Gordon Smith was a junior standout growing up in Rome, Ga., a Southeastern Conference champion at the University of Georgia and currently serves as the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the United States Tennis Association.
But he has never played in a US Open. Smith will take his first step toward filling one of the few holes in his tennis resume by competing in the Eastern Section Qualifying Tournament of the US Open National Playoffs. The Eastern sectional qualifier will be held at the home of the US Open—the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.—April 18 to 26.
The winners of the 16 sectional qualifiers held nationwide advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s and Women’s Championships, which will be held this summer at the same venue as an Olympus US Open Series event (Atlanta for the men, Stanford, Calif., for the women). A victory there earns a wild card into the 2010 US Open Qualifying Tournament held August 24-27 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“The US Open National Playoffs are great for the game,” Smith says. “They offer anyone and everyone a chance to earn a berth in the greatest tournament in tennis, all while capturing the magic of the US Open at sectional tournaments across the country. And I’ll tell you this much, I’d trade my credential for a player badge any day. It might be unlikely, but hey, you never know.”
Smith was a standout player as a collegian at Georgia, serving as the captain of a team that swept the SEC title each of his four years. He was a two-time all-SEC selection and, as a senior, won the conference doubles championship. In Georgia athletic circles, Smith maintains his fame both for his myriad accomplishments and as the former college roommate and doubles partner of current men’s tennis coach Manuel Diaz, who has led the Bulldogs to four NCAA national team titles.
Smith also earned a law degree from Georgia and, after working as a clerk for the federal judiciary, worked his way up to partner at the Atlanta law firm of King and Spalding. Throughout, he maintained an active role in tennis both as a player and as a volunteer. Smith served in a number of roles with the USTA Southern Section, including president, and received the Jacobs Bowl Award as the Southern Section’s Outstanding Volunteer in 1996.
In 2003, Smith joined the USTA Board of Directors as Director at Large. He was elected Vice President in 2005 and First Vice President in January 2007 before leaving the Board later that year to assume his current post.
Smith has continued his tennis regimen despite moving north. A left-hander and an imposing presence at the net, he continues to compete regularly at the public courts near his home in New York City, often arriving before 7 a.m. on Saturdays to play. Whether that will be enough for him to earn a spot in the US Open, held in the largest public tennis facility in the world, well, as Smith says, you never know.
Michael McCasland excited to face the USTA’s Gordon Smith in the US Open National Playoffs