2015/05/29

USTA Breaks Ground for National Campus in Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida

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From the USTA: Orlando, Fla., April 8, 2015 – The United States Tennis Association  celebrated its arrival in Orlando, Fla., with a ground-breaking ceremony for the USTA National Campus, the New Home of American Tennis, in Lake Nona.  The model tennis facility, expected to be completed in late 2016, will house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions.  When completed, the facility will feature more than 100 courts, including red and green clay courts, hard courts, and youth tennis courts.  The site, which will be open to the public, also will house a collegiate tennis center capable of hosting a number of college events and will serve as the home for the University of Central Florida’s men’s and women’s varsity teams.

 

“This is an historic day as the USTA continues to reimagine its future, and redefines how we deliver on our mission of promoting and developing tennis in the United States,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President, Katrina Adams.  “By housing our two divisions devoted to growing the game at all levels, and training the next generation of players and coaches, we can have a greater impact on the sport than we ever had before.”

 

The groundbreaking was attended by Adams and other senior USTA officials, senior officials from Tavistock Group and Lake Nona, along with City of Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, and Orlando County Mayor Teresa Jacobs as well as a number of state and regional partners working with the USTA to make tennis’ governing body’s vision a reality.

 

The facility is being built in Lake Nona, an integrated, 11-square mile community in Orlando, anchored by clusters of excellence in health, sports, education and technology.  With its parent company, the private investment organization Tavistock Group, the fast-growing community of Lake Nona has attracted business innovators and residents committed to building a total environment that enables meaningful and impactful lives.

 

The USTA facility will serve as a cornerstone for Lake Nona’s Sports Innovation & Performance District, an emerging athletic district with a focus on research, design, innovation and technology.

 

“Lake Nona is the ideal place for the USTA to grow and thrive,” said Rasesh Thakkar, Senior Managing Director of Tavistock Group.  “We have a long history in sports, and together with the USTA, we will continue to attract innovators to Lake Nona to create opportunities that will advance sports science and athletic performance.”

 

The campus will be located on 63-acres of land and will include:

  • Tournament and League Area – This area will include 32 Har-Tru green clay courts and 20 Plexicushion hard courts. The space will include player pavilions and a tournament administration building, complete with trainer rooms, officials area, a stringer area, player lounge, public restrooms, and a tournament check-in area. It will allow the USTA to deliver events like never before and will set a new functional standard for the sport.
  • Collegiate Tennis Area – This area will feature 12 Plexicushion hard courts and one future tournament show court, and will serve as the home of the University of Central Florida’s men’s and women’s varsity tennis programs. The courts will be equipped with high-mast lighting for televised events and have elevated seating for 1,200 people with room on the north and south end for additional seating. The area will allow two collegiate matches to be played simultaneously. Additionally, it will feature a two-story pavilion for concessions, public restrooms, team locker rooms, and areas for trainers and officials.
  • Team USA Area – This area will include 12 Plexicushion hard courts. The courts will be utilized by the 17 USTA Sections, along with local coaches and their players throughout the country to work collaboratively with USTA Player Development.  The Team USA Area also will provide training facilities for tennis officials and coaches throughout the United States.
  • High Performance and Player Development Area – This area will include eight “DecoTurf” hard courts and eight European red clay courts.  The space will include a lodge that can house 32 boys and girls. The strength and conditioning area will include a sand and workout area. In addition, the area will be utilized for Team USA Events.
  • Indoor Tennis Courts–  Six Rebound Ace indoor courts with a viewing area.
  • 36/60’ Family Tennis Area– These courts will include eight 36’ and eight 60’ PowerGame courts with a SportsBase that will enable youth and adults to develop their games.
  • USTA Office Building – The ground floor will include a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge, and café/restaurant with USTA offices occupying the second floor.
  • Technology – The facility will be an epicenter for tennis innovation and education.  It will incorporate the latest technology to provide an unparalleled playing, training and educational experience for players, coaches, officials and spectators.

The Tavistock Development Company is serving as the project developer, with DPR Constuction as the general contractor and HKS as the lead architect.  California Products (hard court surfaces), Har-Tru (green clay court surface), and Connor SportCourt (Family Tennis Area 36/60 court surface) are providing the court surfaces for the facility.

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Martin Blackman Named General Manager, USTA Player Development

From the USTA: WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 6, 2015 – The USTA today announced that Martin Blackman has been named General Manager, USTA Player Development. In this full-time position, Blackman will oversee the USTA’s Player development staff and partner with the U.S. tennis community to identify and develop the next generation of world-class American tennis players. Blackman will continue to work toward a true Team USA concept, working collegially and cooperatively with the greater American player development community.  Blackman, who will report to USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gordon Smith, succeeds Patrick McEnroe, who held the position since 2008.

 

Blackman will oversee both the USTA’s Player Development staff and Training Centers –including its Regional Training Center network and the Player Development facilities at the soon-to-be created USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Fla.

 

Blackman has a diverse and extensive background as a coach and a player, beginning with his days as a junior, when he trained with legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, alongside future greats Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Blackman, who won the USTA Boys’ 16s National Championship in 1986 and reached the Boys’ 18s final two years later, went on to become a member of two NCAA Championship teams at Stanford University.  He continued his play at the ATP level from 1989 to 1995, reaching a career-high of No. 158.

 

Blackman then became the head men’s tennis coach at American University in 1998. During his tenure at American, Blackman was named conference Coach of the Year three times, leading American to three conference titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and its first-ever national ranking.

 

In 2004, Blackman was hired as Director of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., and began to help build it into one of the premier junior training centers in America. In his five years at the JTCC, Blackman helped the Center double both its junior program enrollment and its full-time staff, and the JTCC has since worked with and helped develop pros such as Alison Riske and Denis Kudla and top junior Francis Tiafoe.

 

Near the end of his tenure in College Park, Blackman submitted a proposal to the USTA recommending that it partner with the best junior development programs across the nation, which was the impetus for the creation of the USTA Regional Training Center network.  He was hired by the USTA in 2009 as Senior Director of Talent Identification and Development, a role that saw him oversee the implementation of the Regional Training Center program, serve as a co-leader of the Coaching Education Department and be USTA Player Development’s leader for Diversity and Inclusion.

 

Blackman left the USTA in late 2011 to found his own tennis academy, the Blackman Tennis Academy, in Boca Raton, Fla. After only its second year of full-time programming, Blackman’s Academy sent all eight of its graduating students to college on tennis scholarships.

 

Blackman also served two terms on the USTA Board of Directors, from 2003-06, serving on the Audit and Collegiate Committees.

 

“The USTA is lucky to have secured an individual with as well-rounded a background as Martin Blackman,” said USTA Chairman, President and CEO Katrina Adams. “I have known Martin for many years and I am confident that he is the right person at the right time to continue to lead USTA Player Development in the right direction moving forward.”

 

“If you set out to list all of the experience and qualifications you would want in the ideal candidate for this position, Martin checks all of the boxes. He brings a unique combination of experience and skills to the job. His expansive background in all areas of player development from experience as a player, to talent identification, to coaching at the highest levels gives him  a solid platform to build on the great base that Patrick and the staff has built.” said USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gordon Smith. “His experience as a player, coach, administrator and innovator makes him the ideal leader for USTA Player Development as we continue to work with the American Tennis Family to identify and develop world-class American players.”

 

Blackman lives in Boca Raton, Fla., with his wife and their four children. He holds an economics degree from George Washington University.

 

Update – here is the transcript from the USTA Media conference call with Mr Blackman. Journalists who asked the questions in the news conference were Colette Lewis of Zootennis, Rachel Cohen of AP,  Jim Martz, Dave “Koz” Kozlowski, Pam Shriver of ESPN Cindy Shmerler of Tennis Magazine,  Sandra Harwitt, Bill Simons and blogger Lisa Stone.

UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE

April 6, 2015

Katrina Adams

Martin Blackman

CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I’d like to thank all the members of the media joining us for this call today.  On the call today we will have the USTA chairman of the board and president, Katrina Adams, the USTA chief operating officer and executive director, Gordon Smith, and our newly named general manager for player development, Martin Blackman.
I’m going to turn it over to our chairman of the board and president Katrina Adams for some opening remarks.
KATRINA ADAMS:  Thank you.  Welcome, everyone, thank you for tuning in for this wonderful announcement of our hiring of Martin Blackman as our new general manager of player development.  He is very qualified.  It was an arduous deal for us in trying to come down to the final decision, but Martin’s background was well experienced and we’re truly excited about the future of American tennis going forward.
Without further ado, I’ll pass it over.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  We’ll open it up to questions at this point.

Q.  Martin, why did you leave the USTA in 2011?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  In 2011, it was kind of the end of the first phase in RTC rollout.  I thought we did a great job kind of piggybacking on the work of Jose Higueras, under Patrick’s leadership, partnering with some of the best programs in the country.
I wanted to kind of take that time in my career and start a program, kind of go back into the private sector.  That was something I always wanted to do, and I thought that was the right time after we had finished the first part of the job with the regional training centers.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I wanted to point out, when Martin said the RTC in his answer, he was referring to the Regional Training Centers.

Q.  What, in your experience, as a private coach in the past three or four years have you learned about interacting with the USTA and how do you think that’s going to help you going forward?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I mean, so much.  Being in the trenches over the last four years and being on court six to eight hours a day with kids ages 8 to 18.  I think the first thing that I noticed when I went back into the field was how different the perception of private coaches of the USTA and player development.
The outreach that we started culminating with the Team USA initiative that was brought forth by Patrick and the USTA leadership is really bearing fruit.  I really felt that.  I felt like the coaches felt like they were being supported, respected and partnered with.  I also saw that when you get a player 14, 15, 16 years old, there’s an elite, high‑performance player, you really need the support of the Federation to get them to the next level.

Q.  You just mentioned a player in the 16‑, 17‑, 18‑year‑old range, what can the USTA provide for that level of a player?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think, again, one of the strengths of Patrick’s leadership was that the support of player development was very flexible and able to be customized.  In some instances you’re going to have a player like a Madison Keys, who is able to go to a former championship like Lindsay Davenport, maybe get different types of support, or you’re going to get some players that will come to the USTA and get direct coaching.
But I think what Patrick and his team did so well, and I know Katrina and Gordon want to continue, is that we have to be flexible in the way that we relate to players, parents and coaches.  It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
The way the game is going, the resources that are needed to develop a top‑10 player, it’s very difficult to do that without some support from the Federation.

Q.  This morning I was talking to a veteran coach, Rick Macci, who said today is a very good day for American tennis with your announcement.  You can relate to what junior development is all about and deal with coaches in the private sector.  Could you elaborate a little more about that.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I mean, you know that Rick is a great coach with an amazing track record.  I think one of the things you learn when you’re in the private sector and on the court a lot is the emotional investment that it takes to develop a good player.
It’s not just feeding balls, not just doing private lessons, not just going to tournaments.  There’s a huge emotional investment that the coach makes in the player and in the family.
So knowing that, when a transition is happening, we in player development have to be very sensitive in respecting that relationship between the player and their primary coach and their parents.
I think that’s something that I’m definitely sensitive to, but I think it’s something that Patrick and his team recognized when they rolled out the Team USA initiative.

Q.  I did a story once on University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga, who is a big tennis fan.  I asked him about top athletes getting into tennis as opposed to maybe basketball.  I said what if Yannick Noah’s son Joakim had stayed in tennis, or what if LeBron James had gone into tennis?  He said both of them would have been the No.1 player in the world, in his opinion.  Talk about attracting top athletes to tennis, and is this something that high performance would get involved in?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think it’s an ongoing challenge.  I mean, if we’re going to develop world‑class players, we want to start with young people who are potentially world‑class athletes.  So I think it’s a collaboration really with community tennis.  I know it’s something that Katrina is very serious about doing, opening the doors and changing some of the perception, creating more outreach opportunities.  I know Gordon feels that way, as well.
But it’s going to be a joint effort to broaden the base and reach out to communities that maybe we haven’t as much or that maybe perceived a lot of barriers when it comes to playing tennis.  We need to make sure we change the perception and remove the barriers as much as we can.

Q.  Nick Bollettieri was excited.  He endorsed you by saying you were a great listener and you wouldn’t be (indiscernible).  How strongly do you feel those two traits will help?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Definitely the first one.  In my first 36 to 60 days, I’m going to be doing a lot of listening.  I’m going to be listening to Katrina and Gordon as we crystallize the goals for player development and really set priorities.  I’m going to be listening to Patrick as he transitions out.  I’ll be doing a lot of lot of listening to Jay Berger, Ola Malmqvist and Jose Higueras, and I’ll be doing a lot of listening to past American champions and great coaches.
I think it’s very difficult to make good decisions if you’re not a good listener.  But at that point having priorities and having goals, you need to make decisions.  I appreciate Nick’s endorsement.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a mentor.  And, yes, I will be doing a lot of listening.

Q.  Will that include listening to the kids, getting feedback from the young players themselves?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes.  I mean, I think you have different perspectives out there.  I think one of the most valuable perspectives that we have, and we have to tap into, is the voice of our former champions.  Katrina has initiated a great new mentorship program that’s really going to formalize some of the input and advice we get from some of those former champions.  Reaching back to players like Mary Joe Fernandez, Lindsay Davenport, Billie Jean King, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, reaching out to those great champions and listening to them, then listening to some of our current champions, then coming up with commonalities that we can formalize and make a little more systematic.

Q.  I know you have four kids.  I’m assuming some of them, if not all of them, have played some youth sports.  As a parent going through some experiences with youth sports, how is that affected and how do you think you’ll bring that experience as a parent and relate it to this position?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes, I have four kids.  They all play tennis.  Two play because they really love it.  Two play because it’s a free sport from daddy.  But what I’ve learned in going to tournaments and watching them, watching a lot of my players, is that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to skip levels, to be the eight‑year‑old that plays the 12‑and‑unders, to be the player that should be playing 60 orange that plays regular yellow.
That would probably be the first thing that I would try to address or continue to address with education and incentives because when you skip levels, you at some point are really retarding the developmental process.
A great example to me of someone I admire with decision make is CiCi Bellis.  After CiCi got to the second round of the US Open, beat Cibulkova, tremendous win, she played the Youth World Fed Cup, 16‑and‑under event.  She led her team to that title.  Then she played the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl.  The way she played 10Ks and 25Ks, that to me is an example of somebody who understands levels.
The second part of the experience with my kids is I love the concept of half‑day tournaments and one‑day tournaments for 10‑and‑under and 12‑and‑under tournaments.  There are not that many parents who can afford to take full days, Saturday and Sunday, away from their family and jobs to be in that situation.
Those are the two biggest things, the process of not skipping levels, and making competitive experiences more acceptable for average families.

Q.  Who were your idols growing up?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  My idols growing up were Jimmy Connors.  When I was a little kid, I used to pull my socks up to my knees like Jimmy Connors.  Guillermo Vilas was an idol of mine.  As I got to know more about him, then Arthur Ashe became a very serious role model for me.

Q.  Why all three of those?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, Jimmy Connors to me is probably, with the exception of maybe Rafa, the greatest competitor that’s ever played our sport.  That is very compelling to a young kid, just seeing somebody fight like that and be so passionate.  My parents took me to Forest Hills in ’77.  I was able to see him and Vilas up close.
So really the competitive spirit in Jimmy Connors.  For Vilas it’s more the grinder, somebody who worked so hard and played so gracefully.  Then for Arthur Ashe, it’s really about character, it’s about tennis being a metaphor for life, what you can do when you excel, people you can help.

Q.  What is the most significant character trait in your life that makes you well‑suited for this job?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think discipline, decision making.  I think that along with listening and along with being a good leader, I think at the end of the day your decision making has to be very disciplined based on objective criteria, not emotional, not reactive.  I think that gives your team a sense of comfort in the process of how decisions are made, a sense of security.
At the end of the day when a great player pops up, that great player is an outlier.  That great player isn’t the result of some perfect formula that everybody figured out and put together.  Part of the system’s job is to stay out of the way, but also to facilitate the development of those players.  You have to have discipline.
If you make a decision that doesn’t fit the prodigy, it’s okay, because the prodigy is still going to become great.

Q.  The relationship of player development to the college tennis athlete.  I’m sitting at the Easter Bowl.  I’m at the 18s, taking note that most of these kids are on the college tennis pathway as opposed to the professional pathway.  What are your thoughts on how player development will work with those kids who are focused on the collegiate development pathway.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think that with the changing demographics of the age of your top 100 players, that college is going to become a very important part of the pro tennis pathway.  If we’ve got top hundred men who are 27 years old on average, on the women’s side 24, you’re talking about a significant window of time after a player graduates from high school.
Again, Patrick showed great leadership in setting up a collegiate function within player development.  That’s something that I think we need to invest even more in to support our best college players, our best American college players, and our best American college coaches.

Q.  Do you see there will be additional funding support for those players, for example, during the summers when they may want to try their hand at pro circuit events or other professional tournaments?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I think it’s a little premature for me to talk about funding.  I’m not officially on the job yet.
But in terms of priorities, it’s definitely a priority because especially on the men’s side, there are not that many boys who are ready for the rigors of the tour at 18 years old.  If they’re not, then we have a uniquely American advantage in our collegiate system that we need to make the most of.

Q.  I have been to your academy a few times.  It looks like it’s a very successful program.  I’m wondering why having developed it to that, what is the appeal to you about going back and not being your own boss, going back to the USTA, basically why you’re interested in moving in a different direction?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I really enjoyed building my program.  We have a great team of coaches.  I’m going to be transitioning my program, the leadership of it, to my head coach Jose Caballero.
For me, this opportunity is the greatest opportunity for someone who is passionate about player development and really wants to give back to a sport that’s given me so much.
It’s a dream job for me.  So I had to pursue it.  I’m very fortunate that Katrina and Gordon have given me the opportunity to serve.

Q.  I’m a proponent of the old school where kids went to college then went out on the tour.  They all seem so anxious to go right away.  How do you convince an eager 16‑year‑old or 17‑year‑old who has had good results, but they’re not ready and they should take advantage of the college system?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yeah, I think player development as a department has done some great research on benchmarks for players.  When a player is about to graduate from high school, either on the men’s side or the women’s side, there’s some benchmarks they should be made aware of, they, their parents, their coach, their team.  So if they’re not having significant success on the tour, that should really be an indicator for them that college is the way to go.
But we have to make sure that we give them the support while they’re in college to keep developing as players and to come out when they’re 21, 22, ready to do damage, like John Isner, Steve Johnson.  And I think we’ll see more of them on the women’s side.  We have Irina Falconi at 100, but I think we’ll start to see more on the women’s side as well.

Q.  Do you think it’s a way of making careers last longer?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I mean, I don’t know.  I do know if you’ve got five spots opening in the top 100 every year, and the average age is 24 on the women’s side, 27 on the men’s side, if I’m correct, I do know that there’s a gap of four to six years.
So the question is, what is the best way to develop a player during that window.  Do you want them to go on the futures tour, the challengers tour, play 30 weeks a year between the age of 18 and 24, or do you want them to mature and get stronger and then go out there.

Q.  Going back to attracting the best athletes.  I know it’s early, but I want to know from early ideas about working with the community tennis division side of the USTA, the beginning youth sports athletes.  How do we get better athletes, particularly when you look at the men’s side the last 15 years?  How do we do it?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  It’s a big question.  It’s a big question.  It’s an important question.
I’m going to give you a few ideas.  One of them is we have an opportunity with the 10‑and‑under formats that are kids’ sized.  We have the opportunity to have play on a 36 red court, a 60‑foot orange court.  Now, how do we leverage that opportunity so that we get kids who can play other sports in school for free to have a free experience in the right format en masse.  I think that’s a huge opportunity and I think we’re making big headway there, but there’s a lot more we can do.
I think number two is, there are a lot of city programs that have real meaningful, organic connections with African American communities, Hispanic communities, lower‑income communities, that we can support, that already have the relationships, but maybe don’t have the capacity or the resources.
I mean, thirdly, I think we just got to keep knocking down the perception that we’re a super expensive, elitist sport.
If we talked again in two months, I’ll have a very good answer for you.

Q.  Why do you think it’s been so long since the American men have lifted the trophy at a Grand Slam?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I think there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the globalization of the game and just make it such a difficult sport.  I think one of the things that hurt us is that college was the most viable pathway in the ’70s and the ’80s.  I think that changed a lot in the ’90s where you had a lot of international players that used that time and really broke into the top 100 at a young age.
I think it’s a question of windows.  So we were blessed with Sampras, Courier, Agassi, Wheaton, Chang, and then with Roddick, Fish and Blake.  We’ve been blessed with Serena and Venus.
But now the role of the Federation in facilitating the development of a world‑class player is much greater.  I think that’s why we opened the window six years ago when Patrick was hired, and we’re starting to see the fruit right now.
Some of the bright lights right now, we’ve got 14 American women in the top 100 on the WTA, and we’ve got 13 boys in the top 100 of the ITF junior rankings, and three more who are playing pro who would also be top 100.  We’re looking at a pool of about 16 boys who are coming up the pipeline right now, and then 14 women who are already in the top 100.  So the window’s open again.  We just have to make sure that we get those players exactly what they need to get to the next level.

Q.  Katrina awhile ago said we are a nation that is a land of excess, not opportunity.  There’s a lack of motivation.  If kids don’t understand they have to do the hard work, they will never get anywhere.  Jose Higueras made a similar comment to the Los Angeles Times saying we were lacking competitiveness in our players.  That’s all about emotion, fire, hunger.  Talk about that.  Is that something an association can work with a player on?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yeah, I do think a Federation can make a huge impact.  I agree with Katrina and Jose.
I think what the challenge is, is to create a culture where all of our players are striving for excellence, striving for Grand Slam titles, striving to be top five.  Doesn’t mean they’re all going to achieve it, of course not.  But creating that culture allows players to push each other.  One player pops, the next one pops, the next one sees that, I can do that.
The mentorship program that Katrina has initiated, more involvement from some of our former champions, all those things are going to work together to create that culture.
I mean, if we’ve got boys or girls who are ranked 60 or 70 in the world, and they’re sitting at a table with Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Serena, Venus, Lindsay Davenport, those American champions are not going to be patting them on the back telling them, Hey, you made it.  They’re going to inspire them to be what you said, raising a Grand Slam trophy.

Q.  A lot of kids come from families that can afford to give their kids tennis, but are choosing sports that are more team sports.  They like that atmosphere.  Do you think there’s a way of promoting kids into tennis, in the early years, making it more of a team sport than an individual sport to attract kids, that they feel part of a whole as opposed to on their own?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes, I think that’s already being done very effectively with some of the eight‑and‑under, 10‑and‑under events.  Even at the national level, the competitive structure, we’ve added a lot of national team competitions in addition to zonals and intersectionals.  I think that makes a huge difference in the way the game is perceived and the way a kid is introduced to tennis.

Q.  I’ve been to junior Fed Cup and Davis Cup.  Even that level of elite kids, it seems to bring something out in them when they’re rooting for the other person as well as just themselves.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  For sure.  I totally agree with that.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I would like to take a moment to thank everybody for joining us on the call today.
Katrina, Gordon, thank you for taking the time.  Martin, congratulations.  We look forward to seeing everybody soon.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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Dennis Novikov Serves Way to Sixth Pro Circuit Title At USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas

Novikov Serving

(March 29, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif.– It was all about the serve Sunday in the final of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas.

 

Former UCLA star and No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov did it just it just a little bit better on Sunday to beat unseeded Francis Tiafoe, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), to capture his sixth USTA Pro Circuit Futures championship at the USTA $15,000 Pro Circuit Futures event played at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.

 

Novikov’s serve was never broken and he rocketed 13 aces, double faulted just once and only faced a break point against him once the entire match. Tiafoe also served strong with nine aces, two doubles faults, and never lost his serve while saving two break points.

 

“It was a little bit warm out here so the conditions really suit serving,” said Novikov, who will break into the ATP World Top 200 when the rankings are releases on Monday. “It was just a battle of serves today. Like Sampras against whoever …. (Ivo) Karlovic or (Mark) Philippoussis.”

 

Novikov will get his name placed on a banner just like former champs Karlovic and Philippoussis, and has a goal to be in the top 100 by the end of the year.

 

Novikov led 5-4 in the first-set tiebreaker but was able to get two mini-break points against Tiafoe’s serve to close out the set, 7-4. The second set was much of the same story with Tiafoe unable to get close to breaking Novikov, but serving well enough to extend to another tiebreaker.

 

“That was tough,” said the 17-year-old Tiafoe, who has not turned pro yet. “I stayed cool and kept holding and I was serving great. I was returning OK but wasn’t able to get the break.”

 

Novikov made $2,160 prize money and gained 27 valuable ATP World ranking points while Tiafoe earned $1,272 for the week and 12 ranking points. “So far it’s been a good year for me,” Tiafoe said. “I took the fall off and in January I played better than I thought I would.”

 

Added Novikov: “I like warmer conditions and played well at Indian Wells qualifying there a few weeks ago.”

 

In the doubles final on Saturday night, Fabian Matthews and Hunter Nicholas beat Adrian Forberg Skogeng and Wil Spencer, 6-1, 2-6, 10-6.

 

To keep up with all the USTA Pro Circuit news and scores, don’t forget to download the Pro Circuit App. Search procircuit in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.

 

Sunday’s Final Singles Scores

Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Francis Tiafoe, U.S., 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6)

 

Saturday’s Final Doubles Score

Fabian Matthews, U.S. / Hunter Nicholas, U.S., def. Adrian Forberg Skogeng, Norway / Wil Spencer, U.S., 6-1, 2-6, 10-6

 

By Steve Pratt

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Francis Tiafoe to Face Dennis Novikov in USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas Final on Sunday

 

(March 28, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif. – Francis Tiafoe didn’t officially announce he was turning professional on Saturday after advancing to the final of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas. But he did remind that it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

 

“I’m going to turn pro,” the 17-year-old unseeded Tiafoe, still an amateur, said after beating Jason Jung in the semifinals, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, at the USTA $15,000 Pro Circuit Futures event being played at the Calasbasas Tennis & Swim Center. “I’m not sure when it’s going to happen, but it’s only a matter of time.”

 

Tiafoe is on a nine-match win streak after winning his first ITF Futures title last weekend in Bakersfield. He will face former UCLA star and No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov in the 1 p.m. final on Sunday, with a pro doubles exhibition starting at noon.

 

Jung won the toss but elected to receive Tiafoe’s serve, which he promptly broke quickly. “I came out flat, but got the break back but then gave up the first set,” Tiafoe said. “I was just trying to find my range on both sides. I was serving extremely well and my best shot my forehand started working for me in the second set.”

 

Tiafoe said he still plans to play the remaining Junior Grand Slams, and that he has improved tremendously from one year ago when he was No. 7 in the world ITF junior rankings. He was a finalist at the Carson USTA Spring International Championships and won the ASICS Easter Bowl. Both mega junior events take place over the next two weeks.

 

Earlier this month, Tiafoe was named as a practice partner for the United States Davis Cup team that lost to Great Britain in Scotland. “I worked hard in the off-season and at Davis Cup I gained a lot of confidence,” he said. “My serve is 10 times better and off the ground I’m so much better.”

 

Novikov, 21, lost the first set to McDonald, 4-6, but used his big serve to take advantage of the match over the final two sets, 6-3, 6-2.

 

In the doubles final on Saturday night, Fabian Matthews and Hunter Nicholas beat Adrian Forberg Skogeng and Wil Spencer, 6-1, 2-6, 10-6.

 

Follow along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/calabasastennis. For more information check out the official website, calabasasprotennis.com. Don’t forget to download the Pro Circuit App. Search procircuit in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.

 

Saturday’s Semifinal Singles Scores

Francis Tiafoe, U.S., def. Jason Jung, U.S., (6) 5-7, 6-1, 6-4

Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. (q) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

 

Saturday’s Final Doubles Score

Fabian Matthews, U.S. / Hunter Nicholas, U.S., def. Adrian Forberg Skogeng, Norway / Wil Spencer, U.S., 6-1, 2-6, 10-6

By Steve Pratt

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Francis Tiafoe Continues Win Streak with Straight-Set Win At USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas

Francis Tiafoe-001

(March 27, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif., – Francis Tiafoe moved one stepped closer to a second-straight USTA Pro Circuit Futures singles title as he beat No. 8-seeded Mitchell Krueger in the quarterfinals on Friday at the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas.

 

Tiafoe, a 17-year-old from College Park, Md., won his eighth consecutive match taking out the No. 8-seeded Krueger, 21, of Aledo, Texas, 7-5, 6-4, in the $15,000-level event being played at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.

 

“Yeah, I guess it is eight straight but I’m not really thinking about that number,” said Tiafoe, who won three consecutive three-setters in the first three rounds last week in claiming his first Pro Circuit title. “I’m just focusing on continuing to play good tennis in Cali and want to put on a good show for the fans who come out tomorrow.”

 

He had never faced Krueger before, but the two have practiced together all week, and Tiafoe said he was able to get familiar with his game.

 

Tiafoe will face 25-year-old former University of Michigan star Jason Jung in one of Saturday’s semifinasl. Jung beat 17-year-old wild card Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals on Friday, 6-3, 6-3. Fritz had his chances early on, squandering 15-40 and love-40 games on Jung’s serve in the first set.

 

“Sure, he hits a big ball, but I was just better today,” said Jung, as he rested in preparation for an evening doubles semifinal. Jung also beat Fritz in the USC Pro Circuit Futures semifinals during the first week of the year.

 

In the other semifinal on Saturday starting at 3 p.m., it will be an all UCLA affair as No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov will play either qualifier and current UCLA sophomore Mackenzie McDonald or former Bruin and wild card Clay Thompson, who played in the late match Friday.

 

Earlier on Friday, Novikov downed Ecuador’s Giovanni Lapentti, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

 

Follow along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/calabasastennis. For more information check out the official website, calabasasprotennis.com. Don’t forget to download the Pro Circuit App. Search procircuit in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.

 

EVENTS: USTA Junior Team Tennis Kid’s Day with a Tennis Carnival is Saturday, March 28, from 1:30 p.m. till 3 p.m.

 

Friday’s Quarterfinal Singles Scores

Jason Jung, U.S., (6) def. Taylor Fritz, U.S., (wc) 6-3, 6-3

Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Giovanni Lapentti, Eucador, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3

Francis Tiafoe, U.S., def. Mitchell Krueger, U.S., (8) 7-5, 6-4

Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. (q) def. Clay Thompson, U.S., (wc), late

 

Friday’s Semifinal Doubles

Jason Jung, U.S. / Raymond Sarmiento, U.S., vs. Fabian Matthew, U.S. / Jeremy Hunter Nicholas, U.S., late

By Steve Pratt

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March Madness For Three UCLA Bruins Who Move On At USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas

Mitchell Krueger

Mitchell Krueger

(March 26, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif., – A day after former UCLA Bruin and defending NCAA and Calabasas champion Marcos Giron was forced to retire from the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas without ever hitting a ball, three current or former Bruins advanced to the Elite Eight of the USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 Futures tournament.

 

Current Bruin and qualifier Mackenzie McDonald, and former UCLA players wild card Clay Thompson and No. 2-seeded Dennis Novikov all posted wins Thursday at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.

 

Thompson’s 6-3, 6-3, win over 17-year-old Stefan Kozlov was the most impressive, while McDonald needed three sets to down fellow qualifier Mico Santiago, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, and Novikov got past American Fritz Wolmarans, 7-5, 6-2.

 

It all happened a day before the storied UCLA men’s basketball team is to play Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA basketball tournament on Friday.

 

It was March Madness, indeed, on Thursday as 17-year-old Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., resident and tournament wild card Taylor Fritz upset top-seeded Fabiano De Paula of Brazil, 6-2, 6-0.

 

Also moving into the quarterfinals was Torrance’s Jason Jung, a former University of Michigan All American. He beat former Big-10 rival Marek Michalicka of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Michalicka played his college tennis at the University of Wisconsin. Keeping with the March Madness theme, the top-seeded Badgers basketball team beat North Carolina later in day to move into their own version of the Elite Eight.

 

“It’s nice to be home and not traveling,” Jung said. “The wind early on wasn’t too big a factor and it was really ideal conditions. We are the same class in college and played a bunch of times in college.”

 

Mitchell Krueger, the No. 8 seed, was the seventh American of the final eight to reach the quarterfinals as he beat West Covina’s Ernesto Escobedo, 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3. Krueger won a $15,000 ITF Pro Circuit event to start the year at USC. “I was able to play in the first round of qualies at Indian Wells and ended up losing 6-7 in the third in the first round,” Krueger said. “I love playing here. I played the double of Carson and Easter Bowl in April ever since I was a kid, so it’s great to be out here and feels pretty familiar to me.”

 

Follow along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/calabasastennis. For more information check out the official website, calabasasprotennis.com. Don’t forget to download the Pro Circuit App. Search procircuit in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.

Thursday’s Second-Round Singles Scores

Taylor Fritz, U.S., (wc) def. Fabiano De Paula, Brazil (1), 6-2, 6-0

Jason Jung, U.S., (6) def. Marek Michalicka, Czech Republic, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. (q) def. Mico Santiago, U.S., (q) 3-6, 6-3, 6-1

Giovanni Lapentti, Eucador, def. Sekou Bangoura, U.S., (q) 6-2, 6-4

Mitchell Krueger, U.S., (8) def. Ernesto Escobedo, U.S., 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3

Francis Tiafoe, U.S., def. Alexander Ward, Great Britain, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Clay Thompson, U.S., (wc) def. Stefan Kozlov, U.S., 6-3, 6-3

Dennis Novikov, U.S., (2) def. Fritz Wolmarans, U.S., 7-5, 6-2

 

Thursday’s Quarterfinal Doubles Scores

Jason Jung, U.S. / Raymond Sarmiento, U.S., def. Deiton Baughman, U.S. / Walker Duncan, U.S., 6-4, 6-2

Pedro Bernardi, Brazil, / Luis Fernando Ramirez, Venezuela, def. Fabino De Paula, Brazil / Pedro Sakamoto, Brazil, walkover

Fabian Matthew, U.S. / Jeremy Hunter Nicholas, U.S., def. Damon Gooch, South Africa / Lucas Renard, Sweden, 6-1, 6-4

Adrian Forberg Skogeng, Norway / Wil Spencer, U.S., def. Giovanni Lapentti, Ecuador / Dennis Novikov, U.S. (3) def. walkover

By Steve Pratt

 

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Qualifiers McDonald and Bangoura Upset Seeded Players On Day 2 at USTA Men’s Pro Championships of Calabasas

USTA pro circuit logo

(March 25, 2015) CALABASAS, Calif., – Five unseeded Americans took vastly different routes into the second round of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas on Wednesday during first round play at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.

 

Mico Santiago, Francis Tiafoe, Ernesto Escobedo, Mackenzie McDonald and Sekou Bangoura each posted victories on a gorgeous sunny day at the USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 Futures tournament.

 

The qualifier Santiago had the easiest time with his opponent, former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, posting a 6-3, 6-0 victory. “He seemed tired and I was feeling good and just seemed to take advantage of it,” said Santiago, a 21-year-old from Corvallis, Ore., who trained as a teenager at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C. “After losing last week early (to Walker Duncan in Bakersfield), I just got re-committed and stayed focused.”

 

Tiafoe was playing his first match since winning the Bakersfield ITF title, his first as a professional, last Sunday. He beat No. 4-seeded Darian King of Barbados in a match that had an unusual finish. After dropping the first set, 6-7 (5), Tiafoe battled back to win the second set 7-5 and was leading 2-0 when King became agitated by what he thought were continuous bad calls by the chair umpire, and simply walked off the court and quitting the match.

 

“He just kind of lost it and sadly had to quit, because he couldn’t handle it,” Tiafoe said. “”That’s never happened to me. I don’t really know what to say.”

 

In a battle of big-serving 18-year-old Southern Californians, West Covina’s Ernesto Escobedo got past a hard-charging Deiton Baughman of Carson, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, to advance to the second round where he will meet No. 8-seeded Mitchell Krueger on Thursday.

 

Qualifiers Mackenzie McDonald, a UCLA sophomore, and former University of Florida star Sekou Bangoura both posted victories against seeded players with Bangoura taking out former collegiate rival and No. 5-seeded Daniel Nguyen in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

 

“We’ve played in college and at the Irvine Futures,” Bangoura said of Nguyen, who led the USC Trojans to four NCAA team titles, two of which ended with Nguyen clinching the final match, prompting Bangoura to call him the “clutchest player in college tennis history.”

 

Defending champion Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, appeared on the grounds of the tournament but was forced to withdraw because of injury.

 

EVENTS: A USPTA Coaches workshop with one or two of the Pro Circuit players and their coach will take place on Thursday, March 26 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Adult Pro-Am drill is Friday, March 27, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Community Tennis Association & USTA League appreciation night is Friday, March 27, starting at 6 p.m. A VIP sponsor dinner reception is also on Friday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A USTA Junior Team Tennis Kid’s Day with a Tennis Carnival is Saturday, March 28, from 1:30 p.m. till 3 p.m.

 

Wednesday’s First-Round Singles Scores

Fabiano De Paula, Brazil (1), def. Damon Gooch, South Africa, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5

Jason Jung, U.S., (6) def. Maxime Tabatruong, France, 6-3, 6-2

Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. (q), def. Connor Smith, U.S., (7) 6-2, 7-5

Sekou Bangoura, U.S., (q) def. Daniel Nguyen, U.S., (5) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2

Marek Michalicka, Czech Republic, def. Raymond Sarmiento, U.S., (q) 6-4, 6-4

Mitchell Krueger, U.S., (8) def. Nicolas Meister, U.S., 6-4, 6-2

Francis Tiafoe, U.S., def. Darian King, Barbados, (4), 6-7 (5), 7-5, 2-0, ret.

Ernesto Escobedo, U.S., def. Deiton Baughman, U.S., (q) 6-2, 5-7, 6-2

Fritz Wolmarans, U.S., def. Boris Bakalov, Bulgaria, (q) 7-5, 6-3

Mico Santiago, U.S., def. Emilio Gomez, Ecuador, 6-3, 6-0

Giovanni Lapentti, Eucador, def. Michael Shabaz, U.S., (q) 6-4, 6-4

Alexander Ward, Great Britain, def. Walker Duncan, U.S., (ll) 5-7, 6-2, 6-3

 

Wednesday’s First-Round Doubles Score

Jason Jung, U.S. / Raymond Sarmiento, U.S., def. Keanu Ellen, U.S. / Jan-Michael Gambill, U.S., (wc) 6-2, 7-6 (6).

By Steve Pratt

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USTA Announces Sixth Annual US Open National Playoffs

From the USTA: US OPEN NATIONAL PLAYOFFS RETURN FOR SIXTH SEASON, ADDING MEN’S AND WOMEN’S DOUBLES DRAWS

 

PLAYOFFS OFFER EVERYONE AGE 14 AND OLDER

THE OPPORTUNITY TO EARN A BERTH INTO 2015 US OPEN

IN SINGLES, DOUBLES AND MIXED DOUBLES

 

ENTRIES OPEN MARCH 15 FOR ALL 14 SECTIONAL QUALIFYING TOURNAMENTS

 

US OPEN NATIONAL PLAYOFFS CHAMPIONSHIPS RETURN TO NEW HAVEN, CONN.

 

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., March 4, 2015 – The USTA today announced that the US Open National Playoffs will be held for the sixth season this year, expanding the footprint of the US Open to cities nationwide by providing the opportunity for all players 14 years of age and older to earn a berth into the US Open. New this year, the US Open National Playoffs will include a men’s and women’s doubles competition. Also, players can continue to compete in both men’s and women’s singles, as well as mixed doubles.

 

The US Open National Playoffs men’s and women’s singles champions earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, held the week prior to the US Open. The US Open National Playoffs men’s, women’s and mixed doubles champions receive a wild card into the main draw of the 2015 US Open.

 

“The US Open National Playoffs are all about connecting people to the US Open,” said Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman of the Board, CEO and President. “This year, by adding men’s and women’s doubles, the National Playoffs are giving competitors the opportunity to earn their way into the US Open in every possible way. We look forward to another year of great tennis and watching top juniors, collegians, aspiring pros, and weekend warriors compete for the chance to play on tennis’ grandest stage.”

 

Registration for the 2015 sectional qualifying tournaments opens on Sunday, March 15, at www.USOpen.org/NationalPlayoffs. The entry fee for each of the sectional qualifying tournaments varies, with men’s and women’s singles entries ranging from $75-$100 per player and men’s, women’s and mixed doubles entries ranging from $45-$60 per player. All players competing must have a current USTA membership valid through Aug. 31, 2015.

 

The US Open National Playoffs begin as a series of 14 sectional qualifying tournaments held in different USTA sections across the country (see complete schedule on page 2). The 14 champions or top available finishers in each division from each sectional qualifying tournament advance to the following US Open National Playoffs Championship events that will take place in conjunction with the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies, an Emirates Airline US Open Series event, in New Haven, Conn.:

  • Men’s and Women’s Singles Championship, Aug. 21-24
  • Men’s and Women’s Doubles Championship, Aug. 25-28
  • Mixed Doubles Championship, Aug. 26-29

Players may compete at different sectional qualifying tournaments in each division (one for men’s or women’s singles, one for mixed doubles and/or one for men’s or women’s doubles). However, a player may only compete in one sectional qualifying tournament per division during a calendar year. Participants can be of any playing level, giving everyone an opportunity to advance.

 

More than 1,200 players competed in the 2014 US Open National Playoffs, which marked the largest year-over-year increase in entries in the program’s five-year history. Players ranged from experienced professionals who were once ranked in the Top 50, to junior players and current/ former college standouts, to recreational players of all playing abilities and walks of life. Participants included those competing for charity, businesspeople, musicians, lawyers, reporters, former athletes, and stay-at-home mothers.

 

Notable past participants include Olympic skier Bode Miller; musician Redfoo of the music group LMFAO; ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, who teamed with six-time US Open champion Chris Evert in mixed doubles; and LuAnn De Lesseps and Jill Zarin of “The Real Housewives of New York City.”

 

The US Open Qualifying Tournament will be held Aug. 25-28, the US Open men’s and women’s doubles championships begin Sept. 1 and the US Open mixed doubles championship begins Sept. 2 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. The 2015 US Open is scheduled to take place from Aug. 31, to Sept. 13.

 

US Open National Playoffs information is available at www.USOpen.org/NationalPlayoffs.

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USTA President Katrina Adams to be honored The Network Journal’s 17th Annual 25 Influential Black Women Awards in

Jan. 18, 2013; Kiawah Island, SC; Katrina Adams

From the USTA -WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Feb. 11, 2015 – The USTA today announced that Chairman of the Board, CEO and President Katrina Adams has been named to the 2015 list of “25 Influential Black Women in Business” by The Network Journal (TNJ). Adams will be honored at the 17th Annual 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards Luncheon, presented by Morgan Stanley on March 26 at the New York Marriott Marquis.

 

“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by The Network Journal as one of this year’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business,” said Adams. “I look forward to being among so many successful and inspiring black women who are leading the way in areas that impact our world in such a positive and meaningful way. And I thank The Network Journal for leading this charge in shedding light on all of our accomplishments.”

 

Adams was appointed the Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of the USTA in January 2015. She is the first African-American, first former professional tennis player and youngest person to serve as the association’s chairman of the board, CEO and president.

 

At the awards presentation, Adams will be joined by honorees from a variety of business backgrounds including finance, television, corporate relations, colleges and universities, and Diversity and Inclusion, to name a few. Those honored will be featured in the Spring 2015 issue of the magazine.

 

This year’s program includes a networking reception, lunch and awards presentation with Mistress of Ceremonies Brenda Blackmon, an Emmy Award-winning journalist. This is a signature TNJ event, attracting a veritable “Who’s Who” of business executives and decision makers.

 

“For 17 consecutive years The Network Journal has recognized the outstanding professionalism of 25 African-American women annually, and for 17 years I have been amazed by the heights these women continue to achieve,” said TNJ Publisher and CEO Aziz Gueye Adetimirin.

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Former World No 4 James Blake to become Chairman of the USTA Foundation Board of Directors

James Blake (L) and Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio (R)

James Blake (L) and Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio (R)

From the USTA: (February. 09, 2015)WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), announced that it has appointed former world No. 4 James Blake as chairman of the Foundation’s board of directors. In his new role, Blake will serve as the Foundation’s spokesperson and ambassador to promote the mission and impact of its national outreach efforts.

 

Blake will help promote the Foundation’s mission of providing tennis and education opportunities to under-resourced youth and individuals with disabilities. He succeeds former pro and longtime tennis journalist and advocate Mary Carillo, who served as chairwoman from 2009 to 2014.

 

“I’m honored to have been selected as the chairman of the USTA Foundation board of directors. I admire the Foundation’s pursuit to support the combination of tennis and education and the impact it has on so many youth around the country,” said Blake. “I grew up playing tennis at a young age and participated in a National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) program. It was there that I learned the value and influence tennis can add to my life while being encouraged to stay academically focused. It’s through the support of the USTA Foundation where students today are given the same opportunities. And I’m proud to be a part of this outstanding mission to serving up dreams.”

 

Blake’s professional career spanned 14 years, in which he won 10 ATP singles titles, seven doubles titles and a Davis Cup Championship. He also reached the semifinals of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and climbed to a career-best No. 4 in the world, ranking as the top American during that time. Blake joined the U.S. Davis Cup team in 2001 – becoming the third African-American to play Davis Cup for the U.S., following in the footsteps of Arthur Ashe and MaliVai Washington. He teamed with Andy Roddick, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan to capture a record-extending 32nd Davis Cup championship title for the U.S. in 2007.

 

Blake attended Harvard University, where he became the No.1 player in the nation and acquired numerous accolades including ITA All-American, first team All Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Association (EITA) honors and EITA/Ivy Rookie of the Year, to name a few. Blake turned pro in 1999, following his sophomore year with the Crimson. Blake began playing tennis at the age of 5, where he attended the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program (HJTEP), an NJTL program in New York City supported by the USTA Foundation. It was there where he heard Arthur Ashe speak to a group of kids that inspired him to pursue the sport of tennis.

 

In 2007, Blake co-wrote a New York Times best-selling autobiography, “Breaking Back.” The following year he was honored with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award. Blake officially retired from professional tennis at the 2013 US Open.

 

“The board of directors of the USTA Foundation proudly welcomes James as our new chairman and ambassador for our important mission of  serving under-resourced youth and those in need through tennis and education,” said Thomas Chen, president of the USTA Foundation board of directors. “We have admired his success and reputation as a professional tennis player and are pleased that he shares our core beliefs in giving back through the sport of tennis.  We are honored to have him join the Foundation and know he will continue the great work and leadership we enjoyed by our outgoing chairwoman, Mary Carillo.”

 

A Yonkers, N.Y., native, Blake created the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2004. He runs an annual celebrity tennis and entertainment event, Serving for a Cure, to raise funds for cancer research and prevention.  He lives in Connecticut with his wife Emily and daughters Riley and Emma.

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