After two years off, the Sarasota Open tennis event is back with new owners, a new title sponsor and a renewed commitment to the Sarasota community.
Officially titled the 2022 Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open, the ATP Challenger event will be held at the Payne Park Tennis Center. The tournament runs April 11-17, but events surrounding the event begin as early as Friday evening, when the 2022 iteration of The Tennis Ball will be held at Michael's on East starting at 6 p.m.
The sold-out event, held in partnership with the Joey Gratton Championship, features live and silent auctions that benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Foundation.
Then, it's time for the Sarasota Open proper. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 and 2021 events, it was unclear whether the event would return to the area. New co-owners Remington Reynolds and Steve Gareleck decided to put those doubts to rest — for this year and, they hope, for the future. Reynolds said he wants the Open, a $100,000 ATP Challenger event, to eventually become a $200,000 or $250,000 event.
"I grew up going on vacation in Sarasota," Reynolds, who is based in Atlanta, said. "I consider it a second home. I was there when Nick (Bollettieri) was starting his tennis academy. I grew up around the game. I run events now, and I thought this one had a lot of long-term potential. I've always loved the Sarasota Open. I'm hoping, along with our team, to build this into something the whole community can share."
Reynolds said the event's location at Payne Park will show off what a great job the city has done of revitalizing the area and will allow fans to easily go to or from other downtown locations during the course of the week.
Reynolds said he's excited about the economic impact the event can have on the area — but he's also excited about the tennis itself, which he expects to be top-tier. Confirmed American participants include former top-10 ATP player Jack Sock, former top-25 player Steve Johnson and former top-50 player Tennys Sandgren. The event's past winners include former top-five player James Blake (2011), former top-15 player Nick Kyrgios (2014) and former top-25 player Mischa Zverev (2016).
Another new wrinkle this year is the addition of night matches. In the past, all Sarasota Open matches were played during the day, limiting the amount of people who could attend during the week. This year, with lights having been installed at Payne Park, matches will be played in the evenings. Tournament director Casey Brown said she believes this will encourage fans to come enjoy a few matches after their work day ends.
On Saturday, the Open will have tennis clinics, with an adult session at noon and a youth clinic at 2 p.m. Both sessions are at Payne Park Tennis Center. The youth clinic is free to attend and will feature instruction and pep talks from Nick Bollettieri and Brian Gottfried, a three-time doubles Grand Slam winner with Raul Ramirez. The first 75 kids will also receive an event T-shirt.
The Open will follow up on the youth clinic by designating April 12 as the tournament's Youth Night, when kids can attend the event for free as well as receive free food and drinks courtesy of Publix. There will also be a check for $10,000 presented to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Foundation by city commissioner Hagen Brody as well as Reynolds, Gareleck, Brown and others. On the tournament's final day — Easter Sunday — the event will feature an egg hunt at 10:30 a.m. among other happenings.
"Working with at-risk youth is huge for us," Brown said. "We want to expose kids to the sport and ensure a love of it. We want them to come back and watch the pros after going through their own clinic. We want to build long-lasting relationships with members of the community."
There will also be peripheral event for adults, like on April 13, which has been coined Ladies Night and will feature a book signing by former USTA president and CEO Katrina Adams, whose book "Own the Arena: Getting Ahead, Making a Difference, and Succeeding as the Only One" was published in 2021.
Ticket prices for the event vary by date and package. All ticketing information, including registration for the free youth clinic and Youth Night, can be found at the event's website, as can a full rundown of the tournament's schedule, peripheral events and theme nights.
"We want to be a great event," Reynolds said. "There's a vision for this thing to be annual and to be around long after I'm able to run it. We have a great location and a great town."