<H1 class=red>Tennis pro says UAB courts in bad shape
Saturday, September 30, 2006 SOLOMON CRENSHAW JR.
News staff writer
Tennis pro Alexandra Stevenson came to Birmingham this week to rehab her surgically repaired shoulder. By the time she left, the 25-year-old former Wimbledon semifinalist was making a diagnosis of her own.
Stevenson and her mother/coach Samantha declared that the tennis courts on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus were not fit for play.
"There's no way I'd be practicing. I'd cause a picket or I'd do something'cause I wouldn't practice," the San Diego, Calif., tennis pro said. "I'd probably be kicked off the team. Well, probably not because I'd be the best player. But this would have been resolved. This is an insult to tennis."
Stevenson had surgery on a torn labrum in her right shoulder two years ago. She went through a rehab session Wednesday and arranged to hit some tennis balls with someone from the UAB men's tennis team.
As mother and daughter entered the courts from the west end, the two found several cracks in the playing surface and some grass growing through. They also said there were uneven areas on some courts.
"You go for a ball and you step the wrong way on a crack and your career could be over," the pro player said.
Neither the Blazer men nor women play home matches at the on-campus courts. Each squad travels down U.S. 280 to play at Brook Highland Racquet Club, where men's coach Derek Tarr is the tennis pro.
The men usually practice on the tennis courts at George Ward Tennis Center. The women practice on campus at the courts the Stevensons saw.
UAB interim Athletics Director Richard Margison would not address the specific complaints of the Stevensons. He did acknowledge that the university does not have courts that meet intercollegiate standards.
"It is one of our needs and one of our high priorities," he said.
The athletic department's five-phase, $23.106 million plan to improve facilities addresses that need. The short-term goal is to build six courts; long-term, the goal is to build a total of 12.
When he unveiled the plan earlier this month, Margison said that, aside from the first phase, the projects could be moved to different phases if needed. He added that he hopes to complete all phases within the next five years.
"Our ultimate goal is to build more of a complex," the athletics director said. "The progress and timing by which we'll be able to do that will depend a great deal on us finding some sponsors, some donors, some help financially to be able to do that."
The 6-foot-1 Stevenson, whose father is former NBA star Julius Erving, became the first female qualifier and third qualifier overall to reach the Wimbledon semifinals. She rose as high as No. 17 in world rankings in November 2002 before tearing her right labrum at the Australian Open in January 2003.