While we aren't trying to buy champions or create a tennis welfare program, we'll help anyone. Lansdorp's right when he says that intense mentor-protégé relationships can pay off. If a talented kid chooses not to live and train under our supervision at one of our main training centers, we'll look for some other way to help him out. It may mean financing his or her trip to Europe, where the player can compete in minor league events; it may mean sending one of our coaches on the road with the kid, or underwriting a two-week training session at camp in Spain, so the youngster can get a taste of a different culture, and immerse himself in clay-court tennis.
Ryan Harrison, one of the U.S.A.'s outstanding prospects, is affiliated with the IMG Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy; his father, Pat, is a teaching pro there. That's just fine with us. The last thing we want is to go into competition with successful private academies or pros. And we still want to do whatever we can for Ryan and others like him. Our approach is very disappointing to parents and coaches who just want to tap into our financial resources. Then they go and complain to the press, and the story becomes one about our institutional indifference, or alleged refusal to help this poor, starving tennis player. Most people would be shocked to know the extent to which the USTA helped some players who never uttered a public word of thanks, even after they became very successful.
With us, it's not a matter of "our way or the highway." It's more like, "We're willing to spring for a tank of gas, but we want to know where the bus is going."
From HARDCOURT CONFIDENTIAL by Patrick McEnroe with Peter Bodo. Copyright (c) 2009 Patrick McEnroe. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.