A player list for the second annual Honolulu Challenger is a few weeks away, but the tournament dates are Jan. 23-30 at Patsy T. Mink CORP Tennis Complex. Last year Michael Russell won his record 22nd Pro Circuit singles title in Waipahu, two weeks after falling to Juan Martin Del Potro at the Australian Open.
Most of the top players here will be on their way home from Australia. Challengers, a level below the regular tour, usually draw players ranked in the top 300. Previous Challenger winners in Hawaii include Andy Roddick and James Blake.
The $50,000 events also offer a rare opportunity for local tennis players. University of Hawaii senior Dennis Lajola earned a place in the main draw by winning the Hawaii Open sectional. Lajola won the 2007 Honolulu Futures — a step below a Challenger — before he started at UH.
The Honolulu Challenger wild card tournament is Jan. 13, 15 and 16 at CORP. Entry deadline is Jan. 7 and, for a $33 entry fee, any U.S. Tennis Association member can play for a place in the main draw. For information, call 585-9534 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community tennis events will be run in conjunction with the Challenger nearly every day. Junior team tennis will be highlighted opening day and an on-court clinic for high school players is scheduled Jan. 26 at 5 p.m.
Family tennis night, an introductory team tennis clinic, is the following night and an invitational school tennis day is the morning of Jan. 28. The final weekend will feature junior clinics and exhibitions.
In other tennis news:
> Hilo’s Zandrix Acob lost in the second round of boys 14s at the 49th Junior Orange Bowl International, Sunday in Florida. Acob, seeded seventh in the 128-player draw, fell to Russian Alexander Zverez, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Acob also lost a three-set consolation match.
> Hawaii’s Jericho Grollman and Anna Kalabukhova reached the quarterfinals of the Little Mo International last week in Florida. Grollman, son of Hawaii pro Jay Grollman, won his first two rounds in boys 10s. He fell to top-seeded Israeli Yshai Oliel, who won the title.
Kalabukhova got a first-round bye in girls 8-under, won her next match, then lost to top-seeded Mai Nirundorn, from Louisville, Ky. Kalabukhova recently moved here from Colorado and is training with Hawaii Pacific coach Stefan Pampulov.