The South Carolina High School League usually doesn't make changes quickly, especially in its tennis format. Perhaps, that's due to the lack of emphasis most SCHSL members place on tennis.
A high percentage of SCHSL schools, especially those in rural areas, might even like to see tennis go away. So, who cares about the health of doubles?
While everyone else, except maybe the men's pro tour, appears to be coming to the rescue of doubles, the SCHSL is going its own way.
As it is now, the High School League might as well abandon doubles altogether. Under the current format of normally playing five singles and No. doubles at the same time, followed by No. 1 doubles if needed, the top players seldom get to play doubles. This format is detrimental to the game and probably even helps some top players in their decisions to skip participation on high school tennis.
Of course, the independent schools league (SCISA) takes doubles all the way - six singles followed by three doubles. And the boys and girls love it at schools like Pinewood Prep, Porter-Gaud and Palmetto Christian. If the team match is already decided, they'll usually still play all three doubles, using a mixture of top players and substitutes. As many as a dozen players, or as few as six, might get to participate in the match.
But when the S.C. Tennis Coaches Association presented a proposal to the High School League's rules committee last month to change to a format of three doubles matches, followed by six singles, the response, according to the SCTCA, was:
"They wanted each principal surveyed by the HSL to see where they stand on the issue. So, there will be no format change for upcoming 2007-08 school year."
Thus, there goes another year of wasted doubles opportunities for the public school league.
It's not a matter of the six singles/three doubles format being more advantageous to large schools, since this format requires one less than the seven players currently needed to play matches in the High School League. But the doubles possibilities are far more diverse in the proposed format.
Twenty years old and 20 titles. If Rafael Nadal gets any better,with whom might he be compared?
What if he decides to flatten out his serve and groundstrokes just a little? This guy could be winning just about everything in sight on all surfaces by the time he's 25. It's a scary thought for Roger Federer fans.
If Nadal actually does get better and waits to peak for a few more years, he could be in a league all his own. He obviously has the physical tools and mental toughness to accomplish greatness over the next five years.
Amazingly, Nadal already has a better won-lost percentage in finals than even Federer.
Emily Applegate hasn't slowed down as a senior at Washington & Lee. The determined Porter-Gaud graduate apparently has every intention of defending the NCAA Division III singles title she won last spring.
Applegate raced through the regular season unbeaten in 12 singles matches for W&L and was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference's player of the year. She made all-conference at No. 1 singles and doubles, going 13-1 in doubles as once-beaten W&L started the Division III playoffs this weekend.
--Nat Estes, another former Porter-Gaud standout, is starring for the W&L men's team that has won its 12th straight ODAC title. A junior, Estes went 15-6 in singles in the regular season and 11-6 in doubles, making all-conference No. 2 in singles and No. 1 in doubles.
Palmetto House benefit
Summerville's Pine Forest Country Club will stage the inaugural Palmetto House Pro-Am June 1-3. The event will benefit Summerville's Palmetto House, a non-profit charitable organization to those in need of basic human necessities. Contact Barbara Heddinger (795-1420) or go to the Web site www.palmettohouseproam.com.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com.