Another place on the international stage for Jacksonville coming through sports.
The city will host the first round of the 2013 Davis Cup in February when the US faces Brazil.
For Jacksonville’s Sports and Entertainment Executive Director Alan Verlander, this match has been months in the making.
“Tennis being a big sport here- not only in Jacksonville, but the state of Florida, and the southeast- it just made sense,” he says.
For local tennis pros, it’s a welcome event considering pro tennis has been scaling back. Florida Yacht Club Tennis Director Louis Ballentyne told me he used to travel with a group of people to WTA events at Amelia Island and is excited to get the group together again.
“We’re already talking about getting a big group going and cheering on the Americans, making some noise,” he says.
Ballentyne says tennis is “hot” in Jacksonville. Although it may not be the main sporting focus- competing with the Jaguars and the Suns- it is a growing sport and one that can even appeal to fans who haven’t been hooked on the sport.
“To be there making noise and cheering and the drums going and the whole thing- it’s more of a football type atmosphere in a tennis venue,” he says.
Verlander is counting on that spirit from Jacksonville and beyond.
“People will come over from all over the country and spend their money and time here in Jacksonville to watch this event,” he says.
This is just one of the events bringing Jacksonville to the international stage. Verlander hopes this will work with the exposure the Jaguars get in London as well to really elevate the city. He expects tickets- which go on sale in December- will go quickly because of the hundreds of thousands of USTA members following the Cup. But come February, he hopes the stands are packed with Jacksonville fans.
Verlander told me the city’s relationship with the USTA is strong right now, and looking promising for the future.
“We’ll continue conversations with the long after the Davis Cup is over,” he says.
And for Ballentyne that is welcome news.
“I’m just very happy about it and would love to see more.”
He expects the Cup will not only be well received, but a lot of fun as well.
The United States and Brazil will face off in a best-of-five series. The winner plays the team that comes from the Serbia-Belgium match. Play will be hosted in the Veterans Memorial Arena.
A pair of singles matches will take place Friday, Feb. 1. The two teams will face off in doubles on Saturday, Feb. 2 and the reverse singles matches are set for Sunday, Feb. 3.
The Davis Cup is awarded to the winner of the 16-nation World Group- the end of a competition between 122 countries. It was originally created in 1900 as a match between the US and Great Britain.