Atlanta News – September 2009

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Sampras to Serve for Charity in Atlanta

Hall of Famer Pete Sampras will bring his legendary game to the Atlanta Athletic Club. (by Timothy A. Clary)
Hall of Famer Pete Sampras will bring his legendary game to the Atlanta Athletic Club. (photo: Timothy A. Clary)

Ticket sales are already underway for the inaugural Live United Tennis Classic featuring Pete Sampras and Todd Martin. The two former Davis Cup partners will go head to head in a men’s singles showdown that’s sure to provide plenty of crowd-pleasing entertainment.

“I look forward to returning to Atlanta,” Sampras said. “It’s an honor to help support an event that in turn helps so many in Atlanta through United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta programs. I know Todd and I both look forward to a great match.”

Sampras boasts an impressive 14 Grand Slams, including seven Wimbledon titles, was ranked No.1 for six consecutive years, and in ‘07 was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Pistol Pete’s magic number of 14 was a record until Roger Federer won his 15th title at Wimbledon in July with Sampras in the stands.
Martin was a finalist at the ‘99 U.S. Open and the ‘94 Australian Open. In ‘94 he reached a career-high ranking of No. 4. He was a constant force on the U.S. Davis Cup team from ‘94-’02. In ‘0,7 he was inducted into the Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.

“We’re very excited to have Pete and Todd join the Live United Tennis Classic and this celebration of tennis in Atlanta, “ said Matt Olson, director of USTA Atlanta. “This will be an amazing day of world-class tennis and family entertainment. I know that Pete and Todd are excited to come to Atlanta and provide fans with the best in men’s tennis.”

The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Nov. 7 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek. WSB-TV anchor Monica Pearson will serve as the event’s honorary chair and Murphy Jensen, host of Tennis Channel’s Open Access, will host the event. Fans will also get to see wheelchair athletes, area juniors and collegiate players show their stuff. There may even be a few surprises.

For ticket info, call (800) 514-ETIX, or you can buy them online at etix.com. All proceeds will benefit United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Bryan Bros., Fish, Isner Highlight Infinite Energy Atlanta Challenge, Aussie Open Wildcard Playoffs

The USTA and T&S Events will host the 2010 Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs during the ‘09 Infinite Energy Atlanta Challenge, held at the RC of the South in Norcross, Ga., Dec. 4-7. The event will feature an exhibition match on Dec. 4, with the Wild Card Playoffs commencing the next day.

Through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, the two national tennis federations exchange wild cards for the ‘10 Australian Open and ‘09 U.S. Open. John Isner and Christina McHale earned wildcard berths into the ‘09 Australian Open men’s and women’s singles main-draw events last December at the USTA’s Wildcard Playoffs, which were held at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.

The Bryan Bros. will join the festivities at the Racquet Club of the South.
The Bryan Bros. will join the festivities at the Racquet Club of the South. (photo: Getty Images)

“This will be a great opportunity to showcase the talents of some of our top players in Atlanta at one of our new USTA Certified Regional Training Centers, the Racquet Club of the South,” said Patrick McEnroe, GM of USTA Player Development.

In addition to the Wildcard Playoffs, the event will also feature an exhibition on Dec. 4, featuring seven-time Grand Slam doubles champs Bob and Mike Bryan, Mardy Fish and John Isner. Those four will also participate in exhibitions in Pelham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn., on Dec. 2-3 in an effort to promote the event across the South.

“Atlanta tennis fans are starving for live professional tennis and this tournament will showcase some of the best tennis in the world,” said T&S Events President Trevor Short.

Competitors for the Wildcard Playoffs will be named following the upcoming U.S. Open.

Pre-Collegiate Registration Underway

The registration deadline for the popular Wilson Pre-Collegiate League is fast approaching. Registration closes Sept. 15 with match play starting on Sept. 27. All matches take place on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. The league consists of co-ed teams with two levels of boys and girls double plus one mixed doubles. There are High School and Middle School Levels A & B, and teams are run by a parent captain. To find out more or to sign-up your team go to www.USTAAtlanta.com.

The Chase is On: Hodges Takes Over at GA State

Hodges was a three- time Missouri Valley Coach of the Year.
Hodges was a three- time Missouri Valley Coach of the Year.

There are changes on the horizon for the Georgia State men’s team. The Panthers now have a new man to call coach, Chase Hodges.

Prior to coming to GSU, Hodges enjoyed a highly-successful four-year run as head coach of the men’s program at Drake, which included being dubbed the ‘06, ‘07 and ‘08 Missouri Valley Conference champs and winning the ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09 MVC regular season. During his tenure with the Bulldogs, he compiled an impressive 85-17 record. His eight-season coaching record, which includes stops at UNC-Asheville and Longwood (Va.) University, stands at 142-44. Now Hodges is set to lead the Panthers to new heights.

“Chase Hodges brings a resume of success that is the blueprint for what we want to build at Georgia State,” said GSU Athletics Director Cheryl Levick “He’s shown the ability to recruit top talent, to develop those individuals into successful players and students, and to win championships. With our commitment to a successful, broad-based athletics program, Chase is the perfect person to lead our men’s team.”

During the past four seasons, Drake owned the nation’s longest regular-season winning streak at 42 matches and second-best home-court winning streak (47). He was also named the Missouri Valley Coach of the Year for the past three seasons. Now Hodges is focused on not only building the program, but building ties with the Panthers and the community as well.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to build Georgia State into an NCAA contender,” said Hodges. “My goal is to make this program one of the top programs in the CAA and the nation. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m excited for the challenge.”

Hodges is a native of Hickory, N.C., and played in the CAA at UNC-Wilmington, where he earned both his bachelor’s degree and a master’s. He has a one-year-old daughter named Gabby.

The Georgia State men have earned four NCAA berths in the last 11 years, but finished this past season ranked outside the nation’s top 75.

Coach Kreise’s Winning Ways Bring Thailand a Wimbledon Junior Champion

Former longtime Clemson coach Chuck Kriese is returning to Thailand in September for a second year as Southeast Asia Tennis Federation’s Technical Director, and he’s doing it with his first Junior Grand Slam single’s champion.

Kriese watched as 17-year-old Noppawan Lertcheewakarn captured both the junior girls’ singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon. Fourth-seeded Lertcheewakarn beat No. 1 seed Kristina Mladenovic, France 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the final. A day later, the Thai teen and her partner Sally Peers of Australia claimed a straight sets victory in the doubles event. The titles made the right-handed Lertcheewakarn, known as “Nok”, a Thai celebrity.

“It’s good, it’s for Thai people and I got a wild card for next year so I’m very happy,” Lertcheewakarn said. “It’s my first time I won singles in a Grand Slam.”

Earlier this year, Lertcheewakarn won the girls’ doubles title at the French Open. Kriese then honed her game for Wimbledon and worked to bolster the teen’s confidence against higher-seeded opponents. The results seem to speak for themselves. They also reinforce Kriese’s credentials.

Throughout his career Kriese has produced dozens of pros (at least nine of whom reached the top 100), he’s been named the USPTR Collegiate Coach of the Year, three-time National Coach of the Year, former U.S. Junior Davis Cup and Sunshine Cup coach, and one of the winningest tennis coaches in collegiate history. Kreise, who spent 33 seasons at Clemson, is now charged with forming and training men’s and women’s touring teams comprised of Southeast Asia’s top junior and pros. His job includes creating coaching education programs, setting up a curriculum for player development, and conducting clinics to find young talent in the ASEAN region.

“Essentially, my boss said there are 800 million people there and only four make a living playing tennis,” Kriese said. Southeast Asian national federations are “all too small not to work together,” he added.

The transition to the new post has not been an easy one for Kriese. Travel for casino online the 59-year-old is rigorous. Players are scattered across 15 countries, Southeastern Asian nations are often rivals and simple luxuries like clean water can often be located blocks away.

Kriese, wife Claire, and three young children – Lillian, 5; Paul, 3; and Adeline, 22 months, blast the air conditioning in their Bangkok residence just to freeze out the swarming mosquitoes. The city of nearly seven million is hundreds of times larger than Clemson’s approximately 12,000 residents and that can often be a struggle to adjust to. After a few weeks in Thailand, it took a huge draw on her faith and new friendly faces to convince Claire Kriese that she and the children could manage to stay there.

“Look man, millions of people live here and they do fine,” Kriese said he told himself. “You get your priorities right and you’ll be fine, too.”
“I believe in this mission. And it’s a great one.”

Former Bulldog Reaches D.C. Semifinals

Back from a layoff, Isner continues to improve.
Back from a layoff, Isner continues to improve. (photo: Getty Images)

John Isner may be long gone from the UGA roster, but once a Bulldog always a Bulldog as far as fans are concerned. The 6-foot-9 righthander advanced to the semis of the Legg Mason Classic In Washington, D.C., before falling to fellow American Andy Roddick 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-5.

Isner had earlier reached the quarters at the L.A. Open, where he posted an impressive 6-3, 7-6(11) win over Marcos Baghdatis, but suffered an ankle injury late in the match. That same injury forced Isner to withdraw from the doubles event.

Georgia Tech’s Falconi Finding Success

Georgia Tech’s Irina Falconi, 19, will be returning to her squad this fall with some impressive match play under her belt, including two straight $10,000 pro events.

Falconi, a native of Jupiter, Fla., has been racking up the wins throughout the summer as part of the traveling USTA Summer Collegiate Team. Falconi defeated Caitlin Whoriskey in the doubles event of The Heartland Clinic USTA Women’s Classic in St. Joseph, Mo., then capped off the tournament by beating Whoriskey 6-3, 6-3 to capture the singles title as well.

“It feels excellent,” Falconi told the St. Joseph News-Press after winning the singles championship. “It’s a cherry on the top to take the double’s and singles title, too.”

Just two weeks earlier the feisty 5-foot-4 sophomore defeated No. 7-seeded Jennifer Elie 6-0, 6-4 to capture the Norman Wilkerson Tennis Experience $10,000 single’s title in Atlanta. The back-to-back titles come on the heels of Falconi’s semifinal loss to No. 1-seeded Stephanie DuBois at the Grapevine $50,000 Women’s Tennis Classic in Texas.

The summer tournament season is certain to bolster Falconi’s performance with the Yellow Jackets and solidify her as a team leader. As a freshman she was named an All-American in singles, All-ACC, and was the ITA All-American doubles champion. Falconi posted one of the best rookie records in Georgia Tech history with 30 singles wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, including a three-set win over the top-ranked player in the country at the time. The freshman’s ranking soared as high The Affordable Care Act requires that all Americans who have access to affordable health buy-detox.com obtain minimum essential coverage by 2014 (or pay a tax if they choose to opt out). as No. 5 in the country, and based on her summer season Falconi could be aiming even higher in ‘09.

“I think it is going to be a standard I’m going to have to live by now,” Falconi said. “I feel like I can always improve and get better, but now it will be expected. I’m ready for it and it is all about doing well from here on out.

Falconi comes from an athletic family; her father was a pro soccer player in Ecuador. Currently the rising sophomore intends to major in history, technology and society.

RCS Busy Building Winners

Monge found inspiration in Oudin’s run.
Monge found inspiration in Oudin’s run.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “success” as a “favorable or desired outcome” and if that’s the case the junior player development program at Racquet Club of the South is definitely enjoying some.

RCS Academy boasts more national titles in ‘07 and ‘08 than any other U.S. academy. Currently, players travel from across the country to train at the facility, which has eight indoor, four clay, 18-lighted outdoor courts. The academy, thanks to the help of one of its founders Brian deVilliers, is also the training ground of young American pro Melanie Oudin.

In July, Oudin garnered much attention with her quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, now many are keeping a close eye on her progress, probably none more than her coach, deVilliers, and the other juniors training at the RCS Academy.

“The good thing is that when she [Oudin] comes back she hits with everybody, she’s not a prima donna you know,” deVilliers shared. “It’s always been her strength, she’s always been one of the better ones in the academy, but she’s willing to hit with anybody. The kids see that and its great energy…which is awesome.”

Florida native Zoe Monge, 13, who now trains at the academy full time, is inspired by Oudin’s performance. “Seeing Melanie out here motivates me and I go home at night and think oh my gosh I want to be just like that.”

Monge has noticed a marked improvement in her game since she arrived and thinks it’s just the beginning.

“I think my improvement here is coming a lot faster. I just played a tournament and I noticed myself how much more consistent I was and on the put away shots I didn’t over hit it, I would mostly place it and that would help me a lot,” Monge said. “I’m seeing the game as more than just hitting, I’m seeing the game more mental.”

Oudin’s recent success has brought more attention to the RCS Academy, but it’s the philosophy of its coaches that are making a difference with the kids’ results.

“I pretty much work seven days a week to get in everybody and accommodate everybody and I think that’s the key,” said deVilliers. “We’re passionate about the game, we’re passionate about our kids and we spend that extra time and do the extra things to try and help them get where they want to go.”

Helping deVilliers run the RCS Academy are former touring pro Grant Stafford, two-time All-American Sanjay Jayaram and a host of other well respected teaching pros. All focus on making sure they are staying abreast of what’s going on in the tennis world and being flexible enough to adjust to the changes to stay competitive. Their system is based on what a lot of the top players are doing. “We teach a modern game and the game keeps evolving so you have to evolve with it.”

But there’s one area of importance that deVilliers says must come first.

“The kids have to have a plan. They have to know what’s out there and they have to dream big,” he said assuredly. “Even with Melanie, for example, people don’t realize this was the plan since she was 9 years old. She did what I said and we stuck to the plan. You have more chances of succeeding if you have a plan.”

As for his plan, deVilliers is aiming to get Oudin into the top 50, and then increase her ranking in increments of ten.

For the RCS Academy he’s looking forward to growing the program, including the addition of a school program that will have housing for children to come from all over to train there. His number one requirement is simple. “We’re looking for anybody that wants to play. I want the kids there that want to do it. It’s not necessarily the best kids, it’s the ones that want to get better and want to play, that’s what we want.”

Three Georgia Teams Advance to Nationals

Three Georgia teams are among the 10 teams advancing to the national championship round of the largest adult recreational tennis league in the world after winning their division of the ‘09 USTA League Southern Championship.

The Southern Championships were held in Birmingham, Ala., and had more than 2,000 players from nine states participating. The matches were played at nine sites in the Birmingham area. Captain Ryan Mobley’s team from Lithonia defeated their Baton Rouge opponents to capture the men’s 2.5 title. A men’s 3.5 team from Duluth captained by Quinn Aguirre also beat a Baton Rouge team to advance to the nationals.

On the women’s side, a senior women’s 4.0 team from Bogart (captained by Dianne Bahnsen) will head to the National Championships after knocking out a New Orleans team.

Halloween Tournament to Benefit Lost Mountain CTA, Calvary Home

Men, women, children, ghosts and goblins alike are being invited to enter for the ‘09 Lost Mountain Community Tennis Association Charity Fright Festival Tennis Tournament.

Registration is underway for the event, which is scheduled for Oct. 16-19 at Lost Mountain Tennis Center in Powder Springs. There are singles, doubles and mixed doubles events for players of all levels. Each player will receive a T-shirt, players bag and ticket to a players’ social that includes drinks, hors d’oeuvres and door prizes.

Money raised during the event will benefit the Lost Mountain CTA and the Calvary Children’s Home, which houses displaced and troubled youngsters in a supportive environment with Christian values while preparing them for the world.

To learn more about the Calvary Children’s Home go to calvarykids.org. To register, call (770) 528-8525.

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