A Tennis Match Made in Baristaville

Megan Howard and José Funes make their living by hooking up people who are searching for tennis partners.  But this tennis-centric couple who are business as well as life partners found each other from a different sort of match – Match.com.

“It was our mutual appreciation for Lucinda Williams and poker that brought us together,” said Howard, a writer and editor.  The two have been an item since 2006.

Funes is a fixture around South Orange, having taught tennis to legions of children, teens and adults of all levels for over a dozen years. 

Frequently, his students would ask if he could match them with other players of similar abilities. “This area has a large and active tennis community,” he said, “but other than relying on spouses and friends, it can be hard to find partners at their own level.”

Meanwhile, Howard had heard about a program in New York City that matched up players, and she thought it was a shoo-in for success here in the tennis-crazed suburbs.

“We have so much more court availability in this area and such a big tennis community that it made sense to do something similar here.”

So in the spring of 2010, the couple launched Singles 2 Doubles NJ, which matches players, coordinates the matches and tracks results.  They also host lessons and clinics.

Here’s how it works: members receive emails each Tuesday to check their availability for the following week, and then get matched up on Thursday evenings.  Players can mutually agree on which courts to play on, and whether to play a full match or just hit balls without keeping score.

The matching program has been so successful that Howard and Funes introduced two competitive leagues this spring: an Open League and an Advanced League.  Membership in the Advanced League has already doubled since the first season.

“For amateurs of all levels, the biggest challenges are finding partners who are of similar ability and also keeping costs down, since tournaments, and high level instruction at tennis clubs in both the summer and winter, are very expensive,” said Funes.

Members hail from all over Essex County – including South Orange, Maplewood, Montclair, Little Falls and Livingston – as well as from Hudson and Passaic Counties.  They include men and women of all ages, from beginners to former players to lifelong advanced players.

It seems as though when it comes to tennis matching services, Singles 2 Doubles is the only game in Baristaville.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Hollie Reddington, a competitive doubles player from Montclair, “especially for working people who don’t have the daytime connections and contacts that stay-at-home women have.”

Heather McCutcheon of Glen Ridge, a recreational player, agreed.  “It would be great for people who are new to the area or who don’t belong to a club with tennis facilities.”

South Orange’s new village president, Alex Torpey, grew up playing tennis and was on the Columbia High School tennis team.  “José is an integral piece to the local tennis community, and having known and played tennis with him for years it’s no surprise how well Singles 2 Doubles is doing!”

As the tennis pro, Funes is the public face of the venture.  But it is Howard who keeps the business humming.  “In fact, Megan was the one who helped me see what a great idea this could be,” said Funes.

Sounds like a 40-love match made in heaven – or in this case, South Orange.

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  1. Do they have a match for someone who can’t serve, can’t return volleys, doesn’t like to run and prefers the shade?

  2. How about croquet, Debbie? Loved that game as a kid and it’s so much more forgiving. Why not start a league for the non-tennis set?

  3. Another thing to do is join the Freeman tennis club, near Glenfield school, which has excellent hard true courts (easy on the joints) and members who come to play tennis. Freeman has open doubles every Sat and Sun morning starting at 9 am. All you have to do is show up, pay the guest fee of 10 bucks, and you’ll get into a game. Membership is a couple hundred bucks for the season, less if you live in Glen Ridge.

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