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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

College Success at US Open; More on Ailing U.S. Tennis, McHale Prepares for Sharapova; Harrison and Van't Hof Upset Six Seeds in Men's Doubles

I took most of the day off, not from tennis, but from the live streaming on usopen.org, so I could work on my US Open Junior preview for The Tennis Recruiting Network, which will be published Friday.

There were a few interruptions, as there always are, and one of them was a pleasant one. Joshua Rey, whom I worked with at the Orange Bowl two years ago when he was writing the releases for the USTA, was hired to help at usopen.org, and his story "The Road Less Traveled," about the success of college players at this year's Open, is a must-read. He talks to Jesse Witten, Jesse Levine, Benjamin Becker and James Blake about the college option. The most surprising and gratifying aspect of the story? That it's been the Most Popular story on the website all day today. The powerful combination of good writing and alumni, I'm guessing.

The New York Times had Greg Bishop look into the state of men's tennis in the U.S., and he talked with Patrick McEnroe and Justin Gimelstob for this story. Perhaps not surprisingly, I agreed much more with McEnroe than Gimelstob. One paragraph that really bothered me was this:

Gimelstob said that putting players like Buchanan in this tournament does a double disservice, hindering their development and reinforcing the notion that young Americans cannot compete in the Open.

I'm not clear on how Buchanan's development was hindered by getting an up-close view of the world's seventh-ranked player, six years his senior, who did not put together all the elements of his game until he was 22 years old. I don't even understand what that second part means. Ban all wild cards under the age of 21 because they will probably lose? It would be nice if all wild cards could be guaranteed the draw he got as the 1995 Kalamazoo winner, when he beat the No. 65th ranked player David Prinosil, although he did little better than Buchanan against No. 13 Richard Krajicek in the second round.

If I'm missing something there, please let me know. It's possible I'm just too attached to the long wild card history of the Kalamazoo tournament, but there's one thing I'm certain of. The oft-stated goal of getting the best juniors together to compete happens regularly only once a year, and that's at Kalamazoo, solely because of the US Open main draw wild card.

Christina McHale faces Maria Sharapova under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium Thursday, pretty much akin to the Devin Britton - Roger Federer scenario Monday afternoon. For a story on her preparation for the occasion, see this from rivals.com. McHale and Asia Muhammad, the 18s doubles champions, played their first round match today, losing to top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-1.

I did do some scoreboard watching this afternoon, and was surprised to see that the wild card team of Ryan Harrison and Kaes Van't Hof had taken the first set from the No. 6 seeded Polish team of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. They lost the second set in a 12-10 tiebreaker, and squandered a break in the final set, but the 2008 Kalamazoo doubles champion and the 2008 NCAA champion won the final two games to complete the 6-3, 6-7(10), 7-5 upset.

For complete draws, see usopen.org. For additional coverage see College Tennis Examiner.


Emory said...

You're too attached. That's admirable but it does also cloud your judgement when you write about the juniors. You get very protective of them (another admirable thing) but you're also blinded to any valid opinions which seem to slight them.

Gimelstob is correct in one way. Buchanan did not deserve to be in the main draw of the biggest men's tournament in the world based on winning one relatively minor (to the rest of the world) junior tournament. There just isn't any way that winning Kalamazoo, a closed junior event, can ever be justification for entry into the US Open. Maybe if it was open to players from the rest of the world but not as it is now.

We are constantly being told that the tennis world has gotten bigger, so why are we still following a tradition that was only successful when it was small.

And seriously, denigrating Gimelstob's achievements should be beneath you and this blog. Suggesting that he got an easy draw in 1995 is disgusting. Like him or not, he had enough game to beat the #65 in the world and PUSH the #13 to a 4-6, 2-6, 4-6 loss. Buchanan is not, at this time, even remotely in that league.

wc said...

They should make Kalamazoo and San Jose wild cards like the NCAA. Not guaranteed, but possible if the person is somewhat deserving. So if a Kzoo winner played No. 6 on their college team like Buchanan maybe he does not get one.

David said...

Comparing Gimelstob's performance to Buchanan's is disgusting? That speaks to how little you think of Buchanan, which I suppose a person as sensitive as you might find disgusting.

Colette didn't denigrate Gimelstob's achievements; she merely pointed out that you have to account for the level of competition, something he didn't do in his analysis. Assuming that Gimelstob believes that he deserved his wild card, it's a fair point to make. Gimelstob winning ten games against the #13 player isn't much more impressive than Buchanan taking three games off of the #7 player considering that there is usually a considerable difference between the 7th and 13th ranked players.

I also agree with Colette about the flaws in his logic. I don't think that playing such a match is a hindrance to a player's development. To the contrary, I think it can be beneficial. It wouldn't be healthy to consistently compete against players of that caliber, but getting a taste of that level of play is fine.

As for the perception of young Americans that Gimelstob talks about: 1) What country's 18-year-olds are expected to compete with the 7th ranked player in the world? 2) Is not playing young Americans at all really the best way to combat that perception? What message does that send to the world? Maybe it's better than only winning three games, but then you have players like Britton (who easily could have been the Kalamazoo champ) who gain respect with their performances.

I also agree with Colette about how much removing the automatic wild card would harm the tournament (Kalamazoo).

Brent said...

Emory - I completely disagree. It is a great tradition that the junior national champion and the college national champion get a wild card. Was disappointed when they set that aside a couple of times on the college side. To suggest that there is some injustice because Buchanan is not one of the 128 most deserving players in the world is ridiculous. To suggest that this match hindered Buchanan's development is ridiculous.

Colette didn't denigrate Gimelstob's game at all - just said that he didn't have to play the #7 player in the world in his first match on Ashe right out of the gates. And, even if he wouldn't have gotten drilled - it is one match. Buchanan has had no less of a junior career than Gimelstob. They were both earned their right to play in the Dance, and one had a better week than the other.

If Gimelstob's point was that too many juniors try to play up in Futures and Challengers too quickly, I absolutely AGREE with that. Getting blasted in the early rounds of those tourneys versus honing your game in tough battles against your peers cannot be beneficial to anybody other than the special few.

getreal said...

Agree that a main draw US Open WC should not be a guarantee for winning the Zoo. None of the juniors at the Zoo this year have had the results so far to be competitive in a slam first round. Britton got his by winning the NCAA’s which is a lot different. Why not give four WCs to the qualies for the top four at the Zoo (which would include the back-draw winner). I think WCs should be tied to the Zoo, but a standard should also be observed. Giving Jordan Cox a WC into the Open qualies after he lost in the Zoo’s rd of 16 and then tanked the backdraw is ridiculous, and not surprisingly he was not even competitive. The one junior who has had great results so far Ryan Harrison played the qualies.

Rod said...

Why can't the Zoo be used as a feeder for the US Open? If a junior is not good enough to qualify for the main draw of the Open, then they must play the Zoo. So someone like Ryan Harrison who didn't play the Zoo wouldn't have been invited to the Open at all.

Either get in on your achievements or go through the Zoo or you don't go. This protects the Zoo and protects the US Open.

Austin said...

Justin Gimelstob, when commentating the Ginepri match yesterday, after seething the entire game he provided us with this gem when Ginepri choked away the first set:

(screaming in a 12yr old girl voice)"THATS PATHETIC!"

Awkward silence in the booth and for everyone watching ensued.

tennis said...

"If I'm missing something there, please let me know. It's possible I'm just too attached to the long wild card history of the Kalamazoo tournament, but there's one thing I'm certain of. The oft-stated goal of getting the best juniors together to compete happens regularly only once a year, and that's at Kalamazoo, solely because of the US Open main draw wild card."

colette, you could not be more on point. you are one of the only people ive ever heard that shares the same opinion as me. the WC at the zoo is so special because if they took away the WC, nobody would play it. and that would defeat the purpose of getting the best players together. in my opinion if they did a similar sort of thing with WC's at the other supernationals, and ITF's in the US it would be great for the development of the juniors.

Colette, i was wondering if you could give me your opinion on my idea below.

If lets say besides kalamazoo, you give WC's into tournaments such as 50 k's, Nasdaq, Indian wells, cincinatti, in any particular order, to the winners of Easter Bowl ITF, International Springs ITF, Spring Nationals, Clay Courts, Tulsa ITF, and winter supernationals. I cant imagine this being too difficult for the USTA to do this. And it would be another 6 tournaments that would draw the best players in the Country to play and push each other to get better and tougher. i USTA talks about getting the best players together, but if they did this it would actually be done.

id really appreciate some input because it seems like an idea that could realistically work but i want someone elses input. not that the usta would even do it but just wanted to get your opinion.

real WC said...

to WC and Getreal, you cannot have the selectiveness you are talking about because if the USTA does not GUARANTEE that WC, nobody will show up, and turn kalamazoo into winter supernationals with better weather. it will make our supernationals even more of a mockery. the WC needs to be guaranteed.

Texas mom said...

There are some good comments here on both sides, but the larger question of whether the US is producing viable future pros (like Gimelstob certainly was), much less potential grand slam winners (like Agassi) is spoken to too. Gimelstob could play a competitive match at 18, Agassi I think was in the US Open semis at 18 (after being a very good but not dominant junior). I think like Collette and the Tignor column that great players are anomalies - Graf and Becker playing at the same club as juniors is a random freak, not a system. But it does seem that today's leading juniors may not develop into professional journeymen either - this is where better use of the 300 million needs to be made perhaps, long before the giving out of the wildcard for winning the 18s.

Austin said...

Interested to see what the Oudin bashers come up with from todays match.

And how bout Jesse Witten hanging tough right now? Up a break in the 4th trying to finish it off.

bullfrog said...

No Oudin bashing here-- finally, a GREAT MATCH! So fun to watch. Way to go, Melanie!!

justthefacts said...

Regarding Oudin match: "Jon King" where are you now?
Great job Melanie!

justthefacts said...

apologies to "Jon King"..I do see on another blog he did indeed "eat some crow". Understand his "opinion" on womens tennis being boring after the Williams sisters..though I find it refreshing to see such a mover and fighter like Oudin start making inroads. Personally, I wish another Navratilova could appear on tour..serve and volley!!

Colette Lewis said...

I like your wiid card idea, but I'm not sure how much incentive the smaller tournaments' wild cards would be. The boys clays used to award a main draw wild card to the ATP Delray event (it's a qualifying wild card now), and even it couldn't get the best boys to play that tournament.
Many juniors have local ties to tournaments in their sections and based on that, have a good chance to get a qualifying wild card, so it definitely needs to be a main draw spot.
Part of the problem is the disconnect between the junior and pro calendars., and another is the USTA's small number of wild cards under its control. One of the factors considered in sanctioning a major junior tournament is whether the people running it have access to a wild card to a pro event.