| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Credit: John Foxx

USTA Player Development has announced that the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, one of the most prestigious international junior events in the U.S., will return this year to its clay court roots for the first time since 1998. The Orange Bowl will move to the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., after spending the last 13 years at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Fla. The 2011 Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships will be held Dec. 5-11, and will continue to feature singles and doubles competition for boys and girls in 18-and-under and 16-and-under divisions.

The Orange Bowl, which will celebrate its 65th year of competition in 2011, was played for 51 years on the clay courts of Miami Beach’s Flamingo Park. In 1998, the event moved to the hard courts of the Crandon Park Tennis Center, home of the recently completed Sony Ericsson Open. Roger Federer and Elena Dementieva won the initial 18s championships held at Crandon Park.

The change of venue is a result of USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe’s vision to incorporate more clay-court training and clay-court events into the junior tennis calendar.

“USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras and I firmly believe that providing our juniors with more training and competition on clay will ultimately lead to more well-rounded players, and will better serve these players as their careers progress,” said McEnroe. “Moving our largest and most prestigious international event back to clay will help teach our players more court awareness and better movement.”

The Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., is a public facility featuring 26 lit clay courts that will allow the facility to host every main draw and qualifying match in both the 18s and 16s age groups. The facility currently hosts the first USTA Pro Circuit Futures event of the year in January and the USTA Girls’ 14s National Clay Court Championships in July.

“The Frank Veltri Tennis Center meets all of our needs with regards to hosting such a large event,” said Lew Brewer, Director of Junior Competition, USTA Player Development, and Orange Bowl Tournament Director. “Every court is lit and it is large enough to accommodate every match on the schedule. Knowing that the center already hosts multiple top-notch USTA events, I expect this year’s event to be of the highest quality.”

Founded in by Eddie Herr in 1947, the Orange Bowl quickly became one of the premier international junior events in the world, and an annual showcase for the global scope of the game. The event annually hosts more than 500 of the world’s top juniors from more than 70 countries. Champions have emerged from 24 different nations, and a number of those champions have used the occasion to announce plans to turn professional.

“The Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships is one of the oldest and most significant events on the Orange Bowl Festival calendar,” said Jeff Roberts, president and chairman of the Orange Bowl Committee. “We are proud of our association with the USTA, and understand and are supportive of the desire to return this event to its roots on clay courts. The USTA felt the move to clay would both optimize the international draw and grow U.S. tennis. After exploring the various area facilities, they determined that this was the best option in the South Florida community.”

Other past winners of the Orange Bowl 18-and-under singles titles include: Chris Evert (1969, 1970), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Ivan Lendl (1977), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Mary Joe Fernandez (1986), Jim Courier (1987) and Anna Kournikova (1995). Andy Roddick (1999), Vera Zvonareva (2000, 2001), Marcos Baghdatis (2003), Nicole Vaidisova (2003), and current world number one-ranked Caroline Wozniacki (2005) all won the event on hard courts.