JAMES BECK: WTT Finals the only show in town
League tennis has joined the World TeamTennis party by vacating the July 22-24 weekend with its local mixed doubles playoffs. That's great news because if you're a tennis player or fan, there is only one tennis scene for that weekend -- the WTT Finals at Family Circle Tennis Center.
Maybe there's room for a merger between league tennis and the WTT format. How about a local independent WTT league that uses the fast-paced format of the professional league?
I haven't seen many more exciting times in Charleston tennis than last weekend's WTT Launch Party. It wasn't the Family Circle Cup or Davis Cup, but the atmosphere was equally electric for the approximately 1,000 people introduced to the WTT format at the Family Circle complex.
I think most of the fans who attended the Launch Party will agree that the WTT format may be tennis' fastest and most contagious in excitement. Where has World TeamTennis been all of these years? Even America's Best Tennis Town didn't know what it was missing.
Bobby Cremins apparently didn't leave his coaching talents on the basketball court. He just replaced his ex-College of Charleston ace Andrew Goudelock with I'On Club tennis pro Matt Hane, and the former George Washington University standout took care of the rest for the Cremins team.
Opponents simply couldn't handle Hane's big left-handed serves as I'On won three team matches, including a close one against ex-Auburn/current Tulane star Caroline Thornton and the Family Circle team in the WTT Launch party final.
With the format blending men's singles, women's doubles, women's singles, men's doubles and mixed doubles into a single match that awarded one point for each game won, it was a fast-paced evening. Coaches were allowed to go on the court to talk to players or to make lineup changes after any point as a standing-room-only crowd appeared to follow every detail.
Spending the night pretending to coach the Charleston Tennis Center team that included the likes of Cindy Babb and Kiawah pros Toby Simpson and Brandon Blankenbaker, I experienced first-hand the excitement of the WTT match format. It would be great to see a local WTT league formed with weekly matches involving club teams.
Legend Oaks took the spirit award with its large group of purple-clad fans. That means Billie Jean King will make the trip up Highway 61 to visit Legend Oaks during the WTT Finals Weekend.
The five other local clubs fielding teams for the WTT Launch Party were Dunes West, Mount Pleasant Recreation, Daniel Island Club, Pine Forest and the Country Club of Charleston.
Everyone wants to know about "The Court" used for last weekend's WTT Launch Party. The multi-colored court reportedly is the only portable one of its kind right now in the United States. It arrived here after being used in March for the Nike Clash of Champions event at the University of Oregon's arena. The court is valued at $85,000, according to Family Circle director Bob Eppelsheimer.
Made in Germany, the Rebound Ace court is composed of 340 one-quarter inch thick tongue-and-grooved birch plywood boards, spring locked and hinged together. The boards were placed on foam padding atop a plastic cover over the clay on the Althea Gibson Club Court.
Elliget, Halbauer win
The area produced two doubles champions in the recent Southern Closed Junior Championships. Drew Halbauer not only was a singles semifinalist in the boys 16 tournament at Rome, Ga., he teamed with Christian Harris of Hilton Head Island to take the doubles title.
Pinewood Prep freshman Adam Elliget lost to top-seeded Tommy Paul of Greenville, N.C., in the Southern boys 14 round of 32 in Macon, Ga., but then teamed with Paul to capture the doubles crown.
--League tennis' 6.0 adult mixed doubles local tournament has been rescheduled for Aug. 4, 6-7 at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground, while the 7.0 playoffs are reset for the same site on Aug. 5-7. The 8.0 mixed playoffs will be staged at Pine Forest Country Club July 15-16.
--The deadline for team registrations for combo doubles leagues is today.
--Charleston Tennis Center will hold its Junior Hard-Court Championships July 15-17. Registration is available online at www.sctennis.com using the tournament ID number (704136911). The entry deadline is July 10.
--The State Closed Junior Hard-Court Championships are scheduled for July 8-13 at the Lexington County Tennis Complex. Online registration is available (tournament number 704100111) through next Saturday.
--The Junior Team Tennis State Championships will be held July 15-17 at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center.