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Georgians Dominate US Open National Playoffs Southern Qualifying Tournament

May 24, 2013 04:00 PM
Elliott Orkin receives the Men's trophy from Tournament Director Turhan Berne.
Allison Miller is presented the Women's trophy from Tournament Director Turhan Berne.
By Matt Hacker & Jared Morgan/USTA Southern
 
Georgians lead the charge as Elliott Orkin, Allison Miller, Danie van den Heever and Whitney McCray won the US Open National Playoffs Southern Qualifying Tournament today and yesterday at the Sandy Springs (Ga.) Tennis Center.
 
Except for McCray, who comes from Houston, all the rest of the champions and finalists are from metro Atlanta.
 
Orkin downs Gotkowski
Orkin, of Marketta, Ga., faced off against Trevor Gotkowski at 10 am Friday morning.  A slightly overcast day led to a display of tennis in dominating fashion.  
 
Gotkowski, of Cartersville, Ga.,, stole a game from Orkin after going down 0-3, but after that it was all Orkin.  Orkin won the match in a little over an hour beating his opponent 6-1, 6-0.
 
Even though it was a devastating loss, Gotkowski was all smiles after the match.  Gotkowski and Orkin have the same coach, Stephen Diaz, and have known each other for awhile.  Their coach was in attendance and congratulated them both on their performances.  
 
Orkin now goes to New Haven, Connecticut to represent USTA Southern in the US Open National Playoffs Championships. If Orkin wins in Connecticut, he will receive a wild card to participate in the US Open Qualifying Tournament.   
 
Gotkowski has committed to Wofford College to play on the Men’s Tennis Team. While Elliot Orkin will be attending 
 
Miller knocks off long-time friend Patterson
Two long-time friends from Georgia, Allison Miller and Laura Patterson, took to battle Thursday for the Women’s final. Playing under a hot sun on Sandy Springs Tennis Center’s Stadium Court, Miller was able to grind out a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 championship victory.
 
The road to the finals could not have been more dissimilar for the two players. Norcross, Ga. resident Miller, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame, cruised to the championship with three easy victories, while Patterson, a top 2014 recruit, outlasted three notable names en route to the finals. These names included: Sherazad Benamar (currently in the Top 500 on the WTA Tour), Kendal Woodard (plays for Georgia Tech) and Jewel Peterson (former WTA Pro).
 
The start of the championship revealed just how evenly matched the two players were, with Patterson, of Roswell, Ga., barely taking the lead 3-2. Yet Miller, who is known for her consistent play, found her rhythm and was able to rally off four straight games to take the first set 6-3.
 
The second set was all Patterson however, who pressured Miller with her flat, hard-hitting forehand time and time again. Patterson was able to easily capture the second set 6-2.
 
The third set proved to be an exciting one, with the two competitors exchanging heavy balls for long rallies, despite their fatigue. It was Miller’s steady play and tireless attitude, though, that allowed her to take the final set 6-3, ultimately crowning her as this year’s champion.
 
Following the match, the two showed the utmost respect for one another, with their friendship being unaffected by the day’s match.
 
Van den Heever/McCray take Mixed Doubles title
The Mixed Doubles Final also took place in the late afternoon of yesterday, with Danie van den Heever, of Cumming, Ga., and Whitney McCray, of Houston, powering through to a 7-6(4), 6-1 win. The pair faced off against Georgia Tech duo Nathan Rakitt and Kendal Woodard. Rakitt is from Marietta, Ga., and Woodard hails from Stockbridge, Ga.
 
Background
The US Open National Playoffs begin as a series of sectional qualifying tournaments, held this year in 13 USTA sections. The men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions or top available finishers from each sectional qualifying tournament advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Championships. The Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships will be held August 16-19, and the Mixed Doubles Championship are slated for August 21-24. All three events take place in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, an Emirates Airline US Open Series event. Mixed doubles winners advance to the US Open main draw. The two singles champions advance to the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which consists of a 128-player draw with 16 players advancing to the main draw.
 
Feature story on Frenchwoman Sherazad Benamar
There aren’t many players who know French player Sherazad Benamar, but they will now after the great display of tennis so far in the US Open National Playoffs Southern Qualifying Tournament.
 
Today, despite a point dispute at the end of the first set, Benamar took out Texan Whitney McCray 6-3, 6-2. Her first opponent Monday, Nicole Johnston, an Atlanta resident, was swiftly beaten by Benamar 6-1, 6-2.
 
Benamar heard about the Sandy Springs tournament from her husband who encouraged to take a shot at a US Open qualifier spot.
 
Benamar said, "He told me it would be good to play and pushed me to enter, but he told me five days before it started!"
 
She flew in from Paris, France last Sunday and started match play the morning of the next day at 10 a.m. Her focus before this tournament was on winning a bid for the French Open, so clay was on her mind.
 
"I had no time to prepare," Sherazad said, but so far she seems to be doing quite well.
 
She plays Laura Patterson (Roswell, Ga.) Wednesday at 10 a.m., who defeated Georgia Tech player Kendall Woodard in a marathon match today 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 7-6(5).
 
When asked if she feels she has the momentum to win tomorrow she responded, "I am feeling good with my play, but I do not know anyone here, being from France. It’s tough."
 
Benamar is playing in a ITF Mexico $10,000 tournament after she finishes in Sandy Springs, then it’s back to the USA, "hopefully to compete in the US Open!"
 
Some notable winners in the Men’s round of 16 field of play are: Kyle Craig (McDonough, Ga.), Sam Edwards (Suwanee, Ga.), Trevor Gotkowski (Cartersville, Ga.) and Nathan Rakitt (Marietta, Ga.).
 
Play resumes for the quarterfinals tomorrow at 11 a.m. for Kyle Craig against Trevor Gotkowski and 3PM for Sam Edwards against Nathan Rakitt.
 
Preview story
Former WTA Tour professional and ITA All-American Jewel Peterson will be competing in this year’s US Open National Playoffs Southern Sectional Qualifying Tournament, along with numerous high-caliber college and junior players.
 
This year’s tournament will be played at Sandy Springs Tennis Center in Sandy Springs and will run May 27-31. Like in years past, the tournament will feature both a Men’s and Women’s Singles draw, as well as a Mixed Double draw. The Women’s Singles final will take place on Thursday at 11 a.m., followed by the Mixed Doubles final. The Men’s Singles final will be played Friday at 11 a.m.
 
The US Open National Playoffs were started by the USTA to leverage 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 renowned US Open.
 
Tournament Director Turhan Berne is excited about this year’s tournament, given the quality of competitors. "There’s no doubt that this year’s US Open Qualifying Tournament will have some must-see matches," he said. "We’ve got a former tour player, top-notch college players and some talented juniors that will make for a fun but competitive tournament."
 
There are several names that headline this year’s women’s side. Along with Peterson, Sherazad Benamar, Kendal Woodard and Laura Patterson are some of the top players set to compete.
 
Peterson, of College Park, Ga., reached a career-high world singles ranking of No. 214 back in 2004. She was also a four-time ITA All-American at the University of Southern California. Peterson will be making her third USONP Southern Sectional Qualifying appearance this year.
 
Benamar is flying in from France, the country she plays for in pro tournaments. She regularly competes in International Tennis Federation tournaments and currently holds a No. 446 world ranking.
 
Woodard, a Stockbridge, Ga. resident, currently plays for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, while Patterson, of Roswell, Ga., is a "Blue Chip" 2014 recruit according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.
 
Not to be outdone, the Men’s side of the tournament contains a couple big names. Casey Kay, who plays for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, will be in this year’s action. He will also be competing alongside twin sister, Whitney Kay, in the Mixed Doubles draw. Whitney, who just finished up her freshman year playing for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, recently was awarded "Rookie of the Year" for this year’s Women’s Division I NCAA tennis. She was also the country’s number one ranked junior back in 2010. The Kays are from Alpharetta, Ga.
 
Recent University of Florida Gator commit and Marietta resident, Elliott Orkin, will also be in the mix. Orkin is the No. 6-ranked recruit for the 2013 class, and is coming off being tournament champion of this year’s USTA National Spring Championship in Mobile, Ala.
 
A player welcome party will be held on Sunday, May 26from 6-9 pm at Sandy Springs Tennis Center. One Love Tennis will host the reception, which will feature complimentary burritos provided by Chipotle Mexican Grill of Sandy Springs.
 
The US Open National Playoffs begin as a series of sectional qualifying tournaments, held this year in 13 USTA sections. The men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions or top available finishers from each sectional qualifying tournament advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Championships. The Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships will be held August 16-19, and the Mixed Doubles Championship are slated for August 21-24. All three events take place in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, an Emirates Airline US Open Series event.
 
Mixed doubles winners advance to the US Open main draw. The two singles champions advance to the US Open Qualifying Tournament which consists of a 128-player draw with 16 players advancing to the main draw.
 

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