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TENNIS: Filipek Tournament closes shop after 14 years; scholarship awards to continue

TENNIS: Filipek Tournament closes shop after 14 years; scholarship awards to continue

MERIDEN — The Filipek name has been synonymous with tennis in the Greater Meriden community for 80 years.

Wint Filipek Sr. won a Meriden men’s singles title at age 15 in 1939, repeated the next year and won again in 1949. That started a family legacy that has continued to this day.

The Wint Filipek Sr. Memorial Tennis Tournament was created to honor the legacy of Filipek Sr., who passed away unexpectedly in 2005 after playing tennis for 60 years.

For a variety of reasons, the tournament will not return for its 15th year.

Tournament director Wint Filipek Jr. alerted family, friends, players and supporters in an email earlier this week announcing the 2018 event was the last.

Margaret Filipek, Wint’s wife, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year ago and he provides care for her. The couple will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

Filipek Jr. also cited differences among tournament board members regarding the host site of this year’s event.

“It was a very hard decision,” Filipek said Friday. “I had thought about this, without telling my family, for over a month. I weighed the pros and cons. It’s a tremendous amount of work. There were other factors. It got to the point where I said it was enough.”

“It’s a chapter closed in my life,” the 72-year-old Filipek added. “My sister and others were talking about running a diminished version of the tournament somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t do what I’ve done in the past. Sometimes I would get to the courts at 4:30 a.m. and leave at 9:30 at night. It would beat the heck out of me, but I loved it.”

The tournament initially called the Hunt Tennis Courts at Choate Rosemary Hall home before moving to Cheshire’s Copper Valley Swim & Tennis Club in 2014.

The nine-day event would attract hundreds of players from Connecticut and from out of state. Filipek estimates there were more than 7,000 total entries, with a peak of 600-plus in each of the past five years.

Filipek said one of the highlights each year was giving away scholarships in his father’s name. In the tournament’s 14-year run, $158,500 was awarded in scholarships to high school tennis players and to nonprofit organizations.

The Filipek Scholarship Fund Inc. will continue to be a giving entity, according to Filipek.

“We’ve given away a tremendous amount of money and each year I’ve put money aside, and we plan on continuing the scholarship,” Filipek said. “I plan on notifying local high school guidance offices. Hopefully, we will continue to have the scholarship every year. I’m not sure how long at this moment, but at least another decade.”

Among its accolades, the tournament was recognized as the Special Tennis Event of the Year in 2016 by USTA-New England.

The Filipek event grew out of the Four Town Tennis Tournament, which dated back to the 1970s. Filipek Jr. won 15 singles titles in 25 years competing in that tournament.

The event resurfaced again in the 1990s run by the Wallingford Family YMCA. Wint Filipek Sr.’s name was added to the Wallingford Family YMCA event in 2005 and the two remained together for a few years before the YMCA’s involvement ended.

Since the Filipeks took over, the tournament grew in participation each year. Since announcing the end of the tournament, Filipek has heard from past players.

“People were glowing about how happy they were to be at the tournament,” Filipek said. “I had tears in my eyes. I had kind words from close to 100 players who have played in the tournament. It made me feel sad and wonderful at the same time.”