Tennis fans recharged for Dow Tennis Classic's return

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Tennis fans were last able to see main draw action at the Dow Tennis Classic on Feb. 9, 2020. One year, nine months and six days later — 631 days, to be exact — fans were able to take in the tournament at the Greater Midland Tennis Center. 

Fans were able to mingle, eat in the catering tent and catch some tennis action as 2019 champion Caty McNally defeated wild card Reese Brantmeier 6-3, 7-5 in the feature match Tuesday. 

There are some changes fans can expect to see from year’s past. Masks are not required but strongly recommended, some areas have been curtained off to keep fans and players separated and the food tent is on the outdoor courts, rather than the indoor courts as it had been in year’s past. 

Another big adjustment for fans is the timing of the tournament, when it moved from February to November. Some fans enjoyed the different time of the year; it did not matter much, Midlanders are happy the DTC is back. 

Paddy Hobohm of Midland has been attending the DTC for around a decade said he understood why the tournament had to be postponed but was just glad it is back again. 

“For Midland, it’s a big deal for our community,” Hobohm said. “So, we always come you see a bunch of people that you don’t see all the time and from a community aspect. Everybody loves it here. So we got a great following for women’s sports to begin with but for tennis as well.”

Stacy Trapani from Midland said there were a lot of adjustments needed to be made over the last 20 months. As the tournament has made its way back, along with other cornerstone sporting events — the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the Great Lakes Loons among others — there have to be a lot of adjustments with how organizers have to deal with virus-related 

Again, Trapani is just happy to see tennis once again in Midland. 

“The changes are fantastic, I think they’re wonderful. I love that they’ve changed up how they’re doing things,” Trapani said. “They’ve changed the seating and everything. It just gives it a fresh new feel. And it’s nice, because it’s kind of a new time, you know, so I think it’s a lot of fun and watching the players is always just fantastic. And the play is so far. I mean, it’s only Tuesday but play has been super so far. It’s always been so exciting.”

For Pharrington Douglas, a special tradition was reinstated on opening day of the tournament. 

Douglas, a Saginaw native, has been attending the DTC for the last decade or so. Douglas is the president of the Urban Racquet Sports Foundation — an inner-city tennis program for kids — and each Monday of the DTC, Douglas brings the kids out to chat with one of the pros and their coach, eat pizza and watch top-level tennis. 

Due to virus-related restrictions, the kids were not able to interview players or coaches this year. However, Douglas said the kids were still able to enjoy pizza and have a blast watching the pros. 

In terms of the postponement of the DTC, Douglas said he and the kids were disappointed — but they were resilient and just kept having fun and enjoying tennis as a group. They were excited to have it back and get it back into their routine. 

“We just missed it,” Douglas said. “When it’s advertised, and the dates are set, we just look forward to coming but it wasn’t set up, it just didn’t bubble up in our routine. … So from that standpoint, yeah. It’s nice to have it back. But it’s in a different month of the year. And it’s also set up differently, you know, so it’s like, okay, we’re kind of confused. Things are usually a little different. So it’s set up differently.”

Obviously, the tournament poses an opportunity to bring people together outside of the tennis aspect. Hobohm said he was excited to get out and talk with people. His parents are hosting McNally while she competes in the tournament — a common practice in professional sports in Midland and similar markets. 

“It’s good that you have the networking opportunity because that’s been missed in Midland for quite a while,” Hobhom said. “A lot of stuff came to like a really big hull right away. So I think it says a lot that (they) are doing it one and then to have crowds, and I think the tent idea was a really good thing to like, get the crowd outside of the building, and then you can kind of meet and mingle around there.

“So to me the energy feels great,” Hobohm continued. “People want to get out and it’s been fun hanging out. And seeing people that you don’t typically see. But all the feedback I’ve heard has been really positive.”