Let’s be honest: when’s the last time you and your friends gathered around the TV to watch hyper-competitive kids duke it out on the court or the field? The Little League World Series gets a lot of attention, sure; but for all the viewership records it sets, it pales in comparison to its professional cousin. And then there’s Under-21 soccer and basketball, which are huge for the youthful athletes. But again, we’re not spending advertising dollars or throwing watch parties. We save it for the pros.
But that doesn’t meant they’re not worth watching. It’s kind of cool to see a junior athlete grow up to be a top professional! And if these competitions are any indication of tomorrow’s success, the tennis world is due for a shakeup.
Fivethrityeight’s Wiley Schubert Reed broke it down for us: out of the top five boys in competition today, four are American. The Red, White, and Blue has also taken four of the last six junior Grand Slam titles, and the 2015 US Open junior final was an all-American affair.
This kind of tennis pedigree hasn’t been particularly common in the past, but these youngsters have a nurturing coaching system that wants to see them succeed. While it may seem like something any athlete would take for granted, access to this kind of training wasn’t available even a generation ago.
The data is very favourable for top-10 juniors to have a major impact on the professional level. However, that data only covers a 20 year period from 1987 to 2008. In the seven years since, it has becoming increasingly difficult for junior talent to crack the top 25 in the pros. Reed notes that these two conflicting data sets raises a very interesting question: are the juniors just less competitive than they used to be, or are the current pros staying on the court longer?
Well, remember when I mentioned that junior competitors are taking advantage of a better athletic and coaching system? Turns out the pros are using it as well. They’re fast, leaner, and stronger— not to mention that they’re staying fit for longer. This increased athletic longevity just cements their position.
Data is awesome, but it can’t predict the future; nothing can. So we’ll have to wait and see what our talented young athletes can do. Whatever the outcome, we’re in for a treat.