Originally published on: 20/12/13 00:00
As part of his role with adidas, Mats attends the Eddie Herr International and Orange Bowl every December as a tennis scout. Working with Claus Marten, who has been involved in talent identification for over 25 years, Mats reports back to adidas on juniors already contracted with the brand and writes reports on other players who catch his eye.
In his second exclusive column for tennishead, Mats gives an insight into what he is looking for in a youngster.
I really enjoy scouting – it is particularly interesting to see the under-12s and under-14s because they are still so young. When you see an 11-year-old play and then they come back a year later you can see real progress. You can see how hard they have worked and how they have improved physically, mentally, technically and tactically.
I always like to go and watch the juniors play with no prejudice, so initially I won’t know their name or where they are from. Sometimes I just pass by the court and at other times I watch the whole match.
As the tournament continues and faces become familiar then I begin to look for habits: what they do particularly well, whether they have any weaknesses, or how they hold up if they have to play three sets. I also look at technique, footwork and how they move around the court. Their on-court behaviour is important too – how they carry themselves even if they are down in a match and how they act when they lose two or three points in a row. Do they get angry and break a racket or do they keep their composure and stay calm and focused?
Then you are looking for something you cannot really measure – that hunger to win. Often I’ll just take notes, but sometimes I will take videos on my iPad and take high-resolution pictures on my camera – this is particularly helpful if I have to write a scouting report.
The Eddie Herr international and Orange Bowl are a great chance to see the Grand Slam champions of the future. The likes of Steffi Graf, Jimmy Connors, Justine Henin, Andy Murray and more recently Laura Robson have won titles at these events.
This is an excerpt from Scouting Report by Mats Merkel. To read the full article, including Mats' memories of meeting Laura Robson as a 12-year-old, get your hands on a copy of tennishead Volume 4 Issue 6. Subscribe to tennishead today or download the issue via iTunes.