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Tennis Insider: Irving Tennis Classic lures some top men’s pros

Lukas Rosol, competing in the Davis Cup match earlier this month, is the defending champion of the Irving Tennis Classic, which begins Monday in Las Colinas.
Lukas Rosol, competing in the Davis Cup match earlier this month, is the defending champion of the Irving Tennis Classic, which begins Monday in Las Colinas. AP

Next week’s Irving Tennis Classic at the Four Seasons Resort & Club at Las Colinas has become an important stop on the way to the Miami Open for some of the world’s top players, who are looking to refine their competitive edge.

Thanks to a rare exemption that allows higher-ranked players to enter, Irving’s ATP Challenger event has a history in its first three years of attracting a field that’s comparable to ATP Tour-level events. The tournament runs Monday through March 22.

While the tournament regularly features some top players, the field is never set until the last minute since results from the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells play a role. A number of players, however, have added their names to the entry list, including defending champion and No. 30-ranked Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, No. 36 Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and former Baylor star Benjamin Becker of Germany, who is ranked 40th.

Leading the American contingent is two-time NCAA champion and 2014 Irving runner-up Steve Johnson, who is ranked No. 44 and is the No. 3 American man, behind John Isner and Sam Querrey. Also entered are No. 58 Jack Sock,coming off off-season hip surgery, and No. 83 Tim Smyczek, who won the RBC Championship in Dallas last month.

Other players of note are No. 50 Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, No. 51 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, No. 61 Marcos Baghdatis of Cypress and 2012 Irving champion Jurgen Melzer of Austria, ranked 86th.

Qualifying rounds begin at 10 a.m. Monday, with the first round of the main draw starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The doubles and singles finals are scheduled for March 22, following a match at 10 a.m. between Oklahoma State and Dartmouth.

Tickets and tournament passes are available starting at $10 (early rounds) at Irvingtennisclassic.com or at the event. General admission tickets for the March 21 semifinals and March 22 finals are $40.

Wild leaves Texas

After two seasons in Irving, the Texas Wild has headed west. Owner Jeff Launius has decided to take his World TeamTennis franchise to Sacramento, Calif. The WTT announced late last month that a newly formed ownership group would be rebranded as the California Dream.

The new ownership group includes Launius, Harbor Point Tennis Club president Bob Kaliski and Dallas-based investment banker Michael Malone.

The Wild reached the Western Conference finals in 2013, but failed to make the playoff last season and attendance declined.

National champions

Parker Wynn, 17, of Keller and Chase Wood of Heath were members of a team that won the rain-shortened USTA National Spring Team Championships this week in Mobile, Ala. The event featured top players from around the country in four age groups in team competition.

Rusty Hall, 817-390-7816

Twitter: RustyHall10s

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