KNOXVILLE, November 8, 2015
The Knoxville 2015 Challenger is taking place in Knoxville for the ninth consecutive year and the 12th year overall. (The tournament was not held from 2003 through 2006.) It is the only USTA Pro Circuit event held in the state of Tennessee.
Knoxville is the second 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 Charlottesville, Va., held the week of Nov. 2, 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 October 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:
Taylor Fritz, 17, who is the No. 1-ranked junior in the world and the 2015 US Open boys’ singles champion. The son of former top-10 pro Kathy May and well-known coach Guy Fritz, Taylor (6-foot-4) was also a French Open junior finalist and Wimbledon junior semifinalist this summer. He won two USTA Pro Circuit Challenger singles titles this October, at the $100,000 Challenger in Sacramento and the $50,000 Challenger in Fairfield, Calif., improving his pro ranking 462 spots, from No. 694 to No. 232, in two weeks and making him the ninth player to win multiple Challenger titles while under the age of 18, joining the ranks of Grand Slam tournament champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro.
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 was heralded for his sportsmanship after giving Nadal a first serve when a fan yelled out during Nadal’s service toss in the final game of the fifth set. Following the Australian Open, Smyczek won his fifth USTA Pro Circuit singles title at the $100,000 Challenger in Dallas and, this October, won his sixth title at the $100,000 Challenger in Tiburon. Smyczek has played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career, advancing to the second round or better at the US Open from 2012-14, highlighted by a third-round showing in 2013. Smyczek regularly trains at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla., and once lived with fellow American Mardy Fish for a year while training there.
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 tournament men’s singles 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.
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 Series event in Atlanta, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open tune-up event in Sydney and reached the second round of the Australian Open and the French Open (losing to John Isner in five sets in Paris). Harrison has played in the US Open main draw each of the last six years. In 2010, he qualified and upset No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic in the opening round, and in 2012, he also advanced to the second round, losing to 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro.
Jared Donaldson, who is ranked a career-high No. 133 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 tournament men’s singles 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 USTA Pro Circuit, reaching the semifinals of the $50,000 Challenger in Tallahassee, Fla., and quarterfinals at the $100,000 Challenger in Sarasota, Fla., and the $50,000 Challenger in Savannah, Ga. He also won matches at three ATP events over the summer (Newport, Cincinnati and Atlanta). Last summer, Donaldson won back-to-back USTA Pro Circuit singles titles at $15,000 Futures events in Tulsa, Okla., and Oklahoma City for the first USTA Pro Circuit singles titles of his career. As a junior player, he competed in the US Open Junior Championships and represented the United States in Junior Davis Cup (16 and under). He is coached by former Top 30 player Taylor Dent and has trained with Roger Federer in Dubai.
Bjorn Fratangelo, who made his Grand Slam tournament men’s singles 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 because of 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.
Austin Krajicek, who has enjoyed a breakout year in 2015, reaching the singles quarterfinals of the ATP event in Memphis, Tenn.—his first ATP quarterfinal—and qualifying for and reaching the second round of the Miami Open. He broke into the Top 100 for the first time this fall. In 2014, Krajicek reached the quarterfinals or better at 10 USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Pro Circuit events (winning a title in Colombia), and he also won three doubles titles, including the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Vancouver. Krajicek holds eight USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Pro Circuit singles titles and more than 20 doubles titles, and he peaked at No. 61 in the world in doubles in April. He was a five-time All-American at Texas A&M and won the 2011 NCAA men’s doubles championship with Jeff Dadamo. A standout junior player, Krajicek won the 2008 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships, earning a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s singles main draw. Krajicek is a distant relative of former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. He has been training out of the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif., with USTA collegiate coach Stephen Amritraj.
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 the University of Tennessee after reaching the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA tournament. He has won nine USTA Pro Circuit/ITF Pro Circuit singles titles and 12 doubles titles. His brother, Davey, was a two-time All-American for Tennessee, lettering from 2007-10.
Alex Sarkissian, who finished runner-up at the 2014 NCAA singles championships as a redshirt sophomore while at Pepperdine. In doing so, he became only the third player in school history to reach the NCAA singles final; he also advanced to the NCAA doubles quarterfinals. With his success, Sarkissian received All-America honors in both singles and doubles. Sarkissian had much success in Mexico, Korea and China this year, where he won two singles titles and advanced to two additional singles finals. Also this year, he won his first USTA Pro Circuit singles title at the $15,000 Futures in Harlingen, Texas.
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. 138 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, from a varied sports background, 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.
Daniel Nguyen, who was a former standout college player at USC. Nguyen won three USTA Pro Circuit and ITF singles titles in 2014, including the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Godfrey, Ill. He holds seven singles titles overall. In doubles, he captured the $10,000 Futures in Rochester, N.Y., in 2014, and has won five combined USTA Pro Circuit and ITF doubles titles. Nguyen competed in his first USTA Pro Circuit event since mid-April at the $50,000 Challenger in Winnetka, Ill., after competing overseas in Korea and Great Britain during the late spring, and reached the final. He spent this fall competing in Malaysia, Vietnam and India. Nguyen competed in the main draw of the men’s doubles event at the 2009 US Open, where he reached the second round.
Notable players competing in qualifying include:
Tommy Paul, 18, who won the French Open junior singles title this year, becoming the sixth American ever to win the French Open boys’championship. Paul defeated fellow American Taylor Fritz in the first-ever all-American boys’ singles final at Roland Garros, dating back to 1947. Paul, who peaked at a career-high No. 3 in the ITF World Junior Rankings this year, also reached the final of the junior US Open this year, losing to Fritz, and the quarterfinals of junior Wimbledon. In addition, he won the first ITF Pro Circuit singles titles of his career this year in Spain and Italy.
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. He 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, as well as 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. He then made his Grand Slam tournament men’s singles debut at the US Open, having earned a wild card through his victory at the USTA Boys’ 18s. This summer, Rubin 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., and competed in US Open qualifying. Rubin is a protégé of John McEnroe’s at his Randall’s Island, N.Y., academy.
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 tournament 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.
Marcos Giron, who won the 2014 NCAA singles title as a junior at UCLA and finished the year as the No. 1 college tennis player, as ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Giron became the 11th Bruin to win the NCAA men’s singles crown and the first to do so in eight years. On the strength of his NCAA title, Giron received a wild card into the 2014 US Open, where he lost to fellow American John Isner in the first round. He rebounded to claim the men’s title at the inaugural US Open American Collegiate Invitational. Also in 2014, Giron won the third USTA Pro Circuit singles title of his career at the $10,000 Futures in Calabasas, Calif., and served as a Davis Cup practice partner for the team’s World Group Playoff in Chicago. Through those results, Giron climbed nearly 200 spots in the ATP World Tour Rankings last year.
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). Kuznetsov 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.
Many Top 10 players have found success in Knoxville.
2000 singles runner-up Andy Roddick finished the 2003 season ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the US Open that year. Roddick retired following the 2012 US Open and, in his career, won 32 singles titles, finished in the Top 10 nine consecutive years and advanced to five Grand Slam tournament finals. He was a longtime member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, leading the United States to the championship in 2007.
2001 singles champion James Blake peaked at No. 4 in the world in 2006 after reaching the final of the Tennis Masters Cup, the season-ending championships of the ATP World Tour. He won 10 singles titles and seven doubles titles during his 14-year career and also was a longtime member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, helping lead the United States to the Davis Cup title in 2007. Blake announced his retirement at the 2013 US Open.
2002 singles runner-up and 2001 doubles champion Mardy Fish peaked at No. 7 in the world in August 2011 after one of the strongest seasons of his career, which included reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the round of 16 at the US Open. He also won the 2011 Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Atlanta en route to winning his first overall Series crown. Fish retired at the 2015 US Open and won six ATP World Tour singles titles, along with eight doubles titles, in his career. He also held an 11-8 overall record in Davis Cup.
2010 singles champion Kei Nishikori of Japan is currently ranked No. 7 in the world. Nishikori made history as the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam tournament singles final when he advanced to the final of the 2014 US Open, before losing to Marin Cilic. Nishikori has won 10 ATP World Tour singles titles, including three titles this year.
KNOXVILLE PAST WINNERS
Year Winner / Runner-Up Year / Doubles Winners
2014 Adrian Mannarino (FRA) Sam Groth (AUS) 2014 Mikelis Libietis (LAT) – Hunter Reese (USA)
2013 Tim Smyczek (USA) Peter Polansky (CAN) 2013 Sam Groth (AUS) – John-Patrick Smith (AUS)
2012 Michael Russell (USA) Bobby Reynolds (USA) 2012 Alex Kuznetsov (USA) – Mischa Zverev (GER)
2011 Jesse Levine (USA) Brian Baker (USA) 2011 Steve Johnson (USA) – Austin Krajicek (USA)
2010 Kei Nishikori (JPN) Robert Kendrick (USA) 2010 Rik De Voest (RSA) – Izak van der Merwe (RSA)
2009 Taylor Dent (USA) Ilija Bozoljac (SRB) 2009 Martin Emmrich (GER) – Andreas Siljestrom (SWE)
2008 Bobby Reynolds (USA) Luka Gergorc (SLO) 2008 Kevin Anderson (RSA) – G.D. Jones (NZL)
2007 Robert Kendrick (USA) Kevin Kim (USA) 2007 Harel Levy (ISR) – Sam Warburg (USA)
2003-06 Tournament not held Tournament not held 2003-06 Tournament not held
2002 Martin Verkerk (NED) Mardy Fish (USA) 2002 Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) – Martin Verkerk (NED)
2001 James Blake (USA) Gabriel Trifu (ROU) 2001 Mardy Fish (USA) – Jeff Morrison (USA)
2000 Cristiano Caratti (ITA) Andy Roddick (USA) 2000 Karsten Braasch (GER) – Michael Kohlmann (GER)