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USTA CREATES US OPEN NATIONAL PLAYOFFS TO PROVIDE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL PLAYERS TO COMPETE FOR A BERTH INTO THE US OPEN

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., January 26, 2010 – The USTA announced today the launch of the US Open National Playoffs, which will expand the footprint of the US Open and provide the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a wild card into the 2010 US Open Qualifying Tournament. The US Open National Playoffs begins with 16 sectional qualifying tournaments held throughout the country from April through June.  The men’s and women’s champions from each of the sectional qualifying tournaments advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Championships, which will be held in conjunction with Olympus US Open Series tournaments this summer.

“The US Open National Playoffs makes the US Open ‘open,’ where one woman and one man will earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament and a chance to advance to the main draw,” said Lucy Garvin, Chairman of the Board and President, USTA.  “The fact that the US Open National Playoffs are supported by qualifying tournaments run by our sections makes this event even more unique, extending the reach of the US Open across the country.”

With the goal of connecting more people to the US Open and expanding the tournament’s reach to communities throughout the United States, players will compete in sectional qualifying tournaments hosted by 16 of the 17 USTA Sections nationwide.

The entry fee for each of the sectional qualifying tournaments is $125.  All players competing must have a current USTA membership valid through August 30, 2010.  Competitors can enter any of the 16 sectional qualifying tournaments, but they can only enter and compete in one sectional qualifying tournament.  Each sectional qualifying tournament is limited to 256 players, and players will not be seeded by any means.  Participants can be of any playing level, from aspiring novice to seasoned professional, giving everyone an equal opportunity to advance.

“While professionals are eligible to play, we expect the draws to be filled with top junior players, collegians, teaching professionals and even recreational players who will now have a chance to play themselves into the US Open for the first time,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer & US Open Tournament Director.

Skier Bode Miller, a two-time overall World Cup champion, two-time Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion, will compete in one of the sectional qualifying tournaments.

“Tennis has always been a part of my life,” said Miller, who won the 1996 Maine state singles title for Carrabassett Valley Academy and whose family owns the Tamarack Tennis Camp in Easton, N.H., which was founded by his grandparents.  “The US Open National Playoffs is a great concept and I look forward to playing in one of the sectional qualifying tournaments this spring.  It will give me an outlet to focus my competitiveness after the Olympics and World Cup season.”

Entry information and a schedule of US Open National Playoffs Sectional Qualifying Tournaments are available online at www.usopen.org.  Registration begins February 1.

The Robbie Koenig Blog: Can Anyone Beat Rafa In Paris?

Anyway, the clay court season thus far, one word….” NADAL”….the kid is from another planet!!! Mentally and physically, on this surface, he’s the greatest I’ve ever seen, and probably the best of all time…and he’s only just 23 (in a few days)!!!

For me, what makes him so good are a few things. Firstly, his ability to “compartmentalize” his thoughts. He NEVER gets ahead of himself. He only focuses on the present. He only ever talks about his next opponent, never who he might meet later in the draw and potential match-ups down the line, thereby giving respect to each guy he faces and taking nothing for granted. And on the match court, its more of the same. He rarely lets the previous point affect the next one and he has this ability to play each point like there was none before, or none to follow.
Secondly, he loves the battle more than anyone! It’s the “process” of winning that seems to consume all his effort and he constantly rewards himself with a “Vamos,” sometimes as early as the second or third game, if he’s had a tough hold. And coupled with the joy he takes out of each victory, again often early on in a tournament, is so refreshing and just goes to show how much he enjoys the “small” victories. Let’s face it, anyone can enjoy the big or classic wins!

From a physical point of view, his movement is “two days on horseback” ahead of his peers.(Must be said, Djokovic has been impressive with his challenge). I’m sure good genes help, given the athletic ability of his uncles, it obviously runs in the family. His footwork is the key to his shot-making, both in attacking and defending. It’s so easy to get a little slow with your feet when attacking because you generally got time on the ball, but Rafa never lets his intensity wane, and always makes sure he’s perfectly setup to pull the trigger!!!

Can anyone beat him in Paris? Not unless they cut off his left arm…and even then, he’s pretty damn good with the right one as we all know! The problem for the chasing pack is doing it over five sets. The semifinal against Djokovic in Madrid was an epic, but remember that was at altitude, quick clay courts and best-of-three sets and the Serb still couldn’t get the W!!! I can’t see him hanging with Rafa over five sets. I think Murray can hang with him over five sets, but he doesn’t move well enough on this stuff. Firstly, he’s gotta get far enough to meet Nadal, and secondly, I can’t see him handle the Spaniard, because Rafa will out-maneuver him over the distance. Hard court, different story, it just shows how important movement is at the highest level, and clay is unique in that regard!

What about Roger? I can’t see it happen. I don’t read much into the Madrid win for the obvious reasons already discussed. Wimby and the US Open are his best bets to bag another major, but even those are gonna be a lot tougher than previous years.

Djokovic is the main challenger, no question – the results don’t lie! Hopefully he and Nadal are in separate sections of the draw. That would be my preferred final.

Watchout for: Stan Wawrinka, Juan Monaco, Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic

Hope you all looking foward to Rafa being challenged at Rolland Garros as much as I am.