I never suspected when I left Key Biscayne last December that I'd covered my last Orange Bowl at Crandon Park. I had heard for a couple of years that the USTA was interested in putting the tournament back on clay, but when the renovation of its former home in Miami Beach's Flamingo Park stalled, I assumed it would continue to be held on Key Biscayne.
Those of you who read Florida Tennis magazine know that the tournament is moving, although the new location has not yet been determined. Jim Martz, the magazine's publisher, spoke with the USTA's Director of Junior Competition Lew Brewer and wrote a lengthy story on the move for the February issue (no link is available.) It was the first indication I had that there would be a move this year, but as of now, the location is just speculation. Martz mentions various options in his article, including Salvadore Park in Coral Gables, Royal Palm in Miami and several Broward county facilities including Plantation's Veltri Tennis Center, the home of the USTA Girls 14s Clay Courts, Midtown Athletic Club, and Weston Tennis Center. Martz also mentions two private clubs in Palm Beach County, The Polo Club and Boca West (I'm partial to the Swim and Racquet Center in Boca Raton, but that wasn't mentioned in the article).
Martz also raises the issue of the move's impact on the Eddie Herr, which is played on the hard courts at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy the week before the Orange Bowl.
When I read the article, I emailed Brewer for his comments on the move. He wrote back the following:
In 2009, Patrick McEnroe and Jose Higueras asked us to put more of our junior tournaments on clay. We started by creating a small series of ITF junior events on clay in May. Those events were very successful. Following some meetings with the ITF in 2009 and 2010 about moving the Orange Bowl to clay, we made the decision that we would move the event to clay in 2011.
Our first priority is to try to keep the event in Miami-Dade County due to our connection with the Orange Bowl Committee (football game). Our second priority is to try to play the event at one facility. We have been looking at facilities all over South Florida (from Boca Raton to South Miami-Dade County, but we have not made a final decision. There are a lot of infrastructure requirements for an event such as the Orange Bowl, which will obviously impact our decision as to sites. We'll be making our final decision on a site soon. We've informed the ITF of our move and I have had some discussions with Rick Workman at the Eddie Herr and I hope we are going to find a way for at least the BG18 divisions to be played on clay.
It's a big change and we are confident that we will manage it smoothly.
In a followup email, I asked Brewer if the dates would remain the same as in the past few years, with the Eddie Herr 18s ending one day and the Orange Bowl starting the next, and he indicated that would not change for 2011. He said a decision would be made on the new location by the end of March. Brewer also added that Dunlop's sponsorship agreement expired last year, and talks regarding renewal of that sponsorship continue.
There will be things I'll miss about covering the tournament at Key Biscayne: the stunning drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway, the ample free parking, the easy-for-photography court construction, and things I won't: the isolation, the bugs, the lack of any buzz generated thanks to the too spacious grounds. Until the new site is announced, I can't say exactly how I feel about the change, and really until there's been a tournament there, it's not fair to judge. The Easter Bowl moved from the Riviera in Palm Springs to Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage in 2007, and I think that move has worked out well. I have no objection to seeing the Orange Bowl go back to clay--I think we have enough major hard court events here in the United States. But I would like to have it held at a facility that would allow both age divisions to play all main draw matches at one site. I hope that happens.
Today in at the Dallas Challenger, wild card Jack Sock reached the quarterfinals, defeating No. 3 seed and 108th-ranked Bjorn Phau of Germany 6-2, 6-4. I watched quite a bit of the match via the free live streaming available via frontrowtennis.com, and again it was the 18-year-old Sock who looked much more in control of his game and his strategy than the veteran he was playing. Sock will play Matt Ebden of Australia in the quarterfinals on Friday. Denis Kudla and Ryan Harrison will play their second round matches on Thursday, with Kudla playing Greg Jones of Australia, and Harrison facing Lester Cook.
At the Harlingen Texas Futures, Shane Vinsant earned his first ATP point, defeating fellow teenage wild card Tomas Stillman 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Qualifier Marcos Giron also advanced to the second round. Duke recruit Jason Tahir also got his first ATP point in the $15,000 Futures in Canada. Tahir qualified and won his first round match against No. 6 seed David Rice of Great Britain.
In the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Hammond, La., Sloane Stephens, Lauren Davis and wild card Catherine Harrison all lost in the first round.
For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.
Tennis Recruiting Network today features a Division III professional tennis success story from Marcia Frost, who spoke with ATP doubles star Eric Butorac about his unusual path.