Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Junior Referee and ITF Supervisor Steve Reitman Dies Suddenly; UNC's Will Blumberg Leads Division I All-Americans; Steve Johnson Featured on UTR's All-Access Webinar

Steve Reitman at 2014 US Open 
Prior to the start of an officiating webinar today, USTA officiating head Jake Garner announced the death of Steve Reitman, a longtime fixture on the ITF Junior Circuit and the USTA Pro Circuit. I got to know Steve when he served as the ITF referee at the ITF Grade B1 in Tulsa Oklahoma and he had been referee at both the Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1 and the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland over the years. He was at College Park last August, but he told me then that he had taken a new supervisory position with the USTA, which had him doing many more USTA Pro Circuit events than junior tennis tournaments.

No details were given on the cause of death, but it was certainly unexpected. My husband, who worked with Reitman at the tournament desk in College Park for the past six years, had exchanged how are you doing during the pandemic texts just a week ago. I will miss working with him at tournaments; he was always so generous and gracious about helping me with draws, rules and other information that helped me do a better job as a reporter. Rest in peace.
The ITA announced its Division I and Division II All-American teams this year, based on a double run of the last rankings. Because no players were able to earn All America status at the NCAAs this year, this pandemic year will see the lowest number of players possible honored: 20 singles players and 10 doubles teams. Below are the Division I singles All-Americans. Clicking on the headings will take you to the release, which notes the top conferences, first all-Americans for a school, etc. along with the doubles honorees. There is a separate Division II release for women and menNorth Carolina's Will Blumberg is only the third man in Division I history to be named an eight-time All-American, receiving the honor in singles and doubles all four years he played for the Tar Heels. He joins USC's Rick Leach and Tennessee's JP Smith on that exclusive list.  I have not seen any reference to Blumberg returning for the 2020-21 season, but obviously he could achieve something no one else has if he were to achieve All-American status next year.

ITA Division I Men's Singles All-Americans:
Sam Riffice, Florida
Oliver Crawford, Florida
Duarte Vale, Florida
Trent Bryde, Georgia
Philip Henning, Georgia
Alex Brown, Illinois
Andrew Fenty, Michigan
William Blumberg, North Carolina
Alexis Galarneau, NC State
Richard Ciamarra, Notre Dame
Cannon Kingsley, Ohio State
John McNally, Ohio State
Alexandre Rotsaert, Stanford
Yuya Ito, Texas
Christian Sigsgaard, Texas
Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
Hady Habib, Texas A&M
Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida
Keegan Smith, UCLA
Daniel Cukierman, USC

ITA Division I Women's Singles All-Americans:
Haley Giavara, California
Kelly Chen, Duke
Katarina Kozarov, Furman
Katarina Jokic, Georgia
Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
Alexa Graham, North Carolina
Cameron Morra, North Carolina
Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Shiori Fukuda, Ohio State
Iuliia Bryzgalova, Penn
Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine
Mariia Kozyreva, St. Mary’s
Michaela Gordon, Stanford
Bianca Turati, Texas
Anna Turati, Texas
Abigail Forbes, UCLA
Elysia Bolton, UCLA
Jada Hart, UCLA
Natasha Subhash, Virginia

Prakash Amritraj and Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson was today's guest on the UTR All-Access Webinar series, with USC's two-time NCAA singles champion and four-time NCAA team champion discussing his path from juniors, through college and on to a successful professional career.

"College was incredible for me," Johnson told UTR host Prakash Amritraj. "It gave me a chance to mature, to put into perspective what I wanted to do with my life. Tennis was a passion of mine, but then [professional tennis] came to the forefront as a realistic possibility."

Johnson, who played lines 3 and 4 much of his freshman year, said he really began to believe he could play professional tennis when he won the ITA Intercollegiate Indoor title in the fall of his sophomore year.

"We had won the NCAAs, and then in the fall, we have our biggest tournament, the Indoors and I win it," Johnson said. "I don't think anybody thought that I would win, I was 15-20 in the nation maybe, so I win that tournament and get to No. 1 in the country. I'm 19, just about to turn 20 and I feel like all right, this is making being a tennis professional a real possibility. From then, I just worked my butt off to get better and better."

Amritraj asked Johnson when in his junior career did he begin to take the sport more seriously.

"In the 12s and 14s, I was 1 in the country, 1 in the section(SoCal), at the top," Johnson said.  "I'd get to 15, 16, 17, that's when maybe some of the talent doesn't get you as far as it once did. As people, we start to grow and mature, our bodies take shape, take form. I wasn't that good in the 16s and I wasn't that good in the 18s. I'm saying relatively; I was probably Top 10 in the section, Top 30 in the country. I think I made the round of 16 at Kalamazoo my last year, my best result. I didn't really make that transition to college until I saw the older guys on the team and their work ethic, what they did on a daily basis. I didn't do any of that, really in the 16s and 18s, and I really wish I would have. Would have had that base and that discipline going forward, but thankfully, I got that very quickly in college and turned the corner there."

The complete webinar will be available at the UTR All-Access page under the On Demand tab. Thursday's All-Access webinar will feature Bethanie Mattek-Sands. There is also a virtual event with IMG's Jimmy Arias and Miomir Kecmanovic on Thursday and another virtual event with former Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard and Joey Johnson on Friday. Registration for those events and others throughout May can be found here.


Chuck Kuhle said...

Sorry to hear about Steve. He worked at our Futures stop in Decatur, IL multiple times over our 20+ years. Easy to work with and knowledgeable about his profession. Will miss the nightly recaps we use to have over dinner at the end of our tournament day. R.I.P. Steve.

Chuck Kuhle
Decatur, IL

Jon King said...

Well deserved award for Jay Berger. Have seen Jay Berger work with Reilly Opelka at the same park courts we train at with great results.