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CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Resultina – Tennis Results By Jiri Fencl and Lukas Brezina

CAtennis has the pleasure of introducing you to a great new tennis app that is available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices: Resultina. Resultina is, so far, one of the best tennis-results apps that we have had the opportunity to experience. It brings up-to-the-minute results for ATP, WTA and Junior ITF events. One catchy feature is that it allows you to choose your favorite players and peruse their recent results and current activity. This is extremely effective for players as well as coaches and very entertaining for tennis fans. 

Here's a brief Q&A with its creator - Jiri Fencl (current coach of WTA player LUCIE HRADECKA):



1. How did you come up with the plan for this app?

The idea was in our mind for some time. I work as a tennis coach and I'm interested where and how players I know play. Futures, Challengers, Tour events, Juniors. That's a lot of websites to go through. So we thought, there must be a better way. And that's how Resultina was born..to solve our own problem. 

2. Who were the developers?

The developers are myself, Jiri Fencl, and Lukas Brezina. I work as a professional tennis coach (and do a lot of programming as well) and Lukas is tennis analyst and entrepreneur. We designed an iPhone version of Resultina and we were lucky to find one of the best iPhone developers Petr Jankuj, who did all the hard coding on the iPhone app.

3. What are the long-term goals? Will you be offering other tennis results as well? For example, wheelchair tournaments? College tennis (pretty big deal in US)? Bundesliga? 
We launched Resultina in late December, so right now, we're focused on reliability of the service. We want to bring users as accurate result service as we can. I think that one of the best features of the app is that it enables users to type in the scores. So the system is open and we might be able to add results from more events. College tennis is a possibility too.
4. Will this remain a results-based app or are the plans to expand into additional services?
Head to head statistics are in the app already. Resultina (as the name suggests) will be always result-based, but we're always looking to improve it by adding some interesting features.

5. At this point is free but we imagine that there will be a subscription fee soon. When and how much? 
The app is free to download and use and for 30 days works with all the bells and whistles. After 30 days, push notifications and My Players section requires subscription that costs $7.99 / year. Everything else will work free of charge. All the tournaments, all results etc. 
6. Anything else that you'd like to add? 

Resultina also looks for who is next opponent of your favorite players, so at beginning of the week you have a big picture who is playing this week, where and the opponent. Users can update scores, so if you're watching the match or you are at the tournament, you can update finished scores and "release" result for other users. Yes, we monitor quality of user scores. Users build a reputation so we consider scores official after user proves to be reliable source. This way we're able to have scores (especially from smaller tournaments like Futures and Juniors) much faster than anybody else. It is amusing to see a player playing Futures or ITF juniors typing in score of his own match as some of them do. Although they do it more often when they win :-) The Android version can be found at the Play Store
Thank you, Jiri. Please keep up the great work!
Please tell your friends about Resultina and we encourage you to contact CAtennis for promo codes. 



Time is free, but it's priceless

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back. ― Harvey MacKay

We recently ran across this quote from Harvey MacKay and couldn't help but think about the application of this wisdom to tennis as well as life. One obstacle that is faced by tennis players in their path to success is poor time management skills. Simply put, most players are terrible about using the time they have available and, invariably, are forced to "cram for the exam" be it before the tournament, before the dual match or before college signing date. 

Failure is insidious. It marches on whether you see it or feel it. The only way to reverse course is, unfortunately, by also engaging in small positive actions which, on their own, are also unperceivable but, compounded, have the tendency to assist you on your path to success. For example, let's say that you're having problems getting your first serve in and that you have a big tournament coming up. You can either: (1) spend more time practicing the things that you would like to practice (e.g., forehands, drop-shots, overheads, between the legs, etc.) and only focusing on a handful of serves here and there; or (2) wait until the day before the tournament and then wear out your shoulder smacking a couple hundred servers. Which path would you choose?

What if there's a third option?! For example, let's say that a week before the event you hit 50 serves in practice. Is this enough? Will you see a major difference in your first serve percentage during the match? Next day? Doubtful. How about if you hit 50 serves today, then 60 tomorrow, then 70 the next day, and so on until the day prior to the event?! You would have ingrained the motion - that is, developing confidence - in a gradual fashion while at the same time (a) managing your body and keeping it injury free and (b) developing strength and stamina. Yet, players are often prone to want to "cram for the exam" - like eating a salad before they see the doctor while having devoured cheeseburgers every day the month before. 

It would be so much easier to learn from our mistakes if they were either painful or obvious... like a lab rat getting an instant shock whenever he touches the wrong lever. However, the mistakes that we make in the course of learning to play tennis are not always obvious. One less serve or sprint today is not going to ruin you as an athlete. So it's easy to not do it. But do it you must. Use the time that you have avaiable to do an extra push-up today, run an extra sprint (one more than the day before), hit 5 more serves today than yesterday, etc. Gradually, you will lay the foundation for success and develop life-long skills that will assist you beyond the tennis court. 


Practice Makes Perfect v. Wabi-Sabi

"Practice makes perfect" - who hasn't heard this experssion?! Or "how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Answer: practice, practice, practice." But does practice - even perfect and  practice - always lead to perfection....or success? Sometimes, the quest for perfection can become a fool's errand. Perfection, in reality, is quite unattainable. Even Roger Federer, with all of his Grand Slam wins and record, has been less than perfect. Even while going on month-long streaks of being undefeated he has lost points, has lost games and has lost sets. He has made numerous unforced errors, mishit balls into the stands, hit double faults and dumped easy sitters into the net. However, in doing so, he has remained - at least for that particular duration - fairly "perfect" in one important category: wins. 

What we can learn from this simple annecdote is that if you want to achieve great results, you have to discard pure perfection. As a player (and, perhaps, more importantly a parent or coach), you have to accept that fact that YOU WILL NEVER EVER BE PERFECT. You are not a perfect human being and you are never going to play a perfect match. Tennis is as much art as it is science and it's the opponent's job to make you play as imperfectly as possible. If you have the tendency to become obsessed with minuscule perfection - whether in practice or in a match - you miss stunting your development in the long-run. For example, have you noticed that player whose warm-ups seem to last 45 minutes or longer? If you're like us, there is always one or two in the proverbial bunch. They always want to hit "one more ball", "one more overhead" or they haven't quite gotten "the feel" of the ball just right and want to do another rally...then another rally...then another rally and so on 'til Kingdom come. These players think that if they somehow get things "just right" then things will magically fall into place for them. The problem with this type of mentality is that, rather than focusing on what's important (e.g. performing specific drills) the players get bogged down on generalities. With limited time at their disposal - and having spent 45 minutes to an hour on just "warming up" - how much more time or energy will they have to practice what's really important?! Not a whole lot. These players are guilty of trying to fight a perfect war. There is no such thing. If you engage in battle you have to accept some casualties..move on! You can't possibly protect every soldier and you can't possibly win every point. Move on!

Loosen up and then work on things that are likely to pay the most dividends. Sure, if there's a particular kink in your game be specific about it and address it but without getting obsessed with it to your detriment. Use the warm-up for its primary purpose: getting your body ready for action. In a match, do not let errors drag you down. If you become obsessed with your mistakes you risk allowing the match to spiral out of control. You're like a boxer who's focusing too much on her jab...while getting pummeled by the opponent. Jab doesn't work?! Great. Beat the opponent with your hook; or uppercut. In practice, if you focus too much on your "weakness" you risk ignoring other parts of the game which may come to cost you when it matters. 

For best results, seek excellence rather than perfection. Excellence leaves room for error...for humanity. And imperfection is beautiful. Think of all the great works of art that have been created through the ages. From paintings to sculpture and music, how many can you name that have been created by robots or machines? You can name a Da Vinci painting, a Michellangelo statue or a Mozart composition without much effort. All of these works of art are imperfect. And that's what makes them beautiful. It's like the leaf in the picture on the right: it's is grimy; it is old and yellow; it is sitting in mud; maybe the lighting isn't the best. You take every single one of these elements individually and none of them are very awe-inspiring. However, you put them all together and it creates a very appealing and eye-pleasing experience. You have to approach the game of tennis in the same way. Accept the fact that sometimes you have to sometimes kick and scrape for a ball. Accept the fact that you will make easy mistakes or the fact that the opponent will play better points than you will. Accept the fact that some of your shots may not be there when you need them. Accept these things but learn from them and you will become a better person and a better player. Discard the quest for perfection for the concept of wabi-sabi - briefly, the attitude that there's beauty in imperfection. Wabi-sabi is the tasty food that you get from a street vendor; it's the memorable vacation that you have when you forget your best poutfit at home and hunt for a replacement in a foreign country; it's the impromptu concert that is given in a park by an unknown performer; and, in tennis, it's the shank forehand winner on a ke point or having to dig deep and rely on your physical characteristics and wit rather than technique. Embrance imperfection as part of the process and the attidude becomes the hot ait balloon that pulls you up rather than the anchor weighing you down. Work on being excellent and balanced. Discard academic theory about how a shot needs to be hit and how a play needs to be executed and focus on the practical aspect of the sport; keep in mind that when you're practicing one thing you're not practicing something else...and it's the thing that you do not practice that will lead to your downfall. 


Choosing Your Child's Group Workouts

Let's be honest here, unless you're in the "top 1%" the amount of disposable income that you will have allocated to tennis will be limited. Thus, most families will choose group lessons over private lessons in order to save some money. Below are some tips for choosing the best group environment for your child and making the most out of the situation. If you're thinking about signing up your kid for one of these workouts, I would suggest utilizing a scale of 1 (bad) - 5 (great) for each category. Look for environments offering a combined score of 42 and above: 

1. Substance over form. Whether it's called a "group workout", a "clinic", an "academy" or some other catchy name, look beyond the title. What does the activity offer? Stroke production? Fitness? Match play? Intellectual stimulation? Etc. You wouldn't buy a piece of tofu that's labeled "steak" so why would you rely on the name alone?! There are a lot of "tennis academies" out there that are glorified sports-themed babysitting clubs. If you want your child to not be a clown, don't sign him up for a circus. 

2. Number of balls. How do you know if the group lesson is a circus or something that is oriented on development. A rule of thumb is to count the number of balls that are being hit. Note: for younger kids, shadow swings can count as balls being struck. If you see a lot of standing and goofing around, sitting down or nose-picking, the group is probably not very high quality. Look for every kid hitting at least 250-300 balls per hour (twice or three times more for kids U14 and older). Learning tennis is no different that learning how to read and write: repetition is key. Of course, nothing compares to an individual lesson (same as private tutoring) in terms of number of balls being struck but there are aspects of a group environment (e.g. competition) which can serve as a trade-off in making the ractice a positive learning experience. 

3. Energy. Related to #2 is the concept of "energy." Look for an environment that is high on energy (from the pros as well as the kids). If the coaches aren't very motivated then the players will pick up on the low energy and run amok. Look for pros and players who want to be there. With respect to players, evaluate whether they are in fact interested in playing tennis or whether they are there simply because the parents are making them go. Also, determine whether the players push each other in a positive manner or whether they are undermining each others' development. 

4. Discipline. Look for environments that have a zero-tolerance approach to training. This is related to point #3. Compare the group workouts to school. Would the child's behavior - be it being loud, showing up late, not trying, distracting his peers, cheating, whining, crying, smashing rackets, etc. - be tolerated at school? If not, then it shouldn't be tolerated at the workout either. Furthermore, these policies should be applied equally across the board, regardless of whether the player is good or bad and without consideration to parental influence. 

5. Parental involvement. Look for environments where parents care about their child's tennis but, at the same time, are confident enough in the pros' abilities that they do not feel the need to become helicopter parents. Helicopter parents tend to cause too many distractions...they try to influence the group's direction to maximize the benefit derived by their child. If you see too many parents hanging around the fences - or worse, being on the court - understand that the pro's influence may be diminished by that of the parents. In the worst case scenario, the most pushy parents will run the practices indirectly (which means - the pro is unable to look for your child's best interest). 

6. Mix. Here, you are looking for a workout that offers a variety of training tools: feeding; rallying; match-play; fitness; video-analysis; studying; etc. In order to develop as players, kids need to be exposed to all of these things. Feeding drills are intended to teach concepts artificially. Rallying drills are intended to implement those concepts in a live-ball format. Match-play is intended to implement the concepts in a more realistic setting. Furthermore, watching video analysis (watching yourself as well as watching pros) is helpful in giving the players a 3rd person viewpoint of their games so that they see how their game matches up to that of their heros. Fitness is, obviously, a huge component in a running sport such as tennis. 

7. Training aids. Is the practice limited to baset drills or are the players exposed to training aids such as backboards, ball machines, various surfaces, gadgets, etc.? A good practice will not just teach players how to hit the ball but will also teach players how to teach themselves. It's good for players to know how to set up the ball machine in order to practice the skills on their own. It's also good for players to be exposed to backboards or walls so they know what drills they can do to sharpen their strokes. Very few players have had the benefit of having a support team around them 24/7/365. Players must be taught how to become self-reliant and it's the coach's job (private or group coach) to teach them how to do this. 

8. Ethics. Determine whether the environment focuses on ethics. Is cheating or gamesmanship tolerated? Cheating is a learned behavior and some coaches (and, without a doubt, parents) live by the motto that "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying." Besides being unethical, cheating is also bad for long-term development because kids who rely on cheating as a crutch to get them over the hump do not learn an invaluable lesson: tennis is hard work; there are no short cuts in the game (or in life). At some point, you will not be able to rely on cheating (being in an umpired match or in your professional life). Then what?! 

9. Progress. Does the practice offer an active and objective track for the player to progress from one level to another? Look for a system where the players who have started out "on the bottom court" have worked their way up to "the top court". Is the progress subjective (i.e., coach determines when and how the player deserves to move up) or objective (i.e., merit-based: wins; dedication; skill-based testing)? 

10. Pro's Knowledge. Last but not least, it's always good to have a pro "who's been there, done that." A pro who has gone through the development process him/herself - from juniors to college to pros - is more likely to understand what it takes at each stage. Look beyond the certifications (which are largely meaningless) and determine wheter the pro is good about communicating tennis concepts in a clear and concise manner. Furthermore, look for coaches who are passionate students of the game. Are they in shape? Do they still compete? Do they bring in outsiders to motivate the kids? Do they publish? Are they involved in organizing events? Are they interested in development or just earning a living? Etc. 

Do you know of a good group? Let us know in the comments below. 


Backboard Decathlon: Supplement to ROG initiative 

As a lot of you may already know, the USTA has instituted new rules for 10 and Under tennis competition. The R(ed) O(range) G(green) ("ROG") initiative is intended to make tennis more kid-friendly and assist with the long-term development process. You can read more about the new rules here. In the alternative, we recommend that you access the relevant information on the USTA's own website or check out websites such as Parentingaces.com which routinely discuss the changes in rules and their effects. 

Although CAtennis.com takes no position regarding the ROG initiative, we believe that the underlying philosophy is sound: kids + repetition = more, better players -> more Grand Slam contenders. In this regard, we believe that it would be appropriate for U10 tournament organizer to consider expanding their horizons a bit and going beyond the four corners of the tennis court to not only get kids hooked on the sport but also hooked on the process of mastering the game.

Here is what we have in mind: supplementing every U10 tennis event with a backboard "decathlon". A lot of tennis clubs have backboards within their facilities. Some of these backboards are purely for tennis players while others are in the form of racquetball or handball courts. Many of these backboards are underused - particularly by tennis players - for months at a time. Yet, they are one of the best and cheapest training tools available. Many great champions - from Bjorn Borg to Pete Sampras - honed their strokes by practicing against backboards, walls or garage doors. Why is backboard training so effective? In one word: myelination. Briefly, myelin assists humans in our learning process. When people learn a new skill, myelin levels increase between the relevant neuron connection. This, in turn, allows signals to travel faster between the areas of the brain involved in the activity. So, for example, when you're first starting out with tennis you can find yourself a bit overwhelmed by all the concepts: 1. footwork; 2. grip; 3. preparation; 4. swing; 5. follow-through; etc. However, with practice, these movements become more and more ingrained (or "grooved"). The gross and fine motor skills associated with the stroke (as well as related muscles) become sharpened. Accordingly, some of the concepts may be internalized or become wholly unconscious. Your brain simply understands the various adjustments that have to be made with respect to each particular shot. 

This unconcious (or partially conscious) understanding allows the player to think about other things besides the the stroke itself such as where to hit the ball (and, perhaps, the following shot). In other words, a player who has achieved this level seems to have "more time" to hit the ball than a beginner. Of course, an expert and a beginner may have the same amount of time at their disposal although the beginner's brain is muddled with more basic concepts than an expert's brain ("paralysis by analysis"). Thus,  the beginner's brain has to fit more computations - speed, trajectory, spin, etc. - in the same finite amount of time - which often results in a mistake. An expert doesn't need to think about the basic concepts as much because, for him, these concepts have been automated. Accordingly, the expert can marshall her brain's assets towards other tasks (e.g., strategy).

Now, the foregoing is a round-about way of saying that repetition is good. The more kids repeat strokes, the more automatic the strokes become. The sooner kids master technique the earlier they can move on to the next level. The benefit of using the backboard in the development process is that the player has the opportunity to hit thousands of balls within 1 or 2 hours v. hundreds (lessons, clinic or match). It's not uncommon to see kids participating in clinics where they are simply standing around and not hitting any balls at all.

The wall doesn't miss, doesn't mishit and doesn't generate pace. Kids learn very early which strokes are good for getting the ball to go forward and which strokes send the balls all over the place. In addition, kids can push themselves to focus on keeping the rally going for longer and longer thereby improving their attention span (which is beneficial in tennis as well as in life). Furthermore, backboard practice is great for developing one's imagination; players can pretend that they are playing against their heros on TV. Isn't that what "playing" is all about?! So wouldn't it be productive if every U10 tournament included a backboard component?! Kids could not only play against each other in a tennis format but could also compete against each other in a more "artificial" setting (although one that's likely to pay more long-term dividends). For example, each tournament could have a main draw, a back draw and a backboard draw. Prizes could be awarded for each category and, knowing this, kids would be more inclned to practice against the backboard (making them better players and more mentally tough competitors). Several back-board games could be incorporated in a "Backboard Decathlon" where boys and girls could compete against each other. Here are some suggestions:

1. Most consecutive groundstrokes without a mistake. To count, the ball must bounce behind a 12' line (for younger kids) or 18' line (older kids). The depth rule ensures that the kids hit proper, penetrating shots. 

2. Most groundstrokes in a 5 minute period (same depth dimensions as above). Maximum of 3 mistakes allowed. This game is great for having the kids' shots are not only strong but also fast. 

3. Most volleys without a mistake. Kids can stay 4' (younger kids) or 6' (older kids) from backboard to ensure that they are "sticking" / punching the shot with power and precision. 

4. Point construction. Tournamen director dictates a point (e.g, serve, forehand, backhand topsin, backhand slice, forehand approach, forehand volley, backhand volley, overhead, etc.) that the competitors have to follow. The ones who do not follow it, are knocked out; the ones who follow the point move on to the next round (where a different, more complex point is constructed). 

5. Target practice. Targets are put on the wall and the players are given 5 minutes to hit the maximum number of targets with their groundstrokes. Maximum of 3 mistakes allowed. 

6. Knock-out. Groups of 4-5 kids are playing a point (hit and get out of the way). The player who misses or doesn't get to the ball is knocked out and the other kids continue on until only one player is remaining. We can attest that this game is a lot of fun. 

7. Most overheads in a 5 minute interval. 

8. Singles. Players compete against each other in a racquet ball-type format in a game up to 11. 

9. Doubles. Same as #8 above except that 2 teams consisting of 2 players each compete against each other. Players on each team must aternate shots. 

10. Most side-to-side volleys in a 3 minute period (i.e., "The Cara Black" drill)

We urge all junior tournament directors to inject some additional fun in their events and let us know how it works. If you are truly interested in growing the game, thinking outside the box is imperative. By incorporating a backboard component in your tournament you will be on the front lines of development. Your players will develop better strokes, better focus, better hand to eye coordination, more stamina, a better work ethic, greater imagination by competing against their imaginary heros ("All men who have achieved great things have been great dreamers" - O. S. Marden) as well as a better understanding of court geometry. Furthermore, they will associate not only tournaments but also practices (specifically on their own) with a fun experience.