With no men’s professional tour stop, it forced Las Vegans to travel to watch their favorite players or be relegated to their living room couch and flat screen TV to follow the sport.
The Las Vegas Tennis Open might not be a substitute, but it is a start to perhaps bringing the ATP Tour back to the city. The $50,000 ATP Challenger event begins today at the Fertitta Tennis Complex at UNLV, and organizers hope from humble beginnings a top-tier event will ultimately emerge.
“I think our first goal is to get the word out that we have a men’s tennis tournament again in Las Vegas and get people to come out,” tournament director Hassan Humayun said. “We want to have a good week and make sure we’re back (in 2016). From there, our goal would be to grow the event into a $100,000 Challenger and maybe down the road get an ATP Tour event here.”
For a $50,000 tournament, the Las Vegas Open has attracted a competitive and diverse field. Several ATP Tour pros are entered, including top-seeded Austin Krajicek, ranked No. 96 in the world.
Also scheduled to play are second-seeded Tim Smyczek, ranked No. 101, third-seeded Ryan Harrison, ranked No. 104, and fourth-seeded Dustin Brown, ranked No. 106.
Thirteen players in the field of 32 are from the United States, and the top eight seeds are ranked in the top 150. The winner of Sunday’s final will get $7,200 and 80 rankings points.
One of the main attractions is 17-year-old Taylor Fritz, the American teenager who won the junior boys singles at last month’s U.S. Open and is coming off titles in similar Challenger events Oct. 11 in Sacramento, Calif., and Sunday in Fairfield, Calif., where Fritz defeated Brown 6-3, 6-4.
Fritz, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is considered one of the bright hopes for the future of American tennis.
“I’ve known Taylor and his family a long time,” Humayun said. “We gave him a wild card into our tournament before he won Sacramento. And he’s playing really well right now, so I think it’s going to get a lot of fans out to watch him.
“I remember when he was just a little kid running around the courts. Now, he’s the future of American men’s tennis. It’s awesome to have him playing our event.”
Two players with local ties — Evan Song of Las Vegas and Jakob Amilon of Sweden, a junior at UNLV — received wild-card entries into the main draw. Song, a 23-year-old ranked No. 554, has a 27-17 match record this year.
Play is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. today through Saturday, with Sunday’s final set for noon.