Aspiring tennis stars flock to tournament at Homestead for high-level experience

Malcolm Harrison, foreground, warmed up against opponent Eric Sock.

By Chris Heady

A solemn Eric Sock sat on a small bench just off the Homestead court, focused on his shoes as sweat beads dripped off his nose and onto the ground.

“I just didn’t prepare like I probably should have,” Sock said after his 6-1, 6-1 loss to Malcolm Harrison Friday morning.

Sock, who attended Blue Valley North and plays tennis for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was one of many local U.S. Open hopefuls at this weekend’s Missouri Valley Sectional Qualifier tournament. The winner of the regional this weekend will go on to New Haven, Conn., in August to compete for a wildcard spot in the U.S. Open, but the national stage isn’t all that brings out players to the tournament.

“There’s such a slim chance you’re going to make it to the Open,” said former SM East Tennis star Mimi Fotopoulos, who didn’t compete in the tournament this year due to recruiting trips after deciding to leave the University of Tennessee after one year. “But the competition here is always really good, especially for the boys, so the point of playing is to just play people you haven’t before.”

Local players included Sock, whose brother Jack plays on the professional tour, and Trey Daniel, a BV North star who finished his junior season 25-0. The locals face off against players from around the midwest and beyond, causing new match-ups with players they haven’t seen before. Susan Papac drove her son Nick from Norman, Okla., to play in the tournament and says the experience is nothing but good.

“There’s a lot of good players here you wouldn’t play in college with conferences and things like that so that’s good for Nick I think,” Susan said, whose son attends the University of Oklahoma and played Nebraska player Dusty Boyer.

The tournament is for both men and women, but the women’s side is lacking in college players this year, something Fotopoulos says is due to other tournaments.

“There are so many (tournaments) going on all summer so that may be it, but it’s really good for high school players to play some college kids,” Fotopoulos said.

Sock admits he signed up for the tournament a long time ago, scheduling his summer around it even.

“I signed up to qualify, for sure,” Sock said. “But the experience was good, the match-play was good and I think it’ll help.”

Friday’s results for singles play can be found here, and mixed doubles matches will be this afternoon. The tournament will continue until June 30 and the event is open to the public.