The Edwardsville Futures was a success again.
Although, the 2016 version of the $25K USTA pro tennis tournament had the most resounding success in its six-year history. The EHS Tennis Center became host to a $10K Futures in 2011 and it elevated to $25K this year, producing higher quality players, bigger crowds and more community involvement.
The tournament ran from July 26-31 at EHS.
It's the second of four Futures events on what has become known as the “Illinois Swing.” It starts in Godfrey, followed by Edwardsville, Decatur and Champaign, a great way for young players trying to earn prize money and points to rack up quite a few with a good month.
Tennys Sandgren is off to a good start after winning singles titles in Godfrey and Edwardsville. The 25-year-old player from Tennessee will look to continue his success in Decatur this week.
Edwardsville Futures tournament director Dave Lipe was pleased to see the city embrace the tournament even more this year than in years past. The tournament is hosted by the EGHM Foundation and the EHS tennis program.
“This year there was a certain synergy, a certain synchronicity that just started with the wildcard tournament and has extended through the last two weeks,” Lipe said. “We had some great sponsors, they were unbelievable. The community came out and supported us. We had record breaking attendance for the last two days of the tournament. We had increased community involvement.”
Assisting the evolution of the Edwardsville Futures are the events outside of the pro play. For the first time this year there were special events every night after tourney play during the day.
Sunday, July 24 started things with Kids' Night hosted by First Cloverleaf Bank. That was followed by Mitch N' Friends, the High Performance Jr. Clinic sponsored by the Edwardsville Tennis Academy and Mortgage Makers, the Player and VIP Party at Sunset Hills Country Club, another High Performance Jr. Clinic, the Adult Doubles Clinic and Micro Tournament sponsored by Creason-Edwards & Cimarolli and Advocare and finally Family Day sponsored by Scott Credit Union.
These events saw tons of involvement from participants to volunteers to sponsorships to the players and coaches on hand for the Futures. Lipe believes that fringe work helps the tournament show more pizzaz.
“It's tough to remember all the things we did, it's kind of a blur, but all those things, the players and the great weather made the tournament great,” Lipe said. “It all attracts interest, it brings people out and introduces them to the event. People come out for the Kids' Night hosted by First Cloverleaf and then hopefully they come back again. It's all related to Tiger Tennis Camps and our academy.”
As associate tournament directors this year, Jack Desse and Emily Cimarolli were huge assets for Lipe. Both have come a long way. Desse started his Edwardsville Futures tenure as a ball boy in 2011, while Cimarolli did odds and ends before landing at the registration table, which she has helped at since.
“It's been cool being part of this tournament and watching it grow,” Desse said. “It gets bigger and bigger every year and my job gets a little more important every year. This year I'm in charge of setting up all the tents for the players, picking up the courts at the end of the day, hanging banners, laundry and I'm also the media aide so I update Facebook, Twitter, the website.”
Cimarolli's focus was handling the registration table and she also had a hand in directing the interns, which was another new program started this year at the Futures.
“My main job is to run the tournament desk, get the players on the court, make sure they're at the right courts, make sure the courts are set up properly with scorecards, snacks, drinks and things like that,” she said. “As associate tournament directors Jack and I had more responsibility and one of those was the interns we hired this year. We hired eight interns that applied online and they did most of the hard labor work, moving umbrellas, setting up tents, filling up water jugs, things like that. We trained them and made sure they knew exactly what to do and when to do it.”
She added, “It's basically do whatever needs to be done whenever anyone asks. I love being out here and being part of the Futures. It's a great community event.”
Lipe commended the efforts of Desse and Cimarolli, the interns, the ball boys and girls and all the volunteers that make the event possible.
“Jack and Emily and all the things they do, dividing up all the responsibilities with me and being here for all of it helps make it work,” said Lipe. “We also had an awesome group of interns who gained lots of experience and donated a lot of time. We couldn't have done it without them.”
There is a laundry list of people to commend on a job well done. Those tireless efforts are what makes the Edwardsville Futures an event the community can get behind. It's why over 300 fans were on hand for the semifinals and finals on July 30 and 31, a record for attendance.
The tournament is on a year-to-year basis, so there's no guarantee for it's return, but with it's growth and the community involvement it's a good bet it will be back.
“There are no guarantees,” Lipe said. “We have to get funding from places like the USTA Missouri Valley, the City of Edwardsville, the Village of Glen Carbon, Scott Credit Union, our great sponsors. Hopefully if we can get them back in place we can continue to host this tournament.
“I'm proud of the participation, I'm proud of the effort. I think the kids that worked on this tournament, Emily, Jack and the interns, really made the thing go.”