| By Steven Kaplan

The new crop of young American players has not been looking too impressive at the 2011 Australian Open, in fact, they look as weak as any upcoming group of rising Americans I have seen. Charles Bricker of World Tennis Magazine said several days ago that, "The American women's game is in shambles." The men's side isn't looking much better either.

Perhaps the Spanish and French are just better organized at implementing cutting-edge player development programs. Maybe players from areas with great economic and political conflict, such as Eastern Europe, are hungrier. High profile sports like basketball certainly have tremendous allure for some of our country's most promising athletes.

I'm reasonably certain that the compelling factor in explaining why American tennis doesn't now dominate the Grand Slams is not the result of that " extra" match that the elite 14-year old Americans play in draws of 128 even if it is an easy match against a mediocre player.

My guess is that because it is relatively expansive to gain tennis success in this country if you have the wealth to compete, then you also have the resources to fund a higher education and use tennis success as a means rather than an end.

Maybe we should shift the paradigm here of how we judge success. Maybe Americans are too adept at providing educational and professional opportunities to make the risks of a pro career viable?

Speaking of paradigm shifts, the ATP tour claims the game's economics have not suffered because of the dominance of European stars. Rather, American companies such as FedEx have recently entered the sport hoping to expand on European business. More locally, the USTA saw record attendance at the U.S. Open this past year.

That's not such a bleak scenario ... is it?

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.