As we unveil this year’s edition of The 21 & Under Club, we would like to draw your attention Team Luke Hope for Minds, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that supports families with children who have suffered an acquired brain injury. Led by former Texas Tech tennis coach Tim Siegel – whose son Luke suffered severe head and chest trauma due to a golf cart accident that resulted in an anoxic brain injury – Team Luke Hope for Minds missed numerous fundraising opportunities during 2020 due to the COVID -19 pandemic.
To learn more about the organization and for information on how to donate, go to teamlukehopeforminds.org
WTA degree: n. 124 (n. 38 in doubles)
UTR rank: n. 86
What he has done since last summer: he took Serena Williams to the third set at the US Open; he has won double titles in Washington, DC and Luxembourg with Coco Gauff
Cincinnati heavily modeled Caty McNally. Her cooking, culture, history – and the city’s pre-US Open tournament, which has existed for more than a century – have helped make the eighteen-year-old what she is.
Then there’s probably the most important place in McNally’s Cincinnati: Court One and Court Ten at The Club at Harper’s Point. With ten indoor clay courts and eight outdoor clay courts, Harper’s has been a major tennis court for over 40 years not only in Cincinnati, but throughout the Midwest. Harper’s Point has always been the center of teenagers’ tennis life.
McNally’s mother, Lynn Nabors McNally, has long been a coach at Harper’s Point and has an excellent pedigree in tennis. Entered in the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009, his mentors included local tennis notables such as John Peckscamp, John Cook and Bill Lofgren. In the 1980s, Lynn played on the same Northwestern University team as WTA pro and former USTA president Katrina Adams, and then spent several years competing in ITF and WTA events.
Lynn is the main reason why her daughter has built a style of play that occupies a place and a time of her own – just seen today, evocative of yesterday, potentially dazzling for tomorrow. It is an offensive game for all fields, strongly based on an exceptional variety, whether it is the net, which includes minions and volleyball, mixing the backhand of the slice and forcing the action from all parts of the field.
“There aren’t many women who try to put pressure on their opponents in this way,” said McNally’s older brother John, an all-American at Ohio State University.
“You don’t play players like her who have such complete games,” said Serena Williams after taking three sets to beat McNally at last year’s US Open.
Williams, after a point with McNally on the net during last year’s US Open. (Getty Images)
The McNally family made frequent speeches about top people like Martina Navratilova and Stefan Edberg. Steve Contardi, director of tennis and operating partner of Harper’s Point since 1977, remembers how when Caty was five, she demonstrated a volley with the skill of an experienced professional. Contardi says, “He only knew he was going to the ball. It’s rare. ”
Caty’s all-time favorite player is Roger Federer. While Caty admired Federer’s fluency, Lynn made sure he knew that the Swiss genius had studied, learned and practiced every possible stroke. A pet phrase from Lynn Nabors McNally: “The best gets better, the best gets the best and the best never lets it rest.”
As the baseliners come out of the box with the batteries included, Caty knows it will take longer to put the parts together.
“It’s very special that I’m playing a different game,” he said. “Sometimes it can be difficult.”
Kathy Rinaldi, U.S. Fed Cup captain and women’s tennis chief for USTA, visited McNally in Cincinnati when Caty was 14 years old.
“You saw at a young age how much you liked to play,” said Rinaldi. “It brought her so much joy to be on the pitch.”
Yet as ambitious as McNally is, it remains rooted.
“She’s a normal girl,” said Contardi. “She will come back from a trip, hit for a while with the younger players and then we’ll see her play Serena Williams on TV. Simply fantastic. “
Harper’s Point Club is seen in this photo, designed by a young McNally: “When I grow up, I want to become a tennis pro.” (Lynn Nabors McNally)
As much as McNally loves Cincinnati, he obviously had no idea he would spend four consecutive months this year. Although Harper’s Point was temporarily closed, McNally’s grandparents’ house had a tennis court. During this period of hospitalization on the spot, she and John practiced daily, often for up to two hours at high energy.
Across the hills and on the track, McNally has worked extensively with his six-year-old trainer, Lisa Lakes. Once back in the gym, weight training entered the scene.
Work beyond the lines became even more important during the pandemic.
“My mom kept reminding us that the goal should be to get the best shape possible,” said McNally. “I have done most of the race I have done in my life.
“It certainly showed me another side of the world,” added McNally about the pandemic. “Going to a block and being at your house is not always easy. It has shown me that you must maintain a positive mentality. “
During a conversation, McNally is discreet, caring but kind and reserved. But turn on the clock, start counting and competing and its intensity level increases significantly. Once upon a time, the whole McNally family – Caty, Lynn, brother John and father John – played quite animated double games every Sunday night at Harper’s.
“Caty exuberant,” said his brother. “He can never go back.”
How competitive is McNally? Those who know her share stories about her competitive zeal, both in early childhood in kickball, dodgeball and quadruple. When asked what it would be if it weren’t for tennis, McNally sees herself as a basketball player, a game she admits to having often tried to “take over” as a child. A further testimony of McNally’s love for sport came this spring, when in less than two days he devoured the show All Americans, who focuses on a high school football player. When not playing tennis on tour, McNally loves to compete in all types of games, almost always for small bets, with his traveling coach, Kevin O’Neill.
O’Neill, a longtime coach who has written to both Clemson and Pepperdine, fits perfectly with Team McNally. He and Lynn have known each other for years, when everyone worked with another promising all-out player, Alexa Glatch.
“He sees the game very much like me,” said Lynn.
McNally, all grown up, at the 2020 Australian Open. (Getty Images)
One of the main premises of McNally’s style is that it’s simply more fun than basic hunkering.
“The game comes from the player’s imagination, so let him out of you,” said O’Neill. “Lynn understands this and they are looking at everything in the long run. There are no winnings or losses. Take trust from your game. It’s the fun of playing that matters. ”
Rinaldi said: “She was very creative at a young age.”
With professional tennis coming back, McNally is excited to be returning to the US Open.
“It’s been a fantastic couple of weeks,” he says of his 2019 New York experience. It started with a singles opening win against the cunning veteran Timea Bacsinszky. Then came an unforgettable moment, an early evening game at Arthur Ashe Stadium against Serena. Showing the full range of all-court tactics, McNally took the first set, 7-5. Although he had lost the next two, 6-3, 6-1, he had revealed the possibility of future greatness.
“I was definitely nervous,” says McNally. “But I think I managed myself well. It’s huge if you can go up against a big opponent there. I hope I can build that experience. “
In addition to his efforts for singles, McNally’s double collaboration with Coco Gauff has impressed the world, including engaging races in the last two slams as “Team McCoco”.
“We get along very well,” says McNally. We complement each other. We are planning to play every single event together. ”
O’Neill likes that thought, saying “The double is fantastic, more possibilities to play, compete, practice.”
While Court One and Court Ten are McNally’s main fields of practice at Harper’s Point, perhaps the most significant point of all was Court Six. This was the position of a game board, in which Caty, then three years old, would strike for 20 minutes to an hour at a time. John also loved that place. In honor of all the work done by the two on that board, he was recently nicknamed “The McNally Rally Wall”.
This is suspected to be a point where Caty McNally will leave her name.
Who will stay in this year’s 21 and Under Club and which new players will join them?
Find out all week on TENNIS.com and Baseline.
Monday 27 July: Sofia Kenin | Monday 27 July: Elena Rybakina | Monday 27 July: Alex de Minaur, Dayana Yastremska, Casper Ruud | Tuesday 28 July: Stefanos Tsitsipas | Tuesday 28 July: Thiago Seyboth Wild | Wednesday 29 July: Amanda Anisimova | Wednesday 29 July: Brandon Nakashima | Thursday 30 July: Coco Gauff | Thursday 30 July: Caty McNally | Thursday 30 July: Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek