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The Women's Chicago Fall Tennis Classic (a WTA 500-level tournament) kicks off Monday and runs through October 3rd in Washington Park on Chicago's South Side, a first-ever for a tournament of this caliber.
Produced by Chicago's own, Kamau Murray, this is one of the first Black-produced stops on the WTA tour, at one of the largest minority-owned tennis facilities in the country, XS Tennis Village, a $16.9 million Black owned-and-operated facility. Murray opened up the non-profit tennis facility in Washington Park on Chicago's South Side where the Robert Taylor Homes once stood.
Murray, now a commentator for the Tennis Channel, became only the third African-American coach to coach a player through a Grand Slam victory in 2017 when his player, Sloane Stephens, won the US Open.
The FAMU graduate has successfully reintroduced the sport to the city of Chicago through the Chicago Tennis Festival. The festival, which kicked off last month, featured tennis's newest rising star, Emma Raducanu, who just won the 2021 US Open, in the finals. Sseven-time Grand Slam winner and four-time Olympic medalist Venus Williams, alongside Olympic medalists Elina Svitolina and Marketa Vondrousova, were in his second tournament, the Chicago Women's Open. Now, Murray is closing out the festival with the Chicago Fall Classic, featuring the top players in women's tennis, which is sure to produce some explosive tennis in a community that usually doesn't have access to a sporting event of this magnitude.
After playing in the Chicago Women's Open, Venus Williams shared on Instagram, "I had such a beautiful time playing @chicagotennisfestival. It was truly the best crowd I have EVER played in front of. Truly so warm and welcoming, I've never felt such genuine love and support before from a crowd . . . Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I will cherish this memory FOREVER. Truly!"
Williams told The TRiiBE: "I'd like to see more tennis in Chicago. The appetite is here for it!"
I would love to secure your interest in interviewing some of tennis' top players on the WTA Tour that will be playing in the Chicago Fall Classic about the tournament, and how they feel about playing in Chicago for the first time at a minority-owned facility that is creating access to tennis for children in underserved communities.
Kamau Murray and the following players will be available for interviews via Zoom on Sunday and Monday:
* Sloane Stephens (United States): Stephens broke into the top 50 rankings when she was only 19 years old and has since won six WTA titles, including the 2017 US Open, her first Grand Slam victory. Stephens has been an advocate for mental health, talking about her own struggles and encouraging others to speak up and seek help. She also founded the Sloane Stephens Foundation to provide educational opportunities and encourage healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and physical fitness to children across the country.
* Madison Keys (United States): Born in Rock Island, Keys is returning to the state where her love of tennis began. Keys turned pro at age 14, and since then has competed on the top stages in the world, winning five WTA 500-level tournaments, reaching the final of the 2017 US Open, and becoming a 2016 Olympian. Her charity, Kindness Wins, promotes kindness initiatives on and off sports fields.
* Elina Svitolina (Ukraine): Ranked No. 4 in the world, Svitolina first picked up a tennis racquet when she was 5 years old. She has won 13 WTA singles titles, including three WTA 1000-level tournaments, namely the Dubai Tennis Championships, the Italian Open, and the Canadian Open and WTA Finals. She teaches children about tennis and hard work through her charity, the Elina Svitolina Foundation, which creates opportunities through scholarships, after-school programs, camps, and other special events. She was the winner of the Chicago Women's Open this summer and the bronze medalist at the Tokyo Games.
* Petra Kvitová (Czech Republic): Kvitová is currently the top-ranked left-handed player on the WTA tour and her 28 singles titles, which include two Wimbledon championships, are further proof she is a force to be reckoned with. Among other wins, she took home a bronze medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Another left-handed tennis legend, Martina Navratilova, was Kvitová's inspiration growing up, as her father (who also served as her first coach) showed her videos of Navratilova's matches. Kvitová is self-described as friendly and happy, loves comedy movies, and enjoys basketball and volleyball.
* Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain): At 6 feet tall, Muguruza has dominated in both the singles and doubles play, winning eight singles titles and five doubles titles since her 2012 professional debut. She has won both the French Open and Wimbledon and played in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. Born in Venezuela, she began playing tennis with her older brothers when she was 3 years old and began her training in Spain when her family moved there a few years later. She is an ambassador for the international NGO Room to Read, which promotes literacy for young women and girls around the world.
* Kim Clijsters (Belgium): Clijsters boasts four Grand Slam titles, three of which came at the US Open; uniquely held the World No.1 ranking for both singles and doubles play in 2003; and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017. After a seven-year retirement, Clijsters returned to tennis in 2020 and is playing her first tournament of 2021 here in Chicago. Clijsters comes from an athletic family, with her mother being an artistic gymnast, her father a football defender, and her sister also a tennis player. Clijsters is an ambassador for SOS Children's Villages and founded a nonprofit to fund training for junior level tennis players, Ten4Kim, and is married to basketball coach Brian Lynch with whom she shares three children.
* Bianca Andreescu (Canada): Ranked No.7 in the world after the 2020 season, Andreescu also claims Canadian history as the highest-ranked Canadian in the Women's Tennis Association and as the first Canadian to win a singles Grand Slam title (2019 US Open and one of the youngest winners of Indian Wells, earlier that year). She also has a strong fan base in Romania, her parents' native country and where she got her tennis start. One of her biggest fans, her dog Coco, can often be spotted at her matches. Andreescu believes in regular mental exercise, as well as physical, and she practices creative visualization meditation daily, which she credits for her ability to maintain focus.
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