Thursday, September 10, 2020

Minnesota to Cut Men's Tennis; Brady Falls Just Short in US Open Semifinals; Pavic and Soares Win Men's Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2020--

A second Big Ten school has announced the elimination of its men's tennis program, with Minnesota revealing today that it will discontinue men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field, men's gymnastics and men's tennis after the 2020-21 academic year, leaving it with 21 varsity sports. As for why these sports were targeted for cutting, the release says: "In addition to the financial challenges and gender-equity commitments, we also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level when making this decision."  When Iowa cut its men's program last month, it may have served as permission for other Big Ten programs to consider that option. I do not expect this to be the last of the Power 5 conference schools to follow suit, although I hope I am wrong.

Jennifer Brady was the only US Open semifinalist who had not won a slam title, but there was no way to tell that from her performance tonight against 2018 champion Naomi Osaka. Although she lost 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3 to the No. 4 seed, the former UCLA star was in the match to the very end, trading blistering ground strokes and big serves in one of the best women's matches of the tournament. 

Breaks of serve were at a premium throughout the match, with Brady getting the only break point in the first set, but she couldn't get Osaka's second serve back in play at 3-all, and they went on to the tiebreaker. Brady made a few more errors, while Osaka continued to keep hers to a minimum in spite of the pace she was generating and absorbing. 

To Brady's credit, she did not get discouraged after that poor tiebreaker, and the match returned to its extremely high level in the second set. Brady continued to hold serve without much trouble, and leading 4-3, she got her first break opportunity at 30-40. One of the longest rallies of the match ended with Osaka sending a forehand long and Brady closed out the set with no difficulty to send the match to a third set.

Osaka got the lone break of the third set with Brady serving a 1-2, with Brady failing to challenge on a call that ESPN's replay of Hawkeye showed as good but was called out and not overruled by the chair umpire. With breaks so rare, that one was obviously deflating for Brady, but the former UCLA Bruin recovered from 15-40 in her next service game to stay close, and held once more at 2-5 to force Osaka to serve it out. Osaka didn't get many first serves in and double faulted for 15-30, but she came through when she had to, taking the next three points to earn her place in the final. 

Despite her lack of experience in such a moment, Brady was pleased she was able to play high quality tennis.

"I think I handled the situation pretty well," said Brady, who was seeded at a slam for the first time, at No. 28.  "I mean, I was obviously pretty nervous, playing here on Arthur Ashe, night match, semifinals, a match to play for the finals of the US Open. I felt like I went out there and I believed that I could win the match. Obviously I didn't, but I'm pretty happy with myself, with my effort, and my mentality these past couple weeks."

Osaka was impressed by Brady's consistency throughout the match, saying it reminder her of the 2019 Australian Open final against Petra Kvitova.

"Unlike that match, I felt like Jenny was very solid throughout the entire thing," Osaka said. "I felt like I had no chances almost. Everyone on my team was happy, they said it was a really high quality match and they said they were proud of me for having a consistent attitude throughout."

As for her plans, Brady said she would "love to play tomorrow, but I think I'm going to take a little bit of time, practice and train on the clay before I start playing tournaments. I'll train a little bit. Looking to play French Open."

Brady, who is expected to move to a career-high 25 in the WTA rankings after this run, can draw confidence from her impressive showing as she goes into another slam in under three weeks.

"I think I'm just proud of my effort, that I treated each match as the same, came in with the same mentality," Brady said. "The only goal I had was just to compete on every single point. I felt like that's what I did. I'm leaving here pretty proud."

Osaka will face unseeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who overcame a slow start to defeat Serena Williams 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The men's doubles champions were crowned Thursday afternoon, with unseeded Bruno Soares of Brazil and Mate Pavic of Croatia defeating No. 8 seeds Nikola Mektic of Croatia and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-3. Soares and Pavic didn't face a break point in the match, capturing their first slam title as a team.  Both have previous men's slam doubles titles with different partners: Soares won the 2016 Australian Open and US Open titles with Jamie Murray of Great Britain, while Pavic won the 2018 Australian Open with Oliver Marach of Austria. 

The women's doubles final, Friday at noon, features No. 3 seeds Nicole Melichar and China's Yifan Xu against unseeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia and Laura Siegemund of Germany. 

Friday's schedule, including the two men's singles semifinals, is here.


Appalled said...

To see schools like Iowa and Minnesota drop programs such as men's tennis, men's track etc is so appalling! Football coach Fleck makes 4.75 million per year. Basketball coach Pitino made 2 million in 2019. AD Coyle makes almost 1 million per year. And they are only taking a 10% cut THIS year! Talk about stingy! The president and SAD should be fired for their crazy spending before programs are eliminated. The athletic arms race with facilities and coaches salaries has led to the elimination of thousands pf opportunities for student athletes and it is the presidents and AD's of these schools that should pay the price and not the student athlete's and the coaches of these olympic sports. How many football and basketball programs actually male a profit? Very few.

Alex Ho said...

I hate to see any tennis program close down, but a quick look at U of M tennis shows 5 of 6 singles players are non Americans (women's team also heavily foreign). A place in Midwest like Minnasota has to have at least decent indoor facility that adds a lot of cost plus constant travel playing in the Big 10.

University of Minnasota 2019 football went was 11-2 beat Penn State and won the Outback bowl. Power conference schools makes big money on TV revenue from conference TV contract, not mention that they draw as many as 100,000 people for some schools at home games. Alumni who attend Basketball and Football games are more engaged with school and tend to donate to the school, that doesn't show up on the athletic budget but is huge for the university. The reality is other than men's basketball and football, very few schools draw much fan engagement or any revenue from other sports.

SeminoleG said...

Actually most programs make a profit.

Revenue sharing in the conferences plus network contracts and merchandising guarantees even the bottom feeders in a Conference positive revenue. So the salaries and spending reflect this, and honestly the decision to cut Tennis and Track truly reflect how the administration fees about those programs. Pretty obvious it is not a revenue saving measure.

I'd argue that the Tennis industry folks need to take a good look in the mirror and ask why is Tennis seem to be the "low Hanging Fruit?" There is a reason and until the industry acknowledges the issues, this will continue.

Karl Martin said...

This is not rocket science. There is absolutely nothing in it for the schools or the students when all or almost all the players are foreign. Why on earth should American taxpayers fund the police, fire, roads, etc. that support the college community and the tennis coach have a roster of 5 of 6 or 7 of 8 from outside the country?

These tennis coaches have brought this on themselves. They should have decided decades ago to have 75% American players on every roster. They should have been involved with the USTA to help develop American junior boys.

anon said...

Tennis coaches, especially in the power five, are told to win. Not to recruit Americans. American tennis has been at a low point for many years now. US kids need to get better to be recruited or be ok with going to lower ranked/non ranked schools (if their parents ego's are ok with that).

Karl Martin said...

anon, there is no argument that college coaches have recruited foreign guys so they can win. And no argument that the foreign boys are better players for the most part. But in the end if the programs are gone, whats the point? There is no incentive for US colleges to have tennis programs that are mostly non US players, whether they win or lose. So college coaches can have an arms race and win as much as possible, and all be out of jobs anyway.

Unknown said...

I am pretty sure that an AD's job has never been in jeopardy because the tennis program was not winning, the only pressure to win for an AD is men's basketball and football.

I think colleges will really have to rethink the way they run non-revenue D1 sports going forward, where a school can choose be on a track for NCAA or have less competitive programs with fewer scholarships that has a more regional program.

- If a school is fully enrolled fewer scholarships means less $$ for the school, by cutting scholarships in half the program is actually self-funded. More American players will play but only have partial scholarships. The majority of tennis playing families can pay for school
- Regional schedule outside of traditional football/basketball conference saves travel money and students-athletes miss way less class
- The reality is that only a hand full of teams compete for national championship every year, you can have schools decide whether they want to invest and compete or go play regional

Universities in Europe only have sports at club level, that is why the players all come here. The players come here on a scholarship and cannot stay even if they want to because they are on a student visa and have to return home for the most part.

SeminoleG said...

Seems a bit unfair to compare US vs Foreign when the Foreign players can enter College at 19y 364 Days (have to enroll before the 20th Birthday) vice a US kid that may be 17. Now from what I see at the US Nationals vs the ITFs and Challengers there is a HUGE Gap in those 2 years.

So when the NCAA adopted the recommendation to change the rule and NOT permit a GAP year for US Players, pretty much it has signed the Death Certificate for Tennis. Hockey allows 2 Years, other Sports 1 full year. Just imagine if a Hi-level US Jr could Train and play, and develop I believe they will compete with their older more mature counterparts from EU and elsewhere.

True few, if any AD's wake up and look at the XYZ vs ABC Match to see who won, they may glance at a ranking every now and then, but when they are pressured by budgets a glance at the rosters make some decisions easier than others. We all know it is a token cut, BUT it does send a message at the expense of a few.

As A BOOSTER along with some of my BOOSTER friends we have "REFUSED" to donate or support teams that are dominated by foreign players. WE have that choice, and maybe others are doing the same. I do know some BOOSTERs are VERY Vocal on this!

Karl Martin said...

In the end, maybe college tennis just is not sustainable past the top programs. Like another poster said, most tennis families are not poor and can help pay for college along with student loans or academic scholarships.

Its a competitive world, college is for learning an employable skill. Maybe tennis is just for kids to get some exercise and a select few to be pros and make money with it. Older people can enjoy in their league play. Maybe college should just be for academics and social skills building and forget non revenue sports.

Seriously, the current system of American colleges having teams of mostly foreign players makes no sense anyway.

Max Ho said...

The question I have, would American juniors take the gap year for college tennis? It is not exactly cheap to travel another year after juniors to play futures or go to an academy, so I am not sure most US families would go for it?

In basketball and lacrosse, you see people do post-grad years if they are having academic troubles or cannot get a D1 offer. The kid puts gets older and stronger and more ready for college game, but it is expensive especially if it does not pay off for scholarship and kid goes D3 and family has to pay for school

What is the definition of a team dominated by foreign players, half of top 6? I would say most of program's that have good tennis facilities have at least 2 foreign players in top 6,
Stanford and Illinois men's, Duke, UNC and Stanford women are heavy on US players.

It is very true that 2 years make a huge difference especially when you have players in Europoe with tons of options for futures and challengers, high-level club leagues, and open tournaments all with less travel then US players face.

SeminoleG said...

@Karl Martin - Tennis Budgets are Pennies on the Dollar for the D1 Conferences. I assure you Cost is not the issue. Your argument has some validity, BUT could apply to most of the Olympic Sports and those only played in the US. The Roster size alone makes Tennis a better "File and Forget" sport. Good kids, small numbers, over that part of campus. Yea, we got a Tennis Team, oh yea.

@Max Ho - Never said the "GAP YEAR" meant travel. The USTA Could support a GAP Year Tour, spread throughout the US, and add US ITFs (systematically been eliminated) Maybe have a series of Combines or Camps at the USTA Campus built around the College Schedule so as Coaches are competing they could also participate. Thinking out loud, BUT this is 2020 and these are the same events, basically the same models used for 30+ years. Eventually you step back and say "lets do something different." We talking about 30-40-50 kids of each gender.

As for the "Prep" year being used for those with "Academic" troubles, I'm not seeing that in recent years. They are using the Prep Year to get BETTER, and Be ready day one to Play their Sport. The Prep Academies are very Hi Level institutions for all sports and it is more about performance, than academics.

Anyway, all I'm saying is we pay BIG money to people to make decisions that are between the lines, not on paper, maybe never been done. Seems this last 6 months proves some don't seem to have that ability, so I ask what are they doing?

Boca Tennis Mom said...

I have to agree that maybe its time to bail on most college sports. If poorer kids can use basketball or football to get some education, great. But diving, tennis, and the rest, not much point anymore. The world needs scientists, computer experts, engineers, teachers, business leaders, experts in the coming new world of green technologies and AI, etc. The very smart Asian kids and Indian kids are studying hard and rising to the top. Maybe it is time for the rest of the kids to buckle down and use college for its intended purpose, get an education in a field for their future. Seems rather pointless to have kids spending 4 hours per day practicing tennis or swimming in college and then leaving school with a degree in a major they can't use. I also agree there is absolutely no purpose to having a tennis team at a US college and have mostly players from outside the US. Tennis and swimming are wonderful ways to exercise and socialize, but not much use or purpose at the college level.

SeminoleG said...

@Boca Tennis Mom - Recruited Nuclear Engineering students for 2+ Years, the Non-Revenue Athletes are just better than your average Engineering Student. The number of US Scientist that have won and been finalist for Nobel Science, and other hi level awards speaks volumes to WHY these sports are important. They create a level of College Graduate unmatched with other nations. So let's not throw the Baby out with the bathwater.... EXXON, Chevron, Shell, and others also look for these students because of the diverse environments they work in. Pretty tough for a kid that may have been part of a few Clubs, but rarely if ever leaves the comforts of campus to adapt. Pretty expensive for these corporations when a new hire cannot adapt, that is a risk that Non-revenue sports experience helps mitigate.

As for the Foreign Students on these teams, there is a "water cooler" affect to having "Some" interacting and engaging with US Kids. We are a Globalist Society like it or not and that can't be missed.

Mr. Fernandez said...

SeminoleG, thats not my experience at all. I ran 2 businesses for 30 years and worked with numerous large corporations. We never considered whether an applicant or intern played a college sport. The vast majority of our engineering applicants and hires never played a sport in college. They instead interned for several years while attending classes. We found most kids who played sports were in lesser majors due to the time required for their sports.

SeminoleG said...

@Mr. Fernandez, the US Navy Nuclear Program touches many 1000s of Engineering students and goes back to the 1960's. That said I've given many a seminar on Engineering recruiting to firms that spend $M's of dollars and seem to miss more than other disciplines.

I'm not arguing or disagreeing with your points, but with 70+ Years for Recruiting Engineers and an almost Flawless record of achievement the data the Navy uses is pretty clear on this. BUT that does not mean there are not homes for the 100s of Engineers that Graduate each year. We also only look for Americans, and that is vastly different than most businesses.

In General, the Non- Revenue athletes that excel in academics turnout to be an extremely successful cadre of Graduates.