WATERVILLE VALLEY — Some of the best male tennis players in the Granite State and beyond will compete in the 33rd New Hampshire Open, which begins Friday and offers a purse of $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Play on the 18 red-clay courts at the Waterville Valley Tennis Center (WVTC) begins at 4 p.m. Friday, continues at 9 a.m. Saturday and after semifinals at 9 a.m. Sunday, winds up with a 1 p.m. final. Admission is free and attendees are invited to bring their own chairs and beverages.
Tom Gross Jr., who is the WVTC’s director and one of its owners, said the field is shaping up well for both the singles and doubles.
A co-founder of the tournament, Gross said it has changed over the past four decades but still retains the power to thrill.
He noted that past NH Open winners include Val Wilder III and Bud Schulz, who each won seven times and went on to turn pro. Both originally from Connecticut, Wilder and Schulz earned their highest ATP rankings in 1986; Wilder at No. 105, Schulz — who later coached the WTA Boston Lobsters — at No. 40.
This year’s draw may also contain some future professionals, said Gross, who recalled that back when the tournament first began, it often did include professionals, some of whom had competed the week before in the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I.
As in the past, there were some calls from pros again this year, said Gross, who added, however, that while a five-figure purse and the opportunity to win a stay in Waterville Valley are attractive to many tennis players in the Northeast, they’re less so to a pro from South Africa.
In its halcyon days, the NH Open drew not only some of the best players anywhere, but also a great number of them, Gross continued. He attributed the gradual decline in participation to the fact that the USTA offers a lot of opportunities for upper level, 5.0 and above-ranked players in year-round leagues and that college players — many of whom already play in the fall, winter and spring — cut back during the summer.
Nonetheless, Gross feels good about what the NH Open will offer this year.
“The weekend weather looks spectacular,” he said, adding that even if it does rain on Sunday, the finals can be moved indoors to the nearby White Mountain Athletic Club.
“I believe that this year is going to be like the others,” Gross summed up. “Once you get into the quarterfinals, the tennis has been outstanding and it’s been really fun, spectating tennis, too.”