He's Got Game

Junior tennis player and journalist Devon Jerome takes on the pro tennis world

USTA New England Magazine
Jan/Feb 2008 issue

When you walk into the Media Center at the Pilot Pen, you expect to see journalists, photographers and media staff bustling in and out of press conferences and racing to meet deadlines. What you don’t expect to see is a 16 year old juggling a laptop, tape recorder and camera in the midst of the madness. But then again, Devon Jerome is not a typical teenager. This ambitious high school junior from Stamford, CT doesn’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come his way. He chases after them.

Jerome began playing tennis at age 11, and since then has steadfastly pursued the dream of becoming a pro player. The turning point came when Lleyton Hewitt burst onto the tennis scene. “I really admired his drive, and was inspired by his passion for the game,” says Jerome. “He was winning Wimbledon and the US Open, and I wanted to be like him and pursue my own dream of playing at the pro level.” In his early years as a junior player, Jerome recalled, “I had a partner that I would always practice with and we would switch off and pretend to be our favorite player. I would be Hewitt, and he would be Sampras. We got a chance to taste a bit of professional tennis in our own little way, so it was fun for us.”

During Jerome’s weeklong stint as the youngest person to ever cover the Pilot Pen as a member of the press, he saw a different side of pro tennis--a backstage pass of sorts, getting as close to the tennis nerve center as you can get. His journalistic endeavors put him in the front row of every press conference, going toe to toe with other journalists, getting the inside scoop from the players. Jerome says, “Being a journalist at a major tennis tournament is a lot of work and a lot of long days. I was tired mentally and physically, but I really loved being there with all of the other journalists and watching lots of tennis.”

Jerome didn’t let a little thing like exhaustion deter him from meeting world-class players. He interviewed 18-year old rookie Donald Young following his first round win and his first ever ATP tour win. He also chatted with John Isner, and was quite impressed by him. “He was probably the most articulate person I interviewed at the tournament.” Isner, who spent four years in college as a speech and communications major, stressed that you can take the college path and still make it on the pro tour--a highly debated issue facing junior tennis players.

Jerome’s entrepreneurial bent is evident. His business card reads: President, CEO and Founder, Zenithe, Co. His online magazine, zenithejrtennis.com is a site dedicated to junior tennis, and the issues that set junior tennis apart from the college and pro game. Jerome’s online company was in the planning stage for about two years and went live in May of 2007. Already, the site has a loyal following. His articles range from profiles of top ten junior players, to the pros and cons of home schooling. The site also contains a blog called “Broken Racquets” and an online t-shirt store selling fun, tennis-themed shirts that appeal to young players. Jerome invites other junior players to write for the magazine as well.

Jerome’s life isn’t just about tennis. He continues to prove himself off the court by excelling in Advanced Placement high school classes, and playing the cello. “I have been a cellist since the age of four,” says Jerome. He’s also a member of the Stamford Young Artists (orchestra of Stamford, CT) and recently joined the Youth Symphony of the United Nations, based in Greenwich, CT.

Jerome’s tennis star continues to rise. He is currently ranked No. 25 in New England in the 16’s, ranked No. 46 in the 18’s and has competed in a few national tournaments. He practices with a private coach, who helps him focus on developing his strokes and improving his technical game. After high school, Jerome hopes to play college tennis and study business. Whether he’s concentrating on his serve, the cello or studying, Jerome’s future looks bright.

Dinara Safina Makes Her Mark as Russians Continue to Dominate Tennis

On the Baseline Tennis News’ 2008 Players to Watch Series
December 12, 2007

January is the time when the tennis slate is wiped clean to make room for a brand new season. With 2008 just weeks away, the usual onslaught of player predictions have started pouring in. There’s no better way to take a stab at picking future winners than taking a look back at past performance. But, as we know, tennis can often be as fickle as the stock market.

For some players, 2007 was a year plagued by ups and downs, while others spent the year battling chronic injuries more often than their opponents. For Dinara Safina, the 21 year old Russian and younger sister of former No. 1 player Marat Safin, 2007 turned out to be a confidence builder as well as her breakout year in doubles.

She kicked off 2007 winning her fifth career singles title at the Mondial Australian Women’s Hardcourts on the Gold Coast. Her sixth career doubles title also came at the Gold Coast (with Srebotnik). Safina was the only player in 2007 to sweep both singles and doubles at the same event.

One of Safina’s goals for 2007 was to play more tournaments as a confidence builder. The Pilot Pen was on the top of her list, making it to the quarterfinals. Despite her success, Safina cautioned, “It doesn’t matter who I’m going to play—just when you think this is going to be easy, it’s a tough match.” The greatest boost to her confidence came just a few weeks later at the US Open, where she won her first grand slam title in doubles with a brand new doubles partner, Nathalie Dechy.

After her US Open victory, Safina reflected on her performance. “I think this year I proved that, okay, I didn’t say that I have to beat Justine, but at least to maybe show more from my part. Okay, like now in doubles, I’m going to concentrate. I think that showed.”

In October, Safina continued her concentration and momentum into the Kremlin Cup by making it through to the semis, ultimately losing to fellow Russian, Elena Dementieva, who went on to win the tournament.

Since the US Open, Safina has been coached by Heinz Guenthardt, former coach of Steffi Graf, and she still takes pointers from her mother, Raouza, who often travels with her to tournaments.

As she heads into 2008, Safina holds the No. 15 spot in singles and No. 14 in doubles. Overall, Safina has completed her third consecutive season in the top 20. Earlier in the summer, she cracked the top 10 briefly, holding onto the No. 9 spot.

Safina is a powerful player with plenty of room to grow her game. Her singles record of 43-22 and doubles record of 28-10 makes her a dual threat. Whether her success comes from singles or doubles, her game is definitely on the upswing.

Fire It Up One Time…BAM!

Connecticut’s own J-Block talks tennis and friendship

USTA New England Magazine
Nov/Dec 2007 Issue

The J-Block isn’t your ordinary group of tennis fans. Since 2005, they’ve been a permanent fixture up in the stands with their signature blue shirts, showing support for longtime friend, James Blake. The “unofficial” captain of the J-Block, BobbyD, took some time recently to give us the lowdown on what makes the J-Block so special.

Who came up with the name J-Block?

: The name J-Block was created by Ann Worcester, Tournament Director for the Pilot Pen. The original group of J-Blocker's consisted of friends of James and Brian Barker (his coach) - all from Connecticut. James' friends and Brian's friends all know each other and actually have competitions, like bowling, golf, darts, etc against each other - the young guns against the old guys. Brian was coaching James before he was a teenager, and most of the other young guns in the group were coached by Brian also.

Your shirts say: Fire it up one time…BAM! Who came up with this slogan and what does it mean?

BobbyD: Fire it up one time...BAM is a saying that our group uses. It was started by Andy Jorgensen while at a boring party—he was trying to get it going and yelled that out loud. We started using it with James when our group went to Indian Wells for a tournament. We all went there to surprise Brian for his 40th birthday. Andy yelled “Fire it one time” to James when he had a big break point, and when James nailed a powerful winner, we all yelled out “BAM!” at the same time.

What do you think of James’ new book, Breaking Back?

BobbyD: We all read James' book and thought it should have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list! (Just kidding). However, after living, telling and hearing James' story, reading the book was still emotional. We thought it was great that he mentioned so many of us and the local places we all go to. The book is very accurate in the way James thinks and acts.

James recently partnered with Nike to sell the J-Block t-shirts. What color would you call these shirts anyway?

BobbyD: When James returned from his illness, 25 of us had shirts made up in James' favorite color...Carolina Blue and the slogan on it. We did not have anything to do with the naming of the J-Block, but we fit in perfectly when we got to the Pilot Pen. We just wanted to be there to cheer him on. Since then, the J-Block has grown to just about every tennis fan out there. Nike ended up making shirts that sell for one of James' charity of choice [USTA Tennis and Education Foundation] and you will see people all around the world that have his shirt and set up a J-Block at each tournament. Sometimes it is only 2 or 3 people.

How hard is it to take time off from work to travel to tournaments?

BobbyD: We have traveled all around the world to watch James—Australia, Moscow, Bangkok, Europe, Vegas, you name it. I think someone has been to every tournament James has played around the world. It's not hard to take off work, because James is always so excited when someone says, "I think I might go to this or that tournament." So, no one minds taking time off work.

What do you admire most about James?

I can't speak for anyone else, but what I admire about James is that even with his fame and fortune, he always wants to get together with all the guys from back home whenever he has a chance. And, he acts like the same fun seeking kid he was as a teenager. Sometimes James only has a weekend home and he still wants to get together and do something with his friends.

Has the J-Block ever become so rowdy that you’ve been escorted out of a tournament?

BobbyD: As far as I know, the original J-Blockers have never been escorted out of a tournament. We feel that even though we are out there having fun, we have to remember that we are there because of James and we would never do anything to harm his reputation.

In your experience, how have other tennis fans reacted to you at tournaments?

BobbyD: The reaction from other fans has been mixed. It is funny, the crowds are so much more rowdy around the world and we would not be considered too loud anywhere, but here. So we try to keep in mind the people who want to go to a tennis match and clap quietly at the end of the match.

Do you think that your group has brought more attention to the game?

BobbyD: I think the J-Block has been good for tennis. Most sports viewers and athletes get excited when the crowd gets going.

All in The Family for Wayne Bryan and Sons

Wayne Bryan is much more than the father of the world's best doubles team.

USTA New England online (www.newengland.usta.com)
September 25, 2007

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Where does Wayne Bryan get his energy? He says it’s from Diet Coke, but after the caffeine wears off, it’s his passion for tennis that keeps him motivated.

As tournament emcee for the ATP Tour and the Outback Champions Series, Bryan is a natural when it comes to getting the crowd pumped up. He’s been called everything from the ambassador of tennis to a pied piper. When he’s not emceeing a match, you can find Bryan teaching a tennis clinic at just about every pro tournament around the country, including the Pilot Pen in New Haven and the Outback Champions Series event in Boston. He spends an average of 180 days a year on the road with racquet in tow, doing what he does best: Teaching, coaching and entertaining.

Bryan began playing tennis as a kid with his dad "as a way to avoid going to church," he said with a laugh. "If I could keep my dad out there on the court in a long three-setter, we’d play through church." Bryan’s devilish avoidance of church in favor of more court time helped to set the stage for his lifelong love of tennis.

He recalls "that moment" as a kid, when he began to see tennis as more than just a game. His dad took him to a pro tournament at the LA Tennis Club. "I sat in the front row, about 15 feet from the player, and I saw him hit a powerful forehand volley. The player was an Inca god named Alejandro Olmedo, a Wimbledon and Davis Cup champ. Since watching that match, I’ve been on a tennis court every day in one way or another," he said.

Bryan was never one to sit on the sidelines in any activity. Growing up in Miami (he later moved to Southern California around age 10), he played multiple sports, including tennis and football. He was an Eagle Scout, class president all four years of high school and was the No.1 player and captain of his University of California-Santa Barbara tennis team. After college, he went on to law school, and later somehow found time to briefly join the pro tennis tour. Wanting to stay involved in the game, he became tennis director and club pro at a new club in Camarillo, Calif., where he worked for 26 years before branching out into his current role.

He calls himself "a student of teaching, learning, motivation, leadership and parenting." Being a parent may just be one of Bryan’s greatest accomplishments. As the proud father of Bob and Mike Bryan, the No.1- ranked doubles team in the world, he has plenty to be proud of. Very few doubles teams have achieved the level of success in tennis the Bryan brothers have. They were two-time All-Americans at Stanford, have won 41 doubles titles, including all four Grand Slam events and have been key members of the US Davis Cup team since 2003. His sons will be finishing out 2007 as the No. 1 doubles team in the world for the third year in a row and for the fourth time in the past five years.

Being genetically gifted may help Mike and Bob’s success on court, but their focus and discipline is the result of many years of hard work. Coach Bryan says that he and his wife Kathy (a former pro player) ran a tight ship when their twin boys were young. He believes that "kids like to have boundaries. It’s only when you have boundaries that greatness, fun and creativity can occur." And fun was always on the agenda in the Bryan household, regardless of the activity.

That’s not to say that Mike and Bob didn’t try to step over their father’s boundaries on occasion. "There were lots of midnight meetings," says Bryan, but it was those long talks and structured boundaries that made a difference. Nowadays, Coach Bryan’s twin boys are no longer boys. At 29, Mike and Bob are calling the shots, but still check in with Dad on a regular basis.

For Coach Bryan, success isn’t defined by winning tennis matches. Success means giving back—to your kids, to your spouse and to your community. He has helped more than a few parents when he authored a book called Raising Your Child to be a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics. It’s the most un-book-like book you can read, filled with 128 pages of informative, fun and insightful tips on helping kids aspire to their full potential. It took him seven long years to write and has become one of the most passed around books among parents since it hit the bookstores.

Coach Bryan can also add "musician" to his long list of accomplishments—as lead guitarist for the Bryan Bros. Band and the Wayne Bryan Band, with son Mike on drums and Bob on keyboard. The threesome are able to combine their love of music with giving back to the community, taking their act on the road to perform at charity events and tour stops. Coach Bryan has also devoted his time to World Team Tennis, as the coach of the Idaho Sneakers in 1999, and more recently as the coach for the Sacramento Capitals, winning the championships in 2002 and 2007. He was voted coach of the year from 2004-2006.

Looking back, Wayne says he’s never worked a day in his life.
He simply loves what he does.

John “Izzy” Isner Stands Tall At His First US Open

September 1, 2007

John Isner is quickly making a name for himself as the next rising star in American tennis. Few people knew his name at the beginning of the summer. By August, this six-foot-nine newcomer came close to beating Andy Roddick in the final of the Legg Mason Classic. He then got a wildcard into the Pilot Pen, and racked up more aces in the first week of his inaugural US Open than any veteran on the tour, despite his loss to Roger Federer.

When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of being six-foot-nine, this North Carolina native says “obviously, it helps with my serve, coming down at a really steep angle. When I’m serving well, I feel like I can place the ball anywhere. Also, being 6.9” I’m not as quick as most of the guys out there, but that’s something that I can work on. I can get a little quicker, and work on my footwork.”

Some say that John Isner has James Blake to thank for giving him a chance to play at the Pilot Pen. Let’s just say, James has good instincts. He was able to convince Ann Worcester, Tournament Director of the Pilot Pen to give John a wildcard into the tournament. In exchange, John reluctantly agreed to wear a J-Block t-shirt during practice sessions and all post-match press conferences during the Pilot Pen. In his final press conference, John kept his promise and wore the J-Block t-shirt. When asked if he’d be wearing it at the US Open, John said with a sigh of relief, “No, thank God!”

At 22, John Isner has re-defined success on the court, jumping 700 spots in the ATP rankings in less than 6 weeks. In college, he only lost one match during his junior and senior year combined. John says that “staying in college all four years has set me up to where I am today—I got a lot stronger and gained a lot of confidence, especially my last two years.” “Izzy” as his new fans call him, has the size, serve and talent to give the top 20 a run for their money.

How One Determined Player Conquered Wheelchair Tennis

Kelly never too busy to help lead the Connecticut Hornets

USTA New England Magazine
Sept./Oct. 2007 Issue

BRISTOL, CONN. - Dave Kelly—he’s an athlete, alright.
His sport? Wheelchair tennis.
His passion for sports began as a kid, playing tennis and basketball. Despite being injured in a car accident in 1987, which left him paralyzed from the waist down, he knew that somehow, he could handle the enormous challenges ahead. He’s also not the type to let his disability define him. Following his accident, he spent two months at the Gaylord Rehabilitation Hospital in Wallingford, Connecticut, which would later prove to be the key to bringing him back to tennis. Unlike other rehab centers, Gaylord takes an innovative approach to treatment, providing patients with the opportunity to try out various wheelchair sports through its Sports Association clinics.

After Kelly completed his rehab at Gaylord, he always remembered the two tennis courts at the hospital, and dreamed that someday he could play. Despite some recurring health problems following his injury, Kelly's dream to regain his competitive spirit and active lifestyle came to fruition in 2005. While attending a wheelchair tennis clinic at Gaylord, the head coach of the Connecticut Hornets team, Paul Brower, saw Kelly's athletic talent and encouraged him to get back onto the court. He accepted the challenge to join the team, and hasn’t looked back since.

While competition and the thrill of winning are great motivators for both wheelchair and able-bodied players, Kelly says that what motivates him on the tennis court is “having physical well being and the opportunity to participate in the sport with my peers and family.” He particularly enjoys getting out on the court with his nephews: Taylor age 14, Joshua age 12, and Trevor age 10. Kelly admits that it took him some time to get used to the racquet, since most wheelchair players use a smaller grip to be able to hold both the racquet and the chair at the same time while moving. Kelly points out that “since wheelchair tennis is probably the least modified of all the wheelchair sports (playing the ball on two bounces being the only difference) it makes it easy to enjoy playing the sport with others.” This match up helps to break down some of the barriers that often limit interaction between the wheelchair bound and the able-bodied world. Wheelchair tennis also provides Dave with a great release after working long hours as a Finance Manager at ESPN in Bristol, CT, a job that that he has held for the past 8 years.

Kelly also finds time to give back. He volunteers with ESPN’s philanthropic branch, TEAM-ESPN, helping the Special Olympics by organizing events for regional competitions, and is also on the board of The Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, CT. As a member of ESPN’s diversity committee, Kelly says “it’s one of my goals to get wheelchair tennis coverage on air at ESPN. Now that wheelchair tennis is part of all four grand slam tournaments, I'm optimistic this will happen because ESPN carries broadcast rights to three out of the four tournaments.”

In 2006, Kelly led the effort to bring a wheelchair tennis exhibition to ESPN's campus, as a way to gain greater exposure for the sport. Heavy hitters such as Jon Rydberg (#1 ranked USA male player), Karin Korb (#2 ranked USA female player) and Dan James (USTA National Manager of Wheelchair Tennis), all participated in the ESPN exhibition. If that isn’t enough, Dave is a mentor for a local 1st grader, serving as a positive role model for a child who might not otherwise have that support.

Kelly's teammate, and CT Hornets Captain, Karen Smith, has been playing with the Hornets for more than 8 years. She’s passionate about wheelchair tennis, as well as other adaptive sports such as sledge hockey, skiing, waterskiing and hand cycling. Smith says that Kelly's athletic ability and tennis skills have improved tremendously since he joined the team a few years ago. “When he was setup with the right kind of chair and racquet, he excelled immediately and is just hooked on tennis now,” the captain said.

Kelly uses a custom-made wheelchair, built to his specifications. He needs to have some bracing around his mid-section when playing, but doesn’t have any other hindrances in his upper body. Smith says that most players start out with a tester chair, but if they stick with the sport, players often opt for a custom-made chair.

Like Kelly, Smith enjoys competitive play with able-bodied tennis partners, especially the “One-Up-One Down” style of play, a doubles match where one wheelchair player teams up with an able-bodied player. She describes the experience of playing wheelchair tennis as “like being a shark in water—if you stop, you’re dead in the water.” It’s all about constant motion. Most wheelchair tennis athletes play at the baseline, or what players call “The Hub”. The game is played on hard courts, or well-packed clay, although recently, wheelchair tennis has been played on grass at Wimbledon. Tennis wheelchairs have 3 or 4 wheels, angled at 20 degrees (maximum), to be able to spin on a dime. The most popular tennis chair is the “Quickie Match Point”, designed by Randy Snow, an Olympian and top U.S. wheelchair player. One of the biggest challenges in wheelchair tennis is the inability to use sideways movements. Wheelchair tennis athletes rely on quick spins and straight, forward wheeling to get to a ball.

Kelly has had a chance to showcase his tennis talent in singles, doubles and seniors matches on a national stage. He has played in several major tournaments such as The U.S. Open in San Diego, The Cajun Classic in Baton Rouge, The Gateway Classic in Belleville, IL and the Jana Hunsaker Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. When asked who is his most memorable opponent to date, he says “Without question, Gunther Lector. He’s the first person I played as a wheelchair tennis player at the Gateway Classic in 2005. Our skill level is just about even and we’ve built up a good rivalry.”

When Kelly began entering wheelchair tournaments, he noticed that not every player has the same type of disability, with some being more restrictive than others. Some players are quadriplegic—also known as “incomplete quads” (having arms that are semi-mobile), or paraplegic, while others are amputees. Most quad players don’t have grip strength, so regulations allow those players to tape the racquet to their hands for more stability.

At 45, Kelly is now in his 3rd year as a wheelchair tennis athlete, and has quickly become a force to be reckoned with as a member of the Connecticut Hornets. His demonstration of athleticism, inner-strength and fortitude will help pave the way for other disabled men and women to get involved in wheelchair tennis, and help them return to an active lifestyle.

The Hornets, sponsored by The Gaylord Sports Association, have a core group of 6 members, and are always looking to add to their team. Current team members include Kelly Loth, David Kelly, Jeff Lavoie, Francois Trawalter, Colleen Rock and Karen Smith. In addition to the Hornets, wheelchair tennis teams can be found in every state in New England, except Vermont. There is no denying that The Hornets wouldn’t be who they are without the support of Gaylord Hospital’s Sports Association, providing on-site tennis courts, equipment, uniforms, and covering all travel expenses and transportation to tournaments.

For more information about the Gaylord Sports Association, visit
www.gaylord.org/pages/sports.html or call (203) 284-2772.

Game, Set, Blog!

USTA New England Magazine
July 2007

As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” More and more tennis fans have turned to the Internet to get their up-to-the-minute tennis news. But instead of surfing tennis websites that offer one-way communication, fans are turning to the blogosphere, which offers them simple, no-nonsense dialogue to view and comment on. Independent tennis blogs are currently leading the pack, with their engaging news and commentary on all pro tournaments and players worldwide, displaying live posts, scores, videos, photos, interview transcripts and more. Tennis pros are now blogging too, making them more accessible to their fans. Tennis enthusiasts are far more engaged with like-minded people with these new, online tennis communities. This is a good thing.

Tennis blogs that are making a racket on the ‘net:

A research blog where fans can get their news about the ATP and WTA tours, add commentary and view links to tennis articles from newspapers worldwide. You’ll find blog lists from 50 pro player categories, both past and present. There is also a link to official player websites with great video clips. It offers an exhaustive amount of tennis news stories, links to players’ official sites and even specific player sections containing news about that player alone.

This blog is focused on the ladies only, bringing you all the latest ATP and WTA tournament news. Categories such as “The Misses” (pro tennis gossip), the latest player/tournament news, industry news, tennis technology and links to the official live-scoring services, updated daily (very handy). There are also links to every magazine and TV outlet website covering tennis news, from Tennis Magazine to The Tennis Channel. This blog uniquely combines humorous comments and serious discussion, along with pictures, video highlights and live streaming videos of some major tournaments. Lots of entertaining sub categories to browse through, including Clip O’ The Week.

Since its 2005 inception, On the Baseline has grown into the largest WTA Tour-centric blog on the Internet. It provides daily tennis news, previews, interviews match results, live blogging and reader commentary on the top 100 professional women’s tennis players on the Sony Ericsson WTA tour. On the Baseline publishes Aces and Faults – a daily (five days per week) look at player results, news, schedules and industry highlights. There is also a section called Match Point, providing up to the minute match results during Grand Slams and WTA tournaments worldwide, as well as an updated top 10 player list. You can also sign up to receive a free e-mail subscription to On the Baseline and have daily updates delivered right to your email in-box.

An extension of the online magazine tennis-x.com, the Tennis-X Blog Index is the most comprehensive resource on the web for keeping up with tennis blogging. This site trolls the web daily for the latest tennis blog entries, offering standard services such as up to the minute news and a broad range of links.

Are you ready to join the tennis blogosphere?

© Paula Vergara 2007

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A Tournament For the Ages

USTA New England Magazine
Jan/Feb. 2007 Issue

The longest running national Father/Son tennis tournament in New England—the USTA National Father/Son Grass Court Championships—takes place every year at (fittingly) the oldest grass-court club in the United States--the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill., Mass. But this father/son event, heading into its 86th year of play, has evolved into much more than a tournament. With its traditions and reunion-like atmosphere, the tournament brings generations of tennis families together like no other. Many great father/son teams have participated over the years, but for two of them, this tournament has become a three-generation tradition.

Peter, Rick and Dick Allen

PETER ALLEN started playing at Longwood 40 years ago with his father, Dick Allen, who introduced him to the game. For Peter, the Father/Son tournament is all about family tradition, competition and good sportsmanship. Peter recalls one of his most treasured moments, which took place at the annual Longwood Father/Son dinner, traditionally held at the end of the first day of play. The year that Chauncey Steele passed away (a legend in his own right), the Steele family set up an annual sportsmanship award. The first year that the sportsmanship award was given out at the dinner, the Steele’s chose me and my dad as the recipients,” says Peter, adding that he could not have been more thrilled to receive such an honor with his father, who died a few years ago at age 92.

Now, Peter carries on the tradition with his son, Rick, age 35, who currently resides in Colorado. Peter last played with Rick at the Longwood Father/Son tournament in 2005. At age 61 and semi-retired, Peter hopes to keep playing for as long as possible, and to keep the tradition going to maintain an “unbroken string of Allens” with the next generation. When Peter is not competing in tournaments, he is part-owner of the Westborough Tennis Club in Westborough, Mass., where he currently resides.

The Allen family may be one of the only families to someday make the Longwood Father/Son tournament a four-generation tradition. Peter’s son Rick has two young children and plans to have his son, Connor, age 3-1/2, as his teammate in the Longwood event as soon as he is able.

Rick was only 2 years old when he first saw his father and grandfather play at Longwood, and just 14 when he first teamed with his dad at the event. As a kid, he recalls watching his father and grandfather playing at Longwood. “It just drew something inside of me—creating a fire in my belly,” he says. And Rick’s memories of his grandfather are vivid. “Even now, when I’m out on the court, I can hear his voice inside my head, saying, throw your toss up higher on your serve,” Rick says. “I’ve never seen anyone more focused on tennis than my grandfather, with my father being a close second.” Even when Rick’s grandfather had to have a double knee replacement, tennis was still on his mind. Getting back to the court was a priority. Rick says that to see that level of passion for the game was truly inspirational, and is the driving force that keeps him in the game.

JERRY MORSE-KARZEN’s love for tennis began as a 5-year-old in Glencoe, Ill., when his dad, Richard Karzen, started tossing him tennis balls. As a kid, he worked as a ball boy at a nearby country club, but it wasn’t the free lunch that enticed him to work there. It was the opportunity to play tennis that kept him coming back. By age 11, he began entering—and winning—tournaments. He and his dad went on to win four national Father/Son events, winning at Longwood in 1977. Jerry says that one of his fondest memories was winning that coveted gold ball for the first time at Longwood, with his dad. And he is still in awe of the facilities and the history of Longwood. “Just walking into the club and seeing the overall look of Longwood and to be able to look over the green is so impressive,” Jerry says.

His father passed away 10 years ago, but the lessons that his dad taught Jerry have come full circle, now playing beside his son, Brett. At age 23, and 6 feet, 9 inches tall (towering 5 inches over his father), Brett is a recent graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., where his tennis skills made him a three-time All-American. He began playing around age 7, and continued the Karzen tradition of playing in the Father/Son Longwood tournament when he was 15.

Jerry says he and Brett were a decent team starting out, but over the years they’ve honed their skills to the point where he and Brett are a tough out for any opponent. Altogether, Jerry and Brett have won eight national Father/Son titles, the first one on clay, and they have been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the past two years. “It has been so much fun to watch Brett evolve and get better, stronger, more composed and competitive,” Jerry says. And he’s noticed that the rules have changed over the years—Brett has become more of the leader of their doubles team. But their respect for the game and for each other is evident. When asked if he competes against his son in other sports, Jerry did admit that he and Brett enjoy battling it out in table tennis. Brett currently competes in Futures tournaments, focusing more on his singles game. When he’s not playing tennis, he’s making films. In fact, he was the chief editor at his college’s TV station.

Aside from the competition, Jerry, who now lives in Willette, IL, says the Father/Son tournament at Longwood provides a venue for fathers and sons to share a common activity, which enables them to combine a love for family and a love for tennis. The tournament has also been an opportunity “to make lifelong friends, who are cut from the same stone and headed down the same tennis path,” says Jerry. “It’s all competitive, but it’s done the right way.”

Founded in 1877, the Longwood Cricket Club is the oldest grass-court club in the U.S., and it hosted the first Davis Cup tournament in 1900. It has 25 grass courts and 19 clay courts. For more information about Longwood and the USTA National Father/Son Grass Court Tournament, which takes place every July, contact:

Longwood Cricket Club
564 Hammond St.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

© Paula Vergara 2007

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Instant Replay: Where the Challenges Are

USTA New England Magazine
September 2006

2006 has become the year of the instant replay for tennis. Unlike other professional sports, tennis is just beginning to try out this technology, but it is slowly working its way into the game, as well as the mindset of players. Although television replay has been a part of tennis for a few years now, it has only served to enhance the television viewer’s experience. On the court, singles and doubles players finally have a voice to challenge a line call, which had previously fallen on deaf ears. The rocky relationship between players and chair umpires has changed, as tennis has opened the door to a new era, where technology trumps the human eye.

The buzz surrounding the electronic line calling system is positive, but not without debate. Most agree that instant replay adds a level of objectivity and opportunity that simply didn’t exist before. But, with opportunity comes responsibility. Instant replay forces players to extend their strategic thinking beyond the baseline and their opponent. Challenging a line call brings a whole new level of winning or losing valuable points in a match. Much in the same way you would manage money, spending a challenge carelessly and quickly could put yourself in a losing position. Yet, most players would jump at the chance to challenge a bad line call. The problem for the players is that they never know when a bad call will be coming their way.

According to the USTA, this is how the instant replay/challenge system works:

-Each player will receive two challenges per set to review line calls.
-If the player is correct with a challenge, then the player retains the same number of challenges.
-If the player is incorrect with a challenge, then one of the challenges is lost.
-During a tiebreak game in any set, each player will receive one additional challenge.
-Challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.

This technology works in collaboration with 10 cameras. Each camera feeds data into its own computer, and the information is sent to another computer that creates animated images of a line call—all within 5 to10 seconds.

The reason for implementing electronic line calling in the first place is to offer players a more "fair" system than simply relying on the judgement of the human eye. For the player, instant replay provides a sense of control over the game, even if the opportunity to challenge a call only arises twice during a set. Some have argued that only allowing two challenge opportunities in a set isn’t enough, while others believe that having instant replay "dehumanizes’ the game.

More importantly, is the electronic eye 100 percent accurate? Even instant replay can be too close to call. After all, the image displayed on the screen is not the actual ball hitting the ground, but a computer generated simulation. And even with instant replay, the chair umpire still has the final say in calling a ball in or out after the challenge.

© Paula Vergara 2007

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Tradition Lives On At Children’s Classic

USTA New England Magazine
Jan/Feb 2007 Issue

The Farmington Field Club in Farmington, Conn., has played host to the second longest running tournament in New England, The Children’s Classic, formerly known as the Farmington Open. This USTA tournament got its start in 1953 and has attracted top-notch players from all over New England and beyond, including Bud Schultz and Tim Mayott. Since 1984, all proceeds from the annual Children’s Classic have benefited the Uconn Children’s Cancer Fund. Tournament competition includes Junior 14-and-under, Junior 16-and-under Level VII, and men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

For more information about the Children’s Classic, contact: Denise D’Avella, Tournament Director, Hilltop Road, Farmington, CT 06032; 860-677-1209.

© Paula Vergara 2007