Pro events here could lead to bigger things
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Hawai'i will be home to three professional tennis events in the next month. Tennis organizers here hope that is just a pupu.
Think Davis Cup or Federation Cup, in a temporary venue for up to 10,000 — created by the U.S. Tennis Association — that showcases the state for worldwide TV. Austria held a Cup at the foot of a ski slope.
Hawai'i promoter John Korff is on the USTA Board of Directors, which means the time is now. This next month's heavy slate of high-caliber tennis serves two purposes: to inspire players here and provide more evidence that Hawai'i is capable of putting on elite events.
"It would be wonderful to have a Davis Cup or Fed Cup here," said Peter Robb, president of USTA/Hawai'i Pacific Section. "We've done what we have to do. The USTA knows us."
Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hanneman appeared at a USTA reception here a few months ago to assure the association they were committed to the bid "in the near term."
Now, the local section can only wait. If financing comes through and the USTA chooses Hawai'i as a site, it would probably have six weeks to put it all together because of the Cup format, which depend on results of previous rounds.
The wait is suddenly filled with professional events. The USTA's Pro Circuit has two $15,000 men's Futures tournaments here the next two weeks, followed by a $50,000 Wailea Challenger. The tournaments are among 94 run this year by the USTA, which considers the circuit part of player development.
Typically, Futures events bring together pros at the start of their careers, college players and top-ranked juniors. Challengers are a step up, with players usually ranked between 50 and 250. Some top-ranked players show up in an effort to regain their form, with Andre Agassi (in 1997) and James Blake (last year) prime examples.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village Futures started with qualifying this weekend and moves into the main draw Tuesday. The Ho-nolulu Futures begins next weekend. The inaugural Wailea Challenger starts Nov. 27. Waikoloa has also held a Challenger in January the last several years.
Futures, particularly in the qualifying rounds, now feature more familiar faces.
The University of Hawai'i men play every year. Sascha Heinemann, reigning WAC Freshman of the Year, came up a win short of the main draw at Waikoloa last year. His only loss on the UH courts the entire school year came in the Honolulu Futures.
This year he is already in that main draw after winning Hawai'i Sectionals. So is former Hawai'i Pacific All-American Jan Tribler, after winning the Wild Card Tournament. He and former HPU teammate Mikael Maata received the doubles wild card into the main draw. Former state high school champion Ikaika Jobe won the Waikoloa wild card.
According to Rainbow coach John Nelson, Heinemann and new teammates Andreas Weber, No. 125 in the collegiate preseason rankings, and Matt Seeberger, a two-time NCAA Division III champion, each can beat the other on a given day. They probably won't win this week, but Nelson sees no downside.
"It's not about winning and losing, it's about learning," Nelson said. "Every pro tournament here is just getting tougher and tougher. Before, 1,100 (rankings) would be the cutoff for the main draw. Now you have to be in the 800s to get directly in. Me, I'm all about teaching and learning day in and day out. When you play the pros, you get to learn."
One of the guys in the 800s this year is Honolulu's Chris Lam. He turned pro after winning an NCAA Championship at UCLA last year. He has taken two weeks off tennis the last year and played the circuit fulltime since February.
In that time, his ranking has jumped more than than 650 spots. He is 868th in the world this week, and beat two players with rankings in the 300s at a recent Challenger in Sacramento. His ranking was enough to get him directly into the Futures main draws here, where the highest-ranked player is Israel's Dudi Sela (285).
It's been a huge year for Lam, who calls his drive to create a huge tennis game "a work in progress." It started with overcoming the mental roadblocks that prevent players from focusing every point. When he felt a breakthrough there, his technique began to improve.
"As the year went on, I got used to playing every point as hard as I can and used to the other guy playing every point as hard as they can," Lam said. "Guys fighting hard and competing harder. ... At the beginning it was really hard. I had to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on that. The more you do that, the easier it becomes. Now I don't have to think about it."
His goal is to be in the 700s by the end of the year. That now depends on what happens here. His dream is to win. Realistically, reaching his goal would mean making the quarterfinals. That, and being home, is ample incentive.
Mayor Mufi Hanneman will declare a proclamation for Don Andrews on Dec. 1. Andrews, the longtime Tennis Specialist for the City and County of Honolulu, was inducted into the 2006 USTA/Hawai'i Pacific Section Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m. at Honolulu Hale. Family, friends, and supporters are welcome.
Marie Tanaka, a member of the Kailua team, was awarded the Girls 18-under Sportsmanship Award at the recent Junior Team Tennis national championship in San Diego. The tournament, for 3.5 and above rated players, had 211 participants on 27 teams.
WHERE: Hilton Waikoloa Village Kohala Tennis Garden
WHEN: Singles qualifying through tomorrow from 10 a.m. Main Draw runs Tuesday to next Sunday, 10 a.m. daily including next Sunday's final. Times are tentative.
PURSE: $15,000 — $1,950 plus 18 ranking points to winner
TOP-RANKED ENTRANT: Israel's Dudi Sela (No. 285)
LOCAL TIES: Hawai'i's Chris Lam, ranked No. 868, and Ikaika Jobe, who won the Wild Card Tournament, are in the main draw
COMMUNITY TENNIS DAY: Saturday from 8:30 a.m.
8:30-9:30 a.m.—"How Professional Trainers Coach Professional Athletes," workout with coach Tim Powers
9:30-10:15—Cardio Tennis workout with DiDonato Tennis Management pros
11-11:30—Nutrition seminar with Dr. Jay Williams
WHERE: University of Hawai'i-Manoa Tennis Complex
WHEN: Singles qualifying Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 11-12) from 9 a.m. Main Draw starts Tuesday (Nov. 14) with matches from 9 a.m. through Thursday (Nov. 16), quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Friday (Nov. 17), semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 18) and final at 10 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 19).
PURSE: $15,000 — $1,950 plus 18 ranking points to singles winner
TOP-RANKED ENTRANT: Israel's Dudi Sela (No. 290)
LOCAL TIES: Hawai'is Chris Lam, ranked No. 868, is in the main draw. UH sophomore Sascha Heinemann and and former HPU All-American Jan Tribler earned main-draw wild cards by winning the Hawai'i Sectional Championships and Honolulu Futures Wild Card Tournament, respectively. Tribler and former HPU teammate Mikael Maata received a wild card into the doubles main draw.
Tuesday (Nov. 14)—Junior Team Tennis Nite with feature match from 5-6:30 p.m., followed by pizza and clinic
Wednesday (Nov. 15)—College Campus Nite and USTA Team Captain Appreciation Nite, with feature match from 5-6:30 p.m., followed by food, music, Cardio Tennis and open play (rackets and balls provided).
Friday (Nov. 17)—School Day, with neighboring elementary and high school teams from 9-11:30 a.m.
Saturday (Nov. 18)—Community Tennis Day, with Cardio Tennis from 8-9 a.m., Island Pro Tour and youth beginner clinics from 9-10 a.m. and doubles strategy from 10-11 a.m. (rackets available)
Inaugural Wailea Men's Challenger
Nov. 25-Dec. 3
WHERE: Wailea Tennis Club
WHEN: Qualifying Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 25-26) from 9 a.m. Main Draw Monday to Sunday (Nov. 27-Dec. 3), tentatively from 10 a.m.
PURSE: $50,000—$7,200 plus 50 ranking points to singles winner
ADMISSION: Free through Wednesday (Nov. 29), then $10 Thursday or Friday (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1) and $20 for Saturday's semifinals (Dec. 2) or Sunday's final (Dec. 3).
Sunday (Nov. 26)—Pro-Am at 3 p.m.
Monday (Nov. 27)—Junior clinic 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Tuesday (Nov. 28)—Adult and wheelchair clinics 5-6 p.m.
USTA Pro Circuit in Hawai'i
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.