The Australian Open has been one for the history books and Martin Blackman joins the show to help put things in perspective. He's the current general manager of player development at the USTA and has a lot to be proud of this month.
A former player himself both on tour and at Stanford, Blackman assumed his role at the USTA in 2015 just before the USTA National campus opened in Lake Nona, Fla. He explains what his job entails, what his goals for pro American players are, how resources get allocated, and what was behind the huge restructuring that took place last summer.
Blackman had a career-high ranking of No. 158 on the ATP Tour. (USTA Twitter)
It’s an exciting time for the USTA with 18 American women inside of the Top 100. Though the men haven’t fared as well Down Under, it’s still been a breakthrough fortnight for former UCLA Bruin Mackenzie McDonald as he made the fourth round. Blackman shares how, soon after his arrival, the USTA adapted to better support emerging college players.
"I'm not taking credit for it, but when I came into this role we did start to give more support to college players that were coming out," Blackman said. "So whether it’s Danielle Collins or Mackie McDonald or Jenny Brady, that’s a really viable pathway."
He's been watching the Australian Open closely and has celebrated seeing three American women make the quarterfinals: Serena Williams, Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula (another American, Shelby Rogers, reached the fourth round). Brady and Serena would advance to the semifinals, with Serena losing to Naomi Osaka and Brady topping Karolina Muchova.
Brady was one of 72 players in hard lockdown heading into the Australian Open. (Getty)
Brady trained at the USTA National Campus for three years before she began working with German coach Michael Geserer in 2019. Blackman and the USTA are still on hand to support Brady with anything she needs, and even hopped on Zoom to give her some tips during her 14-day hard lockdown.
"Our No. 1 role is making sure that we maximize American players' potential with the resources that we have and regardless of whether they're working directly with us or with a private coach, it really doesn't matter," Blackman says. "She decided to put her own team together around her and take the next step, and that's something we see a lot when players invest in themselves a little bit more."
Brady reached the semifinals of the US Open last year, and now will vie for her first Grand Slam title against Osaka.
"It’s so gratifying for every single person on our team," Blackman says. "Whether they’re a coach or strength and conditioning or administration, when we see an American player have a breakthrough, have a good result, we’re all high-fiving and texting and jumping up and down. It really means a lot for us, this is way more than just a job for us."
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