Barth thrilled by session with Pope

Shelby Rogers in action against Sara Sorribes Tormo on April 8, 2015, during the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island. Grace Beahm/Staff

Kiawah Island tennis director Roy Barth has competed against some of the greatest players in the history of professional tennis. But Roy and his wife, Colleen, experienced one of their biggest thrills when they were privileged to be among a group of tennis officials who were in attendance for a special session with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall in Rome.

Pope Francis used the early May occasion to talk about sports and tennis as an “educational experience.”

Barth, the current president of the Professional Tennis Registry, was in Rome to attend the second annual International Tennis Coaches Symposium. The Italian Tennis Federation served as host for the special session.

“Colleen was born and raised as a Catholic, and I’m a Catholic, so we were excited to see the Pope,” Barth said. “He’s a peoples’ Pope. He talked about sports, work and family.

“We also were excited to go back to Rome after all of these years,” added Barth, a former world’s top 50 player who competed against the likes of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. “We didn’t have the time to see the sights there when I was on the tour.”

Family Circle Tennis Center/MWTennis Academy players Jessie Pegula and Samantha Crawford ran into tough opening draws Tuesday in the first tournament of the U.S. Open Wild-Card Challenge. After suffering first-round losses in the $50,000 event at Stockton, Calif., Pegula and Crawford are entered this coming week at Sacramento.

Pegula’s two wins in Wimbledon qualifying lifted her ranking 42 places to No. 258 in the world as the 21-year-old posted an 8-4 record in Europe. Crawford is ranked No. 251.

Registration for the fourth annual Hugs for Harper benefit Dinner and Auction is already open online. The event will be held Sept. 18 at Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing.

The event celebrates the life of Harper Drolet by supporting others who battle pediatric cancer. Proceeds will benefit the Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Institute at MUSC.

Outback Steakhouse will cater the dinner, with live music provided by the Brady Smith Band.

Allie Gretkowski followed up her singles runner-up success in last month’s Southern Closed girls 12 championships with an outstanding performance in the girls 12 clay-court nationals at Palm Gardens, Fla. The MWTennis Academy youngster posted a sixth straight win in consolations on Saturday morning to win the West Draw singles consolation. She also was a doubles semifinalist.

The Kiawah Island Summer Junior Championship (S.C. Level 3, tournament number 700033015) is scheduled for Aug. 28-30. The entry deadline is Aug. 23 for the all-divisions (10 through 18, singles and doubles) tournament.

The free Fourth of July Carnival put on by Charleston Tennis Center and Tour Tennis was a big success. More than 100 kids and adults participated in new city pro Davy Hairston’s first big event at the Farmfield Avenue complex.

The latest news on the resurfacing of the Farmfield courts is that crews have completed work on 12 of the facility’s 15 courts and started resurfacing the last three courts on Saturday morning.

There’s good news for Shelby Rogers fans following the Charleston touring tennis professional’s rehabilitation from a right knee MCL tear suffered five weeks ago in England. She is back on the court practicing.

“Recovery is going really well. I’m back on the court. I should be ready to go in a couple of weeks, still figuring out which tournament will be my first one back,” Rogers reported Saturday morning.

“But I will definitely play before the U.S. Open.”

That’s great news for the 22-year-old. The four-week U.S. Open Series will begin in two weeks, followed by the U.S. Open.

Rogers saw her world ranking drop 35 places to No. 119 last Monday as her tour points from last year’s runner-up finish at Bad Gastein, Austria, rotated off of the computer ahead of this year’s tournament due to Bad Gastein being staged two weeks earlier in 2014.

Barring possible wild cards, that means Rogers likely will have to qualify for most tournaments leading into and including the U.S. Open.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on Wimbledon at ubitennis.com/english/tag/james-beck