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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

LTA Sees Dozens of Top 100 Players in Its Future; Kubler Out with Injury; Bhambri Receives Chennai WC; Nike Masters Recap

Nearly three weeks ago, the LTA announced the players included on its "Team Aegon," which represents the highest funding strata of British tennis. Among the 32 players more than half are juniors: Luke Bambridge, Katie Boulter, Liam Broady, Jack Carpenter, Eleanor Dean, Katy Dunne, Kyle Edmund, Tom Farquharson, Richard Gabb, Oliver Golding, Ashley Hewitt, Pippa Horn, Evan Hoyt, Alice Keddie, James Marsalek, George Morgan, Laura Robson, Joshua Sapwell and Heather Watson. There were a few noticeable absences, Dan Evans, Tara Moore, the Ren sisters, Peter Ashley among them, but there's no possibility a federation can please (and fund) everybody.

The most eyebrow-raising news to come out of the LTA at their annual meeting was identified in this headline from the Daily Mail: LTA promise bright future with 33 teenagers on track to make it to the top 100. Why the LTA would want to make such a prediction, I have no idea, but to even suggest that there is some kind of mathematical certainty to this, to put faith in what the article calls "figures...based on scientific trajectories of current junior performance" indicates a serious lack of understanding of the nature of development. Perhaps if you have ten players in the Top 30 in juniors, there is a 70% likelihood that two will reach the Top 100 in the professional rankings(I'm making all this up for illustration purposes-I don't have access to such numbers), but that would be based on previous data, and, as stock brokers are so fond of reminding us, past performance is not indicative of future results. I hope they are right, that in the next ten years the ATP and WTA have eight or 10 or 15 British players qualifying for Wimbledon on their own rankings. But it sounds wildly optimistic to me, and claiming that there is some kind of scientific basis for this optimism borders on delusion. The Daily Mail also published this article on Orange Bowl champion George Morgan, and five other "ones to watch." Morgan is, of course, 17 years old, not 14.

Australia's hope that one of its young players to make a mark during the Australian summer tournaments was dealt a blow today, when it was announced that Jason Kubler, the 17-year-old former junior No. 1, will not be competing in any of the big ATP tournaments in that country due to a knee injury. The Advertiser is reporting that Kubler's injury will undoubtedly help the cause of 18-year-old Bernard Tomic, who has been widely criticized for not participating in Tennis Australia's wild card tournament, although he did provide the medical documentation required when he withdrew due to illness. Olivia Rogowska and Marinko Matosevic won wild cards to the Australian Open main draw in that tournament.

Another 18-year-old former junior No. 1 who did not have the breakthrough in 2010 that had been hoped is Yuki Bhambri of India. Bhambri's ATP ranking has fallen from 338 at the end of last year to 502 this year, with an assortment of injuries keeping him from competing as much as he would like. He has received a wild card into the ATP tournament in Chennai India next week, according to this article from The Hindu.

And in going through my Google reader for the first time in weeks, I discovered this article from the Bahama Journal about the final matches of the Nike Junior International Masters tournament.


Jon from PBG said...

LTA is delusional. The Chinese and Koreans are training lots of kids, the Euros, Australia, the US, Russia, Serbia, and on and on.

LTA will be lucky to have 3-4 top 100 players.

stephen said...

I've ended up using some British English in this. Apologies if the collective plurals etc. are jarring.

Is there a second source for the phrase "on track"? Maybe it's a paraphrase. If not, well, yes, it would be nice if the LTA could tell us how well they expect the track in question to keep to timetable.

My instinct is to take the words used in these releases as hyperbole, the LTA have to explain the purpose of Team Aegon somehow, why not paint in the brightest available colours? It's not as if they're deceiving anyone, at least not the tennis reporters. I suppose it's possible they really are deluding themselves, though I doubt it, or maybe the mark is someone altogether different and in the next annual report AEGON shareholders will be able to read how their company is supporting 33 British tennis players into the world's top 100.

The selection criteria for Team Aegon are publicly available. It looks like few (surely fewer than a quarter) of the 32 made the "automatic" profile, which has probably led to suspicions about how objectively the many edge cases were decided (at least, I've seen one forum posting, apparently from the parent of a reject, to that effect).

I don't know that the Rens (Jennifer especially) can complain about being dropped, and Dan Evans was helping police with their enquiries into a serious crime earlier this year --I've no idea if he's been cleared now, but obviously it's going to be a while before he can be the face of British tennis again. It seems hard to argue that the LTA did anything other than blunder when they omitted Ashley.

Did you form any opinion of the Tournament Bonus Incentive scheme (mentioned in http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/9272960.stm)? Some have been a little tart about it, but,despite being unconvinced myself, I think they may have missed the point.

clarifying said...

Jon, you need to understand the difference between "on track" and "sure to make it". The former means that a player has a realistic chance of making the top 100, not that they are certain to do so. No-one is certain to do so until they have actually done so. No-one at the LTA thinks that there is any chance all 31 players will actually make the top 100, that simply isn't how it works. But the meaning of "on track| is wide open to ill-informed misinterpretation. The LTA has a habit of creating such problems for itself, and should probably just keep its mouth shut. Nonetheless, we do have by far the best crop of juniors we have had since tennis became a global sport. It will be years before they succeed as seniors, if they ever do, but what they really need is support, rather than scorn.

I'll believe in Chinese and Korean tennis when they deliver the goods. So far, they haven't.

clarifying said...

Following up my previous post by actually reading the whole of the article, I see that Colette herself has fallen into the trap of completely misinterpreting the LTA's statement. I would expect the Daily Mail to do so, as stirring up shock and outrage about anything and everything is its core competence, but if even an expert on junior tennis doesn't understand what the LTA's statement actually meant, then they should definitely not have said it.

However, if they said nothing, the media would attack them as arrogant and aloof. Really the only thing that can ever help is success, but the British media's interpretation of success (winning the men's singles at Wimbledon) is based on complete ignorance of tennis. What a mess.