Longines Future Tennis Aces US Qualifier Adam Neff is One to Watch
Lance Luciani is the President of Baseline Tennis and his most-promising prodigy is 11-year-old Adam Neff, who just won the Boys’ 12s National title. Neff will represent the United States when he competes against finalists from 15 countries around the world at the Longines Future Tennis Aces in Paris, France during the first week of the 2013 French Open.
The USTA Boys’ & Girls’ 12s National Spring Championships presented by Longines and hosted by the City of Delray Beach served as the U.S. qualifier for Longines Future Tennis Aces with the winner of the Boys 12s singles division earning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris to play against qualifiers from 15 other nations. In addition to winning an all-expense-paid trip and the opportunity to play tennis in the center of Paris, Adam will compete to receive financing for his tennis equipment until his 16th birthday, courtesy of Longines.
Neff, who will turn 12 on May 30, competed against 128 other top-ranked U.S. players in the week-long USTA-sanctioned event. En route to the title, Neff was nearly flawless and never dropped a set to any of his competitors.
Last Sunday, I had a chance to ask Coach Luciani about Adam’s physical development, how he got here and where he’s headed.
How is Adam developing?
He’s physically maturing now. He’s almost 5’8”, and it’s turning in to a lot of muscle now. Before he was shorter and he was a little bit larger kid but now he’s slimmed down. He’s trying to get a six-pack. He’s getting stronger every month. Adam’s physical trainer (Doru Murariu) is doing a really good job.
Adam battled a setback in France last month, and that may have poised him to make the run through Delray Beach for a return trip to France. Did Coach Luciani actually expect him to win it all at Boys Nationals?
I kind of thought that Adam was going to be peaking about that time, because he was really mad that we went all the way to France for a tournament (Auray) about 6 weeks ago. It was really cold and it was indoor tennis. They don’t heat their indoor facilities, so you’re blowing smoke indoors.
We went in there about 5 days earlier, and the day of the 1st round match he got sick with the Norwalk virus. He just couldn’t move. He said ‘I came all this way and I can’t even move’. He lost in 3 sets to someone he shouldn’t have lost to. He lost 13 pounds after that. It really made him determined over the month in between that tournament and Delray that he was going to put on a good show.
He said, “I’m going to try to go back to France again. I’m going to do this.” And he didn’t lose a set. When we found out the prize at Nationals was a Longines trip to France, he was happy his dad wouldn’t have to pay for the trip back. He said, “now I’m going to go over there again and show them what I can do”.
What can Adam expect from the Longines support?
They’re going to pick up all the flights and hotels and all the food, and it looks to me like they put on one heck of a show. They treat the kids first-rate. To be playing at Roland Garros during the French Open! What’s a better experience than that?
How do you like Adam’s chances at the Longines Future Tennis Aces at Roland Garros?
With the 12s, Adam definitely has a chance to beat just about any 12-year-old. He’s getting stronger and bigger. I’ll just try to get him ready correctly and see how it goes.
When did you become involved with Adam and tell us the history of the training facility you’ve built at his home.
When I heard about Adam about four years ago after I left IMG, I started with him. I looked at what his father looked like. His dad is about 6’4 and he’s just a big boy. His dad said, ‘What do you need for Adam to have a chance to play professional tennis?”
I thought about it for a while and told him ‘the first thing you’ll need is a facility with European red clay. It can’t be Har-Tru. You can save a lot of money putting that in, but he’s got to grow up on the red. So the first court we put in, we imported Italian red clay. We have one of the only real European red clay courts in the country. Second court we put in is similar to the Sony Open court. It’s a little bit of a slower court. It has seven layers on it. It’s still good on his ankles and joints. It’s a slower court so that when Adam was working on form, he didn’t have to change his form because the ball was already past him.
Right now, we’re constructing a faster US Open court. It’s got 11 layers of cushions and it’s still good on their joints.
They also have a full indoor gym and a CVAC Recovery Pod, just like Novak Djokovic. Since Adam’s dad is a doctor, he researched the product first. Then Luciani flew to California to the manufacturer for a week to investigate the pod. Adam’s ranking was #282 nationwide and #38 in Florida when he began using the pod last July. Today, he’s ranked #4 nationwide and #1 in Florida. Luciani calls it “a bit of an improvement”.
The pod gives him ‘even more of an ability to come back daily’, according to Luciani.
What is Adam’s typical tennis routine?
Four hours per day during the week, a half-day Saturday or a tournament on the weekend, a daily hour of private fitness and a 90 minute recovery regimen, including CVAC pod time.
What style of coaching do you employ on Adam?
When you train someone like Adam, you can’t really work them 110% intensity morning and afternoon all the time, because they’d die a violent death! You’re always gauging every day how much they handle. Now that he’s winning tournaments, I’ve got to count matches like baseball managers count pitches.
Whose game does Adam’s resemble the most?
His game is based on Agassi. That’s my method. Control, hurt, finish. That’s how big points are built. Control your opponent, knock them off the court, make them run, and if they give you a chance, then you finish them. It’s a very aggressive system, but in my opinion, it’s what America is waiting for again. Someone who can entertain them. We’re missing that right now. Serena and Venus have entertained us, but their careers are coming to a close. Who’s next? Who’s going to make the other guy run?
Though Neff’s style is reminiscent of Agassi, Adam’s personal favorite is Rafael Nadal. “That’s who he looks up to” said Luciani. When not playing tennis, being home-schooled or spending time with his family, Adam enjoys his dogs Rafa & Coco, watching ESPN, and texting friends.
He’s just a good kid. For me to be with someone for four years, that says something because I usually lose patience with them and if they don’t listen, I’ll get rid of them. There’s definitely no reason to get mad at him.
Barcelona and Paris are next before Adam moves into 14s. Coach Luciani and Adam are hoping for a high seed in the Orange Bowl or Eddie Herr at the end of the year.
Now you know: Adam Neff is one to watch. America needs more kids like Adam and we’re hoping to see him on a US Open-style court at the US Open in the years ahead.
Longines is the proud Official Partner and Timekeeper of the French Open at Roland Garros since 2007. Longines Future Tennis Aces – On the Road to the French Open is part of Longines’ global commitment to support and develop tennis’ superstars of tomorrow. All the players who qualify for the tournament will have the opportunity to visit the red-clay courts of Roland Garros and attend a French Open match.
Countries participating in Future Tennis Aces program include Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italia, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the U.S.
Longines has been based at Saint-Imier, Switzerland, since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to tradition, elegance and performance. It has generations of experience as the official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations. Over the years, the brand has built strong and long-lasting links with the equestrian sports.