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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gay Tennis: Love, Set, Match
by Ross Forman
2005-12-14

This article shared 5904 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
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The Second City Tennis 2005 Winter Doubles League is its biggest ever, and one of the biggest in the nation. There are 90 two-person teams this season, which runs through the end of March, with matches almost every Friday night at one of two local tennis centers.

Only Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City have even close to the same number of teams.

'The winter league is more social ( than the summer league ) ,' said Jeff Salchow, league co-director. 'The league has almost doubled over the past three or four years, and there really is a nice, noticeable camaraderie among the players. The social interaction of the league has greatly improved. That's very important, especially because we're playing on Friday nights.'

The action is held at MidTown Tennis Club and Lake Shore Athletic Club, with seven divisions based on player's skill and ability. Players range in age from 21 to 45, including seven women. There are three all-women teams and one co-ed team.

The top players compete in the Open Division, and there are 14 such teams. Cary Tyler and Jay Mitchell are the defending Open champions.

The lowest level is D, and there are 12 teams in it.

'There certainly is room for people of all different levels ( of tennis knowledge ) . One team, for instance, joined this season after learning about the league at our registration party … and they've already won a match,' said Salchow, 34, who has been the league's director for three years. 'The on-court competition is very competitive, from Open on down. The Open ( Division ) play is very high-level. Some ( of the Open players ) are teaching pros, very accomplished players. I'm sure they'd do well in any ( U.S. Tennis Association ) tournament, and some probably already have.

'There is a gay and lesbian pro tennis tour, with tournaments all over the country. Several of our Open players compete on that Tour, and sometimes even win events.'

The league features such players as Bob Heidrich, Chris Myers, Brian Walker, Will Ward, Steve Acoba and Laurel Laforce, among others. Salchow has played for about 20 years, dating back to his time at Kent Roosevelt High School in Ohio.

About 98 percent of the league's players are gay or lesbian, Salchow said. Last year, there was a straight team that advanced to the playoffs. The top six teams in each division advance to a one-day championship tournament

The league does pre-season training and drill sessions. It also sends out weekly e-mail updates with basic rules and tips, often based on a rules question from one of its members.

'I thought last year's season was the biggest we could get, with 84 teams. But this year we expanded to 90. I don't know if we can grow too much more. We might have hit our limit. If we add teams next winter, we might have to extend the season or add a third location.

'I think the best part of the winter season is the new friends made.'


This article shared 5904 times since Wed Dec 14, 2005
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