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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Federer on Lack of Teens in Top 100; Raonic Shoots For Top 10; Can Barty Ignore the Hype?

The ATP World Tennis Finals begin tomorrow in London, and in advance of the tour's final event, there have been a lot of press interviews and stories with the eight participants. In this article by Reuters, Roger Federer was asked about the dearth of teenagers challenging the top 100, and his response was similar to what we've been hearing from others for a year or two now.

"It's become more physical and more mental and maybe they need longer to break through now," said Federer, the oldest of the world's top eight players contesting the season's finale at London's O2 Arena.

"It can be a good or bad thing depending on where you look at it from. But I'm always excited to see who is coming up."

Sweden's Robin Soderling, something of a late bloomer himself, adds:
"The sport has become a bit tougher, it's much more physical than say 10 years ago...It takes a couple of years to build up your body to be able to compete with the style of tennis now.

"I played my first ATP final when I was 18 or 19 but it was tough to cope with the demands week in week out."

The ATP also released its year-end award winners today, and as Stephanie Myles notes in her review of the announcement for her blog Open Court, the Comeback Player of the Year, Robin Haase of the Netherlands, is younger than the Newcomer of the Year, Tobias Kamke of Germany.

One of the few teenagers making an impact on the ATP tour this autumn was Canadian Milos Raonic. Raonic, who will be 20 next month, talks about his ambition to do something no Canadian has ever done before in this interview with the Toronto Star. Now ranked 156th, Raonic talks about how he developed his big weapon, his serve, and what his goals are, ranking-wise, for the first six months of 2011. He also mentions how much Rafael Nadal's praise meant to him after the two played at the Japan Open.

Raonic's junior career was not impressive, and there was little talk of his prospects a couple of years ago. Now that Ashleigh Barty of Australia has been revealed as the "once in a generation" talent that John Fitzgerald spoke about in his radio interview, she will come under scrutiny that Raonic never had. Linda Pearce writes about Barty's potential in The Age, quoting Tennis Australia head national coach Scott Draper extensively.
"I don't think that's necessarily an exaggerated call, based on her ability," says Draper. "Male or female, Ash is probably the most talented, or one of the most talented kids in terms of just hand-eye [co-ordination], skill, feel, she can volley, can slice, she's just one of those really gifted people.

"But it's a long road, and we have a history in this country lately of making kids feel like they've made it before they actually have, and that's certainly not what we intend to do. Yes, there's going to be hype around her, and yes, there's excitement that there's someone there who's as good as she is and is ticking as many boxes as she is, but it's a journey and you never really know until they're on the tour, day in and day out, competing against the best in the world."

There are currently five 14-year-old girls in the ITF World Junior rankings Top 150: Indy DeVroome(NED) 61, Barbara Haas(AUT) 76, Christina Makarova(USA) 115, Barty(AUS) 146, and Kanami Tsuji(JPN) 149. Pearce notes that junior rankings are not to be given too much weight, and mentions the semifinal appearance of Barty in the $25,000 Challenger as the best indication of her potential. It will be interesting to see how Tennis Australia handles her wild cards for the upcoming summer season Down Under.


simonsaystennis said...

Very interested in Barty... I wonder if she will be invited to the WC tournament for the Australian Open. That article pretty much summed it up perfectly...

Australia tends to hype young players and put tons of pressure on them, even more so then the USA. Just look at Olivia Rogowska (Remember, the one who took Safina to three sets at the 09 US Open?) Before seeing her play that match I read a lot of hype online from Australians hailing her as their next star, even nicknaming her Olivia RoGOATska (Greatest Of All Time).

I watched her battle Safina and was extremely impressed, however she fell just short. Many thought she'd only improve from there, with a win at the French over Kirilenko earlier that year, and also pushing both Bondarenko sisters to three sets in Grand Slam play.

In 2010 however her results have been very poor, and didn't win a match from February until May. She will end the year around 230, about 100 places from where she was last year. I still think she has loads of potential, but it will be interesting to see if she can handle the hype/pressure.

Jessica Moore is another great example, though to be fair she was probably just more overrated and overhyped. Still, she has three R1 victories in Grand Slams (two were over American wild cards Oudin and McHale, who have gone on to far surpass her) and was Girls Singles runner up at the '08 Aussie Open. Moore, who ended 2008 at 140 and then fell to 244 in 2009, now sits at 235.

While both of these girls still have time to turn it around, Australia should be very careful in how much attention Barty receives. They don't want her to head down the same path as her compatriots.

Kline Tennis said...

You have to be real careful with the girls and projections. Research will tell you many girls can peak at 13-14 years old as far as strength and speed, then stay at this level through their prime. That is totally different than the boys who continue to increase up through age 20.

Many look at a 14 year old girl who is talented and project her improvement which many times never happens. She will gain experience which certainly will help. But Barty could be a star or stagnate at her current level....Challenger level. No one knows.

Is she an early maturing girl who will never get much stronger? Maybe, maybe not. Thats why you really have to let the girls play it out and see who emerges in the pros. Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17 and thats when her hype started.

Whether it is Oudin or Monica Viele or Barty....let them actually win in the pros before hyping them.