Huntsville– The United States Tennis Association and Athletic Club Alabama have been forced to cancel the 2020 USTA Girls’ 16 National Clay Court Championships, scheduled for July 11-18, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
However, based on the success of the inaugural event here in 2019, the USTA has awarded Athletic Club Alabama the host role through 2024.
“We’re obviously disappointed that this year’s tournament is canceled,” said Eddie Jacques, co-owner and tennis director at Athletic Club Alabama. “But we’re appreciative that the USTA has asked us to host on a long-term basis. That’s a testament to our staff, our general manager Kelly Haynes, to the facilities here and at Huntsville Tennis Center, and all the partners who worked so hard to make it a great event last summer.”
The 2019 tournament drew 225 players from 32 states, plus 20 officials, and provided more than an $800,000 economic impact to the area. Athletic Club Alabama, Huntsville’s longest-standing tennis club, was the headquarters, and early round matches were also played at Huntsville Tennis Center, part of the City of Huntsville Parks & Recreation Department.
Athletic Club Alabama was selected as host from among a nationwide field of contenders after the previous host in Memphis closed its venue eight months before the tournament was set to begin. With support from the City of Huntsville and the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Athletic Club Alabama was able to submit a successful bid.
“We heard so many great stories about players and families who were able to enjoy Huntsville’s hospitality last year,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We know that some siblings attended Space Camp while their sisters were playing in the tournament, that families reserved private dining rooms to celebrate players’ birthdays and that the players, parents and officials were able to enjoy our wide variety of dining and shopping experiences. We look forward to welcoming them back in 2021 and beyond.”
The United States Tennis Association established the Girls National Clay Court Championships in 1918, with the Girls’ 16 division added in 1962. Former champions include Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Lindsay Davenport and others who went on to successful collegiate and professional careers.
Purchased in 2010 by Eddie Jacques and Alex Raifee, the Athletic Club Alabama, long known as Huntsville Athletic Club, located on Leeman Ferry Road, has become one of the premier private tennis facilities in the Southeast. Along with six indoor and 15 outdoor courts, the facility also features The Social, a restaurant and bar, and facilities to host social events. Jacques, the tennis director, is a graduate of Huntsville High, where he won state titles in singles and doubles. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference singles champion and an NCAA All-American at the University of Georgia, and won the USTA Boys’ 18s Clay Court National Championship. He is a member of the Alabama Tennis Foundation Hall of Fame and the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.