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Friday, February 24, 2017

My Interview with USTA's Martin Blackman; Top Four Seeds Advance to D-III Team Indoor Semis; All Teens in Rancho Santa Fe Semis

While I was in Florida earlier this month, I had an opportunity to speak with Martin Blackman, General Manager of Player Development at the USTA.  This is my third one-on-one interview with Blackman, and I always enjoy discussing the department's initiatives and goals. This tie we talked in detail about the new Lake Nona headquarters, but also about the college tennis pathway and the recent junior competition changes.  My current interview with Blackman is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network; if you are a subscriber you can read my previous interview with Blackman in February of 2016 here.

The top four seeds have advanced to the semifinals of the ITA Men's Division III Team Indoor Championships in Cleveland.  Top seed Emory defeated No. 8 seed Trinity 7-2, with the defending champions two losses coming in doubles.  No. 2 seed Washington-St. Louis got a rare shutout, beating No. 7 seed Kenyon 9-0 in the other morning quarterfinal. The afternoon brought one close match, with No. 4 seed Carnegie Mellon defeating No. 5 seed Case Western Reserve 5-4. No. 3 seed Chicago took out Pomona-Pitzer, the No. 6 seed 7-2.  Emory faces off against Carnegie Mellon and Washington St Louis meets Chicago in Saturday's semifinals, both scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The ITA recap of the day's action is here.  Case Western's tournament page is here.

All four semifinalists at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe California are teenagers, with 18-year-old Sonya Kenin the oldest of the quartet.  Only 16-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu posted a routine win, defeating No. 8 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 6-2, 6-1 in 65 minutes.  Kenin led 5-2 in the final set, saw 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide win four straight games and serve for the match, but then broke to send the match into a tiebreaker. Kenin trailed 4-3 in the tiebreaker, but won the final four points of the match to earn a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory, avenging her loss to Dolehide last week in Surprise. She will face Andreescu in the semifinals.

Top seed Kayla Day managed to do what Dolehide could not, come from a 5-2 deficit in the final set to claim victory.  The 17-year-old defeated No. 5 seed Mayo Hibi of Japan 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, in nearly three hours, winning the final five games of the match.  She will play 18-year-old qualifier Katherine Sebov in the semifinal, after Sebov took out qualifier Maria Sanchez 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-4 in a match lasting more than three hours.  Sebov is now 22-3 in USTA Pro Circuit events this year, including qualifying.

At the $15,000 Indian Harbour Beach Florida Futures, Rhyne Williams advanced to the semifinals, beating top seed Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 7-5.  Williams will face 19-year-old Corentin Denolly of France, the No. 8 seed, next.  The other semifinal will feature Dominik Koepfer of Germany, the No. 7 seed, against No. 4 seed Andrea Collarini of Argentina.

At the ATP 250 in Delray Beach, No. 3 seed Jack Sock defeated No. 5 seed Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6(4) in the quarterfinals, to set up another all-American match in the semifinals.  Johnson is the subject of this ESPN article, which focuses on his continuing efforts to improve his fitness.

Donald Young, who beat Taylor Fritz in the second round, received a walkover from Steve Darcis of Belgium into the semifinals.  Top seed Milos Raonic of Canada will face the winner of tonight's quarterfinal between defending champion Sam Querrey, seeded No. 4, and No. 7 seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.


LoveTheGame said...

Less than 5% of the current men's top 100 went to college. The women are even worse.

College tennis helps late bloomers, but if you are already top 10 in the world in juniors, or top 500 by 17, going to college may stunt your development, not help. There are TONS of potential distractions in college.

For every john isner or steve johnson, there have been numerous players that have gone to college and gotten "off track." If you are not playing #1 for your school, you are not playing top level players.

It's just like the NBA, almost all of the best players in the last 20 years either came out of high school, or were "one and done's." There are of course exceptions and everyone should look at their case individually.

Everyone is different, but I always chuckle when I hear that college tennis is a "pathway to the pros."

Just Be Realistic said...

People never report about the players who never went to college, players who turned pro from high school, and then NEVER made it into Top 200-300, even Top 150? There is a bigger list of those players than the players who went to college.

It should be obvious for the players who turn pro, like Kayla Day, CC Bellis and Taylor Fritz, etc. There are still a handful of players, girls and boys, who shouldn't think of turning pro right away. If you are not Top 200 WTA or 300 ATP, then the decision isn't that tough. Yes, everyone's situation is different, with potential and money.

If there is a question whether you should turn pro or go to college, then you should probably go to college. And no one says you have to stay the whole time.

Not the whole story said...

What Blackman also fails to mention is how many Wildcards they give to one player to get them started, a huge advantage that other players don't get. So while he mentions a couple college players able to get a ranking by playing in the fall of college, and not having to grind it out in futures, it is ironic that said player was given a WC into the first future played as a pro, along with WCs for 8 of the 11 tournaments played following that, most of them Challengers. I really wish they would tell the entire story. Let's give every college player that many WCs and see how many excel. You cannot underestimate the importance of that boost and favoritism.