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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

USTA Announces Women's US Open Wild Cards; McDowell, Brengle Settle for Qualifying WCs

Although I haven't received a release, apparently the USTA has announced the women's wild cards for the U.S. Open. I'm frankly surprised by some of the selections. I expected Ahsha Rolle, who is ranked in the 130s and reached the third round last year and Melanie Oudin, and of course, Gail Brodsky, who earned hers with a win in Berkeley. But Berkeley runner-up Coco Vandeweghe and Asia Muhammad are surprises, as is Jamea Jackson, who is ranked in the 400s. This article implies that Rolle and Jackson are being rewarded for Fed Cup duty in the past. With the two reciprocal Grand Slam trades with France and Australia, that's all that are available, which means that NCAA champion Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech will have to get through qualifying to reach the main draw.

Last week, I was part of a small news conference with General Manager of USTA Elite Player Development Patrick McEnroe, who was in Kalamazoo for two days observing play. During the Q and A, he couldn't have been more emphatic about the importance of college tennis as a development step. Pam Shebest of the Kalamazoo Gazette wrote this story about his remarks, which seemed especially appropriate when Texas A & M's Austin Krajicek won the 18s title Sunday.

Passing over a U.S.-born and trained NCAA champion seems to send the opposite message, and it's not as if McDowell hasn't played well this summer; she won the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in St. Joseph, Mo. as a qualifier earlier this month.

Madison Brengle was eligible to play in California (as was Oudin) and did not enter; instead she played Vancouver, where she beat No. 1 seed and No. 154 ranked Sunitha Rao in the first round before falling in the semifinals to 190th ranked Julie Coin in a third set tiebreaker.

In addition to McDowell and Brengle, the other qualifying wild cards went to:
Kristie Ahn, Julia Boserup, Kimberly Couts, reigning US Open girls' singles champion Kristina Kucova, Christina McHale, Shenay Perry and Sloane Stephens. Again no consideration for those with college backgrounds, with Alexis Gordon (364), Alexis Prousis (352) and Amanda Fink (488) on the outside looking in.

As the comments on the US Open Junior wild card possibilities demonstrate, no one is ever entirely happy with the wild card selections; nor do I think any two people are likely to come up with the same list. But there are undoubtedly themes to be recognized, and sadly, as far as I'm concerned, this year's theme is anti-college.

18 comments:

tennis-shock-and-awe said...

Is it me or does the fact that Gail Brodsky beat Coco in the finals yet Coco still gets a wildcard really suck????

Colette Lewis said...

Can anyone remember if this has happened before? I don't think any Kalamazoo 18s finalist has ever been given a main draw wild card.

ewa4sc said...

15 year old Sloan Stephens crushed McDowell 6-1, 6-1 one month after she won the NCAA's. I know McDowell went on to qualify and win a $10,000 later on in the summer but how does that happen? And maybe it had some weight on the decision to give her a qualifying wild card instead. I'm just saying!

wtf said...

Can someone please tell me why Asia was picked for a U.S. Open Main Draw wild card? She had a poor showing in Berkeley, and yet, still gets a wild card. I just don't get it.

I understand Coco a bit, she had a good tournament, but still. Isn't that the reason why the Hard Courts tournament is held? So that ONE person can get the wild card spot that all the players are playing for?

And why didn't the USTA give Mallory Cecil a wildcard? She had a great tournament in Berkeley, and has won two 10k's this year. In Berkeley, she had tough losses to both Vandeweghe and Ahn, both who received wildcards.

Any ideas? I really am a bit shocked right now.

itsmoreartthanscience said...

i don't know coco, but i have seen her play. she has a really big game (rare for our girls) and an awful lot of upside. i'm glad to see the usta clearly taking both age-adjusted results and potential into account with some of these picks. i would much rather seen them give the wild cards to girls who might have top-20 potential, than to give them to older players who have no significant upside to their games.

ewa4sc said...

Also, Jamea Jackson was a former top 50 player as little as 20 months ago but got injured, had hip surgery, and has been coming back this year. She qualified and got to the semi-finals of a $75,000 in April and she just beat two American women in the qualys of the Canadian Open a couple of weeks ago so you shouldn't be that surprised Colette just because she's in the 400s right now.

Lucy said...

CoCo did not receive her MD WC based on her performance in Berkeley. I think her WC has a whole lot to do with her signing a 1 million dollar contract with IMG. As ewa4sc pointed out, Sloane Stephens, a 15 year old, crushed McDowell 1 and 1. Colette, I think you make a good point about how the whole WC system is almost anti-college, but at the same time the girls who are receiving the WC over the NCAA girls, are more deserving based on the pure fact that they are all better players (as shown by Stephens def. McDowell). However, I wish they would reinstate the WC for the NCCA winner. But besides that WC, all the younger girls who received WCs (Gail, Oudin, CoCo, Asia etc.) have a much better shot at doing well in the MD than McDowell does.

Vincent Chase said...

am I the only one who thinks Asia and Coco were no brainers?

nadalforgold said...

Sloane has been involved off and on within USTA High Performance, she is young, and she is a minority. All of these factors did not hurt her in the USTA's decision. Fact: she is a very good player with a promising future. Fact: my opinion on her selection cannot be discounted, and her victory over Mcdowell cemented the USTA's decision.

McLovin said...

Well the USTA has always had a penchant for giving young players wild cards, particularly for the girls. They consider you a has been at 18 if you hadn't already turned pro. If you were actually attending college, then they would give you no chance at succeeding in the upper echelons of the game. I don't necessarily agree with their philosophy but it is evident in their actions. Their approach to the boys is similar but not as extreme.

frank said...

Does any of this come as a surprise? I doubt that Pat Mcenroe will have any impact on the future of anyone coming from the US. I'm so sick of the system and its nepotism. Ten years from now the same comments will be written on this blog.

Colette Lewis said...

I've received some thoughtful and interesting comments on this topic, but since they are anonymous, they will not be published. Please remember that you must select "Name/URL" to post a comment.

steven s said...

"give the wild cards to players with top 20 potential" Geez, is this not just the USTA's (and perhaps now Nick B chiming in) guessing game? Maybe if the USTA could adjust their death sentence mentality, more Younes El Aynaoui's or Julie Ditty's could come through. Instead we have all of our juniors and their parents believing that if you dont turn PRO at very early ages, you have no shot at all, at the very least, no interest from the USTA (unless a Sam Querrey comes through and they plop him on their junior development website).

Parents and coaches should attempt to erase any negative vibes from kids who want to be PRO's, but perhaps are late developers. Ignore the lovely USTA doctrine, and do not resign yourself to what they "think" your outcome will be.

And to juniors who have been abandoned by the USTA because of not fulfilling this early rise that they want, this goes for you as well.

ewa4sc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

wtf,

It's absolutely no coincidence that Asia Muhammad got a wildcard and did her training at Andre Agassi's Las Vegas Academy. The USTA has always been about who you know, instead of what you've done.

McDowell deserved a wildcard and anyone who thinks she didn't get one because of ONE loss to Sloane Stephens knows absolutely nothing about tennis. I mean, Gabby Paz beat Sloan 2 and 1 at Indian Harbour then lost to her at Sumter. One match means nothing.

The real truth is that Sloane ticks more boxes (age and ethnicity) for the USTA than McDowell (ncaa winner) but ability isn't one of them.

the Facts said...

Gibbs beat Mcdowell twice as well

frogger said...

I think it's a shame that Audra Cohen was within a few spots of qualifying and wasn't given a qualifying wildcard. Terrible message for girls who decide to go to college and mature before turning pro.

frogger said...

Also, what about Mallory Cecil for a qualifying wildcard? Beat Asia 6-3, 6-0 in Hardcourts! Today, she bet Sara Errani at New Haven who is #47 in world...as well as Alexa Glatch. (Alexa is obviously playing well since she got into the US Open qualies on her own merit and also beat two top 100 players in the last few weeks at Cincinnati and New Haven). Obviously, the USTA has no freaking clue what they are doing.