Sponsored by IMG Academy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tennis Europe's Players of the Year in 14s and 16s; What Junior Tennis Can Learn from Golf; Saviano and Witten to Coach Robson

Tennis Europe announced its players of the year, (along with the second and third place finishers) for 2013 in the 14s and 16s division, so here are a few names you might want to file away for future reference.

Girls 14s:
1. Evgeniya Levashova, Russia
2. Amina Anshba, Russia
3. Marketa Vondrousov, Czech Republic

Boys 14s:
1. Corentin Moutet, France
2. Samuele Ramazzotti, Italy
3. Artem Dubrivnyy, Russia

Girls 16s:
1. Michaela Bayerlova, Czech Republic
2. Ioana Minca, Romania
3. Hanna Kryvatulava, Belarus

Boys 16s:
1. Mate Valkusz, Hungary
2. Daniel Orlita, Czech Republic
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece

For the complete review of the years of all 12 players, see this article from the Tennis Europe website.

Lisa Stone at the Parenting Aces blog published a thought-provoking post on what junior tennis can learn from junior golf. I urge you to read the entire post to get a feel for how different the systems of the two major individual sports in the country are.

Stone gives a synopsis of the structure, the pathway and the atmosphere surrounding junior golf, and mentions that college golf is always the ultimate goal. Providing the PGA and LPGA with professional players is considered outside their realm of influence.

Obviously there are differences in the sports, and I know golf is having difficulty attracting young people to a sport that takes so long to play and is expensive to boot. Although Tiger Woods has set a higher bar for fitness in the game, there is no question that it is less physically demanding than tennis, which has led to long playing careers and no rush to bypass college. It used to be that golf prodigies were nonexistent, and a tennis career was downhill after age 25; the two professional tours seem to be converging now, although a golfer can still be considered young in his or her 30s. 

Globalization has also come to golf, although perhaps more slowly than in tennis, but the concern over the lack of Americans in the upper echelons of the sport seem to be confined to the LPGA, where Koreans dominate. But if Tiger Woods were to retire early, as Andy Roddick did, the void would be large. Does the USGA see this as a problem they need to fix? I don't know, but I doubt it.

One area where golf is firmly ahead of tennis is in wealth distribution. The 100th ranked ATP player, Ivo Karlovic, has made $362,974 in 2013, while Jerry Kelly, No. 100 on the PGA list, has made over twice that, $832,407. (Interesting that I am a member of both the USGA and USTA, and I pay twice as much for my tennis membership as I do for my golf membership). Golf, especially men's golf, has always excelled at attracting and retaining corporate sponsors, while tennis has not always been able to find the companies that fit with its position here in the US as a niche sport.

Unlike Lisa, I'm not providing a coherent comparison that leads to any conclusions. I guess I'm just trying to sort out how the sports differ, and how that might lead to contrasting philosophies by players, coaches and governing bodies. But a willingness to look outside each sport for answers to these vexing questions can't hurt.

One of the best junior development coaches in the country, Nick Saviano, has been much in the news the past few days. Genie Bouchard, the 19-year-old Canadian, was named WTA Newcomer of the Year, and Bouchard, like Sloane Stephens, Mallory Burdette and Laura Robson, has spent time working with Saviano early in her career, and still visits his academy in Plantation on occasion. Bouchard has announced she will work with Saviano, as will Robson, who is training in Plantation with Saviano now.  Jesse Witten, the former University of Kentucky All-American, will travel with Robson, according to this report from the Daily Mail.  Matt Cronin has more on how friends Bouchard and Robson plan to work out this unorthodox coaching arrangement at tennis.com.


lovethegame said...

With regards to money in golf, there is also the European Tour, which the #100 ranked player made 275k euros this year, and many other tours to make solid money. Not to mention, many golfers seem to play less events than tennis players, with less travel, since the tours are regionalized. Maybe tennis should take a page out of that book at have regionalized tours and then get the best of the best together for the largest tournaments?