BECK COLUMN: Online-schooled Clements wins big one
Connor Clements is a relatively unknown junior tennis player.
He’s not a high school star. He is online-schooled and doesn’t participate in the regular school system.
Unlike high school sports where the media seeks out success, home-schooled kids almost have to be their own public relations agents. About the only time Clements’ name is mentioned in the media is when he does well in a junior tournament and someone in his camp reports his success.
Clements is a legitimate junior tennis star. He’s just won a big one, the boys 18 singles and doubles titles in the Southern Spring Closed in Mobile, Ala. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the South.
Clements has his eye on playing college tennis. That’s what he has been training for these last few years while most of his friends attended high school. A senior, he expects this fall to be on a tennis scholarship at a college such as Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Furman or Wofford.
He’s visited all six of those schools, and he said all have offered scholarships. “I like all of them, but I have to narrow it down to the ones that suit me best,” the 18-year-old said.
He’s a 6-foot left-hander with a booming serve. “Being a lefty gives me an advantage against some players,” he said. “I have a different ball coming off my racket. Sometimes they don’t know what to do with my serve and forehand.
“My serve will break away from my opponent and open up the court, and give me a chance for some free points.”
When he’s not studying online, Clements spends much of his time training under Bryan Minton at Family Circle Tennis Center.
Tennis is lucky that it has its share of Good Samaritans. Not all tennis players that are born with natural athletic ability reach their potential. Some need a lucky break, or the help of a good tennis citizen.
Take Junior Duarte for instance. Junior is a freshman at Porter-Gaud and played on the school’s SCISA Class AAA state championship team. He trains in the tennis academy at Family Circle Tennis Center, and hopes to play college tennis one day.
But without the early help of Charleston Tennis Center pro Fredrik Andersson, Duarte may never have found tennis, and he almost certainly wouldn’t be part of such elite tennis company these days.
Andersson took Duarte under his wings about a decade ago and provided the little fellow with free lessons and a free spot in his summer tennis camp. Courting Kids director Delores Jackson probably put it best when she said: “Fredrik made Junior what he is.”
Kiawah, Wild Dunes listed
Earlier this year, Tennis Magazine surprised almost everyone it seems by ranking Kiawah Island as the second-best tennis resort in South Carolina, behind Hilton Head Island’s Palmetto Dunes. That was a big drop from being rated third in the country in 2011 by the same publication.
But the other major tennis resort ranker, Tennis Resorts Online, still thinks Kiawah Island is pretty special, along with Wild Dunes. The two local resorts were the only ones from South Carolina listed among Tennis Resorts Online’s top 10 tennis resorts in the world for 2012.
Alexander Santiago has been on a tear recently in boys 16 doubles, playing with partner Carsten Fisher of Hilton Head Island. After winning the Southern Bullfrog Regional at Clemson late last month, Santiago and Fisher were runnerup in the Southern Spring Closed in Mobile last weekend.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.