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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(12/23/12)  Cougars' tennis along for the ride to CAA

Many college football and basketball programs appear to be in a transitional mode while administrators search for bigger paydays and more media attention for their schools.

Where does that leave other sports at these colleges? You don't have to be a Ph.D. to figure out that these so-called minor sports such as tennis are along just for the ride. Their current perches may be rather tenuous.

Of course, you don't have to go very far to find one of the athletic programs in flux. A year from now, the College of Charleston will be in the middle its first basketball season in the Colonial Athletic Association. Basketball obviously was the driving force of the Cougars' impending switch to the CAA.

But tennis is forced to tag along at a time when the College of Charleston men's and women's programs are riding the crest of success that equals some of the school's better tennis days, not to overlook the women's small college NAIA national title in 1983.

Coach Angelo Anastopoulo has directed the women's program to four straight Southern Conference titles and recognition for four consecutive seasons as an Academic All-America team. Men's coach Jay Bruner has led the Cougars to three straight SoCon regular season first-place or tie for first finishes and one conference title.

You've got to admit that the school's tennis programs are in great shape. Recruiting appears to be getting easier, possibly influenced by the Cougars' relatively new and excellent tennis complex at Patriots Point.

As usual, Anastopoulo is taking the switch in stride. Starting his 22nd season as a head tennis coach at the College, he is no stranger to changes. He was there in 1998-99 when the Cougars left the TransAmerica Conference for the SoCon.

“We are going to make the best of it. The school is committed to helping us reach our goals,” Anastopoulo said Saturday.

Anastopoulo's goal for the women's team is to be a consistent national top 45 team. The Cougars were rated 63rd last spring.

“Our travel allowance has been increased,” he said, pointing out that the extra travel money will allow the Cougars to play the type of schedule that could help them reach their goal.

Unlike the SoCon, the Colonial Conference does not require its tennis teams to play a regular season conference schedule. That's probably due to the fact that the CAA's nine tennis-playing members are spread out between New York, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“The TAC was similar to the Colonial,” said Anastopoulo, who doubles as tennis director. “So, we are going back to a little like the TAC days. It will be hard to keep an eye on other programs, but it will be easier now because of the web.

“The TAC later went to divisional schedules for tennis . . . I hope the Colonial will do that in the future to help determine tournament seedings.”

Right now, Anastopoulo is concentrating on the Cougars' last season in the SoCon. That season will start in less than a month.

Recruiting is always in focus. And Anastopoulo doesn't know what effect the Cougars' switch to a more northernly conference affiliation will have on recruiting.

“We usually recruit the Southeast,” he said. “Nine of our 10 recruits are from the South. I don't know if playing in a Southern conference had an impact on our players' decisions to come here.”
League tennis lull?

This may be a lull between league tennis seasons, but for most team captains, it's probably the most harried time of the tennis year. Not only is there the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the holidays, the new year's only really “official USTA season” is just weeks away. Team quotas still must be met in most cases before the Jan. 11 deadline.

Most captains have lost at least one or several players to league tennis' always distracting bump-up process. That means many captains must find a new team nucleus if they expect to field a competitive team capable of challenging for a berth in the playoffs.

Then there is the addition of a 40-and-over league, which may create a bit more confusion for everyone. In most cases, there aren't enough weekday nights and facilities to accommodate a new league. So, family time and weekends are threatened.

Of course, senior tennis has faded into the sunset in favor of terms such as 55-and-over, 65-and-over and 75-and-over. And the adult league is now officially the 18-and-over league. Don't you feel younger already?

(12/14/12)  Ashley Hall’s Summerall repeats as girls tennis player of year
There isn’t much left for Ashley Hall’s Narni Summerall to accomplish in high school tennis now that she has won a second straight Post and Courier Lowcountry Player of the Year award for girls tennis.

Narni Summerall, Sr., Ashley Hall
Annie Hay, Sr., Porter-Gaud
Mollie Polk, Sr., Pinewood Prep
Rossi Anastopoulo, Sr., Ashley Hall
Liza Arruda, Jr., Bishop England
Grace Robards, Soph., Porter-Gaud
Ann Martin Skelly, 8th, Porter-Gaud
Player of Year: Summerall
Coach of Year: Kristin Fleming, Bishop England

Meagan Evans, Sr., Pinewood Prep
Kelly McManus, Sr., Bishop England
Caroline Yodice, Jr., Bishop England
Dakota Brown, Sr., Cane Bay
Kristen Farmer, Jr., Berkeley
Corey Caulder, Soph., Palmetto Christian
Lexi Steichen, Fresh., Porter-Gaud

BISHOP ENGLAND: Hannah Simpson, Emma Schaafsma, Gabrielle Dacuba, Lauren Quinn. PINEWOOD PREP: Hayleigh Dodge, Shauna Fletcher, Mary Hunter Brown, Haley Foster. ASHLEY HALL: Morgan Schweers, Tiffany Dye, Gyles Laney, Skat Bailey. PALMETTO CHRISTIAN: Jess Helmus, Katie Quinn, Emma King. WANDO: Emily Kuester, Tyler Kirk, Alex Hickey. ASHLEY RIDGE: Ali Herrera, Maddie Kratzert. COLLETON PREP: Brittany Griffin, Taylor Hoff. HOLLY HILL ACADEMY: Hunter Paramore, Kristi O’Connell. PORTER-GAUD: Carlyle Williams, Madison McNeil. ACADEMIC MAGNET: Mary-Geer Kirkland. BERKELEY: Elliott Huxford. CHAS. MATH & SCIENCE: Nicole Brogan. COLLETON COUNTY: Kyla Floyd. FORT DORCHESTER: Maya Snype. GARRETT: Jedidah Glover. HANAHAN: Amelia McCulloch. JAMES ISLAND: Rhealyn Dinkins. STRATFORD: Chrisia Class. SUMMERVILLE: Caroline Green. WEST ASHLEY: Alaina Gilliard.

The award caps a brilliant career that saw the Dartmouth-bound star suffer only three singles losses in four years of high school tennis. Her only disappointment was that the Panthers failed for the second straight year to advance to the SCISA state final after being part of two state championship teams.

Summerall heads a group of four seniors on the first team that includes fellow three-time All-Lowcountry choice Annie Hay of Porter-Gaud as well as Pinewood Prep’s Mollie Polk and Ashley Hall’s Rossi Anastopoulo. Junior Liza Arruda of Bishop England, sophomore Grace Robards of Porter-Gaud and eighth-grader Ann Martin Skelly of Porter-Gaud round out the first team.

Kristin Fleming, who directed Bishop England to a second consecutive Class AA state title, is the coach of the year.

Summerall lifted her game to a whole new level as a senior. She dominated local tennis as well as SCISA Region III-AAA while going unbeaten in singles and wrapping up her career with the best overall record ever for Ashley Hall.

The 5-10 standout saw her game flourish with an elevated focus on training and drills under Creekside Tennis and Swim pro Or Dekel. Playing under veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley’s watchful eye, Summerall developed doubles skills that put her among an elite class of high school players and prepared her for possibly an outstanding collegiate career. Her powerful inside-out forehand is a serious doubles weapon.

“I had never been that strong in doubles, so I’ve concentrated on doubles more in the last year,” Summerall said. “I worked on doubles a lot with Or (Dekel) at Creekside this summer. I’m more of a singles player, but I am trying to be a doubles player now.”

She is excited about becoming a part of Dartmouth tennis. “Dartmouth has a perfect combination of tennis and academics,” she said. “Academics are the most important, but tennis is a big part of it for me. Dartmouth is very competitive in tennis. They tied with Yale for the Ivy League championship in 2011.”

Dartmouth coach Bob Dallis started recruiting Summerall at the end of her sophomore year and offered her a spot on the team last March, she said. Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships, but use a need-based system.

“I plan to play a lot of national and ITA tournaments to get ready for college,” she said.

Summerall was ranked No. 1 in the state for part of 2011 and was rated No. 58 in the nation in her recruiting class in September by TennisRecruiting.net.

“I’ll definitely miss Ashley Hall,” she said. “Coach Gastley has given tennis a dimension that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

(12/13/12)  TOMMY BRASWELL  Local players perform well in junior tennis event

More than 100 junior tennis players from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia participated in the Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic tournament held at the Charleston Tennis Center. "We've been doing this tournament for about 30 years every Thanksgiving," said Peggy Bohne, manager of the city of Charleston's Tennis Center in West Ashley.

"Because it's Thanksgiving, we have a lot of food and fun for the kids, but it's very competitive. It's a U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned event, so it counts toward their rankings."

Age groups were 10-under through 18-under for both boys and girls.


Boys 10 Singles
Robbie Young (Greenville) def. Harrison Luba (Hilton Head Island) 4-0, 4-0
Consolation: Harold Blue (Mount Pleasant) def. Hampton Cope (Lexington) 4-0, 4-0

Boys 12 Singles
Matthew Kandel (Hilton Head Island) def. Osbaldo Duarte (Johns Island) 6-3, 6-2
Consolation: Brolin Dorsey (Anderson) def. Luke Pressler (Mount Pleasant) 6-3, 6-2

Boys 14 Singles
Sam Kavarana (Mount Pleasant) def. Brant Fenno (Mount Pleasant) w/d injury
Consolation: James Craigie (Charleston) def. Hunter Sechrist (Charleston) 6-1, 6-3

Boys 16 Singles
Luke Kusmider (Charleston) def. Jeffrey Dayton (Murrells Inlet) 6-0, 6-3
Consolation: Gavin Davis (Florence, AL) def. Jonathan Habbick (Fort Mill) 6-0, 6-3

Boys 18 Singles
Hufelder Duarte (Johns Island) def. Jake Kusmider (Charleston) 6-0, 6-0
Consolation: Justin Dunn (Andrews) def. David Habbick (Fort Mill) 6-2, 6-0

Girls 10 Singles
Ava Middour (Mount Pleasant) def. Sophie Young (Greenville) 4-2, 3-5, 7-5
Consolation: Nathalie Williams (Charleston) def. Mary Ella Prendergast (Mount Pleasant) 4-2, 4-1

Girls 12 Singles
Shea Cirillo (Raleigh) def. Halle Futch (North Charleston) 6-4, 6-3
Consolation: Mary Grace Armstead (Hilton Head Island) def. Juley Harper (Charleston) 6-0, 6-0

Girls 14 Singles (Round Robin)
Ava Kusmider (Charleston) def. Tyler Kirk (Mount Pleasant) 6-2, 6-2

Girls 16 Singles
Juliana Goehner (Daniel Island) def. Mary Kirkland (Charleston) 6-2, 6-1
Consolation: Abby Cooper (Columbia) def. Gabrielle Dacuba (Mount Pleasant) 6-2, 6-1

Girls 18 Singles (Rnd. Robin)
Mollie Polk (Round O) def. Sidney Coker (Scranton) 6-0, 6-0

Boys 10 Doubles
Samuel Blount (Charleston) - Robbie Young (Greenville) def. Jacob Smith (Daniel Island) - Cooper Williams (Charleston) 9-7

Boys 12 Doubles
Luke Prendergast ( Mount Pleasant) - Maxwell Smith (Daniel Island) def. Andrew Demetre (Charleston) - Thomas Karle (Daniel Island) 8-5

Boys 14 Doubles
Brant Fenno (Mount Pleasant) - Mark Militzer (Mount Pleasant) def. Lleyton Dacuba (Mount Pleasant) - Sam Kavarana (Mount Pleasant) 8-4

Boys 16 Doubles
Hufelder Duarte (Johns Island) - Cameron Kirkwood (Mount Pleasant) def. Gavin Davis (Florence, AL) - Jeffrey Dayton (Murrells Inlet) 8-1

Girls 10 Doubles
Ava Middour (Mount Pleasant) - Sophie Young (Greenville) def. Mary Ella Prendergast (Mount Pleasant) - Nathalie Williams (Charleston) 8-1

Girls 12 Doubles
Emily Elliott (Mount Pleasant) - Halle Futch (North Charleston) def. Ana-Lei Kalawe (North Charleston) - Brazil Murry (Charleston) 8-1

Girls 14 Doubles
Tyler Kirk (Mount Pleasant) - Ava Kusmider (Charleston) def. Mary Lewis (Charleston) - Mary Kirkland (Charleston) 8-4Girls 16 Doubles
Gabrielle Dacuba (Mount Pleasant) - Juliana Goehner (Daniel Island) def. Isabelle Cooper (Columbia) - Morgan Keefe (Cades) 8-6

(12/09/12)  Shelby Rogers leaps in world rankings
Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers has been quietly climbing up the WTA Tour's rankings since early summer — all the way to her current perch at No. 215 in the world. If leaping almost 200 places in the rankings in less than six months isn't enough, consider the fact that Rogers has scored a pair of wins over top 100 players in that time.

Now 20 years old, Rogers has been training at the USTA's training center in Boca Raton, Fla., for approximately 18 months. She had previously trained at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Her big breakthrough came in July when she won the $7,315 first prize in a $50,000 International Tennis Federation event in Yakima, Wash. After winning five straight matches and 70 ranking points in Yakima, she won her next two matches in another $50,000 event to reach the quarterfinals in Lexington, Ky.

The next big result for Rogers came in late September when she advanced to the final of a $50,000 Las Vegas ITF tournament before suffering a three-set loss to 19-year-old American Lauren Davis. That netted Rogers 50 ranking points.

Ironically, Rogers scored a straight-set win a month later over the current 92nd-ranked Davis in a first-round match at New Braunfels, Texas. Rogers is fresh off of another straight-set victory over a top 100 player, 93rd-ranked Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan, in a $75,000 event in Phoenix.

Rogers' world ranking also received a boost when she earned 40 points for winning one match in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament.

The tennis tour has slowed down for the holidays for Rogers. Despite her rapid climb in the rankings, Rogers' ranking wasn't high enough to claim a berth in the USTA's Australian Open wild-card playoffs that are set for next weekend in Atlanta. The eight American women selected were Mallory Burdette (No. 144), Julia Cohen (115), Irina Falconi (152), Alexa Glatch (124), Madison Keys (137), Bethanie Mattek-Sands (169), Maria Sanchez (127) and Alison Riske (182). Rogers was invited to the event in 2010.
It's Coach Young

Just call him Coach Young.

Yes, former Charleston junior star Ryan Young is now a college tennis coach. The former Clemson All-American landed a position as an assistant coach at Michigan State.

Young is already on the job in East Lansing, Mich. After twice undergoing shoulder surgery, the 28-year-old left-hander has given up on his dreams of making a living playing professional tennis — at least, for now. He landed the job at Michigan State with the aid of a recommendation from former Clemson coach Chuck Kriese. Young's mother, Toni, is the head pro at Maybank Tennis Center.

Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blankenbaker and I'On pro Matt Hane, who hold the men's 30 national grass-court championship, recently teamed up to capture the men's 30 Southern Closed Clay Court title at Kiawah Island. Blankenbaker also won the Southern men's 30 singles crown.

The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association is playing a major role in helping local breast cancer patients in their recovery. The association's annual Racquets for Recovery tournament has raised $158,000 for the Racquets for Recovery Fund at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center in the last eight years, including $16,000 from last month's benefit tournament at Pine Forest Country Club in Summerville.

Registration for spring league tennis will begin today and continue through Jan. 11 when eligible teams will be required to have rosters that include the minimum number of players needed to fill all positions for a league match.

In college signings, 2011 Lowcountry girls player of the year Narni Summerall of Ashley Hall is headed to Dartmouth, while 2012 Lowcountry boys player of the year Thomas Spratt of Porter-Gaud has signed with the University of Pennsylvania.

Berkeley's Kristen Farmer and Elliott Huxford, James Island's Rhealyn Dinkins, and Hanahan's Amelia McCulloch were named to the All-Region 8-AAA girls tennis team.

After leading Bishop England's girls to back-to-back Class AA state titles, Kristin Fleming is also taking over as head coach of the Bishops' boys team. Frank DiNardo coached the boys team last spring, while Fleming served as an assistant.

Two local teams were finalists in last weekend's Southern Section Super Senior Championships in Columbus, Ga. A 3.5 men's 60 team from Family Circle Tennis Center captained by Bob Peiffer and a 3.5 women's 70 team from the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department captained by Penny Gorby advanced to the finals, where both suffered 2-1 setbacks. A 4.5 women's 60 team captained by Maureen O'Berg and a 4.0 women's 70 team captained by Margo Heyd also competed.

Shots, miscellany
- Tip of the hat -- made of sawgrass -- to Mike Saia, who did a great job running point at the Charleston Family Circle Cup.

(11/25/12)  There's no dead season for Family Circle Cup's Moran
What could be going on in professional tennis? It's the dead season.

But not for anyone who puts on one of the top events in big-time tennis. The lull between seasons is the perfect time to enhance relationships with sponsors and players' agents.

The Family Circle Cup is a 365-day-a-year job for general manager Bob Moran. Ticket sales are already under way for the 41st version of the WTA's longest-running tournament. Tickets, including packages for the first time, can be purchased at ticketmaster.com for the March 30-April 7 event.

The familycirclecup.com Web site has been revamped to create a more user-friendly experience for online ticket purchases, such as the new daily double where patrons will receive a reduced rate when they purchase tickets for a day and night session on the same day.

The 2013 event also features an after-hours package that gives fans access to all night matches, including happy hour and live music Tuesday through Friday. The Family Circle Cup box office (800-677-2293) also is available for ticket sales along with local Publix supermarkets.

There's no word yet on whether World Team Tennis will return to Daniel Island next summer for a third time with its Finals Weekend. The timing of the WTT Finals has been in question, after an uncomfortably hot mid-summer first year event here in 2011 and this year's weather-friendly late-summer second outing.

“We haven't had conversations with the WTT (about next summer),” Moran said. “July was hard for us last year, but this year was easier for us.”
Anastopoulo busy

Ashley Hall senior Rossi Anastopoulo not only is an outstanding tennis player and athlete, she enjoys healthy cooking and has her own cooking website (www.abakinggirl.com) where she posts blogs and recipes twice weekly.

If playing three sports and managing a website aren't enough, Anastopoulo scored 2,390 on the SAT, with one incorrect answer on the math portion spoiling an otherwise perfect SAT. She is currently a guard and captain of the Ashley Hall basketball team.
Local notes

Tuesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's fifth annual Holiday Classic tournament at Family Circle Tennis Center. Registration will run Friday through Sunday and is available by going to www.usta.com and entering the tournament ID number (704126712). Competition will be in men's and women's 2.5-4.5 doubles and mixed doubles 6.0-9.0. The tournament benefits the Hollings Cancer Center.

Chris Henderson won the men's 30 singles and doubles (with Ben Cook) titles in the Southern Closed Clay Courts (even years) at Kiawah Island. Host pro Jonathan Barth took the mixed doubles 30 crown.

Palmetto Christian sophomore Corey Caulder is the SCISA Region II-AA girls player of the year.

Bishop England junior Liza Arruda captured third place in the High School League's Class A-AA state singles tournament. Teammate Kelly McManus lost the fifth-place match. Waccamaw senior Tolley Rice, who plans to play tennis at Elon, defended her High School League Class A-AA state singles title.

In Class AAA, Hilton Head High defended its state title. Mauldin won the Class AAAA title for the third straight year, blanking Dutch Fork, 6-0, in the state final.

Mauldin senior Ansley Speaks won her fourth straight Class AAA-AAAA singles state title.

(11/11/12)  Renovations make Maybank and St. Andrew's stand out

There's a fresh new look at two public tennis complexes west of the Ashley. Maybank Tennis Center and the St. Andrew's tennis complex have spruced up their facilities in a big-time way.

These facilities that had been showing wear now can compete with the best complexes in the area. Maybank, with its spaced-out eight lighted hard courts and five unlighted clay courts, is especially impressive.

Maybank is now one of the area's most viewer-friendly facilities. That was evident by the way the crowd enjoyed a recent Charleston Pro Tennis League program that officially reopened the completely renovated James Island complex.

Because of Maybank's resort-like low fencing on the sides and open space, fans were able to spread out over the complex and still easily observe the competition. The Maybank complex offers a perfect site for future CPTL events.

St. Andrew's 11 lighted hard courts have been rebuilt with new fencing, complete with a convenient walkway separating its two four-court banks of courts. The complex itself is now excellent, even with the same lighting.

The problem with lights has been the glare of the off-site security lights that appear to be directed toward the courts. That lighting issue still exists for night matches.
Eyraud CPTL champion

Fourth-place regular season finisher Eyraud Enterprises is the new CPTL champion after defeating regular season runner-up LCTA during the popular league's finals night program at Family Circle Tennis Center. Eyraud captain Matt Hane and Brandon Blankenbaker carried their team to the championship by winning two matches each in the final.

Hane, the big-serving I'On tennis director, won singles and then teamed with Blankenbaker to capture the No. 1 doubles match. Hane and Blankenbaker are the reigning men's 30 grass court national champions.

With women joining the CPTL for the first season, Blankenbaker then teamed with Kristen Whitehead to give Eyraud a win in mixed doubles. Ryan Blankenbaker and Nick Gaffos finished off the victory for Eyraud by winning at No. 2 doubles.

Regular season champion Going Postal, captained by Phil Whitesell, took the third-place match with a win over regular season third-place finisher Hunter Specialties, which was captained by Brian Burke.

In the semifinals that were played earlier in the evening, Eyraud knocked off Going Postal while Bryan Minton's LCTA upended Hunter Specialties.

The CPTL used the fast-moving World Team Tennis format this fall for the first time. Matches throughout the season and playoffs were determined by the WTT's total number of games format
Local notes

John Fanning's 8.5 adult men from Mount Pleasant Rec and Genessa Donohue's 7.5 adult women's team from Maybank Tennis Center won state combo championships and earf2011xned berths in the March 1-3 Southern combo league championships in Mobile, Ala.

Three local super senior teams recently won state titles. A 3.5 women's 70 team from Collins Park captained by Penelope Gorby, a 3.5 men's 60 team from Family Circle Tennis Center captained by Bob Peiffer and a 4.5 women's 60 team captained by Maureen O'Berg won state titles.

Summerville's Thanksgiving Tennis Classic is scheduled for next Saturday and Sunday at Doty Park. Registration is available on the internet by going to www.summerville.sc.us and selecting Thanksgiving tournament. Contact tournament director Nancy Sumersett (270-1017, 851-5211 or nsumersett@gmail.com).

Ashley Hall star Narni Summerall, the 2011 Lowcountry girls player of the year, has signed to play college tennis for Dartmouth. Summerall suffered only three singles losses in four years of high school tennis.

Adam Elliget won the boys 16 doubles title at the Norcross, Ga., nationals, playing with Simon Jayaram of Atlanta.

(11/04/12)  Bishop England captures second straight state tennis title
Six of the seven positions in Saturday’s Class AA state girls tennis championship match at Columbia’s Cayce Tennis Center saw the winners yield a combined total of just six games.

But in the one pressure-filled match from start to finish, one that ultimately gave Bishop England a 4-3 victory over Christ Church and its second straight state title, the Bishops’ Lauren Quinn played with ice water in her veins. A seventh-grader, Quinn, outlasted Christ Church sophomore Sitton Furman, 6-3, 5-7, 10-5, at No. 4 singles.

“It was an intense match. Lauren played extremely well under the circumstances. She gave a gutsy performance and really stepped it up and handled it well,” said Bishop England coach Kristin Fleming, whose team finished the season with a 22-4 record. “There were a lot of long points, and it came down to Lauren’s consistency.”

Otherwise, Bishop England senior Kelly McManus yielded one game at No. 2 singles, then teamed with junior Hannah Simpson at No. 2 doubles to clinch the state title in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over the Cavaliers’ Pieper sisters, senior Anna and seventh-grader Paula. Power-hitting junior Caroline Yodice collected the fourth win for the Bishops with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Christ Church seventh-grader Gracie Walls at No. 3 singles.

“Kelly played extremely well . . . very consistent and very patient,” Fleming said.

While the young Bishops looked very much capable of adding to their string of state titles next year, Christ Church will have to start a new string. The Cavaliers (15-3) had won five straight Class A state championships, but there wasn’t a playoff in Class A this fall.

“The scores were a little lopsided, but it was a tight match,” said Fleming, who played on four straight state championship teams for the Bishops, starting in 1989. “I had played against Christ Church four times in the state finals when I was in school, so I knew it was going to be a tough match.

“Winning a second state title in a row was great. The girls have worked extremely hard. We had a lot of depth and experience, and it paid off for us.”

Thanks to Quinn’s victory, the Bishops carried a 3-2 advantage into doubles. And they needed all of the wins to set the stage for McManus and Simpson to nail down the championship, while BE’s No. 1 doubles team of seniors Liza Arruda and Emma Schaafsma were on the verge of a 6-0, 6-2 loss to Furman and unbeaten Christ Church singles ace Olivia Lucas.

In addition to Lucas’ success at No. 1 singles (6-0, 6-1 over Arruda) and doubles, the Cavaliers picked up a win at No. 5 singles from senior Pryce Caulder (6-0, 6-1 over BE freshman Gabrielle Dacuba).

SINGLES: Olivia Lucas (CC) def. Liza Arruda, 6-0, 6-1; Kelly McManus (BE) def. Emory Cannon, 6-0, 6-1; Caroline Yodice (BE) def. Gracie Walls, 6-0, 6-0; Lauren Quinn (BE) def. Sitton Furman, 6-3, 5-7, 10-5; Pryce Caulder (CC) def. Gabrielle Dacuba, 6-0, 6-1.

DOUBLES: Lucas/Furman (CC) def. Arruda/Emma Schaafsma, 6-0, 6-2; McManus/Hannah Simpson (BE) def. Anna Pieper/Paula Pieper, 6-1, 6-0.

(11/02/12)  Bishops a win away from repeating as Class AA girls tennis champs
MOUNT PLEASANT — Bishop England girls tennis coach Kristin Fleming gambled on doubles, and won in singles — thanks to senior Kelly McManus’ gritty performance and victories in new starting roles by seventh-grader Lauren Quinn and freshman Gabrielle Dacuba.

Put those three wins with a solid victory by junior Caroline Yodice, and Bishop England (21-4) is one win away from repeating as the High School League’s Class AA state tennis champion after the Bishops clinched the Lower State title in singles in a convincing 5-1 win over archrival Waccamaw (10-4) Thursday at LTP Tennis.

The Bishops now face Christ Church, which beat Governor’s School 5-1 in the Upper State championship, in Saturday’s 10 a.m. state final at Columbia’s Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center.

“I thought that if Kelly could win at No. 2, we would win at 3, 4 and 5,” Fleming said. And that’s exactly what happened as the veteran McManus outplayed Waccamaw senior Sarah Elliott, 6-3, 6-3.

“During the summer, we had a ladder and I started out No. 4 (the same spot she played in last year’s match against Waccamaw) and worked my way up,” McManus said.

Yodice yielded three games at No. 3, while Quinn gave up only one game at No. 4. That left Dacuba to clinch the match with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) win over Waccamaw junior Lindsay Costin at No. 5. Quinn and Dacuba were part of Fleming’s surprise package for the visiting Warriors as the two young players replaced injured junior Hannah Simpson and senior Emma Schaafsma at Nos. 4 and 5 singles.

Fleming was saving Simpson and Schaafsma for doubles, but the Bishops’ success in singles made doubles unnecessary, although the teams played No. 2 doubles where Schaafsma and Gabby French easily prevailed to complete the 5-1 final score.

“I was a little bit nervous, I guess,” Dacuba said. “It feels good to win the clincher.”

Fleming praised her young star. “Gabrielle is a competitor ... a fighter,” she said.

Waccamaw's only win came at No. 1 singles where Elon-bound senior Tolley Rice rallied from 5-1 down in the second set to score a 6-3, 7-5 win over BE junior Liza Arruda.

Fleming was pleased with her young team’s play. “I’ve played different players together all season to get ready for the playoffs,” she said. “We have a lot of depth and experience, allowing us to play different combinations.”

SINGLES: Tolley Rice (W) def. Liza Arruda, 6-3, 7-5; Kelly McManus (BE) def. Sarah Elliott, 6-3, 6-3; Caroline Yodice (BE) def. Catalina Carr, 6-1, 6-2; Lauren Quinn (BE) def. Lizzie Farmer, 6-0, 6-1; Gabrielle Dacuba (BE) def. Lindsay Costin, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

DOUBLES: Emma Schaafsma/Gabby French (BE) def. Catherine Lowe/Caitlyn Krask, 8-1.

(11/01/12)  Bishop England, Waccamaw to meet again in Class AA Lower State tennis final
Some things seem to never change. As usual, Bishop England (20-4) and Waccamaw (10-3) will collide again today in the High School League’s Class AA Lower State girl’s tennis final.

Match time is 4:30 p.m. at Mount Pleasant’s LTP Tennis.

A year ago, the Bishops suffered losses to Waccamaw’s Tolley Rice and Sarah Elliott at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, but won the other five matches in the Lower State final. Coach Kristin Fleming’s Bishop England team used that victory to propel it to the state championship.

Seniors Rice and Elliott are back, but the Bishops have their top four players from a year ago. The Bishops have excellent depth with junior Liza Arruda and senior Kellie McManus leading the way in the top two positions, and juniors Caroline Yodice and Hannah Simpson at Nos. 3 and 4. Emma Schaafsma has moved up from No. 2 doubles to No. 5 singles.

“Anything can happen in the playoffs,” said Fleming, whose team has lived up to its top seed in the Lower State playoffs with 6-0 wins over Barnwell and Aynor. Second-seeded Waccamaw dealt Academic Magnet a 5-1 defeat in Tuesday’s Lower State semifinals.

The winner of today’s match will advance to Saturday’s 10 a.m. Class AA state final at Columbia’s Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center.
CPTL final Friday

The Charleston Pro Tennis League will wrap up another season Friday night with its semifinals and finals at Family Circle Tennis Center. The semifinals will start at 6 p.m.

Regular season champion Going Postal, captained by Phil Whitesell, will put its 6-1 record against captain Matt Hane’s fourth-place Eyraud Enterprises, while Bryan Minton’s runner-up LCTA will oppose on Brian Burke’s third-place Hunter Specialties in the other semifinal. The two winners will play for the championship later Friday evening.

The CPTL format, which includes women for the first time, is made up of one singles, two doubles and one mixed doubles. The league uses the fast-moving World Team Tennis format, with the total number of games won determining match winners.
State combo champs

Maybank's 7.5 adult women and Mount Pleasant Rec’s 8.5 adult men won titles in the recent combo state championships.

The Maybank women, captained by Megan Eddge, scored a 2-1 win over Columbia in the final as the teams of Edge/Genessa Donohue and Molly O’Quinn/Sallie Thomas scored victories. Captain John Fanning’s Mount Pleasant men posted a 2-1 victory over Spartanburg in the final behind victories by the teams of Ryan Sechrist/Jeff Ellington and Tim Sinclair/Zach Hatch.

Snee Farm Grand Prix
Snee Farm’s next Grand Prix is scheduled for Nov. 9-11, with Nov. 7 as the entry deadline. The tournament will feature doubles and mixed doubles. For information, go to www.sneefarmtennis.com.

(10/28/12)  Too much tennis? Impossible?

Is it possible that league tennis is hitting a saturation point?

Although participation numbers might not support that possibility, some type of recreational tennis league is going on virtually year-round.

Is it possible that tennis players have too many playing options? Not only are the regular adult/senior spring, fall, mixed and combo seasons available, the new 40-and-over senior league is on the scene as well as singles and flex leagues.

As a captain of eight different adult league teams yearly, I’m starting to see a trend of more players not having time to attend practices. Of course, part of this could be due to the economy, gas prices and heavier work loads.

Or is it possible that saturation has reached a point where it is having an impact on organized practices, the glue that holds league tennis together.

Because of their flexibility, singles and flex leagues are great for individuals with difficult schedules. Yet, they could be impacting the team chemistry of league tennis. A growing number of players appear to be skipping practice in favor of participating in singles and flex leagues.

Everyone should realize the importance of organized practices to the health of teams and league tennis in general. Without the team aspect of practice, league tennis could lose some of its popularity.

Does league tennis have too many seasons? Things started getting hectic a number of years ago with the intrusion of the Southern’s combo doubles into the otherwise all-USTA formula.

The spring season has always been excellent, followed by the increasingly popular mixed doubles season. When the combo league entered the equation, captains wanted to keep at least the core group of their players together rather than risk losing them. As a result, everyone seemed to join the combo parade.
High school update

Class AA Bishop England and Academic Magnet, and Class AAA Berkeley, have experienced a short playoff season. All five local Class AAAA playoff teams have been eliminated.

Defending state champion Bishop England appears to be on another collision course with Waccamaw in Thursday’s Lower State final. On Tuesday, the Bishops host Aynor and Academic Magnet is at Waccamaw. The winners advance to the Lower State final where top seed BE should host.

Winning the Class AA state title should be more difficult for the lower state champion this year with perennial power Christ Church moving up to Class AA after capturing another Class A crown. The Bishops defeated Emerald in last year’s AA state final.

In AAA, Berkeley plays at defending state champion Hilton Head on Tuesday.
Local notes

The Charleston area will soon have the top official in the USTA’s largest section. Mount Pleasant’s Bud Spencer has been nominated to become the Southern Section’s board of directors’ president and CEO for the 2013-14 term.

A 16-player team representing Mount Pleasant’s I’On Club won the 9.0 adult title in the recent Southern mixed doubles championships in Macon, Ga. Captain Amy White’s unbeaten team is headed to Tucson, Ariz., for the Nov. 9-11 national championships. The mixed teams of Jeffrey Burton/Kristen Whitehead and Ryan Sechrist/Maria Rask Elliott posted wins for a 2-1 victory over Knoxville in the Southern final to run the local team’s record to 20-0.

(10/21/12)  Lineup switch dooms Cyclones

On the lineup sheet, the change might have appeared harmless to a casual observer. But in high school tennis, where ladder rules virtually dictate who plays who in the state playoffs, the change was huge.

The switch had “season” written all over it when Hilton Head Prep coach Job de Boer revealed it in this week’s SCISA Class AAA girls playoffs.

After taking advantage of the move to oust Ashley Hall from the playoffs with a 5-1 win in the semifinals, Hilton Head Prep (13-0-1) blitzed defending champion Porter-Gaud (11-2-1) by the same score in Saturday’s state championship match at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center.

The lineup switch? Kelly Mengel, who joined the Hilton Head Prep team in September after moving from Pittsburgh, played only late in the season for the Dolphins after recovering from wrist surgery. Mengel was placed in the No. 2 slot for the state playoffs.

The fact that Mengel edged Porter-Gaud sophomore Grace Robards, 6-2, 7-5, at No. 2 wasn’t the whole story. The simple lineup change pushed the Dolphins’ old Nos. 2-5 players down to Nos. 3-6. That was the story of the match, and the entire season for SCISA Class AAA girls tennis.

Hilton Head Prep also won all other positions except No. 3 where standout Porter-Gaud eighth-grader Ann Martin Skelly posted a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over former Hilton Head Prep No. 2 freshman Shannon O’Brien. Porter-Gaud’s Annie Hay, Lexi Steichen, Carlyle Williams and Madison McNeil won a total of 16 games in the Nos. 1 and 4-6 positions.

It was quite different this time from a year ago when de Boer opened the door of the Dolphins’ team bus as he left Palmetto Tennis Center and teased, “See you next year.” Hilton Head Prep had played only one senior that day in a 5-2 state championship loss to Porter-Gaud.

Saturday, the Region III champion Dolphins, who had gone 1-0-1 against the Cyclones in the regular season, didn’t play even one senior, just mostly freshmen. But among the Dolphins were four girls who train at the famed Smith-Stearns Academy at Sea Pines Resort where de Boer is a pro. Others train at the Van der Meer academy.

Among the Dolphins’ stars this time was freshman Tyler Childress, a 6-0, 6-1 winner at No. 5 over Williams. Childress joined the team during the season from North Myrtle Beach.

Porter-Gaud should return all of its starters except Hay in 2013 as the Cyclones seek their fifth straight appearance in the state championship match. “We should be solid next year,” coach Brian Burke proclaimed.

“We didn’t have an off day today . . . our girls played well. Hilton Head Prep just played better. All of their starters go to academies and put more time into tennis.”

SINGLES: Allie Burak (HHP) def. Annie Hay, 6-3, 6-2; Kelly Mengel (HHP) def. Grace Robards, 6-2, 7-5; Ann Martin Skelly (PG) def. Shannon O’Brien, 6-3, 7-6; Ellie Czura (HHP) def. Lexi Steichen, 6-3, 6-4; Tyler Childress (HHP) def. Carlyle Williams, 6-0, 6-1; Katie Rankin (HHP) def. Madison McNeil, 6-1, 6-2.

(10/20/12)  Porter-Gaud to defend girls tennis title
No surprise. It will be defending champion Porter-Gaud (11-1-1) against 2011 finalist Hilton Head Prep (12-0-1) in today’s 10 a.m. SCISA Class AAA state girls tennis championship match at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center.

While Porter-Gaud rolled into its fourth consecutive state final with a 6-0 win over Pinewood Prep, Hilton Head Prep easily turned back Ashley Hall, 5-1, in Friday’s all-Region III state semifinals.
Porter-Gaud 6, Pinewood Prep 0

The Cyclones lived up to their region runner-up finish as senior Annie Hay rallied to defeat Pinewood Prep senior Mollie Polk, 4-6, 7-6, 1-0, at No. 1 singles, and Hay’s teammates were too strong for the rest of the Panthers (14-6).

Sophomore Grace Robards, eighth-grader Ann Martin Skelly, freshman Lexi Steichen and juniors Carlyle Williams and Madison McNeil all won in straight sets in the Nos. 2-6 singles matches, yielding no more than five games in any one match.

But Porter-Gaud coach Brian Burke was relieved when it was over, although he realizes what the Cyclones will be up against today in a match against the academy-trained girls from Hilton Head Prep.

“The scores were not indicative of the toughness of the matches today,” he said. “We played pretty well (against Pinewood Prep). But Hilton Head Prep is really tough. It looks like a tall task ahead for us.

“If we can break even in singles and go to doubles, I like our chances,” Burke said.

Pinewood Prep coach Bryant McKee was pleased with his team’s play, especially Polk and Meagan Evans in the top two positions.

SINGLES: Annie Hay (PG) def. Mollie Polk, 4-6, 7-6, 1-0; Grace Robards (PG) def. Meagan Evans, 6-1, 6-4; Ann Martin Skelly (PG) def. Shauna Fletcher, 6-1, 6-3; Lexi Steichen (PG) def. Hayleigh Dodge, 6-1, 6-3; Carlyle Williams (PG) def. Haley Foster, 6-2, 6-0; Madison McNeil (PG) def. Maya Friederich, 6-2, 6-0.
Hilton Head Prep 5, Ashley Hall 1

After suffering a pair of close losses in the regular season to the 2011 state runners-up, Ashley Hall was dominated in the bottom four singles positions as Hilton Head Prep coach Job de Boer inserted newcomer Kelly Mengel into the lineup at No. 2 and pushed his former Nos. 2-5 players down to Nos. 3-6.

Mengel, who arrived at Hilton Head Prep this year after moving from Pittsburgh, made a vast difference. Ashley Hall netted a total of only nine games off of the Dolphins (12-0-1) in the bottom four positions.

“Hilton Head was too tough for us today,” said Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley, whose teams had won three straight state titles before 2011.

Even Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall had a difficult time at No. 1 against Hilton Head Prep’s Allie Burak before pulling out a 5-7, 6-0, 1-0 win in a third-set match tiebreaker, 10-7, for the Panthers’ only win. It was the last high school match for Summerall, who has only three singles losses in four years for the Panthers.

SINGLES: Narni Summerall (AH) def. Allie Burak, 5-7, 6-0, 1-0; Kelly Mengel (HHP) def. Rossi Anastopoulo, 4-6, 6-4, 1-0; Shannon O’Brien (HHP) def. Morgan Schweers, 6-1, 6-1; Ellie Czura (HHP) def. Skat Bailey, 6-1, 6-0; Tyler Childress (HHP) def. Tiffany Dye, 6-1, 6-0; Katie Rankin (HHP) def. Gyles Laney, 6-2, 6-3.

(10/19/12)  SHIRLEY HUNTER  'Racquets for Recovery' tribute to patients
Shirley Hunter and the Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association
My journey started after Hurricane Hugo, when my dear sister-in-law, Bonnie Hunter, was diagnosed with colon cancer and died five months later at 41. Two years later, Susan Green, my best friend from high school, died at 39 of leukemia.

Then after another two years, another sister-in-law, Marilynn Hunter, died of breast cancer at 43.

It terrified me - who was next?

These beautiful ladies were my inspiration for many different reasons.

It was many years later when I found my love for tennis and met so many wonderful friends. Along with many of my tennis friends at Pine Forest Country Club in Summerville, we have seen family and friends, both on and off the court, battle this disease.

"Love" is a term we use in scoring our tennis matches, but the "love" we want to send came from our hearts, and we formed our Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association in 2005. In our first year, we organized a tennis tournament, "Racquets for Recovery," and raised $13,000.

We are proud to report through our efforts over the past seven years, we have raised $142,000 for local recovering breast cancer patients. Our current funding is given to MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, which helps "local" breast cancer patients with their day-to-day lives and helps ease the burdens placed on them.

The courage and determination shown by our friends is the inspiration to us all, and "Racquets for Recovery" is held as a tribute to them.

(10/14/12)  It’s SCISA’s Region III state playoffs
The SCISA Class AAA Region III girls tennis wars have ended. Now, it’s the region’s state playoffs.

Unbeaten regular season region champion Hilton Head Prep, runner-up Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall and Pinewood Prep all received first-round byes for Monday in the state playoffs, and, barring a major upset, will be the teams participating in Friday’s state semifinals at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center. All four teams will open the playoffs at home in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

On Wednesday, defending state champion Porter-Gaud (9-1-1) will oppose the winner of Monday’s Wilson Hall/Ben Lippen match in the bottom half of the draw, which also includes Pinewood Prep facing the survivor of the Hammond/Hilton Head Christian match. Pinewood Prep (11-5) already has defeated Hilton Head Christian of Region III and Hammond twice each during the regular season.

In the top half of the draw, Ashley Hall will take on the winner of the Heathwood Hall/Florence Christian first-round match, while Hilton Head Prep (10-0-1) will meet either Cardinal Newman or Orangeburg Prep.

Those confrontations should set up Hilton Head Prep/Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud/Pinewood Prep state semifinals on Friday afternoon in Sumter, with 2011 state runner-up Hilton Head Prep and Porter-Gaud favored to square off in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship match.

Palmetto Christian jumped up to SCISA Class AA after capturing seven straight Class A state titles and has taken its lumps. The unseeded Eagles need to win two playoff matches just to make it to Friday’s state semifinals in Sumter.

Palmetto Christian travels to Williamsburg on Monday, where a win would send the Eagles to Thomas Sumter on Wednesday. Holly Hill Academy, the 2011 state runner-up, is in the other half of the draw and will take on Beaufort Academy in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

In Class A, Colleton Prep will oppose Lowcountry Prep in the state semifinals at noon Friday at Sumter.

Family Circle tickets
Tickets for next spring’s Family Circle Cup will go on sale to the general public next Friday, but local fans can get a jump on the action by taking advantage of the tournament’s first-ever select-a-seat opportunity from 4-8 p.m. next Thursday.

During Thursday festivities, fans can enter the stadium for the first chance to choose from the inventory of available seating for the March 30–April 7 WTA Tour tournament. All tickets purchased during this special event will be sold at 2012 prices.
Maybank is back
Maybank Tennis Center will celebrate its re-opening on Friday night with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m., followed by a Charleston Pro Tennis League match. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

The clay-court portion of the Maybank makeover will not be available for several weeks, but local league tennis matches are scheduled to resume at the James Island complex on Oct. 22 after several months of renovation.

Due to limited on-site parking, the large amount of interest in the Maybank makeover, and the addition of the popular CPTL program, parking will be available off-site where a City Department of Recreation vehicle will provide a shuttle service to the courts.
Tennis license plate

After a long wait, South Carolina tennis fans and players finally will get the chance to purchase tennis license plates from the state Department of Motor Vehicles in a few months. The new “Play Tennis … Palmetto State Tennis Player” license plates are expected to go into production in late December. Applications will not be taken until then.

A state tennis license plate was approved by the state legislature during the summer and signed into law by the governor. The state DMV approved the plate’s design.

The tennis license plate drive was sponsored by the S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation, the state tennis association’s charitable organization which provides need-based grants to junior tennis players and academic scholarships to high school seniors. The SCTPF’s mission will benefit from the extra fees associated with the tennis plates.

The license plate’s design depicts a tennis racket striking a ball with a court as background, according to former USTA S.C. president Ron Charron. More information on the tennis license plates, fees and DMV applications will be available soon at www.sctennis.com.

Locals recognized
Family Circle Tennis Center pro Dewey Caulder was named state pro of the year by USTA South Carolina and will be honored along with a number of other local/state individuals/organizations at the association’s annual meeting Dec. 7-10.

Local winners also include Charleston Tennis Center manager Peggy Bohne for community service, Meg Farrelly as official of the year, Ann Harrah as adult female player of the year, Richard Weathers as adult male player of the year, Lori LaFevre as volunteer of the year, the Zetrouer family as family of the year, Tour Tennis as company of the year and Legend Oaks as facility of the year. The community tennis association award went to the St. George Youth Sports League.

(10/11/12)  PREP ZONE: Girls Tennis
Singles: M. Schweers d. E. Muenster 6-2, 6-0; S. Bailey d. A. Hickey 6-4, 6-2; M. Nistad d. T. Kirk 3-6, 6-3 (10-6); A. Kalawe d. N. Mishura 7-5, 6-3; G. Wallace d. T. Nagumo 5-7, 7-5 (10-7).  Doubles: L. Yarborough-C.Schnorr d. Berly-McKay 6-3,6-3.

Next: Ashley Hall at Bishop England today.

BISHOP ENGLAND 6, Woodland 0
Singles: Kelly McManus (BE) d. Peyton Mitchum 6-0, 6-0; Caroline Yodice (BE) d. Emily Floyd 6-0, 6-0; Emma Schaafsma (BE) d. Elizabeth Brondsema 6-0, 6-0; Gabrielle Dacuba (BE) d. Courtney Simmons 6-1, 6-0; Carla Lauten (BE) d. Maia Wilson 6-0, 6-0.  Doubles: Megan Marr-Jenna Salomon (BE) d. Blair Floyd-Megan Simors 6-4, 6-0.

BISHOP ENGLAND 6, Woodland 0
Singles: McManus (BE) d. Mitchum6-1, 6-0; Yodice (BE) d. Floyd 6-0, 6-0; Schaafsma (BE) d. Brondsema 6-2, 6-2; Lauten (BE) d. Simmons 6-4, 6-2; Salomon (BE) d. Wilson 6-3, 6-0.  Doubles: Ashlyn Ohlendorf-Mikela Andrews (BE) d. Floyd-Simors 6-1, 6-0.

Records: BE 15-4, 11-0. Next: BE hosts Ashley Hall today.

Singles: Chrisia Class (S) d. Amelia McCulloch 6-2, 7-5; Stephanie Futrell (H) d. Lauran Hudson 6-2, 6-2; Abby Colnlon (S) d. Sarah Chandler 2-6, 6-1, 10-8; Anastasia Rivers (S) d. Allison Beech 6-3, 7-5; Jessica Palmer (S) d. Darian Baker 6-3 6-3.  Doubles: Class-Hudson (S) d. McCullough -Futrelll 9-7; Courtney Broom-Karsen Blalock (H) d. Reagan Cady-Catherine Carr 6-2, 6-4.

Records: Stratford 7-5. Next: Stratford hosts West Ashley today; Hanahan at Fort Dorchester on Monday.

Singles: Kristen Farmer (B) d. Maya Snype 6-0, 6-1; Elliott Huxford (B) d. Taylor Rodgers 6-0, 6-0; Ann Hayden Huxford (B) d. Marti Mitchell 6-1, 6-1; Caroline Lamprecht (B) d. Julie Tron 6-0, 6-0; Caroile Lamprecht (B) d. Toni Piscatella 6-0, 6-0.  Doubles: Snype-Rodgers (FD) d. Priscilla Washington-Lauren Jackson 8-6; Larsen Tedder-Camren Tedder (B) d. Alexis Hoffman-Bailey Thompson 8-2.

Records: Berkeley 16-2. Next: Berkeley at Hilton Head on Thursday; FD hosts Bluffton on Thursday.

(10/10/12)  PREP ZONE: Girls Tennis

Singles: Alex Hickey (W) d. Chrisia Class 6-1, 6-2; Tyler Kirk (W) d. Lauran Hudson 6-0, 6-1; Tommi Nagumo (W) d. Abby Conlon 6-1, 6-0; Meredith Berly (W) d. Jessica Palmer 6-3, 6-0; Sarah Wieland (W) d. Reagan Cady 6-1, 6-2. 
Doubles: Legare Passailiague-Laurel McKay (W) d. Catherine Carr-Christine Finley 6-0, 6-0.

Records: Wando 7-2, 6-0. Next: Wando vs Ashley Hall today at Farmfield.

Singles: Caroline Yodice (BE) d. Autmun Gravel 6-0, 6-0; Emma Schaafsma (BE) d. Kallie Brown 6-0, 6-0; Lauren Quinn (BE) d. Kim Beiser 6-0, 6-0; Gabriel Dacuba (BE) d. Victoria Mayak 6-1, 6-1; Carla Lauten (BE) d. Jade Cituk 6-0, 6-1.  Doubles: Maddie Still-Mikaela Andrews (BE) d. Gravel-Beiser 8-1; Jenna Salomon-Ashlyn Ohlendorf (BE) d. Kim Lott-Sabrina Mooreles 6-0, 6-0

Records: BE 13-4. Next: BE hosts Woodland today.

PORTER-GAUD 7, Ashley Hall 1
Singles: Summerall (AH) d. Hay 6-0, 6-1; Robards (PG) d. Anastopoulo 7-6, 7-5; Shelly (PG) d. Schweers 6-2, 6-1; Steichen (PG) d. Dye 6-0, 7-5; Williams (PG) d. Bailey 6-2, 6-1; McNeil (PG) d. Laney 6-4, 6-2.  Doubles: Hay-McNeil (PG) d. Schweers-Bailey 8-5; Williams-Steichen (PG) d. Laney-Kalawe 8-3.

Next: Ashley Hall hosts Wando on Wednesday.

Singles: Mollie Polk (PP) d. Maggie Herring 3-6, 6-4, 10-7; Caroline MacGillivray (H) d. Megan Evans 6-4, 6-2; Destiny Gaines (H) d. Shauna Fletcher 6-4, 6-2; Mary Hunter Brown (PP) d. Ellie Locke 7-5, 6-1; Anne Elise Goudelock (H) d. Hayleigh Dodge 6-1, 7-6; Haley Foster (PP) d. Annalee Plyler 6-1, 6-3.  Doubles: Polk-Evans (PP) d. Herring-MacGillvray 8-6; Goudelock-Gaines d. Brown-Fletcher 8-1; Foster-Dodge (PP) d. Locke-Harris 9-8, 7-3.

Singles: Polk (PP) d. Herring 8-5; Evans (PP) d. MacGillivary 8-6; Fletcher (PP) d. Gaines 8-4; PP won by forfeit; PP won by forfeit  Doubles: Polk-Evans (PP) d. Herring-MacGillvray 8-6; Goudelock-Gaines (H) d. Brown-Fletcher 8-1; Foster-Dodge (PP) d. Locke-Harris 9-8.

Singles: E. Huxford (B) d. J. Quarles 6-2, 6-3; A. Huxford (B) d. K. Cobbs 6-1, 6-1; J. Funk (B) d. K. Staley 6-0, 6-0; C. Lamprecht (B) d. D. Beaufort 6-0, 6-0; L. Futrell (B) d. K. Jones 8-3.  Doubles: Larsen Tedder-Camren Tedder (B) d. A. Smalls-A. Singh 6-0, 6-2.

Records: Berkeley 14-2; OW 1-8. Next: Berkeley hosts Fort Dorchester on Wednesday; OW at James Island on Thursday.

Charleston Math and Science 5, Woodland 2
Singles: Teyton Mitchum (W) d. Nicole Brogan 6-4, 6-2; Marisa Fields-Williams (CMS) d. Emily Floyd 6-1, 6-3; Courtney Cowan (CMS) d. Elizabeth Brandsema 6-2, 5-7, 10-4; Courtney Simmons (W) d. Whitney Runey 6-1, 2-6, 12-10; Sydney Memminger (CMS) d. Maia Wilson 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.  Doubles: Brogan-Fields-Williams (CMS) d. Mitchum-Floyd 3-6, 7-6, 13-11, 10-4; Caroline Bedane-Katie Hartley (CMS) d. Jessica Farast-Meagan Simons 6-2, 6-3.

Records: CMS 10-3. Next: CMS at Garrett on Thursday. Woodland at Bishop England on Wednesday.

(09/30/12)  WTT event was one for the decades
World Team Tennis? What’s that?  Venus Williams will be here? Are you kidding?

That conversation is a little late, but two weeks ago it was relevant.  No kidding, people said they didn’t know Venus Williams was in town.  What a shame.

All of those people who missed the WTT Finals Weekend really missed one of the highlights of Charleston tennis for this decade or any decade. That’s including Davis Cup, Family Circle Cup and Fed Cup.

In my book, Venus Williams’ performance the last two days of the WTT Finals was the most exciting on-court event that has happened in Charleston tennis, even better than Andy Roddick’s world-record serve in Davis Cup.

You had to be there to feel the atmosphere and to understand what I’m talking about. Venus’ performances might have been my favorite and most exciting moments in five different decades of local tennis.

They were moments that generated pressure enough to make seasoned players crumble. But not Venus. She stood all alone, carrying the Washington Kastles’ 30-match winning streak and league championship hopes on her back.

It was do or die for the Kastles — or Venus. And there is nothing like team pressure. Ask Ashley Harkleroad or Coco Vandeweghe how it felt to have the weight of their teams on their shoulders. Or even Venus.

We’ve seen Venus win a Family Circle Cup singles title and many Grand Slam titles. But we had never seen Venus as excited and motivated as she was when she rallied to defeat Vandeweghe to give the Kastles their second straight WTT title, and 32nd consecutive victory.

But many local tennis players were participating in tournaments at Florence and other sites, and didn’t have the chance to see this chapter of Venus Williams’ tennis career.

Whether the WTT Finals will return to Family Circle Tennis Center, no one is saying. “We’ll determine (if WTT returns to Charleston) in discussions the next couple of months. We hope it would be a long-term agreement rather than year-by-year,” WTT commissioner Ilana Kloss said.

Kloss liked the September timing. “This is much better than the heat in July,” she said, comparing this year’s excellent weather with that of 2011.

Meanwhile, Family Circle officials are non-committal. It’s all about money, and fans are the primary criteria in this area.

Just under 4,500 people attended this year’s three-day WTT Finals. Family Circle general manager Bob Moran had set 2,000 per session or a total of 6,000 as a goal.

In this Olympic year, two weekends ago was the only time available on the grand prix calendar to hold the WTT Finals. The WTT event has been the second-most prestigious annual happening on the state tennis scene, behind only the Family Circle Cup.

Yet, the tennis community was strung out two weekends ago. Tennis can’t control football, but it should be able to coordinate its own sport.

The WTT Finals are a great event for Charleston tennis, with the potential for individual crowds in the 4,000-5,000 range. As Kloss said, it will take time. It also will take a more coordinated effort by the WTT and the promoters as well as by Charleston and state tennis communities, and the local department of tourism.

If for some reason Charleston misses out on future WTT Finals, some other site likely would jump at the opportunity to serve as the annual event’s host. Winston-Salem?

Winston-Salem isn’t in Charleston’s league in tennis, but the North Carolina city has made great strides in serving as the host for Davis Cup ties, not to mention capturing a spot on the men’s ATP Tour.

Alexander Santiago was one of three boys 16 players to represent the state in the recent Southern Junior Cup team competition in Chattanooga Tenn. South Carolina came in third among the nine teams. Santiago won three of his four singles matches.

Brenda Carter went 5-2 in singles and doubles to lead the U.S. women’s 65 team to a runner-up finish in the recent Kitty Godfree Cup world team championships in Umag, Croatia. Carter, ranked ninth in world 65 singles, also was a semifinalist in the world individual championships.

A 9.0 adult mixed doubles team from I’On, captained by Amy White, won a state title at the recent state mixed doubles championships in Florence, while the Kathy Peebles-captained 8.0 senior team from Pine Forest Country Club also brought home a title.

(09/30/12)  Suspended match leaves Dolphins in driver’s seat
A tennis match that was suspended by darkness on Thursday, with SCISA defending state champion Porter-Gaud and 2011 runner-up Hilton Head Prep tied at 4-4 with one doubles match still on the court, could decide the Region III title and bracket top seeding in the state playoffs.

However, the match has been scored as a tie and isn’t scheduled to be completed, due to the required travel for the Hilton Head team back to Charleston, according to Porter-Gaud coach Brian Burke.

The match was suspended with the Cylones’ No. 2 doubles team of Ann Martin Skelly and Grace Robards scheduled to serve while trailing 6-7 in the pro-set format.

That leaves Hilton Head Prep, whose roster is filled by young, talented players from the island’s tennis academies, in the driver’s seat in the region race with only the tie marring its otherwise perfect record. Pinewood Prep was missing two of its top players on Thursday.

The Dolphins already own a 6-3 win over Porter-Gaud, as well as victories over both three-time region loser Ashley Hall and two-time loser Pinewood Prep.

With a loss and a tie, Porter-Gaud has to hope that Ashley Hall (Tuesday at Charleston Tennis Center), Pinewood Prep (TBD) or Hilton Head Christian will derail the Dolphins before the state playoffs open the week of Oct. 15.

A year ago, Porter-Gaud lost both of its regular season encounters with Hilton Head Prep, but prevailed in the state final. The Cyclones had Mi’Kola Cooper and Annie Hay as their No. 1 and 2 players a year ago.

Hay is all alone now to face the competition at No. 1, which is much more difficult as demonstrated by her one-sided losses to Ashley Hall’s Narni Summerall and Hilton Head’s Allie Burak this past week on the P-G courts.

“We don’t have a runaway top couple of players like last year, but I like the way this team pulls together,” Burke said.

“As long as we make matches tight, we have a chance.”

(09/26/12)  PREP ZONE: Girls Tennis
Singles: Narni Summerall (AH) d. Annie Hay 6-2,6-0; Grace Robards (PG) d. Rossi Anastopoulo 6-2, 3-6, (10-5); Ann Martin Skelly (PG) d. Morgan Schweers 6-1, 6-2; Lexi Steichen (PG) d. Tiffany Dye 6-2, 6-2; Carlyle Willians (PG) d. Gyles Laney 6-1, 6-0; Madison McNeill (PG) d. Skat Bailey 6-4, 4-6, (10-4).  Doubles: Summerall-Anastopoulo (AH) d. Hay-Robards 8-3; Bailey-Schweers (AH) d. Skelly-Steichen 8-2; Williams-McNeill (PG) d. Laney-Ana-Lei-Kalawe 8-3.

Stratford 5, West Ashley 1
Singles: Alaina Gilliard (WA) d. Chrisia Class 6-4, 6-4; Lauran Hudson (S) d. Alese Brown 6-2, 6-3; Anastasia Rivers (S) Egypt Scott 6-2, 2-6, 10-4; Abby Conlon (S) d. Clarin Barron 6-2, 6-2; Jessica Palmer (S) d. Clanice Barron 6-1, 6-2.  Doubles: Reagan Cady-Shelby Colclough (S) wins by forfeit.

Records: Stratford 3-2, 1-1. Next: Stratford plays at James Island on Wednesday.

Singles: Caroline Green (S) d. Ali Herrera 6-1, 6-3; Maddie Kratzert (AR) d. Maria Edwards 6-1, 6-0; Lauren Smith (AR) d. Alex Cane 6-1, 6-3; Mackenzie Morris (AR) d. Mary Catherine Green 2-6, 6-3, 4-0; Lexi Swick (AR) d. Madison McLane 7-6, 6-0.  Doubles: Ali Blackmon-Maria Martinez (AR) d. Sara Grant-Alaina Hatalosky 6-1, 6-1.

Records: AR 3-4, 2-1; Summerville 1-5, 1-3.

Singles: Rhealyn Dinkins d. Jasmine Quarles 6-4, 6-0; Caitlyn Daly d. Kanah Cobbs 6-0, 6-0; Sadie Glaze d. Kira Staley 6-2, 6-3; Agata Trojanowska d. Danielle Beaufort 6-2, 6-0; Sydney Bolin d. Ashley Singh 6-2, 6-0 
Doubles: Emily Skipper-Samantha Smiley d. Kia Jones-Hatara Tyson 6-0, 6-1

Records: JI 5-2, OW 1-6. Next: JI hosts Stratford on Wednesday, OW at Hanahan on Thursday.

Singles: B. Busby (HH) d. K. Farmer 6-0, 6-0; J. Oliver (H) d. E. Huxford 7-5, 6-3; L. Danzell (HH) d. A. Huxford 6-0, 6-1; K. Cram (HH) d. J. Funk 6-2, 6-0; C. Lamprecht (B) d. E. Stanton 6-3, 6-3 (10-5).  Doubles: S. Wards-N. Diaz (HH) d. C. Tedder-P. Washington 6-4, 6-4; H. Brink-T. Jansen (HH) d. L. Tedder-L. Jackson 8-3.

Records: Berkeley 10-2, HH 8-1. Next: Berkeley vs. James Island at Patriots Point on Thursday.

Singles: Brittany Griffin (CP) d. Savannah Odum 6-0, 6-0; Taylor Hoff (CP) d. Elizabeth Bolshakova 6-2, 6-1; Shelly McDonald (CP) d. Pinita Tovar 6-0, 6-2; Haley Pye (CP) d. Caroline Knight 7-5, 6-2; Meredith Ware (CP) d. Tatiana Roa 6-0, 6-1; Triniti Laboard (CC) d. Olivia Burns 1-6, 7-6(3), (10-4).  Doubles: Griffin-McDonald (CP) d. Odum-Bolshakova 8-1; Hoff-Ware (CP) d. Tovar-Knight 8-2; Roa-Kaitlin Eakin (CC) d. Pye-Burns 8-4.

Records: CP 5-5, CC 0-7. Next: CP at Trinity-Byrnes on Thursday; CC hosts Pinewood Prep on Thursday.

(09/17/12)  Venus Williams powers Washington Kastles to World Team Tennis championship, 32nd straight win
Venus Williams has won almost everything that’s important in tennis — Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold medals.

Now, she has a World Team Tennis championship. And even a WTT Finals MVP.

World Team Tennis
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion made the difference in helping the Washington Kastles extend their winning streak to 32 matches in a 20-19 WTT championship victory over the Sacramento Capitals on a perfect Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 1,276 at Family Circle Stadium.

The magic number was five for Venus in this championship weekend. A night after winning the last five games of the match in singles to give the Kastles the Eastern Conference title against New York, she outdid herself in the WTT final.

With the team score tied at 19 as women’s singles was deadlocked at 4, Williams raised her game to win the last five points of a decisive tiebreaker for a 5-2 victory over the Capitals’ big-serving Coco Vandeweghe. That gave Williams a 5-4 win over Vandeweghe, but more importantly gave the Kastles the point they needed to win a second straight WTT title.

That also lifted the Kastles to within two wins of breaking the Los Angeles Lakers’ record for consecutive victories for a major sports franchise.

“It can’t get any closer than that, baby,” was the way league co-founder Billie Jean King described the WTT final.

When the match was on the line, Williams pulled her big strokes in a bit to make sure she didn’t give the title away. The Kastles were depending on her.

“Team tennis goes by so fast that I had to make an adjustment when I couldn’t get my backhand over the net,” she said.

There’s one thing for sure, Williams loves team tennis. “I’ve played WTT the last 12 years. I told Billie Jean that I’m here for life. I want a cane,” she joked.

After Williams fell behind 2-0 in the decisive tiebreaker with a pair of errors, Vandeweghe gave away the next three points, including a double fault on the fourth point as Williams took charge.

“The double fault was a mental error by me that shouldn’t happen,” Vandeweghe said. “But Venus played well. A lot of times it comes down to missing an opportunity at 3-3 in a tiebreaker.”

In the mixed doubles match that preceded women’s singles, Williams also came up big with Leander Paes. The Kastles trailed in the team score, 13-10, when Sacramento’s Kevin Anderson/Vandeweghe/Mark Knowles trio won the first two games of mixed doubles.

Williams and Paes battled back, with Williams holding serve to get to 4-4 and force a tiebreaker that the Washington pair also won by taking five straight points after dropping the first point. That evened the team score at 15 with only women’s singles left.

“Venus had the whole weight of the team on her shoulders,” Washington singles ace Bobby Reynolds acknowledged. “She won women’s doubles, mixed and singles.”

Reynolds, the regular-season men’s MVP, suffered a 5-3 loss to Anderson in men’s singles, and then he teamed with Paes in a 5-2 loss to Anderson and Knowles. Those two wins, around a 5-1 victory by Williams and Anastasia Rodionova over Yasmin Schnack and Asia Muhammad in women’s doubles, enabled Western Conference champion Sacramento to take an 11-10 advantage into halftime.

Sunday’s crowd lifted the total attendance for the three-day event to approximately 4,500.

(09/16/12)  One glance makes a WTT fan forever
Just one look. That’s all World Team Tennis co-founder Billie Jean King wants from tennis fans.

She figures if fans see her brainchild up close one time, they’ll be fans forever of the WTT’s fast-paced format.

There’s a great opportunity for that glimpse into the world of World Team Tennis at today’s 3:30 p.m. WTT championship match at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Favorites unchanged

High school girls tennis is near the halfway point, and perennial powers Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall and Bishop England still have their eyes on championship seasons.

Of course, in the case of Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall, both can’t win the Class AAA SCISA state title that Porter-Gaud captured last fall. Also, there’s the spoiler from the southern tip of the state — 2011 state runner-up Hilton Head Prep with its young team from the island’s prestigious tennis academies.

Hilton Head Prep already owns a 6-3 win over Porter-Gaud, but Cyclones coach Brian Burke needs to look no further back than last year when they were swept by Hilton Head in the regular season only to gain revenge in the state final.

Porter-Gaud will play Pinewood Prep twice, and Ashley Hall and Hilton Head Prep once each in a 13-day period starting Thursday.

There has been at least one surprise: Pinewood Prep’s win over Ashley Hall.

Nevertheless, veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley isn’t down in the dumps about that one. Returning Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall was out sick that day.

Summerall’s absence at the top of the lineup didn’t just force Gastley to find a new No. 6 player; it pushed everyone up a notch. And in high school tennis, there’s usually a vast difference between playing the Nos. 1 and 2 positions, and sometimes even a greater difference between Nos. 2 and 3 or maybe 5 and 6, etc.

Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall entered this weekend’s Bishop England tournament with 3-1 and 4-1 records, respectively. Pinewood Prep is 7-2, with one loss to Hilton Head Prep and another one to Cardinal Newman when Pinewood was missing two of its top four players.

Defending High School League Class AA state champ Bishop England was 7-2 (5-0 Region 6-AA) going into the weekend, with losses to Porter-Gaud and Irmo.

Local notes

Brenda Carter is currently in Croatia representing the United States in the International Tennis Federation’s 65-and-over world team championships and the world individual championships.

Women’s 55 world champion Diane Barker and her son, Matt Hane, were in New York Labor Day weekend to be honored for their “golden slam” accomplishment in the USTA’s national mother/son competition. They combined for titles on hard and clay courts, and indoors. Barker is currently out of competition with a foot injury.

Hane, the I’On head pro, and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blakenbaker recently teamed up to win the 30-and-over national grass courts in Philadelphia.

Pinewood Prep coach Bryant McKee is excited about his after-school program that has 60 kids participating.

(09/16/12)  Venus Williams rallies Washington Kastles into WTT final
The streak still lives.  Venus Williams came alive to win five straight games after Washington surrendered the lead for the first time in World Team Tennis' Eastern Conference final Saturday night as the defending champion Kastles prevailed, 19-15, over the New York Sportimes before a crowd of 1,973 at Family Circle Stadium.

The victory pushed the Kastles' incredible winning streak to 31 matches heading into today's 3:30 p.m. WTT final against the Western Conference champion Sacramento Capitals. The match will be televised by NBC Sports Network.

"It was all on me at the end," Williams said about her 5-1 conquest of Ashley Harkleroad that kept the streak alive. "I've been playing World Team Tennis the last 12 years, but this is my first final."

With the last set starting with the two teams tied at 14, Harkleroad broke Williams in the first game when the seven-time Grand Slam singles winner double-faulted twice and made two unforced errors. Those four points were the only ones Harkleroad needed to give the Sportimes their first lead.

"I was expecting Venus to go for her shots and making errors, but then she started playing consistent, so I started going for it," said Harkleroad, who teamed with 2011 Wimbledon women's doubles champion Kveta Peschke for a 5-2 win over Williams and Anastasia Rodionova to deadlock the score at 14 going into women's singles.

Venus just wanted to win the match. She didn't care about blowing her opponent off the court with big shots. "In team tennis, games are so important. I wasn't trying to go for heroics. I just put the ball in play," Williams said.

John McEnroe was hoping to help the Sportimes snap the Kastles' streak, which is now three wins shy of the breaking Los Angeles Lakers' major sports franchise record for consecutive wins.

"Venus played well at the end," McEnroe said in an understatement.

With Williams finally coming through in women's singles after suffering 5-2 losses in mixed doubles with Leander Paes and in women's doubles, the Kastles' men carried the load early with Paes and WTT men's MVP Bobby Reynolds winning 5-2 over McEnroe and Robert Kendrick, and Reynolds dealing big-hitting - but erratic - Jesse Witten a 5-2 loss in singles.

"I think we can win it (the final)," said Paes, a 13-time Grand Slam doubles champion. "But it's going to be tough. Tomorrow is going to be the highlight of the season."

WHO: Washington Kastles vs. Sacramento Kings
WHEN: Today, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Family Circle Tennis Center

(09/16/12)  High School Girls Tennis at Half-Way Point
Favorites unchanged
High school girls tennis is near the halfway point, and perennial powers Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall and Bishop England still have their eyes on championship seasons.

Of course, in the case of Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall, both can’t win the Class AAA SCISA state title that Porter-Gaud captured last fall. Also, there’s the spoiler from the southern tip of the state — 2011 state runner-up Hilton Head Prep with its young team from the island’s prestigious tennis academies.

Hilton Head Prep already owns a 6-3 win over Porter-Gaud, but Cyclones coach Brian Burke needs to look no further back than last year when they were swept by Hilton Head in the regular season only to gain revenge in the state final.

Porter-Gaud will play Pinewood Prep twice, and Ashley Hall and Hilton Head Prep once each in a 13-day period starting Thursday.

There has been at least one surprise: Pinewood Prep’s win over Ashley Hall.

Nevertheless, veteran Ashley Hall coach Mary Gastley isn’t down in the dumps about that one. Returning Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall was out sick that day.

Summerall’s absence at the top of the lineup didn’t just force Gastley to find a new No. 6 player; it pushed everyone up a notch. And in high school tennis, there’s usually a vast difference between playing the Nos. 1 and 2 positions, and sometimes even a greater difference between Nos. 2 and 3 or maybe 5 and 6, etc.

Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall entered this weekend’s Bishop England tournament with 3-1 and 4-1 records, respectively. Pinewood Prep is 7-2, with one loss to Hilton Head Prep and another one to Cardinal Newman when Pinewood was missing two of its top four players.

Defending High School League Class AA state champ Bishop England was 7-2 (5-0 Region 6-AA) going into the weekend, with losses to Porter-Gaud and Irmo.

Local notes
Brenda Carter is currently in Croatia representing the United States in the International Tennis Federation’s 65-and-over world team championships and the world individual championships.

Women’s 55 world champion Diane Barker and her son, Matt Hane, were in New York Labor Day weekend to be honored for their “golden slam” accomplishment in the USTA’s national mother/son competition. They combined for titles on hard and clay courts, and indoors. Barker is currently out of competition with a foot injury.

Hane, the I’On head pro, and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blakenbaker recently teamed up to win the 30-and-over national grass courts in Philadelphia.

Pinewood Prep coach Bryant McKee is excited about his after-school program that has 60 kids participating.

(09/15/12)  Capitals upend Orange County
World Team Tennis' format assures that a match is never over until it's over. But Friday night's Western Conference championship match went against the grain. This one was over for all practical purposes by halftime, and the Sacramento Capitals won all five sets to close out the top-seeded Orange County Breakers, 25-15, without any last-set fireworks before a crowd of 1,226 at Family Circle Stadium in the opening match of the WTT Finals Weekend.

The defending champion Washington Kastles, led by Venus Williams and Leander Paes, will put their 30-match winning streak on the line at 6:30 p.m. today against John McEnroe and the New York Sportimes in the Eastern Conference final. The winner will take on Sacramento in Sunday's 3:30 p.m. WTT championship match.

Tall, big-serving Kevin Anderson got the Capitals off to a fast start with a 5-3 win over left-handed John-Patrick Smith in the opening men's singles match.

Anderson then served a love opening game in mixed doubles before turning over his job to former world's No. 1 doubles player Mark Knowles to finish off a 5-4 win that went to a 5-3 tiebreaker.

"That's what makes World Team Tennis so exciting. We can do that kind of stuff (substitute players at any time)," said Anderson, a 6-8 South African.

Anderson and Knowles then teamed up for a 5-1 win in men's doubles over Smith and Travis Parrott, sending the Capitals into the halftime break with a 15-8 lead.

The women then took over to finish off the win. Coco Vandeweghe's big serve and groundstrokes enabled her to take a 5-4 win over 2011 NCAA champion Jana Juricova in women's singles. Vandeweghe finished off a 5-0 tiebreaker with an ace.

"The serve is one of my weapons," said the 6-1 Vandeweghe, the 88th-ranked women's player in the world. "It definitely carries me through matches . . . I served really well tonight."

She is looking ahead to Sunday to the possibility of playing the Kastles' Venus Williams in singles.

"We'll be here Sunday," she said. "This is my first playoff in the WTT, and it's nice to be in Charleston."

Women's doubles started with the Capitals holding a 20-12 lead, and Asia Muhammad and Yasmin Schnack made it stand up with a 5-3 win over Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Juricova.

When Schnack nailed a forehand smash at the net for a 4-2 game-winner, the Western Conference first-place Breakers had run out of chances.

(09/14/12)  Capitals have history on their side
The Orange County Breakers arrived in Charleston first, loaded with confidence going into tonight's all-California Western Conference title match against the Sacramento Capitals in the World Team Tennis Finals Weekend. And why not? "They (Breakers) beat us three out of four times in the regular season," pointed out 11th-year Sacramento standout Mark Knowles. Orange County also finished the regular season in first place in the Western Conference.

Then, there's the other statistic. The Capitals have won more WTT titles than any other team - six.

But whoever wins tonight's opener on the multi-colored WTT surface in Family Circle Stadium will be the underdog in Sunday's 3:30 p.m. WTT title match against the winner of Saturday's 6:30 p.m. Eastern Conference showdown between the defending champion Washington Kastles and the New York Sportimes.

Not only did the Kastles win last year's WTT title on Daniel Island, the Venus Williams/Leander Paes-led Kastles have won 30 straight matches.

At 41, Knowles is nearing the end of his WTT playing days. His first-round doubles loss in this U.S. Open marked the end to his ATP Tour career.

"It's been a great career. Fortunately, I've been fairly healthy . . . and I've also enjoyed the tennis," Knowles said Thursday after the Capitals' opening practice at the Family Circle complex.

How did he end up playing World Team Tennis? "Sacramento's owner, Ramey Osborne, tried to get me many times to play for the Capitals. I agreed to play one year with Sacramento, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to come back."

The native of Nassau, Bahamas, has had an outstanding pro career, including reaching the No. 1 world ranking in doubles in 2002 and 2004. He's a three-time WTT MVP and has played on two WTT championship teams.

He was a doubles finalist in the 2009 U.S. Open and Australian Open. He also teamed with Anna-Lena Groenefeld to win Wimbledon's mixed doubles crown in 2009.

Ironically, Knowles and Coco Vandeweghe will be paired against the Breakers' mixed doubles pair of Groenefeld and either Travis Parrott or John-Patrick Smith tonight. Smith was the 2012 WTT rookie of the year, while Parrott won an NCAA doubles title in 2001 while at the University of Georgia.

Groenefeld, a 5-11 German, played for her country in the London Olympics. She's been a doubles quarterfinalist at all four Grand Slams and reached the semifinals with Martina Navratilova in 2005 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

She wrapped up her singles career last year. "I got injured and it wasn't as much fun to play singles then," said Groenefeld, a singles semifinalist at the Family Circle Cup in 2006 as well as a quarterfinalist that year at the French Open.

WTT format
Team matches consist of five sets (the first team to reach five games ahead by two wins a set - a nine-point tiebreaker is played at 4-4). A match consists of men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles. The home team (Orange County tonight as the No. 1 Western seed) will select the order of play one hour before match time.

(09/13/12) King hoping to grow WTT Finals
New York’s freeway signs might illustrate Billie Jean King’s international fame best. It’s just “BJK National Tennis Center.”

Not only was King one of women’s tennis greatest players ever, she also was one of its most innovative figures. She led the fight for women’s equality in athletics. And who could forget that night in Houston’s Astrodome in 1973 when she defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” and changed women’s sports forever.

King is in Charleston again, this time for the second World TeamTennis Finals Weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center. Play begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. with the Western Conference title match pitting the Orange County Breakers against the Sacramento Capitals. The event runs through Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. WTT Championship match.

The WTT, with its innovative format, is King’s brainchild. The King Trophy will go to Sunday’s winner.

King has spent most of her recent days at her namesake tennis center, watching the just completed U.S. Open.

“We love it here, and want to see (the WTT Finals) grow,” the WTT co-founder said Wednesday at Family Circle Tennis Center. “I would love to stay here, but it’s also (the Family Circle’s) decision. The players are excited about coming back to Charleston.”

Orange County arrived here Tuesday and practiced Wednesday.

King is all about WTT and its team format. It’s so different from even the Family Circle Cup.

“Fans can cheer, yell and root for the teams. We’re fan friendly,” King said.

As an example of this type atmosphere, anyone 16-and-under can go onto the Family Circle Stadium court after the Friday and Saturday sessions and get players’ autographs.

Venus Williams, John McEnroe and Leander Paes will be there Saturday night when the defending champion Washington Kastles try to extend their 30-match winning streak in the 6:30 p.m. Eastern Conference final against the New York Sportimes.
Hingis withdraws

This WTT Finals Weekend has been an on-and-off again affair for the Sportimes’ Martina Hingis. The latest word from Hingis came Tuesday night when she pulled out of the event for personal reasons.

The Sportimes were fortunate to pick up Family Circle Cup doubles regular Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic. Peschke was a doubles quarterfinalist at both the U.S. Open and Family Circle Cup this year.

“Kveta has always played well here,” Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran said.

Peschke is expected to play doubles, while Ashley Harkleroad will take over Hingis’ singles role for the Sportimes. Of course, McEnroe is the headliner for the Sportimes, while Venus Williams and Paes are the big names for the Kastles.
Moran optimistic

With two months to promote the WTT Finals compared to only a few hours last year, Moran is optimistic about this weekend’s attendance.

He expects similar attendance to a year ago, “2,000 to 2,500” for each of the three sessions.

“South Carolina and Clemson are playing home football games and there’s high school football on Friday night,” he said.

“We hope to break even this year. We had a lot of costs on the front end last year that we shouldn’t have this year.”

After last year’s eight-hour rain-plagued final, Moran is expecting good weather this weekend, and that could have a significant impact on the number of walk-ups.

(09/12/12)  PREP ZONE: Girls Tennis

Singles: Liza Arruda (BE) d. Mary-Geer Kirkland 6-3, 6-0; Kelly McManus (BE) d. Gillian Frohnsdorff 6-0, 6-0; Caroline Yodice (BE) d. Selina Pi 6-1, 6-0; Hannah Simpson (BE) d. Jennie Schaff 6-2, 6-1; Emma Schaafsma (BE) Kristina Rackley 6-0, 6-0.  Doubles: Ashlyn Ohlendorf-Gabrielle Dacuba (BE) d. Kristin Pelgar-Cameron Waters 8-6; Gabby French-Lauren Quinn (BE) d. Lexi Stewart-Jordan Jenrette 6-1, 6-0.
Records: BE 6-2. Next: BE at Battery Creek today.

Singles: K. Farmer (B) d. R. Dinkins 6-7, 6-2, (5); C. Daly (J) d. E. Huxford 6-4, 6-1; A. Huxford (B) d. S. Glaze 0-6, 6-0 (8); J. Funk (B) d. A. Trojanowska (J) 6-1, 6-0; C. Lamprecht (B) d. S. Bolin 6-4, 3-6 (8); R. Dinkins-C. Daly (J) d. K. Farmer-E. Huxford 9-7; P. Washington-L. Jackson (B) d. E. Skipper-S. Smiley 7-6, 6-4  Records: Berkeley 5-1, 1-0; JI 2-1, 0-1. Next: Berkeley hosts Hanahan on Thursday; JI hosts Hilton Head on Thursday.

Holly Hill 6, Colleton Prep 3
Singles: Brittany Griffin (CP) d. Hunter Paramore 8-2; Kristy O’Connell (HH) d. Taylor Hoff 8-5; Rebecca Cantley d. Shelby McDonald 8-2; Ashley McLean (HH) d. Haley Pye 9-8 (3); Meredith Ware (CP) d. Madison Breland 8-5; Harlie Bozard (HH) d. Olivia Burns 8-0  Doubles: Griffin-McDonald (CP) d Paramore-O’Connell 9-8 (5); Cantley-McLean (HH) d. Hoff/Pye 8-2; Breland-Leah Evans (HH) d. Ware-Burns.

Singles: Kristi O’Connell (HHA) d. Perrin Jackson 1-6, 6-3, 10-5; Rebecca Cantley (HHA) d. Chelsea Stanley 6-1, 6-0, Ashton McLean (HHA) d. Elizabeth Ann Elmore 6-4, 6-2; Madison Breland (HHA) d. Katherine Daniels 6-0, 5-7 10-8; Harlie Bozard (HHA) d. Amanda Newman 6-1, 4-6, 10-8; Leah Evans (HHA) d. Julia Morris 6-1, 6-0.  Doubles: Rebecca Cantley-Kristi O’Connell (HHA) d. Julia Morris-Jenna Edenfield 8-0; Evans-Breland (HHA) d. Claudia Newman-Suzanne Beard 8-0; Grace Westbury-Hannah Hill (HHA) d. Allie Johnson-Elizabeth Collins 8-0.

Singles: Corey Caulder (PC) d. Julie Robinson 6-0, 6-0; Jess Helmus (PC) d. Paige Robinson 6-1, 7-5; Emma King (PC) d. Katie Ferguson 6-3, 6-1; Katie Quinn (PC) d. Hannah Markham 6-0, 6-1; Karis Ripple (PC) d. Summer Davis 6-0, 6-0; Taylor Bottone (PC) d. Abi Bell 6-0, 6-0.  Doubles: Robinson-Robinson (SJC) Danielle Quinn-Ripple 6-2, 6-4; Kylie Crandle-Hallie Crandle (PC) d. Ferguson-Markham 6-2, 5-7, 10-8; Florence Sloan-Kendell Mcevoy (PC) d. Davis-Bell 6-2, 6-4.
Records: PC 2-0; SJC 0-4. Next: PC at Holly Hill on Monday.

Pinewood PREP 7, Ashley Hall 2
Singles: Mollie Polk (PP) d. Rossi Anastopoulo 6-2, 6-3; Megan Evans (PP) d. Morgan Schweers 6-0, 6-2; Tiffany Dye (AH) d. Shauna Fletcher 6-3, 7-5; Mary Hunter Brown (PP) d. Gyles Laney 6-2, 4-6, 10-7; Hayleigh Dodge (PP) d. Skat Bailey 6-4, 6-2; Haley Foster (PP) d. Ana-lei Kalawe 2-6, 6-3, 10-6.  Doubles: Polk-Evans (PP) d. Anastopoulo-Schweers 6-4, 6-0; Dye-Laney (AH) d. Fletcher-Brown 8-6; Chester-Tapp (PP) d. Wallace-Schnorr 8-5.

Records: PP 4-2, 1-1. Next: PP at Ashley Ridge on Wednesday.

Singles: Nicole Logan (CMS) d. Alexandra Hepburn 6-4, 6-3; Marisa Fields-Williams (CMS) d. Callia Cox 6-0, 6-1; Courtney Cowan (CMS) d. Tykeim Felder 6-0, 6-0; Sydney Memminger (CMS) d. Brandy Harrison 6-0, 6-0; Whitney Runey (CMS) d. Regina Duggins 6-0.  Doubles: Logan-Fields-Williams (CMS) d. Hepburn-Harrison 8-0; Caroline Bedane-Katie Hartley (CMS) d. Felder-Hydein Perry 8-0.

Records: CMS 4-1. Next: CMS at Woodland on Thursday.

(09/11/12)  Paes seeks to extend streak in World Team Tennis Finals
World Team Tennis swept into Charleston in the summer of 2011 and was gone almost before local tennis fans realized what was taking place on Daniel Island.

As the area prepares for its second WTT Finals Weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center, the four teams involved are scheduled to start arriving on Wednesday.

Doubles superstar Leander Paes was already looking ahead to another visit to Charleston last Friday after teaming with Radek Stepanek in a loss to Mike and Bob Bryan in the U.S. Open men’s doubles final.

Paes, the holder of a career doubles Grand Slam, is excited about the possibility of helping the defending champion Washington Kastles increase their 30-match winning streak to within two wins of setting a major U.S. sports franchise record of 34 consecutive victories.

“Thirty straight wins means a lot to us ... it’s something that belongs to all of us,” Paes said. “We have the opportunity to keep winning and having fun.”

Play on Daniel Island will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Western Conference title match pitting the Sacramento Capitals against the Orange County Breakers. Paes and Venus Williams will lead the Kastles in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Eastern Conference final against the Martina Hingis and John McEnroe-led New York Sportimes.

The two winners will square off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for the WTT championship.

At 39 years old, Paes is a rarity in professional tennis and he more than holds his own against the best doubles players in the game.

“I’m able to keep competing because I’m going out and playing every day and having fun,” said Paes, who is also an actor.

“I love what I do. As long as I am having fun, I will continue to play.”

Or until he becomes a movie star?

The smooth-talking tennis player from India has played the role of an undercover spy agent, and he’s been offered his first Hollywood script.

But what makes Paes’ Grand Slam success the last few years so impressive — he now has a total of 13 Grand Slam doubles titles — is the medical obstacles he has overcome. Paes was diagnosed with a parasite on his brain nine years ago. He lost 100 pounds over the course of one year as he was going through treatment, but made an amazing recovery and was back winning Grand Slam doubles titles.

The WTT Finals in Charleston will officially kick off with a 4 p.m. press conference on Wednesday with WTT co-founder Billie Jean King. Just after that, Orange County will hold the first practice on-site at 5 p.m.

All four teams will practice Thursday on Daniel Island.

(09/11/12)  Paes seeks to extend streak in World Team Tennis Finals
NEW YORK — World Team Tennis swept into Charleston in the summer of 2011 and was gone almost before local tennis fans realized what was taking place on Daniel Island.

As the area prepares for its second WTT Finals Weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center, the four teams involved are scheduled to start arriving on Wednesday.

Doubles superstar Leander Paes was already looking ahead to another visit to Charleston last Friday after teaming with Radek Stepanek in a loss to Mike and Bob Bryan in the U.S. Open men’s doubles final.

Paes, the holder of a career doubles Grand Slam, is excited about the possibility of helping the defending champion Washington Kastles increase their 30-match winning streak to within two wins of setting a major U.S. sports franchise record of 34 consecutive victories.

“Thirty straight wins means a lot to us ... it’s something that belongs to all of us,” Paes said. “We have the opportunity to keep winning and having fun.”

Play on Daniel Island will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Western Conference title match pitting the Sacramento Capitals against the Orange County Breakers. Paes and Venus Williams will lead the Kastles in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. Eastern Conference final against the Martina Hingis and John McEnroe-led New York Sportimes.

The two winners will square off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for the WTT championship.

At 39 years old, Paes is a rarity in professional tennis and he more than holds his own against the best doubles players in the game.

“I’m able to keep competing because I’m going out and playing every day and having fun,” said Paes, who is also an actor.

“I love what I do. As long as I am having fun, I will continue to play.”

Or until he becomes a movie star?

The smooth-talking tennis player from India has played the role of an undercover spy agent, and he’s been offered his first Hollywood script.

But what makes Paes’ Grand Slam success the last few years so impressive — he now has a total of 13 Grand Slam doubles titles — is the medical obstacles he has overcome. Paes was diagnosed with a parasite on his brain nine years ago. He lost 100 pounds over the course of one year as he was going through treatment, but made an amazing recovery and was back winning Grand Slam doubles titles.

The WTT Finals in Charleston will officially kick off with a 4 p.m. press conference on Wednesday with WTT co-founder Billie Jean King. Just after that, Orange County will hold the first practice on-site at 5 p.m.

All four teams will practice Thursday on Daniel Island.

(09/02/12) Paes will take the WTT’s center stage again

Everyone loves Venus Williams.  Venus’ commitment to the World Team Tennis Finals Weekend is great news.

And Martina Hingis is almost as popular as Venus. If these two square off in an expected singles showdown in the Sept. 15 Eastern Conference final pitting Venus’ unbeaten Washington Kastles against Hingis’ New York Sportimes, it should keep fans on the edge of their seats at Family Circle Stadium.

But for my money, the most exciting news is that colorful Leander Paes is returning to Daniel Island for the Sept. 14-16 WTT extravaganza. Due to India’s Davis Cup tie that same weekend, there had been some concern until this past week if Paes would be on Daniel Island.

Paes may be the most dynamic player in all of professional tennis. He is Mr. Excitement. No return is safe when Paes’ electrifying quickness is on the other side of the net.

He was “only” 38 when he won this year’s Australian Open in doubles to complete a career doubles Grand Slam. He’s now 39.

Paes was the big show last summer on Daniel Island when he led the Kastles to the WTT title and a perfect 16-0 season.

He’ll try to repeat that effort in two weeks, and with Venus making the trip to Charleston this time the Kastles might be unbeatable.

If that happens, the Kastles will be within two wins of breaking the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ U.S. major pro sports franchise record of 33 consecutive victories.

And, of course, John McEnroe will do his part to keep the fans excited with his left-handed brilliance for the Sportimes.

The latest news from the WTT is that former great Lindsay Davenport will not be able to play for the Orange County Breakers in Charleston. The Breakers will oppose the Sacramento Capitals in the Friday night Western Conference final, with the Friday-Saturday winners earning berths in the Sunday afternoon showdown for the WTT championship.
PTL starts Friday

Local fans have another opportunity next weekend to familiarize themselves with the fast WTT format. The Charleston Pro Tennis League will open another season next Friday at Family Circle Tennis Center, but with a different look.

The CPTL is switching to the WTT format, and is including women in the lineup.  The Lowcountry Tennis Association will take advantage of the built-in entertainment to hold its annual party during the CPTL’s opening night.

Hugs for Harper
The entry deadline for the Sept. 14-16 Hugs for Harper USTA-sanctioned S.C. Level 3 adult tournament at Kiawah Island is next Sunday. The event will honor the memory of Harper Drolet and celebrate her life by supporting others who battle pediatric cancer. Proceeds benefit MUSC’s Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Research Center.  Contact Kiawah pro Jonathan Barth (jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com, 768-2838 or 568-1468).

Fleming event near
The Alan Fleming Senior Championships are Oct. 3-8 at Seabrook Island.  The deadline for entering the tournament is Sept. 24. Visit www.discoverseabrook.com, or contact the Seabrook Tennis Club (768-7543).

(08/19/12) Porter-Gaud, Ashley Hall strong again

Defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud and arch-rival Ashley Hall should continue to be strong this fall, but it’s questionable whether either of the local powers will be strong enough to hold off a young Hilton Head Prep team.

Hilton Head Prep won last year’s Region III crown before falling to Porter-Gaud’s Cyclones in the state final. Hilton Head Prep carved out its sudden rise with four eighth-graders and a freshman along with a lone senior at No. 5.

Porter-Gaud lost star senior Mi’Kola Cooper to Morgan State as well as No. 4 Carissa Stichen to graduation, but two-time All-Lowcountry Annie Hay is back for her senior season along with a strong cast of younger players.

Ashley Hall’s Panthers can’t be overlooked, not with 2011 Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall leading a group of veteran players, although coach Mary Gastley’s team lost No. 3 Margaret Legerton and No. 6 Sally Chamberlain to graduation, and No. 2 Courtney Geiss has decided not to play high school tennis her junior year.

In the High School League, Bishop England looks like a safe bet to win a second straight Class AA title behind juniors Liza Arruda, Caroline Yodice and Hannah Simpson. The only obstacle for coach Kristin Fleming’s team might be in overcoming Waccamaw’s stellar senior duo of Tolley Rice and Sarah Elliott in the top two positions.

The big drop this fall appears to be at Wando, which had been a state finalist the last two seasons after six straight Class AAAA state titles under Becky Williamson. But the Warriors have lost their top four players, including All-Lowcountry performers Catherine Martin and Melanie Allen. Martin has opted for online schooling for her senior year and Allen has moved out of the area.

Martin transfers to South Carolina
Alex Martin will be playing tennis the next three years at a location considerably closer than the University of Texas where she played last season. Martin has transferred to the University of South Carolina on a full tennis grant and is scheduled to be eligible this school year as a sophomore under new coach Kevin Epley.

Martin selected the Gamecocks over Alabama and LSU. Epley, a former William & Mary coach, has taken over as South Carolina’s women’s coach after the death of longtime coach Arlo Elkins.

Wild card eludes Shelby Rogers
Mallory Burdette’s championship run to the $100,000 U.S. Pro Circuit event in Vancouver swept away Shelby Rogers’ hopes of winning a wild card into the U.S. Open by earning the most WTA Tour ranking points from Pro Circuit events in Yahima, Wash., Lexington, Ky., and Vancouver.

Burdette, the NCAA singles runner-up from Stanford, was awarded 140 ranking points just for winning the $15,200 first prize in Vancouver. Rogers netted 88 points from winning the $50,000 tournament in Yahima and making the quarterfinals in Kentucky. Rogers’ hopes for the wild card were jolted by a second-round qualifying loss in Vancouver.

Local notes
• The Lowcountry Tennis Association will hold its annual party on Sept. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center, coinciding with the the opening night of the Charleston Pro Tennis League.

• In LCTA news, fall team registrations are scheduled to start next Sunday.

• At Charleston Tennis Center as well as at city-operated Maybank Tennis Center, new annual membership rates for non-city residents now double the rates for city residents. Fees for city residents were not increased for 2012-13 while adult non-city rates skyrocketed by nearly 70 percent.

• Today is the deadline to enter next weekend’s rated adult tournament at Charleston Tennis Center. Competition will be held in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Registration is available online at www.sctennis.com, using tournament number 700008812.

(08/16/12) Venus Williams to play in WTT Finals Weekend
Venus Williams, even at age 32, is still a hot commodity in the tennis world. That’s why Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran is so excited that the seven-time Grand Slam singles titlist is coming to Daniel Island next month for the World Team Tennis Finals Weekend.

Williams will play for the defending champion Washington Kastles as they try to extend their record 30-match winning streak Sept. 14-16 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

John McEnroe is also bound for the Finals Weekend to try to bolster the New York Sportimes’ chances against the Kastles in the 6:30 p.m. Eastern Conference championship match on Sept. 15.

“Venus is extremely excited about helping the Kastles extend their winning streak,” Moran said Wednesday. “And John is a huge WTT fan … That and coming back to Charleston where he has felt really comfortable the last two years (at Family Circle events) solidified him coming.”

Lindsay Davenport and the Orange County Breakers will battle the Sacramento Capitals in the Western Conference final on Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. The two conference champions will square off for the WTT championship on Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m.

Williams is fresh from winning the doubles gold medal with her sister Serena in the London Olympics. Venus notched back-to-back three-set wins over Maria Kirilenko of Russia and Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa Tuesday and Wednesday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

The Kastles won last year’s WTT title on Daniel Island and then went 14-0 this summer for their 30 straight victories. They need just four wins to break the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ record for consecutive wins by a major U.S. pro sports franchise. No other major U.S. pro team has ever posted back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons.

WTT Finals Weekend tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 677-2293. The event is offering a free terrace level ticket for the Sunday final with the purchase of Friday-Saturday tickets (box seats not included).

(08/05/12) Davenport, Hingis WTT Finals bound
The World Team Tennis Finals Weekend is set. And there’s still six weeks to go. The event at Family Circle Tennis Center isn’t until Sept. 14-16, thanks to the Olympics.

Former greats Martina Hingis of the New York Sportimes and Lindsay Davenport of the Orange County Breakers are set to play on Daniel Island. Hingis is the WTT’s women’s MVP.

The Washington Kastles will be back in search of a second straight perfect season. No major U.S. pro team has ever posted back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons.

Venus and Serena Williams have played a significant role in the Kastles’ success the last two seasons. One has been in the lineup for nine of the 30 wins. But neither sister is scheduled to play in the finals.

Orange County and Sacramento will open the WTT Finals Weekend at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Western Conference final, and WTT coach of the year Murphy Jensen’s Kastles face the Sportimes on at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 for the Eastern title. The winners meet at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 16.

Doubles great Leander Paes’ availability for the Kastles is uncertain due to India’s Davis Cup Group I relegation tie against New Zealand that same weekend. WTT men’s MVP Bobby Reynolds (whose wife is a MUSC graduate) is confirmed for Washington along with 2011 Finals MVP Arina Rodionova. Arina’s sister, Anastasia, also will play.

WTT Finals Weekend tickets can be purchased at 1-800-677-2293. The event is offering a free terrace level ticket for the Sunday final with the purchase of Friday-Saturday tickets (box seats not included).

The popular Charleston Pro Tennis League is switching to the exciting WTT format for its fall season, playing lets while allowing coaching and substitutions. Two women will also play for each team this year along with seven men as the format includes two doubles, one singles and one mixed doubles matches.

The league’s draft party is Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at O’Brion’s Pub at the I’On Club. Applications for the 72 league spots are being accepted atcptltennis.com, with an Aug. 17 deadline.  The season starts Sept. 7 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Rogers seeks wild card
Shelby Rogers is in the running for a second U.S. Open wild card in three years after winning her first professional tournament recently, a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit challenger in Yakima, Wash. The Daniel Island 19-year-old followed that victory with a quarterfinal showing in another $50,000 event in Lexington, Ky., but suffered a second-round loss in qualifying this past week in a $100,000 challenger in Vancouver.

In the process, Rogers’ world ranking zoomed from No. 383 to No. 282. Her singles record for 2012 is now 25-14. The American player with the most main draw WTA ranking points from those three tournaments will receive a wild card into the U.S. Open.

Hugs for Harper
The Hugs for Harper USTA-sanctioned S.C. Level 3 adult tournament is Sept. 14-16 at Kiawah Island. The event will honor the memory of Harper Drolet and celebrate her life by supporting others who battle pediatric cancer. Proceeds benefit MUSC’s Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Research Center.

Competition will be in NTRP-rated divisions as well as seniors. There will be singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Dinner and auction is 6 p.m. Sept. 15. Tournament ID number is 700035712. Contact Jonathan Barth (jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com, 768-2838 or 568-1468).

Local junior Austin Heinz was on the Southern Hospitality team that won the WTT Junior National Team Championship in San Diego. The All-Lowcountry player is in the group photo on the World Team Tennis website at WTT.Com.

Still under renovation, Maybank Tennis Center will hold an adult tennis camp at the Jack Adams Tennis Center, Wednesday through Friday, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., including two nights of drills and a Friday night round robin. Call pro Toni Young (343-8393).

Registration for the Lowcountry Tennis Association’s singles league will continue through Aug. 13. A team is required to have three players signed up by the deadline. Contact Elizabeth Forney at eflewis@homesc.com.

Jonathan Edwards was the boys 18 runner-up in the recent S.C. Closed Clay-Court Championships in Greenville, suffering an 11-9 loss to top seed Colby Burke of Hilton Head Island in a third-set match tiebreaker.

(07/22/12) WTT Launch Party a resounding success
Some observers came away from last weekend’s World Team Tennis Launch Party wanting to participate in WTT format tournaments. The good news is that four such tournaments remain on the local summer schedule leading into the WTT Finals Weekend on Sept. 14-16 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

The Launch Party was a huge success, not solely based on crowd size but also considering the atmosphere and crowd involvement.

It didn’t hurt that the event kept most of the crowd of more than 1,000 entertained until the final minute of play. The event came within one point of going to a winner-take-all final point.

The competition ended when Lee Floyd’s return of a serve from Family Circle pro Bryan Minton at match-point 40-30 sailed wide to secure a mixed doubles win for Minton and Caroline Thornton as well as the club title for Family Circle. Until then, Family Circle and Mount Pleasant Rec were tied at nine points each in the Launch Party final.

Thornton, a Tulane senior, was the unofficial most valuable player. She played a major role in Family Circle’s march to the club title, playing singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

A year earlier in the inaugural Launch Party, the talented, hard-hitting 5-5 Thornton had almost single-handedly led Family Circle to the final before I’On and Matt Hane prevailed. Thornton, who played her first two years of college tennis for Auburn before transferring to Tulane, appears to have a bright future in tennis.

For anyone who wants to compete in a WTT-formatted event prior to the WTT Finals Weekend, the four remaining WTT tournaments will be: Aug. 11-12, LTP Tennis; Aug. 18-19, Park West Tennis Center; Aug. 25-26, Snee Farm; and Sept. 8-9, Seabrook Island.

Tournament participation is open to all 18-and-over players. A team’s rating is determined by averaging the NTRP ratings for the team’s top two men and top two women. Free membership with WTT is required to sign up for any of the tournaments by registering at www.wtt.com

Martins undecided
It’s a summer of decision for sisters Alex and Catherine Martin. Alex just completed her freshman year at the University of Texas on a tennis grant, but she has gained her release from Texas and is considering offers from LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and others to continue her college career. Martin posted an 8-8 singles record for the Longhorns as a freshman.

Catherine Martin helped lead Wando to the Class AAAA state final in 2011 as the Warriors’ No. 1 player. With No. 2 player and fellow All-Lowcountry performer Melanie Allen relocating to Florida, Martin hasn’t decided if she will play high school tennis as a senior. She said she is considering skipping high school tennis in order to spend more time training.
Edwards’ big win

Jonathan Edwards scored his biggest win in the recent State Closed Hard-Court Championships by winning the boys 18 singles crown. The success was a big breakthrough for Edwards since he still plays 16-and-under, and the win earned him a wild card into the South Carolina ITF in November at Lexington.

A junior participating in an online charter school for South Carolina, Edwards upset the Nos. 1 and 4 seeds en route to the title.

The only other local full-sized court winner was Ava Kusmider in girls 12, while Elliott Eischeid won the boys’ 10 title. Curran Carver was runner-up in girls 16 and Mark Militzer took third place in boys 14.
Mixed doubles

The local 6.0 and 7.0 mixed doubles playoffs are set for next weekend. The 6.0 mixed event will be held at Mount Pleasant Rec’s Whipple Road complex, while 7.0 will be contested at Charleston Tennis Center.

Single-elimination first-round matches will be played on Friday at 6:30 p.m., with the four winners advancing to round-robin play for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. matches on Saturday and a 9 a.m. contest on Sunday.

The 8.0 playoffs will be held a week later at Charleston Tennis Center.

(07/08/12) WTT Launch Party set for Friday
It’s hot. Wimbledon is wrapping up. It must be World Team Tennis time.

Yes, another WTT season is set to start Monday night with matches in Boston, Orange County, Calif., and Springfield, Mo.

But before you know it, WTT’s top two teams from the Eastern and Western divisions will head to Family Circle Tennis Center for the Sept. 14-16 WTT Finals Weekend. Thanks to the switch from mid-summer to late-summer because of the London Olympics, the weather should be more comfortable for World Team Tennis’ second visit to Charleston. Of course, play and travel will be staged at a furious coast-to-coast pace before the WTT concludes its regular season on July 28.

One of the highlights of the local summer tennis season will be next Friday night’s WTT Launch Party at Family Circle Tennis Center. Family Circle officials are expecting an even larger crowd than the approximately 1,000 people who turned out for last year’s event that introduced local fans to the WTT format.

The 6-9 p.m. program, which will be sponsored by the Lowcountry Tennis Association, will feature teams from Charleston Tennis Center, Family Circle Tennis Center, Daniel Island Club, I’On, Legend Oaks, Mount Pleasant’s Whipple Road complex, Park West and Pine Forest Country Club that will represent World Team Tennis’ eight franchises.

These eight local clubs not only will compete on the court, but their fans also will battle for the spirit award that went to Legend Oaks last summer. The evening should once again be a big party, with food trucks on the site.

Mixed conflict
The LCTA also will be a sponsor for the WTT Finals Weekend. But state league tennis officials apparently overlooked a conflict with the WTT Finals when they scheduled the state mixed doubles tournament for the same Sept. 15-17 weekend in Florence.

For some mixed doubles participants, the conflict could create a mad rush from Florence back to Daniel Island for the 6:30 p.m. Saturday WTT Western Conference title match and 4 p.m. Sunday WTT final.

The Charleston area has its own No. 1-ranked Southern junior in Connor Clements, who used a third-place finish in the recent Southern Closed Championships to vault into the top spot in boys 18 singles.

League tennis’ combo doubles will be kicking off in the next few weeks now that team registrations have closed. Most adult men will play weekday matches at 7:30 p.m.: Monday (5.5), Tuesday (6.5), Wednesday (7.5) and Thursday (8.5). Adult 5.5 women will compete on Monday (9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.); 6.5 on Tuesday (6 p.m.) and Thursday (9:30 a.m.); 7.5 on Wednesday (9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.); 8.5 on Thursday (6 p.m.); and 5.0 on Thursday (6 p.m.). The 9.5 men and women will play matches on Sundays at 3 p.m. Most senior men and women will play on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., while 6.5 senior women will play on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. The local combo playoffs are scheduled for Sept. 20-23.

The second annual Charleston Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project will be held July 19 at Pine Forest Country Club. All net proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. League tennis player Josh Strimple, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who spent much of last year in Iraq, is the founder of the Classic. For details, go to www.charlestonclassic.org.

(06/28/12)  DAVE MUNDAY:  Popular tennis center getting a major facelift

The Maybank Tennis Center on James Island is closed until September while new courts are built. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, city of Charleston staff and the Charleston Parks Conservancy unveiled plans for the renovation last week.

Six of the eight hard courts have been demolished and will be rebuilt. The three clay courts also will be rebuilt, and two clay courts will be added. They are the only public clay courts in the downtown Charleston, James Island and West Ashley areas.

The Charleston Parks Conservancy raised $15,880 to help pay for the two new clay courts.

The total cost of the project is $783,224, according to the city of Charleston. The contractor is MAR Construction.

During the renovation, Maybank clay court members can play at the Kiawah Island courts in the afternoons and at the Family Circle Cup on weekend afternoons. Hard court members are playing matches at the Alan Fleming Tennis Complex in Johns Island Park.

All the James Island schools use the tennis center. It's been the site of numerous state league tennis tournaments as well as the Charleston County School District Superintendent's Cup.

More than 400 members pay an annual fee, and many more pay an hourly fee to use the courts, according to the city.

The center is at 1880 Houghton Drive in the Marlborough neighborhood. It's off Fleming Road, which comes off Maybank Highway between Folly Road and Riverland Drive.

It's been there for at least 40 years, according to the recreation department.

(06/24/12)  What if Dye still played with Pinewood Prep?
Pinewood Prep probably was a little overmatched in Region III of SCISA Class AAA tennis this spring considering that the Panthers were swept by state champion Porter-Gaud and powerhouses Hilton Head Christian and Hilton Head Prep.

Of course, those teams may have been the three best high school tennis teams in the state, period.

But what if Zac Dye still had been playing for Pinewood Prep? Half of the All-Lowcountry first team on one team?

Dye was at Pinewood Prep in 2007 when the Panthers won their lone state tennis championship. Even as a sixth-grader that year, Dye played a key role as the Panthers’ No. 4 player. His brother, Jeremiah, was No. 1.

Zac Dye just completed his junior year at Berkeley. Fellow All-Lowcountry performers Joel Roberts and Adam Elliget played for Pinewood Prep.

Dye won his first 18 matches before losing in the first round of the High School League’s Class AAA/AAAA state singles tournament and then winning six straight matches to take the consolation title.

Dye is starting to get more serious about his tennis game. He plans to spend the summer at Hilton Head Island training with Jeremiah. The older brother is a former Citadel player who is currently a pro on Hilton Head Island. Zac, now 17, has his eyes on playing at The Citadel.

Wando star leaving
Charleston is losing one of its top girls players to Florida. Melanie Allen played No. 2 for Class AAAA state runner-up Wando last spring as a freshman, but her father, Tim, is switching from the academic staff at the College of Charleston to Florida Gulf Coast University.

Allen expects to play high school tennis in Fort Myers this fall as a sophomore. The 15-year-old leaves as the No. 4 player in the state in girls 16.

The local adult mixed doubles playoffs will be held at Charleston Tennis Center and at Mount Pleasant’s Whipple Road complex. The 6.0 and 7.0 playoffs are July 27-29 at both facilities, while the 8.0 playoffs are Aug. 3-5 at Charleston Tennis Center. Two teams from each regular season flight will advance to the local playoffs. That means two of the six teams from the Summerville/Walterboro area 7.0 flight will qualify for the local playoffs, while only two teams also will advance from each of the three other regular-season 7.0 flights, each made up of 11 teams.

The state mixed doubles tournament will be held in Florence the weekend of Sept. 15-17.

The second annual Charleston Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project will be held July 19 at Pine Forest Country Club. All net proceeds go straight to the Wounded Warrior Project. “From battlefield to bedside, the Wounded Warrior Project assists those men and women of the Armed Forces who have been severely injured in conflicts around the world,” said avid league tennis player and Charleston Classic founder Josh Strimple, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who spent much of last year in Iraq. The first Charleston Classic raised $8,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. For information, go to www.charlestonclassic.org.

The local women’s 9.5 combo team captained by Ann Harrah recently took state runner-up honors and was awarded a wild card in the Southern Sectionals. The team is: Harrah, Courtney Zalinski, Lai Ping Rippee, Deanna Vrooman, Laura Pearce, Laurie Yarbrough, Amy White, Dominique Cassetori, Diane Barker, Marissa Gildemeister and Maria Elliott.

Combo doubles registration will run through June 30.

(06/19/12) Thomas Spratt of Porter-Gaud is Post and Courier boys tennis player of the year

Thomas Spratt doesn’t regret his decision to play tennis over basketball, although his 6-6 height may appear to be more suitable for the hardwood court.
All-Lowcountry boys tennis team

Thomas Spratt, Porter-Gaud, Junior
Steven Weaver, Bishop England, Senior
Zac Dye, Berkeley, Junior
Joel Roberts, Pinewood Prep Junior
Adam Elliget, Pinewood Prep, Freshman
Austin Heinz, Palmetto Christian, Sophomore
Tom Higgins, Porter-Gaud, Coach of the year

Addison King, Palmetto Christian, senior
Hunter Mitchell, Porter-Gaud, senior
Junior Duarte, Porter-Gaud, freshman
Seth Pinosky, Porter-Gaud, sophomore
Payne Hoy, Porter-Gaud, junior
Conner Grady, Porter-Gaud, junior

Wando: Andrew DaCosta, Robert DaCosta, Thomas Kuisel, Drew Dangerfield.
Academic Magnet: Nick Butler, Alex Scott, Anthony Edwards, Hunter Legerton.
Bishop England: Tristan Fletcher, Matthew Csernica, Noak Stiepel, Rowe Hicks.
Palmetto Christian: Billy Perkins, Chase Shinakonis, Trey Goolsby, Micah Vasko.
Pinewood Prep: Carlitos Ronco, Daniel Heimann, Davis Craig, Avery Holoubek.
Summerville: Adam Seith, Brandon Sekula, Matt Barawick.
James Island: Dillon Davis, Paul Wright.
Stratford: Matthew Prosser, Steven Brandon.
Ashley Ridge: Blair Healey, Jeremy Herrera.
Berkeley: Dustin Fleming.
Cane Bay: Alex Amble.
Fort Dorchester: Patrick McCardle.
Porter-Gaud: Wil Daniel.

While tennis has evolved into something of a big man’s game at its highest level, the Porter-Gaud star has seen his tennis game get better and better.

“I’ve always thought my height was a big advantage in tennis,” Spratt said.

“I’m really glad I switched . . . it was definitely a good call.”

Spratt gave up basketball after the eighth grade and immediately played a key role in the Cyclones’ march to a state tennis championship that spring. But such rewards didn’t come Spratt’s way again until his just completed junior year when he led Porter-Gaud to another SCISA Class AAA state tennis title.

It was in his last two matches of the season that Spratt peaked, reaching his potential with back-to-back wins over NCAA Division I-bound players Ben Horst of Hammond School and SCISA state player of the year Nick Bybel of Hilton Head Christian in the state semifinals and final.

That success at No. 1 singles not only played a key role in the Cyclones’ state championship season, but also set Spratt apart as The Post and Courier’s high school boys tennis Lowcountry player of the year.

Spratt heads a group of five repeaters on the All-Lowcountry team. Bishop England senior Steven Weaver, Palmetto Christian sophomore Austin Heinz, and the Pinewood Prep duo of junior Joel Roberts and freshman Adam Elliget are the other repeaters.

Berkeley junior Zac Dye rounds out the first team.

Tom Higgins, who has directed Porter-Gaud to six state boys championships in 10 seasons as head coach, is the Lowcountry coach of the year.

“It was a really great experience, winning the state with the tennis team,” Spratt said. “I really want to play college tennis.

“We were undefeated in 2009 when I was in the eighth grade, and it felt like we didn’t have to earn it. This was more special. Winning the state with the guys was awesome.”

(06/10/12) FCC Jr champion Carter sets record
It may have been somewhat of a surprise to see 16-year-old Columbian Hayley Carter win this year’s Family Circle Cup junior championship and earn a wild card into the Family Circle Cup’s qualifying tournament, considering the number of highly touted juniors who participated in the February event.

But Belton followers know all about the big-hitting young woman. She’s been winning Palmetto Junior Championships almost from the time she outgrew the net. Carter swept Belton again this past week, winning both singles and doubles in girls 18 to break the girls record of 13 overall titles set from 1984-91 by Janice Durden, a Charleston junior who later was an All-American at Clemson.

With 14 titles and another year of eligibility still remaining at Belton, the 5-10 Carter can surpass the overall record of 15 titles by former Charleston junior Ryan Young, another former Clemson All-American.

Fenno, Navarro win
Brant Fenno and Emma Navarro in 12-and-under boys and girls were the only regulation-court singles champions from Charleston in the recently completed Palmetto Junior Championships. William Ross won the small-court Quick Start boys 10 singles competition.

Earl Navarro (boys 12), Adam Elliget (boys 16), Matthew Mendez (boys 18) and Melanie Allen (girls 16) were singles finalists.

In doubles, Emma Navarro (girls 12), Earl Navarro (boys 12), Alexander Santiago (boys 16) and Connor Clements (boys 18) brought home titles, while Ross/Zachary Dacuba (boys 10), Elliget/Austin Heinz (boys 16), Mendez/Thomas Spratt (boys 18) and Narni Summerall (girls 18) were runners-up.

Tri-County league
The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League season ended recently with an awards ceremony at Charleston Tennis Center. With 17 divisions and 124 teams, the league that started 30 years ago with seven teams wrapped up with the Moultrie Middle School Aces coached by Holly Covington taking the top awards as Division 1 and Tournament 1 champions.

Belle Hall Elementary and James Island Elementary each had three teams to win either a division or tournament title.

The 10 tournament winners were: 1. Moultrie Aces, 2. Coastal Christian, 3. Mason Prep Knights, 4. Fort Johnson Rams, 5. Mason Prep Gold; 6. Belle Hall 1, 7. Angel Oak, 8. Lambs, 9. James Island White and 10. Stiles Point Silver.

The middle school divisions played on regulation 78-foot courts; upper elementary teams on 60-foot courts; and lower elementary teams played on 36-foot courts.

The 5.0 adult women, captained by Amy White, won a state league tennis title.

Local resident Morgan Ivey was captain and most valuable player of the Rutgers University women’s team. The recent Rutgers graduate (3.78 GPA) also won the Northeast Region’s Cissie Leary Award for sportsmanship.

A meeting will be held today at 4 p.m. at the James Island Recreation Center to discuss new policies and procedures at Maybank Tennis Center once the City of Charleston facility reopens later this year after an extensive renovation.

Tour Tennis’ popular Spring Singles Tournament will be held next weekend at Mount Pleasant’s Whipple Road complex. Registration ends Tuesday. Contact Tour Tennis (388-5618).

For the sixth time in seven years, Kiawah Island has been named the No. 1 tennis resort in the world by Tennis Resorts Online. Wild Dunes came in fourth and was the only other resort selected from the state.

Charleston players won two Belton sportsmanship awards: Sam Kavarana took the Matthew Strange Memorial Sportsmanship Award for boys 12; and Thomas Spratt was named the winner of the overall sportsmanship award, the Malloy Evans Memorial Sportsmanship Award.

(05/27/12) WTT to hold local 8-tourney circuit
Are you in the mood for fast-paced and exciting World Team Tennis already? Well, you don’t have to wait until the Sept. 14-16 WTT Finals Weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center.
Charleston’s innovative World Team Tennis eight-tournament summer circuit actually kicks off in less than two weeks. So, you don’t have much time to waste in forming a team.

The good news is that teams can be as small as two men and two women, with a maximum of 10 players per team.

The first tournament is set for June 9-10 at Family Circle Tennis Center and the Daniel Island Club. The remainder of the schedule is: June 23-24, Pine Forest Country Club; July 14-15, Legend Oaks; July 21-22, Mount Pleasant’s Whipple Road Complex; Aug. 11-12, LTP Tennis; Aug. 18-19, Park West Tennis Center; Aug. 25-26, Snee Farm; and Sept. 8-9, Seabrook Island.

Tournament participation is open to all 18-and-over players. A team’s rating is determined by averaging the NTRP ratings for the team’s top two men and top two women. Free membership with WTT is required to sign up for any of the tournaments by registering at www.wtt.com.

In the midst of all of the league tennis-like action using the popular WTT format, the second annual WTT Lowcountry Launch Party will be held July 13 at Family Circle Tennis Center. For this one-night event that caught the fancy of so many local tennis fans last summer, eight teams led by their club pros will represent the eight teams that make up the official World Team Tennis organization.

Due to this being an Olympic year, the WTT season will not have its normal July ending. It’s actually a good thing for the Finals Weekend to move to the weekend after the U.S. Open’s conclusion in that it gives the WTT and Family Circle Tennis Center nearly two months longer than in 2011 to promote the four-team Finals Weekend.

Local fans will be able to make ticket decisions knowing what teams and players will be participating here, while fans from the final four teams will have time to plan more leisurely than last-minute trips to Charleston this time. That’s quite a bit different from a year ago when some teams qualified for the playoffs and hopped on an airline the next day to participate that night in the WTT Finals.
Local notes

Adam Elliget has had an outstanding doubles career in Southern junior tennis. With a recent win in boys 16 in Mobile, Ala., the Pinewood Prep star has captured five Southern doubles titles with five different partners and in four different age groups.

University of Virginia signee Harrison Richmond of Waccamaw defeated Bishop England senior Steven Weaver in the final of the High School League’s Class A-AA state singles tournament last weekend in Lexington. Richmond completed his high school career unbeaten, including a fifth state team championship and a second straight year as an All-American.

In the Class AAA-AAAA state singles tournament, Berkeley’s Zac Dye saw his unbeaten record blemished in the first round by Spartanburg’s Spencer Brown before bouncing back to win six straight matches, including an 8-3 win over Brown in the consolation final.

The 3.0 senior women’s team from Seabrook Island and Glenn Cobb’s 4.0 senior men from Collins Park captured state league tennis titles last weekend.

The renovation of Maybank Tennis Center is expected to start within the next two weeks and to last three or four months. Clay-court members of the facility will be able to play at Kiawah Island during that time.

Anderson Scarpa is preparing for the next step of his tennis career after playing No. 1 for the prestigious Baylor School in Chattanooga the last three years. Scarpa is headed to Mercer University on a tennis scholarship.

Bob Peiffer’s Big Senior Bash to raise funds for tennis in the schools has been switched to the fall from June 10 at Charleston Tennis Center.

(05/14/12)  TOMMY BRASWELL Cougars take aim at SoCon titles

The College of Charleston men's and women's tennis programs have been a model for success in the Southern Conference. The women's team has posted a 29-1 regular season record, won two regular season titles and is trying to qualify for its fourth straight NCAA tournament during the Southern Conference tennis tournament that begins today at the College of Charleston and The Citadel.

The men's tennis team has gone 28-2 during that same period and has finished first or tied for first during the regular season.

The most noticeable difference is that the men's tennis team has not been able to win the conference tournament and gain the automatic NCAA bid since 2003.

Fifth-year men's coach Jay Bruner said his team's goal is the title, but the Cougars aren't feeling any added ?pressure this week.

"The last three years have been fun," said Bruner, who this week was named the Southern Conference coach of the year for the second time in three seasons. "I've been telling them it's kind of like breaking serve. They've given themselves the opportunity."
The College of Charleston men's team has three seniors, including No. 1 singles player Mickael Trintignac of France who this year made first-team All-Southern Conference for the second time. Trintignac teamed with junior Kyle Parker to make first-team all-SoCon in doubles. The other seniors are Tom Delme of Belgium and Chris Toussaint of Charlotte.

The women's team, whose ?only loss in the regular season this year was 5-2 at No. 1 seed UNC Greensboro, hopes to continue its streak of tournament success.

The Cougars have beaten ?Furman three straight years to win the tournament, including a 4-3 win last year.

"We play the winner of Elon-Wofford (at The Citadel) and either one of those teams will be a great challenge," said ?Angelo Anastopoulo, who was the league's coach or co-coach of the year in 2010 and 2011. "If we can get back to our home court, we'll go from there."

Admission is free and ?Anastopoulo, who also is ?director of tennis for the school, said he is hoping for a good turnout.

"I think that the people who went to the Family Circle Cup would really enjoy college ?tennis a lot more," he said. "There's a lot more cheering and excitement, seeing college ?kids, true student-athletes, competing and dealing with the emotions as a team. It's exciting to see."

(05/13/12) Online-schooled Clements wins big one.

Connor Clements is a relatively unknown junior tennis player.

He’s not a high school star. He is online-schooled and doesn’t participate in the regular school system.

Unlike high school sports where the media seeks out success, home-schooled kids almost have to be their own public relations agents. About the only time Clements’ name is mentioned in the media is when he does well in a junior tournament and someone in his camp reports his success.

Clements is a legitimate junior tennis star. He’s just won a big one, the boys 18 singles and doubles titles in the Southern Spring Closed in Mobile, Ala. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the South.

Clements has his eye on playing college tennis. That’s what he has been training for these last few years while most of his friends attended high school. A senior, he expects this fall to be on a tennis scholarship at a college such as Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Furman or Wofford.

He’s visited all six of those schools, and he said all have offered scholarships. “I like all of them, but I have to narrow it down to the ones that suit me best,” the 18-year-old said.

He’s a 6-foot left-hander with a booming serve. “Being a lefty gives me an advantage against some players,” he said. “I have a different ball coming off my racket. Sometimes they don’t know what to do with my serve and forehand.

“My serve will break away from my opponent and open up the court, and give me a chance for some free points.”

When he’s not studying online, Clements spends much of his time training under Bryan Minton at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Anderson’s impact
Tennis is lucky that it has its share of Good Samaritans. Not all tennis players that are born with natural athletic ability reach their potential. Some need a lucky break, or the help of a good tennis citizen.

Take Junior Duarte for instance. Junior is a freshman at Porter-Gaud and played on the school’s SCISA Class AAA state championship team. He trains in the tennis academy at Family Circle Tennis Center, and hopes to play college tennis one day.

But without the early help of Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson, Duarte may never have found tennis, and he almost certainly wouldn’t be part of such elite tennis company these days.

Andersson took Duarte under his wings about a decade ago and provided the little fellow with free lessons and a free spot in his summer tennis camp. Courting Kids director Delores Jackson probably put it best when she said: “Fredrik made Junior what he is.”

Kiawah, Wild Dunes listed
Earlier this year, Tennis Magazine surprised almost everyone it seems by ranking Kiawah Island as the second-best tennis resort in South Carolina, behind Hilton Head Island’s Palmetto Dunes. That was a big drop from being rated third in the country in 2011 by the same publication.

But the other major tennis resort ranker, Tennis Resorts Online, still thinks Kiawah Island is pretty special, along with Wild Dunes. The two local resorts were the only ones from South Carolina listed among Tennis Resorts Online’s top 10 tennis resorts in the world for 2012.

Santiago shines
Alexander Santiago has been on a tear recently in boys 16 doubles, playing with partner Carsten Fisher of Hilton Head Island. After winning the Southern Bullfrog Regional at Clemson late last month, Santiago and Fisher were runner-up in the Southern Spring Closed in Mobile last weekend.

(05/11/12)  Bishop England falls to Waccamaw in Class AA boys tennis playoffs
Veteran Waccamaw coach James Brown pulled another trick out of his hat in Thursday’s Class AA boys tennis Lower State final as the perennial power Warriors (15-3) eliminated Bishop England (7-1) from the state playoffs for the 10th consecutive year, this time 4-1.

Although the latest renewal of this heated rivalry had been scheduled to be played at Mount Pleasant’s LTP Tennis, the match was switched to Wachesaw Plantation at Murrells Inlet due to a ruling by the S.C. High School League over what it decided was a rules infraction during the regular season by the Bishops.

But the Bishops made the trip, played on clay for the first time this season and made the match closer than the score might indicate. The Bishops’ Nos. 3 and 5 singles players, seniors Matthew Csernica and Rowe Hicks, both pushed their opponents to 10-6 in third-set match tiebreakers before going down to defeat. Otherwise, the Bishops might have owned a 3-2 lead after singles.

Noah Stiepel posted a 6-4, 6-4 win over Robert Jones at No. 4 for the Bishops’ only win as Waccamaw wrapped up a spot in the state final without having to play doubles.

“We had to go up there because of a rules infraction in our lineup at Woodland,” first-year BE coach Frank DiNardo said. “It was either we go to Waccamaw or they make us default the match. I wasn’t going to let our team down.”

As a result of the ruling by the SCHSL on Wednesday, Bishop England lost the top seeding in the Lower State to Waccamaw. The ruling came after a protest by Waccamaw to the SCHSL.

It all came as a result of Woodland having only four players available when it faced Bishop England in a regular season match. The rules infractions, according to DiNardo, pertained to the Bishops allowing Woodland to default the No. 1 singles position to BE senior Steven Weaver.

SINGLES: Harrison Richmond (W) def. Steven Weaver, 6-0, 6-2; Paul Hendrix (W) def. Tristan Fletcher, 6-0, 6-0; Matt Fischer (W) def. Matthew Csernica, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6; Mike Saia def. James Beck 7-5, 6-3; Noah Stiepel (BE) def. Robert Jones, 6-4, 6-4; Jazz Green (W) def. Rowe Hicks, 7-5, 4-6, 10-6.

(05/09/12)  Bishop England boys tennis breezes past Williston-Elko
Bishop England (7-0) breezed into the High School League’s Class AA Lower State boys tennis final Tuesday afternoon at LTP Tennis with a 5-0 victory over visiting Williston-Elko.

Senior Matthew Csernia, sophomore Noah Stiepel and senior Rowe Hicks yielded a total of only one game in the Nos. 3-5 singles positions to send coach Frank DiNardo’s Region 6 champion Bishops into Thursday’s Lower State title match.

Perennial power Waccamaw (14-3) scored a 6-0 win over Region 6 runner-up Academic Magnet (9-6) in a match played at Wachesaw Plantation to earn the other spot in the Lower State final that also will be played at LTP Tennis in Mount Pleasant.

“This really wasn’t a strong challenge for us,” DiNardo admitted about the rout. “But I think we’ll be ready for Waccamaw. We’re pumped up about playing them again.”

Bishop England and Waccamaw almost always seem to bump heads in the Lower State playoffs, with Waccamaw ending the Bishops’ season the last nine years in the playoffs.

All-Lowcountry senior Steven Weaver notched a 6-2, 6-1 win over the Blue Devils’ Christian Walters at No. 1 singles, while BE No. 2 Tristan Fletcher got a retirement from Williston- Elko’s Bryan DePew after escaping the first set in a tiebreaker.


SINGLES: Steven Weaver def. Christian Walters, 6-2, 6-1; Tristan Fletcher def. Bryan DePew, 7-6, ret.; Matthew Csernica def. Jacob Vargo, 6-0, 6-0; Noah Stiepel def. Kurt Oddermatt, 6-0, 6-1; Rowe Hicks def. Daniel Smith, 6-0, 6-0.


SINGLES: Harrison Richmond def. Nick Butler, 6-0, 6-0; Paul Hendrix def. Alex Scott, 6-1, 6-1; Matt Fischer def. Hunter Legerton, 6-2, 6-0; Robert Jones def. Anthony Edwards, 7-6 (12-10), 6-4; Jazz Green def. Joe West, 6-1, 6-3.

DOUBLES: Alex Czechner/Joey Hewes def. Blake Steen/Bradford Game, 6-1, 6-0.

(05/06/12)  Bishop England boys eye Class AA-A state tennis playoffs
First-year Bishop England coach Frank DiNardo is excited about the Bishops’ chances in the High School League’s Class AA-A boys tennis state playoffs.

The top-seeded Bishops (6-0) will take on Williston-Elko at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Pleasant’s LTP Tennis in a Lower State semifinal match. The winner will advance to next Thursday’s Lower State final against either Academic Magnet or perennial power Waccamaw.

While Bishop England had a first-round bye on Thursday, Williston-Elko posted a 6-0 win over Manning.

“I think we’ve got a good shot at winning the Lower State,” DiNardo said. “Our boys have been training hard.”

That’s despite the return of only one starter — senior No. 1 Steven Weaver — from the starting singles lineup that carried the Bishops to last year’s Lower State semifinals.

Since the Bishops’ one-sided losses in early season scrimmages against SCISA Class AAA champion Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep, DiNardo has juggled his lineup with good results.

“We made stategic changes for the better of the team,” said Dinardo. “The boys accepted the changes well.”

After 2011 All-Lowcountry performer Weaver, the Bishops’ Nos. 2-5 singles lineup is made up of junior Tristan Fletcher, senior Matthew Csernica, sophomore Noah Stiepel and senior Rowe Hicks.

Lower State No. 3 seed Academic Magnet (9-5) suffered a pair of losses to Bishop England in Region 6-AA and finished second to the Bishops in the region race. Academic Magnet’s match against No. 2 seed Waccamaw is 5 p.m. Tuesday at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet.

Perennial state champion Christ Church of Greenville is the top seed in Upper State Class AA-A.

In the Class AAAA playoffs, Summerville, James Island, Ashley Ridge and Stratford all were eliminated in the first round. Wando suffered a 6-0 loss to Lexington in the second round.

(04/29/12) Cooper, Duarte exemplify Courting Kids story

The City of Charleston’s inner-city Courting Kids program has been blossoming for more than two decades. The fruits of the program are now more evident than ever.

You don’t have to look any further than the best girls team and the best boys team in the state for the current school year to recognize what Courting Kids means to tennis in the Charleston area. That would be Porter-Gaud, of course, where Mi’Kola Cooper used her athletic ability to virtually carry the girls team to the SCISA Class AAA state championship last fall; and where Junior Duarte, just a freshman, played a key role in the Cyclones’ drive to Friday’s state boys championship.

In its 21 years of existence, Courting Kids has produced other outstanding juniors, but Cooper and Duarte probably exemplify the true success story of the program as well, or better than, any of their predecessors.

Delores Jackson, the founder of the program and its only director, was busy Saturday wrapping up another spring season of Courting Kids. A total of 142 kids participated this spring, almost evenly divided between the downtown Jack Adams Tennis Center and John’s Island’s Alan Fleming Tennis Center.

“I remember when Junior started. He was four years old, and I was amazed that a kid could run so fast,” Jackson said.

Junior wasn’t hard to point out back then. He was the smallest boy on the court, the curly black-haired little fellow whose racket was almost as tall as he was. If Junior was there, his father Hufelder probably wasn’t far away.

Hufelder grew up in Mexico before moving to the United States. It didn’t take the father long to recognize that Courting Kids was a good thing for his family.

A few years later, little brother Osbaldo started participating in Courting Kids. Osbaldo is 11 now, and 7-year-old sister Aliana joins him at Courting Kids. Osbaldo dreams about the day he will be playing at Porter-Gaud, too. As for Junior, he’s hoping to play college tennis one day.

Junior has graduated from Courting Kids to Family Circle Tennis Center’s junior academy, similarly to Mi’Kola Cooper.

But Cooper already has turned her Courting Kids start into a full tennis scholarship at Baltimore’s Morgan State.

Cooper came along at Courting Kids about the same time as Junior. She was always the most eager and focused player in the lines waiting to hit balls. While other kids sometimes jumped out of line as kids often do, Mi’Kola appeared to concentrate solely on being ready for her next chance to hit the ball.

The Family Circle Cup stepped in to partner with Courting Kids two years ago, providing extra resources that enabled the program to continue its growth. Again this year, Family Circle donated $50,000 in financial and material support to the program as its official Community Outreach Partner.

One of the first success stories of the program came 11 years ago when Vernita Ackerman transferred to Ashley Hall as an eighth-grader and played No. 1 for the Panthers throughout her years at the school.

Then there was Wendrah McCoy, who in 2003 won the USTA’s national NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay Contest. Others, including Mi’Kola Cooper and current School of Math and Science tennis player Ebony Fields, have won the Southern version of the Ashe contest. “We’ve had a Southern winner every year since, and they’ve all gone to the U.S. Open with a parent or guardian,” Jackson said.

(04/28/12)  Porter-Gaud Boys Tennis Wins State Title Over Hilton Head Christian
Porter-Gaud’s boys tennis team is back in the saddle again after one of the Cyclones’ longest state title dry spells in two decades.

Yes, two whole seasons.

For the 13th time in 18 seasons, the Cyclones (14-2) hoisted the state tennis title Friday afternoon in Columbia after outmaneuvering upstart Hilton Head Christian (8-4) in doubles to claim a 5-4 victory in the SCISA Class AAA state final.

Juniors Thomas Spratt and Conner Grady, and sophomore Seth Pinosky all went unbeaten for the day, each notching wins in singles and doubles to carry Tom Higgins to his sixth state championship in 10 years as the Cyclones’ head coach.

Although Porter-Gaud last won a state title in 2009, this was the fourth straight final for the Cyclones. Only one other time since 1995 had the Cyclones gone back-to-back seasons without winning a state championship.

Spratt used his 6-6 height to his advantage with net approaches in the upset of the day to defeat the Eagles’ Bucknell-bound Nick Bybel, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7, at No. 1 singles in the match that allowed Porter-Gaud to split the six singles matches. Pinosky and Grady won at Nos. 4 and 6 singles in straight sets.

The Drake brothers, Hampton and Charlie, gave third-seeded Hilton Head Christian hope with wins at Nos. 2 and 3 singles over the Cyclones’ Junior Duarte and Hunter Mitchell, and unbeaten Ben Likins got the other singles win for the Eagles at No. 5 over PG junior Payne Hoy.

Likins had played No. 1 for the Eagles in 2011 before the arrival of Bybel and the Drakes from Hilton Head Island’s training academies.

Higgins split his usual doubles teams, putting Spratt with Hoy at No. 2 doubles, and matching Pinosky and Grady at No. 3 for straight-set wins that dashed Hilton Head’s hopes early with a pair of one-sided second sets after 7-5 opening sets.

“Thomas was the difference today,” insisted Higgins, who had seen Spratt drop both regular-season matches against Bybel. “The difference was that Thomas was coming in and taking the short balls and doing something with them. He wasn’t going for outright winners, but hitting them to the corners, then sealing off the net and taking advantage of his height to hit winning volleys.

Spratt was coming off a win over Furman-bound Ben Horst of Hammond School in the state semifinals.

“I think Thomas has shown in consecutive wins over Division I players that he’s a Division I player, too,” Higgins said. “The difference the last couple of matches was that Thomas was taking advantage of his height to win points.”

As for splitting Spratt and Mitchell at No. 1 doubles and the Duarte/Pinosky duo at No. 2, Higgins said, “We had been practicing that. It was a gamble since we had won two of the three doubles down there (in a 5-4 PG win at Hilton Head Christian).”

But the former Eastern Kentucky head coach was happy that this time the decisive doubles match didn’t go to a third-set match tiebreaker against Hilton Head Christian. And it was even sweeter winning a state title as the fourth seed.


SINGLES: Thomas Spratt (PG) def. Nick Bybel, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7; Hampton Drake (HHC) def. Junior Duarte, 6-3, 6-4; Charlie Drake (HHC) def. Hunter Mitchell, 6-4, 6-1; Seth Pinosky (PG) def. Sam Trimble, 6-1, 6-0; Ben Likins (HHC) def. Payne Hoy, 6-1, 6-1; Conner Grady (PG) def. Alex Likins, 6-4, 6-3.

DOUBLES: Bybel/H. Drake (HHC) def. Mitchell/Duarte, 6-1, 6-1; Spratt/Hoy (PG) def. C. Drake/Trimble, 7-5, 6-2; Pinosky/Grady (PG) def. B. Likens/Joe Zeigler, 7-5, 6-0.

(04/27/12)  Duarte, Pinosky lead Porter-Gaud into SCISA championship against Hilton Head Christian
The arrival of Junior Duarte on the Porter-Gaud tennis team has had a larger impact on the Cyclones’ season than you might expect from a 5-3, 125-pound freshman.

But then, Duarte’s doubles partner is sophomore Seth Pinosky, who is about the same size as Duarte.

These two “Mighty Mites” are expected to have a giant presence in today’s 2 p.m. SCISA Class AAA state final at the Hammond School in Columbia that will pit Porter-Gaud (13-2) against Region III rival Hilton Head Christian (8-3).

Duarte and Pinosky turned the tables on Hilton Head Christian’s No. 2 doubles team in the last regular season meeting between the teams, and that helped the Cyclones post a 5-4 victory. Pinosky also won at No. 4 singles in the last meeting as well as earlier in Porter-Gaud’s 5-3 season-opening loss to Hilton Head Christian.

Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins is hoping for more of the same today in Columbia, the site of the Cyclones’ 5-1 win over Hammond School in Wednesday’s semifinals. Hilton Head Christian avenged a pair of regular season losses to Hilton Head Prep with a 5-3 win in the other state semifinal.

Duarte got his start in tennis in the City of Charleston’s Courting Kids program, and played tennis for West Ashley High prior to transferring to Porter-Gaud this school year. Duarte was born in the United States, but his father grew up in Mexico.

“Junior’s a real fighter,” Higgins said. “He’s in every point, and you’re going to have to beat him. Even when he loses a match, it’ll last a couple of hours. He gives a consistent performance every match.”

Duarte lost both regular season meetings against Hilton Head Christian standout Hampton Drake at No. 2 singles, but he closed to 6-3, 6-4 in the second match. A few more points in critical situations today, and Duarte might pull another reversal.

“Junior is improving every time he goes out,” Higgins said.

Duarte, who trained initially under Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson, has gained hope in the last few years of one day playing college tennis. He now trains at Family Circle Tennis Center.

“I like it at Porter-Gaud,” Duarte said Wednesday after the Cyclones’ semifinal success. “West Ashley wasn’t as good as this team, and the competition is always good here.

“I would like to play college tennis … tennis is my favorite sport,” said the John’s Island resident, whose younger brother and sister both participate in Courting Kids and attend the St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science.

(04/27/12)  Palmetto Christian wins SCISA Class A state tennis title
Palmetto Christian Academy’s boys put together an amazing comeback Thursday afternoon in Orangeburg to cap the Eagles’ perch in SCISA Class A with a sixth state tennis title in seven years.

With the Eagles down 4-2 after singles, Palmetto Christian coach Dewey Caulder recognized that the only chance his team had of winning was to split his doubles teams to take advantage of the dominant play of sophomore Austin Heinz and senior Addison King. The Eagles (6-2) responded with a sweep of doubles and a 5-4 victory over defending state champion Aiken Prep’s Knights (6-1).

Aiken Prep had snapped Palmetto Christian’s string of five consecutive boys state titles and 11 overall state tennis titles by the girls and boys teams in last year’s state final. Palmetto Christian will move up to Class AA in the new school year.

“After singles, I told them (team members) that the only chance we had of winning was to split the doubles,” Caulder said.

And Nos. 1 and 2 stars Heinz and King followed up dominant wins in singles with easy victories in the top two doubles matches. “When Austin and Trey (freshman No. 5 Trey Goolsby) won easily (6-1, 6-0 against Aiken’s Nos. 1 and 2 players) at No. 1 doubles, it gave confidence to the whole team,” Caulder said. “They said, ‘We can do it.’ ”

King and freshman No. 4 Chase Shinakonis then came through at No. 2 doubles against Aiken’s Nos. 3 and 4 players to level the overall match at 4-4.

That left seniors (No. 3) Billy Perkins and (No. 6) Micah Vasko still on the court locked in a tight second set in No. 3 doubles. Vasko, the Eagles’ scrappy and athletic region basketball player of the year, held service at 40-30 to close out a 6-1, 7-5 win over Aiken’s No. 6 Jewel Fernando and doubles specialist Alex Steiner.

As it turned out, the win by Perkins and Vasko was the only one that Heinz and King didn’t claim. Heinz and King yielded a total of 12 games in their four total victories against Aiken Prep.

“This was a gratifying win,” Caulder said. “The senior membership stepped up . . . everyone stepped up.”


SINGLES: Austin Heinz (PCA) def. Alex Sklizovic, 6-3, 6-0; Addison King (PCA) def. Preston Tiffany, 6-0, 6-2; Jesse Morton (AP) def. Billy Perkins, 7-5, 6-4; Aaron Sklizovic (AP) def. Chase Shinakonis, 6-1, 6-3; Zack Harrington (AP) def. Trey Goolsby, 6-0, 6-2; Jewel Fernando (AP) def. Micah Vasko, 7-5, 6-1.

DOUBLES: Heinz/Goolsby (PCA) def. Alex Sklizovic/Tiffany, 6-1, 6-0; King/Shinakonis (PCA) def. Morton/Aaron Sklizovic, 6-3, 6-3; Perkins/Vasko (PCA) def. Fernando/Alex Steiner, 6-1, 7-5.

(04/26/12)  Porter-Gaud boys advance to SCISA Class AAA state tennis championship

The preliminaries are over for Porter-Gaud’s boys tennis team. The Cyclones’ 5-1 romp past top-seeded Hammond School on Wednesday afternoon in Columbia was just another stepping stone en route to Friday’s SCISA Class AAA state championship match.

The only surprise is that the title match will not be against two-time defending state champion Hilton Head Prep, but instead third-seeded Hilton Head Christian. The No. 3 team from SCISA Region III-AAA, Hilton Head Christian avenged a pair of regular season losses to No. 2 seed and region champion Hilton Head Prep with a 5-3 win Wednesday.

Hilton Head Prep had played in five straight state finals.

Friday’s Porter-Gaud-Hilton Head Christian final will be played at a neutral site still to be determined.

The fourth-seeded Cyclones (12-2) were far superior to their Columbia opponent in the the semifinals. It was such a blowout for coach Tom Higgins’ team that freshman Junior Duarte, senior Hunter Mitchell and sophomore Seth Pinosky didn’t yield a game to Hammond (11-2) in the Nos. 2-4 singles positions and the Cyclones didn’t need to play doubles in wrapping up a fourth consecutive berth in the state finals.

Junior Conner Grady collected the other victory for the Cyclones at No. 6 singles, while junior Payne Hoy suffered a 13-11 loss in a third-set match tiebreaker at No. 5.

“We played pretty well. We were ready to play,” Higgins said. “I was real impressed with the way our kids focused and concentrated.”

Higgins was particularly impressed with the play of big-hitting Porter-Gaud junior Thomas Spratt, who posted a convincing 6-4, 6-3 win over Furman-bound Hammond senior Ben Horst at No. 1 singles.

Surprisingly looking ahead to a state final against a team other than Hilton Head Prep, Higgins said, “We are not going to play on clay, so we’re in pretty good shape.” The Cyclones split a pair of matches against Hilton Head Christian on hard courts, but lost last week to Hilton Head Prep on clay.

SINGLES: Thomas Spratt (PG) def. Ben Horst, 6-4, 6-3; Junior Duarte (PG) def. Miles Reese, 6-0, 6-0; Hunter Mitchell (PG) def. Ryan Dasputpa, 6-0, 6-0; Seth Pinosky (PG) def. Steven Lynch, 6-0, 6-0; Ellis Reese (H) def. Payne Hoy, 6-3, 1-6, 13-11; Conner Grady (PG) def. Albert Kitchens, 6-2, 6-2.

(04/22/12) SCISA boys tennis playoffs seedings set
The seedings might not appear to favor Porter-Gaud, but the brackets are all that matter as far as the SCISA Class AAA boys state tennis playoffs are concerned.

“I believe we have a good draw,” Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said Saturday.

The Cyclones (11-2), seeded fourth despite splitting with Region III powers Hilton Head Prep (No. 2) and Hilton Head Christian (No. 3), will open the playoffs on Monday at the Porter-Gaud courts against No. 5 seed Wilson Hall (9-2) of Sumter. A win there would send Porter-Gaud to Columbia on Wednesday to take on top seed Hammond School (11-1) in the state semifinals.

Although Hammond is the No. 1 seed, Porter-Gaud would be a heavy favorite against Hammond, which appears to have benefited from playing in a weaker region.

It’s not surprising that Pinewood Prep coach Bryant McKee has a different opinion, considering the Panthers were left out of the six-team playoffs as a result of two teams from each of SCISA Class AAA’s three regions automatically qualifying for the state playoffs.

Pinewood Prep (7-6) scored a pair of convincing wins over Wilson Hall this season. The Panthers downed Wilson Hall, 8-1, then took five of the six singles positions in the other match before McKee inserted reserves in doubles to complete a 6-3 win. But Pinewood Prep finished 0-6 in powerful Region III.

Before Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep took ownership of the state final in 2009, Pinewood Prep had played in three straight state finals, winning in 2007.

As a result of Wilson Hall being the only tennis-playing school from Region II, three of the six teams awarded berths in the playoffs are from Region III. Once-beaten two-time defending state champion Hilton Head Prep leads the way as the No. 2 seed.

Hilton Head Prep, which has played in five consecutive state finals, has a bye on Monday and will serve as a state semifinal host on Wednesday against Hilton Head Christian (6-3). Ben Lippen already has forfeited its first-round match to Hilton Head Christian.

The two Wednesday winners are scheduled to square off on Friday at a neutral site for the state championship. Hilton Head Prep and Porter-Gaud were placed in opposite halves of the draw as the top two finishers in Region III.

PCA plays Tuesday

Palmetto Christian Academy faces Myrtle Beach’s Christian Academy on Tuesday at a neutral site in the Class A state playoffs. The winner will advance to Thursday’s state final against either Lowcountry Prep of Pawley’s Island or defending state champion Aiken Prep.

In Class AA, Beaufort Academy faces No. 5 Marlboro in Sumter on Monday in the first round, with the winner advancing to face No. 1 Spartanburg Day in Wednesday’s state semifinals. Williamsburg will play at Florence’s Trinity Collegiate on Wednesday.

(04/08/12)  JEFF HARTSELL: Serena ready for Roddick?
How confident did Serena Williams feel about her game Saturday? Confident enough to issue a "challenge" to her good friend, men's tennis star Andy Roddick.

"I think it was just one of those days that I could have done anything against anybody," Serena said after her 6-1, 6-1 whitewash of fifth-ranked Samantha Stosur. "Maybe I could have played Andy again today and beat him.

"So, danger. I'm definitely ready for him now. Today. Just today."

Serena dissolved in laughter at the thought, but Serena/Roddick could make a formidable mixed doubles team at this summer's London Olympics.

The pair entered the mixed doubles at the Australian Open in January before Roddick injured his hamstring. Asked in March about playing with Serena at the Olympics, Roddick showed that he knows who's in charge.

"You have to ask the boss lady," he said.

Earlier this week, Serena said Roddick was among her potential partners.

"Whoever can get me the best medal," she said.

Peaking too soon?

Despite her great play Saturday, Serena did sound a little worried about peaking before the French Open later this summer.

"I struggled in the beginning of this year to get to this point," said Serena, who won her only French title in 2002, but hasn't made the semis at Roland Garros since 2003. "I want to keep it up. Obviously, this is just the beginning of the clay court season. I'm trying to play like this at the end of the clay court season. So, we'll see."

Positive spin
Samantha Stosur's topspin failed miserably against Serena on Saturday, but she tried to spin her week at the Family Circle Cup in a positive direction.

"I'm very pleased with the week I've had," she said. "My first three matches were very good, and I was very happy with the way I played against Venus (Williams).

"And to be honest with you, I don't think I did that much wrong today (against Serena). I just got beat."

Stosur, the 2010 Family Circle Cup champ, had to play the equivalent of two matches on Friday, finishing off her rain-delayed third-round match before going three sets to get past Venus.

"Still lots of positives to be taken out of the week," she said.

TV time
Today's finals are set for ?1-3 p.m. on ESPN2, with Cliff Drysdale.

8,714 people attended the semifinals day action and 4,254 attended at night on Saturday.

(04/08/12)  Serena Williams is still tennis’ Superwoman
Somewhere out in the broad world of tennis, top-ranked Victoria Azarenka must be trembling in her shoes.

News travels fast, thanks to ESPN2.

Serena Williams is back.
Not just part of the way, all of the way.

The ruins of Samantha Stosur and Lucie Safarova lay in her trampled path, the result of two of the best played matches in succession anyone can remember.

Perhaps Safarova was lucky just to be in the final, and the world’s 26th-ranked player was just a one-week wonder.

But Sunday’s final of the Family Circle Cup shows just what can happen when a careertop 50 performer catches a great of the game when she’s hot.
No surprises

Is anyone really surprised at what happened on the newly named Billie Jean King Court?

No, not after what Serena did to reigning U.S. Open champion Stosur a day earlier in the semifinals.

Serena didn’t just dominate Stosur and Safarova, limiting them to a total of three games. She practically humiliated them, making both of them look like near novices.

It wasn’t that Serena just won the big points. She won just about all of the points, despite at times appearing to play in second gear. Serena made it look so easy that fans must have wondered just how good Serena can be when she shifts into high gear.

When Serena finished off a love first game against Safarovawith a 107 mph. ace, the feelingin the air was that this was going to be another mismatch. That possibility was validated a few minutes later when Williams followed up a double-fault that gave Safarova a break point with a pair of aces. The rout was on, 3-0 soon to be 6-0, 6-1.
Serena never fitter

Serena has never looked fitter, more focused or more dominant, not even when she was winning four consecutive Grand Slam titles.

She nailed blazing forehands and backhands to the deepest corners of the court. She served big, and consistently. She played near flawlessly, committing only eight unforced errors.

Safarova simply couldn’t hurt Serena. The 25-year-old Czech left-hander watched helplessly as many of Serena’s 27 winners caught Safarova half a baseline away.

Serena is back with a vengeance, far from just another 10th-ranked 30-year-old. She’s still the Superwoman of tennis.

Serena’s performances here should give even more fresh hope to her nearly 32-year-old sister, Venus. Until she ran into Stosur on Friday, Venus looked almost as good as Serena.

Could there still be more Grand Slam final confrontations for them?

(04/08/12)  TENNISWORLD.com:  Serena in Four Parts
by Bobby Chintapalli
CHARLESTON – Chances are, you saw what Serena Williams did yesterday in the semifinals of the Family Circle Cup or at least heard about it. A player who knows how to dominate did just that and did it about as well as she ever has – she said so herself – in routing reigning U.S. Open winner and former Family Circle Cup champ Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-1 to reach the final, where today she’ll face Lucie Safarova and try to win her 40th singles title in the tournament’s 40th year. Here are some odds and ends about that match and about Serena from close enough to touch the green clay under her feet and watch it fly off the racquet in her hands.

Watching Serena

You could hardly hear Serena, but you could certainly feel her. It felt like she was everywhere.

She spent so much time close to the baseline, or inside it, and threw herself into her groundstrokes with such force that she always appeared to be moving forward into her court, really making it her own. At the same time Serena hit her balls with a fearsome combination of depth and pace that pushed Stosur back and away from her own baseline and her own court, claiming that side too.

But much of the noise was missing. There was none of that grunting you sometimes hear from Serena or, say, Svetlana Kuznetsova, the kind that sounds so loud and bizarre, you suspect it’s fake or just useless. Today there was a workmanlike exhalation, time and again. It was a sound without frills but with purpose. You noticed it because Stosur herself is so quiet, perhaps the quietest top player, and because of the effect of those exhalations, all those winners, all the shots Stosur could only watch.

This almost silent, but in some ways deafening, sound was the sound of Serena the mad genius at work, and it’s the first thing I noticed when I walked into the stadium three games into the match.

As I left the pressroom, which is less than a minute from the media tables situated maybe 12 rows behind the chair umpire, a volunteer who was watching Serena on TV said what everyone was thinking, “She’s not holding back nothin’!”

Playing Serena

Which is more or less what Stosur said when she came into post-match press. For a top player who came directly from the stadium after a 58-minute loss that felt as one-sided as the score, she didn’t look too disappointed.

Part of that is who she is – a stable, mature woman and player. (It doesn’t always come naturally to her, she said, but that for the last few months it has.) Part of that is who she played – Serena at or near her best.

“I thought she played very, very well today,” said Stosur, who felt Serena returned well, positioned herself on the baseline, hit deep balls and generally played aggressive tennis. “[It] didn't really seem to matter what I did. She came out with the goods every time.”

Transcribing Serena

Stosur’s words – and most of the words used as the basis for stories coming out of this tournament – come from transcripts produced by tournament transcriptionist Kelly McKee, who’s worked at the Family Circle Cup for 17 straight years, and who I also mention in Friday’s post.

She said Serena, like her sister, Venus Williams, is easy to transcribe, because she doesn’t talk fast. Marion Bartoli, on the other hand, is hard because the words pour out faster and “roll together.” (McKee said Lindsay Davenport was the fastest-talking tennis player she transcribed.)

The challenge with Serena, it turns out, isn’t about the answering but the asking. “The questions come quicker, and there are just more of them,” said McKee.

But that also means more answers and McKee, who’s got a job at hand and can transcribe up to 240 words a minute, sometimes enjoys hearing the answers that come out of Serena’s mouth and, within hours or sometimes minutes, end up on websites everywhere.

Like the answer when Serena was asked if she was in the zone yesterday and cracked herself up as she brought Andy Roddick into the interview room again: “Yeah… I could have done anything today against anybody. Maybe I could have played Andy again today and beat him. So danger. I’m definitely ready for him now. Today. Just today.”

Or the first answer, from a player who gives herself bad grades even after winning Grand Slam semifinals, in response to whether yesterday’s match was about as good as she’s ever played: “Yeah, I have to say this is probably the best match I’ve played in my career either in a long time or it’s up there in the Top 5. Mainly because Sam is such an excellent clay court player.”

And of course the answer she ended with sentences suitable for a new line of Home Shopping Network motivational posters: “Go big or go home. Life.”

Photographing Serena

Serena’s dominant performance yesterday was good news for Serena but not tournament photographer Alice Keeney.

“You know, you tend to get more emotion when the match is a little bit tighter,” said Keeney, who has photographed the Family Circle Cup for the past six years, three of them for the tournament itself and three for the Associated Press. “You’ll get some real big fistpumps that Serena will do or she yells. But she didn’t do a ton of that today.”

But Keeney has been pleasantly surprised about one thing: “Interestingly I feel like Serena’s been coming to the net a lot this year, and it has been fun. When they come to the net it does make for a different look. You have to make adjustments, but it’s fun, it’s a challenge.”

Still Keeney thinks Stosur’s easier to photograph, as she and a fellow photographer discussed yesterday: “The timing for whatever reason lines up or she hangs and holds the racquet up high for a little bit longer. Serena’s a little bit more difficult – just the way she lines up for her forehand or her backhand or whatever it is.”

But the two photographers’ benches, situated on the green clay a few feet from the net post across from the chair umpire, are as full as they ever are when Serena’s playing. By 6-1, 5-0 yesterday 12 photographers sat there with their cameras out. Stosur was serving, yet 11 photographers had their cameras aimed at Serena. By contrast out on the benches for the end of Safarova’s match were seven photographers.

Not that Safarova noticed. She doesn’t see or hear the photographers, she said afterwards and added, “When I go on the court I concentrate. My thoughts are what I should do, what is the game plan, how the game develops. So I’m not really paying attention around me.”

And what about Serena, who was all business and silence out there today – does she notice those folks clicking away? “Actually I do and I shouldn’t,” she said. “Very rare but like sometimes when you’re serving, your eye line is just kind of there, so naturally you see them. But I don’t necessarily focus on them.”

But back to the other side of the lens and Keeney. (Both of the pictures in this post are hers.) For the final she’d prefer that Safarova didn’t wear her yellow visor, which she says has been casting a “sort of yellow tone on her face.” And perhaps it makes it harder to capture something Keeney, as a photographer, loves about Safarova. “She has the greatest expression with her eyes,” said Keeney. “They get really big when the ball is coming. And they’re just such a bright color that they really light up in the sun.”

As from Serena the photographer wants more fistpumps. Which means, of course, that she’s hoping for a close final: “Yeah, you know that draws out the emotion – it really does.”

(04/07/12)  WTA Tour's trip down memory lane
What a trip down memory lane of women's professional tennis, from the early 1970s at Hilton Head Island, to Houston's Astrodome, to Friday night at Charleston Place. The "Original 9" gala had it all.

Billie Jean King and her crew of WTA Tour originals were there all the way. Friday night was as special as it gets in the history of women's tennis, with King and her original cast on the stage with the likes of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Martina Hingis, Rennae Stubbs and Venus Williams chatting back and forth for a ballroom-filled crowd.

With Pam Shriver superbly handling most of the narrating, the women talked about what it was like to be on the global front of women's tennis, the difficulties and the fun they had getting to this single stage.

The evening brought back memories of the early Family Circle Cups and the King-Bobby Riggs Battle of the Sexes. The Battle of the Sexes probably was the biggest single event in women's tennis history. It played before the largest tennis crowd ever as Women's Libbers stood in the Astrodome's aisles and mezzanines.

I happened to be in Houston on that Thursday night, Sept. 20, 1973, to cover the college football game between South Carolina and Houston the next night. I'm glad I didn't miss the preliminary, or Hilton Head in the early days ... or the special Friday night in Charleston.

Power of Serena

The easy way to describe Serena Williams' 6-1, 6-1 domination of Samantha Stosur in Saturday's semifinals would be to say Stosur was still feeling the effects of having played five sets of tennis a day earlier. But that would be unfair to Serena.

Serena played 59 minutes of highlight reel tennis. She served, returned serve and hit a barrage of winners from both sides. Even a fully recovered Stosur probably would have had trouble with Serena's game this time. Serena was that perfect and dominant.

You might call it "The Power of Serena." When she is consistently hitting 110 mph serves to the corners, there isn't much anyone can do about it. If you're having a hangover from too many hours on the court the previous day, the task becomes even more difficult.

Williams is simply playing amazing tennis. If she is going to make another serious run at a few more major titles, this might be the year. She looks as fit as she has in recent years.

Another Serena day

It would be a major upset if Williams fails to win her second Family Circle Cup title. Lucie Safarova should be no match for Serena in today's final. If Safarova happens to push Williams to the limit, Serena won't be able to blame it on too much time on the court. She's been nearly flawless all week.

The fact Safarova is in the final shouldn't be too big of a surprise. After all, the 25-year-old left-hander is ranked 25th in the world. But even more so because she comes from the top half of the draw. With ?Venus and Serena, and Stosur in the bottom half, and Agnieszka Radwanska withdrawn, the bottom half has received most of the attention.

What can you say about Polona Hercog's whitewashing by Safarova? Hercog may be a comer on the tour, but her performance on Saturday was a bit humiliating. The tall, thin Slovenian couldn't do anything right.

Safarova had a lot to do with that, but she's probably lucky she took Serena's spot at the bottom of the top half of the draw during the draw-switching in the aftermath of Radwanska's withdrawal.

(04/07/12)  TENNIS.com: BOBBY CHINTAPALLI: Playing Sisters
CHARLESTON — Three women made the cover of yesterday’s local newspaper, The Post and Courier. The picture of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was just a little bigger than that of Venus Williams and Serena Williams. But the sisters’ pictures also occupied two-thirds of the Sports section cover; they dwarfed an image of golfer Lee Westwood, who was leading at Augusta National, a golf club that did not allow African-Americans to join until 1990 and still does not accept women as members.

The Family Circle Cup, of course, has a long history with the women of professional tennis. And this week Charleston has been rooting for the Williams sisters in particular, hoping to be the setting for their 24th tour match against each other (and their first since 2009).

But a rematch won’t happen yet. At last’s night awe-inspiring, star-studded event honoring the Original 9, the nine founders of women’s professional tennis, Venus took the blame for that: “If I’d have found a way to win my match, I’d be playing her tomorrow.”

She lost to No. 2 seed Sam Stosur 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals yesterday, and it was at 2-2 in the third set that unseeded Venus lost her away. She hit a forehand into the net to get broken, and that was the beginning of the end. On a day that was surprisingly cold and windy, with sunshine coming and going, the omniscient DJ played ‘Here Comes the Sun’ at the changeover. Venus won just one game after that.

Which meant Stosur won her first match against Venus in five attempts. Stosur moved well and used slice effectively, but she attributed her success to serving better and returning more aggressively in the final set.

“[When] you’re hitting second serves against someone like Venus, it’s pretty dangerous territory to live in,” she said. “So I think that was an important turnaround from the second to the third set when I started serving better and kept going for it.”

Venus said her own errors didn’t help but attributed the result mostly to Stosur playing aggressive tennis and playing it well. It took her a set and a half to adjust to Stosur’s game.

“I just haven’t played her in a long time, and she plays a lot differently than everyone, so I needed some time to adjust,” Venus said. “I don’t mind power.  Every game is so different, I enjoy the challenge of it, but obviously she plays a power game well and executes it well, so that gives her a lot of advantages.”

At her post-match press conference Venus talked more openly than she sometimes does about living with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome. (I wasn’t at the post-match press conference, because I left for the Original 9 event. However, read this transcript if you get the chance.) She talked about having to be more realistic about what she can and can’t do, about being frustrated when she’s too tired to train, and not knowing when those days will happen, but also about forgiving herself more and about how so much these days “is like icing on the cake.”


Next up for Stosur is the other sister, Serena. Here’s information on that match, mostly from the WTA match notes and some taken directly.

*Their head-to-head record is 5-3 in Serena’s favor.

*Both are former Family Circle Cup winners. (Serena won the title in 2008, and Stosur won it in 2010.)

*If Serena wins today she’ll cross the $35 million career prize money mark.

*Serena has won her last 5 matches against Top 5 players.

*In her career Serena has won more matches than the other semifinalists (509) and lost fewer (106).

*In her career Serena has earned more in prize money than the other three semifinalists combined (just under $35 million for Serena compared to $13.9 million for the others.)

*Serena will likely move up to No. 9 in the rankings, while Stosur can’t improve her ranking this week.

*If Stosur wins she’ll become the eighth player to beat both Williams sisters at the same tournament. The others are Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters (twice), Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic.

(04/06/12)  TENNIS.com: BOBBY CHINTAPALLI: Winning Points, Making Points
CHARLESTON – The press conference room at the Family Circle Cup is where, in 2004, Martina Navratilova took issue with George W. Bush’s position on gay rights and then called him “the worst environmental president of the history.” And where, after winning the title in 2007 and as 40 mph winds shook all the fixtures, Jelena Jankovic stopped mid-sentence to ask if it was dangerous to continue. (It took little persuasion to convince her it was safe to keep talking.)

The room is nothing fancy. Occupying a quarter of the media center, which is essentially a big white tent right next to stadium court, it’s separated from the side with tables for media, tournament staff and tour officials by a black curtain. It has a small stage with a table and chair for players and holds about 35 chairs for everyone else. It’s where players do post-match press conferences and where they might, or might not, shed light on the things they do on court and the people they are off it.

Here are notes on a few of the quarterfinalists who made their way in and out of the room yesterday.

Vera Zvonareva (will play Lucie Safarova)

* Length of interview: 10 minutes
* Words in transcript: 1,369
* Media people in attendance: 6

At the pro level most tennis players are likely perfectionists, but in Vera Zvonareva’s case the unwillingness to accept anything but her best extends to press conferences too.

The things she does well on court – the focus, the point construction – show themselves in her responses. And the things she doesn’t do so well – her over-the-top, if sometimes under-the-towel, emotions – disappear. She’s calm and steady in interview rooms, even when asked, yet again, about melting down on court.

Zvonareva’s not a big smiler and forget guffawing, but she’ll give you a good answer or at least give it her best shot. Even when you don’t agree – like when she says, “If you’re not happy about yourself, sometimes you need to break the racquet and move on” – you suspect she believes it.

She’s analytical. Zvonareva, who doesn’t have a coach and isn’t in a hurry to find one, talked about the keys to a good coaching relationship. She cited professional skills, belief and compatible personalities. What makes the response Zvonarevan is that it was numbered. It takes a certain bent of mind to say “first,” “second,” “third.”

Her super-rational answers are at odds with her sometimes odd on-court behavior. In the tight last game of her 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win against unseeded Stefanie Voegele in the third round today, the No. 4 seed seemed annoyed at people cheering her on, as if they were ruining some reverie. She pulled her visor so low – to keep the emotions in and the world out, it seemed – you wondered what she could see. Maybe it all comes from an inside overflowing with thoughts, and maybe that’s what makes her a good interviewee.

Who knows how to reconcile the conscientious answerer with the wicker kicker? Zvonareva’s an enigma. She looked near tears by the end of her match today, but not a full hour later said the most joyful thing I heard all day. Asked what makes tennis the world’s most successful women’s sport, a player who can look miserable on court flashed one of her few smiles – it was big and heartfelt – and started with this sentence, made more powerful for its simplicity: “I really love tennis.”

As with the broken racquets and exhaustive responses, she couldn’t hold it in.

Sabine Lisicki (will play Serena Williams)

* Length of interview: 7 minutes
* Words in transcript: 1,090
* Media people in attendance: 7

Lisicki has a fierce game but is light and airy in press. Yesterday she came in straight from her 7-5, 6-4 win over Yaroslava Shvedova. She wore her tennis kit, even her visor, and a towel across her shoulders.

Lisicki said she didn’t always like clay and made it a point to mention – and to lightheartedly mention that she mentioned – that the Olympics will be on grass (a surface on which she does well).

Her big laugh made its first appearance when asked about Serena Williams, her next opponent. Asked about their match at Stanford, where Lisicki lost 6-1, 6-2, she said, “It can only get better.” Then she laughed a good, long while.

Lisicki can’t always hold back the tears when a match has gone wrong, but her enthusiasm is hard to miss after wins. One person who notices is tournament transcriptionist Kelly McKee, who’s been working at this tournament for 17 straight years. (She started in 1996, when the tournament was on Hilton Head Island and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario won the singles and doubles titles.) “She just seems to get excited more than other players,” McKee said. “I just think she’s cute. She smiles a lot.”

Stay tuned for Lisicki’s reaction after her next match, where as she put it, “there will be two aggressive players out there.”

Serena Williams (will play Sabine Lisicki)

* Length of interview: 7 minutes
* Words in transcript: 1,035
* Media people in attendance: 20

Clad in a long-sleeve Nike top on a sweat-inducing Charleston afternoon, Serena Williams was hot and cold at the start of her match and also at the end.

The best server of her generation started her 6-2, 6-2 win over Marina Erackovic with a double fault only to win the game on an ace. Then in the last game she impressed the packed stadium court crowd with a service return winner off an 83 mph serve followed by one off a 98 mph serve to set up match point. She botched that first match point with a backhand just long, only to set up a second on a forehand winner with enough oomph that a fan yelled, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Serena erased her second match point with a backhand return just wide. After starting the match with her own double fault, she eventually won it on her opponent’s double fault.

Whether things are up or down it’s typically Serena who determines how they’ll go – if Serena says she’s worried about her side of the court, it’s fact, not platitude. It’s no different in interviews and press conferences. When she laughs, the room laughs with her. When she’s bored or moody or elsewhere, she sucks the air right out of the room.

As usual her post-match press conference yesterday, the most packed one I saw in my day and a half here, was on her racquet.

When a writer started asking about the French Open, Serena didn’t let him get past the part about not reaching a final since she won it (in 2002, at the start of the Serena Slam). She interjected sternly with, “But I won it, so.” After the writer got in a few more words she added, “A win. That’s all that matters. It’s a lot more than a lot of people can say.”

If anyone in the room was thinking about the next question or anything else, they stopped and paid attention to right here, right now. This was Serena, or “The Serena” as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova might say, and she was serious.

Until she wasn’t, because it was also Serena who had the room erupting in laughter one question later. As she made her way out of the stadium after her match, she stopped to sign autographs and give easy high-fives to a half dozen kids. When one asked for her wristband, Serena gave it to her. The kids were delighted and showed the sweaty souvenir to everyone they could before one of the moms took it away and put it in a Ziplock bag. Told about this and asked the craziest thing she’s been asked for after a match, Serena didn’t think long.

“Well, besides the obvious, yeah,” she said, cracking herself up and saying little else but making it clear she didn’t mean anything as pure as daisies and sunshine. “Thank you. I think we’ll end on that.”

(04/05/12)  TENNIS.com: BOBBY CHINTAPALLI: Making Her Own Luck
CHARLESTON – It was the first point of a second-round match, a high-value one between two former No. 1s and two former champions here at the Family Circle Cup. Venus Williams stood at the baseline and prepared to serve, and Jelena Jankovic waited, not far behind the baseline herself.

It was dead silent, and then someone sneezed.

Perhaps no one else in the intimate Charleston stadium last night thought much of it, but the start was what folks in the part of India my family is from would call “inauspicious.”

It’s a superstition around those parts – you don’t start something important right after someone sneezes. If you hear an “achhooo” as you’re about to embark on a big trip, you might sit down, read the paper and have a quick snack before returning to the matter at hand. But Venus didn’t know all that. And she couldn’t have sat down, read the paper, and consumed a snack had she wanted to.

So she started badly. On the first point Venus made an error, hitting a ball way wide. On the second Jankovic hit a service return winner, off a 114 mph serve. On the third Jankovic hit another winner but mostly because Venus didn’t even try. My notes don’t say what happened on the fourth point, but Venus lost it and she lost the game at love.

That start wouldn’t have surprised my relatives, and it didn’t surprise either player too much, based on what they said in their press conferences after Venus rebounded to win, 7-5, 6-0.

“It (the slow start) didn’t (surprise me)  because I think last time we played with each other I won 6-0, 6-1 in Rome in the quarterfinals” said Jankovic, who came to the interview straight from the stadium and with a towel draped around her shoulders. “So maybe also that stays in your mind and stays in your head. And. . .you want to see how things go, and maybe that’s what played a part, but I cannot talk on her behalf. You have to ask her that.”

I also broached the subject with Venus 45 minutes later, when she arrived to do press wearing black-blue sweats and a black tank top, looking, as one besotted fan remarked, "long and lean." She said her troubles at the start of the match had to do with her desire to conserve her resources.  “Going into every match I always think how much energy can I save, and then when I start losing, then I say, okay, I have to spend... But it’s very hard to change that mentality because there’s nothing worse than nothing left and it’s a terrible feeling. So I’m still trying to figure out ways to psych myself out not to think that way, but I haven’t found it yet.”

In tennis, though, it’s not how you start that counts - it's how you finish. You’ve heard it before. And you’ve seen Daniela Hantuchova up 6-0, 2-0 in a Grand Slam semifinal only to see her opponent Ana Ivanovic go on to play the final.

Yesterday it was Jankovic’s turn to show you can get a good start and muck it up. You could see it from one game to the next after that quick start. Even from one serve to the next. Down set point at 5-6 in the first set, she served a ball that was called out but was overruled by chair umpire Kader Nouni. She then served another first serve, which was out. On her second serve (her third in all) she served a ball that was called good but was again overruled by the chair umpire. This time Nouni said, in his baritone voice, “fault.” Jankovic lost the first set on a double fault.

She didn’t win another game.

It was partly that her level dropped, especially on her serve. (She served five double faults in all.) It was mostly that Venus’s groundstrokes got bigger, her net approaches more frequent and often likely to end with drive-volley winners as fans screamed, "kill it!," and her serves more effective (she served all three of her aces in the second set, and her serves started reaching 120 mph).

Venus said later she wished she “could play like that every set.”

Asked about her backhand winner on match point she said, “I thought it was going out. It felt like it wasn’t going to land, but the luck was on my side.”

My relatives might disagree about the luck part – someone sneezed at the start! They might say, as many of her fans might in this stage of her career and after all she’s been through, that Venus Williams made her own luck.

(04/03/12)  JEFF HARTSELL: Ga. woman is Cup's millionth fan
The Family Circle Cup on Monday welcomed Lisa Ha of Smyrna, Ga., as the millionth fan to attend the tennis tournament since its move to Charleston in 2001. "I had no idea," Ha said. "I came through (the gates) and they told me to get out of line. I thought I was in the wrong line. Then I saw balloons and a big check for $5,000. I knew it was something out of the ordinary."

The $5,000 check was for a gift package that includes box seats, concessions, valet parking, ?tennis lessons, a shopping spree for souvenirs and an invitation to a party for the players.

"I guess we will have to go out and buy some clothes," Ha said with a laugh when she found out about the party. "I'm pretty excited. I am a little overwhelmed, actually."

Ha was in Charleston with her family: husband Tony and children Kile (6) and Sarah (3).

The family planned to attend only Monday's session but now have tickets for the entire tournament. They had grounds passes for Monday's play but were rewarded with front-row seats in Family Circle Cup Stadium.

"It couldn't have worked out better," said Bob Moran, the general manager of the Family Circle Cup. "Here we have a family from another state, an avid tennis family. The parents love tennis and have passed that love onto their children."

The Family Circle Cup attracted 987,674 fans heading in to this year's event. Tournament officials scanned patron tickets as they entered the facility and utilized real-time electronic tracking/counting to ensure the proper identification of the millionth fan.

"We've been in Charleston 12 years, and it's been a great run." Moran said. "This tells us how strong the Family Circle Cup is, and that the fans continue to embrace the event."

Youth program 'cool'

Serena Williams learned to play tennis on the courts of Compton, Calif., returning balls hit to her by her father, Richard.

"I'm old school, so I learned to play with a regular racquet, regular courts, regular balls," said Williams, the 13-time Grand Slam champion who is playing in the Family Circle Cup this week on Daniel Island.

The old-school method certainly worked for Serena, who has won almost $35 million in her career, including the 2008 Family Circle Cup title. But the world's No. 11 player said Monday she's curious to see how the U.S. Tennis Association's new Ten and Under Tennis program works.

The TAUT program scales down tennis for kids under 10, with smaller racquets and courts and low-pressure balls. It's part of the USTA's effort to boost American tennis. ?Currently, Serena is the only American woman ranked in the top 30, and one of only two in the top 50.

Locally, the Tri-County ?Elementary and Middle School tennis league uses the TAUT format for younger kids.

"I don't think this is a bad thing," said Serena, who makes her 2012 Family Cup debut ?tonight against 2011 finalist Elena Vesnina. "I think it's kind of cool. But eventually, you have to move up to regular tennis."

TAUT, adopted by the USTA in January, has met with some resistance from parents and pros, but Serena said proof of the program's success will come in 10 or 12 years.

"It's going to be really cool in 10 or 12 years to see who all is doing amazing from that," she said.

"It will be interesting to see how that helped them to answer that question better."

Williams, the No. 5 seed, won the 2008 championship, but has not played in Charleston since then.

She made her Family Circle debut in 2002, reaching the quarterfinals. She is 12-4 in five appearances in Charleston.

Hanging with Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley and her family are scheduled to attend "40Love: A Night of Empowerment Celebrating 40 Years of the Family Circle Cup" on Saturday.

The event will feature a reunion of the "Original 9" of the WTA, including Billie Jean King and first-ever Family Circle Cup Champion Rosie Casals. Honorary coaches Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade will lead a star-studded World TeamTennis-style exhibition with former Family Circle Cup champions Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Martina Hingis and Rennae Stubbs, along with tennis legend John McEnroe and American standout Aaron Krickstein.

"Return and serve"

Tennis fans who don't use their box or terrace level tickets this week can donate their tickets at guest services and receive a tax receipt, $30 for box seats and $10 for terrace.

The tickets are resold at guest services with all proceeds going to "Courting Kids," the official community outreach partner of the Family Circle Cup.


Monday's attendance was 5,526 on a warm, windy sunny day on Daniel Island. That pushed the three-day total to 16,441.

(04/02/12)  JEFF HARTSELL New program jump-starts tennis for kids
The 40th anniversary of the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament finds no American players ranked in the top 10 on the WTA Tour. There is exactly one American among the top 30 women’s players in the world — No. 11 Serena Williams, who will be on Daniel Island for the Family Circle Cup this week.

The outlooks is scarcely better on the men’s side, with two players in the top 10 and only four among the top 50 on the ATP Tour.

One of the U.S. Tennis Association’s answers to this grim state of affairs can be found on special courts at the Family Circle Tennis Center, and on courts all around the Lowcountry this spring: The Ten and Under Tennis program (TAUT) for kids.

“Tennis has finally gotten with it,” said Peggy Bohne, tennis manager for the City of Charleston. “This is one of the best things the USTA has come up with in years.”

The idea behind Ten and Under Tennis is similar to micro-soccer or youth-league basketball — to scale the game down to a size fit for young children.

A video promoting TAUT features a youngster trying to shoot a regulation-size basketball at a 10-foot goal, and a tiny goalkeeper attempting to cover a World Cup-sized net.

“Every other sport has adapted their game for younger children,” said Rob Eppelsheimer, director of facilities and tennis development at the Family Circle Tennis Center. “Soccer has smaller fields and nets. In baseball, kids go from T-ball to machine-pitch to coach-pitch on smaller fields. In basketball, the balls are smaller and the goals are lower.

“Tennis is really the only sport where we’ve had 8-year-old juniors playing on the same court with the same balls as Serena Williams, and tennis is probably one of the last sports to change.”

The concept of scaled-down tennis for kids, featuring smaller courts and racquets, lower nets and low-pressure balls, has been around for a few years under names such as QuickStart Tennis and others. But as of Jan. 1 this year, the USTA made Ten and Under Tennis the official format for all of its tournaments for children ages 10 and under.

The move has not been without some controversy, but Eppelsheimer is on board and the City of Charleston’s Bohne says it has been a boon to the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League, which she runs. Bohne says the TAUT rules have increased participation in the league, which now features 124 teams and more than 1,200 kids.

“We’ve really had increases on the first and second grade level,” she said. “Kids can really see the benefit of it. At first, we had to get some parents and pros to buy into it. You would hear, ‘I didn’t have that when I was learning.’ But now I think they’ve pretty much all bought into it.”

With smaller courts and balls that don’t bounce as high or as fast, beginning players are able to rally longer and learn more about strategy while having more fun, Eppelsheimer said.

“The whole purpose is to teach kids the proper techniques early on,” he said. “A regular ball tends to bounce over their heads, and you end up with poor technique because they are hitting (shots) they won’t see until they grow up. The low-compression ball keeps it in their strike zone and allows them to work on techniques.”

At an elementary school match between the Belle Hall Bashers and Palmetto Christian last week in Mount Pleasant, a match between two second-grade beginners featured several long, side-to-side rallies.

“That’s what is great about it,” said Eppelsheimer. “You can have kids as young as five or six having rallies instead of picking up balls all day, or being fed balls by a pro. You get to serve and hit the ball back and forth, and it’s the low-compression ball that allows that to happen.”

The USTA has seen participation in its Junior Team Tennis program grow from 10,000 two years ago to more than 32,000 today, according to Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of player development for the USTA.

But there has been a backlash of sorts, from parents and pros who have young players who they feel have progressed beyond TAUT rules and are being held back by the new format. McEnroe called those concerns “absurd.”

“For the kids who truly are that good, they can — and should — do what the best kids in tennis and all sports have been doing for years: Play up at the next level,” McEnroe wrote recently. “It’s important to realize that this rule change applies only to tournament play for kids 10 and younger.”

Legends such as John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe’s brother, and Andre Agassi say TAUT can work.

“I think that’s going to be a big thing when little kids get to play on these smaller courts,” John McEnroe said last year. “I think it’s going to make the game much more accessible for kids to want to do it.”

Agassi famously grew up hitting 2,500 balls a day from a ball machine operated by his dad.

“Ten And Under Tennis doesn’t preclude you from doing that,” Agassi has said. “(It) allows children to practice the game and develop fundamentals, but it also gives parents an opportunity to play with their child.

“Before this program, you had to play tennis in order to teach your child tennis. Now, all of a sudden, you can go hit balls and spent that quality time. I think it’s all upside.”

(04/02/12)  Rogers comes up short at making FCC main draw
Shelby Rogers was right there. Well, almost there. She just needed to hold service to move into the driver's seat, and then win another set to earn a berth in the main draw of the $740,000 Family Circle Cup. Of course, in the world of professional sports, nothing comes easily for the up-and-coming young player.

Winning one game or one set in tennis can be like climbing Mt. Everest.

Argentine Paula Ormaechea was up to the challenge of keeping Rogers off the summit of the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament Sunday morning, holding back the Daniel Island product, 7-5, 6-3, in a battle of 19-year-olds. Ormaechea advances to the main draw; Rogers returns to the training court.

The hometown youngster still has reason to feel good about her play. She notched her first WTA Tour win in Saturday's first round and played well Sunday, nearly well enough to win.

"I was there," Rogers said afterward, a bag of ice on the right shoulder that unleashed numerous service winners on the Althea Gibson Club Court. "My game felt good overall.

"I had rather play aggressively and miss by a couple of inches than to be passive and have regrets."

She played her gunslinger role to the hilt in the important games, often just missing the lines with her aggressive forehands against Argentina's top-ranked woman (117th in the world). Rogers didn't back off or melt in the face of pressure with a supportive cast of fans cheering her on.

The second-largest Sunday qualifying crowd (5,586) in the tournament's 12 years on Daniel Island attended Sunday's session.

"I can always count on them (fans)," said Rogers, the world's 446th-ranked player.

She fought back from a 4-2 deficit in the first set, and even served for the set at 5-4 only to see four of her shots in succession miss their mark in a love game of inches when all of the breaks went to her opponent. Possibly down a little after coming so close to clinching the first set, Rogers won only three points in the next two games as Ormaechea closed out the set.

The second set was equally as tight as Rogers had double break point for a 4-3 lead, only to barely hit long on a big forehand and then watched a winner come off her opponent's racket to wipe out the second break point. Four ad-points later, the Argentine was up 4-3.

The eighth game had similar results as Rogers faced double break point herself, recovered and twice split the sideline tape for the first of two ads, but netted a pair of backhands to fall behind 5-3. Ormaechea held service at 40-15 to close out the match as Rogers committed four errors.

"She's the kind of player I have to beat to be able to climb up the rankings," Rogers said. "She's a great athlete and great mover. She is an experienced player, and you could tell she grew up on clay."

Melanie Oudin, a 20-year-old former U.S. Open and Family Circle singles quarterfinalist, and reigning U.S. Open mixed doubles champion now ranked 258th in the world, scored her second straight impressive win. A 6-3, 6-2 win over Petra Rampre of Slovenia advanced Oudin into the Family Circle main draw.

"So far, so good," said Oudin, a three-set winner over Britain's Heather Watson a day earlier. "I feel like my rhythm is really good and I feel like I am starting to play a lot smarter and more consistent."

(04/02/12) Tennis.com: When Freedom Rang: Natasha Zvereva and the Family Circle Cup
by Ed McGrogan

Even Bud Collins fell silent when Natasha Zvereva blurted out what she did at the Family Circle Cup final 23 years ago.

It was supposed to be your usual trophy ceremony. A few words by the winner, fewer by the loser, pictures, trophies, checks. But that last one—the $24,000 runner-up check she got after losing to Steffi Graf in the 1989 final—proved too much for Zvereva to bear. She held it up and said, per Collins, “This is nothing. It is just paper.”

This, of course, was something. It was big news that Zvereva had dared to reveal and complain on national television about the Soviet Tennis Federation taking all her prize money. The federation gave the 17-year-old a stipend for living expenses, but what she wanted was what she earned and, yes, also a red Mercedes.

What Zvereva did all those years ago—back when she was ‘Natalia’ and months before the birth of another top player born in Minsk, Victoria Azarenka—helped pave the way for the likes of Azarenka and celebrity/industry Maria Sharapova, top players who are also millionaires. Soon after that final, Zvereva became the first player to part with the federation and request direct payment of her earnings. Eventually other Soviet players no longer had to send home all their earnings.

“Zvereva was the Mother Freedom of Soviet tennis,” said Collins by phone last week.

Before that day he and Zvereva had discussed such matters off air. Prior to the match Collins and fellow NBC commentator Dick Enberg had joked that Zvereva should say, “Where’s my money?” Yet Collins didn’t expect the words Zvereva spoke into the microphone. “In the presentation I said, ‘How much of this money are you going to keep?’ And she said, ‘Nothing! They just pay our expenses, and I want the money!’ I had no idea that she was going to sound off like that, but she was deadly serious. That was a big start.”

The unhappiness with the way of things, with her struggle for what others received without asking, had been bubbling under the surface. But that day something made it bubble over. Perhaps Zvereva had the right platform; after all, she was going to be interviewed on TV, no matter the score. Partly Zvereva credited fellow Hall-of-Famer Collins. How to explain the rest of what happened amidst the pine trees on Hilton Head Island, where the Family Circle Cup got its start?

Last week Zvereva explained by email from Belarus: “I am a spontaneous and emotional human being. It was The Day and it was The Time.”

She wasn’t surprised her words drew attention—there were newspaper headlines, nightly news stories and Charlie Gibson interviews—as “anything Soviet was interesting enough, especially a little more provocative.” Even then she knew it was a big deal: “It was and is the biggest deal for me, period. Very dramatic and courageous. Fight for freedom, if you will.”

It was perhaps the most momentous event at a tournament with a long history. When it started in 1973, the Family Circle Cup was the first women’s tournament to offer $100,000 in prize money and the first broadcast on network TV. Family Circle magazine is the longest-running title sponsor in pro tennis worldwide and among all sports in America.

Chris Evert ruled the event for years, winning eight titles in all. Gabriela Sabatini made her pro debut there. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario played it 16 straight years. Venus Williams won the title on her first outing, while Caroline Wozniacki proved third time’s the charm. Every Open era No. 1 save Kim Clijsters has played at the Family Circle Cup.

It’s where the longest-serving No. 1, Graf, announced herself. In 1986 she won her first pro title here. “Evert had owned that tournament, but Graf kept coming from behind to win the title,” said Collins. “And nobody at that point, except people very close to tennis, had any idea who Steffi Graf was. She took off there and kept on going.”

The tournament has kept on going too, despite ups and downs. You could call it a survivor. Pete Bodo does. He covered the event more than 10 years, mostly when it was on Hilton Head Island and the few years it was on Amelia Island, to write about Billie Jean King, Evert and others; he spent time with Graf and her father over a few days there for his first big Graf profile.

“Tennis was still very U.S.-centric,” said Bodo. “At that time the European circuit wasn’t that big a deal, and the French Open wasn’t that big a deal. Hilton Head was the big spring clay event. Everybody who was anybody played it.” These days, of course, the European circuit and French Open matter more. “Charleston to some degree has kept its place, because it is a big clay tournament for here,” Bodo added. “You look at the genealogy and the chronology, and there’s a thread that runs through it all, and that’s why I call it a survivor.”

Still one of the best-known WTA-only tournaments but now a Premier 700, the Family Circle Cup field cannot include more than two of the top six players. This is why Wozniacki, who eventually decided she wanted to play this year, wasn’t allowed to enter.

But the 2012 field includes big names, the Williams sisters the biggest among them, and also Sam Stosur and Jelena Jankovic. In addition, a big event celebrating the tournament’s 40th anniversary will bring together the Original 9—King and eight others who launched the women’s tour—and top former players like Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, and John McEnroe; and also South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and WTA CEO Stacey Allaster.

The youngest players in the 2012 field weren’t even born 23 years ago, when Zvereva did what she did. And for more than a decade the tournament has been in Charleston, where a show court was renamed after another tennis pioneer, Althea Gibson, on whose court youngsters like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 20, and Sloane Stephens, 19, can play without regard to nationality and color but with pine trees still in sight.

(04/01/12)  Officials kept mum on Sharapova at Cup
Maria Sharapova was actually entered in this year’s Family Circle Cup ... until Friday.

“We didn’t announce Maria (had entered) because we knew she wasn’t going to play, and we didn’t want to disappoint the fans (again),” Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran said during Saturday’s qualifying session for the 40th Family Circle Cup.

Sharapova, who lost to Family Circle top seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Saturday’s final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, entered the Family Circle Cup in November, according to Moran. “Sharapova officially withdrew (from this year’s Family Circle) on Friday,” he said.

A year ago, Sharapova pulled out of the Family Circle Cup on draw-party Saturday after losing to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final.

Moran had no intention of disappointing the fans again.

“We knew (Sharapova) never had any intention of playing this year,” he said.

But, then again, pro tennis players often change their minds.

State domination

Local juniors took five of the 10 top rankings in the state for 2011 as Jared Pratt (boys 12), Connor Clements (boys 18), Margaret Navarro (girls 10), Elle Halbauer (girls 14) and Narni Summerall (girls 18) all captured No. 1 rankings.

Other state rankings for boys included Zachary Dacuba (10th in 10s), Brant Fenno (third in 12s), Earl Navarro (fifth in 12s), Joel Roberts (seventh in 16s), Adam Elliget (10th in 16s), Matt Mendez (fifth in 18s) and Thomas Spratt (seventh in 18s).

In state girls, other local top 10 players were Emma Navarro (fourth in 12s), Ann Martin Skelly (fifth in 12s), Melanie Allen (fourth in 14s), Samantha Shuster (sixth in 14s), Halbauer (fifth in 16s), Allen (eighth in 16s), Kristina Mathis (seventh in 18s) and Mi’Kola Cooper (ninth in 18s).
Maybank renovation

A practically new Maybank Tennis Center is still on the way. Plans call for the popular James Island complex to get its new facelift this summer.

The Maybank Tennis Center renovation committee is busy these days trying to raise $100,000 to include “wish list” priority items such as two new clay courts, shelters, benches and lighting, according to Amelia Jenkins, the director of development for the Charleston Parks Conservancy.

Contact Jenkins (ajenkins@charlestonparksconservancy.org) for more information on pledges, donations and sponsorship opportunities.

Upcoming events
• Local USTA mixed doubles league team registrations will run through April 16.

• Local winners in the Family Circle Cup’s Club Doubles Championships will go against teams from Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Charlotte, Atlanta, Hilton Head Island, Jacksonville, Rock Hill and Anderson-Greenville-Spartanburg next Thursday and Friday.

• The Summerville Junior Team Tennis League registration will open today and run through May 1. The league will include 8U, 10U and 12U players. Registration is available by going to sctennis.com/summervillejtt. Volunteers are needed to coach teams. Contact coordinator Kathy Peebles (709-8565, kpeebles918@sc.rr.com or mpeebles@sc.rr.com).

• The Charleston County School District Superintendent’s Cup will be held April 28 at Charleston Tennis Center and Maybank Tennis Center from 9 a.m. to noon. Sixty-two teams of teachers will compete. Contact Peggy Bohne at 766-7401.

• The second annual Prinella Haygood Memorial Tennis Championship is scheduled for May 4-6 at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Roy Barth Tennis Center. The event will benefit Roper St. Francis Cancer Care, as well as Haygood’s two young sons. Contact Kiawah pro Jonathan Barth (jonathan_barth@kiawahresort.com or 568-1468). Registration for the tournament is available at www.usta.com by selecting Adult/Senior Tournaments, then entering the tournament number (700007412).

Local notes
Local product Anderson Scarpa has committed to play college tennis for NCAA Division I Mercer University. Scarpa has spent his high school years playing for the prestigious Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Teaming with fellow Pinewood Prep star Joel Roberts, Adam Elliget won his fourth consecutive SCISA State Open doubles title last week in Sumter.

(04/01/12)  Top-seed Radwanska withdraws from Family Circle Cup
It’s amazing how one player’s decision can have such an impact on a tournament, or in this case, one set of sisters.

Case in point: Fourth-ranked and top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew from the Family Circle Cup on Sunday, ending the possibility of Venus and Serena Williams meeting in next Sunday’s final of the $740,000 WTA Tour event on Daniel Island.

According to the WTA Tour’s rules, fifth-seeded Serena Williams has been switched from the bottom slot of the top half of the main draw to the No. 3 seed spot in the bottom half of the draw. Third seed Marion Bartoli now resides in the No. 1 draw slot vacated by Radwanska, who listed a back injury as the reason for her withdrawal.

Radwanska defeated Maria Sharapova on Saturday in the singles final of the super tournament Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Unseeded wild-card Venus Williams is in the opposite quarter of the bottom half of the draw from her sister, meaning the two legends of the game and holders of a combined 20 Grand Slam singles titles could meet in the semifinals. Prior to Radwanska’s withdrawal, the two sisters could have met in the final.

This comes after Saturday’s re-draw, which was created by a shortage in the proper number of chips in the draw container, where Venus was relocated from a possible third-round meeting with Serena to the opposite half of the draw.

The switch means that Serena Williams will play a Tuesday night second-round match in Family Circle Stadium against the winner of today’s Elena Vesnina/Stephanie Dubois match.

Family Circle general manager Bob Moran confirmed the Tuesday night appearance for Serena.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose Agi,” Moran said. “But we have a strong field and good matchups all the way through the draw.”

(04/01/12)  Family Circle Cup draw set
There are no surprises in the Family Circle Cup’s main draw, unless you didn’t expect both Venus and Serena Williams to show up on Daniel Island.

But both sisters were due in Saturday. Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran went straight from the mid-afternoon draw party on the lawn at Family Circle Tennis Center to the airport to pick up Venus. Her younger sister Serena was scheduled to arrive Saturday night.

With that bit of news, everything seemed to be on schedule, until WTA Tour official Pam Whytcross came up short on chips to be drawn from a giant tennis ball to complete the main draw. So, you might say, it was back to the drawing board as the entire draw of non-seeded players had to be drawn again.

That sounds trivial enough, but the second drawing could have a major impact on the 40th edition of the Family Circle Cup. Instead of fifth-seeded Serena Williams possibly facing her unseeded wild-card sister in the round of 16, Venus came up in the opposite half of the second draw, which is the official draw.

That means Venus and Serena could face each other in next Sunday’s final.

Of course, Saturday-crowned Sony Ericsson Open champion Agieszka Radwanska of Poland might have something to say about that. Radwanska is the top seed for the $740,000 WTA Tour event that begins Monday.

Samantha Stosur, the 2010 champion, is seeded second and is listed at the bottom of the draw.

Radwanska’s first major test might come in the quarterfinals against wild-card eighth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who assisted Whytcross with the draw.

Also in the top half, former two-time runner-up Vera Zvonareva is the fourth seed and could oppose Serena Williams in the key quarterfinal matchup in a replay of the 2008 final in which Williams won.

The bottom half of the draw is dominated by former champions Stosur, No. 6 seed Sabine Lisicki, No. 7 Jelena Jankovic and Venus Williams. No. 3 seed Marion Bartoli is in the same quarter with Lisicki. Jankovic and Stosur are in the bottom quarter.

While the top eight seeds all will have first-round byes, Venus Williams’ first-round opponent will be a qualifier. A win there would send the 2004 champion against 2007 winner Jankovic in a rare second-round battle of former champions. So, it appears Venus Williams still didn’t get a lucky “second” draw; neither did Jankovic.

The real winner might have been Serena Williams, who could now face No. 11 seed Christina McHale in the round of 16 rather than possibly her older sister.

(04/01/12)  Shelby Rogers wins first WTA match
Shelby Rogers finally has the monkey off her back. She's a real WTA Tour pro now, if she wasn't before Saturday's big 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win over Julia Cohen of Philadelphia in the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament.

Not only was it the first WTA Tour win for Rogers, but it was also her first professional win before the hometown fans. That was big to the Daniel Island 19-year-old, who lost to veteran Jill Craybas in last year's main draw singles first round and to Christina McHale in the 2010 qualifying tournament, as well as lost with veteran Patty Schnyder in the first round of doubles in 2011.

“I'm excited,” said Rogers, who is ranked No. 446 in the world. “It was the first (pro) match I've won here.”

Rogers, who won last year's Smash Cup to earn a 2011 qualifying tournament berth but was awarded a wild card into the main draw, won this time because she added patience to her sometimes impatient game, and out-savvied her 23-year-old opponent down the stretch. Cohen, ranked 157th, was the 23rd seed in qualifying.

Rogers also had the fans behind her. It wasn't difficult to determine what was happening in the match from outside the Althea Gibson Club Court. The large crowd seemed to cheer for her on every winning point. And the cheers got louder as Rogers broke out of a 3-3 deadlock in the third set by dropping just three points in the last three games. She clinched her spot in today's second round of qualifying with a well-played 40-15 service game.

Perhaps aided by Rogers' supporters, a crowd of 5,329 attended the opening day of qualifying, setting a new Daniel Island first-day record for the tournament.

“Patience was the key,” Rogers said. “She (Cohen) wasn't going to miss much. I was a little premature in the first set and gave away too many free points.”

Rather than going for her big shots in gun-slinger fashion and continuing to make errors, Rogers bounced back from a 5-3 second-set deficit by winning four straight games with some near-flawless tennis, then opened the third set by winning eight of the first nine points for a 2-0 lead.

“It was nice to get off to a good start in the third set,” Rogers said. “I got a little too confident, but I settled back down waited for my opportunity.”

Rogers allowed the smaller, but scrappy, light-hitting Cohen to get back to 3-3, but that was it as the local girl who trains at the USTA academy at the Chris Evert Tennis Center in Boca Raton, Fla., smothered her opponent the next three games.

Although Rogers didn't want to look ahead to her next opponent, she will face fifth-seeded Paula Ormaechea of Argentina today at 10 a.m. on the Club Court in the second round. The winner will earn a berth in the Family Circle Cup's main draw. Ormaechea, ranked 117th currently, defeated American Emily Harman, 6-1, 6-0, in the first round.

In probably the feature match of the first round, former U.S. Open quarterfinal darling Melanie Oudin outlasted highly regarded young British player Heather Watson, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, in a hard-hitting, well-played match in Family Circle Stadium that was interrupted by a late-afternoon rain shower.

Craybas scored a 6-2, 6-4 win over American Abigail Spears, while Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal eliminated former Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson, 6-2, 6-3.

(03/18/12)  Family Circle Cup nearly here
It's time to get excited about women's tennis. The 40th Family Circle Cup is just two weeks away.

The women's game has taken everything anyone could toss its way, and come out on top.

Four straight first-time Grand Slam winners could have left the women's circuit looking for some stability, and a true star. Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur surprised almost everyone by winning majors. But then came Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open. The Belarussian may have staying power as the world's top player.

And suddenly, women's tennis is looking very good, considering that Venus and Serena Williams appear to be ready to play again and Maria Sharapova is hitting lines like the old days, and winning.

Sharapova and Azarenka aren't in the field for the FCC (March 31-April 8), but top 10 players Agnieszka Radwanska, Stosur, Marion Bartoli and Vera Zvonareva are, along with Venus and Serena, and former champs Jelena Jankovic, Sabine Lisicki and Nadia Petrova.

Pratt leads way
Jared Pratt led local juniors in the Southern rankings for 2011, finishing the year in the No. 5 slot in boys 12. Connor Clements was 10th in boys 18, while Brant Fenno was 17th in boys 12. Lowcountry high school girls player of the year Narni Summerall was 20th in girls 18.

In the state rankings for 2011, Pratt, Clements and Summerall all finished No. 1 in their age groups, while Margaret Navarro was No. 1 in girls 10, and Elle Halbauer was tops in girls 14.

Like old times
It was almost like old times for former North Charleston High teammates Colie Crosby and Ted Varner two weekends ago when they helped a local 8.5 senior combo team win the Southern Sectional championship in Mobile, Ala. Crosby and Varner teamed up to win one of the two doubles matches the 8.5 seniors needed to defeat Dothan, Ala., in the Southern final.

Mixed doubles
The Charleston area winners of the Family Circle Cup's Club Mixed Doubles Championships were: Venkat Ramshesh and Bianca Jardin (6.0); Billy Estes and Jana Estes (7.0); David Robinson and Teri Bachmann (8.0); and Andy Steingold and Tabatha Waddill (9.0). The local winners will advance to the April 5-6 Club Doubles Championships.

(03/12/12)  ESPN: Peter BODO: Star security backfiring on WTA?
It's bad enough that Caroline Wozniacki can't seem to win a Grand Slam event. Now it appears that she won't even get a chance to win one of those relatively underwhelming premier 700 tournaments, even though she's the defending champion at the one she has in mind -- Charleston.

It's all because of the byzantine commitment demands of the WTA, a template the organization embraced over the years in an effort to grow the game and provide once-disgruntled tournament directors with a measure of what might be called "star security" in an era when top players seemed less than fully committed to the week-in, week-out grind of the tour.

You can trace a lot of the thinking behind the WTA's pact with the top players to the former CEO of the tour, Larry Scott. An excellent negotiator, he promised the WTA stars bigger prize-money figures and a longer offseason -- all he wanted in return was their agreement to play a reasonably full schedule and distribute the responsibility to support the lesser events more or less equally among themselves.

Thus, the WTA rules came to stipulate that a top-10 player must compete at all four Grand Slams if able, the WTA year-end Championships (in the event any given player is among the top eight who qualify), four "premier mandatory" tournaments (these include the big "combined" events where the women play alongside the men, like they're doing now at Indian Wells), four slightly less resonant Premier 5 events and two Premier 700 events (like Charleston) -- for a grand total of 15 mandatory events.

Wozniacki's problem is that the rules also stipulate that only two of the top six players can play in those Premier 700 events. Basically, the rule tries to keep promoters of such low-octane events (the "700" refers to the prize-money at those events, which is in the $700,000 range) from paying huge under-the-table appearance fees to beef up the hype -- and gate.

Originally, Wozniacki planned to skip Charleston (it's never been on her published schedule), so I'm assuming that she was hoping to get in via a wild card. But apparently No. 2 Maria Sharapova, No. 6 Samantha Stosur and even Agnieszka Radwanska, who wasn't in the top six when she made her schedule but is now No. 5, beat her to the signup desk.

The change-of-heart must have been dictated by the downward turn in Wozniacki's fortunes. At the end of 2011, Wozniacki barely staved off Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka in the battle for the year-end top ranking, but the roof quickly and inevitably fell in at the first Grand Slam event of this year. Azarenka won the Australian Open and, seemingly overnight, Wozniacki slipped to No. 4 (behind new No. 1 Azarenka, Sharapova and Kvitova).

Wozniacki has always been a rankings-points chaser; she secured that No. 1 ranking and kept it so long partly because she was willing to do what major rivals wouldn't -- or couldn't -- accomplish. She showed up week-in, week-out and played her heart out (22 events in the fairly typical year of 2011).

Of course, that helps explain how she became the only player of either sex in the history of the official computer rankings to be ranked the year-end No. 1 two years running while still hoping to win her first Grand Slam title.

The irony here is towering: If all the players were as diligent and durable as Wozniacki, there would be no need for the rules that now have her boxed into a corner.

Sharapova reportedly has pulled out of Charleston, so perhaps Wozniacki might still get in (using the argument that when Radwanska entered Charleston, she was outside the top 6). The WTA ought to do everything in its power -- short of breaking its own rules -- to see that Wozniacki makes the Charleston draw.

You have to wonder if things aren't just a wee bit over-managed when the rules prevent a champion from defending a title she earned fair and square.

(03/04/12)  Radwanska likely top seed for FCC

Family Circle Cup fans have a little time -- 27 days -- but they may as well start getting acquainted with Agnieszka Radwanska in the upcoming super tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.

Barring a collapse by Radwanska in the event that starts Wednesday out in the desert at Indian Wells, big results from Samantha Stosur or Marion Bartoli, or a late Charleston entry by Maria Sharapova, Radwanska likely will be the top seed in the 40th edition of the Family Circle Cup.

Of course, Radwanska's game is worth watching. Although maybe a little unorthodox in her style of play, the 22-year-old Polish woman makes up for it with her uncanny tennis savvy. She ranks among the best to come along in her ability to simply outmaneuver an opponent. Her play reminds observers of Martina Hingis.

Radwanska is one smart tennis player. Of course, Sharapova or Serena Williams on a good day might knock the light hitter off the court. Then again, Radwanska might have too much savvy for either of them on a clay court.

So, on the green clay on Daniel Island, Radwanska has to be considered as a serious threat to win the March 31-April 8 Family Circle Cup.

Ranked No. 5, Radwanska heads the list of players entered in this year's tournament. After Monday's ranking release, only the March 19 WTA Tour rankings will stand between Radwanska and the top seeding on Daniel Island.

She has appeared here once before, losing in the round of 16 in 2008. Anyone who saw Radwanska play that year out on the cozy Althea Gibson Court recognized the potential of the young woman.

Four top 10 players (Radwanska, Stosur, Bartoli and Vera Zvonareva) are among the main draw that also includes former champions Venus and Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Sabine Lisicki and Nadia Petrova. Stosur also is a former champion.

Christina McHale is the second-highest ranked American at No. 34, trailing only No. 11 Serena.

Former teen star Jelena Dokic, ranked No. 76, is in the Cup field.

As Porter-Gaud boys coach Tom Higgins predicted, there is a new team to worry about in Region III of SCISA Class AAA. The Cyclones opened their season last Tuesday with a 5-3 loss to Hilton Head Christian, a first for the Porter-Gaud program.

That doesn't mean the Porter-Gaud program is in a state of disrepair. It just means that the two teams that have squared off in the last three state finals, two-time defending champion Hilton Head Prep and Porter-Gaud, can't rest on their laurels.

Hilton Head Christian apparently is for real with high-ranking juniors Nick Bybel, Hampton Drake and Charlie Drake from Hilton Head Island's famed tennis academies in the top three positions. The trio defeated the Cyclones' Thomas Spratt, Junior Duarte and Hunter Mitchell.

"Their No. 5 player played No. 1 last year," Higgins pointed out.

Porter-Gaud bounced back with 9-0 wins over Palmetto Christian and Heathwood Hall.

It now appears that the two Hilton Head schools, Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep are the top four teams in SCICA Class AAA. The only problem is that they all play in the same region.

Coach Bryant McKee's Pinewood Prep outfit posted an impressive 6-1 win on Wednesday over High School League Class AA power Bishop England.

In battles matching 2011 All-Lowcountry performers, Pinewood junior Joel Roberts edged BE senior Steven Weaver, while P-G junior Spratt sailed by Palmetto Christian sophomore ace Austin Heinz. The only other returning All-Lowcountry player, Pinewood freshman Adam Elliget, also won against BE.

Winning titles is nothing new to 16-year-old Hayley Carter of Columbia, the owner of the Family Circle Cup qualifying wild card that goes to the Dunlop Junior Championship girls 18 winner.

Carter, one of the top juniors in the country, is nearing the record for titles at the prestigious Palmetto Junior Tennis Championships. A singles and doubles sweep this June at the Belton event would give Carter 14 titles, breaking the girls' record of 13 titles set by former Charleston junior Janice Durden.

A sweep at Belton this year would put Carter in position in 2013 to go for her 15th and 16th Belton titles, a feat that would surpass Charleston native Ryan Young's overal record of 15 titles.

--Wednesday is the deadline for entering next weekend's Family Circle Cup Club Mixed Doubles qualifying tournament (TennisLink online registration with ID number 700055912). Players can enter as individuals or teams for 6.0-9.0 mixed doubles teams. The local winners will advance to the April 5-6 Family Circle Cup Club Doubles Championships against teams from Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Charlotte, Atlanta, Hilton Head Island, Jacksonville, Rock Hill and Anderson-Greenville-Spartanburg.

--A March 24-25 adult and senior combo team tournament honoring former Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer is open for registration on TennisLink.

(02/27/12) Daniel Island resident serving up wins
Daniel Island resident and former College of Charleston tennis star Diane Barker teamed up with three California women to win the Maureen Connolly Cup competition. Daniel Island resident and former College of Charleston tennis star Diane Barker teamed up with three California women to win the Maureen Connolly Cup competition.

Diane Gilruth was an amazing tennis player. She won a national collegiate singles title for the College of Charleston.

But Diane Barker at age 54 may be an even more amazing tennis player.

She is winning world championships.

Sure, the rallies may not be as fast paced. But to be No. 1 in the world at any age or in anything is a supreme accomplishment.

The former Diane Fishburne, in fact, has won five world singles titles, the latest one coming nine days ago in San Diego in 55-and-over.

Diane Gilruth, Diane Fishburne or Diane Barker? Of course, they're all the same person.

Does she still get excited about winning world titles? "Absolutely," she said.

"It gets to the point where you feel like it may be your last one. It's something you never get used to, because you don't know if you'll win another one.

"Back in college I didn't know I'd be playing senior tennis. I'm lucky to be playing injury free, which allows me to still be playing."

Senior tennis is vastly different from the college days. "It seems like a lifetime ago," Barker said.

"It was so competitive back then on a team. You were fighting for a position. I guess you mellow out as you get older, so I think I've changed. I know I enjoy team sports more now."

Winning another world singles title felt good to Barker, but to help the U.S. Maureen Connolly Cup team capture a world championship a week earlier also meant a great deal to her.

"We were the only U.S. team to win," she pointed out proudly about the team competition held in San Diego earlier this month for 10 different groups, five age groups each for men and women from 35-55.

Competing in her first major 55-and-over event at 54 (she will turn 55 in December), Barker demonstrated her ability and will to win, the same as she did more than three decades ago while winning an NAIA national singles title for the College of Charleston.

She was dominant in San Diego in both team and individual competition, yielding a total of 12 games in nine singles matches.

Barker realizes that as always she still has to play smart tennis and get off the court as quickly as possible -- if she wants to continue winning world titles, especially on hard courts such as the ones in San Diego.

"You just have to stay healthy. The points are slower. It's like 10-and-under tennis," she said. "I can't play five-hour matches and expect to play the whole week. I have to take balls out of the air and finish points at the net. It's a little risky, but it's a good thing."

Jack and Diane Barker were married last summer and moved into a condo on Daniel Island late in the year. In the process, Diane couldn't miss seeing the old pictures she hadn't seen in years.

"You see all of the old pictures when you move -- the funny pictures -- the old rackets from the college days. Then you see how much tennis has changed. It was almost humorous seeing the old pictures," she said.

Jack is a retired executive for a mass transit parts company, who loves tennis about as much as his wife. He is the S.C. Special Olympics director for tennis. Diane serves as a pro under her son, Matt Hane, at the I'On Club.

The Barkers teamed up in San Diego in mixed doubles and upset the top-seeded team in the competition before being eliminated.

(02/22/12)  Long day pays off for Carter

Hayley Carter is glad she didn't miss what probably was the longest competitive tennis day of her young career.

But just a few weeks ago, the tall 16-year-old from Columbia didn't think she would even be participating in this year's rain-plagued Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship. She certainly didn't think she would be playing four singles matches in a 12-hour period that would earn her a berth in the qualifying tournament for the WTA Tour's Family Circle Cup.

"I didn't know if I was going to be able to play. I hurt my ankle at the Orange Bowl (championships), and I was out for eight weeks," Carter said Tuesday. "But I'm very happy about my decision to play in Charleston.

"I'm excited about winning the wild card into the Family Circle qualifying tournament, but I'm a little surprised I was able to play four matches yesterday . . . I'm feeling it today."

Carter yielded only 11 games in winning her first three matches of the day in straight sets, but the competition became more intense in the final when fellow Smith- Stearns Tennis Academy of Hilton Head Island 16-year-old Mariana Gould forced her to three sets before Carter prevailed, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 10-5, in a match that didn't end until about 8:30 Monday night at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"It's hard to have a loser in that match. They left their souls on the court," said former top 100 WTA Tour player Jolene Watanabe, who serves as Gould's coach at Smith-Stearns.

Carter, a home-schooled 5-11 1/2 player with heavy topspin and a powerful serve, took Gould completely out of her rhythm early in the match to take a 3-0 lead with two service breaks, but allowed the Boise, Idaho, native to bounce back to win the first set. Carter then regained her dominance.

"She (Gould) is one of my best friends. We know each other's games," Carter said.

"She played some great tennis. I was very lucky to pull out the win."

Winning titles is nothing new to Carter. One of the top juniors in the country, Carter is nearing the record for titles at the prestigious Palmetto Junior Tennis Championships. A singles and doubles sweep this June at the Belton event would give Carter 14 titles, breaking the girls' record of 13 titles set by former Charleston junior Janice Durden.

A sweep at Belton this year would put Carter in position in 2013 to go for her 15th and 16th Belton titles, a feat that would surpass Charleston native Ryan Young's overal record of 15 titles.

(02/19/12)  Magazine throws local tennis resorts a curve
From tops in the world to second in the state?

Tennis Magazine has thrown Kiawah Island a curve from left field.

If Roy Barth is shocked, you might check in with Charly Rasheed at Wild Dunes. The Isle of Palms resort has gone from top five in the world to nowhere to be found in the Carolinas' top five.

"It's a 100 percent marketing piece," Rasheed said.

Of course, it all depends on who is doing the ranking -- at least, this time. Tennis Magazine? Or Tennis Resorts Online?

Tennis Magazine has looked favorably on the two Charleston resorts in the past. Just last year, the magazine ranked Kiawah No. 3 in the country and Wild Dunes No. 6. Kiawah was rated tops in the nation from 2004-2006 and top six since 1994.

Tennis Resorts Online rated Kiawah No. 1 in the world last year, while picking Wild Dunes fifth after being second on the U.S. list a year earlier.

But Tennis Magazine has altered its format. Instead of picking the top 50 resorts overall, five resorts each from 10 different regions were selected to make up the magazine's top 50.

Tennis Magazine now has tabbed Kiawah for second in the Carolinas, behind Hilton Head Island's Palmetto Dunes. Wild Dunes wasn't among the top five. Neither was perennial high choice Sea Pines Resort or either Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort.

"It's quite surprising," said Barth, Kiawah's tennis director. "They've changed the whole format. I think it was a business decision to spread out the resorts into sections. I'm shocked they left off Wild Dunes and Sea Pines. It's really strange."

Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort was selected third in the Carolinas by Tennis Magazine, while Bluffton's eight-court Inn at Palmetto Bluff was tagged for fourth, and Hilton Head Island Beach and Tennis Resort fifth.

Cyclones strong again

After seeing his team lose to Hilton Head Prep in the last two SCISA Class AAA state finals, Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins thinks the Cyclones are capable of making another run for the title.

But five-time state finalist Hilton Head Prep lost only No. 3 Aaron Cotton and will be the favorite to win its fourth state title in five years.

"Hilton Head Christian also is much improved," Higgins said.

"I think it will be between Hilton Head Prep, Hilton Head Christian, Pinewood Prep and us."

Higgins was referring to the state race, but he just as easily could have been talking about SCISA Region III-AAA since all four teams will be competing in the same region.

He pointed out that Pinewood Prep can't be counted out as long as the Panthers have All-Lowcountry players Joel Roberts and Adam Elliget.

Junior Thomas Spratt is the Cyclones' No. 1 player again.

Senior Hunter Mitchell, who has been involved in the last four state finals while playing for Hilton Head Prep and Porter-Gaud two years each, will be the Cyclones' No. 2 player. Smallish sophomore Seth Pinosky is No. 3 and West Ashley freshman transfer Junior Duarte is No. 4.

Flowertown set
The Flowertown Festival Tennis Tournament is scheduled for March 30-April 1 in Summerville, with an entry deadline of March 26.

Register at www.summerville.us.sc.com, or contact Nancy Sumersett at 851-5211.

(01/22/12)  Spectacular Wild Dunes aging quite impressively
ISLE OF PALMS -- Wild Dunes was in its heyday before Hurricane Hugo hit the Isle of Palms resort in September 1989. The U.S. Men's Clay Courts appeared to have found a home then.

The portable stadium at the racquet club wasn't huge, its 3,500 or so seats no match for the 10,000-seat Family Circle Cup Stadium that sprung up on Daniel Island a little more than a decade later. In that sense, Wild Dunes tennis may never be the same.

The U.S. Clay Courts that helped Andre Agassi launch his Hall of Fame career with a title in 1988 was pushed by Hugo to Kiawah for a year and never returned to the area after that. The Clay Courts now appear to have found a permanent home at Houston's River Oaks Country Club.

Take the scenic drive from the Wild Dunes security gate to the racquet club area, and you might wonder why this absolutely spectacular resort no longer has grand prix tennis. But the racquet club is doing better than fine as the tennis centerpiece of the No. 5 tennis resort in the world by Tennis Resorts Online.

The racquet club is surrounded by the country club-styled golf clubhouse and the elegant 10,000-square-foot Sweetgrass Pavilion meeting facility, which replaced the old swimming pool and parking lot. Across the street, the Boardwalk Inn is now shadowed by phase one of The Village condo complex. The area has aged impressively.

On this Friday afternoon out on the lone hard court of the 18-court complex, tennis director Charly Rasheed is giving a lesson to Jonathan Edwards, the 16-year-old son of Lowcountry Tennis Association president Ken Edwards. They're playing points, and of course Rasheed is right at home. He was the state's player of the year for 2011.

"We're doing a ton of group business," Rasheed pointed out about the tennis activity.

Opened in the late 1970s, Wild Dunes has served as the host of the Super Senior state tournament the last four years. The state tennis association's annual meeting and banquet was held here in the fall. Both events are scheduled to return this year.

Rasheed arrived at Wild Dunes in 2005 from Lexington's Top Spin Racquet Club.

Wild Dunes seminar

Rasheed is preparing for Saturday's full-day seminar with noted sports psychology guru Dr. Jay Granat at Wild Dunes. The 9 a.m.-4 p.m. seminar will include three hours in a classroom setting and three hours of instructions on the tennis courts, along with lunch.

The seminar will focus on making participants aware of tennis' mind-body interaction, and how to conquer the psychological barriers participants encounter.

Jonathan Edwards and Rasheed speak highly of Granat's instructions. Edwards points to a session with Granat back in the fall for improving his approach to the game.

Granat, a psychotherapist and the founder of StayInTheZone.com as well as the author of several sports psychology books, has appeared on many major media outlets, including Good Morning America, ESPN and CBS. He has been featured in Tennis Magazine and Sports Illustrated.

Registration for the seminar is $89 by contacting (201) 647-9191 or emailing info@stayinthezone.com.

'Big' Leagues

The local adult 3.5 men's league has 26 teams, divided into two divisions. Twelve matches is a long season, especially when only one of the 13 teams in each division apparently will earn a bid to the local playoffs. As teams fall out of playoff contention, it's not unusual for players to lose some interest in the face of the numerous conflicts that the spring presents.

--The LCTA's captain's meeting will be held Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the main Charleston County Library on Calhoun Street.

(01/08/12)  WTT Finals in September should be special
If midsummer July 2011 was great for World TeamTennis on Daniel Island, end-of-summer September should be spectacular for this year's WTT Finals Weekend.

The key change in the Family Circle Tennis Center/WTT collaboration is the big window between the July 9-28 WTT regular season and the Sept. 14-16 Finals Weekend. There wasn't a true window between the regular season and the finals last summer when the regular season ended on July 21 at sites all over the country, and the finals were held the next three days at Family Circle Stadium.

"We wanted a bigger window, but the Olympics played into the switch to September," Family Circle general manager Bob Moran said Saturday. "It was a combination of both (the Olympics and Family Circle's push for more time).

"With two months, we'll be able to market the event."

In addition to having time to market the 2012 WTT Finals, and the teams and players involved, a regional WTT Recreational League tournament also will be held that weekend at Family Circle Tennis Center, providing local fans a chance to further embrace the exciting World TeamTennis format.

About the only thing that was certain one day before last year's event was that Leander Paes and the unbeaten Washington Kastles would be performing at Family Circle Tennis Center. It was that much of a scramble to put everything into play last summer. You might say, the event was lucky to attract nearly 5,000 fans.

With fans from the four participating cities having time to plan a few days vacation here this time, the crowd total should increase significantly.

Of course, it will be football season, but there aren't any big conference matchups on the agenda for South Carolina or Clemson that weekend.

Sept. 14-16 will be Davis Cup semifinal weekend, but the Andy Roddick/Mardy Fish Americans would have to upset Switzerland in the first round and then either France or Canada to earn a spot in the Cup semifinals against probably reigning champion Spain.

If the hurricanes will take the week off, WTT Finals Weekend should be even more special the second time around.

Local notes
--Legend Oaks will hold an NTRP-rated tournament Feb. 3-5. Register online at TennisLink using the registration number (704143712).
--Family Circle Cup ball crew registration is beginning. Contact Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young (343-8393).
--City tennis manager Peggy Bohne announced three dates for coaches meetings at Charleston Tennis Center for the Tri-County Elementary/Middle School Tennis League: Monday at 5 p.m., Jan. 20 at 4 p.m. and Jan. 22 at 3 p.m.
--More than 30 juniors took part in a recent free clinic that touring pros Shelby Rogers and Ryan Young conducted at Maybank Tennis Center.
--Brant Fenno took third place in boys 12 singles in the recent Winter Southern Closed tournament in Louisville, Ky.
--Monday is the deadline for forming league tennis teams for the official spring season.
--All-Lowcountry girls team members Mi'Kola Cooper of Porter-Gaud, and Melanie Allen and Catherine Martin of Wando train at Family Circle Tennis Center's Instinctive Tennis Academy that is run by the FCTC staff and headed by director Lenny Schloss and assistant pro Peter Schmitt.
--Former I'On Club pro Jo Ann Lee has joined Family Circle Tennis Center to direct the facility's 10-and-under Quick Start program.