Sunday, July 09, 2000

MET TENNIS NOTEBOOK


French player wins Met debut

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Natacha Benoit
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        When Natacha Benoit arrived in the United States from Stras bourg, France, in September, the 25-year-old had no intention of playing competitive tennis.

        Benoit came to Cincinnati as a volunteer working at the Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church.

        A polished tennis player at the club level in France, Benoit joined the Colonial Racquet and Fitness Club and was noticed immediately by Jeff Wolf, the head professional.

        “I was hired as a teaching professional at Colonial,” Benoit said. “I heard a lot about this tournament and saw some literature. That's why I decided to play.”

        Benoit's first Met appearance was a success. Seeded No.8, Benoit defeated Molly Molony 6-1, 7-5 Saturday to advance to Monday's second-round match against Amber Pipkins.

        With a strong serve and fore hand, Benoit dominated Molony in the first set. But Molony, 16, regrouped and battled Benoit evenly throughout most of the second set.

        Playing on the clay surface is to Benoit's liking.

        “In France, the clay courts are red,” Benoit said. “It's easier to slide on the red courts, but the ball bounces about the same on the green clay courts in the U.S.”

        Benoit, who is engaged to fellow Colonial pro Jayson Hansen, said she plans to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship.

        PIPKINS ROLLS: When Pipkins took the court against Kathy Graeter, the employees at Lunken Playfield's Carl and Edyth Lindner Family Tennis Center stayed away.

        Pipkins, a junior at Florida A&M and a Walnut Hills graduate, works for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. No one wanted to put pressure on a friend.

        “I was a little nervous and fell behind 2-0,” Pipkins, 19, said. “My strategy was to move the ball around and stay close enough to the net to return her drop shots.”

        Pipkins went on to win 12 of the next 13 games en route to a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

        VINCENT ADVANCES: Meredith Vincent, Indian Hill's 1999-2000 Ohio Division II state doubles champion with partner Michelle Rothzeid, defeated Chris Underwood 6-3, 6-3.

        “This is my first Met,” Vincent said. “Clay isn't my best surface, because I don't move as well on it. Today I just tried to keep the ball in play.”

        Vincent, who is being recruited by the University of Virginia, may skip the 2000-01 high school season.

        “Our coach (Adam Wolter) won't be back, and I may play in some international tournaments,” the 17-year-old Vincent said. “I haven't made a final decision yet.”

        HYAMS DEBUTS: Recent Sycamore graduate Susan Hyams' first Met appearance also was impressive.

        Hyams, the Division I state doubles runner-up with partner Cassie Uhl, defeated Kelly Donson 6-0, 6-4.

        “I needed to practice, and I'm using this tournament to prepare for college (at Massachusetts),” Hyams said. “I played well today, but I got a little tired in the second set.”

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