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Here’s the chance to play tennis on grass courts where legends such as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe won big matches.

The West Side Tennis Club will host the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Party on Friday, Aug. 25. The facility – a former U.S. Open host which features tennis courts, paddle tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a Tudor-style clubhouse — plans to celebrate its 125th anniversary with tennis (naturally), exhibition matches, a cocktail party, a banner unveiling, a photo op, sunset dinner, live music, and dancing.

The fun is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. with games and non-competitive rallying for all skill levels on the grass courts. At 4 p.m., Jan-Michael Gambill, a former world No. 14 who played on the U.S. Davis Cup team, will challenge former world top 50 Michael Russell on a court in Forest Hills Stadium. Then, Vince Spadea, a two-time U.S. Olympic team member and former world No. 18, will face Luke Jensen, who took the 1994 French Open doubles title.

The winners of these matches will then compete in a championship. (The format is a “FAST-4 set,” which is first to four games, with no-ad scoring, and a tie-breaker at three games all.)

Soon thereafter, the club will open its speakeasies (mini-barrooms inside the stadium) for cocktails before USTA President Katrina Adams and International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin host a ceremony honoring Jack Kramer, a two-time U.S. singles champion, and Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly, the second player ever to win the Grand Slam in 1953. A banner with their names will be raised below the internal rafters (below photo) with Connelly’s daughters, Cindy Brinker and Brenda Bottum, and Kramer’s son, Bob Kramer, in attendance.

A banner will also reflect the fact that the West Side Tennis Club has hosted more Davis Cup final rounds that any other venue. And since nine of 10 finals were played between the U.S. and Australia, members of the Australian Tennis Federation will be on hand.

Next up are the photo and dinner at the clubhouse, followed by live music and dancing into the night.

The dress code is “summer casual,” and tennis players must wear white clothes. Ticket prices range from $10,000, which includes 10 reserved seats for dinner, to $100 for one entry to the exhibition matches, cocktail party, and banner raising. Half of the price is tax-deductible because proceeds will go to the club’s foundation.

The West Side Tennis Club actually opened on the West Side of Manhattan in 1892. It moved to Forest Hills in 1913, and Forest Hills Stadium was built in 1923 to host the U.S. Open’s center court matches while the other games took place on the venue’s courts. The stadium, which belongs to the club, had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was also an iconic concert venue. Not only did Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert win Grand Slam tennis championships, but the Beatles played two consecutive sold-out shows there in 1964. The Doors and Simon & Garfunkel, graduates of Forest Hills High School, did a double bill in 1967, and even Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Diana Ross performed there.

The U.S. Open moved to its current location at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 1977, while the West Side Tennis Club continued operation. Forest Hills Stadium shut down in the mid 1990s and lay dormant until undergoing a roughly $3 million renovation that included a complete structural overhaul, seat replacement, and the installation of a state-of-the-art stage in 2013. The arena re-opened that August with a concert by British rock band Mumford & Sons. Since then, it’s attracted a wide range of musical performers, including The Who, Van Morrison, Zac Brown, local son Paul Simon, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Lil Wayne, and The New York Pops.

Images: West Side Tennis Club


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