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Gullickson becomes youngest U.S. tennis player ever in Pan Am Games

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
August 4, 2003
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- Carly Gullickson is well aware of the talent in American women's tennis, and someday she hopes her name will be mentioned right along with the Williams sisters.

It won't be until she's old enough to play a full schedule. And not before she proves herself against the world's top players.

The 16-year-old junior sensation became the youngest U.S. tennis player to compete in the Pan American Games when she won her first match Monday. Gullickson, seeded fifth in the 31-player draw, overcame a case of pre-match jitters to defeat Daniela Alvarez of Bolivia 6-4, 6-4.

``It's neat to represent the country and be 16,'' she said after coming off the court and cooling off from the Caribbean heat. ``But I'm not really thinking about it. I'm treating this like any other tournament.''

Her parents arrived courtside with the scored tied 4-4 in the second set, just in time to see her hold serve and then break Alvarez to finish it. She saw them come in, and it gave her a lift.

``I started off a little slow because I was a little nervous,'' she said. ``It was good to see them. The last time my dad saw me play was Wimbledon. My mom hasn't been to a tournament since last year's U.S. Open. It was nice to have them both here.''

Gullickson is the daughter of former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, who played for Montreal, Cincinnati, the New York Yankees, Houston and Detroit in a 14-year career.

She is the second-oldest of six children, whose names all begin with the letter C.

It's an impressive crew.

There's Cassie, who's headed to Notre Dame on a track scholarship, and Carly. Next in line is Craig, an athlete and the only boy in the bunch. Then come Chelsey, Callie and Chloe. Chelsey plays tennis, while the two youngest are dancers.

``They just named my sister Cassie and me Carly and then they decided to keep doing it. It's kind of weird,'' she said, laughing. ``My mom's name is Sandy and my dad's name is Bill, so it had nothing to do with them.''

Gullickson is home-schooled and will be a junior in high school this year. Both of her parents help with her education, along with tutors. But with her demanding road schedule, she ends up teaching herself most of the time.

Carly's father, now 44 and retired from baseball for nine years, often travels with her. His best season came in 1991, when he went 20-9 for the Tigers. He also set a major-league rookie record for strikeouts in a game with 18 in 1979. The mark stood until 1998, when Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs struck out 20.

As a former athlete, he attempts to give his daughter examples of what not to do.

``The thing I try to teach her the most is that you're never as good as people say you are and you're never as bad as people say you are,'' Bill Gullickson said. ``You have to stay in the middle. Never be too satisfied with yourself, and stay hungry.

``She's 16. She's had some good wins and she's had some bumps along the road just like anyone else who goes out there every day and keeps on trying. I try to help her keep her head on straight and try to teach her from some of the mistakes I made in pro sports.''

Gullickson, whose family recently relocated to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., from Nashville, received a wild-card entry into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament this year and won three matches to make the main draw.

On the opening day of the tournament, she was scheduled to play on Court 19, but wound up on Center Court, where she lost to Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan 7-5, 6-3.

U.S. coach Debbie Graham hit with Gullickson for the first time Sunday.

``This is a good opportunity for her to come and make a mark for herself,'' Graham said. ``She has nothing to lose. She's not playing for points. She's playing for a medal.''

A strong showing here probably won't be enough to get Gullickson on the Olympic team for 2004 in Athens, but she's shooting for 2008 in Beijing.

``They haven't even talked about the real Olympics,'' she said. ``I'm just honored to be playing here. For next year, they already have their team with Serena and Venus, which should be the team because they're the best in the world. If I do well here, hopefully they'd consider me for the next four years.

``You never know.''

14,953 Posts

Go Carly!!!

17,958 Posts
Yeah I saw her play in Miami. She is better than Ally Baker, but she unfortunately has the textbook USTA style:sad: . While I think the USTA is great at producing club level players, they don't teach people to be aggressive enough to make it on tour IMHO.
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