For the fifth year in a row, the USTA South Carolina Mixed Doubles Super Senior championships is returning to Aiken. The three day tournament – commencing today and running through Sunday – will be contested at the H. Odell Weeks Tennis Center, Woodside Plantation and The Reserve Club at Woodside.
This year’s tournament will be bigger than previous incarnations. The field has been expanded from 60 years old and up to the Palmetto State’s top players that are 55 and older. That means there will be 42 teams from across the state competing, bringing the size of the field of players to well over 400.
Having dozens more mixed doubles teams vying for state titles in 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0 levels than in the past will come close to doubling the amount of players in action. The USTA restructuring its leagues earlier this year led to the larger field, which also includes teams competing in the 9.0 level.
“This tournament has really grown,” Mark Calvert, the head teaching professional at Odell Weeks and the primary organizer responsible for getting the USTA to hold the event in Aiken, said Thursday. “The first year we had 200 players. This is one of the fastest growing leagues in the state.”
The younger players will compose the bulk of the teams this weekend. According to Patti McVey, the USTA South Carolina Mixed Doubles Super Senior league coordinator, 35 of the 42 teams are competing in the 55-and-Over championships.
“I do think the 65s will grow as word gets out,” she said in a statement, adding that this year’s tournament is also the first time all 12 tennis leagues in South Carolina have sent teams.
Calvert expects to see great competition with the players going at it.
He also knows a field this large will have an economic impact with the visiting players staying at Aiken hotels and eating at Aiken restaurants.
“It means a lot to the City of Aiken to have this tournament,” Calvert said. “It’s a big economic impact to bring this many players to town. It’s nice to showcase this facility and see new faces.”
The tournament will start today at noon and, following a full day of matches on Saturday, will conclude on Sunday. Tonight at 6, there will be social held for the players at Odell Weeks.
Tournament winners in the 55-and-Over division will have the opportunity to join other state winners at the first USTA Southern Invitational 55-and-Over Mixed Doubles Championships, Oct. 25-27 in Arkansas. There’s a team representing Aiken playing in the 7.0 level in the 55-and-Over division.
“As we get older, we look forward to this,” said McVey. “Tennis truly is a sport of a lifetime.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.