Updated on 16/05/2022, 00:00
- At the upcoming French Open, only two German women are in the main draw.
- Ex-professional Alexander Waske sees the explanation for this in the youth work of the German association.
- He calls for an in-depth analysis and sees the young talents as a bit of a duty.
The French Open (May 22 to June 5) is just around the corner and the German tennis ladies are once again faced with a difficult task. Because with Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber, there are only two DTB players directly in the main field. The rest of the German players must first survive three qualifying rounds before the ticket for the main draw can be purchased. Among them are experienced players like Laura Siegemund (34), but also hopes for the future like Jule Niemeier (22).
But at the moment, only the experienced Petkovic (34) and Kerber (34) enter the first round of a Grand Slam tournament directly via the world rankings. But what is the experienced duo capable of? “For both, a lot depends on the draw,” says ex-professional Alexander Waske in an interview with our editors. Although Petkovic “was in the semifinals before, he missed a couple of tournaments due to an injury,” Waske says. At Kerber, sand is “your weakest surface so far”.
Therefore, it would be a “very positive surprise if we had a player in the second week,” says Waske, setting the goal for this year’s second Grand Slam tournament, which also hopes Niemeier “plays well on sand”.
Alexander Waske: “Other Nations Have Clearly Overtaken Us”
But in the end, the “golden generation” around Petkovic and Kerber, who previously included Julia Görges (end of career) and Sabine Lisicki (comeback after a long injury hiatus), are alone in flagging the German flag in professional tennis.
“I think other nations have surpassed us. Canada and Italy are examples. Canadians used to have none and are now at the top, and Italy now has a wide range of young top players,” Waske says of the international status of German tennis.
This is due, on the one hand, to the financial constraints, “because there are no major tournaments in Germany that wash money into the association’s coffers”. In France, for example, there are 500,000 euros a year at the highest level of funding, which means that the top stars there “can take full advantage when it comes to their team (coach, physiotherapist, fitness coach)”.
“Several coaches who rarely communicate with each other”
In return, Waske, who ended his career in 2012, also has co-responsibility for the way the German association works with young people. “In Germany up to the age of 16, you train once a week in the district, twice a week in the association and twice a week with the club coach. The player has several coaches who rarely communicate with each other.” explains the 47-year-old.
He demands: “One should definitely take a look at the models for the successful countries and analyze whether we are still competitive there.” With Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer, only two players have managed to get into the top 50 in the world rankings in the last 15 years, who have constantly worked with the tennis association. All other German tennis stars arose mainly through private engagement and investment, which in turn is not available to all young players. According to information from our editorial staff, there are only grants from the tennis association if there is an ongoing collaboration with the association. If this does not happen, you are often automatically an enemy of the association.
But according to an insider, the performance of the talents at the academies of the German association is below average. The result: Fewer and fewer German players are in a Grand Slam draw. A few years ago there were regularly ten or more per main field, in Paris it is at worst only two for women.
Talents lose interest in whole games
But not only the structures of German tennis are a problem when developing new talents, the distractions off the court are also increasing.
“Unfortunately, the mobile phone is far too rarely used for anything positive. A second after some players have left the field, they have the mobile phone in hand, and then the training is already over. What they have learned is not followed up, and the automation of the movements takes place significantly slower, “complains Waske. The former tennis professional runs a private tennis academy for young talents in Offenbach, Hesse. For him, for example, it is” not about completely banning social media, “but the proper handling of it must be shown.
In addition, the 47-year-old observes a dwindling interest among young talents to watch an entire tennis match. Instead, the young players “often only look at the highlights and try, for example, to play each ball through the legs,” says Waske. “But in tennis, 70 percent of all points are made through mistakes.”
“Talents need to fall in love with feltball early”
All of these are not easy prerequisites for recruiting new talent, so Waske demands: “Tennis needs to see how talented people fall in love with feltball early on.” Because if the leap to the professional ATP and WTA tours actually succeeds, the huge costs continue directly. According to Waske, a player who plays about 30 tournaments a year and is mostly monitored there will have to pay costs of at least 50-100,000 euros, including some flights and hotel stays. It’s all the more important to reach the main draw at the Grand Slams at the beginning of a career. After all, at the French Open last year alone, there was a prize money of 60,000 euros to reach the first round.
But Germany’s young tennis talent is currently not consistently competitive for women and men. Then again in Paris, there is only hope for Kerber, Petkovic and a possible surprise.
About the expert: Alexander Waske is a former tennis pro who has climbed to 89th place in the world in singles and 16th place in doubles. Today, the 47-year-old works with young talent at Waske Tennis University and has already celebrated several Grand Slam victories there in the junior area.
- Conversation with Alexander Waske
- French Open website
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