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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(12/22/13) Southern champion Playrights get lucky "draw"
A certain level of skill is crucial to winning any championship. But when skill is combined with luck, it's an almost unbeatable combination.

League tennis is no exception. The women's 55-and-over 3.5 Playrights out of Charleston Tennis Center had the skill to go unbeaten in their local league flight last spring as well as the state tournament and Southern Sectional. But the Elisabeth Pickelsimer-captained team had to win a grievance and an appeal to earn a berth in the state playoffs as the Lowcountry Tennis Association's runner-up to a team from Snee Farm.

The Playrights are now Southern Sectional champions and headed for the nationals in Surprise, Ariz., April 25-27 - thanks in part to the luck of a drawing early this month in Columbus, Ga., in the sectionals.

The Playrights and a team from Knoxville, Tenn., won the two flights with 3-0 records, but inclement weather that plagued the entire weekend prompted Southern officials to cancel the final. The Playrights then won a drawing that was held to determine the Southern Sectional championship.

Team co-captain Beth Renken said, "I think we deserved our spot that we had to fight for."

Renken described the sectional's turn of events this way: "Sectionals were interesting with all the rain. First round was shortened to an eight-game no-ad pro-set, and the second two rounds were four-game no-ad pro-sets. We won our flight and the finals had to be cancelled due to awful weather, so they drew names between us and the other flight winner. So a little bit of luck was involved at the end."

In addition to Pickelsimer and Renken, the Southern participants were: Joy MacLean, Carol Poole, Anya Optis Park, Lynda Wall, Debbie Sisco, Mary Ann Borysowicz and Karen Farrell.

Cooper to CSU

Former Porter-Gaud star Mi'Kola Cooper had an outstanding 2013 season as a freshman at Baltimore's Morgan State University, but she "just wanted to be home." She is now a sophomore at Charleston Southern.

Cooper made the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's first-team all-conference list as a freshman while playing No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles for Morgan State.

"The team here (CSU) is a little better. I hope to get somewhere in the top four," she said.

"The weather is much warmer here, but we played indoors in Baltimore."

Elliget at Summerville

Former Pinewood Prep All-Lowcountry player Adam Elliget could help make Summerville a Class AAAA state contender this spring after a year of home-schooling.

The 6-31/2 junior said he already has received a number of college offers, including one from Alabama. Elliget trained with Matt Hane at the I'On Club before Hane's job switch to Baton Rouge, La., this month.

Elliget and other top Green Wave players have been playing together at Doty Park to prepare for the season. The Green Wave have senior returnees Austin Wiseman, Brandon Sekula and Adam Seith to back up Elliget, along with first-year head coach David Long's son, sophomore Walker Long. Seith and Long played Nos. 1 and 2 last season.

David Long also coached the Summerville girls team, which was led by All-Lowcountry honorable mention sophomore Kitty Green, who played the No. 1 spot that was held down by her sister, Caroline Green, as a senior in 2012.

(12/17/13) Porter-Gaud's Ann Martin Skelly named high school tennis player of year

Two years ago, Ann Martin Skelly couldn't escape the outside courts at Porter-Gaud's on-campus tennis complex. No one was surprised. She was only a seventh-grader.

Skelly's tennis stock has soared since then. She's not only the top girls player on campus, she's the best in the area.

The Porter-Gaud freshman is The Post and Courier's 2013 Lowcountry player of the year after leading the Cyclones to a third straight SCISA Class AAA state final. She is joined on the All-Lowcountry first team by teammates Grace Robards and Carlyle Williams. Robards is a junior while Williams is a senior.

Also on the first team are seniors Kristen Farmer of Berkeley, and Liza Arruda and Caroline Yodice of Bishop England, along with eighth-grader Lauren Quinn. Skelly, Robards and Arruda are repeaters from 2012.

Bishop England's Kristin Fleming repeats as coach of the year after directing the Bishops to their third straight SCHSL Class AA state title.

At 14 years old, Skelly has traveled the world. But now she literally plays high school tennis in the shadows of her family's West Ashley home. "I've lived quite a few places," she admits.

"I was born in Roanoke, Va., lived in Moscow and in London. Then we moved here to downtown, then to behind the tennis courts."

It's not unusual to see Skelly's mother and father, Kelly and Martin, and the family dog make an impromptu arrival from behind the tennis courts to watch Porter-Gaud play matches at the Albemarle Road complex.

Skelly spends considerable time during holidays and summers at the family's Kiawah Island home. It was during one of the summers at Kiawah that she started taking tennis lessons from College of Charleston coach Angelo Anastopoulo at the age of 4. Anastopoulo still coaches Skelly.

Skelly played soccer, softball and basketball in elementary school, which wasn't that long ago. That changed in the seventh grade when she joined the tennis team. She landed a starting berth at No. 6 that year and played her matches on the outside courts where only parents generally watched. She won a match against Hilton Head Prep in the state final to help the Cyclones win the 2011 state championship.

It wasn't long before Skelly's left-handed game landed her on the main bank of courts, where she played No. 3 as an eighth-grader while making the All-Lowcountry team.

"I've been playing tennis a lot more than I used to. I work out harder," she said. "My goal is to play college tennis somewhere."

First-year Porter-Gaud head coach Charlotte Hartsock said Skelly has the talent and skills to achieve her goal."

"She works hard all year round and has developed an all-court game with no gaps. She can volley as well as play from the baseline. Her concentration and work ethic are going to take her a long way."


First Team
Ann Martin Skelly, freshman, Porter-Gaud
Grace Robards, junior, Porter-Gaud
Carlyle Williams, senior, Porter-Gaud
Liza Arruda, senior, Bishop England
Caroline Yodice, senior, Bishop England
Lauren Quinn, eighth grade, Bishop England
Kristen Farmer, senior, Berkeley

Player of the Year:
Ann Martin Skelly

Coach of the Year:
Kristin Fleming, Bishop England

Second Team
Corey Caulder, junior, Palmetto Christian
Linsey Yarbrough, freshman, Ashley Hall
Katherine Lyman, seventh grade, Wando
Cameryn Deames, freshman, Bishop England
Gabrielle Dacuba, sophomore, Bishop England
Lexi Steichen, sophomore, Porter-Gaud
Madison McNeil, senior, Porter-Gaud

Honorable Mention
ASHLEY HALL: Gyles Laney, Ana-lei Kalawe, Tiffany Dye, McCrae Nistad
PINEWOOD PREP: Hayleigh Dodge, Sara Cochis, Sara Banks Tapp, Hannah Rodgers
WANDO: Emily Kuester, Alex Hickey, Foster Kirkpatrick
ASHLEY RIDGE: Bella Lawrence, Savanna Lawrence
BERKELEY: Elliott Huxford, Jill Funk
BISHOP ENGLAND: Hannah Simpson, Drue Ranson
STRATFORD: Chrisia Class, Anastasia Rivers
WEST ASHLEY: Alese Brown, Teresa Linker
ACADEMIC MAGNET: Mary-Geer Kirkland
COLLETON PREP: Shelly McDonald
GOOSE CREEK: Hayley Marchant
HANAHAN: Amelia McCulloch
JAMES ISLAND: Rhealyn Dinkins
PORTER-GAUD: Rebecca Kahn
SUMMERVILLE: Caroline Green
WOODLAND: Courtney Simmons

(12/08/13)  USTA's new state PR head Braden has passion for game
USTA South Carolina has a new face. Jonathon Braden takes his new job with a passion.

Walking off of the court on Hilton Head Island this fall after losing in the 18-plus Combo 7.5 state semifinals, Braden was the first person to greet me. The 2008 University of Missouri graduate pulled a reverse on me. He was asking the questions.

A native of Mason City, Iowa, where he played high school tennis, football and basketball, Braden has reported on education for newspapers in Columbia, Mo., and Omaha, Neb. Yes, he was beaming about Mizzou football on Friday.

Braden has been on the job for a couple months as the new coordinator of public relations and sales/sponsorships for USTA SC. He was in Charleston this weekend for the statewide association's annual meeting at Wild Dunes.

"I really like what I'm doing," he said Friday. That includes constant posts on the sctennis.com website, and keeping up with things like league tennis.

A 4.5 player himself whose father played college tennis, Braden recognizes the impact league tennis has on the sport in South Carolina, as illustrated by the more than 4,000 people who participate in the local Lowcountry Tennis Association.


Charleston's Brian Burke, George Clonts and Deanna Vroman played on a 10.0 mixed doubles team based out of Hilton Head Island that two weeks ago captured a national 18-and-over championship in Arizona. Burke and team captain Tammy Zawacki of Hilton Head won the No. 3 doubles match in the final in a 2-1 win over Northern California.

The 2014 NTRP league tennis ratings were released last Monday. Senior spring league teams already are forming, while 18-plus teams will begin registrations on Dec. 16.

Diane Barker was named the recipient of the Slew Hester Southern tennis player of the year award, while the St. George Youth Tennis League was selected as the Southern's National Junior Tennis League chapter of the year. The Tennis on Campus Southern leader of the year award winner was Kyle Ann Christian of the College of Charleston.

In the recent Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships at Kiawah Island, former Citadel star player/coach Ben Varn posted a three-set win over Mount Pleasant's Ron Charron in the men's 70 singles final. Other local winners included Frank Meade in men's 80 singles and doubles; Sally Smith in women's 50 singles and doubles; Cindy Babb in women's 60 doubles (with Susie Peiffer) and in mixed 60 doubles (with Andy Steingold); Brandon Blakenbaker in men's 30 singles and doubles (with Matt Hane); Tabatha Waddill in women's 30 doubles; Jack/Diane Barker in mixed 50 doubles; and mother/son duo Diane Barker/Hane in mixed 30.

Matt Hane left the I'On Club as head pro to take the same position at the Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rogue.

Alex Santiago has signed a tennis grant with the University of San Francisco. Santiago trains under Martin Zumpft.

Pine Forest Country Club's recent Racquets for Recovery Tennis Tournament raised $22,000 for MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center's comprehensive breast care program, increasing the tournament's nine-year total to $180,000 for programs benefitting local breast cancer patients.

Bishop England senior Caroline Yodice gained a measure of revenge in the recent SCHSL singles championships with an 8-3 win over Sydney Derrick of Waccamaw in the consolation final to finish fifth in Class AA/A. Derrick had defeated Yodice in straight sets in the Lower State final in the Bishops' march to their third straight state title. BE senior No. 1 Liza Arruda won the third-place match.

Lowcountry Youth Tennis Association after-schools coordinator John Farrelly reports that more than 120 students participated in the newly formed LYTA's joint Tennis Showcase with the Charleston County School District held recently at Charleston Tennis Center. The LYTA will hold its initial tournament on Feb. 22 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

(11/30/13)  ISLAND PACKET:  Tennis as major draw is well-established already
Tennis could be for everyone on Hilton Head Island.

Hilton Head has deep roots in the sport. It has good weather for the sport. And it has enough courts of various surfaces, with programs for all ages and skill levels, to be among the world's leading tennis destinations.

A new study by the Hilton Head Island - Bluffton Chamber of Commerce lays out very specifically how the island might better take advantage of these assets to boost the economy.

The study calls for more marketing to promote tennis as a tourist attraction. It identifies cable networks such as ESPN and the Tennis Channel as untapped sources for advertisements. It lays out plans for packages of airfare, lodging and court time to attract tennis vacationers. And it recommends luring a major professional event.

More marketing, and the clear instructions on how to market to specific areas and individuals, is something the private sector can do. The chamber gets a great deal of accommodations tax revenue annually to serve as the community's designated marketing organization. Zeroing in on how to market tennis is a great idea because the harder part -- building a superior product with a good name -- has already been done.

In 1978, a Sports Illustrated article called Sea Pines the largest tennis resort in the world, with 53 courts and the legendary Stan Smith serving as its tennis ambassador and consultant.

That was five years after the Family Circle Cup made history at the Sea Pines Racquet Club when it was the first nationally televised women's tennis event and had the sport's first women's purse of at least $100,000. With Bud Collins often describing the action for network television, the Family Circle Cup was a Hilton Head and tennis institution until it moved to Charleston after the 2000 tournament.

It left in large part because the dates conflicted with the PGA Tour golf event hosted by Sea Pines, and scheduling it at another time was not feasible. Also, the Charleston and the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism contributed financially to attract the Family Circle Cup to a new 17-court Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island with a 10,000-seat stadium.

Hilton Head proved that it could stage a major event and do it well for the long haul -- almost 30 years.

But it would be wiser to capitalize on what we have today, rather than to pine for something as glitzy as the Family Circle Cup to return to this small market.

The sport has many more niches, and we fill them well. What the island offers in tennis would fill a large book. Certainly, that is why the chamber's study showed that Hilton Head already is the No. 1 destination in the Southeast for 65 percent of the players it surveyed.

Hilton Head resorts have highly ranked tennis facilities -- long after some were represented by big names like Rod Laver and Billie Jean King.

Hilton Head has facilities -- both public and private -- for all ages, long after the island hosted tournaments on the senior circuit.

Stan Smith, Dennis Van Der Meer and Ivan Lendl are valued names in the sport that still are associated with an island offering myriad opportunities for players to learn, compete in and enjoy the sport.

The Banana Open has for decades attracted college tennis teams to the island, quietly introducing generation after generation of families to the community. Many return as tourists, or residents.

Hilton Head Island High School's girl's tennis team won six consecutive state titles prior to this fall.

Palmetto Dunes has reconfigured some courts to attract the youngest of players to the sport. Studies show that the sport is growing worldwide despite the hand-wringing over the dearth of American men in recent Grand Slam finals.

Hilton Head Island has an unparalleled tennis story to share with the world. It has the facilities, programs, tournaments and other amenities for tennis to be an even greater tourism driver. We hope the new study's practical advice can be used to tell more people about what is already here.

(11/26/13) SUMMERVILLE JOURNAL SCENE: Racquets for Recovery has another successful campaign

Event organizers say the ninth annual Racquets for Recovery Tennis Tournament held Nov. 1-3 as a tribute to those at Pine Forest who have battled breast cancer was a great success.

Over the last nine years, the tournament has donated $180,000 in support of recovery programs for local breast cancer patients. The $22,000 donated this year to the Hollings Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Breast Care Program will not only help provide outstanding care, but will also directly support local breast cancer patients with their personal recovery process.

This year’s tournament was the largest ever, with 147 USTA players participating. Besides the tennis, there were several other Racquets for Recovery functions and campaigns that contributed to its overall success and this year’s donation.

The celebration party and silent auction on Saturday night were supported by many in the Summerville area, as both individuals and representatives of the business community came out to show their support.

As part of the Flocking for Funds campaign started several years ago, during the entire month of October “flockers” adorned 150 lawns in the Pine Forest neighborhood and beyond with pink flamingos. With a donation to MUSC Hollings Cancer Center they were ‘flown’ to a destination of one’s choosing and off they went over, and over.

The Rockin’ for Recovery concert was held on Nov. 8 at the Clubhouse at Pine Forest. This first-time endeavor was created by a club member who gathered together a group of talented tennis players, family and friends to play music for an audience of more than 100.

Several of the players at Pine Forest are breast cancer survivors but prefer not to be defined as such. The Pine Forest Ladies Tennis Association and the entire tennis community there have been empowered by these ladies. This special event is not only a time to help someone who is in a battle of a lifetime, but also a time to share and celebrate their friendships.

Event organizers say none of it would have been possible without the support of all the Racquets for Recovery sponsors.

(11/25/13) SUMMERVILLE JOURNAL SCENE: Daniel Walters receives USTA Volunteer Service Award

He showed up as an inquisitive uncle registering his nephew for tennis.

More than two years later, Daniel Walters has helped expand the St. George Youth Sports League, coach dozens of junior tennis players and start a USTA flex league for adults in his hometown.

He’s also earned a statewide award: Walters is the 2013 USTA South Carolina recipient of the USTA Southern State Volunteer Service Award.

The annual USTA Southern honor is given to one volunteer in each of the section’s nine states. The recipient is chosen by the respective state’s USTA executive director.

‘Part of Daniel’s life’

USTA SC Executive Director Graham Cox said Walters’ willingness to get more and more involved with tennis in St. George has impressed him.

“Volunteering for the St. George Youth Sports League is a part of Daniel’s life,” Cox said, “not just something he carves time out from his life to do as goodwill.”

Just a couple years ago, though, Walters, now 27, had nothing to do with the sports league.

He had first played tennis only about five years earlier.

But in spring 2011, he agreed to take his 10-year-old nephew to register for junior tennis during an event at St. George Middle School. At the most, Walters thought, his nephew could enjoy the sport.

By the end of the night, Walters had heard from two St. George tennis leaders and the town’s mayor about how he should get more involved. He agreed to attend a junior tennis coaching workshop.

From there, he helped coach junior team tennis, run an after-school program and a summer tennis camp for kids.

“I love teaching them tennis because I think it builds the character and the personalities and the sportsmanship,” Walters said.

He also has grown the game with adults.

Walters helped organize a teaching clinic for beginners and later started a USTA flex league, which lets individuals schedule matches when and where it’s most convenient for them.

He initially accepted more responsibilities because of the progress he already saw, thanks to Barbara Jones, president of the St. George Community Tennis Association, and others.

The two weed-filled courts in town had been resurfaced; new bushes had been planted around the courts and a new chain-link fence had been installed around the property.

“(Jones) told me that the dream was even bigger than that,” Walters said.

Jones remembers answering a lot of questions from Walters that first night.

What would the kids do during Jr. Team Tennis? What would they learn? How did St. George work with the USTA?

“The fact that we had connections to a larger organization (rather) than just a handful of people in St. George gave it more authenticity and credibility,” she said.

‘Mr. Tennis’

These days, she’s the one asking Walters the questions, as in can you help out with this event? And she regularly hears a “yes.”

“He’s just Mr. Tennis,” Jones said.

Walters also helps kids away from the courts.

Missy Beard, who has a 17-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, said the kids feel free to talk with Walters about things they might not always discuss with their parents. And, she said, parents like knowing another trustworthy adult is there for their children.

Walters also has helped his family become more involved with tennis.

At this year’s “Pumpkin Match,” the annual junior tournament in St. George, his mother organized a cakewalk fundraiser and baked a seven-layer chocolate cake for the event.

His grandmother also made a butter pecan cake.

Walters’ nephew still plays, too, including twice a week with the St. George Jr. Team Tennis program.

“I just never expected to be this involved,” Walters said. “Now, obviously, it’s become such a passion of mine that I can’t imagine walking away.”

(11/25/13)  OPINION: Susan Satterfield-Suber:  ‘Negative spin’
I was disappointed in the tone of James Beck’s “cakewalk” description of the tennis match between Mid Carolina and Bishop England high schools. Our girls deserve better treatment in The Post and Courier.

The 11 students on our team have been playing an average of four years.

The team began practice during the summer from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. because we share courts with Newberry High School.

If the Newberry courts were unavailable, the team used the public courts in Prosperity — two courts with chain link fence as a net.

Our students were very excited to have made school history on a team that had only been in existence for six years.

The girls knew that they were up against a private school with domination in the “country club sports.”

MCHS cannot recruit and accepts all students who live in our attendance area. Our students do not have the luxury of year-round private tennis coaches.

Do not count MCHS out. Our students work diligently in the classroom and on the playing field. In my opinion, the comments in the article were unsportsmanlike with a negative spin.

Mid Carolina High School’s girls’ tennis is, in my opinion, the state champion of public 2A schools, and the girls played in an exemplary way to get to the championship.

Bishop England’s accomplishment could have been recognized without minimizing the work and pride of the young team members of Mid Carolina High School.

Susan Satterfield-Suber
Jalapa Road, Kinards

(11/24/13)  Rogers gets another wild-card shot
Everyone knows what happens when world-class Charleston pro Shelby Rogers takes aim at a wild-card berth into the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

She aced her last two chances to gain entry into this year’s French Open and U.S. Open. In fact, it was the second time Rogers has taken advantage of a U.S. Open wild-card opportunity.

This time, the 21-year-old Daniel Island product has been awarded a shot at a wild card into the main draw of January’s Australian Open. Rogers is among the first four players selected to compete in the eight-player USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs. The event is scheduled for Dec. 20-22 at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga.

Rogers, who gained her initial Grand Slam tournament win in this year’s French Open, is currently ranked No. 126 in the world, despite being sidelined from the tour the last two months by a muscle pull in her side. She started the year ranked 217th.

The other three players already selected for the wild-card competition are 17-year-old U.S. Open flash Victoria Duval (No. 168), 2011 U.S. Open junior champion Grace Min (No. 153) and Madison Brengle (No. 150).

Rogers, who already was planning to play in January’s Australian Open qualifying tournament for a second straight year, is at the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Fla., preparing for her return to the tour

Eighteen-year-old Madison Keys won the last two women’s Australian Open wild-card events and has climbed to 38th in the world as the youngest top 40 player. Rogers competed in the wild-card playoffs in 2010, but suffered a first-round loss. A men’s Australian Open wild-card tournament also will be held at the Atlanta area site.

A special weekend

It was like old times at Family Circle Tennis Center last weekend. The All-American Training Weekend put together by Family Circle pro Bryan Minton had the feel of the early 2000s when Fritz Nau, along with Minton, ran one of the top junior training centers in the country at various Charleston sites.

An array of excellent junior talent as well as the likes of former Southern No. 1 Connor Clements and former NCAA champion Mallory Cecil put on quite a show. But the real eye-catcher was the large group of young boys and girls, 9-12 years old, who were hitting like teenagers, while being supervised by some of the top coaches in the game, including the Family Circle staff.

The little guys and girls weren’t on the small 10-and-under courts and they were slugging real tennis balls. Look for this group of young players to make a major impact in state junior circles and beyond in 2014.

The coaches working the three-day event at Family Circle included Michael Joyce, a former top 75-ranked ATP Tour player who is better known for his eight years as Maria Sharapova’s coach; Alpharetta (Ga.) Tennis Academy owner Jeff Wilson, a former coach at Georgia Tech and Duke; Wilson’s wife, Kim Wilson, a WTA certified fitness and nutrition expert who works with two top 100 players; Kevin O’Neill, an Allpharetta Academy coach who has coached top 100 players on the ATP and WTA tours; and former Clemson/current Citadel coach Chuck Kriese.

Local notes

One of the highlights of last weekend’s Southern Senior Clay Court Closed Even Years Championships at Kiawah Island was former Citadel star player/coach Ben Varn’s three-set win over Mount Pleasant’s Ron Charron in the men’s 70 singles final. Other local winners included Frank Meade in men’s 80 singles and doubles; Sally Smith in women’s 50 singles and doubles; Cindy Babb in women’s 60 doubles (with Susie Peiffer) and in mixed 60 doubles (with Andy Steingold); Brandon Blakenbaker in men’s 30 singles and doubles (with Matt Hane); Tabatha Waddill in women’s 30 doubles; Jack/Diane Barker in mixed 50 doubles; and mother/son duo Diane Barker/Hane in mixed 30.

Matt Hane has left the I’On Club as head pro to take the same position at the Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rogue where he will start work in December.

Bishop England senior Caroline Yodice gained a measure of revenge in last weekend’s SCHSL singles championships with an 8-3 win over Sydney Derrick of Waccamaw in the consolation final to finish fifth in Class AA/A. Derrick had defeated Yodice in straight sets in the Lower State final in the Bishops’ march to their third straight state title. For the second time in two weeks, BE senior No. 1 Liza Arruda was defeated by Waccamaw seventh-grader Ali DeSpain, but rebounded from the semifinal loss to win the third-place match.

Alex Santiago has signed a tennis grant with the University of San Francisco. Santiago trains under Martin Zumpft.

Pine Forest Country Club’s recent Racquets for Recovery Tennis Tournament raised $22,000 for MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center’s comprehensive breast care program, increasing the tournament’s nine-year total to $180,000 for programs benefitting local breast cancer patients.

The application process for ball crew volunteers for next April’s Family Circle Cup has started and will continue until the 200 available spots for adults and juniors 11-and-over are filled. Applications and schedules are available at www.familycirclecup.com.

(11/11/13)  C of C’s Encinas wins Last Chance Fall Invite tennis tournament
College of Charleston freshman Rodrigo Encinas outlasted teammate Alon Faiman on Sunday afternoon to claim the singles title in the home-hosted Last Chance Fall Invite at the C of C Tennis Center on Patriots Point.

Encinas, a native of Santiago, Chile, made it to the final amongst a talented field of student-athletes representing two ranked programs in Virginia Tech and Georgia State. He defeated Faiman, 7-5, 6-3, to claim the title.

“We had some really quality competition here at this tournament, so For Rodrigo and Alon to get to the final was impressive,” said Cougars coach Jay Bruner. “It’s Rodrigo’s second title of the year as a freshman. It’s a good start to his collegiate career.”

Other Cougars results included Crescente Lesser finishing the tournament 3-1 after beating Virginia Tech’s Jai Corbett 3-6,6-2 (10-8); Stephen Hardy beat Nic Wilson of Virginia Tech 6-3,7-5; and Matt Daly defeated Georgia State’s Valentin Horvat 5-7,6-2, 6-1.

(11/10/13)  Bishops breeze to title

Saturday’s Class AA girls state tennis championship was a cakewalk for Bishop England (25-2) as the Bishops waltzed off with their third consecutive state title by crushing previously unbeaten Mid-Carolina, 6-0, at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. This one wasn’t even close as the Bishops yielded a total of just seven games in the five singles matches and No. 2 doubles as eighth-grader Lauren Quinn and freshman Cameryn Deames won 6-0, 6-0 matches at Nos. 3 and 4 singles. Only Gabrielle Dacuba gave up more than one game in singles as she took the No. 5 position, 6-1, 6-2, over Mid-Carolina’s Gracie Eldridge.

“We came to play,” BE coach Kristin Fleming said about her third state title.

It was a fitting end for the careers of Nos. 1 and 2 seniors Liza Arruda and Caroline Yodice, who suffered one-sided losses to Waccamaw in the state semifinals. They yielded just one game each to Mid-Carolina (14-1).

“I’m very proud of the team. We worked hard to get here,” Arruda said.

Yodice called it one of her best matches ever. “I was more focused and excited,” she said. “You have to stay focused and bring out your best at state.”

For Prosperity-based Mid-Carolina, the Rebels’ first region-championship season in their six years of fielding a girls tennis team ended with a rude awakening against the perennially powerful Bishops who captured their 11th state title in the last 17 seasons and 18th in all.

As for senior No. 2 doubles ace Hannah Simpson, she was just glad the championship match wasn’t as pressure-filled as the rain-interrupted win over Waccamaw when she and partner Drue Ranson had to wait until the next day to clinch the Lower State title.

“I’m really happy there wasn’t as much pressure today,” Simpson said. “It’s amazing. I never would have dreamed we would win three straight state titles.”

Travelers Rest defeated Myrtle Beach in the Class AAA state final, 4-3; T.L. Hanna defeated Dutch Fork in the Class AAAA final; and Christ Church won the Class A title over East Clarendon.


SINGLES: Liza Arruda (BE) def. Gabrielle Sanders, 6-1, 6-0; Caroline Yodice (BE) def. Madyson Murphy, 6-0, 6-1; Lauren Quinn (BE) def. Haley Hughes, 6-0, 6-0; Cameryn Deames (BE) def. Emily Livingston, 6-0, 6-0; Gabrielle Dacuba (BE) def. Gracie Eldridge, 6-1, 6-2.

DOUBLES: Hannah Simpson/Drue Ranson (BE) def. Sydney Willingham/Brooke Ball, 6-2, 6-0.

(11/10/13)  Is LCTA the area’s largest sports league?

Is there one singular sports league in the Charleston area that forms an umbrella to more active participants than the Lowcountry Tennis Association?

I wonder. I know there are little soccer players and little baseball players everywhere you look at certain times. But more than 4,000 under one local governing body?

That’s not counting all of the multiple registrations for participants. The number comes to more than 11,000 various LCTA league registrations in 2013 at $12 a click.

Like all of the other captains, I’m just happy to serve as captain of eight 18-plus adult league teams annually (I also captained one 40-plus mixed team this year).

Where am I coming from? Friday night’s huge outdoor party at Family Circle Tennis, better known as the LCTA’s annual member/guest party. It was outstanding in terms of attendance, dining choices and good conversations.

Approximately 800 or 900 people were on hand to feast on ample supplies of pork barbecue and grilled chicken, along with the side dishes, and wine and other beverages. All free, compliments of league tennis registrations.

Between the party and waiting for coach Kristin Fleming’s Bishop England girls to conquer Mid-Carolina for a third straight Class AA state championship, I had time to think about what league tennis means to me.

My wife might not always be pleased, but league tennis ranks pretty high on my pecking order. League tennis obviously has played a major role in my health, conditioning and well-being. I know I speak for many others.

I confess that I enjoy league tennis much more than jogging. Even more than biking.

The conditioning, competition, camaraderie and social interactions that league tennis provides are difficult to top. And Friday night’s party likely will help grow the LCTA in popularity and participation in the next year.

Local notes

Local senior women’s league tennis teams continued their stellar state tournament play last weekend as three teams captured state titles in locally held competition. Elisabeth Pickelsimer's 55-and-over 3.5 women out of Charleston Tennis Center won a state title, while non-playing captain Penny Gorby's 75-and-over 3.5 women also won a state title, along with a 55-plus 9.0 team out of Maybank Tennis Center captained by Kitsy Wise.

Daniel Walters of St. George has been named the winner of the 2013 USTA SC state volunteer service award.

Charleston’s Brian Burke, George Clonts and Deanna Vroman are members of a 10.0 mixed doubles team based out of Hilton Head Island that won the Southern championship and will play in the nationals in two weeks in Arizona.

Charleston Tennis Center will hold the Charleston County School District’s After School Showcase next Saturday. Anyone interested in helping with the event can contact Meg Farrelly at megphotogirl@aol.com.

Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Turkey Day mixed doubles event on Nov. 24 from 2-5 p.m. Sign up at Charleston Tennis Center.

The Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Charleston Tennis Center. Registration is available at www.usta.com.

(11/08/13) Bishop-England beast Waccamaw
Two-time defending state champion Bishop England won the one game at No. 2 doubles the Bishops (24-2) needed Thursday to clinch the Lower State Class AA girls tennis title and the No. 1 doubles team added icing on the championship cake to complete a 5-2 victory over Waccamaw. The victory sends coach Kristin Fleming’s team to Columbia for a Saturday noon state final encounter with Mid-Carolina (14-0), which is in only its sixth season of fielding a team.

Senior Hannah Simpson and Drue Ranson won the one game they needed to close out a 6-0, 6-3 win over Waccamaw’s Lindsay Costin and Caitlyn Krask at No. 2 doubles and clinch the Bishops’ third straight Lower State title. The Bishops pair owned a 6-0, 5-3 advantage Wednesday night when the doubles match was interrupted by rain as Bishop England held a 3-2 team edge over Waccamaw when play resumed on Thursday.

In the rain-interrupted No. 1 doubles match that was completed after the Bishops clinched the victory, senior Liza Arruda and eighth-grader Lauren Quinn fought back to win, 2-6, 6-2, 10-6, in a third-set tiebreaker against the Waccamaw team of seventh-grader Ali Despain and Sydney Derrick.

Fleming said the key to the match was the obvious superiority on Wednesday of Quinn, freshman Cameryn Deames and sophomore Gabrielle Dacuba at the Nos. 3-5 singles positions in which they dropped a total of just six games. Arruda and senior Caroline Yodice suffered one-sided losses at Nos. 1 and 2 singles to Despain and Derrick.

Quinn scored a 6-3, 6-2 win over Waccamaw No. 2 player Catalina Carr, who was bumped down to No. 3 when Derrick was inserted at No. 2.

SINGLES: Ali Despain (W) d. Liza Arruda, 6-0, 6-1; Sydney Derrick (W) d. Caroline Yodice, 6-1, 7-5; Lauren Quinn (B) d. Catalina Carr, 6-3, 6-2; Cameryn Deames (B) d. Lizzie Farmer, 6-0, 6-0; Gabrielle Dacuba (B) d. Maddie Middleton, 6-1, 6-0.
DOUBLES: Arruda/Quinn (B) def. Despain/Derrick, 2-6, 6-2, 10-6; Drue Ranson/Hannah Simpson (B) def. Lindsay Costin/Caitlyn Krask, 6-0, 6-3.

(11/07/13)  Bishop England - Waccamaw playoff tennis match on hold until Thursday
Bishop England’s girls were so close to winning a third straight Class AA Lower State girls tennis championship Wednesday night, but rain won out in the end. The once-beaten Bishops and Waccamaw will attempt to finish the match Thursday at 4 p.m. at Creekside Tennis and Swim, with the Bishops holding a 3-2 lead over Waccamaw and needing to win one game to wrap up a spot in Saturday’s High School League state final.

“We’ll need to come in early and close it out,” said BE coach Kristin Fleming, who is seeking her third straight state title with the Bishops.

The Bishops’ No. 2 doubles team of Hannah Simpson and Drue Ranson won the first 10 games against Waccamaw’s Lindsay Costin and Caitlyn Krask and held a 5-1 lead before dropping a pair of games to allow the rain to put a halt to play at the Creekside complex. The Simpson/Ranson pair owns a 6-0, 5-3 advantage when the match resumes Thursday afternoon.

After having the lines dried with towels and a blower, the two teams appeared ready to resume after a 40-minute delay. But when more rain started falling, Fleming and Waccamaw coach Joan Cribb agreed to complete the match on Thursday.

Bishop England seniors Liza Arruda and Caroline Yodice suffered losses at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, but eighth-grader Lauren Quinn, freshman Cameryn Deames and sophomore Gabrielle Dacuba yielded a total of only six games at the Nos. 3-5 positions as Bishop England came up one win short in singles of closing out the match.

Waccamaw seventh-grader Ali Despain overwhelmed Arruda, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 1, while newcomer Sydney Derrick took a 6-1, 7-5 win over Yodice at No. 2.

Bishop England’s No. 1 doubles team of Arruda and Quinn trailed Waccamaw’s Despain/Derrick pair, 6-2, 2-2, when play was halted.

LCTA party Friday

The Lowcountry Tennis Association’s annual party will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at Family Circle Tennis Center for all LCTA players, their guests and prospective players. Foods and beverages will be provided at the catered event.

Entertainment will be provided by mixed doubles teams from eight area tennis facilities, including the mother/son pair of I’On pros Diane Barker and Matt Hane.

(11/06/13)  Berkeley ousted by Myrtle Beach in tennis playoffs
Berkeley’s Kristen Farmer closed out her senior year of tennis with a 19-2 singles record Wednesday night, but the Stags (18-4) suffered a 5-1 loss to powerful Myrtle Beach (23-1) in the High School League Class AAA Lower State final in a match played at Myrtle Beach.

Other than Farmer’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Rachel Berkey at No. 1, the Stags didn’t win a set as Myrtle Beach easily advanced to Saturday’s state championship match.

The Stags won six games in each of the last three singles positions, but Myrtle Beach’s experience came through in the clutch.

“The girls played well, and Kristin had a great finish to her career,” veteran Berkeley coach Joe Harnage said about Farmer, who has been the Stags’ No. 1 player for six years.

SINGLES: Kristin Farmer (B) def. Rachel Berkey (MB), 6-1, 6-2; Jessie Dumas (MB) def. Elliott Huxford (B), 6-1, 6-3; Bailey Deskins (MB) def. Jill Funk (B), 6-3, 6-3; Emma Springs (MB) def. Caroline Lamprecht (B), 6-1, 7-5; Paxton Gentry (MB) def. Camren Tebber (B), 7-5, 6-1.
DOUBLES: Carolyn Gore/Catherine Truluck (MB) def. Lauren Jackson/Emma Futrell (B), 6-0, 6-0.

(11/06/13)  Bishops, Waccamaw meet for Lower State
Old rivals Bishop England and Waccamaw are on schedule to extend their combined streak of 10 straight High School League Class AA state girls tennis titles as they meet in Wednesday’s Lower State final at 4:30 p.m. at Creekside Tennis and Swim.

The winner will advance to Saturday’s noon state championship match at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center.

The Bishops and Warriors have split the last 10 state titles evenly, although coach Kristin Fleming's once-beaten BE girls have won the last two state titles and are favored again. Bishop England scored a 5-1 preseason victory over Waccamaw, the same score the Bishops defeated Waccamaw by in last year’s Lower State title match. Tolley Rice and Sarah Elliott, Waccamaw’s top two players a year ago, are now playing college tennis for Elon and Coker College.

Bishop England and Waccamaw have won 15 of the last 16 state titles, with the Bishops capturing 10 of them. Overall, the Bishops have won 17 state girls tennis titles.

“We’re ready to play,” said former Bishop England star Fleming.

Led by seniors Liza Arruda and Caroline Yodice, the Bishops scored a 6-1 win over Academic Magnet on Monday. Waccamaw defeated Aynor, 5-1, in another state quarterfinal.

Berkeley at MB
Seniors Kristin Farmer and Jill Funk, and junior Elliott Huxford, who have combined for 17 years of starting for Berkeley, have carried the Stags to new heights. On Wednesday at 5 p.m., the Stags (18-3) will challenge Myrtle Be

Myrtle Beach ended Hilton Head High’s six-year Class AAA state dominance on Monday with a 5-1 upset. Tenth-year coach Joe Harnage’s Berkeley team posted a 4-3 win over Wilson as Nos. 1-3 Farmer, Huxford and Funk won at singles to set up the No. 1 Farmer/Huxford doubles team for the victory. Two of Berkeley’s three losses were to Hilton Head.

(10/29/13)  Jelena Jankovic, 2007 Family Circle Cup champion, enters 2014 event on Daniel Island
Jelena Jankovic, a 2013 Family Circle Cup finalist and past champion, has officially entered the 2014 tournament.

Jankovic, the World No. 8 player who won the Family Circle Cup in 2007, joins World No. 1 and defending champion Serena Williams in the 2014 tournament Mar. 29–April 6 at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

Jankovic had a resurgent 2013 season. She began the year ranked outside of the top 20, but ended it ranked No. 8 after reaching the semifinals of the WTA Championships,

“Jelena Jankovic‘s 2013 season has made for some thrilling tennis matches to watch,” said Eleanor Adams, Family Circle Cup tournament manager. “Her personality draws fans in, but her powerhouse tennis skills are what makes them continue to cheer for her. The Family Circle Cup is excited to welcome Jelena back, at the top of her game, to Charleston for the 10th time.”

Jankovic has made nine previous appearances in Charleston, where she holds an 18-8 record and the 2007 singles title. Throughout her 14-year WTA career, she has accumulated 13 singles titles, 530 singles victories, more than $15.3 million in prize money and a World No. 1 ranking in 2008.

“The Family Circle Cup is such a special tournament to me, and I always have so much fun in Charleston,” said Jankovic. “I’m already looking forward to being back there this spring.

“The tournament has the greatest fans, and I’m excited for another shot at its historic title.”

Ticket packages, travel packages and individual session tickets are available at FamilyCircleCup.com or by calling the box office at (800) 677-2293.

(10/26/13)  Bishops going for third straight title
Bishop England is favored to capture its third straight S.C. High School League Class AA state title in the two-week long state girls playoffs that are set to begin this week.
As usual, the toughest obstacle for coach Kristin Fleming’s once-beaten Bishops is expected to be old rival Waccamaw in a Lower State matchup. Waccamaw lost ace Tolley Rice to college tennis at Elon and doesn’t appear to be as strong this season.
The Bishops won last year’s state semifinal clash against Waccamaw, 5-1, losing only to Rice. The Bishops also scored a 5-1 preseason win over Waccamaw two months ago.
While the Bishops won’t start play until Thursday, local Class AAA and AAAA teams will begin play on Tuesday.
In Class AAA, No. 2 Berkeley plays host to Socastee in the first round, Hanahan visits powerful Myrtle Beach and James Island goes to Wilson.
In Class AAAA first-round pairings, Wando is the only local No. 1 seed and entertains Colleton County, while No. 2 Stratford plays host to Beaufort, No. 2 Ashley Ridge is home to Spring Valley and West Ashley visits Bluffton.
The state finals are scheduled for Nov. 9 at the sprawling Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center just off Interstate 26 on the Charleston side of Columbia.

Women reap gold
Local women’s teams participating in league tennis’ state combo championships last weekend at Hilton Head Island dominated the senior age groups by bringing home five state titles. Christine Ramsey’s 5.5 ladies out of Dunes West captured the lone 18-plus title among local women’s teams.
The senior women’s winners were: captain Marie Cunningham’s 40-plus 6.5 team from Mount Pleasant; Leah Biller’s 40-plus 7.5 team from Park West; Joette Creager’s 55-plus 7.5 team from Mount Pleasant Rec; Penny Gorby’s 65-plus 6.5 team from Charleston Tennis Center; and Elisabeth Pickelsimer’s 65-plus 7.5 team from Charleston Tennis Center.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that any of the local men’s teams were finalists at Hilton Head Island. But I am sure there were some great times and stories, such as my 18-plus Charleston Tennis Center team and me playing three matches last Sunday en route to winning our flight and advancing to the state semifinals.
Also in the mixed doubles 55-plus state tournament at Aiken, the Del Webb team of Charleston won the state 6.0 title.

Carter wins again
From the Czech Republic, to Austria, to Salinas, Calif. And, of course, Charleston is Brenda Carter’s home.
Carter’s latest exploits came last weekend in California where she won two more national titles, sweeping singles and doubles in the women’s 65 age group. She defeated doubles partner Betty Wachob of Panama City, Fla., in the singles final.
A few weeks earlier, Carter was winning the 65-and-over mixed doubles world championship with Georgian Hugh Thomson in the ITF world individual championships in Austria where Carter also teamed with Wachob for a runner-up finish in doubles.
Carter was a standout on the runner-up U.S. team in the world 65-and-over team championships in the Czech Republic before heading to Austria.
Local notes
Daniel Island boys 14 Southern top 10 junior Jared Pratt competed in tournaments until two days before his late September surgery date at MUSC for the curved-spine condition Scoliosis. He played No. 1 singles and doubles for the S.C. Southern Cup team and posted an 8-0 record as South Carolina finished second to Georgia in the Southern competition. Pratt is expected to be sidelined for nearly a year.
Charleston’s Shelby Rogers is now 21 years old, and she has climbed to a new career high of No. 116 in the world. She hasn’t played an event since suffering a pulled side muscle four weeks ago in Las Vegas.
The recent Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Championships raised $52,000 for the Hospice of Charleston Foundation. Local singles winners included Andy Steingold (men’s 60), Frank Meade (men’s 80), Diane Barker (women’s 50) and Susie Peiffer (women’s 60).
Legend Oaks pro Andy Steingold will be the recipient of the state’s male player of the year award during USTA South Carolina’s Dec. 7 annual celebration at Wild Dunes Resort, while Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young will receive the John Newcombe Pro award. Other local winners are most improved junior boy Scotty Cameron of the Isle of Palms, the Floyd family of St. George and the Kiawah Island Junior Championships.
Charleston Tennis Center will serve as host for the S.C. Tennis on Campus state championship event Nov. 9-10.
Charleston Tennis Center will hold a Turkey Day mixed doubles event on Nov. 24 from 2-5 p.m. Sign up at Charleston Tennis Center.
The Charleston Thanksgiving Junior Classic is scheduled for Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Charleston Tennis Center. Registration is available at www.usta.com.
Charleston Tennis Center will hold the Charleston County School District’s After School Showcase on Nov. 16. Anyone interested in helping with the event can contact Meg Farrelly at megphotogirl@aol.com.

Singles: P. Reynolds d. M. Mitchell 6-3, 6-2. S. Long d. T. Sanders 6-0, 6-0. T. Rodgers (FD) d. L. Naval 6-2, 6-3. M. McClane d. T. Mukhopadhyay 6-3, 7-6. M. Scott d. T. Wallace 6-4, 6-2.  Doubles: M. Mitchell/T. Rodgers (FD) d. P. Reynolds/L. Naval 6-2, 4-6, 10-5. L. Hancock/D. Zoeller d. A. Hoffman/M. Mitchell 4-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Records: Summerville 7-12. Next: Summerville at James Island Thursday. Fort Dorchester’s season is over.

(10/23/13)  COURTHOUSE NEWS: DAN MCCUE: Tennis Pro Sues for Head Bonk
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (CN) - A professional tennis player was knocked out cold by negligently hung lighting in a corporate sponsor booth at a Family Circle Cup tennis tournament, she claims in court.

Plaintiff Lauren Davis is ranked 63rd among Women's Tennis Association singles players. She sued Production Design Associates, and High Output, in Berkeley County Court.

While competing in the Family Circle Cup tournament in April 2011, she was booked to tape an interview on behalf of corporate sponsor Dove, which is not a party to the lawsuit.

The defendants were hired to provide and install lighting and video equipment for the shoot.

“While plaintiff was waiting to be interviewed, a piece of lighting and video equipment selected, provided and installed by defendants fell and struck plaintiff in the head, knocking her unconscious," Davis says in the complaint.

As a direct result, says Davis, who has since played in the U.S., Australian and French opens, "suffered and continues to suffer from serious, severe and painful head trauma and injuries including a concussion, post-concussion syndrome with its resulting emotional effects, and severe and long-term headaches."

She claims she also "has required expensive and long term medical treatment including multiple emergency room visits, evaluation and treatment by specialists, diagnostic tests such as CT scans and MRI, prescription medications, and other treatments and will continue to require medical care in the future."

Davis seeks actual and punitive damages for negligence and gross negligence.

She is represented by Ashley Twombley, with Twenge + Twombley, of Beaufort, S.C.

West Ashley 5, Goose Creek 0
Singles: A.Brown def J. Ho 6-0, 6-1; T. Linker def H. Marchant 6-2, 6-2; Clarin Barron def C. Richards 6-3, 6-4; J. Taylor def V. Ibanez 6-2, 6-4; Clanice Barron def KC Macaspac 8-0. Next: West Ashley at Cane Bay on Thursday; Goose Creek Regular season is over

(10/22/13)  LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Joseph E. Boyd Jr., Hanahan: ‘Grace and charm’
Apparently there aren’t many real Southern belles around anymore. Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure to know one personally. She has the grace and charm to rival any 20-year-old debutante.

Her poise and movement liken her to a New York model on the catwalk. The only difference is that this particular belle happens to be in her 70s.

The tennis community knows her as Sophia McAllister while my wife just fondly refers to her as my “tennis date.” She glides around the court as smoothly as Peggy Fleming did on the ice. Her demeanor never changes regardless of the situation or the score of a match.

She is the ideal mixed doubles partner and never exhibits a negative attitude during play. Her personality on and off the court is like a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, she has informed us that she will be moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, soon to be near her oldest daughter.

I’m going to miss this lady of elegance, and our loss is certainly Ohio’s gain. Yes, Virginia, there does appear to be at least one Southern belle around, and she lives in the person of Sophia McAllister.

(10/22/13)  ISLAND PACKET: Sixth Hilton Head Island team wins title on final day of USTA S.C. Combo Doubles League Championships
Eight more teams won state titles and earned the chance to compete for more championships Monday, the last day of the USTA South Carolina Combo Doubles League Championships.

Another team from the Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island won a title Monday. A Hilton Head Island team won the 18 and Over Women Level 9.5. Teams from the association won six titles during the five-day tournament, the largest USTA South Carolina championship.

In all, 28 South Carolina combo state championship teams now have the chance to go on to the Combo Doubles Southern Sectional Championships early next year.

The tournament was expected to bring more than 2,000 people to Hilton Head Island for tennis.

Details: Complete results, http://tinyurl.com/ngcvdx5.

USTA South Carolina Combo Doubles League Championships
Monday at Palmetto Dunes

18 and Over Women Level 5.5 - champion: Lowcountry Tennis Association 1, captain Chris Ramsey; finalist: Foothills Tennis Association, captain Laura Karns.

18 and Over Women Level 6.5 - champion: Foothills Tennis Association, captain Elizabeth Botzis; finalist: Lowcountry Tennis Association, captain Kristin Eddy.

18 and Over Men Level 6.5 - champion: Greenwood Area Tennis Association, captain Drew Mundy; finalist: Columbia Tennis League, captain Brent Ferrell.

18 and Over Women Level 7.5 - champion: Foothills Tennis Association, captain Katy Symonette; finalist: Lowcountry Tennis Association 2, captain Patricia Dever.

18 and Over Men Level 7.5 - champion: Greenwood Area Tennis Association, captain Drew Mundy; finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Ron Charles.

18 and Over Women Level 8.5 - champion: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Shannon Chase; finalist: Lexington Area Tennis Association, captain Cathy Taylor.

18 and Over Men Level 8.5 - champion: Grand Strand Tennis Association, captain Tim McCoy; finalist: Florence Area Tennis Association, captain Rando Strickland.

18 and Over Women Level 9.5 - Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, captain Michelle Clark; finalist: Lexington Area Tennis Association, captain Harriett Reid.

(10/20/13)  Hilton Head Prep denies Cyclones for state title
Hilton Head Prep extended its unbeaten streak to 28 matches and won its second straight SCISA Class AAA girls tennis state championship on Saturday with a 6-0 victory over Porter-Gaud (10-4) at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center. In the third consecutive state final pitting the two Region III rivals, Hilton Head Prep (14-0) was near flawless, just as the Dolphins have been in their last three meetings with the Cyclones. The Dolphins yielded just 12 games this time, and no more than three games in any individual singles match.

Hilton Head senior Mariana Gould improved her previous efforts against Porter-Gaud’s Ann Martin Skelly with a 6-1, 6-0 blitzing at No. 1 singles, even though the Cyclones’ freshman left-hander played perhaps her best match against Gould. The loss marked Skelly’s first career SCISA Finals Weekend defeat in six singles matches.

Fourth-year Hilton Head Prep coach Job de Boer described his tennis academy dominated Dolphins as “a small college team” after the latest victory. “Our No. 1 player is going to the University of Georgia,” the Sea Pines Racquet Club director of tennis said about Gould.

“They have a fabulous team,” first-year Porter-Gaud coach Charlotte Hartsock said. “We did not lose . . . we got beat. Everyone worked hard. I was proud of our girls.”

The last time Hilton Head Prep lost a match (Prep and P-G tied 4-4 in a 2012 match that wasn’t completed) was two years ago in the state final in Sumter when Porter-Gaud prevailed, and de Boer’s parting words that day as he drove the team bus out of the parking lot were, “We’ll see you next year.”

Once again, both teams can look ahead to next year. Each team started only two seniors on Saturday.

As an example of Hilton Head’s depth, regular No. 3 Ellie Czura didn’t play because of a knee injury and was replaced by junior Ellie Zimmermann, who posted a 6-0, 6-1 win over P-G senior Carlyle Williams.

Singles: Mariana Gould (HHP) def. Ann Martin Skelly, 6-1, 6-0; Sydnee Wheeler def. Grace Robards, 6-1, 6-2; Ellie Zimmermann def. Carlyle Williams, 6-0, 6-1; Taylor Childress def. Lexi Steichen, 6-0, 6-1; Catie Meighan def. Madison McNeill, 6-2, 6-1; Katie Rankin (HHP) Rebecca Kahn, 6-0, 6-3.

(10/20/13)  ISLAND PACKET: USTA Combo Doubles state tournament continues despite rain
The rain couldn't stop nine teams from around the state from winning league championships Saturday as the USTA South Carolina Combo League Championships continued on Hilton Head Island.

Three of the titles won Saturday were taken by squads from the Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island: the 55 and Over Men's 6.5 and 7.5 teams, and the 55 and Over Women's 8.5 team. Winners advance to the Combo Doubles Southern Sectional Championships early next year.

Rain delayed the start of play Saturday, and rain and lightning suspended play later. Matches will resume at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at their respective sites.

The tournament is being held at 12 sites on Hilton Head Island, including Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, the host site. Admission to the event is free.

USTA South Carolina Combo League Championships

Saturday's championships

55 and Over Men Level 6.5 -- Champion: Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, captain Werner Sicvol; Finalist: Greenwood Area Tennis Association, captain Wendell Rhodes.

55 and Over Women Level 6.5 -- Champion: Spartanburg Area Tennis Association, captain Francine Gelinas; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Carol Eggleton.

55 and Over Men Level 7.5 -- Champion: Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, captain Mark Anders; Finalist: Lexington Area Tennis Association, captain Peter Guster.

55 and Over Women Level 7.5 -- Champion: Lowcountry Tennis Association, captain Joette Creager; Finalist: Lexington Area Tennis Association, captain Galen Johnston.

55 and Over Women Level 8.5 -- Champion: Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, captain Shannon Lurkin; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Janet Driscoll.

65 and Over Men Level 6.5 -- Champion: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association 1, captain Ron Younts; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association 2, captain Troy Hoskins.

65 and Over Women Level 6.5 -- Champion: Lowcountry Tennis Association, captain Penelope Gorby; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Gwen Hart.

65 and Over Men Level 7.5 -- Champion: Grand Strand Tennis League, captain Ernie Walters; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association 1, captain Larry Druffel.

65 and Over Women level 7.5 -- Champions: Lowcountry Tennis Association, captain Elisabeth Pickelsimer; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Cheryl Reilly.

Friday's championships

55 and Over Men Level 8.5 -- Champion: Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, captain Dave Dockum; Finalist: Upper Piedmont Tennis Association, captain Richard Jones.

(10/20/13)  LCTA: LCTA Team Wins State 55+ Mixed Doubles 6.0 Championship
“A perfect regular season that saw the Del Webb of Charleston mixed doubles team lose only four sets turned into a magical season in Aiken when we brought back the South Carolina mixed doubles championship to the Charleston area.

 We captured the state title by sweeping one match and winning the others 2-1 on the outstanding tennis venues in beautiful Aiken.  Thanks to the people who worked so hard to make this tournament run smoothly and thanks to the LCTA for your support in our endeavor.  Del Webb at Charleston is proud to be the 6.0 mixed doubles champion and look forward to another fine year in 2014.”

Five LCTA teams competed in the 55+ mixed doubles state championships in Aiken over the week-end of October 18-20. The LCTA-I Del Webb Mixers captained by Roland Ouelette and Currie Funk and the LCTA-II Walterboro Double Trouble team captained by Tom Lohr, represented the Low Country in the 6.0 championships. Our 7.0 representatives were LCTA-I Charleston Tennis Center Mx Doublers captained by Elisabeth Pickelsimer and Beth Renken and LCTA-II St Andrews Double the Fun captained by Dee McCorkle and Mary Davis. At 8.0 and 9.0, respectively, Kathy Peebles’ Pine Forest team and Diane Barker’s Lowcountry team represented LCTA.  In addition to the Del Webb team winning states, Kathryn Peebles’ team won their round robin and finished in the semifinals and Diane Barker’s team finished second overall.

Elisabeth Pickelsimer and Jim Royce captained the Charleston Tennis Center Emeralds w/Studs team, which was the lone LCTA team in the 65+ mixed doubles. The team finished third in the 7.0 championship.

(10/20/13)  LCTA: Lowcountry Women Rule!
7.5 combo state champs
The following teams have won the Combo State Chmps held in Hilton Head this past weekend:

7.5 combo state champs5.5 Women 18 & Over - Dunes West Unforced Terrors - Captain:  Christine Ramsey

6.5 Women 40 & Over - Mt. Pleasant Rec. Thirtyniners - Captain:  Marie Cunningham

7.5 Women 40 & Over - Park West Wrinkled Beavers - Captain:  Leah Biller
7.5 Women 55 & Over - Mt. Pleasant Rec. 55 Ladies - Captain:  Joette Creager
6.5 Women 65 & Over - Farmfield Friends - Captain:  Penny Gorby
7.5 Women 65 & Over - CTC Playwrights - Captain:  Elisabeth Pickelsimer

Congratulations to these women for their fantastic win and best of luck in the Sectional Championships for the 18 & Over and 40 & Over teams.

(10/19/13)  Cyclones roll to state title match
Porter-Gaud wasted little time on Friday advancing to its fifth straight SCISA Class AAA girls tennis state championship match as the Cyclones (10-3) rolled past Hilton Head Christian, 5-1, at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center. For the third consecutive year, the Cyclones’ opponent in the title match will be fellow Region III foe Hilton Head Prep (13-0), the defending champion which extended its unbeaten string to 27 straight matches with a 6-0 romp past Hammond School in the other semifinal. The final is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday in Sumter.

Freshman left-hander Ann Martin Skelly led the Cyclones with a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 1 singles over Catherine Campbell, a replacement for Hilton Head Christian’s regular No. 1 player Madison Dillon, who was sidelined by a foot injury.

Junior Grace Robards and senior Carlyle Williams scored easy wins at Nos. 2 and 3, but sophomore Lexi Steichen suffered a loss at No. 4.

Looking ahead to a third meeting with Hilton Head Prep this season (Prep easily won the first two), first-year Porter-Gaud head coach Charlotte Hartsock said, “Anything can happen. We’re going to get a good meal, a good rest and we’re going to play good tennis.”

Skelly faces a major challenge to her unbeaten 5-0 SCISA Finals Weekend record in Hilton Head Prep senior Mariana Gould, the 2012 Junior Family Circle Cup runner-up who yielded just three games to Skelly in two regular season meetings.

“She’s definitely tough . . . a very experienced player,” Skelly said about Gould, who already has committed to the University of Georgia’s highly rated program.

“We have to play our best tennis to win, but they are beatable.”


Singles: Ann Martin Skelly (P-G) def. Catherine Campbell, 6-1, 6-0; Grace Robards (P-G) def. Monica Bundy, 6-0, 6-3; Carlyle Williams (P-G) def. Kate Bennett, 6-3, 6-1; Meredith Inglis (HHC) def. Lexi Steichen, 6-1, 6-3; Madison McNeill (P-G) def. Grace Berrigan, 6-2, 6-1; Rebecca Kahn (P-G) def. Maddy Bauer, 6-3, 6-1.

(10/18/13)  SUMMERVILLE JOURNAL SCENE: Steingold receives USTA honor
Provided Andy Steingold faces off against Hugh Thompson during a doubles match at Seabrook.
PHOTO: Andy Steingold faces off against Hugh Thompson during a doubles match at Seabrook.

When you are as passionate about tennis as Andy Steingold, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Steingold, the director of tennis at Legend Oaks Golf and Tennis Club and Ashley Ridge High School tennis coach, has been named the 2013 South Carolina Adult Male Player of the Year by the United States Tennis Association. He was selected for the honor based on tournament results, state rankings and endorsements from other players.

“I’m honored because there are a lot of deserving players in this state,” Steingold said. “Also people said very nice things about me in my nomination application.”

Steingold finished 2012 with an 18-2 record, his only losses coming in Southern and National tournaments to ranked opponents. He has been the top-ranked player in the state for his age division for the past two years and last year rose to the No. 6 ranking for the Southeast Region 60’s division that includes players from nine states.

The last four years he represented South Carolina in the senior cup, a regional all-star tournament that features teams comprised of four players from different age groups.

His 2013 accomplishments include singles championships at the Litchfield State Clay Courts in September and the Alan Fleming tournament held this month at Seabrook.

Over the last few years he has also had a lot of success in doubles tournaments, pairing up with different friends for men’s 55s, 60s, 9.0 Mixed and Open Mixed competition. During the Alan Fleming tournament, he and Cynthia Babb lost a tough third set match in the 60s Mixed Doubles finals to the World No. 1 team of Brenda Carter and Hugh Thompson.

In nominating Steingold for the Player of the Year honor, Tabatha Waddill collected multiple endorsements from players who know him well. Just as Steingold’s results on the court serve as a testament to his competitive spirit, those endorsements serve as a testament to his love of the game and life itself.

“Andy is a true sportsman,” Diane Barker said. “He competes fairly and brings out the best in his opponent and partners. He is gracious in victory and complementary in defeat. He is a great example on how one should carry oneself on the court.”

Alfons Cadusch has known Steingold for decades and refers to him as “a class act both on and off of the court” and “a good ambassador for the tennis world.”

Art Welling also has kind words for Steingold.

“Andy, the person, may be an even larger asset than Andy the tennis pro,” he said. “I first met him years ago. … Since then he’s become one of my favorite, if not my favorite, person to be on the court with either as an opponent or a doubles partner. He brings an uncanny level of excitement to the game, and his dedication to the members of the club he represents is truly unparalleled. It is obvious that he cares about making his club a welcoming place for players of all levels, and he actually loves being surrounded by the tennis community.”

Steingold was a young man when he first became a standout on the tennis court. He went on to become a member of the University of South Carolina men’s tennis team who, after graduation, launched a career as a tennis instructor.

He gave up tennis instruction to embark on a retail marketing career that spanned 25 years but, upon retirement, picked up where he left off.

“I wanted to do something I really had a passion for so I got back into it about seven years ago,” Steingold said. “I’ve had a couple of real good years on the court but more importantly I’m having a blast. Playing competitive tennis is something I enjoy not only because I like to win but also because I like the competition and the people involved with all the tournaments. I’ve traveled across several states and met a lot of nice people. I’ve developed a lot of friendships and it has been good for Legend Oaks because it has helped get the club’s name out there.”

Steingold has helped Legend Oaks owners boost their brand recognition over the past few years, particularly in the tennis realm.

The club’s tennis facility only includes four courts but over the past several years Steingold has help turned it into a bit of a tennis metropolis. Today, 45 USTA teams play out of the little facility nestled under the oaks. Despite its size, Legend Oaks won the 2012 USTA Facility of the Year award. The club hosts two major tournaments each year, along with numerous socials. The third annual Championships at Legend Oaks hosted more than 140 players from the Charleston area in January. The Level 3 tournament raised $2,500 for MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

In September the club hosted the Legend Oaks Gives Back Benefit tournament that drew more than 100 players from the area and raised funds for Meals on Wheels of Summerville and The Palmetto House Homeless Shelter and Soup Kitchen.

Singles: A. Brown (WA) d. Chrisia Class 4-6, 6-2, 10-6. T. Linker (WA) d. A. Rivers 6-3, 6-4. L. Hudson d. B. Heffner 6-3, 6-1. Celeste Class d. C. Barron 3-6, 6-1, 10-7. R. Cady d. J. Taylor 6-2, 7-5.  Doubles: K. Gadson/E. Hastings d. K. Weeks/T. Sumter.  Next: Stratford at Goose Creek Monday. West Ashley Hosts Cane Bay Monday.

(10/18/13)  Porter-Gaud, Hilton Head Christian to battle in girls’ tennis semis
There’s a vast difference between playing No. 1 and No. 3 in high school tennis.

Just ask Porter-Gaud freshman Ann Martin Skelly, who seldom lost at the high school level until this fall when she made the move to the top of the Cyclones’ singles lineup.

“The competition is so much tougher,” Shelly said Wednesday after losing to Cardinal Newman standout Brittney Desmond during Porter-Gaud’s 5-1 victory in the SCISA Class AAA girls state quarterfinals.

“Your team is counting on you to lead them. But I love playing No. 1.”

Skelly will lead the Cyclones against fellow Region III foe Hilton Head Christian in Friday’s 2 p.m. state semifinals at Sumter’s Palmetto Tennis Center. Porter-Gaud (9-3) owns 5-1 and 7-2 wins over Hilton Head Christian this season, but Christian’s two-handed hitting eighth-grader Madison Dillon defeated Skelly both times.

All eyes will be on the other semifinal where heavily favored defending state champion Hilton Head Prep puts its 26-match winning streak on the line against Hammond School.

The winners of the two Friday matches that include three Region III teams will square off at 10 a.m. Saturday for the state championship.

Hammond scored a 6-3 win over Ashley Hall in the quarterfinals, while Hilton Head Prep rolled over Pinewood Prep, 6-0.

(10/17/13)  PREP ZONE: GIRLS TENNIS results from Wednesday
Singles: B. Desmond (CN) d. A. Skelly 6-0, 7-6. G. Robards d. A. Hill 6-1, 6-1. C. Williams d. M. Snoddy 6-0, 6-1. L. Steichen d. M. Maddock 7-5, 6-1. M. McNeill d. K. Gervasi 6-7, 6-2 (10-3).  Records: Porter-Gaud 9-3.

Singles: E. Kusper d. Chrisia Class 6-1, 6-0. F. Kirkpatrick d. A. Rivers 6-1, 6-0. A. Hickey d. L. Hudson 6-0, 6-0. S. Moore d. Celeste Class 6-2, 6-1. H. Sinclaire d. R. Cady 6-0, 6-0. Doubles: M. Berly/E. King d. K. Gadson/E. Hastings 6-1, 6-0.

Singles: Chrisia Class d. H. Marchant 6-3, 6-3. A. Rivers d. J. Ho 6-4, 6-4. L. Hudson d. V. Ibanez 6-0, 6-1. Celeste Class d. C. Richardson 6-2, 6-0. R. Cady d. K. Macaspac 6-1, 6-1.  Doubles: K. Gadson/E. Hastings d. D. McFadden/D. Deas 8-3.

Records: Wando 8-5 (6-0). Stratford 6-7 (4-2). Goose Creek 2-3 (2-3). Next: Wando at Goose Creek today. Stratford at West Ashley today.


Singles: Soop (B) d. Green 5-7, 7-5, 10-1; Wilson (B) d. Reynolds 6-0, 6-2; Baxter (B) d. Long 6-1, 6-3; Rathke (B) d. Naval 6-0, 6-2; Castrillen (B) d. McClane 6-3, 6-1.  Doubles: Bierschenk/Wilson (B) d. Mobley/Hancock 7-6, 6-4.  Records: Bluffton 8-4; Summerville 6-10.

Ashley Ridge 5, Beaufort 1
Singles: Bella Lawrence (AR) d Zoe Brais 6-2, 6-4; Savanna Lawrence (AR) d Austin Stoddard 6-2, 6-3; Lauren Smith (AR) d Morgan Morissey 4-6, 7-5, 1-0; Anna Smith (B) d Megan Illsley (AR) 6-4, 7-6; Julia Lawton (AR) d Morah Aulabaugh 6-4, 6-3   Doubles: Ali Blackmon/Natalie Blatner (AR) d Lexi Aulabauch/Elise Marshall 5-7, 6-3, 1-0  Records: AR 11-3

Next: AR at Summerville Thursday
Hilton Head 5, Berkeley 1
Singles: K. Farmer (B) def J. Oliver 6-2, 6-1; K. Cram (H) def E. Huxford 6-2, 6-0; S. Wood (H) def J. Funk 6-7, 7-6 (6); H. Kerr (H) def C. Lamprecht 6-2, 6-3; N. Diaz (H) def C. Tedder 6-2, 6-1.  Doubles: H. Brink/M. Flowers (H) def L. Jackson/E. Futrell 6-2, 6-0.  Records: Berkeley 14-2; Hilton Head 12-5

Next: Berkeley (14-2) vs. Manning at South Florence on Thursday; Hilton Head (12-5) at Orangeburg/Wilkinson on Thursday


Singles: Yarbrough (AH) d. Mitchell 6-0, 6-0; Kalawe (AH) d. Twitty 6-0, 6-1; Dye (AH) d. Mettle 6-0, 6-0; Laney (AH0 d. Cager 6-0, 6-0; Nistad (AH) d. Dellinger 6-0, 6-0; Schnorr (AH) d. Moorer 6-0, 6-0.  Doubles: Yarbrough/Kalawe (AH) d. Mitchell/Twitty 8-2; Dye/Laney (AH) d. Mettle/Cager 8-3; Nistad/Wallace d. Dellinger/Moorer 8-0. Next: Ashley Hall plays at Hammond on Wednesday in SCISA State Playoffs Quarterfinal.

(10/15/13)  PREP ZONE: Tuesday’s high school results

Singles: Soop (B) d. Green 5-7, 7-5, 10-1; Wilson (B) d. Reynolds 6-0, 6-2; Baxter (B) d. Long 6-1, 6-3; Rathke (B) d. Naval 6-0, 6-2; Castrillen (B) d. McClane 6-3, 6-1.  Doubles: Bierschenk/Wilson (B) d. Mobley/Hancock 7-6, 6-4.  Records: Bluffton 8-4; Summerville 6-10.

Singles: Bella Lawrence (AR) d Zoe Brais 6-2, 6-4; Savanna Lawrence (AR) d Austin Stoddard 6-2, 6-3; Lauren Smith (AR) d Morgan Morissey 4-6, 7-5, 1-0; Anna Smith (B) d Megan Illsley (AR) 6-4, 7-6; Julia Lawton (AR) d Morah Aulabaugh 6-4, 6-3.   Doubles: Ali Blackmon/Natalie Blatner (AR) d Lexi Aulabauch/Elise Marshall 5-7, 6-3, 1-0.  Records: AR 11-3.  Next: AR at Summerville Thursday

Singles: K. Farmer (B) def J. Oliver 6-2, 6-1; K. Cram (H) def E. Huxford 6-2, 6-0; S. Wood (H) def J. Funk 6-7, 7-6 (6); H. Kerr (H) def C. Lamprecht 6-2, 6-3; N. Diaz (H) def C. Tedder 6-2, 6-1.  Doubles: H. Brink/M. Flowers (H) def L. Jackson/E. Futrell 6-2, 6-0.  Records: Berkeley 14-2; Hilton Head 12-5

Next: Berkeley (14-2) vs. Manning at South Florence on Thursday; Hilton Head (12-5) at Orangeburg/Wilkinson on Thursday

(10/14/13) USTA SC: LCTA Claims Men's Open National Championship
A Lowcountry Tennis Association team won the Men's Open National Championship in 40 and Over competition this weekend in Las Vegas. The team, with four players from the Charleston area and two from Florida, won two of three team matches to qualify for the semi-finals, and then won both the semi-finals and finals with 3-0 victories.

The local players are Chris Henderson who captained the team, Brian Burke, Phil Whitesell, and Martin Zumpft.

(10/13/13)  USTA SC: Lowcountry team will play until match decided
DSC_1131If they learned anything from playing in a championship in September 2012, Kathy Peebles and her teammates will compete until the last point is finished this weekend in Aiken.

She and her Lowcountry Tennis Association teammates were up one match in the final of a tournament last year, and Peebles and her teammate were up a set and 5-2, 40-love in the second.

One point away from winning the tournament.

An array of circumstances could have produced this one point: a service ace, an unforced error, a return mishit.

But none of those happened. They lost. The next three points. The game. The set.

The match tiebreaker was played, and Peebles and her partner completed the collapse.

Their last hope was their last team playing. That team had lost the first set, were down 2-5 in the second set but came back and won the second set.

Their match tiebreaker? They won, of course.

“Moral of the story,” Peebles said, “keep playing the whole match.”

(10/13/13)  Ken Edwards stepping down as LCTA president
Running the state’s largest local league and second largest in the South for four years has satisfied Ken Edwards’ current thirst for tennis leadership. The mild-mannered, well-liked president has informed the board of the Lowcountry Tennis Association that he will step down at the end of the year but hopes to remain on the board.

Edwards has more important things planned for the coming months— spending quality time with his son, Jonathan, a high school senior and a promising college prospect who won the 2012 state hard courts. The father and son have been making numerous junior tournament trips, and now they’re looking at colleges.

“It’s his last year at home, and he needs support,” said Edwards, a 52-year-old medical staffing/executive search headhunter who resides on the Isle of Palms.

Edwards also wants to give his business and 4.0 tennis game more attention. After all, it’s been a difficult job pushing through his agenda to a sometimes resistant board and state tennis association.

The LCTA had approximately one-third of the state’s 18-and-over spring league tennis participants, and more teams than nine of the other 12 local leagues in the state combined. Yet, at playoff time the LCTA receives much the same number of state playoff berths as far smaller leagues such as Aiken, Greenwood, Rock Hill and Spartanburg, each of which fielded less than 10 percent as many 18-and-over teams as the LCTA in 2013.

To combat that situation, Edwards proposed a move to split the LCTA into two units, but state league tennis officials changed its rules to deny that request. As a result, gas-unfriendly, hour-long weeknight trips unfortunately probably will continue to be common occurrences in the local league.

Blake calls Pratt

Local junior standout Jared Pratt has had a great tennis year, but a disappointing one off the court. Already ranked as high as No. 5 in the South in his first year in 14-and-under, Pratt has put his tennis career on hold for much of the next 12 months as a result of surgery late last month for the curved-spine condition scoliosis.

The teenager received a special phone call on Wednesday from another tennis star who has experienced the effects of scoliosis. Former world’s No. 4-ranked James Blake reached out to Pratt for a phone call that Jared’s mother, Diane, said gave her son a big lift. “Jared was excited,” she said.

Of course, Blake retired from the pro tour during last month’s U.S. Open.

Currently online-schooled as an eighth-grader, Pratt plans to enroll at Bishop England for the 2014-15 school year.

Local notes

Half of a six-man national championship 40 open team is from Charleston: Brian Burke, Martin Zumpft and Phil Whitesell. Charleston Pro Tennis League co-founder Chris Henderson, who now resides in Tampa, Fla., was captain of Southern Hendy, a 2-1 winner over Texas in the national final two weeks ago in Las Vegas.

Two-time defending Class AA SCHSL girls state champion Bishop England demonstrated its strength by scoring a 4-3 win over Class AAA power Myrtle Beach in the final of the rain-interrupted Bishop England Invitational.

Jeanette Weiland of Charleston, 82, has been selected for the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame. Weiland won 21 gold, bronze and silver balls at national tournaments after the age of 65. Bob Allsbrook of Spartanburg also was selected.

The recent Alan Fleming Senior Clay Court Championships raised $52,000 for the Hospice of Charleston Foundation. Local singles winners included Andy Steingold (men’s 60), Frank Meade (men’s 80), Diane Barker (women’s 50) and Susie Peiffer (women’s 60).

Brenda Carter of Charleston won the 65-and-over mixed doubles crown and was a finalist in doubles in the recent ITF world individual championships in Austria. She also played on the runner-up U.S. team in the women’s 65 world team championships.

Legend Oaks pro Andy Steingold will be the recipient of the state’s male player of the year award during USTA South Carolina’s Dec. 7 annual celebration at Wild Dunes Resort, while Maybank Tennis Center pro Toni Young will receive the John Newcombe Pro award. Other local winners are most improved junior boy Scotty Cameron of the Isle of Palms, the Floyd family of St. George and the Kiawah Island Junior Championships.

(10/13/13)  SCISA tennis playoffs open Monday
Ashley Hall will open the SCISA Class AAA state girls tennis playoffs at home Monday afternoon against Ben Lippen, while Pinewood Prep will play host to Orangeburg Prep.

Region III runner-up Porter-Gaud (8-3), the No. 2 overall seed in the playoffs, has a first-round bye and will open play at home in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against the winner of a Monday match between Cardinal Newman and Wilson Hall.

Unbeaten defending state champion Hilton Head Prep is the No. 1 seed and is in the opposite half of the draw from Porter-Gaud as five teams from powerful Region III were awarded playoff berths. Hilton Head Prep also has a first-round bye.

In Class A-AA, Palmetto Christian will open the playoffs Monday at home against Colleton Prep. Holly Hill Academy also will play at home on Monday against St. John’s Christian.

Singles: Thompson (CB) d. Rivers 6-2, 6-2. Hudson d. Shaffer 6-1, 6-0. Class d. Hickert 6-1, 6-4. Cady d. Maharrey 6-0, 6-1. Gadson d. Conkey 6-3, 6-1.  Doubles: Hastings/Carr d. Miller/Bell 6-0, 6-0.
Records: Stratford 5-6 (3-1). Next: Stratford hosts Wando Tuesday.

(10/12/13)  USTA SC: Charleston woman who overcame cancer, accident keeps playing
AIKEN, S.C. – Elisabeth Pickelsimer didn’t know what had happened.

One drizzly, early morning last April, she was waiting across the street from the Medical University of South Carolina Wellness Center in Charleston.

She remembers holding her umbrella high to stay dry, seeing the walk signal and stepping onto the street.

Her next memory, however, is in the emergency room.

Pickelsimer had been hit by a car, suffering a concussion, a bruised ankle and an agitated knee.

For more than a week she couldn’t walk. She often felt nauseated, dizzy. Even getting out of bed was painful because her brain had swollen so much.

Yet this weekend, Pickelsimer, 69, is not resting in bed; she is playing tennis in a United States Tennis Association South Carolina championship.

Pickelsimer captains two mixed doubles teams competing this weekend in Aiken. Her Lowcountry Tennis Association teams are competing in the 7.0 divisions of the 55 and Over and 65 and Over Mixed Doubles Championships.

She, herself, is back on the court as well.

“My leg is not as strong as it was,” she said, “but I’m moving a lot better.”

She also has overcome fears that she would fall and strike her head, experiencing another concussion.

Pickelsimer has overcome health scares before, though.

In November 2009, she had her right knee replaced, the same one that was later reinjured when she was struck by the car.

And last year, she still captained two teams while enduring chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer.

Her perseverance comes from her athletic upbringing, she said. Pickelsimer, who grew up in Piedmont, played basketball in high school, junior college and at Winthrop University.

And now that she recently retired, she’s looking forward to more years of athletic activity and tennis, injury-free, of course.

“Our 60 and older teams have enjoyed playing in Aiken and participating in the state championships since the competition was first offered in 2009,” she said. “We are fortunate that USTA South Carolina supports state competition for older players.”

Singles: S. McDonald (CP) d. B. Ferry 7-6, 6-2. K. Gray (BA) d. H. Pye 6-2, 6-1. M. Ware (CP) d. H. Gray 6-4, 2-6, 10-6. A. Dalton (BA) d. B. Tyler 6-3, 6-0. S. Cherry (BA) d. O. Burns 6-1, 6-0. L. Harrell (BA) d. B. Nettles 6-1, 6-0.  Doubles: McDonald/Ware (CP) d. Cherry/H. Gray 8-0. Pye/Tyler (CP) d. M. Dixion/W. Gallant 8-0. Burns/Nettles (CP) d. C. O’Herron/K. Simkins 9-8.  Records: Colleton Prep 4-7.

(10/07/13)  Elisabeth Pickelsimer, Coordinator, LCTA 55+ Mixed Doubles LCTA Team Wins State 55+ Mixed Doubles 6.0 Championship
Del Web Mixers 6.0 Mixed Doubles Team 55+    “A perfect regular season that saw the Del Webb of Charleston mixed doubles team lose only four sets turned into a magical season in Aiken when we brought back the South Carolina mixed doubles championship to the Charleston area.

We captured the state title by sweeping one match and winning the others 2-1 on the outstanding tennis venues in beautiful Aiken.  Thanks to the people who worked so hard to make this tournament run smoothly and thanks to the LCTA for your support in our endeavor.  Del Webb at Charleston is proud to be the 6.0 mixed doubles champion and look forward to another fine year in 2014.”

Five LCTA teams competed in the 55+ mixed doubles state championships in Aiken over the week-end of October 18-20. The LCTA-I Del Webb Mixers captained by Roland Ouelette and Currie Funk and the LCTA-II Walterboro Double Trouble team captained by Tom Lohr, represented the Low Country in the 6.0 championships. Our 7.0 representatives were LCTA-I Charleston Tennis Center Mx Doublers captained by Elisabeth Pickelsimer and Beth Renken and LCTA-II St Andrews Double the Fun captained by Dee McCorkle and Mary Davis. At 8.0 and 9.0, respectively, Kathy Peebles’ Pine Forest team and Diane Barker’s Lowcountry team represented LCTA.  In addition to the Del Webb team winning states, Kathryn Peebles’ team won their round robin and finished in the semifinals and Diane Barker’s team finished second overall.

Elisabeth Pickelsimer and Jim Royce captained the Charleston Tennis Center Emeralds w/Studs team, which was the lone LCTA team in the 65+ mixed doubles. The team finished third in the 7.0 championship.

(10/07/13)  STAFF REPORT: Three-time champion Serena Williams will defend her FCC title
Serena Williams, the 2012 and 2013 Family Circle Cup champion and world’s No. 1-ranked player, has announced she will return for the 2014 Family Circle Cup which will be played March 29-April 6.

Williams has made seven previous appearances in Charleston where she boasts a 22-4 record, and returns to the Family Circle Cup with an active fifteen-match winning streak, stemming from her 2008, 2012 and 2013 wins.

“With our past champion and World No. 1 returning to Charleston, our fans will experience the very best that women’s tennis has to offer,” said Eleanor Adams, tournament manager. “Serena is setting the bar high for our strong player field – no doubt she will be the one every other player and fan will be watching.”

The newly crowned China Open winner has had an impressive 2012 – 2013 season. In 2012, she won her first tournament of the year in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup, and then went on to win Madrid, Wimbledon, Stanford, the Olympics, the US Open and the WTA Championships. In 2013, Williams took titles in Brisbane, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome, Bastad, Toronto and Beijing, as well as Grand Slam wins in Paris and New York.

“The Family Circle Cup is one of my favorite stops on the WTA Tour,” Williams said. “Charleston feels like home to me – the fans are so supportive, the restaurants are great and the tournament so historic. I’m looking forward to this spring to defend my title for the second year in a row”.

Tickets are on sale at www.FamilyCircleCup.com or by calling the box office at (800) 677-2293.

(10/07/13) Seven arrests near Widespread Panic concert Friday night
Woman wakes up naked in Governor’s Park after second show Saturday night

When the seminal Southern jam band Widespread Panic announced a two-night engagement for Oct. 4 and 5 at Family Circle Stadium on Daniel Island, the Charleston Police Department got ready. Several officers were patrolling the island "in reference to the Widespread Panic concert" this weekend according to police reports, and there was apparently plenty to keep them busy: Officers made seven arrests and intercepted a counterfeit $100 bill before Friday night was over.

Here is a chronological account of what went down on Friday night, when the gates opened at 5 p.m. and the show started at 6:

5:39 p.m.: An officer patrolling in the area of the concert venue noticed that a man who was standing in a parking lot at 901 Park Island Dr. hid behind a wall as the officer drove by, so he stopped the man, checked for warrants, and found that he was wanted in Horry County on a grand larceny charge. The man was arrested and taken to the county jail to be handed off to Horry County police.

6:13 p.m.: A police officer spotted a man peeing in the bushes beside the Family Circle Stadium and placed him under arrest on a charge of public urination.

6:35 p.m.: Police caught another man micturating near the stadium and arrested him on a charge of public urination.

7:15 p.m.: An officer saw two people standing in the road at 885 Island Park Dr. holding red Solo cups containing alcohol. Both of them were arrested on open-container charges.

8:00 p.m.: A cop standing inside the venue spotted a man smoking a blunt. While searching the man, the officer found a gram of marijuana and a little white rock of meth in his pocket and arrested him on possession charges.

10:19 p.m.: An officer on location at the stadium observed a man "banging on one of the vendors' tables in a loud and boisterous manner." After making contact, the officer noticed that the man was "grossly intoxicated" and having trouble keeping his balance, so he arrested the man on a public intoxication charge.

10:30 p.m.: A Family Circle Cup employee flagged down an officer and said a man had tried to pay for something with a fake $100 bill. The employee said she did not give the man any merchandise in exchange for the fake bill. When the officer caught up with the man who had tried to spend the funny money, the man told the officer that "he thinks the bill came from a friend who owed him money," although he wouldn't give the friend's name, according to an incident report. The officer confiscated the bill but did not make an arrest.

Saturday night, the second night of Widespread Panic's Daniel Island tour stop, was relatively calm from a law enforcement perspective — until the end of the night. At 3:45 a.m. Sunday morning, an officer was sitting in his vehicle in a parking lot at 126 Seven Farms Dr. when a naked woman walked up and asked for help. The officer gave her a blanket and asked what had happened. She said the last thing she remembered was walking out of the concert with a group of people around 11 p.m., and then she woke up in Governor's Park with no clothes on around 3:30 a.m. The woman had some scratches on her left shin but reported no other injuries, and she said she had not been assaulted or sexually assaulted. She refused treatment from EMS and said she wanted to go home. She told the officer that she had been drinking during the concert, but not excessively. She said she had taken a shuttle from the Isle of Palms with a group of friends, but that "she did not know what happened to them after the concert," according to the report.

The woman said she had been wearing a sundress and flat shoes and carrying a purse with her wallet and cell phone inside. Police searched the park but could not find any of her belongings.

(10/02/13)  Enter the Family Circle Cup's T-shirt design contest

The Cooper River Bridge Run isn't your only chance to get your art on a T-shirt.

Flaunt your creative skills by entering the Family Circle Cup’s 2014 T-shirt Design Contest. One adult and one child (ages 12 and under) will have their winning designs displayed on shirts for the 42nd annual competition.

You can submit up to 3 different images but all must include “2014” and “Family Circle Cup.” The winners will receive a prize pack including $250 and four tickets for the Circle Cup. Designs can be submitted till December 27 and winners will be announced on January 13. You can find the official rules and entries forms at FamilyCircleCup.com.

(09/29/13)  Tennis Channel to feature Family Circle Cup on Sunday
Tennis plays its own role in Charleston’s claim as one of the nation’s elite travel destinations. America’s Best Tennis Town will be on international display on Sunday at 7 p.m. as the Tennis Channel premieres its new 30-minute Tour Guide series. Filmed alongside this past spring’s Family Circle Cup, Tour Guide host Danielle Dotzenrod gives viewers an inside look at Charleston, not just the world-class tennis center and tournament, but also of local landmarks, hotels and most notably its highly acclaimed restaurants.

The episode goes onsite at the Family Circle Cup to interview general manager Bob Moran and fans as well as tennis stars Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safarova.

Tour Guide’s aim is to show viewers how to plan an unforgettable tennis vacation around a specific tournament such as the Family Circle Cup, highlighting nearby attractions, landmarks, hotels, restaurants and excursions while in town. Other Tour Guide episodes will include Washington, Amsterdam and Lisbon, Portugal.

(09/26/13)  WCIV-TV: Family Circle Tennis Center helps bring Daniel Island business

From tennis to soccer and from shopping to dining, there is something for everyone on Daniel Island.

Most of the activities the town provides is centered around the Family Circle Tennis Center.

The Family Circle Tennis Center was built in 2001 and since then, it has brought much more than tennis to the island.

Hootie and the Blowfish and The Zac Brown Band are just some of the sounds that have filled this stadium.

"Concerts have been a big focus of ours this year and will continue to be forward because it is a great concert venue," said Bob Moran, general manager of The Family Circle Tennis Center. "This year, we are going to do 10 to 12 shows and next year, we are looking to fill those 12 shows again. And five years ago we were doing three shows at the most maybe four."

The music is just another reason that business is booming in this island community.

"Between the Family Circle Cup, the Battery and all the [Daniel Island] Property Owners' Association events, we draw - my conservative estimate is about 125 thousand people a year to Daniel Island," said Peter Harper with the Daniel Island Business Association. "Some of those will be Daniel Islanders, but a good portion of those are off-island folks."

There are 250 businesses right now and almost half of those are restaurants. There are also close to 30 retailers with more companies expected in the future.

"The sky is the limit. We are only about halfway there commercially right now," Harper said. "We have about a million one square feet of commercial space and the island can ultimately have a capacity of about 2.5 million square feet."

The big stadium you see when driving on the island will likely always be one of the big draws of the island.

"It is a multi-use facility. I like to say that," Moran said. "It was built for tennis. I wish I could go back and build it over again for some reasons because we are doing so much with it."

Looking ahead, October is going to be a busy month at the Family Circle Tennis Center with several events including Race for the Cure, which will bring tens of thousands of people to Daniel Island.

(10/02/13)  City Paper: Enter the Family Circle Cup's T-shirt design contest
The Cooper River Bridge Run isn't your only chance to get your art on a T-shirt.

Flaunt your creative skills by entering the Family Circle Cup’s 2014 T-shirt Design Contest. One adult and one child (ages 12 and under) will have their winning designs displayed on shirts for the 42nd annual competition.

You can submit up to 3 different images but all must include “2014” and “Family Circle Cup.” The winners will receive a prize pack including $250 and four tickets for the Circle Cup. Designs can be submitted till December 27 and winners will be announced on January 13. You can find the official rules and entries forms at FamilyCircleCup.com.

(09/20/13)  Shelby Rogers advances in Albuquerque USTA tournament
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Charleston’s Shelby Rogers scored a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 18-year-old Sachia Vickery of Hollywood, Fla., on Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals of a $75,000 USTA Women’s Pro Circuit tennis tournament in Albuquerque.

Rogers, a 20-year-old ranked 135th in the world, used her big serve to hold service in the 10th game of each set after gaining 5-3 leads in each set.

Rogers next will face the winner of a quarterfinal match pitting Chieh-Yu Hsu of the United States and 33-year-old Slovenia Petra Rampre, who upended Melanie Oudin in the second round. Rampre is a former winner of a $10,000 pro satellite event at the former Players Club in Mount Pleasant (now LTP Tennis).

(09/15/13)  Local tennis teams experiencing a shift in power
Girls high school tennis appears to be experiencing at least a temporary shift of power away from perennial powers Porter-Gaud and Ashley Hall.

That isn’t to say one of these two local schools might not advance to this year’s SCISA Class AAA state championship match for the seventh straight year. Prior to Hilton Head Prep’s 5-1 romp past Porter-Gaud in last year’s title match, Ashley Hall and Porter-Gaud had teamed up to win the last four state titles.

From the start this season, Hilton Head Prep has been an overwhelming favorite after charging to an 8-1 win over Porter-Gaud last week in the Cyclones’ SCISA opener. The match was played on clay at Hilton Head Island, which made things more difficult for first-year coach Charlotte Hartsock’s Porter-Gaud team.

The fact Hilton Head Prep dropped only one game to Porter-Gaud freshman standout Ann Martin Skelly at No. 1 singles while sweeping all six singles positions was impressive for coach Job de Boer’s defending champions.

Meanwhile, Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team suffered losses to Heathwood Hall and Hilton Head Christian in its first two matches, and plays at Hilton Head Prep on Tuesday. The Panthers are currently 4-3 overall.

“They (Hilton Head Prep) are stronger than last year, but we are gaining more and more experience as the season progresses and hoping to continue to improve and build for the future,” Gastley said.

“We are hanging in there. I have eight girls on the team and they are all returning players. Two of the eight played in the starting lineup last year (junior Tiffany Dye played No. 4 and sophomore Gyles Laney played No. 6). Obviously we’re missing standout players from the past — Narni (Summerall) and Rossi (Anastopoulo).”

Freshman Linsey Yarbrough has taken over the Panthers’ No. 1 slot, a position that has been played by the winners of the last five Lowcountry player of the year awards (Jamie Harrell, Patricia Kirkland and Summerall).

The shift also is showing up among local competition. Two-time defending High School League Class AA state champion Bishop England already has scored a 6-0 win over Ashley Hall, and defeated Porter-Gaud, Wando, Beaufort and Class AA perennial power Waccamaw in preseason scrimmages.

Coach Kristin Fleming has three outstanding seniors back from the Bishops’ state championship years, All-Lowcountry captain Liza Arruda, hard-hitting Caroline Yodice and captain Hannah Simpson. The Bishops have excellent depth as three more talented and experienced young players from the 2012 state championship team are back — eighth-grader Lauren Quinn, sophomore Gabrielle Dacuba and junior Ashlyn Ohlendorf.

The Bishops, who lost to 2012 Class AAAA state finalist Dutch Fork in the finals of the preseason Florence tournament, will hold their fourth annual BE Tournament next weekend with 16 teams competing. The event will be held at Snee Farm Country Club, LTP Tennis, and Creekside Tennis and Swim.

“We’re looking forward to winning our region and winning our third straight state championship,” Fleming said.

Seabrook deadline near

The deadline is Sept. 23 for entering the 32nd annual Alan Fleming Tennis Tournament, which is scheduled for Oct. 2-6 at Seabrook Island. More than 250 players in age groups starting at 35-and-over annually compete in the event.

The tournament will be a “Pilot” event with USTA National designation for mixed doubles with potential for National Championship status in 2014, according to tournament officials. The tournament is named after the late Alan Fleming, a longtime Seabrook resident and father of former Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles champion Peter Fleming.

Last year’s tournament raised more than $50,000 to benefit the Hospice of Charleston Foundation.

Information on the tournament is available online at www.usta.com.

Cougars hold tournament

The College of Charleston’s women’s tennis team will serve as host for the 12th annual C of C Invitational next weekend. Seven teams, including the Cougars and Coastal Carolina, Davidson, Stetson, Samford, UNC-Wilmington and Armstrong Atlantic, will compete in a flighted format.

(09/13/13)  USTA SC: Allsbrook and Weiland named to South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame
The South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation and USTA South Carolina are proud to announce that Bob Allsbrook and Jeanette Weiland are the two newest inductees into the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame. These individuals who have dedicated their lives to tennis in the state, will be honored at the USTA South Carolina Annual Meeting and have their portraits hung at the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in Belton, S.C.

Bob Allsbrook, of Spartanburg, has established himself as a superb player, teaching professional and coach. In South Carolina, Allsbrook has made a name for himself as one of the state’s top players, teaching professionals and an as accomplished high school tennis coach.

As a player, Allsbrook played number-one in both singles and doubles at Appalachian State University, where he lettered all four years in tennis. Allsbrook was the Southern Conference Champion in 1981. After graduating from Appalachian State, he became head tennis professional and served as a coach for top 50 ATP player Lawson Duncan.

He went on to play several years on the professional tour, becoming world ranked on the ATP World Tour in both singles and doubles. After teaching and coaching, he won two National 30s Grass Court titles. As a result Bob was ranked No. 2 nationally in the 30 & over in singles and doubles

He represented South Carolina on the USTA SC Senior Cup team for numerous years as well as competed on the USTA Southern team for the USTA National Intersectional competition. He also was selected on the national USTA 40 & Over Trabert Cup team. They competed internationally in the World Team Championships where the U.S. Team finished No. 2 in the world.

From 1987 to present, Bob has been the Director of Tennis at the Spartanburg Day School. During his time at Spartanburg Day School, Allsbrook has coached the varsity boys’ & girls’ tennis teams to 12 CAA Conference Championships, nine NCISAA State Championships and three SCISA State Championships.

He was a coach for numerous teams including the Zonals junior competition, the USTA South Carolina Junior Federation Cup Team, the SC Jr. Wightman Cup team. He also coached two NCAA finalists and one NCAA champion throughout his coaching career.

He was active with the USTA South Carolina as a pro and administrator. He served as the Head Pro for the USTA South Carolina Upstate Area Training Center. He also was President of the S.C. Professional Tennis Association for two years. During this time he represented the association on the USTA South Carolina Board of Directors. He also acted as tournament director for the SC State Closed Junior Championship for two years. For his work with USTA South Carolina he was awarded the South Carolina Pro of the Year, the South Carolina Junior Tournament of the Year and the Southern Junior Tournament of the Year.


Jeanette Weiland, of Charleston, began playing tennis at the late age of 36 but has more than made up for her late start. As a winner of 21 gold, silver and bronze balls at national tournaments after the age of 65, Weiland truly personifies the idea that tennis is the sport of a lifetime.

Weiland played her first national tournament in 1996 and wasted no time in establishing herself as premiere player in her age division. In the most accomplished year of her tennis career, Weiland won every singles, doubles and mixed doubles event she entered in South Carolina. She did the same for all but one event at the Southern level. Weiland was a finalist in the National Grass Court Championships at Germantown Cricket Club.

That same year, Weiland went undefeated in both singles and doubles as a member of the South Carolina Senior Cup team. She captained a mixed doubles team that won a state championship, as well as played on a 4.5 adult team that also won a state championship. She completed her astounding run in 1996 with the No. 1 ranking in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles in South Carolina and Southern rankings, as well as being ranked the No. 2 in her singles age division nationally.

Weiland’s extensive success on the national level, led her to being ranked in the top 10 nationally from 1996 through 2007 in singles or doubles. She represented the United States as a member of the Kitty Godfree Cup team in Melbourne, Australia, where the U.S. team was seeded #1. There she won two out of the three doubles matches before being defeated in the finals by two former Wimbledon players. She has also represented South Carolina at the national level by playing on 12 intersectional teams, including six after the age of 75.

Weiland has been a true standout in South Carolina with her participation in the Senior Cup Championships and USTA Southern’s annual tournament to determine the best adult and senior players in the Southern Section. Weiland has participated on 13 Senior Cup teams since 1989, helping South Carolina take home numerous Mildred Southern Cups and Gil Stacy Cups.

"As a team member in long standing, she sets the standard for what it means to be a team player," says South Carolina Senior Cup Captain Cindy Babb.

Now 82, Weiland remains an active tennis player, participating at the 4.0 level against women often 40 years her junior. She once again represented South Carolina as a member of the 2013 Senior Cup team.

(09/09/13)  STAFF REPORT: Sweet Serena timing: 2014 Family Circle Cup tickets go on sale today
What timing: Serena Williams, the defending Family Circle Cup champion, just won the U.S. Open and 2014 Family Circle Cup tickets go on sale today.

The 2014 tournament on Daniel Island is set for March 29-April 6.

New Family Circle Cup features include a digital draw board and enhanced in-stadium entertainment.

“We want to create history on our courts – from being the first women’s tennis event broadcast on network television, to Venus and Serena’s match-up last year,” said Bob Moran, tournament director and general manager. “And we want our fans to be there to witness every minute.”

Original to the 2014 tournament is a new Flex Pass; giving locals the chance to customize their Family Circle Cup experience. Fans can choose to attend any three sessions from Monday, March 31st – Thursday, April 3rd in 300 level seating. This package offers tournament-goers the ability to choose dates and times based on their personal schedules, as well as tournament order of play.

“It’s important for us to continue to have the grassroots support from our local Charleston fans,” said Moran. “So, this year we listened to fan suggestions and created a new ticket package that offers the flexibility to attend the Cup during the sessions that work best for them.”

For more information, go to Ticketmaster.com, call the Family Circle Cup Box Office at 800-677-2293 or purchase tickets at any local Publix supermarket.

(09/01/13)  Tennis has its own Miss South Carolina in Brooke Mosteller

Tennis has its own state license plate, and its own Miss South Carolina.

Is a Miss America next?

Brooke Mosteller is a Miss America contestant. The former Wando tennis star has big dreams.

“I’m pretending that I will win,” the 24-year-old beauty queen said Wednesday night. She has been training at the Miss S.C. headquarters in Hartsville for the Sept. 15 Miss America Pageant, and will leave for Atlantic City on Monday.

Mosteller is accustomed to winning. She played a key role in four straight Class AAAA state tennis championships at Wando while earning All-Lowcountry honors four times and helping the Warriors win 62 straight matches.

She jokes about “going from last on the tennis team to a (Southern Conference 5-K) track champion in two weeks.” That was during her sophomore year at Furman where she played tennis for two years before switching to track the last two years.

“I had never run track before, but my dad (Rick) timed me at Christmas break. I asked the track coach if I could run in the meet, and he said I could,” she said.

But, for Mosteller, everything goes back to tennis. “I’ve played so much tennis I compare everything to tennis,” she said. “Tennis helped me so much. It showed me how to work with adversity and the unexpected. Tennis and sports give me a competitive edge.”

Like when her name was called out as Miss South Carolina. “I was completely caught off guard, but I went into it with the mindset I was going to win. Then, there was the last two and they called my name ... I never prepared for that.”

Mosteller, who was the third runner-up in the 2012 Miss S.C. contest, had to take a break from the University of South Carolina Law School in order to prepare for the Miss America competition.

While delivering her salutatorian address at her Wando graduation, she spontaneously ended her speech by singing Wicked’s “For Good.”

She was a fierce competitor in tennis. She trained and played to win. In her last high school match in the 2007 Class AAAA state finals in Columbia, wearing her favorite ragged red baseball cap that hid some of her beauty, Mosteller decided to try serve-and-volley tennis. She won easily.

She trained two hours in the early mornings year-around at the old Players Club. “Some mornings it’s hard, but once you get out there it feels good,” she told me as a Wando sophomore in what she now calls “my first interview ever.”

In that December 2005 column, Becky Williamson, Mosteller's high school coach at Wando, said, “She’s dedicated, a great kid. She puts everything into it, whether it’s tennis, singing or the Miss Wando contest.”

Fritz Nau, the former Players Club owner who coached the likes of Monica Seles and Andre Agassi, also said in 2005, “She (Mosteller) may be the most unique player I’ve had, including Seles and Agassi in that I’ve never seen a player with better work ethics and leadership abilities.”

Mosteller's primary coach at Nau’s junior academy was current Family Circle pro Bryan Minton.

Minton describes Mosteller this way: “Brooke was the leader of an exceptional group of young women that trained with us ... Caroline Thornton, Shelby Rogers, Morgan Ivey, Jessica Diamond, Jamie Harrell ... She was responsible for keeping the intensity of the group up and that everything they did from start to finish was professional. She was an amazing role model and the hardest working player I have ever worked with. She has amazing intensity and focus.”

Local notes

The future of the Charleston Pro Tennis League is uncertain since the co-founder of the popular fall Friday night league has relocated his family to Tampa, Fla., because of his job as a medical equipment salesman.

“I will greatly miss the tennis scene, especially the CPTL,” Chris Henderson said. “At this point, I believe the league has come to an end. It was a great 11 years and I met a lot of great friends throughout this process.”

The second annual Hugs for Harper Tennis Tournament and Auction will be held Sept. 13-15 at Kiawah Island. The Courage, Strength and Hope Dinner & Auction will be held Sept. 14. Dinner tickets are available to non-players (843-792-3321). The 2012 event raised $64,000 for the MUSC Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Fund.

Registration is available online at hugsforharper.org or tennislink.usta.com/tournaments.

(08/29/13)  STAFF REPORT: Rogers falls
Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson ended the U.S. Open for Shelby Rogers on Wednesday night as they posted a 7-5, 6-4 rain-interrupted first round women’s doubles win over the Daniel Island 20-year-old and Maria Sanchez.

Rogers also suffered a first round loss in singles on Monday to Carolina Garcia of France. Rogers’ next tournament stop will be Quebec.

(08/27/13)  Shelby Rogers falls in first round of U.S. Open
Shelby Rogers of Daniel Island prepared for weeks for her second appearance in the U.S. Open singles main draw. But this one lasted only 80 minutes.

The 20-year-old Rogers is still looking for her initial win at the U.S. Open after suffering a 6-3, 6-2 first-round loss to 19-year-old Caroline Garcia of France on Monday afternoon in New York.

“Her forehand was really on,” Rogers said from New York about Garcia’s game. “She was really aggressive, but she didn’t make many errors. She was making clean contact.

“The crowd was behind me, but I just didn’t get many break points. She played really well. She played the better match,” Rogers added about the Court 10 audience, which included her mother Starley. “I played hard, but it just didn’t work.”

Rogers had only one break-point opportunity in the entire match. That came when the 76th-ranked Garcia was serving for the first set at 5-3. Garcia won the next three points to take a set lead, thanks to a service break in the previous game.

The second set went much the same way as Rogers faced seven break points in her first two service games, dropping service in the third game to fall behind 2-1. Rogers dropped service once more and trailed 5-1. In all, Rogers faced 16 break points.

The match was decided at the service line. Although each player served five aces and the 5-10, 134-pound Garcia’s first-serve percentage was only 60 percent, Garcia won 26 points on the 30 first serves she landed in the service box.

“She mixed up her serve well. She didn’t give me much to look at,” Rogers said.

The loss closed out a Grand Slam tournament singles year for Rogers in which she earned wild cards into both the French Open and U.S. Open, gaining her first major win at the French. She also played in the Wimbledon and Australian Open qualifying tournaments. She arrived in New York with a career-best world ranking of No. 132.

“The year isn’t over yet … it’s only August,” Rogers said.

In fact, Rogers will team up with fellow American Maria Sanchez in the U.S. Open’s doubles main draw later in the week against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands and Johanna Larsson of Sweden. After doubles, she will head straight for Quebec to compete in another tournament.

(08/23/13)  Rogers lucks out with draw
The luck of the draw has once again been kind to Shelby Rogers. The 20-year-old from Daniel Island will face 76th-ranked Caroline Garcia of France in the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament that starts Monday in New York. Rogers could have been as unlucky in Thursday’s draw ceremonies as former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, whose first-round opponent will be top-ranked Serena Williams.

Rogers gained her initial Grand Slam tournament victory in this year’s French Open by scoring an impressive straight-set win over then 172-ranked Irena Pavlovic of France.

While Rogers’ ranking has soared to No. 132 in the world on the strength of winning two $50,000 ITF tournaments this year that also helped her earn wild cards into the French Open and U.S. Open, Garcia has played mostly WTA Tour events. The 5-10, 134-pound, 19-year-old French player won her first career ITF title, the $100,000 Cagnes-Sur-Mer event in her home country, prior to the French Open.

Garcia earned a berth in the Family Circle Cup main draw through qualifying, then fell to Jelena Jankovic in the second round. She also won matches in both the French and Wimbledon (No. 47 Jie Zheng) main draws before running into Serena Williams in the second round each time.

The Rogers-Garcia winner will advance to the second round to oppose either 30th-ranked Laura Dobson of Great Britain or Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.

Rogers also played in the 2010 U.S. Open as a wild card, but suffered a three-set opening-round loss to Shuai Peng of China.

(08/18/13)  It’s a long way from ball girl to Shelby Rogers Day
Twelve years ago, Shelby Rogers was a ball girl at the inaugural Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island.

On Saturday, as a 20-year-old ranked as the 132nd best women’s tennis player on the planet, she was back at Family Circle Tennis Center signing autographs. City councilman Gary White later read a proclamation from Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. proclaiming Aug. 17 as “Shelby Rogers Day in the City of Charleston” during an on-court presentation.

Shelby said it all when she told a crowd under threatening skies, “This is a big honor.” Her mother and stepfather were present along with long-time coach Bryan Minton. She then showed off some of her big strokes in a doubles exhibition on the Althea Gibson Club Court.

Rogers has won two $50,000 U.S. Pro Circuit tournaments in less than four months while earning wild cards into both the French Open and U.S. Open main draws. She is now headed to New York where the U.S. Open will begin Aug. 26.

She isn’t concerned about who might be her first-round opponent when the draw is made next Thursday. She knows she has to beat everyone to win the U.S. Open.

Of course, that’s a tall order. But not that much taller than the distance Shelby Rogers has covered since that spring day in 2001 when as an eight-year-old she presented flowers to newly crowned Family Circle Cup champion Jennifer Capriati.

Local notes

St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground tennis director Phil Burke has come up with a novel plan to showcase a grass court at next Saturday’s 9 a.m.-noon Lowcountry Tennis Festival. The St. Andrew’s staff plans to line off and construct the court on one of the baseball fields at the complex so that participants in the free-to-the-public event on Playground Road can get the Wimbledon feel. That’s a great idea.

New Citadel tennis coach Chuck Kriese of Clemson fame is planning to bring out what he calls “The Court Veterans” to help grow new life in the Bulldogs’ program. Former Clemson coach Kriese said former Furman legendary coach Paul Scarpa has agreed to be a volunteer coach, while ex-Eastern Kentucky coach Tom Higgins, better known locally for his seven state championship teams at Porter-Gaud, said he “will help Chuck out.” Two of Higgins’ former players at Porter-Gaud will be part of The Citadel tennis program: senior Elliott Sperr as team captain and walk-on freshman Connor Grady.

The Charleston Rated Adult Championship will be held next Friday-Sunday at Charleston Tennis Center. Competition will be in 2.5-4.5 in singles and doubles. Registration is available at tennislink.usta.com/tournaments (#700009913). Contact Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

St. Andrew’s 10-and-under tournament (online #700101913) is scheduled to start next Saturday.

Local tennis umpire Meg Farrelly will be working matches at the U.S. Open after officiating the current pro stop in Cincinnati.

Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran, who is also headed to the Big Apple, spent time at the sparkling complex in Mason, Ohio, where the WTA and ATP tours are wrapping up play with Sunday’s finals. Moran, who was in Cincinnati to recruit players for next year’s Family Circle, was shocked by Marion Bartoli’s retirement announcement while he was there. “Someone told me Bartoli had retired. I thought she had retired from her match, not tennis,” Moran said Saturday.

Registrations will start Monday for the Lowcountry Tennis Association’s unofficial fall league tennis season. Registration is also open for the 18-plus adult singles league 2.5-4.5 through Tennis-Link. Teams must have three players registered by Sept. 2. Contact Elizabeth Forney (843) 345-6027.

(08/16/13) STAFF REPORT: St. Andrew’s tennis block party set
St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground Tennis Center, located on Playground Road, will hold a tennis block party for all ages in support of the St. Andrew’s Parks Scholarship Fund from 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 24. Beginner to intermediate players will enjoy free admission, lawn tennis (first grass court in West Ashley), Xerpro fitness wall, mini-tennis court play (4-10 years old), fast-serve return, jump castle, cooling station and food and beverages. A USTA 10U tournament will be held. Fees apply.

All participants are asked to purchase a VIP Package providing food, a tennis photo booth print and T-shirt (via special order) at $10. Pre-register at www.standrewsparks.com or call (843) 763-4360.

Tickets at the event are $15. All proceeds will fund youth scholarships. Financial donors receive a “Superhero Supporter” dri-fit shirt for tax-deductible gifts over $50.

(08/13/13)  Shelby Rogers to be honored at Family Circle tennis block party
What: Tennis Block Party
Where: Family Circle tennis complex, Daniel Island
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. – noon
Admission: Free

Shelby Rogers has taken a page out of Billie Jean King’s book “Pressure is a Privilege.”

And it’s obviously paying off for the 20-year-old tennis pro from Daniel Island. At three different times, Rogers has played what turned out to be winner-take-all matches for a berth in the main draw of one of tennis’ Grand Slam tournaments.

She’s 3 for 3 in such situations, the latest coming two weeks ago in the final of a $50,000 U.S. Pro Circuit event in Lexington, Ky.

“I enjoy the pressure,” Rogers said Monday from the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Fla., calling attention to Billie Jean’s philosophy.

Now ranked a career-high No. 132 in the world, Rogers is preparing for her second appearance in the main draw of the U.S. Open. On her way to New York this weekend, Rogers will make a stop back home to enjoy the day of a lifetime during Saturday’s “Shelby Rogers Day” in Charleston.

“It’s pretty special. I definitely didn’t expect it,” she said. “I’ll be there . . . and ready. It’s awesome.”

A city official will make the on-court presentation at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at Family Circle Tennis Center, according to Family Circle director Rob Eppelsheimer. Rogers also will be available for autographs and photos.

Rogers’ appearance will be the centerpiece of the seventh annual Tennis Block Party at the Family Circle complex from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We want to get all of Charleston to come out and support Shelby and send her off to the U.S. Open,” Eppelsheimer said.

After winning a wild card into the 2010 U.S. Open by capturing the national junior championship, Rogers outdueled all comers this spring in a three-tournament segment of the U.S. Pro Circuit to earn a berth in the main draw of the French Open. Following her initial Grand Slam tournament win in Paris, she repeated her earlier success by sweeping past all rivals in a three-tournament U.S. Pro Circuit segment at Yakima, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Lexington, Ky.

“The atmosphere at the U.S. Open is one of a kind. I think I’ll be more prepared this year. I have gained a lot of experience this year. A lot of good things are happening to me,” she said.

Rogers earned a wild card into qualifying for this week’s WTA Tour event in Cincinnati, but she suffered a three-set loss to Annika Beck of Germany in the first round of qualifying.

(08/06/13)  USTA Southern: Charleston Tennis Player’s Arthur Ashe Essay Selected As Best In S.C.
Jacoby Johnson, a member of the Courting Kids tennis program run by the City of Charleston Recreation Department, wrote and submitted an essay to the USTA/National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) Annual Arthur Ashe Essay Contest, and his essay was selected as the best essay in the state of South Carolina.
As a reward, the USTA Southern Section has offered an all-expense paid trip for him and one chaperone to attend the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina August 17th – August 19th. The Winston-Salem Open is the final stop on the US Open Series Tour and offers a great opportunity to see some players up close and personal as they prepare for the US Open.
The NJTL network hosts the Arthur Ashe Essay Contest. Each contestant was asked to write an answer to the question, “If you could follow in Arthur Ashe’s footsteps and ‘give back’ to tennis, what would you do to give back to the game and how would it impact others?” in 350 words or less.
Arthur Ashe was an American hero fighting battles both on and off the court. He broke barriers in the tennis world, becoming a three time grand slam champion, and the first African American male to win a grand slam tournament. Off the court, he was a social activist taking on issues like racial prejudice, AIDS, apartheid, and education. One of his many legacies includes the NJTL, a network of youth serving organizations that provides tennis and education for all. His wish was for NJTL to be a resource for kids to develop skills for leadership and academic excellence.
Courting Kids, run by the City of Charleston Recreation Department, is an entry level children’s program that provides youth ages 5-17 with affordable quality tennis instruction on the Charleston peninsula, West Ashley, and Johns Island and is a chapter in the NJTL network.

(08/05/13)  Shirley Greene: Young tennis fan has big heart
Jacoby Johnson is a 9-year-old with a big heart and big dreams. And he loves tennis.

He would like to see more children playing the game, though. He would make sure that every school has tennis classes and tennis teachers.

And that would mean more tennis courts.

His vision: “I would start my own website and have people donate pennies for tennis. Each person would donate 100 pennies a week. The money would be used to build eight tennis courts in the city. More children would be able to play and learn the true meaning of tennis.”

A fifth-grader at Mitchell Math and Science, Jacoby would buy new rackets, tennis balls and would pay for children to take lessons.

For his idea, Jacoby won the best essay in the state in the USTA/National Junior Tennis & Learning Annual Arthur Ashe Essay Contest.

His prize? An all-expense paid trip for him and a chaperone to the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina Aug. 17-19.

Ashe’s legacy
Jacoby, a member of the city’s Courting Kids tennis program, is excited about his trip. It’s a chance to see Venus and Serena Williams.

But he is a fan of Arthur Ashe, and likes the idea that he was the “first African-American (male) to win the grand slam tournament.”

Ashe, always a favorite of mine because of his demeanor and his tenacity on and off the court, broke racial barriers when he won three grand slams, including the first African-American male player to win the U.S. Open in 1968 and Wimbledon in 1975.

As an activist, he battled racial prejudice, apartheid, AIDS and education. He advocated for youth organizations to provide tennis and education for everyone.

When Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion in the 1980s, someone aptly wrote, he “lived a life of grace and dignity and wisdom and courage.”

Jacoby's dream
Jacoby's website would have a tennis video game that includes a page on Ashe and his legacy. “When you play the game, it will teach you how to play tennis. You will learn about Arthur Ashe, when you hit enough balls you will go to level 4 and play against Venus and (Serena) Williams and Rafael Nadal.”

Jacoby, who also sings in his church choir, plays African drums, swims on a team and plays basketball, has been playing tennis for three years. (He used to play soccer and football.)

 Are you a good tennis player? “Kind of.”

His aunt, Deborah Johnson, who enrolled him in tennis, said he is a child with a big heart.

He is kind and would help anyone in need. Once a little girl at a fast-food restaurant wanted a Happy Meal. Jacoby gave her his $5.

Another girl was being bullied on the playground, and “Jacoby came to her defense.”

Johnson said Jacoby would often ask family members, including his mother, Jacqueline Johnson, for money to help the homeless.

 And the essay question:

“If you could follow in Arthur Ashe's footsteps and ‘give back’ to tennis, what would you do to give back to the game and how would it impact others?”

Apparently, Ashe's legacy is passed along to yet another generation.

(08/04/13)  Family Circle adding three new courts
Family Circle Tennis Center is growing again.

The world-class Daniel Island complex is in the process of constructing three new courts. Two new hard courts and one clay court will boost the facility to 20 courts.

Tennis director Rob Eppelsheimer reports that the new courts are on schedule to open by Sept. 15. All three will be lighted.

The new hard courts are being added next to the other four hard courts. The addition of one clay court will give the complex 14 courts with clay surfaces.
“The kids love the hard courts ... and the members like the clay,” Eppelsheimer said.

Shelby’s earnings

Shelby Rogers has been a consistent winner since leaving the Family Circle complex in April after suffering a loss in the first round of the Family Circle Cup’s qualifying tournament. She’s 27-11 since that loss on Daniel Island to Grace Min. Seven of the 11 losses were three-setters. Rogers won the first set in four of the losses.

Earning wild cards into both the French Open and U.S. Open main draws was quite an achievement, not to mention the fact her championship last Sunday in the $50,000 U.S. Pro Circuit event in Lexington, Ky., lifted Rogers to a career-high No. 133 in the world rankings.

And Wednesday, Rogers earned a hefty little prize without even playing another tournament when news was released that this year’s U.S. Open will reward its first-round participants with a $32,000 payday. That’s $9,000 more than a year ago.

If Rogers happens to pull off an upset as she did in the first round of the French Open, her U.S. Open prize will zoom up to $53,000.

It all depends on the draw. Rogers received a favorable draw in the 2010 U.S. Open when she played Shuai Peng, and the Daniel Island girl pushed the Chinese player to three sets. Of course, in Paris, Rogers won her first-round match over little-known French woman Irena Pavlovic, before drawing 20th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the second round. Rogers took the first set against Navarro, and practically could see the finish line before things blurred. Rogers still left Paris $45,500 richer.

Hugs For Harper

The second annual Hugs for Harper Tennis Championship is scheduled for Sept. 13-15 at Kiawah Island. Contact Kiawah Tennis Center to register or go to www.hugsforharper.org. For sponsorships, contact Jamie Drolet (607-0857).

The tournament will benefit MUSC’s Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Research Center.

Southern champions

A 5.0-plus women’s adult league team from the Lowcountry Tennis Association captained by Deanna Vroman captured the Southern Sectional championship last weekend in Lexington. The local team went unbeaten in four matches, handing once-beaten Nashville a 2-1 loss in the key match.

Vroman and Tammy Zawacki pulled out a three-set win in No. 2 doubles to give the LCTA team the victory. Marissa Chapin, a 5.5-rated player, also won at singles, 6-1, 6-0, for the LCTA entry.

(07/29/13)  Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers wins tournament to earn berth in U.S. Open
Shelby Rogers appears to thrive on competition. Less than three months after earning a wild card into the main draw of the French Open through a challenging segment of three U.S. Pro Circuit tennis tournaments, the 20-year-old Daniel Island product has done it again.

Rogers earned a berth in the upcoming U.S. Open’s main draw on Sunday by capturing the singles title in the Pro Circuit’s $50,000 event in Lexington, Ky., with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over France’s Julie Coin, a 30-year-old former Clemson star. The Lexington title and a semifinal appearance a week earlier in Portland, Ore., earned Rogers 102 WTA Tour ranking points, topping two-time NCAA titlist Nicole Gibbs’ two-tournament total of 88 points.

The wild card goes to the American player compiling the most WTA points in two of the three tournaments.

As icing on the cake for her most recent success, Rogers is projected to climb to a new career high in the world rankings, a couple places above her previous best of No. 134. She entered Lexington ranked No. 143.

There’s also the matter of prize money. The $7,600 first prize in Lexington gives Rogers more than $80,000 in earnings for 2013, and she will move past the $100,000 mark in New York where last year’s first-round losers earned $23,000.

Was she thinking about the wild card and all of the other perks? “I try not to think about it on the court . . . but now I can celebrate . . . I’m very happy,” said Rogers, who also earned a wild card into the 2010 U.S. Open by winning the national junior championship.

Rogers handled the pressure well against the veteran Coin, who suffered four double faults, was out-aced 5-3 and piled up unforced errors most of the match. Rogers came up with the only service break in the first set, and each player earned a service break in the second set.

Things did get a little tight after Rogers jumped out to a set and a 4-2 lead. Coin suddenly demonstrated a boost in energy and shot-making to win three straight games for a 5-4 advantage in the second set as Rogers appeared to lose focus, suffering a service break and committing eight errors in the three games.

But Rogers regained her form to hold service at 40-30 in the 10th and 12th games to force a tiebreaker. The pressure reverted back to Coin as the Frenchwoman did little right in the tiebreaker, while Rogers continued to hammer her big serve and play smart, consistent tennis to get to 5-2. Rogers nailed a backhand winner to wrap up the championship.

(07/29/13)  STAFF REPORT: Rogers 1 win away
Daniel Island 20-year-old Shelby Rogers needs only a win in Sunday’s final of the $50,000 Pro Tennis Circuit event in Lexington, Ky., to earn a wild card into the main draw of the upcoming U.S. Open.

The fourth-seeded Rogers posted a 6-4, 6-3 upset of 110th-wotrl-ranked Julia Glushko of Israel (No. 2 seed) in Saturday’s semifinals. Rogers (143 in the world) has yielded just 13 games in three wins at Lexington.

A win Sunday over 177th-ranked, 30-year-old former Clemson star Julie Coin of France would give Rogers a total of 102 WTA Tour points.

(07/25/13)  SUMMERVILLE JOURNAL SCENE: Pinewood team claims state junior tennis title
The Topspin Tornados won the 10U division at the Junior Team Tennis South Carolina Championships held in Florence July 19-21.

The Pinewood Preparatory School team accumulated 142 points during the tournament to claim the state championship over second place Cobblestone Tennis Club, which finished with 132 points.  The Tornados only lost two matches during the weekend while winning 17.

Team members are Victoria Vietri, Jessica Osborne, Reagan Walker, Mackenzie Penton, Rahi Gajjar, Spicer Pagan, Ethan Warner and Edward Naval.  The team is coached by Bryant McKee and John Penton.

Reagan Walker was named the Sportsmanship winner for the Tornados, which won the Summerville JTT league to advance to the State Tournament.  The team will now play in the Southern Sectional tournament in Auburn, Ala. on Aug. 16-18 against teams from nine other Southern States.

Summerville also sent two teams to compete in the 12 and Under state tournament, the Orange Crush and Topspin Tsunamis. Both teams also play out of Pinewood.

The Woodlands' Terminetters from Columbia won the 12U division with 172 points while the Orange Crush finished second with 142 points.

Team members for the Crush are Arianna Brim, Natalie Blatner, Lizzie Naval, Ben Diffley, Grayson Mann and McGregor Mann.  The team is coached by Jun Naval and Melissa Naval.  Grayson Mann was the Sportsmanship Winner for the Orange Crush.

The Topspin Tsunamis were the youngest team in the 12U division as most of the team’s players still qualify to play in the 10U division but chose to play up.  The Tsunamis placed fourth with 133 points and won 3 of 5 matches.

Team members are Ellie Rodgers, Hannah Jeffrey, Annelise Pagan, Hannah McKee, Patrick Sott, Canon McConnell, Ethan Baly and Jay Diffley. The team is coached by Bryant McKee and Jun Naval. The Tsunamis won the State Tournament Spirit Award and both McConnell and Hannah McKee won a Sportsmanship Award. 

"It was a great weekend for Summerville's Tennis Teams,” Pinewood Tennis Director Bryant McKee said,  “I am so proud of everyone who participated.  All of the children played some of the best tennis I have seen them play and they all had a great weekend.  I am looking forward to more State titles in the future and I am so excited for the 10U team.  Thank you to all the parents for all their support."

(07/23/13)  Staff report: Ex-Clemson tennis coach Chuck Kriese new coach at The Citadel
Chuck Kriese, who won 10 ACC titles and was named national coach of the year four times at Clemson, has been named the new men’s tennis coach at The Citadel.

Kriese coached at Clemson from 1975-2008, producing 38 All-Americans and advancing to the final eight of the NCAA championships seven times.

“I am extremely honored to have been chosen to work and teach at a place of such great heritage,” said Kriese,” who has been senior director of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., since 2010.

“It is the best environment I could think of to teach, coach and pass on those things that have been given to me through tennis. I recognize and embrace the deep level of commitment, dedication and work that is required to uphold the excellence which has been established by so many over the generations. My family and I are very happy to be at The Citadel.”

Kriese is a member of halls of fame at Clemson and his alma mater, Tennessee Tech, and at the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame and the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. He and his wife, the former Claire Williams of Charleston, have three children.

(07/21/13)  Tiger Young now wearing USC colors
Two Tigers in Gamecocks colors?

More than that, coaching Gamecocks?

Charleston’s Ryan Young recently joined South Carolina’s men’s tennis program as an assistant coach. Charleston native Josh Goffi is the head coach.

“I guess I wouldn’t have expected it,” Young said Friday from Delray Beach, Fla., where he was on a recruiting trip with Goffi. But he’s happy to be a Gamecock under Goffi.

“It’s awesome . . . a great opportunity.”

Both men were tennis standouts at Clemson under former head coach Chuck Kriese, who sees his former Clemson players and coaches in charge of the two most prominent men’s programs in the state.

Former Kriese aide Chuck McCuen took over the Clemson program when Kriese left five years ago, and current Clemson assistant John Boetsch of Fort Mill played for Kriese.

“They’re all Clemson Tiger trained, and Ryan, Josh and John are all from the state,” Kriese said Saturday.

“Ryan was born to coach,” Kriese said. “It’s tremendous to have him in coaching.”

Former West Ashley High School star Young had just signed into full-time coaching within the last year as an assistant coach at Michigan State, where he helped the Spartans earn their first-ever NCAA tournament berth. Goffi quickly came calling with an offer for Young to move to Columbia.

“Josh is a couple years older than me. We stayed in touch, and he called me and offered me the job . . . and I gladly took it,” said the 28-year-old Young, whose mother Toni Young is the head pro at Maybank Tennis Center.

“I think in the long term I would love to be a head coach. Right now, I have a lot to learn. Under Josh, I’ll get to learn from one of the best coaches in the country.”

Goffi, who just completed his third season as the Gamecocks’ head coach by being named the Southeastern Conference coach of the year, has his own connections to the Charleston area. His father is former world coach of the year and best-selling author Carlos Goffi, who served as the tennis director at Seabrook Island in the 1970s before hitting it big coaching touring professionals.

Rogers falters

Shelby Rogers took things into her own hands in Friday’s quarterfinals of the $50,000 ITF challenger in Portland, Ore., by stopping Nicole Gibbs from virtually wrapping up the U.S. Pro Circuit summer wild card into the U.S. Open’s main draw with a 6-2, 6-0 blitzing of the two-time NCAA singles champion.

But in Saturday’s midday heat, third-seeded Alison Riske wore down a weary-looking Rogers for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win in the semifinals. The match turned when Rogers appeared to be in control at 2-1 in the second set after Riske double-faulted at break point, then screamed and threw her racket down hard against the court. The outburst by Riske seemed to break Rogers’ focus as she committed six errors in a long fourth game to lose service. As Riske’s energy picked up, Rogers’ appeared to decline.

Rogers now will have to win next week’s $50,000 event in Lexington, Ky., to have a shot at winning the U.S. Open wild card.

Her world ranking has fallen 20 spots to No. 154 in the last couple of weeks.

(07/07/13)  Maybank Tennis Center has come a long way
Maybank Tennis Center has changed quite a bit since the days when former S.C. lieutenant governor Burnet Maybank constantly patrolled the courts looking for cracks to repair. Of course, Burnet built most of those early courts himself.

When you saw Burnet coming toward your court armed with paint buckets or surfacing materials, you knew it was time to change courts. Burnet was there to work on the court.

Today, thanks to last year’s renovation, the City of Charleston-operated facility located on James Island is among the finest in the area. Its eight hard courts and five clay courts are modeled after resorts with their court dividers and low fences. Not only are they possibly the most viewer-friendly courts in the area, they almost certainly are the most spacious in the area.

But without the vision and work of Maybank in those early days in the 1970s, Maybank Tennis Center wouldn’t be what it is today — a place tennis players like to call home because of its low-key and friendly atmosphere.

On July 17 at 5:30 p.m., a plaque honoring Burnet Maybank will be unveiled at Maybank Tennis Center. The public is invited.

Bustling Whipple

The Mount Pleasant Recreation tennis complex at Whipple Road is one of the area’s busiest tennis centers. The addition of three excellent lighted clay courts in recent years has come to the aid of the facility’s 12 hard courts, relieving some of the pressure for court time.

The complex has a solid group of pros, led by tennis coordinator Matt Hansen. Tom and Clay Maynor, both former college head coaches, serve as head professionals, backed up by teaching pros Chris Waters, Lee Floyd and Ina O’Rourke.

A former Croatian national champion, O’Rourke came to the United States to play college tennis for Clemson where she was an All-American and won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. As a junior, she was once ranked No. 2 in the world.

In addition to a variety of junior clinics, the Whipple Road complex offers adult clinics along with popular drill and play clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., as well as a cardio tennis class at 7 p.m. on Mondays. Contact the tennis office at 856-2162.

Local notes

• The Charleston Junior Hardcourt Championship for 10-and-under through 18-and-under will be held at Charleston Tennis Center from July 19-21. Registration is available at www.sctennis.com.

• Summer tennis camps are back on the agenda this coming week at both Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) and Maybank Tennis Center (406-8814). Maybank, with its clay presence, has been one of the few sites on the West Ashley side of town that hasn’t been completely stymied by the recent daily rains. Fredrik Andersson is the head pro at the Farmfield Avenue complex, while Toni Young directs the Maybank tennis program.

(06/23/13)  Junior tennis schedule heats up
While this was the first time in recent memory that at least one local player didn’t win a singles title at Belton’s Palmetto Championships, there might have been a good reason. A scheduling conflict between many of the state’s schools, especially SCISA schools such as Porter-Gaud, kept some local players in school and appears to have contributed to the area’s drought.

But the summer junior schedule has since heated up with the Southern Closed Championships. No singles titles, but some sparkling success.

Matthew Mendez advanced to the boys 18 quarterfinals in Mobile, Ala., while in Rome, Ga., Scotty Cameron was a boys 16 quarterfinalist, and in boys 14 in Macon, Ga., Jared Pratt made the quarterfinals.

Former Pinewood Prep ace and now home-schooled Adam Elliget went to Mobile unseeded but upended No. 9 seed Thomas Spratt, the two-time Lowcountry boys high school player of the year, in the round of 64 before falling in the round of 16.

Emma Navarro made the round of 32 in girls 14, while Lauren Quinn and Lillian Conant advanced to the round of 64 in girls 14. Brant Fenno and Earl Navarro made the boys 14 round of 64.

In girls 12 in Cary, N.C., Gianna Pielet was a semifinalist and in boys 12 Luke Prendergast made the round of 32.

Rogers returning

Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers is scheduled to return to the United States the first of the week after competing in several European events, including the French Open main draw, the Wimbledon qualifying and the main draw of a $235,000 WTA tournament in Strasbourg, France. Her results in Europe, led by her initial Grand Slam tournament win, have lifted her world ranking 54 places to a career-high No. 134.

Rogers suffered a first-round 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 loss to An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium last Tuesday in the Wimbledon qualifying tournament.

Now, it’s back to the USTA’s national training center in Boca Raton, Fla., where her primary concentration will be on preparing for a chance to possibly win a wild card into the U.S. Open or at least participate in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament.

Similarly to the USTA’s venture to hold a series of clay-court tournaments to determine French Open wild cards for a U.S. man and a U.S. woman, the USTA is offering the same type of deal for the U.S. Open. Rogers won the women’s French wild card by her play in two of three tournaments in the segment.

The women will have three $50,000 events in which to make their points. A U.S. Open wild card will be awarded to the American woman who earns the most WTA Tour ranking points in two of the USTA Pro Circuit events, which will be held in Yakima, Wash. (July 8), Portland, Ore. (July 15) and Lexington, Ky. (July 22).

Rogers won the Yakima event last year and has not decided if she will defend that title, but she plans to play in at least two of the tournaments. While Rogers has had a productive 12 months that have pushed her world ranking up approximately 300 notches, she now faces the obstacle of defending those points in the months ahead.

Mixed update

The local league tennis mixed doubles season is in its final few weeks of the regular season, facing the task of trying to beat the weather in making up matches from the last three weeks when it rained virtually every league tennis evening.

The Lowcountry Tennis Association’s local league playoffs are scheduled to begin July 19-20 with the 40-plus 7.0 playoffs at LTP Tennis and the 6.0 18-plus at Mount Pleasant Rec. The 7.0 18-and-over playoffs will be held July 26-27 at Charleston Tennis Center, while the 8.0 18-and-over is set for the same weekend at the St. Andrew’s Playground complex on Playground Road.

Looking ahead to the mixed state championship competition, the 18-plus and the 40-plus state tournaments will be held Sept. 14-16 in Florence, while the 55-plus and 65-plus state playoffs are scheduled for Oct. 11-13 in Aiken.

The Southern Championships for 18-plus and 40-plus will be held in Mobile, Ala., Oct. 11-13.

Local notes

Registration is now underway for league tennis’ summer combo doubles and will continue through next Sunday. Play is expected to begin in mid-July.

With three weeks remaining in Courting Kids’ summer season at the Jack Adams Tennis Center (adjacent to Johnson Hagood Stadium) and the Alan Fleming Tennis Complex on Johns Island, spots are still available. Sessions are held on Mondays from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Jack Adams complex, while the Alan Fleming sessions are on Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. Contact Courting Kids director Delores Jackson at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401).

Junior Girls Day Out is launching a Junior Girls Olympics 2013 program that includes tennis along with several other sports for girls 7-12 years old. A launch party will be held for parents and girls next Sunday from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Charleston County Library at 68 Calhoun St.

(06/13/13)  STAFF REPORT: Daniel Island wins regular season, tournament in tri-county tennis league

Pictured are (front, from left) Maxwell Smith, Mitchell Deames; and (back) coach Dave Deames, Will Byrd, Crista Vroman, Emily Elliott, Camryn Deames and Jenna Vroman.

The Daniel Island School won both the regular-season and tournament in the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League tennis championships.

The school finished the season with a 7-0 record and won the postseason tournament with a 4-3 victory over Mason Prep School 1. The league included public and parochial schools from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties with 118 teams and more than 1,000 students.

Trophies were awarded to all winning teams May 22 at the Charleston Tennis Center.

Division Champions
Division 1: Daniel Island Middle 1
Division 2: Charleston School of the Arts, Christ Our King-Phillips, Charleston Catholic Red Saints
Division 3: Porter-Gaud Cyclones
Division 4: Daniel Island Middle 3
Division 5: Blessed Sacrament Sparks
Division 6: Laing Middle Braves
Division 7: Moultrie Middle Patriots
Division 8: Mount Pleasant Academy White, Pinewood Prep 4
Division 9: Palmetto Christian Academy 4
Division 10: Stiles Point White Dolphins
Division 11: Summerville Catholic Seahawks
Division 12: Drayton Hall 2, Ashley Hall 4
Division 13: Angel Oak Elementary Owls
Division 14: James Island Elementary White
Division 15: Harborview Team McGettrick
Division 16: Blessed Sacrament Little Aces

Tournament Champions
Tournament 1: Daniel Island Middle 1
Tournament 2: Pinewood Prep White 1
Tournament 3: Laing Middle
Tournament 4: Palmetto Christian 3
Tournament 5: Mount Pleasant Academy White
Tournament 6: Sullivan’s Island Elementary Orange 1
Tournament 7: Sullivan’s Island Elementary Orange 2
Tournament 8: Blessed Sacrament Little Aces
Tournament 9: Stiles Point Elementary Navy

(06/13/13) Porter-Gaud’s Thomas Spratt leads All-Lowcountry tennis team as player of the year
The tennis torch is still burning at Porter-Gaud, thanks in part to a decision Thomas Spratt made five years ago to turn his focus from basketball to tennis.

Three state championships later, the Porter-Gaud graduate has no regrets.

“I’ve had a great time. I’m really glad I decided to play (high school tennis),” he said.

Spratt was named The Post and Courier’s Lowcountry high school boys tennis player of the year for the second straight year after leading the Cyclones to back-to-back SCISA Class AAA state titles. He heads the All-Lowcountry team that also includes Porter-Gaud senior Payne Hoy, junior Seth Pinosky and seventh-grader Brant Fenno. Senior Zac Dye of Berkeley and Bishop England junior Lukas Zalesky round out the team. Spratt was selected for the fifth time; Dye is the only other repeater.

Retiring Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins, who directed the Cyclones to seven state titles in 11 years, repeats as coach of the year after closing out his career with an unbeaten season.

Spratt followed a line of outstanding players who helped the Cyclones make a habit of hoisting state championship trophies in May. The Cyclones have won 14 of the last 19 state titles.

Spratt first tried out for Porter-Gaud’s varsity tennis team in the seventh grade. But when an assistant coach told the team that he expected the players to be at every practice, Spratt wasn’t quite ready to make that commitment. He thought he might still want to play basketball. He left the tennis team and stayed with basketball.

“I went back out for tennis in the eighth grade … and the team went undefeated and won the state title,” said Spratt, who was one of the stars on that team.

He was sold on tennis at that point.

The Cyclones were state runners-up to Hilton Head Prep during Spratt’s freshman and sophomore years, then won state championships his junior and senior seasons.

In the process, Spratt won the SCISA Open singles title as a senior and was named SCISA player of the year.

Now, he’ll soon be off to Philadelphia to join the University of Pennsylvania tennis program. In the interim, he plans to compete in next week’s Southern Closed Championships in Mobile, Ala., and in the National Hard Courts in Kalamazoo, Mich., in August.
In Mobile, Spratt will play doubles with his future college teammate, Marshall Sharp of Memphis.

“My coach (at Pennsylvania) is confident I will play doubles as a freshman, but he couldn’t promise on singles until he sees matchups with the players he already has. We have the whole singles lineup back,” Spratt said.

“I would have liked to have played basketball a little longer, but I think that would have hurt my tennis. I have been pretty happy with what tennis has given me.”


Connor Grady, Senior, Porter-Gaud
Foster Moe, Junior, Porter-Gaud
Cross Tolliver, Freshman, Porter-Gaud
Davis Craig, Senior, Pinewood Prep
Noak Stiepel, Junior, Bishop England
Andrew DaCosta, Sophomore, Wando

Bishop England: Jack Roberts, Jeff Jones, Tristan Fletcher
James Island: Dillon Davis, Paul Wright, Hunter Sechrist
Stratford: Dylan Sides, Steven Brandon, Caston Elkins
Pinewood Prep: Avery Holoubek, Larry Wert
Summerville: Adam Seith, Brandon Sekula
Fort Dorchester: Hunter McManus, Patrick McCardle
Cane Bay: Alex Ambie, Jarrett Rabon
Palmetto Christian: Christopher DeMarco, Trey Goolsby
Wando: Robert DaCosta, Eric Donald
West Ashley: Ted Anastopoulo, Stratus Anastopoulo
Academic Magnet: Alex Scott. First Baptist: Lee Ropp

(06/08/13)  Shelby Rogers kicks off clay for England’s grass
Red clay? No problem for Shelby Rogers.

Grass? Maybe the same.

Rogers already has kicked the clay off her tennis shoes and started winning matches on grass in England. The Charleston 20-year-old, who is projected to move into the world’s top 140 on Monday as a result of a first-round victory in the French Open, is one win from qualifying for the WTA Tour’s $235,000 Aegon Classic in Birmingham, England.

She picked up a victory over former world’s 14th-ranked Eleni Daniilidou on Saturday when the 30-year-old Greek retired while trailing Rogers, 6-0, 4-1. Rogers will take on 5-2 Kurumi Nara of Japan today (9 a.m. Charleston time), with the winner advancing to the main draw of the 64-draw Birmingham tournament.

After being eliminated in the second round of the French Open, Rogers switched quickly to grass as the singles top seed in qualifying in a $75,000 ITF event in Nottingham, England, winning a three-set first-round match there. She lost her second match. She also teamed with Australian Olivia Rogowska to make the Nottingham doubles quarterfinals.

Rogers’ family, mother Starley and stepfather Jim Gabrish, stayed a week in France, and were thrilled by being at courtside when Shelby posted her initial Grand Slam tournament victory. They are now back home on Daniel Island.

What’s next for Shelby before returning to the USTA’s national training center in Boca Raton, Fla.? She plans to play Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament, according to Charleston coach Bryan Minton.

Martin picks Wofford
Former Wando standout Catherine Martin signed a tennis grant with Wofford on Thursday. Martin trains under Bryan Minton in Family Circle’s ITA Elite Program. After helping Wando to the Class AAAA state final in 2011, Martin was online-schooled as a senior.

Minton said Martin “has developed an excellent all-around game through hard work and determination over the years and she is just now coming into her own.”

Alex Martin, Catherine’s older sister, spent her sophomore year at the University of South Carolina after playing for Texas in 2011-12, posting a 6-11 singles record for the Gamecocks at Nos. 5 and 6. She went 3-1 in doubles.

Local notes
The Lowcountry Tennis Association added five state titles last weekend in 18-and-over league competition after earlier winning three 40-plus state crowns. Last week’s state titlists were a 4.0 men’s team from Mount Pleasant Rec captained by John Fanning, a 2.5 women’s team from the Daniel Island Club, a 4.5 women’s team from LTP Tennis, and a 5.0 women’s team and 3.0 men’s team from St. Andrew’s.

Registration for next weekend’s Pine Forest Country Club’s Wounded Warrior mixed doubles tournament will close Monday. Contact Joshua Strimple (joshua_strimple@ml.com) or register online at www.charlestonclassic.org. Competition will be in 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and open.

Columbia’s Hayley Carte won girls 18 singles and doubles titles at the recent Belton championships to break Charleston native Ryan Young’s overall Belton record of 15 titles (1994-2003). The doubles title was Carter’s eighth, tying the record of Charleston native Katie Coleman (1992-2000). Summerville’s Adam Elliget teamed up with Wood Benton of Spartanburg to win the boys 18 doubles crown, Elliget’s sixth doubles title. Emma Navarro of Charleston was a doubles titlist in girls 14 and Jared Pratt was a winner in boys 14 doubles.

Registration opened this weekend for league tennis’ summer combo doubles and will continue through June 30.

Several local players stood out in last weekend’s Southern Senior Cup Team Championships in Huntsville, Ala., helping the South Carolina team to a fourth-place finish while taking the Gil Stacy Memorial Cup, which goes to the state with the most individual wins.

(05/30/13)  Shelby Rogers loses in second round at French Open

Shelby Rogers showed the world that she belonged in the French Open.

Playing in only her second Grand Slam tennis event, the 20-year-old from Charleston appeared to be in control Wednesday during her second-round match on Roland Garros’ red clay.

But 20th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain wouldn’t go away so easily, turning the match around in the second set to overcome 170th-ranked Rogers, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Rogers left Paris with a prize of $45,500, and is projected to be ranked in the top 140.

After winning the first set, Rogers was ahead 2-0 in the second and serving with a 30-0 lead. That’s when Navarro came alive to break service and then hold.

Still down 4-3 in the second set, Navarro took charge of the match by yielding just five points in the next five games to take the second set and charge into a 2-0 lead in the third set.

Rogers came back to tie it at 2, but suffered a service break and trailed 4-2. Navarro won a pair of love service games to advance.

After nailing 19 winners in the first set, Rogers collected only 18 winners the rest of the way in the two-hour, 12-minute match. Suarez Navarro came up with only 10 winners in the first set, but produced more than Rogers in each of the last two sets.

The key in the third set was that Rogers won only 52 percent of her first-service points, while Suarez Navarro won 88 percent of hers. Rogers won 38 of the 68 points in the first set, but her opponent won 15 more points than Rogers in the last two sets.

(05/27/13)  Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers, 20, tops Pavlovic in French Open debut

Shelby Rogers’ dream is for real.

The Charleston 20-year-old displayed excellent and intelligent play in her French Open debut on a chilly Sunday in Paris while scoring a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over French 24-year-old Irena Pavlovic in a first-round match televised by the Tennis Channel.
Attired in a light blue and yellow two-piece outfit, Rogers looked and played like a seasoned veteran as she mixed power with high balls while winning 60 of the 107 points. She didn’t face a break point and served only one double fault during the 84-minute matchup of wild cards on the red clay.

Rogers was clearly the better of the two players on this day, playing before a small crowd on outside court No. 7 that included few supporters other than her stepfather, former Citadel football star Jim Gabrish, and her mother, Starley, who gave her daughter a big hug before Rogers signed autographs and walked off the court.

Already advancing 18 spots in this week’s world rankings to No. 170, Rogers’ initial Grand Slam main draw victory should put her into the top 140 two weeks from now. And don’t discount the $45,500 Roland Garros payday she already has earned.

Bigger possibilities loom as Rogers won for the 11th time in her last 14 matches to advance to the second round against the winner of today’s match between 20th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and Simona Halep of Romania. A win there would be worth an additional $32,500.

A three-game stretch that netted two service breaks took Rogers through the last two games of the first set and the opening game of the second set. She didn’t commit an unforced error during the three games.

Holding a set and a service break lead, Rogers maintained the advantage the rest of the way with strong serving and excellent placement and consistency in her groundstrokes.

The Daniel Island product earned one match point in the ninth game of the second set with a strong forehand up the line, but Pavlovic, who hits two-handed from each side, fought it off and forced Rogers to serve for the match.

Rogers didn’t buckle, holding at love to close out the match, just as she had held at love to end the first set.

She wrapped up the last four points of the match impressively with powerful, well-placed serves that produced one ace, an unreturnable serve wide at match point and a pair of serves that resulted in short returns that Rogers jumped all over with her forehand.

Holding a 4-3 lead in the first set, Rogers outlasted the 172nd-ranked Pavlovic to break service in the long eighth game by drilling a strong backhand from the middle of the court that split the line for one of her 21 winners. Rogers then served out the set.

The American took advantage of a double fault and three unforced errors by Pavlovic to come up with a 15-40 service break in the opening game of the second set. Rogers committed only 18 unforced errors to 26 for her opponent.

Pavlovic had only three double faults, but two of them came in the two games she was broken.

In her two Grand Slam main draw matches, Rogers has faced two-handed groundstrokers both times. She lost to Peng Shuai of China in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open.

(05/25/13)  Rogers aims for first Grand Slam victory
Shelby Rogers is on a hot streak. Even ranked 188th in the world, she may be favored to win her first-round match today in the French Open.

The 20-year-old Charleston product won’t be facing a big-name player when she takes the court late this afternoon in the fourth match on court No. 7 at Roland Garros. Irena Pavlovic is a veteran of nearly 10 years as a pro, but she is ranked only 16 spots higher than Rogers.

Plus, in their only previous meeting, Rogers scored a 6-1, 7-6 victory over Pavlovic last year at Yahima, Wash., a tournament Rogers won. And Pavlovic has lost six of her last seven matches, while Rogers has won 10 of her last 13.

But Pavlovic should have the crowd on her side. She is French.

Yes, it would appear that Rogers has a solid chance of notching her first Grand Slam main draw win today.

While Pavlovic's lone victory in four Grand Slam main draws came last year at the French, Rogers’ only main draw experience came in the 2010 U.S. Open when she was ranked 344th in the world and split a pair of tiebreakers with 61st-ranked Shuai Peng before losing the third set of the first-round match.

Three 40-plus titles

Three local teams captured state titles last weekend at Hilton Head Island in the inaugural 40-and-over state championships.

LTP Tennis’ 4.5 women captained by Alice Kryder, the 4.5 men from I’On captained by Mark Mogul and the 3.0 men from Legend Oaks captained by Carl MacAdam brought home state 40-plus titles.

A 3.0 women’s team from Legend Oaks captained by Diane Pastorius was runner-up.

Players on the state championship teams who participated at Hilton Head Island: LTP — Alice Kryder, Katy Bazylewicz, Ashly Farrior, Ann Harrah, Martha Lee, Susie Peiffer, Kim Perritt, Amy Templeton, Joann Terrell and Deanna Vroman; I’On — Mark Mogul, Gary Agardy, Michael Albano, John Bumgarner, Jeff Burton, Bo Crouch, Todd Hall, Harvey Hines, Fred McKay, Will Smith and Dale Voeks; Legend Oaks — Carl MacAdam, Nick Bonvillain, Dennis Bradshaw, John Doerr, Jay Doolittle, Mark Fredrick, Alan Greer, Jim Hock, Lawrence Lowell and Jim Page.

Kiawah No. 1 again

Kiawah Island continues to dominate Tennis Resorts Online’s best tennis resorts world rankings. Kiawah has now won the No. 1 ranking for seven of the last eight years.

Wild Dunes Resort came in fifth with Hilton Head Island’s Palmetto Dunes ninth as South Carolina landed three top 10 spots, more than any other state. California had two top 10 resorts, including No. 2 La Quinta Resort and Club. Florida, Arizona and Hawaii had one each. The other two spots went to Austria and the Virgin Islands.

Local notes

Snee Farm Country Club will hold its Grand Prix Friday through Sunday. Registration is available at www.sneefarmtennis.com. Contact pro Christy Cherry (fivecherry@hotmail.com).

Berkeley senior Zac Dye suffered his first loss of the season in last weekend’s SCHSL Class AAAA-AAA singles state tournament, but bounced back to take fifth place. After top seed and eventual champion Wood Benton of Class AAAA runner-up Dorman (to South Aiken) defeated Dye in the quarterfinals, the Berkeley star won three straight matches to take the consolation title. Eighth-grader Paul Hendrix of state runner-up Waccamaw (to Christ Church) captured the Class AA-A state singles crown. Socastee is the Class AAA state team champion.

(05/24/13)  Rogers’ dream takes her to Paris
Playing tennis for a living is the dream of thousands of young players the world over. For most, it’s just that. A dream.

Shelby Rogers, a 20-year-old from Daniel Island, is living that dream.

She’s in Paris to play in the French Open — a Grand Slam event — that begins Sunday.

For a professional tennis player ranked 188th in the world, a job is only as secure as the final score of the next match.

Rogers’ first-round opponent in the French Open will be 169th-ranked Irena Pavlovic of France, who like Rogers is a wild card entry.

Rogers realizes there is plenty of work still to be done, grueling daily
workouts and long pressurized 
matches. But there was no way she was going to miss that chance.

“I really had to give myself a chance on the tour. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl,” Rogers said earlier this month before leaving for France.

“I can always go back to school, get my degree, take classes, but I can’t always play on tour. We have a pretty short window of time . . . I had to give myself a chance."

It hasn’t been an easy road for the girl who attended First Baptist Church School in Charleston, but never played high school tennis and eventually migrated to online schooling. But she never gave up on the dream she acquired while clinging to the fences and watching big sister Sabra play the game. She followed the dream tirelessly, training with long-time coach Bryan Minton at the old Players Club and Family Circle Tennis Center.

Soon, she was winning Belton titles. And then pro titles. She turned pro three years ago.

“I had a couple good pro tournaments and decided to officially turn pro and not go to college right out of high school,” she said. “I did the whole college visit. I went on my official visits, went to a couple schools. I actually probably would have gone to Clemson maybe. I was pretty set on that.”

The USTA took her under its arm and she made the decision to move to Boca Raton, Fla., two years ago to train at the USTA’s national training center.

That’s when her career switched gears.

“It was probably one of the hardest decisions of my life, leaving my family and everyone at home, the coach (Minton) I’d been with since I was seven,” she said.“

But there just weren’t any players to train with in Charleston. I had a good setup with coaching and fitness and stuff like that. But moving to Boca, you have world-class players every day to practice against, a nice gym, fitness trainers. Everything is right at your fingertips. I think it was a good move and something that I needed to do. It definitely helped my game. The results show that, I think.”

When she played in the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup in April 2012, she was ranked No. 442 in the world. She has climbed more than 250 spots in the last 14 months and is projected to advance into the top 175 next week after winning 10 of her last 13 matches. She has scored victories over three top 100 players in the last seven months.

Her earnings for 2013 are approximately $21,000, but she will earn at least $27,300 more for playing in the French Open.

“I think a big thing for me recently has been patience, not trying to do too much with my game,” Rogers said. “I tend to pull the trigger a little bit too much.”

She’s already had some success on the clay courts in France, winning four straight matches in qualifying and through the first round of the main draw of the $235,000 WTA event in Strasbourg earlier this week.

“I feel pretty comfortable on the clay. I’m confident in my game and my movement right now,” she said prior to leaving for France.

The French Open draw provides Rogers with a solid chance to score her first Grand Slam main draw win. The veteran 24-year-old Pavlovic is ranked only 19 spots ahead of Rogers. In 2010, when Rogers earned a wild card into the U.S. Open by winning the U.S. Junior Championships, then 344th-ranked Rogers split a pair of tiebreakers with then 61st-ranked Shuai Peng before losing the third set of the first-round match.

(05/23/13)  Staff Report: Daniel Island tennis pro Shelby Rogers loses at Strasbourg tournament

Seventh-seeded Chanelle Scheepers, a 29-year-old South African, rallied to hand 20-year-old Daniel Island product Shelby Rogers a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss on Wednesday in the round of 16 at $235,000 Strasbourg International tennis tournament in Strasbourg, France.

Scheepers, ranked 61st in the world, saved seven of 10 break points in the one-hour and 52-minute match to end the 188th-ranked Rogers’ string of four consecutive wins. Rogers now will shift to Paris where she owns a wild card in the main draw of the French Open, which starts on Sunday.

(05/22/13)  State Report: Rogers opens with victory at Strasbourg
Charleston 20-year-old Shelby Rogers opened play in the 32-draw red-clay $235,000 Strasbourg International tennis tournament in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over fellow qualifier Marta Domachowska of Poland, who double-faulted 11 times. It was Rogers’ fourth straight victory, counting three in qualifying.

Rogers was broken while serving for the match at 5-4, but rebounded to win eight of the last nine points to advance to a round of 16 match today against 61st-ranked and seventh- seeded Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa. Currently ranked No. 188, Rogers is now projected to advance approximately 15 places in next week’s world rankings going into her wild-card entry into the main draw of the French Open

(05/12/13)  Tom Higgins retires as Porter-Gaud boys tennis coach
Tom Higgins has retired again.

Seven SCISA state titles in 11 years later, the man affectionately known as “Hig” retired as Porter-Gaud’s boys tennis coach. He broke the news to his team by email after a party held last Sunday for his latest state champions. He didn’t want to take away from the Cyclones’ last championship celebration under his reign.

His first retirement came in 2000 at Eastern Kentucky University where the college team now plays on the Tom Higgins Courts that honor his 29 years as the men’s or women’s tennis coach.

“This has been like a second career,” he said Saturday. “But I’m not done with tennis.”

The 71-year-old former FBI agent is just taking a break from coaching. “I’m just going to resign myself to playing a little and not just feeding balls.”

Higgins said coaching at a top-tier tennis school such as Porter-Gaud isn’t that much different from being a college coach.

“Eastern Kentucky was a different level … Division I, but the caliber of players I have seen in SCISA at the one and two positions has been Division I quality,” he said, calling attention to graduating No. 1 Thomas Spratt and the exceptional talent on teams such as the last two state runners-up, Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian.

As for the future, he said, “I have so many clanks in my knees that they hurt all the time. I wore the cartilage out in both knees when I ran a marathon in Washington, D.C, at age 55. If I quit coaching, I can play a little more tennis.”

Higgins plans to continue running his after-school program at Porter-Gaud for younger kids as well as his summer camps. “You can just watch little kids getting better,” he said.

He also will continue helping with the scheduling for the girls team in the fall as well as the boys. In addition to his seven boys state titles, Higgins won two state titles with the girls team before turning that team over to Brian Burke a few years ago.

Barth, Hartsock

Burke, who directed the Porter-Gaud girls to a state title in 2011, stepped down as coach. Assistant Charlotte Hartsock will move up to head girls coach, according to Porter-Gaud athletic director Ed Steers.

As for the boys team, Steers said assistant Jonathan Barth has agreed to take over the top job. Barth also is the head tennis professional at Kiawah Island.

“Teamwise, I’m not leaving the cupboard bare,” Higgins said, pointing to returnees such as No. 2 Seth Pinosky, No. 5 Brant Fenno, No. 6 Foster Moe and doubles ace Cross Tolliver.

Rogers in France
What does it mean financially to 190th-ranked Shelby Rogers to have earned a wild card into the May 26-June 9 French Open’s main draw? Just for playing in the first round, the prize money is $27,300. One win ups the prize to $45,500.

The Charleston 20-year-old left for Europe on Wednesday and is playing this weekend in the qualifying tournament for a $50,000 ITF event that starts Monday in Saint-Gaudens, France. As the No. 4 seed, Rogers had a first-round bye.

(05/11/13) ANDREW MILLER: CofC women’s tennis team to face Texas Tech in NCAA regional
The College of Charleston women’s tennis team has won five straight Southern Conference championships.

NCAA Tennis
What: Women’s Tennis Regional
Who: No. 16 Texas Tech (19-6) vs. College of Charleston (20-8)
When: Today and Sunday
Where: Lubbock, Texas

With this year’s SoCon title already in hand, the Cougars are in Lubbock, Texas, this weekend to take part in their fifth straight NCAA regional.

What has eluded the Cougars for the past four seasons has been a victory in the regionals. The Cougars, who are making their sixth NCAA regional appearance since 2003, are hoping to change that this afternoon when they step onto the courts at the Jones AT&T Stadium on the campus of Texas Tech.

In the past, the Cougars have been matched up against heavyweight programs — Florida, North Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee and Georgia — in the regionals. While Texas Tech (19-6) is ranked No. 17 nationally in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association Team Rankings, the Red Raiders are the lowest ranked No. 1 seed in the 16 NCAA regionals, while the Cougars are the top-ranked fourth seed.

While Charleston coach Angelo Anastopoulo isn’t about to start the victory celebration just yet, he is cautiously optimistic about the Cougars’ chances against the Red Raiders.

“It’s really the first time the seeding committee has done it according to our rankings,” Anastopoulo said. “On paper, this is probably the best chance we’ve had in the last five years to finally advance out of the first round. Texas Tech is a very good team. In the past, we’ve gone up against some real powerhouse programs and, to be honest, we probably haven’t had a realistic chance of beating those teams. This time, I think everyone feels like we’ve got a legitimate shot of getting out of the first round.”

Christin Newman, the Cougars’ top-seeded player, couldn’t agree more.

“I think we have one of the strongest teams we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Newman said. “We’ve dealt with so much adversity all season long, and I think that has made us stronger. I think everyone believes we can do this.”

In 2010, the Cougars faced ninth-ranked Clemson and were ousted 4-0 in the opening round. A year ago, the Cougars traveled to No. 6 Georgia and were shut out again.

“In the past we’ve been one of the strongest fourth-seeds in the tournament, but we never get rewarded for it,” Newman said. “I think it’s because of where we’re located. We seem to always draw a top-10 program or a big-name program like Georgia or Clemson or Florida. Those teams play on a different level than we do.”

Another reason for the Cougars’ optimism is their record against the Big 12 over the past few years. The Cougars are 4-1 against Big 12 opponents, including a 4-3 win over Kansas in February.

“We’ve been pretty competitive against the Big 12,” Anastopoulo said. “We’ve had some success, so I don’t think the girls are going to be intimidated by playing against Texas Tech.”

The Cougars (20-8) have plenty of momentum, winning 13 of their last 14 matches, and nine straight heading into the regionals. Newman is 19-6 this season with an eight-match win streak.

(05/10/13)  Bishop England boys fall to Waccamaw in tennis
There was nothing new in the Bishop England - Waccamaw boys tennis rivalry this spring.

For the 11th straight season, perennial state power Waccamaw ended the Bishops’ season in the state playoffs as the Warriors (13-3) cruised to a 5-0 victory Thursday afternoon at Pawleys Island in the Lower State Class AA final.

Only junior Lukas Zalesky managed to win a set for the Bishops (13-4), but Waccamaw eighth-grader Paul Hendrix took the third-set tiebreaker for a 7-5, 3-6, 10-4 victory at No. 1 singles.

“I feel good about the year. We had a good season,” said first-year BE boys coach Kristin Fleming, whose girls team has won two straight state titles. “We just came up short.

“They (Waccamaw) are a tough team. I knew they were strong and that we would have to play extremely well to have a chance.”

With the Bishops only losing No. 3 Jack Roberts and No. 5 Tristan Fletcher to graduation, Fleming is looking forward to next season. “I feel comfortable with the team we have coming back,” she said.

SINGLES: Paul Hendrix (W) def. Lukas Zalesky, 7-5, 3-6, 10-4; Justin Dunn (W) def. Noak Stiepel, 6-4, 6-2; Matt Fisher (W) def. Jack Roberts, 6-2, 6-3; Joey Hewes (W) def. Jeff Jones, 6-1, 6-1; Alex Czechner (W) def. Tristan Fletcher, 6-2, 7-5.

(05/05/13)  Rogers earns spot in French Open
Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers earned a wild card into the main draw of the May 26 French Open on Saturday when Alison Riske was eliminated in the semifinals of the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament at Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.

“I am just so excited,” the 20-year-old Rogers said Saturday from Indian Harbour. “I am just starting to plan my trip (to Paris).”

Rogers lost in the second round at Indian Harbour, but her title at Charlottesville, Va., last Sunday and quarterfinal appearance at Dothan, Ala., earned her more combined WTA singles ranking points (88) in two of three select USTA Pro Circuit events than any other American.

“Wild cards (to the majors) definitely don’t come easy,” said the 190th-ranked Rogers, who earned a wild card into the 2010 U.S. Open by winning the girls 18 national championships.

Rogers had another big week in doubles, losing in Saturday’s semifinals with Britain’s Nicola Slater, half of the team that defeated Rogers in the Charlottesville doubles final. Rogers’ new doubles points total is projected to lift her ranking to approximately 186th in world doubles from No. 208.

After moving into the top 200 in world singles for the first time after Charlottesville, Rogers will remain approximately No. 190 in the WTA singles rankings. The 10 points she earned at Indian Harbour should equal the points that will rotate off when Monday’s new rankings are released.

Riske, Madison Brengle, Irina Falconi and 17-year-old Charlottesville runner-up Allie Kiick were the only Americans that had a chance to take the French wild card away from Rogers entering Indian Harbour.

Kiick needed to reach the final to surpass Rogers, but fell in the first round. Falconi went out in the second round and Brengle was eliminated by Riske in the quarterfinals. Riske was second with 64 points to Kiick’s 60.

Rogers trains at the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Fla.

(05/04/13)  PCA Boys fall in state title match
Palmetto Christian Academy’s move up from SCISA Class A, where the Eagles had been dominant in tennis in recent years, took a jolt Friday afternoon in Sumter in the Class AA state boys championship as Spartanburg Day’s Griffins (6-7) cruised to a 7-0 victory over the Eagles.

Having won six state boys titles in its last seven years as a Class A school, Palmetto Christian was badly outmatched in its first shot at a Class AA title.  Spartanburg Day’s Anders Ike, Connor Smith, Matthew Poliakoff, Rollins Turner, Rett Foust and Sam Corkery combined to yield only 10 games to the Eagles in the six singles matches.

(05/04/13)  Porter-Gaud boys tennis team wins second straight state title
Hilton Head Prep’s ace showed up for Friday afternoon’s SCISA Class AAA state boys tennis championship match, but so did Porter-Gaud’s Payne Hoy, Brant Fenno, Foster Moe, Connor Grady and Cross Tolliver.

And Porter-Gaud’s depth won the battle and a second straight state title with a closer-than-expected 5-4 win over Hilton Head Prep (10-3) at Charleston Tennis Center as the Cyclones completed a perfect 15-0 season.

Grady hammered back-to-back big first serves and Hoy put away returns by Prep’s Colton Lavery and Amit Kohli with smashes at the net to give the Porter-Gaud seniors a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 2 doubles in the last match left on the court to wrap up the Cyclones’ 14th state title in the past 19 years.

“I expected it to be close, but not this close,” Tom Higgins said about his seventh state title in his 11 seasons as the Cyclones’ coach. “We had a real shot to be up 4-2 in singles (Grady dropped a close third-set tiebreaker at No. 4 singles), but their guys were tough.”

With much of the focus on whether Hilton Head Prep No. 1 Andrew Schafer would return from playing in a professional tournament in Florida in time for the midday match, the lower part of the Cyclones’ lineup stood up to the task as Hoy, Fenno and Moe yielded a total of seven games at Nos. 3, 5 and 6 singles as the teams headed into doubles deadlocked at 3-3.

Freshman Tolliver then joined the Hoy, Grady and Moe ranks in the last two spots in the doubles lineup to lift the Cyclones to another state title.

Moe, a junior, teamed up with Tolliver for a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles to set the stage for Hoy and Grady to wrap up the title at No. 2 doubles. Hoy and Grady overcame strong winds to rally from a 3-2 deficit to win four straight games to close out the match.

“I was just trying to make the shots in the wind ... just trying to make contact,” Hoy said about his last two winners. “This is really special since I’m a senior and I’ve been on the team with some of these guys five years.”

Hoy proclaimed the Cyclones as the best team in the state ... “if not the nation.”

The victory marked the third state title for Hoy, and Nos. 1 Thomas Spratt and 2 Seth Pinosky.

“Connor and Payne got it done for us,” Spratt said. “We were confident that they could do it.”

It wasn’t a good day to be playing Nos. 1 or 2 singles or No. 1 doubles for the Cyclones. Spratt put up a good fight in singles against University of South Carolina-bound Schafer, who didn’t return from Florida until nearly midnight the night before, but the Hilton Head senior prevailed, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Outstanding Hilton Head junior Jared Woodson scored a 6-2, 6-1 win over Pinosky at No. 2 singles.

Schafer and Woodson then teamed up for a 6-3, 6-3 win over the Spratt/Pinosky doubles team.

It was a tough loss for a Hilton Head team that went unbeaten against all other opponents, but suffered two 5-4 setbacks and a 6-3 loss to their Region III rivals.

Singles: Andrew Schafer (HHP) def. Thomas Spratt, 6-3, 7-6 (3); Jared Woodson (HHP) def. Seth Pinosky, 6-2, 6-1; Mike Saia def. James Beck 7-5, 6-3; Payne Hoy (PG) def. Colton Lavery, 6-1, 6-1; Amit Kohli (HHP) def. Connor Grady, 6-2, 5-7, 10-7; Brant Fenno (PG) def. Matt Kandel, 6-0, 6-2; Foster Moe (PG) def. Angelo Carrabba, 6-1, 6-2.

Doubles: Schafer/Woodson (HHP) def. Spratt/Pinosky, 6-3, 6-3; Hoy/Grady (PG) def. Lavery/Kohli, 6-4, 6-3; Moe/Cross Tolliver (PG) def. Jack Kelly/Carrabba, 6-1, 6-2.

(05/03/13)  Pinosky, Porter-Gaud aim for another SCISA tennis title
Moving up two places to No. 2 singles in a high school tennis lineup can be as challenging in some situations as the leap from high school to college tennis. That’s definitely true at perennial state champion Porter-Gaud.

Such a challenge has been Seth Pinosky’s fate this season for the Cyclones. Having suffered only two losses in his previous three seasons combined, he already has three this season for defending state champion Porter-Gaud (14-0) heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. SCISA Class AAA state boys championship match at Charleston Tennis Center against Hilton Head Prep (10-2).

Today could provide another big challenge for Pinosky, unless Hilton Head Prep ace Andrew Schafer happens to remain in Vero Beach, Fla., where he lost a late afternoon match on Thursday in a $10,000 futures tournament.

Not that Pinosky would play Schafer, but if Schafer is present, that would leave junior star Jared Woodson facing Pinosky in the No. 2 slot. Pinosky won a total of only five games in two regular season matches against Woodson. Going against Prep’s No. 3 player if Schafer doesn’t show up today might be like a cakewalk for Pinosky compared to having to face Woodson again.

Obviously, that would have a major impact on the overall title match. Hilton Head Prep is unbeaten against everyone but Porter-Gaud, which owns 6-3 and 5-4 wins over Schafer and the Dolphins this season.

“I wasn’t sure how this season would turn out. It’s definitely a big change from playing No. 4,” said Pinosky, who doesn’t plan to play college tennis.

This season was tougher than usual at the top two positions, because of the Schafer/Woodson presence at Prep and the Drake brothers (No. 5 nationally ranked boys 16 Hampton and Charlie) at Hilton Head Christian. Pinosky defeated senior Charlie Drake in their one regular season meeting, but lost in straight sets to Drake in the Cyclones’ 5-2 semifinal win.

While Pinosky has fared well in singles against everyone but Woodson, it’s doubles where Pinosky has had the greatest impact. It doesn’t hurt that Pinosky’s partner is 6-6 senior Thomas Spratt, who is bound for the University of Pennsylvania’s tennis program.

As veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said, “Playing with Thomas makes you look good.” But Pinosky has handled the pressure of playing No. 1 doubles for possibly the best high school or SCISA team in the state well.

“When Seth was a freshman and sophomore, he didn’t have a lot of confidence in doubles. But he’s turned into a formidable doubles player by taking the ball and coming in,” said Higgins, who is looking for his seventh state title in 11 years at Porter-Gaud.
Spratt is a big-time doubles player on the ad-side, with a tremendous cross-court backhand, not to mention big serves and forehands as well as pro-like volleys and overheads. He protects the 5-6 Pinosky well with his presence at the net.

Pinosky is a busy 17-year-old. He missed Porter-Gaud’s Thursday soccer match against James Island because of a conflict with the Porter-Gaud hand bells choir’s annual concert that night.

Pinosky is happy that the tennis state final is today and not Monday. The soccer playoffs start next week, and he is looking forward to concentrating on just one sport.

With all of that going on, Pinosky is an honors student who is president of the local BBYO youth group as well as regional president of the Dixie Council BBYO youth organization that includes Charleston, Columbia, Savannah and Augusta.

Pinosky's top choice for college is the University of North Carolina. He plans to decide between being a doctor like his dad Mark (P-G state title teams in 1976 and 1982) or an orthodontist.

PCA seeks AA title
Palmetto Christian Academy will oppose Spartanburg Day at 12:30 p.m. today at Sumter for the SCISA Class AA state tennis title.

(05/02/13)  Porter-Gaud advances to SCISA Class AAA boys tennis state championship match
Unbeaten Porter-Gaud moved to within one win of a second straight Class AAA SCISA boys tennis state title Wednesday afternoon at the Cyclones’ court with a 5-2 win over Hilton Head Christian (7-6).

Standing between the Cyclones (14-0) and a 14th state title in the last 19 seasons is Hilton Head Prep, the third Region III power in the Porter-Gaud/Hilton Head Island triangle, in a Friday or Monday title match at a site to be announced.

Playing without University of South Carolina-bound senior No. 1 Andrew Schafer, Hilton Head Prep scored a 6-0 decision over previously unbeaten Wilson Hall in Wednesday’s other state semifinal. Schafer is playing in a satellite pro tournament in Vero Beach, Fla., and may not be available on Friday.

Foster Moe and Cross Tolliver clinched the win for the Cyclones by romping to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Alex Lykins and Cameron Clark at No. 3 doubles. The other two doubles matches stopped when Moe and Tolliver wrapped up the win.

Connor Grady sent the Cyclones into doubles with a 4-2 edge by rallying from a match point in the second set to win 2-6, 7-5, 10-6 at No. 4 singles over Lykins, who held match point at 5-3 in the second set.

No. 1 Thomas Spratt, Brant Fenno at No. 5 and Moe at No. 6 yielded a total of only four games in singles to give the Cyclones a quick 3-0 lead. Spratt had lost to Hilton Head Christian’s Hampton Drake in straight sets on the same court in the regular season, but this time the nation’s fifth-ranked boys 16 player was hampered by a wrist injury and was no match for the 6-6 Porter-Gaud star.

“I think we have a good shot at winning the state title,” Spratt said, pointing to the Cyclones’ 6-3 and 5-4 wins over Hilton Head Prep in the regular season when Schafer played both matches against the Cyclones.

Veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins knew it already was a good season with a sweep thus far of the two Hilton Head powers. “I’ll take a sweep of Hilton Head all day,” said Higgins, who is looking for his seventh state title in 11 years as head coach.

SINGLES: Thomas Spratt (PG) def. Hampton Drake, 6-0, 6-0; Charlie Drake (HHC) def. Seth Pinosky, 6-3, 6-4; Ben Lykins (HHC) def. Payne Hoy, 6-3, 6-1; Connor Grady (PG) def. Alex Lykins, 2-6, 7-5, 10-6; Brant Fenno (PG) def. Cameron Clark, 6-1, 6-2; Foster Moe (PG) def. Walker Wood, 6-1, 6-0.

DOUBLES: Cross Tolliver/Moe (PG) def. A. Lykins/Clark, 6-0, 6-1.

(04/29/13)  Rogers getting closer to Paris
Charleston’s Shelby Rogers took a giant step toward clinching a French Open main-draw wild card on Sunday by beating 17-year-old Allie Kiick of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 6-3, 7-5, in the rain-plagued singles final of a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Charlottesville, Va.

Rogers also has clinched her first appearance among the world’s top 200 women, rising 26 places to No. 190 in the world in this week’s WTA Tour rankings

The 20-year-old Daniel Island product’s only disappointment Sunday was a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss with Nicole Gibbs to the team of Coco Vandeweghe and Nicola Slater in the indoor-moved doubles final.

The American who earns the most combined WTA singles ranking points in two of three select USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 clay-court events is promised a wild card into Paris’ main draw. Since an American failed to win the first select tournament at Dothan, Ala., Rogers could compile an unsurpassable two-event point total by making next Sunday’s final at Air Harbour, Fla.

Rogers has zoomed to the top of the standings with 88 rankings points, followed by Kiick with 60, and Alison Riske, Irina Falconi, and Madison Brengle with 42 points each. Kiick is the only American who could top Rogers’ current total for two events without winning the title at Air Harbour.

Kiick would need to reach the final. Riske, Falconi and Brengle could top Rogers’ total only by winning the $50,000 event.

In a battle of baseliners, Rogers held service for a 4-2 lead, then slammed an ace down the middle for a 5-3 lead in the opening set as Kiick resorted to conservative play in an attempt to harness Rogers’ power game. Rogers accepted a gift when Kiick double-faulted at deuce in the ninth game, and Rogers followed up by nailing a forehand winner to close out the set against the daughter of former Miami Dolphins great Jim Kiick.

After appearing to lose focus at the start of the second set and suffering three straight breaks for a 4-1 deficit, Rogers regained the form that produced five straight-set victories in Charlottesville.

Rogers rebounded to win three games in a row for 4-4. After trading service breaks to leave the score at 5-5, Rogers held at love, then broke Kiick at 15-40 to end the match.

(04/29/13)  Top-seeded Porter-Gaud boys open quest for state tennis crown
Tom Higgins has been coaching too long to allow members of his Porter-Gaud team to think for a minute that they have a cakewalk to a second straight SCISA Class AAA boys state tennis championship.

With six state titles in his 10 years as the Cyclones’ head coach, Higgins has quite a bit of experience on his side, not to mention the nearly three decades he spent as the head men’s tennis coach at Eastern Kentucky University.

Porter-Gaud is 12-0 and the top seed in the state playoffs that start this afternoon at the Cyclones’ courts against Columbia’s Heathwood Hall.

The Cyclones finished the regular season last week by returning to Hilton Head Island to complete a rain-interrupted 9-0 romp past a dangerous, top-heavy Hilton Head Christian team that was the 2012 state runner-up.

Porter-Gaud swept two matches each from perennial power Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian, the Nos. 2 and 5 seeds in the eight-team playoffs. But the Hilton Head teams can’t be overlooked due to the presence of talented Andrew Schafer and Jared Woodson at Prep and the Drake brothers, Hampton and Charlie, at Christian.

Although the Cyclones are not likely to be seriously tested by No. 8 Heathwood Hall, Higgins knows it’s a new season when the playoffs open. There will be tougher battles ahead this week.

Nevertheless, anything less than a 15-0 final record and another state championship would be a major disappointment for a program that has won 13 of the last 18 state titles.

A win in the quarterfinals would advance the Cyclones to a Wednesday state semifinal match at Porter-Gaud against the winner of today’s Hilton Head Christian bout with No. 4 seed Hammond School.

Hilton Head Prep, the winner of three of the last five state titles, heads the lower half of the draw, and should be one of the two teams playing for the state title on Friday at a site to be announced.

In SCISA Class AA, Palmetto Christian will serve as host to St. Andrew’s in a Tuesday state semifinal. Spartanburg Day and Marlboro will battle in the other semifinal. The final is scheduled for Friday.

The High School League Class AAAA playoffs will begin Tuesday. Summerville will travel to Stratford, Cane Bay will visit Beaufort and Fort Dorchester will be at Wando in the 32-team two-week race that will end May 11 with the state final at the Cayce Fitness and Tennis Center.

Bishop England will open play in the Class AA playoffs on Thursday. The Class AAA playoffs also will begin Thursday.

(04/28/13)  Shelby Rogers has eye on French Open’s red clay
Charleston’s Shelby Rogers can see red … as in the French Open’s red clay. The American player who earns the most combined WTA Tour ranking points in two of three select USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 clay-court events will receive a wild card into Paris’ main draw.

Why is Rogers even thinking about the French Open? Well, the 20-year-old Daniel Island product could be that American player. She has advanced to the final of the second of the three wild-card events after being a quarterfinalist last weekend in Dothan, Ala.

Today’s final in Charlottesville, Va., pits Rogers against 17-year-old Allie Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick. Rogers posted a 7-6, 4-2, retired win over Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in Saturday’s semifinals.

A quarterfinal and at least a final should put Rogers in a challenging position to claim the French Open wild card. And she still will have another opportunity to better that position. The third wild-card tournament begins Monday in Indian Harbour, Fla.

Just as importantly, the currently 216th-ranked Rogers may already have landed her first spot among the world’s top 200 players. She should already have earned a minimum of 50 ranking points at Charlottesville where she earned a rotating-off 10 points last April. Adding 40 points to her current 269 WTA points total would put Rogers at 309 points, which currently is good for 199th in the world. A win today likely would thrust Rogers to around No. 190.

Rogers also teamed with Nicole Gibbs to advance to the doubles final.

Rogers earned 18 points at Dothan to tie her with Alexa Glatch and Jessica Pegula in the wild-card race going into Charlottesville. Rogers lost in the Dothan quarterfinals to eventual champ Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-6, 6-0 (the same score Tomljanovic defeated Kiick by a round earlier at Dothan). Alison Riske and Irina Falconi made the Dothan semifinals and led the race with 32 ranking points each, but like Glatch and Pegula, both lost in the first or second rounds in Charlottesville.

In Charlottesville, Rogers yielded just 12 games in her first three matches, including an upset of third-seeded Maria Sanchez in the first round and a 6-3, 6-2 win over former Junior Family Circle Cup champ Riske in the second round.


Summerville’s Flowertown Tennis Tournament is May 11-12 at Doty Park, with an entry deadline of May 7. The tournament will have singles (2.5-4.5), doubles and mixed doubles (5.0-9.0). Registration is available at www.summerville.sc.us. Call Nancy Sumersett at (843) 270-1017 or (843) 851-5211.

Former Wando star Corin Hallman was named Conference Carolinas player of the year while leading Erskine to its ninth straight conference tournament championship. Hallman, a junior, also earned all-conference as well as academic all-conference while posting a 10-0 conference record and going 16-2 at No. 1 singles (17-3 overall).

Mi’Kola Cooper, who led Porter-Gaud to the 2011 state title, also sparkled in her first year at Morgan State and won a spot on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference all-conference first team. She won eight of her last nine singles matches for an 11-5 record at No. 2 singles, and was 11-3 record at No. 1 doubles as Morgan State won the MEAC North Division crown.

Porter-Gaud begins defense of its SCISA Class AAA state title at home on Monday against Heathwood Hall. The High School League state playoffs start Tuesday.

(04/21/13)  C of C women capture 5th straight SoCon tennis crown
Senior Christin Newman led top-seeded College of Charleston (20-8) to its fifth consecutive Southern Conference women’s tennis championship on Sunday — a 4-3 victory over second-seeded Elon.

With the league title and automatic NCAA tournament bid hanging in the balance at 3-all, it came down to the last match between the league’s player of the year in Newman and Elon’s Jordan Johnston.

In the decisive third set, Newman won the final two games, including the 26-minute, 26-point 11th game, which featured 10 deuces, to clinch the match for the Cougars with a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5 decision.

(04/18/13)  Local tennis ‘Game Changers’
During the recent Family Circle Cup, the Charleston Tennis Initiative recognized coaches from several area schools as “Game Changers.”

Greg Taylor, Angel Oak Elementary; John Farelly, Lambs Elementary; Koleen Cafferky, James Island Elementary; Tammy Medlin, Stiles Point Elementary; Fred McKay, Charleston Catholic School; Hutchie Cummings representing Erin Bianco, Mt. Zion Elementary; Mary Gastley, Ashley Hall; and Jane Settle, Porter-Gaud.

(04/18/13)  TOMMY BRASWELL: Lowcountry students learning tennis at early age
Drayton Hall students enjoying team success in Tri-County League

The math speaks volumes about the Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League run by the Charleston Recreation Department.

This year’s league has 118 teams, most of them with 10 players, give or take a few, on each team. The league has been around for more than 30 years.

Many of the thousands upon thousands who have participated in the leagues no doubt got their first exposure to the game through the program. No wonder Charleston was named the country’s Best Tennis Town in 2010 by the U.S. Tennis Association.

“We started it probably 30 years ago,” said Peggy Bohne, who heads up the city of Charleston’s tennis program. “The first year we had seven teams. I’d say 40 to 50 this year are middle school and the rest are elementary school.”

Bohne’s work with the program was recently recognized during the Family Circle Cup by the Charleston Initiative, a group funded by a grant from the U.S. Tennis Association. She received the Nancy J. McGinley Tennis Advocate of the Year Award. The Charleston Tennis Initiative also recognized Passionate Parents and Game Changers for their work in elementary and middle school tennis.

The Tri-County Elementary and Middle School Tennis League includes both public and private schools. Divisions within the age groups are based on the skill level of players, some raw beginners and some state-ranked tennis players.

The older age groups, or middle schoolers, play with regular balls on regulation tennis courts. Fourth- and fifth-graders play on 60-foot courts using a special orange and yellow ball. Grades 1-3 play on special 36-foot courts with small nets, using a red and yellow ball that is larger in size and has a lower compression. Most matches are played weekdays after school. The program is supported by public and private facilities who allow use of their courts.

Up to nine players can compete in a match, which consists of five singles and two doubles matches, and a team can play with as few as five players. Each team plays four home and four away matches during the season. Teams are coached by volunteers.

Bohne said costs are minimal. There is a $25 entry fee for a team but no cost to the individual. Each team must provide the balls used for home matches, meaning a total of 16 cans. Players have to own their own rackets, which sell for about $20 each, although loaner rackets often are available.

Teams compete in a tournament following the end of the regular season.

Bohne said family is a child’s first community, followed by the school, so competing for one’s school is a way to connect with that community and youngsters love playing for their school.

“Children need to get outside in the sun for psychological and physical benefits,” Bohne said. “We have a spot for every child.”

(04/18/13)  TOMMY BRASWELL: Volunteer tennis coach honored
Drayton Hall Elementary School’s tennis team, coached by Callie Watford (right), was recognized on center court during the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament.

Callie Watford’s coaching story is a familiar one: A child wanted to play a sport and there were not enough adults to coach.

Recently, Watford was one of several volunteers recognized as Passionate Parents by the Charleston Tennis Initiative during the Family Circle Cup.

“It’s been cool to get back in it. My boys wanted to play. They had a tennis team and too many players, so I started helping out,” said Watford, the mother of four boys with strong ties to Drayton Hall Elementary. She grew up in a tennis-playing family but elected to play golf at the College of Charleston.

Her mother, Carolyn Sanders, taught at Drayton Hall for a number of years when it was a middle school.

Watford said Drayton Hall has four teams this year, two that play in the younger division and two that play in the older division.

She said the school has been very successful in the tennis league, winning trophies each of the last three years.

“We’ve had three or four matches going a week,” she added, noting that on a recent day all four teams were playing at the same time at different locations.

“We play all over the tri-county area. Fortunately, we have a lot of parents that volunteer. We have a parent for every court during the matches, helping keep score and calling the lines.”

Watford said half of the kids who come out for tennis have never played the game, but they pick it up quickly.

“We start practicing in January (twice a week) and our first matches are the beginning of March. Just in that amount of time they learn to score and learn how to call the lines,” Watford said, adding that once matches begin, they practice only once a week.

“They run, they exercise, they play matches in practices. It’s amazing to see them.”

(04/13/13)  Spratt wins SCISA open singles
Porter-Gaud senior Thomas Spratt has added another title to his growing list of honors. The 2012 Lowcountry player of the year captured the SCISA Open boys singles title last week in Sumter.

Spratt, who will play tennis at the University of Pennsylvania, defeated Hilton Head Christian’s Charlie Drake in the final.

The Porter-Gaud boys doubles team of Cross Tolliver and Foster Moe also prevailed as SCISA champions. Davis Craig and Avery Holoubek of Pinewood Prep were runners-up.

Shauna Fletcher and Meagan Evans of Pinewood Prep won the girls doubles title.

Cyclones are close

Porter-Gaud can put itself in position to clinch the SCISA Region 3-AAA title by defeating a weakened Pinewood Prep on Tuesday at the Cyclones’ complex and then bringing a victory back from a rain-makeup match at Hilton Head Prep on Wednesday.

If those two things happen, the Cyclones would need a rain-makeup win at Pinewood Prep or a rain-completion win at Hilton Head Christian on April 23 or 24 to take the region title and the top seeding in the lower bracket of the state playoffs.

Defending state champion Porter-Gaud (8-0) is the only unbeaten team in the region where Hilton Head Prep has a lone loss to the Cyclones, while Christian has lost to Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep once each. The state playoffs start April 29.

The only other local high school team with a likely shot at a state title is High School League member Bishop England (9-3, 3-0 Region 6-AA), with two losses to Porter-Gaud.

First-year Bishops boys coach Kristin Fleming, who has directed the girls team to two straight state titles, is only concerned at this point about the playoff round, site and what the opposing lineup will be for the Bishops’ almost certain annual confrontation with state power Waccamaw.

Local notes

Charleston’s Diane Barker is having an exceptional year in international senior tennis. Her 2013 singles record stands at 14-0 after capturing the women’s 55 world singles championship in Antalya, Turkey, recently by winning five straight matches, including a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ros Balodis of Australia in the final. Barker is currently ranked fourth in the world, while Balodis is No. 3.

I’On tennis director Matt Hane (Barker’s son) and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blankenbaker won the men’s 30 hard court nationals recently in Austin, Texas.

Maybank Tennis Center’s new-looking complex will be formally dedicated at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

April 28 is the deadline to enter the May 3-5 Prinella Haygood Memorial Tennis Championship at Kiawah Island. Contact Jonathan Barth (768-2706 or jonathan_Barth@kiawahresort.com).

Adult mixed doubles team registrations will continue through April 25. Adult 18-and-over will play at 6 p.m. (6.0 on Mondays, 7.0 on Tuesdays, 8.0 on Wednesdays, and 2.5 and 9.0 on Thursdays). The 40-and-over league will play matches at 7:30 p.m. (8.0 on Mondays, 2.5 and 9.0 on Tuesdays, 6.0 on Wednesdays and 7.0 on Thursdays). The 55-and-over league will play matches at 9 a.m. on Saturdays for 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0.

The Bees Landing Recreation Center will serve as host to its 2013 Golden Games on May 16. Seniors are being sought to compete in doubles in tennis. Contact Robert Gorski at 402-4571.

The Charleston County School District’s annual Superintendent’s Cup Tennis Tournament for teachers is May 4 at 8:30 a.m. at Charleston Tennis Center, the St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground, and Maybank Tennis Center.

Senior stars Diane Barker, Brenda Carter and Susie Peiffer, along with S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation chairman Ron Charron, are among the early owners of South Carolina’s new “Play Tennis” license plate. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices.

(04/11/13)  Prep Zone: Boys Tennis
SINGLES: Lucas Zalesky (BE) def. Jordan Dingle (SA) 6-4, 2-6, 13-11; Stefan Zatovic (SA) def. Noah Stieple (BE) 7-6, 6-3; Preston Tiffany (SA) def. Jack Roberts (BE) 6-2, 6-2; Petar Zatovic (SA) def. Jeff Jones (BE) 6-2, 6-3; Jonny Bowman (SA) def. Tristan Fletcher (BE) 6-0, 6-0.  DOUBLES: Marko Zatovic; Zach Thatcher (SA) def. Will Ranson; Payton Warren (BE), 6-1, 6-1;  Records: Bishop England (7-3). Next: Bishop England hosts Palmetto Christian today.

(04/08/13)  New breed of player has arrived on WTA Tour
This Family Circle Cup was an awakening, a first introduction to many of the young players who are starting to make their mark on the WTA Tour. They’re coming from everywhere, especially the United States.

One-quarter of the 56-player field came from the United States.

Although this year’s event could be labeled the Venus and Serena All-American Invitational, a new group of players arrived. Many of these were players who played a different type of game than even Venus and Serena played when they took the women’s tour by storm in the 1990s.

Yes, the bashers apparently have arrived in women’s tennis.

Yes, even on the green clay of the Family Circle Cup.

These bashers have discovered that it takes much less patience, strategy and conditioning to simply take every ball, not just the high-bouncing ones, and to pound it as hard as they can, and hope that the ball lands on the other end of the court. The alternative, of course, is to sweat out the point.

There always have been a few bashers on the pro tours, players who play by no boundaries, players who go for broke on every shot. When they are in the zone as Stephanie Voegele was in her upset of former world’s No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the Family Circle quarterfinals, they can’t miss. Other times, they can’t hit. It’s all about being in the zone.

This appears to be the mentality of the new players. They don’t take the time to learn the basics of the game.

Obviously, the new breed of coach must be in on this type of game plan. It must be easier to just turn players loose and let them pound the ball rather than teach them the basics of the game.

Not very long ago, an aggressive player was one who played serve-and-volley tennis or at least often made trips to the net. Today’s aggressive player goes for home runs on almost every shot. Some hit the court, others miss badly.

That’s why it was so good to see veterans such as Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic in the final. They play the game the right way. So do Venus Williams and Wozniacki, and certain young players such as Sloane Stephens and Mallory Burdette. Obviously, some coach in each instance made sure the player knew the basics, that tennis is a game of points, then games, sets and matches. One huge shot doesn’t mean anything when the next two crash some place other than the other end of the court.

Many of the young Americans are as guilty of this type of tennis as anyone else. Young Taylor Townsend, Madison Keys and others may want to play like Serena Williams, but they don’t have all of the tools to make it happen.

But you’ve got to hand it to Serena and her dad, Richard Williams. All of that early training is paying full dividends.

Serena always has been a great athlete, one good enough to probably be better than any other women’s tennis player ever. Serena has taken this to another level.

This past week while marching to her third Family Circle Cup title, Serena demonstrated that she is the consummate tennis player, not just an awesome server or a great mover or a powerful player. She has it all. She is truly Miss Tennis.

(04/08/13)  JEFF HARTESLL: Serena sizzles after on-court tiff, claims third Family Circle Cup title
Jelena Jankovic won the first set in convincing fashion Sunday, casting doubt on what looked like an inevitable run to a third Family Circle Cup title for world No. 1 Serena Williams.

49 -- WTA Tour victories for Serena
1 -- Set lost in five FCC matches for Serena
8,752 -- Fans at Sunday’s finals

But in the first game of the second set, Williams held up her tennis racket as Jankovic served, the second time Williams felt that Jankovic had served before she was ready.

“How long do I have to wait?” a perturbed Jankovic asked chair umpire Kader Nouni.

The answer came from Serena.

“Until I’m ready,” Williams growled.

The championship match may have turned toward Serena anyway, but that moment served as an easy line of demarcation. Williams won the next eight points, the next six games and 12 of the next 14, her 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 win on Billie Jean King Court giving her three Family Circle Cup championships and 49 career tournament titles on the WTA Tour.

Jankovic, ranked 18th and the 2007 FCC champion, looked back on the moment — she was up, 40-15 — with regret.

“It broke my momentum,” the 28-year-old Serb said. “I started making a lot of mistakes. I gave her some games and let her back in the match. That was my mistake.”

The head games began early in this match under a brilliant blue sky. Jankovic owned a 4-5 record against Serena coming in, one of the better marks on the WTA Tour, and had beaten both Williams sisters in one 24-hour period in Rome in 2010.

After Serena held at love to open the match, she walked directly to the other side of the court while Jankovic took her time during the changeover, making Serena wait. Once during the first set, Serena felt Jankovic had quick-served her and held up her racket.

The second time it happened, Jankovic protested to the umpire.

“She was in position,” Jankovic said. “That’s why I served. It’s not like I’m going to serve when she’s turned around. I didn’t understand that.”

Williams downplayed the incident.

“I just told her I wasn’t ready,” Serena said. “She plays fast. There’s a couple of players on tour that play really, really fast, and she appears to be one of them, so I just wasn’t ready. And I can’t be ready to play if I’m not ready.”

Whatever the case, the 31-year-old Williams was certainly ready in the second and third sets. Both players have had a long month — Serena won in Miami last week, while Jankovic made the semifinals — but Jankovic spent twice as much time on court this week (almost 10 hours) as did Williams (4:49).

That showed in the third set, as Serena broke serve in the third and seventh game, though she needed three match points in the end.

“I was tired, but that’s not an excuse,” said Jankovic, who had five aces but also seven double faults. “I fought as hard as I could, gave my best on the court. But she was the better one, that’s for sure.”

Williams won $125,000, putting her over the $43.3 million mark for her career. She dropped only one set during the week, beat her sister Venus in the semifinals and won for the third time this year. And she joins Chris Evert (eight titles), Martina Navratilova (four) and Steffi Graf (four) as the only players with three or more FCC titles.

But there won’t be much of a party at home.

“The last three weeks have been intense,” she said. “I don’t really celebrate so much anymore. I try to go home, get with my other two girls, my two dogs. I miss them. And go to sleep in my own bed, that will be a great celebration.”

Serena owns 15 Grand Slam titles and must be considered the favorite at the next Slam, the French Open. But she vowed not to get ahead of herself after winning Charleston and losing in the first round at Roland Garros last year.

“I can’t let that hang over me,” she said. “It’s not that big of a deal. For me, you’ve got to let that bad energy go and just accept good things to come in your life, and it will.”

(04/08/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Serena not quite ready to turn attention to French Open
After her third Family Circle Cup title on Sunday, the next big date on Serena Williams’ calendar is the French Open, the Grand Slam event that begins in late May.

But the world’s No. 1 player, who owns 15 Grand Slam titles, is not quite ready to start thinking French.

“I focus on one tournament at a time,” she said after her 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 win over Jelena Jankovic. “You know, I did really well here last year, even better than this year. And I ended up not doing so great later on in the clay-court season.

“So for me, my whole thing is just one tournament at a time.”

Last year, Serena cruised to the Family Circle Cup title, building hopes that she would claim her second French Open title.

But despite a home-court advantage of sorts — she owns an apartment in Paris — Williams flamed out in the first round at Roland Garros, losing in three sets to Virginie Razzano.

Of course, she went on to win Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open, but she doesn’t want to make the same mistake again.

“I had been looking at, ‘This is the most important, that’s the most important,’ ” she said. “But not anymore. I just focus on one event at a time, and you never know if you can make the next event. So just one a time and go for it.”

Twice as nice

Lucie Safarova and Kristina Mladenovic, playing together for the first time, won the Family Circle Cup doubles title with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over Andrea Hlavackova and Liezel Huber on Sunday.

Safarova also won the doubles title here last year, and made the singles final against Serena, 6-0, 6-1.

“I just enjoy it here,” said Safarova, a 26-year-old Czech. “This year, I went to see the countryside. I went to the Boone (Hall) Plantation and to the downtown. It’s, like, a calm tournament.”


A crowd of 8,752 turned out Sunday, boosting the total to 78,150 for the week. That’s the lowest overall attendance since the Cup came to Daniel Island in 2001, but there were some extenuating circumstances.

The Thursday day session was rained out, only the fourth rainout since 2001. And only 1,849 attended the Thursday night session after the day-long rains and chilly weather. Also, there was no Saturday night session this year, a session that has been well-attended over the last three years.

The crowd of 9,538 at Friday’s day session — when Venus and Serena played four straight matches — is a single-session record for the Family Circle Cup.

(04/08/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Williams week: Serena soars, Venus rising
When Venus Williams finally won a game, a full five deep into her lopsided semifinal match with younger sister Serena Williams, the big crowd around Billie Jean King Court exhaled in supportive roar. Also a gasp for drama, it was loud enough to shake the Avocados From Mexico van parked aside the stadium and full of free guacamole samples.

Alas, no help.

No pity necessary.

The sibling rivalry fizzled Saturday at the Family Circle Cup, but it’s been a wonderful Williams week: The women, the movie, the legend.

Sizzling Serena with a 6-1, 6-2 semifinal victory is in prime condition and a win over Jelena Jankovic away from her second straight Family Circle Cup title. That would be a first since the tournament moved to Charleston in 2001.

Venus vaulted to something resembling contender form. It’s just that she had to bounce back from injury over hill, dale, puddles and two matches on Friday to reach the semifinals.

“She’s had a great week,” top seeded Serena said. “I feel like, honestly, if she hadn’t had to play so many matches, it would have been a much tougher match. … That’s positive-looking for her, and her next tournament can be really more positive for that.”

Venus rising is always a good thing for tennis, which needs sustained star power even more than fans need free guac.

The Williams family version was on almost constant display here for a historic 28 hours.

Consider that from 11 a.m. Friday through the semifinal match Saturday, each Williams sister played on Billie Jean King Court three times.

Friday: Quadrupleheader forced by Thursday’s rain featuring Venus, Serena, Venus and Serena.

Saturday: Understandably, Venus wasn’t quite herself.

Better takeaway

Of course, the No. 1-ranked player in the world had something to do with that. Serena defeated Maria Sharapova in three sets in the Sony Open final last week at Miami and looked every bit the Family Circle Cup favorite Saturday.

“Serena is playing extremely well,” Venus said, “and it’s great to see her at No. 1 and just fulfilling every dream.”

The buildup was fun.

Among active players, Serena and Venus rank 1-2, respectively, in WTA Tour career singles titles (48, 44). Sharapova is a distant third, at 28.

“Venus and Serena” is a Magnolia Films documentary that made its debut on iTunes this week, and it hits the big screen in May.

It lasts less than 100 minutes.

Saturday’s live production went 54 minutes and wasn’t quite as gripping.

The takeaway is better.

‘Interesting’ final

Serena has a 5-4 career edge over Jankovic, the 2007 Family Circle Cup champion.

“She doesn’t miss,” Serena said. “She gets a lot of balls back and likes to go down the line. I’ll be ready for her. She’s been playing well in the past month; she’s been really consistent. So I’ll have my work cut out for me. It’ll be interesting.”

Venus, ranked No. 24, withdrew from the Sony Open in Miami last month with a sore back, and has endured other injuries and illness over the last few years.

“It was a really great week for me,” Venus said. “This is some of the best I’ve felt in a very long time. So, for me, it’s something to build on.”

Venus appreciated the good tennis enthusiasts of Daniel Island and their efforts to rally her back into the Saturday spirit.

“People have been very supportive of me here and they want to see a good match,” Venus said. “But also I think they were behind me as well. So that felt really nice.

“And hopefully Serena and I will play against each other again here.”

Now there’s a winning point.

(04/08/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Three Family Circle Cup titles: It’s time to name a street after Serena Williams
The Family Circle Cup final was still in doubt Sunday when a woman in the sun-splashed stands aimed a shout heard ’round Billie Jean King Court.

“Whose house is this?”

No. 1 ranked Serena Williams answered with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Jelena Jankovic. Charleston’s favorite tennis player became the first back-to-back champion since the Family Circle Cup moved from Hilton Head in 2001, winning her third title since 2008.

“Like I said, she is No. 1 for a reason at the moment,” said Jankovic. “She is serving very well, and she hits the ball harder than anyone else. Physically, she is the strongest out there.”

This tennis earth, this realm, this tournament.

All belong to Serena Williams, until someone better comes along with a blazing serve, killer instinct and longevity.

Or until we good citizens do something about it.

How about a new Family Circle Cup rule: If you win three tournaments on Daniel Island, win back-to-back, own the green clay, empower people of all ages and sizes, if you come and go with class, they name a street after you.

Or a school. A park.

Something permanent.

A reminder.

The newly named civic piece of something significant would last as a tribute to an underdog, a comeback story. Terrific tennis tradition.

A French toast

The list of those inspired by Williams starts with little girls, grown-up women and African-Americans but hardly ends there.

Also include children who struggle with cross-country moves, young people perplexed when their parents divorce, athletes without conventional body types,

South Carolinians in general, Lowcountry residents in particular.

Sports fans.

Tennis lovers.

“I think women’s tennis is hands down the most popular sport for women. I believe that,” Williams said. “And internationally it’s huge. It’s great when you know we — I mean the WTA — started about 40 years ago and (Family Circle) has been a sponsor the whole time. It really makes you appreciate someone that can support the sport for so long, and it’s great.”

The once introverted American has grown into an international relations expert with Euro street cred. After last year’s Family Circle Cup final rout of Lucie Safarova, Williams revealed she planned to live in Paris part-time. This year in Charleston, Williams reported on how she has decorated the new place.

“Shabby chic,” she said.

Older, wiser

Older folks, relatively speaking, can relate to Williams’ staying power. At an advanced 31, she is the oldest No. 1-ranked player in WTA history.

Of course, she is wiser, more mature. The younger Serena wasn’t so gracious about complimenting opponents. It’s pleasantly different these days.

Jankovic and her colorful personality, Williams said, are great for the sport.

“She’s really exciting to watch,” Williams said. “She plays with the crowd. She laughs on court. She smiles on court. She gets a lot of balls back and I think she’s an exciting player.”

Women’s tennis, struggling with other non-major sports for interest and advertising, would be a lesser place without Williams.

The Family Circle Cup wouldn’t be the same.

Serena Williams has given South Carolina and Charleston and Daniel Island great big hugs.

It’s her house.

Let’s hug her back, officially.

(04/07/13)  For Keys, breakthrough continues at Family Circle Cup
Lost amid the “Venus and Serena” hype at the Family Circle Cup — the movie, Friday’s daylong Williams-fest, Saturday’s sisterly semis — was the continued breakthrough season of young Madison Keys.

Of all the young Americans who made an impact this week — five U.S. players under the age of 28 made the third round — none went further than the 18-year-old Keys.

Keys, from Rock Island, Ill., beat fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Friday to make the quarterfinals, her second quarterfinal run this season to go with a third-round appearance at the Australian Open.

But she didn’t have long to savor her achievement. Shortly after her straight-set win over Mattek-Sands, Keys had to face former No. 1 Venus Williams.

Venus won, 6-4, 6-4, to set up the semifinal showdown with sister Serena.

“(Friday was) bittersweet,” said Keys, who who was just 14 when she scored a 5-1 victory over Serena in a World Team Tennis match. “Quarterfinals, and then lose like two hours later. But I’m just taking a lot of good things about this tournament as well.”

As well she should. Keys impressed Venus in their match.

“She’s very talented,” Venus said. “And she’s just, at this point, learning the ropes and playing the matches. She needs more experience against the top players, because she hasn’t played as many top players yet. I think it’s just a matter of time for her.”

And that’s one thing Keys, and her fellow young Americans, have plenty of.

“There’s a bunch of younger players right now that are really starting to do well,” she said. “They are getting at least first round, second round, sometimes third round. So I think it’s great, and we are all kind of rooting for each other.”

All about the clay
Serena Williams has won 13 straight matches on Billie Jean King Court. No wonder it’s one of her favorite places.

“I love playing this court, I love this tournament,” she said after defeating sister Venus on Saturday. “I think it’s a good clay court. Sometimes you play on certain clay courts and they are not good and they’re funny and you can’t really slide, and it’s just weird. This one is a really good one, particularly this year, the last two years.”

Serena vs. Venus - More on the rivalry:
Serena has a 12-5 lead over Venus in finals and semifinals; Venus leads 5-2 in other matches.

The sisters have played three times when one was ranked No. 1 and the other No. 2. Serena won all three.

Net cords

Today’s doubles final will begin at 11 a.m. on Billie Jean King Court, followed by the singles final at 1 p.m.

Today’s singles final will be televised on ESPN2, with Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver on the call.

Three of four semifinalists on Saturday were former Family Circle Cup champs. Serena won in 2008 and 2012, Venus in 2004 and Jelena Jankovic in 2007.

The crowd of 9,538 for Saturday’s Venus vs. Serena semifinal was the largest for a single session since the Family Circle Cup moved to Charleston in 2001. The previous record was 9,336 for a Friday day session in 2008, when Serena played Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals. Serena won that match, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

(04/07/13) Does Jelena Jankovic hold the secret to Serena Williams?
Serena Williams is awesome.  Everyone agrees.

She should blow Jelena Jankovic right out of Family Circle Stadium in today’s final of the Family Circle Cup.

Serena may be playing the best tennis of her life. Sister Venus probably would agree after being punished, 6-1, 6-2, Saturday afternoon.

Serena has awesome power. She hits the ball harder with a slow-motion-like swing than most of the players on the WTA Tour hit with a full swing. When Serena really turns her swing loose, opponents see bullets.

But push the clock back a decade when Serena was a young superwoman, and Justine Henin was a little package of dynamite. You know what happened that April day in 2003 when Henin's crafty play brought Superwoman to her knees on the green clay.

Could it happen again today? The clay is still green.

Of course, Henin won’t be the opponent today. Jankovic will. And Jankovic is as cagey as they come.

There is something about Jankovic that can take the air out of the ball against a power player. The graceful Serbian has given the Williams sisters fits.

Jankovic got a little practice for Serena’s powerful groundstrokes and serves in the semifinals against unpredictable Stephanie Voegele. Voegele hit a bunch of winners, but nothing like she did the night before in a three-set conquest of former world’s No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Voegele saw her sizzling forehands and backhands and big jerky-quick serves melt on Jankovic's racket. In Saturday’s post-match interview, the big question was why Jankovic gives the big-hitting Williams girls so much trouble. Jankovic wouldn’t reveal any secrets.

But there it was on display in plain daylight in Jankovic's 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win over Voegele. Jankovic's soft hands. Not to mention her smarts.

Jankovic practically gave away the second set by netting an easy backhand passing shot at 4-3, 40-30. She later lost the set in a tiebreaker.

The match was reminiscent of what happened to Wozniacki the night before when the former world’s No. 1 appeared to have Voegele nearly beaten while serving with a 3-2, 40-love advantage in the third set. Wozniacki must have been thinking of golf star boyfriend Rory McIlroy as she stepped up to the line to hit a second serve. The serve sailed several feet past the service line, and Wozniacki dropped five straight points and the game, as well as the next three games and the match.

Luckily for Jankovic, she had another whole set to overcome her mistake.

The same might be said about Jankovic as Serena. The Serbian appears to be playing as well as ever, even at 28 years old. She appears to be hitting harder and serving bigger. But the big thing is her cleverness on the court, and great movement, not to mention her soft hands.

Can Jankovic upset the latest version of Superwoman?

Don’t be surprised if it happens.

(04/07/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Serena Williams tops sister Venus before record crowd at Family Circle Cup
54 -- Minutes the match lasted
6 -- Aces by Serena
8 -- Double faults by Venus
13 -- Straight matches won by Serena at Family Circle Cup

It ended with a ball shanked off the frame, and a simple handshake between sisters.

Venus and Serena had not played each other since 2009, making Saturday’s semifinal meeting at the Family Circle Cup one of the most anticipated matches in the 41-year history of the tournament.

But in less than an hour, a record crowd of 9,538 at Billie Jean King Stadium saw that Venus, 32, is no longer in a position to challenge the primacy of her younger sister.

Serena, 31 and ranked No. 1 in the world, moved to within one win of her third Family Circle Cup title, taking an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over Venus in the biggest rout ever between the sisters.

Serena will face No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic, the 2007 Family Circle Cup champ, in today’s 1 p.m. final. Jankovic fought hard for a 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele on Saturday.

Against Serena, Venus double-faulted eight times and ended the match by cracking a ball off the frame of her Wilson racquet. The sisters then clasped hands at the net ­— no hugs, just a handshake.

“It’s great to see her at No. 1,” said a wistful Venus, “and fulfilling every dream.”

Venus herself, of course, was No. 1 in the world and owns seven Grand Slam titles (to 15 for Serena). The sisters are the only two women in WTA Tour history to crack the $25 million mark in career earnings.

But over the last couple of years, Venus has been slowed by an autoimmune disease that forces her to watch her diet and can sap her energy. Having to play two matches on Friday, one a three-setter, didn’t help, either. Serena played twice Friday, as well.

“She’ll never admit it, ever, but I don’t think she was 100 percent,” Serena said of Venus, whom she has beaten five straight times and in 14 of 24 meetings. “You will never get that out of her, but quite frankly, three matches (in two days) is much tougher for her than for me.

“It’s definitely not easy, because I’m struggling, and I can’t imagine what she must be feeling.”

Serena was right, as Venus, now ranked No. 24, made no excuses.

“I had a chance to win the match,” she said. “We both had racquets and everything. I didn’t take advantage of my opportunities, so there’s no reason for me to be upset about that. I just have to improve my game. You know, I’ve been off balance for a long time, and I’m trying to regain my balance.”

Serena often expressed her pride this week in Venus’ comeback. But on Saturday, there was no on-court recognition that this match was different from any other.

“When I’m out there,” Serena said, “I’m really just focused on the ball. I don’t really focus on anything else.”

It took Serena just 22 minutes to win the first set, and Venus tugged at her visor in frustration after her fifth double-fault helped Serena break to start the second set.

Down 3-2, Venus had her best chance to stay in the match when Serena ended a long rally with a backhand drop shot into the net, then double-faulted to go down 0-30. The crowd was behind Venus, but she missed a return and hit a backhand wide before Serena hammered a 117 mph ace (one of six) and ripped a backhand winner to hold for 4-2.

The end came quickly after that, but one thing seemed clear. Long after they are done playing, Venus and Serena will remain just that — Venus and Serena.

“We all come together at the end,” Serena said. “And we just try to love each other like we always do.”

(04/07/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Jankovic doesn’t want to play angry in Family Circle final against Serena
Jelena Jankovic survived a 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 semifinal match against unseeded Stefanie Voegele, and a bout with her own emotions Saturday.

Now it’s on to today’s Family Circle Cup final, a continuation of one of the closest head-to-head match ups on the WTA Tour. No. 1-ranked Serena Williams leads, 5-4, with a 1-1 split on clay.

“She’s a great champion and one of the best, if not the best in the game, in the history of the game,” Jankovic said. “So she’s the toughest opponent to play against, and I’ve had quite a lot of success against her even though she has the best serve in the women’s game.”

The series includes Williams’ win in the 2008 U.S. Open final.

Williams is the top seed and defending champion at the Family Circle Cup, Jankovic No. 9 and the 2007 tournament champion.

“It’s going to be a really tough one,” the popular and personable Jankovic said. “It would be amazing if I can do it. To have two titles here would be a dream come true.”

Jankovic won the first set against Voegele, but the 23-year-old from Switzerland seized momentum with a 2-0 lead in the third set.

“It was really a roller coaster out there,” Jankovic said.

Playing angry didn’t help.

“I really lost a lot of energy at just being mad at myself,” said Jankovic, a 28-year-old from Serbia. “That’s something I just have to learn now to control. I really hate I that I can’t; it really affects my game and I don’t do very well when I get so mad like that.”

Jankovic, who reached No. 1 in 2008 but gradually slipped in the rankings to No. 18, won the next six games to reach the championship match.

(04/06/13)  NY TIMES: BEN ROTHENBERG: Green Clay, in Use at Only One Tour Stop, Shows Promise
The dimensions of the tennis courts are standard, but the surface is unique at the Family Circle Cup in this island community outside Charleston.

Of the 59 WTA Tour and 65 ATP Tour events, it is the only stop played on green clay, once a more prevalent surface in American tennis. The April ATP Tour stop in Houston is also played on clay, but it is red, to mimic the clay found in Europe.

The tournament here has been the only one on green clay on the men’s and women’s tours since 2011, after the event in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and previously Amelia Island, folded in 2010. The surface, whose leading manufacturer is HarTru, is also used for several lower-level United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit Challenger events, including the three men’s and three women’s Challenger tournaments that will determine which American player receives a wild card into the French Open.

Green clay used to play a major role in top-level American tennis, now dominated by hardcourts. The United States Open was played on green clay for its final three years at Forest Hills, from 1975 to 1977. But the tournament switched to hardcourts when it moved to Flushing Meadows in 1978.

Although it is classified as a clay surface, green clay is actually crushed igneous basalt, its dark grayish-green hue coming from the mineral epidote, which occurs naturally in the stone.

The surface was developed in the early 1930s by HarTru, a company based in Charlottesville, Va. The green material was seen as a cleaner alternative to red clay courts, many of which had been built in the United States from the brick rubble of European buildings destroyed in World War I; the material was transported across the Atlantic as ballast in the hulls of ships.

Only an estimated 16 percent of tennis courts in the United States are made of clay, but the green clay surface is widespread in the Southeast. Tracy Lynch, HarTru’s sales director, said its courts outnumbered hardcourts in Florida.

In the wake of growing complaints over the proliferation of hardcourts on the pro circuit, most vocally by Rafael Nadal, there has been talk of expanding green clay’s presence to Florida’s biggest professional tournament, the Sony Open in Key Biscayne, near Miami. Without Nadal and Roger Federer at this year’s event, attendance at the Sony Open fell by 5.6 percent from 2012.

Last month, Paul McNamee, the former Australian Open chief executive and tournament director, wrote a column for the Australian Web site BackPageLead stating that the Sony Open should consider using green clay as a way to attract players looking to preserve their bodies and ease the transition to the European clay court season. The switch would also be a nod to the South American players, who receive heavy support at the Sony Open, which has led some of those players to call it the Grand Slam of Latin America.

Tournament officials said that is just speculation, although they are keeping open minds.

“Miami has had no conversations with anyone regarding any issues with our surface or changing of our surface from hard to clay,” Adam Barrett, the tournament director, said in a statement. “We would be open to conversations if that is what the tours want.”

The change would probably be frowned upon by many American men, who have struggled on clay and have had most of their best results on hardcourts and during the short grass season. But they have often seemed equally encumbered by the slow conditions at many of the tour’s hardcourt events.

The two-time Miami champion Andy Roddick remarked on this year’s error-filled final between Andy Murray and David Ferrer.

“Conditions too slow,” Roddick wrote on Twitter. “Guys dying playing 3 sets. So slow. Makes it impossible to hit winners which results in messed up winners/errors ratio.”

Last week at the Family Circle Cup, the American women showed an affinity for green clay, a common surface for many of their junior development years. The comfort they displayed on the American clay surpassed their ease with the European red variety. Green clay does not allow as much sliding and does not diffuse powerful shots nearly as much as red clay. Those differences suit the Americans’ playing style.

In matches leading to the final here, Americans were 11-5 against non-Americans, and they claimed 7 of the 16 third-round spots despite representing less than one-third of the 48-player field.

With its allowance for some sliding but relative quickness, green clay serves as a natural segue from the hardcourt to the red clay circuit.

“Green clay is definitely faster than red clay,” Bob Moran, the Family Circle Cup tournament director, said. “So I think they probably see it as that transition, because it is still a little speedier than when they get onto the heavier red clay in Paris.”

Despite having played far more events on European red clay, Serena Williams has won just as many career titles (two) on the green clay here as she has at all red clay tournaments combined. Williams also has an undefeated record on the experimental artificial blue clay, romping to the Madrid title last year on the cerulean surface that chagrined many players.

The idea of expanding green clay on the tour has received support from European players. Moran said no foreign player had ever expressed doubt about the surface when considering playing in this tournament.

Andrea Petkovic of Germany, who played on green clay for the first time last week, supported a possible change of the Sony Open surface, even though she said the green clay inhibited her sliding somewhat.

“I like the hardcourts in Miami,” said Petkovic, who was a semifinalist there in 2011 and has had her best results on that surface. “They are pretty slow, and it’s quite similar to clay, except for the not sliding. It’s very humid, and the balls get really heavy, so it’s always really slow, the conditions.

“It wouldn’t make such a big difference, and it would be nice to extend the clay season a little bit, I think, for everybody’s knees, and hips, and back. I think that would be really nice.”

(04/06/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Record crowd sees Serena Williams trounce sister Venus in Family Circle Cup
World No. 1 Serena Williams needed less than an hour to defeat her sister, Venus, by 6-1, 6-2 in the Family Circle Cup semifinals today on Daniel Island.

The sisters, with 22 Grand Slam tennis titles between them, met for the 24th time as pros. Serena, 31, has won five straight and owns a 14-10 lead over the 32-year-old Venus, currently ranked No. 24.

It was the biggest margin of victory in matches between the two. Serena took a 6-2, 6-2 win in the semifinals at Miami in 2002.

A crowd of 9,412 fans turned out for the siblings’ semifinal, the largest single-session attendance since the tournament moved to Charleston in 2001.

Serena, seeking her third Family Circle Cup title and second straight, will play in Sunday’s 1 p.m. final against the Jelena Jankovic - Stefanie Voegele winner.

(04/06/13)  After long day, Venus and Serena meet in Family Circle Cup semifinals
Almost everywhere you looked on Daniel Island on Friday, there was a Williams sister.

Serena leads, 13-10
Last five:
Year Event Round Winner
2009 Tour Championships 1 Serena, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6
2009 Tour Championships F Serena, 6-2, 7-6
2009 Wimbledon F Serena, 7-6, 6-2
2009 Miami S Serena, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
2009 Dubai S Venus, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0

Venus riding on a golf cart to Billie Jean King Court. Serena hitting balls toward the kids in the second level holding the “We Love Serena” sign. Both veterans handling the best stuff America’s rising young stars could throw at them.

From before 11 a.m until almost 7 p.m., Family Circle Cup fans reveled in an unprecedented four straight matches of Venus and Serena, nine sets and almost six hours of the most famous sister act in pro sports.

“For the record, we’ve never both played two matches in one day,” Serena told the appreciative crowd after her second match, a 6-4, 6-1 quarterfinal takedown of No. 6 seed Lucie Safarova. “You guys had a real treat!”

And there’s more to come. No. 1-ranked Serena and No. 24 Venus will meet in today’s 1 p.m. semifinals (on ESPN2), the 24th time the sisters have met as professional tennis players. Serena leads the series, 13-10, and has won the last four matches.

“She’s my toughest opponent I’ve ever played,” Serena said of Venus.

How cool was the daylong Williams-palooza?

Madison Keys sounded like she wished she was one of the 8,012 fans in the stands. Instead, the 18-year-old was on court, dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision to Venus in the quarterfinals.

“Today was one of the best days to have a ticket,” Keys said. “You get to see Venus and Serena play four times in one day.”

Said Serena: “It was a pretty awesome, a pretty intense schedule.”

Rain played havoc with Thursday’s order of play, with only four matches completed. That meant Venus and Serena both faced double-duty on Friday. And tournament officials made up for the rain day with the double-take slate of Venus, Serena, Venus and Serena.

“I was thinking, ‘It’s a quadrupleheader today,’” said Venus, who opened the day with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win over American Varvara Lepchenko. “Hopefully, that was a lot of fun for the fans. I don’t know if that will ever happen again. I hope it doesn’t.

“But it was a really cool thing for the tournament to do, to reward the crowd for hanging in there through the weather.”

Serena fell behind, 4-2, against Safarova, who had a break point for 5-2. But after watching 32-year-old Venus, who has struggled to deal with an autoimmune disease the last few years, win two matches, Serena wasn’t about to lose.

“It was really motivating for Venus to win today,” said Serena, who took out American qualifier Mallory Burdette, 6-4, 6-2, in her first match. “I figured if she can win two matches, I have no excuse not to win my two matches.”

The four Friday wins set up the latest chapter in the most emotionally fraught rivalry in tennis in today’s semis. The sisters have not met since 2009, when Serena beat Venus in the finals at Wimbledon. Venus’ last win came in three sets, also in 2009, in the Dubai semifinals.

“I don’t love playing her,” said Serena. “If I win, I’m not super excited, and if I lose, I’m really not excited.”

But Serena, 31, did say the matches with Venus have gotten easier to handle since they first played in 1998 at the Australian Open (Venus won in straight sets).

“I look at it as playing a great champion,” Serena said. “She’s won so many Grand Slams (seven in singles), so you know it’s not going to be easy.”

Serena is seeking her third FCC title and second in a row. Venus, the 2004 champion, is trying to match her sister’s total. Only one of them will make it to Sunday’s final.

“We just both want to win,” Venus said. “I think we just have so much respect for each other’ game that it makes it a little tougher, because you know you are not going to get an easy win. You know you have to be on your game and play well every single time. I think that’s the toughest part.”

(04/06/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Jankovic ousts Voegele in Family Circle Cup semifinal, faces Serena in Sunday final
No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic defeated unseeded Stefanie Voegele in the Family Circle Cup semifinals Saturday, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.

Jankovic will face top seed Serena Williams in the final on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN2).

Serena, the defending Family Circle Cup champion, defeated sister Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-2.

Jankovic, from Serbia, won the Family Circle Cup title in 2007. She reached No. 1 in 2008 but gradually has slipped in the rankings to her present No. 18.

Voegele hasn’t won a WTA tournament. The 23-year-old from Switzerland was the lowest ranked player to reach a Family Circle Cup semifinal since Sabine Lisicki in 2009. But maybe there is magic in the No. 63, Lisicki’s rank when she went on to win the Family Circle Cup.

(04/06/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Wozniacki bows out in Family Circle Cup quarterfinals
Caroline Wozniacki plans to join her boyfriend, golf star Rory McIlroy, in Augusta next week for The Masters.

Sadly for sport’s glamor couple, she won’t be bringing a Family Circle Cup trophy with her.

Wozniacki, the No. 2 seed, bowed out in the quarterfinals Friday night, dropping a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 decision to 63rd-ranked Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland.

Voegele will face 2007 Family Circle Cup champ Jelena Jankovic in today’s semifinals, the undercard to the 1 p.m. showdown between Venus and Serena Williams.

Wozniacki, who won here in 2011, seemed in control early in the match, but got flustered as Voegele found the range on Billie Jean King Court and won the last five games to complete the upset.

“I thought I was very much in control at the start,” said Wozniacki, who was ranked No. 1 in 2011 and is currently No. 10. “I was taking the ball early and making her run. But she stepped it up in the second and third set. I definitely had my chances that I should have taken.

“Everything she went for went in, and when you play someone like that, you have to take the chances you get.”

Said Voegele: “My plan was to push her around.”

Wozniacki’s plan now is to practice on Daniel Island today and Sunday before heading to Augusta.

“I’ll watch (The Masters), do a lot of gym and fitness, and head home,” she said.

For the 23-year-old Voegele, today’s semifinal with former No. 1 Jankovic represents one of the biggest moments of her young career.

Jankovic, 28, won her 500th WTA Tour match Friday and has more than $13 million in career earnings. Voegele has won $684,457 in her career.

“I’m looking forward to the moment,” said Voegele, who upset 30th-ranked Julia Goerges in the third round. “I think I have to play the same aggressive style again.”

Jankovic made her second straight semifinal with a 6-2, 6-1 whipping of qualifier Eugene Bouchard of Canada and is eager to reclaim the form that made her No. 1 in 2008.

“I’m pretty happy with the way I played,” Jankovic said. “I played a young opponent with big potential. I was in control of the match and controlling the points.”

“Right now, I feel very motivated,” she said. “I have the hunger.”

(04/06/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Burdette's Family Circle Cup run invaluable experience
Mallory Burdette did not win her third-round Family Circle Cup match with Serena Williams Friday. But the experience competing against the world’s No. 1 female tennis player was invaluable.

Admitting she didn’t expect to win going into the match, Burdette managed to give Williams quite a tussle before falling, 6-4, 6-2. Williams had to turn up the heat and win the final four games before putting the 22-year-old away.

“If I played her tomorrow, I would definitely walk out there and feel a little bit more confident. That would probably be one of the biggest things I would change,” said Burdette, whose mother (the former Judy Bernat) grew up in Charleston.

“I don’t think you ever walk out on the court and say ‘I’m going to beat Serena today.’ You just go out there and do your best on each point and you work hard. Typically, that’s how I try to approach each match, especially when you’re playing such a great player. Winning is not always the ultimate goal. You just have to go out there and work hard and see what happens.”

Burdette, who turned pro last September, said Williams definitely turned up the intensity in the second set.

“But it was awesome to play out there. I love playing against the top players to see how you match up,” Burdette said. “You always see things that they do a little bit — a lot better — than you do. You see a lot of things that you can work on going forward, so in that way it was an invaluable experience.”

500 and counting
Jelena Jankovic’s quarterfinal win over Eugenie Bouchard was the 500th of her career. Only seven active players on the WTA Tour have that many.

“I don’t know what it feels like; I had no idea how many wins I had,” said Jankovic, the 2007 Family Circle Cup champ. “I’m really bad with statistics. But in order to have 500 wins, you have to have a pretty long career, be pretty consistent.”

TV time
The semifinal match between the Williams sisters is scheduled to be broadcast from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN2. Former tennis stars Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver will call the match.

After a rainy Thursday and an overcast start to Friday, sunshine has finally become the norm. But the players still may find it a little on the chilly side with a high of 66 forecast today.

American stars
Seven of the 16 players in the third round of this year’s Family Circle Cup were American, the most American players to make it that far since 1983, when nine Americans advanced. Martina Navratilova beat Tracy Austin for the 1983 title.

After a total of just 1,849 for Thursday’s rain-plagued matches, the Family Circle Cup rebounded with 8,012 for the day session Friday, boosted by the Venus-Serena-Venus-Serena schedule on Billie Jean King Court. A total of 5,846 made the night match, boosting attendance to 59,860 for the week.

(04/05/13)  ANDREW MILLER: Bouchard beats third-seed Stosur, 6-1, 2-0
Ten hours later, Samantha Stosur and Eugenie Bouchard finally stepped onto Billie Jean King Court late Thursday night.

It was more than worth the wait for Bouchard.

Eugenie Bouchard was happy with her win over Samantha Stosur in Family Circle Cup play on Thursday night April 4, 2013. Bouchard won 6-1, 2-0 when Stosur retired due to a leg injury.

Bouchard, a qualifier, stunned No. 3 seed Samantha Stosur, 6-1, 2-0, in the third round of the Family Circle Cup on Thursday night.

Stosur, the ninth-ranked player in the world, was forced to retire after the second game of the second half with a calf injury. Stosur’s calf was heavily taped as the Australian’s normally graceful movement was limited in the short time she was on the court.

With light to moderate rain falling on Daniel Island most of the day, only three singles matches and one doubles match were able to be finished on a soggy Thursday.

The rest of the matches that were scheduled to be played, including ones that involved fan favorites Serena and Venus Williams, will be played today. Venus Williams is scheduled to play Varvara Lepchenko at 11 a.m., on Billie Jean King Court, while younger sister and top seed Serena Williams will face Mallory Burdette no earlier than 1 p.m.

One of the first matches on Thursday, pitting Jelena Jankovic and Jessica Pegula, that had originally been scheduled to start at about 11 a.m., finally got started a little after 6 p.m.

Ninth-seeded Jankovic easily dispatched Pegula, 6-0, 6-4, and Stefanie Voegele defeated 10th-seeded Julia Goerges, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Bouchard will face Jankovic today in the quarterfinals.

Calling it the biggest win of her young processional career, Bouchard, 19, connected on 10 winners and only had six unforced errors through the first eight games of the match. With Stosur’s mobility limited, Bouchard moved her around the court and used a powerful serve to dominate from beginning to end. Stosur, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, appeared frustrated from the opening game.

“I really tried to take it to her, and tried to be the first one to do a good shot. I tried to make her move, and I’m really happy with the way I did my job today,” Bouchard said. “I try to control the point with my serve. I think I did that well tonight, the first ball of the point, really tried to control it and even with the return as well, I was really trying to attack her serve, and I think really being aggressive and not hesitating to come forward.”

It was a nerve-wracking day for Bouchard, who finally got on the court at about 9 p.m., for a match that was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Bouchard was disappointed that Stosur got injured, but it didn’t put a damper on the victory.

“It’s unfortunate that she had to retire,” Bouchard said. “It’s much better to win with a full match, but I’m excited to beat her. I thought she was serving pretty well, but yeah, we had some points and she didn’t run for some balls.”

Like Stosur and Bouchard, the numerous false starts throughout the day were not easy to deal with.

“It was very difficult, I think for all of us, to wait around and just keep on standing by,” Jankovic said “You never know when I was going to go on court and when was my time to play, and I just had to be ready all the time and wait. I just tried to just rest and just keep myself relaxed and really keep the energy because I knew it was going to be a long day, and I actually thought we were not going to go on court, it was going to rain the whole day and we were going to play tomorrow.”

A light drizzle began to fall during their match, but play continued in the second set as Jankovic advanced to the quarterfinals.

“It was very slow and the balls were quite heavy and the overall play was quite heavy,” Jankovic said. “I was lucky because when we went on court, it started drizzling a bit and I said ‘oh my God we’re going to go back again,’ but it actually ended up really good for me that I was able to finish the match and I don’t have to play two matches tomorrow, so it was great.”

(04/04/13)  JEFF HARTSELL:  Sam Clubs: Calf injury doesn’t slow Stosur at Family Circle Cup
How famous are Sam Stosur’s biceps?

The Aussie tennis great’s guns have their own Twitter account, @Sam’sBiceps.

“I’m gifted in that way, I guess you could say,” Stosur said this week.

But on Wednesday at the Family Circle Cup, the focus was on Stosur’s heavily wrapped right calf. A calf strain caused her to pull out before the quarterfinals at Indian Wells last month, and limited her practice time heading into the Family Circle Cup.

Would the injury slow down the 29-year-old Stosur, who just celebrated her birthday with a night out at Charleston restaurant FIG? Would it prevent her from adding another Family Circle Cup title to her 2010 crown?

Stosur answered those questions, at least for the moment, with a 6-1, 6-2 clubbing of New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic before an appreciative crowd at Billie Jean King Court on Daniel Island.

Though she was not pushed to any extreme, Stosur showed no ill effects from the injury, slamming five aces at up to 118 mph and winning in just 73 minutes.

“So far, so good,” Stosur said of the offending calf. “I already iced it, and I’ll go back to see the trainers. But it felt good out there. Couldn’t really complain.”

Stosur’s fearsome forehand was on fine display, and she might have even turned it up a notch in an effort to keep the match short.

“I think for sure I probably had maybe a bit more of an aggressive mindset,” she said. “It helps, in that that’s the way I like to play anyway. But I certainly went for my serve a lot, and whenever I had the opportunity I really tried to get the ball off the court. It probably helped me kind of think, OK, this is going well and I’ve got to keep at it.”

Earlier this week, Stosur called her 6-0, 6-3 win over Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 Family Circle Cup finals “the best nine games of my life.” She won the first nine games of that match, taking the first set in just 18 minutes in a jaw-dropping display.

“It’d be nice if you could wake up every day and play like that,” she said.

In many ways, Stosur has spent the last two years trying to get back to that level. She peaked at the 2011 U.S. Open, defeating Serena Williams in the finals, becoming the first Australian woman to win the Open since Margaret Court in 1973.

But she failed to win a tournament in 2012, went out early in two majors, and then after ankle surgery last December lost in the second round at the Australian Open in January.

“I think it was just tricky,” she said. “It was a totally different experience for me. It was the best moment of my life, career-wise and I enjoyed every single second of it.

“... You kind of want to click your fingers and pick up from where you left off, and it didn’t happen. So then, you feel like there is a major letdown.”

With her head back together, Stosur’s biggest concern this week is that calf. She will get a 19-year-old qualifier, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, in the third round and is on track to face No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.

“I’ll take it day by day,” she said. “I mean, it’s all great, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and think, ‘Now you can go out and do what you would normally do.’

“So I certainly want to keep doing the right things as far as getting treatment and then wake up (today) and hopefully it will all be fine.”

(04/04/13)  At Family Circle Cup, to each her own coach (or not)
At the Family Circle Cup, the sight of a player consulting with her coach during a match is not unusual. Players are allowed to call for their coach during breaks, and often do when things are not going well.

Some WTA Tour stars would rather do without, however.

“In Miami, I was able to solve a lot of problems myself,” said Serena Williams, who came from behind to beat Maria Sharapova in the Sony Open finals. “I like to be able to do it on my own. The last thing I want to hear at a time like that is somebody telling me something.”

Former Family Circle Cup champ Jelena Jankovic has also been playing without a coach. She’s been working with her brother instead.

“It’s great,” she said. “My brother knows me better than anyone. I’m playing much better and I have a lot more confidence. I believe in myself a lot more and I work hard every day.

“For me, it’s all about having a good surrounding and people that know me best and wish the best for me.”

Caroline Wozniacki, the 2011 Family Circle Cup champ, also keeps it in the family. She is coached by her father, Piotr, who made an on-court visit during his daughter’s 6-1, 6-1 win over Silvia Soler-Espinosa on Wednesday.

“I have a very close relationship with my dad. He has coached me since I started playing,” she said. “So I like it this way. And I’m pretty sure that this is how it’s going to be until I finish playing. I feel it’s the way I can get the most out of my tennis.”

Quote of the day

“Stop being such a muppet!” — No. 16 seed Laura Robson said during her three-set loss to 19-year-old qualifier Eugenie Bouchard.

Coming attraction

A documentary movie about the Williams sisters “Venus and Serena” is out on iTunes this week and hits theaters next month. It follows the travails of the sisters during the 2011 season, when Venus was dealing with her autoimmune disease and Serena fighting off the effects of a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

“That was a tough year for us,” Venus said. “We both had so many injuries and issues. Seeing that is motivating, to see how much we did overcome.”

Of her disease, Venus said he’s learned to set limits for herself.

“You focus on the things you can accomplish,” said Venus, who is 32 and ranked No. 24. “I’ve changed my lifestyle. I don’t work as much, but I work as hard. And I’ve learned to delegate.”

No picnic

Caroline Wozniacki, who will go to Augusta next week to watch boyfriend Rory McIlroy play in The Masters, said watching golf in person is “like going out for a picnic. You walk around, and it’s nice and chill.”

But it’s not so chill when Rory is in contention.

“It’s worse to watch on TV,” she said. “If you just sit at home, it’s like, ‘OK, come on, just make the putt!’ ”

When the rain comes

The forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of rain today in the Charleston area, and 30 percent on Friday. Good news is, that’s down to zero percent on Saturday and 10 percent Sunday.


Wednesday’s big matchups brought out big crowds. Wednesday’s day session drew 6,872 fans while the night matches brought in 6,998 fans.

That pushed the five-day total to 44,153 fans.

(04/04/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Medical school can wait: No. 1 Serena Williams next for rising star Mallory Burdette
Mallory Burdette has crossed paths with the great Serena Williams. She’s said hi.

 “But I’ve never had a conversation with her,” Burdette said.

As the latest young American to pull a Family Circle Cup upset, the 22-year-old former Stanford All-American gets a dream-come-true shot at the world’s top-ranked player today.

Burdette took a deep breath Wednesday after a 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over No. 15 seed Sabine Lisicki. She pumped her left fist a few times and took a sweet walk across green clay on the Althea Gibson Court for a handshake from the former Family Circle Cup champion.

Burdette upset then-No. 27 Tamira Paszek at Indian Wells last month, but this was just as special, probably more. Lisicki, famed for her power serve, is currently No. 41 but has been ranked as high as No. 12.

Burdette is from Jackson, Ga., approximately 50 miles southeast of Atlanta. Her mother, the former Judy Bernat, grew up in Charleston.

“We’ve had a lot of fun going out to dinner,” Burdette said. “I just feel very relaxed and comfortable here. That’s the same way I was feeling out on the court, and I think it definitely helped me pull through that match. I’m really looking forward to my next round. It will be a great experience to play Serena and see how my game matches up against the best.”

Opportunities like this are exactly why Burdette decided last summer to skip her senior year at Stanford. Yes, she is delaying entry to medical school and a career as a psychiatrist.

But win or lose against Serena, Burdette will shoot up the WTA rankings from No. 99.

Quality qualifiers

It was the third high-quality win for a Family Circle Cup qualifier in 24 hours. Jessica Pegula, a 19-year-old American who lived in Hilton Head and is the daughter of billionaire Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, upset No. 10 Mona Barthel on Tuesday. Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, 19, eliminated No. 16 Laura Robson on Wednesday.

Burdette, Pegula and Madison Keys (also a winner Wednesday), are part of a second wave of young American star prospects behind a better known group that includes Family Circle Cup participants Sloane Stephens, Christina McHale, Jamie Hampton and Melanie Oudin.

But Burdette isn’t new to high pressure. As a freshman at Stanford, she delivered the game-winning stroke in the 2010 NCAA championship victory over Florida.

The Lisicki match was every bit the test Burdette expected. Burdette had a 40-0 lead at 5-4 in the third set but required a sixth match point to close.

All-American family

“I knew that she wasn’t going to give it to me,” Burdette said. “That’s why I definitely had to work for it there at the end. I just had to pick a target on each one of my shots and stay aggressive.”

Her father, Dr. Alan Burdette, was on hand. Judy Burdette had to return home, but hoped to come back to Daniel Island today.

Though Alan and Judy are University of Georgia graduates and all the Burdettes are Georgia Bulldogs fans, Mallory was the third Burdette sister to play tennis at Stanford. Erin was first, helping the Cardinal win national titles in 2002, ’04 and ’05. Lindsay, a four-time All-American, played two years ahead of Mallory at Stanford. Older brother Andy played tennis at Army.

Little sister credits her mother for turning the family on to tennis and her siblings for motivation.

Yeah, this WTA Tour thing is working out. The decision to turn pro came after Burdette advanced to the third round of the 2012 U.S. Open before losing to Maria Sharapova.

She won twice in the Indian Wells main draw last month.

Someone asked Burdette if Wednesday’s win made her feel more like she belongs.

“A little bit,” she said. “I don’t know.”

A lot. Here comes a third-round match against Serena in mom’s hometown, and maybe that first substantive conversation.

(04/04/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Apple pie, anyone? U.S. tennis roars at the Family Circle Cup
The next thing you know, the green clay will turn red, white and blue.

Everywhere you look, Americans are making noise deep in the Family Circle Cup singles bracket, and not all of them are named Williams.

Daniel Island is celebrating the Fourth of July in April.

Is this a WTA tournament, or a Fed Cup training camp?

U.S. women’s tennis is back, here and beyond the friendly confines, marsh backdrops and sweet tea refills. Seven Americans made it to the eight third-round singles matches.

There were qualifiers: Mallory Burdette and Jessica Pegula.

Fed Cup participants: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Vavara Lepchenko.

An 18-year-old with a monster serve: Madison Keys.

Icons: Serena and Venus.

“I’m not surprised,” Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran said Thursday. “I’ve been talking about it for a while and I’ve seen it coming. Mallory had some good tournaments and has been playing well. Jessie, maybe a little bit more of a surprise but she’s had some good results recently.”

Part of the Americanization of the Family Circle Cup is by design. Lowcountry fans have embraced the likes of Samantha Stosur (Australia), Justin Henin (Belgium), Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) and Patty Schnyder (Switzerland). But citizenship begets popularity.

More Americans in the draw is strength against competition that includes a WTA tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, that goes head-to-head with the Family Circle Cup for the first time.

Green clay edge

It helps that 11 U.S. players are ranked in the top 100, from Serena Williams at No. 1 to Burdette, sure to vault from No. 99 with a Charleston run including Wednesday’s upset of 2009 Family Circle Cup champion Sabine Lisicki.

By the way, No. 16 Sloane Stephens, No. 55 Christina McHale, No. 66 Jamie Hampton, No. 86 Melanie Oudin and No. 187 Grace Min were here but lost early. So was promising 16-year-old Taylor Townsend.

So many Americans.

Too many Americans for a tournament seeking world-wide appeal?

“We get pulled from both directions, from our international partners and ESPN,” Moran said. “But the women who come are here because they’re the best qualified to come.”

They come with good stories, some with South Carolina ties.

Pegula, 19, grew up on Hilton Head Island. Her father is Terry Pegula, a billionaire businessman who owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and generously supports Penn State (Pegula Ice Arena is on campus).

Burdette, 22, is a Georgia native and former Stanford All-American. Her mother, the former Judy Bernat, is from Charleston.

Southern women also have an edge on green clay. It’s a common surface in the South, but Charleston is the only green clay stop on the WTA Tour.

‘It’s awesome’

The top seeds at the Monterrey Open were Angelique Kerber, Marion Bartoli, Maria Kirilenko and Ana Ivanovic.

The Family Circle Cup got the Williams sisters, Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Lucie Safarova.

Big edge, us.

“We’re definitely happy with the field we have,” Moran said, “both from a star side and a depth side.”

This week’s U.S. upset streak extends to the hardcourts of Monterrey, where No. 96 Coco Vandeweghe ousted Bartoli in three sets.

But most of the American fun is in Charleston.

“It’s definitely helpful to have so many other up and coming Americans,” Burdette said. “Madison Keys, Grace Min, Melanie. And to see Bethanie Mattek-Sands coming back and doing well. And, obviously, Sloane. It’s awesome to have such a great group around.”

Pass the apple pie.

(04/04/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy are their own paparazzi
Oh, that prankster Caroline Wozniacki. Asked at the Family Circle Cup about April Fool's jokes, the 22-year-old blonde mufti-millionaire from Denmark giggled.

“It only works on my manager,” she said. “I just said, 'I'm engaged to Rory' and he's like, 'Oh, really? Congratulations!' He falls for it every year.”

Hilarious material. But the love-love match between young stars recently ranked No. 1 in their respective sports is serious social media business.

Caroline Wozniacki is at the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island this week. The No. 2 seed plays today against Silvia Soler-Espinosa. Next week it's off to Augusta to watch Rory McIlroy at the Masters.

They are the ultimate Charleston sports power couple: Wozniacki won the Family Circle Cup in 2011 and McIlroy won the PGA Championship last August at the Ocean Course.

And they are an open book.

Some celebrity couples clash with paparazzi. Wozniacki and McIlroy compete with paparazzi, frequently updating Twitter followers with new fodder and photos.

“I want to live my life as I want to live it,” said Wozniacki, who has earned more than $15 million in prize money. “Whether it's in the media spotlight or not, I don't feel like I want to live in a prison. I want to do what I would have done anyway. Some people will maybe like you, some people maybe not. You can't make everybody happy. But, for me, the most important thing is that I enjoy my life and I enjoy what I do.”

Oh, to be 22

It was love at first fight: Caroline and Rory met at a Vladimir Klitschko-David Haye boxing bout in Germany in July of 2011.

There have been other high-profile sports romances, including Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors in tennis (didn't last long), and soccer star Mia Hamm and shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (still married).

Those relationships weren't unfolding in real time online.

Wozniacki this weekend offered “Happy Easter” tweets and King Street restaurant praise (“Amazing food at the @hallschophouse tonight!! The best steaks and the best service in town!! Oh.. And the desserts were fantastic!!”).

But the Rory stuff gets the most notice.

At the Sony Open in Miami this month, Wozniacki tweeted a photo with Rory and a certain blonde woman wearing a wig of curly black hair. “Here is me trying to do mwy best @McIlroyRory impression at the players party last night!” she said.

“My parents always told me that it doesn't matter who you are or who you become, you should always act the same way,” Wozniacki said on Daniel Island. “I don't really think about the media. I just do whatever I want to do and whatever anyone else who is 22 would do.”

Next week: Augusta

Next week's Masters sideshow figures to include No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods with his new girlfriend, skier Lindsey Vonn, plus the Charleston charmers.

Meanwhile, back on the court, Wozniacki fell from No. 1, her status at the end of 2009 and 2010 seasons, to No. 10 last year (she is No. 10 this week). She tends not to play well against the best players and has reached only one Grand Slam final, the U.S. Open in 2009.

She has fired two coaches in the last year, going back to the tutelage of her father, Piotr. Critics point to off-court distractions, including an underwear ad campaign.

But Wozniacki seems properly focused this week, brushing off talk of a Family Circle Cup title to follow McIlroy's PGA crown.

“It would be great,” she said. “But that's not really what I'm thinking about. I'm just thinking that I want to play well.”

Picture perfect: Family Circle Cup glory for Caroline on the way to cheer for Rory, complete with “media spotlight” updates from Augusta.

(04/04/13)  ANDREW MILLER: Rain takes center court at Family Circle Cup
With all but four matches postponed because of the rain, Venus and Serena Williams had the day off on Thursday.

The Williams sisters will most likely be forced to play two matches today. That’s as long as they advance out of the third round to the quarterfinals.

Venus Williams is scheduled to play Varvara Lepchenko at 11 a.m., on Billie Jean King Court, while younger sister and top seed Serena Williams will face Mallory Burdette no earlier than 1 p.m.

What had been a light to moderate rain Thursday morning escalated into a downpour by mid-afternoon, resulting in the postponement of all scheduled day matches for the Family Circle Cup.

Tournament officials are optimistic they will be able to get the event back on track with only a 30 percent chance of rain today. Tickets for Thursday’s day session will be honored at today’s day session.

The last time a Family Circle Cup session was canceled because of weather was the Thursday night session last year.

Wozniacki gets walkover victory

Caroline Wozniacki, the 2011 Family Circle Cup champion, had an easy ride to the quarterfinals of this year’s event. Wozniacki’s scheduled opponent in the round of 16, Andrea Petkovic, withdrew before the match that was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., giving Wozniacki a walkover win. Petkovic has been nursing an injury to her right calf.

Wozniacki will next face Stefanie Voegele.

“I’m very happy that I came here. It is a very beautiful tournament and I loved every part of it here,” said Petkovic, who is from Germany.

“I hope to come back again under better conditions. I’m really sorry that I had to pull out but it was just too dangerous and I don’t want to risk anything.”

Petkovic said on her Twitter account that the calf injury had been bothering her “for the past days & it got worse...”

Rain forces TV re-run

The rain also played havoc with the opening day of television coverage by ESPN2, which was scheduled to broadcast the Serena Williams-Mallory Burdette match.

Instead, the network showed Serena Williams’ 6-4, 6-4 win Tuesday over Camila Giorgi. ESPN2 is scheduled to cover the event again today at 1 p.m.


The attendance total for the Family Circle Cup remained at 44,153 with the washout of Thursday’s day session.

There were fewer than 1,000 fans on hand for Eugenie Bouchard defeat Samantha Stosur on the Billie Jean King Court.

(04/03/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Serena’s sequel off to solid start at Family Circle Cup
In the movie of Serena Williams’ life, Tuesday’s routine 6-2, 6-3 dismissal of Camila Giorgi at the Family Circle Cup will wind up on the cutting room floor.

As the new documentary “Venus and Serena” — out on iTunes this week and due in theaters on May 13 — will show, the life of the reigning queen of women’s tennis is stuffed full of trophies, winnings and drama.

“It was a great time for the movie to capture,” said Serena, who along with Venus allowed cameras to follow her during an injury plagued 2011 season. “I had sort of fallen from grace.”

The story of how Serena, 31, recovered from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism — she still has to give herself shots before she flies in an airplane — to reclaim the No. 1 spot surely will be compelling to watch.

Serena, the oldest player to be ranked No. 1, seems in a good place after the travails of 2011. She recently did a makeover on her Paris apartment, going for a shabby chic feel with neutral colors and “lots of pink.” She surprised fans in Miami last week by riding a rental bike from her hotel to the tournament site to avoid traffic.

“I really don’t do bicycles,” she confessed.

Her win Tuesday over the 21-year-old Giorgi, ranked No. 85, was less compelling. But for Serena — who won her 48th career title in Miami just three days earlier, on hardcourts — the quick transition to the green clay of Billie Jean King Court was satisfying.

“It was definitely not great for me,” said Williams, who took a three-set win over Maria Sharapova in the Miami finals. “I think I played well, but I wasn’t great footing-wise, just trying to get my stability. But it feels good, because I felt like I played somebody really good today.”

Serena jumped to a 3-0 lead over Giorgi, who caught Williams’ eye by making the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.

The Italian, making her second appearance at the Family Circle up, stretched Williams out a bit after that, and forcing her to three match points before sailing a forehand long.

“A little awkward today,” Williams, wearing a neon orange top and a blue skirt, told the crowd afterward.

The fans hardly cared, as they seem eager to watch Williams claim a third Family Circle Cup title. That would put her behind only Chris Evert (eight) and Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf (four each) in the storied 41-year history of the tournament.

To get there, Serena might have to go through 2009 champ Sabine Lisicki in the third round and sister Venus, the 2004 winner, in the semifinals.

“I’m not playing great clay-court tennis yet,” Serena said. “But I’m glad I came here, so I can get ready for what will hopefully be another good clay court season.”

Serena’s dominating run to the Family Circle Cup title last year seemed to herald good things for her clay court season, but she lost in the first round at the French Open.

Of course, she made up for that with wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and an Olympic gold medal, providing a suitable epilogue for the movie.

Who knows? This year could bring a sequel.

(04/03/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: 2009 champ Sabine Lisicki happy with quick start at Family Circle Cup
Sabine Lisicki’s dog is named “Happy.”

Well, of course it is.

If Lisicki is not one of the happiest players on the WTA Tour, she definitely has fooled the fans on Daniel Island this week. The 23-year-old from Germany seems to be constantly beaming, and with good reason.

The Family Circle Cup is the scene of her first WTA title (in 2009), and she was able to bring her Yorkshire Terrier with her this week. Heck, Lisicki even won a free camera at the players’ party Sunday night.

So a 41-minute blitzing of Anna Tatishvili on Tuesday morning only added more sunshine to Lisicki's week.

“It’s always great if you play so well in the first round,” Lisicki said after she belted 26 winners in a 6-0, 6-0 victory on Billie Jean King Court. “Gives you lot of confidence. I play well here, so I enjoy being here. Always play better once I step on that center court.”

Lisicki has won $2.6 million in her career and was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world last year, when she knocked off then-No. 1 Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon. But a left ankle sprain suffered at last year’s Family Circle Cup short- circuited her clay-court season, and she sustained an abdominal injury during the hard-court season.

All that combined with a viral illness earlier this season helped her slide to her current No. 41 ranking. With American qualifier Mallory Burdette next for her, she’s looking at a third-round meeting with No. 1 Serena Williams.

Match of the year?

Compelling matches don’t happen only on center court or in Grand Slam finals. A throng of players crowded the balcony overlooking Althea Gibson Court on Monday to witness the end of a three-set battle between Anastasia Rodionova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Mattek-Sands won 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 in 3 hours and 42 minutes, the longest match on the WTA Tour this year.

“We were all so into that match,” said American Madison Keys, one of the player/spectators. “We didn’t care so much who won, but it was so tight with so much drama and emotion in it. That’s great when you are not involved, but it’s horrible when you are. It was the match of the year so far.”

Serena singing

How did world No. 1 Serena Williams celebrate her 48th career singles title last week in Miami?

“Just a little karaoke,” she said. “I tried to sing the Journey song. I like to learn old songs and do it in my own style, like people do on “The Voice.”

Serena didn’t name the song, but our money is on “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Or maybe “Wheel in the Sky.”

TV Time

ESPN2’s coverage of the Family Circle Cup begins Thursday (1-2:30 p.m.), and continues Friday (1-2:30 p.m.), Saturday (1-3 p.m.) and Sunday (1-3 p.m.).


Tuesday’s abundant sunshine and pleasant temperature brought out another impressive crowd.

The day-session attracted 6,457, while the night session was witnessed by 5,562 fans.

This year’s attendance was 18,264 entering Tuesday’s play, nearly 3,000 fans ahead of 2010’s pace when a record 95,767 fans turned out for the tourney.

Tuesday’s turnout pushed the four-day total to 30,280. The 2010 attendance after four days was 28,129.

(04/03/13)  PHIL BOWMAN: Mattek-Sands handles Stephens in two sets
Ask WTA free spirit Bethanie Mattek-Sands about her hair color, and she will tell you it is faded.

“It was pretty bright purple and teal, it’s blonde. Well, you guys probably couldn’t see, but I have like shaved partially back here,” she said pointing to the area around her temple. “So that’s kind of my experiment for now but I actually might go back to blonde normal color.”

    Sloane Stephens plays Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Family Circle Cup Tuesday April 2, 2013. (Grace Beahm/postandcourier.com) Sloane Stephens plays Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Family Circle Cup Tuesday April 2, 2013. (Grace Beahm/postandcourier.com)
    Jelena Jankovic defeated Melanie Oudin in a nearly threehour match, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, on Tuesday. Jelena Jankovic defeated Melanie Oudin in a nearly threehour match, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, on Tuesday.

But the 28-year old veteran refuses to fade away. The world’s No. 113 player blasted No. 16 Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-0 in the Family Circle Cup main event Tuesday night on Billie Jean King Court.

Stephens is the highest seed in the tournament to fall. She was the No. 4 seed and lasted just one match.

“You could never be surprised about good tennis,” Mattek-Sands said. “I feel like I played very well today. Sloane is a tough competitor. She has a lot of confidence this year. She is a great player, and on top of that I lost to her twice last year, so it was a little bit of a revenge match for me.”

It marked the first time Mattek-Sands defeated the 20-year-old Stephens. Stephens defeated Mattek-Sands twice last year: in Rome and at Roland Garros. Both victories came on red clay.

Mattek-Sands is playing in her sixth tournament in Charleston, and Tuesday’s match was a welcome relief after Monday’s 3-hour, 47-minute marathon victory against Anastasia Rodionova.

The recovery phase to get ready for Tuesday night’s match was intense.

“You are going to laugh because, I mean, I did 20 minutes of ice bath, then I did like an Epsom salt bath later,” Mattek-Sands said. “Then I slept 12 hours, got up, ate, took a nap for another four hours. So it’s a lot of sleeping. But I actually felt pretty good. It was nice to have a night match. It gave me a little bit more time, but I know I have a day off so the recovery will be nice.”

Another Tuesday shocker was qualifier Jessica Pegula’s 7-6, 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Mona Barthel of Germany in the final day-session match played on Billie Jean King Court.

Pegula wore a Buffalo Sabres hockey T-shirt to the press conference, and for good reason. Her father, Terry, owns the team. But on this day, Pegula was all tennis, other than her attire.

This year marks her third and best appearance in Charleston.

“Well, last year I played I had the flu really bad, so that wasn’t good, and the year before I was pretty young,” Pegula said. “I think I got a wild card and I qualified. But I don’t know, I came in this tournament, thinking that I was going to do well, kind of. I have been kind of struggling lately because I was sick and hurt and stuff, but I have worked really hard the past few weeks, so I think I just came in with adifferent mindset this time to really do well.”

Jankovic, the No. 9 seed, beat Daniel Island crowd favorite Melanie Oudin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

“It’s something about her game,” Jankovic said of Oudin’s past performances. “I’ve lost to her but (today) is actually our first time on clay. We played on grass two times, so it’s a different surface. Sometimes when you lose against someone, it’s always tricky to play the opponents. She has this game that I don’t really like and doesn’t really suit me. I always have trouble with her.”

Jankovic reached the semifinal of the Sony Open last week in Key Biscayne, Fla.

“I love playing on clay, but today I wasn’t happy with the way the way I was moving so I have to improve,” she said.

(04/03/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Ex-champs Sam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki cruise at Family Circle Cup
Former champions Sam Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki cruised into the third round of the Family Circle Cup with straight-set victories today on Billie Jean King Court.
Complete FCC coverage

To read more coverage of the Family Circle Cup, go to postandcourier.com/familycirclecup.

Stosur, third-seeded and the 2010 Family Circle Cup champ, took a 6-1, 6-2 win over Marina Erakovic of New Zealand. Stosur’s right calf was heavily wrapped, but she showed no ill effects from the injury that caused her to pull out of the tournament at Indian Wells last month.

Wozniacki, the No. 2 seed, took a 6-1, 6-1 win over Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa. It was her sixth straight win at the Family Circle Cup, dating back to her 2011 championship.

“It was my first match of the year on clay,” Wozniacki said. “So it’s always difficult to slide and move unbelievably well. But I felt like I did pretty good out there.”

Young Americans Madison Keys and Mallory Burdette also advanced.

Burdette, 22, pulled off the biggest win of her young career, taking out 2009 FCC champ Sabine Lisicki in three sets. She won by 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 over the 15th-seeded Lisicki to set up a third-round match with world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Keys, 18, took a 6-4, 6-3 victory over countrywoman Grace Min on Althea Gibson Court, continuing what has been a breakthrough tennis season. She made the quarterfinals at a WTA Tour event earlier this year, and the third round at the Australian Open. Her ranking has leaped from No. 149 to its current No. 77, putting her eighth among American players and increasing expectations.

“I think it’s great,” she said this week. “I think if you are getting that, then obviously you are doing well. And you want to keep that, because that means you are still doing well. So, I think you kind of just have to embrace it.”

(04/02/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: World No. 1 Serena Williams opens Family Circle Cup title defense
World No. 1 Serena Williams opened defense of her Family Circle Cup title with a straight-set win today on Billie Jean King Court.

Coming off a victory in the finals at the Sony Open on hardcourts in Miami on Saturday, Williams was not at her sharpest in her first match of the year on clay. But she was plenty good enough for a 6-2, 6-3 win over Italian Camila Giorgi in a second-round match.

“It was a bit awkward for me today,” said Williams, a two-time FCC winner who could face 2009 champ Sabine Lisicki in the third round. “But it was good to get one under my belt.”

Jelena Jankovic needed almost three hours today to outlast American Melanie Oudin and keep alive her hopes for a second Family Circle Cup title.

Jankovic, ranked No. 18, gutted out a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory over the 21-year-old Oudin. Jankovic, seeded ninth, won the Family Circle Cup title in 2007, but had been 0-2 in her career against Oudin.

Rising American star Madison Keys, 18, moved to the second round with a 7-6, 6-4 win over Alexandra Cadantu.

American qualifier Vania King pulled off a first-round upset knocking off 14th-seeded Yaroslava Shvedova. King, ranked No. 136, rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over the world’s No. 37 player.

Earlier, 15th-seeded Sabine Lisicki got her chase for a second Family Circle Cup championship off to a fast start, sprinting to a first-round victory over Anna Tatishvili in just 41 minutes.

The 2009 Family Circle Cup champ won by 6-0, 6-0, on Billie Jean King Court, belting 26 winners to earn a second-round match with American qualifier Mallory Burdette.

(04/02/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Venus Williams gets featured night match Wednesday at Family Circle Cup
Venus Williams will make her 2013 debut at the Family Circle Cup in a featured night match Wednesday on Daniel Island.

Williams, the 2004 Family Circle champion, is set to play Monica Puig on Billie Jean King Court in a second-round match that won’t start before 7 p.m.

Two more former Family Circle Cup winners, Caroline Wozniacki and Samantha Stosur, also will open play Wednesday.

Wozniacki, the 2011 champ, takes on Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the second match on Billie Jean King Court. Stosur, the 2010 winner, gets Marina Erakovic in the third match.

Play begins on Billie Jean King Court at 10 a.m. with Julia Goerges vs. Olga Govortsova.

(04/02/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Competing for top players a tough racket for Family Circle Cup
On her first trip to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, tennis great Samantha Stosur just happened to catch a foul ball.

And maybe it’s no coincidence that Stosur, eating dinner at famed Charleston restaurant FIG over the weekend, had the table right next to TV star Sofia Vegara.

Eleanor Adams, the tournament manager, works the phones and relationships with equal fervor to maintain a top-notch field at the Family Circle Cup, celebrating its 41st birthday this week on Daniel Island.

No. 1-ranked Serena Williams and eight other top 25 players on the WTA Tour are at the Family Circle Cup this week. That’s no mean feat, given the awkward spot the Family Circle Cup has on the WTA calendar — just after Indian Wells and Miami, both two-week events that leave road-weary players ready to head for home.

“We’re in a competition, a competition for players,” Moran said. “We’re in a tough spot as the last event in the U.S. before they head to Europe. A lot of the players have been on the road for seven or eight weeks, and they are ready to go home.”

The recruiting battle for players got tougher this year with the move of a tournament in Mexico, the Monterrey Open, to a spot opposite the Family Circle Cup on the WTA Tour schedule.

Though that tournament is smaller — 32 players and a $235,000 purse, compared with 64 and $795,707 at the Family Circle Cup — it is direct competition.

The Monterrey Open landed world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka, though she pulled out of the event with injury, and No. 11 Marion Bartoli, who has played on Daniel Island many times.

“They have a beautiful resort down there, and though it’s a smaller event, it is competition for us,” Moran said.

“They made a decision to go after Azarenka as their premier player.

“We’d love to have her here, but we also recognize that Venus and Serena, as past champions here, are very important to us.

“And then Azarenka had to withdraw. People think that happens only in Charleston, but it happens everywhere.”

The year-round effort at building relationships paid off in a couple of ways this year.

After Serena, who won FCC titles in 2008 and 2012, defeated Maria Sharapova for the Sony Open title in Miami on Saturday, some speculated that she might not make it to Daniel Island.

But Serena was present and accounted for Monday, extolling the virtues of Charleston and anticipating a semifinal meeting with sister Venus.

And Moran scored a last-minute coup, getting No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, the 2011 FCC champ, to accept a late wild card.

When Wozniacki’s boyfriend, 2012 PGA champ Rory McIlroy, decided to forgo a mission trip to Haiti this week in order to play golf in San Antonio, Wozniacki suddenly had a free week.

Moran was in constant touch with her agent, and the Family Circle Cup was able to capitalize.

Wozniacki will be at the Masters next week to watch McIlroy compete for the green jacket, but not before she delights the fans at Stadium Court.

“It’s a big deal for any tournament to get as good of a field as they can,” said Stosur, who is ranked No. 9.

“Players don’t need much arm-twisting to want to come back to this event. I always love my time here, and they do a great job during the year to get the bigger names to their event.”

Some tournaments have been known to award new Porsches to top 10 players who play in their event (Stuttgart, anyone?) The Cup can’t compete with that, but it credits the city of Charleston and its people as advantages in his recruiting battles.

“That,” Stosur said, “was pretty cool.”

(04/02/13)  DARRYL SLATER: American teenager Taylor Townsend learning tough lessons while progressing from prodigy to pro
Andrea Petkovic looked across the tennis court Monday night and loved what she saw: a 16-year-old girl, her ear buds in, bouncing around to music.

Never mind that Petkovic, an eighth-year professional from Germany, was getting ready to give that girl, Taylor Townsend, another unforgiving lesson about the grinding life of making a living in this sport. Petkovic, 25, just found Townsend’s energy so endearing.

Monday’s Family Circle Cup first round was Townsend’s sixth professional match, in her fourth event. Last year, she became the first American to finish No. 1 in the world junior girls rankings since 1982. She turned pro this year surrounded by anticipation that players like her and Sloane Stephens, a more advanced 20-year-old, could be the future of United States women’s tennis, as Venus and Serena Williams enter the latter stages of their careers.

But on Monday, Townsend never came close to her third victory, falling 6-3, 6-0 in a 1-hour, 16-minute match. Her 105-mph left-handed serve looked overpowering in some moments, but she showed the emotional inconsistencies of a teenage player in others, as she hit return shots well long and, after one error, swatted a ball into the green clay out of frustration.

Petkovic, who two years ago was ranked 10th in the world, fell behind 2-0 in the first set, knotted the set at three games apiece, and then won nine straight games to close. After falling behind 2-0 in the first set, Petkovic thought, “OK, that was a little bit more than I expected. I figure with (Townsend being) 16, you’re not going to hold this level.”

Townsend couldn’t. But this is where all tennis prodigies begin as pros, with glimpses of greatness, but inevitably, many humbling early-round exits in front of few fans. Serena Williams remembers her first match, in 1995, lasting less than an hour. She earned $240 for it. Samantha Stosur recalls “a very daunting process, but obviously one that you’ve got to go through.”

Townsend already endured an ordeal last year, when the United States Tennis Association refused to pay her travel expenses to tournaments, including the U.S. Open, until she got in better physical condition. Townsend’s mother paid her way to the Open, and she made the junior quarterfinals. The USTA later apologized and reimbursed Townsend’s Open expenses.

The association’s decision angered full-figured players like Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams, who excelled while bucking the notion that only svelte women can win. Like Townsend and Stephens, Williams is black. She and Venus helped open the sporting world’s eyes to diverse-looking tennis players. Davenport wrote on Twitter that USTA’s ultimatum “disheartened” her. Williams on Monday said it “was just shocking and unnecessary.”

Though the decision stung Townsend, she said it also “really showed me, yeah, you weren’t in the best shape.” She prepared for this season by working out with a trainer, Danny McNair, whose methods baffled her at first. For one exercise, he had her backpedal on an inclined treadmill while jumping and hitting serves.

“I was scared for my life,” Townsend said, laughing about it now.

Townsend also improved her diet. She avoided chocolate and no longer put cookie dough on frozen yogurt — a tough change because she loves sweets. Now, she consults a nutritionist.

“When I feel like, ‘Oh my God, I want something sweet, I call her and she talks me out of it,” Townsend said.

At the Family Circle Cup players’ party Sunday, Townsend’s newfound professional discipline intersected with her natural teenage exuberance. She arrived at the event wearing a fancy green dress — and pink rabbit ears on her head. The party included a table of candy, but Townsend didn’t partake because of her diet, and also because she didn’t want anything to get stuck in her braces.

The hard choices are paying off. She feels like she is moving better on the court. She wants to be a role model for teenagers who struggle to get fit. But her coach, Juan Todero, said he wants to see a more mature playing style, too, because “she has to control the moments of the match much better.”

Monday was another difficult step from potential to results, the same one all the greats had to make. But Petkovic felt enough power in Townsend’s shots that when she met Townsend at the net after the match, she told her, “Girl, you’re going to be big later on. But please wait until I’m done.”

(04/02/13)  PHILLIP BOWMAN: Pegula upsets No. 8 seed Mona Barthel

The biggest shocker of today’s Family Circle Cup was qualifier Jessica Pegula's 7-6, 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Mona Barthel of Germany in the final day-session match played on Billy Jean King Court.

In another match from the day session, Jelena Jankovic, the No. 9 seed, beat Daniel Island crowd favorite Melanie Oudin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Jankovic, who won the 2007 Family Circle Cup, need two hours and 55 minutes for her first victory over Oudin.

“It’s something about her game,” Jankovic said of Oudin's past performances. “I’ve lost to her but (today) is actually our first time on clay. We played on grass two times so it’s a different surface. Sometimes when you lose against someone it’s always tricky to play the opponents. She has this game that I don’t really like and doesn’t really suit me. I always have trouble with her.

Jankovic reached the semifinal of the Sony Open last week in Key Biscayne. That gave her confidence on the clay-court transition.

“I love playing on clay, but today I wasn’t happy with the way the way I was moving so I have to improve.

(04/01/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: New American Lepchenko hopes magic continues at Family Circle Cup
In 2011, Varvara Lepchenko became an American citizen.

In 2012, she jumped from outside the top 100 to No. 20 in the world in women’s tennis, and represented America in the Fed Cup and the Olympics.

The milestone events are not unrelated, Lepchenko said Monday after a first-round victory at the Family Circle Cup.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Lepchenko said after a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 Stadium Court victory over fellow American Christina McHale. “I’m so lucky to be in the position where I am right now.”

Lepchenko, 26 and a native of Uzbekistan, was 15 when her family moved to the U.S., where they were granted political asylum. She switched her nationality to the U.S. in 2007, but was not able to become a citizen until 2011.

“Ever since we came to the U.S., I always felt like an American,” Lepchenko said. “The more time I spent here, the more friends I acquired. But when people would ask me, ‘What are you now?,’ I really didn’t have an answer.”

When her citizenship came through in 2011, a weight lifted off her shoulders. More practically, visas and passports and travel became much easier; able to focus on tennis, her career took off.

“Everything bloomed from that point,” she said.

In 2012, she made the fourth round at the French Open and the third at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She also made the Fed Cup and Olympic teams, playing alongside Venus and Serena Williams.

“I was just talking to Venus about how great it is to play on a team,” she said. “You cheer for each other and you are a normal person for a while, a team player.”

Lepchenko was not the only American to have a good day. Qualifiers Mallory Burdette, Jessica Pegula and Grace Min all advanced, Pegula and Burdette in three-set victories and Min with a second-set walkover. Wild-card entrant Bethanie Mattek-Sands also scored a three-set win, and will take on rising American star Sloane Stephens on Stadium Court tonight.

USC Night

Tonight is USC Night at the Family Circle Cup, as teenage star Sloane Stephens plays the featured night match on Stadium Court. A pair of Gamecock players, Jaklin Alawi and Dominika Kanakova, will play American Megan Moulton-Levy and Shuai Zhang of China in a doubles match. USC students with ID can buy a ticket for $20.

Fashion watch

Venus Williams played an exhibition match Monday to promote her EleVen by Venus line of apparel.

“We’re small, but we’re growing” Williams said of her company. “I think that’s the best way, to grow strategically. But I think people really like the clothes, and that’s half the battle.”


The Family Circle Cup reported attendance of 6,032 and 5,884 for Saturday and Sunday’s qualifying matches, and 6,348 for Monday’s opening day of main draw play. That’s the biggest Monday crowd since 6,732 in 2004.

(04/01/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: World No. 1 Serena Williams will play Tuesday at Family Circle Cup
World No. 1 Serena Williams, the defending Family Circle Cup champion, will make her 2013 debut at the tournament on Stadium Court on Tuesday.

The top-seeded Williams will face Italy’s Camila Giorgi in the third match on Stadium Court. The first Stadium Court match, set for 10 a.m., will feature 2009 Family Circle Cup champ Sabine Lisicki.

(04/01/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Mixed results for young Americans on first day of Family Circle Cup
Young American players took center stage on the first day of the Family Circle Cup today on Daniel Island, with mixed results for the U.S. hopefuls.

In an All-American battle on Stadium Court, American Varvara Lepchenko took out countrywoman Christina McHale in three sets. Wild-card entrant Bethanie Mattek-Sands and qualifier Mallory Burdette also advanced to the second round with three-set wins.

Lepchenko, seeded No. 12 and ranked No. 29, took a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory over No. 55 McHale, who was hobbled in the third set by a leg injury. Born in Uzbekistan, the 26-year-old Lepchenko became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and played for the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics.

Burdette, a 22-year-old qualifier from Jackson, Ga., advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 victory over Kristina Mladenovic of France. Burdette jumped into the top 100 on the WTA Tour at No. 99 by making the third round at Indian Wells last month. She gave up her final year at Stanford after making a run to the third round of the U.S. Open last year.

Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 131, worked hard for a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 win over Anastasia Rodionova, ranked No. 107.

American Jamie Hampton's stay at the Family Circle Cup will be shorter, as the 23-year-old from Auburn, Ala., went out in the first round today

Hampton, ranked No. 68 in the world and the sixth-ranked American on the WTA Tour, dropped a 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 decision to No. 64 Olga Govortsova of Belarus.

Also today, 11th-seeded Sorana Cirstea advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Tatjana Malek of Germany.

Other scores
Mathilde Johansson d. Melinda Czink, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5
Monica Puig d. Andrea Hlavackova, 6-4, 6-0
Camila Giorgi d. Mandy Minella, 6-4, 6-4
Grace Min d. Tamira Paszek, 6-0, 3-0 ret.
Eugenie Bouchard d. Nastassja Burnett, 6-2, 6-3
Stefanie Voegele d. Teliana Pereira, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

(04/01/13)  Mount Pleasant Magazine: Rackets, Rockers and More
Family Circle Tennis Center

It’s been more than a decade since the Family Circle Cup broke up its marriage with Hilton Head Island, headed north to Daniel Island, escaped the shadow of the Heritage golf tournament and set out to make its own unique mark in the wide world of sports.

Bob Moran, general manager of the Family Circle Tennis Center. Photography by Mike Saia.

Today, it is one of the Lowcountry’s most prestigious sporting events – rivaled only by the Cooper River Bridge Run – drawing tens of thousands of spectators and another 8 million television viewers during a nine-day event featuring the world’s finest female tennis players.

When the Cup left Hilton Head in 2001 and embraced its brand-new facility – built from scratch in just 10 months – a young but already well-traveled golf enthusiast and casual tennis fan from Walden, New York, went along for the ride. Bob Moran, now 42, is in his fourth year as general manager of the Family Circle Tennis Center. He worked his way to the top well after Charleston officials lured the tournament to the island on the northeast side of the city.

“I started out doing odd jobs in Hilton Head,” Moran explained. “Lisa Thomas, the director of the Family Circle Cup at the time, had sold me on coming to South Carolina.”

Tennis fans enjoy the action at the 2011 Family Circle Cup. Photography by Chris Smith.

Moran moved south from Walden, a village of 6,978 people on the Wallkill River, to play college golf at Elon University in North Carolina. He also has lived in San Diego and Chicago but speaks of the Holy City as if it might be his last stop.

“Charleston is such a beautiful city, and the people here are great,” he said. “I enjoy nothing more than bringing clients into town. We have a great home-court advantage.”

Those clients include people outside the world of tennis. The facility Moran runs is the center of the women’s professional tennis universe during the nine days of the Family Circle Cup, but it isn’t exactly dormant the rest of the year. In addition to providing lessons and hosting leagues and various forms of competition for tennis players of all ages, the Family Circle Tennis Center hosts concerts and other events, and Moran is constantly seeking new ways to use the stadium.

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates her 2011 Family Circle Cup singles championship. A native of Denmark, she is among the world’s top-rated female tennis players. Photography by Chris Smith.

“We’re busy. We’ve evolved from just doing the Family Circle Cup to being an event management team,” he commented. “We want to grow our business and our revenue streams. Our mission is to bring value to this community, and we’re always looking at opportunities to do just that.”

An impressive list of musical acts have performed at the Family Circle Tennis Center, including The Black Crowes; Don Henley; Sugarland; Al Green; Daryl Hall and John Oates; the Zac Brown Band; Boyz II Men; Train; and hometown hero Darius Rucker and his band, Hootie and the Blowfish, who put on a benefit concert every year.

Moran said he would like the Center to host 10 to 12 concerts a year.

On occasion, hosting an event at the Center, which seats 10,600 for tennis and around 7,500 for concerts, entails some temporary remodeling. For example, the tennis courts had to be resurfaced for Davis Cup matches in 2004 and for World Team Tennis in 2011 and again in 2012. When the professional beach volleyball tour made a stop at the stadium, Moran brought in 80 dump trucks of sand. For the 2011 Daniel Island Holiday Festival, the tennis courts became a skating rink with an acrylic surface that only looked and acted like ice.
Despite concerts and other events, tennis remains the Center’s most important business and a vital economic boost for the Lowcountry. Moran, who keeps track of such things, pointed out that over the years, tennis fans from every state except Wyoming and from various foreign countries have attended the Family Circle Cup, an event that draws players from 35 nations. Among his goals for the tournament is to hit the 100,000 mark in attendance; the record so far is 95,767 in 2010.

A related objective is to do everything possible to fuel the ever-growing popularity of the sport of tennis in the Lowcountry. The Family Circle Cup certainly played a key role in the United States Tennis Association’s decision to name Charleston the country’s “Best Tennis Town” in 2010. Despite its relatively small size, Charleston was chosen over two larger finalists.

“The community really came together to win the award,” Moran said. “Considering our population and the number of tennis players in Atlanta and Richmond compared with Charleston, it was an amazing feat. It demonstrates how important tennis is to this community.

“There has been unbelievable growth in the number of people playing tennis. We’re seeing an increase in club members and especially in junior programs,” he added. “We’re a beacon of tennis in this community. Professional tennis drives recreational tennis in the Charleston area.”

Now if he can just convince one tennis fan from Wyoming to show up at the next Family Circle Cup …

(03/31/13)  JEFF HARTSELL: Family Circle Cup TV goes global with expanded coverage
When Serena Williams steps on Stadium Court at the Family Circle Cup this week, her image will be beamed in high-definition television to 143 countries and a potential audience of almost 25 million people.

But it’s not just the world’s No. 1 player — who won her 47th career singles title on the WTA Tour on Saturday in Miami — who will get the TV star treatment this week on Daniel Island.

The FCC on TV will go global this week, as an unprecedented total of 52 matches and more than 100 hours of coverage are slated to be available on international TV and via online streaming from Daniel Island.

Those numbers include 33 Stadium Court matches totaling some 70 hours on international TV, and 19 matches from the Althea Gibson Court that will be live-streamed online.

It’s a 300 percent increase over the nine matches and 14 hours of tennis carried on TV last year.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Bob Moran, general manager of the Family Circle Cup. “It means bringing Charleston and this event to an international audience, and that impacts our sponsors, Daniel Island, our city and our entire state.”

It takes a lot of work, too.

“We’ve got to have this place all wired up and ready to go from Day 1,” said Moran. “Normally, we don’t start TV coverage until Thursday, so we have some time to get ready and get it built out.

“And since we’re doing two courts instead of one, we have to build a lot more facilities and do a lot more wiring. It really starts our process a lot earlier.”

The process is part of a deal for international rights that the WTA Tour announced late last year, with more 400 matches broadcast in 2013 across the MCS TV Group network of channels.

ESPN retains U.S. rights and will carry its normal allotment of Thursday-Sunday Family Circle Cup coverage, including Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship match, with Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver in the booth.

But the extra international coverage means a lot of extra work for producer Al Connal, president of ConCom, and his crew.

“In the past, we’d do an average of six to eight matches through the whole week,” he said. “That was fairly straightforward as far as the logistics go. But under this new deal, they want to televise as many matches as they can, and the Family Circle Cup is one of the earlier tournaments in that process.

“We were able to swing a deal to allow them use the ESPN facilities, the TV truck and crew, to cover every single match on Stadium Court.

“That’s a lot longer day. Now we need to bring in a relief crew, and catering is up from one meal a day to two. Even though the cameras and facilities are in place, it’s a long day for the crew. At the end of the week, we’ll see how it goes. Outside of a major or other big event, this is certainly a first.”

Connal has a crew of about 18 on the production side, including producers, directors and announcers, and about 30 on the technical side (camera operators, audio technicians, etc.). He’ll also need a relief crew of about eight to handle the longer hours.

The online streaming of matches from the Althea Gibson Court will be produced by sports media group Perform and will be available on TennisTV.com, the official live streaming subscription site of the WTA and ATP tours.

Connal said ESPN3.com also has expressed interest in streaming matches.

At week’s end, Connal said he expects every Stadium Court match to get network quality coverage.

“Our first goal is to maintain a certain level of expectation,” he said. “We want to produce a broadcast that is ‘A’ level. And then at the end of the day, you hope for good tennis. That goes a long way once you are on the air.”

(03/31/13)  NICK MCCARVEL: Burdette leads Americans into main draw at Family Circle Cup
It was a stellar day for the stars and stripes at the Family Circle Cup on Sunday as the qualifying draw wrapped up with four Americans booking spots in the main draw.

Mallory Burdette, the No. 2 seed, led the charge in qualifying with two straight-set victories, including a hard-fought win over compatriot Louisa Chirico, a 16-year-old wild card, on Althea Gibson Court.

Jessica Pegula, Vania King and Grace Min were all also winners, as were up-and-coming youngsters Caroline Garcia of France and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.

Securing the final spots in the main draw were Natassja Burnett and Teliana Pereira.

“The past couple of days have been great,” said Burdette, the world No. 104 and a former Stanford standout. “I’ve actually really enjoyed just being here and enjoying Charleston. I was relaxed and as prepared as I could have been.”

It’s the first-ever main draw appearance for Burdette, who used third-round runs at the U.S. Open and Indian Wells in the recent past to move up over 400 ranking spots.

“It’s difficult to transition to the clay from the hard court season,” said the Georgia native, whose mother grew up in Charleston. “It’s good to have these qualifying matches to work my way into the clay.”

Pegula, King and Min, who is an Atlanta native, all worked their way nicely into the main draw as well, something Burdette says motivates one another to work harder.

“Everyone is eating lunch together and warming up together and it’s really great to have a group come up together,” she said.

“None of us feel like we are the only American out there because we have peers all working together. It’s great to see that.”

Bouchard and Garcia are also two to watch during main draw play this week on Daniel Island. Bouchard is a 19-year-old from Montreal who won junior Wimbledon less than a year ago.

As for Garcia, the fellow 19-year-old has been hailed as a star on the rise since nearly upsetting Maria Sharapova at the 2011 French Open.

As for Burdette, she looks forward to a week of continued improvement.

“I want to go out there and enjoy being on the court,” she said. “I want to give it my best shot no matter who I play. I’m just going to give it my best shot — that’s all I can do.”

(03/31/13)  Porter-Gaud courts display top talent
High school tennis is one of the best things going in all of tennis. Yes, junior tennis can offer a supplement to age-group junior tournaments.

Everything that was needed to confirm this was on display on recent Monday and Tuesday afternoons at Porter-Gaud’s Albemarle Road tennis complex. One day, you could watch talented boys 16 national No. 5 player Hampton Drake from Hilton Head Christian going against the Cyclones’ Thomas Spratt in singles and doubles. The next day, Spratt was taking on boys 18 national No. 48 Andrew Schafer of Hilton Head Prep bound for the University of South Carolina tennis team.

Spratt, a senior headed for the University of Pennsylvania, lost both singles matches. But the 2012 Lowcountry player of the year out-performed both Drake and Schafer while notching a pair of doubles victories.

Although ranked “only” No. 164 in the country for 2012, Spratt is far above that level in the art of doubles. He is outstanding, a brilliant volleyer who plays big-time doubles.

Spratt is similar to two-time girls Lowcountry player of the air Narni Summerall of Ashley Hall in that aspect of tennis. Watch for Summerall to make an instant impact in doubles at Dartmouth next school year.

These two, Spratt and Summerall, may be as outstanding in doubles as any players to come through the Charleston junior ranks in a number of years.

As for Spratt, when one of his junior doubles partners, Marshall Sharp of Memphis, Tenn., discovered that Spratt was headed for Pennsylvania, Sharp quickly routed his plans for college to Philadelphia. That’s not surprising when you consider that the Spratt/Sharp team was a finalist in the national open in Orlando, Fla. It’s also a tall team, with Sharp just an inch shorter than the 6-6 Spratt.

With its back-to-back 6-3 victories over the two Hilton Head Island teams, Porter-Gaud is in good shape to defend its SCISA Class AAA state title. The Cyclones face their next big test on Thursday when they travel to Hilton Head Prep.

After that encounter, the currently unbeaten Cyclones will take a week off from the team schedule while Spratt and other individual players participate in the SCISA Open on April 9-10. The next encounter with Hilton Head Christian is scheduled for April 12 on Hilton Head Island. A split in the road trips to Hilton Head Island probably would assure the Cyclones of another region title and the top seeding in defense of their 2012 state title.

Local notes

• Venus Williams will be on hand at Tour Tennis’ Mount Pleasant store on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to meet and greet customers to promote her new apparel line EleVen, according to Tour Tennis owner Mike Palmer. Customers who purchase an EleVen product through Monday will be offered tickets to Venus’ Belle Station Boulevard appearance.

• Mixed doubles registrations are now underway in the Lowcountry Tennis Association. The 65-and-over league team-forming period will run through March 29, while the team registration period for all other mixed doubles teams will end on April 25. Judi Fillinger is the overall mixed doubles coordinator for mixed doubles.

• Diane Barker’s success story is continuing in Antalya, Turkey. She led the USTA’s women’s 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team to first place in the world team championships as the American women scored a 2-0 victory over Great Britain in the final. Former city of Charleston champion Sophie Woorons-Johnston, now of Anderson, played for the Suzanne Lenglen Cup 35-and-over team that came in third place in the team championships. The world individual championships are finishing up this weekend in Turkey, and world’s No. 1 Barker is the top seed in women’s 55.

• Charleston senior Brenda Carter is ranked 10th in the world in women’s 65. Carter recently won the women’s 65 U.S. closed clay court championship in Houston in singles and doubles.

• Senior stars Barker, Carter and Susie Peiffer, along with S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation chairman Ron Charron are among the early owners of South Carolina’s new “Play Tennis” license plate. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices.

• I’On tennis director Matt Hane (Diane Barker’s son) and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blankenbaker won the men’s 30 hard court nationals recently in Austin, Texas.

• The College of Charleston’s club team captured the USTA’s Tennis on Campus Southern championship recently in Auburn, Ala., with a 24-23 win over LSU. Club teams are made up of a minimum of two male and two female players. The C of C team earned a berth in the April 11-13 national championships in Surprise, Ariz.

• State top-ranked boys 18 Matthew Mendez gets to work personally with former world’s No. 1 Ivan Lendl each month as a member of Lendl’s International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island.

• The College of Charleston’s women’s team has lost former Lowcountry player of the year Jamie Harrell for the season to a shoulder injury.

• The Bees Landing Recreation Center will serve as host to its 2013 Golden Games on May 16. Seniors are being sought to compete in doubles in tennis. Contact Robert Gorski at 402-4571 for more information and to register.

• The Charleston County School District’s annual Superintendent’s Cup Tennis Tournament for teachers will be held May 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center, the St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground, and Maybank Tennis Center. Volunteer court monitors are needed.

(03/31/13)  PHILLIP BOWMAN: Pegula impressive in FCC qualifier
If you are strictly a tennis fan, you might not recognize the last name.  But if you are a hockey fan or a follower of the Forbes 400 list, well that's a different story.

Jessica Pegula is a promising player on the WTA Tour who is starting to climb the rankings ladder. But it wasn't that long ago that the 18-year-old was best known as being the daughter of Terry Pegula. He checks in as the No. 132 richest person in the United States, according to Forbes. He also owns the Buffalo Sabres.

The younger Pegula is developing an identity of her own, and she could enhance it with a strong performance at the Family Circle Cup. She played longtime Family Circle Cup veteran Jill Craybas Saturday in a qualifier on the Althea Gibson Court and posted a 6-2, 6-2 victory. Craybas was ranked No. 39 in the world in April 2006 but has slipped in recent years. Craybas, who turns 39 on July 4, has fallen to No. 222 in the world and owns a 4-7 record.

Pegula, meanwhile, is climbing the charts with a bullet, and one reason is her work ethic. She played in a match that started at 10 a.m. and hit the practice courts at 5 p.m. under the watchful eye of coach Michael Joyce, who also coached Maria Sharapova.

"You have to work, but you have to have talent," Pegula said. "You just can't come out and hit the ball. You have to use your game. You have to develop your strengths. Everyone has to work at it, even the top players in the world."

Pegula recently was ranked No. 306 in the world when she became the lowest-ranked woman to qualify for the main draw of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open, which was held in Indian Wells, Calif. She had a strong performance and climbed to No. 147.

"The past year has worked out well for me," Pegula said. "I climbed into the top 150, but this year I have to play better because I'm going to face better players day in, day out. It's going to be a challenge."

Saturday's qualifier began with overcast skies and cool weather. But by noon, it was tennis nirvana with abundant sunshine and an improving temperature. The first day of competition attracted 6,032 fans and many turned out to watch Daniel Island resident Shelby Rogers's bid to reach the main draw for the second time in three years.  Rogers had the momentum and crowd support in her match against fellow American Grace Min.  But that wasn't enough for Rogers, who dropped a 7-6, 6-2 decision in front of a big crowd at the Althea Gibson Court.  She rallied from three games down in the first set to tie it at 6-6, but lost the tie-breaker and the momentum.

"I got down early and had a rough start," Rogers said. "She gave me some opportunities. I just didn't capitalize on them. There were some key points. I just didn't come out on the positive side."

Rogers said she will remain in town and watch her friends compete in the main draw.

"I have a whole tennis career in front of me," she said. "It's back to training. But first, I'm going to stick around and watch some tennis."

(03/30/13)  Rogers ready for run at Family Circle Cup
Shelby Rogers will be a full-time tennis player and part-time concierge this weekend.

The 20-year-old Daniel Island resident will play in today's Family Circle Cup qualifier and is bidding to make the main draw, which commences Monday.  It's no secret on the WTA Tour that Rogers is a Lowcountry native and knows the hot spots for fine dining and shopping.

"Everybody asks, 'Where's the best place to shop? Where's the best place to eat?' " Rogers said. "I know the spots. But when it comes to restaurants, I tell them they have to be specific because there are so many great places to eat."

Rogers is in a great place. She grew up dreaming of life on the WTA Tour. She was a ball girl in 2001 when the Family Circle Cup made its debut in Charleston, and presented '01 champion Jennifer Capriati with a bouquet of flowers.

She played in her first Family Cup qualifier in 2010 and lost a three-set decision to fellow American Christina McHale in front of approximately 2,500 fans at Althea Gibson Club Court.  The next year, Rogers reached the main event.

She grew up in the shadow of the Stadium Court and made it her stage in a first-round match against Jill Craybas. Rogers took the first set but succumbed to the veteran, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

"That was a great moment," Rogers said. "I had friends, family and the whole crowd behind me. But I had so many emotions. People don't realize what runs through your mind. You are living your dream, but the emotion and enormity of the situation can overwhelm you."

Rogers returns home hoping to jump start her season. She is 0-4 on the WTA Tour and has won only $5,563 in 2013 to push her career earnings to $80,010. She says playing in her hometown gives her some advantages.

"I'm five minutes from home," she said. "I can get a good, home-cooked meal, sleep in my bed and drive my car. It makes me a little more relaxed."

Her career highlight came in 2010 when she received a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open, but was defeated by Peng Shuai, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3.

"It was incredible to play in a Grand Slam event," Rogers said. "But other than winning a Grand Slam, winning the Family Circle Cup would be the most amazing thing. To have a whole city behind you is incredible."

Rogers knows this year's field is stacked with heavyweights. There are six past Cup champions in the field - Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sabine Lisicki, Jelena Jankovic, Sam Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki.

"Anytime you are in a tournament, you play to win," Rogers said. "I will do the best I can, but I can't put too much pressure on myself."

Qualifying matches begin today at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10.

Errani withdraws
World No. 7 Sara Errani withdrew from the Family Circle Cup due to a right thigh injury.  Errani was to make her second appearance in Charleston.

"I'm very disappointed to have to withdraw from a great event like Charleston," said Errani. "During my doubles match (in Miami on Friday) in the second set we had one long point and I thought the adductor was not feeling right."

(03/30/13)  DAVID QUICK: Better weather, lots of kids events draw crowds to first day of Family Circle Cup tennis tournament
Sisters Sherry Monroe and Helen Whatley admit it: They are tennis addicts, and they sure demonstrated it at Saturday’s opening day of the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament.

With qualifying matches all around, Monroe and Whatley, along with Monroe’s daughter, grandson, granddaughter and grand-nephew, were gathered in front of a TV screen watching another tennis tournament, the Sony Open in Miami, cheering Serena Williams to victory over Maria Sharapova.
Photo Gallery

    Family Circle Cup: Day One

    Alexis DeMarco, 11, of Charleston, competes in the Alexis DeMarco, 11, of Charleston, competes in the "Serve Return Survivor" contest where kids take turns returning a serve from a machine, starting at 60 miles per hour and going up five miles per hour each turn.

    In what has become a tradition, kids help draw names during a pairings ceremony at Family Circle Cup. Many were eager to help out.

Magician Chaz Misenheimer of Richfield, N.C., gets kids to use their own power to make a pencil move in his hand during a performance at the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament on Saturday.

    A large crowd came out Saturday to support former ball girl and current professional player Shelby Rogers of Daniel Island at her qualifying match at the Family Circle Cup.

“Right after this, we expect them to pack their gear and come to Charleston,” said Monroe, in anticipation of watching many of the top players, including Williams, this week.

Before and after that match, the family immersed themselves in all things tennis, which included an array of tennis-related activities.

The highlight for granddaughter Jada Brown, who plays in the city of Charleston’s “Courting Kids” tennis program and last year won the Arthur Ashe essay contest, was getting a tennis ball autographed by 24-year-old Vania King.

While Monroe and Whatley have long purchased a championship package to watch matches on finals weekend, the Saturday of qualifying weekend is all for the kids.

That’s what Family Circle Cup’s Bob Moran said the tournament is trying to do by increasing the number of activities for children on qualifying weekend.

“Hey, it’s our next generation of fans, so we want to get them comfortable coming out to watch and play tennis,” said Moran, noting that the tournament added more activities for children to make qualifying weekend family friendly.

Today at noon, for example, the tournament will host an Easter egg hunt with 4,000 eggs.

Moran said another factor played more of a role in Saturday’s crowds.

“Weather drives everything, and it’s nice to have it a little warmer this weekend than it’s been (earlier) this week,” said Moran.

Some activities on Saturday didn’t involve tennis at all. Magician Chaz Misenheimer, of Richfield, N.C., was drawing crowds with his shows.

“I’ve been coming to Family Circle for years. It’s always been a favorite of mine because people come to the tournament with a magical frame of mind, so it doesn’t take much for me to take them on a little trip,” said Misenheimer.

In fact, making some kids happy sometimes just involves an aspiring tennis star handing them a tennis ball or signing one.

That’s what Australian Anastasia Rodionova did for brothers Brody and Chase Tonon, ages 6 and 4, respectively, of Daniel Island, as their mother enjoyed lunch nearby.

“It’s the simple things that make them happy,” said Lisa Tonon.

That was evident too as 2-year-old Anna Riely decorated a cookie and ate it as her grandmother Kathy Zalinski watched with a smile.

“I haven’t watched any of the tennis. My husband and Anna’s parents are, but grandma is doing this — what could be better?” said Zalinski. “I think (the Family Circle Cup) is wonderful because there’s something for everyone, for every age group.”

(03/30/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Another Family Circle Cup for Serena and Venus, and maybe the 2016 Olympics
Serena Williams is rolling in from Key Biscayne.

Venus Williams is back, too, but with a backache.

That the greatest sibling tandem in sports remains formidable is a modern tennis marvel. Catch the Charleston fan favorites while you have the chance.

“People gave the sisters a tough time for not playing more tournaments, but look at their longevity,” Family Circle Cup General Manager Bob Moran said. “How many players these days are playing to their level? And both are in their 30’s.”

The Family Circle Cup begins Monday on Daniel Island with defending champion Serena Williams ranked No. 1 and hoping to maintain momentum that includes Saturday’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Maria Sharapova in Miami’s Sony Open final.

Longevity is painful at times. Venus Williams, No. 18, had to withdraw from a third-round match in Miami against rising star Sloane Stephens. She hopes to recover from a lower back injury in time for a Family Circle Cup match Tuesday or Wednesday.

“That’s always a concern,” Venus said last in Miami when asked about lingering injury worries, “but I have dealt with injuries before in my whole career. I feel like also I know how to hopefully recover quickly from them.”

That would suit Lowcountry tennis enthusiasts. Most are aware that Serena owns 15 Grand Slam singles titles and Venus seven, and that the sisters have championed several South Carolina charities.

Venus got the home-crowd treatment when she won the 2004 Family Circle Cup title in 2004, and Serena bonded with stadium court fans on the way to titles in 2008 and last April.

Regardless of what happens on the court, there are a few off-court Venus Williams guarantees this year. She will participate in a Monday exhibition match with four Charleston women to showcase her EleVen apparel line (Althea Gibson Court, 4:30-6 p.m.) and will appear at Tour Tennis on Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a meet and greet session, another EleVen promotion.

‘An amazing dream’

The Family Circle Cup last year almost got that rarest of Williams treats, a sister vs. sister showdown. But Venus lost a three-set match to Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals before Serena made short work of Stosur in the semis, winning 6-1, 6-1.

Venus is 32. Beyond common tennis ailments, she was diagnosed in 2011 with Sjogren’s syndrome, an incurable autoimmune disease.

Serena, 31, and has had back issues herself, notably in January during her quarterfinals loss to Stephens at the Australian Open when “it just totally locked up.”

“Oh, my gosh,” a frustrated Williams said after the Stephens match, “I’m almost relieved that it’s over because there’s only so much I felt I could do.”

The Williams sisters got collectively healthy enough last summer to win the doubles gold medal at the Olympics (Serena also won singles gold).

Winning in London was motivation at last year’s Family Circle Cup and at other tournaments before the Olympics.

“Every time I thought that I was getting close to losing, I would think about the Olympics literally and find a way to win the match,” Venus Williams said after claiming gold. “It was very close competition to get in here from the U.S. and get my ranking up enough. It was tough. But I’m here. It’s all I wanted. Just to arrive here was an amazing dream. To bring home a gold is just crazy.”

Venus and Serena also won the doubles gold medal in 2000 in Sydney and in 2008 in Beijing.

Sloane’s wall

Rio de Janeiro in 2016 is a possibility.

“With the doubles partner I have, absolutely,” Venus said. “But that’s what we want.

I think nowadays tennis players are seeing that you can play great tennis into your 30s. I think a lot of people were brainwashed early that you had to quit. It’s really not the way it is.”

Big sister still has it; Venus uncorked a 125 mph serve in a U.S. Open victory over fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands last year.

“The Williams sisters represent U.S. tennis right now, both on a women’s side and a men’s side,” Moran said. “They are inspiring the next generation which you can see coming into effect right now with Sloane Stephens. Sloane had their pictures on her wall when she was growing up. Now she’s a top 20 player at age 20. Sloane isn’t the only one, look at all the young Americans in the Top 100 right now. Youth today need to be inspired and they’ve certainly done that.”

Both Williams over the years seem to have gained an appreciation for tennis history and how they fit. Venus recently was asked about Stephens and comparisons to a young Serena.

“Well, I think Serena is an unbelievable player and a legend,” Venus said. “If anyone has the opportunity to be compared to her, it’s definitely a good sign.”

For now, the legend plays on, larger than life, with her nearly as legendary sister in tow.

(03/30/13)  PHILIP BOWMAN: No surprise: Serena No. 1 seed in Family Circle Cup
Serena Williams scored a victory over Maria Sharapova today to win the Sony Open Tennis title.

Just a few hours later, she secured the No. 1 seed in the 41st annual Family Circle Cup.

Williams topped Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 to gain a record sixth Sony title. It was her 49th title overall.

Now she turns her attention to Charleston to defend her Family Circle Cup championship. She’s the No. 1 seed and ranked No. 1 in the world. She won the 2008 Family Circle title in 2008.

Caroline Caroline Wozniacki, the 2011 Family Circle Cup champion, is the No. 2 seed.

The tournament extended a main draw wild card to Wozniacki, who is the ninth-ranked player in the world. This will be her fourth appearance in the Family Circle Cup, where she boasts a 12-2 record and an active five-match win streak.

Williams and Wozniacki are two of six past champions in the 2013 tournament. The others are Venus Williams, Sabine Lisicki, Jelena Jankovic and Sam Stosur.

Stosur is the No. 3 seed and Sloan Stephens is No. 4.

(03/30/13)  PHILIP BOWMAN: Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers bids for spot in Family Circle Cup main draw
Shelby Rogers will be a full-time tennis player and part-time concierge this weekend.

What: Qualifying rounds
Where: Family Circle Tennis Center
When: Today (matches begin at 10 a.m.) and Sunday (begin at 1 p.m.)
Tickets: $10 each day
Information: (843) 849-5308 or familycirclecup.com

The 20-year-old Daniel Island resident will play in today’s Family Circle Cup qualifier and is bidding to make the main draw, which commences Monday.

Family Circle Cup coverage

For complete coverage of the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament, go to postandcourier.com/familycirclecup.

It’s no secret on the WTA Tour that Rogers is a Lowcountry native and knows the hot spots for fine dining and shopping.

“Everybody asks, ‘Where’s the best place to shop? Where’s the best place to eat?’ ” Rogers said. “I know the spots. But when it comes to restaurants, I tell them they have to be specific because there are so many great places to eat.”

Rogers is in a great place. She grew up dreaming of life on the WTA Tour. She was a ball girl in 2001 when the Family Circle Cup made its debut in Charleston, and presented ’01 champion Jennifer Capriati with a bouquet of flowers.

She played in her first Family Cup qualifier in 2010 and lost a three-set decision to fellow American Christina McHale in front of approximately 2,500 fans at Althea Gibson Club Court.

The next year, Rogers reached the main event. She grew up in the shadow of the Stadium Court and made it her stage in a first-round match against Jill Craybas. Rogers took the first set but succumbed to the veteran, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

“That was a great moment,” Rogers said. “I had friends, family and the whole crowd behind me. But I had so many emotions. People don’t realize what runs through your mind. You are living your dream, but the emotion and enormity of the situation can overwhelm you.”

Rogers returns home hoping to jump start her season. She is 0-4 on the WTA Tour and has won only $5,563 in 2013 to push her career earnings to $80,010. She says playing in her hometown gives her some advantages.

“I’m five minutes from home,” she said. “I can get a good, home-cooked meal, sleep in my bed and drive my car. It makes me a little more relaxed.”

Her career highlight came in 2010 when she received a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open, but was defeated by Peng Shuai, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3.

“It was incredible to play in a Grand Slam event,” Rogers said. “But other than winning a Grand Slam, winning the Family Circle Cup would be the most amazing thing. To have a whole city behind you is incredible.”

Rogers knows this year’s field is stacked with heavyweights. There are six past Cup champions in the field — Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Sabine Lisicki, Jelena Jankovic, Sam Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki.

“Anytime you are in a tournament, you play to win,” Rogers said. “I will do the best I can, but I can’t put too much pressure on myself.”

Qualifying matches begin today at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10.

Errani withdraws

World No. 7 Sara Errani withdrew from the Family Circle Cup due to a right thigh injury.

Errani was to make her second appearance in Charleston.

“I’m very disappointed to have to withdraw from a great event like Charleston,” said Errani. “During my doubles match (in Miami on Friday) in the second set we had one long point and I thought the adductor was not feeling right.”

(03/28/13)  GOOSE CREEK GAZETTE: Crowfield tennis courts to be resurfaced for $25K
The bright pop of the yellow ball that gets flung from one side of the court to the other while traveling over the net will likely be paused for about a week sometime in April.

That’s when Goose Creek Recreation Director Gary Stuber expects resurfacing work to being on the four tennis courts at the city-owned Crowfield Golf and Country Club.

The courts have several cracks and dips. They have not been resurfaced since the city bought the country club in 2003, Stuber said.

At its March 12 meeting Goose Creek City Council unanimously approved a request from the recreation department to spend $25,400 to resurface the courts.

“The farthest one on the right has a crack running down one side of it,” Stuber said. “One of the other ones in the middle has a patch three to four feet in diameter that has come loose.”

Tennis courts are usually resurfaced every 15 years, he said. All four courts will be resurfaced at the same time.

Stuber said the courts are open to residents of Goose Creek and non-residents can play for a nominal fee. “It’s like the pool,” he said. “The city owns them. I don’t think residents realize they have access to those.”

Currently about 50 to 75 people pay their dues to be a member on tennis teams that play at Crowfield, Stuber said, adding that they are mostly men’s and women’s adult teams.

Stuber said at the moment he’s not entirely sure when the work will begin but said he expects it will take a few weeks for the materials to arrive. He said the two tennis courts at the Casey Center also need to be redone at some point in the future. The Casey Center courts were built on sub-par surface. They were built on dirt and have a tendency to sink, Stuber said.

In order to do the resurfacing job properly there the subsoil would need to be dug up. “At the Casey Center right now with rain you can see water coming up through the tennis courts,” he said. “That’s not supposed to happen.

“When you get a rain and in the summer when the sun’s really hot you can see it. There’s a whole method to this thing. At one point there’s a crack running down the middle of the court. A crack that’s an inch wide this year and two inches next year.

“I hope in the future we look at doing other things. It all depends on money and what happens in the future. Crowfield has better dirt underneath. It’s like asphalt. Rain gets in there and it moves around and there’s holes and cracks in it.”

(03/28/13)  JADE MCDUFFIE: Family Circle Cup offers entertainment beyond tennis
The Family Circle Cup has been around for more than four decades, but it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
If you go

What: Family Circle Cup
When: Saturday-April 7
Where: Family Circle Tennis Center, 161 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island
Price: $10-$80 for individual events; $90-$525 for ticket packages
more info: www.familycirclecup.com

The 41st year of the event will not only satisfy tennis enthusiasts, but also includes family-friendly events, new themed nights and a street party.

“We’re about adding more value and entertainment for the consumer,” tournament director and general manager Bob Moran said.

Last year, 87,972 people enjoyed the largest women’s-only tennis tournament, and Moran said ticket sales are already 10 percent to 12 percent ahead of last year. Numbers were lower last year because one day was rained out.

The nine-day event will kick-off at 3 p.m. Saturday with the Drawing Ceremony on the Grand Lawn. Players will have their names drawn to find out who they will compete against and will pose for pictures.

Finals are scheduled for April 7.

The event coincides with Easter and the Cooper River Bridge Run this year, but Moran said they have turned what would seem to be a negative into a positive by working with the two. There will be an Easter egg hunt on Sunday on the Grand Lawn that’s free for kids under 12 and $10 for the rest of the family. It’s one of many events scheduled during Family Weekend.

And perhaps the most anticipated event, other than the matches, of course, is the Street Party Kick-Off to Semifinals, also dubbed the official Bridge Run after-party, on April 6.

If you’re running that day, you can park on Daniel Island and take a shuttle to the race’s starting line, then ride the shuttle back to continue the day at the Family Circle Cup. And don’t throw that bib away because VIP treatment will be given to those wearing runner’s bibs. If you’re not running that day, you still can head out to the island and take part in the fun.

Moran said the games will be more engaging and interactive this year, too.

He has three people on his team devoted to social media. You can follow them on Twitter @FamilyCircleCup and like Family Circle Cup on Facebook, and they will send game updates “as fresh as we can have it.” There also will be text-to-win contests on the video boards, mobile website and QR codes.

Moran said young athletes, such as 20-year-old Sloan Stevens, inspired them to branch out and host more activities outside of the games.

“For the first time in a long time, we have young Americans firing up in the ranks,” he said.

And, of course, the swarms of fans who attend the matches year after year are an inspiration. Since the event has been around for 41 years, Moran said they are now working will with their creative partners to make it an event children will want to continue to go to when they’re older.

“We know we have the true tennis fans. In order for an event to be successful, you’ve got to create an overall fan experience. If they know they can come out and have a good experience with their friends and their kids, we know we’ll do well,” he said.

Special events

Family Weekend
What: Enjoy two fun-filled days of balloon artists, spring craft stations, face-painting, cookie decorating, magicians, jump castles and more interactive activities.
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: To be announced
Price: $10 for adults, free admission for kids 12 and under

Easter Egg Hunt
What: Take part in an Easter egg hunt and make sure you stick around for a special visit from the Easter Bunny.
When: Noon Sunday
Where: Grand Lawn
Price: Part of Family Weekend; $10 for adults, free admission for kids 12 and under

Eleven Exhibition Match
What: A World Team Tennis-style exhibition featuring Venus Williams, Johanna Konta and eight local women styled in Venus’ 2013 Eleven clothing line.
When: 4:30-6 p.m. Monday
Where: Althea Gibson Court

Happy Hour
What: Featuring drink specials, beverage tastings and live music, this will be the place to be. The live music lineup is as follows: Calvin Taylor on Tuesday, Blue Dogs Acoustic Trio on Wednesday, Travis Allison on April 4 and Permanent Vacation on April 5.
When: 4-8 p.m. Tuesday-April 5
Where: Racquet Club Bar on the Grand Lawn

Street Party Kick-Off
What: In a joint effort between the Family Circle Cup and the Cooper River Bridge Run, join thousands of fellow runners and fans for an afternoon of live music, food, drinks and fun after the run. Live music will be provided by Soul Fish. And those still wearing their runner bibs will be given VIP treatment.
When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. April 6
Where: Daniel Island
Price: $40 includes ticket to Family Circle Cup semifinals and entrance to Bridge Run After-party

USC Night
What: Young American Sloane Stephens competes in her first singles match; two players from the University of South Carolina will take on a world-class professional doubles team.
When: 7-10 p.m. Tuesday
Price: $20 with a USC student ID.

Military Appreciation Night
What: In honor of their service, active duty military and their families will be given complementary admission.
When: 7-10 p.m. Wednesday
Price: Free for active-duty military and their family.

Pink Out Night
What: The stadium is looking to pink out. Attendees are encouraged to don their brightest pink in support of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Lowcountry Affiliate. For everyone wearing pink or who purchases the pink drink of the night, $1 will be donated to cancer research, community health outreach, advocacy and programs.
When: 7-10 p.m. April 4

SunTrust Night
What: SunTrust promises to pump up the energy, even when there is a break in the action.
When: 7-10 p.m. April 5

(03/27/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Young Americans: Sloane Stephens leads WTA cast of rising stars
New expectations mean new challenges for new tennis stars.

Sloane Stephens found out at Indian Wells in February, the No. 16-ranked player in the world having to explain herself after a loss to Poland’s Urszula Radwanska.

For Stephens, 20, it was her first match on American soil since she stunned top-ranked Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

“Just struggling,” Stephens said after her early exit from the California tournament.

She pointed out that an early round night match was different for someone familiar with playing in the morning on “Court Timbuktu back there.”

“It’s definitely tough,” Stephens said of the upset. “But I guess that’s just what happens when you’re slightly good.”

Adversity in rarefied rankings air is fair trade-off for young U.S. players and their American fans waiting patiently for the post-Williams wave of top talent.

Stephens is leading an American charge that also includes Family Circle Cup participants Vavara Lepchenko, Christina McHale, Jamie Hampton, Madison Keys and Melanie Oudin.

Lepchenko is 26, the others are 23 or younger.

“I’m really happy that the American ladies are stepping up and doing pretty good,” Serena Williams, 32, said at the Australian Open.

Stephens grew up in South Florida with a poster of Serena in her room, and an exceptional athletic edge. Her mother Sybil was a standout swimmer at Boston University. Her father John Stephens was an NFL running back for the Patriots, Chiefs and Packers from 1988-1993. She learned tennis from her stepfather, Sheldon Smith.

Pain has also been part of the growing process for Stephens. Her stepfather died in 2007 after a two-year fight with cancer. Her father died in an auto accident in 2009.

But the 5-7, 135-pound Stephens has grown into a poised woman with a well-rounded game suited for any surface. She was showing potential at the 2011 Family Circle Cup — known for attracting rising stars from all nations — when she lost to Shuai Peng in the Round of 64.

“It’s been fun, but all I wanted to do is play tennis,” she said at Indian Wells, when asked about the notoriety that followed her Australian Open performance. “I don’t care about all this other stuff. I just want to be on the court, have fun, enjoy myself, play like how I played in Australia. And just do what I was doing before all this happened.”

Melbourne certainly was magical. Though Serena Williams was nagged by back problems at the Australian Open, the favorite took the first set. It was by far the biggest win for Stephens, still looking for her first WTA singles title.

“I think I was convinced that I was able to do it when I lost serve in the first game in the second set and I went down 2-0,” Stephens said. “And I was like, ‘Hmm … this is not the way you want it to happen.’ But you just fight and just get every ball back, run every ball down, and just get a lot of balls in play, From then on I got aggressive, started coming to the net more, and just got a lot more comfortable.”

Stephens and the other young Americans have spent the last few formative years playing against each other and as teammates.

Stephens, McHale, Lepchenko, Oudin and Hampton have played on various U.S. Fed Cup teams since 2011.McHale and Lepchenko joined the Williams sisters on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in London.

Two of the players were born abroad, Lepchenko in Uzbekistan and Hampton on a U.S. Army base in Germany. Lepchenko has lived in the U.S. since 2001 and became a citizen in 2007.

McHale has something of a reverse international twist. She was born in New Jersey, but as a 3-year-old moved to Hong Kong with her family when her father had a job transfer. McHale began playing tennis at a Hong Kong condo complex and moved back to the U.S. at 9.

Lepchenko vaulted from 110 in the WTA rankings after 2011 to 21 last year. Hampton, No. 64, jumped from 171 in the 2011 rankings to 77 in 2012. Oudin had great runs at the Family Circle Cup in 2010, reaching the quarterfinals (lost to Vera Zvonareva) and in 2009, reaching the Round of 16 (lost to Marion Bartoli).

(03/27/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: WTA player tweets add to Family Circle Cup flavor
Family Circle Cup @FamilyCircleCup
Women’s Tennis Association @wta
Serena Williams @serenawilliams
Venus Williams @VenusesWilliams
Sloane Stephens @sloanetweets
Jelena Jankovic @jelena_jankovic
Sabine Lisicki @sabinelisicki
Lisa Raymond @lisaraymond73
Sara Errani @saraerrani
Julia Goerges @juliagoerges
Christina McHale @ChristinaMcHale
Caroline Wozniacki @CaroWozniacki

Post and Courier staff
The Post and Courier @postandcourier
Gene Sapakoff @sapakoff
Jeff Hartsell @Jeff_fromthePC
Phil Bowman @PandCPhil
Andrew Miller @APMILLER_PandC
Tommy Braswell @braswellsports
Use the hashtag #2013FCC to find updates from Daniel Island.

Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) took to Twitter to show her appreciation before the sun set on her 2012 Family Circle Cup singles final victory over Lucie Safarova.

“Thanks everyone for the support this week at the @FamilyCircleCup it was an amazing week. I love u all xx S,” she posted.

Live scoring and expanded web television coverage are great, but Twitter chatter adds to Family Circle Cup fun as players with worldwide appeal reach out.

When Serena tweets, it’s to more than 3.5 million followers.

Venus Williams — aka @Venuseswilliams — has almost 929,000 followers.

Venus celebrated her return to Daniel Island last April, with her cute Havanese dog.

“So happy to be back in Charleston for the first time since 2009! Harold is pretty happy too actually :)”

Lisa Raymond (@lisaraymond73), annually one of the top doubles players on tour, regularly provides photos (tennis, nature, city scenes)

Sabine Lisicki (@sabinelisicki) recently summarized the life of a tennis pro: “Good morning dear jetlag …”

Or, you can get updates on the whereabouts of men’s professional tennis stars.

From: Sloane Stephens (@sloanetweets), “I swear I saw @MardyFish at the gas station this morning!”

Stephens saw her Twitter fan count double over just a few days in January, from 17,000 before her Australian Open quarterfinals upset of Serena Williams to 35,000 after the match.

Shaquille O’Neal (@shaq) offered congrats: “When you defeat a legend, you become a legend. Keep it going.”

Christina McHale (@ChristinaMcHale), another rising American star, describes herself on Twitter as “American tennis player, Yankees fan” And you get photos with McHale tweets, such as the shot of Christina and the legendary Steffi Graf accompanying the “Practiced with Steffi yesterday!” news.

Jelena Jankovic (@jelena_jankovic), the 2007 Family Circle Cup champ, is great with tweet pics, too.

From the Olympics. From a Katy Perry (@katyperry) concert. From Fed Cup play: “We are ready for battle with the Russians!”

Former No. 1 player and 2011 Family Circle Cup champion Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) has 475,000-plus followers. Doubtless, some of those people are monitoring her romance with Rory McIlroy (@Rory Mcilroy).

“Anyone knows which channel they are showing the golf?” she tweeted last August, the day before Rory hit his first Ocean Course shot at the 2012 PGA Championship. McIlroy won, making Caroline and Rory the ultimate Charleston sports power couple.

(03/27/13)  STAFF REPORTS: Family Circle Cup activities
What’s Going on?

Saturday, March 30
• Draw Ceremony. On the Grand Lawn (3 p.m.-4 p.m.). Players drawn to determine the bracket. Includes player appearances.
• Qualifying rounds. Free admission for kids 12 and under, adults $10. Featuring balloon artists, spring craft stations, face painting, cookie decorating, magicians and jump castles.

Sunday, March 31
• Easter Egg Hunt, noon on the Grand Lawn.
• Qualifying rounds. Free admission for kids 12 and under, adults $10.

Monday, April 1
• Kids Day (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Courts are set up for kids to compete in games and tennis competitions. 12-and-under enter free.
• Winning Doubles Luncheon (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). Behind–the–scenes perspectives from top WTA doubles players. Tickets are $50 and include lunch, presentation, autograph session and a Dunlop Ladies M-Fil racquet (does not include daily session ticket).

Tuesday, April 2
• USC Night. Special main draw doubles match featuring two players from the University of South Carolina taking on a world class professional doubles team. Discounted tickets for USC students.
• Winning Doubles Luncheon (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.).

Wednesday, April 3
• Military Appreciation Night, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Complimentary admission for members of the Armed Forces.

Thursday, April 4
• Pink Out Night for the Cure, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. For each person who enters wearing pink on PINK OUT Komen Night, the Family Circle Cup and MUSC Hollings Cancer Center will donate $1 to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Friday, April 5
• SunTrust Night, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Lots of energy pumping fun on the court and in the stands during breaks in the tennis action.

Saturday, April 6
• Semifinals Street Party, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Live music and street fare.

(03/27/13)  GENE SAPAKOFF: Family Circle Cup Notes
No surprise that the 2013 Family Circle Cup field draws players from 28 countries — women’s tennis has world-wide appeal.

But 2013 Cup patrons come from faraway, too, representing 40 states and Washington, D.C. Cup officials report that 62 percent of the ticket buyers are return patrons.

As of press time, the 10 states without ticket-purchasers were Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Of course, it’s still early. Don’t count out those racket-toting fans from Cheyenne, Fairbanks and Fargo until the third set of the singles final.

Yummy fun

The Family Circle Cup never disappoints when it comes to food options. This year, newcomers and old favorites unite.

Themed dining areas are the 2013 theme:
Coffee N’ Cream: Gourmet coffee, or ice cream and a self-serve toppings bar.
Clos du Bois Corner: Located on the terrace level of the stadium, offering premium wine and craft beer with a view of Billie Jean King Court.
The Racquet Club: On the Grand Lawn with a full-service bar, TVs with live camera of Cup action. Drink specials nightly.
Althea Gibson Club Court: Hubee D’s.
Stadium Dining: Half Court Hot Dogs, Verde Salad Station.
Food Court: Chick-fil-A, Crepe Express, Daniel Island Grille, Zeus Grill.
On The Go: Diegos Frozen Drinks, Good and Cold Italian Ice, Mountain Top, Papa Johns Pizza, T & T Kettle Korn.

Bridge Run adjustment

The Family Circle Cup has altered its semifinal Saturday schedule, partly to mesh with the Cooper River Bridge Run that morning.

The first of two semifinals is set for a 1 p.m. start this year, a change from 11 a.m. at past tournaments.

“We want to give people a chance to take part in the Bridge Run,” Family Circle Cup General Manager Bob Moran said. “And, of course, we hope a lot of people in town for the Bridge Run also come and watch some very good tennis.”

The later semifinal schedule means no Saturday night exhibition matches. Stars such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Anna Kournikova have taken part the last few years.

Start the music

Live music is a nightly Family Circle Cup staple, complete with drink specials. Happy Hours are from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., including craft beer brewed by Holy City Brewing and specialty cocktails.

The music schedule:
April 2 — Calvin Taylor
April 3 — Blue Dogs Acoustic Trio
April 4 – Travis Allison
April 5 — Permanent Vacation

Venus fashion statement

Venus Williams, former No. 1 player and Charleston fan favorite, will showcase her EleVen apparel line with an exhibition match Monday, April 1, from 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

Williams will play alongside four Charleston women on the Althea Gibson Court. All the players will be dressed in styles from the Spring 2013 collection of EleVen By Venus Williams and the apparel will be on-sale during the match as well as throughout the week in the tournament merchandise tent.

11 a.m. doubles final

The doubles final starts at 11 a.m. this year, a Sunday departure. In past years it has been played after the 1 p.m. singles final. The tricky part comes if a doubles finalist makes the singles final.

Shop ’til you drop

Shopping variety is the spice of the Cup.

The Family Circle Cup Merchandise Tent offers the latest fashions in tennis clothing, including Your Serve, a new vendor to Charleston. Popular brands include Nike and Antigua.

The Match Point Market is located adjacent to Stadium Court, with a row of boutique vendors unique to Charleston and the Family Circle Cup. The lineup includes KikiSol, Rewined Candles, Theodosia Jewelry, Lowcountry Olive Oil, Mary Mojo Boutique, The Hat Cottage and Baseline Boutique.

Pronunciations; when in doubt, go with first names.  But here is a little help:
Sara Errani (eh-RAH-nee)
Anabel Medina Garrigues (ga-REE-gez)
Julia Goerges (ger-gess)
Daniela Hauntuchova (HAN-too-koh-vuh)
Liezel Huber (LEE-zel HOO-ber)
Jelena Jankovic (YELL-e-nuh YANK-ko-vich)
Kaia Kanepi (KEYE-ah ka-NEP-i)
Sabine Lisicki (za-BEE-nuh LEE-zi-kee)
Francesca Schiavone (skee-ah-VOH-nay)

(03/26/13)  Prep Zone: Boys Tennis
SOUTH AIKEN 5, BISHOP ENGLAND 1SINGLES: Lucas Zalesky (BE) def. Jordan Dingle (SA) 6-4, 2-6, 13-11; Stefan Zatovic (SA) def. Noah Stieple (BE) 7-6, 6-3; Preston Tiffany (SA) def. Jack Roberts (BE) 6-2, 6-2; Petar Zatovic (SA) def. Jeff Jones (BE) 6-2, 6-3; Jonny Bowman (SA) def. Tristan Fletcher (BE) 6-0, 6-0.DOUBLES: Marko Zatovic; Zach Thatcher (SA) def. Will Ranson; Payton Warren (BE), 6-1, 6-1;Records: Bishop England (7-3). Next: Bishop England hosts Palmetto Christian today.

(03/17/13)  Will Rogers receive Family Circle wild card?
The Family Circle Cup is only two weeks away. Everyone knows that Maria Sharapova likely will miss the big event on Daniel Island again, and that Serena and Venus Williams are the headliners committed to the $795,000 WTA Tour tournament, the main draw for which begins on April 1.

But questions still remain. What is the condition of 2010 champion Samantha Stosur's right calf after she withdrew from Indian Wells' quarterfinals? That's a good question since top-ranked Serena Williams and clay-court specialist Sara Errani are the only other top 10 players slated to be in Charleston.

Also, how is 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki recovering from the viral illness that sidelined her at Indian Wells?

But for local tennis fans, the big question may be whether the Family Circle Cup will award 20-year-old Daniel Island product Shelby Rogers a wild card into the tournament's main draw.

Rogers is holding her own on the WTA Tour. Although she has suffered losses in her last five matches, her ranking has remained near her career-best (No. 207). She is currently ranked 219th in the world.

When reached Saturday, Rogers was just hoping to get into the Family Circle's qualifying tournament. She is currently at Innisbrook, Fla., preparing for Tuesday's start of a $25,000 challenger at the Florida resort.

Ten in top 100

Most of the players ranked below top three Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova in the top 10 aren't household names. But to Americans, that might change in the near future.

The Williams sisters may be getting company soon as American headliners. Eight other Americans now occupy places among the world's top 100. Six of the other eight women are among the entries in the Family Circle Cup.

Talented, young Sloane Stephens is probably the brightest U.S. hope other than Serena and Venus. After Stephens' sterling play in the Australian Open, she is ranked 17th in the world.

Probably the least known of the entire group of Americans in the top 100 is 26-year-old Varvara Lepchenko, a 5-11 left-hander from Allentown, Pa., by way of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She is ranked 26th.

The other Americans in the top 100 currently headed for Charleston are Christina McHale (48), Jamie Hampton (64), Madison Keys (77) and Melanie Oudin (85). Lauren Davis, who played in a $10,000 satellite event at the then Players Club a couple years ago, is the only U.S. player ranked high enough (72) to go straight into the Family Circle main draw who isn't slated to play on Daniel Island. Coco Vandeweghe (99) is the 10th U.S. player ranked in the top 100, but isn't listed for Family Circle's main draw.

Barker No. 1 again

Former College of Charleston star Diane Barker is the No. 1 player in the world in her age group once again. Barker competes in women's 55 these days, and the latest ITF world rankings show the I'On pro at the top of the list.

Barker e-mailed Saturday that she has arrived in Antalya, Turkey, to represent the United States in the women's 55 senior world team championships that will begin there on Monday.

Earlier this month, Barker won another national title, the women's 55 U.S. closed clay court championship in Houston.

Fellow Charleston senior Brenda Carter is ranked 10th in the world in women's 65, but she outdid Barker in Houston. Carter not only won the women's 65 national crown in singles, she duplicated the feat in doubles.


Defending SCISA Class AAA state boys champion Porter-Gaud is off to another fast start behind University of Pennsylvania-bound senior Thomas Spratt. The Cyclones are 5-0, blanking Bishop England and First Baptist twice each while scoring a 7-2 win over High School League Class AA perennial power Waccamaw.

Porter-Gaud's early test will come Tuesday and Wednesday when 2012 state runner-up Hilton Head Christian and 2010-11 state champion Hilton Head Prep visit the Cyclones' Albemarle Road athletic complex. The two Hilton Head schools already own victories over Pinewood Prep, which is playing this season without two-time All-Lowcountry star Adam Elliget, who has opted for home-schooling.


-- Senior stars Diane Barker, Brenda Carter and Susie Peiffer, along with S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation chairman Ron Charron are among the early owners of South Carolina's new “Play Tennis” license plate. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices.

-- I'On tennis director Matt Hane (Diane Barker's son) and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blankenbaker won the men's 30 hard court nationals last weekend in Austin, Texas.

-- The College of Charleston's club team captured the USTA's Tennis on Campus Southern championship recently in Auburn, Ala., with a 24-23 win over LSU. Club teams are made up of a minimum of two male and two female players. The C of C team earned a berth in the April 11-13 national championships in Surprise, Ariz.

-- State top-ranked boys 18 Matthew Mendez gets to work personally with former world's No. 1 Ivan Lendl each month as a member of Lendl's International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island.

-- College of Charleston's women's team has lost former Lowcountry player of the year Jamie Harrell for the season to a shoulder injury.

(03/06/13) JENNIFER JOHNSTON - Daniel Island News - Bishops tennis senior named 2012 A-AA Tennis Player of the Year
Emma Schaafsma was shocked - and psyched - to earn a top tennis trophy from the High School Sports Report.

Quite often, a humble attitude toward something points to an innate love for that very thing. It is not about competitiveness or drive, though those characteristics can certainly coexist with humility. At its basic root is an often subconscious prioritization where joyful fulfillment comes first, victories and accolades second.

It seems to be the way with Emma Schaafsma, a senior tennis player at Bishop England High School (BEHS). Not even able to recall when she first picked up a racquet, Emma has had lifelong love for the game. She began taking lessons when she was just eight years old, shortly before her family moved to Daniel Island. “I played a lot of sports when I was younger,” Emma relates. “But tennis was the one I liked best.” Her niche in the game developed over time as well; she played singles early on, but has found herself teamed up into doubles much more with the Battling Bishops. The oldest of five children, Emma has also paved a positive way for her siblings, as they are now starting to take up the game they’ve watched their big sister devour.

And though February 14, 2013 was not a day she’d been anticipating, it was a day she will likely never forget. When she returned home from school that Thursday, her parents, Cara and Doug, told her that she’d been named the 2012 A-AA Tennis Player of the Year by the South Carolina High School Sports Report. “I didn’t really know what it was,” Emma admits. “But my mom told me the banquet was three days away and I needed to get dressed up!”

Emma soon learned just how prestigious, and hard-won, this recognition was for any high school athlete. Honorees are chosen through a balloting process, and the HSSR has been recognizing top athletes from across the state for 25 years. Further punctuating the superlative for Emma was the fact that it came the same year her BEHS coach, Kristen Fleming, was named the 2012 Statewide Tennis Coach of the Year by the same outfit. Both coach and player were honored on Sunday, February 17 at the High School Sports Report Fall Awards Banquet in Columbia.

Still, Emma is remarkably unfazed by her mark of distinction. Sure, she is grateful that her hard work and talent have been noted by people who appreciate tennis and athletics in general. But it hasn’t changed her approach to the game. In fact, Emma is not looking to play at the college level. “I’m planning on joining club tennis next year, to keep my skills up,” she remarks. “But I’m not interested in playing for a school; I want to go to a bigger school.” Though she has not yet determined where she will go in the fall, she does have a plan to study business or communications.

Wherever she ends up next year, there is no doubt that this unassuming athlete will continue to find success with an easygoing demeanor… and a killer swing.

(03/03/13)  Strong FCC field on heels of Miami
Playing in back-to-back 96-draw, two-week tournaments on hard courts is challenging enough to make almost any top 20 player want to take a week off from the pro tour. The desert at Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami’s tropical-like setting are about as demanding a four-week stretch as it gets on the men’s and women’s tours.

Just ask Rafa Nadal.

So, what tournament starts the day after Miami’s Sony Open ends? The $795,000 Family Circle Cup, of course, with its 64-draw clay court event that begins April 1 on Daniel Island.

A small $235,000 hard court event also starts April 1 in Monterrey, Mexico.

It isn’t surprising that more than half of the world’s top 20 women are taking the week off. In fact, only seven of the 18 top 20 players who are playing both Indian Wells and Miami also are scheduled to continue playing the first week in April.

Venus and Serena Williams haven’t included Indian Wells on their schedules in recent years. That may be one reason why the superstar sisters are among the six top 20 players currently scheduled to head to Charleston after they complete play in Miami.

This is the third straight year that the Family Circle Cup has followed on the heels of Indian Wells and Miami. That’s a tough act to follow, but the Family Circle Cup has come up with another first class field.

Clay court specialist Sara Errani (No. 8) and 2010 Family Circle champion Samantha Stosur (No. 9) join No. 1-ranked defending champion Serena Williams as top 10 players committed to Charleston. Those names, along with former world’s No. 1 Venus Williams, and former champions Jelena Jankovic and Sabine Lisicki, plus exciting teenager Sloane Stephens (No. 17) are enough to make Family Circle officials extremely pleased with the tournament’s entry list.

Three top 20 players, including second-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Family Circle regular Marion Bartoli, are bound for Monterrey.

That leaves the likes of Nos. 3-7 Maria Sharapova, Agi Radwanska, Li Na, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova along with 2011 Family Circle champion Caroline Wozniacki (No. 10) on the sidelines the first week in April.

Local notes

I’On pro Diane Barker has been selected as a member of the women’s 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team that will compete in the senior world team championships in Antalya, Turkey, March 18-23. Barker, currently ranked No. 5 in the world in women’s 55, has won the last two world titles in her age group.

The South Carolina “Play Tennis” license plate has finally arrived. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices. The $30 fee to purchase the Play Tennis license plate will benefit the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation.

College of Charleston coach Angelo Anastopoulo recently notched his 400th women’s coaching win with a victory over Kansas.

Coach Kristin Fleming’s Bishop England boys team will open its season Monday at Wando, then plays its Region 6-AA opener the next day against Woodland before renewing its rivalry with Porter-Gaud on Wednesday at the Cyclones’ courts.

The registration deadline for next weekend’s sixth annual St. Andrew’s Lucky Shot Tournament is Wednesday. Registration is available online (tournament ID 704119613).

(02/18/13) Carter triumphs in Dunlop Junior Tennis Championships
Big-hitting Hayley Carter of Hilton Head Island’s Smith-Stearns Academy has done it again.

She survived a marathon Sunday to win her second straight girls 18 title in the Dunlop Junior Tennis Championships. A wild card into the qualifying tournament for this spring’s Family Circle Cup accompanied Carter’s 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-4) win over top-seeded Stanford-bound Taylor Davidson of Statesville, N.C.

“I was just hitting the ball well,” said Carter, a 5-11½ Columbia native who has signed with the University of North Carolina.

Carter is hoping for better luck in this year’s Family Circle qualifying tournament than a year ago when she ran into red-hot Melinda Czink of Hungary and failed to make the main draw. Czink not only advanced to the main draw in 2012, but is now ranked 105th in the world.

But defeating the talented Davidson was a big accomplishment for Carter. “She’s a great player. She beat me in straight sets in September,” Carter said about Davidson, who finished 2012 as the 22th-ranked girls 18 player in the nation.

Playing on the clay at Family Circle Tennis Center was an advantage for Carter. “I train on clay year-around at Sea Pines,” she said.

At any rate, this final day was a little easier for Carter than a year ago when she had to play four matches on the last day. She only had to play three matches Sunday.

Carter started slowly, losing four of the first five games before rallying to 4-4. “I mixed up my game, using some slice and that got her (Davidson) out of her rhythm,” said Carter, who also relied on her big serve and heavy topspin to pull her through on a long Sunday.

Carter had to go to a pair of tiebreakers, including a third-set match tiebreaker, before overcoming Josie Kuhlman of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 7-6, 3-6, 1-0, in a semifinal that featured the last two champions of this tournament. Carter had defeated No. 4 Sydney Campbell of Franklin, Tenn., 6-0, 6-3, in a quarterfinal played earlier Sunday.

Carter holds the record for the most career girls titles at Belton’s prestigious Palmetto Junior Championships, breaking Charleston native Janice Durden’s record when she notched her 14th title in 2012 at Belton. Carter can break Charleston native Ryan Young’s overall record of 15 Belton titles by winning singles and doubles titles in May at Belton.

Kuhlman, a fifth seed this time who was a 15-year-old unknown when she won Family Circle’s then Smash Junior Cup in 2011, defeated No. 2 Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C., 7-6, 6-1, in Sunday’s quarterfinals to set up the showdown with defending champion Carter.

Davidson advanced to the final with a 6-1, 6-2 romp past No. 5 Andie Daniell of Douglasville, Ga., in Sunday’s other semifinal.

(02/17/13)  Heinz leaves PCA for Bollettieri’s
The Lowcountry’s list of top high school boys has taken another hit. Palmetto Christian Academy’s defending SCISA Class A champions have lost two-time All-Lowcountry selection Austin Heinz to Nick Bollettieri’s IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

That’s on the heels of the announcement that two-time All-Lowcountry star Adam Elliget has left Pinewood Prep to be home schooled as a sophomore.

The switch by Heinz, a junior, comes less than two weeks before the start of the high school season. He has been in Bradenton for a week, attending classes at the IMG Academy five mornings a week and honing his tennis game in the afternoons five days a week as well as training on Saturday mornings. He is also training one hour daily at IMG’s world-class fitness and conditioning center.

Gary Heinz, Austin’s father, has joined the 7,000-member Bayside Community Church in Bradenton as a pastor. He had served as a pastor at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant.

“Austin and I relocated down here last week,” Gary Heinz said. “In fact, he met up with Nick Bollettieri the other day while training on the indoor courts at the facility.

“Austin is working hard to position himself well to play Division I tennis on scholarship, and may one day play pro tennis. He is doing really well.”

Belton controversy

Most South Carolina tennis parents and players, especially from the SCISA ranks, aren’t overly happy with the switch for Belton’s Palmetto Championships to May 24-28 due to the nearly week later completion of the public school year.

While public schools should have a couple of weeks remaining in the school year at the time Belton is played, many SCISA schools such as defending Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud will be involved in final exams during Belton. As a result, this year’s state qualifier is expected to take a hit in participation by SCISA players.

There doesn’t appear to be an obvious answer to the conflict due to the deadlines set by USTA Southern for players endorsed for the Southern Closed Championships, other than possibly splitting Belton into two weekends as local attorney Edward Fenno has suggested in an appeal to tournament officials.

A task force was put together to evaluate the best way to schedule Belton with minimal impact on school dates missed, according to Jessica Amick, the junior competition coordinator for USTA South Carolina.

Local notes

• Brant Fenno is No. 53 in the USTA national boys’ 12 rankings for 2012. State No. 1 and Belton boys 12 runner-up Earl Navarro is rated 37th nationally. In boys 18, Matt Mendez is ranked 58th and Connor Clements is 83rd. Hilton Head Christian’s Hampton Drake appears to have the highest ranking of any state junior with a No. 5 rating in boys 16.
• A search is on for a Charleston Area Junior Team Tennis coordinator, according to Michelle Campanella, the manager of junior programs for USTA South Carolina. She can be reached at (800) 644-7282 or (803) 781-2574.
• Porter-Gaud is scheduled to open its season Feb. 26 at home against new Class AAA tennis member First Baptist of Charleston.
• The College of Charleston women will face North Carolina State today at noon at Patriots Point.

(02/03/13) Pinewood Prep loses Elliget to home schooling
All-Lowcountry tennis performers Joel Roberts and Adam Elliget formed quite a 1-2 punch last year for Pinewood Prep. As a result, the Panthers were one of the top teams in all of SCISA.

But half of the tandem is missing as Pinewood Prep prepares for another season. Elliget has opted for home-schooling. Only a sophomore, Elliget is a two-time All-Lowcountry selection, just like senior Roberts.

The move appears to already be working as Elliget polishes his resume for college tennis. He won the boys 16 crown in a USTA Regional in Mobile, Ala., last weekend.

Cyclones challenged
Defending Class AAA SCISA boys champion Porter-Gaud appears to have its work cut out for it this season. Perennial finalist Hilton Head Prep and 2012 runner-up Hilton Head Christian still have a direct line to the island's nationally prominent tennis academies. The two Hilton Head schools just restock from the Smith/Stearns and van Der Meer academies when their star players advance to college tennis or move back home.

Christian lost No. 1 Nick Bybel to Bucknell, but 2012 teammate Hampton Drake is the No. 1 boys 16 player in the state. Also, Hilton Head Prep senior standout Andrew Schafer already has signed with South Carolina.

But Porter-Gaud has an ace newcomer itself in left-handed seventh-grader Bryant Fenno, who styles his game after Rafa Nadal with huge topspin. Coach Tom Higgins expects Fenno to be in the starting lineup. Fenno has the potential to have an instant impact on the Cyclones' title defense.

Reigning Lowcountry player of the year Thomas Spratt leads the way for the Cyclones, who are missing only Nos. 2 and 3 Junior Duarte and Hunter Mitchell from the lineup that won the 2012 state title.

Navarro, Mendez No. 1
Earl Navarro in boys 12 and Matthew Mendez in boys 18 are the area's only top-ranked players in the final 2012 state rankings.

Also in boys 12, Brant Fenno is ranked third and Sam Kavarana is ninth. In boys 14, Jared Pratt is third and Scotty Cameron is fifth. Alex Santiago is fourth in boys 16, followed by Adam Elliget at No. 5 and Palmetto Christian star Austin Heinz at No. 9. Thomas Spratt is fifth in boys 18, while Joel Roberts is No. 8.

In the girls rankings, Emma Navarro is second in 12-and-under, followed by Lillian Conant at No. 9. Porter-Gaud standout Ann Martin Skelly is fifth in girls 14. In girls 18, area resident Anna Kate Anderson is rated second, while Ashley Hall's Lowcountry player of the year Narni Summerall is fourth, and Catherine Martin is No. 7.

In the small-court 10-and-under rankings, Zachary Dacuba is fifth in boys, followed by No. 6 Stanley Waters and No. 10 Elliott Eischeid. In girls 10, Anna Golding is No. 2, followed by No. 6 Ava Middour and No. 9 Anna Thornton.

Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley has been named tennis advocate of the year by Racquet Sports Industry magazine.

Anna Kate Anderson, whose family resides in Wild Dunes while she trains with Wild Dunes tennis director Charly Rasheed and LTP pro Martin Zumpft, has committed to SMU. Online-schooled, she finished 2012 ranked 11th in the South and No. 2 in the state in girls 18.

(01/31/13) World Team Tennis not returning to Daniel Island
It's official: World Team Tennis' Finals Weekend will not return to Family Circle Tennis Center in 2013. World Team Tennis announced Wednesday that it will take its four-team finals to WTT team market areas this summer after a two-year stint in Charleston. The league also will move its finals back to their traditional July spot following a one-year switch to September due to the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"Our teams wanted the finals to be held closer to the end of the regular season, so with our return to a compacted July schedule this summer, it makes the most sense to host the finals in a WTT team market," WTT CEO/commissioner Ilana Kloss said.

"The Family Circle Tennis Center and their staff were great hosts for the WTT Finals over the past two years. Charleston is a terrific tennis town, and we will continue to have a World Team Tennis presence there with our recreational league programs."

World Team Tennis tested the idea of taking its conference finals and league final out of its eight-team market areas in 2011 by bringing the Finals Weekend to Daniel Island. The compact July WTT season and next-day arrival on Daniel Island proved to be challenging to promote in a non-WTT market.

Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran, who was out of town Wednesday and unavailable for comment, had not expected World Team Tennis to return this year. "I think they (WTT) are going back to the same idea as before (Charleston) with one of their teams serving as host," Moran said recently.

The league will start its 38th season July 7 and each team will play 14 matches before the regular season ends July 24. The Eastern and Western Conference finals will be held the next day (Thursday) at the sites of the top-seeded team from each conference.

Unlike last year when the conference finals were held on Friday and Saturday nights, and the WTT title match was played the next day, the conference champions will take two days off before battling for the 38th league championship on Sunday, July 28, on the home court of the Eastern champion.

The Washington Kastles will be joined in the Eastern Conference by the Boston Lobsters, New York Sportimes and Philadelphia Freedoms, while the Western Conference will be composed of the Orange County Breakers, Sacramento Capitals, Springfield Lasers and the yet-unnamed Irving, Texas- based team which recently relocated from Kansas City.

(01/20/13) World Team Tennis likely not here this year
World Team Tennis' Finals Weekend was a grand addition to local tennis the last two summers, but it appears to be doubtful that the event will return to Family Circle Tennis Center in 2013.

“I'm pretty confident that the WTT won't be back (this year),” is the way Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran sizes up the immediate future relationship between the WTT and Daniel Island's Family Circle Tennis Center. “I think they (WTT) are going back to the same idea as before (Charleston) with one of their teams serving as host.”

World Team Tennis commissioner Ilana Kloss hedged when questioned about the site of this summer's Finals Weekend. “Hopefully before the end of the month we'll make a decision,” Kloss said.

“We are leaning toward returning to (the middle of) the summer. We tried September last year because of the Olympics.”

When the WTT Finals Weekend was held here in 2011 in late July, teams came directly to Charleston at the end of the WTT's regular season. The scheduling allowed little time to locally promote the four Finals Weekend teams.

The Finals Weekend last September was held nearly two months after the WTT ended its regular season in late July.

“It's not an easy decision,” Kloss said. “We are taking into consideration five or six things to base our determination on ... TV, the teams, a home-team site (such as the WTT used before coming here in 2011), having a continuous season.”

No FCC exhibition
The stars of the past won't shine this April on the Family Circle Cup's semifinal Saturday night. The exhibition match featuring the likes of John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova will not be held this year, according to Moran.

“I think we'll take a year off with the exhibition match,” Moran said.

The primary reason for the change from the last three years is the fact the Family Circle semifinals are scheduled to be played the same day (April 6) as the Cooper River Bridge Run. Family Circle is moving its starting time that day from the usual 11 a.m. slot to 1 p.m., which means the tournament schedule could run into the early evening hours.

Rogers down under
Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers has spent much of the past week back home after playing in the qualifying tournament for the Australian Open and in qualifying for a $235,000 event in New Zealand. The 20-year-old, currently ranked 209th in the world, suffered close first-round losses in both tournaments, but should gain points to keep her goal of hitting the world's top 100 in 2013 alive.

“If you don't play, you don't get points,” Rogers said before returning to the USTA training center in Boca Raton, Fla.

 To what does Rogers attribute her rise of approximately 200 places in the world rankings in the last six months? “Being healthy and being able to train regularly. Before that I had injuries that hindered me,” she said.

Rogers' next tournament will be in early February in a $100,000 indoor event in Midlands, Mich. She also plans to apply for entry into the Family Circle Cup.

Local junior standout Connor Clements is attending NAIA member Gwinnett College near Atlanta on a tennis scholarship after being recruited by the likes of South Carolina, LSU, Alabama and Illinois.

The former top-ranked Southern junior (No. 3 at the end of 2012) is using the small college located in Lawrenceville, Ga., where Clements' family resided before moving to Charleston to transition from virtual high school. He plans to transfer to an NCAA Division I power for his last two years of college as he continues his road to possibly one day becoming a touring pro.

Volunteer applications are now available online at familycirclecup.com for the 375 volunteers (adults and kids 11-and-over) needed for the March 30-April 7 Family Circle Cup, including 200 for the ball crew. The first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 9.

(01/06/13) Winningest Division I tennis coach Paul Scarpa remains ambassador for Furman
Anytime you're playing tennis in Charleston, college tennis' winningest Division I coach might be watching. Charleston native Paul Scarpa has returned to the area after serving 45 years as Furman's men's tennis coach.

Scarpa still represents Furman, even if not in quite the same manner as when he directed the Paladins to a record 853 wins as well as 17 Southern Conference regular season titles and 14 tournament championships. His job these days is as a special assistant to the president.

When Scarpa decided to leave his coaching behind on the courts at Furman in the summer of 2011, it was only natural for him to want to return home, especially since his wife Sandy also was excited about the move. They still own a home at Travelers Rest.

Furman made the choice even easier with the tag of ambassador at large.

“Furman wants more awareness in Charleston,” Scarpa said. “We bought a home in Mount Pleasant and have been here a little more than a year. I get to spend more time with Sandy now that I've retired from coaching.”
But Scarpa still stays busy, assisting Furman in the areas of admissions, alumni relations and development. Not to mention that he might show up for any tennis match in town.

Just last year, he was enshrined into two more halls of fames. The college tennis hall of fame and the Southern Conference hall of fame were added in 2012 to his growing list of hall of fame recognition that includes Southern tennis and Furman and South Carolina athletic halls. He also received the Order of the Palmetto in 2012.

Scarpa can talk all day about his memories. And rightly so. There have been enough achievements for a team of coaches.

He likes to point out that four of his Furman players were All-Americans (James Cameron, John Chesworth, Don Barton and Ned Caswell), especially Caswell, who also played college basketball and started out as the No. 14 player on Scarpa's tennis roster.

Scarpa operated a summer tennis camp at Furman for 42 years, but after helping out last year he is leaving the camp behind. “Four kids that I coached at the camp later played at Wimbledon. Ned (Caswell) beat Patrick McEnroe and some other well-known players,” he said.

Scarpa was all about tennis, but he wasn't just tennis in his early days at Furman. He was an assistant basketball coach to Frank Selvy for two years and he started the Paladins' soccer program.

The Florida State graduate and former No. 1 player served as tennis coach at his alma mater for one year and two years at Navy before finding a home in Greenville.

From a Furman tennis program that “didn't have a lot of money,” he masterminded the construction of a state-of-the-art four-court indoor facility on campus. He even built a 12-court off-campus complex that he owned.

One of the highlights of Scarpa's achievements was the development of a new dual match scoring system that the NCAA implemented in 1993 and still uses. The Scarpa System puts added emphasis on doubles by playing the three doubles matches prior to singles and awarding one point to the team that wins doubles.

“It used to be that fans would come watch singles and then leave,” he said. “Now, they come watch doubles and leave.”

Looking back over his career, he said, “I loved every minute of it. I'm most proud of what I was able to do with what we had.”

Charleston product Anderson Scarpa and his Mercer University teammates face Coastal Carolina on Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at The Citadel tennis complex. Scarpa is a freshman on full scholarship and is expected to contend for a starting spot in the middle of the lineup.

City of Charleston tennis manager Peggy Bohne is already planning another season of the popular Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League. Play will run March 11-May 17, but schools fielding teams in the league are required to be represented at one of three mandatory coach's meetings (Jan. 14 at 5 p.m., Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. or Jan. 27 at 3 p.m.). Meetings will be held at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) at 19 Farmfield Ave.

Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers moved up six more places since December to 209th in the world after climbing almost 200 places in the WTA Tour rankings in six months.

Next Friday is the deadline for forming a league tennis team for the spring season.