By Steve Pratt
There will be a familiar player’s name for local fans to watch for at the top of the men’s singles draw at the 2018 Oracle ITA National Summer Championships Powered by MyUTR and hosted by TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, when main draw play begins on Friday.
TCU’s No. 1 player and senior team leader Alex Rybakov will join some of his teammates – and will also root on a number of TCU women’s players – who are entered in the prize money tournament and being directed by TCU Head Women’s Coach Lee Walker.
Rybakov is coming off a summer that saw him win two back-to-back USTA Pro Circuit Futures events. He is currently ranked No. 517 in the ATP World Tour Rankings.
Qualifying begins on Wednesday and Walker said he has a full draw in the men’s qualifying event, and just a few byes on the women’s side. It’s the second year that TCU has hosted the long-standing event that was formerly hosted by Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Walker said 20 outdoor courts will be used for matches and two more as practice courts.
“We are fortunate to have a facility large enough to host this event,” said Walker, who answered questions between matches in San Diego where he is scouting players at the USTA Hardcourt 18s and 16s Nationals before heading home to direct his tournament. “Oracle offering prize money helped a ton in attracting some top players to enter this year.”
A total of $20,000 will be handed out; $10,000 for the men and $10,000 on the women’s side. Also at stake for the winners is a main draw wild card into the ITA All-American Championships, in Tulsa for the men and Southern California for the women the first week of October. The singles finalists will receive wild cards into the qualifying draw.
“We want to continue to grow this event,” said Walker, who has been at TCU since the 2014-15 season after seven seasons as head coach at Memphis, where he made significant improvements to the program. “We want to build it and make it a college event for players to take part in.”
Following Rybakov in the seedings is Jake Van Emburgh, an Oklahoma sophomore from Bellaire, Florida. Van Emburgh was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. At No. 3 is Will Little, a redshirt senior from Baylor who is originally from Joplin, Missouri.
Sean Sculley (No. 4) had an outstanding freshman year at Duke, where he played for Ramsey Smith, the son of Sculley’s junior academy coach Stan Smith of Smith Stearns Academy. Sculley played mostly at No. 4 and 5 singles and recorded a 19-12 singles record and went 21-14 in doubles last season.
At No. 5, Parker Wynn is a junior at Louisville and from North Richland Hills, Texas. He calls his greatest tennis accomplished winning a silver ball at Kalamazoo as a junior. Toby Boyer will be seeded No. 6. A Ham Lake, Minnesota, native, Boyer will play his senior season at Nebraska following as he continues to follow in his brother Dusty Boyer’s footsteps. Dusty played primarily No. 1 junior and senior years (2015-16) for the Huskers. Boyer’s father played college tennis and his mother was an NCAA basketball player at the University of North Dakota.
Tyler Schick (No. 7) is a rising Tulane senior from Short Hills, New Jersey. He was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Month in September during his junior year. Julian Zlobinsky (No. 8) is a University of Texas transfer where he played for three seasons. Zlobinsky is now playing for Wake Forest and from Greenvale, New York.
The remaining seeded men’s players include: No. 9 William Genesen; No. 10 Edson Ortiz; No. 11 Sam Turchetta; No. 12 Chase Ferguson; No. 13 Adam Ambrozy; No. 14 Josh Sheehy; No. 15 Kevin Zhu and No. 16 Timothy Sah.
On the women’s side, the University of North Carolina boasts the top two-seeded players with Alexa Graham and Cameron Morra. Graham is a North Carolina junior from Garden City, New York, who has already won two ITF Pro Circuit events during her career, including a $15,000 in British Columbia in 2017 and a $10,000 at Hilton Head Island in 2015.
The freshman Morra is coached by her father and in 2017 she has competed in WTA premier events at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Andie Daniell (No. 3) is an Alabama Crimson Tide senior from Douglasville, Georgia, and an ITA Scholar Athlete. Sedona Gallagher (No. 4) was so anxious to get her college career started, the Henderson, Nevada, resident left high school (Odyssey Charter) two years early to sign with the University of Washington where she begins play in the fall. She is just 16 years old.
Nell Miller (No. 5) is a Texas Tech freshman from Great Britain. She was a singles runner-up during Weeks 4 and 5 of the Oracle ITA Summer Circuit Powered by MyUTR. At No 6 is Abi Altick, a UCLA sophomore from Monroe, Louisiana. Altick calls her greatest tennis accomplishment winning the prestigious Eddie Herr junior tournament in Florida. Her sister Frances won an NCAA team title playing for Vanderbilt. She posted a 30-win season in singles during her first year in Westwood.
Adriana Reami (No. 7) is a junior at N.C. State. Reami was named to the All-ACC Third Team and broke into the ITA singles rankings, ending the season ranked No. 88.
Olivia Hauger (No. 8) is a California rising sophomore from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and had an exceptional first year at Berkeley as she led the Golden Bears with 23 doubles wins and finished the year ranked 55th in singles and ranked 76th in doubles.
Others seeded women’s players from 9-16 include: No. 9 Meghan Kelley; No. 10 Janice Shin; No. 11 Aleksa Cveticanin; No. 12 Marie Norris; No. 13 Catherine Gulihur; No. 14 Nina Khmelnitckaia; No. 15 Solymar Colling and No. 16 Sara Castellano.