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Witten Takes Two Titles at US Open National Playoffs - Southern Qualifying Tournament

June 26, 2015 10:29 PM

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By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern


kay_jayaram_witten_southern_062715_300Finalist Michael Kay, Tournament Director Sanjay Jayaram and champion Jesse Witten.

Champion Kaitlyn McCarthy, Jayaram and finalist Andie Daniell.

hurtig_ross_jayaram_mirzahed_witten_062615_300Finalists Marcus Hurtig, Brett Ross, Jayaram, champions Vahid Mirzadeh and Jesse Witten.

Finalists Caroline Price, Alexandra Anghelescu, Referee Sandi Pardon, champions Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe.


Finalists Danie van den Heever, Anghelescu, Pardon, Price and Richard Doverspike


PEACHTREE CORNERS, GA. –  Jesse Witten used his years of pro tennis experience to hold off Georgia Tech’s Michael Kay to win the men’s singles crown in the 2015 US Open National Playoffs – Southern Qualifying Tournament 6-1, 6-4 at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners today.

Witten, who has reached the round of 32 at the US Open, utilized a strategy of control and strong serving to disrupt the rhythm of the rising sophomore. Every time Kay, of Alpharetta, Ga., seemed to get his game under control, he would over-hit one shot too many. Both players relied on underspin backhands; Witten’s athleticism allowed him to bend and pick up shots while Kay often went for rushed winners.

The opening game ran 20 minutes, with Witten, the top seed, holding on the eighth deuce. That game seemed to frustrate Kay, who went five games before holding serve. In the second set, the sole break in the third game by Witten proved to be the decider. Witten, of Naples, Fla., served six aces in the match.

“The first game is always a big one. It’s always tough, a tricky game,” the Floridian noted. “(Kay) is a college player and you can tell it because he’s a real scrapper, a fighter.”

Kay was the finalist in this competition last year.

For the rest of the summer, Witten plans to play USTA Pro Circuit and other professional events in preparation for competing in New Haven in August. Witten and Mirzahed, who played at Florida State, won the men’s doubles, giving Witten the chance to advance to the US Open in two divisions.

Women’s singles

No. 1 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy nailed down her first trip to New Haven with a straight-set elimination of Andie Daniell 6-3, 7-5.

McCarthy, of Cary, N.C., breezed through the first set, relying on her consistent ground strokes. Daniell complied, crushing many of her flat strokes into the net. The fourth game was pivotal as Daniell let two break points slip away as she kept up the offense but didn’t find her range. While McCarthy was finding angles with her winners, Daniell showed a lack of footwork on important points.

The second set was more of a contest as Daniell began to force the play with her powerful shots. With a hold in the seventh, Daniell took her first lead of the match. The lead was short-lived as top-seeded McCarthy went on a late-match tear, taking the last three games. In the 10th game, she finally held on the eighth deuce and then put away the final game with two aces.

“I’ve been working on my serve. Tyus Jones, who’s on the Duke basketball team, has been an inspiration. He shoots like 90 percent on his free throws,” McCarthy explained. “In free throws you are all on your own. It’s a lot like serving.”

Women’s doubles

Continuing their string of major successes, the University of Alabama’s Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe cruised to win the women’s doubles.

The Crimson Tide duo is defending two-time NCAA women’s doubles champions. Here at the Southern qualifying tournament they easily handled UNC’s Caroline Price and Alexandra Anghelescu, who played at Georgia and Georgia Tech, 6-4, 6-3. All-Americans Jansen and Routliffe were named the ITA National Women’s Doubles Team of the Year the last two years, the first team to repeat.

Using their experience and teamwork skills, Jansen and Routliffe routinely won the big points, especially in the second set. The tournament is using no-ad scoring in doubles and the winners found their advantage on many of the final game points. Routliffe’s steady game at the net helped offset Jansen, whose games showed signs of brilliance offsetting numerous unforced errors. Routliffe, who is originally from Caledon, Ontario, now lives in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Price, of Duluth, Ga., and Anghelescu, of Johns Creek, Ga., kept the pressure on with numerous breaks of serve but couldn’t pull out critical games at the end of the sets.

The men’s and women’s doubles was added to the playoffs this year. Finals were played last Friday.

Men’s doubles

Witten and Mirzadeh were dominant in the first set and match tiebreak to take the men’s doubles final and overcame a fierce comeback by Brett Ross and Marcus Hurtig 6-1, 1-6, [10-2]. Ross, men’s tennis coach at Georgia State, was one of two college coaches in the tournament. Kennesaw State’s Eduardo Rincon played singles and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Witten and Mirzadeh buzzed through the tiebreak as they upped their power game and net play. In a stretch of winning six of the first seven points, the duo relied on forcing the play with their volleys and overheads.

In the first set, Witten and Mirzadeh relied on unforced errors off the racquets of Ross and Hurtig. The second set was a complete turnaround as Ross and Hurtig found their range and ripped numerous service winners. However, they couldn’t keep the momentum up in the match tiebreak.

The champions have a notable success rate in the US Open National Playoffs. Witten won the Florida mixed doubles qualifier in 2013 and the New England men’s singles qualifier in 2014. Mirzadeh just won the Florida mixed qualifier with Amy Sergeant.

Mixed doubles
Two players with roots in metro Atlanta found their long-term friendship proved the basis of their mixed doubles win. Price and Richard Doverspike defeated Anghelescu and Danie van den Heever 6-1, 6-4.

“We’ve known each other for 10, 12 years,” said Doverspike, who played No. 1 at Alabama and was a women’s assistant tennis coach there. “We’re pretty happy-go-lucky on the court.”

Price, of Duluth, Ga., added, “I feel like he’s my big brother. He coached against me at the University of Alabama and now coaches me on court.” The duo is also coached by Gery Groslimond. Price just won her first pro title two weeks ago, taking the singles title at the Charlotte $10K tournament.

The team won the first set in only 20 minutes. Doverspike, of Johns Creek, Ga., didn’t lose a point on serve while Price dropped only three. The close second set featured four booming aces by the 6’4” Doverspike, who also qualified for the men’s doubles by winning the USTA Florida Qualifying Tournament with Crimson Tide’s Korey Lovett, of Brevard, N.C., along with winning the mixed title with Natalie Pluskota.

More info
Winning players earned a spot in the 2015 US Open National Playoffs - Championships Aug. 21-29 in New Haven, Conn., during the Connecticut Open, a WTA event.

The US Open National Playoffs men’s and women’s singles champions earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, held the week prior to the US Open. The US Open National Playoffs mixed doubles and men's and women's champions receive a wild card into the main draws of the 2015 US Open.

The USTA created the US Open National Playoffs to expand the footprint of the US Open to cities nationwide by providing the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a berth into the US Open.




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