TENNIS: Last serve for a long labor of love

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MIDDLETOWN — More than 400 players will be participating in the 16th and final year of the Wint Filipek Sr. Memorial Tennis Tournament beginning on Saturday and running through next Sunday, June 26.

The final Filipek will feature 21 divisions and be played on the city of Middletown's John Wood Memorial Tennis Courts at Wesleyan University. The event will benefit the Alzheimer's Association.

It was important for tournament director Wint Filipek Jr. to hold the tournament during the week of the summer solstice. On June 21, people from across the world will fight the darkness of Alzheimer's through a fundraising activity of their choice. Filipek, whose wife Margaret suffers from the disease, will do it through his tennis tournament.

The 2022 event lost a few players due to school getting out and other potential players coming down with COVID.

“I’m pleased with the number of players,” Filipek said this week. “This is our last year and we want to do some special things for our players. We will be giving free items and will be feeding them every day.

“Ever since our tournament started, we have been all about treating our players special. We aren’t going to be making any money this year, so we can hand out special items to our players.”

Filipek said it was an extremely difficult decision to end the tournament. He added that if his wife wasn’t sick he would have done it a couple of more years despite the challenges of running such a large tournament.

“It’s so hard to try to attract players and getting everything coordinated and making sure all of the matches are at the right times and accommodate people’s requests,” Filipek said. “It’s an immense task. I am weary at this point. The tournament itself is the easy part. It’s fun having the players come and enjoy themselves.

“The schedule is a barracuda, with conflicts and people playing multiple events,” he added. “I’ve worked on the schedule for 25 hours and it should go like clockwork. It’s cumbersome and takes so much work. I’ve loved it over the years. Over 18 years we’ve had more than 10,000 entries. Some years we were over 750, when we had more divisions that included high school players.”

For a tournament based in central Connecticut, Filipek noted, that’s a major accomplishment.

“I couldn’t have done this without my family and the committee and all; they are tired too,” Filipek said. “I’m really happy it’s our last year, but I have mixed emotions about it.”

Men’s A and Men’s B singles are both sold out. Filipek said he is pleased with the depth and talent in these particular categories, as well as Men’s A doubles.

Aaron Kusza has won the A singles crown multiple times, including in 2021. He also teamed with David Poudrier to win A Doubles last summer. Kusza will be back this week to defend.

Monday, Thursday and the second Saturday are scheduled as off days. In case of rain, they’ll become make-up dates.

The tournament will donate a check of $25,000 to the Alzheimer's Association Connecticut Chapter. The tournament will also give out $7,000 in scholarships. With those amounts, the Filipek will have raised more than $250,000 in charitable donations in its history.

The Filipek Scholarship fund will continue for a number of years after this season for high school senior tennis players.

“I just want to thank all of my wonderful friends on the committee over the years,” Filipek said. “They have always been so dedicated. The tournament wouldn’t have been so successful without their work over the years.”


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