Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Aussie men aced at French Open

ELEANOR HALL: Australian tennis fans woke up to some depressing news this morning.

For the first time in almost a century, Australia doesn't have a player in the second round of the men's French Open.

Our reporter Simon Santow has been speaking to Scott Draper, a former player and now the development manager for Tennis Australia.

SCOTT DRAPER: I was a part of a, you know an era, where there was, I think we were, there was us, America and Spain at one point who had the most players in the top hundred, and it was very hard for me, you know, a top 50 player in the world to get a run in our Davies Cup team.

And there's no question that these sort of times are tough, but I think there are a lot of reasons for that, and we could spend all day talking about those reasons. But I can assure you that there's plenty of people like me involved in Tennis Australia, who are very passionate about turning this around and it is heading in the right direction, there's no question about that.

We have plenty of good kids coming through, and I wouldn't be involved unless I was excited about where we're headed.

SIMON SANTOW: So fans ought to be a bit patient, do you think?

SCOTT DRAPER: You have to be. There's no question that the game, it's a lot harder to make it to the top level of tennis these days, there's more nations being represented, it is taking longer for kids to get their first point in transition into the top 100, and we are definitely trying to have a whole host of good, young juniors coming through to try and making it into the professional ranks.

SIMON SANTOW: There'd be many people, Scott Draper, who would say look, it's not a surprise, this has been a slide that has been going on for a long time now.

SCOTT DRAPER: One of the trends that's definitely evident in terms of international tennis is that there's a lot more, so many more countries being represented now, I think there's about 140 nations playing Davies Cup competition now. The number of countries that have been represented in the top 100, it's a 50 per cent increase over the last 20 years.

You know we're not going to use, I guess, stats or those numbers as excuses. I think we are absolutely, you know, working towards having a very good crop of young players coming through, and I think we do.

There's been some great results in recent times. You know the Junior Davies Cup team, the boys won in 2009, and we've got Ben Mitchell making the finals of Wimbledon last year. We've got some great girls coming through in Ash Barty, and plenty of others.

You know, James Duckworth, another teenager, just won in Poland in a futures event. There's only two teenagers in the top 200 at the moment, one's Ryan Harrison and one's Bernard Tomic.

SIMON SANTOW: So two teenagers across the world?

SCOTT DRAPER: Yeah, there's only two.

SIMON SANTOW: And one of them is Australian?

SCOTT DRAPER: One of them is Australian, yes.

SIMON SANTOW: On the face of it that sounds like a great deal of potential. Is there a problem, do you think in converting that potential into hardnosed results? Are Australian young players hungry enough, I suppose, and desperate enough to keep winning?

SCOTT DRAPER: I think that that's something that we are definitely addressing, I'm a big believer in that also.

SIMON SANTOW: So you have detected that sort of softness?

SCOTT DRAPER: Absolutely. But I think that, and that is just a generic comment obviously, there's plenty of individuals out there who aren't that way, there's a lot of kids working their butt off to realise their dream to become a professional tennis player, but I think that a lot of the, you know, I guess, the western countries have been experiencing a little bit of that.

There's so many opportunities and resources available, especially for Grand Slam nations like ours where we can provide a lot. I think we're always trying to find the balance between making them tough and I guess, mollycoddling them.

My new role is development manager for Tennis Australia is certainly something I'm passionate about. I'm a big believer in physicality and mentality.

SIMON SANTOW: Why do you think it is that the women are doing better?

SCOTT DRAPER: Personally, I think there's more opportunity in the female game. I think the depth of men's tennis has always been there and it's increasingly so. I think there's a bit of room for more physicality in the women's game.

I mean, if you look at the difference between men and women in general, obviously strength is one of the main differences that you look at in terms of the difference of standard and I think, because in Tennis Australia we do have, well I think pretty much world leading sports science, one of the areas we do address is the physicality, and I think that the girls are reaping the benefit of that resource.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the development manager for Tennis Australia Scott Draper, speaking there to Simon Santow.

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