| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

Two-time NCAA champion for Stanford Nicole Gibbs, 21, of Santa Monica, Calif., will return to the U.S. Open for the third consecutive year as a wild card. However, this time, Gibbs will be competing due to her results on the USTA Pro Circuit, rather than on the college tennis court. Gibbs earned the main draw wild card by winning the 2014 USTA Pro Circuit U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge.

Gibbs clinched the wild card when Madison Brengle defeated Melanie Oudin, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, in the semifinals of the USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 event in Lexington, Ky. Oudin was the only other player who could have caught Gibbs in the standings.

Earlier in the day, Gibbs defeated fellow American Irina Falconi, 7-5, 6-4, in the other semifinal in Lexington, her ninth straight match victory. Gibbs and Brengle will meet in Sunday's final, but Brengle's highest possible point total with a victory (109) wouldn't surpass Gibbs' current total of 128.

USTA Player Development awards a U.S. Open main draw wild card to the American man and American woman who earn the most ATP World Tour and WTA ranking points in a series of USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events this summer. The women’s tournaments are all $50,000 events, held in Sacramento, Calif.; Carson, Calif.; and Lexington. The men’s events are $50,000 Challengers in Binghamton and Lexington, Ky., as well as $100,000 Challengers in Vancouver, B.C., and Aptos, Calif.

Ranking points from two out of the three women’s events and two of the four men’s events are used and combined to calculate the point total and determine the U.S. Open wild card recipient. Only his or her two best tournaments will be counted in calculating the point total. In the event of a tie, the player with the best ATP or WTA singles ranking will be awarded the wild card. Only players who have not earned direct acceptance into the US Open are eligible for the wild card.

Gibbs earned 48 points today with her semifinal victory, which was added on to her 80 points earned last week by winning the singles title at the USTA Player Development $50,000 Women’s Classic in Carson.

Gibbs competed in the U.S. Open main draw as a wild card in 2012 and 2013 as the NCAA champion. She won her second consecutive NCAA singles title in 2013 as a junior for Stanford University, becoming the fifth player in history—and the fourth from Stanford—to win back-to-back NCAA Division I women’s singles championships. Gibbs also helped lead the Cardinal to its 17th NCAA team title, in 2013. As a sophomore in 2012, she defeated teammate Mallory Burdette in the NCAA singles title match and then teamed with Burdette to win the NCAA doubles championship. Following her junior season in 2013, Gibbs turned pro and competed on the USTA Pro Circuit, where she won the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Yakima, Wash., and reached the quarterfinals or better at the last four USTA Pro Circuit events of the year. This year, Gibbs won her third USTA Pro Circuit singles title in Carson and advanced to the semifinals of the ITF-level Wimbledon tune-up event in Nottingham, Great Britain. She also competed in qualifying for the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. As a junior, Gibbs reached the semifinals of the 2011 junior US Open as a qualifier.

In the men’s wild card challenge, Wayne Odesnik increased his leading point total to 77 by advancing to the semifinals at the $50,000 event in Lexington, outpacing second-place Austin Krajicek, with 16. The men’s wild card challenge kicked off last week with the Levene Gouldin & Thompson Tennis Challenger, a $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton, N.Y., where Odesnik advanced to the final, earning 48 points.