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Shelley Susman grew up in a tennis family in La Jolla. Her mother, Karen Hantze Susman, won a singles title at Wimbledon in 1962 as well as several double titles alongside Billie Jean King. Her father, Rod Susman, was a top-seeded men’s player.

For Susman, now in her 40s, tennis played an important part of her childhood. By the age of 18, after winning a CIF championship as a student at La Jolla High School, Susman became the fourth ranked player in the country. And then an injury forced her to the sidelines. In the following years, she taught tennis and later moved to the United Kingdom. It was in England that she took on the tennis establishment, volleying for more public tennis courts and more youth tennis programs.

Susman's efforts were recognized this past September when the United States Professional Tennis Association awarded Susman a Star Award for her work to make tennis more accessible in England, for making an "indelible mark on [her] community through the sport of tennis."

Susman has returned to San Diego and teaches tennis at San Dieguito Tennis Club and Surf and Turf Tennis Club in Del Mar. She continues her work to gain more public access and awareness for the sport. Susman says she knows of only eight to ten public courts in the City of San Diego, the rest are all private courts that charge admission for access and fees for lessons.

"This is a national epidemic. There are so many variances and stages from what it was supposed to be. The worst stage is private sublets on public courts," writes Susman in an email. "San Diego Park and Recreation needs to standardize their practices to free usage. I hope to help with sponsorships and "Friends of the Park" stuff, [such as] washing courts and providing maintenance. Sure, pro-tennis is great, but not dominating all the courts to turn a profit so that people, even if they want to pay court usage, can't get a court."

Next week Susman will meet with a San Diego Park and Recreation official. During that meeting she hopes to put the ball in the city's court to establish more public access for the sport, similar access to sports such as basketball, soccer, and skateboarding.

"Other parts of our parks are not charged," says Susman during a phone interview. "You can go play basketball, skateboard for free, but as far as tennis goes, it seems as if there is a tennis tax."

For more information on Susman's efforts, email her at shelley@sls10s.com.

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Comments

SLS10S Jan. 3, 2010 @ 4:34 p.m.

The existing public courts must be made available FOR public once again and free usage ! NO MORE TENNIS TAX and NO more private sublets off of these PUBLIC courts ! COMMUNITY programming ... goes A long way . ; ) Happy New Year !

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shermals Jan. 4, 2010 @ 9:39 a.m.

Ms. Susman makes a very good argument. Public supported courts should be open to the public! Eight-ten public courts in a city the size of San Diego is ridiculous. San Diego should become a model for public access tennis courts. It would be good for the sport and good for the city - providing more opportunities for kids and adults to learn tennis, get exercise, and enjoy the year-round great weather. This seems like a win-win to me.

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Scipio Jan. 4, 2010 @ 10:10 a.m.

Thanks for carrying the torch on this one Shelly! Everywhere I go I see empty basket ball courts, expensive soccer fields and nothing but a long wait for a tennis court.

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GoDecatur Jan. 4, 2010 @ 10:42 a.m.

The argument that the City must pay to keep these courts maintained isn't consistent as the City pours million into maintaining our "free" beaches that make San Diego, San Diego! Shelley is right in that public access to only 8 to 10 courts in the City is wrong! Come on America's Finest City, do something about this.

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seagull Jan. 4, 2010 @ 11:58 a.m.

I appreciate what Susman is trying to do so much. Growing up in Ocean Beach, family tennis at Robb Field was a huge part of our life. Sometimes you had to wait for a court, but there was never a charge. In these economic times, we need more public free courts and recreation outlets. Free skate parks are popping up all around the world, so lets not go backwards. If we are going to be broke, can we at least be happy?????

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JohnBoyTwoiE Jan. 4, 2010 @ 2 p.m.

You GO, Shelley! Public tennis courts should ALWAYS be free! Keep up the good fight!

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kakupiec Jan. 4, 2010 @ 7:12 p.m.

Shelley has succeeded at getting this program off-the-ground in the UK. A champion’s heart and drive resides in the younger Susman as well. From my understanding, her goal is not just free courts; but to sytematically provide some level of free coaching on them as well. The point about resource allocation (infrastructure wise) within the SD parks & rec is properly contrasted in other comments. But free coaching to expand the sport! Wow, if she gets that done, San Diego is really lucky. Let's start with available free court time though. I support supporting healthy “life sports”.

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joeb Jan. 5, 2010 @ 7:24 p.m.

Problem is though, tennis is not exactly a "boom" sport anymore. There's not the public interest in the sport to support this kind of free infrastructure. It's simple economics -- as demand goes down, price goes up.

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Keka Jan. 5, 2010 @ 10:21 p.m.

Yes Tennis is not a favored sport by the whole community. The only way to see this potion to get through to this community is for all the individuals that live this sport to speak up! Get numbers up and they will listen . I would start to play tennis again when this goes through ; so I can't wait.

Ms. Shelley Susman keep up the good fight we've got your back all the way.

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smokincan Jan. 6, 2010 @ 11:34 a.m.

Thank you Shelley. I grew up with the benefit of being able to ride my bike to play on free tennis courts. We have to always keep things like that in mind and pass on the benefits we enjoyed to the next generations. This one is a no brainer. Great of you to step up.

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lmorda Jan. 15, 2010 @ 7:13 a.m.

Avilability and maintenance are two problems I see all the time. There are very few courts in the area, and the ones that exist are not being maintained. Considering how many parks there are in the area, I feel like I should be able to get a court whenever I have the urge to play. A nice clean and even surface to play on, in a public park, should be more of a priority. I grew up in a much smaller town than San Diego, and I can remember getting a court whenever I wanted. I also grew up learning how to hit against a wall, and I'd like to see more of them too!

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lmorda Jan. 15, 2010 @ 7:29 a.m.

And lighted courts. I never understand why public courts don't have lights. Even the ones that you throw in a couple quarters, and they stay on for an hour. That way they're paid for, and the city can make sure they don't turn on after a certain hour (10pm or something) for neighbors.

A great place to start (atleast for me) would be the PB Recreation Center. I don't think there's lights to play at night, and they're covered in bird poop. It looks like there is room for another two, maybe four courts right next to the existing courts, unless they belong to the Middle School. There is also a huge plot of land next to the softball fields that could be turned into tennis courts.

Speaking of which, Re: Scipio's comment, how many giant softball / baseball fields have you seen empty when you're trying to get a tennis court? Now that's frustrating.

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BajaNomad Jan. 15, 2010 @ 8:15 p.m.

Kudos to Susman for putting a spotlight on those taking advantage of the San Diego community on these sites for their own selfish agenda(s). What a gem. Go get 'em!

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SLS10S Jan. 16, 2010 @ 11:59 a.m.

The comments on this story have been so wonderful .... Keep the faith keep up to date and maybe have those you know send some comments in . I am happy to have emails as well on shelley@sls10s.com join up from the community aspect in this endevour ! Blessings ; ) ---shelley the winds they are a changing ; )))

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