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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

USTA Announces Plans for New Home for American Tennis; Wall Street Journal on Taylor Townsend, Columbia Men's Tennis

On the drive to Athens today for the beginning of my tenth year of NCAA Division I Championships coverage Thursday, I stopped to participate in the USTA's conference call regarding the previously announced 100-court facility in Lake Nona, Florida, outside Orlando.

This huge project has so many facets, with the intention of creating a "new home for American tennis," that even the many journalists from all over the country on the call couldn't begin to inquire about every possibility.  There is much that the three USTA participants in the conference call--Chairman and president Dave Haggerty, Executive Director Gordon Smith and General Manager of Player Development Patrick McEnroe--could not answer, with the completion of the project more than two years away, but three things are clear. Community Tennis, which now oversees junior and collegiate tennis, is moving from White Plains, New York, Player Development is moving from Boca Raton, Florida, and the USTA received so many incentives from the developers and the local governments that the deal was too good to turn down.

A question about the status of the USTA's National Training Centers at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in New York and at the StubHub Center in Carson, California was answered by McEnroe:

We're obviously going to look into everything that we're doing. I think it's safe to say we will have a presence still inNew York at the home of the US Open, at the National Tennis Center there, and we will have some presence in Southern Cal. We'll have the next year or so to really look into that and evaluate what is going to work best with the resources we have.

My questions, which I've published below, were centered on the project's impact on the collegiate and junior scene, with the unexpected disclosure that 12 of the hard courts would be dedicated to collegiate tennis, and would become the home courts of the University of Central Florida's men's and women's tennis teams.

Q: I understand from the release you're going to have 12 courts that are dedicated strictly to collegiate tennis. Are you considering a bid for the NCAAs and any other sort of tournaments that would be related to college?
DAVE HAGGERTY: The fortunate thing is the University of Central Florida is here, as well. The 12 courts that we talk about will be their facility. They'll be using them for their tennis matches. They'll also continue to have some practice courts on their campus. We think that gives the opportunity to really have a couple of dual matches at the same time. They can have their men's and women's
teams playing simultaneously. Many schools don't have the capability of doing that. Could this be a place down the road for a college event? Absolutely. But I think first we have to take it one step at a time. We'll work with the University of Central Florida and see what might happen there from any event scheduling that makes sense.

Q. Patrick, is there some idea there will eventually be national junior tournaments maybe from all the age divisions like we saw at the Easter Bowl that will be scheduled to take place in Orlando?

PATRICK McENROE: We're not looking to take any tournaments from already great locations. What we do think is possible is to have new tournaments and create some new tournaments for kids, again, I think down the road, just like the collegiate question that you asked. Certainly we'll have the ability to host big tournaments, whether that's adult leagues, junior events. So all those options will certainly be on the table. I think it's very exciting for junior tennis that we'll be able to do that. Like you said, there's not many facilities that can have multiple age groups in one location and we'll have the capability to do that at Lake Nona.

DAVE HAGGERTY: To add to that, we don't see having every event at Lake Nona every year. But I'll give you an example. We know that
parents have to fly to multiple locations with their children around holiday periods at times. There may be an 18s and a 16s event, there may be a 14s and a 12s in a different location. Parents aren't able to be with their kids, there's multiple locations.This could be an opportunity every couple of years to have an event like that here. 

I don't foresee Kalamazoo or San Diego or places like that coming here. But I think that will be part of our transparency, part of our communication that we'll have in the upcoming months as we begin to do the planning for the future.

Q. It sounded like maybe the Winter Nationals, or haven't you gotten any specifics?
DAVE HAGGERTY: No. I use that an example of timing. Certainly that could potentially be one, but we have no plans at this point to say that the Winter Nationals will be here in 2016, for example. We don't have that, no.

The full transcript is available at ASAP Sports.  The University of Central Florida's release, with a more detailed artist's rendering of those 12 courts is here.  The USTA's article on the many facets of the facility is at usta.com.

The Wall Street Journal published two articles on tennis today.  Tom Perotta, who broke the story about Taylor Townsend's issues with the USTA over her fitness at the 2012 US Open, followed up today with a look at Townsend's current coaching arrangement with Zina Garrison and her place in the upcoming French Open main draw.

Jason Gay provides an excellent look at how daunting a task it is for a student-athlete at an academically rigorous university to focus on both their studies and their tennis this time of year.  Gay details the stress on the Columbia men, who have reached the Sweet 16 for the first time, but believe me, their dilemma with finals is not unique for any of the competitors who have chosen a challenging major.


Sam said...

if Michigan is paying attention they should go outside the usual names and talk with Endelman of Columbia. Ivy academic school in Sweet Sixteen with no outdoor courts. Almost impossible to comprehend. beat Michigan this year 6-1. The Columbia coaches know what they're doing.

Sam said...

if Michigan is paying attention they should go outside the usual names and talk with Endelman of Columbia. Ivy academic school in Sweet Sixteen with no outdoor courts. Almost impossible to comprehend. beat Michigan this year 6-1. The Columbia coaches know what they're doing.

Avid Reader of Zoo Tennis said...

Colette - thanks for a great link on the Columbia team - but can you expand a bit on what you mean by the following statement - "their dilemma with finals is not unique for any of the competitors who have chosen a challenging major." The article seems to focus on the timing of the finals before and after the regional weekend and before the round of 16. No doubt other players have pre med and econ as a major that they have to manage during the school year. I guess the question would be how many of the other teams still had finals going on creating that sort of time crunch - I believe most of the teams were done with school before the regionals but I stand to be corrected and apologize if my presumption is wrong. Or am I missing your point completely? Thanks again for the link.

Colette Lewis said...

Stanford and UCLA are still in school and I''m sure there are others. I agree it's a huge advantage for schools that finish before the NCAAs start.

Avid Reader of Zoo Tennis said...

Colette - Thank you. Thank you also for what you do. I never understood why you receive the occasional hassle about why you should cover certain topics more or less.

russ said...

A quick comment on Columbia's success. I think it has less to do with the coaches, than having a very solid junior class. All four players were very good juniors and collectively they were, in my mind, one of the top five classes of 2011. Columbia never had a haul like that. What's really funny is that they lucked into that group as two of those juniors had Harvard as their first choice, but the coach there basically gave them the back of his hand. Bert Vancura, by the way, while working in the Chemistry research lab in the summer after his freshman year, discovered a new molecule that the school named after him. Good luck guys against USC.

Here's to them all... said...

Many of these teams are in the middle of finals or finished them just before boarding the plane so they bring all that with them. Teams that are on quarters can be considered at an advantage because they aren't in the middle or end of finals. During indoor champs, many teams are balancing midterms. Colette is absolutely correct, Columbia is not different in any way from other team's challenges. When you are trying to balance tennis/academics while playing on a top 10 team there are no easy majors. All these players deserve respect for what they do! The demand on these college players at this time is why the individuals are so unpredictable and for some, they just don't care about them - the teams that make the semis or beyond have players that have put in a lot more time. Many at that point just want it to be done. So don't be critical of upsets, understand what many of these players go through all season to get through the finish line.

Ivy League Tennis Denizen said...

In response to russ:

I think the Columbia coaches deserve a little more credit than you wish to give and I disagree with your reasoning. Yes, the four members of Columbia's junior class are extremely talented and work unbelievably hard, but . . .

First, I'd guess that Harvard is the first choice of 95% of Ivy League tennis players but only 12.5% of them get their wish. This does not mean that the other seven Ivy coaching staffs "lucked into" their players. Among other things, it shows how difficult it is for the remaining seven Ivies to consistently challenge for Ivy titles, something that Columbia has done better than any other Ivy over the past 30 years (9 Ivy titles). To say that Harvard's Dave Fish gives players "the back of his hand" severely misinterprets Fish's position of power. For the most part, he gets the two or three players he wants and the other Ivy coaches must spend valuable time navigating the tricky minefield of challenging Harvard to a daunting recruiting battle or focusing their energies on finding lower-ranked juniors with potential and positive attitudes. Which brings us to player development . . .

Second, the Columbia coaches have done a masterful job of helping their players improve. None of the four were blue chip recruits, but they have distanced themselves from their higher-ranked junior contemporaries. Witness the doubles team (juniors Narayana and Schnur) that won the 2013 National Indoors; two years earlier as freshmen, they lost at third doubles to Virginia Tech. Furthermore, Schnur, as a freshman, couldn't crack the starting singles lineup of a team that finished second in the Ivies. A change to old school serve-and-volley tactics paved the way for his recent meteoric rise in singles. (Vancura's molecule is 100% his own doing.)

Third, Columbia's junior class was ranked #11 in 2011 by The Tennis Recruiting Network. The same year, Cornell's current batch of juniors was ranked #5. Cornell's Ivy record the last three seasons? 3-4, 3-4, 3-4. Trust me, Russ, it ain't the water.

Fourth, the line-up has been supplemented with continued stellar recruiting. In 2009, Yale had the nation's #4 recruiting class. What did Yale win with this trio? Nothing, because Powers, Huang and Hoffman never got any on-court help. Columbia's coaching staff has added a two-time first-team All-Ivy player (Ignat) and a #6 (Vermeer) who was #961 in the world. The result? A legitimate top-20 team.

See you next year!