USTA event in Troy#039;s

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 20, 2003


By Micah Lewter

Late October is normally a time when sports fans in Alabama are engrossed in football games and quarterback controversies.

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However, this October, another sport might cause quite a racket in Troy.

The United States Tennis Association is considering putting a challenger event in Troy Oct. 20-26. The prize money would likely be $50,000, and the tournament would involve more than 200 women's tennis professionals.

"Several other cities want the event, but my friend called me first," Troy State tennis coach Eric Hayes said. "If we can raise the money, the USTA will visit the facilities. I know they'll like what we have here, and I think we will get the tournament."

The question right now, though, is money. The USTA will provide $40,000 of the prize money, leaving $10,000 for Troy to raise. The USTA also will pay for a 30-second commercial on local TV stations that will run for three weeks before the event takes place.

However, host cities are still responsible for some other expenditures, so Hayes is trying to find sponsors for the tournament. He said the total cost would be $22-25,000, and he has sponsorship commitments of around $5,000 already.

"I need another $15,000 or so, so I think what we need is a title sponsor," Hayes said. "Several companies have told me they are interested in sponsoring the tournament, but I still need a title sponsor.

"A company would benefit from having their name on the tournament. This tournament's results will be in the national media. They will be in USA Today and all over the world."

A challenger tournament is one whose points count towards world rankings, but the talent level is slightly lower than the pro circuit. The high end of the challenger spectrum is vision, where players are almost ready to join the tour, and the low end is futures, where young players start trying to make the tour.

Although the tournament is not likely to be visited by the top names on the tour, Hayes said it will be visited by several players who should be household names in the future. The tournament is a higher-end tournament, and of the 250 women participating, several could be top-50 caliber, Hayes said.

"The tennis world rankings are based on your wins," Hayes said. "If a player gets hurt and misses some tournaments, she will play in tournaments like these to get some matches in."

The tournament is ideally located on the calendar to be used for just such an occasion. One of the four Grand Slam events, the Australian Open, occurs in January, only a matter of weeks after the opening Troy is trying to fill.

Although the money to get the tournament sounds high, Hayes said the cost to view the event would be small. He said admission will likely be only $1 per person.

There will also be a pro-am event in the evenings. Hayes said he wants to make the pro-am fun for everyone involved.

But the time to decide if the tournament will be coming or not is soon approaching. The USTA will move on to other interested cities if the remaining money is not raised within the next few weeks.

"I really think that if we don't have enough money by the end of July or the first week in August, they will move on to another city," Hayes said.