Junior pre-match handshake idea shortlived

NEW YORK – The USTA made an official announcement on Sunday, lauding a new protocol it instituted to increase sportsmanship at the junior level.

It was a good time to do it, at the biggest and most high-profile junior event under its purview.

It’s actually a great idea, a harmless one that only is a plus.

A pre-match handshake was added to the customary post-match shake for all junior matches this week in New York.

It’s a reflection upon the world we live in that it has to be mandated, or that extra gestures are even needed to emphasize fair play and sportsmanship at the entry levels of the game.

Still, it was a good initiative.

handshake

Except … that’s past tense. It only lasted a day or two – at most.

Gone, and already forgotten

A random sampling of matches on the steamy outer courts Tuesday produced only one or two examples of the shake.

A boys’ doubles match on Court 7 between Americans Niroop Vallabhaneni and Alexander Lee, and Brit Anton Matusevich with partner Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria was one of them.

And the four kids – and the chair umpire – had big smiles as they were doing it.

But at the majority of others, it didn’t appear to even come up.

Here were Taisya Pachkaleva of Russia and Kamilla Bartone of Latvia.

Nothin’.

And here were French players Clara Burel and Diane Parry, who were taking on Weronika Falkowska and Stefania Rogozinska Dzik of Poland.

Still nothin’.

Well, it was a good idea while it lasted. No clue why the umpires didn’t keep at it.

But, as one veteran U.S. official said when I brought it up with him, it still lasted longer than a similar effort at the pro level years ago.

US Open wild-card challenge expands

The USTA’s French Open wild card challenge was limited to a series of ITF events on the women’s side.

But for the upcoming competition ahead of the US Open, at least they’ll be able to use a few WTA-level events to vie for the prize.

The five-week period begins July 9.

The selection of eligible events on the men’s side ranges from Winnipeg, to Kazakhstan, to China to the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

For the women, it’s mostly USTA Pro circuit events. But results from San Jose and Washington, D.C. will count.

us open series goes to Europe

(Note the lack of capitalization – this is the new us open way).

The USTA has signed a three-year deal with the Cheeses of Europe Marketing Council to sponsor its US Open Series, which leads up to the US Open in July and August.

If it gets people away from cheese-food slices and into Picodon, Neufchatel, Saint-Félicien or Mimolette, the new deal will have accomplished a great thing.

Montreal, host of the women’s Rogers Cup in August, needs no such introduction to the fine fromage of France. The sponsorship signs will be well received.

USTA blends art and tennis for 50th project

One of the aims of the US Open’s 50th anniversary celebrations is to put the spotlight on the public parks from which so many of its champions came.

One initiative, called “Art Courts”, is commissioning five artists to turn tennis courts into works of art, part of a planned restoration of public facilities in Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cincinnati and New York City. 

It might be tough to see the ball on the one above. But you know kids will fight for the right to play tennis on it.

French Open WC chase starts next week

The USTA’s French Open wild-card challenge starts next week with the $60,000 women’s ITF tournament in Florida, and the men’s events across the Challenger and ATP Tours.

The women are restricted to four ITF tournaments in the U.S. The player with the two best results will earn the USTA’s reciprocal wild-card singles main-draw spot.

For the men, it’s more open. Not only are the four U.S. Har-Tru Challengers over the next four weeks eligible, so are any of the ATP-level tournaments on red clay.

Amanda Anisimova and Tennys Sandgren earned those wild cards in 2017.

USTA celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the U.S. 

And USTA president Katrina Adams (the first African American to hold that title in USTA history) has penned a thoughtful essay to introduce a month in which the organization will pay tribute to the past – and the future.

“Each was in love with a sport that most often did not love them back, and because of that, each was bridled by the heavy weight of responsibility – not only to themselves but to others like them,” Adams of those who came before, in an essay on the USTA website.

Robby Ginepri new Davis Cup coach

With the departure of Jay Berger, the US Davis Cup team has added longtime ATP Tour player Robby Ginepri as Davis Cup coach, working under captain Jim Courier.

Ginepri’s first tie is this weekend in Serbia.

The 35-year-old played in one Davis Cup tie. That came in 2004, when he won two singles matches in a 5-0 win over Austria in Connecticut.

Through his academy in Georgia, Ginepri has been traveling coach for a lot of the young US players, including Frances Tiafoe, Noah Rubin and Stefan Kozlov. So they’re well-positioned for the future with his addition.

Preseason finale on USTA campus

Here’s a neat idea from the USTA.

As the American players spending their preseason at the new national campus near Orlando, Fla. wrap up, they’ll play some practice matches to which the public is invited.

It takes place Thursday, Dec. 14 from 5 p.m. at the Collegiate Center

There will be a DJ and activities for the kids.

In terms of the players, there may be more at the center in Carson, Calif. Still, among those seen at Lake Nona are Madison Keys, Frances Tiafoe, Cici Bellis, Christina Mchale and Noah Rubin.

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.