| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

The USTA has announced it will be adding same-gender couples’ doubles tournaments to its 2015 adult competition tennis calendar. The groundbreaking announcement opens the door to new play opportunities for same-sex spouses, those in civil unions, domestic partners, and spousal equivalents, making the USTA’s popular adult competition more diverse and inclusive. The Plaza Racquet Club in Palm Springs will be hosting the historic inaugural event, March 7-8. Other sanctioned same-gender events will be scheduled by the USTA throughout the 2015 calendar year.

The new divisions can be found in the “Family Divisions” categories on Tennislink, and include: Same Gender Female Couples Doubles, Same Gender Male Couples Doubles, Same Gender Female Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 80 Years), Same Gender Female Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 100 Years), Same Gender Female Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 120 Years), Same Gender Male Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 80 Years), Same Gender Male Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 100 Years) Same Gender Male Couples Doubles (Combo Ages 120 Years).

In the divisions where no combo age is listed, the players may be of any age. In divisions where a combined age is defined, the players’ ages must add up to, or over, the listed number (ex. 80, 100 or 120) for the team to meet the eligibility requirements for the event.

“The USTA could not be more excited to offer the opportunity for same-gender couples to play in sanctioned tennis tournaments,”  said Katrina Adams, USTA chairman of the board, CEO and president. “Tennis once again has stepped to the front to break down barriers in order to allow individuals to compete in the game they love with these new sanctioned events.”

“This is a great and important step forward for tennis,” said Hall of Famer Billie Jean King. “Tennis is a sport that’s equally fun and beneficial for everyone, so it’s nice to know that going forward, we’ll enjoy a greater sense of equality between the lines in adult competition. The makeup of families in our world is changing and I’m thrilled to see that tennis also is recognizing that change, and making it easier for same-gender couples to compete—and have fun—together on the tennis court.”

Nabil Najjar, the Co-Tournament Director of the Palm Springs event, is the longest-serving board member of the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA), having served for 14 years. For more than two decades, he has volunteered running GLTA tournaments and was instrumental in making this event happen. 

“I am proud to have introduced this division,” said Najjar.  “It is a very exciting opportunity in the history of sports for same-gender couples to be competing side-by-side, and unprecedented for both the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance and the United States Tennis Association to sanction these new divisions.”

By introducing the tournaments during the 2015 calendar year, the goal is that the events will become National Championships for the 2016 adult competition tournament calendar year.