The USTA announced the 13 men and 13 women who will compete in the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Championships, August 17-20, at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale in New Haven, Conn. The tournament is held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, the final Emirates Airline US Open Series women’s event of the summer. The respective men’s and women’s US Open National Playoffs winners will receive a wild card into the 2012 US Open Qualifying Tournament, held Aug. 21-24, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., the home of the US Open.
More than 900 men and women (639 men and 298 women) competed in the third year of the US Open National Playoffs in singles, playing in one of 13 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments held throughout the United States. The US Open National Playoffs are designed to bring the spirit of the US Open to cities and sections across the country, making the US Open eligible to anyone and everyone 14 and over with the passion to compete, regardless of playing ability or nationality. Mixed doubles was added last year, and the Mixed Doubles Championship will take place in New Haven, Aug. 22-25, with the winning team earning a wild card into the main draw of the 2012 US Open.
"The US Open National Playoffs showcased some incredible tennis in the sectional rounds, and we expect the Men’s and Women’s Championships to feature much the same," says Jeff Ryan, Tournament Director, US Open National Playoffs. "All of these players have been dreaming big for their chance to compete in Flushing, and we are excited to watch two players advance in New Haven to tennis’ biggest stage—the US Open."
The US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship field includes (player, age, hometown and sectional qualifying tournament won):
Brian Battistone; 33; Las Vegas, NV (USTA Southwest)
Nicolas Meister; 23; Trabuco Canyon, CA (USTA Nor. Calif.)
Matt Brooklyn; 25; Washington, DC (USTA Mid-Atlantic)
Nolan Paige; 18; Fairfield, CT (USTA New England)
Dante Cipulli; 30; Murietta, CA (USTA Southern California)
Clement Reix; 29; Amiens, France (USTA Missouri Valley)
Eric Hechtman; 28; Miami, FL (USTA Florida)
Evan Song; 20; Henderson, NV (USTA Northern)
Nikita Kryvonos; 25; Flushing, NY (USTA Eastern)
Chris Wettengel; 30; Las Vegas, NV (USTA Midwest)
Adam Lee; 20; Auckland, New Zealand (USTA Southern)
Jon Wiegand; 25; San Antonio, TX; (USTA Texas)
Punch Maleka; 33; King of Prussia, PA (USTA Middle States)
The US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship field includes (player, age, hometown and sectional qualifying tournament won):
Jan Abaza; 17; Boca Raton, FL (USTA New England)
Guiliana Olmos; 19; Fremont, CA (USTA Nor. California)
Nyla Beenk; 16; LeClaire, IA (USTA Northern)
Natalie Pluskota; 22; Sharpsburg, GA (USTA Southern)
Mayo Hibi; 16; Irvine, CA (USTA Southern California)
Peggy Porter; 16; Dallas, TX (USTA Texas)
Nika Kukharchuk; 25; Brewster, NY (USTA Mid-Atlantic)
Sandra Roma; 22; Naples, FL (USTA Florida)
Anna Mamalat; 18; Philadelphia, PA (USTA Middle States)
Stephanie Vlad; 18; Scottsdale, AZ (USTA Southwest)
Alexandra Mueller; 24; Abington, PA (USTA Midwest)
Mary Weatherholt; 20; Shawnee, KS (USTA Missouri Valley)
Magda Okruashvili; 22; New York, NY (USTA Eastern)
In the Men’s Singles Championship, two players—American Nikita Kryvonos and Frenchman Clement Reix—have previously played in the US Open Qualifying Tournament, though none of the participants has ever appeared in the main draw. (Kryvonos played in the doubles main draw in 2005.) The most unique challenge will come from Brian Battistone, a USTA Pro Circuit doubles champion who employs a volleyball-style jump serve and a double-handled racquet that allows him to hit forehands off both sides.
Battistone is one of two men’s players who will return in a week’s time to compete in the US Open National Playoffs – Mixed Doubles Championship, along with two-time UCLA All-American Nicolas Meister.
In addition to Kryvonos, who also won the Eastern title in 2010, those returning to the Men’s Championship this year include former Top 600 player Chris Wettengel, a 2010 semifinalist at this event and the only competitor to advance to the Men’s Championship all three years; former Division II national champion Dante Cipulli (who also competed in 2010); and former Top 700 player Punch Maleka (also in 2010). Nolan Paige, the youngest competitor in this year’s field, won the New England sectional qualifying tournament in 2010 but was unable to compete in the Men’s Championship due to a scheduling conflict.
The competitors in the Women’s Singles Championship hail from six different countries and have played in tournaments all over the world. Only 2010 US Open National Playoffs women’s champion Alexandra Mueller has previously played in the US Open Qualifying Tournament—and only Mueller and 17-year-old rising junior Jan Abaza have previously competed in the Women’s Championship. SIxteen-year-old Peggy Porter played in last year’s junior US Open, and Sandra Roma won the US Open girls’ doubles title in 2008.
Also in the diverse women’s field, six players have competed or will compete in college tennis. College stars include University of Tennessee All-American Natalie Pluskota and 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year Mary Weatherholt of the University of Nebraska. Future college stars include Anna Mamalat, who will play for Texas A&M, and Stephanie Vlad, who plans to compete for Arizona State University. Seven of the 13 players are teenagers and the oldest player is only 25 (Nika Kukharchuk). Among the young players, Mamalat is a two-time winner of the International Grass Court Championships, a prestigious junior event; Guiliana Olmos has played on the Junior Fed Cup team for Mexico; and Mayo Hibi reached the semifinals of the Orange Bowl in late 2011.
The US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Championships finals are scheduled to take place on Monday, Aug. 20.