By Sally Milano, USTA.com
What a sensational year it was on the USTA Pro Circuit. Now in its 29th year, the USTA Pro Circuit features some of the world’s most talented tennis players competing in nearly 100 tournaments across the country for $3 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points.
In 2007, we saw breakthrough performances from John Isner and Donald Young, who are now two of the rising stars on the ATP Tour. We saw Julie Ditty make history by winning her 30th career title, as well as a number of up-and-coming American juniors make their mark, including Michael McClune, Asia Muhammed and Rhyne Williams, who all won their first pro titles on the circuit in 2007.
Here is a look back at some of the people and milestones that made 2007 a year to remember on the USTA Pro Circuit.Madison Brengle.
One of the country’s top junior players gave quite a performance in both singles and doubles on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007.
The 17-year-old native of Dover, Del., captured the first pro doubles title of her career with partner Kristy Frilling at the $25,000 event in Augusta, Ga., in October. In singles, she reached finals at the $25,000 events in Clearwater, Fla., and Hammond, La., and also advanced to quarterfinals at the $50,000 tournaments in La Quinta, Calif., St. Paul, Minn., and Charlottesville, Va.
Brengle, a finalist at the junior Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, reached a career-high WTA ranking of No. 216 in August and is currently listed at No. 229 in the world.
Lester Cook. California native Cook had one of his most successful years to date in 2007, winning his first USTA Pro Circuit title at the Laguna Niguel Futures in October and then sweeping the singles and doubles championships just one month later in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
The 23-year-old from Marina del Rey posted impressive results in ITF Circuit play throughout the year, as well, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the Japan F6 Futures in June, advancing to the singles final at the Costa Rica F1 Futures in February, reaching singles semifinals at the Canada F2 Futures in March and the China F4 and F5 Futures in June and July.
Cook also won two doubles titles at Futures events in Japan and Guatemala.Julie Ditty.
The Ashland, Ky., native made USTA Pro Circuit history in October, when she defeated Angela Haynes in the final of the PGA Tour Superstore 50K Tennis Classic in Lawrenceville, Ga. The win gave the 28-year-old left-hander her 30th career title on the USTA Pro Circuit – eight in singles and 22 in doubles – and tied her with Nana Smith for the all-time record in USTA Pro Circuit championships.
Ditty, who also finished runner-up in doubles in Lawrenceville with partner Leanne Baker of New Zealand, picked up five of her 30 USTA Circuit wins in 2007, capturing three in singles at Lawrenceville, $50,000 Sea Island, Ga., in April and $25,000 Palm Desert, Calif., in February, as well as two doubles crowns at $25,000 Redding in March and $25,000 Palm Desert in February.
She moved up to a career-high ranking of No. 120 in the world following her victory in Lawrenceville, but she wasn’t finished there. She played her final tournament of the year in Quebec City, where, after qualifying into the main draw, she advanced to her first Tour singles semifinal.
Ditty ended the year ranked 101st in the world, up 196 spots from her 2006 year-end rank of No. 297.
Ashley Harkleroad. The 22-year-old from Wesley Chapel, Fla., had an outstanding finish to the 2007 campaign, capturing three USTA Pro Circuit titles in the last two months of the season. Harkleroad picked up her first USTA championship in a year in October, when she successfully defended her title at the $50,000 San Francisco Tennis Classic. A month later, she took home singles titles at the final two women’s events of 2007 – $75,000 Pittsburgh and $50,000 La Quinta, Calif. -- closing the year with a 10-match winning streak.
Harkleroad, who also won the doubles title in La Quinta, has now won 12 USTA Pro Circuit titles in her career – eight in singles and four in doubles. She ended the year with her second straight top-100 finish, ranked an impressive No. 67 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings.
Angela Haynes. Haynes, a 23-year-old lefty from Irvine, Calif., led all women with USTA Pro Circuit doubles wins in 2007, taking home four titles with four different partners during the year.
Haynes captured her first of the year with Monique Adamczak at the $50,000 Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., in May and then rolled off three straight wins during the fall – at $75,000 Albuquerque (with Melinda Czink) the week of Sept. 18, $50,000 Troy, Ala., (with Mashona Washington) the week of Oct. 2, and $50,000 San Francisco (with Raquel Kops-Jones) the week of Oct. 9.
Haynes, who also reached three other doubles finals during the year, posted impressive singles results in 2007, as well, winning the title at $10,000 Hilton Head Island, S.C., reaching finals at $25,000 Allentown, Pa., and Lawrenceville, Ga., and advancing to the semifinals at San Francisco.John Isner.
It didn’t take long for Georgia All-American John Isner to make his presence known in the world of professional tennis. In just his first tournament as a pro after a stellar four-year career at the University of Georgia, he captured the title at the Shingles Springs, Calif., Futures and then just three weeks later, took home his second pro championship at the $50,000 Challenger in Lexington, Ky.
The following week, the 22-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., accepted a wild card into the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. and proceeded to post a record five straight third-set tiebreak wins, among them against Tim Henman and Tommy Haas, before losing to world No. 5 Andy Roddick, 6-4, 7-6 (4), in the final. During the tournament, the 6-foot, 9-inch right-hander served a record 144 aces, the highest total in a non-Grand Slam event since the tour started keeping stats in 1991.
Isner continued his meteoric rise at the 2007 US Open, upsetting No. 26 seed Jarkko Nieminen in the men's first round en route to the third round, where he faced three-time defending champion and top-seed Roger Federer. Isner won the first set in a tiebreak over the world No. 1 before eventually falling in four sets.
Following the US Open, he returned to the USTA Pro Circuit and competed in Challengers for the rest of season, with results that included winning doubles titles in Calabasas, Calif., and Louisville and reaching singles semifinals in Calabasas, Louisville and Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
Isner, who compiled an 8-5 record in ATP-level play this year and was 12-5 in Challengers, improved his ranking from No. 839, when he turned pro in June, to his current career-high rank of No. 106.
Raquel Kops-Jones. The former University of California-Berkeley All-American posted a 40-18 doubles record in 2007, winning three USTA Pro Circuit doubles titles at the $50,000 events in San Francisco, Sea Island, Ga., and Waikoloa, Hawaii. She capped off the year by claiming the first WTA Tour championship of her career in doubles (with Christina Fusano) in Quebec City.Jesse Levine.
Levine, 20, had a strong finish to the 2007 season, capturing the first pro singles title of his career in November at the $75,000 Nashville Challenger and then following up that performance by winning the championship the next week at the Challenger in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. He went on to reach the semifinals at the Knoxville Challenger, the final event on the men’s calendar, crafting a 13-match winning streak in the process – the longest of the year for the men on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, and now a resident of Boca Raton, Fla., the 5-foot, 8-inch left-hander played college tennis at the University of Florida during the 2007 spring semester and then turned pro in August following his freshman year. After that, he produced excellent results at the Challenger level, particularly during the fall, when he advanced to the semifinals in Tulsa and reached quarterfinals in Louisville and Rimouski, Canada.
In Grand Slam play, Levine received wild cards to compete in both singles and doubles at the US Open. Although he lost to Nikolay Davydenko in the opening round of singles, he notched impressive results in doubles, teaming with Kuznetsov to stun reigning Wimbledon doubles champions Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement, 7-6 (5), 6-4, in the second round, before falling to eventual finalists Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner, 6-4, 7-5, in the round of 16.
He ended the year ranked a career-high No. 174 in the world.
Michael McClune. The 18-year-old Californian had an amazing run on the USTA Futures Circuit after capturing the singles title at the boys' 18s USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., in August. Shortly thereafter, he made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open – a three-set loss to eventual quarterfinalist Juan Ignacio Chela – and then two weeks later, went on to capture the first two professional titles of his career – first in doubles at the Claremont, Calif., Futures, and then the following week in singles at the Costa Mesa, Calif., Futures. He added one more singles title to his record in 2007, when he claimed the title at the Mansfield, Texas, Futures.
Jelena Pandzic. Croatia's Pandzic, 24, captured more singles titles than any other woman competing on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007, winning a total of four – and all of them consecutively – at the $10,000 events in Fort Worth, Texas, Edmond, Okla., Wichita, Kan., and St. Joseph, Mo. Pandzic, who also won the doubles title in Wichita, crafted a 21-match winning streak – the longest in either men’s or women’s Circuit play this year – during the stretch after also winning her first-round match in Albuquerque.Rajeev Ram and Bobby Reynolds.
No two players had more success as a team in doubles than Rajeev Ram and Bobby Reynolds did in 2007.
Ram, from Carmel, Ind., and Reynolds, from Acworth, Ga., competed together for much of the year and were outstanding, winning a sensational six doubles titles (Nashville, Busan, Tulsa, Aptos, Carson, Forest Hills), reaching three finals (New Orleans, Kyoto, Dallas) and three semifinals (Joplin, Tunica Resorts, Champaign-Urbana).
Ram also posted his best Grand Slam result to date at Wimbledon, where he and partner Harel Levy advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions Llodra and Clement.
In addition to his doubles success, Reynolds notched impressive singles results at a number of Challengers this year, winning the title in Naples, Fla., reaching finals in Aptos and Yuba City and advancing to semifinals in Tunica Resorts and Tallahassee.
Ryan Sweeting. Twenty-year-old right-hander Ryan Sweeting had a big year on the USTA Pro Circuit, winning four doubles titles overall – three at Challengers in Lubbock, Texas (with Alex Kuznetsov), Lexington, Ky. (with Brendan Evans) and Binghamton, N.Y. (with Scott Oudsema) and one at the North Miami Beach Futures (with Tim Smyzcek).
Izak van der Merwe. The 23-year-old from Johannesburg, South Africa, captured more titles than any other man on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007 – seven. Van der Merwe won three singles championships at the Baton Rouge, La., Joplin, Mo., and Mobile, Ala., Futures and claimed four doubles titles at the Tallahassee Challenger and the Shingle Springs, Calif., Harlingen, Texas, and Brownsville, Texas, Futures tournaments.Donald Young.
At only 18 and touted for years as the future of American tennis, Donald Young proved that all the expectations placed on him at such a young age could very well be justified, with a breakthrough performance on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2007.
Young posted impressive results throughout the year, winning five titles – two in singles (Aptos Challenger, Little Rock Futures) and three in doubles (Tunica Resorts and Joplin Challengers, Little Rock Futures) – and reaching six total singles and doubles finals. But it was late summer and during the fall when everything really fell into place for the 6-foot lefty from Atlanta.
The 2005 ITF World Junior Champion and this year’s Wimbledon junior boys’ champion, Young won his first career ATP match at the Pilot Pen in New Haven in late August, and then the following week, advanced to the third round of the US Open, where he lost in four sets to Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez. From there, he never looked back, reaching finals in four of the last six Challengers in which he competed, including Tulsa, Calabasas, Louisville and Champaign-Urbana.
Young cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in his career the week of Nov. 19 at No. 98 and ended the year at No. 100, up nearly 400 spots from his 2006 year-end rank of No. 494.
2007 USTA Pro Circuit By the Numbers - Men
2007 USTA Pro Circuit By the Numbers - Women