Spring is just over a month away, but you would never guess it by the "northern like" weather we have had the last three weeks. League tennis is in full bloom, but only on paper as ice, snow, sleet, wind and the thermometer have been in control.
Through it all, I became a grandfather last Tuesday for the first time. And when 8-pound, 3-ounce Wyatt gripped my finger like it was a tennis racket in the hospital on our first meeting, I knew I had another tennis player.
Even the start of the Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship was pushed back Saturday morning by heavy rains on Friday night. Hopefully, the winds will die down for Sunday's last rounds at Family Circle Tennis Center, and the tournament will produce another outstanding prospect for a future Family Circle Cup.
Seventeen-year-old Russian Varvara Flink has the credentials to be playing regularly on the WTA Tour in a year or two. She's the No. 2 junior girl in the world, and aiming for No. 1 ... at the WTA Tour level. As her ITF ranking might indicate, the Dunlop Championship's top seed already has played numerous small-purse ITF events with considerable success.
Despite just moving to the United States from Ukraine this year after winning the Orange Bowl Junior championship and accepting a one-year scholarship to the new Russian Metropolia Tier One Tennis Academy in Coral Gables, Fla., Flink spoke perfect English on Friday when she contacted me from the airport in Florida on her trip to Charleston.
The Family Circle Cup, which is only six 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. 28.
Several newcomers to the local junior scene are making their presences felt, including Thomas (Jacob) Jahn from Alabama (No. 5 in state boys 14 for 2013), Chad Nash from Georgia (No. 11 in state boys 14) and Coy Simon (No. 17 in state boys 14), who returned to Charleston from Georgia in 2013.
Jahn finished fourth in boys 14 at the recent Winter Southerns in Mobile, Ala., and Porter-Gaud All-Lowcountry Brant Fenno tied for ninth. Emma Navarro took second in girls 14, while Bishop England All-Lowcountry Lauren Quinn upset the girls 14 No. 1 seed en route to a tie for 17th.
High school tennis is right around the corner. Defending SCISA Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud will open at home on Feb. 25 against 2013 state runner-up and region rival Hilton Head Prep.
Former All-Lowcountry Austin Heinz is back in the area after spending last season at Nick Bollettieri's Academy in Florida and should give coach Dewey Caulder's Palmetto Christian Academy team a big boost.
High School League play will start a few weeks later. Bishop England will open against Wando on March 12 at Creekside Tennis and Swim.
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).
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 more information, call the volunteer hotline (849-5309) and leave a message.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.