U.S. Little Mo Championships; Harrison & Bhambri vs. Agassi & Sampras; Williams Update; UAE Turns to Spain for Development
The National Little Mo Championships, for players 8 through 11, finished on Monday. The boys' winners, with age group in parentheses, are: Scott Sculley(8), Perry Gregg(9), Alexander Rushin(10) and Titus Strom(11). Gregg was the only repeat winner; he won the 8-year-old division last year. The girls champions are: Elizabeth Scotty(8), Claire Liu(9), Michaela Gordon(10) and Elizabeth Porter(11).
Murphy Jensen was a guest at the event, held at the Austin Tennis Academy. For his speech to the competitors, see this YouTube clip. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site. The International Little Mo tournament is scheduled for December 15-19 at the Club Med Sandpiper in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.
When I spoke with Ryan Harrison in Tulsa, he was excited about playing in the Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown in Macau, which he has had described to him (he's never been there) as the Las Vegas of Southeast Asia. Harrison and fellow Bollettieri student Yuki Bhambri are part of Sunday's exhibition featuring Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras as the main event. For an interview with Harrison and Bhambri, click here.
Rhyne Williams, who recently began his freshman season with the Tennessee Volunteers, did not play in the All-American qualifying, but he has had a successful start to his collegiate career. The Volunteers' website had this question and answer session with Williams, who will be playing in the Ohio Vally regional qualifying, which begins Thursday.
And in player development news, the United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with the Spanish Federation to assist with training, including sending players to Madrid, according to this article in The National. There's quite a few interesting aspects to this story, the most glaring being Rafael Nadal's omission from the list of the current top Spanish players developed by the federation. Although everyone is quite familiar with the background of Nadal's coaching, with his uncle Toni playing a major role, it is rare for a federation to take no credit for a Grand Slam winner, even if its main contribution was administering tournaments and doling out the occasional wild card.
Both UAE and the Spanish federation are taking pains to downplay expectations from this agreement. The United Arab Emirates's stated goal is to have a player reach the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships (there is no reference to gender in the article; am I naive to assume both men and women will train in Spain?). The head of the Madrid Tennis Federation, Juan Luis Rascon, is not making any promises.
“If we are honest, we could not say that ‘Within six years we will have this many UAE players this high in the world’, because there are other countries with an amazing network of talent. Because Rascon does not appear to include Amelie Mauresmo's two Grand Slam titles, I'm beginning to doubt my assumption that this is a unisex development program, but it does appear that the Spanish are fully aware that it takes more than a system to produce a superstar.
“For example, in France, they have top players, but have not had a grand slam winner for a long time. What we can promise is a lot of hard work – then let’s see what happens.”