Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at the pros and cons of a few tennis academies around the world.
So you want to become a tennis pro?
You’re not the first one to express such a desire, of course, which is why you may want to establish a detailed plan to maximize the odds of you reaching your dreams. In other words, sure go ahead and hit a ton of tennis balls all day every day but, like, do so in a controlled setting where you can improve day after day?
Which is to say, maybe you need to join a tennis academy and train with actual pros, people presumably best equipped to get you ready to fulfill your dreams and enter your dream career? There are too many hoping for too much and you’ll need every possible edge you could find. See the following as a what’s what of tennis academies; it’s by no means an exhaustive list, because we’d need a year’s worth of columns to do so, but it’s a start.
When in doubt, they say to go with God—and short of that, in tennis maybe go with Patrick Mouratoglou? The French tennis coach has dedicated his entire life to the sport and working with such players as Serena Williams, Grigor Dimitrov and Marcos Baghdatis. He’s at the helm of his namesake academy, which has over the past 20 years attracted to France players hoping to fulfill their potential. In 2014, the group merged with ISP Academy and attracted more than 1,400 different players from ages 5 to 25 and coming from 35 nationalities.
Maybe there’s a reason for that?
The academy is located a mere 20 minutes from Nice, with facilities that include a French and International School, a student campus, a country club and bedrooms for players. Players get the chance of a lifetime but because the career of a tennis pro is a fickle beast, the folks at Mouratoglou also help you gain potential scholarships to American colleges. Tennis may not always be there, but school will.
This academy opened its doors a mere six to eight months ago in June 2016, but don’t let its relatively late arrival to the game convince you of its small-time vision. The Rafa Nadal Academy, after all, can count on the great Rafael Nadal and his team.
The folks at the academy rely on training of three kinds: tennis, physical and mental—with the latter two aiming to support the former. In today’s world, the Rafa Nadal Academy says, you play tennis with your eyes, then your mind, later with your legs and then your hands. (That’s pretty accurate for a description of Nadal the tennis pro.) Players have their choice of an annual, weekly or summer camp program, but we would recommend the annual one: if you can reside year-round in Mallorca, you do it.
How about another option in Spain? The Academia Sanchez-Casal is based out of Barcelona and was created in 1998 by former pros Emilio Sanchez Vicario and Sergio Casal. The academy relies on the sports science area, based on the four tenants that are physical training, sport nutrition, sports psychology and physiotherapy.
The academy will teach you about this system they concocted, a foolproof method suitable for all tennis levels and readymade for all game patterns. Sanchez-Casal, too, has its own coaching program and is the one academy in the world with a center in Europe as well as the USA, in Florida.
But maybe the sun and gorgeous weather isn’t for you, and you prefer the workmanlike spirit of Germany? Then the Schüter-Waske Tennis-University is for you. Founded in 2010, the academy’s goal was “to create a tennis academy where all necessary training sessions as well as medical measures are combined and integrated in one place.”
Basically, the folks there want you to be the best you you can be; you become a great tennis player by becoming a great person, period. TU, as it’s known, trains 30+ players with 11 different coaches year-round and will adapt the training and tournament schedules for every player according to his or her age, fitness level and current health.
You may not have heard of IMG Academy, but what if we add the name Nick Bolletieri? The academy is located on Bolletieri Boulevard, which really should tell you all you need to know, but here’s more: the man is a legend and, per the IMG website, your “legend status starts here.” Roll your eyes if you want, but the numbers behind IMG’s success speak for themselves: in over 30 years, they’ve developed an astonishing 10 world No. 1 players. That’s insane.
Backed by Gatorade and Under Armour as premier sponsors, IMG differentiates itself by especially focusing on the younger players. At IMG Academy, if you’re 11 or younger, you’re a VIA— a very important athlete.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG