Points will be at a premium over the next four days on Hilton Head Island, where some of the South's top junior tennis players will have a chance to improve their ranking even more than usual, thanks in part to a recent USTA rule change.
The organization restructured its tournaments this year, redirecting some of the national level points back down to sectional events. That means an influx of points at this weekend's heavily-weighted Van Der Meer Southern Winter Closed, which will take place at tennis courts all across the island.
"It's kind of a push back from the national level tournament to get more sectional level players a chance to get these bigger point totals," Van Der Meer tournament director Jim Stubbs said.
The restructured points system means a boost in quality players arriving in the Lowcountry to fight for southern and national ranking points. The Southern Winter Closed will have 128-player and 64-player draws in the boys 18's singles and doubles, respectively, while close to 120 singles participants will compete in the girls 18's.
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All nine Southern section states will be represented in the Southern Level 1, National Level 3 tournament.
"We encourage everybody to come out and see some of the top juniors that are going to be going on to college scholarships," Stubbs said. "Many have aspirations to turn pro.
"The level of tennis is just going to be impressive -- you can quote me on that."
The change won't affect the Lowcountry just this weekend, either. The USTA also informed Van Der Meer that instead of the annual Bullfrog-sponsored tournament it hosts at the end of every April, the tennis academy will now host the Southern Section Level 1-A championships, one tier down from the tennis being played this weekend.
It all means a boost for Hilton Head Island and the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy.
"It's huge," Stubbs said. "It's great exposure for the academy. We are hosting any of the players who want come in early for training, which we've had a number of them sign up to come experience our academy and get ready for matches (Saturday)."
Van Der Meer Shipyard will serve as the host site over the next four days, with matches also slated to be played at Palmetto Dunes, Sea Pines, Port Royal and Long Cove courts. The tournament ends with Tuesday's finals, which will take place on the clay courts of Shipyard.
Action gets underway each morning at 8 a.m. with the finals slated for a 9 a.m. start.
Van Der Meer Southern Winter Closed
What: A four-day tennis tournament featuring close to 250 of the Southern Section's top tennis players.
Where: Matches will be played at Palmetto Dunes, Sea Pines, Port Royal and Long Cove, while Van Der Meer Shipyard serves as the host site.
When: 8 a.m. Saturday through Monday, 9 a.m. Tuesday