As he was driving up and down the stretch of 30A, looking at different resorts and admiring the beautiful homes, Alys Beach appeared. The butteries, the beautiful landscape, the stark white buildings—the immaculate beauty. He immediately turned into the town and began searching for the tennis courts. The beautiful red clay courts reminded him of Paris in the springtime. He was taken back to his time at Roland Garros, where he competed in the French Open nine times. It was then when he knew that Alys would be his home.
When T.J. Middleton, a Wimbledon champion and acclaimed coach, found that Alys had no tennis program, he began to figure out how to start one. T.J. and his wife, Courtenay, have a young daughter named Lyla, who they wanted to raise on the courts. “Leaving the courts to be at the beach in one minute couldn’t be beat,” T.J. says.
When the opportunity to shape the Alys Beach tennis program arose, they packed their bags. The famously outgoing coach says his philosophy meshes well with the unique, one-onone experience that homeowners and guests crave at Alys Beach. “I’m not a ‘this is your hour and then it’s over’ kind of guy,” T.J. says. “I never want to fit anybody into a box.”
As far as coaching style goes, T.J. says he works to figure out each client’s strengths, limitations, and abilities. “There are certain fundamentals you stick to, but understanding who you’re dealing with and how to customize their tennis experience—that’s what I like to do,” he says.
The opportunity to train with Middleton would be enough for most of his clients. He is, after all, a guy who started his career hitting tennis balls against a wall while his parents played golf, moved to winning a national championship with the University of Georgia’s team in 1987, competed in fifteen Wimbledons, and won a championship in 2004 with David Wheaton.
But T.J. says he wants more than that. “I’m not just interested in getting them on and off the court,” he says. “This is a relationship we’re building.”