Sunday, 25 October 2015

'THE COMEBACK'

I have written more than one chapter regarding my European tour of 1991 with my buddies from Perth, Brett and Pete and the quite remarkable timing of the comeback of my hero Bjorn Borg. That particular initial match by Borg was played at the Monte Carlo Country Club, a place of such magnificence that the setting really does defy logic.
We all watched on from the sporting club in Bordeaux, France where we were playing an insignificant little tournament that would never even register on anyone's 'important' tennis calendar. Every player who was playing that tournament knew of Borg and it showed as the club was full by the time the match commenced. Unfortunately Borg's return to the game after 10 years of absence did not give the sentimental tennis purest the fairy-tale result.
I do not quite remember my reaction to the loss but it was probably not as devastating as it first was when Borg retired at age 26 when I was a lad of 13 or 14 who relied on my hero for inspiration. Looking back I suppose the loss to Arrese in Monte Carlo was to be expected yet when it comes to a legend you tend to expect a miracle even if it wasn't realistic. James Bond could get himself out of any situation, Borg to me was 007, he had that sort of appeal, he just couldn't find a way out of that impossible situation.
In 1992 Borg again contested Monte Carlo and lost to Wayne Ferreira of South Africa by the score of 7-6, 6-2. Putting that performance into perspective Borg was 36, Ferreira 21 and the South African had made the semi finals of the Australian Open that year defeating John McEnroe in straight sets in the quarter finals.
So was Borg's comeback really a failure or was he just a whisker away from being competitive once again despite his age and his ten years of retirement ? The following result  I believe says it all.
The Kremlin Cup of 1993 saw Borg granted a wildcard into the main draw where unfortunately he drew the number 2 seed Alexander Volkov. As one of my previous chapters stated Volkov almost changed tennis history when he lead the eventual Wimbledon champion of 1991 Michael Stich 5-3, 30-15 in the fifth set, unlucky to lose with a net cord shot against him.
The tournament in Moscow was the third year of Borg's comeback though he did not play many tournaments, he simply picked a few that appealed to him and did his best to prepare against guys almost half his age. Volkov at the time was ranked World number 14, his highest ever ranking and was age 26. Surely Volkov would beat Borg with ease and put and end to any doubts about a 37 year old matching it with the World's best tennis players after a decade out of the game.
For history's sake Alexander Volkov defeated Bjorn Borg 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 and the final set tie break score was 9-7. You tell me whether Borg still had ability at age 37 and with ten years out of the sport. The interesting fact about this result was that Volkov did not in fact play his next match, he withdrew without a ball being hit and it proved to be Borg's final comeback attempt. Did the 'old' guy wear the young guy out ?
Volkov won this tournament the very next year.
Personally I believe that Bjorn Borg was three to five years late on his comeback attempt though the highlights that you can see on Youtube in Monte Carlo against Ferreira show a remarkably fit looking Borg at age 36. Not many players can maintain that sort of fitness and perform that well in singles at that age, if any. Connors was possibly the only exception in the past 25 years with his semi final performance at the US Open in 1991.
Borg's comeback had no real heroics involved however if nothing else he proved that he could still play at a remarkably high level against the World's top players.
I am probably one of many who just wished that he had done it a lot sooner........

Thursday, 22 October 2015

'ON THE ROAD AGAIN'

Got another gig this weekend with some coaching up the long winding road that takes a few hours. I will be back in a couple of days with a chapter that has been going around in my head for a day or so. Have a great weekend ...
Regards GT

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

'AN APOLOGY'

A few days ago I wrote a chapter regarding the Kremlin Cup which is currently being played in Moscow and I referred to a young tennis professional by the name of Aslan Karatsev. Personally I did not give him much of a chance against fellow countryman Mikhael Youzhny who despite his ranking of 150 is still a man to be respected on court.
Karatsev made it through qualifying by beating three fellow Russians in a tournament other than a Challenger event which he mainly plays to gather ranking points. His straight sets win over Youzhny by the score of 6-4, 6-4 shows that he may just be a player to look out for as many players who make it through the qualifying are a little star struck by the time the main draw commences.
Aslan has also had a great first round win in the Mens doubles where he and fellow Russian Daniil Medvedev upset the number three seeded combination. As previously written Aslan has only pocketed $55,000 so far in his short career but this tournament will probably earn him around half that again by the time he has been beaten.
The pressure may then be off for a little while so Aslan can enjoy playing and not be concerned about where his next dollar may come from.
Well played young fella, keep it going......

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

'THOMAS'

Without a doubt one of the most unusual defaults from a World Tennis tournament final would have to have been at the Lipton Championships in Florida, 1989. Thomas Muster was ranked number 7 and he had been in red hot form all tournament particularly in his semi final against number 12 seed Yannick Noah of France.
Back then the Lipton Championships were considered the 'fifth Grand Slam' and every player who was fit and healthy would turn up. The other thing that made it so unique was the fact that it was also a best of five sets format, the ultimate test of mind and body.
World number 1 Ivan Lendl had cruised through his half of the draw with the loss of just 44 games in his six matches which broken down is an average score of 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, roughly anyhow. Muster had lost just two sets before his epic semi final against Noah the 1983 French Open champion where he came back from two sets down to win in five, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. The final was sure to be a contest of epic proportions.
There are conflicting reports on when the accident occurred however from what I recall Thomas stopped on the side of the road to grab some food from the boot of his car when he was struck from behind by a drunk driver. The accident put an end to his quest of a potential classic match with Lendl and it put the Austrian star out of the game for around six months.
If ever there was a picture that could inspire a generation of tennis players it would have to be the one of Muster practicing with the aid of a chair designed to take his weight and allow him to still hit balls while sitting down. It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed in tennis and gave 'heart' a whole new meaning. Nothing was going to stop Thomas from achieving what he wanted to achieve in World Tennis.
Seven years later Muster would become the best tennis player in the World and won a dozen tournaments to back up that ranking. He also claimed one of the best ever winning streaks on the European clay by winning 40 straight matches.
The Austrian was a man to be reckoned with despite his near career ending accident in Florida but just like the American Derrick Rostagno who was lucky enough to change his flight just before it crashed killing everyone on board he was afforded a second chance in life.
Sometimes a near miss can change one's perception of life in general and I believe that Thomas Muster practiced even harder once his leg healed from that potentially fatal accident.
Some cruise through and accept what is given to them but not Thomas Muster. He was a man who made up for lost time, like no other I have ever seen in World tennis......

Monday, 19 October 2015

'SHOWING FAITH'

The Kremlin Cup tournament currently under way in Moscow has shown the tennis World an incredible show of faith by a tennis federation towards its players. The mens qualifying event produced no less than 21 budding Russian professionals all trying to make their mark on the big stage. All of these players compete on the Challenger Circuit.
There was even a seasoned veteran also playing in Dimitry Tursinov.
Out of all of those Russian hopefuls just one however made it through to the main draw, brutal fact of life in the World of tennis, there's not much room to squeeze through anywhere.
Tursinov lost second round to the number 1 seed Lajovic from Serbia and the only player to make it through from Russia was a guy by the name of Aslan Karatsev who currently has a ranking of 207. He also has made a grand total of $55,000 this year, about as much as the local postie makes but the postman doesn't have to travel too far to work, these guys do. That sum of 55 grand would not go too far after travel expenses for a tennis pro.
For his efforts in qualifying for the local tournament Karatsev has earned the right to take on another local hero in Mikhail Youzhny, former World number 8 who has now dropped to number 150. Youzhny has won a lazy 400 grand already this year and 12 million in his career who probably now just plays for fun as opposed to his first round opponent who is playing for his life.
That's another brutal fact of tennis, some are in it for the money and a career whereas some are already rich and just spend their last couple of years topping up their superannuation. These are just two mind sets of tennis that must be tough on the newcomer. One will probably play tight tennis, the other a free wheeling style afraid of nothing, least of all losing.
Jimmy Connors once said "I hate to lose more than I like to win" yet someone in their twilight years will simply take each win as another bonus day left in a tournament and a loss as a fact of life as a veteran sportsman. In this case Youzhny is the veteran at just 33 years of age, Karatsev 11 years younger at age 22.
Personally I would love to see the young fellow make it through the first round yet tennis is not a sentimental sport. I would suspect the 'old bloke' to win comfortably and add to his already bulging super account.
Tough sport tennis.........

Saturday, 17 October 2015

'DOUBLES OR SINGLES' ?

The World of doubles tennis is in a word 'tough' as there are so many high quality combinations out there just looking for a slice of luck to beat high quality opponents. Take for example the recent Shanghai Masters tournament where the Bryan brothers lost in the round of 16 by the rather heart breaking score of 6-7, 7-6, 10-7 to Cabal and Farah, another handy team. The second set tie breaker score was 9-7. In a nutshell there was nothing in this match, I am stating the obvious.
Matkowski and Zimonjic, the number 3 seeded team just squeaked by the Aussie team of Kyrgios and Tomic 6-7, 6-4, 10-8 in the same round. When's the last time you heard of the Aussie boys playing doubles together ? This form of the game is almost a raffle if a scratch pairing like that can almost topple a team of that calibre. In the same round again the Wimbledon Champions Tecau and Rojer lost by the score of 7-5, 7-5 to Lopez and Mirnyi, the latter a doubles genius. Once again, nothing in it.
The quarter finals of this event were surprisingly one sided, three straight sets results and one walk over, most unusual though I like to look more into some scores than probably most do. A 6-3, 6-4 score line is basically just a break each set as is 6-4, 7-5 which were two of the results so that's tight tennis where one team senses a chance at a pivotal time, the other not so up to the challenge.
Klaasen and Melo seeded 6 took on the number 8 seeded pair of Bopanna and Kubot in the semi finals and the score of 6-3, 6-7, 10-7 says it all. One team found a way to edge ahead in a third set super tie breaker that shows what you require to be successful at a sport such as tennis. There is no place in tennis for nerves when it gets tight.
Boleli and Fognini as we all know are a remarkable doubles team and their style is typical of today's way of playing with plenty of baseline hitting as opposed to the standard serve and volley of say the Bryan brothers. As the number 5 seeded team they earned the right to play the number 7 seeded team of Nestor and Roger- Vasselin in the other semi. That in itself typifies today's doubles in World tennis. The number 5, 6, 7 and 8 teams played off in the semi finals rather than the usual top 4 playing off in singles.
Boleli and Fognini, the 2015 Australian Open champions just got over the line 5-7, 7-6, 10-3 and there is another score that tells you this match was almost over in two straight sets.
The second set tie breaker was won by the Italians 7-5, a two point buffer that could quite easily have gone the other way with just a little bit of luck or a slight change in a tactical play. I am certain the final will be a classic.
Playing doubles for a living is tough because there are so many great combinations and unless it is a Grand Slam event the matches are all decided with a third set super tie breaker. Every point then is gold.
A player of Fognini's ability can play both forms of the game at an amazingly high level and not all professional players can do that. John McEnroe did both to perfection and made an awful lot of money in the process. Some do it just for fun as Jack Sock has often said. Half of the winning 2014 Wimbledon Mens Doubles combination has not hidden his desire to want to become known as a singles player yet he seems to have more success in doubles.
The main thing about doubles however is that it's easier on the body hence guys such as Paes, Nestor and Mirnyi still find great success into their late 30's and early 40's. A lot more money is available for doubles experts now so these guys don't have to bother with the physical demands of singles.
And rightly so, nothing better than watching an entertaining match of doubles that involve some chip, charge, slice and dice type of points that finish more often than not at the net.
Personally I like the challenge of singles but my ageing legs appreciate how doubles looks after the body a little better. Tennis, it's often about the type of game you own and what your body can handle when it comes to making up your mind as to what form of it you should play.
Most of the time it's how you wake up the next day, that should help you make up your mind.....

Thursday, 15 October 2015

' NICK vs TEX '

Not quite sure about the latest tit for tat between sports stars but what I do know is that guys like Tex Walker know nothing about tennis. For those of you who don't know who Tex Walker is, he's an AFL player who kicks goals for the Adelaide Crows Football team. Nick Kyrgios claimed that he didn't know who he was after receiving a 'tweet' from him on social media. I thought that was a good comeback but then it turned a bit nasty and it even included Tex sending Nick a highlight package of his AFL exploits !
C'mon boys this is all getting a little bit out of hand, this is how it all started. Nick was playing Nishikori at the Shanghai Masters and Nick hit a fault, the ball was returned and Nick laid into a forehand straight down the middle of the court, nice shot too by the way, a practice shot. Problem was this, Nick is a marked man and anything he does is now being scrutinized with every umpire doing his best to be the one to send Nick to the 'sin bin' for a month of suspension. He has no more warnings left.
Every player has done it, I have done it, you have done it, it's a release of energy while you are playing. Stefan Edberg used to do it on his volleying when he missed a serve simply to complete a routine. Serve missed, he's still running in, he hits a volley, no big deal. So Nick is Robinson Crusoe ?? Fair dinkum I have never seen anything so beefed up in years on a tennis court that turned out to be nothing as it did not hit any linesmen or ball boys.
Tex Walker asks for Nick to be suspended for it. Why is that Tex ? Because you don't like Nick ? If Tex knew anything about tennis he should have known that what Nick did was not worthy of a suspension and subsequently Nick Kyrgios was let off by the authorities, good decision. It was perhaps like an AFL umpire making the wrong decision in an AFL match regarding a player's involvement in a 'rough' passage of play.
Does Nick Kyrgios send a tweet to an AFL player asking for the guy to be suspended and in the process adding that he thinks the guy is a 'flog' ?? No I believe Nick may just have more brains than people give him credit for. But it gets better. Patrick Dangerfield ( another AFL player) chimes in and defends Tex and has a shot at Nick saying how generous Tex is regarding his foundation that he supports.
So now it's all about personal values in life rather than what happened on the field!! Fair dinkum I have often said that I thought AFL players weren't bright but this has just confirmed it.
Nick Kyrgios knows tennis, Tex Walker and 'Paddy' Dangerfield know Footy. Please guys do the rest of us a favour and don't embarrass yourselves any further and by that I mean that despite Paddy and Tex not liking Nick they really need to let the tribunal do their job.
Nick was found NOT GUILTY fellas, get over it, move on, build a bridge.........

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

'THAT CHAPTER'

I do not look for notoriety on this site yet it has happened occasionally due to my rather unique way of letting certain people or organizations know that what they are doing lacks heart. I call it 'the nature of the sport'. But seriously let's look at, it's a sport that has so many perceptions to every part of it that it's turned into a circus of the biggest kind. The only thing missing is the big top and the fairy floss at the side show.
I do however see that this site counter keeps turning up a rather silly chapter I wrote sometime back called 'A haircut and a forehand'. What I mean by that is there are places like Mexico, Argentina, Japan and the latest was Catania, Sicilia, Italy of all places who have all looked up a certain tennis headline and the most common one is the Agassi, Lendl match of 1987. So if you type in that headline, well for some reason this site is at the top of the search as I wrote a chapter on it. Nice to get some recognition for my many hours of writing.
Andre was only 17 from memory and Lendl was a seasoned pro who was rather taken by two things when he played the young fellow from Las Vegas, his hair style and his huge forehand. I tend to find moments in tennis matches to write about rather than full tennis matches because some are rather boring apart from a moment or two which has the public both mesmerised or the press conference aghast at certain comments made by a player.
The comment by Ivan Lendl regarding Agassi's court presence was nothing short of brilliant, a comment that had the press both smiling and asking for elaboration but all in all it was a comment which will go down in tennis history as a classic.
I am sure that some people find this site quite by accident as the chapters are sent to Google and then it's anyone's guess as to how people find it. I am no computer guru yet I have a little understanding as to how it all works, my kids do their best to explain it to me.
The chapter I wrote regarding that quote by Lendl back in 1987 at Stratton Mountain was a chapter I am rather fond of for numerous reasons. It showed that the robotic Ivan Lendl did in fact have a sense of humour that most of the time the public never saw, he tended to pick his moments to show it. He was never really the showman, the complete opposite of Andre Agassi who at the time of their first ever meeting was really a lot of show but not a proven winner. He was only 17 years of age though.
So they were chalk and cheese, one a crowd favourite due to his youth and exuberance and the other a villain due mainly to his professionalism and a habit of winning without really exciting the crowd too much. He simply got the job done more often than not. 
Personally I never liked Ivan Lendl because I found him uninteresting from his game to his look whereas I have always likened a youthful Andre Agassi to a Glam Rock singer complete with the flair of his clothes and his hairstyle. Pardon me for my 80's fondness but everything about that era I loved as I grew up in the 80's as a teenager loving the 'Gunners', Motley Crew, Def Leppard and Cheap Trick who all owned the long locks and the bright clothes.
Andre Agassi could have fronted any of those bands with his look, problem was he couldn't really sing. So the chapter I wrote was one that showed two personalities of the game but it wasn't all about the guy who was the young rock star, it showed that the robot had a little flair himself albeit in a totally different way than his opponent that day.
My most recent impression of Ivan Lendl was a fellow far removed from the robot that he once was on court, he had mellowed and turned a rather 'soft' Any Murray into a machine who won Wimbledon and the US Open under his guidance. His many training sessions with Lendl as his mentor would show a smiling Ivan Lendl chatting with past competitors who were now current day coaches. I am sure some of their comments to each other would have been worth listening to.
'A haircut and a forehand' could now possibly be added to a recent Lendl trait, 'A smile and a sense of humour' that we never used to see from the Czech who was simply hell bent on winning and not so much entertaining the thousands of people who paid to watch his matches.
I hope that one day my site gets a few more people reading it and finding some other weird and wonderful quotes that I have found by the time I cease to find writing interesting anymore.
One can only hope.......

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

'THE HACKER' ( AND PROUD OF IT)

I vividly recall several years ago I played a local club vs club competition and I had to beat a kid 24 years younger than I was. Nowhere to hide. If I had lost then it was going to be one of those local tennis articles written in the paper that I personally may not have bothered reading. When you are fighting for your reputation it is a matter of asking for your inner self to produce something that has substance.
I often wondered what the great Andre Agassi thought of his loss to Lleyton Hewitt in a lead up tournament to the Australian Open in 1998 at Memorial Drive, South Australia. Andre was 27, Hewitt a 16 year old upstart who held no fear of playing a living legend. The 7-6, 7-6 win by Hewitt had Andre saying in the post match press conference " I was just hoping he would go away, but he didn't".
I wonder if ego came into it for Agassi and did he call on everything that he knew about the game or did he continue to simply try to outhit a skinny kid who just kept getting the ball back into play ? I still find that match hard to comprehend because Agassi should have belted Hewitt, it didn't make a whole lot of sense really.
Once again I am sorry for comparing one of my small town matches to a living legends' but it's all relevant, trust me. We are all doing our best to work within the confines of a tennis court that at times feels like working on a postage stamp which is in fact around 23 x 8 metres. If you look at that area there is only so much you can do with the shots that you are best at. It's almost like a stunt bike rider who has to take off and land in an area that we as spectators look at in awe and shake our heads in disbelief at the skill involved in the whole process.
When I warmed up against that kid I saw that he wanted everything right in his slot, his hitting zone, but when I went with the slice or the high loop he quite simply hated it. That gave me an idea right from the start. I thought, let's take this kid away from what he likes and see how effective his rather glamorous shots will be then.
Rather than bore you with the whole match I will simply give you the run down on some stats that make the most sense. Because he never followed a serve into the net I floated many returns six feet or higher over the net that gave me a sense of a 50/50 situation that most returners can only dream of.
There was no point in hitting a great return, no point at all, just a high ball with depth was required that 'restarted' the point. At times during a rally I would put in a series of short sliced backhands that begged him to come to the net. When he did I just made sure that I gave him a ball to volley, nothing special, just a ball to hit at the net yet he missed every single volley I gave him. He obviously spent way too much time on his groundies but never practiced finishing a point at close quarters. Typical of the young kids playing the game now days.
So to the result and a rather funny assumption by a 'guru' of the sport;
A couple of my juniors were in earshot of someone who should have known better when it came to a match roundup which was relayed to the rest of the younger brigade of hopefuls. "Thommo won 10-5 in a third set tie breaker by hacking". Yep that was the 'guru's' way of putting it. Personally I felt it was a great tactic. All I did was loop the sh.. out of my forehand and slice the sh.. out of my backhand and made very few errors. I won possibly the equivalent of three games by drawing the 'robot' into the net and giving him garbage which he failed to clean up.
It was like a robot who is made to clean up a house with no dust pan and shovel.
"I keep setting it all up but I can't seem to find a place to put it".
So did the 'guru' really do the match justice when talking about the tactics involved from the guy who beat the hard hitter with patience and a better way of thinking through the tight spots ? Well unfortunately the 'guru' did not really know a whole lot about the sport otherwise there may have been something said in a more positive light.
I do believe that Brad Gilbert did in fact say "It's better to win ugly than to lose pretty". I am sure it's in that book somewhere which I will one day read and gain some more ideas that will help me through my old age in tennis.
When you play kids who can run all day and love a ball in the comfort zone I do believe that it is a necessity to bring out all the tricks you have learned over the years.
Why try to outhit someone when you can outthink them instead ?
Tennis, a thinking person's sport.........

** Just for the record, I played this same kid two years later and won in three sets playing exactly the same way. I was 42, he was 18. I didn't walk too well for the next week but it was a proud limp.....

Monday, 12 October 2015

'HOPEFULLY'

I have never copied a style of writing, I simply go with what is in my head which I have often described as a tin of worms when it come to both tennis and life in general. Sometimes I just sit down and write the first thing that comes to mind, like the Andre Agassi chapter I wrote the other night.
Now there is a tennis player who had almost as much impact on me as Mats and Bjorn did but for different reasons. Quite simply I had never seen anyone hit a ball like him before, almost the complete opposite of my two Swedish heroes but I was captivated by it immediately as it was a cavalier type of style that was almost outrageous.
I hope that if there is someone out there who has written a book on tennis it is nothing like anything that I write though I did receive a rather flattering compliment a while ago. One of my mates who I used to train with in Queensland and who is still coaching over there likened some of my chapters to some of Brad Gilbert's in his 'Winning Ugly' book. I have been meaning to get a copy of that book, I hear it's a ripper, it's on my wish list.
I do not however copy a style of writing.
When I was a kid I did though copy my Swedish heroes' style of play, something I have documented on many occasions, I am not the only one. My buddy Brett Patten who reached World Number 1 for age 35-40 just a few years ago told me how he learned his game as a kid. He spoke of watching guys like Edberg hit volleys and how he wanted to emulate that type of style so he basically copied it through practice. He didn't follow a coach who told him he had to hit it a certain way, neither did I despite both of us having many coaching sessions and many theories thrown at us by numerous coaches.
When I was a teenager I had lessons and one of my coaches got me to serve and volley because he did. Dumb arse idea that was. I will never forget a tournament where I lost 2 and 3 to a guy I lost to in three tight sets a year earlier by staying back. Surely a year on I would have been getting stronger from the back wouldn't I so why would I now be playing a totally foreign style that I was completely uncomfortable with ?
Was this poor coaching or was it poor decision making by a 14 year old ? Easy one to answer. How many 14 year olds know who they really are as a tennis player ? I believe I lost a good year of playing by doing stuff on court that should have been kept as a surprise tactic, not a change of style that I totally disliked right from the outset. I believe that coach tried to steer me away from my game because he couldn't play it himself.
When a kid is learning the game as a 10 to 14 year old every shot should be taught by the coach and every shot should be practiced but it is up to the kid in the end to work out who they are on a tennis court. I was happy to just go to the net to shake hands until I was at least 16 when I gained some body strength and learned to volley so why was my coach telling me to serve and volley when he knew that wasn't my strength ?
I think in the end it was why I was just happy to learn from watching the World's best play on television.
On the weekend just gone I hit with some kids who weren't that comfortable with the volley however I gave them some approach and volley drills that simply taught them the basics of moving in. Those drills taught a kid that if they get a service line ball it's a smart move to come in rather than hit it then retreat. Now that really is an awkward thing to watch when some kids do that.
I didn't in any way though tell them that they had to come to the net after a serve or on anything that resembled a short ball. That sort of play should become a little more natural once a slice backhand or a consistent topspin forehand has been learned and the art of volleying becomes a little clearer.
A kid needs to learn from a hero more than a coach, a Rafa, a Roger, a Novak or an Andy, guys who all have a different way of going about winning a tennis match. If a kid watched all of those players consistently they would see for themselves that they can all play every shot almost to perfection yet they don't all hit them the same way or at the same time in a match. They pick their moments.
Every tennis professional can hit every shot in the book but most cannot call on them at will like the Big 4 do with seemingly ridiculous ease and outrageous timing. It's why they make more money than most.
I am certain that my theories in tennis are not alone but hopefully I am never accused of copying someone else's style of writing. Believe me I simply make it up as I go along. As far as my playing and coaching is concerned well I am guilty of copying many theories from the Swedes but I am certain that I will not be sued for plagiarism in that respect.
I am an original 'Tennis Nobody' who simply likes to write about this sport and at age 46 I am still hitting a reasonable ball and teaching a few people here and there how to improve their tennis with a minimum of fuss.
Over and out.........

Sunday, 11 October 2015

'HOT IN THE SHADE'

Was a fun weekend, many kids, many adults, people who want to get better at tennis yet the location they live in does not allow them to do much except watch Youtube, get inspired, hit against a wall or tackle some mates on club day.
When I left town today I had to swerve to miss a big snake crossing the main street that was heading towards the main watering hole in town. In fact I swear that if the front door was open in the local pub that particular snake would have surprised a few of the locals who were quenching their thirst. True story.
A hot part of the World even seven weeks before Summer. I have never seen a snake cross the main street of a town before today. All that was missing in that scene were the tumbleweeds that you see in a Western movie blowing down a quiet street.
Five hours into a six hour coaching clinic one of the locals grabs the girls, fills up the car and headed to the swimming pool just down the road, a quick dip to restore some energy before a last effort to finish the day. The boys followed. Amazing what a quick swim will do for a bunch of kids who love their tennis but were at the stage of being too hot to enjoy it anymore. 
Country tennis is a little different than most other places and when I say country, well I mean way, way out bush where the local farmers rely on crops and sheep to gain an income, an income that can help with sporting opportunities for their kids. In the city there are tennis clubs and coaches in most suburbs, an abundance of choice, not so where I went this weekend.
People travelled 50 kilometres for a day's tennis, some further, fascinating to hear just what some parents did for their kids who don't get many chances to learn certain sports due to location. An educational weekend, some great talent from players who have really just learned the sport through the internet and a Wimbledon telecast.
A special mention to Frank and Kingsley who own two of the best one handed backhands that I have ever seen yet they really don't get a chance to hit through it too much on club days as court etiquette requires a slice to stay in the good books when playing mixed doubles. Thanks for hitting me into a bit of form gentlemen, was an absolute pleasure to be on court with you guys who are no 'spring chickens' yet own an enthusiasm for the game which is nothing short of inspiring.
Next time around I am looking for a doubles best of three sets to finish the day however I am not interested in playing with either of you as you two would be lethal to play against. Simply find me a partner and we will do our best to deal with your Federer and Wawrinka backhands, a challenge that will be worth waiting for.
Small country towns for some reason produce red hot tennis players. I have been lucky enough to play some tournaments around the southwest of WA with some guys who simply know how to play tennis, it's in the blood. The other thing with these guys is their on court attitude which does not change off court either. It's a happy go lucky attitude with no ego involved, a rarity in tennis.
It was a great weekend, a hot weekend, a weekend I will put down as both entertaining and educational. In tennis you always learn from others, it's that kind of sport but I have always found that the players from small towns, including the kids have an appreciation for tennis like no others. It may have been real hot and the flies real friendly yet when someone turns up who can feed a few balls and rabbit on about technique and tactics the elements are forgotten.
I for one have the utmost respect for small communities who would give anything to have the opportunities that the rest of us have yet perhaps don't appreciate it quite as much. I can see a few of the local kids taking on the city hot shots in the years to come if their enthusiasm for hitting a tennis ball is anything to go by.
Still not certain about the off court rules and regulations however as far as local snakes are concerned but running one over on my way out today was perhaps bad karma for the future. Frank, Kingsley, keep an eye out in the front garden of the pub next time you are going in for a beer.........
Thanks for the weekend...
Regards Glenn

Thursday, 8 October 2015

'HEADING UP THE HIGHWAY'

Got a phone call a little while back from a little country tennis club many miles up the road who are in need of some tennis tuition. This is how the phone call played out . "What do you charge for tennis lessons Glenn" ? This was my answer " I have been told I am a lousy businessman but a reasonably good tennis coach, not sure, you come up with a figure, I will see you on court".
So that was it, I was sent an email within a few days, funny thing was this, I would have done it for half of what they offered. Tennis coaching is not heart surgery, (though some people I know could do with a transplant when it comes to turning up on tournament day rather than constantly going missing.)
It's just a sport, one however that does need a little bit of experience when guiding the kids through the initial stages of stroke production. I am flattered to have been thought of by this region who are dead keen on their tennis yet are a long way from anyone who can help them with their sport. 
I look forward to going through some shot production and teaching them my theory on the rally ball that I have had in my head since I first watched Borg and Wilander play.
This site will be quiet for a few days which will no doubt please some people who really don't like anything that I write. For those of you who do appreciate my writing well I will be back at the end of the weekend with some more stories to tell of this silly game.
Have a great weekend......
Regards GT

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

'HOW GOOD WAS HE' ?

I can always remember the first time I saw Andre Agassi play tennis, he was just 16 years of age and I watched him hit a few balls on a brief sports report. I was rather taken by his ability to hit a forehand as he did when he was so slightly built and I wondered where that sort of power could come from. It wasn't long after that clip that I watched highlights of Agassi and Lendl at Stratton Mountain, the tournament which put Andre on the tennis radar. That was impressive hitting to say the least.
Andre Agassi came along at a time that America needed a tennis idol to look up to because back when Andre first started playing the circuit the two biggest players from the US, McEnroe and Connors were in the twilight of their careers. Neither Mac or Jimbo won a Grand Slam singles title after 1984 but Mac was still a very successful doubles player who won the US Open title with Woodforde in '89 and Wimbledon in '92 with Stich. Andre was a 'required' singles player no doubt about it.
The Las Vegas flash went from a skinny kid with rather loud denim shorts and Def Leppard style hair cut who didn't win much to possibly the most respected and recognizable tennis player on the planet especially after winning Wimbledon in 1992. Every kid wanted to be like Andre due not only to how he played but how he dressed and grew his hair. He was in a word, different. I for one was a fan from the first time I saw him hit those few shots in practice, he owned an aura about him right from the start.
Despite not winning as many Slams as his biggest rival Pete Sampras I always found Agassi's style to be a whole lot more interesting than watching Pistol play because Pete's style was one that I liken to a school yard bully. Big hitting and ugly.
There were many great matches between these two and Andre lost in the final of the US Open on no fewer than three occasions to Pete. The last shattered Andre beyond comprehension as he explained in his book with great detail. Agassi thought he was almost a shoe in for that title as he went in with around 26 straight wins before that title match but Pete always played his best against Andre.
There was however one particular match between these two that for some reason stood out more than the rest to me due mainly to a statistic that can only be described as remarkable.
Now anyone who saw Pete Sampras play will be well aware of his ability to not only close into the net and put away a volley but his serving was the best of his era, it was ridiculous. Pistol owned a bomb that more often than not was unplayable even for a man of Andre Agassi's returning prowess despite Andre's ability to pick the direction better than most.
So to the Lipton Championships in Florida, 1995, two months after Andre had defeated Pete in the final of the Australian Open, his only Grand Slam final win against Pete. At a set up and 2 games all Pistol Pete had 40-0 on Andre's serve, three break points to take a strangle hold on the match and with the way that he had been serving it would have almost been all over had he broken. Agassi though held on by winning five straight points. 3-2 Agassi.
The next service game by Sampras was perhaps one of those mind games that had even the great man himself thinking "If only I had converted one of those break points". Tennis, so easy yet so frustrating in hind sight as the mind goes about tearing strips off one's decision making at crucial times in a match. No points won on serve for Pistol, 4-2 Agassi. NINE straight points.
Same story next game, Andre on a roll, total control of the mind and body, tennis is now real easy, the boxer has his opponent on the ropes, 5-2. THIRTEEN straight points. Andre's Father no doubt proud, a former boxer. What can Pistol do ? He is now getting hammered by a man who senses a knockout punch. Does he offer some resistance or save himself for the third ?
You guessed it, another break to love, 6-2 Agassi, SEVENTEEN straight points. Outrageous. Andre won the next two points before Pete finally broke the drought that had Andre Agassi take NINETEEN straight points in a row to come back from the jaws of defeat.
For history's sake Andre Agassi took the match in a third set tie breaker seven points to three, perhaps justice for a remarkable run of points that may never be repeated at a standard so remarkably high. Even the best players in the World can be 'zoned' out by another but it is a rarity if a player even loses two love games in a row such is the standard of the elite of World tennis.
This match was a ripper, worth a look. It shows what confidence and a change of mind set can do for a player especially when they are perhaps within a point or two of defeat. After almost losing, think about it, what have you really got to lose ?
Tennis, it's all in the head..........

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

'CAN'T BEAT IT'

If you saw the AFL Grand Final here in the land of Oz last weekend then you would have seen a one sided match, unfortunately it happens many times in the last game of the year. However if you saw the pre match entertainment you would have seen a favourite performer of mine hit the stage and tear it apart.
Bryan Adams was in a word, brilliant, always loved the great man. From a young age he was a voice that I could put many steps locally to whether they were placed rightly or wrongly. When I was in high school I remember buying the 'Reckless' tape, yes a tape, those were the good old days.
Along with the 'Hysteria' Def Leppard tape those two got an absolute pounding down at the local tennis club while I trained with a mate when we should have been at school. I used to sneak a tape recorder into my school bag to play my favourite tunes while playing tennis. Possibly a strange way of training but music has always motivated me.
So to Bryan Adams and to Ellie Goulding, chalk and cheese of the music industry. Bryan has never relied on anything except his old six string, his well tuned band and many, many years of experience to deliver a great performance. Ellie Goulding on the other hand was relying on a rather finely tuned backing vocal sound production that unfortunately was not timed to perfection and since that day she has received some rather bad press.
Ellie went in with a rehearsed game plan, Bryan simply made it up as he went along, it's what Bryan does best, he's a genius. I remember seeing him live in Perth twenty something years ago and I was within several metres of the stage when he was having a chat to his lead guitarist.
You could plainly see Bryan say to his main man "Hey Yeah " ! They then ripped into a version of 'Wild Thing'. I vividly remember the media write up a couple of days later and even they mentioned the 'impromptu' version of that particular song.
Do you remember the old Andre Agassi television advertisement where he famously said "Image is everything" ? Oh to have that time back Andre. He spoke of it in his book and he wasn't proud of it but he was listening to the wrong people who were doing their utmost best to make a squillion out of him. He didn't have to win at tennis, he was a rock star complete with the hair, he just had to look good, they knew it, he knew it, yet in the end he simply had to find a way to win without the image, and he eventually did.
Bryan Adams has never had an image, he just sounds bloody good whereas someone like Ellie needs all the bells and whistles to go with a performance, perhaps a sign of the times. There are no Andre Agassi's around now days perhaps with the exception of Nick Kyrgios who owns a hair cut completely opposite to Andre's yet he is a walking billboard for tennis. Nick eventually however will have to start winning, I am sure he will.
There have been many instances in many circles of life where image seems to take over from substance. Remember 'Milli Vanilli' ? There's your perfect example of all hype, no substance. Those guys just had to look good to make a buck whereas when the 'real voices' released a song it didn't chart because they did not fit the image 'required' to sell a record. Interesting.
Tennis is a sport that you cannot possibly win by image alone, you have to own some substance to what you do. It's ok to have great looking shots, a great looking tennis bag that is big enough to sleep in, shiny shoes and a glistening racket yet it will account for nothing if you can't deliver the goods on court. You will simply be branded an image guy like a young Andre Agassi once was. 
Ellie Goulding tried the old 'Image is everything' performance complete with magical backing vocals from a sound machine yet Bryan turned up with a guitar, a band, no image to write home about and gave a performance that should be noted by the image conscious music world.
It's one thing to look good, it's another to be able to deliver the goods.
Experience, you can't beat it........

Friday, 2 October 2015

'MORE FROM THE VAULT'

Sometimes when I write it jolts the memory and my mind flicks through some pages from the vault, many times the subject will be in regards to my tennis heroes of years gone by. I mentioned a score line in my last chapter that reminded me of a match at the US Open in 1982 between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl.
This particular match was the first played between the two on a hard court remembering of course that just a few months earlier Mats had beaten Lendl at the French Open in a monumental fourth round upset. The five set win on the clay in Paris was en route to Wilander's first Grand Slam title and he did it as a 17 year old who had no fear of his more credentialed rivals, yet plenty of respect.
I will touch on that statement in detail a little later which I believe is worth mentioning.
When the two played at the US Open in 1982 I for one was rather shocked at the ease at which Lendl won the match due to their marathon match at the French Open yet that was on the dirt which gives a player much more time to play their shots. The hard courts of Flushing Meadows suited Lendl and his hard hitting style that brought dozens of winners each match and gave his serve an edge that the clay did not.
Mats Wilander, despite matching not only Lendl but top ten players Vitas Gerulaitis, Jose Luis- Clerc and Guillermo Vilas in the penultimate match in Paris was still a player learning the art of the game. Hard court tennis was back then and still is a totally different ball game where the big hitters and servers usually dominate the clay court players who like to hit the ball with a little more spin and height over the net which ultimately gives them more time between each shot.
The 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win by Lendl over Wilander that year in New York was a belting that gave the reigning French Open champion some food for thought when assessing his own ability and how to eventually out play or out think Lendl on hard court. Their next meeting at the US Open came a year later and it wasn't the much improved 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 loss by Wilander that had players talking but the rather honest take on his own chances of winning the tournament.
John McEnroe was the main voice when he criticized Wilander for playing down his own chances of winning in New York in 1983. Mac believed that every player should have owned his cut throat mental approach to big tournaments but Mats was not anything like Mac. The Swede respected his opponents far too much, a trait that gained more respect than criticism.
Wilander had just stepped into the big time as a 17 year old quite by accident just one year after winning the French Open junior championship. He now was forced to ignore the aura surrounding the legends which he watched countryman Bjorn Borg take on in some of the biggest matches of the 1970's. When you really think about it, that's a tough thing to do. Borna Coric was without a doubt the best junior in the World but when he took on Roger Federer this year he spoke of just how difficult it was to play someone of Federer's status.
It takes a remarkable mind set to do that.
In my last chapter I mentioned the need to learn from a loss or to simply gain as many games as possible even if a win is beyond reach as it can help with future matches. The 1987 US Open final was a match where I am not sure who was more disappointed at the result, Mats Wilander or myself, it was shattering. I trained with guys in Queensland who loved Lendl and his big hitting style however I was in awe of the 'lightweight' type of player in Mats who relied on not missing and a tactical mind. It was the style that I adopted myself as a kid.
The four set loss by Wilander to the Czech was even more disappointing considering the two set points Lendl saved in the pivotal third set however they were on Lendl's serve and he simply banged in two huge bombs to get out of trouble. The final score was 6-7, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 and I didn't look that up, I just remember it. The match went for over four and a half hours.
To the following year and this is where I look at that first hammering by Lendl in 1982 of Wilander and tennis finally started to make sense. It really was a sport where a player learned from a loss and gathered information to eventually use against an opponent for an eventual victory. Mats did not play the same in 1988 as he did in 1982 or '83 but he simply tweaked or fine tuned what he did in the 1987 final. He put away a shot and developed another.
The slice backhand was a shot that Wilander hit to absolute perfection that year and it was a shot that not only conserved energy but it won him many points by coming into the net behind it. Baseliners love a topspin ball to strike a pass off but are nowhere near as comfortable off a low skidding ball which makes a player at times search for a nine iron to scrape underneath it. At times Mats would come in off a shorter hit sliced ball that had Lendl reaching forward on to try to hit a winner, that's tough for even the best players to deal with.
The 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win by Mats in just a tick under five hours will go down as a tactical victory of the biggest kind against one of the biggest hitters of all time. It proved that a change in tactic can win the day or in this case the title and the number one ranking. What was the point in Mats hitting that double handed backhand of his that was never really going to bother Lendl who lived off those sort of shots from his opponents ? Mats may have played down his chances in 1983 however was he simply storing information for a future crack at the title ?
Tennis has numerous stories of players who were beaten up on by others for years before finally a change in tactic or mind set eventually reversed the result. Roger used to 'own' Novak, how the times have changed.
These last two chapters I wrote go hand in hand because they show a pattern in the sport that I suppose is common, we simply don't really give it too much thought though. Grab a few games here and there even if a loss is inevitable, give the mind some future matter to digest. Reprogram and don't be content with just an A game plan, work on B and C.
I am sure the great Mats Wilander will agree........