Sunday, November 15, 2009

McPhillips, Kontinen Win Grade 4 at Evert's; Orange Bowl Acceptances; Translating Junior Success to Pros--Is Australia Failing?

Fifteen-year-old Kyle McPhillips won her second consecutive ITF today, defeating No. 7 seed Caitlyn Williams 6-2, 6-0 at the ITF Grade 4 tournament at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton. She and Chanelle Van Nguyen, the fifth seeds, also won the doubles title, defeating sixth seeds Mary Clayton and Kate Fuller 6-3, 6-2. It's been a great two months for McPhillips, who in between her win at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta and this one reached the finals of a $10,000 Pro Circuit event near her home near Cleveland. McPhillips didn't lose a set in singles and in doubles, she and Van Nguyen needed a match tiebreaker only in the semifinals against No. 3 seeds Maria Belaya and Lauren Herring.

The boys singles champion also captured the doubles. Top seed Micke Kontinen of Finland beat unseeded American Robert Livi 6-1, 6-4 and teamed with Great Britain's Nick Jones for his second title. Kontinen and Jones, the top seeds, defeated No. 6 seeds Bjorn Fratangelo and Alex Robles 7-5, 6-3. Livi had several notable wins, defeating No. 2 seed Shane Vinsant in the quarterfinals and Marcos Giron in the semifinals. For complete results, see the TennisLink site. The U.S. ITF junior circuit is quiet the next two weeks--it's the junior off-season!--with the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl next up.

The acceptances for the Dunlop Orange Bowl have been released, and French Open champions and ITF junior world No. 1s Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Berta of Sweden are entered, in hopes of securing the coveted year-end title. For the complete acceptances, 18s and 16s, see the usta tournament page.

In this weekend's Pro Circuit finals, Taylor Dent won in Knoxville, Conor Niland in Niceville and Varvara Lepchenko in Phoenix. Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Denis Kudla lost in the Niceville doubles final to top seeds Tigran Martirosyan and Artem Sitak 6-4, 7-5. For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit page.

A recent article in the Perth Australia Sunday Times examines, as the headline puts it, "Alarming number of Australian juniors fail in move to senior tennis ranks."

The opening paragraph continues:
Figures compiled by The Sunday Times show that from 53 of Australia's junior Davis and Fed Cup representatives over the past decade, 36 were at one stage ranked inside the world's top 100 juniors.

But only one from that group, Samantha Stosur, holds a similar senior ranking.

It's undeniable that Australian tennis has fallen on hard times this century. But I don't think these particular numbers are an indication of the failure of its systems. First, using this decade is dubious, as it's unrealistic to expect any of the 16-year-olds who competed in the Junior Davis and Fed Cups in the last half of the decade to be Top 100 in the professional ranks, as none would be older than 20. (As a comparison, the U.S. has two women (Oudin, King) and five men (Roddick, Querrey, Isner, Odesnik, Ram) who are currently in the Top 100 after having been in the Top 100 of the juniors this decade.) No one is currently denigrating the Spanish development system, disappointed that Pere Riba and Roberto Bautista, who led Spain to the Junior Davis Cup championship in 2004, aren't in the ATP Top 100.

Second, comparing a current ranking (Stosur's) with a career ranking (all juniors who "at one stage" where ranked in the Top 100 of juniors) is again stacking the deck.

And finally, there are only five years worth of players vying for a spot in the junior Top 100, while there are four times that many, all in a comparable stage of maturity, clamoring to break into the professional Top 100.

Paul McNamee, who unsuccessfully challenged Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard in a recent election, believes the system is broken, and he thinks that Tennis Australia is responsible for the feeling that private coaches have that their best players are being "stolen" from them. He also mentions the lack of clay courts as another reason player development has failed to produce more champions in Australia.

21 comments:

Amtex said...

I agree 100% with the clay issue for developing juniors. I just saw it first hand. My daughter played only on hard courts until we moved to Florida 3 months ago. Now she plays only on Har Tru and red clay. In 3 months she has gotten stronger in the legs, faster, better balance, judges bad bounces and focuses much better, and puts together points much better.

The telling thing is that our tennis center has 2 red clay courts and they are almost always available. No one, even the juniors, wants to get their shoes and socks dirty!!

I am a disciple of clay now without a doubt. It is the difference maker. The USTA needs to build and maintain clay courts nationwide ASAP and require its high performance kids play the clay.

wi tennis said...

I believe the USTA is doing that. Also, how can they expect Tiley to produce amazing juniors and top 100 players all in 4 years. It's like Illinois expecting him to win a national title in 4 years. It took 11, actually. Currently, I think they are developing more high ranked juniors than the people just prior to him. Seeing a kid (especially male) through from 13 to 23, where they might peak takes more than 4 years.

side note: I was a math major in college! 23-13 is not equal to 4.

Amtex said...

No, the USTA is designating existing facilities without clay courts as training centers.

The USTA is spending million on select kids.

The USTA is not building any clay courts at all.

Marcia Frost said...

The USTA is adding clay courts to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Amtex said...

I hope it actually happens Marcia. But a few clay courts in NY where they can be played on 5 months a year is a tiny drop in the bucket.

Instead of spending big money supporting a few select players the USTA needs to just grow the game. Build and maintain clay courts in every state, and provide inexpensive instruction to 10000 kids and the cream will rise.

The USTA's job should be to grow the game and provide access, not actually try and pick out which kids could be champions.

Jason Bower said...

I don't get it. It is plainly obvious with that Aussie article that the entire story has been developed to push McNamee's agenda. It's totally biased towards his thinking, there's no response from the other side and the figures they mention were compiled by the paper itself. It all just reeks of bias.

So why does Zoo tennis devote so much time to what is really just a PR exercise for Paul McNamee?

wi tennis said...

Actually, I think a lot of the training centers have clay courts, not that I always come to the defense of the USTA? New York will. Maryland does. Atlanta does. Florida does. Ok....maybe not a lot. some??? i wonder if they will build them in cali and in chicago. definitely hard to find clay there. clay is easy on the body and helps with point construction, etc,etc.

But, for me the bottom line is, (on hard or clay) finding kids that are hungry. obviously, the kids, in general, who are playing now are not. Maybe the kids who have financial limits and can't play the nationals, might be hungry? but, maybe not? lets give them a shot. but, right now the costs of tournaments are eliminating many and making usta nationals a rich kid tour (ala the itf junior circuit)....or, a "middle class kid who has to starve and sleep in his car with mom or dad to play the tournament" tour. or base entry fees on how much you can afford to pay. have parents submit w-2's every year and give them a certain entry price to pay for tourneys.?? Need-based grants.


how about making clay court tournaments free or cheap to play if you meet the guidelines to enter?? i don't think it's practical for the usta to manage clay courts around the country. These tournaments are over $100 a person now-a-days. That's just entry! But, that's a way to get kids to play on the clay.

i'm just rambling, but it would be amazing to see kids playing "quickstart tennis" in their driveway. why do you have to play that at a country club or tennis club and pay money? why do you need a coach?

who had a coach when they first started basketball? you just try to shoot. then, change your shot on what you see. You have coaching when you are older. Did Michael Redd or Ray Allen have shooting coaches as 7 year olds? Doubt it...but they have pretty good technique. and it's a pretty complicated technique to shoot a ball, well.

let's call it driveway tennis to let people know they can play anywhere, without a coach, without perrier and all white clothes. every kid learns to play games, sports, etc and learns how to compete at the playground or in their driveway with siblings, friends, etc. maybe the usta can give out a racquet, a foam ball and some nets to kids. heck, don't even need a net. kids can put any barrier up.

basically, i like the grassroots idea. you seem a bit angry, Amtex, but I'm mostly with you.

for my 2nd point....joking.

Colette Lewis said...

The USTA National Training Center West in Carson has clay courts.

Amtex said...

I am not talking about national training centers and the high performance elite players.

We need clay courts all over the country, available for use by any kid for low fees. It develops better players.

Grow the game on clay among 20000 kids instead of trying to find a needle in a haystack with high performance. The best kids will rise.

tennis said...

clay courts wont work in most parts of the country, thats why almost every clay court is in florida, and other states in the south. its tough to have clay courts in places where it snows 3 months or more of the year. the only place that i know of that has indoor clay courts is the college park tennis courts where Denis Kudla, Mitchell Frank, and Junior Ore train. im sure there are a few more, but not many. there is a reason there are only clay courts in the south where the weather is better.

TennisStringman said...

Every time I see a new brainstorm by the USTA High Performance, I think oh-oh, they are running out of ideas and moving to another 7 year diversion from the main issue. Before, it was the Telcher idea that we have to spot them young so the USTA spends all it's focus on spotting 12 year olds who are by definition great grinders. Now we have a generation of great grinders who make great juniors but have no shot at being great pros. The current new focus is on clay courts and point construction. Now I just want to point out that FL is predominantly clay courts (Har-Tru). Every town on the east coast from Miami to Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale has 35-50 municipal courts that have been there since the 70's. Almost every country club in the northeast has Har-Tru clay courts since the US Open switch to Har-Tru in 1975! Despite this long history of clay courts the Southern California section has developed more contending pros than any other area of the country all without ever having clay courts because the region is too arid! Just because Spain and Argentina field a lot of pros, the USTA feels we need to train on clay! Tennis development in the USA has strayed from the big game attacking tennis to baseline retrieving. Where we use to attack every short ball, we now want to make our opponents hit yet another ball. IMHO, the players being developed by High Performance fit this mode of play. They are great juniors but have no shot at being contending pros.

IMO, the crux of the problem is that the sport is too damn expensive and is a rich man's sport. Tournament participation is too costly to develop grassroots broad based development. Other sports like football, basketball and baseball is developed with the organizational and financial support of the school system. Tennis is not. You need to pay for skill base teaching technique and tournament fees and travel. The William sisters are an anomaly as Richard hyped their prowess to get Macci to teach them for free. They bypassed the USTA tournament structure. You won't ever see an athletically gifted kid from the getto make it in tennis these days like you did in the past. Kramer, Ashe and Connors would be hard pressed to make it in today's tennis world if they were developing today. They wouldn't be able to afford it.

Markus said...

Indeed the clays teach you even more defensive style and grinding. As far as 'constructing points' - true, on clays you need to be more clever, since the ball pounded at 100 mph loses half of its speed after bounce (i.e. Roddick's serve - on clay it does not do much damage). Fully agree with comments that the cost is the biggest impediment, we get the best from ones that can afford it, not the best there are.

J said...

The USTA's problem is not clay courts. There are plenty of clay courts all around this country including Boca and Carson. The USTA biggest problem is that they are training the wrong players. Are these boys and girls athletic enough to play against the best in the world. They are investing in athletes that have high ranking in their socialist system. Until they begin to invest in true athletes, young men and women with athletic ability only then will they begin to see advancement in tennis in this country. But the USTA is just a name, the problem lies in the people they hire to represent them.

fred said...

Clay is good but not the answer some think.

Florida players have been training on it for years with little success after leaving Florida or the USTA tournament and academy environment. This environment fails at the more important aspect of learning and competing. More important than what is under a player's feet is what is between their ears. Success in the USTA tournament, and high rankings, do not require the proper type of develpopmnt up there. In fact proper development of the game and mind is typically punished and stymied in the tournament environment the USTA has created and in most academies. However, many tennis officials and teachers profit from the system financially which is why it is structured the way that it is.

The Dude said...

"Success in the USTA tournament, and high rankings, do not require the proper type of develpopmnt up there. In fact proper development of the game and mind is typically punished and stymied in the tournament environment the USTA has created and in most academies. However, many tennis officials and teachers profit from the system financially which is why it is structured the way that it is.:

Very well said, fred.

Fred said...

thanks Dude

5.0 Player said...

I totally agree with Tennistringman and the other recent posters.

I keep hearing this crap about how clay courts are the great panacea but actually such worship of clay is not only NOT the answer but it is detrimental.

Practicing on clay is good for one thing; your clay court game. However, it hurts your hard court game. Every year when the US does poorly at the French Open we'll get the same slew of posters begging the USTA to get our juniors more clay court training. Such training can only improve our performance at the French Open but it will hurt our players in every hard court venue.

Clay just encourages players to push the ball and play defensively and those kids get blown off the court in the pros.

I know an excellent serve and volleyer whose net game was almost destroyed by training at the National Training Center on clay. He couldn't get in to the net on clay and then was discouraged from practicing his front court game on hard court. This same kid got blown off the court by players who had been training on hard courts while he was learning to grind on clay.

The best thing that ever happened to him was getting out of there because now he's got his all court game back and he's getting much better results again.

Jeff said...

If we are really going to try to develope our junior players, I feel we need to go back to the old STAR ranking system, as promoted by Tennisinformation.com and eliminate the USTA rankings. This put a lot more pressure on the better players when they played someone ranked below them and at the same time made it much easier to identify good players who could not afford to travel around the country chasing a ranking. I believe that this type of pressure is healthy and helps players grow. What does everyone think?

The Dude said...

Jeff, yes that system is better for players who can't afford to travel however it goes against the USAT agenda which is forcing kids to play more tournaments and pay more fees for everyone involved. As fred said earlier, "many tennis officials and teachers profit from the system financially which is why it is structured the way that it is." Which is why you will not see the star system coming back.

love-tennis said...

The real way to improve American tennis is to get it into the schools. My kids get flyers on all kinds of sports in school. Regularly they play CYO basketball, league volleyball, and are offered other sports. Never do they get flyers on tennis. It is not just this area either. We used to live in a different area and it was the same thing. So if you don't get the normal school kids playing it, the top athletes are not going to be exposed to it.

* Patrick Mcenroe: Focus on the schools. Okay, they don't have courts? Who cares? Set up the volleyball nets in the gym and have them play there. GIVE the schools racquets, and incent the P.E. teachers to learn tennis.

Fred said...

5.0 is right on. Clay as used to train in Florida encourages kids to get one more ball back (defensively) and those players "succeed" by defending. Clay is only useful as a training tool if players still are encouraged to construct an attacking gaime on it. This is quite challenging for developing players. Unfortunately it takes quite a bit of time before they can win on clay with these tactics. Most coaches, players and parents will not wait-since they want instant USTA rankings- and therefore resort to defensive tennis which will not work on Hard court or later against truly elite players. By then the poor habits are formed. Especially in females.