USTA opens a ‘tennis heaven’ and hopes champions will follow


After a 2 1/2 hour drive up from her tennis academy in Boca Raton, Florida, on Wednesday evening, Chris Evert and her brother John arrived at the U.S. Tennis Association’s gleaming new facility and were struck by the sheer size of it.

With 100 courts, a dormitory, a strength and conditioning center, a cafe and ample parking, the complex in the Lake Nona community dwarfs most other tennis academies, including Evert’s, which had been renting out space to the USTA for years.

The 64-acre, $63 million campus, which formally opened Thursday, was built to grow the game at the grass-roots level and to develop future Grand Slam champions, something U.S. tennis has been lacking beyond Serena and Venus Williams.

A child can learn how to hold a racket and begin playing the game on a smaller, 36-foot court. A top professional can prepare for the Australian Open on the same type of surface used in Melbourne.

The center will host recreational tournaments, including a 90-and-over tournament later this year; home matches for the University of Central Florida; and a gay and lesbian event.

If you plunk down $12 for an hour, you can play there, too. The facility is open to the public without membership and is said to be entirely accessible to players with disabilities.

“This is tennis heaven,” said Katrina Adams, the USTA’s president and a former tour professional.

There are three kinds of hard courts, green clay with a below-ground watering system, and six red clay courts that were built using 450 tons of iron-rich crushed red brick imported from Cremona, Italy. (The only thing missing is grass.) There are 84 courts with cameras for live-streaming so aunts and uncles in Idaho can watch their nieces and nephews play in tournaments.

Thirty-two of the courts will be smart courts, hooked up with analytical instrumentation that breaks down players’ mechanics, from the angles they take getting to the ball to the spin rate on their forehands. The system, installed by PlaySight, provides computer terminals at courtside so players and coaches can analyze performance on court.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Faces Off the Field: Lanie Jordan, senior, Anderson cross country
Faces Off the Field: Lanie Jordan, senior, Anderson cross country

What do you like most about cross country? I really love the team atmosphere and how tight-knit my teammates and I have become over the last four years. Cross country is like one big family that I’m really going to miss next year. What do you think about when you’re running? I try to think of anything except running to get myself through...
Former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez had ‘severe CTE’

A recent study of the brain of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez revealed that diseased 27-year-old had severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, according to a report from Ken Belson of the New York Times. Hernandez died in April when he committed suicide while incarcerated for the murder of his former friend...
Auburn softball adds former head coach, longtime SEC assistant to staff

AUBURN, Ala. — New Auburn softball coach Mickey Dean has gone with SEC experience once again in building his new staff on the Plains with the hire of Annie Smith. On Thursday afternoon, Auburn announced the hire of Smith, who most recently coached as a volunteer at LSU. Smith spent six seasons as the head coach at Georgia...
Report: Alabama to receive $4.5 million for 2019 Chick-Fil-A kickoff game

As the saying goes, the rich only get richer. Alabama will receive a huge sum of $4.5 million to play the Duke Blue Devils in the 2019 Chick-Fil-A kickoff in Atlanta according to Chandler Rome of The Anniston Star. This number is actually less than the Alabama-Florida State game earlier this season. The Crimson tide ...
Former Florida TE Aaron Hernandez’s lawyer: Brain showed ‘severe’ case of CTE

Florida and New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s lawyer says his client’s brain showed severe signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, the degenerative brain disease. Attorney Jose Baez said tests showed evidence to support his claim while speaking in a news conference at his offices on Thursday. Hernandez...
More Stories