Cash incentive for tennis players
Prize money will be up for grabs for the first time at this month's Coral Beach Clay Court Championships in a bid to breathe fresh life into the annual competition.
Tournament sponsors Moet have stumped up $4,500 to be shared between the winners of the more competitive events such as the men's open and men's open doubles.
Coral Beach tennis director James Collieson believes the prize money will increase the competitive edge of the tournament with players having a far greater incentive for victory.
“I imagine prize money will make matches more intense and give the tournament a seriousness to it. It will certainly make things a lot more interesting,” he said.
“Prize money hasn't been typically offered in the past because of the professional and amateur status, but that's kind of changed in the local American tournaments.
“(Prize money) will give the tournament a different angle and I know a lot of the Island's top players believe this is the direction tennis in Bermuda needs to go.”
Rather than hold the tournament over a period of two weeks, as is the norm for most local tennis competitions, the Coral Beach Championships will run for a week.
Collieson believes one week is a more realistic timeframe for players with work and family commitments.
“For quite a few years the formula for local tournaments has been the same,” said Collieson, who expects a high proportion of the Island's top players to enter the competition.
“Some of the local tournaments go on for a week or two, which is almost as long at Wimbledon or the French Open.
“That's a huge chunk of time to give up for players who have family and other commitments.”
Previously known as the Coral Beach Invitational, the Championship starts on Sunday and could see as many as 25 overseas competitors travel to the Island to take part.
It could also feature night matches in an effort to offer more flexibility to those players working daytime.
“It's all about refreshing an old event,” added Collieson, a former Bermuda national team player.
“Throughout the week there will be cocktail parties at Coral Beach, Horizons or a local member's house, which is a bit of a throwback to the old days.
“The overseas players are always made to feel very welcome and get to feel infused with the local tennis community.
“I think we'll have around 25 overseas players competing but I wouldn't imagine many of them will play in the open events, so they won't be playing for prize money.”
Collieson hopes the lure of prize money could swell the number of overseas competitors in the future and therefore help raise the standard of Bermudian tennis.
“Hopefully relationships can be built with good players on the east coast and those guys playing university level who might encourage their friends to come over and play,” he added.
“It's important we try and form some strong overseas ties as we're so isolated and usually it's just Bermudians playing each other.”
The Championships will include men's and women's open, men's and women's open doubles, men's over 45s, over 55s, over 65s and over 75s.
There will also be century mixed doubles and several senior ladies events depending on the number of participants.
Moet & Chandon sponsor many international tennis tournaments and have superstar Roger Federer as their brand ambassador.