5 min read
In December, the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas will host the inaugural Junior National Championships, with former pro Brian Wilson playing a role in the event-planning process from the very beginning.
Wilson, an NCAA champion at the University of Illinois in 2003, is the associate director of high performance at Darling Tennis Center. During his decorated career at Illinois, he teamed up with Rajeev Ram to win the 2003 doubles NCAA title and would also win 21 ITF and ATP Challenger pro titles in singles and doubles.
Starting in 2008, Wilson began his coaching career, and he has since began working for HEAD as a U.S. scout. Wilson, and the rest of the Darling Tennis Center staff, are eager to host Universal Tennis tournaments at their impressive facility, which boasts 23 courts across 11 acres, including a stadium court.
"It's really important for the club because we want to host events," Wilson told Universal Tennis. "That's part of our long-term vision: hosting different, bigger events."
The Darling Tennis Center has held tournaments for players of all ages and levels, including the best professionals in the world. This summer, the center hosted four UTR Pro Tennis Tour events, two each for men and women.
USING THE UNIVERSAL TENNIS PLATFORM
From December 3-7, the best junior players and college coaches from all over the United States will ascend on Vegas for five days of action-packed competition. Wilson was familiar with Universal Tennis long before his facility became the host site of the Junior National Pathway’s grand finale.
“The Universal Tennis system is very agile and able to adapt,” Wilson said. “That's something that's been needed during COVID. It needed to be based on the needs of players. To be able to shift and adapt your business model and your offerings have made Universal Tennis really nice to work with.”
FIVE DAYS OF OPPORTUNITY
The College Team Showcase will take place across two days beginning on Dec 3. Players ages 14-18 in boys and girls divisions will be placed into teams based on UTR Rating for dual match play. The event will also feature a college coaches panel and Q&A for players and parents.
"The college showcase is going to be a team format so they will have teammates and will be able to play singles and doubles, which is something that college coaches want to see,” Wilson said. "They want to see players interact in a team environment and also play doubles. I think this is a unique format and something that will be beneficial for everybody.”
December 5-7 is the Junior National Championships, the culmination of 16 Regional events that have played out across the fall. There will be four 16-player draws with round-robin action followed by knockout play. Winners of the 15U and 17U divisions will be eligible to receive UTR Pro Tennis Tour wild cards.
"You can play two events in six days and you're going to get a ton of matches, you're going to be on a team which is exciting, and you're going to get exposure,” Wilson said. “All those things combined just makes it a makes it really worthwhile. At a lot of other junior tournaments, kids will go and lose, and then won't even play the back draw so you're essentially only getting one match for spending $2,000 and wasting a week of your time.”
Hundreds of coaches will be in town for the ITA Coaches Convention, having meetings at the nearby JW Marriot, just a few miles from the Darling center. It'll make the five days a huge opportunity for players to impress coaches and for coaches to scout players in person.
"The ITA will have 200 college coaches here and we can give kids exposure and make the make it worthwhile for coaches,” Wilson said. “I think it's just as great for everybody.”
Players qualify for Vegas through competing at Junior Regionals or by at-large registration based on UTR Rating. Registration is open until Nov. 21.