New York Empire brings tennis legends to the Bronx

Sloane Stephens and Ulises Blanch strategizing during a doubles match.
Bruce Adler

The scorching hot New York Empire have been tearing up the court at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning in the World Team Tennis squad’s inaugural Bronx season.

This Crotona Park-based squad was given a personal christening by tennis legend Billie Jean King on the team’s media day on Thursday, June 25.

“To have this facility in the Bronx is absolutely major,” King said in regards to the state of the art Cary Leeds Center.

Once things got underway for the Empire against the San Diego Aviators on a packed Sunday, July 14 opening night, the number one American tennis player, John Isner took to the Bronx court for the first time in his career.

Although the Empire fell in the season opener, Isner along with teammates all marveled over their new home in the borough.

“I’ve actually never seen it before but this is so, so nice,” Isner said about not only the venue but the crowd’s energy after his match.

That sentiment was reiterated on Friday, July 19 when the Venus Williams and the Washington Kastles visited the borough for a match as well.

Venus Williams playing agaisnt the New York Empire in the Bronx.
Bruce Adler

“It was awesome,” Williams said following her first Bronx match, despite her team’s ultimate falter to New York.

The future hall of famer said that the WTT matches she plays help her transition from Wimbledon grass to a hard court surface.

Williams and Isner aren’t the only two tennis prodigies that are playing in the Bronx this summer, though.

In addition to 2017 US Open Champion Sloane Stephens, Ulises Blanch, a 21-year old Puerto Rican born rookie has been serving at 140 miles per hour for the Empire this season in the process of dismantling opponents left and right.

“There’s a lot of talk about who could be the next great American tennis player and Ulises is definitely in the conversation,” Empire head coach Luke Jensen said about his Nike sponsored ace.

While the Empire looks to strike back from its current 5-5 season, the team will be on the west coast until Monday, July 29 when facing the Springfield Lasers in the Bronx.

Number one ranked American John Isner playing with the New York Empire.
The Bronxer

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