U players, coach join in US Open Qualifier

Six Gophers and head coach Chuck Merzbacher appeared in the tournament.

Freshmen AnneMarie Emme returns the ball to Penn State Friday, Mar. 18 in the Baseline Tennis Center.

Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

Freshmen AnneMarie Emme returns the ball to Penn State Friday, Mar. 18 in the Baseline Tennis Center.

Jack White

Members of the Minnesota men’s and women’s tennis teams and women’s head coach Chuck Merzbacher put in some extra time over the weekend to compete. 

Six Minnesota representatives and Merzbacher competed in the US Open Sectional Qualifier held at Baseline Tennis Center June 23-26, which hosted 74 competitors from 12 different states.

“I think it’s just great that Baseline hosts such a prestigious event,” Merzbacher said. “It’s a cool event to have at your home facility now. … It says a lot about the tennis center, and says a lot about 

Minneapolis and the tennis community that we are on the map for that tournament.”

Five of Merzbacher’s athletes competed in the tournament, including his daughter, rising sophomore Caitlyn Merzbacher. The duo teamed up for the second consecutive year to compete in the mixed doubles event of the tournament. The two made it to the semifinals in doubles play before losing 6-1, 6-1. 

“We always have fun when we play together,” Chuck Merzbacher said. “I think we just enjoy it and we had a good tournament; we played well together. At 51 years old, I could’ve done a little bit more in the semis. … I think she’s playing really well, so it was fun to play.” 

Caitlyn Merzbacher also played with upcoming junior Mehvish Safdar, her doubles partner, for most of the Minnesota spring season in the No. 3 doubles position. The duo lost in the finals of their doubles bracket 6-1, 6-3. 

The other mixed doubles pairing was upcoming sophomores Jesse Sprinkel and AnneMarie Emme. Sprinkel is the only Minnesota native on the men’s tennis team and was the only player on the roster to compete last weekend. The two lost in the semifinals 6-0, 6-3. 

“It was awesome,” Emme said. “I’m really good friends with him, and we’re both the same year, so it kind of just worked out perfectly. He lives here. It was just really fun playing mixed doubles in general. I’ve never played mixed doubles before that legitimately so it was different too.”

Emme, Sprinkel, Caitlyn Merzbacher and upcoming senior Maja Vujic all lost in the round of 16 in singles play. Vujic lost her final match in three sets with two of the sets going to tiebreakers. The senior lost 7-6(4), 6-7(5) and 6-2.

No. 7 seed Safdar won her match in the round of 16 to move to the quarterfinals but then lost 7-5, 6-1.

Sprinkel’s men’s doubles partner was his brother, Noah Sprinkel, a former tennis player at Coe College. The two lost in the quarterfinals of their bracket. 

Junior Caroline Ryba also competed in the tournament in the women’s doubles with Emme. The pair lost in the semifinal round. 

Though no one moved on to the next round of qualification, six of seven Minnesota representatives who competed in the qualifier won at least one match. 

“Being on your own home court, it was awesome,” Emme said. “I never thought that I’d even have a chance to do something like that, so it was cool.”