Emma Charney

Emma Charney/PHOTO PROVIDED

Emma Charney is another talented local junior tennis player to watch, having risen to the South's No. 3 girls 16 player.

The 15-year-old just brought home runner-up honors from girls 16 doubles in the USTA's Winter Nationals in Orlando, Fla. She also was a quarterfinalist in singles.

And her younger sister, 13-year-old Piper, ventured out to Tucson, Ariz., to bring a Winter Nationals girls 14 doubles runner-up medal back to the Charney home. Piper played doubles in Tucson with new LTP Tennis academy player Alice Otis.

If you haven't heard much about the Charneys before, the family has been residing locally for some time while the two sisters trained at LTP Tennis' Randy Pate Academy, but Emma Charney said the family recently sold their home in the Louisville suburbs of Prospect, Ky., and purchased a home East of the Cooper.

Their dad, Jason Charney, is a sports agent whose work travels with him. "Dad can work from anywhere," Emma said.

Both Emma and Piper attend the LTP Scholars academy at LTP Tennis. "Emma came here with her mother to attend the academy two and a half years ago, and Piper came last year," Randy Pate said.

"Piper wanted to finish middle school in Louisville," Emma pointed out.

"We had three really good girls in Louisville. I played with a girl from there (Carrie Billman) in the Winter Nationals. We use to play together every day in Louisville.

"But we have a lot of good girls here (at the Pate Academy)."

Counting the Charneys and Otis, five Charleston area junior girls brought home runner-up awards in doubles from the Winter Nationals. Anna Ross and Allie Gretkowski took second place in girls 18 doubles.

Emma Charney loves the Charleston weather. "Louisville is very cold. We played indoors there all year except for summer," she said.

She also is high on the Pate Academy, which appears to have an almost endless line of outstanding junior girls. "Randy Pate is a really good academy. They are always teaching us new skills and things to do," she said.

"We always have very intense practices at LTP."

The Charneys got into tennis in the Louisville area because as Emma said, "Tennis was popular in my community and our parents wanted us to play something. I want to go to college (and play tennis) at a really good Division I school."

The Charney girls took up tennis at about the same time when Emma was eight years old, so Piper was "a little further along" age-wise when they enrolled at the Pate Academy.

"Emma is really good. Her biggest qualities are elite speed and an unbelievable backhand," Pate said.

In other impressive results for local juniors in the Winter Nationals, Max Smith and partner took third place in boys 16 doubles, Coy Simon made the round of 16 in boys 18 singles and teamed up with Huntley Allen to advance to the quarterfinals in boys 18 doubles, and Ross and Gretkowski both made the round of 16 in girls 18 singles.

UTR VCO EVENT COMING

There is a great deal of debate currently over tennis rankings and ratings. I have no problem with the WTA and ATP rankings, but after that there appears to be a lot of disparity in the junior, adult and senior rankings all the way from the state to international rankings.

And league tennis probably has the most controversial rankings of all. From self-rated to computer-rated, the National Tennis Rating Program needs an overhaul or a complete abandonment. The Universal Tennis Rating system might be the answer.

Meanwhile, the Volvo Car Open is partnering with UTR in a pre-qualifying wild card tournament. The event is scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3 at Family Circle Tennis Center.

"You have to have a UTR rating," said VCO tournament director Bob Moran.

The tournament is looking for an 11-plus UTR rating as the entry level for the 32-draw event, which will send its winner into the VCO qualifying tournament that will be held the weekend prior to the start of the Premiere Level WTA Tour tournament main draw on Monday, April 1.

UTR Powered by Oracle is the only global tennis rating system that compares all players, regardless of age, gender, or geography across a single, unified scale.

"UTR ignores gender and age," said Moran, who has been a fan of the UTR system for some time.

Moran is excited about the breakthrough locally, but insisted, "This relationship will go far beyond this event. UTR provides the most accurate and real-time assessment of a player’s ability. It cuts through gender and age to provide a vehicle for men and women to play together and juniors to play with adults based on their UTR rating."

Several local juniors might pass the 11-plus rating criteria for the tournament. Of course, U.S. No. 1 girls 18 Emma Navarro already is in the VCO main draw as the result of the national girls 18 clay court singles championship she won last summer at LTP Tennis.

And Randy Pate said, "Anna (Ross) is already at 11.3, and Allie (Gretkowski) and Lara (Schneider) are right at it. Emma (Charney) has a good chance at getting there."

Ross (girls 18), Schneider (girls 16), Sophie Williams (girls 14), Coy Simon (boys 18) and Max Smith (boys 16) still hold No. 1 Southern rankings in the first rankings of 2019.

LTP SCHOLARS

What are the LTP Scholars?

They make up an online school at LTP Tennis that has eight tutors and a headmaster, former Ashley Hall School teacher of the year Jean Bartlett. Sixteen Pate Academy players have received or committed to colleges since 2016, according to Pate.

Full-time players at the Randy Pate Academy simply leave the facility's tennis courts at 10:30 a.m., and head for a classroom building behind the clubhouse.  There, they have classes until 3:30 p.m. There's no wasted time for these success-driven young men and women who have their sights on playing college tennis, usually not at just a small college but at a high-caliber major college such as Duke, Vanderbilt, Virginia and others.

Would you expect anything less from an academy that is associated with LTP owner Ben Navarro, the founder of the Meeting Street Schools and owner of the Volvo Car Open.

FENNO DEFERS TO FALL

Former Porter-Gaud star Brant Fenno will not attend college at Wake Forest this school year after undergoing surgery for a chest deformity last June, according to his father, Edward Fenno.

"He (Brant) is deferring until fall. His chest operation was a big success, but he still has some work to do on his tennis to get it to where he would like it before going to Wake Forest," Edward Fenno said. "So, he asked them (Wake Forest) for one more semester off, and they granted it."

NAVARRO DOWN UNDER

Emma Navarro lost a three-set match to 15th seed Loudmilla Bencheikh of Paris' Roland Garros training group in the round of 16 on Saturday in the Junior ITF Grade 1 AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International in Australia.

Navarro is scheduled to play in the Junior Australian Open which runs Jan. 19-26 in Melbourne.

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