It's bad enough, but let's remember...
By Jim Reffkin

March 2005

It's bad enough that we lost the Davis Cup, but it's even worse how it happened. Just think about it, we played in Carson, California, the home of our new West Coast "High Performance" training center. It could not have been more of a "home" court advantage for us, in fact, as host for the event, we even had the opportunity to choose the surface.

It's bad enough that we lost a first round home match for the first time in one hundred and five years, but we lost with what has been described as the "dream team." We had not only the very best American singles players - Roddick and Agassi - representing the United States, but the very best "doubles team" in the world - the Bryan twins.

It is bad enough we lost, but to make it even worse, it was over before the last match was even played; Agassi did not even have a chance to redeem himself.

It is bad enough, but let's remember in years past we could never get our very best players to play for us; and then when we do, we are almost shut out. Just think, over the last few years our players have been complaining about the playing format and the poor timing of the events. Can it get any more embarrassing? Yes.

It is bad enough that we had to watch the matches on tape into the wee hours of evening, but even worse, let's remember that this reflects poorly on our positioning with live major sports presented during this same weekend. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, on network television, had a dramatic showdown - not a major - that kept even the most passive viewers spellbound. On this same Sunday afternoon that Billy Packer claimed, "College basketball is on fire!" - Tennis not only lost the first round of the Davis Cup, but lost big time in television entertainment value.

Tennis, American style did not have a chance. I stayed up for the marathon, on tape, four hour Roddick vs. Ljubicic match that we lost, and it became a real yawner with a 6-2 last set that literally fizzled for a lack of an exciting climax. Any match, game or sporting event that goes four hours, must by its very nature, have an excellent chance for an exciting finish. The golf tournament went two hours and fifty-five minutes, the basketball games went two hours and fifteen minutes. Both these events were scheduled - time definable - for 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm for golf and the four white knuckle basketball games, approximately two hours. My point is time definable sports will be televised live, tennis won't, unless it's the US Open.

It is bad enough that we lost, but let's remember, it could've been worse. Believe it or not in the late 80's it was definitely worse, an all time low, we lost to Paraguay in the Davis Cup and had few players in the top ten. The USTA immediately created a "blue ribbon panel" to research our commitment in developing "world class players." I served on this national committee with the likes of Jack Kramer, Billy Jean King and Cliff Drysdale - Arthur Ashe was the Chairman.

After tremendous expense and exhaustive worldwide research, the conclusion we arrived at almost twenty years ago, is what we are still trying to implement today, without much success I might add. It's the infamous words of wisdom that Coach of the Year, Al Maguire once said when asked about his coaching success in winning the NCAA college basketball championship, "Its not the coaching, it's the recruiting- that's what I'm good at."

It's bad enough the tennis community does not understand that developing world class players you must have world class athletes. Lets remember, major sports in America dominate the youth market, we lose from the get go. The infrastructure of youth sports in baseball, basketball, football and soccer is awesome. At the earliest age, tennis must compete for these kids, we must offer a logical competitive progression, a rich menu of appropriate events to secure the interest of not only the child, but the parents as well.

Please visit our web page for this menu - Go to tournament information, then Junior, then slide show on the right of the screen.