Sep/19

28

A National Title and A Pair of Signed Stan Smith Shoes

“Why don’t you pick up a banger and get out there and hit a few?” an older man who had strayed off the bike path in Hilton Head said to me as I watched my son play from the parking lot at the Sea Pines Tennis Resort in his semi-finals match.

There are bike paths all over the Sea Pines Resort and I knew the man with his wife in tow on her own bike didn’t mean any malice, but I don’t like being bothered when I’m watching my son play in a big tournament or really any tournament at all. I would think my posture and my studied gaze would give this away, but still people approach me at time and I either have to make a quick nice reply conveying that I don’t want to engage them or ignore them completely. So I said nothing back as a rejoinder although I wanted to say that it’s a racquet not a “banger” tennis players play with and that yes I would like to get out on the court and hit a few, but it was a 14-and-under tournament and I’m well past 14 and even if I wasn’t, these kids would clearly embarrass me if I squared off against one of them. I ended up nodding my head and saying nothing at all.

This is the “New Me.” I try not letting anything disturb me when watching Callum’s matches. I used to get very agitated. Now taking Brad Gilbert’s lead in his coaching book “I’ve Got Your Back” (Why do second books never ever match the gloriousness of an iconic first book? Gilbert’s “Winning Ugly” was a masterpiece. “I’ve Got Your Back” was not so good, but I gleaned a piece of advice from it where Gilbert said when he coached Andy Roddick, he tried to always project an air of confidence and control. Apparently Roddick didn’t like it when Gilbert got a worried or cross look on his face) I project an air of “You got this” to Callum. Not that he’s watching me or the look on my face all that much these days which I think is great.

In his first three matches in this National Level 3 tournament, Callum had disposed of the No. 3-ranked 8th grader (according to Tennisrecruiting.net, a web site that charts junior players in their respective class years and is a recruiting tool for college tennis coaches) in Tennessee and the Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, 8th graders in Georgia. Callum is currently ranked No. 1 in New York. The match against the Georgian No. 5 was of particular interest because the boy, like Callum, but more so, is a high-level baseball player who’s Peachtree, Georgia team lost to Hawaii in the finals of the Little League World Series American championships.

A tennis friend from Georgia who’s own son is coached by this boy’s father had texted me the night before the match, saying this about Callum’s opponent, “Chase hasn’t played as much tennis the past year, but promise u don’t look at his utr and sleep on him…He’s way better than that!!! It’s not reflective of how good he can play and I know his father has had him practicing!”

I like getting these kind of messages and I read this one to Callum at the Thai restaurant we dined at the night before the match (the kid loves the fried tofu appetizer and Chicken Pad Thai) because I know he knows every boy’s Universal Tennis Rating, UTR, down to the decimal digit and that can play with an impressionable boy like Callum’s head. He knew he’d have to play the No. 2 seed if he got past this boy in the Round of 16 (a boy who’s mother is always endlessly hitting and feeding him balls before and after matches) and I was afraid he’d overlook his next opponent.

Callum beat Chase, the big blond baseball player who bore a resemblance I thought to Mark McGwire, 6-2, 6-3. Looking at the score afterwards, it seemed pretty perfunctory, but few matches as I’m watching them seem to be. Often, even if Callum is ahead in the score, I think he’s going to lose or could lose. I always try to sit away from where the parent or parents or coach of the boy Callum is playing sit because I don’t want to have to make small talk. I also don’t want to have to curb how I behave or what I say because of where Callum’s opponent’s parent or coach is sitting.

That’s not to say that I’m too boisterous. I can’t take the advice Wayne Bryant, Bob and Mike’s dad, gave in his book where he said a parent should sit as far away from the court as possible and not make the match about him or her self at all. I can’t do that! There’s too much at stake. So I give a steady stream of “C’mon, Cal’s” and “That’s big!” if he hits a particularly aggressive winner. But sometimes during Callum’s matches I feel so tense and I think at those times, “Maybe in just 20 minutes the match will be over and Cal will have won” and that relieves me, but it’s also sometimes hard to believe. Waiting and agonizing through Callum’s matches, hoping he won’t lose more than anticipating he’ll win, is my plight.

In the match before the baseball player, he played a boy from Tennessee who he had beaten earlier in the day in a doubles match. This boy was very solid, but also very animated. At one point, even his own mother couldn’t stand to watch him vent and she got up and left. In the singles match between Callum and this boy, the mother sitting on the other side of the baseline from me was obnoxiously, I thought, always on her phone and when Callum started winning, clapping even when Callum made a mistake.

At one point, her own son told her to shut up. But then a few minutes later, Callum told me “Will you be quiet?” because I was clapping before a number of his points. I took it in stride. My biggest fear watching him play is that he’ll lose a lead and lose to a player he should beat. So I often bleat out, “Let’s go, Cal” (different from “C’mon, Cal” because “Let’s go” in my mind is more assertive with a hidden meaning of “You’re flagging a little bit here. Let’s nip this comeback your opponent is making in the bud.”)

Of course, there’s a little bit of a feeling of, “Hey, I’m doing this for you so don’t give me lip!” when Callum occasionally lashes out at me during a match, but if he needs to lash out during a match I’d prefer it be at me and not his opponent, an umpire or himself. In the semis (he didn’t have to play the No. 2 seed in the quarters, he lost and then wandered off the court muttering with his mother in close pursuit probably suggesting they find a court to hit more balls on) he played a small boy from Virginia who had come through his first three matches defeating players with relative ease. I thought Callum would trounce the boy (for some reason, even though small boys sometimes do well, I think Callum should always beat boys smaller than him) but I didn’t say that to him in so many words.

By that match, he’d already played three singles and three doubles matches in this the third day of the tournament and he could see the finish line–his first National tournament title–but it was still just a figment of his imagination at that point. He came back from being down 2-0 to take the first set 6-4 and then seemingly cruising in the second set, he had two points to go up 5-2, but converted neither one. At game point for his opponent, Callum hit a sharply-angled cross-court shot that to my view, now sitting by the side of the court the ball landed on, hit smack on the line. The boy called the ball out and Callum blew up.

He crossed over onto his opponent’s side and demanded to see the mark. This is a violation. You’re not supposed to cross over to your opponent’s side. When the boy showed him a mark, Callum said it wasn’t even a ball mark. He said it was a shoe mark. I’ve never seen Callum get so angry during a match. At the changeover he yelled at the boy: “So this is how you want to win? By cheating!”

I was upset, but proud of myself that I didn’t say a word about the lines call. When Callum first started playing junior tournament tennis, if I felt the other boy was cheating Callum, I’d make some remark, but now I’ve learned to “Let it go,” as we say in the yoga world. Callum came back and won the second set 6-4.

In the other semis, Callum’s doubles partner, a boy from Connecticut, who is only 12, eight months younger than Callum, had surprisingly matched up against the No. 1 seed (No. 75 in the 14’s nationally), who is from South Carolina, and attends the Smith-Stearns Academy in Hilton Head, the host club of the tournament, as his mother said he’s trying out being home-schooled for the first time. At 6-1, 5-3, the No. 1 seed seemingly had the match well in hand, but the New Englander stayed steadfast and pulled a major upset, winning 6-3 in the third.

Callum and this boy had played doubles together reaching the semis and had warmed each other up for each of their matches. We have practiced with this boy since Callum was 8 and this boy 7 and I’d say in 10 practice sets they’ve played over the years, Callum has won eight of them. This boy also attends the John McEnroe Academy at Randall’s Island (Cal was at the McEnroe Academy outside New York City until we left this year) and word is that he and another boy Callum knows well, were chosen for big scholarships while Callum was not.

Who knows why some junior players receive scholarships and others do not. When Callum first showed promise as a 10-and-under player, I sought out scholarships from clubs (I love how so many clubs call themselves academies now to lend more importance to their stature). I did this as much to get a break in the exorbitant price of lessons and clinics, but more so to put out there my belief that Callum was a player with vast and high potential. I wanted to see if this opinion was shared by the directors and pros who ran these club/academies.

But I’ve learned that if you can afford paying the heavy fees of high-level junior training (within reason), for the development of a junior player, it’s better to pick a program and a pro you and your son feel are best for him and not worry about scholarships. Sometimes there’s a quid pro quo for scholarship players that places results over development and sometimes a scholarship player is used more as a lure to draw in other lower-ranked, but full-paying players, and the coaching isn’t so special or attentive. Now I don’t need the reassurance that Callum is a high level junior player (you don’t get to be No. 1 in New York State for 13-year-old’s or win three matches at the 14’s Hard Court Nationals being a chop liver-player) and I’m less enamored by club/academy scholarships.

For the finals, a chair umpire announced the finalists, “…And to the right of the chair is Callum Markowitz from White Plains, New York.” Here in the deep south, two boys, one from New York, the other from Connecticut, were playing each in the Boy’s 14’s finals while all the Southerners from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee had been beaten and either gone home or were playing in the Consolation Draw. Again, I sat on the other side of the net from the other father who I know well and like.

Callum and I had talked about how his opponent is clearly more comfortable blasting away from the baseline than coming up to net so even though it’s not his style, per se, drop shots to bring him in would probably be effective. Also, the boy liked to pin his opponent’s in their backhand corner with his deep lefty topspin shots so instead of hitting back cross-court and allowing him to go inside-in with his forehand for a subsequent winner, Callum would hit deep higher returns to his opponent’s backhand when pinned deep in his own backhand corner.

At 3-all in the first set, the boy started to crack. He missed a drop shot into the net. Callum east-wested on him enough times where suddenly the boy’s legs started not to churn so fast and balls he was getting to were now going by him or being hit or his frame and into the net.

The rest of the match went quickly and decisively from there, 6-3, 6-0. I couldn’t believe my eyes, a 6-0 set in a finals! When the last ball Callum’s opponent was drilled into the net, I held up my arms and shouted, “Yes, Cal!” Cal received a glass plaque and a pair of Stan Smith shoes signed by Stan himself. The hour-long drive back to the Savannah, Ga. to catch our flight was filled with my favorite part of experiencing this junior tennis odyssey with Callum, a full recapitulation of the semis and finals and how on this particular sunny day, both matches had gone Callum’s way and for at least now, his future dawns bright.

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46 comments

  • Hartt · September 29, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Another fascinating look at Callum’s matches. You write so vividly that I can picture what is happening.

  • jg · September 29, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Do the academies follow these results closely, I mean they all seem to say don’t worry so much about results in juniors but I suspect they watch closely and does the scholarship player who loses to Cal now have a bulls eye on him, which would be ridiculous pressure for a 7th grader, almost makes a scholarship not worth it. Perhaps the scholarships should be need based at this level, like the foundations are doing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Heckuva read Dan, fantastic effort by Callum. Like Uncle Toni said, Enjoy it a little, then move on to bigger fish to fry. Also congrats on proving the McEnroe academy wrong with their scholarship selection. Being told you’re not good enough is sometimes the best incentive.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Funny how Patrick McEnroe always seems to go against first spadea in Davis Cup vs Spain and now callum.

  • Nicole · September 29, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Dan,
    I’ve been reading your articles for a while now and always appreciate your perspective from the parents side of this crazy journey of junior tennis. Matisse had a great time playing doubles with Cal and congrats to Cal on a great tournament. -Nicole (Matisse’s mom)

  • jg · September 29, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Badge of honor to have Patrick McEnroe go against your game.

  • Jon King · September 29, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    As a fellow junior player parent, I love reading these pieces. I can relate to every single experience in this article.

    Besides the academies and how they choose to divy their scholarships, the USTA is another interesting situation. Very strange who they decide to support, who is chosen for junior Fed and Davis cup and other teams, who is invited to Orlando to use those state of the art facilities.

    Another subject that a good investigative journalist would have a field day with. Nepotism, legacy coaches with poor results, connected parents getting more than their share for their kids…..and a bit of a very touchy subject, reverse racism, with who the CEO, the head of player development, and their coaches, choose to support and tout.

  • Jon King · September 29, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    jg is 100% right, Pat Mac is the very worst at junior selection. His tenure as head of USTA junior development was a total waste. None of the kids he selected for Boca amounted to anything despite the millions spent. The new guy is no better except at one thing, taking credit for kids that were developed by parents, private coaches, or outside academies. Its amazing how a guy gets chosen to be head of player development when none of his own kids he coached can play a lick. The USTA is the poster child for nepotism.

  • Hartt · September 29, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    It was interesting to see what Borfiga of Tennis Canada had to say about what he looked for in a young junior. He said that current results weren’t a big factor, he was looking for athleticism and a good, competitive attitude.

  • jg · September 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Yea, look at Jensen Brooksby, he had a private coach and it does t appear the USTA had a role in his development. There is also a college
    Player at UNC I believe who attended no academies and played so few jr tournament she had no ranking, was coached by her father in suburban Maryland in their home court and when she finally played som tournaments she beat ranked players, she ended up getting a scholarship and made the NCAA singles final this year. ( no PMac for her)

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Never know who makes it. No one saw Steve Johnson coming, yet he’s the most accomplished college player in history with a respectable pro career. USTA role generally is make sure tournaments function and they should stay there. Johnson was an accomplished regional player with a very distinguished high school record. He played in an incredibly competitive Southern California, tennis rich region.

    I’d encourage anyone to play a few months in a competitive region in the U.S., and if you can swing it in a place like Spain, where you encounter a whole group of players that don’t look or think like you. A player shouldn’t be afraid to venture beyond the confines of what they know and players they know.

    It’s good to have a lay of the land and it’s fantastic to play through more hyped players. Just that tennis goes beyond whatever you know. The most important quality is a competitive spirit. Try to spend as little money as possible and play in the most competitive places and conditions. France has an incredible system and it would be an interesting experience.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Everyone loves bashing USTA. I never cared. They didn’t know who I was, I wasn’t important. I found tennis parents around me didn’t know much about the sport either and couldn’t judge talent whatsoever, often believing their kids were better than Serena and Venus Williams (spoiler alert: you’ve gotta be kidding men – these parents resented the fact their kids would never reach that level while paying top dollar, because money doesn’t make up for desire, intelligence, better strategy, talent, etc).

    I played in a few junior programs in a tennis hotbed. My Macci foray of one day wasn’t the only junior Mecca I visited. I know well the Haverhill group run by Drew Evert, I was coached in part by the cousin of Jeff Salzenstein to straighten out my game – he was a Lansdorp acolyte. Played with Seles competitors from juniors, Bolletieri grads whose knees gave out, former French challenger players, NCAA players, Bolletieri drop outs, Australian pros and more.

    It’s certainly a maze of sorts and clubs just want money. I was in one group where we had the top girls player in the country from 14s to 18s. She hit a hard ball off both wings but couldn’t move out of her own way (her movement was poor) and her game was destined to run aground given a lack of variety. She had trouble with players that had more range from other academies – one of them probably could have been a top 150 player but had other things in mind.

    I’ve seen promising junior academies fold over money over scandals. Players not supported because they were from the other side of town, though their games were absolutely beautiful. A beautiful game isn’t enough but it was lovely to watch.

    Didn’t try out for my college team but we had the number one junior in the country, the number 20 junior in the country, a top 40 junior…all freshmen, and a walk on that was top ten in the region that strung everyone’s racquets. They would lose to other teams that were more passionate on the day. Go figure.

    Only thing I recommend, keep improving the game and play in places you wouldn’t normally go and players you don’t tend to face. That forces thinking.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Let’s put it another way: the girl who was number one nationally in my tennis clinic went on to play Wimbledon twice (where she was beaten without note as a wildcard) and went on to a ranking in the lowly 200s, which wasn’t even at the playing, ranking level of Spadea’s sisters, Luanne was superior and having seen Diana I think she was a better player too than the baseline grinder I played alongside. She played the U.S. and British systems off one another. She had a decent college career and possibly got a free ride.

    Go figure. She competed well but some things would always hold her back. Above all that her game had serious flaws.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    JOn, it does look like the USTA is favoring developing non white kids doesn’t it? Martin Blackman has some curious incidents on his record which I’ve mentioned here this year. I wonder if it’s really ideal for a junior to train at a state of the art luxury facility like Orlando. There would come a natural sense of entitlement of “I have made it to the big time, I will be a top 25 pro…” Look at Serbia and the Russians, all their young successful players came up the hard way in spartan conditions, old balls, old courts. For a junior To train in MAJOR LEAGUE luxury rubs me the wrong way. Sends the wrong message. Juniors is still the minor leagues. Long way to go. Not sure I like the whole idea of Orlando and it’s first class luxury conditions for juniors and the effect it has on them mentally.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Jon, remember the Andrea Collarini project by Pat Mac? Blackman is suspect as a coach and his off court judgements as Ryan Harrison could tell you. He tried to racialize Ryan Harrison twice with bogus fake BS and threatened him. Absolutely awful judgement and behavior. Harrison and Young have both nose dived. Harrison invited Tiafoe to his wedding and Tiafoe declined because he didn’t want to be around so many white people. Shameful Reverse racism that is should be called out and is called out at least by one media, right here.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Scoop, at Macci’s the parents, who were white, were upset with the Williams, who are not. They believed their daughters were so incredibly talented. Here’s the real story: it wasn’t even a close call, and Macci knew exactly who was good and who wasn’t. The Williams were phenoms and the kids whose parents were their biggest boosters, no matter how many racquets they broke per day at a Zverev-like pace, were not. They were not even as good as the players in local clinics where I played.

    For what it’s worth I played in a region with players from all walks. Some of the finest players didn’t look like me, they were just better. Some of the finest players looked just like me, and they were better than I was too!

    It was tough playing against the South American kids that played USTAs in the summers. As well as the Texas top 10, the New Jersey 14s #1, the nationals top twenty guy that played “gotcha tennis”, the serve and volleyer from the other side of the tracks that lent me a game per set.

    Talent. Talent wins. Don’t really care. I saw so many players trash their racquets, kids with bags filled with racquets. Saw kids lose tiebreaks and toss their racquets way up in the sky or break them a few courts over.

    Saw some kids that were nationally ranked that were better players than some pros I have seen, who opted for college, got injured, had fine college careers. One girl played at Wake, she remains one of the better players I have seen. My family said because she “played like a guy” – she did! I *think* she beat the US #1 16s girl that day.

    Listen tennis has a problem in the U.S. People aren’t playing. The decline in tennis has been in lock step with the decline in pro tournaments. There’s some kind of regional issue as well – in the past good players came from California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, New York, the Midwest, basically anywhere and everywhere. Now a kid is lucky to be in a cluster of very good players that compete with each other and somehow learned the game better than others.

    In the U.S. especially on the men’s side of the house, form has taken a back-seat to athleticism or even height. We are lucky to have Tiafoe, a fine athlete with a keen competitive sense as well as Fritzy, whose parents are both pros, no? We’re lucky they decided to stick with the sport. We haven’t had a young champ like Agassi had been, winning Masters tournaments and pulling players in, or Chang winning a French Open as a teenager and re-kindling interest in tennis as McEnroe got slightly older and we were looking at a group of nice but not great players.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Another way of saying this: U.S. players aren’t as good on the men’s side, and U.S. women are better. They are hungrier, they work harder, they look like anyone, they are all races – Asian, black, white. The men – we have a couple fine younger players that are misfiring in comparison to the better players from Europe that benefit from superior technique or Russians like Medvedev that played under better coaches in places like the south of France.

    But tennis goes in cycles and we can’t predict who comes from where. Andreescu comes from global cosmopolitan greater Toronto. Did anyone on earth see that coming? A year ago that was impossible to predict. But Canada put their chips on a better system or better coaching and it paid off. It’s not a surprise that Canada in the last ten years has out-performed the U.S., even as Querrey and Isner have fulfilled their potential, and even as Sloan Stephens made good on her game.

  • Hartt · September 29, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    In a way I think it is a blessing that Tennis Canada does not have the huge resources of the USTA or the LTA. They have to use their limited resources wisely. Of course the federation was smart to bring in Louis Borfiga several years ago, and he brought with him some excellent coaches from Europe.

    Now if they could just find a way to transfer some of Bianca’s winning ways to the young men!

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    When your country is no longer good at a sport, everyone points fingers. If anything the problem in the U.S. is that this country gives attention to players that have not earned it, such as Ryan Harrison when it was obvious his game had major problems yet the country was desperate for the next greatest player of all time.

    Same thing with Donaldson, best thing since sliced bread. The next be all, Fritz. The best player we’ve ever seen, Opelka. Gimme a break. The U.S. doesn’t have bad players, just a hype machine that promotes Instagram over quality of game.

    Look up North at Canada. They are no less diverse, yet their players outperform U.S. players! Felix doesn’t look like Shapo, but you better believe he is being trained right now to make another leap up the ranking charts.

    If you want to see a country take a nosedive in tennis, just hand their young players a microphone and a feature in GQ and watch that ranking get flushed.

    But have no fear. Spain doesn’t have the next greatest anyone in the post Nadal era, and France hasn’t done a good job either as Tsonga and Monfils get older. The problem of getting more players into tennis isn’t unique to the U.S., but it is especially jarring here on the men’s side because all of the gimmicks haven’t paid off.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Finally, there was some period between 2013 and 2017 when all U.S. players were doing well on the men’s side. Not fantastically well, but reaching their potential. Most had some tie with the USTA, and they were paired with a physio and a sports psychologist. They also seemed to have healthy romantic interests too as well as a healthy competition over Davis Cup slots.

    For whatever reason all of that broke apart. I’d blame it again on whenever a country has so little to celebrate, such as in men’s tennis where only Querrey, Isner had decent accomplishments, people point fingers and say stupid things. If everyone is calling everyone else unfair etc and so forth, it’s called there are no adults in the room at all.

    I think Coach Courier kept things under wraps and played fewer games than Pat McEnroe. I don’t think Wayne Bryan with his stupid letter did anything either other than promote himself and his kids. The U.S. used to be a place where good coaches came and there was a lot of opportunity. But then tennis fell in popularity and the sport became more expensive. Suddenly costs thirty bucks to string a racquet or $40. Even I can’t restring these days.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    Canada is blessed. Somehow able to keep the jealousy thing out of mind; they don’t celebrate Bouchard when she’s in the 130s in the rankings; they rightfully applaud Andreescu for doing something Canada’s never done in tennis; they don’t praise Raonic for making a Wimbledon final and he still knows that tennis is second to hockey.

    Canadian players are humble and they don’t have a ferocious media machine. Doesn’t seem they adore the microphone either. They carry themselves better. They also seem to have more socialized coaching or at least more stable coaching, so that coaches aren’t soaking the players for money.

    Canada is doing very well. I’d say they look a bit like the better Euro models, where more regional centers are growing but players aren’t going bankrupt to play a sport they enjoy.

  • Hartt · September 29, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    There is plenty of hype in Canada about the top players, although I agree it doesn’t reach the levels that the American players get in the US.

    Several have coaches who are affiliated with Tennis Canada, such as Bruneau for Bianca and Fontang and Marx for FAA. Earlier Shapo had Martin Laurendeau as his coach, and I still think it was a mistake for Shapo to split with him when he did. These coaches have a wealth of experience, and they look at the long term, rather than immediate results. Then there are coaches like Frederic Niemeyer who has worked with a variety of players early in their careers, such as Raonic, and who continues to be a valuable resource for young players.

    But we can see how incredibly tough it is to become a top player, and several countries, such as Sweden, have had a bright period followed by lean years. Borfiga has already warned that Canada cannot expect to continue to have such a terrific group of players after this current crop of youngsters.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Kozlov is making a breakout, he has won three money tournaments this summer, non ATP. He just beat Querrey in one of these. He is back with Salzenstein who has rebuilt his serve. Kozlov also has been in Vegas this week, working with Agassi and Gil Reyes. also shooting hoops with Jaden Agassi. So Kozlov is rebuilding and don’t count him out. Kozlov is thrilled with his new serve which nobody else saw the flaws and was able to correct but serve guru Salzenstein has done it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Hartt, Gunter Bresnik disagrees with you, he said Shap hasn’t had good coaching pre Youzhny. Shap’s results stagnated badly under Laurendeau and Steckley. I like how Canada does not go overboard when a teen Canadian has success, unlike the USTA who swiftly goes into promo mode, Hey look at our next future Agassi Courier Sampras Chang superstar Ryan Harrison, Kozlov, Roddick. Levar Harper Griffith, Donald Young…Overpromotion adds too much pressure and expectation. Under promotion is the smart method, just let the results talks.

  • Andrew Miller · September 29, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Roddick was legitimate. Personally to me, Gilbert for one more year, Roddick would have had his second slam. If he had hired at Stefanki level post Gilbert, I think he would have broken up the Federer dominance and gotten one more slam, between 2003-2006.

  • catherine · September 30, 2019 at 1:47 am

    All this is very interesting to me because in the UK there is constant moaning about lack of high level players in spite of W’don largesse. The days when Britain had good players are also the days when only the UK,US and Aust played top level seriously. Now players some from everywhere and from different backgrounds. And football and athletics are much stronger sports now, with wider appeal. Society has changed and UK tennis has mouldered on the shelf. Money isn’t everything.

    France has always had an admired coaching set up for juniors, but over the past 30 years how many world champions have they produced ? Steffi came from West Germany, but she had few predecessors at the top level. Remember Helga Niessen ? Same with Boris. By the way, Germany having snaffled a major women’s event next summer, patron the Chancellor no less, may be a signal of how bothered the DTB is about the paucity of young players there.

    Seems in the US there are so many options – and as Andrew and others have pointed out it’s a very expensive sport. The amount some parents spend on their chilren, and the sacrifices they make, considering the odds, is mind boggling.

    I agree overall with Scoop – under promotion is best. And not going into national angst because a country hasn’t produced a Federer or Djokovic. So what ? Serendipity seems to work quite well. Just have a decent junior system and less hysteria.

  • Hartt · September 30, 2019 at 4:36 am

    In terms of not over promoting a young player, Tennis Canada did a good job in not doing that with either FAA or Bianca. With Félix in particular they actively tried to keep a lid on things because he showed signs of being a future star as early as age 14.

    Of course now with Bianca the hype is huge, not so much by Tennis Canada but from the media. But she has had the results to warrant that, and seems to be able to handle it. She just beat Sasnovich in Beijing in 3 sets, taking the third 6-1.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 30, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    JG,

    To get back to you on whether the academies follow these results closely. I don’t think so really because this boy Callum beat so handily is coached by Lawrence Kleger, Noah Rubin’s old coach, and he rarely attends these tournaments and I’ve been told that he doesn’t put much emphasis on results for this boy.

    But I will also tell you that in Callum’s scholarship offer this year from McEnroe’s they wanted to know if Callum was going to continue to play baseball (he is) and they weren’t happy with that and they also had the scholarship amount graded in levels so if he was No. 1-3 in the East, he got more of a scholarship than if he was lower-ranked. At first, Pat McEnroe told me Callum was still being considered for one of the big scholarships, but then he said he wasn’t going to get one and only a girl from their Long Island McEnroe’s was going to get one outside of the Randall’s Island Academy because she had been with McEnroe’s from the start and had just won the girl’s 14’s Hard Court Championships. Pat said he’d talk to me about the whole deal after the US Open ended, but it’s been about a month since the Open ended and I’ve never heard back from Pat.

  • Jon King · October 1, 2019 at 9:32 am

    We are rooting for Kozlov. One of the nice guys. We first saw him at an Orange Bowl when we brought some young kids, like age 8-9, just getting into tennis. Kozlov would come by the fence between points and chat with them. Most of the players walked around like their poop didn’t stick, but Stefan was very nice and down to earth.

  • Jon King · October 1, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Dan, instead of an academy, maybe go with some local college guys as hitting partners. They are great resources because many of them will also outline the strength and conditioning program they use so you save on fitness training. We have found its the best bang for the buck even if it requires some driving. Your boy will get more work in with a few hour sessions with a college player than he will in a week at an academy. We have been around so many academies, in the end, lots of wasted time. Your kid will have to hit with lesser players a good amount of the time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Jon, Stefan is as nice as any pro tennis player there ever was. Totally approachable, even thanks the media. Nor Cal Tennis Czar Paul Bauman told me Stefan emailed him after the tournament thanking him for the coverage. This was at a California Challenger about four years ago.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Jon, I agree it’s helpful for Callum to hit with college players but it can also be dangeorous because he’s still a kid and the physicality of playing college men could have an effect. Kathy Horvath’s son RJ Fresen beat Shapovalov in Orange Bowl 12s and eventually after that he was hitting with a lot of men and open players and college players. And he began to develop back problems that took him off the court for two years. They think it could have been caused by having RJ play too much with bigger stronger players. So be careful. RJ just got a scholarship to Virgina where he will play this season, hopefully injury free.

  • Jon King · October 1, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I hear you Scoop. We stress injury prevention. But my daughter has been hitting with college guys exclusively for training since age 11. They will temper their shots to fit the player. Thats what we like best, they can push players right up to their abilities and play any style, from lots of top spin, to hard and flat.

    Most of the college hitters we use are foreign guys, it is scary how amazingly skilled college guys are at even smaller schools. Its so competitive. They are all so good with younger kids, maybe its a cultural thing but the guys from other countries are like big brothers from day one. And they work hard with no drama.

    Injury prevention is key with juniors. Lots of flexibility work, resistance band work, lots of work on the wrists, elbows, back, shoulders, etc. Flexible racquets are important. Proper strings. And most of all, kids must be honest about when they are hurt and learn the difference between soreness, exhaustion…and a true injury.

  • Jon King · October 1, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Speaking of juniors and injuries, we witnessed the Ci Ci Bellis injury thing coming from a mile away. We trained in Boca while she was there. She was undersized in both height but especially weight and muscle. To compensate they used the stiffest racquet they could for power. We implored them to do much more strength and conditioning when she was younger and much less competition. But they wanted her to be the youngest to do that, the youngest to do this.

    They ignored the wrist pains when they were minor and kept plowing ahead. It was all so preventable. We heard she is feeling better and lets hope for the best and that she can come back. But wrists are a tough thing long term once they get compromised.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Jon that’s sad to hear, they didn’t listen to sound advice because of being blind by ambition. But then you see a player like Hsieh and Simon and even Sasnovich, look so thin and skinny and almost weak but they are healthy. There is working hard and working smart. In my book Facing Vilas, Victor Pecci is quoted as saying what he did in two hours was equal to what many players do in six hours. Players like Hantuchova, Korda, Kuerten can survive. But some smaller stature players like Rios, Bellis, just break down.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 1, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Jon,

    Callum hits with college players or at least upper high school players a good deal. His group tonight has Liam Krall in it from Bronxville, who’s going to SMU next year to play. At 13, I feel he still needs an academy or at least a private coach to work on his game. I don’t know if you coach your daughter, but I’m not familiar enough with the modern strokes to teach Callum anymore. I taught him up till the age of 8. Also, I still remember once when he was 9 and the hitting pro was this 25 year old Italian who’d played at Concordia College in Westchester County and this guy was unreal, hitting as hard as he could to a 9-year-old and then criticizing him for not being able to get balls back.

    Callum can handle any pace of ball right now–Krall practices with Cameron Norrie–but he needs a good coach and has one who will work with him on his “spacing” on his shots and how to play attacking tennis. When he first learned, Chris Mayotte emphasized for him to hit on his back foot a lot like Nadal, but now the emphasis is on getting out on the front foot and ripping short balls and finishing at net.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Send him to Gildemeister for a week.

  • jg · October 1, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Smycheck is at SMU biz school I believe, I overheard his coach at the citi open saying that’s where he was headed, I’m sure will be on the courts at least to get some exercise, the Bronxville Sr should look out for him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Smyczek for your scrabble arsenal JG.

  • Jg · October 1, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Totally, and he will be a good trivia question some years down the road as almost beating Nadal at the AO.

  • HV · October 1, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Dan – Congratulations to Callum on his National Title..more is on the way. Thank You for the this article. As a parent of a 9 year old tennis player these articles about Callum’s journey are my favorite. Can’t wait for your next article.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 1, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you, HV. I remember when Cal was 9 years old that was when he started as I saw it to make a breakthrough in his game. His serve was still erratic, but his baseline game really improved and he started to venture to net for some volley tries.

    It’s a great age and I hope both your son and you are enjoying it.

    I don’t know if more are on the way, a lot of good things have to come together to win a national title as they did in Hilton Head, but thank you for the confidence.

  • Leif Wellington Haase · October 3, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Probably too late in this thread but just wanted to add, in response to the earlier comments, that I saw Kozlov beat Querrey and reach the final of the recent UTR-sponsored tournament in Berkeley, where he lost to Stevie Johnson. Though we’ve only spoken a few times I’ve always liked Kozlov because he isn’t a phony and is appreciative of the work it takes to put on a tournament, and his years so to speak in the tennis wilderness have made him all the more so. His comments both after defeating Querrey and losing to Johnson were heartfelt and touching. After years of being down on himself visibly on court he seemed to have a better attitude and his serve was definitely improved, though it will have to improve by another order of magnitude for him to make a serious run up the rankings. But it wasn’t a liability and his tenacity and fight make him a tough out when (like Querrey) his opponent isn’t all in from the start of the match.

    Just a word for the tournament at Berkeley Tennis Club, one of the “money” tournaments, mostly invitationals, that were once more common. Unlike challengers and futures in which points are at stake, and the tennis while superb is a bit grim and risk-averse, the site and the format and the prize money without points clearly contributed to players taking more risks, having more fun (without descending to the vaudeville level of most exos), and generally improving the product. Speaks, to my mind, of a more “PGA tour” like format in which cuts and promotions are made at year’s end rather than on a rolling week-by-week basis.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 3, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the report, Leif. What do you mean that Querrey from the start wasn’t “all in?” Do you think Querrey was getting some kind of appearance fee and that’s why he didn’t put out a full effort? We see how well Querrey can play when he plays well like today when he beat Schwartzman.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 3, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Salzenstein is fixing Kozlov’s serve and his mindset. Back working together.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 3, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Almost sounds like Leif is subconsciously implying Q Ball tanked it to Kozlov, who had never beaten Sam before, I think about 0-2.

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