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August 12, 2013 11:14 AM
Stephen_Coleman_photos_001_(2)This is the fifteenth year that Albuquerque Lasik surgeon Stephen Coleman has been the title sponsor of the longest-running, continuous professional sporting event in New Mexico. Before his name was attached to the Coleman Vision Tennis Championships, Coleman was for a couple of years a secondary supporter of a previous USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Albuquerque.

This year’s Coleman Vision runs Sept. 15-22 at Tanoan Country Club.

Coleman first picked up a tennis racket as a boy in Binghamton, N.Y. He competed in high school and he captained the men’s team at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass. He plays recreationally now and follows the sport avidly. After living almost 20 years in Albuquerque, Coleman became even more entrenched in tennis. He had a tennis court built alongside his Los Ranchos de Albuquerque home. Toby Smith talked with Coleman courtside.

This court was completed in October and I still haven’t received an invite to play. What’s up with that?

Oh, come on.  

You’ve lived in Albuquerque a long time. Why did it take so long to get your own court?

Erica (Coleman’s wife) and I definitely wanted a court ever since we were married. It was always in the back of our minds.  Erica plays tennis every day and has a real passion. Our  son, Malachi, or Mal, is 14, and he plays and so does our daughter Allarie, who is 24. Mal plays junior tournaments and he is out on the court a lot, sometimes four or five hours a day. We’re a tennis family. I think the neighbors would have been surprised if we’d built a swimming pool here or a basketball court.

Did you do the court yourself?  You must be handy with a bulldozer.

No, no. DML did the construction. They are specifically a tennis court-maker.

What was on this land before the court?

This was a pasture and we flooded it once a year to keep it green.  Over there is the Griego Lateral, an irrigation ditch. You’ll see coyotes here all the time.

Have they all been invited to play?

DML came and took a soil sample to know what was below the ground here. It turns out there was a lot of clay. So they put down a reinforced bed before they put down the court.  Those are cottonwood trees all around here, but no trees were cut down to make this court. We still get Canadian geese here, cranes, jays, ducks.

Did you have say in how the court ought to be set up?

Absolutely. In fact, Mal and I spent several weeks going around to various tennis clubs and public courts in Albuquerque, playing and making notes on what we liked and what we didn’t.    

What specifically did you want?

Well, I wanted the blue and green colors, like the U.S. Open.  I love those colors. And I wanted a certain kind of net posts.  The ones we have are a very hard wood, I think it’s ash. They’re the exact same kind used at Wimbledon. They’re made in England, but I had to go through a company in Texas to order them. It took forever to get them.

What about the surface?

The court has a gritty texture, and we got to select the level of grittiness we wanted.

No metal nets?

We never talked about a metal net.  Our net is cloth.  It has a vinyl polyester top strip, a lot more durable than the usual cloth net.   

And the fencing?  

We didn’t want the fence to surround the entire court and have a door.  We wanted the court open quite a bit on the sides.  We also didn’t want the fence corners to be 90 degrees. That’s where balls seem to collect. We wanted diagonal corners. They’re called "California corners."

Your wind screens seem different.

They’re black, with 80 percent opacity.  You need some darkness so you can follow the ball from the opposite court. Those square windows in the screens are to let some wind go through.   

Besides your family, who has played on this court? Anyone well known?

Asia Muhammad. She’s from California and has won the doubles twice at the Coleman Vision tournament. Last September, Asia’s father talked to me about Asia getting Lasik. She’d been struggling with contacts. We did the surgery in November and she came out to the house and to the court. Wow, does she hit the ball hard. You should come back and play here.

Is that an invitation?

Of course.

I’ll call first.  

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