On to Sasha’s first ITA

August 7, 2014

We are leaving Kalamazoo today and going to Notre Dame for a day of practice. We accepted a wild card into the ITA National Championships which is played at IU in Bloomington, IN. This is a college tournament and is the first ITA Sasha has played. We will get some good matches there and some of his future Notre Dame teammates are playing there as well.

Sasha has been playing quite well since we came back from our June break. He has won 7 out of 11 of his singles matches and 3 out of 4 of doubles. That’s consistent with his record in ITFs and is about a 66% win loss record. That’s very good. To put it in context for those not as familiar with tennis statistics, players often labeled as greatest ever (I hate such comparisons, but) Martina Navratilova’s career win loss record was 85%, Roger Federer’s is 81%. His current ITF ranking of 214 puts him in the top 10% of all ITF under 18 players. His tennis recruiting ranking (a different measure that looks at mostly American players in a given college recruiting class) puts him in the top 2% of players in his class. So his achievement to date is pretty amazing when put into the tennis world context. Bottom line, a tennis player looses a lot of matches in their career and they have to be able to weather those losses and bounce back. That’s a real problem in junior tennis. A lot of junior players can’t deal with the losses and keep challenging themselves by playing the bigger events. That hasn’t been a big problem for Sasha. Of course he cares a great deal about winning–sometimes too much like all guys–but he rebounds well and learns well from his losses. That’s a huge asset for a tennis player.

So why talk about this now, well two reasons. 1)we are heading into our second year on the ITF junior tour. This means bigger events where ,the elite of the elite are playing, junior Grand Slams, other Grade A events, Grade 1 ITFs (like the upcoming College Park tournament, Canadian Open, etc). Some players simply don’t play these events. Clearly playing them carries a high risk–win/loss record may go down, huge reward–win one of these and it’s a breakthrough). Fortunately I’m coaching a player who is a risk taker and wants to play the best players on the big stages of our sport. That takes some getting used to and we are experiencing that now. So in our view, bring on the big matches. We are looking forward to them!!!

More this weekend. Bye Kalamazoo–see you next year. We will return to win next year.

Kalamazoo Sunday match

August 4, 2014

Hey loyal blog followers (Brazil and Germany- please who it is! I’m sorry that I forgot your name, but are you the woman I met on the plane from Frankfurt to Nice? 😉 ),

—> Thom insisted that I write the blog entry today, in order to reflect on my thoughts about the match 🙂

Today was a pretty unusual day haha. To start off, we knew who I was playing more than 2 days in advance, which is something you would never see in ITF.
To add, Francis is a big name player, having reached a high of #2 ITF, won countless tournaments, and played in an ATP 500 event at just 16. Obviously, the hype before the match was something I don’t typically experience: a lot of people talked to me and Thom simply because I was playing the top-ranked American.
[Also something not often covered (no pun intended) is the live coverage feature of playing on a Kzoo show court… Hopefully we’ll be able to snag a recording of the match, a luxury we didn’t have last year ….]
—> So, with all of these things in mind, we were set for a big match, against a big opponent, with his big image, in front of a big crowd. !

Needless to say, I felt a bit overwhelmed, and at times,
out of sorts. The rhythm that Francis imposed on me, combined with the formalities of playing in Kzoo, and having a TV crew and chair umpire, ALSO mixed with a fickle crowd, made the experience pretty momentous. I felt a bit like I didn’t belong, while Francis was right in his comfort zone.

Thom conceded the fact that my court presence was not strong today, and that despite my big stature, I had the passiveness of a mouse. This is also something that separates the top ITF players from the rest; when you play them, you don’t just play them, but also their image and who they’ve beaten in the past. Definitely something for me to add to my repertoire. 😉

It was a very good match for me because I can see now why Francis is at the top and what he does to stay there. He’s extremely mentally strong and obviously physically gifted, but he also has this disconcerting presence that he fools you and the umpire with right up until he hits you with a huge wide serve to save break point. 🙂

I think it was pretty good too that I didn’t necessarily throw the towel in after being down in a few situations. Once I was down 0-40 on my serve and held, and down 2 match points (15-40) at 1-5 in the second, i held serve again. In and of itself, not calling it quits down 4-1 and 5-1 also speaks volumes, as does continuing to play his service games tight up until the very end.

We live another day… Tomorrow’s match vs. Alexander Knight (FL) is scheduled at the very deserted WMU (in comparison to Stowe, of course… Haha). It should be fun!

Talk to you guys later

~Sasha, aka Leb


August 3, 2014

We are about to go to bed after a relaxing day with a great practice with Walker Duncan. And a great dinner of tuna steaks, broccoli, and blueberries. Sasha is playing great and tomorrow will be a good match. The match will be on a TV court at around 2pm. If you want to watch go to:

Right there on the front page there is a tab for Stowe Stadium Webcam. Don’t think this is some low quality webcam as it used to be, this is high quality video with a commentator that is quite knowledgeable about tennis. Enjoy!!!

Kalamazoo draw

August 2, 2014

There are two links below, one for,the draw, one to Colette Lewis’s blog. Sasha will play Francis Tiafoe on Sunday. I’m relatively sure it will be on the main stadium and quite likely will be a broadcast match @ http://www.ustaboys.com. Colette’s column has a reference to Sasha so I’m throwing in a pointer. We are not playing doubles here so tomorrow is a practice day.



Kalamazoo 2014

August 1, 2014


Notre Dame/McDonald Physical Therapy

August 1, 2014



August 1, 2014

Hi everyone, Sasha and I are in kalamazoo for the boys under 18 national championships. For those who don’t know Sasha flew home on Satueday for a day to be god father to his nephew. He and I met up in Chicago on Monday morning. We drove to the Notre Dame campus which is on the way to Kalamazoo to practice with one of Sasha’s future team mates Alex Lawson. During a drill we were doing on court, Sasha rolled over his ankle badly. It immediately swelled to double size. It was pretty obvious that there was nothing broken, but this was definitely a bad sprain. We reached out to the Notre Dame coaches and they recommended and facilitated our going to McDonald Physical Therapy in South Bend. Pam Redfern and her assistant Kendra Taghon were amazing as was the rest of the staff there.
http://www.mcdonaldpt.com/pam-redfern.html. They assessed Sasha’s injury and immediately initiated aggressive therapy. We drove back to Kalamazoo on Tuesday with no hope of playing tennis for at least a few weeks. On Wednesday morning the swelling had gone down considerably. We went off to McDonald Physical Therapy again and Pam was as surprised as we were how much better things were. They again treated Sasha’s ankle with massage, laser, and electronic stimulation in addition to assessing what percentage of normal the ankle was at this point. Collectively we decided to play on Thursday assuming things continued to improve. Sasha and I went to the Notre Dame campus and spent a couple of hours on the court. He was stiff and of course a bit unbalanced, but we decided we would play Sasha’s first scheduled match on Thursday morning and see how it went. Because of the new USTA format for this tournament, Sasha had to qualify. Since we have not played USTA tournaments over the last year and have concentrated on ITFs, his USTA ranking is non-existent. So he was scheduled to play at 10am. We did a long stretch and an extended warm up. Everything looked good. He went on close to on time and won 6-1, 6-2. We had a few hours off and had to play a second round in the afternoon. In a longer match in which Sasha did not play his best, he nevertheless pulled out a straight set victory 6-4, 7-6 (1). While he didn’t play his best in the match he did end very strong. The last game and a half and the tie break showed the brand of tennis that Sasha is capable of playing and should play all the time. So we went back to our apartment (which by the way is 5 minutes walk from the courts at Stowe Stadium) had a nice dinner with Oliver Sec and his mom and went to bed early as Sasha’s final qualifying match was scheduled at 8am on Stowe Stadium courts. We warmed up on the Stowe courts and went on at 8am. Sasha played the best he has played in the last several months and won 6-2, 6-1. Qualified!!
We have the rest of today off as well as tomorrow off and he will play his first round match on Sunday. The main draw will be out tonight.
We both want to thank the folks at McDonald Physical Therapy, especially Pam and the coaches at Notre Dame for their great support. Without them and Sasha’s grit and determination, we would be resting and recuperating in California. I’ll post a stream with some pictures in a few minutes and will update the blog with the draw later today.

Tournament ends one day early

July 26, 2014

Sasha lost his semifinal singles match today 3-6, 5-7. He played well against a young very talented Canadian. He and Michael lost in the doubles final 5-7, 1-6. I’ll write more about the tournament and what’s next on the flight to the east coast tomorrow. Overall this was a good event for Sasha and gave us a good base to start the hardcourt season.

End of the day update

July 25, 2014

After winning singles, Sasha and Michael won doubles 6-3, 6-4. They played well. So tomorrow singles semi final @10:00am and doubles final NB 1pm. More pictures and more details tomorrow. Tonight we are getting ready for tomorrow. 😸

After weather delays

July 24, 2014

Sasha won his singles match 6-4, 6-4. He played very well and earned the win!! More later.