Canadian Ian Vincent Filoteo returns to Hans Hach Verdugo
in qualifying. (cole breiland / winnipeg free press)

[Courtesy of Jeff Hamilton, Winnipeg Free Press]

PRO tennis has made its way back to Winnipeg.

Today marks the beginning of the 2012 Manshield Tennis Futures Tournament at Sargent Park Tennis Garden and the first time the city has hosted a pro tennis tournament since the 1999 Pan American Games.

It’s the first time Winnipeg has hosted a men’s draw sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation, a professional circuit that consists of close to 300 tournaments worldwide each year.

“As far as tennis goes I think we’re opening the door,” said tournament director George Kylar about the impact of the tournament on local talent. “I think right now we are relying on strictly the (method) take some lessons, work out, and come and play local tournaments which are very average in level and very average in attendance. That’s got to grow. Motivation is the biggest aspect to tennis. Hopefully some kids will watch matches and say ‘you know what, this is what I want to do’ and that will lead to better tennis in this province.”

Three Manitobans will be competing in the tournament, all of whom reached the draw thanks to wild-card spots allocated for the tournament host. In men’s doubles, Winnipegger Muzeen Ismath and Kevin Kylar will see action. Ismath will play with Mill Bay, B.C native Alden Eakins while Kylar will be matched up with Andrew Ochotta from Scarborough, Ont. Kylar will also be the lone Manitoban in the men’s singles draw.

“It’s great,” said Kylar. “A crowd will come out and I know the courts. It’s a big opportunity. You’re at home, you have your regular routine, you sleep in your own bed, which is always better than travelling.”

Another name expected to grab attention this week is 18-year-old Filip Peliwo, who won the boy’s title at Wimbledon this summer in London, England.

“I like it so far. It’s a nice calm place and I can do my own thing and relax when I need to,” said Peliwo about his time in Winnipeg so far. “It’s good to be here and I think it’s a really good place to start my first tournament (in his upcoming five-week tour) and I’m happy to be here.”

Peliwo is ranked fifth among the tournament hopefuls.

“If I’m playing well I think my chances are great. I’m hoping to get my first pro title here but you never know. Everyone’s good here and you can lose to anyone,” he said.

Rounding out the top five are No. 1-ranked Daniel Garza from Mexico, followed by Ante Pavic from Croatia, Japan native Hiroyasu Ehara and Joshua Zavala from the U.S.

Action begins today at 10 a.m., running all week. The finals are scheduled for Sunday.