A Tennis Wish List
As we begin the New Year, we asked people in the industry — including teaching pros, pro shop and facility managers, court builders, manufacturers, and more — to tell us what they’d like to see.
By Mitch Rustad
I wish more funds were available to rebuild our public tennis courts. As a lifetime public-park tennis player, I realize the importance of having a nice facility to bring the local tennis community together.
— Chris Gaudreau, Racquet Koop, New Haven, CT
I wish those who hire tennis professionals would realize a teacher’s importance, not only to their facilities, but to the sport of tennis as a whole, and compensate teaching pros accordingly. The salaries and benefits of these valued teachers have not kept pace with other professions, especially at the entry level. With tennis beginning to grow again, the primary way to derail this momentum is a lack of young, qualified tennis teaching pros. Teaching pros are the engine that drives the tennis train. It is in the best interest of the entire industry to work with PTR and USPTA to engage those responsible for hiring teaching professionals to ensure wages and benefits are attractive enough to maintain the numbers needed, as well as a high-level caliber.
— Dan Santorum, CEO, PTR
My tennis wish for 2007 is that every tennis player tells a friend about the fun they are having playing our great sport. If we do this, tennis will always be a healthy lifetime sport.
— Max Brownlee, General Manager, Babolat USA
My wish list for tennis in 2007 is: for tennis to become the sport of choice by children 8 to 18. The USTA’s revitalized Schools Program is introducing a new curriculum at the elementary level, middle school team tennis, and no-cut high school tennis. We need to take tennis to where the kids are and that’s schools. Also, I’d like to see American women again dominate the world’s top 10 and be in the final of the US Open. And I’d like the U.S. to bring home the Davis Cup.
— Jane Brown Grimes, USTA President, 2007-2008
I want to see the TIA, USTA, ITF, ATP and WTA continue to work together to grow interest in the sport at the professional level and use their combined resources and influences to grow the game at the grassroots. The success of the US Open Series is proof that marketing and cooperation can generate interest. Also, I wish manufacturers would consider the long-term effects of their decisions on the entire market rather than catering to the big-box and online stores’ desire for discount racquets. The current practice of special make-up racquets for these dealers that are cheap knock-offs of discontinued products may result in quick sales, but it hurts their brands and the tennis retail business in general.
— Bob Patterson, Player’s Choice Tennis, Birmingham, AL
For 2007, I’d like to see tennis participation continue to grow. And also, I wish for good growth in business for our retail partners.
— Kai Nitsche, General Manager, Dunlop Sports U.S.
I’d like to see continued collaboration and cooperation throughout the tennis industry. Working together, we can continue to grow the game of tennis, which benefits us all. DecoTurf is committed to working for an ongoing expansion of tennis with our industry partners in 2007.
— John Graham, Managing Director, DecoTurf
The thing that benefits all of us is the growth of the game overall, and we want continued growth in 2007. I think the industry as a whole has to be very careful about selling itself down. We all exist better when our margins are strong, and when we sell ourselves down, we do a disservice to our consumer. There is somewhat of a trend if you look at the declining prices of our products, and that’s not necessarily a good trend. The tennis consumer is certainly price conscious, but not discount-price conscious in every case.
— Doug Fonte, President, Prince
I wish that all the entities in tennis continue to put TENNIS first and continue to work collaboratively so the growth we’ve seen in the past two years continues. We absolutely have to step up our efforts in attracting and retaining more youth. We need to make tennis the new team sport, and we have to enlist parents to play a critical role in that. Participation in virtually every other youth sport is being driven by parents, and we need to capture parents as well. Parents are never going to replace teaching pros, but especially at the entry level, it’s absolutely critical that we engage them in the process of their kids’ learning.
— Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive of Community Tennis, USTA
My wish is for Cardio Tennis to really take off. It’s a fabulous way for people to get fit and play tennis, and a great way to get them out on the court and eventually playing matches. Once we get people passionate about the game, then from a manufacturer’s standpoint, we’re all going to sell more product.
— Sarah Maynard, Director of Marketing and Promotions, Völkl Tennis
We’d like to see the prices of construction materials stabilize; we’ve experienced several years of rapidly increasing raw material costs. We would also like to see the price of fuel drop by about 50 cents a gallon. And it would be nice to see the housing industry rebound after a tough 2006.
— Stephen N. Dettor, President, Fast-Dry Courts Inc.
My wish is for tennis to be back among the Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the U.S., and to have Cardio Tennis listed as a separate category on that list. I’d also like to see an increased network of quality Tennis Welcome Centers and Cardio Tennis sites. And we need increased use and support of the current technologies available to connect consumers to our industry. Finally, I wish for the continuing collaborative effort by all sectors — organizations, manufacturers, retailers, court contractors, media, facilities and businesses — in recognizing the power of positive thinking and synergies that are necessary for our sport’s health and growth.
— Jolyn de Boer, Executive Director, Tennis Industry Association
I hope that the USTA continues to lead a clearer path from junior tennis to college tennis and on to the tour. And, related to that, my goal for 2007 is to increase the amount of writing I do for tennis publications, which means that there is an increased interest in college and junior tennis, which is the foundation of our sport.
— Marcia Frost, Editor, CollegeAndJuniorTennis.com
Understanding the role that fitness plays in tennis will enable the market to grow and branch out to reach more people. With more tennis enthusiasts getting into Cardio Tennis and cross-training to stay fit, tennis apparel with a “fitness” spin will become the apparel of choice for these customers. If the tennis industry embraces this trend, our businesses will grow.
— Brad Singer, V.P. of Sales and Marketing, Tail
My wish is that all entry-level players learn the game quickly through the use of slower and lighter balls on smaller courts so they can enjoy this great game as quickly as possible. If this would happen, tennis would have a much higher retention rate from the 6 million players who try our sport for the first time every year.
— Kirk Anderson, Director of Recreational Coaches and Programs, USTA
Our main wish is for the game to have an upsurge in popularity in the U.S. This can be done with the continued success of upgrading the public courts throughout the country. The programs within the USTA, like Adopt a Court, Tennis in the Parks, and Multicultural Grant Program, continue to upgrade facilities.
— Michael Smith, Courtsmiths, Toledo, OH
At the top of my wish list is the growth of U.S. tennis at all levels — from the recreational league player to the development of American stars of tomorrow. Let’s use the legends of the game to help mentor a new generation. Now more than ever, it’s critical that all of us who have a stake in the future of tennis work together to energize our existing fan base and bring in new fans. Adopting exciting innovations such as on-court coaching, no-ad scoring, more instant replay, and player names on the back of shirts would be a good start. Finally, I want to see the top-ranked U.S. men and women supporting Fed Cup and Davis Cup — in all ties — throughout the entire year.
— Ilana Kloss, CEO/Commissioner, World TeamTennis
I’d like to see an all-American final at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. Or, I’ll settle for an all-American men’s final at the US Open, so I can forget about work on that Sunday. My second wish? Tickets to the final!
— Richard Zaino, Zaino Tennis Courts Inc., Orange, CA
I wish for James Blake to win a Grand Slam title in 2007. American tennis needs its top players winning Slams to keep the sport visible. Blake is clearly a tennis player that the public can get behind — he’s classy, he’s cool, he’s college educated. I believe that his raising his game to yet another level would provide a nice shot in the arm for the game. And, I would hope his winning a Slam shines a light on the level of player our collegiate coaches can help develop.
— Casey Angle, Director of Communications, Intercollegiate Tennis Association
I would like to see the frequent player base grow in 2007 and that new players continue to develop a love for the sport. I hope everyone in the tennis community can continue to work collaboratively. I would like to see Roger Federer win the Grand Slam in 2007, which would create terrific media buzz about tennis. We at Wilson will be doing everything we (K)an to support him, including, in 2007, what will be the largest global tennis racquet launch in the tennis industry to date.
— Jon Muir, General Manager, Wilson Racquet Sports
My wish is that the USTA would spend more money on Player Development and recognize that all great players in this nation came from existing U.S. tennis academies and local tennis programs, and that it is important for this funding to filter through these same sources so we can truly build great players. The USTA has not yet succeeded for 25 years in producing top-level players at its own centers. As a result of it continuing to attempt to control player development, it is stemming the growth of grassroots players who could be growing faster and better were the funding made available for them to do so. In plain words, the USTA should stop trying to be responsible for primary coaching, but definitely become involved with primary funding. Foreign players and foreign coaches across the world recognize U.S. academies and coaches as among the very best to learn from. It is time for our own leaders to do the same.
— Tim Heckler, CEO, USPTA
I wish the weather to be kind to the industry across the country so play is healthy. I hope that tennis pros are busier than they have been in the past few seasons, which would mean lots of players actively involved in the sport. I hope that grassroots initiatives nationwide designed to increase player participation thrive, thereby bringing in scores of new players. I wish the economy to continue its growth so consumers have disposable money to spend — all contributing factors to making it a banner year at retail! Finally, I hope the price of oil continues its steady, downward trend, so manufacturing/product costs can flatten or even drop from the significant increase we have seen over the past six months.
— John R. Embree, Bälle de Mätch Tennis Wear
My wish is simple. I would like all the inner-city parks that have tennis courts in disrepair to have the funds to spruce them up and make them playable. Tennis should not be just for the well-heeled. It is such a great game and we are not attracting our inner-city poor who cannot afford a private club.
— Gene Niksich, Unique Sports Products, Alpharetta, GA
For 2007, I wish that the stature and visibility of tennis continue to increase so that many more Americans are aware of our sport and want to play and follow it. One way this will be accomplished is with greater national and local media coverage. Also, I’d like to see Americans achieve more in professional tennis tournaments, particularly the Grand Slams, Davis Cup and Fed Cup such that no other nation does better. And that tennis participation continues to grow as a result of the USTA’s efforts coordinated with all of our tennis partners, particularly the teaching pro organizations and as a result of our programs and activities in the public parks, working through the NRPA.
— Franklin R. Johnson, USTA President, 2005-2006
We need more tennis clubs in New York City. We have lost quite a few clubs in the last few years, and this has affected indoor play in NYC. Real estate values have gone up considerably these last few years, and tennis is not the optimum usage at this point. I would like to see clubs go up this year and in the future.
— Mark Mason, Mason’s Tennis Mart, New York City, NY
I would wish for all Community Tennis Associations to send at least one or two of their strong leaders to the USTA Community Tennis Development Workshop every year. There’s no better way for grassroots leaders to get an overview of what the USTA challenges them with each year. Every time I have gone to this workshop, my bond and devotion to tennis becomes stronger, and I have come away motivated by more project ideas than I can implement. My enthusiasm to grow the sport is refreshed and renewed — as it should be for every community tennis advocate.
— Robin Jones, Grassroots Tennis Advocate, Founder, Western Wake Tennis Association, Cary, NC
I’d love to have ball sales double in 2007, and I’d also like to see natural gut sales double, too. I want player participation to rise 25 percent, and I think a nationwide USTA/USPTA/PTR/TIA initiative to offer free introductory tennis clinics would help. Also, it would be great for the USTA, ATP, and ITF to run a national TV advertising campaign for the sport.
— Sean Frost, Klip/Isospeed/Völkl
My wish is to have a few more American stars on the horizon who would re-energize the sport in the U.S. — both men and women players who can take the sport to non-players and get them excited about watching and participating. Also, I’d like to see the finals of the US Open on a Monday night, when a ton more people would watch it. Television coverage has greatly improved over the years, but very few if any doubles matches are shown. More people play doubles than singles and would relate more to watching doubles.
— Glen Agritelley, Owner, TBarM Racquet Club, Dallas, TX
For 2007, I would hope the tennis industry, including the USTA, teaching pros, manufacturers, facilities, etc., continues to work together at all levels to build the key initiatives to bring players into the game, like Cardio Tennis, Tennis in the Parks, etc. It is crucial that we all keep our eye on the key goal — growing the game — which will benefit all of us in the long term. The other hope is that a strong American player emerges to increase awareness among the casual tennis fan and bring even more players into the game.
— Greg Mason, Director of Sales and Marketing, HEAD Penn Racquet Sports
I’d like to see us maintain the real progress we’ve made in recent years by working more closely together as an allied industry for the benefit of tennis overall. The USTA, ITF, ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour have made great strides this year in the evolution of how tennis presents itself to television viewers, through innovation and cross promotion across networks sharing rights packages. Because television is such an important factor in driving any sport’s ultimate success, I’d hope to see all tennis broadcasters deliver increased focus on storytelling and the amazing personal journeys of all these great players.
— Ken Solomon, Chairman and CEO, The Tennis Channel
We need more players! It would do so much good for everyone: all the coaches, all the programs, all the facilities, all the stringers, and all the companies. For a long time now, we’ve all been working hard to grow the game, trying to introduce young players to a life-long passion for tennis. I think a payoff for this dedication would be my No. 1 wish. To simply see more Americans playing tennis, from the local city court to high in the ranks of the professionals.
— Matt Ferrari, Gamma Racquet Sports
My wishes for the new year are that the pro game sees some new stars on tour, preferably Americans, and that our customers have as good a year in 2007 as they did in 2006.
— Pat Shields, Fromuth Tennis
I’d like to see both the industry and our company grow as it has for the past two years. I wish for good health of our industry, with growth in participation and frequency of play, and also for an increase in players of all ages and abilities — so that once again tennis is a leading sport in America.
— Paul Zalatoris, Tecnifibre USA
I’d like to see tennis covered in the mainstream media, and outside of the sports section. While we do need all the coverage we can score in the sports pages, tennis is more than a pro game — it’s a lifestyle. There are endless angles for the business and health sections of newspapers, and magazines and TV shows devoted to them. All of us have a hand in this by staying in touch with trends in our game, and promoting the game to our local media.
— Liza Horan, TENNISWIRE.org and President, U.S. Tennis Writers Association
I’d like to see new programs to attract new players to the game that keep the sport in the public focus. We also need to keep hammering the benefits of our sport through advertising. And I wish the entities in tennis would set aside differences, stop worrying about themselves, and really focus on making this game the best it can be, the ideal vehicle for kids and adults to learn, grow, stay healthy, and have fun.
— Pat Hanssen, New Markets Manager, Lee Tennis
I’d love to see the Tournament Data Manager system + TennisLink offered to tournament directors when they host non-sanctioned social fundraising events. Doing so increases the willingness of the tournament director to host such events, thus allowing players more opportunities to play, and increasing the players enthusiasm and commitment to the game. As a result, the industry as a whole benefits.
— Robin Bateman, Site Coordinator, Tattnall Tennis Center, Macon, GA
I wish each tennis academy and tennis camp across the country would identify and send one student interested in pursuing a career in tennis to a professional tennis management program, like that at Ferris State, which specializes in educating and training professionals to enter the industry fully capable to handle a broad spectrum of areas within the business of tennis. When the number of qualified professionals increases, the potential for growth in our industry also increases. Also, I wish that club owners and managers would seek out not just great tennis players to teach at their facilities, but also professionals with a diverse business background as well.
— Tom Daglis, Director, Prof. Tennis Management Program, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI
My tennis wish for 2007 includes the ATP and WTA getting off their butts and marketing the sport properly in the U.S. Get tennis on major network and cable stations (not counting the US Open Series, which was the brainchild of the USTA, and the Slams). Have finals played on Monday night, market more player merchandise, partner with other organizations for ideas. Proper marketing of pro tennis would help the sport, and in turn help grow all tennis-related business.
— Richard Vach, Co-Founder, Tennis-X.com
I wish for the greater acceptance of wheelchair tennis as an integrated sport in America. I truly believe that we in tennis can increase sport opportunities for people with physically disabling conditions through tennis. This would include the current programs such as Run/Roll Tournaments (a Blaze Sports/USTA collaboration), high school tennis, USTA Leagues, and USTA tournaments. I would love to see growth in the number of people playing wheelchair tennis and a similar growth in the number of people playing tennis with people in wheelchairs in 2007.
— Dan James, National Manager Wheelchair Tennis, USTA
To grow the sport in 2007, we must think of the FAMILY. Get everyone involved! Once this happens, you create a buzz that spreads like wildfire. We typically tend to focus on either juniors or adults. This is not the complete picture. Juniors and adults playing as a family are the key to retention.
— Ajay Pant, National Tennis Director, Tennis Corporation Of America
See all articles by Mitch Rustad
About the Author
Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.