Tennis Facilities Tip
Quality lighting is a big differentiator for a tennis facility. It’s not difficult to assess your lighting system’s performance and it should be done annually using a light meter to take foot-candle readings. These can then be compared with USTA recommendations for nighttime play to see how your system is holding up. And it is worth checking out the latest innovations in tennis court lighting. New technology has led to the development energy efficient, high performance systems that may save you money while improving performance.
Australian Open: Serena's the One
Melbourne – As I said in my previous column, the Australian Open is the Ringo of the Slams: the least important, but unquestionably one of the Fab Four – and, like Ringo, perhaps the most beloved. Everything from the friendly locals to the carnival-like atmosphere of the event makes it quite fun – even if this year the brutal heat (often exceeding 100 degrees) on several days turned the grounds into a ghost town.
I’m focused here strictly on the women. And once again, I must hand it to Serena Williams. As Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez told me just after Williams had smoked Dinara Safina in the finals, “For some players results build confidence. For Serena it’s the opposite. I think that’s something you’re born with.”
At the end of the day somehow Serena is always left holding the trophy.
While I’m not sure if genetics are the telling factor, it’s fascinating how boldly Williams competes. If not necessarily in her DNA, certainly it was in her environment. Since infancy, her father Richard infused her and sister Venus with the notion that they were destined for greatness. And it worked.
There came a fortunate escape for Serena in the 4th round when an early morning stomach virus caught up with Victoria Azarenka and she was forced to retire in the second set after winning the first. Another Houdini-like effort came the next day amid Australia’s unique circumstances. Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova won a tight first set, 7-5. By now the oncourt temperature was well part 100, at which point the referee opted to close the roof. The fit Kuznetsova was vexed by this, but still went up 5-3 and served for the match in the next game. But invariably, Kuznetsova sank, Williams rose – and never looked back.
Serena survived two Houdini-like escapes against Svetlana Kuznetsova (right)
and Victoria Azarenka.
Even when down 3-1 in the second set of her semi versus Elena Dementieva, it was hard to see Williams losing. This was even more so the case for the final, when a cowed Safina was unable to play the ball and instead succumbed to the situation – a situation Serena relishes. She’s now a snappy 10-3 in Grand Slam finals, her only losses coming to sister Venus and another insouciant sort raised by a driven father, Maria Sharapova.
A Long and Winding Road
But speaking of fathers, the most emotional story in Australia was the journey of Jelena Dokic. Ranked as high as number four in the world in ’02, she’d fallen way, way off the radar. A first round was nice, a second round was even nicer, and soon enough Dokic became the prodigal daughter. Over her career there had been all sorts of rancor, ranging from her father’s public tirades -- and the indications aren’t pretty on the private front – to her severing ties with Australia and other woes.
Jelena Dokic from before she’d fallen way, way
off the radar.
But now Dokic is back, and while certainly she rode a tide of emotion to reach the quarters, between the lines it’s impressive to see how well Dokic played. Her pace was as hard as anyone, her flat drives – particularly her backhand – finding corners, her serve placed deep. In many ways it was refreshing to watch someone compete with such gusto. Now comes the challenge of the week in, week out grind. It’s one thing to get pumped up and strike boldly on prime time TV when a nation is watching and there are few expectations. It’s another when it’s 10:30 on a back court in Indian Wells in front of 75 people who are splitting their time between watching the match and twiddling thumbs across their Blackberrys.
Amid all this, three Russians reached the semis. I so admire the work ethic of players from this country. But I still wish either in their formative stages the Russians would learn more of the game’s nuances. So much of their playing style is based on raw baseline firepower that big matches can unmask a fundamental lack of imagination and vision – the kind of creativity and somewhat irrational confidence it takes not just to grind it out week after week but to step up one’s game and snare the very biggest titles. Serena has this more than any player of the last decade.
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Two-Handed Backhand Styles
If you're like the rest of us, you've probably heard advice like the two-handed backhand is like a forehand with the off-hand. But this is not necessarily so and won’t work for every player because which hand dominates the swing depends on a number of factors like grip and elbow positioning. Doug Eng believes that many of the problems associated with the stroke are due to inappropriate mechanics for a particular two-handed technique.
Ken DeHart addresses one of the secrets of championship doubles, how to play the four positions on the court. Whether you are the server, the receiver, the server's partner, or the receiver's partner, this is a veritable primer for anyone who wants to play better doubles. Next time you're out on the court with the same Tuesday night foursome you've been playing with for twenty years, take some advice from Ken and shake things up.
ProStrokes 2.0 - James Blake's Serve
James Blake has become a solid top 10 performer but he has yet to come through at the slams. Sometimes accused (wrongly) of failing to win in the clutch, with at one point nine consecutive losses when matches went to the fifth set, he has of late turned that unfortunate statistic around. In 2008 his results were OK, few bad losses, but equally no stunning wins or tournament titles. Blake plays with a daring, go for broke style and no doubt, he is an exciting player to watch. New this issue, James Blake's serve in TennisOne ProStrokes 2.0.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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