Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pro Tournament Time Approaching

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pro Tournament Time Approaching

Article excerpt

Now that the first Grand Slam tournament is out of the way, and the professional players are preparing for a series of events in the U.S., it is time to talk tournament tennis on the local front.

Preparations for a pair of USTA Pro Circuit events that are held in the area have hit full stride.

The Sarasota Open, a men's $100,000 event, returns to The Tennis Gardens at Longboat Key, April 12-20.

A women's $50,000 will be held March 23-30 at The Oaks Country Club in Osprey. Both tournaments offer tennis fans a chance to see professional tennis in intimate settings.

Tickets recently went on sale for the Sarasota Open and tournament director Tony Driscoll has been stunned by the response. So much so that he is changing the layout of the stadium, adding some VIP box suites to accommodate the demand. "Ticket sales have been through the roof," Driscoll said. "I have never had this (response) so early. Maybe it is because the tournament is being held Easter week and that the final will be held on Easter Sunday."

Past champions of the tournament include Kei Nishikori, James Blake and Sam Querrey.

The main event is the men's tournament, which is a 32-player draw and has attracted a strong field in past years. There is also a 16- player women's invitational event that runs concurrently with the men's event.

Among the highlights this year off the court will be bands playing between the day and night sessions, and appearances by tennis coaching legend Nick Bollettieri, who has a book coming out in March and is a strong contender this year for inclusion in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The Sarasota Wild Card Tournament will be played April 5-6 at Laurel Oak Country Club with the winner of the singles tournament earning a spot in the qualifying draw for the Sarasota Open. A new addition in the area this year is a doubles tournament held at Laurel Oak the same weekend as the wild card event. The doubles tournament, called the First Annual Joey Gratton Tennis Championships, will be held April 4-6 and is named for an avid area sportsman who was killed in a professional power boat race accident in 2011. The tournament will feature men's, women's and mixed doubles teams in various ability levels. …

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