Have you heard of the Gourmet Cups? If not, don't feel bad, I hadn't either until this year! The Gourmet Cups are a series of ladies tennis tournaments held in different cities throughout the United States and a couple of international locations in Spain and Mexico. They each have a theme, and are individually managed by a tournament host.
I was invited to join a group of friends to compete in the Champagne Cup in Las Vegas! I had an incredible time! Here are all the details about the cup and why it's one of the most fun tournaments I've ever been to!
LOCATION Spanish Trail Tennis Club and The Spanish Trail Fitness Center. Matches are played at the two locations within the Spanish Trail Community. They are about a 5 minute drive from one another. Transportation between the two locations is not provided and it's too far to walk if you have back to back matches. That being said, you'll need to have a car to take your team back and forth.
The tournament is for ladies doubles players with a USTA rating 3.5-4.5. There are two weekend options to attend. The first weekend has two divisions: 3.5/4.0 and 4.0/4.5. The second weekend is only 4.0. Each division plays their matches in the morning or afternoon sessions. The teams are made up of 4-6 players. My team was there the first weekend, and we played in the 4.0/4.5 division.
Over the weekend, your team plays 9 matches, each match is a timed pro set. Although the tennis is competitive, the focus is on fun and friendship. It's F.U.N. not USTA. Your team will play 4 matches throughout the day. Each match is two courts. It's fast paced. You have 45 minutes to complete a 10 game pro-set. If you don't complete the pro-set, the winner is whoever is ahead when the alarm is sounded, not including an unfinished game. Because you don't have a lot of time, you don't want to have long changeovers. Chitchatting and sitting is discouraged. Time management can become a tactic toward the end of the match.
HOW TO PREPARE
ORGANIZE YOUR TEAM Your team will play two lines of doubles at a time. Therefore, you can be a team of only 4 players and play all the matches. The team that won our division only had 4 players. Keep in mind, you have to split up your higher ranked players. For example, I played in the 4.0/4.5 division. The 4.5 players are not allowed to play together, they have to be partnered with a 4.0. I was the only 4.5 on my team and had to play line one for every match. I hope that makes sense.
PICK YOUR THEME Each team picks a movie for their theme. My team was Meet the Flintstones. Some of the other teams were Ghostbusters, Dodge Ball, Up, Harry Potter, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and more.
PUT TOGETHER YOUR COSTUMES When I told one of my girlfriends I was going to The Champagne Cup, she said, "Aren't they really costume heavy?" Yes, They are. Your most elaborate costume will be for Opening Night. It's where your team presents your theme and can really have fun with it. Some teams only follow the theme on opening night, but the idea is to carry the theme throughout the weekend. For example we all dressed up in our Flintstone costumes on opening night. We wore a Flintstone tank on days two and three, plus accessories to keep us on theme.
TCHOTCKES noun: a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional; a trinket Every time you play, you and your opponents exchange a small gift, typically in line with your theme. For us, we were The Flintstones, so we gifted rock candy wrapped in a cute leopard snack bag. The Harry Potter team gave us cute Harry Potter bookmarks, The Hangover girls gave us a small bottle of sparkling wine, the Wonder Woman team gave us Wonder Woman socks with a cute saying, and so forth. You'll need 36 tchotchkes total for all of your matches.
TEAM DISPLAY (PRODUCTION DESIGN) The last element you'll have to create is a team display. Here are some examples from the weekend I competed. They are very creative. Each team votes on various categories and awards are given out for best costume, best team name, most fun on the court, and best production design. The gifts are really good! I'm talking handbags, tennis accessories, great stuff!
Opening Night Festivities
Opening Night starts with a dinner party and entertainment! There was a live DJ, food and drinks, and a special acrobatic performance which was really cool! Each team comes in their costumes and is introduced. Some teams had a little skit prepared, it was really fun to see how creative the teams were. The teams came from all over the country and Canada! There were teams from Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida, so lots of opportunities to meet players from all over! Here's a picture of my team with our entertainer, John McEnroe.
FOUR MATCHES ON DAY 1
Our division played in the morning on Day 1. Our first match began at 9am and we were finished after lunch, around 12:45pm. Lunch was an incredible taco bar that everyone loved! After tennis we had the afternoon to rest. We went to dinner at Red Rocks Casino and did some gambling. It was super fun! After so much tennis, I was ready for this juicy burger and fries!
FOUR MATCHES ON DAY 2
On day two, our division got to sleep in! Our matches didn't start until 12:00pm and we ended at 3:45pm. We had great matches and went to dinner with another team from Canada that has been coming to the Champagne Cup for years!
ONE MATCH ON DAY 3, PLUS AWARDS AND WRAP UP
On the last day, we played one match before the final awards ceremony. The team we played had gone to a concert the night before and didn't get to bed until 4:30am! That's the fun part about being in Vegas, there's so many things to do! At the awards ceremony the winners for each division is announced and awards are given for various categories.
WHAT MAKES CHAMPAGNE CUP SO GREAT!
THE LOCATION. Las Vegas is so much fun! There are ample options for where to stay. The Tennis Club is about 15 minutes from the strip in Spring Valley. Most of the teams I spoke with rented a home for their team. The weather in early fall is lovely. It's dry and sunny!
THE HOST. Tournament host Denise Gonzales and her co-host Gina Cox make it their personal mission to make sure everyone has a great experience. They're not retiring off their profits (if there are any). This is truly a labor of love for them. Denise puts so much time and money into these two weekends, and it's so well organized!
OFF COURT FUN. Since you're only playing tennis for half the day, you have plenty of time to explore Vegas, see a show, shop, gamble, or golf. Or like we did, relax! You can make it as low key or as crazy as you'd like!
Who knew there were even more fun ways to enjoy our sport! Bless Denise, Gina and the other hosts of the gourmet cups for creating such awesome events that include playing tennis in amazing locations! It's like they were made just for players like me! I'm already thinking about where I'd like to go next!
If you're looking for a good place to start, Las Vegas Champagne Cup is my vote for a first tournament. But if you'd like to try another location, here are the current cups, their locations, and dates. Find out more at https://www.gourmetcups.org
Love and Tennis,