By Jill Neuharth
Hi everyone, the Blonde girl with a computer is back. I had a terribly pleasant day watching lawn tennis amid blooming hydrangeas and geraniums from the shaded porch of a glorious Victorian Manor. The players in their crisp whites made a striking contrast to the lush emerald of the courts while I slowly sipped my Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Tea. Had you going there for a minute didn’t I. This was no figment of my imagination by any stretch; I might have just forgotten to mention a minor detail. I’m coming to you this week from Newport, RI, home of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships or as I like to call it, the ersatz Wimbledon.
This tiny island in the Narragansett Bay is the original summer playground of the rich. The Vanderbilts and Astors had “cottages” here, and Jacqueline Bouvier married Jack Kennedy about one block from the grounds of the tournament. The mansions are now on display, trendy tourists have replaced the summer residents, and yachts from all over the world fill the harbor. One thing that hasn’t changed much since the golden days of Newport is the Newport Casino, now housing the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the Campbell’s Championship.
Fans entering through the front gates most certainly feel as if they are being transported back to a more genteel time and place. Built in 1880, the grounds held the first U.S. National Tournament which we now know as the US Open. Now one of the smallest of ATP events, it has a rich history dating to the early days of American tennis. The qualifying rounds on Sunday were free to the public as well as admission to the Museum. Billed as Family Weekend, special clinics and other events were in place to kick off the tournament. Sadly the crowds were rather thin. That is my nice way of saying hardly anyone was there. I will admit the draw is rather thin. One highly-ranked ATP official, who will remain nameless but does happen to be follically challenged and has an affection for potbellied pigs, told me that the draw for this event is nothing more than a glorified challenger. He was speaking of the main draw, not the qualifying draw, so you can sort of see where I am coming from on the lack of excitement today.
Nevertheless, the event itself has enough charm to overcome any weaknesses. For the tennis fan it is a wonderful opportunity to re-live some of the rich history of the game, without the crowds and fanfare so commonly present. Who actually played today? Personally I think more fans watched the Nadal-Federer Wimbledon final than the qualifying finals. The Nadal show was shown on a big screen in the Tennis Hall of Fame Museum and gift shop, however most fans lined up along the railing of the player’s lounge to watch the match on the big screen with the players.
Just in case you care, which I know you don’t, the emerging qualifiers are Alexander Peya, Brendan Evans, Rohan Bopanna and Woong-Sun Jun. Together they have a collective ranking of 881. Young Mr. Evans proved the highlight match of the day. The 194-ranked Evans whined his way through 2 sets with the 353-ranked Michael McClune like a complete crybaby. It’s a good thing he won because that might have been ugly.
The sun is now setting over the Narragansett Bay as I sit with my Sea Breeze on the patio of the Hyatt Regency. The fireworks are slated to begin shortly and I need to refill my drink.
Florida resident Jill Neuharth is blogging from Newport for Play Tennis Florida magazine, www.PlayTennisFlorida.com
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