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Game, Set, Match!

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Net News Publisher, John Hanna (left) and New South Publishing President, Larry Lebovitz. Photo by Laura Barnard

The Perfect Partnership between ALTA and Net News

By Emmy Powell, Net News Editor

From the thrill of victory to that first-ever big plate, some of the great moments of ALTA league play have been captured through various ALTA publications. The evolution of spreading the ALTA word began as an 8 ½ X 11 newsletter (folded and stapled) that was mailed to the membership in the early 1970’s. As you can see from these various photos, Net News was later produced as a newspaper tabloid and stayed in that format a little over a decade until the first issue of the magazine was published in 1992.

Back then, the ALTA leadership wanted to develop a magazine because of the concern of the messy newsprint. The idea was to keep it from simply being thrown out and instead have it become more of a coffee table piece in the homes of ALTA members. Today, it is still the only tangible part of ALTA that members receive directly in their mailbox every two months.

New South Publishing Vice President John Hanna gives credit for the current magazine format to Patricia Jensen, who is best known for being the mother of former professional players Murphy and Luke Jensen. She also has twin daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, who played on the WTA tour. Hanna recalls a great story when Jensen was at the Riverside Club in Sandy Springs where the girls were taking tennis lessons. New South Publishing President Larry Lebovitz also took his kids to the same club. Jensen was reading her Net News while the kids were drilling and literally said to Lebovitz, “Larry, you’re in the printing business. Why does ALTA do this crappy newspaper instead of a nice magazine?” The magazine was born!

John Williams served as the original Net News editor until 2006. He was the man who wrote the book, “ALTA—Its History, Humor & Hors D’oeuvres.” It includes details of the formation of ALTA in 1934 and the evolution of how league play began in 1971. Lebovitz was instrumental in helping Williams navigate through the book publishing world, while Hanna wrote the forward in the book. Throughout the years, Hanna, an ALTA member since 1980, proudly refers to ALTA as “a party where a tennis match breaks out.” In the book, he writes “Charlie Cox and associates had a remarkable vision when they laid the initial framework, and Williams has recounted all of it for perpetuity.” ALTA is the largest local tennis league in the world, and many national and local tennis organizations still are trying to recreate the ALTA formula for success.

Anyone who has been around Atlanta tennis for any length of time knows that Hanna is one of our city’s biggest tennis ambassadors. In addition to being the publisher of Net News, he serves as the advertising director for Racquet Sports Industry Magazine and is a partner in Baseline Network, which is a digital advertising business for tennis websites. He also is the Tennis Channel Advertising Consultant for the tennis manufacturers who are featured throughout Tennis Channel, Tennis Magazine, and Tennis.com.

He and Lebovitz are celebrating a major milestone as Net News turns 30 in the same year that ALTA is commemorating its 50th anniversary of league play. New South Publishing took over the agreement to produce the magazine in 1991 after meeting with ALTA President Kathy LeFort. The publishing team worked with President Harriet Lynch to produce the first issue, the May/June issue of Net News in 1992.

Photo by Laura Barnard

Even as a kid, Hanna recalls reading the newsprint edition of Net News since his friends could be featured, and he liked to study the league standings in black and white. Back then, only 30-percent of the City Champions were featured. Today, all City Champions are listed in the magazine. Hanna says there have been big changes in the print and digital versions throughout the years, and there was a time when he felt like an artwork collector as he used to have to drive across Atlanta and physically pick up the ads.

“The evolution has been a lot of fun to be a part of, and we are all very proud to know that Net News is now truly the gold standard in the world of tennis magazine publishing,” said Hanna.

It is a match made in heaven as Net News goes hand in hand with the gold standard of 50 years of ALTA league play.