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The first-ever Universal Tennis Junior National Pathway wrapped up on Tuesday with four national champions crowned in Las Vegas. The event featured a two-day College Showcase and three-day National Championships for boys and girls competing in the U15 and U17 divisions.
The College Showcase took place Dec. 3-4 and split all players up into eight teams of eight players, regardless of gender or age division. Everyone playing doubles and singles — just like a college dual match.
With the ITA Convention taking place at the same time, college coaches roamed the Darling Tennis Center, and those not on-site could watch the live stream, which was set up on every match court (all recordings can be viewed here).
Coaches took part in panel discussions with players and parents hearing from Oklahoma State University's Chris Young, SMU's Grant Chen, Gonzaga's Sophia Whittle, and Georgia Gwinnett's Chase Hodges.
Crowning National Champions
Sixteen Regional events played out all over the country from September to November with the winners of the 17U and 15U divisions qualifying for Nationals. The 32-player draws were filled out with at-large registrants, accepted by UTR Rating, and featured round-robin play followed by knock-out semifinals.
Brendan Boland (UTR Rating 11.34) and Nico Jamison (11.15), 17-year-old friends and training partners from the Austin Tennis Academy, were the top seeds in the 17U boys division. They faced off in Tuesday's final with Jamison beating Boland, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
"It feels great," Jamison said. "I'm happy I got to play my good friend in the finals. It was a really good match. Lots of fun. "
Jamison earns three UTR Pro Tennis Tour wild cards in 2022, while Boland will receive two. The semifinalists, James Lorenzetti and Lalith Suresh, receive one each.
"I liked how the Showcase was before the actual tournament," Jamison said. "I got to meet a lot of new coaches, which was really nice. And then
Diallo hails from Miramar, Fla., and was excited about facing new competition at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. The 15-year-old was the top seed based on UTR Rating and didn't drop a match in the Florida & Caribbean Regionals event, the College Showcase, or the National Championships, going 13-0 in National Pathway play. His biggest upset was over eventual 17U champion Jamison in College Showcase action just days prior to winning the 15U crown.
"It feels good because it's the first one so I'll go down in the record books in history," Diallo said. "It was a really fun experience."
Taking Home the Hardware
Both Gonzaga and Colorado coaches had their eye on Ante, who initially wanted to skip college tennis for the pro tour but Billie Jean King changed her mind.
"King told me not to skip
The only set Ante dropped was in the final. Same as the boys' division, she earns three main draw PTT wild cards, Joyce earns two, and semifinalists Lily Chitambar (8.03) and Madison Smith (8.43) earn one.
In the girls' 15U draw, Nicole Weng (8.64) defeated Campbell Ricci (8.66), 6-4, 6-3 to claim the National title. Both girls earn one UTR PTT wild card each. Like Diallo, Weng arrived in Vegas after winning Regionals. She was undefeated in the Southern California and Arizona Regional, and in Las Vegas, putting together a 10-0 record outside of the College Showcase.
Lisa Stone, the creator of Parenting Aces, a website for tennis parents by a tennis parent, was in Las Vegas covering all of the action. See more on her website (a free account is required to view the full stories) and watch her interviews on Instagram.
*UTR Ratings as of Dec. 2, 2021.