“We have a huge group of women who play the Peach,” Bradley says. “In some years, we’ve had more women here than any of the other tournaments combined.
He attributes that to the high number of women who are active members of ATTA, which is the strongest of any LGBT tennis league in North America.
Another key component of the Peach is the number of divisions available. “We’ve added a lot of over 40 divisions, which gives players that age an opportunity to play others that age,” Bradley says. “Because of the tennis culture here, doubles is very popular, and it allows people to play well past the age of 40. Other places don’t take doubles as seriously.”
Peach Tennis Tournament
The median age for players in the Peach is over 40, while at other tournaments, the median age is over 30, Bradley says.
With Atlanta’s extreme heat, the Peach is regarded as one of the hottest tournaments around, but it hasn’t adversely affected attendance. Occasionally, according to Bradley, a player might complain of the heat or attendance might dip somewhat the year after an “ungodly weekend,” but the number of entrants stays steady.
“The heat doesn’t keep people from signing up,” he says.
All entrants receive a half-gallon water jug this year and Bradley encourages players to stay hydrated.
Over the years a few former female pros have played in the tournament (in the men’s field) and gay baseball player Billy Bean has played a few times.
Throughout its history, the tournament has been held at different venues but this year all the action will be consolidated into one: the DeKalb Tennis Center in Decatur. In all, Bradley expects more than 175 entrants. Most will be LGBT players, but approximately 10 percent each year are heterosexual.
More than half of those who play in the Peach are local – and many of those play just this tourney amongst all the GLTA ones.
Divisions in the Peach run the gamut from the A level to D level, which is basically for beginners, and the Open field, reserved for advanced players. Many competitors play singles and many more play multiple categories, including men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. According to Bradley, most of the competitors play two categories. To allow players more than one match, Peach officials allow participants to enter consolation matches in their division if they lose their first match.
A draw party on the Thursday before the tournament lets players mix and mingle with others and determine their first round opponents, while a banquet on Sunday is a sit down near-finale to the event, complete with raffle prizes. Play begins on Friday morning with finals set for Monday.
Now in its 23rd year, ATTA hosts tournaments and events throughout the year. Every Saturday, the organization hosts Open Play, a social event at Glenlake Tennis Center in Decatur where players of all levels gather to play doubles. ATTA also hosts mixers at various locations.
In all, ATTA has around 250 members, says Bradley, including a good mix of veterans and newer members.
The Peach donates net proceeds to local charities; this year’s beneficiaries are expected to be YouthPride, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, Positive Impact and the Chris Lester Scholarship Fund.
The big fundraiser for the Peach is ATTA’s Variety Show, held every summer at Jungle. The recent variety show raised $1,600.
Top photo: Some 175 competitors are expected for this year’s Peach Tennis Tournament, one of the biggest LGBT tournaments of the year. (Photo courtesy ATTA)