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Tennis Briefs(4): Opelka Profile; American Collegiate Invitational

September 3, 2014 09:59 PM
Florida Junior Tennis Profile: Reilly Opelka, Palm Coast

By Colette Lewis, USTA Florida junior columnist

OpelkaUSTAFlaReilly Opelka, who just turned 17, is 6-feet-9-inches tall, drawing obvious comparisons to current U.S. No. 1 John Isner.

But with his title at the International Hard Courts in College Park, Md., Opelka accomplished something the University of Georgia alum never did -- win a Grade 1 title on the International Tennis Federation junior circuit.

Opelka was something of a surprise winner in Maryland, although he had an outstanding summer in reaching the USTA Boys 18s Clay Courts final and advancing to the round of 16 at the National Championships in Kalamazoo as a qualifier.

Opelka was unseeded at the August tournament at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, but he used his big serve to defeat three of the tournament's top four seeds en route to the title. 

The Palm Coast resident, who trains with USTA Player Development at its National Center in Boca Raton, avenged his Kalamazoo loss to Michael Mmoh, the No. 1 seed in Maryland, in the semifinals, coming from behind to post a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win. In the final, played indoors due to rain, Opelka again recovered from losing the first set, defeating No. 2 seed Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4).

"After the first two points, it was pretty much flawless from me," Opelka said of his performance in the deciding tiebreaker. "I didn't miss a return, I stepped in on a lot of balls, played some good defense. I played really well from the baseline today. I didn't serve as well as I have throughout the whole week, but it was good to win without doing what I'm used to doing."

After his breakthrough win Opelka said he's unconcerned with his ranking, but is happy to contest the US Open Junior Championships in good form.

"I don't really get caught up with the ITF ranking to be honest," said Opelka, who moved into the Top 100 in the ITF world junior rankings with the title. "It's awesome that I won, I'm really excited, but I don't really look in to the rankings too much. It's a big confidence builder and I'm really excited to go to New York. Hopefully I can translate this over there and play like this."

Land O' Lakes to Host Tennis Play Day in September

PlayDays_LogoThe Lake Padgett Estates East Clubhouse in Land O' Lakes, Fla., will host a Tennis Play Day on Sept. 13, 2014 from 2-4 p.m.

The event is for kids age 5-10 years old.

USTA Play Days are events designed to introduce kids to competition in a low-pressure setting where results are not documented. The events provide kids with the opportunity to continue to develop and enhance their skills. For both novices and experienced players, Play Days are a welcoming way for kids to experience the social and competitive aspects of tennis.

"Tennis equipment has changed for youths with smaller grips, smaller racquets, lower bouncing red balls for beginners and lower-height nets makes it easier for kids to play," says event organizer and USPTA pro Jeanette Marcus.

For more information e-mail jmarcusddm@gmail.com.

Gainesville Tennis Association Hosts 'Aces in Motion' Fundraiser

Front row: Robert Taylor, Addison Staples, Jason Weiss, Chris McDonald, Jeremy Beach, Eli Meyer, Jeremy Bayon. Back row: Mark Merklein, Paul Reese, Dave Balogh, Don Blair, Patrick Jenkins, Roland Thornquist, Maurice Willacy, Eric Ligman, Tracey Begley, Bryan Shelton, and Mike Oransky.

The Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association (GACTA), an official USTA Florida Community Tennis Association, hosted a fundraiser for its "Aces in Motion" tennis outreach program for at-risk youth on Aug. 23, 2014 at DB Racquet Club in Gainesville, Fla.

Named "The Bryan Shelton Celebration of Gainesville Tennis, Past and Present," the event featured morning tennis and an evening celebration, with both events sold out, hosting approximately 200 attendees.

"In a first for Gainesville, Don Blair of DB Racquet Club recruited tennis teaching pros from almost all the tennis clubs in town, including Fort King Tennis Center in Ocala, to come together and teach in the community tennis clinic," said participant Anne Koterba. "The University of Florida men's and women's tennis coaches also participated in the clinic, jumping on court along with tennis players from the community. Thanks to all the teaching pros who gave up their Saturday mornings to provide the best Gainesville community tennis clinic ever."

Following the clinic an exhibition featured Roland Thornquist, the UF women's head coach and Bryan Shelton, the UF men's head coach, against former UF player Chris McDonald and former FSU player Tracey Smith Begley. Local players were also randomly selected to join in friendly tiebreakers with Bryan and Roland.

The evening event featured Shelton, program directors Addison Staples and Chris McDonald, and participants in the organization's Aces in Motion program, as well as live music and a silent auction. Attendees could also walk through a display of the highlights of Gainesville's tennis history.

As a part of the event, the Dr. John Ross Pre-Collegiate Scholarship was established to honor the memory of Dr. Ross, a long-time Gainesville resident, pediatric neurologist, tennis advocate and enthusiast.

For more information on the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association go to www.gainesvilletennis.org.

Two Gator Grads to Compete at Inaugural US Open Event

GatorsTwo 2014 graduates from the University of Florida Gator women's tennis team will compete at the inaugural American Collegiate Invitational, which will take place Sept. 4-6, 2014 at the USTA Billie Jean King Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Alexandra Cercone and Olivia Janowicz are two of eight women invited to play in a singles tournament during the second week of the US Open, with the men's and women's winner each receiving a wild card into a future pro event.

In the first round, Cercone will face Julia Elbaba, a junior at the University of Virginia. Janowicz is slated to take on 2014 NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins, who is also a junior on the Virginia Cavaliers women's tennis team.

To see the entire field or for more information go to http://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/articles/2014-08-14/us_open_launches_inaugural_american_college_invitational.html.





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