Future tennis stars on display at Kelowna tourney
Since playing in his first competitive match at age 11, Pavel Krainik hasn't wavered from his dream one iota.
Playing tennis for a living at the game's highest level—like his idol Roger Federer—remains the 19-year-old Canadian's ultimate goal.
Krainik, from Toronto, is among 55 players who travelled to Kelowna this week for the ITF Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament.
The $15,000 event at the Parkinson Rec Centre courts is an opportunity for singles and doubles players—both professional and NCAA Div. 1—to earn valuable points towards one day competing on the ATP tour.
Krainik, who is currently ranked 938th in the world, says tour stops such as the one in Kelowna is a vital part of the process in reaching the game's top level.
"You have to be able to get past stages like this to play in big tournaments like the (World Tour) Masters, the ATP and ultimately, the Grand Slams," said Krainik, the fifth-ranked player in singles at the Kelowna tournament. "Everybody at these tournaments knows how to play and everybody's hungry to win. This is a necessary step all the best players in the world have had to take before, so being successful at this level is important."
With a win in Kelowna, a player of Krainik's status could move up anywhere from 200 to 300 spots in the rankings, another indication of the value of winning on pro tennis's secondary circuits.
Most of the players this week are ranked between No. 200 and No, 1,200 in the world.
As for the skill and level of competition at a Futures events, tournament organizer Joachim Nierfeld said fans are witnessing a quality of tennis never seen before in Kelowna.
"This is world class tennis, these kids coming here are usually between 18 and 23 and are trying to make it to the next level which is the challenger level or even up to the ATP tournaments," said Nierfeld, a former tennis pro from 1990 to 1998.
"For the unused or untrained eyes, we wouldn't even notice a differrence between them and the top 20 players in the world. They're hitting it just as hard, just not as often between the lines as the top players do."
If all goes as planned for Nierfeld and the organizing committee, the Futures Tournament will become an annual event in the Okanagan.
Both the ITF and Tennis Canada would like a three-year commitment from Kelowna and Nierfeld would like to oblige, both for the benefit of local tennis community and the growth of the sport in general.
"The real meaning for us is to grow tennis and create an awareness of how great the sport is," said Nierfeld, who has had help from 65 volunteers in staging the event. "It's a healthy sport for kids for adults for seniors, a sport a four-year-old can play and a 90-year-old can play. It's a very inexpensive sport, so the goal is really to grow the sport."
The Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament is a true international event with athletes competing from several countries including Canada, the U.S, Germany, Argentina, Israel, Trinidad, South Africa and South Africa.
The top singles seed heading into the tournament was Montreal's Erik Chvojka.
Ranked 232nd in the world, Chvojka was one set away from qualifying for Wimbledon this year, before making the trip to Kelowna.
Also making the stop in Kelowna is Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty, a doubles finalist at the French Open in 2005.
The singles quarterfinals will be played on Friday, the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m., and the final on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.
Adult passes for Friday and Saturday are $10 each day, and $15 for Sunday.
Youth passes (under 18) are $5 for Friday and Saturday, and $8 on Sunday.
Tickets are available at the Harvest Golf Club, Cedar Creek Winery, NuFloors, the Mission and Lakeview Heights Tennis Clubs, and Global Fitness.
For more information on the ITP Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament, visit www.kelownafuturestennis.com