Sunday, 28 August 2016

'TENNIS SCORING, GIVE IT A TWEAK'

The way that Mens Doubles on the World Tour is now structured leaves many teams wondering about the what if's and maybe's probably more than ever before in the history of the sport. Basically it is cut throat tennis at one set all as the super tie break system kicks in to decide a winner in all tournaments apart from the Grand Slams.
Doubles is a tough way to make a living no doubt about it due to the evenness of all teams competing with no real stand out combinations. Even the Bryan brothers have come back to the field and the chances of another team winning 100 plus titles I believe is a thing of the past.
The recent championship in the US at the Winstom- Salem Open typifies just how tough the two on two format is as the round of 16 matches provided no less than five out of eight results decided by a third set breaker. In the quarter finals three of the four matches were also decided by a super tie breaker and two of those were decided by the score of 10-8. No time for nerves.
The pairing of Henri Kontinen and Guillermo Garcia- Lopez was one that had no credentials whatsoever as it was the first time they had played together so to actually combine together effectively proves just how talented this team is. Their opponents in the final were Paes and Begemann, two players with vastly different backgrounds.
Leander Paes is possibly one of the greatest Mens doubles players of all time as well as one of the most successful Mixed doubles players in the history of the sport. Paes however could be competitive with my Mum and she doesn't play much now days at age 78.
His pairing with the German Andre Begemann was interesting to say the least however it just goes to show that a player like Paes is also generous, Begemann is ranked World number 140 in doubles. Playing with someone with a ranking that low has generosity written all over it.
One of Begemann's recent Challenger event's saw him and his 101 ranked partner have a win at 11-9 in the third set breaker over two guys with a combined ranking of over 600 which begs the question. What if more guys like Leander Paes combined with lower ranked players to compete on the main tour to bring their level up with the best in the World ? Would it speed up the improvement process ? Silly question GT.
So to the final at Winstom-Salem. At a set up Paes and Begemann lead 6-1 in the second set tie breaker and somehow managed to lose seven points straight. The match went into a super tie breaker which the pair from Spain and Finland won 10 points to 8 which also asks many questions but one more than anything else.
Is being match point down or rather several match points down simply a statistic that can be overcome with a mind set that owns no fear and an ability to simply keep swinging whilst ignoring the score board ?
I once wrote a post about Andre Agassi where his match at the French Open in 1988 against Mats Wilander, my hero, would own a moment that possibly has never been replicated. After winning the first set 6-4 Andre turned to his player's box and openly said 'I thought it was 5-3'.
I don't believe that it was arrogance, I firmly think that it was a player in the zone, not playing a scoreboard, just swinging his racket and letting the points accumulate. Could it be taught to a new player of the sport ? How could you teach that ? I don't believe it can, perhaps you may be born with that gift but it would be a tough one to learn.
In 2013 at the Monte Carlo Championships another first time pairing of Zimonjic and Benneteau saved seven match points against the Bryan brothers to win 14-12 in the third set tie breaker. Maybe there is an element of 'no fear' with first time pairings as after all what have they got to lose ? There is no reputation on the line.
Personally I love the format of Mens doubles in World tennis as it takes away the 'ho hum' type of feeling to matches that can drag on to say 15-13 in the fifth set and leave a player as cannon fodder for their next opponent.
Isner and Mahut proved the theory wrong that 'a match has to end sometime'. Theirs took three days at Wimbledon to complete which not only stuffs a tournament around but also stuffs a player out.
Tennis needs a bit of a tweak just as they have done in doubles, it requires a spice up, a change of format just as twenty twenty cricket has revived the sport in general. Tennis rewards the guys prepared to stay out there all day, not necessarily the shot makers who are the more entertaining ones to watch most of the time.
Two sets all in singles, bring in the Super tie breaker, add some life to a sport that needs to move ahead just as other sports have done by tweaking the format.
Remember the crowd also has to go home at a respectable hour....... 


Thursday, 25 August 2016

'STARTING TO LIKE MR McCAW'

Allistair McCaw is an interesting character and I have questioned some of his posts in the past however his latest one makes a whole lot of sense. I have mentioned many times on this site of mine that the Industry we call Tennis has in fact turned into a circus of epic proportions with many clowns in charge.
Gimmicks have taken over from common sense plus fancy clothes and bright rackets seem to be a pre requisite for a tennis 'coach' now days, forget their ability to teach, that's irrelevant. One thing Mr McCaw however is wrong about is the price factor as he states in his last paragraph. He believes that if you 'go cheap' it will cost you in the long run.
Not sure how he has worked that one out as my mechanic works privately with no fancy signs and he is one of the most respected men in his industry locally, that's a fact. He charges around $30 less an hour than bigger organisations and probably does a better job than most. Why ? Experience.
Now I will not go into the finer points of tennis coaching prices because I have done so on many occasions but I will say one thing. Just because you are paying $60, $70 or $80 an hour for a tennis coaching lesson it does not necessarily mean that you are receiving your money's worth because 'that's the going rate'.
Remember it doesn't matter how experienced or inexperienced a tennis coach or coaching assistant is, he or she will still charge the above hourly rate. Why ? Because it's what is now expected by the public so they simply accept it which I believe is a load of horse sh.. .
Look for some experience, not just something glossy. Mr McCaw has some valid points despite his closing in the following post . I will paste some of it. If you would like to read the full transcript well it's on his Facebook site.......

These are some paragraphs from his post.
Here's the problem today in our industry:
Did you know? That the amount of circus tricks and antics that are going on in the athletic & fitness industry these days actually has companies such as cirque du soleil and the Ringling Bros looking into our industry for new ideas!!
Just last week I saw a coach having a nine-year-old standing on a medicine ball balancing! Bigger risk than reward? - I think so. Only unfortunately when that kid falls off and breaks an ankle, then the penny might drop.
People we have lost all sense. Today it seems that a good coach or trainer is determined by how many likes their videos get or how many 'followers' they have. It seems that the 'fancy & entertaining' has become more important than what really matters - the fundamentals and basics.
Why am I writing this? Because I believe it is high time I stood up and protected the strength & athletic development industry. Firstly, I find it ridiculous that someone can attend a 3 day workshop or certification for example and be 'qualified'.
I mean, would you trust a dentist or doctor who took a weekend certification or even a 3 month course to work on your body? - probably not!
Let me put it this way, can you imagine a dentist or doctor performing surgery and then posting it on YouTube for everyone else to try out?
The ones who will usually fight me on this point tend to be the ones that fall into this category of minimum experience or qualifications.

Another one is coaches who collect drills & exercises from the internet and feed them to their athletes or clients without any proper understanding of the Whys and Hows or any knowledge of how to properly teach them.
Firstly, It's important to know the source of this information you're being freely given. These days anyone can call themselves a coach and post exercises and drills.


If you want clowns, then go to the circus. if you want specialists, then seek them out in the right areas. Go cheap and you eventually end up paying double. Don't be fooled or impressed by all the fancy equipment, exercises or drills. Anyone can do or get those things!
Allistair McCaw


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

'ALBANY'S GREATEST TENNIS COACH'

The following post is part of a chapter in my book and it touches on the time I spent on court with my first Tennis Coach Peter Holmes.
'Holmsey' was a genius and a superb player who was basically unbeatable locally. He owned an aura in local tennis that has never been replicated since his days on court in the 80's and 90's .



Peter Holmes, 'Pete' or 'Holmsey' drove an old Ford that did not have a working speedometer and I have a feeling the fuel gauge didn't function properly either. I am pretty sure that Holmsey simply just guessed how fast he was going and kept his fuel tank topped up.
As far as local sporting identities in Albany were concerned Pete was right up there as far as 'Zen Master's' were concerned. Pete not only played tennis at a level that no one else could touch but his teaching of the game was also legendary.
I am pretty sure that Dad knew Pete from the local Golf Club as tennis wasn't his only sport, I heard he could also swing a golf club fairly well. Come to think of it Squash was another of Holmsey's sports and he played this at the highest level also, I watched him play one day, impressive. Dad knew I needed to learn the intricacies of tennis and there was no better man to teach the game locally than Pete.
Now my first introduction to Holmsey was like meeting a Tennis Professional as I had seen him play at my local club and his standard was remarkably high. I also recall his unique way of talking about the game and the manner in which he spoke, he didn't stop ! In fact Pete spoke so fast and so much that a tiny spot of saliva would form at the corner of his mouth as he would rattle off facts and figures. I was without a doubt in awe of his knowledge. I knew he could help me.
I have always stated that it's one thing to be able to hit a tennis ball, it's another to be able to actually play tennis, Peter could do both plus he could teach it better than anyone else by a long way. 
From memory again I believe we initially paid him $12 an hour for him to teach me the finer points of the game which he eventually put up to $15, Pete wasn't in it for the money, obviously. 
That's the one thing that struck me about Pete, he was generous, not in the game for the dollar, it was as though he just did it because he was bloody good at it. Yet he was passionate about it, the way he talked, the way he played and the way he taught the game, he was a man to be respected. 
The trips in his car out to the local tennis club were also educational as he would give me his version of what was going on in World Tennis and how to improve my game. I suppose that even though at the time I didn't realize it I was not only getting taught on court, I was learning the game on the drive to and from the club also.
Pete was teaching me how to play tennis and he did it so well that within maybe 6 to 8 months I could actually give him a decent hit. He always beat me but I made him play plenty of balls.
I am sure I use his philosophies each time I do a lesson now days, you never forget who taught you to play the game and you never forget how you were taught. That tuition if it has substance will always be in the fore front of your mind if you teach it yourself one day. The tactical side of tennis is what will just about always beat the opposition who just have flair without the knowledge. Pete taught me tactics.
Peter Holmes had a remarkably knowledgeable way of teaching tennis and I am disappointed that I was too young at the time to have really appreciated his input into my tennis.
He gave my game substance that without his coaching would only have ever been 'tactical cannon fodder'. Holmsey could walk the walk, talk the talk, he could have made a player out of a card board cut out, genius.........

Thursday, 11 August 2016

'TENNIS, A RICH PERSON'S SPORT'

As I finish chapter after chapter on my book I continually come up with fresh ideas and even more relevant examples of what could be improved in the sport of tennis. The following post is not from my book word for word but you will see where I am coming from.
I do have a chapter however in my book that is dedicated to the expenses of a tennis pro....  
The recent post on the ATP site in regards to Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic is one of those typical tennis stories that have you both proud of the man himself yet almost angry at the sport and the way in which it is run. Victor didn't even turn pro until he turned 26 years of age, Borg was the same age when he retired.
The reason the inspirational little man from the Caribbean didn't turn pro earlier was because he couldn't afford to, pretty simple really. The article begs the question, what if he had the funding to turn pro as a teenager or in his early twenties at least ? Many what if's with Victor Estrella Burgos.
I wrote a post on my site quite some time ago about this man because I was taken back by his desire to earn his spot in the Tennis World amongst the big guns albeit as a 'veteran' right from the very start.
I believe the yearly expenses of a tennis pro add up to almost $150,000 including coaching also which means that three grand is needed per week just to make ends meet. Now that figure has not been plucked from thin air, it appears to be a fact.
The USTA has stated that it costs around $143,000 per year to fund the life of a Pro Tennis player however that figure could actually be halved by some. Apparently it costs $70,000 alone just to fund a travelling coach for the year so if you are a struggling player you may not even consider a coach. It's tough however to get better if you don't have someone analysing your matches and explaining where the improvement needs to happen.
I have always been rather bemused at the ever increasing prize money at the Grand Slams in particular as I am sure that all players would be more than happy with a 'capped' two million for a title win. Yet each year we read on in awe of the three or four million dollar first prize for a Grand Slam win which is more than an average Lotto win in the land of Oz.
I have often stated that I firmly believe the next Novak is sliding around on a clay court somewhere in an obscure South American Challenger event relying on a semi final showing just to break even for the week. The pressure to perform would be nothing short of enormous. Some say that it's the nature of the sport where only the strongest survive but I disagree with that.
If you have bucket loads of money you do not have to make the semis each time you play because you have a financial back up and no pressure as far as a time frame is concerned. Look at Victor's circumstances, he saved his coaching money and received nothing else to help him speed up the process of getting him on tour.
That to me is a blight on the entire tennis system that boasts $100,000,000 on Novak's prize money account now days, ( Before Tax of course ).
Unless you are a 'once in a generation' talent such as Zverev or Coric you will scratch around for years on the Challenger Circuit earning the equivalent some weeks of a Check Out chick's K Mart wage.
You know what I would love to see one day ? I know this is a real pipe dream but a portion of the Grand Slam title winner's purse to go into a fund to help the struggling future of the game simply make ends meet. Whip out a hundred grand before the cheque is even written, he won't even notice it's gone.
Victor Estrella Burgos is a man who could have been a top twenty player if he had the funds to support himself at an earlier age, no risk whatsoever. It is inspiring to read his story and how he will do his best to make sure in his Country at least the youth of the sport do not struggle like he had to.
As one last example that I believe to be most relevant, when Victor was just 23 he defeated a then 18 year old Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in three straight sets in a Davis Cup match. Victor was ranked 1,110. No that isn't a mis print, ONE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED AND TEN. Cuevas sits currently at World Number 21.
As Victor says on the ATP World Tour site, he had the ability, just not the finances to make it happen. A rich person's sport indeed is tennis........

Monday, 1 August 2016

'TO REITERATE'

The snippet from my book that I posted just recently about individuality in tennis has just been backed up in a piece from a book I am currently reading.
Gene Scott is a former Davis Cup player for the US and this is what he had to say about the great Bjorn Borg.

'There is a standard litany offered by instructors when Borg's name is brought up. 'No one else can play the way he does', or 'I'd never try to teach Bjorn Borg's strokes'. Because the Swede's strokes are unorthodox and he was, to a large extent, self taught, tennis teachers cringe at the prospect of their students imitating Borg's style.
That is a commentary about the reactionary mentality of teaching pros more than anything else. The fact that Borg has won four French Opens ( considered by experts as the World's clay court championships and the game's most gruelling test ) and four Wimbledons in a row should mean that he must be doing something right and that there is something for the rest of the tennis world to learn from him'.
Gene Scott
Written in 1979-1980 during the dominance of World Tennis by Borg.

As I wrote earlier, there is no set way to hit a tennis ball, rather it is more a necessity for a player to be comfortable with their game providing it is effective enough to be competitive. That is where the tactical side of tennis must be explored in detail, perhaps even more so than the way a player hits a ball.
I believe that makes sense. My book has plenty of this sort of dialogue in it. I love delving into the nuts and bolts of it all now days as the desire to play has subsided with my old age.
I knew there was more to this game than trying to still compete with the youth of today.......