‘Turning Pro’ Francis Tiafoe to Face Dennis Novikov in USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas Final on Sunday
CALABASAS, Calif., (March 28, 2015) – Francis Tiafoe didn’t officially announce he was turning professional on Saturday after advancing to the final of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas. But he did remind that it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
“I’m going to turn pro,” the 17-year-old unseeded Tiafoe, still an amateur, said after beating Jason Jung in the semifinals, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, at the USTA $15,000 Pro Circuit Futures event being played at the Calasbasas Tennis & Swim Center. “I’m not sure when it’s going to happen, but it’s only a matter of time.”
Tiafoe is on a nine-match win streak after winning his first ITF Futures title last weekend in Bakersfield. He will face former UCLA star and No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov in the 1 p.m. final on Sunday, with a pro doubles exhibition starting at noon.
Jung won the toss but elected to receive Tiafoe’s serve, which he promptly broke quickly. “I came out flat, but got the break back but then gave up the first set,” Tiafoe said. “I was just trying to find my range on both sides. I was serving extremely well and my best shot my forehand started working for me in the second set.”
Tiafoe said he still plans to play the remaining Junior Grand Slams, and that he has improved tremendously from one year ago when he was No. 7 in the world ITF junior rankings. He was a finalist at the Carson USTA Spring International Championships and won the ASICS Easter Bowl. Both mega junior events take place over the next two weeks.
Earlier this month, Tiafoe was named as a practice partner for the United States Davis Cup team that lost to Great Britain in Scotland. “I worked hard in the off-season and at Davis Cup I gained a lot of confidence,” he said. “My serve is 10 times better and off the ground I’m so much better.”
Novikov, 21, lost the first set to McDonald, 4-6, but used his big serve to take advantage of the match over the final two sets, 6-3, 6-2.
In the doubles final on Saturday night, Fabian Matthews and Hunter Nicholas beat Adrian Forberg Skogeng and Wil Spencer, 6-1, 2-6, 10-6.
Follow along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/calabasastennis. For more information check out the official website, calabasasprotennis.com. Don’t forget to download the Pro Circuit App. Search procircuit in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.
Saturday’s Semifinal Singles Scores
Francis Tiafoe, U.S., def. Jason Jung, U.S., (6) 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. (q) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Saturday’s Final Doubles Score
Fabian Matthews, U.S. / Hunter Nicholas, U.S., def. Adrian Forberg Skogeng, Norway / Wil Spencer, U.S., 6-1, 2-6, 10-6
Anna Kalinskaya had an easy peasy day yesterday in taking two titles at the ITF International Hardcourts in College Park, Maryland. First up was a two set 6-2, 2-1 win in retirement against Romanian Elena Ruse. The tournament’s top seed, she followed up the singles win with a 6-3, 7-5 doubles title with teammate Evgeniya Levashova, besting the American team of Gabrielle Andrews and Mia Horvit.
After the match, Kalinskaya told me that the timing of the title was fortuitous. “It’s great, because I feel more confident now for the US Open.” She admitted it was a nice treat to have more energy for the doubles match to follow than she normally would.
Her opponent, Elena Ruse, who retired, was still in very good spirits and clutched a Wimbledon towel, a spoil of war from her semifinal run through the junior tournament this summer. Ruse, whose middle name is Gabriela, prefers to be known as Gabby.
“My leg was bad”, she explained. “In the second round, I felt something in my leg, put on some tape and everything was good. Today, I felt so bad. I hope I will be much better for US Open”.
And what about that Wimbledon towel?
“It was my second Grand Slam and I played amazing. I love grass courts and I hope I will be there next year”.
Does she hope to have a special US Open towel to remind her of a great run through New York? “Of course”, she said.
Reilly Opelka, an unseeded American, posted an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) comeback win over Tim Van Rijthoven to capture the boys title. Both players did a nice job of holding serve throughout. Opelka’s serve really bailed him out in the final two stanzas. I missed the end of the match, but I was impressed with the resolve of both players. Opelka reminds me a little of Sam Querrey or John Isner.
Let me give you some reminders about junior tournaments:
1) They hang towels anywhere they can: There’s no one to hand your towel to, so you hang it yourself: from a fence post, for example. But if you’re playing indoors, there is no fence. Then, you find something else. A door knob or a fire alarm will do.
2) The delays of chasing down running balls: They aren’t a bunch of time-wasters in the Juniors like they are in the pros. In fact, they often quick-pitch and sometimes opponents have to tell the player on the other side of the net to slow down. No commercial breaks and speedy changeovers means the matches move quickly. The balls are the one impediment to the smooth progress of the game. No ball kids means everyone is a ball-kid: fans, line judges, and even the Chair will occasionally hop down to kick a nearby ball in a server’s direction. Imagine that in a pro match.
Also, players who want to slow down the pace of a match can do just that depending on how passively they gather up the balls before service. A player about to return serve can also slow down the game depending on how quickly or not they return the ball from their side of the net. It’s a moment to catch your breath, if nothing else.
3) Keep your own score: Just like when you’re playing your buddy on the concrete courts behind the middle school. Like a broken clock, the flip scoreboard is only accurate once every two games when the players flip it on the changeover. We all take electronic scoreboards for granted until they’re gone. Or, you could always ask Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com. She keeps a reporter’s note book up-to-date with score and stats.
3) The Fans: They’re aren’t too many of them at a match, and they are probably related to the player on court, so watch what you say. Yesterday was unusual in terms of light turnout. The stars of the host Junior Tennis Champions Center had been eliminated in the semis, and the torrential downpour moved the finals inside. And by inside, I mean you had to walk through four buildings to find the courts. I walked through two buildings full of tennis lessons in progress, each time saying thinking, ‘No, this can’t be it’. Finally, I walked into the last tennis barn on the property, saw Colette Lewis, and knew I had arrived!
It was a pleasure to watch Colette at work yesterday. There’s no one like her in the world of tennis, and everything I learned about junior tennis, I learned from her. She also has a very diligent assistant, when he’s not busy with other duties.
For me, this Saturday used to be about Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day in New York. After watching title-match tennis a short drive from home, this seemed like a much better way to spend the Saturday before the US Open instead.
—Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
FRANCIS TIAFOE AWARDED WILD CARD ENTRY TO CITI OPEN® TOURNAMENT MAIN DRAW
Three Other Top Juniors Receiving Wild Card Entries to Qualifying Rounds
WASHINGTON — Francis Tiafoe, the No. 6 ranked junior in International Tennis Federation, has received a wild card entry to the main draw of the Citi Open® Tournament. It will be the College Park, Md., native’s first foray into an ATP World Tour tournament’s main draw.
Tiafoe, 16, won the Citi Open® Wild Card Challenge in June and earned his spot with a wild card entry in the qualifying rounds. Tournament officials, however, decided that main draw play would be more fitting for the hometown player.
“We’re excited to watch Francis in his first main draw match,” said Jeff Newman, tournament director. “This is his hometown and this is where he trains, so we expect a great crowd to come out and support him.”
Tiafoe trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, one of the leading training programs in the country. In 2012, he became the youngest winner of the Orange Bowl Championship, and earlier this year, played at both French Open Juniors and Wimbledon Juniors.
“I’m so excited to play in my first main draw ATP event and I can’t imagine a better place to play than in front of my hometown crowd,” Tiafoe said. “I’m so thankful to the Citi Open® for giving me this great opportunity.”
Three other juniors will receive a wild card entry into the qualifying rounds, beginning Saturday, July 26. Stefan Kozlov, 16, the current No. 2 ranked junior in the world, reached the finals of both Australian Open Juniors and Wimbledon Juniors this year. University of Virginia junior Ryan Shane, 20, helped the Cavaliers win the NCAA championship in 2013, and was recently named “Player to Watch” by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Jordi Arconada, 17, the runner-up in the Wild Card Challenge, will take Tiafoe’s place in the qualifying rounds.
—S. Pegarido, Citi Open
INTERNATIONAL TENNIS FEDERATION JUNIOR TOURNAMENT TO RETURN TO JUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONS CENTER IN AUGUST
Prince George’s County Announced as Official Title Sponsor
(College Park, MD) July 15, 2014 — Today the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) announced that Prince George’s County will become the official title sponsor of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 1 Junior Tournament, which returns to College Park, Md. for the third consecutive year. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships will take place at the College Park Tennis Club.
“Hosting a premier international junior sporting event for the third straight year is consistent with the Junior Tennis Champions Center’s pursuit of excellence” said JTCC Chief Executive Officer, Ray Benton. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase our stellar facility and again serve as the North American host venue.”
The tournament will take place two weeks prior to the junior US Open tournament, and will attract the finest male and female junior players from around the world. Some of the players who will be competing in this event are top world ranked juniors: Francis Tiafoe, Usue Arconada and Raveena Kingsley. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships is slated to begin with the local wildcard qualifying tournament from Aug. 11 to Aug. 13, which will lead into the Qualifying tournament from Aug. 16 to Aug 17. The main draw will kick off on Aug. 18 and conclude on Aug. 24.
“Prince George’s County is quickly becoming known throughout the world as Tennis County USA, thanks to the amazing work of the Junior Tennis Champions Center,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “We are proud to support one of the United States Tennis Association’s premier tennis tournament and we welcome this year’s cadre of players from around the world to College Park. This tournament is another example of why Prince George’s County is the place to be!”
Additional sponsors of the Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships include the United States Tennis Association (USTA), International Tennis Federation (ITF), Laurel Springs School and Holiday Inn of College Park.
—B. Brand, JTCC
USTA MID-ATLANTIC SECTION NAMES TARA FITZPATRICK-NAVARRO AS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Reston, Va., May 16, 2014 – The United States Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section (USTA/MAS) announced today that it has appointed Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro as its Executive Director.
USTA/MAS is one of 17 sections of the United States Tennis Association and is committed to promoting tennis by offering quality recreational and competitive programs for people of all ages and abilities. USTA/MAS has been part of America’s official governing body for tennis since 1923 and serves nearly 40,000 members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia as well as eastern and southern West Virginia. Tennis players are involved in leagues, tournaments and diverse programs sanctioned by the Section.
In her new role as Executive Director, Fitzpatrick-Navarro will be responsible for leading USTA/MAS’s dedicated team of professionals while guiding the organization to new levels of operating success, progressive visibility and prominence. She will also be responsible for promoting and growing the game of tennis in the region and building sustainable partnerships between the association and the constituency it serves.
“Joining USTA/MAS as Executive Director enables me to marry my dual passions for the recreation industry and association management into one ideal position,” said Fitzpatrick-Navarro. “USTA/MAS’s commitment to its membership and the sport of tennis provide a strong base of success and accomplishment that I look forward to building upon in my new role.”
Fitzpatrick-Navarro brings extensive experience in association management, including leadership in the areas of membership, education, research and professional development. Fitzpatrick-Navarro served for 10 years in positions of increasing responsibility at the National Recreation and Park Association, where most recently she was Vice president, Membership, Research and Professional Development. In this position, she oversaw a department of 18 full-time professional staff that was responsible for the organization’s education, certification, publications, accreditation, research, and membership engagement and development.
Prior to that, she held several other key positions in NRPA’s education and professional development divisions, including Director of Certification and Accreditation, Director of Education and Research and Chief of Knowledge and Learning. She also served as Director of Education and Training at Splash Aquatic Management and Therapeutic Recreation Manager and Director of Senior Centers for the Fairfax, Va. County Government.
“Tara’s deep experience in association management, coupled with her long and distinguished career in the field of recreation make her the perfect choice to lead USTA/MAS and help it advance its mission of promoting tennis through quality recreational and competitive programs for people of all ages and abilities,” said John Raker, USTA/MAS executive director search committee chair. “We’re thrilled to welcome Tara aboard.”
The search was conducted by association and non-profit search experts Vetted Solutions.
—C. Miller, USTA/Mid-Atlantic
Award-winning Junior Tennis Champions Center Fitting Backdrop For Young Talent Search
Steve Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Yesterday, the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland hosted its 15th annual Tennis Day to evaluate local children for summer camp scholarships at their USTA award-winning facility.
I’ve been to dozens of kids tennis events, but this one is so different. Kids are always sizing up adults, but the tables turn in this tennis fun house.
This is the time JTCC coaches take a look at the local crop of kids, some of whom might possess that obvious gift. It may be speed, coordination, strength or a combination thereof, but if they like what they see, the child is invited to the Center’s summer camp program at no cost to parents.
It’s like an old Yakov Smirnoff joke. In my country, people watch tennis. At Junior Tennis Champions Center, tennis watch you.
The younger kids are completely oblivious that they are being judged on their performances at the various drills set up on court at the College Park Tennis Center.
As a parent, it’s great to get a free assessment on your kids potential abilities in tennis. It’s easy to gauge results, too.
I saw a tiny 4-year-old run faster than most 5-year-olds, including my daughter, yesterday.
And that’s probably the best part of an event like this one. You’re almost certain one of these cute, little kids will be an NCAA champion someday or play at the professional level.
And you just don’t know which one yet, but you’re excited for that kid. And you’re excited for the ones who will attend the JTCC camps.
To get trained at a place like this, with coaches like these, is such an enormous blessing.
And keep your eye out for participant #202. She will probably never play pro tennis, but she might ‘commentate’ on it someday. Likely on ESPN9, when that channel is launched in 2028.