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Bragging Rights

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It's not often you get the chance to say, "I was there when ... ." But that's exactly what's being offered by the Fitz $50K USTA Challenger (or, less snappily, the Fitz Casino and Hotel $50,000 United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit Challenger tournament). Just in its third year, the Challenger is where local racketheads have gotten intimate glimpses of today's stars, including James Blake (currently #9 in the world) and Mardy Fish (currently #31). The USTA Pro Circuit is like Triple-A baseball: It's where rising stars get to break their natural gut in and where rehabbing greats get their groove back.

The tournament will be played at Tunica National Golf & Tennis Club. Tunica's courts are clay (and indoors, too), so expect a slower, more technically proficient game with longer rallies. It all adds up to an exciting atmosphere. This year's draw includes several names-of-tomorrow to keep your eye on, like Robert Kendrick (currently #83), Paul Goldstein (#112), and 20-year-old up-and-comer Scoville Jenkins (pictured), among others.

Courtside bleacher seats are free, and $20 will get you a primo spot up top. The Challenger runs through May 12th, and top seeds will play "features" matches each night. In a couple years, you can brag you were there when.

The Fitz $50K UStA Challenger at Tunica National Golf & Tennis Club. Off U.S. Hwy. 61, Tunica, MS. Call 662-357-0777 or go to www.tunicanational.com for more information.

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