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Saturday, August 22, 2009

ESPN.com's Greg Garber Delves Into State of U.S. Tennis

Federer beating Murray, ESPN failing to promote and market; two things that don't happen often, but both did this past week. Federer beat Murray for the first time this year in the Cincinnati semifinals today, and last week Greg Garber wrote an exhaustive, three-part feature on the state of tennis in the U.S.A. which is downright hard to locate on the Worldwide Leader's tennis page. That's a pity, because Garber did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people and covered many different issues facing the sport, and wrote a very readable synopsis of his exploration.

Part I, entitled "What is tennis' place in America today?" focuses on where tennis fits in the vast U.S. sports landscape, what's unique about the sport and its prospects for finding a wider audience.

Part II, entitled "Luring U.S. Kids Gaining Traction?", Garber talks with coaches and former players about the rise of the Eastern European domination, the "hunger" issue and the too comfortable American lifestyle, as well as the source of the love of the game that has kept so many of them still involved in it, long after their playing days are over.

Part III, entitled "U.S. taking a more unified approach", explores the USTA's Player Development changes under Patrick McEnroe, the QuickStart initiative, how these programs are paid for, and some of the cycles that are inevitable in tennis success.

I spoke with Greg about many of these issues last month, when he was researching the story, and although I ended up on the cutting room floor, after reading these pieces I certainly understand why. He reached out to so many people and wove their insights so seamlessly into the narrative that it's easy to overlook what a difficult task that is. After reading this, I'm very encouraged about both the current state of tennis in the U.S. and the sport's future, and so are many, many people for whom tennis is so much more than a job.

17 comments:

Quasimodo said...

Colette, I have been wondering if the USTA trips to Spain may have had a big impact on some of the kids that went. One of your interviews in Kalamazoo touched on some benefits I wouldn't have expected. I believe four of the eight 18s semifinalists went on the February trip. My recollection is that Sloane Stephens might have trained there immediately before winning the Italian Open. If that is the case, they probably need to send more kids over. Perhaps more often. And perhaps sooner. What do you think? And what have you heard?

Colette Lewis said...

I do believe, and judging from my conversations with them, the players the USTA sent to Spain agree, that there were great benefits gained from the training and the exposure to another country's methods and expectations.

If there is a way to expand the program to more players, I definitely think it could have both a long-term and short-term impact.

Tennis Fan said...

Chase Buchanan did not go to Spain, so how does the Spain theory apply to him? Also, he is no longer at the USTA Boca headquarters.

Come On said...

Does anyone really believe 3 or 4 weeks of trainig in Spain helped those kids. If so, what does that say about the way we do things here with the U.S.T.A.

Jerry said...

To Tennis Fan and Colette:
BTW, who is at Boca headquarters now? The announcement was scheduled for June 22, then after hardcourts, then...

Colette Lewis said...

@Jerry
Still waiting....

using resources said...

TennisFan

Chase did go to Spain. He was there for 8 days of training; had a reoccuring injury and then flew home.

TennisOne

3 or 4 weeks of training can make a big difference. For the most part, training on european slow red clay is alot different than the green clay or a slow hard court in the States. It was a training and learning experience on the red clay, it wasn't because training is bad in the states.

tennis said...

tennisfan needs to check his facts before spouting his mouth

Tennis Fan said...

Tennis

My mistake regarding Chase, however he was not there the whole time, which turned out to be a blessing for him. Are you telling me that those couple of days made such a difference and that is why he won Kalamazoo? Get real.

For all of you folks that feel that Spain's way of training is the end all, you may want to take a look at the longevity of the Spanish player and compare that to the longevity of the American player. How old was Agassi, Connors when they retired? Even Pete? Now look at Rafa and the problems he is having. If they US only wants short term champions, then Spain is the way to go.

Austin said...

Take out Nadal and Spain isnt that impressive in majors outside the French Open.

Australian Open: 0 champions, 3 finalists, none since 1997

Wimbledon: 1 champion, 0 finalists, none since 1966

US Open: 2 champions(same player), 1 finalists, none since 2003

tennis said...

TENNISFAN,

i didnt say it helped him, im simply saying he went to spain, WHICH IS WHAT I SAID, and im saying you dont know what youre talking about.

also, look how old MOYA was when he was still playing?? the only reason nadal is having problems is because hes off the steroids

Mac Attack said...

Rafa is shrinking in front of my eyes. The ATP must be seriously thinking about allowing Rafa to continue to use his pharmaceutical little helpers in order to continue to help drive the popularity of the game. At this rate Christain Harrison may actually kick sand in Rafa's face!

Tennis Fan said...

Tennis,

You may want to look at Austin's comments as it sounds like you don't know what you are talking about.

new game said...

Austin

Since you are doing stats: can you please list all the spanish players inside the top 50 since 1996 and then list all the americans inside the top 50 and see which country produces the most players. Thanks

No one said the spanish system is the "end all" but the tennis game is SO DIFFERENT in 1996 and even in 2003: with string, court speed, technology, game styles etc that it's tough to compare which could be why the american men have not won anything in a very long time.

Real Tennis Fan said...

TennisFan

No one said anything about because Chase went to Spain that that was the reason why he won Kalamazoo. Take it easy.

Chase won a Future event long before Kalamazoo or the Spain trip. Chase is a damn good player who maybe had a bad two month stretch of tennis, which everyone has. Chase won Kalamazoo because he was the best player there. Chase won Kalamazoo because he has been training hard and played better than everyone else.

maybe said...

To all the people trying to prove that Spain isn't the best country for producing top 50 players, etc--I don't think that needs proving. However, their training methods are possibly what our boys and girls here in the US needed to incorporate with their own training to produce a top 50 player. I don't really think their short training period over there had a direct impact on their results at the Zoo, but I bet it certainly helped them in their process of developing their game and learning about what their game.

Tennis Fan said...

Real Tennis Fan,

I totally agree that Chase won because he is a "damn good player". I never questioned his ability. Where did the majority of his training take place?

Cross training is good for any sport, but saying that one method of training (Spanish) is better than another (USA) is reaching. The greatness of the Spanish methodology was initially conveyed to the tennis world by Patrick last year and supported by Jose.

It seems to me that the USTA needs to realize that there is no magic bullet. There are peaks and valleys. You also need to look at the big picture - tennis is a very expensive sport and there are a lot of other sports that are more affordable for parents especially in the current economic environment.