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Monday, September 21, 2009

Woodbridge Added to Australian High Performance; Saba and Bolender Make Verbal Commitments

The news that Todd Woodbridge, who won 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, was joining Tennis Australia as Davis Cup coach and head of men's tennis, isn't exactly news. When it was announced, shortly after Wimbledon, I missed it and didn't see any reference to it in the Australian press until this story by Richard Hinds appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days prior to the start of the U.S. Open.

Steve Wood and Craig Tiley established a complete break with the old system when they took the reins back in 2004, but their approach alienated many of the great Australian players of the past, who felt their experience and hard-won wisdom from years in the upper echelons of the game was being ignored. Woodbridge acknowledges this when he says:

"I know the challenge, and I know I can't create miracles,' Woodbridge says. "I think we've done a really good job over the past four years trying to reorganise the pathway of the sport - the development programs and things, but we didn't have a players' voice and that was becoming an issue.

"That is why someone from my peer group who had the performances to back it up needed to come in and say, 'No, you're wrong in this instance. This is what is going on from the inside of the sport.'"

Although Bernard Tomic was the only Australian boy in the Open junior event, Woodbridge could be found at all his matches, including those at the Sound Shore Club in Port Chester that rainy Saturday. I've heard that junior tennis has been de-emphasized in Australia, with players encouraged to play only ITF mens and womens events once they've reached the age of 16, and there are no separate junior rankings; all players from Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur on down are included in one ranking system. For a complete pdf of the current Australian ranking guidelines, click here. It's interesting, given the free-ranging or commingling aspect of the rankings that there's this restriction:

All athletes must play ‘in age’ at National Championships (12s, 14s, 16s) when these tournaments are played concurrently. Once an athlete wins a National Championship, they can apply to Tennis Australia to play out of age when age group nationals are placed concurrently. This application will be assessed by the National Selection Panel. If national championships are not played concurrently, athletes can play in older age group championships.

I'm not urging the USTA adopt that rule, but it is something to think about. It also is interesting to note that there are four national junior championships in the 12-and-under and 14-and-under age groups, two in the 16-and-under age group and only one in the 18-and-under age group.

Anyway, Woodbridge has done a lot in his first two months, according to the story, and if you are interested in hearing his plans, and the names of the boys he believes may help take the pressure off Bernard Tomic, watch this video from Tennis Australia, filmed right after he was named to the position.

The college commitment announcements for 2010 are beginning to trickle in, and two big ones surfaced today on The Tennis Recruiting Network. Brooke Bolender has verbally committed to Michigan, and Fred Saba has verbally committed to Duke. Saba is the first blue chip to announce on the boys side; for the other blue chip girls' verbals, click here.