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Spring Fling

April 11, 2005 11:34 AM

April proves to be a busy month on the USTA Pro Circuit with three Challenger Events passing through Southern Section. The 2005 St. Vincent Auxiliary USTA Men's Pro Circuit Tournament was held April 1-10th at the Rebsamen Tennis Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. The $15,000 challenger event was a fundraiser to help women cope with the effects and treatment of cancer and all proceeds went to benefit the St. Vincent New Outlook Women's Cancer Recovery Program. Events such as Ask the Pros, Men's and Mixed Doubles Pro Am, Kids and Pros, and Celebrity Serve Gala were held in support of the tournament.

The Kids and Pros event was held on Wednesday, April 6th under the direction of Richard Akel and Deanna James. Underprivileged children ages 10-15 got a chance to interact with professional tennis players and also received free tennis racquets and other giveaways courtesy of Wilson.

This tournament is famous for launching the professional tennis careers of several of tennis greats, the most well-known being Andre Agassi. Several others who have gone on to stellar careers are Brad Gilbert (currently Agassi's coach), the Jensen brothers, Robert Seguso, Ken Flach, Jimmy Arias and Andy Roddick just to name a few.

While the USTA Men's Pro Circuit results are in, the Women's Pro Circuit is currently on the move. Mississippi played host for two $25,000 tournaments during April. Fitzgerald’s $25K Women’s Pro Challenger Tournament was held the week of April 4th at Tunica National. USTA Member Appreciation events which included autograph signings and a Pro/Am Exhibition took place during the tournament. The #6 seed, Edina Gallovits of Romania took home the first place title with her win over the #7 seed Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the finals.

The BankPlus/USTA Women’s Challenger of Jackson kicked off April 11-17 at River Hills. A “Ladies Day Lunch and Learn” was one of the scheduled events of the week and was sponsored by MTA and St. Dominic’s Healthline. Atlanta’s Ashley Harkleroad returned to the scene in pro tennis with her appearance in this year’s tournament. Harkleroad was ranked as high as No. 39 in the world at 17 years old before calling it quits. Out of the pro tour since August of 2004, Ashley chose to play at River Hills rather than accept a wild-card entry into the WTA Tour’s Family Circle Cup. Harkleroad currently holds the 207th ranking and has not played in this tournament since 2001. Her breakthrough on the big tour came in 2003, where she beat three straight top 20 players to make it to the semis of the Family Circle Cup.

Lavara Lepchenko cruised pass Asha Rolle 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the $25,000 BankPlus Women's Challenger at River Hills Club in Jackson.

Atlanta native, Brian Vahaly, finished with a strong showing at 2005 USTA Tallahassee Challenger held in Tallahassee, Fla. Vahaly did not drop a set in the tournament as he went on to defeat Justin Gimelstob 7-6(5), 6-4 in the finals. This was his second title in Tallahassee in three appearances, making this one of his most successful tournaments The $50,000 Pro Circuit Challenger boasted some of the most cutting edge players in the game today.

“When we say this may be a second-tier event, I disagree,” said Rob Mayewski, a teaching pro and coach. “These players are right on the edge of breaking into the majors and being contenders. A lot of them you may see during the early rounds of a major on television.”

The Pro Circuit is a novice ranking circuit that provides young players a path to the international game. The women’s circuit is comprised of $10K, $25K, $50K and 75K tournaments. The $10K tournament is a lower-tier event that allows young players the opportunity to establish a national ranking. The competition and ranking points increase with each tournament and provides resolve as to whether or not the participant is talented enough to pursue a career as a touring pro. For additional information about the Pro Circuit, click here.

The Family Circle Cup finals took place this past weekend. Former No. 1 Justine-Henin-Hardenne showed she's back in top form on Sunday, beating second-seeded Elena Dementieva 7-5, 6-4 to win the Family Circle Cup in her second tournament since returning from a viral illness and knee injury.




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