James Beck Column: Porter-Gaud courts display top talent
High school tennis is one of the best things going in all of tennis. Yes, junior tennis can offer a supplement to age-group junior tournaments.
Everything that was needed to confirm this was on display on recent Monday and Tuesday afternoons at Porter-Gaud’s Albemarle Road tennis complex. One day, you could watch talented boys 16 national No. 5 player Hampton Drake from Hilton Head Christian going against the Cyclones’ Thomas Spratt in singles and doubles. The next day, Spratt was taking on boys 18 national No. 48 Andrew Schafer of Hilton Head Prep bound for the University of South Carolina tennis team.
Spratt, a senior headed for the University of Pennsylvania, lost both singles matches. But the 2012 Lowcountry player of the year out-performed both Drake and Schafer while notching a pair of doubles victories.
Although ranked “only” No. 164 in the country for 2012, Spratt is far above that level in the art of doubles. He is outstanding, a brilliant volleyer who plays big-time doubles.
Spratt is similar to two-time girls Lowcountry player of the air Narni Summerall of Ashley Hall in that aspect of tennis. Watch for Summerall to make an instant impact in doubles at Dartmouth next school year.
These two, Spratt and Summerall, may be as outstanding in doubles as any players to come through the Charleston junior ranks in a number of years.
As for Spratt, when one of his junior doubles partners, Marshall Sharp of Memphis, Tenn., discovered that Spratt was headed for Pennsylvania, Sharp quickly routed his plans for college to Philadelphia. That’s not surprising when you consider that the Spratt/Sharp team was a finalist in the national open in Orlando, Fla. It’s also a tall team, with Sharp just an inch shorter than the 6-6 Spratt.
With its back-to-back 6-3 victories over the two Hilton Head Island teams, Porter-Gaud is in good shape to defend its SCISA Class AAA state title. The Cyclones face their next big test on Thursday when they travel to Hilton Head Prep.
After that encounter, the currently unbeaten Cyclones will take a week off from the team schedule while Spratt and other individual players participate in the SCISA Open on April 9-10. The next encounter with Hilton Head Christian is scheduled for April 12 on Hilton Head Island. A split in the road trips to Hilton Head Island probably would assure the Cyclones of another region title and the top seeding in defense of their 2012 state title.
• Venus Williams will be on hand at Tour Tennis’ Mount Pleasant store on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to meet and greet customers to promote her new apparel line EleVen, according to Tour Tennis owner Mike Palmer. Customers who purchase an EleVen product through Monday will be offered tickets to Venus’ Belle Station Boulevard appearance.
• Mixed doubles registrations are now underway in the Lowcountry Tennis Association. The 65-and-over league team-forming period will run through March 29, while the team registration period for all other mixed doubles teams will end on April 25. Judi Fillinger is the overall mixed doubles coordinator for mixed doubles.
• Diane Barker’s success story is continuing in Antalya, Turkey. She led the USTA’s women’s 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team to first place in the world team championships as the American women scored a 2-0 victory over Great Britain in the final. Former city of Charleston champion Sophie Woorons-Johnston, now of Anderson, played for the Suzanne Lenglen Cup 35-and-over team that came in third place in the team championships. The world individual championships are finishing up this weekend in Turkey, and world’s No. 1 Barker is the top seed in women’s 55.
• Charleston senior Brenda Carter is ranked 10th in the world in women’s 65. Carter recently won the women’s 65 U.S. closed clay court championship in Houston in singles and doubles.
• Senior stars Barker, Carter and Susie Peiffer, along with S.C. Tennis Patrons Foundation chairman Ron Charron are among the early owners of South Carolina’s new “Play Tennis” license plate. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices.
• I’On tennis director Matt Hane (Diane Barker’s son) and Kiawah Island pro Brandon Blankenbaker won the men’s 30 hard court nationals recently in Austin, Texas.
• The College of Charleston’s club team captured the USTA’s Tennis on Campus Southern championship recently in Auburn, Ala., with a 24-23 win over LSU. Club teams are made up of a minimum of two male and two female players. The C of C team earned a berth in the April 11-13 national championships in Surprise, Ariz.
• State top-ranked boys 18 Matthew Mendez gets to work personally with former world’s No. 1 Ivan Lendl each month as a member of Lendl’s International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island.
• The College of Charleston’s women’s team has lost former Lowcountry player of the year Jamie Harrell for the season to a shoulder injury.
• The Bees Landing Recreation Center will serve as host to its 2013 Golden Games on May 16. Seniors are being sought to compete in doubles in tennis. Contact Robert Gorski at 402-4571 for more information and to register.
• The Charleston County School District’s annual Superintendent’s Cup Tennis Tournament for teachers will be held May 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Charleston Tennis Center, the St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground, and Maybank Tennis Center. Volunteer court monitors are needed.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.