Cabarrus

This couple finds love on the tennis court

You can say Chad Oxendine took courting his wife, Laura, literally.

He met, proposed to and married her, all on a tennis court.

Neither Chad nor Laura, both 37, was expecting to find love when they met at a tennis conference in Atlanta a year and a half ago in May. He came from Concord, where he works as tennis coordinator for the city and runs AMP Tennis, his business. She flew in from Morgan City, a small town in Mississippi, where she worked as a tennis coach to small children.

As Laura tells it, Chad said hello to the blond, green-eyed tennis coach so many times over the next few days, she figured she must have met him before and forgotten.

He could see her name tag, but his was always flipped around.

"I couldn't shake him," jokes Laura, serving up the first of a few zingers the two volley back and forth. "He was always right there."

Chad laughs. "You want to call it stalkin'? You want to call it flirtin'?"

Whatever she wants to call it, he said, it worked.

For the next nine months, they played out a long-distance courtship between Mississippi and North Carolina that led to Chad eventually asking her parents for their blessing: "I called her mom and daddy up, and they said, 'Take her.'"

Laura's eyes widen as she smirks at him.

By that February, Chad had a plan to propose on court at the next conference in Memphis. After a break between the Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova match, he surprised Laura when he suddenly walked on the court in front of thousands of spectators, took hold of the microphone and motioned her to join him.

"I thought maybe he was speaking for the conference," said Laura. Then she watched him get down on one knee.

"I have a very important question to ask you," he said, his voice echoing off the stands.

Their wedding took place in May on a tennis court in Destin, Fla. The wedding party, from flower girls to the best man, even the preacher, donned gleaming tennis whites instead of traditional formal wear.

They walked off the court as man and wife underneath an arch of tennis rackets held by guests. They live on Cascade Drive in Concord.

The couple recently broke a rule of not playing together to play in a mixed-doubles tournament.

They are not at the same skill level; Chad is a stronger player.

"I do not like to lose," said Chad. "Tennis brought together my marriage; tennis does not want to break apart my marriage."

Neither probably would have guessed how much of a role tennis would play in their lives later.

Chad grew up in a small town called Rose Hill in North Carolina. He had little interest in the game then. The town had only one tennis court, which sat next to the world's largest frying pan, a popular tourist attraction off the beaten path.

Laura's hometown had neither a tennis court nor an oversized object to claim as its own. "Just cotton fields," she said. "My brother and I played in the streets. We just knocked the ball around."

Late to the game of tennis by most professionals' standards, the two went on to build a love for the game - and to get a love out of the game.

Laura works as tennis coach for the Central Cabarrus High School girls' team. She has also joined Chad's business, coaching adults and children in the game.

In tennis, "love" is a score of zero, or nothing, during a match. It's not something tennis players necessarily want associated with their names. But in this case, Chad and Laura will take it. Each said their faith in God led them to each other on the courts that first day.

"The Lord just lays someone on your heart, and you say, that's the one," said Chad.

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