By Roger Cox, Editor
This is not a "center" but a "campus," an aptly evocative word to describe what the U.S. Tennis Association has carved out of the pasteurlands at Lake Nona, an easy 15-minute drive southeast of Orlando International Airport. One hundred lighted tennis courts fan out across the 65-acre property, anchored by a building housing , among other things, USTA offices. The courts cluster in neighborhoods—Collegiate, Family, Team USA, Tournament and League, Player Development—each with lockers, showers, shade, and relevant amenities. Six are indoor, six are European red clay imported from Italy, the rest a mix of hard, clay, and Rebound Ace. Two—one clay, one hard—are configured as 500-seat stadiums. Fully 84 of these courts have Playsight technology to live stream on-court action, so that college alumni can login to watch their teams compete, grandma and grandpa can see how their children are doing in junior matches, and your friends can follow you progress if you're playing in one of the sectional or senior events that rotate through the new campus. Of those, 32 have Playsight's SmartCourt technology to record and analyze matches. And scattered throughout are phone and tablet charging stations and 25 hydration stations, or water-bottle fillers, delivering filtered water. There's a pro shop managed by Fromuth with a "Racquet Bar" where you can not only get your racquet restrung but also consult with experts about customizing it to meet your needs. Finally, if you get hungry, food is as close as the Netpost Grill in the welcome center.
A number of top American players have visited the campus to train, among them Madison Keys, Frances Tiafoe, Reilly Opelka, and CiCi Bellis, but the USTA's aspiration obviously went far beyond creating a world-class professional training facility. Coaches with top juniors are encouraged to bring their players to the campus for short-term stints—it is emphatically not a residential academy—to take advantage of the expertise within player development. The sprawling camp hosts 100s of tennis tournaments each year, most of them junior, senior, NTRP, league, and state and local championships. There is also a series of drop-in clinics, with themes like live-ball doubles, Cardio tennis, Innovation tennis, Tennis 101, Tennis 102, and Novice tennis as well a wheelchair and veterans programs. The campus schedules open social play sessions (mostly doubles, though with some singles sessions) as well as special holiday social round robins. On top of that there are summer camps for juniors and 3-day National Campus Adult Camps on selected dates. Or put together a group of 8 or more and design your own camp, staff by campus pros. Oh, and by the way, private lessons and open court time are offered as well.
As an avid tennis player, you owe it to yourself to visit the campus whether or not you're taking a camp or enrolled in one of its many tournaments. It's an easy detour from the airport before continuing on your way to Orlando's theme parks or one of its more traditional tennis resorts.
Although there is a small hotel on campus, it is for the limited use of visiting juniors and professionals. There is, however, a modern Courtyard by Marriott Orlando Lake Nona, 2 miles away, whose rates are reasonable and whose amenities include a swimming pool, small fitness center, and an American bistro and bar.
The Netpost Grill in the welcome center serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner at affordable prices (no entrée costs more that $16)
USTA National Campus
Visit the website for current rates
Courtyard by Marriott Orlando Lake Nona
Visit the website for current rates
Travel Instructions. The campus is 10 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO).
General Tourist Information. For general information about travel in this part of Florida, visit the Visit Orlando website or contact by phone at 407-363-5872 or 800-972-3304.
©2019 Roger Cox