Mailbag: Thoughts on Patrick McEnroe, grunting and more
Let’s do some Q/A while awaiting Federer-Monfils.
In reading about the changes in the USTA Player Development Program, I’ve learned Patrick McEnroe’s resignation was caused by his apparent refusal to move to Florida, where the National Training Center is located.
Why does the USTA insist on the "bigger is better" mentality? While a National Training Center may be necessary, it should not be the only way to get players to the elite level. If moving to Florida is an issue for McEnroe, imagine what it’s like for teenagers and young adults with hopes of elevating their game to the top of the competition. Tennis is a mostly mental game, and as an individual sport, scale and familiarity may be an issue for many, many players. My suggestion is to put aside a good sum of money to bring trainers, coaches, sports psychologists, etc. to the hometowns of selected players, instead of forcing them to go look for support elsewhere. The more they can stay in a stable environment, the better. I think the USTA has it backwards on that end.
-- Raul Amezquita, Illinios
• Lots of mail about Wednesday’s announcement that Patrick McEnroe was “stepping down” as head of player development. Let’s just say that yesterday was a hit parade of tennis dysfunction. Conflicts. Disorganization. Backstabbing. More spin than a Nadal forehand.
The few points of agreement: change is in order. At a time of historically dismal results on the men’s side, the new head of player development is needed. And he (or she) must be a) full-time and b) reside in Orlando, home of the new Lake Nona training site. C) flexible in accommodating different styles and willing to insinuate local coaches.
Here’s the reality: you’re never going to make everyone happy. This whole enterprise is, almost by definition, freighted with tension and politics. Parent A will want one thing and Parent B will want another. One expert likes a centralized model; another wants scattered sites. One coach thinks Lake Nona is nuts. Another thinks it is genius. There are finite spots and resources and players will, inevitably, feel cheated and disrespected.
Ultimately this is a numbers game. You can talk about facilities and foundations and methods, but the objective is to improve the dismal math -- especially on the men’s side. Do that and you’re set, no matter how many critics you have, no matter how your reputation has been shredded in the process. Fail in that and we’ll be going through this drill again in a few years.
I understand that Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are super human 22nd century tennis-playing cyborgs. But this is not how Walter Clopton Wingfield designed the game to be played.
-- James, Oregon
• We can debate whether the tennis played on Wednesday was in keeping with the framers’ intent, as it were. What’s not up for debate: the sport is being played at an unprecedented level of physicality. That match last night was to Sampras-Agassi (barely a decade ago) what Clayton Kershaw is to Carl Hubbell.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that the high-pitched screeching accompanying every strike of the ball when certain players are on the court is an annoying new feature of the women's game that needs correction, but there's far less agreement about the trend on both the men's and women's sides toward showy displays of fist-pumping after every winner (even drop shots), which is usually accompanied by a loud shriek or growl. I have a feeling that this is the pernicious product of sport psychologists, who no doubt tell professional players that fist-pumping keeps them psyched up and focused. I'm not one of those people who thinks that tennis should remain a genteel, country-cub sport, but does it really need to become so feral and noisome?
-- Mark Hornburg
• Confession: I am bothered less and less by the gesture, imprecations and even shrieking. Want to turn with your back to the opponent? Go for it.
Want to run in place while your opponent serves? Go nuts. Pump your fist? Have at it. These are fun quirks that ultimately differentiate the players and give us something to talk about it. (I’d rather talk about this than fashion.)
Does Kei Nishikori have a chance in the semis? Ten sets over three days does not lead to a lot of enthusiasm.
-- Deepak, Beverly Hills, Calif.
• The day off between matches is key. Or Kei, as it were. He’ll be fine.
• The Greenbrier, a resort set on 10,000 private acres in the West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains, announced on Thursday that it has broken ground on a new state-of-the-art, 2,500-seat tennis stadium, to be unveiled in June 2015.
• Amelie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce, Sergi Bruguera, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, David Hall, and Nancy Jeffett were nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2015 on Thursday.
• Long Lost Triplets? Rich Gruber of New York has this one: Novak Djokovic, Robert DeNiro, and Congressman Paul Ryan.