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Tennis / Lisa Dillman : Whitlinger Twins Double the Enjoyment

May 19, 1987|LISA DILLMAN

The two premier junior players in the nation were about to meet in one of the biggest matches of the year, at the Seventeen magazine's tournament of champions.

So, where were they?

Having last-minute workouts with their personal coaches? Deep in conversation with their "motivational" coaches? Concentrating on blasting one another off the court?

Hardly. They were lying in the sun by the pool at the Marguerite Center in Mission Viejo. Together.

They had this to say about their long series of matches:

"Well, when we played an exhibition in Florida, it was a close match," said the champion, who has not lost to the challenger in almost seven years. "I won, 8-6."

Said the challenger: "I'll have you know, I was ahead."

Tami Whitlinger laughed. Her identical twin, Teri Whitlinger laughed.

As do most of their peers on the junior circuit, they take tennis seriously, as long as they're on the court. Unlike most, the Whitlingers refuse to become serious to the point of obsession.

Anyway, they couldn't be pampered babies if they wanted. Tami and Teri are public parks players in the summer. In winter, they find refuge from the snow and cold of Neenah, Wis., on courts inside a barn with an old-fashioned heater.

You might say that Tami has achieved her excellence and No. 3 national ranking because of Teri. And the reverse is true for No. 8-ranked Teri.

Tennis has always been important to the Whitlingers. Their uncle, John, won the NCAA singles and doubles titles for Stanford in 1974. He played on the tour for six years and was ranked among the world's top 50 players. He has since returned to Stanford, where he is the assistant coach of the men's team.

In 1986, the Whitlingers were named the USTA national tennis family of the year. John's father, Warren, taught the twins how to play. Tami and Teri began to dominate their competition in the Midwest and quickly moved up in the national rankings.

"But we talk about tennis so little, sometimes our friends even ask us whether we still play," Tami said.

Obviously, when they choose it, there's plenty to talk about.

Last summer, Tami won the 18-and-under national championship at Memphis. She also reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open juniors and the Orange Bowl international tournament.

Teri recorded her best national finish last summer when she finished third at Indianapolis in the U.S. Clay Courts. She made the quarterfinals at the national 18s.

Divided, they are two good singles players. Together, the Whitlingers are the best junior doubles team in the country. Both were recruited heavily before they decided on Stanford for next year. With their Uncle John at school, there was little question where they would go.

"I got lucky," Stanford Coach Frank Brennan said. "They're a super family. Just amazing people, salt of the earth. They're both great athletes. Tami is a hot prospect. Her game looks solid. She reminds me of Patty Fendick in that she's mentally tough. And Tami has a heathly ego. She doesn't shy away from the spotlight.

"As for Teri, losing to her sister doesn't seem to bother her. We won't have to worry about that at Stanford. They won't be playing each other except maybe in challenge matches."

Stanford's last sister combination, Barbara and Kathy Jordan, both had excellent careers for the Cardinal. However, Brennan said they had their share of tussles.

According to the Whitlingers, he won't have that problem with them.

Said Tami: "A lot of it had to do with our parents. They brought us up well, to respect each other on the court. Because of them, we've never had a problem."

Teri said: "It's relaxing, actually, when we play each other. We talk and laugh and try to make it pleasant. If it's not enjoyable for us, it's not for the people who are watching us."

So, the Whitlingers went out and played their semifinal match at the Seventeen tournament. It was pleasant. It was enjoyable. And, Tami won, 6-2, 6-0.

Tennis Notes Defending champion Martina Navratilova is expected to play in the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles at Manhattan Beach, Aug. 10-16. Chris Evert, who lost to Navratilova in last year's final, most likely will choose the Canadian Open the week after Manhattan Beach. . . . Andrea Jaeger's comeback came to an abrupt halt last month. She defeated Mary Lou Piatek at Houston but was forced to default against Lori McNeil because of a sore shoulder. Then, Jaeger, 21, pulled out of the next tournament. . . . The Adoption Guild of Southern Orange County will hold its 26th annual doubles tournament later this month. Early rounds are scheduled next weekend at various tennis clubs in Orange and Los Angeles counties. The semifinals and finals are set for May 30-31 at the Newport Beach Tennis Club. Eight hundred doubles teams have entered this year's competition.

Here are the Southern California Tennis Assn.'s top-ranked senior players for 1986:

MEN'S SINGLES: 35--John Lowman (Manhattan Beach). 40--Niesi Sie (Van Nuys). 45--Gordon Davis (Van Nuys). 50--Whitney Reed (Los Angeles). 55--King Lambert (Santa Ana). 60--Jack Simpson (Van Nuys). 65--Merwin Miller (Claremont). 70--Dan Walker (South Gate). 75--Bill Conel (Oceanside).

WOMEN'S SINGLES: 35--Cathie Anderson (La Jolla). 40--Judy Louie (Newport Beach). 45--Sally Huss (Irvine). 50--Pat Stewart (Granada Hills). 55--Beverly Winans (San Gabriel). 60--Dorothy Cheney (Santa Monica). 65--Eleanor Harbula (Sylmar).

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