Friday, September 3, 2010


I suppose the match of the day we have to talk about is Sergiy Stakhovsky and Ryan Harrison. And don't get me wrong, this was a good match. Very entertaining stuff.

But... USA, I say this with love. I say it because I am from a country that does exactly the same thing to its sportspeople (hello, Casey Dellacqua?) You do not do your up and comers any favours when you deify them as the next big thing. It is possibly the most spectacularly unhelpful thing you could do for their careers.

It's a horrible process called... Oudinisation. And Ryan Harrison is being Oudinised.

I bet Harrison is kicking himself that he lost that match - any self respecting tennis player would be. But you know what? For the sake of any future career he might have, I reckon it might be a good thing. If he had got to the third round, had gone further, the Oudinisation process would have gone further. He must have become fully Oudinised. And that is not a good thing.

Players that are Oudinised have incredible expectations placed on their shoulders. Tennis is a game where only the toughest survive, and it is only the extremely rare player in whom that toughness is innate (Rafa and Serena come to mind). In most others, it is learned. I would include Roger Federer in this category, so this is not necessary a bad thing - look how he turned out. But the process of Oudinisation does not help.

Look at what happens to British players at Wimbledon. This is an extreme case of Oudinisation which can affect even those who are legitimately the next big thing (hi, Andy Murray). But when you heap the expectations of a nation on the shoulders of someone as young as Ryan Harrison or Beatrice Capra or Melanie Oudin, you are not allowing them that necessary growth period. The time when they can play their way into toughness.

It so happens that sometimes young players have good results. We know this happen. Melanie Oudin had a spectacular run at the US Open, and this cannot be denied. But when players this young have that one run and then get expected to repeat, that is when you open the mental floodgates to the demon. These players can be literally destroyed by hope - the hope of a nation desperate for someone to be the next be thing - and a lot of the time, that second result is going to be a long time in coming. If it ever comes. Oudinisation can mess with your head.

So what I'm saying is that just because one young player had one young result, do not go and make them your Messiah. You may have dodged a bullet when you fluffed those three match points, Ryan Harrison - it might all work out better for you in the long run.

And in other news, Dustin Brown has awesome hair. This is all.

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