by Sam Alderman
A new strain of tennis fever has struck Boise, and its temperature is only expected to rise from now until early April, when the Davis Cup Quarterfinals sweep into the Treasure Valley.
Following a neck-and-neck competition with Tacoma, Wash., to secure the event, the United States Tennis Association's decision to bring the international tennis tournament to Idaho will “put Boise in the spotlight,” according to local tennis officials.
“I think the entire tennis community is just ecstatic,” said Steve Bickham, executive director of the Idaho Tennis Association. “It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that kind of just dropped in our lap.”
Bill McGrath, tennis director at the Boise Racquet and Swim Club, is equally thrilled for the arrival of the Davis Cup.
“The entire racquet club is pinching itself,” McGrath told Boise Weekly. “It’s a sport that transcends itself, because it’s so big, it’s actually news.”
Katie Ware, Idaho Tennis Association district league coordinator, agreed, saying, “Boise has hosted a few tennis events in the past. People aren’t aware of how rooted the tennis community is here.”
The Davis Cup, the touring global competition for professional tennis supremacy, includes national teams competing in singles and doubles events. By the time the tournament hits Boise, it will be in the quarterfinals stage and will feature the United States versus Serbia, which boasts the No. 1 men's player in the world, Novak Djokovic. In this week's edition of Boise Weekly, Boise State head tennis coach Greg Patton calls Djokovic "the most charismatic tennis payer in the world, right now."
Meanwhile, the U.S. team is expected to feature the Bryan brothers—Mike and Bob—who just won their 13th Grand Slam doubles title at January's Australian Open.
“It’s an opportunity to see the rising stars in tennis on the American side,” said McGrath.
But neither team's lineup is set in stone. In fact, the list of exact players won’t be available until one or two weeks before the start of the match. Changes are made based on players’ health, injuries and also if athletes would rather practice on clay courts to prepare for the French Open.
“There’s no way to know any of that, but these guys are playing for their country, so they’re going to bring the best team they could possibly have,” said Bickham.
Either way, everyone BW spoke to said the Davis Cup vibe will be exhilarating.
“This is the real thing. It’s still the best tennis Boise will ever see,” said Bickham.
Fans from across the globe are expected to travel to Boise to watch the matches, scheduled to be held at Boise State's Taco Bell Arena.
“I imagine Taco Bell Arena will be rocking and rolling,” said McGrath. “[Boise] has an enthusiastic and dedicated group of fans.”
McGrath said the world-class tennis tournament should “allow other sports and other events to consider Boise.”
Tennis gurus around the Treasure Valley plan to use this influx of tennis publicity as a way to spark new interest in the sport. It is, after all, the second most popular sport in the world.
“I think the impact will be primarily among young people,” said McGrath. “Kids will say, ‘Tennis is cool.’”
Bickham said that he believes there is no better way to market the sport than to bring in the big guys.
“You talk to any professional tennis player who is top five or top ten in the world, and the reason they got hooked on [tennis] is because they went to see something as a kid,” he said. “Kids in Boise have never had this kind of opportunity.”