Saturday, 22 November 2014

'THE WALL AND THE COURT' Part 2

My time as a kid playing tennis against a wall with no one around me except the aura of my hero Bjorn Borg was an educational time. When you hit up against a brick wall it is a time of thought and a time of playing future matches inside your head. 
In my last chapter I wrote of 'Borgie understanding' , it was what I believed and it drove me to hit and keep hitting. On one particular day I timed myself at 4 hours, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. You imagine that you are playing in your hero's shoes or playing in front of them. I imagined both scenarios. 
The only issue with hitting against something not too far away from you is the speed of ball factor, it comes back at an uncomfortable pace on many occasions. What I did find however was that this type of training was brilliant for grip changes, reflexes and fitness, all were a necessity for tennis.
The transition from wall hitting to junior club on Saturday mornings was fairly smooth from memory as I found I had plenty of time to play my shots. The wall was working.
The other aspect of wall hitting is the ball control factor as you simply can't 'blast' a ball and expect it to give you a return ball right in your hitting zone. There's an 'art' to playing a wall, no doubt about it.
My style of play was one that was only ever going to be like the ice cool man from Scandinavia and hitting as much spin on the ball as possible was my only goal. Topspin and more topspin, simple really, just clear the chalk line on the wall by at least three feet, preferably more.
At least if the ball is over the net by a comfortable margin you are always a chance in tennis. I vividly recall training my advanced kids one day 'Swedish style'. I paired them up one day and told them, "There you go, you got ONE tennis ball, I suggest that if you miss, you hit it long, take the net out of the equation".
As I previously mentioned, the disappointment of my hero retiring was something that put my garage wall hitting out of whack, it shattered me. Bjorn Borg was the reason I played tennis, the reason I got myself fit and the reason why I wanted to hit tennis balls for a living, he was larger than life as far as I was concerned.
The clay court season of 1982 however was a time where I developed a new sense of enthusiasm for playing. My prayers for a new idol were answered.
The Italian Open of that year saw the emergence of the 'heir apparent' to Swedish Tennis and that was the run to the semi finals by Mats Wilander. Watching the long haired 17 year old Swede was like viewing a 'ghost' of the past as his style was almost identical to that of Borg's. 
He didn't just hit the ball with heavy topspin and a two handed backhand but he was just as cool and calm with his mannerisms. Whilst I was disappointed he lost his match to Andres Gomez , the eventual Champion I honestly felt this guy could maybe just fill that 'hero void'.
When I was a lad there was not much tennis on television, Wimbledon was where I watched 'Borgie' play but this was really the only time I watched Professional Tennis in my home town of Albany. I saw Wilander play for the first time when I was staying in Perth as many tournaments were televised, not just Wimbledon.
So my only way of finding out how my new 'brick wall hitting partner' was going was to read the paper and watch the highlights on the sports news at night. Tough way to follow the game you love.
"Hey Glenn that young bloke won the Swiss Open". That was my Dad's exact words to me as he broke the news to me on June 6 of 1982. Now Dad wasn't really up to date with tennis back in those days so 'The Swiss Open' of course was in fact the French Open. I knew of the final between Wilander and Vilas , so naturally I was playing it  against the wall.
From memory I don't really know how Mats and I were going  but I think we were leading the Argentinian Champ when Dad told me the news. I knew this 'kid' with the long locks and magnificent backhand was going to be my new inspiration to play tennis. He didn't know it but he was a 'necessity' for my mindset as a 13 year old kid learning the intricacies of tennis.
What Mats Wilander did in Paris in 1982 was more than remarkable for a player of his age but the date that he took over from Borg had rather special significance and it still does. 
Bjorn Borg just so happened to be born on June 6 so with the great man's decision's to not defend his 1981 French Open Title Wilander kept the title in Swedish hands.
The date of June 6 also happens to be my youngest son's birthday, what's the chances ??
My ground strokes as a 13 year old kid were on the improve but I needed somewhere to work on my serve, Dad's idea was to build 'the court'. Like the movie with Kevin Costner "If you build it , he will come", an all time classic line from the 'Field Of Dreams'.
Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander were 'with me' I am certain of it when I was up against 'the wall', I was hoping they would also follow me onto 'the court'.......
Part 3 to follow.......

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