James Blake, who will be playing Roger Federer in less than an hour, doesn't even need to say anything. His ATP Top Ten presence would be enough in itself to show that college can be a precursor to a successful pro career.
But after his win over Chela two nights ago, he was asked specifically about the issue, and, Blake being Blake, gave a sensible and thoughtful answer.
I think going to college, you maximize your opportunities if you're going there. If you dominate in college, you've proven at another level that you can succeed. It's a quicker jump from college to the pros, although it's still a huge jump. And also if you're worried about contracts and things, they're still going to be there if you dominate at college. If you don't, the worst thing that happens is you're getting a college education and most of them are getting it for free because they're getting scholarships, and you're having a great time. So I don't really see that much of a down side.
I think if you're going to make it in the pros, you have to have an inner drive, you have to be able to make it on your own, and you're going to do that if you went to college. I proved that. I went to a college that wasn't really a tennis powerhouse, and I worked harder than all the guys there basically. I knew I needed to do that to get to this level. If you're willing to do that, I don't see anything wrong with going to college and enjoying it.
The reporter who asked the question (and if anyone knows who it was, I'd love to hear it) didn't seem convinced, and there were some interesting followup questions, but Blake held his ground. And now he speaks with much more authority. For the complete transcript (scroll to the bottom for the college questions and answers), click here.
According to this entry in Charlie Bricker's blog, which is mostly about Swiss junior Robin Roshardt, Nick Bollettieri told the Luxilon Cup participants the same thing. Could the "conventional wisdom" Bricker cites be changing?
Then last night I read this feature story about Ahsha Rolle, who at 21, would be a junior in college had she not chosen to go the professional route instead. The in-depth descriptions of the financial sacrifices her parents have made and the costs of playing at the various levels-- juniors, pro circuit, WTA--are sobering. I don't know Ahsha Rolle, nor have I ever seen her play. But this story convinced me even more that James Blake is right. Go to college.