The third annual US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Singles Championship features players—13 in all—at various stages of their careers, from former collegiate stars to USTA and ITF Pro Circuit standouts to young players looking to make their mark. The goal for each, however, is the same: A spot in the US Open Qualifying Tournament and, with it, a shot at the main draw of the 2012 US Open.
The players advanced to the Women’s Singles Championship—held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, a 2012 Emirates Airline US Open Series event—through their respective sectional qualifying tournaments, held in 13 different USTA sections across the country.
The competitors in the Women’s Singles Championship hail from six different countries and have played in tournaments all over the world. Yet for all their collective experience, 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.
That does not mean, however, that no other women have experience playing on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In fact, 16-year-old Peggy Porter played in last year’s junior US Open, and Sandra Roma won the US Open girls’ doubles title in 2008.
In the diverse field assembled this week, future, current and former college standouts will clash, as 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.
Youth will also prevail this year, as 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 2011.