January 13th, 2016

Daytona Open USTA Pro Circuit Tennis Qualifiers Determined, Tough Start for Americans

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Brooke Austin

The qualifying was completed on Tuesday at the 2016 Daytona Beach $25,000 Women’s Open, a USTA Pro Circuit event, where the main draw was filled with the addition of eight qualifiers, four of who are American teens or college players.

Americans successfully navigating the qualifying tournament for main draw berths were University of Florida sophomore Brooke Austin (Indianapolis), high school senior Ingrid Neel (Rochester, Minn.), high school junior Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, Calif.), and 18-year-old Ellie Halbauer (Daniel, S.C.).

Opening-round main draw matches were not kind to Americans Tuesday as 23-year-old Chiara “Chi Chi” Scholl of Pompano Beach, who won the wild card tournament to earn a main draw berth, lost to the Ukraine’s Olga Fridman 6-4, 6-0; former University of Florida Gator star Lauren Embree lost to Canada’s Carol Zhao 6-0, 1-6, 6-4; and former world No. 1 junior Taylor Townsend lost to No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The top two seeds in the main draw are Americans. No. 1 Shelby Rogers will start Wednesday against Venezuela’s Andrea Gamiz, and No. 2 Grace Min, a late wild card entry, will Wednesday face Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda. Former world No. 1 junior CiCi Bellis is the No. 5 seed, and American Asia Muhammad the No. 6 seed.

Rogers in 2014 reached the WTA tour singles final in Bad Gastein, Austria, losing to German Andrea Petkovic. Last year she was a runner-up in doubles with fellow American Irina Falconi at the WTA tour event in Bogota, Colombia. Bellis is best known for stunning Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of the 2014 US Open. Bellis is a perfect 3-0 in career USTA Pro Circuit singles finals, winning at Rancho Santa Fe in February 2015, and winning two titles in 2014.

Other wild cards in addition to Min were Townsend, Scholl, and Ohio State freshman Francesca Di Lorenzo.

In action Wednesday in singles will be Americans Rogers, Min, Austin, Muhammad, Neel, Di Lorenzo, Robin Anderson, Halbauer and Day.

Last year’s final was an all-unseeded affair as Russian Darya Kasatkina defeated Elise Mertens of Belgium for the singles title, and Americans Jan Abaza/Sanaz Marand won the doubles.

Former Daytona Beach Women’s Open singles and doubles champs:

2015 — Darya Kasatkina (RUS), Jan Abaza/Sanaz Marand (USA)
2014 — Anna Tatishvili (GEO), Nicole Melichar (USA)/Teodora Mircic (SRB)

For more info go to www.protennisdaytona.com.