What's Wrong with US Men's Tennis; Fourteen Americans Play in US Open First Round Monday; Doubles Draws Posted
an article for Sports On Earth with a similar theme. The USTA's Director of Coaching Jose Higueras provided Gibbs with the bulk of her information on the reasons for the decline in men's tennis, and Higueras has been widely cheered on twitter for this quote: "If it was up to me, there would be no wild cards. Wild cards create entitlement for the kids. I think you should be in the draw if you actually are good enough to get in the draw."
With the US Open beginning Monday, several articles on the state of men's tennis in the United States were published today. Doug Robson of USA Today, in a piece headlined "US Men Not Measuring Up" discusses the disturbing firsts recently, including no American men in the Wimbledon third round this year, and none in the ATP Top 20 a couple of weeks ago (Isner has since returned to the Top 20).
Robson quotes Tim Mayotte, who briefly worked for USTA Player Development and has been one of its most persistent and visible critics since then.
"The model is broken," says Mayotte, a former top-10 player who worked under McEnroe at the USTA but last year opened his own tennis academy a few miles away from the National Tennis Center in Queens.
"They are forced to hit overly aggressive forehands from out of position or weak backhands that get killed," Mayotte says of a problem affecting most of the top American men since the turn of the century, from Roddick and James Blake to Querrey and Isner to lauded youngsters such as Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison.
For me, the most intriguing part of this article is this assertion:
McEnroe hopes young players such as Harrison, 21, and Sock, 20, can develop into elite players and is even more optimistic about a younger group of players who have yet to hit the pros (emphasis mine).
This could very well be true, and who doesn't want optimism? But unnamed younger players have been pointed to for several years now, and professional breakthroughs have been few there.
The aging of the ATP Top 100 makes identifying young players less important than ever unless you believe, as I assuredly do not, that a federation can "develop" a player.
I'm sure Higueras knows as well as anyone the importance of wild cards, and without one, Goran Ivanisevic would never have won Wimbledon, Kim Clijsters wouldn't have been able to say goodbye at the US Open last year, etc. etc. But if Higueras wants to eliminate or reduce the wild cards in the hands of the USTA, especially those often given to younger players, he is in a position to raise the issue, and should, given his opinions stated in this article.
As far as the USTA Player Development budget, I don't know what Higueras is referring to when he says the USTA pays for junior competition. Everyone who has paid a USTA entry fee knows that money is expected to cover the cost of the tournament, including courts, officials and administration, with the balls the only direct contribution from the USTA itself. The USTA does pay for several of the large ITF junior events in this country, but not the USTA sanctioned junior tournaments.
Gibbs also added on twitter that Higueras brought up his support of the collegiate tennis system in the US in her interview with him, which did not make the final cut in her article. The timing of that assertion isn't the best, given that the USTA failed to give a US Open women's doubles wild card to NCAA champions Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian of USC, but I hope Higueras continues to reach out to college coaches, who are an under-utilized asset and deserve more credit and recognition for their work.
It's being reported that Santamaria and Christian have been promised a wild card for the 2014 US Open, regardless of their performance in college events this season, but they won't know about the mixed doubles wild card possibilities for this year until Monday.
The US Open doubles draws have been released, with girls 18s champions Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery playing Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada. Boys 18s champions Paul Oosterbaan and Ronnie Schneider will play Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram, and with Ram and Schneider both coached by Bryan Smith, it will be an interesting coaching/preparation dynamic. NCAA men's doubles champions Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger of Virginia have drawn No. 14 seeds Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut of France.
There are 14 Americans on Monday's schedule, all in singles, including Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bradley Klahn, Shelby Rogers and Rhyne Williams. Ryan Harrison has drawn No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, and is third on Ashe Monday afternoon.