For media inquiries, please contact:
Jessica Hill
Director of Community Relations
(865) 329-9095

Press Release


USTA Pro Circuit Returns to Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, October 24, 2017 – The Knoxville Challenger, a USTA Pro Circuit event, returns to Knoxville Nov. 7-12 at the University of Tennessee Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.

The Knoxville Challenger, presented by Pilot Flying J, is the largest professional men’s tennis tournament in our region. The Challenger series is designed to provide opportunities to aspiring, young professional tennis players to advance to the top levels of the game. Players include pros beginning their careers, pros trying to improve their ATP rankings and top-ranked junior players.

The Official Player Acceptance List was released this week. Three players on the list are currently ranked in the top 100 in the world while three others have held top-100 rankings in the past. The 2016 Knoxville Challenger Champion, Michael Mmoh, returns to defend his title.

Other notable entries, include:

Tennys Sandgren (USA/Gallatin, TN): Sandgren, former University of Tennessee All-American, joins the main draw this year and is ranked 92nd in the world. Sandgren was born and raised in Gallatin, Tennessee and launched his professional career after playing two years for the University of Tennessee.

John-Patrick Smith (AUS): Smith, another former University of Tennessee player, joins the main draw this year, ranked 200th in the world. While attending college, he was a four-time All American and made it to the college No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles.

Ernesto Escobedo (USA): Escobedo won two ATP Challenger titles in 2016 and won the US Open Wild Card Challenge and made his US Open debut in 2016.

Taylor Fritz (USA) and Reilly Opelka (USA): Fritz, ranked at 99, and Opelka, ranked 175, are two rising American hopefuls. Fritz won the 2015 Junior US Open at 17 years old. Opelka, one of the tallest ATP World Tour players at 6’11”, won the 2015 Junior Wimbledon tournament, defeating Fritz in the process.

The top-22 players on the player acceptance list get direct entry into the main draw. Four additional wild cards will be selected, two by the tournament director and two rising young Americans selected by the USTA. The four semifinalists from the qualifying tournament will also earn spots in the main draw.   

By participating in events like the Knoxville Challenger, players from the USTA Pro Circuit rise to a level of prominence on the major tour. These professionals compete for a total purse of $75,000 in prize money and for valuable ATP ranking points. Many of the top-ranked American players, as well as many international stars, have competed in the Knoxville Challenger as they climbed the world rankings. More than 30 professionals playing in the 2015 US Open previously competed in the Knoxville Challenger.

For the tournament schedule and ticket information, visit

The Knoxville Challenger benefits the Helen Ross McNabb Center, a regional not-for-profit provider of behavioral health care in East Tennessee, while also inspiring and entertaining new and seasoned lovers of the sport. The event is held every year in memory of Harry W. Stowers. His life, work, commitment and passion for the Helen Ross McNabb Center were of significant benefit to our entire community.


USTA Pro Circuit

With approximately 90 tournaments hosted annually throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 37 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering nearly $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. John IsnerMaria SharapovaSam Querrey, Sloane StephensKei NishikoriVictoria Azarenka and Andy Murray are among today’s top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit.


Knoxville Challenger in the news