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Morton, Centenari prevail in Mid-Atlantic sectional qualifier

June 6, 2014 09:41 AM
2014 USONP Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying men's singles runner-up Harrison O'Keefe (Left) with champion Alexander Centenari
2014 USONP Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying women's singles champion Skylar Morton (Left) and runner-up Nika Kukharchuk
2014 USONP Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying mixed doubles champions Jessica Keener and Matt Stillwagon

COLLEGE PARK, MD. – After four days of competition at College Park Tennis Club (CPTC) featuring the largest draws in tournament history, the USTA/Mid-Atlantic Section crowned its champions on June 3 in the US Open National Playoffs Mid-Atlantic Sectional Qualifying tournament. They are now one step closer to playing in the US Open.

Skylar Morton, 20, of Bethesda, Md., won the women’s singles title, defeating two-time defending champion and No. 2 seeded Nika Kukharchuk from Carmel, N.Y., 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Morton is a graduate of CPTC’s Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) and played two seasons for UCLA, where she was a finalist at the 2013 NCAA Division I women’s doubles championship.

The final was Morton’s third three-set match in a row. She overcame the tournament’s top seed and world No. 744 Kateryna Yergina in the semifinals, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, after defeating current JTCC student Ines Vias, 0-6, 6-2, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.

The victory booked Morton a spot in the US Open National Playoffs - Women's Championships taking place in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, an Emirates Airline US Open Series event (Aug. 15-18 for singles, Aug. 20-23 for mixed doubles). The winner of each singles championship (one man, one woman) will receive a wild-card entry to compete in the 2014 US Open Qualifying Tournament (Aug. 19-22) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open. The winners of the Mixed Doubles Championship earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2014 US Open mixed doubles draw (Aug. 25-Sept. 8).

Morton will be making her second trip to the US Open National Playoffs. In 2011, she won the Mid-Atlantic’s women’s singles title and partnered with Virginia Tech’s Patrick Daciek to win the mixed doubles tournament.

“Playing in New Haven was fun and exciting,” said Morton. “I really liked the facility. [To win the National Playoffs] I need to train harder, work on my fitness, and find a way to get used to the ball boys.”

Joining Morton at the US Open National Playoffs Championships will be Alexander (Xander) Centenari, 24, of Towson, Md., who won the men’s singles title, defeating Salem, Va., resident and University of South Carolina freshman Harrison O’Keefe, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1, in the final. Centenari fought off a match point while serving at 5-6 in the second set.

Centenari played for Dartmouth College, where he was named All-Ivy in singles and doubles before turning pro in September 2013. He has spent the past year playing Futures events, trying to build up his ranking, while training in Baltimore and more recently at the JTCC. He pulled double duty in the tournament, playing mixed doubles with his younger sister Gabrielle. The duo lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Matt Stillwagon and Jessica Keener.

Stillwagon, 29, and Keener, 27, both from Leesburg, Va., overpowered Sydney Rider of Annapolis, Md., and Shane Monroe of Ventnor City, N.J., 6-4, 6-2, in the final. Stillwagon and Keener are both past USTA League National Champions. Stillwagon was a champion at the Mixed 10.0 level in 2012 and Keener won her National Championship at the Adult 5.0 level in 2011.



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