American Collegiate Invitational

American Collegiate Invitational

Any opportunity to showcase college tennis is a “win” in my book. The American Collegiate Invitational (ACI), held during the second week of the US Open, is no exception.

The USTA started hosting the ACI in 2014, featuring 8 men and 8 women playing a single-elimination singles tournament with the winner of each draw receiving a wildcard entry into the following year’s US Open Qualifying tournament. If, however, the winner is ranked 120 or better by the US Open entry deadline, then he/she will get a wildcard entry directly into the Main Draw. That’s means a huge payday for these young athletes – the 2017 qualifiers received $8000 just for being in the tournament, $50,000 if they actually made it into the First Round of the Main Draw. ACI winners also get wildcards into three USTA Pro Circuit events, and the runners-up each get one.

It is interesting to note that, although the ACI features college players, this is not an official college event. That means participants are competing as individuals, not as representatives of their schools. That also means that, even though they may receive coaching during their matches, the players’ college coaches cannot be the ones doing the coaching due to NCAA compliance regulations. The strange part is that players wear their college uniforms while competing and are introduced by name and school, but the scoreboard and draw show them as from the US as opposed to their university. For the life of me, I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand all the NCAA rules!

This year’s ACI Tournament Director was none other than recently-resigned USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments, Bill Mountford. He told me that USTA chose to start this event 4 years ago in order to demonstrate its commitment to college tennis, to celebrate the best players by showcasing them on American tennis’s grandest stage: the US Open. And, to its credit, USTA is fully-invested in these players and this event, treating the collegians like Tennis Royalty by footing the bill for their travel, hotel accommodations at the Grand Hyatt (the official player hotel for the Open), and even taking them out for a gourmet meal the night before starting play. “They should be treated like royalty. They’ve come through Juniors and been among the best players. They’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours honing their skills. They should be celebrated. It’s got to feel inspiring when they’re out there practicing right next to Rafael Nadal or having their racquets strung right next to Juan Martin Del Potro or being called in the morning by the Bryan Brothers because they need to practice with someone who’s going to hit kick serves to the ad court to warm them up for the day’s match. These are the best of the best of our young American players.”

He went on to say that he hopes the ACI players view this event as an extension of their US Open Juniors experience, bridging the gap between that tournament and the time they will, hopefully, be competing at the Open in the Main Draw. Being on these courts at this venue is a learning experience for them that should aid the transition as they move from college onto the pro tour.

2017 NCAA Women’s Champion, Brienne Minor, confirmed Bill’s hope. “To be able to play in the US Open and then this Invitational has been amazing! I’m so glad I had this opportunity. Hopefully, I can come back here. I definitely do want to play after college. I’m glad I got to have the experience and to know what it’s like and to be around the top pro players is pretty amazing, just to get that atmosphere. Now I know what it’s like and if I get to come back, I can change a few things and know what to expect.” Unfortunately, Brienne will be taking a break from tennis this Fall to have surgery on both her knees. The plan is to rehab and be ready for the dual match season in January.

I had a chance to speak with several of this year’s ACI players, and they all agreed that this event is a wonderful opportunity and certainly welcome the chance to earn a wildcard into next year’s Qualifying or Main Draw, but they view it as one more step in the process. Any time they get to compete on a big stage, it puts them one step closer to their goal of competing at the WTA/ATP level, which most of the players want. As UVA graduate Thai Kwiatkowski said, “If you can’t enjoy playing at the US Open, then you shouldn’t play the game!”

I found it interesting to hear Thai say it hurt more to lose his Main Draw match to Mischa Zverev, mostly due to the loss of ranking points and money that would help him fund his first year on the tour, than it did to lose first round in the ACI to eventual winner Tom Fawcett (Stanford). “I graduated with a Business Degree from UVA, and there’s a massive opportunity cost every day I step out on the tennis court. I’m eventually going to get out into the business world. I think I’m playing right now because I’ve played tennis my whole life, and it’s always been a dream, and I know that if I quit now I’ll always have in the back of my mind that I should’ve played. I’m getting that out of my system and seeing how far it can take me.” He shared that he’s continuing to study and learn while out on the tour because he misses that aspect of being a collegiate student-athlete. Thai went on to say that he’s going to miss everything about college tennis. “Those bus rides and tough matches and celebrations . . . I’m still best friends with all those guys and still talk to them every day, so it’s not too far off.”

I also had a chance to speak with several of the players’ parents, including Scott Holt (Brandon’s dad), Kevin Minor (Brienne’s dad), Beata Redlicki (Michael’s mom), and Carlo DiLorenzo (Francesca’s dad). After seeing all of them back in May at the NCAA Championships, it was great to catch up and get their take on this tournament. They each viewed this event as a wonderful opportunity for their children to play at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the US Open but also realize it’s just another step in their long tennis journey.

And in case you think these college students no longer need that kind of parental support . . . ACI Women’s Champion, Francesca DiLorenzo, had a parent in the stands cheering her on for each match, both in the Women’s Qualifying and the Women’s Doubles Main Draw as well as in this event. “It means a lot to have that support from home,” she shared. And, I have to say my heart nearly melted when I saw Thai Kwiatkowski hug and kiss his dad, Tim, after his first-round loss. What a sweet father-son moment!

Fran is taking the Fall off from Ohio State to pursue her professional tennis career, but, at least as of now, is planning to return to school for the dual match season though she will re-assess in the next couple of months. Some of the new, more restrictive, rules from NCAA are hurting her ability to play enough tournaments in the Fall which was a big factor in her decision to take the next few months off from school. Also, the fact that her major doesn’t allow for as many online classes now that she’s in her Junior year played a role in her decision.

I asked Fran how former UCLA player Jennifer Brady’s success at this year’s US Open impacts her. “It’s always really nice to see a college player do well. It gives us all hope. It’s really good for college tennis and shows that you can do something after college, that it’s not the end of the road like sometimes people think. For her to represent, not just her school but all of college, is unbelievable. It’s really exciting!”

Watching these kids compete was such a treat! I was there the first day of the very first ACI in 2014 but hadn’t been back since. Unfortunately, I had to fly back to Atlanta yesterday before the Men’s ACI Final, but I did see all the other matches this year. College tennis, in case you were wondering, is in great hands!

ACI Women’s Draw & Results

Round 1 (Quarterfinals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Sara Daavettila (UNC So) 6-1, 6-2
Ena Shibahara (UCLA So) d. Brienne Minor (Michigan Jr, NCAA Champ) 6-1, 6-3
Sydney Campbell (Vanderbilt Grad) d. Alexa Graham (UNC So) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6)
Ingrid Neel (Florida So) d. Hayley Carter (UNC Grad) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Round 2 (Semifinals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Ena Shibahara (UCLA So) 6-4, 6-1
Ingrid Neel (Florida So) d. Sydney Campbell (Vanderbilt Grad) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2

Round 3 (Finals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Ingrid Neel (Florida So) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

ACI Men’s Draw & Results

Round 1 (Quarterfinals):
Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) d. Chris Eubanks (GA Tech Sr) 6-2, 6-4
Brandon Holt (USC So) d. William Bushamuka (Kentucky Jr) 6-2, 6-2
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Thai Kwiatkowski (UVA Grad, NCAA Champ) 7-6 (5), 6-4
Alfredo Perez (Florida Jr) d. Alex Rybakov (TCU Jr) 7-5, 6-3

Round 2 (Semifinals):
Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) d. Brandon Holt (USC So) 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Alfredo Perez (Florida Jr) 6-1, 6-2

Round 3 (Finals):
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-4

 

The NCAAs from the Inside Out

NCAAs
UGA Tennis Mommas

Click here to listen to this week’s podcast:

Cliff Hayashi
Cliff Hayashi

The past 12 days at the NCAAs at the University of Georgia have been incredible! The level of tennis and sportsmanship exhibited by the student-athletes, coaches, and fans (well, mostly!) has been superb. I ran into some old friends (including Stanford Super Fan, Cliff Hayashi!) and made some new ones. I even had the opportunity to meet some long-time digital friends in person – including College10s2day’s Bobby Knight – what a treat!

During the 2nd week of the Championships, the ITA held its annual Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet. It was overwhelming to be in the company of so much College Tennis Royalty! I had the Nick Bollettieriunique privilege of sitting next to Nick Bollettieri throughout the evening and to be regaled by his many, many stories of his life in tennis. I was also sitting adjacent to Hall of Fame James Blake & RileyInductee James Blake and had so much fun watching him interact with his adorable little girls.

At this year’s Championships, I wanted to give y’all a glimpse at some of the people who make this event so great, so I reached out to some of the players, parents, and behind-the-scenes folks involved. The volunteers from UGA did an incredible job of keeping things running, including squeegeeing courts, manning the gates, and keeping all of us fed and hydrated. I hope those of you on Twitter and Instagram enjoyed my updates there, too!

In this week’s ParentingAces Podcast, which is a bit longer than usual (sorry!), you will hear from Taylor Davidson, a senior at Stanford; Francesca DiLorenzo, a

Elizabeth Milano

sophomore at Ohio State; Chanmeet Narang, the UGA Men’s Tennis Team Manager; Elizabeth Milano, a UGA student and volunteer at the Championships; Tammy Duncan and Olga Reinberg, parents of UGA players; and Beata Redlicki, mom to players at University of Arkansas and UCLA. Please pardon the background noise as these interviews were actually conducted on the grounds of the Championships.

As mentioned in the podcast, entries for the 2nd annual Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tennis Tournament are now open. For the Atlanta tournament (July 17-19) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261/. For the Baltimore tournament (August 12-13) go to http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/.

To watch the FloTennis profile on Michael Redlicki, click here.

Also, registration for the ITA Summer Circuit is now open. Click here for information.

For more information on the 2017 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships, click here. A huge THANK YOU to the University of Georgia, the NCAA, and the ITA for working together to put on my favorite event in tennis, hands down.

Check out our latest podcast episode!

USTA & College Tennis

USTA

Today, USTA announced the members of its 2015 Collegiate National Team (click here to read USTA’s full press release):

Men’s Team

Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA, rising Junior

Noah Rubin, Wake Forest, turned pro at completion of Freshman year

Ryan Shane, University of Virginia, rising Senior

Women’s Team

Brooke Austin, University of Florida, rising Sophomore

Jennifer Brady, UCLA, turned pro at completion of Sophomore year

Julia Elbaba, University of Virginia, rising Senior

Jamie Loeb, University of North Carolina, rising Junior

Several college coaches will travel with these players over the summer as they compete in the various Pro Circuit events across the US. USTA will also provide grant money and other support to additional top college players not on the Collegiate National Team. I was especially happy to read this quote from new General Manager of Player Development, Martin Blackman: ““It is of vital importance that college tennis remains a strong part of the professional tennis player pathway. Therefore, USTA Player Development will continue to provide America’s top college players with the resources to help them make the transition from college to successful pro careers.”

I have maintained for a while now that if we want US tennis to grow and thrive, college tennis must be a viable option for young players and their families. This USTA Player Development support for a small group of top college players is a step in the right direction.

I would also love to see USTA’s Junior Competition & Sportsmanship Committee create an arm to provide financial support and guidance to those players who have devoted a decade or more to our sport but who may not qualify for the assistance from Player Development. With less and less money available for tennis scholarships, especially on the men’s side, this is a way that USTA could step in and help families cope with the ever-increasing costs of junior development and a college education.

There are a couple of new USTA Pro Circuit events popping up around the country such as the one at Wake Forest and the one at University of the Pacific. I suspect more universities will be jumping on the Futures bandwagon in the coming months which is a great boon for older juniors and college players who are looking to take their tennis to the next level. But, like junior tournaments, these Pro Circuit events can get expensive when you add in entry fees, travel, hotel, etc.

If USTA could come up with multiple levels of its Collegiate National Team platform so a greater number of young players could have a chance to receive at least some financial support, I believe it would have a quick trickle down effect on drawing more young players into the sport. Maybe with ITA’s recent announcement of its partnership with Oracle, this is an opportunity for USTA and ITA to work together to help grow the sport. Or maybe USTA should take a lesson from ITA and seek out a major sponsor devoted to supporting college players. Thoughts???

 

 

Twelve Days in LA

We’re back at home after almost a month of straight travel – it’s been an amazing summer, one that is ending too soon since my son goes back to school on Monday.

I know I haven’t written much about our time in Florida, and I promise to get to that, too, but I want to share with y’all our experiences in SoCal while they’re still fresh in my memory (those of you who know me, know that is a very big deal, lol).

The planning for our SoCal excursion really began back in April when Craig Cignarelli and Lester Cook spoke to my son about spending time with them over the summer. My son was really excited about working with them and some of the college players they train, so we devised a summer tournament schedule that would allow for him to have plenty of time with them. However, things don’t always work out as planned, and our 12 days in SoCal wound up looking very different that what we envisioned.

We arrived at LAX early afternoon on a Thursday. My son had reached out to Craig and Lester to arrange time on the court, but neither of them were available until the following Monday. Okay. Time for Plan B.

Steve Bellamy, creator of the Tennis Channel and owner of the Palisades Tennis Center, came to my son’s rescue! He invited my son over to the tennis center to hit with one of his sons and some of the other kids training there. It was the perfect way for my son to jump-start the trip and to make some new tennis friends (and collect their phone numbers for future hits) in the area. The next day, the Bellamys invited us to their house for my son to hit with their son again. The boys played a couple of sets while the parents chatted – it was great! Afterward, we headed back to my mother-in-law’s house for a quick shower before heading down to Venice Beach to walk around and grab some lunch to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday. Of course, the weather was absolutely spectacular, and we had a ball people-watching down there!

Saturday morning was my son’s first taste of LiveBall at the Palisades Tennis Center (click here to read my post about that experience). He wound up spending the rest of the day hanging out with his cousin, Ethan, at the Third Street Promenade, walking around and doing whatever it is teenage boys like to do (I’ve learned NOT to ask too many questions!).

The next day, it was back to Pacific Palisades and the Bellamys for my son to hit with their oldest, Robbie, who plays for USC. My son later admitted that he was a little nervous about whether or not he would be able to hang with Robbie, but after a couple of minutes, both boys got into a groove and were smacking balls back and forth, running each other like crazy. While the boys played, the parents talked, and both Steve and his wife, Beth, shared some very valuable insights with us about the college recruiting process. Basically, as I’ve said before, these kids have to be proactive with the college coaches in order to get and stay on their radar. It’s a lesson my son seems to be learning pretty well so far, thankfully.

We found out later that afternoon that neither Craig nor Lester were going to be able to work with my son while we were there. It was okay, though, because they gave my son the phone numbers for several college players who were available to hit with him each day, so my son started texting them to set up his schedule for the week.

On Monday, we drove up the coast to Santa Barbara to see the UCSB campus and to meet with the head coach, Marty Davis. Omigosh, what a gorgeous place! Coach Davis spent almost two hours with us, taking us around the campus, showing us the tennis facilities, and explaining how he runs his program. It was a very productive day since it was the first of the California schools outside of LA that my son had visited. We were all very impressed.

We decided to sleep in Tuesday morning then headed to Playa del Rey for a quick visit to the Loyola Marymount University campus. The coach was running tennis camp so wasn’t available to meet, but we saw the courts and the gorgeous campus. Afterward, we drove to Marina del Rey to walk around before heading back to the Palisades Tennis Center for a quick hit with the kids preparing for National Hardcourts. Then it was a short drive to UCLA and the LA Tennis Center for my son to hit with team member Ryoto Tachi. Ryoto is one of the hardest working young men I’ve ever met! His parents live in Moscow, but the family is originally from Japan, and Ryoto moved to California by himself while in high school to train and prepare for college. He and my son spent a lot of time together over the next few days, hitting and talking about college and tennis and life in SoCal. Ryoto’s mom was in town visiting, so we all had dinner together Tuesday night at Sugarfish, a sushi restaurant highly recommended by UCLA Assistant Coach Grant Chen – it was delicious!

In keeping with our theme of college campus visits, Wednesday found us on the Pepperdine campus for my son to hit with team member Alex “Sasha” Solonin. Every time I step foot on that campus, I’m in awe of its beauty. It’s situated atop a hillside in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Because summer tennis camp was in session, the boys wound up playing on the lower courts while we sat on the steps staring at the water in the background. Wow! I actually left for a bit and went for a walk on the beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ocean-sides of some of the Malibu beach houses, but there’s a giant fence blocking access. Oh well. Late that afternoon, my son met Ryoto on the UCLA campus to work out at the gym while I visited with head coach Billy Martin back at the tennis center.

Thursday was another hit with Ryoto at UCLA. The boys started on the main courts but wound up moving to another set of courts near the dorms, so it was a great opportunity for my son to see another area of the campus. They played a couple of sets while Ryoto’s mom and I chatted about the challenges of having your child on the other side of the world. She comes to the States at least twice a year to visit him, and Ryoto gets home to Moscow and Tokyo once a year, but still – it’s a long way from home! I asked her how Ryoto decided to move to California to train and go to school, and she told me that it’s very difficult for athletes in Japan to develop in their sport while achieving academically – they typically have to choose between their sport or their education. The American college system offers a great opportunity to do both.

We headed back to the UCLA courts on Friday morning for one last hitting session with Ryoto. While the boys were on court, my husband and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for a long walk around our alma mater. There have definitely been some changes on campus over the past 29 years! That night, we met up with Steve Bellamy for a late dinner in Malibu at Nobu and enjoyed some amazing food while overlooking the ocean – heaven!

The ITA Summer Circuit tournament at Cal State LA started on Saturday morning. Since my son didn’t really know anyone playing in the tourney, he was struggling to find a warm-up partner, but Steve came through for him and set up an early morning hit at his courts with Katie LaFrance who was there from Arkansas training at the tennis center. Apparently, Katie did a great job of getting my son ready for his match because he pulled out a tight one over the 7 seed in the first round then went on to win his second match 0 & 0! All the practice matches he had played during the week prepared him so well for his tournament opponents. He was definitely in Fight Mode out there! Those first two matches were played at Azusa Pacific University, about an hour northeast of where we were staying. The weather in the desert is much different than what we had been experiencing all week – it was incredibly hot (over 100 degrees on court) and dry with very little breeze and zero shade on the courts.

One of the highlights of Saturday was the fact that my son had a sizeable cheering section for his first match. My Facebook (and, now, real life) friend, Karl Rosenstock, was there to shoot some photos and videos of the tournament. Another Facebook friend and fellow tennis parent, Bobby Chacoin, brought his daughter Izzy out to watch, too. And my brother brought his two kids out as well. It was great to see everyone and for my son to hear their support throughout a tough first round.

The next day, my son had an early warmup at Cal State for his 3rd round match against the middle son of USC head coach Peter Smith. Unfortunately, Riley got the better of my kid that morning, but there were some very valuable take-aways from the match. Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes was at the tournament and watched my son play. Afterward, he and my son went out for lunch to discuss the match, some things my son can work on over the next few months, and the progress my son is making with his tennis and his college recruiting.

We were scheduled to fly home Monday afternoon but still had a couple of things to accomplish before we headed to the airport. We made one last drive up PCH to Malibu for my son to check in with Craig Cignarelli. We then hopped over to Pepperdine for my son to meet with newly-appointed head coach Marcelo Ferreira. Did I mention how gorgeous that campus is?!?!? Then, off to LAX for our flight home.

It was an incredible trip, one in which my son learned and grew as a player and a man. Each time we take one of these excursions, I realize how much tennis is giving him and how much it is helping him learn the lessons that will serve him so well the rest of his life.

Enjoy the photos!

 

Mackie McDonald Making Tracks As A Bruin

Mackie

 

Mackie McDonald is just about done with his freshman year of college. Not too long ago, though, there was much speculation about whether Mackie would play college tennis or choose to turn pro instead. As he shared with me in this short interview, he feels he made the right decision choosing to play for the UCLA Bruins.

Mackie isn’t the first in his family to be a student-athlete at UCLA. His older sister, Dana, competes on UCLA’s gymnastics team. Her presence in Westwood was a pretty big factor in his desire to be a Bruin, too. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that tennis coaches Billy Martin and Grant Chen are beyond happy to have him on the team. Not only did Mackie start for the Bruins in both singles and doubles his freshman year, but he also helped lead the team to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships (Mackie didn’t drop a set the entire tournament!) and made it to the quarters of the individual tournament as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Break, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, my son has been in Los Angeles this week, spending his spring break training with Craig Cignarelli and Lester Cook. I just figured I’d update y’all on how his days are going out there . . .

Breakfast
Breakfast

Tuesday, his first full day on the West coast, started with a lesson and a coached (by Lester) match against LMFAO‘s Redfoo.

After their workout, the three guys headed into Westwood for a bite to eat where my son got to see firsthand just how popular Redfoo is with locals and tourists alike.

My son reported that Redfoo is “one of the funniest dudes I’ve ever met” and went on to share a few details about their conversation. Redfoo told my son and Lester about his latest project, “Behind the Speedo” (warning: the show is NOT G-rated!), and my son shared some thoughts on how Redfoo could use social media to get more views from teenagers and college students on YouTube. What a cool experience for a him to have!

Later that afternoon, Lester drove my son up to Malibu for his lesson with Craig. They worked out hard for about 90 minutes, then my son got to hang out and watch as Craig coached other players at the Malibu Racquet Club. It was a great opportunity for my son to soak up some coaching wisdom and techniques that he will hopefully be able to integrate into his own repertoire.

Hanging out in Westwood with Redfoo
Hanging out in Westwood with Redfoo

On Wednesday morning, Lester picked up my son in Santa Monica and took him back to the UCLA courts for another hitting session followed by more work with Craig in Malibu that afternoon. Let me just say that the work Craig is doing with him isn’t limited to the on-court stuff. Craig also spends a significant amount of time talking with my son off the court about the intricacies of tennis and how the worlds of junior tennis, college tennis, professional tennis, and tennis coaching work. He is preparing my son for the next stage of his tennis life – college (keeping fingers and toes crossed!) – and beyond.

Thursday started with another “Craig Lesson” at the Malibu Racquet Club followed by a practice match against an adult club member later in the afternoon. There’s something pretty special about playing on a court that overlooks the Pacific Ocean as the sun is going down – that guy Larry Ellison sure knew what he was doing when he picked this location for his club!

Redfoo dancing with a fan
Redfoo dancing with a fan

Today, Friday, brings another session with Craig and then the first of two opportunities to attend college matches. This afternoon, Pepperdine is playing Gonzaga, and my son will be in the stands! Tomorrow, it’s UCLA versus Stanford. He’s so excited to experience these home matches and to see how college tennis is done in SoCal. When I told him how jealous I was and how I wished I were there, too, he said, “I know, Mom, and I’m sorry you’re not here, but I think it was good for me to come out here without you this time. Thank you for the opportunity.”

What a great kid! He really gets that he’s getting to do something pretty special over this Spring Break. While I’m sure he would’ve had a great time down in Florida with his school friends, I’m grateful that he took advantage of the chance to work with Craig and Lester again, to show himself that he can navigate meals and laundry and rides and meetings without his mom’s help, and to be part of two different colleges’ home matches, too. I have a feeling this is a Spring Break he won’t soon forget.

 

Spring Break

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Photo courtesy of skreened.com

In my suburb of Atlanta, when Spring Break comes around most families head down to the Florida Panhandle – to places like Destin, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Panama City – for a week of white sand beaches and loads of sunshine. My son took a different tack this year.

He left early yesterday morning to spend the week in Southern California training with Craig Cignarelli and Lester Cook. This time, I stayed home. He’s on his own out there to arrange his workouts, his meals, and his rides. When you’re 17 years old, you can’t rent a car, and those of you who have been to Los Angeles know how tough it is to get around there without one. Thankfully, Lester offered to drive him back and forth from Santa Monica (he’s staying with his grandma) to Westwood to Malibu for his various hitting sessions and lessons. Lester’s a really good guy.

Already, the California Sunshine has infected my son. He texted me this morning that he’s going for a run in order to pick up food for breakfast. A run? What? I was waiting for the follow-up text – “April Fools!” – but it never came. Okay. Maybe this is the start of something new? Being in SoCal can have that effect on people!

Here’s what makes me really proud of my son, though. Other than booking his airline ticket and confirming with my mother in law, Craig, and Lester that they would be around this week, I’ve stayed out of the planning and execution of this trip. It’s all been on my son. He’s emailed/texted back and forth with Craig and Lester to organize his tennis schedule. He’s emailed/texted back and forth with a couple of different college coaches to arrange to meet with them and watch their teams compete. He’s emailed/texted back and forth with other contacts to get together during the week. And it’s all coming together nicely.

After he landed at LAX yesterday morning, he arranged a time for Lester to pick him up and take him out to Malibu for a hit and a lesson with Craig. At the end of the day, he and Lester worked out the schedule for today which includes a practice with Lester and Redfoo at UCLA followed by another lesson with Craig in Malibu. I’m not sure what’s on the agenda after that, but it’s out of my hands. My son seems to be handling things beautifully.