She was the first woman at Casey-Westfield to be awarded a college athletic scholarship, a Mid-American singles champ at Miami (Ohio) and a tennis coach at Centennial. Now, C-U’s Sara Seed (right) is bringing her tennis knowledge to the pages of The News-Gazette. Throughout the NCAA Championships,
the current USTA 4.5 league player will weigh in on action
on and off the court. Today, her guide to the 12-day tournament.
A is Atkins Tennis Center. Thanks to a generous donation from Clint and Susie Atkins, a longtime dream became a reality, as this state-of-the-art tennis complex was built and then dedicated in November of 1999. This amazing structure features six indoor courts, a viewing deck, staff and administrative offices, training rooms, locker rooms and the eight outdoor courts to the west. It will be tournament headquarters and is THE place to be!
B is for balls. As in tennis balls. There are three balls in a can, so MORE THAN 1,000 balls will be handed out throughout the course of the tournament to players before every match and prior to the beginning of the third set. If one should happen to fall in your lap or whiz by you while watching a match, unlike baseball, please return it promptly, as it may be THE favorite ball of a player. The less fuzz, the faster the serve ... so, you will be cheered when you give it back!
C is for courts. There will be 12 official competition courts and 17 assigned practice courts. Be prepared to see players throughout our community practicing and competing!
D is for default. This term is used when a player is removed from the match for a variety of reasons, ranging from disciplinary to being late for their assigned match. Stay out of trouble, don’t be late, and you’ll be just fine.
E is for enthusiasm, effort and energy. The three E’s. You’ll see a lot of the three E’s in every match. Why? Because they’re competing for a NCAA national title!
F is for foot fault. As a lines judge or chair umpire, this is a tricky one to catch unless you’re a TV commentator and can replay it 15 times over — in slow motion. When serving, one must keep both feet behind the base line until after striking the ball with their racquet. And they must be standing on the correct side of the hash mark depending on which side they are serving to. And there’s an imaginary plane a server can’t cross until after the ball is struck. If any of these stipulations are violated, then it’s a foot fault and the server loses that service opportunity. If it’s the second serve, they lose the point. Hmmm ... sounds simple enough to me.
G is for grips. There’s the eastern grip. The western grip. The two-handed grip. The one-handed grip. Poor north and south were left out in the naming ceremony.
H is for head games. The mental state of one’s game is just as important as the physical aspect. Watch to see how a player or doubles team tries to rattle their opponent with subtle yet potent and legal tactics. I watched a player wear sweat shirts and sweat pants in 100-plus degree weather the entire match just to see how their opponent would react. I’ve seen players run in place the entire changeover time allotment while their opponent is sitting down, trying to catch their breath, rehydrate and towel off like a sane player should be doing. If nothing else, you now have the song “Head Games” in YOUR head. You’re welcome.
I is for Illinois. It is hosting the tournament but for the first time since 2010 isn’t in the round of 16 on the men’s side.
J is for judges. There will be a head judge referred to as a chair umpire for every match. Line judges will be added for the semifinals and finals matches. In college tennis, there is no “Mac Cam” (named after John McEnroe) — aka instant replay — to review calls, so whatever the judges say goes. The chair umpire has the final say and is allowed to overrule a line judge.
K is for Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. Shahid and Ann Khan and their program-changing donation resulted in the construction and east-side addition to the Atkins Tennis Center with 12 outdoor stadium courts, a larger pro shop, new player locker rooms, restrooms and an athletic training room. This expansion allowed the University of Illinois to submit a bid on hosting the NCAAs in February of 2010, and look where you are going to be watching this year’s tournament three years later: THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS!
L is for lines. The court contains baselines. Singles sidelines. Doubles sidelines. Service lines. A hash mark line in the center of the baseline. Lines. Lines. Lines. They’re all lines!
M is for match. When one plays and or watches tennis they are playing/watching a match. Not a game. Or a race. A match. This drives me nuts. So, please ... ask a player if they won their tennis MATCH. Of course, the match contains games within the match, but still ... it’s a match!
N is for net. A tennis net is 42 feet long from pole to pole and is 3 feet, 6 inches high at each end. It is 3 feet high at the center of the net, marked by a center net strap. Remember this, there will be a quiz later.
O is for overheads. The “overhead lob” is a shot hit when a player hits the ball over the head of an opponent who is at the net. The “overhead smash” is when one hits the lob from over their head with such force that their opponent has little or no chance of returning it. That’s the plan anyway.
P is for parking. Parking, which is free for the duration of the tournament, will be in the grass lot east of Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
Q is for quiet. During the course of a rally for a point, refrain from talking, making any noise or making sudden movements. You can go crazy, cheer, stomp and scream your head off when the point is finished, but rummaging through your purse or even loud chewing during the point could get you a nice long stare from a player if it interrupts their concentration.
R is for racquets. Players will carry 2-10 racquets in their bag and may use that many depending on how many racquets and/or strings they break throughout the course of their match. There are several racquet manufacturers, as it’s a highly competitive market. These racquets are like family members ... invaluable and the most important possession in a player’s life. They are also very expensive. They can cost up to $300 each. I know of someone who was staying in a hotel during a tournament and the fire alarm went off during the night. The mother yelled to her daughter, “Grab your racquets! Everything else can be replaced ... including your dad!” OK, this was my mother and it turned out to be a false alarm. A player probably pulled the alarm trying to keep their opponent from sleeping (See letter “H”).
S is for Stalcup. As in, Holly Stalcup. She is the DIA’s Director of Event Management and also will serve as the tournament director. This event has been three years in the making, so please take time to thank her for everything she has done in an effort to organize and coordinate the NCAA Championships!
T is for tiebreaker. The tiebreaker is used when a set is tied at 6 games a piece. I won’t even try to explain it. Just Google it. Trust me on this one.
U is for “up or down.” This phrase is used when deciding who will serve first. In most cases, the opponents will meet at the net before the match starts and after warmups and one will spin their racquet and ask “Up or down?” At the end of the racquet is the first letter of the racquet’s brand. Example: W for Wilson, so W is up and M is down. The player who wins gets to decide if they want to serve or receive first. The other player then gets to choose which side to begin the match on. Or, they’ll flip a coin.
V is for volunteers. There are more than 120 volunteers assisting with this prestigious tournament. If you see a volunteer, please thank them because they are a key component to running a successful event!
W is for weather. In the case of rain, play will resume at the Atkins Tennis Center’s indoor courts and the Champaign Park District Tennis Center’s indoor courts (off Interstate Drive in north Champaign).
X is for Texas A&M. Close enough! The Aggies are one of seven programs sending men’s and women’s teams to C-U. The others: UCLA, Virginia, California, Duke, Georgia and Southern Cal.
Y is for yellow. Tennis balls are a unique, bright, gaudy yellow color that goes with nothing. You’ll never see a tennis player trying to match their outfit with the color of the ball. Yes, I’ve tried. Nothing matches!
Z is for zero. If a player has no points or games in their match, they have zero. Yet, they have love. In tennis scoring terms, the word love is used in place of zero. The term could be derived from French for the egg — “le oeuf” — because of a zero’s shape. Only in tennis would love mean nothing!