IMG Academy recently caught up with Brad Gilbert, American tennis coach, former pro player, author and analyst, for his thoughts on the evolution of IMG Academy, the 2013 Tour season and pro football. Yes, pro football. Over the years, Gilbert has been a regular guest at IMG Academy. His son, Zach Gilbert, trained at IMG Academy for a period before heading to the University of California to play tennis. The younger Gilbert now works for ESPN and coaches tennis. to beat in 2013"][/caption] Brad Gilbert on: …IMG Academy
My son was here six years ago during his senior year. He always said the greatest part about being a student at IMG Academy is that you are surrounded by so many other people doing the same thing you are doing, and wanting the same things you want. It helps to meet people in different parts of sport and life.
Second, he loved that you could roll out of bed and everything from the dining hall to the gym to the tennis courts are all in one place. I think he would be surprised at how far IMG Academy has come. Twenty-plus years ago there were courts and a trailer. Now this place is a true mecca for all athletes. It’s a moving escalator – keeps growing, keeps adding.
…what can be expected of Rafael Nadal in 2013
If he [Nadal] gets back to normal, expect him to get back to his winning ways. It will just depend on whether he comes back 100%.
…the state of the men’s game
I still think we are probably a few years away from seeing the younger men’s group dominate the majors and masters series. I think maybe Del Potro could be a presence, but he’s not a very far stretch. It’s an exciting time in the men’s game, but yet it’s still very top heavy.
…the state of the women’s game
To me, Serena is a young 31. She is little like Federer in that respect; she’s paced her playing and her schedule. I expect her – as long as she is keen, healthy, fit, injury-free – to still be the one they need to chase. When she is playing at her best level, there is no doubt she has established herself as the dominant one. Maria [Sharapova] could have a good 2013, as well.
…the youth movement in tennis
I expect the younger ones in the women’s game are a lot closer to making their move than those in the men’s game. I expect there is a big chance for Laura Robson. She is somebody to definitely keep an eye on. I think she has top-10 potential. I really like this American Madison Keys. She is someone who also has top-10 or top-5 potential, as well.
The great thing about the start of the new year is that it is like a blank canvas. Some of the colors are going to come – the proven commodities, but what you want to see is who is going to be that next thing, the one who pushes someone at the top, and who is going to do something you totally didn’t expect. I look forward to the unexpected because we have a lot of predictability now at the top. Who’s going to make it unpredictable?
If you have the means and sponsors, and you are getting guaranteed dollars, gear etc., then turning pro early is ok. But it is very expensive. What’s dangerous is turning pro without the means. There is a lot of pressure and stress to perform and deliver. If you have opportunity to get a full scholarship to college, as opposed to needing someone to sponsor you or pay your bills, I’d take the scholarship.
To me, college is a great option. If you are not ready to turn pro at 17, go play the Futures and get beat down. You will experience a lot of losing, a lot of lonely nights. After two or three years, you are ranked 1000 and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
I support the kid who is already ranked 200, already getting contracts – but those are few and far between.
A lot of pros are doing a lot better in their early 30s now, so going to school and getting an education is a real option before you play. Then you have something to fall back on in life.
Gilbert has recently become a regular guest on ESPN Radio’s Coach & Company, discussing topics across the world of sports, including pro football. IMG Academy learned Gilbert has been a lifelong football fan, and asked him the questions on every football fan’s mind these days: …NFL Rookie of the Year
Andrew Luck. If co-rookies, maybe Luck and RGIII. But don’t count out Wilson – he’s been great.
…NFL conference champions, Super Bowl winner
In the AFC, I like the Patriots. Anytime I see a man called Brady on the field, and the man with the crazy sweatshirts and hoodies...They are the team to beat. I am going to say the NFC is wide open. I could make a case for the 49ers, the Falcons, and the Packers.