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Monday, November 15, 2010

USTA/ITA Indoor Recap; Woodbridge Expecting Jump in Ranking for Tomic; Fitzgerald on Australian Player Development

Now that Tennis Recruiting Network's extensive Signing Week coverage is complete, there's room for my recap of the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York. I was very impressed with the venue and the organization, and I think the tournament's stature will continue to grow in the next couple of years. New York's Flushing Meadows has always represented one of the pinnacles of tennis for both professionals and juniors in the U.S.; now it has become one for college players too. I look forward to returning in 2011.

With the Australian Open just a little over two months away, the coverage of tennis in the country is starting to ramp up. Last week, John McEnroe was in Australia for a Champions event, and his remarks on Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter's appointment as Davis Cup captain and the lack of Top 50 Australian men made news.

Today, Todd Woodbridge, head of men's tennis for Tennis Australia, was featured in this Linda Pearce article for The Age, which focuses on the prospects of 18-year-old Bernard Tomic. I was curious about Tomic's lack of play since September, and wondered if it was injury related, but there's no indication of that. Woodbridge calls it "probably a different formula than most people would have used," and Tomic is scheduled to compete in a Challenger in Japan next week prior to the wild card tournament for the Australian Open. Woodbridge speculates that by the end of the next 12 months, Tomic could be in the ATP Top 50. Given that Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria has won three Challengers and three Futures this year and has yet to crack the Top 100, that means Tomic will probably need some nice runs in ATP events, particularly the Australian Open.

In another article, which is actually a transcript of television interview, former Davis Cup captain and new Tennis Australia board member John Fitzgerald talks in depth about the state of the game.

Although Fitzgerald doesn't mention Craig Tiley's name, all his references to the past five years, which coincide with Tiley's tenure as head of Player Development at Tennis Australia, are positive ones. Fitzgerald also doesn't mention former AO director Paul McNamee's name, but is less enthusiastic about the way player development was handled when he was in power.

Fitzgerald is shown as reluctant to name names when asked about the up and coming young players in Australia, but does mention Todd Reid as the example of a top junior who failed in his transition to the pros. Fitzgerald does mention Jason Kubler (no longer No. 1 in the world in juniors, but formerly in that position), Luke Savile and Jay Andrijic as well as two 14-year-olds, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Li Tu.

He draws the line at revealing the name of the girl he calls "probably the best prospect we've had in 20 years in the women's game." But giving her age as 14, a little detective work reveals that he's probably speaking of Ashleigh Barty, who is ranked 145 in the ITF juniors after winning three of the five ITF tournaments she's entered this year. She also reached the semifinals of a $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event last month.

Fitzgerald also has an interesting take on how the court surfaces in Australia have hurt development and why Spain has taken the lead in player development recently. It's a long interview, but it's definitely worth your time if you have any interest in player development.


Tony Lars said...

You need to print retraction regarding your comments about Paul McNamee. He was the director of the Australian Open tournament he NEVER had anything to do with player development in Australia. That was handled solely by Tennis Australia. THAT is why Fitzgerald never mentioned his name.