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Thursday, June 4, 2009

May Aces; Stephens Reaches French Junior Semis; Nadal Launches Tennis Academy in India, McEnroe in NY?

My feature this week for The Tennis Recruiting Network is the May Aces--12 players who made news last month with outstanding performances. One of them is Italian Open champion Sloane Stephens, who defeated No. 11 seed Silvia Njiric of Croatia 6-2, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals at the French Open Juniors. With the loss of the three remaining U.S. doubles teams, Stephens, a 15th seeded qualifier, is the last American junior competing in Paris. She will be first on Court 2 on Friday, facing France's Kristina Mladenovic, the ninth seed, in the semifinals. Knowing both girls' games, I think Stephens has a great chance to reach the final, but please don't ridicule me if she ends up losing. I think some of those commenting here have been less than welcoming to those who enjoy assessing draws and predicting matches. I certainly appreciate anyone who goes on record, although I've pretty much retired from doing that myself after I picked Grigor Dimitrov to win the Wimbledon Juniors, and he did. I have no clue who will win the French on the boys side, or even who to consider a favorite now. One of the semifinalists, unseeded Daniel Berta of Sweden, lost his first match at both the Italian Open and in Belgium last week, but maybe in Paris he's taking pointers and inspiration from Robin Soderling. For complete results and draws, see rolandgarros.com.

The New York Times has expanded its US Open blog, and there have been regular updates from Paris. John Martin has done a couple of pieces on Tennys Sandgren (the most recent one is here) and Geoff Macdonald, head coach of the Vanderbilt women, has also been a regular contributor. His predictions of the men's semifinals are here.

The news that the Rafael Nadal Foundation will be starting a tennis academy in India has been widely reported today, but another possible superstar attaching his name to a USTA Training Center in New York hasn't seemed to generate much of a reaction. The New York Times ran this piece, entitled "McEnroe Wants Academy to Revive Tennis in New York," refers to John, not Patrick. John expresses his dismay with USTA committees and politics, but I think it's Patrick who may be voicing the reservations of many when he says:

“There’s no doubt that John will help discover new talent and allow kids to reach their potential, but is he going to be a guy who shows up at 8 a.m. and works with the kids until 8 p.m.? That remains to be seen. Running a great academy is a day-to-day operation, and you have to surround yourself with a great team of coaches who work with kids every single day.”

Perhaps consulting, like Tracy Austin is doing at the West Coast Training Center in Carson, would be a more realistic goal for John.


derek said...

Does anyone know who has been selected for the USTA summer collegiate team?

Colette Lewis said...

I understand the teams will be announced Friday.

seten said...

Fwiw: The top 6 Americans in the ITA rankings automatically make it

TechGirl said...

Derek and Colette,

I was told that Amanda McDowell would be travelling with the USTA summer collegiate team. I don't know if that means she's an unofficial member (paying for herself, etc) because her ranking wasn't high this year or if she's part of the team.

Also, Colette, you said you're not going to be doing any more predicting but I wondered what you thought about this. Earlier this year I was told by a couple of coaches who work with international juniors that the 2009 crop of juniors was an extremely weak one. They felt that there wasn't anyone special like the Radwanska sisters, Donald Young, Wozniaki, Cirstea, Pavlyuchenkova, Cilic, Chardy, Azarenka, Szavay, Murray, Kraijeck or Cibulkova

What are your thoughts?

Colette Lewis said...

I'm not sure what the "2009 crop" means. I don't think the fields have been particularly strong in the two majors so far, but there are great juniors playing them who will be great pros. There is certainly someone "special" among them (btw, nobody thought that the Radwanskas, Cibulkova or Cirstea was a "can't miss" when they were juniors), I just don't know who it (or they) are. But surely they are not saying that Tomic is unlikely to succeed on the pro level? He's already won a challenger and he's 16.

bullfrog said...

I interpret "crop" to mean the Top 10 ITF juniors. For example, the 2005 crop was:

1-Vika Azarenka (BLR)
2-Agnes Szavay (HUN)
3-Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
4-Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
5-Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
6-Raluca Olaru (ROM)
7-Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM)
8-Alexa Glatch (USA)
9-Yung-Jan Chan (TPE)
10-Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM)

Great group that pushed each other and obviously a lot of top pro players came from this crop!

It is very rare any more that anyone emerges as a top pro without being Top 10 in ITF juniors. USTA ranking is a good start, but means little anymore.

bullfrog said...

For the sake of completeness, here is the 2006 "Crop". And yes, Cirstea, U. Radwanska, and Pavlyuchenkova were on it.

1-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
2-Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
3-Ksenia Milevskaya (BLR)
4-Ayumi Morita (JPN)
5-Sharon Fichman (CAN)
6-Kristina Antoniychuk (UKR)
7-Julia Cohen (USA)
8-Urszula Radwanska (POL)
9-Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea (ROM)
10-Nikola Hofmanova (AUT)

bullfrog said...

I certainly agree that 2008 and 2009 crops of ITF juniors are much weaker. Inconsistent participation by top juniors and inconsistent results by most.

Stanford93 said...

Crop is an incredibly common expression in sports and refers to a group of players progressing through the ranks, typically juniors but can be older if they're moving from a lower grade to a higher grade of competition.

As in, baseball has a 'Farm System' and the players coming into it or graduating from it in one year are the new 'crop'.

It's such a widely used expression I don't know why a sport journalist wouldn't know it.

Colette Lewis said...

@Stanford 93:

I understand the expression, but not how it is being used in this context. Does it include both the 15-year-olds and the 18-year-olds when we're talking about junior tennis? Is, for example, Ryan Harrison, who is 17, a part of this crop? Is his brother Christian, who is 15? Neither played the Australian or the French.

Austin said...

We havent turned out a top pro in 9 years, NINE YEARS!!!!!!!! This is pathetic. Not since Andy Roddick have we had someone really break through. If you want to count Robby Ginepri be my guest, but he was 8yrs ago, so not much better.

Sam Querrey is slowly fading into mediocrity. The other guys who came up with him are all Top 5, 10 or 20, while he has slid out of the Top50.

The more I look into it and see the true numbers the worse it looks.

Oh yeah, and its been 7yrs since an American not named Roddick or Agassi made a grand slam final.

bullfrog said...

Age is irrelevant when talking about the crop. The only determinant is if they are performing and rising through the ranks.

Too bad for the Harrisons that neither played the Australian or the French...maybe good reasons for these two not participating, but like many Americans these days, they missed out on a very special and important developmental experience which puts them at a disadvantage to others who got that experience.

whathappened said...

I agree with Austin about Sam Querrey . Ever since he split with Doyle , his results are mediocre.

tennis said...

ryan harrison played the french, wimbledon, and the us open last year. he has moved on to the pros, good enough. and christian will play the us open again this year.

Chris Tucker said...

John McEnroe in NY???

That is sooo calling the kettle black from Patrick to his brother John, after he took over the managers position at the USTA player development and then only works 10 days out of the month for the USTA.

This after John announced he would like to head up the training centre in NY.
Patrick is right of course...he(John) would not be there every day...but neither is Patrick!

And then to have our director of coaching only stay in Palm Springs is pathetic.

They claim they took this job for the passion of the sport and to improve USA tennis....
Hah...who needs that kind of passion and commitment!!!
We need people who want to do this as a profession, not a hobby!

Chris Tucker