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Playing Graf in the U.S. Open at 16 Probably Would Be a Bit Tu Much

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Meilen Tu of Northridge, who recently won her first national championship in junior tennis, has been granted a wild-card spot in the women’s division in next week’s U.S. Open.

The United States Tennis Assn. on Monday selected Tu, 16, to its 128-player draw in the Grand Slam event that opens Monday at Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Tu’s only concern is that she might face Steffi Graf, the No. 1 player in the world. Seedings will be made later this week.

“I’d rather not have to play somebody like that, because I lack experience,” Tu said. “But whoever I do play, I’m going to give them all I got. I’ve never played in that big of an event. I might get nervous. But I’ve also been preparing for this event, mentally.”

The former Granada Hills High student, who is now in a home-study program, earned the U.S. Open berth after winning the USTA Girls’ 18-and-under national championship in San Jose on Aug. 13. She defeated Lilia Osterloh of Winchester, Ohio, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in the final. Tu lost in the quarterfinals of that event in 1993.

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But her game has reached a new level. Touring with the USTA Junior National team, Tu has won two international tournaments this year: the Banana Bowl on clay in Sao Paulo, Brazil in March and the Surbiton (England) International Junior Championship on grass in July.

This is not Tu’s first appearance in a professional tournament. She scored a first-round victory in February in the $25,000 Coral Gables (Fla.) Challenge Tournament.

Tu’s second-round loss came against then 138th-ranked Audra Keller of Memphis, Tenn. Keller also was granted a wild-card berth.

Two years ago, Tu played the Junior U.S. Open, an international juniors event that coincides with the pro tournament.

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She lost in the first round in both singles and doubles.

Still, she is undaunted about returning to Flushing Meadows as an amateur playing in a Grand Slam event.

“I’ve really earned it, I think,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard.”


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