Sarasota Open moving to Bath and Racquet
SARASOTA — Change will be the name of the game when the men’s professional tennis tournament celebrates its 10th year in 2017 with a new location, new dates and increased prize money.
The 2017 Sarasota Open, now a $125,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, will debut at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Athletic Club for a nine-day run April 15-23.
The tournament has grown from a $25,000 event when tournament founder Tony Driscoll brought it to the area in 2008 to be played at the Racquet Club at El Conquistador in Bradenton. It grew steadily during its six-year run at the Tennis Gardens on Longboat Key and then was held the past two years at the Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center.
Now the tournament moves to the Bath & Racquet Club, one of the oldest and largest tennis facilities in the area, a place that held one of the early Virginia Slims women’s tournaments in 1976, an event where Chris Evert beat Evonne Goolagong for the title in a field that also included a young teenager named Martina Navratilova.
The Sarasota Open has also had a rich player history, with past winners including Kei Nishikori, Sam Querrey, Nick Kyrgios and James Blake.
“The Sarasota Open has been so fortunate to be held at such prestigious facilities as the Longboat Key Club and Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center,” Driscoll said.
“The Bath and Racquet is the best demographic location in Sarasota, being centrally located for all residents in both Sarasota and Manatee counties,” he said. “The club has a long history of being the go-to place for players to congregate, play and keep close ties together in the Sarasota tennis community.”
The move to the Bath and Racquet has been anticipated for several months, starting when Driscoll became the general manager of tennis at the facility and the hesitation of the Lakewood Ranch facility to continue hosting the event. The move allows Driscoll to have more control over the setup of the tournament and he plans to soon move his entire tournament operation staff to the club.
Paul Lederman, the director of Athletic Center Operations at Lakewood Ranch, said that with the number of members using the courts there, it didn’t make sense to continue to host the tournament.
“We are content with hosting the college event we have here,” Lederman said about the collegiate tournament held annually at the club in November. “It just wasn’t in our plans moving forward.
“We wish the tournament success at the Bath and Racquet Club.”
The Bath & Racquet is currently undergoing major renovations and there are plans to build a new stadium court that offers permanent seating for the tournament by combining existing courts No. 1 and 2.
“We are excited to have a vested interest and positive effect on the club and offering the finest world class tennis in Southwest Florida for all of Sarasota,” Driscoll said.
The increase in prize money (up from $100,000 in 2016), allows the tournament to potentially attract higher ranked players and also lock down what Driscoll believes is an attractive week on the tennis calendar. The new dates for the clay court tournament are a week later than they were in 2016 and a little closer to the French Open (May 28-June 11) as players make a transition from the hard court season to clay courts.
Tickets for the tournament will go on sale to Bath & Racquet members and existing ticket holders on Aug. 19 at the tournament website (www.sarasotaopen.com) or by calling 941 444-8039 or 888 374-7834. Tickets will be available to the general public at a later date.
In addition to the Sarasota Open, the Bath & Racquet, which hosts the Men’s 50-over National Clay Court tournament in October, is bringing a pair of major area events to the club.
Brandi’s Wish, a tennis event designed to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug addiction, moves from Longboat Key to the B&R and will be held Dec. 11. The event includes music, entertainment and a tennis exhibition in addition to a tennis tournament.
The B&R will also host the newly formed Sarasota County Championships, scheduled to be played Jan. 6-8. Various levels of play will be available in the USTA sanctioned event. A website (www.srqchampionships.com) is being constructed and will be available to accept registrations beginning Sept. 1.