Sports

Iowa City gets shot at first pro tennis tournament

'I knew we would be able to pull it off'

Roy Smith of New Haven, Conn.,  trades volleys with Varun Jayaram also of New Haven at the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center in Iowa City, Iowa, on  Friday, July 13, 2018. The University of Iowa is teaming up with the United States Tennis Association ‘Futures’ circuit for the first time since 1986 for the Old Capitol Futures tennis tournament. The tournament runs from July 14 to July 22. The the main draw and doubles play begin on July 17. The championship matches take place on July 20 for doubles and July 22 for singles. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Roy Smith of New Haven, Conn., trades volleys with Varun Jayaram also of New Haven at the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center in Iowa City, Iowa, on Friday, July 13, 2018. The University of Iowa is teaming up with the United States Tennis Association ‘Futures’ circuit for the first time since 1986 for the Old Capitol Futures tennis tournament. The tournament runs from July 14 to July 22. The the main draw and doubles play begin on July 17. The championship matches take place on July 20 for doubles and July 22 for singles. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — When you’re served a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you step on the court and swing.

University of Iowa lecturer Alex Voss knew preparing for Iowa City’s first-ever professional tennis tournament in just seven months would be challenging — and provide an opening for failure on a national scale.

“But I know tournaments like this don’t come available very often,” Voss said. “When one does, you have to be ready.”

So he pulled together student volunteers, private donations, university cooperation in the form of facilities and other resources, and landed the Old Capital Futures tournament, a United States Tennis Association event with 64 qualifying and 32 main-draw professional players, plus 16 doubles teams.

They are vying for $25,000 in total prize money.

It will be the first professional tennis tournament in the state since 1978 and the first-ever in Eastern Iowa. And, Voss said, it could become a permanent fixture if organizers pull it off.

“We acquired this hoping it would be an annual thing,” said Voss, a former tennis player, coach and event manager. “USTA is offering us the opportunity to do it next summer.”

A 2019 tournament was how the negotiations started, in fact, with Voss reaching out and pitching the UI location. In December, though, a schedule change created an opportunity for this summer.

“I knew we would be able to pull it off,” he said.

The tournament provides not only a chance to highlight the campus, its relatively new Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex — which opened in 2006 — and the community, but it serves as a learning opportunity for sport and recreation management students, who are required to earn field experience.

Students can count toward their required “internship hours” efforts spent on grass roots marketing, website development, scheduling, and overall planning of the event — working with a limited $60,000 budget that came through a donation.

“We have flexibility to do student learning around the tournament,” Voss said.

Seven UI students are involved in the planning this summer, he said, and more — between 20 and 24 — are expected to help on future events. The tournament doesn’t include a revenue-generated aspect at this point, as Voss said the goal is to garner community support for the tournament — which will be free for spectators.

“At some point, the students are going to have to raise the money to support it and allow it to happen,” he said. “At some point, there might be a scholarship or charity component.”

The tournament started over the weekend with qualifying matches involving 64 players aiming for the main draw, which brings 32 contenders to the bracket that starts Tuesday. Professional players in the mix rank as high as 329 in the world, and some Hawkeyes have a shot as well — with three sets of doubles in the main draw.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

IF YOU GO:

What: Iowa City’s first-ever professional tennis tournament

When: The main draw of 32 players begins 10 a.m. Tuesday

Where: The Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Facility at 2820 Prairie Meadow Dr.

For more information: Visit https://oldcapitolfutures.com/

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