bogomolov

State of the Union

by James A. Crabtree

What a disappointment the American men currently are.

For a country that is so rich in tennis history it is heart breaking to see a power house such as the United States limp through the season.

True, some players have been playing well. Sam Querrey has displayed a mild resurgence, James Blake is attempting one last hurrah, Jack Sock could well be a diamond in the rough and Mardy Fish is back at Indian Wells but hasn’t played since the 2012 U.S. Open. Outside of the top 100 Tim Smyczek looks to be a hustling player making waves. The players hanging in the bottom half of the top 100 such as Brian Baker and Michael Russell, are those with heart whilst the majority of the new batch, thus far, are all hype.

The real disappointment lies with the supposed new generation of stars. Granted, they do all talk a good game, profess their commitment to hard work and assure us that they are just that one big win from joining the elite. At this point none look like worthy candidates to propel the stars and stripes forward during the teenage years of this decade and for the most part lack true grit.

Ryan Harrison is still only twenty years old, and players tend to show their potential at around twenty two these days. Impressively Harrison has the skills to battle with the elite, just not the temperament to outclass anybody notable so far.

In 2011 Donald Young reached a career high ranking of 38, the fourth round of the U.S. Open and made the final of a 250 event in Thailand. The John McEnroe prophecies were starting to ring true until 2012, when Young pressed the self-destruct button and lost seventeen matches in a row. 2013 hasn’t been so bad, but Young is way off in the rankings.

Back in the early eighties many players from the eastern bloc looked to defect their homeland for the American dream. These days the reverse is happening. After some financial disputes with the USTA, Russian born Alex Bogolmov Jnr decided he was more Russian than American in 2012. Jesse Levine is another with eyes on being part of a Davis Cup team, having aligned with Canada, the country of his birth. Reportedly both players still live in Florida.

None of the current crop look poised to make a leap.

For those who can remember, rewind ten years prior and it was a much different story.

Pete Sampras was sailing off into the distance after his fourteenth slam. Andre Agassi had recently collected his fourth Australian title, and Andy Roddick was only months away from cracking the big time.

In many people’s eyes Roddick didn’t win enough, mainly because he failed to win a second slam. It must be remembered that his second chance was always going to be a lot tougher thanks to a certain Mr Federer who spoilt many careers. Now with the oft-criticised Roddick gone, and enjoying retirement, the torch as America’s best player hasn’t been passed onto a worthy candidate.

Now before the stomach acid of the Isner fans starts churning let’s remember that big John does very little outside of the U.S. or Davis Cup duties and has been looking rather out of sorts this year. Is it too soon to count him out?

And when was the U.S. this unsubstantial? Certainly not twenty years ago when the Americans were surely the majority in any draw.

So what has happened in the years since? Is the college system watered down, do the Academies need a revamp, is American tennis stuck in the past or just stuck in a lull?

As much as champions are formed at the grass root level, the formative years are spent idolising a hero. Naturally, an idol a young player can relate to will only help to cultivate progression.

With so many tournaments stateside, roughly 18% of the total tour, it is bad for tennis to have a weak America. And with so few American contenders a sense of complacent mediocrity can set in quickly.

Federer Finishes on High Note, Davis Cup Clash in Spain – The Friday Five

by Maud Watson

Another Title, Another Record

Last Sunday, Roger Federer became the first male player to win six season-ending championships, surpassing the previous record of five held jointly by Sampras and Lendl.  It also marked his 70th tournament win in 100 finals.  It was a great effort by Federer that showcased his fitness and resiliency.  When others were tired and running on fumes, he stood tall.  And rather than crumbling after a disappointing summer that included two devastating losses in the semis of both Wimbledon and the US Open, the man from Switzerland went a perfect 17-0 to collect three titles and regain the No. 3 ranking to close out 2011.  The ATP World Tour Finals may have also marked a psychological turning point for Federer.  He candidly admitted to being mentally fragile at some key moments earlier in the season, and after finding a way to close out Tsonga in a match that looked like it might yet again prove to be a dramatic comeback from the Frenchman, Federer may finally be putting some of those demons to rest.  This win by no means that he is a guaranteed major winner in 2012 – he finished 2010 with the title in London, too.  But it is a strong reminder that Federer still has more than enough game and motivation to add to his Slam tally before he calls it a career.

Overlooked Achievement

Often overshadowed by singles, there was some spectacular doubles on hand in London, and the team that took the cake was that of Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi.  It takes two to lift the title, and Mirnyi certainly did his part, but what an achievement for Daniel Nestor.  At age 39, he’s still one of the greatest doubles players in the game.  As a testament to just how good he is, he’s won the calendar year Grand Slam, Olympic gold, and has now won the season-ending championships four times with three different partners.  Unless he just decides he’s tired of the grind, there’s no reason why Nestor can’t continue to add to his doubles legacy.  Pencil him in as a future Hall of Famer.

Title Favorites

The final hurrah of 2011 gets underway today, as Spain plays host to Argentina in the Davis Cup final.  Both sides have played down their chances, with Argentina calling Spain the favorites, especially since they have Nadal – albeit a Nadal who is suffering from fatigue – playing at home on clay.  Spain meanwhile has said that Argentina is fielding a dangerous team that will be feeling extra motivation, having not won the title in three tries, the most recent final loss coming at the hands of Spain in Argentina in 2008.  One Spaniard who isn’t afraid to proclaim Spain’s status as the favorite, however, is Manolo Santan, who stated that the Spanish team could beat the Argentines on roller skates.  This sentiment was perhaps a bit too cocky (and unwise to give the Argentines extra incentive to make him eat his words), but he is correct in that Spain is undoubtedly the team to beat in this one.  But it should hopefully prove an entertaining matchup, and an upset that would see Argentina win its first Davis Cup title could happen.  Sit back and enjoy!

Changing It Up

The man just named 2011’s Most Improved Player, Alex Bogomolov, Jr., has been granted his wish.  He will now represent Russia instead of the United States.  While it’s understandable that some in the USTA were unhappy with the move given the time and money that has been invested in Bogomolov, it’s not like he’s the first player to benefit from American money and play for another nation (albeit those others did not benefit from USTA-funding).  This move also provides a great opportunity to Bogomolov, who was born in Moscow, as he will be able to represent Russia in the upcoming Davis Cup tie as their currently top-ranked player.  If still representing the United States, he would only be the fourth highest ranked American.  Here’s to hoping he finds the switch of allegiance well worth it.  The second more puzzling changeup concerns Donald Young.  According to TENNIS.com, Donald Young has gone back to being coached by his mother.  Under the guidance of the USTA’s coaching staff, Young enjoyed the most successful period of his professional career, starting at the end of the summer and through the Asian swing.  At the time of writing, few details are known regarding the switch, but a source has told TENNIS that Young was asked to train and practice at one of their facilities during the off season and Young refused.  Hopefully this will not prove another step backwards, but if TENNIS.com’s source is reliable, a frustrating history may be about to be repeated.

Still Plugging Away

Despite multiple surgeries, a major dip in the rankings, and an extended absence from the tour, Lleyton Hewitt insists that he has no retirement plans.  In some ways, he seems up there in age, but in reality, he’s less than a year older than Federer.  Unfortunately for the Aussie, he doesn’t possess Federer’s game, but it’s great to hear that he’s planning to stick around.  He’ll never get near the upper most echelons of the game again, but a healthy Hewitt has the tenacity, smarts, and experience to cause some upsets and maybe add the occasional piece of hardware to his own collection.  You’d be hard pressed to find many players that have more of a fighting spirit than the man from Adelaide, and thanks to being awarded a wildcard into the Australian Open, his legion of fans will be keen to see him hopefully get his 2012 campaign off with a flier.