According to international rankings, tennis is the world’s fourth most popular sport – ahead of basketball, football, and baseball. It’s a sport with a storied history, and Virginia, USA, has been a huge supporter for decades. With high-level tournaments, top tennis clubs and college programs, historical moments, and world-class resorts, Virginia is the sport’s haven. The Commonwealth’s bursting tennis scene goes back decades and has never stopped growing.
Virginia Tennis: You’ve Been Served
Virginia’s significance in professional tennis started in Richmond, VA. You may know a man called John McEnroe; he’s only won several Grand Slam titles. Well, McEnroe wrote the famous words from the book Richmond: One of America’s Best Tennis Towns and signalled Virginia’s strong link to the sport.
“The River City has a great tradition of hosting professional tennis events and is one of the best tennis towns in America. Most importantly, it is the home of one of the greatest athletes our sport has ever known, the late, great Arthur Ashe,”.
Ashe was the first black player to compete on the United States Davis Cup squad and is still the only black man in history to win a singles title at Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the U.S. Open. To this day, he remains a hero in Richmond, with a school, a street, and a statue commemorating his achievements as an athletic standout from Virginia.
By the 70s, Virginia had etched its name into the Tennis history books, not only because of Ashe’s past success, but now the Westwood Club in Henrico County debuted the Virginia Slims Invitational Tournament. As you can imagine, this generation held a minimal interest in the women’s side of tennis, so the Slims competition revolutionised the sport. It was founded by Billie Jean King, the winner of the first Slims Invitation and again in 72’, as well as Margaret Court, the competition’s 73’ winner. More importantly, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) you know today was established because of this women’s tournament.
In today’s game, much has changed, and diversity between skin colour, origin, and gender isn’t an issue. One thing hasn’t changed, though, Virginia’s love and involvement in the sport, including sports betting. Virginia attracts a huge fan base from the Old Dominion for each and every major tournament.
One situation we didn’t bet on, however, is how Richmond, VA, would flourish each and every summer when the McDonald’s Mid-Atlantic Clay Court Championship (MACCC) is hosted at the Salisbury Country Club. Regarding Mid-Atlantic tennis, the MACCC is one of, if not the most significant competition in the area. John Packett of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a well-known tennis journalist that covered the U.S. Open, the Davis Cup, and more, said:
“Bill Barnes and Scott Stenour took the (McDonald’s) State Clay Courts from a sleepy little tournament to a thriving $30,000 week-long success story at Salisbury Country Club featuring some of the top college and underrated pros in the region.”
Scott Steinour has been the Salisbury tennis director since the late 90s. He commented:
“We are so proud of how this tournament has grown over the last 15 years. This event demonstrates what an amazing tennis community is right here in Richmond. It draws top players and the most appreciative and knowledgeable fans imaginable.”
Initially labelled the USTA/Virginian Clay Court Championships. Still, it wasn’t long before Steinour and Barnes partnered with McDonald’s and re-branded the competition to what we know today (Mid-Atlantic Clay Court Championships). Today, the tournament hosts some top-300-ranked players worldwide, as onlookers never know when the court could birth the next big thing in tennis.
Virginia Tennis Continues to Flourish
Aside from Salisbury’s landmark venue, the likes of Virginia Beach Tennis and Country are amongst one the biggest attractors of the superstars combined with local talent. It’s home to several national tournaments for men’s and women’s tennis.
Besides the venues, historical moments, and the passion brewing for tennis in Virginia, and perhaps most importantly, the sport is considered family time in the state. It houses groundbreaking facilities for seasoned and up-and-coming players, encourages family time, and assists people in building lifelong friendships based on a mutual love for the sport.