Monday, 31 March 2014


After growing up watching Bjorn Borg win Wimbledon in 1980 when i was 11 you could imagine my despair when i heard of the rather premature retirement of the great man less than 5 years later , i was devastated.
So what do you do when your biggest influence on your favorite sport disappears from the radar ? You find someone else to inspire you . I believe that it was in 1982 when i turned the tv on late at night and found a televised match of the Italian Open in Rome between a long haired 17 year old Swedish player called Mats Wilander and Czechoslovakian player Thomas Smid . I had heard that Wilander was being compared to Borg so naturally i was curious . 
My first impression of Mats was that he had an appeal about him , not unlike his famous countryman Borg , a casual walk , long curly hair , a magnificent two handed backhand and an ability to run every ball down . I remember vividly watching Mats and Thomas walk into the arena with Mats wearing a black v neck jumper , the sort that you go to the pub in , and a hairstyle that fitted the typical trend of Scandinavia . I was looking forward to seeing this kid play . 
In the warm up i could see similarities between Mats and Borg and his two hander was also strikingly similar to his more famous predecessor , he let go of the right hand on impact .You don't see too many double handers now days with a two handed strike but a one handed follow through such as the 5 time Wimbledon Champ's. Borg's was a shot in a million , never to be replicated , however Wilander's was similar, but not as defined , a brilliant shot none the less. I recall one of the commentators offering his views on who would win , he picked the more experienced Czech , i picked Mats , i liked his style from the first hit. 
This match was one of those tennis matches that  has stuck with me forever . I didn't even have to look the score up , it was a demolition of epic proportions , not one that i expected yet i hoped that the outcome was in favor of the 'New Borg' as i was desperate for a new hero , Borg was gone and wasn't coming back. I found this match just recently on You Tube , couldn't believe my luck as it was the match that got my interest going again as a kid, the disappointment of Borg's retirement was all but forgotten when i first saw this battle in Rome. To me it was almost like watching a ghost from the past play and it gave me what i needed to hit against my garage wall for some days up to 4 hours and it was myself as Mats vs anyone . If i hit it 20 times against the wall in a row it was my point , 5 sets was a regular event, but i wasn't just playing for myself , it was for my new hero . 
My memory for the Quarter Final in Rome in '82 is as fresh as yesterday's weather forecast and i believe that it started an era of tennis knowledge for me that i will look upon as both educational and life changing. When i played tennis in Queensland for 18 months in the late 80's my nickname was of course 'Mats' . 
Quarter Final Rome 1982 Mats Wilander defeated Thomas Smid 6-1, 6-1, don't bother checking the score , i guarantee you 'Mats' is 100 percent correct.......

Sunday, 30 March 2014


When my life was getting me down i used to punt , on horses , footy , even tennis , i used to think that the latter was easy to win money on as i considered myself a rather astute judge of the game . Punting was what i considered a 'buzz' as it would take away the reality of a life that sometimes resembled 'ground hog day' or 'ho hum' day to day 'dead soul routine'. All it did in the end was raise the anxiety level , the losses outweighed the wins ten fold and the stress outnumbered the dollars in the pocket. 
Sometimes i wonder if trying to make it on the tennis circuit is a bigger punt as the odds are even greater than trying to get a trifecta in a Melbourne Cup, yet some families are willing to make that call. This season on a tennis court for me has been one that i will look back on and question my motives for still teaching it . I had three sessions that i did not even finish as i asked both the student and their parents whether it was worth my time and frustration attempting to better the pupil . These three sessions will stick in my mind for a long time as i refused any payment , even though i travelled to and from the venue , spent around 25-35 minutes on court then left with disgust at the effort put in . So what do i want ?
All i ask for when i step on court is that it is not a waste of either my time or any one else's as when the game of tennis is being taught to a student of any age it needs to be respected as it's a bit more expensive than playing a play station . It's in a lot of ways 'taking a punt' on a sport that delivers very little success at a high level however it can bring self satisfaction to many players at a social level . It's the level that is required by the student that needs to be put under the microscope and analyzed. 
I recall that just prior to last Xmas i spent around 30 minutes on court with a kid before realizing that he did not want to learn the game of tennis , he simply was following his Parents' wish for him to get better , he had no desire to do the same. Keep the money , here's some free advice i said as i left the venue , this is how i see it......
 Tennis is one of the most individual toughest sports in the world and some Coaches do their best to try and tell the parents that their kid is the next big thing and drain their finances to the extreme . They also don't realize or don't care that it is also draining the kids of a normal life as one in a million is a generous figure when looking at success rate of kid to World Beater. 
Call me a 'killjoy' or anything else you feel describes someone who gives parents a reality check on a kid's real ability at a young age but i won't be changing it in a hurry. 
My punting days are over , perhaps some parents with unrealistic outlooks on their children s' ability should also stop punting and play the odds a little smarter.....

Saturday, 29 March 2014


There has been some rather fortunate stories of pro tennis players missing flights or cancelling flights which in the end either helped them win a tournament or in some cases , saved their lives , here's some trivia;
In 1986 two Swedish  players , the legendary Mats Wilander and countryman Joakim Nystrom made it through to the quarter final stage of the Men's doubles at Wimbledon. They were due to face American pair Ken Flach and Robert Seguso who were seeded 2 and were ranked the best team in the world a year earlier. Mats reportedly booked a flight home the next day as he was certain that he and his good friend and partner Joakim were to be no match for the Americans. After losing the first two sets easily the Swedish duo fought back and won a remarkable match 11-9 in the fifth set . They went on to win the title two matches later which ultimately gave Mats a career Grand Slam , either a singles or doubles title at every major. Perhaps his booking of the flight made them play without fear , after all, they were heading home.....
Swiss player Mark Rosset won the Olympic Gold Medal in Barcelona for tennis in 1992 and rose to a career high of World number 9 in singles in 1995 . He also reached World number 8 in doubles which was no surprise as he owned one of the biggest serves in the game . In 1998 he lost in the first round in the US Open and was booked on a Swiss Air flight to take him back home. He changed his mind at the last possible moment and decided to stay in New York and practice instead . His would be flight crashed in the Atlantic Ocean killing all on board . Rosset famously told his buddy the next day that he was " looking for a boat to Geneva". Marc was in no hurry to catch another flight...
American star Derrick Rostagno was a tennis pro known for driving to tournaments in a Winnebago Motor Home with a surfboard strapped to the back , a real character . Rostagno reached a career high of 13 in 1991 and defeated among others John McEnroe and Pete Sampras at Wimbledon , his game suited to grass with a strong serve and volley. He also held two match points on eventual Champion Boris Becker at the US Open in 1989. Derrick was particularly unlucky not to convert the second one as he was all over a pass by Becker that unfortunately for him clipped the top of the net , saving the match for Boris.
In 1986 Rostagno was in Mexico and had a connecting flight through to Los Angeles booked yet he decided to stay and play another tournament instead of taking the flight. Lucky for Rostagno he chose to stay in Mexico as the connecting flight crashed not long after take off killing all on board. I remember reading this article at the time and saw a picture of Rostagno running along the beach not long after ,making the most of life. Rostagno always played with a bit of flair , probably even more so after this event.
Wilander , Nystrom , Rosset and Rostagno were all brilliant tennis players who booked flights and cancelled them for different reasons , lucky for them......

Thursday, 27 March 2014


Every now and then the game of tennis throws up some situations that may seem as though someone is watching over us and saying 'you deserve this, make the most of your luck'. This happened to 90th ranked Benjamin Becker from Germany just this last week with a last 16 showing at the Sony Open Tournament in Miami USA. Becker picked up just over $51,000 US after losing eventually to 12th seed Milos Raonic, but it's how he got there that made it quite simply a 'bonus'. Becker's ranking was too low to be accepted into the main draw so he had to qualify where he lost in the second last round to Jaziri Malek from Tunisia, himself a battler on the circuit ranked 28 places below Becker at 118. Malek lost in the first round to Spain's Alejandro Gonzalez , ranked 83 but picked up a handy $9000 for his efforts , not a bad week's work. 
Becker should have been on a plane to his next tournament when he received the call that he was to enter the tournament as a 'Lucky loser', spots that are given to losing qualifiers to fill a place in the main draw. This place was filled by a grateful Becker as Juan Martin Del Potro withdrew with an injury before the start of the tournament which guaranteed the German at least $16,000 as a potential second round loser. Becker however didn't want to go home just yet. 
The man who put Andre Agassi out of his last ever tournament promptly won two more matches and sent himself through as an unlikely round of 16 participant. Raonic was way too strong for Becker , the difference in the rankings obvious but for Becker a pay day of over $50,000 was way more than what he could've expected after entering the qualifying event. 
Stories like this are not rare on the tennis circuit but they are feel good moments for players and fans alike as it is a given that the top ten will generally come out of the big tournaments with pay days of anywhere between $50,000 to perhaps $1,000,000 or more . Andre Agassi once famously told a media conference that Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov should take his prize money and go and buy some 'perspective' when the Russian complained of 'not getting paid enough' for his job , he had a point. Up until then Kafelnikov had won a 'mere' $18,000,000 in his career.
Prize money has increased for tennis over the years dramatically as in 1988 when Mats Wilander won the US Open he picked up $275,000 , that title is now worth over $2,000,000 to the winner. Sponsorship dollars are now increasing and players are reaping the benefits but even back in 1999 when Yevgeny sparked a war of words between himself and Agassi the pay days were rather handsome .
Now days players such as Benjamin Becker who has amassed nearly three million in prize money but is in his twilight years as a pro at age 32 are making the most of their luck and fitness. Playing professional tennis into your 30's no doubt becomes physically tough on the body as was documented by Andre Agassi in his second last match of his career . Agassi complained of lack of breath and a physical melt down after 5 grueling sets on hard court with a much younger and fitter opponent.
This week Becker was a 'Lucky Loser' who made $50,000 and good luck to him , every now and then the game of tennis brings a little luck to those that persevere......

Monday, 10 March 2014


Seeded number 28 at a tournament players consider to be the '5th Grand Slam' Alexandr Dolgopolov from the Ukraine knocked out World number 1 Rafael Nadal in the 3rd round of the Indian Wells tournament . Just one week earlier Dolgopolov pushed Rafa all the way in the final of a clay court tournament in Rio but hard court tennis tends to even out the field with no real advantage to any particular style of game. Most times a player from outside the top 20 plays a top ten player the matches are tight but most results sway towards the higher ranked player, naturally , it's why they have success on a regular basis. If you look at the way a top tenner hits against a lower ranked player especially in a practice session the stroke for stroke ability is very similar but it's the mind that separates them in a match, so why is this ? Self belief in a sport such as tennis or golf is what sets champion players apart from the rest who make a good living but don't go deep into the final days of a competition . Take Australia's Marinko Matosevic for example; On the ATP Circuit he has played 107 matches with a 44 Win / 63 Loss record and has never won a match in a Grand Slam . Marinko is a very good tennis player yet his mind isn't quite where it needs to be , take the recently played Australian Open for example. He lost first round to Nishikori who was seeded 16 in 5 sets then blamed his coach Mark Woodforde for not cheering loud enough for him from the stands! Interesting statement from the World number 69 who has won over 1.3 Million dollars in his career and just under 100 Grand this year , not bad for a bloke who has failed to win a tournament. 
Marinko is just an example of a tennis professional who makes a very handsome living from the game yet doesn't win regularly enough to be a household name . Would it be that his mind is not doing him any favors when it comes to the big matches against the top players ? Against Nishikori in Australia he pushed him all the way yet a close final set loss with just one break of serve was enough for his much higher ranked opponent to sneak away with a win . At the same above mentioned tournament at Indian Wells he pushed the current World number 16 Tommy Robredo to 3 sets , again falling to a single service break loss in the final set. Perhaps his mind is fearful when it gets to the closing stages of a match, the fear of failure, every tennis player's worst nightmare.
The game of tennis is played more between the ears than stroke for stroke , as the great Jimmy Connors once came up with a famous statement supporting this fact. With 107 Pro Tournament victories , the all time record for Men's Professional Tennis , 'Jimbo' once said 'the game of tennis is 90 percent mental , 10 percent physical ' . With that many tournament victories there has to be some truth in his statement that only the smartest tennis players are regularly successful. Keep thinking, after all it is just what the heading suggests, a mind game........

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Someone said to me a while back ' Glenn you are a good tennis coach , but a lousy Businessman', if he was looking for an argument then he wasn't going to get one. I don't charge much to teach the game of tennis , sometimes I do it for nothing , depending on the circumstances, but one thing is for certain , I do not treat my teaching as a Business. When you go from a hobby to being reliant on it for an income certain things change , most of the time to the detriment of the consumer. I refuse to teach in groups of more than 4 students per session and perhaps this is where my lack of 'business brains' are evident. The way I see it is that if you have more than 4 students on a court with you at a time then no matter what series of drills you do , replicating an actual game of tennis is an impossibility , as 4 per court is the maximum number allowed when playing matches. I like to refer to my tuition as 'reality' , not 'gimmicky' or one that would be simply a money making exercise.
I am hitting the road this weekend for a coaching clinic where I do all sessions without an assistant , seven hours ahead of me on one day , with a maximum of 4 players per session , plus a one on one session thrown in. Is this a money making exercise ? Yes I will make something out of the seven hours I put in but I consider it good value as the students will hit a lot of balls each session and won't be waiting around for a turn to hit .
Most coaches would probably charge more and take an assistant , halving the time spent on court but my theory on this is simple . Unless your assistant is just as qualified as you are as a leading coach then the pupils are not receiving what they have paid for and that is a session with the person who has offered it . I have taught this game for I believe now 27 years as I am 45 and began when I was 18 and with the game of tennis you really can't beat experience , especially with tuition.
I have a theory on most things in life but with my coaching I believe in giving value for money , not a token gesture as is typical with the way the sport is now heading . Will I ever lose my sense of humour ? Never , it's what keeps me sane.........

Sunday, 2 March 2014


When it comes to things i hate about the game of tennis , the following things are what really disappoint me; Hopefully you can see where i am coming from; The following examples are predominantly from junior tennis tournaments, however also involves 'Open Tournaments'  where kids and adults may meet each other;
1- Junior Tennis Tournament Peanut Gallery- This is where kids hang off the fence behind the court and regularly ask their mates for score updates as well as do their best to put the opposition off their game . Don't quite know why this behavior isn't banned from Junior Comps , a lot has to do with the students' 'coaches' , poor pupil management i call it...
2- Why is it that junior tennis players go onto court with a racket bag big enough to sleep in ? How many times do these kids break strings and why are 3 or 4 rackets at the age of 12 necessary ? Image ??
3- Do bright shoes win tennis matches ?? Personally i love playing kids who wear this gear , it means they are more interested in looking good than winning games of tennis .
4- Why do 'Tennis Coaches' belt their students in tennis tournaments ? Surely this is called 'biting the hand that feeds' . Personally if ever i played a student who i knew i could beat easily i would give them at least 2 games per set , possibly 3 , great for their confidence . Smart Tennis Coaches do this ......
5- Why do junior tennis players yell out ' i can't believe i am playing this bad' . This is arrogance and ego all rolled into 1 - they simply don't realize that tennis is actually a tough game to play , mastering it at age 12 is really not going to happen.....
6- What is it with a long hit up ? Do kids think that just because the big boys warm up for what seems to be an eternity before they play that it also should apply to them ?? A long hit up is for players who are nervous , they want to play a set before they actually start a match ! I hate hit ups......
7- Why don't kids hit slice backhands and volleys during a match ? Would it be that their Coaches are simply following the current direction of the game and not thinking outside the square ? Personally i like to see a kid when drawn wide on the backhand side hit a one handed slice that gets them back into the point rather than go for a winner. I also like to see kids go to the net other than just to shake hands.......
8-  Why do Parents 'Coach' kids ? Haven't they seen what Mr Tomic has done to his son ???
9- Why do kids who win tennis matches at local tournaments think that they have just beaten Anthony Mundine in a boxing match and strut around as though they are the next Golden Gloves Heavy Weight Champion ? It's a boxing match for sure , but 60 feet away from your opponent , get a grip.....
10- Why is it that kids complain that when they hit a ball on the line their opponent calls it out ?? My answer to that is simple - If you are hitting balls on the line then your 'Coach' is teaching you the wrong way to play tennis.......
FOOTNOTE; In reference to Number 7 - Who has won the most Grand Slams and who hits a beautiful backhand slice and a sublime volley? Yet the game is being taught predominantly from the back of the court, try and figure  that one out.......

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Only a tennis player's head prevents them from making their worst shot their best , given of course that they are physically capable. How many tennis players actually cringe when a ball goes to their non preferred side which invariably makes them put back into play a shot that lacks substance ? I can lay claim to this 'phobia'.
I am unsure when things started to go wrong on my backhand side however i found that when i was doing a lot of coaching it was easier to simply slice or push the ball back to my students , as opposed to hitting through with the double hander. I also admired the way my hero Mats Wilander from Sweden nullified the heavy topspin hitting from Ivan Lendl in the 1988 US Open final by simply slicing his own backhand , keeping it low out of Lendl's hitting zone. The tactic worked however it took Mats nearly 5 hours to do it , he rarely hit his two hander which in it's day was one of the best backhands i have ever seen.
When i was a kid my two handed backhand was my best shot , i preferred it to my forehand so taking the mind back to where i used to hit it so well took me back down memory lane, an educational process.I have been tired of opponents picking on my backhand over the past few years so i decided to do what every keen tennis player does to refine a shot , wheel out the ball machine.....
I spent hours on this device just recently to see where i could make some changes , i also set up a video on a tripod and analysed it in detail , i threw my racket on a few occasions also ,( i don't think anyone was watching) , i was determined to get it right .I went to a little tournament just recently and tried a few things , my backhand on this particular day was remarkably better than my strength , the forehand , the mindset was different , i welcomed each shot to my backhand instead of cringing, all in the mind i told myself. Leading up to this tournament i played club tennis and played each set on the backhand side , sometimes even starting with a backhand grip , just hoping that it would come to that side , i was reprogramming myself to accept , not reject.
We can all fix our weaknesses , only the head will prevent us from doing it , we are usually physically capable of change , unfortunately too many times we talk ourselves out of positive play and revert to a negative mindset . At 45 i believe i am heading to a point with my game that i should have reached  many years ago but my mind was not in the right place , keeping fit is the key, a challenge when you are into your 40's but a rewarding one . The backhand is on the way up , now for the serve.......


Don't you just love it when the 'old blokes' win tennis matches ? Doesn't it give you heart to keep persevering ? it's a progression the game of tennis , only the 'scary' ones make a splash in their early years , the rest of us take time to 'mature' , physically and mentally. Fed's win against Novak in Dubai has inspired me to keep fit , healthy and in form as he is a player who is quite possibly getting better with age. He reminds me of the great Andre Agassi who made the final of the US Open at 35 and the legendary Jimmy Connors , the semi finals of the same tournament at age 39, giving the 'older' players inspiration.
I love reading in the social media pages people's thoughts who know very little regarding the intricacies of the game of Tennis. I mentioned just recently a piece i read regarding the 'old blokes', I considered it a personal  insult to have a go at older players being successful, i called it 'uneducated'. I like to look upon success at an older age as simply 'Experience shining through'.
There is a Tournament coming up locally that pits young vs 'old' and i really do hope that people who 'slander' the older players come down and have a look , it will be worth a look . It's where egos meet each other of all ages , the ultimate challenge. Are us 'old blokes' up for it ? You betcha, I wouldn't play it if i didn't think i could still match it with the young blokes , the ultimate tennis challenge, bring it on........