By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Kataria family and friends will host the second annual Kataria Classic Tennis Tournament at the Southington High School tennis courts from Friday, Aug. 14 to Sunday, Aug. 16.
Kunal Kataria, one of the founders and directors of the tournament, said that he started the Kataria Classic to replace the Kenny Hill Memorial tournament, which no longer exists. The late summer tournament was a staple in the community.
The first year of the Kataria Classic came with the simple goal of having a successful tennis tournament. However, this year’s tournament comes with two purposes.
“We want to spread the love of tennis throughout the community,” said Kataria. “We want to give everyone in the community a chance to come out to the courts, have a good time with their families and friends, play some competitive tennis, and eat food, too.”
Kataria said that another goal of the tournament is to raise $500. All the proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the Southington Care Center to help improve the residential life.
“I used to volunteer there a lot when I was younger,” said Kataria. “My goal is just to try to give back to them. I don’t have much time anymore because I’m graduated from high school and won’t be in town anymore.”
Mary “Mitzy” Kohl and Marion Gifford are two women that live at the Southington Care Center. Kataria and his family have been close with them for a few years now, and they were the first people that Kataria went to for help with starting the tournament.
“I contacted them first because they’re part of the residential committee. They loved the ideas. They gave me all of the background on what I need to do for the tournament. They were just extremely excited to bring their name out into the community with the tennis tournament and a lot of young people. Their number one thing to do is bring a lot of young people into their care center because it brings life, energy, and youth into them.”
There is a bus that brings the people of the care center out to the summer concerts. The Katatrias have arranged for that bus to bring them out to the Kataria Classic, so that they can watch the tournament during the evenings on Saturday and Sunday.
“We are going to set up tents, so that they can sit down and watch,” said Kataria. “It’s just a good way for them to get out and bond with a lot of the players. It would just be a good connecting moment for the Southington Care Center and tennis; two things that are close to my heart.”
Kataria said that he talked to some of the directors at the Southington Care Center, and they all approved signoff on Kataria’s mission and supported his goal.
In their first year, the Kataria Classic had about 50 people with about 70 entries, counting a doubles team as two entries. Kataria said that the entries were made up of mostly his friends, but he is hoping to expand the field to a wide variety of tennis players throughout the state for this year’s tournament.
Matt Wayton, who is the creator/director of the Wayton Open Tennis Tournament, has been helping Kataria in the process.
“Matt helped me a lot with the groundwork of the tournament,” said Kataria. “I helped him run his tournament last year, and that gave me a lot of experience. So, that experience gave me the confidence to start my own tournament.”
Wayton has helped Kataria recruit players from the Wayton Open as well as hand out signup sheets to people.
“We want to double that number, and while we double that number that will help us generate money to give to the Southington Care Center,” said Kataria. “So the goals go hand-in-hand to raise money, but get more entries.”
Kataria said that he also plans on trying to get more volunteers to help out at the tournament and will have volunteer signup sheets to give to the players and families. He said that they pride themselves in supplying food at the tournament.
“Starting Saturday morning, we have breakfast,” said Kataria. “At around two, we have lunch and if we have matches going on around six, we’ll have a dinner. The same schedule repeats on Sunday. We have food all the time and that’s one of the staples to bring families out. We have tennis all the time and that brings the players out.”
Other than personal friend and family donations, the biggest sponsor of the tournament is Anthony Jacks Wood Fired Grill in Southington. They will be bringing $100 worth of food to the tournament. CrossFit Factory Square, Namaste India, Fancy Bagels, and CC Carvers are some of the other sponsors of the tournament. Kataria said that they are trying to get more sponsors and donations. This year’s tournament will feature tournament t-shirts for all the entrants.
“We’re hoping to generate enough sponsorships and donators to get t-shirts,” said Kataria. “We want to get t-shirts out because it will help us spread the word of the tournament for future years. It’s more of a future investment in the tournament itself. It’s a good way to spread the word of the tournament when players are wearing our shirts at different events.”
The 10 divisions for the Kataria Classic are as follows: Men’s A Singles (4.0 and above USTA rating); Men’s B Singles (3.5 and below USTA rating); Women’s Singles; Men’s Doubles; Women’s Doubles; High School Boy’s A Singles; High School Boy’s B Singles; High School Girl’s Singles; Parent/Child Doubles (child must be 18 or younger); Starter Doubles (beginners only).
The Kataria Classic created the new “Starter Doubles” division in order to allow beginner players to compete as a doubles team against other beginners. Kataria said that the division is a fun way to include friends and family in the competitive tennis weekend. Kataria also said that the high school divisions are the most popular divisions in the tournament.
“High School B Boy’s allows a lot of players that wouldn’t necessarily be competing in varsity on a lot of teams a chance to compete for a trophy and win,” he said. “So it’s really competitive for a lot of players that didn’t get the chance to live in the glory during the seasons. I think that’s really important for them. High School A is really competitive for a lot of varsity players, not only across our team, but across a lot of nearby teams.”
The tournament is for all ages and all levels of tennis. The entry fees for the tournament are $15 for singles players and $30 per doubles team ($15 per player). There is a maximum limit of two singles entries per player and a maximum limit of three total entries per player. The deadline for entry into the tournament is Tuesday, Aug. 11.
There are multiple ways to register for the Kataria Classic. If you want to register online, you can simply go to the tournament’s website at www.katariaclassic.org, fill out the registration form under the “Online Registration” tab, and pay through PayPal. You can also print out the registration form under the “PDF Registration Form” tab, fill out the entry form, and either mail it to Kataria with a cash or check payment, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or pay at the tournament. Last year’s tournament had 50 percent of their entries come in the form of email.
The tournament is set to start on Friday, Aug. 14 at 8 a.m. at the Southington High School tennis courts. The high school courts are booked for Monday as a rain date. Assistant Southington High School boy’s tennis coach Mike Flannery was the first entry in the tournament this year and is the defending Men’s B Singles champion.
For more information on the Kataria Classic, you can visit their website at www.katariaclassic.org or you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.