Finding the next Andre Agassi might be next to impossible. But that won’t stop the United States Tennis Association from trying.
The USTA announced Wednesday that it is expanding its player development program to Las Vegas.
The Darling Tennis Center in Summerlin will serve as the association’s 11th and newest regional training center. Elite players who have been identified by the USTA will attend three-day camps six times a year at Darling, with the association paying the cost from $100,000 in grants.
The goal is to make sure that American men’s and women’s tennis can compete at the sport’s highest level.
“This is about identifying the talent and making sure we nurture that so we can take these kids anywhere,” said Agassi, who spoke at Wednesday’s announcement of the program but will not be actively involved. “You’ve got a framework that creates the vehicle to now execute it right. You need the right people to make sure they’re implementing, measuring these kids to make sure they’re recognizing and incentivizing them in the right way. That’s a day-to-day operation, and they now have a framework to achieve that.”
Tim Blenkiron and Saad Ashraf will be the coaches at the Las Vegas Regional Training Center. The center will cater to players from the USTA Intermountain Region, which includes Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
“I think they’re trying to put a system together,” Blenkiron said of the USTA’s program, headed by Patrick McEnroe. “They’re bringing in the best coaches to work with the best players together and developing them into our future stars. It’s very similar to what Andre did with his program when he identified kids at the Boys and Girls Club and got coaches to work with them. That’s how we found Asia (Muhammad, women’s professional player who lives in Las Vegas).”
Martin Blackman, the USTA’s senior director for player development, said it’s important not to overlook any part of the country in an attempt to identify America’s future tennis stars.
“We started this about 14 months ago, and we thought it was important to be in this area of the country where players from the intermountain region have a place to develop,” he said.
“I think this is the right template. The resources are there. It comes down to execution — the players, the coaches and the USTA all working together. If we do our jobs, I believe we can achieve our goals.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.