By BRIAN JENNINGS
One of the big surprises about this year’s tournament was the ample number of close matches across every division. The Kataria Classic strives to offer a family-oriented experience rather than a more competitive atmosphere, like the Wayton Open Tennis Tournament.
The Kataria Classic managed to attract better competition than in years past. After garnering champions from the Wayton Open and Wint Filipek Sr. Memorial Tennis Tournament, Kunal said that the quality of champions was the best it’s ever been.
“People that go there and win regularly are coming out and winning in our tournament now,” said Kunal. “In previous years, we had the people that don’t usually win tournaments because the top players didn’t want to come out and play. It wasn’t essentially worth their time, but now, you can tell that a lot of top players are coming out and playing because the competition is going up.”
The Kataria Classic has been advertised both through www.katariaclassic.org and Facebook, but Kunal Kataria said that communicating with the right people helped most with drawing a tournament record of about 110 entries. Last year’s tournament drew 80 entrants and the opening year saw 50.
Working with Matt Wayton to help run the Wayton Open was one vehicle the Katarias used to carry entrants over to their tournament.
“We know a lot of people in the tennis community, so we can just text them,” said Rohan Kataria. “We’ve been working with the Wayton Open so much to the point where I could take the phone numbers from the Wayton’s whole list and text them. We don’t have to work as hard because Matt gives us the resources. It’s just a really nice, mutual partnership.”
After uncertainty and second thoughts turned in to hosting such a successful turnout, the Katarias are already receiving overwhelming support and requests for next year’s tournament, as people are now planning their summer vacations around the tournament.
“I’m foreseeing that as the years go by, the tournament will get more and more competitive,” said Kunal. “The tournament is in its growing stage right now, but no matter what we do, it’s going to continue to grow.”
The Kataria Classic plans to donate about $500 of the money they raise from the tournament to the Southington Care Center for another consecutive year. Focusing on a long-term goal of applying funds towards creating a middle school feeder program is also on the horizons for the Kataria Classic as well.
There’s a tennis community in Southington, but there’s the potential for a bigger tennis community, and the Katarias said that they hope to expand it.
“Kunal and I have experience with this tournament, we know the high school team, and we know how everything runs,” said Rohan. “It would be great if we can set some kind of middle school program where high school captains can come and teach the kids. A lot of the kids that come in to the tennis team are kids that just picked up a tennis racquet for the first time and are very athletic.”
New features that the Katarias introduced to this year’s tournament were posts of the top matches each day on their Facebook page, as well as a new mixed doubles division. The tournament ousted the women’s doubles and high school girls singles divisions, due to lack of entries.
“It really didn’t become that much of an issue,” said Kunal. “People that entered those divisions were able to enter other divisions. They had great matches that they wouldn’t have had with those divisions.”
Male champions of their respective divisions included the following: men’s A singles, (1) Eric Henne defeated (2) Sam Noury, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0; men’s B singles, (3) Dave Fahey defeated Eric Piurkowski, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4; men’s doubles, (1) Wint Filipek-Mike Flannery defeated (2) Winchester Brown-Don Ouelette, 6-3, 6-0; high school boys A singles, Matthew Balaoing defeated (1) Michael Balaoing, 6-4, 6-4; and high school boys B singles, (1) Nate Zmarlicki defeated Michael Kwok, 6-2, 6-1.
Female, co-ed, and other champions of their respective divisions included the following: women’s singles, Angela Hage defeated (1) Alejandra Gimenez, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; parent-child doubles, John Delgado-Jun Delgado defeated Ben Doolittle-Ellie Doolittle, 6-4, 6-4; mixed doubles, Alejandra Gimenez-Oscar Gimenez defeated Abby Roy-Alex Roy, 6-3, 6-3; and starter doubles, Kevin Bates-Matt Edson defeated Evan Pokorski-Tim Carrier, 6-3.
The Katarias gave special thanks to the families of Balaoing, Barmore, Gimenez, and Hage for supporting the tournament.