Top Youth Tennis Players Compete for The Gold Ball

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By David DiPino The Pineapple Contributing Writer Talented youth tennis players from across the nation recently visited Delray Beach and neighboring cities in Palm Beach County to compete in the USTA Boys’ 18 & 16 Clay Court National Championships. Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif., won the Boys’ 18 Singles Championship with a 7-6, 6-3 win in a match against Alexandre Rotsaert of Boca Raton. Riffice, the number-one seed, was undefeated in singles match play during the tourney. Danny Thomas of Pickerington, Ohio, captured the Boys’ 16 Singles Championships with a 6-2, 6-4 match win over Aleks Huryn of Alpharetta, Ga. Each champion won the coveted Gold Ball, given out annually to winners. While the tennis was impressive and temperatures on the courts sizzling, it was evident that the developing storyline for the tourney was the 192 players from as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii. This ninth edition of what tournament organizers slated as #ClayatTheBeach was not only a chance for the winner of the Boys’ 18 Singles Championships to earn a wildcard berth into a qualifying tournament for the Delray Beach Open, ATP 250 World Tour event in February 2016, but also a singles main wildcard draw into the 2015 U.S. Open Juniors and a Futures Event. According to tournament organizers, the Boys’ 16 Singles Champion will receive a singles main draw wildcard at a USTA Men’s Futures Event. Doubles champions also won Gold Ball awards. For the Boys’ 18 Doubles Championships, Sam Riffice once again won with teammate Vasil Kirkov of Tampa 6-3, 6-4 over William Genesen of Tulsa, Okla., and Jonathan Small of Zionsville, Ind. Blake Croyder of Marietta, Ga., and Bradley Frye of Overland, Kan., defeated Aleksander Kovacevic of Boca Raton and Robet Maciag of Sterling, Va., 7-6, 6-4, for the Boys’ 16 Doubles Championship. Players competed at several local tennis sites during the weeklong tourney. Matches were played at the main host site, Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center, Hunters Run Country Club in Boynton Beach, Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton and Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton. Matches were free to watch during the tournament thanks to sponsors including the city of Delray Beach, Palm Beach Sports Commission, Florida Sports Foundation, Prince Global Sports, IMPACT Sports Performance, Sky Med, Kirschbaum USA and Wilson. Margie J. Walden, a board member with the Palm Beach Sports Commission, said during the tournament that 1,600 hotel rooms were booked in Palm Beach County during the tournament, with an economic impact of $1 million to the area. There was also a report that 100 college tennis coaches were scouting for future athletes at the tournament.