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Former Clemson Coach Continues Guiding Players to Titles

July 16, 2009 03:36 PM

From Bob Larson’s Tennis News

By James Beck

Chuck Kriese's teams won 10 Atlantic Coast Conference titles but never won an NCAA tennis championship during his 33 years as Clemson's head men's coach. But he's on top of the world now that he has coached a Wimbledon junior champion.

"I had a hole in my career. I felt I didn't accomplish what I could have. I was never able to win an NCAA title," said Kriese as he described the Tigers' seven quarterfinal finishes in the NCAA tournament.

A 17-year-old Thai girl changed all of that during Wimbledon's last two days. Little 5' 3” Noppawan Lertcheewakarn capped off an historic weekend for Thailand tennis recently by winning the Wimbledon junior doubles titles. She had won the junior girls' singles crown a day earlier.

"I got to sit in the coaches' box on Court One back-to-back days and experience Wimbledon championships. There were 11,000 people there. It was fantastic," Kriese said after arriving back in the United States. "That was the greatest moment of my coaching career. Wimbledon is the most prestigious of all tennis events."

Kriese escorted Lertcheewakarn to the famed Wimbledon Ball, even shaking hands with major record holder Roger Federer. Another highlight of the evening for Kriese was seeing long-time Greenville, S.C., friend Lucy Garvin, the current president of the U.S. Tennis Association, at the ball with her husband, Bob.

Last year's junior world champion, Lertcheewakarn also won doubles titles at the 2008 U.S. Open and this year's French Open with Kriese as her primary coach.

Kriese resigned as Clemson's coach after the 2008 season to become the technical director for the Southeast Asia Tennis Federation, based in Bangkok where he directs the tennis activities for 10 countries. In this job, he has traveled to 16 different countries.

Kriese and his wife, Claire, and their three small children now call Bangkok home. "My job is to unite that area of the world in tennis," Kriese said. "It's a great assignment. I now train many of the top players from the area. It's a great opportunity. Our three children, ages 5, 3 and 1, have ridden elephants and have had great experiences. We are going to home-school them this coming year. The plan is to stay there (Bangkok) two more years."

The Wimbledon junior singles title didn't come easily for the girl nicknamed Nok. In the final, top seed and current world's No. 1 junior Kristina Mladenovic of France opened the match with a 122 m.p.h. serve and took the first set. But the little Thai girl wouldn't quit as she used her consistent two-handed strokes from both sides to outlast the 6'0” French
girl to make her dream of winning Wimbledon come true. Nok had lost to Britain's Laura Robson in the 2008 final.

"Being down five match points in the first match, then being knocked off the court the first part of the final and being able to turn it around and win was great, using her head the way she did. I was very very proud," Kriese said. "She stayed with Mladenovic, delivering body punches. The first 10 games were about even, the rest (of the match) the body punches took effect and she won nine of the last 10 games."

Kriese bypassed a trip back to Bangkok where Lertcheewakarn was greeted as a super hero at the airport. She was on the front page of the Bangkok Post and made numerous TV appearances. She even met the prime minister at the government house.

Kriese instead flew to Atlanta on Monday. Kriese will spend the next two months in the United States, ending up at the U.S. Open with Nok going for another major junior title to go with the four she already owns. He then will return with his family to Bangkok. He is excited that the 12-court, 80-bed dormitory tennis center he uses in Bangkok will become the training center for the entire Asian Tennis Federation, adding to his responsibilities.

"The people are fantastic, so kind. All the children are so hungry for tennis. They work very, very hard," the 59-year-old coach said. "I believe this is the boiling point (of tennis)."