Men's tennis players in South Korea harbor no dreams of playing Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Because the military conscripts them during their prime years, the country's outstanding players--on any level--are spurred only by a passion for the sport and an appetite for competition, according to Jung Kim, former coach of the South Korean men's national team.
Looking for a good example? Take a team from Glendale called the Thursday Club, coached by Kim. Formed 18 months ago, the team consists of 18 players who practice each Thursday. Many of them are in their 50s and started playing only two years ago.
These middle-age newcomers, in their second season of weekend league competition, are Southern California team tennis champions.
They will be the first team of Korean-Americans team to compete next month in the United States Tennis Assn. League Tennis National Championships, after winning their local league and the USTA Southern California section playoffs.
"They're very excited," Kim said. "At first, they didn't know how to play thinking tennis. They didn't know how to make their opponent run. But they learned."
And now they are champions.
They triumphed with a style Kim calls "soft tennis." Lacking the big serves and hard ground strokes of stronger, more-experienced players, Thursday Club players hit slices and lobs. They angle their shots and strive to tire their opponents.
"Punch and volley," Kim said. "Go for corners. Deep ground strokes. A lot of Orientals start like that."
The Thursday Club players consider Kim, 43, a sage. Since his arrival in Glendale six years ago, Koreans from all around have come to Kim to learn the game they never felt compelled to try as children.
"There is no Grand Slam tennis in Korea," said Kim, a native of Seoul. "The Korean Tennis Assn. has a problem. Everyone has to go into the army. When the men get out, they are too old (to compete internationally)."
The Thursday Club staged a big victory party after Sunday's triumph. Now it's on to Tucson, Ariz., and the national tournament Sept. 29.
"They're proud to be the first all-Korean team at nationals," Kim said. "They will bring their wives. Maybe some of their children."
Brawley returns: You could tell in April that Sean Brawley was feeling his oats. The former Newbury Park High and Villanova Prep tennis player, who also played at USC, was back on the court with fire in his eyes. In the semifinal round of the Ojai Valley tournament, Brawley defeated former Australian Open champion Roscoe Tanner, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
Now Brawley appears intent on returning to his roots.
Brawley, 33, has left the real estate business to become director of tennis at Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo.
"I'm from the area and I wanted to come back to Ventura County," said Brawley, who for several years has coached privately in Los Angeles.
Spanish Hills, he said, is virgin territory and a perfect situation for him. The club has been open only one year and it is better-known for its golf course. It has only 35 tennis members.
Brawley, who wants to start a junior tennis program and hold USTA Junior Development camps, likes the new challenge.
"This is great for me," Brawley said. "I get to build something."
Senior battle of sexes: Some of the nation's top players who reside in Southern California will converge Monday at the Racquet Centre in Studio City for the first Battle of the Sexes. Among the more interesting matches, Ron Brandon, 90, of Anaheim will take on Jacqueline Piatigorsky, 82, of Pacific Palisades.
Several top players from the Valley will compete as well in what Bill Lurie, the men's team captain, hopes will become an annual showdown.
"The players all think it's going to be a lot of fun," said Lurie, 81. "But there's a difference of opinion right now on how it's going to come out."
In an effort to match the players evenly, most men will play women 15 years younger.
John Bennett of West Hills, 63, who is ranked 12th in the U.S. in the 60-and-over singles division, will square off against Dee Williams-Horne of Pasadena, who is No. 12 in the nation in 45s.
In other matches featuring Valley players, Jack Simpson of Van Nuys and H.M. Wammack of Glendale (men's 65 doubles) will face Williams-Horne and Tina Karwasky of Los Angeles (45 doubles). Former national champion Eleanor Harbula, 77, of Sylmar will try to take out men's captain Lurie in singles.
Because of the four-year age difference, Harbula will get two points for every rally she wins on her serve.