Serving Up Aces

By Haley Burton

August 9, 2011 Updated Aug 9, 2011 at 5:18 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Tennis anyone?

It's the biggest tennis tournament in Upstate New York.

The 18th annual Levene Gouldin and Thompson Tennis Challenger is in full swing.

Want to get your tennis fix? Recreation Park is the place to be.

"This is what we call our little U.S. Open. I say it every year. This mirrors what you see in 2 weeks at the U.S. Open," said Laurie Bowen, Tournament Director.

It's the only Tennis Challenger in Upstate New York. It's a nine day tournament that wraps up August 14 with the singles and doubles finals. Top USTA Men's Pro Circuit tennis players are serving up some fast action.

"We have players from all over the world. We have at least 16 countries represented," said Bowen.

There's thirty two players total and many are preparing for the U.S. Open in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, during the first round, there were 16 games on three different courts.

"I played really good. The first set, I think I played a perfect set according to my Coach," said Ruben Bemelmans, USTA Pro Circuit player from Belgium.

Bemelmans won his first match 6-1, 6-1 on Tuesday morning.

"It's my first time here in Binghamton. Minus the weather so far, that's been not so good. But I like it here, he said.

Olympic Gold Medalist Nicolás Massú from Chile is the tournament's first wild card selection.

Massú is the first ever Gold Medal winner to participate in the Binghamton Challenger.

Massú was previously ranked as high as #9 in the world. He also won won double Olympic gold medals (last done in 1924) in Athens 2004 and has 6 ATP titles.

Umpire Iggy Snowe has been calling the shots at the Challenger for 15 years.

"It's one of the best tournament and I travel all across the country," Snowe said. "I was invited to go to Cincinnati this weekend and there's no way I would forgo this tournament. The people work hard and I would even be happy to come in the wintertime."

The courts are in tip-top shape for the athletes. This year, all were smoothed and painted in preparation for the tournament.

Mother Nature hasn't been too kind to the Challenger so far. Saturday washed out all activity but they've been able to play some tennis when they can and organizers say they are just about on schedule.

There's nearly 150 volunteers that make the Tennis Challenger happen.

"We get the balls for the tennis players. We make everything run smoothly for the players," said Breanne Nowetner, Binghamton.

Nowetner joins dozens of other kids volunteering their time as ball boys and girls.

It's a tennis tournament but there's fun for everyone. There's many activities throughout the week:

Tuesday, August 9
Applebee’s Tennis Pro-Am Finals 5pm
Top two amateurs and pros

Wednesday, August 10
High School Tennis Clinic 12-1pm
Ace with Pace Fast Serve Contest 5pm
Pros compete for $1000 in prize money for fastest serve and acing amateurs

RadioTennis.com broadcasting all day
Tune in if you can't make it to Rec Park

Thursday, August 11
Dick's Quickstart Tennis Clinics10-12pm
Open to public

Junior Exhibition with WTT format
RadioTennis.com broadcasting all day
Tune in if you can't make it to Rec Park

Discovery Center Pastabilities with a Taste of Tennis 6:30pm
Italian dinner, celebrity chefs, live auction. Tickets available to the public at the ticket booth or call the Discovery Center 773-8661

Friday, August 12
VIP Dinner by Cosmo's 6:30-8:00pm

Saturday, August 13
Meet the Mets 12-1pm
B-Mets players on site for giveaways and autographs

Moe's VIP Lunch 12pm-2pm
Wilson "Free For All Tennis" between semi-final matches
Crowd participation, prizes and fun.

YMCA "Party in the Park" 4-8pm

Sunday, August 14
VIP Brunch catered by Fritzy's10-12pm

Tickets are $3.00 through Thursday.
Friday-Sunday, tickets are $6.00
Tournament Pass is $25

Click here for schedule of Match Play and other Tournament Information