CLEVELAND — Tennis in the Land has proven to be a real ace for our local economy. In fact, organizers projected more than $2.1 million would benefit Cleveland.
The week-long tournament features 48 female players from around the world, playing more than 50 matches for a chance to play in the U.S. Open. Tennis in the Land is one of three chances they have to earn a spot.
Although in its second year, organizers say this year is bigger and better than ever.
"We learned a lot last year, and so we've been able to make a lot of operational improvements, visual improvements," Mike Mulhall, vice president of business development for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, told 3News.
Mulhall adds another boost this year has been a bigger crowd and a prime location: Jacobs Pavilion along the Cuyahoga River.
"It's obviously a very unique location," he said. "It's also really great for us because this is broadcast all over the world on the Tennis Channel."
Area restaurants, hotels, and city landmarks are all getting a boost from the event, Also thriving? Nonprofit Advantage Cleveland, the tournament's official beneficiary.
"We have over 300 kids — inner city, 79th and Hough," Todd Wojtkowski, with Advantage Cleveland and Topnotch Tennis Tours said. "We give kids poetry, literacy, wellness, fitness, and tennis.
"Tennis, being the hook, let's you get in the door by wanting to hit some balls and then, you know, educate them. And the students that do well throughout the year, we sort of promote them to an afterschool program where they get tutoring and tennis after school, so it's a safe place for them to go."
On the heels of tennis legend Serena Williams' pending retirement, Tennis in the Land is also serving inspiration to the young girls in Advantage Cleveland.
"I think it's opening up a door, and you see it in all sports," Wojtkowski explained. "When one legacy leaves, it opens the door for somebody else to tell their story, and I think that the kids are really motivated by that and they can say to themselves, 'I want to be the next one to fill that void.'"
Ola Golawska with Topnotch is a lifelong tennis player, now retired from competition. She says Serena is motivating to all women, and especially those playing in Tennis in the Land.
"In my opinion, you know, she changed the world of tennis [and] women empowerment," Golawska said. "I feel like she introduced a new version of tennis to a lot of young females and females currently on tour — the strategy, the mentality on court, and just [the] approach for sports and women in sports in general ... the attitude, the power and confidence.
"She gave us, you know, inspiration that we can accomplish anything if we just put in all the work and heart into whatever we want."
There's still time for tickets to Tennis in the Land, which runs through Saturday. For ticket and schedule information, click HERE.