Beaufort News

Hilton Head tennis professionals set to take on counterparts from Charleston

The large croud that gathered at the Long Cove Tennis Club on a cool June night earlier this year was all Lee Holyoak needed to see.

The tennis director at Long Cove had just watched as his pride and joy -- the Hilton Head Island Professional Tennis League -- put the finishing touches on another successful season, its second in as many years.

It was then that Holyoak's decision to expand the league to competition in the fall was cemented. That decision will be showcased for the first time Saturday night, as the Coral Resorts All-Star Pro League Challenge will take place at Long Cove beginning at 5 p.m.

"It's just a win-win for everybody," Holyoak said. "To get something for the fall, even just for one night, is better than nothing. It gives a chance for our guys to get out there and show how good we are."

Holyoak first tossed the idea around of an All-Star league some months before with his good friend Chris Henderson, who runs the pro league based out of Charleston. The conversation never became truly serious, however, until Holyoak saw the positive reaction about the league from those in the community.

"We kicked it around a bit and thought, 'Gosh, there's no reason why we can't do it,' " Holyoak recalled. "There were a lot of people that asked after we were done with our pro league, 'Can you do this again in the fall? Because a lot of people enjoy watching it.' And a lot of the players enjoy playing in it."

What they came up with was an all-star challenge that will feature some of the best players from Hilton Head Island going up against those from Charleston. Marcos Ondruska, who was ranked as high as No. 27 in the world in singles, and Tom Shimada, who peaked at No. 40 in the doubles world ranking, highlight the list for Hilton Head.

Smith Stearns Tennis Academy coach Jolene Watanabe will also take part, as will area residents Christian Coley, Susie Lester, Tammy Zawacki and Thomas Richter.

The Charleston team, meanwhile, is highlighted by Thomas Eklund, who owns a victory over John Isner during his collegiate career. Former Division I players from USC, College of Charleston, Furman, George Washington and Brigham Young will also take part for Charleston.

"We just thought it would be fun to pit their best players aganst our players for some fun and a little bit of bragging rights," Holyoak said.

The challenge will use a World Team Tennis format, as fans will see competitors take part in men's and women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Admission is free and food and beverages will be available for purchase.

"We just hope to keep it entertaining so everybody keeps coming out and watching," Holyoak said.