With more than double the attendance of any of the previous five events, the ITF Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament reached a new benchmark in 2017.
More than 3,000 fans took in the week-long, $25,000 pro event at the Parkinson Recreation Centre courts, an encouraging sign for tournament director Joachim Nierfeld.
“Really, it was the best one yet in terms of how many people came out and watched the tournament,” said Nierfeld. “The calibre of play is always very good, I never worry about that. The kinds of crowds you’re going to get, you just don’t know.
“This year, from Tuesday on, we had big crowds every night. On the weekend, it was just packed so that was great to see.”
A representative from Tennis Canada was on hand for the tournament and, according to Nierfeld, was suitably impressed with the way the event was run.
Nierfeld hopes to one day see the event evolve into an ATP Challenger tournament, the next step up the pro tennis ladder with a $50,000 purse. However, the size of the Kelowna facility doesn’t yet meet specifications for the ATP, so Nierfeld expects the Kelowna Futures Tournament to return again in 2018.
Regardless of the size and prestige of the annual event, Nierfeld’s main objective is promoting the game at the grassroots level.
“We’re creating energy with this tournament and having the pros here really puts the spotlight on the game,” he said. “More than anything, I want this to benefit the game at the grassroots level. Growing tennis in Kelowna, that’s the ultimate goal.”
The top seed at this year’s tournament, American Alexander Sarkissian, took home top honours defeating Canadian Filip Peliwo 6-2, 6-4 in Sunday’s final. Sarkissian was ranked 270th in the world in men’s singles heading into the event.