World Team Tennis is supposed to be fun. The format, the intensity of the season, and even the fun rules makes it a great place to take families.
With that in mind the New York Sportimes may have taken it one step further.
Coach Chuck Adams is back for his fourth season helming the New York Squad, but and like back in 2007, he will have his wife and new mother Ashley Harkleroad right next to him on the bench, making a comeback from maternity leave from the sport.
“I think it’s a good break for Ashley to come out and still be a part of the tennis,” Adams said. “If you are on the tour, it’s all or nothing, going from city to city. This is a good way to get her feet wet and see if she enjoys the competition.”
Harkleroad has been on the sidelines for the past 2 ½ years with the birth of Adams and her son Charlie, born on March 30, 2009. Taking part in the Sony Ericsson Open back in March, she lost in the first round to Alicia Molik, 6-1 6-1, but is using this World Team Tennis season to really see if she should make a full blown comeback.
“Actually it’s really fun to be back out here again, be on a team, to be coached by him because I have been out for 2 ½ years. It’s actually really exciting,” Harkleroad said. “It’s slowly coming along. When I am at home, I am only practicing two days a week because I concentrate on being a full time mom. It’s actually a good opportunity to be a good opportunity for me to play every single day here and I am not used to that. It’s great practice for me and hopefully later in the season I will play singles and get better.”
Of course Adams has the interesting predicament of coaching his wife, which means balancing the harshness of being a coach without ending up in the doghouse.
“She has a great tennis mind,” he said. “She’s been coach by Jose Luis Clerc and Jay Berger. She is so knowledgeable with tennis that I just try to organize her and try to get her to improve. And I try to work on the same things I did four years ago. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Harkleroad only played in the women’s doubles portion of the Sportimes 21-20 win over the Washington Kastles last night at on Randall’s Island to open the season. It was a sparse crowd due to the holiday as the 2000 seat Sportime Stadium was probably half full. Yet, that didn’t cut down on the enthusiasm.
Howard Stern’s sidekick Robin Quivers was in attendance as was Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champion Leander Paes, taking the red-eye in to play for the Kastles and as the two and a half week season continues expect John McEnroe and Kim Clijsters to play for New York, with James Blake, Martina Hingis, Andy Roddick, and Serena Williams coming in, playing for various opponents.
“This is a way for Claude(Okin) the owner to promote this club and this tennis facility, especially now that he has the McEnroe Academy here and McEnroe is going to play in four matches for our club,” Adams said. “It’s a great fit. The new manager for our team John (Dado) is going to arrange some matches in the city so we can draw more than we do on Randall’s Island. The tennis is pretty high quality. Seventy five percent of the players are pretty recognizable.”
Of course with Clijsters playing for New York on July 19th, Adams has a unique opportunity to make it an all-mothers doubles matchup with the 2009 US Open Champion playing alongside his wife.
“We can have a playpen for the kids along side of the court,” Adams joked. “I would like to Ashley to give it one more shot out there. She’s only 25 and so talented. She can give it another run.”
And the fun is just starting as World Team Tennis goes on throughout the month of July.