Meet Christopher Stephenson, the tennis buff leading San Francisco into the United States Gay Open

As summer approaches LGBTQ sporting events and competitions are popping up around the globe.

One of the very best is the United States Gay Open, a massive tennis tournament that takes place each Memorial Day, May 26 to 28, in San Francisco.

Check out all the deets

GayCities chatted with Christopher Stephenson, a San Franciscan who’s training for the USGO as well the Gay Games in Paris, about how he trains for tennis, why the USGO is so much fun and what visitors should check out during their stay in the city by the bay.  (The tourney will benefit Golden Gate Park Tennis Center’s youth Tennis and Learning Center program.)

Where in San Francisco do you live, where are you from originally?

I live in Hayes Valley now, but I’m originally from Sacramento. I moved to San Francisco in 2013 for graduate school and absolutely love it.

What are you doing to get ready?

I’m getting myself out on the court at least 3-4 times a week. I train with a coach once a week and I’m challenging other players at my level. I find that building confidence in my game and my strokes are what enables me to propel myself forward and win matches. I’m often my worst enemy on the court. If I don’t love myself how in the hell am I going to win a match. Can I get an “amen” up in here?

Are you playing in any other tennis tournaments this year?

I’ll be playing in the Gay Games X in Paris. The tournament is in August, and since January I’ve really ramped up training. My biggest obstacles will be the humidity; I’ve fully embraced the power of electrolytes as my new best friend.

Outside of the tennis courts – where do you hang out in SF?
You can usually find me on my couch eating food and playing video games. I’ve gone through 6 boxes of girl scout cookies alone (no shame here) and there’s no plan on slowing down anytime soon. You can sometimes find me at Zuni Cafe sipping a Negroni or checking out the latest trendy restaurant in town.

For folks outside the city, what are your favorite restaurants to check out during USGO?
I’m super biased towards my neighborhood, Hayes Valley, because it has a plethora of trendy restaurants and it’s geographically in the center of town. If you’re looking for an upscale dinner I’d recommend ‘Monsieur Benjamin’. If you don’t mind a little ‘tough-love’ on your wallet this spot is a great example of San Francisco fine dining and exceptional service without being pretentious. Be sure to dress what I call, “casual-chic”, and I recommend a reservation. If you’re looking for a meal that’s more down-to-earth and easier on the wallet, check out ‘a Mano’. It’s the newest addition to the neighborhood and everybody raves about their in-house made pasta. It’s a casual environment, and reservations not accepted.

Who’s your biggest tennis crush?

My biggest tennis crush is definitely Grigor Dmitrov. I won’t lie about the reason, he’s super handsome and really good at tennis (but it’s mostly the former).

Is your tennis style more Venus or Serena?

I aspire for my tennis style to be more like Venus. That woman can be triple match point down and not seem phased by it. How does she do it? What the hell is she thinking about it? I haven’t figured out the answer yet but I’ll let you know when I do.

Favorite Shot?

My favorite shot is the inside-out forehand down the line. I’ve been #blessed with the ability to hit that shot on a fairly consistent basis. Each time I land that shot I feel like a winner even if I go on to lose the match.

Best tennis memory?

Getting bumped up to 3.0 after working towards it for a couple years. It takes a lot of hard work to get bumped up by the USTA and it was a gratifying to know all my effort finally paid off. I was just bumped up last December so this is my first year playing at my level as a 3.0.

How did you get involved in tennis?

I became interested in tennis in college but wasn’t able to play until I graduated and started working. The GLTF was the only local organization that provided a clear pathway for adults to enter the sport and participates in a structured manner. I owe a lot of my early development and success to the organization. Specifically, Ben Szeto almost entirely built the GLTF 2.5 program from the ground up. Thank you, Ben.

What do you think about when you’re playing tennis?

I get frustrated on the court so a lot of what I’m thinking about includes staying calm and in staying the moment. When I’m thinking about the next point and not obsessing over the previous one, I often find success on the court.

Why should your fellow LGBTQ’ers join you this year?

This tournament is hosted by an organization full of heart and enthusiasm and this will directly translate into your experience at the USGO. We are lucky to be able to play in a tournament in such an inclusive city, county, and state. This tournament will challenge you and ask you to bring your very best tennis to the court.

Are you looking to have fun? Are you looking to win? You’ll be able to find both at this event.

Register for the USGO

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