christian.malone@gaflnews.com



VALDOSTA -- Valdosta's tennis courts will be overrun with youth tennis players the next few days.

The Georgia-Florida State Junior Open began this weekend. Tennis players from the Peach State and Sunshine State will journey to Valdosta to compete in one of the state's premier junior tennis tournaments.

This is a big tournament for junior tennis players, where a good showing can really help a player's junior ranking.

"When a junior tennis player wants to be ranked, he has to play in at least two two-point tournaments," said Valdosta State tennis coach John Hansen, organizer of the tournament. "Two-point tournaments are the biggest; most tournaments are just one point. This is the first two-point tournament of the year in the state of Georgia, so we attract a good number of players."

It's also the only tournament sanctioned in both Florida and Georgia. It has also attracted players from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. A good percentage of the players will come from the Atlanta area.

This year's tournament will have 250 players competing. There are five age groups: 10-under, 12-under, 14-under, 16-under, and 18-under.

The tournament is scheduled to run from until Friday, but Hansen says they hope to finish it by Thursday.

With 250 players and five age groups, one site is not enough to hold all the matches. Five sites will be utilized: Valdosta State University, Lowndes High, McKey Park, Stone Creek and Valdosta Country Club. VSU will be the main site.

"We could not hold this tournament without the work of a lot of great people's help," Hansen said. "That includes Tad Evans and Zane Ally at McKey Park and Les Bass at Stone Creek, who've allowed us to use their tennis courts this week."

Every player will be guaranteed at least two matches in the tournament. Once a player loses, he's out of the main draw, but moves into the consolation tournament.

Trophies will be given out to the top six finishers in each age group.

Valdosta State University has benefitted from hosting the Georgia-Florida State Junior Open. It has exposed countless future college students to Valdosta State's scenic campus. Some actually have ended up at VSU.

"I've seen kids walking around campus wearing Georgia-Florida Junior Open t-shirts, and I'll ask them where they got them, and they'll tell me they played in the tournament," Hansen said.

Hansen also points out that it brings visitors and visitor dollars to Valdosta, as well as showing off the city to hundreds of potential tourists.

Hansen's college team has benefited, too. It's not why he holds the tournament, but it presents him a great scouting opportunity. Hansen has recruited players who competed in the tournament before. In fact, last year's 18-under champion, Matt Anderson, is now a member of VSU's tennis team.



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