Editor's Note - TennisOne Update
Just a few updates from TennisOne. Last fall we conducted a readership survey, and a large percentage of you indicated you would like to see more content, more often. Responding to your request, TennisOne is moving to a weekly format, publishing a new edition and newsletter four times a month rather than twice a month. We have other improvements coming, but we hope you enjoy this one.
You'll note at the bottom of the newsletter today we're introducing a new section we call Product Highlights. The first product is an outstanding video analysis service by Pro Tech Video Analysis. We encourage you to check this service out and we've arranged a 10% discount for TennisOne members.
More on the serve and volley and using the whole court
There has been general agreement that equipment has changed the game. The
racquets are lighter, more powerful, and the sweet spots are larger. Armed
with these new high-tech weapons, the players hit the ball much much harder
than players in the 70's or 80's. Topspin has been perfected to such an
extent that net rushers are at a disadvantage when attempting to handle the
dipping passes. Don't tell that to Sampras, or Henman - but in the main the
racquets appear to have diminished the advantage that the volleyers had in
the good old days.
As an aside about the racquets, some years ago at a four man exhibition in
New York, McEnroe Sampras and two others played with wood racquets.
Interestingly, all the players served with nearly the same speed, but they
all struggled on the return of serve (my guess because of the smaller sweet
So as you are building a competitive game, the first task is to eliminate
errors and not beat yourself. Once accomplished, you may then endeavor to
cause errors on the other side of the net, and actually try to win the point
(instead of simply avoiding losing the point). But playing the net changes
the entire equation, for instead of simply keeping the ball in play from the
baseline, there is now a chance of being passed, multiple times.
Trey Waltke, circa 1980
be more daunting for younger players who play in the steady mold, than for
the risk taking players willing to take the time for their net game to
mature. In fact, when quite young, Rafter was sacked constantly in his net
rushing quest, but in time and over time he mastered that game and the
results were extraordinary. Now we see Taylor Dent maturing as his serve
and volley game comes together. But as we see more and more of the tour
players succeeding at younger and younger ages, there becomes a suggestion
that these young players succeed not with offensive or creative play, but
rather with unerring power, consistent sure, but basically unerring topspin
So has the game changed because of the racquets? Not so fast. The
evolution may have as much to do with the stronger and fitter athletes, with
coaching paradigms, but also the game may evolve without a plan and just
change on its own. I am not sure that the champions of the 1970's would
have envisioned the game as it is played today.
That said, read excerpts of a fascinating article published in 1980 by Trey Walke that may predate if not presage the tennis we see played today.
Trey Walke's article, published in the ATP Newsletter, was titled, "Drilled Out: An ex-pro urges coaches to use the entire court." Trey Waltke played #1 at UC Berkeley, and was ranked within the top 50 on the ATP tour in the 1980's and presently manages the LA Tennis Club.
Having recently returned from the Easter Bowl Junior Tennis tournament, I couldn't help comparing this group of juniors to my group of 15 years ago. True, these comparisons are what all older players do, but nevertheless, I couldn't help myself.
As a group, the kids coming up today have harder forehands and harder backhands. Their ability to hit outright winners from the baseline is amazing. Everyone seems to have a great two-handed backhand or a huge topspin forehand. These kids can go corner to corner forever. Which brings me to my inevitable gripe:
Until someone stages the National Drilling Championships, when are these kids going to learn how to play spontaneous all court tennis? I hate to sound like Don Budge on Bjorn Borg, but if I see one more kid let the opportunity of a short ball go by without coming in or cutting it off in the air, I'm going to scream. I know all of you coaches out there are saying, "My kids work on their volleys all day." That's precisely my point. Unless he or she practices the art of how to get to the net, they'll never be able to effectively incorporate all those long hours of mindless drilling.
Borg made a million dollars playing robotic tennis, but how many kids have his mind?
There is an area on the court, which kids today seem to view as the forbidden zone, but I like to think of as the forgotten zone. I'm referring to the middle of the court, or the midcourt, the area about three feet behind and in front of the service line.
What I'm merely suggesting is that kids stop all this drilling and start playing more meaningless sets where they can risk "foolin' around" in the midcourt. They must learn to feel at home in this area. The advantages of using the midcourt are incredible. To name a few:
It shortens points and saves energy. The moment you sense your opponent off guard or is not able to make an offensive shot, slyly creep in to the midcourt.
Your opponent will always be trying to second-guess your whereabouts on the court. Cutting off opponent's floaters in the midcourt, gives the added dimension of constant pressure on whomever you are playing.
This is the BIG ONE. Relieves boredom and burnout later in your tennis career by encouraging creativity during play. Bjorn Borg is a classic example of a player who mentally outgrew his own metronomic style of tennis. I will never forget seeing Bjorn in his last couple tournaments trying to play more inventive tennis. His mind had become more complex as an adult, but his training as a tennis player was still basically a one-dimensional style.
OK, so he made a million dollars, but how many kids have his mind? The average robotic junior could get bored, beaten or burnout before he makes his first hundred!
I doubt the same will happen to McEnroe. John is playing at the highest level of spontaneous tennis. He never restricts himself to any one area on the court and has never looked "drilled out." He has learned that great tennis is not to hit the ball 1,000 times in a row down the line, but to recognize certain point patterns and then use all parts of the court in his response to every situation.
I firmly believe we can all learn to be "tennis geniuses" like McEnroe through more all-court experimentation. The next generation of wonder kids will hopefully be taught to play in this manner.
Keep the groundies, kids, but for your sake and sanity and my watching pleasure, use the whole court and stop all this senseless drilling!"
Footnote: As of 2004, Waltke's observations continue to ring true on the
junior scene. Further, if you ever watched McEnroe and Borg on the Senior
Success tour, the contrast of the unlimited skill set of John's all court
game as compared to Bjorn's near "incompetence" anywhere but behind the
baseline was telling.
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One Handed Backhand: How We Lost the Way (Part 2)
Doug King continues his examination of the one handed topspin backhand and the role it has played in shaping the modern game. Though most experienced players will agree the backhand is probably the most natural stroke in tennis a symmetrical application of misdiagnosed principles may be responsible for much of our difficulties and confusion. See why.
Are You Learning to Play the Game-Based Way?
The scenario is a common one. In an attempt to improve you take lessons. The coach decides to overhaul your game. The result, a stroke that only works in lessons. Eventually, with practice, your stroke becomes much ‘better' than many of the people you lose to. If this is your story, the solution may be found in a new coaching trend called the Game-based Approach. Wayne Elderton explains how it works.
Andy Roddick - Ruminations on the Serve
Many observers question whether Andy Roddick will injure himself on the serve and more to the point whether his abrupt motion will be the culprit. TennisOne Editor, Jim McLennan, takes a closer look at Roddick's delivery and finds absolutely nothing wrong with his style. And, it's very hard to argue with 153 mph.
ProStrokes Gallery: Mardy Fish, Serves
Mardy Fish may be as gifted as any of the current American phenoms and his game appears much more well rounded. Mardy is equally comfortable at the baseline and the net. His serve is penetrating and well disguised and he backs it up with groundstroke pressure as well as competent volleying. New this issue, check out his serve only on TennisOne.
Product Highlights: Pro Tech Video Analysis
The Pro Tech Video Analysis system is the industry's premier video analysis service. Pro Tech puts your strokes side-by-side with the strokes of three professional players, providing a detailed graphical analysis of your strokes compared to the reference points of these top pros. This invaluable visual comparison, combined with the detailed analysis by a current tour professional coach, offers the most advanced and unique learning environment in tennis. Pro Tech will store your video lessons for two years on your own web page, so you and your coach can evaluate your progress from anywhere in the world. TennisOne members receive a 10% discount.
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