Monday, August 3, 2020

Aces From Past Julys; Murray, Three Americans Receive Western & Southern Open Wild Cards; UTR and ITA Announce 10-Week Fall Circuit

With professional tennis now officially back at the WTA International in Palermo Italy this week, I hope this is my fourth and final edition of Aces that depends on the Tennis Recruiting Network's archives. The 15 players in the July edition skews to the men's side, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Reilly Opelka, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime among those featured. It wasn't so long ago that the conventional wisdom held that young stars were no longer possible in the men's game because the game was too physical and demanded too much maturity. Then Alexander Zverev started winning Masters events, and although it's true slam titles have been the exclusive property of older players, there is no question that the 25-and-under crowd is a threat now, with the 21-year-old Tsitsipas already an Australian Open semifinalist and the reigning ATP Finals champion.

The Western & Southern Open has announced its four men's wild cards, with Great Britain's Andy Murray and Americans Tennys Sandgren, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe the recipients.  Sandgren at 55 and Paul at 57 are the highest ranked Americans not in the initial acceptances; Tiafoe, at 81, was given one ahead of Steve Johnson, currently at 63 in the ATP rankings.

The five women's wild cards, announced last Thursday, are Caty McNally, Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka.

Qualifying begins on Thursday August 20th at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, with the main draw starting Saturday the 22nd. The current player list is here.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association and UTR today announced a Fall Circuit, modeled on the ITA's longstanding Summer Circuit which is drawing to a close with the National Summer Championships beginning on Friday. Although the sites have yet to be selected, the Fall Circuit is expected to begin on September 18th and run through November 22nd, a 10-week schedule, with dates and sites to be confirmed by August 24th.

For NCAA compliance purposes, these events are open, so anyone with an ITA Player Membership is eligible to compete in them. As I wrote after covering the Summer Circuit event in Grand Rapids last month, these tournaments are very popular with national-level juniors, who have had limited opportunities to compete elsewhere due to ITF and USTA pandemic cancellations. I imagine this new Fall Circuit will be popular with college players too, particularly if there are enough of them to keep travel distances drivable.

As with this year's Summer Circuit, doubles competition is not offered.

Information on hosting a Fall Circuit event, purchasing a Player Membership and important dates can be found here.