Austin’s Erwin Center to host Davis Cup

Liz Farmer

The hum of the air conditioner buzzed over the sound of tennis balls thwacking against the floor of the Frank Erwin Center. Wednesday afternoon, top tennis players from Spain and the U.S. practiced in the nearly empty arena, which will host 16,200 people each day this weekend for the Davis Cup.

The Davis Cup is an international pro-tennis team competition. The sold out event is July 8 to July 10. The Davis Cup Draw Ceremony will feature local band Asleep at the Wheel and the two teams at the Moody Theater at 12 p.m. today.

This will be the first time USA player Andy Roddick competes in a professional event in Austin, his current home. The No. 10 world ranked tennis player vied for the Davis Cup to be brought to Austin.

The United States Tennis Association is putting on the event. Jeff Ryan, senior director of team events for the association, looked into Austin serving as the home for the tournament. It takes eight days to set up the court, conduct the practices and competitions and strike the court from the center, Ryan said.

“Andy Roddick has been telling us Austin would be a great city,” Ryan said. “For the first time in a while the Frank Erwin Center was available.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal was the world’s No. 1 ranked tennis player until an upset at Wimbledon last week. He was expected to play in this weekend’s tournament, but he recently changed his mind because of a foot injury.

“People in this sport know that it’s a country against country competition — not individual against individual,” Ryan said. “There would have been far bigger disappointment levels if Andy couldn’t have played.”

The event is expected to bring in $5 million in revenue to the city, according to the Austin Sports Commission at the Austin Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau.

The court is an acrylic hard court made in a warehouse and then assembled in square sections on the floor of the center, which normally hosts the UT basketball teams and events such as concerts. The Spanish team is used to clay courts which are categorized as a different speed than acrylic courts. The team protested the speed of the floor, but officials denied the claim after investigation.

Tito Moreinas, a tennis player and junior at Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio, is one of four ball boys chosen for the tournament.

“I play a lot of tennis, so I’ve always wanted to see matches close up, and I think that’s the closest you can get being a ball boy,” Moreiras said.

Printed on 07/07/2011 as: Frank Erwin Center to host Davis Cup