Multiple Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters is one of the star attractions at this week's Chicago Fall Tennis Classic.
WHAT: After an absence of nearly 25 years, women’s professional tennis is back in Chicago with the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic, a WTA 500 level tournament established by XS Tennis and Education Foundation's Kamau Murray. With the tour’s typical Asian swing on hold due to the pandemic, Murray nimbly managed to put together a large-scale tennis festival, culminating in this week’s Chicago Fall Tennis Classic. Says Murray, “There were some gaps in the calendar this year, and we were able to fill those gaps, bringing in some of the best players in the world.”
WHEN: Sept. 27-Oct. 3
WHERE: The tournament is being held at XS Tennis Village (5336 S. State St.), one of the largest minority-owned and -operated tennis facilities in the country. Opened by Murray in Washington Park on the city’s South Side, the facility is located on the former site of the Robert Taylor Homes. “It’s a unique opportunity for Chicago to showcase the community of the South Side,” says Murray. “You’ve got one of the best facilities in the country right here in the city of Chicago.”
WHO: Attendees can count on seeing more than half of the top 25 female tennis players in the world, almost all of whom will be playing in Chicago for the first time. From Aryna Sabalenka and Bianca Andreescu to Victoria Azarenka and even the legendary multiple Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters, it’s a fantasy lineup for passionate tennis fans.
WHY: What makes this such a momentous event? Not only is the Chicago Tennis Festival the first time women’s pro tennis tournaments have been held in Chicago since the now-defunct Virginia Slims of Chicago ended its run in 1997, but it’s also breaking boundaries as one of the first Black-produced tennis stops on the WTA tour, and all at one of the largest minority-owned Tennis facilities in the country, XS Tennis Village. It’s all adding up to major exposure for the city and the game. “Turn on the TV right now, and we’re live on the Tennis Channel. On average, one million people a day have been watching the tournament here. That’s significant when we talk about painting Chicago in a good light. It’s a global headline story that’s not about violence, it’s about look at all this talent—look at the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists, look at Kim Clijsters, who’s a hall of famer; Sloane Stephens, who’s a Grand Slam champion, all playing in this same venue.”
HOW: Tickets run $50 for a general admission ticket early in the week to $500 for a full week pass and can be purchased here.
WHAT’S NEXT: What does the future hold for the tournament? Murray is confident that it will be back—it’s just a matter of finding the right slot in the tightly regimented WTA calendar. “Once we find that, I think we’ll be in a good position to bring it here on a permanent basis. Before the U.S. Open, after the U.S. Open, or even in between Wimbledon and Montreal or Cincinnati. There’s some opportunity there.”
Photography by: MARK KOLBE/GETTY IMAGES