PRATT: Stone Looking To Go The Distance With Iron Man

Describing his unique tennis tournament idea as “different from just about any tournament you’ve ever played,” Iron Man Tournament founder and director Rob Stone is inviting Southern California men’s and women’s open players to “play like the pros” competing in a best-of-five tournament format and playing for cash and prizes.

Anyone who has ever sat and watched an entire five-set men’s match during the Grand Slams has no doubt thought: What would it be like to go the distance and play five sets. Local players will once again have the chance to test their skill and stamina in Stone’s upcoming Iron Man Tournament. Entry deadline is Sunday, Oct. 20, and the cost to enter the 18-and-over tournament is $45. You can sign up using the following link:

https://tennislink.usta.com/Tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=237187.

For the early rounds, players have approximately one week (7-10 days) to complete each round and will be played at a mutually agreed upon location.

Rob Stone, left, and Magic Othello played in the longest five-set match in the Iron Man Tournament.

“A couple of years ago I was watching Federer against Nadal and was completely captivated by it and thought, ‘Geez, what would it be like to play a best-of-five match,’ ” said Stone, a West Hills resident who for years has run the Los Angeles Tennis Ladder. “I was doing some regular tournaments besides the ladder and thought I was the only one crazy enough to do this besides a few others.”

Stone said he was shocked when 20 players entered the first event several years ago. “They all loved it, both the physical and emotional part of it,” Stone said. “Even recently with the Nadal and Medvedev US Open final. Those matches are just indescribable. You think about today and people’s short attention span but you remember matches like the ’08 Wimbledon final with Federer and Nadal. There was just something about it people loved; the challenge and the competition.”

The last two Iron Man finals went five sets, with one of the players – then-19-year-old Gabriel Joseph – coming back from down two sets to none to win.

Gabriel Joseph and Aaron Colbert are past winners of the Iron Man Tournament.

I asked Stone if he thought the reason Joseph was able to come back was that he was younger and possibly in better shape than his opponent; that attrition would win out in the end in a match that takes longer to complete. Stone wasn’t so sure. “I knew Gabe had never played a five-set match before and I wondered if he would have the mental capacity, and he did,” Stone said. “But I’ve found that age and knowing what to do on the mental side, that’s a huge difference. Even the younger guys who get up two sets may think they have this but the more experienced player can come back and the momentum shifts. It’s really interesting.”

Former college player Michael Thoeresz, who has taught tennis at both Cheviot Hills and Palisades Tennis Center, is a former winner of the Iron Man. “I loved it,” he said. “It really adds a mental and physical component to the match.”

Other winners in recent years include Jason Magnes, Aaron Colbert, and Joe McCauley.

The Iron Man turned into the Iron Woman a few years ago when two women entered the event and faced each other with the match going five sets.

Stone said for the first time this year, the tournament is being sanctioned by the USTA and players will receive ranking points.

“I have talked to the USTA about doing the Iron Man Tourney on a National level and in other states—and then bringing out all the Iron Man champs from around the country to Southern California for Nationals,” Stone said.

The Iron Man final will be played on Nov. 24 on stadium court at Braemar Country Club. On that day, all tournament participants are invited to watch the finals, play some Live Ball, and attend a tennis party. In addition, each entrant will receive a Player Gift. 

For questions, call or text Stone at 818.601.9566.

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