Three Gophers head to elite singles tournament in Tennessee looking to gauge progress

The ITA All-American Championships, held in Chattanooga, Tenn., will include many of the country’s top players.

Mike Mullen

D.J. Geatz said he is hoping that next week is the hardest one he’ll ever have on the tennis court.

Geatz, Nick Edlefsen and Avery Ticer are all competing in the ITA All-American Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn. The tournament starts tomorrow with prequalifying, and will run through Oct. 10.

“I’ve played in huge tournaments before, but never to this extent,” Geatz said. “This will be a great test as to what kind of shape I’m in. Hopefully, I’ll get to test myself to the fullest and play some next week.

“But if I make it that far, it’s going to be brutal.”

Geatz and Edlefsen will need to win three matches just to get a shot at qualifying. If they survive three more rounds, they’ll make it to the tournament’s main draw of 64 players.

Meanwhile, Ticer has an easier route to the championships. Thanks to his win at the ITA National Summer Championships, he’s already entered into the main draw.

“That’s good to know that I’ll be fresh (when the main draw starts),” Ticer said. “You can look at it as, ‘(Qualifiers) are going to be playing pretty well when they make it to the main draw.’ But you can also say that they’ve gotta be pretty tired by then, too.”

Coach David Geatz said that by the time Ticer is in action, only the top players will still be around.

“This is going to be a tremendous tournament in terms of talent,” David Geatz said. “Everybody (Avery) plays is going to be a great player.”

Ticer said he welcomes the challenge. Already in his career, he’s played Benjamin Becker of Baylor – last year’s national singles champion – and Mississippi’s Catalin Gard, currently the top-ranked player. Although he lost both matches, the experience has given Ticer the confidence to face the best players in the country.

“A lot of the guys ranked high right now are guys I played against in juniors,” Ticer said. “And I think I’ve gotten a lot better just in the time I’ve been at Minnesota. I can’t wait – I’m about to jump out of my skin to get out there and play some of them.”

Meanwhile, for Edlefsen and D.J. Geatz, it might be challenge enough to still play when Ticer arrives Thursday. But D.J. Geatz said he knows what it would mean to him to advance to the main draw – or further.

“(If I make it) I’d be able to categorize myself as one of the best players,” D.J. Geatz said. “This is going to be a great opportunity for me to see what level I’m at. (This tournament) could open tons of doors for me.”