By Randy Walker
“We hope we never see you again.”
This was the familiar refrain said year by year in trophy ceremonies by tournament director Mike Rahaley to the singles winner of the U.S. Tennis Association Pro Circuit “Futures” tournament in Vero Beach, Florida. While one would first think this would be inhospitable thing to say, it was meant with the deepest affection. What Rahaley meant with these words is “We wish you the best of success in your tennis career and hope that you don’t have to come back here next year because that means that you are playing better and in bigger and more important tournaments in the tennis world.”
Here's tournament founder Mike Rahaley, who passed away this week, with @MardyFish and Tom Fish from a press conference in 2016 where it was announced that the @MardyFishFound would be taking over the management of the USTA Pro Circuit event in Vero Beach. We will miss Mike! pic.twitter.com/5LLGKUpef2
— Vero Beach Futures (@VeroFutures) July 21, 2019
The tournament that he founded was the lowest level of professional tennis, an entry-level event on what is now called the International Tennis Federation World Tennis Tour. If you came back to play the $10,000 event the next year, or in years in the future, that means your tennis career was not heading in the right direction. Rahaley only wanted the best for everyone he associated with in tennis, which is one of his characteristics that those who knew him remember after his passing on July 16, 2019.
A former teacher who turned to teaching tennis, Rahaley started this tournament in Vero Beach, Florida in 1995, and turned it into one of the longest running and most successful at this level of tennis. It literally was the envy of all other tournaments at this level in the world. While almost every one of these level tournaments are played in front of no fans other than a parent and maybe a coach, Rahaley turned his event in Vero Beach into the best of its level in the world with the most professional conditions and hundreds of fans attending daily. Not only were there hundreds of fans in attendance daily, but PAYING fans. Rahaley, with his deep love of tennis, charisma, charm and promotional abilities, was able to turn this small tennis event into a extravaganza and a happening in town.
My column on perhaps the greatest ever promoter of "Futures" level tennis who passed away this past week…."Legendary Grass Roots Tennis Promoter Mike Rahaley Leaves A Lasting Legacy" https://t.co/7prGrzQuxW #USTA #ITFWorldTennisTour pic.twitter.com/YaHO1eGxVd
— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) July 21, 2019
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