Save Your Court and Your Budget
By all reports, this has been one of the busiest seasons for tennis facilities. The stay-cation has kept more families around the club, and many pros are reporting that they have had record participation in programs, and that court usage is at an all-time high. While this is good news for tennis and those within the industry, it can add an element of challenge to keeping courts performing optimally, so having the proper equipment is crucial. At Lee Tennis Court Products, providing the right tools to make caring for your courts simple and effective is what we do. We hope some of these specials running through October will help.
Click through to – www.leetennis.com
Absorbing Power – Borrowing Pace – Returning
At every possible level, there are many ways to play this game. And many points of light in between. Seeing the court, seeing the ball. Moving and hitting. Hitting and moving (recovery). Mastering spin, as both the sender and the receiver. But lately, with the confluence of the the “Roddick Rebound” and the rise of Andy Murray to the second position in the ATP rankings, we see more and more instances where players absorb power from an opponent. And by extension, more and more opportunities where we can accept the opponent’s penetrating shots and go with the flow, as it were.
Reading the excellent interview of Larry Stefanki, by Paul Fein (in this issue), I note the following phrases and more as regards his coaching efforts with Andy Roddick.
– "We’ve focused a lot on his return of serve."
– "We’ve focused on taking the balls early off the bounce."
– "He’s coming to net against [opponents’] second serves."
– "We’ve worked on his backhand so he can absorb power."
– "I believe when you fill the holes in your game, the confidence will return and the insecurities will evaporate over time."
And more so than with any of the work of his previous coaches, Andy is, in fact, playing smarter, more balanced, and once, again making a serious run at another Grand Slam title.
Well, as regards to absorbing power and, in effect, deflecting an opponent’s offense, an interesting parallel can be drawn with Aikido. This martial art is performed by blending with the force and motion of an opponent and redirecting, rather than opposing, the attack head-on – essentially blending with an attacker's movements using minimal effort in order to control his actions.
And (it seems to me), more than anyone else in the modern game, the above reference to Aikido is as apt a description of the art and genius of Andy Murray as there is. Always deflecting an attack, disrupting rhythm, using an opponent’s game against himself, Murray plays as the consummate martial artist. Minimum effort. Redirecting. Blending.
Andy's Aikido like moves are reflected clearly in the return of serve stats, where the professionals, as well as you and I, absorb the power of an opponent’s first serve. The chart on the right shows the players' rankings within each category, and their percentage of success. And certainly, Roddick is improving in all categories, but clearly, he lags far behind Murray (and Nadal and Federer for that matter).
OK, now to your doubles game, and specifically to your return of an opponent’s big first serve. The most common error at our club, in nearly all divisions, occurs when the receiver takes a big round house swing at the incoming first serve. He or she rarely gets this ball in play, and, in the process, the errant return builds the confidence of the server. For, from the server’s perspective, it certainly is a darn site easier to hold serve when the ball doesn't come back in play.
Click photo: Murray is a picture of simplicity – note how quickly he turns after landing his split.
To cure this, take a page from Andy Murray, the Martial Artist, and the following is as much, if not more, mental than physical or technical. Absorb the incoming ball. Redirect it rather than meet it head on. Position yourself and time the stroke to truly “borrow” the incoming pace. For whether absorbing (Stefanki) or borrowing (Tom Stow – who coincidentally coached Stefanki) the phrase or script tells the whole story.
Practice the Return
Find a practice partner willing to trade serves and returns. No rallying. No keeping score. Simply 50 serves and 50 returns, then trade positions. Most players over practice rallying skills and overlook the importance of the first touch in a point (either the serve or return). This type of practice in itself will redirect your energies in a positive direction.
Click photo: Murray moves forward into his split for another reliable forehand
Now, to the nuts and bolts. When receiving, position yourself on the baseline; not behind it. Commit to early shoulder turns on both the forehand and backhand sides, with minimal racquet movement. Said another way, do not take the racquet back, that promotes big swings. Simply turn to one side or the other. And, as the ball is coming to you up off the ground, move ever so slightly to and through the hit. Rebounding it more than ripping the cover off the ball. Reviewing Stefanki’s prompts for Roddick – take the ball early, absorb the power, and your confidence will definitely grow.
Then commit to one practice session per week where all you do is work on your return of the incoming first serve...and watch your stats go up!
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Larry Stefanki: The Coach Who Turns Careers Around
Early in this decade Andy Roddick was tabbed as the Next Great American Player. But at 26, he seemed destined to be a second tier pro, no longer competitive with the likes of Federer, Murray, or Nadal. Enter Larry Stefanki, A-Rod’s seventh coach since he turned pro in 2000. Stefanki specialized in igniting slumping, underachieving players. Could he do it again? A-Rod’s record of late speaks to the results. There's a lot to learn here in Paul Fein's in depth interview with one of the tennis world's most impressive coaches.
Three Ways to Improve Your Net Reaction Time
Many players fear then net because they do not think they have fast enough reactions to be effective there. Ignoring this deficiency in ones game will lead to a lot of problems down the road. In this video, Ken DeHart discusses three ways to improve your net reaction time. Ken offers up three excellent drills, you can do with your coach or hitting partner, that will get you moving your hands forward (not backwards) when you volley.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Philipp Kohlschreiber's Backhand
This big-serving German has quietly broke into the top 50 on the ATP Tour this year, with a career high ranking of 27 last month. Kohlschreiber is one of few one-handed backhand players, using a strong eastern grip and nearly a full western grip on his forehands. Mixing in slice backhands and occasional migration to the net, Philipp has a well-rounded game, similar in style to that of Roger Federer. Check out Philipp Kohlschreiber's game in the all new TennisOne ProStrokes Gallery 2.0. New this issue – Philipp Kohlschreiber's backhand.
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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