Ivan Baron started playing tennis when he was 7 years old, so his 35-plus years of experience more than qualifies him to run one of the biggest tennis tournaments in South Florida – the Delray Beach Open.
Now, that experience has gotten the attention of the United States Tennis Association’s Junior Competition Committee, which recently named the Parkland resident as one of the top five tennis tournament directors of the year.
“I’m proud to say I’ve done everything there is to do with tennis,” Baron said. “Back when I was 7, I would go with my mother and her friends to the club in Pembroke Pines, and I would tag along and play.”
Fortunately, he said, he turned out to be very good at it, winning his first national tournament at the age of 10 and going on to be ranked No. 1 in the nation by the USTA Junior Worlds Rankings by the time he was 12. He went on to coach at Florida Atlantic University and University of Miami, then went on tour as a professional for the next five years. After getting his masters degree, he began organizing tournaments at the local, state, and now, international levels.
For his service, he was honored with a trip to the U.S. Open with the four other winners from across the country.
“The tournament directors chosen were thoroughly vetted and are truly recognized as the best of the best,” said Ellen Ehlers, USTA Junior Competition Subcommittee Sanction and Schedule Coordinator, in a statement. “They really care about every aspect of the tournaments they run and at the end of the day the goal is for everyone who steps foot on tournament grounds, whether it’s a player, parent or coach, to walk away feeling that this tournament was well run and met all of their expectations. These directors continuously exceed expectations.”
The Delray Beach Open attracts over 50,000 fans each year, and millions more watch it on television and live broadband coverage.
“We were honored to be nominated,” Baron said. “We just exchanged ideas for how our events stack up next to each other. We really came away with, what we will do differently as far as adding onto our events. There’s going to be more communication between all the participants across the country.”
Organizing a nationally recognized tennis tournament requires much more than meets the eye, and Baron and his team work hard to make sure their tournaments run like a well-oiled machine.
“We do work long hours to make sure everything runs smoothly,” he said. “We do it because we love the sport.”
Baron and his staff promote the tournament, coordinate schedules, hire umpires and court monitors, and generally act as a welcoming committee to visitors and tourists who come in for the games. They also choose which courts to play on.
“The clubs we use are some of the best in the state, if not in the country. A few are nationally and state recognized,” he said. “We really pride ourselves on our conditions.”
Another source of pride for Baron and his team are the opportunities available for young tennis players. The Columbus Day tournament in October is bringing in 256 of the best junior players from all over the country to Delray Beach. The Clay Court championship in July attracted 400 young men ages 16 to 18, 100 college scouts, and over 3 million dollars in scholarships awarded to players in that tournament.
“There’s a lot that goes into running these events, but we’re passionate about it, and that’s why we love doing this,” Baron said.
For more information on the Delray Beach Open, including tickets, schedules, special events leading up to the tournament, and more, visit YellowTennisBall.com or call 561-330-6000.
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