On the horizon in July is the biggest junior event to come to the USTA National Campus in 2017. From July 17-23, hundreds of players will descend on Lake Nona for the National Clay Court Championships. The National Campus will play host to the Boys’ 12s singles and doubles draws, while other age divisions will be staged throughout the country. The National Level 1 tournament is one of the marquee events of the junior calendar and will attract the best of the best.
The junior circuit serves as the proving ground for the next crop of elite American tennis players. The USTA National Campus already has hosted two National Level 2 tournaments as well as the USTA Florida Junior State Singles Championship so far this year, but the National Clay Court Championships will certainly be the most prominent. “We’re thrilled to be hosting this tournament at the USTA National Campus,” said USTA Director of National Tournaments Lew Brewer. “The best players in the country deserve to play at the best facilities, and they’ll be getting that here in Lake Nona.”
The USTA National Campus also celebrates a major milestone this month as July 5 marks the six-month anniversary of the state-of-the-art facility calling Lake Nona home. That’s six months of welcoming lifelong players, tennis novices, professional players and everyone in between.
The facility has been revolutionary for the game of tennis, not only for the local Orlando community but both nationally and internationally. Since the grand opening in January, some of the biggest names in the world of tennis have visited the 64-acre campus and have had nothing but the highest of praise. “The new Home for American Tennis is spectacular,” said former world No. 1 and current U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier, a longtime Orlando resident who has frequented the facility since its opening. “We’re standing on the site of the best tennis facility on the planet.”
“It’s just mind-blowing,” commented Mike Bryan, one half of Bryan brothers, the record-breaking American doubles pair. “Truly phenomenal,” echoed the legendary Ivan Lendl.
The 100-court facility has hosted dozens of events, ranging from USTA Pro Circuit events, to national junior tournaments, to premier college matches. The complete 2017 calendar boasts more than 100 local, regional, national and international events. One of the programs to have already come to the USTA National Campus in 2017 is the USTA Pro Circuit, the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The National Campus has thus far hosted 540 Pro Circuit matches spanning four tournaments and featuring players, both male and female, from around the globe.
In the world of collegiate tennis, more than 5,300 fans attended six marquee College MatchDay events that featured some of the best NCAA Division I programs in the country, including the eventual national champion Florida Gators women’s team. More than 1,700 fans attended a single match between the Florida and Florida State men’s teams in March. “I think this is a huge boost for college tennis, to get these top teams together at this phenomenal facility,” said Patrick McEnroe, who was a member of the ESPN commentating team for the Florida-Florida State match. “I’m just blown away by how the campus looks. To see it all come together and to know it’s only going to get better over time is truly amazing.”
In addition to the College MatchDay showdowns, the National Campus hosted the American Athletic Conference and Atlantic 10 Conference championships, as well as supported “Spring Break Tennis,” which gave more than 300 universities, ranging from Division I to NAIA, the opportunity to play matches at the National Campus throughout the spring.
USTA Player Development also has called Lake Nona home since the campus opened in January. A number of top American pros have moved to the Orlando community to train full-time at the National Campus. CiCi Bellis and Frances Tiafoe, the youngest players in the WTA and ATP Top 100, respectively, are two of the five Top 100 players who now reside in Central Florida. Bellis, who, like Tiafoe, is having the best season of her young career, has called the new training facility “a toy store for tennis players” and the state-of-the-art European red clay courts “the best thing that has ever happened for American tennis.” Bellis reached the third round of the French Open earlier this year in her first appearance at Roland Garros. “It’s really better than we thought,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman. “We knew it was going to be special. We knew we had the facility we needed. But I think that it’s the response, every time a new player comes here and sees it for the first time and really feels like, ‘This is my home.’ ”
In addition to the National Clay Court Championships, July also will begin the second session of summer programming for both youth and adults. Youth programming at the National Campus has been a major success. The facility has averaged 500 children per week in various programs, including the first session of summer camp. Adult programming continues to develop as well, with expanding league play and more “social play” options. All evening adult programming throughout the summer has moved indoors to the six indoor courts in the Player Development building to account for the unpredictable Florida weather.
With more than 50,000 visitors through the first six months, the USTA National Campus has truly cemented itself as a premier sports destination in the heart of Lake Nona, adding to Orlando’s array of sports venues and rivaling tennis facilities around the world. Former world No. 1 Chris Evert summed it up best at the grand opening event, saying, “This is nirvana with nets, tennis heaven.”