35th Anniversary: Tennis, Anyone

Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time? I never felt that way, until I found tennis last year. God, I love tennis. The skirts, the pro shops, the rigidity, the ridiculous scoring, the way competitors really want nothing more than to hit you with an 80 mph ball.

In the post-flower-child, post-Woodstock, post-love-in and bed-in and sit-in ’70s, tennis became democratized. Back then,
everyone loved tennis. My tennis coach at Towpath Tennis Center, Tom Brown, remembers waiting for hours to get onto a court. He played tennis at The University of Akron in the late ’60s, when the heroes were American players: Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe. Our people, from our turf, smashing the crap out of the world.

Cleveland Magazine reflected the craze. In July 1972, 1974 and 1975, we covered tennis in big ways. In ’72, we organized a comprehensive guide that listed a dozen racquet clubs around the area. By 1974, we were ready to showcase the best in tennis fashion. After all, “any local club manager can tell you Cleveland is one of the best tennis markets in the country.” That was the year we got our own World Team Tennis franchise, the Cleveland Nets — remember them? They lasted just a couple years, and then, like tennis mania, the courts and the clubs, it all went to seed. Today, our top players whack the ball with soulless abandon. It’s become a game with less heart and more fancy equipment. We lost the élan, and tennis returned to its roots: expensive, a little stuffy, no longer something for the regular Joe. Everyone moved on to golf. But it’s good for me — I can always get a free court.
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