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A Smashing Open

Mackenzie McDonald LEV RADIN PHOTO

With a number of the world’s best tennis players on hand, what’s not to “love” about the upcoming 2018 Hawai‘i Open at Blaisdell Arena?

Twelve international tennis stars will descend upon Blais-dell Arena this month for the 2018 Hawai‘i Open, slated for Dec. 21-23. Fans will have the opportunity to catch ATP World Tour No. 9 Kei Nishikori and No. 18 Milos Raonic, WTA No. 18 Garbiñe Muguruza and Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard, as well as Mackenzie McDonald and Colleen “CoCo” Vandeweghe, in action.

Indeed, when Hawai‘i Open kicks off single-elimination play in just a couple of weeks, expect big crowds and high energy when the six men and six women compete for top honors and thousands in prize money.

Colleen “CoCo” Vandeweghe JIMMIE48 PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

The event already has grown to accommodate thousands of tennis fans, and now has added men’s play to the mix.

Founders Ben and Kyla Goldsmith moved the event to Honolulu in 2016 after witnessing fans’ reactions at Fed Cup tournaments, which were staged on the Big Island and Maui.

“We were watching on TV and saw how successful it was,” Ben recalls. “I said, ‘If they can get that many people to come to a tennis tournament, just think what you could do in Honolulu.'”

Garbiñe Muguruza LEONARD ZHUKOVSKY PHOTO

The transition to Hawai‘i, he adds, was a good move, as the state touts a strong tennis presence rarely seen in other parts of the U.S.

“Besides Atlanta, there’s no place it’s more popular,” Ben adds of the sport. “It’s always been popular here.

It’s one that a lot of the high schools still play. And it’s the weather. It’s never too hot to go play tennis and never too cold.”

When the Goldsmiths established the Hawai‘i Open, they set up shop for the December tourney at Central O‘ahu Regional Park.

“But it rained both years,” Ben adds, with a laugh.

Kei Nishikori RENA SCHILD PHOTO

Now, with Blaisdell Arena playing host, weather interruptions are not a concern. And the bigger space means more seats available for fans.

New this year, thanks to the indoor facilities, is in-match coaching, which, says Kyla, will really appeal to spectators.

“They’ll be able to understand what’s going on and hear what’s going on between a coach and player,” she explains. “It’s a different aspect for fans, more like a football experience.”

For 23-year-old McDonald, the 2018 Hawai‘i Open is a chance to compete against some of the world’s best, while also enjoying a tropical Christmas before jetting off to the land Down Under for the Australian Open in January. McDonald, who turned pro just two years ago, already has proven himself talented by climbing the ranks with each passing tournament. And, he says, his affinity for the sport started at an extremely young age.

“I’ve been playing tennis since I was 3,” he says. “It chose me before I chose it, and I fell in love with the sport from the get-go.”

His visit to Honolulu this month also marks a special occasion in that his first tennis coach, Rosie Bareis, was inducted into Hawai‘i’s Tennis Hall of Fame.

“She’ll be there (at the Hawai‘i Open),” he adds.

Tennis fans can also look forward to the outstanding athleticism of Vandeweghe, who celebrates her 27th birthday tomorrow (Dec. 6). Unlike, McDonald, Vandeweghe got her start with tennis later in life, deciding to go pro after winning the U.S. Open Juniors as an unseeded wild-card recipient from the USTA.

Though she’s coming off an injury, Vandeweghe is looking forward to the high level of competitive play later this month.

“I am looking forward to training and getting some great matches in the best setting in the world,” she says. “I plan on going to the beach daily after my sessions and would love to explore the island’s hikes and sunsets.”

And it’s not just fans and athletes who are excited for the 2018 Hawai‘i Open. It’s a big year for the Goldsmiths, as well. Now in its third year, the event has grown tremendously in just a short time, and the couple is looking forward to doing even more in the coming years. For now, though, all eyes are set on the upcoming matches and the excitement they’ll garner from around the globe. (Last year, the event was broadcast in almost every country in the world.)

“I’m looking forward to seeing these big-name players touch down in Honolulu and seeing the energy from the fan base,” Kyla adds. “We’re bringing these big names, some of whom have never been to Hawai‘i, and we’re looking forward to big crowds and big energy.”

The Hawai‘i Open runs Dec. 21-23. Daily tickets and three-day passes are available online at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. VIP tickets can be reserved by calling 454-7400.

In addition, charity matches take place Dec. 22 to benefit Hawai‘i Community Foundation and Room to Read for volcano disaster relief efforts. Special guests Daniel Dae Kim and U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard will hit the court for doubles matches. Tickets for the charity matches are $20.

Visit hawaiitennisopen.com for more information.

HAWAI‘I OPEN 2018’S WOMEN

CiCi Bellis of the U.S.

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada

Kayla Day of the U.S

Christina McHale of the U.S.

Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain

Colleen “CoCo” Vandeweghe of the U.S.

HAWAI‘I OPEN 2018’S MEN

Jared Donaldson of the U.S.

Ryan Harrison of the U.S.

Bradley Klahn of the U.S.

Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S.

Kei Nishikori of Japan

Milos Raonic of Canada