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Highlights Of USA Today Article, "USTA Takes Ambitious Steps To Find, Cultivate Tennis Talent"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Earlier today one of my regular readers, Hasheem, brought it to my attention that Rodney Harmon, former Men's High Performance Director at the USTA, had been let go. Of course my curiosity was peaked, as Rodney Harmon just recently served as the USA Olympic Men's Team Head Coach.

My research turned up this USA Today article that is very involved, and among a lot of other things, reports the following:

"The USTA has been in supplemental-type coaching, but now we are putting ourselves on the line for players who want to be part of the program," says Patrick McEnroe, who was hired in April to oversee the elite development program along with his duties as U.S. Davis Cup captain. "We want to have more people out there working together on a common cause to find talent that will be playing at the U.S. Open one day."

McEnroe, an easy-going consensus builder but hard-nosed decision maker, has not wasted time in shaking up the staff and hiring new blood.

Last month he removed men's high performance director Rodney Harmon and women's director Jean Nachand; they will be replaced by Jay Berger and Ola Malmqvist, who were both promoted from within the USTA coaching ranks. McEnroe has let go of several other coaches, mostly at the USTA's West Coast training site in Carson, Calif. In September he brought in former top-10 player Jose Higueras as director of coaching for the program.

USTA chief executive of professional tennis Arlen Kantarian, who hired McEnroe and oversaw development, is leaving, too.

Once content to let private academies such as Bollettieri/IMG churn out another Andre Agassi or hope superstars like the Williams sisters would emerge from the inner city or suburbs, the USTA now runs a full-time boarding program in Boca Raton, Fla., in conjunction with the Evert Tennis Academy, where the country's best juniors can live, train and go to school — all for free.

Another part of the article states:

For the first time since 2002, both Venus and Serena Williams are competing this week in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships as two of the eight qualifiers in the season finale. Next week Andy Roddick will tee up American hopes in Shanghai, having reached the season-ending Masters Cup for a sixth consecutive year.

Those strengths of U.S. tennis, however, can't hide the glaring weakness in the next generation.

"I don't think we're on the right track," eighth-ranked Venus Williams said Monday of the flagging U.S. fortunes. "I'm not sure what track we should be on, but it does seem like we should be able to produce some players, especially with our history throughout the game. … So hopefully we can figure it out soon, because we can also see the sport waning some in the U.S., which wouldn't be good."

Beyond Venus, 28, and Serena, 27, the drop-off for U.S. women is precipitous. No other Americans are in the top 35, and just five occupy slots in the top 100. None is younger than 23. That's a far cry from the 1980s, when U.S. women represented half or more of the year-end top 10 seven times between 1980-88.

Sixth-ranked Roddick, 26, remains an elite mainstay along with late bloomer James Blake, who is ranked No. 10 and turns 29 next month. Of the remaining seven men in the top 100, only 21-year-olds Sam Querrey (No. 40) and Jesse Levine (No. 94) are under the age of 26.

This is an extensive article and offers a lot more, to read it in its entirety click here.

Posted by Shelia

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