Legendary Guests at Annual ITA Convention

December 15, 2009

NAPLES, FL. — The 25th annual ITA Coaches Convention will take place at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida, December 16-19, 2009 and will feature four legends of the game: Dennis Ralston, Jose Higueras, Emilio Sanchez and Stan Smith.

“The ITA Convention is always a very exciting time of the year for our Coaches Association,” says ITA Executive Director David A Benjamin. “Besides being able to take in great clinics and workshops at a beautiful resort in a great city, the coaches also have their own special forum to meet and discuss the important issues concerning varsity college tennis.”

Dennis Ralston, courtesy of Wilson Sporting Goods, will be the featured keynote speaker at the ITA Welcoming and Awards Banquet, and also give an on court clinic. A former U.S. Davis Cup player and captain (1968 – 1972), Dennis Ralston was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and the ITA Hall of Fame in 1983. Ralston is a winner of 27 national singles and doubles titles and a five-time winner of Grand Slam doubles titles, and after a stellar playing career, he was the first traveling coach on the pro tour. Chris Evert, Roscoe Tanner, Yannick Noah, Gabriela Sabatini and John Lloyd were among the tennis greats Dennis coached. Ralston was one of those rare individuals who was a Davis Cup winner both as a player and captain. In addition, Dennis Ralston served as the Head Men’s Tennis Coach at SMU for a number of years, where his team was perennially one of the top-ranked squads, and his players, such as Rodney Harmon, among the best in men’s college tennis. Since his active playing career, he has made a name as an outstanding educator and influencer in the coaching world.

Jose Higueras, courtesy of the USTA, is one of the great players from Spain, winning 16 singles titles between 1976 and 1984 and reaching a high-ranking of No. 6 in the world. As outstanding as he was a player, Higueras is even better known for coaching some of the all-time greats to Grand Slam titles, particularly on clay. Among those who have served under his tutelage are Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Todd Martin, Carlos Moya and most recently Robby Ginepri and Roger Federer. At the end of 2008, Higueras was appointed to the position of Director of Coaching for elite player development for the USTA.

Emilio Sanchez, courtesy of Academia Sanchez-Casal, is another Spanish great who achieved his major success on the pro tour in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, particularly in doubles. In all, Sanchez claimed 15 singles titles, reaching as high as No. 7 in singles while amassing 50 doubles titles (including five Grand Slams), a No. 1 world ranking and a 1988 Olympics Silver Medal in doubles. After retiring in 1997, Sanchez captained the Spanish Davis Cup Team for three years before joining the Brazilian tennis confederation where he is currently stationed.

Stan Smith, courtesy of Prince, was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987 and inducted into the ITA Hall of Fame in 1984. Smith was a three-time ITA All-American at USC, winning the 1968 NCAA Singles title and the 1967 and 1968 NCAA Doubles title. On the pro tour, Stan Smith won the 1971 US Open Singles title and the 1972 Wimbledon Singles title, and was ranked # 1 in the world. In doubles, he and partner Bob Lutz, were considered one of the most successful doubles teams in tennis history, capturing four US Open titles and one Australian Open title Stan has appeared at every ITA Convention since its inception in 1985, and his clinics and workshops are always memorable.

Nearly 300 men’s and women’s college tennis coaches at all levels gather each year for the ITA Coaches Convention. The four-day convention is highlighted by some of the most influential people in the sport of tennis. In addition to offering clinics, panel discussions, awards banquet, a trade show and a chance to exchange ideas, the ITA Coaches Convention serves as the venue for the association’s annual meetings, which includes its Board of Director and Operating Committee sessions.