“Tennis Now” interviewed Grand Slam Champion Johan Kriek. Kriek, who was once ranked 7th in the world, now runs a successful tennis academy in North Carolina. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
TN: With regard to your philosophy on developing juniors, do you feel that there is too much emphasis is placed on rankings with younger players?
JK: Absolutely, and do you know why? Do you want to know why we don’t have top players right now? It’s because we see so many flaws in the makeup of their whole tennis persona. The cheating is outrageous in junior tournaments and that comes from the fact that the kids need to win so badly because their parents are spending a lot of money. There’s just too much pressure on these 10-year-olds to try and make a ranking. Flying around and playing junior tournaments like crazy. Look man, stay in your state and play and if you can’t beat everybody in your state then why the heck do you want to go to Texas first of all? Even if there are opportunities there — I don’t think you should take the opportunities away — but if you can’t beat anybody…
It seems like some people can buy their ranking, but believe me, the cream rises to the crop.
TN: At your Academy, do you feel that the USTA gets in your way. Do you get that feeling that you are in direct competition with them?
JK: The USTA has the string purse and all of those wonderful wildcards to entice kids to come to their training center. That’s happened to me. I’ve worked with kids that got very, very good in a very short period of time and then suddenly the parents come to me and says ‘Look the USTA has offered us a weekend with them at their training facility.’ At the end of the day the kid was offered wildcards and they say ‘Look we’ll give you a free ride.’ What is a free ride? They offer a scholarship to this guy that is provided in cash and in kind. I’m a for-profit organization and now these kids are flying the coop because they think they got a better deal with the USTA. Of course it happens. They cherry-pick the best kids in the country and they’re going to say they developed them?
TN: For a lot of people the more sensible approach for the USTA would be to act like a venture capitalist and spread seed around to deserving programs.
JK: I am absolutely convinced that their are people in the USTA with the greatest of intentions. What’s going to happen to the people like myself that don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars behind them to offer? What’s going to happen to us? Of course they’re (the USTA) going to be in direct competition with us. It’s a huge conflict.
Read the whole interview – HERE