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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

UTR Pro Tennis Series Underway in Florida, First of UTR's $1 Million Commitment to US Events in 2021; Big Ranking Jumps for Orange Bowl Champions; LA Times Talks with Nakashima

Last week, while I was focusing on the Orange Bowl, UTR announced a 20 million dollar commitment to a three-year professional tour, which will provide playing opportunities for those hoping to earn enough to support a career in the sport.  Forty of the 2021 events, for both men and women, are scheduled for the United States, with over a million dollars committed to the prize money pool. 

The initial group in the series of US tournaments, which are scheduled through mid-March, are offering a minimum of $20,000 in prize money, and the first one, for men, is underway right now Naples Florida

These tournaments are different from the standard single-elimination event, with eight round robin groups of four to start. Then comes the playoff rounds, which are single elimination, with three separate draws based on where the players finished in their round robin groups. Despite these innovations, UTR has decided not to go for any of the shortened formats, with best-of-three, regular scoring being used.

The field in Naples is a good one, with most of the 32 players sporting UTRs above 13 and a couple above 14, including recent Challenger finalist Ramkumar Ramanathan of India. Several players who competed in the ITF World Tennis Tour $15Ks in the Dominican Republic the past two weeks are playing in Naples, including Felix Corwin(Minnesota) and Nick Chappell(TCU). 

Playsight is providing live streaming, and live scoring and results available here.

Below are the dates for the US $25K(financial commitment is $25K, prize money is $20K) tournaments announced so far:

Naples, FL: Sanchez-Casal Academy

December 14, 2020 - Men

January 4, 2021- Women

January 11 - Men

January 18 - Men

March 8 - Men

Newport Beach, CA: The Tennis Club at Newport Beach

January 4 - Men

January 11 - Women

January 18 - Women

January 25 - Women

Las Vegas, NV: Darling Tennis Center

February 8 - Women

February 15 - Women

February 22 - Men

March 1 - Men

Charleston, SC: LTP Academy 

March 1- Women

March 8- Women

For more on the Global UTR Pro Series Tour, see this article from Forbes.

Although there are still six ITF Junior Circuit events on the calendar for 2020, all of them are Grade 5s, so any change in the final rankings is likely to be minimal.

I'm sure one of the reasons that the USTA went ahead with the Orange Bowl this year was the opportunity it provided to Americans for points they did not have a chance to earn here in the United States in the spring and summer, as well as the Grade B1 in Lexington in the fall.

That paid off particularly for one American, champion Ashlyn Krueger, who rose 367 spots in the girls ITF Junior rankings, reaching No. 73. With the 2002 birth years dropping out at year-end, Krueger should rise into the Top 50, putting her in great position for any junior slams played in the summer of 2021.

Boys champion Arthur Fils of France also made a big jump, going from 165 in the rankings to 44.  Fils is now one of nine French junior boys in the Top 50.

The current ITF junior rankings can be found here.

Former Virginia Cavalier Brandon Nakashima ended his season with his first Challenger title in Orlando last month, reaching a career-high ATP ranking of 166.  Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times spoke with the 19-year-old, and his mother Christina, about how he developed into one of the top prospects in the United States. The stories about his focus as a child are interesting, and anyone who has seen him play more than once can attest to his skill when it comes to concentrating and avoiding distractions.