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Former WTA CEO Allaster Joins USTA Pro Tennis

Former WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster has been named Chief Executive, Professional Tennis for the USTA. Allaster will report to USTA COO and Executive Director Gordon Smith.

In her new position, Allaster will be tasked with setting the strategic vision for the USTA’s Pro Tennis division and will work closely with the USTA board of directors and current USTA Pro Tennis staff to ensure the continued viability of professional tennis in the U.S. The USTA’s professional tennis holdings include the US Open, the Emirates Airline US Open Series, and the Western & Southern Open Masters event in Cincinnati, among others. USTA Chief of Professional Tennis Operations and US Open Tournament Director David Brewer will report to Allaster.

During her tenure at the WTA, Allaster is credited with generating an estimated $1 billion in diversified contracted revenues; building and growing the brand globally with an emphasis in China and Asia Pacific; transforming the WTA Finals into a 10-day sports entertainment extravaganza; and securing a 10-year media agreement, the largest live media rights and production venture in women’s sports history.

Vermont Org, Hinding Tennis To Rebuild Courts in Havana

In a historic meeting on March 1, the Cuban government approved a project to rebuild the tennis courts at the National Tennis Center in Havana. The project is the vision of Jake Agna, tennis pro of Burlington, Vt. The “Memorandum of Understanding” is between the nonprofit Cuban American Friendship Society (CAFS) of Burlington as the licensed exporter and the National Tennis Federation in Cuba.

“When we saw the National Tennis Center, we were stunned,” says Agna, who traveled to Cuba several times in the last year to play tennis with Cuban youngsters. “Courts were crumbling, nets held up by chairs, tennis balls were threadbare, and racquets needed stringing.” Agna and his team will embark on the first brick-and-mortar project to take place in Cuba since the Eisenhower Administration.

Agna is founder of the Kids on the Ball, an award-winning tennis and mentoring program. “I am thrilled to see this project approved,” he says. “I’m grateful to Jared Carter and his team at CAFS, the Ministry of Sports in Havana, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office, who were instrumental in granting us permission to carry out this project.”

Court renovations are projected to cost $600,000. With financial support from the Robert Stiller Family Foundation, The Argosy Foundation, the Serena Fund and other donors, construction can begin in early May, but Kids on the Ball-Cuba continues to seek financial support for other phases. Hinding Tennis, based in West Haven, Conn., is on board with CAFS and Kids on the Ball-Cuba to get the rebuilding project under way.

TGA Announces Deals With 2 USTA Sections

TGA Premier Youth Tennis has announced agreements with two USTA sections — Mid-Atlantic and Southwest — for TGA franchises in those sections.

The USTA Mid-Atlantic Section acquired the TGA “master franchise” rights for the section. Mid-Atlantic will use its network of Tennis Service Representatives to help implement the TGA model in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and parts of West Virginia. In this new model, the Mid-Atlantic TSRs will be called “Community Program Managers” (CPMs) and will be trained to be TGA Chapter Directors.

In the USTA Southwest, the section will fund the launch of a TGA chapter in Tucson, which will be managed by Gilbert Moncada, the director of TGA-Golf in Tucson. Moncada has hired Arnold Lopez to oversee TGA-Tennis operations. As part of the agreement, the Southwest Section can assume ownership of the chapter at any time.

“We are thrilled to work hand-in-hand with … USTA Sections to create scalable and replicable local tennis ecosystems that give thousands of kids and their parents an entrée to tennis and the player pathway,” says Joshua Jacobs, CEO and founder of TGA.

USTA Names Recipients of Annual Awards

The USTA honored seven recipients of its Annual Awards during the USTA Annual Meeting and Conference in March in Carlsbad, Calif.

Anthony Lara of Chino, Calif., is the winner of the Brad Parks Award, established in 2002 to honor an individual or organization that has been instrumental in the development of wheelchair tennis around the world.

Cora Masters Barry of Washington, D.C., won the USTA NJTL Founders’ Service Award, created by USTA Diversity in 2011 to recognize an individual NJTL chapter founder committed to positive youth development through tennis and education and provides free or low-cost tennis, education and life-skills programming.

Youth Tennis San Diego is the USTA Organization Member of the Year, recognized for outstanding service through its commitment to the tennis community, the organization’s members and the game of tennis.

Griffin Family of San Diego won the Ralph W. Westcott USTA Family of the Year Award, which is given annually to the family that has done the most to promote amateur tennis, primarily on a volunteer basis.

David Sommer of Minneapolis is the winner of the Seniors’ Service Award, awarded on the basis of the recipient’s willingness, cooperation and participation, either in play or organizational work, for the betterment and furtherance of senior competition.

Charlotte Johnson of El Paso, Texas (more than 10 years of service) and Jeff Baill of Plymouth, Minn. (up to 10 years of service) are winners of the USTA’s Volunteer Exceptional Service Award, which recognizes the most outstanding USTA volunteers.

BJK Among ‘Thought Leaders’ at Lake Nona Impact Forum

Billie Jean King was among a select group of 250 of the nation’s top CEOs, health care entrepreneurs and innovators, government officials and other thought leaders at the Lake Nona Impact Forum held in February in Orlando, Fla. The executives engaged in three days of collaborative, action-oriented discussions to develop solutions to improve health, wellness and sustainable living throughout the world. King was interviewed at the Impact Forum by Dr. Jim Loehr, cofounder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.

USTA Pro Circuit Launches Collegiate Series of Events

The USTA Pro Circuit is launching the USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series, a circuit of more than 10 tournaments held on or near college campuses nationwide to provide a platform for college players to gain pro experience and transition to the pro ranks. The USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series will consist of events that complement a college player’s schedule, with most events being held in the fall semester, and will give players the chance to collect ATP or WTA ranking points.

The Collegiate Series is scheduled to begin the week of June 6 with a $25,000 men’s Futures event held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., followed by a $25,000 men’s Futures event at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The series will then continue in the fall with further men’s and women’s tournaments to be named with prize money ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. Ohio State will host a $50,000 men’s Challenger in mid-September, while two $25,000 men’s Futures events will take place near the University of California, Berkeley, in October.

The USTA Pro Circuit, started in 1979, is now scheduled to feature approximately 100 events this year and will award more than $3.5 million in total prize money, the most events and prize money of any season in the history of the USTA Pro Circuit.

Tennis Journalist Bud Collins Passes Away

Longtime tennis journalist and TV tennis analyst Arthur “Bud” Collins died March 4 at his home in Brookline, Mass. He was 86 years old. (See Joel Drucker’s tribute in the Your Serve on page 40.)

Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994, Collins starting writing tennis for the Boston Globe in 1963, and shortly after that added tennis TV commentary to his resume. He is considered the first sports print journalist to have carved out a regular gig offering sports commentary and analysis on TV, too.

From 1972 to 2007, Collins worked for NBC, hosting the “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcasts and wearing his trademark bow tie and colorful clothes. Last September, Collins, whose health had been failing in recent years, traveled to the US Open in New York, accompanied by his wife Anita Ruthling Klaussen, where the media center at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was dedicated and named in his honor.

Henin, Safin Head into Hall of Fame

Former WTA Tour world No. 1 Justine Henin, who won seven Grand Slam singles titles, and Marat Safin, a two-time major champion and former ATP World Tour world No. 1, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July.

Henin and Safin have been elected in the Recent Player Category. In addition, Yvon Petra, a notable French tennis player of the 1940s, and Margaret "Peggy" Scriven, British tennis champion of the 1930s, will be inducted posthumously in the Master Player Category.

Henin is the first Belgian inductee to the Hall of Fame and Safin is the first Russian player to be inducted. Since 1955, the honor of Hall of Fame induction has been awarded to 243 tennis champions and leaders representing 21 nations. The 2016 induction ceremony will be July 16 in Newport, R.I.

Industry Experts Present At TIA Forum, T.O.M.

Hundreds of industry executives, facility owners/managers and other in the tennis business attended the 2016 State of the Industry Forum and Tennis Owners & Managers (TOM) Conference, held in Miami in late March. Prior to the Forum, a POP Tennis demonstration took place on a 60-foot court set up in the ballroom, which drew coverage and interviews from three Miami TV stations.

Speakers at the Forum included top tennis execs presenting the latest news and data about the industry, including participation research, consumer and technology trends, marketplace data, grow-the-game initiatives and updates from the USTA. The TOM Conference featured leading experts in tennis club and facility management, programming, leadership, personnel and more.

Stay tuned for more on both of these events, including important “takeaways,” in the June issue of Tennis Industry.

Industry Loses Holabird’s Sol Schwartz

Tennis lost a true champion recently when Sol Schwartz, 46, passed away on March 16. Schwartz was a Retail Manager and Buyer for Holabird Sports, having joined that company in 1993.

He attended University of Maryland–Baltimore County and recorded one of the best seasons in UMBC tennis history in 1991-92 with a 19-2 singles record and 10-4 in doubles. He reached the final of the East Coast Conference Championship in 1992 at No. 2 singles. An active alum, Schwartz served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Retriever tennis programs.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area in the fall of 2012, Schwartz sprung into action to help out tennis facilities and teaching professionals, initiating a fundraising campaign through Holabird. The donations he solicited from throughout the industry helped get local coaches back on their feet, providing cases of balls, hoppers and other equipment.

Wilson to Host IART Symposium

The annual training symposium for the International Alliance of Racquet Technicians (IART) will be Sept. 23-27 in Chicago. This 10th anniversary will be hosted by Wilson Racquet Sports.

The Friday kick-off meeting will be at Wilson Global Headquarters. On Saturday, there is a trip to Midtown Athletic Club to play tennis and platform tennis. The event then moves to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, near O’Hare Airport, for three days of classes. On Monday, attendees will join Wilson’s Ron Rocchi for group tours of the Wilson Innovation Center.

Day passes also are available. To register, visit iartsymposium.com or contact IART Executive Director Tim Strawn at 540-632-1148.

Magic-Net Creates Portable Nets in Seconds

Magic Net sets up in less than 5 seconds for multiple racquet and ball sports, including tennis, POP Tennis, pickleball, ping pong, and badminton. The Magic Net package consists of two rustproof stainless-steel spring-loaded canisters in heavy colorful plastic cases with a 22-foot long by 2-inch wide bright yellow canvas net band.

Each canister incorporates a molded “hanger” and also a Velcro option that makes it easy to hook or connect onto a chair, fence, vertical pole, and other readily available object. Suggested retail price is $39 (includes carrying case). It’s manufactured and distributed by Oncourt Offcourt. Call 1-888-366-4711 or visit oncourtoffcourt.com.

Asics Easter Bowl Awards Travel Grants

The Asics Easter Bowl awarded $10,000 in travel grants in the form of vouchers for airline travel and hotel expenses at this year’s ITF event, which took place April 2-10 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, said tournament director Lornie Kuhle.

The grants help offset the costs parents must pay to raise junior champions, Kuhle said, adding that the assistance is one way the tournament helps top juniors in making a transition from junior tennis to the collegiate or professional game.

Ashaway Offers Zyex Racquetball Strings

While nylon strings have long dominated racquetball courts, recent years have seen a decided increase in the use of other specialty polymers, principally a polyetheretherketone polymer — better know as PEEK — marketed under the brand name Zyex.

Ashaway Racket Strings currently offers two families of Zyex®-based strings for racquetball, UltraKill® and PowerKill®, both of which feature the high dynamic stiffness and superior tension holding characteristics of this space-age polymer.

“The property that makes Zyex so good for racquet strings is its low dynamic stiffness, which allows strings to stretch and recover more completely than other synthetic materials," said Ashaway’s Steve Crandall. "This generates power with low impact shock (soft power).” Visit ashawayusa.com.

USRSA Announces New MRTs

Christian Varriale–Ontario, Canada

Saad Sayeed–Ontario, Canada

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