It took years to bring the Fed Cup to town, and San Antonio tennis fans rewarded the effort with roaring crowds during two days of matches between the United States and Switzerland.
After hosting the international women’s team tennis competition at Freeman Coliseum organizers don’t expect San Antonio to have to wait another 28 years for the next elite tennis competition to come to town.
“I think with our first experience of hosting a Fed Cup here in San Antonio, we put a really good foot forward,” said Jenny Carnes, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the local organizing committee. “I think [the U.S. Tennis Association] was really impressed with the arena and the setup of their event in this facility. I think they really were impressed by the size and how it fit here at Freeman Coliseum. So I think we set ourselves up to host once again in the future.”
Competition concluded Sunday with a U.S. win, thanks to an emotional comeback singles victory from Sofia Kenin, ranked 36th in the world, and a dominating singles triumph for world No. 8 Sloane Stephens, local tennis fans were left to wonder when they next would get to see the sport played at the highest level here.
It had been 28 years since the last major tennis event in San Antonio, when No. 2 Steffi Graf defeated top-ranked Monica Seles in 1991 in the U.S. Hardcourt Championships.
“We’re open to [coming back to San Antonio],” said Jeff Ryan, senior director of team events for the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). “We’ve done in it in Nashville and we’ve done it in some other cities. We’re never going to close the door on
it, because when a team goes and wins like this and there is good organization behind it and all the things come together, it’s felt throughout the system. We would definitely consider coming back at some point.”
While bringing the Fed Cup back to town is a possibility, Ryan said, it could be complicated by proposed changes to the competition format that would steer the women’s event more in line with the men’s Davis Cup competition. Ryan said the Fed Cup is considering moving more of its event to the end of the year at one site, which would limit the number of events available for bids earlier in the year.
Ryan said one thing San Antonio has working in its favor is the setup at Freeman Coliseum, which worked well for the event. He said not every city that might be interested in hosting an event like the Fed Cup has a facility like Freeman Coliseum available.
The Fed Cup, early rounds of the Davis Cup, and pro exhibition matches are all likely targets for San Antonio in the future when it comes to bringing elite players to town, Ryan said.
The Fed Cup announced the U.S.-Switzerland matchup in late February. More than 10,000 fans attended the two days of competition, which coincided with a San Antonio Spurs playoff game Saturday and Easter Sunday as well as the first weekend of Fiesta. The USTA said 5,487 spectators saw Saturday’s matches and 4,749 attended Sunday in an arena configured to host 6,000.
Those attendance numbers were buoyed somewhat by discounted tickets offered through Groupon as well as a 2-for-1 ticket deal for military members.
“I think it was a great weekend,” Carnes said. “I feel like the tennis community came out and really supported something that was pretty new for San Antonio.”
The San Antonio Tennis Association already hosts numerous local, sectional, and national tournaments at the McFarlin Tennis Center and hosted a women’s pro event in 2016 with a $125,000 purse.
Pat Frost, president of Frost Bank and president of the local organizing committee, led the charge for nearly a decade to bring a major tennis competition to San Antonio and said earlier this spring he hopes the Fed Cup is just the start.
“Knowing Pat, he’s probably going to stay in touch on the women’s product and probably going to want to strive to host the men one day,” Ryan said of Frost. “I know he’s going to be at my door saying, ‘Hey, we’d love to host one of the early rounds of the Davis Cup.’ That would be awesome.”