GODFREY – A pair of college tennis players from Atlanta, Ga., will be participating in the Men’s Pro Tennis Classic at Lewis and Clark Community College for the first time this year.
Michael Kay and Trey Yates made the 575-mile trip to Godfrey to get a chance to play against excellent tennis players from around the world. And they hope to head back south as champions.
“It’s kind of hard to find tournaments around this time of the year that are closer to home,” Kay said. “So it’s a pretty easy option. We both live in Georgia and we both wanted to come to this tournament. So we figured that we would split gas money and stay in a hotel and see what we can do in this tournament.”
Yates added, “I’m in college and I need to play some matches to get some experience. The best way to do that is come out here and play in the Futures.”
Kay and Yates will be playing in singles competition at the Men’s Pro Tennis Classic. Kay and Yates are juniors at Georgia Tech and the University of Kentucky, respectively.
The Men’s Pro Tennis Classic, which is a United States Tennis Association Men’s Futures Pro Circuit event, begins its 19th year at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex at 8 a.m. Saturday with qualifying play. The final 32-player main draw play begins on Tuesday and the finals are scheduled for July 24.
“It’s wonderful to have it here,” Alton Mayor Brant Walker said. “It’s wonderful for our community. It’s wonderful for our hotels and restaurants. This is a win-win for everybody.”
Pairings were released for the singles qualifying draw on Friday. A total of 50 American players will be participating. There are also players from Great Britain, Mexico, Canada and Venezuela in the event.
Kay will be playing Brian Battistone of Las Vegas, Nev., in the first round. Yates will be playing Carter Lin, a junior from the University of Michigan, in his first-round match.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Kay said. “I’m excited to get some good matches. I’ve been playing well lately, so I’m excited about getting some match play and see where it takes me.”
The Lewis and Clark tournament offers a total purse of $25,000 and it’s the 11th-oldest men’s pro circuit tournament.
There will also be Men’s Futures tournaments at Edwardsville (July 22-31), Decatur (July 30-Aug. 7) and Champaign (Aug. 6-13). All of the tournaments, including the one at LCCC, represent a $1 million tour, and they make up “The Illinois Swing” of tournaments.
“One of the things we’re proud of is to get local tennis players a chance to play professional,” said Dave Lipe, who is the Edwardsville Futures tournament director. “Three St. Louis kids, one is a high school player and the others are college players, are getting a chance to play professional tennis through our wild card event, the Edwardsville Open. I know through the Simpson Tournament here in Godfrey, that a local kid is going to get a chance to play professional tennis. We’re very proud to be part of the dreams of the local St. Louis tennis community and that’s an important role that both Godfrey and Edwardsville play in the St. Louis community.”
Lewis and Clark started hosting the Men’s Pro Tennis Classic in 1998.
“This is an unbelievable good facility,” said Brian Earley, who is the director of the USTA Pro Circuit. “For it to be a junior college is unusual and very special and I hope everybody understands what they have here because it’s a very good solid facility. I think everybody should appreciate what it is they have.”
Kay is 38-33 in singles and 35-31 in doubles in his two years with the Yellow Jackets’ men’s tennis team. Last fall, Kay teamed up with his older brother, Casey, to become one of the top doubles teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in the country. They finished with a 16-15 record.
Yates finished 13-10 in singles play for the Wildcats, who were ranked 20th in the nation.
“The SEC is very competitive,” Yates said. “We had the most teams in the top 25, so we had a really strong conference this year. It was a lot of fun to play in.”
Last summer, Kay played doubles with Yates of the ITA National Collegiate Summer Championships at Indiana University and finished second.