Tommy Cardinal, USPTA Communications

The Universal Tennis Academy, which manages 10 facilities across Atlanta, has decided to certify all their full-time tennis-teaching professionals with the United States Professional Tennis Association.

“Some of our staff was already USPTA certified, but it was far less than I desired as far as full-time employees. So, 23 of our staff were tested and certified so far this year,” UTA partner Stewart Russell said. “Our goal is to have all full-time tennis-teaching professionals USPTA certified”

National Head Tester Sid Newcomb visited James Creek Tennis Center in March to certify 13 teaching professionals employed by the UTA.

“It will help them keep consistency across each site,” Newcomb said. “It’s such a large operation that having a base requirement of USPTA certification can only help with organization.”

The UTA manages more than 120 courts across 10 facilities in and around Atlanta and is a staple in the Atlanta tennis community. Russell said that the UTA is unique in its junior development because of the broad skill set of their members.

“It’s really the only program that offers the pathway all the way from beginner to nationally ranked and college tennis programs,” Russell said. “Basically, it’s really word of mouth as far as how many members. Altogether, we have as many as 1,000 juniors across our facilities that train weekly.”

The Universal Tennis Academy’s rapid growth began when partners at Chattahoochee Plantation decided to sell the private tennis facility. Instead, UTA shifted to management of facilities rather than ownership. This allowed them to spread across Atlanta, saving public facilities in the process.

“There were five City of Atlanta tennis sites that were gonna get shut down. So, the commissioner actually approached us about seeing if we were interested in taking over the city of Atlanta sites,” Russell said. “So, to make a long story short, we sold the property that we had at the private club and we began managing the City of Atlanta sites.”

The resurrection of these public facilities hasn’t gone unnoticed. UTA-managed Bitsy Grant Tennis Center won the USTA Outstanding Facility Award in 2017 in the large public courts category.
UTA doesn’t only manage public facilities, though. They also partner with private clubs to oversee programs and staffing. The year after the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center won the USTA award, James Creek Tennis Center won another outstanding facility award, this time for a private facility.

Russell also commented on USTA’s full accreditation of the USPTA which was announced earlier this year.

“I think it’s really good for both sides. It sends more of a consistent message that these people are interested in partnering with the right people,” Russell said. “Whether it’s USTA or USPTA. I think the USPTA and USTA partnering makes more sense for me.”*

For more information on certifying the tennis-teaching professionals at your club, please contact the USPTA Membership team at 407-634-3050 ext. 145 or email