Samuell Grand Tennis Center

The new-and-improved facility aims to create a tennis culture in East Dallas.

The Samuell Grand Tennis Center aims to create a tennis culture in East Dallas

The oldest and largest public tennis center in Dallas, where Arthur Ashe once competed, is here in our neighborhood.

If you didn’t know the Samuell Grand Tennis Center exists, you’re not alone. The city-owned facility on East Grand was neglected for decades. But the city breaks ground in February on a 2,500-square-foot pro shop with retail space and locker rooms.

And the management team that took over last year aims to build a tennis culture in East Dallas.

Kim Kurth and Duey Evans, who now run the center, hired tennis pro Susan Nardi in May, and started offering low-cost lessons right away. Nardi, who is from Manhattan Beach, Calif., had developed a program called “Mommy, Daddy and Me”.

“That worked perfectly for what we’re trying to do here,” says Kurth, the center’s administrative director.

Evans, the center’s director of tennis, is a coach with more than 20 years’ experience instructing junior tennis athletes.

“Our goal is to create programs that can take a tennis player from the cradle to the grave,” Evans says.

As well as lessons and tournaments for kids and juniors, the center offers leagues and lessons for adults, plus the “Mommy, Daddy and Me” classes, where 3- to 5-year-olds learn to play.

Neighbors Margaret and Blair Cox enrolled their 7-year-old daughter, Emily, in lessons last month. It costs $39 for four lessons per month, and tennis equipment is inexpensive. A kid can start out with a $20 racket and a pair of sneakers.

“Susan is great with the kids, and Duey is a character,” Blair Cox says. “People think this place is dormant, and I think it will explode if people just knew about it.”

Neighborhood resident David Wilson’s 7-year-old son, William, receives lessons once a week, but he likes it so much that he’s asked for biweekly lessons.

“My wife and I played tennis all the time until we had kids,” Wilson says. “We were looking for an activity we could all do together, and we found this place.”

The Samuell Grand Tennis Center was built in the 1960s with 20 courts, and it was a happening place until the late ’80s.

In 1965 Dallas hosted the Davis Cup, an international team tennis tournament founded in 1899. Arthur Ashe had just turned 22, and he was the first African American on the United States Davis Cup team.

No country club in Dallas would allow a black man to play on its courts. So the tournament was held at the Samuell Grand Tennis Center, which was brand new at the time.

In the opening match, Ashe was “near flawless” in a win against Rafael Osuna of Mexico, the Dallas Morning News reported. The crowd was standing-room only. In the end, Australia won the tournament, but it gave Dallas a place in tennis history.

The team at Samuell Grand would like to raise enough money to resurface the courts and plan a major tournament to commemorate Ashe’s performance on the 50th anniversary, in August 2015.

But for now, they are focused on the fundamentals.

Find schedules and rates for tennis lessons and leagues at samuellgrandtennis.com or call 214.670.1374.


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