Illinois’ Jared Hiltzik to compete at US Open

Illinois freshman Jared Hiltzik will join the world’s best tennis players at the US Open in New York next week.

The nation’s top recruit was awarded a wild-card spot in the US Open Juniors tournament, which starts Monday. The weeklong tournament is played at the same venue, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, as the US Open.

“I am extremely excited to play in it because it is the biggest stage for a junior tennis player,” Hiltzik said.

Hiltzik was on his way to earning a guaranteed bid to the event when inclement weather derailed his hopes. He was leading 6-4, 3-1 in the title match of the Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla., when the tournament was canceled, ending his bid. Hiltzik also advanced to the doubles championship match at the tournament, which was also called off.

“I think the selection committee took that tournament into consideration when selecting (the wild-card draw),” Hiltzik said.

The Wilmette, Ill., native became the nation’s top recruit when former No. 1 Mitchell Krueger decided to forego college tennis to play professionally. Hiltzik became the fourth top-ranked tennis recruit to come to Illinois since 1996, joining Chris Martin, Rajeev Ram and Dennis Nevolo.

All three standouts also played in the US Open junior tournament when entering college.

Hiltzik will not follow in Krueger’s footsteps.

“College tennis is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Hiltzik, who has hopes of playing professionally after his career at Illinois. “I think it is crucial to getting better.”

Hiltzik’s commitment boosted the Illini recruiting class to No. 6 in the nation.

“The main reason I chose Illinois is the coaching staff and what it has to offer,” he said. “They’ve produced so many successful pros.”

Hiltzik will join two of those professionals, Ram and Kevin Anderson, at the US Open.

Ram helped Illinois win the NCAA Championship in 2003 during his one semester at the University. He opened play Tuesday with a doubles win with his partner, Brian Baker.

Anderson played for the Illini for three seasons, 2004-07, and won the NCAA Championship in doubles during his sophomore year. Anderson will open play Wednesday afternoon against David Ferrer.

The draw for the US Open Juniors tournament has not been announced.

After the tournament, Hiltzik and the Illini will start their season 100 miles northeast of Champaign at the OFCC Invitational in Olympia Fields, Ill., on Sept. 14.

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