December 13, 2013

Tennis Insider: TCU drawing fans with right mix

TCU sets attendance records in 2013 and plans more fun for fans in 2014.

It’s the end of the year, and the tennis world has gone into hibernation, but it was a good year for local fans. The Texas Wild made its World TeamTennis debut in Irving, and quality pro tennis was staged at Challenger events in Dallas and Irving, and Futures events at TCU and in Mansfield.

Fans also enjoyed impressive collegiate-level tennis at TCU as the Frogs made their Big 12 debut, and the men’s and women’s teams went on to reach the NCAA Tournament.

TCU also was recognized as the nation’s leader in attendance, posting top NCAA figures in total fans, average turnout and the largest crowd at an individual match (1,425 vs. Texas A&M on Feb. 2). The Bartzen Varsity Courts featured three of the nation’s top five-attended matches, setting a record for a single season.

That’s an accomplishment TCU coach David Roditi is proud of.

“At end of the day, I think that enhances the program, enhances our players’ experience and it just makes the matches more fun,” said Roditi, who holds the TCU record for overall matches won during his playing career. “And we want to create a fun environment for the community. College tennis can be very competitive, and very challenging, but 10 years from now, we want our players to be able to look back and remember that they had the opportunity to play in front of 1,000 fans.”

When Roditi took over as coach three years ago, one of his goals was to increase attendance. He’s done it by taking a page from TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle’s playbook. The team has provided free tacos, free pizza, played music and has organized free clinics that give local players of all ages a chance to hit with members of the team.

“Coach Schlossnagle helped me with the vision,” Roditi said. “The baseball program has been very successful from a competitive standpoint and from a fan standpoint. The games are very family-oriented. The community comes out. You see kids running around, celebrating birthdays at the game.”

In addition to freebies, TCU has treated fans to quality tennis. The Frogs kick off the spring home schedule with the TCU Spring Invitational on Feb. 21-22 against University of South Carolina Upstate, San Francisco and Lamar.

Other key dates include matches against Texas on March 1, Tulsa on March 2, Oklahoma on March 30 and Baylor on April 8. TCU will also play host to the Big 12 men’s and women’s championships April 24-27.

“By the time we play Baylor and Oklahoma, they both could easily be in the top five in the nation, if not No. 1 or 2,” Roditi said. “Both of those teams have a real shot at a national championship. And Texas-Tulsa is a huge weekend for us. We always have a home match against Texas, and Tulsa may not seem like a big name to the average fan, but they are always ranked in the top 20, and it has become a big rivalry.”

The TCU women’s team will open the spring season at home on Jan. 14 with Syracuse, led by coach and former French Open doubles champion Luke Jensen, and the Frogs play UT Arlington later that afternoon. The schedule also includes key home matches against Memphis on Feb. 15, SMU on Feb. 21, Texas on March 14 and Baylor on April 2.

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