By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
USTA Player Development is expanding its programming at the USTA Training Center-East on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., opening its doors to an increasing number of promising youngsters as it continues its work of developing the next generation of world-class players. As a primary component of the expansion, USTA Player Development has hired Erik Kortland as National Coach, Junior Development, to work with players in a new "Feeder Program" for boys and girls ages 9 through 13.
"This is an exciting step for USTA Player Development," said Patrick McEnroe, General Manager, USTA Player Development. "Having an open pipeline to our training program at the home of the US Open gives us the opportunity to work with more talented kids at a young age in our mission to develop world-class American players."
The feeder program is a year-round, merit-based training program designed to groom young students who aspire to become professional tennis players, with the intention of having those players eventually progress into full-time training with USTA Player Development. The feeder program will hold the first of its two yearly open tryouts beginning on Sat., Feb. 2, at 10 a.m., at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Kortland, 33, joins USTA Player Development after six years of coaching Southern California’s top juniors as the head of player development at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Previously, Kortland was a nationally ranked junior, played NCAA Division I tennis at Loyola Marymount and California State, Sacramento, and played professionally in Germany and Poland.
"I got to know [USTA Director of Coaching] Jose Higueras over the years and he’s helped to mentor me, teaching me the coaching philosophy of the USTA," said Kortland. "In the past, we’ve shied away from working with kids in that 9 to 13 age range.
"What we would like to do is set the standard – a pathway – to get into our full-time program, bringing 10 and Under Tennis kids into this feeder system and then graduating them into the full-time programming. It’s about teaching a culture of how to play the game at a high level earlier than ever before."
The USTA Training Center-East is one of three national training centers operated by USTA Player Development. Among the Top 100 professionals currently training at the USTA Training Center-East are Varvara Lepchenko and Melanie Oudin, while Christina McHale previously trained there.
Sloane Stephens, the 19-year- old who defeated Serena Williams to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open, trains at the National Training Center-West in Carson, Calif., while Madison Keys, the promising 17-year-old who reached the third round of the Australian Open, and Taylor Townsend, the 2012 year-end junior No. 1, are among the players working out of the USTA Training Center- Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.