Ryan Sweeting will return to USTA Pro Circuit action at the Maui Challenger at the end of January.
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Fifteen-year-old Tornado Alicia Black will be among the rising young stars competing on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2014.
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By Sally Milano, USTA.com
The USTA Pro Circuit, the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, kicks off its 35th season this week with two clay-court events in Florida—the $10,000 men’s Futures in Plantation and the $25,000 women’s event in Vero Beach. This year, the USTA Pro Circuit will feature 87 events, including eight $100,000 events and a record 36 tournaments on clay, and will award nearly $3 million in total prize money to its players.
The Plantation tournament begins a string of seven clay-court men’s Futures events, and the Vero Beach tournament is the first of three consecutive $25,000 women’s events to be played on clay. This is the first of two clay-court seasons that will take place on the USTA Pro Circuit calendar this year, with the other beginning in the spring prior to the French Open.
In conjunction with USTA Player Development, the USTA Pro Circuit continues to emphasize the importance of increased training for younger players on clay, particularly at the $10,000 and $25,000 levels for women and the $10,000 and $15,000 levels for men.
“For 35 years, the USTA Pro Circuit has developed hundreds of American players and brought world-class tennis to local communities nationwide,” said Brian Earley, Director of the USTA Pro Circuit. “We are excited to begin 2014 with strong playing fields and look forward to what the year will bring—from high-quality live streaming for fans, coaches and players, to the chance for players to compete in Grand Slam events through their results on the Pro Circuit. We also have many new events this year that will contribute to the USTA’s mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis throughout the country.”
Following its success in 2013, live streaming will continue this year for all 16 USTA Pro Circuit men’s Challengers (prize money of $50,000 and higher). Live streaming will begin on Jan. 20 at the $50,000 Royal Lahaina Challenger in Maui, Hawaii, and will be offered for select women’s events this year, as well. Live scoring will also be available for all men’s and women’s events at all levels at www.procircuit.usta.com.
Also this year, USTA Player Development will again award wild cards into the main draws of the French Open and US Open based on players’ results on the USTA Pro Circuit. In April, a series of three men’s events (the $100,000 Challenger in Sarasota, Fla., and $50,000 events in Savannah, Ga., and Tallahassee, Fla.) and three women’s events ($50,000 events in Dothan, Ala., Charlottesville, Va., and Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.) will comprise the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge, with Har-Tru signing on for another year as the sponsor of the wild-card events.
In July and August, a series of hard-court men’s and women’s events will decide the men’s and women’s wild cards into the 2014 US Open. Wild cards will be determined by the American man and woman who accumulate the greatest number of ATP and WTA ranking points at the selected events.
The opening weeks of competition for the 2014 season feature both up-and-coming players and veterans looking to rebuild or develop their games, including Ryan Sweeting, who has not played in an ATP or USTA Pro Circuit tournament since March 2013 due to injury. Sweeting, who married “Big Bang Theory” actress Kaley Cuoco on New Year’s Eve, peaked at No. 64 in the world in 2011, winning the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston that year. Sweeting holds three singles titles and three doubles titles on the USTA Pro Circuit.
World No. 95 Bradley Klahn, two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson and top young Americans Ryan Harrison, Donald Young and Denis Kudla are also scheduled to begin their seasons in the coming weeks, having entered the Maui Challenger, which will take place during the second week of the Australian Open.
On the women's side, up-and-coming Americans Tornado Alicia Black, the 15-year-old who reached the girls’ singles final at the 2013 US Open and won the first pro singles title of her career at the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island, Fla., in September 2013, and newly minted pro Allie Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphin running back Jim Kiick and a finalist in 2013 at the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships singles event and won the doubles title with Sachia Vickery, will be in action, as will 2012 US Open girls’ champion Samantha Crawford, who is coming back from injury, and Top-10 junior Louisa Chirico.
With prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis professionals and a frequent battleground for established players. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries played on the USTA Pro Circuit, competing for valuable ATP and WTA ranking points. Administered on the local level, the USTA Pro Circuit brings world-class tennis to local courts nationwide as part of the fabric of communities, providing an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhoods.
Since 1979, 17 USTA Pro Circuit alums (including five Americans) have achieved the No. 1 world singles rankings. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport, Pete Sampras, Justine Henin, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi are among the game’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The past few years have seen breakout performances by a number of USTA Pro Circuit players, including John Isner, Sloane Stephens, Jack Sock and Madison Keys.
Click here to view the 2014 men's and women's schedules.