Christine Lee, Grand Prairie/Irving Reporter
About 7,500 fans are expected throughout the week for the Dallas Tennis Classic.
Some of the top tennis pros from around the world are in Irving this week for a new Association of Tennis Professionals event.
The Dallas Tennis Classic is a new stop on the ATP Challenger Tour with prize money of $125,000 that features a 32-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw.
Zoltan Papp, Dallas Tennis Classic tournament director, said the event gives players a chance to warm up.
Unlike other Challenger events, top 50 ranked players can play in the tournament without obtaining a wildcard as they prepare for the Sony Ericsson Open tournament in Miami.
Papp said he hopes to make the Dallas Tennis Classic an annual event.
About 60 to 70 of the top male tennis professionals from more than 20 countries are at the tournament. About 7,500 fans are expected to show up during the course of the week to cheer on the players.
Benjamin Becker, the German tennis pro who made news by sending Andre Agassi to his retirement in 2006, credits Baylor University, his alma mater, for helping him get to where he is today.
"I was an OK player when I came from Germany, but I wasn't very good yet," he said. "And I developed my whole game and everything that belongs to tennis play in Texas at the university."
Becker and his rallying partner, former world No. 4 James Blake, are just some of the big names that showed up at the Four Seasons Resort and Spa in Las Colinas. Tommy Haas and Feliciano Lopez are also expected to attend.
Tennis fans Jim and Gail Meek said they woke up at 5:30 a.m. to drive an hour and a half from Denison for the tournament.
"You get to see good tennis," Jim Meek said. "There is not a great deal of difference between the No. 150 in the world and the No. 10."
Gail Meek said she is happy to be able to see the pros in North Texas.
"I think it'd be good if this area can bring in more professional tennis tournaments," she said.
The Dallas Tennis Cassic runs from March 12-18 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas.
For more information on the players' schedules and how to buy tickets, visit the touranment's website.