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Tennis Server Readers Speak Out About The USTA
Edited for spelling and minor grammar revisions by Cliff Kurtzman, USTWA
Publisher and Editor in Chief, Tennis Server

In our October issue of our newsletter, Tennis Server Interactive, I voiced Tennis Server's frustration in dealing with the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

When we came online as the first tennis publication on the Internet in 1994, we started spreading our passion for the game to many hundreds of thousands of people, doing the job that the USTA should have been doing themselves. It wasn't until years later that USTA had any kind of a reasonable presence on the web. Covering tournaments on site with reporters and photographers is expensive, but when we've been able to afford doing it, Tennis Server has received support from tournaments world-wide. The ATP was kind enough to provide us credentials to do articles on Masters Cup every time we have applied. The WTA has supported our coverage of the WTA Championships with extensive hospitality. World Team Tennis has been similarly hospitable. Here in Houston, the folks who run the Clay Court Championships each year are down right lavish in the way they court and treat the press who cover their event.

As we initiated our daily tennis photo feed over the summer and made efforts to substantially increase the quality and quantity of our coverage of the pro game this year, tournaments across the United States and Canada have supported our reporters and photographers who we've sent to cover the game for our readers. Everyone, that is, except the USTA. Over 12 years, the USTA has never once granted Tennis Server credentials for the US Open or for a Davis Cup match. As we try to improve our publication, increase our coverage, and enhance our credibility with potential sponsors who might consider providing the resources to allow us to expand, the USTA obstructs our efforts. We just don't get it. It seems directly contrary to their mission.

After denying our credential request to cover the US Open itself this year, the USTA then sent us an invitation suggesting we send a reporter to New York just to cover the draw ceremony that took place before the Open began. Truly bizarre.

So we asked our readers to tell us what they think about how the USTA is doing their job, both good and bad. What they told us is below.

We invite the USTA to respond.

Roger Hansen wrote from Orange, California:

I agree 100% with your assessment of the USTA. They seem to be a self-serving organization that does very little except give high paying jobs to former players, and talk a lot about growing the "grass roots" game of tennis.

I've been out in the tennis community here in So. Cal for almost 20 years., and have never seen or heard from anyone at USTA. Public parks, schools, private and semi-private clubs, etc., and no sign of anyone from USTA, except an occasional poster at a junior tourney.

Now they supposedly have these Tennis Service Reps. They don't show up anywhere I've been, nobody knows what they do or who they are. Tennis is dying a slow death here. Clubs and pro shops closing, public courts being demolished for ball fields and kid's parks, and USTA is nowhere to be found. They only seem interested in their self-generated hoopla from the U S Open and Davis Cup.

It's interesting to see that Brad Gilbert has been hired by the British to revive their tennis system. We have this huge USTA, and they seem to do nothing.

Unfortunately, typical corporate type organization.

Charlene Pearman wrote from Bartlesville, Oklahoma:

I just wanted to say that I have been so disgusted with the direction that USTA has been heading for years that I have thought about writing a book. I have a lot of issues with the USTA. I believe that they have become a huge money-making bureaucracy that is totally out of touch with its members and that it has been instrumental in ruining junior tennis in America. I am pretty familiar with the system from a few different perspectives: I am an adult player and have played USTA team tennis for twenty years or so. I suffered through the USTA junior tennis circuit with one of my sons, who is playing in college now, and I coached at the college level last year. I believe that the biggest problem with the USTA is that they have turned junior tennis into what I call, "a little rich kid sport," with an astronomical amount of dollars required to get and keep a ranking. The USTA has essentially eliminated most young athletes from the sport by making it cost-prohibitive.

The USTA has also failed in it's responsibility to fight for our juniors to have access to college scholarships. Nobody is doing anything to protect our kids from the outrageous imbalance in scholarships given to internationals. Who decided that the level of play in college has to be professional? I know that the NCAA needs to be held accountable, but where is the USTA in the defense of our juniors? These kids have poured their hearts and souls into tennis and yet lose out to internationals who are older, stronger, and who have been competing at the international level. Meanwhile our high-schoolers are trying to make good grades while being required to travel incessantly to keep their USTA ranking.

Let's face it. The system is broken, and the USTA is oblivious. Looking for rebels? I'm in! I would like to see a huge paradigm shift in junior tennis, where the kids primarily compete on teams. It would make tennis more fun, more affordable, and they would be able to receive coaching in matches. I actually heard Billy Jean King say something similar during an interview at the US Open, and I was thrilled. But then I was a bit discouraged, because if she can't get anyone to listen to her, what would get them to listen to me? Well, that is, as they say, "the tip of the iceberg" of my frustrations with the USTA. Thanks for "listening!"

Bryant Bozarth wrote:

Don't ask, Don't tell ...that's how I feel about my membership to the USTA, and agree with your points on how they have lost touch ... I'm a teaching pro and the USTA has more than lost touch, it is the most poorly run large organization in all of American sports. Really can you disagree with this blanket statement? Sadly only hardened fans understand this point while the casual sports fan only thinks that it's up and running two weeks a year in NYC. "Tennis is Dead," right! Their ineptness helped its demise, and weaken our voice and a media outcry looking at their shortcomings. But wait after a poor grand slam year there may be rumblings, as Joe fan wonders where the Americans are in Paris, London and NYC, and the USTA cheeses went to Jimmy Evert at Holiday Park to find itself again!

Ann Nunziata wrote from Cupertino, California:

I am a life member of USTA, but they don't seem to know it. I too receive the annual invitation to join. I sent it back marked up that I'm already a member, but they ignored that and sent me another one this year. I'm a ranked NTRP and Senior player in NorCal and I hold a national ranking, but the USTA doesn't have a clue. In fact, they are actually discouraging me from playing by focusing on the "grow the game" campaign at the expense of Adult and Senior tournament play. Given the fees the USTA is charging for league play, it's hard to believe they don't have enough money left over for Senior tournaments. Our National Senior Women's Tennis Association is constantly having to lobby the USTA to keep them from cutting the already marginal funding they provide to senior Tennis.

Add to that the horrible atmosphere of League tennis, the extreme "us vs. them" mentality, it's hard not to get discouraged. We actually had to have a NorCal match replayed because the local club was so partisan that it interfered with the opposing teams play. That attitude is starting to creep into tournaments too. My doubles partner and I recently played a national clay court senior event in Pensacola against two locals there, and the partisan cheering was bordering on rude, to say the least. Loud grunting shouts by spectators and yells of "Scramble them eggs," etc., verses silence when we won the point were just not how I would like to see an opposing team treated. Especially when I had traveled 3000 miles to be there. The USTA is sadly misguided spending money on that kind of player and not on the senior players that both know how to act and play the game.

I am sincerely sorry that the USTA is not supporting the great work of the Tennis Server. I enjoy your articles!

Ireneo Banaag, Jr. wrote:

Thank you for the newsletter. Reading the articles is exciting and the information has really improved my game.

I just want to convey my heartfelt gratitude for your unceasing effort to spread the good news about tennis.

In your letter you mentioned people have been very critical of USTA and most of the replies were scathing! In my case, I always light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. There is no perfect organization in this world and USTA is one of them. Why not send suggestions in a positive light instead of destructive criticism?

I pray for USTA and I pray for your newsletter too! Keep up the good work!

Not all tennis players or people involved in tennis are fault-finders and bellyachers and I am one of them!

JT Black wrote from Auburn, Alabama:

Just read some of your stuff on the USTA. I am a life member so I can't drop my membership but I share your frustration with this organization. Carol and I have had many conversations with folks who are inside this organization and they live like kings on their members and tournaments incomes. They would see your organization as a threat, particularly to their mag and it advertisers. But here is what you can do that they don't do. Publish on a weekly basis the results from USTA tournaments and from league championships. Players love to see their names in print. I think you'll see a marked increase in your readership.

Vince:

I strongly agree that you should not renew your membership. The USTA comes across as being very elitist, especially when it comes to the US Open.

Additional comments received after posting this column:

Dennis wrote from Virginia:

Regarding the USTA, let's tell it like it is: it is a collection of people who love tennis, don't work hard (that would subtract from the pleasures of life, such as playing tennis as much as possible), and want to be able to continue the gravy train that they are on. It's a joke. As adults, we can make choices and have nothing to do with such shams. But for the kids, it's a travesty: unless you have the talent of a Venus or Serena, you are not going to be able to fully develop your game unless your parents buy your ranking. What rational parent wants to get caught up in that? Connect the dots... ever wonder why we see so many nightmarish tennis parents? Bottom line: countless children are shortchanged.

Life is not fair. But it's frustrating to see that truth compounded by phony, self-serving structures such as the USTA. It needs to be torched and rebuilt from the ground up...BJK, are you listening?

Terry Parsons wrote from Port Charlotte, Florida:

I agree with all the criticism about the USTA. It's an organization that fails in every way. We members are very frustrated and disgusted, too. Surely there must be something somebody can do. Perhaps step forward and create a new tennis organization. Surely there would be sign-ups from across the nation!


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