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tennisIlove09
Apr 7th, 2003, 01:16 AM
Future stars shine in first day of qualifying
By JAMES BECK
April 6 2003
The Post and Courier

And this was only the first day of qualifying . . . If the next eight days are anything like Saturday, tennis fans are in for a whale of Family Circle Cup this year.

There's one more round of qualifying, today. The main event starts Monday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

But with perfect weather until a few sprinkes of rain late in the day and a soft breeze blowing in off the nearby marsh keeping away the bugs most of the day, nothing could have been finer than a spring Saturday of tennis.

And who had the loudest game of the day? Young Russian Maria Sharapova, of course. Her loud grunts and groans were enough to break the concentration of Japan's Akiko Morigami, who had to get help from the trainer for her tired legs at 4-4 in the third set, then lost the next two games.

So, if you happen to hear loud grunting and groaning today, you need to head for that area. Sharapova, tall and graceful, knows how to play this game.

And what about Junior Family Circle Cup champion Shadisha Robinson. She had her own cheering section and earned every cheer in a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over 20-year-old Australian pro Christina Wheeler.

Robinson demonstrated great potential with her deep, penetrating left-handed strokes and strong serve looking like they already belong on the WTA Tour. She may lose today in her bid to qualify for the $1.3 million Family Circle Cup's main draw, but mark this high school senior down as possibly the next great American player, if she can lift her mental game to the level of physical potential.

Then there was 18-year-old Marion Bartoli of France. A right-hander, she hits two-handed from both sides. She's another player to watch today, as well as the future. She's the No. 1 seed in qualifying.

Several main-draw players also were on the grounds. Tall and amazingly thin Daniela Hantuchova worked out on the stadium court with her coach, showing excellent consistency, blended with power from the baseline. She looked like she could be a player to watch.

Lindsay Davenport and Meghann Shaughnessy worked out together on the stadium court. Davenport appeared to be fully recovered from a thigh strain she suffered two weeks ago in Miami that forced her to retire after dropping the first set, 6-0, to Bartoli.

You can count on Davenport winning a couple of matches, despite not being known for her clay-court skills because of her lack of quickness. That part of her game has improved vastly. This year's Family Circle Cup might actually be a very good one for Davenport. She's definitely a player to watch, which she wasn't five years ago when she last played in the Family Circle and advanced to the quarterfinals.

THORNTON TAKES TITLE

Mount Pleasant's Caroline Thornton scored a major victory for Charleston junior tennis last Monday when she lived up to her top seeding by winning the girls' 12 title in the Bullfrog STA Little Rock (Ark.) Super Circuit. She defeated fourth-seeded Alexandra Forsyth of Belle Vista, Ark., 6-4, 6-0, in the final.

"This was a big win for our whole academy," said Fritz Nau, who directs the 24-player Charleston Tennis Academy.

Bryan Minton, who coaches Thornton, watched the just-turned 12-year-old from Charleston Day School win five straight matches to capture the Southern Tennis Association tournament. "This is the first time I've seen one of our players come out with the intensity that it takes to win (an STA tournament)," Minton said.

A BIG MONDAY

-- Don't forget. Former Family Circle Cup champions Jennifer Capriati, Iva Majoli and Amanda Coetzer will appear at the Fan Fest at Marion Square Monday from 4-7 p.m.

-- The City of Charleston's Courting Kids participants will have a special session with Serena Williams at the Jack Adams Tennis Center on Monday instead of Tuesday as previously scheduled.

MIXED DOUBLES ALREADY

It seems that this spring's USTA Adult League and Senior League just started, but Lowcountry Tennis Association president Bob Peiffer already is thinking about the summer. The captain's meeting for the mixed doubles league will be held April 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston County Main Library on Calhoun Street.

Peiffer plans to start the mixed doubles league a few weeks early this year. Current plans call for a mid-May start. Captains planning to field teams this summer should attend the meeting.

LOCAL NOTES

-- The third leg of the Lowcountry Junior Challenger circuit is scheduled for April 25-27 at Pine Forest Country Club. The tournament will feature singles and doubles in all age groups. The entry deadline is April 21. Contact Pine Forest's tennis pro shop at 843-851-9010.

-- The 14th annual Snee Farm Junior Tournament will be held April 18-20. The tournament will have boys' and girls' divisions for 10-and-under through 18-and-under in singles and doubles, with first-round consolation in singles. The entry deadline is April 15 at 8 p.m. For more details or entry forms, call 843-884-3252.

-- Charleston Tennis Center is offering a wheelchair youth tennis program every Friday from 2-3 p.m. throughout April and May. City pro Fredrik Andersson is conducting the free clinic. For information, call 843-724-7337.

James Beck can be contacted by telephone at 843-937-5540 or by email at jdbeck@postandcourier.com.