July 12, 2009

The Birth of Tennis

If you've never been to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, I highly encourage you to book your tickets. It's an experience any tennis fan will love.

Hidden among the immense and ornate mansions of the Vanderbilts and the Astors is the unassuming entrance that leads to one of the most beautiful grounds I've ever seen, a grass court club that served as the home of the first U.S. National Championships in 1881 and which, even today, is open to the public who want the experience of hitting on the sacred surface.

Also within the walls is a museum dedicated to the history and evolution of tennis. Starting from the days of jeu de longue paume, played in Belgium in the 1300s up to Roger Federer's historic Wimbledon victory just last week, it's stocked with pictures, artifacts and memorabilia from years past. In fact this year's inductee, Monica Seles, permanently donated all of her fifty-three trophies to the exhibit.

Even today the Hall of Fame is serving as a training ground for the country's next generation of talent. At the championship match held earlier today, Lucky Loser world #181 Rajeev Ram won his first Tour title with a 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 win over third seed Sam Querrey. And because there's no such thing as tiring out a tennis player, he got back on the court minutes later and also claimed the doubles title!

Congratulations on a great week!

By the way thanks so much to the Hall of Fame for hosting me and the tournament this weekend. It was a great time and I can't wait to come back next year!

So today I leave you with some of my pictures of the grounds and the museum. Of course they don't come close to doing the Hall of Fame justice, especially as they were taken with my dinky little camera, but hopefully they'll give you a good taste of the experience.

The grounds of the Hall of Fame

A battoir and a jeu de paume, the earliest rackets

They included May Sutton Bundy and William & Ernest Renshaw

Wonder where today's players would be with these rackets?...

...Or these outfits?

Modern tennis began with the advent of the Open Era when "amateurs", who were allowed to play in tournaments, could finally compete against "pros", who were getting paid

And then came a man named Arthur Ashe, who changed the face of the sport forever...

...And a man named Rod Laver, whose 2nd Grand Slam the Museum was celebrating

A separate section honors each of the four Grand Slams as well as the many other tournaments of the Tour

The newest display showcases what Roger Federer wore when he won #15

Better make that a "6"!

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