KANAWHA CITY, W.Va. — Women’s collegiate tennis teams within the state and beyond are coming together on the Kanawha City courts again for the third annual Thunder in the Mountains.
The annual Division 1 Women’s tennis tournament co-hosted by Marshall and West Virginia universities will this year welcome Cleveland State University and Radford University to the Schoembaum Tennis Courts at the Kanawha City Community Center for a series of matches.
Marshall and WVU will face off with a doubles match this Friday, September 22 at 10 a.m. This will be followed by the tournament highlight– the singles match on Saturday, Sept. 23.
However, Thunder in the Mountains Director Rusty Webb said before that gets underway they will hold a free junior tennis clinic Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for elementary and middle school beginner tennis players. The course will be taught by players from Marshall and WVU.
Last year Webb said around 40 kids participated, a number which he hopes to see again or more. He said he’s a strong advocate for encouraging young athletes to get involved with tennis, being a sport that’s not always as strongly pushed for them to get involved in as baseball, basketball and soccer typically are.
“There’s just so many scholarships out there available for tennis players, and they’re just so many good athletes who don’t play those other traditional sports and could easily take up tennis and be good at it,” said Webb.
For the first time this year Dr. Joseph Sinclair, an ophthalmologist in Charleston who owns a tennis company known as Gracelyne will be donating 40 new tennis racquets to the kids participating in the clinic.
Webb said kids who participate in the clinic will also get a free tennis tournament t-shirt, as well as any school tennis teams who come to watch the tournament as a group.
He said being an avid tennis player himself, he really likes to support women in tennis and help such a program to grow.
“I just love tennis and I support women’s athletics, I don’t think that they get the recognition that they should get, and so as a man I really want to step up and help them,” he said.
While the tournament is free for the players and meals are included, which Webb said is typically not something characteristic of a pro-tennis tournament, he still tries to maintain the professional-feel of one and even tries to model it after the Western & Southern Tournament in Cincinnati.
He said one major aspect of the tournament that has gotten much positive feedback since he first started hosting it are the flags set up displaying the different nations and places of origin of each team member.
“It adds some visual interest to the tournament, and everyone who’s come to it that’s probably what they walk away with is that we fly all of the cool flags,” said Webb.
He said this year he plans to give the flags away as a gift to tournament participants.
Webb said they don’t use traditional tennis scoring for this tournament as it typically doesn’t get used in the fall, so the number one singles player from each team will be the winner.
He said they will play all day both Friday and Saturday until around 2 or 3 p.m. and on Sunday until about noon or 1 p.m.