Every major tournament has its humble roots.
The US Open was once a grass-court tournament just a few miles down in the road at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. The ever-evolving Open, now played on the famous blue hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King Naitonal Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, continues to add new traditions each year. With juniors, wheelchair and champions tournaments already firmly in place for the tournament's second week, this year the USTA introduced a new tradition: the American Collegiate Invitational.
Drawing big stars has been the key to making the US Open a world-class event and the American Collegiate Invitational is using that formula in its debut by attracting some of the best talent from the college rankings.
Eight men and eight women made up each draw, with the top seeds going to 2014 NCAA men’s singles champion Marcos Giron of UCLA and Jamie Loeb of North Carolina.
Play started on Thursday as the players took the courts donning their respective university colors and logo and it was the baby blue of North Carolina and UCLA that impressed during the quarterfinals of the tournament.
In the first match of the day, Jamie Loeb of North Carolina defeated UCLA’s Jamie Brady, 6-3, 6-4. Loeb, from nearby Ossining, N.Y. native, was the No. 1-ranked player in Division I women’s tennis this past season and won the 2014 ITA National College Player of the Year Award after posting a 53-4 singles record.
On the men’s side, UCLA teammates Giron and Clay Thompson reached the semifinals after rolling in straight sets. Giron, a US Open main draw entry, who fell to John Isner in Athur Ashe Stadium last week, beat USC rival Ray Sarmiento, 7-6, 6-3.
Thompson, the No. 2 seed in the men’s draw, made quick work of Jared Hiltzik of Illinois, 6-3, 6-4, in 1 hour, 8 minutes.
In the only upset of the day, Kristie Ahn of Standford knocked off No. 2 seed Hayley Carter of North Carolina, 6-4, 6-1. Carter was the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year with a 50-7 singles record in 2014.
Women’s NCAA champion Danielle Collins reached the semifinals win her 6-2, 6-4, win over Olivia Janowicz of Florida. Collins earned a wild card entry into the US Open main draw and took French Open finalist Simona Halep to three sets before falling to the No. 2-seeded Romania.
Among other opening day results: Peter Kobelt of Ohio State defeated Greg Andrews of Notre Dame, 7-6, 6-4. Julia Elbada of Virginia defeated Alexandra Cercone of Florida, 6-3, 6-4, and Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine defeated Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
The winners of the invitational will receive wild cards for the 2015 US Open qualifying draw. If the men’s champion is ranked No. 250 or better or the women’s champion is ranked No. 150 or better, the qualifying wild card turns into a main-draw wild card. The champions will also get wild cards for two USTA Pro Circuit events and each runner-up will get one.