Alex, for the most part the answers lie in the culture/approach component of the issue (thus Jim’s “soft culture” statement). In the USA, there is a multitude of factors that do not exist overseas (in Serbia for example). First of all, in the USA, it seems that you have to belong to a club (thus have money), take lessons from the club pro (more money), and then you get results in tournaments hoping that USTA notices you. Even that remains a small possibility since USTA’s network of coaches that are supposed to ‘discover’ new talents are products of the same culture so they don’t look for the same elements as the development coach in Serbia, Germany, or France. Most tennis federations have the best coaches selected and their common goal is to produce tennis players; the players themselves and their families are aware of the enormous opportunity that tennis presents to them.
A lot of juniors grow up through their local club’s junior tennis academy system and accompanied to tournaments as a group with other kids from the club, then discovered by talent seeking national coaches. Some of the best players may have never taken 1/10th of the amount of private lessons that American kids take from pros who basically do whatever will please the parent during the lesson because they want the $60 to $90 an hour rate to turn into a regular weekly income source. What I just described happens regularly all over the country in American tennis clubs, yet it’s very rare to none in most European clubs. Parents do not have half of the power that the American parents have over the tennis pros, coaches (or even teachers in schools). So politics, money and influential connections factor in much more effectively in the US and conveniently take precedence over ‘tennis-related’ issues (how much talent the kid has, what parts of his game needs improvement, etc).
In Serbia/Other places in Europe, the club becomes like the kid’s second home. He gets off school, stops by home to grab his bag and rackets and heads to the club to hang out with his other tennis friends and practice. Tennis becomes the focal point of their daily life, they socialize around it, develop their personalities through it.
In contrast, what do you see in most US tennis clubs? The parents drive the kid to the country club to take his 1-hour or more tennis lesson, during which the parents sit and watch (or even lose control and participate in the practice/coaching!!), then the lesson ends, the pro talks to the parent, in most cases reinforces to them how great their kid could be, and then the parents and the kid get in the car and drive back home to their regular life where the kid plays X-BOX, hangs out with his/her buddies at the local café or movie theater complex, etc. For the Serbian, Czech, Dutch, or French kid, the camaraderie at the club and his /her circle of friends – i.e. other tennis players – ARE his/her regular life. Do you see the difference? When is the last time you have seen a tennis club where the best juniors of the club just come to the club daily after school, to hang out with their friends, and play tennis as an activity on top of the after-school practice scheduled by the club’s main coach?
PS: Gawd, I hear you but how will you get the coaches to push for a style that has 'against-all-odds' type of chance of succeeding when their livelihood depends on how they are measured by the success of their pupils? Can you imagine a coach pushing for a serve-and-volley style and watch his pupils= take loss after loss for an extended period of time? Imagine dealing with the kid's parents. Even in the 90s where attacking the net was still not archaic, only a handful have done that successfully and they were exceptional talents (Sampras, Rafter, who both admitted to losing for extended periods of time as a junior because they were swimming against the current so to speak.