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Friday, June 14, 2013

My Interview with USTA National Collegiate Coach Dustin Taylor; Steve Johnson Reaches Nottingham Final, with Possible Wimbledon Wild Card at Stake; Routliffe Signs with Alabama

My interview with Dustin Taylor, who has recently been named the USTA National Coach - Collegiate Tennis, is available now on the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Taylor and I spoke at length last month at the NCAAs, and while I learned about his background and previous coaching experiences, the focus was how this related to his dreams for the revamped USTA Collegiate Team.

The goal of creating a team that has the prestige of being named an All-American is not a modest aim. But if it can become a significant part of the structure of the USTA's collegiate pathway, the benefits will go beyond any individual accolade.  I know from talking with Taylor that he is committed to college tennis, and his new position provides more evidence that the USTA is too.  Let's hope Taylor can grow his area so that college tennis is a significant presence in the Player Development structure.

Steve Johnson, one of the recent college players Taylor mentions in the interview, has reached the final of the Nottingham II Challenger, defeating another two-time NCAA champion, Somdev Devvarman of India, 6-3, 6-4 in today's rain-delayed semifinal.  Johnson will meet unseeded Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium in Saturday's final, and as Steve at Shank Tennis pointed out on twitter, a Wimbledon main draw wild card may be on the line. Although there is no formal arrangement, last year Wimbledon awarded Nottingham II winner Grega Zemlja of Slovenia a main draw wild card, and both Johnson and Bemelmans are preparing to play Wimbledon qualifying beginning Monday, just as Zemlja would have done had he not received the wild card last year.  This is Johnson's second Challenger final--he won the Aptos Challenger last August, and, coincidentally, that win earned him a wild card into the US Open.

The University of Alabama women announced signings for the fall, and Canada's Erin Routliffe, one of the most sought-after recruits who wasn't signed in November, is among them.  Routliffe, who won the 16s singles and doubles titles at the 2011 Orange Bowl, has been ranked as high as 17 in the ITF juniors.  In addition to Routliffe, Alabama has signed Carmen Blanco and Luicelena Perez of Venezuela and Danielle Spielmann of Switzerland. The Northwestern women added Brooke Rischbieth of Australia to their already strong recruiting class, and Southern Cal confirmed the transfer of Brynn Boren from Tennessee.

And a quick update on the two $10,000 Pro Circuit events this week, which are now through to the semifinals.  At the women's tournament in Delaware, top seed Jessica Moore of Australia is joined in the semifinals by three young Americans: Florida freshman Brianna Morgan and 17-year-olds Brooke Austin(2) and Peggy Porter.
In the men's tournament in Florida, it's Jesse Witten(7) facing Fernando Romboli of Brazil in one semifinal and Mitchell Frank against last week's champion Marcelo Arevalo(2) of El Salvador in the other.


russ said...

Read the interview with Dustin Taylor and I'm wondering how receptive the college coaches will be to a year round collegiate team. Other than the USTA picking up the tab for futures and challengers, what's the benefit for the coaches and players? I seriously doubt any coach would be willing to allow a player to spend time with the USTA during the Spring season. As for the fall, it's not as if players are lacking tournaments during that time. Usually in the fall teams focus on conditioning, training, team building pursuits, and yeah school as the players try to take a heavier workload than the Spring. So what's the point? And if it's just money for tournaments, why is the USTA paying five coaches? To babysit? In a way it smacks of USTA desperation. Unable to develop their own players are they're hoping to grab a bit of glory if a college player succeeds? And if one of the college players decides to leave early under USTA auspices, you can kiss your relationship with the college coaches bye bye. Great idea for the summer, a stupid one for year round.

National Junior Coach said...

Not sure how the usta team is going to work year-round. the sumer is ideal as they can take to a few Future/Challenger tournaments in the Fall especially for the upper classman who are looking for more Pro experience. There are also the November and December months of training for college players who seek more training as college has some reduced hours. Also, the college team should practice at some Pro Tournaments, be a practice partner for Top American players.

The USTA has been doing this for many years and always have a USTA coach run the summer camps, along with other college assistant coaches. The USTA is not trying to take players from college, they would have already tried to do that already, if that was the intention, the only thing the USTA did is turn a position into only college-focused.

What the USTA needs to stop doing is training their Boca juniors like professionals. They are trying so hard to produce a player that they over-train their players as most of them get injured. They are fast forwarded the process of development. They need to focus on injury prevention and the health of each player not over-training. They run more than a track club. The fitness in Boca is killing those players. Those young players are not adults but training like they are, its a losing formula. The only thing Boca players have more of is unlimited travel expenses and guaranteed injuries. All you have to do is compare the injury report of Boca players to other top juniors in country. No comparison.

russ said...

The only reduced load in November and December is after Finals in the middle of December. There's a possible three week window before the colleges embark on the Spring season usually with a trip to somewhere warm for training, competition, and team building before the school term starts. Now what's my thought as a coach and player? Do I want some downtime during the Holidays with the family? Do I want to decompress after finals and before the intensity of the Spring dual season? Would I like some non stress, fun hitting with local players to keep sharp? How about a local Holiday money tournament with decent competition but where the stakes aren't high? Or do I want a never ending season of intense competition and practice? Now for those who think American players don't work that hard, that's obviously the only option. But for those who believe that the mind, spirit, and body all need periodic rest and rejuvenation the Holiday Time period is the perfect time off, especially considering there are no pro tournaments in the US from the middle of november to the second week of January. So unless the USTA is wiling to pay for entire family's Holiday in Boca or Carson for collegiate team practice sessions, what's the incentive? Zip, I'd say.

I just don't see the point of a year round team.

russ said...

ps: I finally thought of a situation where this makes sense. Suppose you have a player or two on your team who are itching to turn pro. And suppose you have a team loaded with talent that requires scholarship juggling. For the price of half a scholarship said players can take the fall off and play college tennis in the spring. That way coach and player get a win/win out of the situation. But if this becomes standard practice, how will the other coaches feel?