Saturday, April 23, 2011

Through A Glass Darkly

by Savannah


Found this interview posted on Twitter by @fortydeucetwits where Ana Ivanovic discusses her coaching situation in between the interviewer fawning all over her.

"I know that us girls aren't the easiest to coach," Ivanovic said. "It's a strange situation. A coach is in charge of a lot of things, but on the other hand we're the boss. On the men's tour it's a bit different because I think for a coach it's easier if the guy is the boss. All of a sudden they have a girl who is the boss. It takes a certain ego to be able to accept that. I don't think there are many coaches who are willing to do it. There are a lot of them who try to control a lot.

"You want a coach who is going to push you and be strong and be in your corner when it's tough, but sometimes you have coaches who think they are more important than the players. That's where the conflicts come."

Had she thought of employing a female coach? "There aren't many woman coaches in general and I actually think it's good to have a male coach," Ivanovic said. "Guys and girls have different mentalities. Girls are so stressed about everything. Guys take everything much more lightly. That's great and it's something we have to learn from. I think one woman on a team is enough!"

Gee Ana I don't know. A coach is supposed to point out what you're doing wrong and suggest changes he/she feels you should make in your game to improve your play. If all you want is a "yes man" you don't really want a coach do you?

The Era of the Brat

Mention the names Bernard Tomic or Grigor Dimitrov and what is the first thing that comes to mind about the players? Phenom? Future of tennis? Pain in the ass?

Both young men have been hyped by their respective tennis organizations as the next big thing, the ones who will take over when the old guard rides into the sunset. Let's see what they've accomplished so far. I've lost count of how many times Tomic has been suspended by Tennis Australia. Dimitrov, incensed by the calls of a chair umpire, physically attacked the umpire. When they've managed to find the time to appear on court their performances have been underwhelming to say the least. I'm not sure how Dimitrov relates to the Bulgarian federation but Tomic seems to think he runs Tennis Australia and acts accordingly. Recently he withdrew from an event citing illness or something and showed up on the practice courts the next day as if nothing was wrong. Some want to blame his father for his bad attitude but in my opinion that is a cop out. More on why in a minute.

This week one Donald Young Jr posted a tweet that left most tennisheads slack jawed.

A little background.

The USTA holds a playoff every year to determine which of it's up and comers will get the one wild card the FFT grants for the French Open. It's fair and usually passes without incident. This year was the exception.

Donald Young, who has been on the brink for years now didn't like that he had to play to get into the FO main draw. He lost and decided it wasn't his fault but the fault of the USTA for making him go through the playoff. Seething he tweeted the following:

Fuck USTA!! Their full of shit! They have screwed me for the last time!

Needless to say the tweet went viral. First there was an attempt to delete it but it had been retweeted so much that that didn't work. Then came an apology along the lines of "I don't usually do that but I meant what I said". Keep in mind this is the second tirade in a year by Donald on Twitter.


I'm sure we don't know everything that has transpired between the USTA and the Young family and probably shouldn't. What I do know is that the USTA has paid Young beaucoup bucks and seen little to no return on its investment. When threatened with withdrawal of funding Young all of a sudden found a way to win a few matches including defeating Andy Murray. Maybe that win is why he thinks he should be given direct entry into the French Open main draw without participating in the playoff? I don't know.

The common denominator with these three young men is that they were/are the darlings of their tennis federations player development organizations. They've been told that they're legends and act accordingly. The sun rises and sets on their heads and it's not their fault that the world doesn't recognize that fact.

So what should the USTA do with Mr. Young? Should they suspend him for a certain amount of time like Tennis Australia does with Tomic? It doesn't seem to have worked with Tomic so what can a tennis association do?

A minor league baseball player knows he's in the minor leagues and works his ass off to get to the majors where salaries, good hotels and other perks await. In tennis those in the minor leagues (Juniors to be specific)are treated as if they've already arrived. Look over the rosters of any level of Challenger event and you will see that the draws are littered with juniors who are having trouble transitioning to their respective main tours. This is not only true for young men. Michelle Larcher de Brito, Coco Vandeweghe, and yes, Lauren Davis have not been able to get a toehold in the big league. Victoria Azarenka seems to have learned her lesson and no longer thinks her mere walking on court means divine right applies to her.

The British Lawn Tennis Association threatened it's darlings with a cut off of funds if they didn't start to act as professionals. It doesn't seem to be working too well right now and I haven't heard of anyone being cut off from the LTA dole.

Don't get me wrong. A tennis federation needs to provide financial support to players exhibiting promise. Tennis is an expensive sport and every family isn't wealthy enough to support a child until he or she makes the big time. I think that support should come with caveats and levels of achievement that, if not reached, result in being cut off from the trough. If a player does not make the change from the junior game to the pro game by a certain time cut the cord. If a player doesn't want to practice or work on their mental and physical stamina it shouldn't matter how big a serve he or she has. Like my mother always said doing otherwise is throwing good money after bad.

It's time for tennis associations to make the hard choices that need to be made. It will ensure that those left in their programs will be the ones who want it bad. They may not come from the best neighborhoods or be the offspring of friends from the country club but they will be hungry and willing to do what it takes to win at the pro level. Right now all I see are young people with a sense of entitlement unsupported by their achievements. Until that happens tennis could be turned over to brats with no ability to elevate and advance the sport.

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