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At The Open
With Marcia Frost...
Previewing The Qualifying
The first time I went to the U.S. Open with a Press Badge I was just out of college and very new to the world of sports journalism. The number of women in that pressroom I could have easily counted on one hand. Today I am proud to be one of dozens of women among the photographers and writers in the Media Center. I did, however, begin one tradition that no one else has yet to duplicate -- covering the college and junior players every day of the tournament. Tomorrow I will embark on my seventh year of this column. And, though there has been a very big absence of college players in the last few years, there will be plenty to see and write about.
This year's wildcards into the Qualifying event belonged to mostly teens -- a few professionals and a few still amateurs. For the women I am looking forward to seeing some players who made some great strides this summer in the worlds of junior and professional tennis: 15 year old Chelsey Gullickson; 16 year olds Madison Brengle & Jamie Hampton; and 17 year olds Julia Cohen, Mary Gambale & Ashley Weinhold. Of the group only Mary Gambale has turned professional (two years ago) so it will be a good experience for these players to "test the waters" and a great way for many who don't normally go to junior tournaments to see this talented group.
Unlike the women, the men receiving wildcards into the Qualifying are mostly professionals. Eighteen year olds Marcus Fugate, Jesse Levine and Tim Smyczek* are still retaining their eligibility and considering attending college (though Marcus' status is in question). And only one wildcard player, Ryler DeHeart, is a (recent) college graduate. Though I remember them as 15 year olds playing in the US Open junior doubles finals, Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema are now playing the event as 20 year old seasoned pros.
I am certainly disappointed -- to say the least -- that there are no current college players in the Qualifying again this year and am holding out hope that there will be some in the Doubles draw. While they are no longer officially college players, there are actually three members of Illinois' 2003 winning NCAA team -- Amer Delic, Rajeev Ram & Ryler -- who are playing in the Qualifying. To make it even more interesting Ameri and Rajeev will be playing each other in the first round. Another former college player I'm looking forward to seeing is Jesse Witten. The University of Kentucky grad, who has always been a favorite of mine, got a last minute entry
I hope to see many fans of College And Junior Tennis out on the grounds of the National Tennis Center (excuse me, the Billy Jean King Tennis Center), but if you can't make it just pull up a chair and point your browser in this direction for all the action on the under 18 group.
*See 8/23 column re: Tim Smyczek