Tennis is the type of sport that spans the entire globe, one that is played all over the world and exists in people’s lives for a lifetime.
There is perhaps no one who embodies this more than Conrad Singh, a native of Melbourne, Australia who is the CEO of Centercourt Tennis Academy based in New Jersey. Singh’s teaching philosophy is simple, ‘Teach what’s essential, encourage what is natural, and allow for each individual’, and it’s a motto he has developed over his decades-long experience traveling the world and coaching the game he loves.
Singh grew up as a highly competitive junior in Australia during an age in which the nation was producing top-flight talent including multiple time Grand Slam finalist Mark Philippoussis. He would go on to win National Championships in high school and college, and graduated with a degree in sports science with a major in biomechanics, which would help become the foundation of his coaching career.
“I had already made a decision that I wanted to go into the coaching side of things. I was lucky enough to have a lot of good coaches growing up, and I knew it was something I wanted to do,” he recalls. “When I graduated with a sports science degree, majoring as a biomechanist, I was very fortunate that Tennis Australia recruited me as the Biomechanist for the National Coach Education program. I wrote the book on Advanced biomechanic development for Australian Advanced coaches, and did a lot of lecturing and speaking engagements on that topic. That opened my pathway towards the academic side of tennis, and I was very excited to be a part of that.”
But, as Singh says, his journey was far from complete:
“Tennis is one of those things that pulls you in different directions.”
After moving to Europe and working with some of the top British players for a couple of years as well as travelling extensively on the ITF Circuits, Singh returned home and would eventually work with Australia’s Elite Juniors and numerous Pro Players before opening the first international tennis academy in Australia. Through that, he traveled and worked with a lot of the nation’s top players both on the ATP and WTA tours.
“I started coaching a top 100 player from Japan who was doing very well, and I basically made the decision that I wanted to go abroad again,” said Singh. “I sold my shares in our Melbourne academy, and I moved to Japan where I took over as the pro player’s head coach at the top club in Tokyo. I had about 20 players there who I was working and traveling with. I did that for a few years, and through my traveling, I was in China at an ITF Women’s pro event and met an entrepreneur who was building a huge club in Shanghai. He asked me to come over as the Head Pro and Director of Tennis and to build and implement a range of programs for kids, adults and pros.”
Singh’s tennis journey around the globe would continue as he went on to open the China Elite Tennis Academy. There, he worked with All the top players coming through including the Chinese Fed Cup team including two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, and was integral into growing their tennis development. He expanded his reach into 13 facilities throughout Shanghai as well as being the Head Coach of a handful of Provincial National Teams. But like Singh said, tennis has a way of pulling you in all different directions, and he would have one more stop to make on this journey.
“It came to a point where I was done with China, and I ended up meeting Clay Bibbee, and we discussed Centercourt,” said Singh. “I took a role as COO, Director of Coaching and Head of Performance here at Centercourt. Three years later, as the CEO of Tennis, and we’re really building a very special program here.”
Singh is now filtering all of his knowledge and experience into Centercourt, which has eight locations throughout New Jersey, and has been crucial in establishing the program as a destination for top junior tennis players. He uses all of what he has learned during all of his many coaching stops around, and no matter where or who you are coaching, he says there are crucial fundamentals that are important wherever you are in the world.
“The two central parts of my coaching philosophy is based on cultural awareness and cultural understanding, but also based on building relationships,” he said. “I really feel like as a coach, and it’s no different in business, that if you build good relationships with your players then it becomes easier to communicate, whether that’s verbal or body language. I speak Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese and English, and I didn’t speak those before I was in those countries, but I tried to be open and learn which helped me. I would travelling on the road at Tournaments and be in my room using Rosetta Stone, spending time in player lounges writing 20 words down a day just trying to learn. I think that’s important to show you want to be in that culture, no matter where you are.”
In addition to being culturally aware and taking the time to show players and parents he truly cares about what he is doing, Singh is also incredibly knowledgeable in the science of sport.
“I want to teach through mechanics, and I’ve said the same thing in multiple languages. I truly believe in it,” he said. “We don’t want to have three kids in our program who look the same. Despite stylistic differences, mechanics won’t change. Wide base, hip rotation, shoulder separation, etc. All those core things. I’ve tried to embed those into my philosophy.”
He has brought all of those things into his work at Centercourt. As someone who has seen top academies all across the world, he and the team at Centercourt are focused on doing just that.
“It takes time to build something that’s worthwhile, and we’ve taken the time to do that,” said Singh. “We make sure we have a plan in place before we evolve. Our coaches are outstanding, and that starts with our Managing Partner & Owner Clay Bibbee all the way down. He’s constantly providing the support and that’s so important. That support feeds into the team we’ve assembled. A big point of difference at Centercourt is our hierarchy of coaching and the structure we’ve put into place…the other things is our facilities. You can have the best of everything in the world, but if you don’t have the software it means nothing. We also have the ultimate Hardware in that our facilities are truly World Class with multiple indoor courts, both clay and hard, as well as an incredible Fitness Institute and the absolute best in trainers and coaches. We also have a full academic program in place to fulfill our mission of developing great athletes and great students.”
Singh’s tennis journey has been fascinating, and one that has taken him around the world and culminated with him here in the Northeast of the United States. He has worked with countless professional players, including spending time on court with greats like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic during the Shanghai Rolex Masters, a tournament for which his Shanghai academy was the official sponsor for the past 15 years. It’s a journey he could never have imagined when he first began his tennis life in Melbourne, and is a perfect example of where tennis can take you in life.
“I definitely didn’t envision at 18-years-old to do what I’m doing today,” he said. “I dreamed of being an international tennis person, but didn’t know what exactly that would be. At different points I met the right people, and tennis is like that. It sets up an environment where you might come across someone, and next thing you know that presents an opportunity. I’ve been very fortunate with that. I think the most important thing for me was I prepared very well when I was young…It’s been a fun journey and it’s far from over.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org