Men's college tennis returns to River Forest Tennis Club

Free, annual clay court tourney draws several Division I teams to delight of local fans

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For tennis fans (or sports followers in general), who enjoyed watching Sloane Stephens recently win her first Grand Slam title and Rafael Nadal his 16th Major championship at the US Open, don't despair now that the pro tennis scene is winding down for the year and is essentially done in terms of outdoor tennis.

You can still check out high-quality tennis on display in pleasant weather conditions in River Forest this weekend.

The River Forest Collegiate Invitational Men's Division 1 annual tennis tournament returns to the Oak Park and River Forest area. The prestigious three-day event will be held Friday through Sunday, Sept. 15-17. The event is free and open to the public, and fans are enthusiastically welcome.

The home site for the invitational is the River Forest Tennis Club (615 Lathrop), with matches also played throughout the event at the Oak Park Tennis Center (544 N. Harlem).

Play begins at 9 a.m. all three days with doubles in the morning on Friday and Saturday followed by singles, and concluding on Sunday morning with the final round of singles.

This year's field includes eight teams from around the Midwest and several leading conferences: University of Detroit Mercy (Detroit/Horizon), Eastern Illinois University (Charleston/Ohio Valley), Marquette University (Milwaukee/Big East), Northern Illinois University (DeKalb/MAC), St. Louis University (St. Louis/Atlantic 10), University Illinois at Chicago (Chicago/Horizon), Valparaiso University (Valparaiso) and Youngstown State (Youngstown, Ohio/Horizon).

"The caliber of Division 1 tennis at our event is outstanding," said John Griffin, tournament director of the event and past president of the River Forest Tennis Club. "Until you see the players up close, it's hard to believe how hard they hit the ball and how fast they move.

"Whether you come to watch at the River Forest Tennis Club or the Oak Park Tennis Center, you'll see spectacular points from one court to the next. On top of that, the guys are really pumped up trying to win matches for their teams."

The invite is an official ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) event and will have USTA umpires/referees on site at all times. Matches are played on Har-Tru courts, all with the latest hydro-grid underground watering system.

Play will feature three rounds of singles and three rounds of doubles for all players/teams, which includes main draw, back draw and consolation rounds. The tournament is one of the premier Midwest collegiate tennis events of the fall season.

The River Forest Tennis Club, the tournament's primary host site, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and for many years hosted the U.S. National Men's Clay Court Championships, as well as the River Forest Junior Open and Girls' 18 & Under National Clay Court Championships.

"Each year we try to make the event a little bit better," Griffin said. "We couldn't do it without the cooperation and volunteers from the two clubs, along with help from the Oak Park Country Club, which generously allows us to use courts for additional matches."

The visiting players and coaches enjoy the experience of playing tennis as well as spending time in the Oak Park and River Forest community.

"Our members provide free housing for all of the out-of-town teams, plus we serve lunches and a dinner for the players and coaches," Griffin said. "We do everything we can to welcome the teams and make this the most unique event they'll play all year. And from the reaction of the players, they really appreciate it."

Check the River Forest Collegiate Tennis Invitational Facebook page for additional information.

"As always, the event is free and open to the public," Griffin said. "We welcome any casual or serious fans of tennis to come out to either the River Forest Tennis Club or the Oak Park Tennis Center to watch and enjoy."

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