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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Watson Turns Pro; Courier's "Unstrung" Available on DVD; Looking to Asia for New Tennis Stars

The Times published this story about Heather Watson today, which includes her decision to forego college for professional tennis. It isn't exactly a surprising decision, (anyone have any idea who the last junior girls champion attending college was?) and I had thought she had relinquished her amateur status when she agreed to a sponsorship agreement with Sportingbet.com, but I'm far from an expert on that topic.

Bollettieri's admission that he thought she needed to attend college prior to the US Open win, but has now changed his mind, is interesting. What changed, exactly, between the first round losses at the French and Wimbledon Juniors and her impressive play barely two months later? I'm sure Bollettieri has seen this kind of breakthrough happen many, many more times than I have, and it may just be an Outliers-type phenomena. She'll now get more attention, have more confidence and be surrounded by better players, which will provide great support during her transition to the pros.

This question comes up in an interview Jim Courier did with usopen.org prior to the Open, when he talks about the seven boys featured in his movie "Unstrung," which is now available on DVD. Here's Courier's answer when he was asked if he was surprised by the path taken by any of the players he filmed four years ago:

I looked at Donald Young Jr. and he is a player with great promise still but he has somehow been challenged to translate his experience and the confidence he should have taken from his junior success into pro success. I think he has the tools. I’m not sure what is holding him back. That is something I find interesting because in our film he looks like a can’t miss prospect. His success has been rather limited at the pro level. That is a story we have seen before – that juniors have trouble translating their game to the professional ranks but when they are as successful at such a young age as Donald was it is rare that they do not fulfill that promise, so that is a story I am continuing to follow closely.

Courier then goes on to say he is particularly intrigued by the future of Greg Hirschman, who is currently a junior at Stanford.

The education vs. tennis achievement debate gets more attention in this Wall Street Journal article about Yuki Bhambri (who won the dead rubber against Old Dominion graduate Izak Van Der Merwe of South Africa in India's Davis Cup win today) and the rise of tennis in Asia. Bhambri's parents are going against the grain in allowing their son to pursue tennis as a career path, with the emphasis on education so great in that country, according to the story.

Vijay Armritraj, the Indian champion from the 1970s, said the biggest obstacles for Indians and other Asians is their size. Since they tend to be smaller and slighter on average than people in other parts of the world, they will have trouble advancing in a game where strength and power have become integral to success, Mr. Armritraj said. His culture's emphasis on education over athletics also doesn't help.

"People always ask why there aren't more great atheltes(sic) coming out of India," Mr. Armritraj said. "My answer is, you don't see a lot of great software engineers coming out of Spain."

Somdev Devvarman, who is the country's Davis Cup hero after his come-from-behind victory to clinch the tie today, is trying to have it both ways, with a college degree and a successful professional career. Fellow Cavalier Sanam Singh, a semifinalist at the NCAAs last year, is also on that path, as is Karunuday Singh, who will be attending the University of Illinois in January, according to the article.

And speaking of freshmen, there were some notable results in the rain-plagued Southern Intercollegiate Championships. Vanderbilt freshman Ryan Lipman beat Duke's Reid Carleton in a match tiebreaker, and newcomer Henrique Cunha of Duke defeated top seed JP Smith of Tennessee, also in a match tiebreaker. Tennessee freshman Rhyne Williams won a close two-setter over John Peers of Middle Tennessee State. For match results, see georgiadogs.com.


iluvtennis said...

That win by Devvarman pretty much sums up his entire college career. He has almost single handedly taken India to the world group, won't be long before he is top 100 IMO. I think K Singh will be very good at Illinois, guessing he will play 2 for them by the end of the year.....of course doesn't hurt that they only have 5 guys on their roster.

Amtex said...

Actually there are lots of great software engineers coming out of Spain. They have a nice number of tennis players in the top 200 but that has nothing to do with their education system, or lack thereof.

The kids who show athletic promise are supported, as are the kids who show great academic promise. The two do not have to be either/or. India could also support both.

Markus said...

Well, the sport that is #1 (or 2 or 3 or 4...) in one country is not necessarily that in another. India = cricket and field hockey, plenty of pros in those.

Wright Thinking said...

What's up on the women's college side. Currently 4 perenial top teams have less than full squads. GT, Miami and UGA only have 7 players on their rosters including incoming freshman. Duke only 5. Where did all the players go?

Man in the Moon said...

thanks Collete,
for the link to Courier and Vijay

interesting reading

oldschool said...

Note that Ashwin Kumar, a recent Harvard graduate, won the doubles with Brett Joelson at the Claremont Futures. I know he's American, not Indian, but he is another guy who is proving you can get a great education and be a good player.

Sunil said...

Amtex must never have been to India or read anything about India. So insulting when a person speaks of another country without having the understanding or intelligence to support their comments.

Poverty cripples my country and it is only the rich who can pursue sports such as tennis. Cricket is the one game available to the masses (far more than hockey) and it is there that the average India looks for sporting success. So the rich elite have tennis to themselves (they want a sporting pursuit that removes them from the rest) but that ensures we do not get the best athletes. To say that we can have both sport and education is simply stupid and displays a complete lack of understanding regarding our country.

I hope you know more about tennis than you do about India.

Markus said...

Relax a bit, nobody is insulting anybody; and your comments regarding the elitism of tennis apply to US as well.

Man in the Moon said...

John, Actually and Tired or should I say one in the same.

Everybody writes with a signature- even on a blog either dashes, ---, ...., !!! short 1 word sentences to end a comment, 1 space after a period not 2-- shall we say a style.

All three of you John, Actually and Tired write with the same exact punctuation, style and tempo -- and close with the exact same style -- no need to respond

Well Mr. John, Mr. Actually, and Mr.Tired it is remarkable that the three of you have not only similar styles but exactly the same style.


Even a blind man could see the same prose in the following posts:

John said...

"something....breathe deeply now....ok, ok....it'll be ok.

Are you this much fun at parties too? Topper......
John said...

Man in Moon.....uh,

tired said...

They're getting sorta old. Thanks.

ACTUALLY said...

hey man in the moon, since i obvious.... YOUR CLUELESS

Man in Moon - you are coming across as having skipped your medication. Yikes!

You obviously have a lot of passion for tennis and time on your hands....and really matter....people are still going to read.....just like there are a lot of idiots on the highway isn't going to keep me from taking trips.

ACTUALLY said...

week. and your saying " a couple good wins "... and " basically been injured this whole yYour unbelievable. leave this site.

All three of you John, Actually and Tired write with the same exact punctuation, style and tempo --

Tired and Just Tired said...

Are you implying that all 3 of us are the same people? Cause I sure as hell don't know who the other two people are. Or are you saying that we're all boring since we write in what you call "similar styles?" Enlighten me please.

Man in the Moon said...

just tired,

never, ever said you and the other two were boring --

just that all three of you write with extremely similar, almost exact styles and say the same thing-

that's all -

now can we drop this and go on to tennis

p.s. I really don't dislike you guys --

I try not to take myself to seriously and wish you did the same -- for me and you