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Tournament Brings Young Tennis Pros To East Lansing

Tanner Smith photo
Alec Gerstenberger
American Tanner Smith sets up for a shot during qualifying play at the Capital City Tennis Classic earlier this week.

This week, a group of young men is in East Lansing for a tennis tournament they hope will propel them to the top of the sport. WKAR’s Scott Pohl has more on the Capital City Tennis Classic.

Professional football draws new talent from college teams, and major league baseball has a system of minor leagues, but tomorrow’s tennis stars take a different path to the top.

The grand slam level accounts for the top 128 ranked players in the world. The Association of Tennis Professionals, or ATP tour, is for players in the top 250. The International Tennis Federation, or ITF World Tennis Tour, includes the top 750 players in the world.

Michael Geerts photo
Credit Scott Pohl / RIverwalk Theatre
RIverwalk Theatre
Tournament top seed Michael Geerts of Belgium

Michael Geerts is the highest ranked player in East Lansing this week, and the tournament’s top seed. The 23-year-old from Belgium is currently ranked number 356 in the world. He’s spent the past year on tour, trying to move up the rankings, including stops from Waco, Texas and Norman, Oklahoma to Tunisia, Mexico and Egypt. “I do enjoy it," Geerts explains. "A lot of my friends are still behind the books or they’re working, so I’m working maybe a little bit of a different life, but I’m really trying to get all of the benefits out of it and trying to enjoy it as long as I can.”


You can try to recover as well as possible and do everything possible to not get injured, but sometimes it comes out of nowhere. And, it’s definitely important to stay mentally fresh when you travel that much and try to compete week in and week out. Michael Geerts

At a tournament like this one, 26 players start out in the main draw of 32, while 48 others have been playing qualifying matches hoping to get into final six slots.

Anthony Pero photo
Credit Scott Pohl / WKAR/MSU
MSU men's tennis sophomore Anthony Pero got a wild card entry into the tournament's main draw.

As tournament hosts, a few players from the MSU men’s tennis team played in the qualifiers. MSU sophomore Anthony Pero was granted a wild card entry directly into the main draw, something he calls “a huge privilege. He adds "I’m sure the top guys in the main draw have played famous names like Tomas Berdych or Roger Federer even. They’ve definitely been in the same tournaments, they’ve experienced the same level. The difference between the greatest and the top 500 is very small, the level is very similar.”

Pero says he plans to try to make a living on the pro tour when his collegiate career ends.

Marc Bell photo
Credit Scott Pohl / WKAR/MSU
Marc Bell is the ITF Supervisor running the Capital City Tennis Classic at the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility on Mt. Hope Road.

But the rewards for traveling around the world to play are often paltry. The ITF supervisor running this tournament is Marc Bell. He says the draw here is good for a tournament with only $15,000 in prize money. “It’s really a chance to see people that are already athletes, that are already good players," Bell continues. "You’re 300 in the world, you’re 600 in the world, whatever it is, so it’s good tennis to start out with, the main draw for sure. It’s an opportunity to get really close to these guys. You might sit next to one who’s watching his colleague. At regular big tournaments, you don’t get to do this.”


You’re looking at a draw that’s similar to a $25k. We have one parallel right now in Houston; if you look at it, our main draw is actually better than theirs. The level of play is ranked between 300 and 1,000 in the main draw; that’s not bad at all. ITF Supervisor Marc Bell

There’s tennis every day through the finals on Sunday at the MSU indoor tennis facility on Mt. Hope Road.

The chances of seeing a future Grand Slam tournament champion at the Capital City Tennis Classic are small, but it’s good tennis, and for each player, the tournament is potentially a step toward one day hoisting the trophy at the U.S. Open or Wimbledon.

Scott Pohl has maintained an on-call schedule reporting for WKAR following his retirement after 36 years on the air at the station.
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