| By Steven Kaplan

Arthur Ashe once called Martin Blackman "The next great American champion."

Things did not work out as expected for Blackman, as his top junior career did not translate to success on the ATP Tour. Blackman had a short stint on the Tour and was ranked as high as 158th in the world at one point.

As USTA’s new director of player development, Martin Blackman will succeed Patrick McEnroe and bring his keen insight and perspective into evolving from a junior to a professional. He will know the pitfalls, as well as the path, to greatness.

As a terrific player, savvy coach and academy director, Martin Blackman has seen it all. He is also no stranger to USTA Player Development, having served as director of talent identification for several years and was instrumental in bringing private tennis academies into the USTA development system. Blackman released a statement upon the announcement of his hiring promising to reach out to past American champions for advice and input.

Many, including USTA CEO Gordon Smith, see this hire as a reaffirmation of the current player development system.

I hope not.

The USTA Player Development System needs reform and the next great American champion will be born from passion, not politics.

I hope Martin Blackman will rise above the current system and bring a vision of greatness to the future of U.S. tennis.

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.