| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

USTA Player Development has announced the eight men and eight women who will participate in the second annual U.S. Open Wild Card Playoff, being held at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, a USTA Certified Regional Training Center in College Park, Md., Aug. 18-20. The winners will receive main draw singles wild cards into the men’s and women’s draws at the 2011 U.S. Open.

The men’s field includes top-seeded Bobby Reynolds (Acworth, Ga.), a former All-American at Vanderbilt who has been as high as number 63 in the world on the ATP World Tour and is currently ranked 120th; and Bjorn Fratangelo (Plum, Pa.), who in June became the first American since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the French Open boys’ singles title.

The local favorites will be Denis Kudla (Arlington, Va.), and Mitchell Frank (Annandale, Va.), who both train at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. Kudla, who reached the quarterfinals of the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I., in July, is currently ranked 325th in the world and was the U.S. Open boys’ singles runner-up last year. Frank, an incoming freshman at the University of Virginia, was the runner-up at the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships last week.

Four of last season’s top collegians round out the men’s field. Daniel Kosakowski (Huntington Park, Calif.) turned professional after his freshman year at UCLA and recently won his first Tour-level match at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. Tennys Sandgren (Gallatin, Tenn.), a rising junior at the University of Tennessee, recently won back-to-back Futures titles on the USTA Pro Circuit. Rhyne Williams (Knoxville, Tenn.), the 2011 NCAA singles runner-up for the University of Tennessee, turned pro after winning his second professional title in June at the USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Innisbrook, Fla. Bradley Klahn (Poway, Calif.) won the 2010 NCAA men’s singles title and will be a senior at Stanford this fall.

The women’s field includes top-seeded Julia Cohen (Philadelphia), a former All-American for the University of Miami who in May reached the final of an ITF Pro Circuit $25,000 event in Thailand; and local favorite Beatrice Capra (Ellicott City, Md.), who won this event last year and subsequently reached the third round of the 2010 U.S. Open.

The women’s field also includes two former USTA Girls’ 18s National Champions in 2007 champion Ashley Weinhold (Austin, Texas), and 2008 champion Gail Brodsky (Brooklyn, N.Y.), as well as two-time USTA Girls’ 18s runner-up Nicole Gibbs (Santa Monica, Calif.), who as a freshman helped lead Stanford to the final of the 2011 NCAA women’s team championships.

Rounding out the field are Madison Keys (Boca Raton, Fla.), who won her first professional title in 2010 at the USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 event in Cleveland; Jessica Pegula (Boca Raton, Fla.), who reached her first professional final in January at the USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 event in Lutz, Fla.; and Ahsha Rolle (Miami Shores, Fla.), a 10-time champion on the USTA Pro Circuit who reached the third round of the 2007 U.S. Open.

The USTA also announced the 16 men and 15 women who will compete in the U.S. Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships, Aug. 18-21, at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale in New Haven, Conn. The tournament is held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara, the final Olympus U.S. Open Series women’s event of the summer. The respective men’s and women’s winners will receive a wild card into the 2011 U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament, held Aug. 23-26, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Nearly 1,000 men and women (690 men and 306 women) competed in the second year of the U.S. Open National Playoffs in singles at one of 16 Sectional Qualifying Tournaments. Fifteen women’s champions will compete in New Haven (the USTA Florida champion has withdrawn), while 14 of the 16 men’s champions advanced (the runners-up for the other two sections will compete in New Haven). The U.S. Open National Playoffs function as a series of tournaments held throughout the United States to make the U.S. Open eligible to anyone and everyone 14 and over with the passion to compete, regardless of playing ability or nationality. Mixed-doubles was added this year, and the Mixed-Doubles Championship will take place in New Haven, Aug. 24-27, with the winning team earning a wild card into the main draw of the 2011 U.S. Open.

“We have had another successful year of the U.S. Open National Playoffs and are excited to reach the Men’s and Women’s Championships after a summer of strong tennis,” said Jeff Ryan, tournament director, U.S. Open National Playoffs. “There is an impressive field in New Haven and we look forward to watching two of these singles players achieve their dreams of competing in the U.S. Open.”

The competitors in the Men’s and Women’s Championships include three former NCAA champions, five players who have been ranked in the Top 100 in singles, six teenagers, and four players who are over 30 years old. Eight have competed in the U.S. Open, either in qualifying or the main draw. Seedings were based on last week’s ATP World Tour and WTA Rankings.

The U.S. Open National Playoffs

The Men’s Championship field includes:
►Charlie Cutler; 24; Portland, OR (USTA Pacific Northwest)
►David Martin; 30; Tulsa, OK (USTA Southern)
►Oleg Dmitriev; 27; Dania Beach, FL (USTA Florida)
►Juan Moreiras; 17; San Antonio, TX (USTA Texas)
►Steve Erickson; 23; Emerson, NJ (USTA Eastern)
►Angelo Niculescu; 30; Lake Oswego, OR (USTA Hawaii)
►Angelo Faustino; 22; Littleton, CO (USTA Intermountain)
►Eric Quigley; 22; Pewee Valley, KY (USTA Midwest)
►Damon Gooch; 25; Bethesda, MD (USTA Mid-Atlantic)
►Blake Strode; 24; Saint Charles, MO (USTA New England)
►Nathan Healey; 31; Wyomissing, PA (USTA Middle States)
►Bojan Temunovic; 22; Scottsdale, AZ (USTA Southwest)
►Tony Larson; 27; Brooklyn Park, MN (USTA Northern)
►Chris Wettengel; 29; Las Vegas, NV (USTA No. California)
►Cecil Mamiit; 35; South Pasadena, CA (USTA Southern California)
►Jackson Withrow; 18; Omaha, NE (USTA Missouri Valley)

The Women’s Championship field includes:
►Robin Anderson; 18; Matawan, NJ (USTA Middle States)
►Amanda McDowell; 23; Atlanta, GA (USTA Southern)
►Vasilisa Bardina; 23; Denver, CO (USTA Intermountain)
►Skylar Morton; 17; Bethesda, MD (USTA Mid-Atlantic)
►Maureen Diaz; 29; Glendale, CA (USTA Hawaii-Pacific)
►Ashley Murdock; 23; Memphis, TN (USTA Missouri Valley)
►Megan Falcon; 26; Baton Rouge, LA (USTA Northern)
►Marie-Eve Pelletier; 29; Quebec (USTA Pacific Northwest)
►Macall Harkins; 25; Palos Verdes, CA (USTA Southern California)
►Yasmin Schnack; 23; Elk Grove, CA (USTA No. California)
►Petra Jurova; 18; Bratislava, Slovak Rep. (USTA Eastern)
►Romana Tedjakasuma; 35; Tracy, CA (USTA Midwest)
►Sylvia Kosakowski; 24; Downey, CA (USTA Southwest)
►Mashona Washington; 35; Houston, TX (USTA Texas)
►Lena Litvak; 22; New York, NY (USTA New England)

The men’s draw features defending champion and number one seed Blake Strode, who last year reached the second round of qualifying at the U.S. Open. Last week, Strode won his third career USTA Pro Circuit singles title at the $10,000 Futures in Edwardsville, Ill. He is currently ranked 447th in the ATP rankings. The former University of Arkansas all-American and Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award winner again deferred Harvard Law School for another year to pursue his dream of playing professional tennis. Also returning is last year’s runner-up Cecil Mamiit, the 1996 NCAA champion who has competed in the main draw of all four Grand Slam tournaments and currently plays for and captains the Philippines’ Davis Cup team.

Other competitors include former Stanford standout David Martin, the number two seed, and Nathan Healey, both experienced veterans who are best known for their doubles play, as well as University of Kentucky star Eric Quigley, 2011 USTA Boys’ 18s Nationals Doubles Champion Jackson Withrow and former collegiate standouts Damon Gooch, Angelo Niculescu and Chris Wettengel, who reached the semifinals at this event a year ago.

Strode, Mamiit, Niculescu, Quigley and Wettengel are all returning to the Men’s Championship for a second consecutive year. Tony Larson qualified both years but was unable to compete in 2010. Also, Healey, Martin and Strode will return in a week’s time to compete in the U.S. Open National Playoffs–Mixed-Doubles Championship.

Seven of the 16 players in the women’s field are currently ranked in the top 500, including U.S. Fed Cup team member Mashona Washington, who reached a career-best 50th in 2004; Vasilisa Bardina, who peaked at 48 in 2007; and number one seed Maria-Eve Pelletier, who is currently ranked number 336. A contingent of former college standouts will also vie for the title, including 2008 NCAA singles champion Amanda McDowell, 2010 NCAA doubles semifinalist Yasmin Schnack, former LSU star Megan Falcon and Maureen Diaz, who finished her career at USC this spring ranked third in the country.

Three players are returning to the U.S. Open National Playoffs for a second shot at the title—Diaz, Falcon and Indonesian Olympian Romana Tedjakusuma. Those returning in a week’s time to compete in the U.S. Open National Playoffs–Mixed-Doubles Championship are Diaz, Pelletier, Schnack and Skylar Morton, who has played on Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Target Challenge, which she won in 2009.

The U.S. Open National Playoffs Men’s and Women’s Championships finals are scheduled to take place on Sunday, Aug. 21, beginning at 11:00 a.m. A one-hour documentary on the 2011 U.S. Open National Playoffs will be broadcast on Tennis Channel on Monday, Sept. 12.