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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Orange Bowl Moves to Clay Courts of Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Florida for 2011

Before I get to today's action at the International Spring Championships, I wanted to put up a separate post on today's official USTA announcement that the Orange Bowl will be moving from the hard courts of Key Biscayne to the Har-Tru courts of the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Florida.

There was no transcript of the conference call with Patrick McEnroe and Lew Brewer available, so I'm going from memory here, but McEnroe described the change as a "tremendous opportunity," to get American juniors more focused on the benefits of clay. He cited the many hard court tournaments that already exist in the US, and mentioned the change in the pro game in recent years demands more stamina, point construction and strategy. The increase in US Pro Circuit events on clay and the three ITF junior tournaments that were moved to the surface are evidence of the USTA's commitment to clay as a development tool, and the Orange Bowl is now a part of that initiative as well. For many years, the tournament, begun by Eddie Herr, was held on the clay courts of Flamingo Park in Miami Beach, before moving to Key Biscayne in 1998.

The current commitment for the Plantation public facility in Broward county is only for 2011, but other sites in Miami-Dade were considered and rejected for various reasons, so its 26 lighted courts were deemed the best option.

I asked about the Eddie Herr, and although the final decision has not been made, Brewer said it is likely to also move to clay for the 18s this year, and that should be finalized in the next few weeks.

I also asked about the possibility of more emphasis on clay in the college game, as that is now part of the USTA's development plan, but McEnroe wasn't optimistic about the USTA's ability to effect change where the NCAA is concerned.

My final question was about the difference between the red clay that most of the top players learned the game on and the Har-Tru that is prevalent here in the US, and while McEnroe admitted they were not the same surface, he said that well-maintained Har-Tru courts still provided similar benefits, and for cost reasons, there was unlikely to be any move to red clay in this country.

For the USTA release, see usta.com. For the Miami Herald story on the move, click here.

Feel free to comment on the change, but remember to use a name, not the anonymous option.


OB Watcher said...

The ITF American season which begins at the US Open is all on hardcourts, through the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl. The South American clay season starts much later. About one third of the players at the OB are American. Certainly none "developmental players". 2010 was a pretty good year for Americans, on hard. What is the sense of putting the OB back on clay?

The criticism at Key Biscayne has always been about the poor job done by the people who run the tournament. About the score boards, the food, the officials, etc. Not about the site itself. If the USTA wants to move it because they are going to save money on hotel costs and other items, go ahead and say so. But don't use the clay argument to justify the move. It is not valid.

Hello from California said...

Anyone ever notice how the West Coast kids are usually at the top of the junior ranking but always do poorly at clay court Tourneys?

Clay courts in California are few and far between and I know of no public clay courts in California at all.

How does the USTA expect juniors to do well on clay courts when they don't have them to play On?

Oh yeah, I forgot, CA doesn't really exist, nor are they a force in junior Tennis-Not!

West Coast tennis said...

I agree with Hello from CA... Everything west of the Mississippi is hard courts period. That is a statement of fact.
If USTA high performance is trying to make USA competitive on the world stage I think it would be easier to convince the ATP/WTA to make all of the USA tournament court speeds faster not slower.

I think that when you look at how the game has changed (racquets, strings, athletes) nobody talks about court speed or ball type (3 types there).

on the ATP/WTA tours there are
5 categories of court speeds

Category 1 (slow) Category 2 (medium-slow) Category 3 (medium) Category 4 (medium-fast) Category 5 (fast)

and 90% of the courts fall into the category 1-3, so that leaves 10% for category 4 and 5.

My thought is it would clearly be easier as country to develop faster courts to favor what we have been playing on for 50 years +.

Out side of Michael Chang, Agassi, and Jim Courier (4 titles in 20 years) the US in general could care less about the french open.

I think if you want the USA to dominate again make the court lightning fast, more indoor carpet, and make the up open lightning fast...then all of the lead up tournaments would have to follow suit.

As far juniors go, if we want to develop clay court type of players (which is fine) then the USTA should subsidize facilities throughout the west coast for Clay courts not quick-start courts. I mean even the Carson home depot center only has 4 average Har-tru courts. If they really were looking for major changes you have to use $$$$ and I am sure if California and Texas had a plethora of Red-Clay (Rolland Garros type) courts you would see a substantial shift on clay court play period.

And the major issue is Cost...so I am trying to figure out how Mexico, Argentina,Chile,Peru etc. have tons of red clay...

just my 2 cents