Three Southern Californians among top-18 in Costa Mesa field; 10 players with Southern California connections in qualifying
While the 32 singles players who will comprise the main draw in the Costa Mesa Pro Classic are attempting to accrue points that will elevate them in international tennis rankings, there is another aspect to the event, which begins Sept. 14: to grow the game of tennis.
That is why the Costa Mesa Tennis Center, the event’s host, is holding a United States Tennis Association Free Tennis Play Day on the tournament’s final day, Sept. 23. The play day is free for children under the age of 16.
“While the athletes who compete in the classic are all trying to move up in the world rankings, the USTA understands that for the sport of tennis to grow, it really need to reach out to younger players,” said Tournament Director Hank Lloyd. “And what better way to get kids interested and involved in the game then to allow them to play on the actual courts that top professionals and amateurs will compete on?”
The free tennis day begins before the final singles match, which will start at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 23.
The Costa Mesa Pro Classic begins Sept. 14 with singles qualifying. A total of 128 players will compete for one of the final eight slots in the main singles draw, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 18.
At the last Costa Mesa Pro Classic in March, two qualifiers upended the event’s top two seeds in the first round. One of those players, Joshua Zavala of Texas, advanced to the quarter-finals. Another singles qualifier, Trabuco Canyon’s Nicholas Meister, advanced to the second round. Meister, who won the doubles championship in March, returns this month in the main draw, along with fellow Southern California natives Daniel Kosawaski, of Downey, Bradley Klahn, of Poway, and Jason Jung, of Torrance.
Players with Southern California connections who will compete in singles qualifying include: three members of the UCLA men’s tennis squad, Dennis Novikov, Dennis Mkrtchian, of Reseda, and Marcos Giron, of Thousand Oaks; USC tennis player Daniel Nguyen, of Oxnard; Arthur Karagezian, of Burbank; Glendale natives Alexios Halebian,Alexander Sarkissian and Sahak Bazrganian; Kyle McMorrow of Thousand Oaks and Ryan Thacher, of Studio City.
The tournament’s top-seed is 28-year-old Alex Bogdanovic. Currently ranked 311rd in the world, the Serbian-British Bogdanovic’s highest ranking was 108, in 2007. New Zealand’s Jose Statham (334) is the second seed. China’s Zhe Li and Great Britian’s Richard Bloomfield round out the top seeds.
The highest seeded American player is Kosawaski, currently ranked 372nd.
This is the second USTA event at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center this year. In March, 26-year-old Brian Baker, the No. 8 seed, won the event in dominating fashion, not dropping a single set. The win launched Baker to considerable success. He earned a wild card selection in the French Open, losing in the first round. But he also qualified for Wimbledon, advancing to the fourth round. That elevated his world ranking to 70, and put him in the U.S. Open. He lost to No. 8 seed Janko Tipsarevic in the third round.
Last year’s Costa Mesa Classic, held in September, was won by Orange native and current USC standout Steve Johnson. He is also competing in the U.S. Open this year and won his first match Aug. 29. He plays Latvia’s Ernest Gulbis in the second round.
The Costa Mesa Tennis Center, a year-round tennis center that offers instruction and practice, is located at 880 Juniper Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-2011.
ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT
With approximately 90 tournaments hosted annually throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway for the U.S. Open and tour-level competition for aspiring players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 33 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering nearly $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nation-wide. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki, James Blake, Li Na, Andy Murray and Mardy Fish are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.