July 16, 2009

The Case for New York

The USTA today announced the ten towns named as finalists for the first ever "Best Tennis Town" contest. The field was narrowed from an inital group of fifty-six cities, and now we all get to vote on the the one we think best captures the spirit and passion of our sport.

The contenders span the country, from North Carolina to Michigan to California. But, somewhat surprisingly, there's nothing in New York, the home of the last Grand Slam of the year -- nothing even in the northeast.

Okay, we don't have the best weather year-round, and like everything else in Manhattan it is always a process to get a court in Central Park.

Then again there is a real tennis community here. Every day during the summer, a line of regulars is queued up, some as early as five in the morning, at the Tennis Center as old friends catch up and share their picks for the current tournaments. Services like TennisTIP provide classes at various levels and help lone tennis players find hitting partners throughout the five boroughs. Monica Seles even thanked our former mayor David Dinkins, a Director at Large of the USTA, as her honorary coach when she was enshrined at the Tennis Hall of Fame last weekend.

And there's a boatload of history here. Since the early 1900s the first U.S. Tennis Championships were held in Forest Hills, initially on grass and then on clay. When the Open moved to the faster hard courts of Flushing Meadows in 1978, it brought with it all the excitement of the city's vibrant nightlife. While counterparts in Paris and London shut down at dusk, evening matches at Flushing Meadows often go past midnight, past one a.m., with crowds getting so rowdy I sometimes wonder if I'm at a sports arena or a sports bar.

Like with everything else in our lives, New York tennis players are hard core, true fans of both the sport and the atmosphere surrounding it -- we don't go down without a fight and we don't take crap from no one! And if that doesn't make this one of the best tennis towns in the States, I don't know what will! your arguments for why your town is the best, and tell me who you think will win the USTA challenge!

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