Luke Jensen to lead NY Empire into 2019 WTT season
Long Island Tennis Magazine sat down with the new head coach of the New York Empire, Luke Jensen, to discuss how he approached the roster, his rivalry with his brother, what New York fans can expect this summer at the Empire’s new home venue—The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning—and much more.
How excited are you to begin your reign as the head coach of the New York Empire?
Luke Jensen: I’m really excited! I’ve had such an amazing ride with World TeamTennis as a fan growing up, watching stars like Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Rod Laver and Billie Jean King playing against some of the greats including the McEnroe Brothers, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova and many more. I’ve been doing television work for them on many levels, and I really wanted a chance at coaching in the league.
To be honest, I was so thrilled to see my brother Murphy win six titles as a coach, but I was very jealous of him. It’s my turn now!
What was the strategy/game plan heading into the World TeamTennis Draft, and how would you evaluate the success of that in terms of the roster you’ve built?
Luke Jensen: I was absolutely locked into getting elite veteran talent. We opened with John Isner. Roll in U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish, coupled with front line tour aces like Kirsten Flipkens, Neal Skupski, Maria Sanchez and a young flamethrower like Ulises Blanch. These are high character people and premier competitors. We have all been watching each other’s successes and I hope they haven’t peaked too early in the season.
New York Empire head coach Luke Jensen at the 2019 World TeamTennis Draft. (Photo courtesy of World TeamTennis/New York Empire)
Why should New Yorkers and tennis fans come out to see the New York Empire this summer? What should they know about this team and WTT?
Luke Jensen: First, I’m working on the greatest entrance in tennis history! I’ve always wanted to do this, and finally, I get the chance!
World TeamTennis let Murphy and I ride Harley-Davidson Motorcycles on the court in 1994 and now I’m taking it up a notch! And that’s just my introduction! Imagine what it will be like to watch greats like Venus Williams, John Isner and Sloane Stephens compete right here in New York City, and to watch my brother Murphy and I lock horns in a Jensen Brothers coaching battle is worth it! I’ll make a deal: If the New York crowds show up, I will shave my head!
How important is it for you to engage with the local community in order to establish the team’s presence here in New York City?
Luke Jensen: It is mission critical that the New York Empire connect with New York tennis players of all ages and all levels. The Empire has to be our professional tennis team. I want New York to get out to Cary Leeds and to be LOUD and PROUD of the Empire; it’s OUR team, New York! The Empire strikes back!
We will always go for the LINES!
Isner, Stephens to Join NY Empire This Summer
Tennis fans in New York City will have a special treat this summer, as top Americans John Isner and Sloane Stephens will help lead the New York Empire in different matches.
Isner, a former Wimbledon semifinalist and owner of 14 career ATP titles, will open up the team’s campaign when it takes on the San Diego Aviators on Sunday, July 14 at their new home court, The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning, located at 1720 Crotona Avenue in The Bronx, N.Y.
John Isner will help lead the Empire in its season opener on Sunday, July 14. (Photo Credit: Sidney Beal III/Clique Photography)
Stephens, the U.S. Open champion in 2017, joins the squad when it clashes with the Orange Country Breakers on Thursday, July 18.
“New York City holds such a special place in my heart after winning the 2017 U.S. Open here,” said Stephens. “I love the unique and exciting format of World TeamTennis and I cannot wait to come back to NYC this summer and help the Empire get a win in front of the hometown fans.”
New York Empire Head Coach Luke Jensen said, “I could not be more excited to work with Sloane this summer. She is one of the best players in the world and her addition to the roster will no doubt put us in a better position to reach our ultimate goal of lifting the King Trophy at the end of the season.”
Some of the sport’s top stars visiting the Empire include 23-time Grand Slam champion (including doubles) Venus Williams, who will visit the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning on Friday, July 19 when the Empire take on the visiting Washington Kastles. Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, is returning for her eighth season with the Kastles, who are coached by Murphy Jensen, brother of first-year Empire head coach Luke Jensen.
Neil Skupski will once again anchor the doubles play for the New York Empire in 2019. (Photo Credit: Sidney Beal III/Clique Photography)
In addition to Isner and Stephens, the 2019 New York Empire full roster also includes Mardy Fish, Kirsten Flipkens, Neil Skupski, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Ulises Branch.
2019 New York Empire Home Match Schedule
Date/Time Opponent Featured Players
►Sunday, July 14 at 5:00 p.m. San Diego Aviators John Isner (Empire) & Ryan Harrison (Aviators)
►Tuesday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. Vegas Rollers Reilly Opelka (Rollers)
►Thursday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m. Orange County Breakers Sloane Stephens (Empire)
►Friday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. Washington Kastles Venus Williams (Kastles)
►Sunday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. Orlando Storm Feliciano Lopez (Storm)
►Monday, July 29 at 7:00 p.m. Springfield Lasers Mardy Fish (Empire)
►Tuesday, July 30 at 6:30 p.m. Philadelphia Freedoms Mardy Fish (Empire)
For more information, visit NYEmpireTennis.com.