Updated: Sep 10
Dan's love of tennis began with his father, the beloved Steve Apted who instilled a love of many sports in his four children. After Steve came back from the Army, he wanted to live close to his mother who lived in a stunning southern colonial manse with a backyard the size of a football field in Ladue. She gave Steve a parcel of that land and it was there he built a little one story ranch, complete with a tennis court in the backyard.
"You had to drive through the tennis court to get to the garage," Dan recalls. "And we never finished the lower level because the boys were always tearing it up playing hockey down there. We tore up so much shit playin' hockey."
With that backyard court, Steve started playing tennis in '62 right before he met his long time business partner, Larry Miller. Steve and his wife Barb would invite couples over to their home to play mixed doubles in their backyard and all the Apted kids followed suit. Dan's first racket was a Bancroft with Earl Bucholz's name on it.
Steve would eventually trade that piece of property for a property on Carswold in Clayton where he built a volleyball court that Dan and his brothers immediately turned into a roller hockey rink.
It was there Steve also built a clay tennis court, and that's where Dan first learned the process of taking care of clay courts. Dan remembers youth tennis playing a large role in his childhood.
“I was able to play at Dwight Davis in my squirrelly years (age 10). My dad would drop me and my brothers and sisters off to participate in tournaments or just to meet friends and play. I was able to watch Jimmy Conners train with his mom (and still don’t understand why he had to run round the park after they practiced.) I lost to a lot of Brightfields, Culbertsons, Blounts and Foxworths on a pretty regular basis. My doubles partner for a while was Mike Miller or occasionally my older brother until he upgraded to a Flach. When we got knocked out of tournaments early, we’d all just go to our house and continue playing all day on the clay.”
Though his father was an incredible athletic coach and coached the boys in baseball, swimming and soccer, Dan never took a tennis lesson in his life, and instead, studied and emulated all his favorite pros - from the locals like Larry Miller and Mary Ann Eisel, to the pros like Ken Rosewall. In 1968 Steve built Creve Coeur Racquet Club (CCRC) where Dan continues to carry on his dad's enormous legacy today.
When Dan turned fifteen he started working full time in the summer for his grandmother and father at Miss Hulling’s learning to be a butcher, baker, cook, busboy, and on the holidays a connoisseur of resurfacing parking lots. His summer tournament days were over but he was able to continue to play tennis in the evenings at CCRC.
Dan's deep love and respect of the game also grew from a forced hiatus during what should have been his most active years. At age sixteen he suffered a severe back injury during a high school hockey game. That injury kept Dan out of all sports for his entire college career and well into his twenties.
Equally important in Dan’s life was the Castle Oak. When Steve and his partner built Castle Oak (which is now Chesterfield Athletic Club) it was much like CCRC - nothing but fields and a stable at the end of the road. They created nine indoor courts, ten outdoor courts, nine racquetball courts, an indoor ice arena with seating for 500, full-service dining room and banquet room, a snack bar, and full-size swimming pool.
“My passion for tennis was only second to hockey. So I was very lucky to be able to work as food and beverage director, zamboni driver, racquetball pro — whatever it took to learn all about the business. Working long hours six or seven days a week with an occasional hour off to help coach hockey kept me at Castle Oak a lot. I was very lucky to work with Paul Tobin as the Head Pro and see what pure class was all about when it came to running tennis. Paul is still, in my opinion, one of the best tennis people I have ever met. I also stumbled across a swimmer looking for work in our racquetball department that, for some reason, thought I was charming. She managed to change her schedule to work nights with me and we had the pleasure of closing the place together for a few months. That was all it took for me, so after three months, I asked Deb to marry me and she is now my partner in any success I have ever had for 43 years.”
After finding a great chiropractor who spent years correcting Dan’s hockey injury, Dan could finally get back on the court after the birth of his daughter Danielle around the age of 25. He remembers Larry Miller asking him to sub in his Saturday game. Larry coached him back into playing shape and he remembers how patient and inclusive Larry was in all he did. “I’ve always respected Larry so much for how he treated everyone. He played with anyone he could. It didn’t matter how good they were. I learned so much from him.”
Dwight Davis Tennis Center was very special to Dan and his family, and in 2003 he got on the DDTC board of directors and eventually took over the management of the facility to help restore it to its former glory. “The physical plant has some design drawbacks for operating, but the heart and soul of the place are there and we have a great deal of pride in what we have rebuilt for the midwest,” he says.
Dan has donated countless hours hosing down the patio, has provided maintenance crews, cleaning crews, staff, creature comforts like umbrellas, furniture, balls, hoppers, carts and signage for over fifteen years in order to make sure the facility is in tip top shape for the many events its hosted over the years.
Dan's love of sports and the game of tennis was passed on to his daughter Danielle and she grew up playing tennis with Larry Miller and Cindy Cohan. Danielle graduated from SLU on the dean’s list and played D1 volleyball there for four years. In 2004 the Apted family bought the St. Louis Aces World Team Tennis franchise from Dwight Davis Tennis Center. Besides partnering with Dan on the Aces, Danielle has also held a position with Inside Out Sports in New York which has brought McEnroe, Roddick, Courier, Blake, Philipousis and other greats to St. Louis for some of the town’s best tennis events.
Dan’s own personal best comes from the Aces era when he played with Danielle at Indian Wells in a Pro Team Owners Challenge.* But that era was not always easy on him. In 2004, Dan faced a five way heart bypass surgery, but says thanks to 'that tennis acquaintance' who took good care of him in the operating room, he still enjoys getting to play the game he loves sixteen years later.
In 2012, the Apteds put their WTT franchise up for sale so they could focus on other family endeavors like Creve Coeur Racquet Club, where Dan and his family have put most of the past decade's blood, sweat and tears. There he and his family have created one of the best tennis & private club environments in the region. Pros have stayed with him there for more than a decade and some of his staff have been with him for 35 years.
In 2013, Creve Coeur Racquet Club received the Member Organization of the Year award from the USTA St. Louis district. In 2014, Dwight Davis Tennis Center was the chosen recipient of the St. Louis District Outstanding Community Tennis Association (CTA) award. In 2015, Dan won the Distinguished Service Award from the USTA St. Louis District.
The difficult times Dan faced only strengthened his love of tennis and made him want to give back to the game that has taken such good care of him. Dan takes community outreach incredibly seriously and has donated more court time, food and events than his staff or family can track. Aside from what he has donated to Dwight Davis, Dan has also donated time and resources to organizations like Lift for Life, Girls on the Run, His Kids, HisGem, LLS Society, the USTA US Open Wheelchair Championships, KUTO, The Pujols Family Foundation, Senior Olympics, Jenson Schmitt Tennis Academy, the local Dwight Davis NJTL Program, and the local wheelchair program he helped get underway in 2008, the Gerber Wheelchair Tennis Program.
Like many greats, Dan attributes most of his success to others, especially his father. “What makes a good life in tennis is the people around you. My VP Margie Piot, my family and quality people I get to work with like Judy Dippold, Jim Seitz, Troy Bray, Carl Walker, Paul Tobin, Rick Randall, Larry Miller, Dick Johnson, Bruce Affleck and Vince Schmitt have all inspired me in different ways to be the best at what we are doing.”
*Note from Dani - This is also the biggest tennis win of my life. Playing mixed doubles with my Dad in front of BILLIE JEAN KING. Freaking BILLIE JEAN KING. And we won. #WinnersWin