The USTA Pro Circuit has found a home in Southern California. The three $10,000 tournaments taking place at The Claremont Club, the Racquet Club of Irvine and Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club, in late September into early October, bear witness to this welcome inclusion. Not only will players who have big upsides in the game’s future be in the spotlight, so will fan friendly activities such as Kid’s Day and other special programs at each event.
The Claremont USTA Pro Classic will be held at the club and city of the same name, September 9th – 18th. “We have hosted the Pro Futures event as a way of providing our members an up close look at great professional tennis,” Barry Friedman, the Tournament Director and Director of Tennis at the club said. “The club members enjoy the international aspect of the event. There are always at least 20 different countries represented in the qualifying and Main Draws. Many of the players form lasted friendships with the members who housed them during the event. Some of these people (the members) have even gone to Wimbledon and Roland Garros (French Open) to watch them play.”
The Racquet Club of Irvine (in the city of the same name) hosts the Irvine Futures, September 16th – 25th. Mike Thoeresz, the Director of Tennis at the club, will be the Tournament Director. He messaged the club members noting, “Participants will be players with ATP rankings between No. 250 and No. 1200 (and a couple of qualifiers with no points). While you won’t recognize many of the names now, some will go on to professional tennis success. Kei Nishikori played the tournament a decade ago and is now ranked No. 6 in the world. If anyone is interested in providing a room in their home for one of the Main Draw players, it would be greatly appreciated.”
The Los Cab Futures is the last of the trio of championships. Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club in Fountain Valley will host the September 23rd – October 2nd competition. Tournament Director, Hank Lloyd, said, “This is going into my 20th year in running the tournament. It is an entry level, grass roots event for the Pro Circuit. In Southern California, these events at private and public clubs have provided opportunities for juniors, college players and new professionals, along with foreign players, to compete.
“They are important because they are a way to grow the audience for tennis and interest in the game. They bring the future of professional tennis to [nearby] venues, which is great for the section.”
Organizing and holding USTA Pro Circuit tournaments requires commitment and strong community support. “The real reason we continue to host it is because I am passionate about helping young pros who are just scraping by find a chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming professional tennis players, and there are many others who feel exactly the same,” Friedman said.
He also admitted, “The tournament definitely is not a moneymaker. I am constantly trying to find ways to keep the tournament financially viable. (We will try to continue this as long as it doesn’t lose too much money, and we are always trying to find sponsors who would like to partner with us in this endeavor.)
“Personally, I think that having a number of local juniors and college players participate in the tournament, and eventually go on to bigger tour events, provides the current crop of juniors with role models, and keeps them motivated. Over the years, Stevie Johnson, Taylor Dent, Taylor Fritz, Mackenzie McDonald and Glenn Weiner, as well as international players like Dmitry Tursunov and Dudi Sela play here, and within a year they were playing in the BNP Paribas Open and the US Open.”
Lloyd was even more candid saying, “Today, with sponsorship and underwriting for Pro Futures, they are still not profit making ventures. Most often, with the September circuit, the tournament club promoter, at best, breaks even. We have reached out to Southern California Tennis Association for support, and it has been a step in the right direction.
“Even with USTA Pro Circuit support and now more with the SCTA, it (SCTA) is trying to organize an SCTA Pro Circuit. One of the main ideas is to have only Southern California juniors play all the Wild Card Tournaments (two for each of the Pro Futures) and the winners receive Main Draw wild cards both in the Singles and Doubles. This approach will be a pathway for juniors. The local opportunity is outstanding, and I think the other USTA sections will promote the same idea.”