With tennis driving down its summer road toward the U.S. Open, fans may be wondering where the next young American champion is going to come from.
He or she may just come Atlanta, where tennis can become a way of life.
“You can’t escape (tennis in Atlanta),” said Sanjay Jayaram, tennis department head at the Lifetime Tennis Academy in Peachtree Corners, Ga., just north of Atlanta.
“You have a larger, wider base of tennis kids because their parents are into tennis now. … That helps our cause, having a large number of kids coming through the academies.”
The Tennis Academy – Lifetime Tennis Academy may be the largest in the Atlanta area – offers elite junior players aged 12 to 18 who wants to play at the Division I level or professionally a menu for success: up to 20 hours a week on a tennis court under a coach’s supervision, plus physical and mental conditioning programs. These academies offer both home-school and early release programs (for juniors attending public high schools).
“Atlanta may have the largest number of tennis academies … and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have the largest number of independent pros teaching out of neighborhoods, country clubs and parks.”
Some of the most renowned Academies in the Atlanta area include: Gary Groslimond’s Tennis Academy of the South, the Baskin McGill Tennis Academy in Marietta, GA, the Windward Lake Tennis Academy in Alpharetta, GA, and the Ginepri Performance Tennis Academy, also in Marietta, GA
No matter which Academy a junior chooses, it’s quite an investment of time and energy on the junior’s part, and of money by the parents.
“If you’re going into a full-time academy … with classroom option … (the cost) can be anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 per year,” said Jayaram. “That’s not just training, but travel too. …
“For the 17- or 18-year-old pursuing a professional career, which includes traveling internationally with coaches. It can reach $60,000.”
Darren Plotkey, the executive director of the Georgia Section of the United States Tennis Association, says four things must come together for a young player to reach his or her tennis goal: family life and parents support, player ambition and drive, excellent coaches and coaching, ability to play top-notch competition.
“You need a governing body that can provide the structure that allows players to compete at the highest level,” Plotkey said. “We are part of that. The player needs to be able to play.”
The fact that tennis, with an estimated 2,200 courts in the Atlanta area, has been spun into Atlanta’s social structure by organization’s like ALTA (Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association) and USTA is a big reason for Atlanta’s junior tennis.
“Developers spend a lot of time and a lot of money on building tennis courts for developments. There are developments that have 20-30 courts in their neighborhood,” said Jayaram. “Developers promote tennis as a big part. It’s a huge selling point.”
So would producing the next American tennis champion.