Athlete Profile: Chris Visconti


Anthony Soave

Chris Visconti

By Copy Editor

Chris Visconti grew up in Chicago, where he started playing tennis 38 years ago. He continued his career through college, playing Division I tennis at Southern Illinois University and going on to play professional tennis against notable players such as Andre Agassi and Jeff Tarango. Visconti is currently the head tennis professional at Deer Creek Courts in the Park District of Highland Park.

The Chronicle spoke with Visconti about traveling, raising a family and growing up in the Windy City.

THE CHRONICLE: Why did you start playing tennis?

CHRIS VISCONTI: Because I was kind of scrawny and small. I was playing baseball; I love baseball. I got into tennis because my dad told me about another sport and I thought I’d try it.

CC: How did your match against Andre Agassi go?

CV: It was fun. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but it was fun. I’d been playing on the pro tour for a while; I was about 21–22 years old. We met, we both were in the draw, we both won our matches and were scheduled to play each other the next round. It was in a prequalifying tournament to get into a main draw. I met up with him in the third round and we played. I think he was 16 years old, and he won.

CC: Which countries have you played in?

CV: I played in Italy, I played in France, I played in Hawaii, throughout the United States, a little bit in Mexico, Canada. Quebec City is very nice, Montreal. I was able to travel quite a bit.

CC: What is your personal connection to tennis?

CV: Tennis has given me a way to make a living, put my kids through college [and] raise a family. It’s been great. I enjoyed it more in the later part of my years than I did earlier. I just appreciated it more. I think I wanted a change in career earlier and didn’t find anything else interesting that I wanted to do. When I got back to tennis, I embraced it a little more. You get a little older, a little wiser.

CC: What took you from playing tennis for fun to playing competitively?

CV: I just always was competitive. I played baseball at a pretty high level up until I was 13–14 years old. I just always had the will to do very well, to be No. 1. I brought that into my adulthood. When I got older, got into college, played college tennis, played a little bit of pro for about 5–6 years.

CC: How did you improve?

CV: I played and practiced with friends. I was able to find the park district in the Chicago area [with the courts]. It gave me an opportunity to play [when I] couldn’t afford much. I played a lot on my own. I had some breaks along the way, met some influential young kids that I saw along the circuit and we became friends. They helped me out by [letting me train] at their country clubs.

CC: How has tennis changed your life?

CV: Basically here’s a kid who grew up by Wrigley Field. I went to 48 home games a season to watch the Cubs. I got involved in tennis at 11 and it’s taken me out of a gang-infested neighborhood, held up at gunpoint in my neighborhood, to playing at country clubs, teaching at country clubs, playing throughout the globe. I never thought I’d leave or live out of the state of Illinois or Chicago, so it gave me a chance to see the rest of the world and I don’t think I ever would’ve. Tennis was my ticket; it was my gold card.

CC: What are some goals you have achieved and some that you might still have?

CV: I’d say playing college tennis was a goal, playing professional tennis. The goal that I did not reach was obviously to be top-ranked in the world. Potentially I’d like to own my own facility or run my own organization [and] help kids that are less fortunate.