By BRIAN JENNINGS
The fourth-annual Kataria Classic Tennis Tournament wrapped up play with championship matches on Sunday, Aug. 13 and on Monday, Aug. 14 at the Southington High School tennis courts.
Although last year’s Kataria Classic was shortened from a week to a weekend, all divisions were completed without any delays, and tournament directors Kunal and Rohan Kataria are already looking forward to next year’s festivities.
“This was a great experience for me and the best year we’ve ever had,” said Kunal Kataria. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been doing this tournament, and it didn’t feel like work one day. Things are ran perfect in my eyes.”
Emphasizing the charity aspect of the tournament rather than the tennis came as one of the primary reasons for the hacking of the Kataria Classic. The Kataria brothers donated about $500 to last year’s charity, the Southington Care Center, and are still receiving donations for this year’s charity, the Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation in Hartford, as they are currently at $1,350. The Kataria family is expected to present Mercy with a check in about two weeks.
“It really warms my heart to see such a young family really spearhead this,” said Associate Executive Director of Mercy Judy Gough. “The generosity is just overwhelming and wonderful.”
Gough made an appearance at the tournament’s potluck dinner on Saturday at the high school tennis courts. She spoke to all involved in the tournament about the mission of Mercy and what the corporation offers.
“My hope is that I can change one person out of 20 and get them to understand that homelessness isn’t somewhere else far away in a third world country,” the associate executive director said. “It is in our backyard, and it’s all of our duties to help with this issue because any of us are one step away from homelessness at any point in time.”
The Kataria brothers plan to continue donating proceeds from their tournaments to Mercy and are currently working on creating a black tie dinner event for Mercy for the future as well.
“It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside,” said Gough. “It is just wonderful to know that there are young men out there that want to do this.”
Although the tournament didn’t experience any delays, due to scheduling conflicts or weather, the Kataria brothers did run into one problem with scheduling multiple matches for a doubles team in one day. Two women’s doubles matches were scheduled in the same day, but the Kataria brothers are working to accommodate each division individually and understand the demographics they schedule for next year’s tournament.
“I was thinking that it would be favorable for their scheduling,” said Kunal Kataria. “But it’s harder to play two matches in one day with injuries and the heat, and it was a lesson learned.”
Another change for next year’s tournament will feature the total number of entries per division. The Kataria Classic saw 115 entries in this year’s tournament, but instead of capping the total number of entries, the Kataria brothers will cap each division at a maximum of 16 entries and four rounds.
After scrapping the girls high school singles division from this year’s tournament, due to lack of interest, the Kataria Classic only drew 12 female entries in all the other divisions combined. The Kataria brothers are focused on gearing next year’s tournament more towards female tennis players.
“We want to expand that demographic and diversify, not just race, but gender also and have a very diverse tournament across all spectrums,” said Kunal Kataria. “I think we’re going to be working with coach (Robin) Thompson and Coach (Mary) Murphy to figure out how we can appeal more to the girls side of things.”
One way to attract more female tennis players is by offering them a different promotional item for signing up.
“I talked to a lot of the girls in the women’s entries, and they said that they didn’t even wear the t-shirts,” said Kunal Kataria. “They said that they wore tank tops, hats, and towels. Maybe for the women’s entries, instead of giving them a free shirt, we can give them something else when they enter.”
The Kataria brothers plan to keep the tournament around 100 entries for next year’s Kataria Classic and don’t want to grow much more than this year’s tournament, looking at a maximum of 120 entries. A men’s C singles division is expected to be added for next year’s tournament, and there is talk of the creation of a men’s 45 and older singles division as well.
“I don’t want to go to 150 because we don’t need that extra stress of the scheduling side of things,” said Kunal Kataria. “The tournament is a vehicle for us to raise money and awareness to a mass amount of people, but the majority of our donations come from sponsors and donors.”
Division winners from the tournament are as follows: Ted Mathias (men’s A singles), Winchester Brown (men’s B singles), Varsha Rathore (women’s A singles), Katherine Longworth (women’s B singles), Wint Filipek-Mike Flannery (men’s doubles), Angela Hage-Lucile Hage (women’s doubles), Peter Regan-April Regan (mixed doubles), Frankie Fortunati (high school boys singles), Ben Doolittle-Ellie Doolittle (parent-child doubles), and Chris Jablonka-Jay Gallo (starter doubles). Filipek and Flannery won the men’s doubles division for the third year in a row.