It’s a big event in its own right, but it’s the unofficial start of something even bigger.

The 86th edition of the annual Santa Monica Open tennis tournament begins this month as officials start setting plans in motion for a momentous celebration of next year’s Dudley Cup.

Tournament director William Nissley sees the Santa Monica Open as a precursor to the annual Dudley Cup, whose 100th anniversary is coming in 2016.

“When I run the Santa Monica Open, I’ll be pushing for the Dudley Cup,” Nissley said. “There’s already energy around it.”

The Dudley Cup’s upcoming centennial serves as a backdrop for this year’s Santa Monica Open, another longstanding tournament whose birth coincided with the establishment of the Santa Monica Tennis Club in 1928.

This year’s edition will be held at Reed Park on 7th Street in Santa Monica, with junior players competing Aug. 17-20 and adults scheduled to participate Sept. 5-7.

The tournament will draw scores of players from Santa Monica as well as Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Los Angeles, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Torrance, Palos Verdes Estates, Woodland Hills, Agoura Hills, Chatsworth, La Canada, Redondo Beach and New York.

Nissley said the tournament has a history of attracting top-level talent, and he expects the trend to continue in the youth ranks this year. The registration deadline for junior players is Aug. 11.

“There will be some fine junior tennis players,” he said.

Victor Cheng has been the star of the Santa Monica Open in recent years. Three years ago, the Santa Monica High standout commanded the top-seed in the boys 14-year-old singles division and ousted second-seeded Lucas Bellamy 6-3, 6-2 in the finals, according to tournament records.

In 2013, Cheng defeated R.J. Sands 6-0, 6-2 in the finals of the boys 16-year-old singles bracket. While he was at it, he also entered the boys 18 division and upset top-seeded Daniel Rozovsky in straight sets in the semifinals before topping Michael Berger 6-0, 7-6 in the title match.

Last year, Cheng outlasted the top two seeded players in the oldest boys singles bracket to capture another title. Kokoro Chishaki defeated Vivian Cheng to snag first place in the top girls bracket.

In the adult competition, there’s money at stake. In the 16-player open singles division, the winner will receive $400 and the runner-up will earn $200. In the 16-team doubles bracket, the winning pair will split $200 and the runners-up will come away with $100.

Last year’s winners included Bo Hardt in men’s open singles, Andrea Duva in women’s open singles, Brendan Duda and Drew Hoskins in men’s open doubles and Ashley Anderson and Zeke Hindle in mixed open doubles.

Also claiming divisional victories in the 85th edition of the Santa Monica Open were Federico Casarramona, Jay Devlin, Alyson Randick, Rachel Hardecke, Albert Perry, Matt Whitehead, John Kuo and Mitsuru Tasato.

Aug. 25 is the last day for adult registration for this year’s Labor Day weekend event, although Nissley said it’s possible the deadline could be extended.

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