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Playing In Pain

Despite Injury, Kevin McQuaid's Tennis Game Has Never Been Better

April 03, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN

If you can imagine a pitcher throwing a no-hitter with an arm so sore he can barely raise it above his head, then you have an idea what Los Alamitos sophomore Kevin McQuaid is doing on tennis courts this season.

Sometimes, McQuaid's right elbow throbs so much that he must apply ice and sports cream to it on changeovers. And sometimes, the pain becomes so unbearable that McQuaid just has to stop playing.

"It takes a lot of pain before I'll pull out of a match," McQuaid said. "It's like when you get tired, you know you'll recover if you just get some rest. I know the pain will subside once I stop playing."

McQuaid also knows he is playing some of the best tennis of his life. So the more he wins, the higher his pain threshold becomes. Within the last two weeks, McQuaid has defeated three of the best junior players in Southern California--University's Aaron Yovan and Jack Li and Palos Verdes Peninsula's Rylan Rizza.

"I can't really explain how I'm playing so well when I'm in so much pain," McQuaid said. "A lot of coaches tell me I'm playing a lot smarter. And maybe I am, to compensate for my injury."

McQuaid's injury--an inflamed ulnar nerve--is not going anywhere. In fact, because of the way he grips the tennis racket when he hits his forehand, it is getting worse.

"The nerve just keeps going across the bone," McQuaid said. "I have a big Western grip and you're supposed to hit top spin with that grip, but I don't hit much top spin."

Hank Lloyd, McQuaid's private coach at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center, said he has been trying to change McQuaid's grip for years.

"It's amazing he hits it as well as he does," Lloyd said. "You could see an injury like this coming. It's like a pitcher throwing a screw ball. The wrist and the arm are working against his joint. If you do it again and again, something's going to give."

Ever since his elbow began breaking down two months ago, McQuaid has been picking and choosing his matches. In high school, he has only played in matches where he can make a difference.

"My team has never been to a CIF final, so I'm trying to put them in position to get there," McQuaid said.

"Kevin can steal a set against anybody," Los Alamitos Coach Kevin Garrett said. "This format works out great for his situation. But I know he is in pain. You look at his arm and there's a swollen knot in it. When he plays, it swells even more."

Until recently, McQuaid was told that only surgery would fix the problem. He had surgery scheduled for mid-April and planned for a four- to six-month recovery period. But after a nerve test on Friday at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles, McQuaid said he is putting off surgery.

"They determined there is no nerve damage," said McQuaid, who last year experienced knee problems related to growing pains. "I might consider surgery in the future, but not now."

In lieu of surgery, McQuaid will rest his aching elbow for some five weeks after the Easter Bowl. He will skip Ojai and the Southern Section individual tournament, but he plans to return in late May for the Division I team semifinals.

Once the high school season ends, McQuaid said he will start tennis school all over again.

"I have to go back to the basics," he said. "We're going to try to move over the grip so my elbow stays in closer to my body. When I let it out, I'm hitting with all arm.

"I've tried changing my grip before, but my balls were either hitting the back fence or the bottom of the net, so I reverted back. This time I know I can't go back."


Injuries could go a long way toward determining the outcome of the Peninsula at Corona del Mar match on Wednesday.

Jeff Kazarian, Peninsula's No. 2 singles player, injured his shoulder and back while dunking a basketball before last week's match with University, and No. 3 singles Teige Sullivan has a broken knuckle. Neither played last week in an 11-7 loss to Los Alamitos and neither are expected to play Wednesday.

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Orange County Sportswriters' Poll


Pos. School League Rec 1. Corona del Mar (1) Pacific Coast 12-0 2. Los Alamitos (2) Sunset 8-2 3. Troy (3) Freeway 11-1 4. Woodbridge (5) Sea View 9-4 5. Servite (6) Serra 12-0 6. Dana Hills (7) South Coast 7-3 7. University (4) Pacific Coast 9-5 8. Canyon (8) Century 9-3 9. Capistrano Valley (9) South Coast 7-0 10. Sunny Hills (10) Freeway 7-4


Others: Los Amigos (12-0), Santa Margarita (9-4), Mater Dei (11-2), Esperanza (11-1).

Last week's rankings in parentheses

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