South Jersey Native Mike Sell Returns Home
Tuesday, July 11, 2000
By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Staff Writer
He's Back! Mike Sell is playing World Team Tennis with the Delaware Smash. Loving the game as much as I do, had the opportunity to go and watch Mike and his team to take on the New York Hamptons. Watching tennis at this level was truly a thrill. And to top things off, there was an added bonus of Serena Williams would also competed this night.
There was excitement in the air as the match got closer and closer to the start. Before the match, I had the opportunity to meet Serena and what a thrill. Not only was she down to earth and friendly, you can tell that she is truly enjoying what she is doing! Those of you who know me know that I don't get star struck but one brief instant she truly had me mesmerized. I couldn't wait to see with my own eyes the "Future", and I didn't have to wait long before Ms. Williams played her first match. She teamed up with Geoff Grant, another New Jersey native, in a mixed doubles match against Jonathan Stark and Erika de lone.
The match was very even. Serena seemed to not let the effects of her transatlantic flight bother her. This night she came to play with the level of play that was astounding. The speed at which the athletes played created an atmosphere that got everyone involved. There would be no exhibition matches here. The Smash won the first match of the night 5 to 4.
The second match had Serena playing against 15 year old phoneme Monique Viele. Monique came out trading forehands with the more experienced Williams, to her credit Viele wasn't the least bit star struck, but it was soon obvious to everyone that she was overmatched. There was no doubt that Williams would win, the question was, by how much. Not much longer that question would be answered. Serena won 5-0 to give The Smash a 9 to 5 lead.
The third match was men's doubles Mike Sell and Geoff Grant taking on Jonathan Stark and Patrick McEnroe. Stark and Mac were "bringing the heat". These guys were all over the court hitting balls that traveled at a velocity that was inspiring. But with that said, Sell and Grant took their best cuts at some sizzling shots and stayed close through the entire match. Then the unimaginable happened, Jonathan Stark's serve deserted him and it dissipated like the day's heat at sundown. Grant and Sell jumped all over the opportunity, broke serve to win their match.
With apologies to Serena, the match of the night had to be Pat McEnroe against Mike Sell. The words I would use to describe Sell were "Match Monster" This guy played out of his mind, part comic, part showman, all athlete. You could tell that both guys were into what was going on. They traded all kinds of shots. Mac still has it and when he had to pull out some very tough points. It also seemed like Sell was helping Mac a little when his backhand got loose on a couple of points and probably extended the match a little longer than it really had to go. The match ended the way a lot of recreational players dream about. With Mike serving, he hit a blistering ball that aced Mac right down the "T". At this stage of the match The Smash was up 17-14.
The last match of the night pitted Williams and doubles partner Mariaan de Swardt against Monique Viele and Erika de Lone. First off, let me say that Mariaan is not built like your average tennis player. Please understand that it's not an insult. She is fit and muscular and hits the ball a ton. Delaware was not really challenged in this last match. The team from the Hamptons really looked like they just wanted to get out of there without getting hurt. Trust me when I tell you that it almost didn't happen that way. It seemed as though Mariaan and Serena where having a contest to see who could hit the ball the hardest and as best as I could tell it was a flat foot tie. The plays of the match were Serena cranking a backhand that had the intensity of a Randy Johnson fastball and hit de lone. Not to be out done Swardt pounded Viele with a forehand of Titanic proportions. The night ended the way it began with a Smash victory the final score was Delaware 22 New York Hamptons 16. What a night, if you are in to tennis, then team tennis is a way you can see some of the big names of the games with having to travel great distances.