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Florida Tennis Briefs(3): St. Pete Mourns Tennis Star; Arthur Ashe Winner; More

August 26, 2011 11:57 AM
St. Petersburg College Loses Star Tennis Player in Auto Accident

vasikSt. Petersburg College (SPC) is mourning the loss of its former star tennis captain Jovana Vasic, who was killed in a head-on collision Wednesday morning on the Interstate in Wheeler County, Texas. She was a passenger in car that was hit head-on by a commercial tractor trailer that was reported to have crossed the median.
Vasic, 20, of Belgrade, Serbia, attended SPC in St. Petersburg, Fla., for two years on a full-ride tennis scholarship. She served as team captain during the 2010-11 season, ultimately leading the team to third place in the national rankings. She was an honors student at SPC and graduated with a 3.36 GPA.

"Jovana exemplified to the highest degree what it meant to be a team leader and true competitor," said Phil Girardi, coach of the team. "She was an outstanding teammate, player and friend to us all on the team. Words cannot express the loss the team is feeling at this time."

She was with her father, Milan Vasic, driving to attend Northern Arizona University when the accident occurred. She accepted a tennis scholarship to the university during the summer. The elder Vasic, 43, remains hospitalized.
"It's been a tough day for us," Girardi. "We're a small, tight-knit group; and for it to happen so suddenly like that makes it really hard."

Vasic's rankings spoke volumes about her talent: No. 1 in doubles and No. 2 in singles at the college, as well as No. 4 in doubles and No. 25 in singles in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

"She spoke at the end-of-the-year tennis banquet and had the girls laughing and crying -- she was just that type of person," said Mark Strickland, SPC director of athletics. "She was the life of the party and the kind of person all the girls loved being around."

Strickland said one of the best compliments he received about Vasic was from Broward College tennis coach Marlena Hall.

"I recall sharing with my team every time we played St. Pete to watch how Jovana was able to support her team, focus on her own responsibility, and simultaneously maintain respect with the opposing team and coach. I really enjoyed watching Jovana succeed and appreciated her kindness towards me and my team," said Strickland, quoting Hall.

"That's straight-up out of the mouth of another team's coach, that they wanted their athletes to be like one of ours," Strickland said. "That's the highest compliment you can be paid."

Florida Arthur Ashe Essay/Art Contest Winner to be Awarded at 2011 US Open

arthur-ashe.jpgThe USTA announced the 14 winners of its 13th annual Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest. The winning essays and art projects were selected from student entries submitted to the more than 600 USTA National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network chapters from around the country.

Students were asked to write a short essay or create an art piece based on the question: "Why do you think Arthur Ashe created the National Junior Tennis & Learning Network and how has your NJTL chapter impacted your life?" A USTA sub-committee selected the winning essays and art pieces based on the knowledge of Arthur Ashe, message clarity, and writing style demonstrated in each submission.

Takuma Walter of St. Petersburg, Fla., was one of only four art winners named.

The contest was open to students age 18 and younger who participate in an NJTL program. The winners, who range in age from 10 to 18, each will receive a travel package to New York to attend Arthur Ashe Kids' Day on Aug. 27, 2011.
Following Kids' Day, the winners also will attend an Awards Banquet, hosted by former New York City Mayor and former USTA Board Member David Dinkins, where they will receive an honorary plaque in recognition of their work.

"We are proud to honor this year's contest winners who have expressed through their art work and essays what the NJTL program means to them." said Barry Ford, director of education, Advocacy and Public Affairs, USTA. "Their achievements highlight the important role NJTL chapters play and have played in the growth and development of these young people. This competition, however, is not simply about celebrating the talent, energy and hard work of a few participants in NJTL programming. While it is certainly that, it is also an important educational tool, NJTL chapters use throughout the year that impacts the lives and improves the life-chances of under-served youth throughout the country."

In addition to attending the Awards Banquet, contest winners will receive tickets to Cirque du Soleil, a New York Mets baseball game, and will be guests in the USTA President's Box for the Arthur Ashe Kids' Day presented by Hess stadium show on Aug. 27 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Arthur Ashe Kids' Day is the official kick-off event for the 2011 US Open that will run from Aug. 29-Sept. 11.

NJTL has grown to over 600 chapters serving over 250,000 youth each year, making it one of the USTA's largest community-based offerings. It is a delivery system for the USTA's programs, giving young people an opportunity to play tennis while also providing a safe haven, adult role models and tennis instruction.

Florida's Serena Williams Clinches 2011 US Open Series

Serena-thumb-Wimbly.jpgPalm Beach Gardens, Fla., native Serena Williams clinched the 2011 Olympus US Open Series women's title this week, the first career Olympus US Open Series title for Williams, who earned 170 points by winning titles at Series events in Stanford and Toronto.

Williams will now compete for the largest payout in tennis history at the 2011 US Open -- $2.8 million ($1.8 million for winning the US Open and a $1 million bonus for winning the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series). 

This year marks the first time in Olympus US Open Series history that Americans have won both the men's and women's titles, as Florida native Mardy Fish clinched the men's title last week. Novak Djokovic has clinched second place, and the third place finisher will be determined at the Winston-Salem Open.  

Fish will also compete for $1 million in bonus prize money at the 2011 US Open. The second and third place finishers on both the men's and women's sides will compete for $500,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Andy Murray won the 2010 Olympus US Open Series men's title and Caroline Wozniacki won the women's title. In 2007, Roger Federer collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history -- $2.4 million -- for winning the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series. In 2005, Kim Clijsters also captured both the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series, winning $2.2 million -- the largest purse in women's sports history -- and again equaled that amount in 2010, winning the US Open and finishing second in the Olympus US Open Series.






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