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New Adult Tennis League Kicks Off with Meet and Greet Today
Tuesday, May 11, 2021



 Tennis is tricky. You always need someone to play.

 When Amy Johnson, a self-confessed tennis addict, moved to Ketchum from Salt Lake City two years ago, she immediately sought out people and places to play.

 After joining Gravity Fitness and Tennis in Hailey, Johnson found some good people to hit with. She also joined the free, weekly members only” clinics at Gravity run by seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander. Co-owner of Gravity, Wilander commentates for Eurosport in addition to coaching and teaching, skiing, golfing and spending time with his family.

 Still, Johnson was not satisfied. She missed playing competitive matches. Primarily a big city phenomenon run under the umbrella of the United States Tennis Association, USTA League consists of players of various levels (2.5-5.0) who form teams of 10 or more, playing a series of matches each season in hopes of winning Districts, Sectionals and Nationals.

 Competitive, organized adult options exist locally for skiing, hockey, softball and soccer.

 “But there is nothing for tennis,” Wilander said.

 Heeding Wilanders desire to get more people playing better tennis,” Johnson joined forces with two experienced League players--Jessica Penny and Allison Abbott--to create Wood River Valley Tennis (WRVT) and bring weekly League to the valley. The league’s goal is to promote physical, social and mental wellness for $12 per person per match.

 “League tennis helps players stay active, meet people and foster friendships while everyone works to improve their game. Lots of opportunity to grow the game further in this mountain town thats been dry of tennis for too long,” Johnson said.

 On Tuesday, May 11, from 6 to 7 p.m. WRVT will host a meetngreet with wine and cheese at the Sun Valley courts for women and men interested in learning more about the new League. On Saturday, May 15, WRVT will hold a free clinic there from 6 to 7 p.m.

 Stephanie Schmidt, new director of the Sun Valley Tennis Center, seized the opportunity to fill her 17 courts and has committed to hosting all local League matches June 1 through Oct. 1.  

 In case of inclement weather, Wilander may be able to accommodate same-day play on the recently renovated indoor courts at Gravity.

 “Im very supportive of all this,” he said, noting that tennis is a COVID-friendly, socially-distanced sport. With an influx of new people to the area and everyone eager to get outside, the arrival of this League is timely, he added.

The Wood River Valley has many private courts and some public ones. But only Gravity and Zenergy have indoor courts for year-round play.

 Gravitys other co-owner, Oliver Whitcomb, said Wilander wants to see more people out playing and facing new opponents. Gravity offers an affordable flex pass for League participants.

 “People get stuck. And tennis can be too expensive for the average person. We support League play 100%. Our motto is train inside, excel outside. We want Zenergy and Valley Club members competing against our people,” Whitcomb said.

 Local junior tennis is thriving, something Wilander attributes to the Rafa and Fed effect,” referring to the inspirational play of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

 According to John Kearney, director of recreation for the city of Ketchum, more area youth have won individual and team State Championships in tennis than any other sport.

 “Im excited about competitive, adult tennis in our valley. It creates a culture where anyone and everyone can up their game. It may take a bit to catch on. But once people see the action, theyll start putting the matches on their calendar,” Kearney said.

 This summer, there will be a minimum of two League teams per category:  Womens 40+ (3.5 and 4.0), womens 55+ (9.0 combined) and 18+ trilevel for co-ed play. Two teams, the Boulders and the Pioneers, are taking shape. But the League needs more players. A $33 per team fee goes to the ITA.

 “I met Amy Johnson a couple of years ago,” said Wilander. Shes the most ambitious and driven tennis player Ive met here. Its very refreshing to see a local player still looking to improve into her late 50s. Im not surprised she spearheaded this effort.”

 Wilander thinks providing more options for competitive tennis is a great idea, even though many area residents may not know much about it.

 The landscape is changing, thanks in large part to Johnson and WRVTs efforts to establish USTA League here this season. So, whether you are a longtime local, part-time resident, recent transplant or regular visitor, get out and play.


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