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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

USA Today's Robson Looks at Lost Generation of American Tennis Players; Capra in College Spotlight; Men's Recruiting Class Rankings

Doug Robson has written an excellent article for USA Today about what happened to the young American men, born in 1986 or 1987, who decided to turn pro rather than go to college. Dubbing them the "Lost Generation," Robson talks with Brendan Evans, Scott Oudsema, Phillip Simmonds and Alex Kuznetsov, who signed with sports management agencies and went out on the pro tour.

Back in 2004, I wrote a similar piece, although it focused on Oudsema, who is from Kalamazoo, where I live. Reading it again, I'm struck by how certain everyone was that Oudsema was making the right choice, that he would be a successful professional. Current Australian Open director Craig Tiley, then the head men's coach at the University of Illinois, put Oudsema's odds of success at "100 percent." I'm also struck by how few of the people I quoted seven years ago still are working in the jobs they had then. USTA coach David Nainkin may be the only one, although Walker is still a prominent junior development coach in the Kalamazoo area, just at a different club.

But the issues addressed in both articles haven't changed much, and like James Blake and Todd Martin before him, John Isner has served as a shining example of the advantages of college tennis. Robson quotes Isner:

While Evans and his peers struggled, a few others of similar age that chose to spend time in college have generally had more success, none more so than John Isner.

The 26-year-old, who spent four years at the university of Georgia, reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year. He is at a career-high No. 17.

"I think they thought it was going to be easier than it was," says the nearly 6-10 Isner, who rode his serve into the top 100 within a few months of going pro in 2007. "For me, I went to college. I didn't put any pressure on myself. I had the experience of college tennis under my belt. I won a lot, whereas these guys early in their career didn't. When I left college I was ready to go."

Robson understands that there is no right answer in what will remain a difficult decision for all elite level American juniors.

"Still, it's dangerous to generalize." writes Robson. "The decision to go to college or turn pro is influenced by many factors from physical maturity to financial situation.

Some players are better off jumping to the pros and grinding it out while others are better served by spending time in the more structured environment of college.

Robson's article is about young men, but a current young woman faced a similar choice a year ago. Beatrice Capra, who reached the third round of the US Open in 2010 as a wild card, is now a freshman at Duke University. I wrote this article for Tennis Recruiting Network about Capra's decision early last year, but she tells it very well herself in this USTA college spotlight.

The first of two men's recruiting class rankings is out at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with Stanford topping the list, followed by Virginia, Duke, Georgia and Texas A&M. The women's list will be released on Monday.

The second ITA team rankings of 2012 were released yesterday, with USC men and Florida women remaining on top. Some teams have not even played a dual match yet this year, so there weren't a lot of dramatic changes in the rankings. The North Carolina women fell from 4 to 8 after a loss to Texas, who climbed from 21 to 15, and the Florida men, previously No. 8, beat No. 5 Baylor 6-1 Sunday, with the two schools switching places in the rankings.

For the complete rankings, see the rankings page at the ITA website. Dual match results are available at the ITA website as well.


tennisforlife said...

For those interested and for Colette in case she hasn't seen it someone has posted a full version of the 2014 national schedule and tournament proposals on one of the TW forums's . The forum is entitled " From the trenches at junior tennis tournaments". You can access the forum from the Tennis Recruiting Network home page at the bottom left. It is a lot to absorb but at first reading doesn't seem to be the coming of Armegeddon people were expecting in terms of the national schedule.

Austin said...

Oudsema never had the all-around game. When I saw him playing back in 2006 after a couple years on tour you could see he had no alternative gameplan. Same goes for Phillip Simmonds. I said several years ago they should have given up singles aspirations and concentrated on doubles. Them, along with Brendan Evans were great doubles players. It's a shame they never gave that a chance, could still be playing in grand slams. As for Scoville Jenkins, there is no excuse on why he didn't make it, just a complete bust. I dont know if it was his coaching, mental game or what, he should have made it out of that group.

getreal said...

There are a lot of holes in the USA Today article. Mostly notably that the best US athletes on the boys side tend to opt for football, basketball and baseball. Also, with those sports not only y can develop their talent while playing for their high schools, more importantly these kids don’t get ripped out the mainstream like a lot of top juniors do who travel and home school. The sacrifices and expense to develop a top junior tennis player with pro potential is out just too of wack with the odds of actually being successful.

Roddick effect said...

I like to call it the Roddick effect as a member of the class of 2000 (born 81,82). Agents and the USTA were looking for the next big thing following Roddick's quick success. Previously, the top American juniors at least went to college for one year (Gimelstob, Blake, Jeff Morrison, M. Russell, Bryans).

But Roddick was part of a new class/era.
It began with Roddick, Fish, Bogie, Levar Griffith, and Ginepri. Guys turned pro instead of pursuing the college route.

Things changed with this class. But now, we are seeing a reversal with the USTA encouraging guys to attend college. Smart move, unless one can physically compete out of HS like Roddick or Querrey.

work-hard-tennis said...

I love Maria Sharapova and was rooting her on this morning. However, I do get annoyed though when they call her a Russian, as well as she does it herself. If you came over to this country at a very young age, used its' resources to live, get even better, and drive around on our tax-paying roads, then to call yourself a Russian makes me mad. Call yourself a 1/2 and 1/2 and then I am fine with it.

But give the U.S. some credit.

hwhy uptight said...

@work-hard-tennis but if it worked how ur suggesting then almost all players would be representing Spain, the US, and France. Most juniors now-a-days travel abroad to train full time.