2010

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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(12/26/10)  Wild-card tournament loss doesn't deck Rogers
Shelby Rogers was on a high four months ago. She had just won the national junior girls championship and was named national junior girls player of the year. A spot in the U.S. Open main draw was a perk of the success.

She nearly upset former 31st-ranked Shuai Peng in the first round of the U.S. Open. The Daniel Island 18-year-old was two points away.

Those results attracted the attention of the USTA. Rogers was invited to a 10-day fitness camp in San Luis Potoso, Mexico, which was run by fitness guru Pat Etcheberry. The USTA also awarded Rogers a berth in the eight-player Australian Open wild-card tournament last weekend in Atlanta.

It's been a great run, even if she did suffer a 6-3, 6-2 loss to 18-year-old Beatrice Capra in the opening round of the wild-card tournament.

"Atlanta was a good experience," Rogers said. "It was the first match back after a couple of months off."

Rogers admitted that she was excited early against the consistent Capra, and committed a few too many errors.

"Capra played well, and Shelby played great but didn't string together enough points," said Bryan Minton, her longtime coach. "Capra was like a backboard."

Capra came up with an early service break, but Rogers broke back only to drop service in the sixth game to allow Capra to take a 4-2 lead.

The second set was similar. "She broke me in the first game and then held service," Rogers said. "My serve wasn't working."

At the end of the first day, Rogers participated in a World Team Tennis exhibition. Her team, captained by Patrick McEnroe, defeated a team directed by Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez.

"I played three games against Melanie (Oudin) and played doubles and mixed doubles," Rogers said.

Capra lost in the second round to defending champion Coco Vandeweghe. Lauren Davis, a power-hitting 5-3, 17-year-old from Ohio who was runner-up in the Mount Pleasant satellite tournament at the Players Club in June, continued her hot play by blitzing Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-2, in the final to earn a wild-card berth in next month's Australian Open.

Ryan Harrison repeated as the wild card men's champion.

Davis has now won 27 consecutive matches and 36 of her last 37 matches.

Fernandez likes the current group of young players that includes Rogers.

"We've been spoiled in this country. We've always had a superstar on the women's side," Fernandez said. "There is a big gap between the Williams sisters and the next group of players. But there is a good group here that should be able to make that push into the top 100. We have six or seven now (in the top 100) but we should be able to have 12 or 15 in the coming years."

Rogers, now ranked No. 340, is scheduled to play a pair of $25,000 challenger events in Florida in January.

Minton has his fingers crossed that the Family Circle Cup will take note of Rogers' success and maybe toss the local girl a spot in the Family Circle Cup's main draw.

"We're at Family Circle Tennis Center now ... I hope they'll look favorably on her," Minton said.

League update

--The Lowcountry Tennis Association is just a few weeks away from the start of another "official" spring season. The team registration deadline for the adult and senior leagues is Jan. 10. Adult teams must have a minimum number of eight players, while senior teams need six players in order to beat the deadline. The season is expected to start two or three weeks later.

--The LCTA also is looking ahead to the mixed doubles season, with the registration period for adult and senior mixed teams set for March 6 through April 12.

--The LCTA's annual captain's meeting is scheduled Jan. 19 at the Charleston County Library at 68 Calhoun St.

Local notes

--The Family Circle Cup is accepting applications for 200 adult and junior ball crew members for the WTA Tour tournament that will be played on Daniel Island from April 2-10. An informational meeting will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, at Family Circle Tennis Center. Weekly ball crew training sessions will be held 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturdays from Jan. 22 through March 26. Applications and information are available at www.familycirclecup.com or by contacting Dan Tumbleston (843) 367-0279 or familycirclecup.ballcrew@gmail.com.

--Beginning Jan. 1, the rankings for 10-and-under and 8-and-under will be for matches played on the smaller QuickStart courts, 60 feet for 10-and-under and 36 feet for 8-and-under.

--The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League will hold its mandatory coach's meetings on Jan. 10 at 5 p.m., Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. and Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. All meetings will be held at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) at 19 Farmfield Ave. in West Ashley. Teams entering the league are required to have a representative at one of the three meetings. The league will kick off March 7 and run until May 13.

--The early-December Holiday Tennis Classic at Family Circle Tennis Center raised more than $4,000 for MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center. The 150 players who participated in the tournament also were requested to donate gifts for adult cancer patients.


(12/12/10) Family Circle Cup countdown begins
Playing tennis when the thermometer is hovering in the 20s is still fun, though just not quite as comfortable as watching TV in front of a fire in the fireplace.

But believe it or not, league tennis will be heating up again in just a few weeks. It's about time to start the Family Circle Cup countdown, too.

The April 2-10 Family Circle Cup is still more than a 100 days away, but the Daniel Island tournament already has started its individual session ticket campaign. With Christmas less than two weeks away, it's still not too late to purchase Family Circle tickets to put under the Christmas tree.

The 39th edition of the WTA Tour headline event is shaping up to be a good one, with two fan favorites already entered. Samantha Stosur hit it off with local tennis fans while winning last year's Family Circle, thanks to her thunderous serve. And smallish 19-yearold American Melanie Oudin already is a favorite on Daniel Island.

Individual tickets are available online 24 hours a day at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets also can be ordered from Ticketmaster by phone (800-745-3000) or at any local Publix location offering Ticketmaster services.

Some of the available ticket options are terrace level seats, grandstand seats and grounds passes.

Rogers begins quest
Daniel Island 18-year-old Shelby Rogers, fresh from a USTA-sponsored 10-day fitness camp in Mexico, is getting ready to head to Atlanta to compete for a wild-card berth into January's Australian Open.

The Australian Open Wild-Card Playoffs will be held Friday through next Sunday indoors at Atlanta's Racquet Club of the South. The USTA selected eight each of the best young American men and women, with the two winners receiving automatic berths into the main draw of the Grand Slam tournament Down Under.

Rogers' competition for the women's wild card will include defending wild-card winner Coco Vandeweghe, along with Beatrice Capra, Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi, Jamie Hampton, Madison Keys and Christina McHale. Ryan Harrison will return to defend his men's title.

The women's quarterfinals begin at 11 a.m. Friday, with the four winners advancing to Saturday's 1 p.m. semi- finals. The women's final is set for 1 p.m. next Sunday. 

LCTA women advance
The Lowcountry Tennis Association’s super seniors women's 4.5 team is headed for the nationals after blitzing the field at the recent Southern Section Championships at Hilton Head Island. Competing against 10 other teams from the South, the local group captained by Ann Munday won 13 of 15 doubles matches.  The team is made up of Munday, Cindy Babb, Sarah Hyatt, Maureen O'Berg, Susie Peiffer, Barb Pinkerton, Carrie Randall and Kitsy Wise. They defeated Hilton Head

Island in the final.
It's now off to Surprise, Ariz., to compete in the national championships.
A 4.0 super seniors 70 women's team from the LCTA barely missed the trip to Arizona by finishing as runner-up in its competition.

Average bump-up year?
The recently released year-end NTRP ratings appear to be kinder to players in the LCTA than a year ago when nearly 30 percent of all local players were bounced up. Some players who were bumped up a year ago have even been bumped down this time.

"The ratings are back in line. It was a fairly average year (for bump-ups)," LCTA president Ken Edwards said Saturday while attending the annual state USTA meetings and awards weekend at Myrtle Beach.

However, some teams were hit hard this time, such as the state runner-up 3.5 men's adult league team out of Charleston Tennis Center that had 10 players (including five computer-rated 3.5 players) bumped up to 4.0, which appears to easily be the highest number of players bumped up from any one adult league team in the entire LCTA. I captained that Farmfield team and got bumped up to 4.0 with the majority of the team. By comparison, only two players from the women's 4.0 state championship team out of the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department were bounced up.

Local notes:
--The LCTA got off to an unusually early start for the spring season. It's not even winter yet, except on the thermometer, but teams have been forming for more than a week for the official spring season. Some of the fall leagues, men's 4.0 for instance, are still playing matches.

--Talk about an early start, the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League isn't wasting any time either. The league will hold its mandatory coach's meetings on Jan. 10 at 5 p.m., Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. and Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. All meetings will be held at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) at 19 Farmfield Ave. in West Ashley. Teams entering the league are required to have a representative at one of the three meetings. The league will kick off March 7 and run until May 13.


(11/28/10)  Kirkland big part of three-peat
Senior garners All-Lowcountry honor after helping Ashley Hall claim third straight SCISA title

JAMES BECK Special to The Post and Courier 

Patricia Kirkland has had a fabulous high school tennis career. She helped Ashley Hall win three state titles - and nearly a fourth - while helping turn the Panthers into SCISA's top tennis program.

Yet, veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley can only wonder what might have been if Kirkland had arrived on the Ashley Hall campus two years earlier.

"Patricia has been a great addition for us," Gastley said about the All-Lowcountry girls tennis player of the year.

A petite senior, Kirkland calls her Ashley Hall experience "a great four years. It's been as much as I could have expected. Three state titles and one runner-up ... a couple of points from a fourth."

Gastley, in her 24th year at the Ashley Hall helm, guided the Panthers to a rebound from two regular season losses to Porter-Gaud (one by a 5-1 verdict) to a third consecutive SCISA Class AAA state title, and in the process, earned

Lowcountry coach of the year laurels.

Kirkland is joined on this year's All-Lowcountry team by Ashley Hall sophomore Narni Summerall, Porter-Gaud junior Mi'Kola Cooper, Porter-Gaud sophomore Annie Hay, Wando senior Clair Larkin and Colleton Prep junior Sarah

McDonald. Kirkland is a three-time All-Lowcountry selection.

Since arriving at the Charleston private girls school from James Island High School as a freshman, Kirkland hasn't experienced losing very often. She thinks one reason for her success is that she doesn't let her size hold her back. "I think I'm a good fighter. I work hard in practice."

Kirkland still remembers her loss at No. 1 doubles in a match tiebreaker against Heathwood Hall in the 2007 state final that prevented the Panthers from winning another state title. It's been nothing but state championships since, and Kirkland has played a major role in all of them.

This fall was particularly satisfying to Kirkland and Gastley. Kirkland snapped a three-match losing streak to Porter-Gaud's Cooper by winning their final two confrontations this season, the last victory coming in the state final.

Kirkland now must decide on a future with or without tennis. She plans to take the pre-med college path.

"I'm trying to find the right balance between tennis and pre-med," she said. "I'm still looking around, but I will wait until the spring to make a decision."

She plans to play junior tennis until the end of the current school year before turning her focus to college.

Kirkland got her start in tennis in pro Toni Young's "tiny tots" kids program at Maybank Tennis Center.

"My dad signed me up when I was 5 as a daycare extracurricular program," she said. "I really liked it and I got into tennis. I started doing tennis camps with Toni after that."

Kirkland has trained under some of the area's top pros, including St. Andrew's Brian Burke, JoAnn Lee at MUSC, current Anderson University head coach Jerry Eskridge, when he was at the I'On club, and now with Or Dekel at Creekside Tennis and Swim.

"All of the different coaches over the years added something to my game. They helped me a lot," she said.

And, of course, she credits Gastley for playing a major role in the development of her complete tennis game, one that features doubles skills and

immense tennis savvy.

"Coach Gastley's definitely been one of the most influential persons in my tennis and one of my best friends."

ALL-LOWCOUNTRY SECOND TEAM
Melanie Allen Wando Eighth grade
Alex Klein Wando Junior
Margaret Legerton Ashley Hall Junior
Catherine Martin Wando Sophomore
Deni Skantarova Porter-Gaud Junior
Carissa Steichen Porter-Gaud Junior

HONORABLE MENTION
BISHOP ENGLAND: Olivia Arruda, Liza Arruda, Emma Schaafsma, Caroline Yodice, Hannah Simpson, Kelly McManus, Charlie Gaffney.
PINEWOOD PREP: Mollie Polk, Shauna Fletcher, Mary Hunter Brown, Mathilde Demey, Hayleigh Dodge, Maddie Kratzert.
PALMETTO CHRISTIAN: Chandler Caulder, Corey Caulder, Grace King, Ashton Harris, Haley Foster, Katie Quinn.
ASHLEY HALL: Rossi Anastopoulo, Courtney Geiss, Sallie Chamberlain, Morgan Schweers, Charlotte Swanson.
WANDO: Caroline Hairfield, Kayla Heller, Courtney Lopresti, Samantha Shuster.
SUMMERVILLE: Caroline Green, Jessie Wiseman, Elliott Thomas.
COLLETON PREP: Brittan Carter, Tabor Copeland, Caitlin Crosby.
JAMES ISLAND: Thealyn Dinkins, Maelee Dinkins, Ally Decker.
ACADEMIC MAGNET: Sarah Helms, Celia Spell.
PORTER-GAUD: Carlyle Williams, Danielle Fishman.
ASHLEY RIDGE: Ali Herrera, Shannon Moses.
STRATFORD: Megan Rogers, Kristin Duchaine.
BERKELEY: Kristin Farmer. CHARLESTON COLLEGIATE: Sierra Whaley.


(11/28/10)  Rogers drives for next Slam
Shelby Rogers' new year could start off with a bang, as in Down Under, if she can put together a few good matches in Atlanta during the weekend before Christmas. The USTA invited the Daniel Island 18-year-old to Atlanta's Racquet Club of the South to compete against seven other players for a wild card into the 2011 Australian Open.

Winning the wild card isn't too farfetched after what she accomplished earlier this year in capturing the national junior hard courts and nearly pulling off an upset in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Rogers is starting to reap some of the perks from being regarded as one of America's top young tennis talents. She was invited to be a hitting partner for the U.S. team at the recent Fed Cup finals in San Diego against Italy, but turned down the last-minute opportunity due to a conflict.

Rogers also is scheduled to arrive back in Charleston tonight after accepting an invitation from the USTA to participate in a 10-day USTA conditioning camp at the Olympic training center in San Luis Potoso, Mexico.

The camp was compliments of the USTA, but she had to provide her own plane ticket, according to her coach, Bryan Minton of Family Circle Tennis Center. Soon-to-be 19- year-old Coco Vandeweghe of the recent Fed Cup competition, 18-year-old Beatrice Capra, 20-year-old Jamie Hampton and 21-year-old Lauren Albanese also took part in the Mexican fitness camp.

Barth reappointed
Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth was reappointed to a new two-year term as chairman of the USTA's Davis Cup committee by incoming USTA president Jonathan Vegosen, who is succeeding Greenville's Lucy Garvin as the head of organized tennis in the United States. Barth also will co-chair the combined Davis Cup/Fed Cup/Olympic committee with Fed Cup chair Pam Austin and Olympic chair Barbara Smith.

Barth previously has served as Davis Cup chairman for two years and as vice-chairman for four years.
The big NTRP day
The biggest day of the year is looming for U.S. league tennis players. "Bump-up day" is when TennisLink relieves players' fears of being bumped up to a higher NTRP level, or turns those fears into possible nightmares. Monday is that day, according to the USTA's TennisLink website.

A year ago, it seems like almost everyone got bumped up. This time, players don't seem to have a clue. It's all left up to the USTA's computer. Good luck.

Local notes
--Pine Forest's Ladies Tennis Association raised $19,000 during its sixth annual Racquets for Recovery "Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer" benefit doubles tournament at Pine Forest Country Club. Part of the funds were raised by a silent auction and the women's Flocking for Funds campaign. All $19,000 was donated to the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. The event has raised $124,000 for the recovery of local breast cancer patients the last six years. "Five players in our association are recovering from breast cancer and they all continue to play tennis," LTA member Shirley L. Hunter said. "That's why we do this."
--Retiring Wando girls coach Becky Williamson had her swan song to high school tennis last week at Surfside Beach, as her South team lost in the North-South Senior tournament. Williamson was the South's head coach. Wando seniors Clair Larkin and Kayla Heller participated.
--Sophomore Ansley Speaks, who led Mauldin past Wando in this fall's Class AAAA girls state final, won the Class AAAA-AAA state singles title two weekends ago at Lexington. Tolley Rice of Class AA state champion Waccamaw won the AA-A state singles tournament.
--Alex Martin made her commitment to the University of Texas official two weekends ago by traveling to Austin with her family to sign with the Longhorns.


(11/14/10)  Cougs' Anastopoulo a hit in recruiting

Angelo Anastopoulo appears to have hit the jackpot as the College of Charleston's women's tennis coach. Two straight Southern Conference titles speak for themselves.

And, believe it or not, Furman still plays in the Southern Conference.

In his 20th year as the school's women's coach, Anastopoulo not only has a strong team back for the spring of 2011, he's outdone himself by recruiting an all-star cast of players for future teams.

Samantha Maddox of Lexington, Ky., Jenny Falcone of Davidson, N.C., and Grace Baker of Charlotte appear to be among his best catches as the Cougars' coach. Maddox is the No. 1 girl in Kentucky. All three players -- Maddox, Falcone and Baker -- have won state high school singles titles, and all three own national top 100 rankings.

The Cougars have made three NCAA appearances under Anastopoulo, who doubled as men's and women's coach his first 10 seasons. He has put together four straight 20-win seasons, including SoCon tournament final victories over Furman each of the last two seasons.

Combos win 8 titles
Charleston teams fared well during the recent combo state championships as eight local teams captured state titles. The state winners were the 5.0 adult women from Charleston Tennis Center (captain Ashley Flowers), the 5.5 adult men from Charleston Tennis Center (captain Stan Flowers), the 7.5 adult women from Maybank Tennis Center (captain Genessa Donohue), the 9.5 adult women from LTP Tennis (captain Ann Harrah), the 6.5 senior women from Snee Farm (captain Penny Kiggans), the 7.5 senior men from Pine Forest (captain Jeff Kleiber), the 8.5 senior women from Maybank Tennis Center (captain Alida Barnwell) and the 7.5 super senior women from Family Circle Tennis Center (captain Judith Fillinger) took titles. In super senior league competition, the 3.5 men's 70 from Snee Farm (captain Robert Roehl), the 4.0 women's 60 from Kiawah Island (captain Sophia McAllister) and the 4.5 women's 60 from several local clubs (captain Ann Munday) won state titles.

FCTC Holiday Classic
Family Circle Tennis Center has announced that it will hold its third annual Holiday Tennis Classic Dec. 3-5. The tournament will feature 2.5-4.5 women's doubles, 3.0-4.5 men's doubles, 6.0-9.0 mixed doubles. 

Registration is available through Nov. 30 at tennislink.usta.com by clicking Adult Tournaments, then using the tournament ID number (704126710).  Proceeds and items donated by tournament participants will benefit adult cancer patients at MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center.

The Daniel Island Holiday Festival also will take place at the tournament site from noon- 5 p.m. on Dec. 4-5. Contact the Family Circle pro shop (849-5300) or go to www.familycirclecup.com.

Local notes
Mike Saia, who runs a first-rate media center for the Family Circle Cup, was selected as the media excellence award recipient for the USTA Southern Section.
--The entry deadline for entering next weekend's Snee Farm Country Club Grand Prix Doubles Extravaganza is Wednesday. Contact Snee Farm's tennis clubhouse (884-3252).   Register at sneefarmtennis.com.
--Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Turkey Day mixed doubles tournament next Sunday at 2 p.m. Registration is available at the Farmfield Avenue complex or by calling 766-7401. The entry deadline is Thursday.
--Next Sunday is the deadline for entering the Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Tennis Classic at Charleston Tennis Center. The tournament will be held Nov. 26-28 for boys and girls 10-and-under through 18-and-under singles and doubles. Registration is available at tennislink.usta.com by clicking Junior Tournaments, then using the tournament ID number (704139010).
--Applications for Best Tennis Town grants are available on the Lowcountry Tennis Association Web-site at www.lctatennis.org. The grants are intended for directors of facilities, schools or programs that can benefit from the grants, which will not be awarded to individual players.
--League tennis players are anxiously awaiting Nov. 29 when the new year-end NTRP ratings are tentatively scheduled to be posted.
--SCHSL state tournament play closed out last weekend. Waccamaw, which ended Bishop England's season, won the Class AA title by defeating perennial runner-up Emerald of Greenwood, 5-1, in the title match, while Christ Church of Greenville took the Class A title again with a 7-0 win over Green Sea-Floyds. Hilton Head shut out Greenville, 6-0, in the Class AAA final. And, of course, Mauldin snapped Wando's string of six straight Class AAAA titles, 5-1.
--The SCHSL singles tournament was played this weekend at Lexington. The North-South seniors will be played next weekend at Litchfield Beach.


(11/07/10)  Super Saturday:  Mauldin puts an end to Wando's title run

The Wando girls tennis team's second major streak came to an end Saturday in Sumter at the Class AAAA state championship tennis match as Becky Williamson bowed out as the Warriors' coach in a 5-1 loss to Mauldin. In the process of reversing the outcome after three straight losses in state finals to the Warriors (23-5), Mauldin snapped Wando's streak of six straight state titles. Earlier in the season, SCISA power Ashley Hall ended the Warriors' 107-dual match winning streak.

Williamson said goodbye after coaching the Warriors for 12 seasons. The lone significant streak still remaining for the Warriors is 11 consecutive

region titles.

This title match was decided by tiebreakers. The Warriors sustained losses in three third-set match tiebreakers after winning the first set in each match.

"Our girls fought hard. They wanted to win, and it could have gone either way," Williamson said. "Mauldin played well, but we easily could have won."

All but No. 1 singles where Mauldin sophomore standout Ansley Speaks routed Wando senior Clair Larkin, 6-1, 6-0, ended in tiebreakers - four third-set match tiebreakers and one for the second set. It was that close.

Wando won only one of the five decisive tiebreakers, and that came after Mauldin (21-0) had taken a 4-0 lead to wrap up the state championship. That was more individual match wins than the Mavericks had earned in their three previous finals against Wando combined.

The Warriors won only at No. 4 singles where junior Alex Klein posted a 1-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory over Mauldin's Sydney Patton as Klein completed a once-beaten personal season.

After Speaks' win staked Mauldin to a 1-0 lead, junior Caroline Hairfield (No. 5) and sophomore Catherine Martin (No. 2) won their opening sets before suffering losses in match tiebreakers to put the Warriors' long streak in jeopardy. Mauldin sophomore Lexie Stewart then defeated eighth-grader Melanie Allen, 6-3, 7-6 (8), at No. 3 to officially end the Wando streak.

Even Wando's previously unbeaten No. 2 doubles pair of junior Courtney Lopresti and senior Kayla Heller saw its 14-match winning streak end after the team match had been decided. Of course, that loss also came in a match tiebreaker after Wando had taken the first set.

"I knew Clair's match was going to be tough. Speaks is real good," Williamson said after seeing Speaks win at No. 1 in the third straight state title match.

"I was surprised that our doubles lost, but I knew Mauldin had a good No. 2 doubles team. I also thought Melanie and Caroline would win. But everybody played well. There were a lot of long rallies."

Singles: Ansley Speaks (M) def. Clair Larkin, 6-1, 6-0; Haley Elliott (M) def. Catherine Martin, 4-6, 7-5, 10-4; Lexie Stewart (M) def. Melanie Allen, 6-3, 7-6 (8); Alex Klein (W) def. Sydney Patton, 1-6, 6-3, 10-8; Molly Walsh (M) def. Caroline Hairfield, 1-6, 6-3, 10-3.

Doubles: Haley Behal/Alex Patton (M) def. Courtney Lopresti/Kayla Heller, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 10-5.


(11/06/10)  Wando moves within win of 7th straight tennis title

Wando's girls (23-4) moved within one win of a seventh straight Class AAAA state tennis title Friday with a convincing 5-1 victory over Lexington (14-4) at the Warriors' home courts in Mount Pleasant.

The Lower State championship victory set the stage for Becky Williamson's final match as Wando's coach today at 10 a.m. at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center against a Mauldin team determined to stop its string of three consecutive losses to the Warriors in state finals.

"It's going to be real tough. (Mauldin is) gunning for us," said Williamson, who is retiring after 12 years as Wando's coach.  "This will be my last match ever. I would like to go out a winner. If everybody plays like they should, we can win. I'm hoping the fact we have beaten them the last three years will help us."

Eighth-grader Melanie Allen shut out Lexington's Rachel Lovaas at No. 3 singles to get the Warriors started.

"Melanie did her job like she always does," Williamson said.

The unbeaten No. 2 doubles team of junior Courtney Lopresti and senior Kayla Heller followed Allen's lead by yielding only one game to push their record to 14-0.

Junior Caroline Hairfield, the only Wando starter who hasn't played in a state final, cruised in straight sets at No. 3 to set the stage for sophomore Catherine Martin to clinch the victory at No. 2 singles by outlasting Lexington's Erin Green, 6-3, 2-6, 10-4.

"It was a close match. Lexington fought hard," Williamson said.

Junior Alex Klein also won at No. 4 singles for the Warriors, while senior Clair Larkin suffered a three-set loss to Lexington's Morgan Patterson in the top spot.  Larkin will be paired against outstanding Mauldin sophomore Ansley Speaks today as the Wando No. 1 has the advantage of having defeated Speaks this summer in junior competition. Speaks has won at No. 1 singles the last two years against Wando.

One of the toughest things the Warriors face today may be having to leave the school at 7 a.m. to make the trip to Sumter.

WANDO 5, LEXINGTON 1

SINGLES: Morgan Patterson (L) def. Clair Larkin, 6-2, 1-6, 10-7; Catherine Martin (W) def. Erin Green, 6-3, 2-6, 10-4; Melanie Allen (W) def. Rachel Lovaas, 6-0, 6-0; Alex Klein (W) def. Katie Thompson, 6-3, 7-5; Caroline Hairfield (W) def. Lauren Howard, 6-1, 6-3.

DOUBLES: Courtney Lopresti/Kayla Heller (W) def. Katie Lucas/Amy Lance, 6-1, 6-3.


(11/05/10)  Wando girls tennis thrives with Martin - AAAA champ faces Lexington in semis today
Catherine Martin has big aspirations. That's to be expected in the Martin family. Her older sister, Alex, already is bound for the University of Texas on a tennis scholarship.

Right now, Catherine is just trying to help Wando coach Becky Williamson go into retirement as a winner ... of seven straight Class AAAA state girls tennis titles.

But two years from now, Martin expects to have the same type of future as her sister, who incidently didn't play high school tennis.

'My goal is to go to a D-I college (Division I) on full scholarship,' insisted Catherine, a sophomore. 'It's really exciting to see Alex going to play for the Longhorns. My inspiration is just to follow in her footsteps.'

Back to the present, the state playoffs reign supreme for Martin. Wando (22-4) is down to the 'final four' teams in Class AAAA. The Warriors' state semifinal against Lexington (14-3) was rained out on Thursday, and the match has been rescheduled for 4:15 p.m. today at the Wando courts.

Perennial power Mauldin rolled over J.L. Mann, 7-0, Thursday in the other state semifinal and will face the Wando/Lexington winner in Saturday's 10 a.m. state final in Sumter.

The Warriors defeated Lexington, 4-2, in a preseason tournament without No. 2 doubles specialist Kayla Heller and No. 5 singles player Caroline Hairfield. While Wando posted a 5-1 win over West Florence in the state quarterfinals, Lexington won by the same score against Beaufort.

'I think it's pretty important to win the state and maintain that record,' Martin said. 'I think we'll do fine this year in the next two rounds. But Mauldin is good, and Lexington is good also.'

The 5-7, 15-year-old standout remembers the Warriors' 4-2 win over Mauldin in last year's state final, Wando's third consecutive win over Mauldin in the state final. It was an exciting time as a high school tennis player that Martin wants to repeat.

Although the Warriors lost Corin Hallman and Alexis Prickett from the 2009 state champions when Martin was a mere freshman, Martin has made a smooth transition from No. 4 to the tough second position. She has displayed an improved game playing behind senior Clair Larkin, and should be a strong contender for the No. 1 slot next season.

A strong hitter in the tradition of her sister, Martin has put together a 15-6 record this season. Four of Martin's losses came against Narni Summerall of SCISA state champion Ashley Hall. Martin's main weapon is her forehand, although she also wins a lot of free points with a big serve.

She started playing tennis at age nine. 'I picked up tennis from my sister (Alex),' she said, pointing out that her parents aren't tennis players. Both Martin sisters currently train under Martin Zumpft at Wild Dunes.

While Alex participated in online schooling throughout high school, Catherine decided to attend Wando and play high school tennis after going to school online as an eighth-grader.

If Wando defeats Lexington, it will set up a fourth straight state final between the Warriors and Mauldin.


(10/31/10)  Wando may face toughest challenge
It's official. Win or lose in the Wando girls' bid for a seventh straight Class AAAA state championship, Becky Williamson is retiring after this season. "Yes, this is my last year. I've enjoyed working with the girls for 12 years," said Williamson, who has retired from the school system but still coaches the tennis team.

The state playoffs may be Wando's toughest challenge in its string of championships. The Warriors (21-4) are missing the Nos. 1 and 2

players from a year ago.

Senior Clair Larkin has moved up from No. 3 to become a solid No. 1 player capable of beating most opponents, except maybe the likes of Ashley Hall's Patricia Kirkland and Porter-Gaud's Mi'Kola Cooper.

The toughest opponent Larkin might play in the SCHSL playoffs may be Mauldin sophomore Ansley Speaks - that is, if Wando and Mauldin meet Saturday at Sumter in their fourth straight state final. Speaks has won at No. 1 singles against Wando in the last two state finals, but has lost to Larkin in junior competition.

Of Larkin's five losses this season, three were to Kirkland and one to Cooper. "Clair is playing a lot better than earlier in the season, and wants to graduate being a winner," Williamson said.

Wando's quarterfinal test will come Monday in Florence against what Williamson calls "a good" West Florence team.

The Wando-West Florence winner will host the state semifinals Thursday against either Lexington or Beaufort. Wando already owns a 4-2 win over Lexington in a tournament when the Warriors were missing players.

Due to the Warriors' dominance in region play (they won their 11th straight title this year), Williamson has been able to use many different lineups.

"One of the best ideas that the USTA came up with was the 'no cut' program," Williamson said. "I really do hate to cut, so this program worked perfectly for me. The new girls who came out this year have shown so much

improvement. Every one of the 28 girls have played in

either a JV or varsity match.

"Being able to play girls who are down the ladder is good experience. I've seen so many good teams play weak teams, and still use their top girls. All of these girls have been to the playoff matches, and it's good to see them watching the matches and hoping that it will be 'me' out there next year. There are some good young girls on the team."

Academic Magnet draw

Academic Magnet has a favorable draw in the Class AA girls playoffs that continue this week. The Raptors were placed in the opposite half of the Lower State draw from perennial power Bishop England, which must survive a road showdown Tuesday at Waccamaw to advance to Thursday's Lower State final.

Coach Brooke Floyd's Academic Magnet girls were rained out Thursday in a first-round match at Pelion and will make up that match Monday. A win would give the Raptors a home match Tuesday against the winner of Monday's Manning/Aynor match. Two victories would thrust the Raptors, who are led by senior Sarah Helms at No. 1, against the BE-Waccamaw winner in the Lower State final at the Raptors' new five-court complex in North Charleston.

Kiawah ranked third

Kiawah Island Golf Resort has been selected as the No. 3 tennis resort in the United States by Tennis Magazine in its biennial rankings, moving up one notch from two years ago. Wild Dunes is sixth.

4-Spine wins CPTL

The Charleston Pro Tennis League wrapped up another season Friday before more than 600 fans at the I'On Club with 4-Spine scoring a 2.25-2 victory over HSI in the league title match. Omer Abramovich accounted for the winning edge for 4-Spine by earning 1.25 points in singles with a 7-6, 6-0 win over former College of Charleston teammate Or Dekel.

Phil Whitesell and Peter Netzler scored a 6-2, 6-3 doubles win over Tiago Bruniera and Ellerbe Dargan.

HSI captured the points at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles as Timo Siebert/Santiago Falla defeated Anthony Jackson/Ricardo Nava, 6-4, 6-2; and Mark Mogul/Mike Dacuba defeated Smith Anderson/Ben Hough, 7-6, 4-6, 1-0.

Southern deadline Monday

Monday is the deadline for entering the Nov. 10-14 Southern Senior Closed Clay Court Championships at Kiawah Island. Registration is available online using the tournament ID number (704110810).

The age divisions include 30-and-over up to 90-and-over for men and women in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Call 768-6028.

Lee manager at I'On

Former Players Racquet and Tennis Club owner Chuck Lee has taken over management of tennis at the I'On Club. Mount Pleasant sporting goods store Tour Tennis owners Mike Palmer and Lee are expanding their operations by adding products and services to the I'On pro shop.

I'On announced that former Players Club pro JoAnn Lee has been named director of tennis. She is a former S.C. pro of the year by the USPTA.

Notes

--Today is the deadline to enter the Pine Forest Country Club Ladies Tennis Association's Racquets for Recovery, "Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer"

Tournament that is scheduled for next weekend. Men's, women's and mixed doubles are available. The proceeds benefit local recovering breast cancer patients through programs at MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center. Contact Racquets2010@aol.com or (843) 224-4668.

--Faye Rigsbee has been honored for 25 years of service to the City of Charleston and Charleston Tennis Center.

--Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center are collecting non-perishable food for the Lowcountry Food Bank today.


(10/24/10)  Ashley Hall, Colleton Prep claim state tennis titles
The third time was the charm for Ashley Hall on two accounts Saturday afternoon in the SCISA Class AAA girls tennis state final. When the Panthers (22-4) outlasted archrival Porter-Gaud, 5-3, in a five-hour match at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center, the victory not only avenged a pair of earlier losses, but it also gave coach Mary Gastley's team a third straight state championship.

In the Class AA girls final Saturday morning, Colleton Prep's dreams of a second straight title went from hopes to fulfillment in a matter of a few minutes as the Warhawks (16-2) scored a 5-1 victory over Holly Hill Academy (16-3) in Sumter.

The second straight state final between Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud came down to doubles, where the Panthers won two tightly contested matches to clinch the title, while a third doubles match was involved in a match tiebreaker.

The big surprise was a 3-3 deadlock in singles. Coach Tom Higgins'

Porter-Gaud team (13-2) had won five of the six singles matches in the teams' first meeting, and owned a 4-2 singles edge in the second one.

"Being a slight underdog coming in after losing both matches this season, we knew this was the one that mattered most," Gastley said. "We knew what we needed to do after the first loss, and we got closer the second one. Knowing what we had to do and then doing it was a true tribute to these girls.

"When we step on the court Aug. 1 for the first day of practice, it's always our goal to be where we are today."

While doubles ultimately decided the title match, the Panthers used singles to deal a crushing blow to Porter-Gaud's hopes of avenging last year's championship loss.

The big upset came at No. 5 singles, where in two previous meetings this season Ashley Hall's Courtney Geiss had won a total of only five games against Carlyle Williams. But in the third meeting of the freshmen, Geiss prevailed, 7-5, 6-4.

Ashley Hall senior Patricia Kirkland scored a second straight win over Porter-Gaud's Mi'Kola Cooper, 6-2, 7-6 (3), at No. 1 singles, and Narni Summerall completed a 3-0 sweep of the Cyclones' Annie Hay, 6-0, 6-1, in a battle of outstanding sophomores at No. 2.

"I thought it would come down to doubles ... and all of the practice paid off," said Kirkland, who closed out her career with three straight state titles and four consecutive appearances in the title match. "It's a good way to finish up."

Kirkland and junior Margaret Legerton staked the Panthers to a 4-3 lead by taking a 6-4, 6-4 win over Hay and Carissa Steichen at No. 1 doubles. It was then a question of whether No. 2 or No. 3 doubles would finish first.

The speedy Summerall and sophomore Rossi Anastopoulo wrapped up the state title at No. 2 doubles with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Cooper and Danielle Fishman. The Ashley Hall team of Sallie Chamberlain/Geiss was ahead, 4-1, in a match tiebreaker at No. 3 against the Cyclones' Deni Stantarova and Katherine Proctor when the Summerall/Anastopoulo team clinched the championship on a Summerall overhead.

"Everyone on the team contributed to this victory," emphasized Gastley, who is in her 24th year as the Panthers' coach. "Three in a row ... it's a great feeling. We are very proud."

In the Class AA final, Colleton Prep seniors Brittan Carter and Tabor Copeland survived match tiebreakers at Nos. 2 and 3 to give the Warhawks a 4-1 advantage. Carter was down 6-3 in the 10-point tiebreaker, but rallied to take the tiebreaker and a 6-3, 1-6, 10-7 victory over Holly Hill's Tressa Hutto.

"And Brittany (Griffin) won No. 5 too, and that was the fifth win, and we didn't have to play doubles," said Colleton Prep coach Trent Cannon.

Griffin, a sophomore, posted a 7-6 (1), 6-1 win over Holly Hill's Hunter Paramore.

Colleton Prep standout Sarah McDonald persevered after suffering a knee injury in Wednesday's playoff match for a 6-2, 6-2 win over Morgan Cantley at No. 1 singles.

"Sarah did an outstanding job. She limped the whole time," said Cannon, a Walterboro physician. "She tried to hit a good serve and then put the first short ball away."

Caitlin Crosby, the third starting senior, also completed her career with a victory at No. 4.

Ashton McLean produced Holly Hill's lone win at No. 6.

CLASS AAA RESULTS

ASHLEY HALL 5, PORTER-GAUD 3

Singles: Patricia Kirkland (AH) def. Mi'Kola Cooper, 6-2, 7-6 (3); Narni Summerall (AH) def. Annie Hay, 6-0, 6-1; Carissa Steichen (PG) def. Margaret Legerton, 6-4, 6-3; Deni Stantarova (PG) def. Rossi Anastopoulo, 7-6 (3), 6-2; Courtney Geiss (AH) def. Carlyle Williams, 7-5, 6-4; Danielle Fishman (PG) def. Sallie Chamberlain, 6-3, 7-5.

Doubles: Kirkland/Legerton (AH) def. Hay/Steichen, 6-4, 6-4; Summerall/Anastopoulo (AH) def. Cooper/Fishman, 7-5, 7-5.

CLASS AA RESULTS

COLLETON PREP 5, HOLLY HILL ACADEMY 1

Singles: Sarah McDonald (CP) def. Morgan Cantley, 6-2, 6-2; Brittan Carter (CP) def. Tressa Hutto, 6-3, 1-6, 10-7; Tabor Copeland (CP) def. Raven Hutson, 7-5, 1-6, 10-4; Caitlin Crosby (CP) def. Hannah Murphy, 6-1, 6-1; Brittany Griffin (CP) def. Hunter Paramore, 7-6 (1), 6-1; Ashton McLean (HHA) def. Taylor Hoff, 7-6 (1), 6-1.


(10/23/10)  Ashley Hall, Porter-Gaud advance to AAA title duel
It's all set: another struggle between two-time defending SCISA Class AAA state girls tennis champion Ashley Hall and 2009 runner-up Porter-Gaud at 9:30 a.m. today at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center for the state championship. Both Charleston teams scored 6-0 victories in Friday's semifinals as they each swept the six singles matches. Upper flight top seed Ashley Hall (21-4) stayed around and practiced its doubles skills against a young Hammond School team, seeded third. Lower flight top seed Porter-Gaud left after its victory over No. 2 Cardinal Newman.

Coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team may need the practice after dropping both of its regular season meetings to archrival Porter-Gaud.

"It'll be a battle," said Gastley, the Panthers' 24th-year head coach. "I'm sure both teams are ready for it to happen. Our girls are fired up. We're ready.

"Our first goal (against Porter-Gaud) is to win enough singles to get to play doubles, and our second goal is to win as many singles as possible going into doubles."

Senior No. 1 Patricia Kirkland gave up just one game to Hammond's Maggie Herring.

ASHLEY HALL 6, HAMMOND 0
Singles: Patricia Kirkland (AH) def. Maggie Herring, 6-1, 6-0; Narni Summerall (AH) def. Caroline MacGillvary, 6-0, 6-0; Margaret Legerton (AH) def. Ali Gray Deloache, 6-2, 6-2; Rossi Anastopoulo (AH) def. Madelon Kneece, 6-1, 6-2; Courtney Geiss (AH) def. Ann Elise Goudelock, 6-0, 6-4; Sallie Chamberlain (AH) def. Caroline Harris, 6-2, 6-1.

Porter-Gaud 6, Cardinal Newman 0

"I definitely think the girls are anxious to play Ashley Hall again," said Porter-Gaud assistant coach Brian Burke after the Cyclones' 6-0 romp past Cardinal Newman. "They thought there was a good possibility this was how the season would end, and now that's how it's ending."

Although the Cyclones (13-1) passed up on the opportunity to practice doubles, "There's a couple of things we need to work on ... more mental than anything else. We'll be out there at 8:30 Saturday morning," Burke said.

Junior Mi'Kola Cooper started off the day with a sparkling display of tennis in quickly dispensing of Cardinal Newman's Andra Martin, 6-0, 6-0, in No. 1 singles. The only match that was close came at No. 2 where sophomore Annie Hay held a 4-3 lead when the Cardinals' Alex August retired.

But wins probably won't come so easily today against an Ashley Hall team that took the Cyclones to a tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles to prevail 5-4 in their last meeting.  A year ago, Ashley Hall swept Porter-Gaud in two regular season matches before taking the state championship. Tom Higgins is Porter-Gaud's head coach.

PORTER-GAUD 6, CARDINAL NEWMAN 0
Singles: Mi'Kola Cooper (PG) def. Andra Martin, 6-0, 6-0; Annie Hay (PG) def. Alex August, 4-3, retired; Carissa Steichen (PG) def. Brittany Desmand, 6-3, 6-2; Deni Stantarova (PG) def. Kate Tringali, 6-2, 6-0; Carlyle Williams (PG) def. Kelsey Zoran, 6-2, 6-0; Danielle Fishman (PG) def. Ali Black, 6-0, 6-2.

Class AA

Colleton Prep 6, The King's Academy 0
Colleton Prep's biggest worry in Sumter was getting back to Walterboro in time for the Warhawks' last football game. The football game against Palmetto Christian was senior night, and the three senior starters on the SCISA Class AA defending state girls champion team were scheduled to participate.

So, coach Trent Cannon's Colleton Prep team (15-2) completed its work at the Palmetto Tennis Center in short order by sweeping to a 6-0 victory over The King's Academy Lions (11-5) in the state semifinals. Seniors Brittan Carter, Tabor Copeland and Caitlin Crosby, the Nos. 2-4 players, yielded a total of seven games.

"We'll have to get up early," Cannon said, looking ahead to today's 90-minute trip from Walterboro to Sumter for a 9:30 a.m. state championship showdown with Holly Hill Academy. Holly Hill (15-2) ousted 2009 runner-up Carolina Academy, 5-2, in the semifinals.

Colleton Prep defeated Holly Hill in both of their regular season meetings, but by only 5-4 in the second matchup.

Friday, junior All-Lowcountry ace Sarah McDonald started slowly but won 7-5, 6-0 win over Rachel Sillman at No. 1 singles.

COLLETON PREP 6, THE KING'S 0
Singles: Sarah McDonald (CP) def. Rachel Sillman, 7-5, 6-0; Brittan Carter (CP) def. Ashton Sankuer, 6-3, 6-2; Tabor Copeland (CP) def. Lauren Sankuer, 6-0, 6-1; Caitlin Crosby (CP) def. Shannon Edwards, 6-0, 6-1; Brittany Griffin (CP) def. Rachel Coates, 6-0, 6-0; Taylor Hoff (CP) def. Avery Behling, 6-1, 6-0.

Holly Hill Academy 5, Carolina Academy 2
Holly Hill Academy (16-2) earned its first berth in the SCISA Class AA state championship match with a 5-2 win over Carolina Academy. Coach Miriam Bessent's Holly Hill team wrapped up the match at No. 2 doubles when Tressa Hutto and Raven Hutson prevailed, 6-2, 6-1, against Carolina's Jamie Yarborough and Haven Brown.

HOLLY HILL ACADEMY 5,CAROLINA ACADEMY 2
Singles: Rebecca Weaver (CA) def. Morgan Cantley, 6-2, 4-6, 10-8; Tressa Hutto (HHA) def. Haley Hancock, 6-0, 6-1; Raven Hutson (HHA) def. Jamie Yarborough, 6-2, 6-0; Haven Brown (CA) def. Hannah Murphy, 6-1, 6-0; Hunter Paramore (HHA) def. Harula Paroschos, 7-5, 6-3; Ashton McLean (HHA) def. Mary Matthews, 7-6, 6-2.  
Doubles: Hutto/Hutson (HHA) def. Yarborough/Brown, 6-2, 6-1.


(10/22/10)  Kirkland poised for Panthers in playoffs
Teens drop out of tennis right and left for other sports, more time for studying or just to have more time to enjoy being young. Not Patricia Kirkland. She has never given a second thought to any of those possibilities.

You might call the Ashley Hall senior a tennis lover who loves to play high school tennis. When she says, "I love it" a half-dozen times in a conversation, she might be talking just about playing tennis as a teenager or playing high school tennis.

"High school tennis has always been my favorite (part of tennis)," the petite 17-year-old says with a smile. "I like the team aspect of it ... just being a part of it ... I love it. Some of my friends got burned out, but I liked it.

"A significant number of players from the 10s and 12s I played with dropped off the spectrum. Maybe they started playing other sports.

"But I have always loved it. It has never been an issue for me. I've never thought about quitting. I love it."

Mary Gastley has had many outstanding players during her 24 years as the tennis coach at Ashley Hall. But it's easy to recognize why Kirkland is one of her favorite players.

Maybe it's Kirkland's fighting spirit or her coach-like presence on the court that so easily wins the respect of peers, coaches and observers.

"Patricia is a great girl. She works hard, focused. She's our only senior, and she's a great leader. She's a competitor," Gastley said.

"I think I'm a good fighter," is Kirkland's synopsis.

Veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins is one of her admirers. "Patricia Kirkland is a D-I prospect," the former Eastern Kentucky head women's and men's coach said, referring to NCAA Division I.

As Kirkland enters the final days of her high school career, and going for a third straight SCISA Class AAA state team title the next two days in Sumter, she is facing tough decisions about her future. She wants to play college tennis. But she also wants to go pre-med. "I'm 95 percent sure I'll play college tennis. But I'm still looking at it both ways ... with tennis and without tennis."

Tennis is foremost on Kirkland's mind today. Ashley Hall (20-4) will oppose Hammond at 3 p.m. today in Sumter in the SCISA Class AAA state semifinals. Archrival Porter-Gaud will face Cardinal Newman in the other semifinal.

Ashley Hall already owns an 8-1 victory over Hammond this season in a match played in Charleston that Kirkland missed. While upper flight top seed Ashley Hall dealt Hilton Head Prep a 5-1 loss in the state quarterfinals on Wednesday, upper third seed Hammond scored a 7-2 upset of second seed Wilson Hall in Sumter.

Kirkland is excited. She remembers every match, especially the state championship that got away her freshman year against Heathwood Hall. "Jacey (Edwards) and I lost at No. 1 doubles in a tiebreaker, and we lost the match 5-4," she recalled.

But the Panthers gained revenge the next year by defeating Heathwood Hall in the state final, and last year Ashley Hall turned back Porter-Gaud in the state final.

Kirkland expects another meeting with lower flight top seed Porter-Gaud and ace Mi'Kola Cooper in Saturday morning's final in a No. 1 singles match that could be pivotal in the teams' matchup. Kirkland and Cooper split two regular season matches, but Porter-Gaud won both team matches.

"It will be tough to win the state title, but both matches with Porter-Gaud have been close. It came down to a tiebreaker in No. 3 doubles last time. Before that, two of our singles went to tiebreakers," she said.

If there is a third meeting between the schools, it well could come down to doubles again. And doubles is one of the things Kirkland likes best about playing for Gastley.

"I love it (doubles). Coach Gastley is a great coach. Her focus on doubles has taught me a lot and has been a big part of my game."


(10/22/10)  Porter-Gaud reaches SCISA tennis semis

Florence Christian waited a day to make the trip to Charleston, and it was all for naught. The Eagles (14-3) never got going against a superior team of girls from Porter-Gaud (12-1) on Thursday in the SCISA Class AAA state tennis quarterfinals. Porter-Gaud made sure the visitors didn't get to enjoy the city very long as the lower flight top seed Cyclones blew by Florence Christian, 6-0, by yielding a total of only six games in sweeping the six singles matches.

The match was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but visiting coach Terrance

Harris confirmed that Florence Christian has a school policy against playing sporting events on Wednesdays.

With the victory, coach Tom Higgins' Porter-Gaud team will travel to Sumter today for a 3 p.m. encounter with Cardinal Newman in the state semifinals. The winner will face either two-time defending state champion Ashley Hall or Hammond in Saturday morning's state championship match.

Mi'Kola Cooper, Annie Hay, Carissa Steichen, Deni Skantarova, Carlyle Williams and Danielle Fishman made quick work of the Florence team in singles. Only Skantarova, a foreign exchange student from Slovakia who plays No. 4 for the Cyclones, gave up more than one game. She won, 6-2, 6-0.

"We've got to play them one at a time," said Higgins, whose team was state runner-up last year. "We can't look past Cardinal Newman. But it's looking like it will be a horse race between us and Ashley Hall."

PORTER-GAUD 6, FLORENCE CHRISTIAN 0

Singles: Mi'Kola Cooper (PG) def. Alyssa Holbrooks, 6-0, 6-1; Annie Hay (PG) def. Megan Maney, 6-1, 6-0; Carissa Steichen (PG) def. Haley Kenimer, 6-0, 6-0; Deni Skantarova (PG) def. Caroline Leland, 6-2,

6-0; Carlyle Williams (PG) def. Elizabeth Stone, 6-1, 6-0; Danielle Fishman (PG) def. Jessica Garris, 6-1, 6-0.


(10/20/10)  GOOSE CREEK GAZETTE: Berkeley schools receive $10k from tennis award
The Lowcountry Tennis Association (LCTA) served up a winning volley to the Berkeley County School Board at the Oct. 12 board meeting in Moncks Corner by awarding the district with a $10,000 donation to develop tennis programs at the youth level.

Berkeley County is a vital part of the tennis community here in the Lowcountry LCTA President Nancy Pitcairn said. We’d love to see the school district use these funds to build an interest in tennis among youth.  The funds could be used to purchase equipment that fits the new Quick Start Tennis format for young children.

The donation was part of a larger award recently received by the Association as a result of its efforts in driving the push for the Charleston area to be named the 2010 Best Tennis Town in America.

The national contest, sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association, pitted tennis enthusiasts throughout the U.S. in a 10-day online voting match to select their favorite tennis town. Strong Lowcountry support led to this area winning the designation, and to the awarding of $100,000 in prize money to the LCTA.

The Quick Start Tennis format involves new equipment to help children under the age of 10 learn to play the game in a way that is enjoyable, not overwhelming.  Many youth sports programs have moved to this format, including soccer, baseball and basketball, utilizing shorter playing surfaces and smaller equipment suitable for young athletes.
The Lowcountry Tennis Association is comprised of tennis players living in the greater Charleston area. Affiliated with the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the LCTA has 3,400 members and serves teams from 29 tennis facilities throughout the Lowcountry.  For more information visit www.lctatennis.org.


(10/20/10)  Palmetto girls capture sixth straight title
It's October, and the Palmetto Christian Academy girls are still batting 1.000 in state tennis titles. Tuesday's 7-2 triumph over Lowcountry Prep at the Litchfield Beach Country Club made it six-for-six for the Eagles (12-2) in SCISA Class A state championship matches.

Coach Dewey Caulder now has to wait until the spring to see if his PCA boys can match the girls' streak. Between the girls and boys, Palmetto Christian's tennis trophy case is bulging as the result of 11 consecutive state titles. SCISA athletic director Mike Fanning was on hand to

present the Eagles another state championship trophy.

"I've got good kids," Caulder said. "That's the reason we win. They make my job easy."

Eleven girls made the trip for Palmetto Christian to Lowcountry Prep's home courts, and only one was a senior, Grace King, who took part in her sixth straight state championship victory by winning at No. 4 singles, 6-0, 6-0, over Lowcountry's Marguerite McClary.

Eighth-grader Corey Caulder and junior Chandler Caulder, the coach's daughters, made things special for their father by notching singles victories at Nos. 2 and 3 as the Eagles wrapped up the match by taking five of the six singles.

The Eagles' only setback in singles came at No. 1, where eighth-grader Ashton Harris suffered a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Lowcountry's Sydney Derrick, who also prevailed at No. 1 doubles.

In addition to King and the two Caulders, sixth-grader Haley Foster and freshman Katie Quinn won at Nos. 5 and 6 singles for the Eagles.

"When we started the program six years ago, we never thought the girls could win six in a row and the boys would have a chance to win six in a row in the spring," Caulder said.

"We are just fortunate to keep winning. This was our biggest group of girls, and this team has a bright future with only one senior."

PALMETTO CHRISTIAN 7, LOWCOUNTRY PREP 2

Singles: Sydney Derrick (LP) def. Ashton Harris, 6-2, 6-2; Corey Caulder (PCA) def. Elizabeth Ziser, 6-1, 6-0; Chandler Caulder (PCA) def. Emily Goins, 6-0, 6-0; Grace King (PCA) def. Marguerite McClary, 6-0, 6-0; Haley Foster (PCA) def. Stellings Lee, 6-3, 6-0; Katie Quinn (PCA) def. Emerson Pate, 6-2, 7-6 (7).

Doubles: Derrick/Ziser (LP) def. King/Foster, 8-1; Chandler Caulder/Haley Hester (PCA) def. McClary/Rhett Balding, 8-2; Quinn/Hayley Hall (PCA) def. Lee/Claudia Miller, 8-5.


(10/17/10)  Blevins' commitment to tennis, school pays off
Online schooling and tennis training may sound like the perfect life for a teenager. But the combination hasn't been a leisurely walk in the park for Meghan Blevins.

The 5-3, 17-year-old has been totally committed to putting herself into position to one day become a professional tennis player. She begins her typical weekday at home in North Charleston waking at 6:45 a.m., then making the 25-minute drive to the Isle of Palms for training. After two hours of drills, she heads back home to participate in online schooling. She later returns to Wild Dunes Racquet Club for a three-hour session with pro Martin Zumpft.

When she finally returns home for the evening, there's more studying and online schooling. Weekends such as this one when she's training in Memphis and last weekend in Tulsa, Okla., often are spent training or traveling and playing in International Tennis Federation tournaments. But that's another story.

All of the training and online school sessions are starting to pay off. Blevins recently committed to attend Oklahoma State next year on a tennis scholarship.

She joins a growing list of former Players Club (now LTP Tennis) juniors who have made or plan to make the transition to major college tennis. Blevins trained at the old Players Club with the likes of Caroline Thornton (Auburn sophomore), Jessica Diamond (Samford junior), Jamie Harrell (College of Charleston freshman), Alex Martin (who has committed to Texas), Olivia McMillan (College of Charleston sophomore), Elizabeth Spelman (Villanova junior) and Morgan Ivey (Rutgers junior) as well as touring pro newcomer Shelby Rogers.

"Every tennis player's goal is to be a professional," Blevins said.

She has enjoyed driving down the roads that she hopes lead her to the pro circuit. She gave up high school tennis three years ago at the end of the first semester of her freshman year after helping Wando win two of its six straight Class AAAA state titles.

"To a certain point, I miss school. I loved school, but I wouldn't trade what I've been doing. I love traveling," she said.

She admits that she wanted to attend an out-of-state college. She selected Oklahoma State over North Carolina.

"They (Oklahoma State head coach Chris Young and assistant coach Jamea Jackson, who was a former WTA Tour player) want to get you to the next level (professional tennis)," Blevins said.

Blevins plans to sign with Oklahoma State during the second signing period early in 2011. She has not visited the Big 12 school, which is located in Stillwater, about an hour's drive west from Tulsa.

SCISA playoffs
It looks like 2009 all over again, except Porter-Gaud's girls appear to have the upper hand over two-time defending Class AAA state champion Ashley Hall this time.

Ashley Hall is the top seed in the upper bracket and Porter-Gaud holds the top seeding in the lower bracket. Both received byes for Monday's first round of the playoffs. They should meet for the third time this season next Saturday morning at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center, barring upsets in Wednesday's home quarterfinals or Friday's semifinals in Sumter.

"We lost three 5-4 matches to Ashley Hall last year," veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins recalled. The last one was in the state final.

This time, Porter-Gaud swept the two regular season matches. After winning the first meeting 6-3, Porter-Gaud had to survive a 4-4 team deadlock and two match points at No. 3 doubles to prevail in last Tuesday's match at Charleston Tennis Center.

Porter-Gaud is 11-1, losing only to six-time defending SCHSL state Class AAAA champion Wando. Coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team is 19-4, but snapped Wando's long dual match winning streak.

Ashley Hall will play Wednesday at Charleston Tennis Center against the winner of the Nos. 4-5 Hilton Head Prep-Ben Lippen Monday encounter. Sumter's unbeaten Wilson Hall is the No. 2 seed in the upper flight and is expected to oppose the Panthers in the semifinals.

Porter-Gaud's opening test will come Wednesday at home against the winner of lower No. 3 Pinewood Prep and No. 6 Robert E. Lee, a first-round match scheduled for Monday in Summerville. Cardinal Newman is the No. 2 seed in the lower flight.

Of the 10 other teams in the 12-team state playoffs, either Porter-Gaud or Ashley Hall has decisively defeated four of them.

--Defending state champion Colleton Prep is the team to beat in SCISA Class AA, although Holly Hill Academy also is a flight top seed. Colleton Prep posted a 5-4 win over Holly Hill last week. Both teams have byes Monday and will be at home on Wednesday, hoping to earn trips to Sumter for the Friday-Saturday final four shootout. Colleton Prep's only two losses came at the hands of Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall.

--Wando will open its quest for a seventh straight state crown when the 32-team SCHSL playoffs begin Oct. 26. The state final is slated for Nov. 6.

Local notes
--Mount Pleasant's Bud Spencer has been nominated to the post of executive vice president of the USTA's nine-state Southern Section for 2011-2012. Upon election, Spencer will replace current executive vice president Mike McNulty of Lake Charles, La., who has been nominated to the post of president and CEO. Spencer currently serves as Southern board of directors secretary and USTA league committee vice chairman. Spencer has served on the Southern's board of directors since 2000. Rex Maynard of Belton currently serves as president of the Southern Section, the largest of the USTA's 17 sections and representing 25 percent of all USTA membership.

--USTA-South Carolina and the Southern Section have scheduled a tribute for outgoing USTA national president Lucy Garvin of Greenville next Friday night at Greer's Thornblade Club.

--Meg Farrelly (community service award), Wando girls coach Becky Williamson (coach of the year), Shelby Rogers (junior girl player of the year), Family Circle Cup's Michael Saia (media award) and Porter-Gaud's Thomas Spratt (most improved boy) will be among the award recipients when USTA-S.C. holds its annual meeting Dec. 10-12 in Myrtle Beach. Charleston's Best Tennis Town committee also will be honored during the meetings.

--The six tennis courts at Bees Landing Recreational Complex in West Ashley were recently dedicated as the Arthur B. Schirmer Jr. Tennis Complex. Schirmer, the deceased former mayor of the City of Charleston, was an avid player at Charleston Tennis Center.

--Chris Henderson's Southern Wendy and Brian Burke's Southern Burke teams returned last week from Las Vegas without a fourth national league tennis championship trophy. Neither of the two local entrants in the men's open division managed to qualify for last Sunday's national semifinals. An Eastern team from New York that played in Burke's division took the national title. Henderson's team finished second in its flight, losing only to a national runner-up team mostly from Idaho.

-- The Pine Forest Country Club Ladies Tennis Association's sixth annual Racquets for Recovery, "Taking a Hard Swing at Breast Cancer" Tennis Tournament is scheduled for Nov. 5-7. Men's, women's and mixed doubles are available for registration. This year's proceeds will benefit local recovering breast cancer patients through programs at MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center. The registration deadline is Oct. 31. Registration brochures are available at local tennis facilities. Contact Racquets2010@aol.com or 224-4668.

-- The Battle of James Island will continue on Oct. 30 at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and Charleston Tennis Center. The event will include competition in men's and women's doubles as well as mixed doubles. Play will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude with a 12:30 p.m. covered dish social and exhibition. Contact Country Club of Charleston tennis director Lee Brockman at ccctennis@comcast.net.

-- Faye Rigsbee has been honored for 25 years of service to the City of Charleston and Charleston Tennis Center.

-- Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center will be collecting non-perishable food for the Lowcountry Food Bank until Oct. 31.

-- Talk about a busy complex. Thirty-One league tennis teams are based out of Charleston Tennis Center this fall.


(10/15/10)  DIETTE COURREGE CASEY: Group invests in future of tennis

The United States Tennis Association hopes to diversify the Charleston tennis community with a program aimed at youths.

The association awarded the Charleston County School District a three-year, $150,000 grant to provide tennis equipment and lessons to students during and after school. The money initially will benefit students who attend under-served schools, but it eventually will be distributed among more than 45 schools.
The schools

The following are schools that will benefit this year from the U.S. Tennis Association grant:
--Angel Oak Elementary
--Burke High (grades 7 and 8)
--C.C. Blaney Elementary
--Charleston Progressive
--E.B. Ellington Elementary
--Frierson Elementary
--Goodwin Elementary
--Haut Gap Middle
--Lambs Elementary
--Mitchell Elementary
--Mount Zion Elementary
--Northwoods Middle (formerly Birney Middle)
--Pinehurst Elementary (formerly Midland Park Elementary)
--Sanders-Clyde School
--St. James-Santee Elementary
--St. John's High
--Zucker Middle

"It's definitely about access and opportunity," said superintendent and tennis enthusiast Nancy McGinley. "It's about getting a broader representation of our community involved in the sport of tennis as a lifelong pursuit. My ultimate goal is to see more diversity in tennis leagues across the state."

Charleston is only the second school district in the country to receive money for this kind of initiative. The national association targeted Charleston because its residents have been strong advocates for tennis and because the school district is interested in implementing this kind of program, said Barry Ford, the U.S. Tennis Association's director of outreach and advocacy.

The long-term vision is for every child in local public schools to have access to quality tennis education programs, but the short-term goal is to use the money to create a system that will enable children to continue taking lessons even after the grant money expires, he said.

"What we're trying to do is make an investment that's sustainable and lasting," he said. "The reason we're a partner (with Charleston) is because we share a common vision around this possibility for kids."

Last month, Charleston was named the Best Tennis Town in the country by the U.S. Tennis Association, and it received $100,000 for community-wide tennis programming or facility enhancements. The Lowcountry Tennis Association has given $10,000 of that award to Berkeley County schools to develop tennis programs for students, and those funds are separate from the grant secured by Charleston schools.

Charleston County schools had to match the association's $150,000 grant, and it's doing so mostly through in-kind contributions of staff members' time. The school district formed a partnership with the Lowcountry Junior Tennis Association, a nonprofit community group, to find after-school tennis instructors, distribute equipment and ensure the program runs smoothly.

Students will take lessons two days a week for at least an hour each day, and those started last week. An estimated 170 kindergartners through high school students are learning to play mostly in schools across the district.

McGinley has been trying for years to figure out how to get more elementary students, especially those from high-poverty homes, involved in tennis because it's difficult for students to compete on a high school varsity level unless they started playing at a younger age, she said.

Her hope is that the county eventually will have a tennis court complex designed for younger students, but at a minimum she'd like to see new elementary schools include an area for tennis courts, she said.

Pam Kusmider, president of the Lowcountry Junior Tennis Association, has visited area courts during the past week and said she's seen children excited about learning to play. Many of them had never even held a racket, and this is a chance to expose them to the sport, she said.

"I hope that we're going to see a change in the type of tennis player we see in Charleston," she said. "We're targeting those who would not ordinarily receive instruction, and that really is the focus of the (Junior Tennis Association)."


(10/03/10)  Martin commits to play for Texas

Just because Fritz Nau now teaches tennis in South Florida doesn't mean his impact on local tennis isn't still being felt.

Nau moved his junior tennis academy around Charleston before finally leaving the old Players Club and the area a couple of years ago. But the names of the star players who once attended his academy continue to shine in Charleston tennis news.

Shelby Rogers, of course, is the big name.

But Caroline Thornton hasn't done badly. She's starting her sophomore year at Auburn on a full tennis scholarship after an outstanding freshman season.

Of course, in its heyday, the former Players Club (now LTP Tennis) junior academy included many other junior stars, several of whom are on current college rosters.

And now Alex Martin is taking her game to the University of Texas. The two-time Belton girls 18 singles champion verbally committed to Texas coach Patty Fendick-McCain on Thursday. Fendick-McCain, a former NCAA champion and Australian Open doubles titlist with Mary Joe Fernandez, probably is the main reason Martin plans to spend the next four years in Austin, Texas.

"She's a great coach," Martin said. "I met her in San Diego at the National Hard Courts. I called her Thursday morning and committed."

Martin is a 5-8 18-year-old who currently trains under Jimmy Mendieta at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet. She has been online-schooled since her freshman year. Her younger sister, Catherine, is a sophomore at Wando where she plays No. 2 on a team that is seeking its seventh straight Class AAAA state title.

"I'm really excited about college," Martin said. "I visited most of the ACC and SEC schools, but I had no idea where I was going."

That is, until Martin met Fendick-McCain while competing in the national juniors where Martin won one match in the main draw.

Martin said she will compete mostly in $10,000 pro events until next year when she heads off to Texas. Looking ahead to national signing day, she plans to visit Austin to take in the Longhorns' Nov. 13 football game against Oklahoma State.

Las Vegas bound
Charleston Pro Tennis League co-founder Chris Henderson will be connected to two local men's teams that will leave this week for Las Vegas in search of a fourth league tennis national championship in nine years. Henderson plays for Brian Burke's team and is the non-playing captain for his own team. Both teams will begin play Friday in different men's open flights, then play twice on Saturday in hopes of qualifying for next Sunday's semifinals.

The local teams won their three national championships at the 5.5 level, the last one coming in 2007.

Hunter Specialties Inc. of Summerville and the LCTA are sponsoring both teams' trips to the nationals where they will compete at the Darling Tennis Center, which was recently acquired by men's tour standout Sam Querrey.

Burke's team (Southern Burke) includes veterans Charly Rasheed, Will Bull and Nicholas Gaffos along with Burke, Henderson and singles ace Or Dekel.

The team Henderson captains (Southern Hendy) is made up of Toby Simpson, Chip Hand, Matt Hane, Seth Rose, Robert Lake, Martin Zumpft and Ellerbe Dargan.

A team from Greenville also will compete in the men's open national championships.

The big party
The Lowcountry Tennis Association celebrated Charleston's Best Tennis Town in America recognition Friday night at Family Circle Tennis Center with a crowd of about 1,500 that also got to watch the popular Charleston Pro Tennis League in action.

The CPTL will take next Friday off while many of its stars participate in the nationals in Las Vegas. The league will resume its Friday night schedule on Oct. 15 at Wild Dunes. The league's four-team playoffs will begin Oct. 22 at LTP Tennis, followed by the CPTL championship on Oct. 29 at the I'On Club.

Rogers suffers losses
Shelby Rogers has experienced a dream year for a 17-year-old tennis player. But on the heels of playing in the main draw of the U.S. Open and barely missing a first-round upset of women's tour veteran Shuai Peng, Rogers dropped her next two singles matches.

Currently ranked 340th in the world, Rogers suffered three-set first-round losses to No. 393 Jelena Pandzic in a $75,000 event in Albuquerque, N.M., and to 229th-ranked Lindsay Lee-Waters in a $50,000 tournament in Las Vegas.

Rogers, who will turn 18 in 10 days, may play in a $25,000 event in Rock Hill later this month.

Local notes
--The Wando girls team, which owns regular season wins over SCISA powers Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall, will attempt to make it two straight over Ashley Hall on Wednesday at Charleston Tennis Center. Wando's Clair Larkin and Catherine Martin dropped the Nos. 1 and 2 singles to Ashley Hall's Patricia Kirkland and Narni Summerall last week, but the Warriors used the depth of Melanie Allen and Samantha Shuster at Nos. 4 and 5 to post a 4-3 victory.

--Summerville-based men's tour player Robbye Poole reached the final and quarterfinals the last two weeks in two $10,000 satellite tournaments in California.

--Local juniors Meghan Blevins, Patricia Kirkland and Ashby Bland all stood out in the recent Southern Junior Cup competition, formerly the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup event, in Lupton City, Tenn. Blevins, Kirkland and Bland each went 4-0 in singles. Overall, Blevins was 6-0 in girls 18, Kirkland 6-1 in girls 18 and Bland 5-3 in girls 12. Matt Mendez also competed in boys 16.

--Monday is the deadline for entering the Oct. 15-18 Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championships, a USTA-Southern Level 3 tournament for singles and National Level 5 for doubles. Contact pro Jonathan Barth at jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com.

--Another Battle of James Island is scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and Charleston Tennis Center. The event, which will include competition in men's and women's doubles as well as mixed doubles, will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude with a 12:30 p.m. covered dish social and exhibition. Contact tennis director Lee Brockman at ccctennis@comcast.net

--The 27th annual Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championship will be held Wednesday through Sunday at the Seabrook Island Racquet Club. The event's 44 different brackets include singles, doubles and mixed doubles in age categories from 40-80. Contact Mike Kiser at the Racquet Club (768-7543) or event co-chairs Judy and Guy Gimson (768-2549).

--The I'On Club will hold its eighth annual Ace Breast Cancer tournament Friday-Sunday. Registration is available at www.acebreastcancertennis.org.


(09/30/10)  Cooper blossoming into a top tennis talent
Mi'Kola Cooper has a lot of things in her favor, starting with playing for one of the two premier tennis programs in SCISA girls high school tennis.

"She's very coachable, has a competitive spirit … and she's an athlete," said veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins about his star player.

With Cooper leading the way from the No. 1 position, Porter- Gaud should be favored to oppose two-time defending state champion Ashley Hall in the SCISA Class AAA state title match for the second straight season. The two teams already have met once this season, with Porter-Gaud prevailing, 5-1. They will meet at least once more (Oct. 12) and, barring an upset, twice more.

Although the state tournament won't be played until the week of Oct. 18, Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall already have demonstrated their dominance in SCISA tennis against the other teams from Region III as well as from Columbia, with Porter-Gaud posting a 9-0 win over Heathwood Hall, and Ashley Hall scoring an 8-1 win over Hammond School.

Cooper has blossomed as a junior into one of the leading contenders for Lowcountry player of the year honors. After making All-Lowcountry as a sophomore, she is 8-0 this season. She is on a three-match winning streak against talented Ashley Hall No. 1 Patricia Kirkland, but two of the meetings have gone to three sets.

The Cyclones' only loss this season was to six-time SCHSL Class AAAA state champion Wando, even though Cooper won the No. 1 matchup against Wando star Clair Larkin.

"It feels really good (to be unbeaten)," Cooper said. "It's exciting to be able to play such good players (Kirkland, Larkin and Colleton Prep ace Sarah McDonald). All of them have different strengths, but Patricia probably is the toughest player for me."

Cooper came into her own late last season and has continued to improve. "I took time off from junior tournaments and worked hard this summer, practicing five to six hours a day. I lost maybe 10 or 15 pounds," the 5-7 player said.

"I did a lot of running in preseason with a group from Porter-Gaud. Coach (Brian) Burke would run us all the way from Porter-Gaud to Farmfield … three miles."

Higgins, the former tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky University, has been impressed by Cooper's improvement and focus on the game.

"Mi'Kola conditions twice as much as anyone else," he said. "She is an athlete. She could play anything for us … run track, play basketball. She's a pleasure to coach."

Always a hard hitter, Cooper has concentrated on improving her consistency to go with a strong serve.

"Mi'Kola started to develop consistency at the end of last season," Higgins said. "She's a (NCAA) Division I prospect."

Cooper played guard/forward for the varsity basketball team last season, but she isn't sure if she will play any other sports this school year. She plans to focus solely on tennis.

"I want to play pro tennis. If I don't, I'll go to college," said Cooper, whose sister Mikhala is a freshman at Porter-Gaud and is also a member of the tennis team.

College offers should start coming before her senior year, especially if she continues to improve the way she has in the last year.

A longtime member of the inner-city Courting Kids program, Cooper was one of the speakers at the recent news conference that announced Family Circle Cup's $50,000 partnership with Courting Kids. That came on the heels of her award-winning Arthur Ashe Essay entry and trip to the U.S. Open. Her tennis hero, naturally, is Arthur Ashe.

"The New York trip was a great opportunity for me," she said. "I met Arthur Ashe's daughter, and I got to see a lot of matches. I was able to see how everything operates."


(09/19/10)  Family Circle Cup partners with Courting Kids program
The City of Charleston's Courting Kids program has a new supporter. Family Circle Cup has stepped in with a $50,000 commitment to the award-winning inner-city tennis program.

"It's wonderful," city tennis manager Peggy Bohne said. "It's been my dream to put a tennis racket in the hands of every kid in the City of Charleston, and this will help us to reach that goal."

In a nutshell, Family Circle Cup is going into partnership with Courting Kids.

Seventy junior and adult rackets were part of the equipment that started arriving at Charleston Tennis Center on Thursday in preparation for Saturday's midday press conference that was headlined by Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran, Courting Kids founder/director Delores Jackson and Bohne as well as the Courting Kids themselves.

The announcement coincided with the start of Courting Kids' fall season at Charleston Tennis Center. A session is also being held on Saturday mornings at the Alan Fleming Tennis Center on John's Island.

Jackson was overjoyed by the Family Circle commitment that includes a $10,000 cash contribution to Courting Kids.

"This tremendous donation has grown our operating budget by more than 20 times, and I know that both the children and instructors appreciate all of the brand new equipment we now have in the program," Jackson said.

The program got its start nearly 20 years ago under Jackson when a $12,000 grant from the Paul Newman Foundation arrived. The Courting Kids' list of achievements include Southern and national chapter of the year awards in the National Junior Tennis League.

"Courting Kids has done so much to grow the game of tennis in Charleston, and the Family Circle Cup's support will help them advance their programming, as well as to expand their offerings to other locations in Charleston," Moran said.

"We commend Delores Jackson and the City of Charleston for offering this great program, and we believe whole-heartedly that the values and lessons instilled through tennis can truly make a difference in a child's development."

The commitment includes a wide assortment of tennis equipment, including new tennis shoes for all participants, 10 collapsible ball carts, 25 cases of new tennis balls, 350 Courting Kids hats, 400 dry-fit Courting Kids T-shirts and 10 Instinctive Tennis Academy Eye Coach machines along with season-ending parties, terrace-level tickets to the Family Circle Cup, and professionally designed marketing materials.

The Family Circle Cup also provided 250 tickets, a pair for each Courting Kids participant, to the upcoming Patti LaBelle/Boyz II Men concert set for Oct. 2 at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

"The Courting Kids tennis program is an amazing opportunity for inner-city youth to learn a game for a lifetime," Riley said. "Family Circle Cup and their contributions certainly up the ante in the ability of this innovative program to provide healthy and vigorous recreational opportunities for our youth. Family Circle Cup understands the importance of opening a door for a growing generation to the great sport of tennis. We are grateful for their support."

South Carolina-based Dunlop Sports and Vapor Apparel, year-round partners of the Family Circle Cup, both made signficant donations of equipment to the partnership between Courting Kids and the Family Circle Cup.

The Family Circle Cup will implement two major fundraising programs during the WTA Tour tournament each April.

A "Serve & Return" ticket program will give patrons the opportunity to donate their unused tickets as upgrades for resale inside the venue, and the tournament will facilitate the online auction of event merchandise and autographed memorabilia, with the proceeds benefitting Courting Kids.

In addition, the Family Circle Cup will ask ticket patrons to donate tennis rackets, new cans of tennis balls and other tennis supplies to be donated to Courting Kids participants. The Courting Kids staff will be given a prime location on-site during the Family Circle Cup to promote Courting Kids and recruit volunteers.


(09/19/10)  Tennis Town USA is ready for you

I can't wait to see the Best Tennis Town welcoming signs to Charleston. They are on the way, right?

Charleston area tennis has been big time for many years. But with the title of America's Best Tennis Town safely tucked away, the sky's the limit for Charleston tennis. We've got our own legitimate women's tour prospect, too. Shelby Rogers is a player to watch for the next few years, possibly even more so now that she has rejoined Family Circle Tennis Center.

It's a natural alignment: Charleston's first participant in the U.S. Open and the complex that houses the WTA Tour's Premiere level Family Circle Cup.

First, where's all of the money from the $100,000 Best Tennis Town award going?

The recreation departments of Charleston, Mount Pleasant and North Charleston will receive $10,000 each as will each of the tri-county school districts (Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley). St. Andrew's Parks and Playground also will receive $10,000. The money will be designated for tennis programming or facility enhancements.

The remaining $30,000 will be placed in a fund managed by the Lowcountry Tennis Association. Organizations can apply for grants pertaining to further growth of the game in this area.

Rogers, Minton switch

What's going on at the old Players Club on Mathis Ferry Road, now named LTP Tennis and under new management?

Seventeen-year-old Shelby Rogers has been training at the site for much of her tennis career under pro Bryan Minton. Their new address is Daniel Island and Family Circle Tennis Center. Of course, Rogers is excited about the switch back to the Family Circle Cup complex where she started out, and even more so because the tennis center is located just a few blocks from her family's home.

Minton joined Family Circle pro Lenny Schloss' Instinctive Tennis Academy at Family Circle Tennis Center this past week on the heels of Rogers' near-upset of Shuai Peng in the first round of the U.S. Open. Rogers and Minton are in Albuquerque, N.M., this week where Rogers will compete in a $75,000 women's tournament.

"Bob Moran (Family Circle general manager) wants Family Circle Tennis Center to be the best training facility anywhere," Minton said.

"Lenny (Schloss) and I have been friends and I have learned a lot from him over the years. This is just a good time to join forces with him."

Former LTP Tennis pros Chip Hand and Chris Peek also have followed Minton to Family Circle Tennis Center, along with standout juniors Connor Clements, Austin Heinz, Samantha Shuster, Ashby Bland and nearly a dozen other juniors.

"Bryan has proven himself. He has a lot of respect and credibility among the juniors," Family Circle Tennis Center director Rob Eppelsheimer said.

Your line call
Tennis is all about lines. Unlike the players on the pro tours, league tennis participants call their own lines.

Add more lines to a court to accommodate a new racket sport such as the USTA's QuickStart and calling lines automatically gets tougher. Returning hard serves that land in the outside corners of the box can become more troublesome at the point the ball travels over a new vertical line that's located about three feet inside the singles line.

The hundredth or thousandth of a second that the serve travels over the extra line can cause a player to lose focus on the ball momentarily. The slight hesitation can result in an ace on a serve you initially relaxed on because you thought it was a fault.
The QuickStart program for kids 10-and-under looks like a great game. There's tremendous excitement at tennis centers over the prospect of enticing an entirely new group of kids to move under the tennis umbrella.

At the same time, league tennis is going gangbusters everywhere. League tennis, through its league fees and USTA membership requirement, and the U.S. Open are the primary benefactors of American tennis.

Just because Andy Roddick appears to have lost his Mojo and the Williams sisters may be nearing the end of their careers doesn't mean American tennis is in trouble. Instead, tennis participation is growing faster than that of any other participatory sport in the United States.

The Family Circle Tennis Center has built QuickStart courts. Since they are smaller and low-compression or foam balls are used, four 36x18 foot QuickStart courts for 5-8 year olds can be constructed in the space a regulation court requires.

Notes
--The 27th annual Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championship will be held Oct. 6-10 at the Seabrook Island Racquet Club. The event's 44 different brackets include singles, doubles and mixed doubles in age categories from 40-80.

Registration is available at www.discoverseabrook.com. Contact Mike Kiser at the Racquet Club (768-7543) or event co-chairs Judy and Guy Gimson (768-2549).

--The I'On Club will hold its eighth annual Ace Breast Cancer tournament Oct. 8-10. The tournament will have doubles and mixed doubles divisions. Registration is available at www.acebreastcancertennis.org.

--In last weekend's league state mixed doubles tournament, a 6.0 St. Andrew's team captained by Maggie McCann won a state title, and a 9.0 LTP Tennis team captained by Deanna Vroman took state honors. Both teams will advance to the Southern Championships next month in Jackson, Miss.

--The LCTA's annual party will be held Oct. 1 at Family Circle Tennis Center as part of the Charleston Pro Tennis League program.


(09/08/10)  Tennis, everyone?
Many discerning folks have long recognized Charleston as America's best municipality for history, scenery, she-crab soup, politeness and courtly charm. Now our Holy City has added a new nonpareil billing with its official designation as "America's Best Tennis Town."

As reported in Tuesday's Post and Courier, the U.S. Tennis Association bestowed that tribute on Charleston Monday at the U.S. Open in New York City. And we didn't just win that coveted honor.

We won $100,000.

Ken Edwards, president of the Lowcountry Tennis Association, accepted a trophy – and a check -- on Charleston's behalf at Arthur Ashe Stadium. He pointed out that the award "confirms the passion and dedication Charlestonians feel about the game," adding that the money "will be used to further the advancement of youth tennis."

Tennis for all ages obviously has already advanced a long way in Charleston, which has more than 580 courts and is home to the annual Family Circle Cup women's professional tournament each spring.

Some boosters of second-place Atlanta, which got $50,000, and third-place Richmond, which got $25,000, might question the validity of the result because the "Best Tennis Town" winner was determined by online voting.

Hey, we played by the USTA's rules against 81 other communities -- and won.

Thus, our response to any sour grapes, borrowed from four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe: "You cannot be serious."

If you are serious about getting in better shape, try tennis, which requires a lot of running, but not a lot of space.

After all, this is America's Best Tennis Town.


(09/07/10) Charleston wins title of Best Tennis Town
NEW YORK -- Charleston has defeated Atlanta and Richmond, Va., for the title of America's Best Tennis Town.

"It was an epic upset," said Family Circle Cup General Manager Bob Moran, describing the results Monday at the U.S. Open, where the Best Tennis Town announcement was made on the Jumbotron screen in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Atlanta has 150,000 tennis players to Charleston's 15,000," he said.

"I've never been so excited to hear Atlanta's name," a still jubilant Edwards said.

"After Richmond got third, I knew it was conceivable that Charleston had finished first," he said. "I had been told by numerous people that we didn't have a chance."

Eppelsheimer was equally excited. "When they said Richmond, I knew we had a 50-50 chance," he said. "When they said Atlanta, goose bumps ran down my arm."

From the original 82 entries in the Best Tennis Town competition, 10 towns were selected as finalists earlier this summer. Online voting then took over the competition for a 10-day period, and Charleston, Atlanta and Richmond were then announced as the top three towns, with the winner to be announced at the U.S. Open.
USTA officials do not release the actual number of votes for each town in the two-year-old competition.
Midland, Mich., won the award in 2009.
LCTA vice president Nancy Pitcairn and Meg Farrelly of the Isle of Palms also were official Charleston representatives and were in the luxury box in Arthur Ashe Stadium when the announcement was made between matches.

"When they announced Atlanta, Nancy grabbed me and hugged me," said Farrelly, a veteran linesperson who was taking a break from calling lines at the U.S. Open.

Pitcairn, also the vice president of the Charleston Area Ladies Tennis Association, said, "We thought we could beat Richmond, but we never thought we could beat Atlanta because of their size."

Atlanta representative Cee Jai Jones took the disappointment in stride. "I'm originally from Walterboro, so I'm proud of them (Charleston). I go to the Family Circle Cup every year," Jones said. "When it comes to online voting, you never know what will happen."

USTA National President Lucy Garvin of Greenville presented the award to Edwards and Eppelsheimer.

Belton's Rex Maynard, president of the USTA's nine-state Southern Section, said, "Charleston is the perfect winner . . . they've got it all."

Maynard was happy that the Southern Section had the two top finishers in the national competition. "Last year we didn't have one of the top three," he said.

In Charleston, Mayor Joe Riley, who played a major role in the development of tennis in the area by luring the Family Circle Cup to Charleston a decade ago, greeted the news as "wonderful."

"It's truly wonderful for the entire community. Charleston and all of the communities and islands came together," Riley said. "This award will make tennis even more special in Charleston."

About the Family Circle Cup's 10 years in Charleston, he said, "I felt that the Family Circle Cup would substantially increase tennis in the community."

Obviously, he was right.
"Tennis is a lifetime sport," Riley said. "Charleston and all of our communities are giving them (residents) a sport for life."

Nancy Weber, the chief marketing officer for Family Circle Cup parent Meredith Corporation, said, "This is why we're in Charleston . . . it's such a great town."


(09/05/10)  A great tennis town meets its moment
NEW YORK - What constitutes a great tennis town?

You don't have to come to New York to find passion for this game, but the answer just popped out at me Friday when I arrived here.

It's obvious. Charleston loves tennis.

I made two phone calls Friday to complete this column. And guess what?

All-Lowcountry standout Alexis Prickett was already in New York, and Wando coach Becky Williamson was coming the next day.  On my non-stop flight to New York, Kiawah Island legend Roy Barth rode shotgun in the front seat. In the rear section, there was ex-USTA South Carolina president Ron Charron.

There's no lull at the U.S. Open. The world's highest-attended annual sporting event is going full blast.

For Charleston, it's the interim between Shelby Rogers and Monday's Best Tennis Town announcement.

Just making it to the U.S. Open was a major achievement for Rogers. The fact the 17-year-old Daniel Island girl came close in her opening-round match, but lost in three sets to China's Shuai Peng, wasn't a major disappointment.

Six months ago, who would have believed that America's "unofficial best tennis town" even would have had a player in the U.S. Open's main draw?

Shelby will be back.  Hopefully next year.

But for this Best Tennis Town competition, it's now or maybe never, although the second- and third-place finishers can enter the competition again next year.

The announcement is expected to come Monday afternoon. The plan, according to USTA media representative Kristen Clonan, is to make the announcement in a specific luxury suite in Ashe Stadium with the JumboTron showing the presentation to everyone in the stadium. Both Edwards and Eppelsheimer are scheduled to be in the
designated luxury suite for the announcement, which will be posted on www.besttennistown.com within minutes.

As Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., said, "Charleston deserves it." There's no doubt about that.

But, of course, it's not a "done deal" when Atlanta is in the game. We should beat "top three" rival Richmond, but as many fans fear, "Atlanta just has so many tennis players."

That seems to be the sentiment of fans of Charleston tennis. Too many Atlantans play tennis. If not for Atlanta's tennis population, this might be a slam-dunk.

Prickett leaves Wando

Alexis Prickett, who earned All-Lowcountry honors last year at Wando, is attending First Baptist Church School on Meeting Street for her senior year. "I wanted to try some other sports ... maybe basketball and soccer," Prickett said.

First Baptist doesn't have a tennis team.  Prickett said she committed in mid-July to join the Georgia Southern tennis program.

"I didn't think Coach (Becky) Williamson was coming back. She decided to come back at the last minute," Prickett said.

Williamson is back "I wanted to coach one more year with the seniors," Becky Williamson said.

And with reason. Wando has won a state record 99 straight dual matches while winning six consecutive SCHSL Class AAAA state championships. Wando suffered a loss to two-time SCISA Class AAA defending state champion Ashley Hall recently, but Williamson pointed out that the loss doesn't count against the Warriors' long winning streak since it was in a preseason tournament. The Warriors will go for 100 straight on Tuesday when Summerville visits the Wando courts.

Williamson has retired from the school system, but is coaching the Warriors' girls team for a 12th year.

With Prickett elsewhere, the Warriors could have difficulty winning a seventh straight state title. Senior Clair Larkin and eighth-grader Melanie Allen lead the way in the absence of Prickett and All-Lowcountry player Corin Hallman, who now attends Erskine College.

Ashley Hall third

Ashley Hall took third place recently in the Florence Tennis Association's girls high school tournament. Coach Mary Gastley's team lost to eventual champion Providence Day of North Carolina in the semifinals, but then defeated Wando, 4-3, in the playoff for third place.

Carter selected again

Charleston's Brenda Carter has been selected for the USTA's women's 60 Alice Marble Cup team that will participate in the International Tennis Federation's Super Seniors World Team Championships Oct. 11-16 in Antalya, Turkey.  The ITF Individual World Championships will follow the team championships.

LCTA news

--The league tennis state mixed doubles tournament will be headquartered next weekend at Charleston Tennis Center. The players' reception will be held Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Farmfield Avenue complex, with play beginning next Saturday morning. Matches also will be held at Maybank Tennis Center, Moultrie Playground, the Porter-Gaud courts and the St. Andrew's Parks and Playground complex.

--Tuesday is the deadline for forming a team (having the minimum number of players registered to fill all positions in a league match) for the league tennis fall leagues.

--This year's LCTA party will coincide with the Charleston Pro Tennis League match at Family Circle Tennis Center on Friday, Oct. 1.


(09/01/10)  Rogers narrowly falls in first round of U.S. Open

Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers came within two points - twice - of advancing to the second round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday afternoon. But both opportunities went for naught as Shuai Peng of China rose to the

occasion and pulled out a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3 win over Rogers in the opening round of the U.S. Open in New York.

"It was a close match ... just a point or two there. I played really well, although it wasn't one of my best serving days," Rogers said from New York after the nearly three-hour match.

Rogers' first-serve percentage was just 46 percent. She had nine

double-faults in the match, dropping her serve in her first service games in each of the last two sets.

Both Rogers and her longtime coach, Charleston pro Bryan Minton, thought she played well.

"I'm not disappointed at all today. I learned a lot. I'm only going to

improve from here. I see a lot of success in my future," Rogers said.

The 17-year-old Charlestonian, who earned a berth in the U.S. Open main draw by winning the recent national junior championship, trailed most of the first set before holding service in the 12th game and then taking a tight tiebreaker. Rogers rallied from a service break down in the second set to take 5-4 and 6-5 leads, with Peng having to serve to stay in the match.

Peng held serve the first time at love, but the 12th game went to 30-30 and deuce before Peng forced a tiebreaker. Peng jumped to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, then held off Rogers at 4-3 by winning the last three points to even the match at one set apiece.

Peng extended her streak to 10 straight points by taking the first seven points of the third set as she gained a 2-0 lead. Rogers never fully recovered.

"Shelby was close. She fought hard, but she couldn't quite pull it off," Minton said.

"On one of the points (30-30 in the 12th game) when Shelby was close to winning the second set, the other girl fell down and it looked like Shelby had an opportunity to win the point. But Shelby took her eye off the ball and missed it wide. Out of all the points she lost in the whole match, that probably was the toughest."

Rogers was impressed by the 24-year-old Peng, who is ranked 61st in the world but has been plagued all year by injuries and sicknesses.

"(Peng) served really well and moved forward really well," Rogers said. "She hit deep balls to the corners and moved me around. She hit two-handed from both sides, but I had practiced with a girl that used both hands on both sides."

Rogers was happy. She even got to sign a few autographs after the match and was greeted by about 30 people she knew. She hit next to both Roger

Federer and Rafael Nadal on the practice courts. Rogers also was scheduled to meet Billie Jean King today with other young players for a mentoring session.

"It's been great," Rogers said about her experience at the U.S. Open.


(08/30/10)  Assist From Big Sis helped Rogers get her start on road to U.S. Open

An older sister's influence is as easy to recognize as the faces of Venus and Serena Williams. Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers isn't so prominent. She's only 17 and just starting out in professional tennis.

But Rogers has an older sister who has played a major role in the structuring of her life. You might even go so far as to say that Rogers is a pro tennis player partly because of the influence of her older sister, Sabra.

Shelby was a mere 4-year-old when she clung to the fence at Snee Farm Country Club watching Sabra playing tennis and said, "I want to do that." That moment left an indelible mark on Shelby's life.

She will always be able to look back and say, "I was a professional tennis player.

I played in the U.S. Open."

Only an elite few in today's society can make such statements.

There are thousands of women playing pro tennis. But Rogers is one of only 128 women who earned berths in the U.S. Open this year, gaining entry by capturing

the girls' 18 national championship

recently in San Diego.

Former Bishop England and Emory

University tennis standout Sabra is proud of her baby sister.

"I couldn't be more proud of her," said Sabra, who is in New York to watch Shelby play. "As soon as she made up her mind, I had no doubt she could do it."

Shelby also cherishes those early memories. "I looked up to her (Sabra), and I loved

tennis. We are really close. She has helped me a lot over the years," Shelby said.

Shelby overcame three match points in the national semifinals to keep alive her dream of earning a wild card into the U.S. Open. A week earlier in Vancouver, Rogers rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the second

set and 4-0 down in the third set to defeat formerly 27th-ranked Sania Mirza.

Comebacks have become Rogers'

Sister helped Rogers get to the U.S. Open

trademark as much as her aggressive gunslinger style of play. That's one reason Bryan Minton enjoys coaching her so much.

"She just fought and never gave up," said Minton, her longtime coach and a pro at Mount Pleasant's LTP Tennis.

At 5-9, Rogers plays, hits and serves with power. She goes for the lines.

This all started that day at Snee Farm. Then came the day 13 years later in early May in Plantation, Fla., when she made the decision to forgo a possible college tennis career by turning pro, rejecting many college offers.

"Actually I had been wanting to do it (turn pro) for awhile, but wanted to keep my options open. I got to the finals of Indian Harbor and I said I would do it," Rogers recalled about the $50,000 Florida tournament in which she won seven straight matches.

Rogers definitely felt recently when she duplicated her earlier feat of winning seven straight matches that she had made the right decision. Only this time, the rewards were a national championship, a spot in the main draw of the U.S. Open and the girls 18 national player of the year.

Rogers, ranked 345th, is looking forward to playing China's 24-year-old Shuai Peng, who's ranked 60th, in her first match at the U.S. Open, probably on Tuesday since the match isn't on today's schedule. Rogers expects to be a little nervous, even though the match might not be be played in one of the two large stadium courts at Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

"I think I'll be a little nervous, but I'm always nervous at the start of my matches. Once I get out there and get my feet moving, I'll figure out a way to get points going against her," Rogers said.

Regardless of what happens at the U.S. Open, it's been a magical year for Rogers. She won the the Smash Junior Cup and the wild card into the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup. She didn't qualify for the main draw, but played two exhibitions, including a highly competitive showing in a Friday night doubles pairing with tour veteran Patty Schnyder before a crowd of more than 8,000 in Family Circle Magazine Stadium.

She followed that up by making the final at the $50,000 challenger in Florida, then advanced to the quarterfinals of a $75,000 event in Vancouver, playing a tight match against former world's No. 4 Jelena Dokic. Then came the excitement of winning the national title.

Rogers wants to take advantage of the opportunity by learning more about how the game is played and conducted at the top level. Win or lose, she plans to stick around a few days and watch "some of the other girls play."

Rogers is a home-grown product. She followed her sister into junior tennis, winning five singles titles at the Palmetto Championships, the last one when she was 14 playing in 16-and-under.

She attended First Baptist Church School on Meeting Street, leaving after her freshman year to concentrate on tennis full-time at the then Players Club (now LTP Tennis). She earned her high school diploma online.

Rogers has prepared diligently for the biggest opportunity of her tennis career. Prior to going to New York last Thursday, she was practicing twice a day, five hours a day. Under the watchful eye of Minton, Rogers was fortunate enough to have a line of excellent hitting partners at LTP Tennis, including former Brigham Young standout and current LTP pro Chip Hand as well as Summerville's Robbye Poole. Dan Reckner has worked with Rogers four days a week on conditioning, work that paid off handsomely in long, grueling matches in the national championships..

"This past week has been more fine tuning rather than specifics. More mental than anything," Rogers said.

In New York, she hopes to see Caroline Wozniacki. "I like her game. I guess she's my favorite player. She seems like a good girl."

Of course, Rogers will have her eyes out for Roger Federer. "I love Federer. It would be cool to meet him."

But as Minton said, "There's obviously a lot more excitement now, and Shelby is obviously excited. She's just got to go and play tennis now."


(08/29/10)  Charleston should win the USTA's Best Tennis Town title

By Gene Sapakoff
The three towns have been linked for almost 150 years, since those first shots at Fort Sumter. Atlanta and Richmond paid dearly for Civil War fever hatched in Charleston. They have taller buildings and, thus, better views of urban blight.

More interstate highway off-ramps.

More human goobers per capita, you have to give them that.

But as the U.S. Tennis Association's "Best Tennis Town" contest winds down to a dramatic Labor Day conclusion, there is clear separation between Charleston, the obvious No. 1, and also-rans Atlanta and Richmond.

We built this city.

On historic preservation, shrimp, grits and Maria Sharapova appearances.

This is serious stuff. The USTA will officially pick the winner among the three finalists a week from Monday at the U.S. Open, awarding $100,000 to go toward tennis programs and facility enhancements.

In a doubles match, Charleston and Buzzard's Roost, Wyoming, defeats Atlanta and Richmond every time. And Buzzard's Roost is playing with a sprained ankle.

Let's break down the competition.

Charleston has the Family Circle Cup, one of the great women's tournaments in the world. Singles winners since 2001 have included Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Justine Henin (twice) and Jennifer Capriati.

Atlanta has Buckhead and a zoo.

University of Richmond's sports teams are nicknamed the Spiders.

Kournikova and Cremins
As for tennis history, Richmond deserves thorough respect as the hometown of the late, great, classy Arthur Ashe. You have to think that helps going into a "Best Tennis Town" contest to be decided in the shadow of New York's Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But Charleston gives proper props to a tennis legend and South Carolina native with the fashionable Althea Gibson Club Court on the Family Circle Stadium property.

One Williams sister or the other annually lauds Charleston tennis fans and hospitality.

Our case in a nutshell: John McEnroe and Anna Kournikova playing in an exhibition match during the 2010 Family Circle Cup at a city-owned facility open to the public year-round.

Want to take this fight outside?

We have Diane Fishburne and Brenda Carter, South Carolina Tennis Hall of Famers who happen to be two of the very best age-group players in the country.

How about a match between celebrity coaches? Bobby Cremins of the College of Charleston plays lots of tennis. I like him against Bobby Cox most days of the week.

A really big 'if'
Top-level men's tennis, anyone? Richmond's "Best Tennis Town" trumpeters go on about a tour stop. But the defunct Richmond WCT lasted only from 1971 to 1984.

We had Andy Roddick leading the U.S. to victory over Belarus in Davis Cup play in 2004. It happened at the same Family Circle facility that has served as a launch pad for so many top players on the WTA Tour.

Sharapova played on Daniel Island at 16.

Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 1 seed in the upcoming U.S. Open, made the Family Circle Cup final in 2009, before losing to Sabine Lisicki. It was typical Family Circle Cup foreshadowing as Wozniacki went on to make the 2009 U.S. Open final, losing to Kim Clijsters.

A mere glimpse at each of the three promo videos at www.besttennistown.com is enough to convince all but the Richmond native who has fled to Marietta in search of a job that Charleston is most deserving.

The Atlanta pitch includes a local TV anchor bragging that the city has "more than 70 streets with the name Peachtree."

So, OK, they have that going for them.

The Richmond video starts with this: "If Virginia is for lovers, than Richmond is for tennis lovers."

Their whole campaign is based on that big "if."

If Virginia is for lovers, how come so many Virginia honeymooners turn up in Charleston?


(08/27/10)  Rogers draws Peng for 1st match in U.S. Open
Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers isn't disappointed that her first-round match next week in the U.S. Open will be against little-known Chinese player Shuai Peng and not one of the Grand Slam tennis event's showcase players. "I'm perfectly happy with my draw. I think I have a good match,"

Rogers said Thursday from New York. "I don't know much about her but that she played in the Family Circle Cup. I just want to go out there and play the best I can."

Peng, 24, is ranked 60th in the world. She was a quarterfinalist in the Family Circle Cup, losing to eventual champion Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-1, after defeating No. 5 seed Marion Bartoli and No. 10 seed Elena Vesnina. Peng's best finish in a year of injuries and illness was reaching the semifinals in Portugal in May. She has played only 23 matches in 2010, winning 13 times.

Peng hasn't played in a tournament since early July and has pulled out of her last three tournaments due to injuries, including last week's Montreal event with a left ankle injury. She missed both the French Open and Wimbledon with an illness. She suffered appendicitis in February.

Neither Peng nor Rogers has ever won a match at the U.S. Open.

While this will be the 17-year-old Rogers' first participation in the U.S. Open or any Grand Slam, Peng is 0-2 in the New York event.

Rogers, the winner of this year's girls 18 national player of the year award, won her way into the U.S. Open's main draw by capturing the girls 18 national championship recently in San Diego.

In facing Peng, the match is unlikely to be on many highlight reels and could be played on one of the smaller outside courts at the U.S. Open. But Rogers doesn't mind missing the spotlight.

Just getting to play in the U.S. Open is enough spotlight for the big-hitting Rogers, who is currently ranked No. 345 in the world.

"That wasn't a big issue for me," she said about the possibility of not playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Rogers and her coach, Bryan Minton of Charleston, arrived in New York on Thursday morning. The U.S. Open main draw will begin on Monday.


(08/22/10) U.S. Open becomes personal to Charleston
No U.S. Open has ever been more personal to Charleston.

The area that hopes to be named America's Best Tennis Town on Labor Day at the U.S. Open and the Lowcountry also has its own home-grown entry in this year's main draw.

Charleston has moved onto center stage at the U.S. Open. It all starts Thursday at noon with the U.S. Open draw party on ESPN2.

You'll need to listen carefully for the name of Daniel Island's own Shelby Rogers to learn Rogers' opponent in the first round of the U.S. Open. About the only thing certain is that Rogers won't draw top-ranked Serena Williams since Serena has withdrawn due to a foot injury.

Then on Labor Day, the area will wait patiently to learn if Charleston gathered enough votes to earn the Best Tennis Town recognition over Atlanta and Richmond, Va.

"With Charleston as one of the top three towns and to have one of its own in the U.S. Open main draw, it's a fantastic time for tennis in Charleston," said Bryan Minton,

Rogers' longtime coach.
Rogers and Minton are scheduled to make the trip to New York on Thursday. "Shelby
will get a feel for the place, and it's just enough time to be comfortable," Minton said.
"Whatever happens will be good."

Rogers' venture onto the main stage of Grand Slam tennis is the result of an incredible seven-match sweep of the 18-and-under Girls National Championships in San Diego that ended last Sunday with a U.S. Open main draw wild card-clinching victory in the final.

In the aftermath of her conquest of San Diego, Rogers has been awarded the USTA's Maureen Connolly Brinker Outstanding Junior Girl Award for 2010. Previous winners of the 42-year-old award include Chris Evert, Tracy Austin and Lindsay Davenport.

Cooper essay winner
Porter-Gaud junior Mi'Kola Cooper will take part in Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the U.S. Open next weekend as one of 10 regional winners of this year's Arthur Ashe Essay contest. Cooper, a member of last fall's All-Lowcountry high school team, will travel to New York on Friday with her mother.

"We do this (essay) every year, and this year they asked what was Arthur Ashe's greatest accomplishment. I decided it was as a humanitarian because of the way he helped people out of the kindness of his heart," said Cooper, a product of Charleston's inner-city Courting Kids program.

Fenno South's No. 1
Young Brant Fenno isn't to be outdone by all of the pro tour players coming out of the old Players Club, now named "LTP Tennis." He is currently ranked No. 1 in the South in 10-and-under boys. "Since there are no final year-end southern rankings in the 10s, and no national tournaments in the 10s, this is the highest ranking that he can possibly achieve at this age," reports local attorney Edward Fenno, the proud father of the top-ranked player.

Ryan Young update
Charleston's Ryan Young hasn't given up on his pro tennis aspirations, despite a six- month setback from injury last year. He used the time off from tennis' satellite circuit to return to Clemson and complete his degree in sports management.

Young was en route by train from Washington, D.C., to New Haven, Conn., hoping to gain entry to a qualifying tournament for the ATP Tour's Pilot Pen tournament when I reached him on Friday. The former Clemson standout is based in the Washington area where his former college coach, Chuck Kriese, is running a tennis club in College Park, Md.

"I'm getting back to where I was before the injury," said the 25-year-old left-hander, who spent four months earlier this year in Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia. "I feel good and focused. I'm working hard and know that good things are coming."
Young and former Clemson teammate Nathan Thompson are starting a ministry called "Learning 2 Serve." Young said, "We'll put on a clinic for children in the cities we play tournaments in, combining our true passion to give back to the community and children. As a Christian you serve. As a tennis player you serve . . . two types of serving."

Local notes
--Fall USTA league tennis leagues are now forming. The deadline for having the minimum number of players registered that is needed to fill all positions for a league match is Sept. 7.
--Registration also is open until next Sunday for participation in the USTA's Southern Flex League. The season will begin Sept. 5 and run through Nov. 7. Competition will be in men's & women's singles (2.5, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0), men's doubles (3.0 and 3.5) and women's doubles (2.5, 3.0 and 3.5). Contact Vickie Nash (761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo).

--The new owners of the former Players Club plan to show off their newly renovated LTP Tennis complex to the public next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free tennis and meet-the-pros along, with refreshments from noon to 2 p.m. LTP Tennis has nine clay courts and seven hard courts.


(08/16/10)  Win lands Rogers in U.S. Open

The dream has become a reality for 17-year-old Shelby Rogers of Daniel Island.

She's headed to New York in two weeks. Not as an observer but as a participant, as she qualified for the main draw in the U.S. Open.

Rogers earned a wild-card berth into the main draw of the U.S. Open by winning the USTA's girls 18 national tennis championship in San Diego on Sunday.

"I just want to get back home and rest," Rogers said after she got past 17-year-old Nicole Gibbs, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (4). It was the third-seeded Rogers' seventh straight win in San Diego, coming on the heels of a tight quarterfinal loss 10 days ago to former world fourth-ranked Jelena Dokic in a $75,000 tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Winning a national championship was sensational for Rogers, but nothing matched the wild card into the U.S. Open.

"The wild card is great ... I am so excited," Rogers said.

Rogers' mother, Starley, was just as happy on Daniel Island. "I went out on my porch and cried," her mother said.

Bryan Minton, Rogers' longtime coach at the former Players Club in Mount Pleasant, had to be the happiest observer in San Diego. "There's no bigger tournament that a junior can win in the U.S.," he said.

And now Minton gets to coach Rogers in a Grand Slam tournament.

"Nobody choked ... nobody gave up. It was one of the best matches I've ever seen," said Minton. "Almost every game went to deuce."

Rogers had one match point in the second set and another one in the third set at 5-4 before finally building up a 6-2 lead in the decisive tiebreaker.

A day earlier in a 2-6, 7-6 (9), 6-0 win over No. 5 Krista Hardebeck of Santa Ana, Calif., Rogers, ranked No. 348 in the world, fought off three match points in the second-set tiebreaker.

"Shelby had her chances but never got frustrated. When she needed it, she stepped up," Minton said.


(08/08/10)  Area has new pro tennis standout in Poole

Summerville's Robbye Poole is the area's newest player on the professional tennis circuit.

But there's no need to grab your Summerville High School yearbook to look for Poole's picture. You won't find it.

You might find it soon on the ATP Tour website if the 2009 University of Mississippi graduate continues to excel on the USTA Pro Circuit, better known as futures or satellite circuit. Poole had won two straight $10,000 tournaments (in Godfrey, Ill., and Joplin, Mo.) and possibly was headed for a third straight before defaulting a quarterfinal match on Friday in Decatur, Ill., because of a sore knee.

"I made a move in the second-set tiebreaker and I felt it," he said about the left knee injury that occurred in his round of 16 straight-set win in Decatur.

Poole has popped up to No. 630 in the world, and should climb nearly 200 places higher when all of his recently earned points are added to the computer rankings.

Whenever Poole isn't so busy with the pro circuit, he trains with Bryan Minton out of the former Players Club on Mathis Ferry Road now named "Live To Play." Poole's mother, and main supporter of his traveling tennis life, has resided in Summerville the last five or six years, or since the family moved there from Shreveport, La., "because of Mom's relocation of her job."

Poole is 24 years old. He's a 6-1 right-hander who played Nos. 2 and 3 singles for Ole Miss, earning All-America honors and twice advancing to the NCAA round of 16 in singles.

The reason we haven't heard much about Poole's career before is because he didn't attend school in Summerville, but instead attended a tennis academy in Charlotte. He grew up playing junior tournaments against the likes of Marathon-Man John Isner.

When Poole has a long break from the tour these days, he trains with a coach in Bradenton, Fla., and he said he stays at Isner's house in Tampa.

Poole likes his two-handed backhand. "It's my best shot," he said.

His goal? "Depends on how I feel. If I keep progressing, I'll keep playing."

After wrapping up things in Decatur on Friday, Poole planned to return to Charleston to rest and recuperate before heading to Florida to train. He's then hoping for a wild-card into the U.S. Open's qualifying tournament.

Shelby's big upset

Shelby Rogers plays like a wild-west gunslinger, shooting from the hip with her big go-for-broke shots. And now she can notch her belt with a big win: Sania Mirza, the much-heralded player from India who has been ranked as high as 27th in the world.

Rogers turned the trick Thursday in the round of 16 of a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Vancouver, B.C., as for the second straight day the 17-year-old from Daniel Island rallied from a set down, this time for a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over the eighth-seeded Mirza.

The next day the tournament put the No. 383-ranked Rogers in a feature night quarterfinal match against formerly fourth-ranked Jelena Dokic, winner of more than $4 million on the women's tour. Dokic, attempting a comeback on the WTA Tour at age 27, lived up to her No. 4 seeding with a close 6-3, 7-6 (6) win over Rogers. The other semifinalists included WTA Tour regular Virginie Razzano, last year's 19th-ranked player in the world.

Rogers' win over Mirza was special, not only because of the sheer magnitude of the achievement but also because of the way Rogers bounced back from adversity when the match was on the line.

"I just hung in there . . . never gave up," Rogers said Friday from Vancouver about her victory over Mirza. "I was down 5-3 in the second set . . . four points away (from defeat), and then I was down 4-0 in the third set."

For sure, it was the biggest win ever for Rogers, who earlier this year was runner-up in a $50,000 tournament in Indian Harbor, Fla.

Local notes

--Charleston Tennis Center will hold an adult-rated tournament Aug. 27-29. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com. Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

--Three members of Charleston's Courting Kids program were invited to participate in National Junior Tennis League camps this summer. Amber Myers attended a NJTL USTA National Tennis and Leadership Camp in Atlanta, while Junior Duarte and Tara Fields traveled to Jackson, Miss., to participate in a NJTL USTA Regional Tennis and Leadership Camp.

--The popular Charleston Pro Tennis League will begin play on Sept. 10. The Friday night league will have five regular season programs, followed by two rounds of playoffs.

--The league tennis state mixed doubles tournament will be held the second weekend in September at Charleston Tennis Center.

--Registration for the local singles league has been extended to Wednesday. Five levels are available for men and women (2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5) and league play will be on Sunday afternoons at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. The league schedule will begin on Aug. 16 and run through mid-October.

--Austin Heinz played up in boys' 16 singles in the recent Southern Level 3 North Carolina clay court championships in Charlotte and took third place. He also teamed with Raleigh's Will Baird to capture the boys' 16 doubles crown.


(07/29/10)  Charleston top 3 finalist for 'Best Tennis Town'
Atlanta, Richmond other finalists; winner announced at U.S. Open
The vote is in. Charleston is among the three finalists in the competition for America's "Best Tennis Town."
"It feels great … the Lowcountry really stepped up and promoted it. This puts us on the national stage at the U.S. Open," said Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran, one of the key figures in Charleston's campaign for the national award.

Word came to local officials as well as representatives from Atlanta and Richmond, Va., on Wednesday afternoon in a conference call from the U.S. Tennis Association that announced the top three finalists.

The management at the Maybank Tennis Center on James Island wasted no time in letting players know that Charleston is in the running with Atlanta and Richmond for designation as the "Best Tennis Town in America" on Wednesday.

"There was a lot of whooping and hollering on the call," Lowcountry Tennis Association president Ken Edwards said. "It was incredible. We're going to the U.S. Open and keep our fingers crossed.

"The support of the entire Charleston tennis community was the backbone of this initiative."

Although the voting is complete, the final results will not be announced until officials from Charleston, Atlanta and Richmond gather at the U.S. Open for the climax of the competition and the crowning of America's Best Tennis Town for 2010.

The U.S. Open will be held Aug. 30 through Sept. 12 in New York.

The national winner will receive a $100,000 award to be used for tennis programming and facility enhancements, with $50,000 and $25,000 going to second place and third place.

The 10-day national voting competition among 10 finalists ended at midday on Monday, leaving some local tennis officials expecting a call on Tuesday. "I thought if there was good news, we would have heard yesterday," Edwards said.

Charleston, Atlanta and Richmond beat out honorable mention entries Clearwater, Fla., Snow Hill, N.C., Delray Beach, Fla., Beaverton, Ore., Rome, Ga., Rosemount, Minn., and Manchester Center, Vt., for top-three honors from an original field of 82 cities. The seven honorable mention cities each will receive $2,000 worth of tennis equipment.

Midland, Mich., won the inaugural competition last year, a contest Charleston did not enter.
Video
To see Charleston's nomination video, go to besttennistown.com

"The Charleston community put 100 percent of its support behind this initiative," Moran said. "Our top-three status is a direct result of a complete and comprehensive effort by countless entities who truly believe that Charleston is the Best Tennis Town in America.

The Family Circle Cup is proud to be located here, and our fans and players alike attend this event because of what this city has to offer."

Even tennis great Virginia Wade voted for Charleston. "I voted for Charleston! No discussion, it's the best," the former Wimbledon champion said, according to Family Circle officials.

"I want to congratulate all of the local tennis entities who collaborated in the effort to bring this accolade to the Lowcountry," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.

"Placing in the top 10, and now the top three, has been a major victory in itself, bringing national attention and immense pride to Charleston."

Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails said, "This contest has really shown the cohesiveness of the Lowcountry tennis community.

"Looking back over the many years I've spent in the Charleston area, I've never seen such a unified and collaborative team come together to benefit the sport of tennis."


(07/25/10) Best Tennis Town voting still open; Charleston's chances up to you

It's top secret at the U.S. Tennis Association. No one knows which of the 10 finalists will win the "Best Tennis Town in the USA" title, or even who's leading heading into the last 24 hours of the competition.

But as Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said Friday, "I think we deserve it."It's great to be in the final 10. This is a wonderfully active tennis community," he added while including Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and the entire area. "I've got my fingers crossed."

That could be Charleston's lucky charm in gaining the title of "Best Tennis Town." But, just in case you haven't voted yet, don't let the next 24 hours pass without going to www.besttennistown.com and casting your vote. You can watch the videos if you like, but be sure to select Charleston's "Vote" button and enter your name and e-mail address (only one vote per e-mail address).

In reality, the title of "Best Tennis Town" could even go to the eastern North Carolina crossroads community of Snow Hill, all 1,700 residents strong, which not long ago was proclaimed as the tennis capital of the South because of its high number of USTA-registered tennis players per capita. Or, on the other extreme, the title could go to Atlanta with its 50,000 USTA tennis league players and 80,000 other league players. Then, there's Charleston and the seven other towns in between the smallest and largest 10 finalists.

Size matters, but this contest is all about passion. And no town loves its tennis more than Charleston.

The question being asked around the community is how can, for example, a Rome, Ga., compete with its oversized neighbor? Surely, they say, there must be some formula to equalize the situation. But there isn't, assured Nicole Greene of the USTA marketing department on Friday from her New York office.

"It's all done by computer," Greene said, pointing out that only "the raw vote" will determine the national winner. The computer is in complete charge of the counting, and no one knows the current vote totals, although she said she does have the password to the program that calculates the totals.

As last year when little Midland, Mich., won the inaugural "Best Tennis Town" title, the vote totals will not be made public. "We won't release the totals for legal reasons," Greene said.

What's for sure is that the contest's Internet site will stop counting votes when the clock passes 11:59 a.m. EDT on Monday. Greene said the top three finalists will be posted before noon Wednesday at besttennistown.com after all are notified of the results.

The top three will be represented on Labor Day at the U.S. Open, where the "Best Tennis Town" will be made official.

Riley on Maybank project
Riley is doubly excited about tennis these days. On Tuesday, Charleston City Council approved the first reading of a $19 million bond issue that has $500,000 earmarked for improvements to Maybank Tennis Center. He outlined the Maybank refurbishment Friday, noting it will include the complete rebuilding of two of the site's three clay courts and four of its eight hard courts as well as improve the courts' lighting and fencing.

"We will not end up with less than the current 11 courts, but we could create one more clay court in the 11 courts," Riley said. "We really would like to light the clay courts. If the budget allows, we would light two of the clay courts. Obviously, seniors' joints benefit from the softer courts. The only other clay courts in the city are at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"We have been wanting to refurbish the Maybank courts. They are some of the most heavily used courts in the area. Maybank is a jewel."

Riley said that once the second and final readings of the bond issue occur at the Aug. 17 City Council meeting, "We will begin work on the designing of the courts."

Local notes
--Wando girls star Melanie Allen and Porter-Gaud boys standout Seth Pinosky won the 14-and-under singles titles in the recent State Closed Junior Hard Courts held at the Lexington County tennis complex. Lauren Quinn had a 3-0 round-robin record to take girls 10. Carter Sebo in boys 10, Hufelder Duarte in boys 14 and Sarah McDonald in girls 16 were finalists. Pinewood Prep standout Joel Roberts won the sportsmanship award.

--The Lowcountry Gators recently won the 18U advanced Junior Team Tennis state championship. Coach Jim Elliget's team included five members (Sarah McDonald, Meagan Evans, Kristen Farmer, Adam Elliget and Zac Dye) from the team that won last year's Junior Team Tennis 14U national title. Joel Roberts, J.T. Elliget and Mi'Kola Cooper also were members of the current state champions.


(07/18/10)  It's time to claim 'Best Tennis Town' title

I've been writing for years that Charleston is the best tennis town in the country. Now, we have the opportunity to make this claim legitimate.

I've already voted online at www.besttennistown.com, using my name and e-mail address. It took less than 30 seconds.

So, now it's up to you for the next eight days to push Charleston over the top as the "Best Tennis Town" in America. It's all about our passion for local tennis.

The USTA competition started Friday afternoon and will run through 11:59 a.m. on July 26.

This contest obviously is not just about the $100,000 first prize that the USTA is offering, but for Charleston and the other nine finalists it's more about the title of "Best Tennis Town."

It's no secret. Charleston wants the title, all the way from Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., to Lowcountry Tennis Association president Ken Edwards, to Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran, to the everyday league tennis player, and even to just fans of Charleston tennis.

Can't you see it on the signs coming into town: "The Best Tennis Town In The USA."

The competition will be keen for the next 170 hours or so, and then two days later the USTA is scheduled to announce the three finalists for the title. Forty days later on Labor Day at the U.S. Open, the country's "Best Tennis Town" will be named.

For most of you, it all starts online at www.besttennistown.com where Charleston is listed along with Atlanta, Clearwater, Fla., Snow Hill, N.C., Delray Beach, Fla., Beaverton, Ore., Rome, Ga., Richmond, Va., Rosemount, Minn., and Manchester Center, Vt., as the 10 finalists for the national title. The preliminaries to the fan competition started about two months ago with 82 cities entered.

Each of the 10 finalists is listed on the website with its own video and vote buttons. The competition will be based on e-mail votes. Each e-mail address can be used only once in the competition.

Watching the videos, you will be able to recognize the importance of the contest to each of the cities. The videos are of professional quality. You can hear Chris Evert promoting Delray Beach where her academy is located.

The enthusiastic voice of Charleston's video is Lynn Hahn, who works in the Family Circle Tennis Center pro shop. While Charleston's entry has been a collaborative effort by the local tennis community, public officials and organizations, much of the credit for the all-important video goes to Moran and his staff.

Moran supplied the campaign with a local video production team that the Family Circle Cup uses. As one local tennis official said, this wouldn't be happening without the aid of Moran and his staff.

The city of Charleston is the face of the entry only because the competition is about tennis towns. The entire LCTA area is behind the entry, including the world's Nos. 1 and 2 ranked tennis resorts, Kiawah Island and Wild Dunes.

But the Family Circle Cup is the driving force behind this tennis community. When the elite women's tournament moved here 10 years ago from Hilton Head Island, Charleston was a good tennis town. Today, it's a great tennis town, the best in the country.

"The passion and commitment the Lowcountry has for tennis is dramatic," Moran said. "We have the pleasure of living and working in this community and when the concept of 'Best Tennis Town in the USA' was brought to our attention, we wanted to put our full effort behind the campaign as we wholeheartedly believe there is no better tennis town in the U.S. than Charleston."

This is the second year of the "Best Tennis Town" national competition. A year ago, the contest appeared to be almost an afterthought by the USTA. By the time most local people learned of the 2009 competition, it was at its current stage where 10 towns had been named finalists. Charleston didn't enter the competition.

Midland, Mich., population 41,685, was proclaimed last year's winner at the U.S. Open.

Ojai, Calif., (8,202) and Independence, Kan., (9,846) took the $50,000 and $25,000 prizes for second and third.
Midland has used last year's award money to renovate its Central Park courts and to fund other tennis projects.

"The money is incredibly important," said LCTA president Ken Edwards. "But to me, it's the title. It would be a huge boon to the tennis community" in terms of recognition in the overall Charleston community.

--A press conference featuring local tennis dignitaries, mayors and officials will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at the Moultrie tennis complex at the corners of Ashley Avenue and Broad Street in downtown Charleston.


(07/11/10)  Family Circle Cup, Heritage conflict ends
The Family Circle Cup final or the Heritage golf tournament? The decision-making process has just been made easier for fans of two of the biggest coastal sporting events in this state. The two major South Carolina events will finish on different weekends in 2011, thanks to a revamping of the WTA Tour schedule at the request of Family Circle Cup officials. The only conflict now for the Family Circle Cup crowd on April 10, 2011 should be to hurry home from the final on Daniel Island to sit down in front of a TV for several hours of dramatics from Augusta National and the Masters.

What a perfect day for the sports fan. And what a great opportunity for the following weekend.

The Heritage will put on its show the following weekend, allowing tennis fans to make the trip down to Hilton Head Island to see golf and maybe enjoy a weekend retreat on the world-reknown island without having to feel guilty about missing the Family Circle Cup final.

The two state events might even work together now since they no longer will be competing for the same fans.

"This gets us off the Heritage conflict, and allows us and the Heritage to promote both events," Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran said Friday about the WTA Tour's approval of moving the Premier-level women's tournament up a week on the calendar.

Of course, there will be a conflict for the smaller number of local fans lucky enough to own the elusive tickets for the Masters' final round. "From an attendance standpoint, more of our people attend the Heritage than the Masters," Moran emphasized.

The switch in dates is especially significant to potential Family Circle Cup participants. Foreign players no longer will have to spend an extra week in the United States between the Sony Ericsson super tournament in Miami and the Family Circle Cup. They also will be better able to take advantage of the discount airfares between Miami and Charleston.

"We're thrilled with the opportunity," Moran said. "We really engage the players to make sure this is right for them as well as good for us."

With the Family Circle Cup now following the two-week tournaments at Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami, Moran pointed out that Daniel Island participants will "be in the U.S. five weeks instead of six. We're hoping to keep more of the bigger-name players around to play here."

The April 2-10 Family Circle Cup will be held the same week as the Andalucia tournament in Marbella, Spain, which has attracted some top foreign players as well as Americans the last two years. Moran also is counting on some of those players to possibly stick around and participate in the Family Circle Cup.

As a result of the WTA Tour switching the $220,000 tournament held the last two years in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., (formerly played at Amelia Island, Fla.) from the week before the Family Circle Cup to late July in Howard County, Md., as a back-to-back event with the ATP Tour's Washington, D.C., men's tournament, the WTA calendar now includes only one American clay-court event. Of course, that's Daniel Island.

Clements fares well

Connor Clements is having a solid summer playing the International Tennis Federation junior circuit. He opened a qualifying tournament in Nassau by dropping only four games against No. 418-ranked world junior Jhonatan Gonzalez of Venezuela, who earlier this summer had eliminated Clements from an ITF tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The 16-year-old Clements advanced to the quarterfinals of the Nassau main draw where he trailed, 6-4, 4-2, before retiring with a sore ankle against 424th-ranked Robert Livi of the United States. Clements, who is currently ranked No. 1,023 among world juniors, teamed with Floridian Gordon Watson to win the doubles title at Daytona Beach.

BE girls set event

Second-year Bishop England coach Kristin Fleming has put together an outstanding field of teams for the Bishops' Fall Invitational that is scheduled for Sept. 17-19 at the Snee Farm Country Club and the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Whipple Road complex.

Fleming said she has commitments for the tournament from Wando, Ashley Hall, Pelion, Hilton Head, Waccamaw, Myrtle Beach, Ashley Ridge, Dutch Fork, Riverside, Palmetto Christian Academy, West Florence, Aiken, Beaufort and Pinewood Prep. She also said the tournament is looking for additional sponsors.

New league

If there are not enough league tennis playing opportunities already, the USTA is now taking registrations for a team singles league. The deadline to form a singles league team is Aug. 8. Contact a local club for more information about the singles league.

Mixed doubles leagues are in their last few weeks or looking ahead to the upcoming playoffs, while combo league teams are preparing to start the summer schedule as early as this coming week.

And by the time you return from vacation, the USTA probably will be taking registrations for the regular fall adult and senior leagues.

Of course, to join the fun, you'll need a current USTA membership.


(06/27/10)  The Players Club has new owner
The Players Club isn't going anywhere. It's just changing names again, under yet another management.

From the Players Club when Fritz Nau opened the excellent 13-court layout on Mathis Ferry Road in the summer of 2005, to the Players and Racquet Club in February of 2008 when Nau sold out to business partner Robert Maydock and opened a tennis club in Naples, Fla., to last Monday when Sherman Financial Group LLC CEO Ben Navarro's group took over the operation of the Mount Pleasant tennis complex through an auction.

The club has been renamed "Live To Play."

"This will be good for Charleston tennis," said Nau, always the big thinker from his days of working with the likes of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles. "Bryan (Minton), Jo Ann (Lee) and Ben (Simon) are a great team."

Veteran local pros Minton and Lee say they will continue to teach tennis under the new management team, while Simon is set to join them after his mid-July departure from MUSC, where he has served as director of tennis. Minton reports that the new ownership already is sprucing up the nine-plus acre site.

"I'm really happy the new ownership is keeping it as a tennis complex," Nau said.

The old management team that was headed by part owner/general manager Chuck Lee went out with a bang last weekend by holding the $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic. It was the first satellite event held in the area since the arrival of the Family Circle Cup in 2001. Chuck Lee, who owns the Pita Pit restaurant on King Street as well as an import business, is opening a full-service tennis shop (Tour Tennis) on Belle Hall Parkway in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday.

Schloss' 147-gamer
Marathon tennis matches might have been rather common these days if not for the impact 43 years ago of a current local pro.

James Van Alen's tiebreaker might never have been implemented if not for the 147-game, three-set match (3-6, 49-47, 22-20 at 6 hours and 10 minutes) in 1967 in which current Family Circle Tennis Center pro Lenny Schloss and Tom Mozur lost to Dick Dell and Dick Leach. The match is still the longest three-set match on record.

Famed author George Plimpton wrote about that marathon in the Sept. 18, 1967 issue of Sports Illustrated.

"It happened on Van Alen's courts at Newport," Schloss said Friday. "We were his best sales people. The USTA implemented his tiebreaker the next year."

Van Alen, who had family connections in Charleston, was the father of today's tennis tiebreaker. He was the president and founder of the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino as well as the tournament director for the Hall of Fame grass-court event that still follows Wimbledon. Prior to arriving at Newport in 1967, Schloss had played on Wimbledon's famed Centre Court in a mixed doubles match.

Plimpton wrote that as the 49-47 second set seemed to be headed for infinity that Van Alen, who had been promoting his VASSS (the Van Alen Special Scoring System), became impatient with the backlog of matches. "Absolutely embarrassing and ridiculous… That's nonsense out there, just nonsense," Plimpton quoted Van Alen.

Wonder what Van Alen's response would have been if he had been at Wimbledon during John Isner's record- setting 70-68 fifth-set win and 11 hour, 5-minute marathon against Nicolas Mahut.

After hearing of Van Alen's death during the 1991 Wimbledon, Stefan Edberg said, "If he (Van Alen) hadn't lived, Michael (Stich) and I might still be out there playing." Despite never having his serve broken in the match, Edberg had lost to Stich, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6(7-5), 7-6 (7-2), in the Wimbledon semifinals.

Long matches were common in the pre-tiebreaker days as indicated by the fact that former University of Tennessee teammates Schloss and Mozur had won a 48-46 set at Southampton in the tournament prior to the Hall of Fame event in 1967.

Isner connection
Former local junior star and current College of Charleston senior Nick Valiunas teamed with Isner nearly a decade ago in 14-and-under doubles for the Southern Davis Cup and USTA Zontals.

Big changes for 10s
Belton champion Brant Fenno was a singles finalist in the Southern Closed boys 10 championships last week. Brant's father, Charleston attorney and avid tennis player Edward Fenno, reports that the Southern Section is changing to its "Quick Start" format for all 10-and-under tournaments in 2011, including Belton and the Southerns.

For anyone who isn't familiar with "Quick Start," the courts are pint-sized and pressure-less balls are used. "I think it's a terrible idea," Brant's dad said.

Notes
--Austin Heinz and Hilton Head Island star Jared Woodson were finalists in Southern Closed boys 14 doubles at Macon, Ga. Heinz took sixth place in singles.
--Belton girls 12 champion Ashley Bland was a singles quarterfinalist in the Southern 12-and-under, while Samantha Shuster won the consolation singles title in girls 12 in Little Rock, Ark.
--Darryl Malone and Casea Stever will represent Charleston in the July 17-24 National Special Olympics Tennis Tournament in Lincoln, Neb. Charleston's Josh Tutterow has been chosen as the head coach for all tennis athletes from South Carolina.


(06/21/10)  Rampre outduels Davis in finale

Petra Rampre has been around tennis long enough to know that matches sometimes are won before the final point. The 30-year-old Slovenian was ready when an early opportunity arrived Sunday morning at the Players and Racquet Club. Lauren Davis, the Girls 16 national hard-court champion, never recovered from the brief loss of focus as Rampre walked off with the top singles prize in the $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Tennis Classic with a 6-3, 6-2 win.

It was the second-seeded Rampre's first title since last June's $10,000 satellite event in Sumter. Sunday's win was worth $1,568.

"The longer the match went, the more (Davis) definitely looked tired," said Rampre, who is ranked 393rd in the world.

Both Rampre and Davis, a hard-hitting 16-year-old from Cleveland, had survived nearly three-hour semifinals a day earlier, and Davis showed signs early Sunday of the lingering effects of the leg cramps.

The long fourth game appeared to take its toll on Davis as her big game melted down when she committed an unforced error at ad-out that allowed Rampre to earn the match's first service break and the 3-1 lead that went with it.

Rampre then consolidated the break by holding service at love for 4-1 as Davis started to limp around the clay court. The gritty tough Davis had one more surge left in her young body, a spark that allowed her to hold service and then to break service to get back on serve at 4-3.

But when a Rampre forehand at ad-out hit the soft net cord and fell on Davis' side for a 5-3 advantage, the fatal blow had been delivered.

"I hit some great slice shots, but because she's so low. she was able to hit very good shots back," Rampre said about her excellent one-handed backhand. "I had to hit spin and drop shots and mix things up to get her out of her rhythm."


(06/20/10)  Davis, Rampre to meet for title
There will be no mistaking the two players in today's 9:30 a.m. singles final of the $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic at the Players and Racquet Club.

Lauren Davis is a kid from Cleveland, all of 16 years old and 5-2 in height. Petra Rampre is a veteran vagabond of the wars of satellite tennis. At 30, she is nearly twice Davis' age.

Davis is hungry for the experience. Money is no big deal since she can only accept travel money.

Rampre is holding on to her tennis career by a thread that is bound to end soon. She loves the game, but this is all about money for the Slovenian. Just how much longer can she survive on the small paychecks of satellite tennis?

"I've played 10 sets of singles and eight sets of doubles already this week," Rampre said after her 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 semifinal win on Saturday over 24-year-old former LSU All-American Megan Falcon of Alameda, Calif. - and before losing the doubles final with local favorite Shelby Rogers. "I've played 12 straight weeks, driving from tournament to tournament."

Yes, it's about the paycheck at the end of the tournament for Rampre. The No. 2 seed and 393rd-ranked player in the world, she has her eye on the $1,568 first-place check in singles. It's a big drop to the $980 second money. She already has picked up half of the $343 second-place doubles money that she split with Rogers after a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Americans Kaitlyn Christian and Caitlin Whoriskey.

But Rampre is quick to total up the sum for her week if she wins today. That would be $1,739 before Uncle Sam claims his 30 percent, leaving just $1,217. She doesn't even want to think about second-place money in singles.

"I travel by car, because I don't have enough money to fly. I have to win. It's not like an eight-hour a day job. My mind has to be there all the time to win. But this is what I chose to do," the Richmond, Va., resident said.

Rampre has a marvelous one-handed backhand that separates her from many of the younger players. Her slice is deadly. She also can hit a big ball.

But the 5-7 Rampre will need it all against the gritty tough Davis, the 2009 girls' 16 national hard-court champion and Junior French Open round of 16 participant. Davis plays out of Chris Evert's Florida academy, but is headed home to Cleveland next week to play in another $10,000 satellite event.

Davis repeatedly beat off cramps in the second set to score a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) nearly three-hour semifinal win over 17-year-old Nicole Gibbs of Los Angeles who grew up only a short distance from Davis in Cleveland.

"When I got up 4-1 (in the second set) I knew I had her. I knew I could finish," Davis said. Playing in only her second pro tournament, she already had survived the first scare from cramps in the fourth game of the second set, and the cramps wouldn't go away despite efforts by the trainer. Davis fell to the clay a couple of times in pain and continued to hobble around the court, dropping the next two games to hold only a 4-3 edge.

But Davis continued to pound huge forehands and backhands, and mixing in deft drop shots, wearing Gibbs into submission and mistakes. The No. 502-ranked Gibbs appeared thoroughly frustrated that she couldn't find a way to take advantage of Davis' physical liabilities.

Gibbs fought off five match points while serving the 10th and 12th games. But Gibbs played a loose tiebreaker from the start, losing the first five points as she ran her string of losing tiebreaker points to eight straight.


(06/13/10) Maurer leaves; McKee in at Pinewood Prep
Veteran Heinz Maurer has turned in the reins of the boys and girls tennis teams at Pinewood Prep, and Bryant McKee has left Summerville High School to take charge at Pinewood Prep.

Maurer directed the Pinewood Prep boys to the SCISA Class AAA state finals three straight years (2006-08) and winning the 2007 state title. A retired naval officer, he plans to continue serving as tennis director at the Woodlands Resort, where he has taught for the last five years.

'It's time to go ... time to do other things,' said Maurer about his 10-year stint at Pinewood Prep, where the tennis complex is named in his honor.

McKee has been successful at Summerville during the last five years after arriving in the area from Kansas, where he served as a high school tennis coach. He led the Summerville boys team to five region titles, and the girls won two region titles.

'Pinewood is more of an opportunity for me. I'll be director of tennis and varsity coach in a full-time tennis job,' said the 40-year-old McKee.

$10,000 satellite starts
The $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic will begin today at the Players and Racquet Club with a 64-draw qualifying tournament that has 21 more players on the waiting list. The 32-player main draw will begin Tuesday. Tickets are $5 daily, or $25 for a weekly pass.

A pro-am will be held Monday from 5-7 p.m., and local pro standout Shelby Rogers is set to take center stage in Tuesday night's feature match at the Mathis Ferry Road complex. Ranked No. 394 in the world, Rogers is  expected to be a high seed in the main draw.

Other expected high seeds include Remi Tezuka of Japan (326) and Petra Rampre of Slovakia (379).

Volunteers can contact Angela Hawkins (angela_hawkins@comcast.net) or call (330-1128).

One default too many
Close doesn't count. Even if your team has to default one position in each of its last three matches in the 3.5 men's adult league state championships, losing the state title match is hard to take. That summed up an amazing run by the Charleston Tennis Center team I captained.

One failed commitment on championship Monday finally caught up with the Farmfield team in the state final when an Upstate team stacked the deck and put its 4.0-4.5 talent level singles ace at No. 3 doubles, accepted the default at No. 2 singles, then split the four matches on court to take the state title.

Due to heavy rains on the clay courts at the Greenville Country Club, the 3.5 men's final four went indoors at Clemson where no-ad, pro-sets were used for the state semifinals and final.

The only other medal brought back to Charleston from the Greenville 2.5-3.5 adult state men's and women's championships that were held Memorial Day weekend was a state runner-up by a 2.5 men's team from St. Andrew's captained by David Lowe. The St. Andrew's team was rewarded with a berth in the Southern Championships when the state 2.5 champions decided to pass up the trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the Southerns.

Other state championships were held in May in Aiken and Hilton Head Island.

Upstate complexes
The Charleston area has extraordinary tennis facilities at places such at Family Circle Tennis Center and the resort destinations of world's top two Kiawah Island and Wild Dunes as well as some others, but the area doesn't have a lock on great tennis facilities.

That was obvious during the 3.5 adult men's state championships that the Greenville Country Club and Greer's Thornblade Club served as hosts. With Charleston transplants Lester Herbert and David Holly running the tennis show, Greenville Country Club compares favorably in quality with any tennis complex in the Charleston area. It's an impeccable facility with its multi-tiered layout of clay and hard courts.

The elite Thornblade Club is equally as exceptional with its setting and impressive offering of clay and hard courts.

Courting kids
The summer session of the City of Charleston's popular Courting Kids program is under way. Sessions are Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. at Johns Island's Alan Fleming Tennis Center and Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Jack Adams Tennis Center downtown.  Contact Courting Kids director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).


(06/12/10)  Heffron completes standout high school career
Bishop England's Randall Heffron, All-Lowcountry tennis Athlete of the Year.

Randall Heffron's favorite tennis player is Roger Federer.

The Bishop England standout tries to emulate the Swiss great because, "I just like the way Federer puts tennis on his shoulders."

Heffron has been the focal point of the Bishops' boys tennis program for the last four years, and now he's reached the pinnacle of local high school tennis by being selected as The Post and Courier's Lowcountry player of the year.

He recently completed his 75-8 individual success story for the Bishops the same way he ended his three previous seasons -- in a state playoff loss to perennial Class AA/A state champion Waccamaw. Heffron is now headed for Wofford on a tennis scholarship, leaving the Bishops' fortunes in the hands of younger brother Walker Heffron.

Walker Heffron, a junior, joins his brother on this year's All-Lowcountry team, along with Palmetto Christian sophomore Addison King, and the Porter-Gaud trio of senior Elliott Sperr, freshman Thomas Spratt and sophomore Hunter Mitchell.

Coach of the year is veteran Palmetto Christian coach Dewey Caulder, who directed the Eagles to their fifth straight SCISA Class A state boys title. Caulder also has coached the Palmetto Christian girls to five straight state titles.

"I'm excited to get up there (to Wofford). I've got to train and get ready for it," Randall Heffron said. "Coach (Wofford's Rod) Ray is a nice guy. He jokes around with you. He works you hard, but at the same time looks out for you. Wofford was just a better fit (than Furman) and the place I felt I could contribute the most on the team.

"In this day and time when a lot of players are leaving high school to opt for computer school or home schooling so they can put more hours on the court, I chose the more conventional route of staying in high school. I enjoyed my relationship with my teachers at Bishop England, and I credit them with helping me earn acceptance into Wofford College. My friends and teammates are really important to me, and I would have missed all of that."

A four-time All-Lowcountry selection and two-time all-state player, Heffron started tennis when he was 3 or 4 years old and has tried to be the player and person his late father, former Citadel star Randy Heffron, would have wanted him to be.

"Tennis has given me a lot of people, a lot of connections," Randall Heffron said. "It is something I can do later in life. It got me into a pretty respected school (Wofford). Right now, (tennis) is a big part of my life."

Heffron already has tried out the USTA's adult league tennis program, playing one doubles match this spring for a 4.0 Mount Pleasant Recreation Department team. Once he signed a grant-in-aid with Wofford in April, he said he was unable to play league tennis.

Losing to Waccamaw each year was a major disappointment for Heffron, but he gained a measure of revenge in the High School League's recent state singles tournament by defeating top-seeded Waccamaw ace Josh Richmond for third place in Class AA/A.

ALL-LOWCOUNTRY BOYS TENNIS

FIRST TEAM
Randall Heffron, Sr., Bishop England
Walker Heffron, Jr., Bishop England
Addison King, So., Palmetto Christian Academy
Thomas Spratt, Fr., Porter-Gaud
Elliott Sperr, Sr., Porter-Gaud
Hunter Mitchell, So., Porter-Gaud
COACH OF THE YEAR: Dewey Caulder, Palmetto Christian Academy

SECOND TEAM
Adam Elliget, seventh grade, Pinewood Prep; Joel Roberts, fresh., Pinewood Prep; Austin Heinz, eighth grade, Palmetto Christian Academy; Zac Dye, fresh., Berkeley; Stephen Weaver, soph., Bishop England; J.B. Robards, jr., Porter-Gaud; Johnny Steichen, jr., Porter-Gaud.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie Baker, Porter-Gaud; Marshall Sanford, Porter-Gaud; Seth Pinowski, Porter-Gaud; J.T. Elliget, Pinewood Prep; Jacob Cumbie, Pinewood Prep; Davis Craig, Pinewood Prep; William Wert, Pinewood Prep; Rivers Colyer, Bishop England; Joseph Kennedy, Bishop England; Max Wolfman, Bishop England; Steven Griffin, Bishop England; Nick Butler, Palmetto Christian; Billy Perkins, Palmetto Christian; Robert McManus, Wando; Thomas Kuisel, Wando; Drew Dangerfield, Wando; Steven Roys, Stratford; Jacob Luther, Stratford; Bradley Harrison, Berkeley; Brian Gottshalk, James Island; Bailey Kirkland, Academic Magnet; Abhay Baliga, Academic Magnet; Ryan Spell, Academic Magnet; Mason Taylor, Summerville; Adam Seith, Summerville; Bryan Blitch, Summerville; Mitch McGaughy, Summerville; Junior Duarte, West Ashley; Cameron Williams, West Ashley; Joey Shelver, Hanahan; Tyler Essinger, Cane Bay; Ryan Sprowles, Ashley Ridge; Kendrae Hiers, Colleton County; Conner Clayton, Fort Dorchester.


(06/11/10)  Locals take titles in Belton tennis
Charleston juniors are bringing home four singles titles from Belton's prestigious Palmetto Tennis Championships, led by singles/doubles champions Brant Fenno in 10-and-under boys and Alex Martin in girls 18.

Top seed Matthew Mendez rolled past Bishop England sophomore Steven Weaver, 6-0, 6-0, in the boys 16 singles final. Porter-Gaud freshman star Thomas Spratt and Columbia's Ben Horst then upended the all-Charleston team of Mendez and Jackson Pride in the doubles final.

Second seed Ashby Bland was the other local singles titlist, capturing top honors in girls 12 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over unseeded local player Samantha Shuster. Shuster and Hannah Alexander of Greenville took the girls 12 doubles crown.

No. 2 seed Fenno cruised by No. 1 C.L. McClelland of Rock Hill, 6-2, 6-1, in the boys 10 singles final.

Fenno yielded just 12 games in five singles matches, then teamed with Bryce Keim of Spartanburg to claim the doubles title.

In girls 18, No. 2 Martin outlasted top seed Molly O'Koniewski of Hilton Head Island, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, for the singles championship.

Martin and O'Koniewski then teamed up to win the doubles title over local player Corin Hallman and Simpsonville's Maria Hesketh.

Pinewood Prep standout Adam Elligett teamed with Spartanburg's Wood Benton to win the boys 14 doubles final.

Connor Clements of Charleston took fourth place in boys 18 singles.


(05/30/10)  Seabrook to hold tournament to honor Kimball
Jackie Kimball was quite a lady of tennis. It's only fitting that Seabrook Island will hold a tournament in her honor. The Jackie Kimball Memorial Tournament is scheduled for June 2-12. Jackie Kimball died in 2009 of breast cancer.

She easily could be called the first lady of the USTA's popular league tennis program. As Seabrook Island resident and former high-ranking USTA official Bill Fix said, "Jackie was one of the four or five people who were pivotal in the formation of the league tennis program."

She was on the founding USTA league tennis committee. At the time, Fix was vice president of the Southern region, which was the forerunner of today's nine-state Southern Section.

From 1978-80, five then USTA regions - the Southern, Mid-Atlantic, Middle States, Eastern and Western - ran a two-year pilot program to test league tennis. Jackie Kimball was coordinator of the Middle States region in the pilot program that later became the heartbeat of the USTA.

Warren Kimball, Jackie's surviving husband, is a former USTA board member who has been engaged in writing the history of the USTA for several years. Warren, a former head of the history department at Rutgers University, and Jackie lived in New Jersey at the time of the pilot league tennis program. They later moved to Seabrook Island.

Jackie also was quite a tennis player. I know first-hand from having played on a mixed doubles team with her and Warren a few years ago. It might be women's tennis, but when Jackie Kimball played, it was ladies tennis. She was a lady of the game to everyone who came in contact with her.

Heffrons excel

Bishop England's Heffron brothers, 2010 graduate Randall and rising senior Walker, didn't win the big prize in last weekend's High School League Class AA-A state singles tournament, but they came close.

Randall took third place with a 9-7 win over top-seeded Josh Richmond of Waccamaw, while Walker bounced back from a 7-6 (7-5) loss to Richmond in the opening round to win the consolation title.

Both Heffrons were named to the all-state team. Mike Moran of Waccamaw took the singles championship.

In Class AAAA-AAA, Berkeley's Zac Dye was eliminated in the second round. Kyle Koch of Chapin was the AAAA-AAA singles champion.

School league success

City of Charleston tennis manager Peggy Bohne is excited about the huge participation in this spring's Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League. More than 1,000 children from second through eighth grades were represented on the 111 teams that participated in the league.

The Buist Academy Knights captured the top tournament, with Porter-Gaud1 taking tournament No. 2. Tournament Nos. 3-9 were won, respectively, by Mason Prep1, Porter-Gaud2, Mason Prep Blue, Porter-Gaud4, Nativity Catholic Black, Mt. Zion Elementary and St. Andrew's Math & Science.

State league tennis

Mount Pleasant Rec's Aces Wild women's 4.0 adult league team was the first to capture a state title recently in tournament play in Aiken. Gene Owens captained the team. Another Mount Pleasant Rec team, captained by Naveen Tummala, was the 4.0 adult men's runner-up.

A team captained by Mark Mogul was a finalist in the state men's 4.5 adult league tournament, while a Fred McKay captained team was a 5.0 state finalist.

At Hilton Head Island, a 3.5 senior women's team out of Charleston Tennis Center was state runner-up. Elisabeth Pickelsimer was the team captain.

Satellite update

The $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic scheduled for June 13-20 at the Players and Racquet Club plans to feature local star Shelby Rogers in a 6 p.m. match June 15 on the opening day of the 32-player main draw.

The 64-draw qualifying tournament will be held on June 13-14.

The player party on June 14 will be open to ticket-holders ($5 daily). A food court is planned for the tournament and parking will be across Mathis Ferry Road at the old Wando High School site.

The tournament is looking for additional sponsors as well as host families for 20 visiting officials. Contact Kit Menis (843) 901-0059 or kit@kitmenis.com for sponsorships or pro Chuck Lee (843) 330-1128 or info@mtpwomensproclassic.com) to serve as a host family.

Another Grand Prix

Mount Pleasant's Snee Farm Country Club has scheduled another Grand Prix Doubles Extravaganza for June 10-13. The entry deadline for the popular 20-year-old event is June 8. To register, go to www.sneefarmtennis.com.


(05/19/10)  GOOSE CREEK GAZETTE: Crowfield Junior Tennis Camp on tap in 2010
The Crowfield Country Club in Goose Creek will host a tennis camp this summer. The three sessions are set for June 21-24, June 28-July 1, and July 19-July 22.
The camp will take place from 8:30 a.m.-11:15 a.m. on the court; 11:15 a.m.-noon will be reserved for swimming in the pool.

One session is $110, two sessions are $190, and three are $300.

The camp will show beginners a fun and exciting way to learn the fundamentals of tennis, while focusing on implementing strategic skills during match play  for intermediate and advanced players.

For more information call USPTR Certified Instructor Nancy Sumersett at (843) 270-1017.


(05/16/10)  A pro tennis career no longer just a dream for Rogers
It's no longer just a dream. Shelby Rogers is a full-fledged professional women's tour player.

Yes, Charleston has its own traveling pro. The Daniel Island 17-year-old made the career move a week ago after a runner-up performance in a $50,000 challenger in Plantation, Fla.

It's all happened so quickly for Rogers that it must seem surreal. Less than three months ago she was winning the Smash Junior Cup to earn a berth in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.

Rogers missed out on the big tournament's main draw. But possibly even better she was given a spot in a Friday night exhibition before a big Family Circle Cup crowd in the big stadium, playing alongside veteran Patty Schnyder. You might say Rogers carried Patty to victory that night over a doubles team that made the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup.

College can wait. Rogers has made her decision to skip college tennis.

She is now ranked No. 427 in the world ... and climbing at a fast pace. A week ago, she was ranked 746th.

The week has been that fast for Rogers. After having her service broken in the 10th game of the third set last Sunday afternoon by now 98th-ranked Edina Gallovits of Romania to end a seven-match winning streak, Rogers hopped on an airplane for Atlanta to attend her older sister Sabra's graduation from Emory University on Monday. Shelby soon was on another airline bound for Raleigh, N.C., where she was given a special exemption into the main draw of another $50,000 challenger.

One door opened another. That's the way it's been for Rogers since winning the Smash Cup.

"I always wanted to turn pro. In my mind I've been a pro for awhile. It's just official now," Rogers said Tuesday from Raleigh.

In turning pro, she passed up numerous college offers, mostly from Southern colleges such as Georgia, Florida and Clemson.

"I can't play college tennis now," she said without a hint of disappointment.

"There were lots of college offers, but I was going to take a year off anyway and play the pro circuit."

She has no timetable for success on the tour. She's in it for the long haul. Her 2010 goal? "Just to learn as much as I can and try to work my way higher in the rankings."

She did hint at one goal: "I told Eleanor (Family Circle Cup tournament manager Eleanor Adams) that I would be direct entry in (Family Circle main draw) next year."

Players Racquet and Tennis Club pro Bryan Minton has been her coach and mentor throughout her junior career, seldom missing one of Rogers' matches. Minton will remain her main advisor and coach, but weekly travels to tournaments all over the country and out of it might not always be feasible for Minton.

"He'll try to be there as much as possible," Rogers said.

After making the round of 16 at Raleigh, Rogers should move into the world's top 400 when the WTA Tour rankings are released Monday.

"That's pretty good ... from 746 to the top 400 in two weeks," Minton said Friday. "Shelby has cracked the top 400 in eight (pro) tournaments."

In Raleigh, she defeated U.S. Fed Cup team player Alexa Glatch, currently ranked No. 217 in the world, in three sets in the opening round.

Rogers then lost in the round of 16 to former 51st-ranked Alina Jidkova of Russia, a $1 million winner on the pro tour.

Rogers plans to take next week off, then possibly play in another tournament before the $10,000 USTA satellite tournament scheduled for June 13-20 at the Players Club.

As for her success in Florida, Rogers gave a mature observation: "I played real well, but I have to start all over . . ."

Welcome to the life of a touring professional.

Satellite update

The $10,000 Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic at the Players Club will showcase not only the talents of Rogers, but also of other upcoming women on the pro tour. The tournament is looking for additional sponsors as well as host families for 20 visiting officials. Contact Kit Menis (843) 901-0059 or kit@kitmenis.com for sponsorships or pro Chuck Lee (843) 330-1128 or info@mtpwomensproclassic.com to serve as a host family.

The Players Club event will be the third of three $10,000 Women's Pro Series events scheduled for the next month in the state. The first one will be held at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center May 22-30 before the circuit moves to Hilton Head Island for a May 29-June 6 tournament and then closes out at the Players Club.

Notes

--The Players Club will offer summer tennis camps for juniors 6-17 years of age starting June 1. Contact the Players Club (849-6560).

--The High School League state singles tournament is scheduled for next Friday and Saturday at the Lexington County Tennis Complex.

--Berkeley's Zac Dye finished the season with a 14-0 record and will play in the state singles tournament.


(05/05/2010)  DANIEL ISLAND NEWS: BE Boys Tennis Team holds ping pong tournament
The BE Boys Tennis Team held a ping pong tournament as a team fundraiser at the BE gym on April 24. The gym looked awesome with 12 ping pong tables covering the floors and banners from the sponsors hung on the walls. Sixty-four people participated in a day of family fun, with players ranging in age from 11 to 65.

First place winner of the recreational division was BE junior Rob Snyder. The runner up was Banks Haygood. First place winner of competitive division was Daniel Island School 8th grader Jordan Rippee, runner up was Randall Heffron, captain of the BE tennis team.

Sponsors of the tournament included Subaru, Subway of Daniel Island, Celek and Celek Construction, Merrill Lynch, Carolina One, Joe Griffith, Inc., Carolina Counseling, Sonitrol, Sweetgrass ACE Hardware, Equilibrium Endocrinology and Sandy’s Cleaners of Daniel Island

Drew Bogert and Clint Veach directed the tournament. Drew & Clint are involved with competitive table tennis. Drew will be opening the Red Crown Table Tennis Club in Summerville. Clint is in charge of the North Charleston Table Tennis Club.

Raffles included a tennis lesson given from Daniel Island Club tennis pro Ann Harrah, a Family Circle Cup hoodie, badminton set, quick start tennis set, surf t-shirts, two Sandy’s Cleaners dry cleaning gift certificates, tennis shirt, frog tog towel, tennis bags, items donated by Carolina One and of course a ping pong set. 

The tables were donated by Zero Pong and from players on the tennis team.

Several gently used tennis items were donated to the nationally recognized Inner City Youth Organization "Courting Kids", a program that provides low cost tennis instruction for children five to seventeen years of age. The coordinator of the courting kids program, Delores Jackson, was thrilled to receive the items as well as two tennis hoppers that the BE tennis team purchased and donated to the program.

The BE Boys Tennis Team thanks its sponsors and the community for supporting the event. The BE tennis team members are Randall Heffron, Walker Heffron, Rivers Colyer, Max Wurthmann, Stephen Griffith, Joseph Kennedy, Orlin Sergev, Rowe Hicks, Steven Weaver, Matthew Csernica, Misha Scarafile, Tristan Fletcher, Coach Skip ReVille and Coach Allen Moore.


(05/05/10)  Cane Bay tennis finishes season with .500 record
The primary goal of the Cane Bay boys tennis team this spring was to finish with at least a .500 record and that goal was reached last week when the Cobras knocked off county rival Hanahan, 4-1.

The victory evened Cane Bay’s final record at 6-6 for the season, a five-win improvement over last season.
Coach Michael Shier did not have a senior on the team and sees the program continuing to build.
“I thought we had a good year overall and with everyone returning next year, the future certainly looks bright for Cane bay tennis,” said Shier.

Junior Tyler Essinger played number one singles this season. Sophomore Austin Philpott played number two singles while sophomore Brandon Philpott manned the number three slot.

Seventh-grader Alex Amble played number four and freshman Charlie Shier played the fifth slot. Freshman Timothy Curtis rounds out the squad.


(05/05/10)  Fishburne's No. 1 age-group rank takes her around world
Play tennis and see the world, most expenses paid.

If that sounds exciting and glamorous, it is. But there's a price to pay. Hard work, sweat and injuries. Diane Fishburne has paid the price many times over for her world travels.

Tennis travel has been Fishburne's story the last dozen years, including trips to South Africa, Turkey, Mexico, Australia, South America, Spain, England and Germany.

Next year, it's New Zealand.

Fishburne can't wait.

And much of the travel is compliments of the U.S. Tennis Association. It just happens that Fishburne is the No. 1 women's 50 player in the world. She has the individual world championship to prove it.

Tennis always has been special to this 52-year-old Florida native. She was a collegiate All-American for the College of Charleston while winning a small-college national singles title.

The USTA came to the forefront at age 39 when she was invited to play on a women's 40 U.S. cup team in the World Team Tennis Championships.

She hasn't looked back while soaring to the top of women's senior tennis.

It hasn't been easy.

"There's always something … losing toenails, elbow problems, wear and tear," Fishburne said.

"I fixed the elbow problem by changing strokes, and my knee is actually pain-free now," she said about the surgery she underwent on her right knee three years ago.

Those are only small distractions in Fishburne's tennis world. She continues to play with the passion of a teenager because of daily conditioning and training. "I do cardio, on-court stuff, drills and playing matches. I do 30 minutes of cardio every day, and then I play a tennis match or do drills with someone," said Fishburne, a tennis instructor at the Country Club of Charleston.

What drives her to such a high level of competition? "Passion for the sport and love of playing and competing … if you don't like that, you won't be out there long."

The World Team Championships typically are held one week each year at an international resort setting, followed the next week by the individual championships at a site nearby or at least in the same country. Fishburne usually plays both events.

In her latest travels, Fishburne led the USTA's women's 50 Maria Bueno Cup team to the world championship last month in Mexico City in an astonishing two-woman display with Susan Wright of Colorado. Fishburne and Wright won all of the matches the Americans needed, sweeping the clinching two singles matches in four of the five team competitions, and teaming up to win doubles after the lone singles sweep that escaped them.

The following week, Fishburne took a five-hour bus ride to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to compete in the individual world championships. She went 5-0 there to capture her fourth world singles championship.

The USTA finances the expenses for the team competitions. The extra week for the individual competition is the player's responsibility.

"They give us a certain amount of money and we have to make it work out," Fishburne said.

The big thing, of course, is being selected for one of the USTA's international cup teams. "The teams are selected by the rankings and records. Your doubles ranking is taken into consideration (by the committee), but singles is the biggest criteria."

And if you're usually at or near the top of the rankings, the selection is rather easy.

Fishburne has not only won four world titles, but she has won 26 national USTA titles, including four national mother/son titles with son Matt Hane.

Fishburne qualifies for her national ranking by playing in at least one of the four USTA national tournaments along with other tournaments. She usually plays in the national clay courts in Pensacola, Fla.

As a player such as Fishburne or fellow international senior standout Brenda Carter of Charleston ages, the player simply joins another U.S. cup team and continues to compete against many of the same international players.

The game changes with the age groups. Fishburne now sees more lobs, forcing her to alter her game. "I have to take a lot of balls out of the air … the middle-court ball … the transition ball to avoid lobs," she said.

Fishburne is a 5.0 NTRP- rated player, but because of her many travels and tennis commitments, she usually doesn't play league tennis except mixed doubles. "I don't play the local league. I've tried it and the league always falls apart. Sometimes the teams go straight to state, but it's always on weekends when I have nationals or something else."

Naturally, she has a long resume of tennis honors since she started playing the game at age 10 in Jacksonville, Fla. Topping off the recognition was being selected as the Professional Tennis Registry female player of the decade in February. Other honors include the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame, College of Charleston Athletic Hall of Fame and the 2008 PTR female player of the year award.


(05/02/10)  Eagles appear to be too good for SCISA Class A
Is Palmetto Christian Academy too good to be competing in Class A tennis in SCISA?

That's the big question after the Eagles notched their 10th straight state championship on Friday, split evenly between the Mount Pleasant school's girls and boys teams. Coach Dewey Caulder's tennis program, indeed, may be too good for Class A competition. But standout players such as sophomore Addison King and eighth-grader
Austin Heinz are enjoying the spotlight.

"Three straight state titles are great," said Heinz about his personal record. After all, he should have a shot at four more. One player with seven consecutive team titles? That probably would be some type of record.

The 6-foot, 14-year-old Heinz has a right to be proud of the school's tennis success. "I've been there since the first grade," he said.  "Winning seven titles while I'm here is definitely a goal."

Both Heinz and King won their singles matches convincingly in the Eagles' 7-2 state championship win over Aiken Prep. They then teamed up to inflict more agony on the visitors to Family Circle Tennis Center by breezing to a win in No. 1 doubles.

"I got tight in the doubles match," admitted King, a 6-4 powerhouse of an All-Lowcountry performer in 2009.

King is just now getting his game back in form after recovering from mononucleosis over the winter. "I feel out of shape. I haven't been practicing since December," he said. So, what's next for Palmetto Christian tennis? Of  course, probably another girls title.

Too much Woodson
Hilton Head Prep is really strong. The Dolphins have been in four straight Class AAA SCISA boys state finals, winning two of them. Of course, four also is the number of star players on the team's roster.

But none are the equal of talented eighth-grader Jared Woodson.

"Elliott (Sperr) played well, but Woodson might be the best player to come along down here in awhile," said veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins after his team's 6-3 loss to the Hilton Head team in Friday's final.

Woodson's 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles over senior Sperr set the tone for Hilton Head's sweep of the top four positions, with help from Mo Hookaylo, Nicky Kunz and Aaron Cotton.

In Higgins' opinion, the key to Hilton Head Prep being able to dethrone Porter-Gaud as state champion came at No. 2 singles, where Hookaylo survived a 12-10 third-set match tiebreaker against 2009 state title hero J.B. Robards.

"That was the difference. It gave Hilton Head Prep a 4-2 lead in singles," Higgins said.

SCHSL playoffs set
Class AAAA play will begin Tuesday in the S.C. High School League state boys playoffs. Class AA competition begins Thursday, with Bishop England having a solid shot at winning a state title.

In Class AAAA, Berkeley will play host to Hartsville, Richland Northeast will travel to Summerville (a No. 1 seed), Stratford will visit Carolina Forest, No. 1 seed Wando will entertain South Florence, West Ashley will visit Irmo and James Island will travel to West Florence.

The state semifinals and finals weekend is scheduled for Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center on May 14-15.

Local notes
--Florence's longtime Pepsi junior tournament made a visit to Mount Pleasant's Players Racquet and Tennis Club last Monday as Connor Clements defeated Waccamaw High School standout Mike Moran, 6-2, 6-2, in the boys 18 final. Clements, a 16-year-old from Mount Pleasant, is playing in the boys 18 qualifying tournament for an ITF junior event in Plantation, Fla., this weekend. Both Clements and Moran wanted to attend school on Monday, so they agreed to play on hard courts at the Players Club. Earl Navarro won the boys 10 title and Ashley Hall freshman Narni Summerall took the girls 16 crown in Florence.
--Shelby Rogers, another Players Club standout, lost last weekend to Evginya Rodina in three sets in the opening round of a $50,000 challenger in Dothan, Ala. Rogers, currently ranked 747th, played doubles in the event with former Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson and lost in the first round.
--Most Lowcountry Tennis Association mixed doubles levels will begin play within the next 10 days, according to LCTA adult mixed doubles coordinator Dee Mack. The 6.0 mixed doubles league begin Monday; 7.0 on Tuesday; 9.0 on Thursday; and 8.0 on May 12. Starting times for matches in these leagues will be 6:30 p.m.
--Local standout Anderson Scarpa, who is a sophomore at the Baylor School in Chattanooga, is undefeated in singles and doubles. Scarpa scored a three-set win (7-6 in the third set) over Vanderbilt-bound Roger Briggs in No. 1 singles with the team match tied at 3-3 against then-Tennessee top-ranked independent Montgomery Bell Academy on Thursday. The victory thrust unbeaten Baylor into the No. 1 seeding for the state tournament.
--MUSC tennis director Ben Simon earned No. 1 rankings in the South in men's 30 and 35 for 2009, as well as ninth in the nation in men's 30.


(05/01/10)  Eagles claim Class A title; Cyclones' repeat bid ends
The Palmetto Christian Academy boys tennis team won its fifth straight SCISA Class A state championship with a 7-2 victory over Aiken Prep on Friday at the Family Circle Tennis Complex.

Porter-Gaud fell short in its bid to defend the SCISA Class AAA state title, falling 6-3 to Hilton Head Prep in Beaufort.

It marked the second straight year Palmetto Christian beat the Aiken school for the big prize.

The Eagles played an abbreviated schedule because of weather postponements and posted a 6-2 record.

"I've got overall good kids, and I'm blessed with good tennis players, too," Eagles coach Dewey Caulder said. "The kids understand the tradition of PCA tennis. I'll put my top three players, Addison King, Austin Heinz and Nick Butler, up against anybody. It's just a delightful group of players. They're fun to be around and they understand our tradition. They just keep on getting better."

The PCA girls have also won five straight state tennis titles.

Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep split during the regular season, each claiming a 5-4 victory over the other.

Hunter Mitchell and Seth Pinosky delivered the Cyclones' two singles wins, but the Dolphins got a clutch singles victory at the No. 2 spot as Mo Hookaylo outdueled J.B. Robards 4-6, 6-0, 12-10.

Porter-Gaud was able to win No. 3 doubles as Mitchell and Pinosky prevailed, but Hilton Head Prep closed out the championship with victories at the top two doubles spots.

With the way the matches had played out during the season, the title match proved a fitting end, Cyclones coach Tom Higgins said.

"They won the deciding one," Higgins said. "Everything was tight. We knew it would be. They just outplayed us."

PALMETTO CHRISTIAN 7, AIKEN PREP 2
Singles: Addison King d. Chruistian Thorndike 6-0, 6-0; Austin Heinz d. Jessee Thornton 6-1, 6-2; Nic Butler d. Zach Harrington 6-4, 7-5; Billy Perkins def. Kyle Wyszyneki 6-1, 5-7, 6-5; Austin Weinheimer d. Matthew Scharf 6-0, 6-3; Trey Goolsby def. Weston Peters 6-2, 6-0.

Doubles: King-Heinz d. Thorndiek-Morton 6-, 6-2; Harrington-Wyszyneki Chase Shimakonis-Ryan Rose 8-1; Scharf-Peters d. 8-1 d. Jake Adams-Robert Roe 8-1.

HILTON HEAD PREP 6, PORTER-GAUD 3
Singles: Woodson (HHP) d. Sperr 6-4, 6-2; Hookalo (HHP) d. Robards 4-6, 6-0, 12-10; Cotton (HHP) d. Steichen 6-2, 7-5; Kunz (HHP) d. Spratt 6-3, 6-3; Mitchell (PG) d. Nixon 6-0, 6-3; Pinosky (PG) d. Bakala 6-2, 7-5.
Doubles: Hookalo-Woodson (HHP) d. Robarda-Steichen 6-3, 6-4; Cotton-Kunz (HHP) d. Spratt-Sperr 6-3, 6-4; Baker-Sanford (PG) d. Nixon-Bakala 7-5, 6-0.
Records: PG 14-2.


(04/25/10)  Cotton cycle works well for Dolphins
Porter-Gaud's boys have gone from being a clear-cut favorite to repeat as SCISA Class AAA state champion to a virtual toss-up position. And it's all because of Cotton - Hilton Head Prep junior Aaron Cotton, that is. Cotton didn't travel with Hilton Head Prep to either Porter-Gaud or Pinewood Prep in the regular season, and his team lost both matches. But the New Orleans product helped Hilton Head Prep score victories over both local teams when they traveled to Hilton Head Island.

As a result of those four results - all 5-4 decisions except Pinewood's 7-2 loss at Hilton Head - along with the fact Porter-Gaud defeated Pinewood Prep twice, once-beaten Porter-Gaud is the top seed in this week's state playoffs. Two-time loser Hilton Head Prep is the second seed, followed by Pinewood Prep with three losses.

That means Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep are favored to meet Friday afternoon at a non-clay site to be determined for the state title in a repeat of last year's final. Cotton was one of the key figures a year ago when he lost to the Cyclones' cramping J.B. Robards in a third-set match tiebreaker that allowed Porter-Gaud to take a 4-2 lead in singles en route to a 5-2 state championship victory.

With Nicky Kunz rejoining Hilton Head Prep for his senior year and talented eighth-grader Jared Woodson moving up to the No. 1 position, the Dolphins have an edge in the first four singles positions. Woodson, senior Mo Hookaylo, Cotton and Kunz swept Porter-Gaud's top four of Elliott Sperr, Robards, Thomas Spratt and Johnny Steichen last Monday on clay at Hilton Head Island.

Hookaylo has been the mainstay of Hilton Head Prep's three straight trips to the state finals, winning in 2008 over Pinewood Prep. But 2009 Lowcountry player of the year Robards defeated Hookaylo twice in last year's regular season at No. 1, only to fall to the Hilton Head Prep player, 7-5, 6-3, last week at No. 2.

"I think J.B. can do it against Mo. He beat Mo pretty good twice last year," Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said.

The Cyclones came close to avoiding a 5-4 loss last week at two different positions. Spratt, a tall freshman, suffered a 6-4, 2-6, 10-5 loss to Kunz, and then Kunz and Cotton turned back the Spratt/Sperr team, 7-6, 7-6, at No. 2 doubles.

"That might have been a good one to lose," Higgins said about his team's only loss in two seasons. "It let everyone know to keep their feet on the ground.

"But I think we'll be better on a hard surface. It would be an advantage if we could play at home."

First, however, Porter-Gaud will be a heavy favorite to take care of the winner of Monday's Hammond School/Wilson Hall match-up on Wednesday at the Porter-Gaud courts in the state semifinals. The Cyclones have a first-round bye on Monday.

Pinewood Prep has a first-round engagement in Summerville on Monday against No. 6 seed Heathwood Hall, while Hilton Head Prep will open the playoffs at home on Monday against No. 7 seed St. Joseph's Catholic. Both Pinewood Prep and Hilton Head Prep should win their opening matches easily to qualify for a Wednesday showdown in the state semifinals at the site of the higher seed.

Despite the loss at Hilton Head Prep, Porter-Gaud has had another standout season, defeating perennial High School League Class AA power Waccamaw twice. The latest win came last Tuesday by a 5-4 score at the P-G courts.

Satellite tennis coming

Satellite pro tennis is returning to the area for the first time in a decade. The Players Racquet and Tennis Club has announced it will hold a $10,000 USTA women's satellite event from June 13-20. The Mount Pleasant Women's Pro Classic will showcase upcoming players such as Daniel Island's own Shelby Rogers, currently ranked No. 756 in the world.

Rogers, of course, showed off her talents during the recent Family Circle Cup. She trains out of the Players Racquet and Tennis Club under pro Bryan Minton.

Host pro Chuck Lee expects players ranked between 300 and 700 in the world to participate in the clay-court tournament, which is looking for additional sponsors as well as host famililies for 20 visiting officials. Contact Kit Menis (843) 901-0059 or kit@kitmenis.com) for sponsorships or Lee (843) 330-1128 or info@mtpwomensproclassic.com) to serve as a host family.

Reel sticks on display

Skip Scarpa's Reel Sticks invention will be used for the U.S. Open Series kickoff event, the televised July 19-25 Atlanta Tennis Championships at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Reel Sticks will be a sponsor of the ATP Tour event, said Scarpa, a local tennis court builder.

Scarpa plans to install his time-saving singles-stick devices on all of the courts at the tournament site before the event starts.

Local notes

--Team registrations for most mixed doubles levels will end today. A team must have at least three eligible partnerships registered on TennisLink by midnight tonight to compete in the LCTA mixed doubles leagues. However, additional players can be added through the season. Registration for 2.5 mixed doubles teams is open through May 9. For information, contact Dee Mack (hotback4@bellsouth.net) for the adult leagues or Judi Fillinger (jfillin@hotmail.com) for seniors.

--Two Bishop England tennis players have signed college grants-in-aid. Three-time All-Lowcountry boys' standout Randall Heffron has signed with Wofford College, while girls star Shannon McManus has signed a scholarship with Newberry College.

--The Bishop England Fall Invitational will be Sept. 17-19 at Snee Farm Country Club and Mount Pleasant's Whipple Road complex. Schools that have committed: Wando, Ashley Hall, Pelion, Beaufort, Riverside, Aiken, Hilton Head, Academic Magnet, Waccamaw, Dutch Fork and West Florence. BE girls coach Kristin Fleming said they are waiting on four more teams to commit.

--The second annual Superintendent's Cup tournament for Charleston County teachers will be held Saturday at Charleston Tennis Center, Maybank Tennis Center, and the St. Andrew's Playground and Playground complex from 8:30 a.m. to noon. To volunteer or to donate goods or services, contact Meg Farrelly (megphotogirl@aol.com or 860-9898).


(04/19/10)  Sam's power 'boom booms' Zvonareva
This Family Circle Cup final was different. In the 1989 final at Hilton Head Island, Natasha Zvereva was completely out of her league, taking on Steffi Graf in the final.

In 2000, Mary Pierce was simply knocking the cover off the ball, and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario's clay-court strokes couldn't dent Pierce's power.

Each rout lasted 56 minutes.

This year's Family Circle Cup singles final looked like a 40-minute special. Only a racket-busting tandrum by Vera Zvonareva extended it to a singles final-record 52 minutes.

It wasn't that Zvonareva got up on the wrong side of the bed Sunday. She was just helpless against Samantha Stosur's near-perfect power.

"Boom Boom Sam" played the match of a lifetime. Veteran Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson called it the best match he had ever seen anyone play.

You had to be there to

believe it. Stosur put on the cleanest exhibition of one-two punch tennis I've seen in more than 30 Family Circle Cups, and maybe any tennis tournament. Stosur played almost flawlessly in winning the first nine games in a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

The only thing that slowed her down was a brief loss of focus, apparently centered around Zvonareva's outburst of emotions.

Stosur backed up her huge serves with powerful forehand winners that seemed to drop from the sky mostly into Zvonareva's forehand corner as the Russian looked like she was trying to find the light switch in the dark. Stosur hit plenty of winners to the backhand corner, too.

Although Stosur now has beaten Zvonareva five straight times, this one wasn't supposed to happen. It was a mismatch between two fairly equal players. Stosur is ranked 11th in the world and Zvonareva 22nd. But while Stosur's only other title came last year in a small tournament in Osaka, Japan, Zvonareva is a talented, hard-hitting player who has been ranked as high as fifth in the world, has been in 22 finals and has won 10 titles.

But there was something about the way the ball came up off the green clay here all week that set Stosur's forehand in motion. Big-swinging Sabine Lisicki discovered the same sensation last year in winning the Family Circle Cup by serving mightily and smashing forehands to the corners.

For Lisicki, the showing may have been a flash in the pan. But Stosur's serve and forehand are among the most natural in women's tennis. She doesn't have to exaggerate her power. Now that she's done it once in a near-major final, she may repeat Sunday's performance many times in the future.

A perfect McEnroe

Talk about perfection, John McEnroe's game is the epitome of perfection. His serve and strokes are still good enough to win consistently on the ATP Tour.

And he's 51 years old. He just lacks some of his old quickness and mobility.

McEnroe's hand-eye coordination, touch, strokes and serve were phenomenal in Saturday night's "Game, Set, Rock!" exhibition. He gave an appreciative crowd of 8,409 a history lesson in tennis.

If only today's players could master his smooth round-house service motion that sends serves sneaking into the corners at high speeds. Of course, the fact the serves come from his left side makes that difficult for most players.

The night went off well. Jim Courier was entertaining and downright funny at times, and former sex symbol Anna Kournikova is now simply "adorable."

Of course, Kournikova has played a key role in the Family Circle Cup's 38-year attendance history. She was a finalist in 1999 when the overall tournament attendance record was set, and she was a key figure in Saturday's program that enabled the tournament to set a Charleston record.


(04/18/10)  Rogers might have a future in doubles
A doubles wild card for Shelby Rogers? Why not? Judging by the way the 17-year-old Daniel Island girl played Friday night in her

introduction to the WTA Tour, one might be in order for next year's Family Circle Cup doubles draw.

Rogers played brilliantly in a doubles exhibition in front of a big post-Melanie Oudin crowd and actually outplayed her partner, fan favorite Patty Schnyder, as well as the semifinal doubles team of Ekaterina Makarova and Marie-Eve Pelletier.

When the Rogers-Schnyder team found its chemistry, the duo surprisingly overpowered Makarova and Pelletier, 8-4, as Rogers did much more than her part.

Rogers appeared to have the best serve, best overhead and best forehand - all prerequisites for success in doubles on the WTA Tour. Check out Liezel Huber, Nadia Petrova, Rennae Stubbs, Lisa Raymond and Bethanie Mattek-Sands if you doubt those qualities equal doubles success on the women's tour.

Rogers nailed a 112-mph service winner out wide and smashed a ton of overheads, some of them tough ones. Her cross-court service return from the deuce side was tailor-made for doubles.

Even Rogers was impressed by her performance. "I played pretty well last night," she admitted Saturday while taking a break from practice with coach Bryan Minton. "Patty and I played well together after the first game."

The performance far exceeded her expectations.

"Shelby stepped up to the plate," Minton said. "Family Circle did a great job keeping Shelby involved all week, but Shelby also did a great job."

Friday night's outing and a win in a singles exhibition on Monday evening against Caroline Wozniacki's doubles partner, Malou Ejdesgaard, were the perfect medicine for a quick recovery for Rogers from a disappointing loss to Christina McHale in the first round of the Family Circle qualifying tournament.

Rogers' game looks good enough to belong to a doubles specialist on the WTA Tour. Such a career might be worth considering while her singles game matures. Remember Samantha Stosur? The Aussie once was considered possibly the best doubles player. Now she's the 11th-ranked singles player in the world.

Meanwhile, Rogers is headed to Dothan, Ala., where she has received a wild card into the main singles draw of a $50,000 ITF challenger that starts Tuesday. She plans to put her name in the hat for the doubles draw as well.

"Boom Boom Sam"

Who said drop shots couldn't be dangerous?

With Vera Zvonareva and an ankle injury smashing Wozniacki's chances, how does this year's final look? Competitive, but no flash.

But, hey, if you want to see maybe the best serve in women's tennis outside of Serena Williams, you might want to be in the stadium today.

Watch out! Stosur has her serve working. Even on clay, that could be bad news for Zvonareva. That's because when Stosur hits the big one, it's like boom, point is over.

The 26-year-old former doubles specialist is one of the most athletic players on the WTA Tour. "Boom Boom Sam" may be ready to hit the big stage with her big serve and big forehand.

Not large at 5-7, 143 pounds, Stosur probably has about as much muscle as almost any player on the tour. Take a look at her biceps.

But Zvonareva is no amateur. She's about as cagey as they come. She appears to be on top of her game again, and maybe ready to wipe out memories of her last two Family Circle Cups.

Normally, I would pick a favorite, but I don't have a clue about this one.


(04/11/10)  Lisicki headed back to the unknowns?

Sabine Lisicki is everywhere you look at the Family Circle Cup. On the program cover. On the media guide cover. On the cover of The Post and Courier's special preview. And, yes, on the side of Family Circle Magazine Stadium. What a difference a year makes? A year ago, almost no one knew the powerful German existed. She was ranked 63rd in the world.

Of course, Lisicki came alive by winning the 2009 Family Circle Cup.

But now she's in danger of returning to the ranks of the unknown even though she's currently ranked 27th in the world.

By pulling out of the Family Circle Cup and losing the 470 WTA Tour points she earned last year on Daniel Island, the injured Lisicki is expected to fall all the way to the middle 40s in the world rankings in eight days. Plagued by an apparently endless list of injuries, the 20-year-old's immediate future doesn't look bright.

Wonder if that big poster will be on the side of the stadium next year.

Shelby's near miss

Shelby Rogers brought out the crowd to the Althea Gibson Club Court Saturday. But the big points belonged to Christina McHale.

You might call it experience. Although just 17 years old like Rogers, McHale has played in the U.S. Open, Australian Open and Fed Cup - events that haven't been available yet to Rogers. McHale is almost a veteran.

"The biggest thing was Shelby didn't convert the break points," said Bryan Minton, Rogers' long-time coach.

And that was it. The big points decided the first-round qualifying tournament match in McHale's favor, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Rogers usually went for her shots on break points, and missed too many lines. "That's her game style ... going for her shots without fear," Minton said.

The biggest point of the match likely came in the eighth game of the first set when Rogers lost a break-point opportunity that could have given her a 5-3 lead. The Daniel Island girl was broken in the next game.

The huge crowd might have gone away disappointed this time, but not in the way Shelby played. She gave everyone hope that the Family Circle Cup might one day have a truly local favorite.

Pick a winner

I'll go with Victoria Azarenka. The Belarussian can play like gangbusters until Serena Williams turns it on.

Fortunately for Azarenka, Serena pulled out of the Family Circle Cup on Thursday. So, look for a different new poster on the side of the stadium next year.

My second choice is 2007 champion Jelena Jankovic. That would be my final:

Azarenka vs. Jankovic.

Caroline Wozniacki is my third choice, followed by 2006 champion Nadia Petrova and 2008 runner-up Vera Zvonareva. The top half of the draw is heavy. Only Jankovic of my top five favorites is located in the bottom half of the draw, which makes me think the Serbian likely will be around next Sunday.

Jankovic and 2009 finalist Wozniacki probably are the crowd favorites, along with young Melanie Oudin, unless two-time runner-up Patty Schnyder makes a surprise run at her favorite tournament.

But wouldn't it be great to see a local girl - if you can call Spartanburg local - do well. Mallory Cecil is practically our own after winning the Smash Cup two years ago and getting a wild card into the 2009 Family Circle Cup's main draw.

Cecil is back again with a main-draw wild card, but as the NCAA champion from Duke. If you remember, the Spartanburg blonde cashed in last year's first-round loss on Daniel Island for Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA team championships as well as the ACC MVP and NCAA singles title. She was only a freshman then.

A Kiki trip

Seeing the name Vandeweghe on the club court scoreboard Saturday brought back 30-year-old memories of Coco Vandeweghe's uncle, Kiki Vandeweghe.

The year was 1980, Clemson's deepest run ever in the NCAA basketball tournament. After staying late on a Saturday night in Ogden, Utah, to send in my report on the Larry Nance-led Tigers' upset of Danny Ainge and Brigham Young in the NCAA's second round, I took an all-night Greyhound bus ride to catch up with Bill Foster's Clemson traveling party the next morning at their

hotel in Las Vegas.

A day later, the Tigers were heading to Tucson, Ariz., and the next week's Sweet 16. I joined them on the two-day bus trip across the West.

But Kiki Vandeweghe literally jumped out of his shoes in that West Regional final in leading eventual NCAA runner-up UCLA past Clemson. That performance made a lasting impression on me. I couldn't pass up a chance to see Coco play. It's too bad she lost.


(04/10/10)  JEFF HARTSELL: Tennis a love story for former Lowcountry association president
As a 26-year veteran of the Navy, including a stint as commanding officer of the Charleston Naval Supply Center, Bob Peiffer developed an aptitude for logistics and organization.

As a boyhood baseball player, he harbored a dream of one day running a Major League Baseball team.

And as a red-blooded male, he developed an appreciation for a trim, fit tennis player named Susie.

The 66-year-old Peiffer has found the perfect confluence of those passions for the past 16 years as the president of the Lowcountry Tennis Association.

Peiffer's run as LCTA president, which ended in January, enabled him to make full use of his administrative skills in helping the association to achieve unprecedented growth, to fulfill his goal of running a sports organization and to spend quality time with his wife of 18 years (and one of the best senior tennis players in the country), Susie Nepveux Peiffer.

"I knew that if I was ever going to see her, I needed to be playing tennis," Peiffer says with a laugh. "Because that's where she was going to be, on the tennis court."

Subs and service

Born in 1943 in Carmel, Calif., Peiffer spent much of his youth on the move as the only child of an Army man, Lt. Col. Robert D. Peiffer, and his wife, Mary Lilla.

After graduating from the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, the younger Peiffer considered his options -- "the dream job would have been general manager of a baseball team," he said -- and joined the Navy.

He served for three years on submarines and then in the Navy Supply Corps. The Navy sent him to the University of Michigan for a master's degree in business administration, and he spent most of his career in the U.S. and the Philippines.

Peiffer's three years on diesel submarines, 1965-68, taught him the value of teamwork.

"The camaraderie on a sub is greater than in almost any other place of work in the Navy, or anywhere else," he said, "because everyone is so dependent on everyone else for personal survival. If one person makes a mistake, it can cost the lives of everyone else on the submarine."

In the Supply Corps, Peiffer rose to the rank of captain and ended his career as commander of the Charleston Naval Supply Center, retiring in 1991 -- but not before meeting the tennis player who would change the rest of his life.

Love match

Bob met Susie in 1989, when he ran the Naval Supply Center and she worked at the base in the public affairs office.

"I would snap his picture whenever he spoke or something," said Susie, daughter of longtime Charleston dentist Dr. Felix Nepveux.

As they contemplated marriage, it did not take long for Peiffer to realize that he was about to become a tennis player.

"When we got married, I asked her where she wanted to go on our honeymoon," Peiffer recalls. "And she said, 'Let's go to a tennis camp.' So that's where we went, a tennis camp in Asheville for our honeymoon."

Susie did not take up tennis until she was 30, but quickly became good at it. She's the assistant pro at Pine Forest Country Club and has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation in her age group in singles and No. 2 in doubles with partner Cindy Babb.

Their lives, which include a blended family with four grown children and eight grandchildren, became more centered around tennis.

But Peiffer, who joined the Medical University of South Carolina in 1998 as the administrative manager of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, wasn't content to just hack around the court on weekends.

As he and Susie became involved in league tennis through the Lowcountry Tennis Association, Peiffer saw ways that he could help.

"Bob has the biggest heart and the strongest work ethic of anyone I know," Susie said. "And that's a good combination, most of the time."

Added Bob, "Sometimes, it gets me in trouble."

The LCTA

When Peiffer took over as president of the LCTA in 1994, the organization had about 1,984 names on rosters in its various leagues. Bob remembers stacks of rosters and scorecards overrunning the family living room.

Today, the LCTA has about 11,172 names on rosters, the second-largest league in the Southern Section of the U.S. Tennis Association, behind only Atlanta. All scorecards and rosters are kept online, and the LCTA has its own Web site (www.lctatennis.org) and Facebook page (Lowcountry Tennis Association).

Peiffer also has made certain that the LCTA has a presence at the Family Circle Cup, beginning today at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island, and has made diversity a priority on the LCTA board of directors.

"I really believe that if you have diverse leadership, it will help you have a diverse group of players," he said. "And we need to start with our local leadership."

Colleagues say much credit for the LCTA's growth goes to Peiffer, who remains with the group as treasurer.

"Bob has done a phenomenal job and is directly responsible, to a large degree, for the growth in the Charleston area," said Bud Spencer, past vice president of the LCTA and state league coordinator for USTA South Carolina. "He's a very hands-on guy, a strong leader, and always a voice people would listen to. He's also very perceptive and forward-looking."

So forward-looking that starting four years ago, Peiffer helped select and train his successor, Ken Edwards, who took over as president of the LCTA in January.

"Bob's highly respected," Edwards said, "both for his knowledge and his ability to be very impartial and positive. He's always told me that his philosophy was not to try to go in and build up the LCTA, but to make it as organized and efficient as possible, and that it would grow from that. And it has."

Said Peiffer, "That's my skill. I'm not an engineer. I don't change the oil in my car, and if I do, I will screw something up. But when it comes to administration, I'm good at that. So the LCTA was a natural fit for me."

About Bob
Birth date and place: July 6, 1943, Carmel, Calif.
Family: Wife, Susie Nepveux Peiffer; children Robert W. Peiffer, Gary J. Peiffer, Earle Rowland, Anne Gratz; eight grandchildren.Pet: Cocker spaniel named Scout.
Jobs: Former commanding officer, Charleston Naval Supply Center; current administrative manager for the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs at the Medical University of South Carolina
Community: Past president of the Lowcountry Tennis Association; board member of Communities in Schools.
Education: Graduated from University of Miami (Ohio); master's in business from the University of Michigan.
Dream doubles match: "It would be great to see what Andy Roddick can do close up. So I guess it would be Maria Sharapova and me against Susie and Andy Roddick, and we'd see who could carry who."


(04/04/10)   Tennis enjoying huge growth since 2000
Tennis has been on a roll for a decade now. A 43 percent growth in participation since 2000 should turn some heads.

But anyone who has stopped by the area's largest tennis facilities regularly in that span of time shouldn't be surprised by the latest data from the Physical Activity Council. Tennis centers are buzzing with activity.

There simply aren't enough courts at the area's major public sites.

If you play league tennis or don't play league tennis, getting a court for a friendly match on Monday through Thursday evenings can be nearly impossible. That's why it's so exciting to see the opening of the City of Charleston's excellent new lighted six-court complex at Grand Oaks Plantation in West Ashley.

The report shows that tennis is one of the few sports to show an increase in overall participation from 2000 through 2009. Tennis participation increased 12 percent in 2009 alone.

The Physical Activity Council is a partnership of seven major governing bodies and trade associations, including the USTA and the Tennis Industry Association. The report indicates that 30.1 million Americans play tennis, the highest number in a quarter of a century.

Mixed doubles time

Team registration for adult and senior mixed doubles is already underway as adult and senior league tennis seasons head down the stretch. Local mixed doubles competition for seniors and adults is available at 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 levels as well as 2.5 for adults. Teams must have the minimum three men and three women on their rosters by April 25.

Adult mixed doubles will begin in May, while seniors will begin at the end of May or early in June. With the exception of 2.5, where both players in a partnership must be rated 2.5 or lower, the allowable differential in partners will be 1.0.

The state mixed doubles tournament will be held at Charleston Tennis Center Sept. 11-13.

Family Circle Cup notes

Family Circle Cup officials are expecting similar crowd numbers to the 87,786 fans that attended last year's event, which was the sixth-best total on Daniel Island. With the addition of a new night program on semifinal Saturday featuring John McEnroe and Anna Kournikova in a Game, Set, Rock tennis/music extravaganza, the fan numbers could move higher.

--You can see local junior star Shelby Rogers participate in the FCC qualifying event beginning next Saturday.

--The tournament's official draw party is Saturday from 3-4 p.m. at the Daniel Island Grille on Seven Farms Drive. WTA Tour supervisor Pam Whytcross will manage the draw, and a WTA Tour player will attend the event, which will be open to the public.

--The Family Circle Cup has selected the Center for Women as its official charity for the fifth consecutive year.

--The Family Circle Cup will debut a free Citizens of the World event to celebrate diversity and make the tournament accessible to all citizens on April 12. The 4:30-7 p.m. event will feature autograph sessions as well as a pro tennis exhibition, and many other events such as clinics, live music and appearances by cast members of the Lifetime show Army Wives.

Local notes

--More than 60 players participated in the "Hugs For Harper" benefit Friday at Charleston Tennis Center and the St. Andrew's complex. The benefit was for nine-year-old Harper Drolet, the daughter of long-time Farmfield member Jamie Drolet. Harper has a rare form of cancer and has undergone reconstructive surgery on her foot and has to learn how to walk all over again while receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatment.

--A super senior 4.0 women's team from various local clubs recently won the Southern Regional title in Pelham, Ala., by going unbeaten. The team includes Lynda Leffler, Linda Robinson, Lola Bradshaw, Elsie Jerozal, Renee Betros, Jane Fluet and Sophia McAllister.

--Charleston's 16-year-old Megan Blevins won the girls' 18 singles and doubles titles in the recent Southern Bullfrog at Baton Rouge, La. Alexander Santiago was a finalist in boys' 14 singles and doubles.

--Summerville's Adam Elliget continues to sparkle. Elliget won the boys' 14 singles title at the recent Topspin event at Lexington, as well as the boys' 16 singles title in Greenville.

--Crowfield Country Club will conduct a beginner's clinic for 12-and-under players on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. from April 21-May 26. Contact instructor Nancy Sumersett (nsumersett@gmail.com) Mike Saia (843) 323-1803 or Crowfield (843) 270-1017.

--The Battle of James Island is scheduled for next Saturday at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and Charleston Tennis Center. Play will begin at all three locations at 8:30 a.m. To register, contact CCC tennis director Lee Brockman (ccctennis@comcast.net).


(03/21/10)  Family Circle Cup still star-studded
The Family Circle Cup lowered its prize money by 30 percent, but the April 10-18 event still has the makings of being one of the top drawing cards for elite players in the tournament's 10-year reign on Daniel Island. With Samantha Stosur's run to the semifinals at Indian Wells, the Cup should now have five top 10 players on its entry list when the next WTA Tour rankings are released. The field's current top 10ers are No. 1 Serena Williams, Indian Wells finalists Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic, and Victoria Azarenka.

Added star power comes from one-time world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, defending champion Sabine Lisicki and former champion Nadia Petrova as well as 2008 runner-up Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli, two-time Cup finalist Patty Schnyder and young American star Melanie Oudin.

When tournament officials lowered the purse to $700,000 in November from the 2009 total of $1 million, they felt that the tournament's relationship with top players remained very strong as evidenced by its current player list.

--The tournament will debut a free Citizens of the World event to celebrate diversity and make the tournament accessible to all citizens on the evening of the opening day of the main draw, Monday, April 12. The 4:30-7 p.m. event will feature autograph sessions for tour players as well as a pro tennis exhibition, and many other events such as clinics, live music and appearances by cast members of the hit Lifetime show Army Wives.

Rogers fares well

Smash Junior Cup champion Shelby Rogers advanced to the semifinals of a tournament in Ponte Vedra, Fla., while attempting to earn a wild-card into the qualifying tournament for this spring's WTA Tour event in Ponte Vedra. The 17-year-old Daniel Island girl then won two matches to qualify for a $25,000 ITF Challenger in Fort Walton, Fla., before losing in the second round of the main draw.

Rogers should climb into the 700s from the 900s in the world rankings when the points from two victories over top 400 players in the Fort Walton event are added to the WTA Tour's computer rankings, according to Rogers' coach, Bryan Minton. Rogers' next competition will come in the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament April 10-11 as she attempts to qualify for the tournament's main draw.

Pinewood challenges

Pinewood Prep looks like it may challenge for second-best in SCISA Class AAA boys tennis after scoring a 5-4 win over 2008 state champion Hilton Head Prep, which has played in the last three state finals. That's despite the fact that Hilton Head Prep won the top three positions behind young star Jared Woodson's win at No. 1.

"Their top three (Woodson, Mo Hookaylo and Nicky Kunz) are better, and our bottom three (seventh-grader Adam Elliget, junior William Wert and freshman Davis Craig) are better," veteran Pinewood Prep coach Heinz Maurer said.

But both Pinewood Prep and Hilton Head Prep could play second fiddle to fellow Region 3 member and defending state champion Porter-Gaud, which posted a 5-2 win over perennial High School League power Waccamaw last week.

Pinewood Prep, now 6-0, will get its shot at Porter-Gaud's super-deep team Wednesday at the Pinewood courts. With the addition of freshman Joel Roberts from Summerville High at No. 3, the Panthers appear to be improved over a year ago when they fell to Hilton Head Prep in the state quarterfinals. Juniors JT

Elliget and Jacob Cumbie hold down the top two positions for the Panthers.

Hammond looks like the top team from the Columbia area. Pinewood already has scored a 6-3 win over Hammond, so Region 3 probably owns the state's top three teams.

C of C club team advances

A club team from the College of Charleston, led by former Pinewood star Trey Bessent, has qualified for the club tennis nationals April 17-18 in Surprise, Ariz., by finishing second in the recent Southern Sectional to host team

Auburn.

The C of C club coed team will be represented by 11 players at the nationals. The team will stage an adult mixed doubles fundraiser next Saturday at Mount Pleasant's Players and Racquet Club to raise money for the trip to the nationals. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Contact Bessent (803) 857-9814 or club team president Chelsea Borgeson (847) 542-1682 for details.

Local notes

--Charleston Tennis Center's "Hugs For Harper" benefit on April 2 from 6-8 p.m. to aid nine-year-old Harper Drolet, the daughter of longtime Farmfield member Jamie Drolet. Harper has a rare form of cancer and has undergone reconstructive surgery on her foot and has to learn how to walk all over again while receiving aggressive chemotherapy treatment. Contact pro Fredrik Andersson (fredrikandersson@bellsouth.net) or call Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401). Door prizes include tickets to the Family Circle final.

--Another Battle of James Island is set April 10 at the Country Club of Charleston, Maybank Tennis Center and Charleston Tennis Center. Play will begin at all three locations at 8:30 a.m. To register, contact CCC tennis director Lee Brockman (ccctennis@comcast.net).

--Diane Fishburne was named to the U.S. women's 50 Maria Bueno Cup team that will compete in the 30th ITF Seniors World Team Championships March 29-April 3 on red clay in Mexico City. The Professional Tennis Registry also named Fishburne the female player of the decade at the PTR Symposium in February.

--Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth has joined the board of directors of the PTR as treasurer. Barth is a former pro tour world's top 50 player.

--Former Palmetto Christian and Bishop England star John Karle was named Carolinas Conference men's player of the week while playing for Anderson University under former I'On Club pro Joey Eskridge.


(03/07/10)  Rogers, 17, hoping to hit Family Circle Cup jackpot
Is the Charleston area on the verge of having its own world-class women's tennis star? Was Shelby Rogers' domination of the recent Smash Junior Cup a preview of things to come? The answer may come as early as April 10-11 when the WTA Tour's Premier-designated Family Circle Cup stages its annual qualifying tournament. Thanks to her smashing Smash success, Rogers has direct entry into the qualifying tournament. A couple of victories in qualifying probably would thrust the 17-year-old Daniel Island girl into the Family Circle Cup's main draw.

The previous nine qualifying tournaments on Daniel Island have qualified only one Smash winner for the main draw of the Family Circle Cup. Shadisha Robinson, the 2003 Junior Family Circle champion, used the junior tournament's wild card into the qualifying event to put her in position to earn her way into the Family Circle's main draw. NCAA champion Mallory Cecil, the 2008 Smash champion, received a wild card into last year's main draw.

Rogers is the 73rd-ranked U.S. player on the WTA Tour. She has made two semifinals and one quarterfinal in $10,000 International Tennis Federation tournaments. The online-schooled standout plans to take a year off before entering college, even though she probably could have her pick of the nation's top collegiate tennis programs.

Former College of Charleston standout Bryan Minton has guided Rogers from the time she joined the tennis academy at Family Circle Tennis Center when she was eight years old. "When I first saw Shelby at the academy I told Fritz (former Family Circle tennis director Fritz Nau) that I thought she had potential and I'd like to work with her," Minton said.

As the academy jumped around the area to Porter-Gaud and then to the Players and Racquet Club, Minton has continued to work with Rogers. He is in Ponte Vedra, Fla., this weekend hoping to see Rogers win another wild card into a WTA Tour event's qualifying tournament. The $220,000 Ponte Vedra tournament will be held a week before the Family Circle Cup.

In yielding a total of only 18 games in five victories in the Smash Cup, the 5-9 Rogers surprised Minton with her level of play. "I knew she had a good shot. She made the semifinals last year and had three match points on (eventual champion and currently ranked No. 208th in the world) Alison Riske," he said.

"But she played better than I was expecting. She has improved over the last couple of months, and she handled the pressure of being the hometown favorite well."

Minton is excited about the chance to coach Rogers on-court in a big-time pro event such as the Family Circle qualifying tournament. "It's a great opportunity," he said.

Don't count Rogers out.

Most of the current touring pros haven't seen a game like Rogers' in quite some time. She has tennis smarts, fully capable of playing to an opponent's weakness. She often hits high-kicking spinners and moves her opponent around, then without warning unleashes her power. Most WTA Tour players know only one speed, only one gear as they recklessly bash balls from the baseline.

If Rogers can surprise a couple of them, she might have her own cheering section when the Family Circle's main draw takes center stage on April 12.

Auburn star

Caroline Thornton is another local girl with big tennis ambitions. She is a freshman at Auburn where she already is playing No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles.

Like Rogers, Thornton started out in Fritz Nau's Academy and trained under Minton. She still plays out of the Players and Racquet Club, and trains alongside Rogers.

Thornton trained and attended school for two years at Barcelona's highly regarded Sanchez Casal Academy before being recruited by Auburn. The 5-6 Sullivan's Island product won five of her first six singles matches at Auburn.

Local notes

--Super Senior mixed doubles signups are open until March 19. Competition offered at 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0. Contact Judi Fillinger (843) 849-0513.

--The Family Circle Cup needs junior and adult ball crew volunteers from April 10-18. To register, visit www.familycirclecup.com or contact Jo Cooper (843) 849-5309.

--USTA Flex League registration is open until Monday. Season begins next Sunday and run through May 16. Contact Vickie Nash (761-6097 or nashvm@yahoo.com).

--Today is the deadline for registering for Lowcountry Junior Team Tennis. To register, go to tennislink.usta.com/teamtennis.


(02/23/10)  Rogers tops Gelber for Smash crown
There were at least three critical times in Monday's rain-interrupted Smash Junior Cup girls 18 final at Family Circle Tennis Center, and local favorite Shelby Rogers came up big each time in a convincing 6-1, 6-2 victory over Emily Gelber of Scarsdale, N.Y. The results of the match were a dream come true for Rogers, a 17-year-old who resides about five minutes away from the huge tennis complex on Daniel Island. Rogers started her tennis training on the very same courts nine years ago under then pro Fritz Nau.

This time, she was playing for a wild-card berth in the prestigious Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament that is set for April. And she won going away, thanks to taking advantage of the three big moments.

The first one was at the start of the 10 a.m. match. Rogers mixed her power with change-of-pace shots to win the first two games with the loss of just two points, then led 4-1 when the rain came. By then, the smallish Gelber seemed thoroughly frustrated.

But when the two girls resumed play on a different court at 4:25 p.m., Gelber looked like a new player, more determined and consistent. Rogers wasn't surprised as she broke serve in the three-deuce sixth game and then held serve to close out the first set.

The third critical time was the start of the second set. Rogers yielded only one point in the first two games and never looked back, taking only 42 minutes after the restart to finsh off the match.

"I've been wanting this for awhile," Rogers said after all of the congratulatory hugs from her parents, grandparents and other friends.

"I first started practicing here with Fritz when I was about 8 years old. Ever since then I've had my eye on it."

Rogers, who is ranked No. 922 in the world by the WTA Tour, felt her opponent got off to a slow start. "She looked a little nervous, but she was a lot better after the rain delay," she said.

"I didn't think we were going to finish it today, but I knew I definitely had to pick it up my game when we started back. I felt if I could win that first game when we started back, I would have the momentum and confidence to win. I put a lot of emphasis on that game.

"I just tried to be as creative as I could," the online-schooled Rogers said about her high-kicking balls to Gelber's backhand that set up smashing winners from both sides by the champion. "I tried to play high-percentage shots, and it paid off. I picked my chances.

"I would just like to thank all of my local fans for the support they gave me."


(02/21/10)  Elliget's dream washed away

Adam Elliget is one of South Carolina's premier junior tennis players. The 13-year-old from Summerville dominated boys' 12 in the state in 2009.

Yet, the South's fourth-ranked 12-and-under player didn't earn a state ranking in his age group for 2009.

He played all over the country. He played Belton and beyond, soaring into the top 20 nationally. He won both singles and doubles at Belton. But he didn't play in his age group in any of the six smaller so-called state tournaments, of which it was a prerequiste to play in at least one to earn a state ranking.

But the mishap is water over the dam now. The No. 1 state ranking that Adam dreamed of owning irreversibly went to someone else.

USTA South Carolina officials admitted to Jim Elliget that a mistake was made by not including Belton as a ranking qualifier, but it's not a correctable one. So, Adam's dreams are empty. There's no top ranking in the state for his 12th year to go with his 10-and-under No. 1 ranking for 2007. All of the hard work and travel went for naught in the state's eyes. Luckily, he has his Southern and national rankings.

Adam always will have to explain that he actually was the state's No. 1 player in boys 10 and 12. He just won't have any proof. And you know how such tall tales can go over years from now.

Of course, there's always next year, especially for a young player such as Adam. He is playing boys 14 now where he almost accidentally qualified for a third ranking in the state for 2009. He has other things on his mind right now, playing high school tennis for Pinewood Prep where he is a seventh-grader. Practice started a couple of weeks ago.

Like so many other outstanding players in the state, Elliget failed to play in his age group in Greenville's state clay courts or state doubles, or Columbia's state hard courts, or tournaments at The Citadel, Hilton Head Island and Sumter. Yet, the 3,937 points Elliget earned were nearly 500 points more than his closest rival in boys 12.

State USTA officials have assured Jim Elliget that the rules will change for 2010 to include Belton as a state tournament. "No further changes can be made to the 2009 final rankings as they were run by the rules the committee passed in 2008," state junior competition coordinator Jessica Amick stated in an

e-mail to Elliget.

Cyclones look to repeat

Picking a favorite in SCISA Class AAA boys tennis is easy. You have to look no further than the elite private school that sits just off Charleston harbor between the Ashley and Stono rivers. Defending champion Porter-Gaud may be in a class all alone.

The Cyclones have won seven of the last 10 state titles, and coach Tom Higgins has practically everyone - at least, the entire singles lineup - back from last year's unbeaten team, plus two star transfers. Senior Marshall Sanford, the son of Gov. Mark Sanford, was an all-state player last season for Columbia's Heathwood Hall, while sophomore Hunter Mitchell stood out near the top of the lineup for a Hilton Head Prep team that has sandwiched two state runners-up seasons around winning the 2008 state championship.

Lowcountry player of the year J.B. Robards, who went 12-0 last season as the Cyclones' No. 1 player, leads a group of three other juniors - Johnny Steichen, Charlie Baker and Matt Polletti - along with tall freshman Thomas Spratt and senior

Elliott Sperr as returning singles starters from a year ago. Smallish eighth-grader Seth Pinoski and freshman Payne Hoy, along with Sanford and Mitchell, probably round out the team's top 10 players.

But there's plenty more depth. Several more players on Higgins' 33-player roster could start for most of the other private and public schools in the state.

"In two and a half weeks of practice we've had some of the best practices I've had at Porter-Gaud," said Higgins about his seventh year as the Cyclones' coach.

The only dilemma is coming up with a starting lineup. Since Hoy and Polletti have just joined the tennis team after finishing out the basketball season, Higgins hasn't put together a starting lineup.

But he has to hurry. The Cyclones will open their season March 2 at home against Hilton Head Christian, and two weeks later the Cyclones will visit perennial public school power Waccamaw. The two schools also will square off in April at the Porter-Gaud courts. Most college tennis coaches in this section of the country probably are interested in those dates.

Local notes

Charleston Tennis Center will take part in the USTA's second annual National Youth Registration on Friday from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Farmfield Avenue complex. The event, part of the Tennis Night in America celebration that is scheduled for March 1, will feature registration for all spring and summer youth tennis programs at the Farmfield complex. Contact city pro Fredrik Andersson (843) 442-5472 or Denise McCracken at the city complex (843) 766-7401.

USTA Flex Leagues are starting again in the Charleston area. The leagues last 6-8 weeks and allow participants to simply contact their opponents and play at a time and place that best fits their schedules. Registration is available at www.southernflextennis.com.

The Courting Kids' spring program will start March 6 at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and John's Island's Alan Fleming complex. Contact Courting Kids director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 766-7401.


(02/07/10)  Pretty handy guy to have playing on the next court
Tennis players often are some of the luckiest people around. And for more reasons than one. Not only do many of the tennis complexes in the area have defibrillators on site along with personnel trained in their usage, but often a doctor or a health professional is on the same court with you or on a nearby court.

Several times in recent years a player has gone into cardiac arrest on a tennis court, and a doctor or doctors just happened to nearby. Having Lamar Watkins as a friend playing on the next court is just about as good.

Watkins isn't a doctor, but he has been a member of the Charleston County Volunteer Rescue Squad for 33 years. He takes the business of saving lives seriously as evidenced by his Charleston County Volunteer 2009 Rescuer of the Year Award.

Last August on an early Saturday morning on the clay courts at Maybank Tennis Center, Watkins was engaged in a friendly tennis match on Court 9 when players on the next two courts started yelling for help. Watkins grabbed his rescue radio and ran to Court 10 where he later noted in a report that the player was sitting against a fence unconscious.

Watkins immediately called for an ambulance and the fire department for an oxygen cylinder. Other players rushed out to the adjacent Houghton Avenue to direct the EMS personnel to the location on the back of the wooded complex. Watkins said he had started checking the player's pulse and condition only moments before the player went into cardiac arrest. Watkins then started CPR, with another tennis player assisting.

The stricken player, who asked not to be identified in the newspaper, responded to the CPR and resumed breathing. When the James Island Fire Department arrived, a full oxygen flow was started and the patient was transported to Roper Hospital on Calhoun Street.

After heart bypass surgery, which included three bypasses, plus a new aortic value and a pacemaker, and more than a week in the hospital, the patient was released and is now back home on James Island doing well. He said he hasn't returned to playing tennis yet. He might be waiting to see when Watkins will be on the adjacent court again.

This was the second time in less than a month that Watkins had been called from Court 9 to Court 10 - to care for the same player. Two Saturday mornings earlier, the player was transported to the hospital but after being checked out he was allowed to go home.

At the request of fellow players, who witnessed the second incident, Watkins was recognized by Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. at a recent City Council meeting for his quick response and action that may have saved a fellow tennis player's life. Watkins' heroics also have been recognized by the Optimist Club of Charleston.

"You don't get to save a person's life very often," said Watkins, who is retired from a U.S. government job and has worked part-time at Maybank Tennis Center for three years. "I've done this before, but never on a tennis court."

Watkins didn't use the club's defibrillator, due to the urgency that he needed to start CPR immediately and the defibrillator was in the clubhouse, which is a good distance away from the clay courts at the Maybank facility. Also, the clubhouse wasn't open yet due to the 7:45 a.m. time.

LCTA adds Juniors

The Lowcountry Tennis Association is no longer just about adult and senior league tennis. Junior Team Tennis now comes under the LCTA umbrella of new president Ken Edwards.

Registration for the Junior Team Tennis spring league started last Monday and will end March 7. Matches will begin on Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, go to www.lctatennis.org. Registration is available at tennislink.usta.com/teamtennis/main/registration.aspx.

Local notes

--Juniors Matt Mendez, Meghan Blevins and Alexander Santiago fared well in tournaments held over the Christmas holidays in Tucson, Ariz. Mendez was a semifinalist in boys' 14 singles in the USTA Winter National Championships; Blevins won the doubles title and took fifth in girls 18 singles at the Copper Bowl; and Santiago teamed with Anderson's David Parker to win the Copper Bowl's boys 14 doubles title.

--Players Racquet and Tennis Club tennis director Bryan Minton is promoting star pupil Shelby Rogers for a spot in the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament. Rogers, who recently made the semifinals of a $10,000 ITF event in Mexico, also is volunteering her time to help the Meeting Street Academy kids learn to play.

--Charleston Tennis Center's Super "Hot Mammas" super seniors 7.5 women's team finished second to Knoxville, Tenn., with a 2-1 record in their round-robin division in the recent Southern Combo Championships in Mobile, Ala. Elisabeth Pickelsimer is the team's captain.

Upcoming events

--The Courting Kids' spring program will start March 6 at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and John's Island's Alan Fleming complex. Contact Courting Kids director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (843) 66-7401.

--The Smash Junior Cup, one of only two junior tournaments in the United States to offer players a chance to compete for a wild-card berth in a WTA Tour Premier Event, is scheduled for Feb. 20-22 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg and Duke, the 2008 Smash girls 18 winner and current NCAA champion and MVP, was awarded a wild-card berth into the main draw of last year's million-dollar Family Circle Cup.

--The Smash tournament has competition in boys' and girls 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18, with the girls' 18 champion qualifying for a berth in the Family Circle's qualifying tournament. Registration for Smash is available on TennisLink at www.usta.com using the tournament ID number (704140610) through Feb. 14. Contact Nancy Heinz (smashjrcup@bellsouth.net) or Brittany Clark (brittany.clark@familycirclecup.com).

--As a result of frozen courts and the Super Bowl, the Players Racquet and Tennis Club has rescheduled its Aussie Open Lowcountry Grand Slam for Feb. 25-28. The tournament will feature NTRP competition in men's and women's singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. Contact Chuck Lee (843) 330-1128.

--Volunteers are needed in 16 different areas for the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup, with the adult ball crew the biggest area of need. Anyone, 18 and over, can contact Jo Cooper (849-5309) if interested in volunteering. Visit www.familycirclecup.com for more information.


(01/24/10)  Fenno, two others reach No. 1
Junior tennis in the state has a new star. Brant Fenno earned the state's top boys 10 ranking for 2009.

Girls 16 standout Patricia Kirkland and boys 16 star Connor Clements were the only other local juniors to earn No. 1 state rankings for 2009. Kirkland is a three-time All-Lowcountry player who has helped Ashley Hall win back-to-back SCISA Class AAA titles.

Fenno will have another shot at the top spot in boys 10 for 2010 since he just turned 10 in October, giving him almost another full year to compete in 10-and-under before aging up to boys 12.

Clements turned 16 in September but plans to play in boys 18 and ITF events this year while participating in online schooling at home. Clements led a group of five other Charleston players who gained top-20 rankings in boys 16 -- Steven Weaver fifth, Anderson Scarpa sixth, Jackson Pride 10th, Drew Halbauer 13th and Joel Roberts 16th.

The most successful age group for local players was boys 18, where seven different players earned top-20 rankings. Randall Heffron claimed second, Trey Halbauer third, Elliott Sperr seventh, Walker Heffron 11th, J.B. Robards 18th, Johnny Steichen 19th and Peter Pritchard 20th.

Boys 14 was another strong age group for Charleston juniors. Austin Heinz took a No. 2 ranking in 14-and-under, followed by Adam Elliget No. 3, Jonathan Edwards ninth, Colby Tubbs 14th, Seth Pinosky 17th and John David-Michael Daniels 18th.

Joining Fenno in the boys 10 top 20 were Aaron Miles Thornton at 12th and Earl Williams Navarro at 18th.

In boys 12, Hufelder Duarte was fifth and Jared Pratt was 14th.

Emma Darby Navarro was 12th in girls 10 and Drew Caroline Weaver was 13th. Five locals gained top 20 rankings in girls 12, with Grace Robards third, Samantha Schuster 10th, Alexia Steichen 12th, Ashby Marie Bland 14th and Madison Skyler White 18th.

In girls 14, Kristen Farmer gained a No. 12 ranking, followed by Hannah Leschorn at 13th. Joining Kirkland in girls 16 were Sarah McDonald at No. 3, Narni Summerall No. 5, Carissa Steichen No. 7 and Hannah Leschorn 19th. Corin Hallman was third in girls 18, followed by No. 17 Mi'Kola Cooper and No. 18 Clair Larkin.

Top players missing

Some of South Carolina's top juniors are notably missing from the 2009 final state rankings. At least some of their absences were due to rule changes, of which many parents apparently weren't aware.

The state's premier junior event, Belton's Palmetto Championships, didn't qualify as a state championship in 2009 in the criteria for a state ranking. A junior needed to play in four S.C. tournaments, including a state championship event, to qualify for a ranking. The state hard courts were held in Columbia and the state clay courts in Greenville.

As a result, players such as Belton boys 14 champion Jared Woodson of Hilton Head Island didn't qualify for a state ranking. Neither did locals Thomas Spratt or Bailey Kirkland in boys 14, even though both Spratt and Kirkland played in at least four tournaments in boys 14, including Belton, as well as a national Junior Team Tennis championship team. But Spratt did qualify for a No. 30 ranking in boys 16 since he played in enough boys 16 tournaments, including a state championship event.

Ellie Halbauer also played on the Junior Team Tennis national championship team and was runner-up in girls 12 at Belton, but didn't receive a state ranking. Sarah McDonald, Kristen Farmer, Adam Elliget and Drew Halbauer were members of the Junior Team Tennis national champions who earned top-20 state rankings.

Belton girls 16 runner-up Meghan Blevins and girls 18 runner-up Alex Martin were among the list of outstanding local juniors who failed to qualify for state rankings.

Notes

--Charleston's Courting Kids director Delores Jackson and Charleston Tennis Center recreation specialist Denise McCracken received USTA grants to participate in a USTA Community Development Workshop being held this weekend in San Diego.

--Courting Kids' spring program is scheduled to start March 6 at the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and Johns Island's Alan Fleming complex.

--Charleston Tennis Center's Super "Hot Mammas" super seniors 7.5 women's team is participating this weekend in Mobile, Ala., in the Southern Combo Championships. Elisabeth Pickelsimer is the team's captain.

Upcoming events

--Mount Pleasant's Players Racquet and Tennis Club has scheduled its Aussie Open Lowcountry Grand Slams event for Feb. 4-7, with the registration deadline at 9 a.m. on Feb. 3. The tournament will feature NTRP competition in men's and women's singles and doubles as well as mixed doubles. Contact Chuck Lee (843) 330-1128.

--The Hits for Halos pro-am doubles tournament is scheduled for March 20-21 at Mount Pleasant's I'On Club. The event will benefit the Halos summer camp program for abused and neglected children in Charleston County. Contact Mike Morris (860-0984 or hitsforhalos@comcast.net). The tournament will pair 28 amateur players with a rotation of 14 pros from around the Southeast for 10 round-robin sets followed by a playoff.

--The last coaches meeting for schools interested in participating in the Tri-county Elementary and Middle School Tennis League will be held today at 3 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center.

--Charleston Tennis Center's courts will undergo resurfacing starting Tuesday, which has complicated scheduling for this spring's league tennis matches that will be starting the next two weeks.


(01/10/10)  Newcomers hold key to league tennis' popularity
Local league tennis participation has skyrocketed in the last decade to more than 3,200 participants as Ken Edwards steps up as president of the Lowcountry Tennis Association in the wake of Bob Peiffer's 16-year reign as the organization's leader. But a continued surge in participants might be difficult for Edwards to maintain since the very heart of new participation is the controversial self-rated player program - or the newcomer to league tennis.

Self-rating needs to end for many reasons.

Self-rated players often are victims of a no-win situation. In most cases, the rookie has little choice but to self-rate at 3.5 or lower, because most 4.0 team captains might not even consider taking a 4.0 self-rated player unless the player has a college playing background or an old league rating at a high level. So, the 3.0 or 3.5 rookie often is hit with a disqualification with a bunch of asterisks next to his or her name.

Most self-rated players who fall victim to the league tennis disqualification rule really aren't better than their rating and usually aren't more advanced than many computer-rated players participating at the same level. It's just that the newcomers have the stigma of being self-rated.

So, while computer-rated or benchmark players with even more advanced skills are allowed to continue competing at their current level for the remainder of the year, the rookie can be disqualified during the middle of the spring season and forced to forfeit all victories.

Something definitely is wrong with this system. The newcomer, the hope of a continued vibrant league tennis program, is being treated like a villain.

But don't blame local officials or the LCTA. They are not making the decisions. The USTA hierarchy is getting in the way of the game.

If self-rating isn't abolished, it's a virtual must that the computer ratings system be expanded to include the fall season along with the spring season. That would allow self-rated players joining the league in the fall to earn a computer rating by year's end rather than needing to sometimes play as long as nearly 18 months prior to earning one.

Although the fall season doesn't count toward playoff points, there is absolutely no reason why an entire fall season of participation isn't enough to give a league newcomer an official rating.

Of course, the answer might be a USTA-funded pro-rated system (pros conducting one-on-one ratings on their site) in which newcomers would not be subject to disqualification during the middle of a regular season, and disrupting entire teams and seasons.

And what's this 1-2-3, you're out ... and the self-rated player wasn't aware of having even one strike. Yet, league tennis officials are adamant that this information cannot be released until there's a disqualification and it's too late to avoid team forfeits of previously played matches.

What about letting the computer generate a simple two-strike disqualification warning e-mail to the team captain when the second-strike match results are posted on TennisLink? The captain then simply wouldn't play the player again. End result: entire seasons wouldn't be placed in jeopardy.

Everyone plays the game for fun, exercise, competition and social reasons, but winning makes league tennis even more enjoyable in that it can pull an entire team together.

Local league tennis is throwing in a new tiebreaker format this spring to top off all of the confusion. The Coman Tiebreak replacing the traditional tiebreakers? Come on!

Obviously, league tennis' decision-making mechanism, whether human or computer, is loaded with flaws.

Upcoming events

--Remember, Monday night at midnight is the deadline for forming teams to compete in the league spring season.

--Applications are now being accepted for 375 adult volunteer positions, as well as 175 adult and junior ball crew members, for the April 10-18 Family Circle Cup. Information and applications are available at familycirclecup.com or at the Family Circle Tennis Center clubhouse. Ball crew applications also are available by contacting Dan Tumbleston (843-367-0279 or tumbled@knology.net).

--Individual session tickets for the Family Circle Cup through Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. on Friday. Ticketmaster.com purchases will be available 24 hours a day. Tickets also can be ordered through Ticketmaster charge-by-phone (800-745-3000), or at any local Publix location offering Ticketmaster services.

--The captain's meetings for the Tri-County Elementary/Middle School League are scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m., Friday at 4 p.m. and next Sunday at 3 p.m. All meetings will be held at Charleston Tennis Center on West Ashley's Farmfield Avenue.