Moments after we dropped the Davis Cup semi to Argentina, (eventually losing 5-zip), the remorselessly positive News Ltd tennis writer Leo Schlink, who tends to stay on everybody in the sport’s good side, even Lleyton Hewitt’s, couldn’t help but worry as he wrote: “Australia’s Davis Cup team yesterday stumbled into an uncertain future after its semi-final drubbing against Argentina.”
Schlink was pointing to Hewitt’s injured knee, Wayne Arthurs’ likely retirement and the fact Mark Philippoussis remains reduced to the secondary challenger circuit, a level below the ATP main draws.
He’s right to be concerned because the dearth of quality talent coming through our tennis system for several years is finally here to bite us.
In the ATP rankings, Australia has only one man, Hewitt at No. 19, inside the top 100 and only five inside the top 200 – including streaky Scud and veteran Arthurs. Yikes! Have things ever been this grim?
Tennis Australia is working hard to put on a brave face. Its website pointed out that an Australian did in fact manage to win a match at the Argentinean cup tie – eternal orange boy, the 115th-ranked Peter Luczak, winning an exhibition match against world No. 35 Juan Ignacio Chela, 7-6, 6-3, after every official member of the Australian team mysteriously suffered injuries moments after we fell behind 3-0.
Tennis Australia has also decided to look to the far horizon, with the lead story trumpeting that Australian boys and girls are in Barcelona, contesting the junior Davis Cup and Federation Cups for Under 16s.
In the ITF junior boys’ rankings, we have a few prospects in the top 100, led by Greg Jones (No. 58), John-Patrick Smith (62), John Lindner (69) and James Lemke (71). Unfortunately, none of them are playing in Barcelona. Instead we’re represented by Queensland’s Bernard Tomic (ranked 153 in the world juniors), Brendan McKenzie (ranked 209) and Mark Verryth (ranked 218).
Nevertheless ranked eighth, they looked at sea on clay and lost to Germany overnight without winning a set.
The junior Fed Cup team has our top two ranked junior girls, Jessica Moore (ranked 41) and Tyra Calderwood (57 and a blog writer) along with the ACT’s Alison Bai (ACT) ranked 481. They beat Romania overnight.
And by the way: in the world Under 14 titles, held in August, Australian boys or girls didn’t make the final 32 teams.
It could be a long decade.