Friday, April 30, 2010

TENNIS IS GENERALLY DEVOID OF HUMOR, BUT WE TRY TO FIX THAT HERE

Cousin Alex, take it away...
My cousin Alex Goldberg is a pretty good tennis player and has a playful sense of humor. He lives in Pembroke Pines, Florida and also has a rental property in Naples, so he gets to play tennis all year. I see Alex [at left]  only occasionally, which is when I am in Sarasota.
Alex has some equally playful friends and acquaintances, including a guy named Chris, who plays tennis with a group of guys Alex knows, including his friend Howard. Alex, a loyal reader of Tennis Is Tops (he has to be; he’s a relative.) has offered this entertaining contribution about a new book on tennis by Chris, one of the players in the tennis group. Chris wrote to his friends about his book.

It’s not a book about the ATP or WTA, or tennis champions, past or present. It’s for recreational players struggling to improve and manage their games and emotions, as well as to bend the rules of tennis to their advantage, just for fun. The table of contents alone is hilarious, which gives you taste of what’s yet to come. I can’t wait to read the book (if it is yet written). Although some of the chapters refer to his friends, there is something here for everyone.

Here’s an opportunity for Tennis Is Tops readers to get in on this project. Chris’s book still needs a title (or at least I don’t see one). If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment or write to me at jean@jeankirshenbaum.com. You can also write to Alex at alebon89@yahoo.com (please copy me.)

This is the email from Chris that was forwarded to Alex by his friend Howard.
Dear Friends,
Many of you may not realize it, but I've been very busy over the last few years of retirement putting my thoughts and ideas together into a book.

I believe my new book on TENNIS gives the reader valuable playing

tips and insider information I've gained through my years of lessons, struggle and experiment. I am very proud of the results, and to assist with marketing, I am asking friends and family to help me out. I hope you find this a useful tool to help you enjoy your game much more while you enjoy the great outdoors.

The cost is only $9.95. Don't wait until they're all gone !!!!

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 - How to Properly Pick a Different Partner than the One the Cards Gave Me.

Chapter 2 - How to Call a Ball Clearly in "OUT"

Chapter 3 - How to Sit on My Racket while partner Returns Serve.

Chapter 4 - How to Hit the Underhand Serve.

Chapter 5 - Teaching Barry the Right Time to Hit the Under Hand Serve.

Chapter 6 - Using Bodily Functions to disturb Opponents.

Chapter 7 - When to Implement Handicap "Serve".
Chapter 8 - Proper Excuses for Drinking Beer Before 9:00 AM ( Bill Talbot Rule)

Chapter 9 - How to Get Rated to a 4.0 ( Play with Barry )

Chapter 10 - How to Get Rated out of 4.0 ( Play for Les Leise )

Chapter 11 - How to Find a Mark for the Ball when  Everyone else saw Hit the Line.

Chapter 12 - How to Play the Rope a Dope

Chapter 13 - Using Curse Words Creatively to Control Partners Shots.

Chapter 14 - How to Relax Partner by blaming him for every Mistake.

Chapter 15 - How to Get Varun to Hit you in the Throat.

Chapter 16 - When to Suggest Major Swing Corrections to Your Opponents..

Chapter 17 - God and the Meaning of the Break Point Double Fault.

Chapter 18 - When to sell your Racket.
Chapter 19 - Throwing Your Racket: An Effective Stress-Reduction Technique. ( Taught by Bill and Heath ) [even the cool and calm Roger Federer - left- gives into his frustration.]

Chapter 20 - Can You Purchase a Backhand?


Thanking you in advance for your order.











Thursday, April 22, 2010

DEVIL OR ANGEL? MOTHER NATURE SERVES IT UP FOR TENNIS PLAYERS


Rain, Sun, WindHeat, Humidity,Cold

There is nothing like a 70-80 degree sunny day, no humidity, and no wind. Sounds like a perfect day for tennis (or any sport), doesn’t it? They get a lot of those wonderful days in California and the Caribbean. But here in the Northeast we are in a constant battle with Mother Nature. Just like my opponents, she wins too often. Here are my pet peeves related to weather conditions, along with some possible remedies:

Rain: Forget it. Nothing can dampen tennis like rain. If you haven’t yet started your match, you might as well cancel it or go home. Sometimes it happens that it’s raining where you are, but it’s sunny where your opponent lives. This happened to me on Wednesday, in the reverse. Chantal called me at 1:15 to tell me it was raining where she was, about 8-10 miles from me. It wasn’t raining in my neck of the woods, however. The court is midway between us. We could not know whether it was raining there. I like to postpone the match in those cases. Why take a chance? Rain travels. And if it rains while you are on the court, get off it. I won’t play on a hard court if it rains, even just a sprinkle. It’s dangerous—you are vulnerable to slips, falls, and injury. Even the pros are reluctant to play in the rain. Clay is not much better. Although the surface absorbs some moisture, the lines do get slippery. Recently, at the Monte Carlo Masters, I saw (on Tennis Channel) Rafael Nadal talk to the umpire about delaying his match because the lines on the clay court were wet and slippery. Nevertheless, the match was almost over so they played on. Nadal won.

Sun: I have a love-hate relationship with the sun. At least it’s not raining so that you actually get to play. But, you guessed it, there’s a BUT in here somewhere. It’s known as sun glare. Ever toss a ball up for a serve and been blinded by the sun to the degree that you can’t even see it? Of course you have. The only compensation I can think of is that your opponent will face the same blinding sun when you change sides. Most people wear a visor, although I find that annoying because it interferes with my vision. Here’s an adaptation told to me by a pro. If you are right handed, turn your left shoulder slightly toward the net; then toss the ball. This improves your positioning just enough so that you will not be looking directly into the sun.That should help to reduce being blinded by its glare. It works for me. (Thank you, Jeff.)

 
Temperature:  Heat is a relative of the sun. And it’s all relative for players, too. I like it between 68 and 80. Lower than 68 and it’s a bit cool for me. Higher than 80 and it can be too hot. It’s too hot for you if you begin to have chills and feel nauseated. In that circumstance, get off the court immediately, drink water and cool down fast. When it’s really hot I take a spray bottle of water to the court and sprits myself during changeovers. I also sometimes wear one of those spongy neckbands that you soak in water and then freeze. It really helps, but like visors, it can be annoying and distracting. And when I know it’s really going to be tough to play in the heat, I wash my hair and wet my headband. That helps until they dry—which takes about 20 minutes!

Cold: I know some people who will play in any kind of cold weather. Not I. As I said, I don’t like to play even when it’s below 68. I never know what to wear. This week alone, my three 9 a.m. matches were cancelled because it was only in the 40s when we woke up. It was a mutual decision to forget it. What a relief. I was dreading playing and I spent at least an hour the night before thinking about what I would wear in that kind of weather. I do have some cool weather clothes, but I have to wear pants with pockets to hold the balls, and those that I have are not warm enough because they are very lightweight. and not warm enough. Solution? Play indoors.

• To make matters worse, throw in some humidity. In hot weather or cold, it can make you miserable. Pair it with cold and you have a raw, damp day. I get so stiff I can hardly move. Pair it with heat and I’m huffing and puffing and sticky with sweat. It’s all bad no matter how you look at it. I dare you to tell me I’m wrong!

• Now for the worst of them all. OMG it’s the wind! They don’t call the wind Mariah in tennis. They call it other unmentionable names. If you think serving into the sun makes things difficult, try serving when it’s windy. It’s really hard to make solid contact when the ball is blown out of position. It’s not any better with groundstrokes. Just take your racket back for a cross court forehand and try to figure out where the ball went since you last looked at it, and just try to guess where it will be as you reach for it. Talk about screwing with your timing. What timing, you say? Regardless, the wind won’t help it get any better. And it gets even worse. Carried by the wind, lobs go long. A crosswind moves the ball out of reach. Tennis in the wind? I’ll play but I won’t like it. Hitting shots in the wind feels like I’m hitting a baseball, assuming I even make contact with it. Andre Agassi used to say that he wasn’t bothered by the wind. (But we can’t always believe what he says, can we? Remember, he admitted in his book Open that a lot of his life in tennis had been a lie.) Well, I don’t want to end this section on such a downbeat. I would cancel a match for rain or cold, but I’ll struggle through a match in the wind. I bet that Mariah can’t play tennis in the wind either.

At this point, with all my whining about uncooperative weather conditions, it's a wonder I get to play at all!

Have I missed anything? Mother Nature sometimes can be a real mother (the kind you’re not supposed to mention in a respectable blog.) On the other hand, she can be just as gracious as she is malicious. She’s our mother and she belongs to us. And, like it or not, we belong to her. At this point, with all my whining about weather conditions, it's a wonder I ever play at all.







Monday, April 19, 2010

THE VERTICALLY CHALLENGED PLAYER…..

I have asked (more like badgered) my friend Roseann Williams (left) to contribute an article to Tennis Is Tops. Although we tossed around several possible topics, she chose one that is something that she knows a lot about– the challenges of being a short tennis player. Each of us is just 5’1” so we are on a par regarding height. But not so, otherwise. She always beats me. Even if I were to gain an inch or two—in stature, not girth—she would still win. She plays with the kind of heart she admires in the shorter professional players on the WTA tour. I think Roseann has done a great job with this subject. We will hear from her more, I hope.
_____________________________________________________________
                              
                               By Roseann Williams

The Long and the Short of it…There are two schools of thought regarding player height on the tennis court. At first glance it seems that taller is better, mainly because of the serve. Taller players can usually get a strong, fast serve over with what seems minimal effort. Frequently, as seen with Venus Williams, taller players have an extensive reach and grab those angled shots. Also, when a taller player faces a shorter opponent they typically use the top spin lob. This shot pushes the tiny player deep into the court and more times than not over Shorty’s head. It would seem that the lengthy player has the court advantage….. ????

As a “tiny” tennis player of  5’1", I’ve tirelessly searched for playing techniques and advantages to assist shorter players.

Through my endeavors and research, to my delight I’ve discovered that height is helpful but not everything. (Scroll down for a list of the tallest and shortest players among the top 50 players on the WTA tour. Most in the top 50 seem to fall in the range of 5'8" - 5'11".) Speed, agility, endurance, hand-eye coordination, and simply ability all play a huge part in the sport. Simply stated, a taller player is not usually as good at moving quickly on the court. Tip to Shorty: keep them moving. Push your lanky opponent into the back corner and then be diligent with your volley or hit an unexpected drop shot. Ideally, get the ball back and get them out of position.

Changing direction is more difficult with height, so keep your shots varied and not down the middle. Another thing that works on most tall players is to keep the ball low because it's more difficult for them to get to it. Certainly, when they are volleying, keep that ball low by their feet, it makes it very difficult for them to return. Try your best to prevent the giant from getting a high ball to smash back at you.

Characteristically, a shorter player can rely on speed and agility. Keep this in mind. You can Beat them with your SPEED!

Additionally, you must add mental agility (don’t be intimidated by the giant), accuracy and a solid return of serve. Ideally, when you get that tall person’s terrific serve keep the return low making it harder for the tall person to get to since they typically have to lean so far down to hit it. Also, remember add the low volley and slice shots to your arsenal.In a nut shell I discovered that height isn't everything, well maybe in the modeling field. However, ability, agility, heart and mentality are what add inches to your game and ultimately neutralize a height handicap.

Players lacking in height, but not HEART:

Belgian female player Justine Henin who is also lacking in height—she is 5’6”––but not in heart. She enjoyed being world #1 in singles with a record of 492-106, 41 career singles titles and has won all Grand Slams 2 more than once except for Wimbledon where she was only a finalist. As you know, she’s out of retirement and still one of the smallest players on the women’s tour, with the exception of …
 
Melanie Oudin (born September 23, 1991) is an American tennis player and former World Junior No. 2. Her career high rank is World No. 41, which she achieved on February 22, 2010. Career prize money: $450,335 .

Add inches to your self confidence, check out this site and notice the personal statistics for Olivier Rochus
www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Ro/O/Olivier-Rochus.aspx

Do smaller players have to work harder? Maybe. But what is better than working hard at something you love and challenging yourself, testing your abilities, reaching your pinnacle?

I keep this in mind as I walk on the court and assess my opponent, “It’s my game, and I bring on the court me, my racquet and my arsenal, leaving any notions of height restrictions or handicaps outside on the curb.” So be a warrior no matter the opponent and keep playing with HEART!!!


Editor's note:There are many women of basketball height on the women’s tour. But height is a challenge, not only for Roseann and for me, but for several of the pros, too. Among the top 50 female players, here’s the long and short of it:

THE TALL
Maria Sharapova (Russia) 6-2

Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) 6-1

Venus Williams (USA) 6-1

Dinara Safina –(Russia) 6

Jie Zheng (China) 5-4-1/2

Patty Schnyder (Switzerland) 5-6

Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium) 6-0

THE NOT SO TALL
Justine Henin (Belgium) 5-5Melanie Oudin (USA) 5-6

Tamarine Tanasugarn (Thailand) 5-5

Alexandra Dulgheru (Romania) 5-5

Maria Kirilenko (Russia ) 5-6



AND THE WINNER:


Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia) 5-2


Saturday, April 17, 2010

WALKING THE BOARDWALK WITH A TENNIS RACKET


PRO TENNIS IN ATLANTIC CITY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES

Gary and I went to the exhibition match on Saturday, April 10, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. (The tickets were a generous gift from my sister, Judy.) Players were Andy Roddick, Pete Sampras, Marat Safin, Ivan Lendl, and Mats Wilander. Most of the coverage in the online media, and on Tennis Channel’s Court Report, focused on Ivan Lendl,[left] who has not played professional tennis since he retired in 1994. Nor has he played on the Champions Tour (for previous “greats”) or even in exhibition tennis. I saw him at the 2009 US open when he was a coach at a team tennis exhibition match with Mary Joe Fernandez, Tracy Austin, Conchita Martinez, Stan Smith and some other former great players.
But it’s not Lendl I want to talk about. Roddick had just come off a win in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open, and was more than up to par, both in his win and his personality. As expected, the lively Roddick really hammed it up for the medium-sized crowd, which filled about a third of the facility. He beat both Safin and Sampras—not a big surprise. A couple of years ago I saw Roddick at another exhibition match at Villanova University in Villanova, PA, where he was also the live wire.
Let’s turn to Pete Sampras, [below with Marat Safin] who was a totally different story. Pistol Pete, who retired in 2002, is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, surpassed only by Roger Federer in this decade. Sampras now plays on the Champions Series-Tennis Legends tour, and in exhibition matches, too. So what about one of the greatest tennis players of all time now? He admits he doesn’t play much; he has other responsibilities and interests. It really showed in Atlantic City. It was so disappointing. He looked absolutely ordinary. You would never know that he was once the tennis king. During his 15-year tour career, he won 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles. A record at the time, this number was eventually surpassed by Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009. Sampras had a 204–37 win-loss record in more than 52 Grand Slam singles tournament appearances. I have seen him play at the US Open. I’ll never forget when he whacked a ball at Patrick Rafter.It left a perfectly round hole in Rafter’s racket. They played on as if nothing unusual had happened. I was astonished.

The only thing that astonished me about Sampras in Atlantic City is how his game has become so lackluster. You could say it’s his age. He is approaching 40.
Wilander is another old timer. Even at 46 he still looks quite sharp. He beat Lendl, a one time rival who used to beat him most of the time. At 30, Safin [left with trophy] doesn’t come close to being an old timer. He retired in November of 2009, just five months ago. His game is still excellent. Given that he retired because he was “tired” of tennis and wanted to do other things with his life, I was surprised but happy that he played in this exhibition. One big surprise for me about Safin- he is really much taller than I thought. 6’4”. Not nearly the basketball player height of John Isner, 6’9”, or Ivo Karlovic, who is 6 ‘10”. But because he is slim, at 195 pounds he seems taller.

All in all, it was fun to watch these matches because the players were much more relaxed than in tour matches, and were free to show their  personalities.
                                                              (Thank you, Judy. I love you.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

THEY AREN’T THE ONLY TENNIS PLAYERS ON THE COURT

It's my turn (finally)...

Although about four pro tournaments are going on around the world right now (see story below) my envy is diminishing. It’s now warm enough to play outdoors and I have played twice this week with my friend Roseann. We played at 11 a.m. on Monday, when it was really hot, and again today (Wednesday) at 9 a.m., when it was more comfortable.

I’ve once again signed up with Tennis Philly, www.tennisphilly.com, for the fourth season, so soon I’ll be playing a lot more matches with people from that group. In past years I have played about 2 matches a week. Tennis Philly provides me with a list of a dozen or more players at my skill level and who live in my area. We play at public courts. Without this group, my life in tennis would be a big zero (and I don’t mean love), since I don’t know many people who are available to play. If you live in the Philly metro area, go to www.tennisphilly.com, which is sponsored by Tennis League Network, www.tennisleaguenetwork.com. The network has online tennis communities in more than 25 metro areas, so mostly likely you can find players no matter where you live. I’ll report back on my matches as the season gets going later this month.
Meantime, since I posted this, I have set up a match for next week with someone from Tennis Philly. Chantal is from French-speaking Canada. I'll let you know how it goes. Bonsoir!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

WHAT'S NEXT ON THE WTA AND ATP TOURS?

What’s Next?

Kim Clijisters and Andy Roddick have just won the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, FL, but there is plenty of tennis ahead before we get to the French Open, which begins on May 24. These are the upcoming events in April and May:

ATP [men]
Apr. 5 - 11,ATP Grand Prix Hassan II,Casablanca, Morocco
Apr. 5 - 11, ATP US Men's Claycourt Championships,Houston, Texas
April 12-18, ATP Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo
Apr. 19 - 25, ATP Open Sabadell Atlantico,Barcelona, Spain
Apr. 26 - May. 2, ATP Internationaionali BNL d'Italia, Rome, Italy
May. 3 - 9, ATP BMW Open, Munich, Germany
May. 3 - 9 ,ATP Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal
May. 3 - 9, ATP Serbia Open,Belgrade, Serbia
May. 10 - 16, ATP Mutua Madrilena Masters, Madrid, Spain
May. 17 - 23, ARAG ATP World Team Championships,Dusseldrof, Germany
May. 17 - 23, ATP Interwetten Austrian Open Kitzbuhel,Kitzbuhel, Austria


WTA [women]
Apr. 5 - 11, WTA MPS Group Championships,Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Apr. 5 - 11, WTA Andalucia Tennis Experience, Marbella, Spain
Apr. 12 - 18, WTA Tour Family Circle Cup,Charleston, South Carolina,
Apr. 12 - 18, WTA Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain
Apr. 26 - May. 2, WTA Grand Prix S.A.R La Princesse Lalla Meryem,Fes, Morocco
Apr. 26 - May. 2, WTA Tour Porsche Tennis Grand Prix,Stuttgart, Germany
May. 2 - 9, WTA Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Rome, Italy
May. 3 - 9, WTA Estoril Open, Estoril, Portugal
May. 8 - 16, WTA Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain
May. 17 - 23, WTA Internationaux de Strasbourg,Strasbourg, France
May. 17 - 23, WTA Polsat Warsaw Open,Warsaw, Poland