When the New York Open men’s ATP tournament debuts in February at Nassau Coliseum, the opening night will be a gala affair that features Sloane Stephens, the U.S. Open women’s champion.
Stephens will play an exhibition match against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, which will follow an exhibition with John McEnroe playing James Blake. The four players will then square off in mixed doubles. The matches begin at 7:30 p.m. There will be a qualifier during the day session.
Stephens was a surprise winner of the Open in September, having been hobbled by a foot injury in August 2016 that led to surgery in January followed by 16 weeks on crutches. Just weeks before the Open she was ranked 957.
“The only way the New York Open is to become successful is if we attract not only a wide swath of tennis fans, but the general entertainment fans,” Josh Ripple, the tournament director, said on Sunday. “Having men and women play has always been a successful formula for tennis events. We were very fortunate to be able to get the current U.S. Open champion. Having Eugenie with us, who we’ve worked with before, she’s very, very good in these kind of events. Combined with players like John McEnroe and James Blake, that bodes very well for us. We went as big as we could.”
The New York Open will be the first ATP Tour event on Long Island since the departure of the tournament long known as the Hamlet Cup, which was last played in 2004. Highly ranked players John Isner and Kei Nishikori have committed to play the New York Open, along with Noah Rubin of Merrick. The tournament, with a 28-man singles field as well as a doubles competition featuring the Bryan brothers, runs from Feb. 11 to the final on Feb. 18 with day and night sessions.
“We are getting an enthusiastic reception from people within the tennis world,” Ripple said. “I think people are excited about New York having a tour event. We need to get out there in the public and I think we are doing a pretty good job.”
As for getting U.S. Open champ Stephens to participate in the inaugural New York Open, “I think it’s tremendous for those fans [in the area] who only get to see professional tennis once a year,” Ripple said.