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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Annual Post: Why Americans Fail on Clay; Tomic and Rogowska Given French Wild Cards

While I'm immersed in college tennis, those who write about professional tennis gear up for their annual explanations of why Americans fare so poorly on clay. Fox Sports' Matt Cronin taps former Virginia star Brian Vahaly for a nuanced and balanced take on the topic here.

Former UC-Irvine player Victor Lamm has some ideas in this feature on tennisweek.com, which gives a detailed description of the frequently touted French system of player development.

Tennis Australia has taken the opposite tack from the USTA, handing its French Open main draw wild cards to 16-year-old Bernard Tomic and 17-year-old Olivia Rogowska. Craig Tiley, AO tournament director and head of Player Development for Australia, has frequently stated that he prefers using a wild card tournament, but says: "Although we have traditionally held a playoff, with our players competing to 'win' these wildcards, we decided to focus on long-standing youth policy and award these wildcards to the best performing younger players." For the complete story, click here.

Sandra Harwitt attended the USTA's wild card tournament in Boca Raton and filed this story for espn.com, which includes some remarks by Chris Evert on the bright prospects of Madison Keys.


carlos said...

Austin :

Here we go . Let the predictions begin . I'm a fan so , I'm counting on your input . Thanks !

jrpro said...

Great for Tomic. I find this just incredible but was just told that the USTA is not sending a team to either the Jr. French or Jr. Wimbledon, giving only $1,000 grants to anyone who qualies for the main draw. Not sure what that will cover for these kids expenses. Once again the US will be the only federation not with a team there. The ITF arranges for kids from counties with federations with no money to go with an ITF sponsored team, yet the UTSA, the richest federation of them all, is not sending a team for its top juniors. It can’t be a question of $$$ because from what I have observed the USTA throws money around like there is not a recession going on, but then it’s a non-profit with no accountability. I am at a futures in Orange Park, FL and Mike Sell is here with a group of his players who arrived several days earlier even though they are based in Florida, spending $160 a night for a bunch of rooms, meals for the kids etc. when they did not have to arrive until the day before the tournament like everyone else. Was also told when Sell brought a team to the ITF in Carson his players did not eat the FREE tournament food at night like everyone else but were taken out to dinner each night for the week. How much did that cost unnecessarily? I feel bad for those US juniors who will not be getting their federation’s support in Europe. Last year the USTA sent two coaches with three kids. Give me a break. No financial logic. If I had the funds I would pay for a coach to take these kids.

American jr. tennis watcher said...

To add to jrpro's thoughts, there's an apparent inconsistency in the USTA's thinking.

On the one hand, we're told that our players should play ITFs, because they'll ultimately want to compete in the Jr. Grand Slams.

On the other hand, when the players finally achieve an ITF ranking that qualifies them for entry, the USTA refuses to support them.

Are our players being sold a false bill of goods? What is the point of playing all these ITF tournaments, if we're not willing to send our most successful ITF players to the Jr. Grand Slams?

Someone, somewhere in the USTA bureaucracy is doing these kids a terrible disservice.

Austin said...


Check the story below, thats where everyone is making predictions for the tourney.

jrpro said...

To American Jr Tennis etc...

I agree with you. For the USTA not to support our top juniors for the jr. slams is a real slap in the face to all their hard work. The USTA will hide behind its $1,000 grant if you qualify for the main draw, which is peanuts in support, especially if the junior goes with a coach. The grant covers the airfare for one person. Besides, if they are focusing on development, playing the jr slams is an incredible experience. Its not about the $$$ because when the USTA takes a traveling team their coaches act like $$$$ is not a concern.

devilsadvocate said...


Are you aware that an extremely high majority of the juniors going to the French Open Jrs also gets AT LEAST several thousand dollars in grant money from the usta that can be applied to their trip, in addition to their $1,000 dollar grant for being main draw? That money will cover most, if not all of thier expenses.

Also, didn't Mike Sell have some players in qualifying, so he had to be at the tournament early because sign in for qualifying was Thursday?

I'm sure you are also speculating that the US is the only country not taking a team to the French or are you 100% sure EVERY country is taking a team? There will be a usta coach at the french helping out the juniors, just like their will be a usta coach at wimbledon.

I can also guarantee you that his rooms are well below $160 dollars a night, so you need to check where you got your facts from or you need to do a better job negiotating your room rate.

Maybe your issue is lack of communication, so it is possible to pick up the phone and ask.

cardinalfan said...

Klahn has beaten USC's top three guys . And most recently in Ojai . Also , Klahn and Thacher beat Farah and Johnson in dubs. So, my guess, Stanford 4-3 .

jrpro said...

To devils advocate

I thought grant money(at least when I was a junior) was to help with tournament expenses for the entire year. Am I correct in that what you are advocating is that the kids use all, or most of their grant money, to pay to go for the Jr. slams and have nothing, or little leftover for other tournaments for the rest of the year? Also, you said most in the main draw do get additional travel grants that can be used. Are you also saying that some of the top juniors who are good enough to qualify for the main draw of a Jr. slam do not get any USTA travel grants? So those kids are expecetd to come up with a lot of $$$. If that is case then that is wrong and makes no sense because the USTA should support all its top players with those type of results. Yes, I do believe most federations with the financial resources send a team and I would think the USTA would want its players to go as a team to represent the US instead of each player doing its own thing.Was also told that the girls are going as a team and not the boys, is that correct?

devilsadvocate said...


At least now you are asking questions and trying to understand the scenerio instead of blaming without knowing.

After reading your past two blogs, your main point is the lack of money the top players receive, not only for the French but throughout the whole year?

I previously said that most of the players going to the French Open Jrs, which are only some of the best juniors in the country, also have grant money to use for their tournament travel expenses. They can use that money for Paris and other tournaments throughout the year. Apparently grants money differs per player.

It's seems with alot of people in tennis that the glass is always half empty instead being thankful of the assistance they are getting and have gotten. give me and give me more.

It's very tough to draw the line of who is a top player who deserves support and who doesn't, because there will always be that "next player" who got left out arguing and complaining. There will always be people agruing that their way is better or that they got left out, but the bottom line is: if you are good enough you will win, and the players who win get more.

I beleive the women are sending a team to the French Jrs. I'm not sure if they are taking all main draw players in the main draw or just a select few.

jrpro said...

To Devils Advocate

Hey you sound like an insider to me ha ha.

OK you say "It's very tough to draw the line of who is a top player who deserves support and who doesn't"

Well, it should be automatic any junior boy or girl who has had the results to qualify for the main draw of the french should have been awarded a USTA travel grant beyond the token $1000. There is a reason many players dont respect the USTA becuase of its penchant for playing favorites.

the old pro said...

can't speak as to whether any of the above is true or not, but i would note that the beauty of the junior slams and high grade itf's is that if you can get there, the tournament per diems and/or lodging and food allowance and/or on site perks cover most of what's needed to participate so that if the usta does cover the transportation costs to get there, anyone should be able to play if they really want.

Port Washington Authority said...

devils advocate,

Unless you know for certain what the truth of the matter is, you've got no right to say to anyone that "At least now you are asking questions and trying to understand the scenario instead of blaming without knowing." If you really do know, why not just bring forth the necessary information instead of acting like a schmuck.

Simple fact remains. The standard complaint is that US men cannot play on clay. Taking a team of juniors , guys who'll probably end up on tour in the future, to play in Europe gives them an early understanding of playing on clay. They might lose every match but they'll never lose the experience or the understanding of how much work is ahead of them.

Reality check USTA - the French Open and ALL clay court events should be at the top of your list and your number 1 priority. If you aren't making it your main focus then you are failing in your duty.

The Aussies, the Swedes and a host of other countries including, at times, our own have shown that the team environment pushes and inspires the individual. Now we're abandoning it and telling the kids to go do it themselves? That is just insipid management.

Trouble with the USTA is that the people involved have a way too provincial mentality. So long as they're putting up a good front here in the States or in front of their home crowd they dont care whether they're helping American tennis internationally or not.

Richard said...

I have read a few of the usta blogs this year and there have been some teams going to Spain to train on the European red clay for a significant period of time. The usta shift has been to train more on clay.

tennis said...

its $1500 by the way, along with any other grants given by the usta.

Colette Lewis said...

$1500 is for Australia. The USTA website says $1000 for French and Wimbledon player grants.

Tennis Fan said...

Just read an AP Sports article that says "the USTA now spends about $15 million annually to try to groom future top players." Now we all know that the majority of that money goes to Patrick McEnroe and Jose Higueras' salary. Also, they spent all that money to "partner" with Evert's and they (USTA) only has access to 6 courts. Who are they developing with such limited access?

jrpro, I agree with you. The USTA throws money around. And the plan that Patrick talks about in the article, where is it?

jrpro said...

To tennis fan,

$1000 to go to both the french and then $1000 to England is peanuts. The cost for a coach or parent to accompany the player, unless the player goes alone which would be a mistake, is a couple extra thousand for each tournanent. And the free food, lodging ect only covers the number of days the player is in the tournament, so there is the added expense for the days the player is out, plus stringing ($30 a racket), snacks (the exchange rate sucks) etc. The out of pocket costs add up very quickly. As for USTA's $15 MM to groom top players, have not a clue where that is going besides the Boca site and salaries, certianly not in player grants. But clearly in addition to the bloated salaries of Patrick and Jose, you have a staff of overpaid USTA coaches being paid 3 times what is necessary to get a solid coach. It's the quintessentail old boys network.