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August 5, 2012
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||EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:
Olympics, Citi Open And A Tournament Within A Tournament
by Ray Bowers
"I think the media's perception of tennis in the United States is that if you are not top ten or number one, then you are not a good player, which I think is really unfair.... They really, unfortunately, don't pay a lot of attention to other players who have worked their whole life and are really exceptional players."
--Vania King, post-match media session, Washington, D.C., 1 August 2012
Tennis at the Olympics grows in general interest with each four-year cycle, even as the top pro superstars seem eager to be part of the glory. This Olympiad's tennis took place on freshly sown grass at Wimbledon, thus extending what is usually a too-brief grass-court season. Watchers here in America feasted on the full tv coverage widely available daily.
The matches were as magnificent as might have been hoped. Except for the Sunday final, all men's singles matches were best-of-three sets rather than the best-of-five played at Slams. That led to all-out effort by players from start to finish of matches with little concern for stamina.
The long-standing Big Four in men's tennis all reached the semi-finals except for Rafael Nadal, who had withdrawn prior to the start. Winning through to take Rafa's expected place in the semis was Juan Martin del Potro. Roger Federer then defeated del Potro in a marathon semi that lasted over four hours. Meanwhile Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in a fiercely contested two-setter that featured one breathtaking point after another. Andy then crushed Federer on final-round Sunday, battering Roger with an unrelenting and accurate barrage of heavy serves and ground-strokes that Roger could not answer. Del Potro then beat Djokovic for third place, and the American brothers Bryan won the doubles, having won the bronze four years before.
In her triumphal march to women's singles gold, Serena Williams was more dominating than ever before. Serena's powerful serving and stroking humbled all her opponents, none of whom won more than three games in any set. Her final-round victory over Maria Sharapova, 60 61, required little over an hour. It completed Serena's career Golden Grand Slam -- winning all four Slam crowns plus the Olympics. Steffi Graf was the only woman to have done so previously. Serena and Venus won the doubles, repeating from 2008.
Although athletes directly represent their countries in the Olympics, no team crown is awarded in tennis. Here, we tally match wins by nation, awarding one credit for each singles, doubles, and mixed victory.
The Russkayas took first place in our women's tally, led by their four singles nominees (Sharapova, Kirilenko, Zvonareva, and Petrova), each of whom won at least two matches. The leading nation among the men was France, lifted by Llodra-Tsonga and Benneteau-Gasquet, who won the silver and bronze in doubles, respectively.
1. France, 15 match wins
2. U.S.A., 10.5
2. Spain, 10
1. Russia, 19
2. U.S.A., 17.5
3. Czech Republic, 7
1. U.S.A., 28
2. Russia, 22
3. France, 16
CITI OPEN 2012
The top superstars were away in London, but the Citi Open here in Washington offered plenty of entertaining tennis. The men's field had a veteran flavor, where Xavier Malisse, Mardy Fish, and James Blake, all of them 30 or older, joined Tommy Haas, 34, in the final eight.
Tommy Haas faced Alex Dolgopolov in the Sunday final, 5 August . Both men were close to the critical world ranking of #32 -- a bubble that meant a seeded place at U.S. Open and exemption from playing a higher-ranked player for two rounds. The 500 ranking points for winning in Washington thus loomed large.
Tommy brought a mature, rounded game that was difficult to attack, while Alex -- hard-hitting, speedy and with a tricky sliced serve -- was not deterred from trying regularly. Tommy won the first set in a tiebreaker, Alex the second with an abrupt service break late. When Tommy then lost his serve early in set three, the suddenness of his changed fortune seemed to break Tommy's composure along with his ball-striking. The third set went to Alex almost uncontested, Tommy's collapse a stunning reversal of his fine season of 2012 to date.
The women's champion was Magdalena Rybarikova, age 23 at height 5-11, from Slovak Republic. Unseeded, Magdalena showed remarkable maturity in winning all five of her matches in straight sets, blending variety in tactics and stroking with excellent avoidance of error. Her triumph returned her to the world's top hundred toward her career-best rank of #40 several years ago. In contrast to the men's field, youth dominated among the women.
Indeed, the average age of the eight women reaching the Citi Open quarter-finals was only 20.5. The youth phenomenon had been evident from the start, seen in the emergence of a "tournament-within-a-tournament," which encompassed the nine players in the main draw who had not yet reached age 21.
The names of the Nine were relatively unfamiliar -- Bouchard at age 18, Stephens, Cepelova, and Larcher de Brito at 19, Giorgi, Jovanovski, Oudin, Vandeweghe, and Pliskova at 20.
Which of them would earn unofficial recognition as the tournament's developing player most likely to rise to superstardom? I was privileged to watch the competition as self-appointed judge.
My mission began at a qualifying-round match where local attention focused on American Alison Riske. Across the net was a slender, smaller opponent, Jana Cepelova, age just 19, born in Kosice, Slovak Republic (birthplace of Martina Hingis). Cepelova had won her way through the qualifiers at Wimbledon recently and had then won two main-draw matches there. These successes almost but not quite lifted her onto our watch list of risers calculated on 22 July. Now in Washington, Jana's firm stroking and counter-punching made problems for Riske, 22, who had broken into the world's first hundred back in 2010 but since then had slipped slightly backward.
Both women played with moderate aggressiveness, regularly striking deep and toward the sides. Alison won the first set closely, but Jana took the second. Alison responded by becoming the heavier attacker, employing her greater height and weight to keep the pressure on Jana. But Jana's strength was in her heavy passing-shot game, along with her better avoidance of error. Concentrating well, Jana closed out matters in an impeccable serving game, which included a fine passing shot and a stunning lob that landed on the baseline, executed under pressure.
Jana's tenacity in defeating Riske was followed by a main-draw first-round win over Misaki Doi, herself just 21. Miss Pokerface (i.e., Jana) next defeated Edina Gallovits-Hall, 27, from Romania, who brought interesting variety in stroking and tactics. Jana proved her steadiness and countering ability in their many excellent baseline rallies, carried out amid extreme heat and direct sun. Edina recognized and exploited Jana's weakness in inside-the-baseline play, but Jana's overall superior strength prevailed in two hard-fought sets. The victory lifted Cepelova into the tournament's final eight.
Less impressive was the performance of Italian player Camila Giorgi, 20. Camila, like Cepelova, had fought through the qualifiers at Wimbledon but had then outdone even Jana by winning three main-draw matches. Slender and athletic at just 5-6, Camila now faced American Irina Falconi, who was slightly shorter at age 22.
Weighing less than 120 pounds, Camila seemed determined to generate as much firepower as possible. There was almost no temporizing in her serving and stroking, and only slight concession even in her second-serving. (She contributed 14 double-faults during the match, many of them long by four feet or more.) The first set ended quickly, as Irina quietly accepted the many gifts from her error-prone opponent.
Things changed in the second set, as Camila's bolts now began finding the court. It would be Camila's best stretch of the evening. But Falconi's defenses were now working well, and Irina was replying with some firepower of her own. Thus the scoreboard again turned Irina's way in the third set, and at the finish Camila's error-making became as dismal as at the outset.
I admired Camila's willingness in rallying to position herself on, as opposed to behind, baseline, and also her stepping forward in returning her opponent's serve. But otherwise from this evening's performance, it was hard to understand Camila's recent success at Wimbledon. It was a welcome win for Falconi, who had arrived on the redeye from California at 11 A.M. Sunday, won a first-round doubles that afternoon, and didn't miss the player's party.
Also performing on Monday was right-handed Karolina Pliskova, age 20 at height 6-1 from Czech Republic, twin sister of lefty Kristyna. It was an easy day for Karolina's opponent, Olga Govortsova, 23 at height 6-0, whose firm drives to the corners regularly produced either floating replies or errors from Karolina. Karolina's inadequacy in movement meant that her only chance was to overpower Olga, but that strategy, it turned out, only produced excessive errors.
A first-round encounter pitted slender wild-card entrant Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, age 18 at height 5-7, against heavier-hitting Karin Knapp, 25 at height 5-9, of Italy. Eugenie had won the Wimbledon juniors earlier this summer. Karin provided an imposing opponent, however, having been ranked as world #35 several years ago, now at #123. Bouchard's current ranking was in the third hundred, but as their match unfolded it soon became evident that Eugenie's ranking would soon improve drastically.
Karin's foremost edge was in the greater power of her serving and stroking, she outweighing Eugenie by at least twenty pounds of muscle. And indeed, Karin's plan seemed to be to out-power Eugenie, pounding away mainly to the sides, keeping Eugenie on the defensive. But the Canadian youth generally proved very skilled in absorbing the barrage, keeping her replies deep, covering the corners well, and fairly often pouncing on a weak offering to counter-attack, then move forward.
Eugenie hurls herself into her first serve, which held up fairly well, but needs to strengthen her second. After defeating Knapp, she next collected a win over Govortsova, who faded badly in the daytime heat at the finish. It seemed to me that with increased physical strength, Eugenie should greatly improve if she builds on her instincts and talent for first-strike tennis.
A late doubles match Sunday offered a glimpse of Sloane Stephens, 20, who had been prominent on our watch lists. Sloane and her partner Anna Chakvetadze for one set seemed like fish out of water -- from Anna's mistakes at net to Sloane's persistent overhitting. Still, it was interesting to note Sloane's hitch-free serving technique and the young American's ripping forehand power.
But as the second set reached its middle stages, fairly abruptly the American-Russian pair seemed to discover tactical doubles. Now, Anna was intercepting and snapping away winners at net-center, even as Sloane was tempering her rocketry with some fine topspin strokes and even an occasional angle. Their opponents, Europeans Czink and Husarova, who had totally dominated earlier, seemed unable to stop the melting away of the second set . Then the tiebreak game that served as set three ended quickly -- decided by Chakvetadze-Stephens's best tennis of the day.
Sloane's initial singles opponent here was Sesil Karatantcheva, age 22 at 5-7 from Kazakhstan, who had been ranked #35 as a teenager and was now bidding to return to the first hundred. Sloane's court manner was calm, indeed restrained, as she served and stroked easily amid excellent form and control, using her extreme power only occasionally and defending very well when her opponent seized the initiative. Sloane took the first five games before Sesil finally found what was probably her customary level.
Indeed, Sesil equalized matters by winning the second set, generally outplaying Sloane especially in finding angles and in overall steadiness. It became evident that Sloane's inside-the-baseline game, i.e. approach shots and net play, was not strong, and that the young American's preferred place was in fairly deep court. Sesil's soft second serves begged for Sloane to step forward in returning, but Sloane persistently declined to take them on the rise.
Early in set three, I wrote in my notebook that Stephens was "playing Karatantcheva's game" -- i.e., long, baseline rallies. That may have been true, but it was Sesil who wilted from then on. Sloane's rallying skills were now tested and found sound, even as Sloane's occasional attacking thrusts were finding their targets more regularly. Stephens's victory over an experienced opponent was both revealing and impressive.
Tuesday began with a noisy thunderstorm. Two hours later, riser Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, age 20 at an slender 5-9, faced the tournament's top seed -- Moscow-born Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, herself just 21 at a sturdy 5-10, now with world ranking of #28 after a year of decline.
It was a tall order for Bojana, as she had played and won a final-round match at Baku, Azerbaijan, only a few days earlier. Anastasia's power serving and stroking, backed by surprisingly good court coverage and avoidance of error, were too much for the Baku winner and recent traveler. Bojana showed some precise shot-making, but she lacked Anastasia's natural weight of shot.
Our next rising star was New York-born Coco Vandeweghe, age 20 at height 6-1, who had recently attained a career-high world ranking of #69. That followed her four wins over top-hundred players at Stanford and a respectable loss to Serena Williams in the final there. Coco appears built for power more than mobility, but on this day her all-out serving and stoking came with many misses, so that opponent Erika Sema, 23, for a while stayed close on the scoreboard. Things changed midway, when Coco improved her control by shortening the backswing slightly, adding more topspin, and striking sometimes off the front foot. Her screaming velocities still reappeared occasionally and, strangely, were themselves now improved in reliability. It became evident that Coco was a talented all-court player, not just a pure slugger, and matters became one-sided toward the finish, Coco apparently at her best.
Things could not have gone better for Coco in her next match. Nearby showers brought cooler and more comfortable air just as her match began against Aravane Rezai, who had earlier defeated Melanie Oudin, one of our principals. Against Coco, Aravane displayed some of her renowned albeit often erratic firepower. But except for an occasional clip of a sideline by Aravane, Coco was able to return almost everything with fresh mustard. Meanwhile Coco's crushing serve was much more effective than two days before, and the second serve too gave Aravane distress, especially when Coco added extra overspin for kick. The final score, 62 62, captured the dominance of the tall and athletic American.
Thus four of our under-21's had succeeded in reaching the round of eight -- Cepelova, Bouchard, Vandeweghe, plus Stephens, who had knocked out Larcher de Brito. At least one would make the semis, as Stephens and Bouchard would face each other in the quarters.
But quarter-final Thursday (August 2) would be unkind to our brigade. Early-on, Cepelova fell well behind Magdalena Rybarikova. The younger Slovak persevered but could never quite complete what seemed a promising recovery. Rybarikova was both older and slightly larger, making their match-up seem like a high-school star vs. a college athlete. Jana's aggressive run to turn the second set faltered amid errors when Rybarikova retreated into an impenetrable defense.
Next, Coco Vandeweghe again started out bashing everything in sight. Opponent Vania King answered superbly, her quickness, anticipation, and steadiness easily defusing Coco's artillery. As Coco's errors mounted hideously, the first five games went to Vania. Coco's consistency improved thereafter, and Vania's skill in ripping back Coco's rockets faded considerably. Late in the third set, it seemed that Coco was poised to claim the victory, her all-court play now surpassing Vania's. But Coco faltered badly in serving to reach five-games-all. It seemed to me that though Coco tried to cut down risk in her rocketry, she seemed not comfortable, perhaps unpracticed, in doing so. She seemed to miss almost as often when trying to hit safely.
Two of our young protagonists remained. Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard met each other on Stadium Court in the last match of the evening. It was the first of the women's matches inside the tournament's prime arena.
Perhaps the setting was unsettling for Eugenie, the youngest player in the tournament. Or perhaps the night lighting was tricky, or perhaps it was Sloane's unfamiliar pace. For one set, nothing would go right for the young Canadian. Again and again, her strong drives to the sides and corners landed just outside the lines. Meanwhile her bids to play safely mainly turned out horribly. After a while, the gallery took to groaning sympathetically after each miss. Sloane, meanwhile, who seems habitually to play to the level of her opponent, also missed frequently. Seldom did a point go beyond two or three shots. After the first set, members of the crowd began filtering into the night, so that soon only about half remained.
Those who stayed, perhaps sleepy, were slow to awaken to the improving quality of the play. As Eugenie began finding her targets, pressure mounted on Sloane to preserve her lead. Sloane answered well -- again responding to the level of her opponent -- and the result was many fiercely contested rallies. As Eugenie worked steadily to press her opponent, Sloane showed some fine defense in the corners and some strong attacking of her own.
The velocity of every serve was measured and displayed. Sloane's first serve was consistently in the range 100-110 mph, a bit higher on big points. Eugenie's first serve measured often below 100 mph in the first set, but generally above, occasionally well above, in the second. Sloane's second serve was also more forceful than Eugenie's. Both players lost several points with volleying errors after making admirable preparation for the kill.
The final score of Sloane's victory, 64 64, conveyed the moderate level of Sloane's superiority but not the improved play of both players in the second set. Sloane thus reached the larger tournament's semi-finals. But alas for Sloane, she would lose the next day to Rybarikova, the eventual tournament champion.
How shall we rank-order the principals of our inner tournament as to their potentials for greatness? Stephens's reaching the semis here, along with her obvious comfort and talent in both defensive and offensive modes, make her assuredly our choice as the one most likely to go considerably higher. The next two -- Bouchard and Vandeweghe -- are hard to separate, where the youth and balanced attacking of Bouchard weigh against Vandeweghe's power and athletic talent. It's difficult to ignore Bouchard's abysmal start against Stephens, so I'll choose the potential of Vandeweghe noting her lineage, her grandfather having played for the pro basketball Knicks. Cepelova is narrowly our fourth-place choice, with Jovanovski probably also deserving close watch. (Note: I did not watch Oudin or Larcher de Brito.)
Among our brigade I noted some common strengths including, perhaps surprisingly, in lobbing accurately under pressure. But what also seemed unmistakable, besides general weakness in volleying, was frequent poor execution of approach shots -- resulting in errors or set-ups -- sometimes attributable to awkwardness in preparing.
Still, it is certain that in all cases greater match experience by our heroines against mature players and fellow risers will produce better understanding of how to win points and matches. Finally, it seemed to me that the coaching visits permitted during matches discourage developing the player's ability to analyze during competition.
Vania King was of course correct in her comments printed here at the start. But tennis writers must write what their readers are comfortable in reading. It thus becomes an unhappy circle. Readers sign off when too many names are unfamiliar, so writers stay with the top stars, and the unfamiliar players largely remain so. I hope that readers of Tennis Server find it interesting to make early acquaintance here with possible superstars of tomorrow.
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia
APPENDIX 1: WATCHING THE WATCH LISTS
Three times a year our computer selects those seven male and seven female players most likely to rise significantly during the next twelve months. Here, we review the selectees who were chosen twelve months ago and are now departing from our active watch list.
Two male and one female selectees indeed surpassed the target levels predicted for them a year ago. The star female was Sloane Stephens, 19, U.S.A., who began the cycle at #112 with predicted target #67. Sloane's rank for the twelve ensuing months came to #50, well beating her target. Enroute, the young American reached the final sixteen at Garros, reached the final 32 at both Miami and Rome, and defeated a dozen opponents ranked in the top hundred.
Ryan Harrison, now age 20, U.S.A., one year ago was ranked #76, with predicted target of #46. Ryan's results continued to improve, albeit quietly. Now at #43, he has thus bettered his predicted target in spite of unlucky draws at the Slams. Meanwhile Alex Bogomolov, age 29, performed well in summer and late 2011. His results thereafter declined, but he nevertheless surpassed his12-month target. He now departs from our active list at #51 against his earlier target of #58.
The cohort that graduated from our list one trimester earlier showed the same pattern. Three members -- Bernard Tomic, Pablo Andujar, and Petra Kvitova -- surpassed their targets for the 12-month period ending April 2012.
A majority of our past selectees have improved their rankings at least to some degree during their time on our active list. But a surprising 40% have slipped backwards -- in many cases, perhaps in most, amid injury problems.
APPENDIX 2. A NEW WATCH LIST
Here is our newest watch list of players predicted to rise in the next twelve months. The prediction calculations were made at the end of this tennis year's Second Trimester, upon close of action 22 July. They rely heavily on each player's results in the Second Trimester compared with his or her previous best-ever 12-month performance, further adjusted for player age and height. The selectees are listed here by descending age. (Later victories coming in the Third Trimester and not included in the calculation are noted in parentheses.)
Varvara Lepchenko, 26, 5-11, U.S.A. Born in Uzbekistan, Varvara has lived in U.S.A. since 2001, settling in Pennsylvania and becoming a U.S. citizen. Left-handed and rangy, she made a strong upward rise in 2012, attaining rank #16 in results during the year's Second Trimester when she reached the final eight at Madrid and the final sixteen at Garros. Official rank when selected #41, 12-month target #24.
(Note: Varvara would win a first-round match at the Olympics.)
Sara Errani, 25, height 5-4, Italy. A superb clay-court season, including a second-place finish at Garros and triumphs in two clay tune-ups, produced a ranking of #5 for the Second Trimester 2012. Her climb was briefly derailed as victim of Shvedova's Golden Set at Wimbledon. (Shvedova won all 24 points in the set.) The setback was temporary, however, as Sara ended the trimester by winning the clay event in Palermo. Official Rank when selected #9, 12-month target #8.
Urszula Radwanska, 21, 5-10, Poland. The younger and taller sibling of superstar Agnieszka, Urszula like her sister scored well in the recent grass-court season. She won the ITF event in Nottingham, beat Lisicki at Birmingham, and reached the final at 's-Hertogenbosch with three wins over top-50 opponents. Official rank when selected #44, 12-month target #19.
(Note: Urszula would win a first-round match at the Olympics before losing to Serena Williams.)
Kiki Bertens, 20, height 6-0, Netherlands. After several years of success on the ITF tour, Kiki achieved her first main-tour crown on clay at Fes in April 2012. The triumph included three wins over top-100 players and improved Kiki's ranking into the first hundred. A heavy-hitting baseliner, she then reached the main draw out of the qualifiers at Garros and scored a main-draw win at Wimbledon. Official rank when selected #77. 12-month target #52.
Camila Giorgi, 20, height 5-6, Italy. Camila's stunning emergence from the qualifying rounds at Wimbledon 2012 and attainment of the round of 16 included wins over Petrova and Pennetta. Her ranking thus jumped into the first hundred, following a consistent pattern of rise over several years. Official rank when selected #91, 12-month target #52.
Sloane Stephens, 19, height 5-7, U.S.A.. Born in and a resident of Florida, Sloane was named on our riser list of August 2011. Her upward climb accelerated in Second Trimester 2012, producing a ranking of #31 for that period, including attaining the final sixteen at Garros and final 32 at Wimbledon. Her accelerating rise makes her one of two players now to start a second year on our watch list just as her first year ends. Official rank when selected #52, 12-month target #27.
(Note: Sloane would reach the semis at Citi Open.)
Alison Van Uytvanck, 18, height 5-8, Belgium. Following a year of excellent success in ITF tournaments, Alison played singles in Fed Cup and at the main-tour clay event in Brussels 2012. There she defeated two top-50 players (Pervak and Scheepers) before losing to A. Radwanska in straight sets. Official rank when selected #256, 12-month target #92.
Brian Baker, 27, height 6-3, U.S.A. Having recovered from five surgeries 2003-2008, Brian Baker -- once the #2 U.S. junior -- returned to the pro wars in 2011. After building a ranking in Challenger events he entered the main-tour event in Nice, May 2012, where he won the qualifiers and reached the final round, losing to Almagro. At Garros 2012, he beat Malisse and lost in five sets to Simon, and at Wimbledon he won three qualifying and three main-draw matches, thus reaching the final sixteen -- an astonishing result for a qualifier. Official rank when selected #79, 12-month target #67.
Roberto Bautista-Agut, 24, height 5-11, Spain. Roberto won the Challenger event in Rome at the start of Second Trimester 2012. Nearly all his pro success has been in Challenger competition, roughly equally on clay and hard courts. During 2012 to date, he has achieved a 15-6 record in Challengers, four match wins over top-hundred opponents, and a ranking inside the top hundred for the period. Official rank when selected #123, 12-month target #79.
(Note: Roberto would win the Challenger tournament in Orbetello, Italy, in the week following the calculation.)
Benoit Paire, 23, height 6-5. France. Tall and lithe, Benoit appeared on our riser list of December 2011. His rise accelerated in Second Trimester 2012, when he regularly reached the middle rounds of main-tour events, achieving two wins at Wimbledon, three at 's-Hertogenbosch, and second place at Belgrade. His victims included Dolgopolov, Goffin, Tomic, and Andujar. Official rank when selected #50, target #39.
Guillaume Rufin, 22, height 6-2, France. Guillaume's improvement in Challenger and main-tour action has accelerated during 2012 to date, including several wins over opponents in the first hundred and a strong winning record against opponents in the second. Rank when selected #133, 12-month target #84.
(Note: Guillaume would reach the semis at the Challenger event in Oberstaufen, Germany, in the week following the calculation.)
Jerzy Janowicz, 21, height 6-5, Poland. An imposing and strong-armed right-hander, Jerzy crashed through the qualifiers at Wimbledon 2012. He then branded his presence in the Wimby main draw, winning twice before losing in the third round. Two of his matches ended in extended fifth sets, he defeating Gulbis and losing to F. Mayer though out-scoring the latter in aces 20-8. After Wimbledon, he won Challenger tournaments at Scheveningen and Poznan. Rank when selected #82, 12-month target #46.
David Goffin, 21, height 5-11, Belgium. David was prominent on our riser list of April 2012, having achieved rank of #51 for the trimester just completed. He then attained rank of #40 for the year's Second Trimester. That effort included a final-16 finish at Garros 2012, ending in a four-set loss to Federer. He therefore appears on a second consecutive watch list. Official rank when selected # 63, 12-month target #55.
Ryan Harrison, 20, height 6-0, U.S.A. Ryan, like Sloane Stephens, now renews presence on our watch lists for a second consecutive year. He has compiled a positive W-L record in main-tour action during 2012 to date, including twelve victories over top-100 opponents. Official rank when selected #52, 12-month target #36.
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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.
Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular
competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75
singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four
years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where
the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington
Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history
of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A
tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award
from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.
Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.