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.