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STATE OF U.S. TENNIS
In defense of my former partner Nick Bollettieri and his coaching philosophy, I would like to point out that Jimmy Arias, Carling Bassett, Aaron Krickstein, Chip Hooper, Rodney Harmon, Eric Korita, Kathleen Horvath et al. achieved their highest level of international ranking while students at the Bollettieri academy, or shortly afterward. Who is to say that their decline as players was a result of their baseline style of play? Perhaps Nick's method of coaching Arias and Krickstein—i.e., building on their strengths—would have ensured them a higher international ranking when their minds and bodies matured and they were able to raise their level of play and add pace to their already patented forehands. Personally, I feel they left the academy too soon, before Nick had a chance to prepare the final chapter of their young careers.
I wholeheartedly agree with Deford concerning the USTA's lack of leadership at the international level of play. Therein lies the American problem.
So American tennis aficionados worry that multimillion-dollar endorsements have taken away some of the top players' incentive. The U.S. men's volleyball team has dominated the world for three straight years without megabuck prizes and budgets but still completed the Triple Crown by defeating the Soviets in the world championships in October. So why doesn't tennis find some athletes with the will to excel, like our volleyball players, who would love to star on ESPN but will not settle for 35th best?
It may well be that yuppification is destroying the moral fiber of the country, though it must be offered in their defense that yuppies represent one of our nation's smallest and hardest-working (if egregiously self-centered) minorities. More likely, Deford has simply fallen victim to yet another strain of the Golden Age syndrome.
If Deford is searching for the Big Parallel (the decline of tennis and the decline of our manufacturing industries? a weak backhand and a lack of parental discipline?), his metaphorical reach has exceeded his grasp. After all, it was the generation of managers now nearing retirement that presided over all that.
A more credible explanation—although it lacks the cosmic dimension—may be that today's mothers, fearful of unleashing another McMonster, are steering their children into more gentlemanly enterprises. Like hockey.
SUPER BOWL LOBSTERS