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.