Overall a fantastic trip to Budapest over 4 days to see the finals of the Junior Fed and Davis Cup 2018. Both finals came down to the doubles rubber yesterday, with the US beating Ukraine to win the Junior Fed Cup and Spain beating France to win the Junior Davis Cup (see pics below taken from the ITF Juniors website)
My 2 picks for the future boys:
Carlos Alcaraz Garfia (2003) - career high junior ranking 116 but already with senior ranking of 1456 at 14 years old. Stunning forehand and relentless competitor. Was a set, 5-3 & match point down against French No. 1 boy Harold Mayot (2003 and ITF ranking 35) and produced some truly remarkable tennis at critical moments and ran away with the third set. Some of the Spanish coaches saying he's further ahead than Nadal at same age....
Lorenzo Musetti (ITA, 2002 ranked 5 ITF) - audacious use of the drop shot, superb variation, injections of power and subtle as can be. Super athlete already. Poise under pressure immense. US Open runner-up this year.
My 2 picks for the future girls:
Cori Gauff (USA, 2004 ranked 4 ITF) - huge power and physical presence but can come forward and finish at net. Deeply competitive and uncompromising.
Romana Cisovska (SVK, 2002 ranked 50 ITF) - Slight build may be a limitation further down the line, but wonderful footwork when taking and giving ground, so quick onto the shorter ball. No obvious weaknesses, unconditionally competitive.
My 10 key observations from the trip
- Physicality at this 14-16 year age bracket critical in terms of really pushing on with their development. Generally great strength in the corners, but also ability to generate massive racket speed when attacking with power with superb body co-ordination and racket rhythm
- Use of the drop shot - bearing in mind this was outdoor clay of course, but especially in the boys use of drop-shot at key moments in matches
- Linked to (2) but confidence to be really bold and 'win' points at key moments as opposed to waiting for opponent to 'lose' points
- Unconditionally competitive - yes there was high emotion (positively and negatively) but overall the best players here no matter what the score or circumstances were ready to go again right away with very best effort - super high levels of resilience
- Confidence is earned - a phrase used a lot by my co-tutor Luke Milligan. The only way to build confidence is to 'earn it' through goal attainment on the practice and match court, and yes, by working stinkingly hard.
- The very top kids in the world from 13/14 years are home-schooled/distance learning through private or Federation programmes. Amount of travel required is simply not compatible with traditional schooling. Is our exam system (GCSE's) a major barrier for us in terms of developing top top players as they come in such a key developmental period??
- Linked to (6) but these kids are already seasoned 'tourers' and 'world travellers' - the horse has already bolted, playing 'catch up' later on is going to be very, very difficult
- Top players are not hiding from experiences where on the surface they have 'nothing to gain and much to lose' - seeking the 'pressure situations' that come from being the 'hunted'
- Match management - using the match to learn all they can about their opponent (with of course on-court captain's help) to come up with their best tennis at the critical moments at the end
- Ability to make mid-swing adaptions based on in-coming ball whether slightly out of position/bad bounce etc and play the neutral rallying ball. This twinned with the ability to change gear and pull the trigger with massive FH's (boys and girls)
Could come up with so many more so rich was the experience!!!
Pics taken from the ITF Juniors website.