New York Tennis Magazine's 2016 Coaches Roundtable Discussion

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The New York Metropolitan tennis community has some of the sport’s finest facilities, both indoor and outdoor, and best coaches in the world. With this wealth of talent available right in our own backyard, New York Tennis Magazine recently took the opportunity to pick the brains of some of these top coaches. What you will find below are some of the sport’s top instructors sharing their ideas and strategies on growing the sport locally, the state of U.S. tennis, training methods, 10 & Under tennis, and much more. Even the best coach can always learn an extra tip or two, and the following article will provide all players and coaches with a chance to learn from the cream of the area’s crop.

Meet The Participants

Cesar Andrade
Cesar Andrade is director of operations for Tennis Innovators, who has academies in New York City and Westchester’s Delfino Park. A native of Ecuador, Cesar moved to Queens, N.Y. as a child, and during his high school days, spent four months out of every year training at the Bolleteri Tennis Academy. He went on to play collegiate tennis at Iona College and began coaching afterwards.

 


Clay Bibbee
Clay Bibbee is chief executive officer and founder of Centercourt Athletic Clubs and the Centercourt Sports Academy. Clay also serves as one of the lead coaches for Centercourt Tennis Academy. As a USPTA Master Professional, Clay is certified as a High Performance Coach by the USTA. Clay is a leading expert in the club/sports business and has successfully provided the vision and leadership for Centercourt. Clay oversees and supervises the executive management team, while also maintaining the relationships with investment partners.

 


Gilad Bloom
Gilad Bloom is director of Gilad Bloom Tennis. He is a former Israeli Davis Cup player and two-time Olympian, played on the ATP Tour from 1983-1995, reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 1990, reached a highest ranking of 61 in singles, and was Israel’s Singles Champion three times. Bloom has been running his own tennis program since 2000 and also was director of tennis at John McEnroe Tennis Academy for two years.

 


John Curtis
John Curtis is executive director at Manhattan Tennis Academy. He has held a number of positions at various tennis clubs, and was head coach of the NYU Men’s Tennis team from 1996-2006. Afterwards, focusing on junior development, Curtis was the 2006 and 2009 PTR Coach of the Year in the Northeast Region.

 


Bob Ingersole
Bob Ingersole is a native of Australia, and previously played on the ATP tour. He has the highest certification by both the USPTA & PTR, has taught more than 100 nationally ranked juniors and adults and was named the USPTA/Eastern Pro of the year in 1991 & 2000. He is the current Chair of USTA Professional Circuits committee and Chair of USTA Eastern Coaches Committee and is the creator of many local programs including College Showcase Day, USTA Eastern Schools Program and the Star Search Tennis Talent identification program. He holds the prestigious honor of being elected into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.

 


Lawrence Kleger
Lawrence Kleger, a native New Yorker, is recognized as one of the top developmental coaches in the United States. He was named the USTA/Long Island Region Tennis Professional of the Year in 2006 and the USTA/Eastern Section Tennis Professional of the Year in 2013. He is the personal coach of John McEnroe Tennis Academy’s Noah Rubin, now on the ATP Tour who has been Lawrence’s student since the age of seven. Lawrence has trained more ranked juniors than anyone in the history of the USTA/Eastern Section. He is most proud that his students have won numerous USTA National Junior Championships and 20 USTA Eastern Year-End Sportsmanship Awards. Lawrence joined Sportime in 1998 and became the director of John McEnroe Tennis Academy in 2012.

 


Whitney Kraft
Since 2007, Whitney Kraft has been the director of tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. and director of player operations for the U.S. Open. Previously, he was director of tennis for the City of Fort Lauderdale Park & Recreation Department (1998-2007). He was a 1983 Singles All-American for Florida Atlantic University, and inducted into their inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class in 2006. He is a National 10 & Under Trainer, a USPPTA Platform Tennis instructor, as well as a member of the National Cardio Tennis Speakers Team (2000-2007) and the USTA National Open Clay Court and Indoor Championships (1998-present).


Ed Krass
Ed Krass coached the Harvard Women’s Tennis Team to four consecutive Ivy League titles from 1986-1990. Ed is the founder and director of the Annual College Tennis Exposure Camps, which are taught exclusively by all head college coaches for high school-aged players (15-18). Ed is also the founder of One-On-One Doubles tournaments, which have been played at USTA, ATP, ITA and USPTA national events.

 

 


Ajay Kumar
Ajay Kumar is a head pro at Gotham Tennis Academy. His experience spans over 13 years in all levels of the game. He has played at a premier high school, a Division 1 college and on the professional tour. With a background in sports medicine and a degree in education, Ajay's in-depth knowledge of the physiology and tennis strategy attracts players of all levels and ages. He serves as an advisor to Irina Falconi, a native New Yorker and professional player on the WTA Tour.

 


Chris Lewit
Chris Lewit, a former number one for Cornell and pro circuit player, coaches in the New York City area and also runs a high performance boarding summer camp in Southern Vermont. He specializes in training aspiring junior tournament players using progressive Spanish and European ‎training methods. His best-selling book, Secrets of Spanish Tennis, has helped coaches and players worldwide learn how to train the Spanish way.

 


Xavier Luna
Xavier Luna is director of junior tennis for the Advantage All-City Junior Tennis Programs. Xavier has more than 30 years of experience in tennis, commencing as a ranked junior. He was the director of junior programs at Stadium Racquet Club, owner and founder of Metro Tennis Academy, and has held many other positions within the tennis industry. Xavier inspires players with his love of tennis and possesses the professional skills to keep campers returning year after year to the All-City Junior Tennis Programs.

 


Ognen Nikolovski
Ognen Nikolovski is a former top junior from Yugoslavia, and later Macedonia. He was an All-American collegiate player at Rollins College, was ATP-ranked in both singles and doubles, a Macedonian Davis Cup player and later captain, National Junior Captain, and vice president of the Macedonian Tennis Federation. Ognen joined the CourtSense team in 2008 and has been its general manager since.

 


Rob Polishook, MA, CPC
Rob Polishook, MA, CPC is the founder and director of Inside the Zone Sports Performance Group. As a mental training coach, he works with athletes and teams, focusing on helping athletes gain the mental edge. Rob is the author of Tennis Inside the Zone: Mental Training Workouts for Champions.

 

 


Juan Oscar Rios
Juan Oscar Rios is the Academy director at Proform Tennis Academy. A native of Puerto Rico, Juan was ranked number one in the country from the ages of 10-18. He played five years on the ATP Tour, achieving a top 300 ranking in both singles and doubles, notching several wins over top 50 players. Juan represented Puerto Rico in Davis Cup play and is the only male player from Puerto Rico to compete in the Olympics, in Barcelona in 1992. As a coach, Juan was captain of the Puerto Rican Davis Cup team and coach of Team USA at the 1996 World Youth Cup 14s in Nagoya, Japan.


 

What do you feel is the best way to grow participation in the local area?
Cesar Andrade: Our program has been involved with growing tennis in the local community through programs that reach the less fortunate players in the area by linking up with the school district, local city recreational organizations and local after-school programs. Offering “off-peak” court times and getting funding of some kind to cover some of the costs. Funding can be found through the USTA if proposed in a way that helps reach lots of players who would not have access to tennis due to its cost. After you introduce some local families to the facility, you will also find some pure talent and/or some families lucky enough to afford tennis at your facility.

Ajay Kumar: I believe by associating local businesses and schools and other community organizations, tennis can reach out to more diverse communities. The attractive price point for cardio tennis, and 10& Under tennis would be a great aspect. This will allow access to many who have never been introduced to the sport. Combined with outings sponsored by local businesses, players/athletes of all ages and levels can be introduced to the sport!

Xavier Luna: The good news is that tennis participation is on the rise overall. According to the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), there is close to 18 million players in the U.S. But I've always been a big believer that the best way to grow the game is at the youth level. This is best done by getting kids interested in the game by focusing on fun and making it easy to learn.

Ognen Nikolovski: There has to be more collaboration between the local schools, local commercial clubs and the local entities that operate and manage the public courts. I think we need support from a major organization like the USTA where representatives of the USTA will try to open up the doors of the clubs to go speak to the education boards in every local town and help them promote tennis for their students and employees. It would be ideal if clubs can find a way to supplement one physical education day at each local elementary school with a tennis lesson/activity, and this way, can expose each kid to the game of tennis for at least one day for one or two full trimesters. This could be followed up with special opportunities for kids who come and join the regular programs in the clubs and local courts for a period of time. I believe if the clubs are equipped with the best coaches running these programs, there is no doubt that the opportunity to expose every kid in the area to tennis would bring more kids and adults onto the courts and with more excitement over this great game.


 

How important are grassroots initiatives in local markets to growing tennis on a national level?
Clay Bibbee: Grassroots initiatives are extremely important to the growth of tennis in the U.S. on both a regional and national level. Right now, I do not believe the USTA grassroots programming is aiding in the growth of tennis at the pace we need in order for our great sport to get back to where it once was. A slogan or marketing ploy will not inspire our youth to want to play. Participation is achieved through excellence, and we need to be inspired as a country in order to redefine dominance in professional tennis. When the U.S. is able to produce a great champion, we will then see a resurgence in tennis participation. The USTA needs to focus on separating participation with performance. Participation does not inspire, but achieving excellence will inspire participation. Grassroots tennis programs and companies need to also focus on investing in proper resources, such as strong coaches and philosophies, in order to give our young athletes strong mentors to help them achieve excellence. Being a coach, club owner, and passionate tennis enthusiast, there is nothing more I would like to see than for U.S. tennis back at the top! We need to do it now and let’s not use the excuse that there is a lack of talent in the U.S. We are the greatest country in the world, and it is a travesty that we are not a dominant force in professional tennis. 

Bob Ingersole: As a sport, tennis is flat in growth, which in itself, is quite an accomplishment given that all of the traditional popular sports have been eroding steadily over the last decade. The innovations the USTA has been introducing over the last couple of years have reversed a losing trend. The creation of smaller racquets, smaller courts and lower compression balls is not original. Most good teaching pros have been teaching with similar aids for years. However, the formalization and marketing of such equipment has made teaching the skills of tennis to young beginners much more of a focus. The progression introduced by the USTA, the United States Professional Tennis Association and the Professional Tennis Registry are logical and important.

Ajay Kumar: To ensure the growth of our great sport, grassroots initiatives is a major component—whether at the local or national level. The idea gives access to everyone and anyone who, at best, either have no interest and or is directly inflicted by not having easy access to learn the sport. If tennis is to be popular amongst the masses, grassroots initiatives should be pushed as a necessity to the communities.


 

Does the U.S. need a top five player on the men’s side to grow the popularity of the sport? How close do you think we are to getting that top player?
Gilad Bloom: It would be more helpful than all of the PR work the USTA is doing to promote the game. Mainly, it would attract kids to play tennis who wouldn't otherwise and make the talent pool deeper, thus increasing the chances of finding another world-class player. One of the problems we have is that most athletic talents are lost to other more popular and cheaper sports. A great American-born player who wins majors will light up the imagination of young kids, and create a belief that it's possible. We are definitely getting closer to that goal. The new crop of up and coming players are making more noise on the tour, moving up in the rankings, winning medals in the Olympics, while doing really well on the pro tour. It still has not come to the point where we have a contender to win a major title, but there are a few candidates who have the potential to break through to the highest level in the next few years. There is certainly hope.

Whitney Kraft: It certainly never hurts when there are U.S. players at the top of the rankings. We’ve been fortunate in the past having had so many engaging personas, from Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, the Bryan Brothers and others. A new cadre of American players, including but not limited to, Taylor Fritz, Francis Tiafoe, Tommy Paul and Dennis Kudla are all poised to make their mark on the game.

Chris Lewit: Yes we do … and we could very well get a Grand Slam winner with our current crop of young men. Our women players are already dominating. American men's tennis is on the rise again, with players like Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Reilly Opelka and many more. I have my bet on Tiafoe, who is incredibly athletic, fast and powerful. Interestingly, several of the next generation players were developed by the USTA, so they should get some credit!

Xavier Luna: I'm not sure that it's essential, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. One up-and-comer to keep an eye on is Taylor Fritz. He's only 18-years-old, but is the second-fastest U.S. player in history to have reached an ATP final.


 

What do you think the new USTA Training Facility in Orlando will bring to the American tennis landscape?
Gilad Bloom: Having a state-of-the-art facility with more than 100 courts shows just how serious the USTA is in trying to catch up with the rest of the world. This new "Mecca" of tennis will allow the USTA to operate ideally in developing players; having an on-site academy; hosting training camps, coaches seminars and research; and monitor the game around the country to help raise the general level of coaching in the early stages which is huge.

Whitney Kraft: I think the new Orlando facility will bring collaboration and opportunity. The blending of community tennis with collegiate and player development will create a pathway and synergy that’s contagious. It will be a fabulous venue that will be utilized effectively.

Ognen Nikolovski: Long-term, it’s going to become a cornerstone for U.S. tennis. I believe that the USTA will succeed in the idea for the Orlando facility to become the “Central Hub” of American tennis, especially high-performance tennis. Short-term, I believe it’s going to be a challenge as logistically and structurally, it will not be easy for the USTA to prepare and get a running start in a facility like this, so I expect one to three years of “soul searching” and adjustments and finding the right formulas that will make it the place where future tennis champions are going to be guided on their path. I believe that the USTA has made many positive moves in the past five to six years, especially in player development, and if the Orlando facility is used as a home for every deserving player and coach, it could return the United States as the leading tennis nation in the world.

Juan Oscar Rios: The new USTA training facility in Orlando will be a long process, but I believe that it will bring unity and teamwork that is currently lacking. I have faith in the head of player development and all his staff. The idea of one central location where all of our players can train together will create a "One Team, One USA" concept which is crucial in producing world champions.


 

What are the biggest positives and negatives about the current state of tennis in the New York area?
John Curtis: My take is that tennis in New York City will always be relevant, as long as we have the U.S. Open here. Clearly, the mega event in this town is what drives tennis visibility here on all levels, from interest in playing, to television interest, equipment sales, you name it, everything is up and everyone is happy about it. The real fall-off in tennis interest here in New York City comes in December and lasts until about May, unless of course you can play indoors. The primary reason being that cold weather prevents even the weekend warriors from playing outside at local parks. Tennis visibility on network television, or even ESPN, is non-existent. The sport, as a whole, goes into hibernation until the weather breaks and the sunshine starts to bring the weekend players back out and the French Open begins to rekindle interest in the sport from a television perspective. Indoor tennis is a great bonus here, unfortunately, there are not enough of those facilities to make it appealing enough.

Bob Ingersole: The grassroots programs starting with the schools outreach and creation of after-school tennis clubs has taken us back to attracting “low lying fruit” to the game. We did schools programs years ago and never really converted on that initial introduction to the sport. As we all know, once you have a junior in competition, you have them hooked for life, but the weakest part of junior progression at the present time is the middle part of the development pyramid. Getting kids hooked into competition is the real roadblock. Initial entry into competition has to be made easier, as more time-sensitive, fun, informative and competitive opportunities need to be created. The events have to become much more player- and family-friendly, and have some tennis education and/or social application. It has to become easy, inclusive and fun.

Ajay Kumar: The positives are that New York City has a large pool of schools, both private and public, that constantly feed players into tennis programs. The City also has the ability to attract top coaches, with tremendous education backgrounds, to thrive year-round in most tennis clubs that are open year-round. The negatives are the limited tennis facilities, expensive lessons, grinding school schedules, and heavy competition both on- and off-the-court.


 

Is there a difference between coaching boys and girls, and if so, what are those differences?
Xavier Luna: Yes, and it's largely due to the difference in how mental and emotional issues are handled between the two sexes. For example, girls don't want to be embarrassed, so you have to be aware of that in how you coach them. Girls also have a tendency to let their problems from home, school or with friends impact their play, whereas boys are more apt to shut extracurricular things out.

Nino Muhatasov: We all know that no two athletes are the same. Boys and girls tend to have some differences in terms of how they deal with emotions during matches. Girls tend to be more responsible and attentive during practice at the earlier stage. They understand what they need to do in order to reach their goals. However, during matches in tournaments, some girls have challenges controlling their emotions. As a result, there are more ups and downs in their game. Boys, on the other hand, demonstrate the ability to handle their emotions during matches pretty well, however, they might struggle with commitment to the game at an early age. As a coach, I try to understand what motivates each player and help them become their best self. The coaches’ job for each player is to develop an individualized program to help them overcome those types of challenges.

Rob Polishook: As a mental training coach, I work with players off the court. Whether it’s working with a boy or girl, everyone is an individual and has their own story, style and spirit. For me, it’s about taking the time to ask questions and understand my players. Specifically, what each player’s “Big Y” is? What motivates them? And what are their goals? From here, we can individually create a mental training plan which suits them personally. One size NEVER fits all!


 

What is one thing you hope all of your students learn from you?
Cesar Andrade: Perseverance and hard work are keys in life. You have to learn to demand the best from yourself every day, no excuses. My parents were not able to afford tennis in New York, and I was lucky enough to be spotted by a local coach in Queens. This coach gave me the chance to develop my tennis skills through a scholarship. The hard work and dedication it takes to become anything good in life is something I learned at a young age, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to become a professional tennis player pass me by without true daily effort. I sometimes notice that kids take the blessing of playing tennis for granted, so I hope to always make my students appreciate and love the sport. We demand 10 things from our players here to help understand this mindset and are essential for true growth: Work ethic, Being on time, Body language, Doing extra work, Attitude, Being coachable, Effort, Passion, Being prepared and Energy.

Gilad Bloom: The one thing I would want my students to learn from me is the will to learn. I find that the main thing I need from a student is their will to learn and improve. I was always eager to learn new things about the game, I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong as a tennis player and was willing to work on it. That will to learn and improve, in whatever you do, is what moves humanity forward and also what makes tennis players better. Basically, it's about being an overachiever, not settling for mediocrity.

Lawrence Kleger: I would want all of my students to understand that attempting to be the “Best you can be” in any worthwhile endeavor is a noble quest. It is not as much about the end destination as it is about the journey. If the process is righteous, whatever level the individual attains, he or she will experience a feeling of accomplishment. And conversely, if the process is flawed, no level of achievement will provide the individual with the feeling of success. I would hope that every one of my students becomes a better person having gone through the process with me.

Ed Krass: I hope all of my students learn from me that it is most important to be a good person, besides being good at tennis. This means being respectful to others, caring for others and always being a good listener. Learn how to become a truthful, sincere person and you will go a long way in life! Have a passion to achieve, but refrain from the temptation of cheating and taking shortcuts!

Chris Lewit: There is always more than one lesson I want to teach my students, but I would say the most important lessons are world-class modern technique and a good moral character.

Nino Muhatasov: The fundamentals of the game serve as the building blocks for future success. Proper technique, footwork, work ethic, strategy, conditioning/stretching, and other elements are extremely important. After developing the fundamentals of the game, decision-making and independence on the court are the most important traits that a player can learn. I try to teach my students, from an early age, to make independent decisions and be responsible on and off the court. This helps them to develop into accomplished tennis players and be successful throughout their lives.

Rob Polishook: Again, answering from the perspective of a mental training coach … that they are “MORE” than an athlete. Person first … every time! This is paradoxically the secret to their personal peak potential. When an athlete brings who they are (the person) to what they do (the athlete), that’s when the magic happens. Having great talent and technique is not enough, what makes a top player is taking those skills and crafting a distinctive game style that accentuates their strengths and makes playing that style fun!

Juan Oscar Rios: The one thing I hope all my students learn from me is respect! Respect the game, respect their opponents, respect their coaches, respect themselves and respect  life!


 

What mental traits set a top player apart from others?
Cesar Andrade: To be a top player in this sport, you have to find discipline in your rituals to allow you to perform every point to your highest potential. Those players who attain their rituals earlier than others will always be ahead of the curve and mentally stronger. Lastly, once you master the ability to prepare mentally for every point, you need to have the courage to play big points, be eager to win and are never scared to lose.

John Curtis: When considering this question, I think you can simply look at the top players in the world today for some answers. You can look at Novak Djokovic for his "Never say die" attitude and ability to mentally convince himself that he is only one point away from living another day. Or look no further than Roger Federer for what I like to think of as an even-tempered response system. Roger seems to stay very unemotional, except for the rare 'come-on' when the crowd gets loud. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova both bring this "mental reset" thing to the mix. If you watch either of them between points, they both seem to walk back to their towel area and just get real quiet and contemplative looking. Their breathing looks very deliberate and almost meditative. They are letting go of the last point, regardless of the outcome, and resetting the mind and body for the next mission. I've always admired that move and think that more players should incorporate a "one point at a time" approach.

Chris Lewit: As the legendary Spanish coach Pato Alvarez, says, "Great players are able to insulate themselves from the pressures of a match and perform at critical moments without failure." And as another legendary Spanish coach Toni Nadal says, "Champions exhibit self-control. They can control their body and mind (under pressure), and thus can control the ball when it matters.” I agree with both these sentiments.

Ognen Nikolovski: Resilience would be the first thing that comes to my mind and also the willingness to persevere through any challenge that comes your way on or off the court. Ultimately, the game of tennis is a problem-solving game, and anyone who feels that they have it all figured out is not going to last long in this sport. There are many different challenges that the player has to face each time they step on the court. We have a saying in our CourtSense high-performance program that every player has to learn how to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and they should embrace the challenge each time when things do not go the way they have envisioned they should go. Not many players get it right the first time, and most players get it right after trying something at least a dozen or more times … so get ready to accept failure, but at the same time, be eager to get up right away and try again.

Rob Polishook: There are many individual mental traits which are important, like focus, concentration, determination and grit. However, these traits can be thought of like ingredients. The key is how are they blended together, which give a player a strong emotional range of resiliency. Think of the top pros—no matter what the situation—they are able to problem-solve from a calm and centered place without spiraling out of control. A strong emotional range of resiliency enables a player to manage adversity, challenges and setbacks. This skill set enables them to reset and refocus when things don’t go their way.


 

How important is specific doubles training and playing doubles tournaments for a junior player?
Clay Bibbee: Doubles play is very important! However, I do not think many people realize the benefits and importance of double training due to lack of marketing. Doubles training teaches skills that the singles game does not. It teaches junior players how to hit half volley, volleys, improves transitional moving into the net, etc. It also puts stress on the importance in making returns and serves. Doubles training is a great way to improve a player’s overall tennis game.

Bob Ingersole: Every decade or so tennis reinvents itself, and I really think the United States has let a competitive edge slip by. For years, we were able to have players, many from California, surge through the ranks because they played a game suited for the hard courts. I feel players should learn in progression, and that clay court play teaches young players many valuable competitive skills. However, the concept of serve and volley, using slice as a weapon, change of pace, shortening distances between you and your opponent and using all the court to exploit your opponents weaknesses has been lost. Doubles is a great way to get players aware and comfortable with many of these concepts and is also a large part of what most players will play for their adult lives. It is an integral part of college tennis, league play and social tennis, and is critical for any player’s development.

Lawrence Kleger: At the professional level, doubles seems to be treated like the evil stepchild of tennis. Even at the collegiate level, doubles matches are constantly being shortened. Pretty soon, they will bring the four combatants together at the net and flip a coin to decide the match. But I think most tennis purists still enjoy watching a good doubles match. So as long as it still exists, juniors will be playing it and training for it. It might be important to point out that arguably the greatest doubles player in the world, John McEnroe, used doubles as a way to stay sharp for singles. Being number one in the world in singles and doubles gives John great credibility in this area. At John McEnroe Tennis Academy, doubles is part of every week’s curriculum, and we encourage all of our students to participate in doubles tournaments whenever possible. We believe that many of the skills needed to play good doubles tennis translates to singles play, and that is not just net play. Serves, returns, touch shots, lobs, etc. are all skills that can help an individual play better singles.

Ed Krass: Specific doubles training is very important to prepare for that part of college tennis. I suggest for any serious college-bound player to play a few sets of One-On-One Doubles to ensure the development of the serve and volley game for your half of the court. Develop and strengthen the midcourt volleys, quick volleys and net game for doubles.


 

Who are the greatest players of all time on each surface?
Clay Bibbee: On grass, Rod Laver won nine Grand Slam titles despite being robbed of five years of Grand Slam opportunities during his prime due to turning pro before the Open Era. He won the U.S. Pro Championship four times on grass between 1964 and 1968, and participated in and won the Wimbledon title four times between 1961 and 1969. As a professional, he was ineligible to compete from 1963 through 1967. Laver was probably the greatest of all time! On hard courts, Ivan Lendl revolutionized the game by putting an emphasis on off-court strength and conditioning. His hard work showed through his huge serve and forehand. He won the U.S. Open three times, reaching eight finals, plus he won the Australian Open on two occasions, reaching three finals—all on hard courts. He amassed 394 career wins, five major titles and 11 finals, all on hard courts! On clay, it would have to be Rafael Nadal! It’s not even worth having that discussion, as Nadal is the king of clay!

Xavier Luna: In terms of the best female player, that honor goes hands-down to Serena Williams. I believe she should be in the discussion not just as best woman tennis player of all time, but as best overall athlete of all time. The best male tennis player is a bit more difficult, as there have been so many exceptional athletes. With all due respect to Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal, I'd have to go with Roger Federer.

Nino Muhatasov: On the women’s side, I would have to say Serena Williams, and on the men’s side, Roger Federer.

Juan Oscar Rios: In my opinion, the best male player is Roger Federer. He has the best technique, best footwork and is the most talented. Most of all, he has the best attitude on and off the court! This is the foundation of a champion! The best female player of all time is Martina Navratilova. Overall, she won 59 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed-doubles. She is, overall, the most complete and durable player in the history of tennis!