NCAA

NCAA Champion Cecil Loses In Opening Match at US Open

Despite losing in the first round of the US Open, Spartanburg native and NCAA champion Mallory Cecil chalks it all up to a learning experience.

Playing in front a packed crowd on Court 8, Cecil, who received a wild card into the main draw for winning the NCAA championships earlier this summer, found herself overwhelmed by the occasion and her opponent’s game. Committing 38 unforced errors, the American never managed to impose her game as she lost 6-0, 6-1 to Tathiana Garbin, the veteran player from Italy.

“I’m just really lacking experience at this point,” said Cecil. “This is all new to me and matches like these show me what I need to do to play against players at this level.”

Cecil, who turned professional this summer on August 14th, opened the match with two unforced errors as Garbin seemed content to guide down the ball the middle of the court, allowing Cecil to dictate the tempo of the match.

The American held a game point on her serve early on in the first set and held a break point one game later, but backhand errors cost Cecil the chance to get on the scoreboard, allowing Garbin to run take the first set, 6-0.

“With players like Garbin, it’s pretty much all up to you,” said Cecil. “I was trying to control the points, but also hitting shots I didn’t necessarily need to go for. It was tough to do anything with her slice because it stayed so low, but in order to be a top player, you have to learn how to handle anything.”

Cecil held serve to level the second set at 1-1, but it would be the only game she won in the contest. Committing unforced errors early in the rallies, Cecil dropped serve two more times before a missed drop shot sent Garbin into the second round on her first match point.

“I’ll obviously talk about the match with my dad and my coach, but obviously I need to try and put this behind me as quickly as possible,” said Cecil.

Despite the loss today, Cecil has shown potential this summer as she looks to break through the pro ranks. She reached the quarterfinals of a $50,000 challenger in Texas, and in the first round of a $50,000 challenger in Kentucky, served for the match against No. 63 ranked Julie Coin before losing in 3 sets.

“I can definitely compete against players in the top 100, but those were smaller tournaments and there wasn’t perhaps as much as attention as there was in this match,” said Cecil. “I’m just in a bit of a slump and need to try and move past it.”

Cecil said she plans to either play several challenger events in the US this fall, or head to France for a five week stretch of challengers. By this time next year, she plans to be in the US Open off merit, rather than a wildcard.

“By this time next year, I want my ranking to be high enough to get into the US Open qualifying (approximately No. 250) and then qualify into the main draw. Having a wild card was great, but I want to be able to do this on my own.”

The Journeyman: Open Season

Mark Keil, scribes this week on the final major of the year: the US Open.

It really has been great writing about my past tournament experiences. This nourishes my ego immensely and thank you for staying tuned.

In 1991, I played with Francisco Montana of Miami. Francisco was an All-American out of the University of Georgia. An All American is a player who play’s collegiate tennis and qualifies as one of the 64 best player’s in Division I university tennis in the year-end season individual championships. There are probably around 175 school’s that play Division I. If the player is seeded in singles, or gets to the round of 16 in the event, he get’s a plaque proclaiming his status.  If a player get’s to the quarterfinals in the 32-team doubles event, he also becomes a member of the team. Francisco was a stellar junior player, and once beat Jim Courier 6-0, 6-0 in the Orange Bowl.  He had more hitches in his serve than a Nebraska trailer park. We lost to Steve DeVries, the All-American out of Cal-Berkeley and the current Bryan brother’s coach David MacPherson.

The next time I competed at the Open I played with Stefan Kruger and we beat Danie Visser of South Africa and Laurie Warder of Australia 6-4,7-6.  Visser was a crafty lefty, who had tremendous success in doubles.  His partner Laurie was a scratch golfer.  Staying at the Open is always fun. I would always try and stay where Patrick Rafter was staying, usually the Hotel Elysse.  It was great to hang out in the lobby’s Monkey Bar and check out the female’s trolling.

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In 1994, I played with Rikard Bergh, nicknamed “the Liar” for always telling fibs.  He was cool, in that the year we played together I signed up with a partner, but he called me and told me we were not high enough to get in. He said if I played with him, we could squeak in.  So we got in, and beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and David Rikl, Wade McGuire and Jeff Tarango and got a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot.  We faced Tom Nijssen and Cyril Suk.  In the third set we got hooked by the umpire Steve Ulrich, on a deep lab that landed out for us to go up a break in the third.  Ulrich is by far the worst chair umpire ever.  We lost 7-6, 4-6, 3-6. 

In 1995,  I played with Peter Nyborg and we lost to the NCAA doubles champions from Ole Miss Ali Hamadeh and Mahesh Bhupathi  6-7, 3-6.  In those days, the collegiate champion in singles and doubles would get a wild card into the main draw.  Now, only if American’s win the event, do they receive one, and I don’t think that applies to the doubles anymore.  The next year I played with Matt Lucena, the two-time college doubles champion with two different partners. We beat Brett Hansen-Dent and T.J. Middleton 6-4, 6-4.  Hansen-Dent got to the finals of the NCAA’s in singles once for the Trojans of USC.  We beat another SC boy Brian MacPhie and his partner Michael Tebbutt the next round.  They both had wicked lefty serves.  We lost to Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien after that. O’Brien won the singles, doubles, and team title for Stanford in 1992. 

In 1998, Doug Flach and I lost to Macphie and Patrick McEnroe 6-7, 4-6.  Papa Mac was watching, and I felt like I was in a rerun episode of Johnny Mac playing Bill Scanlon and I was the ballboy.  In my final match at the US Open, I teamed up with Luis Lobo of Argentina. At that time, he was at the end of his career, and was coaching Marcelo Rios as well as playing doubles on the tour.  We defeated Garcia-Roditi and lost to Lareau and O’Brien again.

Enjoy the tennis on TV, or if you have the gumption, head to the Open and watch it live!

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Coin Makes US Open Her Coming Out Party

Earlier this summer, Julie Coin was so unhappy with the state of her tennis game that she considered hanging up her rackets at the end of the year.

It’s safe to say those thoughts have been removed from her mind.

In one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, the No. 188 ranked Coin shocked top seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round of the US Open. Prior to this week, the 25 year old Frenchwoman had never won a main draw match at the WTA Tour level and had yet to defeat a player ranked in the top 100.

“I haven’t realized that I’ve beaten the number one player in the world,” said Coin. “I’m just really enjoying this moment now. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight.”

Regularly hitting first serves at 110 MPH, Coin appeared unfazed by the large crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. On her fourth break point opportunity at 3-3 in the first set, she hit a forehand that forced an error from Ivanovic. Two games later, a backhand error from Ivanovic gave Coin the first set.

Both players held their serves until 4-3 in the second set, when Coin began to get tentative on her groundstokes and allowed Ivanovic back into the match. The 20 year old Serbian won the last three games off the match without the loss of a set.

At 2-2 in the final set, a forehand passing shot by Coin gave her the only break of the set. A double fault by Coin and forehand winner by Ivanovic erased Coin’s first two match points, but a forehand that landed long on the third match point moved Coin into a third round match up with No. 32 seed Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday.

“I’ve seen Amelie play before because she’s from my region,” said Coin. “She’s kind of an idol in France. Everybody loves her. She’s the one whose footsteps we want follow in a little bit.”

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Having turned pro in 2005 after an oustanding NCAA career at Clemson University, where she was a three time All-American ranked as high as No.2 in the country, Coin said she found it difficult to transfer her college success into solid professional results and struggled with life on tour.

Having won the majority of her matches in college, Coin found herself on the Challenger circuit, the equivalent of Triple A in baseball, regularly losing to unknown players in unglamorous locations.

“It’s really hard to compete at this (the challenger) level,” said Coin. “You have to do everything yourself and sometimes you compete in places which aren’t very nice. The level is tough too because everyone has to go through these tournaments before going on the WTA tour.”

Although she won four singles titles on the challenger circuit, Coin never managed to qualify for the main draw of a WTA event. The week before the US Open qualifying began, Coin lost in the first round of qualifying at a $50,000 challenger to Kelly Liggan, an Irish player ranked No. 423 in the world.

Despondent over her career, Coin said that results like these made her consider retiring from tennis and putting her mathematical sciences degree from Clemson to use.

“I was thinking, ‘Am I really made to play tennis?'” said Coin. “Am I going to be able to get into the top 100 one day? Because it’s not worth it unless you’re able to do that. I was thinking about maybe stopping at the end of this year.”

Through working with her mental coach at home, Coin was able to relieve herself of the doubts in her game. Regardless of what happens the rest of this tournament, Coin said she is satisfied with her performance at the US Open.

“Everybody was telling me to enjoy the moment,” said Coin. “It’s great when you win a point and everyone is getting all excited, after the match point everyone is screaming. I really don’t know how I did it. Today was just perfect.”

NCAA Champ Blog: Riza Zalameda

My time at UCLA was surely not just about having the  great college experience.  As a student-athlete life is pretty different from that of the average students. More than often the pressure to excel on the court, the constant pain we have to go through running sprints and lifting weights, and the struggle to maintain an above average GPA was unbearable… we student-athletes call it “the GRIND” and honestly I can say that it is not all that fun, but after you get the pay back, it is way worth it.

Considering how much my team and I have been through I would say the NCAA Team Championship made all the pain go away. I mean, we are part of history now. Part of the history of an institution that is not only one of the finest and most recognized universities in the world, but the WINNINGEST in NCAA Championships in the nation.  We locked in at #102. But, which I think is even GREATER is that we were the first team of five UCLA teams that won in the Championship round. I mean it took UCLA six times to finally win it! The tennis program was always the at the top in the country, but now we finally proved it to everyone and ourselves that we are truly No. 1.

After all the yelling, hugging, crying, and laughing, with my teammates that day, I went on to end my NCAA run in the singles quarterfinal round and the with my first and last NCAA Doubles Championship with my fellow senior Tracy Lin.  We both were overcome with disbelief… there was absolutely no way that we would have envisioned winning as much as we did and becoming No. 1 in the nation… when our coaches merely paired together in the middle of the season because my original partner, Yasmin Schnack got badly injured. Now, Tracy wasn’t even in the doubles line up early in the year, and I find it miraculous that we turned out to be a formidable team.

Now that we both finished our four years of eligibility I am going to turn pro and try my luck on the circuit, while Tracy is going to retire from tennis, study for her MCATS and become a doctor. However, our Championship earned us a wildcard into the US Open in New York this August, so I told her she won’t be going into retirement just yet!  This will be my third time going there… the last time was 2003 and 2004 when I won the Girls 18s Doubles Championships with Anne Yelsey and Audra Cohen, respectively.  It was such an AMAZING way to close up the chapter of my junior/ pre-college tennis career… and it is even SWEETER to go back there to open up a new chapter for my pro career!

I have already received many opportunities to play in the professional events.  This summer I got wildcards into the Stanford Bank of the West Classic and the LA Eastwest Bank Classic.  I played doubles at Stanford with Anne and we won our first round! We beat Patty Schnyder and her partner in the third set super tiebreaker! It was bizarre playing with no Ad scoring and a 10 point super-tiebreak for the third set. It was not too difficult to adjust to, but the match goes pretty quickly so you have to be really focused and execute on the first opportunity.

I have so much more to say about playing in front of the crowds, in a night match, and against the Euopeans! These European women are really tough cookies and I am happy to say that I am not as intimidated by them as I used to be! I also no longer feel out of place here… it has been a struggle transition from college mentality to professional.  I played in the singles qualies in LA, and it was definitely a good match. I was soo in there competing toe to toe with my opponent who was a solid veteran… yet there was slight hesitation, a minute glimpse of failure that kept me from executing.  I have to stop looking for the end result, and instead stay in the moment: trying to win every point and stay postively in tune with myself.  I realize that being in tune with yourself, listening to your body and smiling really helps in competition.  Now, that will be so crucial for me to master.  I am out there by myself now with no coach at the bench telling me “it’s okay, you got this,” or “fight!” on change overs.  There are no more teammates behind me, fighting next to me, and for me… like cutting off a life-line, the blood in your veins that goes  straight to the heart.  We could never ever have won our national championship without that life-line: that we wanted to win it so badly for EACH OTHER more so than for our-selves.

At the present I am in LA training for New York.  I am planning on flying out the 7th to JFK and get into the $50K Bronx Challenger.  Tracy and I may try to play in a WTA tournament in Forest Hills, New Haven the week before the Open.  After performing impressively at the LA Open, we think we have a good shot at winning at a major tournament!  Meanwhile, I’m hoping to attract some potential sponsors for the trip and also future ones the rest of the year. I miss getting free clothes an shoes from UCLA now!!!.  I really hope I can perform well with these opportunities open for me because this pro career is after all the chance of a lifetime!

Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…

This Is How We Roll In Los Angeles

Everyone from Nike to SFX was buzzing about the special kit adidas made up for the ladies of UCLA at the NCAA team tournament.

The company took Competition 4 tanks from their winter line and slapped the university’s logo on ‘em. As far as we know, UCLA/adidas were the only ones who went custom for the event.