Friday, 28 October 2016

'THANKS FOR TUNING IN'

As always I send out a big thank you to those who read this site and in particular for those of you who have taken the time to read my book 'Delusions of Grandeur'.
The book is dear to me as it retraces most of the steps that I have taken in tennis from a 12 year old kid to a 47 year old who still gets a kick out of playing occasionally but who focuses more time on teaching the game now days. 
Like the old adage goes, 'you are a long time retired', so I suppose I drained every ounce out of my ageing legs and played every local tournament I could while I was fit and willing. There's plenty of time to coach, not so much time to play, fact of life.
In case I have forgotten to say thanks to an old mate of mine I will do so now. To Pete Rundle who partnered me in the Albany Open Mens Doubles two years ago, thanks heaps mate as it was officially my last local tournament due to a buggered wrist and a knee that simply doesn't run fast enough anymore.
Legend Pete, thanks for 'carrying' me.
So to coaching, it's funny but I always preferred to play the game than coach but now that the body is no longer able to do what it used to it's a natural thing to focus more on tuition.  I can still run the young players around when we play points though as you find ways to outsmart your opponent as you age in tennis, you only get smarter in this sport, trust me.....
The Wheat belt coaching sessions are nothing short of inspiring as the breed of player in those small towns have a desire to hit a tennis ball that you don't see every day of the week, they quite simply love it and they remind me of the Tambellup kids of 2006.
My good mate and Albany Open partner of 2012 Dave Bignall and I taught a group of kids at the Tambellup Tennis Club that I swear were the best group of kids I have ever seen for two seasons. They hit balls to Dave and myself that you would swear were being hit by 16 year olds and they were just 11 and 12 years of age at the time. No fear....
Now that the body has resigned itself to just teaching the game I have been working on some tactical improvement sessions as the years have taught me one thing in particular, it's all very well to keep refining technique however that part of the game is useless unless you know how to put it into a match.
This season is a little different for me, I am no longer chasing a title, I am simply chasing the improvement in players from the regions that I am teaching the game in and I am focused on giving a player some ideas to help them think their way through a match.
My tournament play however over 35 years has put me in good stead to guide the youngsters and the 'experienced' tennis players through the difficult times in tennis and by that I simply mean the mind games that go with the sport.
Anyone can hit a tennis ball, very few actually know what to do with it, that's where us 'old blokes' fit in.
I look forward to seeing you on court this season, thanks for tuning in.......

Sunday, 23 October 2016

'WORK THIS OUT' ( YMER BROTHERS )

I have always been fond of Swedish tennis as most of you who read this site are well aware though there is a current tournament being played in Stockholm that has two rising Swedish stars defying all kinds of logic.
Two brothers by the name of Mikael and Elias Ymer have made it through to the final of the Mens Doubles event at age 18 and 20 though that's not the only thing that I find remarkable about these two players.
It has been well documented that the average age of a current successful male tennis pro is around 25-27 years of age but what I find so infectious about these two brothers is their rankings. They have a combined current World doubles ranking of over 2000.
Mikael actually does not own a current ranking in doubles though his career high is 1387 which he achieved last year. Elias is currently ranked 954 in Mens doubles so if you do the sums on all of that you should be smart enough to work out that these two really have no place in a World tour final yet they have already taken out teams that have made it inside the World top 20 and even higher.
How is that possible ? Heart. These two are playing in their home town tennis tournament and they are playing at a level that is in fact well above what their rankings suggest.
It reminds me of Rafa at 14 and 15 playing practice sets against his mentor Carlos Moya which did two things, it took Rafa to another level but it also made Moya a better player as he was well aware of a kid breathing down his neck. Does a World number 1 appreciate a teenager belting regular winners past him with almost an attitude that has arrogance written all over it ? It is well documented that Rafa and Carlos made each other better, despite their age and difference in experience.
Whether the Ymer brothers win the doubles event in Stockholm tonight is almost irrelevant, the fact that they are defying tennis logic by even winning a round let alone making it to the final is inspiring for any budding tennis professional.
For the record, Elias has earned just shy of 100 grand so far this year but Mikael, well, he has pocketed what most council rubbish truck drivers take home in a month, 4 grand. Maybe that's before tax.
Silly sport tennis, it keeps dishing up stories that keep guys like myself scratching their heads in bewilderment at just what makes sense and what doesn't. It's a sport that can defy logic or it can have us 'experts' saying things like 'yeah that was always going to happen'........

****** FOR THE RECORD******
The Swedish duo won the final against Pavic and Venus by the score of 6-1, 6-1 in 51 minutes. What planet were those two on do you think ??
Quite remarkably the Ymer brothers came back from 6-9 in the final set super tie breaker to win it 11-9 in the first round.
Splitting around 30,000 Euros may just pay for a few expenses for a couple of battlers who have earned what Federer probably has as loose change in his car glove box.
Swedish tennis hasn't had a lot to smile about in recent years, these two lads may just be the start of something special once again.....

Saturday, 22 October 2016

'TENNIS'


What do you think goes through the mind of a 50 plus seasoned tennis addict on his way to the 'hallowed' courts that forge his reputation locally and that gives him his weekly shot of adrenalin that makes him walk tall on Monday morning after being undefeated in his 5 or 6 sets that he plays as though his life depends on it ?
What goes through the mind of a kid as he walks through the gate the first time at his local singles tournament after doing 'everything possible' in his training routine which included around three hours per week of 'high quality' training that he believed would put him in good stead to take home the title ?
What of the Challenger Circuit player who put in 33 hours training the week prior to an event which would ultimately decide whether or not he slept on the floor in a foyer of a motel or in the 'luxury' of an apartment that owned a bed with springs in it ?
What of the number 100 ranked pro in the World who may just own a two handed backhand that looks just as good as the guy ranked World number 20 yet doesn't quite own enough 'grey matter' to take home a weekly pay cheque that some people take a year to earn ?
What of guys like Jimmy Connors who won over 100 tour singles titles and now simply cannot rest at night until he makes one last great decision which may just include a coaching gig with a very loud Aussie in need of a mentor who knows the game better than he perhaps ever will ?
What is it about the sport of tennis that makes even a current World number 1 smash his racket into that many pieces it now resembles something that went through a tree lopping process plant ?
Would it be that tennis is a sport that has such an air of importance about it that it consumes that starry-eyed kid or the 50 plus club competitor, the Challenger circuit player or the guy ranked 100 in the World to such an extent that it can become that way of life that I described once as that surfer looking for that perfect wave ? Absolutely.
Tennis is indeed that type of sport because it is one that tests the mind from the moment that kid picks up that racket and starts hitting on that brick wall to the day that Jimmy Connors decides that he still has unfinished business in the game despite a record that will surely never be beaten no matter who comes along in the years ahead.
Tennis is a sport that unfortunately for some is like a drug addict who first has a hit then decides that the feeling is way too good to simply palm it off as something that he can do without. Tennis is something that is so ridiculously addictive that not playing on a Saturday afternoon in 'sleepy hollow' because the weather has not been kind drives a player insane because he is in need of that 'hit' of adrenalin that golf simply won't do for him. Why ? 
Because there is too much time spent between golf shots talking about wives, girlfriends, drinking and punting that could be spent being involved in the 'year's best club tennis rally' that draws murmurs from the crowd at the sheer magnitude of the technical brilliance put on show for all in sleepy hollow to witness.
Tennis is something that personally I have tried to forget over the years for one reason or another yet lucky for me I still own a couple of mates who still want to have the occasional hit and even though I curse them on my reply from my text I do so with a wry smile because deep down I know that I am going to still give it my best shot despite a dicky wrist and a knee that limps more now days than walks with importance.
So tomorrow morning on my drive to the local tennis club I will be in 'battle mode' as I go through the suitcase in my mind searching for shots that used to get me the occasional win here and there and the odd topspin lob that for some silly reason will still go down as my favourite shot. Why ? Because it confuses the opposition, that's why, and there is nothing more satisfying than watching two opponents in doubles looking at each other and asking the question " Wasn't that yours " ? !
That's what tennis is all about, finding a way to out think the opposition down the other end.
Every player has their own personal way of hitting a ball, their own set of tactics that will not change despite their doubles partner getting in their ear and telling them that sitting on the baseline while they go to the net really does defeat the purpose of the 'net attack' in the two on two format. 
Now that's what makes the sport so unique, we are all born with our own silly quirks that we are happy with despite whether anyone else is and it's why we keep playing and it's why Jimmy Connors wants to mentor Nick Kyrgios because it's an almighty challenge just like trying to win 5 or 6 sets on Saturday afternoon at the local.
Silly sport tennis..........


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

'THE BOOK'

Even though I would not call it a conventional 'book', the previous 76 published posts on this site are the culmination of 35 years of tennis and around three years of writing. My head has been a tin of worms for as long as I can remember, still is, but I have finally put together a personal story that has somewhat relieved the tension.
I will continue to write on this site, I will continue to piss people off who do not agree with me however it is simply a point of view, a view point, hence the name of this site. Tennis is like that and for those who have been out of their back yards to experience Paris in the Spring and a tournament or two against European clay court gurus you will perhaps understand both my book and me a little better than most.
I am proud of my 'book', not everyone has written one and perhaps one day when I can afford to I will put it all on paper and send it to all my tennis buddies who I grew up playing the game with. One day........

P.s  Call me superstitious if you like but my book has 76 published posts and was finished on October 18. My hero Borg won his first Grand Slam in Paris as an 18 year old and won his first Wimbledon in '76.
Told you my head was like a tin of worms...... 

'AFTER TENNIS' ( FINAL POST ) 76


I currently work for Australia Post and do occasional forays to country towns where I still teach the game as best as I know how, without the gimmicks and with a realistic approach. Never do many weeks go by where I don't think about what I could have done to make myself either a better player or a better person but I chose a sport with a one in a million success rate.
Tennis made me into the person who I am today, among other things, argumentative.
My days of wagging school to play tennis when I should have been learning caught up with me when I made my first attempt at getting a 'real job'. I lacked intelligence and common sense because I put all of my eggs into one basket and hoped for the best. I even tried gambling for many years as to me it was simply a throw back from a failed tennis career. After all it was a punt of epic proportions was it not to try and make the pro ranks ?
Gambling was a way to take my mind off the real World where an everyday job simply didn't do it for me. I wanted some excitement, the sort that has an adrenalin rush, like hitting a tennis shot to perfection. Working a 9 to 5 does not stimulate someone who has relied on those types of things in his life for a long period of time.
A while back I caught up with an ex Pro, a guy who once beat a former World number 1 in the 90's, one of the biggest wins of that era. I knew him from Queensland. We hit some balls and we talked tennis. The game has done a number on him as he struggles with society so he now does his best to stay away from it. I related to his battles. He has since found something else to keep him amused now days though it is not work, simply a past time.
The sport of tennis is not one that I teach my own kids though they can all play. I once had a 50 shot rally with my eldest son and my daughter made the Interschool tennis team three years straight but I do not offer any of them tennis lessons. I do not want them to become good at it just because they think they should as their Dad can play.
If they asked me I would teach them but just for fun and not for anything else. I would not enjoy watching them play a tennis tournament because it would bring back too many memories of my battles with the game, more so mentally than anything else.
I do not hate tennis, it has been good to me in many ways, I simply am wary of the process that it involves and the path it can take some kids down because in reality the success rate is minimal and the odds aren't good. Too many other issues go hand in hand with tennis and a failed education is just one of them.
If a kid decides early on that tennis is what they want to do it's tough to have a normal life because training will take up time that most kids spend going to the beach and riding their bikes.
If a kid puts all of their time into tennis and goes down that path it requires an outrageous amount of discipline so naturally other things will fall by the way side. Mates and an education are just two of them but you also have to look at the mind set of a kid who is totally focused on the pro ranks. Is that the mind set you are comfortable with your kid owning at an age that should be spent simply enjoying being a kid ? 
I have been through that type of mind set as a kid, a teenager, a young adult and it cost me a 'normal' life, one that could have involved more time with mates and girlfriends that you never get a second chance at. You don't get two shots at a childhood.
I saw some old mates still battling on the Challenger Circuit five years after I accepted that I was not good enough to make a living out of it.
Did I cringe at their perseverance ? No, I admired them for it yet I had my reservations as to just what it was still costing them both financially and mentally.
The Challenger Circuit unless you are winning on it regularly will pay you 'peanuts' and I know how good those guys are who play it, they are bloody good, yet not good enough. Where do you find money from if you aren't regularly winning ?
When I teach tennis now days I do not do anything but help a player reach potential. I do not offer a student a series of events to enter, I do not offer a program to help them become a red hot player, I simply offer them a chance to become a better player. I previously mentioned I work just as much on teaching a student HOW TO PLAY TENNIS as I do teaching them how to hit a ball as most know they are two things that must go hand in hand.
I am not a Tennis Coach who commands a 'regular' fee per hour because I do not do it for a living so therefore I may appear to some as 'cheap' but I am not about to put an hourly rate up just so it gives the public an impression of 'Wow he's expensive, he must be good'. I will leave that to the self confessed Zen Masters who swear by their tuition.
I have seen much in tennis, a European tournament circuit that leaves someone under no illusions as to just how good you must become if you want to make a career out of it. I have trained full time which was a tough gig both mentally and physically yet it once again gave me a realistic way to now days look at the game.
Both of those experiences gave me a view on the sport that I would not trade for any hourly rate offered to me to teach it. Without perspective how do we as tennis coaches really know how to teach the game with any real substance ?
You can turn up to a lesson in a flash car, bright clothes and racket to match with an hourly rate that has 'Master Coach' written all over it or you can teach the game with your mind as the key factor. The gimmicks are irrelevant to someone who knows what is required to become successful at it.
I do not consider my level of tennis knowledge to be by any means outstanding yet I feel that it is high enough to offer some advice that may just help someone become not only a better player but a smarter one.
I am glad I learned tennis, I am glad I became a Tennis Coach but if I had the chance to go back and do some things differently, well, I am  sure I am not alone in that respect. I will continue to teach tennis and I will continue to do it at a rate I am comfortable with and one that does not have 'self importance' written all over it.
I will also keep writing about tennis and who knows I may just one day find peace with this silly sport that is on most occasions a battle of the mind  more so than with the person down the other end.
I wish you all the best with your tennis in the future and I hope you make the right decisions in life just like you are required to do in a match to become successful at it.
Glenn Thompson
'DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR'
Written over three years, put together on 'Glenn Thompson Tennis View Point' in October 2016.
Thanks for reading it.....
Regards Glenn T.

'A VICTIM OF A DREAM' ( 75 )



Sometimes I feel that with tennis I was a victim of a dream, just like thousands before me and many thousands after me. What really were the chances of me becoming a World class Pro tennis player ? Why didn't someone give me a book of odds before I started my ridiculous quest ?
I believe that I was not the only one who ended up mentally scarred from the whole silly idea.
What of my poor parents ? I mean that in two respects, I drained their bank accounts for years in my quest to become a professional tennis player with no thought of guilt towards what it was in fact costing them. The mental drain on their minds was also immense as after all surely they also knew that I was chasing a needle in a haystack type of dream.
Perhaps that is why I never encouraged my own children to play more than the seasonal group lessons that their friends participated in at the local tennis club. I never once offered them one on one lessons as I knew the ramifications of improvement. It was as though I was frightened of them becoming good at it. I am certain that with my knowledge on the game that I could have given them some handy skills that could have at least been tested locally, yet I didn't. I am glad I didn't.
I did not want my kids to experience what I did when I was around their age as I knew there was a lot more to life than confining it to a sporting dedication. I liked the idea of team sports for my three because you can share the workload and experience the highs and lows together, unlike tennis.
It is your fault if you lose and it is a feeling of helplessness if you do not achieve a win because most times it will be your head that lets you down and not your shots. It plays on the mind particularly at a young age and it is tough to deal with.
Tennis can affect the mind of a kid outside of a tennis court because the sport asks you so many questions and it is impossible to come up with enough correct answers on a consistent basis. Tennis is a sport that can drive a sane person insane, no risk.
My parents rode the highs and they rode many lows with me, they felt my pain when I lost and they surely knew what the game was doing to me, it was turning me into someone who had no real grasp on reality. They allowed me to chase a dream and they funded that dream yet surely they knew the odds that are so well documented now these days. Back when I was a starry- eyed kid I had no idea and basically believed that I was THE ONE.
I was naïve enough to believe that my game had enough substance to break through the packs of players who all had the same dream and better shots than I did. Was it pure ignorance on my behalf ? Was I simply afraid of main stream society where real people had real jobs and received a real pay cheque at the end of it all ? Most probably.
I was a victim of something I refer to as 'Head up one's own arse syndrome', that was me in a nutshell. I was a selfish minded kid who hated school work and who was looking for another way out of the real World of robotic like behaviour. I was one of the dumbest guys at school because when I was there I simply dreamed about tennis, school work was not a priority. I left most days at lunchtime to go and play tennis, that's not a way to gain intelligence in life.
I used to watch Borg play at Wimbledon and it was like watching a Rock Star mesmerise a crowd of adoring fans. Borg was the reason I picked up a racket, I wanted to be like him as he was larger than life. I read his book when I was 12 and I made up my mind that the lifestyle he lead was one that I dreamed of replicating.
Tennis offers wealth, stardom, immortality of the mind, it offers a lifestyle that we see right before our eyes when we watch the sport on television. Marat Safin took it to a whole new level one year at the Australian Open where his 'team' up in the stands was a bevy of beauties who he apparently was 'hiring' for the fortnight. How can that sort of lifestyle  not be appealing ?! 
We see that type of thing as all part of the deal with tennis yet how many players can boast enough earning capacity to fund a lifestyle that could only be likened to that of a Mexican Drug cartel ?
I was a victim of a dream that could only be described as fanciful, a dream that was never going to become a reality because of the ridiculously tough nature of it. I put my parents through years of torment not only during tennis but after it ceased. What does a washed up tennis junkie do after he realizes that his game is not good enough ? Coach ? It's what many do yet I was wary of coaching for many reasons but the main concern was that I would never see the World outside of a tennis court.
Teaching tennis to me was an obvious choice after a failed playing career but that was almost too easy, I wanted to do something away from tennis yet I did not own a qualification to warrant me even applying for anything.
Remember the song by legendary Australian Rock Band Men at Work called 'Be Good Johnny' ? The lyrics sum it up beautifully, 'Tell me, what kind of boy are you John' ? 'I ONLY LIKE DREAMING, ALL THE DAY LONG.......
That was me in a nutshell, someone who dreamed of playing a sport for a living, perhaps no Robinson Crusoe there once again but it did me no favours later in life......


Sunday, 16 October 2016

'PERSONAL FULFILLMENT' ( 74 )


 After 1991 I never once played a tennis match for enjoyment because quite frankly I didn't enjoy a hit and giggle, I had to win at all costs. I never played a tournament for fun, I played to win it and if I didn't win it then I still went through the same thought process ' Why can't I replicate in a match what I can do in practice and how I know I can hit a ball when the 'pressure' is off.
You see I still put pressure on myself to play a local tennis competition as I knew no other way of playing, the days of playing for enjoyment quite possibly ceased at age 16 when I decided that the sport was all I wanted to do.
How many ex pros actually openly say that they hate the game now ? Sure I was no pro but I probably put in as many hours training as they did. Tennis I believe is not a sport that one day you just say to yourself after years of battling the tournament scene 'Ok I will now just play this for fun'.
I would be surprised if there were a high percentage of ex tournament players that actually owned that frame of mind, the one that could block out everything that ever happened in the past and simply play it for leisure without having to win.
Why does tennis own that sort of aura in regards to many past players walking away from it never to return ? I believe that it's not the physical side of it because it's a fantastic sport for fitness and I don't believe it can be the feel of striking a ball with a racket in hand because that in itself is enjoyable. Just like a round of golf, it's fun to actually strike a ball, a sense of achievement when your timing comes together. So what is it then ?
Personally I feel that it's the reminder of a battle ground in the mind that is littered with frustrations of points, matches, losses and feelings that could not be explained, almost like those of a young kid learning what's right and wrong in the World. There is no control in a tennis match, it's up to your opponent what happens, not up to you, if it were then you would have been a successful pro.
Tennis is not unique because all sports can be put in this type of category however the thing that hits you most with tennis is the dimensions of the area in which you must deliver the goods. To me tennis is an enlarged game of ping pong and you are regularly hitting shots in excess of 30 feet  to your opponent with a piece of graphite with strings that are strung to your personal choice of tension. 
How can your mind really be good enough to master hitting hundreds of shots and placing them well enough on a regular basis with the correct spin and speed to beat someone who also possesses the same qualities as you but perhaps a little better ?
As always I liken golf to tennis because of the technical and mental complications of it. Have you ever thought about just how difficult golf is ? You are required to hit a ball into a hole sometimes almost half a kilometre down a fairway with again, that piece of graphite or iron and the sport will not accept just a few good shots to win a match. It is a requirement that the mind stays switched on for an incredibly long period of time to just get through a round of golf or a tennis match, let alone win it.
The mind can crucify a one on one ball player as millions can hit a ball, thousands do it very well, hundreds do it almost to perfection but only a handful own a mind that can deliver their shots with the precision required for success. By success I refer to the upper echelon of the sport who own Bank accounts that some large companies don't even have.
The difficulty with tennis in particular is the split second thinking that must happen to create a game that is good enough to beat your opponent who on most occasions will also own what you do. I believe that if you delve into most pro tour matches you will see exactly that, a fine line between winning and losing, perhaps three or four points in total between the winner and loser. Sometimes the loser will have won more points and games yet still lost the match. That's why tennis can do a number on you.
As always I refer to my own game as one of thousands, an ability to hit a ball reasonably well but without a mind that could have helped my cause. If I play on a court now days with no one else around except for my opponent I feel as though I can almost enjoy the hit but tournament play is a totally different ball game.
A competition brings too many feelings of self questioning that I am no longer interested in trying to find the answers for.

'PRODUCING A CHAMPION' ( 73 )

 Did I ever produce a player who will forever be known as a 'Champion Tennis Player' ? Absolutely not. In my time on a tennis court coaching students of all ages I can honestly say that the success rate was minimal as far as tournament victories were concerned. What I did do though was make it affordable to learn and I never once burned a player out through the actions of too many lessons to either try to speed up the improvement process or for financial gain.
A coach with any clue on the sport of tennis will look at things realistically when it comes to training and court time.
There are many examples of kids burning out at a young age due to coaches offering too many sessions and not looking at the big picture. It isn't entirely the fault of the coach though as parents can often push their 'prodigy' too much too soon.
I once played the final of my local doubles championship with a 16 year old kid who I taught as a seven year old and we played two older kids in the final who I also used to coach. Just being on court in a local tennis tournament final in front of a big crowd with three former students was an absolute thrill although we lost the match.
To me that was a win for my early tuition of those players. Sure they had grown up, been elsewhere, had another coach, given up the game, taken it up again, the usual story with kids however I had an impact into their tennis ability.
My partner that tournament also lost in the final of a City tournament when he was around 13, no big wins yet he was competitive with the best in the State in his age group, same as I was. That sort of thing I suppose gives you heart that your tuition is of substance and not just hype.
To produce a player that goes beyond those type of results and regularly beats the best in the City requires a whole different type of attention, something that never really appealed to me to offer a player. As always, I was wary of the process involved and the mind set of the student required to implement it.
Producing champion tennis players is a tough gig but some put all sorts of pressure on to achieve it, as a coach or a student who believes they have the goods. Some coaches will swear by their process of training a kid five days a week but probably what is happening will not really be doing the kid any favours or their parents' credit card any good. Tennis I believe is a sport where quality will usually prevail against quantity and it needs to be treated with that type of philosophy to keep kids in the game for longer periods of time. If you look at the average age of a tennis professional now days who is making a handy living it is not someone who is in their teen's, it's 28 plus.
Grinding a kid into the ground at age 13, 14 or 15 is not how you create champions, that's how you put a kid off tennis altogether.
Parents also need to be realistic. It's the type of sport which requires all round thinking and not a '5 minute' program which will make the coach rich and the kid worn out.
As the saying goes, 'Patience Grasshopper'.......

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

'THE COST OF LEARNING' ( 72 )


 I wrote countless posts on my Blog taking a swipe at the cost of tennis lessons as I felt that it has spiralled out of both control and reality. I have looked up what our Governing body TA 'recommends' for private tennis lessons and I have to say that I find the recommendation to be nothing short of disappointing.
If you look at the numbers of kids playing tennis in most towns you will notice that they are well behind team sports such as AFL, Soccer, Hockey and Basketball but of course they are team sports and have a cost that is relative to that fact. If your child plays tennis then the cost of a weekly group session will probably be around $15 to $20 for an hour or perhaps two hours depending on the lesson structure.
When I ran group sessions at a local club I charged around $12 for a two hour session for the advanced students which also included 30 minutes of point play after drills and technique work. The Intermediate group were charged pretty much what the beginners were however we gave the Intermediates 90 minutes and the Beginners 75 minutes. Those sessions cost each student $10.
Saturday morning Junior Club was not a real hit amongst the Intermediate and Advanced players yet we would usually fill five of the six courts and offer singles and doubles point play for two and a half hours for $5 per student. So if a kid was interested in playing tennis twice a week it cost less than $20 and they received anything up to four hours on court with both tuition and match play. That's around $160 per School Term for anything between 25 and 32 hours on court over 8 to ten weeks. Was this good value ? I thought so.
As far as private lessons were concerned, well I didn't really push them because most of the students were happy with their modest amount of tennis hours per week however I offered a one on one session for $30 per hour. Why so cheap ? I wasn't coaching full time, the overheads ( court hire, Insurance ) were not astronomical and I wanted my students to learn the sport at a price that their parents would not cringe at. I had some advanced students who regularly booked a one on one session and those sessions would ultimately take those students to the final rounds in junior tournaments locally.
My theory was simple, don't overcharge, believe in your own tuition and the sport takes care of itself in relation to results, word of mouth etc. As previously mentioned I also made a point of competing myself as there is nothing more inspiring for a student than to see or hear that their coach is actively playing and testing themselves.
So what happened to the cost of learning tennis over the years and why is it so expensive ? Well as per usual I have my theories but I believe the one thing that stands out from the rest is 'self importance'. A coach fresh into the fray will naturally go for what they can get and if our governing body recommends $60 to $80 per hour for a 'qualified' coach then what figure do you think that newly 'qualified' coach will command ?
A coaching course will teach someone how to pass down tuition to a student yet it takes years of both playing and coaching to reach a level of competence that can actually mentor someone and teach them the intricacies of a sport such as tennis. Is it right that an 18 year old with minimal tennis knowledge can charge per hour what someone does who would run rings around them as far as knowledge is concerned ? It's where the fun begins.
Why do you think that some coaches in fact charge up to $100 per hour for private tennis lessons ? Once again that's easy to answer, it's because they need to separate themselves from the 'ball hitters' of the sport who say things like 'It's just what the market commands now days'. Self justification is big in tennis as well as self importance. Some will say that their overheads command a hefty hourly rate and in many instances this is a fact but many use that old chestnut to blend in with those who do actually have to charge big to keep their business running.
Tennis Clubs quite often will charge outrageous amounts from the resident coach which is a blight on the sport because if it keeps getting passed down to the consumer then parents will continue to move their kids into team sports which cost little to play. I believe that tennis requires a bit more honesty from everyone when it comes to pricing and a lot less 'follow the leader' type of mentality as it will continue to be known as an 'elitist' sport if the current costing follows the same trend.
Around ten years ago I charged $40 per hour to a Production Company in town to film a mini series for their lead actress to learn how to hit a tennis ball in two sessions. Briony Stewart from the 'Lochie Lennard' series knew less than nothing on how to hit a tennis ball and it took every ounce of patience that I owned to get her up to scratch to film a scene at a local court. I actually felt bad that I charged that much however someone told me that a local surfer was charging $50 per hour for their tuition. The scene went beautifully, Briony looked the part !
I will never conform to either a program recommended to me or a cost suggested by any governing body just so the sport can continue to look like it's one that leads the way in modern sporting trends. To me a lot of tennis is self indulgence and unjustified and I will stick with my 'Dinosaur' methods and pricing that so far have had no complaints about either.
Each to their own.....

'PERCEPTION' ( THE MIND ) ( 71 )



Tuesday, 12 May 2015  ( BLOG POST )


'PERCEPTION'


Perception is the process by which stimulation of the senses is translated into meaningful experience.
Perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting and organizing sensory information. Many cognitive psychologists hold that, as we move about in the World we create a model of how the World works.... (New World Encyclopedia).
Fascinating isn't it as to how we all grasp hold of something that we feel comfortable with but really it is up for debate as to whether or not what we are holding is in fact something that owns substance. 
I have always felt that with a sport such as tennis there are in fact way too many perceptions of what is correct, hence the discrepancy from coach to coach, player to player, pro to pro. So who is correct ?
I have often spoke fondly of Gilbert's perception of the game and how he took an almost waste of talent in Agassi to the best player in the World. I have and always will speak fondly of the Swedes of the 70's and 80's and how they had a perception of the sport that looking back on was not really rocket science.
Bjorn Borg inspired a whole generation of Swedes who pretty much all played the same way from the baseline with perhaps Edberg being the only exception. Borg's perception was basic, don't miss and out rally the opponent. Wilander, Nystrom, Pernfors etc all followed with the same game plan, an almost 'fool proof' game plan that produced many tournament victories.
 Coaching can instil some ideas yet it cannot guarantee success, a common problem that is tough to find answers for. A tennis coach can work all they like with a student yet they cannot teach them how to play tennis without simulated play in practice.
I have seen countless lessons that are a total waste of time except for the cardio workout that could have been so much more yet the coach failed to teach the vital ingredient. That ingredient being a game plan that should come from a knowledgeable tennis coach with a theory or two on how to win a tennis match.
You can rabbit on all you like as a coach, in fact you can talk yourself blue in the face but if you are any sort of 'mentor' of the game then you will have a way of teaching that should include a tactical view on the game that has substance. 
Technique is useless without tactics and tactics are useless without technique so if a player lacks in one of these areas then why would you be teaching anything but the one that lacks progress ?
I have seen countless kids who's perception of tennis was simply to out hit their opponent where having a rally was not on their agenda. My way of dealing with that type of player was simple "Hey Champ have you somewhere else you need to be ? What's the hurry " ?!
So where did that type of perception begin ? Possibly by watching a player in the 'zone' who felt he could regularly hit a one dollar coin on the other side of the net and who owned no fear whatsoever in regards to winning or losing.
My earliest perception of tennis was in fact to look for the opponent and actually hit it back to them ! ( I thought that's how a tennis match was played. ) 
Borg did it in the 70's against Vilas and Lendl to such a crazy extent that some of their rallies would be regularly 50, 60, 70 shots, particularly on the clay. Dad saw what I was doing on court one day and explained that I in fact had to hit the ball AWAY from my opponent. ( That made a difference )
I am certain that Jonny Mac's perception was to break the rhythm of a player, never allow the same shot to be played twice and rush them into making errors. 
Perception in tennis quite possibly is the one thing that prevents a good player from becoming a very, very good player. If a student of the sport has no idea of what it is that they are supposed to be doing to win enough points to secure a match then surely that area of their game has been neglected. 
The best tennis players in the World are the best thinkers, not necessarily the best ball strikers. They are the ones who have been taught to think about each shot and how to construct their points with purpose rather than just going out and hoping their opponent will miss more than them.
Tennis is a sport that needs feel, not unlike a surfer who knows when to stand up on the board when the wave is about to peak. It's a sport which requires instinct and an ability to understand a situation, like a boxer needing to duck a right hook before it's too late. 
Tennis is a sport that without perception is like a famous quote from Edward de Bono....
"Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic".
A thinking man's game is tennis but it's all how you perceive the task in front of you.......

'STRUCTURE' ( 70 )


Saturday, 25 April 2015  ( BLOG POST )

'STRUCTURE'

It's no secret that my influences from tennis stem from the late 70's and early 80's, even through to perhaps 1990, after that well I really didn't care too much, the game changed. From the Swedish domination of Borg, Wilander, Edberg etc to the emergence of Agassi in '88 the game saw some classic matches and some real characters, players who left a lasting impression.
I remember some matches vividly where some players had styles that almost resembled robots like Lendl, even Borg, two players who sat on the baseline and simply waited for the opposition to miss or 'commit suicide' by coming to the net. These guys owned a structured game that took an amazing amount of discipline to implement day in, day out, it's why they became so successful. They didn't really own a Plan B, they had such a good Plan A that not too many players could infiltrate so they stuck with what they knew best. Fascinating to watch a player that good.
I have been meaning to read the Brad Gilbert book titled 'Winning Ugly', a book about 'Mental warfare in the game of Tennis' however I have not had the pleasure so far. I have though read some snippets of it and it typifies the sort of player Gilbert was, a genius. The man who took Andre Agassi from almost a waste of talent to the World's best player had a unique style of his own that could only be described as 'unconventional'.
Brad Gilbert would dish the best players up all sorts of things like short sliced balls, high looping topspin balls, balls with no pace and he would also mix the play up with net advances just to dispel the theory that he was perhaps a baseliner. In other words Gilbert gave his opponents 'nothing'. The American had a nasty habit of almost 'poking' balls back into court with just a breath of wind on them especially from his backhand and then ripping the next ball past his incoming opponent.
Brad Gilbert had an uncanny knack of almost lulling opponents into a false sense of security not unlike the great Czech Miloslav Mecir who could also put an opponent to sleep then wake them rather rudely. How Andre Agassi found Brad Gilbert was nothing short of a master stroke but it worked to perfection, two contrasting players, a genius with no weapons and a player with many weapons who was no genius. 
The win by Gilbert at the 1987 US Open against Boris Becker in the round of 16 will go down as one of the all time great upsets in New York as Gilbert was seeded 13, Becker 4. What made the win even more remarkable was that Becker won the first two sets, he was all over Gilbert but the unconventional American had a structure to his game that was all about self discipline, just as Borg's and Lendl's was.
With winnings of over five and a half million dollars, a highest ranking of 4 in singles and an intelligence that attracted a player of Andre Agassi's standard it is no wonder that Brad Gilbert was destined for success in coaching when he finished playing professionally in 1995.  
In fact in 1992 just two years before he started helping Agassi he belted his future student 6-1, 6-2 in Paris when Andre was ranked 8 in the World, perhaps a match that stuck in Agassi's mind regarding talents versus brains.
Some days when I see kids play the game it seems to be all about the ego and how to out hit an opponent who is playing big shots, much of it lacks thought. If you have ever seen Gilbert play it surely will remind you that tennis can still be won now days without the glamour if certain structures are put into play from the outset.
Watching the AFL matches each weekend it is noticeable that the best sides have a discipline about them that at times seems ridiculously effective. When these teams are on song it is almost like they have an extra man or two on the field and it has opposition coaches scratching their heads at ways to break the structure.
It is one thing to offer a style of play by a coach but it is another totally different thing for a player or team to implement it. So it begs the question once again.
As a coach of a sport are you teaching tactics just as much as you are teaching technique or are you simply hoping that when they come up against another good player they will simply have a better day than their opponent ? When two juniors come up against one another with no game plan but similar styles then who will win ? It's a raffle, correct me if I am wrong.
If however a player has certain structures in place and can implement a Plan B as well as a preferred Plan A then they will go a long way to winning against a player who doesn't own the ability to keep thinking when in trouble.
Brad Gilbert had no weapons, no glamour and no obvious physical advantages yet he beat players in the Top 10 on 27 different occasions. How is that possible ?  Simple, he owned a mind that outweighed his deficiencies in the way he hit the ball. That's tennis for you, anyone can hit a ball, it's what you do with it that matters.... 

'A BAGEL OR TWO' ( 69 )


Tennis is a funny sport and some players are a little more ruthless than others when it comes to limiting the opposition to scoring. I remember my first tournament at 12 years of age at the Albany Junior Open and I received a belting even though it was only one set matches until the finals. I did not win a game against the best player in my age division in a first round demolition. I learned from that.
Tennis however is a sport that unless you lack common sense you will only learn from a loss and you will find a way to gain respectability on the score board even if you don't win. Sometimes it comes down to self respect even if your ability is by far outweighed by a much better opponent and plan B or C can often win a few points which can ultimately turn into games.
Take for instance a 6-2, 6-2 loss, on paper it looks like a smashing but 4 games can bring a vanquished player back for another dose of the tough stuff in the next tournament. Those 4 games show heart despite a one sided victory by a player who simply was way too good. Let's look at it in another way; If someone was to say to a player, 'you are no where near this guy's ability but you have nothing to lose', then wouldn't it be an opportunity for someone to hit out and try some things that they wouldn't normally attempt in most matches ?
Perhaps this may be the case with a player who has been taught an A, B or even C game but a player who has only been shown one style can only hope for that to be good enough on the day. 'A' games are every players' dream however in reality most players will need something other than just one train of thought to win a tennis match.
I often wondered what became of the Swede Stefan Eriksson who qualified for the US Open in 1986, the French Open in '86 and '87 and Wimbledon in 1987. Eriksson also won a Challenger event in '87 in France and was runner up to former top ten fellow Swede Jonas Svensson in a Grand Prix event in Cologne, West Germany in 1986. Stefan Eriksson was basically a tennis 'nobody' yet he could play the game, that's obvious.
Yet in his Wimbledon debut in 1987 he drew Swedish legend Stefan Edberg who was one of those ruthless tennis players that I mentioned earlier, a player not interested in winning 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, he wanted the triple bagel. This particular match was the first time for around 40 years that a triple bagel was dished out to a rather unfortunate player who was good enough to qualify for the calendar's most prestigious event.
Stefan Edberg defeated Stefan Eriksson 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in 1987 and it is a record that still stands despite some beltings given to players' since then.
So how did that happen ? At pro level you would imagine that most players would be good enough to at least win a few games against the superstars, it's not really possible to shut a player out of a tennis match, or is it ? I often refer to our own code here in Australia, AFL, our home grown sport which often highlights defensive type skills of certain teams.  
Some teams are happy to win with 10 goals as long as their opposition only scores 5 or 6. Other teams go for the ego type of game plan, say 18 goals to 12, they are happy to let through a few just as long as they score more in the end.
I am certain however that even when an AFL team loses they are looking at some positives and if they lose with 18 goals against then 12 goals for will give them some heart and some positives for the following week. An 18 to 6 goal score line obviously will not leave a team or coach for that matter with many positives to look at.
So to my conclusion; A double bagel is unacceptable, that's not even turning up, physically or mentally, 6-2, 6-2 is still a whitewash but it leaves the mind something to work with. A player needs to work with their coach on finding ways to hang in there even after a first set belting. Good players will often lose 6-1, 7-5 or 6-0, 7-6 because they have more than one way of playing tennis.
The sport where you are trying to out hit your opponent isn't necessarily a sport where power will eventually win the day, it may come down to a little finesse as opposed to belting the cover off the ball.
Tennis is all about thinking, if you can't think your way through a match then you may as well take up something that doesn't require thought.
Maybe fishing.......

'NO EXPECTATION, NO FEAR' ( 68 )



Thursday, 22 May 2014

'NO EXPECTATION, NO FEAR'

Remember that game of golf you played when you shot one of the best rounds of your life ? Was it after a break of a few weeks, even months ? Why did you play so well? No expectation , no fear. Make sense?
My Dad was the best golfer in town for years, he won the local championship when i was 9, he regularly could go round in par , even under, he once hit 32 on the back 9 at Albany, possibly still a record. We played  in Perth at the Wembley Golf Club one year, 9 holes , I simply was happy to get within 9 shots, I was going to call it a 'moral victory' if I did. The par was 35, a shorter 9 holes , the greatest round of golf I have ever played . Usually I would shoot a bogey a hole or perhaps 5 over was my best, but this particular day something happened with my golf that I have never revisited.
We both shot 35, I expected that score from Dad because he was a brilliant golfer, but me , well I can't explain it. I am not sure whether it was no fear and no expectation or simply that I was after some respect. So what's the point? 
If you play a game of tennis with no expectations then what have you got to lose? It's amazing how many players go to water when they look at the draw and see a number that is next to their name that is a number that apparently gives them a chance to win the tournament. If a player is seeded, there is expectation , not just from the player , but from friends, family, players and the tournament committee , there is pressure.
What happens though in a round robin event where seeds are not as intimidating as if you draw one in a knockout comp and a player adopts a mind set of 'no expectation, no fear'? 
Well that's easy to answer, that's when a player will play his best , they will play with flair and perhaps even reckless abandon  because that's how they can actually play when they practice. I have not only played my best golf when i wasn't placing any expectations on myself but I have played my best tennis after a long lay off .  
So what is it with tennis, golf and a body and mind that is as loose as a bloke that has been to a pub and has had 4 pints of the finest ale? 
Whether you have either not played for a while or are playing the number one seed in the first round , ask yourself "where is the pressure"? If you don't place any on yourself then surely you can swing as free as that bloke who just drank 4 pints. In fact , have you ever played tennis after a few ales? No fear whatsoever......
At 2 sets to love and 4 all 40 love on his own serve in the 2004 French Open final Guillermo Coria had already written his speech in his head, the rest is history. His opponent Gaston Gaudio had about as much to lose as a broke gambler at a casino, why not roll the dice?
The best golf game you will ever play is the one where you just go for broke and hit it like you simply don't care what your score is going to be. The guy trying to protect his handicap is the guy you will beat easily.
The best game of tennis you have played or perhaps will play in the future is the one where you will just turn up , keep swinging and most importantly not be thinking about the winner's speech at the end. This game isn't that hard really, our minds are the problem , not our shots.......

Monday, 10 October 2016

'ANXIETY AND FEAR OF FAILURE' ( 67 )



ANXIETY ( A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome)
This is a real issue in sports people of any age but it may be the difference as to whether a kid who plays tennis can take their game to the required level to achieve success. As a tennis coach I have seen many things on a court that I could on most occasions liken to my own play as a kid learning the game. I recall some days barely being able to hold my racket or move without feeling as though my legs were lead weights and my stomach constantly churned. So what is it with tennis and anxiety?
It may have a lot to do with the pressure that has been put on the child by parents, friends or even by the child themselves as they strive for a goal , a personal goal. There are no other people to blame for a loss when all is said and done. It's that horrible feeling of 'I failed, I should have won , how could I lose that?,   I am pathetic'. It's just that sort of game. 
I firmly believe that anxiety in my adult life stemmed from my days of junior tennis that had me at times feeling so nervous that I could not perform the way that either I knew I could or knew I should be, a feeling of helplessness. Hours spent practicing the game usually accounted for nothing as some days I would give a shadow of the person that I knew I could deliver on a tennis court. After some matches I literally hated myself and I would hate the game too , so why didn't I give up? The challenge, always the challenge.
Tennis is a sport that is really only a mental battle if you are fit , because let's face it , if you are technically sound , fit and have no physical defects then playing tennis should really just be about putting the ball in play and out thinking your opponent. Pretty simple really, so why isn't it?
Fear of failure in a one on one sport can over ride your ability to perform at the level you know you have when you hit against a ball machine, on club days, against a mate, or even perhaps against the kids you teach, so why is this? You will never beat a ball machine so you have nothing to lose , there is no point trying to beat it so you just try to not embarrass yourself, it's a pride thing. If the machine spits out 50 balls in a sequence of side to side hitting then and you get 50 back into play well you didn't technically beat it but you matched it, you feel good about this. 
If you have a hit against fellow club players on a Saturday afternoon then there is no real pressure and you swing freely , with no fear , some of your shots will be quite remarkable but you have these shots , you just aren't prepared to release them in a tournament for fear of missing .
If you play against either your mates or the students you teach then chances are you will be better than them so in a sometimes egotistical way you inadvertently 'show off' your skills , again , with no fear of missing. 
So when we take on a machine or our mates or our students there is no anxiety, no fear of failure , no tight muscles , no nervousness , we are in complete control of both the situation and our ability to play the game of tennis. However when we are thrust into the spotlight in a tennis tournament against an opponent who has two arms, two legs , just the same as us , for some reason things change. 
Being nervous at the start of a match in particular can cost you the match , even if after a weak first set you come back in the second and play the way you want to and know you can play.
How many times have you read a score line of 6-1, 7-6? That's typical of a player who really 'didn't turn up'  in the first set but by the time he had lost the first set , the anxiety had gone and he was able to play his natural game. The great Boris Becker used to have a funny habit at the start of matches, he would cough, just small coughs that resembled someone who had a slight tickle in the throat, it would be gone by the third game once the adrenalin had kicked in . I wonder if Boris would ever admit to this ? I remember it vividly. Even the great Champions of tennis get anxiety but they know how to shut it out in time for them to perform at their best and that's what makes them champions. 
A large crowd has a lot to do with a player's anxiety level , I know it did with me as I felt as though the World was watching, assessing and picking apart my every shot and every move. I felt claustrophobic, but there was no where to hide.
When I first started teaching tennis as an 18 year old I used to make a habit of getting to the venue first and taking my group to the end court. I wanted to be as far away as I could from the parents and on top of this I also used to play well in a tournament on an outside court . As soon as I was within earshot or spectator view for coaching or playing then I would talk quietly to the kids or play conservatively. I believe I owned a fear of failure. 
To this day my anxiety before a game of tennis is still there but it is much more controlled and I feel in charge now of my emotions. I am not trying for anything else but self pride and gaining respect. When I teach I welcome parents court side as I am in complete control of my lessons and my way of expressing myself. I just wish I had that ability when I was younger.
Anxiety prevents a good player from becoming great, prevents an average player from becoming good and it prevented myself from enjoying tennis more when I was younger.

'THE MATCH' ( 66 )



Do you remember the 1988 US Open Mens Singles final between my favourite player Mats Wilander and the ultimate 'baseline bully' Ivan Lendl ? 
I always used this match as an example for my students as a lesson in a change of game plan that paid dividends. In this particular match there was so much riding on the outcome, the number 1 World ranking and Wilander's first title in New York. The Swede had lost the 1987 final to Lendl however that match lasted nearly five hours despite it being only four sets where Mats saw two set points go begging in the third.
That match was predominantly played from the back of the court by both players however I believe that Mats had made enough entries to the net in that match to see a pattern that could help with his future matches with Lendl.
The Czech did not like to be rushed and he liked to return topspin. He was one of the few that could push Borg on clay as he took the champion Swede to a fifth set at Roland Garos in 1980. 
The final of 1987 in New York was one where Mats was a point away from a two sets to one lead as Borg was against Connors in 1975. The similarities were very similar between the two Swedes as they both could have held the US open title by 1987 if they had both secured one of their set points in the third and most pivotal set. There are many heartbreaking stories though in tennis where one point could have changed tennis history.
The win by Wilander in '88 will go down as  a victory for 'David' as opposed to another win by 'Goliath' who was expected to win once again. I can only imagine how much that defeat hurt Mats in '87 and I can also imagine just how hard he practiced that sliced backhand which he basically perfected by the time the '88 US Open final commenced. It has often been said that a player will always learn more from a loss than a win and without a doubt the final in '88 proved this theory correct.
Did Mats practice against a heavy hitter prior to that title match in New York and did he work on nullifying the effect of topspin with slice ? Hitting a sliced backhand as opposed to the two hander did two things, it saved energy and it kept the ball low out of Lendl's hitting zone. Mats was not going to turn into a big server over night as I believe he was more interested in a smarter tactic. He instead worked on making a baseline heavy weight go to his bag in search of a nine iron to help him get under the continual flow of incredibly low sliced backhands.  
I don't remember how many backhands Lendl missed during rallies in that match as the slice from Mats was brutally low to a player who wanted the ball higher into his hitting zone. The tactic forced Lendl to slice his own backhand more often than not and it was not his preferred shot from that side.
We can all learn something from that match that some liken to the 'dinosaur era' of tennis yet it remains my all time favourite tactical match of all time .
Why ? Because it was outrageously clever from a player who at just 17 years of age won the French Open Mens Singles title using heavy topspin off both sides.
Is it ever too late to learn a new tactic in the sport of tennis ? The 1988 US Open Mens Singles Final is testimony to the fact that a change in thinking can reap dividends....

'MEANINGFUL PRACTICE' ( 65 )



I have always been a believer in practicing what will most certainly happen in a match and as a coach I have always been big on drills that simulate match play situations. There is a Youtube video that I shared on my site that is from TPA Tennis.com featuring Tom Allsop and quite frankly I find it rather brilliant.
The first drill is a service square routine that is played out with a volley grip, no topspin. Now this type of drill is brilliant for doubles because the two on two format requires a bit of touch and not just power. This is my point. If players want to improve at doubles then it is an absolute necessity to work on situations that occur in a match.
Sounds simple yet I have seen kids practice prior to a doubles tournament and simply hit straight up and down ! Surely if another two kids cannot be found for the practice session then halve the court and work on cross court situations that occur more than anything else during a doubles match. 
Possibly one of my most used drills would have to be the approach shot drill that brings even the most seasoned baseliner into the net to finish the point. The thing about the net approach is simple, it asks an opponent the question, one that requires a good answer if the approach is hit well.
Baseline players love rhythm but hate to be rushed and that's where smart approaches can often make the difference in a match between two baseliners. The other thing to remember is that baseliners hate to be brought to the net so that's where a shot such as the sliced backhand can come into play. Short sliced backhands can often confuse a baseline 'robot' who wants the ball deep so even the best ground stroke players will battle with a short ball particularly to their two handed backhand.
I have seen older more experienced players carve up young baseliners with slice and short balls as most kids don't really practice coming to the net. That to me is a tactic that should be worked on by players of all ages as it throws out any rhythm that baseliners thrive off. I can honestly say that I have never seen two kids practice where one works on touch and the other works on trying to counter act it.
I only see kids working on thumping groundstrokes back and forth which is fine if they are about to play a baseliner in a tournament. So what if they turn up and find that their opponent is a touch player with regular net advances as well as someone who likes to bring their opponent in ?
If players are not working on things in practice that will in fact occur in a match then how on earth are they expected to make the right decision when faced with that scenario during a tournament ?
Meaningful practice is the difference usually between a good ball striker and one that can think their way through a match. There are many great ball strikers out there but not enough smart tennis players who become highly successful at the sport. It begins in practice.

'IMPLIMENTING A GAME PLAN' ( THE HACK ) 64


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. At one point he called me a 'hack' ! I had to smile at that.
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 many 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.
Are students of the sport experimenting with different ways of playing or are they simply just hoping that their 'A' game will be 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....