HARRISONBURG — It’s not so much the fact that the Commonwealth Clay Court Open’s three-time defending champ is returning that made the excitement ooze out of the phone.
It’s the players that Nicholas Sayer has to beat to make it four straight that thrills Stefan Peric, the director of tennis at Spotswood Country Club.
“The men’s draw is very, very packed,” he said. “There’s a lot of good ones coming.”
Most will have their eyes on the $2,500 men’s open prize of the fourth annual tournament held at Spotswood Country Club, which begins today.
And the way Peric talks about this year’s event, he sounded more like a TV pitchman. Sure, Wil Spencer and his No. 478 ATP ranking is coming to town trying to unseat Sayer — who played on Hong Kong’s Davis Cup team — and so is Henrik Korsgaard, a U-18 Danish champion when he was 16.
But wait, there’s more.
Canon Secord, a Turner Ashby graduate and current Bridgewater College rising sophomore with Old Dominion Athletic Conference Rookie and Player Of The Year honors strung through his racket, is also joining the fray for the second straight year.
And the addition of two new tournaments just ratcheted up Peric’s excitement. New in 2019 are a women’s prize-money tournament and a mixed doubles competition, the latter will pay $200 to the winning team. That’s the one, Peric said, he’s most looking forward to.
“All the players are beyond excited about that division,” he said.
The mixed doubles tournament, where both teams will feature one man and one woman player, is scheduled to being Friday along with the women’s open singles tournament, which will pay $2,000 to the winner, $750 to the finalist and $250 to the semifinalists.
In the women’s open tourney, James Madison women’s tennis coach Shelley Jaudon, who led the Dukes to the program’s first Colonial Athletic Association championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance this past season, will be playing.
The first round of the men’s open tournament begins today at 5 p.m. and will run “all through the night,” Peric said, with the tourney scheduled to resume Friday at 9 a.m. for the second round with the Round of 16 beginning at 11 a.m. before the women’s open and men’s doubles — which will pay $300 to each member of the winning duo — take the court at 5 p.m. The first mixed doubles match is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
The tournaments continue Saturday with championships slated for Sunday with times to be determined.
Admission to all the tournaments is free.