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


Entries in Q&A (6)


Stroking Felt With: Boris Bosnjakovic

Our first Q&A of the year is with Boris Bosnjakovic. I first met Boris while playing SoCal Open tournaments and I was quickly impressed by his massive game - which resembled Boris Becker in every sense of the world - as well as agility, finesse, great attitude and lively sense of humor. One could easily see why he dominated the open circuit and also performed quite well at the D-1 level. 

Quick Bio: I was born and raised in Novi Sad, Serbia (former Yugoslavia).  Grew up practicing with Monica Seles at the same tennis club.  Yugoslavian Junior Champion under 18s.  Named to Yugoslavian Davis Cup in 1992.  Moved to the U.S. in 1992 at the age of 18, ranked top 50 junior ITF in the world. Played No.1 at Brigham Young University for all 4 years and graduated in 1997. On the ATP Tour from 1997-2000, with best ranking at 740 in the world in singles. Coached on the ATP and WTA tours from 2000 to present.  Coached 3 women ranked in top 100 in the world.  Also worked with several top 200 ATP pros and now coaching current World Champions, the Serbian Davis Cup Team (including world No.1 Novak Djokovic).

1. When did you start playing tennis?

I started playing at the age of 9, which is according to today's standards considered late. These days the kids start as early as 3 years old.

2. What first attracted you to the sport?

To be honest, when I was young I loved soccer, since my dad was a professional soccer player, but then one of my best friends took up tennis and couldn't stop talking about it. I was very competitive, so I wanted to start learning tennis to be able to beat him, and eventually I fell in love with tennis.

3. What were the conditions like when you started (economic, political, etc.)? Also, who were some of your contemporaries (e.g., Dusan Vemic) and how did you match up against them in the juniors?

The conditions were actually pretty good. My club (T.C.Vojvodina) had enough funds to pay for most of my traveling and coaching expenses. Life in Yugoslavia in late 70's and 80's was good. Since, I was two years older then Dusan Vemic and Nenad Zimonjic, I was a bit of their elder and used to kick their butts back then. But, we all got along great and traveled together to many junior tournaments around the world.

4. If you had to generalize the Serbian approach or mentality when it comes to tennis, how would you describe it?

Well, in general I think Serbians are fighters, especially the kids that started playing tennis in the 90's, when the civil war started in former Yugoslavia and the times were tough. The kids realized that tennis could be their way out of the war-torn country, so they played for a lot more then most kids in the western world. Therefore, they became a bit tougher mentally as well and in general very hard workers.

5. Who was your tennis idol growing up? Why?

I really enjoyed the way Boris Becker and Pete Sampras played. I tried to tailor my game after theirs and play a very offensive and aggressive tennis. Even though I didn't come to the net quite as much as them, I did play have a very aggressive style with a big serve and powerful forehand.

6. What was your favorite thing to work on in practice? For example, drills, points, patterns, mix?

I always enjoyed competing, so doing drills was fun, but only if some kind of a game was involved. In general I found that playing lots of tournaments worked well for me. Then I would go and drill and work on my game a bit, but would get back out to play matches as soon as possible.

7. From recollection, you moved to Los Angeles and dominated the junior and open divisions before playing #1 for BYU and establishing a great college career there. What are your thoughts on college tennis and your overall experience?

Yes, you are correct. Domination, is how I like to remember my first few years in Los Angeles. I'm joking. First of all, my college experience was not a typical American college experience since I went to a very religious school. However, that was probably good for my tennis career, since there were not too many distractions. People at BYU took good care of me. We had a great coach (Jim Osborne), also I played #1 in both singles and doubles and therefore got to play against all the best players in college tennis. I recommend college tennis to most junior player, since the level of play is very high and it is a good stepping stone for those players who eventually want to turn pro.

8. Knowing what you know now and having the benefit of your current experience and lifestyle, what advice would you give yourself as a 15year old (i.e., if you could go back in time)?

Great question. I would certainly take a much better care of my body. Not only be in better shape then I was and work harder, but also tailor a specific diet for myself and work a lot more on the mental toughness through meditation, yoga and specific breathing exercises. I am a strong believer that a proper diet, stretching, and most importantly being able to control your mind and emotions makes a complete athlete. A fact that is really surprising to me is that most players, even in the very top of the game don't work enough on these aspects. I had a chance to witness this theory put in play when Novak Djokovic hired Dr. Igor Cetojevic in 2010 to help him on all these aspect of his game. At that time (in early 2011) I was replacing Novak's coach Marian Vajda at a few tournaments and I learned a lot from Dr. Igor's work with Novak. This guru was able to help Novak put all the puzzle pieces together and become No.1 in the world in a very dominating fashion. Ever since then became good friends with Dr. Igor and I've been working closely with him, learning all of his secrets.

9. You are the coach for the Serbian Davis Cup Team and have been instrumental in your country's success. At the same time, you have worked with players at all levels. How does coaching at the highest level differ from the rest of the game? For example, more fitness, mental, strategy, technique, etc.

The Serbian Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic put me in charge of coaching our Davis Cup Team in 2010, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the championship team that year, since we were able to capture the Davis Cup Trophy for the very first time in Serbian history that year. Coaching tennis at all levels made me aware that there are so many great players all over the world in all the categories and that tennis is a very tough and competitive game. So, it made me appreciate the guys that are in the very top. Needless to say that they are all extremely good, but why are the some players consistently better then others, when they all can slug the ball so well?

I know it's a cliche that they are mentally tougher, but it really is true. Mental toughness, however is not only what happens on court. It starts when you are a kid practicing against the wall and with your friends, and it continues with your support system (your family, coaches) and the amount of practice you put in growing up. This is where the real confidence comes from, knowing that you put in the work and you had the experience required to put away that forehand to win Wimbledon one day. The important thing is to have your whole life in balance when you are out there competing against the whole world. The happiness in your personal life gives you that balance and strength to succeed. What makes you personal life complete is your support system, which for example could be your significant other, your coach, your parents, your trainer, your best friend, and all the people that help you on your journey. All these little things put together create a champion.

10. What is your best tennis experience so far? This could be tournament won, being alongside the DC team while they're crushing their competitors, rankings achieved, helping students?

I have to say that winning the Davis Cup Trophy with the Serbian Team was really an amazing experience. But, that was a team effort, which is very different when compared to winning matches and tournament in my playing career. It really is hard to point out one experience, but a few of them include becoming the best junior in my country, winning my frist ITF World Junior tournament in 1992, qualifying for the NCAA singles Championships in 1997, beating Michael Joyce which was my first win over a top 100 ATP player.

11. Davis Cup seems to be of higher importance overseas (Europe, S. America and Australia) than in the US. To what do you attribute this factor?

I am not entirely sure why that is, but it's possibly because there are so many more popular team sports in the U.S. It's is unfortunate that it is so, because Davis Cup competition creates a team sport experience out of an individual sport, which is very unique.

12. CAtennis.com has a magic wand that has the power to transform you into the commissioner of tennis (worldwide). What are some of the things that you would change in order for tennis to be a better experience for fans, players, coaches, tournament, parents, etc.?

I like that title, can I keep it? As far as the fans are concerned, I believe that it would benefit them to spend more time watching lower level tennis tournaments, such as college tennis, pro challengers and futures. There are some very good and exciting matches there and the atmosphere is much more interactive and lively. Also, that would allow them to appreciate the quality of those guys and of course the brilliance world's top players

The parents, coaches and players would all benefit if we all realized that it's just a game. In the last 20 years or so, since big money was introduced to the top players, the game has become too much of a business and a lot of the times it's taken too seriously. Young players should learn to practice in groups, socialize more and have fun, and that is why college tennis is very helpful.

13. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I ask myself that every morning. I hope to be in a position to educate young tennis players, other athletes and general public about the importance of a balanced life in order to be happy and successful. The majority of us in the western world have forgotten what's important in life and we are involved in a race for irrelevant and a lot of the times unobtainable things and we tend to neglect our health and well being. This is also very important for young tennis players to know in order to have a good foundation for a successful career.

14. What is one thing that you wish that more Americans should know about Serbia?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I wish that more Americans would visit Serbia to get to know the great hospitality and the fun people. Oh yeah and great Serbian food.

15. Given your countrymen's current success, have you seen an explosion in tennis interest over the last couple of years in Serbia?

Yes, it's very apparent. When I was a kid you would see everyone walking around with a soccer ball or a basketball in their hand. Nowadays most kids have a Djokovic t-shirt on and walking around with a tennis racket. We had only two tennis clubs in my hometown when I started playing, now there are numerous clubs all over the place. [Editor's Note: WATCH OUT!!!!]

Boris, we thank you for you time and wonderful insights and wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors


Reflection on 2007 Brian Vahaly Interview

I personally interviewed Brian Vahaly back in 2007.  Let's reflect on how the game has progressed since 2007. It's always fun to look at where we were and where we are now...  

BACKGROUND: US National Junior Team, won the B18 Easter Bowl, QF at Junior Wimbledon, 20-match streak at #1 singles in college, NCAA Singles Finalist (unseeded), ranked #1 NCAA in Doubles, double-majored at the University of Virginia in Finance and Business Management, People’s Magazine 25 Most Eligible Bachelors in 2003, QF at Indian Wells ATP defeating Gonzalez, Ferrero, and Robredo, he was the only person with a college degree ranked in the top 100 ATP at the time.

From a developmental standpoint, who was your coach in the juniors, from what age, who was it, and what did he stress that separates him from other coaches from a technical, tactical, or mental standpoint? Also, looking back, did he coach anyone else that went on to become great tennis players? 

Jerry Baskin was my primary coach in the juniors. I started working with him when I was seven years old. He is also the coach of Robby Ginepri and spent time working with ATP Pro Bobby Reynolds as well. I think he is one of the best strategic coaches in the country. He always spent time teaching us how to win and the importance of doing what it takes to win a match. He would scout our next opponent and give us 3-4 things to concentrate on before we went onto the match. It wasn't about how we had to play to win...it was about making our opponent feel as uncomfortable as possible and exploiting their weaknesses. However, technically I believe Jerry Baskin is one of the best developmental coaches in the game. I think its a shame the USTA doesn’t incorporate more proven coaches like Jerry who by the results of their pupils, clearly know how to coach at a high level. 

If Jerry Baskin is excellent at player development with a proven track record, why aren't we (or the USTA) seeking out his opinions and knowledge to train the next batch of juniors? Or other behind-the-scenes developmental coaches for that matter? Along the same lines, do the same coaches churn out players (who are they?) and why? 

I think there are tons of high level coaches that the USTA currently is not employing. Personally, I worked with Steve DeVries and Scott McCain professionally who have an impeccable resume in getting players ranked in the 1000's into the top 100 in the world. They know what it takes to improve players at a high level and help them adjust to life on the road. They are a huge reason I got to my career high ranking and currently the USTA no longer employs them. The USTA continues to employ previous world ranked players who were great players but have no proven track record in coaching. And with the limited job security that the USTA provides you..lots of our top level coaches are unwilling to relocate or risk their own successful careers to try and help all the world class players. 

You had a great junior career, very similar to some of our current promising young American juniors in terms of international prowess and Junior Grand Slam experience. In the recent past, some of our best juniors have decided to forgo college, while you pursued a collegiate degree. There is a big debate as to whether college tennis can actually make you a better tennis player. For example, practices are not individualized, teammates have different goals, sleep deprivation from schoolwork, etc. What side do you take in the debate? Is it a case-by-case basis? 

I would definitely say this is a case-by-case basis. Obviously you are never going to hear me speak anything negatively about college. For many of the American players, I feel its an essential part of your personal development as well as your physical maturity. It is comical to see how many immature players we have out there on the tour with not a whole lot of intelligence or really a mind for the game. The sad thing is to know they do have the talent, but wasted their potential in their belief that their only chance to make it as a pro was to not go to college. I wish the USTA would do a better job showing them that people like James Blake, Todd Martin, Malivai Washington, John McEnroe, etc did go to college and went on to have a thriving tennis career. But overall, you have to look at each kid and what stage of development they are in. Personally, I think we all knew that Andy Roddick was ready for the pros. James did a very smart thing in taking a few years at Harvard before his game developed and he matured as a person to handle the pressures and day-to-day stress of being on tour. Ginepri, Fish, and Dent also made smart decisions in not going to college based on their style of play at the time to make that decision. Guys like Kuznetsov, Levine, Jenkins, Harper-Griffith, D Young, etc could have benefited for 1-2 years in college before the rigors of the pro tour. At this point in time, Sam Querrey is the only player that I highly endorse playing professionally immediately as his game is more than ready to take on the best in the world. Having played him twice, I'm very impressed with his speed, agility, and power. I'll be curious to see what type of coaching he gets and how his belief in himself develops over time. He's a great kid though. 

I look back through your senior collegiate results where you had a 20 match win streak in dual-matches through to the finals of the NCAA. The win streak is impressive, but what people do not realize is the scores by which you won those matches. On average the sets were either 6-0, 6-1, or 6-2 against #1 players from top NCAA ranked teams. Skipping to today, do you feel certain players such as Wayne Odesnik and Brendan Evans jumped the gun? What is your feeling on players who were in college for a year then turned professional such as Tres Davis, Travis Rettenmaier, Rajeev Ram, and Ryan Sweeting? Now we have talented juniors such as Michael McClune pushing forward to possibly forgo college. Seems like history keeps repeating itself- but people would say, "I am chasing a dream" and others would say, "you are betting the house." 

Personally, I believe they are betting the house. I'm not a fan of guys like Rettenmaier, Davis, Evans, Odesnik turning pro. While they have had some occasional good results, I do feel as though they could have benefited from time at college. I think Rajeev Ram is a different story. He had accomplished what he needed from college and had matured where it was his time to take a shot for the pros, and he was doing quite successful before dealing with injuries. But to me its a pretty big risk. Personally, I was always able to relax on the court knowing that tennis wasn't my only option. I had a great college degree from a great university that I could always fall back on. So I had no fear and just challenged myself to be the best I could be. Sometimes I wonder whether some of these kids feel too much pressure due to how much pressure they've put on themselves due to their education decisions. 

Under the description of USTA High Performance, here is the outline: 

Our program assists with the development of players in following ways:
• Bring our best players together to practice and play matches against each other
• Provide direct or supplemental coaching based on the player's developmental unit/need
• Develop a working relationship with personal coaches
• Impress upon the player the importance of physical fitness and off-court training
• Impress upon the player the importance of developing mental toughness
• Provide video analysis to improve technical aspects of the player's game
• Provide speakers on various topics in order to educate players and parents
• Provide play-off opportunities for wild cards
• Assist players with the proper balance of scheduling the appropriate level of tournaments (including exposure to international and pro circuit competition at a younger age.)

The aim of our program is to develop a united national culture among players, personal coaches and our staff, so that American tennis can be the strongest in the world. 

If you were in charge of the USTA Player Development, what would you do? Where are the current shortcomings? Where would you look for talent? Would you have more training facilities? Would you increase or decrease the number of National Coaches? Would you hand out money? Is college tennis a big part of the developmental process? How should wildcards be handed out? 

I currently feel as though the USTA Player Development program is in complete disarray. The coaching staff doesn't like it. The players can't stand it. No-one is happy and no-one is improving. What would I do to fix it? Well thats a pretty big open ended question where I don’t have a lot of the information to make informed decisions. Obviously I think its important to grow the game of tennis at a grass roots level so we have more athletes playing the game at an earlier age. With that said, I think there has to be a limited number of top level coaches who evaluate talent and help kids through their development process. I think the sports science department must be diligent with tracking their development as well and if you can tell kids are slacking off or don't want it, then kick them out of the program. It should be an earned right to train and work with the best coaches in the world. I also feel as though their should be a sports psychologist on staff that is paid to work with the top players in the country. Tennis is 90% mental and the players who know how to fight and win and handle the pressure, are the ones that are winning. And I think more investment needs to be made into the minds of these tennis players. Regarding grants, college tennis involvement, training facilities, etc. I'd have to look at the investment and the potential payoffs before I make any decisions. But clearly these national training centers have been a complete waste. Unfortunately, the USTA is very slow to act and it takes us years to evaluate decisions. Wildcards? Ohhhh thats a whole other subject. It used to drive me crazy how we'd give the same players wildcards where they feel entitled to the opportunities and don't earn them. I think there should be a very different system in place where only so many wildcards are given a year and the best player has the chance to rise to the top. Right now, we give too many free passes to guys who ultimately never make it. 

Right now, the USTA has 10 National Coaches on the Men's and Women's side. Each coach is responsible for a certain birth year and gender. However, for professional development- maybe the USTA could give a small portion of the budget to giving professionals a fair chance at the professional tour instead of a high number of USTA National Coaches. What if we gave $50,000 to the top 50 American men's players in the ATP rankings? That is only $2.5 million. Players will earn there spots and be given a fair chance at attacking the professional tour in a professional manner- hiring a coach, trainer, eating right, etc. 

It is a good idea but don't forget the importance of employing top level coaches for the players. Do I think all the coaches need to be located at a national tennis center complex? Absolutely not. I think thats ridiculous to expect the best coaches in the world to all live in 2 cities in the United States. However, I'm hoping the current President of the USTA knows the importance of having top American players on the last week of the US Open and how that can drive ratings, earnings for the company and hence, would be more willing to spend more on player development. 

From your experience, how prevalent is steroid abuse in the Futures, Challengers, and all the way up to the best players in the world? Do you know of players personally who have benefited from steroids and is this a problem we should be worried about, especially in the minor leagues of tennis? 

This is a very tough issue to discuss and very delicate when it comes to the ATP. We don't want to get into a situation that MLB is currently in where no-one trusts statistics and we doubt everyone's accomplishments. With that said, of course there are players who use steroids on the pro tour and most players have a good idea of who they are. However, there are so many 'masking' substances out there now to help flush out a players system that if you pay attention, you will not get caught. It's indicated very early on in a tournament when 'drug testing' will be going on and lots of guys flush it out of their system. Do I think it goes on at the college level? Honestly, in my day, I didn't see too much of it. I ran into most cases in the junior levels where there wasn't much testing and then in the futures and challenger level when everyone is looking for the edge. Players often justify it to themselves by saying, 'well if everyone else is doing it, then its okay if I do it because I'm just evening the playing field.' The real question for me is if there will always be kids out there who are comfortable cheating to win or get ahead and life. And that question will always be yes and so we will always continue to have a problem. I just hope the ATP and ITF does enough research into the matter so that it doesn’t become as prevalent as baseball. 


Q&A: Stroking Felt With Tennis Legend Rosie Casals

For this week's Q&A session, we have the pleasure of speaking with Rosie Casals. Ms. Casals is a true legend of the game of tennis. During a career spanning over 2 decades, she has won more than 90 professional events and has been at the forefront of gender equality in sports. In this regard, she campaignedfor women's monetary prizes to be equal to men's and also for more media coverage for women's events. Despite a modest upbringing (or, perhaps, she might say, as a result thereof), Rosie Casals' achievements have been phenomenal: #5 in the world in singles; win-loss record of 595 - 325; singles semifinalist at the Australian Open (1967); 2x singles quarterfinalist at the French Open (1969, 1970), 4x singles Wimbledon semi-finalist (1967, 1969, 1970, 1972); 2x singles finalist at the US Open (1970, 1071). In doubles, Ms. Casals has won the ladies' Wimbledon title 5 times as well as the US Open title. At these events, she has also achieved success on the mixed doubles stage winning twice at Wimbledon and once at the US Open.  For her achievements, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1996.For more of her achievements, please check out her profile

I first met Ms. Casals a few years ago when we started sharing coaching duties on behalf of one of the local juniors. In this time, I have come to believe that if we were to bottle Ms. Casals' intensity, passion for the game and understanding of the tactical and technical aspects, and then distribute such elixir to our top juniors, the United States would be dominating the top levels of the sport for years to come. I confess that I have never seen Ms. Casals play in her prime. However, reliable sources tell me that she moved like tiger who smelled blood on the ball. I do not doubt that for one second. In terms of tennis development, her knowledge and opinions confirmed something in my mind that I've sensed for quite some time: that if you want to be great at tennis, 99% is not good enough. It's not enough to do most of the things right; a player needs develop all parts of his/her game and concentrate to the very last shot. 
1. How old were you when you got started with tennis and how did you get involved with the sport?
I was 8 years old when I started at the public parks at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. My dad used to play recreationally and he got me started.

2. You played through a turbulent time in the history of tennis. Prize money was not as significant as it is today and even when it existed, there was a disparity between the men's purse and the women's purse. Despite these obstacles, your career spanned several decades. What drove you to keep going through these tough times and what advice would you have for young players who are starting out on the tour? 
I loved tennis. From the first moment I hit a tennis ball I fell in love with the game. In the beginning it wasn't about money it was about playing tennis and winning. Coming from the wrong side of the tracks and not having much money I happened to be better than the other girls who drove Cadillacs and ordered their lunch at the snack bar in the country clubs. It made me feel equal and probably a bit better than them. 
I've always been a fighter on and off the court. So I came at the right time in the mid 60s and 70s when there was so much going on and not going on for women.

3. It is said that American tennis is suffering because current juniors do not have the work ethic necessary to develop and succeed. They point to the Russians and Spaniards who spend lots of hours on court. On the other hand, Americans do work very hard in other professions (law, medicine, financial industry, etc.). Do you think that our loss of status in the tennis world is due to motivation, work ethic, lack of good coaching, or another reason altogether?
We have a lot of competition with the other sports like baseball, basketball and football. Other countries don't so they can concentrate better on one of the sports. Americans are spoiled at least many who play tennis at the academies. You need hungry kids and those kids come from broken homes and poor neighborhoods. I'm not so sure they're doing enough to attract these kinds of kids who want to have a chance to be good at something and get out of where they've come from. Most of our kids turn to basketball, football or baseball because of the money and more opportunities that are available for them to participate in. Tennis is still a very elite sport and small compared to other sports. Spain and Russia, countries like this have a lot of poverty but also have a lot of players that kids can look up to. The country is smaller so it's easier to do more with the population. I don't think the USTA is looking in the right places. To tell you the truth I don't think they really want a lot of Blacks and Hispanics playing the game of tennis. There are very few programs around that cater to the Hispanics. Look at the desert [Palm Springs - Indian Wells area]: I don't see anyone doing something to attract the Hispanic community. They're still playing soccer. 
Good coaching is also a problem. We've got one dimensional coaches. They need some of our generation of teaching and learning strategy. Kids have to learn how to think for themselves rather than depending on their coaches; they sometimes want it too easy.

4. The USTA earned $193Million in 2009. Breaking down the use of the revenue, the organization handed out $45M in grants to organizations (e.g. sectional USTAs); spent about $60million in salaries, wages and compensation; and used $1.8million in grants to individuals (presumably, junior and professional players). Granted that none of us work for the organization, do you see a problem with the USTA's use of funds? If so, assuming that we had the power to appoint you Queen of US Tennis and in charge of the USTA, how would you use the USTA's revenue to get the most US players (men and women) into the top 10 in the world?
I was really surprise to read this. I really think they are missing the boat. And as I said earlier: they need to hit the Hispanic community as I believe they will find the Pancho Gonzales and some winners wanting a chance to make some money and get out of their old neighborhood.

5. According to Patrick McEnroe, junior players are better served by aiming for college than the pros. We hear this on a day-in and day-out basis from local pros as well as parents. Positive aspects of college aside, do you find it problematic that we're pushing our players towards mediocrity and then expecting them to achieve success in the professional ranks? 
I don't know much about that aspect of the game. I never went to college and those that did ended up with a good education and getting the most of their tennis; Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Dennis Ralston, etc. I don't know that it's all that bad. Not everybody can make the Pros, so perhaps getting a scholarship at a Division I or II isn't all that bad if you make something of it.

6. What are your thoughts on Quickstart tennis? We do not have the statistical analysis to support the effectiveness of this program and yet the top USTA officers are gung-ho about it. Do you think that this is a noble experiment that's likely to have good results or are simply providing our players with another crutch to rely on? 
I think they're on a better track. I see the way the kids start with soccer and there's some similarity with the programs. You got to start them when they're young: 5 and up....for certain. I think they may have some good results with this program.

7. A number of former players and current coaches have suggested that, rather than re-drafting the rules of tennis for little kids, it may be more worthwhile to introduce young players to backboard training early in order to teach them the benefits of repetition and to emphasize the process of learning over results. As an example, Bjorn Borg spent hundreds of hours hitting against the backboard and sharpening his strokes and eyes which helped him become "a pretty steady player" (understatement). Do you think that we're missing this ingredient (backboard) in our early training and how else would you suggest that American players work on rediscovering the fundamentals (e.g. more clay courts; fewer tournaments; etc.)?
I don't doubt the backboard was a good friend to many of us and, yes, I think it should be incorporated into teaching. Kids should learn to hit on a backboard...do you remember Peaches Bartkowicz from Hamtramck, Michigan. She was No. 1 in the 9, 11, 13, 15 & 18...but I beat her because she was a backboard but wouldn't run....!!  Yes, we need clay courts and grass too! 
8. Americans seem to idolize talent. For example, John McEnroe was worshiped here while Ivan Lendl was either despised or ignored. In addition, we have "America's Got Talent" but not "America Works Hard". In terms of tennis development, what significance do you place on innate talent? Is talent important? Is it overrated? Is it irrelevant? 
Talent is important and it's what you do with the talent that counts. I don't think it's everything but it does help if you can put it to good use. You still have to have a good head because if you don't, talent is useless. It will probably make you a very showy player with some good shots and fun to watch but you may not be a winner. Americans love winners!!

9. Let's say that you have the ability to bring yourself - as a 14 year old girl - through time in the present day (in other words, 14 year old Rosie is brought into 2011). What advice would you give yourself in order to put yourself on the best path in order to succeed in the pros (3-4-5 years from now). Would you change your gamestyle? Strokes? Put more emphasis on certain types of fitness? Play more; play less? 
I would train properly and differently. Obviously now there's so much information on training and nutrition and everything having to do with the body. But still you've got to have it in more than one area. You have to be talented, good athlete and have a good head. Now the players are so much bigger and stronger and with the new equipment it enhances every aspect of their game. I would certainly always wish I was taller; my style of play didn't always suit my height. I was a server and vollier having been brought up on hardcourt in California and played lots of doubles. We were given the art of vollies.
Today, I would have a slightly different grip; no Continental more Eastern and I would still cut the angles and play the baseline and not 10 feet like these players do now. I would understand what happens at midcourt and what I was suppose to do with that ball; certainly not hit it and move back to start the rally again. I was always known for a good serve for my height and that I would definitely have as a weapon. I would need to be taller now. All I needed was 4-5 inches and I would have been awesome.
Having a serve and volley game makes you have to make great vollies as you are too vulnerable. It gave me a great overhead as I had to learn to move and fortunately I could and that too was one of my strong points. I had touch, I had style and I was a shot maker. I really do think that my height kept me from winning the Grand Slams in Singles....along with the Margaret Courts and Billie Jean Kings.

10. Since 1982, you have been involved with Sportswoman, Inc. (www.sportswomanevents.com) and have also donated a great deal of your time to helping out juniors. With respect to the latter, unlike many other former tennis legends, you are more hands-on. Do you think that the current up-and-coming juniors would be better served by having a direct line with people who have "been there, done that"? If so, why do you think that more former players are not getting involved directly or are not actively pursued by the USTA.
I love what I do. Having formed Sportswoman was a way to stay involved in the game and to have events with my contemporaries like Billie Jean, Chris, Martina, Virginia Wade and players of my era. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know some of todays' players or those just retiring as I have a fundraiser that I do up in the Bay Area called the Esurance Tennis Classic and we've invited, Hingis, Graf, Agassi, McEnroe, Austin and many other players of that generation. So it's a fun thing for me.  Yes, the USTA really should be looking our way to help educate the players of the future and today. I think I have a lot to offer and I think they would enjoy hearing from us. I don't know why the USTA does not call upon us other than the one in charge is Male and seems to deal with his co-horts male players and very little influence or women are involved in any position of power. Thanks Patrick.
Any other thoughts about tennis development? 
There's talent here in the desert; there are opportunities; lots of courts, good weather and kids. They need help, the pros need help with the kids. The USTA would be better served by this community if they would embrace those pros that work with kids and put them on the USTA payroll and program. With some small financial help the pros wouldn't object to sending their talent to Carson. But without help, who do they think they are that they can take over your player and give them the right things?! They certainly would receive more loyalty and cooperation from pros if the pros got some financial help for their kids.

Ms. Casals, we thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

In closing, we urge our readers to not only check out the events organized by Ms. Casals organization but to also lobby the USTA to get more people of her caliber involved with junior tennis development.  Ms. Casals' knowledge is indispensable and there is no substitute for her vision and experience. 

Q&A: Stroking Felt With Anthony Ross


Our most recent contribution to our Stroking Felt With...series comes from Anthony Ross. Anthony is presently a sport psychologist registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA). He is also a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the College of Sport Psychologists (CoSP). He works primarily with children, parents, and coaches in developing well-being and performance in/through sport. Anthony is a leading researcher regarding parental roles in child development through sport undertaking his Masters and Ph.D. studies in the area. Anthony is also a principal contributor to Skillforkids.com where he writes on topics including sport parenting. Previously Anthony played tennis professionally as a doubles player competing at tournaments including Wimbledon. 

By way of background, I first met Anthony when I transferred to Pepperdine (from Fresno State) in January of 1998. I had taken the fall semester off in 1997 in order to play some tournaments and figure things out (i.e., whether to continue on at Fresno, transfer to Pepperdine or go somewhere else altogether) and I recall that he was coming in for the spring semester as well. Although we weren't roommates, we became instant friends. Initially, we shared a suite and the thing that stood out the most is how Rossie could sleep through anything. And by "anything" I mean his roommates 24/7 sessions of playing Doom at full volume. THAT would not have worked for me. Another thing that I remember about Rossie is his full-on sprint towards the net when playing a doubles match against Tennessee at the NCAA D-1 National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle. Someone on our team had popped up an easy sitter right on top of the net that was just waiting for the other team to put away. Rather than backing up, Anthony sprinted towards the net at full steam, dodged under and held the racket up with two hands. The opponent (Peter Handoyo) hit an absolutely killer overhead RIGHT INTO ANTHONY'S RACKET!!! The ball rebounded over the net for a winner. STUNNING! It all happened so fast and my partner, Oliver Schweizer, and I were awestruck (as were the opponents). I think that Rossie's hands are still shacking from the impact. This incident epitomized Anthony's attitude on-court. He was a true warrior with a solid return and net game coupled with a "never say die" attitude so typical of Australian players. In addition, he worked very hard on his game as well as developing his speed, stamina and strength off-court. Lastly, he was an all-around guy who was well-liked and respected by teammates and opponents alike. 

Quick Bio: ATP high ranking - 134 doubles; 1087 doubles. Member of Pepperdine men's tennis squad from 1996-2000. All-American honors in 2000 (reached quarterfinal of NCAA D-1 Championships along with Sebastien Graeff). Contributor to Tennis Australia magazine. Worked with Queensland Academy of Sport to provide assistance with decision making under pressure for some of Australia's finest young sports people, including the former World Number 1 Under 12 tennis player, Bernard Tomic. 


1. At what age did you start playing tennis and how did you "fall" into it? 

A: I started played around the age of 7. I did so because my family played socially so I started joining in at that age.

2. At what age did you start taking tennis seriously (i.e., when you knew that you wanted to become a tennis player)? 

A: Around the age of 11 or 12 I started playing tournaments and doing quite well. I played a lot of different sports but about this age I realized tennis was my favourite so I began playing more tournaments and less of the other sports. I think by the time I was 15 I thought I would like to try to be a professional player one day.

3. How did your workouts change once you decided that you wanted to be a tennis player?

A: At the age of 14 I moved to Brisbane to join the National program that was set up at the time. This would involve about 6 on court sessions a week either before or after school. The main difference was the increase in intensity and competition among all the players that were there. 

4. If you've had to guess, how many hours on the court do you think you've spent between picking up the racket and enrolling at Pepperdine?

A: Wow. I really have no idea. But generally speaking after high school for a couple of years it was 4 hrs a day 6 days a week. In college our training went 3 hrs each afternoon. And playing on the tour depended on the situation. Obviously many thousands of hours.

5. Who influenced you most as an athlete?

A: I would say my parents. Now since I work with many young athletes in my role as a sport psychologist at SportParentSupport.com I understand the incredible influence parents have on children’s sport development. In my case my parents provided a lot of support but most importantly they were able to communicate their unconditional love no matter how I performed. This I believe is the most critical element of any young players successful development because that base allows players to better cope with the incredible stresses of competition.

6. If you had the chance to go back in time and talk to yourself as a 15year old, what tennis-advice would you give yourself?

A: I would probably say focus more on developing your game vs winning. Obviously learning to compete and win is an important skill but I probably focused on winning at the expense of developing my game when I was young which meant that when it really mattered when I turned 18-19 my skills were limited. I worked hard in college to overcome this but to a degree it was too late at this stage.

7. What was your favorite drill or thing to work on growing up? Did you prefer playing points? Did you like working on specific things? 

A: I loved to compete so I loved playing points the most. When I was young I was a grinder who couldn’t volley but in college there was a big emphasis on doubles and I enjoyed the quick exchanges at the net so I began to work a lot on doubles drills which ended up making this the strength of my game.

8. Why did you choose to attend Pepperdine and what are your thoughts on college tennis overall? What do you think can be done better in order to have a better experience than you may have already had?

A: I chose Pepperdine because I knew some of the Aussie guys on the team, Troy Budgen and also Brad Sceney. I loved everything about college tennis and if I could I would go back and do it all over again right now. I most loved playing for a team and competing with your mates which made it so competitive. I loved how hard everybody competed and how much everyone wanted to win. I think that everyone who has the opportunity should go to college to compete in tennis. I am not sure what could be done better from my experience- for me it was the perfect opportunity to give me 4 years to compete and continue to improve my game to the point where I was able to spend a few years also competing on the tour playing doubles. 

9. You specialized mostly in doubles and achieved an ATP high ranking of 134 relatively quickly. What were some of the best tour memories and what do you take away from your experience on the tour?

A: Playing Wimbledon was probably the highlight. I remember being beaten in qualifying of doubles after serving for the match at 7-5 5-4 and being absolutely devastated that I had blown my chance to play Wimbledon but then I ended up getting in the mixed doubles so that was great just to experience playing Wimbledon. Another vivid memory was playing Chang and Hrbaty at Japan Open where Chang was like a God in Asia so there was a crazy crowd. But I think my best tennis memories come from playing big college matches. Playing against Georgia at Georgia in front of a packed stadium of crazy college kids cheering against you I think would be my best memory- the atmosphere was unbelievable. In terms of what I have taken from tennis I think I have friends all over the world who I share great memories with so I would say the relationships you build trough tennis.

On a personal level I think it is the discipline I have developed from working so hard at something over a long period. As a tennis player I spent countless hours on the court working at something not getting paid just because I loved it and to give myself a better chance of maybe making some money out of it but with no guarantees. I think that has transferred over to the development of my business life now where I have the discipline to apply myself on my own with no guarantees of any financial rewards. 

10. Tell us something about your current projects, your collaborators and how your background has prepared you for this particular path. For example, did you view tennis as mostly a mental battle and therefore endeavored to learn more about this aspect of the game? 

A: As I said I think tennis had a huge impact on helping me develop the skills for this path. Also I think I am naturally very competitive so I really enjoy to see people develop their mental skills because, yes, I do think that especially as players get to higher levels, the mental aspects are incredibly important. And as I got more involved as a psychologist I started to realize that many players lacked the mental capacity to compete effectively because of the views they had formed of themselves in relation to tennis because of less than ideal interaction with their parents growing up. Or even if players were very successful, they may not enjoy tennis or be comfortable with themselves because they were being driven by fear of how they felt about themselves when they lost through similar developmental relationships.

So as part of my PhD studies I have developed SportParentSupport.com which is an online educational service that seeks to assist parents in fostering well-being through sport. And when parents can achieve this I have found that it also helps players compete effectively as well.


Anthony, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and we wish you the best of luck in all your current and future endeavors. We're looking forward to great things to come tennis-wise from Down Under. 


Q&A: Stroking Felt With Robert Lindstedt

Welcome to our second edition of Stroking Felt With... Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Swedish Davis Cupper Robert Lindstedt. I had the pleasure of meeting Robert (draped in a Swedish flag coming out of the airport terminal) when he joined our Fresno State team in the spring of 1997. Thereafter, we transferred and played for Pepperdine. He left school early in order to pursue his pro career and looks like things have been working out quite well for him. My first impression of Rob was that he had a big, all-around game (even though, for some reason, he preferred to be regarded as a "grinder"...haha). He had a huge down-the-T serve that's only gotten bigger as he's gotten older, a nasty slice and kick-serve which he used as change-ups as well as a frekishly hard/flat down the line backhand (which seemed to spin outwards like a sind-winding missile). He also moved pretty darned well for his size (particularly when crazy Romanians jumped out of his closet in the middle of the night..long story..haha). Lastly, he was funny as heck and everyone seemed to have a good time when he was around. 

Quick Bio: 1998 NCAA Doubles runner-up (along with Kelly Gullett); back-to-back All-American honors; 2-times Wimbledon doubles runner-up (with Horia Tecau of Romania); won ATP Tour doubles titles in Mumbai; Tokyo; Washington, D.C.; Auckland; Zagreb; Casblanca, Hertogenbosch, Bastad, New Haven; runner-up in doubles in Ho Chi Minh; Las Vegas, Stuttgart; Dubai; Estoril; Bastad; Marseille; London; Brisbane; Hertogenbosch; Washington, D.C.' Beijing. He is an active member of the Swedish Davis Cup Team as well as its ARAG World Team Cup squad (which defeated Russia for the title in 2008). Career High (to date) ATP ranking: doubles - 13; singles - 309. Website (user discreition advised): http://answermyquestionjerk.se


1. At what age did you start playing tennis?

A: 4 years old.

2. When did you start taking tennis seriously?

A: When I left college and realized that it was my job now; no time for mucking about.

3. How did your workouts change once you decided that you wanted to be a tennis player?

A: Early I was just doing as I was told and no more. Later in my career I realized what I should do is what was working for me. I am working harder than ever now, but smarter and listening to my body much more. Core workouts have taken over all my training. All exercises I do have something to do with core.

4. If you've had to guess, how many hours on the court do you think you've spent between picking up the racket and turning pro (i.e. before 20 yrs old)?

A: Impossible guess really. I practiced 3 times a week until my teens I would say, then twice everyday when I went to high school. (Not impossible to guess it seems after all...) {Editor's Note: again, no magic. Just lots of on-court work as well as off-court preparation}

5. Who influenced you most as an athlete?

A: My brother [Niclas] played, so I wanted to play also. Otherwise all the Swedes. Edberg, Wilander, Järryd, Björkman, Enqvist, Johansson. All of them, I like to watch and see what I could do {Editor's Note: no mention of ABBA? On a serious note, it seems that the Swedish system is very close-knit. It helps to be positively influenced by your peers}

6. If you had the chance to go back in time and talk to yourself as a 15year old, what tennis-advice would you give yourself?

A: Work harder. Much harder. And don't worry about heavy lifting. Core workouts!! Pilates!!! {Editor's Note: [slapping gut] gotta look into that pilates thingy}

7. What was your favorite drill or thing to work on growing up?

A: I liked to work on all court game. Not just one drill. I tried to get good at everything.

8. If, on the scale of 1-100, top 50 ATP player is 100 (in terms of skill/toughness), how would you rate college tennis?

A: College players compared to pros? If a top 50 player is 100, overall I would say an average D-1 college player is around 15-20. It is not even close, Ini....not even close. Some top players could go up to 40-50 maybe...maybe. Some college players could beat a top 50 guy in one match. But you don't have to be tough for one match. There is a huge difference there. Then again, I left college 13 years ago and have been told that college is not as good as it used to be...

9. You obviously chose to attend CA schools for gorgeous beaches and hot girls. What else did you enjoy about your college tennis experience? 

A: [I enjoyed the] friends that I got out of it.

10. Your highest singles ranking was 309 and doubles 13. You played Davis Cup for Sweden. What were your top 3 wins and what lessons would you take away from those matches?

A: Beating Jonas Björkman was huge for me. He was sort of my mentor in doubles when I was coming up. Gives you confidence to beat players you never thought you could beat and makes you realize that anything is possible. 

Winning my first Davis Cup match. Huge relief and great feeling knowing that I could play good when it mattered most!

The third one is not a win, but a loss. Our first loss in the Wimbledon finals. I learned a lot there. That big matches are not so much about tennis, but attitude and preparation. We were not ready to play that match. But from now on, we will be.

Rob, we thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck and health in the upcoming season. We look forward to seeing you at the BNP and all Grand Slam finals