A college tennis player hits a forehand during a match at the annual River Forest Collegiate Invitational. (Courtesy River Forest Collegiate Invitational Facebook page)

This is my favorite time of the sports year. Major League Baseball pennant races are in full effect, the NFL and NCAA football seasons have started with the NBA season right around the corner.

However, the best part of early fall for me (aside from enjoying typically lovely, temperate weather) is tennis. I enjoyed watching the U.S. Open in New York (congratulations to tournament champions Naomi Osaka & Novak Djokovic) and I am greatly looking forward to covering the upcoming Laver Cup in Chicago featuring tennis legends like Roger Federer, Djokovic, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and of course, Rod Laver.

However, until that historic tennis exhibition pitting Team Europe against Team World happens at the United Center, I am very excited about checking out the River Forest Collegiate Invitational.

This year’s field includes eight men’s college tennis 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 event is sanctioned by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

The host site is the River Forest Tennis Club (615 Lathrop, River Forest) and additional matches will be played at the Oak Park Tennis Center (544 N. Harlem, River Forest).

“The caliber of Division 1 tennis at our event is outstanding,” said John Griffin, tournament director 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 tournament takes place Friday through Sunday (Sept. 14-16), with play starting at 9 a.m. each day. Matches will be held for a full day of play on Friday & Saturday and a half-day of play on Sunday.

The event is free and open to the public.

“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,” Griffin said.

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

RFTC hosted the National Clay Court Championships for men on a regular basis from 1935 until 1966. Throughout those years, top men players in the world came to compete at RFTC –notably Laver, Pancho Gonzalez, Bobby Riggs and Arthur Ashe.

RFTC also hosted the women’s National Clay Court Championships on several occasions. Billie Jean Moffitt (King) was one of the top competitors at the tourney.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the club also hosted a large national junior tournament called the River Forest Junior Invitational and attracted the top juniors in the world. In the mid-late 1980s, the club hosted the Girls’ 16 & 18 Under National Clay Court Championships. Jennifer Capriati won the tournament in 1988.

River Forest Collegiate Invitational

When: Sept. 14-16 (Friday thru Sunday)- Play starts at 9 a.m. each day. Matches will be held for a full day of play on Friday & Saturday and a half-day of play on Sunday.

Where: River Forest Tennis Club- host site (615 Lathrop, River Forest); Oak Park Tennis Center- (544 N. Harlem, River Forest).

Teams: University Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Marquette University, University of Detroit Mercy, St. Louis University, Youngstown State 

*Tournament is free/open to the public




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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...