coaching this school year. "I've got three years left on the TERI (Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive) program."

Williamson is in her 31st year of teaching, 11th at Wando, where she has coached the girls tennis team each fall.

A 4.0 league tennis player, Williamson much prefers coaching tennis over teaching when she can have as much fun as she has had for the last six falls, especially with this year's team.

Former C of C player acting in 'Good Wife'

Matt Czuchry has been lucky a few times, like the time he won the Mr. College of Charleston contest and was rewarded with a package that included Millie Lewis acting classes. That led to what has now become a successful career in acting, thanks to his current role as a lawyer on the hit CBS television series "The Good Wife."

Of course, Czuchry's recruitment by College of Charleston tennis coach Angelo Anastopoulo fits into the good luck scheme.

Johnson City product Czuchry won the Tennessee high school state singles championship and received a tennis scholarship to C of C, where he was the Cougars' team captain from 1997-99. He compiled a 50-29 record while playing Nos. 2-6 in singles.

Czuchry won the Bishop Robert Smith Award, which is the highest award a C of C undergraduate student can earn, as well was nominated to be a Rhodes Scholar.

"Matt embodied the perfect student athlete," Anastopoulo said. "He was not only a great tennis player but an outstanding student, graduating cum laude."

Pine Forest Ladies hit goal
The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association reached its five-year goal with the recent Racquets for Recovery "Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer" tournament by surpassing the $100,000 mark. This year's event raised $23,700 to push the five-year total to $105,700.

Proceeds from the tournament go to the Charleston- area American Cancer Society's "Quality of Life" programs. The tournament is inspired by five active tennis players at Pine Forest who have battled breast cancer, according to association president Shirley Hunter.

Funds were raised by 120 entries as well as a silent auction and other events.

Holiday Classic set at Family Circle
Family Circle Tennis Center's second Holiday Tennis Classic is scheduled for Dec. 4-6. It's a USTA South Carolina Level 4 adult tournament with NTRP-rated competition in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The entry deadline is Nov. 29 through TennisLink at the USTA.com website, using the tournament number (704126709).

One of the highlights of the event will be a silent auction that will benefit children at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Trident Area. Toys donated by tournament participants also will benefit B&G Clubs.

The Daniel Island Holiday Festival will be ongoing at Family Circle Tennis Center during the tournament from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. In addition to shopping, live entertainment and a tree lighting will be featured.

Family Circle Cup tickets on sale
It's early, but the Family Circle Cup already has two big names entered, little Melanie Oudin and Maria Sharapova. So, why not put tickets on sale?

That's right. Ticket packages for the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup are now available for purchase through the tournament's Web site (www.familycirclecup.com) or by telephone (800) 677-2293 or (843) 856-7900.

Packages are for sale in four categories: Terrace (all sessions), Intro (early week in the middle rows of the Terrace Level), Finale (middle rows of Terrace for Thursday through Sunday sessions) and Champions (Friday through Sunday in Terrace).

Items of interest
--Another Snee Farm Grand Prix will be held Friday-next Sunday, with the entry deadline set for Tuesday. Registration is available at www.sneefarmtennis.com.
--The annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 27-29 at Charleston Tennis Center, with registration at USTA.com's TennisLink (tournament 704139009) through next Saturday.
--SCISA Class AA state champion Colleton Prep dominated the Region 2-AA honors, with player of the year Sarah McDonald, coach of the year Trent Cannon and all-region selections Brittan Carter, Tabor Copeland and Caitlin Crosby.
--Regular season champion Sewee Outpost scored a 3-2 victory over No. 2 H.S.I. last weekend at the I'On Club to win the championship of the Charleston Pro Tennis League. Former College of Charleston star Timo Siebert captained the Sewee team that led the 10-week CPTL season from start to finish. For more information, go to www.cptltennis.com.
--Country Club of Charleston pro Lee Brockman reports that last weekend's Battle of James Island raised more than $1,000 to support Special Olympics. Maybank Tennis Center and the Country Club tied for first place, with the James Island Yacht Club third in the three-team race.

(11/08/09)  Four Score
Wando, Bishop England cross country; Wando tennis; and Bishop England volleyball capture state championships Wando takes sixth straight; Raptors fall

Wando added another jewel to its crown Saturday by winning a record-tying sixth straight Class AAAA girls tennis state championship with a 4-2 victory over Mauldin at Sumter. Meanwhile, Academic Magnet fell, 6-1, to Christ Church in the Raptors' bid to win their first title.

Although the Warriors (24-0) are in a class all alone as evidenced by their state-record 99th consecutive victory, Mauldin (17-3) may be gaining ground on them. The Mavericks doubled the combined point total of their three previous state final encounters with Wando.

"I never dreamed we could win six state titles in a row. Corin (Hallman) was the only player coming back this year," veteran coach Becky Williamson said.

"This has been a great team to work with, really fun ... no drama, except today."

After defeating Mauldin, 5-1, in last year's final, the Warriors' streak appeared to be in jeopardy for another year as four seniors departed. But when Columbia transplants Clair Larkin and Alexis Prickett joined returning senior Hallman, along with young newcomers Catherine Martin and Melanie Allen, the stage was set for Wando to continue its mastery.

This match still worried Williamson, who could sense how badly Mauldin wanted to avoid a fourth state final loss to the Warriors in five years, two of them shutouts.

Mauldin showed up ready to play, especially freshman star Ansley Speaks, who for the second straight year won the No. 1 singles match in straight sets. This time, it was a 6-2, 6-4 win over Hallman. "Speaks is really tough," Williamson said.

But juniors Larkin and Prickett, and seventh-grader Allen all scored comfortable wins at Nos. 2, 3 and 5, respectively, as Wando jumped out to an early 3-0 edge over the Mavericks.

When Martin fell at No. 4, however, to tighten Wando's lead to 3-2, the distinct possibility existed of needing to play No. 1 doubles to decide this state championship. The Warriors' No. 2 doubles team of junior Kayla Heller and sophomore Courtney Lopresti responded to the challenge of clinching the state title without having to call on the No. 1 doubles team by rallying from a quick 0-3 deficit in a third-set match tiebreaker to prevail, 2-6, 6-2, 10-7, over Maulden sophomore Morgan Tracy and freshman Hayley Behal.

SINGLES: Ansley Speaks (M) def. Corin Hallman, 6-2, 6-4; Clair Larkin (W) def. Haley Elliott, 6-3, 6-4; Alexis Prickett (W) def. Lexi Stewart, 6-2, 6-1; Molly Walsh (M) def. Catherine Martin, 6-3, 6-4; Melanie Allen (W) def. Meredith Wessinger, 6-2, 6-2.

DOUBLES: Kayla Heller/Courtney Lopresti (W) def. Morgan Tracy/Hayley Behal, 2-6, 6-2, 10-7.

Christ Church 6, Academic Magnet 1

Christ Church (17-1) yielded only 10 games in singles and rolled to its third straight Class A championship.

Academic Magnet (12-6) was unable to win more than three games in any singles match. The Raptors' only success came in the No. 1 doubles match in which Kelly Engle and Sarah Helms prevailed, 8-6, in a pro-set over the Cavaliers' Ellison Johnstone and Christian Hicks.

Engle, a senior, closed out her singles career for the Raptors in a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Elizabeth Hughes. No. 2 Helms, a junior, managed only one game in her loss to Olivia Lucas.

First-year Academic Magnet coach Brooke Floyd was surprised at the level of Christ Church's play. "They were really good ... a great team," she said.

The Cavaliers from Greenville are perennial powers in state high school tennis. This year, they own victories over Class AAAA state runner-up Mauldin as well as AAAA power Irmo. The victory over Academic Magnet gave Christ Church its fourth title in five years.

Nevertheless, Floyd was proud of her team that included three juniors in the singles lineup. "All of our girls were really excited to get to the state final. The girls feel really good about our season," she said.

SINGLES: Elizabeth Hughes (CC) def. Kelly Engle, 6-1, 6-2; Olivia Lucas (CC) def. Sarah Helms, 6-1, 6-0; Alley Walls (CC) def. Celia Spell, 6-2, 6-0; Rebecca Jennings (CC) def. Paige Gainey, 6-0, 6-3; Emily Jennings (CC) def. Ellie Hart, 6-1, 6-0.

DOUBLES: Engle/Helms (AM) def. Ellison Johnstone/Christian Hicks, 8-6; Emory Cannon/Mary Caulder (CC) def. Sarah Wieland/Kaitlyn Griener, 6-2, 6-2.

(11/06/09)  Wando girls gunning for sixth championship
Just when it appeared that Wando might be ready to give other Class AAAA girls tennis teams a serious shot at winning a state championship, Columbia-area transplants Alexis Prickett and Clair Larkin showed up in the Warriors' lineup. Neither has lost a match this season.

That's the problem facing the three other teams still alive in the chase to derail Wando's drive for a sixth straight state title.

Unbeaten Dutch Fork is first up for the Warriors in today's 2 p.m. Lower State final at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center.

The Wando problem -- for other state teams -- isn't likely to go away anytime soon. Prickett and Larkin are only juniors, and No. 4 Catherine Martin is a freshman and No. 5 Melanie Allen is a seventh-grader. Martin and Allen also are first-year team members.

True, No. 1 player Corin Hallman is a senior, but either No. 2 Martin or No. 3 Prickett easily could play the top position. As veteran coach Becky Williamson claims, the Warriors' top three players are virtually interchangeable.

Wando has a true sleeper in Prickett. She sat out as a sophomore at Wando due to a transfer student eligibility ruling after leading Hammond School to a SCISA state title as an eighth-grader and a runner-up finish as a freshman.

Williamson calls Prickett the best No. 3 player in the state. A healthy Prickett may be as good as any high school player in the state. She ended 2008 as the state's second-ranked junior player in girls' 16.

Prickett started slowly when she arrived on the Wando team in late August due to being sidelined by an injury since February. She resumed her junior tennis tournament schedule last month.

"I'm just now getting my game back," said the power-hitting 5-6 player who uses two hands from both sides. "I don't have the consistency I had before (the injury), and also I'm trying to get my serving percentage up."

She doesn't mind playing No. 3 where the opposition rarely offers a serious challenge in high school tennis.

"It's been a lot of fun ... I love all of the girls," said Prickett, whose grandfather is former University of South Carolina quarterback legend Mackie Prickett of St. Matthews.

"I think this is a great team. We're loaded all the way down the line. Melanie (Allen) is only a seventh-grader, but she's such a good player."

Larkin's move to the Charleston area was a little different.

"We had always been planning to move here," she said. Her father, noted tennis court builder Frank Larkin of Howard B. Jones & Son company of Lexington, moved the family here in January.

Why Wando?

"I came from a big school (Lexington), and I like a big school," she explained. "I also knew the tennis team (at Wando) was really good, and that's definitely a part of it."

Larkin actually played and lost to Hallman at No. 2 singles in last year's state semifinals when Larkin was a sophomore at Lexington. On Tuesday, Larkin was on the other side of the battle when the Warriors cruised to a 6-0 win over Lexington in the state quarterfinals.

She loves her new team, especially playing for a team that has won a state-record 97 straight matches. "It's awesome," she said. "It's really big . . . going for a sixth straight state championship."

BE seeks third straight

Bishop England (16-4), under first-year coach Kristin Fleming, is seeking its third straight Class AA state title. The Bishops face a tough task in today's 2 p.m. lower state final against perennial nememis Waccamaw.

The winner will advance to Saturday's 10 a.m. state final against the winner of the upper state match pitting Greenwood's Emerald against Woodruff. The Bishops have defeated Emerald each of the last two years in the state final.

The Bishops defeated Waccamaw in last year's lower state final.

Raptors eye title

Academic Magnet (11-5) will square off in the lower state Class A final at 2 p.m. in Sumter against Green Sea-Floyds, which eliminated the Raptors in last year's state quarterfinals. First-year coach Brooke Floyd's Academic Magnet team scored a 5-1 road win over Johnsonville on Tuesday, while Green Sea Floyds shut out East Clarendon, 7-0.

Perennial power Christ Church of Greenville is a heavy favorite in the upper state final against Landrum.

(11/04/09)  Three area teams ease by playoff quarterfinals
It was Easy Tuesday for Charleston's three state championship hopefuls in girls High School League tennis as Wando, Bishop England and Academic Magnet all scored decisive victories in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. The next stop for all three teams will be Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center, where the state championship weekend commences Friday afternoon. Wando (22-0), in search of a sixth straight Class AAAA state title, scored a 6-0 shutout of Lexington, while two-time defending Class AA state champion Bishop England (16-4) was almost as flawless in a 6-1 win over Aynor at Snee Farm, and Class A Academic Magnet (11-5) advanced with a 5-1 victory over host Johnsonville.

Wando 6, Lexington 0

"We couldn't take them for granted," said Warriors coach Becky Williamson, whose team has won a state-record 97 straight matches. "Everyone played very well, and they were all motivated for the match."

Senior Corin Hallman was the only Wando player to face pressure as she struggled to win a third-set match tiebreaker, 10-7, against Lexington's Erin Green at No. 1 singles.

Junior Clair Larkin responded well in facing her former Lexington teammates by scoring a 6-3, 6-1 win over Lexington's Sarah Kim at No. 2. Larkin played for Lexington in another loss to Wando in last year's state semifinals.

The Warriors will go after another Lower State title in Friday's 2 p.m. match against unbeaten Dutch Fork, which posted a 5-1 win over Beaufort in the state quarterfinals.

SINGLES: Corin Hallman (W) def. Erin Green, 6-3, 3-6, 10-7; Clair Larkin (W) def. Sarah Kim, 6-3, 6-1; Alexis Prickett (W) def. Rachel Lovaas, 6-1, 6-0; Catherine Martin (W) def. Lauren Johnson, 6-0, 6-3; Melanie Allen (W) def. Lauren Howard, 6-1, 6-2.

DOUBLES: Kayla Heller/Alex Klein (W) def. Katie Lucas/Kelly Gajewski, 6-4, 6-3.

Bishop England 6, Aynor 1

Bishop England coach Kristin Fleming is especially pleased to be headed to the Lower State Class AA title match in her first year as head coach. "I am very happy. It's been a great first year for me. I am enjoying it," the former BE star said. "But it wasn't an easy match."

Sophomore Charlie Gaffney won a 10-6 third-set match tiebreaker at No. 4 over Sallie Dusenbury to give the Bishops a sweep of the last four singles.

As expected, the Bishops will face Waccamaw in another Lower State final. Waccamaw ousted Pelion 4-2 on Tuesday.

SINGLES: Makela Rae Toth (A) def. Madison Boals, 6-3, 6-4; Shannon McManus (BE) def. Haley Hardwick, 6-3, 6-0; Katie Hentz (BE) def. Mary-Carson Helms, 6-3, 6-1; Charlie Gaffney (BE) def. Sallie Dusenbury, 6-4, 2-6, 10-6; Kelly McManus (BE) def. Kathryn E. Johnson, 6-3, 6-0.

DOUBLES: Boals/S. McManus (BE) def. Toth/Hardwick, 8-2; Emma Schaafsma/Hunter St. Laurent (BE) def. Kathryn A. Johnson/Anna Dusenbury, 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Academic Magnet 5, Johnsonville 1

The Raptors swept the first four singles positions, but senior No. 1 Kelly Engle had to fight off Rachel Gasten by a 7-5 score in the first-set tiebreaker en route to a 7-6, 6-2 win.

"I think everyone played really well and really hard. We're just excited to be going to the state semifinals," first-year coach Brooke Floyd said.

Academic Magnet will face Green Sea Floyds on Friday at 2 p.m. in Sumter. Green Sea Floyds, which beat the Raptors in last year's quarterfinals, rolled up a 7-0 win over East Clarendon on Tuesday.

SINGLES: Kelly Engle (AM) def. Rachel Gasten, 7-6 (5), 6-2; Sarah Helms (AM) def. Madison Capps, 6-4, 6-3; Celia Spell (AM) def. Kayla Ho, 6-3, 6-4; Paige Gainey (AM) def. Sabrina Nesminth, 6-0, 6-2; Ranesha Stuckey (J) def. Ellie Hart, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

DOUBLES: Sarah Wieland/Kaitlyn Griener (AM) d. Wybia Godwin/Kelly Spradley, 6-3, 6-2.

(11/01/09)  Three local teams eye state titles
Two weeks after three SCISA girls' tennis teams from the Charleston area marched on Sumter, three local SCHSL teams have their sights set on Sumter for next weekend. Wando and Bishop England look like can't-miss candidates to return to the High School League's state championship weekend to defend their titles, and Academic Magnet has a solid shot at being there, too.

Under new coach Brooke Floyd, Academic Magnet has a luck of the draw match on tap Tuesday at Johnsonville in the Class A state quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to Friday's semifinals at Sumter. Academic Magnet, which scored a 7-0 win over Hannah-Pamplico on Thursday, lost 4-3 to Green Sea-Floyds in last year's quarterfinals, but got a break this time with Green Sea-Floyds bracketed for a possible state semifinal against the Raptors.

Wando is in search of a sixth straight Class AAAA state title, but the 21-0 Warriors must defeat 2008 semifinal victim Lexington in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at the Wando courts to advance to Sumter. An unbeaten Dutch Fork team is Wando's likely semifinal opponent, but must get by Beaufort first. Mauldin, which has lost to Wando in the last two state finals, is the top pick in the upper state.

Led by senior Corin Hallman and junior newcomers Clair Larkin and Alexis Prickett, Wando is even better than a year ago, according to coach Becky Williamson. A year ago while playing for Lexington, Larkin dropped a three-set decision to Hallman in the state semis.

Bishop England first-year head coach Kristin Fleming is hoping to extend the two-year Class AA state championship streak of retired coach Patricia Owens. The Bishops will play host to Aynor on Tuesday, but the big test should come Friday against old rival Waccamaw in the state semifinals. Emerald, which has suffered 5-1 losses to the Bishops in the last two state finals but is now a year more mature, looks like the upper state's top threat.

McDonald quite busy

Sarah McDonald probably had the busiest three days of her life last weekend. But state and national championships made it worth the loss of her Saturday night sleep.

And she didn't even count on the approximately 90 minutes of rain delay on Saturday during Colleton Prep's 5-4 SCISA Class AA state championship victory over Carolina Academy in Sumter. She won her singles and doubles matches, just as she had a day earlier in the SCISA semifinals.

A little later Saturday afternoon, McDonald, her mother, grandmother and sister jumped in a car and took off for Mobile, Ala., where a local 14-and-under advanced coed team and its coach were beckoning for the sophomore star's help in a national junior team tennis tournament. After arriving in Mobile about 2:30 a.m., McDonald showed up at Sunday morning's team warm-ups "smiling from ear to ear," in the words of coach Jim Elliget.

A few hours later, McDonald notched a title-clinching win with Ellie Halbauer in doubles as well as a mixed doubles win with Zac Dye.

For the Lowcountry Gators, it was their third straight participation in the nationals. "We worked hard for that one, and we finally got the big one," said Elliget.

In addition to Dye, Halbauer and McDonald, the Gators included Adam Elliget, Meagan Evans, Kristen Farmer, Drew Halbauer, Bailey Kirkland and Thomas Spratt.

City double awards

The City of Charleston rec department's tennis division has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the USTA, one of 38 grants totaling $234,000 the USTA has awarded nationally. The grants are given to support general tennis programming, project and equipment needs for community based organizations.

City tennis manager Peggy Bohne said the grant money will be used to introduce the USTA's QuickStart program to children on playgrounds and at tennis facilities.

City Tennis Center officials also are excited that eight-year-old third-grader Osbaldo Duarte of St. Andrew's School of Math & Science has won a $1,000 cash card from Subway as part of the Subway Fresh Fit Video and Post competition. His school also will receive $1,000 in fitness grants. Duarte, of course, is a tennis player in city pro Fredrik Andersson's youth programs, and the brother of boys' 12 standout Junior Duarte.

Three combo champs

Three local women's teams won state combo doubles championships last weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center. A 7.5 adult women's team from St. Andrew's (captained by Toni Bourguignon), an 8-5 adult women's team from Family Circle (captained by Maria Elliott) and a 7.5 super senior women's team from Charleston Tennis Center (captained by Elisabeth Pickelsimer) captured state titles to earn berths in the USTA Southern Sectional competition.

An adult 8.5 men's team from Maybank Tennis Center (captained by Chuck Delorme) and a 7.5 senior men's team from Pine Forest Country Club (captained by Jeff Kleiber) were state runners-up.

High school notes

--Talking about depth, Porter-Gaud's boys not only have all six singles starters returning from last spring's state champs but the Cyclones are adding two of the state's better players - seniors Hunter Mitchell, who played on a state championship team at Hilton Head Prep, and Marshall Sanford, who was an all-state player last season for Heathwood Hall.

--Pinewood Prep's boys should be improved with the addition of talented freshman Joel Roberts, who played No. 1 last spring for Summerville High. One top player can make a big difference for a deep roster such as Pinewood's, possibly pushing everyone else down a notch.

Upcoming events

--Today is the deadline for entering the Racquets for Recovery Tournament that is scheduled for next weekend at Pine Forest Country Club to benefit the American Cancer Society. Play in the men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles event will begin at 6 p.m. next Friday. For information, go to www.racquetsforrecovery.org or contact Racquets2009@aol.com or call 851-3985.

--Monday is the entry deadline for the Nov. 11-15 Southern Senior Clay Court Championships at Kiawah Island. Registration is available at wwww.usta.com/TennisLink (tournament ID 704110809).

--The Charleston Pro Tennis League will wrap up another successful season next Friday night at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club with its league championships, matching first-place Sewee Outpost against second-place H.S.I. in the title match. Play will begin at 6:30 p.m. Go to www.cptltennis.com.

--The November to Remember Tournament at the Players Racquet and Tennis Club will be held next weekend. Go to miracle@prtclub.net.

--Mount Pleasant's Junior Tennis Classic is Nov. 13-15 at the Whipple Road complex. Registration is through TennisLink (tournament 704138709). The entry deadline is Nov. 10. Call (843) 856-2162.

--Another Snee Farm Grand Prix will be held Nov. 20-22. The entry deadline is Nov. 17, with registration available at www.sneefarmtennis.com.

--The annual Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is Nov. 27-29 at Charleston Tennis Center, with registration at TennisLink (tournament 704139009) through Nov. 21.

(10/29/09)  Palmetto Christian wins 5th straight title
Palmetto Christian Academy's fifth straight SCISA Class A girls tennis championship was a little tougher to claim than coach Dewey Caulder expected as the Eagles edged Lowcountry Prep, 5-4, Wednesday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

It came down to the final match of the day on the green clay. As luck would have it, Caulder's daughter, sophomore Chandler, teamed with seventh-grader Emma Clair King to pull out a 4-6, 7-6, 10-4 win over Lowcountry Prep's Anna Johnson and Elizabeth Brown at No. 2 doubles to keep Palmetto Christian's string of state titles intact.

In all, the Eagles (9-1) have won nine straight state tennis titles, counting four by the boys team.

"The girls gave their all every time they stepped on the court," said Caulder, who has coached all nine title-winning teams. "That's all I could have asked. Each year is special, and this one was special in its own way."

It was especially special to senior Hanna Frampton, who won her No. 3 singles match. Frampton has played on all five girls' championship teams.

After defeating Pawleys Island's Lowcountry Prep (formerly Lowcountry Day) twice in the regular season (7-2 here and 5-4 away), Palmetto Christian had to be content with a 3-3 singles split as junior Grace King dropped a 10-8 match tiebreaker at No. 2. Frampton, along with seventh-graders King and Hayley Hall at the last two positions, kept the Eagles in contention with their singles success.

Singles: Stella Ford (LP) def. Chandler Caulder, 6-2, 6-2; Sydney Derrick (LP) def. Grace King, 6-1, 2-6, 10-8; Hanna Frampton (PCA) def. Anna Johnson, 6-3, 6-1; Elizabeth Brown (LP) def. Katie Quinn, 6-1, 6-1; Emma Clair King (PCA) def. Emily Beach, 6-0, 6-3; Hayley Hall (PCA) def. Emily Lemon, 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles: Ford/Derrick (LP) def. G. King/Frampton, 6-2, 6-0; Caulder/E.C. King (PCA) def. Johnson/Brown, 4-6, 7-6, 10-4; Hall/Haley Hester (PCA) def. Stelling Lee/Emily Lemon (LP), 6-2, 6-1.

(10/25/09)  Ashley Hall again handles Porter-Gaud
"We lost three times to Ashley Hall. I guess they were the better team." That comment by Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins summed up SCISA Class AAA girls tennis this season as Ashley Hall proved again that the Panthers were the dominant team in a 5-3 state championship victory over Porter-Gaud at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center on Saturday.

In winning a second straight state title, coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team wrapped up an unbeaten dual match season. The Panthers lost only in preseason tournament play when then-injured senior Jamie Harrell didn't play singles.

But Harrell had her game face on for the third meeting with the Cyclones (11-3), who were a close second as they went unbeaten against everyone but Ashley Hall.

After winning two 5-4 thrillers in the regular season against Porter-Gaud, the Panthers put some distance between the teams this time as 2008 Lowcountry player of the year Harrell handed Porter-Gaud foreign exchange student Jeanette Fischer her only loss of the season, 6-2, 6-1, to spark a 3-3 singles deadlock, and then after an hour rain delay Harrell and fellow senior Charlotte Morrow won 6-0, 6-1 over Carissa Steichen and Christina Connelly at No. 2 doubles.

The Panthers clinched the victory when junior Patricia Kirkland gained revenge by teaming with freshman Narni Summerall for a 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over P-G's Fischer and Mi'Kola Cooper in No. 1 doubles. Cooper won 0-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Kirkland at No. 2 singles to keep the match tight going into doubles.

Ashley Hall owned a one-set lead in No. 3 doubles when the Panthers wrapped up the title.

"Doubles pulled us through again," said Gastley, whose team won seven of eight doubles matches in sweeping its three meetings with Porter-Gaud this year. "We practice doubles a lot, and they've won a lot of matches for us over the years."

Gastley was especially impressed with Harrell's performance in yielding a total of just four games in singles and doubles. Harrell had suffered a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Fischer in their regular-season meeting while she nursed a foot injury, but this time it was all Harrell with her left-handed power and talent. "Jamie played an outstanding match. She was a healthy, focused Jamie," Gastley said.

Higgins agreed. "Jamie Harrell took her game to another level. She was dominant," he said.

"We had a couple of rain delays and some wind, but to Ashley Hall's credit, they adjusted to everything."

Singles: Jamie Harrell (AH) def. Jeanette Fischer, 6-2, 6-1; Mi'Kola Cooper {PG) def. Patricia Kirkland, 0-6, 7-5, 10-7; Narnia Summerall (AH) def. Carissa Steichen, 6-4, 6-1; Annie Hay (PG) def. Charlotte Morrow, 6-0, 6-3; Christina Connelly (PG) def. Margaret Legerton, 7-5, 6-4; Rossi Anastopoulo (AH) def. Carlyle Williams, 6-2, 6-1.

Doubles: Kirkland/Summerall (AH) def. Fischer/Cooper, 6-1, 7-6 (4); Harrell/Morrow (AH) def. Steichen/Connelly, 6-0, 6-1.

(10/24/09)  Rivals to meet in finals
Ashley Hall vs. Porter-Gaud III is on. As expected, neither team had any problems in the

SCISA Class AAA girls tennis state semifinals Friday afternoon at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center. Neither Ashley Hall nor Porter-Gaud dropped a match.

Ashley Hall extended its court time a little by playing doubles in a 9-0 romp past Sumter's Wilson Hall, after Porter-Gaud finished off a 6-0 sweep of Heathwood Hall. That set up a 9:30 a.m. meeting today in Sumter between the two Charleston powerhouses.

If this one is anything like the first two, it'll be a classic. Coach Mary Gastley's defending state champions from Ashley Hall scored a pair of 5-4 decisions over the Cyclones in an unbeaten dual match season. Otherwise, the Cyclones would have had a perfect record going into the final.

Ashley Hall yielded a total of only 12 games in the entire match, the first three players in the singles lineup - senior Jamie Harrell, junior Patricia Kirkland and freshman Narni Summerall - winning every singles and doubles game they played.

"Yesterday doesn't matter or two weeks ago. It comes down to tomorrow," Gastley said.

Veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins feels good about the third meeting.

"I don't want to make any predictions, but we're capable of winning," he said.

The Cyclones owned a 7-5 edge in singles in the two regular season meetings with the Panthers.

It's a virtual certainty that doubles will come into play in the third meeting. But the Cyclones didn't get to practice doubles Friday after running their singles record against Heathwood Hall this season to 18-0.

Porter-Gaud yielded only 11 games in singles. The most games won by Heathwood Hall in any singles match was three. And this was a Heathwood team that finished with a 14-3 record, but all three losses coming to the Cyclones.


SINGLES: Jeanette Fischer def. Lauren Armstrong, 6-0, 6-1; Mi'Kola Cooper def. Karson Koker, 6-2, 6-1; Carissa Steichen def. Katherine Lough, 6-1, 6-0; Annie Hay def. Elise McKelvey, 6-0, 6-1; Christina Connelly def. Danielle Zurcher, 6-2, 6-1; Carlyle Williams def. Katie Beach, 6-2, 6-0.


SINGLES: Jamie Harrell def. Natalie Strewalt, 6-0, 6-0; Patricia Kirkland def. Paige Layton, 6-0, 6-0; Narni Summerall def. Emma Wynn Betchman, 6-0, 6-0; Charlotte Morrow def. Auston James, 6-2,6-3; Margaret Legerton def. Caroline Downing, 6-2, 6-0; Rossi Anastopoulo def. Megan Smith, 6-2, 6-0.

DOUBLES: Kirkland/Summerall def. Strewalt/Betchman, 8-0; Harrell/Morrow def. Layton/Downing, 8-0; Legerton/Anastopoulo def. James/Smith, 8-3.

Colleton Prep

Colleton Prep is hoping for better luck in today's SCISA Class AA girls' state final against Lake City's Carolina Academy than a year ago after scoring a marathon 6-3 win over Pee Dee Academy.

Colleton Prep (13-4) and defending champion Carolina Academy will square off at 10:30 a.m. at the Palmetto Tennis Center. Carolina advanced to the final with a forfeit over Florence's The King's, which reportedly had several players sidelined by illness.

Colleton Prep team had to rally to win No. 6 singles and No. 1 doubles in tight third-set match tiebreakers that turned the tide for the Warhawks from Walterboro. Singles sophomore ace Sarah McDonald and freshman Brittany Griffin took the decisive No. 1 doubles when Griffin produced a winning drop volley at match point for a 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 victory.

Pee Dee had gained an 8-7 lead in the tiebreaker before McDonald won both of her service points to take the individual match and four-hour team match to match point. Pee Dee then retired from the No. 2 doubles match to set the final 6-3 match score.


Sarah McDonald (CP) def. Caroline Shelly, 6-1, 6-1; Faith Baxley (PD) def. Brittan Carter, 6-3, 6-4; C.C. Causey (PD) def. Tabor Copeland, 6-2, 6-3; Caitlin Crosby (CP) def. Amber Mincey, 6-2, 6-1; Anna Scruggs (PD) def. Brittany Griffin, 6-4, 6-0; Taylor Hoff (CP) def. Kelsey Coleman, 2-6, 7-5, 10-8.


McDonald/Griffin (CP) def. Shelley/Baxley, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8; Carter/Crosby (CP) def. Causey/Coleman, 7-5, 4-2, ret.; Copeland/Megan Mitchell (CP) def. Mincey/Megan Hooks, 6-2, 6-2.

SINGLES: Sarah McDonald (CP) def. Caroline Shelly, 6-1, 6-1; Faith Baxley (PD) def. Brittan Carter, 6-3, 6-4; C.C. Causey (PD) def. Tabor Copeland, 6-2, 6-3; Caitlin Crosby (CP) def. Amber Mincey, 6-2, 6-1; Anna Scruggs (PD) def. Brittany Griffin, 6-4, 6-0; Taylor Hoff (CP) def. Kelsey Coleman, 2-6, 7-5, 10-8.

DOUBLES: McDonald/Griffin (CP) def. Shelley/Baxley, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8; Carter/Crosby (CP) def. Causey/Coleman, 7-5, 4-2, ret.; Copeland/Megan Mitchell (CP) def. Mincey/Megan Hooks, 6-2, 6-2.

(10/23/09)  Fischer's addition boon for Cyclones
Jeanette Fischer is getting a special treat this fall. She's playing high school tennis, something that isn't possible back in her native Germany. A beneficiary of Fischer's treat is the Porter-Gaud girls tennis team. Fischer hasn't lost a match in singles this season and has given the Cyclones a legitimate shot at a SCISA state championship.

The foreign exchange student and her new teammates travel today to Sumter, where they will square off against Heathwood Hall at 3 p.m. in the SCISA Class AAA semifinals. Heathwood Hall's only losses came against Porter-Gaud (by 9-0 and 8-1), while Porter-Gaud's only losses were to defending state champion Ashley Hall (5-4 both times).

Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud are heavy favorites to meet in Saturday morning's state final at the Palmetto Tennis Center. Ashley Hall, unbeaten in dual matches, will take on lower

No. 2 seed Wilson Hall (a 7-2 regular season loser to Heathwood Hall) in today's semifinals at 3 p.m. Lower No. 1 Ashley Hall scored an 8-1 win over Hammond School on Wednesday, while No. 2 Wilson Hall defeated Cardinal Newman.

"I'm really excited about the playoffs. I hope we can win the state," said Fischer before Porter-Gaud's 9-0 home win over Ben Lippen in the state quarterfinals on Wednesday. "We don't have sports teams in Germany in high school or college."

Fischer arrived at Porter-Gaud in mid-August, and coach Tom Higgins immediately knew his team had landed a good one, even if it's for only one season. A junior, she returns after the school year to her home in Ahlen, where she will have two more years of high school.

"We have 13 years of school," she said.

Those are not the only differences. Height and weight? She knows only the metric system: 1 meter and 68 centimeters tall; and 53 kilograms. Or approximately 5-6, 117 pounds.

She's fluent in three languages: German, of course, and English and French. She also speaks Spanish.

"I like languages best," she said when asked about her favorite subject.

But tennis is the common language in this equation. And that equals near-perfect footwork and movement along with consistency and a strong forehand.

Fischer's only real tests came against Ashley Hall's Jamie Harrell and Patricia Kirkland, a pair of All-Lowcountry performers. Fischer expects to face Harrell, who now appears to be fully recovered from an early season foot injury, again Saturday morning in the state final's No. 1 singles match.

"I just played my game against Jamie and tried not to make a lot of mistakes," Fischer said about her 6-4, 6-4 win over last year's Lowcountry player of the year.

"I don't make a lot of mistakes. I am in good shape, so I can play long matches. I don't care how long the matches are."

Another secret to her success is her concentration. "She locks in ... focuses," said Higgins, the former men's and women's head tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky University. "She's definitely a (NCAA) Division 1 prospect."

Fischer would like that ... playing college tennis. That would mean she would have to return to the United States in a couple of years, which she wouldn't mind. "I really like it here," she said.

She grew up playing tennis, starting at 5 years old and getting serious about the sport soon after that. Her father and mother operate a company back home that organizes ski trips, although she said the mountains are six or seven hours from her home in northwestern Germany, about two hours from Cologne.

In Charleston, she is staying with the James Wonnacott family, which resides in the Creekside subdivision in Mount Pleasant. She commutes to Porter-Gaud with "my host sister," - senior Caralina Wonnacott.


--Heathwood Hall beat an injury-weakened Pinewood Prep, 5-1, in Wednesday's state quarterfinals. Although Pinewood freshman Meagan Evans won at No. 1, the Panthers could not overcome the loss of injured No. 2 Mollie Polk, who had won both times against Heathwood in 5-4 regular season losses.

--In SCISA Class AA, lower No. 1 Colleton Prep (12-4) took a 6-0 win over Trinity Collegiate on Wednesday to advance to today's 5 p.m. semifinals in Sumter against No. 2 Pee Dee Academy of Mullins. Defending AA champion Carolina Academey of Lake City will oppose upper No. 3 The King's of Florence in the other semifinal. Walterboro's Colleton Prep was a state finalist a year ago.

(10/18/09)  Ashley Hall, Porter-Gaud on collision course for title
Ashley Hall looked like a sure bet to repeat as SCISA Class AAA girls' tennis state champion until Jeanette Fischer showed up at Porter-Gaud from Germany as a foreign exchange student.

Even though Ashley Hall has taken a pair of 5-4 squeakers over Porter-Gaud to account for the only losses by either team in regular-season play, it's a virtual toss-up now as to which team is likely to survive this coming week's state playoffs. But since they have been placed in opposite flights as the No. 1 seeds and are overwhelming favorites to win Wednesday's home quarterfinal matches as well as state semifinals Friday afternoon in Sumter, Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud almost certainly will meet in next Saturday morning's state final in Sumter.

Veteran Pinewood Prep coach Heinz Maurer, who has seen his team blanked by Ashley Hall twice and dealt a pair of 7-2 losses by Porter-Gaud when the Cyclones played backups in doubles, sees SCISA tennis this way: "Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud are in one class ... then there's everyone else."

In the teams' three-day rain-plagued first meeting, Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team survived a 4-2 singles deficit by sweeping doubles. In their rematch last Tuesday at Charleston Tennis Center, unbeaten Region 3 champion Ashley Hall picked up a win at No. 6 singles by freshman Rossi Anastopoulo in a match tiebreaker to even singles at 3-3. Ashley Hall then lost No. 3 doubles and had to go to a match tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles to turn back the Cyclones.

Fischer, a junior with great footwork and consistency, did her part both times at No. 1 singles, defeating the Panthers' top two players, All-Lowcountry stars Jamie Harrell first and then Patricia Kirkland. Both Harrell and Kirkland defeated Porter-Gaud's Mi'Kola Cooper when they played No. 2. Ashley Hall's Narni Summerall won both times at No. 3, while Porter-Gaud's Annie Hay and Christina Connelly took Nos. 4 and 5 singles both times.

The other sure-looking winner for either team is No. 2 doubles where 2008 Lowcountry player of the year Harrell is the dominant force with her heavy artillery at the net. That would seem to leave three matches -- No. 6 singles, and Nos. 1 and 3 doubles -- as the decisive up-for-grabs points. However, a No. 1 singles victory by Fischer isn't a cinch since Gastley plans to put the left-handed power and athleticism of the injury recovered Harrell back at the top of the lineup in the playoffs. Changes in the singles lineup are not allowed once the playoffs begin, barring injuries, etc.

Both Ashley Hall and Porter- Gaud have byes Monday. In Wednesday's quarterfinals, Ashley Hall will face the winner of Monday's lower No. 4 Hammond-No. 5 Laurence Manning, while Porter-Gaud will square off against the survivor of upper No. 4 Ben Lippen-No. 5 Florence Christian. The upper No. 2 seed is Heathwood Hall, which was blitzed 9-0 and 8-1 by Porter-Gaud in the regular season. The lower No. 2 is Sumter's Wilson Hall, which is badly outmatched by Ashley Hall's tennis talent.

Pinewood Prep is the No. 3 seed in the upper flight and will serve as host to Orangeburg Prep in Monday's first round, with the winner traveling to Columbia to meet Heathwood Hall on Wednesday.

Maurer doesn't like Pinewood's chances in the second round after suffering a pair of 5-4 losses to Heathwood Hall in the regular season and then losing No. 2 player Mollie Polk to a shoulder injury. Polk, a freshman, scored victories in singles both times against Heathwood Hall.

Colleton Prep favorite
Colleton Prep has a solid shot at winning next Saturday's SCISA Class AA title match in Sumter after finishing as runner-up to Carolina Academy last year. Coach Trent Cannon's Colleton Prep team is led by freshman Sarah McDonald, whose only losses came against Ashley Hall's Kirkland and P-G's Cooper.

Lower No. 1 seed Colleton Prep (12-4) has a first-round bye and is scheduled to play host on Wednesday to the Trinity Collegiate-Spartanburg Christian winner.

"I think it has helped us to play better teams," Cannon said, pointing out that upper No. 1 Carolina hasn't faced the likes of Ashley Hall, Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud, which combined to deal Colleton Prep all four of its losses.

Gators in nationals
A coed team of players from the Charleston area based out of Summerville will travel to Mobile, Ala., next weekend to compete for a Junior Team Tennis advanced 14-and-under national title. This will be the second straight year the Jimmy Elliget-coached Lowcountry Gators will compete in the nationals.

Like last year, this team will be hit by the SCISA state girls' playoffs in that top player Sarah McDonald will be trying to lead Colleton Prep to a Class AA state title instead of going to Alabama. McDonald and several other players from Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud missed last year's trip due to the SCISA playoffs.

This time, Elliget has Ellie Halbauer, Kristen Farmer and probably Meaghan Evans for its girls' competition. Evans plays for Pinewood Prep, but the Panthers aren't expected to advance past Wednesday's state quarterfinals. The Gators have a strong boys' contingent of Adam Elliget, Bailey Kirkland, Thomas Spratt, Zac Dye and Drew Halbauer.

Another narrow miss
Chris Henderson's men's open team had another near-miss at the recent league tennis nationals in Las Vegas. Henderson's team and two other teams tied with 3-1 records for the top spot in their flight, but a Las Vegas Intermountain team that suffered a 2-1 loss to Henderson's outfit in the first round happened to score a 3-0 win in its final match against a 1-3 team. That was enough to elevate the Las Vegas team into the national final where it lost to another Intermountain team. Henderson's team posted three 2-1 victories in the nationals.

Seabrook raises $36,000
Last weekend's 26th annual Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championships at Seabrook Island not only included a field of 228 players but also raised a record $36,000 for Hospice of Charleston. The total increased the tournament's charity total for the last nine years to $183,000.

U.S. No. 1-ranked women's 60 player Brenda Carter took doubles titles in 55s and 60s, while former world's champion Diane Fishburne won the mixed doubles 50 title. Enoch Booth captured the men's 50 singles crown.

Battle of James Island
The next "Battle of James Island" is scheduled for Oct. 31 at Maybank Tennis Center and the Country Club of Charleston. Play will begin at 8:30 a.m. with men's and women's doubles, followed by mixed doubles at 11 a.m. A covered dish social and awards ceremony will highlight the day from 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. The event will benefit the Special Olympics. Contact Country Club tennis director Lee Brockman (ccctennis@comcast.net).

Caulder promoted
Dewey Caulder has been promoted to the position of tennis director at Family Circle Tennis Center. Caulder, who has served as director of adult programming, will assume the additional responsibilities of developing new tennis events, coordinating facility tennis tournaments, and expanding tennis center membership while leading all aspects of tennis lesson programming.

Upcoming events
--The public school league is taking a cue from SCISA this fall by switching its girls' state championship weekend to Sumter's excellent Palmetto Tennis Center. Two weeks after the SCISA championship matches, the SCHSL will take over Sumter on Nov. 6-7 for state semifinals and finals.
--The Racquets for Recovery Tournament at Pine Forest Country Club is scheduled for Nov. 6-8 to benefit the American Cancer Society. Information is available at www.pineforestcountryclub.com.
--The November to Remember Tournament at the Players Racquet and Tennis Club will be held Nov. 6-8. Go to miracle@prtclub.net.
--Nov. 2 is the entry deadline for the Nov. 11-15 Southern Senior Clay Court Championships at Kiawah Island. Registration is available at wwww.usta.com/TennisLink (tournament ID 704110809).

(10/04/09)  Wando girls' streak intact – barely
The state record for consecutive dual match wins almost escaped the five-time Class AAAA state champion Wando girls tennis team. It almost happened Sept. 24 when coach Becky Williamson took her reserves for a Region 7-AAAA match at Berkeley. Talk about overconfidence. And the Stags almost made the Warriors pay for it.

The state's longest winning streak came down to a match tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles. That's how close the Warriors were to suffering the biggest upset possibly in state high school tennis history.

Williamson admits that she was worried sick as the match progressed - an understandable feeling, considering what could have happened with just a few different bounces of the ball. Even the third-set match tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles was reasonably close, 10-6. The Stags won the singles competition, 3-2, and needed only a victory in one of the two doubles matches to wreck the Warriors' dreams.

It's a cinch that when the Warriors go for a state-record 90th straight victory on Oct. 13 in the rematch with Berkeley that Williamson will show up at the Wando courts with a different lineup. It may not be a complete No. 1 team, but certainly enough front-line players to ensure the Warriors of easily living up to the acclaim they have spent the last five years earning.

Cyclone threat

Porter-Gaud appeared to have defending SCISA Class AAA girls champion Ashley Hall on the ropes last week by winning four of the six singles matches before losing all three doubles positions. That brought back memories of 2007, when the Cyclones dropped 13 of 15 doubles matches against SCISA opposition, including all three in a state quarterfinal loss to Cardinal Newman.

But Porter-Gaud may have the area's top girls player in German exchange student Jeannette Fischer, a junior who upset 2008 Lowcountry player of the year Jamie Harrell in straight sets in the Cyclones' 5-4 loss to Ashley Hall.

All of a sudden, Porter-Gaud is a threat to Ashley Hall's SCISA supremacy.

The teams' highly anticipated rematch on Ashley Hall's home courts at Charleston Tennis Center will be Oct. 13.

Oudin time

Almost no one wanted to interview then 17-year-old Melanie Oudin at this year's Family Circle Cup. After she scored a first-round upset of Olga Savchuk, I was the lone media representative in the media tent to interview Oudin, and that was only because I had watched her Fed Cup heroics against Argentina on TV in February.

Of course, Oudin was the belle of this year's U.S. Open. Everyone wanted to talk to her, or at least get her autograph.

Now, she's returning to what she calls her favorite tournament - the Family Circle Cup. The earliness of her Family Circle Cup commitment must be a record for the event.

If the comeback girls - Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin - happen to join Oudin, the Family Circle's 10th anniversary celebration on Daniel Island next April could be a big one. Why not? Clijsters has never played in the Family Circle, an event that her fellow Belgian once seemed to own.

Farmfield excitement

City tennis manager Peggy Bohne was wearing a big smile this past week after learning that Charleston Tennis Center has been named the club of the year by USTA South Carolina. Beating out the likes of Family Circle Tennis Center, and the excellent newer facilities in Lexington and Sumter along with all of the other clubs in the state was a major achievement for the 15-court public complex on Farmfield Avenue.

Charleston Tennis Center has been at the heart of West Ashley tennis since January 1976, when then-pro Billy Silcox helped open the facility. Bohne ran the clubhouse in those days, and became the city's tennis manager three years later when Silcox departed. Bohne manages the city's 62 courts and 14 tennis sites.

There's more good news for Charleston Tennis Center that directly affects its large membership. The complex will undergo a court resurfacing project later this year, or in time for the start of the official spring league tennis season.

Bohne will pick up the club of the year award during the state tennis association's annual meeting Dec. 11-13 in Myrtle Beach. Other award winners include Kiawah

Island's Southern Closed Championships for adult/senior tournaments, Summerville's Hunter Specialties Inc. as company of the year and Special Olympics volunteer of the year Kevin MacFarland.

Carter's doubly good news

Not only has Charleston's Brenda Carter been selected for the Alice Marble Cup team that will represent the United States in the International Tennis Federation's Super Seniors World Team Championships from Nov. 2-7 in Perth, Australia, word is out that she will be inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame later this year.

The Alice Marble competition is for ages 60-75. This will be the eighth time that Carter has played on a U.S. senior women's team. She is the top-ranked U.S. woman in 60-and-over singles and doubles.

Martha Downing of Shingle Springs, Calif.; captain Carol Clay of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Kathy Bennett of Irvine, Calif., will join Carter on the Marble Cup team.


--Seewee Outpost maintained its lead in the Charleston Pro Tennis League on Friday night at Pine Forest Country Club by shutting out LCTA, 5-0, for a second time, while H.S.I. blanked 4-Spine in the other matchup played before a crowd of about 250. Next Friday's CPTL action will move to the Daniel Island Club for a 6:30 p.m. program. See cptltennis.com for details.

--The Lowcountry Tennis Association and the City of North Charleston are teaming together to stage a Latino Family Tennis Festival on Oct. 17 from 3-5 p.m. at the Collins Park tennis complex in an

effort to introduce tennis to Latino adults and children. Volunteers are needed for the free event that will provide tennis instruction and food. Contact Maggie LaCoste (maggielacoste@comcast.net).

--Monday is the deadline to enter the Southern Level 3 Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championships, set Oct. 16-19. Contact pro Jonathan Barth (jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com).

--Alex Martin defeated Georgia's top player in the recent Southern Junior Davis Cup competition in Chattanooga, Tenn., but the South Carolina team finished second to Georgia in the team competition.

--The Players Racquet & Tennis Club on Mathis Ferry Road holds a Halloween costume contest on Oct. 30 that also will serve as the LCTA's

annual party for its huge league tennis community - more than 3,400 members and teams from 29 tennis facilities.

--In singles at the recent state-level 2 junior tournament at Hilton Head Island, Brant Fenno captured boys 10, Hufelder Duarte took boys 12 and Adam Elliget won boys 14 titles.

--The Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championship begins Wednesday at Seabrook Island.

(09/20/09)  Ashley Hall, Wando may be state's two best girls teams
Ashley Hall and Wando both lost heavily from last year's state championship teams, yet they are right back where they were in 2008. They may well be the state's two best teams in girls high school tennis, whether SCHSL or SCISA. Mary Gastley, in her 23rd season as coach for centennial-celebrating Ashley Hall, isn't taking another SCISA Class AAA state title for granted after losing Jacey Edwards and Kate Cannon to graduation and outstanding No. 4 sophomore Isabel Dennis to a move to Atlanta.

"We feel good so far, and we want to be confident but we don't want to make any predictions," Gastley said.

The Panthers have two of the area's three returning All-Lowcountry players. Senior Jamie Harrell and junior Patricia Kirkland are sharing time at No. 1 as Lowcountry player of the year Harrell has been nursing a toe injury.

Senior Charlotte Morrow is also back to play No. 4, while freshman Narni Summerall is a newcomer from Charleston Day at No. 3, and sophomore Margaret Legerton and freshman Rossi Anastopoulo have moved into the starting lineup at Nos. 5 and 6.

Ashley Hall should repeat in Region III, with a deep Porter-Gaud team possibly contending. The big matches for the Panthers should be against SCHSL two-time defending Class AAA champion Hilton Head High and five-time defending Class AAAA state champion Wando in early October. Ashley Hall already holds a pair of wins over SCHSL two-time defending Class AA state champion Bishop England.

The Panthers lost to Wando in an early-season tournament when Harrell wasn't available to participate.

Unbeaten Wando, which owns a victory over Hilton Head, lost four of its five singles players from last year, but picked up junior Clair Larkin at No. 2 from perennial power Lexington and talented junior Alexis Prickett, called by 11th-year coach Becky Williamson "the best No. 3 player in the state."

Prickett starred for SCISA power Hammond School two years ago and sat out last season at Wando due to eligibility rules.

The Warriors' only returning singles starter is All-Lowcountry Corin Hallman, the No. 1 player who made a late decision to return for her senior season.

Wando lost three players to college tennis: All-Lowcountry players Olivia McMillan (Presbyterian) and Lindsay Larkin (Wofford), and Liz Cole (Sewanee).

Locals win beach title

Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell are back on top of beach tennis in the United States after winning the Beach Tennis National Championship over Labor Day weekend in New York. The local team gained revenge from world champions Matteo Marighella and Alex Mingozzi of Italy by scoring an 8-6 win in the final.

Henderson and Whitesell split a purse of more than $5,000 for their latest title. They had won the U.S. title in 2005 and 2006 before falling to the Italians the last two years.

"This was our biggest win. We took out the guys that had never lost on U.S. soil," Henderson said about the five-time world champion Italians. "These guys were 26 years old and they do this full-time in Italy. They didn't think we could beat them, but Phil and I both played great."

Things might swing back to the Italians next year when the nationals are expected to be played with wooden paddles instead of the tennis rackets that were used this year on the sand of Long Beach, N.Y.

Traveling man

Henderson is having a super busy schedule these days. In addition to his beach tennis heroics and holding down a job as a medical equipment salesman, the 37-year-old former Furman star is co-founder of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League.

Not only does Henderson captain the Hunter Specialties Inc. team in the CPTL, he also captains a nine-member men's open team that will leave Thursday for Las Vegas to begin competition on Friday in the league tennis nationals.

If that isn't enough, Henderson missed last week's CPTL matches at Charleston Tennis Center because he was in Bermuda competing in an international beach tennis tournament. Henderson and a player from Bermuda lost in the quarterfinals to the world champion Italians. That competition was played with wooden paddles.

CPTL reset for today

The CPTL is batting .500 in regularly scheduled events after rain forced the postponement of Friday night's program until today at 4 p.m. at Creekside Tennis and Swim.

This is the fourth week of the 10-week regular season, which started with a postponement.

Timo Siebert-captained Seewee Outpost posted a 5-0 win over Henderson's H.S.I. outfit in Week 3 to take a big lead over H.S.I. in the five-team race. CPTL teams will travel to the Country Club of Charleston for next Friday night's matches. Keep up with the CPTL at www.cptltennis.com.

Local notes of interest

--Former Wando standout Hagan Edgerton has been named the recipient of a $2,000 scholarship from the S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation. Edgerton, who played on five straight girls' state championship teams, is a freshman at Clemson.

--Bishop England's girls tennis team lost Downing Herlocker, last year's No. 2 player as a sophomore, to cross country.

--While the Lowcountry Tennis Association's fall leagues are getting started within the next two weeks, the relatively new Flex League is still forming. The Flex League registration deadline is Thursday. Contact Vickie Nash (761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo.com).
--The LCTA didn't fare well in last weekend's state mixed doubles tournament at Charleston Tennis Center as the local league failed to produce a state champion.

(08/23/09)  Could have been 2004 all over again for Family Circle

Charleston is always in the fast lane in tennis, but if James Blake had connected on a few more home-run blasts last month in Croatia, the local scene might have been moving at a record pace by now.

When Blake couldn't locate the court with his go-for-broke forehands and backhands against Croatia's Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic, the possibility of Family Circle Tennis Center serving as host for another Davis Cup semifinal vanished. Of course, Mardy Fish's loss also figured in that equation.

You might also blame Family Circle's lost Davis Cup bid on Andy Roddick's hip injury.

"We were prepared with a bid," said Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran.

When it looked like there was a strong possibility that the Americans would advance to a home match against the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup semifinals the week after the U.S. Open, Moran had flashbacks to the wildly successful 2004 U.S.-Belarus semifinal at Family Circle Tennis Center. The Family Circle Cup's move to Daniel Island nine years ago changed the landscape of Charleston tennis, and the Davis Cup weekend has been the highlight of Charleston's tennis history.

"It was great last time. We were sold out the whole weekend," Moran said.

But because of the cold weather conditions at the time of the Davis Cup final and first rounds, and conflict with the Family Circle Cup in the spring, the September semifinals provide the only possibility each year for another Davis Cup weekend in Charleston.

"September is the only one we can host, but everything has to fall in order," said Moran. For it to happen, the Americans must still be in the running, have the choice of turf against their opponent and then the USTA must select the site.

This time, things looked good until Roddick pulled up lame after losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.

Block Party successful
Family Circle Tennis Center's Block Party was a huge success. Nearly 350 people participated in a free morning of tennis instructions and entertainment. "It (attendance) was way above our expectations," Moran said.

The event provided an opportunity for Family Circle to "introduce people to the game," he said, and also to remind the local tennis community that the Family Circle complex is a public facility.

--Family Circle officials are excited that they have connections to four young players who have been awarded wild-card berths in either the U.S. Open's main draw or qualifying tournament. Gail Brodsky, who trains at Family Circle, and 2008 Smash Junior Cup and 2009 NCAA titlist Mallory Cecil of Duke and Spartanburg will play in the U.S. Open main draw, while 2009 Smash Junior champion Allison Riske and runner-up Kristie Ahn have been awarded berths in the qualifying tournament.

CPTL starts Friday
The Charleston Pro Tennis League begins another season Friday at Dunes West. The league's schedule runs through the league final on Nov. 6 at the I'On Club.

A record 62 players will participate in the five-team CPTL, according to league co-founder Chris Henderson. The format will call for two singles and three doubles matches on each program.

--Henderson and his men's open team were awarded one of the two berths from the Southern Sectional championships to compete in the league tennis nationals on Sept. 26-27 in Las Vegas.

--Former two-time champions Henderson and Phil Whitesell will be in New York over Labor Day weekend to compete in the Beach Tennis Nationals.

Tennis Center busy
City of Charleston tennis coordinator Peggy Bohne is preparing for a couple of big events at Charleston Tennis Center: the league tennis mixed doubles state tournament Sept. 12-14, and a night of CPTL matches at the West Ashley complex on Sept. 11, not to mention an NTRP adult tournament there next weekend.

The deadline for the adult rated tournament has been extended until midnight Monday. Registration is available on the TennisLink Web site using the tournament ID number (704134709). Competition will be in men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles, 2.5-4.5.

--The area's three defending girls state champion high school teams play at Charleston Tennis Center in the next two weeks when SCISA AAA champion Ashley Hall takes on public school giant Wando next Thursday and SCHSL AA champ Bishop England on Sept. 3.

--Charleston's Shelby Rogers captured three out of five singles matches in this month's USTA National Girls' 18 Championships held earlier this month in Berkeley, Calif.
--Austin Heinz won four singles -- including one against a nationally seventh-ranked player -- and two doubles in boys' 14 in the recent Super National Clay Courts in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
--In the USTA Southern Zonal Championships in Huntsville, Ala., Heinz and Bailey Kirkland played on the Southern A title-winning team, while Thomas Spratt's Southern B team took a second place. Heinz, Kirkland and Spratt all went unbeaten in singles.

(08/09/09)  Time to sign up for leagues again
It's nice to have the Combo League under way. But have you signed up for fall league tennis yet? If you haven't, it's time.

Registration, which is online only, opened Friday for the Lowcountry Tennis Association's fall singles league, adult league and senior league. It's $12 more, or maybe $48 if you play on adult and senior teams at a couple of levels.

Newcomers to league tennis can become confused by all of the commitments. Before a newcomer can get into the mix, there's the matter of the USTA membership, usually $40 a year. The task of finding the right team to join by figuring out the level of your game comes next. Then, the team usually has to need or want a player enough for the captain to invite the player aboard. And don't forget the self-rate ordeal.

Of course, membership must be taken care of at the tennis facility that the team represents.

Midnight on Sept. 8 is the deadline when teams must have the minimum number of players on their rosters to fill a complete lineup for a league match: one player for the 4.5 singles league, three players for all other singles leagues, six players for seniors, five players for adult 2.5, and eight players for all other adult levels.

Otherwise, a team will not qualify to compete in the local league. Once a team meets its quota, other players can join the team until the start of the last scheduled match of the season for that level.

Scarpa Baylor-bound

Anderson Scarpa, one of the area's most promising juniors, has accepted an offer to attend the prestigious Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"Baylor has a long history of fine tennis teams going back to the days when Roscoe Tanner and Zan Guerry played," said Skip Scarpa, Anderson's father and a former College of Charleston player. "More recently, Bo Seal, a former

Baylor player and No. 1-ranked USTA junior, has just accepted an offer from Georgia."

Baylor recruited Scarpa and offered the former First Baptist School of Charleston student a spot at the prep school the day after he won the boys 16 singles title at the recent National Public Parks Tennis Championships at the Lexington County Tennis Center. "That was a very nice 24 hours," said Skip Scarpa, whose company builds tennis courts.

Ned Caswell, a two-time All-American tennis player for Skip Scarpa's uncle Paul Scarpa at Furman as well as a starting guard in basketball for the Paladins, is the Baylor tennis director. He is assisted by Philip Johnson, who led Georgia to two NCAA tennis titles. Former touring pro Guerry, once ranked as high as 105th in the world, is the chairman of Baylor's board of trustees.

It's CPTL time

Local tennis fans are in for a long treat this fall. The popular Charleston Pro Tennis League is expanding to an 11-Friday night season. That's four weeks longer than in the past.

New CPTL president Ellerbe Dargan has announced that the league's draft party will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Home Team BBQ on Sullivan's Island. The season is scheduled to start Aug. 28 with a program at Dunes West.

Elliget, Clements win

Pinewood Prep's Adam Elliget continued to enjoy an exceptional summer last weekend by moving up to boys 14 and winning another state title in the singles-only S.C. Junior Closed Clay Courts at the Greenville Country Club. Connor Clements was the only other local player to win a state title, taking the boys 16 crown. Grace Robards was a finalist in girls 12.

Elliget also recently finished fifth in singles and doubles in boys 12 in the National Clay Courts in Greensboro, N.C. That came after he won both singles and doubles in boys' 14 in the State Closed Hard Courts as well as captured boys' 12 singles and doubles titles at Belton, and was runner-up in both singles

and doubles in the boys 12 Southerns.

According to his father, Jimmy Elliget, Adam will finish 2009 as the top-ranked boys 12 player in the state, No. 3-rated boys 12 player in the South and a top 20 boys 12 player nationally.


--Local 16-year-old Shelby Rogers made it to the quarterfinals of a $10,000 satellite tournament held recently in St. Joseph, Mo. The tournament was the first professional event for Rogers, who is playing in the national hard courts in Oakland, Calif. She is a senior in online schooling.

--Juliette Daniel, a 12-year-old who participates in the City of Charleston's Courting Kids program, was one of 40 kids selected for the USTA's 25th annual National Junior Tennis and Learning Camp late last month in Denver. The camp is exclusively for youth ages 12-14 who participate in NJTL programs nationwide.

--Local league tennis teams failed to capture a Southern Sectional title in the championships held recently in Birmingham, Ala. Chris Henderson's men's open team came the closest, advancing to the final before losing to another S.C. team that represented Aiken, Columbia and Boiling Springs. John Fanning's state champion Hoppin' Johns 3.5 and 4.0 men's teams from Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex both finished with 2-2 records in flight competition, while Mike Laquara's 2.5 Maybank men posted a 4-2 record.

--Tuesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Town of Mount Pleasant Tennis Championship at the Whipple Road complex. Adult competition will be in singles, doubles and mixed doubles based on NTRP ratings. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162 or jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com) or visit www.townofmountpleasant.com.

--Myrtle Beach pro Will Bull won the men's open singles and doubles titles in the 83rd annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships last weekend in Lexington. Kristen Farmer of Moncks Corner took the girls' 16 singles title.

--The entry deadline for the Aug. 28-30 Raise a Racquet for the Charleston Breast Center at Daniel Island Club will be Aug. 23 at 5 p.m. Contact Nancy Heinz (nancy.heinz@danielislandclub.com).

--Charleston Tennis Center's NTRP championship will be held Aug. 28-30, with registration by midnight on Aug. 22 on TennisLink (ID number 704134709).

(07/26/09)  JTT promotes a team atmosphere for juniors
It isn't difficult to figure out why Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Bryan brothers love to play Davis Cup tennis so much. The camaraderie and team aspect are more than worth the sacrifices.

That's why juniors who skip high school tennis are missing some of the best times tennis can offer them . . . that is, until they join a league tennis team.

Junior Team Tennis feeds into all of this. Just ask Jimmy Elliget. Or Danny Dye. Each of these local tennis players has two sons who not only sparkle in high school tennis, but also spearhead a pair of state championship Junior Team Tennis groups.

"The (JTT) teams really came together with a great group of young tennis players from the Charleston area, becoming friends and enjoying playing an individual sport in a team atmosphere," Jimmy Elliget said. "I think this is why they all enjoy playing high school tennis now as well."

Adam Elliget and JT Elliget play high school tennis for Pinewood Prep, while Zac Dye and Micah Dye lead Berkeley. Adam and Zac also helped the Lowcountry Crushers 14-and-under advanced team win a fourth straight Junior Team Tennis state championship last weekend in Sumter, while JT Elliget and Micah played for the state champion Lowcountry Gators 18-and-under intermediate team.

Dads Jimmy and Danny coach the two Junior Team Tennis outfits, with Jimmy Elliget serving as the head coach of both.

The Elliget and Dye clans will lead the two teams to the USTA's Southern Sectionals, which will be held Aug. 21-23 in Mobile, Ala.

In addition to Adam and Zac, the 14U team that will be gunning for its third straight Southern title is composed of Meagan Evans (Pinewood Prep), Kristen Farmer (Berkeley), Sarah McDonald (Colleton Prep), Ellie Halbauer (home-schooled), Thomas Spratt (Porter-Gaud), Drew Halbauer (home-schooled) and Bailey Kirkland (Academic Magnet).

On the 18U team, JT and Micah are joined by Mollie Polk (Pinewood Prep), Shauna Fletcher (Pinewood Prep), Alex Klein (Wando), Taylor Drew (Summerville), Jacob Cumbie (Pinewood Prep) and Will Farmer (Berkeley).

The goal, of course, especially for the 14U team is to win a national title. "We would have won the the nationals last year if all of the girls had been there," Jimmy Elliget said about the 14U team that brought home fifth place nationally while playing without several high school girls due to conflicts with the SCISA state playoffs.

"The players are a year older now, and I'm even more excited this year."

Elliget is a veteran of Junior Team Tennis, helping start the local program seven years ago. "With my kids, JT and Adam, just starting out in tournament tennis at the time, along with my good friend Danny Dye's sons Micah and Zac, it was pretty easy to put together a nice team," he said.

Cup truly international
The international television numbers are in for the Family Circle Cup. This spring's tournament reached 241.2 million households in 15 territories — Pan-Europe, Asia-Pacific, Australia, Russia, China, India, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Latin America (except Brazil), Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

The latest Family Circle, which was won by big-serving Sabine Lisicki, received a total of 164 hours of international broadcast exposure.

--Family Circle Tennis Center is planning another popular Tennis Block Party for Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon to showcase the array of programs available for the entire family at the Daniel Island complex. The event will feature the newest instructional techniques available today designed to introduce tennis in a fun and easy manner. Also, many complimentary raffles will be held offering prizes that include box seat tickets to the 2010 Family Circle Cup as well as Darius Rucker & Friends concert tickets. A free cookout is set for noon. For information, visit familycirclecup.com or call the Family Circle Pro Shop (849-5300).
--The Tennis Industry Association is offering a "Racket Up, America" promotion in which anyone purchasing a racket between July 15 and Sept. 30 can win a chance to serve for a $1 million grand prize as well as a trip for two to the 2010 U.S. Open finals. The $1 million serve will take place at the BNP Paribas Showdown March 1 in Madison Square Garden during Tennis Night in America. Racket purchases can be registered at www.playtennis.com/million.
--Anyone wanting to help sponsor the trip to Mobile, Ala., for the two local Junior Team Tennis groups can contact Jimmy Elliget at jelliget@earthlink.net or (843) 873-3015.

(07/19/09)  Cardio tennis a hot subject
Cardio Tennis, anyone?

In the middle of summer?

I don't know about you, but a 6 p.m. league tennis practice offers a fast enough pace for me in the current extreme heat and humidity. That is, when the late-afternoon rains at Charleston Tennis Center allow activity on the courts.

By the end of the second set when the sun has dropped behind the trees, and a slight breeze is kicking up, you're wondering why you didn't set the practice for 7:30.

Cardio Tennis has its own agenda. The Tennis Industry Association and the USTA have joined forces to help fight America's battle of the bulge through Cardio Tennis. They have labeled Cardio Tennis as "a fun group tennis activity that combines tennis with a high-energy cardio-vascular workout."

Just around the corner from Charleston Tennis Center, pro Philip Burke puts his Cardio Tennis wheels in motion at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground on Mondays at 6 p.m. The certified Cardio Tennis pro has been teaching a one-hour class to as many as 30 participants for about a year. If Cardio Tennis interests you, Burke invites you to show up at 6 p.m. on Monday for one of the high-energy cardio-vascular workouts.

"Tennis has always been considered an activity that is fun if you know how to play, but Cardio Tennis will change all that," TIA Cardio Tennis director Michele Krause said. "Americans are constantly looking for new ways to lose weight and Cardio Tennis is a great way to get in shape, and have fun while doing it.

"We know Cardio Tennis is a better workout and, more importantly, is more fun than some of those boring fitness programs you find in gyms. In our research, 63 percent thought Cardio Tennis was a better workout than their normal fitness routine and 79 percent said Cardio Tennis was more fun."

Local players shine

Adam Elliget won the boys' 14 singles and doubles titles, and Walker Heffron took the boys' 16 singles crown in the S.C. Closed Hard-Court Championships that ended Wednesday in Columbia.

Randall Heffron was runner-up in boys' 18 singles. Other singles finalists were Patricia Kirkland in girls' 16 and Steven Weaver in boys' 16. Kirkland was a champion in 16-and-under doubles, and Sarah McDonald was on the winning girls' 14 doubles team. McDonald also placed third in girls' 16 singles, while Brant Fenno took third in boys' 10 singles.

Doubles finalists from the area were Mi'Kola Cooper/Annie Hay in girls' 16, Thomas Kuisel/Colby Tubbs in boys' 14 and JT Elliget/Weaver in boys' 16.


--Beach tennis is alive and well, according to Chris Henderson who is promoting the Aug. 22-23 H.S.I. Open at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms. The tournament will have men's and women's divisions for pros and amateurs. Former national champs Henderson and Phil Whitesell also will conduct a free clinic at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 9 at Hamlin Plantation in Mount Pleasant, which will include an exhibition pitting the Henderson/Whitesell duo against 2007 national runners-up Timo Siebert and Matt Hane.

--Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road Tennis Center will hold the Mount Pleasant Tennis Championship on Aug. 14-16, with singles, doubles and mixed doubles for adults based on NTRP ratings. Entry deadline is Aug. 11. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (856-2162 or jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com) or visit www.townofmountpleasant.com.

--John Fanning's Mount Pleasant Hoppin' Johns state champion men's 3.5 league tennis team begins play next weekend in the Southern Sectional in Birmingham, Ala. Fanning's 4.0 state champs will compete the following week in the Southerns. A men's open team captained by Chris Henderson also will compete in the second week of the Southerns.

(07/12/09)  Wimbledon gives Kriese top moment
Chuck Kriese feels redeemed as a tennis coach. He's a champion. Of course, Kriese was always a champion, just never winning the really big one. Although his teams won 10 Atlantic Coast Conference championships during his 33 years as Clemson's men's tennis coach, Kriese never experienced ultimate success.

"I had a hole in my career. I felt I didn't accomplish what I could have. I was never able to win an NCAA title," Kriese said, describing the Tigers' seven quarterfinal finishes in the NCAA Tournament.

A 17-year-old Thai girl changed all of that last weekend at Wimbledon. Little 5-3 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn capped off an historic weekend for Thailand tennis last Sunday by winning the Wimbledon junior doubles titles. She had won the junior girls singles crown a day earlier.

"I got to sit in the coach’s box on Court One back-to-back days and experience Wimbledon championships. There were 11,000 people there. It was fantastic," Kriese said after arriving back in the United States. "That was the greatest moment of my coaching career. Wimbledon is the most prestigious of all tennis events."

The Wimbledon ball

Kriese escorted Lertcheewakarn to the famed Wimbledon ball last Sunday night, even shaking hands with Grand Slam record holder Roger Federer. Another highlight of the evening for Kriese was seeing long-time Greenville friend Lucy Garvin, the current president of the U.S. Tennis Association, at the ball with her husband.

Last year's junior world champion, Lertcheewakarn also won doubles titles at the 2008 U.S. Open and this year's French Open with Kriese as her primary coach.

Kriese resigned as Clemson's coach after the 2008 season to become the technical director for the Southeast Asia Tennis Federation, based in Bangkok, where he directs the tennis activities for 10 countries. In this job, he has traveled to 16 different countries. Kriese and his wife, Claire, whose mother Betsy Williams resides in Summerville, and their three small children now call Bangkok home.

"My job is to unite that area of the world in tennis," Kriese said. "It's a great assignment. I now train many of the top players from the area. It's a great opportunity. Our three children, ages 5, 3 and 1, have ridden elephants and have had great experiences. We are going to home school them this coming year. The plan is to stay there (Bangkok) two more years."

No easy feat

The Wimbledon junior singles title didn't come easily for the girl nicknamed Nok. In the final, top seed and current world's No. 1 junior Kristina Mladenovic of France opened the match with a 122 mph serve and took the first set. But the little Thai girl wouldn't quit as she used her consistent two-handed strokes from both sides to outlast the 6-0 French girl to make her dream of winning Wimbledon come true. Nok had lost to Britain's Laura Dobson in the 2008 final.

"Being down five match points in the first match, then being knocked off the court the first part of the final and being able to turn it around and win was great, using her head the way she did. I was very very proud," Kriese said. "She stayed with her, delivering body punches. The first 10 games were about even; the rest (of the match) the body punches took effect and she won nine of the last 10 games."

Kriese bypassed a trip back to Bangkok where Lertcheewakarn was greeted as a superhero at the airport. She was on the front page of the Bangkok Post and made numerous TV appearances. She even met the prime minister at the government house. Kriese instead flew to Atlanta on Monday.

Kriese will spend the next two months in the United States, ending up at the U.S. Open with Nok going for another Grand Slam junior title to go with the four she already owns. He then will return with his family to Bangkok. He is excited that the 12-court, 80-dormitory tennis center he uses in Bangkok will become the training center for the entire Asian Tennis Federation, adding to his responsibilities.

"The people are fantastic, so kind. All the children are so hungry for tennis. They work very, very hard," the 59-year-old coach said. "I believe this is the boiling point (of tennis)."

(07/08/09)  GOOSE CREEK GAZETTE: Crowfield Country Club tennis camps set
Attention tennis players: prepare for a few days of summer fun with USPTR Certified Nancy Sumersett at Crowfield Country Club.

Cool-off-pool-time included in addition to tennis lesson, and a free T-shirt and water bottle will be given at beginning of each session.

Session1 is set for Monday, July 20 through Thursday, July 23; Session 2 will be held Monday, July 27 through Thursday, July 30, from 8:30 a.m.  to 12 p.m.

The camp is for ages 4-15. Fee is $110 for one session or $180 for both.

To register, contact Nancy at: 270-1017 or by e-mail: nsumersett@gmail.com

(07/05/09)  Manuel, 'old style' pro, leaving post
The Collins Park Tennis Center won't be the same without Mark Manuel's welcoming hand.

Manuel is stepping down after 35 years as the tennis pro for the City of North Charleston. "Mark was a throwback ... the old style tennis pro," said local tennis court builder Skip Scarpa.

"Mark always made you feel at home. He always made everyone welcome. He'd help you find a match or he'd hit with you himself. Tennis pros don't do that now."

Scarpa, a former College of Charleston player, remembers the day he showed up at the Danny Jones courts in 1974 as a 14-year-old. He wanted to hit.

A newcomer as a pro after training at Dennis Van der Meer's academy in Florida, Manuel obliged. He calls Scarpa his first student. Manuel never looked back, except maybe when someone called, "Mark," and he would turn to say, "Are you looking for a game?"

Manuel had been at Collins Park since the Dorchester Road complex opened in the 1980s. He was always there with a friendly handshake, and a sharp eye for talent, promoting league tennis and helping newcomers get acclimated to the game.

He had two daughters, Sharon and Kelly Kidney, that he introduced to the game. Both were top juniors. Sharon was an All-American at Peace College before transferring to the College of Charleston. Sharon later lost a battle to breast cancer and passed away.

A native of the Philippines, Manuel was fresh out of the U.S. Navy when he arrived in Charleston. He landed a job with first North Charleston mayor John Bourne to teach tennis at the Danny Jones complex, and convinced The Post and Courier to sponsor a tennis tournament.

"I'm going to miss being a tennis pro," said Manuel, who just celebrated his 62nd birthday. "But I look forward to volunteering in North Charleston and staying involved."

Scarpa and a large group of other friends and former students, including St. Andrew's Parks and Playground tennis director Brian Burke, showed their appreciation for Manuel's 35 years of tennis service with a surprise party last Sunday evening at Collins Park. Manuel also lists Dunes West pro Jack Miller and former Citadel star Colie Crosby among his former students.

"Through Mark's love of tennis and teaching, he has helped generations of players in the Charleston area to learn to play and love the great sport of tennis," said Scarpa, a nephew of Furman men's coach Paul Scarpa, college tennis' winningest coach. "For this we all owe him a debt of gratitude."

Casey honored again

James Island product Jordan Casey has become the first Sewanee tennis player to be awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She is a 2009 Sewanee graduate, with a 4.03 cumulative GPA. She was a Spanish and biology double major and a 2009 academic All-American.

A Rhodes Scholar finalist in 2008, Casey plans to use the scholarship in 2010 toward a Ph.D. at Stanford or California-San Diego. She is currently serving as a research biologist on the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco.

In tennis, she played No. 1 singles and doubles for Sewanee, posting a 60-18

career record in singles and 39-24 mark in doubles. An all-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference team member, Casey was named the school's outstanding senior female athlete at graduation.

While she is the first tennis player from Sewanee to receive the NCAA Postgraduate award, the Tennessee school has produced 27 award winners overall.

"Her academic and athletic accomplishments while at Sewanee were extraordinary, and she joins a class of scholar-athletes that simply represents our very best," Sewanee athletic director Mark Webb said.

Casey's mother, Sharon Casey, is a guidance counselor at the Ashley River Creative Arts School.

U.S. parks event set

USTA South Carolina president Ron Charron of Mount Pleasant wants everyone to know about a special tournament coming to the state later this month (July 25-Aug. 2 headquartered at the Lexington County Tennis Complex). It's the 83rd annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships.

Junior events will be staged July 25-28, with family, wheelchair and adaptive events on July 28-29, capped by adult NTRP and age divisions from July 30-Aug. 2. The tournament is open to all USTA members.

Entries will run through July 19, with registration online at tennislink.usta.com/tournaments (tournament ID number 704125509), or by visiting www.lexingtoncountytennis.com.

(06/28/09)  New clay courts proving popular
It's no secret that seniors love clay courts. Just check out Maybank Tennis Center's three clay courts almost any morning or afternoon. They'll be full.

It isn't that the Charleston area isn't loaded with clay courts, but most of them belong to private clubs such as I'On, Daniel Island, Pine Forest, Seabrook or Kiawah. And, of course, there's the world-class Family Circle Tennis Center, which is public.

Maybank's clay courts have been around for a long time, built and maintained by former S.C. Lt. Gov. Burnet Maybank before the City of Charleston took over the James Island facility. Players pay higher fees just to be able to play on the Maybank clay. The courts attract players from all over the area, even Mount Pleasant.

But Mount Pleasant now has its own public clay courts since the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's bustling Whipple Road complex has gone into the clay-court business.

Three new green clay courts now complement Whipple Road's 15 lighted hard courts. And the facility has gone one-up on Maybank by lighting its clay courts for night play. Eight 1,000-watt fixtures light each court.

"The clay tennis courts have been very popular with seniors, league players, as well as juniors," tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar said. "Since the Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex is fully utilized during peak hours, the three additional courts also allow for more court availability during evening league play."

Registration for the Mount Pleasant tennis programs is available at any MPRD facility, online at www.townofmountpleasant.com or by calling the tennis complex (856-2162).

Elliget's runner-up at Southerns
Summerville's Adam Elliget, the area's only Belton singles champ a week earlier, had another big week in the just completed Southern Closed boys 12 championships in Cary, N.C. Already the owner of three Southern titles from his 10-and-under days, Elliget came home with a pair of runner-up trophies this time in singles and doubles.

Not bad for the Pinewood Prep star. He had quite a day last Tuesday, notching singles victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals, while teaming with Josiah Collins of Montgomery, Ala., to win a semifinal in doubles.

But Elliget ran into Tommy Paul of Greenville, N.C., in both the singles and doubles finals, losing both times. Although Paul was the top seed in singles and ranked fourth nationally, Elliget had beaten Paul within the last year and felt like he could do it again. Elliget took the first set to 5-5 before the bottom fell out as he won only one game after that.

Elliget and Collins were the top seeds in doubles, but Collins had pulled out of the back draw semifinals in singles due to a shoulder injury.

"Josiah wanted to at least try for the doubles title," said Jimmy Elliget, Adam's father. "It wasn't to be."

Collins served underhand in an 8-5 loss in the doubles final.

Elliget's next competition will be in the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in late July. And then he'll move up to the 14-and-under division.

--Thomas Spratt and Bailey Kirkland teamed up to reach the doubles semifinals in the Southern Closed 14-and- under tournament at Macon, Ga., suffering a 9-8 loss to eventual champion Jared Woodson of Hilton Head Island and his partner.

--Teams lacking the minimum number of players on their rosters to field a complete team of eligible partnerships for a match (three doubles teams) have until midnight Wednesday to qualify for participation in this summer's Combo League. Once an eligible team is formed, additional players can register for the team until the date of the last scheduled match at that level.  Other than the 5.0 level, where eligible partnerships must be two 2.0 or two 2.5 players, Combo League teams can be made up of various combination levels, such as 7.5, where any two partners can play together as long as their combined rating does not exceed 7.5.  Competition will be held in men's and women's adult, seniors and super seniors. The league schedule is expected to start once the current mixed doubles season ends.
--Charleston Tennis Center will hold the Level 3 USTA-sanctioned Charleston Junior Hard-Court Championships on July 17-19.

Competition is planned in all of the junior boys and girls divisions in singles and doubles. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com by clicking on juniors on the left side of the screen and then going to the tournament.

(06/21/09)  Tale of the tape spells nothing but trouble for Nadal
This tale goes back 20 years, all the way to Hurricane Hugo. What does this have to do with tennis? Everything for me.

You see, that's the first hint I had of future tennis elbow. The big oak tree that Hugo dropped on my front lawn had to be removed. If the chain saw wasn't enough to torture my elbow and ensure future problems, the vibration that came from the axe making contact with the iron wedge when I tried to split the big oak blocks did the rest.

Presto, a perfect menu for chronic tennis elbow.

I wouldn't dare play tennis now without my trusty elbow support or strap. It's a preventative thing.

Don't worry, I've tried playing a few times without the gadget. It never takes long to refresh my memory that this thing is important to my tennis game.

Such preventative equipment on league tennis players isn't unique. It's almost standard, and not just for senior participants.

How could all of this have anything to do with Rafael Nadal pulling out of Wimbledon?

Remember those bands of tape Nadal wore just below his knees the last few years? They were as much a part of the Spaniard's signature look as his long-legged pants and bare arms.

The bands of tape were Nadal's secret weapon. They helped protect his knees in those marathon rallies.

Well, he took them off a few months ago as part of the new-look Nadal. He's had nothing but trouble with his knees since then.

Anyone who follows Nadal shouldn't have been surprised by his withdrawal from Wimbledon. Nadal falling all over the red clay at the French Open and looking rather pathetic against Roger Federer in Madrid? You knew something was wrong.

Skipping Wimbledon wasn't something Nadal wanted to do. But in tennis, where a player like Nadal generally will hit several thousand shots in a five-set match and make an equal number of stops and starts, playing with an injury is usually not an option.

The question is why did he take those bands of tape off? His knees obviously needed them for support.

Doctors might tell you they can fix my elbow problem so it'll never hurt again. I'm not taking any chances. I want to keep playing tennis. So, please don't take away my tennis insurance, that trusty black elbow support.

Brodsky training
Tennis is hard work. The road to success doesn't come without a price. You don't have to be a Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer to know that.

Just ask Gail Brodsky, Family Circle Tennis Center's fresh face as a touring pro. The 17-year-old Ukraine transplant trains twice-a-day, six days a week with Lenny Schloss at the Family Circle complex, all in hopes of one day reaping big bucks on the WTA Tour.

Right now, Brodsky is the 28th-ranked American player, good enough for No. 368 on the WTA Tour.

She plans to train on Daniel Island for the next four weeks before going to Lexington, Ky., in late July to compete in a $50,000 International Tennis Federation event.

Brodsky's hitting partners have included MUSC pro Ben Simon, Charleston Southern coach Mike Baker, Wild Dunes pro Charley Rasheed, CSU assistant coach Quenton Guichard, and standout local juniors Shelby Rogers and Alex Martin.

Off to the Southerns
This is the travel season for juniors. The 200-plus mile trek up I-26 to Belton earlier this month was just a starter. The Southern Closed Championships are heating up this weekend for a weeklong run at places such as Little Rock, Ark., for 18-and-under players; Rome, Ga., for 16-and-under; Macon, Ga., for 14-and-under; and Cary, N.C., for 12-and-under.

(06/16/09)  Late start hasn't slowed Cyclones' Robards

Team and personal unbeaten records were of little concern. The entire season possibly was on the brink for Porter-Gaud. The event that had lured J.B. Robards into finally playing high school tennis as a sophomore was up for grabs. He had dropped the first set, and a state championship was no longer a sure thing as cramps attacked his legs and a third-set match tiebreaker was deadlocked at 6-6.

Robards knew that anything could happen in doubles after a 3-3 deadlock in singles.

Many players would have faltered under such circumstances. But Robards took a short injury timeout to fight the cramps, then captured four of the tiebreaker's next five points to win the No. 1 singles match against Hilton Head Prep's Aaron Cotton. That helped the Cyclones take a 4-2 lead into doubles in last month's Class AAA SCISA state championship match. A win at No. 3 doubles wrapped up the Cyclones' seventh state title in the last 10 years - but first since 2006 - as Robards watched from the sidelines, recovering from cramps.

"That was the difference for us," veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins

commented about Robards' mental and physical toughness in the state final. "J.B. was cramping up and he showed some guts. J.B. is a real, real competitor. He did everything we asked of him . . . and more.

"He goes out there and you have to beat him. He's not going to beat himself."

That comeback victory under extreme pressure capped an unbeaten season for Robards in his first year of high school competition and cemented his selection as The Post and Courier's boys tennis player of the year.

Higgins, who guided a talented team to a 13-0 record, is the Lowcountry coach of the year.

Robards is joined on the All-Lowcountry boys team by two of his teammates, sophomore buddy Johnny Steichen and eighth-grader Thomas Spratt, along with the Bishop England brother combo of junior Randall Heffron and sophomore Walker Heffron, and Palmetto Christian Academy freshman Addison King. Randall Heffron is the only returnee from 2008. Don Bruner, last year's Lowcountry player of the year while playing for Palmetto Christian, did not participate in high school tennis this season.

"It was an awesome year . . . a great year," Robards exclaimed. "That last match was crucial. I'm glad I pulled it out. I think their (Hilton Head Prep's) morale would have been a lot higher (in doubles) if I had lost that one."

Robards, a quick 5-11, 145-pounder whose father's family tree includes the late actor Jason Robards, joined the tennis team this spring for the express purpose of winning a state championship.

He received help along the way from a host of others, including his boyhood pal, Johnny Steichen. The two train together under former College of Charleston star Or Dekel.

"Johnny has been playing with me since I was 11 years old. Johnny had been playing for a few weeks, but I had never played tennis before Johnny's mom signed us up for a camp at Whipple Road," Robards said.

Although a late starter in tennis, Robards has advanced rapidly. Being named the area's high school player of the year illustrates just how far he has come. He admits he was driven to his current level of play by his competitiveness.

"I was always really competitive and hated losing. I knew I wasn't as good as Walker Heffron and those guys, and I just wanted to catch up with them," he said.

His biggest challenge now is to not only repeat his success from this spring, but to hold onto his No. 1 spot on a young and deep Porter-Gaud team that returns everyone. "I'm worried about fighting off Johnny Steichen," he admitted.

"J.B. is going to work this summer on taking short balls and coming to the net," Higgins said. "If he does that, he'll be a real complete player. He's improved his backhand and has developed the ability to take the backhand down the line. That's turned into a deceptive weapon.

"He is definitely on track to be a good Division I prospect," added Higgins, who before retiring was the long-time head coach at Eastern Kentucky University. "There will be some good schools looking at him."

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

2009 All-Lowcountry Boys' Tennis Team:

J.B. Robards, soph., Porter-Gaud
Johnny Steichen, soph., Porter-Gaud
Thomas Spratt, eighth grade, Porter-Gaud
Randall Heffron, jr., Bishop England
Walker Heffron, soph., Bishop England
Addison King, fresh., Palmetto Christian Academy
COACH OF THE YEAR: Tom Higgins, Porter-Gaud

SECOND TEAM: Josh Klingberg, Jr., Pinewood Prep; Adam Elliget, sixth grade, Pinewood Prep; Austin Heinz, seventh grade, Palmetto Christian Academy; Zac Dye, eighth grade, Berkeley; Stephen Weaver, fresh., Bishop England; Elliott Sperr, Jr. Porter-Gaud.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie Baker, Porter-Gaud; Matt Poletti, Porter-Gaud; Jacob Cumbie, Pinewood Prep; William Wert, Pinewood Prep; J.T. Elliget, Pinewood Prep; Joseph Kennedy, Bishop England; Rivers Colyer, Bishop England; Robert Strange, Academic Magnet; Robert McManus, Wando; Joel Roberts, Summerville; Nick Butler, Palmetto Christian; Gorian Wilhelm, Stratford; Brian Gottshalk, James Island.

(06/14/09)  Victories coming often in Elliget's young career
Adam Elliget is growing old. He'll be all of 13 in September.

But the Summerville youngster is winning Belton tennis titles at a really fast pace. He won two this time, pushing his career total to five.

No wonder he has his eyes on surpassing Ryan Young's record total of 14 overall Belton titles. "We've got six more trips to Belton," Adam's dad, Jimmy Elliget, said Saturday. "Ryan's his idol."

Young is a Charleston native, who played tennis for Clemson and is now on the professional circuit.

With any kind of luck, Adam should challenge Young's mark, especially when you consider Elliget's expertise in doubles where he is three-for-three — all with different partners — in his last three trips to the Anderson area to compete in the Palmetto Championships. Elliget won the boys' 12 singles title Friday to go with his boys' 10 singles trophy from two years ago.

That's impressive for anyone, even older players. Just to show how difficult it is to win at Belton, Elliget was the only local player to bring a singles title home this time. He also was one of only four to win a Belton doubles title this year (Connor Clements in boys' 16, Joel Roberts in boys' 14 and Alex Martin in girls' 18 were the others).

Elliget narrowly missed out a couple other times in doubles in boys' 10 when he was runner-up at only eight and nine years old. He was third in singles as a nine-year-old and again last year.

A SCISA all-state performer the last two seasons for Pinewood Prep, Elliget has a trip planned for Friday to Cary, N.C., to participate in the boys' 12 Southern Closed Championships. He has a great chance in doubles since he's the No. 5 boys' 12 singles player in the South and his doubles partner will be top-ranked Josiah Collins of Montgomery, Ala.

Elligett already has a pair of Southern doubles titles in boys' 10, including with local star Austin Heinz as a nine-year-old. Elliget also won the Southern boys' 10 singles crown two years ago.

Belton highlights
Although the title count was slim, local juniors fared well at Belton. Bishop England standout Randall Heffron took third place in boys' 18 with an injury walkover over 2008 Lowcountry high school player of the year John Karle. In another playoff for third place involving two local players, Matthew Mendez defeated Baily Kirkland in boys' 14.

Martin failed to defend her girls' 18 singles title, but was runner-up to Hilton Head Island Smith-Stearns Academy 15-year-old Bostonian Molly O'Koniewski. Former Wando standout Meghan Blevins was runner-up in girls' 16 singles and Ellie Halbauer was a finalist in girls' 12.

Wando star Corin Hallman dropped the third-place match in girls' 18, while Ashley Hall's Patricia Kirkland lost a playoff for third place in girls' 16. In addition to his doubles title, 2008 boys' 14 singles champion Clements lost his first match in boys' 16 singles, then won seven straight matches to capture fifth place. Heinz was fifth in boys' 14 singles and nine-year-old Brant Fenno was fifth in boys' 10.

In doubles, four other local juniors were finalists: the team of Kirkland and Porter-Gaud's Thomas Spratt in boys' 14, Fenno in boys' 10 and Blevins in girls' 18.

Family Circle picked

Family Circle Tennis Center has been named a top 50 Tennis Welcome Center for the third straight year by the USTA and Tennis Industry Association. Lexington County Tennis Complex was the only other S.C. facility selected.

The Family Circle complex was selected for 2008 due to its success in several areas, including its increased participation figures involving new and returning players, its support of industry programs and its community tennis development.

"We are very proud to have been recognized with this prestigious national award for three consecutive years," Family Circle facilities director Rob Eppelsheimer said. "As a public tennis facility, we are committed to promoting tennis as an affordable, life-long sport that everyone can enjoy, and this award reflects our dedication to growing the game of tennis in the Charleston area."

Buist wins title
The Buist Academy team, led by head coach Becky Fenno, assistant coach Edward Fenno and third-grader Brant

Fenno, ran its two -year winning streak to 19 matches to capture the Division I title in the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League for the second straight year. League No. 1 player Bailey Kirkland also played on the team, along with unbeaten Foster Moe, captain Collins Moe, Jeffrey Thomas and Hunter Edgerton.

(06/07/09)  Fanning's formula a success

ohn Fanning has found the secret recipe for success in league tennis. Two adult league state championship teams in one season is quite a feat for any captain, especially when the results occur at probably the two most competitive and participated in levels of league tennis - 3.5 and 4.0. His Hoppin' Johns teams have dominated local men's 3.5 and 4.0 the last few seasons. Most observers felt it was only a matter of time before one of his teams from the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Whipple Road complex would win a state championship. But both in one season?

To illustrate the uniqueness of this feat, consider that no other Lowcountry Tennis Association team - men or women, adult or senior - won a state title this spring.

"On paper, we looked good to win both titles," Fanning admitted. "But it (winning both) hasn't hit me yet."

He has done some great recruiting, and even better managing 35 or more players. He operates the closest thing to a tennis factory in the LCTA.

A deep understanding of league tennis' NTRP rating system and "bump-up" rules is a basic requirement for success in the spring championship season. Managing lineups, especially in singles, is vital to keeping players eligible long enough to pull off the ultimate feat at the state level. The 42-year-old SPAWAR electrical engineer is an expert at this.

The Hoppin' Johns 4.0 men advanced to the state semifinals in 2008, but no one was bumped up to 4.5. That set the stage for this year's 18-0 success in only the team's second year together. The 4.0 team has a 23-player roster, including two players from the 3.5 team: Fanning and Kenny Choi.

Fanning showed his mettle as a captain while leading the 4.0 team. He didn't play in the team's 5-0 sweep in the state tournament. Neither did Choi.

Fanning, who started the 3.5 group two years ago with a state runner-up finish, played a key role this season at 3.5, going 5-0 in the state playoffs

(2-0 in singles) and 16-2 overall. Last Monday's 3.5 state final in Greenville came down to Fanning and Chad Hujsak needing to come through at No. 3 doubles against a Columbia team to send Hoppin' Johns to the Southern Sectional in Birmingham, Ala. The team is 19-1, with the its only loss coming against another Whipple Road team, the Brew Masters, when Fanning's doubles partner had to retire with an injury in the decisive match. Team member David Robinson went unbeaten, including 6-0 in the playoffs, and Jeff Clinkscales was unbeaten until the state final.

"One 3.5 captain said part of it was mental toughness," Fanning said about his 3.5 team.

Obviously, both of Fanning's teams will be hit by USTA "bump-ups" before next spring. He fully expects such. After all, the teams combined for a 37-1 record against state 3.5 and 4.0 opposition.

First, the teams will participate in the Southern Sectionals, the 3.5 team competing the first week (July 25-28) before the 4.0 team joins Fanning and Choi in Birmingham for the second week.

"I think both teams have equal chances. You have to not only be lucky but good (to win the Southerns)," Fanning said.


While the 3.5 and 4.0 Hoppin' Johns teams were the only state titlists from the area, three teams were finalists: St. Andrews' 2.5 adult women, another Whipple Road 4.0 adult men's team and a 4.0 senior women's team from Mount Pleasant.

The mixed doubles leagues just got started a couple weeks ago, but it's already time to form Combo League teams. Combo team registrations started Wednesday and will continue through July 1.

The City of Charleston's downtown version of the Courting Kids program will hold its first session of the six-week summer season at Jack Adams Tennis Center on Monday from 5:30-7 p.m. The John's Island sessions are held on Saturdays at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center from 10-11:30 a.m. The cost for the six weeks at either site is only $10 for city residents and $25 for other participants. Contact Courting Kids coordinator Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 766-7401.

(05/31/09)  Heffron brothers foes, too
Randall and Walker Heffron fully understand what Venus and Serena Williams go through each time they are pitted against each other in a tournament. Randall and younger brother Walker practice against each other all the time, but facing each other in a real match is altogether different.

It's been about eight years since the two met for the first time in a junior tournament in Columbia. That confrontation came easily since the brothers were so young and hadn't perfected their winning games to their current levels.

These days, Randall is a 6-1 junior who has produced a 59-6 record in three years at Bishop England; Walker is a strapping 6-3 sophomore for the Bishops who is developing a big tennis game as well as made the Bishops varsity basketball team. "He's growing every day," Randall said Saturday about his "little" brother.

When they meet now, it's an occasion. Since they're in different age groups, Randall 18s and Walker 16s, they haven't squared off in juniors since that initial meeting in the 10s.

But in the S.C. High School League's recent Class AA/A individual tournament in Columbia, the brothers couldn't avoid each other, short of defaulting. Randall won the quarterfinal showdown, 7-6, 7-5, and went on to lose to eventual champion Bill Kenny of Waccamaw in the semifinals. Both Randall and Walker were awarded all-state honors.

"Both of us were a little hesitant," Randall said. "We were competing and having good points, but we weren't intense ... just trying to have fun."

It was Walker's first and only match in the tournament since he had a walkover in the first round. "Everyone else played at least two matches ... Walker got one," Randall said. "He would have won the backdraw.

"We (Bishop England) were the only team in the AA/A draw that had two players in the same part of the draw."

Randall and Walker are preparing for their annual trip to the northwest corner of the state next weekend to compete at Belton again. They'll play doubles together and root for each other in singles. "This will be my last chance to win Belton," said Randall, whose best Belton finish is third.

Randall plans to play college tennis, like his deceased dad, former Citadel standout and local dentist Randy Heffron.

The boys were small, two and three years old, when cancer took their dad at age 47. And their mother, Robin, has paid a small fortune in junior tournament entry fees for her sons for much of the last decade.

Robin Heffron has been their constant companion and fan at junior matches. She'll be at Belton. "Mom has done a great job. We couldn't have done it without her," Randall said.

"Dad was unbelievable. He played No. 2 for The Citadel and he won doubles and singles titles in the Southern Conference. He used to let us run around the courts and stuff. He was in the best shape a human being could be in. He got up every morning and he would run."

The boys obviously are proud of their dad. And he certainly would be proud of their tennis accomplishments and the young men they have become.


Berkeley eighth-grader Zac Dye was a consolation finalist in the Class AAA-AAAA SCHSL individual tournament and was awarded all-state honors.

In SCISA, Palmetto Christian's Addison King and Austin Heinz, Porter-Gaud's J.B. Robards and Thomas Spratt, Pinewood Prep's Adam Elliget, and First Baptist's Anderson Scarpa made the boys' all-state team.

Two local men's open teams captained by Brian Burke and Chris Henderson are scheduled to participate in the Southern Sectional league tennis championships in late July in Birmingham, Ala.

The Players Racquet and Tennis Club in Mount Pleasant holds NTRP-rated adult tournaments June 11-14, July 9-12 and Sept. 17-20. The entry deadline for each tournament will be at 9 a.m. three days prior to the event. Competition will be held in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Contact Chuck Lee (330-1128).

(05/24/09)  Kiawah Island tennis director Barth is gem of an instructor
The Charleston area is loaded with outstanding teaching pros. One reason for the heavy influx of teaching pros is because of the numerous outstanding local facilities and programs. Another is that the pros, dominated by former college players, like to concentrate close to the home base of the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League.

But Roy Barth was here before all of the tennis excitement hit the area. Some observers consider Barth not only to be outstanding at the local level, but one of the top tennis minds and instructors in the global tennis game.

To put it simply, Kiawah Island's first and only tennis director has few peers when it comes to teaching tennis.

Barth was doing what he does best again last weekend at Bobby Cremins' Challenge at Family Circle Tennis Center. I've heard nothing but raves about the clinic Barth conducted during the event.

Of course, Barth was a world-class player who even took the first two sets from the legendary Bjorn Borg in the 1973 U.S. Open before losing. Barth already has been inducted into the Southern Tennis Association's Hall of Fame, and now he's the chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee.

The winner of the Cremins Challenge was a team from The Post and Courier, which included Bill Cranford, Jamie Drolet, Baron Gossett and Brandon Owen.

AA-A playoff snags
The trend may change one of these springs, but for the time being it appears Bishop England's boys are stuck in a time warp in the Class AA-A state playoffs. The Bishops haven't advanced past the Lower State championship match for seven straight years, specifically not past Waccamaw.

You guessed it. Waccamaw won another state title last weekend after beating the Bishops in the state semifinals.

This could change in a few years when Waccamaw's current group of stars graduate. But that was what most observers figured before the Richmond brothers, Harrison and Josh, took over at Waccamaw just a few years ago, joining a group of proven stars.

This isn't a problem with the brackets. The problem for Bishop England is that Waccamaw is too talented and coach James Brown refills his cupboard every year.

But the AA-A bracket is unfair to Class A teams such as Academic Magnet, Southside Christian and Christ Church. Other than Waccamaw and Bishop England, these three schools almost annually would easily rank as the best tennis schools in boys Class AA-A.

The Class A schools should have their own state playoffs, not just one year, but every year. How does the S.C. High School League get away with this bias year after year?

--Bishop England graduate Sabra Rogers and her Emory University teammates lost, 5-0, in the NCAA Division III women's semifinals to eventual champion Williams College. Rogers played No. 1 doubles for Emory.
--The USTA's new Flex League apparently has caught the fancy of many league tennis players, especially singles players, in this somewhat dry spell between the spring and fall adult leagues that offer singles competition. The Flex participants appear to be happy with the relaxed scheduling that allows the players to schedule their own matches at various tennis courts. The last available open registration is in 4.5 men's singles, which ends Monday. Registration is available at www.southernflextennis.com. Play in other divisions started Friday. Vickie Nash (843-761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo.com) is the local Flex League coordinator.
--John Fanning will be going after a rare 3.5-4.0 double next weekend in Greenville when his Mount Pleasant 3.5 Hoppin' Johns men's adult team competes in the state league tennis playoffs. Fanning's 4.0 men's team already has won a state championship, beating the other Mount Pleasant team in the final last Monday.

(05/17/09)  Family Circle's Schloss has a new protégé in Brodsky
Tennis players always seem to be looking for that special something to separate their games from others' games. Even Rafael Nadal.

A different racket. A new approach or technique. Or even a new coach. Or just getting a coach.

No, I'm not talking about Roger Federer in his bid to overcome Nadal, while in the process matching Pete Sampras' record number of Grand Slam titles.

During the Family Circle Cup, a 17-year-old girl you might never even have heard of was walking around the grounds, checking out the vendors and just relaxing after losing in the tournament's qualifying rounds. But her dad was searching for something special to set his daughter apart from the other teenagers trying to make a breakthrough on the women's circuit.

Gail Brodsky is one of this country's brightest prospects. Her dad, Eduard, arrived in the United States first from Ukraine. Gail followed when she was 5 years old. She's been pursuing a career in tennis ever since. Eduard has been her only coach ... until now.

That early-week day at the Family Circle Cup while Gail was interested in everything else, Eduard spotted a unique demonstration being conducted by former men's tour player Lenny Schloss. Eduard quickly called his daughter over to watch and listen to the presentation by Schloss, who has been teaching his HAL 3-in-1 eye-hand coordination program at Family Circle Tennis Center for a year now.

The basis of the eye-hand program is to coordinate the eye to stay focused on the ball while practicing footwork and strokes.

Gail Brodsky and her dad liked what they saw. Her dad says, "Lenny's her coach now."

Family Circle Tennis Center is the new home base for Brodsky, the 2008 girls 18 national hard-court champion who holds the No. 361 position in the WTA Tour's world rankings.

"Family Circle is her home base as much as she can come," Eduard said recently from Boca Raton, Fla., where Gail competed for but failed to win a wild-card berth in the French Open. She carries one of the eye-hand machines with her on the pro circuit. She advanced to the quarterfinals of a $50,000 challenger in Indian Harbor, Fla., two weeks ago in her last competition.

While Eduard and Gail travel the tennis world, wife and mother Julia stays back home in Brooklyn, N.Y., working as a dog groomer to help finance their travel. But Eduard will remain in Brooklyn this week helping his wife as a dog groomer while Gail travels to Family Circle Tennis Center to train for nearly a month around a trip late this month to California to compete in another pro challenger. Gail is a senior in online schooling.

Schloss said he acquired the patent for the eye-hand machine from a man from China six years ago. Family Circle Tennis Center purchased 500 of the machines, while Charleston Southern women's coach Mike Baker bought five of them for his team.

Schloss, whose time on the men's pro tour was limited to three years (1968-71) by injury, earned a top 10 U.S. ranking and defeated the likes of Tony Roche. Six years after starting tennis at the late age of 15 while growing up in Baltimore, Schloss became the University of Tennessee's first tennis All-American and was inducted into Tennessee's hall of fame in 1969.

Prior to retiring in 2006 and then joining the Family Circle staff, Schloss owned a thriving indoor tennis club in Baltimore for 16 years. He now has designs on making his revolutionary approach a model for pro tennis.

--Charleston's Diane Fishburne finished as runner-up to Brazil's Patricia Medrado in the women's 50 world championships last Sunday in Mallorca, Spain. Medrado didn't drop a set in the tournament, including the 6-1, 6-4 win over Fishburne in the final.
--James Island native Jordan Casey has ended her Sewanee career in spectacular fashion by graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA and being named the school's outstanding senior female athlete at graduation. She played No. 1 singles and doubles, completing her career with a 64-18 singles record and was named to the all-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference team. Sewanee head coach Conchie Shackelford called Casey "the epitome of what a Sewanee student-athlete strives to be. As a 4.0 student, community leader, No. 1 player and former NCAA qualifier she has done it all in her career. Her All-SCAC honor is truly deserved."
--Monday is the deadline for entering most levels of the USTA's new local Flex League (men's 4.5 singles extended to May 25). In addition to men's 4.5 singles, competition will be held in 2.5-4.0 singles levels for men and women as well as doubles at the 3.0 and 3.5 levels for men and 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 for women. Registration is available at www.southernflextennis.com. Play will start Friday. Vickie Nash (843-761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo.com) is the local Flex League coordinator.
--Charleston's Fred McKay and Rock Hill's Greg Miller were finalists last weekend in men's 45 doubles in the Atlanta Senior Invitational.

(05/16/09)  Waccamaw ends Bishops' title bid
LEXINGTON - Lightning struck the Bishop England boys tennis team in the form of unbeaten Waccamaw on Friday afternoon at the Lexington County Tennis Center in the Class AA-A Lower State final as the Warriors took advantage of a rain delay to smother the Bishops, 6-0. Bishop England (11-2) showed up prepared to give the two-time defending state champions a battle, but a lightning storm appeared to kill the Bishops' momentum in several matches. In the end, Waccamaw ended the Bishops' season for the seventh straight year, extending its match winning streak to 59.

"Because of the draw (pitting the Bishops in the Lower State against Waccamaw each year), we've never gotten to the state final," said junior Randall Heffron, the Bishops' No. 1 player. "But Waccamaw is probably the best team in the state."

Heffron entered the match without having dropped a set this season, but suffered a 6-2, 6-2 loss to talented Waccamaw senior Bill Kenny. "Randall played great tennis, but they just had a great player there," Bishop England assistant coach Allen Moore said.

Walker Heffron, Randall's sophomore brother, wasn't the same after the lightning storm. He dropped nine straight games after the delay and a 7-5, 6-0 decision to unbeaten Waccamaw freshman Harrison Richmond at No. 2 singles.

"Walker was up 5-4 when the lightning came," said Moore, who was filling in for head coach Skip ReVille.

"Our kids were ready to go, but they just ran into Waccamaw ... they were just too strong. Waccamaw is clearly the best team in the state."

Also at No. 5 singles, the Bishops appeared to be in the match at the delay as sophomore

Joseph Kennedy trailed Waccamaw sophomore Mike Moran only 4-5, 40-0, but ended up losing, 7-5, 6-2.

Waccamaw junior Josh Richmond posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over Stephen Weaver at No. 3, and freshman Alex Gaines defeated the Bishops' Rivers Colyer, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 4.

Waccamaw advanced to today's state final against Emerald of Greenwood or Southside Christian of Greenville.


Singles: Bill Kenny (W) def. Randall Heffron, 6-2, 6-2; Harrison Richmond (W) def. Walker Heffron, 7-5, 6-0; Josh Richmond (W) def. Stephen Weaver, 6-2, 6-4; Alex Gaines (W) def. Rivers Colyer, 6-3, 6-2; Mike Moran (W) def. Joseph Kennedy, 7-5, 6-2.

Doubles: Hudson Jones-Matthew Fisher (W) def. Clauson Coward-Stephen Griffin, 6-3, 6-1.

(05/10/09)  Alternative in form of flex league
If you're looking for an alternative to the flawed rating system and excessive fees attached to participating in USTA league tennis, the USTA is offering an alternative in the form of a Flex League program. Even USTA membership is not required and you don't have to be a club member. You just pay a registration fee (still costly at $35 per person for a two-month league, with a $10 discount for USTA members) and set up your own matches, which can be played on neighborhood courts.

Doubles levels are 3.0 and 3.5 for men and 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 for women, with 2.5 through 4.0 levels available for men and women in singles. But there's no team concept as in league tennis. You play as individuals or doubles teams. Local champions and flight winners receive awards. Success or failure in the Flex League will not affect NTRP ratings.

Participants set up their own schedules and report their scores to Flex League tennis, rather than the USTA TennisLink site. Registration is now open at www.southernflextennis.com and will run through May 18, with play beginning May 22.

Vickie Nash (843) 761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo.com) is the local Flex League coordinator.

--Another Battle of James Island is set for next Saturday between teams from the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and the James Island Yacht Club. Men's and women's doubles will kick off at 8:30 a.m. at the Country Club and Maybank, followed by mixed doubles at 11 a.m. A covered dish social is 1-2 p.m. at the Country Club. Entries can be sent to County Club tennis director Lee Brockman, 1 Country Club Dr., Charleston, S.C. 29412.
--Kiawah Island has vaulted from third place to No. 1 in the world's tennis resort rankings by TennisResortsOnline.com, marking the third time in four years Kiawah has taken the top spot.
--MUSC tennis director Ben Simon captured the men's 35 singles title in last weekend's Southern Championships in Augusta. Simon also was a finalist in men's 30 singles.
--Summerville's Adam Elliget took the boys 12 division last weekend in the Bullfrog event at the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy on Hilton Head.
--Mount Pleasant's Caroline Thornton is headed to Auburn on a full tennis scholarship as a result of a visit by Auburn coach Tim Gray to the internationally acclaimed Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain, where Thornton has been training.
--Brenda Carter, the third-ranked women's 60 player in the world, won the women's 60 singles title at the recent National Clay Courts in Huntsville, Ala.
--Last Saturday's Charleston County School District's Superintendent's Cup teachers competition at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground was a fun day. Host pro Brian Burke and the Country Club of Charleston's Lee Brockman ran the event, which was geared toward promoting tennis in the schools. I was lucky in that I drew Brenda Carter for a celebrity partner to compete against Charleston County schools superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley, Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins and Charleston police chief Greg Mullen, among others.
--College of Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins' Tennis Challenge will be held next Friday and Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center to raise scholarship funds for C of C athletics. Contact the Cougar Club's Davin Wise (953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu).

(05/03/09)  Porter-Gaud may be poised for long reign
Porter-Gaud may appear to have a stranglehold on SCISA boys tennis for the next few years after Friday's 5-2 state title win over defending champ Hilton Head Prep, but as veteran coach Tom Higgins might say, "Don't count the trophies yet."

In fact, with four sophomores and an eighth-grader in the starting lineup and at least three other freshmen or younger players who are good enough to be in the lineup, the next two years look awfully promising for the Cyclones. Not to mention that Hilton Head Prep freshman Hunter Mitchell is expected to rejoin the Porter-Gaud team next season after residing the last two years on Hilton Head Island while training at the Smith-Stearns Academy.

The father (Jim Mitchell) of the talented No. 3 player for the 2008 state champs said Friday, "We're pretty sure he's coming back. Our house is about a block away (from the Porter-Gaud tennis complex)."

Jim is a salesman: "I can do my job anywhere."

But Smith-Stearns might be the most important part of this story. Before next season, a couple of world-class juniors could be enrolled at Hilton Head Prep by way of former Wimbledon champion Stan Smith's junior academy. It's unlikely, but possible when you consider the type of juniors who train at the academy. Of course, Hilton Head Prep's No. 1 player, sophomore Aaron Cotton, came in this year from New Orleans. Former No. 1 and current No. 2 Mo Hookaylo also attends Smith-Stearns, along with seventh-grader Jared Woodson, who played No. 4 for Hilton Head Prep on Friday but may very well be No. 1 by next season. Woodson is that good.

By the way, Hunter Mitchell's sister, Courtney, who played for the Hilton Head Prep girls, will play next season for NCAA Division III Skidmore College in beautiful Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Providence of the Big East also offered Courtney a scholarship.

Older sister and Porter-Gaud graduate Ashley played No. 6 this spring for Dartmouth.

Cougars have a chance

After seeing his College of Charleston women end Furman's 10-for-11 years domination of the Southern Conference tournament, coach Angelo Anastopoulo thinks anything is possible in the NCAA playoffs. Even a victory over Southeastern Conference powerhouse Florida in next Saturday's opening round.

"Believe it or not, this could end up being a close match with the Cougars having an outside chance of being the first No. 4 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA team tournament," Anastopoulo says.

SCHSL playoffs begin

Bishop England's boys looked like strong contenders for postseason honors until running into perennial Class A/AA state champion Waccamaw. Led by the Heffron brothers, Nos. 1 and 2 Randall and Walker, the Bishops had lost only during a tournament held in North Carolina prior to taking on Waccamaw.

After ending the Bishops' season each of the last six years, including last year's 5-1 romp, Waccamaw rolled past the Bishops, 6-0, last Monday at Pawleys Island. It's almost a cinch that the two teams will meet again in the Lower State final, with Waccamaw serving as the host. The Bishops can't feel too badly since national- caliber Waccamaw pinned a 6-0 loss on Christ Church in last year's state final.

Coach Skip ReVille's Bishop England team will open the state playoffs on Thursday by serving as host to Barnwell.

In Class AAAA, Wando won the Region 7 title by going unbeaten in the region. Coach Winde Ellenberg's No. 1 bracket-seeded team will play host to Sumter on Tuesday and should draw No. 2 seed Irmo in Thursday's second round. Irmo entertains No. 3 Fort Dorchester on Tuesday.

Stratford, the 7-AAAA runner-up, will open at home on Tuesday against Hartsville.

Coach Bryant McKee's Summerville outfit won the Region 8-AAAA crown and is one of four top seeds in the lower state. The Green Wave will entertain Richland Northeast on Tuesday.

In other first-round matches, Berkeley visits Carolina Forest and James Island goes to powerful defending state champion West Florence.

--College of Charleston basketball coach Bobby Cremins, who had to pull out of Saturday's celebrity event at the Charleston County School District's Superintendent's Cup teachers competition, because he's facing knee surgery this coming week, is promoting the Coburg Dairy's Cremins Tennis Challenge May 15-16 at Family Circle Tennis Center to raise scholarship funds for College of Charleston athletics.

Cremins said he has eight spots still available for the event, which will be highlighted by an exhibition by former men's tour player Roy Barth of Kiawah Island and former women's tour player Bryanne Stewart. Contact the Cougar Club's Davin Wise (953-5472 or wised@cofc.edu).

--Diane Fishburne, the recent winner of the women's 50 national clay courts in Pensacola, Fla., lost to Great Britain's Christine French at No. 1 singles Saturday in the women's 50 Maria Esther Bueno Cup final in Mallorca, Spain, as the U.S. team suffered a 2-1 loss to Britain.

(05/01/09)  Robards, Cyclones eye title
J.B. Robards is playing high school tennis this spring for one reason: "I really want a state championship."

The ultimate test for achieving that goal comes today for unbeaten Porter-Gaud when the Cyclones oppose defending state champion Hilton Head Prep (10-3) in the SCISA Class AAA boys tennis state final at 4 p.m. at the Porter-Gaud courts.

"I think we're the favorite, but it'll be a really close match," said Robards, the unbeaten 5-11, 150-pound sophomore who is playing No. 1 in his first year on the team.

The Cyclones had appeared in seven straight SCISA state

finals, winning six of them, prior to losing in the state semifinals each of the last two years to Hilton Head Prep on clay.

"I'm not surprised (by this year's success)," Robards said. "I've known from the beginning we'd be a strong team. We've got a lot of talent."

Hilton Head Prep has been the Cyclones' only real SCISA test this season. In both regular season matches between the two teams, Robards has come through at No. 1 singles to send the Cyclones into doubles competition deadlocked at 3-3.

Porter-Gaud swept all three doubles in the first meeting on their hard courts in West Ashley, and took two of the doubles positions last week on clay at Hilton Head Island.

The arrival of Robards, freshman Thomas Spratt and sophomore Johnny Steichen on this year's roster has made the difference for the Cyclones.

"If you get a No. 1 who can win most of his matches, it improves the whole team's strength," veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said.

"Thomas, Johnny and I pushed everyone down,"

Robards acknowledged about the Cyclones' top three players.

Robards, however, has done much more than win most of his matches. He has been the clear leader with an 11-0 record at No. 1 singles. He is a powerful player, yet he says his main strength is his quickness and mobility.

"I rely most on my speed in moving around the court. My backhand is my best stroke and my serve is second," he said.

One of the state's top juniors, Robards missed the Cyclones' 6-0 win over St. Joseph's of Greenville in Monday's first round of the state playoffs. He was in the process of winning the prestigious Pepsi Open boys' 16 title in Florence that day, but he is quick to note that if the match had been against Hilton Head Prep, he "would have been here."

Robards already has one claim to fame: His grandfather's cousin was the now deceased "Munsters" and "All The President's Men" actor Jason Robards.

Spratt, who won at No. 1 against St. Joseph's, and Steichen both have lost twice this season to Hilton Head Prep, at Nos. 2 and 4 the first time and at Nos. 2 and 3 the last time. Spratt should play Mo Hookaylo at No. 2 today, while the big-hitting Steichen is scheduled to face former Porter-Gaud student Hunter Mitchell at No. 3 since that's the lineup with which the Dolphins started the playoffs.

"I think it's a winnable match for Johnny against Hunter Mitchell," Robards said. If so, and Robards comes through along with success at Nos. 5 and 6 from sophomores Charlie Baker and Matt Poletti, the doubles-superior Cyclones could come out of singles with a 4-2 advantage.

Robards took a straight-set victory over Hookaylo in the teams' first meeting, then easily defeated Aaron Cotton, 6-1, 6-3, in the rematch. Robards is scheduled to take on Cotton, who dropped a 6-3, 6-0 decision to Hammond's Ben Horst on Wednesday, in this meeting.

While Porter-Gaud scored a 6-0 victory over visiting Heathwood Hall on Wednesday, Hilton Head Prep posted a 7-2 win at upper bracket top seed Hammond School.

"It's going to be a really close match," Higgins said. "At least, we won't be playing on clay this time."

As for Robards, he said, "I think I like clay better, but hard courts suit my game also."

(04/26/09)  Reviewing all that went right at this year's Family Circle Cup
How could anyone complain about this year's Family Circle Cup? The only possible source of frustration from fans should have been the night Vera Zvonareva pulled up lame and had to retire, leaving just one doubles match on the agenda.

The weather? That was out of everyone's control. It was a bit chilly at night, but otherwise you would have to say even the weather cooperated with the tournament.

It would have been nice if Serena Williams had been able to participate, but even if she had, the quality of play might not have been better. The fact Venus Williams lost early affected the tournament only in walk-up ticket sales.

The story of this tournament was two teenagers: champion Sabine Lisicki and runner-up Caroline Wozniacki. Both were sensational most of the week, especially Lisicki in her upset of Venus Williams and Wozniacki in her conquest of Elena Dementieva.

I fully expect these two young women to continue their rise on the WTA Tour. I just hope they'll return next year, and fellow teenage star Victoria Azarenka will make the trip as well.

I believe women's tennis is at a crossroads between the old and the new players. I don't think Venus and Serena Williams have an unlimited amount of time at the top of the game. I expect their fall to happen rather quickly, if not by the end of this year then early next year.

Venus and Serena have been great ambassadors for the women's game, but once they start another skid, bouncing back will be more difficult than ever before. One reason is because of their age, Venus will be 29 in less than two months, and Serena is only a little more than a year younger. But just as big a reason is players such as Lisicki, Wozniacki and Azarenka, not to mention hard-working No. 1 player Dinara Safina.

It's much like Roger Federer on the men's side. The young guns are simply catching up to the Williams sisters.

Cyclones eye SCISA title

The SCISA Class AAA boys championship is Porter-Gaud's to lose. The unbeaten Cyclones are heavy favorites in the state tournament after sweeping both regular season matches from No. 2 favorite Hilton Head Prep.

Coach Tom Higgins' deep and talented Porter-Gaud outfit (10-0), the top seed in the lower bracket, will open the state playoffs on its home courts Monday against No. 4 seed St. Joseph's of Greenville. No. 2 seed Heathwood Hall of Columbia and No. 3 Wilson Hall of Sumter will meet in the other lower bracket match.

Porter-Gaud also would be at home for Wednesday's semifinals if it defeats St. Joseph's.

A pair of Porter-Gaud wins would thrust the Cyclones into Friday's state final, likely at home against defending state champion Hilton Head Prep. However, Hilton Head Prep is only the second seed in the upper bracket behind Hammond School, primarily because of Hammond's pair of victories over No. 3 seed Pinewood Prep, which played both matches without key players.

Pinewood Prep (9-7) received an unlucky break by drawing Hilton Head Prep in Monday's opening round at a neutral site, while Hammond will face Ben Lippen. The upper winners will meet Wednesday at the higher seed's court, probably Hammond's.

If Hilton Head Prep or Pinewood Prep prevail in the upper bracket, Porter-Gaud would be the expected host for the state final. However, if Hammond happens to survive two matches, a likely state final between Hammond and Porter-Gaud probably would be played in Sumter on Friday.

Anastopoulo's 500th

Five hundred wins and 700 matches later, the College of Charleston is lucky that Angelo Anastopoulo moved across town after graduating from The Citadel. The 42-year-old Anastopoulo achieved the double win/match milestone in the last match of the C of C women's regular season when the Cougars posted a victory over Samford at Patriots Point. A 172-79 record coaching the men's team early in his 18-year career with C of C is included in the totals.

Rogers' impressive win

Charleston's 16-year-old Shelby Rogers scored one of her biggest wins recently in the girls' 18 division of the 42nd annual Easter Bowl national championships by shocking sixth-seeded Ester Goldfield of Brooklyn, N.Y., 6-3, 6-2, in the first round. Rogers won two more matches before falling in the quarterfinals to No. 2 seed Kristie Arn of New Jersey, a finalist in this year's Smash Junior Cup.

Next up for Rogers will be a couple of $10,000 satellite events, in Sumter next month and at Hilton Head Island in early June.

Sabra Rogers, Shelby's older sister, was equally happy in the fact that her NCAA Division III fourth-ranked Emory University team scored a 7-0 blitzing of Wofford. Sabra, a junior, plays No. 1 doubles for Emory.

(04/20/09)  Lisicki will be a name to remember
Is Sabine Lisicki a one-tournament wonder? Or will she become the next power woman of tennis, a Serena Williams type whose intimidating presence scares the opposition into submission?

Or was this Family Circle Cup simply an aberration in the overall scheme of women's tennis?

Is Lisicki really as good as she looked in making the Family Cirle Cup her first tournament conquest on the WTA Tour?

For this one final, the German teenager was as intimidating as Serena Williams or any player in recent memory. Caroline Wozniacki seemed to sense from the time she walked on the Family Circle Magazine Stadium court on Sunday afternoon that she was in trouble. She called for her dad's advice twice in hopes that he had the magic words that could deflate Lisicki's superwoman game. He didn't.

Or he might have, but his 18-year-old daughter couldn't fully execute the instructions in the face of Lisicki's relentless attack of 120-125 mph serves and blistering groundstrokes. A 125 mph serve in the second game of the second set was equal to the fastest on the women's tour this year, but the match wasn't recorded by the official IDS statistic service.

A typical serve for Lisicki resulted in a weak return to the middle of the court by Wozniacki from where Lisicki would crush a forehand winner to the open court.

The classic 1-2 punch. You couldn't illustrate it better on a blackboard.

Wozy wouldn't quit

Wozniacki returned shots from almost every self-defensive position on some points. She must have had dreams of being posterized on the side of the stadium in the Williams sisters tradition a year from now but ended up being nearly pulverized, didn't quit, though. She thought until Lisicki's final forehand winner hit inside the tape that she could some way figure out a way to win this match. She couldn't. The bombs fell too often, too well-timed and too perfectly placed.

Lisicki's power, both from the ground and the serve, took Wozniacki out of her rhythm. Simple shots became too tough to execute as Wozniacki repeatedly sailed shots well over the baseline.

Wozniacki did manage to tighten up her game a bit after her coach/dad made his first visit on the court, but not enough to prevent Lisicki from taking a 6-2, 6-4 victory and the $187,815 paycheck.

Still, you have to wonder if this was the real deal. Can this 5-10, 154-pound 19-year-old back up this success with more titles?

Lisicki shows mettle

Lisicki showed her mettle by pounding 122 mph serves in the final game, the last of two aces in the game coming on the last of four deuce points after wasting triple match point. But perhaps she demonstrated her fight best in a round of 16 upset of Venus Williams when she repeatedly stepped up to the service line in a decisive second-set tiebreaker and delivered serves that Venus couldn't put into play.

Venus nailed missiles to every corner of the court late in that match, only to see Lisicki return them spectacularly.

So, maybe Lisicki is a name to remember. She just may be for real.

(04/19/09)  Wozniacki's smarts should carry her past Lisicki today

Caroline Wozniacki was giving Elena Dementieva too much court. So, Piotr Wozniacki came in and looked just like any dad giving a daughter instructions. He was a little emphatic.

What dad wouldn't be after seeing his teenage daughter blow a 5-2 lead in the second set, triple match point at that, and even double-fault twice when serving for the match a second time.

The result: Wozniacki reclaimed the court by going on the offensive, and Dementieva eventually melted under the pressure of a tight third set.

And here I was thinking that this 18-year-old was one of the smartest tennis players I've seen, a throwback to the days of a young Martina Hingis. Just like Hingis, Wozniacki occasionally shows some brashness. After losing a second set that had long been surrendered to her by the fans, Wozniacki threw her racket on the clay for a second time.

Of course, the secret may have been Piotr Wozniacki all along. But give the daughter some credit. She is quite a player, one bound for the top 10 if she can defeat powerful Sabine Lisicki in today's Family Circle Cup final.

Dementieva put on a how-to-hit-the-lines clinic to win the last five games of the second set. Wozniacki set her up with high-bouncing short balls right into the Russian's powerful forehand.

Wozniacki changes gears more often than a five-speed, a true Hingis. But she is 5-10 and hits serves in the 110 mph range. Wozniacki has room to grow her game. She's definitely a player to watch, one with the potential to take this game for her own.

Dementieva was determined to blast Wozniacki off the court, just as the top seed had done while yielding just eight games against her first three opponents here, one of course being a second-set retirement on Friday by Dominika Cibulkova. But until Saturday's second-set collapse, Wozniacki gave up few winners, hit with brisk pace to the corners and forced her opponent into repeated over-hitting errors. That just made Dementieva go for more, a big mistake until Wozniacki decided to start playing defense and yielded too much court.

Today's key

The key to today's final will be whether Wozniacki can take the offense away from Lisicki and put the German's 120 mph serves into play without leaving too many setters. At 5-10, 154 pounds, Lisicki is a power to be reckoned with. She may be the most dangerous big hitter to hit the tour since Serena Williams. Just like Williams, she has enormous upper-body strength and needs only to hit at three-quarter strength to powder the clay with winners. For that reason, taking the offense away from Lisicki might be more difficult for Wozniacki than against Dementieva.

Although ranked only 63rd in the world, Lisicki has marched into the final without dropping a set. She says a big serve is a good thing to have, and you can underscore that when it's as heavy and corner-bound as Lisicki's.

The big mystery is: Where has this girl been? If she improves her mobility with lower-body conditioning, she could be the real thing. At least, Venus Williams must agree after being outhit by Lisicki in the round of 16.

Against Marion Bartoli's two-handed groundstrokes in the semifinals, Lisicki simply overpowered the French player for a rather casual straight-set victory. Bartoli had nothing that could hurt Lisicki. Once Lisicki took control of the point, Bartoli was helpless as she struggled to avoid leaving the court too wide open.

Today, I'll go with Wozniacki's smarts and consistency.

(4/17/09)  GENE SAPAKOFF: WTA needs to ace its CEO search
Blinded by the science of topspin on green clay, it's hard to notice the WTA Tour leadership void. Walking around this week at the Family Circle Cup, you get distracted by the smell of Kettle Korn, the sight of Richard Williams on the practice courts, free samples of almonds and raisins and winning players slamming souvenir tennis balls into the crowd after victories.

Many tennis enthusiasts might not care about the search for a new CEO. But the WTA Tour lost a good one last month when dynamic Larry Scott resigned to become commissioner of the Pac-10 Conference.

The sun rises.

The Williams sisters hit the ball real hard.

And this is one of the most important hiring decisions in WTA history.

"Hopefully, we get the new person sooner than later," tour veteran Nadia Petrova said.

Scott in his six years running the WTA Tour took over a splintered organization and presided over great global growth, the enhancement of star power, relatively sweet TV contracts and an $88 million sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson.

No wonder the Pac-10 likes the 44-year-old Harvard grad, who happens to be a former pro tennis player.

Scott oversaw the WTA Tour's ambitious Roadmap project, which sought, among other things, to make for better tournament fields and fewer injuries by giving players a longer off-season and more prize money in exchange for some participation requirements.

Roadmap changes
Tweaks are necessary. The Roadmap has condensed the tour schedule to create a few logistical problems and some long time U.S. tour stops have lost prestige, or been severely wounded.

The Family Circle Cup went from a rare WTA Tour "Tier I" event last year to one of 15 "Premier" events this year, and prize money dropped from $1.3 million to $1 million.

The delightful Amelia Island stop formerly held the week before the Family Circle Cup has been moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on the other side of Jacksonville and downgraded.

"We have a little more of an off-season break but now there are a couple of tournaments that are out of the schedule and hard to get to, or tournaments gone that for many years were part of the schedule," said Petrova, No. 10 in the WTA rankings.

"For top players the Roadmap is a lot of commitments, which makes it a bit difficult when you're kind of forced to play a particular tournament.

"If you talk to many of the top players, they're not happy about that and would like to come up with changes for the next season."

But Scott's greatest WTA skill was juggling salesmanship with a personal touch.

The man speaks fluent French.

Probably Allaster
"Larry Scott was a strong leader and he was working so hard on so many things," said worldly Patty Schnyder, the popular tour pro from Switzerland. "It was a shock to lose him. We definitely need a strong personality again."

The WTA Tour board has met to discuss the CEO opening but there is no official timetable.

If the hire comes from within, WTA Tour president Stacey Allaster, shining in her role as No. 2 in command, makes perfect sense. The former president of Tennis Canada was impressive during her 2007 visit to the Family Circle Cup.

If not Allaster, start guessing.

Condi Rice?

She likes sports, has said she wants to run the NFL and knows the globe. But even a former secretary of state would find Larry Scott a tough act to follow.

(04/12/09)  Family Circle Cup field a fan's delight, even minus Serena
Family Circle Cup fans, consider yourselves among the luckiest in tennis. Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Marion Bartoli all have been Grand Slam tournament finalists. Of course, Venus has been in 13 Grand Slam finals and won seven times.

And Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova, Caroline Wozniacki and Patty Schnyder are certainly talented enough to win a major.

All seven of these women, and many more of the best talents in women's tennis, will spend much of the next week, or all of it in a few cases, in Charleston.

We're fortunate to live in a major league tennis town.

Wasn't meant to be

It just wasn't to be Serena Williams' week. Even if she had come to Daniel Island to defend her Family Circle Cup title, she would have left town without her world's No. 1 ranking.

Dinara Safina would have ascended to that spot at the close of the Family Circle Cup anyway, making her and Marat Safin the first brother-sister combo ever to earn

No. 1 world rankings.

But Miami's Sony Ericsson Open, as it has practically every year during the Family Circle's nine years on Daniel Island, dealt Charleston's tournament a major blow.

That's where Serena pulled up lame, as well as where Victoria Azarenka suffered the shoulder injury that forced the Sony Ericsson Open champ out of the Family Circle Cup.

It's too bad Family Circle Cup fans didn't get to see the 19-year-old Belarussian up close this year. I was looking forward to seeing Azarenka because I believe she may be the No. 1 player in the world by the time another Family Circle Cup rolls around.

In Serena's case, it was practically written in the sand that she wouldn't be here once she walked out on the Miami court for her final against Azarenka with a heavily taped upper left leg.

The sand might have been blown away before the cement arrived if Serena had opted out of the tournament finishing today in Marbella, Spain. But she didn't, and she surely didn't help the injury in a three-set first-match loss to obscure Klara Zakopalova. Serena's defection was written in stone at that point.

So many times in the past, a Justine Henin (multiple times), Maria Sharapova (2007) or Venus (2006 and 2008) or Serena (2006) have been entered in the Family Circle Cup, only to withdraw at the last minute. One of the few No. 1 players who hasn't pulled out of Charleston's Family Circle Cup is Kim Clijsters. She hasn't entered one yet.

Family Circle notes

--Fans might have trouble keeping the Woz's straight on Daniel Island. Caroline Wozniacki is an 18-year-old from Denmark who is the fifth seed and ranked 12th in the world, while 21-year-old Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada is the ninth seed and is ranked 35th. They will give fans in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., a case of the Woz's in today's final there.

--Spartanburg's Mallory Cecil landed a wild-card berth in the tournament's main draw. An injury kept the current Duke star out of last year's qualifying tournament after she had earned a berth by winning the Smash Junior Cup. She will face 13th-seeded Virginie Razzano in the first round.

--Family Circle general manager Bob Moran was all smiles during Saturday's qualifying event. "This is our biggest Saturday in Charleston ... more than 5,000 (fans)," he said. The tournament has placed special emphasis on the qualifying tournament by adding seats, especially sprucing up the Althea Gibson club court with more bleachers and turning it into a stadium court.

--Daniel Island resident and Moo-na Lisa Gourmet Ice Cream owner John Moran (no relation to Bob) was at the club court watching one of his former college buddy's wife play. Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine, whose husband, Tim Nichols, was one of Moran's teammates at Lander, lost to 32-year-old Mashona Washington, the sister of 1996 Wimbledon finalist Mal Washington.

(04/10/09)  You Said
Congrats tennis winners!

Last week, we asked people to write in and tell why they'd like to compete in the skills challenge at the Family Circle Cup.

Here are the responses from the six winners:

I would love to join other women to support women in sports. My father introduced my sister, brother and I to tennis when we were young and it has provided many friendships and opportunities for us all. And what a wonderful opportunity to play with the best and have some fun!

Isabella Kowalewski

After a 10-year hiatus, I started playing tennis again last year thanks to my now ex-boyfriend. It's becoming a positive addiction in my life, and a $500 gift basket would help feed that addiction, especially since I'm newly employed post-graduate school and feeling quite poor.

Actually, I just think it would be really cool to play on center court.

Meghan Gilsenen

Wow, I would love to do this. I really enjoy watching the sport and have fantasized many times of playing. I never knew how they selected the participants for the in-between events, but always raised my hand with hopes of being pointed out. I'm 53 years old and would just love the chance to do this. I have never held a racket nor stepped on a court and this would definitely mean a lot to me.

Linda Gilyard

I began playing tennis in January of 2008 and have fallen in love with a sport that up until then, I knew very little about.

I received a phone call asking me to join the ladies 2.5 USTA league one cold January night. I explained that I didn't know how to keep score or serve. They didn't care and I joined the team. I couldn't get enough.

I have played on no less than 2 teams each season since and have been to sectional championships in New Orleans for a mixed combo team and am also headed to Greenville, S.C., for State Championships with the ladies 3.0 team. Getting the instruction from a pro at the Family Circle with a chance to play would be fantastic and a great story to add to an already exciting beginner's story. Thank you for hosting such an event.

Lynsey Rini

I'm always up for a challenge! I play USTA league tennis on one of those teams that "desperately seeks singles players"! I "only play doubles"!! Realizing that singles players are a hot commodity, I challenged myself to play singles.

First step: Train, drop 15 pounds! Check (still training and dropping)!

Second step: Enter singles tournament. Check! I entered, I lost and have never felt so good about losing!!

Third step: E-mail captain, volunteer to play singles "if no one else is rushing the singles court"! Check! I may not get a win for the team but I won the challenge of playing singles! Look out, singles players!

Next challenge: Play Center Court at a WTA Tournament.

First step: Start training!!

Melissa Naval

I'm a stay-at-home mom with four children and also a work-at-home mom. I thought it would be a great way to get out of the house and have some fun.

Dana Klein

(04/05/09)  Ashley Hall freshmen shine
Ashley Hall freshmen Isabel Dennis and Margaret Legerton did more than just beat the opposition in the girls doubles draw of the SCISA individual open tournament Tuesday in Sumter. They also beat the rain to claim a state title in their first time playing doubles together. Girls doubles was the only event that was completed. All other events are still on hold as a result of an all-day rain on Wednesday. Local players are still in the running in all four remaining events.

Overall, the area's independent schools fared extremely well. They have three of the four teams in the other two doubles finals: Porter-Gaud's Matt Poletti and Johnny Steichen in boys' doubles, and Palmetto Christian's Nick Butler/Polly Poulnot and Pinewood Prep's Mollie Polk/Adam Elliget in the mixed doubles final.

Young Palmetto Christian standouts Addison King and Austin Heinz, and First Baptist's Anderson Scarpa all are in the boys singles semifinals, with Hilton Head Prep's Aaron Cotton the other semifinalist.

Defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Ashley Hall took four players to Sumter, and the Panthers still haven't tasted defeat. Junior Jamie Harrell and sophomore Patricia Kirkland represent Ashley Hall in opposite halves of the draw in the girls singles semifinals. Dennis and Legerton captured their girls doubles trophy against Pinewood Prep's Charmaine Bessent and Megan Evans.

Local coaches will be working around a heavy school schedule or spring breaks in the coming week while attempting to complete the individual state tournament.

Remember, it's just three weeks before the start of the SCISA state boys playoffs. Unbeaten Porter-Gaud will meet region foe Hilton Head Christian at home on Thursday, while Pinewood Prep (9-3 overall) is off all week while on spring break.

Cup almost here

Another Family Circle Cup is now less than a week away, starting with the qualifying tournament next Saturday and Sunday.

With both finalists from the Sony Ericsson Open, 19-year-old champion Victoria Azarenka (soon to be ranked No. 8) and world's No. 1 Serena Williams, headed to Charleston along with Venus Williams and three other top 10 players - Russians Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova - the ninth version of the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island promises to be one of the best. Having the champions from the super tournaments at Miami and Indian Wells (Zvonareva singles, and doubles with Azarenka) illustrates the quality of the field.

So far, of the 84 entries in the 56-player main draw and 28-player qualifying tournament, only one has withdrawn. And that was the 24th player in qualifying.

The only concern is that

Serena was limping noticeably in her last two matches, and especially in Saturday's 6-3, 6-1 loss to Azarenka in Miami, when Serena's left thigh was heavily taped. That, and Serena's planned participation this coming week in a new WTA Tour event in Marbella, Spain, are enough to cause concern for Cup fans and officials. Marbella is a $220,000 event on red clay, so if the leg isn't a problem, Serena's game should be sharp as soon as she hits the green clay at Family Circle Tennis Center.

College update

--The Citadel plays Southern Conference opponent Davidson here next Saturday at 1 p.m.

--The College of Charleston men face SoCon rival Samford today at Patriots Point at 10 a.m. The Cougars go to Georgia Southern on Wednesday and take on Binghamton here Thursday at 4 p.m.

--C of C's women play host to perennial SoCon champion Furman on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at Patriots Point.

--Charleston Southern's women are at home against Winthrop on Tuesday at 2 p.m.


--Wando senior Hagan Edgerton now has a state championship ring for every finger on one hand. Edgerton was the only Wando player to play on all five of the Warriors' consecutive Class AAAA state title teams. She picked up her fifth ring last week when the rings arrived at the school.

--Teachers in the Charleston County School District will gather May 2 at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground to compete in the first Superintendent's Cup. St. Andrew's pro Brian Burke has been leading an effort to expand tennis into the schools, while County Schools superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley has been promoting tennis in the schools. This event is a major step in that direction. Of course, the superintendent is an avid tennis fan who plays league tennis.

--Despite a Saturday morning rain and an overnight storm that night, last weekend's "Hits for HALOS" Pro/Am was a big success at I'On Club. The event, whose proceeds benefited the HALOS Summer Camp Program for abused and neglected children in Charleston County, featured pros from all over the state playing with local amateurs. The event provided good competition and was packed with social functions, entertainment and fun.

(03/29/09)  SCISA's eyes are on Porter-Gaud

All eyes are on Porter-Gaud's unbeaten boys at break time in SCISA tennis as the teams head to Sumter for the individual state tournament on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

As deep and talented as the Cyclones are, they still can't take Region III-AAA rivals Pinewood Prep and Hilton Head Prep out of their rear-view mirror. That's even though Porter-Gaud already has beaten both of those last two state champions.

But Pinewood Prep coach Heinz Maurer readily admits that Porter-Gaud is the team to beat. "I don't see anybody beating them. There's not a weak player on their team," Maurer said. "Charlie Baker played No. 3 or 4 for them when they beat us in the state final (in 2006), and three years later he's No. 6. That's a loaded team."

Porter-Gaud took Pinewood Prep apart in singles on Thursday in Summerville while losing only at No. 5

to talented little seventh-

grader Adam Elliget, but the Panthers (now 8-3) captured two of the three doubles matches in a 6-3 loss. "We can compete with them in doubles," Maurer insisted.

That was Pinewood Prep's only loss in region play. The Panthers came up with a surprise win at Hilton Head Prep last weekend and have recovered from a rash of injuries at a good point in the season.

A rematch with Hilton

Head Prep was rained out Wednesday and has been rescheduled for April 22, one day before the Panthers take on Porter-Gaud again. Both matches will be important in determining seedings for the state playoffs, especially because Pinewood suffered a loss to Hammond School when the Panthers were

missing key players. Pinewood will get a rematch with Hammond on April 17 in Columbia. Maurer likes his team's chances the second time around.

--The format for the state individual tournament will see competition in boys' and girls' singles and doubles and mixed doubles. Of the five possible titles, Pinewood Prep came home with three last year by taking all of the doubles. Rosters can include six boys and six girls.

--Bishop England has a big test coming up Wednesday against perennial High School League Class A/AA champion Waccamaw at Family Circle Tennis Center at 4 p.m. Coach Skip ReVille's Bishops then will head for Tennessee to compete in a three-day tournament.

C of C women on a roll

The College of Charleston women (17-3) are on a nine-match winning streak, and the Cougars are within striking distance of another 20-win season.

It's no wonder that veteran coach Angelo Anastopoulo admits, "I'm glad we're not in the ACC." All three of the Cougars' losses have come against Atlantic Coast

Conference teams (Clemson, Wake Forest and N.C. State).

The winning streak includes an impressive 4-3 win over Minnesota in which the Cougars won four of the six singles, but lost all three doubles.

After playing at Wofford and Western Carolina next Friday and Saturday, the Cougars could go for their 20th win against perennial Southern Conference power Furman on April 9 at Patriots Point. Although unranked nationally, the Paladins have won more than 90 straight SoCon regular-season matches.

--The C of C men will entertain Davidson at Patriots Point next Saturday at 2 p.m.

--The Citadel, which is playing at Furman today, has a Friday home match against Samford at 2 p.m.

--Charleston Southern's women have snapped a seven-match losing streak and will take a 2-7 record into a Monday match at Coastal Carolina. The Bucs will

return home Tuesday to face Presbyterian.

Adult state rankings

Ben Simon in men's 30, Richard Weathers in men's 65, Nancy Pitts in women's 50, Susie Peiffer in women's 55 and Brenda Carter in women's 60 led the area in state singles for 2008 by claiming No. 1 rankings.

Jonathan Barth took a fourth rating in men's 30; Earnest Tharpe was second and Joey Eskridge was fifth in men's 35; Harvey Hines was second and Tom Maynor fourth in men's 40; Andy Steingold was second in men's 55; James Sexton was second, John Baird third and Philip Bloom fifth in men's 80; Becky Fenno was second,

Zalayha Maharaj third, Andrea Hines fourth and Charlotte Hartsock fifth in women's 40; Diane Fishburne was second and Sally Smith third in women's 50; Cindy Babb was second and Becky Williamson third in women's 55; Robi Poston was second in women's 65; and Claire Richardson was second in women's 70.

Control of lights

There's a reason why the lights at most of the city's tennis complexes no longer come on automatically in the evening.

You now can switch them on yourself.

The courts at Jack Adams Tennis Center, Forest Park Playground, Parkshore Park, Moultrie Playground and Harborview/Fort Johnson Park now have hand-activated timers that allow players to turn the timer to the number of hours they wish to play. The lights will turn off automatically at the closure time for the specific park.

The light timers have a clear plastic cover that is the size of a light switch cover.


--Tuesday is the deadline to sign up for the Snee Farm Grand Prix Doubles Extravaganza, which runs Thursday through Sunday. Contact Snee Farm pro Christy Cherry at christy.cherry@sneefarmcc.com or register at www.sneefarmtennis.com.

--Today is the deadline for entering next weekend's Azalea Classic at the Pine Forest Country Club that offers singles, doubles and mixed doubles competition. Registration is available online on the USTA's TennisLink site by entering the tournament's ID number (704131309).

--Family Circle Tennis Center will hold a locals-only 3.5-4.0 doubles tournament during the April 11-19 Family Circle Cup featuring the best men's and women's doubles teams from 16 Charleston area tennis clubs. The winners of the local tournament, which will be played Monday through Saturday while the Cup's main draw is being contested, will be announced in Family Circle Magazine Stadium prior to the Family Circle Cup singles final on championship Sunday.

(03/22/09)  Family Circle gets good news

Family Circle Cup officials received a double-helping of good news Wednesday. If fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva's entry wasn't enough to bring smiles, late news out of Indian Wells, Calif., revealed that the Daniel Island tournament would include six of the world's top 10 players. That's better than last year's five top 10 entries. The April 11-19 event also has four of the world's top six players lined up, whereas the mega tournament at Indian Wells fielded only three top six players.

The second bit of good news was created by 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka's upset of No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina in the Indian Wells quarterfinals. Azarenka, one of the game's most exciting players, lost to No. 6-ranked Family Circle entrant Vera Zvonareva in Friday's semifinals, but earned enough points to sew up a top 10 ranking. Nadia Petrova, the Cup's third top Russian, also is in the top 10.

Top-ranked Serena Williams and No. 5 Venus Williams skipped Indian Wells, but they are the Family Circle's star attractions. Reports are that ticket sales are on par with last year's totals at this time. Tickets are still available in most categories.

More bump-up blues

Since my column a few weeks ago on the 3.5 league tennis bump-up blues, I've been hearing all sorts of tales about how unhappy league participants are with the injustices of the current computerized rating system. Top league tennis officials from the Southern Section are quick to describe league tennis as "a competitive league" and not about fun, friendship and the human element anymore.

I am beginning to understand the possible link all of this and the USTA's iron-like hands are having on the American game and the

apparent lack of a line of stars to follow in the footsteps of Andy Roddick, James Blake and the Williams sisters.

What about a three-strike policy (the USTA's) that is as secretive as the CIA? Is it fair to walk to the plate not knowing that you already have two strikes against you ... and league tennis and its computer aren't about to warn you. I know some players who are seriously considering quitting for the season, because they don't know their "three-strike" status and they are worried about being bumped up to a level at which they don't want to participate.

An Orange Park, Fla., reader responds, "After starting this season 4-2 our best player just got bumped to 3.5 and now we are 2-4. The "three-strike" rule did him in. Interestingly, his third strike came with a 7-6, 6-4 win at second doubles ... Go figure! According to the USTA letter, this was "significantly" over 3.0 play. I don't know about you, but when I go home with a 7-6, 6-4 win I rarely feel like I significantly beat anyone!"

Martin No. 1 in state

Alex Martin is the area's only junior player to claim a No. 1 state singles ranking for 2008. The online-schooled sophomore took top honors in girls 18.

Bishop England star Randall Heffron earned the No. 2 ranking in boys 18, while former BE/Palmetto Christian star John Karle was ranked fourth. Karle isn't playing high school tennis this spring.

In girls 16, former Wando star Meghan Blevins is ranked third. Colleton Prep ace Sarah McDonald is fifth in girls 14, while in boys 14 Bailey Kirkland has a third ranking and Porter-Gaud's Thomas Spratt is fifth. Elle Halbauer is third in girls 12, and Pinewood Prep star Adam Elliget is third in boys 12.


--Bishop England posted a 7-0 win over a Pinewood Prep team that played without three of its starters. That came after Pinewood, playing without one starter and with injured All-Lowcountry No. 1 Josh Klingenberg serving under-handed in singles and retiring in doubles, lost to Hammond 7-2 in a SCISA non-region match that could help shape what will happen at playoff time.

--Pinewood (now 6-2) bounced back Saturday with a 6-2 road win over defending SCISA state titlist Hilton Head Prep, which was playing without two of its top four players, to remain unbeaten in Region III-AAA going into a Wednesday rematch at home against two-time region loser Hilton Head Prep and a Thursday showdown against unbeaten Porter-Gaud in Summerville.

--Charleston's Diane Fishburne was chosen for the USTA's women's 50-and-over Maria Bueno Cup team that will travel to Rafael Nadal's Mallorca, Spain, for the April 27-May 2 international competition. Of course, the surface will be red clay.

--Women's track and field sophomore Isabel Boersma has been selected as this year's winner of the Family Circle Cup Community Outreach's $5,000 scholarship grant at the College of Charleston for female student athletes who excel both on and off the field. The winner is based on criteria that include academic accomplishment, volunteerism/community involvement, financial need and athletic accolades.

--The "Hits for HALOS" pro-am tennis tournament will be held next Saturday and Sunday at the I'On Club in Mount Pleasant. Contact Mike Morris (843) 860-0984 or

-- Monday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Clement Morey adult tennis tournament at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex on Whipple Road. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com).

(03/15/09)  Junior tennis can offer travel perks
Junior tennis isn't always just about playing games.

There can be travel, delightful travel. How does Costa Rica sound?

Just ask Shelby Rogers. The Charleston-native 16-year-old returned a week ago from an eight-day stay in this exotic Central American country.

Most of the trip focused on the tennis courts at the Costa Rica Tennis Club and Hotel in the capital city of San Jose. But tennis ended one day early when Rogers suffered defeat in the girls' 18 semifinals of the International Tennis Federation's Costa Rica Bowl.

That gave Rogers, along with Players Racquet and Tennis Club pro/coach Bryan Minton time for a one-day trip to the Pacific Coast tourist town of Jaco, about a two-hour mountainous ride from the center of the narrow country. She saw a spectacular waterfall along the roadside as well as monkeys, parrots and iguanas, a few of the can't-miss wildlife sights in this mostly green-terrain country.

"I had a great time. I would have loved to have stayed two more weeks," Rogers said. "This was definitely my best trip ... as well as successful. I played really well."

Ranked No. 225 in the world among ITF juniors, Rogers competed in a tournament in Panama while training most of last year at Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

She wasted four match points against eventual champion Allison Riske in the semifinals of the recent Smash Junior Cup.

A junior academically in online schooling, Rogers reportedly is being scouted by numerous big-time college programs. She will travel to California next month to participate in the Easter Bowl and another international event.

--Sabra Rogers, Shelby's sister and a former Bishop England standout, is a junior at NCAA Division III powerhouse Emory University where she is part of the No. 2-ranked doubles team in Division III.

--The College of Charleston women (10-3) will play six home matches over the next four days, starting with today's 10 a.m. bout with Southern Conference rival Davidson. The Cougars will meet Charleston-native Morgan Ivey and Rutgers on Monday at 1 p.m., Towson at 5 p.m. Monday, Jacksonville State on Tuesday at 2 p.m., Minnesota on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and Lafayette on Wednesday at 4:15 p.m.
--The College of Charleston men (4-6) also are busy, playing at SoCon power Elon today, taking on Lafayette at home Wednesday at 2 p.m., and visiting Wofford and UNC-Greensboro on Friday and Saturday.
--The Citadel (6-4) will be at home Tuesday against Jacksonville State at 1 p.m.
--The slumping Charleston Southern women also will square off against Jacksonville State on Monday and Rutgers on Wednesday in a pair of 2 p.m. home encounters.

High Schools
--Porter-Gaud, which maintained its unbeaten record Thursday by edging Virginia's Woodberry Forest, 5-4, has a week off for spring break before tackling SCISA three-time state finalist Pinewood Prep on March 25 in Summerville. Pinewood Prep also has a key encounter coming up at home Tuesday against perennial public school power Bishop England. Pinewood has a road trip to Hilton Head Christian and Hilton Head Prep scheduled for next Friday and Saturday.

--Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth had some of the best seats in the house for last weekend's U.S.-Switzerland Davis Cup tie in Birmingham, Ala. You couldn't miss seeing the Davis Cup committee chairman on the front row at mid-court during the Tennis Channel's telecast.
--Alex Martin, another Players Racquet and Tennis Club junior star, also had a big weekend by winning the girls' 18 title in a Charlotte tournament. Martin is a home-schooled sophomore.

(03/13/09)  Porter-Gaud's Higgins has no problem with this puzzle
Tom Higgins has an unsolved puzzle on his hands at Porter-Gaud that makes him perfectly happy.

Every time the veteran coach tries to put a piece of the puzzle into place, he finds several other pieces that would fit just as well. But it doesn't bother Higgins that he has four possible players for each of the top four positions on the Cyclones boys tennis team. Or that he has another seven players who could fill either of the last two positions in the starting singles lineup.

Higgins just considers himself fortunate to have such a puzzle to solve, and sees an opportunity for Porter-Gaud to return to its former days as a tennis dynasty. Prior to yielding to Hilton Head Prep and Pinewood Prep the last two years, Porter-Gaud had played in seven straight SCISA Class AAA state finals, winning six.

But it won't be easy. Porter-Gaud competes in Region 3 with Hilton Head Prep, the 2008 state champion and 2007 state runner-up, and Pinewood Prep, the 2007 state champion and 2008 state runner-up.

Porter-Gaud got an early head start on the race Wednesday when the Cyclones remained unbeaten by winning all three doubles matches to take a 6-3 win over Hilton Head Prep. The next time the two teams collide will be on clay at Hilton Head Island.

Only one of the Cyclones' top four players won against Hilton Head Prep, as sophomore newcomer J.B. Robards defeated talented Hilton Head Prep star Mo Hookaylo at No. 1.

"The top four (players) are interchangeable. They all have the same ability level," said Higgins.

Freshman Thomas Spratt, junior Elliott Sperr and sophomore Johnny Steichen suffered losses at the Nos. 2-4 positions. Of the four, only Sperr is a returnee from last season's 14-2 team that lost only to Hilton Head Prep and Pinewood Prep.

Sophomores Matt Poletti and Charlie Baker won at Nos. 5 and 6 against Hilton Head Prep. Conner Hoy, William Howell, Seth Pinosky, Payne Hoy and Wil Daniel also are vying for the last two positions.

Pinewood Prep

Coach Heinz Maurer has a solid team back at Pinewood Prep from the one that went 16-4 a year ago. The Panthers return six of the top seven singles players, but lost doubles ace Ladson Fishburne, who ran out of eligibility for his senior year.

"We don't have a doubles specialist this year," Maurer said. "That will hurt a bit."

All-Lowcountry Josh Klingenberg is a mature junior now in the No. 1 singles slot. After losing No. 2 Scott Hayes to graduation, Pinewood counts on sophomore Jacob Cumbie at No. 2, sophomore William Wert at No. 3, seventh-grader Adam Elliget at No. 4, sophomore J.T. Elliget at No. 5 and seventh-grader Davis Craig at No. 6. Adam Elliget went unbeaten in singles and doubles last season while earning all-state honors.

Palmetto Christian
Lowcountry player of the year Don Bruner is not playing high school tennis this year, but coach Dewey Caulder appears to be ready to lift his eighth straight SCISA Class A state championship trophy. The school's girls have taken titles the last four years, and some of the girls helped the boys win state title No. 3 in succession last spring.

Palmetto Christian's team is all boys this season, led by freshman Addison King and seventh-grader Austin Heinz in the top two positions and freshman Nick Butler at No. 3.

Bishop England
The Bishops lost three players from the 13-3 team that fell to reigning state champion Waccamaw in last year's public school league's Class A/AA Lower State final, including All-Lowcountry star John Karle.

But coach Skip ReVille has the Heffron brothers leading the way — All-Lowcountry junior Randall at No. 1 and sophomore Walker at No. 2. The Heffrons also form a formidable doubles duo.

Sophomores Joseph Kennedy, Steven Weaver and Orlin Sergev hold down the Nos. 3-5 slots in the High School League's five-singles format.

Academic Magnet
The Raptors' main dilemma is that the High School League doesn't have a Class A state playoff in boys tennis, thus Academic Magnet competes against Bishop England in a combined Region 6-A/6-AA, and always seems to finish second.

Gone from last year's 7-7 team that lost to Waccamaw in the playoffs is No. 1 Jake Engle. The Raptors, coached by Sharon Williams, are counting on seniors Robert Strange and Taylor Jones in the top two positions, with junior Abhay Baliga No. 3 and junior David Sadler No. 4.

Coach Charlie Sweeney lost talented former Lowcountry player of the year Dirk Bair from the team that posted a 15-3 record a year ago and tied Wando for the Region 7-AAAA crown. That means the Dye brothers, eighth-grader Zac and sophomore Micah, have to carry the load at Nos. 1 and 2, while senior Will Farmer moves up to No. 3. Jarred Wadford remains No. 4.

The Warriors had been accustomed to being one of the top teams in the Lower State before falling out of the state playoffs last year in the second round with a 9-5 record. Coach Winde Ellenberg has moved sophomore Robert McManus to No. 1 from the No. 2 slot he played last year, with newcomer eighth-grader Colby Tubbs, junior Will Botts and freshman newcomers Thomas Kuisel and Drew Dangerfield holding down the Nos. 2-5 positions.

Bryant McKee's Summerville team has dominated Region 8-AAAA in recent years, ending last season with a 29-match unbeaten streak in the region. The Green Wave's last region loss came in the 2006 opener against Beaufort, when the two teams tied for the region crown.

Senior Joey Holoubek has dropped back to No. 3 after playing No. 1 last year, allowing eighth-grader Joel Roberts to move into the top position from No. 2, with junior Mason Taylor taking No. 2. Seniors Bentley Cheatham and Bryan Mayeux fill the Nos. 4-5 slots.

(03/08/09)  Bump up blues in 3.5 league
I should have taken the hint last Monday when I stopped by the James Island Yacht Club to prepare for my league tennis match by hitting off the trusty old cement block backboard, only to discover that the backboard had been torn down. A few hours later, the 3.5 adult league team I captain had its 11-match winning streak broken.

If that wasn't enough, the USTA decided to "bump up" to 4.0 the second singles player from our team since the end of the practice fall season. The second "bump up" occurred five matches into the official spring season. Neither of these guys was a ringer, just solid 3.5 players, although the USTA computer disagreed.

I'd never advocate this, but the computer might be kinder to a maximum-rated player (for his/her level) if an opponent wins a few more games to make a match appear to be more competitive. Yet, games lost is the third criteria in team tiebreaker situations.

Yes, the scores of matches actually can impact the rating the computer assigns. It's good that the ATP didn't use the program when Rafael Nadal routed Roger Federer at the '08 French Open. He might have been bumped up toward heaven and Federer the other way.

Not only did our player have all of his victories reversed last Tuesday, our team had to forfeit all of the player's individual victories, including one in a 3-2 team victory. That one turned a team victory into defeat.

To top it off, the USTA's official announcement labeled the action a disqualification as if the player had done something wrong, whereas his only transgression was to beat a few players too easily.

In a span of a few hours, the team went from playoff contender to one with a mediocre spring season record. This was enough to make you want to form an independent tennis league. Anyone else interested? ALTA, where are you? ALTA, of course, is Atlanta's successful independent tennis league.

Family Circle surprises
The Family Circle Cup's full player list reveals a few nice surprises. Former teenage star and now comeback player Jelena Dokic is one of them. India's Sania Mirza is another, making her initial appearance here. But the biggest one might be No. 13 Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon finalist.

Another name that is music to the ears of Family Circle loyalists is that of Patty Schnyder. Maybe this will be the year the crowd favorite will win the Sunday match.

While the April 11-19 tournament has three (Serena and Venus Williams, and Vera Zvonareva) of the top six players in the world and four of the top 10, it also has seven of the top 13. Not bad. And there's always hope that Maria Sharapova's comeback trail will lead to Daniel Island.

Colleges / high schools
The College of Charleston women (5-1) will play a pair of matches today at Patriots Point, taking on Liberty at (9:30 a.m. and Butler at 2 p.m. The Cougars also will face Southern Conference rival Chattanooga here Monday at 2 p.m., Atlantic Coast Conference power Wake Forest here Tuesday at 1 p.m., visit North Carolina State on Wednesday and return home on Friday to meet Appalachian State at 1 p.m.

The C of C men (2-5) will go on the road to Clemson Wednesday, then return home to face Chattanooga at 2 p.m. Thursday and Appalachian State at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Citadel is at home all week against James Madison and Case Reserve at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, Chattanooga at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Appalachian State at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Charleston Southern's women will play host to East Carolina at 2 p.m. Monday and UNC Charlotte at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Winthrop at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Porter-Gaud's boys, who opened SCISA region play Thursday with an 8-1 win over Hilton Head Christian, should get a stern test on Wednesday at home against defending SCISA Class AAA champion Hilton Head Prep. The Cyclones also will take on Virginia's Woodberry Forest at home on Thursday.

SCISA state runner-up Pinewood Prep (2-0) will play Academic Magnet on Monday at Charleston Tennis Center, then stage home matches on Tuesday against Hilton Head Christian, Heathwood Hall on Wednesday and Hammond School on Friday.

Bishop England will play two Region 6-A/6-AA road matches this week, Monday against Cane Bay and Thursday against Ashley Ridge.

(03/01/09)  Smash Junior Cup a personal favorite
My favorite local tennis tournament?

You would think the Family Circle Cup would win by a landslide. I do enjoy the Family Circle week, all the way from the qualifying event to the media tournament to the big tournament itself. I like to see the newcomers such as 18-year-old Caroline Wozniacki, who will be making her first Family Circle appearance this year.

And, of course, I enjoy seeing the new developments in the Williams sisters' games, and how much they mature each year. I miss Justine Henin, the energy she brings to the court. Women's tennis needs another Justine.

Back to the original question: My favorite tournament?

It used to be called the Junior Family Circle Cup. Now, it's simply the Smash Junior Cup.

Nina Pantic and Mallory Cecil. They were among my all-time favorites.

It was good to hear that Mallory has graduated from junior tennis to Duke University where she's the sixth-ranked Blue Devils' No. 1 player. She won last year's Smash Cup over Nadja Gilchrist, who is now a freshman at Georgia.

I had misplaced Pantic's cell phone number and couldn't locate her in the pro rankings. But that's because Pantic has put her pro ambitions on hold for a while. The two-time Smash winner is now a freshman at UCLA.

That brings us to last Monday's Smash final. I thought young Kristie Ahn was a cinch for this one. After all, the New Jersey 16-year-old had nearly beaten current world's No. 2 Dinara Safina in the U.S. Open and already had won a couple pro tournaments.

But there's no place in the statistics for the word heart. Allison Riske, in addition to her other outstanding characteristics and intelligence, plays with heart. Ahn didn't have a chance.

Riske, who is headed to Vanderbilt, is much like Pantic with her court savvy and smarts as well as congeniality. She'll take what you give her, and then enough more to beat you. Ahn gave her plenty, but mainly because of Riske's tenacity.

Cup adds Razzano
The Family Circle Cup has landed only four top 10 players. But Victoria Azarenka and Wozniacki could be ranked in that category by the time the April 11-19 tournament starts on Daniel Island.

And now the it's has added the commitment of another hot player, Virginie Razzano of France, who defeated Safina and No. 5 Vera Zvonareva en oute to the Dubai final.

Venus and Serena Williams are the headliners, along with Zvonareva and fellow top 10 player Nadia Petrova.

--The College of Charleston women's regularly scheduled Southern Conference opener against former Wando star Jessica Diamond and Samford has been switched from today at Patriots Point to April 17, due to potential inclement weather. The Cougars (5-1) are now idle until next Sunday when Liberty and Butler visit Patriots Point.

--The C of C men (2-2) play at Princeton today, then travel to New York City for a Monday match against Columbia before playing at Richmond on Wednesday.

--The Citadel hosts Longwood on Friday at 2 p.m.

--Bishop England's boys open their season Wednesday against Palmetto Christian at 3:30 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center.

--Porter-Gaud (1-0) has a busy week ahead of it, playing at Wando on Tuesday and at Hilton Head Christian on Thursday around a Wednesday home match against Academic Magnet. Pinewood Prep (1-0) hosts matches against Academic Magnet Monday, Beaufort Academy on Tuesday and Palmetto Christian on Thursday.
--Monday is the entry deadline for the Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Challenger that is scheduled for next Friday-Sunday at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex on Whipple Road. Contact tennis coordinator Jimmy Millar (jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com).
--The Clement Morey adult tournament is March 27-29 at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex. Entry deadline is March 23. Contact Jimmy Millar (jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com).
--The Players Racquet and Tennis Club on Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant will hold a community tennis festival open to the public Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The day will include games, clinics, free lessons and camp for all age groups. Contact the club (849-6560).
--The inner-city Courting Kids program will begin its 18th year next Saturday with sessions at both the Alan Fleming Tennis Complex on John's Island (10-11:30 a.m.) and the Jack Adams Tennis Center near Johnson-Hagood Stadium (1-2:30 p.m.). Both sessions run through April 25. Contact Delores Jackson at 766-7401.
--The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association has given the name "We Care" to its newest community service project. The group is collecting non-perishable food items, basic medications, personal care products, grocery story/Wal-Mart gift cards and financial contributions to benefit Help of Summerville and the Medical Outreach Ministry Clinic of St. Paul's Summerville Outreach Committee. Contact Teddy Marcot (693-7040 or teddynm@gmail.com).

(02/24/09)  Riske grabs Smash 18 title
Allison Riske didn't need any help this time to land a berth in the qualifying tournament for the $1 million Family Circle Cup. She earned this one, although highly touted top seed Kristie Ahn helped out just a bit with her erratic play in Monday's girls 18 final of the eighth annual Smash Junior Cup.

Under a bright midday sun on the clay surface at Family Circle Tennis Center, online-schooled, Vanderbilt-bound Riske cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 win over the 16-year-old Ahn. Last August, Ahn marched through the U.S. Open's qualifying tournament and played current world No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina a tight match in the U.S. Open.

But Riske had history on her side. She had defeated Ahn in both of their previous meetings in straight sets. And Ahn appeared to sense the urgency of the situation early by double-faulting away her first two service games at 30-40.

Those mistakes put Riske, a 5-9 18-year-old from McMurray, Pa., well on her way to claiming the wild-card berth in the Family Circle qualifying tournament that was reserved for the Smash girls 18 champion.

A year ago after playing in the Smash event that was won by current Duke freshman Mallory Cecil, Riske was awarded a spot in the pro tournament's qualifying draw.

"She (Ahn) is a great player ... but she was a little down," said Riske, whose older sister, Sarah, also played at Vanderbilt and was in attendance Monday along with their mother. Riske's dad, a retired secret service agent, was back home. "I really had to get my mind focused on the match."

This one wasn't anything like Sunday's semis, in which Riske drew a blank — or love — in the first set and had to rally back from match point before defeating Charleston's Shelby Rogers in a third-set tiebreaker.

Riske, a fifth seed, jumped out to 4-1 lead before Ahn made a token comeback, only to fall into her earlier ways of too many unforced errors. Riske then got off to a 3-0 lead in the second set, and started making plans for her return to Daniel Island on April 11 for the Family Circle qualifying tournament. She hopes to fare better this time, after losing in the first round last April.

Ahn showed plenty of zip on her forehand, but dug herself into an early hole and missed too often on big points after that.

Ahn, who has won two $10,000 pro tournaments and is ranked No. 340 in the world, admitted it wasn't her best day: "I just wasn't happy with my game."

At times, Ahn appeared to be more interested in demonstrating her soccer skills. Once when Riske returned one of Ahn's many unforced errors, Ahn met the ball in midair with her foot and kicked it back across the net.

Singles — FINAL ROUND: Girls 18: Alison Riske (4) McMurray, Pa., d. Kristie Ahn (1) Upper Saddle River, N.J., 6-4; 6-1. Girls 16: Ashley Kitchen, Hilton Head Island d. Kendal Drake (5) Hilton Head 6-2; 6-2; (Playoff) Zeynep Mafa (4) Hilton Head d. Hannah Ecleberry (2) Matthews, N.C., 5-7; 6-2; 6-0. Girls 14: Tolley Rice (4) Myrtle Beach d. Laura Dean (3) Georgetown 6-3; 6-4. Girls 12: Curran Carver (3) Elgin d. Claudia Wiktorin (1) Davidson, N.C., 6-0; 6-2; (Playoff) Kayla Calvert (4) Aiken d. Natalie Kitchen (2) Hilton Head 6-4; 7-6 (3)

Boys 10: Brant Fenno (5) Charleston d. William Brown (5) Sumter 6-0; 4-6; 1-0. Girls 10: Danielle Vines, Elizabethton, Tenn., d. Joely Thefaine, Charlotte 6-0; 6-1; (Playoff) Andie Carver (1) Elgin d. Elise Mills, Prosperity, Wo (ill). Boys 18: John Richmond, Pawleys Island d. Connor Evins, Greenville 6-3; 6-0; (Playoff) Christopher Cox (4) Myrtle Beach d. Joshua Richmond, Pawleys Island 6-2; 4-6; 6-3. Boys 16: Austin Ansari (1) Greensboro, N.C., d. Thomas Johnson (5) Spartanburg 6-0; 7-6 (5); (Playoff) Addison King, Mount Pleasant d. Sean Donohue Louisville, Ky., 6-1; 4-6; 6-2.

Boys 14: Brent Lett (4) Elgin d. Drew Halbauer (1) Daniel Island 6-4; 6-1; (Playoff) Bailey Kirkland (2) Charleston d. Steven Weaver, Hollywood 3-6; 6-2; 6-4; Boys 12: William Liam Wiggins (5), North Augusta d. Adam Elliget (1) Summerville 6-3; 6-3; (Playoff) Bennett Crane (5) Huntersville, N.C. d. Alexander Miller (5) Rock Hill, Wo (emerg).

(02/22/09)  Eskridge heading to Anderson
To say Joey Eskridge has had a busy week would be putting it mildly.

The easy-going former I'On Club tennis director started the week as an independent contractor teaching pro at the "old" Players Club. He completed play in the Professional Tennis Registry tournament at Hilton Head Island on Wednesday as a singles and doubles semifinalist.

By Wednesday afternoon, the 36-year-old Anderson native was headed home. Not to Mount Pleasant, except to drop off his wife English and their two young daughters, but to Anderson where his parents still reside. Eskridge accepted the position of men's and women's head coach at Anderson University that day.

He started his new job Thursday and coached his first college matches Friday. The Anderson men showed why they were preseason top 15 picks in NCAA Division II by defeating Augusta State, while the women lost.

"I've always wanted to be a college coach," said Eskridge, who grew up across the street from then Anderson College.

The transition story didn't all happen in the last week. Eskridge began last June at I'On where he had taught tennis for nine years. A few weeks later, he moved across Mathis Ferry Road to the Players Club.

There was a new management team at the Players Club in the wake of Fritz Nau's departure.

By the time Eskridge got a job offer from Anderson, he turned it down since he said things at the Players Club appeared to be looking bright. Eskridge soon regretted the decision and said he called the Anderson athletic director to say if the job ever came open again, to please call him.

Sure enough, Anderson's vacancy came open again in the last week. Eskridge said he was offered the job Monday.

Eskridge leaves Charleston proud of his achievements here, both as a teaching pro/club director and a player. The former Winthrop standout captained local league tennis teams to national 5.5 championships in 2003 and 2005, as well as helped start the Charleston Pro Tennis League where he played on a league championship team in 2004.

If the last week wasn't busy enough, Anderson University had men's and women's matches scheduled for Saturday through Monday.

Nau returning

What's going on at the Players Club? Rumors have been floating and personnel has been changing.

Although the future of the Mount Pleasant facility has been up in the air for some time now, things appear to be settling down. Internationally acclaimed teaching pro Fritz Nau has confirmed that he is returning to the club that has been renamed the Players Racquet and Tennis Club.

One of the original owners of the club, Nau left the facility about this time last year and a few months later moved to Naples, Fla., where he still teaches at the Pelican Bay Tennis Center.

"I'm coming back the first week in March. I just don't know if it will be full-time," Nau said Friday. "Chuck Lee is in it with me on the business end, and we hope to turn the Players Club around."

Lee, a local league player and businessman, joined the Players club's management team last year. "Fritz and I are trying to put together a business to appeal to everybody," Lee said. "The Players Club in the past was just an elite academy, but we want to encompass the entire spectrum of a tennis player ... from beginners to adults."

Most of the club's teaching pros are expected to remain with the facility, including director Bryan Minton.

--The Mount Pleasant Junior Tennis Challenger is March 6-8 at the Mount Pleasant Tennis Complex. Entry deadline is March 2. Contact Jimmy Millar (856-2196 or jmillar@townofmountpleasant.com).
--After a 6-1 win at Georgetown Friday, the College of Charleston women are 5-1 heading into a match today at Richmond. The C of C men will take a 2-2 record to Princeton next Sunday.
--The Citadel is 1-2 going into today's noon home match against Lees-McRae after dropping a 5-2 decision at Coastal Carolina on Friday.
--Charleston Southern's women were 1-2 after suffering a 5-2 loss to East Tennessee State on Friday and will play host to Gardner-Webb next Saturday at 1 p.m.
--Pinewood Prep posted a pair of opening wins over Wando (4-2) and Stratford (4-3). Coach Heinz Maurer's Pinewood outfit will play the same two teams again this coming week, at home on Tuesday against Wando and at Stratford on Thursday. Porter-Gaud opens its season Friday at home against Wando.

(02/21/09)  Top prospect Ahn vying for spot in Cup qualifier
Kristie Ahn probably shouldn't get the jitters if she happens to be playing in the girls' 18 final of the Smash Junior Cup on Monday with a spot in the qualifying draw for the $1 million Family Circle Cup at stake.

But Ahn might, even if she's ranked No. 440 in the world. She has won two $10,000 pro tournaments, fought through qualifying for last year's U.S. Open and then played a close match against current world's No. 2 Dinara Safina in Louis Armstrong Stadium in the first round of the U.S. Open.

"I probably would be nervous (if she makes the Smash final)," Ahn said Friday morning while en route with her mother from their New York City area home to Daniel Island, where the elite eighth annual Smash event begins this morning at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The possibility of earning a wild-card berth in the Family Circle's April 11-12 qualifying tournament is a big deal to the 16-year-old New Jersey girl who is rated as the country's No. 1 prospect from the 2010 high school graduating class and who won her first $10,000 pro tournament at the age of 15.

Judging from past Family Circle qualifying fields, you might think that Ahn would have an excellent chance of earning her way into the qualifying tournament based on her world ranking or at least getting a wild card because of her achievements, even if she fails to win the Smash Cup. But she isn't optimistic about that happening. "It's difficult to get into qualifying for even a $75,000 tournament," she maintained.

Ahn hasn't been so highly ranked for long. She entered last year's U.S. Open ranked 758th in the world. She might soon discover that her current ranking is impressive, when you consider that last year's Family Circle qualifying tournament field included several players who ended the previous year ranked well above No. 440.

She shouldn't be nervous, no matter what happens in the Smash. The experience of taking Safina to 6-3, 6-4 in a nationally televised match should enter the equation at some point. Also, Ahn's three victories in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament to earn a berth in the Grand Slam as its youngest participant can't hurt. Neither can the fact that she easily defeated NCAA champion Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech last summer.

About the U.S. Open match against 2007 Family Circle runner-up Safina, Ahn said: "I had three matches under my belt. I wasn't nervous. That match was a bonus. I had the home crowd behind me."

Ahn is a full-time student as a junior at a private school in New York City's West Side, about 30 minutes from her Upper Saddle River, N.J., home. She trains at a small indoor complex in New Jersey. She doesn't have her driver's license yet.

At 5-4 tall and quick afoot, the clay courts at Family Circle should be perfect for Ahn. "My biggest problem is adjusting to the movement on clay. That's why I'm coming down early . . . to practice," she said.

Ahn is the No. 1 seed in the Smash Cup. Alexandra Anghelescu, a 16-year-old from the Atlanta area, is the No. 2 seed. Hilton Head tennis camper Michelle Green and Charleston's Sabra Rogers are fifth seeds.

Other notable local participants in the girls' 18 draw include Corin Hallman and Meghan Blevens, two players who have played major roles in Wando's string of five straight state titles.

The tournament will have competition in all of the regular junior age divisions for both boys and girls.

(02/15/09)  See future U.S. stars

Just how far has American women's tennis fallen? You can find out for yourself when the Family Circle Cup comes to town in 54 days.

Venus and Serena Williams still look nearly as capable as ever, even though they're a combined 56 years old. But after the sisters, 40th-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands is the only other player currently ranked in the top 100 who has USA next to her name.

If you really want to see what the future of American tennis looks like, you might want to stop by Family Circle Tennis Center next weekend to watch the annual Smash Junior Cup, unofficially the Junior Family Circle Cup. There is sure to be some great tennis, just as last year when Spartanburg's own Mallory Cecil showed off her talent en route to the title.

Smash entries will close today at www.usta.com, using the tournament ID number (704140609) for registration.

Courting Kids returning

One of Charleston's most significant tennis events occurred 17 years ago when the Paul Newman Foundation designated a $12,000 grant for a startup inner-city program called Courting Kids. Thanks to program founder and director Delores Jackson, with the aid of the City of Charleston, Courting Kids is still going strong for inner-city kids.

The program will begin its 18th year on March 7 with sessions at both the Alan Fleming Tennis Complex on Johns Island (10-11:30 a.m.) and the Jack Adams Tennis Center (1-2:30 p.m.) adjacent to The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium. Both sessions will run through April 25.

Courting Kids is for ages 5-17. The program is geared toward inner-city kids, with a registration fee of just $10 for city residents. Non-city residents are charged $25 for the entire spring session at either of the sites.

Rackets will be available for participants. For information, contact Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

College teams update

Members of the College of Charleston men's and women's teams served as hosts for the Leslie Allen Foundation's Win4Life program last weekend at the Cougars' Patriots Point tennis complex.

--Charleston's women swept a pair of matches (Winthrop and Stetson) last weekend. The Cougars (4-1) travel to Washington, D.C., next for a Friday match with Georgetown.

--Charleston's men are 2-3 after falling, 7-0, to Virginia Tech — Cougars coach Jay Bruner's alma mater — and beating St. Bonaventure, 7-0, on Friday in Blacksburg, Va. The Cougars next travel to Princeton on March 1.

--The Citadel is 1-1 and plays at Coastal Carolina on Friday.

--Charleston Southern's women have a big match Friday at home against East Tennessee State at 2 p.m.

The Charleston Area's Communities in Schools has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the USTA. The local Communities in Schools project covers more than 2,400 students and their families in 12 Charleston County schools. The grant will enable 60 low-income children in grades 2-5 to receive weekly tennis instructions, literacy assistance and life skills lessons.
--The Family Circle Cup is seeking volunteers for the April 11-19 tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center. Contact Jo Cooper (jo.cooper@familycirclecup.com) or call the volunteer hotline (843) 849-5309.
--Pinewood Prep is set to open its boys season on Tuesday at Wando. Porter-Gaud, also a strong contender to win the SCISA Class AAA state title, hosts Wando on Feb. 27.

(02/08/09)  Cyclone boys deep in talent
High School tennis, SCISA style, can handle as many as a dozen players for one match. That's three more than for High School League matches.

Not a bad start. But, unlike regular team sports, there are no substitutions in tennis.

When a team has 25 or 30 players, as the Wando girls and Porter-Gaud boys have, there's a lot of bench time involved, except against badly outmatched teams, or in matches that are decided in singles or in the few junior varsity encounters that are available. In boys tennis, Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep are about the only teams that have enough depth to field junior varsity teams.

Tom Higgins has continued to build up the Porter-Gaud boys program. When the Cyclones started practice recently, Higgins greeted 30 players. The reality that all of them probably wouldn't play prompted a few of the players to switch to other sports.

Yet, Higgins has an outstanding group of prospects. Senior Gordon Gibson, and underclassmen Elliott Sperr, Payne Hoy, Connor Hoy, Charlie Baker, Wil Daniel, Thomas Spratt, William Howell, John Steichen, Seth Pinosky and J.B. Robards are all talented players who have done well in junior tennis. All 11 players are good enough to be No. 1 players for most high school teams in the state, whether SCISA or SCHSL. Higgins said even five or six of them could be No. 1 for the Cyclones.

Some of the players have advanced through Higgins' after-school programs for younger players. The former Eastern Kentucky head coach is in his sixth year of conducting after-school programs at Porter-Gaud.

If SCISA matches actually required the use of 12 players, rather than just six, P-G probably would be a heavy favorite to win another state title. Even with the traditional six players, the Cyclones still may be ready to break their two-year drought and add to their long list of state titles.

Smash Cup returning
It's coming back. Maybe the best women's tennis played locally outside of the Family Circle Cup itself, the eighth annual Smash Junior Cup will return to Family Circle Tennis Center Feb. 21-23. More than 350 regionally and nationally ranked juniors will participate in the event.

The main event, of course, is the girls 18 division where the winner will earn a berth in the April 11-12 qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup. The Smash tournament has now acquired a Southern Level 3 rating.

While girls 18 is the head-liner, the tournament will offer competition for boys and girls in singles in 10-and-under through 18-and-under.

Register at www.usta.com through Feb. 15, using the tournament's ID number (704140609). Contact Nancy Heinz at smashjrcup@bellsouth.net or Ashley Bostic at Ashley.Bostic@familycirclecup.com.

Wild Dunes honored

Wild Dunes picked up an award at the USTA Southern Section meeting in Atlanta last month for the state Super Senior league championships that were held at the Isle of Palms resort in November. The event was selected as the 2008 Southern Section team event of the year.

Wild Dunes took the award with the aid of its volunteer committee, which was comprised of all Wild Dunes members assisting with court maintenance between matches, and volunteers performing other guest services. Wild Dunes also staged an impressive player party at its Sweetgrass Pavilion nearly 100 teams.

(02/01/09)  Ex-Cyclones star Santiago reaps rewards from tennis
For every junior tennis player who drops out of the game before college, there seems to be one rewarded for staying the course.

Tennis may seem like a waste of time for many high school kids as they enter their senior year. They are eager for freedom and time to find more exciting things to do than spending long hours out in the hot sun, chasing a little yellow ball.

The beach is so much nicer. The sun feels so much better in a bathing suit.

So, the senior year comes and goes. And then college. Oh, it can be fun. Especially if there's no tennis practice.

But tennis can play its own role. If education is important, tennis can help open the doors to the institution of a teen's dreams.

Just ask Natalie Santiago where she will attend college next school year. And she'll tell you with pride, "Vassar College."

And dad Tony Santiago and mom Lori will be wearing huge smiles, too. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y., campus of Vassar is Natalie's dream come true.

The family realizes how lucky Natalie is to be accepted to the college of her choice, one that accepts only about 10 percent of its applicants.

"Natalie has been recruited to play at Vassar College ... and we feel that her tennis has given her the advantage above other applicants," her father said. "We really feel that tennis was a huge factor in Natalie's acceptance to Vassar. Most of the applicants have stellar grades and great test scores, but being able to contribute something to the school and the team is a huge benefit.

"Playing for Vassar will allow her to give something back to the school, which made her an appealing candidate in college admissions ... She visited Vassar this fall along with Tufts, Brandeis and Mary Washington and was offered spots to play on each team, and in the end Vassar was the best fit. She loves the campus and the curriculum and the high academic standards."

Natalie was an all-state player at Porter-Gaud under the watchful eye of Tom Higgins through her junior year, then opted for Laurel Springs online school for her senior year to allow her to have more time to train for competitive tennis. She continues to work with local pro Martin Zumpf as well as with Charly Rasheed at Wild Dunes, where the Santiagos reside, while also keeping up with her Advanced Placement classes.

"I thought this may offer some inspiration to other juniors who are wrestling with rigorous school and tennis schedules. The sacrifices these kids make and the hours it takes for practice and tournaments can be difficult, but the rewards for staying with it can be great," Tony Santiago said.

--Playing league tennis has its advantages, especially if you'd like to sit in the green terrace level seats at Family Circle Magazine Stadium during the Family Circle Cup. The Team Getaway Packages were so successful last year that tournament officials are offering them again for the early rounds of the April 11-19 women's tournament.
Teams with six or more people attending can purchase terrace level seating for any Monday-Thursday session, one official tournament program for each member, access to the exclusive Champions Club and one valet parking pass for $30 per person. And the captain gets a free ticket with the purchase of six tickets.
Packages are available by contacting the Family Circle Cup box office (800-677-2293) or visiting the Family Circle clubhouse on weekdays.
-- A professional Tennis Registry certification workshop will be held next Saturday and Sunday at the Players Club, according to Players Club director of tennis Joey Eskridge. Contact PTR (800-421-6289).
-- High school practice is under way in the area for boys tennis. P-G Cyclones coach Higgins put his large, talented group through three practices despite last week's foul weather. Matches will begin late this month.

(01/28/09)  Venus to make it a sister act
Venus Williams isn't going to let younger sister Serena get ahead of her, if she can help it. If Serena is coming to Charleston, you might as well make reservations for Venus. Venus Williams joined Serena in the field for the 37th Family Circle Cup, set for April 11-19 on Daniel Island.

Although Venus keeps a close eye on Serena on the doubles court and both own Family Circle singles titles, Venus can't always keep up with her sister in the world rankings and in winning Grand Slam titles. Venus has "only" seven Grand Slam singles titles and is ranked sixth in the world, while Serena has won nine Slams and is ranked second. Venus was upset in the second round of the Australian Open by Carla Suarez Navarro, but Serena is in the semifinals.

The sisters are almost as big a hit in doubles as singles. They seem to enjoy this time on the court together, possibly even more than their tremendous individual successes. Venus and Serena are still in the running for another Grand Slam doubles title at the Australian Open. They already have seven together as well as a pair of Olympic gold medals in doubles.

Venus, the 2004 Family Circle Cup champion, became the third player to officially join this year's field. In addition to defending champion Serena, Vera Zvonareva also entered the $1 million Daniel Island event. Zvonareva, ranked seventh in the world, has been on fire since losing to Serena in last year's Family Circle final and already has advanced to the Australian Open semifinals, where she'll face 2007 Family Circle runner-up Dinara Safina.

"Venus Williams is one of the most talented players in professional tennis today," Family Circle communications manager Mike Saia said. "She has enjoyed great success at this event and will certainly electrify the crowd in each match she plays. Venus has legions of fans in Charleston who are sure to come out and show their support for her as she vies for another Family Circle Cup championship."

Venus has 39 career singles titles and 516 singles wins to go with her nearly $22 million in earnings. She has spent nine years in the top 10 and has been ranked No. 1 in the world. She won her fifth Wimbledon singles title last summer.

In three appearances in Charleston, Venus has compiled a 10-2 record and earned more than $200,000.

"I always enjoy coming to Charleston because it's such a beautiful city," Venus said. "The Family Circle Cup is a great tournament, and I look forward to competing in this event."

(01/26/09)  CSU seeking next step up
Will this be the year Charleston Southern's women's tennis team moves to the top of the Big South Conference standings?

Fourth-year coach Mike Baker hopes so, even if he has only two starters back from the Big South's third-place team in 2008.

"We've got a good team," Baker said. "We've got four girls who could be No. 1."

Two of them are juniors Andrea Schutte of South Africa and Amanda Swindall of Atlanta, who played Nos. 3 and 6 on last spring's 9-9 team. The other two are talented Serbian freshman Marija Dzakovic and Cal Poly transfer Brooke Pletcher.

Baker got a bit lucky in landing Pletcher, a sophomore. "I used to play juniors with her coach, and he called me and said she was thinking about leaving Cal Poly," Baker said.

Naturally, that was music to Baker's ears. "She's a hard hitter. She had a great fall," Baker said about Pletcher, who played at the bottom of the Cal Poly lineup.

Freshmen Anne Akimien of Boston and Leonie Mandelkow of Germany, along with sophomore Angie Torres of Colombia round out the Bucs' seven-player roster.

"We've got seven players who can play. All seven will contribute at a high level," said Baker, a former Family Circle Tennis Center pro and College of Charleston graduate.

With the Bucs loaded with talented new players, Baker can't wait for the season to start Feb. 7 at home against Campbell.

The Bucs' top two players from last season transferred, while three others graduated, leaving the CSU women in critical need of bringing in new faces. But that's better than last year's men's team fared.

Baker is coaching only one CSU team this season after the school dropped its men's tennis program last year.

C of C loaded with depth

There's always Furman.

The College of Charleston and everyone else almost always seems to be competing for second place in Southern Conference women's tennis. This year is no different.

"Furman is so strong at the top of the lineup it almost gives them a 2-0 advantage at the start," veteran C of C coach Angelo Anastopoulo said.

As an example of what the Cougars are up against, they posted a 23-4 record last spring, but still were looking up at the Paladins in the conference standings.

The Cougars have outstanding depth after losing only No. 1 Chelsea Albertz and No. 6 Amanda Becker from last year's team. The middle four — juniors Laura Borza, Link Leskosky, Holly Dowse and Anna Lee Evans — are so balanced that they could play almost any position.

Freshman Caroline Newman of Greensboro, N.C., played No. 3 in the Cougars' season-opening 7-0 loss to Clemson on Friday, behind Leskosky of Macon, Ga., and Canadian Borza, with North Carolina native Evans No. 4. Dowse, a big-hitting Australian, was held out because of a cut finger, but will challenge Leskosky for the No. 1 position.

Sophomores Kinsey Casey of Alpharetta, Ga., and Keely Mulligan of Miami held down the last two positions for the Cougars against Clemson.

The Cougars will open their home schedule on Friday at 2:30 p.m. against Coastal Carolina, then take on Presbyterian at 9 a.m. Saturday.

"Coastal will be a big test for us," said Anastopoulo, now in his 18th season at C of C. "They were second behind Winthrop in the Big South last year."

(01/26/09)  Dogs have new leaders
Just because All-Southern Conference stars Daniel Dossetor and James Eason have departed doesn't mean The Citadel is ready to revert back to the frustrations of 2007 when the Bulldogs ended the season on an 18-match losing streak. Quite the contrary. Veteran coach Toby Simpson is far from downcast. The Bulldogs might actually improve on last year's 15-10 success.

They have traded in Dossetor and Eason for three new faces and another year of maturity for the rest of the team. Welcome to the world of depth where victories at Nos. 3-6 count just as much toward team success as those at the top positions, maybe even more considering the difficulty of winning consistently in the top two positions in the Southern Conference.

Dossetor and Eason practically carried the Bulldogs for four years after arriving from Australia and New Zealand,

respectively. Dossetor was a four-time All-SoCon selection.

As a duo, Dossetor and Eason gained national recognition in doubles and could be counted on to hold their own, even against big-time non-conference opposition. It should take the newcomers time to achieve such lofty status, but Simpson likes their potential.

Meanwhile, Indonesian sophomore star Yufo Sutantio, junior Alberto Diaz of Ecuador, senior Martin King of Hampton, Va., and junior Frederic Petrilli of Ecuador should provide leadership for the younger Bulldogs at the Nos. 2-5 positions, respectively. Sutantio was an All-SoCon selection last year at No. 2 singles, while Diaz, King and Petrilli held down the last three slots.

Graduate student Michael Kociecki, who was on the Furman team last season, is a prized catch, giving the Bulldogs

instant maturity and added leadership while playing the No. 1 position. Lexington freshmen Derek Dickey and Skip Larkin add to the depth. Larkin is currently the No. 6 player.

"Dossetor and Eason will be hard to replace, but we've got a good mix of younger guys and older guys," Simpson said.

"We're looking pretty good. We're going to fill some holes and hope to be competitive."

Simpson expects perennial power Furman and Elon to be the teams to beat in the conference, with the College of Charleston vastly improved. The Bulldogs finished fourth in the SoCon last season at 5-3.

"Everybody's good. The conference has a lot of parity," Simpson said. "There will be a lot of close matches. I don't think there will be any easy matches for anybody."

The Bulldogs opened their season over the weekend in a 7-0 loss to Clemson. Simpson should have a better idea of what to expect after the Bulldogs begin their home schedule Saturday at 2 p.m. against Presbyterian.

C of C ready to compete

The College of Charleston men just missed having an outstanding season in Jay Bruner's first year as head coach. That is, by seven reversals of 4-3 losses.

Obviously, the Cougars could have been much better than a lowly 8-17 last spring. The 4-3 setbacks included matches against local rivals The Citadel and Charleston Southern.

Prospects appear to be much stronger this year, thanks to three newcomers - freshmen Tom Delme and Mickael Trintignac, and sophomore Lukas Koncilia. When this trio is blended with the solid returning group of senior Omer Abramovich, sophomore Mickael Boyer, and juniors Steven Myers and Joe Nicolazzi, Bruner has a great deal to smile about.

"I'm excited to be coaching such a good group of young men," said Bruner, a former Virginia Tech player. "I think we'll be much better this year. I think our team can be as good as they want to be.

"But last year everybody beat up on us and everybody picked up more (players). Elon (2007 SoCon champion) lost one player at No. 3, and Furman (defending champion) didn't lose any starters. Furman will be tough to beat."

Things appeared real promising for the Cougars in their opener last week when they took the doubles point at 65th-ranked William & Mary by winning the Nos. 1 and 3 positions. W&M recovered, however, to sweep all six singles.

Bruner wasn't terribly disappointed. "We had three people in the lineup who had never played a college tennis match before," he said. "We went up there the second day of school and hadn't had any practice."

He should know more about the Cougars after Big South Conference member Presbyterian visits Patriots Point for a 10:30 a.m. match Saturday during the Cougars' alumni weekend festivities.

Bruner already knows all about No. 1 player Abramovich, an Israeli who was 14-6 at No. 1 singles last season, made All-SoCon in doubles with Myers and started this season by teaming with Koncilia at No. 1 to defeat the 50th-ranked doubles team in the nation. "Omer has a chance in every match. He's one of the most talented players ever at the College," Bruner said.

Koncilia, a talented Austrian who was in school last spring, didn't join the team until the fall. He's currently listed

No. 2 as most of the returnees have taken up residence at new locations in the singles lineup. Boyer, a Frenchman, moved down one notch from No. 2, while Delme, a left-hander from Belgium, and France native Trintignac just joined the team this month in time to play Nos. 4 and 6 in the season opener.

Myers, an Indianapolis product who teamed with Boyer to win at No. 3 doubles against W&M, has moved down two spots to No. 5 singles, while Nicolazzi has dropped out of the singles lineup after playing No. 4 last season, but played No. 2 doubles with Delme against William & Mary.

(01/25/09)  WTA unknowns showing no fear
It's all in the head. These young unknowns suddenly have no fear of the stars of the game.

Justine Henin left a real vacuum at the top of women's tennis when she abruptly retired after entering last year's Family Circle Cup.

Oh, where are you Justine? The tour needs a marshal.

Or even Martina Hingis?

Thank goodness for marshal-wannabe, but slightly undisciplined defending Family Circle Cup champion Serena Williams.

By the time the 37th Family Circle arrives on April 11, its stars may be the likes of 20-year-old Venus Williams-upsetter Carla Suarez Navarro or 19-year-old Ana Ivanovic-frustrator Alisa Kleybanova or 18-year-old can't-miss-star Alize Cornet or even comeback-kid Jelena Dokic. As far as I know, none of these young women have entered this Family Circle. But let's hope all of them enter. Of that group, only Dokic and Cornet have played here.

How well you must remember the 2003 meeting between Dokic and Elena Dementieva in Family Circle Magazine Stadium. Neither of the hard-hitting ground-strokers deserved to lose that day, but the then 19-year-old Dokic survived the round of 16 encounter in a 7-5 third set by out-line-painting Dementieva. Dokic lost in the quarterfinals to Serena. Remember, that's the year Henin rendered Serena only a human in the Family Circle final with a slice-backhand attack that totally frustrated the then unbeatable-looking Serena.

Dokic made her fifth trip to Daniel Island in 2004 before soon going away, lost in the confusion between world travel and family problems. She returned to the center stage of women's tennis only in the last week with a string of upsets in the Australian Open. The 5-9 blonde is one of the purest ball strikers on the tour.

Now 25, Dokic is fully capable of pulling a Jennifer Capriati comeback.

What a good time for Dokic to find herself now that the women's tour is so wide open and looking for another Justine Henin. Dreams of No. 1 really aren't that far-fetched for a player as talented as Dokic.

So far, only Serena and Vera Zvonareva have officially entered this year's Family Circle. But the rush of entries should start any day now since the year's first major ends next weekend and the tour shifts to North America.

Tennis in the snow

Yes, it was a first for me. Being a native South Carolinian, I had never seen snow flakes make contact with a tennis court I was playing on … until our league tennis team practice at Charleston Tennis Center last Tuesday evening.

It snowed for approximately 30 minutes. Large flakes that melted as soon as they hit the court surface. About the only time you noticed the falling flakes was when you looked up during your service motion or while hitting an overhead.

The snow eventually stopped falling, and no one called for a timeout. If it had been on the pro tour, someone would have called for a timeout to check on the injured snowflakes.

--If you're wondering what happened to the men's tennis players at Charleston Southern when that program was disbanded last year, Lexington product Chris Peek transferred as a senior to the University of Indiana to rejoin former CSU coach Randy Bloemendaal, now the head coach of the 44th-ranked team in college tennis. Young Slovenian standout Grega Teraz switched to East Tennessee State, where he's a sophomore.
--The only coaches meeting remaining for the City of Charleston-sponsored Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League will be held today at 3 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. Schools planning to participate in the league that starts March 9 were required to be represented at one of three meetings.
--State chairman of officials Kurt Wassen will hold a noon to 5 p.m. clinic on Feb. 7 at The Citadel for the recertification of officials and for anyone interested in becoming a tennis umpire.  Candidates can go to www.sctennis.com, click on officials, then the link to 2009 training information to register and download the required pre-clinic exams. Contact Wassen at (843) 696-1493 or at the email address listed on the website.

(01/18/09)  Young sees world through tennis
There's no better way to see the world than with a tennis racket in your hand if you're Ryan Young.
Young is the 24-year-old Charleston left-hander who starred in tennis at Clemson through the spring of 2007.

He's not starring yet on the professional tour, but he has earned some living money on the satellite circuit by
winning a pair of doubles titles and making the singles finals in three tournaments.

Young's pro tennis travels have taken him to China, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Canada, Panama and several Central American and Caribbean locations. He was home over the Christmas holidays helping his mother, teaching pro Toni Young, conduct clinics at Maybank Tennis Center. He's currently training and working on his game at the CenterCourt Athletic Club in Chatham, N.J., which is managed by former Clemson player Rich Reyes.

Now ranked 579th in the world in singles, Young plans to head for Texas next month to compete in three $15,000 Futures events. "I'm not sure when I'll go back out (to foreign countries), but I'll meet up with Coach Kriese (former Clemson coach Chuck Kriese) in Thailand in the spring. They have some challengers (tournaments) there," Young said Friday from New York.

Kriese now trains Thai juniors and touring pros while serving as a director for Southeast Asia tennis. Kriese is currently in Australia with several juniors, including the world's top-ranked junior girl, and ATP Tour players from Southeast Asia. Young's former Clemson doubles partner, Nathan Thompson with whom Young won a pair of doubles titles in Asia last year, also is in Australia.  Thompson has climbed to No. 357 in the world in singles.

Tennis helps BGCTA
Tennis has come to the rescue of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Trident Area by raising $17,011 during the
Thanksgiving Turkey Tourney at the Players Club and a silent auction at Family Circle Tennis Center, according to BGCTA vice chairman Robbie Kennemur. That figure is even more impressive when you consider
that after a full schedule on the opening Friday, the Saturday-Sunday sessions of the USTA-sanctioned tournament were rained out. That's why the silent auction was postponed until it could be conducted a week later during the Adult Holiday Tennis Classic at the Family Circle complex, according to Turkey Tourney chair Kit Thrash.

Yet, no one complained about the $50 first-event entry fee for the Turkey Tourney, Thrash said. "The tennis players couldn't have been any more gracious," she said. "The tennis community really stepped up."

--The College of Charleston women and The Citadel men will open their seasons next weekend at Clemson. Coach Angelo Anastopoulo's C of C women are set for a Friday afternoon encounter with Clemson, while coach Toby Simpson's Citadel outfit takes on the Tigers on Saturday.  The C of C men opened their season Wednesday with a 6-1 loss at William & Mary and are idle until Jan. 31 when Presbyterian comes to town to take part in the Cougars' alumni weekend.
--It's a cold weekend, but the first Campus Match Play One Day Showdown for women and girls at the C of C tennis complex at Patriots Point will offer a good opportunity to see some good tennis. The C of C and Charleston Southern women will participate in the event.
--A Jan. 25 session at 3 p.m. is the only coaches meeting left for the City of Charleston-sponsored Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. Two Inauguration Debate Series

(01/14/09)  Serena to defend title

Rest easy, tennis fans. Wars may be raging, banks and economies may be faltering, but Serena Williams' game is well. That is very good news for the 37th Family Circle Cup as it welcomes word from its defending champion that she will return to Daniel Island for the April 11-19 $1 million women's tournament.

Williams will be joined by seventh-ranked Vera Zvonareva, last year's runner-up. Williams, the current U.S. Open champion, is ranked second in the world.

Having made a habit of defying odds in an up-and-down career that has carried her to the threshold of possibly being labeled the greatest player ever, Williams shocked the tennis world two years ago by rising from an 81st world ranking to win the Australian Open. Since then, Serena has been simply, Serena.

She demonstrated her old and newfound greatness again at last year's Family Circle, blitzing the field on her least-favorite surface, clay. She defeated then reigning Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova in a three-set quarterfinal, and eventually ended Zvonareva's string of upsets in the final.

Serena climbed back to No. 1 in the world after winning her ninth Grand Slam title at last year's U.S. Open. She's currently playing in Sydney in the preliminary event to the Australian Open, which starts next week. Williams defeated Sara Errani of Italy, 6-1, 6-2, in Tuesday's second round.

"I'm very happy to return to Charleston," Williams said about her sixth appearance in Charleston. "I love the atmosphere at this event and I look forward to the chance to defend my title in April."

Williams, now 27, has won 32 singles titles and has nearly $22 million in career earnings. She teamed with sister Venus to win the Olympic gold medal for doubles last year, repeating their 2000 success.

"We're thrilled to have both our defending champion and finalist return to lead our player field at this year's Family Circle Cup. These world-class athletes really captivated the crowd in last year's three-set final, and I know our fans will be thrilled to see them return to Charleston," tournament manager Eleanor Adams said. "Serena is one of the most electrifying female athletes in sports today, as well as an overwhelming fan favorite at this event."

Although just 24, Zvonareva will be making her seventh straight trip to Charleston, where she owns a 15-6 record. "I've had a lot of success at the Family Circle Cup and I'm excited to start my clay-court season at this tournament," said Zvonareva, who was a Family Circle semifinalist in 2007 and a quarterfinalist in 2003 and 2004.

Zvonareva won two titles last year and reached a WTA Tour-best eight singles finals while finishing the year in the top 10 for the first time in her nine-year pro career. She tied current world top-ranked and 2007 Family Circle champion Jelena Jankovic for the most match wins on the tour in 2008 with 65. Zvonareva defeated Jankovic en route to last year's final here.

Tickets go on sale

Individual session tickets for the Family Circle Cup will go on sale to the public through Ticketmaster today at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available 24 hours a day online by visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets also can be ordered through Ticketmaster charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000, or at any local Publix location offering Ticketmaster services.

(01/11/09)  Cougar women bracing for 'Showdown'

College of Charleston women's coaches are calling it the Women's Campus Match Play One Day Showdown. What?

Although the event sounds like something straight from the playground, coach Angelo Anastopoulo is anxiously awaiting next Sunday's tournament at the Cougars' Patriots Point tennis complex. The entire C of C team is scheduled to participate.

Anastopoulo and assistant coach/event director Greg Harkins should know much more about their team after the Showdown. So should Charleston Southern coach Mike Baker, who has entered his entire team. The Showdown also is open to juniors, adults, and even pros, current and former college players.

The Cougars lost their top player, Chelsea Albertz, and No. 6 Amanda Becker from last year's 23-4 team. The middle four returnees are so evenly balanced that Anastopoulo said, "There's no telling what our lineup will look like."

Juniors Laura Borza, Link Leskosky, Holly Dowse and Anna Lee Evans should give the Cougars a strong nucleus after playing the Nos. 2-5 positions last spring. Evans, for instance, went unbeaten in the Southern Conference at No. 5.

"It's wide open for No. 1," Anastopoulo said. "Anyone in the top seven or eight can beat anyone else.

"We don't have a dominant No. 1 player. Depth will be our strength."

Freshman Caroline Newman of Greensboro, N.C., should challenge for one of the top six positions. Freshman Amanda Schwarz of Hilton Head Island and sophomore Nina Burgoon of Gastonia, N.C., also could make some noise when the Cougars begin practice Monday. Burgoon missed all of last season with an injury.

The Cougars will need to be strong, because Anastopoulo wasn't easy on them in the scheduling department. "The schedule is probably the most difficult I've assembled," said the 18th-year coach. "Seven teams on our schedule made the NCAAs last season." That's including Clemson, which the Cougars will visit in their season opener on Jan. 23.

The Cougars' home schedule will include matches against Minnesota and Wake Forest.

Samford had been the dominant team in the Missouri Valley Conference for several seasons, and now as a SoCon member features highly touted freshman Jessica Diamond from Wando High.

The format for next Sunday's Showdown calls for matches to be one set each, with a tiebreaker played at 5-5. Players can play three singles matches and two doubles during the round-robin competition.

According to Harkins, officials aren't needed, holding down entry fees ($10 for singles and $5 for doubles, or $15 for both). "Campus Match Play Code of Conduct is used. If your opponent questions your call, you change your call and award your opponent the point. You cannot question your opponent's call unless you would bet your life that your opponent made a mistake," Harkins said.

For information or to register for the Showdown, contact Harkins (425-1626 or harkinsg@cofc.edu).

League tennis deadline

Monday is a big day for local league tennis. It's the deadline for forming a league team for the USTA official spring season. The criteria for making a team official is to have the minimum number of players registered that's needed to fill all positions for a match. That number depends on whether the team is an adult league team (eight players), senior league (six), adult 2.5 (five) or adult 5.0 (five).

The league tennis captains meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

(01/04/09)  'Star time' coming for FCC
Who will be first? Justine Henin is soaking up her early Bjorn Borg-like retirement and is unavailable this time.

But over the next few weeks, the star power of the 37th Family Circle Cup probably will be unveiled. There are only three possible names that would cause heads to turn — Venus and Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova. Landing even two of those would practically guarantee success for the ninth local version of the Family Circle Cup.

A year ago, two-time Charleston champ Henin and defending champ Jelena Jankovic officially entered the Family Circle on the first Monday of the year, followed by Venus and Serena a week later. That doesn't mean we should look for Serena and possibly Venus in the next few days, even if Serena is the defending champion.

The WTA Tour is in transition to its long-awaited Roadmap 2009, which may push things back a few days. But that's about all. The 2009 WTA calendar officially kicks off today in Brisbane, Australia. The start of the Grand Slam season is only two weeks away.

After taking a break for the holiday season, the Family Circle machinery will crank up this coming week since it's only 96 days before the April 11 start of the million-dollar tournament on Daniel Island. Some of the more immediate decisions to make are dealing with things such as stadium banners.

Which three former Family Circle champions will be given the marquee treatment of having huge 47-foot wide by 40-foot high banners of them hung from the Family Circle Magazine Stadium rafters? One is for sure. Serena Williams' will be the first to go up, probably in a couple of weeks. The banners cost $3,500 each, according to Family Circle communications chief Mike Saia.

The popular Jankovic probably also will be selected for banner treatment, leaving one position open on the three sides of the stadium used for banners. Henin, Venus Williams and Nadia Patrova apparently are the possibilities for that spot. But 2006 champion Petrova may not participate in this Family Circle. She was hospitalized last month with viral meningitis.

C of C event

College of Charleston assistant tennis coach Greg Harkins has announced that the first Campus Match Play One Day Showdown for women and girls is scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Cougars' complex at Patriots Point. The unsanctioned tournament is open to juniors, college players, pros and adults.

Round-robin draws will be used. Entry fees will be only $10 for singles and $5 for doubles, or $15 for both. For information or to register, contact Harkins (843) 425-1626 or harkinsg@cofc.edu.

Notes of interest
--Schools planning to participate in the City of Charleston-sponsored Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League that starts March 9 are required to be represented at one of three coaches meetings (Jan. 12 at 5 p.m., Jan. 16 at 4 p.m. or Jan. 25 at 3 p.m.) at Charleston Tennis Center on Farmfield Avenue. Contact city tennis director Peggy Bohne (843) 766-7401.
--Ticket packages, business hospitality options and sponsorship opportunities for the Family Circle Cup are available by contacting the Family Circle Cup (843) 856-7900 or www.familycirclecup.com.
--The deadline for forming a league tennis team for the spring is just over a week away, midnight on Jan. 12. The league tennis captains meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.