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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

College Tennis in Europe Gets a Boost; USTA Announces Indianapolis Regional Training Center; USC Men Holding Ring Ceremony Sat.

One of the byproducts of the huge global surge in tennis interest in the past 20 years, primarily attributed to the sport regaining Olympic status, is an increasing number of international players competing on teams in U.S. colleges and universities. The college sports infrastructure in this country provides a unique opportunity for student athletes to continue to compete at a high level, while advancing their education. There are those in Europe who are trying to change that however, by creating similar opportunities for students in their own countries.

Neil Harman of the Times explains in his weekly Net Post column the vision of Euan McGinn and Jamie Pilkington, who have established the European Collegiate Tennis Association. Speaking of the British doubles team of Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming, Harman writes:

There is more than a single way to skin a tennis-playing cat; not everyone leaps from the junior to senior ranks in a single bound, there are so many potential pitfalls along the way, for every Andy Murray and Roger Federer there are a hundred Flemings and Skupskis. Which is why a new venture, designed to enhance competition at university level in Europe deserves a wider degree of support and interest than it has yet received.

Euan McGinn, Fleming's coach, is one of the masterminds behind the European Collegiate System, having been a graduate of the University of Arkansas himself. The aims of are very straightforward and uncluttered - to govern the game of tennis at the university level in Europe; to help provide the opportunity for university students to enjoy their favourite sport and to experience new cultures while in an educational environment.

McGinn and Pilkington were in Tulsa for the NCAAs back in 2008, and I spoke with both briefly about their dream of someday hosting a similar event in Europe. They were in Tulsa to speak with USTA and ITA officials, who have met with them regularly since, and if a sponsor is found, the Ryder Cup-like event mentioned in the story could become a reality. (This is not related to the Master U International University Challenge of Tennis that the United States competed in last December.)

Should the ECTA succeed in emulating the U.S. system, the obvious result would be more players staying nearer their homes to compete, where they wouldn't have the same daunting language and culture obstacles. The level of tennis played here would decline, as would the diversity, but looking at it from the global perspective, another avenue can only help the sport in the long run. And with the current dissatisfaction with the LTA's progress in Great Britain, brought to a head this past weekend with the relegation of the Davis Cup team to the third tier, other options are certainly going to get some attention.

The USTA today announced that the Indianapolis Tennis Center has been named a Regional Training Center, and will be the main site in the Midwest, with the three Chicago facilities named earlier also part of the Midwest network.

I also wanted to mention that although there hasn't been much information released about the specifics yet, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will serve as a National Training Center, similar to Boca Raton and Carson, with programs expected to begin later this fall.

As usual, I'm having difficulty keeping up with the college results during this hectic fall tournament season, and if you can find the results, which isn't easy, it's hard to tell who is playing in the top flights and which are the major tournaments of interest. I usually follow the Southern Intercollegiate tournament closely, because the results are easy to find and it attracts top programs, but this year the heavy rains in the area caused all sorts of problems, with walkovers outnumbering matches played. Georgia's Javier Garrapiz and Georgia Tech's Guillermo Gomez were declared co-champions, but if you want to see just how muddled the tournament was, go to georgiadogs.com.

Granger Huntress of the Texas College Tennis blog has his wrap-up on the events featuring players of interest from that state. I can only say that I wish every state had a similar blog.

The University of Southern California men's team will receive their National Championship rings in a ceremony on Saturday, according to this release on their website.


MacAttack said...

Great Idea for Euro College tennis. I think the greatest obstacle for mens tennis in the us is the complete invasion of non us players. With limited scholarships being the first hurdle and then continued reduction with non us players the informed parent of a athletic male child that was pursuing a athletic scholarship would be pushed into Football/Basketball/Baseball. 4 scholarships per team is criminal in my opinion and then divide that by 25% non us...well u get the point. Also from a fundraising and alumni point of view what are you really accomplishing by bringing non us players? Luckily I have 2 daughters and girls teams have 8 scholarships to play with. Also maybe the USTA should start to use the US Open record funds to sponsor teams and additional scholarships on the mens side???