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Sat, Sept. 21

Howard: Tennis road trip: New Orleans and Orlando
My Point

A week on the road to primarily play tennis in two national tennis events is a pleasure I’ve never taken the time to do - until now. Thus a trip to play at the level-1 USTA Men’s National 60’s and 65’s Clay Court Championships in New Orleans followed by the USTA 55 and over 9.0 National Championships (on clay at the new USTA Tennis Center in Nona, Florida) in the Orlando area is what took place.

The Clay Court Championships was played at the prestigious New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club, the oldest tennis club founded in the United States in 1876, a real delight, eye-opener and great destination.

This top amateur event of singles consists of a draw making up the best 128 players around the United States (and further) and 64 draw in doubles for both the 60’s and 65’s for men is a real happening in their respective age divisions and the top clay tournament in the country.

This is one of the 4 major tournaments which also include the hard (Mission Hills, California), grass (Pontiac, Michigan), and indoor (Seattle, Washington) which round out the big four tennis events for this age and open ability leveled group.

You might wonder how the oldest tennis club in the United States could have landed in New Orleans when most would have guessed it had to have been in the East coast, not to mention this taking place only 2 years after the game was patented in England in 1874.

It all had to do with the cotton trade which was big business between New Orleans and England. New Orleans was the world center of trade for cotton and it was shipped in huge quantities to English textile mills, thus many wealthy Englishmen built homes and brought their favorite past times with them including the game of tennis to this exporting community in Louisiana.

Any tournament that can create a draw of 128 players on an amateur basis is a great success and even with the devastation of Katrina, and currently under the leadership of Brett Schwartz (general manager) and his capable, hospitable staff they provide the type of detailed care of it’s players that doesn’t always take place elsewhere.

You receive two shirts, two different dinners, first round and then consolation matches, manicured courts that are staffed, water and towel on each court, current up-dates to your phone of any court assignment changes.

Include a smile and greeting by every staff member from the court crew to the locker room attendants, pro shop, food and maintenance staff - it’s a great experience, win or lose.

So, maybe you’re a highly ranked player in your section’s age group - don’t let that fool you here, many of this tournaments players are former All-Americans to ATP tour players. Get ready to eat some humble pie….thus the eye-opener. You get to see the top of the food chain.

In Nona/Orlando, Florida, there’s the recently completed $60 million dollar USTA Tennis Center that boasts of being the new home for American tennis, 270,000 sf building, over 100 hard, clay and indoor tennis courts, that focuses on the complete tennis pathway - from the youngest players, recreational, collegians, to future professional and professional tour-level players.

At the front entrance of the USTA’s 63 acre facility the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association) has moved their headquarters with a single story 10,000 square foot building for their operation and staff. Both are quite impressive to say the least.

This is where many new and old tennis functions are now held and the national “16 section” team event I play on from Scottsdale was played.

Did we win, no - but we got to play different great players from all over the country and further which certainly shows how important and loved this game of tennis really is.

There’s only one team that receives the national title each year with each league and level designation, and I don’t like politically correct statements like, “Everyone who goes is a winner” … but in this case I truly believe they are.

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@gmail.com.

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