Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tennis needs the USA, the USA needs tennis.

Today, as the greatest player of her generation, Serena Williams plummeted 150 places on the rankings down to 175 (following a 4th round exit at Wimbledon) and sister Venus falling to number 34 on the rankings the USTA is left in quite an odd predicament. Bethanie Mattek Sands is now the highest ranked female tennis player from America, the USTA needs to begin massive talent scouts with, in my eyes, only three real possible success stories rising up (Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys...well maybe Coco Vandeweghe can rate too) With no points for Serena to defend until June next year, there is no doubt that she will be able to return the top 100, 50, 20 and so on, she got to the 2nd week of Wimbledon rusty so watch out for her in the US Open. But for how much longer will she be able to play? Serena turns 30 this September realistically she only has another 2, 3 years max left.

America needs one of their young stars to step up, they need another Melanie Oudin story (the beginning of it anyway) they needs players like McHale or Stephens to make it to the second week of a slam. Perhaps its just a cycle America, Australia and England used to be the most dominant nations in tennis, and America continued to be thanks to the Williams sisters, Davernport and Capriati in the 2000's but England and Australia seemed to fall off a bit and now they are getting young players back - Australia's Ashleigh Barty won junior Wimbledon and Laura Robson from the United Kingdom is with out a doubt going to be a top 5 player. So perhaps it is just a matter of time before America finds its next Williams like players, but what can they do in the mean time? Is it really a cycle?

Perhaps it could be a duty of respect for the ITF to show greater assistance, The United States plays host to three of the seven most prestigious and sought after trophies in tennis (Indian Wells, Miami and the US Open) Perhaps it is the ITF's responsibility to pay greater attention to protect this great tennis dynasty. The WTA in conjunction with the ATP World Tour needs to preserve this great tournaments that, to be honest are completely irreplaceable! What would the tour be with out the Indian Wells, Miami double? Where else could such tournaments be played? With out Indian Wells and Miami the tour would be left having to fill massive holes, we would most likely be left with two other half hearted 'mandatory' events like Madrid and Beijing. Would tennis be able to survive, especially in the US, with out the American hard court Series? What would we do then? Grant the selfish, laughable wishes of Samantha Stosur and extend the clay court season...I think not. In all honesty I think we have enough clay already, going off topic a bit here but, do we really need another 3 weeks of clay after Wimbledon? Why not extend the grass court season?  The original tennis surface with is only used 4 weeks a year! Back to the American hard court season, what would the ITF be able to do to salvage the WTA and ATP tours, give a Grand Slam to Asi-oh wait...Australian Open, the Grand Slam of Asia and Pacific! And good luck trying to get Kim Clijsters to go play.

The tours would be lost with America, so I believe it is the responsibility of the ITF save American tennis tournaments and the USTA needs to save its dignity! And quickly too, before long Serena, Venus and Andy will be hanging up the racquet's and the USTA will be left embarrassed if the only home town hopes they can get in their tournaments are Wild Cards.


Amy said...

True, true both the mens and womens tour would be not the same with out tournaments in the states. Then again I think tennis would be a dying art in the states and the USTA probably needs to further motivate people to get out pick up a raquet!

Carlos said...

I agree with all your points! For years everyone knew that there weren't players who would replace the Williams sisters. The pipe line for U.S. players dried up, the USTA didn't do anything, and here we are. I don't even know if the USTA could have done anything. What is clear is that the USTA stubbornly gets behind players that have been busts and/or thankless, example: Donald Young and Mr. Oudin.

On the women's side: McHale who is doing better than Mr. Oudin and the ranking of both shows, Mchale is the higher rank player. However is Mr. Oudin the one who is getting the WC as pointed out by Caps321. This meant that McHale had to play qualifiers tournament after tournament, there was point that I though she was getting burn out from playing too many qualifiers. In the Family Circle Cup tournament that is played in the U.S. Mr. Oudin got the WC not McHale, who had to go through the qualies. Mc Hale lost in QF to JJ while Mr. Oudin lost in the first to Pasnek. Imagine if McHale would have gotten the WC. Bethanie is more preoccupied on how she looks on court. Coco has been disappointing. I don't know if there is anyone coming from juniors to take charge, my guess is no. Also in the past U.S. women's tennis benefited from super star players becoming U.S. citizens: Navratilova and Seles. Imagine if Divapova who is more American than Russian would have become a U.S. citizen she would be have brought more U.S. media coverage and interest to the game, and more $ to her pocket.

On the men's side: Roddick and Blake were suppose to take the torch from Sampras/Agassi. IMO these two were busts because I expected more from them. If Roddick would have been more consistent I wouldn't be calling him a bust. To me he is a one slam wonder and he didn't have the charisma of Agassi. I don't see anyone in the near future who can make noise.

Tournaments attendance in the U.S. has been down. Part have been the economy, part losing interest from the lack of American players. The average American sports fan views tennis as a recreational sport. USTA has to come up with good marketing campaigns to get the interest of people going; but not like these idiotic, lame, WTA Hero or whatever the hell have today campaign; it won't cut it.

Anonymous said...

So perhaps it is just a matter of time before America finds its next Williams like players, but what can they do in the mean time? Is it really a cycle?

I realize some Americans want to see their 'own' players in tournaments. Myself, I could care less and just want to see players I like from all countries! That said, I'm most likely in the minority seeing that when trying to promote an event in the States it'd be good to have some home grown talent to bring in the 'casual' fan.

IMO, the 'state' of US tennis is the same as the country has been for decades. Exporting more than we're importing and losing jobs to outsourcing while letting the infrastructure turn to rubble.

In other words, absolutely no planning for the future. I think Russia would be a good place to investigate as to how they accomplish so many sucessful players. Lets not kid ourselves, there will NEVER be another Williams' combo in tennis in my lifetime and I'm 38. However, we COULD have a lot more players in the top 50 for sure.

Lastly, it seems the US needs to completely revamp their development programs and even expand them. And as Carlos referred to, stop giving players that are nothing more than 'jobbers' (people who are there to make the others look good) 'pushes' while basically ignoring players with more upside.

Carlos said...

Clefairy and Caps321 in your opinion does the U.S. needs a super star to get the interest of the average American fan or a solid player someone like JJ? Will it need a player from only one tour or both? Say we get a super star but in men's side will that be enough to get the interest of women's tour as well?

The pipe line went pretty much like this:
Evert-Garrison-Navratilova-Seles-Capriati-Davenport-Venus and Serena-no one at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Carlos, I think the chance of 'crossover' fans is minimal regardless of whether its the WTA or ATP with the next popular home grown player. While one would assume 'casual fans' fill out the stadiums.. Die-hards are the ones spending the most money buying the more expensive tickets.

I think American kids are 'conditioned' from a young age to play some kind of team sport. Tennis really isn't a team sport with the exception of Davis/Fed cup. Plus, Tennis has the reputation for being played or watched by people with money. Often, the best athletes come from poor backgrounds with single family homes.

JJ would be great if she was an American to represent. In other words, what's better: 1) 5 top 20 Americans, 2) 1 top 20 American ranked 1-5. Because what if the lone fictional American ranked 1-5 doesn't appeal to the masses?

What if a young girl from a poor neighborhood wants to be the next Serena Williams? Sure, the parks MIGHT have tennis courts (with or without nets) but who's she going to play with? Who is going to train her? In team sports you have a coach and assistants. Tennis is a whole different ball game unless your at a tennis center -- for instance Saddlebrook. Not sure, but I wouldn't think that was free either?

I think the USTA needs to offer more scholarships and try to get tennis recognized as a sport in ALL high schools. Matter of fact, Jr High/Middle school wouldn't be a bad place to start. If someone waits until high school to start playing they probably won't be very good.

One would think being a successful tennis player even while an amateur takes lots and lots of practice. Its something you'd need to fully commit to and not a seasonal sport. So, of course said kids might have more initiative to play the game if they see a role model. Problem is, America has so many nationalities that seeing someone that looks like you representing American tennis on television is few and far between.

To sum it all up, Tennis needs a serious grass roots effort in the States and then we can work on fine tuning it from there. Translation: None of the above is going to happen and that's why American tennis is in the toilet.

Anonymous said...

ESPN Finalizes 12-Year Deal for Wimbledon Rights

ESPN will air the event live on ESPN and ESPN2 while ABC will air a re-run of the finals on the same day, beginning next year.

Carlos said...

Thanks for the article Caps.

I'm glad Wimbledon is off the hands of NBC. I got tired of this clowns televising Wimbledon and other sports events on delay specially for the west coast, we are not in the 70s anymore. Their coverage wasn't great either, not that I'm happy with ESPN but is better than NBC.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, the good thing about ESPN being involved will be ESPN3 action! I used to hate ESPN before I got Directv with the multiple courts for the first week of majors. (Because it'd be only one court and they'd jump in and out of matches along with always highlighting the American even if they had a very high ranking.) However, between ESPN3 & Uverse assuming they show coverage for the US open as well concerning multiple courts the first week of majors is perfect.

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