Wednesday, April 26, 2006

TM: How to solve problems with your strokes or any other area in the game of tennis (or life)

By Tomaz Mencinger

If you are one of those players who sometimes (or often) talk to their strokes like this: "My serve sucks, my backhand is really bad, I hate my volley, my overhead is so weak..." and you are stuck on how to improve it, then this article will be a big help. (If you actually apply the info.)

Let's say that it's your backhand that "sucks" or is "really bad." Now imagine that this backhand is a person. And that this person is you.

How would you feel if someone who was really closely connected to you would say to you that "You suck and you are really bad."

Not really good.



I'm sure you wouldn't. You would do the least you had to, just to get by. Or you might even sabotage them once in a while just to get even.

This is exactly what is happening with your stroke. You are having such a negative attitude towards your stroke that it either

  • won't help you because it doesn't believe in itself since you don't (and you are obviously the boss!)
  • won't help because you are unfair to it - maybe the backhand is doing it's best to improve but just can't do so as fast as you want and won't help you just to get even.
How would you want to be talked to if you had problems like the one your stroke has?

Encouraging? Supportive? Believing in you?

Change your attitude towards your strokes and they will change and start cooperating with you.

But remember - if you have had a bad attitude towards your stroke for quite a while, it may take quite a while to forgive you. Be patient and acknowledge your mistake.

You'll soon be a best friend with your stroke and enjoy the game to its fullest.

You and your (formerly "bad") stroke will be an invincible doubles team - that's what doubles is all about. Friendship, support and belief - no matter what happens.

Enjoy the game!

Copyright 2006, Tomaz Mencinger -- all rights reserved worldwide

Tomaz Mencinger is the author of The Mental Manual for Tennis Winners and an athletic consultant who works with nationally ranked juniors at the Benc Sport tennis club in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tennis Superstardom and the Very Young

Great tennis players are thrust into the spotlight at an earlier age than athletes in other sports. They are still teenagers, still reacting to the fedback responses to their behavior that they get from the people around them -- editing their personality accordingly.

That's normal for teenagers. We've all been there.

But what happens when there's an overload of that feedback? And it's from artificial sources like the media? Nameless, faceless millions who don't know you at all?

I should think that would be hard enough for someone already comfortable in his or her skin. But a teenager? Yikes.

No wonder we see such unreal, exaggerated personas.

Assuming a public persona is nothing bad or unusal either. In fact, even as a writer I assume one. But there's a difference between assuming a persona that is merely more, say, formidable and self-confident than the real you feels and assuming a persona that is totally different than the real you.

Consider the difference between the young Andre Agassi who burst upon the scene and the man we have now. Of that younger Mr. Agassi, he says, "I had moments of my actions and words not reflecting who it is I am - if that defines a punk, then yes, absolutely.”

It really has nothing to do with tennis. It has everything to do with the media. The media know what sells. Stories. Not facts. Stories. Stories have characters. Not people. Characters. The gunpowder of storytelling is conflict, controversy. Not all sportwriters, but many, are just as brutal as political reporters in asking questions formulated to suck answers that can be exploited to generate controversy.

Players must feel like specimens under a microscope. Their every move is scrutinized and judged. That's like a straight-jacket. I know one thing about teenagers I learned while teaching high school: they rebel against that straight-jacket, acting out as if to prove that you aren't controlling them by breathing down their neck. Yes, oddly enough, the more they act out, the more restricted and inhibited they feel.

And it's a mistake that can have dreadful consequences. There's no need to react by acting out. There's need only to stake out your personal boundaries and protect them.

A player's image is just that, image. A work of art created by storytellers. There's a great danger in identifying with it. It's but a caricature of the real person. One the media uses as a selling handle in the cult of personality.

In old fashioned language, the cult of idolatry. Hollywood discovered how successful this was back in the 1930's. If you cultivate fan worship of the stars, you will make a killing at the box office for their movies.

But there's only one thing people like to do more than set up an idol, and that's tear it down.

So, tennis superstardom should come with a warning label, especially for the very young. Sell your performance, not your self. And never identify with that image of you the world has created. Identify with the one inside.

Oh, and one more thing: You never get in trouble for what you DON'T say.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

The Doubles Angle of Return

A tennis shot's Angle of Return is the full range of its possible returns, from the widest crosscourt return possible to the widest down-the-line return possible. I think most doubles players aren't sure how the Angle of Return fits into the picture of doubles. Yet the Angle of Return is the same in doubles as in singles, with two important variations:

  • Because of the alleys, the Angle of Return in doubles is sharper than in singles.
  • Your up-player denies the opposition a wedge-shaped portion of it.
To see a diagram of how the Angle of Return fits into the picture of doubles, go to The Doubles Angle of Return at the Main Site.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 over Federer at Monte Carlo

Judith G. at Game, Set, Match! has an interesting account of Raphael Nadal's victory over Roger Federer at Monte Carlo today:

The problem may be one of belief, and not thinking clearly at the appropriate moments. Roger Federer lacking in belief?? Several times we saw him close in on a short ball and hit it right back to Nadal when he had the open court. And on important points he sometimes hit to the Nadal forehand, when going at the backhand would be more successful. (Maybe because the Spaniard is a lefty… he got confused).

Stranger things have happened. Even the pros fail to think clearly in the heat of the battle. Andre Agassi once said:

It's shocking how little there is to do with tennis when you're just thinking about nothing except winning every point.

Federer obviously thought he could beat Nadal at his own game, and today, at least, he could not.

Yesterday he had said to the press that he gained valuable knowledge about how to play Nadal in his loss to the Spaniard at Dubai. "He's quite one-dimensional with his game," Federer said. He thought the way to beat Nadal was to be ready for a knock-down drag-out battle. "Just stay with him, for the entire time," Federer said. "I have the feeling that other guys tend not to take the physical challenge with him. That's what I won't do."

Well, as Judith G. says, maybe there's more to beating Nadal than that. Nadal has a heavy duty winning streak going. Read the rest here.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

DW: Hawkeye: Using the Right Technology the Wrong Way

By Dave Winship

When Hawk-Eye technology made its debut at the Nasdaq-100 a few weeks back, there was plenty of scope for tournament directors, referees, umpires and players to use the right technology in the wrong way. Well, that's pretty much exactly what's happened.

Before the instant replay system was installed for the Miami tournament, line-call blunders threatened to undermine the integrity of the professional game. Injustices witnessed by television audiences often had a significant bearing on the outcome of matches. In 2004, USTA Chief Executive Arlen Kantarian was moved to apologise to Serena Williams after overrules and bad line-calls during her US Open quarter-final encounter with Jennifer Capriati cost her a place in the last four. So the stakes were too high to resist the implementation of a system that eliminates human error. Unfortunately, the movers and shakers of the tennis industry spied an opportunity to inject an uncalled-for element of drama and entertainment into the sport and the skewed system of limited player challenges was born. Kantarian, a former marketing executive for the National Football League, was clearly influential in the decision to approve a policy similar to the instant replay challenges adopted by the NFL in 1999.

Instead of ushering in a new era of fairness and accuracy, the fanfare in Miami has produced nothing but a half-cocked Hawk-Eye which isn't even under the control of the umpire. It's as if the window of opportunity has been opened only for officials to put up some eye-catching curtains. The powerlessness of the umpires has been compounded by the inhibition of players disposed to save their challenges for potentially critical moments late in each set. The arbitrariness of limited challenges produces intrigue and strategy, but players will soon feel short-changed when they realise that inconsistency and unfairness have merely been reconstructed when they could have been eradicated. Fans will also share the frustrations when the novelty starts to wear thin. There must be serious misgivings over a system that is restricted to a select few on the show courts at tournaments.

Hawk-Eye should be a discretionary tool in the hands of chair umpires empowered to view an instant replay to resolve doubtful calls whenever they see fit. On clay courts, umpires already respond to limitless appeals by players. The use of instant replay technology is quicker and less intrusive than the spectacle of an umpire jumping in and out of the chair to inspect marks. Implementation should not depend on the installation of big screens, but, where they are available, they can be used to satisfy those who insist that the entertainment factor is exploited.

Instant replay technology is too good an opportunity for tennis to waste. The various authorities should be constantly reminded that the goal is the elimination of erroneous calls and there should be nothing else on the agenda. Every effort must be made to deploy it on all courts at those tournaments that choose to sanction its use. Above all, the technology must be put in the hands of the umpires.

Copyright 2006, Dave Winship -- all rights reserved worldwide

Dave Winship is an L.T.A. coach at the
Caversham Park Tennis Club in Berkshire, England, and the author of magazine at


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Introducing Dave Winship of

Good news comes in threes. I'm happy also to announce that Dave Winship of ON THE LINE tennis magazine at has also agreed to contribute to this blog.

Dave is an L.T. A. coach at the Caversham Park Tennis Club in Berkshire, England, and the author of ON THE LINE, an excellent online magazine with news, commentary, playing tips, quizes, humor, and much more.

Dave plans to contribute an article per month to the Operation Doubles blog, and his first one follows shortly. Till then, why not pay a visit?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Introducing: Scott Baker of and Tomaz Mengincer of

I'm happy to announce that Scott Baker of and Tomaz Mencinger of have agreed to contribute occasional posts to this blog.

I have known Scott for years, since he must have been the first person on the planet to notice Operation Doubles. An architect in real life, he brings the same creativity to helping you with your game.

I have just recently gotten to know Tomaz Mencinger of Slovenia. With a background in a team sport (volleyball) as well as tennis, Tomaz brings much needed help with great enthusiasm to the mental side of the game. No gimmicks -- just sound advice and perspective from someone who understands the "inner game."

So, look for occasional posts from Scott and Tomaz in the future. And, if you haven't visited or yet, why not do so today?

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Beautiful Backhand

Here's a treat--the great Aussie, Ken Rosewall, hitting the shot he was famous for. (Be patient if you are connected via phone line: this is a 145 KB video.)

Notice how effortless it is. Notice how the racket accelerates through the ball, as if under its own power.

And now notice what he's doing with his off arm.

Learn more here.

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What will they think of next?

Beach tennis...

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What's New at Operation Doubles

The secret to a powerful one-handed backhand -- and it is a secret, though I have no idea why.

Step 4 in Strategy Planning

This month's Doubles Quiz

This month's Q & A

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What You Can Find in the Tennis Blogosphere

Mr Topspin, over at The Frameshot suggests doing away with the let serve:

Yes, remove the service let across the board on all levels. During a point, when the ball hits the net and lands in, you play it. Why should it be different just because it’s a serve? In NCAA tennis this is already in effect. If a player’s serve hits the net and lands in, it’s considered good and you play it.

Read the rest of his argument here.

In "Etiquette? Are you sure?" Dave Winship, over at On the Line seems to question the etiquette in this rule of ettiquete. And he sees young players leaving the sport because of how common cheating is becoming in junior tennis.

Picture this. Little Johnny is playing a match in the junior national championships. It's a set-all and going with serve in the decider when Johnny rips a backhand passing shot that lands plumb on the sideline only for his opponent to stick a digit in the air and pronounce "No! Unlucky!". Johnny's parents squirm and gnash their teeth while Johnny retaliates with the standard riposte: "Are you sure?". "Of course I'm sure," his opponent protests....No one would seriously contemplate organising a junior football match without providing a referee, but when it comes to junior tennis, not only is Cyclops blind and Hawk-Eye in the dark, but linespersons and even umpires are conspicuously absent, even at national level. At best, a tournament organiser may be around to mediate disputes, but this person typically patrols half a dozen courts or more.

Of course Dave is right, but I doubt the issue will be addressed. And of course, when you add up how many officials you'd need for a tennis tournament and compare that the number needed for a football or basketball game, you see why tennis has tried to get by without officials. Yet, come on, one person in a chair with the authority to over-rule a call would make a big difference.

And as for that rule of "etiquette" that says you're supposed to say, "Are you sure?" I have always thought that's totally stupid. Why ask such a stupid question? That just gets your face rubbed in it. He isn't going to admit he isn't sure! If he did, he'd be admitting he did wrong to call the ball out. In fact, it's both foolish and wrong to expect a person to give evidence against himself like that.

I tell kids to just blow off doubtful and even bad calls unless they're sure their opponent made a bad call intentionally. Then walk up to the net and say, "That ball was good."

If they change the call, fine, but they probably won't. In any case, don't argue. There's nothing else to say. Just walk back and play the next point. You have served notice that you aren't going to take it laying down. So, more often than not, that will be the end of it.

But, if it happens again, march right back up to the net, say, "That ball was good," and then lodge a formal complaint with whoever's in charge.

Try it. You'll like it a lot better than saying, "Are you sure?"

And Peter Bodo is a little OT here in "Read it and Weep" in his Tennis World, but ...

Hope you all had a good weekend, whatever your belief; after all, atheism is a faith, too, isn’t it?

Huh? Uh, so if I believe there are no Italian restaurants on the planet Pluto, that's a religious belief?

On that note....
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Welcome to the blog of! Here you'll find tennis news and commentary and keep up with what's new at Operation Doubles. You're welcome to comment and ask questions.

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