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Tennis Briefs: Live US Open National Playoffs Finals; Martin Speaks Out; Falconi Player of the Year

July 6, 2010 10:37 AM
Alina Jidkova
by Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

Tennis Channel to Broadcast Live US Open National Playoffs Men's and Women's Finals

Four Florida players will compete in the men's and women's finals of the US Open National Playoffs later this month, and all four will get a chance to raise their profile on national TV when Tennis Channel presents live broadcasts of the two finals.

In addition to live coverage, Tennis Channel will air a one-hour documentary chronicling the inaugural year of the US Open National Playoffs. Olympus, the official camera and long-time sponsor of the US Open, is the sponsor of the US Open National Playoffs and the presenting sponsor for the one-hour documentary.

"We are thrilled to have Tennis Channel telecasting the men's and women's finals of the 2010 US Open National Playoffs to a national audience," said Jim Curley, USTA chief professional tournament officer and US Open tournament director.  "The US Open National Playoffs has been a great opportunity for all tennis fans to have their own special link to the US Open and these telecasts are the perfect capstone to the first year of this initiative."

The four Florida players competing in the US Open National Playoffs are Olivier Sajous (Plantation, Fla. -- USTA Florida men's regional qualifier), Jan Abaza (Deerfield Beach, Fla. -- USTA Florida women's) and Jessica Pegula (Boca Raton, Fla. -- USTA Intermountain women's) and Alina Jidkova (Boca Raton, Fla. -- USTA Texas women's).

Tennis Channel will telecast the finals of the US Open National Playoffs-Men's Championship on July 25. The men's final will be played at the Atlanta Athletic Club, during the Atlanta Tennis Championships (held July 19-25), which kicks off the Olympus US Open Series. Tennis Channel will telecast the final of the US Open National Playoffs-Women's Championship on Aug. 1. The women's final will be played at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., during the Bank of the West Classic (held July 26-Aug. 1), the first women's event of the Olympus US Open Series.

The one-hour documentary, airing just prior to the start of the US Open main draw, will chronicle the first-ever US Open National Playoffs. The documentary will highlight play from the US Open National Playoffs-Men's and Women's Championships, and will feature player interviews and stories. Olympus provided the winners of each USTA Sectional event with a STYLUS TOUGH-3000 digital camera so players could document their journeys to the national events.

The men's and women's winners of the National Playoffs events each receive a wildcard entry into the 2010 US Open qualifying draw. The US Open Qualifying Tournament will be held Aug. 24-27, the weekend prior to the start of the US Open, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Martin Speaks Out on 'Mindless Beating of Balls' Junior Training, Development

Florida's Todd Martin made his mark as a stoic champion on the ATP Tour, rising to No. 4 on the rankings and representing the player perspective on the ATP Player Council, but the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., resident was outspoken this month while blogging for usta.com from Wimbledon.

"I'm telling a lot of kids to back off, that they are on the court too much and not doing other stuff to keep their mind clearer," Martin wrote. "It's also important at early ages to allow your general athleticism to develop. If you look at how many of the pros today are training off court, say in weight lifting, they are doing a lot of different exercises and using every different muscle in every different way to try and confuse one muscle from the other so the muscles don't get programmed in just one way. There is too much mindless beating of balls."

Martin also elaborated on his current role working with juniors and tour players.

"I work them hard and train them the way I was to where I think their skills can go and then evaluate them," Martin wrote. "I use a lot of what Jose Higueras did with others and me because the fundamentals and preparation don't change that much. The swings are a little different because we were more linear and they are more circular, but you have to get your body in the same position and load your body properly. I find it intriguing and a lot of fun. The only thing it doesn't do after I give my assessment is to satiate my thirst for working with kids, as it doesn't promote relationship building."

Click here to read Martin's full blog.

Florida's Falconi Named College Player of the Year

Jupiter, Florida's Irini Falconi, the star sophomore at Georgia Tech, was named the 2010 Campbell/ITA National College Player of the Year. The Campbell/ITA National College Player of the Year awards are given to one male and one female singles player who has had the most outstanding year in college tennis. The collegiate players will again be recognized at the 2010 International Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on July 10 in Newport, R.I., during the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, July 5-11.

Falconi, a sophomore from Jupiter, Fla., was ranked No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings throughout the entire spring season after winning the 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American Championships singles title and finishing runner-up at the 2009 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. After finishing the season with a 40-3 record and registering a program-best .930 winning percentage, she adds another piece of hardware to the numerous other awards she has received this year, including the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP, and she is a finalist for the 2010 Honda Sports Award.

Falconi closed out the dual-match portion of the schedule with a 26-1 mark, which surpassed the previous record of 25 wins set by 2007 ITA National Player of the Year Amanda McDowell. She led her team to the 2010 ACC Championship title with a 4-0 record, including a match-clinching victory in the championship match against then-No. 1 North Carolina and was also a key member of the championship winning U.S. team at the Master'U BNP Paribas international collegiate team championships.

"I feel very honored to receive this award. It is definitely a great accomplishment," Falconi said. "There are a lot of players worthy, but knowing I received it makes me feel very confident on what I achieved this year, and I look forward to what the future holds."

UF, FSU Coaches Among College Workshop Participants in Boca Raton

USTA Player Development hosted a College Coaches Workshop in conjunction with the Men's Pro Tour Transition Camp (which included 18 players -- 14 college players and 4 juniors) in late June. Jose Higueras, USTA's director of coaching, facilitated the three-day discussion, along with Jay Berger, USTA's head of men's tennis.

Florida State University's Mat Cloer and the University of Florida's Andy Jackson were among 20 of the top coaches from across the nation in attendance.

Higueras took the coaches through an in-depth look at the USTA Player Development teaching and coaching philosophy, where the game is described and taught using a framework of hands, feet, eyes and mind. Hands describes the grips and stroke production. Feet refers to a player's footwork and movement. Eyes and Mind refers to ball recognition, shot selection and tactics. The progressive model of training is designed to ensure successive levels of mastery and continual improvement of those three areas.

Together the coaches and USTA staff discussed a variety on other various topics, including:
1. What challenges are American tennis facing?
2. What are coaches looking for in potential recruits?
3. What is lacking in American juniors?
4. What can the USTA do in the earlier stages of development to create better players?
5. When should a player forgo college and pursue a professional career?

The goal of the workshop was for the college coaches and USTA coaches to develop a system for working together to help develop more world-class American players.






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