The Olympics have got under way with an opening show that was entirely
different and I am wondering how many round the world understood what
it was all about in the early stages. I thought it took a little while to get
going, but once it did it was certainly spectacular. It is quite a chore to come
up with a new concept for each new Olympic.
The GB men’s cycling team came unstuck from being firm favourites and
whilst that is sport, I have never understood athletes when running or cycling against a field of participants,
hanging back and waiting. The danger is, if you are back in the pack and someone decides to break away
- you are not in a good position to do much about it. The only time I would have thought that is O.K. Is
when you are very sure you are the fastest in the field.
You might say that in tennis there is many occasions when someone goes one set down or two sets in
a slam, and you still have a chance to break back - however, it is normally the better players who can do that
or the one with the stronger mindset.
I have to say that when I was playing a good game, I used to relish the fight from behind, especially in the
individual sets when perhaps being 1 or 2 games down. But if you are aware of your abilities and know
enough about momentum, then the fight is a little easier - what I mean here is to understand that you need
to string three points together in a row in order to get your own momentum moving.
There’s some good stuff about on the Internet at the moment, some free-like that from Essential Tennis and
some quite expensive, as per Jeff Salzenstein’s serve course. But at least Jeff is right up to date with his
Well, I have to watch some Olympics now, so see you next month.
Want to become a better player - CLICK HERE
Tip of the month for August.
Spinning your serve - it all begins with the grip!
See Rafael Nadal at the start of the service, specifically the relation of his hand and racquet.
Rafael Nadal generally outplays and outclasses the entire field at the French Open, and during the 2010
tournament, captured the title without the loss of a set. Punishing ground strokes, incredible movement
abound the court, and threading the needle with winners either on or down the line – but in his incredible
performance, I believe there is one thing often overlooked.
Nadal has an excellent serve. In the 2010 finals he delivered his first serve 77% of the time, and in the
third set his first serve was an astonishing 87% of the time. He backed up these amazing numbers with
7 aces and 1 double fault, but to me the story line concerned his reliable, consistent, spinning serve.
But in particular note the grip – Rafa is past a continental, holding the racquet closer to an eastern
And when it comes to reliable, consistent, spinning first and second serves – I have even more
perspective for you.
1. Pete Sampras, “As regards my 7 Wimbledon titles, I had the best second serve in the game!”
2. Pancho Gonzalez, “When learning to serve (even as a beginner) I recommend a backhand grip.
No matter how difficult to learn, once mastered you will serve with spin, speed and disguise.”
3. The most difficult situation facing when serving, is the second serve to the ad court, with the score
30-40, against an opponent with a good forehand (and these days lots of players has a pretty good
Taking the above three elements together – second serve, backhand grip, and the ad court – I believe
you can find the secret to holding your serve more often, and to winning more games, when you are able
to serve with confidence, with a topspin serve out wide to the ad court.
Regrettably, this stroke to this particular target is rarely practiced. And, if practiced poorly, all you wind up
with is ingrained bad habits. I would rate this particular serve as highly as the topspin lob to the far ad.
The best place to start is at the beginning, and when learning a spin serve, first and foremost you must
have a backhand grip. This can be continental – leaning towards an Eastern and/or this should be an
eastern backhand; keep in mind that when holding the racquet in this way, the racquet head approaches
the ball on edge. And this is the opposite to the serve with a forehand grip where the racquet head
approaches the ball in a flat if not pushing manner.
If you want to improve your serve, I believe you will say you want more spin and more pop. And, this
service grip holds the answer to your questions.
Is it worth the effort? The answer depends on your ability to hold serve, and how much you are willing to
practice to get to the next level. Not easy, if you only practice once a week. But as a lifelong player teacher
and student of this game, I am hoping your answer is a resounding YES.
Points separate match results and the players ranked in the top 100. What separates you from your
opponents? The weather, surface qualities, the sun's direction, moods, physical health, ability to
concentrate without interference from friend and family problems, but a good serve goes a long way to help.
It’s a Mind Game.
The mental game is crucial in order to win a tennis match. This month we look at some points
as to what's going on in your head, making certain you're in the right mental frame of mind to
start a match.
1. Don't try to do everything at once. Always be ready to step up a gear, but only if you need to. You don't
have to play your hardest shots all the time, but be ready to play to maximum potential when you really
2. Refocus. Between each point, make sure you walk towards the back of the court, plan the next rally, and
calm/towel yourself down, straighten your strings. Sharapova is particularly fond of this ritual and stands
facing the back of the court for a couple of seconds before turning to start again.
3. Play to your strengths always hit your favourite shots whenever possible, keep it simple, and play the
shots you know you can make most of the time and work out where it is best to target the shot to, to gain
some advantage over your opponent.
4. Exhale. Breathing out after you hit aids relaxation and releases aggression. Try it. It also helps with
5. Keep your feet moving between points. When you are tense, your feet tend to freeze, so try
hopping/skipping between points to loosen up.
6. Between points hold your racquet in your non-dominant hand, this allows you to take the tension out of
your playing hand and arm.
7. Don't be affected by external factors. All you can control on the court is the way you play, so don't get
riled by your opponent, the weather, the crowd, poor line calls etc. Try to ignore it and play your own game.
8. Maintain your energy. Take water and a banana or energy bar with you on court and keep hydrated.
Without drinking, your ability drops almost 50% by the third set.
9. Be patient. Don¹t rush your way through a match as you will probably start making errors.
10. Turn your back on your errors. Don't let a bad shot stay with you, don't blow a fuse. Try to put it behind
you and move on to the next point.
Tennis Court Problems
I scratch my back when doing the serve but cannot create any power.
Why is this happening?
When you try to scratch your back you push the racquet down on the back swing, as has been taught for
many years in the past, and you expect to hit a powerful serve. Regrettably, you do not stand much
chance of achieving that.
One of the reasons you do not succeed is that you are destroying the energy-producing chain. This starts
from your knees, continues up through the body and flows out through the forearm and the racquet as you
uncoil into your shot via a continuous arm and upper-body movement.
This scratch the back movement creates a braking action, and this nullifies the creation of racquet-head
speed which is a necessity to create power and therefore you have to rely on muscle-power in your arm.
This also forces the flexor muscles to contract and in turn stops you from snapping the forearm as you go
through the hitting zone.
Rather than straining to scratch the back, let the racquet fall naturally towards your back as you turn into the
shot (the racquet head dropping behind the shoulder is referred to as the pro drop). The force of your body
rotation will allow the racquet to loop automatically, without your having to think about it.
When viewing the pro players, the harder they serve, the racquet is further from the body on the back swing
loop as it starts up toward the ball.
New Drill for August.
GAAR9244 - House of Doom 2
Fun Games incorporating rallying and team work
There is one wizard on the same side as the pro,
starting in the middle of the singles court.
The rest of the players are apprentices and line
up on the opposite side.
The pro feeds from the side line.
The house of doom is formed by making a square box
out of cones on the same side as the apprentices off court.
The pro feeds a ball to the first apprentice:
A/. Who plays out the point or
B/. Has one hit and the next player hits the return and so on.
If the apprentices beat the Wizard, they earn a point, however if they lose
The player to make the mistake goes into the house of doom.
If the next play off is good, the apprentices either:
A/. Get all the players in the H of D out or
B/. The player who has been in the H of D the longest - but
They do not get a point.
If the apprentices get to 5 points, the last one to win a point is the new wizard.
If all the players end up in the H of D, the wizard has won and the pro can change
the wizard if they wish.
SDGS91285 - Ground stroke warm-up Drill
This drill helps the player multi task while warming up
their rallies and also improves their mental skills,
concentration, reaction speed, coordination and
Players are opposite each other just behind the service
line in the centre of the court.
The pro and a helper stand off the court on each side
level with the service line: each has one ball.
1. The players indicated as A & B, must rally cross court in the service boxes to
each other while recovering after each shot to the green marker.
2. At any point, the pro and/or assistant which are indicated , can roll the ball in from the
side the player must kick the ball back while keeping the rally going.
3. Do the same exercise but in the opposite cross court direction.
4. You can also do the exercises hitting down the line on both sides.