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Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Q and A with Peter Smith of USC; Isner Wins The Match; Wimbledon Junior Qualifying Underway

As I mentioned yesterday, another of my question and answer sessions with a Division I college coach, this time Peter Smith of USC, is now available at the Tennis Recruiting Network. These conversations have provided me with so much more insight into the college game than I had before, and I thank several readers of this site for encouraging me to undertake them. Of course the real gratitude goes to the coaches themselves, who have agreed to take the time to talk with me and have been expansive and candid in their answers to my questions.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, John Isner won the longest tennis match in history today, defeating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 at Wimbledon. In the press conference after, which was shown on ESPN2 (although not in its entirety), Isner was asked about his focus and composure. He credited, as he has in other interviews over the years, college tennis in general and his coach at Georgia, Manny Diaz in particular, for his ability to stay calm under pressure. For more on the entire match and the 20 games played today, see this New York Times story by Greg Bishop. For the British perspective, see this story from the Telegraph.

The qualifying began at Roehampton today for the Wimbledon Junior championships. It will conclude Friday, with main draw play beginning on Saturday. There are three U.S. boys in qualifying, all from Texas: Dane Webb(3), Shane Vinsant(9) and Mitchell Krueger(13), and they all advanced in straight sets to the second and last round of qualifying. Both U.S. girls in the qualifying, Krista Hardebeck(5) and Lauren Herring(15) also won in Thursday's play. Grace Min was still listed as a qualifier in the latest update, but she does not appear in the draw, so I'm assuming she was promoted to the main draw due to some last-minute withdrawals. The other U.S. girls in the main draw are Chanelle Van Nguyen, Sloane Stephens and Ester Goldfeld. The U.S. boys scheduled to compete in the main draw are: Denis Kudla, Mitchell Frank, Raymond Sarmiento, Junior Ore, Nick Chappell and Dennis Novikov. The qualifying draw and results are available at the ITF junior website.

At Roehampton, Sarmiento and Hardebeck lost in the singles quarterfinals on Wednesday, as did Min and Herring in the girls doubles. The Roehampton finals feature two unseeded British players, with wild card Tara Moore contesting the girls final and qualifier James Marsalek playing in the boys final. Moore will face No. 7 seed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, while Marsalek will meet unseeded Facundo Arguello of Argentina, who was also a finalist at Roehampton in 2009, losing to Devin Britton in a third set tiebreaker. For more on the Roehampton tournament, see this article.


tony said...

Collette. Thanks again for conducting such a great and insightful interview with Peter Smith. As a fellow college coach, I really appreciate the fact that Peter was so candid in his interview. Too often, we hear these cookie cutter responses from coaches. Peter should be commended for not being afraid to speak his mind. Congratulations to SC and Peter Smith on a great season. You sound like a class act.

5.0 Player said...

Like Tony I appreciate Coach Smith's candor but I found many of his comments to be simply untrue, contradictory and offensive.

First of all, he indicates that when he recruits he favors players who are "big" because he thinks only those players have a "future" in college tennis. However, how can he square this with the fact that three of his star players are very small. Lucassen is listed on the roster as 5 ft. 7 and he looks like he only weighs about 135 lbs. Nguyen looks like he's about 5 ft. 8 and Kecki is no bigger. Had he followed his own advice and stuck to only "big players" he probably would not have won either of his last 2 NCAA crowns. So, not only is his comment about size innacurate, it also contradicts his actual recruiting practices, not to mention it is insulting and offensive to all the kids who are under 6 ft. tall.

Second, he offers an offensive and gross generalization about American players being too priviledged and that International players are more mature. This only made me laugh because we all know that most of the foreign players tend to be a lot older than the American players. Whenever you see a balding 22 year old sophomore on one of these top college you know that it's a foreign player. Obviously, most 22 year olds are more mature than 18 years old but this had nothing to do with them being "international."

back 2 back said...

5.0 - He never said in that interview that he only thinks big kids have a future in college tennis. I don't think "small" players were at all offended by that quote, which was about evaluating potential in a player. All things being equal bigger is better in all sports these days. Can't teach size. From your past comments on this board it's so clear you are a USC hater, but you don't need to rearrange his quotes in that interview and pretend to be outraged over them.

And you are the only one generalizing in when you write "we all know most of the foreign players tend to be a lot older than the American players." Peter's statement was based on 20+ years of recruiting American and non American players. I would think he has the right to have that opinion. Is your statement about the older non American players based on the players you see UCLA bringing in each year? If so I can understand where you are coming from as they've had a couple really old guys in recent years.

5.0 Player said...

Back-to-Back- I can't believe that you have the gall to accuse me of bias when your moniker reveals that you are obviously some brainwashed Trojan worshiper who drinks the Kool-aid of anything Peter Smith says.

I have nothing against USC and actually rooted for them against Tennesse in the NCAA finals when I watched the match on ESPN. However, based on some of his recent comments I do think that their tennis coach is slightly arrogant and insensitive.

And, by the way, you are mistaken if you think that normal sized or smaller players are not offended by his statement where he clearly indicates that being "big" is a major factor for him as to whether he will recruit a player. My nephew, who is 5 ft. 8 and currently plays for a team in a different conference was very annoyed by Smith's comment and (not unlike Daniel Nguyen) is proving wrong those coaches who erroneously overlooked him because of his size.

Georgia on our minds said...

FYI : Peter Smith is a class act!

For those of us who had the opportunity to get to know him and played for him, it's been a privileged!! Thank you !

Eric Amend said...


Let's put things into a little perspective here, shall we????

Victor Hanescu spitting at Wimbledon spectators is offensive and disgusting!!!!

Leyton Hewitt saying the things he did about USTA Official Marion Johnson, when he was playing James Blake, at the U.S. Open is offensive and disgusting!!!!!

Peter Smith DID NOT say anything that was offensive!!! You were just upset because he gave his expert opinion and you didn't like what he had to say!!! My advice; Don't get mad, get better!!!!!

Also, young American players ARE privileged and soft in my expert opinion!!!!

I travelled the world for 5 years playing Challengers and Satellites in third world countries and I followed that up with working for the USTA for 3 years as a traveling coach with our junior players, so I know how privileged young Americans are in this world!!

I was always tired of hearing about how there was never enough practice courts or court time for our juniors OR, how bad the practice balls were when the USTA went above and beyond what any other country could afford because I would pay for taxi's to take us to the practice courts, instead of taking the official bus like all the other players had to, so we could get extra court time. Or I would buy new balls because the USTA could afford the expense!!!

Yet they would still complain!!!

How about this???
Instead of you and your nephew being "offended" over something so trivial and calling Peter's comments "arrogant and insensitive", MAYBE you two should use it as motivation to get better at the game instead of whining like the typical American and American junior that Peter was describing in his Q&A with Colette!!!

Here is a little inside information on Daniel Nguyen for you to digest.

Both UCLA and CAL didn't want him AND Peter is on record as saying that USC was lucky to get him because Peter didn't recruit him either!!! USC was fortunate to get him because a friend of Daniel's that knew Peter very well made a phone call to ask Peter for an opportunity to let Daniel prove himself!! He was a walk-on for his Freshmen year!!! How about that????

Daniel Nguyen is an unbelievable athelete, the fastest guy on USC's team for the last two years, and has the best hands of anyone in college tennis today BUT, he was raw when he first came into USC and Peter made him a better player. But, NO ONE ever thought that he would be the "MAN" for USC like he's been for the last two years!!!

Peter's honesty in the Q&A is what's lacking in our society today and I applaud him for being upfront and candid!!

My advice to you is to get thicker skin!!!

5.0 Player said...

Eric- I usually agree with what you’ve said on this board because in most cases you seem so rational, logical and fair. Sadly, today you are “off your game.” When I first started reading your comments I thought that someone was impersonating you because your statements sounded so irrational and inapplicable to what I said. This highly emotional and illogical rant is also infused with triple and quadruple exclamation marks as well as many words written using all capital letters. I started to wonder if you were either on speed or had ingested way too much caffeine. Then I remembered that you played for USC and that when it came to this topic on this board you always become irrational and will defend anything a Trojan does with hyperintensity no matter how loathsome. Actually, I now just looked it up and found out that you are presently the volunteer Assistant Tennis Coach at USC, so now I really understand where your bias and motivation is coming from; it’s basically YOUR JOB to attempt to refute my points and to defend your boss, Peter Smith!

You obviously did not read my post very closely as you completely missed the main points and accused me of saying just the opposite of what I wrote. As just one example, you write: “MAYBE you two should use it as motivation to get better at the game instead of whining like the typical American and American junior that Peter was describing.” Obviously, you completely missed one of my main points which was also the last sentence of my post where I wrote: “My nephew, who is 5 ft. 8 and currently plays for a team in a different conference was very annoyed by Smith's comment and (not unlike Daniel Nguyen) is proving wrong those coaches who erroneously overlooked him because of his size.” That is exactly what he’s doing, using it as motivation!

Your post also goes into some inane argument using circular reasoning that completely contradicts itself. First of all, my point was that Smith’s policy of focusing on only “big” players is shortsighted and is particularly irrational because even his own experience with 3 “undersized” superstar starters on his team, including Daniel Nguyen, should have taught Smith to be more open minded. But your defense of him seems to be that Smith stuck to his policy and “DIDN’T recruit him” but “USC was fortunate to get him because a friend of Daniel’s that knew Peter made a phone call…” So, I guess you’re saying that Smith should be commended for stubbornly sticking to this shortsighted policy even when his own very recent experience proved that policy dead wrong.

Then you make some other comments that just further proves what a mistake it was for Smith not to recruit Nguyen. You write: “Daniel Nguyen is an unbelievable athelete [sic], the fastest guy on USC's team for the last two years, and has the best hands of anyone in college tennis today.” Gee, don’t you think that Smith (and other short sighted coaches) should have considered Nguyen’s unbelieveable athleticism, super speed and great hands instead of just looking at his height?!” I guess that for these stubborn and short-sighted coaches if the prospective recruit isn’t “big” then they don’t care of the recruit has unbelieveable speed, great hands and great athleticism; it is irrelevant if he’s under 6 ft. tall. LOL.

I also have to say that this new persona you have been putting on display on this blog where you tend to consistently bash American players and seemingly everyone else by calling them “whiners,” “lazy” and “weak” is wearing very thin. You seem to believe that you are some sort of macho John Wayne or Clint Eastwood character in the movies but you need to be reminded that you are just a tennis instructor from Palos Verdes and a college volunteer assistant coach.

John said...

5.0 - wow you read my mind with your last post........not that I need to tell you, but stick to your guns on this topic.........you are right on.

Eric Amend said...



I really think both you and your nephew need to re-read Colette’s Q&A with Peter Smith because you interpreted things incorrectly AND Peter was extremely candid and upfront with his answers. But all you could see was his opinion of what body type he thinks a player should have if he wants to be in the Top 100 of the ATP (making money) and you and your nephew INCORRECTLY interpreted it as if he’s referring to the type of player that he recruits at USC. He never said anything about the body type of a recruit except his passing mention in a one liner by saying “is the kid big?” He NEVER said anything about a player having to be over 6 feet in order for Peter to recruit them. NEVER, not once!! YOU DID!! Peter used Sam Querry and John Isner as an example of what body type he thinks a person needs to have in order for someone to be successful on the pro tour. You just interpreted it the wrong way and Peter having Nyguen, Lucassen, and Kecki on the team supports the fact that he doesn’t only recruit 6 foot or taller!!

I’m going to recap and give you my take where I think his answers show just how genuine and thoughtful he really is as a person, mentor, and a coach.

CL: What's your least favorite part of the job?

PS: “The amount of recruiting. If someone would say to me each year, okay, here are your five kids, go recruit them and get two of them, I'd really enjoy that. But to deal with 20 kids, I'm not good at that. I'm pretty good at juggling but I get so many letters from kids that aren’t good enough. Also, time. I don't have time to be that personable with each kid. I have three boys at home, I have a wife, and it’s hard.
In this business there are great recruiters and there are great coaches, and I don't think I'm a great recruiter. I don't necessarily want to be a great recruiter. Everybody wants attention, and certainly every parent wants attention, but they don't see that if this person is giving me this much attention, who's giving the attention to the team? If I'm with my team, I want to be with my team, I don't want to be on my phone.”

My take: He’s being upfront and honest about his recruiting by admitting that he’s not a great recruiter and that recruiting 20 kids are too much for him to handle. Personally, I can tell you that there are many, many more than 20 kids wanting to play tennis at USC, so he might miss a few diamonds in the rough, like a D-WIN, because he wants to take care of his “USC family” instead of running after every single recruit to make them feel wanted.

PS: “Every parent needs to ask, "What are we really playing for?" There's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's not baseball, which may be the last sport where normal athletes can maybe make it. I think to be in tennis, you have to be a freak now. Look at Sam (Querrey) and John (Isner), Sam's 6'6" and John's 6'10" - their bodies are not like mine. You have to be so special to make it in tennis. So what are juniors now playing for? We're playing for college, 99.9%, maybe more.”

My take: He’s talking about making it in professional tennis, NOT college tennis, so for you to misconstrue and miscomprehend his comments as offensive to you and/or your nephew, “as well as every other player shorter than 6 feet” is an extremely disproportionate response and lacking any real clarity to what is truly offensive in the real world!!!

I really think you’re only seeing what you want to see here and you’re being critical just to be critical, you have no real validity behind your criticism!! Go back and re-read your initial comment and then compare it to what Peter actually said; you’re WAY off base here and now I’m offended that you’re offended!!!

Eric Amend said...


Now, I have to point out the contradictions in your last comments that make it seem to me that, either you’re not speaking the truth or you’re ignorant. And with your obvious intellect, your command of the dictionary, and you’re prose, it’s readily obvious to me that YOU ARE NOT ignorant!!!

In the 5 years that I’ve been the Volunteer Assistant for USC, I have never at any time, come on this blog to defend a Trojan, or my University, PERIOD!! So when you say “I always become irrational and will defend anything a Trojan does with hyperintensity no matter how loathsome”, you’re making hyperbole for the sake of painting a picture here that isn’t true, it’s a flat out lie, and you know it!!

In fact, I made it a promise to myself, and out of respect for our program, that I WOULD NEVER mention USC or engage in a conversation with anyone on this blog about USC, let alone become irrational about it, for as long as I was the Volunteer Assistant because I didn’t want something I said here to be used against our players during a match. My topics on college tennis have always been about other dual matches, other programs and college tennis in general, but at no other time have I EVER talked about USC. PERIOD!!

So, here’s another insider tip for you 5-0, I am NO LONGER the Volunteer Assistant at USC, hence my coming out in defense of my EX boss Peter Smith. I had already decided to leave the my position many months before the NCAA’s so that’s the reason that I broke my promise a little by mentioning USC twice during the NCAA’s last month because I knew my job was done after the tournament!! Those comments I made were in regards to Athens not hosting the NCAA’s every year, or every other year, because of what my 1987 USC team went through AND I spoke about how “if we were fortunate enough to beat Virginia in the NCAA semi’s this year, we wouldn’t have stepped on the main courts in Athens until the day of the finals. Neither were “illogical rants infused with triple and quadruple exclamation marks as well as many words written using all capital letters” so I have no idea where you think you heard me become irrational regarding USC!!

Eric Amend said...


But thank you for pointing out my misspelling of athlete (As if one typo on a blog says anything about my tennis knowledge, or my knowledge in general, and, as if you’ve never had a typo on a blog) as well as my "overextended use of capitals and triple and quadruple exclamation points”. You think that you just belittled my intelligence with that but you just don’t know me very well!!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm of average intelligence and I was an average student in both high school and college but I'm summa cum laude when it pertains to scouting tennis players, reading opponents on the tennis court, and exploiting their weaknesses; my four rings are my doctorate degree!! ('84 Olympic, ‘89 NCAA Doubles, 09-10 NCAA Team). Also, forgive me for relying on my tennis expertise as my occupation but my experience and knowledge is just slightly more than 95% of the “tennis instructors and volunteer coaches” out there so there’s no shame in what I do for a living. I think it’s safe for me to say that no other Volunteer Assistant/Teaching Professional in the country has had as much experience, or success, both as a player and as a coach on the sidelines; check my bio at USC for any questions you might have 5-0!!

Addendum to my USC bio which never included everything I’ve done as a player anyway because I deemed it unnecessary: I was paid by the USTA to travel and coach CoCo Vandeweghe’s for 14 weeks during the summer of 2008 from Jr. Wimbledon through 18’s Nationals to the end of the U.S. Open. But I didn’t bother to update my bio with that because I was too lazy and I never needed the recognition… until now that is! Haha (FYI 5-0, 2008 U.S. OPEN Jr. Champion and 2008 R/U @ NATS in case you were wondering.)

While a blog on the Internet gives us all a great forum to discuss topics like these, it cannot take the place of the spoken word so I often find that I cannot get my point across as easily as I can in person. 5-0, I fully understood that your nephew was in college and had used his height as motivation to become a better player. My intent was that he should have used it as motivation back then but to stop whining about it now like a spoiled American junior because he’s already in college so whatever misinterpretation your nephew made about Peter’s comments regarding height should no longer pertain to him because it’s over, he got on a team so he needs to stop feeling offended already and move on from being overlooked as a junior. Whatever you two think Peter Smith might or might not have said should not be an opportunity for you to take a cheap shot at him for something that isn’t relevant to your nephew any longer!!!

move on said...

Okay, this is an argument over whether a coach likes taller players. I think we've heard all points of view. Not sure I see understand the outrage. Bottom line, the guy can flat out coach whether the players if 5-6 or 6-6. Let's move on!!

work-hard-tennis said...

Eric, I do agree with you about junior players being soft. That exact argument about the balls was one that I have encountered from junior players. It is often the entitled "academy" players who say it. I get so tired of it.

My own child who grew up in a regular middle class family now also complains if the balls are quasi-dead. Why? She is now in an academy where they don't have that happen. Well sorry my dear, but when we warm up for a tournament and dead balls are all we have in the car, too bad! You get what you get and you don't have a fit.

Unfortunately many tennis parents won't tell their kids that. Also, they don't make them do chores because "they have to play tennis" and "tennis is their job". Give me a break.

And we wonder why they are soft.

Athens said...

Eric, the Trojans could have used you in Rochester today. Courtney/Jenkins over Johnson/Nguyen

seen it too often said...

work hard:

there's more.

the parents don't even stop their kids from cheating, gamesmanship or total disrespect for the game or their opponents. Many are simply brats and the behavior is condoned by the parents and the USTA running the tournaments who do nothing.

the issue has little to do with the parents income and everything to do with the parents attitude and then the little brat's attitude.

chores, responsibility-you cannot be serious

seen it too often

Colette Lewis said...

@ 5.0 player
Could you please email me (see my profile for my address)