By Tommy Keeler Jr.
A golden opportunity awaits for any tennis fan out there this week.
An International Tennis Federation women's tennis tournament is being held this week in Charlottesville at the Boar's Head Inn. The tournament, the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic, has been held there every year since 2002.
It is named after the Dave Matthews Band member, who sponsors the tournament, which is free for all spectators.
The quarterfinals are today with the semifinals set for Saturday and the finals on Sunday.
The tournament is part of the ITF Circuit, which is sort of like the minor leagues of tennis.
Much like the minor league is in baseball, the ITF is where most young promising stars get their start, and there's also usually some top players who have been injured and are trying to make their comebacks on the circuit.
Many of tennis' biggest names have played on the ITF Circuit, from Maria Sharapova to Andy Roddick to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The tournament in Charlottesville has also had a strong list of players over the last 10 years.
In 2002, Jelena Jankovic lost in the final there. Jankovic would go on to be No. 1 in the world, and make a grand slam final. Several years later, Anna Kournikova played the last single match of her career there. One of the highlights of that forgettable match was a fan driving by the courts blaring some Enrique Iglesias on the radio.
In 2006, Dominika Cibulkova, current No. 15 in the world, made it to the finals. One of my all-time favorites, American Ashley Harkleroad, who would later become more famous as a Playboy cover model, won a doubles title in Charlottesville. Australian and current No. 9 in the world Sam Stosur reached the semifinals there as well. Several years later she would win the U.S. Open.
This year's tournament has another strong field led by American CoCo Vandeweghe, who is the neice of former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe. Coco Vandeweghe is ranked No. 99 in the world.
One of the highlights of Vandeweghe's career was advancing to the Stanford WTA final last year, where she lost in two very close sets to current world No. 1 Serena Williams. Vandeweghe been ranked as high as No. 69 in the world.
Vandeweghe has been struggling this year, and has a 2013 record of 2-6 entering this week's tournament.
The No. 2 seed for the tournament is 25-year-old German Tatjana Maria, who is ranked 103 in the world.
Some other notables include American and No. 4 seed Alexa Glatch, who entered this tournament nine years ago as a 14-year old and has always been a fan favorite in Charlottesville.
The sixth-seeded Shuai Zhang from China has had some solid wins in her career, and has also been a solid doubles player. She was part of the doubles team that ended the career of Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open last year.
The eighth seed American Jessica Pegula is currently coached by Michael Joyce, former coach of Sharapova. In fact there are several famous coaches who will be with their players in Charlottesville.
Former American player Kathy Rinaldi coaches 18-year old American Samantha Crawford. Former men's pro and renowned coach Harold Solomon coaches 18-year old American Alexandra Kiick, who is the daughter of former Miami Dolphin Jim Kiick. Rick Macci, who has coached Venus and Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati, is coaching American Jan Abaza.
Also the ninth seed is former Georgia Tech standout Irina Falconi, who made a run to the fourth round at the U.S. Open in 2011.
There is even a little local flavor in the tournament as Emily Harman was in the qualifying draw, though she lost in the second round. Harman, who attended Petersburg (W.Va.) High School, was a state champion in high school, and also trained for five years at Stonebrook Racquet and Fitness Club in Winchester. Harman went to Syracuse University, where she played at No. 1 for four years under head coach and former French Open doubles champion Luke Jensen.
So, whether you're interested in seeing a potential fresh new face, a top of the line coach or just really good tennis there's is truly something for everyone at the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic this week.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org