“Tennis is such an individual sport,:” says Gary Weiner, co-director and co-owner of Tennis: Europe and North America
. “We’re trying to create a team atmosphere.” With his partner, Martin Vinokur, who founded Tennis Europe in 1973, Weiner has helped more than 5,500 participants enjoy that team atmosphere while traveling to play tournaments. They take American junior players on jaunts of about two to four weeks, either to Europe (Wimbledon and Zermatt, Switzerland, for example) or destinations in the United States, such as tennis-mad southern California. The business organizes young players into teams for a “unique combination of tennis, travel, tournament match play, and quality coaching,” Weiner says.
On the road, the youthful teams get intensive, high-level competition. They might play five tourneys in 25 days. “If you can do some winning over that span, you can make a real jump in your UTR Universal Tennis Rating>,” Weiner says. “We’re hopeful that UTR will become more prevalent in Europe. We could take American kids to Europe to play UTR tournaments and raise their UTRs.”
“If you can do some winning over that span, you can make a real jump in your UTR.”
Because Tennis: Europe and North America has so much contact with promising junior athletes, many college tennis coaches have spoken with the organizers over the years. “UTR is kind of the gold standard for them,” Weiner notes. In addition, since staff essentially live with the young athletes on the road, they get to know the kids very well. “I can say to a coach, ‘she traveled with us for four weeks, and I can tell you she won’t be a problem for your team,’ ” says Weiner.
He recalls an Italian girl who was interested in playing college tennis in the United States. They took her on a trip to California. Results there, like losing 6-3, 6-4 to a UTR 7.2 player, indicated that she should aim for an NCAA Division III college.
"If more high schools begin using UTR, the coaches will be able to keep the stronger players on their teams."
Weiner and Vinokur are also big backers of high school tennis
; many of their players are high school athletes. “It’s a good thing to play high school tennis,” Weiner explains. “If more high schools begin using UTR, the coaches will be able to keep the stronger players on their teams. Today, a lot of the better athletes don’t play for their high school teams because they think that USTA rankings are all that count. But we feel it’s important to be part of a team, especially if they go to college to play varsity ball. Tennis can be a bit of a lonely sport, so on our tournament trips, we try to promote that whole team atmosphere.”
Tennis: Europe and North America attracts some highly proficient athletes. Although most of the players are rated much lower, “we’ve had kids with UTRs as high as 13.5,” Weiner says. “We’ve been in tournaments where the prize was a Range Rover!” In Europe, they go to events ranging from ITF-sanctioned tournaments to local events in France
and Holland where even the early rounds can be fiercely competitive. One European journey went to Holland, Spain, and the Czech Republic. “We take advantage of seeing all the sights—like in Prague,” says Weiner. “And there’s lots of interaction with the Europeans.”
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