George Fox Assistant Niculescu to Headed to Atlanta for Chance to Play in U.S. Open

George Fox Assistant Niculescu to Headed to Atlanta for Chance to Play in U.S. Open

Courtesy: George Fox Athletics

NEWBERG, Ore. - George Fox University men’s tennis assistant coach Angelo Niculescu will be one of 16 players from around the country competing in the U.S. Open National Playoffs Men’s Championship on July 22-25 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Atlanta, Ga., with the winner earning a singles wild card entry into the U.S. Open.

Niculescu qualified for the trip to Atlanta by winning the U.S. Open National Playoffs Pacific Northwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament held on June 18-20 at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Beaverton, Ore. In his run to the title, he defeated Joe Cadogan of Lauderhill, Fla., 6-5, 7-5 in the first round; David Kovas of Bozeman, Mont., 6-1, 6-2 in the second round, Donny Reeder of Port Orange, Fla., 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals; Alex Rovello of Portland, Ore., 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals; and Walker Kehrer of Pacific Palisades, Calif., 6-1, 6-3 in the finals.

To help defray the cost of travel to Atlanta for Niculescu and his wife Tara, George Fox coach Neal Ninteman organized a tennis exhibition at the GFU campus courts Monday afternoon and invited the public to attend. Niculescu played a set against Rovello, the defending four-time Oregon 5A state champion from Portland’s Cleveland High School, then teamed with Scott Barnett, the Bruins’ two-time All-Northwest Conference No. 1 player, for a doubles set against Rovello and the Bruins’ No. 3 player, Juan Munoz.

“I am grateful to Coach Ninteman and to all my friends and fans who came out to support me today,” Niculescu told the crowd following the exhibition. “I will be facing some of the toughest competition I have ever faced in Atlanta, but I will try to make everyone in the Pacific Northwest proud.”

This is the first year that a nation-wide tournament for a wild card berth in the U.S. Open has been staged by the United States Tennis Association. The Open is set for Aug. 30-Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

“I wasn’t even aware that the USTA was offering this opportunity until a friend of mine e-mailed me about it and sent me a link to sign up,” admitted Niculescu. “Normally you have to be in the top 90 or so players in the world to even have hopes of playing in the Open, but with an opening like this, I thought, ‘Why not try it?’ With all the teaching I’ve been doing, I had not played in a lot of tournaments recently, so I wasn’t sure if I was in good enough tennis shape, but I felt good the further I went. I don’t know yet who I will be facing in Atlanta, but I do know that most of them are players still on the tour, so it will be a real challenge for me.”

Niculescu, a native of Romania, played intercollegiately at the University of South Carolina. Upon graduation in 2004, he joined the Association of Tennis Professionals and rose quickly on the ATP Tour to No. 625 (out of 1,600 world-ranked players) in only 10 months. He was named the Men’s Open Player of the Year on the Pacific Northwest Tour in 2008 and 2009, and is currently ranked No. 1 in the USTA / Pacific Northwest Men’s Open division.

Now residing in Lake Oswego, Ore., Niculescu has been the head teaching pro at the Cascade Athletic Club in Gresham, Ore., since the winter of 2007-08. He was invited to help the George Fox program by Ninteman during the 2009-10 season after the two were introduced to each other by one of Niculescu’s clients at the Cascade Athletic Club.

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