ATP Challenger Tour returns to Charlottesville kicking-off USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge

ATP Challenger in Charlottesville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, October 29, 2015

The 2015 Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger is taking place in Charlottesville for the seventh consecutive year. It is the only USTA Pro Circuit men’s event held in Virginia. Charlottesville also holds a $50,000 women’s event in April.

Charlottesville is the first of three consecutive men’s hard-court tournaments that make up the USTA Pro Circuit Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, which will award a men’s and women’s wild card into the 2016 Australian Open. The USTA and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2015 US Open and 2016 Australian Open are exchanged. The other tournaments in the men’s portion of the wild card challenge are the $50,000 events in Knoxville, Tenn., held the week of Nov. 9, and Champaign, Ill., held the week of Nov. 16.

The three men’s tournaments join three women’s tournaments—the Tennis Classic of Macon in Macon, Ga., held the week of Oct. 26; the Bush’s $50,000 Waco Showdown in Waco, Texas, held the week of Nov. 2; and the Copperwynd Pro Women’s Challenge in Scottsdale, Ariz., held the week of Nov. 9.

The American man who earns the most ATP ranking points at two of the three USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events will receive a USTA wild card to compete in the main draw of the 2016 Australian Open, which will be held Monday, Jan. 18, through Sunday, Jan. 31. Only players who did not receive direct entry into the Australian Open are eligible for the wild cards.

Notable players competing in the main draw include:

Tim Smyczek, who peaked at No. 68 in the world this April after qualifying for the main draw of the Australian Open and winning his first-round match. In the second round, he became a top storyline after facing Rafael Nadal and almost pulling off an upset, falling to the Spaniard in a five-set thriller, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5. During the match, Smyczek

Frances Tiafoe, 17, who won his first USTA Pro Circuit singles title earlier this year at the $15,000 Futures in Bakersfield, Calif. Tiafoe, who recently turned pro, also reached three additional USTA Pro Circuit singles finals (in Tallahassee, Fla., in May, in Calabasas, Calif., in March and in Weston, Fla., in January). He made his Grand Slam debut at the 2015 French Open by winning the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge and then competed in the 2015 US Open as a wild card. Tiafoe also served as a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team against Great Britain in Scotland this March. As a junior, he peaked at No. 2 in the ITF World Junior Rankings last year and reached the boys’ singles semifinals at the 2014 US Open. He also won the prestigious Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in December 2013 in Plantation, Fla., becoming the youngest boys’ champion in the 67-year history of the event; took the title at the 2014 Easter Bowl junior tournament; and reached the final of the 2014 USTA International Spring Championships. In 2012, he won two significant 14-and-under tournaments (Les Petits As in Tarbes, France, and Teen Tennis in Bolton, England) and helped lead the United States to a gold medal in World Junior Tennis—the premier 14-and-under team competition. Tiafoe is a product of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., a USTA Certified Regional Training Center, where his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, worked as a custodian.

Frances Tiafoe (photo: Jacob Stuckey)

Frances Tiafoe (photo: Jacob Stuckey)

Ryan Harrison, who earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2012 Games in London and has been a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team. He also has enjoyed success on the ATP World Tour, reaching three semifinals in 2012 to peak at No. 43 in the world. (At the time, he and Bernard Tomic of Australia were the only players aged 20 or younger in the Top 100.) This year, Harrison earned a wild card into the US Open and competed in Wimbledon qualifying. He put together two strong performances on the ATP Tour earlier this year, qualifying and reaching the second round at the Memphis Open, pushing eventual champion Kei Nishikori to three sets, and then qualifying and reaching the semifinals in Acapulco, before falling to David Ferrer. In 2013, Harrison reached the semifinals of the Emirates Airline US Open

Jared Donaldson, who is ranked a career-high No. 135 after reaching the final of the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Sacramento, Calif., and the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Challengers in Fairfield, Calif., and Las Vegas this October. Donaldson made his Grand Slam main draw debut as a wild card at the 2014 US Open, where he faced eventual quarterfinalist Gael Monfils in the first round. This year, the teenager won his first USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title at the $50,000 event in Maui, Hawaii, where he also won the doubles title with Stefan Kozlov. Donaldson had a strong spring this year on the

Bjorn Fratangelo, who made his Grand Slam main draw debut at the 2015 US Open after winning the USTA Pro Circuit’s US Open Wild Card Challenge this summer. Fratangelo finished the challenge with 83 points after reaching the final of the $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton, N.Y., and semifinals at the $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., and the $50,000 Challenger in Lexington, Ky. In 2011, Fratangelo became the first American since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the French Open boys’ singles title. He peaked at a career-high No. 106 in the world this August in large part to his results on the USTA Pro Circuit. In addition to his results during the US Open Wild Card Challenge, Fratangelo also reached a final and semifinal at ITF Pro Circuit Challengers in Italy this spring. Overall, Fratangelo has won nine USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Pro Circuit singles titles over the last three years. He also reached three USTA Pro Circuit/ITF Pro Circuit quarterfinals this fall. Fratangelo competed in US Open qualifying in 2011 and 2013 but did not win a match. He has also competed in Wimbledon and French Open qualifying. As a junior player, Fratangelo ranked as high as No. 2 in the ITF World Junior Rankings and competed on the Junior Davis Cup team. He is coached by USTA National Coach Stanford Boster.

Bjorn Fratangelo

Bjorn Fratangelo

Mitchell Krueger, who was the top-ranked American junior boy in 2012, peaking at a career-high No. 5 in the world junior rankings. Krueger advanced to the boys’ singles semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2012 and turned pro that July. He captured his first pro singles title in 2013 while competing overseas at a clay-court ITF event in the Netherlands, and this year he won his second title—and first USTA Pro Circuit crown—at the $15,000 Futures in Los Angeles. He also had a strong spring on the USTA Pro Circuit, reaching the quarterfinals at $50,000 Challengers in Savannah, Ga., and Tallahassee, Fla., and the final at the $15,000 Futures in Wichita, Kan., this June.

Tennys Sandgren, a former Top 200 player who is back on the court after missing much of 2014 due to injury. Sandgren did not play from February 2014 through the 2014 US Open, as he recovered from surgery on his hip. This year, Sandgren, whose first name is pronounced like the sport, has played on the USTA Pro Circuit and in ITF Pro Circuit events in China, Australia and Canada as he continues to work his way back into form, winning two titles this year. He climbed to a career-high No. 183 in the world in 2013, when he won the USTA Pro Circuit season-ending Challenger in Champaign, Ill. Also in 2013, Sandgren served as a Davis Cup practice partner for the U.S. team as it prepared to face Serbia in Boise, Idaho, and he nearly qualified for the main draw at the 2014 Australian Open, falling to former NCAA champion Steve Johnson in five sets in the final of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs. Sandgren turned pro following his sophomore season at

Chase Buchanan, who competed in qualifying at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year. He peaked at No. 152 in the world this June after strong results in USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Pro Circuit Challenger events. Last year, Buchanan competed on the USTA Pro Circuit and overseas, reaching the singles semifinals or better at five events and qualifying for the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Cincinnati. He also won three ITF Circuit events last fall— one in Ecuador and two in Bolivia. As a college player for Ohio State University, Buchanan won the NCAA doubles championship in 2012 with Blaz Rola, earning a wild card into the main draw of the US Open men’s doubles event that year. In singles, Buchanan reached the final of the 2009 junior US Open. He also earned a wild card into the men’s singles main draw of that year’s US Open—his only Grand Slam main draw appearance to date—as the USTA Boys’ 18s champion, losing in the first round to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Buchanan has won three USTA Pro Circuit singles titles in his career. He has been training at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif., working with USTA collegiate coach Stephen Amritraj.

Dennis Novikov, who represented the United States in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto this summer, where he won the bronze medal in men’s singles. This fall, Novikov won two ITF Pro Circuit singles titles in Cary, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, as well as the semifinals in Las Vegas (these were not USTA Pro Circuit events) to peak at No. 142 in the world. Novikov was the 2012 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion in singles and doubles. Those victories earned him wild-card entries into each main draw at the 2012 US Open, where he became just the second USTA Boys’ 18s champ in 15 years (the other being Jack Sock) to advance to the second round in singles; he defeated 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz in the first round. Novikov completed his sophomore year at UCLA in 2013 and turned pro that summer. He won his first career USTA Pro Circuit title soon afterward, at the $10,000 Futures in Amelia Island, Fla., and had a strong 2014, winning three USTA Pro Circuit doubles titles and claiming four ITF singles titles. This year, he won his second USTA Pro Circuit singles title at the $15,000 Futures in Calabasas, Calif., and captured his sixth and seventh USTA Pro Circuit doubles titles at the $50,000 Challenger in Tallahassee, Fla., and the $15,000 Futures in Los Angeles. Born in Moscow, Novikov moved with his family to the United States as a 1-year-old and chose tennis over hockey, swimming and gymnastics. He is coached by his father, Vladimir, and occasionally trains out of the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif.

Dennis Novikov

Dennis Novikov

Kevin King, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 2012 with All-America and All-ACC honors. King has ranked as high as No. 114 in doubles, winning nine USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Pro Circuit doubles titles. He also competed in the doubles draws at the US Open and Wimbledon in 2014. King won his first career USTA Pro Circuit singles title at the $15,000 Futures in Champaign, Ill., this year and also spent much of the year competing in France and Canada, where he reached the doubles quarterfinals or better at seven events, winning one title in Canada.

Alex Kuznetsov, who won the 2013 Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge to earn a spot in the French Open main draw. Following Roland Garros, Kuznetsov qualified for Wimbledon and won the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Binghamton, N.Y. Those results drove Kuznetsov’s ranking up to a career-high No. 120 in the world. In 2014, he qualified for and reached the quarterfinals of the ATP event in Memphis, Tenn., qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon and reached the quarterfinals or better at three USTA Pro Circuit Challengers. This year, Kuznetsov has reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Dallas and competed in Australian Open qualifying. As a junior, he was the 2004 French Open boys’ singles runner-up (to Gael Monfils). Kuzetsov is a native of Kiev, Ukraine, where his grandfather was a handball champion. In 2005, he was involved in a car accident that broke his right femur and required the insertion of a titanium rod and screw. He came back to play in his first US Open main draw in 2006 and has played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career, reaching the second round of the Australian Open in 2007.

Notable players competing in qualifying include:

Stefan Kozlov, 17, who peaked at No. 2 in the world junior rankings last year. Kozlov reached the junior boys’ final at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2014, as well as the quarterfinals at the junior US Open and French Open. At the All England Club, he fell to 2014 USTA Boys’ 18s champion Noah Rubin in the first all-American Wimbledon boys’ final since 1977. Also last year, Kozlov won the prestigious Orange Bowl singles and doubles titles, and in the pro ranks, he reached the final of the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Sacramento, Calif., losing to current Top 50 player Sam Querrey. In reaching the Sacramento final at age 16, Kozlov became the youngest American to reach a Challenger final since Andre Agassi in 1986. In 2015, Kozlov has competed in the main draw of the ATP’s Memphis Open, won his first USTA Pro Circuit Challenger doubles title (in Maui, Hawaii), reached the singles final of the $10,000 Futures in Orange Park, Fla., and served as a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team in Glasgow, Scotland. He also won his first ITF Pro Circuit singles title in Belarus this fall. In April, he participated in the White House Easter Egg Roll, where he met President Obama. Kozlov trains both with his father, Andrei, at his dad’s tennis academy in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., with coach Nicolas Todero. Kozlov has also practiced, on occasion, with Novak Djokovic and other top pros.

Noah Rubin, who completed a standout freshman year at Wake Forest in May, finishing the year at No. 5 in the collegiate rankings and advancing to the 2015 NCAA singles final. He also became the first player in ACC men’s tennis history to earn ACC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors in one season, and the first ACC men’s tennis Player of the Year in Wake Forest men’s tennis history. He was also the ITA Rookie of the Year and earned All-America honors. Rubin, who recently turned pro, was also a standout junior player, winning the 2014 USTA Boys’ 18s national singles title and the Wimbledon junior title. At the All England Club, Rubin won the first all-American boys’ singles final at Wimbledon since 1977, topping Stefan Kozlov in the title match. Rubin then made his Grand Slam men’s singles debut at the US Open, having earned a wild card through his victory at the USTA Boys’ 18s. This summer, Rubin has reached the final of the $15,000 Futures in Tulsa, Okla., and the semifinals at the $15,000 Futures in Wichita, Kan. He also received a main draw wild card into the ATP’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I., this summer and competed in US Open qualifying. Rubin is a protégé of John McEnroe’s at his Randall’s Island, N.Y., academy.


Singles winners and runners-up / Doubles champions

2014 James Duckworth (AUS) Liam Broady (GBR) 2014 Treat Huey (PHI) – Frederik Nielsen (DEN)

2013 Michael Russell (USA) Peter Polansky (CAN) 2013 Steve Johnson (USA) – Tim Smyczek (USA)

2012 Denis Kudla (USA) Alex Kuznetsov (USA) 2012 John Peers (AUS) – John-Patrick Smith (AUS)

2011 Izak van der Merwe (RSA) Jesse Levine (USA) 2011 Treat Conrad Huey (PHI) – Dominic Inglot (GBR)

2010 Robert Kendrick (USA) Michael Shabaz (USA) 2010 Robert Kendrick (USA) – Donald Young (USA)

2009 Kevin Kim (USA) Somdev Devvarman (IND) 2009 Martin Emmrich (GER) – Andreas Siljestrom (SWE)