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Monday, October 13, 2014

Small College Super Bowl Champions Earn ITA Indoor Bids; USTA Announces Australian Open Wild Card Challenge; Mallory Burdette Retires; Kevin Anderson on College Tennis

The ITA Small College Championships in Sumter, South Carolina concluded Sunday with the Small College Super Bowl, which features Division II, NAIA, Junior College and Division III champions playing off for a spot in the upcoming USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York.  The women's champions both defended their 2013 Super Bowl titles; the men crowned a new singles champion, with Armstrong State's Fernando Bogajo taking out defending champion Denis Zmak of Embry-Riddle in the final. Zmak will be returning to New York however, as he defended his doubles title, with a new partner this year.

Valentine Confalonieri (Lynn) def. Nour Abbes (Xavier, LA) 6-4, 6-2

Fernando Bogajo (Armstong State) def. Deni Zmak(Embry-Riddle) 7-6(3), 6-4

Zmak/Sanchez-Canamares(Embry-Riddle) def. Danny Riggs/Paolo Volpicelli(Lynn) 6-3, 6-4

Linda Fritschken/Emma Onila (Barry) def. Caroline Ward/Katie Kuosman(Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) 6-4, 6-1

For complete results, see the ITA tournament page.

Regionals, which will decide many of the Division I participants, have begun, with most of them scheduled for the upcoming weekend.  See the ITA results page to track those results.

The USTA announced last week that it was using the Wild Card Challenge format to decide its reciprocal Australian Open wild card this year, rather than using an invitational tournament in Atlanta, as it has done in past years.  Similar to the way the French wild card and one US Open wild card are decided, this wild card will hinge on the best two results in three $50,000 challenger tournaments.

The women's tournaments:

Tennis Classic of Macon, Macon, Ga. (week of Oct. 20)
John Newcombe Women’s Pro Challenge, New Braunfels, Texas (week of Oct. 27)
South Seas Island Resort Women’s Pro Classic, Captiva Island, Fla. (week of Nov. 3)

The men's tournaments:

Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger, Charlottesville, Va. (week of Oct. 27)
Knoxville 2014 Challenger, Knoxville, Tenn. (week of Nov. 3)
JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana, Champaign, Ill. (week of Nov. 10)

Mallory Burdette, who won the US Open Wild Card Challenge in 2012 and reached the third round, announced last week on Facebook that she would not be returning to the WTA tour after shoulder surgery.  I spoke to Burdette at the NCAAs in May, when, as a student at Stanford, she came back to support the Cardinal.  She told me she was completing her degree in psychology, but was hoping at that time to come back to pro tennis in 2015.  Anyone who saw her play will testify that her ball striking was world class, and facing retirement at 23 seems cruel, but cliched as it sounds, she has so many options as she looks to a new career.  A return to tennis as a college coach, should she want that, certainly would be among them.

Former University of Illinois All-American Kevin Anderson, now ranked 17 on the ATP computer, is the subject of this feature article on the Illinois athletic site.  Anderson discusses how he was recruited to Illinois, the difficult decision to leave after his junior year, his improvement as a pro and his continuing relationship with head coach Brad Dancer and his teammates while at Illinois.

"What was really great, as much of an emphasis was placed on improving on the tennis court, I think almost a bigger emphasis was the growth as a person, not just for me, but the whole team, allowing our characters to come through," Anderson said. "It was a lot of character building and I think that's why a lot of the players are still so close to the program and all of us feel that we have a lot of roots that go back to the program. That's a testament to Brad, the program he's put in place, and Craig Tiley as well who was there and did such a great job a decade ago in turning around Illinois tennis.

"It's almost funny. I talk to other tennis players from South Africa, especially those who go to college, and always ask if they stay in touch with their college teammates and a lot of them do, but a lot of them aren't as close as when they were back in college. I look back at all my friendships and all of my closest friends are the guys from Illinois. Whenever we're in the same city or town we always get together. At the U.S. Open the last couple years we've had about 10 or 15 people come watch me play, and I think they come to watch me play but they also come to hang out with each other. It's really been special to be a part of that."