Thursday, January 22, 2015


by Simon Rosenblum

A professional grass court tennis tournament in North America? I suspect that many Ontario Tennis readers do not know that an ATP [250 level] event has been held every year since 1977 in Newport, Rhode Island the week following Wimbledon. It is called the Hall of Fame tournament because it is played in the International Tennis Hall of Fame complex.Why watch more grass court tennis right after Wimbledon? There are quite a few good reasons to do so.

First and foremost is that you get to see it live.Not only live but up close and personal as this is a small venue providing fantastic sight lines in even the most inexpensive seats.This leads right in to the next - and best - reason: the grass courts in Newport are soft. They are very different from Wimbledon grass courts which increasingly resemble hard courts. Consequently,the ball bounces very low in Newport which makes serve and volley tennis a good play as the returner has greater difficulty executing a good passing shot.Drop shots are also enhanced since the ball can sink like a pancake. Put it all together and you get tennis played like you may have not seen before. I know it was an eye opener for me and I have been to Wimbledon.

So who plays at the Hall of Fame tournament? As it is a 250 level event you are not going to see all the top players that we now get at the Rogers Cup. But a handful of the top fifty ranked players are there and these included big names like John Isner and this year's champion Leyton Hewitt. Oops,I forgot to mention our own Daniel Nestor who played doubles.The rest of the players had rankings around 100 and many of them may be familiar to you from television coverage of the early rounds at the slams. So not too shabby at all.

Then there is the International Tennis Hall of Fame itself with great exhibits and a rare Court Tennis - the medieval game that gave rise to lawn tennis as we now know it - facility. All in all,a must for the dedicated tennis fan. And yes, you can actually pay to play yourself on one of their 13 grass courts. Well it would be better if you had a partner !

So what is stopping you? Travel? Newport is easily accessible: only a little more than an hour drive from Boston or three hours from New York City. You can even make it in a day from Toronto. Once you get there you will be well looked after. Newport's accommodations are fantastic with lots of charming Bed and Breakfasts at reasonable prices and within easy walking distance of the tennis.The city itself is lovely with lots to do and see when you are not enjoying the tennis.There are no night sessions. 

Newport is a famous boating venue and -for those of you without a yacht - there are its Historic Mansions built in the early 20th century by the richest 1% of the 1%.Remember the Great Gatsby? Well these are the very same mansions that gave the gilded age such a "good" name. And for a small sum you can visit them and make yourself at home. Like seafood? I left a few scallops and a lobster in a few Newport restaurants with your name on them. Bon appetit!

You may never want to leave. But you will have to because the Rogers Cup will be less than a month away.

Simon Rosenblum,a retired public policy analyst,writes the occasional article for Ontario Tennis and is an active tennis hacker.