Tennis  > General Tennis  > The ebb and flow of international competition
September 29, 2009, 01:06 PM
As we enter a lull in major tennis activity, a question for our contributors:

In the last 60 years, we have witnessed some exceptional performances from tennis programs in Australia, USA, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Russia (women), France and Germany. A very few continue to consistently maintain their high level and presence, others perform with peaks and valleys, while some have all but disappeared, now with token presence. Why? What are the causes? ............. infrastructure, coaching quality, funding, facilities, motivation, population, tour lifestyle etc ??

The great puzzle for me is the USA with its extraordinary intercollegiate seeding ground. Also, Open tennis has offered the lowliest aspirant unheard-of economic motivation and potential. I look forward to opinions and observations.
July 28, 2010  10:50 AM ET

One really has to be concerned with the lack of development of US tennis. Bruce Jenkins' column focuses on the growing problem. Late bloomer Fish and Roddick are growing long in the tooth, Querrey is sounding off about the tour grind (indeed!), leaving only Isner for the future.

The lack of maturity gained in NCAA competition continues to pose a wasted opportunity. However Spain and Argentina seem to be doing quite well without that exposure. One has to wonder at the probable lack of infrastructure present in the US Tennis Association as a cause and effect element.

July 29, 2010  10:44 AM ET

Please strike "lack of" in my last post.

August 5, 2010  11:34 AM ET

Its most things, but I don't think population is one of them, Australia for example has a small population yet they perform!

August 5, 2010  06:00 PM ET

James, I think the tense is wrong. To me they may be a greater puzzle than the USA. After a strong post WWII, followed by a spectacular 50-60-70's they have been in steady decline. Today it's Sam Stosur and a long in the tooth Hewitt - that's really poor. The truth of the matter is that there has never been one as dynamic as Harry Hopman to lead. I don't know who the mover is in Spain but former players like Orantes, the Sanchez's and Santana have a strong voice. In Argentina, Morea has always been a prominent player.

I posted something on the Off-season thread regarding US players that I suspect, having to do with the routine and its rewards or lack there of.

April 2, 2011  04:20 PM ET

A 29-year old player ranked #14 is the best the USA has to show with another of equal age just behind. The skant number of "up and comers" mope about the court in a dispirited manner looking like losers before a match even starts. Our tennis future is ebbing badly. With the potential infrastructure the USA possesses to turn out quality players, this situation is not to be believed. The women's game has no one! I would certainly like to hear opinions from the great fans on this web. Also, Wertheimer and /or Jenkins should do some investigation ....................... we're in really bad shape!

April 2, 2011  06:39 PM ET

Robert, interesting insight which is very true and I haven't thought about this in a while. I did see where Mardy Fish just passed Roddick as the top American male. And who is coming up? Querry, Isner? If they were going to do something, they would have by now. Respectable players but American threats to return to dominance? Not even close. On the women's side, the Williams sisters can still be a threat but their bests days has passed as well. Oudin?? Cute kid with some decent results but doesn't have the power game to hold off the big names ( Wozniaki etc. sp? ) I remember when we would have 4-5 Americans in the top 10 at all times, males and female. So what is the reason? Is it because lack of player development and commitment by the USTA? When was the last time Bolliteri or Landsdorp had a serious prospect? 5 years?, 10 years? Is it because the serve and volley game is all but obsolete and the rest of the world usually plays on slower surfaces and rely on solid back court games? Isner, Roddick and Querry all rely on monster serves to do well with mediocre back court games. Maybe we haven't evolved with the way the game is now. Also, the Russians and slavic countries have much fewer opportunities to make a living in sports than us. Outside of tennis and of course soccer, what do they have? We have football, baseball, basketball, and lower tiers such as Nascar, rodeo etc. With that considered, they take their top athletic talent and develop them in tennis. Our top athletes are playing CONTRACT sports where they still get paid regardless of their consistent performance ( at least for a while ). Tennis players get paid and endorsements if they WIN, pure and simple. This is a long winded answer to say I think that we have too many other athletic possibilities versus other countries. There focus is there and they development has shown success. Tennis is just one of many routes here in the U.S. I know that this has always been the case but U.S. tennis development doesn't seem to be as critical as its once was.

April 3, 2011  08:26 AM ET

Pure country, I believe you nailed it with the economic arguments. About twenty players of the 100+ that participate on the ATP circuit, win big and often. The remainder collect the crumbs, have no endorsements and live in a shaky financial state. Add to that a less than desirable life style always on the road, on planes, in hotels and no social life.

What you suggest is a tennis future where Americans will not be reaching the upper ranking echelon.

April 3, 2011  04:21 PM ET

Exactly, I'm a huge flag waiver but I agree that Americans hoisting championship trophies or running around with our flag after winning the Davis Cup may not be in the near future. Very sad. ( Great insight on your part Robert )

April 13, 2011  07:18 PM ET

Last Wednesday the 6th, Wertheim said he would have profound answers as to what is causing the prolonged dearth of top ranked US players, men and women. He outsourced the answers to his readers: 1) be patient, they will appear - five are in the top 20 but don't be discouraged as four are soon to retire! ....... 2) the lack of tennis writers is the reason, because of our poor the showing, they are losing interst in covering tennis. This response is unbelievable!!

I wrote Wertheim immediately to please answer as promised using your vantage point as a professional reporter .................no answer today. He treats deep issues with caution opting to not offend anyone. He is a some time dilettante preferring to write about social issues and circuit gossip in general.

Maybe Bruce Jenkins can take a shot at this.

April 13, 2011  07:44 PM ET
QUOTE(#11):

Last Wednesday the 6th, Wertheim said he would have profound answers as to what is causing the prolonged dearth of top ranked US players, men and women. He outsourced the answers to his readers: 1) be patient, they will appear - five are in the top 20 but don't be discouraged as four are soon to retire! ....... 2) the lack of tennis writers is the reason, because of our poor the showing, they are losing interst in covering tennis. This response is unbelievable!!I wrote Wertheim immediately to please answer as promised using your vantage point as a professional reporter .................no answer today. He treats deep issues with caution opting to not offend anyone. He is a some time dilettante preferring to write about social issues and circuit gossip in general.Maybe Bruce Jenkins can take a shot at this.

I be looking forward to what they say !

April 16, 2011  05:21 AM ET

WHAT HAPPENED TO AMERICAN MEN'S TENNIS?
Best answers so far: Paul Wachter, AOL News

1. US best athletes are not entering tennis. 2. Tennis is expensive in that high schools do not provide equipment as with the major sports. i.e. restringing costs $50. 3. Globalization - US player development inferior to that of other countries many of which just entered international competition in recent decades (Croatia, Serbia, Japan). 4. Other countries provide only soccer and tennis options creating a smaller universe and thus, a greater concentration of the country's best athletes with a greater individual reward.

Pure Country

6. US offers more sport choices thus diluting the talent pool in schools, especially for minor sports. 7. It is more advantageous to sign a professional contract that provides a pay day as long as there is satisfactory performance. Tennis has no such safety net.

RTL

8. Tennis offers an insecure future beforehand, as only the very few elite players make a decent living and after, as the number of tennis related jobs (coaching, academies, camps) is limited. 9. For the non-elite, the life style is pure drudgery.


Agree or Disagree, please opine ...............................

April 16, 2011  02:03 PM ET

Agreed. American men's tennis does not have a monopoly on the downfall. Amercian women's tennis is also in peril. Yesterday in the women's equivalent to the Davis Cup, we lost our two singles matches to Germany in straight sets. 10 years ago, this would have NEVER happened. Who was playing for us? Oudin and an 18 year old who I had never heard of. We lost to two low ranked Germans relatively easily. American professional tennis is not gender specific. It's a problem and the points above are the basis for the decline. Nice job Robert.

 
May 6, 2011  01:32 AM ET

Many thanks to FRANK DEFORD for his excellent column on the subject at hand appearing on the SI tennis page today. I concur with his observations.

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