Wilson Launches Ultra Aces Program to Benefit USTA Foundation

Ultra Aces

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I wanted to let you know about a very cool initiative from Wilson that’s continuing through the US Open Singles events this year.

In conjunction with the 2017 US Open Tournament, Wilson Sporting Goods Co., has partnered with the USTA Foundation to launch the “Ultra Aces” program to help fuel the Foundation’s efforts to grow the game of tennis in the U.S. The program has been created to demonstrate the powerful difference the tennis community can make when it works together to make the sport more accessible.

PROGRAM FACTS:

  • The “Ultra Aces” program will kick off with the first round of the 2017 US Open Tournament and will conclude following the Men’s and Women’s Singles championship matches.
  • For every ace recorded by a Wilson-sponsored Men’s and Women’s Singles player that takes the court with the brand’s new 2017 Ultra high performance tennis racket, Wilson will donate $200 and a new Ultra Racket directly to the USTA Foundation.
  • Wilson and the USTA Foundation will direct all donated funds generated by this program towards rebuilding tennis in the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Donated rackets will go towards the Foundation’s Excellence Team Program, which empowers under-resourced youth interested in playing tennis at a high performance level throughout the U.S.
  • Official social hashtag of the program is #TogetherWeArePowerful.
  • The 2017 Ultra performance tennis racket line is designed for singles and doubles players who seek a racket that can provide effortless power on every shot, while enhancing the effectiveness of their play.

You can follow the “Ultra Aces” program on social media through Wilson Tennis and the USTA Foundation profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @WilsonTennis and @usta (on each social media network).

The program is off to a great start, despite the almost-total rainout on Day 2! Wilson is tweeting daily updates, and I saw this yesterday morning:

Ultra Aces

After yesterday’s 87 singles matches (!), I suspect that “50” will be a much bigger number once Wilson reports its update today!

While this current initiative is seated in philanthropy, I would be remiss if I didn’t Ultramention that I’ve been playing with the new Wilson Ultra racquet for the past 6 weeks or so, and I LOVE it!  “Our 2017 Ultra line is by far the most comprehensive and versatile collection we’ve created to date, said Hans-Martin Reh, General Manager of Wilson Racquet Sports. “We have high expectations for this racket as it delivers on what we have heard from a wide range of professional, avid and amateur players – ‘I want more power without losing feel’. Ultra reflects a unique blend of modern design and novel technologies that expand the hottest part of the racket’s sweetspot by 15 percent. This translates into a racket that gives more power and force where and when it is needed while enhancing feel.”

Now, I’m just a 4.5 player – certainly no Madison Keys or Gael Monfils (!) – but I can absolutely feel the difference in the amount of power and control I get with this new stick. And the new paint job is pretty slick, too: navy and bright blue accent colors, matte finishes, and velvety paint make the Ultra look and feel amazing!

In its release on the new racquet, Wilson tells us that the 2017 Ultra line has been designed to enhance the performance of a wide range of players. It consists of six models: the Ultra 100 Countervail® (CV), Ultra 100L, Ultra 100UL, Ultra 105S CV, Ultra 110 and Ultra Tour. Each model has been developed to reflect differences in athlete age, size, and ability, and varying head sizes, weights, technologies and string patterns allow players to select a model that is right for them based on their individual needs and style of play.

The Ultra 100L and Ultra 100UL are two maneuverable, lightweight options ideal for juniors and smaller adults. Each 2017 Ultra model is compatible with the brand’s X2 Ergo handle technology, which is a customizable handle shape for the top hand of two-handed backhands to create optimal feel for the modern two-hander. This provides players with more power, versatility and leverage.

And, even though Roger Federer isn’t using the new Ultra – he uses the Wilson Pro Staff – here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at how his racquets get strung during the US Open, courtesy of ESPN Sports – Enjoy!

An in-depth look at how Federer’s rackets get made – ESPN Video

 

 

Could This Work for Juniors?

boxI know y’all are sick and tired of hearing about my travels, but this past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a really unique college tournament at the University of Minnesota, and it got me thinking. . .

Here’s how the tournament worked: Colleges entered pairs of players who were selected into a round-robin draw based on UTR. After a 5-minute warmup, each pair played one set of doubles against an opposing pair immediately followed by (aka no additional warmup) a regular singles match with the top-rated players in each pair competing against one another and the next-rated players competing against one another. They used no-ad scoring, played let serves, and played a 10-point tiebreaker for the 3rd set. The doubles and each singles match counted as one point, and the team winning 2 out of the 3 points moved on in the draw.

On the first day (Friday), the teams played 2 full rounds – 2 doubles matches and 2 singles matches for each player. On Saturday, they again played 2 full rounds. On Sunday, they played 1 full round, giving each player a total of 5 doubles and 5 singles matches over the course of the 3 days.img_7924

Wouldn’t this be a great format for junior tournaments as well? It would give juniors a chance to work on their doubles skills since they would be playing multiple doubles matches during the tournament regardless of outcome. It would also give them a chance to get in some quality singles as well. What if we use this format for future iterations of #TheSol? Would you and your junior player(s) be interested?

I would love to hear any feedback on the format and its use in the juniors. In my mind, it is a great way to run a junior tournament – you get players entering as a pair, so they have their partner there cheering them on throughout the event. All of the matches count equally toward UTR, so you’re less likely to have players pulling out if they lose their first or second match. Juniors can work on a variety of doubles skills and strategies since they’ll have multiple matches with the same partner regardless of the outcome. What am I missing? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.



 

Interviews at the US Open – Anita Schneider

Anita Schneider

 

Anita’s son, Ronnie, will be competing in the US Open Doubles as well as the Junior US Open Singles.  She shares her thoughts on the importance of college for young players:

Anita Schneider

Checking in and catching up!

hhir-ketchup-catch-upI feel like it’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted anything of substance here, so I’m going to attempt to do a little catching up.  It’s been a crazy few weeks with the end of school, my Big Trip (see TravelPod.com for my trip report and photos), our state qualifier, and our sectional closed.

First of all, I need to give a huge shout-out to Mark at Grand Slam Tennis Tours for getting us absolutely phenomenal tickets for the French Open!  If you are planning to go to any of the big pro tennis events, these folks are very reliable and very fun to work with – my first experience with them was at last year’s Indian Wells tournament, and I wound up sitting in the same row as Larry Ellison (just 2 sections over from him)!  Our seats at Roland Garros in the Chatrier stadium were great – we were in the 2nd row of the upper level at about the service line on the same side as the chair umpire.  We had a perfect view of the entire court plus some really fun folks sitting nearby.

Now, let me talk about the end of my kid’s school year – oy!  I think I’ve mentioned that my son views school as a necessary evil and simply tolerates being there each day.  I have come to accept the fact that he is a very different type of student than his sisters – they were always pretty self-motivated to perform at the highest level in school and continued to do so even in college.  My son, on the other hand, requires some “gentle” prodding as well as some external motivation to get the job done in terms of his grades.  After a lot of frustration on my part, I’ve come to accept that he will not be taking 4 AP classes each semester or striving to be part of the National Honor Society, and I’m okay with that.  He reached his goal of a 3.0 for this past semester but not without a ton of last-minute final exam stress, and I’m proud of him for meeting his goal.  Now, it’s summer vacation, so we all get a bit of a break from the daily worrying about school, thank goodness.

As soon as school finished, my husband and I left for Europe, so my son was home (with house-sitters) and training hard for our state qualifier in Macon.  I had arranged for his coach, Julius, to take him to the tournament, and I knew he was in great hands!  After a quality first-round victory in the main draw, my son lost an almost 3-hour 3-setter to a tough opponent and moved into the backdraw where he then faced his doubles partner.  They played the first set, which my son lost 6-4, then rain ended play for the remainder of the day.  The next morning in his warm-up, my son tweaked his shoulder and wound up having to serve underhanded for the 2nd set.  Despite that limitation (his serve is typically a big weapon), he managed to win 4 games but still lost the match 4 and 4.  Not the outcome he had expected or hoped for in this event.  Since the coaches had to stay at the tournament with the other players, my son snagged a ride home with a buddy and got to work preparing for our sectional closed in Mobile.

That’s where we’ve been for the past several days.  Down in Mobile in the extreme heat and humidity.  But, my son was prepared, physically and mentally, to do battle down there.  He had a tough but winnable first round match against a boy who will be playing for UNC-Asheville in the Fall.  They both fought hard, but my son went down 3 and 4 after about 2 hours.  His first backdraw match was tricky.  He had beaten the kid pretty handily earlier in the year and felt he could do the same this time.  My son won the first set quickly 6-0 but then went on what Darren Cahill calls a “walkabout” in the 2nd, barely holding on to take it 7-6 (7-2 in the tiebreaker).  That was it for Day 1, and we went back to the hotel for a shower and then grabbed dinner nearby.

The start of Day 2 went well with my son winning his next backdraw match 6-1, 6-1 pretty quickly against an opponent who is fairly inexperienced in sectional tournament play.  There was only one round of singles scheduled, but doubles started in the afternoon.  My son and his partner made quick work of their 2nd round opponents (they had a bye in the first round), winning 8-1.  Then, they faced a strong seeded pair from Atlanta and put up quite a fight before losing 8-4.  Since there is no backdraw in doubles, they were done.

Day 3 was Round 3 of the backdraw, and my son’s opponent was a friend from Atlanta who he hasn’t played since the 14s.  He knew he was in for a tough one, especially since his opponent had been playing so well going into this tournament.  They both started out pretty rough, breaking each other for most of the first set until the opponent held then broke my son’s serve to close it out 6-3.  The second set started the same way, with numerous breaks of serve.  My son got down 5-2 but found a way to get back to 5-4 before being broken in the final game.  It was a tough loss for him, for sure, and the ride home from Mobile was very quiet.

Now we’re back home and trying to figure out how my son will spend the rest of his summer, tennis-wise.  There have been some major changes at the academy where he trains and lots of rumors flying around the tournament scene about exactly what happened.  All I know is that his coach, Julius, is still there and still committed to working with him, so, for that, I am very grateful!

 

How ITF Junior Tournaments Work

Just when I thought I had the USTA tournament thing finally figured out, my kid decided he wanted to try playing some ITF events.  And, after reading the current ITF Junior Regulations and searching all over the Web for information and coming up pretty much empty-handed, I started asking questions of those with way more knowledge than I have so I could understand how the ITF process works.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far about ITF events held in the US:

  • You must be between the ages of 13-18 to play in an ITF Junior tournament. You may enter a tournament starting at age 12 years 11 months, however.  Unlike USTA which uses the player’s birth month to determine age and eligibility, the ITF uses the calendar year.  For the 2012 ITF season, for example, players must be born between January 1, 1994, and December 31, 1999.
  • Before you can sign up for an ITF Junior Tournament, you have to get an iPin number.  Plan ahead as it can take a day or two for you to get the actual number.  All requests are authorized within 24 hours Monday-Friday.  You cannot enter a tournament without this number.
  • Most ITF Junior events have a qualifying draw that plays the Saturday and Sunday before the Main Draw starts on Monday.  Usually, a player has to win 3 rounds in Qualies to get into the Main Draw, but that can vary according to draw size.  The Main Draw is typically scheduled to play Monday through Sunday.
  • There are Singles and Doubles events in all tournaments.  You can sign up for the Doubles once you arrive.  Even if you don’t get through the Qualies, there may still be an opening for you to play Doubles – you’ll need to check with the tournament officials.
  • It is very important that players and parents check the tournament Fact Sheet for information regarding sign-in dates, locations, and times.  There is a do-or-die sign in deadline for the Qualies and the Main Draw, typically 6pm the Friday before matches start for Qualies and 6pm the Sunday before matches start for the Main.  In order to sign in, you must bring a passport or other photo ID.  You must also know your iPin number and USTA number.  A parent or coach has to sign the Medical Release, just like in USTA tournaments.  Without any one piece of the aforementioned information, you could be denied the opportunity to check-in and play!
  • For those who don’t get into the Main Draw or Qualifying Draw, there are on-site alternates.  It’s important to note that even alternates must have an iPin number, so if your child is even thinking about playing one of these events, you might as well go ahead and apply now.  Check the specific tournament’s website for details on how to alert the tournament officials that you want to be considered as an alternate in case of an opening.
  • After check-in on Friday night, the Qualifying Draws are created and posted online along with first match times.  Often, it is after 10pm before the draws and times are available.  Also, the draws and times may be posted on the ITF Junior website OR the tournament site OR the USTA site – you may have to do some digging before you find your first match time.  Be persistent!  And, be sure you know when you play BEFORE you go to sleep on Friday night – it could be 8am!
  • Only those who are in the Main Draw are given a tournament t-shirt.  Those who don’t make it through the Qualies may be able to purchase a shirt if they want.  I know, this isn’t all that important to some of you, but for others, the t-shirt is key!
  • All singles matches play out a full third set – no 10-point tiebreakers here!  And, just so you know, there is NO COACHING and NO BREAK between the 2nd and 3rd set.  Doubles play two tie-break sets and a 10-point tiebreaker in lieu of a 3rd set with no-ad scoring.  In the case of bad weather, alternative scoring options may be used in accordance with the ITF 2012 Rules of Tennis (see page 22).
  • If your child has dual citizenship, please refer to Page 36 of the Rules for information as to how to determine which passport your child should use in these events.
  • The time an entry is submitted is not significant; it does not matter if a player is first or last to enter a tournament.  Waco ITF Referee, Ken McCain, told me, “A common comment I receive is that ‘my child has a higher ranking than some players placed higher on the Acceptance List.’  The Federations can send a ranking list to the ITF, usually once a Quarter, to determine the Acceptance List Order (non ITF-ranked players).  One tournament may be using an old list and the following week an updated list is used.  This does occur and this is my best explanation.”  Read Section 45 (starting on page 13) of the rules for details on how selection into the tournaments works.  I’ve read it, and I’m still a bit confused, so if you understand the process, please enlighten the rest of us in the Comments box below!
  • There is a “freeze deadline” which occurs at 14:00 GMT on the Wednesday preceding the tournament week.  At this point, iPIN closes, and it is no longer possible to withdraw online. Instead, withdrawals must be made using the official withdrawal form and sent to the ITF and Referee before the close of sign-in. The published acceptance lists will not update with any withdrawals. The reason for this is that this is the moment the tournament information is sent to the Referee to prepare for the tournament. The acceptance list is sent to the Referee, who now manages the withdrawals. Any questions about the acceptance list from this point on should be directed to the Referee.  Any player who withdraws from a tournament Main Draw or Qualifying Draw after the Freeze Deadline without using the official withdrawal form, sent to the ITF and ITF Tournament Referee, will be subject to a No Show penalty.
  • Wild cards are decided by the host nation.  If players wish to apply for a wildcard they should get in touch with the host National Association (i.e. USTA) and/or Tournament Director.  ITF does not give out wild cards.  Numbers of wild cards available is based on the size of the draw.  For example, a 64 Main Draw will have 8 Wild Cards available.  For US tournaments, a player can apply for a wild card at www.usta.com/itftournaments.  The application deadline is typically right after the regular entry deadline – check the individual tournament’s website for details.  Refer to page 20 of the Junior Circuit Regulations for more information.
  • Lucky losers almost always come from those losing in the final round of qualifying.  If more Lucky Losers are required for substitutions, those players who have lost in the previous qualifying rounds are considered.  Lucky Losers must sign the Lucky Loser list that the Referee will open. It closes 30 minutes before play begins.  Colette Lewis told me that she watched all this take place last year at the US Open juniors. If you don’t have an ITF junior ranking, you go to the bottom of the list, in a similar number assignment with any others without an ITF ranking.  There can be zero lucky losers or as many as seven or eight, which happens at some sparsely attended events in less desirable locations. I think at this week’s Atlanta ITF four boys made it in as lucky losers. Late withdrawals or no shows are the most frequent reason for lucky losers getting in, but an injury or illness can also lead to a last-minute vacated spot.  See page 23 of the rules for more information.

A big thank-you to Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com for her willingness to share her vast knowledge with me and, by extension, you!  If you have any questions or need more clarification on any point above, I urge you to contact the ITF directly at:

International Tennis Federation, Bank Lane, Roehampton, London, SW15 5XZ
ph: +44 20 8878 6464 | fax: +44 20 8392 4735
email: juniors@itftennis.com   www.itftennis.com/juniors

For the complete rules of Junior ITF play as well as the ranking points table, click here.

NOTE (added December 2, 2012):

APPENDIX G: ITF JUNIOR CIRCUIT AGE ELIGIBILITY RULE
1. ITF Junior Age Eligibility Chart

Age/Number of tournaments permitted

18/Unrestricted
17/Unrestricted
16/25
15/16 (unless player achieves a top 20 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
14/14 (unless player achieves a top 20 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
13/10 (unless player achieves a top 50 ITF Junior Ranking in which case an additional 4 tournaments permitted)
11-12/0
NOTES
1. The number of tournaments permitted is counted between the date of a player’s birthday and the day before their next birthday, not between 1st January and 31st December.
2. Participation in an ITF Junior Circuit tournament includes singles and/or doubles and/or qualifying.
3. Minors under the age of thirteen (13) shall not be eligible for entry. For the
purposes of this Rule, the player’s age as of the first day of the tournament Main Draw shall be used.
4. The number of tournaments permitted by the ITF Junior Age Eligibility Rule is in addition to the number of professional tournaments permitted by the Age
Eligibility Rule (please refer to ITF Professional Circuit Regulations, and WTA
Regulations for details on the Age Eligibility Rule.)