Challenger makes its return to Burbank

Jeff Tully

In Southern California, to see some quality men's professional

tennis, a fan would usually have to travel to places like Orange

County or Manhattan Beach.

But beginning next week, tennis enthusiasts need not travel

further than McCambridge Park to take in some pro action.

The United States Tennis Assn. Tennis Championships of Burbank

kicks off Monday at the Burbank Tennis Center and features

world-ranked men's players.

The event is just one in a Challenger circuit where players earn

points that go toward their Assn. of Tennis Professionals world


The Burbank Challenger began in 1997 and ran for six very

successful years. During its tenure, the tournament attracted

talented players like Andre Agassi -- who won the tourney's first

singles championship -- Andy Roddick, Taylor Dent, Michael Chang and

Todd Martin.

However, last season the event wasn't held in Burbank because of

fund-raising problems.

"I think the Burbank Challenger is the most prestigious and the

best tournament in the history of the Challenger series," said Tim

Stallard, president of Pro-Link Management, which promotes the

Challenger. "Just the amount of great players who have played in the

tournament is amazing."

Stallard said the players are also happy to be returning to the

Burbank Tennis Center.

"It s just a great tennis venue, and [BTC executive director]

Steve Starleaf always does a very good job putting on the

tournament," he said.

"We are looking forward to a great tournament with a lot of fine

tennis players."

Among the players who are scheduled to compete are Eagle Rock's

Cecil Mamiit, Paul Goldstein, Nicolas Lapenti, Brian Vahaly, Justin

Gimelstob, Kevin Kim, Brian Baker and Amer Delic.

Although the main draw of the tournament doesn't begin until

Monday -- with admission ranging from $7 to $20 -- there will be

tennis played this weekend, and admission is free. All day today and

Sunday, the BTC will be hosting qualifying rounds for the challenger


The singles and doubles finals of the Challenger will be Oct. 23.

A portion of the proceeds from the tournament will go to benefit

the Burbank Center for the Retarded. The BCR is a nonprofit agency

that provides day and extended-day programs 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. In the past, pro athletes have

taken the court to play alongside the members.

"You know, Andy Roddick has a picture of him playing tennis with

one of the [BCR] kids when he was at the Burbank Challenger,"

Stallard said. "He was really touched by his experience with the


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