Future stars in women's tennis are but a short distance away this week.
Competition opened Tuesday at the McMullen Tennis Complex in the Challenger of Clearwater. Players ranked from No. 107 in the world to No. 242 will compete through Sunday in a 32-player singles tournament and 16-team doubles tournament.
Among the aspiring professionals are top-seed Jane Chi of Idaho, who was ranked in the 200s last year and has been as high as in the 60s.
"This is a good circuit tournament with lots of good players," said Billie Lipp, one of the tournament directors. "Even the qualifying tournament, with cutoffs of players ranked at No. 454 _ that in itself shows this will be a tough tournament for anyone to win."
The USTA introduced the circuit in 1982 primarily to allow players to play more matches and to earn points for ranking.
Kelly McCain of Wesley Chapel is one of those players with hopes of honing her game, raising her level of play and earning a point here and there. McCain, a junior at Saddlebrook Academy, was given one of the two wild cards and looks forward to the challenge.
"I just want to gain some more playing experience and get more matches under my belt," said McCain, currently Florida's top 18-and-under player.
"Playing in these events _ and I've played in them the last four weeks _ is like playing the toughest junior tournament every time you go out."
For information about the tournament, call (727) 669-1919.
K-SWISS MASTERS: The inaugural 2000 K-Swiss Masters Championships were held last weekend at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater.
Tracy Viebrock in the 5.0 and Fran Cooperwasser in the 4.0 joined Pinellas' Hope Plunket in the 2.5 and Yvette Bean in the 3.5 with straight-set title wins. Michael Steiner (3.0), Gary Needleman (4.5-minus) and Matt Laccabue (5.0) were straight-set champions along with Pinellas' Greg Tournant (5.5), Mark Whitnell (4.5), John Bean (4.0-minus) and Philip Carollo (3.5).
Three-set winners were: Laura Hungiville (3.0), Debby Beardsley (3.5-minus), Dana Vicander (4.0-minus), Leanne Hoffman (4.5-minus), Mary Beth Servie (4.5) J.D. Smith (2.5), Jeff Pippen (3.5-minus) and Pete Jernigan (4.0).
The K-Swiss spring season will include women's and men's singles and doubles and mixed. Registration continues through Feb. 11. For details, call Jeni Roberts at (727) 865-0615.
PLAYERS AT SPTC: Pasco players earned four singles titles and were finalists in four others in last month's SPTC Junior Championships in St. Petersburg. Three others reached the consolation final.
Winning were Jessica Svoboda in the girls 10-and-under, Sukhwa Young in the boys 18s, Sir-Yosef Bravo in the 12s and Enomoto Naoaki in the 10s. Finalists included Benjamin Rufer (18s), Dillon Brozyna (16s), Malko Enomoto (14s) and Zoe Kent (12s). Martina Schultz and Ursula Lomelin won in straight sets in the girls 14s and 16s consolation, respectively.
SUPER SENIOR CIRCUIT: The Racquet Club of St. Petersburg hosts a men's singles and doubles tournament this weekend. Five-year age divisions, from 55 to 90, are offered.
Four events will be offered in the area with points earned for each match won. The top four in each age division will be recognized at the end of the circuit year.
For information, call John Haggar at (727) 527-6553 before Thursday.
MEN'S UPDATE: An Innisbrook 3-0 win over Dunedin last weekend and a Timber Pines loss to Countryside clinched the District 12 Senior Men's 3.5 North Division for Innisbrook.
This is the final week for the 3.5 senior men's competition and will be followed by a playoff among the three division winners. In super senior competition, Joe Gari's Innisbrook's team won its second of two matches with a 2-1 win over Royal Racquet Club.