Unvaccinated players will seemingly be allowed to compete at next year’s Australian Open.
It is time Tennis Australia put its hand up and realised that its player development model isn’t working.
Our players are technically brilliant, but many crack, in various forms, under any sort of heat.
Look at our recent history.
Nick Kyrgios is the obvious example, after his Shanghai Masters showing – or lack thereof.
I don’t see this incident as being indicative of a brat or a sore loser. It is someone who wanted to get off the court. Only days before, he had taken his first ATP 500 tournament in Tokyo while playing very much under the radar.
Expectations mount, pressure builds and he worries he won’t meet expectations, so he puts in an obvious lack of effort – meaning his ability can’t be questioned. He is controlling the loss.
Being a bit older, Bernard Tomic was the next great hope for Australia as Lleyton Hewitt entered his twilight.
Yet he has sworn at spectators, asked umpires to eject his own father, and been in trouble with the law. Would you brand him a criminal?
It is more of a case of a young and immature man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders, lashing out and trying to escape in his own mind. Interestingly, Tomic was dropped for a Hopman Cup tie for complaining about a lack of support from Tennis Australia. Maybe there was some truth in his outburst.
Samantha Stosur also sits in this category.
The difference is not how pressure manifests itself – she never partakes in the theatrics of her male counterparts – but after winning the 2011 U.S Open, Stosur admitted the resulting weight of expectations surrounding her struck her like a “bombshell”.
She just seems to suffer a good old fashion choke whenever expectations increase. Perhaps driving the point home, Stosur has won five Grand Slam doubles titles, obviously outside of the glare and attention that singles tournaments attract. I feel like every time she passes the first round of a tournament, a memo needs to go out to the nation saying “Sam’s through, but don’t say anything!”.
These are not bad or weak people that can somehow play tennis, they would not have reached the level they have if they didn’t want to. But what is Tennis Australia doing to support them, and other up and coming athletes?
According to the Tennis Australia website, academy players can access outsourced psychological support.
It is clear this model has failed many of our current stars. It also shows the problem with the Winning Edge program, in that these sports associations seem incapable of providing these peripheral development tools for athletes on their own.
If Tennis Australia does not get serious about this, we will have another decade of tennis filled with rants, ravings, chokes, and unfulfilled potential.