Professional players enter the Farmers Classic looking to capitalize on their careers, but for UCLA players who have to fight through qualifying to enter the tournament, it provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for improvement.
The list of Bruins trying to qualify for the event consisted of three players, including current and former members of the UCLA team.
Rising sophomore Marcos Giron and rising junior Clay Thompson, both currently members of UCLA’s men’s tennis team, competed for qualifier spots in the main singles draw, but both fell short.
Thompson defeated Giron in the first round, then lost in his match Sunday, ending his pursuit of a place in the main draw.
Bruin alumni Nick Meister and Kevin Kim joined them in their bid for a place in the main draw, with Meister advancing to the final qualifying round Monday and Kim failing to advance past the second round on Sunday.
Additionally, it was announced Saturday that Giron and Meister would be one of two pairs to make the doubles draw as wild cards.
Because their Association of Tennis Professionals rankings are not high enough, these current and former UCLA players weren’t afforded the luxury of an automatic berth into the tournament’s main draw.
Rankings are based on points acquired from results in other ATP events. Those who have enough points are automatically entered into the main draw while the rest have to play their way into the draw in qualifying rounds.
“It’s great, especially in the summer when they’re not missing any school, they’re not missing any team events,” coach Billy Martin said. “I’m tickled to death that they’re out there wanting to play tournaments whether it be this high a level tournament or some Futures- or Challengers-level tournament.”
The qualifying draw began Saturday and finishes today with four of the 32 competing players advancing to the main draw after the day’s events.
The tournament’s prestige attracts a wide and talented field of competitors to the qualifying rounds ““ many of whom will ultimately be excluded from the main draw.
Playing against such high-level competition allows both players and coaches to assess which areas of players’ games are lacking at an elite level.
“The real benefit is that it gives you a pretty good indication where your game might be breaking down, where losing the majority of your points, what certain shot is not able to hold up at the pro level,” Martin said. “That’s what they have to work on if they want a chance to play pro tennis.”
For Meister, who has already begun his pursuit of a professional career since graduating, the event provides an opportunity to further establish himself on the pro circuit.
“(The tournament is) a chance to get some wins under my belt at the ATP level, and just to get some experience at an ATP event,” said Meister, who has yet to play in an ATP event. “It’s probably a little better atmosphere than the Futures events I’ve been competing in. … I imagine there will be a lot more fans if I do end up qualifying.”
In a tournament that features competitors such as Sam Querrey and James Blake, any Bruins will likely be overshadowed if they make it through qualifying to the main draw.
Still, seeing how players at the level of Querrey and Blake go about their business is an invaluable experience for UCLA players hoping to make an impact next year in college and eventually in the professional ranks.
“The way they carry themselves is just so much different from a college athlete. The way they prepare for matches ““ everything they do, pretty much, is on such a different level than what we do,” said Thompson. “(The Farmers Classic) is really a great experience to see, and to have it in our own backyard is so fortunate for us.”