LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Professional tennis is making a return to Louisville. Some of the top women in the world will play in a brand new tournament that's coming to Louisville starting in 2016 for at least five years. It's the result of three years of hard work to attract the Women's Tennis Association to our city, and the fulfillment of a lot of dreams.
"It brings professional tennis to literally our backyard," said Brad Gordon, Promotions and Marketing Coordinator for USTA Kentucky.
The WTA is the home of the world's top pro players and starting next year, one of its stops will be an August tournament in Louisville.
"It's real big," said Dr. Mike Bewley, managing member of Louisville Professional Tennis, LLC., "second only to the Kentucky Derby."
Bewley and Louisville Professional Tennis have been working on this for years with a test last year called the Louisville Professional Invitational at The Louisville Boat Club.
"Just to test the waters to see if we thought we could handle a tournament of this size in Louisville," explained Mark Fraley, Racquets Director at The Louisville Boat Club. "(We) had a great showing and from that point, everything went great."
Louisville's yet-to-be named tournament will be played each year the week before the U.S. Open.
"Believe it or not, they've chosen to come to Louisville because of the heat and humidity," said Fraley.
"The WTA researched us so well, we have the exact same weather at that precise time as the US Open," added Bewley.
It helps too that Cincinnati's Western and Southern Open is the week before on the schedule, so players don't have to go far. Bewley said Louisville's open will offer transportation down I-71 for players.
"I think you'll see several of the Top 10 players in the world," said Fraley, "a lot of players ranked between maybe 10 and 50 and a few outside the top 50."
For Louisville, it's a chance to host a pro sport and have a little fun.
"After you see it on TV, you don't understand the strength, the power, the speed of these players," said Sharon Rahman, executive director of USTA Kentucky. "When you see it in person, it's an incredible feeling to see."
"It's just like the World Cup does for soccer, all of a sudden kids want to pick up a soccer ball and go play, hopefully that's what this is going to do for kids around here: they see this being played in their hometown, they want to grab a racquet, run to the court and play and hopefully the adults do too," said Gordon.
The location of Louisville's tournament has yet to be announced. That could come later this week, but Bewley said there will be some construction to make it a state of the art facility including three stadiums with lots of awnings to protect those of us who go from the hot summer sun.
Organizers are also planning a festival-type of environment friendly to families.
Mark your calendars: the tournament is set for August 22-28, 2016.