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goldenlox
Oct 25th, 2006, 04:24 PM
Roundtable: The State of the American Game
Former top pros Jim Courier, Pam Shriver, and Eliot Teltscher, who was also head of the USTAís junior development program until this fall, discuss the current U.S. tennis scene.
http://www.tennis.com/uploadedImages/Editorial/General/2006_10_23_CourierRoddick_article.jpg1. After U.S. players went down early at Wimbledon this year, there was a lot of talk about whatís wrong with American tennis. Was its an overreaction, or is there reason to be concerned right now?
Shriver: I think there was a reason. You look at our top players, and their results, and their age, and their injuries, and you look at what other countries, other players are doing, and I think thereís a reason to talk about it.

Look at the global nature of tennis: How many other countries have come a long way and are producing stars? Itís not two or three reasons. I feel like there are many, many reasons. And looking at other sports, I think the U.S. is going through a slump in other aspects of sports as well.

Certainly these things can go in cycles. I think weíre seeing a cyclical downturn coincide with a global upturn in many countries. In many countries production of great tennis players, whether you take Belgium or Russia or Spain or China on the womenís side, and you see the players coming out of there. I mean even Serbia and Montenegro, whoís now separate again and is Serbia and a second country, Montenegro, thereís just a lot of talent there. And we in the U.S. have always had a pipeline and the pipeline is struggling at the moment.

I think as a society we have to look at our youth and think, Are they motivated? Are they doing things physically at a young age to develop the skills that it takes to be a great sports person?
Courier: We have an audience thatís grown accustomed to having American Slam winners annually on both tours. That will become increasingly more rare as the global dispersion of tennis continues. I find the Ďpatriotismí angle humorous actually since our fans tend to cheer more for underdogs than nationalities. I canít recall how many times I was cheered against on these shores when I played a foreigner, but suffice it to say it was higher than I like to count.
Teltscher: I thought there was a little bit of an overreaction. We should take it seriously and not make excusesóit was a bad French Open and a bad Wimbledon. But we also shouldnít panic. Everyone needs to take a step back and see that we have two guys in the Top 10 and still have a lot of good women in the game.

2. Is the quality of the U.S. game still a cyclical thing, or do you think weíve begun to lose some ground to the rest of the world?
Courier: Itís a numbers game. A bigger global pool of talent that is ambitious, informed and ready to find a better life through tennisÖjust like I was. Get used to it. Read Tom Friedmanís book ďThe World is FlatĒ and realize that the same logic applies here. When information is available everywhere (coaching, technique, training strategies), youíll see the world come to play.

Shriver: I think that itís exaggerated maybe some because we were due probably for a dip. No country can just continually produce champions or players that are contending to win the majors. I donít care who you are. Probably Australia thought that back in the í70s their talent would never dry up. You know they had decades of somebody right near the top. And England, back however many years ago, they always had top players. (I mean years and years ago.) You know, but these things change, and you have to keep up with the times and move your programs in a direction that modern times dictate.
Teltscher: The menís game is cyclical I think, but the womenís shouldnít be. Itís still the highest-paid womenís sport here, so we should be inspiring and producing the best women players. Why would a great woman athlete play anything other than tennis? Saying its cyclical is too easy.

3. Things can change, but right now there is no obvious successor to the top U.S. women in the juniors. There has always been a U.S. woman at the top of the sport; if there isnít in the future, how do you think it would affect the popularity of the womenís game here?
Shriver: We either need to have homegrown talent thatís at or near the top, or you need international stars, you know like the Beckers of yesteryear, Bjorn Borg, Maria Sharapova. You need those crossover foreign stars that can grab the U.S. market and be of great interest. I do think we have some very charismatic, history-making foreign stars at the moment in both the menís game and the womenís game. I think Federer and Nadal, if it doesnít capture the U.S. sporting market, then I think weíre kind of showing weíre very limited because theyíre two amazing athletes and tennis players.
Teltscher: Well, until very recently, weíve had three of the Top 10 women in the world, and the Williamses and Lindsay are still threats to win any Slam. For the future, one key is that we get into schools early and look for the talented and athletic 9- and 10-year-olds. We havenít done a good job of identifying those girls; weíve almost been cursed with too much success. But being complacent obviously must become a thing of the past.

4. We seem to be able to train champions from around the world on our soil, but not produce as many of our own as we once did. Is there an explanation for this? Are young players from other countries hungrier, or are there just more of them around than ever?
Teltscher: This is really about Sharapova. But it does show you why we [the USTA] need our own academy. Sharapova and some other Europeans made their games at U.S. academies; weíve got to give our players the same chance, where they can get scholarships and compete against each other in one place. Weíre the only major tennis nation without one right now.
Shriver: I think those foreign champions when they get here, those foreign players, like Sharapova whoís been here for such a long time and Seles, I think when they arrived here they already had the table set. In other words I really think an athleteís DNA is set at a very early age. They do need the facilities and they need competition and they need coaching, but the parents are already driven and the childís talent has already been developed.

I have some concerns about the desire, the overall... Have we gotten a little fat and happy here, not just as tennis players? I think the world is moving ahead of the U.S. in other areas besides sports, whether its technology, orÖ I donít know, these are much bigger topics; Iím getting a little off point. But weíve kind of dominated in a lot of thins as a countryówhether itís how good your cellphone is, or how good your cars are, or how great your education system is, or you healthcare, your hospitals. What do we sit at the top of right now?

5. Is there a positive story about the game here that the U.S. media is under-reporting?
Shriver: I think the amount of effort that the USTA has been putting into the investment into grassroots tennis and tennis in general in the last 10 years is quite extraordinary. I think we would be in a more difficult position if the governing body had not been spending a lot of money trying to keep people playing tennis, develop new players, spending money on player development. Itís easy to criticize the USTA if the results arenít there, but I kind of take the approach, Wow, where would we be if the millions and millions of dollars had not been invested. And I think there would be even fewer players, and less interest, and not as many professional tournaments on TV in the United States. Iím awfully glad that this big effort has been there in the last 10 years. Itís easy to grow a sport in a time like the tennis boom. I mean that was kind of, I donít want to say a marketing accident, but I mean there was no great push, tennis was just sort of the in thing. These things happen. Sports get hot for a number of years and great champions help feed the grassroots interest, and so on and so forth. And then, people had to go to work, both mothers and fathers, and kids became less active, and I donít know.

6. If there were one change you could make to the way we train juniors here, what would it be?
Shriver: Compete more. Compete in tournaments. Practice yeah, and prepare. But put yourself on the line and, you know, everybody loses on the way up. You cannot be afraid of losing. And I feel like for too many generations, people, and you know parents may be partially responsible, but theyíve been a little bit afraid of losing.
Courier: We need better technique and training on multiple surfaces (grass, hard, clay) at a very young age.
Teltscher: I think itís to look for players earlier and stop assuming theyíre just going to appear.
7. Tennis has tried for years to increase its visibility among U.S. sports fans. Is there anything else the sport can do, or should it be happy with the popularity it currently has?
Courier: Tennis should continue to look for ways to enhance the popularity through investment in the sport (more marketing dollars) and innovation. Itís a competitive landscape and tennis must be more united to compete against other sports and entertainment options.
Shriver: I think never be satisfied. You can never, ever, ever be satisfied. And why should we be satisfied at this point? If you saw tennis on the list of popular activities, itís too far down to feel acceptable. We need to sell the sport as what it is. Itís as gender neutral, as generational friendly, as globally accessible as any sport youíll findómale, female, from age 5 to 95. It is a skill sport, though. And a skill sport means you better start early and you better spend some time doing it.
Teltscher: People like [U.S. Open tournament director] Arlen Kantarian have down a great job with this, and instant replay was a great move. Why not on-court coaching? Fans would get Gilbert, Murray, Roddick, and Connors on the same court at once.

8. Does the influx of foreign talent into our college system hurt the development of our players? Is there anything we should be doing about this?
Shriver: I think itís something to have a little asterisk or a little subtitle, but I donít think itís a main headline. Look, by the time people are 18 on both the menís or womenís tour, if youíre going off to college, then youíre going to lose ground. Assuming you have the talent, and the drive, and the resources to go after a pro career, by the time youíre 18, you better be doing that. Look at how young Nadal was, and Djokovic now, thereís a lot of good 20-and-under male players. I mean, you canít go to college.
Courier: If having foreign players playing college tennis increases the competition that can only help push our players to be better. The discussion about how to allocate scholarships and whether funding foreign minds who donít plan to stay and work in the US is a different conversation and this is not a political magazine so letís avoid that for now.
9. Many make the case that the U.S. is hampered by the fact our best athletes donít play tennis. Do you think that seriously affects us?
Shriver: You certainly need your fair share of top athletes. I mean certainly thatís a concern. If the sport of tennis is not getting itís slice of the elite, most talented natural athletes, then weíre going to have a problem. Because believe me in Russia, if you look at the athletic ability of Sharapova, Dementieva, Petrova, Kuznetsova, I mean most of their parents were elite athletes, they had this in mind, they were groomed to do this. Iím not saying you have to have a parent who was a professional athlete, but you have to have the skill setóthe hand-eye coordination, the footwork, the driveóthat adds up to being in the elite category. And you can groom these people at a very, very young age. And you can find them at a young age.
Teltscher: I used to think this was true. But Iím not sure it is anymore. Tennis is a very specific skill that requires a good hands and a special mental fortitude. I sae Julius Erving play Harold Solomon in an exhibition once. Harold was lobbing him to see how high he could get up, but Dr. j couldnít put jump and hit an overhead at once. It isnít just athleticism that makes a great tennis player, obviously.
Courier: We have many sports options so it is natural that our athletes will disperse in a varied manner. I await your suggestion of how to force people to pick up tennis if they are marked as Ďathletic.í

10. Is there anything we can learn from the way other countries, like Spain, develop their players? Is training on clay one of the answers to building better players?
Shriver: Absolutely. We should be looking at best practices all over the world, and not just in the sport of tennis. Look how China is developing their athletes, look at Russia. Does Belgium have something in their tennis system? Does Spain? The Dominican Republic in baseball. How is the Major Leagues now suddenly an amazing grounds for Latino superstars? We should be looking at it all.

You bring up the clay. I sort of have mixed feelings about that. I think itís really hard to be a player that can feel comfortable on all surfaces. I mean a Roger Federer is a very rare, rare bird. But, you know, I think clay is too much of a dominant surface in this day and age. We need to play on it a lot more, and certainly young U.S. players need to be more comfortable. But I donít think our future rests with our success on clay. I would never want to overstate the importance of clay-court tennis. I mean I think if we had the same success at Wimbledon as we had on clay in the last 30 years, I think that would hurt us more. Just because Wimbledon, on the grand stage, you know more people tune into Wimbledon than any other tennis tournament worldwide.

You know, I think the dialogue is good. I think that everybody sort of needs to think how we can do it better. But at the same time, we have to realize how fortunate we have been. Just player, after player, after player, since forever. The other important thing to remember is voids can be filled very quickly. I can remember possible voids in the past when everyone was like, uh oh, uh oh. Connors, McEnroe, Evert, that generation was starting to get old and fade away, and how are we ever going to replace them? But I mean, especially on the menís side, on both sides itís been an amazing last 15 years.
Courier: There are no silver bullets here. Pete, Andre, Michael, Venus, Serena, Lindsay, etc all came out of home environments that pushed them to excel at tennis. Bollettieriís was the answer for me to be able to compete at a high level as I didnít have adequate competition in my home town. Being in an environment where I was with the worldís best with multiple surfaces at my disposal gave me the platform to succeed but it was MY CHOICE to go there, not one taken by a federation, coaches or my parents. There is a big distinction. With the USTA partnering with Evertís academy perhaps this type of ďopportunityĒ will be given kids who find themselves in my shoesÖa good junior player who needs some help to take it to the next level.
Teltscher: There are always things to learn. I would personally like us to do better on clay, so we need to expose kids to clay sooner, the way someone like Andy Murray was in Spain. But itís tricky because we also want Americans to continue to succeed on hard courts, which is our bread and butter. We need to balance grass, clay, and hard and build well-rounded players, and see what happens from there.

RenaSlam.
Oct 25th, 2006, 04:34 PM
:sad:

goldenlox
Nov 8th, 2006, 11:29 AM
American women conspicuous by their absence
By Simon Baskett
MADRID, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Not so long ago the WTA's season-ending championships were dominated by players from the United States. This year, for the first time since the event began in 1972, there are no Americans at the tournament.
Four of the world's top eight players that have qualified to play in Madrid come from Russia, two from Belgium and one apiece from France and Switzerland.
The only American in the world's top 35 this week is Lindsay Davenport, while the long-term absence of Williams sisters Serena and Venus has left a vacuum which has yet to be filled.
Only 15 women have topped the world rankings in the 31 years since the inception of computer rankings and eight of them were Americans.
But in August this year, a week before the U.S. Open, there were no American representatives in the WTA top 10 for the first time since 1975.
World number eight Elena Dementieva, one of the quartet of Russians bidding to win the WTA Championships in Madrid, says she is bemused by the decline in fortunes of American tennis players.
"This is going to be the first time we won't see any American players in the top eight at the end of the year and this is really strange," she told reporters on the eve of the Championships.
"I don't see lots of young American players coming through. I see lots of Russian players who are playing junior grand slams and winning them.
"It's really strange with all the system and the great practice conditions that they have in the United States. It is really amazing why they don't have these players right now."
European women bagged all 16 semi-final spots in the grand slam events this year, although five of those were occupied by three players who either honed their trade or are based in the U.S: Russian Maria Sharapova, Czech Nicole Vaidisova and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic.

SPURRED ON
One factor that Dementieva believes could have led to American players being edged out in their own backyard is the hunger of the younger players from Russia and Eastern Europe for success.
"Obviously there is no secret and everyone has a different story to tell, but we are all very well-motivated and our parents were really involved in our tennis lives," she said.
World number five Nadia Petrova agrees with her compatriot, saying that many Russian youngsters are spurred on by the success of players like herself and Sharapova and see tennis as the road to fame and fortune.
"Why do we dominate? Well, it's partly down to the size of the country and how many talents there are. But it is also because many players start with nothing at all and tennis can give them opportunities," Petrova said.
The 24-year-old also points to the momentum that success has created in Russian tennis, pushing the players on to higher levels of achievement.
"There is a generation that grew up and competed together and pushed each other on. We all grew up differently and have our own style, but physically we are all strongly built, have a winning spirit and character."
World number one Amelie Mauresmo said that the weight of expectation created by the plethora of previous successes from American women may have taken its toll on many young players.
"It is tough for the young ones because American have such a big history with players like Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport. So it is hard for the young ones to have the confidence to succeed. There is a lot of expectation," she said.
The Frenchwoman also believes that it is a question of cycles of sporting achievement. "I think American tennis has probably coming to a turning point in men's and women's events."

http://sport.guardian.co.uk/breakingnews/feedstory/0,,-6198555,00.html

Kunal
Nov 8th, 2006, 11:32 AM
i mean if there are more promising players then its a good sign...but currently roddick just doesnt cut it

goldenlox
Nov 8th, 2006, 01:25 PM
Elena bemused by US woe

Elena Dementieva, one of the quartet of Russians bidding to win the WTA Championships in Madrid, says she is bemused by the decline in fortunes of American players.
The world number eight, who continues her Madrid campaign against compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova on Wednesday, is playing for the seventh consecutive year in the end-of-season showpiece but faces no US opposition for the first time.
She said: "I don't see lots of young American players coming through. I see lots of Russian players who are playing junior grand slams and winning them.
"It's really strange with all the system and the great practice conditions that they have in the United States. It is really amazing why they don't have these players right now."
One factor that Dementieva believes could have led to American players being edged out in their own backyard is the hunger of the younger players from Russia and Eastern Europe for success.
"Obviously there is no secret and everyone has a different story to tell, but we are all very well-motivated and our parents were really involved in our tennis lives," she said.
World number five Nadia Petrova, who meets Martina Hingis in the day's final game, agrees with her compatriot, saying that many Russian youngsters are spurred on by the success of players like herself and Maria Sharapova and see tennis as the road to fame and fortune.
"Why do we dominate? Well, it's partly down to the size of the country and how many talents there are. But it is also because many players start with nothing at all and tennis can give them opportunities," Petrova said.
The 24-year-old also points to the momentum that success has created in Russian tennis, pushing the players on to higher levels of achievement.
"There is a generation that grew up and competed together and pushed each other on. We all grew up differently and have our own style, but physically we are all strongly built, have a winning spirit and character."

http://www.eurosport.com/tennis/wta-tour-championships/2006/sport_sto1003726.shtml

pigam
Nov 8th, 2006, 01:37 PM
First post is qute interestig.
Pam Shriver seems like a fairly intelligent person. i might not agree with everything she says, but she sounds "well balanced" (???) in her thoughts :yeah:

tennnisfannn
Nov 8th, 2006, 02:41 PM
She said: "I don't see lots of young American players coming through. I see lots of Russian players who are playing junior grand slams and winning them.
"It's really strange with all the system and the great practice conditions that they have in the United States. It is really amazing why they don't have these players right now."

http://www.eurosport.com/tennis/wta-tour-championships/2006/sport_sto1003726.shtml
we ask the same of us in australia and i'm sure britain wonders the same.

jamatthews
Nov 8th, 2006, 02:43 PM
we ask the same of us in australia and i'm sure britain wonders the same.

Except we don't have the great conditions. :rain::p