Major tennis stars have been scarce around here since the Family Circle Cup women’s tournament moved to Charleston 10 years ago. But that’ll all change this summer, when the Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy opens its doors.
Lendl, considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has partnered with the operating entity for the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head to create a junior academy focused on the game that made him famous.
“I’ve watched the IJGA for quite some time. I considered sending my kids here several years ago,” says Lendl, who has five daughters, three of them golfers. “I think we share the same vision on how to train kids, how to put them in an environment to succeed and how to expose them to the things that
will help them on and off the court.”
More Monthly: "My focus is on the academy" — A Q&A with Ivan Lendl
Peter Orrell, chief executive officer for Junior Golf Corporation, calls the partnership serendipitous, as it came about just as the corporation decided to broaden its horizons. “It all started through a strategic reassessment of what this business really is. We felt we were in the business of training junior golfers ... but as we spoke to parents and to students, what we found was that it was a lot more than golf,” says Orrell, pointing out that in addition to golf skills, the academy focuses on physical fitness, mental toughness, academics and social skills. “The more we worked with that, the more it became clear that we were in the business of educating and developing juniors with passions.”
The company decided it could develop similar academies based around other “passions,” and tennis seemed a perfect place to start. The new academy, for students in grades 5 through 12, is set to open Aug. 15, and Orrell says with an international recruiting base and the prestige of Lendl’s name, he’s confident enrollment will continue to climb even after the fall semester begins.
But Lendl is committed to chipping in far more than his name. “Having three daughters who played competitive junior golf, I think I have a pretty good understanding for what parents are looking for in the academy experience,” says Lendl. “Also, with my name on this academy, I want to be sure that the training is in keeping with my thinking and philosophies. So I will stay very involved.”
Each student will be given a customized performance plan based on assessments from Lendl and his staff, along with the goals of the student and the student’s parents, Orrell says. Like their golfing peers, they will attend Heritage Academy for academics and live in either the Hilton Head Brittany Place Campus, near Heritage Academy, or at The Lakes at Myrtle Park in Bluffton.
Lendl toured some tennis courts last month, and the academy is using his feedback to select the tennis training facility for the upcoming semester. “When you’re dealing with Ivan Lendl, you better get good courts,” Orrell says.
Lendl, whose career included eight Grand Slam singles titles and 270 weeks ranked No. 1 in the world, aims to pass down his signature mental toughness to his new students. “I think preparation is important — mental, physical and emotional,” he says.
Photo / Tom Briglia