Last night, on their venerable show “Real Sports”, pay cable service HBO examined the recent decline of American tennis. Reporter Jon Frankel investigated the issue interviewing the first brothers of American tennis, John and Patrick McEnroe, plus Spanish instructor and former player Emilio Sanchez.
What was striking was hearing that the McEnroe brothers have different ideas on how to resurrect American tennis back to the glory years of Connors, McEnroe, Agassi, Sampras and Courier.
Patrick McEnroe, who is in charge of player development at the USTA, said that American players needed to train harder, get smarter and learn how to hit the right shots to make it on the pro tour in this age.
Speaking from his own experience, brother John countered arguing juniors needed that same proper training but that had to complemented with time away from the court to learn life skills.
It was also interesting to hear Sanchez note that American juniors didn’t have the same intensity level that the European youngsters had when they visited his academy in Barcelona.
And what timing for this subject. It’s a big day for American junior tennis with two of the brightest hopes playing World No. 1s in Cincinnati. Christina McHale just stunned Caroline Wozniacki. 64, 75. Tonight, Ryan Harrison will meet Novak Djokovic.
QUOTES FROM MCENROE BROTHERS:
JOHN McENROE: I don’t think there’s any sport that I’m aware of where you don’t need a lot of hard work. But when you’re out there by yourself as often as you are and the amount of work it takes and the basics that have to be drilled into you not only from the physical part the stroke production, but the mental part of it, but you need to sort of give them things that would make them want to keep doing it.
I didn’t see the piece. But I don’t think Patrick and I are as far off as people make it out to be. I simply believe there should be different options provided for people. I’m going to provide that option here in New York. Patrick’s got a plan and the USTA and they’ve started to spread themselves out anyway. That was always the plan that was talked about to have some different centers where they could train, whether it’s California, Florida. Those are obvious. The less obvious would be New York or Chicago. But I think those options should be out there. I think that the fact that we’re all realizing maybe a little later than we’d like to, that we really need to be much more pro active in going after athletic kids as well as doing things to sort of make them as, and I meant, the sexy part, wanting to be out playing tennis more than some of the other sports is a big key for our success moving forward. But I think we can and I think we will be successful.
PATRICK McENROE: I agree. I did see the piece. I actually saw it this morning because I didn’t see it last night. But I felt that it was their message, and I forget your name, I’m sorry, who asked the question. But I thought that it was their message not ours that’s going it to take a superstar to create the buzz. Then how do you get the superstar without the buzz? I certainly don’t believe that. I don’t believe that John believes that.
I think we have plenty of kids that if we train them the right way and if they have the motivation and the cajones as John talks about, that we can get players to the top. At the same time, there is no doubt we need to do a better job across the board of what we’re doing. There is also no doubt to John’s point and what John’s focusing on a lot as well, is getting kids that traditionally don’t have the opportunity to play tennis, to play tennis. I think the whole 10 and under initiative that’s coming from the USTA, part of that is to try to get more kids that didn’t normally get the chance to play tennis. Get them interested in tennis and hopefully keep them in the game.
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