Tennis

‘Serve. Rally. Pour.’ perfect for players getting back into tennis

The Prince family volunteering last year at a Special Olympics event in the Upstate. Back row: Shelby Prince, Marshall Prince, Zachary Prince and Jonathan Prince.
The Prince family volunteering last year at a Special Olympics event in the Upstate. Back row: Shelby Prince, Marshall Prince, Zachary Prince and Jonathan Prince. Special to The State

Martha Farmer hadn’t played tennis in years. After attending the 2015 U.S. Open and seeing the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the 31-year-old Columbia resident wanted to get back into the sport she had played occasionally 20 years ago, when she was in middle school.

Farmer, though, didn’t want anything too formal. She wanted laid-back tennis, an organized night where she could hit with other people her age and skill level.

She found that with “Serve. Rally. Pour.” It’s the USTA South Carolina’s new tennis league for young professionals in the Midlands.

The informal league, which ran from September to November, gave more than 30 young professionals of varying tennis skill levels the chance to meet and play tennis with other people their age.

USTA South Carolina hosted the league at a local park every Wednesday for six weeks. The play was timed – players rotated every half hour – and organized by gender and skill level.

“I had a great time playing tennis with other people my age and skill level,” Farmer said.

Like Farmer, many of the participants were lapsed tennis players who wanted to get back on the court. Others were new to tennis. Some players were already enjoying organized tennis but jumped at the opportunity to meet and play with other young professionals.

“The league drew a range of players, which was great to see,” said USTA South Carolina community development coordinator Abby Galbreath, who ran the league.

Galbreath said she especially heard favorable comments regarding how relaxed the league was. Fellow participants, who sat on on-court benches, joked with each other and the competing players during changeovers. “We all especially enjoyed the camaraderie,” Farmer said.

USTA South Carolina plans to host more “Serve. Rally. Pour.” leagues throughout the state in 2016. For more information about future leagues, email Abby Galbreath at galbreath@sctennis.com or like USTA South Carolina on Facebook at facebook.com/sctennis.

Annual awards

Marshall Prince so badly wanted his family to enjoy tennis he proposed posting a daily reminder to his wife and their three children on the inside of the family’s Kings Grant home. Picture Notre Dame’s “PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” sign but with these words instead: “Jesus is Lord. Tennis is king. And we are the Princes.”

His family eventually vetoed the sign, but they have followed its message.

Jonathan Prince, 20, plays at a Charlotte tennis academy about four days a week and is pursuing a professional tennis career. Shelby Prince, 16, trains with her brother while attending school online. Zachary, 13, played on this year’s Class 3A boys state tennis championship team from A.C. Flora High.

“It’s hard to imagine our lives as a family without tennis,” said Marshall Prince, who started playing as a freshman at Newberry College and was on the team as a junior.

The family also volunteers at tennis events, including the Special Olympics. Their passion for tennis and helping the sport made them USTA South Carolina’s 2015 Tennis Family of the Year. They and the other USTA South Carolina annual award recipients were celebrated during a luncheon on Dec. 5 on Isle of Palms.

Another Columbia resident also was honored last weekend. WACH Fox broadcaster Derek Phillips received the USTA South Carolina Media Award.

Phillips has shared numerous tennis stories during the past couple years, including how Beverly Hill’s Lexington USTA league team rallied around her as she battled cancer, and how Columbia resident Lyn Hibino lost 130 pounds so she could keep playing tennis.

Braden works for the South Carolina office of the U.S. Tennis Association in the Harbison area of Columbia. He can be reached at braden@sctennis.com or by calling 803-781-2574.

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