Friday, September 18, 2009

US Tennis and Cultivating New Talent

With the US Open behind us now, and two new US Open champions on the men's and women's singles side of the court, I am reminded about an article looking at what USTA is doing to increase the amount of tennis players from the US. The article states that American's have far less impact on the top rankings than they did in the past. This is not really the fault of USTA. Rather it is a natural progression of a sport that is increasing full of international players. I do not think it is a coincidence that nearly 20 years after Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin wall that there are fewer US tennis players in the Top 100 ranked players than there were in the 1980's.

Thus, the real culprit is an increasing population of tennis players from around the world playing tennis, and some of those non US or Western European players entering tennis have bumped out some US and Western players from the Top 100 rankings - which is Steven Jay Gould's hypothesis about the disappearance of the 0.400 hitter.

Changes in population and its impact on competitive balance is a topic that I have published on (with David Berri and others) focusing on the stability of competitive balance for the same sport, differences in competitive balance among different sports and changes in competitive balance within a sport. In each case, we can link those to changes in the underlying population of talent.

Hence, if the USTA wants to increase the top talent of tennis players that are US born, they need to make tennis more attractive to young children. That is easier typed than done; but reducing the cost of playing tennis for young people would be a step in the right direction, and that is a heavy burden for Patrick McEnroe.

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