Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What's wrong with U.S. women's professional tennis?

Where's the U.S. version of Dominika Cibulkova or Sabine Lisicki?

If anything, this year's edition of the Hopman Cup has shown that there really isn't any player around their age or of their caliber reppin' the red, white and blue coming any time soon. I mean, why else would Meghann Shaughnessy be tapped to replace Serena Williams on the U.S. squad despite only playing a handful of matches last year due to injury? The sad thing about the state of the pro game is that if you were to think about it, you couldn't have made an argument for anyone else, excluding Venus Williams or Lindsay Davenport.

Shaughnessy has played her opponents pretty tough after being put in a difficult situation.

However... (if you read this blog, you had to know a "However" was coming!)

She shouldn't have been in that situation! With the resources the United States Tennis Association has, there should've been a young player making a serious dent in the rankings by now. Instead, a nation of journeywomen has developed: Ashley Harkleroad, Vania King, Jamea Jackson, the list goes on and on.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the last U.S. player to crack the top 10 was Serena Williams almost 10 years ago. (Shaughnessy, once a great U.S. hope, only got as high as 11.) Those are pretty sad results.

There's a few youngsters playing now that have had good junior results, such as Madison Brengle, Melanie Oudin, Asia Muhammad and CoCo Vandeweghe, who won the U.S. Open juniors last year. (And in a shameless plug, check out what I wrote about her for On the Baseline.) Hopefully, they can soon make waves on the pro level.

I don't believe the U.S. women are less talented than their peers. Is it a matter of desire? That's been one of the age-old arguments, but I actually think it's getting kind of stale.

The U.S. won't collapse if it doesn't win the Hopman Cup again and I don't want it to seem like I'm dumping on Shaughnessy (I'm actually a big fan), but counting on Venus and Serena to carry the hopes of a nation will only go so much longer. Something really needs to be done.

(Photo: AP)


Shelia said...

Van, I put off writing a post last night after watching the Hopman Cup last night so that I wouldn't just tear Shaughnessy a new one. SHE WAS AWFUL! When they were playing mixed doubles I saw the girl just stand there and watch balls go by as Blake tried to play for both of them.

What was dramatically disgusting, was how awful it was after Blake had just pulled out his very tough singles event against Nicolas Kiefer. Tragic.

I totally agree that she should not have been there. I don't know who should have, but it shouldn't have been her.

What a waste for the USA.

Anonymous said...

Well purely on rankings it should have been Bethanie Mattek

Vava said...

It's not like the US men are tearing up the rankings either. I think that US tennis will come back strong at some point, but I think that they were so strong for so long back in the 70s and 80s that it forced the rest of the world to improve. Now the roles have been reversed and the States needs to draw motivation from the fact that they are no longer THE world tennis superpower.

TopSpin said...

I don't buy the whole desire argument either, though you do sometimes have to think that's a factor in the rise of Eastern-European tennis, and there's no doubt that raw talent is something that no amount of money, plush training facilities and coaching sessions the more affluent nations have access to, is ever going to replace.

I sometimes think its simply a case of not enough talent being in the pool, and that the US just like the UK will have to weather the storm till they come across their 'diamond in the rough'.

Certainly here in the UK things are so bad that the phrase 'Womens Tennis' is a bit like speaking about The Loch Ness Monster or The Yeti: not everyone seems to believe it exists...

Its only recently we had a woman crack the top 100, although Anne Keothavong is now at a very healthy number 60 in the world...

Jodi said...

Same thing's going on in Australian tennis - all our tennis is waaaaaaaaay down in the juniors. Last major breakthrough player we had was Lleyton Hewitt, or maybe Jelena Dokic, and that was a real long time ago now. I guess every country goes through dry spells here and there...

I suppose it's more understandable with us because we're such a small country population-wise, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that the national religion of Australia is sport...

van said...

• Hey Sheila. Yeah, it was definitely tough, but I know Shaughnessy's been laid up for a while. Maybe a more match-sharp Meg could've made the difference? But like Anonymous points out, maybe Mattek would've been better?

• Hey Vava, how are you? It's funny, there's that high-performance camp that's supposed to be culling the best juniors but nothing's come of it. It's almost like there's some motivation, but no results have come out of it.

• Hey TopSpin and Jodi! I almost feel bad complaining about the U.S.' situation compared to what's happened in your respective neck of the woods over the years! But what about Robson and Dellacqua? Don't they look like future top-20 players?

freakyfrites said...

Wow, Van, your first sentence of this post really hit me. You're so right - what the heck is going on? With all the attention the Williams sisters have had, and their recent successes, I've kind of taken U.S. women's tennis or granted. Yikes.

I like Anon's point about Mattek - honestly, I think she could have played competitively at Hopman.