| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

The USTA has announced that registration for all 16 U.S. Open National Playoffs Sectional Qualifying Tournaments opens on Tuesday, March 15. Players age 14 and older can register for singles competition and/or mixed doubles, which was added to the U.S. Open National Playoffs this year. Registration deadlines for the 16 sectional qualifying events vary by tournament.

The U.S. Open National Playoffs returns for a second year as a series of sectional qualifying tournaments, held in 16 USTA Sections throughout the country, culminating with the U.S. Open National Playoffs—Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Championships held during the New Haven Open at Yale, an Olympus U.S. Open Series women’s event, in August. The U.S. Open National Playoffs mixed doubles champions will receive a main draw wild card into the 2011 US Open. The U.S. Open National Playoffs men’s and women’s singles champions again earn a wild card into the U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament, held the week prior to the U.S. Open.

Registration for each of the 16 sectional qualifying tournaments is available at www.usta.com/tennislink. The entry fee for each of the sectional qualifying tournaments is $125 for singles and $150 for each mixed doubles team ($75 per player). All players competing must have a current USTA membership valid through Aug. 29, 2011.

Registration for the U.S. Open National Playoffs is held in conjunction with the USTA’s launch of Youth Registration events in March, which is the USTA's largest youth tennis recruitment effort to register children for spring and summer tennis programs nationwide. Since Feb. 28, more than 700 tennis facilities have taken/or will host a Youth Registration event. This month also marks when adults can begin registering for spring and summer USTA League teams. USTA League is the country’s largest recreational tennis league with more than 330,000 players competing in matches.

“The US Open National Playoffs provides a unique opportunity for tennis players to get closer to the U.S. Open,” said Jon Vegosen, USTA chairman of the board and president. “Now in its second year, we expect to attract some of the top talent, including junior players, from communities across the country to compete for this one-of-a-kind experience.”

“By expanding the U.S. Open National Playoffs to include mixed doubles for the first time, the USTA is offering even more players an opportunity to fulfill their dreams of competing in the U.S. Open,” said Jim Curley, chief professional tournaments officer and U.S. Open tournament director. “Building on last year’s success, we are expecting an even deeper talent pool to compete for a shot at history.”

A player may only enter and compete in one sectional qualifying tournament during a calendar year; players competing in men’s singles or women’s singles and mixed doubles may opt to compete at different sectional qualifying tournaments (one for singles and one for mixed doubles). The draw size at each sectional qualifying tournament will be a maximum of 256 for each singles event and a maximum of 128 teams for mixed doubles. Participants can be of any playing level, from aspiring novice to seasoned professional, giving everyone an equal opportunity to advance.

The 16 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions from each sectional qualifying tournament will advance to the US Open National Playoffs–Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles Championship. All three tournaments will be held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale, an Olympus U.S. Open Series event. The U.S. Open National Playoffs–Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles Championship will be held Aug. 18-21. The U.S. Open National Playoffs–Mixed Doubles Championship will be held Aug. 24-27.

Last year, the USTA created the U.S. Open National Playoffs to expand the footprint of the U.S. Open by providing the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a berth into the U.S. Open. In all, 1,232 players (859 men, 373 women) competed in the inaugural edition of the 2010 U.S. Open National Playoffs, ranging from experienced professionals (including two-time ATP singles champion Jeff Tarango and Russian Alina Jidkova, who reached a career-high number 51 in 2005) to recreational players of all talents and walks of life (including Olympic skier Bode Miller, former Major League Baseball player Todd Walker and Rabbi Gregg Ackerman of Long Island, N.Y.).

The U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament will be held Aug. 23-26 and the U.S. Open Mixed Doubles Championship begins Aug. 31 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The 2011 U.S. Open begins on Aug. 29.