This weekend isn’t Wimbledon, but the finals of another professional tennis tournament on grass courts will be held. The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships deserves its lofty name even if most of the male competitors are not (yet) household names.
The Newport Casino was the original site of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships before it moved to the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York. Yes, for those who may not know, the U.S. Open used to be played on grass like Wimbledon and the Australian Open. (Since 1988, only Wimbledon remains.)
Because of its history, Newport is the logical site for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is held before the semifinals this weekend.
For me, visiting Newport for the first time was like seeing the Holy Land. A former boyfriend who was a wonderful tennis player and I had planned to go. Breaking up was hard enough, but I also was left wondering if I would ever make it to Newport.
I did, on my own. I was younger, single, not yet a father. I had been visiting Boston and decided to make a detour on the way back to Baltimore. I found a bed and breakfast and from there walked to the Casino which you enter through the main street and immediately see the horseshoe piazza and tennis court.
I was in heaven. Up until that time, I had never actually set foot on a grass tennis court. I spent hours in the museum. The next day, having traveled with tennis racket and clothing, I asked the club pro for a hitting hour. I came back the next day and made the trip to Newport twice again in following years. I also volunteered for the Hall of Fame’s gallery at the U.S. Open (now held in Flushing Meadows) for a couple years.
Because of Newport and my love of grass courts, even though I am not your typical grass-court player, I wrote an article about playing on them at the Baltimore Country Club back when the club still had them. Again, I asked for a hitting hour with the club pro. He saw pure elation on my face just standing on those courts. He asked if I wanted to work part-time there. Even though I already had a full-time and a part-time job, it took me one second to ask what my hours would be. Again, those were the days when I was still single.
So what does Newport have to do with my daughter? At this point, not a lot, although she and I will watch the tournament together this weekend. I do look forward to Ellen finding and visiting her own Holy Land. Right now, it’s any place that has ice cream. It used to be cake, so her tastes may change!