Showing posts with label instruction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label instruction. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2019


If you can’t hold serve you can’t win the match 

That’s how important the serve is in tennis. Players with average groundstrokes but great serves have done well in tennis, particularly on the faster surfaces.

The serve is not a complicated stroke but it can be prone to break down under pressure in matches. It’s important therefore to understand the key elements of the serve so that under pressure you can focus on 1 or 2 things that will make it work for you.

Here are the 2 key elements I recommend you focus on when under pressure in matrches. Each of the two elements, if done correctly, will cover any problems you may be having with your serve.


The front foot is the “Bridge” for your serve. It’s the transfer point for your forward movement during the serve.

If this “Bridge” is weak or not operating well enough your serve will lack power, timing and balance.

The Front Foot is therefore responsible for…

1.   Supplying Power

2.  Is the source of Timing

3.  Creating Balance


The wrist puts the ball in. It adapts within the contact zone to meet the ball early, late. Left or right. It is the steering wheel for your serve.

The wrist also transfers the energy within the swing into the ball. Much the same as you throw a ball or crack a whip, your wrist can increase the velocity of the racquet head by accelerating during the swing.

The biggest single problem with most serves is a stiff/ locked wrist. Make sure your wrist is relaxed and flowing in order the transfer efficiently the energy sent to it by the Front Foot.

The Wrist therefore has 2 important functions when serving…

1.   Finding your target

2.  Accelerating the racquet head

Within these two techniques you have the answer to any problem you will experience.

During practice sessions focus on isolating these important two elements to solve problem issues that arise.

Monday, March 25, 2019


A coach can only do so much with a player who is experiencing destructive mental issues related to tennis competition.

Players who find competition mentally too much to handle and suffer from choking, low levels of self confidence or an inability to close out important matches are generally the victims of their environment. They are reflecting the environment they live in everyday when they compete in matches.

Prolonged and repeated negative mental issues in matches when competing as a junior player, also continue to be a problem for the player much later in life, even though the environment which has caused the mental issues in the first place might have changed for the better.

Considering a majority of competitive junior players suffer from an almost crippling mental war inside their heads, it would be fair to say that a majority of players never fully reach their true potential.

It therefore becomes clear that the  environment we grow up in when we start our tennis is critically important. 

Coaches can sometimes merely inherit the mental problems of their students, although in some cases coaches actually add to, or at worst create the negative mental issues.

This article therefore is for Parents and Coaches who need help in understanding how to avoid their child or student developing mental issues related to competition in the first place. It can also be a reference in how to handle players who have already developed issues mentally and ultimately how to reverse the problem.

A father recently messaged me while on his way to a tournament with his son. They were on their way to play the first day of the Nationals.

The stress in the car must have been considerable because his son had asked his father "What if I lose"?

His father had messaged me asking "What should I tell him"?

The most important thing for Parents and Coaches to remember is that in order to play at their best a player must enjoy the process of playing. Enjoyment unlocks the mind and allows you to perform to your potential. Any form of mental contamination will hurt your performance.

The root causes of contamination are broad but can include unrealistic expectations, unrealistic pressure, low self esteem, low self confidence and fear.

In my experience most of this is picked up by young players from the people they want to please the most, parents and coaches. It is therefore important to know now that what you say as a parent or a coach becomes extremely powerful... the emotion you send to a young player within your comments is magnified 5 times!


I prepare myself to react to situations around players. I prepare for possible questions that may come, either in a few moments or in several days. I'm ready.

I also react to questions or situations in the third person. Often I observe myself speaking to a player from the perspective of the third person, monitoring my words, my tone and my body language.

Timing is important. Don't bring up possible stressful topics around stressful times, before or after matches for example. I'm not saying tough topics can't be discussed. I'm saying be smart with when you bring them up. 


Parents often ask me what they can do that makes a real difference to their child's tennis. By monitoring how you act and what you say around your child you will create an environment whereby a happy, competitive player emerges. This is the single most important  ingredient in developing a successful player.

With enough awareness and empathy you will also be able to correct unwanted behavioural problems that have already developed.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


The Korean guy in the front row was losing control. 

It was 1991 and Beijing was the venue for the Asian Games.  We were playing for at least a Mixed Doubles bronze medal and Thailand hadn’t won an Asian Games medal in tennis for almost 40 years! Personally, this was the biggest match of my tenure as Thai National Tennis Coach.  

The Thai team of Wittaya Samret and Orawan Thampensri were in a match with a typically tough Korean team.  You can always count on Koreans to make it a battle.  They are always in great shape physically, mentally very strong and always 100% committed.  

I had encountered the Korean attitude in many events prior to this.  Players from Korea could sometimes over-step the boundary of what was considered good sportsmanship sometimes.  This didn’t make them any friends on the tennis circuit and I had even witnessed Korean coaches physically abusing players several times.

I’m not sure whether or not the guy in the front row was a coach attached to the team or not, but he was calling instructions between each point.  The rules of tennis clearly state that you can not communicate with the players in any way during the match, either verbally or with signals. 

Several times he had been warned about communicating with the players’ during the match but he continued to do so.  

I caught his attention and asked him to stop talking to the players.  He replied that he was not “coaching” the players which, even if true, didn’t alter the fact that he was communicating non-stop with them.

News of the match had also now spread to other sporting venues in Beijing and the Thai media covering the Asian Games started arriving at the tennis venue in anticipation of a rare tennis medal for Thailand. Every Thai television channel was represented and all the Thai newspapers were there. 

I already knew all the Thai media people from other events we had played and they had always supported me personally and written favorable articles about my work with the Thai team.  For them and me, an Asian Games medal was the icing on the cake.  

But there was still the matter of this crazy Korean guy in the front row!  As the Thai duo began to dominate, he got more and more irate.  Once again I asked him to stop communicating with his players.  This time however he began climbing the seats in front of me with the clear intention of punching my head off my shoulders!  As he climbed over the first row and made his way up to my seat he continued shouting abuse at me, the blood vessels in his neck bulging and his face turning purple. 

The media guys around me began sensing a much bigger story than the Thai Mixed Doubles team picking up a bronze medal!  Camera lenses were poised for the biggest scope of their fortnight in Beijing. I could visualize the headlines in Thailand the next day announcing “Thai Tennis Coach Involved in Brawl at Asian Games”.  

Thankfully other more sensible Koreans in the group had a firm grip of his jacket and pulled him back to his seat.  Several from the Thai Media were claiming “He was going to pick a fight with you”! Still concerned about newspaper headlines the next morning I deflected their concerns by down-playing the whole incident.  

Thankfully Wittaya and Orawan did win Thailand’s first Asian Games tennis medal for 40 years. 

For years after Beijing I never traveled to Korea.  I guess my early experiences put me off going there, believing that the place would not be that friendly and the people difficult.  When I did actually go there several years ago with players I was shocked to find one of the prettiest countries, and the friendliest people you would wish to meet.  What a contrast!  

During the month of May Korea is stunning

Today it would be my first pick of countries to live.  However if I ever did live there I might have to keep looking over my shoulder for that crazy guy from Beijing!

Sunday, February 24, 2019


The wrist plays a really important role in the serve. It not only allows you to generate more power but also gives you greater feel for your targets.

In order to perform these jobs the wrist needs to be supple and relaxed.

The most common issues associated with players with serving problems stems from them having wrist that fail to function well, usually because the wrist is locked.

It's really important to have a loose wrist when you serve. Apart from a loose wrist allowing you to generate more power and give you more feel, a loose wrist will also take the pressure off your shoulder joint and therefore prevent injuries in the long term. 

Here are some key check points to help keep your wrist loose on the serve:

1.  Ensure the take back is relaxed
If the take back is relaxed it's almost certain you will hit the serve with a loose wrist. If you are stiff or tight on the take back it's difficult to change to loose during the swing.

Look to see how loose the take back is in the video. Divij Sharan doesn't "carry" the racquet back as if it's a heavy object. He allows the weight of the racquet to "break" the wrist and to relax his arm... there's no tension here at all.

2.  Hit the serve with your wrist, not your arm
The mindset to adopt is one of hitting the ball with your wrist, not your arm. The wrist is the dominant focus when you serve.

A serve with a dominant arm will always be still and lack the power and feel you need.

3.  Release the wrist on the finish of the serve 
As a check point to ensure that your serve is relaxed throughout the serve try to finish with a soft wrist. 

Avoid squeezing the finish and tightening. Often a habit of tightening the finish or the serve creeps into the whole service motion without you realizing it.


Friday, February 22, 2019


THERE ARE 3 PARTS OF A SWING and each part has its own unique function.

The 3 parts are (1) The Backswing (2) The Contact and (3) The Follow Through. Here is a break down on each of these 3 parts of the swing.

THE BACKSWING: The purpose of your backswing is to supply power to your stroke. The bigger the backswing the more power you can generate.

A return of serve for example doesn't require much backswing generally because the power you need is mostly coming from the serve you are trying to return.

Strokes where you commonly  want to generate more power than normal, are mid-court forehand and shoulder height groundstrokes. It's common to see players taken big backswings on these two options because they want to generate extra power.

THE FOLLOW THROUGH: The Follow Through is the release of energy from the stroke you just completed.

The size of your follow through should be directly related to the amount of backswing you created to hit the ball - no more, no less... they are related to each other, backswing creates power and follow through releases that power.

Follow through also has another very important function to perform. It creates spin.

The higher your hand finishes after contact, the more topspin you can achieve.

If your hand finishes low after contact (chin height), there will be less spin on the ball. If your hand finishes above your head after contact, there will be a lot of topspin.

This demonstration of a running forehand shows the 3 parts of a swing working together to achieve a desired shot...

(1) Because the ball is fast and deep the depth of the backswing is less because his opponent has created all the energy required for the shot. 

(2) The player has positioned the racquet face at the correct angle to send the ball over the net at the desired net clearance. 

(3) The finish is extreme because all that remains for the player to do is create arc and "tail" at the other side of the net to keep the ball inside the baseline.

THE CONTACT: Of the 3 parts of a swing, Contact has perhaps the most important role to play. Contacts' job is to get the ball over the net and in the direction you want.

The racquet face position at the moment of contact will determine where the ball goes. The ball goes solely where the racquet face tells it to go.

In Summary:

1.  The 3 parts of the swing described here all have different functions. Very often players' try to vary these roles. The most common instance of this is when players try to spin the contact in the belief this will give them elevation over the net.  Net clearance is the job of Contact, not spin.

2.  Every stroke is different. Players need to learn when to adjust the amount of backswing, Follow Through or Contact depending on their needs in the point..

This is the third part of 4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT.  By understanding the clearly defined roles of Back Swing, Follow Through and Contact you will gain greater mastery over your groundstrokes in terms of feel, versatility and adaptability.

Please feel free to comment below to begin a discussion on this post.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


In 2005 Martina Hingis decided to make a come-back to professional tennis.  Martina had walked away from tennis in 2002 after a career that saw her rise to number 1 in the rankings and stay there for a total of 206 weeks. She captured 15 Grand Slam titles which included 5 singles, 9 women’s doubles and 1 mixed doubles titles.

Martina’s first match back was going to be the Pattaya Women’s Open, held annually in the seaside resort town of Pattaya, Thailand.  The tournament is owned and run by an old friend of mine Geoffrey Rowe.  Geoffrey has been running women’s events in Thailand for many years and Thai tennis owes him a huge debt of thanks.  It was his wild card into the Pattaya Women’s Open that gave Tamarine Tanasugarn her big opportunity to break into the WTA Tour.  Ironically “Tami” under-performed in Pattaya for many years after her break through there, perhaps due to the pressure of playing in front of her Thai fans.

Each year Geoffrey asked me to help with sparring partners for the women participants.  Hingis was scheduled to arrive into Pattaya 10 days early in order to prepare. 

I took two male players with me to Pattaya, Alex Korch, a Canadian who had been training with me for the past few months, and Anuwat Dalodom, a Thai player who was in his last year as a junior.

The first training session certainly made it clear this was not going to be like any other training session we had done before.  There were television crews all the way from Europe filming her every move. Throughout the week we changed courts often and everywhere we went in Pattaya there were crowds of spectators watching our practise. 

I had also allowed my daughter, Isabella, to sit and watch at courtside. Early into the practice Isabella had made a noise that drew the attention of Martina’s mother Melanie. Melanie Molitorova was on-court for every session and she made it clear that there was to be no distractions at courtside during practice sessions. 

On-court Martina was the consummate professional, focused and hard working.  It was a great opportunity for me to see her game up close and to talk to her about her game.  It was obvious that Martina’s mother had a big part to play in getting her to the top.

Martina was drawn to play the German, Marlene Weingartner in a first round evening match of the tournament and a capacity crowd gathered to watch.  

When the match started Martina was clearly the better player and raced away to a handy lead in the first set.  What happened next was one of the most bizarre incidents I have ever witnessed in my many years of watching tennis.  

During a point Weingartner popped up a high defensive lob and Martina hit a confident smash to finish the point.  However the smash hit the courtside scoreboard, sending the metal letters and numbers flying in all directions.  

Play stopped while the young Thai ball-boy replaced the metal plates on which the letters are painted.  Unfortunately the ball boy began struggling with the surname Weingartner and made several failed attempts to get the name right, much to the amusement of the large crowd.  By the time the ball-boy had made his fifth attempt at Weingartner  (without success), the crowd were hooting with laughter.

The only person not laughing was Marlene Weingartner.  She was being beaten badly in the match by Martina Hingis and now even her name was receiving ridicule from the crowd. She must have felt very disrespected!

When the match finally resumed Weingartner began to go for her shots.  She was hitting everything as hard as she could and everything was going in.  She seemed to have overcome her slow, hesitant start and was now playing like someone who not only thought she was worthy to be on the same court as Martine, but should also win the match!

Marlene Weingartner went on to win the set and the match thanks to some old fashioned controlled aggressive anger.  The Hingis come-back had suffered a major set back.

Despite her loss in the Pattaya Women’s Open Hingis did go on to win 3 more singles titles before retiring again a few years later.  Alex, Anuwat and I were privileged to spend time with her on and off court during her time in Pattaya. 

Monday, May 22, 2017


Everyone talks about fundamentals and how important they are.  Anyone playing well is said to have “great fundamentals”, while anyone playing poorly is accused of having “poor fundamentals”. But have you ever tried to find a list of these fundamentals? If such a list existed surely this would be of immense help to players and coaches alike.

The truth is that you will never find a definitive list of the “Tennis Fundamentals”. Although players are continually admired or criticized about their fundamentals and although training programs around the world attempt to install “fundamentals” in their players, there is no definitive list available.

So let’s start defining what exactly a fundamental is, or should be. I believe a fundamental is something that cannot be taken out, in other words you cannot play without it. Think about that for a moment. What elements cannot be taken out of our game? Is the backswing a fundamental? No, because some volleys, service returns and half volleys don’t require a backswing.

Is footwork a fundamental? No, because sometimes a ball hit into your body doesn’t give you time to move your feet and wheelchair players manage just fine without the use of their feet. Is the follow-through a fundamental? No, because half volleys, some volleys and the return of serve don’t always require a follow-through.

I could come up with many more mythical “fundamentals” that are actually cosmetics and not always necessary to execute the shot correctly. If these cosmetics were eliminated you would be able to play the game just fine.

Here are the 3 Fundamentals I teach every day. They cannot be taken out of tennis, without them you cannot play the game.

You can have the most perfect backswing and follow-through in the world but that never guarantees that the ball goes to its intended target.   The ball goes where the racquet strings “point”, regardless of backswing and the follow-through. Contact is a Fundamental.

Your relationship with the ground when you play incorporates multiple elements such as movement, balance and timing. Without any one of these elements you provide energy or control to the ball. Energy and timing come from your interaction with the ground. The correct use of Ground is a Fundamental.

Anytime you hit the ball you create ball rotation (spin). Beginners create ball rotation almost by accident when they hit the ball. Advanced players use spin as a tool to help achieve speed and angles while still controlling the ball in the court. Spin is present in every shot and is a Fundamental of tennis.

In all three instances you cannot eliminate Contact, Ground or Spin from the game. They are fundamental. Your level of manipulation of these fundamentals and your ability to master the use of them defines your ability as a player.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017



At any given time during a point you are in one of three conditions, Defense, Neutral or Offense. You need to clearly define which condition you are in to compete successfully.

If you attack the point at the wrong time, or have an opportunity to attack but fail to take that opportunity, it doesn’t matter how well you stroke the ball your overall game will lack cohesion and meaning.

So how do we define when we are in a Defensive situation, a Neutral situation or an Offensive situation?  What exactly are the factors which put you in a defensive mode? When are you able to attack the point with a high degree of confidence that you will be successful? How do you know that you are in a Neutral situation during the point?

Whether you are in Defense, Neutral or Offense depends on two criteria and you must constantly be aware of these criteria as you play.  Those criteria are:

If your feet are behind the baseline when you contact the ball, you are on Defense. If your feet are inside the baseline when you contact the ball you are on Offense.

If you contact the ball above the height of the white band of the net, you are on Offense. If you contact  the ball below this white band you are in Defense.

If your feet are inside the baseline (Offense) but the height of the ball is below the white band (Defense) you are in the neutral condition such as when you are approaching the net and have to hit a low mid-court ball, or when you are playing a low volley at net.

If your feet are behind the baseline (Defense) but the ball is above the white band of the net (Offense), you are in a Neutral condition also. An example would be when your opponent loops a high ball during the rally.

This is called the DNO Theory (Defense, Neutral, and Offense).

Many players fail to clearly define their role with each shot during the point. This leads to poor shot selection and ultimately unforced errors. Learn to constantly access which condition you are in for each shot, Defense, Neutral or Offense, and respond  correctly to each condition.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Many players reach a very high ranking with huge deficiencies in their games.  It seems that it comes down to whether you opt for doing "A few things really well" or "Many things OK". But it doesn't have to be that way.

Women's tennis is full of players who have solid, dependable  groundstrokes, no serve, no net game, but have still reached the top 100 on the WTA ranking list.

In the men's game its less obvious but there are still players with a limited range of strokes and who depend on a very conservative game plan to win matches.

This limited range of strokes and conservative approach to points often comes from a players time in the juniors, especially if the player was successful. often players, coaches and parents are not willing to expand the game and take on new initiatives. Pete Sampras is famous for deciding to change from a two-handed backhand to a one-handed backhand as a junior, only to lose early in tournaments for the next twelve months.  

Therefore it has been possible to create a successful career based on the "limited" approach to player development in contrast to an "expansive" approach. What I believe however is that today its getting more and more difficult to reach the top with a smaller skill-set than in the past.

As tennis develops the day of the the multi-skilled, multi-faceted player has arrived. players must be able to not only attack the point at a high level but also defend the point at a high level through a range of strokes and shot selection options.

If we decide our goal is to develop a player with a broad range of skills so that their long term prospects are enhanced, how exactly do we go about doing this day to day?

The best description I have ever heard to explain this task is this...


Think about that for a moment. Being offensively excellent on clay (perhaps the slowest surface we play on) means giving that player the instinct and weapons to excel on the slowest, and therefore the most difficult surface in which to do so. Creating a player who can excel defensively on wood (once quite a common surface for the early travelling professional players, and an extremely fast surface) means giving that player the tools to do so.

It now becomes the responsibility of the coach early in a players career to introduce elements of the Clay V's Wood philosophy in practice on a daily basis. This philosophy opens up a whole range of topics re the Serve, Return, the Groundstroke Rally, Net Play etc which I would be happy to help the reader with if you would like to contact me in the comments below.

The days of the conservative approach to player development are numbered. As more players reach the top based on expansive, well rounded games, coaches will be required to develop these players from the very start.