A new way to climb the charts

Local tennis players have a new way of climbing up the ranks.

A tennis ladder listing the area's top players is now posted on the tennis courts across the street from Laguna Beach High on Park Avenue. Local artist and competitive tennis player John Rushing built the ladder, funded by Laguna Beach High girls' tennis Coach Jimmy Gleason.

"Unless you are No. 1, there is always someone you can challenge," Rushing said. "The main idea is just to get people to play, and not have any excuses not to play."

Challenges can be issued up to three spaces. Challengers must supply the tennis balls and players have one week to complete the match or default. Defaulters automatically drop a rung on the ladder.

"Jimmy and I decided to make the ladder open to all players regardless of age or ability." Said Rushing, who added that a ladder dedication will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. "The only requirement is each player must know basic rules and how to keep score."

Initial placement on the ladder is at "said" level, as said by the player. They will have to defend the placement.

However as the ladder fills up, players will be put at the bottom of the ladder and have to work their way up, Rushing said.

"There is room for 65 singles players, 34 doubles teams and 17 mixed doubles teams," Rushing said. "But we could make room for more singles, up to about 120."

To date, almost 15 players are listed.

The Laguna Beach ladder is unisex. The organizers considered separate singles ladders for males and females but decided against it.

"This is not about boys and girls," Rushing said. "It is about competition. If it was just boys and just girls, the top girls wouldn't get much competition."

"A lot of top girls benefit from hitting with boys," Rushing said. "All the pros do."

The mixed ladder probably precludes any female from being ranked No. 1, but the top two or three girls could be in the top 10 on the ladder, according to Rushing.

The top girl will be identified with a little gold star by her name, regardless of her place on the ladder, Rushing said.

Laguna Beach High boys' tennis Coach Aaron Talerico is No. 1 on the ladder. Gleason is No. 2, and Rushing is No. 3.

Rushing has taught tennis in Laguna since he was 16 and recently passed the U.S. Professional Tennis Assn. teaching course. He played in junior and open tournaments and was ranked No. 1 on the high school tennis team as a senior in 1988.

An artist as well as a tennis player, Rushing wanted to make the ladder a first-class art piece.

"I tore apart one of my trophies to put on the top of it, and I thought making an open era time-line collage would be inspiring to the up-and-coming kids," Rushing said. "The ladder was built from scratch and took about 30 hours to complete.

"Jimmy put up the $225 to build the ladder."

Rushing brought the idea of a ladder with him when he moved to Laguna.

"I played on a ladder at Los Caboleros Racket Club and I loved it," Rushing said. "It was so nice to challenge higher and higher. I always had a match, and it was fun to see my name climb up."

The high school courts have 45-minute turns for each match so Gleason and Rushing decided to go with an eight-game pro-set format, Rushing said.

In a pro-set, the first player to win eight regularly scored games is the winner. At seven-games all, a tie-breaker will be played to decide the winner.

"We want the ladder to become a community tennis center," Rushing said.


BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 494-4321 or coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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