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Star-Studded College Event

Current college players battle for pro wild cards Dec. 15-18

Brian Ormiston  |  December 10, 2018

Some of the best American collegiate student-athletes will travel to the USTA National Campus and the Collegiate Center for the Blizzard Wild Card Challenge, with the tournament set for Dec. 15-18. The men’s winner will receive a main-draw wild card to the Orlando ATP 80 Challenger event that starts Dec. 31, while the women’s champion will earn a spot in the main draw of a 2019 $60K tournament.


Along with wild cards, the student-athletes also will be competing for a guaranteed spot on the 2019 Collegiate National Team. A member of the squad receives grant money to travel to professional tournaments and coaching from USTA Player Development staff. 


Eight men and eight women will be divided into two groups for round-robin play, with the top two in each group advance to the semifinals on Dec. 17. The finals will take place Dec. 18.


The event is being hosted by USTA Player Development and the USTA Collegiate Department.


Live streaming will be available on, and live scoring will accompany the semifinals and finals.


Find below the detailed schedule of the tournament, as well as recent notes and information on all the competing student-athletes (rankings as Dec. 6).


2018 Blizzard Wild Card Challenge Schedule


Saturday, Dec. 15

3 p.m. – Round-Robin Play

Sunday, Dec. 16

10 a.m. – Round-Robin Play

4 p.m. – Round-Robin Play

Monday, Dec. 17

10 a.m. – Women’s Semifinals and Consolation

To by followed by – Men’s Semifinals

Tuesday, Dec. 18

10 a.m. – Finals and Consolation


Player Bios




Kelly Chen – Duke – So. – Cerritos, Calif.

-WTA: 817

-UTR: 11.85

-2018 Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year

-Delivered a quarterfinal performance at the Fort Worth $25K in July


Sara Daavettila – North Carolina – Jr. – Williamston, Mich.


-UTR: 11.81

-Won the 2018 ITA Carolinas Regional in October, winning six straight matches including five in straight sets

-2017 Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year


Salma Ewing – USC – Fr. – Lakewood, Calif.

-WTA: 686

-UTR: 11.72

-Ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018 by

-Advanced to the semifinals of the Fort-de-France $15K in January, was a quarterfinalist in the Osprey $25K in May and won the Stellenbosch (South Africa) $15K last year


Michaela Gordon – Stanford – So. – Saratoga, Calif.

-WTA: 1003

-UTR: 11.73

-2018 ITA National Rookie of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year

-Qualified for the Lubbock $25K in September, and advanced through Pro Circuit qualifying five times in 2017 as she has a career-high WTA ranking of 478


Makenna Jones – North Carolina – Jr. – Greenville, S.C.


-UTR: 11.96

-2018 All-Atlantic Coast  Conference First Team and the 2018 ACC Championship MVP

-Semifinalist at the 2018 Riviera/ITA All-Americans and the Oracle ITA Fall Championships


Ashley Lahey – Pepperdine – Jr. – Hawthorne, Calif.

-WTA: 625

-UTR: 11.87

-2018 NCAA Singles runner-up

-Reached the semifinals of the Sumter and Baton Rouge $25K tournaments in June

-Member of the 2018 Master’U BNP Paribas Team USA roster which captured first place in France in the fall


Brienne Minor – Michigan – Sr. – Mundelein, Ill.


-UTR: 11.63

-Recovered from an injury last season, went on to go 3-0 in the Big Ten Tournament and was 7-2 this past fall

-2017 NCAA singles champion


Sophie Whittle – Gonzaga – Sr. – Nipomo, Calif.


-UTR: 11.91

-2016, 2017 and 2018 All-West Coast Conference First Team

-2018 Riviera/ITA All-American champion




Alafia Ayeni – Cornell – So. – San Diego, Calif.

-ATP: 627

-UTR: 14.27

Went through qualifying to win the Niagara $25K in September, and was a finalist at the New York Open College Wild Card Tournament in November

-2018 Ivy League Rookie of the Year


Brandon Holt – USC – Jr. – Rolling Hills, Calif.

-ATP: 737

-UTR: 14.31

-Captured the Claremont $15K title in September, and reached at least the quarterfinals of two $25K events last season

-Member of the 2018 Master’U BNP Paribas Team USA roster which captured first place in France in the fall


John McNally – Ohio State – So. – Cincinnati, Ohio

-ATP: 975

-UTR: 13.90

-2018 Big Ten Rookie of the Year and 2018 All-Big Ten First Team

-Quarterfinalist at the Champaign $25K in July


Emil Reinberg – Georgia – Sr. – Atlanta, Ga.

-ATP: 1063

-UTR: 14.12

-Received a BT&T Atlanta Open ATP 250 main-draw wild card and faced Mikhail Youzhny in July. Prior to that, he was a semifinalist at the Tulsa $25K in June

-Member of the 2018 Master’U BNP Paribas Team USA roster which captured first place in France in the fall


Sam Riffice – Florida – Fr. – Roseville, Calif.

-ATP: 722

-UTR: 14.06

-Finalist at the Tulsa $25K in June, and got through to at least the quarterfinals in two other $25K events this year

-In 2017, won eight consecutive matches to get to the finals of the Vero Beach $15K, before winning seven straight matches to reach the finals of the Bucharest (Romania) $15K


Alex Rybakov – TCU – Sr. – Coral Springs, Fla.

-ATP: 535

-UTR: 14.47

-2016, 2017 and 2018 All-Big 12 First Team

-Went on a 12-match winning streak from June-July, winning the Buffalo $25K and the Rochester $15K in the process, and won a qualifying match in the Newport ATP 250 in July


Keegan Smith – UCLA – So. – San Diego, Calif.

-ATP: 1231

-UTR: 13.99

-2018 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year

-Went through four qualifying matches and won his first-round decision in the Claremont $15K in September. Last year he won six straight matches to advance to the semifinals of the Bakersfield $25K 


Tanner Smith – USC – Sr. – Long Beach, Calif.


-UTR: 13.45

-Went 11-5 for USC in the fall, highlighted by five straight wins in the ITA Southwest Regionals where he lost a tight three-setter to teammate Logan Smith in the finals 

-Won at least one qualifying match in all five Pro Circuit events he played in 2017