Thursday, December 12, 2013
All that stands between 14-year-old Meghan Kelley of Falmouth and a berth in the U.S. Open Tennis is four tennis matches.
Kelley begins play noon Wednesday in the U.S. Open National Playoffs, a mixed doubles tournament at the Connecticut Tennis Center in New Haven. She is the youngest participant among the 12 teams, each of whom qualified by winning a sectional tournament from a different region of the country.
"I'm the underdog, I guess," she said by phone from Connecticut, where she's been watching pros compete in the concurrent New Haven Open, a Women's Tennis Association event.
Kelley and Daniel Quiceno, a 32-year-old teaching pro from her club in Massachusetts, won the New England mixed doubles title in late June. Their first match in New Haven will be against Midwest champions Lilia Osterloh, 34, of Ohio and Josh Osswald, 37, of Kentucky.
Osterloh is a former pro ranked as high as 41 on the WTA Tour with more than $1 million in career earnings.
Kelley, meanwhile, has yet to enter high school.
The winners advance to a quarterfinal match against the top-seeded tandem of Hilary Barte – a 2011 Stanford graduate and a two-time NCAA doubles national champion – and Nicolas Meister – a recent UCLA grad and fellow all-American.
Whoever wins the tournament receives a wild-card entry into the main draw of the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship, that starts Aug. 29 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
"It's really tough competition," Kelley said, "but we're in the draw, so we'll see."
Kelley's summer has been a whirlwind of tennis and travel, with only six nights spent at home in Falmouth. She represented New England at national team tournaments in Louisiana (Intersectionals) and California (Junior Fed Cup) and, with partner Ellyse Hamlin of Fairfield, Conn., won the girls 16-and-under doubles title at the USTA National Clay Court Championships in Virginia Beach from an initial field of 128 teams.
Kelley, who won a gold ball to commemorate the occasion, is ranked 22nd in the country among girls 16-and-under. Although eligible, she hasn't entered a 14-and-under tournament since December. Instead, she competes in 16s and often 18s, which was the case for the Junior Fed Cup.
Regardless of this week's results, Kelley plans to join four other promising junior players for a series of international tournaments this fall in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Peru. Those will give her a world ranking.
"I'm super excited," said Kelley, who has taken Latin and French classes but none for Spanish. "Everyone's telling me that they're going to make me fluent, so we'll see."
Her first semester of high school will consist of online courses, with tentative plans to begin classes at Falmouth High in January. She said it's unlikely she will play next spring for the school team, which has won five straight Class B state titles and has a 77-match winning streak.
"I'm going to see how this goes," she said, "and then we'll see what happens next."
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org