This morning I turned on the television and was able to watch Rafael Nadal in the men’s singles capture his eighth French Open title. As I looked at the match, I couldn’t help but reflect on my recent visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.
Newport and tennis have gone hand in hand since 1881 when the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championship (today known as the US Open) began on the grass courts at the Newport Casino. As I entered the main entrance, the pristine grass court in the Horseshoe Courtyard, the three-story clock tower and overall beauty of the Newport Casino took my breath away. If you are wondering why the compound that is home to tennis is called a casino, I can tell you it has nothing to do with gaming or gambling. The word casino stems from Cascina, an Italian word meaning “little summer-house.”
Impressed by the outdoor grounds, I couldn’t wait to see what was indoors, so I ventured to the museum and purchased a ticket for $12.
Once purchasing my ticket, I headed up the Grand Staircase that leads to the Credential Gallery where the original patent for the game of lawn tennis granted by Queen Victoria was displayed. Next, I entered the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery where I was able to learn about my favorite tennis greats like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
The remaining galleries stretched across two sections, Pre-Open Era (1800-1968) and Open Era (1968 to present). Throughout each old room of the Newport Casino, the history of tennis was told by inspired art and fashion, vintage tennis gear, video highlights of great matches and fascinating memorabilia. Some of my favorite exhibits were the origins of the game and the timelines.
I particularly enjoyed viewing the earliest known painting of tennis; the 1558 Lucas Gassel masterpiece that depicts a Renaissance palace scene featuring the game of Court Tennis.
I also enjoyed seeing the evolution of the racquet and tennis attire that highlighted in the timeline exhibits that included the Golden Age of the 1920s, Tennis through the end of WWII and the advent of the Open Era in the 1950s and 1960s.
Also, it was also neat to see memorabilia from famous tennis players of my generation in the Grand Slam Gallery.
After checking out all the exhibits, I ventured back outside to take a closer look at Horseshoe Plazza, the Front Lawn Courts, Club Courts and the Billy Talbert Center Court. I roamed around reading the placards throughout the grounds that highlighted the extraordinary history ranging from the inaugural Newport Jazz Festival to the Casino Theatre.
The Casino’s grass courts are the oldest continuously active tennis grounds in the country and are still the site of world-class tennis. Every July, The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships take place. This year they will be held July 8th through 14th, and there will be a lot of fun activities for all ages including free tennis lessons. If you love the game of tennis and would rather play than be a spectator, you can play on the historic grass courts by reserving time before your visit.
Even though I am not the best tennis player (my friend Laura will attest to that), I do enjoy watching a great match. My visit to the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum enhanced my knowledge of the game. I also have a deeper appreciation for Grand Slam Tournaments and plan on calling Ticketmaster tomorrow morning when the US Open tickets go on sale. Also, I am also inclined to try and improve my own game. Good thing my son loves every sport, including tennis!
My tennis partner and I will be heading to the courts right after I click publish!