By ROCKY STANLEY
The Daily Independent
ASHLAND Year two of the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women’s Tennis Classic presented by Bon Secours Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital comes with a “wow” label.
That starts with a broad makeover at the Ashland Tennis Center and includes such additions as exhibition matches and a junior tournament.
Tournament director Dr. Jack Ditty is feeling the excitement and would like to see it spread across the region.
“The positive enthusiasm that goes along with this tournament is a 10,” Ditty said.
A Prequalifying Wild Card Tournament wraps up today. Practice opens for players July 20, with the day highlighted by Kids’ Day programs and FitFest.
Returning visitors to the ATC public courts will discover a different look from a year ago. Thanks to private donations and grants, all 10 outdoor courts — along with the pro court — have been resurfaced at a cost of $108,000.
The pro court will be turned into four pickleball courts, according to ATC manager Jerry Groce.
Another upgrade is new concrete sidewalks that replaced deteriorating asphalt paths dating back to the 1973 originals.
“People like it,” Groce said. “It’s added a lot of appeal to the tennis center.”
As a maintenance measure, some of the larger pine trees on the grounds have been removed due to damaging effects from pine needles and sap.
Groce also praised the efforts of the Greater Ashland Tennis Association and Build Ashland organizations.
“The GATA ladies have probably put in over 200 hours within the last three or four months painting, planting flowers and working on the landscape,” Groce said. “You name it, they’ve been doing it.”
During May, he added, Build Ashland provided such services as weeding, mulching, pressure-washing and hanging windscreens.
“It’s great to partner with them,” Groce said.
Three exhibition matches — featuring tournament players — are on the schedule. The first follows the July 21 afternoon opening ceremony. Others will be July 23 and 24 at 5 p.m.
“It’s really to give the public the widest opportunity to watch,” Ditty said. “Two being later in the day makes it possible for people that have been working to see some pro tennis.”
The Bennett Lake Ashland City Championship is set for 26-28 and coincides with the final three days of the pro tournament. The Bennett Lake, which also includes a scholarship, is for ages 10-up and revives a tournament last played in 2016.
“We want all the juniors that can play,” Ditty said. “With less courts needed later in the pro tournament, we’d like to see the others packed with kids. They will have the benefit of seeing the pros at the same time.”
Ditty said he expects more than 500 applications for the pro event. The 32-player singles draw reserves 24 places based on world rankings. Remaining spots are filled by a qualifying tournament and wild cards.
The Braidy Industries Women’s Tennis Classic is again part of the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge. From last year’s Ashland field, Caroline Dolehide, Asia Muhammad and Whitney Osuigwe competed in the U.S. Open. Gail Brodsky — the winner here — was among 11 other players to make it to the qualifier.
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