Get ready for the 2016 Clay Court Classic, taking place on Valentine’s weekend at The Lauderdale Tennis Club. Open to all skill levels, the singles and doubles tournament is sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) and hosted locally by the South Florida Tennis Club (SFTC). And while the atmosphere may be friendly and supportive, the competition is fierce.
The Lauderdale Tennis Club has hosted a number of national tournaments and welcomed luminaries of the sport, such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Harold Solomon, Andy Roddick and Jim Courier. The Clay Court Classic is expected to draw 150 participants from around the world.
“This event is always ranked in the top 10 LGBT tennis events in the world,” says SFTC spokesperson, Phil Sokolov. “One of the draws is the Fort Lauderdale Tennis Club’s clay courts. Many players will have never played on clay courts.”
Founded in 1987, SFTC is a nonprofit organization whose focus is to develop and coordinate tennis activities for the LGBT community in South Florida. Membership is open to players of all ages and skill levels. In addition to the Clay Court Classic, SFTC also offers team tennis, tennis socials, regional tournaments and competitive spring and fall tennis ladders for singles and doubles. The GLTA provides an open, safe, inclusive space and community that is committed to promoting and developing amateur tennis in the LGBT community.
For those more interested in watching than participating, the patio bar area and boardwalk at the Lauderdale Tennis Club provide a great venue from which to take in all the action. The Courtside Patio Bar — operated by Stork’s catering — offers delicious, reasonably priced dishes. Hearty burgers, refreshing salads, fresh fish and comfort standards such as meatloaf round out the menu.
“The venue is spectacular; it even has a swimming pool,” says Sokolov.
Beyond the matches themselves, there’s plenty of room for fun. It is an LGBT function, after all. Plenty of social activities have been planned around the tournament. It all kicks off with the registration/draw party at The Manor Nightclub Complex and ends with the tournament banquet, which will be held at Dapur Lounge in Fort Lauderdale.
“The theme of the banquet is Studio 54,” says Sokolov. “There will be prizes for the best outfits, and SFTC has partnered with a local vintage clothing rental company, Vintage Diversity, to provide outfits for the party.”
A percentage of the proceeds from the Clay Court Classic will benefit SunServe, a nonprofit social service agency that serves the LGBT community in South Florida.