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Professional tennis returns to Miami with eight-player backyard tournament

Full Article: Miami Herald
Published: 6/30/20

Unbeknownst to most South Florida tennis fans, five of the top 65-ranked men in the world are playing an eight-man tournament in Miami this week — one of the most competitive fields on American soil since COVID-19 shut down the sport in March.

The three-day Altec Styslinger Tennis Exhibition, being played without spectators at a private home, was dubbed the “ReOpen” by Tennis Channel Plus, which is broadcasting the event. It began Monday, and the final is Wednesday.

The field included No. 29 Hubert Hurcacz of Poland and Americans Reilly Opelka (No. 39), Sam Querrey (No. 45), Tennys Sandgren (No. 55), Steve Johnson (No. 63), Brandon Nakashima, 2016 NCAA champion Mackie McDonald and former University of Virginia star JC Aragone, who was the brainchild behind the event.

Looking for something to do during quarantine, Aragone, 25, decided to launch a tournament to help players stay in shape and work off their rust. He put the word out to players he knew, secured a handful of sponsors, and found a venue — reportedly a property owned by Dennis DeGori, founder of Miami nightclub E11EVEN.

“Being at home, a lot of time to think about what do I want to do next,” Aragone said in a Tennis Channel interview. “I’ve always wanted to do something like this. I have a lot of buddies that have full courts here in Miami, and I started with a Microsoft doc with simple questions like, `Who will play my event? How will I pay these players? Where is it going to be?’ You start knocking one after the other and all of a sudden, you’re like, `Hey, I’ve got a pretty good group of guys. I’ve got sponsor money. It took a lot of time.”

He said the event is being held with strict health and safety protocols.

“I have bought so much hand sanitizer,” he said. “Safety is the No. 1 goal. I know these guys personally, so I don’t want to put them in any harm, or anyone else in danger.”

Wednesday’s final features the winners of Tuesday’s semifinals: Nakashima vs. Sandgren and Querrey vs. Opelka.

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