Saturday, 30 January 2016

'TRAINING WITH PURPOSE'
As a kid I spent a lot of time simply hitting tennis balls and refining my shots, though that is a necessity in tennis, but many times in training the point of the sport is lost, how to win. I am a firm believer as a coach in teaching students HOW to play tennis as opposed to simply hitting tennis balls with no structure.
My junior days were at times wasted on many hours of  hitting that were pointless, tiring and lacking any real purpose so I often wonder was it due to lack of knowledge on the coach's behalf ? Quite possibly, however the art of teaching tennis has taken a quantum leap over the years with point construction now a necessity of any lesson that involves a student old enough to play points.
I will quite often dedicate a full session to simply playing points and asking questions of the student rather than the 'standard' session that will concentrate on stroke production. Many times if a student of any age knows what to do with a ball then their shots may just improve dramatically as opposed to a student who is just taught how to hit a ball technically correct without any thought process involved.
By that I mean that if a player is just taught technique then how are they supposed to know how to play the game as far as tactics and big point structures are concerned ? How is a player supposed to play tennis if all they are taught is how to hit a ball ?
If I may take a leaf out of my hero Mats Wilander's book of thought I will offer you this : " I can still hit a ball but I don't know how to play tennis anymore ". That's from a former legend of the game who only plays for fun now days. Do you get the meaning ? Let's look at that statement in reverse. If a player far less credentialed than Mats is never taught to play the game with tactics that are worked on in practice how will they ever become competitive at any level ? Through luck ?
I firmly believe that some players reach a certain level of play through stroke superiority yet cannot find that extra gear when required to beat the next level of players simply through lack of knowledge. It happens through all standards. Many local kids are 'superstars' in their home town yet cannot match it with the smarter adults in senior tournaments even when they reach an age that would suggest that they are ready to make an impression.
Some kids though can beat all before them locally, including the adults yet get beaten easily when travelling to the City tournaments. I call that 'lack of mental training'. The 'big fish in small pond syndrome' is huge in all standards and I believe that it also comes down to contentment rather than striving for more. If a kid keeps winning easily locally then they may be happy with where their game is at rather than working to make it stronger.
You could relate this type of example to juniors trying to make it to the challenger series and the challenger series players trying to make it to the pro ranks. So is there a solution ? Well as the headline suggests, only purposeful training will continue to improve a player and not just ball hitting sessions that will in a small way help with improvement but not with decision making in a match.
If players work on tactics and thinking their way through match situations more often then come match day these type of situations will surely become second nature.
A player who works on making first serves with more spin and less pace in practice sessions will find that type of play at 5 games all and deuce in the third set of a tournament match a safe and smarter option than going for an ace.
A player who works on their returning in practice and  makes the opponent play rather than going for a blinding winner will find that situation in a tournament to be far less daunting when it arises than someone who neglects it on a practice court.
Training with purpose separates the good players from the rest and it will train a mind to play it smart in a match rather than attempting the million dollar crowd pleasing shot that lacks any real thought other than stroking one's own ego.
It all starts in practice, you can hit a million balls but it may not get you any better. Hit those million with a purpose and you will guarantee yourself a rise in standard, no risk....

Friday, 29 January 2016

 

'INSPIRATION, ADRENALIN and HEROES'

Inspiration in sport may just be the single most important aspect in determining whether a competitor has enough adrenalin to deliver the goods or whether he will deliver a 'ho hum' performance. I will never forget the day that the great Andre Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992 as it was a win for the outlandish, a win for the Rock Star image, a win for the not so standard type of player or style for that matter. It was a victory for the every day person who owned long hair and a desire to be famous along with it.
Back then I was a Glam Rock convert who's idols wore the long locks and paraded on stage with a strut not unlike Andre did on centre stage at the hallowed grounds of the All England Club in '92. I likened Agassi to someone who could front one of my favourite bands such as Def Leppard and Cheap Trick though delivering the voice to match Jo Elliot and Robin Zander may have been a tad out of reach.
The day after the Wimbledon victory by the Las Vegas showman was a day that I will put down in my tennis diary as a day that inspiration to play the game was taken to a new level. It almost gave me a feeling of invincibility and one that I was not aware of, a level of play that I had not experienced before. A strange sort of feeling yet understandable as my mind has always required a superstar of the game as a type of alter ego who talked me through things when I played.
A good buddy of mine rang me the next day " Hey Thommo did you watch Wimbledon " ? Did I ?? This was my reply.
"Mate I am inspired, you will have trouble stopping me, I am pumped, let's hit some balls, meet you at the club at ten hey" ?
So this is what happened at ten am that day with my buddy Chris. I hit the ball like a man possessed, like someone who was doing it for a living. I hit the ball so ridiculously well that I was tempted to ask for a berth in State Grade that weekend as Division 1 would not find anyone to get close to me. I felt almost unbeatable. I played outrageous tennis that day.
The next time I hit however I had come down off the high that Andre had put me on after his Wimbledon victory and my standard dropped big time. The intensity was not there and the cavalier type of play was replaced with 'standard hitting'. Tennis I felt was all in the mind and whilst I was disappointed I could not replicate that session with Chris I was perhaps more disappointed that I could not find a happy medium.
Sometimes in tennis we are as high as kites on adrenalin and inspiration after watching our heroes perform and other days we are as flat as pancakes. Would it be too much to regularly find somewhere in between ?
Different things inspire different players to do different things when we play but there is nothing quite like a hero to inspire us to go one better each time we walk onto a tennis court. We all need someone or something to make us want to play the game at a level that may be beyond us yet we can try to reach it with a little help from a 'higher being'.
That's why heroes were invented by us 'common' people. They make us strive for more in life......

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

'NICE MR McCAW'

Great ‪#‎coaches‬ are great demonstrators. How much time are you putting into this area?
One of the most powerful training tools in teaching an athlete a new drill or skill, is to execute and demonstrate it well.
In fact, the best way a person learns a new skill or movement is visually and kinesthetically.
...
That's one of the reasons why I feel it's important that every coach should work on his or her ability to practice and better their ability to demonstrate the exercises and drills they teach.
Personally, I put aside and spend about an hour a week going through the main drills and exercises I use with my athletes. Especially when something is new.
At first, it might not look pretty, but the more I practice it, the better it gets, and the better my teaching skills become.
We all have seen a coach demonstrate an exercise or drill poorly, and it doesn't look good, or is it accepted well by the athlete/s. Right?
My ability to demonstrate better, not only gives me the respect of the athlete, but more importantly allows them to first see it in reality, mimic it and put it into practice.
Great coaches are great demonstrators. How much time are you putting into this area of your coaching?
Allistair McCaw


Surely this would apply to 'tennis coaches' who do not ever play tennis tournaments for fear of not being able to show their students that they can even hit a ball correctly ? Industry is full of 'em. Walt Disney ball hitters with no substance to what they do.....
If you talk it then walk it, simple ........

p.s  Starting to like Mr McCaw.......
'IMPLIMENTING A GAME PLAN'
I firmly believe that in tennis when a student is being taught how to hit a tennis ball they should also be taught what to do with it. Sounds pretty simple really however how many times have you witnessed a coach just teaching someone how to hit a ball with no emphasis being put on what to do with it ? My theory is simple.
If a player is old enough to take in the information then it should be taught right from lesson one and not the final lesson of an eight week term of lessons as a novelty. Sure if a child is of age 6 to 10 with technique flaws then it is way too early to be trying to implement a strategy as that sort of talk will go in one ear and out the other. That sort of age is all about having some fun and learning to hit a ball technically correct.
If a student of say 12 and over is showing all the signs of being mature enough to accept some information regarding tactical play then it should be a part of every lesson, no doubt at all. If a kid of age 16 can belt the cover off a tennis ball with technical brilliance yet be beaten by another who lacks the same prowess to hit yet can find ways to outsmart the glamour player then to me that is a win for the mind. The lesser credentialed player I believe is being taught how to play tennis and not just to hit a tennis ball.
I have always marvelled at the way some players can find a way to win against others who look better, play their shots smoother and who look far flashier and as one of my earlier chapters suggests maybe the less glamorous way of looking has merit. No pressure. So how does a player who looks like a hacker and plays like one beat a 'glamour 'opponent ? The answer may just lay with the hacker's ability to put the ball out of the comfort zone of their opponent.
Now I do apologise for putting in an example of an obscure event at an obscure location with an even more obscure player who no one has ever heard of but I believe in relevance when writing examples. I was lucky enough to play a 17 year old kid from the City at my local singles championship the year I turned 41.
I say 'lucky' because in my home town we do not get the chance very often to play guys who regularly hit against the best city players so I took the opportunity as a challenge and nothing less. After all if you teach the game and have done for many years then surely you know how to play, right ?
When our match commenced I found myself down 1-4 within 15 minutes just hitting aimlessly with no plan, no idea on what I should be doing and no confidence. Admittedly I had not played a tough singles match for a while so perhaps I was just a little slow to kick the mind into gear.
I was however questioning whether my play was like that of a student and whether I really could implement what I had been teaching for years, a game plan of substance. I do remember however what someone had told me before the match commenced regarding my opponent. They told me "I have seen this kid play, his shots are big but he doesn't like the ball anywhere but in the slot, the hitting zone. Keep getting 'em back, doesn't matter how, just get 'em back, you will frustrate him'. 
Within thirty minutes I had won seven straight games to take a set lead and be up a break in the second. How did that happen ? Mind over matter.
At 1-4 I wasn't playing my usual game which was to hit it high from my forehand and slice my backhand low, I was probably trying to outhit the kid who hit every ball with a power that I was almost in awe of. What I did from that stage in the first set was tell myself for a start to not play his game and to forget hitting winners, just make the kid play more balls. I also started hitting him short balls from my backhand to his backhand which he hated as it made him come to the net and he hated volleying.
When he came in I either lobbed him as his approaches weren't great or I made a point of hitting a ball at his feet on the first shot with little pace. More often than not he missed that initial volley but if he didn't well he made my second shot rather simple. Whilst his shots were more glamorous he had no plan B and his A game fell apart as soon as he was made to do something different.
I won that particular match 6-4, 6-4 but from that deficit in the first I in fact won 11 games to his 4 so that in itself is a huge swing in a match that was heading initially towards a thumping. Remember when a kid learns technique the ball is more often than not placed in the same spot over and over again so that the shot can be refined to almost perfection. This however has it's pitfalls. It's one thing to say hit against a ball machine or have a coach put the ball in the same spot, it's another to try to get the opponent to do the same in a match.
Did this kid not get taught to play tennis as well as how to hit a ball ? Luckily for me I believe this was the case. I honestly believe though that many years of coaching put me in good shape to play guys who simply went out with one aim in mind and that was to blow the opposition away with winner after winner. My philosophy in tennis however was to keep the ball away from an opponent's strength and that is the hitting zone from the knees to the hips which when you think about it is a rather small area.
Some players however regularly get the ball there more often than not so why is this ? They are playing against a 'ball machine' or a 'coach's feed'. In other words their opponent has no idea on how to take them out of their comfort zone and will continue to hit them shots with a comfortable height.
I look at a player like Rafael Nadal and how he has been almost unbeatable on clay for ten years and that's where my theory comes into play. Look at his forehand and how high the ball is hit over the net and how high the ball is bouncing to his opponent. Imagine trying to constantly hit that ball on the rise before it bounced up around your ears ? It would exhaust you both physically and mentally.
Rafa is a player who I often refer to when teaching a player how to upset an opponent's rhythm as he is the perfect example. Not every player can hit with that much spin however any player can learn to hit a high ball and it can pay handsome dividends. High balls and low balls as well as slow balls are the glamour player's least favourite shot to deal with so why isn't it regularly seen at say a junior State championship ? I believe that it is not being taught.
Tennis is an ego driven sport, a macho one on one sport that I liken to boxing. If a player wins at tennis it is a personal victory that strokes one's ego but hitting slow balls, sliced balls and high balls is perhaps not seen as 'cool' now days.
So to my point. If a slower type of play can win against a quicker macho type of game that has ego written all over it then surely it can be slotted in as an 'option' for a player of any standard at any level. This is as opposed to just going out there with one style, to blast your opponent into oblivion that is seen regularly at many levels.
Have you ever watched the French Open ? Now there is a tournament where the ball is hit with height and spin more than power as the clay does not really reward a big hitting style unless of course your name is Stan. A Spaniard by the name of Rafa has won in nine times through looping the ball back at that rather uncomfortable height that I mentioned before.
Is a plan B or even C being taught by coaches around the World or is just one style being taught that is deemed as 'good enough' ? A player needs more than one speed to hit the ball at and more than one height to clear the net with. A smart player will mix it up and the smart players are the most successful. Tennis rewards a clever mind....

Monday, 25 January 2016

TA CONTRADICTION

 

'TA CONTRADICTION'

I have always been rather mystified at the stance of Tennis Australia ( TA ) and their seemingly one track mind as far as a court surface is concerned for Davis Cup ties in this country. Looking back it seems that the last time a tie in Australia was played on hard court was in fact 2006 in Adelaide when Australia lost to Sweden. 
Several years ago a local tennis club was awarded a grant to resurface it's tennis courts however there was one stipulation, they had to be of the same colour as the Australian Open surface. Part of the 'deal' was that if TA helped with the funding then the courts were to look like the home of the national Grand Slam held at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. No argument there.
 The Australian Open moved away from a grass surface in 1988 when the new centre was put on display for the World to see and for the best players to perform at. My hero Mats Wilander beat Pat Cash in the final in five sets in what was a fitting way to end two weeks of a new Slam at a new venue.
There were possibly many reasons for the Australian Open to move away from the ageing stadium and grass courts of Kooyong but the seating capacity was possibly the greatest factor. Kooyong held just 8,500 whereas the Rod Laver Rena holds almost double that at 15,000. The decision to build a much larger stadium was a smart one no doubt yet the surface still remains somewhat of a talking point.
Why did the new stadium lay a hard court surface rather than simply remain with grass as it had done since 1927 ? Did Tennis Australia finally accept the fact that the Europeans owned a dominance in World tennis due to their home surface of clay and the ability of that surface to produce countless champions ?
Whilst TA were never going to even contemplate a clay surface a hard court was the next obvious choice as a surface Australia's best players both junior and senior could cut their teeth on and become competitive with the rest of the World.
 A hard court is an 'evener' as a player can develop an all round game as opposed to grass which is not a surface that can help a player develop ground strokes effectively due to the lower bounce and skidding nature of the ball. Let's face it if a player can win on a hard court he or she has some ability to say the least as there is no advantage on a hard court. It's just you versus your opponent, nothing more, nothing less. If you win on a hard court you really didn't rely on what was under foot, you simply won because you were a better player.
So to the point of this chapter, why are TA so pedantic about clubs around the country painting their courts the same colour as the Rod Laver Arena ? TA do not even practice what they preach. On one hand they are saying that it wants a court surface at small cubs around the country synonymous with it's home Grand Slam. On the other hand they are saying that it isn't really that confident of their players performing on it.
Why don't TA embrace the surface as one that it is proud of and one that should surely be showcased to the World in Davis Cup ties in this country and not just at the Australian Open ?
To me it is very much like the tennis coach who is simply a 'talker' and not a 'walker', you know the do as I say but not as I do type of coach. The one who never shows up to play a club match or a tournament which on many occasions comes from their inability to in fact play the game at all.
If TA endorse the surface yet play on a totally different one when playing the biggest tennis team event in the World what is it saying about it's players ? Do they have no confidence in them to win on a neutral surface ? A grass court looks for an advantage from a big serve or solid volley but not every Australian tennis professional owns both.
Wimbledon is once a year and apart from that no player who is in their right mind would train on grass as the majority of tournaments around the World are on clay and hard courts. Grass is basically a novelty surface so why do the Australian tennis hierarchy choose a surface for Australian players to play Davis Cup on that realistically is of no real advantage to them ?
It may just lay in the old traditional type of sentimental mindset as the players from our past, Laver, Newcombe etc dominated not only here on a grass surface but at Wimbledon. It was a surface that holds many fond memories yet that was many years ago.
Times have changed, the game has changed, time to move on and develop a new tradition that has Australian players winning neutrally with no real advantage and no sentimental influences. Imagine if Australia did in fact hold a Davis Cup tie on a hard court, preferably at the Rod Laver Arena against a nation as mighty as the USA. What would that say to the Tennis World ?
Pretty obvious, WE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR ANY ADVANTAGE AS FAR AS COURT SURFACE IS CONCERNED. Bring your best team, we are confident we can beat you on any surface and in particular a NEUTRAL one.
It's time this country embraced what it set out to do in 1988, build and develop a new culture.....

Saturday, 23 January 2016

'DON'T JUST TALK IT'

 


'WALK THE WALK'  ( BUT DON'T SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN)

* A big congratulations to Brad Rundle of Katanning for taking out this year's Albany Open Men's A Grade Doubles championship with Stewart Witham. Brad epitomises what a seasoned tennis coach can do in regards to inspiring his pupils how to play the game. It's one thing to 'talk' it, another to 'walk' it.*

It's one thing to walk the walk as a tennis coach however winning a club championship 17 years straight is spreading yourself a little too thin. ( I heard that story from someone many years ago and it got me thinking ).
I am all for showing students of the game how to play and proving that you aren't just a talker however it can be taken a little too far.
If you have won a local championship that many times everyone knows you can play tennis, that's obvious and people will not forget how many times you won it but don't forget a very important factor. By not playing every single tournament locally it can freshen the entire tennis fraternity up and it can also bring some other players on.
When I was a kid there was only ONE person winning tennis tournaments locally and after a while it became rather predictable as it was really just down to who could pick up a runners up trophy.
When that player left the local scene it freshened things up and became almost a race to see who could get to where he was. It strengthened the local scene, not weakened it as players strived to be the new bench mark of the region.
As a tennis coach you have a certain 'requirement' to support a local or regional tennis tournament, not just turn up at tennis lessons, take the money and run, so to speak. The tennis fraternity of any region loves to see tennis coaches play as it is great for the opposition to learn from people who teach it. Let's face it, most tennis coaches should know how to play the game at a reasonably high competitive level and by a tennis coach playing a tournament it helps to raise the profile and credibility of a tennis tournament. Let's though remember one important thing.
It's not a tennis coach's 'requirement' to own the local or regional tennis scene as far as tournament results are concerned because as the chapter's title suggests, you are in danger of spreading yourself way too thin. A tennis coach in particular needs to play it smart and by that I mean that it is important for the tennis community to see a coach support a competition but not every one, in every year, in every possible location.
'Tall Poppy Syndrome' can definitely come into play in the event of someone trying to monopolise not only the coaching side of things but the tournament scene also. Predictability in local tennis tournaments is no fun for anyone just for the sake of an ego boost.
Tennis fraternities in all regions are aware of who can play tennis and who simply just 'talks a good game' so playing it smart is imperative if you are also making money from teaching it. Limit your tournaments but support them also, find a happy medium.
The big thing I believe about tennis coaches playing tournaments is that it also reinforces a coach's thought process. A coach who regularly plays is always asking the same question of themselves as they are of their students and that I believe is a huge factor in the whole teaching side of the game. Put yourself in your students' shoes.
If a tennis coach hangs up his racket for good it should be for the right reasons, perhaps age, perhaps injury but it should never be through fear of losing, that's a cop out. And the old 'I tripped over my dog and strained my hammy' routine at the start of a tennis season can wear a little too thin particularly when it happens EVERY year.
If a tennis coach is physically able to play then there is no good reason why they should not strengthen a local tournament by entering it even if it is with a 'B' Grade partner. A tennis coach is not expected to win every event but they have an obligation to bring players on and by simply playing a competition it inspires many to turn up and test their games against a teacher of the sport.
Smart tennis coaches know how to work this whole situation, there is an art to many aspects of the game, this is just another.
Play while you can, you are a long time retired. Show your students that you can play it, not just talk it........

Monday, 18 January 2016

'ROOKIE ADVICE'

Rookie : Someone who is new to a profession (Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia )
The problem with rookies is simple, they don't know much, particularly in tennis but that's not their fault, they are learning gradually. But here is the issue with rookie tennis coaches.
They are the ones who are driving the market price of a tennis lesson through the roof to an unacceptable level that now has 'real' tennis coaches asking for even more per hour to separate them from the rest. Fact.
Some experienced coaches are now commanding up to $100 per hour because rookie coaches are asking $60 and $70 per session on limited knowledge but it's all so that their bosses can take half for not even being there. Farcical to say the least.
I received a call from someone just recently who was down on holidays who asked me if I would give their children a tennis coaching lesson. Now both of these children are remarkably talented tennis players already considering they have had very little coaching.
Both of them hit a two handed backhand with an almost forehand grip, I found that disturbing. The left arm was having to do an enormous amount of work to get over the ball and create topspin due to the wrong grip. It was rather easy to fix, I simply showed them the benefits of it which no one else obviously had. Here's the proof.
I asked about their past and where they have had lessons. Now without going too much into detail I was told that the last person to give them a lesson was someone who 'basically just had a hit up with them', (That was what one of their parents said ).
No correcting, no technique work. Now why would that be ? Because when I was told the name of the person who gave them the lesson it made plenty of sense. That person had no right on earth to charge the amount of money that they did for an hour of tuition that was as beneficial to them as an ash tray on a motor bike.
If a rookie offers advice then they should charge accordingly because that rookie is not qualified to charge the same as a seasoned coach, yet they do. 
Problem is this, when the consumer receives a lesson from someone who corrects technique flaws the rookie is exposed for who they are, someone who is simply learning the art of the teaching side.
So should a rookie's hourly fee be capped at a certain hourly rate so that qualified experienced tennis coaches can then perhaps charge a little less and make the game affordable to learn ? Or do the real tennis coaches of the industry have to keep putting their rates up to separate themselves from the 'Mickey Mouse' tennis coaches with the 'Walt Disney' teaching methods that hold little substance ?
We are looking at $150 an hour in the coming years to learn tennis because of certain people who are full of their own self importance who currently charge ridiculous amounts of money regardless of their qualifications or knowledge on the game. It will keep rising due to the free for all type of nature of the industry where nothing is capped.
Common sense should take place but tennis will unfortunately continue to be an elitist sport while we have 'Mickey Mouse' teaching it. Correct me if I am wrong.......

'WELL DONE'

Well done to all of the players involved in a local tennis tournament played just this last weekend. Someone sent me an email today which had yet another name for the tournament on it which I found rather amusing, as always. Personally I was not interested in playing this year as I have supported it for many years yet did not find motivation for this one, must be getting old. Anyhow to the name of this tournament, now it's really getting confusing.
It's been known as the Albany Open for maybe 30 years yet some locals who do not play the tournament for one reason or another like to call it something else. But here's the funny thing. I have seen this tournament called three things now by some who really aren't quite sure what is going on here in sleepy hollow, funny stuff indeed.
The Emu Point Summer Championships.
The Emu Point Doubles Championships.
The Albany Open.
So what is the final verdict ?
Well strangely enough when I lost in the final one year certain individuals on social media did in fact call it the Albany Open yet when I won it well it was called the Emu Point Summer Championships. Confusing aint it ? Join the club.
So far this year I have not spotted a tennis calendar that should in fact have all local tennis tournaments listed on it but I can imagine what will be written on it regarding this rather confusing event on the local scene.
Not sure who is running the tennis association locally or promoting it but one thing is for certain, confusion is paramount in regards to what local competitions should in fact be named.
Keep it simple, it's an open competition, it's Albany, call it The Albany Open.....
Now there's an idea GT........

'LACK OF THINKING'

The Sam Stosur loss tonight was almost a shoe in as far as the result was concerned, Pliskova is a smart tennis player, Stosur is not. Putting that statement into perspective if a player can win on one leg and by slicing that many forehands it shows a mind that has a second type of game plan. On the other hand if a player cannot find a way to simply just keep the ball in play against someone who is struggling physically it proves a lack of thinking on their behalf.
Surely if the two handed backhand is the weaker shot then why not simply keep slicing the ball with one hand and in particular on the service return why not chip it back rather than hit it ? If a player is not moving well then why give up so many free points with play that resembles junior tournament play rather than a seasoned campaigner's ?
I find it hard to believe that Stosur's coaching camp did not give her a plan to just keep the ball in play when her opponent came into the match under an injury cloud.
If I saw an opponent turn up taped like that it wouldn't be too hard to do the sums, 'keep it in play, work the angles, make the opposition hit another ball, and another, no mistakes, keep 'em moving'.
I firmly believe that some players do not own a plan B or a mind that can help them in certain situations on court. Certain players simply keep doing what they do with no thought of thinking outside the square, a necessity to win at tennis.
If a player is on one leg and belts a big serve the equation is simple, chip it back, create a 50/ 50 play, keep the ball moving, create pressure, physical and mental.
Dumbest match I ever saw tonight, without a doubt.....

'PORK CHOP'

It seems that this Australian Open is all about Lleyton Hewitt, apparent in the way that they keep running us through the 2005 Australian Open and his now infamous run ins with the Europeans. I am far from surprised that Chela landed a mouthful of spit in Hewitt's direction at the change of ends as the amount of 'C'MON'S were really at a point of plain silliness. Has there ever been a more 'in your face' type of tennis player than Lleyton ?
Sure I said that I was a 'belated' fan of Hewitt's a few chapters ago but that was in his tennis after life and definitely not while he was in his prime. That was when he didn't give a rat's toss bag about anyone else but himself, particularly when he played in Australia. It's all very well to be a loud mouthed hero at home but remember you also have to take your game on the road, that's when you have to tone it down so in all seriousness a happy medium needs to be found with on court antics.
The Aussie open of 2005 will go down as the Lleyton show because it was a showcase of in your face antics plus a war against Europeans, namely Nadal, Chela, Nalbandian which was not a smart thing to do going into a Davis Cup tie in Argentina ( Lleyton survived that one ).
Marat Safin did the Argentinians a huge favour by winning the final that year and he also showed that a big game can usually beat the small type of get the ball back routine that Lleyton did so well throughout the tournament. I likened that final to a 'pop gun' vs a 'cannon' such was the difference in ball striking. The Russian apart from his lame first set simply out hit Hewitt and I for one was a happy camper as I had not only a few dollars invested in the final but I have always been from the old school of tennis where on court antics were frowned upon. Perhaps that's why I talk so much off court, I never said much on it, that's a fact.
I will be glad when the Hewitt saga has ended, a travelling circus of sorts at the moment. I can almost see a win to Duckworth which would be a fitting end to Hewitt's career. The 'Duck' is a battler, just as Hewitt was when he first started, I like the idea of a guy like that taking out a seasoned campaigner, it adds a new chapter to the sport.......

Saturday, 16 January 2016

'WEAK AS PISS'

Some refer to tennis players as a 'pampered lot', a bunch of prima donnas' who have no real grasp of the real World outside of a tennis court where they earn obscene amounts of money for hitting a ball over the net.
Not sure why, I reckon the public are being a little too harsh on tennis professionals, many of whom ask for a towel after being aced, all part of their silly 'pampered' routine. Sorry there's that word again, pampered.
The flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils filled all the seats apparently at the Hopman Cup in Perth for the first round tie against Great Britain yet he didn't turn up, Kenny De Schepper did instead and lost rather easily to Andy. Disappointing for the crowd who paid to see Gael. By all reports though Gael is fine, alive and well, in fact if you watched him play Fast 4 earlier this week you would have seen not only his brilliant shot making on display but his rather 'honest' post match interview.
By all reports Gael is '100 per cent fit' and ready to play in Melbourne. That's what Gael said. Wonder what happened to him in Perth. Miss the flight Gael ? Interesting.
What happened to Serena ? Now apparently I was a little hard on her according to some after last year's Hopman Cup where by all reports she threw her runners up trophy in the bin. Now I must confirm that this apparent 'fact' did not come from my toy box of fanciful stories but from more than one member of the Hopman Cup team of officialdom. ( I do know a few people in tennis ) So to this year. Farcical.
Serena didn't hit many balls yet did not withdraw from the event totally. She simply stuffed everyone around this year with her on and off court routine yet she is apparently all ok to play in Melbourne. Wonder what was wrong with Serena this year ?
So to Bernie, now this was rather amusing. Same as Nick K. These guys aren't even interested in the warm up tournaments for the Aussie Open yet they entered them. Why ? Contractual agreements ? Fair dinkum weak as piss these two as they openly admitted that they were looking ahead rather than looking for current form or giving the public their money's worth, hence their withdrawals from the Kooyong Classic and the Sydney International. They both seem ok to play in Melbourne however.
What about Maria ? The screamer from Russia didn't play in Brisbane yet no doubt sold a lot of seats on her name alone. Funny, she seems ok to play in Melbourne also.
The Sock, the Jack kind withdrew after a set of the final in New Zealand. Be interesting to see whether or not he plays and just what kind of physical form he is in for the first Grand Slam of the year. Halep also withdrew from Brisbane yet played brilliant tennis in Sydney just missing a place in the final in a three set loss to Kuznetsova. She seems ok now, will probably play Melbourne.
It seems that with all of the above instances there is one thing that taints all of their withdrawals and that is 'legitimacy', Bernie is living proof seen hitting today after his 'illness' the day before. Tennis professionals seem all too hasty to either withdraw beforehand or retire during a match if things aren't going their way, conditions included, just ask Nick. Apparently too hot for Nick at Kooyong and he had bigger fish to fry in no uncertain terms, Nick said so himself.
Finally what about the Tennis Australia 'discretionary wildcard' that did not in fact get awarded to poor young Ben Mitchell who withdrew 'legitimately' from the Wild card play off final against Duckworth due to the birth of his first child ? How's Tennis Australia's form there ? How could you overlook a guy in great form and then force him to play the qualification tournament where he lost second round ?
I believe TA 'owed' Ben a wild card into Melbourne on grounds of compassion if nothing else or was his choice of seeing his child born into the World over a tennis match not on TA's list of 'correct things to do' ?
Fair dinkum disgrace that TA. Ben was deserving of a spot, a hard working tennis player who battles through the Challenger series, he paid his dues. You would hope that Duckworth slings him a few bucks whether he wins against Hewitt or not as after all he got a free ride into the Australian Open draw without hitting a ball in the play off final. Let's hope the Duck has a little more compassion than Tennis Australia.
Love this time of year, full of pampered individuals and less than satisfying 'sick day certificate' excuses laid out for the public to cringe at yet accept as what is the alternative ? Can you ask for your money back ?! Doubt it. About time the pro tennis players of the World stopped their weak as piss antics and either showed up or at least showed some guts and finished a match rather than took the easy way out.
An Australian Open with no Prima Donna type behaviour, love to see that........

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

'INTERESTING PERCEPTION'

I watched two 'young' tennis players have a hit last weekend, well they were a lot younger than me anyhow. One of them was a local, the other a European gentleman who is in town for a while and who is a rather gifted tennis player, in most aspects anyhow. I set up the hit between the two as I was fascinated to see how they would go against each other plus I was interested in doing some watching from a distance for a change. Sometimes being up close when teaching or playing does not give the mind enough room to think.
During the 20 minute hit up I noticed several things about both players that I perhaps would not have otherwise and then during a set which lasted 10 games I noticed even more, it was an educational 90 minutes of tennis to say the least. The European guy says to me afterwards "We have a lesson and we fix my forehand", ( don't you just love it how the Europeans have a way with words " ? ) I say 'no worries, trust me, we fix it'.
The next day we have a 70 minute session, we talk plenty, we experiment plenty. The Italian starts by hitting balls open stance on his weaker forehand side. I say to him straight away " There's your problem right there ". He asks what the problem is. I say "Why are you waiting for the ball when you can go to it " ? He looks a little confused, I explain myself in detail.
" You wait for every single ball on your forehand, you are a 'reactive tennis player', there is nothing 'proactive' about your forehand side. What foot do you hit off on your backhand side ? Yes it's your front foot, so why is this ? You take the initiative on your backhand side and that's why it is your best shot, you move toward the ball yet on your forehand side even when the ball is short you wait for it then hit it with an open stance. You don't get enough on your shot like you do on the backhand side which you rip regularly so why is your forehand so different " ?
We chat for a while and I suggest to him that it may just be the most common issue in tennis now days amongst budding juniors, 'perception'. Most kids believe that tennis is an open stance sport but that only happens in certain situations on a tennis court such as a deep high bouncing wide ball yet look at Federer on a low ball down the middle. Does he wait for it or does he go to it ? Easy to answer that one.
So I start feeding down the middle to give the Italian,  'Isi' ( shortened version of his real name ) a chance to work on his footwork and a chance to start coming forward on his forehand to give the shot some substance rather than just spin. He likes the idea straight away. This is what happened. Isi got himself into the 'zone' and he totally forgot about his swing which wasn't perfect as it lacked a full backswing yet it was far from average either and he simply concentrated on his feet.
I asked him to not 'fluff' the ball back, I told him I don't care if the ball goes long, I simply asked him to hit it with a force that he felt comfortable with but assured him the power would increase with his left foot forward. After around 30 balls I started feeding shorter and wider yet still asked Isi to get up to the ball and hit it on the front foot.
I explained that even if the ball was short and wide it could still be hit on the front foot. We then worked on approach shots, the natural front foot progression. This is what happened.
Now usually if a player does not miss it is from them not hitting the ball with any conviction so then I usually say something like " 10 balls to go, you haven't missed yet, how about you hit the ball and not just push it back ey " ? That's usually when a student misses but this lesson was rather unique in the way that the first basket ( around 110 balls ) was hit. Isi HIT all of 'em, I mean he really hit 'em hard with no fear of missing, just a focus on a different approach to the shot.
Now Isi hit about 10 long and 5 wide yet he did something I have never seen before, he did not hit one ball into the net. That's 110 balls over the net out of 110 balls with different spins off the feed. I am not someone who continually feeds a flat perfect ball so a student can look a million bucks, I have always fed a ball with variety, makes a student think more.
I say to Isi " So how did that feel buddy " ? He says 'Unbelievable but no one has ever told me to get on my front foot back home, we all play off the other foot'. Now putting that into perspective the Europeans train on clay and take less steps to a ball and slide more but how did Robin Soderling beat Rafa in Paris ? He stepped in and hit it, he didn't wait for it like most do. Soderling is the perfect example of front foot tennis, such a shame that he did not compete more over the last few years due to illness before his retirement. The Swede proved that you could win on clay playing on the front foot.
Of course it is an impossibility to play EVERY ball on the front foot particularly on a clay court but 'Isi' was living proof that you need to adapt when switching surfaces. Playing on a hard court enables a player to step into the ball whereas a clay court does not offer that same type of positioning. Perhaps it is why the clay court dynamos with the exception of Rafa have trouble on the hard courts yet dominate on the dirt.
Many perceptions in tennis but one thing is for certain and that is you need to be able to reprogram certain things in your mind and that leads to 'tweaking' certain styles according to the surface and conditions. Open stance tennis has it's place of course but it is not THE ONLY way to play tennis. Waiting for a ball leaves you open to be dictated to by an opponent who senses opportunities to attack yet stepping in can let your opponent know that you are someone who is going to force the issue.
Get on the front foot and dictate play when the opportunity arises, open stance is not something that oozes confidence and many balls are mishit when leaning back off a shot. If you step in on your backhand there is no reason why you can't do it on your forehand.
Tennis owns many perceptions, it's up to a player to work out what is correct. Experimenting is something that doesn't happen often enough in a practice session. Isi has a new forehand to go home with, he's happy about that and he has changed his initial perception of how a ball should be hit.
Technical sport tennis yet it's one that can be made simpler if we look at different ways to do things and don't treat a current way of playing as the ONLY way of playing.
Never too old to try something else......

Sunday, 10 January 2016

'ORDINARY'

The Brisbane International Mens singles final was one of those matches that cries out for a change in the rules. The final in my opinion was as boring as bat shit. Why ? Because of the current day rules that require a 'tweak' to gain a little more interest in the sport just as the Twenty/20 Big Bash cricket has in this country over the past month or so. Now there is a sport on the rise.
Tennis has come up with some interesting changes in formats over the past few years yet the hierarchy of the sport are forgetting the most important change that was tested many years ago in the 'Battle of the sexes' match between Connors and Navratilova. They gave Jimmy one serve, yes just ONE SERVE and it made for a brilliant tennis match because it did not reward mediocrity as the current tennis format does.
Yes tennis rewards mediocrity because it tells you that even if you miss it's ok, you can have another try. Golf ? You go bush with a drive you get penalised. Squash ? Haven't played for a while but from memory if you miss a serve, too bad, you lose that point. Table Tennis ? What happens if you miss a serve ? I don't believe you get another shot at it, correct me if I am wrong.
AFL Football, sorry I kicked it crooked, give me the ball back, let me have another go. Cricket, bugger it I got bowled first ball, give me another chance. Silly stuff hey ?
So why is tennis an exemption ? With a sport that accepts nothing but technical brilliance it lacks in common sense. Guys like Raonic, Karlovic and Anderson are living proof that you do not have to own anything but a big first serve because the law of averages tells them that they will win the majority of their service games and then they can tee off on their returns. They beat 'real' tennis players because of it.
What I would love to see just ONCE is a tennis tournament that defies the current rules that accept a 'mistake' as a 'blip' on the technical radar and allow another entry into a point. It's all very well to do things like offer a short deuce to speed up doubles matches yet it forgets singles also needs a tweak for the better.
Imagine if the Brisbane international of 2017 offered a new format to the tennis World that included not only short deuces but a one serve rule that actually made guys like Milos Raonic hit a few more balls to claim a win rather than just a big 'free swing' ? Fair dinkum I reckon there is a format that may just bring some big crowds through the gates just for the uniqueness of it.
Fast 4 Tennis doesn't cut it as it's nothing that really changes the game of tennis, in fact it's almost confusing. Do the Big Bash thing, change it up, offer something different, give the big servers a test against the 'real' players of World tennis, the ones who can actually hit a ball over the net more than 3 times to win a point.
I reckon I am on to something here. Do I put patent on this ??
I believe that may be a great idea GT......

Thursday, 7 January 2016

'EVERY NOW AND THEN'

I have stated that I am no fan of the fitness guru Allistair McCaw yet I am drawn to look at his site around once a month just to check out his posts that sometimes contradict and sometimes make sense. I am glad I do as here is a ripper from Mr McCaw.
He recently just posted a rather brief message that went something like this; 3 terms that get used and misinterpreted far too easily in our industry.
1.World Class
2. High Performance
3. Master Coach
All too true Allistair but why is this ? Well it's simple really. The Industry that he talks about is way too full of gimmicks, glossy banners, pieces of paper that state certain individuals or organisations have a licence to make money because of their so called 'achievements' and general hype with as much substance as Walt Disney characters.
Let's take 'World Class' for instance. This is a terminology that many use but perhaps should be saved for such times where a shot is of the standard to test 'World Class' players.
'High Performance' is hilarious as this one gets used all too frequently by 'coaches' or is that 'ball hitters' who conduct programs that have as much high performance about it as a car that has seen better days. Yet it sounds great though doesn't it ??
"Hey Dad what's this 'high performance' thing ? I want to be a part of that.  'Not sure son but I reckon it must be good, it sounds good, so it must be good'. (Typical gimmick, all hype, no substance whatsoever).
'Master Coach', Sure thing, we are all 'Master Coaches' in our own minds but that piece of paper once again will prove that this particular 'title' will be a sort after achievement because of the 'high intensity' training that goes with it. Three days should do it, then a test and bingo 'YOU DA MAN', you are now worth $80 an hour to spread the gospel. Forget whether you have been out of your back yard or not, totally irrelevant, as long as you passed the test, all good.
Finally I will put one in of my own, 'Director of Tennis', love this one. What the f... is that title ? Not sure, sounds great, many 'ball hitters', sorry, coaches put that on their glossy pages as it looks great but no one really knows what it means. After all if you are a coach of tennis then naturally you will 'direct' proceedings. Fair dinkum brilliant stuff.
But as the current coaching climate suggests, it is all about the wording, the big bright stuff and don't forget the coloured signage on the side of the vehicle that has 'TRAVELLING CIRCUS' written all over it. Watch out for that vehicle because this person knows their stuff like no other, a 'must' for anyone learning the game.
Me cynical ?
Maybe just a little........

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

'A NEW FAN'

I am officially now a fan of Lleyton Hewitt. Impeccable behaviour in the Hopman Cup. No C'mon's, no in your face type of behaviour from his checkered past, just a desire to beat the opponent without all the bullshit that he relied on to pump him self up.
Nope I am a new admirer of Mr Hewitt. Why couldn't he have behaved like this in the prime of his career and gained more respect from fellow players rather than wage a war against some who he really shouldn't have ? ( namely the entire Argentine Davis Cup squad ).
Finally we see some tennis, some more tennis and finally some more tennis only from Lleyton. I would have been a fan many years ago if he just played the game.
Better late than never ey.........

Monday, 4 January 2016

'FAST ASLEEP'

Not sure about the clock on this site of mine. After I posted those last two chapters I noticed down the bottom of the page that I had apparently posted one of them at 23.00 and the other at 23.37 which in simple terms in Australia is almost midnight.
It's rather funny as I upset someone a while ago with some content on this site that was relayed back to me from a mate who had the conversation with the 'offended one'. Now the 'offended one' apparently came out with "Well Glenn obviously writes late at night, you can tell by the times on his Blog" !
Sorry I am not quite sure about the 'offended one's' point there at all. I may have upset this person however I don't honestly believe that it really matters what time I am writing but I would like to clear that up. ( Hopefully this won't offend the 'fragile offended one' ).
No I am fast asleep at 23.00pm , usually I have been by about two hours as I have a real job to get to nice and early. Unlike some I do not have the luxury of sleeping in during the working week hence my early nights.
So to the fragile offended person who I upset with a chapter on this site a little while ago, it's like this Champ, get a life. You don't have to read this site, no one is forcing you, I simply write about tennis and what I think of certain situations, matches, politics, people and whatever else goes with the silly sport. I am not writing much on this site at the moment as I am writing a book and that is taking up a lot of my time outside of work so hopefully I won't upset you in the near future.
As far as the times that I write on this site well I really don't believe it is worth worrying about in all seriousness as what I do in my spare time has nothing to do with you. So can I suggest two things ? Don't read my site if it offends you and if you do happen to read it for goodness sake don't have a look at the time that I write because you may just end up more bitter and twisted than you already are.
Time I got some sleep.........

Saturday, 2 January 2016

' GOTTA LOVE THE ETHICS '

I gotta say I was never really a fan of Paul McNamee's when I was younger but his embracing of the ATPCA ( Australian Tennis Professional Coaches Association ) and the manner in which he picks apart the ethics of Tennis Australia has to be commended. I recently found two master pieces from Paul, the last chapter's content plus a very recent dig he had at the Hopman Cup's Management decision to include two Aussie teams this year. I believe he wrote to the ITF ( International Tennis Federation ) complaining about the whole farce. I tend to agree with Paul.
Is Tennis Australia taking it just a little too far in trying to gain a win at the Cup in Perth this year by putting a team in each division ? Where are the ethics in that ? Surely the whole idea has lack of morality written all over it. I know it's been more than 15 years since Australia held the trophy but fair dinkum this surely is not the way to bring it back into Aussie hands. Or is it ?
I find it rather distasteful that another country missed out in favour of the home nation having two teams compete this year but was it once again all to do with sentiment as TA seem to do regularly ? I have written many chapters on this country's stance of playing Davis Cup on grass even though that surface is not one that gives our players any advantage whatsoever.
I have also questioned the Davis Cup selection process that seems to ignore specialist doubles teams in favour of others who do not in fact even play a World class brand of the two on two format. Where are Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt ranked in doubles anyhow compared to the doubles exponents in this country ?
More sentiment ? You do the sums on that one. Peers and Guccioni are Australia's highest ranked doubles players at 7 and 59 respectively and their rankings make Groth's and Hewitt's look rather pedestrian. Don't forget Ball and Whittington, not household names those two but they play doubles for a living but obviously don't have a regular barbeque with the selection committee.
So to this year's Hopman Cup. The selection panel just couldn't go with one or the other ( Kyrgios or Hewitt ) because one without the other wouldn't quite work now would it ? Let's face it if Hewitt had played then questions would have been asked on why Nick didn't play and vice versa.
Seriously though why is Lleyton playing ? More sentiment ? Sure it's his last year on tour but his form does not suggest that he deserves a spot at the Hopman Cup. Kyrgios, despite his recent ups and downs does in fact deserve his spot on his current ranking.
So really it's rather obvious that once again Tennis Australia have come up with a decision based on sentiment in this country rather than one that actually makes any sense. The two Aussie team idea will go down as possibly the most ridiculous one since the idea to keep playing Davis Cup on a surface that Andre Agassi once said is 'for cows'.  ( If you never heard that one then your tennis knowledge is limited ).
My apologies about not writing more on this site recently however I have been busy putting together my book idea which I am having an absolute fat time doing. However thanks to the hierarchy in this country in the sport of tennis I am always going to be given new dialogue to write about. Thanks you guys, you keep me entertained.......
Regards GT

'A LETTER FROM PAUL McNAMEE'

The following is a letter from Paul McNamee that I found on the net. Paul is not a fan of the current system put in place by Tennis Australia that has done it's best to monopolize tennis in this country.
TA do not have a system that is a proven winner and you only have to look at guys like Tomic, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as proof. These players all learned the game from a childhood coach and were not subjected to coaching changes as McNamee outlines in this letter. 
His letter bares a striking resemblance to that of Wayne Bryan's , Father and Coach of the greatest ever doubles duo, the Bryan Brothers. ( I posted that letter just recently on this site )
Mr Bryan tells of a system in the US that is broken and how it should be changed, not unlike this one from Paul.
 McNamee's letter is spot on the money....

Last year I penned an open letter to Australian coaches. I'd like to share some of it here:
One of the common questions I get asked is, 'What happened to Australian tennis?', along with the follow-up, 'How can it be revived?'… The answer to the second question, and the key
to our renaissance as a great tennis nation, is surprisingly simple …
Most successful players can name the one person who made the difference - like Charlie Hollis for Rod Laver, or Ian Barclay for Pat Cash. Or Pete Smith for Lleyton Hewitt, the late 'Nails' Carmichael for Pat Rafter and Darren Cahill, or Barry Phillips Moore for Mark Woodforde, just to name a few.
It's fair to say that a coach may come from anywhere, and may pop up at any moment, but it's equally true that the most likely person to play that role is your coach in your formative teenage years, just like Ian Barclay was to Pat Cash. Well, at least that's how it used to be until the Tennis Australia (TA) juggernaut decided to engage in and endeavour to monopolise the coaching industry, including directly employing coaches itself and designating which talented players they work with.
At Wimbledon this year, I saw an Aussie player, part of the TA system, with the fourth coach in twelve months. I don't need to tell you that a mix of inputs like that, however knowledgeable and well meaning, is a recipe for disaster.
Systems do not produce champions, people do. As a consequence, and I'm not alone in saying this, we've pretty much lost a generation of players who have not transitioned to the tour.
Early last year, I was in discussions in relation to working with a talented Australian female player. During an unrelated discussion I was having with a senior TA official, he said to me, 'I've heard that you might be working with such player. I've spoken to our guys and we're not approving that.' Simple as that. In other words, the player's financial support package would be pulled.

Shortly after that rebuff, I was asked by Su-wei Hsieh if I could help her at Wimbledon. At twenty five years of age, her ranking at that time was so low that she didn't even get in qualifying for the singles, and she proceeded to lose first round in the doubles. I asked Australia's highest-ranked doubles player, Paul Hanley, if he would play mixed doubles with her. Paul obliged, and they went on a terrific run all the way to the Wimbledon semi-finals. That was just the boost she needed. Just over twelve months later, Su-wei Hsieh has won seven singles tournaments, including two career-first WTA titles, as well as reaching the semi-final of doubles at the 2012 US Open. In that time, her singles ranking has gone from 343 to 25. Why am I working with a Taiwanese player? Because she asked me and I was in a position to do so. It was a decision made not by a Federation but by Su-wei and myself, coach and player, without interference.
There are literally hundreds of you coaching around Australia who would walk over hot coals for your best talent. But I suspect you know from bitter experience that you will lose your player to the 'system'. After all, how can the parents turn down the inducements of heavily subsidised coaching, travel and other support.
A Melbourne coach recently said to me, 'I've got a really good kid who I love working with, but I know I'll eventually have to let him go to a better coach in the system …' I said to him, 'Stop right there I guarantee you that by the time your kid is playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon, you will have acquired all the knowledge you need. The best chance for your
kid to make it is if you guys go on the journey together.'
I say to any player (and parent), 'You ditch your personal coach at your peril. It may not be perfect but if your coach believes in you and unselfishly goes the extra yard, you're already well on your way.' So I say to you, the coaches, 'Do not give up the dream of sitting in the player box at Wimbledon.' A trusting bond between coach and player is the fundamental building block of a player making it to tour level. Our governing body sees it differently, but hopefully one
day they'll be held to account …