On the river or by the sea – they love their tennis. Amidst the focus on golf and growing popularity of soccer, a lot of men, women and children on the First Coast are happily playing tennis.
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
At the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s racquet club, Debbie Jones says she likes tennis because it gives you a good workout and quick energy and you can play a match in two hours, instead of the four hours it usually takes to play a round of golf. She likes the program at the club, and her husband also plays tennis.
“The professional staff keeps everything positive and moving forward,” she says. “The program is better than those at the public clubs.”
Kacey Roache has been a member of the Ponte Vedra club for three years, and she says it was tennis, and the camaraderie of the game, that attracted her. “We play, then have lunch – I’ve made lots of friendships here.”
Mary Overs says there is definitely lots of socializing to go along with the tennis. She has even visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, with people she met through playing tennis.
Overs belongs to several clubs but likes the Ponte Vedra club’s program best. After playing tennis for almost 20 years, she is seeing an increase in interest in the game.
The club has 15 Har-Tru hydro courts in a park setting, complete with a two-story open observation deck that overlooks most of the courts. Eight of the courts are lighted for night play.
“We have 25 to 30 different clinics every week,” says Andy Radovic, vice president of sales and marketing for the club. “That includes a number of junior programs.” Radovic says he has seen an increase in tennis play, and credits some of that to the affordability of the sport.
The oceanfront Ponte Vedra Inn & Club opened in 1928. The area at the time was called Mineral City, because minerals were mined from the sand on the beaches. The country club began with a golf course that had been created for the mineral company workers, and after it grew in popularity, added tennis.
Today, The ATP World Tour, the men’s professional tennis circuits, is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, and the Ponte Vedra Racquet Club is its official tennis club.
Timuquana Country Club
“It’s fun, and a quick sport,” says Holly Upchurch, the assistant chair of Timuquana Country Club’s tennis committee. “You can play a round in less than two hours. It’s a high-energy sport.”
Upchurch also likes the social aspect of playing tennis. Over the 10 years she has been a member at Timuquana, she says she’s met women she would never have known – and they have become friends.
“They’re like family,” she says. “We know each other’s stories and we’re there for each other. It’s a diverse age group.” After playing, she says she also likes having lunch at the club’s waterfront restaurant, with its incredible view of the St. Johns River and the Downtown Jacksonville skyline.
Timuquana has eight Har-Tru clay courts, and a variety of classes, clinics, competitive tournaments and more for people of all ages and skill levels. There’s even a class for 3-year-olds and a family clinic.
For 3-year-olds, it’s about “catching and throwing the balls and hand/eye coordination,” says director of tennis Casey Kelley. The largest children’s age group is composed of 4 to 10-year-olds, “and a couple of 10-year-olds are state ranked.”
Timuquana Country Club was established in 1923 by a group of area residents who purchased land on the western side of the St. Johns River. The tennis program has kept up with the times and now offers working women’s matches on Saturdays and ladies night clinics. Most of the competitive tennis is doubles, but Kelley says they are thinking of adding singles next year. A dedicated tennis pro shop has clothing, shoes, racquets and anything else a tennis player needs.