When we introduce this year’s edition of The 21 & Under Club, we would like to bring it to your attention Team Luke Hope for Minds, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit 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 a severe head and chest trauma in a golf cart accident that resulted in an anoxic brain injury, Team Luke Hope for Minds lost numerous donation opportunities in 2020 due to COVID -19 pandemic.
You can find more information about the organization and information about donations at teamlukehopeforminds.org
WTA rank: No. 124 (No. 38 in doubles)
UTR rank: No. 86
What she’s been doing since last summer: got Serena Williams to third set at the US Open; won double titles with Coco Gauff in Washington, DC and Luxembourg
Cincinnati left a strong mark on Caty McNally. The city’s cuisine, culture, history and the pre-US Open tournament that has been in existence for more than a century all helped make the 18-year-old her personality.
Then there’s probably the most important place in McNally’s Cincinnati: Court One and Court Ten in the Club at Harper’s Point. With ten indoor hard courts and eight outdoor clay courts, Harper’s has been a premier tennis court not just in Cincinnati but in the entire Midwest for more than 40 years. Harper’s Point has always been the center of teenage tennis life.
McNally’s mother, Lynn Nabors McNally, trained at Harper’s Point for a long time and has an excellent tennis pedigree. Her mentors, who were inducted into the Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009, included local tennis greats 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, then attended ITF and WTA events for several years.
Lynn is the main reason her daughter developed a style of play that has its own place and time – barely seen today, reminiscent of yesterday and possibly dazzling for tomorrow. It is an all-court attack game that relies heavily on exceptional variety, be it on the net that includes serve and volley, slicing backhand, and forcing the action from all parts of the court.
“There aren’t many women who try to pressure their opponents this way,” said McNally’s older brother John, an All-American at Ohio State University.
“They don’t play players like them who have such full games,” said Serena Williams after taking three sets to beat McNally at last year’s US Open.
Williams, after meeting McNally online during the US Open last year. (Getty Images)
In the McNally household, there was a lot of talk about net strikers like Martina Navratilova and Stefan Edberg. Steve Contardi, tennis director and operational partner at Harper’s Point since 1977, recalls how Caty demonstrated a backhand volley at the age of five with the skills of a seasoned professional. Contardi says, “All she knew was that she had to move to the ball. That is rare. ”
Caty’s all-time favorite player is Roger Federer. While Caty admired Federer’s suppleness, Lynn made sure she knew the Swiss genius had studied, learned and practiced every possible shot. A pet phrase from Lynn Nabors McNally: “The better the better gets, the better the best gets, and the best never lets it rest.”
While the baseliner comes out of the box with the included batteries, Caty knows it will take longer to put the pieces and pieces together.
“It’s very special that I play another game,” she said. “It can be difficult sometimes.”
Kathy Rinaldi, US Fed Cup captain and USTA women’s tennis director, visited McNally in Cincinnati when Caty was 14 years old.
“You could see from a young age how much she was enjoying playing,” said Rinaldi. “She enjoyed being on the pitch so much.”
And yet, as ambitious as McNally is, she stays grounded.
“She’s a normal child,” said Contardi. “She’s going to come back from a trip, hang out with the younger players for a while, and then see Serena Williams play on TV. Just great. “
The club at Harper’s Point can be seen in this photo drawn by a young McNally: “When I grow up, I want to be a professional tennis player.” (Lynn Nabors McNally)
Of course, as much as McNally loves Cincinnati, she had no idea she was going to be there for four months in a row this year. Although Harper’s Point was temporarily closed, McNally’s grandparents’ house had a tennis court. During this time on site, she and John exercised full of energy every day, often for up to two hours.
Over hills and on the track, McNally worked extensively with her six-year-old trainer, Lisa Lakes. Back at the gym, strength training came into play.
During the pandemic, working across borders became even more important.
“My mom kept reminding us that the goal should be to get in the best shape possible,” said McNally. “I’ve done most of my running in my life.
“It definitely showed me a whole different side of the world,” added McNally of the pandemic. “It is not always easy to lock yourself in and be in your house. It showed me that you have to have a positive attitude. “
In conversation, McNally is reserved, thoughtful, but gentle and reserved. But turn on the clock, start counting and competing, and its intensity increases significantly. Once upon a time, the entire McNally family – Caty, Lynn, Brother John, and Father John – played pretty spirited doubles at Harper’s every Sunday night.
“Caty is lively,” said her brother. “She will never back down.”
How competitive is McNally? Those who know her tell stories of their eagerness to compete, be it in early childhood in kickball, dodgeball and four-square. When asked what she would be without tennis, McNally sees herself as a basketball player, a game she often wanted to “adopt” as a child. Another testimony to McNally’s love of the sport came this spring when she devoured the All-American show, which focuses on a high school soccer player, in less than two days. When McNally isn’t playing tennis on tour, she loves playing all kinds of games with her traveling coach, Kevin O’Neill, almost always for small stakes.
O’Neill, a longtime coach who wrote for both Clemson and Pepperdine, is a good fit with Team McNally. He and Lynn have known each other for years, until the days when each worked with another promising all-court player, Alexa Glatch.
“He sees the game a lot like me,” said Lynn.
McNally, all adults, at the 2020 Australian Open. (Getty Images)
An important premise of McNally’s style is that it is just more fun than just settling on the baseline.
“The game comes from the player’s imagination, so you let it come out of you,” said O’Neill. “Lynn understands that and they see it all long term. There are no good wins and no bad losses. You are taking confidence out of your game. It’s the fun of playing that counts. ”
Rinaldi said, “She was very creative at a young age.”
McNally looks forward to returning to the US Open.
“It’s been a great couple of weeks,” she says of her experience in New York in 2019. It started with a win in the opening round against crafty veteran Timea Bacsinszky. Next came an unforgettable moment, a prime time match at Arthur Ashe Stadium against Serena. McNally showed the full range of all-court tactics, taking the first set 7-5. Although she lost the next two 6-3, 6-1, she had revealed the possibility of future greatness.
“I was definitely nervous,” says McNally. “But I think I behaved well. That’s huge when you can play against a big opponent. Hopefully I can build on this experience. “
In addition to her solo efforts, McNally’s double partnership with Coco Gauff has impressed the world, including dedicated runs in the last two slams as “Team McCoco”.
“We get along so well,” says McNally. We complement each other. We plan to play every single event together. ”
O’Neill likes that thought and says, “Doubles are great – more chances to play, compete, practice.”
While Court One and Court Ten McNally’s main practice courts are at Harper’s Point, perhaps the most significant point of all was Court 6. This was the location of a backboard where Caty, then every three years old, would strike for 20 minutes to an hour each. John loved this place too. In honor of all the work the two did on this backboard, it was recently dubbed “The McNally Rally Wall”.
It is believed that this is just one place Caty McNally will leave her name on.
The 2020 Class is now available on TENNIS.com and Baseline.
Monday July 27th: Sofia Kenin | Monday July 27: Elena Rybakina | Monday, July 27th: Alex de Minaur, Dayana Yastremska, Casper Ruud | Tuesday, July 28th: Stefanos Tsitsipas | Tuesday, July 28th: Thiago Seyboth Wild | Wednesday July 29th: Amanda Anisimova | Wednesday July 29th: Brandon Nakashima | Thursday, July 30th: Coco Gauff | Thursday July 30th: Caty McNally | Thursday, July 30th: Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek | Friday, July 31: Felix Auger-Aliassime | Friday July 31: Carlos Alcaraz | Saturday 1st August: Denis Shapovalov | Saturday, August 1st: JJ Wolf | Sunday, August 2nd: Bianca Andreescu | Sunday August 2nd: Leylah Fernandez | Sunday August 2nd: Marketa Vondrousova, Miomir Kecmanovic