(Photos by Gary Quintal)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, August 13- The 20th anniversary of the Bronx Open, a USTA Pro Circuit tennis tournament played at the tennis courts in Crotona Park, was celebrated last week. The prelude to the U.S. Open, the only Grand Slam event hosted in the United States, which will also be played in New York City, is a drawing card to young women pros from all corners of the globe.
The 32 entrants in the main singles draw included players from 13 nations in the continents of North America, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Australia. Thus, the Bronx, as its history reflects, welcomed women from throughout the world.
The players competed to raise their rankings and earn a share of the $50,000 in prize money by their success in the tourney. They also came to sharpen their skills in competition on the same surface and in the sane weather conditions as the U.S. Tennis Center in Flushing, where the U.S. Open will be played two weeks after the Bronx tournament concluded.
Romina Oprandi of Switzerland lived up to her first seed position by capturing the title and winning the $7,315 in prize money with a victory over a former Bronx champion (2001, Anna Chakvetadze of Russia, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, in the final. After the first set, it appeared as if Chakvetadze was on her way to be the only woman to be a two-time winner of the event. Both reached the exalted final game by defeating young Americans, Chi Chi Scholl (20) and Alison Riske (22) in the semis. Oprandi’s victory was her second tournament win within the past month. It was her 22nd ITF title.
The doubles final was a clash between two Japanese twosomes. The second seeded team of Shuko Aoyama and Erika Sema defeated the team of Eri Hozuma and Miki Miyamura in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(4).
Residents of the Bronx and tennis fan visitors were able to see professional tennis free of charge with the only exception being the final on Sunday afternoon, which charged a nominal fee of $10.
Youngsters, ages 6-18, were able to learn or improve their tennis skills with free tennis lessons that were given every afternoon of the tournament from 5-7 p.m. The Thursday session, as it is every year, was the special Kid’s Day. The annual Around the World Parade and other festive children’s activities took place.
The sponsor of the week-long event was Emblem Health.
The health maintenance organization has sponsored the tournament through 18 of its 20 year existence.