CHICAGO (CBS) — Sure we’ve got professional basketball and football but have you ever thought of Chicago as a tennis town?
Fans will get the chance to see some of the biggest names in tennis go shot for shot here next week, but it’s not just the competition that has people talking – it’s the location of the big event.READ MORE: City Hall, Chicago FOP File Dueling Lawsuits In Heated Standoff Over Vaccine Mandate
Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains.
At XS Tennis Village, located in the Washington Park neighborhood, there’s no rest for the weary.
Nia Cooper, 16, is on the court doing drills for 5 to 6 hours a day.
“I was doing the same shot for like 30 minutes, and I get no breaks,” said Cooper, explaining her training that was exhausting just to watch.
The young players who practice diligently at the facility are hoping to become household names. Inspiration to keep going came recently by way of Venus Williams.
The famous tennis star hosted a kids’ clinic at XS last month while in town to face off against other professionals in a tournament hosted by XS.
“Seeing them [pros] practice – or even I got to hit with a couple – it was amazing. It was surreal,” said Cooper, who will get that opportunity again next week.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: October Payments Hitting Parents' Bank Accounts
Media risers are going up, umpire chairs are in place. XS is about to hold its third professional competition in 2021 alone. This one is called the “Chicago Fall Classic” and features $500,000 up for grabs, as well as a chance to climb the world rankings. Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina, Madison Keys, Danielle Collins, Kim Clijsters, Bianca Andreescu, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sakkari, and more will be in Chicago to play.
“Historically, you don’t see events like this come to neighborhoods like this,” said XS founder Kamau Murray.
The site where XS Tennis now stands used to be home to the Robert Taylor Homes public housing complex. Murray said building his tennis center on 55th and State was geographically intentional.
“You know, access is everything; not only from a financial standpoint, just from a location standpoint,” he said.
Being in the middle of Chicago’s Southside cuts down on travel time for many players, especially minorities.
“I can go home for an hour and then come back, because I only live 10 minutes away,” said Cooper, who added many of her tennis-playing buddies also appreciate the facility’s proximity to their homes.
Murray argues bringing million- dollar athletes like Williams to a lower-income area can also elicit pride and future opportunities.
“Show that you can have events like this, in a neighborhood like this, and nothing happened, still get great attendance,” he said, calling it a “step forward for the sport.”MORE NEWS: Chicago Cubs Hire Carter Hawkins As New General Manager
The “Chicago Fall Classic” qualifiers begin Saturday, with competition heating up on Monday. Tickets start around $50.