Halls Ferry will host USTA event

Published 11:46 am Friday, April 1, 2011

Rick Shields has waited a long time to bring a United States Tennis Association youth tournament to Vicksburg.

At long last, the moment has arrived.

The two-day, USTA sanctioned “Battle of the River” begins tonight at Halls Ferry Park. The semifinal round will be held Saturday morning and the finals in the afternoon.

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Shields, a former tennis player at Alcorn State, is currently coaching St. Aloysius but is also the assistant tennis director at the Halls Ferry Courts since being appointed to the position three years ago by then-mayor Lawrence Leyens. Expanding the level of play has been a big goal and landing a USTA tournament is a big boost to Shields’ plans.

“This is the first tournament of this kind since I’ve been here and that’s at least 10 years,” Shields said. “I feel like we are off to a good start. We have 35 signed up and I’ve been told it’s a pretty good number for a first year tournament.”

The tournament will consist of boys and girls brackets from ages 10 through 18, and include players from both central Mississippi and northern Louisiana.

“Since we started promoting this, we’ve seen entries from Louisiana, Natchez, Jackson and Greenville,” Shields said.

The field will include at least 10 local players, highlighted by Vicksburg High standout and two-time high school state champion Christine Figueroa.

Figeroa, a fixture on the USTA youth circuit, will play in the 18-and-under bracket. Her sister Charlene, also an accomplished player, will compete in the 16-year-olds’ division.

Four of Shields’ St. Al players are also in the event.

“We have Aaron and Austin Mathis, Michael Foley and Steven Cialone,” Shields said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how Aaron does. He’s playing in the 14-year-olds’ bracket but he’s had two of the best matches I’ve seen playing singles for St. Al. Austin is our regular No. 1 boys player, while Aaron plays mixed with Breanna (Beesley), but I like how hard he competes and I’m anxious to see how he does in this tournament.”

Warren Central will have Claire Kendall, Lauren Pratt, Baxter Richardson and George Stewart entered. Shields also said that George Williamson will compete in the 12-and-under boys division.