June 4th, 2015

Broward Tennis Blog: Mastering ‘Masters Tennis’ in Florida

Courtside Masters Tennis
MADAME AMBASSADOR: Christine Murphy.

MADAME AMBASSADOR: Christine Murphy.

Masters Tennis players don’t get to wear the green jacket at Augusta, or even play with green balls on the tennis court, but they’re having a ball with the orange ball they do use.

Masters Tennis is played on a smaller court (60 feet vs. the regulation 78 feet) with a slower, less-compressed ball, and even a lighter (if you choose) racket. The game is ideally suited to a variety of different players: beginners, whose mobility has been challenged by injury, and the elder set.

Disciple of the Masters
A true disciple of Masters Tennis is Pembroke Pines-based Masters Tennis Coordinator Christine Murphy, who coordinates the program for USTA Florida statewide. A former professional dancer and personal trainer, she has the emotional flexibility that matches her physical flexibility, making her the perfect ambassador for the variation on the sport of tennis that was created in Florida in 2012.

Christine estimates that between 100 and 150 people play Masters Tennis in about a dozen or more facilities in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. She says about 30 of them play inside a Miami community center in Arcola Lakes alone. Some seniors get to play for free as part of the Silver Sneaker program, designed by Health Ways, the insurer, to help older people stay fit.

At the recent Miami Open, USTA Florida was given a pair of clay courts to educate people about tennis, one day of which was dedicated to Masters Tennis. Christine was thrilled to see that between 50 and 75 people stopped watching and started playing, some in flip flops, others in street shoes, but all just for the fun of it.

Program Image_Masters TennisSpreading Beyond Florida
“Why not embrace everyone?” is Christine’s mantra, one that she shares with pros throughout the Sunshine State and beyond. Interest is now developing in other states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Minnesota, according to Christine, who’s assisting these states in forming their own programs.

“Think out of the box when considering players’ needs,” she advises pros and facility directors. “Think fun socials, rather than tournaments. For some beginners, there’s great comfort to know that the ball won’t go over the fence, that it will wait for you to get to it,” she says.

Would You Like to Be Mr. or Ms. Ambassador?
According to Christine, USTA Florida is always on the lookout for anyone who wants to help grow Masters Tennis. Such volunteers, dubbed ambassadors, speak with club owners and managers, parks and recreation directors, and anyone else with access to a tennis court with the idea of introducing the program. And as Dorothy discovered at the end of The Wizard of Oz, it can all be done it in your own backyard.

Anyone interested in becoming an ambassador can contact Christine at murphy@florida.usta.com, or the old-fashioned way at (239) 357-8203.