WHEELING - Throughout its 52-year history, the West Virginia Open has showcased some of the best tennis the state, and the region, has had to offer.
This year will be no exception.
The four-day event begins Thursday afternoon and co-directors Debbie Pickens and Brenda Matzke are pleased with the talent heading to the Oglebay Tennis Center's Har-Tru courts.
''We're expecting another exciting tournament,'' Pickens said Sunday while helping finalize the pairings for the United States Tennis Association Middle States Section clay court event.
The Middle States section is comprised of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and portions of New Jersey and Delaware.
''Although the event is a sectional tournament, it is open to any USTA member,'' Pickens said. ''Therefore, players from as far away as Florida, Texas and Hawaii have registered for events and will travel to Wheeling with all their gear and high expectations.''
While the deadline for singles entries has passed, doubles registration continues until 3 p.m. Thursday.
Oglebay plays hosts to may tournaments each year, including the annual Junior Open and Jack Dorsey Senior Open, both of which took place in June. Couple those with other local events like the David Slaysman Tournament and the Ohio Valley Tennis Classic, and the area is a hotbed for tennis action.
''Players come to the West Virginia Open for many reasons,'' said Pickens, who has also participated in the tournament. ''Many play for ranking points, some thrive on the competition, others play for the social aspects, while many see the tournament as a tradition and some make the trip as a vacation.''
Mitchell Maroscher, of Salem, Ohio, is the top seed in the Men's Open Singles bracket, while Logan Antill, of Butler, Pa., is the top seed on the Women's Open Singles side.
''We have a pretty competitive field,'' Pickens noted. ''We hope people will come out to watch and we hope the weather will cooperate.
''The playing surface is always superb and players from around the country always comment about the setting here.''
Jeremy McClelland returns after claiming the Men's Open Singles championship five of the last seven years. McClelland, who won the 2006 West Virginia Class AAA state championship while at Wheeling Park and later played at Duquesne University, is currently a teaching professional in Wexford, Pa.
''I am not playing competitively often, but this is one tournament that I do not want to miss,'' said McClelland, installed as the No. 3 seed. ''I am looking forward to seeing a lot of people who made this tournament so special to me over the years.''
McClelland went on to say he plans to team with former high school doubles partner, Steve D'Angelo, in Men's Open Doubles. D'Angelo, who played collegiately at Youngstown State, and McClelland haven't played a match together since they teammed up to win the state prep crown in 2006.
To register for doubles, or for more information about the tournament, contact Pickens at (304) 639-4434 or Matzke at (304) 242-4608.