Many years ago I went to Philadelphia with my parents, who were traveling with their tennis teams to play a match against Swarthmore College, located southwest of the city.
What I remember most about my first trip to the City of Brotherly Love was eating chocolate raspberry cake at a restaurant with my parents and the Swarthmore College men’s coach, Mike Mullan. Mike, one of the winningest coaches in college tennis, is a former NCAA Division III Coach of the Year, coach of three national championship teams, coach of 52 All-Americans, and in his own impressive playing career earned a spot at the U.S. Open.
Mike is just one of the many members of the Philadelphia area tennis community: a community rich with tennis history, from the professional tournaments it has hosted over the years to the Mylan World Team Tennis franchise for which Elton John wrote his hit “Philadelphia Freedom.” After reading about the tennis community here, you’ll see chocolate raspberry cake isn’t the only thing being served in Philly.
From 1986-1998, the U.S. Pro Indoor was held in Philadelphia as part of the World Championship Tennis tour, a precursor to the ATP. The tournament was played first on carpet courts, then hard courts, and titleholders include American greats Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras.
Over the course of three decades, Philadelphia also hosted a WTA tournament on and off until 2005. The Advanta Tennis Championships was played on hard courts from 1971-1979, then on indoor carpet courts from 1991-2000, and again on hard courts from 2003 on, with the tournament shifting between Tier I and Tier II levels during its 34-year run. Amélie Mauresmo was the most recent champion, winning three consecutive titles.
Perhaps Philadelphia’s most famous tennis resident was Bill Tilden, who won 10 grand slams in the 1920s along with 138 other titles throughout his career. Bill’s tennis accomplishments were overshadowed later in his life when he was sentenced to jail on two separate occasions.
Fans will recognize WTA players Victoria Azarenka and Taylor Townsend if they attend a Philadelphia Freedoms team tennis match. The Pavilion at Villanova University, where the Freedoms play, can fit 3,500 fans — making it the perfect outing for a large group of tennis friends or team. In addition, there’s no shortage of college tennis in Philadelphia: UPenn, Drexel, Temple, St. Joe’s and La Salle are all located within the city, so fans never have to go far to find some highly competitive matches.
Some of the Philadelphia area’s beautiful parks are also premier tennis court locations. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park boasts 10 tennis courts in addition to its lakes and historical sites. Just 18 miles south of the city, James G. Atkinson Memorial Park in Washington Township, NJ, has eight lighted courts surrounded by playgrounds and playing fields. Players will find six courts in nearby Washington Lake Park, which also has a dog park and amphitheater. Meet the Philly MyTennisLessons coaches who teach at FDR, Atkinson and Washington Lake to schedule lessons in the park closest to you.
Get tennis apparel, gear and racket stringing at Everyone’s Racquet in Market East. One Yelp reviewer called it “The greatest tennis store around,” while another commended it for “Great selection, friendly employees.” Another said the owners “will make you love tennis.”
So what are you waiting for, Philadelphia residents? If you haven’t hopped on the tennis bandwagon in your city, it’s time to join.