Photo: Peyton Stearns, winner of the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open, in finals
The DropShot Tournament Series is building on Austin’s long history of tennis. The Greenview Development & Majesty Realty Men’s Pro Tennis event began this past week of November 6, one month after the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open in late September. In February, DropShot will host the largest pro event in Austin in a decade, the ATX Open. Tickets are on sale for the $250,000 women’s
event, to be played at the Westwood Country Club. Danielle Collins, this year’s Australian Open finalist, headlines the event.
But the sport of tennis has been around Austin for close to 140 years — about as long as the University of Texas. The university, founded just nine years earlier, installed three clay courts in 1892.
Those clay courts are long gone, but UT-Austin has long had a strong tennis program, first in the Southwest Conference and now in the Big 12. Former women’s coach Jeff Moore won 12 consecutive conference titles and two national titles (1993 and 1995). Howard Joffe, the current women’s coach, has led his team to NCAA titles in 2020 and 2021 and was named ITA women’s coach of the year last year. The men’s team captured its only NCAA title in 2019, the year Bruce Berque stepped in as interim head coach of the men’s team.
The DropShot series, of course, is not the Austin area’s first foray into professional tennis. In the 1970s, the Lakeway World of Tennis, just outside of Austin, became synonymous with the sport. Tennis greats such as Rod Laver, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras all played at Lakeway during their careers.
In 1977, Lakeway was the site for the WCT Tournament of Champions — well, at least one half of the draw. Harold Solomon, a human backboard who had starred at Rice, won the bracket by defeating Dick Stockton. According to a New York Times article on July 8, Jimmy Connors had reinjured his right thumb during practice and withdrew from the $200,000 event. Connors was a lefty but starred in the two-handed revolution that would take over tennis. In September, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Solomon defeated Hall of Famer Ken Rosewall, who had won his half of the draw in March. The tournament took place in Lakeway from 1977 to 1990 before moving to Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Forest Hills, the longtime home of the U.S. Open and its host venue during the past 10 years of its run.
A 2011 Davis Cup quarterfinal was played at Austin’s own Erwin Center, with the Spanish team, led by Rafael Nadal, facing the United States and Andy Roddick, who then called Austin his home. Despite playing on a fast hard court, Spain secured the win after David Ferrer defeated Marty Fish in a 4-hour-11 minute match. Spain went on to win the Davis Cup against Argentina later that year.
Stay on the lookout for further updates about the ongoing Men’s tournament and the upcoming ATX Open in February.
By Ignacio Perez