Wall Street Journal - Like in the Pros, Foreign Players Ace College Tennis

                           Like in the Pros, Foreign Players Ace College Tennis
By Matthew Futterman - The Wall Street Journal
Americans have seen better days on the professional tennis circuit. On the women's side, there are just two players besides the Williams sisters in the top 100. On the men's side, the U.S. has just three players among the top 50. And if you are looking for encouraging news about the state of American tennis, the collegiate ranks offer no reprieve.

[maria mosolova and tennis rankings]David Stluka

The top-ranked collegiate player is Northwestern's Maria Mosolova, a sophomore from Moscow.

In the mid-1980s through the 1990s, U.S. players like Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi held up the country's honor. But that's when foreign players got a toehold in American colleges. In 1980, foreign players accounted for about 2% of the top 50 collegiate players, according to David Benjamin, executive director of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Five years later, that percentage jumped to 25% and by the 1990s had settled in where it remains today -- roughly 45% to 60%.

[tennis rankings]

Heading into the NCAA championships, which began Friday, foreign-born players accounted for nine of the top 20 women's singles players, including four of the top five. The top-ranked collegiate player is Northwestern's Maria Mosolova, a sophomore from Moscow. Other than third-ranked Julie Cohen of Philadelphia, who plays for the University of Miami, Ms. Mosolova's top competitors hail from Bulgaria, Croatia and Lithuania. On the men's singles side, foreign players claim 12 of the top 20 spots in the rankings, including the No. 1 ranked player, Spaniard Arnau Brugues of the University of Tulsa.

Mr. Benjamin said the talent pool in the U.S. has long been too shallow for a school to remain competitive with just the top U.S. players, many of whom for years have preferred to attend traditional powers like Stanford or UCLA. Also, the American college system offers foreign players something far more rare abroad -- a free college education and organized, high-level athletic competition for players who aren't going to be good enough to be a top pro.

—Matthew FuttermanPrinted in The Wall Street Journal, page B12

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