Monday, February 26, 2007

The Harvard Open, February 16-19, 2007

A Brief History of the Harvard Open:

Throughout all the other approximately 140 countries besides the U.S. who compete seriously on the world stage in tennis, junior players in the 16-17 year old age range compete regularly with their older peers in the 18-24 year group. In the U.S, largely as a result of an NCAA rule regarding “tryouts” juniors have suffered from this “iron curtain.”

This has had a harmful effect on U.S. junior development.

Moreover, in these other countries, once-successful tour players, often stay closely involved with junior development efforts, adding both their expertise and playing skills.

The result has been that the top juniors in each area of the country have often not been able to compete with top college players who might be only a few miles away. At the top Division I level, many of the top players come from other countries, many of whom have come from great tennis programs throughout the world.

So, in an effort to break down this “iron curtain”, a number of college coaches have created “Open” events for good juniors, college players, and any former college graduates or teaching pros. When these events offer a small amount of prize money, they provide an additional incentive for teaching pros, such as #1 seed Ville Luikko (formerly top 100 in the world), to spend their weekend competing without having to lose the income they would make teaching. The net result is that the best juniors in the area win, the college players win, and the former tour players or college starts have some fun competition. Lots of members from the pros’ clubs come, too as well as many of the juniors these coaches work with. The spectators are treated to some fabulous tennis. Where else can you spend the day watching a former #1 in the world in doubles (Don Johnson)? And, if you are the college or junior player who gets to play across the net from him, how much does that do for your development?

‘nough said about that.

This Harvard Open was a success for everyone. Talented Cambridge junior Charlie Posner advanced to the second round with a three-set win over Assumption’s Goldman, which earned him a chance to play Harvard co-Captain Gideon Valkin, winner of the recent Harvard Intercollegiate Invitational. Harvard’s Dan Nguyen got to the quarters, where he got a lesson from Rupesh Roy, top 20 in the ITF juniors. Great points that will give Dan a whole new look on what it takes to move up another level! Our other co-captain, Scott Denenberg had a great win over another young ITF playerwith 7 ATP points. He took out teammate Ashwin Kumar in the quarters to earn the chance to be taught a lesson by #1 seed Ville Luikko one that he won’t quickly forget. #1 Chris Clayton reached the quarters, too, with a strong three set win over a former U. Maryland star to earn the chance to play former UVA star, Brian Hunter. Hunter prevailed in two tight sets, giving Clayton a valuable lesson on how to make efficient use of every part of the court.

In the doubles, Kumar and Denenberg, a talented team, felt toyed with by a pair of local pros. Kieran Burke and Mike Kalfayan reached the quarters and got to play against Don Johnson and Andrew Rueb. Again, some great points, and some eyes opened! Sasha Ermakov’s comeback effort was thwarted by the mid-winter “crud”, so he and Clayton retired in the first round. His comeback will have to wait a while longer…

As I sit writing now, the spectators are getting a real treat in the remaining semi final doubles match, with Roy. Some spectacular points. I’ll try to include a “Point of the Day” if I can figure out how to do it! Some of these exchanges are too good to miss!

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