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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Australian Open Draws Feature Twelve US Women and Nine US Men; Never Again a Teenage Champion?; New Coaches Poll for Division I Men

While the second round of qualifying is being played Friday in Australia, the draws were revealed, with nine US men and 12 US women already in before the completion of qualifying.

The US women: Serena Williams(1), Madison Keys, Sachia Vickery, Lauren Davis, Venus Williams, Alison Riske, Varvara Lepchenko, Vania King, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens(13) and Jamie Hampton(27).  Wild card Vickery and Davis play each other, while four others get seeds. Venus will play No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, Mattek-Sands drew No. 3 Maria Sharapova, King plays No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, and Riske takes on No. 23 Elena Vesnina.

The US men: Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison, Donald Young, Bradley Klahn, Tim Smyczek, John Isner(13), Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey, Michael Russell.  Harrison, who seems to regularly get tough draws in the majors, plays Gael Monfils, the No. 25 seed, in the first round. Klahn plays Grigor Dimitrov, the No. 22 seed, and Russell plays No. 30 seed Dmitry Tursunov.

Either Denis Kudla or Alex Kuznetsov will join them in the main draw, as they advanced today into the final round of qualifying against each other.  Wayne Odesnik, Dan Kosakowski and Rhyne Williams have also advanced to the final round of qualifying.

In the women's qualifying, Nicole Gibbs, Vicky Duval, Shelby Rogers and Madison Brengle (the latter two playing each other) are into the second round and play later Thursday night. Irina Falconi has already advanced to the final round of qualifying, where she'll play Heather Watson.

Belinda Bencic in US Open Juniors, Sept. 2013

The top two juniors in the world, Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh, who split the four junior slams last year, both advanced to Thursday's second round, with Bencic beating top seed Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-3, 6-1, and Konjuh beating Diana Marcinkevica of Latvia 6-4, 6-0.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

There are no boys still eligible for ITF junior competition remaining in the Australian Open qualifying draw after one round, and this article, entitled "You’ll never see another teenage tennis champ – here’s why," isn't surprised by that.

I don't think the statistics presented, which have been conventional wisdom for years, provide any basis for saying "never", and of course, this teenage tennis champ referred to must be male, as there are no statistics (or over-the-top predictions) regarding women's tennis.  I am more inclined to agree with Jim Courier, who thinks there will be another teenage champion, simply because outliers are outliers and tennis is not immune from those.  But the physical and mental demands of the men's game right now make early breakthroughs difficult, and the cost of competing at the lower levels (see this New York Times article about former North Carolina State standout James Magee of Ireland, who has written extensively about his financial challenges) doesn't help.  As the article says:

But, the true story is far less glamorous once you factor in the costs. Tennis Australia estimates competing on tour costs about US$121,000-197,000 per year. A quick look at the ATP prize money winnings shows fewer than 200 players earned this amount in 2013.

The longer road to the “break even” ranking means it takes longer for athletes to become financially stable. Some tennis nations already have a problem with retaining young athletes, and the financial pressures faced by developing tennis players are partially to blame.

Its also harder for federations to identify the next top athlete, given the gap between junior and senior competition is widening. It’s similar to how the seven-day weather forecast is less accurate than the four-day forecast – forecasting further into the future is harder to get right.

Another argument for college tennis?  Although the article doesn't mention it, it sure sounds like one.

College Tennis Online is publishing a new "Coaches Poll" this year for Division I tennis.  The first poll was released Wednesday, for the men, and it features the same Top 25 teams as the ITA poll from last week. This isn't entirely surprising, given that both sets of rankings are based on votes; it will be more interesting when the computer takes over at the ITA, and the Coaches Poll continues.  There are some swapping of places between the two polls, with the most notable being USC at No. 3 and Georgia No. 4 in the Coaches Poll, but nothing drastic at all.


Clark Coleman said...

I do not see a hyperlink to the article about never having a men's junior champion.

Colette Lewis said...

Oops. Thanks for letting me know. I'll add it.