“Beautiful, amazing, and stunning” - just a few words that 32 college tennis student athletes used to describe the 7-acre International Tennis Hall of Fame campus this past weekend during 2017 Hall of Fame ITA Grass Court Invitational. The tournament comprised players from eight Div. 1 tennis programs including 2017 Women’s National Champion Florida Gators playing multiple singles and doubles matches over three days.
As the nation’s only collegiate tennis competition played on grass courts, the Tennis Hall of Fame was the perfect locale and provided a wonderfully unique experience for players, coaches and fans alike.
In addition to playing on the grass courts, the players took full advantage of the opportunity to explore tennis history during the Hall of Fame museum tour, which allowed them to learn about the stories of the sport's greatest champions - the Hall of Famers, to discover the sport's origins in court tennis, learn about racquet evolution, fashion through the years, and so much more. That newfound knowledge was definitely tested during entertaining social gatherings consisting of tennis-themed "Jeopardy" quiz show and other games, quickly turning on-court rivals to laughing teammates.
“This weekend of college tennis was amazing. These student athletes adapted quickly to a new surface and played exceptionally well,” said Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin. “They went from playing high caliber tennis to exploring the Hall of Fame and then creating lasting friendships during these social events. It was a great weekend for the student-athletes, their families, and the Hall of Fame."
Eight teams (4 women's and 4 men's) competed in flighted singles and doubles round robin format.
In the Andy Roddick Flight, Alastair Gray (TCU) emerged victorious. In the opening rounds, Gray defeated Victor Pham (COL) 6-1, 6-0; Jan Zielinski (UGA) 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 and his TCU teammate Alex Rybakov 6-3, 6-3 in the final. With his win, Gray earned a wildcard entry into the main draw of the 2018 Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open and as a finalist, Rybakov received a wildcard entry into the qualifying draw of the same tournament.
In the Gardnar Mulloy Flight, Caleb Chakravarthi (ILL) enjoyed an undefeated weekend and never dropped a set. In his first two matches, he defeated Alex McNeel (TCU) 6-1, 6-1; Andy Martinez (UGA) 6-3, 6-4; and Alex Phillips (UGA) 7-5, 6-3 in the final.
In men’s doubles, the Woodbridge/Woodforde Flight saw Rybakov/Gray (TCU) claim the doubles title with the 8-4 first round victory over Victor Pham/Jackie Tang (COL), and an 8-7 final round win over Robert Loeb/Zielinski (UGA). In the Seixas/Trabert Flight, Vik Budic/Chakravarthi (ILL) emerged as doubles champions, defeating Austen Huang/Jack Mingjie Lin (COL) 8-4 and Andy Martinez/ Alex Phillips (UGA) 8-3.
In the Kim Clijsters Flight, Anna Danilina (UF) earned the singles trophy with wins over Jessica Golovin (LSU) 6-0, 6-4, Katrine Steffensen (PRI) 6-1, 6-2 and Jessica Aney (UNC) 6-7, 6-0, 10-7 in the final. As the best performing American student athlete, finalist Aney is being awarded a spot in the main draw of a future $25K USTA Pro Circuit level event by the USTA.
In the Althea Gibson Flight, Maria Kononova (UNT) (playing as a last minute addition) powered through three 3-set matches to hold the championship trophy. Her journey included wins over Gabriella Pollner (PRI) 4-6, 7-5, 10-8; Alle Sanford (UNC) 6-7, 6-4, 10-7; and Eden Richardson (LSU) 4-6, 6-2, 11-9.
In women’s doubles, the Anna Danilina/Kuhlman (UF) claimed the Navratilova/Shriver Flight doubles title, eliminating Ryann Foster/Golovin (LSU) 8-1 and Aney/Alexa Graham (UNC) in a walkover. In the Fernandez/Zvereva Flight, Sara Daavettila/Sanford (UNC) took victories over Kononova/Kubicz (UNT/UF) 8-3 and Johnson/Richardson (LSU) 8-7 to earn the doubles title.