Meet Feliks Lukas – Director Of The WTA 125K Bol Open Tournament Changing the Tennis World

Total Croatia News

As there are just two weeks left to the start of the tournament in Bol, TCN caught up with Bol Open tournament director, Mr. Feliks Lukas on May 15, 2016 – a man on a mission.

WTA is back in Croatia, and TCN is delighted to bring you the story about the man behind it all. The comeback did not happen overnight as it seems. Feliks Lukas has been doing a great job organizing Cro Circuit over the last two years, an event which brought a small revolution to tennis organization. As tennis is an expensive sport, and some of the biggest talents do not get the chance to compete at the highest level due to lack of funding, Mr. Lukas had an idea how to change that.

He introduced a new award system to the futures tournaments, which are staged as a starting point for most of the young players, but in addition to the points players get to improve their ranking, he decided to introduce a system according to which the best players receive a guarantee to participate in WTA events.

In this way, sport success became the term to promote the players to the higher level, and it was welcomed by those who should matter the most when sport is the topic – the athletes themselves. Mr. Lukas told TCN the story of the resistance he got from the managing structure, how he got around that, as well as more about the Bol tournament itself.

How did it all start?

Well, I come from a tennis family, and I am involved in my sister’s tennis career, and I only wanted to help the players who lack the support of the leading managers or their federation. In Cro Circuit, we introduced the rule according to which the player who gets the most points in the series of tournaments is guaranteed a wild card for the WTA tournament, regardless of her ranking, country of origin or who her manager is. In this way, we got a significant response by the players, who welcomed this idea, as it gives an equal chance to everybody.


What was the reaction from the WTA leadership?

WTA recognized the effort we put in organizing 52 ITF 10k events, and I showed the numbers after the concept was introduced, proving that tennis does not have to be so dependent on financial terms, which was a problem for those who come from smaller countries, and I received big support from some of the greatest players in the world. After reviewing the concept, I was given the opportunity from the WTA Board directly to organize the WTA Tournament from 125K series, and I picked Bol as a destination, as it has an excellent infrastructure and the tradition. I think there is no need to speak about the beauty of the venue…

Does this new way stand a chance in the cruel world of professional tennis?

This is a kind of a revolution, as the plan is to take tennis from the hands of business people with no enthusiasm for the sport and give it back to the athletes and tennis enthusiasts. It has been a success so far, as we are still “under the radar”, and we did not get much attention, but we are lobbying to spread the word about the system, and find more people ready to do it in this way. We have the support of the players, and in this way, we are changing the perception about the smallest tournaments, as they were expensive for the players, and in this new way, they can even get profit out of it.

Did you get help from the Croatian Tennis Federation?

Yes, they have recognized this as a good thing, and although they could not provide financial support, the Federation has stood behind us and provided logistical support, and have given us the legitimacy when interacting with both WTA and business people needed to take this project alive.

Why Bol, why Dalmatia, when you had the chance to do this anywhere in the world?

Dišpet! (Spite) I was living abroad, but I felt the need to give something back to Dalmatia, which I love so much. I got a call from Zagreb after we started the Cro Circuit, and one official has told me that he heard that a bet had been made that no tennis tournament would be staged in Bol ever again. We have organized so far 52 ITF events, and now, that man is in Bol, helping me with the organization of the WTA Tournament. (Lukas is laughing here). It was a challenge to organize this on an island, as there is no such event on any island in the world. Most of the tournaments of this level are staged in financial centers, spending money on tennis, but we have more than money, we have beautiful Dalmatia, and that is priceless.

Was there any support from the local community in Bol?

Yes, and a huge one. It was the first term doing anything there. We got the unanimous support of the town council, probably the first time ever that all the political parties were brought together, and we got financial assistance, and more importantly, that opened many doors in Croatia. We want this to be asustainable project, and our projections are that all the entities involved in the project will benefit from the tournament. We don’t want just to spend money to promote Bol as a destination; we want the local community to have a direct gain from the project.

Apart from the tournament, there are a lot of events organized in the week of the tournament?

There will be parties hosted; local restaurants will have its daily promotions in the VIP lounge, the fashion show, beauty parlor, and also we have the business seminars with great speakers. With the support of the authorities, everything will happen in Bol itself, and it will be free for all the ticket holders, as well for the local people. We only expect them to dress up, as the goal is to promote Bol as an elite destination.

Do you have the list of players?

The entry list is concluded at the 120 rank position. It is much higher than average for this level of tournaments, but we have 11 players that are the best players in their countries, which is providing big media coverage. Also, as I have four more wild cards in my hand, I plan to wait until the last moment possible and wait for big names to be available. I am not afraid to take that risk, as the entry list is great even now, and we have our way of attracting players to Bol. And, undoubtedly, some will be given to Croatian players, and for now, we have Ana Konjuh representing Croatian tennis in the draw.

Is the Bol Open here to stay?

If we will have the support from the local community, and if sponsors recognize the effort, then yes. I have to thank Atlantic Group for recognizing this project; I hope that local business owners will follow their lead. There is no price to be put on the fact that some players competing in Bol will probably become the some of the world’s top ten player. If we do this right, they will fall in love with Brač, and we will have the top class promotion for our tournament in the future.

After this conversation, we cannot wait for the tournament to start, and it all starts on May 29th with the draw ceremony and the most exclusive player party the tennis world has ever seen, and the final match is to be played on June 5. You can find tickets online on the official ticketing web-site, and they are more than cheap for all there is included in the price. TCN will cover the tournament, and will report about the events in Bol in that week, but we sincerely hope that you will join the party.


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