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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!

TennisSlowMoGuy
Tuesday
Jul242012

Grind Regularly, Celebrate Rarely

Win a practice match, nobody cares. Keep grinding. Win a groundstroke game against So and So, keep the head down. Keep grinding. Get an A on a test, don't tell the entire neighborhood. Keep grinding. Win the fastest sprint time in suicides, keep your mouth shut. Keep grinding. Date the prettiest girl in the school, get over yourself. Keep grinding. Get free equipment from Babolat...so what? Keep grinding. Got a chance to butt heads with a legend on the practice court, keep it to yourself. Keep grinding. Got a phone call from a top 10 college program, its not cocktail party gossip. Keep grinding.

Win that local, sectional, national, ITF pro circuit event? Good for you, celebrate with a Coke or cupcake. Celebrate rarely. Now get back out there and do it all over again.

Parents/coaches are guilty of building a child up. Raise the expectations, pressure rises, kids develop "Look-At-Me" syndrome and "Come-Save-Me" syndrome, and parents/coaches scratching the head at 18 why their kids strikes the best backhand in their locale, but can't seem to develop any consistency.

The best long-term organizations "grind regularly, celebrate rarely." Less flash, more substance. Everything is aimed at the long-term. Do not want attention. First one in, last one to leave. Egoless off the court, believes in their hard work under pressure on the court. Authentic, true to themselves. Spurs, Patriots, Warren Buffet, Duke Basketball...grind regularly, celebrate rarely. Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal...they are not "Look-At-Me" guys.

This is a "You Problem" if your perception is unhealthy in the eyes of those you respect. Don't be that guy who is users of people, self absorbed, ego centric, delusional, rockstar demeanor. Tennis is unforgiving, forehands and backhands are only part of it. What is your culture off the court? Who are you surrounded with? Tell me who you are surrounded with, good chance you become your friends. Smart people like to hang out with smart people. Classy people hang out with classy people. Know-It-Alls hang out with Know-It-Alls. Flashy people hang out with flashy people. Lazy people hang out with lazy people.

Monday
Jul232012

Drafting Isn't Just For Cyclists

Have you ever found yourself in a match situation where you are up a set and a break and, right before closing out the match, you managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?! All players are familiar with this scenario. Maybe the opponent played better... maybe your shots stopped clicking... maybe the wind picked up... the balls got fuzzy... Numerous excuses can exist for what is nothing more than a rookie mistake. What is going on?! Why do so many good players allow their opponents to come from behind and beat them? One explanation could be that most players who are ahead have an imaginary time clock in their heads... they exert just enough energy to allow their opponents to "beat themselves". Although this works at some levels, at the more advanced stages it is more appropriate to replace the fictitious time clock with an image of the Tour de France. 

You see, when it comes to road cycling, one strategy that is often used is the concept of "drafting". This is where a racer sits on the wheel of the front byciclist and allows such person to block the wind for him. Then, when the racers get close to the finish line, the trailing racer springs ahead - since he is more "fresh" - for victory. A similar thing happens in tennis; here, the player trailing on the scoreboard is constantly pressing his opponent to "beat him" by playing high intensity points and making few errors. Another factor that comes into play is that the trailing player has nothing left to lose so he's playing the points very loose. By not being pressured, he is free to hold serve with ease and figure out ways to chip at your service games. If the leading player's concentration slips, the trailing player may find himself in the lead just as things get interesting in the match. Therefore, when you find yourself ahead on the scoreboard, rather than waiting for the time to run out on your opponent, seek to expand the lead. Get one bike length in front, then two then three. In tennis, don't be satisfied with remaining up a break. Get up another break; and then another; then another. Be so far in front that the opponent has to work very hard just to pull even with you. Break the opponent at 30 or at 15... then see if you can break him at love. Don't be satisfied with "good enough". Stay hungry and stay interested. Sure, this is not the time for heroics, but do try to push the envelope a bit further. Chase balls that are clearly out. Challenge yourself to make good, hard first serves; get every return in play and show your opponent that you're "in it to win it". 

Wednesday
Jun272012

Steal This Drill: Dynamic Cross-Courts

Next time you're drilling with your practice partner and s/he suggests doing cross-courts, throw this dynamic drill into the mix. In this drill, player One (red) hits 2 cross-courts and the third shot down-the-line. Player Two (blue) hits only cross-court. 

The benefits of this drill include not only learning to change the direction of the ball but also working on consistency and rhythm. Because the game of tennis is not static, a drill where players are static (i.e. basic cross courts) is not as ueful as one where players move the ball around and learn how to control the ball from various court positions and to generate angles while on the move. 

Incorporating this drill into your workouts is also important because, many times, this is exactly how points are constructed: you push the opponent, with 1-2-3 cross-court shots, into a corner and then flatten out the ball down the line. However, the foundation for this drill comes from control, feel, footwork and repetition in motion. 

To work on more consistency, consider changing the direction of the ball after more cross-courts: e.g. 4 or 5. Another variation is for the players to not have a strict pattern but for one of the players (or coach) to yell "switch" before one player changes the direction of the ball. In addition, the players can do ths drill down the line and change direction cross court. Similar to other drills discussed here, the players can also start the drill off with a serve or play points. Master this drill and you will be more confident that you can put any shot on your side of the court into any place on your opponent's side of the court ("from anywhere to anywhere"). 

 

Sunday
Jun242012

Steal This Drill: Catch the Return

Are you the type of player who can serve his way out of trouble but have some difficulties when it comes to breaking your opponent's serve?! If so, this drill may be helpful. One of the keys to successful returns is to rely on the feet more than the racket. The return should be attacked and, yet, too many players rely on the racket rather than the shoes to get them to the ball. They are reactive as opposed to being proactive. The problem with this attitude is that the further back you intend to make contact the greater the distance that you have to cover. This distance is not only measured left-to-right but also up-and-down (since a good server's ball can really bounce high if you let it). 

To assist you with the concept of attacking the ball with your feet, put the racket down and grab a baseball glove (or two - one for each hand). Have your coach or practice partner mix up serves keeping them as far away from you as possible. Have her slide serves out wide; kick them to your backhand or hammer them into your belly button. Your goal is to move forward and catch as many balls around your waist as possible. By moving forward (like a team handball goalie: video below), you will learn to cut off angles and to do less with the racket and more with the feet. In the process, you will learn how to adjust your positioning by being light but quick and explosive.

When you master 10-15 good catches in a row, switch things up by alternating regular returns with catches. Transfer the skills from the catching to the returning and learn to use more of your opponent's pace and angles against her. By being a proactive returner, you will put yourself in a better position for break opportunities. 

Friday
Jun222012

500 Sets a Year!  

I tell parents all the time, take one private a week and go play matches.  Sometimes I tell parents take one private every two weeks.  It's just overkill to do anything more until you reach the higher stages of the game (professional).  Players need to be playing 8-10 sets a week, thats where the real learning happens.  Tennis is a game of trial and error, not about feeding out of a basket and focusing on technique.  Players need to learn how to compete and cope with stress.  There is nothing stressful about doing crosscourts for an hour, it doesn't get to the essence of what tennis is...a nasty contest between two people where there is a winner and loser. Black and white.  You are judged by the bottom line. 

8-10 sets a week is a great benchmark to set.  Play with anyone who will play with you.  I'm tired of players or parents saying "I won't play with So and So because they push...because they cheat...because they aren't good enough..." All lame excuses!  All you are doing is saving the player from the realities of the world.  You will play pushers who will make life miserable, do you want me to ask them to stop missing?  You will play cheaters who will cheat you on the biggest point of the match.  You will play parents who cheer against your double faults.  You will play hackers, net rushers, grinders, counterpunchers, flat hitters, dinkers, rabbits- you can't simulate this through drilling or feeding.  Simply impossible.  

(See Picture)...Djokovic has angled his wrist and changed his grip slightly to somehow, someway, fight his tail off to get this ball back into the court.  This can't be duplicated without competing and playing matches where your pride is on the line.  

There are no limits on who to play against.  Whether you play someone you can defeat 0 and 0, see if you can beat them 0 and 0 coming to the net.  Can you beat them 0 and 0 with just a slice?  Can you beat them 0 and 0 if you spot them a 30-love lead?  There are endless amounts of ways to skin a cat, but the point is to build some pressure into the matchplay to make it worthwhile.  The reason people hate to compete is because people hate dealing with uncertainty, the small chance that they put their pride on the line and lose.  Yes!  You need to be able to handle that kind of pressure consistently, never let your guard down.  Its an absolutely necessary skill.  

For the parents who protect their kids from playing people below them, your child will never reach its full potential.  This is the same player who tanks against players equal to their ability.  This is the same player who looks at the parent after every sign of poor play.  This is the same player who pouts when a bad line call comes their way.  This is the same player who yells, "What a tree!"  The coddling needs to stop.  

Imagine if you played 10 sets a week for 50 weeks a year?  500 sets!  Now compare that to the kid who maybe plays 1 set a week?  50 sets a year.  No comparison.  I wonder who will win.  Doesn't matter who your coach is, doesn't matter if you have a world class trainer, or use the best string.  It just won't matter.  Get out there and compete, its what makes tennis fun.