Levar Harper Griffith

An Olympic Wild Card Case For Sunitha Rao

Hello again it’s Levar updating you on some of the ongoing initiatives for The Global Tennis Foundation. Most recently we have been supporting and promoting Sunitha Rao, who is currently the No. 2 ranked woman from India and is aspiring to play in the Beijing Olympics this August. She recently won a women’s 75k Challenger in doubles, and is looking to gain some momentum to be accepted in the draw at the Olympics.

Sunitha was born to Indian parents and raised in the United States (Jersey City, N.J and Bradenton, Fla.). She had a wonderful junior career and turned that into a consistent top 200 player in both singles and doubles. Global Tennis has been supporting her as she tries to achieve her goal of representing India in the Games. She first represented India in Fed Cup play in 2007 and has played eight ties for India posting a 5-6 record (3-2 in doubles).

Sunitha will not receive a direct entry into the Olympic singles or doubles competition, so we are hoping that the International Tennis Federation will award Sunitha one of its “ITF Places” or wild cards into the event so that India can be properly represented in the Games. Her current WTA Tour ranking is No. 155 in singles and No. 111 in doubles (which places her outside – not just outside – but respectfully outside of the cut-offs for entry). It is no secret that India is one of the most important emerging markets in tennis (the WTA Tour and its excellent CEO Larry Scott is doing all that it can to make the tour event in Bangalore as big and prestigious as it can). Sunitha’s countrywomen Sania Mirza is a huge magnet for publicity and exposure for tennis in India, the world’s second most populous country with over 1 billion citizens. Sania (currently ranked No. 32 in singles and No. 20 in doubles) is currently off the tour with a right wrist injury and there is some doubt that she will even be fit enough for the Games. Should she not be ready to post for the Beijing Games, India would be without a female representative in the singles or doubles draw. This is why we are hoping the ITF will recognize Sunitha’s strong results – and the importance of having Indian women represented at the Games – and be kind enough to award Sunitha a singles or doubles wild card into the event. If Sania is fit for singles in Beijing, we hope that a wild card can be given to Sania and Sunitha in doubles. Sania and Sunitha are great role models for young Indians – particularly young Indian women – and their participation in the Olympics will help continue to fuel the fires of increased interest in tennis in India and in Asia in general.

“It would mean the world to me to represent India in the Olympics. I have dreamed about it my whole life,” said Sunitha. “The popularity of tennis is really growing a lot in India, which is a great thing, especially with the popularity of Sania Mirza. So many youngsters, especially girls, are taking up tennis now, and it’s a great thing to see!”

Why Men Like Tennis! – A Photopost of the ECM Prague Open

On Sunday, I was browsing my site TennisGrandStand and I look at the left column of the frontpage where Tennis Served Fresh is placed and see the title “Why do women love tennis ?” By Erwin Ong. The title naturally it caught my interest and I wondered why do women love tennis. Then I see a pictures of two men with naked torsos and it all made sense. But hey wait a minute…what about the men? The men shouldn’t be left behind and so I am uploading a gallery I have received yesterday from our photographer Ralf Reinecke who is currently residing in Prague to shoot photos for TennisGrandStand at the ECM Prague Open.

But first off some links that I thought you might find interesting:

Jelena Dokic wants to play top tennis again and asks for help from renowned management agency IMG (The Age)

ESPN just paid to broadcast Wimbledon but Tennisweek.com is quoting sources that the network has acquired the rights to the US Open as well. They would then hold the rights for broadcasting for ALL the major tournaments. (TennisWeek)

Yet another article about Lindsay Davenport about her comeback which she combines with motherhood (ESPN)

Patty Schnyder talks about the clay season (Sony Ericsson WTA Tour)

A new set up for the Rogers Cup in Canada and now to have lesser cancellations because everyone always pulls out! (Sportsnet)

Justine Henin plays with the passers by. Three people lived and told all about their encounter with the Belgian champion (Official Justine Henin website)

Maria Sharapova does her thing for the UN and will visit Chernobyl this summer to try and increase awareness for the problem regions after the nuclear distaster back in the mid 80s (Women’s tennis blog)

A very inspiring and touching article by Levar Harper-Griffith. There really should be more people like him in this world (TennisGrandStand)

Photos of the ECM Prague Open:

E.Ivanova 1 E.Ivanova 2 Karolina Sprem 1 Karolina Sprem 2 Karolina Sprem 3 Melinda Czink 1 Melinda Czink 2 Sofia Arvidsson Urzula Radwanska Veronika Chvojkova 1 Veronika Chvojkova 2 Veronika Chvojkova 3

Extra added bonus. A video of Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta after their doubles win:

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The Journeyman Talks Tennis Foundations

Mark Keil, the director/producer of the cult classic “The Journeymen”, and now tennis coach, writes about two very positive tennis foundations.

Brian Vahaly, the former academic and three-time All-American from the University of Virginia, started a foundation in 2003. The main goal of his Brighter Future Foundation is to provide funding and assistance for programs managed by Community Tennis Associations in Georgia. It will provide financial assistance to promising junior competitive players, and each year the Foundation will award a $2,500 scholarship to an outstanding high school senior. For more information, go to www.brianvahaly.com. An Atlanta native and former top 100 player, Vahaly currently is working for UBS Financial.

Levar Harper Griffith, a native of Brooklyn, and former top American junior, has started the Global Tennis Foundation. His goal is also to provide financial assistance to young American’s who need help with training, traveling, and related tournament expenses. His foundation is currently at the fundraising stage, and more information can be sought out at www.globaltennisfoundation.org. Levar is currently trying to keep his professional tennis dreams alive, and will start competing this summer in Futures in Europe. He is coached by Jim Lewis, and is based out of Santa Clarita, California. His goal is to get back into the US Open qualifying by the end of the summer. The twenty six year old says, “I still have gas in the tank, so I am still going to do it. Injuries have kept miles off of me, so I’m ready to compete again.” Two American’s giving back to the game they love. Great to see. Until next week, keep on playing!