If the response to this year’s tournament is any indication, then pro tennis has taken a firm foothold in Kelowna.
With an increased purse to $25,000 and double the number of spectators over last year’s event, the tournament director said the fifth annual Kelowna Futures Tennis Tournament was the best yet.
“This tournament is getting some traction,” said Joachim Nierfeld. “We had close to 1,500 spectators, and we have more money for the players to play for.
“Tennis Canada spent a week here,” he added, “they really like Kelowna and having the tournament here. It should bode well for the future.”
The Kelowna Futures event is one of the Canadian stops on the ITF circuit, a stepping stone up to the sport’s highest level, the ATP Tour.
Canadian Peter Polansky, who has plenty of ATP experience, dominated play in Kelowna last weekend to win the men’s singles title and the $3,500 first prize.
Ranked 154th in the world, Polansky defeated American Ray Sarmiento in straight sets in the final.
“He is such a good player,” Nierfeld said of Polansky, who also won the Futures event a week earlier in Richmond. “He had some injuries, so he had to come back on the Futures Tour to get some points, so we were lucky to have a player of his calibre here.”
Nierfeld said some improvements to this year’s event made the 2016 tourney more player and fan friendly. The City of Kelowna recently resurfaced the courts, making for longer rallies and better viewing for spectators.
And the addition of a set of shaded bleachers helped bring double the number of fans out during the warm, sunny weather.
“We’ve had really good feedback,” added Nierfeld. “Once people know tennis is easy to watch, they come out an enjoy it. This tournament puts Kelowna on the map.”
Nierfeld said his group has signed on for one more year and will host the sixth annual Kelowna Futures Tournament next summer.