Thursday, May 31, 2007

French Open Day 4

Robby Ginepri lost his rain-delayed match, so for the first time in the open era, no American men have made it to the second round of the French Open. No sense in making excuses or getting superstitious. There's a challenge there. Kinda like a ditch that needs to be dug. You guys know the American way: just go dig it.

Of course the Europeans love their clay, especially that slow red clay of Paris. It is a disadvantage to the Anglosphere, especially Americans, and it showcases Europe's best talent. When you're the host, you choose the surface. To be a world champion, you have to master all the surfaces.

Doubles is (strategically) the same game game on any surface. Only shot selection sometimes changes, because you might opt for a setup shot in a particular situation on clay, when a finishing shot would score outright on a faster surface.

But singles is a vastly different game on different surfaces, so it isn't just a matter of learning to slide into your shots.

But as different as clay is, you still CAN hit aces and rush the net on clay. Andy Roddick seems to be saying that something is different about these clay-courters now than when Stefan Edberg was beating them by attacking the net.

It's just that you can't get away with so-so approach shots on clay. In my opinion, that is a large part of the reason why American men are having such trouble on clay. They like to wham crosscourt approach shots. And wham crosscourt net-rushing serves.

Fine if you nearly force an error because the shot is just too tough to handle. But otherwise...(hint, hint) look at the PASSING ANGLE. On a slow surface, your opponents will be able to take advantage of it better.

That ain't an approach shot: it's an attempted winner you follow up in case the ball returns. A low percentage shot. And if you press harder to make these pseudo approach shots more forcing so you don't get passed or drilled on your wy to the net, you start hitting a high percentage of them out. Catch-22. And you lose.

The goal of an approach shot is to draw an easy first volley. Nothing less, nothing more. There are other ways of accomplishing that besides whamming the ball.

The men who have advanced into the second round are: Roger Federer, Potito Starace, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Mikhail Youzhny, Tommy Robredo, Janko Tipsarevic (defeated Marat Safin), Filippo Volandri, Nikolay Davydenko, Michael Llodra, Gael Monfils, David Nalbandian, Kristof Vliegen, Guillermo Canas, Juan Monaco, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Novak Djokovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Jan Hajek, Juan Pablo Brzezicki, and Jarkko Nieminen. Ten second round matches remain to be completed.

Marat Safin is very disappointed:

Well, I'm 27 years old, and I'm already downhill on my career.... It really made me disappointed because I was very close to win the first set 3‑1, Love‑30. And he serve, slipped away, the set. And of course, he started to play much better, even though that I made a break the first game of second set. And I was just a little bit sad that nothing came together. Like I said, nothing, it didn't click. And then I start to be a little bit scared and had a little bit of pressure. He started to play much better and he was feeling that I'm not playing my best tennis. And altogether, I could analyze the situation, but I couldn't do anything against it. And that's why it was really frustrating for me.... I'm not really into playing between being around 50 in the world. It doesn't really motivate me to play good tennis and travel around the year. And the max we can make, second round, third round, and the position in the top 50. I make one semifinal somewhere in a small tournament and that's it. So it doesn't give me enough motivation to continue. But if it doesn't really click and it doesn't really make any radical changes and nothing comes up, then I will see. Of course, there is a hope. Of course I want to play tennis, and it would be a sad situation to leave with being a struggling player. So I really hope that that can change and play another three, four years. Why not? But those are ‑‑ depends on the mood. Maybe I don't want to play anymore next year, maybe in two years. I don't really know. But really, of course I wish to continue being not 24 in the world, being a little bit, at least, closer to the top 10.

I am struck by the diction, which you hear echo in many players. They seem to be fatalists. As though the outcome of their efforts is determined by the gods or something. Isn't there a happy medium between thinking you can do anything you put your mind to and thinking it's all up to fate? Between thinking that you control your destiny and thinking that no matter what you do, it won't matter?

Come on, Marat, don't listen to yourself. I love your game.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

French Open Day 3

Sunshine in Paris brought forth nearly 11 hours of tennis completing 82 matches, as compared with but 14 matches completed during the first two days of the tournament altogether. Frenchmen Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean disappointed fans by getting knocked out in this, the first round. Americans Andy Roddick and James Blake also fell. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal advanced.

Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Lukas Dlouhy 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 17-15 in 3hrs 55mins. That 32-game fifth set is an all-time record at the French, and the 71 games total ties the record.

But the story of the day is that all nine American men entered played, and at the end of the day only one remains in the tournament. Robby Ginepri's match with the Argentine Diego Hartfield was suspended due to darkness and will be complete tomorrow.

That's third seed Andy Roddick, eighth seed James Blake, Mike Russell, Vince Spadea, Robert Kendrick, Sam Querrey, Amer Delic and Justin Gimelstob. All in the first round.

It looks like all that press hype about them being unable to play on clay has gotten into their heads. Yikes, I didn't think much of it before (of course Americans aren't going to be as good on clay), but this is ridiculous.

I get the impression they think they can just play the minimal number of tournaments on clay in the runup to the French Open and expect to do well there. But they have to train on clay, develop a game for clay,

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Day 2 French Open

Heavy rains in Paris forced them to give up trying to complete first-round matches and suspend play for the rest of the day.

Before that, Nicolay Davydenko managed to complete his defeat of Stefano Galvani 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

On the women's side a whole half dozen matches were completed. Venus Williams (seeded 26) defeated Alize Cornet (of France) 6-4, 6-3. Na-Li (seeded 16), Tathiana Garbin (seeded 19), and Samantha Stosur (seeded 27) also advanced. Severine Bremond of France (seeded 31) fell to Michaella Krajicek.

Feast your eyes on this...

Wow! what a shot! I mean the photo.

Federer does keep his head behind the contact point. He draws it back almost like the off arm is drawn back in a one-handed backhand. I think he's onto something with that.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Day 1 of the French Open

5-7, 6-1, 6-2 - now that makes more sense. I don't know whether it was me or stealth editing at the Roland Garros website, but I thought Serena's match against Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova went 7-5, 1-6, 6-2. I hate that, and you don't expect a pro to do it in a best of three set match. But the correct score tells a much different story.

Serena made 25 unforced errors in that first set, before settling down to take charge of her game and the match. Serena has never lost an opening round match in Grand Slam tournament.

Marat Safin (seeded 22) went through Fernando Vicente like a hot knife through butter with 43 winners and 8 aces in less than 1 1/2 hours, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

Justine Henin is the defending champion trying to win her third consecutive French Open title.

All three advanced to the second round today, but only 7 of the scheduled 24 matches were played today due to rain

See Monday's match schedule here.

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The Operation Doubles Connection - May Issue

The May issue of The Operation Doubles Connection (the free Operation Doubles monthly newsletter) is now online. For information about this newsletter and how to subscribe, see here.


  • What's New at Operation Doubles
  • Featured Tennis Website of the Month
  • This Month's Tennis Quiz
  • This Month's Q & A
  • This Month's Shot-Making Tip

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SB: In Tennis Placement Comes First

Oh, where was this excellent advice when I was an up-and-coming teenage player? (Sigh ;-) -- KK

by Scott Baker

I have said it many times, "Who doesn't like to hit the ball hard"? However, what fun is it to hit the ball hard only to consistently miss the court by a considerable margin? Well, I can answer that question for you, it is no fun at all!

When I first started playing tennis, I liked to hit the ball hard, landing maybe only half of my shots in the court. Then I got hooked up with a large group/league of players who were considerably more experienced.

They were very consistent players, and because of my tendency to place importance on power instead of placement, consistency was not my strong point. Why they let me come back the following week, I will never know.

They would just move me around the court with good placement and wait for me to hit the error. After a couple of weeks of losing my matches, I had to step back and look at what I was doing wrong. I was going for too much power off of my shots and not enough control.

So I decided to try their game of placement and control. I slowed my shots down and worked on placement. Within a few weeks I was keeping up; within a few months I was winning. What I had done was concentrate on placement. As I got better and more confident with my placement, I started hitting the ball harder.

It is much easier to develop power after you have developed placement, as opposed to developing placement after you have developed power. In other words, once you develop placement, your power will follow. You will get stronger on the court, your strokes will be more fluid and your confidence will build. Eventually you will start hitting the ball harder and harder. It may be so slight that you do not even notice it, but your opponents will.

I feel that placement and consistency are far more important than power. If you cannot hit the ball into the court where you want, in key situations, your game will suffer. I am much more likely to defeat an opponent who goes for too much on his/her shots and hits a lot of unforced errors than a player who moves me around on the court wisely and waits for me to hit the error.
Hitting without good placement is sloppy tennis and will get you in trouble against the better players.

If you are a power player who likes to hit the ball hard and does not care where the ball lands, take heed! Slow down, learn proper placement and technique, and let your power follow. Eventually you will get to the point where you can hit the ball as hard as you like and you will be able to aim the ball as well as keep it in the court with much better success. By being able to combine these techniques, you will dictate more points and be in control of more matches, making you a much better tennis player.

Let's take a look at some of the key advantages of being able to place your shots.
1. Better shot selection
2. Easier to wear your opponent down
3. Higher percentage of passing shots
4. Pulling your opponent off of the court
5. More dictation of points
6. Less unforced errors
7. Attacking your opponent's weaker side.
8. More matches won!

Please do not think these tips refer to just your groundstrokes; serves, volleys and overheads also fall into this category. Serves may be a little different in theory. I know a lot of players who just hit it hard and do not aim the ball and still are successful. However, the players who can aim and hit the serve hard do even better!

In architecture some argue that the form of a building comes before the function, and some argue that function comes before form. That is an argument that will go on until the end of time. However, we are not designing a building, here we are designing tennis players. For this subject matter there is no argument, you must work on your placement first and let your power follow. In the end you will be a much better tennis player for taking the time to learn placement in lieu of power and let the power naturally follow after you have developed good placement of your shots.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker

Tennis4you.comTennis Forum
E-Mail -
Copyright 2006, Scott Baker -- all rights reserved worldwide

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

How to PLAY Tennis: Tennis Match Play

I'm on a roll. Here's the last update before this month's edition of the newsletter.

How to PLAY Tennis: Tennis Match Play is a rewrite of the head tennis lesson in the Tennis Match Play section of the Operation Doubles main website.

Ah, match play — the most intriguing part of playing tennis. This entire website is about how to play tennis, especially doubles, but now we're really into how to PLAY tennis, especially doubles.

Because tennis match play is the "play within the play" of tennis.

Learn the difference between match play and stroke play. And learn the secrets of how to PLAY tennis matches.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

66 Tennis Tips + Your Tennis Tip for Today

Tennis tips are pointers, bits of advice or information that have a big impact, usually because they remove some obstacle hindering your progress. The Bulletin Board at the Main Site now sports a new feature: 66 Tennis Tips + Your Tennis Tip for Today.

It also provides a short list of other legitimate tennis websites that aren't just billboards for ads, decked out to fool the search engines. They too provide real tennis tips. Check it out. At the least, you'll come away knowing what a real tennis tip is when you see one :)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What's the difference between tennis strategy and tennis tactics?

What's the difference between tennis strategy and tennis tactics?

Examples tell the story in the online lesson Tennis Doubles Tactics at the main website. (This information applies as much to singles as doubles.)

Understanding the difference between tactics and strategy is crucial. Many tennis players have no strategy, simply because they don't know what strategy is.

Others shoot themselves in the foot by using tactics that are counterproductive under the strategy they are using.

Though this lack of understanding causes more problems in doubles than singles, it is important in both the games of tennis.

Consequently you hear people confusing mere goals - keys they perceive to success in a particular match - as their "strategy" for that match. For example, you hear them say things like, "My strategy is to hold all my service games and break serve early in each set."

Fine. That may be the key to winning this particular match. If you think it is, by all means set that goal and try to achieve it.

But it ain't a strategy. (It ain't even tactics.)

So, what then IS your strategy?

Read more.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

TM: Your Tennis Energy Needs, Both Mental and Physical

By Tomaz Mencinger

Q: I am a 46 year old woman, fit and known for my endurance. I lift weights a couple of times each week, do cardio (outside of tennis) 3 days each week, and play 3 hours of tennis singles 4-5 days. I have been playing tennis for only 9 months, but advanced quickly and am on 2 leagues playing singles and doubles. I win more singles matches than doubles, about 50% overall. I am more comfortable at the baseline, but advance to the net given the opportunity. My matches tend to be long for women's 3.0 matches, usually 2½ hours or more and almost always going to 3 sets.

My question is this: Why during some matches do my arms start to feel like Jell-O? Last night I played in a doubles tournament and lost 7-5/7-5 in over 2 hours. We could have won; we were evenly matched. However, in the second set at 5-5, my arms just felt like well done pasta, and my serve was broken. I am beginning to wonder if it is mental because it doesn't always happen. Or maybe I am not eating right pre-game. I usually have some oatmeal, peanut-butter toast, and lots of water (we live in Louisiana, USA & and it is very hot). Also, I have noticed it happens more often in doubles games, but there I usually spend much more time at the net, and am keyed up more(?) My friends and I love your newsletter and web site. We find it amazing how you can "see" what is happening in people's head. I look forward to your advice.

I think you could be right on both of your ideas: it could be food, and it could be mental.

With food I mean energy. When running low on energy, some people first feel in the arms, others in the legs.

Make sure you eat carbohydrates - pasta - and not too much meat (since it take long to digest). I remember Michael Chang saying in one interview, that the best thing about not playing a tournament is that he doesn't HAVE to eat pasta. ;)

The other reason is mental and is also connected with energy, mental energy. You see, when you play a match you are under stress. There is pressure on you every few seconds. This is tiring for the mind.

And the same as we have certain fitness level for our body - an energy storage - the same way we have mental energy storage. You are using your mental fitness energy every time you are under stress.

In long matches you run out of your mental energy and this affects your concentration and at the same time your body. Mind and body are strongly connected, and tiredness in mind shows as tiredness in body and vice versa.

What to do?

You get better with practice. If you play long matches often, you will get better at keeping your concentration for a long time and being able to withstand stress for a longer time.

Also note that any stress outside your tennis life - such as family matters, job, money and so on - will take their toll on your mental energy reserves.

Copyright 2007, Tomaz Mencinger -- all rights reserved worldwide

Tomaz Mencinger is an athletic consultant who works with nationally ranked juniors at the Tennis Academy of Asia in Thailand. He is also the author of The Mental Manual for Tennis Winners and The Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia and How to Play Tennis: A Step-by-Step Video Instruction Guide for Tennis Beginners.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Teaching Australian Doubles

This issue of TennisPro Magazine (the magazine of the Professional Tennis Registry) will feature an article by me entitled "Teaching Australian Doubles."

(Photo by Myles Williams)

You'll see how it serves as a games based introduction to poaching, among other things.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

TM: Q & A on Positive Thinking and Imagery

By Tomaz Mencinger

I recently received the following question from a reader in Venezuela:

Hi, well this is my problem: I have a good and strong drive but sometimes when I am receiving the serve my return, unexplainabily, becomes too weak and goes to the net. Why? Concentration matter?

Does this ever happen to you too? If so, you might be interested in my answer:

One of the reasons why this happens is if you play "too careful". Especially if you are thinking that you "don't want to miss".

Although the intention may be smart - to keep the ball in play and be consistent - it is a negative intention - not to MISS.

If an image "missing" is present in your mind - it will tend to guide your body toward missing.

For the mind-body connection it doesn't matter whether you are imagining "missing" or "not missing". It's the same - there is an image of missing the shot that exists in your mind, and you are trying to NOT to make it come true.

Your body responds to images in the mind, not to logical words.

So in order to hit the ball IN, you need to see that in your mind. Imagine it going IN, not out.

Be decisive and play with a positive purpose.

Will you still miss some returns? Yes, but a lot less than if you had an image of "not missing" in your mind.

Best, Tomaz

Copyright 2007, Tomaz Mencinger -- all rights reserved worldwide

Tomaz Mencinger is an athletic consultant who works with nationally ranked juniors at the Tennis Academy of Asia in Thailand. He is also the author of The Mental Manual for Tennis Winners and The Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia and How to Play Tennis: A Step-by-Step Video Instruction Guide for Tennis Beginners.

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Federer and Roddick Lose in the Third Round at Rome

UPDATE at the bottom.

Today Roger Federer played poorly and lost in the third round at Rome to a local wildcard named Filippo Volandri, ranked No. 1 in Italy. This is the second time Volandri has made it into the quarterfinals at Rome.

Roger made 44 unforced errors, as opposed to only 12 winners, getting less than half his first serves in.

Likewise the No. 3 seed, Andy Roddick got beat today, 6-2, 6-4, by Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina.

First and foremost he just played better than I did. You maybe start questioning things if it was a close match, but not today. I didn't actually hit the ball that badly today. I just wasn't constructing on the points all the way through. I constructed to a certain point and then missed bit. But as far as making contact with the ball and hitting it decent, it wasn't horrible. Like I said, I made it really tough for myself. I served 50% and so he's getting looks at rallies every time. When I'm not doing what I do best, and then you're fighting the other challenges it's going to make for a tough day. So I kind of banging my head against the wall a little bit today.

UPDATE: Read Federer's presser. Beginning to sound like a White House press briefing. These reporters are digging for something they wanna find . . . to hype the story with, and they just won't see that it ain't there. They act like there's something unusual about even the world's best player playing badly now and then. Everything Roger says bounces right off their forehands, as they virtually reply with, "No, I don't want that answer. Let me put words in your mouth for you. Isn't this what really happened instead? Blah, blah, blah."

If this were a work of fiction, he'd probably hire you artists to do that (= write the plot) for him.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How to Hit a Backhand Slice in Tennis

On a serve, slice is counterclockwise sidespin. On other tennis shots slice is underspin.

In this new lesson, see animations that show how underspin affects your shots. See an instructional video and other illustrations that show you how to master the one-handed backhand slice shot. You'll also learn what this shot is good for in your game.

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Nadal and Moya defeat Federer and Wawrinka in Rome

Yesterday Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya to beat Roger Federer and his Davis Cup teammate Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the first round of the Rome Masters.


Wow. But back to tennis.

They seem a might too close together, n'est-ce pas? Taking nothing away from these guys, they don't play enough doubles and think enough doubles to really get good at it. So, sometimes when I watch professional doubles, I groan at the the mental mistakes I see being made.

Anything not valued enough isn't practiced enough and studied enough. So, much that was once common knowledge about doubles has fallen into the realm of the secrets of the game.

The ATP tour has been trying to get its top players to play doubles for years. Last season, no-ad scoring was introduced and 10-point tiebreakers were instituted instead of third sets for doubles.

"For me, it's better. It makes the game shorter," Nadal said of the new rules.

Moya also embraced the changes.

"Just look at the court. It was full of people, so that's a good thing. This is a big tournament," Moya said. "It's not easy playing singles and doubles but it's important for the top guys to play doubles."


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