By Matt Hill
There has been a big question popping in the mind of local tennis coaches this year, and that happens to be is Elizabethton stacking its lineup to have the best chance to win on the boys’ side.
The answer is an emphatic no. They’re just all the same.
Elizabethton probably has eight players who can beat each other, and it makes it difficult for head coach Kenny Hardin to find the right balance.
A lot of it has to do with matchup, and who is going to give the Cyclones the best chance to win that day.
Andy Bowers has played from No. 1 to No. 5 and Zack Peters lost to Timmy Bellamy from Johnson County, but beat a Dobyns-Bennett player.
Then there is Landon Jones, who started the year off No. 7 only to play his way in the lineup after a stellar performance in the doubles match that featured top-notch player Carlton Tugman from Johnson County as well.
Jones has not been out of the lineup since, and it is very hard to keep him out.
It’s also hard to keep out Zach Treadway and Ryan Pinkerman, and then Ward Tanner actually began the year as the No. 1 seed.
The Cyclones may not be a phenomenal tennis team, but they’re very solid. At the Class AA level, they should be able to compete for the conference title.
Standing in their way is a showdown that looks like now will be played next Tuesday, though nothing is official about a change yet, against Unicoi County.
The Blue Devils are loaded at the top, but the lower seeded matches will decide the outcome.
As for Hardin, you couldn’t ask for a better person to deal with at all levels. Not just in tennis, but in everything he has coached, Hardin has always looked out for the kids.
He is also looking out for these kids and right now his lineup is not set. Coming from him, I totally believe him.
Coach Hardin is one of the classiest individuals I have ever met, and that hasn’t changed because he’s dealing with a different kind of green ball.
Over the last month, people all over the country have been filling out brackets, and supporting their team in the NCAA Basketball Tournament over what is called “March Madness”
In that same amount of time, us tennis junkies have had our own March Madness with the two biggest tournaments outside the grand slams being held in two different parts of the country.
The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami give tennis fans in March a chance to have what seems like a month of major tennis.
Both tournaments claim to be “The Fifth Slam,” but which one really is.
Indian Wells is the most unique tournament, as it is located in the California desert near Palm Springs. It’s a relaxing event that has a lot of great features.
Indian Wells has the challenge system on every court, and the second biggest tennis stadium in the world.
But it doesn’t have the Williams sisters.
Venus and Serena have boycotted the event since a 2001 incident where they allegedly had racial slurs directed at them.
This has been one of the few dark moments of this tournament, as it is one of the favorites for the players.
Miami has been known as the fifth slam for awhile, but Indian Wells has caught up in a lot of ways.
Miami does have everything a slam would want, including life in the big city and the beach. And it has the Williams sisters.
The men’s tournaments have been very good both at Miami and Indian Wells, but the women’s event has been a little better in Miami.
The best tennis match I’ve seen in a non-major happened last year when Novak Djokovic edged Rafael Nadal in three sets in Miami. On the flip side, that Djokovic-John Insner match where Isner won in a third set tiebreak in Indian Wells was a good one, too.
I have gone back and forth on this for a month and earlier I was leading toward Indian Wells, but I think when you look at the Williams sisters situation and the tradition of the Sony Ericsson Open, I think I’m going to go with South Beach.
Once the Williams’ are out of tennis, I may change my mind, but I believe that the Sony Ericsson Open is the crown jewel of the Masters series and WTA Mandatory events.
DEBUTS NEXT WEEK
This is my third Love-40 tennis column, and as much as I enjoy doing them I do realize that there are also a lot of golfers out there who would like to have a column of their own in the Star.
Starting next week and continuing through the summer months, I will be doing a column called “The Sand Trap” where the focus will be on local golf, primarily in Carter and Johnson Counties, as well as going behind the scenes of the major golf events and commentary from the world’s biggest events.
Though golf columns appear in other competing papers, this has never been done in the Star before and the current administration is looking forward to promoting golf in the Elizabethton region.
Love-40 and The Sand Trap will become regular columns in the summer months up to the start of football season in late August.
Also, The East Tennessee Amaetur Golf Tournament, Northeast Tennessee’s crown jewel of amaetur golf tournaments held at Elizabethton Golf Course, will be promoted like never before in the Star.
We hope these two columns will be provide variety to an already diverse sports section, and will provide the readers with some insights on what’s going on with recreational sports.
Matt Hill is a correspondent with the Elizabethton Star