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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

USTA Creates Junior Team for World Team Tennis

Thanks to a reminder from the Washington Kastles via Twitter, I was closely following the Advanta World Team Tennis draft this morning. I've always been interested in which recently graduated college players or young juniors (almost always young girls trying to get in some match play while abiding by the WTA age restrictions) are chosen for the three-week season in July.

Because there is an NCAA regulation prohibiting playing on a team with professionals, joining the WTT results in the loss of amateur status, and so when 16-year-old Sloane Stephens showed up as the first selection by the New York Buzz, I wondered when she had turned pro. Then Christina McHale was selected in the second round by the Buzz, and I was really puzzled. Soon enough I learned that the USTA Player Development had agreed to field a team made up of four promising young juniors who do not have to relinquish their amateur status, which explains why the Buzz franchise (based in Albany) did not draft a marquee player (the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Kim Clijsters, John McEnroe, the Bryans, Martinia Navratilova are among those making WTT appearances this summer), as that would violate the NCAA rule.

In the next two rounds, the Buzz selected Evan King and Alex Domijan. I understand that a USTA National Coach will travel with and coach the team, although I don't think he/she has been chosen yet. [update: it's being reported that Roger Smith will be the Buzz coach.]

In today's WTT press release, which headlines the junior team as the lead story in the draft, Player Development Manager Patrick McEnroe says:

“An integral part of our new player development philosophy is to foster a team concept among our rising junior talent, while providing them the best opportunities to face tough competition,” said McEnroe. “The New York Buzz will provide the perfect opportunity to fulfill both these goals for the boys and girls working with the USTA.”

The press release gives the full draft, and one U.S. junior who has turned pro will be playing for the Philadelphia Freedom, 14-year-old Madison Keys, while 17-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe will play for the Washington Kastles.

Other draftees of note are 2008 NCAA doubles champion at USC Kaes Van't Hof (Newport Beach Breakers), North Carolina's men's assistant Tripp Phillips (St. Louis Aces), Mislav Hisak, the three-time small college champion from NAIA's Embry-Riddle (Aces), Vanderbilt grad Julie Ditty (Breakers), and Washington/Pepperdine's former All-American Robert Kendrick (New York Sportimes). There are other former college players who are returning to WTT action, including Stanford's Sam Warburg, Kentucky's Jesse Witten and Florida's Lisa Raymond.

The USC vs. USTA National boys match is this evening at 6 p.m. EDT. I will have more about it in Wednesday's post, but you can follow it online at usctrojans.com.


stephen said...

How does the NCAA professional team regulation relate to playing Fed Cup? Miseviciute (Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville) is nominated for Lithuania's team next week, whereas Harutyunyan's (Akron) profile on CTO says she declined to play for Armenia so as to maintain her NCAA eligibility.

Colette Lewis said...

That's a very good question. I'm not sure if there's an exemption for National Federation Teams, but I suspect there is. After all, there are professionals playing on Junior Fed and Junior Davis Cup teams, and that doesn't mean that their teammates are automatically ineligible for D-I tennis.

Can anyone cite chapter and verse in NCAA regs on this?

stephen said...


Fed Cup Euro zone II isn't for another two and a half weeks.

D1tennisplayer said...

Can't site direct regulations and rules, but I am at a d1 school and we talked with a eligibility officer the other day.

They said, "You can play Davis Cup, Fed Cup, and other tennis events, as long as you never accept any payment other than expenses. The rules are that a federation is not considered a "team". Similarly, you are eligible to compete in the Olympics for your country as long as you follow NCAA policy"

Also, I believe that if you are under the age of 20, you can repay your earnings and earn college eligibility. That, or sit out a semester and a half while enrolled at the school, and still be eligible. That is what SMU's Marta Lesnaik did, as well as Miseviciute. I know Lesniak was 350 in the world at one point, but now playing college tennis.

atl tennis said...

30.8.1 National Team Exemption

The WTT Tennis "junior national team" is a bit shady, but technically it might not break rules. In team sports, the rules say that you can't even compete against professionals or you are professional. Tennis and golf and maybe a few others are different.

atl tennis said...

it's similar to the "one day showdowns". technically legal and great for junior players and some college players too, but bends the heck out of the division 1 rule that bans tryouts. that is why they were originally started. got marketed as a different thing.

isn't it ironic? said...

Can someone tell me how much in grants these top junior players on the WTT team receive from USTA? Ballpark? Also, how much of their costs are covered while on this WTT team? My point is, I find it ironic that we welcome American kids with open arms that have benefitted from a lot of $$$ in grants from USTA, WTT, whatever, into NCAA tennis, but some go beserk over an international player who has like $800 (and spent at least double that in expenses) next to their name on the ATP website and call them "burnt out pros," etc.

bullfrog said...

The kids in the USTA program get over $100,000 a year in support in the form of training facilities, coaching, housing, travel, and grants. The USTA will also pay for all of their travel and expenses to play WTT adding to the total annual investment. Yet they still retain college eligibility.