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The Role of Junior Success in the Development of Professional Tennis Players

Book - Dissertation

Excellence in sport has been conceptualized in terms of outcomes (competition results) of performance and measured in the form of rankings, medals, records and victories (Penney, 2000). In this research, junior success is measured by athletes’ best competitive results (e.g., medals, rankings, competition results) at a junior age. In the last two decades, a contention was raised regarding whether competitive success achieved at a junior age correlates with success achieved as an adult. A number of studies have suggested a low correlation (e.g., Barreiros, Côté, & Fonseca, 2014; Brouwers, De Bosscher, 2012; Güllich & Emrich, 2014), while some other studies argued that success in international junior competition is an important indicator for senior success (Hollings, 2006; Scholz, 2006; Reid, Crespo, & Santilli, 2009). Given these increased debates and insights, there are several gaps that need further exploration. There is limited age-specific information, and how the role of junior performance changes over time in developing senior success remains unknown. Furthermore, most of these studies are quantitative and did not consider the impact of other influencing factors, e.g. technical, tactical competencies, environmental factors, for the development of senior success. Reasons for the high dropout rate of successful juniors as well as reasons for successful junior players continuing to be successful at a senior age were not reported in any of these studies. There is little evidence of an integrated approach (i.e. with other factors) in examining the role of junior competitive performance when evaluating an athlete’s potential for senior success. Additionally, though a couple of sports (e.g., Athletics, cycling, swimming, football) have been examined, some sports were hardly studied, e.g., combat sports, or racket sports. Due to the different criteria in evaluating success, accessibility to competitions, and ranking system, the fact is that developmental pathways may vary by type of sport. Consequently, there are calls for research involving these sports in a sport-specific context to understand the sport-specific needs, characteristics and reliability of using junior success to develop senior success (Martindale, Collins, & Daubney, 2005). To address these research gaps, this dissertation aims to explore and understand the role of junior success in tennis, specifically, apart from performance results, what other factors are important in the development of senior success. In Study 1, the longitudinal developmental trajectories of 82 top 10 professional male and female tennis players – between 2007 and 2017 – were examined in relation to performing age and rankings (broken down by ranking milestones). Gender and generation differences were studied. Findings revealed that achieving success at the highest level of junior competitions appeared to be a commonality of the top professional players regardless of gender and generation. However, many middle-ranked players, e.g., players ranked between top 50 and top 100 were not necessarily achieved success at a junior level. They also showed that most top professional players started their participation in professional tournaments shortly after their first international junior tournament and invested in both junior and professional tournaments within the same calendar year. Study 2 expanded the data from the top 10 professional tennis players to the top 300 from 2008 to 2018. Player developmental career trajectories in relation to starting age and ranking progression were compared by player career peak ranking level (i.e., top 10, top 11-20, top 21-50, top 51-100, top 101-200, t
Number of pages: 201
Publication year:2020
Keywords:junior success