As a tennis player, I have had the privilege to play tennis all over the world. That’s what happens when your country is so small you can count the ITF Junior tournaments on one hand: you have to chase success, competition and points in other countries.
Growing up, I played on all surfaces, in most weathers, at every time of the day and night: 100+F heat in Australia, monsoons in Thailand, snow in Las Vegas, tornado-strength winds in New Zealand, night-time clay tennis in Germany, sleet storms in England, indoor tennis in Oregon, grass courts in my hometown, blue skies and sunshine in Spain…
It got me thinking: Where are the coolest (and my favorite) places that I have played tennis?
5. Stanford. Now, maybe it’s because I’m not American, or maybe Americans find this cool too, but Stanford University is a worldwide icon. Not only is it symbol of academic excellence, but also of sporting excellence — especially in collegiate tennis (and even more particularly for women’s tennis). It represents prestige in the tennis world: college and professional (let’s also not forget the the WTA Stanford tournament played there recently). It is a place of distinction and success, and for me, it was exciting to play tennis on those courts, at that venue, on such a historical campus. Around my injuries, I competed in a couple tournaments there in college, and despite their inconvenient court placement that has the morning sun directly in your eyes, it is on my top list of favorites.
4. Tennisclub Bad Salgau. Strange spelling? Why yes, yes it is, because it is in Bad Salgau, Germany. It is a tennis club that I trained at when I was a junior, and it was my first time on true, fresh, slide-worthy, red clay. Your inaugural experience on proper red European clay changes your tennis world (and I stress the word proper because apologies, but green clay is not proper clay). OK, I’m being dramatic, but trust me when I say, it’s truly amazing. The sliding, the physicality required, the depth of play, the grind; it forces you to take tennis to another level. It also adds a level of respect; the care and work it takes to maintain and have the courts playable really forces you to commit to the court as much as you commit to playing. There were 11 clay courts that I trained and competed on, and I like to think I either played, slid or fell on all of them.
3. Melbourne Park. Yes, a big one: the official stomping grounds of the Australian Open. I was 11, and I played for New Zealand in a 12 & Under tie against Australia. We were all midgets, in awe of our surroundings and I’m pretty sure we got a whooping by the Aussies (I’ve conveniently dropped the result from my memory). I remember the tennis complex really well, though, and despite being a whipper-snapper, it really burned into my memory as an extremely epic place. For tennis fans, it’s beautiful and huge, too, with 22 outdoor courts and two main courts that have retractable roofs. Obviously it’s hard court, and since that has always been my favorite surface, my little 11-year-old self was in paradise.
2. Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy. Also known as Equelite, located in South East Spain, this academy was founded by JC’s coach and has seen pros such as Safin, Safina, Ferrer, Almagro, Sharapova, García-López and more. I played a ITF tournament there when I was 15, as I was passing through, but it was an experience. As with many Spanish academies, there are a mix of hard courts and red clay, and I played a tough couple rounds before exiting the tournament. This particular place became a favorite of mine because everything just added up to coolness: small town in Spain, top-tier academy, starting point and training location of top players, international ITF location, and I randomly ended up playing a tournament there? And to top it all off: At the tournament my friend sat down to lunch one day, got a tap on the shoulder and a request to join him, by, wait for it, Juan Carlos Ferrero himself. Not bad lunch company.
1. Tennis Warehouse. In the wild country of the USA, in the state of California, in a small, sunny town called San Luis Obispo, there is a warehouse. From the outside it just looks like a warehouse: unsuspecting, simple, calm, unassuming. Step inside its doors? It’s full of energy, excitement, bustle. People run around like worker bees getting every type of product out to their customers, some sit upstairs typing their lives away, others string racquets, others answer phones. The best part, is that deep in the belly of the beast is…. A tennis oasis. That’s right, my favorite place to play right now? The Tennis Warehouse tennis court. We have a hard court inside our warehouse that we can just pop down to hit, any time of the day. Not only is it where we play and test products, but we film our reviews down there too. Top notch, I say!
I talked to the team (as usual, I can’t get through the day without chatting to my mates), and got some of their favorites:
– Chris chose Arthur Ashe Stadium: He wins the cool contest because he’s been around the block a couple times, the ol’ trout.
– Jay chose Stadium Court 2 at BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA
– Brittany’s choice was a hard court, beach-front venue in Vigo, Spain: where she had her first ITF match win.
– Andy’s choice was Seattle Tennis Club in Washington State: a lake front, all-white clothing, exclusive membership club.
I constantly am reminded how small the tennis world is: you never know, maybe some of you have frequented the same locations that I have. Where is the most amazing or memorable places you have ever played tennis?