More than 100 players hit the courts at Sportime Quogue on Saturday to compete in the first installment of the 2021 Long Island Tennis Magazine Challenge event series. The players were spread throughout eight divisions of play across the beautiful 20 outdoor courts in the Hamptons, enjoying friendly yet competitive tennis and delicious food and drinks in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
"I have been running the LI Tennis Magazine Challenge for eight years now at various locations, but I think this was our best tournament!” said David Sickmen, Tournament Director and Publisher of Long Island Tennis Magazine. “The Challenges have continued to grow each year, which is a tribute to the players, staff, organizers, community, sponsors, and anyone involved. We were always selling out the tournaments, but by moving the Summer Challenges to Sportime Quogue last year, we are able to allow for a bigger draw.”
“The amount of people who showed up to play was amazing,” said Morgan Milleisen. “The camaraderie of all the players was great and it made for a fun atmosphere to play in. It was just a cool environment and a well-organized event.”
Milleisen was one of the eight championship teams to be crowned as she paired with Jordan Lite to win the Women’s 8.0-8.5 Division.
Tanya Mattera & Anne McConville, the winners of the Women’s 6.0 – 6.5 Division echoed that sentiment.
“The people here were so nice, and there was great competition,” said Mattera. “The food was amazing, and there was delicious rum punch at the bar, so it made for a fun afternoon.”
In addition to the tennis on court, players had access to catered wraps, salads and desserts from Town Bagel as well as hot food prepared by chefs from Plado Tasting Bar, Vite Vinosteria and L’Antista Italian Kitchen & bar. The tournament had an open bar featuring beers, sangria, margaritas and other cocktails. All of this combined to provide a competitive tournament with a social atmosphere as players from all divisions could hang out and enjoy themselves when not on court.
“There was excellent tennis, and a lot of great people,” said Jared Kaplan, who paired with Jeff Snow to win the Men’s 9.0-9.5 Division. “We had a wonderful time here today.”
Coming out victorious in the Women’s 7.0-7.5 Division was the Aunt-Niece pairing of Nancy Halpern & Lauren Slutsky.
“The last time we played was when she was 10-years-old, so it’s been awhile,” said Halpern. “She is staying with me for the weekend, and we decided to play together. We just tried to stay positive throughout the event and have fun. It worked, we won, and I think we’ll be back next time to try to keep it going.”
Courtney Kowalsky & Samantha Galu, two recent college graduates from Brown and Marist, respectively, teamed up to come out on top in the Women’s 9.0-9.5 Division.
“It was a lot of fun, we had a great time,” said Kowalsky, a two-time New York State doubles champion. “The courts were excellent, and it doesn’t get any better than playing a fun event like this out in the Hamptons.”
Stephen Weiss & Jorge Reilley only met for the first time on the day of the event, as an injury to Weiss’ original partner opened up a spot, and Reilley stepped in. The pairing quickly developed a rapport on court, and took home the title in the Men’s 7.0-7.5 Division.
“My partner got injured right before the tournament, but I was able to get paired up with Jorge and we won!” said Weiss. “He was great and we really developed a good chemistry.”
“We tried to play consistent. Our goal was to make one more shot than the other guys,” said Reilley. “We fell behind twice, both in the semifinals and the finals, but we just kept plugging away and came back. We knew we could to it.”
For Arrwin Yip & Junji Nakamura, the duo used their experience together to play well, winning the Men’s 8.0-8.5 Division.
“We’ve been playing together on and off for about five years. I thought our groundstrokes and volleys were solid today,” said Nakamura. “It was a great event, with lovely facilities. Just a ton of fun and the weather was ideal.”
Last but certainly not least was the Men’s Open Division, which featured an array of current and former top collegiate players. In the end, it was the duo of current St. John’s player Charlie James and Red Storm alum Gustavo Loza, who won a tightly-contested final to capture the title.
“I think Gustavo is solid at the net. He is going to put away anything in his range, and my serve and forehand were working well today,” said James. “It was a tough final, they played really well. The goal was just to play solid doubles, and we managed to do that.”
“It’s always a great level of play at this tournament,” said the four-time Long Island Tennis Magazine Challenge champion. “I’ve played in a few of them now, and it’s always a lot of fun.”
The first LITM Challenge of the summer was made possible due to the support of all the players, plus our sponsors: BTIG, Chris Savino, Compass, Cowen, inPhorm, KeyBanc Capital Markets, L’Antista, Plado Tasting Bar, Sportime/John McEnroe Tennis Academy, Town Bagel, Virtu Financial, Vite Vinosteria and USTA Eastern.
“The format being pool play guarantees everyone a lot of matches, win or lose,” said co-Tournament Director Michelle Stoerback. “Everything went smoothly, and I look forward to teaming up with Long Island Tennis Magazine to run the Mixed Doubles event next month.”
The next installment of the Challenge Series is set for Saturday, July 17 at SPORTIME Quogue. This tournament will be a Mixed Doubles event. Registration is now available, Click Here to learn more and sign your team up.
“While this was an Adult Tournament, we also had 10 high school and college-aged tennis players helping with media at the event, so the event had something for all ages,” Sickmen added. “I certainly need to thank our amazing sponsors for allowing for all our added amenities. When we do any of our events, we want to make them special. With an open bar, chefs making food on-site, catered food, a Hamptons setting and great people and great tennis, I'm confident we did that. The best part was seeing everyone in the community return to some normalcy and enjoy each other's company. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone on July 17 for the next one!”