USTA Pro Circuit Shows U.S. Emphasis on Claycourt Tennis
by Staff | April 7th, 2009, 3:16 pm
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The 2009 USTA Pro Circuit spring clay court season has begun as both established professionals and aspiring young players hone their skills and compete for valuable ranking points on the ATP World Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.  The seven-week stretch of clay court tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit consists of 12 tournaments (seven women, five men) offering more than $400,000 in prize money, including six events featuring prize money of $50,000 or more that lead directly into French Open qualifying, which begins the week of May 18. 
“As part of the player development process, it’s imperative to take advantage of clay court events, especially those players preparing to qualify for the French Open,” said Patrick McEnroe, General Manager, USTA Player Development.

American teenagers CoCo Vandeweghe and Allie Will qualified for this week’s women’s event in $25,000 Jackson, Miss., which begins today.

Rosanna de los Rios won the season-opener yesterday as the final of $25,000 Pelham, Ala., was delayed due to rain.  De los Rios, currently ranked No. 90 in the world, reached the fourth round of the French Open in 2000.

The six larger events — four women’s and two men’s tournaments — begin the week of April 20 with $75,000 Dothan, Ala., (women) and $50,000 Tallahassee, Fla., (men), and typically feature players ranked between No. 80-180, many of whom will attempt to qualify for the French Open if they do not gain direct entry.

The 2009 women’s calendar also includes $25,000 events in Jackson, Miss., and first-year Osprey, Fla. After Dothan, three additional $50,000 events are held in Charlottesville, Va., Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C. The men’s calendar includes three $10,000 Futures in Florida and Challengers in Savannah, Ga., and Sarasota, Fla.

“The clay court portion of the USTA Pro Circuit schedule has served players for much of the last three decades to develop specific aspects of their games to achieve the next level of world-class play,” said Brian Earley, Director, USTA Pro Circuit. 

Last year, American teenager Chase Buchanan won his first singles pro title at the Vero Beach (Fla.) Futures, the oldest active clay court tournament on the USTA Pro Circuit., two weeks after winning the Easter Bowl Boys� 18s title on hard courts.  In 2005, James Blake began his comeback by winning both $50,000 USTA Challengers in Tunica, Miss., and Forest Hills, N.Y.  Blake went straight from Forest Hills to Roland Garros, where he qualified and reached the second round. In 1999, Daniela Hantuchova won her first pro singles title at the inaugural $25,000 Jackson, Miss., event at the age of 16, and reached a career-high world ranking of No. 5 less than four years later.    

Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jelena Jankovic, Andy Murray, David Nalbandian and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA Pro Circuit is world-class tennis administered on the local level and played on local tennis courts as part of the fabric of communities nationwide — an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhood.

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