Tuesday, May 19, 2020

2016 NCAA Champions McDonald and Collins Recommend College Pathway During UTR All-Access Webinar; Financial Help for ATP and WTA Top 500 Set; ITA Division II Regional Awards Announced

Host Prakash Amritraj, Mackie McDonald, Danielle Collins
The 2016 NCAA singles champions Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald were guests on the UTR's All-Access webinar today, and not surprisingly, both gave credit to their college experience as critical to their success in reaching the WTA and ATP Top 100.

Prakash Amritraj started at the beginning, and both Collins and McDonald made clear that neither were late bloomers. Collins began playing 18s events after reaching the top in the USTA 12s rankings, while McDonald, who started at age 3, remembered the significance of his Little Mo title at 11 and his first gold ball at age 12.

On her decision to go to college, rather than enter the pro rankings after high school, Collins said this:

"I knew I wasn't really in a position where I would be able to have a successful career right away and I thought going to college would be the perfect transition: to get more experience, to get free coaching, to get all things out of my athletic experience and also be able to enjoy my life and be around normal people and get an education. That was really appealing to me."

Amritraj asked Collins, who went on to win the NCAA singles title in both 2014(as a sophomore) and 2016(as a senior), why she transferred from Florida after her freshman year.

"My freshman year, when I got to Florida, I had a pretty good season in the fall and for whatever reason in the spring, my coach had me playing at 6 and then I wasn't playing. That was a big red flag to me, because I had really high aspirations going into college, I was the No. 1 recruit in the country going into college tennis so I was really just confused, with my work ethic and how I had performed in the fall, how all of that transpired. So I looked at Virginia. I had a boyfriend at the time that was at Virginia, so it made the decision pretty easy. I had narrowed it down to Florida, Georgia and Virginia. Georgia was out, because I didn't want to sit out a year (due to transferring within the SEC), so Virginia was a pretty easy choice for me."

McDonald, who turned pro after winning both the singles and doubles titles as a UCLA Bruin in 2016, knew he wanted to play tennis professionally, but needed college to mature.

"For me it was a confidence thing, am I ready to make that professional jump, being professional each day and competing, traveling. I would say I had a difficult year of ITF (Juniors); I didn't have the same results as I'd had when I was 16, 17, when I was 12 in the world...that decision is always super tough to go pro or go to college, with the position I was in. But looking back, I would never make a different choice. College is always such a good path, you can learn so much, you can grow so much....but I also went into college knowing one day I will go pro, so I made it my goal while I was at UCLA to work hard and do all the things I needed to do to be prepared for the tour."

McDonald admitted that two wins he had in 2013, after losing in the fourth round of the Kalamazoo 18s, made that decision a bit more difficult.

"I had a really good run in Cincinnati, back in 2013, before I went to college. I was playing Kalamazoo, and I had lost pretty early and I was about to leave and (USTA head of men's tennis) Jay Berger came running up and said there's a wild card (into qualifying) for the Cincinnati Masters and do you want to take it and go. I had my UCLA shirt on and everything, was ready to go straight to college, and it was actually really nice. I got a great taste of the pros at the Masters 1000 level. I had zero ranking and I ended up qualifying, beat two guys Top 100, Stevie Johnson and Nicolas Mahut, and got 35 points. It almost made my decision to go to college a little bit tougher, having a breakout result like that, but I did make the right decision to go to college. That showed me I could always do something on the pro tour."

Collins remembered a final in a November 2017 $25,000 tournament in Oklahoma that boosted her belief that she could succeed on the pro tour.

"That match that I played in the final was with Sachia Vickery, and it went three sets. It was some of the craziest weather conditions and it was a really crazy opponent and I just had to overcome a lot with everything going on in that match. And I kind of knew, after it was over, I was like, if I can deal with this, I can deal with playing at the top and the challenges that will come along with playing with those players at the top level."

For the complete webinar, on-demand, see the UTR All-Access page. Next Tuesday, May 26, at 4 p.m. Pacific, Australian John Millman will be the guest.

For other virtual events, including one with James Blake on Fitness and Nutrition tomorrow (Wednesday, May 20), register here.

According to several reports, the ATP and WTA have notified their players that financial assistance will be forthcoming for both singles and doubles players.  For the WTA, the $10,400 grants will be for Top 500 singles players and Top 175 doubles players, with payments in two installments. Those who have substantial earnings over the past several years are not eligible. Those restrictions and other details are available in this Open Court post.

The ATP's assistance is two distributions of $4,235.00 each, but is more complicated due to travel grants already in place. The ATP also has prize money restrictions, meaning those reaching the threshold will not receive the payment.

The ITF announced it was working on a relief fund for those players ranked between 501 and 700, but it will be June 2 before details are available.

The ITA announced its Division II Regional Award winners today. The men's list is here, and the women's list is here.