American Collegiate Invitational

American Collegiate Invitational

Any opportunity to showcase college tennis is a “win” in my book. The American Collegiate Invitational (ACI), held during the second week of the US Open, is no exception.

The USTA started hosting the ACI in 2014, featuring 8 men and 8 women playing a single-elimination singles tournament with the winner of each draw receiving a wildcard entry into the following year’s US Open Qualifying tournament. If, however, the winner is ranked 120 or better by the US Open entry deadline, then he/she will get a wildcard entry directly into the Main Draw. That’s means a huge payday for these young athletes – the 2017 qualifiers received $8000 just for being in the tournament, $50,000 if they actually made it into the First Round of the Main Draw. ACI winners also get wildcards into three USTA Pro Circuit events, and the runners-up each get one.

It is interesting to note that, although the ACI features college players, this is not an official college event. That means participants are competing as individuals, not as representatives of their schools. That also means that, even though they may receive coaching during their matches, the players’ college coaches cannot be the ones doing the coaching due to NCAA compliance regulations. The strange part is that players wear their college uniforms while competing and are introduced by name and school, but the scoreboard and draw show them as from the US as opposed to their university. For the life of me, I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand all the NCAA rules!

This year’s ACI Tournament Director was none other than recently-resigned USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments, Bill Mountford. He told me that USTA chose to start this event 4 years ago in order to demonstrate its commitment to college tennis, to celebrate the best players by showcasing them on American tennis’s grandest stage: the US Open. And, to its credit, USTA is fully-invested in these players and this event, treating the collegians like Tennis Royalty by footing the bill for their travel, hotel accommodations at the Grand Hyatt (the official player hotel for the Open), and even taking them out for a gourmet meal the night before starting play. “They should be treated like royalty. They’ve come through Juniors and been among the best players. They’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours honing their skills. They should be celebrated. It’s got to feel inspiring when they’re out there practicing right next to Rafael Nadal or having their racquets strung right next to Juan Martin Del Potro or being called in the morning by the Bryan Brothers because they need to practice with someone who’s going to hit kick serves to the ad court to warm them up for the day’s match. These are the best of the best of our young American players.”

He went on to say that he hopes the ACI players view this event as an extension of their US Open Juniors experience, bridging the gap between that tournament and the time they will, hopefully, be competing at the Open in the Main Draw. Being on these courts at this venue is a learning experience for them that should aid the transition as they move from college onto the pro tour.

2017 NCAA Women’s Champion, Brienne Minor, confirmed Bill’s hope. “To be able to play in the US Open and then this Invitational has been amazing! I’m so glad I had this opportunity. Hopefully, I can come back here. I definitely do want to play after college. I’m glad I got to have the experience and to know what it’s like and to be around the top pro players is pretty amazing, just to get that atmosphere. Now I know what it’s like and if I get to come back, I can change a few things and know what to expect.” Unfortunately, Brienne will be taking a break from tennis this Fall to have surgery on both her knees. The plan is to rehab and be ready for the dual match season in January.

I had a chance to speak with several of this year’s ACI players, and they all agreed that this event is a wonderful opportunity and certainly welcome the chance to earn a wildcard into next year’s Qualifying or Main Draw, but they view it as one more step in the process. Any time they get to compete on a big stage, it puts them one step closer to their goal of competing at the WTA/ATP level, which most of the players want. As UVA graduate Thai Kwiatkowski said, “If you can’t enjoy playing at the US Open, then you shouldn’t play the game!”

I found it interesting to hear Thai say it hurt more to lose his Main Draw match to Mischa Zverev, mostly due to the loss of ranking points and money that would help him fund his first year on the tour, than it did to lose first round in the ACI to eventual winner Tom Fawcett (Stanford). “I graduated with a Business Degree from UVA, and there’s a massive opportunity cost every day I step out on the tennis court. I’m eventually going to get out into the business world. I think I’m playing right now because I’ve played tennis my whole life, and it’s always been a dream, and I know that if I quit now I’ll always have in the back of my mind that I should’ve played. I’m getting that out of my system and seeing how far it can take me.” He shared that he’s continuing to study and learn while out on the tour because he misses that aspect of being a collegiate student-athlete. Thai went on to say that he’s going to miss everything about college tennis. “Those bus rides and tough matches and celebrations . . . I’m still best friends with all those guys and still talk to them every day, so it’s not too far off.”

I also had a chance to speak with several of the players’ parents, including Scott Holt (Brandon’s dad), Kevin Minor (Brienne’s dad), Beata Redlicki (Michael’s mom), and Carlo DiLorenzo (Francesca’s dad). After seeing all of them back in May at the NCAA Championships, it was great to catch up and get their take on this tournament. They each viewed this event as a wonderful opportunity for their children to play at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the US Open but also realize it’s just another step in their long tennis journey.

And in case you think these college students no longer need that kind of parental support . . . ACI Women’s Champion, Francesca DiLorenzo, had a parent in the stands cheering her on for each match, both in the Women’s Qualifying and the Women’s Doubles Main Draw as well as in this event. “It means a lot to have that support from home,” she shared. And, I have to say my heart nearly melted when I saw Thai Kwiatkowski hug and kiss his dad, Tim, after his first-round loss. What a sweet father-son moment!

Fran is taking the Fall off from Ohio State to pursue her professional tennis career, but, at least as of now, is planning to return to school for the dual match season though she will re-assess in the next couple of months. Some of the new, more restrictive, rules from NCAA are hurting her ability to play enough tournaments in the Fall which was a big factor in her decision to take the next few months off from school. Also, the fact that her major doesn’t allow for as many online classes now that she’s in her Junior year played a role in her decision.

I asked Fran how former UCLA player Jennifer Brady’s success at this year’s US Open impacts her. “It’s always really nice to see a college player do well. It gives us all hope. It’s really good for college tennis and shows that you can do something after college, that it’s not the end of the road like sometimes people think. For her to represent, not just her school but all of college, is unbelievable. It’s really exciting!”

Watching these kids compete was such a treat! I was there the first day of the very first ACI in 2014 but hadn’t been back since. Unfortunately, I had to fly back to Atlanta yesterday before the Men’s ACI Final, but I did see all the other matches this year. College tennis, in case you were wondering, is in great hands!

ACI Women’s Draw & Results

Round 1 (Quarterfinals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Sara Daavettila (UNC So) 6-1, 6-2
Ena Shibahara (UCLA So) d. Brienne Minor (Michigan Jr, NCAA Champ) 6-1, 6-3
Sydney Campbell (Vanderbilt Grad) d. Alexa Graham (UNC So) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6)
Ingrid Neel (Florida So) d. Hayley Carter (UNC Grad) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Round 2 (Semifinals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Ena Shibahara (UCLA So) 6-4, 6-1
Ingrid Neel (Florida So) d. Sydney Campbell (Vanderbilt Grad) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2

Round 3 (Finals):
Francesca DiLorenzo (Ohio State Jr) d. Ingrid Neel (Florida So) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

ACI Men’s Draw & Results

Round 1 (Quarterfinals):
Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) d. Chris Eubanks (GA Tech Sr) 6-2, 6-4
Brandon Holt (USC So) d. William Bushamuka (Kentucky Jr) 6-2, 6-2
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Thai Kwiatkowski (UVA Grad, NCAA Champ) 7-6 (5), 6-4
Alfredo Perez (Florida Jr) d. Alex Rybakov (TCU Jr) 7-5, 6-3

Round 2 (Semifinals):
Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) d. Brandon Holt (USC So) 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Alfredo Perez (Florida Jr) 6-1, 6-2

Round 3 (Finals):
Tom Fawcett (Stanford Sr) d. Michael Redlicki (Arkansas Grad Student) 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-4

 

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

 

 

HBO Sports to Re-Air Documentary BILLIE JEAN KING: PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER

Billie Jean King

In celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Title IX Statute of the Education Amendments of 1972, the USTA will host the sixth annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium today during the 2017 US Open. USTA Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, Katrina Adams will be joined by International Tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King and “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts for a panel event to discuss the historic impact Title IX has had on women in sports, on and off the playing fields.

The event is the annual conference of the Diversity and Inclusion in Sports Consortium (DISC). The Symposium is presented by the members of DISC, including, MiLB, MLB, MLS, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, PGA of America, PGA Tour, RISE, USOC, USTA and You Can Play, as well as US Open broadcast sponsor ESPN, highlighting D&I best practices in the sports industry. Symposium attendees include Diversity & Inclusion practitioners, leaders of the DISC member organizations, leaders from sports business partners and related companies, as well as New York-based corporate D&I leaders.

Also in conjunction with the Title IX anniversary, HBO is re-airing its 2006 documentary on Billie Jean King. Not coincidentally, I’m sure, I started seeing promos for the upcoming film – BATTLE OF THE SEXES – about the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match during last night’s US Open tv coverage, as well. It seems everyone is paying close attention to this ground-breaking legislation and the woman behind it.

 

Per release from HBO . . .

The HBO Sports presentation BILLIE JEAN KING: PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER explores the personal and professional life of the landmark athlete and activist, whose remarkable career on the tennis court was equaled only by her impact on the struggle for women’s equality during the 1970s. The acclaimed film, which debuted in April of 2006 on HBO, will have an encore play on the network SUNDAY, SEPT. 3 (6:30 p.m. ET/PT). The documentary tells the story of an athlete who revolutionized sports for women, and in the process encouraged women to pursue endeavors outside the traditional realm of the home.

There will be a special encore airing on Wednesday, September 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on the HBO2 service, 44 years to the day when Billie Jean King scored her landmark win over Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome in Houston.

Other replays include Monday, September 4 at 11:45 a.m. ET/PT (HBO2) & Friday, Sept. 22 at 4:40 p.m. ET/PT (HBO).

Born Billie Jean Moffitt on Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Cal., King was the daughter of a stay-at-home mother and a firefighter father. She honed her tennis game on public courts in Long Beach, and won her first noteworthy championship in 1961 in the Wimbledon doubles competition with partner Karen Hantze. King won her first singles championship at Wimbledon in 1966, which led to her number-one world ranking.

BILLIE JEAN KING: PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER takes an in-depth look at King’s rise as an international icon of women’s equality, with the defining moment coming on Sept. 20, 1973. On that day, King battled former 1939 men’s Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs in a match that King herself said would “ruin the women’s tennis tour and affect all women’s self-esteem” if she was not victorious. In the contest, termed the “Battle of the Sexes,” the 29-year-old King “manhandled” the older and slower Riggs, defeating him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. An estimated 90 million television viewers worldwide witnessed the victory of the pioneer whose ultimate mark on society far surpassed her 39 Grand Slam titles.

This exclusive presentation features HBO Sports’ acclaimed combination of rare footage, archival photos and revealing interviews, with King herself speaking openly and honestly about her life on and off the court. She discusses the impact of having her private life made public, and her emergence as a leader in the gay community.

Seeds Announced for 2017 US Open

SeedsSo, in case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m kinda in US Open mode right now and will be for the next couple of weeks. This will be my first Open since 2014, and I’m super excited to spend some time there this year. My focus will be on the Junior and the College events, but I will also be writing a bit about the Main Event as well.

To that end, I wanted to let y’all know that the seeds have been published for both the Men’s and the Women’s draws. The following is from a USTA release sent out yesterday afternoon:

The USTA today announced that world No. 1 and two-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal and 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray have been named the top two seeds, respectively – with five-time US Open champion Roger Federer seeded No. 3 – in men’s singles at the 2017 US Open. The 2017 US Open will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The US Open Men’s Singles Championship is presented by Chase.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who has won five ATP singles titles this seeded fourth, while fifth-seeded Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, joins Nadal (2010, 2013) Murray (2012), and Federer (2004-08) as the former US Open champions seeded in the Top 10. 2017 French Open semifinalist Dominic Thiem, of Austria, is seeded sixth. Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who last week won his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the US Open Series’ Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, is seeded seventh. Three-time US Open quarterfinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, of France, is seeded No. 8.

Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the 2009 US Open, is seeded No. 24.

Nadal, 31, regained the No. 1 ranking this week for the first time since June 2014. He won his tenth French Open singles title this year and also reached the final at the Australian Open. Murray, 30, comes into the US Open after reaching the semifinals of the French Open and quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year and holding the world No. 1 ranking for all of 2017 until Nadal recaptured it this week.

Federer, 36, is competing at the US Open to become the first male player to win 20 Grand Slam singles titles. By winning his sixth singles title in New York, Federer would also break the three-way tie between him, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras for most US Open singles titles won in the Open Era.

Three American men are seeded at this year’s US Open—No. 10 John Isner, No. 13 Jack Sock, and No. 17 Sam Querrey.

Defending US Open champion and world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka will not be competing in this year’s US Open due to a knee injury, while two-time US Open champion and world No. 5 Novak Djokovic will not be competing to recover from a right elbow injury. 2014 US Open finalist and world No. 10 Kei Nishikori will not be competing because of a right wrist injury, while No. 11 Milos Raonic has withdrawn due to a left wrist injury. [Note: USTA also announced yesterday that Raonic’s spot in the draw will be filled by a Lucky Loser from the Qualifying draw. There are 5 US men left in the Qualies, 2 of  whom play each other in today’s final round.]

For 2017, the US Open followed the Emirates ATP Rankings released Monday, August 21, to determine the men’s singles seeds. This is the 17th consecutive year that the US Open will seed 32 players in singles.

The USTA also announced that world No. 1 and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has been named the top seed in women’s singles at the 2017 US Open, while world No. 2 and 2016 French Open finalist Simona Halep is seeded No. 2. 2017 Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza is seeded third, and 22-year old world No. 4 Elina Svitolina is seeded fourth. The 2017 US Open will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The US Open Women’s Singles Championship is presented by J.P. Morgan.

The Top 10 women’s seeds at the US Open mirror the current Top 10 of the WTA rankings. Following the top four are No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, a two-time US Open finalist; No. 6 Angelique Kerber, of Germany, the defending US Open champion; No. 7 Johanna Konta, of Great Britain, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist; No. 8 and 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia; No. 9 Venus Williams, a two-time US Open champion, and No. 10 Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland.

In last year’s US Open final, Kerberwon her second Grand Slam singles title at the US Open, defeating Pliskovain the final, and becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Four American women are seeded at this year’s US Open — No. 9 Venus Williams, No. 15 Madison Keys, No. 20 Coco Vandeweghe, and No. 32 Lauren Davis.

Eight-time US Open champion and former world No. 1 Serena Williams, who is currently ranked No. 15, will not be competing in this year’s US Open after announcing her pregnancy. Victoria Azarenka, who would have entered with a protected ranking of No. 6, withdrew because of a personal issue. World No. 28 Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, will not be competing due to a left leg and right hand injury. 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, of Australia, withdrew due to a right hand injury. [Note: There are 8 US women in the Qualies final round with several playing each other today.]

The US Open followed the WTA rankings released Monday, August 21, to determine the women’s singles seeds. This is the 17th consecutive year that the US Open seeded 32 players in both singles events.

The singles draws for the 2017 US Open will be revealed live during an official draw ceremony, which will be open to the public for the first time, on Friday, August 25, at 12 noon ET at the US Open Experience at the historic Seaport District NYC. The ceremony will conclude with an appearance by defending women’s singles champion Angelique Kerber and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, as well as other special guests.

2017 US Open Men’s Singles Seeds

1. Rafael Nadal, Spain
2. Andy Murray, Great Britain
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland
4. Alexander Zverev, Germany
5. Marin Cilic, Croatia
6. Dominic Thiem, Austria
7. Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France
9. David Goffin, Belgium
10. John Isner, United States
11. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
12. Pablo Carreno Busta, Spain
13. Jack Sock, United States
14. Nick Kyrgios, Australia
15. Tomas Berdych, Czech Republic
16. Lucas Pouille, France
17. Sam Querrey, United States
18. Gael Monfils, France
19. Gilles Muller, Luxembourg
20. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Spain
21. David Ferrer, Spain
22. Fabio Fognini, Italy
23. Mischa Zverev, Germany
24. Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
25. Karen Khachanov, Russia
26. Richard Gasquet, France
27. Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay
28. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
29. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
30. Adrian Mannarino, France
31. Feliciano Lopez, Spain
32. Robin Haase, the Netherlands

2017 US Open Women’s Singles Seeds

1. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
2. Simona Halep, Romania
3. Garbiñe Muguruza, Spain
4. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
5. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
6. Angelique Kerber, Germany
7. Johanna Konta, Great Britain
8. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia
9. Venus Williams, United States
10. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
11. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia
12. Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia
13. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
14. Kristina Mladenovic, France
15. Madison Keys, United States
16. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
17. Elena Vesnina, Russia
18. Caroline Garcia, France
19. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia
20. Coco Vandeweghe, United States
21. Ana Konjuh, Croatia
22. Shuai Peng, China
23. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
24. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands
25. Daria Gavrilova, Australia
26. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
27. Shuai Zhang, China
28. Lesia Tsurenko, Ukraine
29. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia
30. Julia Goerges, Germany
31. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia
32. Lauren Davis, United States

Advice on Picking a College

Andy Brandi college

The following was written by Coach Andy Brandi and originally posted on the USTA’s Player Development website here and here. Coach Brandi served as a partner of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute since 2007 before joining the USTA staff in August 2010. From 2001-06, Brandi was Director of Tennis for IMG at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, and from 1984-2001, he was the head coach of the University of Florida women’s team. During his career, Brandi has worked with top professionals, including Elena Dementieva, Shahar Peer, Maria Kirilenko, Lisa Raymond, Ryan Sweeting and Jesse Levine. While at the University of Florida, he led the Gators to three NCAA Division I Team titles and coached four NCAA women’s singles champions and four NCAA doubles champions. Brandi is writing a blog for PlayerDevelopment.USTA.com for the next several weeks. In his latest entry, he offers insight and advice to young players as they decide what college to attend.

PART 1

As a former collegiate coach, I would like to give you some insight into making the decision as to which university you will attend. I was at the University of Florida as the women’s coach for 17 years. My pathway there came after traveling as a coach on the pro tour for many years. The thoughts and facts I am passing on to you are what I have learned over those 17 years.

Although most junior players dream of becoming professionals, 99 percent of them will go to college. Even the one percent should have a school in place in case they fall short of the benchmarks that are required to make the decision to turn pro. Such was the case for Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul, who had chosen schools but decided to turn pro after they won Grand Slam junior titles. Shaun Stafford, who came to Florida, won the US Open juniors while in school and stayed for the year. She also won the NCAA singles title as a freshman. She turned pro that summer and became a Top 30 WTA player.

Here are some general guidelines:

During your freshman year in high school, you should make a list of 15 schools that you feel interest you. They can be from dream schools to schools that you would consider as backups. You can receive brochures for camps and questionnaires. Start following the results and rankings of the schools that you have chosen.

Sophomore year, you should go down to 10-12 schools. At this point, you can receive brochures for camps and questionnaires from the schools you are interested in. You can call the coach at your own expense, but they cannot call you. You are able to visit the campus at your own expense as many times as you like. Continue to follow the schools’ results and rankings and compare to the year before.

Junior year, things begin to change. You need to go down to 5-7 schools. You can begin to receive recruiting material and information from the coach as of Sept. 1. You can call the coach at your own expense, and as of July 1, you can receive one call from the coach a week. Texts and emails are allowed from the school as of Sept. 1. You are able to visit the campus at your own expense as many times as you like, and as of July 1, after the completion of your junior year, off-campus contact with the coach is allowed. Continue to follow the schools’ results and rankings and compare to the previous two years.

Senior year, the list goes down to five schools. You can continue to receive materials and information from the school. Calls are still as they were your junior year. Texts and emails are the same, and off-campus contacts are capped at three. Contacts at tournaments are allowed before it starts or after the player completes the tournament. Unofficial visits are unlimited, and now you can take five official visits for D1 and unlimited to D2 and D3 schools. The on-campus visit is for 48 hours and begins when you arrive on campus.

PART 2

Some of the things you need to consider in making your decision are: the coach, the school, location in relation to your home, weather, facilities, the town the school is located in, academic support, the conference it is in, the overall athletic program, how good is the school in your intended major, the team, scholarships, tournament and dual-match schedules and transfer rules.

This is the first important decision that this young person is going to make as they begin their pathway into adulthood. They have to make the decision! They are going to spend 4-5 years of their life there. Parents should provide guidance but should not make the decision. Parents cannot be selfish! They have to go where they feel comfortable, like the school, like the coach and have a connection with the players on the team. You can make the commitment in either November or April and sign the letter of intent on either date.

So let’s begin with some questions about the details that need to be answered in the process:

Coach – What is his background in tennis as a coach and player? How long has he been at the school? What’s his record? NCAA appearances? Individual NCAA tournament appearances? What’s his coaching style? His staff? Tennis knowledge? Developmental skills? Work ethic? What are practices like? Do the players get private lessons? Do underclassmen get the same playing chances as others? Have they participated in the National Team Indoor? Does the team play pro events? How are the lineups determined?

School – What is the reputation of the school? What is its ranking in your area of studies? What kind of academic support do they give athletes? Do they accommodate athletes in advance registration? What are the admissions standards? Do they have online courses, in case you want to take a semester away and travel? How are the academic advisers? Campus security?

Location – Is it far from home? What are winters like? What’s the year-round weather? What is the town like where the university is located? How much local support towards athletics is there? Are there booster groups for tennis? Is it in a small town? Big town? College town? Is there an airport there or nearby?

Athletic program – What is the overall athletic program like? Success in other sports? Facilities in tennis and other sports? Support staff for tennis? How is the conference strength in tennis? Travel budget for tennis? Scholarships for tennis (men 4.5-women 8)? Athletics dorms? Cafeteria for athletes? How do they accommodate athletes who want to transfer? Do they release you? Do they allow 5 years to graduate? Will they guarantee a scholarship if I leave early? Do they cover summer school? Academic counselors and center? Mandatory study hall for freshman?

Team – How do you see yourself getting along with the team and fitting in? Do you see yourself in the lineup? Where? Do they allow you to play pro tournaments in the fall? How many players travel? How many players are on the team? What is the schedule of fall tournaments and dual matches? Away? Home? Equipment allowances? Stringing included? How do they determine the lineup? Are the players I like and connect with seniors? Do they have the same goals? Do they have the same commitment?

Recruiting visit – Tour of the campus? Dorm? Of the town? Who will be my host? Will I meet people in the athletic department? Athletic directors? Medical and training staff? Strength and conditioning? Will I watch a practice? Will I stay in the dorm or hotel? Will I spend time with the team more than the coaches? Will I attend any athletic events? Tennis match? Will I attend any classes? Meet with some faculty from my intended major? Will I eat at the athlete cafeteria? Will I meet with the academic adviser? Will the coach follow up with a home visit?

These are some of the issues that need to be clarified before making the decision. Leave no stone unturned. The decision has to be crystal clear. You have to be thorough. While I was the women’s coach at the University of Florida, I had a student during a recruiting trip ask me how many books there were in the library! I can tell you that I did find out! Why? Because it was important to her! She came to Florida!

Once you have sorted all this out, make your verbal commitment. Be sure you call the other coaches to let them know of your decision and to thank them for the opportunity to visit the school and for their consideration. You want to leave all options open in case you change your mind or the coach leaves before you sign the letter of intent. Do not burn any bridges. Be sure you are 100 percent sure of the decision.

Good luck!

Note from Lisa: Thank you to USTA PD for giving me permission to reprint Coach Brandi’s articles for y’all. I’m happy to see USTA supporting college tennis and supporting Tennis Parents with this series of articles. Please take a look at the Player Development site for more useful articles.

BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships

State Team Championships
Image courtesy of Scott Colson

A few days ago, I received an email from fellow Tennis Parent, Scott Colson, telling me about a new 10-and-under team event – the BB&T Atlanta Open State Team Championships – that was taking place in Atlanta as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open and asking if I could possibly come out to see the kids in action. Of course, that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

Yesterday, I drove up to Lifetime Athletic & Tennis Club, a facility I have been to a million times to see my son play. It’s a gorgeous club with indoor and outdoor courts, including pickle ball courts, a pool, fitness center, cafe, and even classrooms for those academy kids wanting to participate in the virtual school program offered by certified teachers on site.

I was curious about this new U10 event being run by experienced Tournament Director Turhan Berne. When I looked on the TennisLink site, here’s what I found:

  • Mandatory check-in for the tournament will take place Friday, July 28, at 1:00 p.m. at Lifetime Athletic, 6350 Courtside Drive, Norcross, GA 30092. Players will receive a gift bag with their VIP credential, complimentary tickets, a jumbo-sized ball for autographs, and tournament information. Players must have a signed release and player conduct agreement form.
  • Friday July 28th:
  • 1:00 Check-in meet team mates and coaches
    1:30-5:30 EDC Camp Training
    7:00 Watch matches at the BB&T tournament
    Saturday July 29th:
    9:00 Team Singles matches begin
    12:00 Lunch
    1:30 Team Doubles matches begin
    4:30 Break for day
    6:00 Watch matches at BB&T tournament
    Sunday July 30th:
    10:00 Team Playoff singles matches begin
    12:30 Lunch
    2:00 Doubles matches begin
    3:30 Conclusion of Play and awards presented
    5:00 Watch Singles final of BB&T Atlanta Open
  • PARTICIPATING STATES
    Alabama
    Georgia
    Mississippi
    South Carolina
    Tennessee
  • MATCH FORMAT
  • Each team match will consist of the following:
    3 boys singles matches
    3 girls singles matches
    1 boys doubles match
    1 girls doubles match
    1 mixed doubles match
  • SCORING FORMAT
    For singles, scoring shall be the best of two short sets (first to four (4) and win by two), with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 4-4 in each set, and a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) for the third set. Doubles matches for 10 and under tournament play shall consist of a regular six (6) game set, with a set tiebreak (first to seven (7) and win by two) at 6-6. No-ad scoring will be used during all matches.

Some of the players also had the opportunity to come in a day early and meet with Dr. Neeru Jayanthi for evaluation. Dr. J works closely with the junior tennis program at Lifetime and is in the midst of a long-term study of injury in junior tennis players. He put the State Team Championships players through an extensive evaluation that tested their flexibility, agility, and stroke analysis. He also spent time with the parents to identify points of concern for future injury and will be sharing that information with the individual coaches. Dr. J even came back out to the event yesterday afternoon to watch the kids compete and offer further insights. According to Tennis Parent Scott Colson, “We plan to continue checking in with Dr. J periodically to monitor [our son’s] progress. Dr. J runs an amazing program and is highly recommended.”

Back to the event itself . . . I love the idea of bringing our youngest players from neighboring states together to train and compete with their own coaches as well as other USTA coaches on hand to help. I also love the idea of pairing the event with a pro tournament so the kids can, as Wayne Bryan loves to say, “take it in through their eyes and ears.” Y’all know how I feel about short sets and no-ad scoring, so I won’t comment on that again. The cherry on top of this particular team event was that BB&T Atlanta Open Quarterfinalist and Georgia Tech rising senior Chris Eubanks came out to visit with the kids yesterday morning, giving them a chance to ask him questions and take photos. How cool!

But, instead of just hearing my take on the State Team Championships, watch my Facebook Live video and hear from some of the parents themselves (click on the Full Screen option to enable the audio):

 

BB&T ATLANTA OPEN RESULTS – JULY 29, 2017

Men’s Singles – Semifinals

[2] J. Isner (USA) d [3] G. Muller (LUX) 6-4 6-2
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [5] K. Edmund (GBR) 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4

Men’s Doubles – Semifinals

[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) 6-2 6-3
W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL) d [4] P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) 7-6(3) 6-4

ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 5:00 pm

[4] R. Harrison (USA) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) or [PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) vs W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL)

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com

Quarterfinal Day at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Chris Eubanks

Georgia Tech rising senior Chris Eubanks looked cool, calm, and collected in the photo above, taken during his Player Chat with Wayne Bryan on Wednesday afternoon. I’m guessing he was feeling a little less cool during last night’s Round of 16 match versus fellow NextGen’er Jared  Donaldson!

Click here for my recent podcast interview with Chris

The 21-year-old Atlanta native stayed calm enough to fight through a one-hour and 46-minute battle with his 20-year-old opponent, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to move into today’s Quarterfinal round where he will face his 3rd American opponent this week, Ryan Harrison, the oldest of the bunch at the ripe ol’ age of 25. So far, Eubanks has defeated two of his young compatriots and hopes to make it three later today. “I really don’t know if I could do this in any place but Atlanta,” Eubanks exclaimed after last night’s victory. With his Georgia Tech coach, Kenny Thorne, in the stands, Chris represented his college and his hometown with grit and grace. We can certainly expect to see more of the same this afternoon.

Chris Eubanks

Chris Eubanks isn’t the only young player in today’s Quarterfinal round. Twenty-year-old Tommy Paul, who won the French Open Juniors in 2015 then turned pro shortly afterward, will face ATP veteran and Wimbledon Quarterfinalist, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, to kick off the day at Atlantic Station.

Tommy spent some time chatting with Wayne Bryan yesterday (click on the Full Screen option below to enable sound):

I haven’t seen today’s schedule of Player Chats, but I will plan to do another Facebook Live session if possible, so be sure you’re following the ParentingAces page here to get notifications.

In addition to all the tennis happening on the grounds, there are also some fun activities OFF the courts. In Atlantic Station’s Central Park, USTA Atlanta and Wilson Tennis have set up the Family Zone where they are holding clinics and opportunities to try the game for young players as part of the NetGeneration initiative. In addition to the official tournament store, several sponsors and vendors have booths inside the tournament venue with samples and prizes for visitors. There is also an Interactive Zone where fans can shoot hoops or track their serve speed.  And, of course, there’s the Music Stage where Wayne Bryan is conducting daily Q&As with the pros and where fans can meet them and get autographs. There’s something for everyone at this year’s event.

RESULTS – JULY 27, 2017

Men’s Singles – Second Round

[1] J. Sock (USA) d D. Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-3
[4] R. Harrison (USA) d [PR] J. Millman (AUS) 6-7(2) 7-6(4) 7-5
[5] K. Edmund (GBR) d P. Gojowczyk (GER) 2-6 6-4 7-5
[WC] C. Eubanks (USA) d [8] J. Donaldson (USA) 6-4 4-6 6-2

Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals

[PR] J. Millman (AUS) / Sa. Ratiwatana (THA) d A. Qureshi (PAK) / So. Ratiwatana (THA) 6-2 6-4
W. Koolhof (NED) / A. Sitak (NZL) d A. Molteni (ARG) / A. Shamasdin (CAN) 6-7(7) 7-6(4) 10-7

ORDER OF PLAY – FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

[Q] T. Paul (USA) vs [3] G. Muller (LUX)

Not Before 2:00 pm

L. Lacko (SVK) vs [2] J. Isner (USA)
[4] R. Harrison (USA) vs [WC] C. Eubanks (USA)

Not Before 8:00 pm

[1] J. Sock (USA) vs [5] K. Edmund (GBR)
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) vs H. Chung (KOR) / J. Nedunchezhiyan (IND)

AJC GRANDSTAND start 2:00 pm

Local Pro League Finals

Coca-Cola Fireworks show at Sundown

Tickets available at www.bbtatlantaopen.com