WRITTEN IN 2014. ( please excuse the lack of writing expertise, I reckon I have improved since then )
Explaining to a kid who is just learning the game the importance of not being a robot on a tennis court I believe is imperative. When you first explain this terminology to someone it is greeted either with a blank look or raised eyebrows , until i explain the theory that i am sure is not just mine.
My view on junior tennis is this ; If we had 40 of the best kids in the state all lined up over 20 courts of singles play then eventually at the end of the day a winner would emerge. However what would the winner have that the other 39 didn't and what would make him a player who actually could keep winning regularly with a style that is very similar to the others? Answer is simple , unless he has a forehand like Nadal , fitness and consistency like Novak , an all round game like Federer or perhaps a serve like Isner's then chances are this 'hot shot' kid is susceptible to a loss in his very next tournament.
What makes guys like the above mentioned consistent winners ? They do something a little bit different , that's what needs to be taught by people teaching the game to the next generation. Last year at the Brisbane International I watched an Australian by the name of John Millman take on Andy Murray , entertaining match . Millman however did nothing that was really going to upset Murray despite a second set win as his style to me was simply 'ho hum'.
He had a good serve and consistent ground strokes but how many other 'robots' on the pro tour own these ?? How would you win consistently with just this in your repertoire of shots ?
My point that i make is that this is where I see the game from as a coach of 27 years; only the players that are prepared to do something a little different really become successful , consistent winners. The Australian Millman was ranked somewhere around the 200 mark , Murray was 3 and has probably seen it all before as far as what was presented to him that day .
This year at the Australian Open Federer played another Aussie James Duckworth , good player but another 'robot' with nothing to bother any of the big boys with . Fed paid the youngster a few compliments but knew that no matter how well Duckworth played he simply had nothing to bother him with so he simply waited for his best to be played then won comfortably.
I refuse to teach a kid to just hit a tennis ball because it will only do so much , I will however teach more on the tactical side of the game , this is what can win you a game of tennis if you lack a weapon.
Tennis needs to be taught not unlike when you go into a kids toy shop and look for a robot , you want one that does something a little different , one with a bigger gun than the rest, sound familiar ?
Tennis coaches in this situation are like the 'manufacturer' in a process that is churning out robots on a daily basis without much thought about how to make the robot different than the rest. I had a lesson with a new kid just last week who tried to drive every ball I offered him .
I asked him what was wrong with slowing the pace and looping some balls higher over the net to conserve some energy and to stop making his play so predictable ?
He actually warmed to the idea as the session wore on. He isn't new to the game but he has never been shown how to vary his play, this is disappointing.
Think outside the square when you play and when you coach , it's a thinking man's game.......