While the Williams sisters were collecting half a million to a million each on Monday night to play the Billie Jean King Cup at Madison Square Garden, the rest of American tennis is in the trenches this week at the Monterrey (Mexico) Open.
The smallest of tournaments ($220,000) on the WTA calendar, Monterrey saw only one American make the main draw (barely) in No. 101-ranked veteran Jill Craybas. Vania King then qualified into the main draw.
Casualties in the qualifying were Alexandra Stevenson (1st rd.), Mashona Washington (1st rd.), Alexa Glatch (2nd rd.), Madison Brengle (1st rd.), and Lilia Osterloh (2nd rd.).
Take No. 39-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands (currently sidelined with injury) out of the equation and the U.S. currently has two healthy players ranked inside the Top 100 — Venus and Serena Williams.
The Williams sisters deserve to be put upon a pedestal for all their accomplishments — but the lack of other Americans waiting to climb up is a daunting proposition for those in charge of U.S. player development. With the Williams sisters go U.S. women’s tennis, completely. You wouldn’t see an American raising a Grand Slam trophy in years, much less in Monterrey.
The men’s side went into panic mode years back, but that has subsided with the rise of players like Sam Querrey and the promise of players such as John Isner and Donald Young (hoping such promises are kept).
On the women’s side, not to say there is no hope, but if the Williams sisters retired tomorrow due to injury (which they have many) or off-court lures (which they have even more), the U.S. will have gone from five Americans in the Top 10 to none in the Top 25 in a 20-odd-year span.
It’s easy to put player development on the back burner when you’re at the top, but all those years just expecting top talent to surface, as it had in the past, has put the U.S. in a hole. Talk about the Dow dropping — U.S. women’s tennis, sans the William sisters, needs the financial bail-out.
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