Is your hometown obsessed with tennis? Find out if your city makes the cut in our list of the 10 best cities for tennis players.
This college town is chock full of academics who also happen to have a lot of smarts on the tennis court. Five of the top-25 women’s Division III tennis teams hail from the Boston area: Babson, MIT, Tufts, Wellesley and Brandeis are each expected to have successful seasons this spring. Professional tennis also has a strong presence in Massachusetts’ capital. The Boston Lobsters are a proud team tennis franchise with world no. 19 John Isner leading the pack. And this year, the PowerShare Series for retired tennis champions will make a tour stop in Beantown, where James Blake, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and John McEnroe will face off at Agganis Arena.
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In the capital of the Volunteer State, service is both giving back to the community and a game in tennis. For 42 years, the annual Music City Tennis Invitational Tournament has raised a combined $1.5 million toward the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The round-robin doubles tournament takes place in April and is open to all levels. Practice at Nashville’s top-notch public tennis facilities including the Centennial Sportsplex, which boasts 13 outdoor courts, four indoor courts and eight kids’ courts. If you prefer watching tennis over competing, Nashville tennis fans have more to look forward to in the coming months as their beloved Vanderbilt Commodores are back in action for the 2015 season. The men’s and women’s tennis teams are nationally-ranked no. 25 and no. 11, respectively. The men’s team already has a 5-1 record at home and the women’s squad has defeated Harvard, Texas and Michigan in Nashville without dropping a match.
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8. St. Louis
Tennis legend Jimmy Connors’ hometown is another hub for great college tennis. The Washington University in St. Louis men’s and women’s teams are among the top-10 Division III schools in the nation by this year’s ITA rankings. Starting 2015 on a positive note, the women kicked off the season with a 9-0 win over Southern Indiana. Meanwhile, the men’s team is preparing to face no. 24 Depauw University on Feb. 15 for their first match of the year. If you can’t hang with the college kids, recreational players will also feel right at home in St. Louis with an abundance of public tennis court options. The Dwight Davis Tennis Center located in the heart of the city has 18 lighted courts, while the tennis center in 289-acre Tower Grove Park has 12.
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In May, Raleigh is a top travel destination for professional-tennis hopefuls as the city hosts a women’s ITF tournament with a $25,000 grand prize. Last year’s tournament winner was Canadian Heidi El Tabakh, who defeated five Americans to claim the title. Don’t like the sound of “O Canada?” If you’re a true-blue American tennis fan, look no further than 25 miles west of Raleigh, where Carolina blue meets Duke blue in one of the greatest college sports rivalries. Ranked no. 7 nationally, Duke men’s tennis trumps no. 6 Carolina by a margin of one. See if that holds true when the teams play April 9 at Chapel Hill. Comparably, the third-ranked Tarheel women best their Blue Devil counterparts at no. 4 in the standings. The women’s teams will play on April 15.
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Houston’s known as an oil town, but it becomes a clay town in April, when the Men’s Clay Court Championship arrives to River Oaks Country Club. This year, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco will defend his title against Americans John Isner, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson. If you’re not a member of River Oaks or a top-ranked ATP player, you can still find plenty of places to practice in Houston. Among the best public facilities in the area are Homer Ford Tennis Center, which has 16 courts and Memorial Park Tennis Center, which has 18.
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Several successful tennis players have found their footing in Cincinnati whether they grew up in the area or won a title at the city’s Western & Southern Open. Cincinnati native and world no. 87 Nicole Gibbs learned to play tennis at age three in her driveway before she became the no. 1 player at Stanford University. In 2003, Andy Roddick won a title at Cincinnati a few weeks before he went on to claim his first and only grand slam at the U.S. Open. The now-retired Roddick will return to Cincy in April for the Champions Showdown, a PowerShare Series match that will include James Blake, Michael Chang and John McEnroe.
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4. Los Angeles
Every level of tennis is represented in sunny Los Angeles, from top junior players to legends of the sport. Those who follow national junior tennis will know that the no. 10 ranked junior of the class of 2015 is LA-native Michael Genender, who has signed to play at Stanford University. Meanwhile, at the collegiate level in Los Angeles, USC and UCLA dominate Division I tennis. USC boasts the best men’s team in the country and its women are ranked no. 15 nationally, while UCLA has the best women’s team in the country and its men are ranked in the top-10. For those who miss the golden days of American tennis, Pete Sampras will join other retired pros for the SoCal Honda Dealers Helpful Cup in March.
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3. San Diego
Playing tennis is a breeze in San Diego with the city’s year-round temperate climate. The friendly folks in San Diego love watching team tennis, where the Aviators WTT franchise is led by brothers Mike and Bob Bryan and world no. 73 Daniela Hantuchova. For playing purposes, the tennis club in scenic Balboa Park is perfect for any tennis fanatic. The facility has 24 hard courts, a stadium court that seats 4,000, and a challenge court for those seeking a match against a new opponent.
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One the best pro tournaments in the world takes place in late spring in Miami, drawing top players to Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Tennis Center. Recent Aussie Open champs Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic will defend their titles at this year’s tournament, which is expected to attract more than 300,000 visitors. The popular event has been named “Tournament of the Year” 10 times. Miami residents can catch top amatuer action this month at the University of Miami, where the 13th-ranked women’s team will play FGCU and Wake Forest.
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Atlanta has long been known as an extremely active tennis community, with one of the largest USTA chapters in the nation. USTA Atlanta comprises the biggest adult and junior team tennis programs in the United States and runs the Atlanta Youth Tennis & Education Foundation, which has offered tennis instruction and health and wellness programming to more than 3,500 children in the metro area. Atlanta’s own Emory University is a top-ranked Division III tennis program, and in 2015, the women’s and men’s teams are ranked no. 1 and no. 6 respectively. In August, more tennis fans flock to Atlanta for the BB&T Atlanta Open, a men’s pro tournament whose past winners include John Isner and Andy Roddick. In junior tennis, Atlanta-native Walker Duncan takes the spotlight as no. 3 in the national high school recruiting class for 2015. The senior will stay in the Peach State for college after signing at the University of Georgia.
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