You might have noticed the grand building with big iron gates just finishing up construction on the corner of Mockingbird Lane and North Central Expressway. This is the new home of the SMU men’s and women’s tennis teams.
The complex has six outdoor and six indoor courts for year-round on-campus training and competition, something the University has been without for almost 10 years.
“The complex may be one of the best in the world,” said SMU men’s tennis head coach Carl Neufeld.
The facility opened on Nov. 14, although there is still a little construction going on. There are a few minor details to be completed, and furnishings to be added. The work is expected to be completed by the new year.
The Tennis Complex has been highly anticipated by the tennis community at SMU. With the absence of on-campus courts for almost a decade, tennis teams have had to spend less time practicing and more time traveling to and from clubs and parks and for practices and matches.
“It will be a great for the team to finally have courts,” said junior Elena Fayner, a player for the women’s team.
The Tennis Complex promises many things to the SMU men’s and women’s tennis teams both physically, in terms of facility convenience and features, and psychologically, in terms of time management and studies.
The building is about a 5-minute walk from Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, parallel to SMU’s main campus off Mockingbird. It is easy to access for students who might want to walk over and see the teams play. Matches are free with a student ID.
The complex provides 12 courts in total, including an indoor pavilion with six courts, and an outdoor Turpin Tennis Stadium with six courts. The complex can hold upwards of 1,000 people on both indoor and outdoor courts. There is an expandable spectator seating as well as VIP seating overlooking the outdoor courts. The VIP Club has an area with viewing access to both indoor and outdoor courts.
The facility is in the process of finishing a training room, fitness room, team locker rooms, meeting rooms and offices for coaches and staff. The large parking lot is located on the backside of the new facility.
With the availability of courts and fitness facilities so close by, it will be much easier for tennis players to work out and practice, even twice a day for optimal athlete growth and experience.
Since student athletes must focus on studies before sports, the absence of courts close to campus hasn’t allowed for players to get second practices into one day, which can be extremely beneficial for skill development, player experience and growth as an individual and as a team.
Men’s coach Neufeld said that two practices are essential to athletes because focus doesn’t realistically last for more than 45 minutes. “Second practices can help refocus and continue the pursuit of excellence and skill development,” he said.
The new Tennis Complex provides not only the room to grow as an athlete, but also as a student. The facility has study and break rooms complete with desks and chairs to create an environment conducive for studying.
Students will be able to study in between matches or before or after practice without the hassle of traveling to the library or driving to and from practice courts.
Not only does the Tennis Complex provide great opportunities for the SMU men’s and women’s tennis teams, but Neufeld would like to someday see students involved in intramurals, club tennis and even tournaments and camps for Dallas-area children.
Club tennis and intramural tennis will be getting their own courts across the street within the next few years, Neufeld said, so he expects to see more participation. There may even be a time when SMU hosts a professional tournament.
Club Tennis President Scott “Alex” Menzel is thrilled about the new complex. As a tennis lover, he can’t wait to attend games and watch the sport grow in participation and enthusiasm.
“With the sparked interest in the SMU community, organizing club tennis events to support the varsity team and include other campus organizations as well would be easy to drum up support for home matches,” said Menzel.
Out of the last 10 years, Neufeld said both the women’s and men’s teams have had only two and a half years with home courts. This has impacted the time management, commitment, recruitment, skill development and morale of SMU men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Fayner said the team spends a lot of time traveling to and from different country clubs and tennis facilities for practices.
“It’s comparable to a part-time job,” she said. “We have to be very flexible in academic scheduling, studying and classes because of the driving time and availability of courts.”
Head coach for the SMU women’s tennis team, Katalin Gyulai, alluded to the same frustrations when having to practice off campus at places like Royal Oaks Country Club, Las Colinas Country Club, Northwood Club and Village Tennis Center.
“Often we opened certain tennis clubs in the morning and we were the last ones out before they closed. We had to practice around the members mostly during non-peak hours,” she said.
Not only was getting to courts an issue, but so was utilizing enough practice time and developing players’ skills throughout the season effectively. Now athletes can practice twice a day to get much needed experience on the court as well as keep up with their studies and gain exposure to spectators at SMU and the surrounding community.
Both coaches and players alike are excited for the new opportunities of the Tennis Complex in terms of morale, skill development, practice time, recruitment and growth of a larger fan base.
“I hope the new Tennis Complex will raise awareness and bring spectators to our sport,” said women’s player Fayner.
Dallas: the birthplace of professional tennis
Al G. Hill Jr. Lamar Hunt. Nancy Pearce Jeffett. Maureen “Little Mo” Connelly Brinker. These names may be unknown to some of us. But they all played an important role in the birth of professional tennis and they all have ties to Dallas and SMU.
Dallasites Lamar Hunt, an SMU graduate, and Al G. Hill Jr., along with a promoter from New Orleans named Dave Dixon, co-founded the World Championship Tennis circuit in 1967. The WCT came to be the largest promoter of professional tennis in the world and out from it stemmed many national and international opens.
In fact, SMU’s very own Moody Coliseum in 1972 held what was known as the “Greatest Match of All Time” between players Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. The match put WCT in the big leagues.
Moody Coliseum for numerous years also held the Virginia Slims tennis tournament, which later became knows as the Women’s Tennis Association tour. The Virginia Slims tennis tournament grew from not only the success of the WCT in Dallas, but the success of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation, which started in Texas as well.
The Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation was founded by two women’s tennis all-stars, SMU graduate Maureen “Little Mo” Connelly Brinker and Nancy Pearce Jeffett of Dallas. They were perhaps two of the most influential women in the world of tennis.
The history of tennis engulfs our campus and it’s fair to say that all these people changed the way the world looked at the game.