When 33-year-old Kamau Murray first told his parents he wanted to buy out and take over the Chicago tennis center where he himself took up the sport, going so far in the sport as to earn a full-ride college scholarship, they thought he had lost his mind.
But they helped him along the way anyway and today, the gamble has proven fruitful. Murray’s program, XS Tennis, occupies a facility in the city’s Kenwood neighborhood on the city’s South Side and has gradually outgrown its humble five-court space since Murray took over in 2008.
That’s because the facility plays host to hundreds of Chicago Public Schools students learning the sport, in addition to collegiate teams and Murray’s star pupil, 18-year-old Taylor Townsend, the fast-rising star who captured the nation’s eye when she made an impressive Grand Slam debut at the French Open and defeated a player ranked twentieth in the world. Then ranked 205th in the world, Townsend has since risen to 108th over the course of less than four months.
XS Tennis is now recognized as the Midwest’s largest minority-owned tennis club.
With all of that happening in a crowded space, not to mention his lease expiring and the building going up for sale, Murray is now working to expand his mission to offer youth on the South Side of Chicago access to the sport he loves through the building of a new $9.8 million 112,000-square-foot, 27-court tennis village to house the expanded program.