Elite tennis players will travel from the Championships in Wimbledon, England, to Indianapolis to compete in the RCA Championships July 15-23.
American players Andy Roddick, James Blake and returning RCA Champion Robby Ginerpri will be able to take on international greats such as Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, Greg Rusedski of Great Britain, Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia and Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand on United States soil at the Indianapolis Tennis Center at IUPUI.
Blake, No. 7 in INDESIT ATP rankings, and Roddick, ranked No. 5, are expected to rule the hard courts next week. Both players were out at Wimbledon in the third round, but are still expected to hold the first two seeds according to Michael Morrison, division co-chair media relations for the RCA Championships. But, “You never know what will happen with Marat Safin,” Morrison said. “He has good days and bad days, but overall he has what it takes.”
Safin, of Russia, just recently entered the event as a wild card. A knee injury in 2005 kept him off the courts for the second half of the year, but he still finished with a No. 13 rank. Currently, he is ranked 87 after beginning the 2006 year one month late in February.
“Men’s tennis is extremely deep these days,” Morrison said. “There are a lot of players like Blake, Gonzales, Rusedski, Dmitry Tursunov of Russia and Srichaphan who can win on any given day and any given week. The ATP Tour is a global sport where the best players from all over the world compete week in and week out at various tournaments. The RCA Championships is no different. Each year we try to bring a great mix of American and international players.”
In addition to witnessing a tennis melting pot at the ITC, fans will also experience a technological advancement. The RCA Championships will debut a new instant replay function that will allow fans to be involved in play on the courts. Players are given two line-call challenges that will force umpires to replay an action and make another judgment. In addition to being viewed by officials, the plays will be televised on in-stadium video boards for fans, players and viewers at home. If the player’s challenge is justified by changing the call, he does not lose a challenge.
Schedule of play will not be released until the evening before the opening day. There are 48 players, including Safin and American who Sam Querrey accepted the first two wild cards. Tommy Haas, whose last appearance in Indy was in 2002, was granted one of the two remaining wild cards. At press time, the final wild card slot was not known.
The RCA Championship is the first tournament in the U.S. Open Series. The U.S. Open Series is a member of the ATP Tour. Players accumulate points that are used to determine bonus prize money awarded after the Series.
Various community events will also take place next week in the name of tennis. July 17 is “Kids’ Day.” Children between the ages of 6 and 12 will be able to take introductory lessons from professionals. Teen-agers between the ages of 13 and 18 will be given the opportunity to brush up on their skills. Classes are free with admission. July 18 is “Tennis at the Market.” ATP tennis stars will challenge Indy Racing League drivers to a game of tennis on the bricks of City Market. Play starts at 11 a.m. July 20 is deemed “Charity Day” to raise money for the National Junior Tennis League and Riley Hospital for Children.
Fans are encouraged to donate gently used or new tennis racquets for the NJTL or have their racquets strung for $20 for “Strings of Hope.” Money from “Strings of Hope” will be donated to the burn unit of Riley Hospital. Games and contests will also take place. There will be a charity auction tent on site as well. July 21 is Ladies Day at the ITC. For $50, women came choose to take an instructional tennis lesson and cardio tennis clinic or participate in a round robin at 8:30 a.m. A luncheon will follow.
For more information on events and a schedule of play, visit www.rcatennis.com.