Charleston to host USTA championships

Patrick Hieber of Germany is on a tennis vacation in Charleston. Well, not exactly.

Hieber is taking time off from his full-time job in law enforcement to serve as the tournament director for the first USTA national junior tennis championships ever played in South Carolina.

The 38-year-old resident of Fulda, Germany, arrived in Charleston on Tuesday night, and he plans to fly out the day after the USTA Boys 12 National Clay Court Championships end next Saturday. It’ll be back to his government job in Germany, where he gets 32 paid vacation days annually.

Hieber will spend most of the next week at base site LTP Tennis and Swim Club, off Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. Matches also will be played at the Country Club of Charleston (Sunday through Tuesday) and the Daniel Island Club on Sunday. Seventeen courts will be in use at the three facilities when play begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

“I’m here only a short time, but this is a nine or 10-month job,” Hieber said Friday. “I did everything online from back in Germany.”

Even lining up chair umpires is a major assignment for a national championship. “We’ll have a chair umpire for every match played, even doubles and consolation matches,” said the law school graduate.

That’s a lot of chair umpires when you consider that a 128-player compass draw will be used, and every player is guaranteed at least four matches. That takes some management, especially when the sites are so spread out the first few days.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in Winston-Salem, N.C., but Randy Pate moved his junior academy to LTP Tennis in Mount Pleasant from Winston-Salem.

“We talked to the USTA and they gave permission to move the tournament here this year,” Hieber said.

“The best 128 boys 12 (players) from the entire U.S. will play. The field is probably the strongest in at least five years according to the ranking positions. At the end of registration our first alternate was still ranked No. 209 in the nation. I think the very nice location at LTP Tennis Club and the popularity of Charleston have a lot to do with it.”

How did Heiber land this tennis gig?

“I played competitive tennis and in 1995 I came to the United States as an exchange student. I just happened to land in Statesville, N.C. (the site of Pate’s earlier tennis academy). That’s where I met Randy Pate,” said Heiber, who was ranked 72nd in the world in men’s 35 earlier this year.

Heiber and Pate remained friends, and in 2011 Heiber took a three-year furlough from his government job to live out his passion. “I worked for Randy from 2011-14 as director of the Randy Pate Academy in Winston-Salem,” he said.

In the process, Heiber ran the Boys 12 National Championships three years in Winston-Salem. Then, it was back to Fulda, a town of about 60,000 that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on Grand Slam Tennis at ubitennis.net/blog/author/james-beck