Ivan Lendl, Mardy Fish, And Jill Craybas To Become Part-Time Coaches For USTA Player Development Program

Ivan Lendl, Mardy Fish, And Jill Craybas To Become Part-Time Coaches For USTA Player Development Program

Ivan Lendl is joined by Mardy Fish and Jill Craybas as the three part-time USTA Player Development Coaches for American juniors this fall and winter.

Noel John Alberto

Ivan Lendl is getting back into coaching. The 55-year-old, who last coached Andy Murray to two Grand Slam titles, is back coaching again. This time, the eight-time Grand Slam champ will be helping American juniors, working with about a half dozen 15-16 year-old boys who are a part of the USTA Player Development Program. Lendl will be joined by Mardy Fish, who retired earlier this year at the US Open, and Jill Craybas as the other coaches who will be helping on a part-time basis this fall and winter.

Who Will They Be Working With

Fish will also be working with about a half-dozen 15-16 year-old boys. He’ll be training them in California. Craybas, a former NCAA singles champion, will be working with 10 women in Florida.

The Highs And Lows Of American Tennis

American tennis has seen its highs and lows over the past number of years. This year alone, Serena Williams dominated the women’s field, winning the first three Grand Slam titles of the year. Venus Williams ended her year with a title at the WTA Elite Trophy event in Zhuhai which propelled her back inside the top 10, and Madison Keys burst out onto the scene this year with a semifinals showing at the Australian Open and a quarterfinals showing at Wimbledon.

Despite the women’s success, the men have struggled to get it going. An American male has failed to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year, and the last American to win a title was Andy Roddick back in 2003, at the US Open. American fans have been hailing their younger players as potential stars who they hoped to win Grand Slams such as Donald Young, Ryan Harrison, and Jack Sock, but all have failed to live up to the pressure.

The next group of youngsters maybe America’s best shot to dominate tennis once again since the days of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. The group of Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Noah Rubin, Michael Mmoh, Tommy Paul, and Francis Tiafoe give the Americans a core group who can finally dominate the game once again. At one point this year, four of the five Americans, all but Tiafoe and Rubin, were ranked inside the top 5 of the ITF Juniors rankings, absolutely dominant. If this can translate into the pro level, America will finally get back on the map as a tennis powerhouse.

Lendl’s Take On Coaching Again

''I enjoy working with younger players. You can form them and help them the most,'' Lendl said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ''It's just fun watching how they try to learn. They ask a lot of questions. They try different things. They're just eager to get better.''

He also said, ''You ask them how they think they will be playing in the future, what kind of style, and who their heroes are. You evaluate and establish what the weaknesses are. And then you design a program to work on those weaknesses, I really enjoy helping them conform to the way they think they should be playing. Unless, of course, we totally disagree about how they should play.'' The 55-year-old said that he may coach on the professional level again since he’s always willing to consider it.

Martin Blackman’s Take On The Program

Martin Blackman replaced Patrick McEnroe as the head of the player development program back in April. Blackman said he wants to build a “successful tennis federation model” which he has seen in other countries like Spain, France, and Australia.

He wants to blend a “professional career of coaches” with a “kind of organic retention of former players.” ''We had a little break in that connection with the last generation of American champions,'' Blackman said. ''What we're trying to do now is be a little more systematic and strategic about getting all of our past champions involved and re-engaged.''