The AvEdgers campus
At Courts, we’ve made a habit of talking to you regularly about Edge, which allows us to take you behind the scenes of the tennis world through this agency’s unique Player Development Model. Edge’s saga – like all good sagas – is becoming more thrilling by the day, with new and evermore engaging characters in familiar settings, and enhanced facilities to offer them the best chances of success. Its latest twists include the creation of a “London-made” grass court and the appearance of more world-class experts in the AvEdgers’ box (I checked, the brand isn’t registered).
From Sugar-Coated Candy to a Grass-Coated Court
At Halloween, it’s traditional to give our children bags full of candy. But if those kids are future tennis stars and your name is Edge, forget the candy and provide them with a grass court instead, to help them prepare for the short season on grass between the French Open and the US Tour. This is exactly what has happened at the Bonmont Club.
Those of you who’ve vacationed with other people’s families know that there are two possible reactions: the “get-me-out-of-here” reaction, which consists of an accumulation of embarrassing moments where you almost come to miss your own family; and the “soft-eye” reaction, which consists in admiring the treasures of gentleness used by others to create understanding and lasting happiness. As Edge has clearly opted for the second alternative, we can’t help but be moved when we discover the efforts the agency makes on a daily basis to offer its young athletes the best possible conditions to flourish on and off the pitch.
The Full “Pack-Edge”
On several occasions in the past, we’ve mentioned the work undertaken by Edge as a talent incubator. Unique in the world of tennis, this agency is putting its own money where its mouth is to help develop individually each of the players it carefully selects. For budding champions, meeting Edge is love at first sight, not unlike Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. The agency puts its best people at their disposal to help them progress rapidly: Fabrice Sbarro and Shane Liyanage for statistics; Dieter Calle for racquet customization; and Rick Macci for training, to name but a few. And with the recent addition as Board Members of familiar faces on the professional Tour such as Dani Vallverdu (ATP coaching representative, director of the Washington ATP/WTA tournaments, current coach of Dimitrov and former coach of Wawrinka, Murray, Del Potro, Berdych, among others), youngsters the world over can progress with a Pokémon game full of rare cards.
Assets Within Easy Reach
The grass court is the latest in an ever-growing collection of assets which, without exaggeration, are all within easy reach. You don’t need a hyperdrive to enjoy the benefits of the Edge ecosystem: the AvEdgers have their campus in Neuchâtel, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the Bonmont Club is less than an hour’s drive away, between Geneva and Lausanne; and Swiss Tennis is just a dozen minutes by car. The image of the campus isn’t unlike a Venn diagram where the circles “practical”, “excellent” and “beautiful” converge on the word Edge located at the center. If you’re having trouble picturing what I’m talking about, the illustration below might come in handy.
This campus-style organization enables Edge to streamline the many services it offers to its players. The heart of the structure is a former girls’ boarding school, made up of two large old houses by the lake in La Neuveville, converted into a B&B with its own a private clay court and swimming pool. It can accommodate up to a dozen players travelling between tournaments in Europe, who enjoy the comfort of a home at the epicenter of tennis; Fabrice Sbarro, statistician and head of the Edge Analytics division, lives just a few kilometers away; Lionel Grossenbacher, a specialist in physical preparation who has looked after Switzerland’s top juniors for many years and still works with one of the world’s best players, lives next door; Olivier Bourquin, a leading authority on nutrition, breathing, sleep and concentration, who, among other athletes, advises members of the French soccer team as well as numerous Olympic athletes, is also a neighbor.
If this list goes on, I’m going to have a hard time finding periphrases to say that everything is within the reach of a handkerchief. But it does go on: a specialist in postural analysis, who supplies custom-made insoles to Edge players after thorough evaluation and testing, is in the area; Dieter Calle, a leading expert in racket customization for the pros, usually based in Belgium, visits the campus when necessary to meet players and carry out customization tests; as mentioned, Swiss Tennis is less than a quarter of an hour away, and its facilities include courts where the country’s stars train. And a dozen minutes away, players can take advantage of an exclusive partnership with a gym. Should I continue? On campus is a permanent stringer in direct contact with Benoît Mauguin, the best-known expert on the professional Tour, who advises players like no one else and who, together with a specially seconded physiotherapist, is present at every Grand Slam to look after the rackets of Edge players, in addition to those of his own private clients (several Top 10 ATP/WTA players). And as if that weren’t enough, Edge has entered into partnerships with clubs around the campus so its players can train indoors and outdoors, on all surfaces and in all weather conditions, with sparring partners ranked between the 200th and 500th spots in the ATP hierarchy, under the watchful eye of Rick Macci, who can attend training sessions via videoconference.
If Edge were a car, it would not doubt be a full-option large-space sedan.
It’s easy to imagine how delighted Edge’s young athletes are to be able to come by train, access the kitchen easily and get around on foot, all without losing sight of the lake that the valley overlooks. Add to that a real grass pitch and you soon realize that they’ve reached the Holy Grail.
Greener Grass at Home
In Bonmont, less than an hour’s drive from Neuchâtel, a passionate specialist named Paul Reardon has built a natural grass pitch specially for Edge, located alongside the existing synthetic pitches. And not just any pitch: the entire court has been imported from England and is an exact match of its Wimbledon cousins, including the turf, net and posts. Moreover, considering that the Bonmont Club is first and foremost a golf club, maintenance isn’t an issue. Asking legendary greenkeeper Benoit Jaymes to maintain a grass court is like asking Rachmaninov to play Chopsticks blindfolded, a piece that even people who’ve never seen a piano before can master. So we can expect an immaculately maintained court, reserved exclusively for Edge’s selected partners.
Will this exceptional court only be used a few days a year by a happy few? The plan is way more ambitious. To keep the court alive, Edge plans to organize an exhibition tournament every year between Roland Garros and the start of the season on grass. Some of the world’s best players have already agreed for 2024 to take part in the event which has a lot going for it: the golf club, which features an authentic abbey, is set high up overlooking the lake and Mont Blanc, and backs onto a thousand-year-old castle run today by the Relais & Château chain. Training under conditions similar to those of major tournaments, in a heavenly location, far from the hustle and bustle but not far from home? Now, that’s a proposal worth thinking about, even if you’re used to vacationing with other people’s families.
Undoubtedly, a preview of the next film’s script.