American Bjorn Fratangelo, the 2011 French Open junior boys’ singles champion, will be in Winnipeg for the $100,000 National Bank Challenger. The men’s and women’s professional tournament will be held July 9-17 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.
Fratangelo captured the 2011 Roland Garros junior title with a 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 win over current world No. 8 Dominic Thiem of Austria. At No. 112 in the world, Fratangelo is the highest ranked player on the entry list for the National Bank Challenger.
The Winnipeg tournament is part of the National Bank Challenger circuit, which also includes events in the Quebec cities of Drummondville (March 12-20), Granby (July 30-August 7), Gatineau (August 6-14) and Saguenay (October 15-23). Daniel Evans won the men’s singles title in Drummondville with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over fellow Brit Edward Corrie.
Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime will be among the players to watch in Winnipeg. Auger Aliassime, 15 years old, reached the final of the junior boys’ singles at the French Open in June.
The highest ranked player on the women’s entry list is world No. 135 Julia Glushko of Israel. Glushko has won eight career International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles titles and 10 ITF doubles titles.
Winnipeg’s National Bank Challenger will be the third largest professional tournament in Canada for 2016 following the Rogers Cup and the Granby Challenger.
“The NHL has 500-600 players in it – we’ve got players that are (ranked No.) 95, 100, 150 in the world, to put it into perspective,” said Mark Arndt, tournament organizer and Executive Director of Tennis Manitoba.
Professional tennis came to Winnipeg in 2012 with the $15,000 Manshield Men’s Tennis Futures.
“There was a void in Manitoba for tennis,” Arndt said. “There’s a pro golf tournament (in the province), pro hockey, pro football, and all that. Liking tennis as much as we do, we wanted to bring something here to Winnipeg for the public to view.”
The inaugural Manshield Tennis Futures featured Canadian Filip Peliwo, who earlier that summer won the Wimbledon boys’ singles championship.
“He was the catalyst for that tournament as far as media was concerned,” Arndt said of Peliwo. “He just won the junior Wimbledon and to have him on our courts was fantastic. He made a deep run in the tournament which helped (attract fans). He was into the final weekend and to have him around was massive for the tournament.”
The next year, 2013, Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club (WLTC) hosted the inaugural $25,000 CIBC Wood Gundy Women’s Challenger. The event was won by Great Britain’s Johanna Konta, who is now ranked No. 19 in the world. Konta reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.
In 2014, the Manshield Men’s Futures and CIBC Wood Gundy Women’s Challenger played at the same time at WLTC. National Bank took over as title sponsor in 2015.
This year the men’s tournament has been upgraded from a Futures event (third tier professional level) to a $75,000 Challenger (second tier).
“Ultimately the vision was to have the men’s and women’s tournaments combined,” Arndt said. “I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it did.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer at the event can contact Arndt at email@example.com.
“We welcome volunteers – from driving players to practice courts to driving players to hotels, (to volunteering at) the tournament desk, the players’ desk,” said Arndt.
The National Bank Challenger will include over 50 ball kids, 14 local officials and about 30 out-of-province officials.
“We have officials coming from all around the world,” including from South America, Central America and Europe, said Arndt.
Every match in the men’s tournament (including the qualifying rounds) will be live streamed on the National Bank Challenger website: that’s a requirement since it’s an ATP event.
“There will be three dedicated ATP match courts with cameras on them the whole time,” Arndt said. “All three will be streamed.”
Amateurs can test their skills against the pros at the Pro-Am on Monday, July 11. Cost is $100 and includes doubles play. For more information, contact tournament committee member Lillian Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the finals on Sunday, July 17, a kids’ Rogers Rookie Tour tournament will be held from 9-10:15 am at WLTC. Please contact Tennis Manitoba’s Rogers Rookie Tour coordinator Robert Kennedy for more information at email@example.com.
Arndt said the National Bank Challenger can inspire local juniors to reach a high level in the sport.
“A lot of it is done with the kids in mind,” said Arndt. “Hopefully if they see tennis like this in their own backyard, they can say ‘it’s reachable, it’s attainable.’”
Please visit the National Bank Challenger website: https://www.challengerbanquenationale.com/en/