By PHOEBE MOSES
WILTON MANORS, FL – Gay athletes who excel at tennis are not a new phenomenon. The ranks of LGBT tennis professionals and amateurs includes household names like Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, as well as Renee Richards, the first and only male-to-female transsexual ever to play the US Open, and herself no stranger to South Florida tennis courts.
This weekend, dozens of LGBT tennis players will descend upon Greater Fort Lauderdale for the Seventh Annual Clay Court Classic, presented by the South Florida Tennis Club (SFTC). The event runs from Feb. 17-20 at The Tennis Club of Fort Lauderdale, 600 Tennis Club Drive, in the Lazy Lakes area just south of Oakland Park Blvd.
The Clay Court Classic is a singles and doubles tournament that is open to all skill levels, including split divisions, held under the aegis of the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA), a national organization formed in 1991 which has grown into an international body overseeing groups in 58 member-cities, and 70 annual tournaments held on five continents.
The South Florida Tennis Club is a nonprofit organization which was formed with a mission to develop and coordinate tennis activities for South Florida’s LGBT community. The group hosts two yearly tournaments: The Clay Court Classic, a singles and doubles tournament held each President’s Day Weekend, and The Spring Fling, a doubles-only tournament held in early May. The local organization also works to promote tennis as an inclusive sport like swimming rather than a snobby country club activity like golf. The expansion of gay tennis across Europe and the sport’s inclusion in recent Gay Games have made their job easier.
In addition to hosting the tournaments—and LGBT tennis enthusiasts from across the globe–the Club supports local charities and service organizations through charitable giving and fundraising via its tournaments. The Classic’s tournament charity is SunServe, a nonprofit social service agency that provides quality, compassionate, and progressive care for youths, minorities, seniors, families, and those with life-challenging physical or emotional conditions. Anti-bullying campaigns and service to those in financial need are also part of SunServe’s indispensable work.