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Monday, February 27, 2012

Virginia Women Win Blue Gray, Men's Champion Undetermined; New ITF Junior Event in US a Possibility; Krajicek Qualifies for ATP Delray Beach

The Blue Gray National Tennis Classic, one of the premier college tennis tournaments, was scheduled to end yesterday in Montgomery, Ala., but all-day rain on Friday and a format change for the men meant that only the women's champion was crowned. Top seed Virginia beat No. 2 seed Alabama 4-3 to take the women's title, with the match coming down to the third set in No. 4 singles. Alabama won the doubles point and at lines 5 & 6, Virginia won at 1, 2, and 3 leaving it up to Hana Tomljanovic of Virginia and Alex Clay of Alabama. For more on the final, see this article from the Montgomery Advertiser.

The men's tournament was structured as a round robin to keep the SEC schools from playing each other, but now the tournament champion will be decided when Mississippi State, which went 3-0, and Tennessee, which also went 3-0, play a regular season conference match in Knoxville next month. Auburn also went 3-0, but lost one of those round-robin tiebreakers that always seem necessary, I guess.

I covered the Blue Gray in both 2009 and 2010, and enjoyed it both those years, even when the 2010 final was forced indoors due to rain. But once the dates changed from mid-March to the end of February, I wasn't able to combine it with the 18s Spring Nationals in Mobile, so I could no longer cover it. Thanks to Bill Kallenberg of capturedinaction.com, I do have photographs however.

Over at the Tennis Maryland blog, a post on the upcoming summer schedule for the Junior Tennis Champions Center facility at College Park mentioned the possibility of a new ITF junior tournament there the week before the beginning of the US Open. It was the first I'd heard of that possibility, so I called JTCC's Ray Benton, and he told me it would be a Grade 2, the week before the Grade 1 in Canada, which is the week before the US Open junior tournament. There have been new ITF tournaments introduced in the US in recent years in Florida and California, but they are always Grade 4s, which don't require the tournament provide housing. The economic challenges of providing hospitality (housing and food) with only a $65.00 entry fee are obvious, and with the ITF prohibition of using private housing, the number of higher grade ITFs in this country has fallen considerably (Grass Courts, Kentucky, South Carolina and International Hard Courts are all now Grade 4s). It would be terrific if this was the start of a reversal of that dismal trend.

The final round of qualifying at the ATP Delray Beach International resulted in main draw spots for Michael Yani, Marinko Matosevic, Tim Smyczek and Austin Krajicek. Krajicek, the 2011 NCAA doubles champion from Texas A&M, came from behind to take down former North Carolina star Nick Monroe 3-6 7-6(6) 6-3 and reach his first ATP main draw (not including the 2008 US Open, which he played as the Kalamazoo champion). He will play another former NCAA doubles champion, Kevin Anderson, the No. 7 seed in Delray Beach, not before 3 p.m on Thursday. Anderson won the 2006 NCAA doubles title with Illinois teammate Ryan Rowe, and the pair reached the final again the following year.

Denis Kudla fell to Dudi Sela of Israel 6-4, 6-3 in first round action today.

Wild card Jesse Levine will play top seed John Isner, now at a career-high of No. 11 in the ATP rankings. Levine's one semester at Florida coincided with Isner's final year at Georgia, and in March of 2007, Levine snapped Isner's dual match win streak at 46, beating him in an 11-9 match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set that was played after Georgia had already clinched the match. Since then they have played three times as professionals, with Levine winning two of them, although they haven't played since 2009. Isner can claim a second win over Levine, in the USTA playoff for the 2009 Australian Open wild card.

For the draws and order of play at the Delray Beach International, click here.


TennisCoachFLA said...

I agree, lets hope more ITFs return to the US. A great change of pace from the typical USTA tournaments.

JOhn said...

Since ITF's (at least were) typically during the week, that approach is pretty difficult to manage if your child is in a traditional school without missing more days that allowed.

Even just playing USTA (largely weekends and holiday), my child missed > 20 days a year for tournaments and travel.