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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sweden's Tennis Development Struggles; The top Canadian Prospect; Winning ATP Tournaments as a Teen

With all the talk of the decline in tennis fortunes in the U.S. and Australia (has Great Britain had a pinnacle from which to descend?), the hard times of former powerhouse Sweden haven't received much press. Over at espn.com, Ravi Ubha explores what has gone wrong in the land of Borg, Wilander and Edberg. I've noticed, since I've been covering junior tennis daily the past three or four years, that there are very few Swedes competing internationally at the highest levels. The above photo is of Sandra Roma, who is the only junior, male or female, in the ITF junior Top 100 (she's 62). Jonas Bjorkman and Magnus Norman have some ideas why this has happened.
Bjorkman wasn't about to use Sweden's sparse population (about 9 million) as too big of an excuse, saying "a few good players on and off" should be in the pipeline. He did, however, target the federation.

"We were always telling them a lot of ideas of what we think we should do to get tennis in Sweden back on track," he said. "Unfortunately the ideas never went further than when we spoke."

"We need to get out in schools, we need to inform about tennis, we need to write about tennis, we need to start a tennis community," Norman added. "Tennis has been not as proactive as track & field, ice hockey and soccer in Sweden, so it has lost a lot of interest."

Speaking of ice hockey, Canada now has a new National Training Centre for tennis, with Les Petits As winner Edward Nguyen one of its prize pupils. The Ottawa Citizen, Nguyen's hometown newspaper, spoke with him about his life there, and about his excellent results in Europe.

Tom Perotta of tennis.com explored the history of the youngest winners of ATP events for espn.com, prompted, of course, by Kei Nishikori's victory Sunday in Delray Beach. It's an interesting list, headed by two-time Kalamazoo winner Aaron Krickstein and reaching, 12 players later, to Nishikori. And if any clever headline writers are reading this, his first name is pronounced KAY, so don't waste your time working on puns as if it were KEY.