Friday, 17 November 2017

'THE CELEBRATION'

Personally I have never played for big dollars in tennis, wasn't good enough, nowhere near it so I suppose I am stating the obvious when I say that I would not understand the feeling of winning a big tournament.
As previously stated, I have ONE tennis trophy on my mantle piece, it was won in France with my buddy from Perth, WA, Peter Gerrans who carried me through to a doubles tournament victory in 1991. It is the only trophy that means anything to me as winning your local yearly event is not something that is worth a talking point when people walk into your house.
'Albany Open 2010 Glenn ? You 'superstar'........
You know what I mean.
So in regards to my opening paragraph, I am not aware of the feeling of obvious euphoria when a player wins a major event but let's be brutally honest here, some of the winning celebrations simply go way over the top. Let's look at a few 'hits and misses' so to speak.
My first tennis hero Bjorn Borg had his own unique style of celebrating at Wimbledon as the streak from 1976 to 1980 saw him drop to his knees on most occasions in victory though he didn't stay there too long, he had Connor's, Tanner's McEnroe's and Nastase's hands to shake so up he got and met them at the net.
As the years rolled by certain players didn't even get to the net, they were way too busy celebrating to remember something as 'insignificant' as a hand shake to complete the victory.
Two come to mind in particular.
The Davis Cup final of 2000 in Spain saw Juan Carlos Fererro hit a backhand past Australia's very own 'Celebration King' Lleyton Hewitt then fall to the clay in victory as he was mobbed by his team mates. Now I have one of those silly memories and I was 100 per cent certain that no hand shake took place after that match, so I looked it up again.
Good memory GT.
Hewitt left the court amidst the celebrations though in fairness to him, well he did wait at the net for Fererro who did not find the time to actually get there to shake his hand.
How about Wimbledon 1992 ? This was possibly one of the worst acts of celebrating you will ever witness.
Andre Agassi had just squeaked by Goran Ivanisevic if five sets and fell to the ground in celebration. He stayed there 'a while' and he completely forgot about his opponent who in fact walked around the net post, met Andre at the baseline and gave him a hug, nice effort Goran. Someone had to do the right thing.
Hand shakes complete a tennis match, whether you like your opponent or not.
Rafa Nadal took celebrations to a whole new meaning as he rolled around on the ground, usually on the clay after winning an event. One springs to mind in particular. In Rome in 2005 Nadal played what some call one of the greatest ever clay court matches as he just edged Guillermo Coria 7-6 in the fifth and the tie break from memory was 8-6, absolute colossus of a match.
The celebrations by Nadal were time consuming, so much so that Coria walked to the side of the court while Nadal continued to stay on his back. They shook hands eventually.
Rafa has mellowed a little over the years as his US Open celebration this year was rather reserved to say the least compared to his past victory rolls of the past.
Roger Federer had a few years there at Wimbledon where he went with the celebration roll though it was never in the same league as Rafa's though now days Fed is just happy to raise his arms in the air in triumph, you know, the 'old fashioned way'.
There have been some absolute rippers over the years, some completely over the top, others so reserved that you would wonder whether they just won an event or a first round match. This year's London Tour Finals have made me smile at the simplicity of some of the victory celebrations. Jack Sock and Grigor Dimitrov have come up with two of the best I have ever witnessed.
A nod and a smile to their entourage, not even so much as arms in the air. Sure they haven't won the event but if you know anything about these two players you will realise that they have come from the clouds so to speak with their tennis over the past year or so.
To win against top ten players in consecutive matches you would think may just warrant a fist in the air at least. Not so, it's refreshing to see.
Passionate sport tennis, some get a little too passionate about things as they forget about the fact that without the player down the other end the victory celebrations would not have been possible.
Whether you dislike your opponent or not remember this, you beat them, you don't have to rub it in, they are in enough physical and emotional pain without having to wait for you while you carry on like a pork chop.........

Thursday, 16 November 2017

'NICE WORK GRIGOR'

I recall some time ago when Grigor Dimitrov was being coached by Australia's very own resident 'Fitness King' Roger Rasheed. You could see that Grigor was fit, the problem was not however his fitness, he didn't know how to play tennis, plain and simple.
Nowdays with his new coach, Daniel Vallverdu,                  Grigor Dimitrov is playing a brand of tennis that is quite sensational to say the least. Yes he is fit, he has always been fit but he now knows how to use his fitness. He once reminded me of that 'boutique' tennis player who I have written about on many occasions on this site, you know, the one who looks great in practice but has never been taught HOW TO ACTUALLY PLAY TENNIS.
Grigor Dimitrov has at last been taught, thank goodness.
Now I will not drag this post on, I will get to the point. 
Grigor just defeated Dominic Thiem ranked World Number 5, to reach the semi finals in London, 7-5 in the third, great match. This was his reaction.
He looked to the side of the court, no doubt to his entourage, he did not even raise his arms in triumph, nodded his head, walked to the net, shook hands with Dominic, pretty simple stuff, no histrionics.

Lleyton Hewitt Australian Open First Round 2016 playing James Duckworth, ranked World number 129 at the time.
Match point Hewitt.
Lob, winner. 
Lleyton Hewitt falls onto his back, hands in the air, euphoria.
Who did you beat Lleyton ? 
What was his ranking ?
Way too many people in the Land of Oz have always praised Lleyton Hewitt for his fighting qualities on court, I agree, he was a fighter. As far as winning with a humbleness that can be accredited to past and present champions of the game ? No where near the mark Lleyton.
Grigor Dimitrov just showed us all how to show respect to a vanquished opponent without getting in their face and rubbing the result in.
Well played Grigor.
Hope Lleyton was watching.......

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

'GOTTA LOVE IT'

The current year ending Championships in London have proven beyond doubt that there is only a 'whisker' separating a win from a loss amongst the best players in the World.
The 'easiest' match so far has been a 6-4, 7-6 win to Roger Federer over Jack Sock who is currently playing a brand of tennis that can only be described as 'cavalier'.
There has been a total of six matches played in the singles and five of them have gone to three sets. Of the six doubles matches played three have gone the distance, two of them 10-8 in the third set super tie breaker and another 10-5. The other scores have been 4 and 6, 6 and 4 plus a 6 and 6 result that took a rather amazing 12 match points to close the deal.
I recall these same championships several years ago and it was a fizzer of epic proportions, many one sided matches and it didn't really make sense.
It was as though the 'apprentices' were completely overawed by the masters of the game.
The times have changed.
Jack Sock is the standout.
I recall something that the American said after winning in Paris just recently and I found it to be rather fascinating. 
Sock said that he was playing with 'House Money'. Anyone who knows anything about gambling will tell you that if you have a win then you relax, trust me, I used to punt, I know the feeling well.
'House Money' is the terminology that many use when they scrape through a tight one, so to speak, a match that gives you a feeling of freedom when you play your next match because in all reality you quite possibly shouldn't be there.
In Paris, Sock came back from 1-5 in the third against Kyle Edmund in the second round and his game loosened up to such a degree that he won the tournament and secured the final position in the elite eight man field in London.
A 6-4, 7-6 loss to Roger Federer is nothing to be ashamed of as that was a match that many would be totally overawed by, not so with Jack Sock.
He is still playing with 'house money', as free as a bird, nothing to lose, everything to gain. Perhaps we should all play with that same feeling of freedom, after all do we really have anything to lose when we play tennis apart from maybe an ego deflation ?
I love some of the terminologies that tennis professionals come up with but this one by Jack Sock would have to be right up there with the best of them.
I remember once a player saying 'I didn't lose, he beat me'. 
Put those two sayings into perspective.
Tennis, a thinking mans game.........

Monday, 13 November 2017

'INSPIRING'

Over the past few weeks I have seen and heard some pretty inspiring things in the Wheat belt of Western Australia as I take a look at what works and why it works and it all comes down to the 'effort meter'.
The effort that people put in to make tennis work in the Wheat belt is nothing short of inspiring but it's not just one person who makes it work, it's plenty. The non paid work that goes on if one day was measured by the minute and paid by the dollar would run into the thousands, yet that's how they do it.
It reminds me of my junior tennis days in Albany, ( 'Sleepy Hollow' as I like to call it on this site ).
My old coach Peter ( Holmsey) was often disliked for how good he was as a tennis player because quite frankly he 'owned' tennis in Albany, not only with his coaching but his ability to organise AND win every tennis tournament on the local calendar.
'Bloody Pete won another tennis tournament'.
So what, he wins every tennis tournament.
That was the usual conversation piece when I was a kid in regards to tennis in Albany, it was a big sport however it was basically run by a bloke who was selfless in many ways. Some would say that Pete organised tennis tournaments just to win them. I would say so what ? At least he organised them. 
Pete organised junior pennant competitions as well as senior pennants where he would also play and usually win the flag, it's just how it was.
At least he organised them.
In the Wheat belt of WA tennis is organised so ridiculously well so even when they don't have a coach to teach them the finer points of the sport they still have parents running around throwing balls to kids on a regular basis.
Those organised time slots have kids of all ages hitting tennis balls because those kids will one day be the future of the club, no risk at all.
Restocking the shelves so to speak.
When my buddy Justin and I counted up the 'loose change' at the end of a season several years ago we worked out that we both cleared around $10 per hour for every hour we put in at our local tennis club. Looking back on it I would call that rather silly though as I have documented in the past on this site I took one particular figure away from that season more than anything else.
( We didn't take much money away ).
We counted the kids one Saturday afternoon at social tennis and we had around ten players who were a product of our junior coaching program who also played Saturday morning junior tennis, organised competitive matches, a necessity for a budding junior tennis player.
So in a nutshell those kids would have a midweek coaching session, junior match play Saturday morning and then matches in the afternoon against the adults. It's why that tennis club was head and shoulders above any other club in our region, it rocked, and it culminated one year in the local Champ of Champs Tournament where it was crowned 'Champion Club'.
Our tennis club restocked the 'shelves'. 
In the Wheat belt that's what happens, it's like watching something from the past from that club in Sleepy Hollow and one thing is for certain, tennis rocks in the Wheat belt. I haven't met one 'ego' yet, no place for egos when you are trying to both maintain and build the sport in the bush.
How about this, a weekly pennant tie in the bush quite often requires a 300 kilometre round trip. Two sets of singles, two of doubles, two of mixed. That to me is worth the trip.
Tennis in the Wheat belt of WA is inspiring, did I mention that ?
I have seen kids of age 5 roll out 'wheelie bins' full of tennis balls and play 4 on 4 or sometimes 6 on 6, like a game of volley ball while Mums and Dads kick back with an ale after playing a few sets in 35 degree heat.
It gets hot in the Wheat belt.
I would not be at all surprised to one day find a future champion of the sport out here in the Wheat belt of WA. The desire to play at a young age is second to none and the generosity of the parents who often partner up with kids of age 8, 9 and 10 to simply help them along with their progress as a tennis player is humbling to watch.
A kid in the Wheat belt does not have the opportunities of a kid in the City, that's stating the obvious yet they will make up for their lack of technical expertise with a desire to play that at times is quite remarkable to observe.
I played a 'first to ten' with a young fellow who at one stage did the 'splits' to retrieve a ball that most adults would have given up on. These kids don't know the meaning of 'too hard'.
I was lucky as a kid in 'Sleepy Hollow' growing up playing tennis because it didn't cost a fortune to play. I would play both junior club on a Saturday morning and Senior Club with the adults in the afternoon, maybe eight hours of tennis in a day, it's how I improved. Maybe cost me $5.
Now days I see kids have a 30 minute session for the week in a group of 6, 8 or 10 kids and the parents wonder why little to no improvement is made.
Think outside the square grasshopper. The Wheat belt mob do.
Even a weekly one on one with a coach at $50 - $100 an hour depending on 'expertise' or 'self importance' will not create a good tennis player. You don't have to be a scholar to work that one out.
So if I can leave you with my take on the whole tennis scene;
It's a sport that has minimal success as far as results are concerned because the technical side of it is too great a hurdle to overcome for many junior players.
The self destroying nature of a junior tennis tournament where the knockout system only rewards the 'gifted' or those who can afford regular coaching will not keep kids in the game.
Tennis is a business now days, nothing is done for nothing, it's too expensive to learn.
Not enough thinking outside the square as the 'Wheat belt folk' are forced to do on a regular basis to keep their tennis clubs alive.
Not enough guys like Pete ( Holmsey) left in the sport who not only knew how to coach the sport but knew how to maintain it.
Tennis folk in the Wheat belt, they think outside the square, it's inspiring......

Thursday, 9 November 2017

David Nalbandian Backhands Slow Motion




I often wonder why the new breed of tennis coach complicates tennis.
I have witnessed the new 'loop' backswing of the two hander, 'Sharapova' style and quite frankly I think it's a joke.
This swing of Nalbandian's is simple, effective and it was one of the greatest of all time, no risk.
Rather easy to teach, rather easy to implement......

Monday, 6 November 2017

'PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE' ( FROM 2013 )

In 1991 the Great Jimmy Connors made the Semi's of The US Open , if you know anything about the game of Tennis , this feat is rather remarkable , it will probably never be repeated , Jimmy was 39.
That same year another all time great Martina Navratilova lost in the final of the Women's event , aged 34 , another performance that may never  be seen again , after all , Tennis is a 'young' person's sport isn't it ?  In 1992 Connors finished the year ranked number 84 , not bad for an 'old' bloke, Navratilova number 5.
So it was in some Promoter's wildest dream that these two should play each other in a battle of the sexes singles match , but with a slight twist in the rules . Martina would receive half a Double's alley extra for her shots , this is a fair bit of extra room for your opponent to cover , especially if they are 39 years of age .
Connors was still confident that he would win , despite the extra room that he had to cover, so much so that he waged 1 million dollars on himself to win with the loss of no more than 8 games , pressure was on .....
The highlights of this match are on 'You Tube' , it really is a great match , some of the points are brilliant , Connors however came away with a win and a few dollars extra in his pocket , as well as of course the match prize money . Jimmy cut it fine though on his punt with a bookie , he lost 7 games , no pressure at all , he had a game up his sleeve to cash in his million dollar bet.
This on the other side of the coin was a chance for female tennis players to try and prove that they were up with the standard of the men , but Event Organizers knew for a fact that an even playing field between a man and woman would not in fact be even at all .
Even at age 39 Connors would've had way too much power and all round ability for Martina on a normal sized court .
It is not unrealistic to think that the guy ranked 1000 in the world would have too much fire power for any woman in the World's Top 10 .
In fact if you set up a practice session between the guy ranked 1000 and any Top 10 male player you wouldn't see too much of a difference in technique ability , until they commenced point play , then the differences would become evident. The difference between men and women tennis players however is enormous , it's why more battle of the sexes matches aren't played , it's a foregone conclusion that the man would win .
It's not a sexist comment by any means , but a factual look at the difference in how hard the ball is hit , take this example . One of the State's best male player's was once asked to hit with a top 5 women's professional for the Hopman Cup in Perth .
This guy didn't even have a World ranking , if he did it may have been somewhere around 2000 if he was lucky . He not only matched it with her in the drills but also won their practice set comfortably . 
Just a few more facts and figures that should be taken into perspective when considering just how good professional Tennis players are to keep winning , day in , day out.....

Friday, 3 November 2017

'TECHNIQUE OR TACTICS' ?

Out of 30 years of coaching the sport of tennis I would take one compliment over any other, ' You taught me how to play tennis'. ( From a 17 year old student ).
So why does that make me feel as though I achieved something ? Simple.
You can teach a student of any age how to hit a tennis ball however that student needs far more than just the ability to hit a tennis ball over the net. Once you are on a tennis court it is you versus another player, another mind, another view on how the sport should be played.
So who's view is superior and where did that view come from ? Is a player born with an ability to play tennis or does it have to be taught by someone who has played for a long time at a high level ?
Does a coach have to come from a strong playing background or is it possible to teach the game without even bothering the scoreboard as a former player ?
Personally I believe that a coach of tennis perhaps just requires a philosophy, a view on how to play the game.
I have seen some 'Mickey Mouse' tennis players who have gone on to become reasonable tennis coaches however I still think that you have had to have hit a ball in the 'heat of the moment' to be able to relay your thoughts to a player who is fresh into the sport of tennis.
I look at guys like Ivan Lendl who was a fierce competitor on court yet he was able to relay his ideas to a player like Andy Murray and those ideas stuck, they worked ridiculously well to the tune of two Wimbledon crowns, despite the fact that as a player Lendl fell short, the only major he did not win.
So how does a guy like Ivan Lendl use his mind to help someone like Murray who has owned a history of falling at the last hurdle ?
The thought process in tennis is not talked about nearly enough.
I have seen some players who I refer to as 'boutique tennis players', the type who look a million bucks in practice though play like a street busker desperate for a dollar when the game was on the line in a competition. So why is this ?
Many players are taught how to hit a ball yet not how to play tennis. The guy ranked 200 in the World is quite possibly a simple train of thought away from a regular spot in a 128 man field at a Grand Slam and a guaranteed $200,000 per year yet he will probably fall in the second or third round of qualifying instead.
Why ?
A guy like Ivan Lendl is required to help him get there but the Czech legend has a rather expensive price tag so that guy ranked 200 is relying on the brain of someone who has done a lot less than Ivan to help him get to a level of consistency that pays the bills on a regular basis.
Is it luck ?
Quite possibly. 
By 'luck' I refer to a player / coach relationship that works because many players cannot find the right person to guide them through. Luck has to play a part in tennis.
There have been numerous stories of players who have been World ranked juniors who have failed to even step inside the World top 100 when things really mattered. 
Is it because they were simply not good enough or not smart enough ? 
There is a difference.
You can be a 'boutique tennis player' or you can be a smart one.
You can keep practicing technique or you can learn how to play tennis.
Find the balance............