Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby BSharma » Wed Feb 12, 2003 10:38 pm

Some talented 16 or 17 years old Indian tennis players must be wondering whether they should turn pro at 18 years (e.g., Sunil Kumar) or go to a college in USA on a tennis scholarship to improve their game (e.g., Harsh Mankad). I am not talking about players like Leander who were much too good for a US college tennis team, and perhaps Sania fits into this category also. I am also not talking about players who come to USA to get free education by using a tennis scholarship and have no interest in pursuing a pro tennis career.

What advice would you give to these borderline players? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each system? These players would have to prepare for the SAT to get into a US college and it requires time and effort.

Recently I read a nice article on Steve G's tennis website about this issue.

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby jayakris » Thu Feb 13, 2003 2:31 am

It depends on how much noise you have made in India and whether you are able to garner sponsorship support for the first 2-3 years of pro tour. In some cases, it depends on whether the college type of grind will help settle down your game. The former issue is the more important one.

In Harsh's case, he had reached a dead end with people not believing that he could make it. He had no support (as in ZERO support) despite being somewhere right at #50 just at age 17 in the juniors, ranked #1 for a while among Indian juniors and having won something like 6 different national titles in different age categories. He waited for over a year in India, and nobody would bite with any support. You know, "not tall, you have no power, you ain't making it", was what everybody was telling. He took off to the US (to some extent due to some real nagging from me to do that too). It helped him, because he was able to prove himself in college and get some people to start to believe in him as one that just might still have a chance. Could he have become good staying in India - I don't know, I doubt it. He wouldn't have had any money to do anything and might have quite possibly lost heart - his parents are not the richest out there. Once he did very well as runner-up in the 99 satellites after a year of college, people started taking him seriously, taking him into the Davis Cup team. He reached top-5 (and #1 too) in the US colleges, and AITA opened up their wallets too. Things have worked out for him though he has only limited time to make a big jump in ATP (in the next 2 years by the time he is 25, probably).

I did not think Sunil Kumar would benefit from the college grind, as he already had a lot of believers, and he had a sponsoring group in Paes-en-Sport. There wasn't much point in going to college.

Rohan Gajjar and Amanjot Singh, the top two juniors from last year, took the right decision in coming to college, in my view. Neither had created the serious noise for support from India, but both had shown top-75 junior quality and potential for improvement with some college grind and mental and/or physical strengthening that they would probably get in college. Both have the kind of quality to go to top-10 levels in college by their 3rd year. They may be more ready for pro tennis then, than they would be by struggling along in Indian satellites for 3 years (and playing not more that a handful of good opponents ever year - not enough to improve)

What you get in college, especially if you reach the top 2 spots in a decent university is something like 10 to 20 matches against top-100 quality players and something like 30-40 decent matches which is probably twice the number of competitive matches you get by staying in India, unless you have money to make a few trips abroad and all that. The number of good matches you play is very important.

But, you should have no grand illusions about college. Colleges do NOT coach much (only very few coaches in colleges really do much of technical coaching sessions). Having the gym and other facilities available, and seeing the physical condition of a lot of the top players, would motivate some to work on those aspects too, or the coach may get you to focus a bit on that. These are all good for those who do not have sponsorship in India for the first 2-3 years or pro tour after the juniors.

As for next year, at this time I would feel that Somdev may benefit from coming to college - because he started making noises a bit late. But he has been doing very well and may get picked up by some sponsoring group, or AITA themselves (meaning, a commitments of at least $20K for a year). He may for instance go ahead and win 2 or 3 rounds at a place like Wimbledon and create the right hoopla and earn that kind of support. Without that, he may not have enough to carry on. I am not sure if his family is rich enough to support him. So, it depends, in his case.

On the girls' side, I don't think college tennis is all that useful for serious development towards WTA top levels, because there have not been too many noticeable cases cases of girls who have come out of college and crashed into the top-300 levels before age 23 or 24. On the boys' side the top-5 or so players in college every year have quite routinely done that. Manisha was one relatively successful story, where she made quite a successful career for a few years now, since leaving college after 4 years there. Not bad at all. Could she have done as well staying in India, I don't know. Some of Manisha's success was due to some attitude and work ethic improvements in college, I am sure. She started doing well abroad quite fast after college, whereas comparable contemporaries Rushmi and Sai took a bit longer to do that, in my view (hats off to those two, by the way, for finding ways to keep playing nearly full-time; Sometimes I wonder how they all manage to do that).

Sania, no. No point at all for her to go to college at all. Isha and Ankita, I don't know. Perhaps not useful for them either.

There is another of my long-winded answer. There is a point or two I am making somewhere in there, I think :wink:

Jay
Last edited by jayakris on Thu Feb 13, 2003 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby BSharma » Thu Feb 13, 2003 4:01 am

The web site about pros and cons of playing tennis at a US college versus turning pro is at:

http://www.tennis.info/JoshInterview.asp

Jay brings up several good points on this subject and I would like other Indian tennis fans to share their thoughts here. I believe that this website has become an important source of information for young Indian tennis players. Perhaps these young and upcoming players can learn from your comments and hopefully make a correct decision. For the 16 and 17 year old Indian players now is the time to start thinking seriously about college tennis in USA if that is one option for them.

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby jayakris » Thu Feb 13, 2003 1:02 pm

Thanks, BBS. That is a really nice interview!

Jay

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby gvhvhg » Thu Feb 13, 2003 4:37 pm

I think that the borderline players SHOULD go to college and then re-evaluate the situation and take it form there. If they do relativley well, head for the pros. If not then you've got your degree!

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Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby jayakris » Thu Feb 13, 2003 5:32 pm

I wouldn't say border-line.  More like the few just below the "making noise" line.  More like those who finish the ITF junior career in the #75 to #150 or 200 mark.    Those below that would probably not make a big headway in colleges and would find it tough to get full or decent scholarship in any of the top-50 schools (or would find it tough to make it to the top 2 spots within a year.  Without that college tennis is useless).   The ones inside the top-100 by the end of their junior career have a good chance to do rather wll and get a good number of competitive matches to improve (without spending money) in college.

Jay
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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby BSharma » Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:05 pm

Former Davis Cupper, Naresh Kumar, has rekindled the debate about playing college tennis in USA or turning pro at 18 years of age.  He wrote at The Telegraph “A former junior champion, Varman has benefited from the US collegiate system, which has very good training systems. More important than the training is the exposure to highly competitive inter-collegiate matches. Our boys, generally placid by nature, develop an aggressive and confident attitude in the US which is of much benefit. In the past, Indians who have played in the US inter-collegiate circuit have made significant contributions to our Davis Cup matches.”

We had a discussion at Sports-India about this topic in February 2003 and in the meanwhile we have gained experience of several Indian junior players turning pro as soon as their junior eligibility was over or playing for US college team on tennis scholarship.
What do all of you think? 

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby sameerph » Thu Mar 01, 2007 6:37 am

I think one reason that for AITA & Indian eastablishment is wary of budding players joining US colleges is perhaps most of them tend to give up on tennis after they complete their college career .   

Somdev is someone who seems to have clearly benefitted from the college stint. But i do not know if this happens im most of the cases ?

I am curious to know if the coaching they get is singificiantly better then they get in India ? 

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby x_y_Z_a » Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:04 pm

The coaching, the facilities and the physical training are much better in most US colleges compared to what is available in India. The competition in NCAA inter-school tournaments are very good, especially if you happen to play #1, or #2 position for the college. On top of it it is free.

But the -ve side to that is you lose most of the four years of your prime youth from pro level competition. If you can afford similar level of coaching / training yourself, one would be better off to skip college.

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby BSharma » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:00 am

College Tennis in USA or Turn Pro?

Sameer posted an extract of an article published in the Hindustan Times e-paper about Sanam Singh being lured away by American college tennis.  Part of Sameer’s extract posted in Sanam Singh’s thread is below.

Sanam shocks AITA, lured away by West
Deepika Sharma
New Delhi 
   
He (Sanam Singh) heads to the US this August on a tennis scholarship to pursue academics at the Virginia State University…

For someone who was considered by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) as the next generation Davis Cup singles player, Sanam's decision is a bit baffling. Quitting the pro circuit and going to study is something which several Indian tennis players have done before…

…Yet, when one takes into account the exposure Sanam has had, his decision to study in the US reflects what is going through his mind. "I have got admission in Virginia State University and am waiting for the final call," he said…

…But the point is, of all the Indian players who went to the US on a tennis scholarship, few ever made it big in the sport. And he must be well aware of it?...

Some members have responded in various threads about the pros and cons of college tennis as a path to pro tennis and moderators can post them under a single thread dedicated to this topic. 

Please add your comments.

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby BSharma » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:10 am

The success of Somdev Varman at college tennis level has brought into focus an option for 18-19 year-old Indian tennis players to improve their skills at US based colleges rather than turning pro. 

There is a long list of great players who competed in college, including Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe and doubles specialists Mahesh Bhupathi, Bryan twins and Rick Leach. A tennis scholarship at a good US based college provides good facilities and support system to improve the game; however, the last college player in USA who won a singles title at a Slam was John McEnroe and he went to college thirty years back.

College Tennis in USA or Turn Pro?
If the goal of young people is to become the best in tennis, should they spend three or four years honing their skills in a college environment?  It may sound sacrilegious to suggest youngsters to forgo college education in favor of turning pro, but the top pro tennis players in the past couple of decades did not attend or finish college.

Tennis changed drastically once amateur players were replaced by professionals on the Tour.  US based colleges no longer were the only nurseries that nurtured future champions and tennis academies sprung all over the world; young teens and pre-teens started attending tennis academies where the focus was entirely on tennis, and tennis associations in several countries sent their talented junior players with coaches to tournaments all over the world.  The result was players such as Sampras, Agassi, Federer, Nadal, Boris Becker and Courier became champions at an early age.  After all, a tennis player has a short time to achieve greatness as a professional player and the good tennis academies prepared the players at an early age to turn pro.

Before the talented junior Indian players try to emulate Federer and Nadal and jump into the pro ranks, they must evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and decide if they are ready for the Tour.

The Transition from Junior to Senior Ranks
The transition from junior ranks to pro tennis level is often a difficult task.  A top ten rank as a junior player is often not a guarantee of success as a professional player.  The seasoned pro players will quickly find the holes in the game of the talented youngsters and exploit them.  Lack of sponsorship or adequate help from tennis associations can stifle the progress of young professional players.  The players are often caught in a “catch-22” situation – not enough money to hire coaches and trainers, and without expert help, it is difficult to become a top player.  The loneliness on the Tour, challenges of domestic and international travel, obtaining suitable diet, practice partners and facilities for physical fitness while traveling, and proper scheduling of tournaments are some of the problems that the youngsters have to encounter on their own.

Are Indian Juniors Similar to European/American Counterparts?
Many Indian junior players at the threshold of turning pro have numerous shortcomings.  Their fitness, muscular strength, dietary habits, mental and emotional maturity, lack of proper coaching and inadequate finances leave them several notches behind the 18-20 year-old players coming out of many countries in Europe, USA and South America.  Sanam Singh, for example, was ranked in the top three in juniors and won a Futures singles title in India in December 2005, yet he has deficiencies in his game that will prevent him from becoming a top 100 player unless he rectifies them. 

College Tennis in USA - Pros and Cons
Some of these transitional problems can be solved by attending a good tennis college in America.  Playing the #1 or #2 singles spot for a college team in a tough NCAA tennis conference affords adequate opportunities to play against top 300-500 type players, and the fitness centers at US colleges are amongst the best in the world, although most strength coaches have experience of working with mainly football, baseball and basketball players.  Tennis coaches at US colleges are good, but not great and tennis players have access to trainers, nutritionists and psychologists, if they choose to seek their help.  A college education provides time to mature as a person and a player, fosters team spirit, offers plenty of practice partners, gives an opportunity to build connections with tennis officials and college alumni, and by taking a semester off, offers a chance to test the waters of pro-tennis.  A player can turn pro before graduating from college if he feels that his game is ready for the Tour, but has a comforting feeling that he could return to finish his education if his pro career does not take off. 

A tennis scholarship at an American college requires an Indian student-athlete to balance studies, sports and college life away from his family and loved ones, and it requires discipline and single-mindedness of purpose to succeed as a player.  Some talented young players go to college and find the atmosphere distracting and lose focus; however, as Jay has pointed out, all gifted Indian male tennis players who have gone to American colleges have shown the maturity and responsibility to stay on their intended paths.

The current tennis system in India is inadequate to produce a top 100 male player unless a super talented player comes along, and college tennis in America does not guarantee a top 100 rank as a professional player, but the latter offers a chance to the Indian players to plug in the holes in their game and make them more competitive on the Tour.  I have often wondered how far Somdev’s game would have progressed had he turned pro instead of going to college.

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby x_y_Z_a » Fri Jun 15, 2007 8:54 am

As I had said earlier, if you can afford a good trvelling coach, trainer, nutritionist and psychologist you are better off turning pro directly without attending US college.

But if you cannot afford the above, or lucky to get picked by an international academy like the case of Rupesh, American college tennis is the viable alternative. This gives you the environment to improve your tennis skills constatntly. But the sacrifice you make is to lose four years of pro tennis.

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby jai_in_canada » Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:04 pm

I am big fan of college education.  Even if a player has good enough potential to make it to Top 50-100 ATP or WTA, there is a good reason to go to college. Why?  Because as a player ranked 50-100 you don't really net that much in prize money and endorsements, your playing career may be no more than 10 years - and then what do you do at 28?  And what if an injury ends your career?  Or if you are injury prone like Prakash?

One has to think long term and plan accordingly.  Maybe there is a career in sports marketing, player agent, broadcasting, coaching, management of a training facility etc.  What skills are required for that?  Can you go to college after your tennis career is done?

My take - there is only one circumstance when an 18 year old should not go to college - and that is if the junior shows such tremendous potential that at least a Top 50 ATP/WTA is a given. 

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby jaydeep » Thu Jul 12, 2007 6:36 am

In his recent interview Bhupathi also provided support to Indian players who accepts the scholarship programme offered by the American Universities.

No dearth of talent: Bhupathi

Hindu article wrote: “Guys who are taking scholarships are going there on the power of their achievements in tennis and there is no reason to fear that they would give up on the sport.”

Bhupathi said that he was a big believer in the scholarship system. Bhupathi tipped Somdev Dev Varman, who recently won the NCAA men’s singles title playing for the University of Virginia, as the player to watch on the professional tour.

Bhupathi said that there was no dearth of talent, but the Indians lacked mental training.
“One needs to be tough mentally to take on the challenge on the professional tour and perform in front of a big crowd.”


Jaydeep.

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Re: Turn pro at 18 yrs or go to US college on tennis scholarship

Postby arjun2761 » Thu Jul 12, 2007 1:19 pm

What big crowds?  Typically, challenger level tournaments in the US are played before near empty stands.  I doubt if this is a factor although mental focus needed to manage their day-to-day life and travel (without mama's help) is probably a factor at least early on (I think LP admitted as much once).


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