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Thu, Oct. 17

My Point: The march to the US Open begins

There are hundreds of tournaments run on a professional basis for both men and women held on every continent around the world that lend to year-round tennis excitement, beginning in January and ending in December.

For the men, the ATP tour is recognized as its main ruling body. It offers three main levels of competition based on a player’s ranking. 1. The ATP Tour. 2. ATP Challengers. 3. ITF Men’s Circuit.

If you have a ranking in the top 50 players in the world you’ll qualify for the main tour, a ranking of 50 to 180 in the world in the Challengers and lower than that on the ITF Circuit.

On the women’s side of professional tennis the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has its main tour and then a secondary ITF Circuit to obtain ranking points which pretty much dictate what event’s players can qualify for.

And there are normally qualifying rounds to consider before each professional tournament to see if you can make the grade for one of a few spots left open in main draws for players who take that opportunity and succeed, much like 15 year old tennis sensation Coco Gauff did at Wimbledon this year.

On both tours a number of “Wildcards” are given out to players that are worthy from past or more recent results - sometimes injuries, even without a current high enough ranking to qualify for the main draw. The U.S. Open Series lineup of tournaments for the 2019 North American hard-court season consists of the BB&T Atlanta Open/ATP ( Atlanta), Citi Open/combined (Washington, D.C.), Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic/WTA (San Jose, Calif.), Rogers Cup/combined (Montreal/Toronto), Western & Southern Open/combined (Cincinnati) and Winston-Salem Open/ATP (Winston-Salem, N.C.) before the last major of the year begins, the U.S. Open/combined – Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 at Flushing Meadows, New York.

The highest ranked tennis professionals in the world will be working hard on these last key battlegrounds before the Open to gear up with ranking points, prize money, glory and confidence leading up to the last Grand Slam of the year.

Since 2016 at the Grand Slams for men, there have only been four different winners, Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

While on the women’s side of Grand Slam wins it’s been a breath of fresh air with many new winners and Serena Williams reaching three final births, but coming up short of her 24th singles title win to tie her with Margaret Court Smith who still retains that record. Most of us thought by now more new names would be popping up on the list of Grand Slam singles winners on the ATP tour, but not quite yet. The big three are still playing some really good tennis, it seems they’re almost ageless and currently injury free for the most part.

It looks as if Djokovic will be at the masters in Canada without Federer or Nadal, but they’ll all converge at Cincinnati to see who’s looking good on the hard courts prior to the Open. Enjoy the rest of the summer with these pro tournaments to watch - after the March to the Open is over, it’s off to Asia for their main tour events of the year.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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