Victoria Duval, the 17-year old breakout star of the 2013 US Open, and top 21-year old Denis Kudla will headline the up-and-coming Americans playing for a singles wild card entry into January’s Australian Open at the 2013 USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, December 20-22 at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga.
Duval, who has overcome extraordinary adversity on her way to becoming the fifth-youngest player in the WTA Top 200 at No. 168, is also one of several players with Atlanta ties competing in the annual Playoffs, held at its current location for the fifth straight year. Jarmere Jenkins, a College Park, Ga., native who nearly won the NCAA “triple crown” in May as a senior at the University of Virginia, winning the NCAA doubles and team titles and reaching the singles final, will compete on the men’s side, while Atlanta native and 2011 US Open junior champion Grace Min is also in the women’s field.
The other men’s competitors will be No. 130 Rhyne Williams, the 2011 NCAA singles finalist at Tennessee who won last year’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoff and nearly defeated No. 28 Florian Mayer in the first round in Melbourne, No. 156 Steve Johnson, who won consecutive NCAA singles titles in 2011-12 while at USC; No. 183 Tennys Sandgren, a former all-American at Tennessee; No. 241 Austin Krajicek, once an all-American at Texas A&M; No. 304 Bjorn Fratangelo, the 2011 French Open boys’ champion; and No. 306 Chase Buchanan, the 2009 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion and 2012 NCAA doubles champion while at Ohio State.
Also competing in the women’s field are No. 125 Shelby Rogers, who won USTA wild cards into the 2013 French Open and US Open; No. 150 Madison Brengle, who won USTA wild cards into the 2007 and 2008 Australian Opens; No. 175 Maria Sanchez, once the top-ranked college singles player at USC; No. 184 Nicole Gibbs, the two-time reigning NCAA singles champion from Stanford; No. 188 Julia Cohen, a former Top 100 player; and No. 195 Sachia Vickery, the 2013 USTA Girls 18s national champion who reached the second round at the 2013 US Open.
Duval, who upset 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round of the US Open this August, once lived in Atlanta and trained at Life Time, when it was known as Racquet Club of the South. While there, she met the family of real estate developer Harry Kitchen, who helped rescue her father after he was buried alive during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, having him airlifted to the United States for treatment.
The USTA secured this opportunity through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, where the two national federations exchanged wild cards for the 2013 US Open and 2014 Australian Open.
To help kick off the event, former tennis pros and celebrities Luke and Murphy Jensen, whose underdog run to the 1993 French Open doubles championship both captivated and influenced the tennis world, will play doubles against five local teams in the “Battle of Georgia” exhibition on Saturday, December 21. The Jensen brothers will also host a women’s tennis clinic at Life Time on the morning of Friday, December 20. The club will also host a kids’ day on Saturday morning, featuring the players competing in the Playoffs, with all kids attending receiving free admission to Saturday’s matches.
Eighteen-year old Madison Keys, currently the youngest player in the WTA Top 40 at No. 38, won the last two women’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs and began her breakout 2013 campaign by reaching the third round of the Australian Open with the wild card. Also among previous champions are John Isner, Ryan Harrison, Lauren Davis, Christina McHale and CoCo Vandeweghe.
Tickets for the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, Battle of Georgia exhibition and women’s clinic can be purchased by visiting www.australianwildcard.com, with single-day tickets and full-weekend packages available for adults and kids, as well as VIP table reservations by the day for the full weekend. The 2013 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs are sponsored by Kia, MiraFlex, which will work in partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project to visit local VA hospitals, and OneonOne Physical Therapy.
Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners is located at 6350 Courtside Drive in Norcross. The 20-plus acre, 90,000-square-foot destination features 28 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, six youth-sized courts for kids, two paddle courts and a massive 2,600-seat tennis stadium. Led by tennis pro Grant Stafford, with a career-high ATP World Tour ranking of No. 53, and in partnership with the USTA, Life Time will offer lessons and leagues for both adults and juniors, as well as a certified USTA Regional Training Center for high-performance juniors, a tennis academy for college and professional players, home school support with on-site instructors, after school juniors program for kids aged four to 18 years, clinics, mixers, and tournaments.
As the largest operator of indoor tennis facilities in the United States, Life Time features indoor and outdoor courts at 18 of its 107 destinations. Life Time Tennis hosts two USTA Regional Training centers (Atlanta and Minneapolis) and a full-time Tennis Academy. More than 210 certified tennis instructors offer a range of tennis programs and services including USTA beginner programs, weekly mixers, clinics and drills, and competitive play as well as programming for kids such as the “Tour Play” Kids Tennis.