Originally Published: March 4, 2003 6:10 p.m.
There's no doubt that Arizona needs last week's rain. But that didn't make it any easier to run and complete the State Farm Women's Tennis Classic held in Scottsdale at the Fairmont Princess Resort this last week.
Littke-known Ai Sugiyama won a sweep of the women's singles and doubles titles defeating her doubles partner and No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters as well as Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond.
But that isn't the whole story for the super-human Sugiyama, she had to play four matches in one day, two in singles and two in doubles. Both of her singles matches went to three sets. Her semifinal match against Alexandra Stevenson was won in a third set tie break, 9-7 and her finals match against Clijsters was 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Those two three setters were then followed by two set wins in the semi and then final in doubles. All in all, Ai was on the court playing a total of 6 hours and 18 minutes.
Sugiyama, coached by her mother said at her final match conclusion, "I wasn't sure how many matches I was going to be playing today when I started this morning, but then I was feeling that I might have to play three matches at least. But after winning the first doubles we were feeling good and we thought that tomorrow we might be feeling tired, so I wanted to play today, and Kim was playing good and we both wanted to play so we went back out on the court."
Not a bad pay day for the No. 25 world ranked Sugiyama, who took home $93,000 for winning the singles and 195 ranking points as well as splitting the $29,000 with partner Clijsters for the doubles win.
Lleyton meets Lleyton
My son Lleyton who is 19 months old received the opportunity to meet the person he was named after Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Kim Clijsters…who is Lleyton Hewitt's girlfriend.
How do you feel about having someone name their child after you, I asked: "Well, that's a pretty heavy responsibility mate…but a very nice feeling."
Maybe 15 years from now if Lleyton Howard is following in your footsteps would you be willing to give him some help since your on-court career will be winding down? "If he's reached that point in the years to come, I'd be more than happy to give him whatever advice I can." "Stay in touch."
*More Tourney Notes:
Local 10th grade Prescott High School tennis player Shane Popko has been a ball boy at both the men's and women's tourney in Scottsdale, rubbing elbows with the top players in the world. Shane said, "I got the opportunity to talk with Andre Agassi for a couple minutes during one of the short rains and that was quite an experience for me."
*Former Prescott resident Luke Shields (17), who started playing tennis at the Roughrider Tennis Center with his father Pat, played in the qualifying singles round for the Franklin Templeton Tennis Classic, of which they take the top 4 players. He won his first round against Daniel Homedes but then lost to Harel Levy who will now play Rainer Schuettler in the main draw.
Luke'mother was a nurse here in Prescott, and they currently live in Colorado. Pat Shields, Lukes father, drives him tournament to tournament in a motor home, staying in parking lots to make ends meet. He said this year they'll hit about 30 tournaments.
I'd call that true dedication, and it shows how tough it is to make it out in the world of professional tennis
*Got a chance to talk with Andre Agassi's trainer and good friend Gil Reyes.
Q: Andre named his child after you, how did that make you feel? "It was such an honor that he would do that, it's something that I'll take to my grave."
Q: At Andre's age, what would you say about his fitness and game? "He's in such good shape, it's just amusing, and Andre knows how blessed he is to be playing this well. He's hitting the ball harder than ever, moving better than when he was younger, and relishes each extra moment he gets at this point in his career." "He's been pretty much injury free in his career with the exception of wrist surgery years ago, talented, in great shape, and definitely feels blessed."
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)