Randy Angel

World-class tennis returns to the Manhattan Country Club

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With a record $15,000 in prize money, the Manhattan Beach Open with hold the finals of its tennis tournament at the Manhattan Country Club. ER file photo

With a record $15,000 in prize money, the Manhattan Beach Open with hold the finals of its tennis tournament at the Manhattan Country Club. ER file photo

Like a sleek, ultra-modern McMansion sprouting up where once stood a humble, quaint little beach cottage, the Manhattan Beach Open tennis tournament is not only offering more prize money than ever this year but is moving all of its finals matches to a more upscale venue than from the traditional Live Oak Park.

It’s been more than a decade since the women’s pro tennis tour left the Manhattan Country Club in favor of the Home Depot Center in Carson. Now, world-class tennis will be back at the country club – at least for one day.

That’s the big news about year three of the new and improved Manhattan Beach Open: The prize money has been bumped up from $12,500 to $15,000 and all of the finals, including the Open Division featuring ATP-level players, will be held on Sunday, July 20 at the Country Club. Spectators will be admitted free of charge. The earlier rounds will start Thursday, July 17 at Live Oak Park and Mira Costa High School.

Tournament Director Bennet Slusarz, a local tennis pro who took over the city run tournament three years ago after it nearly died from a lack of interest and participation, has dedicated himself to attracting local sponsors and elite players from around California and the rest of the nation. And thanks to the defection of the women’s pro tour event to Carson (which it left in 2009) and the men’s pro tour event that used to be held at UCLA, the little old MB Open now offers more prize money than any other tennis tournament in the Los Angeles region.

Slusarz could barely contain his enthusiasm over his baby’s rapid growth in a recent interview.

“I’m very excited that this tournament has become a premier tennis event in all of California,” he said. “Current and past professional players clearly want to be involved in this hometown event.”

He compared its mix of elite players in the Open Division and local tennis players in the lower divisions – 3.5, 4.0, 4.5-5.o on the USTA scale – to the MB Open in volleyball.

“It’s now similar to the Hometown Fair Run and beach volleyball events where current and past professional athletes mingle with locals and the local sponsors enjoy the exposure,” he said. “This event has grown in a short period of time and will continue to grow in the future!”

Adding to his excitement: There will be a pro/sponsor doubles exhibition held just prior to the men’s final Sunday afternoon. “This could involve a celebrity, but I don’t know for sure yet,” he said.

Last year’s event featured rock star RedFoo – whose girlfriend is world number three Victoria Azarenka – playing in the Open Division. There is no word yet on whether he will play this year.

Entries cost $82.50 for singles and $110 for doubles in the men’s and women’s open division. In the lower divisions, it’s $44 for singles and $66 for doubles. Entry forms can be found online at citymb.info/tennistournament. The deadline is 4 p.m. July 7.

There is a 32 player limit per draw except for the open division, which has 64 slots for singles and 32 for doubles. Slusarz urged anyone thinking of playing to enter as soon as possible so they don’t miss a spot.

“The 4.0 division is already half full, and there will be other divisions that will fill up prior to the deadline,” he said. Last year 225 players participated, and several divisions had waiting lists.

South Bay Ford is title sponsor for third year in row. Scott Anastasi Realty is a platinum advertiser.

Manhattan Country Club is a gold sponsor, and Murad, Skechers, Katan Associates and Supersports are all silver sponsors.