There are more than 300,000 tennis courts in the United States, providing the space to accommodate an easily socially distanced sport that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 21 million Americans played tennis last year—a 22% increase compared to 2020—according to data cited by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Seeking to establish an online social network for those tennis players is Break the Love, which raised $2.5 million in seed funding earlier this year from investors that included the Adidas family-backed Lake Nona Fund, retired Wimbledon doubles champion Vania King, and Wim Fissette, the former tennis coach for Naomi Osaka. Trisha Goyal, a former product manager at ESPN and passionate tennis player, founded Break the Love in 2019 after being underwhelmed with the sport’s existing options for match scheduling and networking.
“I wanted to get back into playing tennis, it was a sport that I grew up playing,” Goyal tells SportTechie. “I realized as a busy working adult, I had two options: I either join a single location brick and mortar tennis club that was typically expensive. And candidly as a female, many of the women’s clinics are during the day for women who don’t work, which is great but I didn’t find an offering to justify the spend,” she explains, adding her alternative was to join groups on Meetup.com or Facebook for people seeking tennis partners.
The virtual tennis club Goyal created through Break the Love lets players find open courts near them to reserve court times and schedule lessons with tennis instructors. Users also fill out their Break the Love profile with their interests and level of tennis experience. They can view other profiles to find players near their location with similar tennis backgrounds to meet for a friendly match or rally. Break the Love currently offers its services through its website and a mobile app in beta for iOS with an Android version coming soon.
American Express, which has sponsored the U.S. Open for 30 years, partnered with Break the Love to give users 10,000 free reservations to 500 private and public tennis and pickleball courts in the New York City area. The offer will run through Sept. 13 and is available to all tennis players, though American Express card members will have the benefit of selecting court reservations during peak times. Break the Love previously partnered with Equinox to let gym members schedule court times in NYC and the Hamptons and worked with Wilson Sporting Goods to supply free and subsidized access to 700 public courts in New York City.
“On the B2B side, we partner with corporates and brands that want to give access to a certain user base to be able to create more loyalty and engagement through this service,” Goyal says. “We also have a direct-to-consumer business with our affiliate clubs and courts that use our technology [for] consumers to book those venues.”
For tennis clubs operated by small business owners, Goyal sees Break the Love being able to support their recruiting and marketing efforts. While most of Break the Love’s high-profile activations have been in New York, the startup has also connected players and clubs across the Virginia-Maryland-DC area, Southern California and Southeastern Florida. Future plans for the company include enhancing its matchmaking service for accurately connecting users of similar skill levels.
“By clicking their profile, you can see their level if they’ve played through us,” Goyal says. “But that’s something we’re actively looking to build is that level of data innovations to really improve the experience over time.”