The Commercial Appeal

No black plastic chairs? Club gets an upgrade


Sam Querrey might not recognize the setup. John Isner, Ivo Karlovic, Donald Young or any of the other ATP World Tour players who routinely make the Memphis Open a February stop on their annual calendar of tournament­s may have difficulty, too.

For the first time since the Stadium Court was constructe­d at The Racquet Club in the mid-1970s, the seating will be noticeably upgraded. When the event begins its seven-day run Monday, tennis fans will not see the familiar black plastic chairs that adorned the arena for five decades. The chairs were fixtures behind the baselines and in recent years behind the sidelines (replacing what originally were wooden bleachers).

Tournament director Erin Mazurek said the Memphis Open officials contracted with Seating Solutions, a company out of Landrum, South Carolina, to install upgraded seating. Most of the arena’s approximat­ely 2,600 seats will be flip-downs with chairbacks, a more comfortabl­e option. VIP seating on the Stadium Court’s south side will be padded folding chairs. There are also on-court champagne tables on the south side, an amenity added last year.

“It’s a unique building that presents limitation­s because of walls and beams and (its recreation­al use) the other 50 weeks of the year,” Mazurek said. “So everyone kind of put the puzzle pieces (of a seating configurat­ion) in there, piecemeali­ng it using stage decking and folding chairs versus a real stadium build.

“This year, (tournament owner) GF Sports decided it was time to upgrade the profession­al look and feel of the structure. The result of that is (the structure) is not only more appealing visually, the seats are more comfortabl­e and more appropriat­ely spaced. And they are safer. The stairwells, the handrails, everything is safer than it was before and it’s newer material.”

There will be 54 bleacher seats, set aside mostly for school-age children attending during the week.

The event, held annually in Memphis since 1976, will be played Monday through Feb. 19. Karlovic, Isner, Querrey, Steve Johnson and Bernard Tomic are among the top-seeded players entered in the tournament, one of 10 held in the United States and the only one played indoors.

Seating at the Stadium Court is not permanent. When the tournament ends, the stands and seating are removed to return the building to its normal use: four indoor courts for members.

In addition to the upgraded look and feel in the Stadium Court, the Grandstand Court will also include a limited amount of chairback seats, along with metal bleachers. That court is in use during the week to accommodat­e a busy schedule of singles and doubles, but play moves exclusivel­y to the Stadium Court by the weekend.

OPEN NOTES: Canada’s Peter Polansky, the No. 1 seed, and Germany’s Brian Becker, the No. 2 seed, advanced to Sunday’s final qualifying round with straight-set wins. After Becker’s match, he met 16-year-old St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient Andre Masias Krefft. Becker spoke with Krefft and his parents before giving Krefft a racket, which he autographe­d . ... Andrew Watson, a member of the University of Memphis men’s tennis team, lost his opening-round qualifying match Saturday in straight sets — 6-2, 6-3 — to Darian King. Four players will emerge from today’s final round to earn spots in the main draw . ... Joe Salisbury and David O’Hare will be one of two former University of Memphis doubles teams participat­ing in the main draw as wild card entrants. Salisbury and O’Hare, who won last week’s doubles title at the ATP Challenger event in Dallas, drew a difficult first-round match: the No. 1 seeded team of Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi. Cedric De Zutter and Connor Glennon, who also played at the U of M, earned a spot in the doubles by winning the Southern Adult Indoor title last month at The Racquet Club . ... Nashville’s Brian Baker, 31, won his openingrou­nd qualifying match and will attempt to earn a spot in the main draw here for the first time in 12 years.

Reach Stukenborg at phil.stukenborg@commercial­

 ?? SUBMITTED PHOTO ?? The Racquet Club’s Stadium Court has gotten an upgrade to its seating.
SUBMITTED PHOTO The Racquet Club’s Stadium Court has gotten an upgrade to its seating.

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