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West Side Tennis Club to host 3 tournaments

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"This is a historical moment," said Lee Hamilton, the executive director of the United States Tennis Association, at a March 10 luncheon in the dining room of the club. "Forest Hills was the home of the US Open and this year, with three tournaments, it will once again become (the venue for) one of the premier sporting events in the U.S. and the world."

Last year the club brought professional tennis back onto its courts by hosting its first pro tournament in 14 years. The men's tournament, called the Forest Hills Tennis Classic, was won by Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Florida, who defeated Mariano Delfino in the finals. Former French Open champion Michael Chang was ousted in the second round of play.

This year the club plans to host the Forest Hills Clay Court Classic for men from May 10 through May 16, the Forest Hills Grass Court Classic for men from June 7 to June 13 and the Women's Tennis Association hard court tournament from Aug. 23 through Aug. 28.

The men's clay event is planned for the weeks immediately before the qualifying tournaments for the French Open, and the grass tournament is planned to precede the Wimbledon qualifiers. Both events are sponsored by the USTA Pro Circuit.

The Forest Hills women's tournament is new to the WTA tour schedule. Sixteen women will compete in the event for the title and $65,000 in prize money. The event is scheduled during the same week as the US Open Qualifying Tournament and the Pilot Pen Championships in New Haven, Conn.

"The women's tournament was a logical fit for us," said Bob Ingersole, the director of tennis at the West Side club. "We had a general plan to get the club back into (pro) tennis, to get it recognized as the ultimate club facility."

Ingersole said it was too early to know who would be competing in the tournaments this year.

Former Mayor David Dinkins, an honorary member of the West Side club and a member of the USTA board, praised the Forest Hills club's facilities and talked about how he had helped fight to keep the US Open in the city after the USTA decided to move the tournament out of the West Side Tennis Club in 1977.

"I love it here. This is a great facility and I'm delighted that it's going to get back into these big tennis events," Dinkins said.

The West Side Tennis Club hosted the US Open for more than six decades before the tournament moved to the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 1978. The club has 38 courts made out of all types of tennis surfaces: Har-tru, or green clay; red clay; grass; and hard surfaces.

Dinkins said the US Open generates more revenue in two weeks than do the Mets, the Rangers and the Knicks combined for half a season. The former mayor got into the tennis craze in 1974 and still plays five times a week even though he is nearly 77 years old.

"I'm an old fellow, but I still play, most of the time on Roosevelt Island," he said. "I play amateur."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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