Growing up in Mexico City, Gustavo Loza was a multi-sport athlete who played both tennis and soccer as a child. But around the age of 14, he had to make the decision of which sport he wanted to continue playing.
“I chose tennis,” Loza said.
With tennis as his top priority, he quickly rose up the junior ranks in Mexico, eventually reaching number two in the country which earned him a scholarship to the University of Oregon in Eugene.
“I’m from Mexico City, so when I went to Oregon it felt like a small town,” noted Loza. “But the campus and the facilities were top-notch. The way they treated their athletes was incredible. It was such a small town though, and I wanted to be a part of a big city where I could potentially have a future in the professional world after college.”
Loza transferred to St. John’s University in Queens which was the beginning of him becoming a permanent New Yorker.
“St. John’s was a completely different scenario than Oregon, facilities and athletic department wise, but New York City was definitely for me,” Loza said. “I got the best of both worlds in my college experience: The small, college town and the big city.”
He played singles for the Red Storm for two years, and after graduating, he went on to play professionally, primarily on the Futures and Challenger Tours.
“After that, I came back to get my Master’s Degree and became an Assistant Coach at St. John’s,” Loza said.
His New York City experience helped usher him into his current role as Tennis Service Representative for the USTA Eastern Metro Region.
“It’s a very exciting and unique role,” said Loza. “It covers all of the programming, from school programs to junior tennis, from competitive players to adults, and social tennis as well. It gives me the opportunity to work in all the different areas that make up New York tennis. My main duty is to serve as a liaison between the USTA, and all the providers, clubs, schools, etc. I’m the face of the USTA in New York City, so I try to help whoever needs it, whether it be coaches, players, a program or a club. For younger players, we want to create a first-time experience to the sport that can develop a pathway for them to continue playing into the future.”
As a player and coach for St. John’s University, Loza played a lot of his matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, as well as many other locations across the city. His time there helped him forge relationships with many members of the tennis community in New York City, relationships that have since grown in his role with USTA Eastern.
“I never expected to be able to use those relationships in a job, but it has become super helpful,” Loza said. “Once I came on board with the USTA, having those relationships already intact helped to accomplish some of our goals faster, and just helped me get on the same page with a lot of people in the industry.”
In Loza’s role, it’s important to establish connections with people from all spectrums of the industry in order to grow the sport for everyone. While it can sometimes feel like a cutthroat business, it’s Loza and the USTA’s job to build a bridge for all of the components that make up the tennis community.
“I love the flexibility of the role, I have the opportunity to bring tennis into the schools, but also work with more advanced players and adults,” Loza said. “Being able to work with all levels is definitely a challenge, but one that I embrace. New York City is one of the most competitive areas in the country, so being able to get everyone on the same page and bringing all the facilities to work together is a challenge, but it is a task that is very exciting for me.”
One intriguing aspect of tennis in New York City is having the world’s most famous tournament, the U.S. Open, right in our backyard year-after-year. This allows Loza and his team to create programming around the tournament that gives kids a great tennis experience. With the addition of the New York Open in the local community, those opportunities have only increased.
“Being the home of the U.S. Open allows us to give experiences to providers and kids that we otherwise would not be able to. And the same goes for the New York Open now,” said Loza. “We have two great events that help with our exposure and help us enhance the experiences of our programs. All the on-court demos, Arthur Ashe Kids Day, Net Generation Clinics … all of those things are incentives that we use to help grow our programs.”
Loza hopes to continue to build upon the relationships he has already built, and the progress he has already made in his role to accomplish his and USTA Eastern’s goal of growing the sport. There is no better and exciting place, he says, to do this than in New York City.
“We’re very lucky that we are in one of the best cities in the world that allows us to have exposure and contact with different backgrounds and cultures,” said Loza. “We have such a vast pool of coaches, and so many good coaches which definitely helps develop better players. There is a lot of healthy competition, and that’s one of the best aspects of tennis in our area.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org