playing tennis

The best kept secret in New York City tennis – The new stadium tennis center

Playing tennis in New York City just became a little bit easier and welcoming.

The new Stadium Tennis Center at Mill Pond Park, located in the shadow of Yankee Stadium at East 152nd Street and the Harlem River, can be labeled “the best kept secret in New York City tennis.” With sixteen cushioned, US Open style deco-turf, hard courts – including twelve indoor courts which are open for indoor play from October through April — New York City’s newest indoor/outdoor tennis center commenced its first indoor season at the end of 2010. The tennis center is an integral part of Mill Pond Park and the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project. Formerly a vacant and decaying industrial site, Mill Pond Park has been transformed by the City of New York into a new 10-acre park, the first significant park on the Bronx bank of the Harlem River in decades. In addition to the new tennis center and adjacent clubhouse, Mill Pond Park features an outdoor classroom, beach area, picnic/barbeque area, waterfront views, a large sunken lawn space, sitting/viewing platforms, historical and way-finding signage, landscaping and an esplanade that unites the site.

The state-of-the art indoor seasonal “bubble” covering twelve tennis courts at the Stadium Tennis Center is one of the largest tennis bubbles or domes of this type in the world, covering an area of over 4 million cubic feet and a footprint of more than 75,000 square feet. In addition, an adjacent planned clubhouse will be completed in the coming months and will feature a pro shop, café, locker rooms and lounge areas, wi-fi computer access, workspace where children can do schoolwork and read, and a tennis library. The excellent lighting, high indoor ceilings and spacious backcourts of the new Stadium Tennis Center are sure to please the tennis playing public and tournament level players.

The Stadium Tennis Center at Mill Pond Park offers a full complement of tennis programs for juniors and adults of all skill levels in partnership with Gotham Tennis Academy, a leader in developing and operating tennis programs in New York City. Through its partnership with Gotham Tennis Academy, the new tennis center has established a team of top-notch, experienced tennis professionals and offers popular junior development and advanced training tennis programs including high performance elite training for ranked juniors. For adult players, fast-paced group clinics and Cardio Tennis workouts are offered daily, in addition to indoor seasonal court rentals, private lessons, game arranging, leagues and tournament play.

The tennis center can be accessed easily by public transportation as it is located across the street from the 153rd Street Yankee Stadium MetroNorth Hudson line train stop – just a short walk from either the 161 Street-Yankee Stadium or 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway stops on the No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, B or D subway lines. By car, the facility can be reached from Exit 4/5 on the Major Deegan Expressway (Interstate Route 87). Sixty parking spots are available for patron’s use.

More information about Stadium Tennis Center at Mill Pond Park can be found at www.stadiumtennisnyc.com or by calling (718) 665-4684.

More information about Gotham Tennis Academy can be found at www.gothamtennis.com or by calling 646-292-3511.

 

 

The Not So Glamorous Life

This week, the best eight singles players in the world have converged on London for the ATP World Tour Finals. When they’re not playing tennis, these guys stay in the nicest hotels, eat at the best restaurants, and chat with celebrities. They’ve earned it. It takes a great deal of hard work to make it to the top. In addition to the many millions each of these eight guys takes home from endorsement deals, they win a lot in prize money. This week alone, each of the eight players will receive a $95,000 participation fee plus $120,000 for each round robin win. The players progressing to the semifinals and the final match will add even more substantial amounts to this week’s pay check. As neither Rafa nor Roger has lost a match yet, they are also still in the running for the giant undefeated bonus, assuming one of them manages to win the whole event without losing a match. Not bad for a week’s worth of work, considering a player could win absolutely nothing and still go home with nearly $100,000.

As much as I would have loved to be in London this week, it just wasn’t in the cards. However, last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a challenger level ATP tournament in Champaign, Illinois. I don’t think you could find a tournament much farther from the glamour of the World Tour Finals. Previously, the smallest tournaments I had attended were ATP 250 events in Estoril and Newport. The difference was striking. These players weren’t famous. No one was stopping them for autographs or photos. They didn’t bring an entourage. They hung out to watch other matches and chat with friends. They drove their own cars. The crowd almost never exceeded 50 people and tickets only cost a few dollars. Not to mention the tournament was played in a college gym, albeit a very nice one. There wasn’t even a concession stand. As I found out at the check presentation, the players even spent the week staying with host families to save the expense of a hotel. Remember, these are professional athletes, not high school exchange students.

Before you misunderstand me, I realize that these tiny challenger tournaments are necessary for players to gain points and make their way to larger events. I honestly applaud these guys for their hard work. You really have to love playing tennis to spend a week staying with a stranger on the off chance you may win 75 points and $7,000. One of the doubles finalists actually planned on leaving directly after his match to drive fourteen hours in an effort to make his flight home. This made me feel a little better about my own three hour drive.

Anyway, this dichotomy between the top of the top and the average pro got me thinking. Tennis is an expensive sport. Unlike a baseball or football or basketball, there’s no contract, no team to pay for flights, hotels, and food. Most players don’t make tons of money in endorsements so the majority of their income depends on whether they win. There are tournaments almost every week of the year in countries all over the world. So, with travel and other expenses, how many tennis players really make the kind of money we associate with professional athletes?

Clearly I don’t have the data on endorsement money for every player in the ATP or how much they spend on travel each year, so we’ll have to speculate on that. What I do have is rankings data and prize money data. I ran through all kinds of numbers and statistics and came up with the following table. All of these numbers are based on rankings and prize money data from the week of November 22nd.

Year to Date Singles Per Tournament
Top 10 $3,183,927.70 $3,138,576.80 $153,010.41
Top 20 $2,197,778.90 $2,119,418.40 $101,402.16
Top 100 $800,184.21 $743,088.26 $34,224.64
20-100 $456,841.83 $399,005.73 $17,430.26
100-200 $127,097.53 $111,024.79 $3,794.92
200-300 $51,469.07 $43,817.25 $2,328.23

Life is pretty good if you’re in the Top 10. This data doesn’t even include the money the Top 8 players will make this week in London or the ridiculous amounts they are paid to endorse brands like Nike, Lacoste, Wilson, Head, Rolex, Gillette, Mercedes, Kia, and many many other companies. Things are still pretty good if you’re in the Top 100. It’s likely that even after taxes, travel, and management/coaches take a cut, Top 100 players are living quite comfortably. After that, things get dicey. Outside the Top 100, players are rarely guaranteed direct acceptance and are often unsure whether they will even be able to play in the main draw of the tournaments they travel to. For players ranked between 100 and 200, the average prize money this year was $127,097.53. For the average person this would be a pretty good salary, but the average person doesn’t have the expenses of a tennis player.

So, what do we do with this information? Nothing. The tennis life is what it is. Players bounce around the rankings, they get injured, they have breakthroughs, and they win and lose endorsement deals, all of which affect their bottom line. I mostly wanted to share some of my experiences from Champaign and debunk the myth that all professional athletes lead crazy lavish lifestyles. I’d wager that the lower ranked players aren’t so different from you and me.

Clijsters Sidelined, Baltacha out of Commonwealth Games but Mirza Boost for Organisers

*Current Queen of the US Open Kim Clijsters has been forced to pull out of next month’s China Open with an infected foot. The Belgian star recently had a mole removed from the base of the foot but the wound has become infected. “I’m very sorry to have to cancel,” said the 27-year-old. “The wound on my sole is healing really bad – playing tennis is not possible.” Serena Williams has already announced that her foot injury sustained when stepping on broken glass in Munich earlier this year will also keep her out of the competition. She hopes to return for Moscow.

*Scotland’s Elena Baltacha has pulled out of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi with a chronic liver condition linked to her immune system. “After a lot of thought and discussion, I have taken the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the Games,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport. “Conditions in Delhi are such that going there would pose too high a risk to my health. I am incredibly disappointed because I was really excited about playing for Scotland but I will be cheering on Team Scotland with all my heart, in particular my fellow tennis players. I am very, very sad that I won’t get to play alongside them.”

*Under fire Commonwealth Games bosses will undoubtedly be buoyed by the news that top Indian star Sania Mirza will be staying at the much-maligned Players’ Village, contrary to recent rumours. Her father, Imran, told PTI News: “She will check in to the Village with the rest of the team.”

*Despite losing his first comeback match since his wrist surgery Juan Martin del Potro seemed very pleased with the condition he is in. He, perhaps surprisingly, lost to the Belgian Olivier Rochus in Bangkok on Tuesday but his wrist seemed to be near full strength according to the Argentine. “The most important thing for today is my wrist,” said the 2009 US Open winner, “and it’s perfect. I hope to play five or six more tournaments between now and the end of the season. It was a great moment for me being with the fans on centre court playing a match again. I felt very happy. I lost today but I have good things to take for the future.” For the full interview check out the ATP World Tour website.

*There is no movement this week within the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings released on Monday (September 27th). Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Belgium’s Xavier Mallisse climbs five to No. 50. Spain’s Pablo Andujar jumps 28 places to No. 77 after losing the Bucharest final to Chela and Somdev Devvarman jumps 17 to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings finally bring good news for troubled Russian star Dinara Safina who has climbed ten slots to No. 49 this week while Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic climbs two to No. 50. Another Russian, Alia Kudryavtseva, sees a massive rise from No. 82 to No. 57 and Elena Vesnina does likewise from No. 72 to No. 58.

*Gilles Simon’s title at Metz last week was his first since becoming a father during the US Open. “Thanks to my fiancée for being here,” he said. “She was worried that I would be distracted – I think I’ve given the best response today.”

*Spanish pinup Fernando Verdasco is known to be a fan of martial arts and has been learning some local specialties while playing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in some Muay Thai alongside 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist Somjit Jongjorhor on stage in Bangkok and former ATP pro Paradorn Srichapan also joined in. “I would love to learn more Thai boxing,” said Verdasco. “I’ve always loved martial arts so maybe when I stop playing tennis I can learn some more. It was a lot of fun to learn some of the moves today.”

*Top seed Rafa Nadal has also been experiencing local culture while competing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in Thailand’s ‘A Million Trees For The King’ project by planting a tree in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Afterwards he partook in some local pastimes with friends. “I did a lot of things,” said the reigning Wimbledon, French and US Open Champion who took part in a religious ceremony with Buddhist monks on the beach over the weekend. “I was with friends. I was on the beach, very nice beach. We did water sports, we went to golf one time, we went [go-carting] another time. So we did a lot of things. We went there, having fun in Hua Hin and enjoying a lot.”

*Kazakhstan’s Evgeny Korolev is set to miss up to four months after undergoing elbow surgery today (September 30th). It is a problem which has dogged him since January and that has seen him drop from a career-high No. 46 to No. 97. Robby Ginepri will also be missing from the tour for the rest of the season after also undergoing elbow surgery on an injury suffered in a biking accident. Ginepri reached the fourth round at Roland Garros this year before falling to Novak Djokovic.

*29-year-old Frenchman Thierry Ascione has announced his retirement from professional tennis following the conclusion of play in Metz last week. “Right before and right after the match it was really emotional,” he said. “I had a beautiful career. I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to be a champion. To be one, I think I would have needed a different personality but I don’t regret anything. I had the best times and through tennis I met my best friends.”

*London fashion week has just finished for 2010 and tennis got near the catwalks with Andy Murray and Serena Williams in attendance along with actress Sarah Jessica Parker and photographer Mario Testino to see Burberry unveil its latest collection. “I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes,” said British No. 1 Murray. “I like Burberry so it should be fun.” “This is my first fashion show in Europe,” added fashionista Serena. “I like Burberry, I always do the ones in New York so it was definitely something I wanted to come and do. I can’t believe I’m here I’m so excited.”

LATE BLOOMER STOSUR A RARITY ON WTA TOUR

By Blair Henley

The ATP Tour is full of late bloomers. Sure there is the occasional teenage superstar, but it’s often more common for men to peak in their mid to late 20’s.

Not so on the women’s side.

That’s why 26-year-old Samantha Stosur’s recent first-time appearance in the Top 10 is an unusual feat. Her stellar doubles resume has made it easy to miss the fact that her singles ranking has been steadily improving since her professional debut in 1999.

In an age where mindless pounding from the baseline seems to have taken over, Stosur has shown that a well-rounded game, complete with solid volleys and a blazing serve, pays long-term dividends. Up-and-coming players and their coaches would be wise to take note.

Stosur, who goes by the nickname Sam, grew up in Queensland, Australia and didn’t start playing tennis until age 8, when a friend gave her a racket for Christmas. She spent as much time as possible hitting with her older brother until he advised their parents to get her some real lessons. By the time she turned 16, Sam’s rapid improvement had secured her a spot in the Australian Institute of Sport’s tennis program, which helped launch her professional career.

Stosur’s aggressive style of play took some time to develop, and it wasn’t until 2005 that she started seeing significant results in both singles and doubles. She teamed up with Lisa Raymond midway through the year and proceeded to win seven doubles titles with her new partner, including the U.S. Open and the WTA Tour Championships. Her newfound success provided the necessary momentum heading into 2006, where Stosur delighted her home crowd by making it to the fourth round of the Australian Open. After that solid season, she reached the No. 1 ranking in doubles and sat comfortably at No. 29 in singles.

Things were looking great for the Aussie, but trouble lurked right around the corner. After a decent start to 2007, Stosur’s season was cut short by extreme fatigue and joint pain. It wasn’t until October of that year, after a viral meningitis scare, that she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. The tick-borne illness sapped her strength and energy and left many wondering if she could come back from such severe health issues.

Stosur overcame the odds and had a fairly successful return to tennis in 2008, but she didn’t completely regain steam until the following year. In addition to her consistent doubles success, Sam’s all-court game fell together in 2009, making her a significant singles threat in the process. Her breakthrough season was capped off by her first WTA Tour singles title in Osaka.

That brings us to 2010. Stosur went into this year with a new and improved slice backhand and an intense focus on her singles play. Boy has that paid off. She recently captured the Family Circle Cup title and just fell in a tough three-setter to Justine Henin in the final of the Stuttgart Grand Prix. Interestingly, many of her biggest tournament wins have come on clay, which speaks to her adaptability and peak physical condition.

Stosur may have been a long-shot for success when she turned pro over ten years ago, but her slow and steady ascent shows just how dedicated she has been to a game-style that took some extra time to develop.  For every hard-hitting baseliner that has succeeded on the pro tour, there are many more that have flamed out upon realizing their games had hit a permanent plateau. Sam is a fantastic example for the next generation of players who would be smart to establish an aggressive, well-rounded game that can set them up for long-term success.

Only time will tell if Samantha Stosur will become a fixture among the world’s tennis elite,  but for now it looks like this late bloomer has effectively thrown her “doubles specialist” title out the window, trading it in for something more along the lines of singles powerhouse.

THREE DAYS OF PORSCHE GRAND PRIX, THREE DAYS OF PHOTOS

Our photographer Ralf Reinecke is still in Stuttgart covering the tournament and providing you with the top of the notch photos.  Ralf Reinecke provided us pics of Dinara Safina’s birthday, Anke Huber presenting the new Porsche Grand Prix award and matches. Ofcourse many many matches that include Justine Henin, Gisela Dulko and Li Na.

The Gisela Dulko photos were a special request from the guys at GiselaDulko.net. If we can fill in request then we will. So there you go, guys! Enjoy the Dulko pics.

Other than that the tournament so far has been exciting with many surprise upsets. Caroline Wozniacki, I have to note that she is injured, Victoria Azarenka out and the most surprising exit is Dinara Safina’s. But I really hope that she remained injury free this week and found back her mojo. So that she can keep playing tennis. I mean let’s be real here: What would the WTA Tour be without her?  You let me know by commeting down below.

Now here we go with the photos of Stuttgart.  Credit to Ralf Reinecke.

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THOMAZ BELLUCCI: MAN ON A MISSION

As the dust settles and the tears dry following Roger Federer’s whitewashing of Andy Murray in Melbourne the ATP marches on.

Last week saw ATP 250 Tournaments held in Zagreb, Croatia, Johannesburg, South Africa and Santiago, Chile. It is testament to the worldwide appeal that tennis holds so strongly.

The giant Marin Cilic took his home title for the second consecutive year and Feliciano Lopez ended his six-year title drought in Johannesburg. But in Santiago, a little-known Brazilian was taking the plaudits following a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory over the Argentinean Juan Monaco.

South American tournaments are always interesting given the political histories between many of the nations crammed in to the vast island and Thomaz Bellucci will revel in the defeat of one of the “old enemy” to lift the title.

Standing at 6 ft. 2 the left hander considers his serve and forehand as his main strengths and has a powerful repertoire of shots to back this up.

The No. 3 seed had an impressive march to the final. He overcame the likes of Nicolas Lapentti and home favorites Paul Capdeville and reigning Champion Fernando Gonzalez as well as beating another Argentinean Eduardo Schwank on route to facing Monaco.

It was a second title in a five-year career for the 22-year-old following his victory at Gstaad last August. It has lifted him to a career-high rank of No. 28 in the world and has made him the first Brazilian since Gustavo Kuerten in 2004 to hold a top 50 ranking.

Thomaz Cocchiarali Bellucci was born on December 30, 1987, in Tiete, Brazil. His father, Ildebrando, was a salesman while his mother, Maria Regina, owned her own business. Bellucci began playing tennis at a young age and started well. Two weeks after turning 17, he reached a career-high juniors ranking of No. 15 in the world in January 2005.

He then began playing the ATP Challenger Circuit where he registered numerous victories to help propel him in to the world Top 100. He began 2007 ranked No. 582 but a meteoric rise saw him end the year No. 202 with his best results two losing final appearances in Challenger Events in Ecuador and Columbia.

The 2008 season was when people began to hear his name more regularly. He picked up four ATP Challenger titles, all clay. He also qualified for the French Open for the first time where he lost to Rafael Nadal. But at Wimbledon, he saw his first Grand Slam match victory, overcoming Igor Kunitsyn in four sets before losing to the German Simon Stadler in round two.

Thomaz opened 2009 well by overcoming former world No. 1 and 2003 French Open Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarterfinals of the Brasil Open before losing to Tommy Robredo in the final.

But in August he went one better. After qualifying for the Swiss Open in Gstaad he beat local favorite Stanislas Wawrinka, former world No. 4 Nicolas Keifer, and two-time tournament runner-up Igor Andreev on his way to victory. Beginning the tournament ranked at No. 119 in the world he leapt 53 spots to No. 66 as a result of his victory.

In October, he then reached his first hard-court ATP semifinal, losing to Olivier Rochus at the Stockholm Open in four sets, and was by-now an established member of the Brazilian Davis Cup squad.

The 2010 season has again begun well for the Brazilian. He reached the quarterfinals at Brisbane before being edged out 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(3) by the Czech Thomas Berdych before losing to Andy Roddick in the second round of the Australian Open, his best record at the tournament to date.

Now ranked at No. 28 in the world following his victory in Santiago, his next goal is to push towards the top 20. He will have high hopes for the French later this year as he considers clay his best surface and he will no doubt have the samba passion of Brazil behind him as they look for the successor to three-time French Open Champion Gustavo Kuerten’s crown.

He will be looking to improve on his 34-37 career win record and adding to a pot already worth nearly $800,000. Look out for the name Thomaz Bellucci in 2010, there could be some surprises in store.

CORINA MORARIU: RESURRECTION OF THE BRAIN OF A CHICKEN

The following excerpt is taken from the book LIVING THROUGH THE RACKET: How I Survived Leukemia…and Rediscovered My Self by Corina Morariu. It is published by Hay House (February 2010) and is available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com or click here to order it from Amazon.com.

I know my dad always had my best interests at heart. He was never too pushy or too pressuring like many obsessed tennis parents are, but he does have a very forceful, mercurial personality; and memories of my early tennis life are stressful.

On my desk, I have a photo of me as a six-year-old getting ready to play my first tennis tournament. I have the whole getup—skirt, headband, wristbands, racket bag—but when I look at that picture, I see a scared little girl about to throw up from fear. I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat breakfast. I didn’t know how to keep score, I was playing a girl a foot taller than I was, and my dad was breathing down my neck. Despite all that, I acquitted myself pretty well on the court. The more I played, the better I got . . . but for me, tennis was never purely fun.

My dad, of course, saw it from his perspective, not mine, and all the signs showed that I could be a very accomplished player. He wanted to pass on his own character strengths of dedication and discipline, which were obvious in his courageous act of coming to America alone and building a new life, and I certainly inherited those traits. If you ask him today what kind of pupil I was, he’d say, “She was very disciplined on the court, very articulate, and if you told her something she should do, she would do it. She was a kid who tried her best all the time. That’s why she was good.” As he later told me, “I just wanted you to be the best.”

My dad had also introduced my brother to the game, and Mircea excelled at playing in the Juniors and ended up playing at the college level at Brown University. However, by the time I was playing tennis regularly, Dad was more established as a physician and had even more time to dedicate to coaching. “I improved on the first generation,” is how he puts it. He also knew that fierce focus on an individual sport was a good way to keep us out of trouble and away from drugs. It worked. I’ve always stayed away from drugs (that is, if you don’t count chemotherapy).

My dad was intense, and extremely dedicated to my development. He analyzed every match in great detail. Like many parents, only perhaps more forcefully, he never got around to telling me what I did right. Only after I complained bitterly about this did he decide to make two checklists: what I did wrong and what I did right. Still, after all these years, what stuck with me were his pointed and impassioned criticisms, sometimes coming at high volume.

When I was ten—a story my brother and I recount in detail to this day—I was playing a tournament and lost a close, hard-fought match in the third and final set, 6-4. It was an agonizing match, and surely I made some stupid mistakes (I was ten, after all) that contributed to my defeat. As we drove home after the match, I was in the backseat, and my dad was driving. Needless to say, he was unhappy with my performance. He was absolutely livid, screaming at me and banging on the steering wheel at the same time. At the height of his rage, he yelled at me, “You know what? You have the brain of a chicken!”

Straight from this devastating remark, he took me to a local track and made me run until he decided that I could stop. I got home and immediately called my brother, who was then away at college in Rhode Island. I was completely crushed and cried out to Mircea, “Dad just said I have the brain of a chicken!” And my brother broke out laughing. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. I was shouting at him, “I can’t believe you’re laughing!”

“It’s funny!” he managed to say, and he was right. To this day, my brother will randomly text me: “You have the brain of a chicken.” As a matter of fact, he jokingly suggested that I call this book Resurrection of the Brain of a Chicken. The line gets a laugh every time.

My brother figured out by his midteens that he wasn’t going to let our father rule his life—although, ironically, he did in time follow Dad’s lead when it came to a career path. Not only did Mircea end up specializing in neurology like our father, but he also eventually went into practice with him. Still, at age 15, my brother announced that our dad could no longer be involved in his tennis, which really disappointed my father. So when I came along, Dad made up for it by getting completely, almost obsessively, involved in my game. I was the youngest, the baby girl, who was by nature a pleaser. I compulsively tried to become the perfect child. It seemed like the only thing I could control.

Excerpted from Living Through The Racket by Corina Morariu (Hay House, Inc.). Copyright © 2010 by Corina Morariu. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.