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USTA Debuts Enhancements To U.S. Open, Tennis Center
The USTA continues to change and improve the US Open and its Flushing Meadows, N.Y., site. Some the innovations, attractions, and enhancements that fans will notice at this year’s Open, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, include:
Blue courts: As reported in the July issue of RSI, the USTA came up with a new court color for the US Open and the run-up US Open Series of tournaments. The new color was designed to provide a “signature look” to the Open Series and provide an identifiable link to the Open itself. Also, it was designed to enhance visibility of the ball for players and spectators.
Bellagio-style fountain: The vast South Plaza at the National Tennis Center will feature a new fountain created by WET Enterprises of California, the designers of the popular fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Shooting water more than 20 feet high, the fountain’s animation controls can create water shows, movement, and sound.
Polo Ralph Lauren: The apparel designer is stepping up to tennis in a big way, signing a four-year partnership with the USTA for the US Open sponsorship. PRL will design the official US Open shirt and will outfit all on-court officials, line judges, and ballpersons. In addition, there will be a 3,500-sq.-ft. Polo store on-site.
Avenue of Aces: Fans can purchase personalized pavers to support the USTA Tennis & Education Foundation and have a permanent link to the Open. The Avenue of Aces will be between the East Gate entrance and Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Sales Figures Strong for Second Straight Year
There’s good news for the tennis industry: For the second straight year, racquet sales for the 12 months through June 2005 are strong, up 29 percent in units and 18 percent in dollars, when compared to the same period that ended in June 2003. A year ago, in June 2004, sales had increased 16 percent in units and 8 percent in dollars.
This two-year upswing is fueling speculation that a number of things are coming together for the sport, including recent new player programs, such as the Tennis Welcome Center initiative and the USTA’s Tennis in the Parks campaign, and positive consumer reaction to new technologies introduced by racquet companies.
“Unit sales growth the past two years shows that some of our new player programs are starting to work,” says Jim Baugh, the president of the Tennis Industry Association. “Along with the USTA, we’ve promoted Tennis Welcome Centers for two straight years, and the USTA has greatly expanded its Tennis in the Parks campaign.
“The growth in dollar sales, especially this year, shows that consumers are buying more premium, high-performance racquets as well,” Baugh adds. “In fact, the largest growth category this year is the super-premium category, up over 35 percent.”
The TIA also says the increases tie in with what dealers expected for sales in 2005. Based on a survey at the beginning of the year, 57 percent of dealers said they expected consumer sales to increase, while 10 percent predicted a decrease.
Ball sales, after growing in units in 2004, are down slightly in 2005, but the TIA says it’s been having some difficulty tracking sales because a number of top retailers are importing balls directly under their own brands, and they don’t report sales figures to the TIA. “We’re hoping to get these retailers to submit their sales to ball shipment census reports” in the future, says Baugh.
But overall, Baugh’s happy with the direction things are taking. “We’re on the right track,” he says. “Industry sales are the most positive they’ve been in years, and the efforts to grow the game at the grassroots level have intensified. And we’re launching Cardio Tennis to consumers. We just need to keep our focus, work together, and keep pushing.”
Wilson nCode Wins Industrial Design Excellence Award
Product design firm Design Concepts Inc. of Madison, Wis., and Wilson Sporting Goods have been recognized with a Bronze 2005 Industrial Design Excellence Award (IDEA) for Wilson’s new nCode racquets.
Co-sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America and BusinessWeek, the international design competition is “a celebration of the best and hottest product designs of the year” and is “dedicated to fostering business and the public’s understanding of the importance of industrial design excellence to the quality of life and the economy,” according to IDEA officials.
A jury of 17 world-renowned designers and critics considered more than 1,380 entries from 40 countries before selecting 148 winners. Wilson’s frames feature exclusive nano-technology nCode material combined with dramatic visual appeal, superior shock and vibration reduction, more power, a more active string bed and a larger sweetspot, says the company. Serena Williams uses the n3 model on the pro tour and Tennis magazine named the n5 model an “Editor’s Choice.”
According to Brian Dillman, Wilson’s vice president of Global Marketing for Racket Sports, “The new nCode racquets make all other racquets look obsolete. But in the end, the racquets have to perform on the court.”
HEAD Penn Teams With Barbie For New Junior Girls’ Line of Tennis Products
HEAD Penn Racquet Sports and Mattel Inc. have developed a co-branded set of tennis products for young girls called the Head Barbie Junior Series. This new line combines Head’s racquet design expertise with the fashion and appeal of the Barbie brand, says Head officials. Designed for girls ages 4 to 9 (or 40- to 55-inches-tall), the new Head Barbie Junior Series will be in stores for the 2005 holiday season.
“By aligning Head products with a brand as established and prestigious as Barbie, we will gain instant recognition and credibility among young girls at retail and on the courts,” says Greg Mason, director of sales and marketing for HEAD Penn. “With fun, colorful tennis equipment in their hands, young girls will be inclined to play longer and more often.”
The new series includes three junior racquets designed for a variety of heights and ages, a racquet sack, and a pro racquet bag that fits both racquets and equipment. Also available is the Head Barbie Junior Pack, which includes a 25-inch racquet, pink two-tone pressureless tennis balls, and a water bottle.
“Barbie knows what girls of all ages like and is literally everywhere a girl is — now on the tennis court as well,” says Richard Dickson, senior v.p. of Mattel’s Worldwide Consumer Products division. “It is a strategic priority for us to partner with authentic brands outside the traditional toy world.”
Wilson Introduces Color-Coded Teaching System for Beginners
Wilson Racquet Sports has developed a new line of tennis instructional equipment as part of its expanding commitment to tennis education programs throughout the country. The EZ Tennis line, designed for teaching pros running entry-level programs, is a color-coded racquet system for beginners that Wilson says will make the fundamentals of tennis easier to comprehend.
Wilson’s EZ Tennis racquets and grips are color-coded red and yellow to simplify hand positioning and indicate which side of the racquet should be used during forehand and backhand strokes. EZ Tennis racquets are available in 17-, 19-, 21-, 23- and 25-inch lengths. The 17-inch frame, the first Wilson racquet made in that length, is ideal for children as young as ages 2 or 3, says the company.
“EZ Tennis is a comprehensive training system that allows even the youngest beginners to grasp the fundamentals of tennis in an engaging way,” says James Burda, Wilson’s manager of U.S. promotions.
In addition to the racquets, the line also includes Set-Up Targets, Dots, Court Lines, Multi-Use Cones, Tennis Nets, Foam Balls, and Transitional Play Balls. For more information, call 800-272-6060 or contact your local Wilson rep.
Vantage USA Formed for Custom Racquets
RacquetMaxx of Birmingham, Ala., and Vantage Sport International of the United Kingdom have formed a new company, Vantage USA, which will specialize in building custom tennis racquets for the U.S. market.
The new partnership will use the Custom Racquet System that Vantage International developed to deliver fast and cost-effective service to players “looking for something more unique than mass-produced fames,” according to a press release. And for Vantage USA customers, the wide range of services offered by RacquetMaxx will be available on all Vantage racquet configurations. All orders can me made via the website or by calling RacquetMaxx directly for any information and assistance in choosing specifications and building a frame.
“Building racquets that perfectly suit the player is what we are all about” says Paul Angell, founder and head of Vantage Sport International. “Having an office in the USA will further increase our level of customer service, and with RacquetMaxx as a partner, we are delighted to be able to offer even more choice of specifications.”
“Our company has been built on customizing mass-produced racquets to meet a player’s specific needs,” says Bob Patterson, founder and head of RacquetMaxx. “Vantage racquets are the ultimate customization, providing an avenue for the player to work with a Master Racquet Technician to build their dream racquet.”
A Vantage USA website is under construction, but customers are still able to configure their ideal racquet at Vantage Tennis or by calling RacquetMaxx directly for further information and assistance at 800-824-4989.
Grand Slam Gut Debuts New 100% Natural Gut String
Grand Slam Gut’s new 100 percent Natural Gut comes in a variety of sizes and textures for tennis, squash, racquetball, and badminton players. For tennis, the string is offered in 17, 16, and 15L gauges, and it comes in coated and uncoated versions.
GSC says that its college and 5.0 playtesters consider the string to be one of the liveliest available. The company says it’s one of the roughest natural guts available, which adds more spin to the ball, and that it is long on durability.
The company points to USRSA lab testing that measured GSG’s uncoated 17 gauge to be the second best natural gut string on the market in holding tension and its coated 15L as one of the top five softest natural gut strings on the market. Tests were done versus all the natural gut competitors.
The natural-color GSG is available in 40-foot (12.2 m) sets and half-sets of 21 feet (6.5 m). Recommended tension for Grand Slam Gut is 50 to 60 lbs. For tennis, it is priced at $17 per set. For more information, contact 715-366-4333 or e-mail email@example.com.
Prince Sports Introduces Shark DB Frame
Prince Sports launched the newest racquet in the Shark family, the Shark DB, this summer, designed for players looking for maximum comfort in a powerful frame, especially for players with shorter, more compact strokes, says the company.
The Shark DB is the first ever power Double Bridge (DB) racquet by Prince and is offered in an Oversize and Midplus headsize. Prince says the racquet’s patented Double Bridge technology provides frame and string vibration reduction.
Prices range from $190 to $200. For more information, contact 800-283-6647 or visit Prince Tennis on the web.
Welch Offers Clay-Court Maintenance Seminars
Welch Tennis is again offering its popular clay-court maintenance seminars, designed for anyone who is involved in the business of maintaining clay (Har-Tru) tennis courts, whether traditional overhead-irrigated fast-drying courts or subsurface-irrigated HydroGrid or HydroCourt.
The seminars give participants a working knowledge of Har-Tru courts, including an explanation and demonstration of the latest procedures in court maintenance.
Participants receive a Certificate of Completion, and USPTA members can earn three credits for continuing education for attending. Cost is $159 per person ($125 for each additional person from the same facility) and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments, and a happy hour. Upcoming seminars are:
- Oct. 7 at the Ocean Club in Daytona Beach, Fla.
- Oct. 14 at the Gulf Harbor Yacht and Tennis Club in Fort Myers, Fla.
Call Deb Carlson at 800-282-4415.
Wilson Sales Veteran Moves to Marketing Team
Wilson Racquet Sports has promoted Cory Springer to the new role of marketing manager for the U.S. Springer has been with Wilson for nine years and has served as a territory manager in southern Florida for the past six years.
Springer will manage marketing execution and sales programs in both the accessory and footwear categories for the U.S. market. He also will coordinate with Wilson’s Global Marketing Department for product development and serve as a marketing liaison to Wilson’s U.S. sales team.
In other Wilson personnel news, the company hired Evan Garfinkle as a territory manager in the South Central region of the U.S. Garfinkle, an accomplished stringer and certified Master Racquet Technician, joins Wilson after working most recently as a sales rep for both Gamma/Fischer and Bälle de Mätch.
- David Kjeldsen, CEO of Viking Athletics in Lindenhurst, N.Y., announced that Brian Mills will assume responsibility for all inside sales of Viking’s platform tennis line. Mills will work closely with Dave Ohlmuller at O2 Athletics of Lake Bluff, Ill., which represents Viking in the Midwest.
- Longtime tennis coach Larry Easley has given much to the game of tennis over the years, but now he needs help from it. Easley is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and his friends are asking for help in providing support. A fund-raising golf event was held Aug. 12 in Nevada, and there are plans to do more. For details, contact Ron Drylie at 888-750-7587 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wayne Bryan, coach of the Sacramento Capitals, has been named 2005 World TeamTennis Coach of the Year. The charismatic Bryan earned his second consecutive Coach of the Year award after leading Sacramento to a League best 11-3 record and a Western Conference Championship. The WTT Finals weekend will be Sept. 16-17 at Allstate Stadium at Sunrise MarketPlace, Citrus Heights, Calif.
- In other WTT news, Elena Likhovtseva and Mark Knowles, both of the Sacramento Capitals, were named 2005 Female and Male MVPs. Also, Katerina Bondarenko of the Newport Beach Breakers has been named 2005 Female Rookie of the Year, while the Springfield Lasers’ Rik de Voest has earned Male Rookie of the Year honors.
- Eight college players and two coaches went to Izmire, Turkey, Aug. 11-21 to represent the U.S. at the 2005 World University Games tennis competition. U.S. Men’s Coach David Roditi selected John Isner (University of Georgia), Ryler DeHeart (University of Illinois), Scott Green (Ohio State), and Ross Wilson (Ohio State). U.S. Women’s Coach Lori McNeil selected Amber Liu (Stanford), Jennifer Magley (University of Florida), and Catrina and Christian Thompson (Notre Dame).
- Longtime USTA marketing and communications specialist Randy Walker will join Leverage Sports Agency after the 2005 US Open. Walker, who worked with the US Open, Olympics, and U.S. Davis Cup team and served as the USTA’s senior publicity manager, will work on publicity, sponsorship, and new business development for the Charlotte/New York-based agency and will focus on the tennis industry.
ATP, Penn, Sports Authority Team Up to Distribute DVD
Tennis Masters Cup Uncovered II: Facing Federer, the ATP’s behind-the-scenes documentary of the most recent Tennis Masters Cup, will be distributed to tennis fans in coming months through a promotion between the ATP, HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, and Sports Authority.
Sports Authority stores nationwide will stock three-packs of Penn balls that also contain a complimentary copy of the DVD. Priced at $7.99, the three-pack of Penn ATP Tennis Balls will remain on sale through November. It is the first time that ATP partner Penn has featured a three-pack promotion with its ATP ball. Additionally, holiday packs — comprising an eight-pack of balls and complimentary copy of the DVD — will be sold at Sports Authority stores beginning in October for $19.99.
“We’re certain recreational players using Penn balls also will enjoy getting an up-close look at the best professional players in the game through this beautiful and fun documentary,” says Kevin Kempin, vice president of Penn Racquet Sports Worldwide.
The DVD includes the one-hour documentary and bonus footage featuring Roger Federer, Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Tim Henman, Guillermo Coria, Carlos Moya, and Gaston Gaudio. It continues to be sold online at the ATP website via ATP partner Tennis Warehouse.
Sportwall Unveils Its ‘Next Generation’
Interactive tennis and fitness pioneer Sportwall International will unveil its Next Generation platform at the USPTA World Conference in Marco Island, Fla., the week of Sept. 18.
A leader in the emerging industry of “active interactive” products and programs for sports, fitness, and education, Sportwall uses computer-game technology to motivate and engage participation so that exercise and training become more fun, entertaining, and productive. Targets, scores, sounds, and time clocks stimulate the user’s eyes, ears, hands, feet, and balance systems to improve performance in a live-training environment. Programs include the world’s first internet-based tennis skills competition.
Sportwall’s Next Generation upgrade includes MP3-quality three-track sound, enhanced programs for group and cardio workouts, audio game instructions, interchangeable curriculum using smart cards, wireless headphone connection, pay for play option, and more.
For info: visit Sportwall on the web or contact VP Sports Tom West at 800-695-5056, ext 125.
The Need for News Coverage
Great “Your Serve” in the July 2005 issue of Racquet Sports Industry by Mark Winters (“Something to Write About”). He is right on the money! The declining coverage tennis receives in local media is a big problem, and we need to improve 1000 percent on it immediately.
We in the Florida section of the USTA are putting more personnel and resources behind this and are having some luck and making some progress. The larger cities still have their challenges with regard to their sportswriters and tennis. But many smaller communities are eager for stories and coverage with a local flavor if you take the time to submit them.
We welcome your letters and comments. Please e-mail them to email@example.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.
Bald Head Island Club Chooses Classic Turf Court Surface
The four courts at the Bald Head Island Club (right) along the North Carolina coast were recently resurfaced by the Classic Turf Co. of Woodbury, Conn., using the company’s 6 millimeter Classic Cushion, a cushioned sheet-goods product.
“The original asphalt composite courts have many cracks in them,” says Classic Turf President Tumer H. Eren. “Since our product is breathable, it protects the subsurface from cracking, which is especially important in an environment where there is a lot of moisture, such as Bald Head Island’s ocean-side courts.”
Bald Head Island Club General Manager Tom Golden says Classic Turf’s ability to allow moisture to evaporate through the surface was a big reason the club chose the product. The Classic Cushion, he says, “has done everything it’s purported to do. All in all, if you’re trying to cover a hard court that’s in a bad state of repair, it’s a very good option. We’ve been happy with it.”
Contact 800-246-795 or 203-263-0800, or visit Classic Turf on the web.
Squash Star Signs With Tourna-Grip
Former world No. 1 squash star Lee Beachill has signed a three-year deal with overgrip supplier Tourna-Grip. The three-time British champion, and current world No. 2, has used Tourna-Grip throughout his career. “Lee Beachill, Pete Sampras and many other top players in the world have won, and continue to win, many championships using only Tourna-Grip,” says Mike Niksich of Unique Sports Products Inc., owner and manufacturer of Tourna-Grip. Contact 800-554-3707 or visit Unique Sports on the web.
- Wilson athletes dominated Wimbledon this year, with Roger Federer winning his third consecutive single’s title and Venus Williams defeating Lindsay Davenport in a dramatic all-Wilson women’s single final. Federer, Williams and Davenport all use racquets from Wilson’s nCode line.
- All four boys in the singles semifinals of the Wimbledon Junior event play with Head racquets and are members of Team Elite, as is Tamira Paszek, playing with an FXP Instinct, who reached the girls’ singles final. For the boys, Jeremy Chardy, playing with a Liquid Metal Instinct, emerged with the title, defeating Head Team Elite members Robin Haase in the final and Donald Young in the semis. Earlier, Haase beat Head player Tim Smyczek in the other semi.
- Southern California-based apparel manufacturer Bälle de Mätch has hired veteran sales professional Ginna Foster to manage brand sales in Florida. She’s been a sales representative for Danskin in Florida for 13 years and will continue to cover the entire state for the brand. A competitive tennis player since the age of 10, Foster still plays in leagues at her home club of Lake Cane Tennis Center in Orlando. New or current accounts can contact Foster directly at 407-909-9091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Prince reports that pro players who have switched to the new O3 racquets have jumped in the rankings. Wimbledon doubles champ Liezel Huber switched to the O3 Tour at the beginning of the season and improved her doubles ranking from No. 45 to No. 4. Paul Goldstein moved up from 147 to 96 after switching to the O3 Tour and Davide Sanguinetti moved from 103 to 57.
- The USTA says the 2005 U.S. Open purse will top $17.7 million, and will potentially exceed $20.6 million — representing the highest annual purse in sports — as the top three men’s and women’s finishers in the US Open Series may earn up to an additional $2.8 million in bonus prize money at the US Open. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.1 million with the ability to earn up to $2.2 million based on their performances in the US Open Series.
- Head NV reports that for the six months ended on June 30, net revenues for 2005 were down 2.7 percent to $169.6 million, compared to the same period in 2004. Racquet Sports revenues for the first six months of 2005 decreased by $6.4 million, or 6.6 percent, to $90.0 million from $96.4 million in the comparable 2004 period. This decrease was mainly due to lower sales volumes in tennis racquets and balls as well as a change in product mix, the company says.
- Tennis equipment distributor ATS Sports has picked Brian Gallager of Stratham, N.H., as the winner of a trip for two to the US Open. ATS carries a full line of tennis supplies. For more info, visit ATS Sports on the web or call 800-866-7071.
- USTA Magazine, the magazine for USTA members, recently won three 2005 Apex Awards for Publication Excellence — one for special purpose writing, one for design and layout, and one for overall custom-published magazines.
Wilson Joins Effort to Host ‘World’s Largest Tennis Lesson’
In what was billed as the “World’s Largest Tennis Lesson,” more than 300 kids showed up on July 22 in Chicago to drill and learn the game in a free lesson. Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods joined the effort, which was led by Chicago area teaching professional Mark Miller and designed to promote tennis among youth.
“Wilson is committed to growing the game of tennis among youth and what better way to expose them to the sport then through Mark’s efforts to provide a free lesson for hundreds of kids,” says James Burda, manager of U.S. promotions for Wilson. “This reinforces the message that youth everywhere can embrace tennis as a fun sport that is both physically and socially rewarding.”
Miller first dreamed up the idea of the world’s largest lesson when he hosted a similar event years ago and has since developed instructional programs at local park districts and day camps throughout Illinois. For more information, visit Mark Miller’s Munchkin Program on the web.
‘Fast Lane Tennis’ Series On The Tennis Channel
A new 10-show series on The Tennis Channel called “Fast Lane Tennis,” produced by USPTA and PTR Master Professional Joe Dinoffer, chronicles the tennis development of Dinoffer’s daughter Kalindi as she learns the sport over an 18-month period.
The series, which is the first video project that has tracked a beginning junior through 18 months of learning tennis, also features footage with pro tour star Meghann Shaughnessey, as well as comic sequences from Bijou the tennis clown, played by teaching pro Henri Elkins.
The instructional series contains quick tips, creative progressions, drills, and solutions to common problems that players of all ages face. For airing times, visit The Tennis Channel on the web, and for info on the DVD version, contact Oncourt Offcourt at 88-TENNIS-11 or visit Oncourt Offcourt on the web.
Prince O3 Pink
Prince Sports has come out with a limited-edition O3 Pink frame, the fifth member of the O3-engineered family. Prince says the O3 line provides larger sweetspots (expanded by up to 54 percent) in maneuverable and aerodynamic frames. The O3 Pink, part of the Think Pink line of products from Prince, is designed for players looking for maximum power who have shorter, slower strokes. Five percent of the wholesale price will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to aid in the fight against breast cancer. For more information, call 800-283-6647 or visit Prince Tennis on the web.
Boca Yacht and Racquet Club adds Premier Courts to parking deck
When the Yacht and Racquet Club of Boca Raton, Fla., wanted to convert the roof of its parking garage into six tennis courts — to complement the six ground-level, subsurface irrigated clay courts it already had — it turned to Welch Tennis Courts Inc. of Sun City, Fla. Welch had built the original six two years ago, but the six on the roof presented a challenge.
Club members insisted on playing on a soft surface, but the weight-bearing capacity of the deck was not sufficient to support clay courts. Welch President George Todd Jr. suggested Premier Court, which has a weight load of 2 pounds per square foot. The cushioned Premier Court also provides a maintenance-free surface, says Chris Rossi of Premier Concepts. The recently completed garage deck courts are receiving high praise from Yacht and Racquet Club management and members.
“There are many facilities with similar situations,” says Todd. “Premier Court could be the perfect solution because it is a cushioned surface without the heavier weight loads.” Rossi says Premier offers warranties of up to 15 years. For more information, contact Welch at 800-282-4415 (Welch Tennis on the web) or Premier Court at 800-458-4675 (Premier Court on the web).
Technical Tennis Dispels Time-Honored Myths
Have you ever wondered how much difference your equipment makes to your tennis game? Tennis physicist Rod Cross and technology expert (and RSI publisher and editor-in-chief) Crawford Lindsey answer all your questions and explode time-honored “truisms” in their new book, Technical Tennis: Racquets, Strings, Balls, Courts, Spin, and Bounce.
The 152-page paperback is a reader-friendly follow-up to their widely acclaimed The Physics and Technology of Tennis, which they co-authored with Dr. Howard Brody (who wrote the foreword to the new book).
The four chapters cover Racquets, Strings, Balls and Bounce, and Spin and Trajectory, and answer equipment- and performance-related questions that have perennially plagued hackers and experts alike, allowing players to turn practice into a focused application of principles affecting the impact, bounce, and flight of the ball.
Technical Tennis is available from Racquet Tech Publishing for $12.95. To order visit Technical Tennis on the web, or call 760-536-1177.