Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Art of Persuasion in Tennis

“Persuasion:” “The art of getting others to see things as you see them.”

 Surely there is something more to persuasion than that.  If not, answer me this!
Say for example, you’re in a tennis match with players of reasonably equally skill level, and you would assume equal mental capacity.  Since Tennis is a competition between you and your opponents, if you’re playing doubles. “Getting you to see what needs to be done, if you’re losing shouldn’t be all that hard.

Maybe, we’re not as good as we think we are.  We hit the ball crisp, and hard in the warm-up, but the court appears to be too short for those shots during play. What do you do?

If you’re making a number of errors: say double faults, hitting balls into the net, when players are standing at the net, it’s time to assess what you can do to decrease the errors you’re making.” If we both have a goal of wanting to win, the solution to our errors shouldn’t be that hard to correct, right?  Maybe we should try a lob next time, maybe a soft angle?

Repetition they say is one of the ways to get a person’s attention.  Ok, so if you’re making the same error, shouldn’t that trigger something mentally that you need to become critical of your behavior, or action?

If you’re employed, and you are continually short when the receipts are tallied, you start looking for solutions.  When you’re constantly missing your plane, your bus, or subway, you might set your alarm earlier, get up earlier, leave the house earlier, so you are at the point of departure earlier.

Relating this to tennis is not that difficult. If your balls are going into the net, maybe should aim a
little higher, and when you aim higher, and they go long, maybe you should use more control, by slowing down.

More matches are lost on errors, than are won with winning shots, but how do you persuade your partner this is so?

I tried humor by asking: “Are you used to playing on longer courts? I tried reasoning: “Let them make the errors.  That’s Ok!  “You got that out of your system.” Sarcasm doesn’t work either “Maybe they will let us play without the net to make it even.”

Ok, Tennis Gurus let’s hear from you.  What's your solution?




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Winning Doubles by Serving down the Middle

Tennis is an interesting sport.  No two players play or think  alike, but they all crave the same results: to win.

For that reason, it is a "puzzlement" (King and I) to me why a player of several years refuses to see the logic behind the strategy, I use in doubles which is, to serve everything down the middle on the deuce point, as well as the ad point.

Let me explain by examining how I would play the first point in doubles if I were serving.  If this were a new partner, male or female, I would tell them that I would be serving everything down the middle, and anything over their head is theirs.  If I were to change, for tactical reasons, I would inform them.

By serving down the middle, when the ball bounces in the deuce court, my partner can readily see that he/she don't have to worry too much about the backhand down the line, and they would likely just hold their position, as the ball is likely to come back through the middle, and towards their forehand.

However,if the ball comes back out of their reach, which could result if the receiver decides to run around the  serve down the middle; then, and if the receiver in the deuce court happens to be right-handed and who attempts to hit the return wide, the ball would be coming to the server--my forehand, which gives me a possible opening angle, since the player, who having ran around the forehand to take the serve, would be out of position by being away from their alley for having run around the serve.

Now, as I see it, if I were to serve the ball wide, using a spin serve which pulls my opposing receiver off the court, he has the option of hitting cross court, at the lowest part of the net, or through the middle, since my net man would have to protect the down-the-line shot, and I would have to cover the sharp angle, or a drop shot.  Remember, "one good angle deserves another."

But wait you might say: "When serving down the middle in the deuce court, you are serving to your opponent's forehand, if they are right handed.  That's true, but a well spun ball would take the service receiver into, and behind their partner, and likely to cause them to make an error--not wanting to hit their partner.

As the server, I must come up fast and wide to cover the sharp angle, or if I'm old, dig up a drop shot at my feet if towards my forehand, or backhand;  and if I'm old and slow, this becomes a real challenge if you hope to win.  But if it's served down the middle, it's likely to be towards my forehand therefore anything through the middle is likely to  be hit as a winner.

That's how  see it, what about you?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Winning, doing what it takes

Having attained a year-end USTA ranking in Dec/2015, of #1 in North Carolina Southern Division in the Men's 4.0, 70-74,  I was seeded #1 this year and got a bye in the first round.
In the past, I had preferred not knowing who I would be playing. I believed, I would be restless the night before the match, thinking about who this person might be; and thinking about game strategy to use against them, and how well they played, and therefore not be rested and sharp the next morning.
Since my opponent was seeded # 2,  we were expected to meet in the Finals, which we did.

Having won this tournament--beating the same opponent-- last year in a tie-break, I felt my opponent Ron Keiger would remember I don't serve, or hit hard; but that I use a lot of psychology: laughing, using futility body language, muttering to myself at my errors, or applauding their good strokes.
Usually, my opponent don't suspect I'm trying to make them become over confident.
Drop-shooting on my return of serve to mix up my returns, as well as moving away from the center service mark to serve, which pulled him farther off court, making my angle volley easier, was some of the strategy I gleaned from two of my favorite tennis books now out if print. "How to beat better tennis players," and "Use your head in tennis;" but I'll admit it opened me up to some sharp down the line winners I could not prevent.
Having watched my opponent play the day before and having made notes, which I keep in a binder court side, I took the first ball of our warm up rally to go to the net to get focused, worked on my eye, hand coordination, timing and footwork.
This was intended to show my opponent that I volley consistently, and it would not be a good idea to bring me in to the net.
Thankfully, he didn't test my overhead which is suspect, and not totally reliable, because of my bad pain in my hip from prostate cancer, it's difficult to retreat from the net.
Many balls I would have retrieved in the past, I had to concede to my opponent, though they would have been reachable in the past.
I've not played or practiced since Saturday as my arm seems to be taking longer to recover since I may have unwittingly played harder, and with more intensity in the tie-break wanting, and desiring to win, but I should soon be back to exercising as instructed by my therapist.
P.S. Getting ready to do my annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at my teaching facility: Lake Park Swim, and Tennis. This year I'm trying to introduce Fencing.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Reminders can help on Changeovers in Tennis

June 4, 2016, as I sat about getting rid of some old press clippings, I found one on a 2014 French third round player Taylor Townsend, a top world junior ranked player in 2012.  What caught my attention in this story by USA Today sports columnist, Douglas Robson, @dougrobson, was that he mentioned that Townsend "referred to a small notebook of reminders on changeovers."  Something I've done for years.

This I  found interesting because today, I happened to be in a pick-up match on the Challenge Court #15 in Raleigh, N.C., and me and my Partner [who will remain anonymous] lost the first three games of the only set we were to play 0-3.  My partner appeared happy to be playing, but overly anxious, and made several errors, as he had just finished a Tie-Breaker League Match.

Ironically, I happened to have my own personal "Over the net" note cards that I had brought with me, so I slipped them in my pocket during the cross over, and thumbed through them before our opponents had taken their position on the court.  With their back towards us, they were giddy, playful and silly to be up 3 love and my partner serving again, whom they had previously broken.

They didn't see me show my partner one of my( 28) "Over the net Tennis Tip Cards," that read: "Doubles is won at the net."  He began to come in and they lobbed over him to his chagrin.

Me, unable to run like I used to at age 74, [Muhmamad Ali died today, he was 74] I took a moment to whisper in my partner's ear.

As I did  so, our opponents started to laugh again because they had heard me tell others about my warning card which read:  "Anything over your head is yours."

Well, we finally won that game after I presented my partner with card No 5: "Tennis is a thinking man's game."

However, we didn't get settled in the match until we were behind 2-4 and I pulled out card No. 9: "Get the first serve in and win," let them make the errors.

During the changeover at 3-4, my partner was late getting into position in the Deuce court--conversing with our opponents and I found time to show him card No. 17: "...Converse with your opponents after the match.  I then added: "Stay focused to win."

Miraculously, we get up 5-4 in games, and at 30-40 in the 10th game with me  receiving.  I coyly
caution my partner at the net to "Watch the net man, he may be poaching."

As the serve crossed the net, it handcuffed me, and I stepped back to get sideways in order to angle the ball cross court and farther away from the opposing net man.

Woops!  Out of the corner of my eye, and peripheral vision, I see the net man start his run.  Being sideways to the net, I was able to re-direct my return quickly enough  that although the net man came back, he was not quick enough to prevent the "Winner down the line."  Game! 6-4, Young-Eric over Phil and Bob.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Form in Tennis is Economy of Motion

Arthur Ashe wrote a tennis book called Poetry in Motion.  That is exactly what Tennis used to look like when Ashe, Newcomb, Laver, Gonzales roamed the courts with their agility, speed and reach.  Of course, these players had their quirks like incessant bouncing of the ball before the serve, but the majority of them used, displayed classical stroke production and equally classic footwork in their movement about the court.
To see the difference, you can look at any professional photographer’s photos of players today who use two hands and those who use one hand.  There is a stark difference in the balance of the subject in their photo, and in their activity. By this, I mean there is a pleasing esthetic well-balanced quality to subject matter in the  picture.
Look at the photo above and see if you can discern what I’m talking about.  There is, in my opinion, a certain amount of harmony in the photo.  There is a sense of balance, stability and grace.  For example, the feet are well apart. This player could remain in this position as long as necessary. This player appears to be stroking the ball down the line with his foot placement.
Here are some finer points to compare with your game: racquet parallel to the ground. Feet are well spread.  The forward foot is flat and stable. The player's body gives a sense of moving into the ball. The left arms counter-balances the racquet arm, as the fingers can barely bee seen behind the player. The player is down on the end of the racquet with the fingers slightly spread, and the arm is straight.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tennis Competition and what it means to compete

Tennis is a competitive sport, and for most of us, the goal of playing is to win.  To do that, one must prepare, mentally, physically, and Psychologically.  There are home teams and there are opposing team, or visiting teams.

Quoting, the English poet and writer, Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861: "Though shall not covet; but tradition approves all forms of competition."  And isn't competition all about winning, if not to win why compete?

Whether you're one of the William Sisters, or one of the Bryan Brothers, it's important that when competing, for that minute period in time, your opponent, he or she, is not your friend, and they should be treated as such within the boundary of the rules of the sport in which you are engaged.

There is seldom, if any friendly bantering between two Prize Fighters in the Boxing Ring or on the National Football League Field among the coaches of the Harbaugh Brothers, or the UFC Cages, or Mixed Martial Arts fights.

Many tennis players think the way to make the game more competitive, is to continue to trade partners, until you find a winning combination during a match.  This is silly, if not stupid if you're trying to improve your game.

If a team gets beat, they should take the beating, thank their opponents and mentally think about what must be done to be more competitive the next time.  That might consist of more practice before the match, maybe a new strategy, or a new stroke in your arsenal.  Maybe an evaluation of your stroke production by a knowledgeable instructor.  You never can tell.

According to one of my many instructional books on Tennis the writer suggests: "...Your own game would be sounder if you knew how the game should be played, and why."  And he continues, "You never improve your aim if you don't have a target to shot at."

Players should not compete if they are not up to the competition physically.  They are doing themselves, their opponents, and their partner a disservice, in addition to prolonging their condition.

In a Tennis match, it has been determined that the serving team has a distinct advantage to winning.  Therefore, when starting your match, make sure your decision not to serve first is not one of pure superstition, or because you are not physically warmed up, and prepared to play.  This puts your team at a disadvantage as well.

For example, if one of you were left handed, it would give your team the advantage of neither player having to serve facing into the Sun.  Of course, if you are not warmed up enough to serve, even because of a prior injury, it's possible to loosen up even more during the warm-up.  First, by using your service motion to put the ball into play rather than dropping it and hitting a courtesy stroke.  Secondly, you might even report 5-10 minutes earlier before you match just to stretch, and to get in some serving practice on your own.

There are players who are just superstitious about being the first server; they are not player, they are player "wannabes," because in Boxing, when the bell rings, you come out fighting to win.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Real "I" Formation

Doubles, the NTTC Way

When you serve down the center in doubles, the return [tends] to come back down the center.  The importance of this is that when it comes back down the center, your partner in doubles might have a chance to intercept and put the ball away.

Remember, few weekend players will attempt to poach going to their backhand to volley, more often than not, they will usually poach, depending on the receiver, on their forehand side.

When serving down the middle, trying standing at the center service mark to serve, but be sure to come up wide. Not many players can angle the ball well enough to your forehand to hurt you with their backhand, unless they attempt a drop shot, which your partner should be on the alert for.  In that case, he takes the shallow ball, and you come up and take his position at the net.

Women should hit down the line, and aim it low at the net on their first return of serve, but always alert your partner of your intentions.

Need a surprise when you’re behind? Try using the “I” Formation.  Use the real “I” Formation, invented by the National Tennis Teachers College in 1976.  The net man, or woman, must straddle the Center Service Line, and the serve must serve from the Center Service Line mark, and down the “T.,” but over their partner's head.

The net person gives the direction in which he will be going, and the server goes in the opposite direction.  By serving down the “T,” the server prevents any really wide angle shots which would defeat the Formation.
Cheating to one side changes the dynamics, and gives away the surprise, and makes it harder for the net man to poach.
Another way of defeating the formation is to lob down the middle, since both players would be moving away from the middle.

c Daniel young, 2016

Are you a "Tennis Player" or just someone who "Plays Tennis?"

That is the question: "Are you a Tennis Player, or just someone who happens to play tennis?"
 Oh yes!  There is a difference. A person who “plays tennis,” plays to keep from losing.  A “tennis player” plays to win, and knows how to win.
A “Tennis Player” plans their match.  They have a goal and purpose in mind when they accompany their opponent onto the tennis courts.

A person who just “plays tennis,” in doubles, looks to team with a person with whom they are likely to win; but, even if they lose, those who “just play tennis” to have fun, and get some exercise, never experience the “agony of defeat.”  Everybody wins in their match ups, they just switch partners.
Whether playing singles or doubles, a “Tennis Player” is constantly looking to raise their skill level, never satisfied with a loss.  A “Tennis Player” wants a rematch.  And, they want it as soon as possible.  After a loss, the “Tennis Player” is back to the backboard to work on their strokes, and to think about what went wrong.

The “Tennis Player” who loses asks themselves after the match: “What did they miss in evaluating their opponent in the warm-up?” 
A “Tennis Player’s” match starts long before they take the court.  They check their appearance,  their equipment, their grip wrappings, water supply, headwear, sun glasses and their cheat sheet—just a written reminder [kept in their racquet cover] to look over during the cross over, just in case things are not going their way.

When warming up a “Tennis Player” is scouting.  They are checking the wind conditions, the position of the sun, and whether their opponents are right handed or left handed, and who is the better player?
By noticing where their opponents stands, relative to the court’s center, they can often surmise whether their opponents prefer to hit one shot or another, and whether their opponent has more confidence in their forehand or backhand.

Now, you be the judge!  “Are you a “Tennis Player,” or do you just “Play Tennis.”




C Daniel A. Young, Sr. 2016


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tennis Partner Etiquette

Tennis is a great sport. A student told me he thought tennis was a lot more fun than running. "Of course," I said, "You never see a runner with a smile on their face."

But you know, tennis is not always fun, especially if you are having a bad day. Your returns are not working. Your serve "sucks." And you miss an easy shot that would have won your team the game.

What do you do?  Well, some players will invite others to take their place, and just sit out.  If you are over the age of 50, and you are playing at capacity, there's nothing  wrong with sitting out.  In fact I encourage it.  It's better to take a break. Sit out and play another day.

There's an acceptable way of stepping off the court when you're having a bad day, or heaven forbid, your not feeling well.

While others might disagree, I would first: "communicate with my partner," and maybe say something along the lines of : " I'm not feeling well," Partner, would you mind if I ask (Joe Blow) to fill in.  I'm not myself it seems?" 

I think asking someone to fill in for you without discussing with your partner the circumstances of your desiring to stop play, or "quit," or whether your partner has an objection, is unfair to your opponents who have put together a team, and trying to win the match, and disrespectful to anyone who agree to accept, or play with you as a partner (Maybe your partner and Joe Blow don't get along); this is especially true if you implied the day before: "Whether the player would be available for the weekly match, and they told you yes."

Finally, and after the match, whether you, as the new partner, was on the winning team or not, common courtesy, in my opinion, would suggest that after the last point of the match, regardless of how badly you played, you would seek out and thank your partner, whether selected, or chosen for playing with you rather, rather than rushing to the net to  "fist bump" your opponents, and have to have your partner seek you out to  "Thank you!" before he shakes hands, or "fist bump" with your opponent.  But hey, that's just me.  Like most winners know: "It's lonely at the top."

Tennis as you can see is not all fun and games, but it can be with the right attitude among players.