Nearly three months after the devastating floods that impacted Greenbrier County and so much of West Virginia, The Greenbrier is set to welcome thousands of tennis fans to Center Court at Creekside for the 2016 version of The Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic, Sept. 17-18.
The June 23 floods left The Greenbrier’s state-of-the-art tennis facility, which opened in June of 2015, filled with nearly 20 feet water, but the 2,500-seat stadium has been cleaned and repaired and is ready for action.
In fact, the three matches that will be played during The Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic will take place on a brand new DecoTurf surface, identical to the courts at the U.S. Open.
“We decided to change the court from Har-Tru clay to a hard court,” said Terry Deremer, The Greenbrier’s director of tennis. “Our thought was that one of our goals was to attract the Federation Cup or the Davis Cup. The men, in particular, wanted to play on a hard court, and it also helps us attract current players for both practices and exhibitions. So we decided to change it to a hard court. We’re really excited about the new surface, and the players are too.”
The Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic is now in its fifth year, and for the first time the tennis showcase, which celebrates The Greenbrier’s rich history with the sport, will include women’s players. Venus Williams and Madison Keys, both currently ranked in the top 10 in the world, will be the inaugural women’s participants. They both recently reached the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open, and Keys reached the semifinal round at the Olympics in Rio.
“We’re excited to be in the inaugural women’s event,” said Williams. “We’ve had great matches in the past, and I’m sure this will be another great match and great preparation for us going into the end of the season.”
Williams, currently ranked No. 6 in the WTA Rankings and a former world No. 1 with seven Grand Slam singles titles, will take on Keys, a 21-year-old rising star currently ranked No. 9 in the WTA Rankings, in a singles match at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17. They will be the first current professionals to compete in The Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic.
“I think it’s fun when you get to do an exhibition,” said Keys. “You still compete and show off your tennis, but you get to have a little more fun with it, and it’s a lot less stressful. I think we put on more of a show for the crowd.”
The second singles match of the opening day will put 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, The Greenbrier’s Tennis Professional Emeritus, up against John McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam Champion with 77 career singles titles. That match is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start.
“I’m looking forward to coming back and playing against John,” said Sampras. “We played there five years ago in the first match. He was one of my heroes growing up, and I’ve always enjoyed my time there at The Greenbrier.”
Center Court at Creekside had not been constructed during McEnroe’s first two appearance at The Greenbrier, and last year his match had to be moved inside because of rain. The International Tennis Hall of Famer said he’s looking forward to playing inside the beautiful new facility, which was the vision of The Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, as well as Eaton CEO and tennis supporter Sandy Cutler.
“It will be nice to be able to do that,” said McEnroe. “I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve been there, and obviously playing Pete is awesome.”
The schedule for Sunday, Sept. 18, features a mixed doubles match with Sampras and Williams taking on McEnroe and Keys.
“I absolutely love doubles,” said Williams. “I’m looking forward to teaming up and maybe getting a win. We’ll see what Madison has to say about that.”
For Sampras, the mixed doubles experience will be something new and exciting.
“I played mixed doubles with my sister in the juniors, and that may be the last time I played,” he said. “So I never actually played mixed doubles like John has. It will be new to me, and I’m looking forward to it.”
More than anything, though, the players agree that they’re most excited about simply getting on the court and providing a few hours of smiles, laughter and excitement for a community that has experienced so many difficult times.
“I know Venus and I are both just really happy that everything was able to come together so that we could still do this amazing event,” said Keys. “Hopefully we can create happy memories for a fun weekend.”
“We understand that tennis doesn’t come through that area very often,” added McEnroe. “You want to be a part of something they’ll remember. You want to put on a good show, but you also want to play well.”
Tickets for single days and the entire weekend are still available for purchase, as are packages that include overnight accommodations at The Greenbrier. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Greenbrier.com/TennisClassic.