Phenom on fire Maria Sanchez has withdrawn from this weekend’s USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs in Norcross, Georgia. Though no reason was given for the withdrawal by the USTA, Atlanta media maven Rick Limpert, the “Tech of Sports”, indicated that she suffered from a knee tendonitis flare up. Limpert interviewed her last week in anticipation of Sanchez playing the event.
In comes Georgia native Grace Min, who claims the 8 seed for a second straight year. Last year, she was double-bageled by Alison Riske in the opening round. A year wiser, we’re certain to find improvements in her result. She opens against top seed Julia Cohen on Friday at 10:00 a.m. on Court 2.
THURSDAY IS ‘GAMEDAY’ AT THE USTA TENNIS CLASSIC OF TROY
By Rick Limpert
TROY, Ala., (Oct 11, 2012) – On a college campus, there is no more important day to students, alumni and fans than “gameday.”
With a Thursday night football game against Western Kentucky on the Troy University campus, the vibe carried over to the Lundsford Tennis Complex as it became “gameday” in a tennis sense with all 12 second round matches taking place in both singles and doubles at the USTA Tennis Classic of Troy.
To honor the “gameday” theme in Troy, the Troy University Cheerleaders and T-Roy, the mascot, paid a visit to the tennis complex and met with players, fans and officials.
The day started with an interesting matchup between top-seeded Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal and rising American Lena Litvak.
Larcher De Brito showed why she’s a top-100 player, moving Litvak around the court and pounding forehands for winners on the crucial points.
Larcher De Brito prevailed 6-4, 6-2, but she said it wasn’t easy.
“My forehand has always been my strongest side. She made me hit a lot of “inside-outs” and work the points to win them,” summarized a happy Larcher De Brito.
The star from Portugal says she’s happy to be winning rounds in Troy. “I love it here,” she said. “Great atmosphere and I don’t mind playing here at all.”
“It’s about the points and I’m close to being in the main draw at the Australian (Open), so I’ll play whenever I can.”
She also said she’s excited about the possibility of attending the Troy University football game on Thursday night.
In a much-anticipated battle of young American stars, Grace Min had a little too much for one of the top junior players in the country, Brooke Austin.
Min made very few unforced errors and Austin appeared nervous throughout the one hour match as the Lawrenceville, Georgia resident Min took it 6-2, 6-2.
Min said she couldn’t remember ever playing Austin in a tournament before.
Next up for Min is Larcher De Brito. These two have split the two matches they’ve played in 2012.
“I’ve played her twice this year already, and she’s a great competitor,” explains Min. “I know I’m going to have to earn it.”
Second-seeded Edina Gallovits-Hall, a Romanian who lives in Atlanta, defeated Arina Rodionova.
Other singles winners included Chi Chi Scholl and Sharon Fichman.
One of the most watched matches of the afternoon was a doubles match between Troy University’s Hannah Toro and University of Virginia student-athlete Maci Epstein.
This college duo scored the biggest upset of the tournament when they defeated the second-seeded doubles team on Wednesday in three tough sets.
Unfortunately for the fans that showed up in the afternoon heat, the college kids fell to an experienced Russian pair in Rodionova and Angelina Gabueva 6-4, 6-2.
Thursday also marked the second kid’s clinic of the week and about 100 area kids took a field trip from school to hit some tennis balls with the professionals and then watch the tennis action.
“These kids are getting to see and meet players from all over the world,” explains tournament director and Troy University tennis coach Eric Hayes. “They get away from school, eat some lunch with us and they will remember this day.”
The “gameday” theme continued into the night as the tennis tournament provided tickets and a tailgate for players, coaches and officials to attend.
A ‘GRACEFUL’ VICTORY FOR MIN
By Rick Limpert
TROY, Ala., (Oct 10, 2012) – A rising American, a veteran Canadian player who was two years ago ranked No. 38 in the world, and chamber of commerce weather all made for a great match and a great day of tennis in Troy at the 10th annual USTA Tennis Classic of Troy.
With a mid afternoon start, American No. 5 seed Grace Min took on Rebecca Marino of Canada who is working her way back up the rankings after being out of tennis for about a year.
Min started quickly and relied on footwork that would make her a contender on “Dancing With the Stars.” Marino countered with an aggressive forehand that kept Min off-balance.
The first set went to a tie break and Min capitalized on Marino errors to take it 7-5.
Min’s momentum carried into the second set as she grabbed an early break and then held serve the rest of the way to take the second set 6-4.
Min seemed relieved to win her first round against a more experienced and dangerous opponent.
“She hits a big ball and either hits a winner or misses,” Min said of Marino. “Just getting the ball back one more time is key.”
In other matches, second-seeded Edina Gallovits-Hall a Romanian who lives in Atlanta defeated Pila Soumalainen of Finland 6-4, 6-3 and Arina Rodionova of Russia defeated Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran of Bolivia 6-3, 6-1.
Rodionova says she appreciates what this tournament means to the players and the community.
“Well, honestly with me, I’d prefer to play in a bigger city, but this is a nice town and I’m enjoying the city, the courts and the facility.”
Former University of Tennessee player Natalie Pluskota, who won three matches in qualifying, continued her winning ways with a three-set win over Lenka Wienerova.
Thursday’s match to keep an eye on will be an encounter between two WTA Tour veterans in Gallovits-Hall and Rodionova. Although these two know each other very well off the court, they have never played in a USTA Pro Circuit or WTA Tour level tournament.
“I’ve known her for a long time,” admitted Rodionova. “She’s been a top-100 player for quite a few years now, so we’ll see how it goes.”
In a big upset in the doubles, Troy University player Hannah Toro and her partner, Maci Epstein defeated the No. seeded duo of Maria Abramovic and Lenka Wienerova 4-6, 6-4, 10-6.
Starting at 10:00 WS Edina GALLOVITS-HALL (ROU)  Piia SUOMALAINEN (FIN) 6-4 6-3
Starting at 10:00 WS Arina RODIONOVA (RUS) Maria-Fernanda ALVAREZ-TERAN (BOL) 6-3 6-1
Starting at 10:00 WS Natalie PLUSKOTA (USA) Lenka WIENEROVA (SVK) 3-6 6-1 6-3
Starting at 10:00 WS Jelena PANDZIC (CRO) Caitlin WHORISKEY (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-2
Followed by WS Sharon FICHMAN (CAN)  Anamika BHARGAVA (USA) 6-0 6-3
Followed by WS Chi Chi SCHOLL (USA)  Maria-Fernanda ALVES (BRA) 6-1 2-6 6-1
Followed by WS Chalena SCHOLL (USA) Isabella ROBBIANI (PAR) 6-2 6-1
Followed by WS Adriana PEREZ (VEN)  Chieh-Yu HSU (USA) 4-6 6-1 6-2
Followed by WS Grace MIN (USA)  Rebecca MARINO (CAN) 7-6(2) 6-4
Followed by WS Sachia VICKERY (USA) Lauren ALBANESE (USA) 6-0 6-1
Followed by WD Angelina GABUEVA (RUS) / Arina RODIONOVA (RUS) Sarah BORWELL (GBR) / Sonja MOLNAR (CAN) 6-4 6-2
Followed by WS Ulrikke EIKERI (NOR) Vojislava LUKIC (SRB) 7-6(7) 6-2
Followed by WD Sharon FICHMAN (CAN) / Marie-Eve PELLETIER (CAN)  Nicola SLATER (GBR) / Caitlin WHORISKEY (USA) 6-3 6-3
Followed by WD Maci EPSTEIN (USA) / Hannah TORO (GBR) Maria ABRAMOVIC (CRO)  / Lenka WIENEROVA (SVK) 4-6 6-4 [10-6]
Jessica Pegula, Grace Min, Shelby Rogers and Maria Sanchez granted Qualifying Wild Cards in Charleston
Jessica Pegula (#283), Grace Min (#292), Maria Sanchez (#383) and Charleston native Shelby Rogers (#446) have been granted Qualifying Wild Cards to the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina next Saturday, according to the tournament’s website. They join 16 year old join Hayley Carter (#941) and a further wild card yet to be awarded. Details to follow as they become available.
Top seeds Coco Vandeweghe and Alison Riske won with relative ease today, while Madison Keys upset world #141 Jamie Hampton and Gail Brodsky knocked out local favorite Melanie Oudin at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia in Australian Open Wild Card Playoff Quarterfinals matches.
Keys, who was also the #6 seed en route to winning the US Open Wild Card Playoffs in College Park, Maryland over the summer, struggled in the first before edging Hampton 3-6, 6-4, 9-7. That’s 9 games to 7, as no tiebreak is played and the matches are considered Grand Slam qualifiers. Vandeweghe recorded 5 aces in a row en route to a 6-4, 6-4 win over upstart Taylor Townsend. Brooklyn’s Gail Brodsky outlasted Melanie Oudin 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, finishing Oudin’s mediocre season on a sour note. Second seeded Alison Riske had the easiest match of the day by far in double bageling Grace Min.
Taylor Townsend was gracious in defeat and her attitude will win her support going forward. She claimed that she had not even read the USA Today article about her.
Attendance was impressive, especially for an opening round. The sea of fans was in stark contrast to the College Park event, making one wonder if Atlanta might indeed be America’s tennis town. There were unconfirmed reports that tickets are almost sold out for the remainder of the weekend. With the exit of Oudin, Hampton, Townsend and Min, no women with connections to Georgia or Racquet Club of the South are left in the event. Speaking of Georgia connections, Irina Falconi was everywhere today. She stayed for every match and must have posed for 500 photographs with fans. She took a little time to hit when there was a break in the action. It was a perfect chance to test the slow motion video option on the camera. It’s dark. Not Edgar Allen Poe or Morrissey dark, but it should be more interesting during outdoor court season.
|1. Bobby Reynolds (127)|
|8. Rhyne Williams (511)|||||
|4. Robby Ginepri (318)|||||
|5. Steve Johnson (369)|||||
|3. Denis Kudla (275)|||||
|6. Jack Sock (380)|||||
|2. Jesse Levine (164)|||||
|7. Daniel Kosakowski (410)|||||
|1. CoCo Vandeweghe (127)|
|8. Taylor Townsend (432)|||||
|4. Melanie Oudin (164)|||||
|5. Gail Brodsky (227)|||||
|3. Jamie Hampton (141)|||||
|6. Madison Keys (270)|||||
|2. Alison Riske (135)|||||
|7. Grace Min (352)|||||
On Thursday, we had a great conversation with the First Mother of American Tennis, Patricia Jensen, who is also serving as Director of tournament operations for the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs in Norcross, Georgia next weekend. When we learned that Jensen raised four children who played professional tennis at some point in their lives, doubling our guess, it became clear that she is easily up to the task of organizing a national event with international implications.
Jensen confirmed that USTA Director of Player Development Patrick McEnroe will once again be playing in the WTT Exhibition match on Friday night, and although Courier is not 100% confirmed to play as of the date of the interview, the tournament will set up separate cheering sections for each player. They’re even bringing in the Master of Ceremonies from the Kansas City Explorers and a US Marines Color Guard with US and Australian flags. Finally, there will be the singing of both national anthems to open the ceremonies on Saturday night.
The Player party on Friday night is sponsored and inspired by Outback Steakhouse, and will include decorating the entire banquet room in Aussie flair complete with didgeridoos. Only Australian wines will be served at the event. Unfortunately, Foster’s and Cooper’s will not be served due to other brewer commitments.
The Australian theme is pervasive, and could include kangaroos again on display during kid’s day activities on Saturday. Kid’s day activities are Jensen’s personal favorites. “Last year, we did as much as we could to create a virtual experience in Australia”. An entire ‘Down Under Village’ is once again under construction, and consultation and items will again be provided by the Australian Embassy in Washington and the Australian Business Consulate in Atlanta to authenticize the event.
The Racquet Club of the South will also be the first location outside of Australia to purchase official 2012 Australian Open commemorative posters, It’s a great gift for a tennis fan.
Jensen readily made her case when asked if Atlanta was the “best tennis town” in the United States. “We are the world capital of tennis”, she declared, and noting that Atlanta didn’t even enter itself into the 2010 nationwide contest. Without campaigning, it came in second to Charleston, S.C. “Atlanta has 12 different competitive leagues, 125,000 recreational players and a magazine distribution of 87,000. ALTA is very competitive with the USTA.” It appears the USTA also knows there’s tennis gold in those Georgia hills.
Jensen was diplomatic when asked who would get the biggest cheers at Racquet Club of the South next weekend. Jamie Hampton used to drive from Birmingham, Alabama every day to train at RCS. Although Melanie Oudin may train in Boca Raton as of late, “she will always be from Marietta”. On the men’s side, she expects crowd support for Bobby Reynolds, but notes that “Atlanta loves Jesse Levine and fell in love with Robby Ginepri”.
Though Tennis Maryland won’t be in Norcross until Thursday, there will be interview opportunities with Irina Falconi and Donald Young on Wednesday, with a possible hit with Young and the press. We are truly crushed. If you’re weren’t already, we bet you wish you were going to the Wild Card Playoffs now.
Ten days from today, one lucky American woman in Norcross, Georgia will land herself a trip down under. The USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs features up-and-comers on both the men’s and women’s sides at the Racquet Club of the South outside Atlanta from December 16-18. We’ll break down the women’s field today and feature the men next week. All seeds are based upon the current field and their USTA ranking of November 28.
#1 Coco Vandeweghe: The twenty year old Vandeweghe, ranked #122 internationally, has played in 25 events this year and reached her career high of World #89 in April. Even with an 18-25 singles record, she was able to appear at all 4 Grand Slam main draws and reach the second round at Flushing Meadows. She is an AO Wild Card former finalist and champion. Last year, as a quarterfinalist at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, she knocked off Julia Georges, Tathiana Garbin, Jarmilla Gajdosova, Klara Zakopalova, and Aravane Rezai IN THE SAME WEEK! Vandeweghe, the 2008 US Open girls’ singles champion, is definitely a strong favorite. Her expected first round opponent would be Taylor Townsend. And yes, we believe Vandeweghe will the tallest competitor in the field at 6’1″.
#2 Alison Riske, a Tennis Maryland favorite, has had a very busy 2011 with a respectable 35-27 singles in 29 events. She is tied with Oudin for the most 2011 appearances of any player in the field and showed up at the main draw of every Grand Slam except Roland Garros this year. Currently the world #135, her expected first round opponent would be Grace Min.
#3 Jamie Hampton: Currently the world #141, Hampton has a middling 26-24 singles record this year, having played in the main draw of the Australian and US Opens this year. She could face Madison Keys in the first round. Unbelievably, Hampton is the ‘oldest’ player in the field, meaning that she will turn the ungodly age of 22 between the Playoffs and the Australian Open. She also trains in Marietta and can be considered a local at the event.
#4 The Melanie Oudin: Marietta native Oudin is clearly going to be a crowd favorite as the darling of the host facility where she trains and former darling of the entire nation in 2009. At #164, she probably wishes she didn’t have to pull a play-in to the Australian Open after sitting pretty at #31 less than 18 months ago. Though she’s composed a 10-33 singles record in 2011, she has played a lot of tennis in 29 events. She may face Gail Brodsky in the first round quarterfinals.
#5 Gail Brodsky: Brooklyn’s Brodsky brings an impressive 42-22 year-to-date singles record to the Playoffs. Her world ranking of #227 may be deceptive given her run this year. She would likely face Melanie Oudin in the opener, which could be the best Friday match-up on the women’s side.
#6 Madison Keys (#270): With only 9 events behind her in 2011, the 16 year old excited tennis fandom with a first round victory at the US Open while being ranked #455. She is the current defending Wild Card Champion, having plowed through the field at the US Open Playoffs in College Park, Maryland in August. Keys is likely to face Jamie Hampton in the opener.
#7 Grace Min (#352): At 17, Atlanta native and local fave Grace Min would like to be the next Madison Keys in terms of a run into the main draw. She boasts a 2-1 record over Keys in 2011 and has competed in 9 events this year. She won the US Open Girl’s singles championship in September after taking the Wimbledon Girl’s Doubles title earlier this year. Min would probably take on the #2 seed Alison Riske.
#8 Taylor Townsend: 16 year old Stockbridge, GA resident Townsend is the only southpaw in the field. At #432, we admit that this is all we know about her: 1) she will likely face #1 seed Vandeweghe, 2) she was coached by Donald Young, Sr. and 3) Richard Williams thinks “she’ll be beating a hell of a lot of people.” She is currently competing in the third round at Orange Bowl 18s as the #16 seed.
Like the top 30, the Women’s Wild Card field is equally competitive and probably just as topsy-turvy. The players in this field haven’t met as often as one might initially surmise. While Grace Min and Madison Keys have played each other three times this year (with Min winning twice), no other players have that much head-to-head experience in 2011. Melanie Oudin, although posting only 10 wins in 43 singles matches this year, is 4-0 against the field, having defeated Hampton twice and Riske and Brodsky once.
Min, Townsend, Oudin and even locally-trained Hampton will have large local cheering contingents, but no one will get more crowd support than Melanie. Madison Keys recent emergence makes her a very strong threat to the five higher-ranked players above her. And Vandeweghe, Riske and Hampton could be considered #1 co-seeds.
Tennis Maryland is going to go with Oudin or Vandeweghe based on expreience to win for the automatic main draw berth but a team effort by Riske, Brodsky, Hampton and Keys will force it to stay intensely interesting. We’re predicting close matches, especially Hampton/Keys and Oudin/Brodsky in the Friday openers.
Tennis Maryland is thrilled to be able to be on location during the Playoffs to provide you with live twitter coverage of all matches of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, all well as press conference video and interviews with key players throughout the event. Live coverage will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, December 16. If you can make it to Racquet Club of the South, tickets are reasonably priced, available at australianwildcard.com and linked here. There’s a reason they call it wild, because anything can happen.
Most recent case and point: #6 seed Madison Keys, with the same seeding at Racquet Club of the South and at the Tennis Center at College Park in August.
Tennis Maryland had so much fun at the US Open Wild Card Playoffs at the Tennis Center in College Park in August that we are very intrigued about the 3rd annual USTA-sponsored Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia, part of a reciprocal international pact on these things. One American man and woman from the playoffs will automatically advance to the main draw of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January.
The most exciting and intimate tennis event and the USTA’s finest platform for dedicated fans, the playoffs offer a genuine chance for fans to see the future and the future-of-the-future American upstarts, as witnessed by Tennis Marylanders in College Park in August at the US Open Wild Card Playoffs. It is the closest thing to VIP-style access that the average fan can experience without going into debt. And, most importantly, you’ll have bragging rights that you saw them when.
Racquet Club of the South is hosting 16 players, at least 12 or more who can genuinely be considered true upstarts.
We are pleased to announce that we will be there for you. Expect interviews, live twitter coverage of every match, frequent website updates, photos, and video press conference coverage beginning on December 16, with first matches (quarterfinals!) beginning at 10 am all the way through the Finals on Sunday afternoon. If there is any player you want us to cover (even for your website), drop us a line at TennisMaryland@gmail.com.
We’ll also provide coverage of Jim Courier and Patrick McEnroe leading a WTT exhibition and a player’s party taking place Friday night along with kid’s day events on Saturday. We’re sorry that we won’t be able to see the sights of Atlanta, but this is one compact weekend tournament–about 56 hours.
For tix and info, visit www.australianwildcard.com or just click on the promotional banner at the top of the post.