Fed Cup certain to be a big smash.
It was a well-kept secret, to be sure. No one even knew the city of Worcester was quietly bidding against the likes of Phoenix and Kansas City for the Fed Cup, the marquee women's team tennis competition.
So for the city to actually win the Fed Cup - and the likely participation of fiery former world No. 1 Serena Williams, probably the greatest player women's tennis has ever known - is incredible.
Last Tuesday's announcement by U.S. Tennis Association officials at the DCU Center has fired up tennis fans and members of the Worcester area's tight-knit tennis community like nothing since, well, the Virginia Slims Tour stopped here from 1986 to 1990.
Now the scramble is on to get tickets for the Feb. 4-5 matchup between the U.S. and Belarus.
Let naysayers prattle on about the supremacy of baseball, football, basketball and hockey in traditional sports-crazed New England. I am saying here that the Fed Cup with superstar Serena will draw a rabid crowd of at least 7,000-plus. (It's unlikely, but possible, that sister Venus Williams, another great champion, will play, due to illness.)
Let's just trust that the umpire and line judges will be wearing body armor to guard against Serena's often-volatile temper.
In any event, certain to be among the Fed Cup spectators at the DCU Center this winter will be Kim and Steve McCrohon, the well-known Worcester tennis couple and mixed doubles team.
Kim is a former coach of the Doherty High boys' tennis team, former president of the Worcester Tennis Club, and a skilled player and doubles specialist. Steve is a 4.5 player with a huge serve and big net game.
"Steve and I are both very excited about the Fed Cup coming to Worcester," Kim said earlier this week. "Of course, we hope that both Serena and Venus can play, without injury or illness. Either way, it's a great avenue to bring attention to an already terrific sport and city. Having the Fed Cup in our own backyard is going to be very exciting. We may have to take a couple of days off from work. Although, in general, tennis fans - including myself - may be reserved, I can't wait to be a part of the audience chanting USA, USA!"
I have known the McCrohons for a couple of decades and have played against them enough to know that I never want to meet them in the early rounds of a tournament again. They're tough.
They epitomize the spirit of Central Mass. tennis - willing to play anywhere, with anyone, and possessing a boundless enthusiasm for the game.
Join them in savoring the highest level of women's professional tennis in the world when the Fed Cup arrives in Worcester.
There are plenty of other good tennis stories in our region as the game heads indoors for the winter.
In Central Massachusetts, tennis is played indoors at the Paxton Sports Centre, Greendale YMCA in Worcester, Westboro Tennis & Swim Club, Shrewsbury Health & Racquet Club, Orchard Hills Athletic Club in Lancaster; and Wayside Racquet & Swim Club in Marlboro.
A USTA mixed doubles team from the Paxton Sports Centre has advanced to the national championships at the 6.0 level.
The team, captained by Christine Richards, will represent New England in Tucson Nov. 18-20.
Tennis in public schools
In a really promising development for area tennis, USTA New England is making a big push toward making tennis a part of the Worcester public schools' physical education curriculum.
Last Friday, the school district's PE teachers got three hours of training from a USTA-certified instructor, focusing on 10-and-under tennis using the USTA's new smaller court and racquets, and bigger, softer balls.
This exciting new approach to youth tennis also allows the game to be played without traditional outdoor or indoor courts.
The training was arranged by Worcester's former athletic director, Colleen O'Brien. I'm sure her able successor, Dave Shea, will be just as strong a tennis supporter.
Shaun Sutner can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Sunday - Closing day, Worcester Tennis Club.
Oct. 21 - Westboro Tennis & Swim Club, USTA-sanctioned 14-and-under 6.0 boys' and girls' tournaments.
Nov. 4 - Wayside Racquet & Swim Club, Marlboro, USTA men's and women's 3.5 singles and combined 7.0 mixed doubles sectional championships.
Nov. 26 - Paxton Sports Centre, USTA 12-and-under and 14-and-under 7.0 boys' and girls' tournaments.