Tuesday, May 28, 2019

OPEN & CLOSED GROUNDSTROKES




LET'S BE CLEAR from the start, you need both options! Both open and closed stances have their advantages and disadvantages.
Here’s when it’s best to hit an open stance ground stroke and why…


1.  Better for higher balls because you can generate more power and maintain balance


2. Can help disguise your intentions on certain balls


3. Easier to recover from wide outside the court and return to the centre of the court


4. Helps maintain contact in front on deep and fast balls (returns)


5. Better peripheral vision 

When you select to play a closed stance ground stroke factors to consider are…

1.  Easier to play approach shots that are short and low


2. Helps to disguish mid-court forehand finish

3. Better suited to a later contact point


4. Preferred option on shorter balls through the middle

Nearly every ground stroke or return of serve you play can be hit with either an open or closed stance. It’s up to you to decide which option is appropriate for each ball.

Go ahead and experiment with both open and closed options and if you are weak on either of the two options take lessons from an experienced teaching pro so that you become more proficient. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

THE LONG LAST STEP



With the French Open starting this week there is plenty for us to pick up while watching the matches that will help us improve our own game.

One technique you will see a lot on the clay at Roland Garros over the next two weeks is “THE LONG LAST STEP”. It’s a technique used by the top  players to help with coordination, timing and balance as they move around the court to hit the ball.


1.           Momentum

When you run to hit a ball momentum is created. As you reach the ball that momentum has to be disciplined as you attempt to hit the ball

Because of the momentum of your body, this last step has to be longer than the other steps you used to reach the ball. 




2.          Balance

When you create a “Long LAST Step” you are trying to place a foot in a position that will support your momentum and balance you while you hit the shot.

This foot is called the contact foot and it needs to be wide…



3.          Line

What the best players do now is coordinate a Line from their head over top of their contact foot at the moment of contact.

This will give you perfect balance as you hit the ball which translates into consistent ground strokes.  



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

THE 4 ESSENTIALS FOR THE DEVELOPING PLAYER



The top players have few weaknesses in their games, and as I have said many times to reach the top it's really important you work on eliminating any weaknesses you may have.


Weaknesses in your game eat away at your confidence and usually are worse when you are under the most pressure and occur at the most unwelcome times.


The big picture when developing players for the future should also include working on strengths. 

Young players should be well rounded and be equally skilled in dealing with defensive and offensive situations.

Here are my 4 top choices when developing the offensive game of a young player:


#1 OWN A GREAT SERVE

Owning a great serve is a huge asset in tennis. If you can hold serve or even put your opponent on the defensive at the start of each point you will win a large percentage of your service games.

HERE'S WHAT TO DO...
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-two-must-have-service-techniques.html



#2 POCESS A STRONG CROSS-COURT GAME
 

Dominate the crosscourt exchange and you dominate the rally because you are constantly forcing your opponent to change out of the crosscourt exchange (to alleviate the pressure) and hit down-the-line. 

HERE'S INFORMATION ON THE CROSS COURT EXCHANGE
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2012/02/tennis-equivalent-to-boxing-jab.html


#3 HAVE A CONSISTENT RETURN OF SERVE

It’s not always possible to get every return back in court. But if you own a great return of serve you put a lot of pressure on the server to come up with something extra, either with their serve or during the rally. A consistent return of serve puts pressure on the server!

HERE ARE SOME RETURN OF SERVE ESSENTIALS
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2014/05/practising-most-important-phase-of-point.html


#4  CARRY A BIG FOREHAND

Having a big forehand allows you to finish the point whenever your opponent makes a mistake and allows you to step inside the baseline to attack.

Players today are involved in longer rallies and if you are given the chance to attack you must take that opportunity immediately. That’s the first step… recognizing the when you can attack.

The second step is to take advantage and use your big forehand as a weapon to finish the point.

Your opponent must fear your forehand and know that any mistake they make will be punished.

UNDERSTANDING THE PARTS OF THE SWING
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2014/05/practising-most-important-phase-of-point.html





Monday, May 20, 2019

INVINCIBILITY LIES IN THE DEFENSE...




The 3 most important words a player must remember are preparation, preparation and preparation.


Thorough preparation means that you are ready for whatever your opponent throws at you. It means that you will enter the match in the knowledge that you are ready.


But what form should your preparation take? How should you structure your preparation in the days, weeks and months before your matches?


There is an amazing quote from the ancient Chinese war lord Sun Tzu…


“INVINCIBILITY LIES IN THE DEFENSE, THE POSSIBILITY OF VICTORY IN THE ATTACK”

What Sun Tzu is saying in this quote is that you as a player or even as a coach need to work on the two opposites of Offense and Defense.  All too often players work on their offense. They train to increase the speed of their ball, the power of their forehand and the effectiveness of their serve.


Sun Tzu is saying that you must have weapons with which to attack your opponent. But he's also saying that you need to have the ability to defend equally as well also,

To better structure your practice sessions around developing both your offense and defense read the article on THE DNO THEORY by clicking on the link…

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

THERE'S A GENERATION WAR IN TENNIS TODAY




There’s no doubt that we are experiencing a GENERATION WAR IN TENNIS AT THE MOMENT .


The old guard of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are under threat from the new guard consisting of Thiem, Zverev, Tsitsipas and Shapovalov


Recent results in the lead up to the French Open have seen the new guard matching and even beating the old guard in each tournament


Most surprising during this time has been the declining form of Rafael Nadal. The former “King of Clay” has not been able to win any of the tournaments during this early part of the European clay court season. His chances of winning the French Open this year look bleak.


Federer can be excused for not winning any of the lead up tournaments but he has shown us his game is good enough to beat anyone on the day and at this stage of his career he’s probably quietly saving his best effort for the grand slam.


Djokovic is the pick of the old guard to go all the way at the French. He’s a proven winner on clay and has this incredible ability to lift his form at the most important times. Djokovic is the ultimate competitor


Within the younger brigade I pick Dominic Thiem to do well at the French. But I really fancy Tsitsipas to do the best of the younger brigade long-term.


Tsitsipas has much more potential than the other younger brigade to development further, especially physically.  I expect to see him surge in the rankings over the next few months so long as his temperament keeps him focused throughout that time.


Zverev has been a disappointment to me. If he was going to become the next dominant force in tennis he would have done it by now. This “hesitation” in his career is not a good sign.


The New Guard have knocked the door down. They are showing no respect for reputations.It’s been a long time since the French Open has been this unpredictable. But the battle between the old and the new guard is even more interesting than who eventually wins the title.


“Cometh the hour, Cometh the Man”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

WHERE DO YOU SEND YOUR AWARENESS?




“THE ABILITY TO QUICKLY SHIFT YOUR AWARENESS AROUND TO DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOUR GAME IS A KEY TO PLAYING WELL”



You need the ability to shift your awareness around as you play. Each shot requires a slightly different focus, no stroke is the same.



Here are some of the main areas you need to send your awareness to as you play a match. Some of the areas I mention may surprise you. Tennis is not just about awareness of the ball and your opponent… there’s much more to tennis than that!



1.   Court Awareness

Because you are playing the ball from different places within the court you need to shift your awareness to where you are standing sometimes.



This is even more important when you are in less familiar territory such as very deep off the baseline or very wide on either side of the court.



When you are made to play from these “special” positions on the court, shifting your awareness to where you are standing will help you factor in the height of the net, the distance to the baseline and the type of spin required.



2.  Ball Awareness

The ball tells you everything. It tells you when to move back (for deep balls), when to move forward (short balls) and the timing you will need to adjust to (slow or fast ball)



Therefore, an awareness of the ball is critical to playing well



3.  Opponent Awareness

Opponent awareness covers both where you should hit the ball (hopefully where your opponent is not!) and the type of ball you should hit to your opponent (tactical)



Far too many players are concerned only with what THEY are doing. Developing opponent awareness will take your game to the next level.



4.  Racquetface Awareness

If I was only allowed to give just one tip to a player it would be… develop your awareness of your racquet head.



The racquet head is the surface the ball takes its instructions from. If a player has no feel or control of  their racquet head they will never reach a higher level



Great awareness of your racquet head is more important than footwork!



5.  Self-Awareness

To play well you must be constantly monitoring yourself.

Awareness of your technique, confidence levels, fitness levels and the type of strategy you are using are all important during a match




Monday, May 6, 2019

ADD RESOLVE TO YOUR TENNIS GAME



AS A TENNIS PLAYER your life is full of difficulties. Whether it's difficulties within your daily routines involving your practice, fitness or matches, things can occur daily that chip away at your confidence in your ability to reach your goals and expectations


To different degrees those challenges can affect your ability to continue practicing and playing at your optimal level. They can be demotivating. 


You need high levels of RESOLVE to be a successful tennis player. You need the ability to keep striving towards your goals despite those difficulties. 

So how do you develop or strengthen resolve? How do you continue going forward despite the difficulties and challenges? 

T
he 3 most important factors for developing RESOLVE are …


(1) REMOVE YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVITY

Remove yourself from any negative environment. Nothing you try to do to build strong resolve will work within a negative environment.

The negativity could be coming from the people around you or your surroundings. Remove yourself immediately and find a better, more positive environment!


(2) HAVE GOALS. 

Know where you want to be in the future and create daily plans based on how to get there.

Have a PLAN and a METHOD

If the plan is to rise up the rankings identify what areas will give you the boost you need (it could involve working on a technical, tactical, fitness or mental issue), then create the means to improve on that area(s) 

Setting goals and daily schedules to work on your goals is empowering and will strengthen your resolve when faced with difficulties or challenges


(3) MOTIVATION.

If you have REMOVED YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVITY and have established GOALS and know how you want to work on your goals daily you will feel empowered and motivated!

Motivation comes from being in a positive environment and having an action plan based on your long term goals.


Monday, April 22, 2019

3 WAYS THE PROS ARE DIFFERENT


WHAT MAKES THE GREAT PLAYERS DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF US? 





HERE ARE 3 REASONS THE PROS ARE DIFFERENT!





# 1  Structure: They live highly structured lives both on and off the court. They have schedules and rituals built around their tennis and that structure is fiercely protected and consumes their day

 



# 2  Focus: They are totally focused on tennis and it shows in everything they do. For the best players, tennis comes before everything else. Very often when a top player develops interests outside of tennis their results suffer immediately




# 3   Discipline: The glue that drives the structure and focus over years of training and competing is their discipline. Without discipline players seldom stay at the top for long 


Sunday, April 21, 2019

INDIA AND THE AMRITRAJ LIVING ROOM




I wasn’t to realize it when, in 1990, I first arrived in India, but it was to be the start of a long love affair with the country and its people. 



Years earlier as a junior player competing on the New Zealand Junior Tennis Circuit I stayed at a house in Wellington that had just installed colour TV.  


Now that doesn’t mean much to younger people today but back in 1975 some lucky homes in New Zealand were just starting to replace their black and white models with new colour TV’s!   It was just fascinating to watch all your favourite programs in colour.  Oddly enough one of the best programs to view in colour at the time was Sesame Street.  “Big Bird” was yellow!



During my stay in Wellington, New Zealand was also playing Davis Cup against India and the Amritraj brothers, Vijay and Anand were doing their best to beat the New Zealand team of Onny Parun and Brian Fairlie on the grass courts at Stanley Street, Auckland.  


It was really special for me to watch the dark ebony Amritraj brothers move about on a perfectly manicured grass court.  On top of that, players back then were just beginning to wear some colour in their tennis outfits, especially shirt collars and short pockets. 



This was very glamorous stuff at the time and when I arrived in India to start work at the Britannia Amritraj Tennis Scheme some 16 years later, actually meeting the Amritraj family personally was very significant to me. 



My first contact was meeting the family patriarch, Robert Amritraj at Madras airport.  Once I cleared immigration I made my way out to the family car and sat with Robert waiting on Vijay to arrive on a later flight from LA.  It was evident that the Amritraj family was no normal Indian family as we seemed to be sitting in the only Mercedes Benz at the airport, if not the state of Tamil Nadu. 


I actually traveled back to the “BAT” apartment alone. As I was to learn very quickly, not all men are created equal in India and protocol demanded that I travel in the BAT van. Although I sometimes got to ride in the family Mercedes, it didn't happen that often!



After washing up and checking our new home out my colleague Rob Smith and I were summoned to the Amritraj house located next to a cemetery and on busy Sterling Road.  


The house is a curious arrangement as it has been divided in to two parts, the top half, where the Amritraj family lives and the bottom half, where Mrs. Amritraj’s sister lives.  Both are elderly women but seemingly haven’t spoken to each other for so many years no one is sure just how long it’s been.  There must have been a lot of bad blood between them as Maggie Amritraj never mentioned her sister nor acknowledged that she existed, even though she was living directly above her!



The highlight on that first day for me was being welcomed inside the Amritraj living room and sitting amongst all the trophy cabinets and tennis memorabilia.  



The room is circular and spacious but it was being in the company of Vijay that was special to me.  Here was that guy on the TV who had captured my attention all those years ago.  I was now actually in his childhood home chatting with him while stealing glances at the tennis history around the walls.  


Maybe my decision to leave New Zealand and try coaching tennis overseas wasn’t such a goofy idea.  If I didn’t last very long at this new adventure at least I had met Vijay Amritraj and had been a guest in his living room. 


Working overseas was already looking like a good idea.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

QUESTIONS ON "CONFIDENCE"



WHAT IS CONFIDENCE?


Although it is difficult to accurately explain exactly what confidence is, we certainly know when we have it… and we know when we have lost it!



Confidence is not an object or a piece of equipment.  You cannot put Confidence inside a box or hold it in your hand.  Confidence is a state of mind. It’s a belief we ourselves have created inside us.



We can be confident about our strokes, our ability to beat certain players, our chance of winning on a particular surface and when we play with “hometown advantage” and the support for us is greater.



Similarly, we can lack confidence in our strokes, our ability to beat certain players, our chance of winning on particular surfaces and when we play “away from home” where the support for us is less.



Confidence is something many players and their coaches strive to develop. Having confidence before you go into the match is deemed a good thing and virtually insures that you will play to the best of your ability or close to your best.



WHY DO WE PLAY BETTER WITH CONFIDENCE?


The sayings’ “We are what we think” and “Your perception is your reality” go a long way to explain why we play much better when we are confident. With belief we have an inner confidence that what we attempt to do, will transpire.



Belief comes before Confidence



Our minds can be incredibly strong. If we believe something is true or will happen, there is a high chance that it will.



Likewise, if we believe that something will or cannot happen, there’s a high chance it will not happen.



It’s therefore obvious that in order to be mentally strong in tennis you need to be rock solid in your self-belief when you compete in matches.  A mind that allows itself to become insecure regarding strokes, the type of surface you play on or the opponent you are competing against, will most certainly not be Confident!







WHY CAN WE LOSE CONFIDENCE SO EASILY?


If you accept that Confidence is a mindset, a belief, this means we can believe we have confidence, and that we can also believe we have lost it!



Confidence therefore can be a roller coaster of playing matches with it and without it. Confidence materializes within us when we have a run of success, and disappears within seconds after a few errors.



The problem therefore is in the belief that confidence exists at all. The problem is self-made because we have brought into the myth that Confidence exist at all, and that therefore after having made a few errors, we must have lost it!



This is how the belief starts in your head that you have “lost your confidence”. Remember, “We are what we think” and “Your perception is your reality”.



Better to forget this whole notion of a mythical Confidence nirvana. It’s a fragile mindset and unsustainable.



By not accepting the existence of Confidence, and not trying to depend so much on it to help boost you mentally,  you will no longer ride the “confidence roller coaster” in competitive matches.





CAN CONFIDENCE BE TRAINED?


If we accept that Confidence is merely a state of mind, perhaps we should also be less concerned about trying to train it. Trying to train it might in fact be taking us down a path whereby “real” preparation for matches is being neglected.



Here’s what I mean…



Many players like to hit hundreds of balls in an attempt to prepare for up-coming matches. They attempt to “groove” their strokes. These players feel mentally more confident once they are timing the ball better and the process of doing repetition drills also helps them to get rid of pre-match nerves. In my opinion this repetition training, or grooving your strokes, is nothing more than a placebo effect. 


After hitting hundreds of back-hands in practice your back-hand begins to “feel” much better and therefore you feel much more confident… But let’s look at what you have actually done during those hundreds of back-hands you just hit.


All you have done is “grooved” the mechanics of the back-hand. Nothing more!

In a competitive situation you will be required to:

1.    Anticipate where the ball is going
2.  Coordinate your movement to the ball
3.  Make decisions on where you want to hit the ball
4.  Make decisions on how you want the ball to go there
5.   Create a method of recovering to the next shot

That’s a lot of areas you haven’t covered in your practice session when you were hitting hundreds of back-hands!

Most players spend hours hitting ball feeds, knocking with other players, doing unrelated stroke bio-mechanics and then when we are in an actual match, they find the requirements are completely different!

In my experience players who train in this way begin to break down at a certain stage of the match, usually while under pressure. When this happens, the reason given for the collapse in form is that the player “lost confidence”.

Try to eliminate your dependence on the placebo style of preparing for matches. The placebo effect will wear out within the match itself and leave you with nothing to fall back on. It’s the cause of a lot of frustration for players around the world.

Instead, turn your attention to a more solid foundation. Focus on ANTICIPATION making DECISIONS on MOVEMENT, WHERE TO HIT THE BALL, HOW TO HIT THE BALL and RECOVERY

I deal with these topics in detail and how to better prepare for matches using a much more reliable method called “THE 3am THEORY”.

Click on the link at the top to go to this, and other topics explaining how you can prepare for match-play far more effectively in the future.