2015/04/28

Martin Blackman Named General Manager, USTA Player Development

From the USTA: WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 6, 2015 – The USTA today announced that Martin Blackman has been named General Manager, USTA Player Development. In this full-time position, Blackman will oversee the USTA’s Player development staff and partner with the U.S. tennis community to identify and develop the next generation of world-class American tennis players. Blackman will continue to work toward a true Team USA concept, working collegially and cooperatively with the greater American player development community.  Blackman, who will report to USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gordon Smith, succeeds Patrick McEnroe, who held the position since 2008.

 

Blackman will oversee both the USTA’s Player Development staff and Training Centers –including its Regional Training Center network and the Player Development facilities at the soon-to-be created USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Fla.

 

Blackman has a diverse and extensive background as a coach and a player, beginning with his days as a junior, when he trained with legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, alongside future greats Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Blackman, who won the USTA Boys’ 16s National Championship in 1986 and reached the Boys’ 18s final two years later, went on to become a member of two NCAA Championship teams at Stanford University.  He continued his play at the ATP level from 1989 to 1995, reaching a career-high of No. 158.

 

Blackman then became the head men’s tennis coach at American University in 1998. During his tenure at American, Blackman was named conference Coach of the Year three times, leading American to three conference titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and its first-ever national ranking.

 

In 2004, Blackman was hired as Director of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., and began to help build it into one of the premier junior training centers in America. In his five years at the JTCC, Blackman helped the Center double both its junior program enrollment and its full-time staff, and the JTCC has since worked with and helped develop pros such as Alison Riske and Denis Kudla and top junior Francis Tiafoe.

 

Near the end of his tenure in College Park, Blackman submitted a proposal to the USTA recommending that it partner with the best junior development programs across the nation, which was the impetus for the creation of the USTA Regional Training Center network.  He was hired by the USTA in 2009 as Senior Director of Talent Identification and Development, a role that saw him oversee the implementation of the Regional Training Center program, serve as a co-leader of the Coaching Education Department and be USTA Player Development’s leader for Diversity and Inclusion.

 

Blackman left the USTA in late 2011 to found his own tennis academy, the Blackman Tennis Academy, in Boca Raton, Fla. After only its second year of full-time programming, Blackman’s Academy sent all eight of its graduating students to college on tennis scholarships.

 

Blackman also served two terms on the USTA Board of Directors, from 2003-06, serving on the Audit and Collegiate Committees.

 

“The USTA is lucky to have secured an individual with as well-rounded a background as Martin Blackman,” said USTA Chairman, President and CEO Katrina Adams. “I have known Martin for many years and I am confident that he is the right person at the right time to continue to lead USTA Player Development in the right direction moving forward.”

 

“If you set out to list all of the experience and qualifications you would want in the ideal candidate for this position, Martin checks all of the boxes. He brings a unique combination of experience and skills to the job. His expansive background in all areas of player development from experience as a player, to talent identification, to coaching at the highest levels gives him  a solid platform to build on the great base that Patrick and the staff has built.” said USTA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Gordon Smith. “His experience as a player, coach, administrator and innovator makes him the ideal leader for USTA Player Development as we continue to work with the American Tennis Family to identify and develop world-class American players.”

 

Blackman lives in Boca Raton, Fla., with his wife and their four children. He holds an economics degree from George Washington University.

 

Update – here is the transcript from the USTA Media conference call with Mr Blackman. Journalists who asked the questions in the news conference were Colette Lewis of Zootennis, Rachel Cohen of AP,  Jim Martz, Dave “Koz” Kozlowski, Pam Shriver of ESPN Cindy Shmerler of Tennis Magazine,  Sandra Harwitt, Bill Simons and blogger Lisa Stone.

UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE

April 6, 2015

Katrina Adams

Martin Blackman

CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I’d like to thank all the members of the media joining us for this call today.  On the call today we will have the USTA chairman of the board and president, Katrina Adams, the USTA chief operating officer and executive director, Gordon Smith, and our newly named general manager for player development, Martin Blackman.
I’m going to turn it over to our chairman of the board and president Katrina Adams for some opening remarks.
KATRINA ADAMS:  Thank you.  Welcome, everyone, thank you for tuning in for this wonderful announcement of our hiring of Martin Blackman as our new general manager of player development.  He is very qualified.  It was an arduous deal for us in trying to come down to the final decision, but Martin’s background was well experienced and we’re truly excited about the future of American tennis going forward.
Without further ado, I’ll pass it over.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  We’ll open it up to questions at this point.

Q.  Martin, why did you leave the USTA in 2011?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  In 2011, it was kind of the end of the first phase in RTC rollout.  I thought we did a great job kind of piggybacking on the work of Jose Higueras, under Patrick’s leadership, partnering with some of the best programs in the country.
I wanted to kind of take that time in my career and start a program, kind of go back into the private sector.  That was something I always wanted to do, and I thought that was the right time after we had finished the first part of the job with the regional training centers.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I wanted to point out, when Martin said the RTC in his answer, he was referring to the Regional Training Centers.

Q.  What, in your experience, as a private coach in the past three or four years have you learned about interacting with the USTA and how do you think that’s going to help you going forward?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I mean, so much.  Being in the trenches over the last four years and being on court six to eight hours a day with kids ages 8 to 18.  I think the first thing that I noticed when I went back into the field was how different the perception of private coaches of the USTA and player development.
The outreach that we started culminating with the Team USA initiative that was brought forth by Patrick and the USTA leadership is really bearing fruit.  I really felt that.  I felt like the coaches felt like they were being supported, respected and partnered with.  I also saw that when you get a player 14, 15, 16 years old, there’s an elite, high‑performance player, you really need the support of the Federation to get them to the next level.

Q.  You just mentioned a player in the 16‑, 17‑, 18‑year‑old range, what can the USTA provide for that level of a player?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think, again, one of the strengths of Patrick’s leadership was that the support of player development was very flexible and able to be customized.  In some instances you’re going to have a player like a Madison Keys, who is able to go to a former championship like Lindsay Davenport, maybe get different types of support, or you’re going to get some players that will come to the USTA and get direct coaching.
But I think what Patrick and his team did so well, and I know Katrina and Gordon want to continue, is that we have to be flexible in the way that we relate to players, parents and coaches.  It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
The way the game is going, the resources that are needed to develop a top‑10 player, it’s very difficult to do that without some support from the Federation.

Q.  This morning I was talking to a veteran coach, Rick Macci, who said today is a very good day for American tennis with your announcement.  You can relate to what junior development is all about and deal with coaches in the private sector.  Could you elaborate a little more about that.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I mean, you know that Rick is a great coach with an amazing track record.  I think one of the things you learn when you’re in the private sector and on the court a lot is the emotional investment that it takes to develop a good player.
It’s not just feeding balls, not just doing private lessons, not just going to tournaments.  There’s a huge emotional investment that the coach makes in the player and in the family.
So knowing that, when a transition is happening, we in player development have to be very sensitive in respecting that relationship between the player and their primary coach and their parents.
I think that’s something that I’m definitely sensitive to, but I think it’s something that Patrick and his team recognized when they rolled out the Team USA initiative.

Q.  I did a story once on University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga, who is a big tennis fan.  I asked him about top athletes getting into tennis as opposed to maybe basketball.  I said what if Yannick Noah’s son Joakim had stayed in tennis, or what if LeBron James had gone into tennis?  He said both of them would have been the No.1 player in the world, in his opinion.  Talk about attracting top athletes to tennis, and is this something that high performance would get involved in?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think it’s an ongoing challenge.  I mean, if we’re going to develop world‑class players, we want to start with young people who are potentially world‑class athletes.  So I think it’s a collaboration really with community tennis.  I know it’s something that Katrina is very serious about doing, opening the doors and changing some of the perception, creating more outreach opportunities.  I know Gordon feels that way, as well.
But it’s going to be a joint effort to broaden the base and reach out to communities that maybe we haven’t as much or that maybe perceived a lot of barriers when it comes to playing tennis.  We need to make sure we change the perception and remove the barriers as much as we can.

Q.  Nick Bollettieri was excited.  He endorsed you by saying you were a great listener and you wouldn’t be (indiscernible).  How strongly do you feel those two traits will help?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Definitely the first one.  In my first 36 to 60 days, I’m going to be doing a lot of listening.  I’m going to be listening to Katrina and Gordon as we crystallize the goals for player development and really set priorities.  I’m going to be listening to Patrick as he transitions out.  I’ll be doing a lot of lot of listening to Jay Berger, Ola Malmqvist and Jose Higueras, and I’ll be doing a lot of listening to past American champions and great coaches.
I think it’s very difficult to make good decisions if you’re not a good listener.  But at that point having priorities and having goals, you need to make decisions.  I appreciate Nick’s endorsement.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a mentor.  And, yes, I will be doing a lot of listening.

Q.  Will that include listening to the kids, getting feedback from the young players themselves?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes.  I mean, I think you have different perspectives out there.  I think one of the most valuable perspectives that we have, and we have to tap into, is the voice of our former champions.  Katrina has initiated a great new mentorship program that’s really going to formalize some of the input and advice we get from some of those former champions.  Reaching back to players like Mary Joe Fernandez, Lindsay Davenport, Billie Jean King, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, reaching out to those great champions and listening to them, then listening to some of our current champions, then coming up with commonalities that we can formalize and make a little more systematic.

Q.  I know you have four kids.  I’m assuming some of them, if not all of them, have played some youth sports.  As a parent going through some experiences with youth sports, how is that affected and how do you think you’ll bring that experience as a parent and relate it to this position?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes, I have four kids.  They all play tennis.  Two play because they really love it.  Two play because it’s a free sport from daddy.  But what I’ve learned in going to tournaments and watching them, watching a lot of my players, is that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to skip levels, to be the eight‑year‑old that plays the 12‑and‑unders, to be the player that should be playing 60 orange that plays regular yellow.
That would probably be the first thing that I would try to address or continue to address with education and incentives because when you skip levels, you at some point are really retarding the developmental process.
A great example to me of someone I admire with decision make is CiCi Bellis.  After CiCi got to the second round of the US Open, beat Cibulkova, tremendous win, she played the Youth World Fed Cup, 16‑and‑under event.  She led her team to that title.  Then she played the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl.  The way she played 10Ks and 25Ks, that to me is an example of somebody who understands levels.
The second part of the experience with my kids is I love the concept of half‑day tournaments and one‑day tournaments for 10‑and‑under and 12‑and‑under tournaments.  There are not that many parents who can afford to take full days, Saturday and Sunday, away from their family and jobs to be in that situation.
Those are the two biggest things, the process of not skipping levels, and making competitive experiences more acceptable for average families.

Q.  Who were your idols growing up?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  My idols growing up were Jimmy Connors.  When I was a little kid, I used to pull my socks up to my knees like Jimmy Connors.  Guillermo Vilas was an idol of mine.  As I got to know more about him, then Arthur Ashe became a very serious role model for me.

Q.  Why all three of those?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, Jimmy Connors to me is probably, with the exception of maybe Rafa, the greatest competitor that’s ever played our sport.  That is very compelling to a young kid, just seeing somebody fight like that and be so passionate.  My parents took me to Forest Hills in ’77.  I was able to see him and Vilas up close.
So really the competitive spirit in Jimmy Connors.  For Vilas it’s more the grinder, somebody who worked so hard and played so gracefully.  Then for Arthur Ashe, it’s really about character, it’s about tennis being a metaphor for life, what you can do when you excel, people you can help.

Q.  What is the most significant character trait in your life that makes you well‑suited for this job?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think discipline, decision making.  I think that along with listening and along with being a good leader, I think at the end of the day your decision making has to be very disciplined based on objective criteria, not emotional, not reactive.  I think that gives your team a sense of comfort in the process of how decisions are made, a sense of security.
At the end of the day when a great player pops up, that great player is an outlier.  That great player isn’t the result of some perfect formula that everybody figured out and put together.  Part of the system’s job is to stay out of the way, but also to facilitate the development of those players.  You have to have discipline.
If you make a decision that doesn’t fit the prodigy, it’s okay, because the prodigy is still going to become great.

Q.  The relationship of player development to the college tennis athlete.  I’m sitting at the Easter Bowl.  I’m at the 18s, taking note that most of these kids are on the college tennis pathway as opposed to the professional pathway.  What are your thoughts on how player development will work with those kids who are focused on the collegiate development pathway.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I think that with the changing demographics of the age of your top 100 players, that college is going to become a very important part of the pro tennis pathway.  If we’ve got top hundred men who are 27 years old on average, on the women’s side 24, you’re talking about a significant window of time after a player graduates from high school.
Again, Patrick showed great leadership in setting up a collegiate function within player development.  That’s something that I think we need to invest even more in to support our best college players, our best American college players, and our best American college coaches.

Q.  Do you see there will be additional funding support for those players, for example, during the summers when they may want to try their hand at pro circuit events or other professional tournaments?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I think it’s a little premature for me to talk about funding.  I’m not officially on the job yet.
But in terms of priorities, it’s definitely a priority because especially on the men’s side, there are not that many boys who are ready for the rigors of the tour at 18 years old.  If they’re not, then we have a uniquely American advantage in our collegiate system that we need to make the most of.

Q.  I have been to your academy a few times.  It looks like it’s a very successful program.  I’m wondering why having developed it to that, what is the appeal to you about going back and not being your own boss, going back to the USTA, basically why you’re interested in moving in a different direction?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I really enjoyed building my program.  We have a great team of coaches.  I’m going to be transitioning my program, the leadership of it, to my head coach Jose Caballero.
For me, this opportunity is the greatest opportunity for someone who is passionate about player development and really wants to give back to a sport that’s given me so much.
It’s a dream job for me.  So I had to pursue it.  I’m very fortunate that Katrina and Gordon have given me the opportunity to serve.

Q.  I’m a proponent of the old school where kids went to college then went out on the tour.  They all seem so anxious to go right away.  How do you convince an eager 16‑year‑old or 17‑year‑old who has had good results, but they’re not ready and they should take advantage of the college system?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yeah, I think player development as a department has done some great research on benchmarks for players.  When a player is about to graduate from high school, either on the men’s side or the women’s side, there’s some benchmarks they should be made aware of, they, their parents, their coach, their team.  So if they’re not having significant success on the tour, that should really be an indicator for them that college is the way to go.
But we have to make sure that we give them the support while they’re in college to keep developing as players and to come out when they’re 21, 22, ready to do damage, like John Isner, Steve Johnson.  And I think we’ll see more of them on the women’s side.  We have Irina Falconi at 100, but I think we’ll start to see more on the women’s side as well.

Q.  Do you think it’s a way of making careers last longer?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  I mean, I don’t know.  I do know if you’ve got five spots opening in the top 100 every year, and the average age is 24 on the women’s side, 27 on the men’s side, if I’m correct, I do know that there’s a gap of four to six years.
So the question is, what is the best way to develop a player during that window.  Do you want them to go on the futures tour, the challengers tour, play 30 weeks a year between the age of 18 and 24, or do you want them to mature and get stronger and then go out there.

Q.  Going back to attracting the best athletes.  I know it’s early, but I want to know from early ideas about working with the community tennis division side of the USTA, the beginning youth sports athletes.  How do we get better athletes, particularly when you look at the men’s side the last 15 years?  How do we do it?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  It’s a big question.  It’s a big question.  It’s an important question.
I’m going to give you a few ideas.  One of them is we have an opportunity with the 10‑and‑under formats that are kids’ sized.  We have the opportunity to have play on a 36 red court, a 60‑foot orange court.  Now, how do we leverage that opportunity so that we get kids who can play other sports in school for free to have a free experience in the right format en masse.  I think that’s a huge opportunity and I think we’re making big headway there, but there’s a lot more we can do.
I think number two is, there are a lot of city programs that have real meaningful, organic connections with African American communities, Hispanic communities, lower‑income communities, that we can support, that already have the relationships, but maybe don’t have the capacity or the resources.
I mean, thirdly, I think we just got to keep knocking down the perception that we’re a super expensive, elitist sport.
If we talked again in two months, I’ll have a very good answer for you.

Q.  Why do you think it’s been so long since the American men have lifted the trophy at a Grand Slam?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Well, I think there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the globalization of the game and just make it such a difficult sport.  I think one of the things that hurt us is that college was the most viable pathway in the ’70s and the ’80s.  I think that changed a lot in the ’90s where you had a lot of international players that used that time and really broke into the top 100 at a young age.
I think it’s a question of windows.  So we were blessed with Sampras, Courier, Agassi, Wheaton, Chang, and then with Roddick, Fish and Blake.  We’ve been blessed with Serena and Venus.
But now the role of the Federation in facilitating the development of a world‑class player is much greater.  I think that’s why we opened the window six years ago when Patrick was hired, and we’re starting to see the fruit right now.
Some of the bright lights right now, we’ve got 14 American women in the top 100 on the WTA, and we’ve got 13 boys in the top 100 of the ITF junior rankings, and three more who are playing pro who would also be top 100.  We’re looking at a pool of about 16 boys who are coming up the pipeline right now, and then 14 women who are already in the top 100.  So the window’s open again.  We just have to make sure that we get those players exactly what they need to get to the next level.

Q.  Katrina awhile ago said we are a nation that is a land of excess, not opportunity.  There’s a lack of motivation.  If kids don’t understand they have to do the hard work, they will never get anywhere.  Jose Higueras made a similar comment to the Los Angeles Times saying we were lacking competitiveness in our players.  That’s all about emotion, fire, hunger.  Talk about that.  Is that something an association can work with a player on?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yeah, I do think a Federation can make a huge impact.  I agree with Katrina and Jose.
I think what the challenge is, is to create a culture where all of our players are striving for excellence, striving for Grand Slam titles, striving to be top five.  Doesn’t mean they’re all going to achieve it, of course not.  But creating that culture allows players to push each other.  One player pops, the next one pops, the next one sees that, I can do that.
The mentorship program that Katrina has initiated, more involvement from some of our former champions, all those things are going to work together to create that culture.
I mean, if we’ve got boys or girls who are ranked 60 or 70 in the world, and they’re sitting at a table with Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Serena, Venus, Lindsay Davenport, those American champions are not going to be patting them on the back telling them, Hey, you made it.  They’re going to inspire them to be what you said, raising a Grand Slam trophy.

Q.  A lot of kids come from families that can afford to give their kids tennis, but are choosing sports that are more team sports.  They like that atmosphere.  Do you think there’s a way of promoting kids into tennis, in the early years, making it more of a team sport than an individual sport to attract kids, that they feel part of a whole as opposed to on their own?
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  Yes, I think that’s already being done very effectively with some of the eight‑and‑under, 10‑and‑under events.  Even at the national level, the competitive structure, we’ve added a lot of national team competitions in addition to zonals and intersectionals.  I think that makes a huge difference in the way the game is perceived and the way a kid is introduced to tennis.

Q.  I’ve been to junior Fed Cup and Davis Cup.  Even that level of elite kids, it seems to bring something out in them when they’re rooting for the other person as well as just themselves.
MARTIN BLACKMAN:  For sure.  I totally agree with that.
CHRIS WIDMAIER:  I would like to take a moment to thank everybody for joining us on the call today.
Katrina, Gordon, thank you for taking the time.  Martin, congratulations.  We look forward to seeing everybody soon.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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David Nainkin Rejoins USTA Player Development as National Coach

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(January 6, 2015) The USTA announced on Tuesday that David Nainkin has rejoined USTA Player Development full-time as National Coach, Men’s Tennis, and that Maureen Diaz has been hired as a full-time National Coach based out of the USTA Training Center – East in Flushing, N.Y..

 

Nainkin, who was part of the USTA coaching staff from 2004-2013, returns to the USTA after spending a year coaching Sam Querrey. Nainkin will be based out of the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif., working under Head of Men’s Tennis Jay Berger. Several top professional players have achieved career-high rankings under Nainkin’s guidance, including Mardy Fish (No. 7), Sloane Stephens (No. 11) and Querrey (No. 17).

 

Diaz joins the USTA Training Center – East coaching staff full-time after working as both a part-time coach and teaching pro at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since early 2013. A former college singles player at the University of Southern California and recently the St. John’s University women’s coach, Diaz will help with the development of all players at the Training Center – East.

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Meet Alex Kuznetsov and Shelby Rogers, USTA Pro Circuit French Open Wild Card Challenge Winners

Shelby_Rogers_Semis_9-29Kuznetsov

The USTA held a conference call with Alex Kuznetsov and Shelby Rogers, the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge winners, who each earned a wild card into the 2013 French Open based on results over the past three weeks on the USTA Pro Circuit. Here is the official transcript of the call from the ASAPSports site:

UNITED STATES TENNIS ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE

May 6, 2013

Alex Kuznetsov

Shelby Rogers

AMANDA KORBA:  Thanks for joining us on the call today with Alex Kuznetsov and Shelby Rogers, the men’s and women’s winners of the Har‑Tru U.S. Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge, winning a wild card into the 2013 French Open later this month.
The USTA and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2013 French Open and US Open are exchanged.  This is the second year the USTA has held the Wild Card Challenge using the U.S. Pro Circuit events to determine the recipients.
The winner of the Wild Card Challenge was determined by the player who accumulated the greatest number of ATP and WTA ranking points at two of three USTA Pro Circuit events.  Alex earned 115 points in the challenge, winning the title in Sarasota, reaching the quarters in Savannah and Tallahassee.  Shelby earned 88 points winning the Charlottesville title and reaching the quarterfinals in Dothan.  She clinched the wild card this weekend.
Both Alex and Shelby will be making their French Open main draw debuts.  Alex reached the finals of the French Open juniors in 2004, losing to Monfils in the final.  Shelby’s last appearance in a Grand Slam was in 2010 when she won a wild card into the US Open by winning the USTA Girls 18 National Championships.
We’ll open it up for questions.

Q.  Alex, could you think back to 2004 when you were a finalist in the boys tournament at Roland Garros, give us an idea at that point where you felt your career was and maybe were you thinking back then that relatively soon you’d be in the main draw there at the French Open and what it means to you now to earn that chance to play in the main draw there.
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Obviously, yeah, back then it was a great time for me.  I was in the finals of the juniors.  I was playing some good tennis.  Going up against Gaël Monfils, I think he was ranked No.1 in the world at that time.  We were going to be playing on Court1.  I remember I was really excited.  Had my parents and grandparents over there with me, some coaches.
Yeah, obviously it was a great time for me.  But I knew it was a long road ahead of me.  I think I had a couple ATP points at the time.  I knew after that tournament I was going to be playing a lot of futures and challengers events.
But, honestly, to think I guess it’s been almost 10 years that this will be my first French Open main draw, I would have said I’d liked to have been in a couple before now, to be honest with you.

Q.  What does it mean to you to get that chance now?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  It means a lot.  It means all the hard work that I’ve put in is paying off.  I continue to keep working hard.  I know this is kind of the first step of many, I hope.  I look forward to continue playing some good tennis.  I look forward to getting over to Nice next week to start playing some tournaments over there, hopefully get some matches under my belt there.  Hopefully I continue playing well leading up to Roland Garros.

Q.  Alex, obviously we saw last year someone who had some major injuries, not exactly the same situation with you, the car accident.  I’m wondering if Brian Baker offered any inspiration for you in the last few months?  Obviously he was also a French Open junior finalist a long time ago, came back and made a big impact last year.
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Brian offered a lot of encouragement to me just to see kind of what he’s been through throughout his whole career.  I had that one major injury with the car accident, but he’s a guy who has had numerous major issues with his knees and his hip and his elbow.  This is a guy that pretty much stopped playing professional tennis, became a coach in college tennis.
To see him come back the way he did, get to the final of Nice last year, go to the French Open and win a round, then play Simon tight in five sets, that gave me a lot of inspiration to see Brian do that.
I’m good friends with Brian.  He’s come down to Saddlebrook to train in the off‑season.  To see how hard he works, how much he loves the game, it’s a great thing.  I wish him more success and I hope he recovers quickly, hopefully we can do some good things on the ATP Tour together.

Q.  At 26, do you feel like there’s still a lot of road ahead of you as a professional tennis player?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Definitely, definitely.  I feel, honestly, that I’m playing some of the best tennis of my life.  I feel strong.  I feel fit.  I’m really looking forward to the future.  I feel like I’m on the right path right now.  I feel I’m really focused on what I need to do.  I’m looking forward to continuing to work hard.  Hopefully I can continue some good success.

Q.  What is your coaching situation right now?  You said you’re training aft Saddlebrook primarily?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Primarily at Saddlebrook.  I work with a guy named René Moller.  He played on the tour.  He’s from NewZealand.  He also played at the University of Auburn.  Also I’m working with Craig O’Shannessy.  He’s been helping me out these last couple months not necessarily at tournaments but over the phone.  We’ve done some video.  He’s actually going to be in Paris with me this year.

Q.  Alex, looking back at your results this year, there wasn’t too much of a sign that the big breakthrough was going to come through for the three tournaments, particular in Sarasota.  How were you able to turn it around and what was your mindset going into this whole playoff system?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  My mindset, I wasn’t thinking about the wild card at all, to be honest with you.  I got the email from the USTA saying they were going to be doing this playoff for it with these three tournaments.  I didn’t think much of it.  I think I lost five or six matches first rounds coming into Sarasota.  I didn’t make the main draw.  I had to play qualifying.
To be honest with you, I was looking to go to Sarasota, get some confidence back.  With every match, I gained a little bit more, started playing some really good tennis midweek.  That continued even through the three weeks.  Even in Savannah, I lost to a good clay player in Hidalgo.  I was unfortunate to have a shoulder injury in Tallahassee.  I beat some good players along the way and am feeling really confident with my game right now.

Q.  Was there any particular win that you had maybe in Sarasota that you think really kind of spurred you on towards this run?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  You know, I played a lot of good players there.  I think with every match I just gained a little more confidence.  I beat Ben Becker, who is a top 100 player.  He’s been there for a while.  I beat a good friend of mine playing some good tennis this year, Tim Smyczek, in a tight three‑setter.  Then I beat Stevie Johnson, also a really good player who has been playing some good tennis this past year.
With every match, I just got more and more confident.  I think the final really showed how well I think I’m capable of playing.  I feel I still need to work really hard to attain that level with every match.
To beat Wayne Odesnik 6‑0, 6‑2, was something I definitely didn’t expect.  I was really happy with the result.  I’m really looking forward, as I’ve been saying, to the future and continuing to work hard.

Q.  You said you went into it without thinking about the wild card.  At what point did you realize that it was within your grasp?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Honestly, even after I won Sarasota, I didn’t think I was going to have the wild card.  I still knew that Wayne, he’s a great clay court player, all he really needed to do was win Savannah or Tallahassee.  I think he was capable of doing that.  Also with the fields that we had in those tournaments, there’s a number of guys that could have won two weeks back‑to‑back.
Even after Sarasota, I wasn’t thinking much about it, to be honest with you.

Q.  Shelby, can you talk a little bit about your run through the three tournaments, how you were able to get things together and pull this off.
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yeah.  Going into Dothan, I was in a similar situation at Alex.  I lost six matches this year.  I hadn’t won a round since November of last year or something.  I was just trying to get some confidence back, get some matches, get some clay court tennis in.
I thankfully carried the moment over into Charlottesville.  I was playing solid tennis, I was confident with what I was doing.  Unfortunately I had to play one of my friends I think every round at that tournament, so that was a little bit tough, playing the Americans.
But, yeah, all the cards fell in my favor that week.  I came out with the title.
Then going into Indian Harbour, I lost second round there, but it was a tough situation at the end because I was just kind of waiting for people to lose because I was at the top of the points.  I was just hoping somebody wouldn’t take the title that week and pass me.
At the same time I wanted my friends to do well there.  So hopefully I’m never in that situation again.  But I got the wild card in the end and I’m really happy about it.

Q.  Historically how comfortable are you on clay?  Have you played on European red clay before?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I grew up on the green clay in the States.  I grew up in Charleston.  I was pretty much taught on the green clay.
I’ve only played two tournaments on red clay before.  I played one ITF junior event there which I won the singles and doubles, so that was a pretty special week in Costa Rica.  I played in Acapulco earlier this year and lost first‑round quallies there.
I feel pretty comfortable on the clay.  I’m confident in my game and my movement right now.  I’m just hoping for the best.  I’m ready for a good experience in France.

Q.  Have you been to Paris before?
SHELBY ROGERS:  No, I haven’t.  This will be my first time.

Q.  What’s the first thing you’re going to want to do?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I think I have to go to the Eiffel Tower, right?  A couple other sites, I guess.  Maybe see the city a little bit.  Hopefully stay on the red clay as long as I can.

Q.  Shelby, what do you contribute all the success you’ve had in the last three weeks or so?  Has there been a change in your game, coaching, anything like that other than just hard work?
SHELBY ROGERS:  No.  I honestly haven’t changed a thing.  I had a rough start to the year.  I had a lot of tough matches against good players.  I felt like I was right there in each one of them.
I guess just sticking with it, keep believing in yourself, not giving up is the hardest part.  When you’re in a slump, you can get a little frustrated, want to not work as hard, stop what you’ve been doing to get you where you’re at.
I just kept believing in the process and I knew it was going to come, but maybe not so soon, maybe not for a French Open wild card.  But you have to keep working hard every day and something good’s bound to happen.

Q.  Are you currently working with someone in particular with the USTA?
SHELBY ROGERS:  My main coach is Sylvan Guichard.  He’s a French guy that works here in Boca with the USTA.

Q.  One of the USTA coaches will be with you in Paris?
SHELBY ROGERS:  Unfortunately, Sylvan will not be able to go this year.  But I think two or three of the other USTA coaches will be over there.  They do a great job with the whole player development.  Everybody knows all the players’ games.  They can all help me out.  All the coaches are great so I’ll be in good hands.

Q.  You’ve done well in singles, but you’ve done almost as well in doubles.  What do you contribute that to and what do you think about doubles?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I think doubles is really fun.  Singles obviously is a little more important to me.  But when I go on court for doubles.  I have good partners, we have a lot of fun on court.  It’s a little more relaxed than singles.  It’s just a good time.  You get to work on your serve, you get to come in more, a little more variety in doubles.  It’s a little bit different game, but I love it.  It’s a good time.

Q.  What about your switch to training with the USTA from training at Family Circle in Charleston?  Was that a big boost for you?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I guess it’s been a couple years now since I made that decision.  It was probably one of the hardest decisions of my life, leaving my family and everyone at home, the coach I’d been with since I was seven.
But there just weren’t any players to train with in Charleston.  I had a good setup with coaching and fitness and stuff like that.  But moving to Boca, you have world‑class players every day to practice against, a nice gym, fitness trainers.  Everything is right at your fingertips.
I think it was a good move and something that I needed to do.  It definitely helped my game.  The results show that, I think.

Q.  When are you leaving for Paris?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I’m leaving Wednesday.  I’m playing a tournament before and then I’ll head over to Paris the following week.

Q.  Shelby, looking at your results the last couple years, you’re playing a lot of challengers, having some good results, cracked top 200.  I’m sure you see a lot of WTA main draw.  Do you feel in the next year or two you can get yourself to the point where you’ll be playing regular WTA events?
SHELBY ROGERS:  Absolutely, yeah, that’s definitely a goal of mine.  Going into this year, I want to be top 100 by the end of the year.  I think as a player, getting to the WTA is pretty important because you get more points in those tournaments, you can keep your ranking up a little bit easier.
Yeah, I mean, hopefully that happens as soon as possible.  But just got to take it one match at a time, one tournament at a time, hope for the best.

Q.  Game‑wise what do you feel you need to do to get to that level?
SHELBY ROGERS:  I think a big thing for me recently has been patience, not trying to do too much with my game.  I tend to pull the trigger a little bit too much.  Patience and strategy, just grinding away every point.

Q.  Alex, can you talk a little bit about what it will take for you to get the top 100 and then maybe top 50 or so?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  I think, first off, I need to stay healthy.  That’s number one.  But then after that, kind of like what Shelby said, being consistent, playing at a consistent level week in, week out.  Obviously, nowadays with the men’s game, fitness is a big part of it.  I need to get stronger.
For me I think mentally, like I said, I just need to stay in it mentally week in, week out.  The year, it’s a long one.  I think in previous years I’ve had a few good results, then after that I’ve kind of gone away for a month or two before I had another one.  I think the main thing for me is staying in it mentally week in and week out.

Q.  Alex, I know you spend a lot of time at Saddlebrook, traveling around.  Do you get much chance to go home to Pennsylvania?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Yeah, I try to get up there as much as I can.  My parents and grandparents are still up there.  My best friends are up there.  I try to get up there at least once every couple months, even though it’s hard.

Q.  When you were growing up, learning how to play, who were your influences in Pennsylvania?
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Mainly it was my dad.  My dad was kind of my main influence.  Also I worked with a guy by the name of Jason Katzer (phonetic).  He played at Ohio State.  He grew up in the area and was kind of my first tennis coach.

Q.  Could I have your thoughts on this particular process of deciding a wild card.
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yeah, I think it’s a great way of picking a wild card recipient.  It shows a little bit more the player that can be consistent with results instead of just having one good weekend or one good week.  You really have to prove yourself over three weeks, which I think is a great process.
You have to be mentally tough.  You have to bring your game throughout the whole three weeks.  I mean, it’s the same players, but you just have to win the most matches.  Ultimately, yeah, I think it’s a better way.  I’m for it.  I like it.
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  Obviously I’m for it as well because I didn’t get to play for the one in Australia.  I think they chose the players they wanted in that one.  I think this is an opportunity for the player who is playing the best tennis at the time.  You’re also competing against players from different countries, so you’re not only competing against Americans.  Obviously there’s players from South America and from Europe who grew up playing on clay, so they have a lot of experience.  You deserve the wild card if you’re able to do that.

Q.  Shelby, you beat Nicole Gibbs at the 18‑and‑under championships to get your wild card into the US Open in 2010.  You didn’t go to college.  Can you talk about that decision and what the last two or three years have been like for you grinding it out on the Pro Tour.
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yeah, I had a couple good pro tournaments and decided to officially turn pro and not go to college right out of high school.
I did the whole college visit.  I went on my official visits, went to a couple schools.  I actually probably would have gone to Clemson maybe.  I was pretty set on that.
But I really had to give myself a chance on the tour.  It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.  I can always go back to school, get my degree, take classes, but I can’t always play on tour.
We have a pretty short window of time, I’d say.  And I had to give myself a chance.  I think I would have regretted it a lot if I didn’t, especially seeing some of my friends going out and trying it, as well.
I think I would have always been wanting to play for (indiscernible) in college.  I’m happy with my decision every single day.  I don’t regret a thing.

Q.  Shelby, who do you get to train with and see on a regular basis down in Boca?
SHELBY ROGERS:  We have Madison Keys, Grace Min, Jamie Hampton, Taylor Townsend, Kim Crawford, Sachia Vickery.  I hope I don’t leave anyone out.  That would be bad.

Q.  Do you train alongside them or play against them in practice matches frequently?
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yeah, we’re always rotating.  We’re drilling together.  Playing matches together.  Fitness, as well.  It depends on who is in town.  We’re always traveling, playing tournaments.  Wherever we’re here, we help each other out.  All of us girls get along pretty good.  It’s a good environment, a good peer group for all of us to improve.

Q.  You said you’ve been at Boca for two years now.
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yes.

Q.  Have you noticed in the last couple of years whether or not the tenor or intensity has changed?  A lot of recent success coming from players down there.
SHELBY ROGERS:  Yeah.  I mean, I think, you know, we’re constantly getting better as a team.  The USTA is making a lot of improvements down here.  Everybody’s working really hard.  We give 100% every day.  All the girls are putting themselves out there.
Like I said, we help each other every single day we’re here training.  We encourage each other, push each other, because we want to be the best we can be.
I think it’s really neat that we have a lot more girls training down here now.  Before there were just a few.  We were spread out all over the U.S.  It’s nice to be able to train with them and play matches because, like I said, in Charleston, I had nobody to hit with.  I had good coaches, resources, but nobody to play against.  So it’s really important to have a good group around you and people to play with.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about Har‑Tru, the surface.  As a player, would you be interested in more American tournaments on Har‑Tru?
SHELBY ROGERS:  Like I said, I grew up on the green clay, so I’m pretty comfortable with it.  I guess if I grew up on the West Coast, I’d be more of a hard court player.
I don’t know.  I mean, the women have one tournament on green clay in Charleston, which is where I’m from, so that’s nice to have that in my hometown.
I’d be all for having more tournaments on the Har‑Tru.  I think it’s a great surface.  Brings out different parts of your game.
I guess we have an advantage being on the East Coast.  I don’t know.  Everybody can travel around the country and have an equal opportunity to play on it.
ALEX KUZNETSOV:  I would be for it, but I also think being that our main Grand Slam is on hard court, there also needs to be obviously an equal amount of hard court tournaments.
Like Shelby, I also grew up playing on clay on the East Coast.  I played at a club in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, which had indoor red clay.  I hit on it a lot.
I don’t mind playing on clay, obviously.  I think it’s a good surface to start younger kids on.  I think they develop better on a clay court than they would a hard court.
But, yeah, I’d also be for it if they had a few more events.  But I’d like for them to keep some hard court tournaments, as well.
AMANDA KORBA:  Thanks today to Alex and Shelby for taking the time to talk with everybody.  Thanks for everybody on the call.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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Shelby Rogers Nabs USTA French Open Wild Card

Shelby Rogers by Craig Glover / Party Rock Open

Shelby Rogers by Craig Glover / Party Rock Open

(May 4, 2013) USTA Player Development announced that Shelby Rogers, 20, of Charleston, S.C., has earned a main draw wild card into the 2013 French Open by winning the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. The USTA awarded one women’s singles main draw wild card into the French Open to an American player based on her results on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2013 French and US Opens are exchanged.

 

The winner of the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge was determined by the player who accumulated the greatest number of WTA ranking points at two of three USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 clay-court events: the Dothan Pro Classic in Dothan, Ala., the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic in Charlottesville, Va., and the Audi Melbourne Pro Tennis Classic in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.

 

Rogers rose to the top of the standings by winning the Charlottesville title, reaching the quarterfinals in Dothan and the round of 16 in Indian Harbour Beach. Rogers clinched the wild card on Saturday when Alison Riske, the only player who could have overtaken Rogers, by winning the Indian Harbour Beach title, lost in the semifinals.

 

After her title in Charlottesville, Rogers, who trains at the USTA National Training Center – Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., is currently ranked a career-high No. 190. Rogers claimed one additional singles title on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2012, beating US Open junior girls’ champion Samantha Crawford in the final of the $50,000 event in Yakima, Wash. Despite missing much of the spring and summer of 2011 due to injury, Rogers managed to reach the quarterfinals at three USTA Pro Circuit events that year. As a junior player, she won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship to earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2010 US Open for her only appearance in a Grand Slam main draw.

 

Alex Kuznetsov, 26, of Richboro, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., clinched the men’s Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge earlier this week. Kuznetsov, a former French Open boys’ finalist, collected the most ATP ranking points at two of three USTA Pro Circuit clay-court challengers—a $100,000 event in Sarasota, Fla., and two $50,000 events in Savannah, Ga., and in Tallahassee, Fla.

Former US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin and Brian Baker won last year’s USTA wild cards into the French Open.

 

WOMEN’S HAR-TRU USTA PRO CIRCUIT WILD CARD CHALLENGE STANDINGS – FINAL

*The women’s wild card is awarded from the best combined results in two of the three events below.

 

Player Name

$50K Dothan

$50K Charlottesville

$50K Ind. Harbour Beach

Total*

Shelby Rogers

18

70

10

88

Alison Riske

32

10

32

64

Allie Kiick

10

50

0

60

 

MEN’S HAR-TRU USTA PRO CIRCUIT WILD CARD CHALLENGE STANDINGS – FINAL

*The men’s wild card is awarded from the best combined results in two of the three events below.

Player Name

$100K Sarasota

$50K Savannah

 

$50K Tallahassee

Total
Alex Kuznetsov

100

15

15

115

Wayne Odesnik

60

15

7

75

Donald Young

0

29

15

44

 

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Former French Open Boys’ Finalist Alex Kuznetsov Claims USTA French Open Wild Card

Alex Kuznetsov

Alex Kuznetsov

(May 1, 2013) USTA Player Development announced that Alex Kuznetsov, 26, of Richboro, Pa., and Tampa, Fla., has earned a main draw wild card into the 2013 French Open by winning the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge. This year, the USTA awarded one men’s singles main draw wild card into the French Open to an American player based on his results on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2013 French and US Opens are exchanged.

 

The winner of the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge was determined by the player who amassed the greatest number of ATP ranking points at two of three USTA Pro Circuit clay-court challengers—a $100,000 event in Sarasota, Fla., and two $50,000 events in Savannah, Ga., and in Tallahassee, Fla. Kuznetsov has earned at least 115 points in the Wild Card Challenge, winning the title in Sarasota to collect 100 points and earning 15 points by reaching the quarterfinals in Savannah. (Kuznetsov has also earned 15 points thus far in Tallahassee and could add to that number if he defeats fellow American Tim Smyczek in tomorrow’s quarterfinals.) Wayne Odesnik, who was in second place behind Kuznetsov in the Wild Card Challenge entering Tallahassee, lost today to Facundo Arguello, 6-3, 6-3, eliminating Kuznetsov’s lone remaining challenger from contention.

 

“It was hard not to think about the wild card this week,” said Kuznetsov, following his win today. “I’ve been focusing on my matches and just playing my tennis. I have never played the French Open main draw before, only in the qualifying. Anytime you play in a Grand Slam, it is a really special event, it is always a great experience playing three of five sets in front of tons of people. It will be a lot of fun.”

 

Kuznetsov was a qualifier in Sarasota and won seven consecutive matches to take the title. The Sarasota Challenger was Kuznetsov’s fourth career USTA Pro Circuit Challenger crown. With his win in Sarasota, Kuznetsov climbed back into the Top 200 and is currently ranked No. 176—his highest ranking since February 2012. Kuznetsov finished 2012 strong, reaching two USTA Pro Circuit finals at the $75,000 Charlottesville (Va.) Challenger and the $15,000 Futures in Mansfield, Texas. However, prior to competing in Sarasota last month, Kuznetsov had not won a match in five straight tournaments and fell to No. 267 in the world.

 

A native of Kiev, Ukraine, where his grandfather was a handball champion, Kuznetsov was a standout junior and the boys’ runner-up at the 2004 junior French Open, where he lost to Gael Monfils. Following a severe leg injury suffered in a 2005 car accident, Kuznetsov came back to play in his first US Open main draw in 2006. In 2007, he won his first Grand Slam match at the Australian Open, reached the round of 16 in doubles at the US Open and posted career-best rankings of No. 158 in singles and No. 78 in doubles. Kuznetsov qualified for the 2012 Australian Open for his first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw since 2007 and faced Rafael Nadal in the first round. Kuznetsov has played in French Open qualifying on four occasions.

 

Kuznetsov joins Brian Baker as the second consecutive French Open junior boys’ finalist to earn a USTA wild card into the French Open. Baker, who reached the boys’ final of the French Open in 2003, advanced to the second round at last year’s French Open after earning the USTA wild card and subsequently broke into the Top 100. He followed up his clay-court run on the USTA Pro Circuit by reaching his first ATP Tour final at the French Open tune-up event in Nice, France, as a qualifier, and advancing to the fourth round of Wimbledon and the second round of the US Open.

 

Shelby Rogers is currently atop the standings for the French Open women’s wild card after winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend and is currently ranked a career-high No. 190 after her win in Charlottesville. Rogers claimed one additional singles title on the USTA Pro Circuit in 2012, beating US Open junior girls’ champion Samantha Crawford in the final of the $50,000 event in Yakima, Wash. Despite missing much of the spring and summer of 2011 due to injury, Rogers managed to reach the quarterfinals at three USTA Pro Circuit events that year. As a junior player, she won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships to earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2010 US Open for her only appearance in a Grand Slam main draw. Rogers trains at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. Former US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin won last year’s USTA wild card into the French Open.

 

 

MEN’S HAR-TRU USTA PRO CIRCUIT WILD CARD CHALLENGE STANDINGS – FINAL

*The men’s wild card is awarded from the best combined results in two of the three events below.

Player Name

$100K Sarasota

$50K Savannah

 

$50K Tallahassee

Total
Alex Kuznetsov

100

15

15^

115

Wayne Odesnik

60

15

7

75

Donald Young**

0

29

15^

36

 

^Advanced to quarterfinals in Tallahassee and will receive at least 15 points.

**Unable to surpass Kuznetsov

 

WOMEN’S HAR-TRU USTA PRO CIRCUIT WILD CARD CHALLENGE STANDINGS – THRU TWO EVENTS

*The women’s wild card will be awarded from the best combined results in two of the three events below.

 

Player Name

$50K Dothan

$50K Charlottesville

$50K Ind. Harbour Beach

Total*

Shelby Rogers

18

70

Held this week

88

Allie Kiick

10

50

60

Madison Brengle

10

32

44

Irina Falconi

32

10

44

Alison Riske

32

10

44

 

 

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Patrick McEnroe to Donald Young: Apologize

On Friday Donald Young directed a curse-filled message at the USTA on his Twitter after falling to Tim Smyczek in the final of the USTA French Open Wild Card Playoff.

“F*** USTA! Their full of s***! They have screwed me for the last time!”

Right afterward Young tweeted:

“That tweet was out of character. ive never been like that before. but im tired of it. sry about the language, but not the thought behind it.

…and deleted his twitter page shortly after the post.

 

On Monday, the USTA General manager of Player Development- Patrick McEnroe held a media conference call  to talk about the USTA’s French Open Wild Card playoff tournaments. Partial transcripts provided by Fastscripts by ASAP Sports.

Patrick McEnroe‘s opening statement:

After Donald won the Tallahassee challenger, which was the week just before the playoff, about three days before the competition was to take place, we received at Player Development an email from Donald Young, Sr. asking us to give Donald a wildcard for the French Open.

We, of course, elected not to do that because that would be going against the principles of what we have established: having the players earn it. Despite the fact that Donald had made a jump up into the top 100 on the latest rankings, those of you in the tennis world know that his ranking wasn’t high enough to get him directly into the French Open. So we went ahead with the playoff as we felt obviously was the right decision for us.

So when Donald made his comments on Twitter, I was obviously taken quite aback by the language and also by the intent of what he said in his comments. His subsequent comment came before he took down his Twitter account that he apologized for his language, but not for the message behind it. When I read that, I thought a lot about the time and effort that our team at Player Development has put into Donald in trying to help him reach his potential. This call isn’t to debate necessarily what it means to help a player, et cetera. I can just tell you that we have worked hard and long to try to help him. And I think he was making quite a bit of progress based on the amount of time he spent with our team in the last six months at a couple of our centers, including Carson and Boca.

I want to just for the record let you people on this call know some of the actual help that Donald Young has received from the USTA over the years. This predates my term as the General Manager of Player Development.

I can go back to 2005 when one of our coaches, Mike Sell, spent about six months on the road traveling with Donald to the Australian Open juniors, to the Easter Bowl, to the Italian Open juniors, to the French Open, et cetera. I can go to 2006 where he periodically spent time with some various coaches on the staff. In 2007 David Nainkin was essentially exclusively Donald’s coach for basically the entire year. David spent 20 weeks on the road that year working exclusively with Donald. He didn’t work with any other players at that time. This was before we had a full-time program that was dedicated to helping our pro players and our juniors out in Carson, which is a little bit different than it is now. That year, at the end of that year, Donald reached a career high in his ranking. Starting in 2008, Donald spent the first few months of the year again with Mike Sell who wrote some detailed reports of Donald and what he thought that he could do to reach his potential, one of which was something that I repeated in a letter that I wrote to Donald about a year and a half ago. It’s funny because I was reading Michael’s notes from three years ago, and he essentially used some of the exact same language, which was that we felt Donald should be in a competitive training environment as much as possible. We didn’t think that was happening on a regular basis.

After that, Ricardo Acuña spent about the next four months working exclusively with Donald.

This is again in 2008. In 2009, Donald spent a few weeks training with Jose Higueras, who at that point had just recently been appointed Director of Coaching. Jose took a personal interest in Donald, working up a plan and a routine for him. In 2010 Donald spent quite a bit of time on the road with Hugo Armando, a coach no longer with our program, and also received a wildcard that year into the Houston event, which was a USTA event, into the US Open for the fourth time in singles. He received a wild card into Atlanta, into Cincinnati, and into New Haven. Just for the record, Donald Young has received 13 US Open wildcards in his career, four of which were in singles, main draw singles, two of which he won because he won the junior championships, one of which in doubles he won because he won the doubles championships. So he’s received a total of six doubles wildcards, two mixed wildcards, four singles, and one in the qualifying of singles.

In the past year, we felt that Donald made some significant strides. He spent two and a half weeks with our team out in Carson, including with David Nainkin, who has gone on to have a very successful coaching run in the last couple years with Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish, and also our strength and conditioning man out there, Rodney Marshall, who spent quite a bit of time with Donald in December and also throughout the beginning of this year where we had David helping him in

Australia, we had Rodney helping him there, we had David again leaving the tournament in San Jose early where Sam Querrey was still in doubles to go be at the qualifying for Donald in Memphis. Donald also, when he came back from Australia, spent about eight days at our center in Boca training with Jay Berger, our head of men’s coaching. That is really just a snapshot of some of the help that Donald has received in the last six years. Again, quite a bit of this predates my start here as the GM of Player Development.

From the media conference call:

Q. What does Donald Young at this point have to do to get back into your good graces and become a part of the program again?

 

Patrick McEnroe: It’s not even my good graces. This isn’t personal. This is about apologizing, number one, okay? We deal with a lot of different scenarios. Most of the time, if not all the time, we keep it internal, we try to deal with it. We understand there’s coaches involved, whether they’re personal coaches, whether they’re parents, et cetera. We want to do the best we can for there to be a two-way street.

We’re not going to sit here and dictate everything that has to be done. At the same time we’re not going to be dictated to either.

You can’t come to me and tell me, Here is what I want and here is what you need to do for me. Unfortunately, I think there’s way too many people out there that think that’s what we’re here to do. We’re not here to do that.

We’re here to help our players with the resources that the USTA has given Player Development, which is a part of the USTA. We want to be accountable for our program and for what we’re doing. For us to be accountable, obviously the more influence and the more control we have over what the player’s doing, the better we feel about where we’re going with that player. Again, that doesn’t mean we have all the answers, that there’s not another way to do it. Sure, there are plenty other ways to do it. But we want to be working in a relationship that’s a two-way street.

Read the entire transcript here.

 

Update as of April 26 – the LA Times reported that Donald Young issued apologies on Monday night to at least two members of USTA Player Development – David Nainkin and Jay Berger.

 

Update as of April 26th – the LA Times reported that Donald Young has apologized to  Patrick McEnroe.

http://t.co/HM0oJvo

From the LA Times:

Donald Young spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about his obscenity-laced outburst on Twitter last Friday. In his Twitter message, Young ranted about his perceived treatment and the way the United States Tennis Assn. determined who would get the U.S. wild card into the main draw of next month’s French Open.

Young angered Patrick McEnroe, head of the USTA player development program, as well as national coaches Jay Berger and David Nainkin with his characterizations of the USTA.

On Tuesday, Young said, “I apologize for the way I said what I said. [Twitter] wasn’t the right place to say it.

“It was a disagreement about the way the wild card was handled. It’s their decision and the way they did it, that’s their right.”

Young, who called Berger and Nainkin with apologies Monday, said he and McEnroe had exchanged text messages Tuesday. “Patrick says that everybody’s good,” Young said.

Read the rest here

 

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