The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

ATX Open Makes Quite a Racquet

Austin’s Annual Women’s Tournament Comes Back for a Second Year
Annabel Andre
SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP | Champion Yuan Yue (left) and finalist Wang Xiyu (right) pose with their trophies. They played in the first all-Chinese final in the U.S. in Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) history.

The ATX Open is Austin’s only professional, tour-level tennis tournament and its largest professional women’s sporting event. Despite only being the second year of the tournament, the ATX Open has already become America’s third-biggest women’s tennis tournament. This exposure to professional tennis has allowed for a spike in interest in tennis within Austin.

Claire Zhou, a LASA sophomore varsity tennis player, has played tennis since she was little. Tennis is an important part of her life and the ATX Open gives her the unique opportunity to interact with the professional tennis community in her own city.

“It was nice to see different faces or new faces,” Zhou said. “At the bigger tournaments, you just see a lot of the very famous people and not so much the people that are up and coming.”

When discussing the tennis community, Zhou also mentioned how she’s seen a decrease in interest following the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes that events like the ATX Open will rekindle an interest in tennis in the younger generation.

“It’s been declining as of lately because a lot of kids have gone to university,” Zhou said. “And especially after COVID there’s not a bunch of resources or people aren’t able to put in the resources to play tennis consistently and put their kids in tennis.”

MATCH POINT | Finalist Yuan Yue returns a serve from opponent Wang Xiyu. The two hour and thirteen minute final ended with Yuan winning in an exciting second-set tiebreaker (7-4). (Annabel Andre)

Christo Van Rensburg is the ATX Open tournament director and a former professional tennis player who began the sport when he was four. He played on tour for 15 years and was ranked in the top 20 best players worldwide and fifth in doubles. He believes tournaments are essential in the sport and in inspiring youth to play.

“Looking back lately at how Austin is growing and how the people are very crazy about sports, we looked at everything and said Austin is missing something very big,” Van Rensburg said. “They don’t have a women’s professional event in Austin, or even Texas at this magnitude. So, why don’t we bring it home and give people in Austin that opportunity of seeing these female professional athletes playing in their backyard.”

Following the tournament, Van Rensburg spoke about his excitement after hearing the positive feedback after only one year.  He explained how the ATX Open is exposing the sport to Austin and inspiring many old and new players to begin tennis once more.

“We’re only going out on our second year and you walk around in the city and you see people wearing [our] merchandise,” Van Rensburg said. “Someone said to me, ‘Woah, I’ve never been this close to see professional [players] and they move their feet so fast. I’ve been trying and I’m getting better now.’”

Not only has the tournament sparked interest in watching professional tennis, but it has also begun inspiring people to pursue the sport. Van Rensburg found it encouraging to see how people are compelled to improve after watching professional players’ skills.

APPROACH SHOT | Finalist Wang Xiyu approaches the net in an intense point with semi-finalist Anhelina Kalinina. The two played in the ATX Open semi-final on Saturday, March 2. (Annabel Andre)

“When you have a tournament like this, it’s a boost in that sport,” Van Rensburg said. “Now people wanna try and play better in that sport and more people are taking up tennis now because they know they wanna be as good as they can be. And every year people come and watch and see some of these athletes and pick up new little things that they want to copy from them.”

LASA sophomore and tennis player Anna Ugarte volunteered as a ball girl for the ATX open last year. The experience was inspiring and engaging for her.

“Not only was it great to see a tennis tournament in Austin after being interested in the sport for a long time,” Ugarte said, “but it was also very inspiring to see so much female representation.”

The ATX Open has become an important part of the tennis community in Austin. Van Rensburg recognizes the importance of having professional sport tournaments in Austin and believes that the ATX Open will become a significant part of Austin culture in coming years.

“When I go to the academy to promote the tournament, they already say, ‘Which days would be the best to bring our kids there? Should we come for lunch? Should we come in the daytime? And can we all sit together?’,” Van Rensburg said. “And that’s what’s great to hear because this sport will never flourish in the future without our kids.”

Annabel Andre
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