Thursday, 26 December 2013


Even as a Coach of the game of Tennis I don't give false hope to any of my students , that would be rather rude to people who pay to learn a game that really has a success rate of around 1 in a .......
So the European trip in 1991 with Brett Patten and Pete Gerrans was what I would call a trip of a lifetime , one to experience the other side of the World in an environment that I would call 'educational', in a sport that one on one would have to be considered one of the hardest to master. When i played at the 'Coops' Tennis Centre in Brisbane i trained with two guys who in my eyes 'made it' as Tennis Professionals, one by the name of Andrew Kratzmann and the other Peter Trammachi , two guys who i beat , albeit , in training. Pete made it to World number 45 in Doubles and Andrew , who i never lost to in challenge matches, in 2000 lost in the Australian Open Doubles Final  and made it to World number 13 in Doubles. What made these guys a living on the tour, and myself , simply a journey through the game at a less intense level , yet a book full of experiences that i believe shaped me as a Coach of the game ? A Desire to 'Live The Dream'........
How many people can honestly say that when they get up and go to work each day they enjoy what they do and get paid accordingly? Not many, and not too many will argue with that. 
I looked through Andrew's and Peter's World Tennis profiles and despite their obvious outlay on expenses , their paydays were rather enjoyable . Regular winnings of anywhere from 3 grand up to 52 grand , as was Kratz's Australian Open final appearance in 2000 would surely make the whole process of being a Tennis Professional  very appealing , but the body must stay fit . Guys like Agassi , Connors and Laver were remarkable in the way that they kept themselves going physically for 20 or so years on the Tennis Tour , I would call that 'Inspirational'. Back to my initial statement; Yes it is a one in a million to take a kid from junior to a life time of stardom on the World Tennis Circuit , but think about it and put it into perspective . I often mention my buddy Brett Patten , here is a man who still inspires me to play the game , he just recently was chosen to play the World Tennis Championships for his age group in Florida. So why not look at the game realistically ? What's wrong with setting yourself a realistic goal and that is ; Reach your true potential before your time is out . Guys like my old training partners Peter and Andrew did well out of the game but still need a regular job now days , Tennis didn't pay for their retirement, but they were sensational Tennis players , they simply weren't 'brilliant' , that secures an early retirement. 
Just because you don't make it as a World beater as a teenager doesn't mean you can't still travel the Country or the World for that matter playing a game that will make you friends wherever you go and experience a different culture or two, and it's where the Coach has a role to play .Be honest to the pupil and the parent , it's a game that requires integrity , sure it's nice to receive 3 times as much per hour as 'real jobs' but don't deceive the people who invariably keep us Coaches on court . Tennis Coaching should be like any other job , if what you deliver as a Coach is working then the  hourly rate can be justified , but don't simply charge a price to make the public believe you are a 'Guru of the Game', after all , as a Coach , you are only as good as your pupil's results........

Sunday, 22 December 2013


What's wrong with looping a tennis ball over the net with lack of pace yet deep into the court with a heap of spin on it that will invariably keep your opponent behind the baseline so they cannot dictate play? It aint cool , that's why kids like to skim the net and put it straight back into their opponent's hitting zone only to get it hit straight back just as hard as it had no chance whatsoever of bothering the opposition . Flat tennis went out of vogue with the retirement of the great man Jimmy Connors and i mean that in all due respect , Jimmy hit it better than any , Bjorn was the 'loop King'. I read once that an opponent of Borg's said that unless he tried to take the Swede's shot on the rise it would bounce over his head , that's a lot of spin , much in the same mould as what Rafa does , the net is taken out of the equation . 
Sometimes i wonder if it's the era i grew up in , Borg , Wilander , Vilas and their ability to hit the ball in with ease and quite simply to not hit the net that gave me my focus as a Coach on net clearance. This 'philosophy' is not unique , the game is played at a quicker pace now days so it is deceiving. However if you watched from a side on view you would see that a ball hit by Rafa off his famous forehand side clears the net with ridiculous ease and if allowed to take it's full spin by his opponent it would bounce at a height that to most onlookers would seem rather uncomfortable to try and return. 
Kids in my town do not own a comfortable net clearance as they are not being taught to hit it , they are net skimmers because it is considered the 'macho' way of hitting a tennis ball , but there are a few exceptions . I hit with some kids who i have had some influence on over the years and they mainly hit long if they miss , their follow through's are high and their racket preparation low , enabling the racket to come through on an angle that will generate a high amount of topspin . The way i teach the game i would consider to be a 'safe' way of playing , not a risky or 'macho' way and i would be willing to take this way of teaching to any experienced and knowledgeable Coach in Australia or beyond and be surprised if it is not how they also teach it . 
A ball that is hit with a loop on it that carries it deep into court is a ball that cannot be attacked regularly or consistently , it's a ball that asks the opponent the question 'what have you got ?' . At a junior level i would be more than surprised if a high bouncing ball can be hit back regularly with any real conviction , it's physical demands are too high . 
I will continue to teach the loop ball , not a moon ball , but a ball that takes the opponent out of their hitting zone that i believe will eventually wear most opponents out , both physically and mentally, call it old fashioned if you wish , i call it Smart Tennis.......

Friday, 13 December 2013


The game of tennis brings out some personalities , some real characters and some 'wannabees', but it has a way of defining character in people, after all it is a mind game , the mind defines who we are . Some players , not just Coaches have a bad habit of talking about their past form and wins, sort of like an obituary at a funeral , 'yeah he was a great bloke, blah , blah....'. I would like to think that from a personal point of view i can still 'walk the walk' , some Coaches are happy just to 'talk the talk' . Let's look at this; I had a session this week with a dozen players of all ages , i call it the 'Generation Challenge' and it's where all ages and standards , A to B mix and try to get the best out of each other , i personally like the format , the feed back has been positive. I don't just feed balls in this session , this is my day to belt the ball as well as i know how , even if the opposition is a little younger or older for that matter , it's where the generations meet and 'compare' . 
This particular session has left an impression on me that i think will stay with me for quite some time , for reasons that mean everything to a coach . Firstly I hit with a kid who's father i played many times in local Tournaments and his son is 'a chip off the old block', but he hits it harder than his old man , maybe simply a 'Generation thing'. His dad doesn't play much now days , a shame , yet he has his reasons and they are to be respected , he has other interests , fair enough , but for the record , he was a 'technician' of the game and one that i respected greatly. I also did some drills with two players who's father i played the Albany Open with one year , we didn't win it but we went close , his kids have similar ability and their on court demeanor and intensity can be credited to their Dad. This particular gentleman would go down in local Tennis folklore as not only a great Tennis Player but a guy who you wouldn't care if you lost to , he was and still is simply an inspiration. To now be hitting with the next generation and in particular my old playing partner's kids' is something that I am proud of. It means that I have kept a desire to play and kept the old legs in some sort of shape to be able to keep up with legs that don't understand the meaning of fatigue.
 My buddy Brett Patten who hit World Number 1 for 35-40 years just recently said it all when he told me 'It's not how good you were, it's how good you can still become'. I love that philosophy and let's face it , if you want some real inspiration from the game , watch the highlights of the 'old boys' playing the Legends Tour , Mcenroe , Borg , Wilander , Leconte, these guys are truly a credit to the game . Why do you think they still play ? They love to prove not only to the public but to themselves that they can still deliver the goods as they go through their years that most 'retirees' are travelling in camper vans and visiting various bowling clubs.
Never 'hang your hat' on past victories, it's a fickle game Tennis , it can make you a 'Hero' one day and a 'Chump' the next , but one thing is for certain; play it while you can and test yourself to the true extent of your ability , you are a long time retired , while the passion and desire still remains , test yourself , what have you got to lose ?

Sunday, 8 December 2013


The John Newcombe medal , awarded to Australia's best performed Tennis player of 2013 was awarded to Lleyton Hewitt just recently , not sure why , what did he do ? He won nothing , sure his ranking rose , so did Nick Kyrgios , but only around 700 places , this obviously wasn't good enough to sway the judging panel though . What about a tie between Australia's best performed Women's Doubles team of Casey Dellacqua and Ash Bartey or weren't their efforts of reaching 3 of the 4 Grand Slam finals quite enough either ? Apparently Hewitt's 'outstanding' year was in fact more 'outstanding than the others though , his ranking went up around 23 places and he beat World number 6 Juan Martin Del Potro at The US Open and World number 8 Stanislav Wawrinka at Wimbledon . Do these wins however constitute  what the John Newcombe Medal is all about and that is once again 'Australia's Best Performed Tennis Player'? The answer is simple , no, it's laughable that Lleyton Hewitt's year was the best of any Australian Tennis Player , an embarrassment to the whole Award and the Great Man himself Mr Newcombe should feel rather silly that it was won by a Man who had an 'average' year, compared to others.
I wonder what this decision has done to the morale in Australian Tennis and surely Dellacqua and Barty would be wondering what on earth they needed to do to both receive the medal this year , these two were a 'standout' team. Surely young Nick Kyrgios with his 700 odd places up the ladder was just as impressive if not as impressive as the girls efforts , so getting back to morale.
Lleyton with his rather over the top court antics and arrogant demeanour hasn't put himself in everyone's favorite Tennis player basket since he first burst onto the scene as a 15 year old kid , in Australia or else where for that matter. This Award victory for him will do nothing to endear himself to anyone , and anyone who knows anything about the game will be having a quiet chuckle at this latest accolade , a reward for Mediocrity of the biggest kind . Surely Hewitt himself will be feeling a little guilty at the whole thing and deep down he knows that there were better performed players from Oz. To give just a small example of lleyton's popularity in the World of Tennis , the veteran American Michael Russell didn't hold back after he himself made the Semi Finals of a Tournament in the US that Hewitt made the final of . Hewitt had the audacity to say that he 'had the tougher draw' than guys on the other half , that's just plain stupid , even if it's true you don't say it , it's disrespecting your fellow Pro's ability.
Russell didn't miss him , calling Lleyton a 'dousch bag' and a 'racist' , referring to another not so smart comment that fell out of Hewitt's mouth at The US Open one year when playing black American former top ten player James Blake.
Personally I am not a fan of Hewitt's , I am not alone either , quite obviously as others have voiced their opinions regarding his arrogant ways . Hopefully next year common sense will prevail at the John Newcombe Medal awards night and Mediocrity will not be rewarded , Tennis doesn't work like that , it only rewards consistent results and Hewitt's year in no way resembled this.......

Saturday, 7 December 2013


Would've been a long match , that's stating the obvious . I recall a rally between Borg and Guillermo Vilas at the French Open in the late 70's that lasted over 120 shots , that's just plain silly when you think about it .....
Too many Tennis players young and old actually 'beat themselves' rather than lose to their opponents . They go for shots that they don't own , most of the time because they want to get the match won sooner than later , a lack of patience, or a lack of fitness. So how do you win against an opponent if you both have a consistent game and mind that that is prepared to go the distance? What happened if you were feeling a little impatient when playing Borg in the 70's and you didn't own an approach shot and volley ? Shaking hands before you started may have been your best option . The French Open Final in 1978 was between the best two clay courters in the World , Borg and Vilas  , the Swede won 6-1,6-1,6-3 , let's put this scoreline into perspective . Vilas was the defending champion , just 12 months earlier he had beaten World number 5 Brian Gottfried , by a similar scoreline of 6-0,6-3,6-0 , a belting in any man's language.
Borg was a rather stubborn man , his mind was one that simply loved to just get two things over the net , his mind plus the ball , he didn't really own a big shot , just a determination to outlast his opponent , he had no other life commitments, he lived for Tennis. 
So what would've happened if Borg played his modern day 'clone' Rafael Nadal in a best of 5 sets in the French Open Final of whatever year was applicable? Personally I can't pick a winner , that's how good both Borg and Rafa were and still are , Borg had the greatest defence in the game , Rafa the same however owns a rather big forehand to push the pace when needed , Borg's forehand was brilliant but not big .
Mats Wilander , Borg's younger Countryman who won the French Open in 1982 that was considered 'the Borg defence' , as Borg retired without defending his 1981 Title , may have got it right when attacking Roger Federer's game plan against Rafa. Mats , who has now turned his hand to commentating openly questioned the tactics of Federer when trying to win the French Title from the Spaniard , he even said that Fed 'lacked balls', tough call but it has merit. Roger should have known his own capabilities , especially against Rafa , he knew he could never beat him from the baseline , so why try , ego?? Another Swede Robin Soderling did Roger the ultimate gesture and beat Rafa in 2009 , paving the way for Federer's sole French Open Title that gave him his personal Grand Slam , but Roger would have preferred to beat Rafa in the final , make no mistake. Wilander's comments got him into all sorts of trouble yet it was taken out of context and I believe even Federer could agree that he played Rafa 'all wrong', a tactical net attack may just have put the Spaniard off his 'groove'. Borg vs Rafa 14-12 in the fifth set , year 'What ever' , unforced errors , a hand full each , winners , not many , hard to hit one against an opponent who stays back . Pity it never took place , one for the History books , and the time keeper.......

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Just recently I got in the car and traveled to a tennis Club 40 minutes from where i live , to teach some of the 'older' generation the finer points of the game . When I teach the game now days I like to do it in small groups , four students is what I aim for , any number above this is hard work and it leaves players standing around in between drills and points . Some Coaches go for the 'wallet' , 10 on a court, 'SHOW ME THE MONEY!' Any one who can get 10 students in a group and give them their money's worth I would like to meet. A long afternoon two Sunday's ago but three groups of 4 players for 90 minutes each was well received , as was the beer fridge's contents by 5 pm , thirsty work ......
One thing hit me that day more than anything else , and I don't count the occasional stray ball that takes you by surprise , I refer to the surroundings . The Club was something out of a Robin Hood movie , it was cut out of a forest , a simply magnificent back drop to a Club that I swear i played junior pennants at when I was a kid, it seemed familiar. The wind factor was almost non existent, something that my home town Clubs could perhaps take a look at . The leafy surroundings and the leaves on court reminded me of playing as a kid , it brought back some fond memories , the simple things.... I have been involved with three Tennis Clubs in Albany , actually four , I don't count the fourth though , they are a little different and lack manners in most aspects, the other three however have one thing in common . They once had a magnificent back drop of trees and a wind break that even on a fifty knot wind would give the end courts a breather from the elements , my how the times have changed . How long does it take to sweep a few leaves off the  courts before the start of play , either at a local Tournament or at a Club day and why doesn't anyone own up to the 'vandalism' when the question is asked " who got the chain saw out"? 
I have a photo of my daughter hitting a ball at a Club in town that i swear was the greatest club i have ever seen or played at apart from the odd European Club i visited . I think the picture was taken eight years ago , it reminded me of the Club i recently traveled to , a post card , a Club that could be put on a Visitor's sight on the net to promote the game locally , sadly now though it is a distant memory of the photo on my wall.
Getting back to my Coaching , and what an absolute pleasure it was to teach some remarkably talented players of a mixture of ages and gender , the feed back was and still has been positive over the past couple of weeks , the small groups seemed to hit the right note . 
What astounded me was the lack of knowledge on how to actually hold the racket correctly as many students said the same thing 'I have never been shown' . Interesting.......
I had a couple of sessions recently with some kids who have been elsewhere for a couple of seasons and their grip on the racket reminded me of the way some people hold a golf stick with no tuition , awkward and resembling a fry pan hold when cooking snaggers . Would it be too much to ask of a Coach to spend two minutes at the start of each session and explain that even though the game is complicated at times , the way to hold the 'bat' may just be the difference between hitting the ball in the court and hitting the poor magpie sitting at the top of the fence 50 feet away who thinks he is 'safe'? 
This game of Tennis can be one of many things , a physical challenge , a mind game , an ego battle , or a test of character, but one thing is for certain .....
If you don't get taught the basics from the start , it will be an even bigger challenge as you get older , and maybe , just maybe that fry pan hold on a golf stick may be more appealing to some......