The CNMI was awarded the hosting rights for a world-ranking tournament in the first half of the 2013 season of the Junior ITF Circuit.
Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association president Jeff Race confirmed the good news in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday, saying the decision to allow the Commonwealth to host a Junior ITF tournament was made during the US Open in New York, two weeks ago.
“I believed we are the first one to get the hosting rights for the first half of the Junior ITF calendar. There will be more Junior ITF ranking events to be held next year around the world and we're honored to be chosen as one of the hosts,” said Race.
“We will form a committee to look into the preparation for this tournament. We will also work with the business community to get their support. We want to make a good impression in our first hosting job, so we can host more ITF tournaments in the future,” the NMITA added.
Race said the CNMI-hosted Junior ITF event will run from May 21 to 26 at the Pacific Islands Club with 60 to 70 players from around the world expected to compete in the Grade 5 tournament. The competition is an introduction to the Junior ITF Circuit and awards 30 ranking points to the champion, 20 to runner-up, 15 to the semifinalists, 10 to the quarterfinalist, and 5 to the losers in the Round of 16.
“We will have 32 players each in the girls and boys main draws and 16 apiece in the qualifying draws. CNMI players will get slots both in the main draws and qualifier. Hosting this Junior ITF tournament will give our young players a better shot at gaining world ranking points,” Race said.
The last CNMI junior players to get Junior ITF ranking points was Ji Hoon Heo, who is now with the Morehead State University in Kentucky and will be playing in NCAA Division I this season.
“Earning Junior ITF points is a good stepping stone toward getting a college scholarship,” Race added.
Thea Minor, Christian Miller, Rafael Jones, Negahr Rastguiy, and Mikayla Lopez competed in Junior ITF events in Fiji last month, but were eliminated right in the first round of the main draw. Jones and Minor also joined Junior ITF events in 2011, but missed ranking points. Usually, players need two to three wins in the main draw to earn ranking points.