The U.S. Open got a new look with a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium this year, but 2016 was also a year of change on the local front, with new management taking over the McLeland Tennis Center, and two local players making their mark on the Challenger circuit at the pro level.
TCU’s No. 1 player, Cameron Norrie, helped lead the Frogs to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, but he also made an impact on the pro level, playing as an amateur.
In March, Norrie advanced through qualifying to reach the main draw of the Irving Tennis Classic, where he eventually lost to Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 6-3. Muller heads into 2017 ranked No. 34 in the world.
That was a huge jump when you consider he was in school most of that time.
TCU coach David Roditi, on Cameron Norrie going from 717th in world ranking to 278
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Norrie went on to win back-to-back Futures events in Tulsa, Okla., and Wichita, Kan., in June, then tacked on an appearance in the finals of the USTA Challenger in Aptos, Calif., in August. He made the quarterfinals at the Columbus Challenger in Ohio in November and reached the doubles final at that tournament, playing with fellow Brit Luke Bambridge.
Norrie is from New Zealand, born in South Africa and plays under the flag of Great Britain. The lefty began the year ranked No. 717 and ends it ranked No. 278. He is the sixth highest-ranked British player behind No. 1 Andy Murray.
“That was a huge jump when you consider he was in school most of that time,” TCU coach David Roditi said. “He’s done exactly what those top tennis players are hoping do when they go to the top college programs, to make that transition from lower-rated tournaments to the main draw of Challengers, and he did it.”
It was a good year for Aledo’s Mitchell Krueger as well.
Krueger reached a career-high ranking of No. 210 in October and is No. 218 as 2017 approaches.
Krueger’s year was highlighted by an appearance in the final of the Binghamton (N.Y.) Challenger, and he made the quarterfinals in four other Challenger events. He also won a Futures tournament in Jinan, China, in June.
Mitchell Krueger of Aledo reached a career-high ranking of No. 210 in October.
In doubles, the fourth-year pro won the doubles title at the Winnipeg Challenger in Canada in July, playing with fellow American Daniel Nguyen, and Krueger reached the semifinals in doubles at four other Challengers.
Local tennis fans will likely get a chance to watch those two, and more top up-and-coming pros this spring at the RBC Tennis Championships, Jan. 30-Feb. 4 at T Bar M Racquet Club in Dallas, and at the Irving Tennis Classic, March 13-19, at Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas.
McLeland Tennis Center will hold a wild-card tournament for the Irving Tennis Classic on Feb. 4-5. Winners will earn a spot in the ATP Challenger event. McLeland manager Matt Hanlin said he is expecting players from TCU, Baylor, SMU and the surrounding area to complete for the wild card. The event is free for spectators.
When the Frogs begin the 2017 spring season next month, Norrie and the Frogs will be joined by the addition of top British junior Alastair Gray from Twickenham, England.
“Alastair is a very good student and he wants to play professional tennis someday,” Roditi said of Gray, who competed in the junior division of three of the four Grand Slam events. “We love that he is a student of the game and loves the process of getting better. … He has a very aggressive game with a lot of different shots and can also play great doubles someday.”
We love that he is a student of the game and loves the process of getting better.
David Roditi, on British junior star and TCU recruit Alastair Gray
TCU’s men’s team kicks off the spring season on Jan. 20 at Northwestern, with the first home match scheduled for Jan. 28 against Pacific in the ITA Kickoff Weekend. The TCU women’s team will at home Jan. 13 in the TCU Invitational.
▪ Saginaw Chisholm Trail High School tennis coach Leslie Crook was one of 10 coaches to be named to this year’s USTA No-Cut Coach All Star team. The team recognizes exceptional middle- and high-school coaches throughout the nation who implement a “no-cut” policy, which welcomes all interested students to be part of their school’s tennis team. Crook has coached tennis at the high school level for 37 years. The Burleson resident has grown the Chisholm Trail program from 10 players to 42 in five years.
▪ In 2016, two teams from the Fort Worth area reached USTA National championships in their respective adult divisions. The men’s 55-over 8.0 team out of Arlington Tennis Center and captained by Mike McBurney reached the national championship and finished second in its flight in October in Surprise, Ariz. The women’s 40-over 4.0 team from Wagon Wheel Tennis Center in Coppell captained by Nicole Vu finished third in its flight in La Quinta, Calif.