The Ilkley Trophy has celebrated this year the fifth edition of the Challenger Tournament combined with a women’s ITF World Tour 1000 event with another successful event that has brought to Yorkshire a number of world-class tennis players looking to conquer the winner’s prize that comprises a highly coveted main draw wild card for the Wimbledon Championships. This year’s winners, Dominik Koepfer and Monica Niculescu, secured the ultimate award at the end of two entertaining three-set finals played in front of a sold-out crowd that has taken advantage of a very fortunate week of weather to enjoy some fine tennis.
Created in 2014 contextually to the extension of the grass court “season” from two weeks to three weeks, the Ilkley Trophy has gone from strength to strength, steadily growing year after year to establish itself not only as the most important grass court tournament in the Challenger circuit, but also as a marquee event in Yorkshire’s summer calendar. The organizing committee, led by the Manager of the Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, Charlie Maunder, who also doubles up as Tournament Director, has managed to create a really unique atmosphere that everyone seems to enjoy.
Before the final day of the tournament, we have managed to spend a few minutes with Charlie (everyone calls him this way), who we have been told is not too comfortable with media, preferring to let his work speak for himself, but in this case he was kind enough to talk to us. Or he was just cornered by his fellow team members and given no choice… we will never know.
How do you think this edition went?
This is the best year we have had. And so far, we have been able to say it every year, each year we have jumped up a couple of steps. This year has been a lot smoother, with a lot less stress. All the organization, all the contingencies, everything worked well, the team has done it before, we have a lot of familiar faces. The courts held up really well, where we are sitting now [just behind Centre Court] just 12 weeks ago was under water because of a flood, so it has been a tough preparation that required us to remain focused all the way through. The feedback I have received is very positive: players, officers, spectators, everyone seems to have had a great time, we have created a real atmosphere around the event.
What kind of resources is the club dedicating to the organization of this event?
There is a small team of club employees, two-three of us, who work at setting up the tournaments, with the cooperation of the volunteers who make up most of the operations team. We meet once a month throughout the year to coordinate our efforts, but most of all we have managed to put together a really great team of volunteers that come back year after year, 150 to 200 volunteers between club members, students coming back from university, the all swarm us every year to meet the demands of organizing this event. Without volunteers it would be impossible for us to deliver what we deliver, so credit to these people.
How many spectators will you have this week?
We will have something between 13,000 to 15,000 spectators. We have been sold out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday was also a big day, after a wet Monday, Paul Jubb helped us draw a big crowd on Centre Court on a weekday, so numbers are fantastic.
Do you benchmark yourselves against other tournaments, either Challengers or higher-level events, both in the UK or overseas?
No, not really. We looked around to learn a few things, but we just try to be Ilkley as best as we can be. We put on a festival for the members, we try our best to give the players the best experience we can offer. When you try to be someone else, I believe you set yourself up for failure, we just want to be quite unique, and I think we have achieved that: the buzz and the atmosphere around here is quite different.
This event is at the highest possible level in the ATP Challenger Tour and at the highest possible level in the Women’s ITF World Tour: is there any appetite to go further?
We are the new kid on the block, we are here, we are delivering and we want to push ourselves to go wherever this might take us. It’s a fine balance because we are at a level that the members of our club really enjoy: I am both the Tournament Director and the Club Manager and at the moment I have a very good control of the event, and we like that. We are open to challenge ourselves and try something bigger, we like the combined event, and we wouldn’t say no should the opportunity present itself.
There is a week “for sale” on the ATP Tour at the moment: it would be the week after your current slot. Are you aware of it?
Yes, I am.
Have you thought about applying?
The next week is a tough week because it’s the week immediately before Wimbledon and it is at the same time as the Wimbledon ‘qualies’. We need to be aware of the amount of tennis that we would have with that new date compared to what we have now: the two ‘Challengers’ we are hosting now showcase great tennis players, there is the romance of a potential wild card for Wimbledon. You have to be sure what you give up, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but we could do that as well: I am not afraid to do a back to back!
Have you thought of organizing other events throughout the year?
We have looked at different things, but the nature of the club is a members’ club, it’s key that we don’t take too much time away from the members and their ability to play on their courts. We have to be careful not to turn this facility into just a tournament venue, because our members and their families need to come first.
But the two things should not necessarily be mutually exclusive. Everybody in the world of tennis knows that Alexander Zverev loves Yorkshire and Yorkshire’s accent: the videos of him interacting with Johanthan Pinfield at Roland Garros have become viral. Have you thought of organizing and event to get him up here, or any other player for that matter?
We do need to look at how we attract the bigger names, it’s something we are missing out a little bit. Of course, we get wild card request, normally they go to the Brits [through the LTA]: potentially it would be nice to have a ‘club wild card’, an invite we can dispose of at our leisure so that we can attract a player that maybe hasn’t gotten in at Queen’s or wants to play a bit more on grass.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced this year?
Nothing major, nothing detrimental. I believe the big improvement we need to look into is how we would handle the eventuality of playing the final rounds indoor, should the weather not cooperate. At the moment we have no facilities to host spectators in our indoor courts, and we don’t really have a way to easily accommodate 800-900 people, so this is one aspect that we will need to improve for the next editions.
2020 US Open: ATP Players Presented With Three Options, Decision Time Approaches
The USTA explained their working hypotheses: Cincinnati would come at the expense of the qualifying tournament. All players to be hosted in a hotel at JFK airport
No ground-breaking news were revealed on Wednesday during the conference call organized by the ATP for all its players. Almost 400 members participated to the call, where CEO Andrea Gaudenzi and Chairman Massimo Calvelli presented the various options on the table for the US Open and the Cincinnati Masters 1000.
The newly appointed US Open Tournament Director, Stacey Allaster, was invited to present the three options available:
- The US Open and the Masters 1000 to be played at Flushing Meadows, but this would require the cancellation of the qualifying tournament and the downsizing of the doubles draw to 24 couples;
- The cancellation of Cincinnati with the US Open maintaining the qualifying draw and a full-size doubles event;
- The cancellation of both Cincinnati and the US Open.
The US Open prize money will be maintained at 95% of 2019 levels, which still means an increase over 2018; the cancellation of Cincinnati would result in a 2 million dollar saving for the USTA, and the money would likely be distributed among the players who were not allowed to compete in the qualifying tournament.
All players and allowed entourage will be hosted at the TWA Hotel, located near Terminal 5 at JFK Airport. The hotel, opened in May 2019, has been build repurposing the iconic Eero Saarinen building that was Trans World Airlines’ terminal between 1962 and 2001. All 512 rooms will be occupied by players and staff of the US Open, and the property claims to be the hotel with the biggest gym in the world.
The distance between the hotel and Flushing Meadows would be comparable to the distance from the traditional Manhattan hotels, but obviously the ambiance would be significantly different, since players would most likely be “prisoners” of the TWA hotels during their days off and outside their practice sessions.
It has been revealed that each player would be able to designate up to two members of his staff to accompany him, provided these two members share a room at the TWA hotel and only one of them travels with the player to Flushing Meadows.
Players would now need to evaluate the options and communicate their preference to the USTA. ATP President Gaudenzi confirmed during the call that players unwilling to travel to New York would not be penalized ranking-wise should the tournament go ahead.
A final decision is expected by 15 June.
Ten Top-100 Players To Play Indian Wells Challenger Before The Master 1000
The tournament is part of the Oracle Challenger Series and gives a good chance to get ready for the BNP Paribas Open.
The Indian Wells Challenger has been played since 2018 in the venue of the BNP Paribas Open: the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Southern California. The event has a prize money of $162.480 and offers 125 ATP points to the singles and the doubles champions.
This year, the singles draw shows a huge line-up with all the 16 seeds ranked in the top-117 and names like those of Ugo Humbert, Lucas Pouille, Jannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe. All the seeded players have a bye and start their campaign in the second round, but many high level first round matches are still on the line.
On Monday, former Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung is set to play his first match of the season, as he faces Thai-Son Kwiatkowski on Stadium 5, while Jack Sock will play against 25 year-old Kaichi Uchida. Other interesting match-ups involve Akira Santillan against fellow 22 year-old Michael Mmoh and Mischa Zverev against JC Aragone.
Two qualifying-draw matches will be played as well, with 39 year-old Stephane Robert and Gage Brymer facing respectively doubles specialists Sem Verbeek and Hunter Reese. The winners will advance to the main draw and will meet Maxime Cressy, who comes from a title and a final in Canada in the last two weeks, and Roberto Marcora.
World’s number 7 Alexander Zverev will surprisingly play doubles with his brother Mischa: they are the 3rd seeds and will play against Sebastian Korda and Mitchell Krueger. The American pair of Nicholas Monroe and Jackson Withrow is at the top of the draw.
Indian Wells Challenger, main draw:
Ugo Humbert [1, FRA] bye
Kaichi Uchida (JPN) vs Jack Sock (PR, USA)
Michael Redlicki (USA) vs Zhe Li (CHN)
Evgeny Donskoy [13, RUS] bye
Denis Kudla [11, USA] bye
Maxime Janvier (FRA) vs Bradley Klahn (USA)
Q vs Maxime Cressy (USA)
Jannik Sinner [6, ITA] bye
Cameron Norrie [3, GBR] bye
Roberto Marcora (ITA) vs Q
Keegan Smith (USA) vs Ryan Peniston (GBR)
Marcos Giron [14, USA] bye
Salvatore Caruso [10, ITA] bye
Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (USA) vs Hyeon Chung (KOR)
Liam Broady (GBR) vs Brandon Nakashima (USA)
Yuichi Sugita [7, JPN] bye
Frances Tiafoe [8, USA] bye
Akira Santillan (AUS) vs Michael Mmoh (USA)
Mischa Zverev (GER) vs JC Aragone (USA)
Gregoire Barrere [9, FRA] bye
Christopher O’Connell [15, AUS] bye
Brandon Holt (WC, USA) vs Sebastian Korda (USA)
Mitchell Krueger (USA) vs Dudi Sela (ISR)
Radu Albot [4 WC, MDA] bye
Steve Johnson [5, USA] bye
Govind Nanda (WC, USA) vs Marc Polmans (AUS)
Blake Mott (PR, AUS) vs Mackenzie McDonald (USA)
Taro Daniel [12, JPN] bye
Peter Gojowczyk [16, GER] bye
Marius Copil (ROU) vs Raymond Sarmiento (PR, USA)
Noah Rubin (USA) vs Danilo Petrovic (SRB)
Lucas Pouille [2, FRA] bye
Roger Federer Calls For Further Increases In Prize Money For Lower Ranked Players
The former world No.1 shares his opinion on the financial rewards players are receiving.
20-time grand slam champion has stated that the focus on prize money needs to switch from the top level to the lower level on the ATP Tour.
Federer, who has made more than $126 million during his career, has praised the financial support that has been given to him and his rivals over the years. However, he believes that more needs to be done. Earlier this week it was reported that a petition to boost prize money has been put into place and has been signed by numerous ATP players. The petition reportedly calls for a profit-sharing model to be implemented at all ATP and grand slam tournaments.
There is no information about who has signed this petition and the ATP has remained silent on the issue. Meanwhile, 38-year-old Federer believes the focus on the fight regarding prize money needs to switch direction.
“When I started and won my first Grand Slam in Australia, I don’t remember what the prize money was. I thought it was around 450,000 maybe for the winner and now we’re at 3.6 (million) maybe.” He said during his US Open press conference on Wednesday.
“I think it was important for us just to be able to raise winners’ prize money and come up with that so we can rival also other sports like golf and others so we have a higher prize money for the winners.’
“That went up very quickly, very drastically, which is great. But then it became too big between the winner and first-round loser. So we have that more organized nowadays.”
According to official statistics, 34 men have earned over $1 million in prize money so far this season (as of August 26th 2019). However, players outside the top 100 earned more than 50% less ($455,00 or less). Meanwhile, winners at this year’s US Open will take home $3.85 Million. That equates to what just over 65 players would get for losing in the first round ($58,000 each).
“I do believe the challenger players and also maybe qualifying and second-round loser should get more.” Said Federer. “So I think if there should be increases it shouldn’t be at the top anymore. I feel like we have reached a pretty good level there.’
“I think that’s going to be what we’re going to fight for.’
“It would be nice if the players could also survive on the challenger tour in the lower ranks and not just at the very top.” He added.
Federer’s comments come after he recently returned back to the ATP Player Council, which is headed by Novak Djokovic. He joined to the 10-member panel after months of political tension among the players. With some disagreeing over the decision to remove ATP CEO Chris Kermode from his position. Nadal has also returned back to the council.
“Being back on the council is good because I get all the information. I think that is important for me to give a proper opinion. It also brings Novak, Rafa, and me closer together, naturally, to be in a room.” Explained Federer.
At the US Open world No.3 Federer disposed of Damir Dzumhur in four sets. He will play Dan Evans or Lucas Pouille in the next round.
2019 US Open prize money breakdown
Winner: $3,850,000 (£3.14m)
Runner-up: $1,900,000 (£1.55m)
Semi-finalists: $960,000 (£782,000)
Quarter-finalists: $500,000 (£407,000)
Round of 16: $280,000 (£228,000)
Round of 32: $163,000 (£132,000)
Round of 64: $100,000 (£81,000)
Round of 128: $58,000 (£47,000)
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