Supreme Court: A look at the White House tennis court

by: Ed McGrogan | August 12, 2010

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The most exclusive tennis court in the world may be the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha have taken up tennis, and they have the perfect place to play. The White House tennis court is tucked away out of sight on the home’s South Lawn. But the Obamas aren’t the first first family to frequent the White House court.

President Theodore Roosevelt had the first court built in 1902 near the south side of the West Wing (the court was moved farther south about eight years later). Historians often write that the Rough Rider was the biggest tennis fanatic to ever occupy the White House. Buddies who competed against him were often referred to as his “tennis cabinet.”

Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were also avid players.

Some of the greatest players in the world have played on the famous court, including Pete Sampras, Stan Smith and Bill Tilden. And more recently, Bob and Mike Bryan and Sam Querrey met the President at a USTA QuickStart event at the White House.

It has long been reported that the White House court was also the site of an injury that led to a tragic loss. While President Calvin Coolidge didn’t play tennis, his two sons, Calvin Jr. and John, did. The teenagers were apparently playing one day in 1924 when Calvin Jr. developed a blister on his right big toe. The toe became infected and he died a week later of blood poisoning.

Today, the squeaking of sneakers in the backyard of the White House comes from tennis shoes as well as basketball shoes. The tennis court now doubles as a basketball court. President Obama celebrated his 49th birthday there this year with a pickup game with pro and college hoops stars. But he also hits the court to play tennis. Mrs. Obama calls her husband her toughest opponent.

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