Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The State of American Tennis

by Savannah

“I fear, actually, for American tennis at the moment,” said former No. 1 and eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl.

The above quote comes from an article by Howard Fendrich which takes an honest look at the state of affairs in the country that once dominated at Slams and majors.

Fendrich makes the following points:

  • It’s been a decade since a man from the United States won the title—Andre Agassi in 1999—and none has even reached the quarterfinals there since he did in 2003.

  • Since Andy Roddick’s 2003 U.S. Open championship, 21 major tournaments have come and gone without an American man winning.

  • Only two active U.S. men, Roddick and Robby Ginepri, ever have made it as far as the semifinals at any major.

  • Over the past three years combined, (at the French Open) there have been three U.S. men into the third round—zero in 2007. 

  • There are three Americans in the Top 60 (ATP). France, meanwhile, has 11 and Spain has eight.

  • Sisters Serena and Venus Williams own 17 Grand Slam singles titles between them, including each of the past three.

  • Monday’s WTA rankings have Serena at No. 2, Venus at No. 3—and no one else until No. 44 Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The above article is not one of the featured entries on Yahoo - I found it looking for pictures of the courts at The Magic Box. I don't think it's an accident that the article appears today when the USTA is holding a conference call featuring Patrick McEnroe to discuss the state of tennis in the United States one year after PMac took charge of what is called elite tennis training in the United States. Patrick is quoted in Fendrich's article as saying the following:

“I don’t think you can create a system where you can create champions. Champions, to me, are born, and they come up in the right situation or they’re pushed and they’re prodded. If we can raise the level of the many junior players that we have and then the young pro players, that will make it more possible that a John McEnroe will develop, that a Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi will come along.”
“It’s something that will see some results within the next year, but really, this is a five-, six-, seven-, eight-year plan.”

I hope to be on the conference call and will provide a report tomorrow.

The Magic Box

I said yesterday I'd talk about the courts. When it comes to the European clay season fans see tournaments played on old, settled courts that have been in existence for years. That's not the case with the Magic Box. These are new courts and it shows. TennisTV is featuring play on the three show courts so those are the only ones I can discuss.

Mardy Fish complained about the surface being too slippery and wanted the court watered during the second set of his match against Tommy Robredo. He had to wait for the break between sets when the grounds crew swept and watered the court. The only problem was that they overwatered the court and delayed the start of the match between Fernando Verdasco and Juan Carlos Ferrero. The commentators mentioned how windy it was yesterday on the outer courts and how you would barely know the wind was blowing on the show courts. That backs up what Vania King blogged about yesterday.

The ball travels like a rocket through the air - the altitude of Madrid was one of the major issues with the event being held at this time of the year - and the clay is said to be slow. Perhaps they made the clay slow to compensate for the issues of altitude, I don't know.

There are also complaints about the lack of practice courts. This is a joint WTA/ATP event and players are not used to sharing or having to wait for a long time to practice.

I'm sure that after a few years the courts will have settled and the practice court situation will improve.

Oh, and I hope you like the pictures of Tommy Robredo practicing on the blue clay court.

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