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Sports & Leisure

The Largest Tennis Tournament in the World Is Coming to Dallas

Come February 18, there won't be a court to spare.

Dallas is no stranger to Guinness World Records. We’ve had the most successful primetime TV soap, the most valuable NFL team, the tallest house of cards, the largest Frito pie, the biggest parade of toy red wagons, and the most people simultaneously launching confetti cannons.

Next in line for the record book is Tennis Competitors of Dallas (TCD), which is hoping to host a record-breaking event on February 18. On that Thursday, 1,238 of the organization’s women players will divide up into 619 teams, spread across 15 flights, to compete at 27 different tennis facilities, on 254 courts, utilizing 304 cans of balls. According to tournament director Beth Mahler, weather permitting, they will easily best the previous record of 256 doubles teams.

(While they are at it, they should consider unseating the Princeton class of 1998, which previously set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Gathering of People Wearing Tennis Outfits in 2013, with a measly 252 reunion attendees who, btw, had to borrow 200 rackets from Prince because they didn’t even have their own on hand. Please.)

TCD was co-founded in 1977 by Nancy Jeffett and Dixie Meyer. The first 18 teams were made up of self-avowed “housewives” looking for organized league play. Now, the nonprofit has grown to more than 7,000 players across five doubles leagues, including mixed, ladies, the age-based Love-50 and Love-60, and a brand new Friday pickleball league.

Mahler last held the role of tournament director 10 years ago. She says that when the pandemic started, she decided she wanted to get involved on the board again. “I wanted to get back to the community,” she says, “and tennis is a great way to stay mentally and physically healthy with COVID, because it’s a safe sport.”

When I ask her if she was aiming for the record book when she retook the role, she laughs. “When we started out, we were expecting to host 1,000 ladies, which is the average of the last few years. The fall tournament was cancelled, so when we opened up registration–it normally takes three weeks to fill–within 24 hours it was full. I was like, obviously ladies want to play, so let me see if we can add some more facilities. The additional ones filled in four hours. I called a few more facilities, added those, and it filled again. I think we tapped out every available facility in the DFW area. The record is 256, so we’ve applied. We think it’s a great way for the community to bond together, have a common cause. I didn’t start out [going for the record], the ladies just got excited. They are ready for tennis!”

Mahler hopes that more longtime Dallasites and new transplants get familiar with TCD, which you don’t have to belong to a club or be a member of the USTA to join. Anyone at any skill level can apply to captain a new team or request to join an existing one.

“I’ll tell you, for a lot of ladies, it’s a lifeline,” Mahler says. “When somebody first moves here, it’s a great way to get in touch and meet people. It’s a lifestyle–it’s not just a sport.”

 

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