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Professional tennis returns to Amelia Island

May 25, 2008 01:18 PM

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – A first-time USTA Futures men’s tournament is set to take place this week at Amelia Island Plantation. The Ravenswood Wine Amelia Island Futures Championship will feature both established professionals and aspiring young players as they compete for valuable ranking points on the ATP World Tour. Amelia Island concludes the January to November season for the men’s Futures Pro Circuit which consists of 28 tournaments total. Including Amelia Island, Florida has played host to eight tournaments this season.

“I have been around Amelia Island Plantation for about six years of the Bausch & Lomb (former WTA Tour event) and know how much the tennis fans in the area miss seeing tennis at a professional level. Today’s qualifying play was exceptional, the level of play was amazing,” said Kelly Gunterman, Director of Tennis at Amelia Island Plantation and Tournament Director for The Ravenswood Wine Amelia Island Futures Championships. “We are really excited for main-draw play to begin tomorrow. Tennis fans from northeast Florida will enjoy watching these up-and-coming stars of the future."

Futures are professional tournaments offering $10,000 to $15,000 in prize money and are typically the proving ground for top-ranked juniors, college players and pros beginning their careers. Players competing in Futures generally have an ATP Entry System ranking ranging from No. 150 to No. 900 in the world. Most recently, American stars Melanie Oudin and John Isner rose through the Futures ranks to break through at ATP/WTA Tour and Grand Slam events.

The Ravenswood Wine Amelia Island Futures Championships features a 32 singles draw, a 16-team doubles field and a purse of $10,000. Main-draw play begins Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 10 a.m. and will showcase singles and doubles action. A 10 a.m. start time continues throughout the week. Saturday’s semifinal match up begins at 11 a.m., and Sunday’s finals kick off at 12 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday sessions are free of charge. Friday, Nov. 20, through Sunday, Nov. 22, require a $10 entry fee. Entry fees are donated to three participating charities: Linda’s Legacy Foundation (Friday), the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club (Saturday) and the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation (Sunday). Tickets are purchased at the gate. For more information, please call the Amelia Island Plantation Tennis Pro Shop at 904-277-5145.

Featured players for The Ravenswood Wine Amelia Island Futures Championships include:

Conor Niland, 28, of Dublin, Ireland, is the highest-ranked player in the main draw at No. 354. Niland is competing in his sixth USTA Pro Circuit event of the year after playing most of 2009 overseas in Great Britain, France, Turkey and Russia. He reached his first career USTA Pro Circuit final two weeks ago at $10,000 Birmingham, Ala. Niland also competed in the qualifying draws for the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open this year.

El Mihdawy, 20, of Long Island City, N.Y., is the highest-ranked American in Amelia Island at a career-high No. 573. El Mihdawy has jumped more than 200 spots in the ATP World Tour rankings since July. He has spent much of 2009 playing in ITF tournaments overseas in Egypt, India and the Dominican Republic. In July, he advanced to the semifinals of $10,000 Godfrey, Ill., his best showing on the USTA Pro Circuit this year, and also reached the semifinals of $10,000 Orange Park, Fla., in 2008, before falling to eventual champion Greg Jones of Australia. In early 2008, he advanced to the quarterfinals of $10,000 Boca Raton, Fla., after winning four matches in qualifying and was a quarterfinalist at the 2007 USTA International Spring Championships on the junior circuit.

Miami resident Dennis Zivkovic, 22, is ranked a career-high No. 626. In July, Zivkovic defeated Blake Strode at $10,000 Pittsburgh as a qualifier to win his second USTA Pro Circuit singles title. He also won his fourth career USTA Pro Circuit doubles title at Pittsburgh with partner Haydn Lewis. Zivkovic had a strong 2009 clay-court season, reaching the semifinals at $10,000 Tampa, Fla., and the quarterfinals of back-to-back $10,000 events at Vero Beach, Fla., and Orange Park, Fla. In 2006, he won his first USTA Pro Circuit singles title at $10,000 Peoria, Ill., as a qualifier. He also reached the final of $15,000 Costa Mesa, Calif., in 2004, just prior to his 17th birthday.

Wesley Chapel, Fla., native Alex Domijan, 18, is ranked a career-high No. 644. The 6-foot-7, big-serving Domijan compiled a 15-match junior ITF winning streak in 2008 that included titles at the Pan-American Closed Championships and the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships before his run was snapped in the semifinals of the Dunlop Orange Bowl. Also in 2008, Domijan advanced to his first USTA Pro Circuit final at $10,000 Rochester, N.Y. In 2009, Domijan advanced to his second career USTA Pro Circuit final at $10,000 Godfrey, Ill., in July. He also competed in the 2009 US Open qualifying tournament and reached the second round of the junior US Open.

Orlando native Michael Venus, 22, is ranked a career-high No. 651. He won his first career USTA Pro Circuit singles title at $10,000 Peoria, Ill., in mid-July, and subsequently reached the semifinals of $10,000 events at Joplin. Mo., and Birmingham, Ala. Venus reached the second round of qualifying at the 2009 US Open and was a 2009 All-American in both singles and doubles at Louisiana State University (LSU).

Marcus Fugate, 21, of Fairport, N.Y., is ranked No. 819. Fugate burst onto the professional scene in 2006, defeating Donald Young during the year and advancing to his first professional final at $10,000 Buffalo. In 2009, Fugate advanced to the semifinals of $10,000 Orange Park, Fla., in May, and $10,000 Claremont, Calif., in September. In 2008, he reached the singles final at $10,000 Tampa, Fla., against Daniel Garza, and captured the doubles title at three $10,000 events. As a junior in 2005, Fugate reached the singles quarterfinals and won the doubles title at the Easter Bowl.

Jack Sock, 17, of Lincoln, Neb., enters the main draw as a wild card. He made his debut on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2009, advancing to the semifinals of $15,000 Austin, Texas, in October in just his third USTA Pro Circuit tournament. As an upcoming junior, Sock swept the singles and doubles titles in July at the USTA Boys’ 18s National Clay Court Championships, earning the 16th and 17th National titles of his junior career and the unique distinction of being the No. 1 player in both the USTA Boys’ 18s and 16s National Standings simultaneously. Sock also swept the Boys’ 16s singles and doubles titles at the 2008 Winter National Championships and won the Boys’ 18s doubles title at the 2009 USTA Spring National Championships, where he was also a singles finalist.

Devin Britton, 18, of Jackson, Miss., enters the main draw as a wild card. Britton reached the 2008 US Open boys’ final as a qualifier. After winning the doubles title at the Dunlop Orange Bowl in December 2008, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi and, this May, became the youngest man ever to win the NCAA Division I singles title. Britton then returned to junior competition this summer, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the prestigious Roehampton event before reaching the semifinals at junior Wimbledon. He found himself on the big stage quickly, receiving a wild card into the 2009 US Open where he faced Roger Federer on Center Court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Britton also made his ATP World Tour debut at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, an Olympus US Open Series, this summer and was named as a Davis Cup practice partner for the quarterfinal tie between the United States and Croatia.

Florida standouts Vahid Mirzadeh of Palm Beach, Fla., and a senior from Florida State University, as well as Joey Burkhardt of St. Augustine, Fla., a Pedro Menendez High School graduate and a sophomore from the University of Florida, both advanced through the final qualifying rounds, achieving a spot in the tournament’s main draw.



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