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New York Open reaching out to community with series of events

Reilly Opelka with the running forehand return against

Reilly Opelka with the running forehand return against Brayden Schnur in the men's singles finals match during the 2019 NY Open Tennis Tournament at the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum last February. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

When the third edition of the New York Open begins Feb. 9 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, there will be two new high profile players in the mix.

The highly talented and occasionally volatile Nick Kyrgios and former world No. 3 Milos Raonic have committed to play, joining defending champion Reilly Opelka, 2018 champion Kevin Anderson and John Isner as the primary draws on the indoor black courts of the ATP 250 event.

But this year there is more, considerably more. GF Sports, owner of the event, has said they are in it for the long haul and this year’s rendition goes well beyond the game of tennis as it searches to establish a community base. Three new community platforms spread out over the first four days of the tournament will include tickets to the tournament for the participants.

On Feb. 10 there will be a Veterans and Diversity Expo at the adjoining Marriott hotel in Uniondale. Feb. 11 is STEM Education Day at the Coliseum ($10 per student for a four-hour experience plus ticket to afternoon match). On Feb. 13 will be the Women’s Elevating Experiences Leadership Brunch ($85 per person) at the Marriott. Information and registration can be found on the website under tournament Info/schedule.

“A sporting event needs to connect to the community,” said tournament director Peter Lebedevs. “We feel we want a 12-month presence on Long Island with our tennis event, and the reason you make sure you do that is that you show the community that you are here for the benefit of the community.

“When we do these community platforms, it just doesn’t benefit the tournament and the tennis fans, but it also benefits the whole community, whether it be our Veterans and Diversity Expo that benefits men and women and businesses around here looking for qualified individuals. Or inspiration for young children with our STEM education event. The school children get an opportunity to see great tennis and also realize that GF sports is committed to encouraging and providing dreams for young kids.

"The same with our women’s leadership outreach luncheon. The idea is to inspire young women who come out and see women who are leading from our area.”

The tournament is expecting around 2,000 children for the STEM Day (science, technology, engineering and math), who as part of the program will learn something about the science of tennis and will get an opportunity to see a match.

Added to the competition aspect this year is the what is being billed as the New York Open Pickleball Championships in the exhibition hall. Pickleball is a combination of tennis and ping pong on a small court using a wiffle ball and paddle-like rackets. Around 200 people have signed up for the competition.

For the tournament proper, from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13 there will be a single session starting at noon with two matches guaranteed in the evening starting no later than 7:30 PM. Then separate sessions on Friday, Feb. 14, at noon and 7:30 for the quarterfinals. The semifinals will be at 2 and 7:30  on Saturday, the final at 2 on Sunday.

“In the stadium side of things, we’ll have a video back wall,” Lebedevs said. “We’ll be the first non-Grand Slam tournament to have one. I think for the fan experience, it will really grab their attention.”

What the tournament wants is to grab the attention of the public as a whole and fill up what have been a lot of empty seats at the Coliseum, particularly during the early rounds. Though there have been crowds of around 3,000 for the semis and finals, not too bad for an ATP 250 event.

“Sports brings everybody together,” Lebedevs said, “So we think it’s a great uniting opportunity.”

New York Sports