Pro tennis showcased at Parkinson courts
A nationally-competitive seniors player and a teaching professional, Joachim Nierfeld knows high quality tennis when he sees it.
The organizer of the 2014 Kelowna ITF Futures Tennis Tournament assures that's what exactly fans will be treated to over the next eight days at the Parkinson Recreation Centre courts.
"A handful of these players that people will see are very close to breaking through," said Nierfeld. "There is not a much of a difference between this tennis and what you see at the top level. Players who are coming here are capable of beating players in the top 100 in the world, and have done it in the past."
A key tournament for pro ranking points, the week-long event attracts men's singles players ranging from No. 200 to 1,500 in the world rankings, elite NCAA Div. 1 collegiate players, as well as top Canadian men and junior competitors.
The ultimate goal for all the players is making a full-time jump up to the ATP circuit.
Among the competitors will be North Vancouver's Philip Bester, who has played in eight ATP events during his career. The defending Kelowna Futures champ, Bester, 25, is returning from an injury and is looking to eventually surpass his previous best world ranking of No. 229.
"(Bester) called this event part of his road to Wimbledon, he wants to really have a good year to help him get back on the ATP for next year," Nierfeld said.
Also competing will be Vancouver's Filip Peliwo, who was ranked No. 1 in the world among junior players two years ago.
A successfully-run Kelowna event since 2012, the Futures has helped to induce the creation other such tournaments across Western Canada—and in turn to enhance the development of young Canadian athletes.
"It's great for our young B.C. and Canadian up-and-coming players," said Nierfeld. "We have new Futures events in Richmond and Vancouver, we also have Kelowna, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. So they can now play six of these tournaments in a row where, in the past, they would have to go to the U.S. or fly to Europe. It's great for tennis here."
This is the third and final year of Nierfeld's agreement with and Tennis Canada to stage the event, but he has been asked to consider hosting a Challenger event next year, the next step up the ladder towards the ATP. However, at this time, Nierfeld said Kelowna doesn't have adequate-sized facilities to host the event.
Play at the $15,000 Kelowna Futures begins this Saturday at 10 a.m. with the qualifying round. The final draw will feature 32 players.
The championship final is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, July 6 at the Parkinson Courts.