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Florida Tennis Briefs(3): Blake Accepts Tallahassee Challenger Wildcard; More

April 6, 2011 03:41 PM
James Blake Accepts Wildcard at Tallahassee Challenger; USTA Military Adopt-a-Unit Featured

James Blake played the Tallahassee Challenger on his way up the ATP Rankings, and now the 31-year-old former No. 4-ranked American is looking to the event to kick-start a comeback. Blake has accepted a wildcard into the April 9-16, 2011, $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event at the Forestmeadows Tennis Center.

Blake shadow circle_001Last year Blake dropped outside the Top 100 following a series of injuries, including a right knee problem that saw him miss the claycourt season. This year the Tampa resident has a 6-5 win-loss record in tour play, and is currently ranked No. 163.

In 2006 Blake ranked No. 4 in the world after reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open, upsetting Rafael Nadal en route and losing to Andre Agassi in a five-set thriller. He has won 10 career ATP World Tour singles titles and holds a 21-12 career record (18-11 in singles) in Davis Cup, where he was member of the U.S. championship team in 2007.

The Challenger is in its 19th year as a USTA Pro Circuit event. The beginning of qualifying on Saturday, April 9 through the final on Saturday, April 16 will be highlighted by multiple special events. Past winners include Mardy Fish, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner, and fans can also see up-and-coming stars such as Ryan Harrison and Ricardis Berankis.
"A pass for the entire week of the tournament is only $40," says Tournament Director Karen Vogter says. "Children under 10 are free for the entire tournament. It's a great and inexpensive way to let children see a pro tournament."

The Tallahassee Challenger will also be featuring the USTA's new military Adopt-a-Unit campaign for league teams and other organizations to send care packages (which the USTA will then match with tennis equipment to send) overseas to U.S. troops. For more info go to the Tallahassee Challenger Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ustatallahasseetennischallenger.
The Tallahassee Challenger also remains a strong supporter of children's events and community outreach. Events include the Sharon Ewing Walker Pro-Am on Sunday, April 10, with Pro-Am teams playing against one another in a round robin tournament. Also featured is the Boys & Girls Club/Boys & Girls Town Tennis Jamboree, QuickStart Tennis for 2nd Graders in Leon County, a Special Olympics Day, free USPTA tennis clinics open to all, a First Serve Tennis Carnival, Tallahassee Tennis Association Night at the Challenger, and other special events.
"In addition to a Special Olympics event for children, we have QuickStart Tennis play format events for four schools of 2nd graders each year," Vogter says. "The Challenger buys a bunch of equipment for all our events and after everything is over I divide it up among the four schools who came each year, hoping to jump start their programs at their schools. It has actually worked pretty well -- most of the schools have incorporated QuickStart into their curriculums or after-school programs."
Money raised from the Tallahassee Challenger goes to benefit the D. Mark Vogter, M.D. Memorial Endowment for the Neuro-Intensive Care and the Sharon Ewing Walker Breast Health Center at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, and the Yealdhall Challenger Tennis Fund at Friends of Our Parks.
For more information or tickets go to www.tallahasseechallenger.com.

10 and Under Tennis for Underserved Youth in Tallahassee

Walker-Ford Community Center in Tallahassee, Fla., held its first USTA Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) League this spring, utilizing the USTA's new 10 and Under Tennis featuring the QuickStart play format, for 18 lower-income children and their parents who assisted on court.

"This was the first introduction to tennis for most of the children attending, and all of them left with smiles on their faces having had a great time," said USTA Florida Tennis Program Coordinator George English.

Lenin Mongerie, a USPTA/PTR-certified teaching pro, former Davis Cup team member and the tennis professional at Forestmeadows Tennis Center in Tallahassee led the group, and was assisted by USTA League players and volunteers Lois Carrington and Rachel Melson. 

"Coach Lenin was able to captivate the children with 10 and Under Tennis games and activities, and the children were given 'homework' consisting of going home and practicing their newly-learned forehand swing with their dominant hand," English said. "The league will be conducted through April, culminating with a play day, party, and participation medals for all."

Organizers say 22 minority children are registered for the JTT league, with another 20 on a waiting list to sign up. The Tallahassee Tennis Association is sponsoring USTA memberships for each of the children on the waiting list, taking advantage of a USTA special junior membership offer for March-April that gives new or renewing junior members a free 10 and Under racquet and ball for the price of a one-year $19 membership.

"Thanks to a generous donation by Karen MacFarland, a current USTA Florida Board member, and her husband, Jim, none of the children from Bond Elementary, the Smith-Williams Center, and Walker-Ford Community Center, all serving the lower-income, southern part of Tallahassee, were required to pay the USTA membership fees, league fees, or the pro fees," English said. "With the addition of 10 and Under Jr. Team Tennis on the south side of town, and due to the perseverance of Sandy Layne, the USTA Jr. Team Tennis local league coordinator, more children in Tallahassee now have an opportunity to play USTA 10 and Under Tennis near to where they live."

The three courts at the Walker-Ford Community Center were repaired, filling existing cracks and applying new paint and lines, by City of Tallahassee Tennis Superintendent Glen Howe; City of Tallahassee Supervisor of Tennis Operations Steve LeRoy; English, the USTA Florida Tennis Program Coordinator for the Panhandle area; along with other City of Tallahassee maintenance personnel.

"The children signed-up and the waiting list demonstrates an enthusiasm in the area for 10 and Under Tennis," English said. "Every effort is being made to accommodate all of the children who are interested in playing in the league."

For more on USTA Jr. Team Tennis or 10 and Under Tennis in Florida go to www.ustaflorida.com.

U.S. Davis Cup vs. Spain Tickets Available Beginning Friday

The USTA announced that tickets for the 2011 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal between the United States and Spain, to be played at the Frank Erwin Center on The University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas, July 8-10, will go on sale to the general public on Friday, April 8, at 10 a.m. CDT. 

US Davis Cup Team.jpgTickets are sold as a three-day series with prices ranging from $90 to $500. Tickets can be purchased by calling (888) 484-8782 (USTA) or online by visiting www.texasboxoffice.com.

The competition is expected to include Davis Cup stalwart Andy Roddick, who currently resides in Austin and is second all-time in U.S. Davis Cup singles victories with 33. World No. 1 and nine-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal is expected to compete for Spain. This will be the first home tie for U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier, who is in his first year at the helm. This is the first home tie for the U.S. Davis Cup team since the 2009 first round in Birmingham, Ala. Since then, the U.S. has played in four consecutive away ties.

The best-of-five match series begins Friday, July 8, with two singles matches, featuring each country's No. 1 player against the other country's No. 2 player. Saturday's schedule features the pivotal doubles match. The final day of play on Sunday will feature two "reverse singles" matches, when the No. 1 players square off followed by the No. 2 players meeting each other in the final match. All matches are best-of-five sets until one nation clinches the tie. A revised schedule for Sunday may take place if a team clinches in the third or fourth match.

This will be the fifth Davis Cup tie played in Texas and first since the U.S. defeated Spain, 3-1, in the 2002 quarterfinal at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston. The U.S. is 4-0 in Texas, including the 1992 Davis Cup Final in Ft. Worth when arguably the best U.S. Davis Cup team ever (Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and the doubles team of John McEnroe and Pete Sampras) defeated Switzerland 3-1. A 10-year-old Andy Roddick attended that match as a fan with his family.

For more information, including access to player and historical Davis Cup records, please go to www.usta.com/daviscup or www.daviscup.com.






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