(Cover photo: Svetlana Kuznetsova. Credit: LivingTennisGuide.com)
By Ashli McLean
News first broke last July about the potential for the best women’s tennis athletes to make an appearance in the city for the Louisville International Open (LIO), a tournament under the umbrella of the Women’s Tennis Association that will run from August 20-27, 2016.
Today, local media was made aware of the first round of commitments- and two of the biggest names are Svetlana Kuznetsova and Roberta Vinci.
Kuznetsova, the 20th-ranked player in the world, is a four-time grand slam champion. She claimed her first in 2004 and her previous in 2009.
“I’m excited to play in the inaugural Louisville International Open,” said Kuznetsova via the LIO committee. “It is a fresh, new tournament on tour, with a lot to offer on and off the court. Louisville has such a rich history and I’m looking forward to being in the city.”
And you may remember Vinci when she knocked off Serena Williams a few months ago at the 2015 U.S. Open. Vinci is a five-time grand slam champion in doubles, with the latest being in 2014.
She is ranked No. 15 in the world.
“I’m very happy to have committed to play in the Louisville International Open,” added Vinci. “It’s my first time and I’m sure it will be a wonderful tournament in a special location.”
Also committed is Sabine Lisicki, a 2013 Wimbeldon finalist with four career singles and doubles titles a piece. She is currently ranked No. 32 in the world.
For LIO tournament director Whitney Collins-Thompson, having the tournament and the caliber of athletes coming together hits close to home. She’s a Louisville native who played at and graduated from Sacred Heart Academy.
She went on to play at the University of Kentucky before amassing over 10 years of tennis tournament hosting experience.
“It makes me very proud,” said Collins-Thompson. “It makes me proud to be from the city of Louisville. It makes me proud to see how our city has grown since I was a little child and how it really puts us on the map, but it really says a lot about our community and I think that’s why I wanted to come back here. It’s a community that, while you may leave to grow and experience other things, you always want to come back because it is home.”
The tournament stop in Louisville comes before the U.S. Open, and Collins-Thompson is leveraging that to sell to tennis’ most talented players.
“What I’d like to be able to do is convey that to these players,” she said, “that this is home and this is where you’ll want to keep coming back because that’s how it is for me and that’s probably the most exciting part about it.”
“It’s interesting,” Collins-Thompson continued. “You want to showcase [to] them why your tournament is a great place to prepare. I think you just kind of cultivate those relationships, and I was able to share a lot about the Louisville and kind of that southern hospitality. We want to make this an experience for them. And not only them, but their teams and their families who travel with them. We want them to feel welcomed. We want them to feel like they’re a part of this city.”
Collins-Thompson provided the media with a tour inside and outside the Boat Club to visualize some of the renovations that will take place including the player fitness room, player and coach locker rooms, courts to be built, the live entertainment stage, a kid zone, and a food trucks area.
The tournament will include live broadcasts on the Tennis Channel. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.louisvilleinternationalopen.com or by calling 1-844-LOU-OPEN. Nearly 150 volunteer opportunities will also be available.
About the tournament
NUSSLI, an international company, will construct the stadium court, grandstand and court 3 on the grounds of the Louisville Boat Club. The temporary structures will have a total capacity of 4,515.
LIO is owned and operated by Louisville Professional Tennis, LLC. The tournament is a 32-player main draw; 16-player double draw. Total prize money is $250,000. The final player field will be released in July and will include four to five top-20 players along with one top-10 player.