Tennis Prose



Winter Nationals Orlando, FL


By Scoop Malinowski

I’ve been to Wimbledon, Miami Open, US Open, Eddie Herr, Sarasota Open, Newport, Citi Open, Orange Bowl and now a new prestigious tournament, the US Winter Nationals being contested this week at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, FL by girls and boys 18s and 16s

Tons of five star recruit players here and coaches from universities all over the nation, including Northwestern, Utah, Cornell, Texas A&M to name a few.

And at least one tennis legend, Brian Gottfried, who was once the third ranked player in the world and made the finals of 1977 Roland Garros, losing to Guillermo Vilas 06 36 06. Brian is coaching a kid in the 18s from Jacksonville, where Brian coaches at an academy. Talking to Gottfried is like talking to a tennis doctor (I will post our interview next year), he has an interesting view of the sport that mere mortals can’t see. Gottfried, who won 25 singles and 54 doubles titles, is 66 now and still hits with these top American juniors.

A few players and their actions have caught my eye here.The NJ 14s girl Mary Moon (name changed) is seeded in the 16s and has won three matches in singles to reach the round of 16.

The first match was an epic 62 26 62 against a girl from Illinois. Mary was on fire in the first but the opponent got red hot in the second, managing the ball over the court and coming to net and knocking off about her first ten volleys for winners. The third set continued with the Illini maintaining momentum control, holding serve at love for 1-0. Mary held and the battle raged on.

2-2 was a battle game with Mary breaking for 3-2. She raised her game and shot selection to deny the opponent to control the points. She also raised her intensity, exhorting herself on, breathing heavily, exuding an urgent, almost ferocious body language sort of like a caged lion about to be unleashed into the wild. She has that ability and passion to will herself to a higher level of play when it’s needed. 4-2. 5-2 and finally 6-2. The opponent didn’t choke or play bad, she just got hit by a storm of tennis fury and intensity and was overwhelmed. Mary’s desire is different and rare. I have seen no other players at Winter Nationals with it.

Her doubles match on Saturday night was also interesting. With a player from her club in NJ as partner, they won the first set 6-2 and were up a break in the second, with a chance to get the double break. But the other team was strong, a Texan and Californian. All four players won their singles that day. This other team began to play better with all the same cross court patterns and won the second set 75.

The other team had the momentum into the super tiebreak and they had gained the upper hand with the same cross court patterns on every point. Neither team every tried a different formation like Aussie or both girls back. So I thought a change of tactics was needed for the super tiebreak but Mary’s partner’s dad, who played Boris Becker in juniors, acted as the coach and his advice was to keep playing cross court and then go for the angles.

But that was just doing the same thing over and over and the other team had proven superior in this game. My idea was to change it up, to serve to ad court and have the partner move to the left box, to force the returner to hit a backhand up the line. Where the server would be ready and challenge the opponents to hit half court. Then try a lob over the opponent net girl and force the baseline player to hit a running forehand off a lob. Anything to break their rhythm and flow, make them think and hit different shots. Control the terms and ask new questions. The same old cross court patterns wasn’t working anymore and it was in their favor. Or play baseline doubles to give them a different look and make them think. A 4-0 lead evaporated and they lost it 7-10. But it’s only doubles.

The second round singles was another epic 64 46 63. I didn’t see the match but I know what happened, after seeing Mary win several three setters this month at Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl. She willed herself to victory with her secret weapon of passion, drive, will and courage in the face of adversity. She really loves to play these matches, with an abundance of joy and enthusiasm, while most of the player I see just seem out there, for whatever reasons.

Today Mary played the third round on court 32 against a girl with a legendary name, Ann Guerry from Atlanta, also a five star recruit. Was she related to Zan Guerry, who once beat Guillermo Vilas? Most likely. Mary was dominant today, scoring a 62 60 win, a score she likes as she won by the same exact score in the first round of Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl this year. Why she won was clear, she was superior at the baseline and mixed it up more, finding the opponent had trouble with her pace and variety, especially the alternating probing to the forehand and backhand and the different paces and heights and spins and speeds. The second set featured a drop shot point winner and a perfectly executed backhand approach and backhand volley winner. Round of 16 tomorrow.

This national campus is perfect. The courts are perfect, each match is live streamed. Water is free at fill up stations. If I could make one small suggestion to this tennis paradise, it would be to give each player a placard with their name, which they would affix to a holder or to lean on their chair at the court, so observers could see the names of each player at each court.

I saw some big talents, but have no names to share. I would guess about 90% of the players use two handed backhands. Maybe even more. And most of the players dress in attire you see on TV but a few are originals. One kid wore a yellow Brasil t-shirt and came to court with no racquet bag, just three racquets. Another kid wore a Kansas City Chiefs gray T shirt. One girl, Samantha Bucykx wore all white, the only player I saw in all white.

While all this junior action is going on, a pro event started today, the Orlando Open, a new Challenger. Stefan Kozlov, Evan King, and Carlos Taberner are in the draw.

I had the pleasure to meet the coach of the Northwestern women’s team Julian Tejada of Colombia, who worked for seven years at Saddle Brook where he was hitting partner for years for four no. 1 players – Justine Henin, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis and Vica Azarenka. He said those girls never hit with each other, they stayed apart. he said these experiences helped him to land the Northwestern coaching job, a school that has produced Todd Martin and Katrina Adams.

Stay tuned for more Winter Nationals information…

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  • Doug Day · December 31, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    More queen bee behavior from the ladies I suspect, Scoop. So I heard the moms of Zeverev, Shapovalov, & Tsisipas all played each other on tour in a Next-gen coven of mansplainers.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Donald Young, Kozlov and Escobedo all win their first matches of 19 in Challengers. Kozlov plays Krueger next, a player he’s beaten before. Kozlov won yesterday 64 in the third vs Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez. Hewitt and Deminaur got smoked 63 61 in Brisbane.

  • Jg · January 1, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Kozlov had to grind out a first round win, he couldn’t finish off his opponent with a big lead. He seemed content just keeping the ball in play, I thought he was going to try and develop a weapon. If he wants to break top 100 he’s going to have to add a lot more pace to his forehand. The match looked more like a junior match, albeit a good junior match

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    jg, Kozlov will take a win any way he can get it, even if it’s pushing like Dan Markowitz 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Lan wins again today 63 in second and third after losing first. Over three hours. Into QF.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 1, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Pushing?! When I was beating you Scoop, I pushed–you all around the court. Remember the first time we played, I beat you 6-4 on your desired court winning with a drop volley?

    We chose not to go to Tuscon for the 12’s Winter Nationals. Too far and too much money to fly out there. I think we’re through with 12’s. Making a big push to get into clays and hard court s this summer in the 14’s. Cal had a tough tournament this week. He got into the semis of a 14’s L1 and had to play the semis and finals of the doubles, granted only 8-game pro sets each, but playing two matches even in doubles takes a lot out of you especially when the first match was at 9 am and it’s 75 minute drive from White Plains to Mendham, NJ. Then he had to play the singles semis against no. 1 seed only 30 minutes after second doubles match and took first set 6-4 and then his legs went out from him and he lost 10-8 in breaker they play instead of third set.

    Quan is doing really well in boy’s 14’s, into the semis. And i don’t know if he’s even 13 yet. How are so many Asians doing so well in junior tennis in the USA and yet there isn’t a single Asian male player, except McKenzie McDonald, and he’s only half-Asian, doing well on the pro tour? I know size is a big factor or maybe now we will see some American Asian men start to make inroads on the tour.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    The first time we played it was 76 and you defaulted the second set because you had to go … supposedly!

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Massive numbers of Asians here also at Winter nationals. I think the success of Li Na and Nishikori have helped to spark this. Quon is still 12, he just won Orange Bowl 12s and lost at Herr 12s to a lefty. Quon is so smooth and fluid and excellent ball control. Doubles in these big tournaments is draining and it takes a toll on singles. Lan won her 1r singles and then played doubles at night and it went to 10-7 in the third set super breaker. She was tired a bit for singles the next day but willed through it in 3 hours 40 minutes. Hopefully that doubles didn’t take too much out of her fuel tank and she won’t tire in the business end of this 16s. So far, three three setters and won 6260.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 1, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Pretty remarkable this Lan. Tell me what court and time she’s playing tomorrow, I hope I can catch her match. Usually, they don’t have doubles before a singles semis. My wife was with Cal, I would’ve defaulted him out of the doubles if it was me with him, but my wife said there was a lot of pressure on him to play the finals because he was the only kid in the doubles finals who was still alive in the singles.

    Quoin’s father is not tall though. I’d say maybe 5-8. He actually tapped me on the shoulders at the clay court nationals in Orlando in July when I was taking video of his son playing his match. He said that wasn’t allowed. I was like, ok, I’ll stop, but calm down, buddy. What’s the big deal about me taking video of your son playing?

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 1, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Dan I’m in awe of how tough mentally Lan is and she plays so smart. Mixing it up, high net clearance, alternating to opp bhy and fh, then can strike a winner or very aggressive shot. But her defense and patience and grinding skills are of the highest caliber. She has the desire and hunger and also the joy of competing, where you can sense and feel this girl really loves the battle, just loves to play. her intensity is overwhelming. All the other girls are just out there, like Gasquets or McHales, while she is like a Muster, Nadal, Sharapova, Pierce, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Serena, Capriati, with so much passion and emotional adrenaline. I think she can win these battles easier if we work on her offensive game. For one week or two weeks just put her current grinding game on the shelf and play and practice serve and volley and offensive aggression, go forward early tactics for one week straight or two weeks, to make it a part of her DNA. To have that dimension in her arsenal will make ever EVEN MORE DANGEROUS. I texted Hans Gildemeister about doing this and he agreed, she will be amazing if she improves her serve and volley and becomes more offensive at the right times, to have that confidence to go to net more. She is already amazing but she will be on a different level when she adds the offensive dimension and can finish at net more. She mad several chances today but stays back, still wins the points but she had openings to get in. Will send you link for livestream for QF tomorrow, it’s at 1 or 130, will text you the court number.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 2, 2019 at 2:29 am

    How tall is she? Net rushing doesn’t have to be always for the bigger player, but if she’s like 5-4, 5-5 coming to the net too much can be a disadvantage. LIke I was watching some of the Dimitrov v Millman match today and MIllman doesn’t come into the net much either. He just plays a grinder type game. Would coming to the net more help his game? It might, but it might hurt his game too.

    Fritz Buehning, my son’s coach, told Callum that when he was in the 12’s he was 80 in the nation and then 60 in the 14’s, 40 in the 16’s and no. 1 by the 18’s. What happened? He grew to 6-6. Callum’s not projected to grow to 6-6, but he is projected to grow to 6 or 6-1 and that could make a big difference when and if he faces Rudy Quan in the 18’s. If Quan’s 5-7, 5-8 its going to be hard for him to stay with Callum or another boy 4-5 inches taller than him blasting away.

    Unless you’re a very special player, a Chang or a Schwartzmann, and obviously there’s a big difference between Chang and Schwartzmann, if you’re 5-8, it’s going to be very hard to compete against bigger stronger boys and men. Desire, skill, certainly play a role, but look at a guy like Winston Lin, he was no. 1 at Columbia, great college player, but he is 5-8 so maybe that’s why his career-high was only no. 683.

    Wil the current no. 1 junior, Jason Tseng of Taiwan, have success now that’s he’s turned pro and he’s all of 5-8, 136-pounds? Here’s a great recent article on Tseng from the New York Times.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 2, 2019 at 11:08 am

    She is 5-7



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