Players: From Troy to Wimbledon

Published 11:00 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

Local tennis fans will see some familiar faces as play gets underway at the Championships in Wimbledon, England, in two weeks.

Eleven of the top 100 women’s tennis players in the world have participated in the USTA Tennis Classic of Troy during the past eight years, and their ranking has earned them automatic entry into the premiere tennis tournament.

“A lot of Troy people have met these players and continue to follow them,” said Eric Hayes, tournament director and men’s and women’s tennis coach at Troy University.

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Hayes said the 11 players who are most recognizable to local tennis fans include:

• Bethanie Mattek-Sands, ranked 31st in the world in singles and 13th in doubles.

• Gisela Dulko of Agentina, ranked 40th in singles, second in doubles. “Gisela Dulko was actually seeded first in the French Open,” Hayes said.

• Rebecca Marino, Canada, ranked 45th. Marino won the Troy tournament in 2010 and was ranked 120th when she played here, Hayes said.

• Greta Arn of Hungary, ranked 46th in the world and a finalist in the 2009 tournament.

• Christina McHale, ranked 71st in the world. “She’s only 19 and was still an amateur when she played here,” Hayes said.

• Melanie Oudin of Atlanta, ranked 82nd in the world. “She really gained a lot of attention two years ago in the U.S. Open,” Hayes said. “And she played here in 2008.”

• Vania King, ranked 85th in singles, 3rd in doubles.

• Coco Vandewejhe, ranked 98th in the world. “She has played in our tournament a number of years,” Hayes said.

• Varrara Lepchenko, ranked 75th.

• Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa, ranked 89th.

• Mirjana Lucic of Croatia, ranked 94th.

Hayes said the players often make connections with Troy residents during the tournament, which is one of the smallest venues in the USTA pro circuit.

“Even though we have a $50,000 purse, we are by far the smallest city hosting a tournament on the circuit,” he said.

“Others are in places like Las Vegas and Miami.”

Hayes said players often enjoy what he described as a “collegiate atmosphere” during the Troy tournament, where they can be involved in campus activities and enjoy interaction with the community.

“One reason we’re so popular with the players is that we’re run pretty casually,” he said. “There’s no admission charge and it’s more of a college atmosphere than a country club atmosphere.”

But, he added, that doesn’t diminish the talent that is showcased in the event.

“You can look at the list and see how many players are ranked in the top 100 in the world,” he said.