While most South Florida tennis fans feel that the U.S. Open marks the end of the season, they could still satisfy their thirst for top-notch viewing by attending the ITF Young Seniors World Championships beginning Sunday on Miami Beach.
For two weeks, hundred of the best 35-to-45-year-old male and female tennis players in the world will be competing for travel expenses and trophies, but mostly for pride, in the Young Seniors Team and Individual Championships.
The host sites are the recently renovated and newly named Miami Beach Tennis Center (formerly North Shore Tennis Center) and Flamingo Park Tennis Center. Admission is free.
Dozens of players competed on the ATP or WTA tours while several others are teaching pros or former college standouts. Perhaps, the most recognizable player competing is Russia’s Andrei Cherkasov, once ranked 13th in 1991, the year he defended his ATP title in Moscow.
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Cherkasov, 48, reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals between 1990 and ’92, and owns victories over former No. 1s’ Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe.
Cherkasov, who also earned the Bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, will be one of four players for Russia in the Davis Cup-like team competition (Sunday-Friday) and then he will compete in the ensuing singles portion of the event (Oct. 27-Nov. 3).
Last year, Jasper Smit, once ranked 121st in doubles, captured the 35s with titles in singles and doubles. Just eight years ago, Smit, 37, of the Netherlands, knocked off a once-ranked 19th Pablo Cuevas in a Challenger.
Marcus Hilpert, 47, who won the 45s, was once ranked 343rd and owns a victory over French Open champion Gaston Gaudio in a doubles match.
Last year the ITF World Senior (ages 50s-60s) Championships was held at Flamingo Park and at two sites on Key Biscayne. The Miami Open has since relocated from Crandon Park to Hard Rock Stadium, while the prestigious Orange Bowl International (Junior) Championships was held in Flamingo Park from 1947 to 1998, but now resides in Plantation’s Veltri Tennis Center.
“With the help of the Greater Miami Beach Convention Bureau we want to build up Miami Beach tennis for what it used to be,’’ said Lori Nieder, the co-tournament director along with Miami Beach Tennis Center director Martin Van Daalen. “It’s a beautiful location with an amazing history of tennis. We’re going to incorporate activities and make this a one-stop shop tennis event.
“We want to tell the world that international tennis in Miami Beach is back.’’
The economic impact in the community from last year’s event was estimated at $4 million to $5 million. The city then signed a three-year contract with the ITF and has committed to give the federation $100,000 per year over the next three years to host at least one of its senior world events on Miami Beach.
“We’re more prepared for this one. It’s a chance for our tennis fans to see great players from all over the world on your home courts,’’ said Miami Beach Commissioner John Aleman. “For the players flying in they not only will have a great environment for their competitiveness but a great travel experience as well.’’