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September 13, 1991 - Image 43

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SPORTS

Seth Hoffman Gets Serious

Farmington Hills' phenom
puts his game, life
in perspective.

MIKE ROSENBAUM

Special to The Jewish News

S

eth Hoffman first saw
his name on a list of
the top ten U.S. junior
tennis players at age 12,
when he was ranked tenth in
his age group. Always an all-
around athlete, Hoffman
knew it was time to concen-
trate on tennis.
Since then, Hoffman has
continued the string of
achievement. In two years of
14-and-under play, Hoffman
was ranked in the top ten,
won a bronze medal in
doubles at the 1988 JCC
North American Maccabi
Youth Games and reached
his first national tourna-

"Seth's a very
emotional young
man. He's not going
to win a lot of
sportsmanship
awards."

Armand Molino

ment finals, the 1989 14-
and-under National Indoor
Championships. In 16-and-
under competition, he's won
two national titles and is
ranked second in the U.S..
In July, the eighth-seeded
Hoffman beat Eddie Jacques
in the National Clay Court
Championships, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
For Hoffman, now 16, the
victory moved him into the
elite strata of U.S. junior
tennis.
"He is, without question,
one of the brightest stars on
the horizon for American
tennis, for the juniors," said
Armand Molino, Hoffman's
coach.
Following his clay court
victory, Hoffman competed
in the Boys 16-and-under
National Championship in

Kalamazoo this August. He
was seeded second in that
event, which is the most im-
portant junior tournament.
Hoffman reached the semi-
finals before losing to even-
tual champion J.J. Jackson,
7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
In the past year, Hoffman
has developed his overall
game, said Molino. "I think
he's significantly better at
this point. Last year I
couldn't say he was one of
the top five juniors. I think
it's safe to say that now."
Always a strong baseline
player, the 6'1" Hoffman has
now added a serve-and-
volley game to his reper-
toire. "I usually close out
most of the points at net," he
said. "When I'm winning big
matches it's because I'm
winning the points at the net
and not the baseline."
Molino agrees. "He's much
more willing to serve and
volley in crucial situations."
The net game, says
Molino, is where "we put a
lot of emphasis. I think that
he was, for a period of time,
hesitant to go to the net.
Now he's able to finish
points. Seth's game is now
well-rounded and he'll be
adept at playing on any sur-
face."
But Hoffman's serve-and-
volley isn't the only thing
he's improved recently. Be-
cause of Molino's prodding,
Hoffman has worked on his
on-court demeanor.
"Seth's a very emotional
young man," Molino said.
"He's not going to win a lot
of sportsmanship awards."
Molino was one of Hoff-
man's regular coaches, but
two years ago, they parted
ways because, in Molino's
words, "I wasn't going to put
up with some of his garbage
on the court." Then, last
summer, Hoffman asked his
old coach to take him back.

"I think he's improved,"
Molino said. "I'm not saying
he's a saint on the court, but
he's in control." Hoffman's
volatile on-court personality
can be a plus, Molino said,
"if he channels it in the
right direction."
Hoffman sometimes
channels that energy into
other pursuits, as well. He
takes at least one month
away from his heavy practic-
ing each year. At last year's
Maccabi Games in Detroit,
Hoffman chose to play
basketball rather than
tennis, just to get away from
the pressures of world class
tournament play. He will
play in the world Maccabiah
Games in Israel if the timing
is right.
The most difficult part of
constantly playing, he said,
is missing out on events
back home. "It's hard be-
cause when you call home
and talk to one of your
friends and hear about all
the stuff that's going on, you
wish you were there. But
then you realize that tennis
is a chance to get away from
the everyday life."
Molino is optimistic about
Hoffman's ability to take the
heat of world class tennis.

"Seth likes the attention,"
he said. "He's a confident
young man. All the great
champions have strong per-
sonalities and strong egos. It
works to benefit him."
Fear of burnout is one of
Hoffman's chief reasons to
take time away from the
tennis court. Many young
tennis phenoms later regret
losing their teen-age mile-
stones to tennis. Hoffman
is aware of, the danger,
but remains committed.
Although he enjoys his
breaks away from the game,
he says "tennis comes first
before anything. Everything
else comes behind."
"If I have to make the
sacrifice, I will, because I'd
rather win Wimbledon than
go to the prom," he said.
Winning Wimbledon, of
course, is no sure thing at
this stage. But Hoffman
looks forward to a pro career
within six years. Molino,
meanwhile, feels Hoffman
can only go up.
"He's blessed with a lot of
physical talent. But that tal-
ent needs to be developed.
He's just scratched the sur-
face of his potential."
But can Hoffman be a suc-
cessful pro? "I think if Seth

Hoffman catches some
instruction from Coach
Armand Molino.

puts everything together,
continues to work on his
game, does what he needs to
do in school — I don't see
why he can't be a world-class
tennis player and compete at
a world-class level. The next
few steps are the most
difficult."
For now, Hoffman will at-
tend North Farmington
High School in the fall. Seth
is thinking of attending a
Florida tennis academy star-
ting in January. In the
meantime, he will be train-
ing locally, with two Mich-
igan tennis pros. The key,
Molino said, is that Hoff-
man's game should not
stagnate, adding, "you want
him to continue to be
challenged on the court."
Molino seems happy with
Seth's growth so far. But is
Seth happy? By all ap-
pearances, the answer is yes.
"Yeah, it's going good
right now," he said. "And
it's worth all the hard work
I've put in. I couldn't ask for
anything more right
now." ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

43

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