Matt Mendez has completed his junior tennis career with a pair of dream accomplishments. Not only is he now a freshman member of fifth-ranked Ohio State's tennis team, Mendez finished 2013 as the No. 1 junior in the South.
The 5-9, 160-pound local product spent most of last year training at Ivan Lendl's academy on Hilton Head Island. The hard work apparently is paying big dividends. He also won last fall's Southern Closed boys 18 crown and finished the year as South Carolina's No. 1-ranked junior.
"Matt has consistently been near the top of American junior tennis and has an all-around game," said veteran Ohio State coach Ty Tucker, who directed the Buckeyes to a 35-3 record and an appearance in the NCAA semifinals last spring. "He is a hard-working young man that leaves it all on the court every time he competes."
Pratt, Navarro tops
Two other Charleston area juniors earned No. 1 rankings in the state for 2013 in the regulation-sized court age groups as Jared Pratt took the top spot in boys 14 and Emma Navarro finished atop girls 14.
Pratt has been sidelined since late summer by surgery for curved-spine condition Scoliosisal, but plans to enroll at Bishop England next fall.
Pratt earned a No. 7 Southern ranking for 2013 in boys 14, while Navarro landed a No. 7 Southern ranking in girls 14. Scotty Cameron finished 14th in the South in boys 16.
Other state rankings
In boys 18, Adam Elliget (No. 5), Alex Santiago (6), Jonathan Edwards (9), Austin Heinz (12), Alexander Schneider (19) and Lukas Zalesky (20) finished behind Mendez in the state's top 20, while in boys 16 Scotty Cameron (2), Cameron Kirkwood (18) and Cross Tolliver (19) earned top 20 rankings.
Pratt was followed in boys 14 by Earl Navarro (4), Jacob Jahn (5), Chad Nash (11), Sam Kavarana (12), Brant Fenno (16) and Coy Simon (17). In boys 12, Luke Prendergast (5), Ian David Rasheed (16), Zach Dacuba (17), Mitchell Deames (18) and William Ross (19) took top 20 slots.
In girls 12, Lara Haley Schneider (3), Mcalindon Jahn (9), Margaret Navarro (10) and Emily Elliott (19) finished in the top 20. With Emma Navarro topping the girls 14 rankings, Lowcountry high school player of the year Ann Martin Skelly (3) of Porter-Gaud, Bishop England All-Lowcountry Lauren Quinn (8), Lillian Conant (12), Skat Bailey (15) and Katherine Lyman (16) landed spots in the top 20.
Samantha Shuster (3) and Elena Renee Schneider (18) were the only locals to make the top 20 in girls 16, while Courtney Geiss (14) and Bishop England All-Lowcountry Caroline Yodice (19) made the list in girls 18.
In small-court, compression-ball 10-and-under competition, the Severances led the way as Saige Elizabeth Severance was the top-ranked girl, while Sydney Alexis Severance was third, and Sawyer Severance was sixth among the boys.
An off week
The past week was one of the worst local weeks for tennis activity in memory. If the ice and snow weren't enough to keep most public clay courts at Family Circle Tennis Center, Mount Pleasant Rec's Whipple Road complex and Maybank Tennis Center closed from Tuesday afternoon until Saturday, locals woke up Saturday morning to a rainy day.
The result: Little or no practice in the week before many local leagues start their official spring seasons.
The Family Circle Cup, which is only eight weeks away, has scheduled a unique Ladies Day Out session for opening day on March 31. A "Move Forward" Luncheon with New York-based Fitness Magazine editor-in-chief Betty Wong as the guest speaker will be held from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Limited tickets to the luncheon, which also include terrace level seating, will be available (800-677-2293) until Feb. 14.
Newcomers to the local junior scene include Thomas (Jacob) Jahn from Alabama, Chad Nash from Georgia and Coy Simon, who returned to Charleston from Georgia in 2013.
Jacob Jahn finished fourth in boys 14 at the recent Winter Southerns in Mobile, Ala., and Brant Fenno tied for ninth. Emma Navarro took second in girls 14, while Lauren Quinn upset the girls 14 No. 1 seed en route to a tie for 17th.
The deadline for entering the Feb. 28 Mount Pleasant Junior Challenger at the Whipple Road complex is Feb. 23. Registration is available online at sctennis.com (tournament No. 700020314). For more information, contact the tennis complex (856-2162).
Shelby Rogers, who has moved up to No. 119 in the world, is scheduled to play in the Feb. 10 Midlands, Mich., $100,000 event.
The Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship is scheduled for Feb. 15-16 at Family Circle Tennis Center. Competition in boys and girls 10-18 age groups will be offered, with round-robin play for 8-and-under. Registration online at tennislink.usta.com is available using tournament number 704140614 by Feb. 9. The girls 18 champion will receive a wild card into the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament.
Adults and youth 11-and-over can apply now for the Family Circle Cup ball crew. Volunteer positions can be applied for online at familycirclecup.com or at Family Circle Tennis Center. For information, call the volunteer hotline (849-5309) and leave a message.
Charleston Tennis Center will hold its annual Valentine's Day mixed doubles round robin next Sunday (Feb. 9) from 2-5 p.m.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.