by Daniel A. Young, Sr., Winner N.C. Senior Games: 2009 and 2011.
It has been some time since American’s have dominated Tennis. At one time we seemed to have had the best facilities: Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Arthur Ashe Stadium. The best instructors: Vic Bradon, Nick Bollittieri, Dennis Van Der Meer. The best and most up todate balls, rackets, shoes and tennis equipment. So, what happened?
Well, as I see it, tennis has become too accessible. By that I mean, you can now just go to a tennis court and play. Few respect the purpose of the Challenge Court at some facilities.
Thus, they may call it tennis, because they have a tennis racket in their hand, but many beginners go and just bat the ball around. They have no visual concept of stroke production, stroking technique, other than what they may see of the professional players doing on the Tennis Channel. Players often running around their back hand, and seldom coming to the net.
I believe, since advertisers pay good money endorsing certain players, the tennis establishment, Tennis Magazines, USTA, Professional Tennis Association, is loathe to criticize the playing style of any one player, or commenting about these players likely causes of injury as a result of their style of play.
The public that gets their tennis on the TV will invariably copy what they see before them. Seldom do they see the fundamentals of stroke making, or commentary about stroke weaknesses of a players’ game.
Years ago, a wantabe player wouldn’t dream of asking a better player to play. Those learning to play didn’t always take lessons; lessons were for the country club set; but there were a plethora of tennis books on the library shelf, like: Use Your Head in Tennis, How to Beat Better Tennis Players, Match Play and the Spin of the Ball.
There were talented teachers too. Bob Johnson, who taught Arthur Ashe, and Harry Hopman who taught Ken Rosewall, Rod Lever. All three mentioned were one-handed players.
There were instructors who studied the game, and practice what they taught while teaching. Today in tennis, as I see it, little, if any attention is paid to body kinetics in stroke production hence injuries to wrist, ankle, shoulders, and knees abound.
Look at Baseball for example, the majority of players still throw and bat very much alike with but modest changes. The batter faces the pitcher sideways to the ball. Two hands are always on the bat when trying to hit the ball. The right hand is placed above the lefthand on the bat if you are right handed, and vice versa for left handers.
Today’s tennis teachers appear to have no interest in explaining the benefits of one hand strokes, or proper footwork, and how to acquire it for necessary stroke production. Nor do they have interest in explaining the one-hand use and its capability for a variety stroke making, as compared to the disadvantage of two-hand stroke requiring more running, shorter reach and which dominates today’s play at the baseline for professional two handed strokes, because to explain the benefits would be considered: "Too old-school."
In my opinion, the USTA 10 and under program, does little more than takes kids away from their neighborhood, and away from their peers, as a family outing; few of these players are found to be capable, or able, or enthusiastic enough to practice on their own between the lessons where learning should take place.
Instructing, and teaching may take place with the instructor, with or without a ball machine during a lesson, but learning takes place with concentrated effort, dedicated hard work, and practicing on the wall.
In the early 70’s the controversy was about whether to loop the backswing, or to take it straight back. However, utilizing the practice wall, which sent the ball back so quickly, usually solved the racket back problem. Today, few if any instructors demonstrate to players they are teaching how to use the wall for practice.
Today the controversy is more about open stance versus closed stance; flat backhand, or top spin backhand; flat serve, or American Twist serve; or when is the I- formation, the true I-formation, and when was it first used; or players switching hands, when they don’t have a decent backhand.
In conclusion, the USTA has a monopoly on America’s Tennis, and must take responsibility for its demise in America, as well as its popularity world wide, and thus demand a return to the teaching of basic tennis fundamentals that in the words of the President of the Rupert Group: "Facilitates the Achievement of Excellence."