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Murray named ‘Great American Tennis Town'

October 2, 2007 11:08 AM

Courtesy of Tommy Dillard/Ledger & Times by Tommy Dillard Sports Writer,

When Tennis Life Magazine photo editor Susan Mullane pitched the idea of recognizing great tennis towns in the magazine, it only seemed fitting that her adopted hometown of Murray would be the first to be honored.

What was it that sealed the deal for Murray? A great heart for tennis - and Mel Purcell. Purcell, former ATP professional and current Murray State head coach, is the face of tennis in Murray, Mullane said.

“Anytime we ever tell tennis people about Murray, they say ‘Oh, the home of Mel Purcell,'” Mullane said.

In addition to a vibrant tennis-playing community, Mullane said Murray has two assets most small towns don't have - Purcell and strong tennis programs at Murray State University.

“Those are the two things that separate Murray from Mayfield,” Mullane said. “Murray State and Mel Purcell.”

Mullane said the entire western Kentucky region has an underestimated tennis tradition and heart. From strong high school programs to a history of hosting USTA tournaments, the region has a lot to offer for tennis aficionados.

The honor will be bestowed on Murray in the magazine's January and February edition. Mullane said Tennis Life plans on honoring a city once or twice a year, with Murray serving as the inaugural honoree.

Mullane and her husband, Fred, also a photographer, spent Monday driving around town, looking for places to do photo shoots. The magazine will utilize local models and tennis players for the shoots, which will take place on the courthouse square, at Murray State, Kentucky Lake and at several local businesses.

The “Great American Tennis Towns” feature will go along with the magazine's annual tennis fashion editions. Tennis Life is sold in 30 countries, including Mexico and the United Kingdom, and has a circulation of about 150,000 and is based out of Tampa, Fla.

Up until this year, fashion photo shoots had always been done in Tampa, Mullane said. Tired of shooting the same places, Mullane proposed to take the photo shoots on the road with the first stop being Murray.

For Purcell's part, he thinks the honor will help Murray land future tennis tournaments, and in turn, help out his program at Murray State.

“For my recruits, for them to come in here and always see tennis going in, that will help us down the road,” he said. “If the top junior tennis players in the state are coming here and playing junior tournaments, they're going to see our University and see our facilities and then when we make contact with them, they'll already have been here and seen tennis in Murray.”

Along with many other members of the community, Purcell played a role in pulling for Murray to be the first “Great American Tennis Town” honored in the magazine, including a proposal that was written for the magazine.

For all involved, the honor is a chance to further the role tennis plays in the community. Mullane said she hopes the recognition will help Murray to earn the right to host more Kentucky state and USTA tennis tournaments.

“We want to bring more tennis to this area of Kentucky,” Mullane said. “I firmly believe tennis is a sport for the lifetime. When you get children involved in tennis at an early age, it is something they can do and enjoy for the rest of their lives.”




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