WAILEA - The Tracy Austin tennis tour winds through Wailea this week.
Austin, a two-time U.S. Open champion, former world No. 1 and International Tennis Hall of Fame member, is the headline draw for the Wailea Fantasy Tennis Camp that runs today through Sunday at the Wailea Tennis Club.
The 50-year-old Austin is here for the fourth time and will be joined at the event by Michael Chang, Tom Gullikson, Taylor Dent, Jose Higue-ras and former United States Tennis Association national coach Edgar Giffenig.
"First, you have Maui, that's absolutely gorgeous," Austin said Monday. "You know you are in Hawaii with the tropical air, the different smells in Hawaii. You just feel relaxed right away."
She enjoys working with the 40 or so campers who will range in age from junior standouts to masters players.
"I really enjoy people, they're a lot of fun people, they are active, athletic," Austin said. "I actually enjoy teaching. I don't teach the rest of the year, so when I do teach I actually get enjoyment from taking a player and seeing improvement that they can make in a few days."
Cathy Nicoloff, a professional teacher at Wailea, is the organizer of this camp that costs $2,295 for the five-day run. The itinerary includes daily instruction from the professionals, video analysis, a free junior clinic today from 4 to 6 p.m., and an exhibition doubles match involving the professionals on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
"What I love about the camp is everybody who is in it, all the pros, they are all actively in the game today," Nicoloff said. "They are coaching, they have their own academy, they're commentating. The campers are all ages and we include a few juniors who are (rated) 5.0 or better."
Nicoloff said there is no better ambassador for the game than Austin.
"Tracy is one of my favorite people," Nicoloff said. "I have watched her grow up and I was growing up when she was growing up. She's a commentator, she's a coach, her kids are playing tennis - you should see them, they are amazing.
"I brought her in for my USPTA convention because she's an incredible speaker."
Austin was the youngest winner of the U.S. Open when she took the title as a 16-year-old in 1978. She added another U.S. Open title in 1981 and battled Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the heyday of the sport.
"I think (tennis) is in a fantastic place," said Austin, who has broadcast the U.S. Open on the USA Network, Wimbledon for the BBC, and Channel Seven in Australia for the Australian Open. "I think there seem to be more choices for people and I think it was the golden years, those (Jimmy) Connors, (John) McEnroe, (Bjorn) Borg years. There was so much difference between the players: There was serve and volley, there was the rivalries that were so intense. McEnroe was fiery, Borg was like ice and Connors was constantly stirring the pot.
"It was kind of the golden age of tennis, but I think it is in a fantastic place now."
Maui is one of the few places where anyone can get instruction from Austin these days. She has three boys - Dylan, 15, Brandon, 13 and Sean, 10, all of whom play the game - with husband Scott Holt.
"I just think of this as another element of my tennis career, as a competitor, as a broadcaster, I coached the USTA for three years," Austin said. "Club players like this, I love the coaching. Obviously these players that come to the fantasy camp are real avid tennis players, they love to play hours on end and they want to improve their game and that's what we can help them with.
"I think it's just a blast to be able to give them a few tips, their eyes light up, they try it, it works and off they go. That's a lot of fun to me."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com