What makes The Kew-Forest Tennis Academy unique is that the school has been able to adjust the students' academic schedule so that they can be on-court by 2 p.m. while still receiving a full college preparatory education. This is primarily due to the proximity of the courts to the school.
Modeled on the Evert Tennis Academy and Boca Prep in Florida, where both Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish once trained, The West Side Tennis Club is just minutes away from The Kew-Forest School.
"Kew-Forest is providing a cost effective venue for kids who want to focus on tennis, and possibly play college tennis one day," said Mayer, 55, who was born in Flushing and went on to play tennis for Stanford University before reaching a ranking of # 4 in the world in 1980. "And, it’s great to be back at Forest Hills."
Mayer and his brother Sandy defeated John McEnroe and his partner Peter Fleming in a WCT Tournament of Champions event at Forest Hills in the early '80's.
Among some top local junior tennis players, one Kew-Forest Tennis Academy standout is 15-year-old Ariana Rodriguez, who has a USTA National ranking of 68 in the Girls 16 and under division. She played in the Orange Bowl last year and is looking forward to continuing to play on the junior circuit this season while attending school.
Seventeen-year-old West Side Tennis Club member R.J. Del Nunzio says he is thrilled to have Gene Mayer at the club. Currently ranked among the top 90 juniors in the world by the ITF, and formerly #1 in the country in the USTA Boys 16 and under division, Del Nunzio left Kew-Forest last year to be home-schooled and train at the prestigious IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
"With Gene and his crew on board, The Kew-Forest Tennis Academy will be much more professional and I can really see it growing,” he said. “I hope to get some professional guidance from him that will help me reach my goals and develop a bigger game this year."
Having recently won his first ITF tournament in Jamaica, Del Nunzio would like to start playing some "Futures" tournaments this year and get to the top 300-400 in the world so he can play World Team Tennis next year as well.
Mayer has hired veteran coach Simon Shelton as director of The Kew-Forest Tennis Academy, and Bong Imperial as head coach. Both worked at the famed Port Washington Tennis Academy where John McEnroe, Mary Carillo and Vitas Gerulaitis once trained. Simon also coached former top ten player Kathy Rinaldi.
The tennis training program and coaching staff is the key to creating an exciting, successful academy.
"No matter if the player is world class or not, if they have the desire and skill to stay on the court, the academy will be a good fit for them," Shelton said.
The program begins at 2 p.m., five days a week, and participants play for two hours each day and have one hour of fitness training per day in the gym. The program will run for 37 weeks at an approximate cost of $10,000 per year in addition to academic tuition.
Steve Schott, also a Kew-Forest parent, member of the West Side Tennis Club, and Vice President/Capital Campaign for the New York Junior Tennis League, was instrumental in establishing the academy.
"This is about building bridges, not barriers,” he said. “The Kew-Forest Tennis Academy brings together two formidable institutions in our community. It's a wonderful opportunity for Kew-Forest School students to work with a world-class coach like Gene Mayer, who having played for Stanford, understands the needs of our scholar-athletes.”
Schott added that the academy would benefit The West Side Tennis Club, as well.
“And, it will be great for The West Side Tennis Club to have a world-class junior program like this,” he said. “I must also commend Kew-Forest's headmaster, Mark Fish, for the vision and commitment to excellence he has, without which the academy would never have come to fruition."