Stop Whining. Get Used to It. Start Adapting or Continue Losing!

As much as any United States tennis fan, I would be exceedingly pleased to see an American male prevail in the finals of a grand slam tournament. And the sooner the better.

In several previous posts, I have strongly suggested that we need to critically examine our present methodology for developing elite tennis players and make modifications paramount to future success at the highest levels.

Unfortunately, any positive changes made now will not become manifest until upcoming generations mature as professional players. In the meantime, what are our current elite male pros to do?

I have a suggestion.

With all due respect, stop bitching and work harder! After all, you guys are professional tennis players, not recreational players with nine-to-five jobs. Tennis is your job. Do it! Do your profession better.

How? Change. Change what? Change your game to better suit the conditions of this era. You can do it!

Recently during a post-loss interview, Mardy Fish expressed disappointment (cut and paste link below) with the current trend towards slower playing conditions.

Sorry Mardy, this trend is nothing new.

Over the past decade, while tennis has become almost unrecognizable in terms of the extraordinary level at which the top players compete, the overall trend has been towards slower conditions that produce longer matches.

Hard courts are playing slower because they are grittier. There is more sand in the playing surface. The courts have more “bite” which slows the balls down some. Also, balls fluff more which reduces the speed at which they move through the air.

Even at staid Wimbledon, where tradition is cherished, the grass is now of a different blend and the balls are heavier. Those two alterations create longer more interesting rallies.

There is a plausible explanation for these intentional changes.

If not for ticket-purchasing fans, there would be no professional tennis as we know it. The millions made by pros and the industry as a whole would be nonexistent.

Therefore, fans are entitled to see a well played competitive match for their tennis dollar. They don’t get that with the old American brand  of slam-bam, game, set, and match of the past.

But they do get it with the slower, more intensive, longer matches of today. Fans love “palm sweating, butt numbing” play that keeps them riveted in their seats, unsure of the outcome while totally engaged in the proceedings. There’s almost palpable drama in matches of that nature. That’s what hardcore tennis fans want, pay for and deserve.

To the tennis industry’s credit, they recognize that the product presented must meet the criteria listed above if business is to thrive.

The problem is that the current crop of American pros, and past generations as well, were raised on an almost restrictive diet of fast hard court play. That style is just no longer as effective because of the slower playing conditions and the infinitely patient European and South American “dirt ballers.”

While I understand Fish’s frustrations with slower playing conditions, I can say without equivocation, “Mardy, it ain’t gonna change anytime soon.”

Courts are not going to be resurfaced to suit American players, not abroad or here in our own country.

To Fish and all American pros of similar mind, I can only say, “The game isn’t coming to you, you must go to the game!”

American professionals and our junior development has to change, not the surfaces on which they play. We must adapt.

Honestly, surface and conditions are not the most pervasive problem anyway. To reiterate yet again, American juniors are simply not being properly prepared to succeed at the elite levels of the game, technically or mentally. That’s an irrefutable fact.

Within the ranks of our current crop of pros, one man stands out, John Isner.

Isner has a chance to become the next American singles slam champion. If it happens, it would most likely be at Wimbledon. His game is tailor made for that tournament.

To that end, I would only implore, “Please John, you’re 6’9″ tall and you volley competently. Charge the freaking net following your exceptional serve, tremendously long stride, unprecedented wingspan and imposing height.”

“It will be, excuse the pun, a tall order for opponents to get over, around, or past you.”

“Go John Isner! You can do eeet!”

8 thoughts on “Stop Whining. Get Used to It. Start Adapting or Continue Losing!

  1. I think you considerably overstate Isner’s chances of winning a grand slam. He is a competent volleyer, as you say, but no more than that. And his volleying is erratic. In the times I’ve watched him in person at the US Open, he has amazed me by making some tough volleys… and by blowing some easy ones.

    Beyond the X’s and O’s, he is 27, meaning maybe 3-4 top years left, having to face Djokovic, Nadal and Murray for a shot at the majors. And despite the hopes you have for him on the grass at Wimbledon, he has never been past the second round there! He’s had better success at the hard court majors (4th Round Australia, QF US Open) but hard to see him ever going much further with his limited tools.

    • I do think Isner can do it. I can’t dispute that he occasionally misses the routine volley but I think that is a case of not being at net enough. More aggressive play including ventures forward could solidify that part of his game. We all have seen that he has guts. I think proper utilization of his assets could be improved.

  2. You address my point about the volleys, but don’t address his age and limited remaining chances, or the fact that he has never won more than a single match at Wimbledon.

    • The more accomplished players are actually older now (median age) than in the past. The game has changed. It’s far more physical now and all players are more athletic and fitter. So, at 27, Isner still has time to win a slam or two. I may be grasping at straws but I sincerely think he is the only American at this time positioned to do it. Remember, he could still improve. I’m a total advocate of practicing those things you don’t do well. Look at Nadal. He continues to improve his game as we have seen him do since coming on tour.

  3. Also, you don’t address the competition. Isner’s record against Nadal, Djokovic and Murray is a combined 1 and 7 (a single win against Djokovic). Add just to round out the likely competitors in the last rounds of majors: he is 1 and 4 against Federer, 0 and 3 against Del Potro. So 2 wins and 14 losses against the guys he’d likely face in the Semis and Finals.

    I’m all for rooting for a player you think has potential (though 27 is a bit old for a breakout year), but this is more like wishful thinking.

    • I can’t dispute the #’s you point out, however, 27 is really not that old in tennis anymore. In fact, players seem to be hitting their best stride in later career than earlier. I’m keeping the faith.

  4. Isner is nothing but a serve and a forehand. Isner like Roddick is an overachiever not an underachiever.

    • Agree, although Roddick is the much better player (One major title, 3 times a major finalist plus 4 other times in the Semis). Isner has made one major quarter final. And Isner is dull as dirt to watch, win or lose. If Isner weren’t American in an era starved for US Men’s champions, no one would even talk about him.

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