I live in Lowell, Massachusetts. Not too far away, in Concord, Mass., a new tennis tournament has been created. It is in progress as we speak.
The Thoreau Open is an ITF $60K challenger tournament started by former tennis pro and Wimbledon semifinalist Tim Mayotte, who appeared on this week’s Tennis With An Accent podcast along with Mike McIntyre of the Match Point Canada tennis podcast.
The tournament director at the Thoreau Open is Massimo Policastro, who managed to bring Christina McHale to the event in Concord. (She lost in the round of 16 on Wednesday.) You can get tickets to Friday’s semifinals or Saturday’s final here.
Massimo Policastro has directed nearly 50 different tournaments in his career, with Fed Cup and Davis Cup tournament directing experience as part of his resume. He is currently involved in tournament direction and organization for three other challenger tournaments, all in Italy: Florence, Milan and Napoli.
I sat down with Massimo and asked him to speak about the experience of being a tournament director at the challenger level. I also asked him to address the details and complexities of starting the brand-new Thoreau Open with Tim Mayotte:
“Boston chose me” as opposed to him choosing Boston, Policastro explained as he started the interview.
He offered these answers on the evolution of the Thoreau Open, what it took to get this initial venture off the ground, and how he hopes to build the tournament with Tim Mayotte in the future:
“I said, what about a tournament — it is time to give back something in this area (New England). Tim was involved with that right away, and here we are a few months later, putting together a challenger. The response has been amazing.
“It takes a quarter of a million dollars to put everything together (for a 60K challenger). It’s a long process. You start with connecting to the USTA and the ITF. You have to start thinking about all the details you need to put together in order to make this happen. We got great support from many sponsors. People were excited about this. Hopefully next year after showing what we can do, we can grow in prize money and get even a bigger tournament.
“The goal is always to break even for this kind of event. It doesn’t (negatively) impact the financial aspect of the club — it’s not my money. Organizing a tournament at this level involves about 350 people — between TV production, ballkids, transportation, organization, administration, there are a lot of people involved. It might seem like it’s easy, but it’s not. You don’t know what to expect. We got a great response from private sponsors. Hopefully (we will get more support) next year, once they see what happens — it’s amazing in this area. There was football, there was basketball, there was hockey, now we have tennis.
“It’s their (the players’) choice. We don’t really connect to players (to tell them what to do). Players pick the tournament. What is nice to see: If the players are happy with the organization and with the way they are treated, they will be back and they will talk to each other. They will spread the word around and next year we will have better players, and we can grow.”