Wednesday, 29 March 2017

'THINK ABOUT IT'

 Wrote this three years ago, I think it deserves another post, too much dumb thinking on a tennis court is not capitalised on by opponents who are trying to make a living out of a sport that has a one in a million success rate.....
2014 GT Tennis
I recently viewed some statistics from the US Open Men's Qualifying Event, one in particular I can't quite work out. There was a result where the winner of the match actually made 46 unforced errors, and won. So why is this unusual ?
What on earth was going through his opponent's mind in a best of three set match where nearly 12 games worth of points were handed to him ?
If someone is making that many errors then surely the style that should be played against them is simply a steady brand of tennis with the emphasis on making the opponent play . If unforced errors are being made at a steady rate then it's rather obvious what is happening, they don't like playing you. If someone doesn't miss against you then your style obviously is one that is comfortable to play against, and that's a problem.
I have made mention on many occasions the match to decide the 1988 US Open Men's Single's Championship between Wilander and Lendl. The reason Mats won this match was due to the lack of unforced errors that came off his racket, 37, whereas Lendl's count was double that. Bare in mind that this match was 5 sets, nearly 5 hours and featured remarkably long rallies so even Lendl's amount of errors equated to just 15 per set, each hour.
 Wilander's lack of errors were so remarkable that he averaged just over seven unforced errors per set, each hour. This however was from the same man who missed just two first serves in the 1988 French Open Men's singles final which he won easily. 
 Try playing tennis for an hour and count how many times you make a stupid mistake, including double faults, what would be your average?
So the Qualifier who won his match with 46 unforced errors was basically handed the match as his opponent did not do the sums on what was happening. A smarter player would have sized up the situation and capitalized on it. If this player in question is to go ahead and qualify for this year's US Open his error count will need to halve.
Only 7 per cent of the World's top 100 juniors go on to become Tennis Professionals and just one per cent will become a top 20 player.  The game of tennis is not one that requires the greatest looking shots , it is one however that requires a Professor's thinking .
 What was the combined age of the two recent finalists in Cincinnati ? About 64. That's a lot of years of tennis thinking but puts it all into perspective.
Remember that kid you always hear at a junior tennis tournament? " I can't believe I just missed that " !!
Get used to it buddy, you will miss many more until you gain that Professor's Degree.......

Sunday, 19 March 2017

'THE THOUGHT PROCESS'

When you are a kid you don't think too much when you play tennis, you simply hit 'em as best you can, rely on what ability you own at the time and what your coach tells you to do. Whether or not you employ the tactics that your coach recommends to you is your choice.
I once read a transcript from a boxing coach who admitted after the fight that his pupil actually did nothing that he suggested to him before the fight ! Interesting isn't it ? Would it be that our brains are wired a certain way and we simply cannot rewire them when someone else suggests an idea that may in fact be a better idea ?
When it comes to sport, in particularly an individual sport I firmly believe that being a coach quite possibly is like being in a raffle. Your numbers may come up and if they do, well you can shout to the roof tops that you are a genius, it's a needle in a haystack as far as odds go but you may just find the gold at the end of the rainbow if all of your cards fall into place.
Magnus Norman openly lauded the former coaches of Stan Wawrinka when his 'student' won the French Open in 2015 against Novak because he knew he was not the person who taught Stan how to hit a tennis ball, he merely offered his thoughts on what Stan should do with the ball.
Let's face it, Stan knows how to hit a tennis ball 'reasonably' well, he simply required an opinion on what he should do with it.
The thought process in tennis is not one that can easily be refined, it's something that requires hours of sifting through ideas and implementing things that may help the game to be understood a little more clearly than when you first picked up a racket.
Thoughts go through the mind of a tennis player no matter what standard they are playing, if it didn't happen then I doubt they would be human. If you haven't read Andre Agassi's book then I suggest maybe you do, it places tennis at the highest standard into perspective.
Andre's thoughts during a match were refreshingly 'human' even though we all looked at him as someone who was 'out of this world' as far as tennis ability was concerned. Every tennis player has an ability to hit a ball however only a select few really know just how to play the game and it all comes down to how we think.
If there was a person out there who could teach every tennis player in the World how to think before they hit then that person would have a bank balance that would put an Arabian Oil Sheik to shame, no risk at all.
Is the thought process in tennis a gift that only a handful of players own or something that can perhaps be taught by someone who has a degree in 'genius' ?
You can quite possibly do the routine 'Ten Thousand Hours' of practice that many 'gurus' swear by and still end up a 'dummy' or you can take those hours of practice and turn them into something that gives you an edge.
Problem with tennis is simple, you are relying on an opponent to put the ball where you want it, where you have been trained to hit it but an opponent is not your ball feeder in practice, they aren't interested in your hitting zone.
A smart opponent will always take you out of your comfort zone as soon as the warm up is done and they have worked out what you like and what you dislike.
Do I have a theory on all of this ? Yeah sure I do, work on a plan B, C and D because the chances of your plan A working every time you step onto a tennis court is probably going to be as successful as your Lotto numbers coming up on a weekly basis.......
Silly game tennis........

Monday, 13 March 2017

'PROOF IN THE PUDDING'

IF ever there was an argument for spicing up tennis scoring to gain some less than 'ho hum' results I suggest you take a look at the Mens Doubles draw at the Indian Wells Tournament currently being played in the US.
No less than 11 matches were decided in a third set super tiebreaker out of a total of 16 matches played. Now I know what you will say to that and sure many Mens singles matches go the decider as well but the difference with a super tiebreaker is simple, every point counts.
You can't afford to lose too many points in a row in a super tie breaker however you could lose three love games in a third set singles match yet still win the set. The reason why there are so many matches in Mens doubles now decided in a super tie breaker is simple, when it gets to deuce, next point wins.
Scores such as 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 are now as common as the Big 4 winning Slams but the difference between singles and doubles is now obvious, singles players are now winning at doubles because SHOT MAKERS are now being rewarded for gutsy play. Grinding players into the ground in long singles matches reward the fitness fanatics and the guys who have the stamina to stay out there all day but personally I do like watching players such as Monfils who are entertainers more than grinders.
So as per usual I will give my take on what could be an alternative to three set singles matches with long deuces.
Make singles matches best of 5 sets, short deuce, returner chooses the side to receive at sudden death and at 2 sets all play a super tie breaker to finish, first to 10 points by a margin of 2 points. Basically it's the longer version of what is now happening in Mens doubles.
If the ATP is going to tinker around with the doubles then why not do the same in the singles ? Have you seen the prize money up for grabs now days in Mens dubs ??
It's obviously a lucrative form of the sport so it's obviously being taken seriously by all players which was proven this week at Indian Wells with seven of the top ten singles players entered in the doubles also. Why would they play ? Shortened format so court time is now around 90 minutes on average, many matches though just last an hour, great practice for returning and working on various strategies plus the money is great.
For Kyrgios and Zimonjic to beat the Bryans is rather obscene though Zimonjic could win with my Dad and he's 80 but it proves the format is opening up the play and allowing for upsets.
If the ATP is serious on making tennis exciting for the public with sudden death points and super breakers which reward go for broke type of tactics then why not do it in the singles also ?
Tennis has to evolve just as other sports are prepared to try new systems so I believe it's time that singles follows doubles and gives the players and the public something different.
Just a thought.......

Saturday, 11 March 2017

'A FEW OTHER REASONS'

Some people believe I may be a little tough on one of Australia's most decorated tennis champions, Lleyton Hewitt, I beg to differ. Lleyton Hewitt as far as I am concerned is and was his own worst enemy on a tennis court and it seems many agree with me and perhaps many don't.
Let's go through a few 'incidents' and see whether you agree with me or not.
Obviously the 'Hewitt hand salute' which wasn't really Lleyton's after all is just another example of the arrogance and lack of respect he has for the sport itself. To steal something from another player as he did from Kroon and make it into your trademark is something that the tennis purists of the World frown upon, but that's just Lleyton for you, 'Mr Self Importance'.
The first round match at the 2016 Australian Open which pitted Hewitt against an Aussie battler by the name of James Duckworth was one of those matches that Hewitt was always going to win, it was just a case of by what score. What disappointed me the most about that match was match point where Lleyton felt it necessary to fall on his back and carry on like a pork chop as his topspin lob cleared Duckworth's head and racket to take him in to round 2. Why would you do that ??
It was a match he would still win today if they played again even though Hewitt has retired so wouldn't a fist to the air and a wink to his opponent have been sufficient enough to take the accolades that night ? Nope, Lleyton has never done things modestly, just the sort of person he is.
When you beat a battler, you don't carry on, you simply do what you have to do and you go sign an autograph or two before you leave.
The Round 2 match in 2001 at the US Open between Hewitt and James Blake will go down in history as one of those 'Hewitt moments' where Australia should have asked for him to be deported, to anywhere really, anywhere but Australia.
To say to the umpire "Look at him and tell me what the similarity is" ( referring to both Blake and the linesman who are of the same coloured skin ) was one of those remarks that probably should have been taken a little more seriously than it was but when Wally Masur ( the then Davis Cup Coach ) had his say, well he came up with this : " How much can the Media flog this thing ? The proof of the pudding was that the two players shook hands and Lleyton told him ( Blake) what a good game he had played ".
Hello Wally are you missing the point ? It's all very well to shake hands and say well played but if you carry on like a complete f... wit during the match, well that side of things quite possibly needs a tweak. Forget the fact that he was Australia's best chance back then of winning a singles match in Davis Cup Wally, he really needed to be educated on how to behave on a tennis court for the simple fact that he was showing the rest of Australia's up and coming juniors how NOT to behave yet that didn't seem to matter.
In fact the same umpire who sat in the chair at that US Open match was the same umpire who sat in the chair at the French Open, the same year and had to endure Hewitt calling him a 'spastic', yep a spastic, interesting choice of words Lleyton.
The 2005 Australian Open was a ripper as Lleyton took on Argentina, first Chela ( who spat at Hewitt in retaliation to Hewitt openly celebrating his errors ) and then Nalbandian who he exchanged a shoulder bump with at the change of ends. Who was at fault ? You know my answer, David is a nice guy.....
All very well to be a hero at home but remember you have to play away from home too, a lesson for all those young players out there, treat the visiting players with respect, you never know when you may need some help when playing abroad.
So now Lleyton is our Davis Cup Captain, was always going to happen, Rafter made way for him, well done Pat, you get a few dollars slipped your way ?? ( I like Pat, he was the worst player at the tennis centre in Brisbane where I used to play in the 80's, he won the most cash in the end ). Something fishy was going on when Pat retired as Davis Cup head honcho to pave the way for Lleyton but only Tennis Australia know the answers to that one.
Some say I am too hard on Lleyton, I say go through the history books and see what a complete pain in the arse he was when he first started playing right through to his first round match with Duckworth at the Oz Open in 2016 where he finally had the chance to win with some humility yet instead chose to do the 'pork chop routine'.
I reckon my view of him may just be shared by more than just a few.......

Friday, 10 March 2017

'FREE TO AIR'

Wrote this in 2014, my writing was terrible ( still is ), but you will get the idea of what I am trying to say, tennis isn't what it used to be.....

Don't you just hate pay TV ? NAB Cup Footy is on at the moment and unless we have Foxtel we can't watch it , most disappointing, great Tennis on too but will have to see it on You Tube at a later date. Tennis used to be 'free to air' until certain Organisations took it over and claimed it as their own and now everyone pays for it .
Certain 'authorities' that I won't name just in case someone else threatens me with a law suit for speaking common sense may just take offence so I will refrain, have claimed the game of tennis as their own , not sure how it all happened. If you pay a Membership to a Tennis Club then the money doesn't all go to the Club , a generous portion goes to a 'higher being' , this fee for simply being just that 'a higher being'.
These Clubs have probably been made from dirt into fantastic facilities from local fundraising perhaps plus Government grants , even sometimes generous local Businessmen , the case at one local club I know for a fact. So why is it that the fees go elsewhere ? It's because the game has been taken over by greed and egos plus people who have found a way to make the sport what it is today , quite simply a Business.
I have said on many occasions that I believe the game is a 'Rich Person's Sport' ; Why does the cost of learning have to be so high ? Some will use the excuse of Litigation to justify their $60- $80 hourly fees , others will simply be sheep and follow the leader ' he charges it , so that's good enough for me'. 
My Parents would never have been able to afford for me to play full time tennis in Queensland back in 1985 as i did if the game had been what it is today , back then it was affordable , more players were taking the court and players were still interested after the age of 16 , very few now pursue it after this age. 
Look at the way local clubs now do things , most have big glossy signs on the fence with a sponsor's name or 'higher being' information , or both , plus a 'Coach's name with a list of times but usually not costs . They want you to call them  regarding lessons and then they will sell you their product like a car salesman does , complete with a 'guarantee' that they will have you playing like a Champion in no time. Many are gullible enough to go for the sales pitch. $80 - yep this guy must be 'The Man' .
Don't get me wrong there are actually 'real' Tennis Coaches out there who can deliver a product that if you really want to get better then they will be worth the fee , I would say less than half however can justify their existence.
Do I think i am worth $80 an hour with a Level 2 accreditation and 26 years of Experience ? Ha ! that's laughable , I can teach the game well and I can pick up what someone is doing wrong in 2 or 3 shots and can correct it within the session, yet I don't believe that a high hourly rate will justify it.
The problem is with tennis that it takes a long time to get it right as a student and great players aren't made in an instant so why not make the process affordable ? Wouldn't this prolong careers and make improvement a certainty? 
Come on Glenn that makes way too much sense buddy.....
The game is not what it used to be but I am doing my bit to make it not only affordable but to give the public a realistic outlook on things . My honesty with certain players' ability may not be what some people want to hear but I will tell it how it really is , if it costs me then I can live with it .
No one 'owns' the game of tennis . When you hit a ball perfectly it probably feels like when a surfer rides the perfect wave , no better feeling .
No matter what Tennis Club you do it at or which 'Coach' you do it with it shouldn't cost people a small fortune for the 'privilege' of  being there.
I used to jump the fence at my local club to play 5 sets with a mate , twice or three times a week , that's how I got better, 'Free To Air' ............

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

'TIME TO SPICE IT UP' ?

 A couple of years ago I wrote of the lack of variety when it comes to presenting the sport of tennis, it's all pretty much the same though I love the new doubles format.
To bring in short deuces and third set super tie breakers was a master stroke because it puts more emphasis on thinking and split second cut throat decision making as opposed to long drawn out matches that sometimes finish at 70-68 in the decider.
I don't really like cricket but I believe the way that they now tinker with the format is brilliant and the public has embraced the changes.
 TENNIS IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF BEING SPICED UP.
2015
I don't begrudge anyone who has a personal dig at tennis because even though it has been my main sport for over 30 years I see flaws in the way it is presented. For a sport that is so well known for it's technical expertise there is an obvious flaw in the book of rules that I would love to see changed, if not just for a novelty tournament. 
Roger Federer is possibly the greatest technically correct player there has ever been, he is quite frankly a genius, he has even proven it OFF court.
There is a rather well played video of him serving a ball at an empty can of coke that was sitting on someone's head in a studio, it was a dare more than anything, Roger obliged, the can was sent flying. I don't care who you are and how close you are to someone set up like the 'William Tell' famous bow and arrow effort, the precision it took to knock that can off that person's head was nothing short of brilliant.
So why is it that tennis is a sport that requires two serves to start a point if everyone at the professional level is so technically sound ? What if golf followed the same lead as tennis ? Damn I hit it crooked, oh well I have another shot at it, grab me another ball thanks Mr Caddy, that first shot was a 'free swing' anyhow. Can you imagine it ? Every golfer would go for broke on the first shot, what would they have to lose except a ball that would be replaced within the allotted time between shots ?
So what is it with tennis that allows a player two chances to put the ball into play ? I am no expert at sports such as Table Tennis, Badminton or Squash but I have had a crack at all of them and from memory I only received one first serve, correct me if I am wrong.
As good as a server perhaps is at those above mentioned sports I doubt very much whether a match would be dominated by a good server due largely to pace or perhaps lack of it.
I have documented on more than one occasion my favourite tennis player Mats Wilander from Sweden and his rather incredible 97 per cent first service effort against Henri Leconte in the final of the French Open in 1988. In more simple terms Mats hit 73 of 75 first serves in, he basically started each of his serves with a delivery that wouldn't wake up a radar gun. He opted for a slow spinning serve that cleared the net with plenty of margin. For the record Mats won the match with ease.
So what of this tactic ? Well the Swede did his homework and realized that he was not going to win too many free points on his serve so he decided to conserve the energy for the rest of his game, a great tactic it turned out to be. The thing I liked so much about this particular match was that the return came back 99 per cent of the time, it was a spectacle, it came down to tactics, not brute strength.
If we fast forward to today's tennis it seems that serves are getting bigger as equipment becomes more advanced but how does a player keep up with this technology as far as their eyes are concerned ?
Your guess is as good as mine but returning a serve of Ivo Karlovic's surely will become even harder in the future as equipment becomes more advanced. How does a player see a serve of say 240 kms per hour let alone play it back into court ? It becomes almost a guessing game as to where it is going.
So what if guys like Karlovic and John Isner, another prolific server were told that they no longer had the luxury of two serves and were asked to develop a game more like the great Swede Mats Wilander ? Would that be more of a spectacle to a crowd of avid tennis fans wanting to witness a rally or two rather than them having to give the obligatory hand clap after another unplayable bomb that can send even the most seasoned spectator off to sleep ?
My answer is obvious and I believe that a tournament should be on the professional calendar that asks the ultimate question of each player 'are you only as good as your second serve'?
How good would it be to see a lack of aces hit, just about every return put back into court and the game of tennis being transformed back to a spectacle that saw a first serve as a 50/50 ball and not a raffle ticket ?
Now there is a game of tennis I would love to witness, a match that was full of rallies, a match that we could enjoy as a thought fest as opposed to a slug fest and one that would ask Ivo and Jonny to bring with them a plan B and C rather than just their usual plan A.
Could the powers of modern day tennis break from tradition and do what Jimmy Connors was asked to do in his Battle of The Sexes match with Martina Navratilova in 1992 and that was serve just ONE BALL ? It was brilliant. What made it even more interesting was the admission that Jimmy had a million dollars riding on not only the result but the score as well, fascinating.
I am all for tennis changing it's current format and I don't believe 'Fast 4' tennis even gets close to spicing the game up as 20/20 cricket does with it's new innovative format. I find today's format a little on the 'ho hum' side, it's a flawed scoring system that can at times award victory to a player who wins less points than their opponent. 
I reckon it's time for a change, just a thought.......

Saturday, 4 March 2017

'THE DAVYDENKO FARCE'

On August 2, 2007 Russian Tennis Professional Nikolay Davydenko, World Number 4 was involved in a rather bizarre singles match in a tournament in Sopot, Poland against a player by the name of Martin Vassallo Arguello , ranked 87.
For some reason the lower ranked player from Argentina was indeed the favourite to win the match even after losing the first set 2-6 to a guy who was miles ahead of him in talent, ranking, prize money and lifestyle, just to name a few things. No one so far has been able to work out why this particular tennis match had so much money riding on it ( Over $7,000,000 ) and why it didn't in fact complete ( Davydenko retired in the third set while trailing 1-2 ).
The Russian did however go into the match lacking any form whatsoever despite his high ranking as he had lost in the first round of his previous two tournaments, both on clay which was the same surface as the one in Poland. Apparently only his family knew of his 'injury' that did seem legitimate as he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the foot a week later in Canada.
The one thing that stands out the most about the 'injury' however is that he played in the Rogers Cup in Canada that week and made it through to the quarter finals where he picked up $49,000 in his loss to Stepanek. Two weeks later he made it to the semis of the US Open where he lost to Federer.
So back to Sopot, Poland. Even at a set down the Argentine player attracted large bets but that may have been because Davydenko commenced treatment at the change of ends early in the second set so the question is obvious. Who knew of the Russian's 'injury' before the match ? Correct me if I am wrong but an injured tennis player can still win a match so why was there so much money put on a guy ranked 83 positions lower in the rankings to win ?
So were all of the large bets ( one was over $500,000 ) relying on the injury to slow down Davydenko to such an extent that he would not be able to play at his full potential or was it a match where the result was already worked out between the players and they had relayed that result to certain 'shady' characters ?
Arguello it seems is the one who may struggle to hold his reputation a little more than Davydenko as there were no less than 82 texts to a gambling ring leader from Italy found on the Argentine's mobile phone. The majority of the content of those texts has never been released but we can all imagine what would have been relayed as far as match information was concerned. As much as there is a cloud hanging over Davydenko as far as his integrity is concerned there is nothing to suggest he actually played any part in it whatsoever with no mobile phone records leading to anyone who could damage his status.
So as far as questions are concerned regarding this particular match we are left with many but some of the obvious ones are ; # Did Davydenko get 'stage fright' and not hold his end of the bargain up if he was in fact paid a sum to lose and instead resort to the 'injury' ?
# Was it simply a match where the circumstances surrounding the Davydenko 'injury' spiralled out of control just like a share market stock that began a sharp rise but without too much substance to the reasons why ?
# If the 'injury' to Davydenko was so serious how on earth did he manage to have such a successful run in both the Rogers Cup in Canada and the US Open in New York in the following weeks after the event in Poland ?
The incident will quite possibly never be fully explained yet the 82 text messages on Arguello's phone obviously still weren't enough to find him guilty of any wrong doing despite one that said " He doesn't want to do it " and another that stated "He intends to win ".
So did Arguello speak to Davydenko before the match to ask him if he would throw it ? It seems that he may have from the texts but it also seems that Davydenko was not prepared to do it and maybe it all just revolved around an 'injury' cloud and poor form so in the end it was simply placed in the 'too hard basket' to find anyone guilty.
For the record Arguello lost in the next round to Albert Montanes of Spain. The Argentine won 8 Challenger singles events and a total of just over $1.4 Million Dollars in his career which included a fourth round showing at the French Open in 2006 and a highest ranking of 47 in 2009.
Davydenko won 21 ATP events and a total of just over $16 Million Dollars to go with his highest ranking of World Number 4.
Two vastly different players as far as talent and results were concerned yet two that have ended up on the same page in history for all the wrong reasons........