The Tennis Curmudgeon

The Next Phenom – Part 1

If you hang around a bunch of tennis coaches and the suits around the International Tennis Federation juniors, eventually you’ll hear some of them talk about which player has got the most growth potential, who has the mental toughness, who are the problem kids that need more attention or guidance, and who and can move to the next level. And then, in hushed tones, someone brings up a troubled kid and compares him or her to Jerhkinov and all the coaches go silent.

Oh, you haven’t heard of Sergei Jerhkinov? Well, join the club. See, most of the public doesn’t know about Sergei Jerhkinov, one of the most talented juniors tennis players never to have turned pro. Sure, the tennis world loves to talk about stories of these kids rising through juniors and making it to the pro levels. Players like Lleyton Hewitt, Stefan Edberg, Caroline Wozniaki. But no one likes to talk about how it is to fail, of potential and talent gone to waste. And no one has really openly talked about the talented 17 year old Jerhkinov back in the early 1980’s.

Some years back, Dennis and I were milling about the media lounge at the Pilot Pen in New Haven and we heard some old time tennis historian and journalist (who shall remain nameless) whispering to some other sports writer about this kid who had a serve just as hard and powerful as Roscoe Tanner or Andy Roddick. He had a backhand just as wicked as and graceful as Roger Federer’s and Justine Henin’s. He had feel and touch at the net like McEnroe. The sports writer thought this old timer was spinning some tall tale and waived the old man off. Curious, I stepped up to him and asked him who he was talking about. Was there some up and coming college kid that never came up on our radar? Perhaps some kid from Stanford?

He look at me and said, “Son, if you want a hard luck story, this is it. Worse than the physical set backs of a Taylor Dent. Sadder than a Jenn Capriati or Andrea Jaeger.”

“Fine, but who is he?”

“Son, more like who was he,” he corrected me. “The best damn juniors player I’ve ever seen to never reach the next level. Sergei Jerhkinov.”

“Who’s Jerhkinov?”

“I’m Jerhkinov” a voice said from behind me.

That’s never a good sign. You never want to hear some guy say, “i’m Jerkhinov” behind your back. I turn around and see this guy who claims to be Jerhkinov.


2 Comments so far
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Now I’m dying to know what happened to the poor kid!

Comment by Nancykhicks

We’re dealing with legal, right now. We’ve gotten flak from some of the parties involved. Once you get the attorneys involved….

Comment by Bobby

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