Tennis Industry magazine

 

Industry News

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ESPN, Tennis Channel To Show US Open

The USTA, ESPN and Tennis Channel signed a six-year deal in May that, starting in 2009, will increase by nearly 100 hours the amount of tennis broadcast during the US Open and Olympus US Open Series.

The agreement came about after USA Network, which has broadcast the Open for 24 years, announced it was dropping the event after this year. Sources said USA decided televising the Open no longer made economic sense as the network seemed to be gaining headway with its prime-time entertainment lineup.

Under the new deal, which sources say will cost ESPN $140 million, the US Open will receive 200 hours of total coverage, an increase of more than 50 hours — the most in US Open history. This marks the first time that the Series and OUSOS will be carried by the same cable broadcaster.

ESPN2 will become the lead cable broadcaster for the Open and the Series, with nearly 200 hours of coverage during the eight-week North American summer tennis season. Tennis Channel, which continues as a Series broadcaster with nearly 150 hours of coverage, will sublicense from ESPN and will broadcast more than 60 hours of live Open coverage.

CBS Sports will continue to broadcast nearly 40 hours of live Open coverage, bringing national coverage of tennis during the summer season to more than 400 hours.

Embree Named New President of Prince Americas

John Embree

Industy veteran John Embree has joined Prince Sports as its new president of Prince Americas. Embree replaces another longtime industry insider, Doug Fonte, who recently announced his retirement from Prince.

Embree will be responsible for the brand in the U.S., Latin America and Canada. He’ll report to Prince Sports Chairman and CEO George Napier.

For the past four years, Embree has been a part owner of the specialty apparel brand Bälle de Mätch. Before that, he spent more than 17 years with Wilson Sports Goods, where he rose to the position of vice president and general manager of Wilson’s global racquet sports division before leaving in 2003.

“Adding John’s leadership to our already strong team and great brand will accelerate our drive to ‘take the racquet sports hill,’” says Napier. “I am confident the vast majority of the U.S. dealer community will be thrilled when this news spreads. Our entire team will benefit from John’s sharp mind and relentless passion and energy.”

“The last thing I was thinking of doing, until I heard of Doug’s retirement, was leaving Bälle de Mätch,” says Embree. “But the opportunity to join Prince in such an important capacity was too good to pass up. Prince is a clean, strong global brand, with an exceptional team and great products, and I can’t think of a better fit in terms of matching my enthusiasm, energy and skill set with its momentum and credibility.”

Embree says he plans to relocate from Chicago to the New Jersey area with his family.

QuickStart Tennis On Today Show

The Today Show on NBC devoted a live segment to the QuickStart Tennis format at the end of April. With kids playing in the background, Today Show host Ann Curry interviewed Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis, in front of a temporary short court set up on the street outside of the Manhattan studio.

QuickStart Tennis

Gamma Unveils Zo Tour String

Gamma Sports’ new Zo Tour string contains six polyester monofilaments in the core — rather than a single poly core — surrounded by the Zo High Energy Polyester Core. The company says this innovative design creates maximum control for players looking for a crisp and durable polyester string.

The six “high-tenacity” fibers help to maintain tension and provide a crisper feel, says Gamma. “The combination of comfort and control found in Zo Tour is the perfect example of Gamma Sports’ continued commitment to innovation and quality,” says Chuck Vietmeier, Gamma’s string product manager.

Gamma Zo Tour

Zo Tour is available in individual 40-foot sets and 660-foot reels, in both 16 and 17 gauges. For information, call 800-333-0337 or visit gammasports.com.

Prince Creates New Product Validation Spot

Prince has hired Kevin Stayart as it product validation and technical expert, overseeing playtesting and validation for the company’s tennis products in the U.S. The new position centralizes functions that previously were performed by various people within the company.

In his new role, Stayart will manage all phases of the product validation and playtesting process for Prince. He will collaborate closely with the company’s R&D and Product Management teams on testing methodology, competitive product selection, timing, and analysis of results.

“My job will be to make sure that when a player goes into a store, they will know that by picking up Prince, they are getting a product that has been thoroughly vetted, properly tested and completely validated with similar and appropriate player types before it reached the shelf,” says Stayart. He is a lifelong tennis player, has taught tennis, and most recently was part of the Wilson customer service team.

Pro Penn+ Ball to Debut in July

Penn has introduced its newest tennis ball, the Pro Penn+, which the company says features new “LongPlay” felt for 25 percent more wear and 19 percent greater visibility. “Our challenge was to find a longer wearing felt that doesn’t play heavy at the start,” says Jennifer Parker, business manager for Penn Tennis Balls. Parker says the answer is the new LongPlay felt of the Pro Penn+ balls, which she says plays exactly the same as the original Pro Penn, but lasts 25 percent longer, based on abrasion-box testing.

Penn also says the felt on the new ball is brighter for better visibility on-court. The Pro Penn+ also uses Encore Technology, which is Penn’s core compound of natural and man-made polymers in the core.

“The clear benefit to players is to have the ball they know and love last even that much longer,” says Parker. The new ball will be available in July. For more information, visit pennracquet.com.

Tennis Participation Up in High Schools

The National Federation of State High School Associations (nfhs.org) recently issued its report on the State of High School Sports Participation. The findings show that in the school years from 2001-2002 to 2006-2007, tennis participation among boys was up 12.5 percent and among girls up 10.4 percent.

Other data for tennis include:

  Boys Girls
2006-2007 156,944 176,696
2005-2006 153,006 173,753
1-Year Change +2.5% +1.8%
2001-2002 139,483 160,114
5-Year Change +12.5% +10.4%

Bälle de Mätch Names Zalatoris President

Paul Zalatoris, who joined apparel brand Bälle de Mätch as chief financial officer at the beginning of the year, has been named president of the company. He will be located at the brand’s Chicago headquarters.

Paul Zalatoris

Zalatoris has been in the tennis industry for nearly 20 years, much of that time at Wilson Sporting Goods, where he rose to be global business director of tennis balls. He also worked in corporate finance as well as controller for the Racquet Sports Division. Zalatoris recently was general manager for Tecnifibre USA, where he was responsible for string distribution, as well as introducing all other hard goods, such as tennis and squash racquets. During his time there the company more than tripled its sales.

“This is a great opportunity to guide this company to further success,” says Zalatoris. “I am anxious to build on what they have already accomplished.” For more information, visit balledematch.com.

Babolat Launches 3 New Frames

Babolat recently launched three new frames: the Aero Strike, a lighter version of three-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal’s Aero Pro Drive that’s designed for up-and-coming juniors and intermediates; and the Pure Storm Limited and Aero Storm 2008, both designed for experienced players. In addition, the company relaunched the Aero Storm Tour, which was formerly the Aero Storm 2007 model.

The Aero Strike, says Babolat, provides for better maneuverability while maintaining great power and is designed to appeal to players with a faster, medium-to-full swing. It features three of Babolat’s technologies: the “Cortex System,” which links the handle and the frame to filter different vibrations; “Aero Modular” technology, designed to simulate an airplane wing, which helps increase head speed and power while providing control; and the “Woofer System,” which links the frame and strings for comfort and is on all Babolat performance frames.

new Babolat frames

Babolat says the Aero Strike is more forgiving, more maneuverable and lighter than the Aero Pro Drive and is the next step for players moving up from a racquet like the Drive Z Lite, another lightweight mid-plus racquet in the Babolat range. With a 100-square-inch head size, the 9.8-ounce Aero Strike has a suggested retail price of $185.

The 95-square-inch Pure Storm Limited is for players with a wide, fast swing. The 11.2-ounce frame features “Carbon Xtrem,” which the company says offers more control and sensations upon impact. The traditional cross section provides stability and control, says Babolat. Suggested retail price is $179.

Babolat extended the Aero Storm range with the Aero Storm 2008, at 98 square inches and 10.6 ounces. This newer, lighter version of the Aero Storm 2007 model is designed for expert players with a full swing. It retails for $185.

The Aero Storm Tour is a relaunch of the Aero Storm 2007 and carries the same product specs, including the 98-square-inch head size and 11.2-ounce weight. It retails for $185.

For more information, contact 877-316-9435 or visit babolat.com.

Hall of Fame Honors Johnson, Presents Education Awards

USTA Immediate Past President Franklin R. Johnson has been named the recipient of the 2007 Samuel Hardy Award, presented by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The award is given annually to a USTA volunteer in recognition of long and outstanding service to the sport. The honor was presented to Johnson at a special luncheon helat Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Fla., during the USTA Annual Meeting.

Johnson has served on the USTA Board for 11 years. As 2005-2006 Chairman of the Board and President, he oversaw significant strides in the landscape of tennis, from the emphasis on public parks to the renaming of the USTA National Tennis Center in honor of Hall of Famer Billie Jean King. Currently, Johnson is the Chairman of the USTA Past President’s Committee and a member of the board’s International Committee.

The Hall of Fame also announced three winners of the 2007 Tennis Educational Merit Awards. Todd S. Ellenbecker of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sharon Rosenburgh of Indianapolis; and Kathleen Ann Stroia of St. Petersburg, Fla., were also honored during the USTA meeting in Naples. The Educational Merit Awards are given annually to individuals who have made notable contributions in the tennis education field at the national level. Award winners have repeatedly demonstrated leadership and creative skills in tennis instruction, writing, organization and promotion of the game of tennis.

Tennis a Part of New Sports Museum of America

The Sports Museum of America (sportsmuseum.com), the nation’s only interactive, multi-media all sports museum, was scheduled to open in May in New York City. As the first museum to pay tribute to the history and excitement of all sports, SmA has partnered with more than 60 single sports Halls of Fame — including the International Tennis Hall of Fame — national governing bodies and other top athletic organizations, to showcase inspiring exhibits, memorabilia, stories and heroes.

In addition to hosting the first women’s sports hall of fame, SmA will also be the new permanent home of the Billie Jean King International Women’s Sports Center and the legendary Heisman Trophy and annual presentation. SmA is at 26 Broadway, in the heart of Lower Manhattan.

Under the terms of the partnership, the International Tennis Hall of Fame will provide archival tennis materials, such as the racquet used by Chris Evert in the 1982 US Open; the outfit worn by World No. 1 Roger Federer in the 2005 US Open; the 1929 US National Men’s Singles trophy won by Bill Tilden; and more. Other memorabilia of interest to the projected 1 million worldwide annual visitors to SmA will be sent on a rotating basis.

New ‘CrossBow’ Technology Debuts in Five Head Frames

Head recently launched its new “CrossBow” technology, which is a dynamic bridge construction that the company says allows the racquet to store energy during ball impact then release it as the ball leaves the string bed, providing maximum power on shots. Initially, the new technology will be incorporated in the new CrossBow 10 and CrossBow 6 and three Airflow racquets.

The bridge is suspended from the frame and moves independently, which Head says allows the racquet to store energy in both the string bed and the bridge. “The CrossBow concept acts like a spring or a bow that is loaded during ball impact,” then “unleashed in every shot,” says Head. In addition, the company says CrossBow creates a larger sweetspot than a conventional fixed-bridge racquet because 10 main strings go through the dynamic bridge.

Head Crossbow frames

Head says the two new CrossBow frames are “power loaded” for players with shorter, more compact swings. The new frames include a newly redesigned “Stabilizer” designed to reduce racquet vibration and increase comfort. Both are Metallix frames and have a 16 x 19 string pattern.

Crossbow 10, designed for maneuverability, is 9 ounces and has a 124-square-inch head size. CrossBow 6 is 112 square inches and 9.2 ounces.

Head Airflow frames

The newest generation of Airflow racquets, designed for women, also feature CrossBow technology for more power. The three frames — Airflow 7, 5 and 3 — also have an ergonomic grip for better handling and control, says Head, and a new dampening system called InteGrip for comfort.

The 115-square-inch Airflow 7 is 8.6 ounces and is the most powerful Airflow frame to use CrossBow. The Airflow 5, at 109 square inches and 9 ounces, balances power and control, and the 102-square-inch Airflow 3, at 9.2 ounces, offers extra control for longer swing styles.

For more information, visit head.com or call 800-289-7366.

New Head ETS String

Head also has a new “power-loaded” string recommended for oversized frames such as the CrossBow 10 and 6. ETS, or Energy Transfer String, has a multifilament core with a polypropylene outer wrap. It comes in 16 and 17 gauge in 40-foot sets.

Head ETS string

Top 50 TWCs Recognized

The TIA, USTA and RSI magazine are honoring the “Top 50 Tennis Welcome Centers of 2007” as leading the charge in the growth of the sport by providing well-rounded programs to new and current players of all ages and abilities. The tennis facilities honored all exhibited excellent participation figures involving new and returning players, support of industry programs and community tennis development, and were active with TWC facility requirements, among other criteria.

“All of the more than 2,100 Tennis Welcome Centers have played an important role in the increased tennis participation we’ve seen in the last few years in the U.S.,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “These Top 50 Tennis Welcome Centers have been doing an exemplary job of creating a positive tennis experience for people in their communities. Tennis Welcome Centers serve a vital role in delivering tennis. The TIA, together with the USTA, is very pleased to recognize these efforts.”

The Top 50 TWCs of 2007 are:

Peoplewatch

Short sets

USTA Presents Honors

The USTA honored volunteers and players at its annual meeting in April in Naples, Fla. Winning the annual awards were:

Wilson, ITA Announce Internship Winners

Amy Brown of Stanford and Jared Karlebach of Skidmore have been selected as the 2008 Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Internship Award Program winners. The internship program recognizes individuals who promote the game of tennis at the collegiate level by devoting consistent time and effort to promotional activities, and who support and bring awareness to either their school program or to the sport as a whole.

Two categories of collegiate promoters have been established: Varsity Team Managers and Varsity Student-Athletes. One individual from each category — Brown and Karlebach, respectively — have been selected to receive a paid summer internship at Wilson’s global headquarters in Chicago.

Wilson Catalog Wins Design Award

Wilson Sporting Goods Co.’s inhouse graphic design team has been awarded the 2008 American Inhouse Design Award presented by Graphic Design USA. The 2008 Wilson Racquet Sports Consumer Catalog has been specifically recognized as an outstanding marketing piece for design. Graphic Design USA has presented this award to creative professionals with the highest quality work for over 40 years. This year, the Wilson Racquet Sports Consumer piece was chosen out of more than 5,000 entries. Tim McCaffrey, global art director for Wilson, was the lead designer on the project.

Wilson catalog

Retail report

Tennis Racquet Performance

Specialty Stores, January-March, 2008 vs. 2007

Units 2008 143,173
2007 143,212
% Change vs. 2007 0%
Dollars 2008 $19,952,000
2007 $19,690,000
% Change vs. 2007 1%
Price 2008 $139
2007 $137
% Change vs. 2007 1%

Top-Selling Racquets at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-March 2008 (average selling price)

Best-Sellers

  1. Babolat Pure Drive Cortex (MP) $170
  2. Babolat Aeropro Drive Cortex (MP) $174
  3. Wilson K Blade (MP) $173
  4. Prince O3 Speedport Black (MP) $186
  5. Wilson K Six.One 95 (16×18) (MS) $177

“Hot New Racquets” (Introduced in the past 12 months)

  1. Babolat Aeropro Drive Cortex (MP) $174
  2. Wilson K Blade (MP) $173
  3. Prince O3 Speedport Black (MP) $186
  4. Head MicroGel Radical (MP) $163
  5. Prince Ozone Seven (OS) $161

Top-Selling Tennis Shoes at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-March 2008 (average selling price)

  1. Adidas Barricade V $102
  2. Nike Air Breathe Free 2 $96
  3. Adidas Barricade IV $90
  4. Adidas Barricade II $82
  5. Nike Air Breathe Free Cage $92

Top-Selling Tennis Strings at Specialty Stores

By year-to-date dollars, January-March 2008

  1. Prince Synthetic Gut Duraflex
  2. Wilson NXT
  3. Wilson Sensation
  4. Prince Lightning XX
  5. Luxilon Alu Power

Rancho Valencia, Emerson Camp Top Tennis Resorts Online Lists

For the ninth year, Tennis Resorts Online has published its annual list of top resorts and camps. The top resort, as picked by vacationers who voted online at tennisresortsonline.com, is Rancho Valencia Resort in California, which also held the No. 1 spot in 2004 and 2005. The No. 1 camp was Roy Emerson Tennis Holidays in Switzerland.

For 2008, TRO’s survey asked players to assess resorts and camps in 20 categories, including all aspects of the tennis experience and such diverse characteristics as the quality of the lodging, restaurants, children’s programs, and value for dollar. Those reviews were used to compile a numerical ranking.

The Top 10 Resorts are:

  1. Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa, Calif.
  2. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Ariz.
  3. Kiawah Island Golf Resort, S.C.
  4. Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt, Tirol, Austria
  5. Caneel Bay, A Rosewood Resort, U.S. Virgin Islands
  6. The Broadmoor, Colo.
  7. Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, N.C.
  8. Wintergreen Resort, Va.
  9. Palmetto Dunes Resort, S.C.
  10. Saddlebrook Resort, Fla.

Top 5 Camps:

  1. Roy Emerson Tennis Weeks, Switzerland
  2. New England Tennis Holidays, N.H.
  3. PBI Tennis Camp at Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt, Tirol, Austria
  4. Saddlebrook Tennis (Hopman), Fla.
  5. Vic Braden Tennis College, Green Valley Spa, Utah

Classifieds

FOR SALE: Prince 3000 Tennis Stringing Machine in excellent condition. For digital pictures/additional information please contact David Valencia at redstarstringing@gmail.com. Price $2,000. Local p/u preferred (ZIP 93455).

Tennis Channel Sells Las Vegas Tourney

Tennis Channel has sold its Las Vegas-based men’s pro tournament to the ATP. While the ATP has not yet decided the future of the tournament, industry sources say it will either shut down and be removed from the ATP schedule completely or will leave the U.S., possibly for South Africa.

Tennis Channel said in a statement that its executive team and board of directors made the decision to sell the tournament, currently named the Tennis Channel Open, to the ATP due to a combination of growth in the network’s core media business and the timing presented by a revamped pro tennis tournament schedule beginning in 2009. The network recently added three Grand Slam tournaments to its lineup in less than a year.

Tennis Memphis Receives $100,000 Grant

Tennis Memphis has received $100,000 grant from the USTA Tennis & Education Foundation and the Ford Foundation through the National Junior Tennis League “Community Building Through Tennis” initiative.

This is the second year of the initiative, which seeks to utilize the sport of tennis and tennis facilities to build community in changing neighborhoods. The money will support NJTL projects designed to bring together people from diverse backgrounds.

Viking Athletics Players Dominate APTA Nationals

Viking Athletics had a strong showing at the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA) Nationals in Rochester, N.Y., in April, the first national tournament since the brand was acquired by Prince Sports. Seven of the eight men’s semifinalists and five of the eight women’s semifinalists were Viking players.

In addition, Viking founder David Kjeldsen was inducted into the APTA Hall of Fame during Nationals. One of four 2008 inductees, Kjeldsen was honored for his unparalleled commitment to the sport and his continuous drive to create the best products for the game. In addition to Kjeldsen, Nationals’ Tournament Chairman Fritz Odenbach and platform legends Flip Goodspeed and Scott Mansager also were inducted.

“We are off and running and extremely pleased with how the integration process has gone,” says Scott Winters, VP of Indoor Court and Paddle Sports at Prince. Viking Athletics will retain its name and continue to conduct business in the same fashion. The 2008-09 product line is expected to launch in August. For more information, visit vikingathletics.com.

USTA, Bollettieri to Work with Donald Young

The USTA announced that it will be working with Nick Bollettieri in the training and development of some of the top U.S. tennis prospects, including 18-year-old pro Donald Young. The partnership is an example of the USTA Elite Player Development’s new collaborative approach with top coaches and private academies to develop the next generation of American champions.

Young, who is currently working with USTA National Coach Ricardo Acuna, will visit Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he’ll work with top pros currently training there. He also will receive on-court instruction and support from Bollettieri.

The USTA says it will also work with Bollettieri and support the training of three top junior prospects — Sachia Vickery, Victoria Duval and Alicia Black, all from Florida — who are currently training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. The USTA will provide coaching assistance, grants, USTA sponsored competitions, and potential wild cards.

Ektelon Introduces New R-Ball Frames

Ektelon is introducing new O3 Speedport racquetball frames that the company says will be more powerful and quicker through the air, and will also provide personal customization options that allow players to configure the racquet to best accommodate their playing style. The new frames will be available July 1.

By adding “power plugs” to the Speedports on the sides and top of the frames, players can dictate weight, balance and power to customize the racquetball frames to their style of play. The new frames have an ultralight weight of 170 grams but can be “plugged up” to a more traditional weight of 185 grams.

Ektelon says top racquetball players Rocky Carson and Rhonda Rajsich have playtested the racquets and plan to make the switch. Both the O3 Speedport Red and Speedport Camo carry a suggested retail price of $300. For more information, contact 800-283-2635 or visit ektelon.com.

ASBA Sets Tech Meeting

The 2008 ASBA Technical Meeting will be Dec. 7-9 in New Orleans at the Astor Crowne Plaza. The tentative program includes sessions on safety issues on the jobsite, communications, marketing your business, rewarding employees, fencing materials and installation, renovating clay courts, surfacing concrete courts, and much more. For information, visit sportsbuilders.org or call 866-501-ASBA.

Congratulations to the Following for Achieving MRT and CS Status

New Master Racquet Technicians — MRTs

New Certified Stringers — CSs

PTR Names New Director of Development

Steve Keller has joined the PTR staff as director of development, responsible for developing and conducting workshops and Professional Development Courses, as well as overseeing the PTR on Campus program. In addition, Keller will be responsible for PTR certification and testing.

Steve Keller

Keller is a 21-year member of PTR and has been a PTR clinician and tester for 18 years, conducting clinics and workshops across the U.S. He most recently was the tennis director for Tennis Corporation of America’s Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, N.Y. Prior to Midtown, he served as director of tennis for the Van der Meer Tennis Center on Hilton Head Island, S.C. In 1996, Keller earned the USTA/PTR Public Service Award, and in 2008, was named PTR Member of the Year for New York.

Tennis Channel, Berry Farms Promote Wimbledon Coverage

Tennis Channel and California Giant Berry Farms have developed a campaign to coincide with TC’s first-time coverage of Wimbledon. “The Sweetest Match” includes a “Win a Trip to Wimbledon” sweepstakes for the 2009 event. Playing off the traditional strawberries-and-cream, California Giant Berry Farms will place TC messaging on 20 million packs of strawberries. Visit thesweetestmatch.com.

Giant Berry Farms

 

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