For two decades, the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger has demonstrated a steadfast and unwavering commitment to growing the game on the ATP Challenger Tour. And this week, the tournament has reached a significant milestone, celebrating its 20th anniversary on the circuit.
The great heritage of Challenger tournaments in the United States continues to grow, with a sixth event crossing the 20-year mark. Tallahassee joins Aptos, Winnetka, Binghamton, Lexington and Dallas as tournaments spanning at least two decades.
It’s no surprise that the longest-running clay-court Challenger in the country continues to thrive. Boasting a winners’ circle that includes Top 10 stalwarts Mardy Fish (2006), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2007) and John Isner (2009), as well as two-time finalist and #NextGenATP star Frances Tiafoe (2015-16), the level of competition has set the bar over the years.
Held at Forestmeadows Tennis Center, located on the north side of Tallahassee, the tournament has been under the direction of Karen Vogter since 2004. All proceeds from the event go to the Vogter Endowment, which funds the Vogter Neuro Intensive Care Unit – named for her late husband Mark – at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
The tournament is truly a community event, with more than 300 volunteers coming together to make it possible, in addition to an entire administration run by volunteers. Vogter, her staff and the entire Tallahassee community, including nearby Florida State University, rally around the tournament to ensure the more than 6,000 spectators have the best experience possible.
“It’s pretty rare to have a tournament like this that is entirely run by volunteers,” Vogter said. “It’s nice for Tallahassee to have a professional event. We’re the only one here. We’re growing every year and bringing more players and fans. What’s really fun about the tournament is the ability for people from the community to support foreign players who are from their countries. It’s fun to see how international it is.”
As a critical care nurse for years, Vogter has a passion for creating an inviting environment and world-class atmosphere for people. Her late husband Mark was a neurosurgeon before his unexpected passing. They had both spent countless years supporting the community and playing tennis and Vogter carries that legacy to this day.
It was only fitting that the tournament would invite 2018 champion Noah Rubin and runner-up Marc Polmans, in addition to doubles players Hunter Reese and Anderson Reed, to visit a new state-of-the-art wing at the neuro intensive care unit.
“It’s great to see that this is much more than a tennis tournament,” said Rubin. “The proceeds are helping people and to see an incredible place like this and the technology behind it, it’s really impressive. We always look for that outside motivation to show that it’s not just for us. It’s for people that truly need our help.”
Photo credit: Jacob Stuckey/Tallahassee Tennis Challenger