Beaufort News

Ivan Lendl opening tennis academy on Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island will soon boast another top-level junior tennis academy with another big name attached.

Ivan Lendl, one of the best players in men's tennis history, has teamed with a recognizable corporation to form a tennis academy set to open Aug. 15 at Port Royal Racquet Club.

Lendl will partner with Junior Golf Corporation, the entity behind the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA) in southern Beaufort County, and operate under the name Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy (IJTA). The academy will be open to tennis players in grades 5 through 12.

"I am extremely excited to come to Hilton Head and open this academy," said Lendl, whose resume includes eight Grand Slam titles and 270 consecutive weeks as the world's No. 1 player. "For juniors who love the game, love working hard and love challenges, we can promise a great experience on and off the court."

The IJTA will open on an island rich with tennis schools. Hilton Head Island already is home to multiple tennis academics, including two award-winning ones with identifiable names -- Smith Stearns Tennis Academy and Van Der Meer Tennis Academy, which were both recently ranked as top-20 tennis camps in the world by an online publication, Tennis Resorts Online.

Peter Orrell, the chief executive officer of JGC, says the presence of Smith Stearns and Van Der Meer helped draw JGC to Hilton Head Island.

"We can do more, the three of us together, in promoting Hilton Head as a destination for tennis," Orrell said. "... There used to be two really good reasons to come to Hilton Head to train; now there are three."

The IJTA will run similarly to the IJGA, said Patti Boysen, director of marketing. Students will attend Heritage Academy and receive full-time training throughout the day in preparation for a potential collegiate or professional career. They likely will live in the Hilton Head Brittany Place Campus, she said.

Boysen said Lendl has spent much of his time recruiting students in Europe and the Czech Republic for the fall semester.

"We're very optimistic we'll have a full class in August," she said.

While the academy hopes to use Lendl's name to draw its students, Lendl will use a hands-on approach at the academy, according to a release, and he plans to have major involvement with the students.

Lendl won a Davis Cup title for Czechoslovakia and appeared in eight consecutive U.S. Open finals during his career. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001.

His daughters, however, chose golf over tennis, and three of the five played competitive junior golf and also played in college.

Lendl returned to tennis by playing exhibition events last year, the release said, which gave him the itch to get more involved.

"I wanted to be able to get out on the court with the kids and show them how to hit certain shots as opposed to just explaining the theory," he said in the release. "Getting back on the court has been a lot of fun, and now I will be able to play with all the students, which will also be a lot of fun."