Brooks Lundy is the director of the tournament. She said the championship is a professional United States Tennis Association tournament and has been a long-standing tradition in the bluegrass.
“It's a men’s and women’s event. It has been at the University of Kentucky for 19 years,” said Lundy. “Approximately 140 players participate each year. It takes about 200 volunteers to run the tournament and each year there's an average of 20 countries represented, so it's a very international event. It is the only professional tennis tournament in the state of Kentucky.”
Lundy said the tournament began in Lexington due to former UK Head Tennis Coach Dennis Emery. He longed to bring quality tennis matches to the Commonwealth.
“He just felt like it was something he wanted to bring to Lexington,” said Lundy. “It's amazing the caliber of tennis you really do get to see. He felt that Lexington was a good accepting place for it.”
Qualifiers for the tournament will occur July 20 through July 22. Thirty-two participants for both the men's and women's tournaments will compete for four spots in the actual tournament respectively. The remaining players are selected by the USTA based on their rankings. Lundy added that this tournament can help lead a participant to one of tennis' most prestigious championships, the U.S Open.
“Our tournament is one of three tournaments on both the men’s and women’s side that the results that the players have here combined with the other two tournaments, whoever has the best record will get a wild card to the U.S Open,” said Lundy. “So, it's a really big deal. We're really happy to be a part of that.”
Some of the championship’s alumni go on to have very successful careers in the tennis world, said Lundy. John Isner, currently the highest ranked American male tennis player rapidly moved up the tennis ranks after the Lexington championship.
“John Isner came here, had never won a professional tennis match, and was straight out of college. He won our tournament, went on to Washington D.C, and that tournament is higher tiered than ours. He got to the finals of that tournament and played Andy Roddick,” she said. “A few weeks later he was in the third round playing Roger Federer in the U.S Open.”
Other successful Lexington tournament participants include Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and former U.S Open quarter finalist Melanie Oudin. For those who have the dream of making it to the tennis big leagues, the Lexington tournament is a huge step in the right direction.
“This is absolutely a stepping stone,” said Lundy. “They pretty much have to go through this level of a tournament to get to Wimbledon, to get to those top 50 players. They build their points through this.”
But, Lundy added many participants base their career on lower tiered tournaments such as this one in Lexington, and she said they are valued just as much.
Lundy said $50,000 in prize money is allotted for the men's tournament and women's tournament each, meaning that each champion will take home approximately $8,000. But, for Lundy and many other tennis players and fans, it's an event worth much more than the prize money.
“When you see it all come together and all the parts are here and you've got this great international flare, you're just amazed that such an amazing event is right here,” she said. “It's really cool.”
Tickets sales begin on Monday. Tickets are $10 a day or $50 for the entire week. Qualifying weekend is free.
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