| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

On the eve of the Australian Open, American teenagers Grace Min and Jack Sock, both U.S. Open junior champions, started the year strong by winning the USTA Pro Circuit’s season-opening women’s and men’s events in Innisbrook, Fla., and Plantation, Fla., respectively.

Min and Sock will see their professional rankings jump following the Australian Open with their results. The USTA Pro Circuit, the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, is the pathway to tour-level competition and Grand Slam events like the Australian Open for aspiring tennis players. Mardy Fish, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki and Andy Murray are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Min, 17, of Duluth, Ga., has trained with USTA Player Development since 2009 and is in her third year as a resident student at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. She won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw in Innisbrook and won eight matches in eight days to capture her first career USTA Pro Circuit singles title as an amateur. Min upset second-seeded Gail Brodsky, who trains at the USTA Training Center-East in Flushing, N.Y., 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the final after defeating fellow up-and-comer Lauren Davis, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5, in the semifinals. Min is the reigning U.S. Open girls’ singles champion.

Sock, 19, of Lincoln, Neb., did not lose a set the entire tournament as the number eight seed at the $10,000 Plantation Futures. He upset two seeds, and then defeated Australian teenager Jason Kubler, 6-1, 7-6(5), in the final. Sock captured the 2010 U.S. Open boys’ singles title, becoming the first American to win the U.S. Open boys’ title since Andy Roddick in 2000. He turned pro last summer and won the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles title with fellow American teenager Melanie Oudin. Plantation was Sock’s second career USTA Pro Circuit singles title.

The USTA Pro Circuit is scheduled to host 88 tournaments nationwide this year. Plantation and Innisbrook are two of a record 31 clay-court tournaments taking place on the 2012 USTA Pro Circuit calendar. In conjunction with USTA Player Development, the USTA Pro Circuit continues to emphasize the importance of increased training for younger players on clay, particularly at the $10,000/$25,000 level for women and $10,000/$15,000 level for men.