Thursday, 30 April 2015


One day I will write that book, the one where I will probably upset a few more than I already have but the one that will tell all as to who I am and why I am so argumentative. It will quite possibly be called the above headline.
I posted those clips of me hitting just recently as I want my kids to know that even though I was slowing down I was still focused on the one thing that has kept me both amused and frustrated for as long as I can remember. So at age 46 if my kids are anything like me (God forbid ) I hope that they will still pursue something that they perhaps felt a comfort with when they were young as I did with tennis.
If ever I get hit by a bus or get taken out by a hit man for upsetting the wrong person on this site then I would hope that someone lets the young Thompson kids know that their old man had a site that really was quite unique, if not totally absurd.
When I write on this site I don't tell too many people but if I put something down that I see some sort of 'genius' in then I may send the chapter on email through to some people who I regard as friends, I don't have many though......
Nature of the game I call it, the nature of the beast, the game which turns 'ordinary' people into complete nutcases as they chase personal glory in a game that can only be described as 'egotistical'.
Why else would you see someone like Novak Djokovic tearing his shirt off after a Grand Slam victory and yelling like a possessed beast at the crowd who paid good money to see two testosterone fuelled gladiators belt a small ball into submission ? It's all about ego and self indulgence.
Looking back on my rather colourful journey through tennis from a kid of 13 to a rather argumentative bastard of 46 I wonder at times if I could have done much different. I don't ponder too much because I was simply no where near good enough to make money from the sport and I apologize all these years later to my folks for putting them through the whole silly personal quest.
Yet when you think about it, that's what parents do, they support even the strangest ideas of their kids' because they want their children to learn from the experience, to better themselves and to pass down both their successes and failures in life to their own kids.
I refused to learn at school, I have often said that when asked 'When did you leave school'? I replied "Usually at lunch time to go and play tennis", because that's what I did. I used to call into the Burger Spot, grab a two litre bottle of coke and make my way to the tennis club where I convinced another mate to train with me. Our attendance records weren't actually that bad as our names were only ever marked off early in the day, you see we 'did the sums'. The problem was though at exams time, that's when we were found out, it had to catch up with us in the end.
I wonder how I would take the news if I found out that one of my three kids were skipping school to pursue a personal dream, maybe I would be ok with it, after all it's a learning process. We can't all be scholars and we can't all be sports stars so we should just try to be ourselves, the inbetweeners, the rest of the population who dare to dream.
I had two chances of becoming a tennis professional, none and bugger all because I lacked talent and I was chasing a needle in a haystack, a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow but boy I had fun chasing it. I met some great people , I met some knob heads, I saw Monte Carlo and Paris and I learned to tell French women that they were beautiful after a pint or two of the local beer served at places I only ever dreamed of as a kid.
I reckon a book titled the above could just be an absolute flop in a book store but a real hit for my kids as they may just understand one day why I wrote 380 chapters on a site from the spur of the moment and some days after a few ales. In fact I seemed to write more on this site after a few beers, it got all of my silly ideas out of my head and onto a site which one day may earn my kids two dollars each for having an argumentative Father.
No matter what happens I am happy with what has transpired because it's been a hell of a good time, at times frustrating yet educational all the same. I am 46, I am on the You Tube hitting a reasonable tennis ball at an age where many of my old school mates are too over weight to walk down to the local sporting club and roll the arm over.
I am an argumentative bastard but I can still win my local championship and I can still beat kids half my age. Egotistical ? You betcha............

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


Had lost that shot, my favorite shot when I was a kid, the double handed backhand, a shot that I learned to hit by simply watching Borg and Wilander, no one really taught me how to hit it. Sometimes I think it's possible to learn by just watching, then getting out on court with an idea in mind and simply following the thought process.
I lost this shot years ago due to coaching where it was simply easier to just slice it back as most lessons are taught by hitting with the same grip, the old school shake hands grip. 
I am slowly but surely getting the old game back, a test as we get older but a test that is worth the effort. I watched a clip of Mats hitting the other day as a 50 year old, ripping his famous two hander, inspiring.......

Sunday, 26 April 2015


The following idea from Mats is nothing short of brilliant, something he's been doing for a couple of years now. I am sure he doesn't need the money however I believe it's his way of giving back to the game. I am sure that RV's aren't cheap but his hourly rates would no doubt have paid them off in no time.
I think that this idea beats sitting at the same old tennis club day in day out. It's why us old dinosaurs need to keep ourselves fit, one day in retirement this idea may just have merit.......

Wilander on Wheels Feature

Saturday, 25 April 2015


It's no secret that my influences from tennis stem from the late 70's and early 80's, even through to perhaps 1990, after that well I really didn't care too much, the game changed. From the Swedish domination of Borg, Wilander, Edberg etc to the emergence of Agassi in '88 the game saw some classic matches and some real characters, players who left a lasting impression.
I remember some matches vividly where some players had styles that almost resembled robots like Lendl, even Borg, two players who sat on the baseline and simply waited for the opposition to miss or 'commit suicide' by coming to the net. These guys owned a structured game that took an amazing amount of discipline to implement day in, day out, it's why they became so successful. They didn't really own a Plan B, they had such a good Plan A that not too many players could infiltrate so they stuck with what they knew best. Fascinating to watch a player that good.
I have been meaning to read the Brad Gilbert book titled 'Winning Ugly', a book about 'Mental warfare in the game of Tennis' however I have not had the pleasure so far. I have though read some snippets of it and it typifies the sort of player Gilbert was, a genius. The man who took Andre Agassi from almost a waste of talent to the World's best player had a unique style of his own that could only be described as 'unconventional'.
Brad Gilbert would dish the best players up all sorts of things like short sliced balls, high looping topspin balls, balls with no pace and he would also mix the play up with net advances just to dispel the theory that he was perhaps a baseliner. In other words Gilbert gave his opponents 'nothing'. The American had a nasty habit of almost 'poking' balls back into court with just a breath of wind on them especially from his backhand and then ripping the next ball past his incoming opponent.
Brad Gilbert had an uncanny knack of almost lulling opponents into a false sense of security not unlike the great Czech Miloslav Mecir who could also put an opponent to sleep then wake them rather rudely. How Andre Agassi found Brad Gilbert was nothing short of a master stroke but it worked to perfection, two contrasting players, a genius with no weapons and a player with many weapons who was no genius. 
The win by Gilbert at the 1987 US Open against Boris Becker in the round of 16 will go down as one of the all time great upsets in New York as Gilbert was seeded 13, Becker 4. What made the win even more remarkable was that Becker won the first two sets, he was all over Gilbert but the unconventional American had a structure to his game that was all about self discipline, just as Borg's and Lendl's was.
With winnings of over five and a half million dollars, a highest ranking of 4 in singles and an intelligence that attracted a player of Andre Agassi's standard it is no wonder that Brad Gilbert was destined for success in coaching when he finished playing professionally in 1995.  
In fact in 1992 just two years before he started helping Agassi he belted his future student 6-1, 6-2 in Paris when Andre was ranked 8 in the World, perhaps a match that stuck in Agassi's mind regarding talents versus brains.
Some days when I see kids play the game it seems to be all about the ego and how to out hit an opponent who is playing big shots, much of it lacks thought. If you have ever seen Gilbert play it surely will remind you that tennis can still be won now days without the glamour if certain structures are put into play from the outset.
Watching the AFL matches each weekend it is noticeable that the best sides have a discipline about them that at times seems ridiculously effective. When these teams are on song it is almost like they have an extra man or two on the field and it has opposition coaches scratching their heads at ways to break the structure.
It is one thing to offer a style of play by a coach but it is another totally different thing for a player or team to implement it. So it begs the question once again.
As a coach of a sport are you teaching tactics just as much as you are teaching technique or are you simply hoping that when they come up against another good player they will simply have a better day than their opponent ? When two juniors come up against one another with no game plan but similar styles then who will win ? It's a raffle, correct me if I am wrong.
If however a player has certain structures in place and can implement a Plan B as well as a preferred Plan A then they will go a long way to winning against a player who doesn't own the ability to keep thinking when in trouble.
Brad Gilbert had no weapons, no glamour and no obvious physical advantages yet he beat players in the Top 10 on 27 different occasions. How is that possible ? 
Well I believe that his book is one of the best sellers of all time, it may just hold some secrets as to how we can all become a little more successful in the sport of tennis.......

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


I have read the transcript of the wash up regarding the Fed cup loss by Australia to Germany earlier this year in Stuttgart and I cannot agree with team captain Alicia Molik. She believes she has the team to push any other Country in next year's event, I reckon that's garbage.
Jarmila Gajdosova's heroics in beating German Number 1 Angelique Kerber were unfortunately to no avail as Sammy managed to find a way to lose yet again after holding a match point. The win by Petkovic over Stosur was yet another example as to why the Aussie needs a head doctor as opposed to another tennis coach which she seems to change regularly.
The biggest reason why Australia will not win next year or in the next 5 years for that matter is the fact that their brilliant doubles combination of Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty is no longer existent. Anyone who knows a thing or two about tennis will realize that the doubles is pivotal in both the Davis Cup and Federation Cup and it is almost impossible to win without that doubles victory. It's been done but usually a team has to win in the fifth and deciding match if they lose the doubles.
Speaking of Barty, where is she ? How does Australia's best talent in years suddenly go missing after reaching 3 of 4 Grand Slam Doubles finals in 2013 ? I believe that she is only 19 ? Giving the John Newcombe Medal to Lleyton Hewitt that year for doing absolutely nothing may have dented her faith in Tennis Australia. Barty has either been badly managed by TA or someone has done the wrong thing by her as she had it all, talent and brains, something Stosur lacks.
So as far as Alicia Molik's statement is concerned regarding her team's chances of winning the Cup in the near future I would say she has two chances, none and bugger all.
Get Barty back and fix Sammy's head issues and you may own the slimmest of chances but until that happens I suggest Molik looks at simply being competitive next year, nothing more, nothing less. Big statements are usually met with a disappointing result as it puts a lot of pressure on players , Molik of all people should be aware of that.
Sometimes I wonder if people say certain things just to keep their jobs alive and well without actually thinking of the consequences of their statements.
It happens all the time in Business and Sport and usually is said by people who you would expect better from. Molik's statement that they are a team to be reckoned with took a further pounding this month as they lost 4-1 to the  Netherlands in the World Group play off tie.
So how's Molik's statement looking now ? Fair dinkum I have heard some really dumb things in my time but this would have to be right up there. The injury to Stosur cannot be considered an excuse because she is never a 'sure bet' when she turns up. In fact the public and the opponent for that matter never know who they are going to see up the other end of the court.
Get Barty, employ a 'Head Doctor' for Sammy, start again Alicia. Anyhow I hate women's tennis......

Monday, 20 April 2015


Fair Dinkum how could you possibly concentrate against this idiot ? This is the same player who confused the hell out of Andy Murray with similar tactics in this year's Australian Open Final. Press play on the following clip, do yourself a favour, it's embarrassing. I can't watch it too many times as I find it just way too ridiculous.
This is the same player who just won the Laureus 'Sportsman Of The Year Award' and the same player who continually finds new ways to get on the wrong side of his opponents, the crowd and the umpire. I am no longer a fan........

Novak Djokovic Playing Drunk against Del Potro at Shanghai ATP


I would just like to ask a question of the seeding committee for the WA Country Championships held in Perth just recently. Why was Paul Starkie un seeded please ?
Starkie barely raised a sweat apparently in his semi final drubbing of the number 2 seed 6-1, 6-0.
Jarron Kretschmann deserved his place as the number 1 seed, Starkie should have been a 'shoe in' for the number 2 spot. I have seen this guy play and I know for a fact that his win in this tournament without dropping a set was of no real surprise. In fact when I looked at the draw I raised the eyebrows at the lack of respect shown to him by a committee who obviously owns no real knowledge.
Paul has been around for years and from memory won the Bridgetown Mens Singles a few years back, correct me if I am wrong. Starkie also has played on the Futures Circuit, the guy can play. Who did the seedings and why are they not aware of the ability of a player such as Paul Starkie ? Sounds as though the person who did the seedings could walk into a job in our tennis region not problem at all, lack of knowledge seems to get you places.
So how can Starkie be overlooked when guys who have barely played a singles match in years are given a seeding ?
Sounds real fishy to me but it's where things are at with tennis where certain aspects of the game could be likened to a CSI episode. You would need to be a detective to work out some answers that are probably all kept in a file somewhere labelled 'Top Secret'.
All part of the Circus that used to see clowns employed for light entertainment, now days the clowns are running the circus................

Sunday, 19 April 2015


To another 'Champ' who was boasting about their 'unbeaten' record just recently. Hey 'Champ' it's like this, others turned up and laced up the shoes, had a fair dinkum crack at the title, players a lot older and a lot younger than you.
The 'sore leg' routine has been going on for as long as I can remember, I reckon the heart needs a transplant, that may fix the 'sore leg' as well.
I am not big on the 'injury' excuse, I am 46, never had an injury, still waiting.
So to the 'hero', we are all still waiting for you to turn up and put that fantastic win/loss ratio on the line. No more excuses, grow some balls, man up, get the heart seen to. See you next season.........

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


At last, at long last the results of the Champion of Champions Tennis Tournament have been published in the local Weekender newspaper. Well done to Denmark once again who managed to put together a team good enough to beat every Albany team plus Mt Barker.
What I am still confused about is why did Lawley Park only field a team of three players in a competition that requires eight players per club ?
Is this where the game is at locally and if so how did it actually get this bad ? If you can't fill a team with seniors then why not fill it with juniors ? So where are the juniors ? By all reports this region is going 'gang busters' as far as the juniors are concerned, just read the social media pages, it will tell you that we are overloaded with talent.
As stated in my chapter just recently titled 'ANY LEFT'? published on April 7, 2015 I was well aware of my responsibility as coach of the Lawley Park Tennis Club in Albany. It wasn't just to sneak in, take the money, go on a holiday with it, no it was to look after the club that was looking after me. The way in which we took kids from the junior program to the senior club is what every coach should be doing with every Intermediate to Advanced program they do. It proves that what they are doing has substance and is for the good of the game locally, not just for the pocket.
So here are the facts; Lawley Park is obviously up sh.. creek without a paddle if they can't find enough players to contest a once a year event. It is also blatantly obvious that junior participation at that club is non existent. I am not talking about 6 to 10 year olds, I am talking about the kids who regularly go away for tournaments plus play the local events. Which local club are they members of ? Why aren't they members of Lawley Park as that is Albany's most central club with Albany's best tennis facilities and six recently resurfaced courts ?
Whenever there is a function for local tennis organizations which tennis club is used ? Lawley Park, correct ? When there is a rare senior tennis tournament locally which facility is used ? Either Lawley Park or Emu Point which pretty much is the same for local junior comps also.
So what on earth is happening to Albany's once strongest  tennis club and how with these sorts of examples are the local Council ever going to take seriously the idea of building a new tennis centre ?
They will want to see a vision for the future for the club that will see the courts full again especially on Saturday club days. The young 12 and under juniors in the morning and the better teenagers mixed in with the seniors in the afternoon. For some reason junior club has ceased on Saturday mornings at Lawley Park due to lack of numbers, why is this ?
Some locals need to take their heads out of their own arses and do the sums which I have already done ( not my head out of my arse, I meant I have done the sums ) and realize that clubs such as Lawley Park are victims of a lack of vision.
You can't just teach all of the Intermediate to Advanced juniors at an opposing club then simply use the facilities just when it suits you. You need to do what we did until our program was shot in the arse by a list of things that doesn't get any grubbier than commencing before and after school tennis programs on school grounds. They were in fact less than a kilometre from where kids should be learning, a tennis club.
Tennis Australia programs ? Great idea TA, why don't you find every possible way to f... up the game of tennis in small country towns as well as in the City ey ?? Tennis in schools my arse, it's another way of gaining a monopoly that I have questioned many times before. If every coach of the game went to schools to do their teaching then it would turn into an even bigger circus than what it already is.
 'I was here first, piss off', could you imagine it ?! Who needs a poor struggling tennis club when you are doing it at school ? Fantastic idea.
So what I would suggest is that some locals who are running this sport here in Albany take a long hard look at how they can rebuild a club such as Lawley Park and not just use it as a money making venue. Am I onto something here folks ?  
Part of me is glad I am no longer banging my head against a brick wall at that club as it was stressful to see it slowly but surely fade into oblivion. Yet another part of me almost misses the challenge of constantly trying to prevail against people who think they know the sport locally yet fail miserably when it comes to common sense.
There has been no real vision of what was best for tennis here in Albany and that was in fact gaining members for tennis clubs which inevitably took care of the future of the sport locally.
Making the local tennis clubs the ONLY place to learn was the ONLY way the interest in the sport could have grown to the point where perhaps a bigger facility may have been a vision of reality. Now  days you see up to 18 kids on a court  at school with a young assistant gaining a minimal amount of tennis knowledge who should be spread out over three courts at the local tennis club being taught properly.
Whilst they are being taught properly they can also soak up the atmosphere of a real facility called a TENNIS CLUB. 
That vision however is a thing of the past obviously as for some reason the tennis club is now second on the list of priority venues to learn the game.
Tennis here in Albany has many issues and the recent Champ of Champs proves it with the rather sad case of Lawley Park and it's failure to field a full team. It is also an obvious failure to not have juniors lining the courts on Saturday afternoons as we did just four to five years ago.
No vision, no thought, no future direction, just personal agendas and egos being fulfilled season after season, weak as piss...........


If I had only ever lost ten bucks on my very regular trips to the punting shop all those years ago when my life was not going so well then I would have looked upon each trip as a 'win' of epic proportions. You can't beat 'the house', but when you are looking at ways to give your life a boost then it seemed worth a shot.
Now if each time you walked out onto a tennis court to teach juniors the finer points of the game and you only lost ten bucks then to most tennis coaches this would be depressing, not so for myself. In fact because of what had happened at my old tennis club and all of the politics that went with it I was more than happy to lose ten bucks as long as the session went well.
I had given up well and truly on making any money from coaching quite some time earlier so all I was really looking for was that boost that improvement from youngsters could give you. If it cost me ten bucks or made me ten I really couldn't have cared, it was just an outlet for me, a hobby that gave me a positive vibe.
I have spoken openly about the game that I only ever made $50 from once and $40 from twice, the rest of the time I made peanuts on one hour private sessions, my lack of business sense evident. The $50 session I had was with a high flying US Businessman by the name of John Ford who asked for a lesson at the Observation City Resort in Scarborough where I was coaching in the early 90's. He in fact tipped me $25, I was only charging $25 for the hour. Many people told me to put up the price, I wasn't interested, $25 was good money back then as I think my 'real job' delivering bakery goods was paying me around $15 an hour.
The other two lessons where I made some good money were the two I had with the lead actress of a mini series filmed here in Albany, Briony Williams who played 'Lockie Leonard's' mother in the series of that name. Lockie Leonard has developed a cult following here in Albany, or 'Angelus' as our town is called in the series. Many scenes were shot around town that stopped traffic and pedestrians, all well received by the locals.
The tennis scene in the series was overseen by my good self and I still felt bad a long time afterwards that I charged that much to show Briony how to play, it was my pleasure to do it. In fact I only charged that much because I was prompted by someone 'in the know' to charge that figure as apparently the surfing coaching was being charged at $50 per hour, just a rumour. 
So it was of no surprise that when I shifted my coaching to another local tennis club I did the sums as I always have done and came up with a 'bright' idea. Let's get some good local juniors to act as hitting partners for our better kids on one given day of the week and pay them for their services at a rate that was a lot better than Hungry Jacks could offer as a burger maker.
Now their job was not to teach a kid the game because I was aware of teenagers trying to impart knowledge, it doesn't really work well, they simply do not own the knowledge. Their job was simply to keep the ball in play, I asked for consistency, not flair and definitely no showing off, they were to be 'brick walls', nothing more, nothing less.
This idea worked beautifully for a while and as I explained I was only losing around ten bucks a session after court hire and wages so I was pretty happy with the whole scene. It folded when a letter was sent to the local Tennis Association that apparently complained about my 'workshops' because of Insurance issues etc plus the usual politics that go along with someone using their initiative.
The same thing happened when I offered cut price sessions at a private venue in 'Angelus' and my local town council got in touch with me and gave me the 'once over'. For someone who wasn't making any money out of tennis I sure was high on the list of people who were targeted for something that I am still not sure to this day what to describe as.
I would like to call it initiative but others would call it 'cutting their turf '. Either way it was something that upset some locals.
I have been accused of many things by many people but I could never be called greedy, I simply don't know how to be greedy in tennis. I wouldn't know how to make money out of the game if it were spelled out to me by a professor wearing a white coat and an intimidating pair of spectacles.
One day I will cover every aspect of this game, I said that just recently as I felt I had covered just about everything but my mind is still like a tin of worms and little things keep the worms wriggling. I still have many chapters to go it seems, my apologies in advance.........

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Possibly the largest issue in tennis is the mind game that is played out inside the head as a match unfolds, at times a totally different match as the one actually taking place on court. I once saw a video of Mats Wilander talking about just that, he spoke so blatantly honestly about what can happen to the thought process cogs inside the brain during play. From a player who reached the pinnacle of his sport it was fascinating to listen to, a rare insight.
One thing in particular stuck in my mind as far as what Mats was talking about and I believe it to be a huge issue while playing tennis. 'I'm serving for the set against the number 5 seed, I need this first point, If I don't win it I will be down 0-15, that's just one point away from 0-30, then I'm in trouble, I'm looking at a break back then we are on even terms again, this first point is crucial'.
That wasn't word for word from Mats Wilander but I am sure you get the point, so to speak. How do you think you would play that first service point that you have made so crucial inside your own head and do you think you are in danger of double faulting ? Nothing worse than a double, it's a sign that you are tight, a sign that your thoughts are not free, a sign that perhaps your technique is not as good as you thought it was.
I am sure Australia's Bernard Tomic could vouch for that feeling where just over a week ago he lead Thomas Berdych by a set and 4-0 only to lose. How did that happen ? Well at 0-4 Thomas Berdych knew he was almost gone but he won his own serve and had a red hot go at Tomic's next service game, he didn't have much to lose, why play safe ? For the Czech to break back to 2-4 it was a huge momentum shift and it was enough to put the self doubt into the Aussie's game.
So when Thomas won his next serve the pressure was right back on Tomic to somehow put the disappointment out of his head regarding his previous service game. Do you think that Wilander's theory on self doubt well and truly came into play in that particular game that Tomic had to win for his own confidence to be restored ?
I have seen countless tennis matches that have a score line of say 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 or 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 with my favourite of all time being Mats Wilander's effort in 1982 to win the French Open against Vilas. The score of 1-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-4 shows a huge momentum shift from the first set that Guillermo Vilas dominated and it shows the second set to be one of a player just hanging in, weathering the storm.
The third set is typical of two mind sets, one being of a shattered player who's game plan was now being worked out by his opposition. In this particular case a set point  went begging that was perhaps a point that would have almost secured the title. The opposing mind set is one of a player who took all that was thrown at him for two sets but weathered the storm, a new sense of freedom evident with no fear that eventually earned him the title.
Many players who lose a close second set after easily winning the first set are mentally crushed hence the typically one sided third set, even in Grand Slams you will often see a score line like that of the French Open final of '82. Perhaps it is the fragile mental state of some players who are happy to own a lead but not so happy to be challenged that ultimately hands them more losses than wins.
The players who can forget the ramifications of the score (as mentioned in my last chapter regarding Andre Agassi) and the many mind games that go hand in hand with each point played are players who own a unique brain.
Even Andre Agassi writes openly in his book regarding his wayward thought processes, something that was definitely not evident when I first saw him play in 1988 as an 18 year old. Does the mind start to waver as you get older perhaps ? Mats Wilander's revealing thoughts on the game are not unlike Agassi's with both champions showing an almost human side to a sport that at times seems to be played by robots without any fear of consequence.
The players who adopt a no fear attitude if technically correct will ultimately become successful at any level played due to a free flowing style. It's the players who are constantly concerned about what may happen as the score board continues to tick over who perhaps never realize their full potential. I have seen guys ranked 500 in the World practice at tournaments both in Europe and Australia who you would swear were the next 'big thing' but practice form is deceiving.
If every player could take their fearless practice form into a tennis tournament then it would be a sight to behold, the game would become a circus of ridiculous talent. It's what though makes the game unique, only the smart players make a living out of it.
It's all very well to be a good tennis coach, good luck with the 'brain teaching' that goes with it...........

Friday, 10 April 2015


I have previously documented in detail the year that I have my fondest memories of as far as the game of tennis is concerned, 1988. It was the year of the Swede, the year that was dominated by Mats Wilander but also involved a 'cameo' from Stefan Edberg as he chimed in with a Wimbledon title, the only Slam Mats didn't win that year.
It was the same year  that my favourite rock band Def Leppard set the World alight with my favourite album of all time 'Hysteria'. It was an album that was in fact released at the end of 1987 but I didn't hear it until the year that the Swedes reigned supreme.
Now there was something about an 18 year old kid from the US who struck me as both entertaining and flamboyant who had a mop of hair which resembled that of the lead singer of Def Leppard, Joe Elliot.
The first time I ever saw Andre Agassi play tennis was in fact in the semi finals of the French Open of 1988 and he just so happened to be up against my idol Mats Wilander. When I first tuned in to this particular match the young fellow from Las Vegas looked just like a rock star, he could have passed as a guitarist for the 'Leps', rocking out a riff for Joe Elliot to sing to. Andre had a look about him that typified that era, big hair, daring clothes and a style of play that you could only admire, a style that suited his image, a style that could only be described as 'cavalier'.
When you see a new kid on the block who at age 18 could hit a forehand like you have never seen before it is a spectacle of sporting entertainment. This was a match you could not take your eyes off, a match that you don't see every day of the week. In fact this match was one of those tennis matches that I still to this day look up on You Tube and view the highlights, I would rate it as one of the most entertaining tennis matches I have witnessed in 30 years.
One of the things that was most entertaining about Andre Agassi in this match was his lack of fear against a man who's clay court credentials were second to none in the 80's, a man who beat the World's best dirt ballers in 1982 when he was just 17. He repeated the feat again in 1985 as a 20 year old.
Mats Wilander was just two match wins from French Open immortality as only his famous countryman Bjorn Borg and Czech Ivan Lendl had won three or more titles at Roland Garros in the previous 40 years.
When however an 18 year old 'rock star' wins the first set against your inspiration to play the game you sit up and take notice. This match was meant to be a formality, a straight sets win to the guy you rely on for your motivation to play. Now to add insult to injury there was a rather famous comment made by Andre to his then Coach Nick Bollettieri after he had won the first set 6-4.
"I thought it was 5-3". Yep that is fact, Andre thought he was only up 5-3 or so he said anyhow, but I believed it because he wasn't saying it as a form of arrogance so his opponent would hear him. It was only directed at his coach, it seems legitimate to this day, so what of the comment that had commentators shaking their heads in disbelief ?
Well one said he believed that because of Andre's rather flamboyant style he adopted a mind set that was of total relaxation, almost a hint of arrogance and a total disregard to any reputation down the other end. I have not seen a kid of that age play a set of tennis like that since, it was a set that should be played to every budding tennis player who has aspirations to play the game at a high level.
The match eventually went the way of Wilander by the score of 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-0, I didn't look that up either, I know every score of every title that Mats ever won, I did say he was my inspiration didn't I ?! And so what did I think of 18 year old Andre Agassi ?
Well he became my favourite player once Mats retired, I loved his style from day one, that very first match in Paris but I was never going to 'replace' Mats until he hung up his rackets for good.
The semi between those two in 1988 will remain a match that I will forever remember as a 'benchmark for playing a reputation'. Some players pocket the first three games by just putting the ball into play against opposition who are totally overawed by their status, ranking and reputation. Andre Agassi feared no one and I am certain he ignored his opponent's credentials, he just played the ball.
Perhaps that's the way the rest of us should play this silly game, just keep swinging, ignore the opposition and play each ball on it merits, the score will take care of itself.
No point in complicating an already complicated game, keep it simple.......

Thursday, 9 April 2015


I don't begrudge anyone who has a personal dig at tennis because even though it has been my main sport for over 30 years I see flaws in the way it is presented. For a sport that is so well known for it's technical expertise there is an obvious flaw in the book of rules that I would love to see changed, if not just for a novelty tournament. Roger Federer is possibly the greatest technically correct player there has ever been, he is quite frankly a genius, he has even proven it off court.
There is a rather well played video of him serving a ball at an empty can of coke that was sitting on someone's head in a studio, it was a dare more than anything, Roger obliged, the can was sent flying. I don't care who you are and how close you are to someone set up like the 'William Tell' famous bow and arrow effort, the precision it took to knock that can off that person's head was nothing short of brilliant.
So why is it that tennis is a sport that requires two serves to start a point if everyone at the professional level is so technically sound ? What if golf followed the same lead as tennis ? Damn I hit it crooked, oh well I have another shot at it, grab me another ball thanks Mr Caddy, that first shot was a 'free swing' anyhow. Can you imagine it ? Every golfer would go for broke on the first shot, what would they have to lose except a ball that would be replaced within the allotted time between shots ?
So what is it with tennis that allows a player two chances to put the ball into play ? I am no expert at sports such as Table Tennis, Badminton or Squash but I have had a crack at all of them and from memory I only received one first serve, correct me if I am wrong. As good as a server perhaps is at those above mentioned sports I doubt very much whether a match would be dominated by a good server due largely to pace or perhaps lack of it.
I have documented on more than one occasion my favourite tennis player Mats Wilander from Sweden and his rather incredible 97 per cent first service effort against Henri Leconte in the final of the French Open in 1988. In more simple terms Mats hit 73 of 75 first serves in, he basically started each of his serves with a delivery that wouldn't wake up a radar gun. He opted for a slow spinning serve that cleared the net with plenty of margin. For the record Mats won the match with ease.
So what of this tactic ? Well the Swede did his homework and realized that he was not going to win too many free points on his serve so he decided to conserve the energy for the rest of his game, a great tactic it turned out to be. The thing I liked so much about this particular match was that the return came back 99 per cent of the time, it was a spectacle, it came down to tactics, not brute strength.
If we fast forward to today's tennis it seems that serves are getting bigger as equipment becomes more advanced but how does a player keep up with this technology as far as their eyes are concerned ? Your guess is as good as mine but returning a serve of Ivo Karlovic's surely will become even harder in the future as equipment becomes more advanced. How does a player see a serve of say 240 kms per hour let alone play it back into court ? It becomes almost a guessing game as to where it is going.
So what if guys like Karlovic and John Isner, another prolific server were told that they no longer had the luxury of two serves and were asked to develop a game more like the great Swede Mats Wilander ? Would that be more of a spectacle to a crowd of avid tennis fans wanting to witness a rally or two rather than them having to give the obligatory hand clap after another unplayable bomb that can send even the most seasoned spectator off to sleep ?
My answer is obvious and I believe that a tournament should be on the professional calendar that asks the ultimate question of each player 'are you only as good as your second serve'? How good would it be to see a lack of aces hit, just about every return put back into court and the game of tennis being transformed back to a spectacle that saw a first serve as a 50/50 ball and not a raffle ticket ?
Now there is a game of tennis I would love to witness, a match that was full of rallies, a match that we could enjoy as a thought fest as opposed to a slug fest and one that would ask Ivo and Jonny to bring with them a plan B and C rather than just their usual plan A.
Could the powers of modern day tennis break from tradition and do what Jimmy Connors was asked to do in his Battle of The Sexes match with Martina Navratilova in 1992 and that was serve just one ball ? It was brilliant. Perhaps what made it more entertaining to watch now days is the admission that Jimmy had a million dollars riding on not only the result but the score as well, fascinating.
I am all for tennis changing it's current format and I don't believe 'Fast 4' tennis even gets close to spicing the game up as 20/20 cricket does with it's new innovative format. I find today's format a little on the 'ho hum' side, it's a flawed scoring system that can take victory from a player who wins more points than his opposition.
I reckon it's time for a change, just a thought.......

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


Sometimes I wonder if I have any ideas left regarding my thoughts on tennis, after all I have written over 300 chapters on this site. Lately I really have had no desire to write and I wonder whether I simply wrote all those chapters to get things out of my mind and onto a site that I could look back on one day and say " Fair Dinkum Thommo you really had a mind like a tin of worms".
I look at some of the chapters I wrote and have a bit of a laugh about it all as I really used to have a red hot crack at some individuals and certain organizations which and who have pissed me off over the years. I also have a laugh at some comments I received from people who simply didn't like what I wrote, namely CG, GW and others who should know better as they are people in positions of trust locally. Personally I don't mind CG, it's the others who I consider to be way out of their depth as far as this game is concerned in this region. That's why the game is where it is locally and that's why we will not receive a new tennis centre in the next 20 years.
The Lawley Park Tennis Club was once the power house of tennis locally yet in the latest championship, the club vs club Champ of Champs Lawley could manage just three players in an eight player per club event. How did this happen ? How does a tennis club with the best central venue in town and arguably the best facilities not manage to find a full team ?
When I was age 40 I played the Champ of Champs for Lawley Park, we won the event, the next year we lost by a whisker. The year after that we won both the Mens and Womens Singles in that event and again just lost the title by an ever so small margin. That was just four years ago.
I quit coaching at Lawley Park around three and a half years ago due to many reasons and I was slandered for it yet no one wanted to know the real reasons behind my decision. I was simply branded someone who quit the game due to 'personal issues'. Let me tell you that those 'issues' were all about the bullshit that was going on behind the scenes in the sport that we used to call a 'gentleman's game' however I could write a book and tell you otherwise. Come to think of it I think I did write a mini novel when I first put this site together and told a few home truths about the game locally.
So is it more than just a coincidence that since I left that club there are next to no juniors playing Saturday afternoon Senior club ? That was a priority part of our coaching program, to bring juniors through to the senior club. And is it more than a coincidence that since I quit that club they cannot field a competitive team for the above mentioned tournament ?
We used to have an abundance of players at Lawley because we ran the town's only 'Mens Tennis and Beer' night where we had some red hot tennis and some red hot drinking to go with it. 
Each Tuesday night after our junior coaching was finished we saw some of the town's best players come down for a social afternoon which I organized myself and it formed a club within a club. In fact the Lawley Park Tennis Club without any doubt used to be THE place to play tennis in Albany and not even four years later it almost resembles a 'ghost' club'. It now struggles to fill four of its six courts on a Saturday afternoon.
Our program promoted kids into the senior club every season, as I have stated earlier, we 'refilled the cupboards', where are these kids now ? It's all very well to teach kids tennis down there but how about looking at the big picture and not just the small one that makes individuals a few bucks each week yet fails to help replenish the ailing club's numbers.
Where are the Intermediate and Advanced programs that we used to run that brought the town's strongest 11 to 15 year olds through the gates each week over the course of the tennis season that inadvertently lead to the club becoming the 'youngest' club in town ? Why is it now within four years the 'oldest' club in town ? Anyone ??
My theories flow freely and I am beyond giving a shit as to what people think of me locally here in Albany where as a kid I learned to play the game at Lawley Park. I was just one of perhaps a dozen or so kids who helped fill the courts on Saturday afternoons. Up until four years ago I helped rebuild the junior numbers at that same tennis club which helped me enjoy my days on court against players of all ages.
So why did I quit ? It's called politics, every sport has them, tennis has plenty, it's where some egotists think they are bigger than the sport itself and they don't care who they piss off to get where they want to be. I call it 'head up one's own arse syndrome', tennis unfortunately breeds many.
The silly thing is this, I am starting to enjoy not being around the sport as much locally as I used to because it is not the sport that I remember all those years ago, in fact it's a pale shadow of what it used to be. I basically play one competition a year, the Albany Open, I still do ok, my legs are a little slower yet the memory is still sharp and I like it how some refuse to play this event, it makes it more pleasant for the rest of us.
The tennis centre which some believe will happen is nothing more than a pipe dream because the Lawley Park Tennis Club in Albany is living proof that tennis locally is not a sport on the rise, in fact it's on the decline. Too many egotists, too many people looking after their own agendas.
This was my first chapter for a while, it may be my last, I reckon I finally hit the nail on the head, Fair Dinkum Thommo........

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


The great Czech Ivan Lendl used to suffer the same fate in Grand Slam finals as his now very successful ex student And Murray once did. It was called 'not living up to potential' or in another tennis terminology both of these players were in fact 'playing to not lose'.
In 1981 however Lendl lost in 5 sets to the second most successful French Open Champion of all time, Swede Bjorn Borg. To push Borg to five on clay was possibly one of the all time great feats of that era as the Swede's game was almost impossible to match on clay. 
The fifth set score of that particular match was 6-1 to Borg, almost an anti climax from the first four sets so what happened in the decider ? Probably the same thing that happened to Lendl in his next four Grand Slam finals and possibly the same as what happened to Murray in his first four Grand Slam finals.
'Playing to not lose' is nothing new in any age bracket in tennis, the under 8's and 10's do it every match as do the under 12's. Once players start to develop shots that are physically harder then they will naturally begin to play bigger, to hit harder, to go for more winners, to try to win a match. The 14's age bracket is where you will start to see some more winners hit and some more risks taken and once you get to the 16's, well these kids can belt the ball like young men.
The problem is then obvious, young men start to retrieve like young men and their running capacity strengthens along with their physical capabilities so hitting winners against good retrievers is hard work. So what then happens ? Well that's when young men turn themselves into players like David Ferrer who are aware of their own ability or perhaps more to the point their inability to dictate a tennis match. So what do they do ? They become fitness experts.
Now in the past I have had a shot at Australia's very own fitness expert Roger Rasheed as I do not believe he is helping his player Grigor Dimitrov to win tennis matches. I believe he has got his player fit, that's about it.
I still believe Dimitrov needs a tactical coach to take his game to another level and perhaps if he should look at his own game he could almost take a leaf out of Ferrer's book. Could Dimitrov forget the flash perhaps and play a little more conservative like Ferrer does and simply wear his opponents out ? Why not ? Ferrer does and he is how many years older ??
So to my point and as always I do usually have one but many dislike it, such is life. Did Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray lose their first 5 and 4 Grand Slam finals respectively by simply playing to not lose as David Ferrer does in every match he plays? I like Ferrer but he has nothing to bother any of the top players with on a regular basis, he simply gets the ball in play, doesn't miss much and does his best to outlast his opponents. Anyone will tell you that style is simply not good enough to win regularly against the top ten yet it will earn you a tidy living all the same.
Ferrer has made one Grand Slam final but received a comprehensive belting from Nadal in the French Open final of 2013, 3, 2 and 3. When they played the very next year in the quarters Nadal won by a score of 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1. What does that score tell you ? Simple, the A plan ran out of fuel, plan B was not an option, there was no plan B. You simply cannot beat the top players with a game that has no arsenal because eventually the ammo will run out and the big guns will blow the pop gun away.
So back to Lendl and Murray, what did these guys do to win a Slam which Ferrer unfortunately will never do ? They learned to stop relying on their opponents to lose and found a way to win. So what way was it ? I personally believe that it was not only a change in thinking but it was a desire to take on the game, to dictate, to stop being pushed around by the class bully, to assert some authority, to take some risks, to not die wondering.
I believe that all of the above is why Federer is still winning, it's because he is seeing balls that a baseliner isn't, a ball to dictate play on, a ball to assert some authority on and a ball to ask the question of his opponent on.
Lendl and Murray were tired of being bullied so they reversed the roles that saw them both pushed around in the big matches. Lendl was the obvious choice for Murray as far as a coach was concerned, he taught him how to dictate and how to pick the balls to ask the question of the opponent.
My belief is that tennis is a sport that you need to decide who you are, the hunter or the hunted. Find some big guns or find a way to deflect the heavy artillery.
A thinking man's sport is tennis, keep doing the sums, it will all add up eventually........