Melichar sweeps at Northern sectional qualifier; Larson wins third title

June 26, 2013 05:41 PM

2013 US Open Northern Section Qualifier

June 21-23, 2013 * Baseline Tennis Center * Minneapolis, Minn.


Blaine's Tony Larson Wins US Open Northern Section Qualifier Again
Tony_and_NicoleTony Larson of Blaine, Minn., won the men's singles title for the third time in four years after defeating Brian Battistone of Las Vegas, Nev.,, in the finals of the 2013 US Open Northern Section Qualifier. Larson now advances to the US Open National Qualifier in New Haven, Conn., in August, where the winner of that earns a bid into the qualifying draw at the 2013 U.S. Open.
Larson, who also won the title in 2010 and 2011 and advanced to the semis last year, lost the first set 4-6, before rallying to take the final two sets 6-3, 6-4.
Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla., claimed the women's singles title after defeating Rochester's Jessie Aney in the finals 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Melichar will also travel to New Haven, Conn., in August in her quest for a US Open bid.
Brian_and_NicoleMelichar and Battistone, who won the US Open National Mixed Qualifier in 2012 and played in the main draw of the US Open last year, earned a return trip to New Haven, defeating Larson and Alexis Nelson of St. Paul, Minn., in the finals 7-5, 7-5. Earlier in the day, Melichar and Battistone defeated Aney andNick Crossley of Rochester, Minn., in the semifinals 6-3, 7-6 (1), while Larson and Nelson came back from a set down and 7-5 in the third-set match tiebreaker, to beat Sierra Halverson(Burtrum, Minn.) and Gary Notkin (Minneapolis, Minn.) 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (7).
For complete draws and updated results, click here.
Notes: Congratulations to Scott Butler (Eagan, Minn.) and the mixed team of Melanie Yates (New Brighton, Minn.) and Julian Dehn (Minneapolis, Minn.) who claimed the consolation championships!

Jessie Aney and Tony Larson Make The Finals!

Rochester's Jessie Aney (right) and Blaine's Tony Larson advanced to the finals of the 20Jessie_Aney_ready13 US Open Northern Section Qualifier at the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus. Aney will face favoriteNicole Melichar, while Larson will battle touring pro Brian Battistone in the finals. Both the men's and women's singles finals will be at 9 a.m. Admission is FREE.
Aney, who is 15 years old, took out former Drake playerVeronika Phillipova 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals, while Melichar defeated Minnesota state champion Sonya Das of Arden Hills, Minn., 6-2, 6-1 in the other semifinal.
Larson, who won this event in both 2010 and 2011, survived losing the first set against Gustavus' Grant Leisner in winning 6-7, 6-4, 6-0 in the quarters. Larson had a much easier time against Djorde Uskokovic in the semifinals, taking out the former Illinois State star 6-4, 6-1. Battistone beat Kenyon College sophomore Robert Turlington of Rochester, Minn., in the round of eight 6-1, 6-3 and then toppled Jeff Adolf 6-2, 6-2.
Tony_Larson_4Aney, Battistone, Larson (left) and Melichar are still alive in the mixed doubles draw as well, advancing to the semifinals. Battistone and Melichar, who played in the 2012 US Open, had the hardest time in the quarterfinals, defeating former Gopher Julian Dehn and current Gonzaga standoutMelanie Yates of New Brighton, Minn., 7-5, 6-4. Aney and her partner Nick Crossley of Rochester took out Das and Zach Johnson of White Bear Lake, Minn., 6-3, 6-1, while Larson and 14-year old Alexis Nelson of St. Paul took out Rochester's Ingrid Neel and 2012 World 40s Double Champion Mickey Maule of Wayzata, Minn., 6-2, 6-2. The fourth team to earn a spot in the semifinals is Sierra Halverson of Burtrum, Minn., and Gary Notkin of Minneapolis who beat Daniel Brown and Ginger Valentine, both of Delano, Minn., 6-2. 6-1. Halverson currently plays at SIU-Edwardsville and Notkin at UW-Green Bay.  
Halverson and Notkin play Larson and Nelson, while Aney/Crossley faceoff against Battistone and Melichar at 11:30 a.m., with the finals at 2 p.m.
Sunday, June 23 Schedule
Men's Final, 9 a.m.
Brian Battistone vs. Tony Larson 
Women's Final, 9 a.m.
Jessie Aney vs. Nicole Melichar
Mixed Doubles Semifinals, 11:30 a.m.
Sierra Halverson/Gary Notkin vs. Tony Larson/Alexis Nelson
Jessie Aney/Nick Crossley vs. Brian Battistone/Nicole Melichar
Mixed Doubles Finals: 2 p.m.
For complete draws and updated results, click here.

When Brian Battistone Takes The Court ... All You Hear Is Wow!

When Brian Battistone hit Court 11 at the Baseline Tennis Center Friday afternoon, the crowd was abuzz.

Brian_Battistone"I've never seen anything like it," one fan quipped.

"Look how high he is," said another.

"Wow!" echoed a third.

Yes, this 33-year-old, who grew up in Santa Barbara, Calif., and currently teaches in Las Vegas, has traveled the world on the professional and satellite circuits over the years, and has played in multiple Grand Slams including the US Open in 2012, but the first comments are always the same.

"Everyone wants to first know about the racquet, and then the serve," Battistone says with a laugh because he has probably been asked the same question a million times.

Growing up, Battistone, who is ambidextrous but plays right handed, was developing his only style of play and found he could hit forehands from either side of his body. He and his brother, Dann, eventually teamed with Lionel Burt in designing a racquet that would enhance his unique approach – a two-handled stick which forms a V-shape. The odd-looking racquet, that looks more like a shovel, was approved by the International Tennis Federation in 2007, and Battistone has played both Wimbledon and the US Open with it.

Check out Brian Battistone's unique serve and two-handled racquet.

Once one gets over the initial shock of the unconventional racquet, then Battistone steps up to serve and the "Wow" factor starts all over again. The veteran is the only player on the professional tour to use a volleyball-style jump serve where he switches his racquet from his left hand to his right hand mid-toss before hitting the ball and finally landing on the court.

"I grew up in California and played a lot of different sports before tennis," Battistone said. "I basically copied a volleyball jump serve and applied it to my tennis game. I am a serve-and-volley player so with this type of serve, it allows me to get into the court a lot faster. It took several months to perfect it."

brian_battistone01After retiring from the game in 2000, he returned to the circuit in 2007. Last year, he was playing a prize money tournament in Phoenix and told the tournament director he was interested in playing mixed doubles if there was a woman looking for a partner. Soon he was introduced toNicole Melichar, an aspiring 18-year old originally from the Czech Republic and currently living in Florida, who was playing professionally around the world. Battistone and Melichar won the Phoenix event (I hope the tournament director asked for a finder’s fee) and soon a partnership was formed.

After the tournament, Melichar asked Battistone if he would be interesting in playing in the US Open Southwest Section Qualifying Tournament. He agreed, admittedly not knowing much about it. The duo went on to win that event, and finally the US Open National Qualifying Tournament in New Haven, Conn., ultimately earning a bid into the 2012 US Open Mixed Doubles draw.

"I honestly did not know much about it (the US Open Qualifying Tournament)," Battistone said. "When Nicole asked, I said sure. It has turned out to be a dream-come true. I know that sounds cliché, but I had not been playing much and was kind of winging it."

At the US Open, Battistone and Melichar, who was playing in her first Grand Slam of any kind, were given a night match "on one of the back courts … but it was really cool." They ended up losing 6-3, 7-5 to Nuria Llagostera Vives andDavid Marrero of Spain 7-6, 6-3, but as soon as the match was over they talked about coming back.

"The moment we lost, we talked about playing the Qualifier again," Battistone said. "It was a big motivation for us."

After looking at their schedules, the timing of the Northern Section event worked out best. Also, Battistone had made his first trip to Minnesota last November when he played in Eric Butorac’s Minnesota Tennis Challenge at Life Time Eden Prairie and wanted to see Minnesota in the summer.

"I had such a great time in Minnesota at Eric’s event, and I have a couple from Prior Lake who belong to the club I teach at in Las Vegas who are letting us stay with them, so this worked out great."

Battistone and Melichar play their first-round match against former Gopher Julian Dehn and current Gonzaga University standout Melanie Yates of New Brighton, Minn., on 5 p.m. Saturday. The mixed doubles final will be Sunday.

"We have had more time to prepare this year and less nerves having done it last year," Battistone said. "We are excited."


Day One Summary:

JEssie_AneyRochester's Jessie Aney (right) won two matches and is in the semifinals and favorites Tony Larson of Blaine, Minn.,  and touring professional Brian Battistone also won on Day 1 of the 2013 US Open Northern Section Qualifier at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Aney opened the tournament with an easy 6-1, 6-3 win over Paulina Bigos of the University of Alabama in the first round and then defeated Rochester's Kelsey Frechette 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Aney, who won the mixed doubles title at this tournament in 2012, will faceVeronika Philippova in th semifinals Saturday at 9 a.m., while Sonya Das of Arden Hills, Minn., faces Nicole Melichar in the other semifinal. Melichar, who is rankedin the top 500 of the world, faced Rochester'sIngrid Neel in the first round, winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and then beat last year's finalist Alexis Nelson of St. Paul, Minn., 7-6 (5), 6-4.

Larson, who has won this tournament twice in his career, also had an easy first-round match, defeating Rodrigo Molina 6-0, 6-0. Larson now plays for Gustavus player Grant Leisner in the quarterfinals Saturday at 9 a.m.

Battistone used his unique two-handled racquet and volleyball-like jump serve in defeating Devon Britton of Wayzata, Minn., 6-1, 6-2. Battistone faces Rochester's Robert Turlington in the quarterfinals. Turlington defeated  Chris Norrieof Wichita Falls, Texas, 6-1, 6-3 and Erik Zishka of Owatonna, Minn., 6-3, 6-1 on Friday. 

For complete draws and updated results, click here.

Other Day One Notes...

Gbolahan Onikute is originally from Nigeria and is currently studying in Moorhead, Minn. Onikute, who lost 6-0, 6-0 on Friday to Jeff Adolf, played tennis back home in Nigeria, and after taking three years off from the sport, decided to start playing again with a group in Moorhead. He decided to play in this tournament when one of his hitting partners told him about the event and suggested how it would be a fun experience for him.

* 2012 Men's Singles Champion Evan Song withdrew before his first match due to injury.

Michael Richardson of St. Paul, Minn., is playing is his fourth US Open Northern Section Qualifier. Unfortunately, this year was not kind to the tournament stalwart as he lost to Grant Leisner 6-0, 6-0. 


tony wins smallLocal tennis superstars, world champions, and former US Open participants highlight the 2013 US Open Northern Section Qualifying Tournament June 21-23 at Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus. Winners of the event qualify for the US Open National Qualifying Tournament in August. Winners of the August event then receive entry into the 2013 US Open.

In the men’s draw, two-time Northern Qualifying champion Tony Larson (right) of Blaine, Minn., leads a strong field. Larson, who won in 2010 and 2011 and was a semifinalist in 2012, opens the tournament on Friday at 2 p.m. against Rodrigo Molina of Excelsior, Minn. Also playing in the tournament this weekend are 2012 men’s singles champion Evan Song of Henderson, Nev., and touring professionalBrian Battistone of Las Vegas. Song, who defeated an ailing Larson last year, and Battistone, who plays with a two-handed racquet and has one of the most unique and athletic serves in the game, are on the same side of the draw and could potentially meet in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon. Larson is in the other half of the draw.

On the women’s side, youth will reign as the Minnesota trio of 14-year-old superstars will all be playing at Baseline Tennis Center. Rochester’sIngrid Neel, who made headlines by playing on the boys tennis team as a seventh grader and leading Rochester Mayo to a state championship in 2011, will face touring professional Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla. Neel has now moved to Florida and is training at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla., while Melichar is currently ranked in the top 550 of the world in singles and the top 225 in doubles. The two will face off Friday morning at 10 a.m.

jessie_and_eric_with_trophyRochester’s Jessie Aney (left), who won the 2012 Mixed Doubles title with partner Eric Frueh and was named the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year, also plays Friday at 10 a.m., facing current University of Alabama player Paulina Bigos of Glendale, Ill. St. Paul’s Alexis Nelson, who was the runner up of this event in 2012 and is currently ranked #1 in Girls 18s for USTA Northern, will face the winner of the Neel/Melichar match at 2 p.m. Friday. 

The mixed doubles division features Battistone and Melichar, who won the US Open National Qualifying Mixed Doubles tournament in New Haven, Conn., in 2012 and played in the main draw at the 2012 US Open, where they fell in the first round to Nuria Llagostera Vives and David Marrero of Spain 7-6, 6-3. Battistone and Melichar will face former Gopher Julian Dehn and current college player Melanie Yates of New Brighton, Minn., on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Aney is also back to defend her mixed title, but with a different partner. This year, she is playing with Rochester’s Nick Crossley as they face Minnesota state high school singles champion Sonya Das (Arden Hills, Minn.) and Zach Johnson (White Bear Lake, Minn.) at 5 p.m. Saturday. Also playing Saturday at 5 p.m. is 2012 World 40s Doubles Champion Mickey Maule of Wayzata, Minn., who is teamed with Neel. 

For complete draws and updated results, click here.



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