'A big party of tennis': For players & coaches, Orlando is perfect home for NCAA finale

Victoria Chiesa | May 11, 2023

The sprawling USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.'s Lake Nona community has been the home of American tennis since it opened six years ago, and for the next 17 days, it'll also be the epicenter of the collegiate tennis universe as the 2023 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships come to town. 


If you ask many of the teams who'll be descending on Orlando this week, they wouldn't have it any other way.


"We love the USTA National Campus," Avi Kigel, head coach of a Barry University women's tennis team that has won the last five NCAA Division II national crowns, said. "It's a great venue. You go there, and you just feel the passion for tennis and it just makes you want to play."


Read more at usta.comBarry University bids to extend Division II dominance as NCAA R16 begins in Orlando


Whether you're itching to get some tips for when you hit the court yourself, or are just wanting to watch the best of the best square off, there will be more than enough competition to go around. At this year's championships, all three NCAA divisions are competing for men's and women's national titles at a single site for the first time in any sport. It's not the first time that the NCAA's showpiece event it being held at the National Campus—it twice held the Division I Championships in 2019 and 2021, and also held the Division III finale last year—making the world-class facility a natural fit for this historic first.


"If you love tennis, it's hard not to like the National Campus. It's kind of like a tennis nerd's dream," University of Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso said. "You've got every [court] surface and you've got great coaches around. You've got 100 courts, a beautiful place. ... You've got everything you need. The hotels are great, the restaurants are great. There are a lot of people that love tennis in the area. I think it's a wonderful place to host the NCAA Championships."

"I've been in college tennis as a coach for about two decades and, of course, had played college tennis, so I know all the venues," added University of Texas women's head coach Howard Joffe, who led his team to the title in Orlando two years ago.


"Of course, I'm biased because we won it [there], but I can't ever remember a better atmosphere and a better place than the USTA National Campus for hosting the NCAAs.


"The memories and all my associations with it are fantastic," he added. "It was incredibly well-run. It was an incredibly good facility, the practice situation was fantastic. And then, of course, it was tremendously well-supported with fans, certainly for that final match. ... I can't say enough about what a great location and a great job was done there." 


Those who competed on Thursday's opening day of play had similar sentiments. 

Photo by Conor Kvatek/USTA.

Sixteen Division II men's teams christened competition, and marked a milestone for that division in the process: With Division II having never before been a part the previous NCAA Championships at the National Campus, Thursday and the days leading up to it was the first time that many of the programs located outside Florida got to explore the courts and grounds. 


“This is a fantastic environment for the NCAA Championships," Northwest Missouri State University head coach Mark Rosewell said. "The setup is great and it has a big-time tennis feel to it.”


In addition to all three team championships, and the Division I and III individual singles and doubles trophies, the National Campus will also be a buzzing hub for the community over the next two-plus weeks, as a kids' day, adaptive tennis clinics, and adult social events are just some of the activities planned in conjunction with the event. The University of Alabama and Auburn University will also play a wheelchair tennis match on May 20 to showcase the fast-growing sport of intercollegiate wheelchair tennis.  


All of that together is what makes this year's championships unlike any other, even for those who've been to the business-end of a long tennis season many times before. 


“This is the best way to end the season, just a big party of tennis, of high-level tennis," Kigel said. "You can't get any better. You look left, you look right, and all you can see is just a great level of tennis. I think it will inspire everyone, and I think the level will be as good as it can be for all three divisions.”


For more information about the NCAA Championships, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's NCAA Championships homepage.

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