Most of the names of the players competing in the Futures of Mansfield might not be familiar to tennis fans, but those players could end up making a name for themselves down the road.That’s the beauty of entry-level professional tournaments, such as the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event scheduled for Oct. 13-20 at Walnut Creek Country Club.A number of players who have passed through the gate at Walnut Creek Country Club over the past eight years have gone on to compete at the sport’s highest level in major championships, including the U.S. Open.One name in the tournament that might be familiar to some fans is former Texas A&M standout Austin Krajicek, who reached the semifinals in Mansfield last year before losing to Alex Kuznetsov. Krajicek, who is ranked No. 218 in the world, went on to win four Futures singles titles and three doubles titles last year, including sweeps of both singles and doubles championships in Little Rock, Ark., Saskatoon and Sherbrooke in Canada.Krajicek also reached the semifinals in doubles at the Lexington Challenger this summer with Aledo’s Mitchell Krueger, one week after advancing to the semifinals in singles at the Binghamton Challenger in New York.“Austin will be the favorite coming in here,” Mansfield tournament director Ernie Abraham said. “He’s a fan favorite and always well received because of his Texas ties. When he came here last year, he was ranked around 400, so he’s made quite an improvement.” In college, Krajicek was a three-time All-American, who was ranked as high as No. 6 in singles and No. 1 in doubles after winning the NCAA championship with teammate Jeff Dadamo, who is also entered in next week’s tournament.Dadamo earned a wild card into this year’s U.S. Open qualifying by winning the U.S. Open National Playoffs men’s title. Also among the favorites next week will be Australian John-Patrick Smith, who is ranked 217th and played for Tennessee, where he became one of only two players in NCAA history to be an All-American in singles and doubles for four consecutive years (2007-2011). Also ranked in the top 250 will be James McGee of Ireland, who recently won a Futures title in Gabon.“We probably won’t have a player ranked as high as [defending champion] Mischa Zverev last year, but I think the field overall is maybe a little stronger than last year,” Abraham said. “We’ve had a pretty good history of players coming here, then going to do something down the road, and it’s nice to be able to see these guys in your own back yard.”While Zverev, who is now ranked No. 135, is not returning, his 16-year-old brother Alexander is among the top players entered into the qualifying draw, which runs Oct. 12-14.Along with the tournament, a Junior Jam is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 13, from 4-5:30 p.m. The event is open to the public and kids can register by calling the Walnut Creek Pro Shop at 817-473-1311. More information on the tournament and other special events planned for the week, including a Pro Am, Ladies Day and a Salute to the Military, can be found at futuresofmansfield.com.
Rusty Hall, 817-390-7816 Twitter: @RustyHall10s