UI begins double dose of tennis

UI begins double dose of tennis

CHAMPAIGN — Area tennis enthusiasts should get their fill the next two weeks.

The University of Illinois will host two separate USTA Futures men's tournaments in that time span, with the Atkins Tennis Center and the Khan Outdoor Complex serving as the venues.

The first tournament is set to begin today with qualifying, before the singles main draw is slated to start on Tuesday, with the final scheduled for this Saturday. The 32-player field in singles will compete for a purse of $25,000.

That's the same amount for players in the second Futures tournament, slated to begin with singles qualifying next Saturday and conclude with the singles final on July 29.

"We usually just host one, but Godfrey, which had been on the Futures schedule for 20-some years, canceled out," UI men's tennis coach Brad Dancer said. "We had an opportunity to add the event, and we jumped on it."

This is the third year the UI has hosted a Futures tournament, which features some of the up-and-coming pro players, but it's the first time they'll pull double duty with two tournaments running consecutively.

"It's very stressful on our staff, and it took some convincing from me in order to pull this off, but they've been great in getting this set up," Dancer said. "I really appreciate that."

Included in the field for the first Futures tournament are former Illini Jared Hiltzik and Dennis Nevolo, along with current Illini Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik.

Getting a chance to see some of his old players, along with keeping tabs on some that are on his roster now, is a benefit to hosting this tournament, Dancer said.

Recruiting factors into it as well.

"We have a number of prospects competing in these tournaments," Dancer said. "It's a chance for us to really showcase our facilities, along with the community and the passion they have for tennis, to let players know just how special Champaign-Urbana is."

With the men's finals at Wimbledon set for Sunday, Dancer said the top players that filter through the game's lexicon now — like Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and others — all got their start by playing in Futures tournaments.

"You can't just bypass this level and go straight to the ATP," Dancer said. "The players here now want to be the person to take the spotlight and progress their career. That's the fun thing about these tournaments."

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