One could make the case that this is the top week of the year for the North Texas tennis scene. The ATP Challenger Tour has come to TBarM Racquet Club in Dallas for the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas. The Challenger Tour consists of men ranked just below the top rung. Many of them have competed in Grand Slams or other high-level events and are looking to get back to those tournaments consistently or, like one of our video interview subjects, have just turned pro and need some wins to break in.
In addition to bringing in some truly talented competitors, the tournament looks to incorporate outreach events to draw attention to the event and the sport. Though this event focuses on male players, tennis has long played a leading role in creating sporting opportunities for women, too. A special guest on Thursday was Judy Murray. She’s held some important roles in the sport, including captaining the British Federation Cup team and acting as a WTA Community Ambassador. She’s also the mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, who’ve each won multiple Grand Slams in singles and doubles, respectively. But she puts a lot of effort into grassroots tennis, both in her native Scotland and around the world. I had done a Q&A with her on “Pink Day,” a benefit for Susan G. Komen® Dallas County. She demonstrated some special elements of the Miss-Hits program she targets specifically at young girls. They don’t require a coach with extensive training, and they also involve balloons, which is pretty fun (especially when they add in water balloons). In the video interview I did with her afterward, we discussed that program and also challenges that still remain for women in the sport.
She recognizes that tennis is very much a minor sport in Scotland and needs a real push to develop homegrown players. The U.S. has not produced a lot of top-five men’s players in recent years, and it’s something the United States Tennis Association would love to change. Brandon Nakashima is the sort of player they’d love to see succeed. Nakashima hails from a place with much more consistent tennis weather than Dunblane, Scotland: San Diego. The 18-year old just turned pro last year after an All-ACC season at the University of Virginia. He’s trying to use tournaments like the RBC to elevate his world ranking out of the 300s and into the territory where he can make a true career of the sport. In this video interview, he talks about some of the challenges he’s faced getting started in professional tennis. Shortly after we did this interview, Nakashima nearly upset the RBC’s number one seed, 22-year old American Frances Tiafoe, before falling in three sets.
No professional sporting event of any kind exists without its sponsors. Andy Teller serves as senior managing director at RBC Wealth Management in Frisco. He loves tennis, and he especially loves having a pro tourney like this one in proximity to his home base. But he also believes there’s a business case to be made for his company’s involvement, including assets like hospitality, corporate social responsibility, and getting tennis aficionados to associate his company’s name with the sport they love. Teller himself attends every session at the tournament, monitoring his investment and, I hope, getting to enjoy watching some action between the lines. In this interview, he explains what he loves about involving himself and his firm in this sports sponsorship.
The RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas event continues through the weekend, with singles and doubles finals scheduled for Sunday.