Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Awards offer pathway to the top for rising stars

Kevin Palmer
Peyton Stearns
Peyton Stearns

Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald are among the big names who have benefited from the Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Awards and now two more rising stars of tennis are hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Peyton Stearns and Andrew Fenty are the 2023 recipients of the $100,000 player grants that are initially started by technology entrepreneur and tennis lover Mark Hurd and Oracle.

The Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Awards are made possible by a gift from the Hurd family and are awarded annually to assist young American players transitioning from college to elite international competition.

Launching a tennis career is highly expensive, with talent alone not enough to give players a chance to reach the top.

Elite coaches and travel costs are just two of the factors that need to be overcome for players to shine, so the Universal Tennis Foundation has given college tennis stars Stearns and Fenty a real chance to make their mark on professional tours.

Speaking at the Hurd Awards ceremony during the BNP Paribas Open event, world No 55 Mackenzie McDonald said being the recipient of the Hurd Award was a big moment in his career.

“The day I got called up here to receive that award it was a big weight off my shoulders in a way,” said McDonald. “It was super rewarding to have some people that really believed in me and can get behind me and help push forward the start of my career.”

Meanwhile, 2022 Australian Open finalist Collins suggested her Hurd Award in 2017 was pivotal to her success in the game.

“It was life-changing for me,” Collins said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have the career that I’ve had without Paula and Mark (Hurd’s) support.”

Peyton Stearns (UTR Rating 12.09) turned pro last summer after two seasons at the University of Texas and is currently ranked No 116 in singles & No 197 in doubles on WTA Tour.

The 21-year-old Ohio native led the Longhorns to the 2021 and 2022 NCAA Team Championships title and became the first player in Texas program history to win the NCAA Individual Singles title last year.

The three-time All-American was also named the 2022 Honda Award winner and finished the year ranked No.1 in the college rankings.

She has won two doubles and four ITF singles titles, including her biggest singles title earlier this year at an ITF W60K in Rome, Georgia.

Already competing on the WTA Tour, she reached the semi-finals at the WTA 250 in Midland last year and appeared in the quarterfinals of the WTA 250 in Austin at the start of March.

By way of a wild card, Stearns won her first main draw match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells earlier this month.

“I was super excited to hear that I was the 2023 Hurd Award winner,” Stearns said. “My first thought was I can do something, I can get a physio. I can get a team around me which is huge and get a team that cares for what I’m doing on court and off.”

Fenty (UTR 13.85) is in his fifth season at the University of Michigan and has spent years inside of the Top 10 in the college rankings in both singles and doubles, achieving his highest college ranking of No. 6 in singles and No. 2 in doubles.

The two-time All-American is the first Wolverine to reach 100 wins in doubles and is the winningest player in Michigan history. He grew up playing at the JTCC in Maryland, the same facility where Frances Tiafoe emerged from.

Poised to begin his professional career this summer, the 23-year-old has been ranked as high as No 1,012 singles & No 790 doubles on the ATP Tour.

“I was shocked, I was going crazy,” Fenty said, about hearing he won the 2023 Hurd Award. “This is life changing… I’ve got no words… I’m just soaking it all in.”

“I would love to thank Paula Hurd and the Universal Tennis Foundation,” he said. “This is something that will change my life and I’m just super honored to have this opportunity and I just want to do my best.”

The Universal Tennis Foundation’s mission is to enrich lives through increased education and knowledge of tennis and to make the sport inclusive and accessible to everyone.

The Foundation will cultivate programs that support youth and wheelchair tennis, bring tennis to underserved individuals and communities, and increase access to the sport by promoting its health and social benefits while maximizing the athletic potential of talent.

The Universal Tennis Foundation believes in a “pay it forward” culture, and the recipients of the Hurd Awards will serve as role models in the greater tennis community.

The awards have been managed and administered by the recently established Universal Tennis Foundation as part of the company’s continuing efforts to transform and innovate the game of tennis while making it more accessible to all.

The Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Awards Council, who have evaluated applications and recipients, include Paula Hurd, Lindsay Davenport, Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Peggy Michel, Todd Martin, Gordon Uehling, and Stephen Amritraj.

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