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Villa Park Freshman Nelson Might Be Best Player in Southern Section, and She's Only 14

October 03, 2000|DAVE McKIBBEN

Lindsey Nelson is ranked No. 1 in Southern California's 16-year-old division, even though she's only 14. Her high school career is three weeks old, but she might already be the best player in the Southern Section. Her ground strokes are so clean and powerful on both sides that they remind people of Monica Seles.

But she's only a freshman and Nelson is thankful that her Villa Park teammates remember that.

"I don't think the team looks at me any differently because I'm the No. 1 singles player," she said. "I'm glad they don't. I don't want to be treated any differently. They refer to me and [Laura Robinson] as, 'Oh, there go those freshmen again.' "

Last week, Nelson was subjected to a childish prank that all freshman tennis players must endure. At six in the morning, Nelson's teammates came to her house and woke her up. They dressed her in layer after layer of frumpy clothing and caked on the makeup so she could look presentable for the school sports assembly.

"It was a hundred degrees that day and I was so hot," Nelson said. "I had to dress like that all day, but it was fun."

Nelson is having a lot of fun on the court too. Although her team is off to a 3-4 start, she is unbeaten and unchallenged. Nelson's closest set has been 6-2 and that came against Anne Yelsey of top-ranked Corona del Mar. In June, Yelsey beat Nelson in three sets in the semifinals of the Southern California Junior Sectionals. But that was nearly four months ago, before Nelson made some drastic changes to her fitness routine.

"I was extremely worn out after that match," said the 5-foot-9 Nelson, who plays an all-court game. "I realized something had to change."

So did Eliot Teltscher, a regional USTA coach and former top-ranked professional.

"Lindsey's always been able to hit a big ball off the ground and her serve is coming along, but she needed to get herself in better shape," Teltscher said. "We'd hit some balls and run her a little bit and she'd be tired."

Nelson noticed it too. So she began working with a personal trainer three days a week.

"I'm lifting weights, running sprints and working on my coordination," she said. "My back and stomach muscles are stronger. I don't know if I look any different, but I feel a lot better and more confident out there."

And that can make all the difference.

"Andre Agassi went from 143 to No. 1 in the world, not because he was a better player, but because he was in better shape," Teltscher said. "Being in better shape is something you can control. You can be the worst tennis player in the world, but you can still be in good shape."

Nelson isn't hitting the ball like Agassi yet, but she is beginning to show signs that she has a chance at a professional career. Two weeks ago, she won her first designated tournament in the 18-year-old division--the Los Caballeros Junior--upsetting top-seeded Brittany Reitz of Corona del Mar in the semifinals, 7-6, 6-4, and third-seeded Aradhana Sarohia of Altadena in the final, 6-4, 6-4.

"It seems to me Lindsey's aspirations have gone up a little," Teltscher said. "She really wants to be a pro player now. In the past, I'm not sure she believed she could."

Nelson agreed.

"When I was younger, I didn't really know what it took to become a pro," she said. "Now, I think I do and I think I really want to do it."


The Palos Verdes Peninsula girls' team will attempt to accomplish what the boys have already done--win the National High School Tennis All-American tournament in Newport Beach. The 16-team tournament, founded last year by Corona del Mar boys' Coach Tim Mang, will feature champions from the Southern, Central Coast and San Diego sections.

The first and second rounds will be played at five clubs in the Newport Beach area. The semifinals and finals are Saturday at Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Peninsula, the defending Southern Section Division I girls' champion, is seeded first. In March, the Peninsula boys won the inaugural national boys' tournament. Del Mar Torrey Pines, the 10-time defending San Diego champion, is seeded second. Third-seeded Corona del Mar lost to Peninsula, 15-3, two weeks ago. Menlo, the two-time Central Coast champion, is seeded fourth.

The tournament will include several players ranked among the top five in the Southern and Northern California junior divisions: Luana Magnani of San Marino, Lauren Perl of Torrey Pines, Iris Ichim of Beverly Hills, Yelsey of Corona del Mar, Tracy Lin of Canyon and Ashley Lipton of Menlo.

Each team will play four matches and each match will be played under the college tennis format. Six singles sets will be worth one point each and three doubles sets will be worth one point. The format, which allows players to compete in singles and doubles, could benefit Corona del Mar.

"This format gives us a chance," Corona del Mar Coach Andy Stewart said. "Anne Yelsey gets to play singles and doubles. She's really a good doubles player. She crosses well and plays doubles like you're supposed to."

Stewart will have Kim Singer available for singles and doubles. Singer, ranked 17th in the girls' 16 division, didn't play in the loss to Peninsula but is healthy again after missing three weeks with a right shoulder injury.

"My team is better now," Stewart said. "But Peninsula is still the team to beat."

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