By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington got a taste of community tennis with the 10th annual Wayton Open tennis tournament last month. Now, another round of community tennis is here with the fourth annual Kataria Classic.
In past years, the Kataria Classic was held for one full week. But this year, brothers and tournament directors, Kunal and Rohan Kataria, are aiming to pack a full, family-oriented tennis tournament into a single weekend, which is set to be held at the Southington High School tennis courts from Friday, Aug. 11 to Sunday, Aug. 13.
One of the reasons for changing the tournament from a week to just a weekend was for organization and convenience. However, emphasizing the charity aspect of the tournament rather than the tennis was the main reason.
“We see this as a route to giving to a charity,” said Rohan Kataria. “We can actually raise a lot of money, while throwing a nice tournament too. Over a week, it becomes more stressful and tennis-based.”
Last year’s tournament donated its proceeds to the Southington Care Center. The Kataria brothers have chosen to head in a different direction this year. They’re not only planning to donate this year’s tournament proceeds to the Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation in Hartford, but also for years to come.
“Our whole family is really attached to the city of Hartford for different reasons,” said Kunal Kataria. “One of the biggest things that we liked about Mercy Housing is their effective case-by-case approach to helping to end homelessness in Connecticut.”
According to its website, the mission statement of Mercy is to “provide housing assistance and supportive services to persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Mercy works to empower its clients to become independent, so they may live and work with dignity and respect and seeks to end homelessness by advocating for changes in the social systems that perpetuate homelessness.”
Mercy offers programs and services at six program sites in the Hartford and Middlesex Counties. They’re also a part of a larger organization of 24 different homeless shelters across the state, serving about 4,800 people last year.
On Saturday, Aug. 12 at 5 p.m., the tournament will host a potluck dinner at the high school tennis courts. During the dinner, the Kataria brothers will present the proceeds from the tournament to representatives of Mercy.
Also during the dinner, Awards of Elegance LLC will hold a sports memorabilia auction and plans to donate the proceeds from the auction to Mercy as well. All that are interested are invited to attend the dinner.
Last year’s tournament saw 110 entries. This year’s tournament capped at exactly 100 entries this year, which was the desired number of the Kataria brothers before signups began.
However, even though this year’s tournament has around the same number of entrants with a shorter period of time, the Kataria brothers are not worried about consolidating a week into a weekend. The tournament now has all hands on deck from the community.
“Last year, we were just really frustrated with the whole process,” said Kunal Kataria. “This year, it was much easier and fulfilling. We care about it, and they care about, and it’s really pushing the tournament forward.”
Scheduling conflicts and matches moving indoors because of weather doesn’t have the Kataria brothers fretting either.
“There’s less conflicts because there’s less time in the week,” said Kunal Kataria. “People free up their weekends for us. I’m going to reach out to some of the indoor facilities if they want to donate some court time, but the absolute worst-case scenario is pushing matches to another date if it’s that bad of a washout.”
There are 10 divisions for this year’s tournament. Those divisions include the following: men’s A singles (4.0 USTA rating and above), men’s B singles (3.5 USTA rating and below), women’s A singles, women’s B singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles, high school boys singles, parent-child doubles, and starter doubles (beginners only).
The Kataria Classic offered high school girls singles last year, but the division was scrapped for this year’s tournament, due to lack of interest. Discarding the division forced the Kataria brothers to incorporate two women’s singles divisions, instead of just one.
Participants signed up for the Kataria Classic will receive a tournament t-shirt, food, water, ice, and tennis balls. Anthony Jack’s Restaurant, Pagliacci’s Restaurant, and Namaste India are catering the tournament. Trophies will be given to first and second-place finishers of their respective divisions.
The following are sponsors for the Kataria Classic: Save America, Leila Havadtoy, Uma Balram, Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe, Timberlin Golf Club, Sushi House, Fancy Bagels, the Sharma family, Women in Technology International (WITI), Reverend Alphonso Gordon, Anthony Jack’s Restaurant, Namaste India, Pagliacci’s Restaurant, Awards of Elegance, and T. Gillis.
Aside from the Kataria Classic, the Kataria brothers are hoping to give back to Mercy through even more avenues. After visiting the Friendship Center at the St. Elizabeth House, a Mercy site that houses about 44 adults, the Kataria brothers were amazed by what they saw and are now in the process of creating a black tie charity event to be held in Hartford by May or June of 2018.
“We’ll really focus on the charity aspect there,” said Kunal Kataria. “That would be a good introduction to the tennis tournament for people that haven’t even heard about it.”
If you are interested in helping the Kataria’s cause, you can donate to Mercy online at www.youcaring.com/mercyhousingandshelterinhartfordct-888407. For more information about the Kataria Classic, please visit www.katariaclassic.org or follow the tournament on its Facebook page. For any questions or concerns, you can email the Kataria brothers at email@example.com.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.