MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The U.S. Open is the biggest event in American tennis. It’s later this summer in New York.
Until then, at 13 sectional qualifying tournaments across the country, players are taking the first step toward trying to make it. One of those tournaments, the USTA Northern Qualifier, is this weekend in Minneapolis.
“Every American’s dream is to play in the US Open,” said Alexis Nelson of St. Paul. “So that’s why I’m here.”
With every stroke and every step, Nelson is getting closer.
If you win the USTA Northern Qualifier, which Nelson has the chance to do on Sunday, you go to the national qualifying tournament in Connecticut.
“That’s something I’ve really dreamed about since I started playing,” she said.
Win that, you get to play in the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament.
And win enough matches there, you’ll be one of 16 who make it to the actual U.S. Open in New York.
“So this is kind of the qualifier for the qualifier for the qualifier,” she said with a laugh.
Regardless of how far she makes it this year, she’s just beginning to reach her potential. Nelson is only 15 years old, and she’s already one of the best young players in the entire country.
She doesn’t turn 16 until August, but she’s ranked 5th in the nation in the 16 division — good enough to be the kind of person who tailored her schooling around her tennis schedule. She attended her first two years of high school online to carve out more time to travel to tournaments.
And to practice. Oh, the practice.
“This past school year, since it was a lot of work, I was only practicing maybe two hours a day, possibly 3-4 on the weekends,” Nelson said. “But now that it’s summer, we’ve been trying to get out four hours a day.”
She’ll be going to a traditional high school this fall, but that doesn’t mean Nelson will be joining the high school team. Frankly, she’s too good, and has bigger competition to focus on.
For one of the best young players in the entire country, a Division I college is a given. But she’s got her sights set even higher.
“I am really interested in playing pro tournaments,” she said. “Pro tennis.”