CHAD OLIVER was just 14 when his parents bought him a $30 tennis racket from Walmart, after neighborhood kids showed interest in the sport over summer. “That was it. I just got hooked on the game,” he says.
Oliver made the varsity team just a few months after picking up his racket for the first time, welcoming any chance he got to compete and eventually earning the No. 1 singles title in the high school group. That was the extent of his profession as a competitive tennis player, he says, but he still played recreationally while attending the University of Georgia.
When he first moved to Southwest Florida, he became a certified tennis instructor, holding private lessons in the afternoon after finishing up his morning news segments on NBC2. Now 37, Oliver finds time for the court wherever he can, and he’s played ultimate tennis—a game where you’re matched with players online to compete with in person—for many seasons. He also hits the ball around with his family every so often.
After more than 20 years of playing, Oliver has not tired of the sport, nor does he think he ever will. “I joke with my wife that I’m going to be winning the Naples invitational when I’m 80,” he says. “Tennis is a lifetime sport.” But to Oliver, it’s a bit more than that. “Everybody has an escape, and tennis is one way that I can escape.”