Inaugural San Francisco Challenger A Smashing Success
It started with a vision and spawned into something extraordinary. When Mukesh Patel and co-founders Derrik Hirschfeld and Vikram Viswanathan first conceived the idea to establish a professional tennis tournament in San Francisco, little did they know it would instantly become a premier event on the ATP Challenger Tour.
With world-class amenities and hospitality, the exuberance and passion of its founding fathers and tournament director Ross Wisser have permeated throughout the grounds of the iconic Bay Club this week. Located in the heart of the bustling metropolis, the $100,000 event has already made its mark on the circuit.
But the tournament's significant impact extends far beyond the walls of the The Bay Club. In October 2014, Patel's son Kunal tragically passed away from a biking accident at the age of 27. Kunal was an avid tennis fan, following the ATP World Tour religiously while spending countless hours at his local courts with friends. Only a week later, he was to depart for London with his friends to watch the ATP Finals at The O2.
Having first lifted a racquet when he was nine years old, Kunal was a gifted athlete and enthusiast of all sports, whose zest for life knew no bounds. Following his passing, parents Mukesh and Harsha and sister Monique decided to celebrate his life and love for tennis with a tournament in his name. With his energy and enthusiasm embedded in the fabric of the tournament's identity, less than three years later the Kunal Patel San Francisco Open was founded.
“Establishing the KPSF Open and bringing top quality tennis to San Francisco is one of my proudest and most personal achievements," said Mukesh. "Kunal was in his element on the tennis court, and an enthusiastic fan of the sport. I can’t conceive of a better way to honor my son’s legacy and I know he is rooting for this tournament’s success.”
With only five weeks between the start of preparations and the first balls being tossed, Wisser and his dedicated staff made the impossible a reality. Despite the late addition to the 2017 Challenger calendar, the tournament has made quite the splash in attracting four Top 100 players and #NextGenATP stars Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Jared Donaldson, Elias Ymer, Michael Mmoh and Reilly Opelka. Fans have taken notice, packing the stands in the thousands during the week.
From high-end catering and off-court entertainment, including a local artist painting live on-site, to exclusive amenities and a four-star hotel for players, tournament organisers have set a high standard.
"It's been fantastic here," Vasek Pospisil, seeded seventh, told ATPWorldTour.com. "I haven't played too many Challengers of late, but this one is definitely up there. The crowd is great, the centre court is very nice and I had some good crowd support so I really enjoyed that.
Honestly, it's just a great tournament. It reminds me of some indoor Canadian events and it feels like home for me. The organisation is great and facilities are awesome. Coming from ATP World Tour events, it feels very comfortable and that goes to show what a great job the tournament has done."
The Bay Club is the largest indoor tennis facility on the west coast of the United States, housing 12 indoor courts and an additional 12 rooftop courts. A balcony-style railing overlooks the four front courts, along with window seating in the cafe. A 500-seat stadium was constructed for the tournament and in addition to tennis courts, the club offers separate weight and cardio rooms, locker rooms with steam rooms and saunas and a full restaurant for players.
On Sunday, former World No. 25 Pospisil will face Chinese qualifier Ze Zhang for the title. In search of a return to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Pospisil will bid for his fifth ATP Challenger Tour title. Zhang, meanwhile, is seeking his first crown in his fourth final. Visit kpsfopen.com to reserve your tickets.