Sunday, 31 July 2016

'A CATHARTIC EXERCISE' (PART 2)

When you think about it, the amount of information stored up inside someone's head who is in the process of writing a book can only be described as uncomfortable. I was lucky enough to meet a man two weeks ago who has in fact written no less than 25 books on sport and we had a chat for around half an hour. It was fascinating.
The main topic of his book writing is sport and he has sold many, many copies of many books and some of his heroes were my heroes when I was a kid. They were not in tennis though because I was only interested in my chosen sport from the age of 12. Before that I was like any other kid trying to find what he liked best, hockey, soccer, footy, cricket, you name it I tried it.
Maybe I was selfish to give tennis a go as after all it's just you out there, no one else can help you but your ability and your mind.
I wonder sometimes whether a tennis player, a surfer or a golfer is on another planet than a team sports player because surely the mind set has to be different. One accepts all responsibility, the other looks at sport a little differently, one who wishes to share the work load. Does one own a bigger ego than the other ? Quite possibly.
I have just finished chapter 15 of my book and I have delved into the side of tennis that I have titled 'Battle of the mind' because I find the mind to be the most intriguing part of sport in general as it can make or break a sports person. I have already written lengthy chapters in my book on the ability of some to strike a ball as well as a top twenty Pro yet a ranking of 300 plus proves that there is a lot more to tennis than simply being a great ball striker.
My journey in tennis quite possibly didn't even begin until I stepped onto European clay in 1991 but trying to put that experience into words is not easy as it is the moment you realise that this sport is way more brutal than you ever imagined. All those years of training can quite often account for nothing when you play someone who has a brain to match their ability to hit a tennis ball. 
What you just dished up in a warm up may have looked impressive but that's where the similarities in hitting a tennis ball ceased as 'Francois' read you like a book as soon as your forehand left your racket when the match commenced. A smart player can often crunch enough data in the hit up to win the first three games while you are still working on your 'fool proof' game plan.
Trying to explain all of this has been tough on a mind I still describe as 'a tin of worms' yet I find the whole exercise to be fruitful because of the prize at the end of it all, contentment. In a one on one sport I believe that is what counts the most.
Like the surfer searching for the perfect wave or a golfer looking for a majestic fairway drive, the tennis player is someone who will not rest until he has answered all of the questions that the game has asked of him.
Remember, tennis is an argument between two people, the best answers will win the match. Writing a book is an argument within your own mind, no opponents, no time frame but an endless search for answers. 
This is a match I am looking forward to winning, it only has one outcome, peace of mind......


Friday, 29 July 2016

'A CATHARTIC EXERCISE'

Throughout my book writing exercise lately I have expressed many emotions towards a sport that no longer appeals to me to play and that I find increasingly difficult to teach. Why ? Because the delving into the rather large suitcase in my mind and sifting through the paperwork has made me realise that tennis is a sport that toys with your mind after a while.
I have often said that I find tennis to be nothing more than an argument between two players that can only be resolved with a series of correct answers. After 35 years of playing the game and around 28 years of coaching it I find the argumentative side of it to be no longer appealing in any way.
Anyone who has tuned into this Blog over the past four years or who has known me personally will be well aware of my fight with officialdom, particularly locally however on many occasions the argument in fact was started by others. I merely retaliated, as I do.
We could quite possibly go back as far as ten years ago if we really want to shed some light onto the GT vs The Rest type of situation that for some reason tainted me as the bad guy. Having been given no choice but to hand over my advanced squad players to another program which was being run by a combined total of less than half of my experience had issues written all over it right from the start.
The manuscript stated that if any kids wished to be considered for regional selection then they had to be a part of the new training program which from memory was run fortnightly. My argument was simple, as always.
I train my own students, others train theirs', we then put their names forward if they wished to be selected and challenge matches would decide the eventual team. I am still unsure to this day why there was a problem with my idea. Perhaps it made too much sense.
My retaliation at a local meeting was rather comically documented in a transcript to the local association that was put together with a one eyed view and one that lacked the reasons behind my frustrations. Ok I admit that my verbal spray towards the person at the meeting who had no right to even be in that position could have been a little more 'refined' however I am locally 'famous' for having an ordinary serve, this was no different.
The biggest issue with people like that sitting on a committee is a common problem in sport and particularly tennis because they lack any ability whatsoever to play so they try to make up for it in the board room. On my departure that night I was most disappointed that I didn't include a parting shot at this particular person who should have been held accountable for almost inciting a riot.  
'Make sure you give ....... an extra kiss tonight because you two are obviously sleeping in the same bed' would have been an appropriate line but that may have just compounded things further.
That was quite possibly the first thing that put me off side with a few of the locals in the tennis fraternity but when you think about it I wonder how others would have reacted if the shoe was on the other foot but unfortunately with tennis someone always knows better than you do.
Just as Australian tennis legend Paul McNamee suggested in a letter to the ATPCA ( Australian Tennis Professional Coaches Association ) it is a sport where unfortunately others who own 'higher credentials' quite often try to assert their 'authority' on others all too often. The problem with that is simple, on most occasions it lacks intelligence but it sounds good.
Maybe I should have taken it all as a compliment as after all our program was head and shoulders above any others in the region and it all came from a vision to improve without burning out. The one and only article I wrote for the local paper one particular year as the season concluded stated a very valid fact. The club I was coaching at had no less than ten juniors regularly playing senior club tennis on a Saturday afternoon which proved that our program was working.
All of those juniors aged between 11 and 18 came through several seasons of hard work and also a Saturday morning junior club which ceased to exist not long after we left. That weekly three hours of supervised match play was crucial in their development and paved the way for them to take on the adults. In fact it had shades of my old days playing as a kid at the now defunct C and S Tennis Club where we would play in the morning, have an hour for lunch and then play against the adults for another three hours. How could a kid not improve ?
Now that program of ours had no input from anyone else yet what we had to endure throughout the season was the regular letters and newspaper items that stated Tennis Australia recommends only programs run by qualified Tennis Australia Coaches. Neither myself or my assistants had anything to do with TA yet what we were doing locally was proven to be working because it all came from a mindset that delivered a common sense training routine.
We had no superstars, just kids with a good honest ability to hit a tennis ball well. Not once did we ever burn a kid out through the offer of too much court time for the sake of a few extra dollars and a slight chance of stardom. If a kid ever wanted a one on one lesson I did it for $35 for 70 minutes because I was not interested in putting the price of learning out of reach of a regular family's income. 
I see that the latest recommended one on one session price from TA is $60 to $80 per hour. Not sure of the $20 discrepancy but what will most 'gurus' charge if that price is put on the TA website do you think ? 'Stuff $60, we can get away with charging $80'......
I thought about including this chapter in my book and then I thought better of it because whilst my book is somewhat controversial in some aspects I am wary of giving too much air time to people who I have little time for. I simply use those examples to write about on this site which has a cathartic type of effect on me but I will not give them  space in my book.
A while back I wrote that I had written 22 new chapters which was in fact incorrect, they were 'posts' which I have now put into chapters which now add up to thirteen. I am aiming at 20 chapters and then my book writing is done and dusted.......
Back soon, Regards GT

Catharsis

Catharsis is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration
Wikipedia
 ( Just thought I would add that meaning for those of you who have been kind enough over the years to send me anonymous comments, just in case you weren't sure what it meant. ) 




Monday, 25 July 2016

'A HAIRCUT AND A FOREHAND'

 Not sure how it became so popular but this particular post of mine gets a run in many Countries, in fact if you look up the famous quote by Ivan Lendl it comes up as a number 1 on Google. I always had a dream of being World Number 1 however I didn't expect it to be over something I wrote.
I one day hope that the great man Andre Agassi himself sends me a thankyou email regarding what I put together out of respect for him and the circumstances surrounding the Lendl quote.
Just for the hell of it I will repost it as I see that someone in Brussels just tuned in and had a read of that particular post on this site.
G'day mate, hope all is well over your side of the World.....

Written September 2014

If ever there was a famous quote in World Tennis it had to be the one from Czech Champion Ivan Lendl in 1987 when asked at a press conference what he thought of a young Andre Agassi.
 The Stratton Mountain Tournament in the US played in August of '87 saw the emergence of a 17 year old kid who wore denim tennis shorts and wore his hair rather long. The kid would go on to win every Grand Slam available and became the World's best player in 1995.
Andre Agassi entered Stratton Mountain as a player ranked 90 in a field of 64 players so naturally he had to receive a bit of a helping hand by the tournament committee, a Wild Card was granted.
 In the first round he faced American Luke Jensen , a player ranked number 415 but who could serve with both his left and right arms , now that's clever.
Andre struggled past Jensen in three sets then set up a second round meeting with '87 Wimbledon Champion, Aussie Pat Cash. On paper this match looked rather one sided however Agassi found a way to sneak past Cash in two breakers , people were starting to take notice.
The round of 16 saw Andre take out American Chip Hooper in three, then a quarter final win against countryman Joey Rive in straight had him up against World number 1 Ivan Lendl. Now this match was entertaining however I have only seen extended highlights of it , would love to watch the entire match one day.
This match saw Andre running around his backhand at any given opportunity to belt his already huge forehand back at Lendl who at times looked rather confused at the kid's ability. The big Czech eventually won the match in three sets , 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 but not before being given a huge fright by a skinny 17 year old with flash shorts.
The press conference after the match was one that produced this chapter's title as Lendl gave his opinion on the new kid on the block. Looking back I suppose Andre could've taken it as a compliment as it was rather obvious that Ivan rated the forehand highly, perhaps not so much the haircut.
A year earlier at the same tournament John McEnroe beat Andre at the quarter final stage in straight sets but paid him a huge compliment. Whilst I do not have the transcript in front of me he told a press conference that a winner by Agassi from his forehand was the hardest shot he had ever had hit against him. Fair endorsement for a 16 year old. 
Some people knock Agassi because he admitted taking drugs but they obviously haven't read all the detail.
 I don't remember the last time a recreational drug has been proven to enhance any sportsman's performance, Andre included. At the time that he tried it he stated he wasn't enjoying the game and his ranking had dropped. I believe everyone is entitled to a little 'time out'.
Andre Agassi didn't have to tell anyone yet he was big enough to admit he took something, I think that shows integrity.........

Friday, 22 July 2016

'SILLY GAME'

The current ATP event in Washington saw some rather interesting statistics from two matches in particular over the last 24 hours, both involving huge servers.
Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in fact won five points less than Jack Sock but still won the match in two tie breakers, as Karlovic usually does. Sock had just four break points for the match and could not win any of them. When you look at it realistically, a match with the big man from Croatia hinges on a small opportunity and a break point can usually be pencilled in as a set point and I suppose it's what frustrates his opponents so much.
It's why the return is such a necessity to master and none do it better than Roger as his ability to blunt even the World's biggest servers with that magnificent chipped backhand sees him get over the line more often than not. A two handed backhand is the shot of most Pros' however the smarter ones learn how to hit the one handed return also. Variety in tennis is everything.
The other match between Johnson and Isner was one that saw 12 set points in total go begging for Isner who must be starting to question his ability to return serve when it's most needed. Five set points went begging in the first set and seven in the second set as Johnson served his way out of trouble.
As good as the American's serve is however it was pure poetry watching Federer dismantle it at Wimbledon this year as he owns no fear of the big servers, his tactic on the return is so technically brilliant yet simple if you look at it in slow motion.
For the record the two tie breakers in the Johnson / Isner match were 9-7 and 17-15 and in the other match Karlovic took them 7-4 and 8-6 which says something of the Croatian's ability to return a slightly 'slower' delivery.
Tough way to make a dollar in tennis, playing twelve games against a big server before really even seeing a slight glimmer of an opportunity to break.
Mentally taxing as well as physically, silly game........

Monday, 18 July 2016

' A SNIPPETT'

The following is a snippett from my book which argues many modern day coaching 'myths'. A player does not have to hit a ball like Novak to win, the student needs to learn what to do with the shots that they currently own. Yes a player needs to learn to hit a ball 'technically correct' but what does that statement actually mean ?
Are there two serves the same as each other ? Surely if a serve is effective then that is what the game is all about, effectiveness. If a new kid turns up with a great forehand but not quite as 'technically correct' as Roger's does it really matter ? Why then does a coach spend so much time on that shot that is 'not quite right' ? In who's eyes' is it in need of a tweak ? Is this where the confusion starts and the spending of big dollars' commences ?
Changing a style does not need to happen as soon as a kid joins a program, the kid just needs to learn to get it over the net. A player ranked 100 will hit with the same style as a player ranked 1000, so what separates those two players ? The ability to know what to do with the shots they possess. 
An 'oldie' at a local tennis club will still be playing when they are 70 if they were allowed to be their own player right from the start or not touched at all by a 'technique genius'. This is opposed to a kid of 17 who was preached to by a Zen Master that 'THIS IS THE WAY YOU HIT A FOREHAND' and now does not play anymore because THAT forehand was not achieved. My book, argumentative ? In many ways..... 

'Are new students of tennis finding the sport all too hard because they simply cannot hit a ball like a Grand Slam Champion ? If you took the time to notice the many styles of Club players on a Saturday afternoon you will see that some of the rallies are long and adventurous without much style but you will also see the enjoyment on many faces due to their ability to simply get the ball over the net.
You will also notice the age of most of those Club players and it will probably be well into their 50's and 60's and I guarantee you most of those players have never had a lesson. Would it be that their style has come from their own mind and experimentation that was not hampered by someone telling them that their way of hitting was in need of change ?
The module that is tennis in the modern day is one that doesn't have to be complicated yet it is as many coaches will strive for the perfect shot which in reality on most occasions will never happen.
Coaching is not all about changing things, it's about helping a player think, it's about teaching a player to be smarter.
Whether you look like Novak or a frog in a blender when you play tennis one thing is for certain, if you keep getting the ball back over the net, you are a chance........
Glenn Thompson ( The Book )

Friday, 1 July 2016

'BIASED' ? YOU DO THE SUMS'

The following post was written exactly one year ago as I was rather frustrated at the commentating at Wimbledon by none other than 'Mr One Eyed' himself, John Newcombe.
I was hoping that he may have retired and I felt rather deflated when I tuned in on the first night of this year's Wimbledon coverage to see Newk at it again.
Fair dinkum, they retired Stolle and Trabert, how about they do the same with Newk ? His views are ridiculously biased and he is out of touch with today's game.
I am going to bed early......
Written 01/07/2016
'This could be a 'dodgy' second serve'. Yes folks that's what Australia's very own 'experienced' Tennis commentator John Newcombe came out with whilst 'commentating' on the Kyrgios/ Stepanek match at Wimbledon this week. So is that commentating or offering an opinion ?
I have been looking up Tennis' worst commentators on the net and surprisingly 'Newk' does not get a mention, not sure why, he is absolutely one eyed when it comes to commentary regarding Australian Tennis Pros versus the rest.
I always thought that commentary was supposed to be non- biased however when it comes to Wimbledon, well it's all about Newk and who he likes as opposed to what really is happening on court.
I have written in length regarding Jim Courier's views on David Goffin and his supposed 'inflated' tennis ranking which Jim made public at this year's Australian Open. Not sure how you can say that a player has an inflated ranking when he is knocking on the door of the World's Top 10. So to the headline, what on earth is that all about Newk ?
'This could be a dodgy second serve'. Hmmmm I wonder who is monitoring this sort of 'commentary' and do they condone it or are they not actually aware that it is in fact going on at all ?
Personally I find it rather embarrassing that a man of Newk's knowledge and experience would resort to that type of biased view when he is paid to be impartial when it comes to match reporting. Or isn't he ? Would it be that he is paid to comment the way that he believes most Aussies think rather than treat each player fairly with equal praise ?
I did write a post around this time last year as Newk did it once again, or is that many times again ? 
His commentating last year was ridiculously one sided and he even resorted to tearing apart a serve of a player who is now ranked World number 1 in Mens Doubles just because it wasn't a Federer or Novak clone. C'mon John you of all people should know that a shot does not have to look 'text book' to be effective, particularly the serve. It's the most individual tennis shot in the book.
It's only taken one match for me this year to turn the sound down and do my own commentary at this year's Wimbledon as nothing has improved from last year or the many years before that to be precise. Tennis is called by ex players with a biased view and personal agendas on certain players which is rather obvious if you listen carefully but to the naked ear it is nothing but light banter that you would hear in a pub on a Friday night after a few beers.
I wonder if Jim Courier has forgotten his take on Goffin and I wonder if Newk has chosen to forget his comments regarding Herbert's less than technically correct service motion that now has him making a million plus each year in the two on two format ? The above mentioned are paid to comment on tennis matches, not give their one eyed views that lack tennis education.
Dodgy second serves happen all the time, nature of the sport but is it up to an impartial Sports Commentator to pre-empt it before it actually happens ??
What ever happened to allowing the sport to take place first and then offer an opinion or is it more about the ego of the ex superstar behind the microphone trying to predict what will happen before it actually does ?
Like I say a lot on this site, you do the sums........