Tara Iyer may have home-court advantage at the weeklong USTA Pro Circuit Women's $25,000 Challenger, but she also will be the event's youngest competitor.
The 15-year-old, who trains at the Tennis Center at College Park, where the event starts today, beat fellow high schooler Taka Bertrand during a pre-qualifier tournament for the host Tennis Center's wild-card slot in the main draw. Iyer, who is No. 66 in the world junior rankings, plans to go on the professional circuit full time and hopes to reach the top 10 in the rankings.
But, for now, she has to conquer her third pro tournament.
"I mean, these are my home courts," said Iyer, who also played in the Challenger last year. "I feel comfortable playing in them. My whole family will be watching. It will be nice for my family to see one of my tournaments because I usually play abroad."
Bertrand, who also trains at the Tennis Center and is from Great Falls, earned a spot in the qualifying event, along with Maryland sophomore Marianne Baker.
The three local names are set to face some lower-level pros, players who are familiar to fans of NCAA women's tennis. Joining Iyer, Bertrand and Baker are two-time defending NCAA singles champion Amber Liu and former Southern California all-American Jewel Peterson. Liu is ranked 265th on the WTA Tour, and Peterson 215th.
But the tournament won't be limited to big-time collegiate players from the United States. Some international names will show up, including Australia's Jaslyn Hewitt, whose brother is former top-ranked men's player Lleyton Hewitt.