Serving up sports: Mauna Lani to open new tennis garden to residents starting this weekend

  • Matt Dudley, the new director of tennis at Mauna Lani, is ready for the new tennis garden to open to island residents after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the resort. (Mauna Lani/Courtesy Photo)

After months of not being able to play recreational tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’stime for the residents of the Big Island to get back on the court.

Mauna Lani Resort in Kohala plans to open up for guests Sept. 1, but until then, the resort’s newly-renovated tennis garden will be open to locals starting Saturday.

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In August, the tennis garden will be open to existing members only. A new member program will begin Sept. 1.

With the opening of the tennis garden comes the introduction of Mauna Lani’s new director of tennis Matt Dudley, who envisions big things to come for the program.

“I believe what this will bring to the island is that community culture through tennis, from the grassroots up — starting from the kids all the way up to the adults,” Dudley said. “We want this to be a hub for people to play sports and to be a community base as well.”

Dudley is from Sydney, Australia, and previously competed on the International Tennis Federation pro circuit. Under his guidance, junior and adult tennis programs will be available, as well as the resort’s introduction to pickle ball, a miniature version of tennis played with smaller rackets and a wiffle ball, and cardio tennis.

Dudley said the cardio tennis program is a 60-minute workout where participants can “get a good workout and learn to play tennis as well.”

The resort has been closed due to the pandemic, and with the reintroduction of sports on the campus, there also comes extra safety precautions.

“On every tennis court, we have hand sanitizer, and we have hand sanitizer around the whole complex,” Dudley said. “Everyone is spaced out at least 6 feet on the tennis court anyway. On the tennis court, you have the space you need— we’re pretty safe.”

Mauna Lani’s director of marketing Sara Baumann said the resort’s employees also get their temperature checked every day when they arrive to work.

“What’s great about tennis is, by the nature of the sport, it’s socially distant,” Baumann said.

Dudley said he believes opening the resort’s tennis garden will help the island’s residents return to normal after having their lives turned around.

“Sports are such a big part of people’s lives, and having the ability to get outside and play a sport, it makes a normal routine,” Dudley said. “It makes you feel better.”

The new tennis garden is in partnership with Cliff Drysdale Tennis. Drysdale is a retired professional tennis player who is also well-known for being an announcer and commentator on ESPN for more than 30 years.

In the past, Mauna Lani has hosted big-time tennis events, and Baumann said the resort hopes to regain that pull of bringing professional tennis to the Big Island with the new courts.

“The newly reimagined Mauna Lani is such a storied and unique destination, and this partnership is very special not only to our company, but to Cliff Drysdale personally,” said Don Henderson, CEO of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, in a news release. “This is our first program in Hawaii, and a tribute to the rich history of tennis that Mauna Lani is known for. Cliff has many fond memories of the resort from his time there when it served as a Davis Cup host site, and he’s looking forward to continuing the legacy by providing a new generation of players with beautiful tennis memories.

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“We’re thrilled to call this cultural and spiritual epicenter of the Big Island our new home, and we are excited to provide an unmatched tennis experience.”

A full list of Mauna Lani’s tennis programs can be found at https://aubergeresorts.com/maunalani/tennis/.

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