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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Draw Ceremony, Practice Sessions Highlight Opening Day of USTA Spring Team Championships; Stewart Reaches Gainesville Final; Rublev, Myneni Win Futures Titles

USTA's Lew Brewer speaks at the draw ceremony

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Mobile, AL--

After nine years hosting the USTA 18s Spring National Championships, the Mobile Tennis Center has a completely different tournament on its schedule, with the USTA discontinuing the Spring National Championships for all age divisions and instead bringing the four age groups together for a new team event and format.

Each team will be made up of 2 players from the 12s, 2 from the 14s, 2 from the 16s and 2 from the 18s. Rather than representing sections, as the Intersectionals and 18s Team Championships do, these teams are created by the tournament, balancing the teams according to USTA rankings.  All eight singles matches in each dual are already set, with the 32 National coaches, most of whom are affiliated with USTA Regional Training Centers, having no leeway.  The top-ranked 18s player on each team plays, the second-ranked 18s players play, and on down the list.

Coaches can put their four doubles teams together as they wish, with no ranking or age restrictions, and each of the four doubles matches counts for one point. Each of the eight singles matches also count for one point, so there is the possibility of a tie, which is broken by percentage of sets won, or should that not break the tie, percentage of games won.

The eight No. 1 18s players for boys are: William Little, Daniel Grunberger, Jacob Hansen, McClain Kessler, Robert Seby, William Griffith, Walker Duncan, Trey Yates, Spencer Furman, Augustus Ge, Dennis Wang, Michael Tran, Henry Gordon, Josh Silverstein, Eric Rutledge, Korey Lovett.

The eight No. 1 18s players for girls are: Gabrielle Smith, Alexandria Najarian, Andie Daniell, Jessie Aney, Katherine Fahey, Anna Sanford, Allison Miller, Meghan Kelley, Ellie Zogg, Caroline Turner, Madison Westby, Olivia Sneed, Amy Yang, Karina Traxler, Lauren Goodman, Emma Davis.

The complete list of who is on what team can be found on the TennisLink site.  Unfortunately, TDM isn't set up to provide these kinds of compass draws at the moment, so I will provide Monday's first round matches by team names.  Theoretically, all teams are equal, so there is no seeding.

Girls draw:
Firecrackers v. Sharks
Bengals v. Red Hawks
Devils v. Lynx
Pirates v. Angels
Stingrays v. Lightning
Leopards v. Blue Jays
Dolphins v. Diamondbacks
Ninjas v. Tornados

Boys draw:
Titans v. Raiders
Seahawks v. Saints
Vikings v. Bears
Lions v. Eagles
Falcons v. Buccaneers
Broncos v. Patriots
Rams v. Panthers
Jaguars v. Cowboys

Two practices were held today for each team, to get to know the coach and each other, and Scott and Lorraine Novak, who run the municipal tennis center and its tournaments, were busy throughout the day distributing team shirts donated by Nike, explaining the rules and format and establishing traditions.  The Mobile Azalea Trail Maids helped with the draw, providing a burst of spring pastels and issuing a high five to every player for good luck.

USTA coach Tom Gullikson spoke briefly to the players about running down every ball, playing every point with full effort and keeping their composure throughout the tournament.  Lew Brewer, USTA Director of Junior Competition, was on hand to welcome the players to the new tournament, and asked them to thank not just the Novaks and those involved in organizing the tournament, but to appreciate the sacrifices their parents had made so they could compete in it.

A free lunch catered by Outback Steakhouse was provided to coaches, parents and players alike before the second set of practices began on the mild and partly cloudy day.

Sunday will also be a practice day, with a special address by Gullikson on the topic of "Sportsmanship and Benefits of Team Competition for Top US Junior Players."

In ITF men's and women's circuit action today, 16-year-old Katerina Stewart reached her first professional final, defeating fellow qualifier Renata Zarazua of Mexico 7-5, 6-4 in the Gainesville $10,000 tournament.  Stewart, from Miami, will play top seed Katerina Kramperova of the Czech Republic in Sunday's final.  Kramperova has already collected the doubles title, partnering compatriot Nicola Frankova. The top seeds beat unseeded Roxanne and Sierra Ellison (San Diego State) 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Former Alabama All-American Saketh Myneni of India collected his ninth Futures title, but first this year, in a $10,000 Futures in India. The 26-year-old top seed defeated No. 3 seed Sanam Singh (Virginia) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Singh and Myneni won the doubles title on Friday.

Sixteen-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia claimed his second career Futures title, this one in Kazakhstan.  The No. 7 seed defeated unseeded Yaraslau Shyla of Belarus 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the $10,000 tournament.