Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014!

The year was filled with memorable moments, but also with many downs for most of my favorite players.  It was a rough season full of illnesses, injuries, and mental struggles.  As a fan, it was heartbreaking to witness them.  I can't speak for other people, but one of  my biggest fears is early retirements.  Every time I hear news about a player's inability to continue the sport, due to physical disabilities such as back or shoulder injury, it makes me sad. And it makes me appreciate the players more.  I try to support them as much as I can while the opportunity is at hand.

The men may be disappointing for me in 2014, but the women and juniors were bright spots.  Had several opportunities to watch the American youngsters rise to the occasion and am excited to follow their progress next year!

Bring on 2015, but until then looking back at some fun pictures #Adios2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Q&A With Junior US Open Semifinalist: Katerina Stewart

Get to know Katerina Stewart, one of Just Drop the Ball's 10 American teens to watch in 2015 (WTA).  Katerina hails from a tennis family.  Her mom, Marina, is a teaching pro from Argentina while dad, Caesar, is the director of Next Level Tennis Academy in Coral Gables, Florida.  The teenager is at a career high WTA ranking of 349 and hopes to carry the momentum into 2015.  Check out the Q&A below to learn more about her game, tennis goals, and more!

Katerina Stewart in 1st round qualifying action at the US Open

Questions and Answers

Can you tell us a little bit about your game style?

Best way to describe my game style is a grinder. I'll work for every point. Don't win by hitting winners.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Get to Know Rising American: Deiton Baughman (Q&A)

Picture Courtesy of Deiton Baughman
Learn more about one of Just Drop the Ball's 10 American teenagers to watch in 2015, Deiton Baughman.  Deiton turned pro last February and is coached by his dad, Brad.  He trains at the USTA facility in his hometown, Carson, California.  The 18 year old competed mostly on the ITF Pro Circuit last season. See what he had to say about the challenges players faced, his goals, and more!

Questions and Answers

Can you tell us a little bit about your game style? 

I play pretty aggressive, but with margin. I hit pretty big off both sides and try to dictate as much as possible from the middle of the court.

Favorite shot? Part of the game you look to improve upon?

Favorite shot is definitely my Backhand. I pride myself on that shot. There is no "one" part of my game I'm looking to improve rather looking to improve every part of my game.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

10 American Teens to Watch in 2015 (WTA)

This is the WTA version of "10 American Teenagers to Watch in 2015 (ATP)".  I'm not as knowledgeable in this field so I inquired some names from @rrjuki and @jokelly_tennis (thanks guys!).  There were so many names and it was tough to narrow the list down to ten so I decided to exclude players who turn 20 years old in 2015.  This list focuses on the 1996 born players and younger.

Taylor Townsend

Age: 18 (16 Apr 1996)
Height: 5-7
Plays: Left Handed (Double Handed Backhand)

2014 Year End WTA Ranking: 102
Career High WTA Ranking: 102 (03/11/2014)

2014 Highlights: Since ending 2012 as the world top-ranked junior, Townsend’s ascendant to the professional rank was steady despite her weight struggle.  The former Junior Australian Open champion jumped 574 ranking spots over the span of two years to a career best of 102.  Under the watchful eyes of the 1990 Wimbledon finalist, Zina Garrison, Townsend won two $50K titles in Indian Harbour Beach and Charlottesville to score the 2014 USTA French Open wildcard.  In her grand slam debut, the 18 year old defeated fellow American Vania King and later upset World No.24 Alize Cornet (FRA) before falling to Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro (WTA 15).  She also received wildcards into Wimbledon and US Open, but fell in the first round to Klara Koukalova (CZE) and 18-time Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams, respectively.  Earlier this year, the powerful left hander claimed her first premier win over Italian Karin Knapp at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and made the doubles finals at the Citi Open in Washington D.C., partnering Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

10 American Teenagers to Watch in 2015 (ATP)

The 2014 season was a good year for the American boys with multiple players reaching the finals of Junior Grand Slams, Grade A, and G1 tournaments and claiming a fair share of the titles. Several players extended their success into the pro circuit and will look to continue testing themselves against the pros in 2015.  Below are my list of 10 American prospects to watch out for in the upcoming season.

Jared Donaldson 

Age: 18 (09 Oct 1996)
Height: 6-3
Plays: Right Handed (Double Handed Backhand)

2014 Year End ATP Ranking: 260
Career High ATP Ranking: 257 (17/11/2014)

2014 Highlights: The 2013 Kalamazoo Boys finalist won three straight futures titles in 2014 (1 Clay, 2 Hard) in Turkey and USA, respectively.  Donaldson qualified for his first ATP main draw at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. this past summer.  He also reached the quarterfinals of 100K Sacramento Challenger and semifinals of the 50K Challenger in Napa Valley.  The lanky 18 year old received a wildcard into the US Open and debuted against World No.24 Gael Monfils.  He jumped 471 ranking spots to 260 and with a small fraction of points (35) to defend until June, he looks to continue the climb.  If the Taylor Dent's pupil can improve his serve percentage and learn to control his temper, there's no reason he can't go far.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Hobby Within A Hobby: Making Highlight Videos

You may be familiar with my YouTube channel, SapELee485, which contains array of tennis videos ranging from players' practices to matches and highlights. This is actually my 4th account (the previous three dedicated to music).  I originally created the channel to showcase the young American talents, but have expanded it to include other nationalities and ages.

In the beginning, I mostly uploaded full challenger matches but ran into copyright issues (USTA Pro Circuit).  I ended up deleting many videos.  Frustrated and trying to find a solution, I began to experiment with making highlights.  I had done slideshow videos before and thought to myself, “it can’t be that much different”.  I was right, it wasn’t; however, it was time consuming because you have to re-watch the match.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hello World!

My name is Lang and I’m a tennis enthusiast.  I’m inspired by fellow tennis tweeps, specifically Jonathan Kelley, so I have decided to start my own blog.  Probably not the wisest move considering my upcoming busy schedule but what the heck.

How I got into tennis
During middle school, my cousin and I were dragged to the park by an older cousin.  He gave us tennis lessons against our will.  To be fair, it was a lot better than the computer programming lectures he gave us the summer before.  But seriously, what was wrong with him?  Teaching C DOS commands to kids during summer vacation!

Anyhow, I don’t play the sport anymore.  In fact, haven’t touched my rackets in years due to a) I suck at tennis and b) reoccurring back ailments obtained from a hydroplane car crash four years ago (surprised I’m alive to be honest). But I like to watch matches and follow players on and off the court, especially on social media.  I started following the women’s game closely in 2011, but shifted my attention to the men’s a year later (because the men tennis forum was pathetic and in need of updates).  In the last several years, I grew to love junior tennis.  Find it exciting to watch young players develop and transition to the main tour.