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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Boys 18s Nationals Moving From Kalamazoo to Lake Nona; US Open Junior Championships Canceled; American Clay Court Championships Begin Sunday at The Greenbrier

USTA National Campus Welcome Center, Lake Nona Florida
Monday's announcement that the 16s and 18s USTA National Championships were going to be held in their normal August time slots lifted my spirits substantially after weeks of reporting cancellations and postponements. But for me personally, and for those in the B18s division, that excitement was short-lived, with the USTA announcing today that Kalamazoo, which has hosted the event for 77 years, will not be the site for that tournament. The USTA statement:

Following Monday’s announcement, the USTA was notified by officials at Kalamazoo College that the school would no longer be able to serve as the host facility of the 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships, citing concerns from school leadership as to whether or not the college could effectively execute safety protocols mandated by the USTA. Despite the more than 70 years of history of hosting this premier event in Kalamazoo, the USTA unfortunately had no choice but to seek an alternate location in order to successfully host the 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships in the safest possible manner.

The 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships will now be held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 7-16. The USTA looks forward to returning to Kalamazoo in 2021. 

When I had heard early today that this switch was possible, I did not know Kalamazoo College was behind it. After dealing with over 450-player fields in the past three years, holding a 128-draw tournament in just one age division seemed eminently doable, even with the new protocol required due to the pandemic. A scaled down event without all the bells and whistles that Kalamazoo offers, including large crowds, is not ideal, of course, but it would provide some continuity for the tournament history and an important boost for the struggling hospitality industry in this small city.

Ironically, Michigan, like New York, seems to have gotten through the worst of the Covid-19 first wave, while Florida, in general, and Orlando, in particular, are seeing its cases increasing.

Here is the Facebook post from the tournament:

Due to health and safety concerns for athletes, guests, volunteers, and the Kalamazoo community at large, Kalamazoo College leadership has made the difficult decision to not host the USTA Boys National Championships, August 7-16, 2020. This decision came through consultation with a group of medical and public health professionals, community leaders, tournament supporters, as well as those within the sports industry. Collectively, the concern is safety and we simply do not know enough about COVID-19 or how to ensure the health of athletes, guests, volunteers and the community. As United States sporting associations and events of this magnitude have been suspended or postponed in 2020, there is no template to safeguard the transmission of COVID-19 as of now. 

Kalamazoo is our home and has been for 77 years and we want it to be our home for another 77 years and beyond. We are excited to welcome back the Boys' Nationals to Kalamazoo in 2021!

Although initially the TennisLink sites gave Tuesday, June 16 as the day entries open, now all four sites are showing Thursday, June 18 instead.  Links to the TennisLink site are available in this article.

While Kalamazoo College adopted a "can't-do" attitude to this cherished local event, the USTA has demonstrated the opposite approach to the US Open, and the Western and Southern Open, the major US-based ATP and WTA event several weeks prior. On today's virtual press conference, the USTA announced that the W&S Open would be held this year in New York, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from August 19-28 (including qualifying), followed by the US Open, which will not have any qualifying, from August 31-September 13.  Serena Williams has committed to playing, but entry deadlines are next month, so other top players have several weeks before they make up their mind. All Americans are expected to play; the question is whether those who plan to play the newly scheduled European Clay season this fall, will make the trip.

As expected, there will be no junior championships this year, and no media will be allowed onsite, other than broadcast partners. I do expect virtual press conferences like the one they had today, so I hope to be able to cover the event from my home.

I did have an opportunity to ask if one of the eight wild cards the USTA has for the Open will go to the 18s National Champions this year, and Tournament Director Stacey Allaster assured me they would.

The transcript of the press conference, which lasted about an hour, is available here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to the organizers of the American Clay Court Nationals about their events, which will have the 16s and 18s compete at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and the 12s and 14s at Centercourt in Chatham New Jersey. I also spoke with Frank Thompson, a rising high school senior from Virginia, who is planning to play the boys 18s, which begins Sunday. For more on the tournaments, see this article, posted on Tennis Recruiting Network today.


Brent said...

So did K College confirm on Tuesday that they were prepared to host the tournament and then pull the rug out on the USTA ONE DAY later? Or did the USTA announce it without checking with the host? Is there a third explanation? If it is either of the first two, that is jaw-dropping. I am very concerned it isn't coming back. Kalamazoo has significant advantages of tradition and weather on its side but isn't easy to get to and doesn't have the court consolidation that Nona can offer. The USTA clearly wants to utilize their new asset and I'm worried this will be their excuse to yank it. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen.

Jon King said...

I have a feeling you nailed it Brent. Once the USTA gets it to Lake Nona this year, I doubt they will let it go. They need to utilize that massive Lake Nona complex every which way. The county gave concessions and the land was a nice deal. So USTA wants to say thank you when it can. I hope I am wrong for the sake of the folks who historically have hosted this event.

The players, parents, coaches will all now eat in restaurants and stay at hotels in the Lake Nona and Orlando area instead.

SeminoleG said...

Lake Nona in August...... For a Hard Court Event...... Bring plenty of Squeegees Avg Heat Index ~90

"The weather in August is controversial for fans of sunshine, due to nearly every day's rainfall. The temperatures are between 73.4°F (23°C) and 91.4°F (33°C), and the ocean temperatures are at pleasurable 84.2°F (29°C). ... Rainfall reads 7.8" (198.1mm) and falls for an average of 24 days."

During a predicted "Active Hurricane Year"......

Mr. Fernandez said...

Add in the frequent airplanes that fly about 40 feet over the courts at Lake Nona and it will be quite a treat to play there in August! I have a feeling the USTA heat index protocols will be enacted during the tournament.

Welcome to Sunny Florida! said...

The Heat...The Humidity... The Rain....not to mention it's Hurricane Season!
Nats will neer be the same....