Clearwater Women's Open is long on talent

Many of the world's rising stars will be competing.

By Nancy Morgan, Times Correspondent
Published February 19, 2008

CLEARWATER - Catch a glimpse of the future of women's tennis this week at the Sheriff Jim Coats fourth annual Clearwater Women's Open.

The tournament begins today at the Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex, south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, off Edenville Avenue. It is one of 95 USTA Pro Circuit contests this year.

Singles competition includes 32 players, all with hopes of improving their ranking and increasing their opportunities to advance to higher-level competitions.

The doubles field includes 16 teams. Prize money totals $25,000, with $3,000 going to the singles winner.

Milagros Sequera of Venezuela, ranked 101st in the world, is the top seed in the singles competition.

Sequera, 28, joined the tour in 1999 and won gold medals in the 2003 and 2007 Pan American Games.

Second-seed Asha Rolle of Miami Shores was the champion in the 2005 Clearwater Women's Open. Rolle, 23, is currently ranked No. 124.

"You know you have a pretty strong draw when the main draw cutoff is No. 240," said Billie Lipp, a veteran USTA tour supervisor overseeing the tournament with Dessie Samuels.

"We should see some very competitive tennis out there."

Players represent a variety of countries, from No. 3 Shuai Zhang of China to No. 4 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.

Among the Americans is Alexis Gordon from Connecticut. Gordon, a 2006 University of Florida graduate and 2004 NCAA Southeastern Conference player of the year, won last week's wildcard tournament to earn a spot in this week's main draw action.

Competition continues all week and is free to the public until Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's finals, when a $5 donation is requested. Profits from the tournament benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, which served more than 11,000 children last year.

To learn more

For specific playing times, visit www.clearwateropen.com or call the McMullen Tennis Complex at (727) 669-1919. To learn more about the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, visit www.bgca.org.