College is one of the fool proof ways to receive a great education, and better your resume to potential workplaces. It is not, however, a good way to spend your prime years as a tennis player. College is killing American tennis.
It's been 9 long years since we've had an American #1 and an American Grand Slam champion. Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open and was world #1 right after that in 2003, the same year Roger Federer won his first of seven Wimbledon championships. Andy Roddick may be the most unlucky tennis player because without Federer and Rafael Nadal, I see this guy having at least 4 majors. But stick those guys in there? UNO. But since Roddick's lone major win, Americans have been in a drought.
Where have all the Americans gone?
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were America's last big Grand Slam winners. Since them, Roddick has done his best to keep American tennis alive, but his power bomb of a serve has faltered lately.
The big American hope for Majors lately has been big John Isner. John has a booming serve, not to mention he's a good 6'10" tall with shoes on. He's only 27, but in tennis terms, that's grizzled veteran status. Here's the thing, Isner spent 4 years of his prime tennis life at the University of Georgia playing tennis. That's 4 years he was playing college players when he could have been like Australia's 19-year-old Bernard Tomic, who has been playing the cream of the ATP's crop since he was 17.
Watch John beat World #1 Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells this year. His first victory over a World #1
John had to learn how to beat pros when he was 22, when non-American players are going pro at a young age.
Don't get me wrong, a college education is a wonderful thing to have when you're thirty and your tennis career is dwindling down (bar Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, and Tommy Haas, who are all over 30 and getting their best results yet), but if you want to be a great player, the longer you're playing against the best players, the better you're going to be at a younger age.
Isner's fresh legs may mean he can play a little longer than the traditional player because he's got less time on the grueling tennis schedule, but he will have to play very young kids at an older age, which is not a good combination.
Other than Isner, there are only a few "young" guys, Donald Young (23), who may break the Open Era's losing streak record, Ryan Sweeting (25), and the hot tempered Ryan Harrison (19).
There were days when a 17-year-old could win a major on the men's side, but now, since the Big 3 or4 - however you view Andy murray - started dominating, the younger guys are having a tougher time coming up and winning. As Roger Federer said after whooping Bernard Tomic in Cincinnati this week, "It seems like it is a little harder for guys to come up now in the new generation, with Rafa, Novak, myself and Andy [Murray]."
As the great players get older, yet stay great (think Federer, Fish, Haas), it makes it increasingly tougher for guys to break through in tournaments, which is why it is imperative to get reps in as a younger player.
College hurts American tennis players because they spend good years player lesser foes. Yes, some of the players need the extra confidence before going pro, but in other countries, they are breeding these kids to be successful.
Look at Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. He's 21, and commonly called 'Baby Federer' and has had good and bad results. He, or his family, decided at a young age that he was going to be a tennis professional. He's still only 21, though, and will start to hit his prime soon.
When Roger Federer was 13-years-old, he made the decision to stop playing soccer to focus on becoming a better tennis player. Look where it's got him.
Obviously not everyone can be a Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, but I believe college would have hurt every single on of the top players' careers.
Here's to hoping John Isner, number 10 in the world, will be America's next big winner, and it's also my hope that it ignites a fire in the American youths' belly, bringing up a new wave of great young players.Back to the Tennis Newsfeed