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Monday, December 28, 2009

Newcombe Expresses Doubts about Tomic's Progress; Kubler's AO Wild Card; Sock's Practice with Roddick

Tennis Australia's wild card tournament finished in the midst of the Junior Orange Bowl, so I wasn't able to give it the coverage I would have liked. The men's wild card was won by Nick Lindahl, who saved five match points against 17-year-old Bernard Tomic to win the best-of-five-sets final 6-7(6), 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-3. For more on the men's final, see this story from Linda Pearce of the Sydney Morning Herald. The women's wild card awarded to the tournament winner went to Casey Dellacqua, who also saved match points in her 1-6, 7-6(9), 6-3 victory over 18-year-old Olivia Rogowska. For more on that match, see Pearce's story.

A few days later, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley announced the recipients of the discretionary wild cards remaining, with both Tomic and Rogowska receiving one, along with Alicia Molik, who is returning from injury but fell in the tournament quarterfinals, and Carsten Ball, who was injured and did not compete in the tournament. Also given a main draw wild card was 16-year-old junior Jason Kubler, who won just one match in the round robin portion of the wild card tournament.

Kubler, who won the Australian 18-and-under title and is currently fourth in the ITF world junior rankings, has proven to be a controversial selection. Having yet to win a Futures-level main draw match in the nine tournaments he has played at that level, and having played only one junior slam, last year's Australian, where as a wild card, he lost in the first round of singles and doubles, Kubler will need to adapt to the sport's highest level in a hurry next month. Most criticizing Kubler's elevation to the main draw believe he would have been better served with a qualifying wild card.

Tomic, who won a main draw match from Potito Starace of Italy at this year's Australian Open, was expected to receive a wild card with a decent showing at the tournament. But not everyone in Australia is foreseeing greatness for him. John Newcombe voiced his reservations recently in an AAP story that appeared in Perth Now.

"I think he's got a long way to go," the seven-time grand slam winner said.

"He's done well in the junior ranks and has got a couple of minor results in the seniors, but there is nothing yet to indicate that he will become a top-20 player.

"It's a very important year for Bernard, because if he doesn't make the advances and with the hype about him being so great it could end badly."

A bit more optimism is expressed by Darren Walton in his AAP story about the hiring of Spain's Felix Mantilla to assist in training Australians in the finer points of clay court tennis. Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald and Tiley, who also heads TA Player Developmet, are encouraged by Tomic, Kubler and Luke Savile and by this:
"Of the top 25 youngest players in the world that are ranked on the senior tour - not the junior tour - four of them are Australian, and that's more than any other nation," Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley told AAP.
I'm not sure there's much relevance in that statistic myself, and find it disturbing that there is absolutely no mention of college as a development tool in all of this, despite the fact that several of the players invited to the wild card playoff were current or recent U.S. collegians, and that one of the two Australian men currently in the top 100, No. 77 Peter Luczak, played three seasons at Fresno State. I also don't understand why playing junior events should be discouraged, unless it is simply too expensive given the travel costs from Australia.

Tiley goes on to cite the benchmarks necessary for TA support, but I think those guidelines fail to take into account the different development curves.

Rest assured there will be much more discussion about all of the issues facing Australian tennis as next month's first slam approaches.

I believe I mentioned in a post that Jack Sock had spent time hitting with Andy Roddick after the Orange Bowl, and the Kansas City Star published this story about Sock's experience. In addition to relaying details of the practice session, the story reveals that Sock has been contacted about signing professionally by three sports management agencies, but that he is not ready to forego college. Sock's coach, Mike Wolf, has this to say:

“He’s going to make money playing tennis, but he also has a lot of hard work ahead of him before he can compete at the level he wants to professionally.”


justcurious said...

Hey Collette
Are you going to publish a j.o.b. wrap up with pictures and videos?

Colette Lewis said...

Yes, I'll have the usual tournament wrap for the JOB sometime this week.

Scott Mulder said...

I think you misread the article. All Tiley said is "If you are 17 and 18 years old, we don't fund junior tennis for you" and he says that they look to transition kids to seniors at a much earlier age. Never says he discourages anyone from playing juniors.

That all makes a lot of sense, more sense than making so much fuss about junior results, but it still isn't discouraging anyone from playing juniors. All he's doing is putting junior tennis in its rightful place, as a springboard to senior results but not somewhere the kids can hide out until they're forced to deal with real competition. Something our kids need to learn quickly.

Gary Owen said...

Scott Mulder,

Agree with you bro. The USTA needs to start demanding more results at a higher level in order for the older kids to continue to get funding. That means a 16, 17 or 18 year old has to start logging wins against pro level competition. If they can't do that, stop sending them all over the world to play meaningless junior events. I think they also need to cut that stupid system of giving a US Open wildcard just for winning the Zoo. It's just a local junior event, not even an international one. Totally undeserving of a main draw place. Big problem we have in this country is that we think every sport works like football or basketball. You play at high school then you play at college and that preps you. Tennis doesn't work like that.

Time to stop being so soft and PC about things. Just throw the kids off the deep end and see who sinks and see who swims. That's how we'll end up with winners, not by wrapping kids up in cotton wool and allowing them to build inflated reputations based on nothing more than meaningless results against their equally coddled peers.

Roberto said...

Does Jack Sock actually have what it takes to make it big? I know he won the futures in Amelia Island, but what other professional results does he have under his belt? Someone please fill me in.

getreal said...

To Gary

Agree that at a certian point juniors need to start winning at the next level but to throw 16 year old boys (not girls) to the pros is ridiculous, almost all dont have the bodies to compete at that level yet, and very few at 17 have the bodies and maturity to make a real dent either. As for Sock, who knows if he has the game to make it as a pro but he certainly has made an impressive start considering he just started playing pro events and his results have been far more impressive vs other US juniors the same age who have been playing pro tournaments for over a year (Harrison excluded). What is interesting about Sock is that until recently he played his age group, did not play the high level ITFs like many of the other top US juniors, and just started playing pro events. Considering the leap he has made I would say that does bode well for the future if he keeps it up. As for Tomic, his results at the pro level have not been what one would have expected considering how much has been poured into his tennis. Who is his coach?