Florida has long been considered an international hub for tennis talent. Bradenton, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is home to the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where some of the best professional players of all time got their start. Travel southwest to Miami in March and you’ll see one of the most prominent professional tournaments played on North American soil, the Miami Open. But at the heart of Central Florida, in Orlando, you’ll find a quieter tennis scene, perfect for a recreational player or a youth player learning the sport. Despite having a more relaxed atmosphere in the competitive Florida tennis world, Orlando is a city filled with residents passionate about the game. Orlando’s Walt Disney World might be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but the tennis scene in this city is sure to keep players of the game happy for years to come. We’ll show you where to play, compete and watch tennis in Orlando in this week’s edition of Play Local.
Reserve court time at Orlando Tennis Center, a 16-court facility that has both hard and clay surface courts as well three hitting walls. Another great spot for hitting with friends is the Fort Gatlin Tennis Center, where players can rent one of 10 lighted hard courts starting at 8 a.m. through 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 p.m. on weekends.
Orlando tennis players are only a few miles away from some of the world’s best theme parks, which also happen to have fantastic tennis facilities for the whole family. If you’re from Orlando and planning a “staycation” at Disney World, the park has seven resorts with tennis courts. Check out the clay courts at the Victorian-style Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa or play on the hard courts at Disney’s New England-themed Yacht Club Resort.
In Florida, section tournaments for junior players are ranked on a scale from 1 to 8, with 1 being the highest level in the country and 8 reserved for beginning players. For youth players looking to gain some competitive experience, Orlando will host a level 8 tournament Nov. 22 for boys and girls ages 12-18. Register your child for the Turkey Time tournament here.
Tennis in Orlando gets pretty serious in March, when the city hosts the Orlando Women’s $10,000 Tournament, an ITF Pro Circuit event played on clay courts. Remember CiCi Bellis, who knocked out Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova as a wildcard in the U.S. Open? She and partner Alexis Nelson won the doubles draw of the Orlando tournament this year.
Orlando tennis players can dress in the best gear thanks to Tennis Plaza, named the no. 1 tennis specialty store in the country. Find apparel, shoes, strings and more at this shop located on bustling International Drive in Orlando.