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Joplin Pro Circuit Begins Friday

July 9, 2012 12:10 PM
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean (2nd from left) and USTA Pro Circuit Director Brian Earley (far right) are among the dignitaries at the press conference announcing tennis is returning to Joplin.
Mayor Colbert-Kean plays 10 and Under Tennis with some local kids.
Photo Gallery from press conference
The USTA Pro Circuit men’s tournament will begin with qualifying on Friday, July 13, and will run through Sunday, July 22, at the Millennium Tennis & Fitness Club. The doubles final will take place on Friday, July 20, and the singles final is scheduled for Sunday, July 22. Millennium’s Wild Card Tournament was held July 9-12, with the winner getting an automatic bid into the main draw of the tournament.
On Saturday, July 21, Community Day will be held at the tournament and will feature 10 and Under Tennis, tennis drills, games and prizes. 10 and Under Tennis is a national initiative created to bring more young players to the game. It uses shorter and lighter racquets, slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, and smaller courts to better allow kids to rally and play.
Professional tennis is making its return to Joplin, Missouri, after a one-year absence. The break was due to the damaging effects of the tornado that forced the cancellation of the USTA Pro Circuit men’s Futures tournament in 2011. In honor of the tournament’s return, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean today declared July 15-22 as "Tennis Week" in Joplin through an official proclamation.

"We are excited to have such a large tennis community in Joplin," says Colbert-Kean. "We recognize the importance of tennis as a competitive sport and also as a recreational activity that provides excellent cardio exercise and toning. Having a large, active community of players is also vital to economic vitality by bringing competitions here, and it also broadens the cultural experience."

"For 12 years, the Millennium Club and the people of Joplin have supported the USTA Pro Circuit’s efforts to grow the next generation of tennis stars," says Brian Earley, Director of the USTA Pro Circuit. "We congratulate them for their incredible recovery from last year’s devastation and also for their commitment to rebuilding the important partnerships that have been so important to the growth of this tournament and to tennis in Joplin."

Tennis was first held in Joplin in 2000, and the city hosted two USTA Pro Circuit men’s events at the $10,000 and $50,000 level in the same year from 2002-07. Players from all over the world have competed in Joplin and have begun their professional careers on the USTA Pro Circuit, including 2012 Olympian John Isner, who peaked at No. 9 in the world this year; Rajeev Ram, who reached the doubles quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon this year; and Bobby Reynolds, who has won 30 total USTA Pro Circuit singles and doubles events—the most of any player.

"Obviously, the Joplin community has gone through a lot in the past year, but I am so happy to see the USTA Pro Circuit Futures event come back to the calendar," says Isner, who won the 2005 Joplin doubles title. "I remember how involved the town was with planning and running the event. I have nothing but great memories of Joplin."

"The Millennium Tennis & Fitness Club is pleased and proud to host this USTA Pro Circuit event," says Tournament Director Brad Bigando. "We look forward every year to host the Men’s Futures Tournament and are happy to have it back.  It’s exciting to see the new and upcoming tennis stars come to Joplin, and the community truly embraces the tennis."

Following the tornado in 2011, the USTA donated $100,000 to the city of Joplin to assist with disaster-relief efforts in the tornado-stricken community. The USTA helped rebuild Joplin High School and its tennis courts, which were demolished in the storm. In addition, the USTA brought SmashZone, the interactive fan attraction for kids, to the area following the tornado in an effort to help boost the spirits of the children and families affected by the disaster.
The USTA also worked with tennis manufacturers and retailers to collect additional donations, including equipment and tennis gear for the Joplin High School tennis team. In addition, the USTA Missouri Valley Section coordinated efforts to involve the tennis community in helping victims of the tornado through a donation organized by the Joplin Schools Tornado Relief Fund.

With approximately 90 tournaments hosted annually throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 33 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering nearly $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. Mardy Fish, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki, James Blake, Li Na and Andy Murray are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.

All net proceeds from the USTA Pro Circuit event will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network to assist local Joplin children.



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