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Tue, Oct. 15

Column: Take a summer trip to visit history, International Tennis Hall of Fame

Wimbledon is just around the corner and the roots of tennis as we know it today stemmed from that historic site beginning in 1874. But it didn't take long for the game to make it across the ocean.

The cradle of American tennis history was born at the Newport Casino in 1880. It was a premier social club and is now a National Historic Landmark and premier architectural Newport treasure housing the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.

The first U.S. Championships were held there from 1881 to 1915 and that special event evolved into today's U.S. Open.

The Newport Casino holds the record for the longest continuous grass court tennis tournament held in the world.

But, in 1953, it was about to be sold and torn down until founder James Van Alen gave the U.S. Lawn and Tennis Association the idea to preserve it and make it into the Tennis Hall of Fame. By 1954, the first American tennis icons and industry leaders were inducted and, in 1975, it open to all famous tennis figures and was renamed the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The Newport Casino and grounds house 13 manicured grass tennis courts that are open to the public to use, as well as the museum of more than 16,000 objects, 5,000 books, 4,000 tapes and films, and 300,000-plus photos. Memorabilia, art, fashion, equipment, trophies, and much more are on display representing the history of tennis and its legendary stars.

The "Hall" currently is undergoing a $15.7 million expansion and renovation project.

After Wimbledon concludes, the men players have one more shot at a professional grass court title by playing in the Newport Grass Court Championships July 7-13. The 32-player singles draw and 16-team doubles event will be graced this year by players, such as John Isner, Lleyton Hewitt, and defending champion Nicolas Mahut.

The winners of the only professional grass court tournament in North America will join a plethora of former stars who have won this tournament in years past, including Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, Bobby Riggs, Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver.

The "enshrinement ceremony" for the 2014 inductees will take place on Sunday, July 13. The inductees this year are: Lindsey Davenport (former No. 1 player); Chantal Vandierendonck (wheel-chair great); Nick Bolletieri (coach); Jane Brown Grimes (industry leader); and John Barrett (tennis historian/journalist).

If by chance you're in the area or can plan your vacation or special trip to Newport you'll have a great time attending the tournament, visiting the museum, and maybe watching the special induction ceremony. And, there's one more special exhibition match being put on July 13 at 11 a.m. - a women's doubles match with Tracy Austin, Monica Seles and Gigi Fernandaz.

For more information, call 1-800-457-1144 or 401-849-3990.

If you love the history of tennis, visiting the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport is a must.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.

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