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Tennis Briefs: Floridians at USTA Nat. Hardcourts; Linda's Legacy; US Open Opening Night

August 16, 2010 04:40 PM
Pembroke Pines' Sofia Kenin
Linda's Legacy
Blake shadow circle_001
Tampa's James Blake
Floridians Van Overbeek, Bangoura, Kenin Make Waves at USTA National Hardcourts

University of Florida player Sekou Coker Bangoura of Bradenton, Fla., partnered Nathan Pasha of Atlanta to win the doubles title and prestigious gold ball over the weekend at the USTA Boys' 18s National Hard Court Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., in the process earning a doubles wildcard into the main draw of the 2010 US Open.

"I'm looking forward to the food that's in the cafeteria and the lounge, and in the locker room, being with all the pros and stuff," Bangoura told MLive.com. "We get to ride in the Lexus (and not the shuttle) and get our own little badges and stuff."

Bangoura and Pasha defeated singles champ Jack Sock of Nebraska and Matthew Kandath of New York in the final.

In the singles championship Sock defeated Boca Raton's Bob Van Overbeek 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in the best-of-five final, earning Van Overbeek a wildcard into the men's qualifying at the 2010 US Open.

"Today wasn't my day," said Van Overbeek, who is looking forward to his freshman year at the University of Florida, speaking to the Kalamazoo Gazette. "I'm lucky to be here in the finals after my last [semifinal] match."

Top-seeded Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., was upset in the final of the USTA Girls' 12s National Hard Court Championships in Alpharetta, Ga., falling to No. 5 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy of North Carolina 6-4, 6-0. McCarthy also claimed the doubles title with partner Kenya Jones of Tennessee.

Also at the Boys' 16 hardcourts, Gordon Watson, the No. 5 seed from Naples, Fla., won the Bobby Kaplan Sportsmanship Award.

Linda's Legacy Tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach Adds Open Bracket, Pro Exo, Tracy Austin

The "Linda's Legacy, A Tournament of Love" event is "raising a racquet against lung cancer" on Sept. 16-19, 2010, at its new home in Marsh Landing Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The proceeds from the popular doubles tennis tournament will stay in Northeast Florida and will be used to support lung cancer clinical trials and early detection initiatives.

Two-time US Open champion (1979, 1981) Tracy Austin, the former No. 1 in the world and recent 2010 Wimbledon Ladies Invitational runner-up, will return as honorary chairman of the event, leading several clinics for players and sponsors throughout the four-day event. The women's doubles tennis tournament field expects close to 200 participants. Due to its popularity, the tournament has added for the first time an "Open Bracket" for higher-ranked participants as well as an evening schedule for working women. Evening play will take place on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.

Also new for this year is the Northeast Florida Professional Tennis Association (NFPTA) Pro Exhibition. The former NFPTA Pro Challenge event held at Amelia Island and Sawgrass Country Club during the former WTA Tour event has joined the Linda's Legacy tournament and makes its new home at Marsh Landing Country Club. As a precursor to the annual Pro Challenge, the NFPTA will showcase this year an exhibition featuring local area pros along with Tracy Austin serving as chair umpire. The Pro Challenge will take place on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Additional tournament activities include a USTA Kids QuickStart clinic for children ages 7-10 years old, led by Tracy Austin and taking place on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 1-3 p.m. Also on Saturday, the much-anticipated Player Party takes place at the Marsh Landing Club House from 6:30-9:30 p.m. For the full slate of activities and additional tournament info and sign-up, go to www.lindaslegacyfoundation.org.

Blake, Navratilova Among USTA Honorees at 2010 US Open Opening Night Celebration

The Opening Night Ceremony for the 2010 US Open will celebrate those who "Dream, Succeed and Inspire." The night will feature tributes to tennis greats Martina Navratilova and James Blake, wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer, and USTA member Dori Samadzai-Bonner who has embraced tennis since coming to this country from her native Afghanistan. 

The prime time ceremony will be hosted by Christiane Amanpour, host of ABC News' "This Week," and will feature a special musical performance by award-winning performer Gloria Estefan.

Navratilova, a four-time US Open singles champion and the most prolific winner in the history of the sport, recently defeated her toughest opponent in breast cancer. Born in Czechoslovakia, Navratilova sought political asylum in the U.S. in 1975, then changed the face of women's tennis with an aggressive game and a inspirational desire to be the best. Navratilova brought this same zeal to her fight with cancer, and will put an exclamation mark on her triumph when she climbs Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro in December.

Blake, a long-time US Open fan favorite and Davis Cup champion, grew up with scoliosis, which forced him to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day as a youth, and later made a triumphant return to the men's tour after he fractured his neck in 2004 when he collided with a net post during practice. Blake has been a professional tennis player since 1999, when he left Harvard to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player.

Vergeer, perhaps the most dominant female athlete in all of sports, has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of eight, when she lost the ability to use her legs after undergoing surgery for a spinal defect and brain hemorrhage. She began playing wheelchair tennis at age 12, and has not lost a singles match since January 2003, an incredible unbeaten streak of 390 matches. She will look to continue her inspirational streak by successfully defending her singles and doubles titles at the 2010 US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition, which will be held Sept. 9-12 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Samadzai-Bonner grew up in Afghanistan where girls were barred from taking parts in sports of any kind. She dreamed of coming to America, and succeeded after a lengthy trip that brought her here via stops in India and Thailand. Now a resident of Montgomery, Ala., and a USTA member, she discovered tennis as a senior in high school and has been playing ever since. "Tennis instantaneously became my escape from the years of misery I lived through simply because I was born a girl," she says.

Following the on-court tribute to the four inspirational individuals, 7-time Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan will perform the inspiring song, "Reach" which was written as the Official Theme Song to the XXVI Olympic Games. Estefan's own story is one of dreams, success and inspiration, as she immigrated to the United States from her native Cuba and came back from a life-threatening accident to become one of the most revered Hispanic female role models. 





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