After undergoing hip surgery last fall, Phillip Bester wasn’t certain whether he’d ever play competitive tennis again.
Next month, the 25-year-old from North Vancouver will be back in the Okanagan to defend his title at the 2014 Kelowna ITF Futures Tournament.
“You always have good vibes and good feelings about going back to a place you’ve had success,” Bester said Wednesday from Florida, his home-base for training. “The city and the surroundings…the crowd in Kelowna was very supportive, they supported kind of a local kid from Vancouver, so that was nice to see.
“I’ve been through quite a bit since then,” he added, “so it’s exciting to be back.”
Bester will be among the favourites in the 32-player men’s singles field, as Kelowna hosts the 2014 edition of the tournament, June 28 to July 6 at the Parkinson Recreation Centre courts.
Up to and including last year’s stop in Kelowna, Bester had been experiencing hip problems but still managed to knock off fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur in tightly-contested final.
Following surgery in November, Bester was unsure if his best days on the court might be behind him for good. This week, Bester is happy to announce he’s fully recovered and ready to embark on what he hopes will be the best phase of his tennis career.
“Not knowing if I’d ever play again, it really helped me build some character,” said Bester. “I learned that you have to take things one day at a time, accept the things that happen and deal with them the best you can. I feel like now I’m headed into the prime of my career, I still have passion and love for the game, so we’ll see where it takes me.”
The Futures and Challenger circuits are both stepping stones to the ATP tour, where Bester ultimately hopes his path will lead in the next year. Once ranked as high as No. 229 in the world, Bester has played in eight ATP events in his career.
A key tournament for pro ranking points and precursor to the ATP circuit, this is the third consecutive year Kelowna has hosted the ITF Futures Tournament. The week-long showcase attracts 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.
Organized annually by local tennis pro Joachim Nierfeld, a successfully-run Kelowna event since 2012 has helped to spawn other Futures 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 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.”
Play at the Kelowna Futures begins with qualifying on Saturday, June 28. The finals are set for Sunday, July 6 at the Parkinson Courts.
For more information, visit www.kelownafuturestennis.com