By Nick Beversdorf
There are many sports that have long histories in Merrill, including football, baseball, wrestling and…tennis?
Well, not exactly, but at one point in Merrill’s history tennis was a relatively popular sport. Starting in the late 1960s began an adult tennis league in Merrill that, in its heyday, had around 60 people participating in it.
“Adult tennis wasn’t as popular as baseball or football, but at the time it was much more popular than it is today,” comments Dave Finanger, who participated in the tennis league. “We would play on Saturdays and Sundays and we would also have dinners, get-togethers, pot-lucks and birthday parties.”
The tennis league would have games throughout Merrill, including Ott’s Park, Stange’s Park and at the tennis courts across from the library. They played both singles and doubles and first, second and third place winners in the tournaments would receive trophies.
“It was a close-knit group of people and we had a lot of fun,” adds Finanger. “But eventually the group faded away and by the mid-’70s the tennis league was no more.”
Other than the Merrill High School girls tennis team (the boys varsity program disappeared in the 1990s), tennis is virtually absent from Merrill. Local community member and tennis instructor Janet Thompson wants to rekindle this period in Merrill’s history with the introduction of a new adult tennis league in Merrill.
“For a certain time period tennis was pretty popular in Merrill,” comments Thompson. “I want to re-introduce something similar to what Merrill had back then with this tennis league.”
Thompson wants to start a tennis league for all adults in Merrill. The tentative schedule is on Monday nights from June 6 to Aug. 1, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There are three skill levels-novice, intermediate and advanced. A first meeting is scheduled for May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Smith Center. Matches will be played at the Merrill High School tennis courts.
For more information, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 715-536-7313.