Baseline to host US Open qualifier

Several players with Gophers ties and aspirations of making the US Open will begin the journey close to home.

by Samuel Gordon

For several Gophers tennis players hopeful of making this yearâÄôs U.S. Open, the first leg of the journey starts at home.

The University of MinnesotaâÄôs Baseline Tennis Center will host the U.S. Open National Playoff Northern Sectional Tournament this Thursday through Sunday.

The tournament is part of the U.S. Open National Playoffs, which is comprised of 16 tournaments that allow eligible players ages 14 and older to attempt to qualify for the 2011 U.S. Open, held in August.

John Pratt, the director of Baseline Tennis Center since its opening in 2002, said the tournament will not only showcase Baseline, but the entire University.

âÄúIâÄôd like to think that we are one of the best places to play tennis in the upper Midwest,âÄù Pratt said. âÄúOne of the mission statements in the athletic department is to serve as a window to the University. WeâÄôre their window to the University in general.âÄù

The northern section includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Baseline submitted and won a bid to host the tournament, Pratt said.

The winner of each sectional tournament earns the right to advance to the U.S. Open National Playoffs Championships in August, which are being hosted in at Yale University.

Winning that tournament affords a player âÄî one menâÄôs singles competitor, one womenâÄôs singles and one mixed doubles pair âÄî a wildcard berth to compete in this yearâÄôs U.S. Open.

Several players with Gopher ties will be competing in this weekâÄôs event at Baseline.

2011 unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection Tobias Wernet will be competing in the menâÄôs draw. Wernet was MinnesotaâÄôs top player this past season as he led the team with 24 victories.

Senior-to-be Phillip Arndt, who posted a 21-11 record during his junior year will also be competing, as will incoming freshman and Rochester native Eric Frueh.

Incoming freshmen Aria Lambert and Julia Courter will compete in the womenâÄôs draw. Lambert, a graduate of Minnetonka High School, is a two-time state champion. Minnesota assistant coach Daria Panova will join the future Gophers in the womenâÄôs singles field.

Dana Young, former Gopher and wife of menâÄôs head coach Geoff Young, will pair with Wernet in mixed doubles.

âÄúI think itâÄôs going to be interesting and exciting,âÄù Geoff Young said. âÄúTwo former Gophers âÄî it should be interesting to see what they can do.âÄù

Current Gopher Alexa Palen will also be competing in mixed doubles, alongside Nick Crossley.