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South Carolina Junior Wins Wildcard Entry into Pro Event

February 29, 2008 04:43 PM

By James Beck (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It would only be fitting if Mallory Cecil became the poster girl of the Smash Junior Cup.
I can’t remember a South Carolina junior with more potential. This 17-year-old has the heart of a champion and the tenacity and skills to take her to another level.Mallory Cecil Back in 2003 Shadisha Robinson won what was then called the Junior Family Circle Cup, then advanced through the qualifying tournament into the Family Circle Cup’s main draw. That will be a difficult feat for Cecil to match.
I thought Robinson would be in the top 100 in the world by now.
But where is she these days? She followed up her Family Circle success with three years at the University of Georgia before transferring to the University of South Florida for her senior year.
Thus far, that appears to be about the end of the tennis road for the power-hitting 5-8 player.
And then there was delightfully smart Nina Pantic winning the Smash tournament the last two years. She was one of my favorites, but she was mentally tougher and smarter than she was outstanding in tennis ability. But Cecil? In my opinion, she’s the best and most complete player to play in the elite seven-year-old junior tournament held each February at Family Circle Tennis Center. You name it, she has it.
Other than height, of course.
She’s only 5-5.
But the Spartanburg wonder has muscle. All you need for proof is to look at the photo in Tuesday’s paper. She obviously has powerful arms, shoulders and legs that must come from all of those hours of training at Florida’s famed Bollettieri Academy.
Cecil hits the ball as hard or harder than the average WTA Tour player. Although she’s no Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport or Serena Williams in sheer power for one shot, over the course of a match she plays a ferocious, never-say-die game as she repeatedly nails forehands and backhands with awesome power and control.
Remember another smallish player with some of the same traits?
Justine Henin certainly doesn’t look like the warrior she becomes once on the court.
Mallory Cecil can only dream.
She doesn’t have to dream anymore, though, about playing in a big-time pro event such as the Family Circle Cup’s qualifying tournament. She earned that when she outlasted power-hitting Nadja Gilchrist of Rochester, N.Y., in Monday’s 200-minute Junior Smash Cup final, the first S.C. junior to win the girls’ 18 crown in the prestigious tournament.
This match set a new standard of quality for the Smash Cup.
Cecil will be so charged up that she’ll practically float back down Interstate 26 for the April 12-13 Family Circle qualifying tournament, but Monday she was more concerned with getting home to Spartanburg to get relief for the sore right shoulder that restricted her serving power. If that goes well, it will be worth the price of a ticket just to see her in the qualifying tournament.
There’s more to Cecil than those terrific tennis strokes. She is as highly personable off the court as she is intelligent on it.
She’s a warrior capable of being Miss Congeniality.
And she’s from the state’s junior ranks? She has set her goal to be a top 50 player on the WTA Tour. Indeed, that’s a lofty goal.
There are literally thousands of girls around the world with such aspirations. Maybe even in just China or Russia alone.
But don’t be surprised if Mallory Cecil overachieves and even reaches and surpasses her goal. The people at Smash Magazine and the Family Circle Cup would like nothing better than having their own signature player.

Mallory Cecil and Entry