Lleyton Hewitt and The Bahamas have a long history together, so it should come as no surprise that the next step in his post-playing career is to help run a new academy on the Caribbean island.
"I've been based in The Bahamas for quite a number of years towards the end of my playing career," the former No. 1 told Baseline. "It was a great base for me and I saw this as a great opportunity to give back to the sport and to do something that I love."
Hewitt noted the convenience of the islands' location being both near the United States and a direct flight to Europe. The Albany Sports Academy is part of Windsor High School at Albany, offering high schoolers an opportunity to gain a strong education while training at an even stronger academy—with the hopes of a college and eventually, professional career.
"We want to give them a chance to go pro one day, that's what everyone's working towards," the two-time Grand Slam champion Hewitt said.
Joining Hewitt in starting up the "boutique academy" is fellow Australian Grant Doyle. Doyle is a former world No. 1-ranked junior who was ranked inside the Top 200 professionally before moving into a coaching career. He has worked with Ryan Harrison and Sam Querrey, and is currently based in San Diego where he has been coaching juniors.
"It was totally unexpected when this opportunity came along," Doyle told Baseline. "The place is incredible. They're putting a lot of money into it and it's going to be really, really good."
The Albany already has golf and soccer facilities, and is building six more courts—equipped with PlaySight smart court technology—as well as opening dorms for the students (who will arrive from all over the globe).
"I think it's a great concept. It's only 25 kids," Doyle said. "They want to keep it small, and at a high level. They don't want to make it like IMG or Saddlebrook where there's a lot of kids around. They want to make it something special."
As expected, the price tag is high, with costs upwards of $80,000 for a school year. But, scholarships are an option, and the coaching repertoire is unparalleled.
Doyle expects Hewitt to be a big part of the academy, even with his Davis Cup duties. The Davis Cup captain has led Australian into the semifinals where they'll face Belgium on September 15.
"I'm juggling both," Hewitt said. "I'll be back and forth from Australia to The Bahamas. For me it works well because I've got to go to a lot of tournaments throughout the world anyway with a lot of our top players. It's a good stop-off to always go back to The Bahamas and be part of the academy."
Davis Cup member Nick Kyrgios will be a part of the environment as well. He has a residence in The Bahamas, and will be using the facilities, said Doyle.
"It's a good base for me to take some of the Australian players from our Davis Cup team and they can actually go and train there," the 36-year-old Hewitt said. "The kids in the academy can see how good you have to be to make it on the pro tour and make a living by playing this great sport."
The official opening day is August 28, coinciding with the start of the school year as well as the US Open (where Hewitt will need to be). Hewitt, who retired from his 18-year professional career last year, has a lot on his plate, but he's looking forward to it.
"I actually really enjoy still being out on the court," Hewitt said. "Giving back in my way is actually being out there and helping these kids try to become better and fulfill their potential."
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