Outer-space tennis coming in March


On March 9, 2018, as the Indian Wells tournament gets rolling, NASA astronaut A.J. ‘Drew’ Feustel is going to story-top even Larry Ellison.

He’s going to play tennis in space.

Feustel is a big fan and a player by way of his wife and her tennis-mad family, 

When NASA’s Expedition 55 blasts off, Feustel will have packed two mini-racquets and some tennis balls for the trip. It’s a six-month odyssey.

The USTA is looking to get kids interested in tennis – and space – with the endeavor. And it will chronicle the preparations in the leadup to the event.

Broken leg doesn’t stop Alec Nguyen


Boynton Beach, Fla’s Alec Nguyen isn’t letting a broken leg stop him from getting his reps in on court.

He’s in good company, following in the footsteps of some notable pro players who have done the same thing.

After his nasty encounter with a car just before the Miami Open final in 1989, Thomas Muster returned to court to train sitting on a wooden bench, his left leg propped up.

Ivo Karlovic did the same in 2010. Three weeks after surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon, he used a bar stool (a must, given he’s 6-foot-11) to get back on court and hit balls.

Sasano wins “Serena Award” in La Jolla


The USTA owes Hiromi Sasano a re-do on the plaque that goes along with the gold ball she earned for winning the national hard-courts last week in the 40-and-over age group.

Sasano, who defended her title, is 5 1/2 months pregnant – not that you can tell from the pics.

The new baby’s name should be added to the plaque, right?

Sasano, 42, already has two children and a full-time job as a teaching professional.

Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella was 4 1/2-months along when she played at Wimbledon.

Two-handled stick ruling at 40s nationals


The odd-looking stick called the Natural Power-Grip was brought to some prominence by the Battistones, American brothers Brian and Dann, who reached No. 88 and No. 177 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings.

This week, local teaching pro Hiromi Sasano is making full use of it to blitz through the draw at the US 40-and-over hard-court nationals in La Jolla, Calif.

Sasano, 42, says on the company’s website she lost her backhand after a 12-year break. The “Natural” was the solution.

The defending champion has lost just three games in reaching the women’s singles final, to be played Saturday.

Smyczek earns Aussie Open wild card


The U.S. reciprocal wild cards for January’s Australian Open are set, after Tim Smyczek defeated Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals of the Champaign Challenger Thursday.

Sandgren earned a wild card into the French Open in similar fashion this spring. Now, ranked a career-high No. 85 after consistent results on the American fall Challenger circuit, he’s in on his own merit.

On the women’s side, Taylor Townsend clinched her own berth Down Under.

But having just moved inside the top 100, she’s likely to get in on her ranking. If she does, Kirstie Ahn will receive the wild card. 

Fed Cup follies for US team


With the U.S. Fed Cup team headed to Minsk, Belarus for its first appearance in the final since 2010, it’s a good time to bring back a cute video put out by the US Tennis Association before the team’s semifinal win over the Czech Republic in April.

That one was a nail-biter. It came down to the deciding doubles and Coco Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The young Czechs defeated Shelby Rogers and Lauren Davis in two of the singles rubbers. 

This time, Sloane Stephens has been added, assuming her knee issue can be addressed.

The ladies of the 90s (and over)


Those old commercials touting tennis as the sport for a lifetime weren’t just talk.

The 90-and-over women’s category is gaining some traction.

There are 10 women in the 90s USTA national doubles rankings and seven in the singles – led by Rita Price of Aurora, Colo.

Price is undefeated in singles over the last 12 months. She and doubles partner Elizabeth Cookson also are undefeated. Their latest is a victory over Madeline Smith and Joyce Vanderpol at the national indoor championships in Vancouver, Washington last week.

Coaches get trophies at the US Open


Hopefully this will become a Slam a trend – not to mention a way for tennis coaches, typically unsung except for the numerous TV shots in the players’ box, to get a little more credit.

The US Open handed out trophies to the coaches this year in addition to the players. That included Louis Cayer and Alan Macdonald, who work with mixed doubles champ Jamie Murray.

What if there is more than one coach, typically the case?

Well, they’ll have to share.

Wheelchair tennis hits Ashe Stadium


There was a first on Arthur Ashe Stadium Thursday.

The biggest stage in tennis featured wheelchair tennis for the first time ever as one men’s and one women’s wheelchair doubles match were contested.

“It was incredible to have that opportunity as wheelchair players,” 25-year-old British player Gordon Reid said. “It’s showing the respect that wheelchair tennis is gaining, a great first match here.

“It’s probably the nicest court I played on, so for me, it really is the stuff that dreams are made of, to play on Ashe. Hopefully, it’s not the last time.”

DelPo, Kvitova get sportsmanship awards


Arguably the two most heartwarming comeback stories of the year and two of the nicest players out there have won the sixth annual US Open Sportsmanship awards.

The awards go to “the professional tennis players who best demonstrate excellence in sportsmanship throughout the US Open Series and the US Open.”

Kvitova had already left after being eliminated. But del Potro was on hand to accept. 

The award is voted on by former players and a bevy of journalists. The players have to play at least two US Open series events to be eligible.