Fields Set For First National Championship Events Of 2002-03 Collegiate Tennis Season

October 04, 2002
By ODU Athletics

Oct. 4, 2002

NORFOLK, VA -- The first two of eight ITA National Championship Events for 2002-03 open next weekend with the Icy Hot/ITA Men's and Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships at the Champions Club in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., respectively.

Highlighting this year's women's event are 17 returning ITA All-American in the Oct. 10-13 main draw of singles as well as six returning ITA All-American doubles teams. Eighteen of the top 19 players in the country have been selected for the main draw, including Tennessee's Vilmarie Castellvi, who was voted No. 1 in the preseason Omni Hotels national singles rankings earlier this week.

Locally, Southern California's fourth-ranked Jewel Peterson and UCLA's sixth-ranked Sara Walker, both three-time ITA All-Americans, are both expected to make serious bids for the title. Other title contenders include third-ranked Agata Ciroch of Georgia, No. 5 Kelly McCain of Duke, No. 7 Erin Burdette of Stanford, No. 8 Kate Pinchbeck of North Carolina, No. 9 Adria Engel of Arizona State and No. 10 Sarah Riske of Vanderbilt. Old Dominion's 12th-ranked Nataly Cahana (Qiriat Bialik, Israel), a 2001 finalist, will also be competing.

Leading the way on the men's side will be top-ranked Jesse Witten of Kentucky, along with 41 of the top 50 players in the preseason Omni Hotels/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings for the Oct. 10-13 main draw. Witten, last year's ITA National Rookie of the Year, reached the quarterfinals at this event last fall and was also an NCAA singles finalist. Sixteen of the top 20 ranked doubles teams will also be competing.

Several schools from the state of Tennessee will be competing next month. Locally, UT-Chattanooga senior Jason Ontog received a wild card into the Oct. 8-9 qualifying singles tournament. Highlighting the main draw of singles will be 10th-ranked Daniel Klemetz of Middle Tennessee, Wade Orr and Mark Dietrich of Tennessee, and 9th-ranked Bobby Reynolds of Vanderbilt.

Title contenders on the men's side include second-ranked Marcin Matkowski of UCLA, No. 5 Benjamin Becker of Baylor, No. 6 Amer Delic of Illinois, No. 7 Phillip King of Duke anbd No. 8 Oliver Maiberger of San Diego State.

Old Dominion singles entries include senior Patrik Binkowski (Orby, Sweden), junior Zoltan Csanadi (Timisoara, Romania), junior Calin Milos (Timisoara, Romania), junior Niklas Oskarsson (Halmstad, Sweden), senior Salman Mohammed (Calcutta, India), and sophomore Izak van der Merwe (Kempton Park, South Africa). Doubles competitors include the duos of Csanadi/van der Merwe, Milos/Binkowski, and Mohammed and freshman Adriano Mello (Londrina, Brazil).

These are the first of three national championship events at the Division I level during the 2002-03 collegiate tennis season (followed by the Omni Hotels/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in November and the season-ending NCAA Championships in May).

The Oct. 10-13 main draw in Pacific Palisades is preceded by two sets of qualifying tournaments. The 64-player (32 doubles) prequalifying tournament is Oct. 5-6 at UCLA and four players and doubles teams will advance from there to the Oct. 8-9 64-player qualifying tournament at Riviera (where eight players and four doubles teams will advance to the main draw). In Chattanooga, 256-singles player and 128-doubles team prequalifying tournaments are played October 4-7 which feed into 64-player and 32-doubles team qualifying tournaments October 8-9. The 64-player, 32-doubles team main draw takes place Oct. 10-13. The men's event is the largest collegiate tennis tournament in the nation with 360 players in the singles draws.

The Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships date back to 1983 when Georgia's Lisa Spain won the inaugural title. Florida's Jessica Lehnhoff swept last year's singles and doubles titles (with Lindsay Dawaf). Lehnhoff beat Wake Forest's Bea Bielik, who made waves at this year's U.S. Open, in last year's quarterfinals. Stanford boasts the most singles and doubles champions at this event with a total of eight. The famous Riviera Tennis Club has played host to this event since 1988 (it also hosted an intercollegiate women's championship from 1986-88).

This event has been played annually since 1979. A number of its past participants have enjoyed successful professional tennis careers, including recent U.S. Open finalist Todd Martin, formerly of Northwestern, and up-and-coming pros like James Blake, Jack Brasington, Bob and Mike Bryan, Alex Kim, Jeff Morrison and Brian Vahaly. Former Wimbledon and French Open finalists, MaliVai Washington and Mikael Pernfors, are also past champions. Four of this year's participants competed in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament last month.

Stanford's K.J. Hippensteel captured his second title in three years at last year's event in Stone Mountain, Ga., beating South Alabama's Kosta Zinchanka in the final. UCLA's Marcin Matkowski and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Stanford's Scott Lipsky and David Martin in the doubles final.

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