Palmetto State Racket

Month: August, 2014

More on the South Carolina ‘upset’

by Jonathon Braden

Aggressive. Consistent. Too good.

Hard to say much else about Flavia Pennetta’s straight-set win over Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers yesterday at the US Open. What? Did you think we were talking about another South Carolina “upset?” No, not here.

Pennetta, the 11 seed in New York, beat Rogers 6-4, 6-3, on Thursday.

Shelby Rogers serving in her second-round match on Court 11 on Thursday. (US Open photo.)

Shelby Rogers serving in her second-round match on Court 11 on Thursday. (US Open photo.)

This wasn’t a bad loss for Shelby or a bad US Open.

Pennetta is a tour veteran — this was her ninth time at Flushing Meadows — and a good player. Last year, she made it to the semifinals in New York.

All tennis considered, Shelby leaves New York after an incredibly strong hard-court season, a career-high ranking and her first win at the US Open. That’s success.

Here’s what another well-known South Carolina tennis fan shared with her yesterday:

This weekend, try to move past the Gamecocks loss and check out the below reads about the best tennis player from South Carolina. And, duh, watch some tennis.

US Open: Pennetta finds a way into the third round

US Open: Younger Players Do Doubles Duty

ESPNW: Next American Star in Women’s Tennis? Take Your Pick

Non-Shelby News: The Changeover: Things We Learned on Day Four of the 2014 US Open


All you need to know about the best two weeks of tennis, aka, the US Open

by Jonathon Braden

Let’s start with who we care about the most: South Carolina’s favorite tennis professional, Shelby Rogers.

For the first time, Shelby’s ranking, No. 86, earned her entry into the US Open main draw. She received even better news last week when the draws were announced: She will face a qualifier in the first round.

Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine is Shelby’s first-round opponent Tuesday. This will be Zanevska’s first US Open appearance.

Taylor Townsend, the rising 18-year-old American who is ranked No. 103, was less lucky when the draws were announced. On Tuesday, she faces No. 1 Serena.

Alison Riske, who used to train on Hilton Head Island, will face No. 8 seeded Ana Ivanovic.

James Beck has more about Shelby’s draw here. And click here to see the draws.


We’ve scoured the web for other important news you should know before the best two weeks of tennis. Enjoy the below links.

Read about the above photo here.

Wall Street Journal: The Rotten Luck of American Tennis Hopefuls

New York Times: A U.S. Open to Remember: Navratilova and Evert look back

WSJ: Seven Things to Watch at the US Open

SI: US Open draw winners and losers

The Palmetto State Racket’s picks

Men: Djokovic. (Sorry, Fed fans.)

Women: Serena.

What’s that old saying, boring is beautiful?

‘Landsharks’ to represent SC at USTA JTT 18 and Under National Championships

by Jonathon Braden

champs_18I_SC_WammockAnother USTA South Carolina Jr. Team Tennis team also will be representing the state this fall at USTA national championships.

The Hilton Head Island Tennis Landsharks 18’s also won their division of the USTA Southern Jr. Team Tennis Sectional Championships.

“We place a huge emphasis on sportsmanship and team atmosphere and camaraderie,” said Eric Wammock, the Landsharks coach. “Our behavior is way more critical than winning or losing a match. We’re going to remain classy and remain good competitors.”

The team will play at the USTA Jr. Team Tennis 18 and Under National Championships this October in Lexington County. The Lexington Legends, an 18 and under team in the advanced division, also will compete at nationals.

“We made it to sectionals a couple times the last two years and this (will be) our first trip to nationals,” Wammock said. “We’re also very happy that it’s in our backyard.”


The State newspaper: ‘High school stars join forces for USTA championship’

by Jonathon Braden

A big thank you to The State for helping us share South Carolina’s tennis news. As the newspaper does once a month, today, The State ran our monthly tennis column. The full text of the column is below. Have an idea for a future tennis column in The State? Click here.


Jonathon Braden
Special to The State

A team comprised of some of the area’s best high school tennis players will play for a USTA national championship in Lexington County this fall.

The Lexington Legends won their division of the USTA Jr. Team Tennis Southern Sectional Championships this past weekend, qualifying them for the national championships.

The team, which features players from Lexington, Chapin, Irmo, West Columbia and Sumter, advanced past five Southern teams to win the sectional championships.

In winning the Southern title, the Lexington team also got revenge.

At last year’s Southern championships, the South Carolina team finished second to a team from Georgia. This year, the Georgia team, with almost all of the same players as they had a year ago, finished second to the South Carolina team.

“To be able to make up for that this year was really good,” said Thomas Bryan, a member of the Legends and a junior at Lexington High School.

Every player on the team but one plays in the No. 1 or No. 2 singles spot on their high school tennis teams. The only exception, Mark Carnes, is home schooled and doesn’t currently play on a high school team.

“They’re an easy group to coach,” said Eric Jackson.

Last year, Karen Holzschuh of the Lexington Area Tennis Association asked Jackson to get together an area USTA Jr. Team Tennis squad.

Jackson, who coaches the Lexington High boys and girls tennis teams, already knew most of the area’s top players. He persuaded many of them to join his team.

The group advanced to the sectional championships by winning their division of the USTA South Carolina JTT State Championships, held last month in Florence.

For Jackson, coaching the team has been fun and unusual.

He hits with the players on the court and jokes around with them.

It’s been different because he’s now encouraging the players he typically coaches against during the high school seasons.

“It’s weird, but it ended up being pretty cool,” he said. “This area just has a whole lot of really good tennis talent, and a whole lot of support from the tennis community.”

The USTA Jr. Team Tennis 18 and Under National Championships are scheduled for Oct. 23-26 and will be played at two Lexington County facilities: the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center and the Lexington County Tennis Complex.

Both sites are familiar territory to the players, said Katie Thompson, a Legends team member and a junior at Lexington High.

She and a few of her Legends teammates grew up playing at LCTC and still play there occasionally. Now they’re eager to win a national championship there as well.


The Lexington Legends team that will play at the USTA Jr. Team Tennis 18 and Under National Championships:

Abby Cooper, Irmo High
Amy Lance, Lexington High
Jerry Price, Airport High
Katie Thompson, Lexington High
Lauren Joch, Dutch Fork High
Logan Adkins, Lexington High
Mark Carnes, home schooled, Sumter
Samantha Calais, Dutch Fork High
Savanna Fuller, Chapin High
Thomas Bryan, Lexington High

champs_18A_SC_jackson (1)

The Legends after their first-place finish last weekend.

S.C. JTT Champions To Play Close To Home This Weekend

by Jonathon Braden

Dozens of South Carolina kids will compete for regional tennis championships close to home this weekend.

The players, ages 10 to 18, will participate in the USTA Southern Jr. Team Tennis Sectional Championships, which is being held at three facilities in Lexington County today through Sunday.

Players from nine Southern states will compete at the championships, and hundreds of parents and coaches also will visit the area for the event.

Winning teams in the 14 and under and 18 and under levels will earn the chance to play at the USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships, which are also being held in Lexington County this fall.

“Everybody’s excited about it,” said Jonny Thompson, who helps coach two Lexington teams competing this weekend.

The Lexington Legends are one of seven South Carolina teams that will be competing in the USTA Southern Sectional Jr. Team Tennis Championships this weekend in Lexington County.

The Lexington Legends are one of seven South Carolina teams that will be competing in the USTA Southern Sectional Jr. Team Tennis Championships this weekend in Lexington County.

USTA Jr. Team Tennis features team practice and match play for boys and girls, ages 6 to 18. Teams are comprised of players of similar age and skill. The teams, which represent various clubs, parks, recreational departments and organizations, have finished at the top of their local leagues played in 10 and under, 12 and under, 14 and under, and 18 and under levels.

Seven S.C. teams, including four Midlands teams, advanced to the Southern championships by winning USTA South Carolina JTT State Championships last month in Florence.

Thompson, who has been helping coach JTT since 2007, said Midlands teams had so much success because of the area’s strong youth tennis programs.

“The coaches around the area do a great job with the youth program. They offer so many opportunities for juniors to participate, whether you’re a beginning or you’re an advanced player,” said Thompson, who previously coached football and baseball at Lexington High School and White Knoll High School.

The event continues through Sunday. Admission is free. Click here for more information.

2014 USTA SC JTT Champions and their coaches



10 & under intermediate

Cobblestone Park 10’s (Columbia), coach Brian Clary

12 & under intermediate

LCTC Court Crashers (Lexington), coach Jonny Thompson

12 & under advanced

Serves You Right (Greenville), coach Heike Kaminiecki

14 & under advanced

Net Force One (Greenville), coach Eric and Bricey Pitts

14 & under intermediate

Kings Grant 14’s (Columbia), coach Lisa Echols

18 & under intermediate

HHIT Landsharks 18’s, coach Eric Wammock

18 & Under Advanced

Lexington Legends, coach Eric Jackson

Aiken Standard profiles active USTA league player

by Jonathon Braden

From the Aiken Standard earlier this month:

Aiken is made up of dozens of hard-working tennis volunteers, passionate players, and inspiring individuals. But who are these people?

Today, through the Aiken Standard, USTA South Carolina introduces you to one of those individuals who enjoy fun exercise through tennis.

Cindy Kelly’s a prominent Aiken tennis player. Last fall, she and her Aiken team won a USTA SC State League Championship. Earlier this year, she and her team also won a USTA regional championship in Alabama.

Kelly, a nurse at the Heart and Vascular Institute at University Hospital in Augusta, recently took time to answer questions about her tennis origins, why she plays, and which pro player she most wants to play tennis against.

USTA SC: How long have you been playing tennis?

Kelly: Summer 2010.

USTA SC: How did you get started?

Kelly: I took lessons with Mark Calvert at Odell Weeks because I had always wanted to play tennis. He encouraged me to play USTA leagues, and I was immediately hooked.

Read more: Kelly’s another Aiken tennis success story | Aiken Standard

Click here to learn how you, too, can get hooked on USTA SC league tennis.

Thanks again to the Aiken Standard for showcasing tennis in our state and to Kelly for making time to talk.

Shelby Rogers trending on Twitter and more on her big upset

by Jonathon Braden

The tennis world learned who Daniel Island’s Shelby Rogers was last night in a stunning way.

At the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Rogers shocked Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, 6-0, 2-6, 6-0, taking out No. 8-ranked player in the world in the second round.

From the Montreal Gazette:

The American said she felt like a bit of a party crasher.

“I have a tournament in my hometown and I know what it’s like to have the pressure of playing in front of the fans,” said Rogers, who seemed almost embarrassed when she addressed the crowd after the win.

“I know they were pulling for her, but they were fair and they cheered me when I made a good point,” said Rogers. “I told them: ‘I know you don’t want to hear from me.’ “

The win is Rogers’ biggest to date, her first over a top-10 player, and it comes when she’s been playing her best tennis.

Rogers beat three top-40 players en route to her first title match last month in Bad Gastein. At the Citi Open last week, she upset world No. 22 Alize Cornet as well.

Next up for Rogers, likely future New York City Marathon runner Caroline Wozniacki.

From the unabashed supporters of all things tennis in South Carolina, we say, “Go, Shelby!”

Read more about Rogers and her big win below.

Charleston Post and Courier: Shelby Rogers upsets world’s No. 8 Bouchard in Montreal

National Post: Eugenie Bouchard loses to American qualifier Shelby Rogers in second round of Rogers Cup

Tennis Now: Shelby Rogers Silences Montreal with Bouchard Upset

Palmetto State Racket: Rogers ready for more success

Sportal: Rogers thrashes Bouchard in Montreal

WTA: Rogers stuns Bouchard at Rogers Cup

Reliving Shelby Rogers’ July with The Post and Courier’s James Beck

by Jonathon Braden

Shelby Rogers was struggling.

Prior to last month, Rogers, who grew up in Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island, was 10-16 this year. Her ranking had slipped to No. 147 in the world, down from No. 109, her place during the Family Circle Cup in April.

Yet on July 5, the headline of James Beck’s column in the Charleston Post and Courier read, “Is Rogers ready for a breakthrough?”

Turns out she was.

The week after Beck’s column ran, Rogers beat three top-40 players and reached her first final. (Her excited Tweet below.)

Last week at the Citi Open in Washington, DC, Rogers knocked off third-seeded Alizé Cornet.

So what did Beck know that we didn’t?

James Beck


Beck, the paper’s tennis columnist, recently took time to answer questions about his prediction, what it’s been like following Rogers’ career, and what she needs to do to continue winning.

USTA SC: You wrote in early July that Shelby might be ready for a breakthrough. What did you know what we didn’t?

Beck: I really didn’t know anything anyone else who follows Shelby’s every match didn’t know. I just thought it was time for Shelby to make a move after the success of Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe. Shelby had the experience and the maturity. She just needed to turn around a few more of those 4-6 sets.

USTA SC: What made you think of writing about that in the column?

Beck: It dawned on me as I was thinking what to write that weekend in my column that Shelby could take advantage of the boost in confidence that Madison’s and CoCo’s wins must have given her. I believe Shelby has as much potential as either of those players. She just needed to see that players of her own level could win WTA Tour tournaments.

USTA SC: What’s it been like to follow her career as a tennis fan and as a tennis writer?

Beck: It has been exciting following Shelby’s career. The fact that one of our local girls has the ability to play at such a high level against the world’s best players is definitely exciting. For a local player to perform in the main draw of the Family Circle Cup was a major achievement for a girl who used to follow her older sister Sabra around the tennis courts. Sabra played a year or two on the same high school team as my daughters, Danielle and Nicole, at First Baptist Church School. Sabra later switched to Bishop England and Nicole’s Academic Magnet teams played against Bishop England. Sabra’s and Shelby’s mother Starley was always at the practices and matches.

USTA SC: What’s the key to Shelby continuing her success?

Beck: Shelby demonstrated in Austria some of the things she has to do to advance into the top 100. She must play the big points better, or as one of her new coaches, Jeff Wilson, said, turn a 4-6 set into a 6-4 set.

USTA SC: Give us another prediction: Shelby Rogers will ________ this fall.

Beck: I expect Shelby to reach at least the top 75 by the end of the year, maybe even the top 50. She just needs to play the 4-4 games a little better.

A big thanks to James for taking time to share his insights about South Carolina’s favorite pro. Thanks again, and go, Shelby!

Update: Rogers’ winning ways have continued in Canada.

USTA SC weekend news, Aiken profile, and Florence juniors

by Jonathon Braden

Good morning, all! Start your week by enjoying a couple of fun features that ran in South Carolina publications over the weekend.

Here’s this story from the Aiken Standard about USTA SC champion Cindy Kelly.

Here’s Kelly and her team at last year’s USTA South Carolina Combo State League Championships, which were held on Hilton Head Island.


This year’s combo state championships are coming up, too. They’ll be held from October 16-20 on Hilton Head Island. Click here for more.

And check out this story from the Florence Morning News about a group of Florence girls having success on the court.

Six Florence girls are in the top 20 of the S.C. 10-and-under singles rankings – with four in the top 10 and three in the top five – a feat that could merely mark the beginning for this young group of players.

“As far as numbers go, this is the best group we’ve ever had,” said Florence Country Club tennis pro Larry Rizzo. “We’ve had these girls out here for about two years, and the commitment level has been very high. When you play someone from Florence in girls’ 10s now, you’ve got to worry about them.”