Pluskota step closer to qualifying for U.S. Open in mixed doubles
by Doug Gorman
Northgate graduate and four-time University of Tennessee tennis All-American Natalie Pluskota took a step closer to qualifying for this year's U.S. Open in mixed doubles.
Pluskota and partner Ricky Doverspike, an assistant women's coach at Alabama, captured the U.S. Open Southern qualifying tournament in Atlanta late last month with in a marathon 7-6, 3-6, 11-9 victory over Marcus Hurtig and Abigail Tere-Apisah.
It's not the first time Pluskota has enjoyed success at the Southern Qualifier. Two years ago, the former Lady Vol standout won the U.S. Open Southern Qualifier in singles.
Pluskota and Doverspike will head to New Haven to take on the remaining 12 qualifier champions in early August in the finals of the US Open National Playoffs, where the winner earns a trip to Flushing, N.Y.
Since graduation, Pluskota's pro career has kept remained busy, most recently playing in European events in both doubles and singles.
'She is really working on getting her ranking up so she can starting getting into some of the bigger tournaments,' said her mom, Sherri.
Natalie's doubles ranking in WTA events is 204 after ending her first pro season in 2011 at 640. She won a pair of WTA doubles titles in 2012 with Jacqueline Cako.
Heading into Thursday, Pluskota and partner Keri Wong had reached the quarterfinals of the FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in Sacramento, a $50,000 ITF event.
Later this year, she will also play women's doubles in Vancouver. With a solid showing in that tournament, she could help her ranking and hopes of getting into the U.S. Open in field in women's doubles too.
Pluskota doesn't get the chance to play mixed doubles very often, but it could be her best shot at getting into her first grand slam event if she and Doverspike can get through the field of 12 other players in New Haven.
Her original partner withdrew from the Southern qualifier, but she and Doverspike won the event in dramatic style, taking a tiebreaker in the first set before playing 20 games over the third.
'They had really good chemistry,' Sherri said. 'They played well together.'