Lendl, Fish, Craybas to coach with USTA Player Development

November 10, 2015 09:29 AM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

With an eye toward creating American champions of tomorrow, the USTA will harness the invaluable experiences and insights of top U.S. pros of the past.

The USTA announced plans for its player development program to partner with eight-time Grand Slam singles champion Ivan Lendl, former world No. 7 Mardy Fish and 2008 Olympian Jill Craybas as part of its renewed strategy to involve former top U.S. players in the coaching of current American pros and juniors.

The partnerships are the initial steps in USTA Player Development’s effort to be more deliberate in engaging past champions and top professionals as coaches or mentors.

“They have been in the second week of a Grand Slam or even hoisted the trophy on that final Sunday, and that is invaluable,” said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman. “We need to cultivate a culture that is characterized by a champion’s mindset, and when one of our young women or men spends time with a former champion, it creates a cultural connection that cannot be over-estimated.”

Lendl, Fish and Craybas will work with USTA Player Development on a part-time basis beginning this fall and winter. Lendl, a former world No. 1 who won three US Open, three French Open and two Australian Open titles, began working with a group of top 15- and 16-year-old boys at a training camp held last week at Windsor in Vero Beach, Fla., and he will continue working with the group through several USTA Pro Circuit and junior tournaments in November and December.

Fish, who won an Olympic silver medal and six ATP World Tour titles in his career and retired following a second-round finish at the 2015 US Open, will help lead several weeks of offseason training at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif., with a group of professional men. Meanwhile, Craybas, an 18-year WTA veteran with one tour singles title and five doubles crowns to her name, will begin working with a group of pro women during their offseason training at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.

USTA Player Development also plans to work with other former and current American pros, including Michael Russell, Brian Baker, Marianne Werdel and Ann Grossman-Wunderlich, among others.

“We have done this on an informal basis – Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and Billie Jean King, most notably, have been very generous with their time and willingness to work with our young pros – but we need to be more intentional about our outreach to former champions and top professionals,” Blackman said. “We are just in the beginning stages of our outreach, and there are American champions that we have not yet connected with, but so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The partnership comes at a time when American tennis continues to flourish on the junior circuit and in ascending to the professional ranks.

There are five American boys inside the Top 10 in the ITF junior rankings, including world boys’ junior No. 1 and reigning US Open boys’ champion Taylor Fritz and third-ranked Michael Mmoh. In addition, two U.S. girls feature among the top eight female juniors in the world, led by 2015 US Open girls’ runner-up and current world junior No. 3 Sofia Kenin.

The U.S. currently has seven men inside the ATP World Tour’s top 100 rankings – including three in the Top 32 – and a further 15 ranked inside the Top 300. Led by world No. 1 Serena Williams and sister Venus, ranked seventh, there are currently 13 American women inside the WTA’s Top 100 – the most of any nation and three more than second-place Germany – and 19 more ranked between 101 and 300.