The Capital Tennis Association offers league play throughout the year along with its Capital Classic Tournament being a stop on the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance World Tour.
Members are also experimenting with different formats including a team format like World Team Tennis, where players from each of the five divisions would form a team to play against other similar teams.
In addition, Capital Tennis offers free tennis lessons for beginners in the spring and fall months and drill sessions for members in the summer months.
This week in the ongoing Washington Blade series spotlighting athletes in the LGBT sports community, we meet two LGBT players from Capital Tennis.
Dana Mendenhall says she was born with a tennis racket in her hand because her father was the head tennis pro at a club. Raised in Montclair, Va., she left the sport behind in her rebellious teen years.
She spotted Capital Tennis in its booth at Capital Pride in 2015 and after moving to Alexandria, she signed up for its winter league.
“I didn’t have a lot interaction with the LGBT community up until that point,” Mendenhall says. “Being surrounded by my peers made it easier and fun for me to get back into the sport.”
Mendenhall is working as a dental assistant and taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College. She will move on to University of Maryland to pursue a degree in biology.
She has fully integrated back into loving tennis and has played almost every day over the past year. Along with her membership with Capital Tennis she is also playing in the Mid-Atlantic section of the United States Tennis Association and will compete in upcoming regionals at Virginia Beach.
“I think I have improved a lot over the past year and my forehand has become a weapon,” Mendenhall says. “I definitely have room for more improvement and there are always little things you can do better.”
Last fall she competed in her first Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance tournament at the Capital Classic and found herself facing men in all her rounds.
“It’s all equal to me because of the divisions; gender doesn’t matter at all and I look forward to teaming up with male players for mixed doubles at future tournaments,” Mendenhall says. “I always try to keep a smile on my face during my matches and I am loving being a part of Capital Tennis.”
When Capital Tennis needed an upgrade to its website, organizers looked to player Quang Nguyen who runs software company ARPH Systems with one of his brothers. Nguyen created a software that handles registration, scheduling, profiles, rankings and score lines.
Born and raised in Virginia Beach, he didn’t play organized sports and was focused primarily on violin and piano. He was however, playing tennis recreationally with his brothers. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he moved back home with his parents before finally following his college friends to D.C. in 2010.
In 2011, Nguyen attended a speed dating event hosted by the D.C. Gay Flag Football League and met several players from Capital Tennis. He signed up and began playing all four tennis leagues along with going to the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance tournaments.
He lost in the first or second round of every tournament until having a breakthrough in 2014 when he won three tournaments and two silver medals at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. His tournament wins qualified him for a spot in the GLTA World Championships in Palm Springs.
“I had always been athletic, but it took me a while to figure out how to win,” Nguyen says. “My mental game improved and I began playing with a lot more confidence.”
Last year, Nguyen signed up for the first GLTA tournament in Tel Aviv only to see it struggle to get participants. He would step forward again to help his tennis community.
“Five of us from Capital Tennis were signed up and all of the travel arrangements were already paid for,” Nguyen says. “I ended up sponsoring 20 players to beef up the draw and ensure that the tournament would go on.”
Now that his play has gotten better, Nguyen is lining up future tournaments including the Gay Games in Paris and enjoying his time in the LGBT tennis community.
“This is all about being around people like myself. It’s my social life and I like meeting gay athletes,” Nguyen says. “I wasn’t very good when I started, but now I am at a point where it is a mix of competition and having fun.”