***Andre Lemaire, Robby Menard and Pierre Lamarche have been three of the most successful tennis coaches in Canada if you consider the number of national champions and the number of professional Canadian players developed in their academies. They have been also very successful in the business aspects of tennis, with their companies being major players in the landscape of Canadian tennis for over 20 years. These three coaches/managers also have a reputation to tell it like it is. We start a series of articles where we ask them their opinions on how to make tennis a major sport in our Canadian world as well as a presence on the international scene.***
Prologue: The Three Wise Monkeys, sometimes called the Three Mystic Apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to ”see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech and action. In the Western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance.
This week we asked our three wise men to address the following:
ONcourt: How should the Order of Merit for international events be determined for Canadian juniors?
Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: “The Order of Merit” policies must be designed based on real objective data. As a result, the present Rogers Ranking which does not provide real objective rankings can only be a small part of the equation. The second criteria “significant international results” needs to take into consideration that these results can basically be achieved only by those who get the opportunity to participate [unless Canadian international events and then quality of wins not performance is needed]. Next what we are left with is the following:
1. Performance [position and quality of wins] at most recent nationals in overage age group [In Under 16 summer nationals for U 14 player]
2. Performance at other previous overage nationals in same calendar year
3. Performance at recent nationals in own age group
4. Performance at other nationals in age group
5. Specific performance at Provincial Championships [weighed with consideration for most recent, overage performance and same age group performance.
Then “The Order of Merit” needs to be published, followed and justified when making the decisions. Transparency can only be achieved by letting interested and involved individuals know exactly how the order was achieved. Lots of work but fair.
Robby Menard: The best performance at both Nationals! Very simple! No Ranking, Never Ranking. Always look at performance at MAJOR event. All Junior Should play our National Event. Only in the case that you win the category over such as Abanda or Difeo, YOU must play your category.
Of course, you look at International Events BUT it must be major tournament.
Andre Lemaire: The Order of merit for international events should be determined by International results. Look at Tommy Mylnikov who just won Eddie Herr. Second will be the Nationals.
ONcourt: How should wild cards be given at Professional events for Canadians?
Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: The purpose of the Wild cards first must be established. Are they an event tool? If they are picking local players is justifiable. Having been a tournament director as well as a Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain I believe that every wild card should be a developmental tool. The only exceptions are where the President of Tennis Canada ratifies the demand of the tournament director for a special situation i.e Federer not entered but decides to play. The second exception is when a local organizing committee negotiates the use of a wild card for local representation in the event. If the wild cards are developmental in nature, there could be many ways of deciding but I personally liked having them under the jurisdiction of the Fed Cup or Davis Cup captain as tools to help build up his present and future team. This is very subjective in nature and should be done by the captain with a group of national coaches who make their decisions based on the short and long term needs of the national teams. The performance and choices of the captain can be evaluated through team performances in international competitions.
Robby Menard: That is a more complex question to answer, because you must factor the age of players versus potential. Even there I feel that the policy could be different in the Men and Women.
So you must have a committee of people who are experienced coaches who make a decision based on prior performance, age, potential, etc… NOT a simple task!
But I would always take one of the wild card (both Qualification and Main Draw) and make a mini tournament and let players play for it! GREAT PREPARATION.
Here is a FUN story why this is a good idea: years ago, Cristiana Popescu, my player, at 16 year old gets to play in the wild card event for the Last Qualification Spot at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City. She wins her place, winning 3 matches, against top juniors and aging pros, then Beats 2 Qualifiers and a seeded women’s ranked 143WTA. After that in the Main Draw she loses 6-4 6-4 to Meilen Tu who had done the Quarter Final at the US open a month prior. Wow, what a boost in her confidence. It was her breakthrough… All this because she COULD prove it on her own…
Same strory with another players I coached : Melanie Gloria who beat Daniella Hantchokova.
Andre Lemaire: We should have 1 or 2 development wild card. Sébastien Lareau and Sébastien Leblanc had the first wild card at 15. The players should have it for a certain period of time so they can make the transition to the pro circuit.
National coaches should also have also one. Laurendeau might need a double specialist or a lefty.
Then international performances should be the benchmark.
Do not forget that the tournament might need one also.
I also like the qualification tournament when players are almost at the same level.
ONcourt: How should seeding be done at the National juniors?
Pierre ‘The Bear’ Lamarche: I think the thoughts outlined for the answer to “The order of Merit” can be applied for seedings at Nationals, although recent Provincial performance in age group above followed by own age group should have more consideration. I would like to see some competition where double elimination is required in the younger U 12 and U 14 based on the fact that seedings are usually based on minimal information and seedings can have too much to do with final positioning at the tournament. The number #9 and number #3 players could both be #2 in final standings but never get the opportunity. This positioning then can affect future seedings, future Order of Merits, opportunities etc.
Robby Menard: First, The National in the 12 and 14 format MUST be changed. The pool does not reflect the reality of the value of the players.
Almost SAME ANSWER: the best performance at Nationals, the year prior and Provincial Championship! Very simple! No Ranking, Never Ranking, always look at the performances at MAJOR events. Of course, again, you look at International Events BUT it must be major tournament.
Make a triple elimination, so you can give a good service to all players. The weaker players will have a minimum of 3 matches.
I believe that when you do a feed in consolation and finish 5 th you have proven your value.
All of this puts less importance on the seeding.
Andre Lemaire: Like the 2 other guys: best performance at Nationals, the year prior and provincials. Rankings should be the last tool.
The pool format is a good thing. After organising both events (12 and 14) for the last 5 years, I think the atmosphere and all the matches are good for the kids. I am open for all kind of suggestions for improvement!