Larry Scott Stood Up Alex & Samantha Stevenson
Alexandra Stevenson, once a Wimbledon semifinalist, is trying to find success again on tour Tennis
By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
November 14, 2006
In Ashland, Ky., Alexandra Stevenson had to retire. She further had to retire at Troy, Ala., San Francisco and Houston. If the USTA keeps a record for consecutive retirements, Stevenson has to be threatening it.
Yet the San Diego woman, 25, refuses to surrender to the ache in her right shoulder that has blighted her opportunities to confirm the promise she demonstrated at 18 by gaining the women's singles semifinals at Wimbledon as a qualifier.
“She thinks she will be in the top 25,” said Samantha Stevenson, Alexandra's mother.
Whether the player's expectations are realistic can be debated. It has been seven years since she captivated Wimbledon with her power and her curtsies. On Dec. 15, she will be 26. Women's tennis is a game for the young, and Stevenson is back at a beginning professional's level, forced to act to improve her ranking by competing in satellite tournaments such as those in which she was unable to finish.
Her grit and willingness to continue to strive, however, cannot be questioned. She is among the entries for a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event at the Santaluz Club in North County beginning with singles qualifying Nov. 25.
“She has to do this,” Stevenson's mother said. “She needs matches to strengthen her shoulder.”
In September 2004, Alexandra submitted to surgery by Dr. James Andrews, a noted Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic surgeon, to repair a torn labrum in her right shoulder. Drew Brees had the same surgery. Months later, the former Chargers quarterback was active again and doing favorable things for the New Orleans Saints. Stevenson's recovery has been less swift. Her mother said her daughter's shoulder continues to fatigue.
While Alexandra Stevenson has been struggling physically, she and her mother also have been struggling against the tennis community. The WTA Tour grants injured players a “special ranking” that permits them to compete in a certain number of events on the ranking they possessed before their injuries. After one year from the time the player returns to competition, however, these “special rankings” lapse.
To Samantha Stevenson, by stripping Alexandra of her “special ranking” after one year, the tour was being “medically unfair.” Her condition requires a 24-month period of convalescence, the senior Stevenson contends. To press this point, the Stevensons sought an audience at the WTA Tour's headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Larry Scott, the tour's chairman and CEO.
Scott did not present himself at this meeting, the senior Stevenson said, and the family's petition was denied. Subsequently, according to Samantha Stevenson, the tour has agreed to extend a player's “special ranking” in certain circumstances, but it would not make this change retroactive.
At the close of 2002, Alexandra Stevenson was ranked No. 18. Her current ranking: No. 397. She likely would have to get through qualifying to make it into the main 32-player draw of the Santaluz event.
Holding the event at the Santaluz Club, where she teaches tennis, is Patricia Tarabini's means of satisfying an ambition to offer a tournament of her own. Tarabini, once a ranking doubles player on the tour, said her expectation is that five or six women ranked in the top 100 will compete.
The leading seed, Tarabini said, likely will be Ashley Harkleroad, a young Georgia woman who has been ranked as high as No. 39. Tarabini can choose one wild card and intends to award it to former USD player Emma Murphy. According to Tarabini, the USTA may bestow a wild card on Amber Liu, Stanford's two-time NCAA champion from La Mesa.
The event at the club at 8170 Caminito Santaluz East, to be known as the Santaluz Open, is open to the public without charge. An “opportunity” event, with the winner gaining a place in the tournament's qualifying, is scheduled Friday.