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Observer Challenge to bring weekend of island camaraderie

Ute Vela competes in the Observer Challenge held Feb. 3-5, 2023. She and her husband, Enrique, have won the tournament four times.
Ute Vela competes in the Observer Challenge held Feb. 3-5, 2023. She and her husband, Enrique, have won the tournament four times.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, the Observer Challenge will be held Jan. 19-21 at the Longboat Key Tennis Center.

Typically, more than 100 people play in the tournament. The format of the tournament is what brings people back each year, Tennis Center Manager Kay Thayer said.

Each team consists of two men and two women. They'll play around five or six games before moving to the next round.

First, a team of four is matched against another team of four. The two men and two women from each team play doubles. In the next match, one woman and one man play a game of singles. The team's other man and woman play mixed doubles.

“I think the format helps neutralize the levels,” said Thayer. “I have seen many times on paper, one of the teams, you may think, is not as good as the other team. Because of the format, if they play it correctly, they can win. So that is a neat aspect of the tournament. It's not so cut and dry.”

“The other thing is that we get players from all over the island,” said Thayer. “So it adds a lot of camaraderie for the island, because everybody comes in and watches their friends or their team from their club playing the tournament. We get people from other places too, sometimes teams from Siesta Key, Bird Key and Lido.”

The entry fee is $50. This includes the tournament fee, tournament shirt, tennis balls, equipment and the fee for the opening party. The party will be held the night before as a way for people to mingle and view the bracket to see who they are up against. It is catered by Harry’s Continental Kitchens every year. To bring a guest to the party, the cost is $30.

“Everybody gets busy in their lives,” said Thayer. “When the season starts, you kind of get stuck at your own clubs and stuff. So, it brings everybody together. People love coming out to watch their friends play the league matches and everyone loves watching tennis. I think that's more exciting for people than going out watching people that they don't know.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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