There is a movement beginning to help increase the odds of the next great tennis champion getting his or her start in the Bay Area.
The first step took place Tuesday at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, which held its first-ever Har-Tru Clay-Court Juniors Shootout. Former tennis star and Bay Area native Brad Gilbert was on hand to kick off the inaugural event.
The timing is no accident, with the USTA national clay-court championships running next week in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
If you noticed none of those locations are remotely close to the Bay Area, you’re not alone. California doesn’t have many clay tennis courts, which is something Har-Tru, the world’s largest manufacturer of clay tennis courts, wants to change.
Toward that end, they have pledged to develop a 10-court facility in Northern California that includes a training center dedicated to producing the next generation of tennis greats.
“We’ve identified Northern California as a community that has a lot of intangibles when it comes to tennis. It’s got great collegiate tennis, it’s got tennis at all levels of play,” said Pat Hansen, Har-Tru’s general manager.
While they are still scouting locations, Gilbert would love to see another generation get a chance to play on the same courts he honed his game on.
“I played a lot in The City as a kid at Golden Gate Park,” he said. “I probably played at Golden Gate Park at least three weekends a month. I’d be there all day Saturday I’d be there all day Sunday. ... I was thinking that would be a great place to have a public place, have the whole place be clay, have a junior training center there. It just seemed like when I was a kid, it was a great place to play.”
He said the last time he visited the courts in the park, about two years ago, they looked like they needed some work, and expressed hope that The City would work with Har-Tru to get them back in top shape.
Har-Tru has not set a timetable for the plans to get underway, but hopes to see the new shootout at the Olympic Club become an annual tradition.