By McCarton Ackerman
With last year’s US Open National Playoff champions Blake Strode and Robin Anderson not taking part in this year’s event, it’s guaranteed that new winners will be crowned on both the men’s and women’s side.
The first round of the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships kicked off on Friday at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. In the men’s singles event, Dante Cipulli of Argentina provided the biggest upset of the day by defeating No. 4 seed Chris Wettengel of the US in straight sets, while No. 4 seed Sandra Roma of Sweden advanced without any difficulties in her opening round against American teenager Peggy Porter.
The most unique match of the day saw Nevada natives Evan Song and Brian Battistone do battle. The crowd whispered to each other in amazement as Battistone wielded a racquet that had two grips, lept three feet off the ground for every serve and hit a variety of unorthodox spins and drop shots.
Battistone’s highly unusual presence on the court gradually wore Song down once he began to find the range on his shots, reeling off the final eight games of the match to advance into the quarterfinals with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 win.
"I was really struggling with my timing in the beginning and couldn’t find the court," said Battistone. "It’s a little bit warmer on the west coast and the courts are slower here, so it was just a matter of getting used to the conditions."
Battistone competed as a full-time doubles specialist on the ATP Tour from 2007-2011, playing almost exclusively with his brother Dann. He reached a career high ranking of No. 88 in 2010 and competed in the main draw of the men’s doubles event at the US Open that year. In addition to playing in the singles event of this year’s US Open National Playoffs, he is also competing in the mixed doubles event next week with fellow American Nicole Melichar.
"Getting to the US Open again would be a dream come true for me," said Battistone. "Playing doubles there was the highlight of my career, so going back either for the singles qualifying or mixed doubles would be equally special."
In the women’s singles event, No. 4 seed Sandra Roma of Sweden and Americans Jan Abaza and Natalie Pluskota were among the players to advance to the quarterfinals. Americans Mary Weatherholt and Stephanie Vlad also won their opening matches.
Quarterfinal matches for the US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championship will kick off on Saturday at 11:00am. No. 1 seed Clement Reix of France and second-seeded American Nicolas Meister of the highlight play on the men’s side, while No. 1 seed Mayo Hibi of Japan and second-seeded American Alexandra Mueller, who won the inaugural US Open National Playoffs in 2010, will be among the big names vying for spots in the final four.
The semifinals are set for Sunday at 11:00am and the finals are scheduled for Monday. The winner of the men’s and women’s singles events this week will receive a wild card into the US Open qualifying tournament, held from August 21-24 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.
US Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships
Friday, August 17, 2012
Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Men’s Singles - 1st round
Brian Battistone, Las Vegas, Nev., def. Evan Song, Henderson, Nev., 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
Punch Maleka, King of Prussia, Pa., def. Nolan Paige, Fairfield, Conn., 6-4, 7-6 (6)
Eric Hechtman, Miami, Fla., def. Adam Lee, New Zealand, 6-4, 6-2
Jon Wiegand, San Antonio, Tex., def. Matt Brooklyn, Great Britain, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
Dante Cipulli, Argentina, def. Chris Wettengel, Las Vegas, Nev. (4), 7-5, 7-5
Women’s Singles - 1st round
Sandra Roma, Sweden (4), def. Peggy Porter, Dallas, Tex., 6-1, 7-5
Jan Abaza, Boca Raton, Fla., def. Giuliana Olmos, Mexico, 6-2, 6-4
Natalie Pluskota, Sharpsburg, Ga., def. Magda Okruashvili, Georgia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Stephanie Vlad, Scottsdale, Ariz., def. Nyla Beenk, LeClaire, Iowa, 6-7 (9), 6-3, 6-1
Mary Weatherholt, Shawnee, Kan., def. Anna Mamalat, Philadelphia, Pa., 6-0, 6-1