For the past 2 years now, there has been a pretty high degree of uncertainty regarding American tennis. When will it return to dominance again? Who will be the next Pete Sampras or Andy Roddick or Serena Williams? What kind of program is in place to help the development of young talents?
Although the men’s side is giving some timid signs of growth with Jack Sock and Steve Johnson, the women’s side is waiting for a breakthrough season from one or more players.
Sloane Stevens, Madison Keys, Alison Riske, Christina Mchale and Lauren Davis are all very young players, but some of their talents is definitely top 5 material.
During my tenure at the Evert Tennis Academy I have had the opportunity to work with several players currently on the tour. Among them, I can easily say that I have specials memories about two: Madison Keys and Lauren Davis.
I worked with Madison Keys early in her career; she was only 15 years old when I first stepped on the court with her and the tennis industry (sponsors, agencies, coaches etc.) was already in love with her talent.
Although her early career was at times inconsistent alternating some incredible performances (like the one in 2009 at the World Team Tennis against Serena Williams), to some inexplicable others; her talent was undeniable.
Madison had to deal since her early stages with two main obstacles: injuries and the pressure from the outside. Obviously, my main job on court with her was to teach the fundamentals of the game, but the biggest challenge was mainly to help her managing all the pressure Madison was carrying inside her.
I spent just about 1 year working with Madison; I had no doubt that once her maturity process kicked in and her body would stayed injury-free, she would have made tremendous progresses.
Tennis was never a question.
Madison has a natural timing on the ball. This timing allows her to create incredible power from both side of her groundstrokes. Her forehand can out-power just about anyone while her backhand is extremely solid and precise.
Madison biggest weapon is her serve; she has spent a lot time working on this shot and when she is in sync, she has one of the most powerful serves on the tour. As a former player of mine, I obviously still watch her very closely.
I have seen her growing and transforming as a player and as a person. Her biggest difference now from her junior years? The way she handles herself. She deals with the pressure better; she has embraced the fact that she is a popular professional player and people expect a lot from her.
In 2014 we have only seen part of her potential (winning her first WTA event in Birmingham, or beating several top 20 players), but the margin for improvement is still very big. In my opinion, her next step is to manage her game and make better choices during the match.
This aspect has coasted her few matches last year (the one in Paris versus Errani for example). Right now she is working with Lindsey Davenport who I believe can help her tremendously in this area. The scary thing is that Madison is only 19 years old, once she fixes few areas of her game, I would not be surprised to see her making a deep run in a major tournament.
Another young player that is special to me is Lauren Davis.
Lauren and Madison have very different characteristics. It was quiet a challenge going from one style of play to a very different one. My time with Lauren was extremely successful and rewarding. I worked with Lauren towards the end of her Junior career and the beginning of her professional journey.
The transition from junior to pro is a very delicate time for any aspiring player. Continuing with the development of the player while facing harder competition can cause some obstacles on the way. Despite few bumps on the road, I believe Lauren did a tremendous job understanding the challenges of continuously improving her game while dealing with stronger and more experienced players and face several more losses.
Lauren was a dominating player during her Junior career, winning several tournaments including Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl. Her game was based on consistency, physical endurance, great accelerations from the baseline and tremendous mental toughness.
Despite great success at the Junior level, we had to make some adjustments to her game.
So, we worked a lot on her court positioning and developing her forehand into a weapon. Lauren’s backhand was and still is one of the best in the world.
Lauren is 5”2’ tall, but what she lacks in height she makes up in heart and toughness.
Still today, I do not know anyone willing to fight and work hard as much as Lauren does. The bigger the challenge in front of her, the bigger is her desire to prove everyone wrong and most of the time she succeeds.
Just like Madison, I follow closely Lauren’s development and results.
Lauren has become a more aggressive player, hugging the baseline and taking the ball earlier. Her serve, which during her junior career was a weakness has improved tremendously. Her forehand has become more solid and more powerful while her backhand is still one of the best out there.
Lauren has matured quickly in the last 12 months. I see her competing on TV and she does a much better job handling herself.
She has a clear idea of what she needs to do to become an elite player. Lauren is 20 years old and Madison is 19; they are both in the beginning of their promising careers. Although their talents may be very different, their goals make them similar.
Lauren’s determination and Madison’s power are already known in the tour.
2015 has started already on a good note for Madison beating Cibulkova in Brisbane and even better for Lauren reaching the semi-final in Auckland.
The American women’s tennis is well represented even thanks to these two promising players. .