Tennis Begins in Public Parks

Billie Jean King is one of many tennis greats who got their start playing tennis in public parks. Photo: Bob Martin/Allsport
Register now for the 2009 National Championships in Lexington, South Carolina.

Since 1923, public parks have played a vital role in the tradition of American tennis.

From Pancho Gonzales to James Blake; Billy Jean King to Chris Evert, the careers of many great tennis professionals began in one of the thousands of public parks that dot the American landscape.

These venues not only offer great exposure to tennis, but also create an environment as diverse as America's population, offering a unique playing experience unequaled anywhere else in the tennis community.

"As a player who grew up playing only on public courts, it presents a good feeling of being part of a larger and historic picture of tennis for the average player," said USTA Texas Executive Director Ken McAllister. "Of course, the truth that many of the greatest players also grew up on public courts adds to the credibility."

This spirit of grass-roots tennis continues with the National Public Parks Tennis Championships (NPPTC). Sponsored by the National Public Parks Tennis Association, the event brings together recreational and competitive tennis players from across the country in a celebration of community tennis.

"Although affordability and open access are two obvious pluses for youngsters learning at public centers," McAllister continued, "the mix of skill levels, backgrounds and athletes allow for an atmosphere of growth."

United States Lawn Tennis Association President Dwight Davis founded the National Public Parks Tennis Association (NPPTA) in 1923. Davis envisioned people playing tennis without a financial burden and created the NPPTC to promote the sport among "regular" players, "for whom private club privileges are not available."

83rd Annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships

Consisting of a series of state championship tournaments culminating in the national championship, the NPPTC series is a reminder of what tennis in public parks offers both to the game and up-and-coming players.

"Although our mindset is that this is the bastion of recreational tennis, we can't forget that this is where the great Australian players of the 50's and 60's were discovered," said McAllister. "This is where the athletes, currently being skimmed away by soccer, baseball, or football, can also have a shot at trying tennis."

The 2009 National Championships are open to all USTA members with no pre-qualification necessary. The event will be held at the Lexington County Tennis Complex in Lexington, South Carolina? July 25 - August 2.

Over 62 events will be contested in the National Public Parks Championship, including open, men's and women's singles, mixed doubles, family doubles and wheelchair competitions. Age group categories for competition include 12 and under through 90 and over. Cardio tennis and QuickStart programs will also be showcased during the championships.

JUNIORS July 25 - 28, 2009
Boys and Girls (10, 12, 14, 16, 18) Singles & Doubles (MFI)
FAMILY July 28 - 29, 2009
Husband/Wife, Father/Son, Mother/Daughter, Father/Daughter, Mother/Son
ADULT? July 30 - Aug 2, 2009
Adult Age (35-90) division events will be played on CLAY courts,
OPEN divisions on HARD courts
Men & Women (Open, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90) Singles & Doubles
Mixed (Open, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75)
NTRP (3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5) Mens & Womens Singles, Doubles & Mixed Doubles

Men and Women Singles and Doubles, and Unified Doubles
Men and Women Singles and Doubles (Open, A, B and Men's C) Junior Open Singles

REQUIREMENTS: No pre-qualification necessary
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