By BRIAN JENNINGS
The eighth annual Wayton Open tennis tournament kicked off at local courts on Friday, July 10, and it continues to get bigger every year. The tournament started out as a one-day competition when former Southington High School standout Matt Wayton rolled out the charity event in 2007, but it has expanded into a multiple week tournament and one of the biggest local sporting events in Southington.
The tournament saw its largest turnout this year with about 220 entrants, up from 170 last year and 24 in its inaugural event.
“Every year, we’ve had more people,” said Wayton. “We’ve expanded divisions and raised more money for scholarships. People have a good experience with it. They tell a couple of their buddies and come back the next year. A lot of the tournament is spread through word of mouth, especially with getting players from other towns.”
Although the main draw of the tournament comes from Southington, the tournament is open to the public and Wayton said that they have been receiving entries from other surrounding cities and towns as well, such as Newington, Rocky Hill, Plainville, Cheshire, Bristol, Farmington, Middletown, and Manchester. The minimum age for the tournament is 12 years old and there is no maximum age.
Participants receive an official tournament t-shirt, player bag, wristband, water, and tennis balls for every match.
“The purpose of the tournament is to give people in Southington a competitive, yet recreational tournament at the same time,” said the tournament director. “Basically, it’s a good community builder and I want to be an ambassador to the sport of tennis, to keep growing tennis in central Connecticut, specifically Southington.”
The event has swelled to 10 divisions, welcoming all ages and skill levels. Divisions include two men’s singles brackets, a men’s over-45 division, high school boys and girls divisions, a women’s singles division, and three doubles brackets—women’s, men’s, and mixed.
All proceeds for the tournament go towards tennis scholarships for a boy and girl from the high school’s tennis teams through the Wayton Open Scholarship Fund. The tournament relies on donations from local businesses to provide refreshments, food, equipment, and advertising for the tournament.
“I want to keep people playing tennis throughout their whole life, said Wayton. “A lot of people have been playing every year, and the tournament keeps growing, pulling people in. A lot of people that play in this tournament have never played before or only play tennis once a year because they like it and want to support the cause. Then you have your serious players, too.”
Southington High School graduates Kunal Kataria, Luke Pfanzelt, and Grant Ogrin have helped Wayton run the tournament as part of the event committee. Wayton said that current Blue Knight varsity player Rohan Kataria has been his main volunteer this year, and he has served as a big help to Wayton at this year’s tournament. Kataria will be a returning junior on the high school’s tennis team.
“As the week goes on, the matches get more and more serious,” said Wayton. “The best players play the best players. They’re always the most fun matches to watch and come out for. They have the biggest crowds. You have the championship breakfast and the trophy ceremony on Sunday.
Wayton works at the high school now as a teacher’s aid and wants to continue to grow the game through his new position.
“I hope to keep promoting the game in Southington, growing it, and making it stronger,” said Wayton. “I want to usher in a new generation of people who love the game and want to play it for their whole life. Hopefully I’ll be around the game for years to come…It’s just a good time.”
The singles semifinals are scheduled to start at the high school around 8am on Saturday with the doubles semifinals following right after (around 11am). The tournament will reach its conclusion on Sunday with the singles championships starting around 9am and doubles championships starting around noon at the high school.
For more information on the Wayton Tournament, go to www.waytonopen.com or check out the latest news and updates of the tournament on Facebook.