More than 27,000 people turned out to see Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori and other tennis pros from around the world sharpen their clay-court skills in the 2010 Sarasota Open USTA/ATP men’s professional tennis tournament. Last year’s tournament scored its highest attendance to date, and this year, tournament founder and Director Tony Driscoll is hoping to draw an even bigger crowd.
“We’re hoping for more than 30,000 this year,” said Driscoll.
This year’s tournament, which takes place April 23 through May 1, promises a schedule packed with highly competitive matches and fun-filled events. The participating players will not be officially confirmed until April 7, but Driscoll says he is hoping Nishikori, who defeated Brian Dabul, of Argentina, to take first place last year and is currently ranked 58th in the world, will be returning.
“The location of the tournament at the Longboat Key Club and Resort certainly provides that je ne sais quois that makes the players want to come here,” says Driscoll.
Local players will also have a shot to compete with the pros in the Wild Card Tournament, which will take place April 8 through April 10. The winner will get a wildcard entry into the qualifying of the 2011 Sarasota Open.
New to the pre-event festivities this year is “Tennis and Art on the Bay,” which will take place Friday, March 25, aboard the Sea Fair, the second-largest private yacht in the world. The event will be the largest floating art exhibit in the world and will feature $500 million worth of art aboard the $40 billion yacht.
All proceeds from “Tennis and Art on the Bay” and other pre-tournament events will go to the Sarasota Open Foundation, which benefits sports programs for underprivileged children. Fifty percent of the tournament proceeds also benefits the Sarasota Open Foundation.
For updated schedules and information, visit www.sarasotaopen.org.
IF YOU GO
Tickets for all tournament events are available at www.sarasotaopen.org or by calling 809-8996.
Tennis and Art on the Bay
When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 25
Where: Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota
Tennis Under the Stars
When: 6 p.m. Friday, April 15
Where: Main Street and Palm Avenue, downtown Sarasota
When: 6 p.m. Monday, April 25
Where: Marina Towers Penthouse, Penthouse 1, 1233 N. Gulfstream Ave., Sarasota
2011 Sarasota Open Tennis Tournament
When: April 23 through May 1
Where: The Longboat Key Club & Resort Tennis Gardens
Tickets: $5 to $100