Sarasota, Dothan Pro Circuit Events Kick Off Har-Tru French Wild Card Challenge; Sean Karl Update; Signing Week
This week marked the start of the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge, which will decide the recipients of the USTA's main draw French Open reciprocal wild cards.
The American player who gains the most ATP/WTA points in the three events that are part of the Challenge (only the best two results count) will receive the wild card, one for men and one for women. Last year, the first year the French wild cards were determined this way, saw Brian Baker and Melanie Oudin earn their way into the main draw.
This year, the men's events are this week's $100,000 Sarasota Challenger, next week's $50,000 challenger in Savannah and the following week's $50,000 challenger in Tallahassee. Obviously this week's points are the biggest and only three Americans are left in Friday's quarterfinals: qualifier Alex Kuznetsov, Steve Johnson and No. 8 seed Wayne Odesnik. Johnson defeated Rhyne Williams, the semifinalist last week at the ATP event in Houston, 6-1, 6-3 this evening, in one of the more lopsided scores in their rivalry, and will play Kuznetsov in the quarterfinals. Johnson won a US Open main draw wild card by virtue of his performance in a similar series of events last summer, primarily by winning the $100,00 Aptos Challenger, although he had the security blanket of the traditional wild card extended to an American NCAA champion had he needed it.
Live streaming of the men's challenger matches is available at usta.com, with Johnson and Kuznetsov second on after 11 a.m Friday.
All three of the women's events have $50,000 purses, so other than a good start and confidence, there is no particular advantage to doing well this week.
This week the women are in Dothan, Ala., then move on to Charlottesville, Va. and Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.
Five US women have reached the quarterfinals in Dothan: Shelby Rogers, Alexa Glatch(4), Alison Riske, Jessica Pegula(7) and Irina Falconi. The latter four play each other Friday.
The direct acceptances for Roland Garros were published earlier this week. There are 12 US women already in the main draw, and seven US men. The men's list is here and the women's list is here.
Amanda Pruitt of the University of Tennessee Sports Information Department provided this link to a local article on Volunteer recruit Sean Karl, who was diagnosed last fall with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Karl, who is still undergoing treatment, has even gotten back out on the tennis court to hit for brief periods lately. Socks, towels and t-shirts supporting Sean are available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Karl family for help with expenses. You can find out more about these endeavors at the Pray for Sean Facebook page. Sean also has been updating his Caring Bridge page regularly too.
The Tennis Recruiting Network is in the midst of its Spring Signing Week, with commitment announcements, comments and advice. Please check out Marcia Frost's article about staying on track academically, and Donovan Tennis Strategies' article on the loosening of the recruiting restrictions by the NCAA.