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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Duval, Vickery Advance at Midland $100K; First Round Complete At Rancho Mirage $25K; The Role of a Junior Development Coach vs. a Federation

Seventeen-year-old doubles partners Vicky Duval and Sachia Vickery won their opening round matches Wednesday at the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Michigan.  Duval, who lost to Vickery 6-0, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying Tuesday but got in as a lucky loser, beat No. 2 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 earlier today, while Vickery spoiled Taylor Townsend's pro debut with a 6-4, 6-3 win in the evening featured match.

From the tournament press release :

"I was really lucky that I got that second chance and tried to make the most of it today," said Duval. "Yesterday, I was rushing a lot because I really wanted to get into this main draw and was too nervous out there, but I played much smarter today."

The win was also by far the biggest of her career and the first against a top 100 player on the WTA Tour.

“I’ve smelled those wins against top 100 players before, but to actually come through and pull it out is really nice,” she said.

Duval had actually won a round two years ago in Midland as a wild card, beating Mashona Washington before falling to Rebecca Marino of Canada in a close second round match.

Vickery and Townsend had many long games but when a big point materialized, it was Vickery who usually took it.  Counterpunching and using her considerable speed, Vickery was able to stay in points until Townsend made an error. Townsend also didn't serve well, losing her serve five times in the second set. Vickery got the only hold of the second set, serving at 2-1, and that was enough to get her past Townsend, who was playing in her first match of 2013.

Next for Duval is former USC All-American Maria Sanchez, while Vickery will play Monica Puig.

For more on top seed Lauren Davis and Townsend, see this article in the Midland Daily News.

The first round is complete at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event at Rancho Mirage, with qualifier Mayo Hibi and wild card Louisa Chirico reaching the second round. The 16-year-old Hibi, who lives in Irvine, Calif. but plays for Japan, cruised past Mai Minokoshi, also of Japan, 6-2, 6-0. Chirico, also 16, defeated Stanford freshman Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 7-5, avenging her loss to Hardebeck in the USTA National 18s Championship round of 16 in San Diego last August. 

Fifteen-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland also reached the second round with a 7-5, 7-6(5) win over fellow qualifier Ashley Weinhold of the United States.

An open letter to player development coaches from former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee has been circulating, and although I tweeted a link to it earlier today, I think it's important enough to post again here.  McNamee, who has long been at odds with Tennis Australia, believes their system, which selects young players to support and takes over their coaching, damages the most important relationship that exists in tennis--that of a player and the coach who developed his or her game.  Tennis Australia is not the only federation that does this, of course, with the USTA, LTA and I assume, the French, functioning in a similar fashion.  All of these federations have excellent coaches, of course, but do they know the player--and believe in the player--as that first coach does?

I found it particularly refreshing that McNamee, who has spent his life in tennis and could claim special knowledge based on that alone, would say:

I even hear private coaches buying into this refrain. A Melbourne coach recently said to me “I’ve got a really good kid who I love working with, but I know I’ll eventually have to let him go to a better coach in the system”. I said to him “Stop right there. Don’t ever put yourself down like that again. You are doing a great job with that boy. Don’t be concerned that you think you do not have the knowledge to coach him at the Tour level. That may be true right now, but I guarantee you that by the time your kid is playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon, you will have acquired all the knowledge you need and, anything you’re missing, you’ll know who to seek out. The best chance for your kid to make it is if you guys go on the journey together”.

There are arguments to be made that if a federation is to assume the financial obligations of training a player, it needs to have control over that training. If it doesn't, the federation is simply a bank, yet one without any collateral if the loans it makes aren't repaid. That's hardly a recipe for accountability.  But McNamee isn't wrong to question the current system and point out the contributions of those who work outside it.


tennisforlife said...

Great article - the USTA or any Federation should be in the business of providing opportunity, support and assistance but opportunity most of all. It should not be in the business of trying to decide who will be successful - they have no track record here. Just like our government (Collette pardon the political reference here) should not be in the business of deciding who should get rich but should look to provide as much opportunity as possible

Bob said...

Hey Collette,

I've been an avid reader of your blog for years now. I am a current college tennis player and obviously lately you've posted so much about usta changes and things like that. In reference to your McNamee post, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I had a fantastic junior coach and it was a great situation to grow up with him, and he became one of my best friends. My question to you is don't you think going to college to play tennis is eerily similar to going to a federation, say boca, to train with the usta? In both cases one had to adjust to a new coach and struggle with new relationships. I personally feel like my system at home and the group and coach I had there was way better than my current situation. One thing I've noticed in college tennis is that everyone assumes you get better by going to college. Obviously it's a good investment for your future, but if you are trying to become as good of a tennis player as possible, doesn't it make more sense to remain in your city with your long time coach who has made you what you are and took you to a high level? What do you think about this?

Jane Suter said...

I was under the impression that what made the French system so different from everyone else is that they financially support promising young players BUT allow them to continue working with their original coaches.

Longtime Tennis Observer said...

Hi Bob. I think that your question brings up common misconceptions and dilemmas that relate to private developmental coaches vs. appointed college and national federation (e.g., USTA Player Development) coaches. There are many great developmental coaches out there who can even be the parents of successful players such as Pat Harrison, Wayne Bryan, Mike Agassi, Rick Macci, etc. but the problem is that when their players advance to represent their country at a national federation or for a college team, their new coaches were usually appointed to that position, not primarily because of any track record or qualifications for developing or coaching players but most often because they were top PLAYERS. Sometimes top players are also great coaches but more often they are just top players who might be able to give good match strategy advice or can manage the team for success but they are less likely to be the kinds of coaches that can help a player with stroke production and developing their game. Similar to what Paul McNamee refers to in his article, everyone just assumes that because that college coach or federation coach now has his or her title as the national coach combined with an impressive record as a player, he/she must be a great coach and whose decisions are beyond reproach. I hear the following all the time when someone mentions that they think that a USTA Player Development Coach or a college coach made a very bad decision regarding a player’s stroke ideas, strategy or even a line-up decision, someone will respond: “Hey, he knows what he’s doing because he was ranked #37 on the ATP Tour so who do you think you are questioning his decision?!”

Having said all this, I realize that developmental coaches or parent coaches are not always great coaches, in fact, some are complete disasters. However, many of these good developmental coaches are actually far better than the federation or college coaches but most people just assume that this can’t be true despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. My advice is to listen to your college coach but also continue to keep working with your developmental coach throughout college during the summers or when your schedule permits.

Florida parent said...

The biggest misconception of them all is that the Tour coaches are the best coaches. I believe it is the opposite. The hometown coaches are the best because they understand fundamentals and technique and they built the foundation of that player. A Tour level coach is like a good manager and all about timing with the best players - like Brad Gilbert with Agassi. I have not seen Roger Rasheed, Gilbert, Annacone, Higueras, Cahill, Stefanki, develop a junior. It is easier taking a Top 10 potential and add something to their game. Actually - not every time - Illona Young destroyed her son, Donald's career.

As far as sending top juniors to the USTA - leave them at home - juniors develop better at home. There is no consistency of training and Players get injured all the time there. All the top American pros never left home to train somewhere - only back 20-30 years ago at Bolleterri's.

seen it forever said...

Longtime Observer and Florida Parent, Every thing said is 100% accurate but even the supposed positives about the ex tour players offer nothing that the top Supposed DEVELOPMENT coaches havent already taught them. The term development coach to most people implies that these coaches can only take players to a certain level and then these ex tour players need to take over to get these players to the top of the professional rankings. Its a scam that all ex players say and use to lure players away from their situation. Its up to these players not to fall for this complete misinformation. These top development coaches arent just technique and fundamentals coaches. They too know and teach top match strategy advice. They too know how to add to a top professionals game and continue to build it. They simply arent on T.V. self promoting all the time. Or setting up websites self promoting or talking to agents and whoever they can trying to get themselves jobs as these players personal coaches. Most of these guys who have traveled with many different players over many years are just great "used car salesmen." They literally can not teach these guys a single thing they havent already been taught. Its up to the players themselves not to fall the bologne that they hear. If they do its their fault when their games stagnate and dont develop.

Chris Lewis said...

Paul McNamee is 100 per cent correct. It should not be the role of a national body to sever successful relationships between private coaches and their students; the proper role of a national body should be to support and nurture those relationships. There is no surer way to minimize a nation’s chances of producing champions than to alienate the entire private coaching community by effectively declaring war on them. Tennis Australia’s divisive and, as Paul points out, fatally flawed approach to junior development does, though, have one redeeming feature; namely, it provides a superb model for guaranteed future as all one would have to do is implement the exact opposite of every one of its failed and failing policies.