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Florida Tennis Briefs: Record JTT Sign-up; Fed Cup Final Preview; More

November 4, 2010 12:39 PM
by Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

Diana and Howard Gardner
Gardner Drives Record USTA Junior Tennis Participation in Jacksonville

Participation in the USTA Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) league continues to rise across Florida -- just ask JTT Local League Coordinator Diana Gardner of Jacksonville, who registered a record 508 JTT and QuickStart league players for her fall season. The Jacksonville JTT league includes 14 divisions across three counties, many divisions divided by East and West regions to reduce travel for parents and participants.

"Some divisions even have a third flight like 'Midtown' or 'South,'" Gardner says. "Approximately 60% of the total registration is made up of players under 12 -- that's an indicator that we are attracting the new and younger players -- there are 12 10-and-under QuickStart teams!"

Gardner says the key to her success is that she enjoys working with parents, club teaching pros and team captains, guiding them through the Tennislink on-line system to register children, and educating new participants about league basics.
"There are 15 new team captains who have been guided through the Tennislink system," Gardner says. "Some parent captains do not play the game and have needed information about basic tennis as well. Being readily available to respond to questions and listening to concerns from both the teaching professionals and parent captains is one of my fundamental business beliefs...after all, they are our (USTA Florida's) customers. I'm a detail person and recognize my gift is organizational skills."

Gardner is assisted by her husband Howard who helps with the computer technical side, in addition to organizing QuickStart/JTT Jamborees and numerous other functions. The JTT and QuickStart leagues, which run at a cost to participants of only $35 per season for a minimum of six weeks of matches, are supported by participating clubs and facilities offering additional QuickStart and traditional clinics and lessons for children.

"Diana's success could not have come without the commitment from the Jacksonville-area pros and the support of her JTT committee," says USTA Florida Team Tennis Coordinator Michelle Willis. "They agreed to support this league and the benefits of its success has far exceeded expectations. They have worked with her to provide QuickStart Tennis.  This region is one of the fastest-growing areas for 10-and-under tennis using the QuickStart format of play, and one of the finest examples of what can happen when a dedicated local league coordinator, the community, tennis professionals, and tennis players work together. Her passion, organization, and willingness to try new things to grow her league are qualities I would love to be able to bottle up and pass around."

Coco Vandeweghe (photo for USTA by Stephen Dunn-Getty Images)
U.S. Tries to Stop Italian Domination in Fed Cup Final

Without the injured Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, the core U.S. Fed Cup team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and doubles specialist Liezel Huber will take to the court beginning this Saturday to face the defending champion Italians in a rematch of last year's Fed Cup final.

The Americans hope to turn the tables on the Italians, who routed the U.S. in last year's final in Italy on red clay, where the U.S. failed to win a lone match. The U.S. hopes the difference-maker this year will be the fast indoor harcourt surface favored by the Americans, as opposed to the slow red clay the Italians utilized to their advantage in 2009. The San Diego Sports Arena will host the Saturday-Sunday meeting.

"I think being on our home court and being indoors on a faster court, that really is helpful to us," said Billie Jean King, who led the U.S. to seven Fed Cup titles as a player, and four as a captain, speaking to the AP. "Italians like to play on slow, red clay."

U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez is looking to not only the court surface, but the home crowd to make a difference.

"We want the crowd to be as into it as possible," Fernandez said. "From the very first point, you feel that support. That's what makes it so nice to be at home, because you're feeling that constantly."

With the Williams sisters absent, and without an outstanding singles threat in the mix, Fernandez could offer a debut stage to 18-year-old American Coco Vandeweghe, who was named to the team after a summer which saw her make a number of appearances at the WTA tour level, one in which she defeated current world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva. Vandeweghe plays a bludgeoning baseline game, high on winners (but balanced by a high number of unforced errors), that at it's best would be a formidable fast-court challenge for the Italians.

The Italian team is comprised in singles of world No. 7 and reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, and No. 23 (and year-end world No. 1 doubles player) Flavia Pennetta. Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, who won the doubles point in last year's final, will likely again play the doubles against the American Huber, likely partnered by Mattek-Sands.

Without the Williams sisters, who were scheduled to make their first U.S. Fed Cup appearance since 2007, the U.S. has no singles player ranked in the Top 50. Fernandez hopes the home court advantage will make the singles rankings differential between the two teams a null point.

"We're very excited to be in a final again," Fernandez said. "It makes a big difference when you're home. We can really feel it in our practices, and we're just feeling that much more comfortable."

USTA Pro Circuit Event Continues This Weekend in Niceville

The USTA Pro Circuit men's event this week at The Bluewater Bay Tennis Center in Niceville is free throughout the week, then admission to the Saturday semifinals and Sunday final will cost only $5, with the proceeds going toward Okaloosa Cares, Inc., a Florida non-profit organization established to offer better quality of life opportunities for kids through tennis.

The tournament boasts over 100 players encompassing more than 30 different countries. The main draw features up-and-coming young Americans including 18-year-old Jack Sock, who won the 2010 US Open boys' singles title, becoming the first American to win the event since Andy Roddick in 2000, and captured the USTA boys' National Championships to earn a wildcard into this year's US Open main draw.

Also scheduled to appear were 18-year-old Dennis Kudla, the 2010 US Open boys' runner-up; 18-year-old Andrea Collarini who reached the 2010 French Open boys' singles final; last year's tournament runner-up James Lemke of Australia; Florida resident and Haitian Davis Cup player Olivier Sajous, who won the 2010 US Open Playoffs-Florida; and 2009 NCAA singles champion Devin Britton, among others.

For more info go to http://www.usta.com/Pro_Tennis/USTA_Pro_Circuit/Information/14418_Latest_News_and_Results_from_the_USTA_Pro_Circuit/.





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