Northstar tennis camp rated among nation’s best |

Northstar tennis camp rated among nation’s best

Susan Wood

Susan Wood / Tahoe Daily Tribune Caroline Werboff of San Francisco hones the doubles strategy with Northstar tennis camp instructor Malcolm Ridenour.

TRUCKEE – Balls seem to sail a little bit farther at 6,400 feet. That is more often than not a welcome aspect of life in the mountains on the golf courses at Northstar-at-Tahoe. But for tennis players, it may mean the difference between losing or winning on its 10 courts.

Most days of the week, when the snow is but a distant memory, there are players at the resort’s tennis camp with a racket in their hand for the first time of the season. Some are stomping out bad habits. Others are honing the finer parts of the game.

This is no ordinary camp. Northstar is repeatedly recognized by Tennis magazine as being one of North America’s top 25 tennis resorts. USA Today ranked it the best in value.

Just when the stress of an intense workout or match can get to players, all they have to do is look behind the fencing and out to the pine trees and wildflowers that flank the court.

Head pro Zeke Straw, who also actively competes, provides one-, two- and five-day clinics. With his staff, they engage the players in an array of drills before giving them playing time to test what they’ve learned.

Straw grew up in New Hampshire and played college tennis in Florida.

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“We’ll come out here and snow blow the courts in April because we’re hungry (to play),” he said.

Caroline Werboff of San Francisco has come to the tennis camp since the 1980s.

“My son, Sam, learned how to play here,” she said, while warming up with three intermediate players in a half-court drill. The drill helps with reaction time. Minutes can go by before a volley inadvertently hits the ground.

Straw spent some one-on-one time with Sam last week to nail down backhands, down-the-line shots and cross-court winners.

“Guys like Sammy might be teaching some day,” he said of the player rated 4.5. The United States Tennis Association ranking system ranges from 1.0 to 7.0.

His 15-year-old protégé has taken lessons at Stanford and UC Santa Cruz, but prefers Northstar.

“Nice slice, Sammy,” Straw yells to the teen.

Down the slope, instructor Jon Cooper leads the advanced class in a series of drills. Some require the reaction time of an exotic cat. He throws a ball off the top of the net that sends four players scrambling to fetch it in an effort to win the point.

Instructor Malcolm Ridenour has his class in motion with drills that move players in and out of three stations – base line, service line and net. After a rest, there is a fast game of “beat the pro” in which Straw and Ridenour offer tennis lessons for life to any student who can get eight points off them in a doubles game.

Northstar management can rest easier – the pros won rather decisively.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at