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Old May 26th, 2013, 05:49 PM   #1
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College vs. Pros Qualities Question

I hear all the time that a certain player is great in college, but her game will not translate well into the pros. What aspects of a player's game is valued in college, but not so much in the pros?

For example, Nicole Gibbs is an excellent collegiate player - one of the best in the past two years. But will her game hold up in the pros? What will make her successful and what will hold her back?
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Old May 26th, 2013, 06:45 PM   #2
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

Starting out of the block, the best player in college can have a good chance playing against anyone ranked #100 and above, just by making less mistakes, playing consistently and without having alot of weapons, which is the case with most college players.

Getting points from ITF's and having to qualify for WTA events is a tough and difficult road and I see many players have some success one year but aren't able to defend those points the following year and drop back in the rankings. To get those points at the ITF level (100k and below) one has to be quite successful, which is like the feeding ground for everybody else.

My point is that the toughest component is a mental one, that of not winning like one is accustomed to in college. So much about tennis requires confidence, so that is the biggest quality, which gave Mal the extra boost she needed to even decide to turn pro.

Second component is one has to have strong ground strokes to be able to hit winners and more importantly to control points. In college, players that need 3 more balls before they can hit winners won't make a living at the pro level. One has to be able to turn it up without hesitation. I've seen Mal do that successfully this year against Serena, something she couldn't do against Sharapova last year. In addition, she was hitting deeper balls than before, not allowing Serena to rip winners more frequently.

I think the third component is the serve. At the pro level, one has to hold their own serve or lose. In college, one can get away with trading breaks, but would have a more difficult time having success at the pro level. Mal's first serve has improved and saw some aces against Serena, but her second serve is target practice and she will need to improve that to get to the top 20.

The last component, I would say is being able to neutralize an opponents power and counter punch with one's own power for winners. I see Azarenka do this so well, something that Sharapova hasn't been able to do against Serena. At a lower level, being able to retrieve most of the balls back and wait for the opponent to make errors, may win games against the less consistent players but won't work well against the top players.

Gibbsy has a mentally strong game and she's very intelligent enough to work her way back into a match. Against weaker opponents, she'll make the top 100, maybe top 80, as of today. She'll need to transform her game like Mal has, in order to make top 50. She's not that big, so she doesn't have the power that Mal has and McHale was able to climb as high as #24 without any real weapons. However to maintain that ranking isn't so easy especially being consistent for so long, players will know to just get aggressive and take those points for the win.

When you look at Madison, she's got 3 components, power, aggressiveness, and strategy to out-think her opponents. She isn't as consistent yet but that may occur over time. Sloan has speed, counter punch power, and consistency, which has propelled her to the top 20's, but has yet been able to out-think her opponents. You combine Sloan and Madison and you have a top 10 player.
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Old May 26th, 2013, 07:33 PM   #3
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

Thanks for the detailed response!
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Old May 26th, 2013, 08:15 PM   #4
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

I mostly agree with what tie_breaker said.

NCAA tennis is a lot different for a few reasons. The most obvious one is that you're playing for a team. This comes with it's own unique pressures that aren't found on the pro tour and the added dynamic that your result doesn't only affect yourself. Another is that you often play an 8 game doubles pro set before singles which can affect your confidence either positively or negatively.

I think that most of the time, in college tennis, players who are just able to be consistent and run down ball after ball are more successful proportionally than they are on the pro tour. Florida won a couple of national titles by adopting this strategy. They can often beat the better ballstrikers (like a Burdette or Anderson) because of the added pressure and the team environment that they can feed off of. Yet the better ballstrikers with the weapons are the ones that are more likely to succeed as pros.

You can achieve a certain level of success by being an excellent competitor but the best players are the ones who combine that competitive drive with innate talent and that special "it factor", like Mallory.

I'll be interested to see how Gibbs does. She's not a very physically imposing girl but she competes very well, is very smart on court, and can also use her forehand as a weapon occasionally. I think she'll struggle at first but as she adapts to the pace and improves her game, she should reach the top 100 in 12-18 months.
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Old May 26th, 2013, 11:47 PM   #5
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by iPatty View Post
Yet the better ballstrikers with the weapons are the ones that are more likely to succeed as pros.
This is a nice thought but I'm not sure there's much to back up this assertion. The list of college players who have broken through to any extent on the WTA tour is a short one, especially in recent years.

Those reaching the top 100 in the past 5 years I believe are:
Julie Coin (Clemson) - CHR 60
Irina Falconi (GT) - CHR 73
Mallory Burdette (Stanford) - CHR 80 {And movin' on up after today's win }
Julia Cohen (UF/Miami/etc) - CHR 97

When I look at that group as a whole, ball-striking is not the first thing that comes to mind. The game styles are about as diverse as those you usually see on the pro tour or among the NCAA's top 5 or 10 players.

I'd guess pro success has more to do with health, motivation and handling the travel and variation of surfaces that the tour presents. Perhaps most important is getting off to a hot start immediately like Burdette and Falconi did, considering most players do not have the finances to endlessly vulture points around the globe ala Cohen.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 05:00 AM   #6
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by CTSEMT View Post
This is a nice thought but I'm not sure there's much to back up this assertion. The list of college players who have broken through to any extent on the WTA tour is a short one, especially in recent years.

Those reaching the top 100 in the past 5 years I believe are:
Julie Coin (Clemson) - CHR 60
Irina Falconi (GT) - CHR 73
Mallory Burdette (Stanford) - CHR 80 {And movin' on up after today's win }
Julia Cohen (UF/Miami/etc) - CHR 97

When I look at that group as a whole, ball-striking is not the first thing that comes to mind. The game styles are about as diverse as those you usually see on the pro tour or among the NCAA's top 5 or 10 players.

I'd guess pro success has more to do with health, motivation and handling the travel and variation of surfaces that the tour presents. Perhaps most important is getting off to a hot start immediately like Burdette and Falconi did, considering most players do not have the finances to endlessly vulture points around the globe ala Cohen.
When you start adding the costs of travel, hotels, a tennis coach, nutrition, workout and training facilities...it isn't cheap and there's very little prize money at the smaller tournaments, which they have a better chance qualifying for. When they start examining opportunity costs, I would imagine that they would give up on tennis sooner than later, which I think is sad, especially since most have been playing competitively since 12.

I don't think college players have that hunger, especially the hunger that they had when they were juniors (before college). After college, they have so many more options (education, network, employment offers, marriage offers etc.). Some go back and coach tennis for that matter. When you look at juniors, who skip college and turn pro. They have less options, so it's make it or break it and it appears they have more success, but it could be that they have more staying power. Look at all the Americans ranked in the top 100. All except Mal and Bethanie skipped college. I really hope Mal sticks it out, although she has that option to go into the medical field. Gibbsy, I think will stick it out but will have a tougher time than Mal adjusting with her game.

Now what would be nice is if the prize money that the players earn but can't keep as amateurs be kept in an escrow account and be given back to the players after they finish college so that they have start-up money to make it as a pro. When Mal had that chance to bank $50k from the US Open, I think that was a big part of her decision to turn pro, as I think she was able to keep the prize money, although she originally competed as an amateur.

Speaking of Cohen, you might want to add Alexandra Stevenson to that list
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:08 PM   #7
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Re: College vs. Pros Qualities Question

Here's an article about Mal...interestingly she points out a big advantage she has now, compared to being at Stanford

http://www.usta.com/Pro-Tennis/burde...omen_in_paris/
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