By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com & Barbara Voyles, Lake Oconee Tennis Association
When Rafael Nadal dispatched Novak Djokovic in the men's final, it was the conclusion of what was a wildly exciting 2010 US Open, not just for the players but also for the fans that flocked to Flushing Meadows from all across the United States over the course of 15 action-packed days.
Yet, for certain attendees, such as those who are actively involved with tennis year-round in their hometowns as part of a Community Tennis Association (CTA), the pilgrimage to the epicenter of American tennis took on a deeper meaning. As part of USTA.com's recap of the 2010 Open, we will highlight some of the journeys made by these volunteer groups from different parts of the country. In the coming days, five CTAs will tell their stories of travel, tennis and triumph within their communities.
Classified as "any incorporated, geographically defined, not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization that supports or provides programs which promote and develop the growth of tennis," the five CTAs that made it to New York City are but a sampling of over 1,000 CTAs accounted for under the umbrella of the USTA's 17 sections. The associations work primarily at the grassroots level to coordinate and maintain tennis programs and services, guaranteeing that they are open and accessible to all.
Being at the US Open was not only a chance to take in a world-class Grand Slam tournament but also to spread the word about what progress is being made at the local level to preserve the game now being played by over 30 million people nationwide.
"We're extremely pleased that for the first time ever we can utilize the national platform provided by the US Open to recognize the Community Tennis Associations around the nation that are in attendance," said David Slade, USTA National Manager for CTAs. "The US Open and the USTA's family of websites provide a great opportunity to increase awareness amongst tennis fans - many of whom attend the Open themselves - about the programs and services being offered by organizations around the country."
Up next, we hear from Barbara Voyles, USTA Director for the Lake Oconee Tennis Association (LOTA) in Greensboro, Georgia. One of the finest programs within the USTA Southern section, LOTA came into being when the recreation and tennis directors at Reynolds Plantation and Harbor Club, several local tennis enthusiasts and USTA representatives met several times in the late 90's to discuss ways to promote tennis in the Lake Oconee area. In 2000, it was agreed that the best way to promote tennis was to create a CTA, with the objective to promote tennis within Greene, Morgan, and Putnam Counties, as well as the greater Lake Oconee region of Georgia.
A decade later, LOTA is still expanding - all the way to Flushing Meadows. Here's Barbara's story:
Our group was so excited!
For some, it was a second or third trip - yet for others, this was a first. The thrill of being at the US Open is exhilarating, and the atmosphere on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is almost electric. Whether you are enjoying a match in the intimacy of Grandstand or being awed by the excitement in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the experience at the Open is like no other. We had the joy of witnessing the Bryan brothers "chest bump" after a victory, and watched the mastery of Roger Federer during one of his successful matches.
Walking around the grounds and through the side courts, we saw so many great doubles matches, getting an "up-close-and-personal" feeling for the intensity of the players. That alone kept our energy level high, despite the grueling heat and glaring sun of the tournament's first week. Each day, we mapped out the schedule to watch our favorite players and staked out the best seats for viewing some of the most exciting tennis in the world.
The US Open brings it all: "The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat."
As we made our way home, the talk within our group turned to what we could take away from the Open and apply it to LOTA - it was non-stop chatter about the plans for more play, increased programs and how to get more players involved with our CTA.
The excitement continued all through watching the entire US Open from home. I speak for the whole group when I say that I was wishing we could still be there - yet at the same time remembering what fun we had, and how we are already making plans to be there again in 2011.
Our tennis community will feel the ripple effect of our travel to New York and our enthusiasm for the greatest tennis event ever - The 2010 US Open!
For more information about the Lake Oconee Tennis Association, check out www.lotatennis.com