National Public Parks Tennis Championships celebrates 100 years

Cindy Cantrell

The National Public Parks Tennis Championships will celebrate its 100th anniversary by returning to its birthplace—St. Louis, Mo.


Hosted by USTA St. Louis with assistance from USTA Missouri Valley, the championships will take place Sept. 14-17 at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in Forest Park. The weekend, funded in part by an annual grant from the USTA, will include NTRP and age-group tournaments for adults, juniors and college-level players; wheelchair and adaptive exhibitions; a social competition for wood racquet enthusiasts; a non-elimination orange, green, and yellow ball event for juniors; and a centennial celebration party.


“This is a huge milestone for our organization—and for tennis,” said Marcia Bach, who has served the National Public Parks Tennis Association (NPPTA) since her appointment as its first female board member in 1977. “The National Public Parks Tennis Championships creates pride in every community it reaches and results in park and facility improvements. Every year, it is an important reminder about the impact of public park tennis and of the millions who play on our public courts.”


“It’s about the tennis, but also bringing people together and celebrating tennis in the parks,” said Megan Kovacs, executive director of the USTA St. Louis District. “We’re super excited to host this event and bring some glory back into tournament play.” 

“It truly touches my heart that we get to celebrate 100 years of public park tennis, as well as all the people who have kept this tournament alive and thriving,” added NPPTA volunteer president Scott Hanover, a former president of USTA Missouri Valley who learned the sport at age 12 on the public courts in Des Moines. “What better way to mark the occasion than to come full-circle to St. Louis, where it all began.”


The NPPTA was founded in 1923 by Dwight Davis, a native St. Louisan who donated the Davis Cup as a trophy for international tennis competition while a senior at Harvard University. After returning home following graduation, he led the charge for organized competition outside of private schools and country clubs as the city’s parks commissioner.

The first National Public Parks Tournament was held for men only, while the inaugural women’s championship took place at the White House in Washington, D.C. in 1930. Juniors debuted in 1948, followed by senior men’s singles (45s) in 1959, men’s doubles in 1961, senior women’s (40s) divisions in 1964 and other events throughout the 1980s and 1990s.


The tournament has taken place annually with few exceptions: 1942 to 1945 during World War II, 2002 due to site complications and 2021-22 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jodie Adams, who appreciates the National Public Parks Tennis Championships as a longtime NPPTA board member, past site host and former women’s over-30 singles and doubles champion, says she’s been proud to witness both its evolution and enduring strengths over her 45 years of involvement.


“As a one-time qualifier for the US Open, the event has a rich history at the highest level of American tennis while remaining open to any site that wishes to host and any player who wants to participate,” she says.


At age 80, Ken McAllister—a retired NPPTA president, former executive director of USTA Texas and self-described “public parks guy”—says he’s looking forward to seeing old friends, reminiscing and competing this year “as a celebration, more than any chance of me doing anything.”


“I’ve always valued the importance of public park tennis to the growth of this sport, and to the enjoyment it provides to the millions of players in the U.S.,” McAllister says. “The NPPTA, and the annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships, deserves support from all areas of this industry.”


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Cindy Cantrell is a contributing editor for Racquet Sports Industry magazine.

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