Townsend Downs Top Seed Larcher de Brito in Florence $25K; Wild Card Distribution Skews American; Ward-Hibbert Not Attending Texas A&M
Taylor Townsend got the biggest win of her career today in the first round of the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Florence, SC, defeating top seed and WTA No. 113 Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-4. Townsend, who qualified by beating Marianna Gould, Chalena Scholl and Denise Muresan, is playing in just her second Pro Circuit event of the year. Her first, a 6-1, 6-2 first round qualifying loss to Vicky Duval in Vancouver, was allegedly the result that triggered much of the controversy that emerged over her fitness at the US Open. Duval, by the way, qualified at the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Canada and won her first round match before falling to No. 7 seed Madison Keys.
Townsend is unranked after not defending the semifinal points she won at the 2011 $50K in Carson (which was not on the 2012 schedule), or the US Open qualifying, where she scored her first big win in professional competition, defeating No. 122 Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain in the first round before falling to Laura Robson in a third-set tiebreaker in the second round. Those results helped her reach 420 in the WTA rankings a year ago. The fact that Townsend didn't receive a wild card into Florence (those went to Brooke Austin, Lauren Embree, Jamie Loeb and Sanaz Marand) may not be related to her recent difficulties with the USTA, but it is a segue into Jeff Sackmann's post today about the abundance of wild cards available to young Americans compared to those from other countries.
Sackmann, who writes the Heavy Topspin blog (and recently has written several posts with fascinating insight into what matters in a tiebreaker) looks at the number of wild cards given to men who were under 25 at the time.
Much has been said of Donald Young‘s 27 tour-level wild cards. (Some of it by Patrick McEnroe, recipient of 37.) But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know that the seven active players who received the most wild cards before age 25 play for the USA? Young is followed by Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, Sam Querrey, Jesse Levine, John Isner, and James Blake. (Blake has been handed by far the most career wild cards, but the majority have come in his more recent comeback attempts.)
The current top 200 players received 748 wild cards before the age of 25. 139, or 18.6% of those, have gone to these seven, or 3.5% of players.
Sackmann contrasts this with Grega Zemlja of Slovenia, now No. 50 in the world, who before he received his (much criticized) Wimbledon wild card, had gotten only one wild card--in a Challenger--in his career. He is now 26 years old.
Sackmann explains why this inequity exists and even offers a few solutions. But the overriding question is whether it ultimately hurts the players who receive them. This is, I guess, the tennis equivalent of first world problems, but it bears considering. The complete post is here.
Another different but perhaps related question is explored by Dan Coyle, The Talent Code author, in this post "The Power of Crumminess." Is there danger in state-of-the-art facilities? Can they lead to complacency, dulling motivation and competition? I guess all of us in tennis know the Serbian swimming pool story by now, so maybe there's something to it. Or maybe the facilities themselves are simply irrelevant. And, ultimately, wild cards are too.
One of the pieces of information I picked up at the US Open last month and I guess never found a time or place to report involves Great Britain's Joshua Ward-Hibbert, who had signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Texas A&M. I heard that Ward-Hibbert has turned pro, and he will not be joining the Aggies.