This year’s U.S. Open was like no other, with strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place and no fans on-site, but in true U.S. Open fashion, the stellar competition and players’ hunger to win shined through. Several Lake Nona residents impressed tennis fans across the world with their remarkable performance in the tournament.
“We are incredibly proud of all of the American players who competed at this year’s U.S. Open,” said Martin Blackman, USTA general manager, player development. “We’ve seen consistent growth and success in both the men and women’s side and are excited about the future of American tennis. Our Lake Nona community should be very proud of the performance of the players based here at our national campus.”
Leading the group is Jennifer Brady, who made it to her first Grand Slam semifinal, defeating Anna Blinkova (Russia), CiCi Bellis (USA), Caroline Garcia (France), Angelique Kerber (Germany), and Yulia Putintseva (Kazakhstan) along the way, before losing to No. 4 seed and eventual 2020 U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka in the semifinals.
Through five rounds in New York, Brady did not lose a set. Brady has really come into her own and has shown the world what she is made of – playing confident tennis with a huge serve, power, and a great ability to mix things up with her shots.
Brady, who is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, now lives in Lake Nona and has trained extensively at the USTA National Campus.
The 21-year-old rising star CiCi Bellis also had a good run at her first U.S. Open after not playing for more than 18 months while undergoing four surgeries. The former world No. 35 received a wild card into the Western & Southern Open qualifying tournament, in addition to the U.S. Open main draw. Bellis won her first round match against Tamara Korpatsch of Germany before losing in the second round against her friend Brady.
World No. 14 Madison Keys made it to the third round playing nearly flawless tennis, winning her first two matches in 55 minutes and 53 minutes, respectively. Unfortunately, the 27-year-old and runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open was forced to retire in the second set of her third round match due to injury.
Another Lake Nona resident who turned heads at this year’s U.S. Open was 20-year-old Ann Li. She is showing real potential this year, and that includes an impressive Round 3 showing in New York. Li won her first two rounds against Arantxa Rus (Netherlands) and upset No. 13 seed Alison Riske (USA).
Dana Mathewson, world No. 11 in women wheelchair tennis singles and No. 8 in women’s doubles, competed at the 2020 U.S. Open for the fourth time. Mathewson, originally from San Diego, moved to Orlando to train at the USTA National Campus, and she has thrived in the sport currently as the top American female wheelchair player. Mathewson lost in her first-round singles competition against Marjolein Buis (Netherlands) and in doubles against No. 2 seeded duo Yui Kamiji (Japan)/Jordanne Whiley (United Kingdom).
In the men’s singles main draw, two young Lake Nona residents competed – Mackenzie McDonald and Ulises Blanch. McDonald missed last year’s U.S. Open due to an injury, but he was back competing healthily this year. The 25-year-old had great success with doubles partner Christopher Eubanks, making it all the way to the quarterfinals of the doubles draw. They lost their quarterfinal match against the third-seeded pair Rajeev Ram (USA) and Joe Salisbury (United Kingdom). Blanch was one of 10 players who made their U.S. Open debut this year after he received a wild card into the main draw.
Since opening its doors in 2017, the USTA National Campus’ Player Development has welcomed some of the best up-and-coming and current stars of American tennis. If this year’s U.S. Open was any indicator of what’s next for American tennis, the future looks brighter than ever.
For more information about the USTA National Campus and how you can also play tennis safely, you can visit ustanationalcampus.com.
Photos by USTA