Mercer Tennis Classic returns to Macon for 10th year – GNT NEWS

For the first time ever, one of Eric Haye’s student-athletes won a match at the Mercer Tennis Classic.

MACON, Ga. (41NBC/WMGT) — For Mercer tennis head coach Eric Hayes, this is his 10th year officiating the Mercer Tennis Classic, but his 22nd year overall hosting the professional event. And for the first time in the history of the tournament, Teodora Ristic, one of Hayes’ student athletes, won.

“She lost one and almost won again yesterday. So for her confidence level, that was really good, and all her teammates were there. The football team was there. It was just a good, good experience for her,” Hayes said.

Since the NCAA relaxed its restrictions on amateurism, the tournament featured more collegiate players than usual.

“Many players in the fall are actually taken by their coaches, college coaches and they pay for it. They use it as a college date and play these professional events. We have some of the best college players in the country competing this weekend,” Hayes said.

The Mercer Tennis Classic was a pit stop for several players at the top of the game, such as current world number five Jessica Pegula, former world number 13 Jennifer Brady and former world number 30 Shelby Rogers. And right now Taylor Townsend is playing behind me, who is a finalist of the US Open in women’s doubles in 2022.

“They help a lot because you can win more games. And as I play every match, every day is a new challenge for me to do the things I’m working on. I like to take it from the practice court to the game court,” said Katie Volynets, who is ranked 119th in the world.

This tournament is just one of several that the rising pros play in, and the effort can be exhausting as they travel around the world non-stop.

“It’s so challenging to travel so many weeks in a row playing tournaments almost every week. It’s hard, but it’s really cool to travel around the world and see so many different places that I wouldn’t have been to,” said Emma Navarro, who is ranked 139th in the world.

For 15-year-old Akasha Urhobo, the professional track has been a valuable lesson so far.

“I remember my first time playing; I was terrified because I watched certain players on TV. I thought they had a different kind of power that I couldn’t experience. But they are really like normal people, but they are all different and special in their own way,” Urhobo said.

The singles and doubles finals are Sunday at the John Drew Smith Tennis Center.

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