Thursday, June 22, 2006

The ATP Doubles Trouble

The ATP doubles trouble has focused more attention on doubles during the last year than in the last thirty years all put together. I hate it when both sides of an issue talk right past each other. Then you know that neither side has a leg to stand on.

Nonetheless, I'd rather see the changes than nothing done. The ideas put forth by the doubles specialists as "proposals" amount to nothing. Nothing but more money wasted down the black hole Peter Bodo aptly calls the "Doubles Welfare State."

Indeed, why should they want to see any change? They like things the way they are.

On the other hand, the ATP had the lawsuit coming. Maybe it's just because I'm the daughter of an autoworker, but jeez, what made anybody think it was a good idea to have the players' union run the tournaments?

Yes, I know teachers' unions like to do stupid things like have administrators as members, but jeez, tennis players should know better.

Maybe back when the players held all the cards, they liked the idea of having control (they shouldn't have) over those who pay them. But that pendulum swings both ways. Which is why we have just seen the anomaly of a players' union acting in behalf of the tournament directors against . . . PLAYERS. Sheesh.

Something must be done about doubles. Every love has its traditionalists, and tennis has more than its share. So, back in the 1960's it was open tennis that was going to "destroy" the game. Then it was the 12-point tiebreak. Then it was metal rackets. Then it was allowing anything but white at Wimbledon. Then the bigger ball. It never ends.

The motive is either sentimentality or, as in the case of the bigger ball to make tennis less discouraging for novices, the motive is egotistical. Hey, I had to learn with the small ball, and I don't want anyone to come along today and have it any easier than I did, because then I'm superior to those who decide they like golf better.

Those are silly and selfish motives for clinging to tradition against the best interests of the game.

I do think that the ATP went too far with no-ad sets, a tiebreak at 4-all, and a match tiebreak if you split sets. But I wouldn't throw out the whole plan because of that. That isn't carved in stone. So long as the procedure for reviewing the format is prescribed so as to be fair and accurate, I'll bet that we'll see 6-game sets with a match tiebreak when sets are 1-all.

As for no-ad scoring, I originally hated the idea too, and I still prefer traditional scoring. But out in the sticks of high school tennis, matches often must be drastically shortened. Guess what I found out? It isn't the end of tennis as we know it. Yes, shortening matches makes upsets more likely. But is that really such a bad thing? The better player still usually wins.

And, hey, who IS the better player? The one who handles pressure better, who would win that match your life depended on? Or the one who strikes the ball better?

The top players won't always be your best doubles players. But when your top seeds in the doubles can't even play in the singles because they have three-digit rankings, something's drastically wrong.

And the answer isn't just promoting doubles more, because the media won't. The media is part of the problem.

Ever since Hollywood discovered how to sell movies -- by using the actors as selling handles in the cult of personality as idols, stars, the media have had eyes for nothing else.

That's their one idea and they are fixated on it to the exclusion of any other sales tactic. They know that we don't relate to the real person. We relate to the image of that person -- or rather the image of that person's (preferably attention-getting) public persona. Just as we relate to a fictional character in a novel.

So they focus on the individual -- the individual specimen of humanity, the modern gladiator bleeding for us in the arena, as we watch them go through all their trials and tribulations for our entertainment.

Even in the big team sports, like football, basketball, and baseball, we get less and less about the team and the play, and more and more up-close-an-personal stuff about individual athletes. This has taken its toll on team spirit among professional athletes.

In tennis, why should the media bother with doubles, the team sport, when they have a perfect showcase for the individual in singles? What's more, when on a team, in doubles, players don't play to the crowd and act up to provide delicious controversy for the media to broadcast. Just recall how differently John McEnroe behaved in doubles than singles. "Blah!" say the media moguls, "Boring!"

So, they won't give doubles the attention it deserves. Never. They'll find some way out of it.

They are sure it would hurt their ratings. But I'm not. The media (both print and TV) have proved less than brilliant in understanding their audience during the last decade, and I think they are just as far off about tennis.

One reason is that, unlike in basketball and football, your average tennis fan is a tennis player. Most of us play mostly doubles. The game itself does interest us. We aren't necessarily more interested in "the thrill of victory" or "the agony of defeat" in the faces as we are in the lightning-quick exchange of spectacular shots among all four players at the net.

I think people WOULD watch doubles IF better players were in the doubles draw. The things now preventing that have to be changed. This will require some giving on both ends. Like a more sensible distribution of prize money and a cleaning up of what goes on behind the scenes with things like appearance money.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

How to Cock Your Serve

Do you push your serve? or stiff-arm it? If so, then this month's shot-making tip is for you.

A serve happens too fast for you to control it by thinking how to hit it. So don't even try to think your way through it. You can get the feel of it in slow motion. Once you've got the feel, go out there and let it go.

Here's one of the best servers of all time, Pete Sampras. Once he gets the racket cocked correctly (in about the 7th frame), it naturally drops behind his back as he starts to "throw" the serve, building up tremendous racket-head speed.

It's mostly leverage, not muscle.

See the rest in The Service Motion at the main site, where you'll see more photos and a video.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

TM: Early Preparation -- Easier Said Than Done?

Here's another great tip from Tomaz.

By Tomaz Mencinger

Racquet back early - but when?

We've all heard the common instruction to "Take your racquet back" as soon as you recognize where the ball is going.

The problem with this instruction is that it makes your think too much (Self 1), and you lose perception of the ball. The result - you don't hit it well and you think that you did something wrong.

Negative emotions come into play and that's not good for your game, to say the least.

The other problem is that by quickly taking your racquet back you make a jerky movement and you disrupt the fluid motion of your body. You also cannot time the contact well.

I'm not a brain expert, and I cannot explain why that is, but from my 10-year experience of teaching tennis I sure can affirm that that is what happens.

Now what to do?

Here's one of the ways that I use with the players to help them prepare early: When the ball flies from your opponent's racquet, it flies over the net, bounces on the ground and flies again to you.

So there are two arcs - one before the bounce and one after the bounce.

What you need to do is to imagine that your racquet is somehow connected with the ball. And when the ball is flying in it's first arc (before the bounce) you need to follow it with your racquet.

The closer the ball gets to the bounce point, the more it "pushes" your racquet back.

So you move your racquet back in harmony with the incoming ball.

After the ball bounces, you will automatically move your racquet forward at the right moment.

Practice following the ball with your take back move and you'll notice you have more time to set up and hit the ball.

Enjoy your 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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Strategy Guide update distributed

Finally everyone who purchased The Strategy Guide should have received an email offer for a free update. If you didn't receive this offer, just email me for it. See details here.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

DW: Never, Never, Never

By Dave Winship

Someone recently told me she was going to give up having tennis lessons because she knew she would never be any more than an average player.

Martin Luther King once said: "If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say: 'Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well'". At first, that may sound like a blueprint for underachievement and reinforcing the status quo, but it's not.

You do not underachieve if you strive to make the best of what you have. We may not all be blazing trails like Roger Federer or Serena Williams but we don't have to be stuck in a rut.

I've always been impressed with King's philosophy. It may sound trite. It may come over as preachy, homespun wisdom, but you should endeavour to hang in and do your best at all times at whatever you do. Don't let what you can't do get in the way of what you can do. Set yourself realistic, achievable goals and don't lose sight of them. You will then succeed or fail on your own terms.

Be prepared to set bigger goals if the opportunity presents itself. It's a scaleable philosophy. It applies equally to the broadest ambitions and the nitty-gritty of particular game situations. A positive mindset is the only requirement. Mario Ancic illustrated this recently at the Hamburg Masters.

The Croat was trailing by a set and 4-1 in his quarter-final encounter with Nikolay Davydenko. Undeterred, he went over to his coach and asked for a couple of rackets to be restrung! It was a great demonstration of his positive and resolute approach to playing tennis. You doubtless want to know whether he went on to win or lose the match, but the outcome isn't really the point. Truly, it's not the point!

Okay, okay. For the record, Ancic went on to win in three sets.

Never, never, never give up!

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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Monday, June 05, 2006

Keep Abreast of Events at Roland Garros

Visit the Main Page of the Official Website
Live Scoreboard
Daily Summary of the Action
The Draws
The Match Schedule
About the Players
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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Controlling the Release of Information

There's a bit of a dust-up between Tennis Magazine's Peter Bodo and the rest of the International Tennis Writers' Association (ITWA), which wants to "embargo" press conference transcripts and things like streaming video of press conferences. They want to prevent the ATP and tournaments from providing live video feed to websites and other sources from many places, including the press conference rooms. They also want to keep press conference transcripts from being posted for 24 hours.


This is an attempt by the dead-tree media to keep a proprietary stake in the information dissemination business.


I am adamantly and deeply opposed to these protectionist practices, and to the underlying premise that the news media can or should be in the business of controlling the flow of information or news in order to mollify a part or all of its constituency. There is a huge ethical issue at the root of this, and I think it makes the press in general and the ITWA in this case look deeply conflicted....The bottom line is that nothing should impede the flow of information to the public in any way whatsoever (at least in this broad context of sports journalism).

More from him yesterday.

Matthew Cronin, co-president of the ITWA, replies:

Much to my dismay, my colleague Peter Bodo decided to write up a two non-International Tennis Writers Association (ITWA) 'controversies' on his tennisworld blog on Thursday. I guess that the prospect of cracking the Argentines again wasn't tasty enough.


This is really an inside the beltway issue that only some of you are interested in, so I'll be brief as possible.

No, actually I'm very interested. Not so much because of information withholding in sports, but because of the same in much more important matters. Just what makes the press think it has the right to embargo information and thus filter/control what we find out about and when?

Cronin goes on...

There is no substantial debate within the organization in regards to the 24-hour hold of interview transcripts. It's Peter and maybe two other people who object of our 105 members.

Of course, the members of the organization are interested parties. I don't care if 100% of them want this: 100% of them would gain from it. Try a poll of impartial yet knowledgable folks, please.

When you get past the point at which most readers stop he makes some valid points, though I just don't see how you can call this a matter of "fair trade" and claim copyrights to the QUESTIONS you ask in a press conference, let alone somebody ELSE's words in answer to them. He threatens that... would get very bored pretty fast if the tennis journalists stopped going to press conferences that are broadcast....Just wait and see how exciting those press conferences will be without any beat writers (apparently save for Peter and the staff).

He accuses those other news sources of "theft" and of being "unethical." He accuses the ATP of "getting too deeply involved in the communications business." He accuses the tournaments of not caring about tennis but considering it "just another entertainment vehicle to make money off."

What? The reporters are doing their job for love of the game, not to make money themselves?

Here's where we are today: Tennis fans are facing the prospect of a dwindling corp of regular tennis journalists partly because the tours and tournaments themselves think that they can make more money by developing large media arms. Maybe they can in the short term. (Although, I doubt it). But imagine just how exiting it will be as a fan to read and hear about the sport only from the tournaments and tours. Just look as some of the stuff out there already: player blogs on visiting the dentist's office or on going shoe shopping.

My, how the sport will grow if everything is covered in a thick gray tarp of nicety-nice.

Nice ridicule there. Where have we heard that before? The old "those who disagree with us are evil and unsophisticated and don't care about the ___ [fill in the blank] and will bring the end of the world"?

Come on. Quit just throwing you-know-what and make a point.
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Friday, June 02, 2006

The Operation Doubles Connection

The Operation Doubles Connection is the free monthly newsletter of Operation Doubles.

It will keep you up-to-date on what's new here at Operation Doubles and bring you each month's Doubles Quiz and Q & A section. It will also feature a tennis Website of the month to introduce you to the best tennis on the Web. In addition, you'll get a shot-making tip and (during the tournament season at least) a little pro-tennis news. For a sample, see current issue.

When you subscribe you'll immediately receive three things:

  • an animated tutorial on the perils of switching
  • a handy grip-sizer you can print to measure the racket-size grip needed for every member of your family
  • a strategy-planning worsksheet with a blank court diagram on it that you can make as many copies of as you wish.
Your first issue of the newsletter will arrive via email around the 15th of the following month.

If you forward a copy to a friend, he or she can subscribe through the links at the bottom.
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