USTA Juniors Win Five of Eight Singles Matches on Day 2 of Land Rover Napa Valley Classic

ST. HELENA, Calif., (Sept. 25, 2010) – Cal tennis fan Brad Gilbert stopped by the Meadowood Resort on Saturday to watch the youngest and most local USTA junior boy compete on the second day of the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic.

Fifteen-year-old Mackenzie McDonald, who comes from the same Northern California town as Gilbert was raised 90 miles southeast in Piedmont, met his match against Illinois’ best player, Dennis Nevolo, falling 6-1, 6-2, on a day that saw the USTA’s eight top juniors win five singles matches against six of the nation’s best collegiate teams.

Gilbert said despite the result, McDonald, who is referred to as Mackie by his coaches and teammates, is still one U.S. tennis fans should keep an eye on in the future.

“It was good to finally get a sense of his game,” said Gilbert of McDonald, who won the 14s Easter Bowl Spring Nationals in 2009. “He’s just 15 so the next 18 months will tell a lot. But from what I saw, I would be surprised if he doesn’t become a top player.”

Nevolo, a junior who finished with 27 wins as the Fighting Illini’s No. 1 player last year, proved too strong physically for McDonald. “It was a tough match for me,” said McDonald, who fell to 1-1 in the round-robin formatted tournament. “I mean, he’s No. 1 for Illinois. I felt like he was pressuring me and overpowered me. That was actually my game plan going in against him since there were no expectations for me. But I wasn’t able to execute it.”

Gilbert agreed: “The guy he’s playing is 21 and just physically too strong. He just got overpowered.”

USTA coaches Jose Higueras, Jay Berger and Ricardo Acuna watched the match and were even able to go on court during the match and coach McDonald and the other players, something new for them but not new for the other college coaches.

“That’s one of the great things about this event,” said USC assistant coach George Husack. “We get a chance to see some of these juniors up close and actually be on the same court with them. It’s good to be in front of them. They see what I’m like on the court interacting with my players and I can also see how they’re reacting to the coaching that is going on with them with some of the USTA coaches.”

He continued: “I think the event also shows the college guys that these juniors aren’t messing around. They aren’t here just because it’s a great opportunity. They’re here to win.”

The USTA juniors were led by Jack Sock, Alexios Halebian and the two Mitchell’s, Krueger and Frank, who each won on Saturday and have two wins in two days. The final day of round-robin play is Sunday with the winners of each of the eight flights advancing to a single-elimination, 10-point tiebreak tournament.

Florida coach Jeremy Bayon was in agreement with the other seven collegiate coaches in his high praise of the event. “I think it’s a great idea and it’s a great format,” Bayon said. “It shows that the USTA and the college coaches can work together. Most of the freshmen and sophomores still know the juniors so it’s bring a great atmosphere. It’s good because it shows how good junior tennis is in the U.S. It shows that college tennis is also at such a high level.”

Count veteran Kentucky coach Dennis Emery as one in favor of the event. He couldn’t stop raving about the event. He said he got the coveted invite from Cal coach Peter Wright after Georgia had to drop out. “I think it’s a really unique event and I think it has so much potential to get even bigger,”  Emery said. “I think it’s great getting to see the USTA coaches on the court with their players. It’s a innovation that they don’t have in any other setting. I think that’s what makes it such a big thing for the USTA.”

Emery said he’s seen firsthand the positive support the USTA has recently given to college tennis. “I don’t think there’s been any question there’s a huge turn in the way the USTA is approaching college tennis,” Emery said. “As a 33-year Division I veteran, I can tell you it’s something that’s been long-awaited. It’s been a very serious commitment to college tennis on behalf of the USTA. I went to a coaching clinic in June in Boca and the entire program with Patrick (McEnroe) and Jose (Higueras) and Jay Berger was fascinating.

“Just the whole thing is on a good path right now. It’s a group of guys that I think understands that it doesn’t matter where the players are coming from but that they’re coming prepared and ready to play. It’s a much less territorial thing than in the past.”

Emery continued: “The thing that I’m most impressed with is that the juniors are not getting overpowered. I thought that the college guys would be able to come in and overpower them with their serves and their aggressive play. But that’s just not the case. I’ve been very impressed with how technically sound these junior players are. They play a lot of balls. I think the reason they are able to compete so well is because they are so technically sound. That’s the biggest thing I’ve seen.”

The winner of the tournament will receive a USTA-sponsored wild card into a USTA Pro Circuit event that is yet to be determined.

The juniors were selected by USTA Player Development based on ATP rankings (if applicable), national rankings and results, and a selection of younger players for developmental purposes.

DAY 2: Saturday’s Singles Results

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Carlos Cueto (Cal), 7-6 (5), 6-2

Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA, Pittsburgh, Pa.) def. Raymond Sarmiento (USC), 6-0, 6-3

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Mackenzie McDonald (USTA, Piedmont, Calif.), 6-1, 6-2

JT Sundling (USC) def. Maks Gold (Kentucky), 6-0, 6-2

Vasko Mladenov (Texas) def. Bob Van Overbeek (Florida), 7-6 (4), 6-1

Abe Souza (Illinois) def. Pedro Zerbini (Cal), 6-4, 7-5

Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois) def. Hunter Harrington (USTA, Spartanburg, S.C.), 6-2, 6-3

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Marcos Giron (USTA, Thousand Oaks, Calif.), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Nick Andrews (Cal), 6-1, 6-4

Mitchell Krueger (USTA, Aledo, Texas) def. David Holiner (Texas), 6-3, 7-6 (4)

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Johnny Hamui (Illinois), 6-2, 6-2

Jack Sock (USTA, Lincoln, Neb.) def. Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal), 6-4, 6-2

Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.) def. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky), 6-4, 6-1

Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Jean Andersen (Texas), 2-6, 7-5, 6-1

Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.) def. Nassim Slilam (Florida), 6-3, 6-2

Sekou Bangoura (Florida) def. Jaak Poldma (USC), 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3)

DAY 2: Saturday’s Doubles Results

Nick Andrews / Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal) def. Mitchell Krueger / Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA), 8-6

Alexandre Lacroix / Nassim Slilam (Florida), def. Mitchell Frank / Jack Sock (USTA), 8-4

Zack Gilbert / Sky Lovell (Cal) def. Marcos Giron / Alexios Halebian (USTA), 9-8 (3)

JT Sundling / Raymond Sarmiento (USC) def. Mackenzie McDonald / Hunter Harrington (USTA), 8-4

DAY 3: Sunday’s Schedule

8:00 a.m.

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) v. Vasko Mladenov (Texas)

Bob Van Overbeek (Florida) v. Marcos Giron (USTA)

Alexios Halebian (USTA) v. Jean Andersen (Texas)

Jaak Poldma (USC) v. David Holiner (Texas)

Sekou Bangoura (Florida) v. Mitchell Krueger (USTA)

Ed Corrie (Texas) v. Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois)

9:15 a.m.

Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal) v. Johnny Hamui (Illinois)

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) v. Raymond Sarmiento (USC)

Pedro Zerbini (Cal) v. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky)

10:30 a.m.

Daniel Nguyen (USC) v. Nassim Slilam (Florida)

Nick Andrews (Cal) v. Hunter Harrington (USTA)

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) v. Jack Sock (USTA)

Carlos Cueto (Cal) v. Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA)

Abe Souza (Illinois) v. Mitchell Frank (USTA)

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) v. Maks Gold (Kentucky)

JT Sundling (USC) v. MacKenzie McDonald (USTA)

The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game.  A not-for-profit organization with 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game.  It owns and operates the US Open, and launched the Olympus US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open.  In addition, it owns the 90-plus Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S., is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games.  USTA Serves, the National Charitable Foundation of the USTA, provides financial support for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities through tennis and education programs.  For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

Working At The Open Was a Dream

Experiencing the US Open from any perspective is special but working in the media room during the Open is one of the few ways to see the tournament from every perspective. For every 2010 US Open night session I worked in the USTA media room and helped assist over 1700 media credentialed guests by distributing stats and interview transcripts. Although this job was categorized as work, I never thought of it as that.

The media personalities I met, the people I worked with and the contacts I made, in addition to being a part of the fanfare, made my first US Open experience one that I will never forget. It’s true that maybe I was easily thrilled because I moved to the big city only a month ago from North Carolina so I’m still amused by everyday life in New York, but this excitement was on another level.

The diversity of the tennis media is one of the things that sets tennis apart from other sports. Tennis is played on every continent in the world, so imagine a room full of people from hundreds of different cultures and nationalities participating in an industry that is more laid back and casual than most other professions. It’s a culture clash to say the least, but the beauty of it is that the love of the game brought everyone together for those two weeks. Household tennis names like Bud Collins were seen in the media room as often as everyday. Two-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo was present during the second week, working with the French media. Patrick McEnroe even stopped by on the day that he stepped down as Captain of the United States Davis Cup Team to talk about his resignation.

Walking on the Open grounds is something that every tennis fan should experience at least once in their lifetime. Making my periodic visit to the umpire’s office was always an adventure. On multiple occasions I walked past Brad Gilbert and said “BG!” and every time he gave me a smile and a head nod. Several times I followed a crowd of people rushing to the practice courts to find Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or another top contender preparing for their next match. Fans are eager to find another rising star with the personality to match and the Open grounds give players the chance to build their fan base. Dustin Brown, the 25 year old Jamaican who put on a show in Ashe Stadium during his second round loss to Andy Murray, took full advantage of the opportunity. He walked around the grounds after his loss and happily signed autographs and took pictures with fans while his Jamaican entourage tagged along.

One of the more interesting things to watch over the two weeks was the buzz around Rafael Nadal and his official coming out party as a sports icon. Yes, Nadal had eight Grand Slam titles and a solid fan base coming into this year’s Open, but there’s always been a slight resistance to make him the fan favorite. As he advanced through each round of the Open, you could hear the buzz surrounding Nadal grow louder and louder. By the end of the second week it seemed that every person on the grounds was wearing an article of clothing with Rafa’s Bull logo or some other piece from Nadal’s Nike-endorsed US Open wardrobe. There’s no question who will be the fan favorite when Nadal comes back to defend his title in 2011, and I hope to also come back and do it again next year.

Follow me on twitter: @jonithom

Q & A With Bill Mountford of World Team Tennis

World Team Tennis completed another successful season back in July. With a unique format and fast action, it’s no wonder it has been around for 35 years.

But what about its future? Well today, Tennis Ledger is proud to interview Bill Mountford, the former Director of the National Tennis Center and the LTA in England, who is currently Vice President of WTT.

Tennis Ledger: Tell us a little about the Elton John event in Washington, DC this November.

Bill Mountford: WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO is an annual charity event co-hosted by longtime friends Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John. Elton is a huge tennis fan and wanted to do something in the tennis community so he teamed up with Billie Jean to create Smash Hits. The money raised from this tennis event and pre-match reception, as well as the live auction, will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Washington AIDS Partnership. This is the first time in the event’s 18 year history that it will be held in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a great night of tennis for a great cause. The talent is unbelievable – Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, James Blake, Anna Kournikova and we will be adding more names. All these tennis greats volunteer their time and talents and the quality of tennis is terrific. (NOTE: visit www.WTT.com/SmashHits for information and tickets.)

TL: How would you assess this past season of WTT?

BM: The 2010 season was a great celebration of the 35-season legacy of World TeamTennis. We had a season loaded with top players like Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe and the return of Martina Hingis among so many other recognizable names. In the WTT Pro League, we like to showcase three generations of tennis and bring quality, professional team tennis to supportive markets. Only two of our 10 markets have other big-time professional tennis events, so we recognize that it is vital to showcasing our sport in this country. Our 35th season culminated with one of the most exciting finals in recent history with the Kansas City Explorers winning their first-ever WTT Championship before a standing-room-only hometown crowd. It was a great finish to a memorable season.

TL: Are there any expansion plans on the horizon?

BM: As far as the WTT Pro League is concerned, we are not looking to expand beyond 10 teams in the U.S. right now. However we are discussing opportunities to take World TeamTennis to international markets. We had a successful WTT exhibition event at the 2010 Australian Open and we hope to build on that. On the Recreational TeamTennis side of the business, we are always seeking opportunities to establish new leagues in new markets. These WTT “Rec Leagues” are a great compliment to USTA Leagues all over the country, and there are 16,000 players who currently participate. We’d all love to see that number continue to grow.

TL: Any new innovations anticipated for 2011?

BM: We have begun preparations for the 2011 WTT Pro League season and we surely remain open to trying new things. My “blink” response to the question would be: “Yes!” WTT has been long been viewed as the “think tank” for professional tennis and we enjoy our role as innovators. It is likely that a few of our new ideas for the pro league – and for the overall betterment of our sport – will be put forth. Stay tuned on this…

TL: How actively involved is Billie Jean King with WTT?

BM: Billie Jean remains quite active with World TeamTennis, and WTT will always be a big part of her legacy in the sport. Along with CEO Ilana Kloss, she certainly remains the leading ambassador and spokesperson for WTT. Billie Jean has often said that if you want to see her philosophy on life, then you should watch a World TeamTennis match because it showcases men and women working together with equal contributions.

Richard Kent is the author of the tennis books “Inside The US Open” and “The Racket.”

Photo of the Day

Famous soccer players Thierry Henry from France and Colombian Juan PabloAngel arrived to USTA Billie Jean King National Tennisa Center support Gael Monfils in his QF match with Novak Djokovic. They in the picture with Polish tennis fan Daniel Cichon from Connecticut