Indoor tennis tourney prize pot hits $20,000

Everything for the South Island Indoor Tennis Challenge, Oct. 16 to 19, is ready – except for the players.

The sponsors are in place, the schedule is set.

Everything for the South Island Indoor Tennis Challenge, Oct. 16 to 19, is ready – except for the players.

“Now we sit and wait. They’ll literally sign up within the final hour of deadline (Oct. 8),” says Dean Gillis, who’s grown the tourney from a $5,000 in 2010 to this year’s $20,000 pot.

The eight player tourney reserves six spots for Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranked players (usually between the 100 and 200 mark). About a dozen invitees are vetted by Gillis, who then take a gamble on the first-come-first-serve online registration for the six spots.

“I can actually watch them sign up in our computer program at 6:59 for a 7 p.m. deadline,” Gillis laughs.

The Cedar Hill tennis pro intentionally timed the Indoor Challenge to fall after a series of ATP challenger tournaments in California, stopping in Napa (Sept. 20 to 28), Tiburon (Oct. 4 to 12) and Sacramento (Sept. 27 to Oct. 5).

“Ours is known as a money tournament, meaning we’re not sanctioned by the ATP,” Gillis said. “We’ll attract players from those tourneys. A lot of them have talked to me, they just like to wait until the last minute to make sure they’re healthy.”

There are a lot of money tournaments across North America, as they play an important role for players ranked in the 100 to 200 range.

Gillis sees tourney his growing to a $50,000 pot in the coming years to attract bigger names, even if they’re not as recognizable.

“Those players need money tournaments to earn the $40,000 annual income needed to fly around and enter ATP tournaments. It’s a cyclical process.”

Even though ATP tournaments often boast a $50,000 or $100,000 prize total, the Indoor Challenge allocates the majority of its money to the winners, $6,000 to the winner and $4,000 to the finalist, which is in line with a $40,000 ATP tournament.

“A lot of these players have been playing in the qualifying brackets for the Grand Slams,” Gillis said. “Last year’s winner (Rik de Voest) was ranked 120th. We’ll never get the big names, but if you take, for example, there’s more than 600 players in the NHL, and even more in baseball, we’re getting players at the top 100 level in the world.”

De Voest, 33, has retired and is unlikely to compete, though Canadian Philip Bester, recovering from injury, may return. Qualifying for the tourney’s reserved local spots runs Oct. 14 and 15.

Tickets are $5 for the round robin (Oct. 16-17), $10 for the semifinals and $15 for the final, at South Island Challenge.

reporter@saanichnews.com