One Love Tennis Open // From Am to Pro in Fifteen Minutes
The One Love Tennis Open, a Women’s $50K event on the USTA Pro Circuit, featured players from across the world competing at Lifetime Athletic & Tennis in Norcross, GA. Qualifying play began on September 11, 2016 with the main draw finals completing on September 18, 2016. This tournament was nothing short of excitement, success stories, upsets, and grit by 32 top female players. From college athletes with professional aspirations to year-round training professionals, the One Love Open encompassed it all.
Top seeds in the main draw included Elise Mertens, Taylor Townsend, Michaella Krajicek, Paula Cristina Goncalves, Alize Lim, Monstserrat Gonzalez, Shilin Xu, and Sherazad Reix. Hometown star Melanie Oudin, who previously trained at Lifetime, competed in the event and showcased her talents through the finals on Sunday. The women also battled in doubles play, with Elise Mertens and Keri Wong taking the #1 seed. There were 11 current or former SEC and ACC players in the qualifying tournament, with UGA’s freshman Marta Huqi Gonzalez Encinas working her way through qualifying to take a main draw slot; her deciding win took place over a former Clemson player.
The week entertained not only the athletes, but also the fans with a Kid’s Carnival drawing attraction on Sunday and a Pro Am topping off Tuesday’s draws. After accepting a slot in the Pro Am, I eagerly arrived at the site Tuesday evening after play had completed for the day. Because of prior commitments and illness, one pro spot remained to be filled. As a former Georgia Southern women’s tennis captain and #1 singles player, I filled the spot and looked forward to a fun and competitive night of tennis with local league players, former college players, and the tournament’s pro’s. Within 15 minutes of arriving on-site as an Am, I had earned the credentials to be labeled “Pro!” Quite the job-well-done if you ask me! All kidding aside, I introduced myself to my partner and opponents and enjoyed the match in front of me. Competition included four rounds of timed play, so I saw different opponents each round. The enjoyable event came to an end, but not before a delicious dinner, raffle, and live music by Robert Meadows allowed competitors to socialize and mingle inside Lifetime. I look forward to competing in many more Pro Ams, perhaps even as a Pro again in the future!
To complete the week-long competition, Sunday’s finals moved indoors, with top seed Mertens, world No. 131, overcoming Oudin in front of an upbeat and engaged crowd. Each player had only dropped one set prior to their final match. With a final score of 6-4, 6-2, Mertens took home the trophy after a successful event. Both players will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico for their next USTA Pro Circuit event. For doubles, two unseeded teams battled for the title, with Ingrid Neel and Luisa Stefani defeating Alexandra Stevenson and Taylor Townsend 4-6, 6-4, [10-5].
Turhan Berne of One Love Tennis, a tennis event management company, took the role of Tournament Director, with brilliant media efforts by Rick Limpert and Ron Cioffi throughout the event. Sponsors of the One Love Tennis Open included Wilson, Global Caps, the City of Peachtree Corners, Lifetime, Discount Mugs, Absolutbalance Sports Performance Training, USTA Georgia and USTA Southern. The USTA Pro Circuit sponsors 90 tournaments annually throughout the country and allows for a pathway to tour-level competition as well as a crucial battleground for established professionals.