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The Tennis Migration : In the Search for Court Talent, Coaches are Leaving No Country Unturned

June 07, 1986|BRIAN LANDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Universities in Southern California are raiding England, Spain, West Germany and Greece and are looking to Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, Mexico, South Africa and India as sources of tennis talent for their collegiate programs.

"It's the big trend in college tennis today," said Jamie Sanchez, men's and women's coach at Loyola Marymount for 13 years. "In order to compete with the talent in the United States, teams have had to go to the European market."

Pepperdine has five foreigners on its men's team: Gilberto Cicero, Enrique Guajardo and Augustine Moreno, all from Mexico, Grant Saacks from South Africa and Marty Laurendeau from Canada. The Waves' women's team has Ei Iida from Japan, Nicole Lusty from England and Marisa Sanchez from Spain.

Australian Brett Greenwood and Mark Ferreira from India play for the UCLA men, while Patricia Hy of Hong Kong plays for the women. The USC women's team, top-ranked in the nation, has Heliane Steden from West Germany and Claudia Hernandez from Mexico.

Loyola Marymount has a West German, Chris Ullman, while Cal State L. A. and Cal Poly Pomona each have a foreign-born woman, Edna Olivarez of the Philippines and Xenia Anastasiadou of Greece, respectively.

Although collegiate soccer and gymnastics have had a steady influx of foreign athletes for several years, the phenomenon is fairly new in tennis. As recently as five years ago, many of the top foreign players turned professional soon after high school.

But the cream of that crop is now coming to American universities. Some have been recruited to help weaker programs reach parity with more powerful schools, while others have sought American campuses to enjoy the dual benefit of an education with tennis.

Ullman, 22, who mainly plays No. 3 singles for Loyola, was a member of the German national team, which he said was a stressful situation.

"They put a lot of money into the players," said Ullman, a premed/pre-dental major. "And they want good results. If you don't win, you're cut off.

"The advantage in the United States is if you're very good, you get sponsored and still get an education. In Germany, if you turn pro, that's it. There's no turning back to education."

Coach Sanchez said Ullman's class schedule, especially biology laboratories, has made him miss several matches, which "weakens the team considerably." But he said Ullman and other foreign players of his caliber fill a void created by less proficient domestic players.

"It's not that the talent is not here in the United States, but it has dropped off," he said. "It's a quick fix for a program to go out and get a really good foreign player."

Dave Borelli, who has coached the USC women's team to seven national championships since 1977, said that the level of talent in the U. S. is "weak compared to other years" and that women's tennis here has grown stagnant. He said most of the young, home-grown players are clones of Chris Evert Lloyd.

"What you have are ground-strokers and base-line players," Borelli said. "They're trying to be like Chris, but, of course, there aren't too many like her.

"So the average player is really limited in what she can do. I can't believe how weak doubles players are now compared to six or seven years ago."

Borelli said that the foreign player's game is more well-rounded and multidimensional. He said she can rally from the baseline, a la Lloyd, and can serve and volley a la Martina Navratilova.

In his 11 years at USC, however, Borelli has recruited only one foreign player, Hernandez, a sophomore from Guadalajara who has played for Mexico's Federation Cup team for the past four years.

Steden, a two-time All-American who is ranked No. 4 in the college poll, is the Trojans' only other import. A senior who was born in West Germany but has spent most of her life in Mexico, Steden has played for the Mexican Federation Cup team since 1983 and won a bronze medal in the 1983 Pan American Games.

Steden said she decided to come to college after seeing so many promising tennis players turn professional at 16 and not make it.

"Then what are you supposed to do with the rest of your life?" she asked. "Tennis can't be the only thing to focus on."

She said she will turn pro after graduation but needs the college experience to mature, increase mental toughness and give her the security of something to fall back on. Those sentiments were echoed by several other foreign players.

Hy (pronounced He ), an All-American at UCLA in 1984, was born in Cambodia but moved to Hong Kong where she became the colony's No. 1 player, representing Hong Kong in the 1984 Olympics.

Hy, 20, a 5-4 sophomore who sat out last season with shoulder injuries, first came to the U. S. for a summer tennis camp nine years ago.

She said her father, Hy Ny, a former member of Cambodia's Davis Cup team, saw her potential and sent her to the States to improve her skills. After all, she said, Hong Kong was not exactly a hotbed of tennis.

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