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Sore Back Makes It a Stretch for Lingman to Play His Best

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As it turns out, there was more to Woodbridge junior David Lingman’s third-round loss in last week’s Easter Bowl tournament in Palm Springs than windy conditions and erratic forehands. Lingman is again having back problems, which caused him to miss six months of tennis.

Three weeks ago, Lingman had to retire during a match at the Long Beach tournament. Lingman finished all his matches in the desert and he didn’t blame his back on the loss to second-seeded David Martin of Key Biscayne, Fla., in the boys’ 18s, but he admitted his play has been affected.

“I can get through the matches, but it was hurting a little bit in the [Martin] match,” Lingman said. “I can’t really hit a kick serve. It’s between a slice and a kick now. If I bend the wrong way at a certain time, it’s piercing pain.”

More than two years ago, Lingman contracted a rare bacterial infection--osteomyelitis, an infection in the bone marrow. The infection was misdiagnosed several times by doctors and had him bedridden for four months. Since he rehabilitated his back with therapy and began playing competitive tennis again, Lingman’s back injury was distant memory . . . until a few months ago.

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“It’s in the back of my mind and it worries me,” Lingman said at the Easter Bowl. “I went to the doctor and he said the bottom disk is too close the other disk. So I need to stretch it out before I play to loosen it up.”

Lingman said there is no risk of the infection returning, but he does need to constantly strengthen the back muscles by exercising them. He expects to play a full schedule of tournaments this summer, his last of junior tennis before deciding where he will attend college. Lingman said he is hoping to stay in California and attend Stanford or UCLA, though his mother, Belle, is pushing for Harvard.

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Refreshed from a two-month break and fully recovered from an Achilles’ tendon injury, Corona del Mar sophomore Caylan Leslie is ready to make another run at an Ojai title. Leslie lost in last year’s girls’ 16 finals to Jennifer Baker of Palm Desert. Leslie’s game has experienced ups and downs since last April. Currently, she says it’s on an upswing.

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Leslie lost two of three matches at the Easter Bowl, but the losses came against eighth-seeded Kavitha Tipirneni of Galloway, Ohio, and sixth-seeded Christina Denny of Canton, Ohio. Due to poor results of late, Leslie was an alternate at the Easter Bowl and didn’t find out she was in the tournament until 15 minutes before here match with Tipirneni.

“I was practicing volleys on the grass over a baby net,” Leslie said.

Leslie led Tipirneni, 4-2, in the third set before losing, 6-4.

“I choked,” she said. “I got tired. For some reason, I thought the set ended at four games.”

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Since rededicating herself to tennis, Leslie has a new coach, Hank Lloyd, and a new training regimen.

“I’m running more, getting fit, putting more hours in,” Leslie said.

Leslie said her new schedule will not include high school tennis. She played last year on Corona del Mar’s Southern Section title team, going 24-0 in Sea View League singles play.

“It was hard coming off high school tennis,” she said. “I never got a break. I never got a chance to work on my game and it went down the toilet.”

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Leslie hopes her game is in a better place this week.

“I’m excited to go up there,” she said. “I just hope to make it to center court again and have the winning trophy in my hand this time.”

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Mater Dei sophomore Melissa Esmero figures to be one of Leslie’s top rivals for the Ojai girls’ 16 title. She lost to Leslie in the quarters at Ojai last year, but played well in Palm Springs. She reached the round of 16, losing to fourth-seeded Kelly McCain of Largo, Fla, in straight sets, then beat seventh-seeded Alexandra Smith of Marietta Ga., and fell to ninth-seeded Elina Baros of Sarasota, Fla., in three sets.

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“I learned I was lacking a little bit of experience here,” Esmero said. “I just played a lot of really good players. These players seem like they don’t even have bad days.”

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Seena Hamilton, Easter Bowl tournament director, said she expects to return to Palm Springs next year.

“We would like to come back here if we can stop the wind,” she said.

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The wind is definitely becoming a pain for Easter Bowl participants and fans. The last three times the event has been held at the Riviera Resort and Racquet, the wind has been a factor, especially on courts that are not blocked by buildings.

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The United States Tennis Assn. announced junior players can play in their age groups until the month of their birthday. For example, if a player turns 15 in October, he may play in the boys’ 14s until September. Previously, they had to play in the next age group--the 16s--in January of the year they turned 15.

Dede Allen, USTA Manager of Junior Competition, said: “It levels the playing field in junior tennis and gives players with ‘bad birthdays’ more of an opportunity to compete with their peers, instead of players who could be as much as two years older.”

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