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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic Begins Friday

Tomorrow is a travel day for me, as I head west for the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic. Last year I covered the tournament for the first time, which was also the first time the USTA had been involved in the event, taking over from Cal's men's tennis coach Peter Wright, who relinquished control in order to facilitate the addition of junior players. The junior players did very well last year, although Mitchell Frank was the only junior to win one of the eight round robin groups. The format this year is the same, although except for Cal, the participating college teams are new.

This year the teams participating are: Cal, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Tulsa, UCLA and Vanderbilt. Unlike last year, when Alex Lacroix of Florida and Eric Quigley of Kentucky both were in the Top 10 of the preseason rankings, none of the college competitiors this year are ranked in the top 20. Carlos Cueto of Cal, at 26, and Casey Watt of Notre Dame, at 28, have the highest rankings this year. Mitchell Krueger and Alexios Haleibian, two of the juniors who were part of the inaugural group of eight last year, are returning, and they will be joined by JC Aragone, Luca Corinteli, Connor Farren, Nikko Madregallejo, Spencer Papa and Michael Redlicki. The group, selected by the USTA, are training this week at the Harbor Bay Club in Alameda, California in preparation for Friday's competition.

I hope I was able to convey in my coverage of the event last year just how different it is from any other junior or college event I follow. The Napa valley is world famous for its beauty, and the Meadowood resort, where the tournament is played, is an exceptional example of the region's charm. The crowds are small but knowledgeable, with the majority of them connected in some way to the Cal program, but the amazing hospitality on offer is by no means partisan. The results in matches between collegians do count for rankings, while the juniors are there to see how their games translate to the next level. For me, it was an ideal way to unwind from the chaos of New York, and I am eager to return.

I will be visiting family prior to arriving in Napa on Thursday, so tomorrow's post will be a Coaches Q and A, with Harold Solomon giving his thoughts on retirements during competition.

The complete list of college players competing at the Land Rover Napa Valley Classic can be found in this release, posted at usta.com.