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Sage makes it 'chulísma'

Special Summer Training

Tennis players from Spain are enjoying 'unbelievable' experience with Lightning team during summer training.

August 11, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — Elisa Martinez Garcia turned 14 years old Thursday, and she celebrated that birthday with two distinct groups of friends.

There are the other four young tennis players from Spain, with whom Garcia traveled to Newport Beach.

Then there is the Sage Hill School tennis program. Some of those players were on hand to sing Garcia "Happy Birthday" as well at The Tennis Club Newport Beach, and there was a birthday cake.

It's the first time Garcia has been to the United States. She doesn't speak much English, but she needed just one word in Spanish to describe her trip to California so far.

"Chulísima," Garcia said, which loosely translates to "unbelievable" or "really cool."

The Sage Hill summer tennis training has been cool. The Lightning have played host to Garcia and the rest of the Spanish contingent. They came over with Pascual Maroto, director of the Tahoe Tennis Academy of Mallorca, Spain. Mallorca may sound familiar — it's the area where world No. 2 tennis player Rafael Nadal is from.

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"He's from a village called Manacor, very close to us," Maroto said. "As a kid, 12-and-under, he played my tournament, but he got good after 14. He started winning local tournaments and the Spanish LTA [Lawn Tennis Assn.] invited him to Barcelona. He became good and began to go out of Spain to other countries to play."

Maroto is a member of the LTA in Mallorca. He has traveled around the world as a tennis coach. Yet he was at home when he met Newport Beach resident John Fowler, who Sage tennis coach A.G. Longoria said is a former officer in the Navy.

"[Fowler] was stationed in Mallorca," Longoria said. "When the carrier was in port, he would go over to the club and play. [Fowler and Maroto] got to be very, very good friends."

Longoria heard about the academy in Mallorca and saw a good opportunity for his Lightning to train with the Spanish contingent. They've been training together this week at The Tennis Club, from 1-3 p.m. and also from 5-7 p.m., and will continue next week. They've been doing drills and playing singles and doubles sets. The Spanish players have also been playing sets against members of the Dent Tennis Academy. On Thursday, Andrea Garcia Fernandez played a set against Jacqueline Pelletier of Huntington Beach.

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