NEW YORK, SEPT. 4 -- The U.S. Tennis Association formally unveiled its plan for rescuing American tennis today, announcing a $6.5 million development program that will begin next year.
The proposal's key points are:
The creation of four national training centers, 100 regional training centers and numerous local centers to identify good players at the entry level, move them up to the regional and national levels when they improve and, in a few special cases, identify players whose careers will be funded by the USTA, the way top players are funded in Europe.
The elimination of national championships and ranking for players under the age of 14 to keep pressure off them and to keep them from playing for rankings rather than trying to improve.
A national scouting system to identify talent, and a training system for coaches along with an adopt-a-player program in which experienced touring pros will "adopt" young players just coming on tour.
The combination of all four U.S. junior teams into one national team so as to de-emphasize the individuality of the sport. This copies a concept used by the Swedes.
"We had four specific problems we wanted to address," said Arthur Ashe, co-chairman of the committee. "We took a good look in the mirror and admitted that we had no coordinated national system for helping young players, that was number one. Number two, we haven't been getting the best athletes. They play other sports. Number three, the good young players are chasing rankings too much. Their values are warped. They want free equipment more than they want to improve their games. And number four, we found that teaching, both mechanics and in the psychological end, was woefully inadequate."
Ashe said the biggest difference between this program and those in Europe is that top young players will be encouraged to stay in school, at least through high school. "We want them to live lives as normal as possible for as long as possible," Ashe said.
How overdue was this program? "Oh, about five years," Ashe said.
The Soviets do not take losing in Olympic competition lightly. In July, their Federation Cup team failed to reach the quarterfinals, meaning it did not get into the 1988 Olympics. As a result, the Soviets have broken up their No. 1 doubles team, one that reached the Wimbledon semifinals by beating Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.
Today, Larissa Savchenko and Natalia Zvereva lost their first-round match to Navratilova and Shriver. Zvereva, a 16-year-old wunderkind, was moved up to replace Svetlana Parhomenko on the No. 1 doubles team after the Federation Cup loss.
The Soviets still could be invited to the Olympics as a wild card.