Monday, March 31, 2008

Learning How to Play Tennis: Strategy and Tactics

If you're a frequent visitor to Operation Doubles Tennis, you know that I advise against the current popular obsession with form, as if excellence in tennis is in discovering and copying the minute "secrets" of Roger Federer's technique.

This advice is nothing new, however. Tim Gallwey was the first to give it in his bestseller The Inner Game of Tennis back in the 1970s. In fact, the leading experts in how to teach the game are in agreement. All I offer is the unique perspective of someone with a background in biology who can explain why our brains are unsuited to learning the way most people try to learn to play tennis.

And tennis isn't the only thing I have taught. I am also a certified and licensed classroom teacher. I have taught swimming, biology, physics, general science, chemistry, English, track and field, and guitar. To all ages, from children to adults. So, I've noticed a thing or two about how people learn.

QUESTION: Why doesn't this knowledge of how best to teach tennis filter down to all the people teaching it? There are many answers. One is that conflicts with certain business models.

There's a similar problem in teaching strategy and tactics. Publishers of how-to and self-help books contribute to it. They, and many who teach subjects like this, mistakenly believe that the average person is intellectually lazy and wants everything boiled down to no-brainer rules of rote, as if to say, "Don't bore me with why: just tell me what to do."

That isn't true. By nature, human beings like to tax a brain cell or two. Only boring people are easily bored. What learners do want is the clarity, conciseness, and concrete visualization that make understanding solid and easy-to-grasp.

What's more, rote isn't easy. It isn't "simplifying things."

Yes, rote rules are no-brainers, but they must be memorized and recalled under fire, which is hard to do. For example, if you try to do physics problems by rote, you must memorize every form of every equation and remember them all under the pressure of a test. It's much easier to just understand, so that you need recall only one form of each equation. It's the same with tennis. To play by rote you must memorize dozens of rote rules and recall the right one under the pressure of each approaching shot. It's much easier to just understand the game so that you simply see what to do and do it intuitively.

Playing intuitively also allows you to get out of your head and into the zone, where your physical performance peaks.

This is why the best instruction on playing the game (strategy and tactics) opens your eyes to this dimension of the tennis game. A vision that not only helps you get the most out of your play so that you win more, but one that also enriches your playing experience and makes it much more interesting. One that enables you to enjoy tennis on a whole new level.

At this new, deeper level, you're no longer just going through the motions of hitting forehands and backhands. Now you're into the game itself.

What does that mean? It means that you're no longer just hitting shots. You are actually really playing the game. Half the fun is figuring out how to win it.

I'll never forget the day my eyes were opened to this hidden dimension of tennis, the dimension of the game itself. It had been there all along; I just never saw it before. The effect was like a revelation, like having a black-and-white movie suddenly take on Technicolor, or like having a two-dimensional painting suddenly become a three-dimensional statue in space. Before that, I had been like a sailor gazing overboard, unable to penetrate the surface of the sea to see the fascinating world beneath the surface.

Until then, like most tennis players, what I knew of tennis strategy and tactics could have been written on the back of a postcard. It was all just words; no mental pictures. My idea of strategy and tactics was to try a little of this and a little of that, with no idea what should work or why. I tried to play by rote — following dos and don'ts I had read in books. I stood where I stood just because everyone stood in that position.

In short, my understanding of the game was as shallow as a puddle. I couldn't see what was going on for myself. Therefore, I couldn't adapt to whatever a cagey opponent's game was doing to mine.

So, stretch a brain cell or two to visualize and understand this hidden dimension of tennis. I guarantee that opening your eyes to it will help you play better, help you win more, and increase your fun and enjoyment of the game.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Playing Tennis to Win

Harold Solomon, via ZooTennis:

I have a different perspective on winning than some other people in our profession. In my opinion it is ridiculous to ignore that the intention of tennis players when they compete in tournament play is to win. I don't see anything wrong with having that intention every time you walk on the court if you are thinking correctly about winning.
Most importantly, I have to love the competition, I have to thrive in that environment. I am not afraid of competing, it's what I live for. My job is to push myself, to test myself, to challenge myself.

That's what it's all about - the challenge, the risk of losing. That's what makes competition exciting. That's what makes it rewarding.

Take that objective "to win" out of it, and what do you have? An experience gutted of meaning.

Go read a novel instead. It's a much easier way to experience conflict without risk.

I wholeheartedly agree with Solomon. As he says, it's "ridiculous" to make something evil out of wanting to win and playing to win.

Just ask yourself: Was it winners or losers who spawned this idea? Losers, of course. People who can't take losing, so they make something evil out of beating them. To never risk losing, they never try to win.

THEY are the ones - yes, THEY are the ones - making too big a deal out of winning or losing!

The "reasoning" behind this nonsense fails even the most superficial nonsense check. It's all based on invalid assumptions, straw man arguments, and confusing the issue.

For example, I hate the false accusation that people who play to win are people "who will do anything to win," even cheat. Baloney.

It's quite the other way around.

The people "who will do anything to win" are not really playing to win. Their idea of winning is a perverted idea of winning. They are the ones who settle for hollow victories got through cheating. And they do this because all they care about are appearances, such as the final score. So, they are satisfied with a false win got through cheating.

They do this because they don't think they're capable of winning the legitimate way, and they are too weak to handle losing.

On the other hand, players who really want to win would get zero satisfaction out of such phony winning. They want real victories. In fact, they can tell you of moral victories they are proud and happy about even though they came out on the short end of the final score. In other words, they are real people pursuing the real thing, not mere vain appearances.

In fact, the main reason they don't resort to cheating or gamesmanship is because that would shame them: they would view it as an admission that they couldn't win the legitimate way. They think they are better than that.

This is why THEY - yes, THEY - are the sporting players who want to defeat you fair and square. They are the players who WON'T do just anything to win. Even on the Pro Tour where a great deal of money is at stake, we sometimes see these players give their opponent the next point to make up for a bad call. Why? Because they want nothing to tarnish the victory they seek.

Tennis is just a game. Nothing more, nothing less. The objective of any game is to win it. Winning is fun, and losing is a bummer. Nothing more, nothing less.

The joy of winning and the disappointment of losing are just emotions that pass in a matter of minutes or hours if we don't try to pretend them away (and thus lock them forever in the subconsciousness to motivate irrational behavior without our awareness of their influence on us).

Winning a tennis match never made one person morally superior to, or more noble than, another, and losing never killed anybody.

So, my advice to players and coaches is to use your own head and examine every idea that comes blowing to you in the wind. Don't just swallow whole all the chatter out there. An awful lot of it is stupid.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Boycott the Olympics?

I have a question for those people crying out that we should boycott the Olympics. That question is "What are YOU going to give up for what you want? Huh? What are YOU gonna pay for it?"


No wonder you are so gung-ho.

It costs you nothing. You want someone else to make the necessary sacrifice you demand. How "caring" for you to make other people pay the price for your self-righteous holier-than-thou act.

You want the Olympic athletes to pay for it. After all those years of training, you want to take away their dream of competing? Callous is as callous does.

Whom do you think you're fooling? We see that your kind aren't happy unless you're gasping in a hyperventilating display of moral indignation while shooting one arm up in the air to wave it for attention as you point the accusing finger on the other arm at somebody else for being evil.

Give us some credit for having a brain, please. We see right through that. We see that you are just playing the Oldest Trick in The Book - making yourselves look good by comparison = by making others look bad.

You secular holier-than-thous just use other people, in this case, the Olympic athletes. What are their lifelong hopes, dreams, sacrifices, and hard work to you?

How callously you throw away these precious things that DON'T BELONG TO YOU. How abusively you exploit others to serve as nothing but the idle gestures of your own idle acts.

What makes you think you have the right to waste all their years of hard work? Parasites.

It sucked when President Jimmy Carter did it in 1980, and it sucks now.

You need to learn to distinguish between mine and thine. Because apparantly you can't anymore. What makes you think you have a claim on other people's lives?

It's bad enough when you plunder companies, willfully blind to how you are also plundering everyone who works for that company and driving business out of the United States, but now your grasping shows that you think you have a claim on everyone else's hard work and achievement.

Frankly, I am getting really sick of you all being so gung-ho to make other people pay YOUR way, pay the price for what YOU want. And you call that parasitism "humanitarianism."

If you really cared, you'd cut the vain shows of idle acts and do something effective, something that would actually resolve conflicts and save lives.

If, as individuals, Olympic athletes wish to boycott the Olympics, fine. Or, if as individuals, they wish to step before the cameras in Bejing and voice their opinion, fine. More power to them. Anyone who does so is worthy of our admiration, for he or she is sacrificing their own interests, not someone's else's like you jerks always do.

You are more partisan than the Dali Llamma, who acknowledges and condemns the wrongdoing on BOTH sides, including the violence against Chinese in Tibet, where mobs stomp Chinese children. But you keep that part a secret, don't you? Besides, the bigger issue, by far, is Darfur, and Western European nations, like Germany, are doing big business with Sudan too.

Let the Olympic athletes give the matter serious thought and decide for themselves, as individuals, what they are going to do. And let the rest of us respect and support them in their decisions.

And let the holier-than-thous give it a rest already. It's time the rest of us tuned them out.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tennis Odds and Ends

The Sony Ericsson Open is underway in Miami, running from March 26 to Sunday, April 6, 2008. You can get a copy of the men's and women's draws here.

Just a reminder that there are only a few days left in the Operation Doubles Tennis "March Madness Sale" at the Pro Shop.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This is rich! Via Tennis Diary:

Why can't certain ATP players play at the ATP tournament in Dubai?

Pardon me, but if Dubai won't let them in the country because of their nationality, then Dubai should not be allowed to host an ATP tournament.

The ATP cooperates with this attempt of political warfare to isolate a certain people? International apartheid?

Indeed, whom does the ATP represent? The players? Really?

What an amazing crock.

Let's all start doing that. Let all host countries start denying visas to players of certain nationalities. Let's teach the freakin' ATP a lesson it will never forget.

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Mr. Federer

Mr. Federer, we are not satisfied with your performance. Hop to it!

Oooh. I think I just got taller!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flawed Tennis Form? Or Flawed Tennis Thinking? Part 2

Part 1

There are two ways to swing a tennis racket at the ball. The natural way and the unnatural way.

In the natural way, you focus on the approaching ball, and your conscious mind thinks something like, "Whack that sucker." No more conscious thinking takes place. Your swing is spontaneous. Instinctive. Intuitive. It is being timed, coordinated, and controlled by the unconscious timing/coordinating/controlling centers of the brain. These are the same areas that take care of things like walking, talking, and handwriting - all spontaneous actions that we do without thinking about HOW.

The unnatural way to swing a tennis racket at the ball is by consciously issuing yourself verbal instructions, like, "Get the racket back, step into the shot (or load and explode), watch the ball, bend your elbow, watch the ball, swing low to high, watch the ball, follow-through...."

There is a serious problem with the unnatural way. It takes a huge amount of brainpower. Brainpower to recall and process the language of verbal instructions. Brainpower that won't be available for sensory perception. Result? You won't see the ball as well. Your judgment will suffer. Your kinesthetic perceptions will be dim, and your dynamic balance will be off. You'll have robotic form because you're issuing orders to your muscles the way a robot issues orders to its movable parts. Plus, you can't possibly think through all the instructions that fast. Plus, you are just interfering with the natural process of coordinating and timing your shot. Learning tennis this way will be painful, frustrating, and very slow.

Yet this is the way most tennis players learn! That isn't the way you learned how to walk, talk, or write is it?

Am I saying that you should forgo lessons and just be a hacker? No. I am just giving you another reason why you should not obsess about form.

Here are some lessons on the main site that will help you learn without doing so:
Learning How to Play Tennis
Dynamic Balance
Tips to Improve Your Tennis Technique

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Flawed Tennis Form? Or Flawed Tennis Thinking?

How many times have you seen a tennis player miss a shot and walk back to the baseline taking a practice swing? When was the last time you did this yourself? You're thinking that you missed the shot because of some flaw in your swing, and that's why you're practicing it.

If we could somehow search the brain of every tennis player in the world, we'd find in most the belief that errors are caused flawed form.

If that's true, then you would never miss a shot if you achieve perfect form.

Golfers think the same way. And this thinking is what underlies the common obsession with form in both sports. The "perfect swing" then becomes a sort of Holy Grail that all pursue for as long as they play the game.

It's an exercise in frustration and futility. In fact, players learn learn in spite of, not because of, their efforts to perfect their form.

That's because this thinking is what's flawed. It is NOT true that you miss a shot because of some flaw in your form. No amount of perfecting your form will enable you to play error-free tennis. And there is no such thing as "perfect form."

Tomaz Mencinger has a good two-part instructional article on the subject, The Biggest Tennis Myth that's Hurting Your Game and Why Tennis Players Obsess So Much About Tennis Instruction.

OK, so here's the Big Myth:

If I miss the ball, I must have done something technically wrong (meaning I moved my body parts in the wrong way). Thus, if I can correct that mistake (move my body parts "correctly"), then I will not miss the ball again.

Based on this myth, we tennis coaches have been earning money giving tennis lessons for decades.

Based on this myth, club and professional tennis players have wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours, all on trying to improve their game. Without much effect, of course...

Read the rest, and next time I'll come back with some thoughts of my own on the subject.

Part 2

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Pacific Life Open Review

There's joy in Serbia as Ana Ivanovic won the women's singles title and Novak Djokovic won the men's singles title. Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina of Russia won the women's doubles title; Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel won the men's doubles title.

What were the surprises?

Well, one is the quarterfinal defeat of Bob and Mike Bryan by Max Myrni and Jamie Murray. But then, maybe that's just me. I always expect Bob and Mike to win ;-)

Another was Svetlana Kuznetsova ending Maria Sharapova's perfect season in the semifinals. But, the Russians know each other's games so well that any one of them is capable of beating the others on any given day. Also, despite her competitiveness, Sharapova's game does have some real weaknesses. Though she deserves her high ranking, it doesn't make her as reliable a winner as one might think.

The biggest surprise was the fall of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the men's semifinals. Djokovic's upset of Nadal on a hardcourt wasn't such a big surprise, but No. 98 Mardy Fish's run at the title, defeating Roger Federer 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinal, was the big story of tournament.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pacific Life Open Finals


Men's Singles Semifinals
Novak Djokovic of Serbia vs Rafael Nadal of Spain
Roger Federer of Switzerland vs Mardy Fish of the United States

Men's Doubles Final
Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel vs Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia


Women's Singles Final
Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia vs Ana Ivanovic of Serbia

Women's Doubles Final
Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina of Russia vs Zi Yan and Jie Zheng of China

Schedule (all times Pacific and all matches in the stadium court)
11:00 AM Women's doubles final
Not Before 1:00 PM Djokovic vs Nadal
Not Before 3:00 PM Federer vs Fish

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The Operation Doubles tennis Connection - March issue

A copy of the March 2008 issue of the Operation Doubles Connection is now online. Sign up here for your free email copy of this newsletter every month.


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

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Friday, March 21, 2008

9 Steps to Dominating Tennis Doubles - Great for Coaches

This is the time of year tennis coaches in northern climes begin itching for spring in anticipation of the new season. You can give your doubles teams the edge through the simple program "9 Steps to Dominating Doubles," available at volume discount prices and now available in paperback as well as printable PDF ebook format.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Getting Caught in No Man's Land: Between Serena and Richard Williams

It was late last night when I posted that piece on Richard William's obnoxious mouth in an interview with The Deccan Herold while there for the Bangalore Open. So, I didn't put together the two halves of this story.

When you put things in chronological order, it's easy to see what happened.

First, R Satya of the Deccan Herold interviewed Richard Williams in this article:

Just like his daughters Venus and Serena, Richard Williams is a familiar figure at most tennis centres across the world.

While his daughters make headlines with their brand of tennis, father Williams does so with his statements. Unafraid to speak his mind, Williams, who was in the Garden City last week for the Bangalore Open, spoke to Deccan Herald on Venus and Serena's early years and about a life beyond the baseline.

In the excerpts that follow, note what Williams says in this one:

Tennis is a prejudice game. Well, I'm Black and I'm prejudiced, very prejudiced. I'll be always prejudiced as the White man. The White man hated me all my life and I hate him. That's no secret. I'm not even an American, it just so happens that I was born in America. People are prejudiced in tennis. I don't think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be. But if you get some little White no good trasher in America like Tracy Austin or Chris Evert who cannot hit the ball, they will claim this is great.

(Note the god-awful English, which Serena then tries to scrape off Richard and onto the author of the article.) Embarrassing, eh? Plus, Daddy has just upstaged you again, stealing your headlines with that attention-grabbing mouth of his.

So, whom does Serena get mad at? Not Daddy, the one to blame. She makes something out of nothing by blowing a gasket over this OTHER article in the Deccan Herold by the same writer. She trumps up her complaint by mischaracterizing the article and failing to include a link to it so readers can see if she's telling the truth about it:

Serena reigns supreme

By R Satya, DH News Service, Bangalore:

Former world number one Serena Williams hit a ball into to the crowd in celebration, but the ball flew out of the stadium. I'm sorry, she said. Well, that mishit summed up the finale in a nutshell.

Coming into the final with fine victories in the semifinals the previous day, the huge crowd turnout expected another great fare from Serena and Patty Schnyder. Sadly, the error-filled 75-minute title clash never rose above the mediocre. The third-seeded Serena did play the big points well to fall across the line.

The American made her maiden trip to India a memorable one. The out of sorts Serena overcame an equally out of sorts Schnyder 7-5, 6-3 to emerge triumphant in the $600,000 Bangalore Open at the KSLTA stadium courts on Sunday.

Yes, you read right. That's is the actual text of the newspaper article that Serena is somehow mad about.

Then, in an obviously ironic reference to this gushing headline at the Official Bangalore Open website - SERENA WILLIAMS TO ENTHRALL SPECTATORS AT BANGALORE - the article shows that something had quelled all that enthusiasm for a chance to see the great Serena:

...Barring a couple of points, there was very little that caught the interest of the spectators. The arrival of Indian cricketer S Sreesanth was a welcome relief from the poor show on court.

Indeed, since not just Richard's disgusting mouth, but also the tennis itself sucked (on both ends of the court) what was there for the crowd to be enthralled about? Do you think her father's hate comes across any less putridly among Hindus in India than it does among Hispanics and whites here? In fact, the most offended are blacks with a white parent and white grandparents. Can you think of any? Like in pro tennis and politics?

Duh, people don't like to be hated for just existing = not being the right color for you.

Read the rest of the article on the final entitled Serena Reigns Supreme. It deals with her fairly, going on to tell that Serena cut down on her errors near the end and played the big points well enough to win.

So what is there for her to be so mad about?

Here's her rant, on her website.

See, I link to to it. So the reader can check it out to see whether what I say about it is true. How come Serena doesn't do that with the Deccan Herold article she whines about?

Honest people link to an article they're criticizing, because otherwise Serena, you have zero credibility. People are not as stupid as you think: they smell a straw man in your account of an article you don't let your readers see. Indeed, that is so suspicious that it was my sole reason for searching the Internet till I found it.

Now here is my post on Serena's rant, where I expose everything false, ironic and absurd about it, including the THREAT she uttered at the author.

Guess what? That threat already seems to be materializing, because the WTA is moving to degrade the Bangalore Open to a Tier 3 tournament. You read right, India. No WTA Tier II tournament in India! Heads will roll in Bangalore over that.

See Bangalore Open's status up for debate in WTA's plans at ESPN.

Why? All because Serena's father upstaged and embarrassed her again. So she must vent her fury on SOMEONE, right? Look out, innocent bystanders.

Instead of humoring and appeasing her, the WTA should be disciplining her for abusing her influence like that and should be making rules to penalize players for remote hate talk through the irresponsible mouths of their parents. A parent like Richard Williams should be banned from the grounds of all tournaments.

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Just when you thought it couldn't get worse


Richard Williams in an interview with R Satya of the Deccan Herold in Bangladore:

Well, I'm Black and I'm prejudiced, very prejudiced. I'll be always prejudiced as the White man. The White man hated me all my life and I hate him. That's no secret. I'm not even an American, it just so happens that I was born in America. People are prejudiced in tennis. I don't think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be. But if you get some little White no good trasher in America like Tracy Austin or Chris Evert who cannot hit the ball, they will claim this is great.


See also Serena Williams Attacks Criticism of Poor Play in which she attacks the Deccan Herold.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Davis Cup Dialog

I was actually hoping some French blogger (whose English is much better than my French) would take up the gauntlet I threw down yesterday.

Come on, this ketchup loving hamberger monkey can take it. How about a little of that "dialog"?

(We can't leave it to Andy Roddick. He has no sense of humor.)


Arise, children of the Motherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, tyranny's
Bloody banner is raised.
Bloody banner is raised.
Do you hear in the countryside
The braying of these ferocious soldiers?
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of our sons, our wives!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
March, march!
May their filthy blood
Water our fields!
To arms, citizens!
Let us form our battalions!
Let us march, let us march!
May their filthy blood
Water our fields!

Sacred patriotic love,
Lead and support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty,
Fight back with your defenders!
Fight back with your defenders!
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your manly tone,
So that our enemies, in their last breath,
See your triumph and our glory!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"The Americans will fear us."

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga really said that, in reference to the upcoming Davis Cup tie here next month between the United States and France.

Oooh, la la. This could be fun.



You asked for it!

And unless you really wanna ruin your day...


Note: The first time through the video, the sound might not be in sync, but once the sound all loads, you can replay to hear and see it right.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Pacific Life Open

The Pacific Life Open has undergone a long evolution and many name changes, but today it is the fifth-most important tournament on the Pro Tennis Tour, after the four "Majors." Like the majors, it is a two-week long tournament running from March 10-23rd this year, with men's and women's draws of 96 top players, being an ATP Masters Series Tournament and a Tier I WTA tournament.

It is held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Southern California, a facility with a 16,000-seat stadium, the second largest in the world. Last year it became the first non-major tournament to exceed an attendance of 300,000.

The first round of play is nearly finished in all events, and the women's singles is into the second round.

You can download a current copy of the draws by left-clicking each link below, waiting for the draw sheet to load, then saving a copy to your computer.

Men's Singles (2 pages)
Men's Doubles
Women's Singles (2 pages)
Women's Doubles

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Improve your Tennis Volley

Need help with your volley? Try the Romanian Volley Drill, as demonstrated by Mike (closer to camera) and Bob Bryan.

Get the details explained and get more help for your volley in the recently updated lesson on How to Volley at

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Serena Williams Attacks Criticism of Poor Play

As everyone knows, Serena Williams won her first title of the year at Banglador, defeating Patty Schnyder in the finals and her sister Venus in the semis. In a blog on her website, Serena wrote this breezy rant about a newspaper account:

Ok so this morning I read the paper...

But we thought that you don't read articles about yourself in the press.

Ok so this morning I read the paper (this is the very reason why I don’t read articles about myself) about the match yesterday.

Huh? So, which is it? Oh, never mind.

It was a local paper and a local article talking about the match. And can you believe what they said?

Shouldn't you tell us what they said before asking us if we believe it?

I could believe what you say they said if you linked to the article to verify your claims about it. But you don't. You don't even name the paper or the author. Why?

But don't worry. I found it. Just Google her quote "75-minute title clash never rose above the mediocre" and there it is.

Here is this hick "local" newspaper Serena is trashing - the Deccan Herald - and the top of the article she is throwing a fit about:

Serena reigns supreme

By R Satya, DH News Service, Bangalore:

Former world number one Serena Williams hit a ball into to the crowd in celebration, but the ball flew out of the stadium. I'm sorry, she said. Well, that mishit summed up the finale in a nutshell.

Coming into the final with fine victories in the semifinals the previous day, the huge crowd turnout expected another great fare from Serena and Patty Schnyder. Sadly, the error-filled 75-minute title clash never rose above the mediocre. The third-seeded Serena did play the big points well to fall across the line.

The American made her maiden trip to India a memorable one. The out of sorts Serena overcame an equally out of sorts Schnyder 7-5, 6-3 to emerge triumphant in the $600,000 Bangalore Open at the KSLTA stadium courts on Sunday...

Read the rest. Nothing in it for Serena to be upset about. In fact the criticism was of both players and Serena's ability to play the big points well was noted. So was the fine play of both players in the semis. So, apparantly, Serena just can't take ANY - even the slightest - criticism.

Note what she's mad about: being told the crowd wasn't enthralled with the Great Serena just being there, no matter how bad a performance she put on. Hmmm.

And she misses the whole stadium with a celebratory shot? I'd say the article was pretty kind to her, in the light of that.

Now back to Serena's account of that article.

I’ll tell you, they said the match was boring and listless, and I quote 'The 75 min title clash never rose above the mediocre.' Then they went on to say that the crowd was not interested in the match and they were bored. Ok so I have two issues with this. First of all they did not even use the word mediocre in the sentence correctly!!! Go back and look!!! I mean if you are going to dog someone and in English nonetheless please use the correct language!!!

Just how would you prefer that they have used the word mediocre? "Mediocrely" perhaps? Please, I find myself at a loss to know what you think is wrong with that sentence. It's an elliptical expression, by the way, for "mediocre level."

And, by the way, YOU are criticizing anyone else's English!!! What a hoot! Just look at the very piece you're saying this in: it's riddled with errors, bad punctuation, cliches, and poor style. Shall I sound smart by correcting them all for you? No, then I'd be doing what you did, except that I'd know what I'm talking about.

And what has the language of the article got to do with anything? And how is this "dogging you"? And what's so bad about "dogging you" in English?

Haven't you heard? Indians speak English so well it hardly qualifies as a second language there. It doesn't sound like you know that or why.

What a JERK who ever wrote that!! I dare them to say that to my face! I don’t see their career going much farther than…well the local paper in…. I’ll stop I’m being mean!!"

Is that a threat?

It must be a threat, because you can't be so far gone that you think yourself a judge of a journalist's talent and prognosticator of his future career in the business.

And you keep beating that word local like a tom-tom. So R Satya isn't famous and rich like you. Therefore, you can hit on him all you want.

You are 26 years old. Grow up.

By the way, the "jerk" who "ever" wrote that has a name. You find it at the top of the article.

Ok so now that I got that off my chest I had a weird experience in Bangalore. One night I was in my room and my doorbell started ringing. I was sleep but I woke up to get the door. I got there just in time. There were three guys there at my door. Frankly, they looked like thugs and one of them covered the peep hole as I was looking through it and the other started putting a key in the door! I was terrified, I quickly put the top lock on and then I bolted it. I was like wow! So weird! I guess they were some of the fans that were bored to tears with the match! Hahahah Anyways I did survive to tell the tale. I could not shake the feeling that I was going to be kidnapped. So far I have not!! If I do I hope that I have my blackberry!!

"I hope I have my blackberry!!" Do you get the distinct impression that you're listening to a five-year-old?

Just what made them look like thugs? How did "thugs" even get into such a swanky place? If one of them tried a key, don't you think that means they were just at the wrong door? Give us a break. Many idiots (especially when they've been tipping a few) cover the peephole to be funny.

Little paranoid, maybe?

I think you need a little more reason than that to decide that it was all about you. What a vivid imagination you have.

UPDATE: Revealing the rest of the story of what is going on here.

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Tennis: The Sorry State of the Game in the US

Only 18-20 million Americans play tennis, about half as many as played during the tennis boom.

But statistics can be misleading. Only 5.2 million people in the United States play tennis regularly (i.e., at least 21 times per year).

About half of adult Americans who take up tennis in any given year quit it before the year is out.

Jeez, we just don't know why, do we? We know what's wrong with the way the game is taught. It's a simple matter of facing the facts and stop doing it.

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Elite Tennis Taste: No Billy-Bob-and-Jethro Show

Same silly, provincial conceit ... on the other coast

...where, ah, the "perceptive members of the viewership are," those elite who appreciate fine art and turn up their noses at "stuff dredged from the cesspools" (because they are so vauntingly arrogant as to believe that a business like ESPN is there to edify them and to "educate" the rest of us lowlifes to better taste - not simply to make a profit).

And here's the proof in the punch line...

I love unintended humor. Which one is it? Billy Bob or Jethro? Where'd you get that masterpiece? The Louvre?

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Sampras & Federer: Tennis' Good Sports

I was drinking pop when I read this windup and got the sticky stuff all over my screen.

For the record, I don't buy into all this Greatest sports venue on earth! hype; you'll find one thing in common among all those who parrot that line - they're New Yorkers. For them, it's inconceivable that something/anything (bagels? theater? mob influence?) can be greater than in its Manhattan incarnation, which is, ironically, an extremely provincial and silly conceit.


TENNIS Magazine Editorial Office
79 Madison Ave.
8th Floor
New York, NY 10016

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Tennis Doubles Signals

Max Mirnyi and Jamie Murray show how they use signals in doubles play. Notice that the system works like that in baseball, where the pitcher (server) has the choice, but the signal comes from the player who can hide it. So, if the server wants a different play, he asks for a different signal.

Beware friends of your opponents stationed behind you though. They could learn your signals and relay them to your opponents.

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Tennis: Self-Defeating Mind Games

I enjoyed this guest piece at Tennis Diary by Sean Bugg: A Tennis Boor Defined.

I don’t believe trash talking, a**hole behavior belongs on the court. Competitiveness, yes. Loud cursing? You fucking bet. I don’t think I could make it through a match without at some point saying, “You stupid son of a bitch.” But I’m always saying that to myself —

I agree. It ain't the words, it's whom your saying them to that makes all the difference in the world.

Come on, it's absurd to act as though your tennis opponent is a mortal enemy. That stupid posturing to intimidate your opponent with the body language and tone of hatred is too high a price to pay for victory: it forces you to make a stupid jackass of yourself to win.

Normal people value themselves more than they value a match win. But of course, there are others who don't think much of themselves and don't know true value. Their dreams are too small. Winning tennis matches is all they aspire to.

It's pretty obvious what Andy Roddick was getting from Jimmy Connors.

A little age on the character of a Connors or a McEnroe is like Teflon. Oh, let's let the bad boys show us how to win. But take a second look at those careers, and see the brick wall they slammed into.

It's foolish. And I'm a big proponent of the importance of the psychological battle. But when you cross the line into gamesmanship, you've got to think what you're doing. You are telling yourself that this will give you the edge, that this is what will enable you to win.

It's your mojo, in other words. And you are telling yourself that you're inferior and can't win without this magic.

Not smart.

So, what happens when the other players get used to it? What happens when you run into just as big a jerk as you are and it doesn't work? Gone is your mojo.

Everybody's fist-pumping in tennis rage at their opponents. So, where's your edge?

Woops, and there goes your confidence, because the stupid mind games are what you emotionally rely on to win. You don't think you can win without them. That's magical thinking.

Which is for children.

You end up with your perfomance on any given day being determined by the alignment of your stars.

And look what you're doing to your character. Doesn't that matter to you? Where's your self-respect? It's kinda like selling your soul.

So, my advice is to just play the game. The way it's supposed to be played. Want to win with all your heart and soul, but don't be an idiot who betrays himself by how he goes about it.

Not that the fans will mind, but they have no taste and don't have to face that guy in your mirror every morning, either.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pro Tennis Reality Check

Via Angelica Gavaldon-Verdieck at TennisWeek.

In the United States, there are about 100,000 junior tennis players competitive at the regional level.

Only about 1,200 (1.2%) will get national rankings.

In any given year, less than 10 juniors turn professional.

Fewer than half of them will ever break into the top 100, which is about the level one must reach to make a living in professional tennis.

Touring pros are the top 200-300 players in the world. Most don't earn enough money to cover the expenses of a year's travel on the tour.

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