New York Empire officially brought professional tennis to Forest Hills Stadium at The West Side Tennis Club with a clinic benefitting local youth.
Formed in February the team is headed by tennis great Patrick McEnroe, a former captain of the United States Davis Cup team and winner of one singles title and 16 doubles titles throughout his career.
“I have a lot of memories coming here as a 10-year-old to watch the U.S. Open and later on coming back to play in junior tennis,” McEnroe said last Wednesday. “I grew up about 15 minutes away from here in Douglaston, so this place is near and dear to my heart.”
The first match for New York Empire will be on July 31 when they compete as part of the Eastern Conference for the Mylan World Team Tennis League.
Each of their six home matches at the West Side Tennis Club will feature five sets, men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The scoring is cumulative, meaning each point is imperative for the win.
“The U.S. Open is one of the biggest events in all of sports and this is more of a community event, so we’re hoping to get people from Queens to come support the team,” McEnroe said, adding that U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick will be with the team for one home game and one away game this season.
“Team Tennis is a unique format in which men and women play together in equal footing, and I think that’s one of the great messages that we can put out there in today’s day and age in tennis,” he added.
Borough President Melinda Katz, who took a few practice shots alongside the children during the clinic, expressed excitement for the sport’s revitalization in New York City.
“To bring professional tennis back to the West Side Tennis Club is not only a great boost for the borough, but it’s a great boost for the city to have a professional New York team,” she said.
The United States Tennis Association brought children of all skill levels and ages to the clinic. Using three courts, they partook in activities such as running on training ladders, striking the ball and working with instructors to develop tracking skills.
The team’s number one draft pick, Christina McHale, was on hand to teach the children about using the right grips and the correct form when playing.
“I love doing kids’ clinics,” McHale said. “It’s hard to get court time in the city, so just to be able to be outside, see their interest in tennis and see how good they are is really fun.”
McHale, who has competed against tennis superstars like Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Garbiñe Muguruza and even won a match against Caroline Woziacki, who was ranked number one in the world at the time, is happy to be so close to her native New Jersey.
Coming off a Fed Cup win in Australia, Wednesday’s visit was her first time at the stadium, where the field’s condition impressed her.
“I was praying the night before the draft that I would be on this team so I’m really excited,” she said. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, once I start to play, it’ll hit me.”
Tickets for the Empire’s upcoming season are available at nyempiretennis.com.