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Fox Chapel Junior Open tournament promises to feature talented players

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Shady Side Academy grad Chris Mengel, a Fox Chapel native, returns a serve against Upper St. Clair's Ethan Kallick during the WPIAL Class AAA championship match Tuesday, April 20, 2010, at Keystone Oaks.
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Peters Township native Alison Riske returns a shot against Tamira Paszek during The AEGON Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club on June 11, 2013, in Birmingham, England.
Alison Riske of the United States plays a shot to Romina Oprandi of Switzerland during their Women's first round singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

The 16th annual Fox Chapel Junior Open will be held at the Fox Chapel Racquet Club from Aug. 5 to 9, and chairman Tom Benic is expecting another top-notch tennis tournament.

“It's going to be a lot of fun, as it always is,” he said. “We've been hard at work for awhile now, and we're ready to go.”

Benic credits Fox Chapel Racquet Club teaching pro Martin Sturgess, the tournament director, for much of the event's success.

“Martin has been with the tournament for 15 years, and he gives up a lot of his teaching time to volunteer,” he said. “There are usually around 400 matches, and Martin does all of the scheduling — not by computer but by hand. He has to start the process days before the tournament begins. He's been so important to the first-class quality of the tournament.”

Sturgess is not alone in helping out.

“We have so many people who volunteer,” Benic said. “It's a community celebration, and everybody pitches in. We'll be using six facilities that have allowed us to use their courts. People are signing on to be court monitors. It's great to see everybody pitching in.”

In the past, the tournament has drawn around 250 singles players and 60 doubles entrants.

Benic expects the same this year.

“I'm sure we'll have great numbers,” he said. “The Fox Chapel Racquet Club will probably have about 30 entries, and we'll get a lot of kids from Western Pennsylvania. We always get a decent amount of out-of-state entries, too.

“Evan Schermer, who used to coach at Robert Morris and now coaches in Hawaii, usually brings a couple players up. Last year, he had two girls playing, and they were very good.”

The tournament has produced some notable winners in the past.

“Alison Riske from Peters Township recently reached the third round at Wimbledon,” Benic said. “She is a past champion, and she started entering our tournament when she was 8. Shady Side Academy's Chris Mengel, who will be playing No. 1 singles at Duke this year, is another past winner. We've had a lot of great players come through here.

“What makes the tournament even more fun is that it's an entry-level tournament. We'll have elite players and novice players. It's a nice mix of talent. Plus, it's not a one-and-done tournament. Everybody is guaranteed two matches. We'll be using 30 courts, and they will all be put to use.”

Benic is proud of the success of the Fox Chapel Area and Shady Side Academy players.

“When we first started the tournament, it was dominated by Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Peters Township,” he said. “Our kids have made great strides, and we've had strong showings recently. It should continue. It's good for the tennis programs at FC and SSA.

“It's heartwarming to see the parents and kids having fun. We think we have the most popular tournament in Pennsylvania and along the East Coast. We have so many kids coming back year after year, because it's a quality tournament. It promises to be another great time this year.”

The entry deadline is Monday and only online entries will be accepted. Visit tennis link.usta.com/Tournaments/ TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=124384 to register.

Six trophies will be awarded in each of the eight singles age divisions (boys and girls ages 12, 14, 16 and 18), and trophies will be awarded to the winners and runners-up in the four doubles divisions (boys and girls ages 14 and 18).

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or mstewart@tribweb.com.

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