Annual Team Tennis event to bring together players of all ages

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

Each summer, anywhere from 32 to 64 players ready their rackets, suit up in their team colors and hit the courts at the Chautauqua Tennis Center for its annual Team Tennis Tournament. This competition, the Tennis Center’s largest event of the season, will take place from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Team Tennis features four teams of 16 players — or eight, depending on participation — competing in a combination of men’s, women’s and mixed doubles, a formula that Lee Robinson, Tennis Center program director, said makes for a successful event year after year.

“There’s a certain amount of strategy involved,” Robinson said. “You can play a men’s doubles match one match, but then the next match you play, you might be playing mixed doubles against another team, depending on what you think will help your team.”

Players divide into color teams — red, blue, yellow and green — and sort themselves according to ability, Robinson said.

“The better players will play each other on each team, no matter the combination. That’s good competition there,” Robinson said.

Each team plays an eight-game set, and the winner of the tournament is the player who wins the most total games. The event features no-advantage scoring, known as “no-ad” scoring, to speed up the tournament. No-ad scoring stipulates that the first player to reach four points wins that game, eliminating the need for a player to win by two points.

Team Tennis began at Chautauqua in the late 1980s. Player Darlene Johnston said she brought the idea here from the Tennis Club of Rochester, N.Y., where competitors had been taking part in it for many years.

Initially, Team Tennis was a very competitive contest, Johnston said. Players could strategically organize their teams and play the better competitors against those of lower skill levels. Since then, organizers have revamped the event, with each player squaring off against an opponent of an equal skill level.

Still, Team Tennis brings together players of all ages, from teenagers to those in their 70s and 80s, Robinson said.

Despite all the effort it takes to ready the courts and players for the big day, Robinson said it’s worth it.

“I enjoy doing it. It’s really fun, once we get it all prepared,” Robinson said.

Johnston also anticipates picking up her racket and heading down to the Tennis Center, as she does almost every year.

“If I didn’t, it would be like I’ve fallen through the cracks,” Johnston said with a laugh.