The fact that the USTA Men's and Women's Opens, held at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center every year, are played between Christmas and New Year's is no excuse for me to forget about them completely. It's a gold ball tournament, and this year it must have been particularly exciting, with the opening of the new indoor facility. (For more on the new space, Tennis Week's Richard Pagliaro provided this account).
Julia Cohen was the top seed and defending champion, but she lost in the semifinals, and 15-year-old Ester Goldfeld captured the title. Wake Forest senior Cory Parr did repeat as the men's champion, and Parr, the top seed, also took the doubles title too, with Craig Schwartz, who had won the doubles gold with another partner in 2007. For all the results, see the TennisLink site.
Matt Cronin of tennisreporters.net, Inside Tennis and Fox Sports, is, like our frequent commenter Austin, dismayed by the current state of men's tennis in the U.S. As Austin mentions in a comment on yesterday's post, the 1986 birth year, which includes Phillip Simmonds, Scoville Jenkins, Brendan Evans, Scott Oudsema, Nikita Kryvonos (and Alex Kuznetsov, who is actually a 1987 but is considered part of that group, all of whom bypassed college) hasn't fulfilled expectations at the pro level, given their excellent junior results. Cronin says, "U.S. Player Development is now stuck with arguably the least promising generation of young pros in 40 plus years of the Open Era."
Cronin goes on:
Blake has seen plenty of hotshot youngsters arrive in the past year from foreign soils — among them seventh ranked Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, No. 20 Marin Cilic of Croatia and the highly talented Latvian teen (sic, Gulbis is 20), Ernests Gulbis. Two of those kids, Del Porto and Gulbis, are playing San Jose this week and both have the potential to make serious noise all year long.
But when true up-and-comers are discussed in the hallways of the major tournaments, it's those names that are the ones that come first to the lips. Outside of a rare mention of Querrey, no young American name is shouted down the tunnels.
"Everyone of them is enormous," Blake said. "They already look like men and developing early will give you an advantage to compete at this level. At 18 or 19, if you put me against Del Potro or Gulbis, you would have laughed. I was 150 pounds. It wouldn't have been fair. It took me longer and maybe will take some of our guys longer."
Taylor Dent then goes on to stick up for Michael McClune, and Cronin concedes that the older Americans are "pretty supportive of their peers, so it's no surprise that they aren't incredibly disturbed by the fact that of the top 10 U.S. guys, only two are under the age of 26. They are getting used to a brave new world of tennis where the top four men are a Spaniard, Swiss, Serbian (Novak Djokovic) and Scot (Andy Murray)."
I would argue, as I always do, that "player development" has very little to do with the ascendancy of those four. Am I wrong?
For the complete Cronin story, click here.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009