Georgia Tennis 2008: The Year in Review

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Georgians Receive USTA Southern Honors

Two Georgia juniors are being recognized as ‘08 USTA Southern Annual Award winners. Suwanee’s Kate Fuller was named the winner of the Bill Ozaki Junior Sportsmanship Award. Fuller is ranked

No. 12 in the Southern section and No. 6 in the nation in the girls’ 16s. Alpharetta’s Whitney Kay was named the female winner of the DeWitt Redgrave III Junior Achievement Award and is currently the top ranked player in the girls’ 16s Southern Section and No. 3 in the country. Volunteer members of the Awards Subcommittee and other USTA Southern committees selected the winners from list of candidates nominated by the nine states represented by USTA Southern. Other Georgia winners include Fayetteville’s Michelle Hazelton (Junior Team Tennis Coordinator of the Year), Marietta’s Steve Lottinger (QuickStart Award), Alpharetta’s Tom Smith (Slew Hester Male Player of the Year) and the 22nd Annual Atlanta Open Wheelchair Championships in Dunwoody (Wheelchair Tournament of the Year). For a list of all the winners named so far go to southern.usta.com.

Bulldogs Repeat

The NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs are holding on to their title little longer. The UGA men successfully defended their national title, becoming the first squad to win back-to-back team titles since Stanford in ‘98 and ‘99. The Bulldogs now have six NCAA titles.

Georgia Tech Glory Girl

The Georgia Tech women were hoping to defend their historic NCAA Championship title, but fell short in quarters. However, that didn’t stop sophomore Amanda McDowell from charging through the singles draw to become the first ever player from Georgia Tech to capture an NCAA Singles Championship. In August, McDowell won her first USTA Pro Circuit title — a $10,000 event in Missouri. McDowell was also on Georgia Tech’s ‘07 NCAA Team Champions squad.


Melanie’s Moment

Marietta’s Melanie Oudin, 17, is emerging as one of the bright talents in American tennis after quietly turning pro. She won her first pro tournament, a $50,000 ITF event in Kentucky, in July. Then, in October, Oudin enjoyed the biggest win of her young pro career when she beat Austria’s Sybille Bammer, No. 26 in the world, during her run to the quarters of the WTA Bell Challenge in Canada, a Tier III event. Oudin is currently ranked No. 178 and anxiously looking ahead. “I’m really excited to go to the Australian Open. This is my first Grand Slam getting in on my own, without a wildcard, and I’m just very, very excited about that.”

Norm Wilkerson Remembered

The memory of longtime coach/tennis advocate Norm Wilkerson will live on. Wilkerson was a dynamic leader and role model who dedicated countless hours to minority players who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to be exposed to tennis. A foundation bearing his name is being established to continue his work promoting minorities in sports and a Norman Wilkerson Kid’s Day event will be held annually at Sugar Creek Tennis Center. Wilkerson passed away July 5 from heart complications after a lengthy illness. He was 45.

BJK and Sir Elton Entertain For a Cause

Billie Jean King and longtime friend Sir Elton John entertained thousands at Kennesaw State University in October with the help of some well-known tennis players to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Anna Kournikova, Melanie Oudin and Jesse Levine all volunteered their time for the Smash Hits event now in it’s 16th year. Played in the team tennis format, the event and accompanying silent auction raised more than $400,000.

Robby Holds Court

Georgia touring pro Robby Ginepri gave some tennis enthusiasts from around the world first hand advice about playing the game during a special November fantasy tennis camp in Hawaii. In August, Ginepri lived out a fantasy of his own by representing the U.S. at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Ginepri, currently ranked No. 49, was last seen busily prepping for the Aussie Open.

Budget Cuts Hit Atlanta Facilities

Ongoing city budgetary problems are being blamed for Atlanta tennis facilities drastically reducing their hours. Facilities have already been forced to shorten operating hours and close at least one day a week. The news hit Bitsy Grant Tennis Center particularly hard. Members there learned of the changes roughly a month after reopening its clay courts with a $35,000 well-watering system paid for by member fundraising efforts and the Friends of Bitsy Grant.

SLUTS Fight Breast Cancer One Volley at a Time

One team’s story inspired so many others to use their tennis skills to fight breast cancer. Nell Gorman says her teammates helped her get through the rough times during her treatment for breast cancer. The team, which named themselves the SLUTS (Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress), has raised more than $100,000 toward the fight against breast cancer through Volleyfest. They hope more will continue to join in future Volleyfest events around metro-Atlanta.

Special Pops Looking For More Special Times

A six-week program designed for children with various developmental disabilities like autism and Down’s Syndrome hopes to build on the tremendous success of ‘08. The Special Pops program, short for USTA Tennis Special Populations, hosted by Harrison Tennis Center in Marietta, gives children the opportunity to work their way up and advance into Special Olympics events. The program more than doubled in best online casino just one session leaving organizers looking at ways to expand it in ‘09.

Starbucks Serves Up Victory in Corporate League

First-time participant Starbucks took the Dave FM Corporate League by storm, winning the popular event sponsored by KIA Motors. Dressed in Starbucks aprons and hats they took down the competition in what one employee called “a great team-building thing we could do together that would also be fun.” Starbucks plans to return to defend their title in ‘09 and USTA Atlanta hopes to see more teams join in.

Wheelchair Event Draws International Field

Wheelchair players from 16 countries descended upon Dunwoody CC in July for the Atlanta Open, an NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour event. American’s Nick Taylor and David Wagner captured the Quad doubles title at the event. Then, in September, the duo went on to capture gold for the U.S. in the Quad Doubles event of the Paralympics in Beijing.

Etowa Triumphs at State Championships

Etowa H.S. teams scored big at the State High School Team Championships in Macon in December. The Etowah girls’ team defeated Northview H.S. for the championship and dropped just four out of a possible 40 points en route to the title. The Etowah boys knocked off Walton H.S. for the championship.

Former Emory Coach Not Quite a Survivor

Former Emory University assistant coach Marcus Lehman, 29, was ousted before making the final round of the CBS reality TV show Survivor: Gabon. Lehman was the women’s assistant coach during the ‘04 and ‘05 seasons. During that time, he helped the women’s squad capture two NCAA D3 Championships and 12 individual all-America honors. Lehman, a Harvard grad who went on to medical school at Emory, was also named Cosmo’s ‘06 Bachelor of the Year for Georgia.

A New Tree Bar

The Tree Bar is a sacred place of sorts for many longtime patrons of Bitsy Grant Tennis Center. So when a lightening strike during a late summer storm felled the old great oak tree that was the Tree Bar some members started a movement to replace it. Months later, dozens gathered for a chilly ceremony in late November to dedicate a new tree, planted with the help of Trees Atlanta, to be the next generation Tree Bar. “My father is one of the guys that started the Tree Bar several decades ago. They would sit in their lawn chairs with coolers under the tree and tell stories and lies and things like that,” said Stan Smith Jr. “This is a special place for tennis players. Many people made great friends and had some wonderful times under the Tree Bar and I love seeing it continue, I’m sure if my father were here he would too.” During the dedication ceremony several other trees were planted around the grounds. Four of those trees were planted in honor of longtime patrons and Bitsy Grant supporters who had an impact on the community. Supporters hope the new Tree Bar tree will represent the heritage of all the members tied to Bitsy Grant Tennis Center and help foster new friendships for generations to come.

Infinite Energy Slam Draws Big Names

Thousands showed up at the Gwinnett Center on Dec. 13 to see some of the world’s top players in action. The Bryan Bros. were handily beating the Jensens when the teams decided to mix it up for an entertaining doubles display for the crowd. Local players and Andre Janasik and Paul Mancini (winners of the Heineken Tiebreak Challenge) ended up on the losing end of their tiebreak against the Bryans. Then American Idol contestant Michael Johns performed for the crowd before James Blake and Sam Querrey faced off to finish up the night with entertaining singles action.

Pre-Collegiate Grows With Middle Schoolers

USTA Atlanta’s Fall Wilson Pre-Collegiate League is being hailed a huge success. For the first time the league included a division for middle school students. “Anything that gives the kids an opportunity to play teams other than those we normally play is a plus,” said parent Melissa Juberg, whose children play in the league. Pinckneyville-1 was the champion middle school team, Chattahoochee H.S. won the A-Division Championship and Milton H.S. won the B-Division Championship. More than 800 metro area students participated, 117 of those were middle school students. Now USTA Atlanta is adding a Middle School Pre-Collegiate Spring Season to meet the growing demand. Registration runs from Jan. 7-Feb. 18. Play for the co-ed league will be on Sundays starting March first and costs just $15/player. Email jessica@ustaatlanta.com or call (770) 416-433 for more info.

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