Tiger Tennis Can Cheer On A Wimbledon Connection Tuesday
July 1, 2013
MEMPHIS - - When Kaia Kanepi takes to the No. 1 court at Wimbledon Tuesday for her Ladies' singles quarterfinal match, she will have a cheering section in Memphis. While Kanepi has never suited up for the Tigers, she has a Memphis Tiger connection. Since April of this year, she has been coached by former men's tennis player Marten Tamla, who played at Memphis from 2002-2005.
Tamla came to the University of Memphis after playing his freshman season at UT Martin. He transferred to Memphis to play under then-coach Phil Chamberlain, then played his final two seasons of collegiate tennis under current head coach Paul Goebel. He graduated from Memphis in 2005, and after spending one year as a tennis coach at a private club in New Jersey, he returned to his native Estonia and went to work for the Estonia National Federation, continuing to also coach junior tennis players on a private level.
"Playing at Memphis has helped me tremendously in my coaching career," Tamla said. "My first coach was Phil, and he made my game a lot more aggressive and really improved my net game. Growing up in Europe on red clay, I never used to play in the net. The last two years I played for Paul. Paul just had an unbelievable understanding of the whole game and the ability to understand what every player needed on the court. Whenever he came to my court, he made me feel very confident about the things I was trying to do and also made me relax. I also have to mention Lee (Taylor Walker), who was our assistant coach my last year at Memphis. He has a very good eye for opponent's weaknesses and strengths and how to use them to your advantage. I always liked having Lee and Paul on my court."
Early in his coaching career in 2011, Tamla was approached by Anett Kontaveit, then a 15-year-old player. She was ranked just outside the top 100 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world junior rankings and had no WTA ranking. Kontaveit worked with Tamla until the end of the 2012 season, when she was ranked as high as number four in the ITF junior rankings and close to the top 400 in the WTA rankings. She won a prestigious Orange Bowl tournament and reached the semifinals of the Australian, French Open and Wimbledon juniors tournaments and the finals of the US Open junior tournament. She also won five titles on the women's $10,000 level on the professional circuit in that time period.
Tamla began working with Kanepi in April of 2013. Kanepi was recovering from operations on both Achilles and was trying to come back from the seven months of injuries. Since Tamla came on board Kanepi's team, she won the Brussels Open in May, and so far at Wimbledon, has a win over 2012 Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber, the No. 7 ranked player in the WTA, in a tough three-set match. She followed that up with a thrilling 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 win over home crowd favorite Laura Robson, Monday.
"Now, on the women's tour, when my player calls me to the court, I must admit I use some of Paul and Lee's tricks and advice," Tamla said. He'll get to use some of those tricks and advice to prepare Kanepi for her Tuesday quarterfinal match against Sabine Lisicki (who was a 2013 Memphis Indoor finalist), who just eliminated defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, Monday.
And just because Tamla is off traversing the world coaching tennis, he still hasn't forgotten his Memphis roots. When the men's tennis team was winning its first-ever Conference USA Championship back in April and making a run to the NCAA Round of 16, Tamla was tuning in from afar.
"I remember I was in a tournament in Morocco when the men were playing their conference final and I stayed up until 4 or 5 a.m. or something watching the live scores. And then to get to the NCAA final 16 was also an amazing result," Tamla said. "And the women's team has done really well too. I'm really happy for Lee, who was my teammate when I was in Memphis, and for Paul and Mark (Mark was also a teammate and my roommate). They all deserve it. I know how much they care about their players and how much effort they have put in to get to where they all are."
The Tigers can tune in to watch Tamla's newest teammate, Tuesday, at 7 a.m. when Kanepi faces Lisicki in the Wimbledon Ladies Quarterfinals on Court One.