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TENNIS: The Filipek Tournament flag will continue to fly

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MIDDLETOWN — A year after it was thought to be folding, the Wint Filipek Sr. Memorial Tennis Tournament is back for 2023.

Longtime tournament director Wint Filipek Jr. stepped down last year to tend to his ailing wife Margaret, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

However, tournament regulars Daksh Rampal and Saurabh Kumar offered to keep the tradition going and Filipek gave his blessing for the duo to take over the reins.

This year’s tournament, the 18th annual, will run from June 15-25 at the John Wood Memorial Tennis Courts at Wesleyan University. The tournament continues to support the Alzheimer's Association of Connecticut and still has the same college scholarship fund.

“They approached me at the end of last year’s tournament; one is a doctor and the other is an engineer,” Filipek recounted this week. “I kind of expressed to them that they didn’t know what they were getting into because of the amount of work that goes into running a tournament like this. But they got a hold of me three or four months ago and have been over the house a few times.

“They seem energetic and I put my faith in them. They said they would maintain the standard we have set and have the tournament be 100 percent non-profit,” Filipek continued. “I’ve given them my blessing and I’m hoping it is successful because we have been extremely successful for the last 17 years. I hope they continue that and they seem dedicated to that.”

Filipek will remain involved in the tournament as a consultant in case the new directors hit any snags.

“I have mixed emotions about not running the tournament,” Filipek said. “It’s an incredible amount of work and I didn’t want to give it up; I loved it. The work was aggravating and exhausting, but I couldn’t keep doing it because of my wife’s illness. I knew I was going to miss it, and I do miss it, but there’s no way I could put that much time into it.”

In step Rampal and Kumar. Neither have run a tournament of this size, but they are tennis enthusiasts.

Rampal, a doctor, moved to Connecticut in 2014 and resides in West Hartford. He’s played tennis for the last 11 years and has played in the Filipek multiple times as well as several other tournaments.

“I respect what Wint has built up and I reached out to him and I told him I wanted to continue the tradition,” Rampal said. “I started playing tennis when I was adult and I love the sport, and this tournament. It’s for such a great cause. As a doctor, I treat people with Alzheimer's and I want to do what I can to keep this going.”

Rampal, who will play in the Men’s A Singles Division in June, said running the Filipek Tournament has been a steep learning curve.

“It’s been challenging. Wint will still be a part of this and will be helping us until the end,” Rampal said. “I’ve never run a tennis tournament before, but I run this like a business. Everything else I’m learning from Wint. He’s a wonderful teacher. It’s his deal and we don’t want to change anything. We want to contribute to the same scholarships and institutions.

“People may be thinking this is something new, but it’s not. We are going to maintain the Filipek quality. We will have the same tournament we’ve always had over the years.”

Kumar, of Avon, has played the Filipek on and off since 2016. A data architect by day, he’s played tennis for the past 13 years.

“My college buddies and I have been organizing small tournaments, but I’m interested in doing the Filipek tournament to promote tennis,” Kumar said. “Since my 9-year old daughter started playing, I’ve gotten more interested.

“We approached Wint last year about keeping this tournament going because it’s one of the best tournaments and attracts the best players,” Kumar added. “It attracts all kinds of players at all levels. Daksh asked if we wanted to take this over together and it kind of fell into my lap and I jumped at the opportunity. I’m excited for the opportunity. We knew this was going to be a lot of work, but I’m ready for it.”

Kumar said he wants to keep the Filipek going and get his daughter Annika more interested in tennis.

“I can almost picture playing with my daughter in the Filipek in a few years,” Kumar said. “I’m preparing a partner for myself.”

Kumar said Filipek has walked the new directors through an overview on how to stage the tournament.

“Wint always emphasizes for us to be ready because it’s a lot of work,” Kumar said. “Executing the tournament at the level he did isn’t easy. Every step has to be planned and we have to work hard to do anything he was doing.

“But I’m glad Daksh is here with me. He has a different set of skills and owns his own business. It makes things easier about setting up a non-profit and dealing with the creative entities and insurance. I’m glad we are doing it together because doing it alone would have been a bigger challenge.”

Filipek said he was happy the tournament will continue in his father’s name.

“I’m enthusiastic and pleased that these two gentleman have taken the initiative to take it over,” Filipek said. “I’m going to do everything I can to help so that the tournament continues in the way it has for the last 17 years. These are two very smart guys.

“Registration has already opened and we already have some applicants,” Filipek added. “We had about 400 players last year, and if we get even close to that it would be wonderful.”

Filipek will play in at least one division. He plans to be in Middletown for at least three days during tournament week.

“It’s my dad’s tournament,” Filipek said. “It’s had a special place in my heart for the last two decades and we’ve achieved more with it than we ever expected. 

The tournament is keeping the same 22 divisions and the same nine-day schedule. Visit wintfilipeksrtennis.org or email wintfilipektennis@gmail.com for more information.


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