Australian Open Qualifying Begins Tuesday, with Nine American Men in Draw; College Park's JTCC; USTA Player Development Changing Emphasis in 2014
Men's qualifying begins Wednesday in Australia (tonight here in the US), with nine American men looking to advance to main draw. Two managed to qualify last year: Steve Johnson and Rajeev Ram, with Tim Smyczek getting into the main draw as a lucky loser. Smyczek is in on his own ranking this year, Johnson won the USTA wild card tournament last month, and Ram is again in qualifying. In addition to No. 15 seed Ram, the eight other US men in qualifying, with their seeding: Denis Kudla(4), Alex Kuznetsov(20), Tennys Sandgren, Bobby Reynolds, Wayne Odesnik(19), Dan Kosakowski, Rhyne Williams(13) and Austin Krajicek. They are evenly distributed in the draw, with only Williams and Krajicek getting an early meeting, possibly in the second round.
Current NCAA champion Blaz Rola is in the qualifying draw, as is current Oklahoma freshman Andrew Harris, who received a wild card from his home country's federation. Australians received eight wild cards, but 18-year-old Enzo Couacaud of France also was given one, for reasons I can't even guess at. Usually the previous year's Australian Open boys champion gets one, but both Nick Kyrgios, the 2013 boys champion, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, the 2013 finalist, have been awarded main draw wild cards.
Unsurprisingly, Australia has the most players in the men's qualifying draw, with 13, including those eight wild cards. Following close behind are France and Italy with 11, the United States with 9, and Spain with 8.
Qualifying matches will be streamed live on the Australian Open's YouTube channel.
The women's qualifying will begin on Thursday (Wednesday night in the US).
|Misha Kouznetsov and Francis Tiafoe of the JTCC|
Benton isn't quoted in this USA Today article on USTA Player Development by Doug Robson, but USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith is, as is USTA Player Development Patrick McEnroe. Robson also provides quotes from some of the department's longtime critics, Robert Lansdorp and Wayne Bryan, and from Andy Roddick, Paul Annacone, and others, including Kalamazoo champion Collin Altamirano and his private coach, Joseph Gilbert.
It's an interesting article, with views from all sides of the debate. (Robson does misidentify the Regional Training Centers, which are not the three National Training Centers the USTA runs, but rather private clubs and academies that have applied to the USTA for that certification). I've long made my feelings known about the USTA being in the academy business (simply put, against, as not the best use of its resources), so I won't go into them in detail right now, but I truly hope Smith is right when he says this:
"I think everyone will see a renewed emphasis on outreach and inclusiveness in USTA player development going forward."