2017 US Open: My Day 1

US Open Day 1After arriving at La Guardia Airport around 11am, navigating my way through their convoluted rental car process, driving to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and figuring out where to – temporarily (thank you to the nice policeman who let me leave the car next to his!) – park my car so I could pick up my credentials and parking permit, I finally got to settle in and watch some tennis yesterday around 1pm, just in time to see American CoCo Vandeweghe earn her spot in the Semifinals!

There is an energy at the US Open that’s somehow different from other tournaments I’ve attended. I don’t know if it’s because it’s our Home Slam or because it’s New York, but it is something special and electric to experience.

Forget about the fact that we now have 4 American women in the US Open Semifinals for the first time since 1981 (the year I graduated high school). Forget about the fact that, until late last night, we had the hope of seeing Roger and Rafa finally meet at the Open. Forget about the fact that we have a former college player in the men’s semis (WTG Kevin Anderson!). Like I said, I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s there and I feel it.

Today is going to be an incredible day – OF FREE TENNIS!!!! – filled with wheelchair players, doubles, juniors, and the American Collegiate Invitational. With yesterday’s rainy weather, no junior matches were played, so the schedule is jam-packed starting at Noon, and I’ll be jumping between Courts 4, 5, and 6 early in the day to Courts 10-17 later on.

For the latest on results in the Juniors, check out today’s ZooTennis post here. I had the pleasure of running into Colette yesterday afternoon and am looking forward to spending some time with her the rest of the week!

I will continue to do Facebook Live posts, so be sure you “like” our page at Facebook.com/ParentingAces/. As I mentioned before, if you’re on the Grounds, please hit me up and let’s find a time to meet. You can message, tweet at, or text me, and I promise I’ll respond!

Here is my Facebook Live video at the end of yesterday:

 

Tennis Parents Wayne Bryan, Steve Johnson, Melanie Rubin from 2014 US Open

Tennis ParentsThis week’s podcast:

Since I’m not yet at the 2017 US Open, I thought I would throw things back to my last trip to our Home Slam and my conversation with Tennis Parents Extraordinaire: Wayne Bryan (father of Bob & Mike, the Bryan Brothers), Steve Johnson (father of Stevie who passed away earlier this year), and Melanie Rubin (mom of Noah). These three have so much knowledge and great advice to share to those of us coming up behind them. I hope you enjoy hearing from them.

I plan on releasing another episode later this week directly from the 2017 US Open, so please keep an eye out for it. The US Open Juniors tournament is now underway, and the Collegiate Invitational starts Thursday, both of which will provide lots of great content for another podcast!

If you aren’t following ParentingAces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, you should go ahead and do so before I get to New York! I hope to do some live broadcasts on Facebook and/or YouTube while I’m at the Open, and if you follow us then you’ll get a notification when I’m online. Of course, if you’re at the Open this week, too, I’d love to meet up with you – who knows, maybe we can do a live broadcast together?!?!

For those interested, we are now accepting new sponsors for the ParentingAces Podcast. If you’d like to learn more, please visit parentingaces.com/sponsorshippackages-aug-2017/

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The US Open is Here!

US OpenI know I’m a couple of days late here, but there is so much going on with the 2017 US Open right now, and, even though I won’t be there for another 13 days, I wanted to bring y’all up to speed!

First of all, the Qualies . . . one of the best parts of the Open because (a) it’s free and (b) you can see some of the hungriest players in the world battling for a coveted spot in the Main Draw (and a $50,000 paycheck just for making it in!). Even getting into the Qualies comes with a paycheck for these players, though it’s significantly smaller than what they can potentially earn by making it through 3 rounds and into the Big Show.

This year’s US Open Qualies includes some of the best junior and college players as well, thanks to wildcards. The Kalamazoo and San Diego 18s runners-up – JJ Wolf (a rising sophomore at Ohio State) and Kelly Chen (a rising freshman at Duke) – each received a wildcard but, unfortunately, both lost their first-round qualies matches. Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today is posting updates on all the qualies matches involving college players, so be sure to check out his site each day this week. Colette Lewis of ZooTennis is keeping an eye on both the college and junior players competing, so check out her site, too.

Secondly, the US Open Juniors . . . wildcards were announced this week for the qualifying and main draw of the Junior event (see below). Qualies begin Friday, September 1, and the Main Draw will start Sunday, September 3. Since many of the early-round matches are held on the outer courts outside of the main gate, you can stop by and watch the world’s top juniors compete free of charge. You can also expect to see college coaches from all around the US there scouting for their teams, so it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and get to know them a bit.

Thirdly, watching the pros practice . . . through this Sunday (August 27) you can enter the grounds free of charge. In addition to seeing those playing in the qualifying, you can also watch some of the biggest names in the game descend on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to acclimate to the courts and get ready for their first-round matches. If you’re in the area, you should definitely try to get out there over the next few days and watch these men and women practice – it’s incredible to hear the sound of the ball coming off their racquet and see their footwork up close and personal!

Fourthly, the US Open Experience at the Seaport District NYC . . . today and tomorrow you can see booths, games, music and more, and an introduction to Net Generation, the USTA’s new platform that is making it easier for kids and teens to get into tennis. Plus, on Friday the US Open Draws will be unveiled.

Lastly, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Powered by Net Generation . . . this Saturday beginning at 9:30am. Per the US Open website, “The free Grounds Festival offers interactive games, music and tennis activities for all ages and abilities to promote the many health benefits of tennis. The Grounds Festival also features a free concert with exciting up-and-coming talent on the Festival Stage hosted by Radio Disney. Proceeds from Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day benefit the USTA Foundation which helps fund the National Junior Tennis & Learning Network (NJTL), a nationwide group of more than 500 nonprofit youth-development organizations that provide free or low-cost tennis, education and life-skills programming to more than 225,000 children each year, founded 48 years ago by Arthur Ashe, along with Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder.”

One of the things that makes the US Open so special is the myriad events offered outside of watching tennis! For a complete list of happenings at this year’s tournament, be sure to visit USOpen.org

Also, be sure to download the US Open app which will keep you updated on livescoring, draws, results, and other happenings around the grounds such as the player’s practice schedules and live concerts. If you’re an American Express card holder and you’ll be on site at all during the next two weeks, you can register your card through the app to receive discounts and a rebate when you shop at any of the tournament stores.

As I mentioned above, I won’t be there until September 6th, and I hope to see many of you during my 4 days there. If you’re around, please reach out to me so we can meet – y’all know how much I enjoy connecting live and in person!

US Open Juniors Wildcards

Boys main draw:
Andrew Fenty (17, Washington, D.C.; Coach: Asaf Yamin)
Ryan Goetz (17, Greenlawn, N.Y.; Coaches: Matt Gordon, Keith Kamborian, Chris Goetz)
Lukas Greif (17, Newburgh, Ind.; Coaches: Bryan Smith, Stephanie Hazlett)
Brandon Nakashima (15, San Diego; Coaches: Larry Stefanki, Christian Groh)
Axel Nefve (17, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Nick Saviano)
Sangeet Sridhar (17, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Coach: Lou Belken)
TBD: French reciprocal
TBD

Boys qualifying draw:
William Grant (16, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Juan Alberto Viloca)
Trey Hilderbrand (17, San Antonio; Coach: Mark Hilderbrand)
Govind Nanda (16, Cerritos, Calif.; Coach: Vahe Assadourian)
Brian Shi (17, Jericho, N.Y.; Coach: Andre Daescu)
Yuta Kikuchi (Japanese High School Champion)
TBD

Girls main draw:
Angelica Blake (16, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coaches: Nick Saviano, Eric Riley)
Kelly Chen (18, Cerritos, Calif.; Coach: Debbie Graham)
Salma Ewing (16, Long Beach, Calif.; Coaches: Reyana Ewing)
Abigail Forbes (16, Raleigh, N.C.; Coach: Cameron Moore)
Cori Gauff (13, Delray Beach, Fla.; Coach: Gerard Loglo)
Natasha Subhash (15, Fairfax, Va.; Coach: Bear Schofield, Bob Pass)
Katie Volynets (15, Walnut Creek, Calif.; Richard Tompkins, Mark Orwig)
TBD

Girls qualifying draw:
Elvina Kalieva (14, Staten Island, N.Y.; Coach: Nick Saviano)
Gabriella Price (14, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Rick Macci)
Charlotte Owensby (14, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Yulia Beygelzimer)
Nikki Redelijk (15, Windermere, Fla.; Coach: Ferdinand Redelijk)
Marina Kurosu (Japanese High School Champion)
TBD

Data Tells the Story

The following article was written by Javier Palenque and is reprinted here, unedited, with his permission.

In the past thirty years American tennis has seen a 73% decline in the amount of top 100 players in the ATP tour. This alarming number basically tells us that we lose every decade 25% of our players in the higher echelon of worlds’ tennis. What then will happen in the next ten years with the new massive investment by the USTA in Lake Nona and the new crop of American stars who seem to be on the rise? Will this change the clear trend line that the sport is basically slowly dying for America at the professional level? When you talk to the people at the USTA, they will tell you that things could not be better and that the new crop of players will reverse the disappearing number of Americans. Of the current top 100 stars, we will lose the older players and replace them with the younger players. Essentially this will mean that over a 40 year period we managed to keep our declining rate at 73%.

In my opinion here is how the top 100 will look like for the next decade.

We will lose the players in Yellow and replace them with the players in green. These new kids are truly remarkable as breaking the top 200 at such a young age, truly means that they are very, very talented. However the number of players in the top 100 still remains low, for the largest and richest country on earth. This makes me want to learn further more about the way these new group of young stars came up through the system here in the US?

So, I wanted to see if there is some sort of pattern to figure out of a career path that these guys have taken, so we can try to replicate it and have instead of 8 new stars 80.

The first thing that comes to mind as I read these names is how close to tennis (having a tennisfamily or coaches as parents, or ex. playersis so significant) Escobedo, Fritz, Koslov, Tiafoe, Mmoh, Rubin (father had tennis knowledge). This in essence means that of the eight future American stars 75% have a solid tennis family tradition. The reason this number is important is because then it stands to reason that if you as a current 18U player do not have this tradition, if you thought the odds of becoming a pro were low, I can tell you with a 75% chance of being right that in three out of four kids if your parents don’t have years of knowledge of the sport the chance for you to make it as a pro is even worse than you think. What about the other 25% the other two players? Reilly Opelka has the physical advantage of size (like Isner) and the last kid Jared Donaldson, took 2 years of training on clay in Argentina, a surface that here in America we don’t play in. Ok, got it so what does that mean to me as a parent? Why should I invest in this sport? The hours, the trips, the never ending tournaments, the rankings, the way the tournaments are governed and award points, the way the sport is targeted for who can afford it and not who is most likely to be a pro. While on the surface this looks like a great reversal of fortune of American tennis. In essence I think it reveals the exact opposite, I know, I will get a lot of mail, telling me how incorrect I am. But, follow me, I may be able to present my case to you. Who knows you may end up agreeing with me.

The data reveals three important things that are at the core of tennis in America that remain flawed and only enable the further destruction of American tennis supported by system in place and the governing body structure.

1) Tennis is simply not reaching the very people who will make it grow.

2) Coaches and academies in general must not be that good if for 75% of the future top players the coaches are the parents coaches of the stars who have years of knowledge of the sport by being regular coaches. The other 12.5% Opelka is a big guy who was coached very well, but his size is his differentiator (though he was lucky to train with a well-known coach) and Donaldson the other 12.5% trained for two years on clay. In summary, if you have a coach-parent you are most likely to be in the highway to become a pro, if you are not (which means 99.99 of the population, you are out of luck). Then your only option is to have good coaches around where you live, but who can tell if they are good or not if you don’t know tennis?

3) The tournament and competition structure does not bring up tennis stars. Let me show you my arguments for these three key issues:

TENNIS IS NOT REACHING THE MASS OF PEOPLE WHO CAN GROW THE GAME

There are roughly 9.9 Million (*) core tennis participants (that play more than 10 times a year in the US that is only 3.1% of the 318.9 million population. This number is extremely low if you consider that of 75% of our next stars come from people who played, coach or had been for a lifetime in tennis in this small group. Please realize that maybe there are 100,000 tennis coaches in the US (this number is very high only for calculation purposes). This number represents 1% of the tennis population. This effectively means that about 99.9% of the population remain separated from tennis and with no way of connecting, much less to aspire to be a professional athlete? As the pool of players is so small, the vast majority of possible tennis people is simply not reached. What is the USTA’s plan to reach 99.9% of the population if week in and week out, it plays under a competition system and ranking system that feeds the impossible numbers?

Within the US population there are ethnic groups that are growing at a faster rate than the rest; Hispanic and Asians. Yet these ethnic groups are not known for being physically big and the same USTA states that the future of tennis is for the bigger sized players given the new equipment and speed of courts. What to do?

Another aspect is the cost of playing as a junior. We all know that tennis is an elite sport, given its costs and years of training it requires. So, from a financial point of view tennis is not only played by only 3.1% of the population, it is so expensive that it excludes the masses of people who cannot afford it. Yet, the number of the future pros and their own financial backgrounds tell us that it not need be so expensive as for 6 of the 8 new players for the next decade come from modest background and modest income. Being a coach is not a high income profession.

A big part of being a pro prospect is about the proximity to good tennis knowledge, and passion for tennis.

What is the USTA doing to address this? What is the governing body doing to supply the market with exactly that: the proper tennis knowledge? This void and market reality clearly reveals that who tennis currently attracts and gets to travel and compete every week are the same very people that have the lowest chance of being a pro, even though they may be highly ranked, or under the current system attended a high number of tournaments and therefore acquired the rankings with cash. This makes no sense, yet the sense that the USTA conveys is as if these kids were under a pro path and nothing can back that up in the last twenty years. Nothing.

Finally, if we know that there is a direct correlation for 75% of the new stars of having a tennis coach and family, the key group to target then are adults ages 25 -40 who are the vehicle for growth of tennis in America. This means these are the parents to be that need the fun and excitement to enroll their kids in tennis. What is the USTA doing about them? Nothing.

THE KNOWLEDGE LEVEL OF THE AVERAGE COACH IN THE US IS UNABLE TO PRODUCE PRO- PROSPECTS

If you then consider that of the next stars: Fritz, Escobedo, Koslov, (all parent coaches), Mmoh (dad a pro), Tiafoe (he lived at the facility in Maryland- 24 hr. tennis exposure) and Rubin (McEnroe Academy and dad high school player). Where does that leave the vast amount of kids that are left along the way who with the best intentions and support but who are never with the proper professionals. Here the weakness of tennis in America is the poor level of coaching and the lack of a standard basic USTA driven certification system to validate coaches and facilities. For the 99.9% of parents who want the services, yet do not have the knowledge of who they are hiring. So, in a marketplace where it is driven by no standards, we have the suppliers of the service with no real knowledge of what is a world class forehand is and the country’s governing body certifies no facilities or coaches, So, ignorant parents (the core of the future for tennis ) waste time, money and dreams. The result, nothing is achieved. Nothing is tied together, the coaching, the kids, the USTA, the parents, each work on their own and everyone loses. Why would anyone in a leadership position at the USTA allow this? This weakness revealed and the initiatives the USTA takes show how it does not understand what are the root problems of tennis in America are and how it has no plan to address the problem. I live in Miami, sun 90% of the time, warm weather 95% of the time. Yet the providers of tennis services is extremely weak. Imagine how it is in other parts of the country where there is not a tennis court in every neighborhood or park or condo, or where the weather does not cooperate?. Unless something is done to address this, the next decade will produce the same poor results we have been for the last two decades even with all the investments, and hoopla. This is a tragedy and mismanagement of tennis.

TOURNAMENT STRUCTURE DOES NOT ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION

The current structure and system of competition makes the pool of participants smaller and smaller as the kids get older. All one has to do is see the pool of players from ages 8-12, 12-16, and 16+. Tennis needs to have a complete change of shape.

Do any of you reading this disagree with the suggestion?

The way to do this is to grow the game, to create competitive environments and competitions that are “out of the box”. Not the century old tournament structure and point allocation that is giving us results that are low under any parameter and only shrink the pool of players:

Suggestions:

  •  One day Tournaments Round Robin by level
  • USTA camps for the masses in each age group, not the top players. Good education.
  • Training for local coaches who may have great prospects but not a competitive program
  • Some form of match play for all
  • Promote competitive team tennis locally
  • Allow tournaments where coaching is allowed
  • Create a structure to increase the appeal of tennis as opposed to the current structure that only encourages individual participation. (remember this individual participation is boring, has produced the best results 30 years ago, it is dead, yet the structure and results we get continue to be the same)
  • Other ideas and input from players and parents
  • Pricing structure revisit, ex, two tournaments a month cost $100 for 4 matches. In other words to play a match in the US we need to pay $25.00. This is absurd. We need thousands of match play hours that need to be FREE, In South America and Europe kids play match play every day at no cost. Here in the richest country on earth that produces the least amount of tennis players and pays the most amount of money we have the fewest hours of match play? How does this make sense?
  • Working together is the key, we don’t as a common group work together as parents, kids and coaches.
It is the failure of vision and leadership at the USTA that creates this void and poor results.

Conclusions:

The next decade of men’s pro tennis has clear data as to where the kids will come from. They will come from tennis parents and coaches with kids. So, if you are a parent whose kids love tennis and you know little about it, you are out of luck. Why do we make this so hard, so exclusive of the very people who will grow the game and so expensive that it allows the people with hunger and attitude to be excluded and the people with resources and not attitude to endure the journey and both with poor results.

Why are we continually doing this? Who can answer that?

We need critical analytical thinking of business people for the benefit of tennis in America. The way it is, it is announcing its death. The worst part is that it will be our fault. We will have watched it die and changed nothing. We need fresh thinking from outside the walls of what now is the USTA. Count me in for help.

I wish the USTA leadership would open its mind and hear other perspectives because from where I stand I only see what will never happen, change. Expecting different results from doing the same things is the definition of insanity. Can anyone tell me why we put up with this?

I can be reached at @palenquej or jpalenque@yahoo.com

Melanie Oudin Making A Comeback

One Love Melanie OudinJust a few short years ago, Melanie Oudin was the darling of the tennis world when she took out top player after top player at the 2009 US Open. Her name and face were everywhere as media touted her as the Next Big Thing in US Women’s Tennis. A huge billboard in her hometown of Marietta, Georgia, featuring a larger-than-life image of Melanie loomed large over one of the suburb’s biggest throughways.

Melanie’s twin sister, Katherine, chose a different route for her tennis, playing 4 years at Furman University and majoring in Health Sciences. Even though she was equally as talented as Melanie, Katherine was focused on life after tennis from an early age and knew that college and a career in the medical field was in her future.

Sadly, injuries have kept Melanie out of the top ranks for the past several years. She’s been working hard to regain her strength and on-court prowess and will continue her comeback as she returns to her long-time home court to play in the One Love Tennis Open at Lifetime Athletic and Tennis in Peachtree Corners for this $50,000 Women’s USTA Pro Circuit event.

Oudin reached the 2009 US Open quarterfinals and rack up wins over former No. 1 Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. She peaked at No. 31 on the WTA Tour and won the 2012 Birmingham tournament in England by defeating another player who was the best in the world, Jelena Jankovic. The native of Marietta, Ga., also was the 2011 U.S. Open mixed champion with Jack Sock.

Oudin will play into the main draw of the tournament that runs Sept. 11-18. In 2014, she was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a heart ailment that made her heart race up to a reported 230 beats per minute during competition. While surgeries helped diminish that condition, she also had a major hand injury last year. She began playing regularly again and has risen to 281 in the world.

In keeping with his support of college tennis, One Love Tournament Director Turhan Berne has offered a qualifying wild card to the two top college programs in the state. Johnnise Renaud, of Georgia Tech, has accepted the wild card. She was named a 2016 All-ACC first team in her sophomore year, following a 2015 All-ACC second team selection. She received an at-large bid to 2016 NCAA Singles Championship last spring after posting a 25-8 record.

Other top players in the main draw include 2012 Olympic Mixed Doubles Silver Medalist Laura Robson. Robson, from Great Britain, reached No. 27 in the world three years ago and is returning to top form after injuries. WTA No. 128 Julia Boserup, Taylor Townsend — a 20-year-old who trains and lives in the Atlanta area – and world No. 161 Sachia Vickery of Florida round out the top three Americans entered.

USTA Pro Circuit events typically are a “proving ground” for young players and a way of getting back inside the top-50 for many veteran competitors. The One Love Tennis Open is the first women’s professional tennis tournament in metro Atlanta in five years. Berne, an experienced tournament director who runs the biggest local tennis events in Atlanta, has a player’s party, clinic and Pro-Am planned for the week.

Ticket information:

Friday: Adults $5, kids FREE

Sat: Adults $10, kids $5, kids get in free with OLT shirt

Sun: Adult $15, kids $5, kids get in free with OLT shirt

Lifetime members are free all days

Ticket buyers go through outside side gate with LT tent (tentative). Ticket buyers can pay with cash or credit card on a iPad

Conversation with Keith-Patrick Crowley

Soweto Tennis Open: Day 2

Keith-Patrick Crowley is 25 years old. He is a professional tennis player born and raised in South Africa. He currently holds an ATP ranking of 1156 in singles and 520 in doubles, and he may have to leave the tour because he’s running out of money.

Does this sound familiar? For my regular readers, it should. A few months ago I posted an article about James McGee, a young Irish player who is facing similar challenges. I’ve also shared several articles from various websites and magazines discussing this very issue.

Instead of simply complaining, though, Keith has decided to do something to change the prize money inequities in professional tennis. He has created a Facebook page and a Facebook group to garner support for a petition to the ATP and ITF to create a structure in which players ranked outside the top 100 can afford to stay on tour and make a living wage. Keith is also putting together a blog (click here) containing many stories and photos of life on the tour so readers will be able to see what really goes on out there. 

Why should we as tennis parents be concerned about prize money on the professional tour? What does it have to do with us and our kids? Without these lower-ranked players clawing their way up the ladder, professional tennis as we know it will cease to exist – it will become a series of exhibition matches between the top players, same-old-same-old, with little to no opportunity for new faces to emerge. We need these up-and-coming players and experienced veterans to keep playing, to keep fighting the good fight, to keep our sport alive. Without a strong professional side, junior and college tennis will suffer, too.

Here is my Q&A with Keith . . .

  • Briefly describe your history in tennis: How old were you when you started playing? Did you play college tennis? Where? When did you turn pro? What is your highest pro ranking? What is your current ranking? My father, Keith Crowley, was a Professional tennis coach in my home town of Durbanville (Cape Town), South Africa. I started playing tennis as soon as I could pick up a racket. I played my first tournament when I was only 7 years old. I was the number one ranked junior in South Africa and reached the top 200 in the ITF Juniors. I played college tennis for the University of Miami (’07-’11), I graduated with a degree in Business, Finance. I turned pro in January of 2012. My highest ranking in singles has been 758 and 441 in doubles. My singles is currently 1156 (I have not played a tournament since the end of October last year because of an injury and running out of money to continue to travel and play) and doubles is currently 520. 
  • What are your approximate annual expenses related to tennis? When doing my budget last year my biggest expenses were: travel (flights, hotels), living expenses (rent) and coaching, trainers and general maintenance I needed on my body (If you want to compete with the top guys you can’t leave any aspect of the game out, physical, mental or tactical). I base myself in Miami Florida. Last year I spent between 40,000-45,000 USD with the support of parents, sisters and brother in-laws (without them I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play professional tennis). If i wanted to do it with a full time coach, trainer and do everything that is needed I’m looking at 120,000 USD. I coach tennis when I am on a training block in Miami to make extra money. I also model for a Wilhemina Models in Miami (This has helped me stay afloat and earn my own money), making more money in a week of shooting than I did the entire year on the ATP tour. 
  • What is your approximate annual income related to tennis? Since I stared in 2012 I have earned $13,538 according to the ATP website of which 70% of that was in 2013.
  • How many tournaments per year do you play? In how many different countries? I try play 20-25 tournaments a year. Last year I traveled to 5 different countries (USA, Greece, India, South Africa and Mexico).
  • What is the biggest challenge you face as a pro player and why? Traveling around the world trying to improve my ranking with limited finances. Trying to cut costs by staying in very cheap hotels, eating anything that is cheap while trying to perform at the highest level with an extremely tough field of players. When I am at tournaments it helps because there is usually a trainer available and inexpensive massages offered, but when I am in Miami I am not able to pay rent most months, never mind take care of my body in the way that it should be. I haven’t had health insurance since I graduated college, trying to cut costs. Financing myself is the biggest challenge. 
  • Why now in terms of rallying your fellow players to fight for more prize money at the lower level events? After traveling to many different countries and having played in mostly future events but also some challengers and ATP qualifying events, the conversations didn’t change no matter where I was or what level tournament I was playing in. There are 2 main reasons why I am currently fighting for a change in the prize money system. 1. I am doing what I always dreamed of doing but I have reached a point in my life, age 25, that I need to start doing what makes the most sense for my future, not only in tennis. At the start of 2014 I was still paying off debt from my 2013 due to my tennis. I spent all the money I had and my parents and family provided me with everything that I needed. They are still willing to support me but I feel I need to start supporting myself at age 25, and with the current system in tennis it doesn’t look very promising. Not because I don’t believe I can make it to the top 100 in the world but rather because I don’t know when I’ll have enough money to travel to another tournament unless I find a sponsor (I have to be competing to give myself any chance). 2. I posted two articles on players, one that quit when he reached the top 200 because he ran out of money and the other that is currently just outside of the top 200 and still not breaking even. The former CEO of South African tennis read these articles and saw my frustration. He contacted me to offer his help in anyway that he could because he has fought for us for over ten years. I currently have no money to travel; this has been an on going issue and I simply decided that something has to be done about it. I took the initiative and here I am now. I have no idea if this will benefit me because if there is change I feel it will take couple years to implement but I decided that I am willing to put in the time which I have due to my current situation and help the game of tennis for the future. I want to make a difference. Hopefully sooner than later.
  • What do you anticipate will be your biggest obstacle in getting more prize money at the futures/challengers events? The ATP is run like a business. They are only concerned about the players that can generate more income for them. To them the players from 200-2160 mean nothing to the game of tennis but they are actually the ones that keep the game alive. I am currently trying to figure out how to reach the board members of the ATP and the current players in charge of the players board (Federer is currently the President). Getting them on board to support this will be the toughest part. Finding a top 5 ranked player and an ATP employee with the credentials- to stand up and stay something. The word is spreading; we just need to get our foot in the door. If and when we do, the players and the ATP will have to meet to come to an agreement on how to raise the prize money. The lack of sponsorships and interest at the lower level in this brutal individual sport doesn’t help us get the money that we need. The distribution of revenue from Grand Slams will have to change. The ATP cannot only promote the top 5 players in the world, but getting them away from this will be a challenge in itself. 
  • Are your parents supportive of your decision to continue playing professionally or would they like to see you move into a “real job”? What about your girlfriend? Both my parents and girlfriend are very supportive of my decision to keep playing. They know how hard I have worked to get to where I am today and they want to see me reach my potential. 
  • What will it take for you to leave the tour? After this year if I’m not able to make enough money to travel and give myself a fair chance to compete I will have no choice but to leave the tour. I won’t leave the tour at this point no matter how bad my situation is; I want to find a way. I am willing to do whatever it takes but there is only so much I can do. 
  • What goals are you trying to achieve as a pro player? What would you like your legacy to be? When turning pro in 2012 I had and still have the goal of reaching top 200 in singles and top 100 in doubles. I have been more successful in doubles and would like to focus on that if I am able to get my ranking high enough. I don’t want to be seen as another player that has the potential and quit the tour because of my financial issue. I want to reach my goals, i want to figure out how I can give myself and many other players a greater chance and if I can’t I would like to leave something else positive behind. This is the reason why I am putting as much effort into this. My day currently consists of tennis, gym, fitness and spending hours on my laptop responding to messages and posting things regarding this topic. 
  • What can ParentingAces readers do to help your cause? Spread the word to as many people in the tennis world as possible. The more people that join/support this cause and the more people that hear about this cause the better our chances are of making a difference. 

To my readers, please take the time to visit Keith’s Facebook groups and blog and lend your support to his efforts to make a difference. He’s not just doing this for himself but also for his fellow players, including OUR KIDS.

Things I Learned at the Open

USOpen2013

I know, I know. Y’all are sick to death of hearing about my week at the 2013 US Open. This will be my last article about it, PROMISE! So, please indulge me one more time as I share with you (and record for my own purposes) the things I learned at the Open.

First and foremost, I learned that Tennis Parents are Tennis Parents, whether our children are playing a tournament at the local public park for a plastic trophy or in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for a $2.6 million paycheck. We all have a hard time not showing emotion while our child is battling on the tennis court. We all do our best to stay focused on the process and not the result, and we all know a win is much more fun for everyone involved than is a loss. It’s that way in the juniors; it’s that way in college; and it’s that way at the highest level of the professional game. We all strive to show our children that we love them no matter the outcome. We all strive to instill a love and passion in them for this sport they’ve chosen to pursue. We all strive to surround them with knowledgeable, smart, caring coaches who can help them reach their potential.

Secondly, I learned that it truly does take a deep-seated love of the game in order to reach the highest levels in our sport. Achievements in tennis, for most, come slowly and over a very long period of time. They take incredibly hard work and dedication. If the love isn’t there, the success is unlikely to be there regardless of the talent level of the individual player.

I learned that tv commentators aren’t as unbiased as they may seem. Spending time in the CBS booth on Ashe, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the announcers between matches. Turns out, just like us, they have their favorite players and secretly root for them to win. Who knew?

I learned that having media credentials at an event like the US Open opens doors. Big doors. Fun doors. Doors that allow you to walk next to your favorite athletes and their parents and their coaches. Doors that allow you to go up and start a conversation with these folks and makes them want to engage with you in that conversation. However, the bolts on those doors shut tight when you just want to take a photo with the guy who will likely win  – who won – the tournament. Just sayin’.

I learned that every top-level player grew up hitting against a backboard. They used that time to practice various shots and styles, pretending to be their favorite pros as they honed their skills. They created games to play with their peers, using the wall as an impartial 3rd player. They have fond memories of those hours spent hitting against their toughest opponent, the one that always got one more ball back.

I learned that it’s really nice to make friends early in the tournament so you have people to sit with during meals and hang out with during rain delays or bum a ride “home” from late at night. I learned that the folks who hang out in the media room are all pretty nice and willing to help out a fledgling newbie trying to learn the ropes.

I learned that riding the train out to Larchmont at 2am is really pretty safe, and that there are taxis waiting at the station even at that ungodly hour. I also learned that chivalry still exists in the world as evidenced by the young man who gave up his seat in said taxi so I wouldn’t have to wait alone at the station so late at night (early in the morning?).

I learned that a $20 food allowance can go a long way, even at the US Open. It takes some creativity and willingness to adjust your eating habits, but it can be done! I also learned that coffee is free in Media Dining. All day and all night. That helped a lot.

I learned that I want to see my son succeed in tennis, NOT because I care about rankings or where he goes to college or whether he turns pro so much as because I’ve met some incredible people through my own association to the sport, and I want him to get to spend time around those same folks. This sport is chock-full of junior coaches who know their stuff, of college coaches who embrace the challenge of taking 18 year old children and helping them grow into 22 or 23 year old incredible adults, of journalists who take a personal interest in the players they follow, of former top players who want to give back to the game that gave them so much. Who wouldn’t want their child to be in the company of these amazing human beings?

I learned that I really and truly love the game of tennis. I love being around the players and the coaches and the parents and the photographers and the writers and the commentators and the statisticians and the manufacturers and the stringers and the fans. I love being able to see behind the proverbial curtain into the inner-workings of this sport and learn what makes everything tick. I hope to have many more opportunities to see more, to learn more, and to share it with those of you patient enough to get all the way through my ramblings.

Before I close, I absolutely have to give a huge shout-out to Melanie Rubin, Meredith Corsillo, Colette Lewis, Sandra Hewitt, Marcia Frost, Pat Mitsch and, most of all, Sol Schwartz who suggested I apply for media credentials in the first place. All of these people taught me and supported me through my very first foray into sports reporting, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude! And, to my husband, of course, who supports me every single day in everything I do.

Okay, that sounded a little like an Oscar acceptance speech – sorry!

I hope you enjoyed my reports from Flushing Meadows as much as I enjoyed preparing them for you. Now, as they say on tv, back to our regularly scheduled programming.