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.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011