Fans at Angel of the Winds Arena cheer for American tennis player Sofia Kenin during a Fed Cup qualifier against Latvia on Feb. 7 in Everett. The event attracted back-to-back sellout crowds of over 6,300 fans. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Fans at Angel of the Winds Arena cheer for American tennis player Sofia Kenin during a Fed Cup qualifier against Latvia on Feb. 7 in Everett. The event attracted back-to-back sellout crowds of over 6,300 fans. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

USTA: Everett aces first time hosting Fed Cup qualifier

Back-to-back sellout crowds at Angel of the Winds Arena created an electric atmosphere.

EVERETT — Women’s tennis legend Serena Williams told the crowd at Angel of the Winds Arena, “I’ve played in front of so many crowds, but I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd this loud.”

Bethanie Mattek-Sands practically grabbed the microphone out of the hands of courtside reporter Blair Henley following her clinching doubles victory to say, “The stadium here has one of the best energies I’ve ever felt.”

And the U.S. team booked its place at the Fed Cup Finals thanks to a drama-filled 3-2 victory over Latvia in their Fed Cup Qualifier.

Suffice it to say that the Fed Cup in Everett was a smashing success, and it’s opened the door for the possibility of other big-time tennis events coming to Everett in the future.

Angel of the Winds Arena played host to the U.S.’s Fed Cup tie against Latvia on Feb. 7-8 in what was the first tennis event ever staged at the venue. And boisterous sold-out crowds in excess of 6,300 each day, combined with the exciting U.S. victory in the best-of-five tie that sent the U.S. to the Fed Cup Finals on April 14-19 in Budapest, Hungary, left the United States Tennis Association (USTA) thrilled with how things went.

“You have to start out with the fact we won,” USTA senior director of team events Jeff Ryan said. “You don’t want to overlook that. Do I think that had an awful lot to do with the community? Yes. There was truly something that I noticed when the doors first opened. There was an electricity in the building that was noticeable throughout, where people were even enjoying warm-ups and simple things like that. You could really sense it, and that was wonderful for me as an event organizer.”

The Fed Cup is the world’s premier international women’s tennis team competition, and Everett had never hosted anything like it before. Indeed, major tennis competitions are a rarity in the Pacific Northwest as a whole. Ryan has been a part of the USTA for 23 years, and he said it was just the third time in his tenure the organization has staged an event in the Pacific Northwest — the Davis Cup, which is the men’s equivalent to the Fed Cup, held its final in Portland, Oregon, in 1997 and a quarterfinal in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2016.

The region was fortunate to host this particular Fed Cup tie. The U.S. team featured an all-star squad containing Williams — the greatest women’s tennis player of all time — along with rising star and recent Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, as well as 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff.

Angel of the Winds was configured in a manner where three-quarters of the seating was available, while a curtain was drawn across the east end of the arena. So while the capacity was dropped from the 8,300 available for hockey games, it put the court in a position where it was better situated for the spectators, who hung on every ball hit.

“It was an awesome event,” said Tammy Dunn, executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission. “I had no concerns about the arena being able to handle the tennis aspect, and I knew we could draw a good crowd. I just didn’t imagine we would have sold out on both Friday and Saturday. I think it showcases the array of events the arena can host.”

Does that include the USTA bringing an event, whether it’s Fed Cup or Davis Cup, back to Angel of the Winds? Dunn said there’s been no discussions yet about that possibility. But Ryan left the door wide open.

“Sure, why not?” Ryan replied. “We’ve repeated in markets that have been warm and welcoming to us, and I see no reason why we couldn’t do that in Everett. The community definitely exhibited the desire to see high-level tennis. Sure, having Serena and Coco and Sofia there made it a perfect storm as far as the players. But from the beginning people were excited, and they expressed their interest in us coming by virtue of ticket sales.”

Just how soon a return may happen is unknown. Ryan said the USTA was committed to hosting any Davis Cup ties over the next three years in Hawaii. In addition, there will always be questions about building availability, as Fed Cup qualifiers take place in February and Davis Cup qualifiers take place in March, which is right in the heart of the Everett Silvertips’ season. Angel of the Winds was only able to host the Fed Cup because a fortunate scheduling gap left the building available for the necessary dates.

But Angel of the Winds is in play now, and the USTA knows there’s an enthusiastic tennis fan base waiting for them in Everett.

If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

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