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Junior Class

Southland Tennis Prospects Camping Out at Northridge

July 31, 1999|MARK GOMEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Forty-five minutes into a three-hour tennis workout, Quinn Borchard felt queasy.

The 17-year-old from Camarillo pushed himself too hard while running, hitting and conditioning with some of Southern California's top junior players. He excused himself, found shelter and promptly lost his lunch.

Welcome to the Northridge Tennis Boot Camp.

"We beat the hell out of their bodies," said Craig Cignarelli, co-founder of the camp. "These guys are sucking wind two hours in, and they know they've got another hour at the end. They're dead at the end of the day.

"But we keep a tight eye on their health."

Borchard was back the next day, training in a program designed to get the region's best juniors in top physical shape for national competition.

Cignarelli, a private coach who played at UC Santa Barbara, realized his goal of creating a tennis mecca in Southern California last April. He started the camp with James Ciuffo, an assistant coach with the Northridge women's team, after receiving permission to use 24 on-campus courts from the university.

"This area generally has one or two good [junior] players at 10 to 15 clubs, from Santa Barbara to Orange County," Cignarelli said. "Your top 30 players are spread out all over the place, even as far as San Diego. They just don't see each other throughout the year unless it's at tournaments."

Until now. The camp, which draws players from as far away as Orange County, is divided into four two-week sessions through Aug. 20.

"If there's a central area where they can all get together and compete and practice with each other, they're all going to benefit," Cignarelli said.

Many of the camp's participants are preparing for the Junior Hard Court championships from next Friday through Aug. 15 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"It's been a lot of running," said Borchard, who is ranked No. 16 in Southern California in the under-18 division. "But it will be good for Kalamazoo, because it will be hot and I could be playing a lot of matches."

The intense workouts include drills that focus on specific skills and loads of conditioning--long runs, sprints and occasional workouts in a swimming pool.

Cignarelli, 29, who has previously coached several of the camp's players, said participation has increased in the five weeks since the program started.

"Everybody knew there was a talent pool here," Cignarelli said. "Once you've got a talent pool, other players will follow and latch on."

Before the Northridge camp, Cignarelli said top players had a difficult time finding a competitive practice partner.

"It's good to play with the real good guys, because normally there's not that many people to play," said Borchard, whose cousin, Joe Borchard, was a star athlete at Camarillo High and plays football and baseball at Stanford.

"Playing with all these good players just makes you better."

The camp brings in guest coaches and players to work with the juniors.

Elliott Teltscher, a national junior coach and former top-10 pro, attends the camp once a week.

Michael Jessup, a pro who played No. 1 singles at Pepperdine last year, also has practiced with campers.

"The coaching is very good here," said Iris Ichim, a 14-year-old from Beverly Hills who hopes to turn pro within a year. "I've worked with [Teltscher] and he helped me a lot on my game."

Ichim, who immigrated from Romania three years ago, is one of two players training at Northridge who came to the United States to develop their game. The other is French-born Amir Marandy, 17, another player with pro aspirations.

Ichim and Marandy are among a select group taking independent study in place of high school classes to devote more time to tennis.

"Everyone here will get a Division I scholarship or go on the pro tour," Cignarelli said.

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