The American Platform Tennis Association’s (APTA) first Grand Prix tournament of the 2016-17 season will kick off this weekend in Fairfield at the Patterson Club’s Men’s and Women’s Open, Oct. 8-9. Wilton resident Amy Shay is one of the best paddle players in the country and a top contender with her doubles partner for the title.

As a competitor and instructor of the sport, Shay says paddle has a broad appeal, one of the many reasons she loves it.

“Platform tennis, or paddle, is a very social winter sport because it can be played at night under the lights. It is a little more forgiving than tennis from a technical standpoint. I love that it can be played at all ages and that the older can compete at a high level against the younger as it is not necessarily a game of speed or power. It is a game of strategy, shot selection and patience,” she says.

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With the Patterson Club’s Open happening so close, it’s a great opportunity to see the sport at its finest.

“With the multitude of locations and the abundance of courts in play, you are able to watch someone you know or are familiar with, up close. You can see and hear every ball being struck giving you a great feel for the action.”

There will be 32 women’s doubles teams competing in the event along with 64 men’s doubles teams, coming to Fairfield from the local region and across the country. Similar to the Grand Slams of tennis and golf’s majors, the APTA Grand Prix series of five high level tournaments was introduced last year and gives top- and mid-level players the chance to compete for valuable national ranking points and qualify for the end-of-season Viking President’s Cup. Spectators are welcome at no charge. Live streaming will be available online.

Shay is a platform tennis pro at Woodway Country Club, and her partner, Cynthia Dardis of Stamford, is a pro at the Stanch Club in Greenwich; together, they were 2016 women’s national finalists. The 2016 women’s national champions are also local CT residents:  Gabriela Niculescu of Norwalk, the pro at the Milbrook Club in Greenwich; and partner Martina Ondrejkova of Stamford, is the pro at the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien.

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“We’re very excited about hosting the first APTA Grand Prix of the season,” said Scott Slobin, head racquets professional at the Patterson Club. “Spectators will definitely be in for a treat with the outstanding competition on tap throughout the weekend.” Patterson Club pro and home court favorite Mirian Cruz will also compete in the tournament.

Created in 1928 in Scarsdale, N.Y., platform tennis (or paddle, as it is commonly called) has been growing rapidly across the country in recent years. The APTA’s mission is to increase participation with its “Grow the Game” initiative, an active grant program to provide financial assistance to communities for building new courts. The only racquet sport that players can enjoy outdoors in cold weather, paddle provides a way for both adults and juniors to keep fit in the winter and because of its doubles format, it is also a social game.

The Patterson Club is located at 1118 Cross Highway in Fairfield.