The best junior tennis players in northern California are squaring off this week at the Berkeley Tennis Club, trying to add on points to qualify for the junior national tournament in August.
Starting Monday, 68 boys and 37 girls opened the United States Tennis Association NorCal 18-and-under Sectionals Tournament. By Saturday, each bracket will be pared down to two competitors in the finals.
Tournament director Todd Mitchell, who is the Director of Tennis and head pro at the Berkeley Tennis Club, said this year’s draws are smaller than usual.
“Some kids have already signed with colleges, so they don’t want to play,” Mitchell said. “But it’s just a fact that the numbers particpating at this age are down across the board.”
But for the ones who are playing, the sectionals are a good chance to up their national standing. Since the tournament is only open to the finalists from smaller events, the point values are doubled, making this an opportunity to jump up in the rankings.
In addition, this is the last tournament before the seeding for the national finals is selected. So a big upset or a surprise loss could have a sudden impact that can’t be fixed. The boys’ national tournament will be held in Kalamazoo, Mich., with the girls’ in San Jose, both on August 6-13. Mitchell said he expects about five boys and five girls from the NorCal region to be selected for the nationals.
With the cream of the crop all in one tournament, the competition is very tough. Complicating matters is that most of the competitors know each other, having come up in the same system for many years.
“By the time they get here, they usually know each other pretty well,” Mitchell said. “That can be good, but it can also make things harder.
The doubles finals will be held at approximately 2:30 p.m. today, depending on singles results. The singles finals will be on Saturday, 10 a.m. for the girls, 11:30 a.m for the boys.