For Dr. Michael Eden and his family, tennis has gone beyond being just a game. It's more a way of life.
Unlike a lot of families that never seem to find the time or energy for physical activities, the Edens, of Nicholasville, have built tennis into their routines.
Older daughter Shelby plays on the Georgetown College team. Younger daughter Katie plays for Lexington Christian Academy, a high school powerhouse. Mother Marsha and father Michael are U.S. Tennis Association certified officials, and they help to run four junior tournaments each year and other tournaments through LCA.
In January, the Edens were honored as the Family of the Year by the USTA's Kentucky chapter for outstanding involvement and promotion of tennis.
"Number one, tennis is just a good way to stay in shape," Marsha said. "It's a good form of exercise. It's a sport of a lifetime. You can play from your childhood, on to teen years, all through midlife and up into your 90s if you are in good health. We're involved so much in tennis because we love it."
Sharon Rahman, executive director of USTA Kentucky, praised the entire family.
"They are a family that are involved at all levels of the game, from being players in leagues to having a college player in the house to being officials," she said. "They're just giving back to a game they love."
Catching tennis fever
Michael Eden grew up in Elizabethtown. Like a lot of boys, he was devoted to baseball. His first exposure to tennis was in a ninth-grade physical education class. At a tournament at the end of a two-week elective tennis segment, Eden came out on top.
"I was playing against people that had played before," he said. "Some were on the tennis team. I thought I must have some aptitude for the game."
"I played tennis the whole summer. I got what I call tennis fever. I'd go down to the public tennis courts in Elizabethtown and basically just camp out. I probably played eight hours a day."
He put baseball behind him and was playing for the high school tennis team by his sophomore year.
Michael and Marsha met on the Georgetown College campus. Michael was on the tennis team, and Marsha ran cross country.
"I never played tennis when I was younger," Marsha said. "But because Michael was my boyfriend at the time, we started hitting around a little bit.
"One day I was at the courts playing, and the girls tennis team was there playing a match against Union College. They were short a player and asked me if I would play doubles. I ended up winning my one and only college tennis match.
"I like to remind Michael that I have an undefeated college record, which is higher than his."
Setting an example
Michael Eden finished medical school at the University of Louisville, and today he works at Lexington Clinic East.
"As a family doctor, I recommend that people exercise," Eden said. "If I'm going to be preaching exercise, I should be out doing it myself. And although I walk and do an elliptical trainer and other things for aerobic exercise, I can say I don't enjoy those nearly as much as going out and running around and hitting a little yellow ball for hours."
Shelby, the older daughter, plays tennis for her dad's alma mater, Georgetown College.
"It's kind of come full circle," Michael said. "Right now I can still beat her, but I've got to pull out the old-man tennis on her and hit a bunch of junk shots and get her out of rhythm. I don't want to get back there and hit ground stokes with her, because she can probably overpower me."
Eden is a volunteer tennis coach for Lexington Christian Academy, where Shelby played and where Katie plays now.
"Over the last decade, we've won the state championship three times and have been runner-up four times," Eden said. "I'm very proud that Katie lettered for this team as a seventh-grader last year."
A metal Slazenger can
Michael Eden's passion for tennis extends to tennis stuff.
At a garage sale more than 20 years ago, a piece of tennis history — an old metal Slazenger ball can with a South African imprint — caught his eye.
That was the beginning of a collection of historical tennis items, vintage racquets, books and magazines that occupy a space in the basement of the Edens' home.
Michael Eden suspected that others shared his interest.
"I wrote a letter to the curator of the United States Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.," Eden said. "They were able to put me in touch with this collecting group in England called the Tennis Collectors Society, a group that is focused primarily on British and European tennis history.
"We had a meeting in Newport with the British group and some American collectors that I had met," Eden said. "We came to the conclusion that there was sufficient interest for an American collecting group."
With the encouragement and support of the international group, Eden and other American enthusiasts founded the Tennis Collectors of America. He is president of the group.
In addition, for the past 18 months, Eden has been busy updating and republishing Louisville and Kentucky Tennis History.
"The previous edition of the book had last been updated in 2000," Eden said. "Then the author, Sam English Jr., had died in 2002. Because of my interest in history, I thought I would like to update and expand the book."
With the blessing of the author's family, Eden set out to update the last 10 years of records on tournaments and rankings.
"Then I started finding other interesting directions," Eden said. "Before I knew it, it had taken a lot more time than I ever thought it would take."
The revised book includes chapters on college tennis and league tennis, and chapters on tennis Hall of Famers. The book is available at USTAky.com and at the Tennis Store of Lexington, inside the Lexington Tennis Club on Redding Road. Proceeds from sales of the book go to the Raise a Racquet Foundation and Kentucky Tennis Patrons Foundation.