CARLSBAD — The behind the scenes action may have be bumpy, but the play on the court was smooth and intense at the inaugural Carlsbad Classic, which wrapped up last week.
In the end, former No. 15-ranked and top seeded Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium held off fifth-seeded American Nicole Gibbs, 6-3, 7-6 (4), to capture the title at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort.
Despite a losing effort, Gibbs earned the tournament’s direct qualifier into next month’s Australian Open, while Wickmayer, currently 49th in the world, already qualified.
“There was absolutely some great tennis,” said Ben Goldsmith, tournament director. “I really was thinking Nicole Gibbs would pull out the second set. Yanina showed why she is the former No. 15… gutted it up and won it in style.”
As for the tournament, Goldsmith said, “everything that could go wrong went wrong for us.”
Despite grading himself at an 80 out of a 100, Goldsmith said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and receiving high praise from fans, players and a perfect score from the Women’s Tennis Association.
The tournament was able to adjust rain and the fans came out in force after Thanksgiving, Goldsmith said.
As a result of the high marks, the tournament will remain in the city for the next three years and secured a pair of sponsorships from Torrey Pines Bank and Tri-City Medical, which will be the presenting sponsor next year.
Goldsmith said another sponsorship deal is currently being negotiated and hopes to close the deal in the coming days or weeks.
“Our sponsorships are starting to roll in and we are getting more play in the local media,” Goldsmith added. “We just have to do a better job of marketing our own tournament.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge now, Goldsmith added, is to decide when to hold the tournament.
The holiday weekend presents a number of obstacles, while moving the tournament several weeks ahead allow for a larger turnout.
“We did a few things wrong, but we will correct it for next years,” Goldsmith said.
The players, meanwhile, put on a display highlighted by Wickmayer and Gibbs, although Carlsbad’s Brett Berger made her first professional appearance and California native CiCi Bellis reached the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual champ, 6-4, 6-3.
Yet another important component of the tournament’s success was player amenities.
A top-flight hotel, quality courts and arguably the best food on tour made for a successful re-introduction to Carlsbad.
Those aspects are important to the future of the tournament, Goldsmith said, as players spread the word on tour, which in turn draws more and better athletes.
“The players were just thrilled,” he added. “Every one we talked to said they were coming back next year. The WTA said they think we will have a better draw next year.”
Looking down the road, Goldsmith said several adjustments will be made to next year’s event. Notably, the marketing efforts will step up as well as adding lights for night sessions.
In addition, the tournament will expand its seating capacity threefold, move seats closer to the court (permitting issues prevented closer seating this year) and recruit more top-caliber players.
“We went ahead and spent money this year for things that will pay off in the future,” Goldsmith said. “We want to let everybody know that we will be back next year.”