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No. 3 junior entered in pro event here

How many tennis players have competed in the Australian Open and at the Miller Tennis Center in Amherst in the same year?

Lauren Davis of Cleveland will have that distinction when she plays in the Sargent & Collins $10,000 Women's Pro Tennis Championships. The main draw of the tournament will be held from June 28-July 3.

The Sargent & Collins event will mark the debut of women's professional tennis in the Buffalo area, and it will attract many outstanding players who aspire to be full-time professionals.

Lauren Davis is the No. 3 junior in the world. She finished 2010 as one of the hottest young players in tennis by winning six tournaments in a three-month period.

In junior events, she won the Yucatan Cup in Mexico, the Eddie Herr International in Bradenton, Fla., and the prestigious Dunlop Orange Bowl. She reached the finals of the Easter Bowl and the Italian Open's Grade I tournament. On the USTA pro circuit, she won her first professional title at the $10,000 event in Williamsburg, Va., last October, and the $25,000 event in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, two weeks later.

The highlight of her year was winning an eight-woman USTA playoff that earned her a wild card in the main draw of the 2011 Australian Open, where she played and lost to fifth-seeded Samantha Stosur, 6-1, 6-1.

Even though she lost, Davis was thrilled to have played against one of the top 10 women's players in the world.

"Stosur is an all-around great player," Davis said. "Her tennis and shotmaking is outstanding. It was a wonderful experience just to be on the court with her."

The Australian Open is played on hard courts. The Sargent & Collins will be played on the Miller Tennis Center's HarTru courts.

"With strong emphasis on clay court tournaments for younger players , the USTA Pro circuit is helping USTA Player Development cultivate the next generation of American world-class players," Amanda Korba, an official with the United States Tennis Association, said.

"When Patrick McEnroe took over as general manager of the USTA Player Development in 2008, his plan was for young Americans to get more training on clay courts. The USTA Pro Circuit and USTA Player Development decided to include more clay court events at the $10,000 and $25,000 level for women."

"I started playing at the age of 9," Davis said when asked how she got so good so soon. "Within six months after taking lessons I started playing 10-and-under tournaments and did reasonably well. Even as a youngster I wanted to win every match and I was a tough competitor. I just loved playing tennis and doing well."

As her game progressed, she started playing 12-and-under tournaments in the Midwest. At first, she didn't do as well as she would have liked but her indomitable spirit was evident and she always fought hard until the match was over.

As she continued to play and started winning tournaments, her ability was noticed by players and coaches. About a year and a half ago she started training at the prestigious Evert Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The academy is run by Chris Evert and her brother John, who was a good player in his own right and who has an excellent reputation as a teaching pro.

"I had heard many excellent things about the Evert Academy," Davis said. "About a year and a half ago I went to train there for a week. I enjoyed working with John Evert and my parents and I decided that this would be a wonderful place for me to train and play tennis.

"He inspires me and believes in me. He has a wonderful demeanor, a great personality, and stays really calm. However, he pushes me extremely hard. He has helped me immensely."

Her schedule at the academy is grueling.

At 9 a.m. she starts off most days with an hour of fitness training. After that, it's two hours of drills, which she repeats later in the day. If she is going to a tournament, match play will be incorporated into some of that time.

Even though Davis has had an outstanding past few months she is always striving to do better. She is working on her serve, moving the ball around the court, trying for more accuracy and aiming for the corners. She has an all-around game that makes her very difficult to play against. That is why she is one of the favorites to win the Buffalo pro tournament against a strong field.

e-mail: thegreatgar@verizon.net

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