Martina Navratilova, who revolutionized women’s tennis with her athleticism and attacking style, has been named honorary chair for the 53rd Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship as South Florida again prepares to showcase a wealth of the junior circuit’s top talent.
Tournament officials also announced teaching legend Nick Bollettieri as guest speaker for the Main Draw Reception to take place on Dec. 16 at the University of Miami Field House.
Bollettieri, 83, has helped 10 players achieve No.1 in the world rankings, largely through his pioneering academy in Bradenton.
The Junior Orange Bowl International likewise has seen several of its entrants go on to become Grand Slam champions, a list that includes last year’s honorary chair, 2013 Wimbledon men’s winner Andy Murray.
The event, which has received more than 1,500 applications this year, begins Dec. 14 with qualifying rounds. The main draw gets underway three days later at five South Florida sites, with new champions to be crowned Dec. 23.
Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles crowns in a 13-year run of dominance, including a record nine at Wimbledon. Factor in 31 championships in women’s doubles and 10 in mixed doubles, and her 59 Grand Slam titles are second only to Margaret Court’s 62.
The left-hander is the only player to collect a Grand Slam trophy in four different decades, capped by a U.S. Open mixed doubles title in 2006, little more than a month before her 50th birthday.
Navratilova’s influence also extends far beyond the tennis court. She is an advocate for equal rights and numerous charities, represents the AARP as its Health & Fitness Ambassador and continues to lend her analysis to the Tennis Channel.
Bollettieri founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978, creating the first fulltime boarding school to combine intense court training with a customdesigned academic curriculum. A decade later, he joined forces with IMG to expand the academy into a multi-sports facility. The IMG Academy now trains young athletes in eight sports.
Among players who rose to No.1 after working with Bollettieri are Andre Agassi; Boris Becker; Jim Courier; Monica Seles; Martina Hingis; Maria Sharapova; and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
Bollettieri also is a frequent commentator for the Tennis Channel and has written numerous books, including the new release Changing the Game, which will be available for signing at the Main Draw Reception.
The evening also will feature Bolivian artist Rosario “Chary” Rico-Toro introducing her 2014 commemorative design, which will be displayed on the tournament’s annual program and T-shirt.
The Junior Orange Bowl International has a rich history of bringing the world’s most promising tennis players to Coral Gables. Murray captured the Boys 12s crown in 1999 on his first visit to the United States. Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, the Boys 14s winner in 2002, won the U.S. Open seven years later.
Other notable participants have included Agassi, Seles, Courier, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, Mary Joe Fernandez, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki and reigning U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic.
Each division will be centered at different locales — the University of Miami’s Neil Schiff Tennis Center and William H. Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center (Boys 14s), Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne (Girls 14s), Salvadore Tennis Center (Boys 12s) and Tropical Park (Girls 12s).
The Schiff Tennis Center hosts all finals except Boys 12s, which will stay at Salvadore.
Wilson continues as the tournament’s official Ball Sponsor. Other support is provided by the City of Coral Gables, Miami Children’s Hospital, the Orange Bowl, Badia Spices, Miami-Dade County, University of Miami Global Academy, Laurel Springs School, Alexander Ostrovsky Academy, OrthoNOW Orthopedic Urgent Care and Tennis Plaza.
The Tennis Championship is one of 15 athletic, artistic and cultural events that make up the Junior Orange Bowl International Youth Festival, which celebrates its 66th anniversary in 2014. The jubilee annually draws some 7,500 youngsters to South Florida from 70-plus nations.
For more information or to apply for the Tennis Championship, visit online at JuniorOrangeBowl.org/Tennis.