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Upswing in numbers: Mitchell Junior Tennis Classic anticipates 20 more players this year

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Mitchell's Connor Thelen returns a volley during the 2018 Mitchell Junior Tennis Classic at Hitchcock Park.

The Mitchell Junior Tennis Classic is a staple each summer and it returns this weekend at Hitchcock Park.

The annual youth tennis tournament is Saturday and Sunday, but there’s a noticeable uptick in participation numbers this year. The classic hosted 51 players last year, but tournament director Pat Moller said around 70 players are expected for the 2020 event.

The spike is an obvious indicator players are chomping at the bit to get outside in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that parents and kids are anxious to just be able to get out and do something,” Moller said. “They recognize tennis is a relatively safe sport, with some minor precautions that we can take to make sure that we are not contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.”

The event will follow and encourage social distancing guidelines. The players will use their own tennis balls, while the opponents are asked not to handle them. The concession stand will not be open to eliminate any social gatherings.

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The Mitchell Tennis Association organizers have also hired someone that will clean benches and bathrooms throughout the day. The tournament will also abide to any guidelines passed along by the city.

Moller said the organizers will strive to be accommodating to put together a positive tournament, while also giving players an outlet during the unusual summer.

“These kids need to be able to be active and they need to be able to do things with their friends and if we go too far with shutting them down completely, that’s not healthy for them physically,” Moller said. “That’s not healthy for them emotionally. That’s not healthy for them mentally.”

Despite the safety precautions for this year’s tournament, the other difference is it won’t be a USTA-sanctioned event. The move means players can’t gain points for national rankings at the tournament. That’s how all the June tournaments will be in the USTA Northern Section.

Moller added the move makes the tournament more localized. This year’s tournament will feature 24 Mitchell tennis players.

“The opportunity to play and be social and yet still be distant is there with tennis,” Moller added. “We are seeing good participation numbers in our leagues and there’s a lot of local kids and a lot of local talent participating in this tournament. I am just hopeful that everybody can stay safe and enjoy the sport we all love.”

The divisions will be boys and girls singles & doubles, mixed doubles, boys and girls 10U singles and co-ed 10U doubles.

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Related Topics: TENNIS
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