• America's Tennis Woes

    on Aug 27th, 2016

Well, the BNP Paribas Tournament in Indian Wells has just concluded. Like in recent years, it was an exciting tournament on the court, and well organized and well staged off the court. It is truly an event that Coachella Valley residents and businesses can be proud of and should continue to support. In fact, I had the opportunity to attend the US Open in Flushing, New York last year, and came away with the realization that the BNP is a better overall tournament. Attendance reached record figures this year at just over 386,000 people.

However, as much as I enjoyed the action, I am annually saddened by the fact this “Fifth Major” ends without an American Mens’ Champion. Consider, no American man has won any Grand Slam since 2003, Wimbledon since 2000 or the French Open since 1992. 1992!!!! That’s 37 straight Majors, and counting.

Apologists for American Tennis will say that our players are good but unlucky in having to play in the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal era. Those two have been dominant for sure, but it wasn’t long ago that the world’s players were unlucky to have to play in the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi era or in the Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe era.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of other sports, like soccer, that steal kids away from tennis. Part of the problem is not enough parents willing to be crazy tennis parents (which really means devoting the time to push their kids on the court), but the biggest part of the problem is an ineffectual USTA. The USTA just doesn’t do enough to get Americans excited about tennis. Despite recent efforts to create player development programs, the USTA continues to miss the boat on getting kids interested. In the video-game era, kids are attracted to fast-paced, loud action. It’s time for the USTA to use that to their advantage. Plus, you can’t tell me that every kid who dreams of playing pro basketball or football truly believes that’s their only or best opportunity for sports career success. For every kid who likes those team sports, there’s another one who prefers to go it alone, to be a solo combatant jazzed by the thought of controlling his own destiny on the playing field. That’s where the USTA needs to direct its attention for player development

Otherwise, the American men’s tennis grand slam champion will go the way of the dodo bird.

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