New approach needed for player development?
Save for the Williams sisters, the United States has endured somewhat of a drought, especially in Grand Slams. Is it time to take a slightly different approach to developing players who will be able to compete with the growing international powers in the sport?
Player development is an eternally hot tennis topic. It's particularly vexing for Americans, who figure that any nation so good at building economies should surely be able to crank out one or two Grand Slam champs every decade. Why does Russia, a nation with such a harsh climate and rocky economy, have so many fine players? How did Spain's players get so good? And what's the deal with tiny nations like Belgium and Switzerland ruling the roost?At the same time, must player development be conducted within the borders of specific countries? According to Jose Higueras, the former pro from Spain who has been based in the Palm Springs, Calif., area for 25 years, "It wouldn't be bad if you could learn the game in different places as you grew up. Send the hard-court Californians to Spain for some time on clay, send the clay-courters out west so they can learn to attack. One big world." It's a great idea, but so long as the Olympics and other nationalistic events command attention, it's a tough one to pull off -- even though tons of young tennis players from all countries invariably crisscross the globe to compete and train. Maria Sharapova, for example, is the result of both the impoverished Russia that compelled her parents to migrate and the noblesse oblige practiced by Nick Bollettieri when he saw she might become great enough to make millions.
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