tennis courts

On The Hunt: Get to Know 11-year-old Longines Future Tennis Aces Competitor Adam Neff

(May 28, 2013) After winning the USTA Boys’ 12s Spring Nationals last month, 11-year-old Adam Neff has earned a spot to compete against hopefuls from fifteen other countries in the Longines Future Tennis Aces event in Paris, France from May 30-June 1.

One look at Neff and you can hardly believe he is only 11 years old. Having grown ten inches over the past year to a height of 5’8” (173cm), his coach of four years, Lance Luciani, laughs at the thought that his pupil will soon tower over him. In fact, doctors anticipate he will grow to a height closer to 6’5” (196cm) by the time he’s done growing, and according to Luciani, he is looking to develop Neff into a similar body type of former world No. 1 Marat Safin.

Neff’s trip back to Paris, this time for the Longines event, signals a “second chance” for the young player as he attempts to redeem himself. Earlier this year while traveling to a junior tournament with his coach, Neff came down with a bad case of Norovirus, and was unable to eat for 10 days, losing 13 pounds. Not surprisingly, he lost in the first round “and it really hurt Adam because he lost to someone he probably shouldn’t have lost to,” Luciani offered. “He felt bad that it happened, and when he heard about the Longines event and how the winner of the 12s Nationals had an automatic bid, he said that it was his chance to go back (to Europe).”

At the 12s Nationals, Neff didn’t drop a set en route to the title, guaranteeing him the all-expense paid trip back to France this week.

Pupil and coach began working together shortly after Luciani’s ten year stint at the IMG Academies teaching students strategy and tactics, including several current professional tennis players, and Luciani jokes about his already four-year partnership with Neff:

“You can only coach a kid for that long if you like the kid, and Adam is a really nice young gentleman.”

The skills that Luciani has ingrained in Neff as well as Neff’s own goal to become world No. 1 one day, has allowed him to be a player mature beyond his years. Luciani imparts words of wisdom, teaching him that although “you may lose a few battles, you are not losing the war,” and Neff has won 85% of his matches in the past year using that slogan. The absolute trust and respect between player and coach, and Neff’s teachability on court, has only propelled his chances at becoming a future breakout star.

“A lot of coaches are about today, and today’s results,” said Luciani. “I once had a coach, who after Adam’s match, pointed out to him that he had missed his backhand 17 times, and then asked him ‘Don’t you think you should have changed it?’ And Adam said, ‘No, my coach told me this is the footwork I’m supposed to use.’”

“And now, one year later,” Luciani elaborates, “because Adam’s body (after having grown ten inches) matches up with what I wanted him to do back then, he’ll now make that same shot 16 out of 17 times.”

And Luciani continues, referring to the steps in his program: “It may be ugly in the beginning, but eventually it’s going to be beautiful.”

The system that Luciani employs is a self-designed program called “Strategy Zone” which is a “very aggressive system based on Andre Agassi and how he built points … and teaches a lot about footwork, targets, amounts of spin, stances and more.” The first four years are spent working on offense “to get a good base,” adding in several new skills every six months. Because Neff has now been with Luciani just over four years, the second stage of the program — the defense — was introduced this past January and “it’s already starting to show up in his game,” states Luciani. “Defensively, we’re working on slicing a little more on his backhand side, and we have a fitness trainer who is working right now on his movement to his right, so he can get to the ball earlier and go from a defensive situation to an offensive situation quickly.”

Neff’s at-home training includes two hours of tennis in the morning, followed by one hour of a private fitness session with his trainer, and an additional hour of tennis in the afternoon, followed by a recovery session every evening. If you’re thinking that this sounds an awful lot like a professional athlete’s schedule, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, many pros hold this similar schedule while preparing for some of tennis’ biggest events.

And to go along with the training, Neff’s backyard is equipped with every tennis player’s dream: a state-of-the-art facility and courts.

When Neff and Luciani first started working together, Neff’s father asked Luciani what he needed in order to give Neff his best chance at becoming a pro. Luciani gave some pointers, construction began and now, their backyard in Bradenton, FL has one of the best facilities in the world. Among it are three tennis courts: 1) a European red clay court akin to the surface of the French Open, 2) a slower hard court like that used at the Sony Open in Miami with seven layers of cushion “to ensure we can save his knees,” states Luciani, and 3) a faster hard court like that found at the US Open with eleven layers of cushion.

It also includes a full 2800 square foot indoor gym with a recovery area, including a CVAC unit like that used by Novak Djokovic. In fact, Luciani researched the manufacturer of that same recovery pod and leased a unit for five years to allow his pupil to have optimum recovery after playing. “There’s nothing like it for recovery,” he states. “If you get injured, you get well really quick.”

Neff’s parents are both doctors and have put everything into Adam and his two younger sisters to become the tennis players their kids aspire to be. Though “successful and busy” individuals, “his parents are extraordinarily supportive,” says Luciani. “They don’t get upset at losses; they just brush them off and are really down to earth … They built (the house and facility) so that their kids can grow up and have a chance to do whatever they wanted to do in tennis. His parents trust me because they know I have their kids’ goals in mind.”

With his efforts culminating this week in Paris, Neff will vie for a shot to win the Longines Future Tennis Aces event, and as Luciani reiterates his and Neff’s long-time goals: “We’re on a mission, there is no other goal. Number two is a failure, bottom line. We’re on a hunt.”


Rockstar John Mayer hit the tennis courts in Sydney, Australia this week, sporting some great Nike duds! His shorts are bit high – harkening back to the days of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. Mayer actually went to the same high school – Fairfield High School in Connecticut – as U.S. Davis Cup star James Blake and is friends with the standout American.


I have been  follower of Jelena Dokic career ever since she caused that great upset by defeating Martina Hingis in straight sets at Wimbledon back in 1999.

After a long absence from the tennis courts, mostly because of family problems, I was happy to read that she was working on a come back. And it’s a work in progress. She stated that 2009 was going to be her last attempt at a come back. And luckily for us, it worked out. She’s still playing and ocassionally swaying the courts.

In 2010 she is preparing for the Australian Open in Hobart.  She proved too strong for Elena Baltacha beating her in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. She will now meet Shahar Peer in the next round.

“I feel like I’m fitter this year and hitting the ball better,” Dokic told reporters.

Now that sounds good and hopefully she will be able to get far at the Australian Open. Just like she did last year when she reached the Quarterfinals on a wild card.

I have created a poll which you can see right after the pics! Cast your vote and feel free to discuss using the comment box.

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Henin Official Comeback Announcement Expected Soon

Former world No. 1 Justine Henin is expected to officially announce her comeback very soon. Belgian TV station RTBF is reporting that a press conference is expected in the next few days. Belgian newspaper De Standaard is reporting that Henin has recently ordered 14 new tennis racquets fit to her competitive requirements. Henin’s staff and representatives have been silent and have not commented on her comeback status. The four-time French Open champion, who decided to retire from tennis 16 months ago, will play two exhibition matches in Charleroi, Belgium and Dubai at the end of 2009.

Henin was signed on to appear in theaters with a play called “Arrête de pleurer Pénélope!” between October 24 and December 20, but canceled last August. Her cancellation fed rumors that she is working behind the scenes to make a return to the tennis courts, like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open on Sunday.

Justine Henin won seven Grand Slam tournaments in her career and won the 2004 Olympic gold medal in women’s singles.

Clijsters has said in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that she would welcome Henin’s comeback. The 2009 winner of the US Open said that she isn’t afraid of Henin making a comeback and would welcome her back to the tour.

Let’s spend the night together

I guess the title of the famous Rolling Stones song is what Tommy Haas and Jesse Levine musta thought when they visited the Playboy Mansion and were surrounded by astonishing Playboy models. Hey that’s what I woulda thought anyway. Enjoy the photos!

American Jesse Levine had two important dates Wednesday – one on-court with two-time champion Tommy Haas at the LA Tennis Open, and another earlier in the day with a Playmate at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.

The 21-year-old Boca Raton resident tweeted on Tuesday: “Pretty pumped for my night match tomorrow night @latennisopen vs Haas. But also pumped for playboy mansion!!!”

Levine joined fellow tennis players Robert Kendrick, Ryan Sweeting and Ross Hutchins at the famous mansion in nearby Holmby Hills, where they were greeted by May 2006 cover girl Alison Waite. The Playmate gave the ATP players a personal tour, providing historical information about the Mansion and Hugh Hefner while escorting them around the lavish 5.3 acre estate.

In addition to visiting the garden and the tennis courts on the grounds, the players took photos with birds in the zoo and tried out the pinball machine in the game room. They were most intrigued, however, by the famous grotto and asked Waite for details of what happened there. They finished the visit with a photo in front of the Playboy Mansion.

“It was a lot of fun to see a place we often get to watch on TV,” said Levine. “It was a really nice opportunity for us tennis players. It’s not like people get to check out the Playboy Mansion everyday, so it was a fun activity.”

Photo Credit: Cynthia Lum