FORT WORTH, Texas – Spending the summer playing stiff competition at ITF Pro Circuit Future events in places like Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wichita, Kansas, Iowa City, Iowa, and Champaign, Illinois, prepared University of Oklahoma sophomore Jake Van Emburgh for what he faced recently winning the 2018 Oracle ITA National Summer Championships Powered By MyUTR men’s singles title.
“I played some Futures against some good guys,” said the No. 2-seeded Van Emburgh after beating University of Alabama’s Edson Ortiz, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), at Texas Christian University. “I got used to the long days and the long matches and the heat. I was pretty prepared coming into the week.”
The final was a rematch of Van Emburgh’s straight-set win over the junior Ortiz from Mexico. Van Emburgh couldn’t believe how much the No. 11-seeded Ortiz had improved since they met in an ITA tournament in the fall.
“He’s improved a ton since I’ve seen him last,” said Van Emburgh, who was aided by the faster indoor court surface after rains came and the final was moved inside. “That was the most physical match I’ve played all week. From both sides he doesn’t miss. He had two set points in the first set, and two in the second set.”
The Big 12 Freshman of the Year last year and Belleair Beach, Florida, native Van Emburgh was also tabbed ITA Central Region Rookie of the Year.
He moves into his Norman apartment Thursday and said he may use some of his $3,000 first-place prize money to buy some new bedding.
Having trained at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, his junior and senior years, Van Emburgh said making the transition from classroom to courts was tough his freshman year. “I was basically used to online school and spent most of my last two years of high school training,” he said. “I didn’t really do school for two years, so it changed.”
Van Emburgh said he hasn’t decided yet, but may spend some of his fall in Europe playing ITF pro events. He said the goal is to get his ATP ranking into the top 750 in the world making himself eligible for more events once the news ITF Transition Tour begins at the start of the 2019.
“That’s the focus this fall,” he said of improving his world ranking.
Van Emburgh suffered tough losses to top players from UCLA and Ohio State this summer, and Sooners Coach Nick Crowell will be expecting one of his top players to step up this season and be one of OU’s leaders. “I have such a great coach and he’s so easy to play for,” Van Emburgh said of Crowell.
Van Emburgh earned an automatic entry into the Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
FORT WORTH, Texas – Sara Castellano deserves a much-needed break.
A day after completing a third summer school final exam, the 24-year-old Castellano from the University of Wisconsin beat unseeded Victoria Emma of the University of Florida, 6-1, 6-4, to capture the Oracle ITA National Summer Championships Powered By MyUTR women’s singles title on the indoor courts at TCU.
Originally from Carmagnola, Italy, the No. 16 seeded senior Castellano dropped just one set during her six matches, and also managed to make the doubles final. That means Castellano will cash a check worth a total of $3,650 – $3,000 for her singles win and $625 for the doubles runner-up finish. She has also been awarded a main-draw wild card into Riviera ITA Women’s All-American Championships the first week of October in Southern California.
“I’m really tired. I haven’t slept much,” Castellano said after the doubles final. “I should have been more aggressive in doubles. I was feeling so tired I didn’t want to sit during the changeovers because I didn’t want to get stiff. I never stopped and rested after my singles. I wanted to just keep playing.”
Castellano said she enjoyed the week of tennis and her mind was free from distractions following her third final exam late last week. “I felt like I was on vacation once my last final ended, and I could go out and do what I love the most,” she said. “It felt so good.”
A double major in food science and agriculture business, Castellano recently completed 14 summer credits. She calls herself a “super, super, super senior” and one of the only sixth-year college tennis players she knows.
A three-time ITA Scholar-Athlete (2014, 2015, 2016), Castellano started her college tennis career at McNeese State in 2013-14. She then transferred to Kansas State where she played for two seasons before ending up in Wisconsin where she competed last season, losing one year to injury and another complete year because of NCAA transfer regulations.
While she’s playing the best tennis of her career, Castellano isn’t thinking ahead about a career on the pro tour after her final year of eligibility.
“My main focus right now is graduating,” the 2015 Academic All-Big 12 First Team and three-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll member said.
But she’s still dipping her toe into pro waters having traveled to Tunisia in Northern Africa after school let out, and next going to Paraguay for another ITF Futures event before starts up again later this month.
Once she does get back to Madison for school, she will be welcomed back with open arms from a Badger team she’s grown to love. “I really like it there and am thankful that my teammates and coaches believe in me and my game. I’m super thankful for them. I wouldn’t be here today without them.”