The New York Empire will have a new home for the 2019 season, and a face familiar to World TeamTennis will be one of those most excited to see them there.
Liezel Huber played 13 total seasons of WTT, which included winning the King Trophy with the Delaware Smash in 2003.
The five-time Grand Slam doubles champion and former WTA doubles World No.1 has embraced a new role as executive tennis director at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx since her retirement from professional tennis, and spoke exclusively about what the facility has to offer, and her excitement about bringing a WTT team to her new home court, in this week’s Tennis Tuesday.
What are some interesting features at Cary Leeds Center?
Cary Leeds Center is a 22-court, award-winning, donor-funded facility in the heart of the South Bronx. We have the opportunity to serve all demographics, and that is what makes us unique – but it also creates a fun working environment.
Crotona Park is the ideal location for us, attracting Manhattan folks and serving the local community. Our facility features two stadium courts, gym and multiple classrooms.
What programs do you offer for the youth and adults?
We offer community and commercial programming, from beginner to pro, ages 5 and up. My favorite program is ITP (Intensive Training Program), which is a funded program where the best kids from our parks and school train 10 hours a week. We focus and measure the tennis, fitness and life skills. I also love Serve and Connect, where police officers play tennis with neighborhood kids.
What makes being in the Bronx so special?
We have 30,000 children surrounding Crotona Park. We can make a huge impact on the community and serve the NYJTL mission: to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court.
How does your past tennis career on the WTA tour translate to the programs you offer?
You have to be able to adapt very quickly. On the tour, we were in a different city every week, staying in a different hotel, eating different food and perhaps playing doubles with a different partner. Billie Jean King says: ‘champions adjust’.
It’s the same here in the Bronx. I may be teaching women’s academy that are league players, and then I will jump to a Bronx school of kids who have never been inside a tennis court bubble, let alone have touched a tennis racket.
I love it! It’s got to be fun and they have to learn, and then I have done my job.
As a veteran of World TeamTennis (WTT) in your career, what are you most excited about bringing WTT to the Bronx for the first time?
Wow! World class players is my first thought. Our community as well as commercial kids will get to see these amazing athletes in a fun, fast setting – up close and personal.
Cary Leeds Center is the home of the New York Empire! I am still pinching myself when I think of it. I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when John Isner hits his first ace.
What are your thoughts on the Empire roster this season, including your compatriot John Isner and your former doubles partner and opponent Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez?
John Isner is some of our kids’ idol. He is an American superstar! Of course, I love Maria and she was one of my favorite doubles partners. Due to injury, our partnership was short, but successful.
I will be cheering louder than ever for my team, and I would like to thank WTT for this amazing opportunity in the heart of the South Bronx!