By Randy Walker
One of the unsung hot spots for tennis in the United States is Vero Beach, Florida.
Located nearly equi-distant between Orlando and West Palm Beach, Vero Beach was for years known as the Spring Training ground for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball, but is now being more known for its tennis, especially since the Dodgers left “Dodgertown” in 2008 to conduct its Spring Training in Arizona.
Most of the tennis activity in town takes place in active programs at 13 private clubs around the town, including The Moorings (www.TheMoorings.com) The River Club at Quail Valley (www.quailvalleygolfclub.com), John’s Island (www.JohnsIslandClub.org), Sea Oaks (www.SeaOaks.com) and at other communities around town.
“Vero Beach is one of the most enthusiastic and sophisticated tennis communities I have ever seen,” said long-time Vero Beach resident Mikael Pernfors, the 1986 French Open runner-up. “This community passionately embraces tennis.”
One of the signature tennis facilities in town is The Boulevard Club (www.blvdtennis.com) which is the site of the annual USTA men’s “Futures” event in played in late April, early May and founded by long-time Vero Beach teaching pro Mike Rahaley. The tournament is regarded as one of the best run and best attended in the country and been staged since 1995. The Boulevard features 13 Har-Tru courts and includes a bar a restaurant. The public town facility is the Riverside Racquet Complex (http://www.covb.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7BC0E072BF-7A42-438A-8B47-C8B47C055BD5%7D), located at the scenic Riverside Park, that features hard courts for day and night play.
Two-time French Open mixed doubles champion, former top 4 doubles player and former Mexican Davis Cup standout Jorge Lozano has recently set up shop in Vero Beach with the Lozano – Osorio Tennis Academy at the Vero Beach Tennis Club (www.verobeachtennis.com) In addition to training players, Lozano and his partner Marco Osorio also host a USTA women’s Futures event.
Another attribute that gives Vero Beach its status as one of the best tennis towns in the country is its famous tennis inhabitants. In addition to Pernfors and Lozano, Vero Beach is known as the home of eight-time major champion and Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl, although you will find him on more of Vero’s golf courses than tennis courts. Roscoe Tanner, the 1979 Wimbledon runner-up, also lives in Vero Beach, teaching at the Vero Beach Tennis Club. Pernfors is the touring pro out of Vero’s Grand Harbor community (www.GrandHarbor.com) and is often seen playing exhibitions at clubs throughout town.
Vero’s native son is former U.S. Davis Cup standout and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish who was raised in Vero Beach before heading off on the pro circuit. Mardy’s father Tom is a long-time teaching pro in Vero Beach, most recently at the prestigious and beautiful Windsor Plantation (http://www.windsorflorida.com/club/amenities/tennis).
“It’s a great tennis community,” Fish said at the 2011 US Open of Vero Beach. “South Florida in general loves tennis, but it’s a small town, and they have, you know, one guy from there that grew up there that plays a lot, so they know a lot about tennis there.“