About Us

CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Entries in Planning (24)


Stroking Felt With: Boris Bosnjakovic

Our first Q&A of the year is with Boris Bosnjakovic. I first met Boris while playing SoCal Open tournaments and I was quickly impressed by his massive game - which resembled Boris Becker in every sense of the world - as well as agility, finesse, great attitude and lively sense of humor. One could easily see why he dominated the open circuit and also performed quite well at the D-1 level. 

Quick Bio: I was born and raised in Novi Sad, Serbia (former Yugoslavia).  Grew up practicing with Monica Seles at the same tennis club.  Yugoslavian Junior Champion under 18s.  Named to Yugoslavian Davis Cup in 1992.  Moved to the U.S. in 1992 at the age of 18, ranked top 50 junior ITF in the world. Played No.1 at Brigham Young University for all 4 years and graduated in 1997. On the ATP Tour from 1997-2000, with best ranking at 740 in the world in singles. Coached on the ATP and WTA tours from 2000 to present.  Coached 3 women ranked in top 100 in the world.  Also worked with several top 200 ATP pros and now coaching current World Champions, the Serbian Davis Cup Team (including world No.1 Novak Djokovic).

1. When did you start playing tennis?

I started playing at the age of 9, which is according to today's standards considered late. These days the kids start as early as 3 years old.

2. What first attracted you to the sport?

To be honest, when I was young I loved soccer, since my dad was a professional soccer player, but then one of my best friends took up tennis and couldn't stop talking about it. I was very competitive, so I wanted to start learning tennis to be able to beat him, and eventually I fell in love with tennis.

3. What were the conditions like when you started (economic, political, etc.)? Also, who were some of your contemporaries (e.g., Dusan Vemic) and how did you match up against them in the juniors?

The conditions were actually pretty good. My club (T.C.Vojvodina) had enough funds to pay for most of my traveling and coaching expenses. Life in Yugoslavia in late 70's and 80's was good. Since, I was two years older then Dusan Vemic and Nenad Zimonjic, I was a bit of their elder and used to kick their butts back then. But, we all got along great and traveled together to many junior tournaments around the world.

4. If you had to generalize the Serbian approach or mentality when it comes to tennis, how would you describe it?

Well, in general I think Serbians are fighters, especially the kids that started playing tennis in the 90's, when the civil war started in former Yugoslavia and the times were tough. The kids realized that tennis could be their way out of the war-torn country, so they played for a lot more then most kids in the western world. Therefore, they became a bit tougher mentally as well and in general very hard workers.

5. Who was your tennis idol growing up? Why?

I really enjoyed the way Boris Becker and Pete Sampras played. I tried to tailor my game after theirs and play a very offensive and aggressive tennis. Even though I didn't come to the net quite as much as them, I did play have a very aggressive style with a big serve and powerful forehand.

6. What was your favorite thing to work on in practice? For example, drills, points, patterns, mix?

I always enjoyed competing, so doing drills was fun, but only if some kind of a game was involved. In general I found that playing lots of tournaments worked well for me. Then I would go and drill and work on my game a bit, but would get back out to play matches as soon as possible.

7. From recollection, you moved to Los Angeles and dominated the junior and open divisions before playing #1 for BYU and establishing a great college career there. What are your thoughts on college tennis and your overall experience?

Yes, you are correct. Domination, is how I like to remember my first few years in Los Angeles. I'm joking. First of all, my college experience was not a typical American college experience since I went to a very religious school. However, that was probably good for my tennis career, since there were not too many distractions. People at BYU took good care of me. We had a great coach (Jim Osborne), also I played #1 in both singles and doubles and therefore got to play against all the best players in college tennis. I recommend college tennis to most junior player, since the level of play is very high and it is a good stepping stone for those players who eventually want to turn pro.

8. Knowing what you know now and having the benefit of your current experience and lifestyle, what advice would you give yourself as a 15year old (i.e., if you could go back in time)?

Great question. I would certainly take a much better care of my body. Not only be in better shape then I was and work harder, but also tailor a specific diet for myself and work a lot more on the mental toughness through meditation, yoga and specific breathing exercises. I am a strong believer that a proper diet, stretching, and most importantly being able to control your mind and emotions makes a complete athlete. A fact that is really surprising to me is that most players, even in the very top of the game don't work enough on these aspects. I had a chance to witness this theory put in play when Novak Djokovic hired Dr. Igor Cetojevic in 2010 to help him on all these aspect of his game. At that time (in early 2011) I was replacing Novak's coach Marian Vajda at a few tournaments and I learned a lot from Dr. Igor's work with Novak. This guru was able to help Novak put all the puzzle pieces together and become No.1 in the world in a very dominating fashion. Ever since then became good friends with Dr. Igor and I've been working closely with him, learning all of his secrets.

9. You are the coach for the Serbian Davis Cup Team and have been instrumental in your country's success. At the same time, you have worked with players at all levels. How does coaching at the highest level differ from the rest of the game? For example, more fitness, mental, strategy, technique, etc.

The Serbian Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic put me in charge of coaching our Davis Cup Team in 2010, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the championship team that year, since we were able to capture the Davis Cup Trophy for the very first time in Serbian history that year. Coaching tennis at all levels made me aware that there are so many great players all over the world in all the categories and that tennis is a very tough and competitive game. So, it made me appreciate the guys that are in the very top. Needless to say that they are all extremely good, but why are the some players consistently better then others, when they all can slug the ball so well?

I know it's a cliche that they are mentally tougher, but it really is true. Mental toughness, however is not only what happens on court. It starts when you are a kid practicing against the wall and with your friends, and it continues with your support system (your family, coaches) and the amount of practice you put in growing up. This is where the real confidence comes from, knowing that you put in the work and you had the experience required to put away that forehand to win Wimbledon one day. The important thing is to have your whole life in balance when you are out there competing against the whole world. The happiness in your personal life gives you that balance and strength to succeed. What makes you personal life complete is your support system, which for example could be your significant other, your coach, your parents, your trainer, your best friend, and all the people that help you on your journey. All these little things put together create a champion.

10. What is your best tennis experience so far? This could be tournament won, being alongside the DC team while they're crushing their competitors, rankings achieved, helping students?

I have to say that winning the Davis Cup Trophy with the Serbian Team was really an amazing experience. But, that was a team effort, which is very different when compared to winning matches and tournament in my playing career. It really is hard to point out one experience, but a few of them include becoming the best junior in my country, winning my frist ITF World Junior tournament in 1992, qualifying for the NCAA singles Championships in 1997, beating Michael Joyce which was my first win over a top 100 ATP player.

11. Davis Cup seems to be of higher importance overseas (Europe, S. America and Australia) than in the US. To what do you attribute this factor?

I am not entirely sure why that is, but it's possibly because there are so many more popular team sports in the U.S. It's is unfortunate that it is so, because Davis Cup competition creates a team sport experience out of an individual sport, which is very unique.

12. CAtennis.com has a magic wand that has the power to transform you into the commissioner of tennis (worldwide). What are some of the things that you would change in order for tennis to be a better experience for fans, players, coaches, tournament, parents, etc.?

I like that title, can I keep it? As far as the fans are concerned, I believe that it would benefit them to spend more time watching lower level tennis tournaments, such as college tennis, pro challengers and futures. There are some very good and exciting matches there and the atmosphere is much more interactive and lively. Also, that would allow them to appreciate the quality of those guys and of course the brilliance world's top players

The parents, coaches and players would all benefit if we all realized that it's just a game. In the last 20 years or so, since big money was introduced to the top players, the game has become too much of a business and a lot of the times it's taken too seriously. Young players should learn to practice in groups, socialize more and have fun, and that is why college tennis is very helpful.

13. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I ask myself that every morning. I hope to be in a position to educate young tennis players, other athletes and general public about the importance of a balanced life in order to be happy and successful. The majority of us in the western world have forgotten what's important in life and we are involved in a race for irrelevant and a lot of the times unobtainable things and we tend to neglect our health and well being. This is also very important for young tennis players to know in order to have a good foundation for a successful career.

14. What is one thing that you wish that more Americans should know about Serbia?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I wish that more Americans would visit Serbia to get to know the great hospitality and the fun people. Oh yeah and great Serbian food.

15. Given your countrymen's current success, have you seen an explosion in tennis interest over the last couple of years in Serbia?

Yes, it's very apparent. When I was a kid you would see everyone walking around with a soccer ball or a basketball in their hand. Nowadays most kids have a Djokovic t-shirt on and walking around with a tennis racket. We had only two tennis clubs in my hometown when I started playing, now there are numerous clubs all over the place. [Editor's Note: WATCH OUT!!!!]

Boris, we thank you for you time and wonderful insights and wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors


The Fate of the Child is in the Hands of his/her Parents

“Every child grows; everything depends on the teacher” - Shin'ichi Suzuki

We would like to start off this beautiful New Year's day with a discussion about early childhood education from the point of view of someone who has been indispensable in developing thousands of musicians worldwide. His name is Shin'ichi Suzuki and he is best known for developing the Suzuki Method or what he referred to as "Talent Education." Briefly, the Suzuki Method is based on the principle that all children possess ability and that this ability can be developed and enhanced through a nurturing environment. Although Mr. Suzuki was speaking from the point of view of a music teacher, we believe that a number of the concepts are equally applicable to sports. If you have time, there are a number of books that we encourage you to read including: Studying Suzuki Piano -- More Than Music: A Handbook for Teachers, Parents, and Students; Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education; and Ability Development from Age Zero.

1. Talent is not inborn. Inborn greatness or mediocrity does not exist. No person is born uninteresting. Mediocrity is trained. Every child grows in the same way as he is brought up. Early education (between birth and kindergarten) is very important in the child's development. This is the "seed" stage, where the plant needs to get the highest quality attention. TENNIS: How many times have made excuses for their children that they are simply not as talented as their peers?

2. Emphasis on talent (or lack thereof) is misguided. "Inborn talent" seems to be used too quickly, too easily, to often. People we regard as talented have been nurtured in that way to the age of five or six. Why is that all Japanese children speak Japanese? By all account, Japanese is  a difficult language to learn and master for a Westerner yet all Japanese children speak it. Why is that? Is it perhaps that they have been immersed in the language from an early age? TENNIS: Everyone has a talent that can be applied to tennis. Just like a child can learn to speak Japanese if he is immersed in the culture, so can the same child learn to play tennis and master the sport.

3. Ability breeds ability. Development doesn't just mean learning but also building the ability to learn. Concepts shouldn't be learned only in bits and pieces but must be developed comprehensively. If you rely on talent to bring out the best qualities of the child you are really admitting that you possess poor nurturing methods. Saying that "my child has no talent" is the same as saying "I did not educate my child properly". TENNIS: instruction should not just be focused on learning the basics but also on nurturing the child's ability to learn the game further. 

4. Immerse the child in beautiful works from birth. In terms of music, let him listen to records of famous and enjoyable pieces. The child will be physiologically conditioned to absorb the information. Have him learn the activity from teachers who are passionate about the subject and who are interested in developing beautiful human being through the subject. TENNIS: how many times is your young child watching tennis matches played by inspiring competitors? How many times do you take him out to a pro match or a college competition?

5. The goal is to build the child's personality and refine her abilities. Unless the seedlings are well cared for, beautiful flowers cannot be expected. Setting the child aside until it has reached elementary school age is like ignoring a plant for the first couple of seasons and expecting it to thrive and be fruitful thereafter. Failing to nurture the child's abilities from birth is like binding the child's right hand for 4 years and then expecting him to be right-handed. Success depends on a number of factors and the only thing that the parents' goal should be on developing wonderful human beings. Whether the child "becomes something or someone" depends on him. Let him make his own way. TENNIS: tennis a tool for learning about life. The goal is to develop the human being through the sport and all the lessons that it has to offer. 

6. Ability cannot be developed without training. The more complex the task, the more training is required. In addition, the circumstances surrounding the training should be happy and be without much fuss. In this way, the child is relaxed and the endeavor is enjoyable. The child begins to absorb the information more quickly and looks forward to additional practices. TENNIS: this goes is fairly self-explanatory. The higher the level of play, the more tools are required in order to orchestrate the components. 

7. The child does what the parents do. If the child sees the parents learning to play a musical instrument then the child will WANT to learnt o play as well. This is different that the parent telling the child to learn something without doing it himself. Children will do what they dislike if they are being told to do it but they will become resentful and the activity will not develop into an ability. It's like holding a seed in your hand and ordering it to "SPROUT!" Also, the home environment should be analyzed to determine whether it is conducive to the child's development. Is it hectic, is it stressful, is it anti-social, angry or hateful? The child will absorb the actions of the parents and project it through his own activities. TENNIS: have you noticed how a lot of the more successful players have tennis-playing parents? They don't have to be good players but it helps for them to be passionate about the sport themselves. If the parents don't care enough about tennis to play or learn it themselves, the child is, most likely going to follow suit. 

8. Aim for more challenging things. Don't allow the child to do something that's easy just because she feels good about herself by accomplishing it. Just like in mathematical exercises, the child should be pushed - little by little - to grasp more complex components. Challenging the child with develop her ability and alleviate restlessness allowing her to concentrate on more difficult tax completely on her own and for a longer period of time. The child will become absorbed by the activity and the learning process will become fun. An unlimited amount of ability can be developed when the parents and child have a good relationship and when they are having fun together. TENNIS: don't let the player's progress become stagnant by repeating the same workouts. Challenge the player with new concepts and show him the many dimensions of the game. 

9. With difficult cases, children can be tricked into learning. This doesn't necessarily mean that the child is stupid, but that he learns in a completely different way. For example, a child that may have problem with basis math, can be taught the concepts through board games, cards or dice games. In this regard, it is important for the teachers and parents to see the world through the eyes of the child and not look at it from their own perspective. TENNIS: pros shouldn't teach all players in the same way and expect the same results. Players have different ways of learning so it's important for coaches - if they are interested in developing as opposed to merely collecting a paycheck - go beyond the routine and experiment with new teaching methods.

10. Treat the child as an equal human being. The human being is simply in the stages of development but use logic and calm voice as opposed to subjective orders. A child who is browbeaten will grow up to be rebellious and disrespectful in their own way. Spend some time understanding the child and the world form his point of view. There are no two people exactly alike and just because the older child is one way, doesn't mean that the youngest child will respond in exactly the same way to development methods. Environmental factors and all kinds of learning situations play a role in the child's development. TENNIS: how many times have you told a player "hit like this because I told you so" (or something along those lines)? It's important for coaches to explain the rationale behind the training in a way that the player can understand. Otherwise, the players will feel like they are not important and will become resentful. 

11. Start early. Talent education begins at birth and it is an ongoing process thereafter. The earlier the process is started the easier the child will learn and the greater skill she will acquire. Unfortunately, parents often do not have a plan for what the child will do in her life and allow her to be battered by the storms for a few years until she finds out what she really likes. Many children will develop bad attitudes because the parents are no actively engaged in nurturing the child's good attitudes. Often times there is a rift between the parents with respect to how the child will be reared. TENNIS: although it's easier for a child to listen to music as a baby than to watch a tennis match, if the goal is for the child to become a tennis player then simple methods (e.g. hanging a tennis ball over a crib) can be incorporated in order to start developing the tennis-player brain. 

12. Truth, goodness, beauty and love. These are universal concepts that all human beings (and some animals) desire. The primary responsibility for educating the children in these concepts is at home. Social functions and other obligations should not trump the responsibility of child rearing. Don't expect others to do the work for you. Own up to this obligation and immerse yourself in the process. TENNIS: these are the qualities that all tennis players should strive to develop. Results are secondary. 

The Secret to United States' Tennis Success...Not One You'd Expect


"What if we're going about this the wrong way?" Jack Fawcett must have surely asked his father, Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett, while in the process of getting lost (to their eventual demise) in the Mato Grosso as they were searching for the legendary City of Z in the Brazilian rainforest.

Well, as much talk as has taken place about the state of college tennis and junior development within the United States, we should stop for a moment - before getting lost even further in the forest of Quickstarts bushes, Lil' Mo trees, and Bowl landscapes - and ask ourselves "ARE WE GOING ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY?" What if the best way to address the issue is not to treat the temporary symptoms but to purge the causes from our system?! More specific, what if something that's supposed to keep us warm, safe and protected is actually bad for us?! Can you think of some instances where something that's supposed to be good for us causes all kinds of undesirable side-effects? Do you watch much TV? Ever hear the list of side-effect on some of the medicines that are peddled around the clock? Some are worse than the main disease...

With the foregoing in mind, we have engaged in some brief research regarding the effects of "safety nets" on performance. For example, it is often written (and spoken) that college serves as a safety net for athletes. See, for reference, here, here and here. Players train with the thought that college athletics is, somehow, a mid-range objective that is going to propel them into superstardom. Consequently, they don't work very hard in the beginning stages believing that they will do the right things - the grueling work - in college...in other words, candy now, peas and carrots later. Thus, does the existence of the perceived safety net pose a developmental problem for our athletes? Although no on-point discussion exists when it comes to tennis, here are some thoughts from similar fields:

Doug Roxburgh, Director of High Performance for Golf Canada states:

“I think one of the challenges that we have right now is the U.S. college system. Our international counterparts — England and Europe and Australia and New Zealand and the Asian countries — their players don’t go through the U.S. system. They train full-time. They play around the world. They get the experience and they’re much better prepared, in my mind, than our players who are coming out of the U.S. college system. That is a challenge. I think it’s just part of North American culture. You want your kids to get an education. Then, they have something to fall back on"


What?! You mean to tell me, Mr. Ruxburgh, that the US college golf system is not set up to launch players on the professional golf tour? Interesting! To summarize: players who come from places that do not have a collegiate golf system are better prepared. Their players don't rinky-dink around with junior rankings and other such trivialities. They are passionate about the sport and gain exposure to trial-by-fire a lot sooner making them mentally, physically and tactically tougher. Without a safety net, the players are separated into two camps a lot earlier in their development: (1) on the one side are the hit-and-giggle players who play for fun; and (2) on the other, you will find the eat, drink, breathe and dream the sport players (rabidly obsessed players). Can you guess the pool of players from which the top performers are likely to come?

Further studies supporting the theory that safety nets are bad for performance are few and far between. A recent NY Times article entitled “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” discusses, however, an interesting developmental experiment. The premise of the study was whether students who never, or very seldom, experienced setbacks, could achieve academic success. The study found that:

"the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP [charter school organization]; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class. Those skills weren’t enough on their own to earn students a B.A…. But for young people without the benefit of a lot of family resources, without the kind of safety net that their wealthier peers enjoyed, they seemed an indispensable part of making it to graduation day."


OK, so this is only somewhat related to what we are discussing here. However, upon brief consideration, you may find that the distinction is one in terms of timing not scope. For example, in the aforementioned study, the students who performed well had no immediate safety net and, therefore, ended up performing well in the future. In terms of tennis, our players have a future safety net ("oh, if it doesn't work out, I can always go to college and Ill work hard when I get there") and, as a result, they don't prepare well in the present - certainly not to the degree required to perform and dominate on the pro tour (as evidenced by the rankings that really matter). This is particularly obvious if we were to compare college tennis to social security payments and the rate of economic savings per family unit in the United States. Would you save more of your paycheck if you knew that no government check would be forthcomging upon retirment?! Would you work harder if you knew that "not making it" on the tour was a very real boogeyman?

On the other hand, let's see who dominates the sport of tennis: Spaniards, South Americans and Central/Eastern Europeans. Look at their collegiate athletic system:..................[crickets chirping]. Much like golfers in Mr. Roxburgh's example, they train from early age without a safety net. For them, there is no "spring-board" to the pros fallacy and they are not handcuffed by principles of amateurism. The ones who really care about the sport live the sport. Others, play for pleasure - which is fine too. But everyone is honest with their intentions and passion for the game.

Parhaps, rather than trying to fix the college tennis system (which is not designed to produce ATP/WTA top-10, top-50 or even top-100 players), we should think about disbanding/jettisoning it altogether. Sounds radical? It absolutely is! But given the state of US tennis, it is foreseeable that a radical approach is necessary in order to turn this ship around. Of course, it will not happen as there are way too many vested interests in keeping the system as it is (e.g., membership fees, tournament fees, lessons, marketing useless training systems or immoral services). But think about what would happen if, starting tomorrow, there would be no college tennis:

1. A lot of players would quit. Why? They are playing for a "wrong" reason. They don't really love tennis, they only like what tennis could do for them (a small carrot, that looks quite large, at the end of a very long stick). Did we mention that it costs $450,000 to develop a tennis player and scholarship is only worth about $100,000 (if you're good enough to actually get a full one)? Aren't you better off by saving some money and actually paying for school?! Even if a lot of players quit, the ones who stay on will be like musicians or artists who are obsessed about their craft. They will challenge each other at every step of their development and, due to their passion for the game, better players would emerge (every match would be a fight between tigers). 

Hey, there's a thought: do musicians obtain collegiate scholarships based on their results or rankings? No! They play - improve and develop - because they possess a true passion for their art regardless of potential payoffs down the road. Also, the lack of scholarships doesn't prevent them from going to college. The same mentality would certainly help our best junior players.

2. A lot of coaches would be put out of business. Good! The bad ones will certainly be out of a job; the good ones, just like good coaches in Europe and other parts of the world, will continue to be swamped with lessons as people will always try to improve their game. In a similar vein, a lot of organizations may fold or be forced to downsize. Is this so bad? What are they doing for the game of tennis right now?! Aren't they just supported by the artificial demand that they themselves have helped create by peddling misinformation like hot cakes?! At the very least, there would be a system where the grittiest kids would be developed by the best coaches. From a developmental point of view, that's not exactly a bad thing. 

3. There will be fewer tournaments. After all, with fewer players the demand for more competition will decrease. Maybe! France has thousands of tournaments for player at every level. In the summer, it's possible to sign up for and play an event a day. Tournaments are driven by passion; not a profit motive. There will always be supply if the demand is there. Right now, the demand is propped up by artificial means (e.g. requiring players to chase ranking points). Accordingly, the current demand for tennis itself is itself distorted. Perhaps a new system of club tennis or private leagues would emerge. 

4. Rankings will be meaningless. Awesome! You don't need a junior ranking to get on "the tour"; all you need to do is sign up. Imagine a system where players played tournaments because of the competitive benefits and not to chase points! You wouldn't have to struggle to finance a cross-country trip to a national open or a long-distance drive to some silly designated event. You could play the tournament you want, when you want for the developmental benefits. Isn't this what most good coaches are saying now anyway (i.e., focus on learning not on chasing points)?

5. Education level will increase. This is a bad thing? Isn't the purpose of college to get an education? Somewhere along the lines, someone, somewhere put it in players'/parents' minds that college is a step towards the pro tour. If only....someone...could rem--- got it..here. Presently, there are a ton of would-be student-athletes who sacrifice education in pursuit of a lofty dream. Many don't get the most out of school because they have to play this tournament for ranking, travel to that one because that's where the coaches are going to scope out potential recruits, or choose between a book-report and a practice. Same thing happens in college where you have to practice with the team and are generally relegated to classes that fit around the tennis schedule. Without college tennis as an objective, you could focus on your studies (before and during college) and make tennis fit your schedule (not the other way around).

6. Your tennis may actually improve. You could work on your game at your convenience and without the need to keep up with the Joneses. You could actually focus on development and learning as opposed to chasing points. Your parents might actually be saving money in this process. You wouldn't need to worry about amateurism rules. Therefore, you would actually have a tangible incentive to play. In college, you could set up the practices, workouts and tournaments around your needs and schedule. You could take a semester/quarter off and play French tennis tournaments, Bundesliga or Italian team events. You could play futures in South America or money events in Asia. In other words, you could do both tennis and school at your convenience. On this note, did you know that Tipsarevic, Ancic and Zvonareva have college degrees? Tennis didn't seem to interfere with their studies.

7. Players will not be able to pursue higher education. Who says?! First of all, if parents have the funds to spend on developing a player (again, avg. $450,000/player) they should certainly be in a position to have some money set aside for college. If they are "investing" $450,000 to obtain something of substantially lesser value, they need to be put under conservatorship. Of course, these actions certainly explains the state of economic affairs in the United States. Second, with better grades, a player will be more likely to get in a school of his/her choice. Lastly, what's wrong with working and paying for school the old-fashioned way?! A lot of student are doing it and just because you own a couple of rackets and some tennis posters doesn't make you special.

Rather than fixing a broken system, perhaps the best approach is to discard the system altogether. Like Hernan Cortes who burned his ships (all of them, per legend) to prevent his troops from turning back to the protection of the empire and ended up conquering the Aztec empire, maybe it's time for us to also "go all in"...to wean away from the nipple. 

If this approach doesn't work (and given the nature of disappearing programs, it's just a matter of time before it will happen on its own), here's another less-radical thought: approach the game as if the collegiate athletic system doesn't exist. After all, the top professional tennis players regard tennis with the same frame of mind: there is no college; only pros. Then, again, they have true passion for the game. Do you? Are you sure?! Ask yourself: if they disbanded college tennis tomorrow, would I still practice 4 hours a day? Would I still grind it in the gym or on the track? Would I still play this tournament or that? Would I still try to be the best that I could be? If the answer's yes, then at least your attitude is on the right track. For those of you who have stuck with me this far, this is really the point of this article... finding something that you're passionate about (hopefully, tennis) and then pursuing it with all your heart and resources as well as not being distracted by vista points along completely different routes.


Globalization of Collegiate Tennis in the 21st Century


Reference is hereby made to our previous article concerning college tennis. In social media, our revelations have generated considerable exchange with solid points being made on both sides of the coin. Briefly, where one group believes that artificial rules have to be implemented in order to allow more US players a chance to engage in college athletics, the other group believes in a "survival of the fittest" approach. Where does CAtennis.com stand on this issue? In this case, CAtennis.com prefers to remain relatively neutral. Nevertheless, with the full understanding of the detrimental effects of unlimited numbers of foreigners on our universities' rosters, here are some benefits of maintaining the status quo:

1. Fairness. It is undeniable that certain schools have inherent advantages when it comes to tennis recruiting. Take for example the "sunshine belt" states. A lot of players grow up and train in warmer climates. Several juniors board in academies from California to Florida and from the Mediterranean to Australia. These players are accustomed to certian playing conditions (warm, sunny, outdoors) and may have an innate disposition to remain in these locations during their college career. As a result, it is often the case that these schools get the proverbial "pick of the litter" when it comes to a graduating class. Limiting the number of foreigners per team across the board would entrench these schools in their top spots without giving anyone else a fair chance to compete. Keeping competition open, ensures some degree of fairness within the system and makes for a far more interesting and challenging season (particularly for institutions beloning to far-reaching conferences). Furthermore, it is important to note that some of our players will simply refuse to play for certain programs even if they were offered a playing spot and a scholarship (preferring instead to red-shirt at more "sexy" schools with better football teams or social environment). Should these "lesser" programs shut down simply because our players tend to smirk their noses when it comes to enrolling and playing there? Several D-1 coaches have indicated to us that the programs would be put on the chopping block in the event they failed to remain competitive. We've already lost 580 tennis programs since 1977. Losing more programs will continue the downward spiral of our sport. 

2. Competition. America is a country that thrives on competition. Save for a few instances where certain competitive aspects are deemed to be against pulblic policy (e.g. opening up cross-borders insurance providers to unregistered and unregulated organization), the general belief is that the market is efficient and competition results in the highest quality of products and services at the lowest possible prices. A similar concept applies to college tennis. In this regard, competition is wonderful because it provides "our" best players the opportunity to compete against "their" best players with the end result that the level of all players will improve. If you care about tennis, this is a good thing. If college tennis is to serve as a "spring board" to the tour at all, it seems that best possible scenario would be to inject college tennis with as many tour qualities and elements as possible including tough, well-rounded competition. In other words, if producing world-class talent is our primary goal, dumbing down the level seems to be a backwards way of addressing this concern. Unfortunately, this is also a point where a lot of parents are unable to put their personal feelings aside.

3. Education. The principal purpose of higher learning is to provide a solid education to those persons who are willing to assume the responsibility. Expanding one's universe doesn't just happen in the class-room but it can also happen on campus as well as on the tennis court. In college, you are exposed - some Americans for the first time in their lives - to different cultures, languages and thought processes.

In terms of tennis, you learn how certain players play and think based on their nationalities and backgrounds. For example (and excuse the blatant stereotypes), you learn that Scandinavians are generally mellow but fun-loving people, with solid baseline games who are capable of playing equally well on the slowest of slow court and the fastest indoor courts (having grown up on slow, wet clay as well as fast indoor courts). You will learn that, for the most part, central and eastern European players have solid games, big serves and outstanding work ethic. You will notice that southern Europeans play with a lot of flair and have a penchant for the dramatic. Then there are the fired-up dirt-ballers from the Iberian Peninsula and South America, the wild and gritty attacking players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as the steady and methodical players from Asia...and many more in between. The fact is that most countries have certain "schools of tennis" or principles of thought related to tennis that are influenced and developed from their own tennis heritage (juniors copying their home-grown idols), culture, climate (fast indoors v. slow outdoors) and resources. With tennis being a global sport, you will have to learn how to deal with these various personalities and game-styles. A player can do so in college or he can be exposed to this dimension for the first time "on tour" (on his/her own dime). From a developmental standpoint, the better advice is to be exposed to these idiosyncracies early in order to have a better understanding of their games when you're out on your own.

4. Friendship. Without a doubt, at some point in your life you have heard that tennis is "the sport of a lifetime". We're not here to "sell to you" the game of tennis. Hopefully, if you're reading this site it means that tennis plays a huge role in your life. Accordingly, you will have to understand that who you are and what you do today might not be your life 10-20 years down the road. Tennis is a great tool for meeting people and making friends throughout the world ("networking"). This is particularly true for someone who is good at the game. You never know who you might meet through tennis which of these people will change your life forever. As a tennis player, you may find yourself anywhere in the world and by simply name-dropping some of your contacts and whowing off your skills, you could be welcomed into the group. This can happen while you're pursuing a tennis career or a career completely unrelated to tennis. THIS is what college tennis is all about; connecting with people, making friends and sharing a commong experience with people who, at first impression, may seem so different but who turn out to have similar dreams, desires and motivations to us. 

In the end, it is not the foreigners who are ruining the college tennis opportunities and experience for US players; we (coaches, clubs, organizations, tournaments, academies, players and parents) are doing this all on our own. Colleges cannot be faulted when the #2 player from some far off _______-stan is a more solid player than our #23 junior (numbers used as an example). There is a great deal of pressure on colleges to compete and on coaches to win. Contrary to popular belief, collegiate athletics is not a charitable endeavor. A successful athletic program is likely to have a better endowment than one with less-than-stellar results. If a foreigner is better than a US player for a particular program, the former will be snapped up first. Simple as that. This is why most football players are Americans, as are most basketball players, or track athletes. We're simply better at those sports than the rest of the world (obviously, we have a competitive advantage when nobody else is playing the sport - e.g., football).

The key is to find a way to develop our top 150 graduating seniors to be better than the top players from foreign countries. In other words, the internationalization of collegiate tennis is a developmental problem, not a college issue. If our players are better, no coach in his right mind will look overseas for a weaker player. In this regard, the various facets of the industry have to work together in order promote the game, grow the game and develop top-notch players. Coaches, parents and players must understand what it takes and how much it costs and get on the correct track early. Given our resources and our position in the world, there is no excuse for failing to achieve our goals. 


McEnroe: Lost A Whole Generation of Players Who Should Have Gone To College


According to Patrick McEnroe: "We in the USTA maybe made a little mistake in pushing some of our junior prospects to go straight to the pros in the past. I think we lost a group who, if they had gone to college and had a chance to mature in every category, would still have had a chance to be a high-level professional....Only a small percentage of people playing college tennis will go pro, but if we can get a few into the top 100 we will be pleased... It can only increase our chances of producing a grand slam winner."

Also: "We're making more of an effort to encourage kids to go to college, or to stay in school once they get there. If you get someone as talented as Andy Roddick or Sam Querrey, it's pretty clear they're going to make a move to the pros, and rightly so. But over the last 15 years, I think we probably lost about a hundred potential top-100 players because they went pro too early. They were too young for a life on the road, they were lonely, and they got crushed by the competition. Next thing you know, they're completely out of the game. The reality is that college tennis is like Double-A ball, for the most part...You won't see many players who are going to wind up in the Top 10. But here in America, we could use more people in the top 30-50. We're really hurting in that department. In a lot of cases, I don't feel a player would lose any ground by playing in college. I'd be happy to see more of our young players take this road. It's a smart decision for tennis reasons, and also for life reasons."

There are, of course, two wrinkles with these assertions: (1) Which college should one attend for tennis given that, between 1971-2011, 580 tennis programs (not just D-1; not just men's tennis) were eliminated (see ITA-compile table, below); and (2) Who does the US college system benefit given the breakdown between US and foreign players (particularly in Division 1 - the most competitive league)?





1971 – 1980



1981 – 1991



1992 – 2002



2003 – 2010



Year Unknown






NOTE: Per the ITA (whom we thank for providing this information) - "From 1971 – 2011 (to date), 360 men’s programs and 220 women’s have been eliminated.   Men’s programs comprise 60% of the dropped programs which may lead many people to blame the unintended consequences of Title IX as the sole reason.  However, the statistics show that 40% of the dropped programs have been women’s teams.  Our research has found that other factors, including escalating costs, shrinking budgets, and reallocation of valuable real estate on which tennis courts sit, have contributed to the demise of collegiate programs." In other words, since Mr. McEnroe graduated from Stanford in 1988, over 200 programs have been lost...that's over ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED playing spots that no longer exist...per year. Imagine how many players could have kept playing after college had they had the opportunity to play college tennis to begin with? How many more up-and-coming juniors could they have positively influenced through their playing and experiences? Here's a break-down by region and division. Note the programs lost from tennis powerhouse sections such as Southern California, Eastern, Midwest, texas and Southern. 


USTA Section

Division I

M          W

Division II

M          W

Division III

M          W


M          W

Junior College

M          W



0            0

1            1

0            0

0              0

0              0



4            2

4            2

15          5

0              0

6              4



1            0

1            0

0            0

0              0

9              5


Hawaii Pacific

0            0

0            0

0            0

0              0

0              0



3            0

3            4

0            0

0              1

1              1



5            1

2            1

3            1

2              2

7              5


Middle States

3            0

7            3

4            6

1              0

10          10



15          2

6            3

12           4

5              4

12            8


Missouri Valley

7            1

7            4

2             1

15          15

7              6


New England

8            6

2            1

11           6

1              2

3              0



0            0

7            2

1            1

3              3

4              2


No. California

1            0

4            3

0            1

0              0

13            9


Pacific NW

2            0

3            3

0            1

1              1

0              0



10           1

15          7

0            0

10            9

26          13


So. California

3            0

  7           3

1            0

3              3

7            13



1            0

  1           0

0            0

0              0

2              2



6            0

  6           6

1            1

1              1

18          15










69        13

76         43

50        28

42          41

125         93


The tables below (teams ranked in top 75 at the end of the 2010 season) outline the breakdown of male US players in Division 1 rosters (2011-2012 season). Figures were compiled from the respective team websites as the ITA purports to not to track this type of data. We have requested this information from the ITA as it would be interesting to evaluate the fluctuations of percentages from year-to-year (particularly since 1988 going forward - since there's a possibility that Mr. McEnroe's outlook is shaped by that particular framework).

At first blush, things don't appear all that bleak for American players. After all, the majority of players are in fact American. However, the figures may be somewhat slanted in that if a foreign player comes to a US university, he does so with the intention of actually playing (i.e., these players are, for the most part, "starters"). They are not as enamored with merely attending (but not playing for) a particular school as a home-grown talent might be. Furthermore, a foreign starter is likely to command a larger scholarship percentage (unless they are financially "well off", they are probably not going to come from across the globe AND pay for college, are they). After adjusting the figures to account for these two factors, it is a distinct possibility that not only do the foreign players actually get the majority of the overall tennis experience afforded by the US college system (the % of matches played can be determined at the end of the season), but they also get the majority of the money allocated to the scholarships (closely guarded secret).

Wayne Bryan is a big advocate in putting a limit on foreign scholarships.  However, to be competitive in the NCAA Team rankings, coaches have to protect themselves by going foreign. After the top 20 Americans, it would be foolish to bypass on a world class foreigner to get a lower ranked American.  Coaches need to win to keep their jobs and tennis programs need to produce to justify the drain on the Athletic Department budgets. Until the rules change, college tennis will be heavily developing not only US players, but also our competition around the world (ie: Somdev Devvarman).

Patrick McEnroe is correct when he says we have lost a whole generation of players who should have went to college.  First of all, these players would have made college tennis more competitive, decreased the number of foreigners on high-end tennis programs, and increased the odds of more kids able to reach the top 100 through an old-fashioned maturation process.  

One of the new developments is the enlargement of the USTA Summer Collegiate Team.  Each player gets a $3,000 grant, a week of training with the USTA, and 2 USTA selected collegiate coaches at certain events.  When college players graduate, this is when they need the support the most.  Their parents who have supported them from 8-18 are mentally tired and financially tired. College programs can no longer provide coaching or support.  The kid is left alone to his own devices.  

According to Tim Russell of the USTA, the average age of men in the top 200 is 25 and women is 24. Tim shines light that the average player spends $143,000 to chase the dream per year.  Read the article here.  $3,000 grant is clearly not enough, but atleast college programs can fill the gap between 18-21 in offsetting costs and helping with the maturation process. 

In the near future, we will show the percentage of foreigners vs American born players for top 50 D1 teams over time.