Filip Peliwo of Canada hits a return to Luke Saville of Australia
 in their boys’ singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis
Championships in London July 8, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

[Courtesy of Winnipeg Sun, Kevin Hirschfield, QMI Agency]

The field for Winnipeg’s first professional tennis tournament since the 1999 Pan American Games got much stronger with the addition of a Wimbledon junior champion.

The ITF Men’s Pro Circuit makes its way through the city for the Manshield Futures Tournament from August 18-26 at the Sargent Park Tennis Complex and the field will be highlighted by 18-year-old Canadian Filip Peliwo, who is hot off winning the boys singles championship at Wimbledon last month.

“We were definitely surprised,” said Mark Arndt, tournament chairman. “We’re lucky enough that his schedule lined up, and he had a window where he was able to fit us in.”

An organizer for Tennis Canada said that Peliwo is using Winnipeg as a tune-up for the U.S. Junior Open in New York which begins in a few weeks’ time. Peliwo was also a finalist at the Australian Junior Open and French Junior Open earlier this year.

The ITF Men’s Pro Circuit is known as the third tier tour for professional men’s tennis with the ATP World Tour being the top level and the Challengers Tour being the second level. The inaugural Winnipeg ITF event will feature a $15,000 prize for the winner as well as valuable ranking points.

“Tennis Canada has always made periodic trips to Winnipeg,” said George Kylar, tournament director. “And they were always asking if Winnipeg was going to get something because they always want to get more involved with the prairie regions.”

“George and I discussed it,” said Arndt. “We said why don’t we do something like this. Obviously we won’t get the top level here in Winnipeg but why not try for the next best that we can. Let’s do it for tennis in Winnipeg, there’s an opportunity and a window here for something like this.”

Arndt said the goal is to host a Challengers Tour tournament one day.

The ITF Pro Circuit tour plays “Futures” tournaments year round and hosts some of the top young studs in tennis, who are looking to take the next step.

That means the Wimbledon champ Peliwo, ranked 614th in the world, is only the fifth-ranked player at the Winnipeg tournament. Daniel Garza, the top-ranked Mexican player in the world (421st), will be the top seed followed by Ante Pavic of Croatia (456th) and Hiroyasu Ehara of Japan (585th).

Other players from the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and New Zealand will bring even more international flavour to the event and Manitoba’s No. 1-ranked player Kevin Kylar will also be in the main draw. As for other Manitobans, a local wildcard event got underway Wednesday with the winners earning a berth into the qualifying portion of the tournament. The qualifying stages take place this Sunday and Monday and the winners of that will round out the field of 32 in the main draw, beginning Tuesday.

“We felt it was very important to have a local presence here so we were able to secure five spots for local players to get into qualifying,” said Kylar.

Action begins daily at 10 a.m., with evening draws starting at 5:30 p.m. The tournament concludes with the singles final on Sunday Aug. 26th.

See also Shaw TV previews Manshield ITF Futures