Thursday, January 17, 2008

Magaret Court Slams Tennis Australia

Legendary Australian Margaret Court has publicly admonished Tennis Australia for their dismal failure to produce anything resembling a championship-level women's tennis player for twenty-five years. She offered to work with Alicia Molik. The 26 year-old went crashing out of the tournament to the Czech upstart Nicole Vaisadova - 18. Longtime readers of mine might remember my prediction of a grand slam title for Vaisadova, and soon.

There have been times when Alicia Molik looked like she had plenty of potential but I've never been sold on her viability as a top ten player. Court's larger points, however, are all good ones. She correctly notes that there is no reason why the country shouldn't be able to come up with a couple of top-notch women. Australia is a sports-obsessed culture where the sporting goes beyond the coach-potatoing that takes place in the US. In Australia sports participation lasts from cradle to grave. They continue to grow stronger in international competitions of all stripes and are expected to take a huge number of medals later this summer at the Olympics in Beijing. So what gives?
"They keep saying our players are very young, but you look at the top players winning grand slams when they're 17 and I think we've got to stop making excuses. We've got to search for the potential — and a lot of it is coming from country areas.

"You take a good athlete at an early age and you can make them into a player and that's why it's so important for the coaches to start them out on the right foot and with the right stroke production. We've also got to do away with the two-hander because it limits reach. Look at (Roger) Federer — it looks so easy and we should be coaching more like that."
I don't know if she's right. The trend is away from the two-handed backhand, but the attack on that stroke is misplaced. Two-handers continue to thrive (just check out the rankings). If anything, I'd expect Court to attack the death of serve and volley tennis, as other great Aussies and our own Pete Sampras and John McEnroe have done over the last couple of years.

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