PTR Symposium - Sept. 9-10th in Huntington Beach
Open to all PTR and USPTA teaching professionals, high school and college coaches, and students who are or will be teaching tennis. The Symposium features presentations by Pam Austin, Ken DeHart ,Dave Hagler, Don Henson. Program includes, "Who Wins... Who Loses... And Why?"; "Competitive Games for Large Groups"; "Drills to Motivate and Excite."
To reserve your spot, call PTR at 800-421-6289 or email email@example.com
Blake vs. Santoro – Shot Variety and Court Positioning
Jim McLennan, Editor
US Open, second round, night match, full house, full moon, and a five set marathon finishing at midnight. This was truly as good as it gets. But even more so, we were treated to a wonderful contrast in styles. James Blake, top tenner, huge forehand, but somehow playing high-wire high risk tennis. Fabrice Santoro, 34 years old, underspin forehand, tremendous disguise, and for better or worse the ultimate “pusher.” And though that name (pusher) is generally used by a loser to describe a winner who tends to get everything back without ever hitting the ball overly hard, Santoro plays fantastic tennis where he gets to nearly everything, and whenever possible returns the ball such that the opponent must always attempt the most difficult shot in order to win the point.
In previous years, Federer and Santoro have played in the early rounds, and in 2005 they played a three set match (75, 75, 76) where often on the changeover they were both smiling at the angles, the finesse, the touch, and ultimately the fun they both had competing not with brute force but rather with nuance.
That night Blake made 71 unforced errors to balance out a phenomenal 83 winners, compared to Santoro’s 21 errors and 39 winners. But as they both scrambled to all corners of the court, both found their way to the net, so much so that Blake won 57 of 83 approaches and Santoro 32 of 57s.
Click Photo: Santoro moves gracefully around the court, almost always taking the forehand on the rise.
As the fifth set wore on, the real crisis occurred with Blake serving at 4-all, where he faced three break points. He fought them off and ultimately held serve with consistent play rather than winners. He broke Santoro in the next game with a clean backhand crosscourt passing shot.
But it was their sportsmanship and regard for one another that impressed most and it was evident in the post-match remarks. In the end there was very little to separate the play of these two, with Blake winning 149 points to Santoro’s 145. Simply amazing, all court, fully engaged and engaging tennis.
Blake mentioned throwing a “monkey” off his back, and acknowledged just that in his post-match remarks, having lost all nine previous matches that went the five set limit. But truly, and Blake acknowledged as much, in all those matches, as in this one, only a few points separated the loser from the winner. And though Blake earned this one, there has been and always will be the slightest element of luck when the ball, on a big point, is either on the line or slightly out (as shot spot so often shows).
To my eye, this match also highlighted the evolution of pro tennis. Though Santoro, “the Magician” plays with more guile spin and nuance than perhaps anyone in the modern game, equally, he wins by virtue of his court positioning, his shot selection, and his knack for the game. Topspin, backspin, backcourt, at the net, drop shots, lobs; he uses every tool available as the situation requires.
Blake often runs around his backhand to set up his huge but sometimes risky forehand.
Blake plays in stark contrast, huge forehand and offense rather than consistency. He can be very good, but he is also capable of some bad losses. So as this match progressed, we were treated to two fantastic athletes, covering every corner of the court, side to side, up and back, and so many times the rallies were truly enthralling.
So what separated these two players? Hard to say. Maybe Blake’s will. Maybe Santoro’s age. Maybe it was simply the mood in Arthur Ashe Stadium. But anyone in the stadium that night (or perhaps watching on TV) will never forget the show these two magnificent sportsmen put on. Bravo!
Put Some Santoro into Your Game
So now, a few take-aways from this match. How you can add a little more “Santoro” to your game. And some precautionary comments about the “Big Run Around Forehand.” Santoro is all about change of pace, change of direction, variety and most importantly unpredictability. And in each instance he declares the shot at the last moment, preparing the same way whether driving, dropping, floating or lobbing the ball.
In practice, set up in the forehand corner (using a ball machine or practice partner) and work on down the lines and sharp cross courts from the identical stance. Then practice varying pace, where your rhythm changes at the hit not on the preparation.
Generally most recreational players “tell” their shot with the style of their preparation, where drives have robust backswings and lobs have somehow lower and slower backswings. In this instance, turn early, wait for the ball, then construct your backswing in one continuous motion to produce either a sharp crosscourt or down the line lob. Further, and this one may be counter-intuitive, consider learning an underspin forehand. Pretty rare in this day of power tennis, but the underspin forehand has many uses, and provides a simple spring board into the mastery of the forehand volley.
Develop Better Court Positioning
As to Blake or you as regards the huge run around forehand (and I will probably get in trouble here), this shot pays huge dividends when hit well, but creates enormous court positioning problems. Blake moves as well as anyone in the modern game, and in so many instances he scrambled side to side after exposing so much court.
At an early stage of Agassi’s career, he also played many forehands from the backhand corner, often for winners, but with a daring high risk style. As his career evolved, he played a more conservative brand of tennis, where balls to the backhand side were simply returned with backhands. The gain was in a quieter simpler less error prone style and certainly his grand slam results proved just that. And so if it is you or James with the huge forehand, consider retooling on the backhand side. The court is huge. There is a lot of ground to cover. Hard to see why one would want to magnify that problem.
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Moving from Beginner to Advanced Play
Part six of Dave Smith's on Training an 8-Year Old. Using his Advanced Foundation, Dave and his daughter Kyla tackle more prolific and dynamic drills and strategies. Such progressions include more aggressive footwork patterns, quicker transitions between strokes or shots, strokes with more and varied pace and spin, and other more demanding and challenging patterns. This is a good model for any junior or beginning adult.
Beware of Dark Alleys
For many players, the doubles alley holds a mysterious fascination. Though visually it’s a small target, a big shot between the lines can be as tempting as that midnight bowl of ice cream. But Greg Moran thinks there is a right time and a wrong time to attempt this low percentage shot and knowing when can mean the difference between winning and losing a match.
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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