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Clearwater's Catlin one of NCAA's best

Georgia women's tennis coach Jeff Wallace knew when he recruited Marissa Catlin that she had so much potential she might not stay with the Bulldogs four years.

Now in her second year, she is still there, but it's looking less and less likely that she'll be there much longer. Catlin, former junior circuit star from Clearwater, recently became the top-ranked singles player in the NCAA and is expected to take over the top spot in doubles when the new rankings are released next month.

This season Catlin is 37-4 in singles, 23-2 against ranked players. In doubles, she and partner Vanessa Castellano are 24-4 overall, 17-4 against ranked teams, which includes two wins over the highly touted Florida tandem of Stephanie Nickitas and Dawn Buth.

Catlin recently was named first-team All-SEC in singles and doubles, the conference tournament MVP and the conference Player of the Year. Last year she became just the second freshman in school history to be named an All-American in singles and doubles.

"When I recruited her, I knew she had the potential to become one of the best players in all of college tennis," Wallace said. "Marissa works extremely hard every day. She's the kind of kid that brings her hard hat and lunch pail to practice."

Catlin is playing so well she might just play herself onto the pro tour. She hasn't made any decisions yet, but the NCAA Championships, May 21-29 in South Bend, Ind., probably will make her decision for her. If she wins the title, she might turn pro.

The person most likely to stop her is Alabama-Birmingham's Mirela Vladulescu. Ranked second, Vladulescu won their only encounter this season, 6-1, 6-1, in October.

Wallace, however, is convinced Catlin has pro potential regardless of how she does in the NCAAs.

"I believe in Marissa and I believe in her dreams of playing professional tennis," Wallace said. "And I believe that dream will come true one day."

That, however, would leave a huge hole in the Georgia tennis team, but Wallace said, "If she's ready to go, then go."

TRIVIA QUESTION: Jim Courier defeated Michael Chang in the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Orlando on Sunday. Who leads their head-to-head series?

WHO'S NO. 1?: If you've been trying to keep up with "As The No. 1 Ranking Turns," this week Petr Korda stands a chance to overtake Pete Sampras, who just regained the top spot from Marcelo Rios, who took it from Sampras.

Korda, ranked second, trails Sampras by 133 points. To unseat the Tampa pro, Korda has to win the title in Prague and collect enough bonus points, and hope Sampras loses early in Atlanta.

By the way, Rios, who dropped to No. 3 this week, still is nursing an injured elbow. He better hope it heals fast because he could slip even farther in the rankings if he isn't able to play in the Italian Open, which would cost him the 326 rankings points he earned by reaching the final last year.

DID YOU KNOW?: With his win in Orlando, Courier climbed to No. 39. Chang dipped to No. 16.

TRIVIA ANSWER: It's tied at 11.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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