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Getting to Know You: The 2010 US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championships

July 16, 2010 05:18 PM
Southern California winner Cecil Mamiit
Midwest champion Eric Quigley
Florida champion Olivier Sajous
Thibaut Charron
Age: 23    Hometown: Sens, France        Career-High Rank: No rank

Charron entered the USTA Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying Tournament to prepare for the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Now he is four wins away from his first appearance in a Grand Slam draw. Charron was the No. 1 player for Virginia Commonwealth University, rising as high as No. 25 in the collegiate rankings as a senior. He currently competes on the ITF Circuit as he launches his professional career.

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Dante Cipulli
Age: 28    Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.      Career-High Rank: 1,461 (April 2005)


Cipulli was a late entrant into the Missouri Valley Sectional Qualifying Tournament, signing up at his wife’s urging. Five matches later, he earned a shot at the 2010 US Open. A native of Argentina, Cipulli played collegiately at Southwest Baptist University in Missouri, winning the NCAA Division II national title as a senior. He currently serves as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

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Phillip Eilers
Age: 24    Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah    Career-High Rank: No rank


Eilers won a battle of Mountain West Conference standouts to advance, defeating BYU’s Spencer Smith in the final of the USTA Intermountain Sectional Qualifying Tournament. Eilers completed his senior year at the University of Utah in May as the conference co-Player of the Year. He was a junior standout in his native Germany and played in a number of ITF Circuit events before coming to the U.S. for college.

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Colin Hoover
Age: 21    Hometown: Arlington, Texas        Career-High Rank: No rank


Hoover won seven matches to emerge as the champion out of the Texas Sectional Qualifying Tournament and secure the last of the 16 invitations to the Men’s Championships. Hoover recently completed his sophomore season at Texas A&M, where he went 12-5 combined in singles and doubles after going 17-15 as a freshman. He also won the Texas 5A state title as a high school senior.

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Ikaika Jobe
Age: 27    Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii    Career-High Rank: 787 (November 2007)


Jobe came out of retirement to win the Hawaii Sectional Qualifying Tournament, taking a break from his workload as a law student at the University of Hawaii. Jobe first established himself as a top junior player in Hawaii, and went on to play three years at St. Louis University and one at Boise State before turning professional. He cracked the Top 800 in singles in 2007 and the Top 400 in doubles in 2008.

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Nikita Kryvonos
Age: 23    Hometown: Flushing, N.Y.        Career-High Rank: 389 (February 2007)


Kryvonos took a big step toward returning to the US Open by winning the Eastern Sectional Qualifying Tournament. A promising junior, the Ukrainian-born Kryvonos successfully battled back from a staph infection that nearly ended his career at age 16 to play in the US Open qualifying in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He has competed primarily on the USTA Pro Circuit in recent years, finishing the year inside the Top 400 in 2006.

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Punch Maleka
Age: 31    Hometown: Wayne, Pa.        Career-High Rank: 619 (March 2000)


Maleka, who swept through the Middle States Sectional Qualifying Tournament, grew up as a soccer player in South Africa before his father urged him to focus on tennis. Maleka played professionally from 1996 to 2005, rising to the cusp of the Top 600 in singles and doubles in 2000. He currently works as a tennis instructor at an academy in Pennsylvania and is an aspiring music producer and DJ who goes by the pseudonym Punchuashen. 

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Cecil Mamiit
Age: 34    Hometown: South Pasadena, Calif.    Career-High Rank: 72 (October 1999)


Mamiit advanced by storming through the draw at the Southern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament. The veteran player in the field, Mamiit was a top junior in the early 1990s, won the NCAA singles title as a freshman at USC in 1996 and has appeared in each of the four Grand Slams, advancing to the second round at all but Wimbledon. Mamiit currently plays for and captains the Philippines in Davis Cup play.

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Angelo Niculescu
Age: 29    Hometown: Lake Oswego, Ore.    Career-High Rank: 713 (February 2006)


Niculescu advanced by winning the Pacific Northwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament without dropping a set in five matches. A top junior growing up in Romania, Niculescu starred at the University of South Carolina before going on to a professional career. He finished at No. 734 in the world in 2005 before retiring, and currently serves as the head tennis pro at the Cascade Athletic Club in Gresham, Ore.

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Eduardo Pavia
Age: 21    Hometown: Carolina, Puerto Rico    Career-High Rank: No rank


A member of the Puerto Rican Davis Cup team, Pavia came to the Southern Sectional Qualifying Tournament to train with his teammates for their zonal competition and left with the title. Pavia, who has been competing for Puerto Rico since 2007, plays collegiately at Ball State University. He was named the 2010 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year after compiling an 18-4 record as a junior.

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Eric Quigley
Age: 21    Hometown: Peewee Valley, Ky.    Career-High Rank: 1,276 (July 2010)


Quigley dropped just 15 games in six matches to win the Midwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament. Quigley recently completed his sophomore season at the University of Kentucky, where he received All-America honors in both singles and doubles and came within one victory of the school record, going 42-12 overall. In 2008, he became the first Kentucky player in 34 years to win four straight high school state singles titles.

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Olivier Sajous
Age: 23    Hometown: Plantation, Fla.        Career-High Rank: 1,095 (July 2010)


Sajous captured the Florida Sectional Qualifying Tournament to advance, continuing a remarkable run of tennis—and resolve—following the earthquake that destroyed his family’s home in Haiti. Sajous, who competes for his native country in Davis Cup, moved to the U.S. as a teenager to pursue a tennis career, playing collegiately for Florida Atlantic and the University of Texas. He currently competes on the USTA Pro Circuit.

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Blake Strode
Age: 23    Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.        Career-High Rank: 483 (July 2010)


Strode deferred Harvard Law School in 2009 to pursue a professional tennis career, a move that paid off in a victory at the Southwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament. Strode grew into tennis as a member of the NJTL Ferguson, Mo., Net Rushers and developed into an All-American for the University of Arkansas, as well as a two-time SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He won his first professional title last year on the USTA Pro Circuit.

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Brandon Wai
Age: 24    Hometown: New York, N.Y.        Career-High Rank: No rank


Wai earned his place in the Men’s Championships with a runner-up finish at the New England Sectional Qualifying Tournament. (The New England champion, Nolan Paige, could not participate in the Men’s Championships.) As a collegian, Wai became the first player in Yale history to earn back-to-back Ivy League Player of the Year awards (2006-07) and, in 2002, finished the year at No. 3 in the USTA Boys’ 16s rankings.

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Chris Wettengel
Age: 28    Hometown: Saratoga, Calif.        Career-High Rank: 548 (October 2007)


Wettengel dropped just one set in five matches to claim the title at the Northern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament, defeating longtime doubles partner Brad Weston in the final. A standout player at the University of Minnesota, Wettengel finished the year in the Top 750 in 2006 and 2007. He also owns two career USTA Pro Circuit doubles titles.

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Keith Whittingham   
Age: 22    Hometown: Erie, Pa.            Career-High Rank: No rank


Whittingham is a rising senior and the No. 1 singles and doubles player at Mercyhurst College, a Division II program in Erie, Pa. He went 12-2 at No. 1 singles last year and was named first team all-conference. Whittingham advanced to the final of the Northern Section Qualifying Tournament without dropping a set before falling to Tony Larson. He earned his spot when Larson was unable to compete in the Men’s Championships.
 

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