Young US players taking a different road - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Young US players taking a different road

We're not used to seeing players following the paths taken by Cici Bellis, Kat Stewart, or Jaeda Daniel. Cici doesn't play the tournaments we all expect her to, and still entertains the idea of playing college tennis; Kat forged a new path by traveling to Europe this summer to take part in European Interclub events, then comes home and doesn't enter the expected US challengers; and young Jaeda travels the globe, entering obscure 10Ks and largely ignoring Juniors.

I'm not saying these players' decisions are good or bad, just that they are noticeably different from what we're used to seeing*. Who knows how it'll all work out for them? But I just enjoy watching players, their parents or their coaches thinking for themselves once in a blue moon, instead of having their lives and careers dictated by agents or sponsors.

*Here are two of the particularly brutal career roads we've gotten used to:

1) a very young player is selected by IMG on the basis of looks as well as career potential. Teeth are straightened, professional modelling shoots are organized, media training is seen to, varying amounts of early hype are laid on, and wild cards are showered on the girl to try to give her career an early boost. If the player fails to deliver on schedule, she is kind of discarded, and attention moves to the next "future star".

2) a young player does well at a large tournament and draws a massive amount of attention. A large agency steps in, signs the girl, and starts dictating schedule, media appearances, etc. No one draws a line, and the player is overwhelmed and loses her way.
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 02:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

By the way, I'm not claiming that the 2 career paths I spelled out are typical ones, only that they are familiar, if often disastrous. The actual typical career path we're used to is that a girl starts out by playing the lower age groups in Juniors, working up to the 18s. If she does well there, she starts mixing in lower-level ITFs among the junior events. If she does especially well, she turns pro at a young age, signs up with an agent, and tries to work her way up the ITF ladder to the WTA, step by step, helped along by wild cards whenever possible. Hard courts and US events are emphasized.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 04:26 PM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

I wonder if CiCi's parents aren't part of that deal. Serving a twist from the old Agassi story, it seems she's the one pushing them into professional tennis and they really have no interest in it. I don't know how much of that struggle, if any, is part of her scheduling issues.

I find Kat Stewart's decision to focus on clay interesting. If you're going to stay with a single surface, then clay would be a good choice. There are plenty of tournaments to keep active. And doing so, she might avoid some of the hard court injuries. If the specialization can improve her results on that surface, it might be worth it.

Jaeda's seems like the most expensive version of the lot, and I'm not sure what she gets out of it. Most people stick closer to home. Maybe they think she'll face better competition at that level? But that's not always a good thing. There can be too much competition, too young. And the travel, being away from friends and so on has to be rough. Seems like it would make training more difficult as well. But, if the expectation isn't too high, maybe it would be fun
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 04:34 PM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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Originally Posted by auntie janie View Post
2) a young player does well at a large tournament and draws a massive amount of attention. A large agency steps in, signs the girl, and starts dictating schedule, media appearances, etc. No one draws a line, and the player is overwhelmed and loses her way.
It seems path 2 is the most dangerous of the two. At least with version one the kids potentially get something out of it. Version two just seems to mess a lot of people up. But in the expensive world of tennis, where low early returns on investments is common, you can see why a lot of people take it.
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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It seems path 2 is the most dangerous of the two. At least with version one the kids potentially get something out of it. Version two just seems to mess a lot of people up. But in the expensive world of tennis, where low early returns on investments is common, you can see why a lot of people take it.
Yeah, you're right. It would really be up to the parents in that situation to get some disinterested advice that would protect their daughter. But unless they're already wealthy, like Cici's parents, I can't imagine how hard it would be to turn down the big bucks on offer. And of course the agencies aren't going to tell them about the toll their management ideas might take on the kid; they'd be claiming the kid's well-being, not her income, would be their top concern.

And that's a good point you made before, about Cici and her parents. But since Cici was just 15 when she hit the spotlight, I think her parents were smart to guide her away from turning pro immediately, even if that's what she wanted to do. I imagine the pressure on them, and on her, must have been huge. But since the family doesn't need the money, what's the downside of going slow? Maybe she'll be less messed up in the head in the long run because of that decision.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 06:49 PM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

I can understand their wanting to keep Cici out of the spotlight at that age, but they're doing it in a way that seems harmful to her development. Which makes sense, if you don't want her to be a tennis player anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if she winds up going the college route, regardless of her talent.
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 21st, 2015, 09:22 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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I can understand their wanting to keep Cici out of the spotlight at that age, but they're doing it in a way that seems harmful to her development. Which makes sense, if you don't want her to be a tennis player anyway.
They might be happy for her to be a professional tennis player -- just not at age 15-16.

But who knows? For all we know, the only reason she hasn't been playing is because of some injury.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 12:10 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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Originally Posted by auntie janie View Post
And that's a good point you made before, about Cici and her parents. But since Cici was just 15 when she hit the spotlight, I think her parents were smart to guide her away from turning pro immediately, even if that's what she wanted to do. I imagine the pressure on them, and on her, must have been huge. But since the family doesn't need the money, what's the downside of going slow? Maybe she'll be less messed up in the head in the long run because of that decision.
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Originally Posted by tenisamulo View Post
I can understand their wanting to keep Cici out of the spotlight at that age, but they're doing it in a way that seems harmful to her development. Which makes sense, if you don't want her to be a tennis player anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if she winds up going the college route, regardless of her talent.
There’s a part of tennis development that is due to physical growth, training, and endurance that trumps the talent of the top notch junior American players. When’s the last time that a 14 year old was able to transition to the pro level? All of this occurred before the William’s sister changed the game, which pushed the envelope up so many notches that we’re not even seeing how it has affected the play at an international level. Case in point, it’s not surprising to see no name kids from other countries get recruited to D1 American colleges and dish out a can of whip ass to the most promising and talented Blue Chip Americans.

American junior tennis is an exact mirror of the WTA, whereby the top players can be seen from other countries, especially when you take out the Williams sisters from the roster. Look at the Road to Singapore. You take out Venus at #10 and the next American is Madison Keys at #18. Even at #18, she’s not exactly lacking shelves to hang her trophies.

Getting back to Cici, the kid is undersized to compete at the WTA events. Sure right now, she can scrape by at the Challenger level, where players can’t afford a full-time trainer and travel outside the country. Having the financial resources that Cici’ parents have, they’re astute enough to know that it is not about money but about the intense competition level that Cici isn’t ready for at the WTA events. Sure she had a good showing at the US Open two years ago, but so did Melanie Oudin, who is now ranked #373.

A top junior player will typically beat everyone at their age bracket and the two years above that. If the competition level in America for those years are below par, chances are that a top junior player’s ranking is overinflated. Yes they have the wins and trophies to appear as a champion, but do they have the strength, skills, confidence, and mental ability to soar at the highest level, internationally?

Chances are NOT, yet all the hype is built up so high that if you layered it together, it would look down at the Sears Tower.

Does being the #1 Junior translate to success in WTA?
Taylor Townsend, ranked #277, 30th among Americans.

She won Juniors AO in 2012 in Singles and won Doubles in all Grand Slams except for French with Gabrielle Andrews (AO & USO) and with Eugenie Bouchard (Wimbledon).

Some of you who kept up know that Andrews couldn't qualify to a D-1 college, so she'll be attending a junior college this year.
From Junior Grand Slam winner to not even D-1 college.

As far as American tennis. It's all a hype, we just don't want to admit to it, yet.

Last edited by tie_breaker; Oct 28th, 2015 at 01:03 AM.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 12:35 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

If you take 2-time NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs---way undersized to play WTA events.

Yes, Justine Henin, Simona Halep are the same size, but there is just one Henin and one Halep.

The rest of the players are like the Sharapova’s, Kvitova’s, Radwanska’s, and throw in Ivanovic in the mix. Big babe tennis at its finest.

The truth is, Gibbs won’t swing the heck of that ball if her life depended it.
Perhaps if she did, she would join the long list of injured tennis players, who look for some way to add a few mph to their serve and forehand.
Remember, Vera Zvonareva, who made it to 2 grand slam finals before she got injured and hasn't quite make it back to a comeback trail.

Gibbs took the safe route and went to college. Yeah it didn’t help with her development, but good luck telling her that.
She went to college to build on her confidence for all I care.
She’s an NCAA champion. Not many can say the same.
Not many can say they were a 4-star recruit for that matter.
Talk all you want, but I wouldn't want to compare my trophy case to hers.

Talking about a kid, who is like a deer caught in the headlights, except she’s 22 and no longer a kid.
2015 was Gibbs absolute worst year ever as her ranking soared high enough in 2014 for her to play in qualifiers of WTA events, which she lost most of those.

Talking about development that is what she's going through right now. Yep it's now or never. Put up or shut up. College is a fading memory. WTA or bust!

Who is Nicole Gibbs? Exactly. That’s my point. The same could be said of Cici Bellis if she is to fight that same battle that is to be lost before it begins.

In my book take the road less traveled because it can’t be worse than the one that is followed, especially with American tennis.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 01:15 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

My point was that this year she didn't seem to focus on either juniors, or pros, and was just absent much of the time. Turns out, at least some of that was injury.

You're right, money isn't an issue. And for that reason, completion is much less of and issue. She's not Camila Giorgi trying to figure out if she can scrape the money together for another tournament. Whether or not she continues to play isn't contingent on her actually winning matches. The money's there win or lose. So a lot of pressure that some players face surrounding winning and losing just isn't there. As long as she has the interest, and the home support, nothing's really stopping her. Nor is her development contingent on reaching a given raking. Nor does she need to play tennis, or get a scholarship, to go to college. So none of these are important. If she enjoys playing and can reach a ranking that will let her play some interesting tournaments OK. But if she is going to continue to develop, because she likes the sport, the competition, and wants to get better at it, then this year's plan of attack might not be the best one.
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 01:53 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

comparing Bellis to Gibbs.
CiCi is not going to play college tennis unless she's severely injured.

And @ CiCi not ready for WTA competition. She won two rounds at her first WTA tournament and it was a Premier Event. Sure, her result this year has not been impressive but she's still the highest ranked of the 1999 girls despite not defending her two 25K titles. In fact, none of the 99 girls has even won a 25K title and CiCi already won three of them.
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 02:16 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

I'm more interested in the views of Kat's alternate route. A 21st century, US dirt baller? That's fun! She's ranked 175th now with a lot of itf finals to defend next year. Wonder what rank she can reach by the French Open?
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 05:13 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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comparing Bellis to Gibbs.
CiCi is not going to play college tennis unless she's severely injured.

And @ CiCi not ready for WTA competition. She won two rounds at her first WTA tournament and it was a Premier Event. Sure, her result this year has not been impressive but she's still the highest ranked of the 1999 girls despite not defending her two 25K titles. In fact, none of the 99 girls has even won a 25K title and CiCi already won three of them.
Are you reading the cliffnotes version or something?

You missed the point totally and making wrong comparisons.
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 05:16 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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I'm more interested in the views of Kat's alternate route. A 21st century, US dirt baller? That's fun! She's ranked 175th now with a lot of itf finals to defend next year. Wonder what rank she can reach by the French Open?
I like it too in that it will expand her game and the type of players/style she will be opposing.

Somehow playing the same players in 25k and later at the 50k on hard courts has its limitations.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old Oct 28th, 2015, 05:22 AM
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Re: Young US players taking a different road

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But if she is going to continue to develop, because she likes the sport, the competition, and wants to get better at it, then this year's plan of attack might not be the best one.
I think that it like asking a tennis player do you like hitting the ball over the net.

If anybody has proven that she has that desire, I think Cici has, especially you factor the sacrifices she's made to get to the level that she is now.

People still think there is a clock and you have to break the Top 50 before you turn 18 or something.

My point is that those days are over when you consider that development emphasizes strength and endurance, over shot making and strategy.
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