For six straight years, men’s pro tennis players have converged on
the Burbank Tennis Center for the annual U.S. Tennis Assn. Challenger
Young up-and-coming hotshot players have mixed with former
standouts trying to make their way back into the top ranks.
Fans have been treated to the likes of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick,
Taylor Dent, Michael Chang and Todd Martin, who have whipped up their
magic on the court.
However, this year there was no Challenger event. Due to problem
with fund-raising, Burbank Tennis Center Executive Director Steve
Starleaf said they were not able to host the tournament.
“We used to have Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom help us out, and
he would make our fund-raising letter that we would send out for the
Challenger,” Starleaf said. “But he’s not the city manager anymore,
and he’s not around to help us.
“So we didn’t get to enough sponsors to put on the tournament.
“The USTA said they would help us out, but by the time they got
back to us, there wasn’t enough time to put on the tournament.”
With Burbank out of the picture, the USTA staged a Challenger at
West End Raquet & Health Club in Torrance last month.
Starleaf said what is most disappointing thing about not having a
Challenger event at the Burbank Tennis Center is there aren’t
proceeds to go to a worthy cause.
Every year, proceeds from the Challenger have gone to benefit the
Burbank Center for the Retarded. The BCR is a nonprofit agency that
provides day and extended-day programs, as well as monthly evening
dances, for moderately to severely developmentally disabled adults
and children from Burbank and surrounding areas.
Along with outfitting BCR individuals with sweatshirts, the
tournament also sponsors demonstration matches for some BCR members
on the final day of the tournament. Pro athletes often take the court
to play alongside the members.
“We have been able to donate about $30,000 to the [BCR] every
tournament,” Starleaf said. “Even some years where we didn’t make
that much money, we always donated the money to the center.”
One of the pro players who has been touched by the developmentally
disabled athletes’ participation is Roddick. When Roddick -- ranked
No. 1 in the Assn. of Tennis Professionals -- played at the Burbank
Challenger three years ago, he took time to associate and take
pictures with BCR members.
“Andy Roddick was so moved by his experience with these members,
that I heard he has a photo taken with them hanging up in his house,”
Roddick has also apparently not forgotten about the Burbank
Challenger. Starleaf said at a recent event in Austin, Texas on Oct.
3 -- Andy Roddick, a Night to Remember dinner and silent auction --
Roddick asked Challenger Tournament Director Tim Stallard why there
wasn’t a tournament in Burbank his year.
When he was informed about the fund-raising problem, Starleaf said
Roddick suggested he might want to lend a hand to help.
Starleaf said Roddick might be interested in possibly helping out
financially with the next Burbank Challenger.
“We’re maybe hoping for a tournament in March,” Starleaf said.
“That would be just great if Andy Roddick would help us out. I
know he has a foundation and he is really good about helping out