Sunday, 31 May 2015


The French Open Tennis Championship has always been my favourite tournament for one reason or another but I believe that it may just be in the way that it asks the ultimate physical question of a professional. Not only that but it also demands a mind that only a few tennis players own, a mind that never accepts defeat no matter how hopeless the situation seems.
If you read through the results of this year's matches you will notice that the man who finally put Andre Agassi's career to bed, Benjamin Becker defied his ranking and logic to make the third round. After being down two sets to one against Bemelmans in the first round Becker scraped through a fourth set tie breaker before finding another gear to win 6-2 in the fifth.
Becker's second round match was rather outrageous as the score line suggests against Fernando Verdasco , the number 32 seed. After claiming the first set 6-4 against a player ranked 16 places higher and of a reputation that is to be respected the wheels fell off for Becker, big time. In fact Verdasco won the next two sets 6-0, 6-1, not unlike what Hewitt did to Becker in this year's Australian Open.
Hewitt smashed Becker in the first two sets 6-2, 6-1 before Benjamin finally woke up and realized he was in a tennis tournament then found a way to win the match in five.
Benjamin Becker finds another gear when he is down in a match, a trait of any top 50 tennis professional and one that is taken for granted by many who simply read a score but don't read the fine print. The man from Germany is nearly 34 years of age but is not retiring without leaving a legacy of a refuse to give in attitude that will see him walk into a coaching job no doubt when his time is up.
His longevity in the game is testimony to the fact that he is a player who will be respected for hanging around when many would have packed the rackets away for fear of failure.
So his effort in coming back from the two set obliteration from Verdasco was nothing short of a show of fighting spirit that cannot be taught by a coach, it comes from owning a heart as big as the forehand. The final two sets from Becker will go down in French Open history as a refusal to go away without a fight that ultimately turned into a victory, 7-5, 10-8.
Sometimes a player who is losing badly may just dig in enough to win enough games to make the score look better than the effort actually was. A score of say 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 is typical of a player who was outplayed for the majority of the match yet dug deep to extract some respect from both his opponent and himself. It's something to bring the player back for another crack at it the following year, a personal victory when things aren't going according to plan.
One of the greatest French Open come back wins in the history of the tournament came in 1984 when Chilean Hans Gildemeister took on the number nine seed Henrik Sundstrom of Sweden in round three. Gildemeister lead by the score of 6-2, 6-0, 5-1 and had 0-30 on Sundstrom's serve before making twelve unforced errors in a row. The Swede went on to win six games in a row to take the third set and won the final two sets 6-3, 6-4. How does that happen at that level ?
Ask Johnny McEnroe the same question as in that same year he lead Ivan Lendl by the score of 6-3, 6-2 and was up a break in the third set before losing it 4-6. He then lead 4-2 in the fourth and the match was on his racket at deuce in the very next game yet Lendl won the set 7-5 and the fifth by the same score.
It was another miracle recovery at the French Open in 1984 that typified the nature of clay court tennis, not just a physical and tactical surface to win on but without a doubt the toughest mentally to close out a match on. Whether it be the slowness of the court or the physical demands of the constant slide to the ball the matches in Paris bring out some remarkable efforts of human endurance.
Andre Agassi in 1999 came back from a deficit of 1-6, 2-6 to win the final against Andrei Medvedev 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 which finally completed his Grand Slam accomplishments. It was an amazing come back by Agassi and one that typified an attitude of a refusal to give up.
When Bjorn Borg was just 18 years of age he came back from two sets to love down against the Spaniard Manuel Orantes, 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to win the final. That type of win at such a young age typified a mind beyond it's years as many would have put the toys back in the toy box after the second set and went home. To lose just two more games for the match showed a true test of character that not enough tennis players own.
Some are happy to put up a good effort measured personally by games won whereas the champions of tennis do not look at anything but a win. Second place and 'respectable performances' are not in a champion's vocabulary.
I remember 1984 in Paris because I used to ride my push bike up to the local newsagency just to buy the Daily News Newspaper that published all of the French Open Tennis results each day with ridiculous detail. It was almost part of my training routine as a kid;
Do the bike ride, buy the paper, get inspired, hit against the garage wall at home until it was dark, read the paper again, cut out the article, stick it to the wardrobe door.
Dream of Paris........


Saturday, 30 May 2015


Just as the title suggests, let's have a crack at the Mens Fourth Round matches in Paris. Only Novak is safe I believe, the rest have their work cut out to make the Quarter Finals.
In the bottom half Roger takes on Monfils, tough one to pick considering Gael belted Roger on clay in last year's Davis Cup Final but I am leaning toward Federer in 4 sets.
Roger's mate Stan should get the job done against Simon in 4 or 5 sets but only due to the length of the match between Simon and Mahut that went the distance. I don't believe that Simon will have enough gas left in the tank to wear Stan out who had a straight sets win in his last match.
Tsonga seems to have regained his old form but getting past Berdych will be a tough assignment as Thomas doesn't mind playing guys seeded below him, he simply struggles against the players in front of him. Still a tough one to work out though as the Czech has every shot in the book, he obviously just lacks self belief.
Gabashvili is playing well but doesn't have the consistency of Nishikori though this match could go the distance. Kei in 4, maybe 5 but he will be fresh as he did not hit a ball in making the last 16. Benjamin Becker played ten sets and around nine hours worth of tennis in his first two matches. He was obviously physically spent so he took his big pay cheque and took a flight home.
Cilic is back in form and is playing well but has either Bolelli or the old war horse Ferrer in the next round, two clay court experts. In saying that though I don't think it matters who he plays, I believe he will make the quarters.
Nadal is going ok and should make it to the last 16 where he will meet either Coric or Sock, I am picking the latter in a long match. I don't believe either player will bother Rafa in the last 16.
So that leaves Novak up against either Anderson or Gasquet but I think the Frenchman will just sneak through leaving himself as cannon fodder for the Serb. I still can't see anyone touching Novak this year except for maybe an injury.
It's a tough draw in the top half but I believe Novak will get through and play either Roger or Stan in the final. My tipping of late has not been the best but we will see how these go. I can only improve.........
Sorry I forgot about Andy, he's playing well but Chardy will test him, Andy in 4 sets to meet Cilic in the quarters.
In Mens Doubles I will go for a slight upset and pick two teams who I believe can defy their ranking.
Jean-Julian Rojer and Horacio Tecau are seeded five and haven't dropped a set as of yet, these guys can play dubs. They look like meeting the number two seeds Pospisil and Sock in the quarters. I am leaning towards an upset then a semi against Dodig and Melo who may just sneak past Peya and Soares.
I believe the bottom half may just produce this year's Mens Doubles Champions. Rojer/Tecau or Dodig and Melo. Tough to pick mens dubs, like a chook raffle......

Saturday, 23 May 2015


This is one of those feel good stories. I apologize in advance for not more detail however I am tired, it's late, I need some sleep, this is however the nuts and bolts of it all.
There is a tennis professional from Croatia by the name of Mate Pavic, he is 21 years of age, ranked 413 in singles and has won just 2 grand at the one on one format this year. Mate though is a doubles specialist, he's ranked 67 in the two on two format and has amassed $20,000 this year.
His partner for the Nice tournament on the French Riviera was a guy by the name of Michael Venus, a 27 year old battler from New Zealand with a singles ranking of 516, a doubles ranking of 63. These two joined forces against some of the best doubles combinations in the World and pulled off possibly the most remarkable win in years.
Rojer and Tecau are ranked 11 and 12 respectively in the World in doubles and should have won the title in Nice with a leg in the air, so to speak. With nearly half a mil' in the bank between them already this year in doubles they have formed a lethal duet. Tennis however is a funny game and there are no 'sure things', in fact it is almost an impossibility to pick a winning doubles combination until the last ball is hit in most tournaments. Nice was no exception.
Michael and his mate, 'Mate', just got over the line in a third set super tiebreaker 10 points to 8 and defied all logic as far as the seeding committee were concerned. Who were they ? Well it seems they are now a pair to be respected and I would imagine that they may have split around $50,000 Euros as prize money for winning in Nice.
That's a pretty handy pay day for two guys who have earned as much as the local garbage collector back home. No offence, the garbage guy earns his money too.
I love to read about these type of victories, inspiring for the battling players who are just hoping for a good draw and a little bit of luck to fund their sporting dreams.
Michael and his mate 'Mate', well done guys, good luck in Paris.........

Thursday, 21 May 2015


Now this is a nice part of the World, pardon the pun, Nice, in the south of France on the way to Monaco. I travelled through Nice from St Maxime and St Tropez in 1991 as I made my way to what I still consider the pinnacle of my trip, Monte Carlo.
I played a hard court tournament in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, around 15 kms from Nice just after playing another tournament in St Maxime where I stayed for a week. Looking back I saw some great tennis clubs in France, particularly on the Riviera as they certainly do not spare expense or views in that area when it comes to tennis club back drops.
Just like they do with the Monte Carlo Country Club the tennis courts are built with the idea of a picturesque setting first, followed by the club, tennis on the Riviera defies logic. Where a hotel or apartments could perhaps have been built it is instead a place of magnificence to hit a tennis ball, the French are blessed with ideas of grandeur.
The Open of Nice is currently being played and an Australian by the name of James Duckworth has found himself in a rather unique situation that I do not believe has happened in a very long time, a one in a thousand event perhaps. For a battling tennis professional it is one thing to make it inside the World top 100 players but to receive a draw as 'Duckman' did well it may just be one of those occasions where all of those years of battling finally paid dividends.
Usually a player of the Australian's standard and ranking would come up against a player inside the top 30 in the first round, perhaps even a top tenner, check this one out, this is remarkable. Duckworth drew Frances Tiafoe of the US who has won a total of just under $15,000 for the year with a ranking of 291. A good young prospect is Frances and he has only just turned 17, coached by former clay court wizard Jose Higueras of Spain, a man who used to give Mats Wilander some nightmares on the dirt. 
The Aussie just squeaked past Tiafoe, 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 and earned the right to play the top seed from France Gilles Simon, or at least that's who he was expecting to play. Little did he know that Gilles had withdrawn due to a neck injury and instead he received a second round match up with another lucky loser who was brought in to replace Simon.
Quentin Halys of France has won less than Tiafoe, just $11,000 and owns a ranking of World number 304. This is where the realistic side of tennis kicks in. Most people would look at the ranking of James Duckworth at 88 and expect a one sided affair against a player ranked outside 300 just as they would have with Tiafoe.
Both Tiafoe and Halys did not make it through qualifying, in fact Halys withdrew due to injury before even striking a ball against Sam Groth in the final round. They both received a 'gift' into the main draw as Lucky Losers. So a 7-6, 7-6 win by Duckworth was one that many would shake their heads at in disbelief but it puts tennis into perspective when dissecting the finer points of the sport.
Sure James received a 'dream draw' in the eyes of many but I am sure he was under no illusions as to the task that was presented to him just to reach the last eight. He made it through both matches by the hair on his chin and now he faces arguably the World's best teenager Borna Coric, a player with a current ranking of 53 and over a quarter of a mil' in the bank just this year.
Usually a player ranked 88 would be happy with an opponent ranked 53 as a quarter final matching but this match will be decided by mindset more than ability, these two are of similar standard. If our boy James gets over Coric he will then play Juan Monaco or Leonardo Mayer, both of Argentina who have clay on their toast for breakfast. These two have won nearly three quarters of a million between them already this year and they both know the intricacies of playing on the dirt.
So if anyone wishing to break into the elite group of World tennis is under any illusions as to how brutal the sport is then I suggest they do the sums on the tournament on the French Riviera that is currently being played. There were also around 24 guys battling for just 4 positions in the main draw who picked up between 350 and 700 Euros for not making it to the main stage. The 4 players who were good enough probably picked up around $12,000 just for making it into the main draw, double that for a first round win.
The 'Duckman' regardless of whether he beats Coric or not has made some good dollars this week, enough to pay his way to Paris where he will receive about $30,000 even for a first round loss, good money if you are good enough. Earning that sort of money while enjoying the surrounds of picturesque tennis clubs in the south of France sure sounds like a job worth having.
If only it were that simple..........
***FOOTNOTE*** Coric beat Duckworth 6-3, 7-6 in their Quarter Final match. As predicted, not a lot in it, one break of serve in the first and a whisker in it in the second. Only a few points and a sharper mind separates most matches......

Monday, 18 May 2015

Agassi - Attack with Nick Bollettieri 5/6

Have a look at Agassi's looped backhand at around 1 minute 30 from the beginning of this video. That's the shot I refer to at the end of my last chapter. That's the shot I believe every kid needs to learn. It's not that difficult, it's all in the racket head acceleration through the ball and the follow through as Bollettieri explains.......

Sunday, 17 May 2015


My earliest memories of tennis were of Swede Bjorn Borg and the way in which he cleared the net by a huge margin with the amount of spin he generated off both sides. He could flatten the ball out on the passing shot or he would sometimes go with a high pass which made his opponent stretch both wide and high. Borg was a genius.
Kent Carlsson in the mid eighties took topspin to another level, arguably considerably more than Borg, fascinating to watch. The 1987 French Open quarter final against Yannick Noah, the '83 French Champion was a classic match of two contrasting styles. I still have not seen too many players hit the ball with more loop, perhaps Rafa being the only exception.
The loop in tennis has somewhat given way to the harder and flatter style of today but the clay court season tends to bring the 'loopers' back. You cannot hit every ball flat and hard in a best of five sets match on clay as you would need to be outrageously fit to do so.
The thing I like most about a looped ball is that it makes life uncomfortable for the opponent with it's high bounce. Players like Novak don't seem to mind it because they have impeccable timing and can take a high looping ball early and flatten it out, as could Swede Robin Soderling. The last man to beat Rafa in Paris could flatten Nadal's looped shots out with a minimum of fuss, his timing was also brilliant.
Most players can loop a ball from the forehand side with ease but the backhand is a little different.
Many players go with a 'conventional' style but David Nalbandian of Argentina owned a backhand that defied logic. The angles he could hit with that shot were nothing short of remarkable plus he had the ability to hit down the line winners to finish a rally seemingly at will.
Andre Agassi could do many things with his backhand but I loved it when he looped it high over the net because it gave me many ideas on how to teach it. A shot like that I believe was possibly one of the hardest balls to get back as most of his opponents also found out.
Agassi's looped balls were all part of Gilbert's idea of a 'holding' shot, a shot that asks the question of the opponent, not an attacking shot. Agassi's backhand in the video I shared on this site is the type of shot I refer to. Not a lob but a high ball.
As far as the backswing is concerned if you look at the way Agassi does it he slightly dips the racket head before impact which creates an almost flicking effect. If the racket head is not dropped then the amount of topspin generated will be considerably less. Many kids are not aware of the 'flick' yet it makes a huge difference.
If you can learn to hit a looping ball off both sides consistently then I believe you can win a tennis match through consistency alone. It's one thing to drive a tennis ball but you cannot possibly keep driving it without wearing yourself out.
I have seen many players, not just kids who own just one style, the driving flat style of play and I refer to them as 'a dime a dozen'. No variety. It's where perception of the game has got muddled up with logic.
I am not sure who this person is who asked me for some advice but I send them a thank you because it has reignited my own thoughts on the game that have been stagnant lately. Must be that time of year, the off season.
Thanks Champ for the enquiries, hope it all helped......


Mats Wilander once said that he felt he had three games in the bag at the start of each match due to his ranking, reputation and ability to play the game, fair comment. The young fellow from Croatia, Borna Coric played Federer not long ago and won just three games. Wilander's theory once again came into play, many games in the bag in that particular match.
It doesn't matter how old you are, a junior or a senior, intimidation is something that the strongest players use to their advantage to perfection. I remember when I was training full time as a 16 and 17 year old in Brisbane and there were guys at the Coops Tennis Centre who I idolized. The funny thing was this, when I trained with one of them once I got just as many balls back as he did, my standard lifted to a level that surprised the hell out of me. I mean no offence to my regular training partners however they were not of the same standard as the top squad players. 
One player in particular, Neil Borwick was on the next court to us younger guys regularly training with the best players available, he was a genius with everything he did. I was never fortunate enough to train with him but I hit with him around two years ago when he was in town. I loved the challenge as Neil beat both Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, two former World Number 1's in the early 90's. 
He also once teamed with Swedish legend Jonas Bjorkman and defeated Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis who also were World number 1's in doubles, that's a rare distinction. So was I intimidated to hit against Neil nearly 30 years later ? You betcha, the guy still has a ridiculous ability to play tennis.
Intimidation never ends until you become a top player yourself so is there a solution ? Absolutely. Who are you training with and are they players you can beat on a regular basis ? If so then why are you still training with them ? You only ever stop being intimidated by players once you start beating them and it all starts in practice.
I will never forget my training session against Justin Stead, a former professional who I looked up to at Coops not only for his on court ability but for his philosophical attitude towards life in general. He once asked me for a hit as his practice partner had not showed, right place, right time GT.
My standard for that hour or so was one that I did not know that I owned, I barely missed a ball. So what did that tell me ? I needed more sessions against those types of players because after my initial nerves, albeit in practice, I realized that the good players who I idolized weren't that much better.
The biggest difference was that they simply didn't miss much and they were thinkers. I have often stated that the best players in tennis were not the best ball strikers but the best thinkers, I will always believe that.
So to the question from the young fellow who looks for an answer to playing the big guns and how to handle the occasion; It all starts with the build up Champ and what you are doing to prepare for tournaments.
If you can find a player who will beat you regularly then 'employ' them as your hitting partner because they are your ticket to improvement. Practice with them for as long as you can but do the right thing by yourself before you go into a tournament, find someone who you can beat to get the confidence back on the right track.
Don't look for a 2 and 2 win, look for a couple of bagels, that's always a good mental test and a test you should always give yourself. Anyone can win 2 and 2 but the really good players can do the bagel job.
Tennis is all in the head Champ but it begins on the practice court. The 'dicks' you talk about are always going to be 'dicks' until they get beaten because it's the nature of the sport. It's egotistical to win at an individual sport, particularly at the junior level as it creates a feeling of superiority. The reason they keep winning is because their training is superior to the rest.
In one of my chapters 'The Wall And The Court' I spoke of a kid who all the other kids followed around like ducklings after their mother. I was unfortunate enough to play him in my first ever tournament, I received a belting. I was more shattered though when I heard him tell his mates I was 'weak'.
A year later I belted his brother in the very same tournament and I received some respect. I wanted revenge on the 'hero' but I settled for a win against his brother who wasn't far off his standard. I told myself from that very first tournament that I wasn't going to accept defeats like that ever again. That's when I started attacking the wall and every good player I could find to get my game up to speed. Have you read the Andre Agassi book ?
As egotistical as the 'Summer Of Revenge' was it was also something for Agassi to focus on to improve. He despised Becker and he wanted to beat him, if nothing more than to gain respect. It gave him a goal.
Tennis is full of 'dicks' and ego freaks but once you start beating them it all changes. Change the routine, find a 'hero' to hit with, that's when you will realize your potential and you will fear no one....


Intimidation is key for top players... Whenever I step into a tournament I am always 'scared' of the big players e.g. number one and two seeds, I generally try to avoid being near them as they are mostly stuck up dicks... I would like you to please make another blog called 'JUNIOR INTIMIDATION' and cast your view on it....
 Do you believe in the 'loop' backhand??? Nalbandian's backhand is very compact... straight back and straight forward, where someone such as Agassi would loop there backhand swing..... please make your next post about 'loop' on 'BUT CAN YOU PLAY TENNIS' ?

Friday, 15 May 2015


I just love the way the great man Roger Federer carves up guys like Thomas Berdych, like a butcher carving a succulent steak for dinner. A score of 6-3, 6-3 I believe is an appropriate score line between these two players as one is still hungry, the other lies down and asks for his tummy to be tickled by the better players on a regular basis.
If Roger is losing to guys like Thomas then he knows his time is up, while he still gives guys like Thomas a free lesson then he knows he is still in the game. Thomas reminds me of a 'boutique' tennis player, the kind of pro who looks great, makes a lot of money but very rarely wins anything. Not hungry enough and not mentally tough enough.
I love to see these kind of results, it restores my belief in the game and my lack of respect towards players who have many great shots but who aren't interested in doing anything else but making the quarters and semis plus receiving a healthy bank cheque.
What's wrong with this ? Absolutely nothing, they are millionaires but they will not get books written about them and they will never be the types of players that people look up to when they speak of the greats of the game. If pay cheques weren't given out until the semis or finals then I am sure we would see some more hunger in certain players. Now days you only have to make the last 16 of a Slam to earn a quarter of a mil. Wilander won $275,000 in '88 for winning the US Open.
Thomas Berdych has a chance to become famous by tackling the Big 4 while they are still active yet he seems content to roll over and concede defeat on a regular basis. Have you seen Thomas hit a tennis ball ? He hits it better than most yet owns a heart the size of a pea compared to the rest. Just ask Nicolas Almagro. He knows for a fact that Thomas doesn't like a confrontation.......

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


To my buddy, the one who believes I have no credibility whatsoever but who keeps logging in and reading my thoughts on the game regularly, thanks mate, I hope you are learning something.
Unlike some, I don't ever treat tennis as a sport that I know everything about, in fact I know just enough to keep me studying it on a regular basis. I don't believe that I have ever suffered from 'head up one's own arse syndrome, (HUOOAS) unlike many, I simply have opinions and theories.
Just like a recent chapter suggested, I am not interested in posting chapters and waiting for 300 replies to my 'genius' ideas so I can sleep better at night with a swollen ego.
I do not post things on my Facebook page bragging about how good I am, I will leave that up to the breed of people who suffer from HUOOAS.
Yes I have posted the occasional chapter on us old blokes still being able to beat the young fellas but I don't call that HUOOAS, I call that longevity and having the balls to still give the sport a go. Fear of failure has never been in my repertoire, failure to set an on court example if my body is still willing however bothers me.
It's like my good buddy Patsy once told me "Thommo, it aint how good you were buddy, it's how good you can still be". Well said Brett Patten ( former World Number 1, 35-40 age group ). Patsy inspires me to keep playing.
For some reason however this site still attracts some viewing, not sure why, I am a nobody who has simply hit a few tennis balls in my time. I am no one who has some theories that go around in my head regularly, I find that putting them on paper helps me sleep better.
The one and only time I may go to bed with a swollen ego could be in January if I am fortunate enough to find a strong enough partner to carry me through the Albany Open for a win. This year was a good year.
I sometimes write chapters after a few beers, go to bed thinking it was great then wake up the next morning and delete it. At least it got the idea out of my head while it was bothering me.
I have not had any complaints for a while, I must be mellowing with my content. Part of me however misses that argy- bargy as I treat it like a game of tennis, it's fun to have a 'rally' against 'people' who don't like me.
I don't write much anymore because the sport doesn't bother me as much as it used to and the nit wits who once pissed me off are finally becoming less attractive to comment on. Call it 'mid-life calmness' if there is such a thing.
Thanks for tuning in, I will do my best to come up with some theories from time to time but it won't be like before when the mouse was running on the treadmill at World record pace.
Someone once told me I would mellow eventually, didn't think it would happen......

Regards GT

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Perception is the process by which stimulation of the senses is translated into meaningful experience.
Perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting and organizing sensory information. Many cognitive psychologists hold that, as we move about in the World we create a model of how the World works.... (New World Encyclopedia).
Fascinating isn't it as to how we all grasp hold of something that we feel comfortable with but really it is up for debate as to whether or not what we are holding is in fact something that is worth holding.
I have always felt that with a sport such as tennis there are in fact way too many perceptions of what is correct, hence the discrepancy from club to club, coach to coach, player to player, pro to pro. So who is correct ?
I have often spoke fondly of Gilbert's perception of the game and how he took an almost waste of talent in Agassi to the best player in the World. I have and always will speak fondly of the Swedes of the 70's and 80's and how they had a perception of the sport that looking back on was rather simple to implement yet hard to sustain.
I remember just a couple of weeks back when an AFL Coach talked about his players and their dominance for three quarters and their failure in the last 25 minutes to sustain that level of dominance, despite their win. He spoke of that initial level being almost an 'impossibility' to sustain for the entire match. I find that interesting. The coach gave them a plan that was perceived as 'fool proof' and they stuck to it for as long as their minds could cope with it. Why did it change ?
I believe it has a lot to do with the nature of sport and how coaching can instill some ideas yet it cannot guarantee success, a common problem that is tough to find answers for. A tennis coach can work all they like with a student yet they cannot teach them how to play tennis without simulated play in practice. I have seen countless lessons that are a total waste of time except for the 'cardio' workout that could have been so much more yet the coach failed to teach the vital ingredient, perception.
You can rabbit on all you like as a coach, in fact you can talk yourself blue in the face but if you are any sort of 'mentor' of the game then you will have a way of teaching that does not require anything else but a view on the game that actually makes sense.
Technique is useless without tactics and tactics are useless without technique so if a player lacks in one of these areas then why would you be teaching anything but the one that lacks progress ?
I have seen countless kids who's perception of tennis was simply to out hit their opponent where having a rally was not on their agenda. My way of dealing with that type of player was simple "Hey Champ have you somewhere else you need to be"?! So where did that type of perception begin ? Possibly by watching a player in the 'zone' who felt he could regularly hit a one dollar coin on either side of the court and who owned no fear whatsoever in regards to winning or losing. That's tough to teach.
My earliest perceptions of tennis were in fact to look for the opponent and actually hit it back to them ! Borg did it in the 70's against Vilas and Lendl to such a crazy extent that some of their rallies would be regularly 50, 60, 70 shots, particularly on the clay.
Jonny Mac's perception was to break the rhythm of a player like Borg, never allow the same shot to be played twice, don't be a 'practice partner' who keeps the ball in the comfort zone that ultimately builds confidence and improves technique.
Perception in tennis quite possibly is the one thing that prevents a good player from becoming a very, very good player but unfortunately a lot of the time it keeps getting back to the person who everyone relies on that little bit too much. That person is the one who owns the piece of paper which states that they are 'untouchable' as far as knowledge is concerned.
Tennis I believe is a sport that requires a mind that thinks for itself and one that does not need a constant earful of information on a regular basis. Good tennis coaches are hard to find and I think it comes down to the individual player more than anything else. The best players are the best thinkers.
It's a sport that needs feel, not unlike a surfer who knows when to stand up on the board when the wave is about to peak. It's a sport which requires instinct and an ability to understand a situation, like a boxer needing to duck a right hook.
Tennis is a sport that without perception is like a famous quote from Edward de Bono....
"Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic"
A thinking man's game is tennis but it's all how you perceive the task in front of you.......

Sunday, 10 May 2015


Yep, just as I thought, my tipping once again was terrible. Despite Andy Murray's great recent form I still believed that he would be no match for a revitalised Rafa on the clay in Madrid. Perhaps Nadal is still to get back to his old form  but how could you have picked Murray to win in straight ??
Best of three sets on clay is nothing like the test of Roland Garos where you have to pace yourself a little better over five sets. Players such as Monfils and even Dimitrov are a big danger in all of these lead up tournaments to Paris because they are shot makers who can often come up with enough flair to beat the top 5.
Going into the French Open however it all changes because a player simply can't do what Monfils in particular does regularly, the matches are too long. It's why the big servers such as Raonic and Isner are dangerous in the lead up tournaments also but who do not own the game to win in Paris.
So am I going to tip the French Open Men's Singles winner ? Well my tipping of late has been rather ordinary but it's tough to pick the winner of any event because the level is so outrageously high. But let's have a go anyhow.
I don't think you can take the recent form of any player and use it as an accurate guide because of the three set format. Novak though will be treating this year in Paris as his year of retribution. He was up a set in last year's final before losing a close second set then lost his way altogether.
I believe that this year will be Novak's year as much as I don't like his antics. If he stays injury free and doesn't keep yelling at Boris when things aren't going his way then I can't see anyone beating him.
It's all between the ears grasshopper......


It is 8.23 PM Sunday night in the land of Western Australia. Not sure what time the Madrid Mens Singles Final is on tonight but will post this tip hopefully before they start. The clock at the bottom of my chapters is not actually correct and not certain how to change it but will work on it folks.
So to Madrid ; Not quite certain why Andy Murray is playing so well on clay at the moment but his form is good and he has had some good wins as has Rafa but I believe Murray will be no match for the Spaniard.
These two have met several times on the dirt and Murray hasn't given Rafa too many problems and I don't see why this final will be any different. Nadal has found his 'mojo' again and I believe he will win in straight sets, perhaps after a tight first set as he did with Berdych.
Speaking of whom, here is a player who simply can't find consistency with his semi final appearances lately and who seems happy to just be in the last four but lacks the hunger to go further. I believe he has made eight semi's this year so far without a title.
In fact in consecutive tournaments in Dubai and Indian Wells Thomas Berdych was on the receiving end of two 'bagel' sets from both Novak and Roger. Whilst those two are ridiculously brilliant tennis players I see no reason why apart from maybe his head that a player of Berdych's ability cannot win a game in a set against those two.
Does he have the same 'head issues' as Sammy Stosur when it comes to the big matches against the top players ? Possibly, however Berdych does own some flair and doesn't force you to either change channels or go and watch the grass growing as I find myself doing whenever Sammy lands prime time viewing. My apologies for comparing those two, chalk and cheese but it does make you wonder why a player who can hit a ball that well can't find that extra gear when required.
I believe that it's all in the mind with Thomas who can be a rather fiery customer at times, his match against Almagro in the Australian Open in 2012 was testimony to that fact. Refusing to shake an opponent's hand who you have just beaten is rather strange to say the least as Berdych felt the Spaniard targeted him with a forehand drive that hit him and knocked him over. Great shot by Almagro by the way...
The Spaniard apologized profusely after doing it and many felt that it was sincere, the big Czech though did not, hence his refusal to shake hands. Almagro gained some revenge the following year in Shanghai in a third set tie breaker and celebrated accordingly. The two did actually shake hands at the conclusion of that match.
If you watch footage of the shot at the Aussie Open in 2012 you may just agree with me that Berdych needs to 'toughen up' just a little. He's a big lad, tennis balls aint cricket balls.....
So back to my tip, sorry I tend to get side tracked, part of having a mind like a tin of worms. I will pick Rafa to win 5 and 2, perhaps a brave tip as Andy is going great guns but I still believe the two are Worlds apart on clay.
If Andy wins this or even takes a set I may just put my tipping cue back in the rack for good......

Saturday, 2 May 2015


 I was going to title this one 'Monte Carlo' however I have already done that one, possibly my most cherished memory of Europe in 1991. Instead I won't confuse the chapters statistician and I will simply refer to this as 'Monaco', you guys know better though.
Now when you get off a train on the French Riviera you don't just get out and start walking, you almost count your  steps, it's like one of those great privileges in life that you should be taking notes on. All I really remember from that day in May all those years ago was that I was in a place that I was sure only really existed on a postcard.
When you commence your walk of 'importance' over the other side of the World you are 100 per cent certain that your walk is one that everyone else around you should also be taking because you are heading to the 'Holy Grail'. Tennis to me as a kid began at Monte Carlo because Bjorn Borg lived there, he owned a sports store there and he won the tournament on three occasions.
In fact Bjorn Borg may just own the record for games against at Monte Carlo as from 1977 to 1980 he lost just 17 games in three finals which back then were best of five sets. To put that into perspective the great man from Sweden won 54 games, you do the sums on that.
So to be heading to the Monte Carlo Country Club on cobble stones past views of the harbour and million dollar cruise liners it was a walk that perhaps was out of a Hollywood movie as opposed to real life.
Have you ever seen 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' starring Steve Martin ? That movie from memory was shot on location not far from Monte Carlo, Villefranche-sur-Mer I believe, another ridiculously magnificent French town built on the side of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean ocean. Well if you had the pleasure of watching that rather silly movie you will appreciate the stunning way in which the French people live, everyday life would be a pleasure.
So it was a rather surreal feeling when I finally made it through the gates at the Country Club where the great man played his final tennis match in a career that defied logic and one that ceased all too prematurely at age 26. If he had played until he was Roger Federer's age who knows what his record may have looked like but maybe it's what makes Borg's eleven Grand Slam victories even more outrageously brilliant. By age 26 I don't believe there have been too many better Grand Slam records and I believe that only Federer's record surpasses it, I may be wrong but not by too much.
So to the Monte Carlo Country Club, it's a place of tranquillity and a place of Hollywood movie status where every step you take is one of respect toward not only the game of tennis but to your inspiration to play the game. Yes I was inspired by two tennis players from Sweden but Borg was my hero in life before he was my hero in tennis, I loved what he did and he did it with a calmness that I have not seen since. Mats Wilander replaced Borg for me as someone to follow in tennis but he would never replace the aura that surrounded Borg.
I will never forget the way he waved to his wife Mariana when the going was getting real tough in a Wimbledon final, it was his way of letting her know that he was in control despite the score line. He was known as the 'Ice Man' but that gesture was his way of showing that he had a human side to his almost robot like mannerisms on court.
I have said just recently that this site is all about my spur of the moment thoughts on the game of tennis, this chapter is no different. The Monte Carlo Tournament has just been played and won by Novak Djokovic, another robot of the modern game of tennis. The difference however between him and Bjorn Borg is that Novak has to win at all costs, he is oblivious to anything else around him, the crowd, ball kids and opponents. Borg perhaps owned a robotic style also but he did it with grace and he owned a conscience.
Monte Carlo, Monaco and Bjorn Borg are as big a part of tennis to me now as it was when I first hit a ball as a 12 or 13 year old, it inspired me to eventually visit the French Riviera. If it weren't for Borg I would never have played tennis and I would never have visited a place that I still regard as a 'postcard'. It is a part of the World that has been sculptured out of a mountain overlooking the water where the rich and famous spend their spare time.
Tennis can give you a hard time mentally however it can also take you places, literally.........