UTR Pro Match Series Returns This Weekend

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The UTR Pro Match Series, dubbed by Tennis Channel as the “Re(Open),” debuted two weeks ago in West Palm Beach, Fla., with four men’s players each ranked inside the Top 60 playing on a single hard court located on the grounds of a private residence. Reilly Opelka defeated Miomir Kecmanovic in the final.

This week, the UTR Pro Match Series returns to the same site with a women’s competition featuring Americans Alison Riske, Amanda Anisimova and Danielle Collins and Ajla Tomljanovic from Australia. The four, all ranked in the Top 60, will play three-round robin matches over the first two days of the three-day event on Friday and Saturday. Then, on Sunday, there will be a third-place match followed by the final.

The UTR Pro Match Series has made safety its top priority as pro tennis continues its return in the United States. This weekend’s event is just the third competition since the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., was cancelled in early March. Last weekend, a six-player men’s Home Court Advantage took place in Rolling Hills, Calif., near Los Angeles, that was won by Sam Querrey.

The goal of the UTR Pro Match Series is to be able to showcase how tennis can be played locally – and just as importantly, safely – while the sport looks toward being able to reopen in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year was a memorable year for Riske. She was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist, got married, and finished 2019 ranked in the Top 20 at No. 19, “I am looking forward to beginning again,” she said Monday during an interview on Tennis Channel Live.

This year, Riske started with a quarterfinal finish at Brisbane and followed it by reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open. Her win-loss record when the WTA Tour shut down due to the novel coronavirus outbreak stood at 5-4, including a three-match losing streak. Now that she’s had 10 weeks of respite, Riske is excited to be back competing this weekend in the UTR Pro Match Series.

“I am really excited. This has brought me some normalcy during quarantine times. I have been able to train with my coach every day,” Riske said. “I’m look forward to it – it is a great group of girls. … To be able to be one of the competitors and participate in it is really exciting for me.”

Behind The Racquet – Taylor Townsend

Taylor Townsend of the United States turned pro at age 15, and shortly after faced issues she admits she never would have imaged. Recently, Townsend shared her thoughts in a first-person essay she penned for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet. “I found out that my mother was stealing money from me, and was using my prize money earnings and endorsements for her personal benefit. This rocked my world because I felt betrayed and lost,” she wrote, “but it taught me many valuable lessons.

“No matter who it is, when someone shows who they are, believe them. This situation taught me to never let my guard down when it comes to me and my business.”

After reaching a career-high singles ranking of No. 61 in July 2018, the 24-year-old Townsend is currently ranked No. 73. She is also ranked No. 84 in doubles. Last year, Townsend reached the round of 16 at the US Open after earning a berth in the main draw as a qualifier. She ended last season with a 26-14 win-loss record and was ranked 81st.

“Looking back, I see that it was a refining process for both myself and my circle. I had to get rid of the dead weight. I moved back home to Atlanta and surrounded myself with people who I knew had my back. It has been a rocky road to get to where I am now, but ultimately I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Townsend wrote.

Before the coronavirus outbreak sidelined her 2020 season, Townsend had started the year 4-4 in singles and 9-1 in doubles. Her best singles result came when she reached the semifinals in a 125K indoor hard court tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. Meanwhile, she and Asia Muhammad won a pair of doubles titles, first in Auckland and more recently in the Indian Wells 125K.

“The experiences of being told no, not fitting the ‘image’, but being intentionally body shamed, struggling with inward depression and outward confidence issues, have all given me the strength to stand up tall and own my own s**t. This is who I am, take it or leave it. I am proud of the person I have become, and I am so excited for the growth ahead. It’s levels to this life thing.”

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“For as long as I can remember, I have been counted out of the conversation. At the age of 4, I was kicked out of a tennis program and the directors told my parents that I was fat, lazy and uncoachable. How people can determine this from a child, I have no idea. From the beginning, people looked at my physique and automatically judged my abilities before I walked on the court and started playing. The tennis court was my happy place, where I felt free and where opinions didn’t matter. Fast forward to age 14, I had been recognized by the USTA and moved to Florida alone in hopes of bettering myself and my tennis career, I did not know what that looked like at that time. I remember losing a singles match in an ITF juniors event, and pulled Noah (yes… this Noah Rubin) to the side and told him, ‘I don’t think I am cut out to be a singles player. I cant win a match in singles, but am winning everything in doubles. Maybe my path is being chosen for me.’ Noah then said, ‘No Taylor, it will happen, just give it time.’ The following week, I won my first ITF junior title in Tulsa, then JR. Aussie Open. From that moment, my life changed and the success that I was yearning for, that seemed so far away, was now right in front of me. I turned pro at 15 years old, and shortly after faced issues I never would have imagined. I found out that my mother was stealing money from me, and was using my prize money earnings and endorsements for her personal benefit. This rocked my world because I felt betrayed and lost, but it taught me many valuable lessons. No matter who it is, when someone shows who they are, believe them. This situation also taught me to never let my guard down when it comes to me and my business. Looking back, I see that it was a refining process for both myself and my circle. I had to get rid of the dead weight. I moved back home to Atlanta and surrounded myself with people who I knew had my back. It has been a rocky road to get to where I am now, but ultimately I wouldn’t change it for the world…” @tay_taytownsend Read full story at behindtheracquet.com (link in bio @behindtheracquet )

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What they’re writing

Sally Jenkins, Washington Post sports columnist, from “Evert played with a patience missing in today’s game – and world”: Do yourself a favor during the shutdown and, instead of diving any further into the butter or the bourbon or the presidential bombast, take a lesson in patience from Chris Evert. You’ve filled this strange season with all kinds of sports classics, so while you’re at it, call up a French Open and just watch her. Watch the narrow squint and the firming of the chin as she refuses to be hurried. Watch her move the ball, use her racket strings to drag her opponents around until she has them where she wants them, and then crack a clean one. Forty years later, in the midst of this trial, her tennis doesn’t just hold up. It’s riveting.”

What they’re podcasting

Monday Match Analysis – On the latest episode, Tennis.com‘s Joel Drucker looks back at the 1976 US Open final between Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg with host Gill Gross.

What they’re sharing on social media

US Open / 2009: History on the line – Federer vs. Del Potro

Elina Svitolina / Didn’t miss the pain …

Mihaela Buzarnescu / Her bed was her hitting partner

Christopher Clarey / Moments we are missing …