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.
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                               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


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