The Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship arrived in Houston in 2001 — moving to its current location at River Oaks Country Club in 2008 — and the clay-court event has proven a philanthropic presence in the community ever since.
The ATP 250 this year received a $15,000 ATP ACES For Charity grant to provide funds to help continue the initiative of resurfacing an NJTL site and offer programs so that the kids and families in the community can have a safer, more enjoyable place to play tennis. But the Houston tournament has long been supportive of its city.
The event’s partnership with the Houston Tennis Association’s NJTL began a few years ago with volunteer support at some of the signature events of the summer—the NJTL Regional Rally, NJTL Reading Rally and the NJTL Kids’ Day— and in 2017, HTA NJTL became an official charity of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.
In 2018, the clay-court tournament coordinated a special effort to benefit the NJTL. When Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston in August 2017, there was much devastation. Many of the ATP pros who played the tournament contacted Tournament Director Bronwyn Greer to see how they might help.
When the event rolled around in April 2018, seven top American players made personal donations toward resurfacing the two tennis courts at Sunnyside Park: Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, John Isner, Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey, Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. Isner, Querrey, the Bryan Brothers, Frances Tiafoe and Steve Johnson made a visit to Sunnyside Park, where they met and hit tennis balls with the NJTL kids.
“It’s bigger than tennis,” Tiafoe said. “Terrible things happen everywhere, and it’s always good to give back, and that’s what sports are about, togetherness. It brings people together.”
The visit was especially meaningful to the 20-year-old American, who grew up playing in public parks and visited similar grassroots programs in Maryland.
“It reminds me of where I started, very humble beginnings,” Tiafoe said. “I do my best every day to try to become someone to be able to give back. Because I was given so much, I was very fortunate, very lucky.”
Last year, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka visited local courts that were being refurbished for use by the HTA NJTL. They were excited to see how enthusiastic the kids and their coaches were.
“These kids were great. They were actually really engaged. You can tell they are here on a consistent basis, because you don’t get to be that good without putting in time and effort,” Opelka said. “With a nicer surface and everything, I’m sure [the courts] will get tons of great use.”
The event runs a ticket turnback program to support the Trauma and Emergency Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Fans are encouraged to return tickets for any session they cannot attend so they may be re-sold, with the entire purchase price being donated to the hospital. The program has raised more than $265,000 for charity.
The tournament has supported a plethora of charitable programs over the years, but one thing to note is that the event has become the presenting sponsor of its Kids’ Day, which brings together 750-1,000 students who meet attendance requirements during the summer. The event is a highlight with the kids receiving bus transportation, t-shirts and snacks to participate in a day full of music, art, tennis lessons and special guests — including ATP Tour players — on that day.