Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a crucial point against Grigor Dimitrov during their 4th round clash at the Australian Open
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 has every reason to be proud after a close loss to Evgeny Donskoy at the Citi Open in Washington, DC tonight. Though he lost 4 & 4, his big serve looked great. He fired up the crowd and they fired him up right back. In addition to his parents and family, his debut match was witnessed by players, friends and the extended family known as Every Serious Tennis Fan in Washington.
The 16-year-old got his first break of serve on Donskoy early in the second set, and the Junior Tennis Champions Center prodigy was never out of a set or the match until the final point of each. The Baltimore-born Tiafoe has trained at the College Park, Maryland training facility since he was a child and attended Citi Open every year since he was 9. Tiafoe saved 9 break points and other than a few double faults, it didn’t appear that the big stage made him nervous. In fact, he seemed to feed on the energy from the partisan crowd.
Donskoy said of his opponent, “I know this guy has a great future”.
After the match, he said “I just hope I can come back here” (to the Citi Open). I’m pretty sure that can be arranged, Francis. In fact, I’m very sure. Thanks for making everyone around here proud, Big Foe.
Blink and You’ll Miss It: Jordi Arconada of @TheJTCC Wins Pro Debut in 18 Minutes @CitiOpen
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
I was thrilled when he won his first game and then proceeded to grab his first break of serve against tour veteran Michael Llodra. I thought the match would go on for quite some time. This was not going to be a typical blow-out qualifying win by an experienced player over a crafty young upstart. I saw on my phone that Kozlov and Groth were headed for a second set tiebreak and decided to duck over to Stadium Court for a few.
I’m now wishing I hadn’t.
A game later, Llodra called for the trainer and called it quits. Arconada got the win in retirement by a score of 3-2.
A win is definitely a win, especially when you’ve made a total of $104 on the ATP tour and your opponent has banked $8.45 million.
He’s one match away from joining his very good friend, Francis Tiafoe, in the main draw.
Tomorrow, Arconada takes on another tour vet in Alex Kuznetsov in an All-American affair. OK, an All-Americas affair. Though they reside in Maryland and sister Usue now represents the USA, Jordi is still very Argentinian. The ‘Neymar’ jerseys in the crowd should have given that away. (Tip o’ the pen to @ARhyneMoment)
Kuznetsov will be wondering why no one is cheering him on.
Nothing personal, Alex. But this is Big Jordi Country now.
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
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.
The Secret Is Out of the Racket Bag: @TheJTCC Awarded 2013 Outstanding Organization by @USTAJUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONS CENTER HONORED BY THE UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION
Honored for Excellence as Outstanding Member Organization
(College Park, Md.) October 31, 2013 – The Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC), the world-class tennis training center in College Park, Md., today announced that it has been recognized by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as the 2013 Outstanding Mid-Atlantic Member Organization of the year award.
The award is given to organizations that best exemplify service to the community, service to its members through junior and adult programs, and service to the game of tennis. As a sectional winner of the Outstanding Organization Award, JTCC will be eligible for the national USTA Member Organization of the Year Awards.
“We are proud to recognize the Junior Tennis Champions Center and their dedication to their members and the community,” says USTA/Mid-Atlantic Executive Director, Rod Dulany. “JTCC and their staff are leaders in the tennis industry and we are grateful for their advocacy of USTA programs.”
JTCC has developed a unique community outreach program based on a mentoring model. High performing student athletes in their early teens become role models for pre-teen youth in the underserved communities of Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County. In 2009, through a partnership with the D.C. government and GEICO, JTCC introduced Game On!, an out-of-school program offering tennis and academic enrichment to underserved children ages 6-13. In 2011, JTCC partnered with the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation and Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission to bring its grassroots tennis program, Advantage Prince George’s, to children in Prince George’s County. Since its inception, Community Outreach has introduced tennis and life-skills lessons to more than 1,000 children in the District of Columbia and in Prince George’s County, Md.
“Giving back is a top priority for JTCC,” said Ray Benton, chief executive officer of the Tennis Center at College Park Home of the Junior Tennis Champions Center. “We are honored to be recognized for our work in the community which is a critical component of our program. We appreciate USTA’s continued support of JTCC.”
JTCC will be honored for the award on Nov. 23 at the 2013 USTA/Mid-Atlantic annual meeting and awards luncheon.
JUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONS CENTER TO HOST INTERNATIONAL TENNIS FEDERATION JUNIOR TOURNAMENT IN AUGUST
USTA Upgrades Second-Annual Tournament to Grade 1
(College Park, Md.) August 7, 2013 – The Junior Tennis Champions Center of College Park will host the second-annual International Tennis Federation Grade 1 Junior International Hard Court Championship Aug. 19-24. The Grade 1 tournament will feature 64 boys and 64 girls in the expanded draw tournament. The tournament also features girl’s and boy’s doubles.
The tournament kicks off in College Park on Aug. 9-11 with the USTA Hard Court Championship Wildcard Tournament which is open to all USTA players ages 18 and under. In addition, the Junior Tennis Champions Center will also host the USTA Hard Court Championship Qualifying Tournament Aug. 17-18 before the USTA Hard Court Championship on Aug. 19-24. This is the first time the Junior Tennis Champions Center will host a USTA Grade 1 tournament.
“It is an honor to host the International Tennis Federation and the USTA Hard Court Championship,” said Ray Benton, chief executive officer of the Junior Tennis Champions Center at College Park. “In just its second year, the tournament is already a must-play for junior tennis players. With its designation as a Grade 1 tournament, this year’s championship will attract top junior talent. We are thrilled to be chosen by the ITF and USTA to host this event.”
“The USTA is pleased that the USTA Hard Court Championship is returning to the Junior Tennis Champions Center – this year as an International Tennis Federation Grade 1 tournament. The field was strong in 2012 and will likely be stronger this year,” said Lew Brewer the director of junior competition for the USTA. “The facility is outstanding and the staff at the JTCC do a great job making the players feel special. We think the tournament has found a great home at the JTCC in College Park and we hope to keep the tournament here for many years to come.”
The upgrade to a Grade 1 event makes the JTCC one of only three ITF Grade 1 tournaments within the United States, the other two being the Easter Bowl in Palm Springs, Calif. and the Orange Bowl in Bradenton, Fla. The Junior Tennis Champions Center hosted the inaugural International Hard Court Championship (Grade 2) last year when Jamie Loeb won the girls singles and Wayne Montgomery won the boys singles.
The Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) a 501(c)(3) organization, is a world-class training facility located at The Tennis Center at College Park. Its goal is to provide the athletic and academic instruction needed for talented and highly committed young people to excel both on the tennis court and in the classroom. Since its inception in 1999, JTCC has placed all 95 of its graduates at top universities, with graduates earning more than $1.6 million in athletic scholarships.
The Junior Tennis Champions Center: It’s Not Just for Kids
Alison Riske is no longer a junior player. But she liked what she saw so much at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, that she moved here from Hilton Head to join her coach, Yves Boulais, who had also relocated to Maryland.
It’s one of the finest tennis training facilities in America, and it’s just starting to get some real attention. As JTCC graduate Denis Kudla has moved up the rankings, so has the word on the street about the JTCC.
Riske joined Justin Boulais, her coach’s son, who also trains at the facility. The Center has one of the only red clay courts in the Mid-Atlantic, and plenty of Har-Tru and U.S. Open style hard courts.
The results of her decision to move to Maryland five months ago paid off handsomely. She hit a career high of 96 last week after bottoming out around #200 as late as March.
One of the JTCC’s feature players, Arlington, Virginia’s Denis Kudla had a very nice summer tour and reached a career-high of 90 in July.
Kudla trained at the Center since childhood. Though Kudla lost his first round match at Citi Open, he spent lots of time around the grounds, running into old friends and chatting with DC area juniors, who admire him greatly.
The involvement of JTCC alum in the tournament was extensive and the best part of the Citi Open for many Washington-area locals. In addition to Riske and Kudla in main draw singles play last week, 14-year-old Usue Arconada, a prodigy of JTCC Coach Frank Salazar, was the toast of the tournament’s opening weekend when she won her first professional match. Arconada beat the #2 Argentinian in qualifying. As you can see from the video below, she’s got natural poise on-camera as well as on-court.
It was also a huge treat to see JTCC alum Beatrice Capra, a Maryland native who now plays for Duke University. A qualifying wild card recipient, she didn’t make the main draw but still played tenaciously in front of a packed house of local supporters on Grandstand 2.
In addition to the large crop of players at the Citi Open, JTCC will host the second annual International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 1 Junior International Hard Court Championships from August 17-24. This is the first time ever that JTCC will host a Grade 1 tournament and is one of only three ITF Grade 1 tournaments in the United States with other tournaments held in Palm Springs and Miami.
The Grade 1 tournament will feature the top ITF 64-ranked boys and girls to compete in singles and doubles, bringing some of the best young tennis talent in the world to the area, including Arconada and JTCC’s Francis Tiafoe.