| By Brian Coleman

Earlier this year, Luke Jensen was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, to become a part of The West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. The Club was looking for a Director of Racquet Sports and Jensen decided to throw his hat in the ring.

“Late last year, there was an e-mail sent out to a bunch of us coaches asking if we knew anyone who might be interested in being the Director of Racquet Sports at West Side,” Jensen recalls. “I wanted to be in that draw. How many times in your life do you get a chance like this? Even just to apply was a big deal. I got an interview, and then a second interview. I was so fired up just to get an interview, and couldn’t wait to become a part of the process of the Club moving forward.”

The search to find the right person to take over the role was thorough, but Jensen was the man for the job.

“Luke Jensen, our Search Committee felt, has the potential to be transformational for our tennis program for both adult members and juniors,” said Club Captain Jon Knipe, who Co-Chaired the Club’s Search Committee. “We’re very excited that our CEO agreed with our recommendation, and convinced Luke to join us.”

Jensen’s playing and coaching resume speaks for itself—he is a former French Open Doubles Champion who has been a Director of Tennis at a club and was also a Head Coach at Syracuse. He paired with his brother Murphy to win the doubles title 25 years ago at Roland Garros, and Jensen would win 10 ATP Tour Doubles Titles in his career.

At Syracuse, he led the Women’s Tennis team to a 106-57 record in seven and a half seasons, and also served as Touring Pro, Tennis Director and Tennis Emeritus at the Sea Island Resort in Georgia.

While his resume is loaded with experience, the quality that was most attractive about Jensen was his energy and his raw passion for the sport.

“After a five-month process, where we evaluated a large number of highly-qualified candidates, it became clear to both our Search Committee and myself that Luke Jensen stood out,” said West Side Tennis Club Chief Executive Officer Mario DiPreta. “He will bring us great energy and enthusiasm, a depth of experience and a love of the sport and its history.”

Much of Jensen’s role at West Side will be to inject that energy into the membership and programming, as the famed Club moves into its 126th year this summer.

“This place has more than 100 years of tradition and history. I was a part of the 125th anniversary celebration last year, and now to take on the full experience, 24/7, 365, is unbelievable,” said Jensen. “We want to shake the perception that we are stuffy and old, because we have been around for so long. As a Director, it is my job to bring lots of passion and focus on the future, and really energizing everyone involved here. During the interview process we talked about my vision and mission to continue moving this play forward and into the next 100 years.”

There is no doubting that Jensen will bring energy to Forest Hills. His enthusiasm and desire to be around and teach tennis is infectious and, maybe more importantly, authentic. One early example of that is the initiation of a Rock ‘N Roll Junior Tennis Camp which is happening at West Side this summer.

Born in Michigan and spending his college years at the University of Southern California, Jensen is making the adjustment to becoming a full-fledged New Yorker. He lives on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, and loves each day in the new city he calls home.

“It’s awesome,” said Jensen. “I am almost to the point where I am getting rid of my car. Once you do that, you are a real New Yorker.”

One of the things that Jensen has embraced is the sheer diversity of the city, and specifically, Queens.

“Queens is so diverse,” Jensen said, using some of his staff at West Side as an example. “I have five guys on the grounds crew from Albania. Our Pro Shop Manager is from Russia. We have a guy from Argentina, a guy from Puerto Rico … my doorman is from Macedonia. This is the ‘United Nations of Awesomeness.’”

Jensen took over the position in early May, and was eager to get started with his new role at West Side. He understands that finding the balance between maintaining the incomparable tradition of the Club, but also helping to move it forward into the next century is something he is tasked with.

 

“Anyone who walks into a new position where you are tasked to lead, you have to assess the situation, look around and learn about the Club,” said Jensen. “Any place that needs a replacement means it needs new leadership. That doesn’t mean the person previously was bad or had it wrong, but things needed to move in a different direction, and create a new pathway to move forward. We haven’t made any staff or curriculum changes. We like having a diverse staff that teaches differently.”

Jensen does not believe in one specific style of teaching tennis and likes having his coaches teach in a variety of ways. This creates a well-rounded group of coaches who are able to work with players from various levels, something that Jensen embraces.

The new chapter in Jensen’s tennis life that has brought him to New York, where he is already making his impact felt in Forest Hills. The concert season at Forest Hills Stadium has begun and the grass courts are freshly trimmed as the summer season is here, and Jensen hopes to see you out at The West Side Tennis Club sometime soon.

“West Side Tennis Club is a part of the American tennis fabric,” Jensen said. “If you are anyone who loves this game in our country, you have to make the pilgrimage to this place.”


 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com